Tax Briefs

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.

Operating your small business as a Qualified Small Business Corporation (QSBC) could be a tax-wise idea.

Tax-free treatment for eligible stock gains

QSBCs are the same as garden-variety C corporations for tax and legal purposes — except QSBC shareholders are potentially eligible to exclude from federal income tax 100% of their stock sale gains. That translates into a 0% federal income tax rate on QSBC stock sale profits! However, you must meet several requirements set forth in Section 1202 of the Internal Revenue Code, and not all shares meet the tax-law description of QSBC stock. Finally, there are limitations on the amount of QSBC stock sale gain that you can exclude in any one tax year (but they’re unlikely to apply).

Stock acquisition date is key

The 100% federal income tax gain exclusion is only available for sales of QSBC shares that were acquired on or after September 28, 2010.

If you currently operate as a sole proprietorship, single-member LLC treated as a sole proprietorship, partnership or multi-member LLC treated as a partnership, you’ll have to incorporate the business and issue yourself shares to attain QSBC status.

Important: The act of incorporating a business shouldn’t be taken lightly. We can help you evaluate the pros and cons of taking this step.

Here are some more rules and requirements:

  • Eligibility. The gain exclusion break isn’t available for QSBC shares owned by another C corporation. However, QSBC shares held by individuals, LLCs, partnerships, and S corporations are potentially eligible.
  • Holding period. To be eligible for the 100% stock sale gain exclusion deal, you must hold your QSBC shares for over five years. For shares that haven’t yet been issued, the 100% gain exclusion break will only be available for sales that occur sometime in 2029 or beyond.
  • Acquisition of shares. You must acquire the shares after August 10, 1993, and they generally must be acquired upon original issuance by the corporation or by gift or inheritance.
  • Businesses that aren’t eligible. The corporation must actively conduct a qualified business. Qualified businesses don’t include those rendering services in the fields of health; law; engineering; architecture; accounting; actuarial science; performing arts; consulting; athletics; financial services; brokerage services; businesses where the principal asset is the reputation or skill of employees; banking; insurance; leasing; financing; investing; farming; production or extraction of oil, natural gas, or other minerals for which percentage depletion deductions are allowed; or the operation of a hotel, motel, restaurant, or similar business.
  • Asset limits. The corporation’s gross assets can’t exceed $50 million immediately after your shares are issued. If after the stock is issued, the corporation grows and exceeds the $50 million threshold, it won’t lose its QSBC status for that reason.

2017 law sweetened the deal

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made a flat 21% corporate federal income tax rate permanent, assuming no backtracking by Congress. So, if you own shares in a profitable QSBC and you eventually sell them when you’re eligible for the 100% gain exclusion break, the 21% corporate rate could be all the income tax that’s ever owed to Uncle Sam.

Tax incentives drive the decision

Before concluding that you can operate your business as a QSBC, consult with us. We’ve summarized the most important eligibility rules here, but there are more. The 100% federal income tax stock sale gain exclusion break and the flat 21% corporate federal income tax rate are two strong incentives for eligible small businesses to operate as QSBCs.

As part of the SECURE 2.0 law, there’s a new benefit option for employees facing emergencies. It’s called a pension-linked emergency savings account (PLESA) and the provision authorizing it became effective for plan years beginning January 1, 2024. The IRS recently released guidance about the accounts (in Notice 2024-22) and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published some frequently asked questions to help employers, plan sponsors, participants and others understand them.

PLESA basics

The DOL defines PLESAs as “short-term savings accounts established and maintained within a defined contribution plan.” Employers with 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans can opt to offer PLESAs to non-highly compensated employees. For 2024, a participant who earned $150,000 or more in 2023 is a highly compensated employee.

Here are some more details of this new type of account:

  • The portion of the account balance attributable to participant contributions can’t exceed $2,500 (or a lower amount determined by the plan sponsor) in 2024. The $2,500 amount will be adjusted for inflation in future years.
  • Employers can offer to enroll eligible participants in these accounts beginning in 2024 or can automatically enroll participants in them.
  • The account can’t have a minimum contribution to open or a minimum account balance.
  • Participants can make a withdrawal at least once per calendar month, and such withdrawals must be distributed “as soon as practicable.”
  • For the first four withdrawals from an account in a plan year, participants can’t be subject to any fees or charges. Subsequent withdrawals may be subject to reasonable fees or charges.
  • Contributions must be held as cash, in an interest-bearing deposit account or in an investment product.
  • If an employee has a PLESA and isn’t highly compensated, but becomes highly compensated as defined under tax law, he or she can’t make further contributions but retains the right to withdraw the balance.
  • Contributions will be made on a Roth basis, meaning they are included in an employee’s taxable income but participants won’t have to pay tax when they make withdrawals.

