With the learning curve of the first tax filing season in the TCJA era behind us, year-end tax planning is a perfect time to incorporate those lessons learned. Here is a general overview of some steps business owners can take in their year-end tax planning.
If your business has acquired a fixed asset or property (one that you don’t intend to sell for at least one year and will be used to earn long-term income), and it’s placed in service before the end of the year, you can typically write off the cost in 2019. Thanks to changes made by the TCJA, this now applies to both new and used assets. The TCJA boosted the deduction limit to $1.02 million with a phase-out threshold of $2.55 million for 2019. It also increased bonus depreciation to 100% for property placed in service after September 27, 2017 and before January 1, 2023.
The IRS recently clarified that food and beverage costs are deductible by 50% in certain circumstances and when those costs are stated separately from entertainment on invoices or receipts.
One of the most significant changes made by the TCJA affects owners of pass-through entities (partnerships, S corporations, and LLCs) as it authorized a deduction of up to 20% of the owner’s qualified business income (QBI) for the tax years 2018 through 2025. The QBI deduction is reduced for some taxpayers based on the amount of their income, so some individuals may need to consider reducing their taxable income so it falls under the $157,500 threshold ($315,000 for married filing jointly), whether by making contributions to retirement plans or health savings accounts, or even through charitable contributions. Something to keep in mind is that specified service business owners, which includes most personal-service providers, are not eligible for the deduction if their taxable income is above a certain threshold.
It isn’t a bad idea to complete minor repairs by the end of the year because the deductions can offset taxable business income. However, costs of improvements to business property must be written off over time. If you’re unsure whether a specific renovation or upgrade falls under a repair or an improvement, the IRS recently issued regulations that clarify the distinctions.
Estimated Tax Payments
If your corporation is anticipating a small net operating loss for 2019 but a substantial net income in 2020, you might think about accelerating just enough of the corporation’s 2020 income to create a small amount of net income for 2019. You could also choose to defer some 2019 deductions. This way, rather than having to pay estimated taxes based on 100% of your 2020 taxable income, you will be able to base your estimated tax installments on the comparatively small amount of income shown on your 2019 return.
With additional guidance and regulations released consistently since President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 into law, one thing remains clear: strategic tax planning is key to lowering a business’s total tax liability. Read on for some moves on lowering your 2019 business tax bill.
Establish Tax-Favored Retirement Plan
Current tax rules allow for significant deductible contributions, so if your business doesn’t already have a retirement plan in place, it’s worth considering. Small business retirement plan options include 401(k), SEP-IRA, SIMPLE-IRA, and the defined benefit pension plan. Some of these plans can be established up until December 31 and allow for a deductible contribution for the 2019 tax year, except for the SEP-IRA and SIMPLE-IRA, which mandate a set-up deadline of October in order to make a contribution for the same year.
Review Your Reports
The end of the year is typically a time for businesses to begin goal setting for the next year, so it’s crucial to have a firm grasp on how your business performed financially this year. Make sure your books are up to date and accurate so you have a clear picture before diving into next year’s plan.
Defer Income If It Makes Sense
Depending on where your income level is, you can potentially cut your tax bill by postponing any end-of-the-year income until January 1 or later. Ask your accountant if shifting receivable income to the new year makes sense for your business.
Purchase Business Essentials to Take Advantage of Deductions
Upgrade equipment and furniture, stock up on office supplies, take care of repairs, and make vendor payments in advance in order to maximize deductions. And thanks to the TCJA, you can claim 100% bonus depreciation for qualified asset additions that were acquired and put in place in 2019.
Make Charitable Contributions
Tis the season for giving…and claiming a deduction for the fair market value of your donations. In addition to money, think outside the box and contact a program that sponsors families for the holidays. They often need food, bedding, toys, cookware, and clothing. It’s a great way for employees to feel like they’re making a difference too. Just don’t forget to get the necessary documentation and receipts to keep with your records.
Start Preparing for Next Year
If you put these tips into action, you’ll be better prepared at this time next year. For instance, you’ll already have a retirement plan in place. By going through the process of tax preparation this year, you have the opportunity to create systems for organization that will expedite the process next year.
When doing your taxes, the goal is to maximize the tax credits and deductions for which you’re eligible. But tax credits are worth more than deductions with the same value, so knowing the differences between the two will help you save money on taxes.
Both credits and deductions lower your tax bill but in different ways and with different outcomes. Tax credits lower your tax liability while tax deductions reduce your taxable income. For instance, someone who’s in the 25% tax bracket with a $100 tax credit will save $100 dollars in taxes, but if that same person has a $100 deduction, they will only save $25 in taxes (25% of $100).
Tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction on your tax bill, regardless of tax rate, which explains the $100 savings with a $100 tax credit in the previous example. Taking advantage of eligible tax credits after applying all deductions will help to slash your taxes due. Some of the more popular tax credits include:
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC or EITC)
- Child Tax Credit
- Child and Dependent Care Credit
- American Opportunity Tax Credit
- Lifetime Learning Credit
- Adoption Credit
- Saver’s Credit
- Residential Energy Tax Credit
Refundable Tax Credits vs. Non-Refundable Tax Credits
Some tax credits are refundable while others are not. When you claim a refundable tax credit that exceeds your total tax liability, the IRS will send you the difference. For example, if your tax liability is $1,000 and then you apply your EITC, which is $2,500, you would use that $2,500 to pay your liability and the remaining $1,500 would be refunded to you. By contrast, a non-refundable tax credit can reduce your federal income tax liability to zero, but any leftover balance from the credit will not be refunded.
There are two types of tax income deductions, which reduce the amount of income you’re taxed on: itemized deductions and above-the-line deductions.
Itemized deductions are certain tax-deductible expenses that you incur throughout the year. For some taxpayers, those expenses add up to be greater than the standard deduction amount, in which case, they should itemize their tax returns rather than take the flat-dollar standard deduction. Keep in mind that if you plan to itemize, you should accurately track your spending throughout the year, and keep supporting documentation (receipts, bank statements, check stubs, insurance bills, etc.) in the instance that IRS would ask for proof.
Common itemized deductions include:
- Medical expenses
- State and local income taxes
- Property taxes
- Mortgage interest
- Charitable contributions
The standard deduction is a fixed amount that varies in consistency to your filing status. For 2019 returns, the standard deduction is:
- $12,200 for single filers and married filers filing separately
- $24,400 for married filers filing jointly
- $18,350 for heads of household
If you claim the standard deduction, you can use “above-the-line” deductions, which reduce your adjusted gross income (AGI), to lower your tax bill. Some of these deductions are:
- Health savings account (HSA) contributions
- Deductible contributions to IRAs
- The deductible portion of self-employment taxes
- Contributions to self-employed SEP-IRA, SIMPLE IRA, and other qualified plans
- Self-employment health insurance premiums
- Penalties on early savings withdrawals
Above-the-line deductions typically aren’t as valuable as tax credits, but they help to lower your AGI, which can slash your tax liability and qualify you for other tax breaks based on income limits.
As a small business owner, the more you can stay organized, improve daily operations, control business expenses, and generally make life as an entrepreneur run a little more smoothly, the more proficient and prolific your business will become. Below are some top-rated apps and programs available to help you manage your business’s financial situation.
Though it’s intended mainly for individual users, this financial tracking app is effective for businesses too. Aside from tracking bills and cash flow, Mint also has Quicken MyBusiness, a tool for small businesses that helps categorize expenses, and gives you up-front information for tax filing.
With the ability to connect to your bank account, PayPal, Square, credit cards, and more, you can use QuickBooks to track sales and expenses, view financial statements, pay employees and vendors, track unpaid invoices, maximize tax deductions, and more. With QuickBooks Online, you can access QuickBooks on both iOS and Android phones and tablets.
For businesses and freelancers alike, cloud-based FreshBooks helps you create personalized invoices, with an option to automatically bill clients for recurring invoices, and generate customizable business reports, such as profit and loss statements. You can also automate tasks like organizing expenses and receipts, tracking your time, and following up with clients.
Created for businesses with nine or fewer employees, Wave is an accounting software platform that has the ability to track sales and expenses; manage invoices, customer payments, and payroll; scan receipts; and generate accounting reports. With Wave’s free apps for iOS and Android, you can send invoices on the go, and get notified when an invoice is viewed, becomes due, or gets paid. Also available through the platform is a free personal finance software to help small-business owners manage their finances in one place.
Once you connect your accounts to the Truebill app, it will generate a report of where your money is going, categorizing and charting subscriptions and expenses. An added bonus with Truebill is a feature that compares your bills and subscriptions to average service levels, and with your initiation, will call providers and negotiate on your behalf.
Intended for small and mid-sized businesses, this accounting app (accessible by both desktop and mobile platforms) can handle payments and expenses, asset management, bank account reconciliation, invoicing and purchase orders, sales tax calculations, and multi-currency accounting.
If you’re looking for a forecasting program to help with strategic planning and analysis, PlanGuru might be a good fit. It’s pricey, with business plans starting at $99 per month, but with an analytics dashboard, Excel add-on, a budget and forecasting platform, and training, it might be worth the cost to keep business spending in check.
This simple expense tracker uses multiple platforms to keep tabs on expenses and mileage by reading and importing expenses from linked bank accounts and credit cards. And with the ability to scan and upload receipts, expenses can easily be submitted to employers.
This bookkeeping service halts the need to invest in big bookkeepers and implements tax services for small businesses. It also helps with forecasting by syncing with bank accounts and credit cards to predict future cash flow determined by current trends and previous expenses.
