Tax Briefs

Many people dream of turning a hobby into a regular business. Perhaps you enjoy boating and would like to open a charter fishing business. Or maybe you’d like to turn your sewing or photography skills into an income-producing business.

You probably won’t have any tax headaches if your new business is profitable over a certain period of time. But what if the new enterprise consistently generates losses (your deductions exceed income) and you claim them on your tax return? You can generally deduct losses for expenses incurred in a bona fide business. However, the IRS may step in and say the venture is a hobby — an activity not engaged in for profit — rather than a business. Then you’ll be unable to deduct losses.

By contrast, if the new enterprise isn’t affected by the hobby loss rules, all otherwise allowable expenses are deductible, generally on Schedule C, even if they exceed income from the enterprise.

Important: Before 2018, deductible hobby expenses could be claimed as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to a 2%-of-AGI “floor.” However, because miscellaneous deductions aren’t allowed from 2018 through 2025, deductible hobby expenses are effectively wiped out from 2018 through 2025.

How to NOT be deemed a hobby

There are two ways to avoid the hobby loss rules:

  1. Show a profit in at least three out of five consecutive years (two out of seven years for breeding, training, showing or racing horses).
  2. Run the venture in such a way as to show that you intend to turn it into a profit maker rather than a mere hobby. The IRS regs themselves say that the hobby loss rules won’t apply if the facts and circumstances show that you have a profit-making objective.

How can you prove you have a profit-making objective? You should operate the venture in a businesslike manner. The IRS and the courts will look at the following factors:

  • How you run the activity,
  • Your expertise in the area (and your advisors’ expertise),
  • The time and effort you expend in the enterprise,
  • Whether there’s an expectation that the assets used in the activity will rise in value,
  • Your success in carrying on other activities,
  • Your history of income or loss in the activity,
  • The amount of any occasional profits earned,
  • Your financial status, and
  • Whether the activity involves elements of personal pleasure or recreation.

Case illustrates the issues

In one court case, partners operated a farm that bought, sold, bred and raced Standardbred horses. It didn’t qualify as an activity engaged in for profit, according to a U.S. Appeals Court. The court noted that the partnership had a substantial loss history and paid for personal expenses. Also, the taxpayers kept inaccurate records, had no business plan, earned significant income from other sources and derived personal pleasure from the activity. (Skolnick, CA 3, 3/8/23)

Contact us for more details on whether a venture of yours may be affected by the hobby loss rules, and what you should do to avoid tax problems.

Let’s say you plan to use a C corporation to operate a newly acquired business or you have an existing C corporation that needs more capital. You should know that the federal tax code treats corporate debt more favorably than corporate equity. So for shareholders of closely held C corporations, it can be a tax-smart move to include in the corporation’s capital structure:

  • Some third-party debt (owed to outside lenders), and/or
  • Some owner debt.

Tax rate considerations

Let’s review some basics. The top individual federal income tax rate is currently 37%. The top individual federal rate on net long-term capital gains and qualified dividends is currently 20%. On top of this, higher-income individuals may also owe the 3.8% net investment income tax on all or part of their investment income, which includes capital gains, dividends and interest.

On the corporate side, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) established a flat 21% federal income tax rate on taxable income recognized by C corporations.

Third-party debt

The non-tax advantage of using third-party debt financing for a C corporation acquisition or to supply additional capital is that shareholders don’t need to commit as much of their own money.

Even when shareholders can afford to cover the entire cost with their own money, tax considerations may make doing so inadvisable. That’s because a shareholder generally can’t withdraw all or part of a corporate equity investment without worrying about the threat of double taxation. This occurs when the corporation pays tax on its profits and the shareholders pay tax again when the profits are distributed as dividends.

When third-party debt is used in a corporation’s capital structure, it becomes less likely that shareholders will need to be paid taxable dividends because they’ll have less money tied up in the business. The corporate cash flow can be used to pay off the corporate debt, at which point the shareholders will own 100% of the corporation with a smaller investment on their part.

Owner debt

If your entire interest in a successful C corporation is in the form of equity, double taxation can arise if you want to withdraw some of your investment. But if you include owner debt (money you loan to the corporation) in the capital structure, you have a built-in mechanism for withdrawing that part of your investment tax-free. That’s because the loan principal repayments made to you are tax-free. Of course, you must include the interest payments in your taxable income. But the corporation will get an offsetting interest expense deduction — unless an interest expense limitation rule applies, which is unlikely for a small to medium-sized company.

An unfavorable TCJA change imposed a limit on interest deductions for affected businesses. However, for 2024, a corporation with average annual gross receipts of $30 million or less for the three previous tax years is exempt from the limit.

An example to illustrate

Let’s say you plan to use your solely owned C corporation to buy the assets of an existing business. You plan to fund the entire $5 million cost with your own money — in a $2 million contribution to the corporation’s capital (a stock investment), plus a $3 million loan to the corporation.

This capital structure allows you to recover $3 million of your investment as tax-free repayments of corporate debt principal. The interest payments allow you to receive additional cash from the corporation. The interest is taxable to you but can be deducted by the corporation, as long as the limitation explained earlier doesn’t apply.

This illustrates the potential federal income tax advantages of including debt in the capital structure of a C corporation. Contact us to explain the relevant details and project the tax savings.

There are several financial and legal implications when adding a new partner to a partnership. Here’s an example to illustrate: You and your partners are planning to admit a new partner. The new partner will acquire a one-third interest in the partnership by making a cash contribution to the business. Assume that your basis in your partnership interests is sufficient so that the decrease in your portions of the partnership’s liabilities because of the new partner’s entry won’t reduce your basis to zero.