Proof of an event not necessary

A participant in a PLESA doesn’t need to prove that he or she is experiencing an emergency before making a withdrawal from an account. The DOL states that “withdrawals are made at the discretion of the participant.”

These are just the basic details of PLESAs. Contact us if you have questions about these or other fringe benefits and their tax implications.

The so-called “kiddie tax” can cause some of a child’s unearned income to be taxed at the parent’s higher marginal federal income tax rates instead of at the usually much lower rates that a child would otherwise pay. For purposes of this federal income tax provision, a “child” can be up to 23 years old. So, the kiddie tax can potentially affect young adults as well as kids.

Kiddie tax basics

Perhaps the most important thing to know about this poorly understood provision is that, for a student, the kiddie tax can be an issue until the year that he or she turns age 24. For that year and future years, your child is finally kiddie-tax-exempt.

The kiddie tax is only assessed on a child’s (or young adult’s) unearned income. That usually means interest, dividends and capital gains. These types of income often come from custodial accounts that parents and grandparents set up and fund for younger children.

Earned income from a job or self-employment is never subject to the kiddie tax.

Calculating the tax

To determine the kiddie tax, first add up the child’s (or young adult’s) net earned income and net unearned income. Then subtract the allowable standard deduction to arrive at the child’s taxable income.

The portion of taxable income that consists of net earned income is taxed at the regular federal income tax rates for single taxpayers.

The portion of taxable income that consists of net unearned income that exceeds the standard deduction ($2,600 for 2024 or $2,500 for 2023) is subject to the kiddie tax and is taxed at the parent’s higher marginal federal income tax rates.

The tax is calculated by completing an IRS form, which is then filed with the child’s Form 1040.

Is calculating and reporting the kiddie tax complicated? It certainly can be. We can handle the task when we prepare your tax return.

Is your child exposed?

Maybe. For 2023, the relevant IRS form must be filed for any child or young adult who:

  • Has more than $2,500 of unearned income;
  • Is required to file a Form 1040;
  • Is under age 18 as of December 31, 2023, or is age 18 and didn’t have earned income in excess of half of his or her support, or is between ages 19 and 23 and a full-time student and didn’t have earned income in excess of half of his or her support;
  • Has at least one living parent; and
  • Didn’t file a joint return for the year.

For 2024, the same rules apply except the unearned income threshold is raised to $2,600.

Don’t let the tax sneak up on you

The kiddie tax rules are pretty complicated, and the tax can sneak up on the unwary. We can determine if your child is affected and suggest strategies to minimize or avoid the tax. For example, your child could invest in growth stocks that pay no or minimal dividends and hold on to them until a year when the kiddie tax no longer applies. Contact us if you have questions or want more information.

The IRS announced it will open the 2024 income tax return filing season on January 29. That’s when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2023 tax year returns.

Here are answers to seven tax season questions we receive at this time of year.

1. What are this year’s deadlines?

The filing deadline to submit 2023 returns or file an extension is Monday, April 15, 2024, for most taxpayers. Taxpayers living in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, due to state holidays. If taxpayers reside in a federally declared disaster area, they may have additional time to file.

2. When is my return due if I request an extension?

If you’re requesting an extension, you’ll have until October 15, 2024, to file. Keep in mind that an extension of time to file your return doesn’t grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes. You should estimate and pay any taxes owed by the April 15 deadline to avoid penalties.

3. When should I file?

You may want to wait until close to the deadline (or file for an extension), but there are reasons to file earlier. Doing so provides some protection from tax identity theft.

4. What’s tax identity theft and how does early filing help protect me?

Typically, in a tax identity theft scam, a thief uses another person’s information to file a fake tax return and claim a fraudulent refund early in the filing season.

The legitimate taxpayer discovers the fraud when filing a return. He or she is then told by the IRS that the return is being rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the tax year. The victim should be able to eventually prove that his or her return is the valid one, but it can be time consuming and frustrating to straighten out. It can also delay a refund.

Filing early provides some proactive defense. The reason: If you file first, the tax return filed by a potential thief will be rejected.

