Couldn’t file your 2015 return by the normal April due date? Requested an extension? Be aware that the final due date for your return is October 17, 2016. The date is normally October 15, but that falls on a weekend this year, giving you two extra days to meet your individual tax-filing obligation. This is it! There are no additional extensions.
Even though you have until October 17, you need to be thinking about getting the return completed in advance of the actual due date. Preparing a return takes time, and last-minute issues may need to be resolved before the return is ready to file. In addition, between 10% and 15% of all tax returns are on extension, so, contact us ASAP to set up your appointment before the rush.
If you are self-employed, October 17 is also the final date when you can fund your existing self-employed retirement plan or establish a new one; without completing your return, there is no way to determine how much you can (or want to) contribute to that retirement plan.
The extended deadline for K-1s from partnerships, S-corporations, or fiduciary returns to be sent out was September 15, so if you have not received that information yet, you should make inquiries.
Extended individual federal returns are subject to a penalty of 5% of the tax due for each month (or part of a month) for which the return is not filed by the October 17 due date, with a maximum penalty of 25% of the tax due. In addition, if you end up owing taxes, the IRS will charge you interest on any tax due, going all the way back to the original April due date. If do not file a required state return and do owe state taxes, the state will also charge a late filing penalty and interest.
Dagley & Co. is waiting for you to supply missing information to complete your return, we will need that information at least a week before the October 17 due date. Please us immediately at (202) 417-6640 if you anticipate complications related to providing the needed information so that we can determine a course of action for avoiding potential penalties.
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With the right tools, resources, and a professional by your side, you can enhance the way you do business, reduce your spend, and increase your profit margins. To get started, you need some basic information on finance. Below are 9 finance tips all business owners should follow.
#1: Recognize the Importance of Your Books
Invoices, bank statements, and even some accounting work is commonly done through software programs today. However, it’s more than just accounting for your revenue and losses that’s important. In other words, you need to turn this data into usable information. Your figures can help you know how to grow profits even further if you know how to read them properly.
#2: Stop Putting It Off
It is much harder to manage that stack of papers at the end of the month than it is to spend a few minutes each day entering details. Having a pro to do this for you makes it even easier. If you are procrastinating, though, you’re hurting your short-term and long-term financial goals.
#3: Know Your Risks
A Headway Capital study found that 57% of business owners planned to grow this year. Most companies set out to grow for the year, but they often lack attention spent on minimizing risks. What’s the worst-case scenario? What’s your break-even point? Addressing risks as a part of your financial strategy really can streamline your finances should the year not go as you planned.
#4: You Really Didn’t Budget, Did You?
Some small to medium businesses lack the time it takes to budget. It’s understandable, but that doesn’t make it okay. Budgeting helps address those risks, but it also helps you to make better buying decisions. And, when you have tools in place to help you monitor inventory, expenses, and other unforeseen costs, you can create better budgets that allow you to do more with your profits.
#5: Tax Mistakes Are Common
Small to medium businesses suffer from some of the most complicated taxes. Without having a professional to monitor and guide your taxes throughout the year, your business could suffer significantly. The IRS says that, in 2014, $1.2 billion in civil penalties were placed against small business income tax filers. Most small businesses need reliable support to ensure tax filing and reporting isn’t a secondary importance.
#6: Build from Your Strengths
You don’t have to build your business on new products or start from scratch each time. It’s best to simply build onto what you have. For example, you’ll want to pinpoint where your biggest profit margins come from. Once you understand who your moneymakers are, target them within your business. By identifying and focusing on these areas, you can build your revenue and profits faster, therefore giving you the room to expand in other areas later.
#7: Building a Business Is More Than Hours Worked
It’s very common for business owners to spend a lot of time and hard work building their business on their own. Are you putting in 80 hours a week? If so, you may be limiting your growth potential. Instead, empower professionals and employees to help you with delegated tasks. This can give you more time to spend on what’s really making you money and help you to sleep at night.
#8: Focus on Lean Practices
Less really is more. As a business owner, you’ll want to incorporate the lean philosophy of keeping less on hand so you reduce your overhead. You create more value for your customers with less.
#9: Access Capital When You Can, Not When You Need To
Having a steady stream of income on hand is important. Instead of waiting until you are desperate for funding, and having to show your investors that you are in that place, focus on planning ahead and minimizing the risk of a negative situation.
As a business owner, making wise financial decisions for your company is an ongoing process. But, you don’t have to do it alone. Allow Dagley and Co. to help you along the way to better manage your money and you could see it grow faster than you thought possible.
