Taxes on self-employed people – how it works

Taxes on self-employed people – how it works

Individuals whose businesses are incorporated typically do not have to worry about self-employment tax if they are paying themselves a reasonable salary. Any salary taken by owner-employees is subject to FICA taxes (Social Security and Medicare).   FICA taxes are deducted from the shareholder’s paycheck and are remitted regularly through payroll tax payments to the IRS.  Owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and limited liability companies (LLCs)—are not considered “employees” but “self-employed individuals”.  Instead of paying FICA tax through wages, self-employed people pay self-employment tax.  Partners, sole proprietors and LLC members do not take a regular salary through payroll, so there is no tax withheld from the payments they take which are called “draws”.

Self-employed individuals pay self-employment tax equal to the employer and employee share of FICA tax. In other words, they pay 15.3% (comprised of 12.5% for Social Security tax and 2.9% for Medicare tax) on the net earnings of their business.  In basic terms, net earnings from self-employment is calculated by subtracting total expenses from total income.  Oftentimes, self-employed clients get confused because they think they only pay tax on the draws they pay themselves from the business.  This is not the case, however, because if the business is profitable and no draws are taken, the owner will still pay 15.3% self-employment tax on those profits.  The draws that the owner takes do not decrease the net profits of the business and generally have no effect on self-employment tax.  There are some “draws” called  ‘guaranteed payments” taken by some partners in a partnership that do decrease the profits of the other partners, but those guaranteed payments are still subject to the 15.3% self-employment tax for the partner who has received such payments.  An LLC can elect to be taxed as a corporation thereby allowing the owners to take a regular salary and have some control over the self-employment tax that they pay.  This is a good option for LLCs that are profitable.

Do You Need to Worry About Estate Taxes?

If you are like most people, you don’t really know right off the cuff what your estate is actually worth.  Let’s start off by defining what your estate actually is.  Your estate consists of all of the property you own or control.   Your estate property may be in your sole name, held in a partnership, in a joint ownership arrangement, or through a trust.  Your estate property also includes all other monies that would be generated upon your death, such as through life insurance.

Here’s a link to a cool 11-step wiki to help you figure out the value of your estate.

The good news is you can transfer an amount that equals up to your available exemption at death without having to be subject to federal estate taxes.  If your taxable estate is equal to or less than the estate tax exemption (for 2016, $5.45 million) reduced by any gift tax exemption you used during your life, no federal estate tax will be due when you die.  But if your taxable estate exceeds this amount, it will be subject to estate tax. Many states, however, now impose estate tax at a lower threshold than the federal government does, so you’ll also need to consider the rules in your state.  Here in Virginia, legislation enacted by the 2006 General Assembly, House Bill 5018, repealed the Virginia estate tax for the estates of decedents whose date of death occurs on or after July 1, 2007.   The repeal of the Virginia estate tax does not affect the filing requirements for fiduciary income tax, regardless of when the date of death occurs.

Even if you don’t have a $5 million estate now, it doesn’t mean that you won’t one day.  The estate tax exemption amount changes every year so it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your net worth and any changes from year to year in your personal financial position.   Check with us for advice and guidance.



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.

Can You Take the Home Office Deduction?

Are You Eligible to Deduct Home Office Expenses?

Just because you have a home office space doesn’t mean you can deduct expenses associated with it.

Home Office Requirements

The eligibility requirements for deducting home office expenses differ depending upon if you are an employee or if you are self-employed.  For example, as an employee, having a home office must be for your employer’s convenience and not just your own. The IRS even has a “Convenience of Employer Test” in which an employee’s home office is deemed to be for an employer’s convenience only if it is:

  1. a condition of employment
  2. necessary for the employer’s business to properly function, or
  3. needed to allow the employee to properly perform his or her duties.

Most likely, you won’t pass the employer convenience test if you have another office provided by your employer but like to take work home with you.  However, you would pass the test if your employer doesn’t provide you with an office, or if there is some valid business reason why you must work at home.

If you’re self-employed, generally your home office must be your principal place of business, but there are a few exceptions.

Whether you’re an employee or self-employed, the space must be used regularly (not just occasionally) and exclusively for business purposes. If, for example, your home office is also a family room, guest room or where your kids do their homework, the space is NOT a home office in the eyes of the IRS.

How Does the Home Office Deduction Affect Taxes?

The home office deduction can be a nice tax break – especially for self-employed people because you save not only on regular income tax but that pesky 15.3% self-employment tax as well!  How the deduction works – the first step is figuring out the square footage of your home office, then you divide that number by the total square footage of your home.  The result is a percentage.  You may be able to deduct that percentage of your mortgage interest, property taxes, home owner’s insurance, utilities and certain other expenses, as well as the depreciation allocable to the office space.

In the last couple of years, the IRS has created a simpler “safe harbor” deduction in lieu of calculating, allocating and substantiating actual expenses. The safe harbor deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on $5 per square foot up to a maximum of 300 square feet.

For employees and S-corporation shareholders, home office expenses are a less beneficial miscellaneous 2% itemized deduction. This means you’ll get a tax break only if these expenses plus your other miscellaneous itemized expenses exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

Finally, be aware that we’ve covered only a few of the rules and limits here. If you think you may be eligible for the home office deduction, contact us for more information.  