More complex than it seems

Although adding a new partner may appear to be simple, it’s important to plan the new person’s entry properly to avoid various tax problems. Here are two issues to consider:

1. If there’s a change in the partners’ interests in unrealized receivables and substantially appreciated inventory items, the change will be treated as a sale of those items, with the result that the current partners will recognize gain. For this purpose, unrealized receivables include not only accounts receivable, but also depreciation recapture and certain other ordinary income items. To avoid gain recognition on those items, it’s necessary that they be allocated to the current partners even after the entry of the new partner.

2. The tax code requires that the “built-in gain or loss” on assets that were held by the partnership before the new partner was admitted be allocated to the current partners and not to the entering partner. In general, “built-in gain or loss” is the difference between the fair market value and basis of the partnership property at the time the new partner is admitted.

The upshot of these rules is that the new partner must be allocated a portion of the depreciation equal to his or her share of the depreciable property, based on current fair market value. This will reduce the amount of depreciation that can be taken by the current partners. The other outcome is that the built-in gain or loss on the partnership assets must be allocated to the current partners when the partnership assets are sold. The rules that apply in this area are complex, and the partnership may have to adopt special accounting procedures to cope with the relevant requirements.

Follow your basis

When adding a partner or making other changes, a partner’s basis in his or her interest can undergo frequent adjustment. It’s important to keep proper track of your basis because it can have an impact on these areas:

  • Gain or loss on the sale of your interest,
  • How partnership distributions to you are taxed, and
  • The maximum amount of partnership loss you can deduct.

We can help

Contact us if you’d like assistance in dealing with these issues or any other issues that may arise in connection with your partnership.

After experiencing a downturn in 2023, merger and acquisition activity in several sectors is rebounding in 2024. If you’re buying a business, you want the best results possible after taxes. You can potentially structure the purchase in two ways:

  1. Buy the assets of the business, or
  2. Buy the seller’s entity ownership interest if the target business is operated as a corporation, partnership or LLC.

In this article, we’re going to focus on buying assets.

Asset purchase tax basics

You must allocate the total purchase price to the specific assets acquired. The amount allocated to each asset becomes the initial tax basis of that asset.

For depreciable and amortizable assets (such as furniture, fixtures, equipment, buildings, software and intangibles such as customer lists and goodwill), the initial tax basis determines the post-acquisition depreciation and amortization deductions.

When you eventually sell a purchased asset, you’ll have a taxable gain if the sale price exceeds the asset’s tax basis (initial purchase price allocation, plus any post-acquisition improvements, minus any post-acquisition depreciation or amortization).

Asset purchase results with a pass-through entity

Let’s say you operate the newly acquired business as a sole proprietorship, a single-member LLC treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes, a partnership, a multi-member LLC treated as a partnership for tax purposes or an S corporation. In those cases, post-acquisition gains, losses and income are passed through to you and reported on your personal tax return. Various federal income tax rates can apply to income and gains, depending on the type of asset and how long it’s held before being sold.

Asset purchase results with a C corporation

If you operate the newly acquired business as a C corporation, the corporation pays the tax bills from post-acquisition operations and asset sales. All types of taxable income and gains recognized by a C corporation are taxed at the same federal income tax rate, which is currently 21%.

A tax-smart purchase price allocation

With an asset purchase deal, the most important tax opportunity revolves around how you allocate the purchase price to the assets acquired.

To the extent allowed, you want to allocate more of the price to:

  • Assets that generate higher-taxed ordinary income when converted into cash (such as inventory and receivables),
  • Assets that can be depreciated relatively quickly (such as furniture and equipment), and
  • Intangible assets (such as customer lists and goodwill) that can be amortized over 15 years.

You want to allocate less to assets that must be depreciated over long periods (such as buildings) and to land, which can’t be depreciated.

You’ll probably want to get appraised fair market values for the purchased assets to allocate the total purchase price to specific assets. As stated above, you’ll generally want to allocate more of the price to certain assets and less to others to get the best tax results. Because the appraisal process is more of an art than a science, there can potentially be several legitimate appraisals for the same group of assets. The tax results from one appraisal may be better for you than the tax results from another.

Nothing in the tax rules prevents buyers and sellers from agreeing to use legitimate appraisals that result in acceptable tax outcomes for both parties. Settling on appraised values becomes part of the purchase/sale negotiation process. That said, the appraisal that’s finally agreed to must be reasonable.

Plan ahead

Remember, when buying the assets of a business, the total purchase price must be allocated to the acquired assets. The allocation process can lead to better or worse post-acquisition tax results. We can help you get the former instead of the latter. So get your advisor involved early, preferably during the negotiation phase.

It’s not unusual for a partner to incur expenses related to the partnership’s business. This is especially likely to occur in service partnerships such as an architecture or law firm. For example, partners in service partnerships may incur entertainment expenses in developing new client relationships. They may also incur expenses for: transportation to get to and from client meetings, professional publications, continuing education and home office. What’s the tax treatment of such expenses? Here are the answers.

Reimbursable or not

As long as the expenses are the type a partner is expected to pay without reimbursement under the partnership agreement or firm policy (written or unwritten), the partner can deduct the expenses on Schedule E of Form 1040. Conversely, a partner can’t deduct expenses if the partnership would have honored a request for reimbursement.

A partner’s unreimbursed partnership business expenses should also generally be included as deductions in arriving at the partner’s net income from self-employment on Schedule SE.