5. Are there other benefits to filing early?

Besides providing protection against tax identity theft, another benefit of early filing is you’ll get any refund sooner. According to the IRS, “most refunds will be issued in less than 21 days.” The time may be shorter if you file electronically and receive a refund by direct deposit into a bank account. Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost, stolen, returned to the IRS as undeliverable or caught in mail delays.

6. When will my W-2s and 1099s arrive?

To file your tax return, you’ll need all of your Forms W-2 and 1099. January 31, 2024, is the deadline for employers to file 2023 W-2s and, generally, for businesses to file Form 1099s for recipients of any 2023 interest, dividends or reportable miscellaneous income payments (including those made to independent contractors).

If you haven’t received a W-2 or 1099 by early February, first contact the entity that should have issued it. If that doesn’t work, ask us how to proceed.

7. When can you prepare my return?

Contact us as soon as possible for a tax preparation appointment. Separate penalties apply for failing to file and pay on time — and they can be quite severe. Even though the IRS isn’t beginning to process returns until January 29, they can be prepared before that. We can help ensure you file an accurate, timely return and receive all the tax breaks to which you’re entitled.

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2024. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. If you have questions about filing requirements, contact us. We can ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines.

January 16 (The usual deadline of January 15 is a federal holiday)

  • Pay the final installment of 2023 estimated tax.
  • Farmers and fishermen: Pay estimated tax for 2023. If you don’t pay your estimated tax by January 16, you must file your 2023 return and pay all tax due by March 1, 2024, to avoid an estimated tax penalty.

January 31

  • File 2023 Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” with the Social Security Administration and provide copies to your employees.
  • Provide copies of 2023 Forms 1099-NEC, “Nonemployee Compensation,” to recipients of income from your business, where required, and file them with the IRS.
  • Provide copies of 2023 Forms 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Information,” reporting certain types of payments to recipients.
  • File Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return,” for 2023. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it’s more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return.
  • File Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” to report Medicare, Social Security and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2023. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return. (Employers that have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944, “Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return.”)
  • File Form 945, “Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax,” for 2023 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on accounts such as pensions, annuities and IRAs. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 12 to file the return.

February 15

  • Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2023. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. Form 1099 can be issued electronically with the consent of the recipient. This due date applies only to the following types of payments:
    • All payments reported on Form 1099-B.
    • All payments reported on Form 1099-S.
    • Substitute payments reported in box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in box 10 of Form 1099-MISC.

February 28

  • File 2023 Forms 1099-MISC with the IRS if you’re filing paper copies. (Otherwise, the filing deadline is April 1.)

March 15

  • If a calendar-year partnership or S corporation, file or extend your 2023 tax return and pay any tax due. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2023 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.

If you’re interested in selling commercial or investment real estate that has appreciated significantly, one way to defer a tax bill on the gain is with a Section 1031 “like-kind” exchange. With this transaction, you exchange the property rather than sell it. Although the real estate market has been tough recently in some locations, there are still profitable opportunities (with high resulting tax bills) when the like-kind exchange strategy may be attractive.

A like-kind exchange is any exchange of real property held for investment or for productive use in your trade or business (relinquished property) for like-kind investment, trade or business real property (replacement property).

For these purposes, like-kind is broadly defined, and most real property is considered to be like-kind with other real property. However, neither the relinquished property nor the replacement property can be real property held primarily for sale.

Asset-for-asset or boot

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, tax-deferred Section 1031 treatment is no longer allowed for exchanges of personal property — such as equipment and certain personal property building components — that are completed after December 31, 2017.

If you’re unsure if the property involved in your exchange is eligible for like-kind treatment, please contact us to discuss the matter.

Assuming the exchange qualifies, here’s how the tax rules work. If it’s a straight asset-for-asset exchange, you won’t have to recognize any gain from the exchange. You’ll take the same “basis” (your cost for tax purposes) in the replacement property that you had in the relinquished property. Even if you don’t have to recognize any gain on the exchange, you still must report it on Form 8824, “Like-Kind Exchanges.”

However, in many cases, the properties aren’t equal in value, so some cash or other property is added to the deal. This cash or other property is known as “boot.” If boot is involved, you’ll have to recognize your gain, but only up to the amount of boot you receive in the exchange. In these situations, the basis you get in the like-kind replacement property you receive is equal to the basis you had in the relinquished property reduced by the amount of boot you received but increased by the amount of any gain recognized.