With their first plan shot down in Congress, the GOP has released another, broader tax framework as the Trump Administration attempts to shift the tax code. This new plan has many elements that Congress will need to hash out before anything is signed into law, but taxpayers of all income levels are wondering how this plan may affect them personally. Below are five major developments in the new plan that could affect you come tax season:
- Rate Shift
Our current code has seven different income tax brackets, but the new plan would drop that number down to three: 12, 25 and 35 percent. Although the plan does not specify which income levels would be taxed at each new rate, the wealthy would likely see the greatest benefit since the current top bracket at 39.6% would drop to 35%. The current lowest bracket (at 10%) would see an increase to join the 12% bracket, but the plan claims to aid families in that bracket through an increase in the standard deduction and a greater child tax credit.
- Deduction Increase (for most)
For many taxpayers, the new plan would almost double the current standard deduction. Filers who claim multiple children would not see as high of a increase, but could potentially see that offset by a steeper child tax credit. Presently, about 70% of taxpayers take the standard deduction as it is higher than itemizing. However, experts believe that number would increase significantly if the standard deduction is doubled. The GOP’s plan would remove other deductions to offset the increased standard deduction, but the charitable contribution and mortgage interest deductions would be kept.
- Some Taxes and Deductions Eliminated Entirely
The largest deduction that would meet its end with the new GOP plan is the local and state tax deduction. This deduction is often taken in states where taxes, and average income, is higher, states that are often Democratic. Other taxes that would be eliminated include the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax for those who inherit funds in excess of $5.49 million.
- New Tax Rate for “Pass-Through” Businesses
S corporations, sole proprietorships and partnerships could see a new tax rate at 25% under the new plan. Currently, those “pass-through” businesses pay at the individual rate of their owners, and those businesses make up about 95% of the nation’s business demographic. Although many business owners currently pay a rate lower than 25%, just under 2% of those business owners pay the top rate of 39.6%, which means they could see a significant drop in rate if they are permitted to incorporate as a “pass-through.”
- Change in the Corporate Tax Code
The current plan taxes corporations at 35%, but the new plan would drop that rate to 20%. To offset this steep drop in rate, the proposal submits to eliminate certain business deductions and credits. The plan suggests that the deduction for domestic production could be eliminated, while maintaining exceptions for low income housing and research and development, but leaves many of those choices up to Congress.
Congress must still comb through the GOP’s newest plan and make adjustments before a finalized plan is voted upon, so taxpayers should prepare for more adjustments to be made before anything is signed into law. As developments arise, MKR will continue to keep our clients up to date in future newsletters.
The dust has ultimately settled from the somewhat turbulent Presidential Election of 2016 and preparations are fully underway for our new President’s January 20th inauguration. The transition period from President Obama to President Trump is in full swing with staff being nominated and confirmed and policies taking shape. One such plan that taxpayers would do well to pay notice to is the President-Elect’s tax plan. Trump’s plans for both businesses and individuals may involve some considerable shifts and could impact your early 2017 filing decisions. Although tax laws and regulations are in almost constant flux, Trump’s proposals could trigger some significant changes.
One major alteration Trump has proposed is to shift from seven tax brackets to only three tax brackets at 12%, 25% and 33% respectively. While this would present a cutting of taxes for some higher income brackets who had seen rates as high as 43.4% under President Obama, some lower income brackets could actually see their tax rates raised from 10% to 12%. Joint filers without children could also see definitive benefits from Trump’s plan, though large families or single parent filers may not. The President-Elect has also proposed to remove the 3.8% net investment income tax enacted under Obamacare. Thus, the top tax rate would be capped at 33%, and the top capital gains and dividends rate would not exceed 20%. Another proposal of Trump’s plan for individuals would include capping itemized deductions for married couples at $200,000.
On a business level, Trump’s proposals seem even more drastic. The President-Elect has suggested that he would cut all business tax rates to 15%, a drastic shift from the average 35% tax rate for most major corporations. Under President Obama, corporations have been paying a 35% tax rate, and those owning LLC’s, partnerships and S corporations are taxed for their flow-through business income at their respective income rate, though not exceeding 43.4%. Trump’s plan would prove especially beneficial for sole proprietors who had previously fit into the highest tax bracket; these entities could see their tax rates drop by almost 30%.
However, Trump’s tax plan is not presenting significant changes for many IRS tax rules, including the constructive receipt doctrine, which affects both businesses and individuals. Essentially, the IRS can tax you on any income or payment you have the legal right to in 2016, even if you don’t actually receive it until 2017. This includes sales made but not officially received until January, or bonus checks sent out but not cashed until January, something to keep in mind when filing in 2017. In addition to tax cuts, Trump’s plans have the potential to affect the housing market as well. To read more about the President-Elect and the housing market, check out our blog here. Of course, some of Trump’s proposals may not occur, but with a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, some level of tax cuts are likely. However, no matter what changes eventually come into effect, these prospective tax revisions could have significant impacts on 2017 and the years beyond.