Drive often for work? There’s a tax deduction for that. The Internal Revenue Service recently announced the inflation-adjusted 2016 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning January 1, 2016, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (or a van, pickup or panel truck) will be:
- 54.0 cents per mile for business miles driven (including a 24-cent-per-mile allocation for depreciation). This is down from 57.5 cents in 2015;
- 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes. This is down from 23 cents in 2015; and
- 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs as determined by the same study. The rate for using an automobile while performing services for a charitable organization is statutorily set and has been 14 cents for over 15 years.
Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle for business rather than using the standard mileage rates. With the extension of the bonus depreciation though 2019, using the actual expense method may be a worthwhile consideration in the first year the vehicle is placed in service. The bonus depreciation allowance adds an additional $8,000 to the maximum first year depreciation deduction of passenger vehicles and light trucks that have an unloaded gross vehicle weight of 6,000 pounds or less.
However, the standard mileage rates cannot be used if the actual method (using Sec. 179, bonus depreciation and/or MACRS depreciation) has been used in previous years. This rule is applied on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for any vehicle used for hire or for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.
Employer reimbursement – Where employers reimburse employees for business-related car expenses using the standard mileage allowance method for each substantiated employment-connected business mile, the reimbursement is tax-free if the employee substantiates to the employer the time, place, mileage and purpose of employment-connected business travel.
Employees whose actual employment-related business mileage expenses exceed the employer’s reimbursement can deduct the difference on their income tax return as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2%-of-AGI floor. However, an employee who leases an auto and is reimbursed using the mileage allowance method can‘t claim a deduction based on actual expenses unless he does so consistently beginning with the first business use of the auto.
Faster Write-Offs for Heavy Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) – Many of today’s SUV vehicles weigh more than 6,000 pounds and are therefore not subject to the luxury auto depreciation limit rules; so taxpayers with these vehicles can utilize both the §179 expense deduction (up to a maximum of $25,000) and the bonus depreciation (the §179 deduction must be applied first and then the bonus depreciation) to produce a sizable first-year tax deduction. However, the vehicle cannot exceed a gross unloaded vehicle weight of 14,000 pounds. Caution: Business autos are 5-year class life property. If the taxpayer subsequently disposes of the vehicle early, before the end of the 5-year period, as many do, a portion of the §179 expense deduction will be recaptured and must be added back to income (SE income for self-employed individuals). The future ramifications of deducting all or a significant portion of the vehicle’s cost using §179 should be considered.
If you have questions related to best methods of deducting the business use of your vehicle or the documentation required, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. so we can turn your mileage back into money.
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If you operate a business and hired an individual (like an independent contractor) who is not an “employee” and you paid him or her $600 or more for the 2015 calendar year, you are required to issue him or her a Form 1099 at the end of the year to avoid penalties and the prospect of losing the deduction for his or her labor and expenses in an audit – or at the very latest, February 1, 2016.
That is, the due date for mailing the recipient his or her copy of the 1099 that reports 2015 payments is February 1, 2016, while the copy that goes to the IRS is due at the end of February.
It is not uncommon to have a repairman out early in the year, pay him less than $600, then use his services again later in the year and have the total for the year exceed the $599 limit. As a result, you may have overlooked getting the information from the individual needed to file the 1099s for the year. Therefore, it is good practice to always have individuals who are not incorporated complete and sign an IRS Form W-9 the first time you engage them and before you pay them. Having a properly completed and signed Form W-9 for all independent contractors and service providers eliminates any oversights and protects you against IRS penalties and conflicts. If you have been negligent in the past about having the W-9s completed, it would be a good idea to establish a procedure for getting each non-corporate independent contractor and service provider to fill out a W-9 and return it to you going forward.
IRS Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification, is provided by the government as a means for you to obtain the data required to file 1099s for your vendors. It also provides you with verification that you complied with the law in case the vendor gave you incorrect information. We highly recommend that you have a potential vendor complete a Form W-9 prior to engaging in business with them. The W-9 is for your use only and is not submitted to the IRS.
The penalties for failure to file the required informational returns have been doubled this year and are $250 per informational return. The penalty is reduced to $50 if a correct but late information return is filed not later than the 30th day after the February 29, 2016, required filing date, or it is reduced to $100 for returns filed after the 30th day but no later than August 1, 2016. If you are required to file 250 or more information returns, you must file them electronically.