How it works

For example, let’s say you exchange business property with a basis of $100,000 for a building valued at $120,000, plus $15,000 in cash. Your realized gain on the exchange is $35,000: You received $135,000 in value for an asset with a basis of $100,000. However, since it’s a like-kind exchange, you only have to recognize $15,000 of your gain. That’s the amount of cash (boot) you received. Your basis in the new building (the replacement property) will be $100,000: your original basis in the relinquished property ($100,000) plus the $15,000 gain recognized, minus the $15,000 boot received.

Note that no matter how much boot is received, you’ll never recognize more than your actual (“realized”) gain on the exchange.

If the property you’re exchanging is subject to debt from which you’re being relieved, the amount of the debt is treated as boot. The reason is that if someone takes over your debt, it’s equivalent to the person giving you cash. Of course, if the replacement property is also subject to debt, then you’re only treated as receiving boot to the extent of your “net debt relief” (the amount by which the debt you become free of exceeds the debt you pick up).

Unload one property and replace it with another

Like-kind exchanges can be a great tax-deferred way to dispose of investment, trade or business real property. But you have to make sure to meet all the requirements. Contact us if you have questions or would like to discuss the strategy further.

The optional standard mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost of operating an automobile for business will be going up by 1.5 cents per mile in 2024. The IRS recently announced that the cents-per-mile rate for the business use of a car, van, pickup or panel truck will be 67 cents (up from 65.5 cents for 2023).

The increased tax deduction partly reflects the price of gasoline, which is about the same as it was a year ago. On December 21, 2023, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.12, compared with $3.10 a year earlier, according to AAA Gas Prices.

Standard rate vs. tracking expenses

Businesses can generally deduct the actual expenses attributable to business use of vehicles. These include gas, tires, oil, repairs, insurance, licenses and vehicle registration fees. In addition, you can claim a depreciation allowance for the vehicle. However, in many cases, certain limits apply to depreciation write-offs on vehicles that don’t apply to other types of business assets.

The cents-per-mile rate is helpful if you don’t want to keep track of actual vehicle-related expenses. However, you still must record certain information, such as the mileage for each business trip, the date and the destination.

The standard rate is also used by businesses that reimburse employees for business use of their personal vehicles. These reimbursements can help attract and retain employees who drive their personal vehicles for business purposes. Why? Under current law, employees can’t deduct unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as business mileage, on their own income tax returns.

If you use the cents-per-mile rate, keep in mind that you must comply with various rules. If you don’t comply, reimbursements to employees could be considered taxable wages to them.

Rate calculation

The business cents-per-mile rate is adjusted annually. It’s based on an annual study commissioned by the IRS about the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle, such as gas, maintenance, repairs and depreciation. Occasionally, if there’s a substantial change in average gas prices, the IRS will change the rate midyear.

Not always allowed

There are cases when you can’t use the cents-per-mile rate. In some situations, it depends on how you’ve claimed deductions for the same vehicle in the past. In other situations, it hinges on if the vehicle is new to your business this year or whether you want to take advantage of certain first-year depreciation tax breaks on it.

As you can see, there are many factors to consider in deciding whether to use the standard mileage rate to deduct business vehicle expenses. We can help if you have questions about tracking and claiming such expenses in 2024 — or claiming 2023 expenses on your 2023 tax return.

One of the most appreciated fringe benefits for owners and employees of small businesses is the use of a company car. This perk results in tax deductions for the employer as well as tax breaks for the owners and employees driving the cars. (And of course, they enjoy the nontax benefit of using a company car.) Even better, current federal tax rules make the benefit more valuable than it was in the past.

Rolling out the rules

Let’s take a look at how the rules work in a typical situation. For example, a corporation decides to supply the owner-employee with a company car. The owner-employee needs the car to visit customers and satellite offices, check on suppliers and meet with vendors. He or she expects to drive the car 8,500 miles a year for business and also anticipates using the car for about 7,000 miles of personal driving. This includes commuting, running errands and taking weekend trips. Therefore, the usage of the vehicle will be approximately 55% for business and 45% for personal purposes. Naturally, the owner-employee wants an attractive car that reflects positively on the business, so the corporation buys a new $57,000 luxury sedan.

The cost for personal use of the vehicle is equal to the tax the owner-employee pays on the fringe benefit value of the 45% personal mileage. In contrast, if the owner-employee bought the car to drive the personal miles, he or she would pay out-of-pocket for the entire purchase cost of the car.

