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Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs)

by Amanda Domitrowich

Are you thinking about setting up a retirement plan for yourself and your employees, but are concerned about the financial commitment and administrative burdens involved in providing a traditional pension or profit-sharing plan? An alternative program you may want to consider is a “simplified employee pension,” or SEP.

SEPs are intended as an alternative to “qualified” retirement plans, particularly for small businesses like yours. The relative ease of administration and the complete discretion you, as the employer, are permitted in deciding whether or not to make annual contributions, are features that are especially attractive. Here’s how these plans work.

If you don’t already have a qualified retirement plan, you can set up a SEP simply by using the IRS model SEP, Form 5305-SEP. By adopting and implementing this model SEP, which doesn’t have to be filed with the IRS, you will have satisfied the SEP requirements. This means that you, as the employer, will get a current income tax deduction for contributions you make on behalf of your employees. Your employees will be taxed not when the contributions are made, but at a later date when distributions are made, usually at retirement. Depending on your specific needs, an individually-designed SEP-instead of the model SEP-may be appropriate for you.

When you set up a SEP for yourself and your employees, you will make these deductible contributions to each employee’s IRA, called a SEP-IRA, which must be IRS-approved. The maximum amount of deductible contributions that you can make to an employee’s SEP-IRA, and that he or she can exclude from income, is the lesser of: (i) 25 percent of compensation, and (ii) $61,000 (for 2022). The deduction for your contributions to employees’ SEP-IRAs isn’t limited by the deduction ceiling applicable to an individual’s own contribution to a regular IRA. Your employees control their individual IRAs and IRA investments, the earnings on which are tax-free.

There are other requirements which you have to meet to be eligible to set up a SEP. Essentially, all regular employees must elect to participate in the program, and contributions can’t discriminate in favor of the highly compensated employees. But these requirements are minor compared to the bookkeeping and other administrative burdens connected with traditional qualified pension and profit-sharing plans. The detailed records that traditional plans must maintain to comply with the complex nondiscrimination regulations aren’t required for SEPs. And employers aren’t required to file annual reports with IRS-Forms 5500-which, for a pension plan, could require the services of an actuary. What record-keeping is required can be done by a trustee of the SEP-IRAs-usually a bank or mutual fund.

We are happy to meet with you to explain your SEP options in greater detail as well as answer any questions you may have. Give us a call today!

Charitable Donations of Appreciated Stock

by Amanda Domitrowich

If you are planning to make a relatively substantial contribution to a charity, college, etc., you should consider donating appreciated stock from your investment portfolio instead of cash. Your tax benefits from the donation can be increased and the organization will be just as happy to receive the stock.

This tax planning tool is derived from the general rule that the deduction for a donation of property to charity is equal to the fair market value of the donated property. Where the donated property is “gain” property, the donor does not have to recognize the gain on the donated property. These rules allow for the “doubling up,” so to speak, of tax benefits: a charitable deduction, plus avoiding tax on the appreciation in value of the donated property.

Example: Tim and Tina are twins, each of whom attended Yalvard University. Each plans to donate $10,000 to the school. Each also owns $10,000 worth of stock in ABC, Inc. which he or she bought for just $2,000 several years ago.

Tim sells his stock and donates the $10,000 cash. He gets a $10,000 charitable deduction, but must report his $8,000 capital gain on the stock.

Tina donates the stock directly to the school. She gets the same $10,000 charitable deduction and avoids any tax on the capital gain. The school is just as happy to receive the stock, which it can immediately sell for its $10,000 value in any case.

Caution: While this plan works for Tina in the above example, it will not work if the stock has not been held for more than a year. It would be treated as “ordinary income property” for these purposes and the charitable deduction would be limited to the stock’s $2,000 cost.

If the property is other ordinary income property, e.g., inventory, similar limitations apply. Limitations may also apply to donations of long-term capital gain property that is tangible (not stock), and personal (not realty).

Finally, depending on the amounts involved and the rest of your tax picture for the year, taking advantage of these tax benefits may trigger alternative minimum tax concerns.

If you’d like to discuss this method of charitable giving more fully, including the limitations and potential problem areas, please give us a call.

Exclusion of Gain on Sale or Exchange of Your Principal Residence

by Amanda Domitrowich

Under these rules, up to $250,000 of the gain from the sale of single person’s principal residence is tax-free. For certain married couples filing a joint return, the maximum amount of tax-free gain doubles to $500,000.

Like most tax breaks, however, the exclusion has a detailed set of rules for qualification. Besides the $250,000/$500,000 dollar limitation, the seller must have owned and used the home as his or her principal residence for at least two years out of the five years before the sale or exchange. In most cases, sellers can only take advantage of the provision once during a two-year period.