For example, let’s say you’re a partner in a local architecture firm. Under the firm’s partnership agreement, partners are expected to bear the costs of soliciting potential new business except in unusual cases where attracting a large potential new client is deemed to be a firm-wide goal. In attempting to attract new clients this year, you spend $4,500 of your own money on meal expenses. You receive no reimbursement from the firm. On your Schedule E, you should report a deductible item of $2,250 (50% of $4,500). You should also include the $2,250 as a deduction in calculating your net self-employment income on Schedule SE.

So far, so good, but here’s the issue: a partner can’t deduct expenses if they could have been reimbursed by the firm. In other words, no deduction is allowed for “voluntary” out-of-pocket expenses. The best way to eliminate any doubt about the proper tax treatment of unreimbursed partnership expenses is to install a written firm policy that clearly states what will and won’t be reimbursed. That way, the partners can deduct their unreimbursed firm-related business expenses without any problems from the IRS.

Office in a partner’s home

Subject to the normal deduction limits under the home office rules, a partner can deduct expenses allocable to the regular and exclusive use of a home office for partnership business. The partner’s deductible home office expenses should be reported on Schedule E in the same fashion as other unreimbursed partnership expenses.

If a partner has a deductible home office, the Schedule E home office deduction can deliver multiple tax-saving benefits because it’s effectively deducted for both federal income tax and self-employment tax purposes.

In addition, if the partner’s deductible home office qualifies as a principal place of business, commuting mileage from the home office to partnership business temporary work locations (such as client sites) and partnership permanent work locations (such as the partnership’s official office) count as business mileage.

The principal place of business test can be passed in two ways. First, the partner can conduct most of partnership income-earning activities in the home office. Second, the partner can pass the principal place of business test if he or she:

  • Uses the home office to conduct partnership administrative and management tasks and
  • Doesn’t make substantial use of any other fixed location (such as the partnership’s official office) for such administrative and management tasks.

To sum up

When a partner can be reimbursed for business expenses under a partnership agreement or standard operating procedures, the partner should turn them in. Otherwise, the partner can’t deduct the expenses. On the partnership side of the deal, the business should set forth a written firm policy that clearly states what will and won’t be reimbursed, including home office expenses if applicable. This applies equally to members of LLCs that are treated as partnerships for federal tax purposes because those members count as partners under tax law.

Businesses usually want to delay recognition of taxable income into future years and accelerate deductions into the current year. But when is it wise to do the opposite? And why would you want to?

One reason might be tax law changes that raise tax rates. The Biden administration has proposed raising the corporate federal income tax rate from its current flat 21% to 28%. Another reason may be because you expect your noncorporate pass-through entity business to pay taxes at higher rates in the future and the pass-through income will be taxed on your personal return. There have also been discussions in Washington about raising individual federal income tax rates.

If you believe your business income could be subject to tax rate increases, you might want to accelerate income recognition into the current tax year to benefit from the current lower tax rates. At the same time, you may want to postpone deductions into a later tax year, when rates are higher and the deductions will be more beneficial.

To fast-track income

Consider these options if you want to accelerate revenue recognition into the current tax year:

  • Sell appreciated assets that have capital gains in the current year, rather than waiting until a later year.
  • Review the company’s list of depreciable assets to determine if any fully depreciated assets are in need of replacement. If fully depreciated assets are sold, taxable gains will be triggered in the year of sale.
  • For installment sales of appreciated assets, elect out of installment sale treatment to recognize gain in the year of sale.
  • Instead of using a tax-deferred like-kind Section 1031 exchange, sell real property in a taxable transaction.
  • Consider converting your S corporation into a partnership or LLC treated as a partnership for tax purposes. That will trigger gains from the company’s appreciated assets because the conversion is treated as a taxable liquidation of the S corp. The partnership will have an increased tax basis in the assets.
  • For construction companies with long-term construction contracts previously exempt from the percentage-of-completion method of accounting for long-term contracts: Consider using the percentage-of-completion method to recognize income sooner as compared to the completed contract method, which defers recognition of income until the long-term construction is completed.

To postpone deductions

Consider the following actions to postpone deductions into a higher-rate tax year, which will maximize their value:

  • Delay purchasing capital equipment and fixed assets, which would give rise to depreciation deductions.
  • Forego claiming big first-year Section 179 deductions or bonus depreciation deductions on new depreciable assets and instead depreciate the assets over a number of years.
  • Determine whether professional fees and employee salaries associated with a long-term project could be capitalized, which would spread out the costs over time.
  • Buy bonds at a discount this year to increase interest income in future years.
  • If allowed, put off inventory shrinkage or other write-downs until a year with a higher tax rate.
  • Delay charitable contributions into a year with a higher tax rate.
  • If allowed, delay accounts receivable charge-offs to a year with a higher tax rate.
  • Delay payment of liabilities where the related deduction is based on when the amount is paid.

Contact us to discuss the best tax planning actions in the light of your business’s unique tax situation.

If you’re buying a new home, you may have thought about keeping your current home and renting it out. In March, average rents for one- and two-bedroom residences were $1,487 and $1,847, respectively, according to the latest Zumper National Rent Report.

In some parts of the country, rents are much higher or lower than the averages. The most expensive locations to rent a one-bedroom place were New York City ($4,200); Jersey City, New Jersey ($3,260); San Francisco ($2,900); Boston ($2,850) and Miami ($2,710). The least expensive one-bedroom locations were Wichita, Kansas ($690); Akron, Ohio ($760); Shreveport, Louisiana ($770); Lincoln, Nebraska ($840) and Oklahoma City ($860).

Becoming a landlord and renting out a residence comes with financial risks and rewards. However, you also should know that it carries potential tax benefits and pitfalls.