Personal use is treated as fringe benefit income. For tax purposes, the corporation treats the car much the same way it would any other business asset, subject to depreciation deduction restrictions if the auto is purchased. Out-of-pocket expenses related to the car (including insurance, gas, oil and maintenance) are deductible, including the portion that relates to personal use. If the corporation finances the car, the interest it pays on the loan is deductible as a business expense (unless the business is subject to the business interest expense deduction limitation under the tax code).

On the other hand, if the owner-employee buys the auto, he or she isn’t entitled to any deductions. Outlays for the business-related portion of driving are unreimbursed employee business expenses, which are nondeductible from 2018 to 2025 due to the suspension of miscellaneous itemized deductions under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And if the owner-employee finances the car personally, the interest payments are nondeductible.

One other implication: The purchase of the car by the corporation has no effect on the owner-employee’s credit rating.

Careful recordkeeping is essential

Supplying a vehicle for an owner’s or key employee’s business and personal use comes with complications and paperwork. Personal use needs to be tracked and valued under the fringe benefit tax rules and treated as income. This article only explains the basics.

Despite the necessary valuation and paperwork, a company-provided car is still a valuable fringe benefit for business owners and key employees. It can provide them with the use of a vehicle at a low tax cost while generating tax deductions for their businesses. (You may even be able to transfer the vehicle to the employee when you’re ready to dispose of it, but that involves other tax implications.) We can help you stay in compliance with the rules and explain more about this fringe benefit.

The IRS recently announced various 2024 inflation-adjusted federal tax amounts that affect individual taxpayers.

Most of the federal income tax rate bracket thresholds are about 5.4% higher than for 2023. That means that you can generally have about 5.4% more income next year without owing more to the federal government.

Standard deduction

Here are the inflation-adjusted standard deduction numbers for 2024 for those who don’t itemize:

  • $14,600 if you’re single or use married filing separate status (up from $13,850 in 2023).
  • $29,200 if you’re married and file jointly (up from $27,700).
  • $21,900 if you’re a head of household (up from $20,800).

Older taxpayers and those who are blind are entitled to additional standard deduction allowances. In 2024 for those age 65 or older or blind, the amounts will be: $1,550 for a married taxpayer (up from $1,500 in 2023) and $1,950 for a single filer or head of household (up from $1,850 for 2023).

For an individual who can be claimed as a dependent on another taxpayer’s return, the 2024 standard deduction will be the greater of: 1) $1,300 (up from $1,250 for 2023) or 2) $450 (up from $400 for 2023) plus the individual’s earned income, not to exceed $14,600 (up from $13,850 for 2023).

Ordinary income and short-term capital gains

Here are the 2024 inflation-adjusted bracket thresholds for ordinary income and net short-term capital gains:

  • 10% tax bracket: $0 to $11,600 for singles, $0 to $23,200 for married joint filers, $0 to $16,550 for heads of household;
  • Beginning of 12% bracket: $11,601 for singles, $23,201 for married joint filers, $16,551 for heads of household;
  • Beginning of 22% bracket: $47,151 for singles, $94,301 for married joint filers, $63,101 for heads of household;
  • Beginning of 24% bracket: $100,526 for singles, $201,051 for married joint filers, $100,501 for heads of household;
  • Beginning of 32% bracket: $191,951 for singles, $383,901 for married joint filers, $191,951 for heads of household;
  • Beginning of 35% bracket: $243,726 for singles, $487,451 for married joint filers and $243,701 for heads of household; and
  • Beginning of 37% bracket: $609,351 for singles, $731,201 for married joint filers and $609,351 for heads of household.

Long-term capital gains and dividends

Here are the 2024 inflation-adjusted bracket thresholds for net long-term capital gains and qualified dividends:

  • 0% tax bracket: $0 to $47,025 for singles, $0 to $94,050 for married joint filers, and $0 to $63,000 for heads of household;
  • Beginning of 15% bracket: $47,026 for singles, $94,051 for married joint filers, and $63,001 for heads of household; and
  • Beginning of 20% bracket: $518,901 for singles, $583,751 for married joint filers and $551,351 for heads of household.

Gift and estate tax

The annual exclusion for gifts made in 2024 will be $18,000 (up from $17,000 for 2023). That means you can give away up to $18,000 to as many individuals as you wish without incurring gift tax or using up any of your unified federal gift and estate tax exemption.

In 2024, the unified federal gift and estate tax exemption will be $13,610,000 (up from $12,920,000 for 2023).

For gifts made in 2024, the annual exclusion for gifts to a noncitizen spouse will be $185,000 (up from $175,000 in 2023).