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Are you a baby boomer? If so, have you been stashing away tax-deferred retirement savings? If so, take note… It is getting close to the time to start withdrawing funds from those accounts and, of course, paying taxes on those withdrawals. (This includes distributions from traditional IRAs and 401(k)s)
The same Internal Revenue Code that allowed you to save tax dollars when you contributed to those tax-deferred retirement plans also generally requires you to begin withdrawals on the year you reach age 70½. These distributions are called required minimum distributions (RMDs) and are based on annuity tables. Generally, most individuals will utilize the single life table, but the joint life annuity tables are used if the individual’s spouse is more than 10 years younger.
Keep in mind that you can always take as much as you wish from your tax-deferred retirement accounts, but you must take the RMD amount each year, beginning with the year you turn age 70½, or you will be subject to a very severe penalty, which we will discuss later. One exception is that you can delay the payout for the year you become 70½ until no later than April 1 of the following year. However, since you will also need to make an RMD for that following year, you will end up with two years’ worth of distributions being taxed in one year if you use the delayed distribution option.
The following is an abbreviated single life table. The actual table goes to age 111.
Age 70 71 72 73 74 75 Distribution Period (Years) 27.4 26.5 25.6 24.7 23.8 22.9
Required Minimum Distribution – To determine an RMD, first determine the distribution period (life expectancy) based on your current age. So, for the year you turn 70½, the distribution period would be 27.4 years. Next, determine the retirement account’s balance on December 31 of the prior year. The account balance divided by the distribution period equals the RMD. For example, say you will turn age 70½ in 2016 and your tax-deferred retirement account had a balance of $500,000 on December 31, 2015. Your 2016 RMD would be $18,248 ($500,000/27.4).
Failure to Take an RMD Penalty – When the full amount of an RMD is not taken, the penalty is 50% of the amount you didn’t withdraw. Luckily, the IRS is very lenient on this penalty and will generally waive it when an under-distribution is inadvertent or due to ignorance of the law, provided that the RMD amounts are made up as soon as possible once the error is discovered. Avoid RMD problems by having your account custodian or trustee determine the RMD annually and then transfer the distribution directly to your checking, savings or non-retirement plan brokerage account.
Multiple Retirement Accounts – When you have multiple accounts, the question often is, “Which account should I take the RMD from?” All traditional IRAs are treated as one for distribution purposes. So, you can take the RMD for the IRA accounts from any combination of the accounts that you choose. However, that may cause a problem with a trustee of the IRA account(s) from which you didn’t take a distribution, who may think you didn’t take your RMD for the year. So, it is less problematic to take a distribution from each account.
You may wish to simplify the RMD distributions by transferring all of your traditional IRAs into one account, if you have several traditional IRAs. This is best done by having the trustees make direct transfers to the target IRA, rather than you receiving the distributions and then rolling over the funds, since you are only allowed one IRA rollover each twelve months (trustee-to-trustee transfers don’t count as rollovers). Note that spouses must maintain their accounts separately and cannot combine their accounts with yours when figuring RMDs.
If you have a 401(k) account, the RMD for it must be figured separately from any IRA accounts you also have. And, if you have multiple 401(k)s, each 401(k) account’s RMD is figured separately from those of your other 401(k) plans.
Non-Taxable Amounts – If your tax deduction for the contribution was limited when you made your traditional IRA contribution because you were a high-income taxpayer, you would have created a non-taxable basis in your IRA. If this is true, then that non-taxable basis is recovered tax-free in proportion to your distribution.
Roth Conversions – The ability of individuals to convert amounts of their traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs gives rise to some possible tax-saving moves in the years leading up to the RMD age. Things to consider are:
- Is you tax bracket lower now than it will be after retirement? If so, you might consider converting some portion of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA now. You will pay tax on the traditional IRA distribution in the year of the conversion, but when you withdraw it from the Roth IRA, it will be tax-free.
- If you have a low-income year for some reason, and if you are age 59½ or older, it might be appropriate to take a distribution in that year and pay little or no tax. You won’t get a credit against a future RMD by doing so but you will be lowering the balance in the account for the eventual calculation of RMDs.
