• Congress Gives Small Employer HRAs the Green Light

    28 December 2016
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    2017 green light alert! Congress has approved the 21st Century Cures Act, a provision allowing small employers to reimburse their employees for medical expenses under a health reimbursement arrangement (without being liable for the draconian, $100 per day penalty for violating the Affordable Care Act’s rules).

    Background: Stand-alone HRAs do not meet two key requirements of the ACA, as they:

    • Limit the dollar amount of the insured person’s annual benefits and
    • Fail to provide certain preventive-care services without requiring cost-sharing.

    As a result, under the IRS’ interpretation of the ACA, employers are subject to a $100 per day (maximum $36,500 per year) excise tax penalty per employee.

    New Law: Effective January 1, 2017, under the 21st Century Cures Act, qualified small employers that have an average of fewer than 50 full-time employees (including full-time-equivalent employees) and that maintain a qualified small-employer HRA will be exempt from the penalty. Under this act, a qualified small employer is one that:

    • Employs an average of fewer than 50 full-time employees (including full-time-equivalent employees) and does not offer a group health plan to its employees. The number of full-time-equivalent employees is determined by adding up all the hours that part-time employees worked in a given month and dividing by 120.
    • Provides the HRA on the same terms to all eligible employees. Eligible employees all those except:
      1. Those who have not completed 90 days of service,
      2. Those who have not attained the age of 25,
      3. Part-time workers (generally those working an average of less than 30 hours per week),
      4. Seasonal workers (generally those employed for 6 months or fewer during the year),
      5. Those covered by a collective bargaining unit, and
      6. Certain nonresident aliens.
    • Entirely funds the HRA (i.e., no salary-reduction contribution is made to the HRA).
    • Only reimburses the employees after being provided with proof of their medical expenses.
    • Limits reimbursements to $4,950 ($10,000 where the plan includes family members) per year. Amounts are subject to inflation adjustments for years after 2016.

    Any medical-expense reimbursements that an employee receives from a qualifying HRA are excluded from that employee’s income.

    If you have questions regarding this new topic effective January 1, 2017, please give Dagley & Co. a call at 202-417-6640.

     

     

     

     

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  • Can You Deduct Employee Expenses?

    21 March 2016
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    Do you know which expenses relating to your employment are deductible from your tax return? If you are an employee, this may cross your mind. This is a complicated area of tax law, and many expenses are deductible only if the expense is a “condition of employment” or is for the “convenience of the employer,” two phrases that are effectively the same.

    In addition, other factors affect an employee’s ability to deduct expenses incurred as part of employment. One, if an employer would have paid for or reimbursed the employee for an expense, but the employee chooses not to apply for or take advantage of that reimbursement, the employee cannot take a tax deduction for the expense. Two, only those employees who itemize their deductions can benefit from business expense deductions. Thus, if you are using the standard deduction, you cannot receive any tax benefit for your job-related expenses. In addition, even when itemizing, miscellaneous itemized deductions must be reduced by 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Employee business expenses fall into the miscellaneous itemized deduction category. As an example: if your AGI is $80,000, the first $1,600 (2% x AGI) of your miscellaneous deductions provide no benefit. Last, miscellaneous deductions are not included in the itemized deductions allowed for computing the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Thus, if you are unlucky enough to be subject to the AMT, you will not benefit from your miscellaneous deductions for the extent of the AMT.

    The following includes a discussion of the various expenses that an employee might feel they are entitled to deduct and the IRS’s requirements for those deductions.

    Home Office – An employee can deduct a home office only if his or her use of the home office is for the convenience of the employer. According to the U.S. Tax Court, an employee’s use of a home office is for the convenience of his employer only if the employee must maintain the home office as a condition of employment. In an audit, the auditor will require a letter from the employer to verify that fact. Most employers are reluctant to make a home office a condition of employment due to labor laws and liability. In addition, an employee would also have to comply with the IRS’s strict usage requirements for home offices.

    Computer – An individual’s property, such as computers, TVs, recorders, and so on, that is used in connection with his or her employment is eligible for expense or depreciation deductions only if that property is required for the convenience of the employer and as a condition of employment. Even if the condition of employment requirement is satisfied, a computer’s usage must be prorated for personal and business use.

    Uniforms and Special Work Clothes – The cost and maintenance of clothing is allowed if: The employee’s occupation is one that specifically requires special apparel or equipment as a condition of employment and The special apparel or equipment isn’t adaptable to general or continued usage (so as to take the place of ordinary clothing).

    Generally, items such as safety shoes, helmets, fishermen’s boots, work gloves, oil clothes, and so on are deductible if required for a job. However, other work clothing and standard work shoes aren’t deductible—even if the worker’s union requires them.

    Education - To qualify as job-related, courses must maintain or improve the skills required by the employee’s trade or business (such as by helping the employee to meet professional continuing education requirements) or be required as a condition of employment. However, these courses must not be necessary to meet the minimum requirements of the job and must not qualify the employee for a new trade or promotion. If a course meets this definition, its cost is considered deductible as an ordinary and necessary business expense, and as such, it may be excluded from an employee’s income if the employer reimburses the employee for its cost. Note: Some education expenses may qualify for more beneficial education credits or an above-the-line-deduction.

    Impairment-Related Work Expenses – Taxpayers who have a physical or mental disability that limits their activities can deduct impairment-related work expenses. For example, an allowable expense would be the cost of attendant care at the place of the taxpayer’s work.