Conclusion

This article only covers some of the inflation-adjusted tax amounts. There are others that may potentially apply, including: alternative minimum tax parameters, kiddie tax amounts, limits on the refundable amount of the Child Tax Credit, limits on the adoption credit, IRA contribution amounts, contributions to your company’s retirement plan and health savings account amounts. Various other inflation-adjusted amounts may affect your tax situation if you own an interest in a sole proprietorship or a pass-through business. Contact us with questions.

In the midst of holiday parties and shopping for gifts, don’t forget to consider steps to cut the 2023 tax liability for your business. You still have time to take advantage of a few opportunities.

Time deductions and income

If your business operates on a cash basis, you can significantly affect your amount of taxable income by accelerating your deductions into 2023 and deferring income into 2024 (assuming you expect to be taxed at the same or a lower rate next year).

For example, you could put recurring expenses normally paid early in the year on your credit card before January 1 — that way, you can claim the deduction for 2023 even though you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2024. In certain circumstances, you also can prepay some expenses, such as rent or insurance and claim them in 2023.

As for deferring income, wait until close to year-end to send out invoices to customers with reliable payment histories. Accrual-basis businesses can take a similar approach, holding off on the delivery of goods and services until next year.

Buy assets

If you’re thinking about purchasing new or used equipment, machinery or office equipment in the new year, it might be time to act now. Buy the assets and place them in service by December 31, and you can deduct 80% of the cost as bonus depreciation in 2023. This is down from 100% for 2022 and it will drop to 60% for assets placed in service in 2024. Contact us for details on the 80% bonus depreciation break and exactly what types of assets qualify.

Bonus depreciation is also available for certain building improvements.

Fortunately, the first-year Section 179 depreciation deduction will allow many small and medium-sized businesses to write off the entire cost of some or all of their 2023 asset additions on this year’s federal income tax return. There may also be state tax benefits.

However, keep in mind there are limitations on the deduction. For tax years beginning in 2023, the maximum Sec. 179 deduction is $1.16 million and a phaseout rule kicks in if you put more than $2.89 million of qualifying assets into service in the year.

Purchase a heavy vehicle

The 80% bonus depreciation deduction may have a major tax-saving impact on first-year depreciation deductions for new or used heavy vehicles used over 50% for business. That’s because heavy SUVs, pickups and vans are treated for federal income tax purposes as transportation equipment. In turn, that means they qualify for 100% bonus depreciation.

Specifically, 100% bonus depreciation is available when the SUV, pickup or van has a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating above 6,000 pounds. You can verify a vehicle’s weight by looking at the manufacturer’s label, which is usually found on the inside edge of the driver’s side door. If you’re considering buying an eligible vehicle, placing one in service before year end could deliver a significant write-off on this year’s return.

Think through tax-saving strategies

Keep in mind that some of these tactics could adversely impact other aspects of your tax liability, such as the qualified business income deduction. Contact us to make the most of your tax planning opportunities.

Many Americans own a vacation home or aspire to purchase one. If you own a second home in a waterfront community, in the mountains or in a resort area, you may want to rent it out for part of the year.

The tax implications of these transactions can be complicated. It depends on how many days the home is rented and your level of personal use. Personal use includes vacation use by you, your family members (even if you charge them market rent) and use by nonrelatives if a market rent isn’t charged.

Short-term rentals

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 revenue and significant tax benefits. Any rent you receive isn’t included in your income for tax purposes. On the other hand, you can only deduct property taxes and mortgage interest — no other operating costs or 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 received in income. However, you can deduct part of your operating expenses and depreciation, subject to certain rules. First, you must allocate your expenses between the personal use days and the rental days. This includes maintenance, utilities, depreciation allowance, interest and taxes for the property. The personal use portion of taxes can be deducted separately. The personal use part of interest on a second home is also deductible (if eligible) when it exceeds the greater of 14 days or 10% of the rental days. However, depreciation on the personal use portion isn’t allowed.

Losses may be deductible

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. But 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 for personal purposes.

Here’s the test: if you use it personally for more than the greater of 14 days or 10% of the rental days, you’re using it “too much” and can’t claim your loss. In this case, you can still use your deductions to wipe out rental income, but you can’t create a loss. Deductions you can’t claim are carried forward and may be usable in future years. If you’re limited to using deductions only up to the rental income amount, you must use the deductions allocated to the rental portion in this order:

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

If you “pass” the personal use test, you must still allocate your expenses between the personal and rental portions. However, in this case, if your rental deductions exceed your rental income, you can claim the loss. (The loss is “passive,” however, and may be limited under passive loss rules.)