You’re generally treated as a real estate landlord once you begin renting your home. That means you must report rental income on your tax return, but also are entitled to offsetting landlord deductions for the money you spend on utilities, operating expenses, incidental repairs and maintenance (for example, fixing a leaky roof). Additionally, you can claim depreciation deductions for the home. And you can fully offset rental income with otherwise allowable landlord deductions.

Passive activity rules

However, under the passive activity loss (PAL) rules, you may not be able to currently claim the rent-related deductions that exceed your rental income unless an exception applies. Under the most widely applicable exception, the PAL rules won’t affect your converted property for a tax year in which your adjusted gross income doesn’t exceed $100,000, you actively participate in running the home-rental business, and your losses from all rental real estate activities in which you actively participate don’t exceed $25,000.

You should also be aware that potential tax pitfalls may arise from renting your residence. Unless your rentals are strictly temporary and are made necessary by adverse market conditions, you could forfeit an important tax break for home sellers if you finally sell the home at a profit. In general, you can escape tax on up to $250,000 ($500,000 for married couples filing jointly) of gain on the sale of your principal home. However, this tax-free treatment is conditioned on your having used the residence as your principal residence for at least two of the five years preceding the sale. So renting your home out for an extended time could jeopardize a big tax break.

Even if you don’t rent out your home long enough to jeopardize the principal residence exclusion, the tax break you would get on the sale (the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion) won’t apply to:

  • The extent of any depreciation allowable with respect to the rental or business use of the home for periods after May 6, 1997, or
  • Any gain allocable to a period of nonqualified use (any period during which the property isn’t used as the principal residence of the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse or former spouse) after December 31, 2008.

A maximum tax rate of 25% will apply to this gain (attributable to depreciation deductions).

Selling at a loss

What if you bought at the height of a market and ultimately sell at a loss? In such situations, the loss is available for tax purposes only if you can establish that the home was in fact converted permanently into income-producing property. Here, a longer lease period helps. However, if you’re in this situation, be aware that you may not wind up with much of a loss for tax purposes. That’s because basis (the cost for tax purposes) is equal to the lesser of actual cost or the property’s fair market value when it’s converted to rental property. So if a home was purchased for $300,000, converted to a rental when it’s worth $250,000, and ultimately sold for $225,000, the loss would be only $25,000.

The question of whether to turn a home into rental property is complicated. We can help you make a decision.

If your business doesn’t already have a retirement plan, it might be a good time to take the plunge. Current retirement plan rules allow for significant tax-deductible contributions.

For example, if you’re self-employed and set up a SEP-IRA, you can contribute up to 20% of your self-employment earnings, with a maximum contribution of $69,000 for 2024 (up from $66,000 for 2023). If you’re employed by your own corporation, up to 25% of your salary can be contributed to your account, with a maximum contribution of $69,000. If you’re in the 32% federal income tax bracket, making a maximum contribution could cut what you owe Uncle Sam for 2024 by a whopping $22,080 (32% × $69,000).

Other possibilities

There are more small business retirement plan options, including:

  • 401(k) plans, which can even be set up for just one person (also called solo 401(k)s),
  • Defined benefit pension plans, and
  • SIMPLE-IRAs.

Depending on your situation, these plans may allow bigger or smaller deductible contributions than a SEP-IRA. For example, for 2024, a participant can contribute $23,000 to a 401(k) plan, plus a $7,500 “catch-up” contribution for those age 50 or older.

Watch the calendar

Thanks to a change made by the 2019 SECURE Act, tax-favored qualified employee retirement plans, except for SIMPLE-IRA plans, can now be adopted by the due date (including any extension) of the employer’s federal income tax return for the adoption year. The plan can then receive deductible employer contributions that are made by the due date (including any extension), and the employer can deduct those contributions on the return for the adoption year.

Important: This provision didn’t change the deadline to establish a SIMPLE-IRA plan. It remains October 1 of the year for which the plan is to take effect. Also, the SECURE Act change doesn’t override rules that require certain plan provisions to be in effect during the plan year, such as the provisions that cover employee elective deferral contributions (salary-reduction contributions) under a 401(k) plan. The plan must be in existence before such employee elective deferral contributions can be made.

For example, the deadline for the 2023 tax year for setting up a SEP-IRA for a sole proprietorship business that uses the calendar year for tax purposes is October 15, 2024, if you extend your 2023 tax return. The deadline for making a contribution for the 2023 tax year is also October 15, 2024. For the 2024 tax year, the deadline for setting up a SEP and making a contribution is October 15, 2025, if you extend your 2024 tax return. However, to make a SIMPLE-IRA contribution for the 2023 tax year, you must have set up the plan by October 1, 2023. So, it’s too late to set up a plan for last year.

While you can delay until next year establishing a tax-favored retirement plan for this year (except for a SIMPLE-IRA plan), why wait? Get it done this year as part of your tax planning and start saving for retirement. We can provide more information on small business retirement plan options. Be aware that, if your business has employees, you may have to make contributions for them, too.

The tax filing deadline for 2023 tax returns is April 15 this year. If you need more time, you can file for an extension until October 15. In either case, once your 2023 tax return has been successfully filed with the IRS, there may still be some issues to bear in mind. Here are three considerations.

1. Waiting for your refund? You can check on it

The IRS has an online tool that can tell you the status of your refund. Go to irs.gov and click on “Get your refund status” to find out about yours. You’ll need your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, filing status, and the exact refund amount.

2. Throwing away tax records

You should hold on to tax records related to your return for as long as the IRS can audit your return or assess additional taxes. The statute of limitations is generally three years after you file your return.

However, the statute of limitations extends to six years for taxpayers who understate their gross income by more than 25%.