However, a reduced exclusion is available if the sale occurred because of a change in place of employment, health, or other unforeseen circumstances where the taxpayer fails to meet the two-year ownership and use requirements or has already used the exclusion for a sale of a principal residence in the past two years. A sale or exchange is by reason of unforeseen circumstances if the primary reason for the sale or exchange is the occurrence of an event that the taxpayer does not anticipate before purchasing and occupying the residence. Unforeseen circumstances that are eligible for the reduced exclusion include involuntary conversions, certain disasters or acts of war or terrorist attacks, death, cessation of employment, change of employment resulting in the taxpayer’s inability to pay certain costs, divorce or legal separation, multiple births from the same pregnancy, and events identified by IRS as unforeseen circumstances (for example, the September 11 terrorist attacks). The amount of the reduced exclusion equals a fraction of the $250,000/$500,000 dollar limitation. The fraction is based on the portion of the two-year period in which the seller satisfies the ownership and use requirements.

These rules can get quite complicated if you marry someone who has recently used the exclusion provision, if the residence was part of a divorce settlement, if you inherited the residence from your spouse, if you sell a remainder interest in your home, if there are periods after 2008 in which the residence isn’t used as your (or your spouse’s) principal residence, or if you have taken depreciation deductions on the residence. Also, the exclusion does not apply if you acquired the residence within the previous five years in a “like-kind” exchange in which gain was not recognized.

Let us know if you have any questions about the exclusion or would like additional information. We are happy to go over the specifics of your situation with you to determine whether a sale of your residence would qualify for this valuable tax break.

Paying Yourself – What is Considered Reasonable Compensation by the IRS?

by Amanda Domitrowich

A corporation can deduct the compensation that it pays, but not its dividend payments. Thus, if funds are withdrawn as dividends, they’re taxed twice, once to the corporation and once to the recipient. Money paid out as compensation is taxed only once, to the employee who receives it.

However, there’s a limit on how much money you can take out of the corporation in this way. The law says that compensation can be deducted only to the extent that it’s reasonable. Any unreasonable portion is nondeductible and, if paid to a shareholder, may be taxed as if it were a dividend. As a practical matter, IRS rarely raises the issue of unreasonable compensation unless the payments are made to someone “related” to the corporation, such as a shareholder or a member of a shareholder’s family.

How much compensation is “reasonable”? There’s no simple formula. IRS tries to determine the amount that similar companies would pay for comparable services under like circumstances. Factors that are taken into account include:

  • the employee’s duties;
  • the amount of time required to perform those duties;
  • the employee’s ability and accomplishments;
  • the complexities of the business;
  • the gross and net income of the business;
  • the employee’s compensation history; and
  • the corporation’s salary policy for all its employees.

There are a number of concrete steps you can take to make it more likely that the compensation you earn will be considered “reasonable,” and therefore deductible by your corporation. For example, you can:

  • Use the minutes of the corporation’s board of directors to contemporaneously document the reasons for the amount of compensation paid. For example, if compensation is being increased in the current year to make up for earlier years in which it was too low, be sure that the minutes reflect this. (Ideally, the minutes for the earlier years should reflect that the compensation paid in those years was at a reduced rate.)
  • Avoid paying compensation in direct proportion to the stock owned by the corporation’s shareholders. This looks too much like a disguised dividend and will probably be treated as such by IRS.
  • Keep compensation in line with what similar businesses are paying their executives (and keep whatever evidence you can get of what others are paying—such as salary offers to your executives from comparable companies—to support what you pay if you’re later questioned).
  • If the business is profitable, be sure to pay at least some dividends. This avoids giving the impression that the corporation is trying to pay out all of its profits as compensation.

As in most tax situations, planning ahead avoids problems later. Contact our office today to discuss this or any other aspect of your current or deferred compensation strategies.

Create Online Tax Accounts Now!

by Kassandra Cristobal

As we kick off the start of tax season for the calendar year 2021, we encourage ALL taxpayers to create or update their online accounts with the IRS and relevant state tax agencies. With online accounts, taxpayers gain access to important tax information including balances due, payments made, tax records, and more.

In many cases, you can locate or request relevant information via your online account which will minimize or eliminate the need to sit on hold with tax agencies. Plus, account creation takes just a few minutes!

The following and more can be done online via your account pages:

Both IRS and FTB:

  • View account balance, including taxes due from prior year returns
  • Make electronic payments and create payment plans
  • View tax payment history, including past estimated tax payments
  • View Notices and Letters of correspondence
  • View and authorize Power of Attorney (POA) for outside parties

IRS:

  • View tax records relating to advance payments of the Child Tax Credit and Economic Impact Payments (EIPs)

FTB:

  • View past copies of your California tax returns
  • Send a secure message to an FTB representative with questions regarding your account
  • Authorize Full Online Account Access for your tax professional representative(s)
  • View tax payment history, including the new Pass-Through Entity (PTE) Elective Tax payment

Federal IRS

Log-In Page: https://www.irs.gov/payments/your-online-account

The IRS has partnered with ID.me, an IRS-trusted technology provider, to provide identity verification for IRS applications. Individual taxpayers and tax professionals are required to verify with ID.me for a secure login.