The following strategies require careful planning:
Effect on Taxable Income Once RMDs Start – Your taxable income may be increased by more than just the amount of the RMD. Adding your RMD to your income that is already taxed will increase your adjusted gross income (AGI); as a result, the amount of your Social Security benefits that is taxed may also increase. In addition, since the AGI is the amount on which the phaseout or reduction of many tax deductions is based, you may also find that you are getting less tax benefit from such items as medical expenses, charitable contributions, and investment-related expenses – all of which means your tax bill will go up by more than it otherwise would by just adding the RMD to your income.
Plan for Additional Withholding or Estimated Tax – Once you start taking distributions from your IRA or 401(k), and to avoid a potential underpayment of tax penalty, you will likely need to increase your tax prepayments, either by having federal (and possibly state) income taxes withheld from the distributions or by making quarterly estimated tax payments. If you already make estimated tax payments, you may need to increase the installment amounts.
If You Don’t Need the RMD – If you simply don’t need the retirement distribution, after reaching age 70½, you can donate up to $100,000 of IRA funds per year to a qualified charity without having to include the distribution in your income, and it will still count towards your RMD. If you are married and your spouse has an IRA and is also 70½ or older, he or she may also make a charitable IRA distribution of up to $100,000. So, if you are someone who gives substantial amounts to charity each year, this is a distribution strategy you may want to consider after reaching RMD age. CAUTION: To qualify under this provision, the funds must be directly transferred from the IRA account to the charity.
RMD issues can be quite complicated. We believe it is highly suggested that you consult Dagley & Co. for pre-RMD planning, determining the correct RMD amounts, and analyzing your withholding and/or estimated tax obligations. Give us a call at (202) 417-6640.
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Are you a sole proprietor with no full-time employees other than yourself and/or your spouse? Also, are you are seeking to maximize your retirement plan contributions? If so, a Solo 401(k) may be right for you. The key benefits of a Solo 401(k) plan are as follows:
- Manage your own account directly without any brokers, banks, or trust companies as middlemen.
- Generally contribute larger amounts, approximately equal to the 401(k) and profit-sharing amounts combined.
- Legally avoid the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) that would apply to certain self-directed IRA transactions.
- Make Roth contributions to the 401(k) element (not the profit-sharing part) of the plan, regardless of the AGI limitations that apply to regular Roth contributions.
- Transfer existing retirement funds into the Solo 401(k).
- Direct your investments with absolutely no restrictions on investment choices (including real estate, private companies, foreign assets, precious metals, etc.).
Solo 401(k) Contributions – The maximum annual contribution to a Solo 401(k) for 2016 is $53,000 but not exceeding 100% of compensation. The Solo 401(k) contribution consists of two parts: (1) a profit-sharing contribution of up to 20% of net self-employment income for unincorporated businesses or 25% of W-2 income for incorporated businesses and (2) a salary-deferral contribution (same as the 401(k)) of as much as 100% of the first $18,000 ($24,000 if age 50 or over) of the remaining compensation after the profit-sharing contribution, as a tax-deductible contribution.
Given sufficient income, a self-employed individual and spouse (assuming the spouse is employed in the same business) may contribute, for 2016, up to $106,000 combined. Because of the way the contribution is calculated, a larger contribution can usually be made into a Solo 401(k) than to a Keogh or SEP IRA at the same income level.
Discretionary Funding –The funding of the Solo 401(k) plan is completely discretionary and flexible every year. Funding can be increased, decreased, or skipped entirely, if necessary.
Where Deducted – If your business is organized as a Subchapter S or C corporation, or LLC electing to be taxed as a corporation, then you are an employee of the business, so the salary-deferral contribution reduces your personal W-2 earnings and the profit-sharing contribution is deducted as a business expense.
For a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or an LLC taxed as a sole proprietorship, the owner’s salary-deferral and profit-sharing contributions are deductible only from personal income (i.e., on page 1 of Form 1040, as an adjustment to gross income), and not as an expense of the business.
Deadlines – The deadline for establishing a Solo 401(k) is December 31st for an individual or the fiscal year end for corporations. For unincorporated businesses, the deadline for making the contributions is the regular April income tax filing due date plus extensions. For incorporated businesses, the deadline is 15 days after the close of the fiscal year.
Roth Option – The 401(k) portion of the contribution can be designated as a non-deductible qualified Roth contribution, provided the plan document permits Roth contributions.
If you think a Solo 401(k) might be right for you, please call Dagley & Co. at (202) 417-6640 for further details. We will help you to determine if your particular circumstances permit you have, and whether you will benefit from a Solo 401(k).