You should keep certain tax-related records longer. For example, keep your actual tax returns indefinitely, so you can prove to the IRS that you filed a legitimate return. (There’s no statute of limitations for an audit if you didn’t file a return or you filed a fraudulent one.)

What about your retirement account paperwork? Keep records associated with a retirement account until you’ve depleted the account and reported the last withdrawal on your tax return, plus three (or six) years. And retain records related to real estate or investments for as long as you own the asset, plus at least three years after you sell it and report the sale on your tax return. (You can keep these records for six years if you want to be extra safe.)

3. Filing an amended return if you failed to report something

In general, you can file an amended tax return on Form 1040-X and claim a refund within three years after the date you filed your original return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. So for a 2023 tax return that you file on April 15, 2024, you can generally file an amended return until April 15, 2027.

However, there are a few opportunities when you have longer to file an amended return. For example, the statute of limitations for bad debts is longer than the usual three-year time limit for most items on your tax return. In general, you can amend your tax return to claim a bad debt for seven years from the due date of the tax return for the year that the debt became worthless.

We’re here all year

Contact us if you have questions about tax record retention, your refund or filing an amended return. We’re not just available at tax filing time. You can reach us year-round.

The qualified business income (QBI) deduction is available to eligible businesses through 2025. After that, it’s scheduled to disappear. So if you’re eligible, you want to make the most of the deduction while it’s still on the books because it can potentially be a big tax saver.

Deduction basics

The QBI deduction is written off at the owner level. It can be up to 20% of:

  • QBI earned from a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes, plus
  • QBI from a pass-through entity, meaning a partnership, LLC that’s treated as a partnership for tax purposes or S corporation.

How is QBI defined? It’s qualified income and gains from an eligible business, reduced by related deductions. QBI is reduced by: 1) deductible contributions to a self-employed retirement plan, 2) the deduction for 50% of self-employment tax, and 3) the deduction for self-employed health insurance premiums.

Unfortunately, the QBI deduction doesn’t reduce net earnings for purposes of the self-employment tax, nor does it reduce investment income for purposes of the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT) imposed on higher-income individuals.

Limitations

At higher income levels, QBI deduction limitations come into play. For 2024, these begin to phase in when taxable income before any QBI deduction exceeds $191,950 ($383,900 for married joint filers). The limitations are fully phased in once taxable income exceeds $241,950 or $483,900, respectively.

If your income exceeds the applicable fully-phased-in number, your QBI deduction is limited to the greater of: 1) your share of 50% of W-2 wages paid to employees during the year and properly allocable to QBI, or 2) the sum of your share of 25% of such W-2 wages plus your share of 2.5% of the unadjusted basis immediately upon acquisition (UBIA) of qualified property.

The limitation based on qualified property is intended to benefit capital-intensive businesses such as hotels and manufacturing operations. Qualified property means depreciable tangible property, including real estate, that’s owned and used to produce QBI. The UBIA of qualified property generally equals its original cost when first put to use in the business.

Finally, your QBI deduction can’t exceed 20% of your taxable income calculated before any QBI deduction and before any net capital gain (net long-term capital gains in excess of net short-term capital losses plus qualified dividends).

Unfavorable rules for certain businesses

For a specified service trade or business (SSTB), the QBI deduction begins to be phased out when your taxable income before any QBI deduction exceeds $191,950 ($383,900 for married joint filers). Phaseout is complete if taxable income exceeds $241,950 or $483,900, respectively. If your taxable income exceeds the applicable phaseout amount, you’re not allowed to claim any QBI deduction based on income from a SSTB.

Other factors

Other rules apply to this tax break. For example, you can elect to aggregate several businesses for purposes of the deduction. It may allow someone with taxable income high enough to be affected by the limitations described above to claim a bigger QBI deduction than if the businesses were considered separately.

There also may be an impact for claiming or forgoing certain deductions. For example, in 2024, you can potentially claim first-year Section 179 depreciation deductions of up to $1.22 million for eligible asset additions (subject to various limitations). For 2024, 60% first-year bonus depreciation is also available. However, first-year depreciation deductions reduce QBI and taxable income, which can reduce your QBI deduction. So, you may have to thread the needle with depreciation write-offs to get the best overall tax result.

Use it or potentially lose it

The QBI deduction is scheduled to disappear after 2025. Congress could extend it, but don’t count on it. So, maximizing the deduction for 2024 and 2025 is a worthy goal. We can help.

Are you dreaming of buying a vacation beach home, lakefront cottage or ski chalet? Or perhaps you’re fortunate enough to already own a vacation home. In either case, you may wonder about the tax implications of renting it out for part of the year.

Count the days

The tax treatment depends on how many days it’s rented and your level of personal use. Personal use includes vacation use by your relatives (even if you charge them market rate rent) and use by nonrelatives if a market rate rent isn’t charged.

If you rent the property out for less than 15 days during the year, it’s not treated as “rental property” at all. In the right circumstances, this can produce significant tax benefits. Any rent you receive isn’t included in your income for tax purposes (no matter how substantial). On the other hand, you can only deduct property taxes and mortgage interest — no other operating costs and no depreciation. (Mortgage interest is deductible on your principal residence and one other home, subject to certain limits.)

If you rent the property out for more than 14 days, you must include the rent you receive in income. However, you can deduct part of your operating expenses and depreciation, subject to several rules. First, you must allocate your expenses between the personal use days and the rental days. For example, if the house is rented for 90 days and used personally for 30 days, then 75% of the use is rental (90 days out of 120 total days). You would allocate 75% of your maintenance, utilities, insurance, etc. costs to rental. You would allocate 75% of your depreciation allowance, interest and taxes for the property to rental as well. The personal use portion of taxes is separately deductible. The personal use portion of interest on a second home is also deductible if the personal use exceeds the greater of 14 days or 10% of the rental days. However, depreciation on the personal use portion isn’t allowed.