Please note, existing IRS username and passwords will no longer work as of Summer 2022. As such, we suggest creating an ID.me account and completing the identity verification process now.

How to sign-up:

Select “Sign in to your Online Account” and either create a new account or sign-in using a previous login.

If you have an existing ID.me account from a state government or federal agency, you can sign-in without verifying your identity again. If you’re a new user, you’ll have to create a new ID.me account.

To create your account, you will need:

  • A valid email address.
  • Your birthdate.
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Your current mailing address.
  • Your mobile phone number (must be a smart phone with internet and texting capabilities)
  • Your ID (driver’s license, passport, or state ID)

Tips for creating your ID.me account:

  • Make sure you have access to a computer, your smartphone, and your email. You’ll be asked to go between all 3 in order to verify your identity.
  • You’ll need to use your smartphone to take a photo of your ID.
  • You’ll need to use your smartphone or your computer’s webcam to take a computer-generated selfie photo.

California FTB

Log-In Page: https://www.ftb.ca.gov/myftb/index.asp

Step-by-step Instructions: https://www.ftb.ca.gov/myftb/help/how-to-guides/individuals/register.pdf

How to sign-up:

You must have a recent California tax return on file in order to register for a MyFTB Individual account. If you filed a joint tax return, you must each register for a separate MyFTB Individual account.

To create your account, you will need:

  • A valid email address.
  • Your Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Your current mailing address.
    • Important! If you moved since you filed your last tax return, call the FTB to update your mailing address before you register for a MyFTB account, (800) 852-5711.
  • Information from a filed California tax return for one of the last five tax years.

After you create your account, you will receive a letter in the mail containing a Personal Identification Number (PIN). The PIN will be mailed via the United States Postal Service within 3 to 5 business days. Please allow 10 business days to receive the PIN. You have 21 days from the date you register to enter your PIN to activate your account.

This is a one-time use PIN is used to activate your MyFTB account. You will not need it again to login. You will need to enter this PIN online in order to activate and gain access to your account.

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act

By Amber Stevenson

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed by President Biden earlier this week, contains many provisions related to individuals, businesses, information reporting, pensions and excise tax. Contained here is a high-level overview of some of the key provisions that may impact you or your business. For more detailed information, please contact us to discuss how these provisions relate to your specific tax situation.

Individual Provisions

  • Automatic extension of certain deadlines for taxpayers affected by disasters
    • A mandatory, automatic 60-day extension period applies to qualified taxpayers impacted by federally declared disasters.
  • Combat-zone filing extension applies to more tax-related filings
    • Individuals who are in the military are entitled to a period of extension. The period of extension applies to certain tax-related acts (e.g., filing returns, paying tax and filing Tax Court petitions) by taxpayers or by the government.
  • Tolling of time for filing a petition with the Tax Court
    • In any case in which a “filing location” is inaccessible or otherwise unavailable to the general public on the date a Tax Court petition is due, the relevant time period for filing that petition is tolled for the number of days within the period of inaccessibility plus an additional 14 days.
  • Authority to postpone certain tax deadlines by reason of significant fires
    • The IRS can suspend filing and payment requirements for taxpayers affected by federally declared disasters or terroristic or military actions. The Act amends the code to add “significant fire” to the list of events that allow the IRS to suspend filing and payment requirements.
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New Digital Asset Info Reporting

by Michelle Puma

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA) was signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021. The IIJA includes IRS information reporting requirements that will require cryptocurrency exchanges to perform intermediary Form 1099 reporting for cryptocurrency transactions. Generally, these rules will apply to digital asset transactions starting in 2023.

Existing reporting rules. As you probably know, if you have a stock brokerage account, then whenever you sell stock or other securities you receive a Form 1099-B at the end of the year. Your broker uses that form to report details of transactions such as sale proceeds, relevant dates, your tax basis for the sale, and the character of gains or losses. Furthermore, if you transfer stock from one broker to another broker, then the old broker is required to furnish a statement with relevant information, such as tax basis, to the new broker.

Digital asset broker reporting. The IIJA expands the definition of brokers who must furnish Forms 1099-B to include businesses that are responsible for regularly providing any service accomplishing transfers of digital assets on behalf of another person (“Crypto Exchanges”). Thus, any platform on which you can buy and sell cryptocurrency will be required to report digital asset transactions to you and the IRS at the end of each year.