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At Dagley & Co. we hear a lot about the complexity of the tax code, as well as a lot of rhetoric from Washington about simplifying it. Tax codes were originally written to bring in money (taxes) to pay for government costs. But over the years, Congress has used tax codes more as a tool to manage social reform. As a result, the code has become very complex.
So with taxes becoming more complex with each passing year, why do people think they can prepare their own returns? We use software-costing thousands of dollars, so why do individuals, not educated in tax law and using low-cost computer software, think they can get their tax result right? Well, they may not, and they may miss deductions, credits, income exclusions, retirement benefits, and even more beneficial filing options just to save a few bucks on tax preparation costs.
However, paying a little more in tax than they need to should not be their biggest concern. A more troublesome situation is getting more tax refund than they are entitled to, and then a year or two later getting a letter from the IRS wanting the excess back. This is especially devastating to lower-income individuals and families that spend what they bring in just making ends meet and have no savings to fall back on when the IRS comes calling, leaving them with even a bigger financial hole.
To make matters worse, they may not even understand the IRS letter or the issue it is dealing with, and since they did their own return, they have no one to call for help in getting the tax assessment reduced or knowing how to get penalties abated.
Professional tax preparation offers more than just entering numbers into a computer program. If you usually file your own tax returns, perhaps you should consider a firm that can not only prepare your taxes properly, but also provide tax, financial and retirement guidance. We are also here to help plan for the future. Give Dagley & Co., CPA’s a call this year, we are here to help.
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Hobbies and Income Tax
Millions of U.S. taxpayers engage in hobbies such as collecting coins or stamps, refurbishing old cars, crafting, painting or breeding horses.
Some hobbies will actually generate income, or even evolve into businesses. The tax treatment of hobbies with income is quite different than that of a trade or business, and making the distinction can be rather complicated. The main issue here is that the IRS does not want taxpayers to write off hobby expenses under the guise of trade or businesses expenses.
The first question to ask yourself is whether the activity is a hobby, trade or business. The tax law doesn’t really provide a bright-line definition of the term “trade or business,” probably because no single definition will apply in all cases. But certainly, to be considered a trade or business, an activity must be motivated by the taxpayer’s profit motive, even if that motivation is unrealistic. Along with a profit motive, the taxpayer must carry on some kind of economic activity.
Factors to determine profit motive – The IRS uses a series of factors to determine whether an activity is for profit. No one factor is decisive, but all of them must be considered together in making the determination.
- Is the activity carried out in a businesslike manner?
- How much time and effort does the taxpayer spend on the activity?
- Does the taxpayer depend on the activity as a source of income?
- Are losses from the activity the result of sources beyond the taxpayer’s control?
- Has the taxpayer changed business methods in attempts to improve profitability?
- What is the taxpayer’s expertise in the field?
- What success has the taxpayer had in similar operations?
- What is the possibility of profit?
- Will there be a possibility of profit from asset appreciation?
Presumption of profit motive – There is a presumption that a taxpayer has a profit motive if an activity shows a profit for any three or more years during a period of five consecutive years. However, if the activity involves breeding, training, showing or racing horses, the period is two out of seven consecutive years. An activity that is reported on a tax return as a business but has had year after year of losses and no gains is likely to eventually come under scrutiny by the IRS.
Tax Treatment of Hobbies – While trades or businesses can have losses without restriction, if the activity is deemed to be a hobby, then special rules – frequently referred to as “hobby loss” rules – apply. Under these rules, any income from the hobby is reported on the face of the tax return, and the expenses are only deductible if a taxpayer itemizes their deductions on Schedule A. In addition, hobby expenses are limited by category as follows:
Category 1: This category includes deductions for home mortgage interest, taxes, and casualty losses. They are reported on the appropriate lines of Schedule A as they would be if no hobby activity existed.
Category 2: Deductions that don’t result in an adjustment to the basis of property are allowed next, but only to the extent that gross income from the activity is greater than the deductions under Category 1. Most expenses that a business would incur, such as those for advertising, insurance premiums, interest, utilities, wages, etc., belong in this category.
Category 3: Business deductions that decrease the basis of property are allowed last, but only to the extent that the gross income from the activity is more than the deductions under the first two categories. The deductions for depreciation and amortization belong in this category.
Additional limit – Individuals must claim the amounts in categories (2) and (3) as miscellaneous deductions on Schedule A, which are subject to the 2% AGI reduction; as a result, they are not deductible for alternative minimum tax purposes.
Hobby loss rules can be complicated. Need assistance determining whether your activity qualifies as trade or business, or whether it is subject to the hobby loss rules? Give Dagley & Co. a call at (202) 417-6640 or email at email@example.com.