Income and expenses

If the rental income exceeds these allocable deductions, you report the rent and deductions to determine the amount of rental income to add to your other income. If the expenses exceed the income, you may be able to claim a rental loss. This depends on how many days you use the house personally.

Here’s the test: if you use it personally for the greater of more than 14 days, or 10% of the rental days, you’re using it “too much,” and you can’t claim a loss. In this case, you can still use your deductions to wipe out rental income, but you can’t go beyond that to create a loss. Any unused deductions are carried forward and may be usable in future years.

If you’re limited to using deductions only up to the amount of rental income, you must use the deductions allocated to the rental portion in the following order:

  • Interest and taxes,
  • Operating costs, and
  • Depreciation.

If you “pass” the personal use test (that is, you don’t use the property personally more than the greater of the figures listed above), you must still allocate your expenses between the personal and rental portions. In this case, however, if your rental deductions exceed rental income, you can claim a loss. (The loss is “passive,” however, and may be limited under the passive loss rules.)

Plan ahead for best results

As you can see, the rules are complex. Contact us if you have questions or would like to plan ahead to maximize deductions in your situation.

Your business should generally maximize current year depreciation write-offs for newly acquired assets. Two federal tax breaks can be a big help in achieving this goal: first-year Section 179 depreciation deductions and first-year bonus depreciation deductions. These two deductions can potentially allow businesses to write off some or all of their qualifying asset expenses in Year 1. However, they’re moving targets due to annual inflation adjustments and tax law changes that phase out bonus depreciation. With that in mind, here’s how to coordinate these write-offs for optimal tax-saving results.

Sec. 179 deduction basics

Most tangible depreciable business assets — including equipment, computer hardware, vehicles (subject to limits), furniture, most software and fixtures — qualify for the first-year Sec. 179 deduction.

Depreciable real property generally doesn’t qualify unless it’s qualified improvement property (QIP). QIP means any improvement to an interior portion of a nonresidential building that’s placed in service after the date the building is placed in service — except for any expenditures attributable to the enlargement of the building, any elevator or escalator, or the internal structural framework. Sec. 179 deductions are also allowed for nonresidential building roofs, HVAC equipment, fire protection systems and security systems.

The inflation-adjusted maximum Sec. 179 deduction for tax years beginning in 2024 is $1.22 million. It begins to be phased out if 2024 qualified asset additions exceed $3.05 million. (These are up from $1.16 million and $2.89 million, respectively, in 2023.)

Bonus depreciation basics

Most tangible depreciable business assets also qualify for first-year bonus depreciation. In addition, software and QIP generally qualify. To be eligible, a used asset must be new to the taxpayer.

For qualifying assets placed in service in 2024, the first-year bonus depreciation percentage is 60%. This is down from 80% in 2023.

Sec. 179 vs. bonus depreciation

The current Sec. 179 deduction rules are generous, but there are several limitations:

  • The phase-out rule mentioned above,
  • A business taxable income limitation that disallows deductions that would result in an overall business taxable loss,
  • A limited deduction for SUVs with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 6,000 pounds, and
  • Tricky limitation rules when assets are owned by pass-through entities such as LLCs, partnerships, and S corporations.

First-year bonus depreciation deductions aren’t subject to any complicated limitations. But, as mentioned earlier, the bonus depreciation percentages for 2024 and 2023 are only 60% and 80%, respectively.

So, the current tax-saving strategy is to write off as much of the cost of qualifying asset additions as you can with Sec. 179 deductions. Then claim as much first-year bonus depreciation as you can.

Example: In 2024, your calendar-tax-year C corporation places in service $500,000 of assets that qualify for both a Sec. 179 deduction and first-year bonus depreciation. However, due to the taxable income limitation, the company’s Sec. 179 deduction is limited to only $300,000. You can deduct the $300,000 on your corporation’s 2024 federal income tax return. You can then deduct 60% of the remaining $200,000 ($500,000 − $300,000), thanks to first-year bonus depreciation. So, your corporation can write off $420,000 in 2024 [$300,000 + (60% x $200,000) = $420,000]. That’s 84% of the cost! Note that the $200,000 bonus depreciation deduction will contribute to a corporate net operating loss that’s carried forward to your 2025 tax year.

Manage tax breaks

As you can see, coordinating Sec. 179 deductions with bonus depreciation deductions is a tax-wise idea. We can provide details on how the rules work or answer any questions you have.

Did you donate to charity last year? Acknowledgment letters from the charities you gave to may have already shown up in your mailbox. But if you don’t receive such a letter, can you still claim a deduction for the gift on your 2023 income tax return? It depends.

What the law requires

To prove a charitable donation for which you claim a tax deduction, you must comply with IRS substantiation requirements. For a donation of $250 or more, this includes obtaining a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charitable organization stating the amount of the donation, whether you received any goods or services in consideration for the donation and the value of any such goods or services.

“Contemporaneous” means the earlier of:

  1. The date you file your tax return, or
  2. The extended due date of your return.

Therefore, if you made a donation in 2023 but haven’t yet received substantiation from the charity, it’s not too late — as long as you haven’t filed your 2023 return. Contact the charity now and request a written acknowledgment.