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California Introduces the Elective Passthrough Entity Tax as a Workaround for the Federal State and Local Tax Deduction Limitation

By Amber Stevenson

As part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) was limited to $10,000 for both single and married taxpayers. This limitation had unfavorable consequences for many taxpayers, including many middle-class taxpayers living in high tax states such as California and New York. As part of the budget deal reached for California, the governor signed AB 150 which includes provisions for the elective passthrough entity tax. For tax years 2021 through 2025, qualified S-corporations, partnerships and LLCs that are required to file a California tax return can elect to pay a passthrough entity tax of 9.3% on qualified net income. Owners will claim a nonrefundable credit for the amount of tax paid on their share of the passthrough income. If not utilized, the credit can be carried forward for up to five years.

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Recent Changes to the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)

by Marc Cappelloni

In case you missed it in our February tax newsletter article entitled IRS Turbocharges the Employee Retention Tax Credit

Recent changes to the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) have the potential for a huge refundable payroll tax credit for your business!

New legislation passed now allows even recipients of PPP loans to take the credit retroactively for 2020 (previously not allowed) and has recently further extended the credit through December 31, 2021.

To be eligible for this credit, the business must either:

  1. Have been fully or partially suspended due to orders from a governmental authority or
  2. Suffer a significant decline in quarterly gross revenue as measured against 2019
  3. 50% decline for 2020
  4. 20% decline for 2021

Below is a summary of the updated payroll tax credit amounts potentially available to your business:

For 2020, there is a maximum credit of $5,000 per eligible employee. The 2020 credit is computed at a rate of 50% of qualified wages paid, up to $10,000 per eligible employee for the year. For Eligible Employers with less than 100 average full-time employees in 2019, the credit is available for all employees receiving wages in 2020.

For 2021, there is a maximum credit of $7,000 per eligible employee, per quarter. The 2021 credit is computed at a rate of 70% of qualified wages paid, up to $10,000 per eligible employee, per quarter. For Eligible Employers with less than 500 average full-time employees in 2019, the credit is available for all employees receiving wages in 2021. Don’t leave money on the table! Please contact us today and we will connect you with a payroll tax credit specialist referral who can review whether you qualify for the Employee Retention Tax Credit and determine the amount of payroll tax credit your business can claim.

Aid Package Signed Into Law – Consolidated Appropriations Act

by Amanda Domitrowich

The much discussed aid package has been signed into law after significant delay and controversy. We’ll be revisiting this topic in the coming days as the details become clearer. Meanwhile, here are the key takeaways:

A $600 check to many Americans. The phase-out begins for those earning $75,000 annually and disappears at $99,000. The amount is reduced by $5 for every $100 in additional income. If your 2019 income makes you ineligible but you made a lot less in 2020, you still may be eligible for the money in the form of a refundable tax credit.

Additional unemployment benefits of $300 a week, lasting through mid-March.

Additional benefits for freelancers and gig workers.

A tax credit for employers offering paid sick leave.

$284 billion for businesses and revival of the Paycheck Protection Program, which ended some months ago.

Businesses that received PPP loans and had them forgiven faced tax confusion. The new bill will make it clear such businesses will be allowed to deduct the costs covered by those loans.

Breaks for renters and homeowners: $25 billion in rental relief and an extension of the eviction moratorium through Jan. 31, 2021.

A ban on surprise medical bills, which sometimes occur when a patient unexpectedly gets care outside of a network. Going forward, insurance companies will have to work these out with providers.

Additional protections and aid for bankruptcy filers.

Mortgage forbearance–temporarily reducing or pausing payments for 180 days.

One of the smallest provisions is also one of the most divisive: the return of the 100% deduction of the so-called three-martini lunch — that is, an increased tax break for business lunches, which are currently at 50%. This applies to restaurant and takeout meals paid for in 2021 and 2022, according to analysis from Forbes, and is not retroactive.

According to the SHRM, key employer provisions include:

  • The ability for workers to roll over unused funds in their health and dependent care flexible spending accounts.
  • The expansion of employer-provided education assistance to include student loan repayment.
  • Employer tax credits for paid family and medical leave.
  • An extension of the employee retention tax credit.
  • Delays in deferred payroll tax payments.

What’s Out

Several heavily debated items are off the table, although they may appear in bills in the near future. Their elimination was part of a series of compromises:

  • No aid for state and local governments, which Democrats had pushed for.
  • No liability protections for businesses, which Republicans had wanted.
  • No checks for adult dependents.
  • No hazard pay for essential workers.

Although the bill is now law, it may take a while before all the details become clear. The IRS and other government departments will likely offer additional guidance, and again, we will have more on the law’s provisions.

Please contact us today to discuss how this will affect you and your tax situation.

©2020

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