Should You Take Bonus Depreciation?

Extender from PATH Act means you can take bonus depreciation on your 2015 returns – but should you?

Once again, bonus depreciation has been extended allowing taxpayers to recover the costs of depreciable property more quickly by claiming additional first-year depreciation for qualified assets. The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (the PATH Act) extended 50% bonus depreciation through 2017.  Many taxpayers may benefit from claiming this break on their 2015 returns however some might save more tax in the long run if they elect out of bonus depreciation.

What type of assets qualify for bonus depreciation?

For 2015, new tangible property with an IRS stipulated depreciable life of 20 years or less (such as computers, office furniture or equipment) qualifies for bonus depreciation.  Off-the-shelf computer software, water utility property and qualified leasehold-improvement property also qualifies.  The new assets must also have been put in to use in 2015 in order to qualify for any depreciation deduction.

To bonus or not to bonus, that is the question…

Typically, taxpayers always want to maximize their tax deductions in the current year.  But wise tax planning calls for considering the effects of this year’s choices on future year’s tax burdens.  If a taxpayer has assets that are eligible for bonus depreciation and they expect to be in the same or a lower tax bracket in future years, taking Section 179 deduction first, then bonus depreciation is most likely a good tax strategy.  Doing so will defer tax, which generally is beneficial and usually the goal of tax planning.

However, if a business is growing and expects to be in a higher tax bracket in the near future, it may be better off forgoing bonus depreciation altogether. Why?  Because it makes sense to decrease deductions in years when a taxpayer is in a lower tax bracket, when they expect to have a higher taxable income in future years.  They will need the depreciation deductions more in the years they have higher taxable income, so electing out of bonus depreciation and not taking Section 179 deductions can be a smart tax move.  Deductions are worth more when your tax bracket is higher.

Have questions about depreciation?  We can help

If you’re unsure whether you should take bonus depreciation on your 2015 return — or you have questions about other depreciation-related breaks, such as Sec. 179 expensing — contact us – we can help.

Will Congress Extend Expired Tax Breaks?

When will Congress pass “extenders” legislation to revive expired tax breaks for 2015?

With Congress returning from its August recess, this is the question on tax-savvy Americans’ minds. Many valuable tax breaks aren’t permanent, so Congress has to pass legislation extending them to keep them in effect. Unfortunately, Congress often waits until the last minute to do so.

For example, Congress didn’t pass 2014 extenders until December 2014, making the legislation retroactive to January 1, 2014 — but not extending the breaks to 2015. So once again we’re in a waiting game to see what will happen with extenders legislation. Some believe Congress will act soon, while others think we’ll again be waiting until December.  Let’s hope they act sooner than later.

Here are several expired breaks that may benefit you or your business if extended:

  • The deduction for state and local sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes,
  • Tax-free IRA distributions to charities,
  • 100% bonus depreciation,
  • Increased Section 179 expensing,
  • Accelerated depreciation for qualified leasehold improvement, restaurant and
    retail improvement property,
  • The research tax credit,
  • The Work Opportunity tax credit, and
  • Various energy-related tax incentives.

Please check back with us for the latest information. Keep in mind that quick action after extenders legislation is passed may be required in order to take maximum advantage of the extended breaks.

© 2015

Tax Due Dates Change for Some 2016 Tax Returns

A new law signed in July changed the federal due dates for certain 2016 business tax returns and the annual “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts” (Form 114).

The due date for personal income tax returns was not changed.

The rules coordinate due dates between personal and business tax forms and are intended to reduce the number of extensions and amended returns that are filed each year. The revised dates will have no impact on your business’s 2015 federal income tax return. Instead, the new dates will be effective for 2016 returns.

Changes include a March 15 deadline for partnerships (Form 1065), and an April 15 deadline for the annual “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts” (Form 114) and most C corporations (Form 1120).

The law also requires additional tax reporting from executors of federal estate returns filed after July 31, 2015, and enhanced information on mortgage interest statements (Form 1098).

Please call us (757) 926-4109 for a complete list of revised due dates and other changes.

Fall 2015 Tax Deadlines

Remember these fall tax deadlines

Fall is a busy season for tax due dates. Check the list below to see if any of these September or October deadlines apply to you or your business.

September 15 – Due date for third quarter installment of 2015 individual estimated income tax.

September 15 – Filing deadline for 2014 tax returns for calendar-year corporations that received an extension of the March 16 due date.

September 15 – Filing deadline for 2014 partnership tax returns that received an extension of the April filing deadline.

September 15 – Due date for the third quarter installment of 2015 corporate estimated tax.

October 1 – Deadline for self-employed individuals and small businesses to establish a SIMPLE retirement plan for 2015.

October 15 – Filing deadline for 2014 individual income tax returns that received an extension of the April filing deadline.

October 15 – Deadline for undoing a 2014 conversion of a regular IRA to a Roth IRA and switching the Roth back to a regular IRA without penalty.

October 15 – Deadline for withdrawing 2014 excess IRA contributions to avoid a 6% tax penalty.

For more information or filing assistance, please give us a call.