In order to avoid a penalty, copies of the 1099s you’ve issued for 2015 need to be sent to the IRS by February 29, 2016. They must be submitted on magnetic media or on optically scannable forms (OCR forms). This firm prepares 1099s for submission to the IRS. This service provides recipient copies and file copies for your records. Use the 1099 worksheet (http://images.client-sites.com/1099-Worksheet.pdf) to provide Dagley & Co. with the information needed to prepare your 1099s.
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There is only one deadline for business owners to remember: on January 15, your Employer’s Monthly Deposit is due. If you are an employer and the monthly deposit rules apply, January 15 is the due date for you to make your deposit of Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax for December 2015. This is also the due date for the nonpayroll withholding deposit for December 2015 if the monthly deposit rule applies. Employment tax deposits must be made electronically (no more paper coupons), except employers with a deposit liability under $2,500 for a return period may remit payments quarterly or annually with the return.
If you are a small- or medium-sized business owner, and you don’t have a CPA lined up for the upcoming tax season, we would love to take you on as a client. Dagley & Co. specializes in businesses like yours, and we have a stellar track record. You can find our information at the bottom of this screen. We look forward to working with you!
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During the holidays, many charities solicit gifts of money or property. This is partially because people are in the giving mood, but also because they know this is the last month for people and businesses to give – affecting their current tax year before a new year begins. Our article here includes tips for documenting your charitable gifts so that you can claim a deduction on your tax return. You may also want to read our article for advice for how not to be scammed by criminals trying to trick you into sending charitable donations to them.
To claim a charitable deduction you must itemize your deductions; if you don’t, there is no need to keep any records. In addition, only contributions to qualified charities are deductible. Of course, we all know that the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Cancer Society are legitimate, qualified charities, but what about small or local charities? To make sure a charity is qualified, use the IRS Select Check tool. You can always deduct gifts to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, and government agencies—even if the Select Check tool does not list them in its database.
The documentation requirements for cash and non-cash contributions are different. A donor may not claim a deduction for a cash, check, or other monetary gift unless the donor maintains a record of the contribution in the form of either a bank record (such as a cancelled check) or a written communication from the charity (such as a receipt or a letter) showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution. In addition, if the contribution is $250 or more, the donor must also get an acknowledgment from the charity for each deductible donation.
When contributions are made via payroll deductions, a pay stub, Form W-2 or other verifying document should be maintained as verification of the gift. It must show the total amount withheld for charity. In addition, be sure to retain the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
Non-cash contributions are also deductible. Generally, contributions of this type must be in good condition, and they can include food, art, jewelry, clothing, furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances, and linens. Items of minimal value (such as underwear and socks) are generally not deductible. The deductible amount is the fair-market value of the items at the time of the donation, and as with cash donations, if the value is $250 or more, you save an acknowledgment from the charity for each deductible donation. Be aware: the door hangers left by many charities after picking up a donation do not meet the acknowledgement criteria; in one court case, taxpayers were denied their charitable deduction because their acknowledgement consisted only of door hangers. When a non-cash contribution is $500 or more, the IRS requires Form 8283 to be included with the return, and when the donation is $5,000 or more, a certified appraisal is generally required.
Special rules also apply to donations of used vehicles when the deduction claimed exceeds $500. The deductible amount is based upon the charity’s use of the vehicle, and Form 8283 is required. A charity accepting used vehicles as donations is required to provide Form 1098-C (or an equivalent) to properly document the donation.
There are also special rules for purchasing capital assets for a charity, such as travel, personal vehicle use, entertainment, and placement of students in a home. Please call for information related to these issues.
Charitable contributions are deductible in the year in which you make them. If you charge a gift to a credit card before the end of the year, it will count for 2015. This is true even if you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2016. In addition, a check will count for 2015 as long as you mail it in 2015.
If you have questions or concerns about your 2015 charitable donations or about the documentation required to claim deductions for them, please call us at Dagley & Co.
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Benjamin Franklin once said, “Nothing is certain but death and taxes.” He managed to name two of the things that people loathe and fear the most. What makes taxes so unpleasant is the fact that you have to hand over some of your hard-earned money to the government, and the other is that it can be so difficult to figure out how to fill out the forms – and which one to use.
The rule of thumb for choosing your personal income tax form is to try to go with the one that is easiest to understand, but that being said, you also need to be sure that it is the one that is correct. The government provides three forms – the 1040, the 1040A, and the 1040EZ – and all are meant to help you pay the amount that you owe. Each form has a different purpose, and choosing the wrong one can end up meaning that you either pay more than you owe or pay fines for not paying enough.