Navigate a plan

These are only the basic rules. There may be other rules if you’re considered a small landlord or real estate professional. Contact us if you have questions. We can help plan your vacation home use to achieve optimal tax results.

Do you use an automobile in your trade or business? If so, you may question how depreciation tax deductions are determined. The rules are complicated, and special limitations that apply to vehicles classified as passenger autos (which include many pickups and SUVs) can result in it taking longer than expected to fully depreciate a vehicle.

Depreciation is built into the cents-per-mile rate

First, be aware that separate depreciation calculations for a passenger auto only come into play if you choose to use the actual expense method to calculate deductions. If, instead, you use the standard mileage rate (65.5 cents per business mile driven for 2023), a depreciation allowance is built into the rate.

If you use the actual expense method to determine your allowable deductions for a passenger auto, you must make a separate depreciation calculation for each year until the vehicle is fully depreciated. According to the general rule, you calculate depreciation over a six-year span as follows: Year 1, 20% of the cost; Year 2, 32%; Year 3, 19.2%; Years 4 and 5, 11.52%; and Year 6, 5.76%. If a vehicle is used 50% or less for business purposes, you must use the straight-line method to calculate depreciation deductions instead of the percentages listed above.

For a passenger auto that costs more than the applicable amount for the year the vehicle is placed in service, you’re limited to specified annual depreciation ceilings. These are indexed for inflation and may change annually. For example, for a passenger auto placed in service in 2023 that cost more than a certain amount, the Year 1 depreciation ceiling is $20,200 if you choose to deduct first-year bonus depreciation. The annual ceilings for later years are: Year 2, $19,500; Year 3, $11,700; and for all later years, $6,960 until the vehicle is fully depreciated.

These ceilings are proportionately reduced for any nonbusiness use. And if a vehicle is used 50% or less for business purposes, you must use the straight-line method to calculate depreciation deductions.

Reminder: Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, bonus depreciation is being phased down to zero in 2027, unless Congress acts to extend it. For 2023, the deduction is 80% of eligible property and for 2024, it’s scheduled to go down to 60%.

Heavy SUVs, pickups and vans

Much more favorable depreciation rules apply to heavy SUVs, pickups, and vans used over 50% for business, because they’re treated as transportation equipment for depreciation purposes. This means a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) above 6,000 pounds. Quite a few SUVs and pickups pass this test. You can usually find the GVWR on a label on the inside edge of the driver-side door.

What matters is the after-tax cost

What’s the impact of these depreciation limits on your business vehicle decisions? They change the after-tax cost of passenger autos used for business. That is, the true cost of a business asset is reduced by the tax savings from related depreciation deductions. To the extent depreciation deductions are reduced, and thereby deferred to future years, the value of the related tax savings is also reduced due to time-value-of-money considerations, and the true cost of the asset is therefore that much higher.

The rules are different if you lease an expensive passenger auto used for business. Contact us if you have questions or want more information.

If your investments have fluctuated wildly this year, you may have already recognized some significant gains and losses. But nothing is decided tax-wise until year end when the final results of your trades will reveal your 2023 tax situation. Here’s what you need to know to avoid tax surprises.

Tax-favored retirement accounts and taxable accounts

If you’ve had wild swings in the value of investments held in a tax-favored 401(k), traditional IRA, Roth IRA or self-employed SEP account, there’s no current tax impact. While these changes affect your account value, they have no tax consequences until you finally start taking withdrawals. At that point, the size of your balance(s) will affect your tax bills. If you have investments in a Roth IRA, qualified withdrawals taken after age 59½ can be federal-income-tax-free.

With taxable accounts, your cumulative gains and losses from executed trades during the year are what matter. Unrealized gains and losses don’t affect your tax bill.

Overall loss for 2023

If your losses for the year exceed your gains, you have a net capital loss. To determine and apply the loss:

  1. Divide your gains and losses into short-term gains and losses from investments held for one year or less and long-term gains and losses from investments held for more than one year.
    • If your short-term losses exceed your short- and long-term gains, you have a net short-term capital loss for the year.
    • If your long-term losses exceed the total of your long- and short-term gains, you have a net long-term capital loss for the year.
  2. Claim your allowable net capital loss deduction of up $3,000 ($1,500 if you use married filing separate status).
  3. Carry over any remaining net short-term or long-term capital loss after Step 2 to next year where it can be used to offset capital gains in 2024 and beyond.