Benefits of Tax Carryforwards and Carrybacks

Maximize tax benefits of carryforwards and carrybacks

Although the tax code contains some exceptions, income is generally taxable in the tax year received and expenses are claimed as deductions in the year paid. But “carryforwards” and “carrybacks” have special rules. In this case, certain losses and deductions can be carried forward to offset income in future years or carried back to offset income in prior years, providing tax benefits.

* Capital losses. After you net annual capital gains and capital losses, you can use any excess loss to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income. Remaining losses can be carried over to offset gains in future years. The carryforward continues until the excess loss is exhausted.

* Charitable deductions. Your annual charitable deductions are limited by a “ceiling” or maximum amount, as measured by a percentage. For example, the general rule is that your itemized deduction for most charitable donations for a year can’t exceed 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). Gifts of appreciated property are limited to 30% of your AGI (20% in some cases) in the tax year in which the donations are made. When you contribute more than these limits in a year, you can deduct the excess on future tax returns. The carryover period for charitable deductions is five years.

* Home office deduction. If you qualify for a home office deduction and you calculate your deduction using the regular method, your benefit for the current year can’t exceed the gross income from your business minus business expenses (other than home office expenses). Any excess is carried forward to the next year. Caution: No carryforward is available when you choose the “simplified” method to compute your home office deduction.

* Net operating losses (NOLs). Business NOLs can be carried back two years and forward 20 years. Tip: As an alternative, you may opt to forego the carryback and instead carry the entire NOL forward.

Give us a call (757) 926-4109 for help in maximizing the tax benefits of carryforwards or carrybacks, planning has to be done on these strategies before the end of the year.

Do you have mobile workforce?

Need Help Navigating the Complexities of Staffing Across State Lines?

Businesses of all sizes that operate interstate are subject to a significant regulatory burden with regard to compliance with non-resident state income tax withholding laws, which can take operating resources away from these businesses. Forty-one states impose a personal income tax on wages and partnership income, and there are many differing tax requirements regarding withholding income tax of nonresidents among those 41 states. The amount of research that goes into determining what each state law requires is expensive and time-consuming. The recordkeeping can be burdensome, particularly since a state’s withholding threshold can be as low as one day’s work in another state. Is your business operating between states or planning to in the future?  Todd & Co. CPA Group, Ltd. is a member of the American Institute of CPAs, the professional organization supporting CPAs, which advocates on behalf of CPAs and their small business clients. Our membership helps us keep our clients current on new developments, so we can help you navigate through state laws and determine withholding requirements for mobile staff.  Contact us today (757) 926-4109 if you need help determining payroll and income tax withholding rules for your out-of-state operations.

Out of State Operations Require Special Reporting

Out of State Operations Require Special Reporting

Tax Implications of Selling or Trading in a Business Auto

The decision of whether to trade in an old business car or try to sell it for cash generally should be based on factors such as the amount you can get on a sale versus a trade-in, and the time and bother a sale will entail.   However, important tax factors also may affect your decision-making process. Here’s an overview of the complex rules that apply to what appears to be a simple transaction, and some pointers on how to achieve the best tax results.

In general, the sale of a business auto yields a gain or loss depending on the net amount you receive from the sale and your basis for it. Your “basis” is your cost for tax purposes and, if you bought the asset, usually equals your cost minus the depreciation deductions you claimed for the auto over the years. Under the tax-free swap rules, trading in an old business auto for a new one doesn’t result in a current gain or loss, and the new car’s basis will equal the old car’s remaining basis plus any cash you paid to trade up. As a general rule, you should trade in your old business car if you used it exclusively for business driving, and its basis has been depreciated down to zero, or is very low. The trade-in often avoids a current tax. For example, if you sell your business car for $9,000, and your basis in it is only $7,000, you will have a $2,000 taxable gain, but if you trade it in, a current tax is avoided because any gain is deferred.    Your basis in the new car will be lower than it would be if you bought it without a trade-in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean lower depreciation deductions on the new car. Because of the so-called “luxury auto” annual depreciation dollar caps, your annual depreciation deductions on a new car may be the same whether you sold the old car or traded it in.

However, you should consider selling your old business car for cash rather than trading it in if you used it exclusively for business driving and depreciation on the old car was limited by the annual depreciation dollar caps.   In this situation, your basis in the old car may exceed its value. If you sell the old car, you will recognize a loss for tax purposes. However, if you trade it in, you will not recognize the loss.

For example, let’s you bought a $30,000 car several years back and used it 100% for business driving. Because of the annual depreciation dollar caps, you still have a $16,000 basis in the car, which has a current value of $14,500. Now, you want to buy another $30,000 car. If the old car is sold, a $1,500 loss will be recognized ($16,000 basis less $14,500 sale price). If the old car is traded in for a new one, there will be no current loss. Of course, if the old car’s value exceeds its basis, the tax-smart move is to trade it in and thereby avoid the gain.