The simplest form is the one known as the EZ, while the long Form 1040 is the most complicated. Though it may be tempting to go for the one that takes the least amount of time to complete, if you simply jump for the fastest way through your filing responsibilities, you may end up cheating yourself of the opportunity to take some of the tax breaks to which you’re entitled. That’s because the more detail the form asks for, the more chances there are for you to provide information that may entitle you to a write-off.
The Affordable Care Act Might Preclude the Use of the EZ – Many people who were formerly able to file Form 1040EZ may find that they are no longer eligible to use this short form. This is because those who purchase health insurance through a state or federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act have the option to receive advance payment of the premium tax credit, which helps pay some of the costs of the insurance. In order to ensure that you receive the appropriate amount of credit, the taxpayer is required to submit all appropriate information on Form 8962, which cannot be filed with the 1040EZ – it can only be submitted with Form 1040 or 1040a. Though this means that taxpayers have to do a bit more paperwork, but it ensures that the proper amount of credit is taken and also provides the opportunity for the government to reimburse you if not enough of a credit is provided.
How Using The EZ May Be A Mistake – In some cases, using the 1040EZ can end up costing you money. This is because the short form, which is often the one selected by taxpayers who believe that their uncomplicated finances make it the most appropriate for them, does not provide the opportunity to take advantage of tax breaks you may be entitled to. For example, a recent college graduate who was just hired by his first employer would naturally assume that his taxes are so simple that there’s no need to fuss with a longer form. But doing so eliminates the possibility of taking a write-off for any interest that he paid on a student loan. Similarly, if he was wise and started setting aside money into a traditional IRA upon learning that his new employer offered no retirement plan, then his contributions would be deductible – but the short form doesn’t even ask that question. He might end up in a lower tax bracket by using the long form and would be able to pay just fifteen percent on taxes rather than 25 percent, simply based on these two deductions. Another deduction that can be taken on a 1040 or 1040A but not on a 1040EZ is the Lifetime Learning tax credit for courses taken to improve job skills – and there are many more. Form 1040EZ has the advantage of being simple, but it can end up working against you if you want to get the greatest possible deduction.
Reviewing the Three Tax Returns – It can be difficult to know which of the three tax returns is the right one for you and your particular situation. Here is some basic information on each one to provide you with a better sense of which you should choose.
Form 1040EZ – This simplest of all of the IRS forms is open to people who meet the following criteria:
- You are filing as either single or as married filing jointly
- You are younger than 65. If you are filing a joint return with your spouse, then your spouse must also be younger than 65. If your 65th birthday (or your spouse’s 65th birthday) falls on January 1 of the tax year, then you are considered to have turned 65 in the previous year, and will become ineligible to use the form.
- Neither you nor your spouse (if filing jointly) can have been legally blind during the tax year.
- You cannot have dependents and use this form.
- Your interest income must be less than $1,500.
- Your income (or joint income if filing with your spouse) must be less than $100,000.
Though the 1040 EZ does make things easier by being just one page long, it minimizes the amount of deductions that you are able to take. The 1040EZ limits taxpayers to taking just the earned income tax credit, and it may end up cheating you of deductions to which you are entitled. For that reason, it makes sense to consider the other forms that are available.
Form 1040A – Form 1040A is available regardless of what the taxpayer’s filing status is. Those who file as single, married filing either separately or jointly, head of household, or qualifying widow or widower can all use this form. In addition to having this advantage, it also provides the opportunity to claim more than just the earned income tax credit. Taxpayers are also able to take advantage of tax credits for their children, education, dependent care, retirement savings credits, and elderly or disabled care. All of these deductions are available using the 1040A, but not the 1040EZ. Additional criteria for using the 1040A include:
- You must have taxable income (or combined incomes) below $100,000.
- You cannot itemize deductions.
- You can have capital gain distributions but cannot have capital losses or gains.
There are other adjustments allowed for those using Form 1040A. These are known as above-the-line deductions, and they reduce the total gross income counted against you for tax purposes. By using these adjustments, you are able to reduce your overall tax burden. These adjustments include some IRA contributions, educator expenses, college tuition and fees, and student loan interest.