Keep in mind that, if you made a cash gift of under $250 with a check or credit card, generally a canceled check, bank statement or credit card statement is adequate. However, if you received something in return for the donation, you generally must reduce your deduction by its value — and the charity is required to provide you a written acknowledgment as described earlier.

No longer a tax break for nonitemizers

Currently, taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions (and instead claim the standard deduction) can’t claim a charitable deduction. Under previous COVID-19 relief laws, an individual who didn’t itemize deductions could claim a limited federal income tax write-off for cash contributions to IRS-approved charities for the 2020 and 2021 tax years. Unfortunately, the deduction for nonitemizers isn’t available for 2022 or 2023.

More requirements for certain donations

Some types of donations require additional substantiation. For example, if you donate property valued at more than $500, you must attach a completed Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions) to your return.

And for donated property with a value of more than $5,000, you generally must obtain a qualified appraisal and attach an appraisal summary to your tax return.

Contact us if you have questions about whether you have the required substantiation for the donations you hope to deduct on your 2023 tax return. We can also advise on the substantiation you’ll need for gifts you’re planning this year to ensure you can enjoy the desired deductions on your 2024 return.

Did you make large gifts to your children, grandchildren or others last year? If so, it’s important to determine if you’re required to file a 2023 gift tax return. In some cases, it might be beneficial to file one — even if it’s not required.

Who must file?

The annual gift tax exclusion has increased in 2024 to $18,000 but was $17,000 for 2023. Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2023 if, during the tax year, you made gifts:

  • That exceeded the $17,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion for 2023 (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse),
  • That you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $34,000 annual exclusion for 2023,
  • That exceeded the $175,000 annual exclusion in 2023 for gifts to a noncitizen spouse,
  • To a Section 529 college savings plan and wish to accelerate up to five years’ worth of annual exclusions ($85,000) into 2023,
  • Of future interests — such as remainder interests in a trust — regardless of the amount, or
  • Of jointly held or community property.

Keep in mind that you’ll owe gift tax only to the extent that an exclusion doesn’t apply and you’ve used up your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption ($12.92 million for 2023). As you can see, some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax.

Who might want to file?

No gift tax return is required if your gifts for 2023 consisted solely of gifts that are tax-free because they qualify as:

  • Annual exclusion gifts,
  • Present interest gifts to a U.S. citizen spouse,
  • Educational or medical expenses paid directly to a school or health care provider, or
  • Political or charitable contributions.

But if you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, you should consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.

The deadline is April 15

The gift tax return deadline is the same as the income tax filing deadline. For 2023 returns, it’s Monday, April 15, 2024 — or Tuesday, October 15, 2024, if you file for an extension. But keep in mind that, if you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is April 15, regardless of whether you file for an extension. If you’re not sure whether you must (or should) file a 2023 gift tax return on IRS Form 709, contact us.

Businesses basically have two accounting methods to figure their taxable income: cash and accrual. Many businesses have a choice of which method to use for tax purposes. The cash method often provides significant tax benefits for eligible businesses, though some may be better off using the accrual method. Thus, it may be prudent for your business to evaluate its method to ensure that it’s the most advantageous approach.

Eligibility to use the cash method

“Small businesses,” as defined by the tax code, are generally eligible to use either cash or accrual accounting for tax purposes. (Some businesses may also be eligible to use various hybrid approaches.) Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) took effect, the gross receipts threshold for classification as a small business varied from $1 million to $10 million depending on how a business was structured, its industry and factors involving inventory.

The TCJA simplified the small business definition by establishing a single gross receipts threshold. It also increased the threshold to $25 million (adjusted for inflation), expanding the benefits of small business status to more companies. For 2024, a small business is one whose average annual gross receipts for the three-year period ending before the 2024 tax year are $30 million or less (up from $29 million for 2023).

In addition to eligibility for the cash accounting method, small businesses can benefit from advantages including:

  • Simplified inventory accounting,
  • An exemption from the uniform capitalization rules, and
  • An exemption from the business interest deduction limit.

Note: Some businesses are eligible for cash accounting even if their gross receipts are above the threshold, including S corporations, partnerships without C corporation partners, farming businesses and certain personal service corporations. Tax shelters are ineligible for the cash method, regardless of size.

Difference between the methods

For most businesses, the cash method provides significant tax advantages. Because cash-basis businesses recognize income when received and deduct expenses when they’re paid, they have greater control over the timing of income and deductions. For example, toward the end of the year, they can defer income by delaying invoices until the following tax year or shift deductions into the current year by accelerating the payment of expenses.

In contrast, accrual-basis businesses recognize income when earned and deduct expenses when incurred, without regard to the timing of cash receipts or payments. Therefore, they have little flexibility to time the recognition of income or expenses for tax purposes.

The cash method also provides cash flow benefits. Because income is taxed in the year received, it helps ensure that a business has the funds needed to pay its tax bill.

However, for some businesses, the accrual method may be preferable. For instance, if a company’s accrued income tends to be lower than its accrued expenses, the accrual method may result in lower tax liability. Other potential advantages of the accrual method include the ability to deduct year-end bonuses paid within the first 2½ months of the following tax year and the option to defer taxes on certain advance payments.

Switching methods

Even if your business would benefit by switching from the accrual method to the cash method, or vice versa, it’s important to consider the administrative costs involved in a change. For example, if your business prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, it’s required to use the accrual method for financial reporting purposes. That doesn’t mean it can’t use the cash method for tax purposes, but it would require maintaining two sets of books.

Changing accounting methods for tax purposes also may require IRS approval. Contact us to learn more about each method.