You also may be better off selling your old business car for cash rather than trading it in, if you used the standard mileage allowance to deduct car-related expenses. For 2016, the allowance is 54¢ per business mile driven.  The standard mileage allowance has a built-in allowance for depreciation, which must be reflected in the basis of the car.    When it’s time to dispose of a car, the depreciation allowance may leave you with a higher remaining basis than the car’s value. Under these circumstances, the car should be sold in order to recognize the loss. All of this sounds very complicated, and it is.  Before you sell or trade in your business car or lease a new one, please give us a call and we’ll set up a meeting to discuss your options.

Can You Deduct the Cost of Business Meals?

We often get asked about the requirements for deducting business meals and entertainment expenses. This type of expense requires you to jump through several extra hoops to qualify as deductible and is subject to limitations.   Nevertheless, if you pay careful attention to the rules outlined below, the expenses should qualify as deductible.

  1. Ordinary and necessary business expenses. All business expenses must meet the general deductibility requirement of being “ordinary and necessary” in carrying on the business. These terms have been fairly broadly defined to mean customary or usual, and appropriate or helpful. Thus, if it is reasonable in your business to entertain clients or other business people you should be able to pass this general test.
  2. “Directly related” or “associated with.” A second level of tests especially applicable to meals and entertainment expenses must also be satisfied. Under them, the business meal or entertainment must be either “directly related to” or “associated with” the business. “Directly related” means involving an “active” discussion aimed at getting “immediate” revenue. Thus, a specific, concrete business benefit is expected to be derived, not just general goodwill from making a client or associate view you favorably. And the principal purpose for the event must be business. Also, you must have engaged actively during the event, via a meeting, discussion, etc. The directly related test can also be met if the meal or entertainment takes place in a clear business setting directly furthering your business, i.e., where there is no meaningful personal or social relationship between you and the others involved. Meetings or discussions that take place at sporting events, night clubs, or cocktail parties—essentially social events—would not meet this test. If the “directly related” test cannot be met, the expense may qualify as “associated with” the active conduct of business if the meal or entertainment event precedes or follows (i.e., takes place on the same day as) a substantial and bona fide business discussion. This test is easier to satisfy. “Goodwill” type of entertainment at shows, sporting events, night clubs, etc. can qualify. The event will be considered associated with the active conduct of the business if its purpose is to get new business or encourage the continuation of a business relationship. For meals, you (or an employee of yours) must be present. That is, for example, if you simply cover the cost of a client’s meal after a business meeting but don’t join him at it, the expense does not qualify.
  3. Substantiation. Almost as important as qualifying for the deduction are the requirements for proving that it qualifies. The use of reasonable estimates is not sufficient to stand up to IRS challenge. You must be able to establish the amount spent, the time and place, the business purpose, and the business relationship of the individuals involved. Obviously, you must set up careful and detailed record-keeping procedures to keep track of each business meal and entertainment event and to justify its business connection. For expenses of $75 or more, documentary proof (receipt, etc.) is required.
  4. Deduction limitations. Several additional limitations apply. First expenses that are “lavish or extravagant” are not deductible. This is generally a “reasonableness” test and does not impose any fixed limits on the cost of meals or entertainment events. Expenses incurred at first class restaurants or clubs can qualify as deductible. More importantly, however, once the expenditure qualifies, it is only 50% deductible.   Obviously, this rule severely reduces the tax benefit of business meals and entertainment. If you spend about $50 a week on qualifying business meals, or $2,500 for the year, your deduction will only be $1,250, for tax savings of around $300 to $400. 

Please call if you have any questions or would like my help in setting up record-keeping procedures.

New 2014 Rules Affect Repairs, Maintenance & Supplies Expenses

The IRS issued “final” rules known as the “repair regulations” this year.  They will effect your 2014 tax return if you have any depreciable assets or if you regularly purchase materials & supplies in your line of business. The rules clarify which costs should be capitalized and which can be expensed when your business buys, makes, maintains, or improves certain fixed assets such as buildings, equipment, vehicles and machinery.

Here are three ways your business can be affected:

1. Accounting policies. You’ll need to update your accounting policies to reflect how you treat expenses for repairs, materials, and supplies, and the acquisition of assets. Having a written policy in place will help keep you in compliance with the rules.  Your accounting policy must be in effect as of January 1 of each year.  Contact us for a template to help you with tax compliant wording. 

2. Elections. The final regulations include six elections. You’ll want to review them to learn if they are beneficial to you. For example, by choosing the “de minimis safe harbor election,” you can opt to expense the cost of property below a specific dollar amount, typically $500 but your industry standard could dictate more.

3. Form 3115. You may want to file Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method, with your 2014 federal income tax return to revise certain decisions you made regarding the treatment of tangible property in prior years. Alternatively, under simplified rules recently issued by the IRS, certain small businesses have the option of applying the repair regulations to 2014 and future years without filing Form 3115.

The final repair regulations will affect every business with fixed assets on the books as well as individuals with rental properties.   This law is very complex and requires a lot of paperwork to be in compliance.  Our tax preparers understand the ins and outs of the new repair regulations.  Please contact us to schedule an appointment so we can help you determine how to apply the rules.

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