Monday, July 31, 2017

Five Home Office Deduction Mistakes

If you operate a business out of your home, you may be able to deduct a wide variety of expenses. These may include part of your rent or mortgage costs, insurance, utilities, repairs, maintenance, and cleaning costs related to the space you use.
It can be a tricky area of the tax code that’s full of pitfalls for the unwary. Here are some of the top mistakes people make:
Not taking it. This is probably the biggest mistake those with home offices make. Some believe the deduction is too complicated, while others believe taking a home office deduction increases your chance of being audited. While the rules can be complicated, there are now simple home office deduction methods available to every business.
Not exclusive or regular. The space you use must be used exclusively and regularly for your business.
Exclusively: If you use a spare bedroom as a business office, it can’t double as a guest room, a playroom for the kids, or a place to store your hockey gear. Any kind of non-business use can invalidate you for the deduction.
Regularly: It should be the primary place you conduct your regular business activities. That doesn’t mean that you have to use it every day nor does it stop you from doing work outside the office, but it should be the primary place for business activities such as record keeping, billing, making appointments, ordering equipment, or storing supplies.
Mixing up your other work. If you are an employee for someone else in addition to running your own business, be careful in using your home office to do work for your employer. Generally, IRS rules state you can use a home office deduction as an employee only if your employer doesn’t provide you with a local office to work at.
Unfortunately, this means if you run a side business out of your home office, you cannot also bring work home from your employer’s office and do it in your home office. That would invalidate your use of the home office deduction.
The recapture problem. If you have been using your home office deduction, including depreciating part of your home, you could be in for a future tax surprise. When you later sell your home, you will need to account for this depreciation. This depreciation recapture rule creates a possible tax liability for many unsuspecting home office users.
Not getting help. There are special rules that apply to your use of the home office deduction if:
– You are an employee of someone else.
– You are running a daycare or assisted living facility out of your home.
– You have a business renting out your primary residence or a vacation home.
The home office deduction can be tricky, so be sure to ask for help, especially if you fall under one of these cases.
Things to remember
Recognizing the home office deduction complexity, the IRS created a simplified “safe harbor” home office deduction. You simply take the square footage of your office, up to 300 square feet, and multiply it by $5. This gives you a potential $1,500 maximum deduction. However, your savings could be much greater than $1,500, so it’s often worth getting help to calculate your full deduction.
Finally, if you are concerned about a potential future audit, take a photo or two of your home office. This is especially important if you move. That way if you are ever challenged, you can visually attempt to show your compliance to the rules.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Reap The Benefits Of Hiring Your Child For The Summer

Hiring your children to work in your business can be a win-win situation for everyone. Your kids will earn money, gain real-life experience in the workplace, and learn what you do every day. And, you will reap a few tax benefits in the process. Before you decide if hiring your child is the right thing for your business, learn if it can work for you.
Generally, if your child is doing a legitimate job and the pay is reasonable for the work, his or her salary can be a tax-deductible business expense. Your child’s income can be tax-free to them up to the standard deduction amount for a single tax payer ($6,350 in 2017). Wages earned in excess of this amount are typically taxed at your child’s rate, which is likely lower than your rate.
The following guidelines will help you determine if the arrangement will work in your situation:
  • Make sure your child works a real job that he or she can reasonably handle, no matter how basic or simple. Consider tasks like office filing, packing orders, or customer service.
  • Treat your child like any other employee. Expect regular hours and appropriate behavior. If you are lenient with your child, you risk upsetting regular employees.
  • To avoid questions from the IRS, make sure the pay is reasonable for the duties performed. It’s not a bad idea to prepare a written job description for your files. Include a W-2 at year-end.
  • Record hours worked just as you would for any employee. Pay your child using the normal payroll system and procedures your other employees use.
  • Hiring your children works best if you are a sole proprietor. It has additional tax benefits not available if your business is organized as a C corporation or an S corporation.
If you have questions, give us a call. Together we can determine if hiring your child is the right course of action for your business and your family.
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Monday, July 17, 2017

Get to Know These Tax-Saving Terms

As you begin to think about scheduling your midyear tax planning appointment, refresh your memory on the meanings of terms that can save you money. Here are three.
  • Exclusion. Exclusions are items that would generally be included on your return, but are specifically excluded by a tax law provision. For example, gifts and inheritances you receive are excluded from your income – you simply don’t report them on your federal tax return.
  • Deduction. By definition, a deduction means an amount is subtracted from your income. Tax deductions fit into four general categories.
Above the line deductions, such as alimony paid, can be claimed even if you don’t itemize.
Itemized deductions are a specific group of expenses, including amounts you pay for certain taxes, medical costs, charitable donations, mortgage interest, and disaster losses.
The standard deduction is a simplified substitute for itemized deductions. It’s a flat amount you can use to reduce your gross income instead of itemizing each allowable expense.
Business deductions are the ordinary and necessary expenses required for carrying on your trade or business.
  • Credit. Income tax credits are subtracted from the tax you owe. Note the difference from the definition of deductions, which reduce your income and indirectly reduce your final tax bill.
Tax credits can be refundable, meaning you’ll get money back if the credit exceeds the amount of tax you owe. Nonrefundable credits can only reduce your tax to zero.
These terms can be confusing. Call if you have questions about these tax-savers and how including them in your midyear planning can benefit you.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Five Reasons to Incorporate Your Business

Most new businesses start with no thought about legal structure. In the eyes of the IRS, the default structure is a “sole proprietor,” in which your business profits are taxed on your personal tax return. This can serve you well to start, but there are several reasons you may want to consider incorporating as your business grows.

  • To protect your personal assets from creditors. When you operate your business within a corporation, creditors are often limited to corporate assets to satisfy a debt. Your home, savings, and retirement accounts are no longer fair game.
  • To provide a personal liability firewall. The corporate form can help protect you against claims made by others for injuries or losses arising from actions of your business.
  • To issue shares of stock. You can help build your business by issuing shares to new investors, or by offering stock options to key employees as a form of compensation.
  • To gain tax flexibility. A corporation can provide you with more tax flexibility. Deliberate planning can help optimize the taxable division between corporate income, dividends, and your personal wages.
  • To enhance your business presence. Being incorporated sends a signal that your business is a serious enterprise, and it could open doors to opportunities not offered to sole proprietors. Consumers, vendors, and other businesses often prefer to do business with incorporated companies.

If you are still going over the pros and cons of incorporating your business, give our office a call. Together, we can complete a thorough tax review that will help shed light on the impact such a move will have on your business situation.

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