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When you decided to open for business, you have a vision. You identified a need and came up with a solution you could provide and sell, and you invested your time, your money, your knowledge, and your drive to make it into a reality. The only problem is, if you’re like a lot of small business owners, you did not anticipate having to handle your business’s accounting needs. Many highly intelligent, responsible business operators get caught making common small-business accounting mistakes that can trip them up and cost them in the long run. If you are afraid this might happen to you — or if it already has — the best way to avoid these costly errors, before time starts ticking and the money starts to pile up, is to learn the top four small-business accounting mistakes and how to prevent them.
The Top 4 Accounting Mistakes Made by Small Businesses
The truth is that these four mistakes are relatively easy to address. The best way to avoid them is to set aside time every week for the specific purpose of taking care of basic accounting tasks. Once you get into the habit of doing them regularly and the right way, you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of having to go back and correct these mistakes in the future.
Reporting Employees as Independent Contractors
If you hire people to work for you, it’s important for you to understand the difference between employees and contractors, and to classify them correctly. There are very specific ways that you must account for each type of worker, and if you don’t get it right you will likely have to make corrections — and possibly pay penalties — in the future. If somebody is your employee, then you have control over when they work, how they get paid, and how they do their job. You are also responsible for withholding payroll tax on their behalf. By contrast, when you bring somebody in to do work for you as an independent contractor, they have more control over their own schedule, the work that they do, and how they get paid by you. They are responsible for their own taxes.
Not Reconciling Bank Accounts Regularly
Just as there are certain tasks that need to be done to keep your business running smoothly, there are certain accounting tasks that need to be addressed on a regular basis. Reconciling your bank accounts is one of those things. You need to make sure that every expense and every deposit is recorded in your books, and the best way to do that is to compare what you’ve written down to the statement that the bank provides. When you do this regularly, you are able to more immediately identify and address items that don’t match up so that you can correct any mistakes and take full advantage of available deductions. Far too often small business owners assume that this task is a waste of time and wait until the end of the year to do it. Not only is this much more time consuming, but it is harder to catch all mistakes and figure out what is missing when you have a full year’s worth of information to go through.
Forgetting to Record Payments Against Open Invoices
You receive a check in the mail or make a deposit into your bank account for an open invoice. If you don’t go back and check off the box showing that receivable as paid, your accounting data will be incorrect and incomplete. Get into the habit of immediately linking payments to their open invoices in order to avoid problems in the future.
Not Understanding the Differences Between Cash Flow and Profit
The money that comes in from your customers and the money that goes out as you make expenditures to operate your business represents cash flow. It’s important to have a positive cash flow, as that is a good indication that your company is healthy. It also means that you can pay your bills. But cash flow is not the same thing as profit. Profitability is a measure of whether you are making more from the sale of your service or product than you spend in bringing it to market. You may be profitable, but if the cash isn’t in hand then you can still have a negative cash flow. And people can pay you quickly so that you have cash on hand but you still may not be making a profit.
The single best and easiest way to avoid these mistakes it is by taking advantage of all of the tools and functions that your accounting software package offers. Most accounting programs include powerful tools and how-to guides, but in many cases small business owners just invest in the packages without taking the time to learn all that they can do — or to learn it well. By taking a little time on the front end to go through the available tutorials, you’ll find that you’ll save yourself both time and trouble on the back end. Our best advice is to set aside time one day of the week, first to learn the software and then, going forward, to go through that week’s records. Set aside the same time slot each week as if it is a meeting or appointment. It’s a good habit to get into.
If you are struggling to learn your software, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Dagley and Co. at (202) 417-6640 for tips and training. Once you learn what you’re doing, make sure that you include backing up your files!
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September 15 – Corporations
File a 2015 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120 or 1120-A) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due (due date applies only if you timely requested an automatic 6-month extension).
September 15 – S Corporations
File a 2015 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you requested an automatic 6-month extension.
September 15 – Corporations
Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2016 for calendar year corporations.
September 15 – Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.
September 15 – Nonpayroll Withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.
September 15 – Partnerships
File a 2015 calendar year return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension. Provide each partner with a copy of K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1.
September 15 – Fiduciaries of Estates and Trusts
File a 2015 calendar year return (Form 1041). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension (If applicable, provide each beneficiary with a copy of K-1 (Form 1041) or a substitute Schedule K-1).
Give Dagley & Co. a call for more details on taxes and your businesses September due dates.
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