Overall gain for 2023

If your gains for the year exceed your losses, you have a net capital gain. To figure out the gain:

  • Divide your gains and losses into short-term gains and losses from investments held for one year or less and long-term gains and losses from investments held for more than one year.
    • If your short-term gains exceed the total of your short- and long-term losses, you have a net short-term capital gain for the year.
    • If your long-term gains exceed the total of your long- and short-term losses, you have a net long-term capital gain for the year.

Net short-term and long-term gain

A net short-term capital gain is taxed at your regular federal income tax rate, which can be up to 37%. You may also owe the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT) (see below) and state income tax, too.

A net long-term capital gain (LTCG) is taxed at the lower federal capital gain tax rates of 0%, 15%, and 20%. Most individuals pay 15%. High-income folks will owe the maximum 20% rate on the lesser of: 1) net LTCG or 2) the excess of taxable income, including any net LTCG, over the applicable threshold. For 2023, the thresholds are $553,850 for married joint-filers, $492,300 for singles and $523,050 for heads of households. You may also owe the NIIT and state income tax, too.

Watch out for the NIIT

The 3.8% NIIT hits the lesser of your net investment income, including capital gains, or the amount by which your modified adjusted gross income exceeds the applicable threshold. The thresholds are:

  • $250,000 for married joint-filers,
  • $200,000 for singles and heads of households, and
  • $125,000 for married individuals filing separate.

Year end is still months away

As explained earlier, your tax results for 2023 are up in the air until all the gains and losses from trades executed during the year are tallied up. If you have questions or want more information, consult with us.

Are employees at your business traveling and frustrated about documenting expenses? Or perhaps you’re annoyed at the time and energy that goes into reviewing business travel expenses. There may be a way to simplify the reimbursement of these expenses. In Notice 2023-68, the IRS announced the fiscal 2024 special “per diem” rates that became effective October 1, 2023. Taxpayers can use these rates to substantiate the amount of expenses for lodging, meals and incidentals when traveling away from home. (Taxpayers in the transportation industry can use a special transportation industry rate.)

Basics of the method

A simplified alternative to tracking actual business travel expenses is to use the “high-low” per diem method. This method provides fixed travel per diems. The amounts, provided by the IRS, vary from locality to locality.

Under the high-low method, the IRS establishes an annual flat rate for certain areas with higher costs of living. All locations within the continental United States that aren’t listed as “high-cost” are automatically considered “low-cost.” The high-low method may be used in lieu of the specific per diem rates for business destinations. Examples of high-cost areas include Boston, and San Francisco. Other locations, such as resort areas, are considered high-cost during only part of the year.

Under some circumstances — for example, if an employer provides lodging or pays the hotel directly — employees may receive a per diem reimbursement only for their meals and incidental expenses. There’s also a $5 incidental-expenses-only rate for employees who don’t pay or incur meal expenses for a calendar day (or partial day) of travel.

Reduced recordkeeping

If your company uses per diem rates, employees don’t have to meet the usual recordkeeping rules required by the IRS. Receipts of expenses generally aren’t required under the per diem method. But employees still must substantiate the time, place and business purpose of the travel. Per diem reimbursements generally aren’t subject to income or payroll tax withholding or reported on an employee’s Form W-2.

The FY2024 rates

For travel after September 30, 2023, the per diem rate for all high-cost areas within the continental United States is $309. This consists of $235 for lodging and $74 for meals and incidental expenses. For all other areas within the continental United States, the per diem rate is $214 for travel after September 30, 2023 ($150 for lodging and $64 for meals and incidental expenses). Compared to the FY2023 per diems, the high-cost area per diem increased $12, and the low-cost area per diem increased $10.

Important: This method is subject to various rules and restrictions. For example, companies that use the high-low method for an employee must continue using it for all reimbursement of business travel expenses within the continental United States during the calendar year. However, the company may use any permissible method to reimburse that employee for any travel outside the continental United States.

For travel during the last three months of a calendar year, employers must continue to use the same method (per diem or high-low method) for an employee as they used during the first nine months of the calendar year. Also, note that per diem rates can’t be paid to individuals who own 10% or more of the business.

If your employees are traveling, it may be a good time to review the rates and consider switching to the high-low method. It can reduce the time and frustration associated with traditional travel reimbursement. Contact us for more information or read the IRS notice here.

© 2024

Koski Professional Group, P.C.