When launching a small business, many entrepreneurs start out as sole proprietors. If you’re launching a venture as a sole proprietorship, you need to understand the tax issues involved. Here are nine considerations:

1. You may qualify for the pass-through deduction. To the extent your business generates qualified business income, you’re currently eligible to claim the 20% pass-through deduction, subject to limitations. The deduction is taken “below the line,” meaning it reduces taxable income, rather than being taken “above the line” against your gross income. However, you can take the deduction even if you don’t itemize deductions and instead claim the standard deduction. Be aware that this deduction is only available through 2025, unless Congress acts to extend it.

2. You report income and expenses on Schedule C of Form 1040. The net income will be taxable to you regardless of whether you withdraw cash from the business. Your business expenses are deductible against gross income and not as itemized deductions. If you have losses, they’ll generally be deductible against your other income, subject to special rules related to hobby losses, passive activity losses and losses from activities in which you weren’t “at risk.”

3. You must pay self-employment taxes. For 2024, you pay self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare) at a 15.3% rate on your net earnings from self-employment up to $168,600, and Medicare tax only at a 2.9% rate on the excess. An additional 0.9% Medicare tax (for a total of 3.8%) is imposed on self-employment income in excess of $250,000 for joint returns, $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separate returns and $200,000 in all other cases. Self-employment tax is imposed in addition to income tax, but you can deduct half of your self-employment tax as an adjustment to income.

4. You generally must make quarterly estimated tax payments. For 2024, these are due April 15, June 17, September 16 and January 15, 2025.

5. You can deduct 100% of your health insurance costs as a business expense. This means your deduction for medical care insurance won’t be subject to the rule that limits medical expense deductions.

6. You may be able to deduct home office expenses. If you work from a home office, perform management or administrative tasks there, or store product samples or inventory at home, you may be entitled to deduct an allocable part of certain expenses, including mortgage interest or rent, insurance, utilities, repairs, maintenance and depreciation. You may also be able to deduct travel expenses from a home office to another work location.

7. You should keep complete records of your income and expenses. Specifically, you should carefully record your expenses in order to claim all the tax breaks to which you’re entitled. Certain expenses, such as automobile, travel, meals, and home office expenses, require extra attention because they’re subject to special recordkeeping rules or deductibility limits.

8. You have more responsibilities if you hire employees. For example, you need to get a taxpayer identification number and withhold and pay over payroll taxes.

9. You should consider establishing a qualified retirement plan. The advantages are that amounts contributed to it are deductible at the time of the contributions and aren’t taken into income until they’re withdrawn. You might consider a SEP plan, which requires minimal paperwork. A SIMPLE plan is also available to sole proprietors and offers tax advantages with fewer restrictions and administrative requirements. If you don’t establish a retirement plan, you may still be able to contribute to an IRA.

Turn to us

Contact us if you want additional information regarding the tax aspects of your business, or if you have questions about reporting or recordkeeping requirements.

The Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) was introduced back when COVID-19 temporarily closed many businesses. The credit provided cash that helped enable struggling businesses to retain employees. Even though the ERTC expired for most employers at the end of the third quarter of 2021, it could still be claimed on amended returns after that.

According to the IRS, it began receiving a deluge of “questionable” ERTC claims as some unscrupulous promotors asserted that large tax refunds could easily be obtained — even though there are stringent eligibility requirements. “We saw aggressive marketing around this credit, and well-intentioned businesses were misled into filing claims,” explained IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel.

Last year, in a series of actions, the IRS began cracking down on potentially fraudulent claims. They began with a moratorium on processing new ERTC claims submitted after September 14, 2023. Despite this, the IRS reports that it still has more than $1 billion in ETRC claims in process and they are receiving additional scrutiny.

Here’s an update of the other compliance efforts that may help your business if it submitted a problematic claim:

1. Voluntary Disclosure Program. Under this program, businesses can “pay back the money they received after filing ERTC claims in error,” the IRS explained. The deadline for applying is March 22, 2024. If the IRS accepts a business into the program, the employer will need to repay only 80% of the credit money it received. If the IRS paid interest on the employer’s ERTC, the employer doesn’t need to repay that interest and the IRS won’t charge penalties or interest on the repaid amounts.

The IRS chose the 80% repayment amount because many of the ERTC promoters charged a percentage fee that they collected at the time (or in advance) of the payment, so the recipients never received the full credit amount.

Employers that are unable to repay the required 80% may be considered for an installment agreement on a case-by-case basis, pending submission and review of an IRS form that requires disclosing a significant amount of financial information.

To be eligible for this program, the employer must provide the IRS with the name, address and phone number of anyone who advised or assisted them with their claims, and details about the services provided.

2. Special withdrawal program. If a business has a pending claim for which it has eligibility concerns, it can withdraw the claim. This program is also available to businesses that were paid money from the IRS for claims but haven’t cashed or deposited the refund checks. The tax agency reported that more than $167 million from pending applications had been withdrawn through mid-January.

Much-needed relief

Commissioner Werfel said the disclosure program “provides a much-needed option for employers who were pulled into these claims and now realize they shouldn’t have applied.”

In addition to the programs described above, the IRS has been sending letters to thousands of taxpayers notifying them their claims have been disallowed. These cases involve entities that didn’t exist or didn’t have employees on the payroll during the eligibility period, “meaning the businesses failed to meet the basic criteria” for the credit, the IRS stated. Another set of letters will soon be mailed to credit recipients who claimed an erroneous or excessive credit. They’ll be informed that the IRS will recapture the payments through normal collection procedures.

There’s an application form that employers must file to participate in the Voluntary Disclosure Program and procedures that must be followed for the withdrawal program. Other rules apply. Contact us for assistance or with questions.

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Koski Professional Group, P.C.