Form 1040 – For those who have higher incomes, need to itemize their deductions, or have investments and income that require a more complicated tax preparation, the appropriate form is the 1040. The 1040 generally requires additional documentation and forms, but using it is often the only way to get the additional savings that are due to the taxpayer. Some of these credits include deductions for taxes paid in a foreign country, deductions for the cost of adopting a child, and a number of above-the-line deductions that are not available with the other forms. The purpose of having these other adjustments available is to provide people with the greatest opportunity to reduce their gross income, thereby reducing the overall tax burden. People who use Form 1040 are able to take deductions for self-employment taxes that have been paid, moving taxes, alimony payments, and more. There is no need to use a form Schedule A, as the available deductions are already listed on the front page of the 1040 – however, certain forms or schedules may need to be completed and attached.
Although any taxpayer can use the 1040, it is most generally used by taxpayers:
- Who itemize their deductions,
- Who are self-employed, or
- Who have capital gain income from the sale of stocks or other assets.
If you are still uncertain as to which form is most appropriate for you, IRS Publication 17 provides many answers and details, including special circumstances and specific examples.
It is important to remember that just because a form was appropriate for you in the past, it may not be in the future, and there is no requirement that you use it again. It may be appropriate for you to consult with a professional tax preparer, like us at Dagley & Co., to ensure you receive all the tax breaks and benefits you are entitled to.
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If you’re struggling with your money, then no doubt you may be excited about your upcoming potential tax refund.
However, that excitement may be premature if you have outstanding federal or state debts. The Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) issues federal tax refunds, and Congress authorizes BFS to reduce your refund through its Treasury Offset Program (TOP) to pay:
- Past-due child and parent support;
- Federal agency non-tax debts;
- State income tax obligations; or
- Certain unemployment compensation debts owed to a state.
If you owe a debt that’s past due, it can reduce your federal tax refund and all or part of your refund may go to pay your outstanding federal or state debt if it has been submitted for tax refund offset by an agency of the federal or state government.
If you have an outstanding debt and want to be proactive, you can contact the agency with which you have a debt to determine if your debt was submitted for a tax refund offset. You may call BFS’s TOP call center at 800-304-3107 or TDD 866-297-0517, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST.
If your debt was submitted for offset, BFS will reduce your refund as needed to pay off the debt and send it to the agency you owe. Any portion of your remaining refund after offset is issued in a check or is direct deposited as originally requested on the return.
If you choose to wait and see what happens when you file your return, BFS will send you a notice if an offset occurs. If you wish to dispute the amount taken from your refund, you will have to contact the agency that submitted the offset claim. It will be shown on the notice you will receive from the BFS.
If you filed a joint tax return, and only one spouse is responsible for the debt, the other spouse may be entitled to part of or all the refund. To request the refund of the spouse that is not responsible for the offset, you can file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. The benefits provided under the injured spouse allocation will generally not apply if you reside in a community property state.
Please contact Dagley & Co. if have you have questions about refund offsets. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this page.
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Have a merry month – and not a stressful month – with these December tax deadline tips from Dagley & Co! Image via public domain.
December – Time for Year-End Tax Planning
December is the month to take final actions to affect your 2015 taxes. Taxpayers with substantial increases or decreases in income, changes in marital status or dependent status, and those who sold property during 2015 should get in touch with us at Dagley & Company for a tax planning consultation appointment. In case you need more reasons, do read our special post from Black Friday about why we may be the perfect accounting firm for you!
December 10 – Report Tips to Employer
If you are an employee who works for tips and received more than $20 in tips during November, you are required to report them to your employer on IRS Form 4070 no later than December 10. Your employer is required to withhold FICA taxes and income tax withholding for these tips from your regular wages. If your regular wages are insufficient to cover the FICA and tax withholding, the employer will report the amount of the uncollected withholding in box 12 of your W-2 for the year. You will be required to pay the uncollected withholding when your return for the year is filed.
December 31 – Last Day to Make Mandatory IRA Withdrawals
Last day to withdraw funds from a Traditional IRA Account and avoid a penalty if you turned age 70½ before 2015. If the institution holding your IRA will not be open on December 31, you will need to arrange for withdrawal before that date.
December 31 – Last Day to Pay Deductible Expenses for 2015
Last day to pay deductible expenses for the 2015 return (doesn’t apply to IRA, SEP or Keogh contributions, all of which can be made after December 31, 2015). Taxpayers who are making state estimated payments may find it advantageous to prepay the January state estimated tax payment in December (Please call the office for more information).
December 31 – Where did the time go?! Last Day of the Year!
If the actions you wish to take cannot be completed on the 31st or a single day, you should consider taking action earlier than December 31st.