    Job-Search Expenses – Expenses related to looking for a new job in the taxpayer’s current occupation are deductible even if a new job is not obtained. To be deductible, the expenses cannot be related to seeking a first job or a job in a new occupation. If there is a substantial time gap between the taxpayer’s last job and the time when he or she looks for a new job, the expenses are not deductible.

    Of course, all sorts of employee situations exist, including those in which the employee works at his or her local employer’s office and those in which the employee lives and works in a remote location. The deductions available to each employee vary significantly based upon that individual’s unique situation.

    For more information related to employee expenses and what might be deductible in your situation, please give Dagley & Co. a call.

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  • How To Claim a Disaster Loss On Your Taxes

    18 November 2015
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    It’s been a wild year, weather-wise! With flooding on the East Coast and the wild fires and draught in the West, we have had a number of presidentially declared disaster areas this year. If you were an unlucky victim and suffered a loss as a result of a casualty, your luck may change as you may be able to recoup a portion of that loss through a tax deduction. If the casualty occurred within a federally declared disaster area, you can elect to claim the loss in one of two years: the tax year in which the loss occurred or the immediately preceding year.

    By taking the deduction for a 2015 disaster area loss on the prior year (2014) return, you may be able to get a refund from the IRS before you even file your tax return for 2015, the loss year. You have until the unextended due date of the 2015 return to file an amended 2014 return to claim the disaster loss. Before making the decision to claim the loss in 2014, you should consider which year’s return would produce the greater tax benefit, as opposed to your desire for a quicker refund.

    If you elect to claim the loss on either your 2014 original or amended return, you can generally expect to receive the refund within a matter of weeks, which can help to pay some of your repair costs.

    If the casualty loss, net of insurance reimbursement, is extensive enough to offset all of the income on the return, whether the loss is claimed on the 2014 or 2015 return, and results in negative income, you may have what is referred to as a net operating loss (NOL). When there is an NOL, the unused loss can be carried back two years and then carried forward until it is all used up (but not more 20 years), or you can elect to only carry the unused loss forward.

    Determining the more beneficial year in which to claim the loss requires a careful evaluation of your entire tax picture for both years, including filing status, amount of income and other deductions, and the applicable tax rates. The analysis should also consider the effect of a potential NOL.

    Ordinarily, casualty losses are deductible only to the extent they exceed $100 plus 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Thus, a year with a larger amount of AGI will cut into your allowable loss deduction and can be a factor when choosing which year to claim the loss.

    For verification purposes, keep copies of local newspaper articles and/or photos that will help prove that your loss was caused by the specific disaster.

    As strange as it may seem, a casualty might actually result in a gain. This sometimes occurs when insurance proceeds exceed the tax basis of the destroyed property. When a gain materializes, there are ways to exclude or postpone the tax on the gain.

    If you need further information on casualty and disaster losses, your particular options for claiming the loss, or if you wish to amend your 2014 return to claim your 2015 loss, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.

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  • Tax Tips For Sending Employees on Business Trips

    20 July 2015
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    Do you often send your employees abroad – or even a state or two over? Sending employees on business trips is essential for many companies – even though travel can result in tax headaches for both the employer and the employee if the tax regulations are not adhered to. If the rules are followed, the cost of the employee’s travel will be fully deductible to the employer, with the exception of meals, which are only 50% deductible, and tax-free reimbursement to the employee. In addition, the reimbursement is not subject to FICA or payroll withholding.

    With that said, if the rules aren’t followed, the expenses are still deductible by the employer, but the reimbursement must be added to the employee’s taxable wages, subject to both FICA and payroll withholding.

    An employer is able to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses, including an employee’s job-related travel and lodging expenses that are not lavish or extravagant, and under the rules of working condition fringe benefits, any such item that is deductible by the employer is not includible in the employee’s salary. In addition, an advance or reimbursement made to an employee under an “accountable plan,” which requires the employee to adequately account for the expenses and return any excess advances, is deductible by the employer and not subject to FICA or income tax withholding.

    Reimbursements not made under an accountable plan are fully taxable to the employee, and the only way for the employee to deduct the expenses is as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on his or her 1040. To do that, the employee must itemize his or her deductions on Schedule A, as opposed to taking the standard deduction. The employee business expense category on Schedule A is subject to a 2% of AGI nondeductible threshold, and this frequently results in the employee not being able to deduct any or only a portion of the expenses.

    With the exception noted below, to deduct the cost of lodging and meals, the taxpayer must be away from home overnight. Any trip that is of such a length as to require sleep or rest to enable the taxpayer to continue working is considered “overnight.”

    Under an exception to the away-from-home rule, the cost of local lodging is deductible if the lodging is necessary for the individual to participate fully in or be available for a bona fide business meeting, conference, training activity, or other business function and the duration does not exceed five calendar days and does not recur more frequently than once per calendar quarter. For an employee, the employer must require the employee to remain at the activity or function overnight, the lodging must not be lavish or extravagant, and there can be no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or benefit.

    A taxpayer’s home, for purposes of determining if he or she is away from home and can deduct lodging and meals, is generally where the taxpayer normally lives and works, although that fact is sometimes difficult to determine, in which case the IRS has numerous special rules that apply.

    Where an away-from-home assignment, at a single location, lasts for one year or less, it is “temporary,” and the travel expenses are deductible. If the assignment is longer, there is a good chance the expenses will not be deductible based upon some complex rules.

    The rules for the tax treatment of travel expenses and temporary away-from-home assignments can be complex. Please give us at Dagley & Co. a call or drop us an email for further details or assistance. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this webpage.

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