On this hot, hot hot shopping and sales weekend, you may be looking everywhere for the best Black Friday and Small Business Saturday deals. There’s another way to save yourself a lot of money – potentially thousands of dollars – and that is by hiring an accountant from Dagley & Company to do the taxes of you, your family, and/or your small business.
For starters, our founder, Dan Dagley, has an exceptional track record with taxes and clients. He was a top-10 CPA with TurboTax’s Pro program, which is currently undergoing a makeover. You can read hundreds of his glowing reviews on our testimonials page. If you miss this TurboTax Pro service, Dagley & Company can help fill your need. Get started by getting in touch with us; you’ll find our contact information at the bottom of this screen.
If you’re one of those people who has never filed for taxes and hasn’t heard from the IRS, then it’s probably because you’re leaving money on the table. Each year, the IRS reports about $1 billion in unclaimed refunds for individuals who did not file a tax return – and about half of them are for amounts greater than $600! You could literally turn a profit simply by dropping us an email, so what are you waiting for?
Many people are handy at filing their own taxes, but our clients who decide to pivot to our team are consistently amazed at the money they save. It’s unlikely that you know all of the tax credits and benefits you are entitled to! There are credits for those who generate their own renewable energy, there are credits for those paying for education, there are credits for those who are taking care of elderly/disabled relatives, there are tax deductions for start-up businesses, and so many more. Let us sit down with you to see just how much of your own money you’re entitled to keep this year.
Finally, Dagley & Company is about as convenient as it gets. Yes, we are located in Washington, D.C., but we serve clients all over the United States, as well as a few scattered all over the globe. Best case scenario for you and us is you keep good records on Quickbooks or another digital program, and we can help you file the most accurate, succinct tax forms you’ve ever seen. Whether you prefer email or a personal phone call, we’re here to work with you to save you time and money.
We hope this has helped you make a decision about the best way to file your taxes – and happy shopping on this Black Friday!
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Getting solar panels for your home is not only good for the environment, because it may be good for your wallet, too! If you are considering installing a solar electric system or solar hot water system for your home, we have some information on the tax benefits you could collect should you go through with your plan.
First of all, there is a very lucrative non-refundable federal tax credit for 30% of the cost of the system with no maximum. So for example, if the solar electric system cost you $20,000, your tax credit would be $6,000. A non-refundable tax credit offsets your tax liability, regular and alternative minimum, dollar for dollar, and any excess is added to any credit allowable in the subsequent year. For example, if your 2015 credit was $6,000 and your 2015 tax liability was $4,000, then $4,000 of the credit would go to pay off your 2015 tax liability and the remaining $2,000 would be added to your 2016 solar credit, if any, and used to reduce your 2016 tax liability. This credit, unless it is extended by Congress, will expire after 2016.
Many state and local governments and public utilities also offer incentives, such as rebates and tax credits, for investment in renewable energy property. When deciding whether to make a purchase, you should consider the available incentives and your cost savings for operating the system – and Dagley & Co. is happy to help you connect the dots.
To qualify for the credit, the equipment must be installed in a home that is located in the U.S. and that you use as your residence. The credit can’t be claimed for equipment that is used to heat a swimming pool or hot tub. If the equipment is used more than 20% for business purposes, only the expenses allocable to non-business use qualify for the credit.
The credit covers both the cost of the hardware and the expenses of installing it, such as labor costs for on-site preparation, assembly, and installation of the equipment and for piping or wiring to connect it to your home. You claim the credit in the year in which the installation is completed. If you install the equipment in a newly constructed or reconstructed home, you claim the credit when you move in. The credit can be taken for a newly constructed home if the costs of the solar power system can be separated from the home construction costs and the required certification documents are available.
Solar installation companies offer a variety of ways to pay for their systems other than cash. You could take out a loan, and if that loan were secured by your home, generally you would be able to deduct the interest on the loan. Another option is to lease the system, in which case you would not qualify for the 30% solar credit and the lease payments would not be deductible. In addition, for the lease option, you would have to deal with transferring the lease to the new owner should you decide to sell the home. (This may entail you paying off the lease or the buyer assuming the debt before the sale can be finalized. Some buyers may not want to take on the additional obligation.) Another option is to allow the solar company to install the solar power system and then purchase the electricity from them. You would not be entitled to the solar credit under the latter arrangement.
If you would like to review your options in more detail, including the tax and other aspects of purchasing a solar system for your home, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co.
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