Tax Benefits Of Investing in Small Corporations

Tax Benefits Of Investing in Small Corporations


Purchasing stock in certain qualified small businesses, not only diversifies your portfolio but also allows for preferential tax treatment. A provision in the recently signed tax extenders bill, the PATH Act, now makes owning and selling such stock even more attractive from a tax perspective.

How does 100% exclusion from gain sound to you?

The PATH Act makes permanent the exclusion of 100% of the gain on the sale or exchange of qualified small business (QSB) stock acquired and held for more than five years. The 100% exclusion is available for QSB stock acquired after September 27, 2010, with smaller exclusions are available for QSB stock acquired earlier.

The act also permanently extends the rule that eliminates QSB stock gain as a preference item for alternative minimum tax (AMT) purposes.

What is Qualified Small Business Stock?

Qualified small business (QSB) stock is generally stock of a domestic C corporation that has gross assets of no more than $50 million at any time (including when the stock is issued).  The QSB must use at least 80% of its assets in an active trade or business. 

There are Many Factors to Consider

Of course tax consequences are only one of many factors that should be considered before making any investment.  Keep in mind that the tax benefits outlined here are subject to additional requirements and limits.  If you think you may have an investment that qualifies for this preferential tax treatment consult us for more help.

File Your Taxes Early to Avoid Falling Victim to Identity Theft

File Your Taxes Early to Avoid Falling Victim to Identity Theft

File Your Taxes Early to Avoid Falling Victim to Identity Theft


If you’re like most, you may put off filing your individual tax return until close to the April 15th deadline. But there’s another date you should keep in mind: January 19th. That’s the date the IRS began accepting 2015 returns, and filing as close to that date as possible could protect you from the hassles and complications of tax-related identity theft.


In this increasingly common scam, thieves use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns electronically and claim bogus refunds. When the real taxpayers file, they’re notified that they’re attempting to file duplicate returns.

Tax identity theft can cause major headaches to straighten out and significantly delay legitimate refunds. But if you file first, it will be the thief who’s filing the duplicate return, not you.


Of course you need to have all of your key tax forms in order to file. February 1st is the deadline for employers to issue 2015 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue 1099s to recipients of any 2015 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments.


Let us know if you have questions or concerns about tax identity theft or would like to file your 2015 return now. An added bonus of filing early is enjoying your refund sooner.  If you typically owe, remember that April 15th is still the due date for all your taxes due even if you decide to file an extension.  Like we always say, an extension applies only to filing the return but NOT to paying the tax – your tax is due on or before April 15th every year!


Can Children Invest in a Roth IRA?

Give your kids the power of a Roth IRA.  Would you like to give your child a head start on smart money habits?  Here’s our suggestion – have your child invest in a Roth IRA. Why? The tax-free compounding of contributions and investment returns over your child’s lifetime is a superior wealth-builder.

Here are the facts about about children investing in a Roth IRA:

  • There is no minimum age to open a Roth IRA account. All your child needs is earned income, either from a summer job or from self-employment.  Yes!  Your kids can work for you!  See below about the tax benefits to employing your children (ask us for details to see if your business qualifies).
  •  The maximum contribution to a Roth IRA for 2015 is $5,500.  Your child can contribute less and you can provide some or all of the cash, up to the amount of your child’s earned income.
  • Your child won’t receive a federal tax deduction for a Roth IRA contribution – however they will not pay federal or Virginia income tax on qualified distributions taken after age 59½.
  • You can continue to claim your child on your tax return as a dependent.   Your child is also allowed a federal standard deduction of $6,300 for 2015, which means the first $6,300 of earned income is income-tax free.
  • If you own a business and can employ your child, you can benefit from additional tax savings, including a payroll deduction for your business. In addition, depending on how your business is organized, you may not have to pay federal payroll taxes such as FICA, Medicare and unemployment. Remember, your child must perform real services and the wages can’t be excessive.
  • An early Roth IRA withdrawal could affect your child’s college financial aid. Your child can take withdrawals from a Roth penalty-free to pay for college costs. But those withdrawals generally count as income when applying for financial aid.

Are you interested in learning more about how your children can start investing in a Roth IRA? Give us a call (757) 926-4109.  We’ll help you get started on saving for your child’s future.

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

What job search expenses can you deduct?

People often wonder what is deductible when they look for a new job. If you look for a job in the same line of work, you may be able to deduct some of your job search costs.

Here are some key tax facts you should know about if you search for a new job:

  • Same Occupation.  Your expenses must be for a job search in your current line of work. You can’t deduct expenses for a job search in a new occupation.
  • Résumé Costs.  You can deduct the cost of preparing and mailing your résumé.
  • Travel Expenses.  If you travel to look for a new job, you may be able to deduct the cost of the trip. To deduct the cost of the travel to and from the area, the trip must be mainly to look for a new job. You may still be able to deduct some costs if looking for a job is not the main purpose of the trip.
  • Placement Agency. You can deduct some job placement agency fees you pay to look for a job.
  • First Job.  You can’t deduct job search expenses if you’re looking for a job for the first time.
  • Substantial Job Break.  You can’t deduct job search expenses if there was a long break between the end of your last job and the time you began looking for a new one.
  • Reimbursed Costs.  Reimbursed expenses are not deductible.


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.

The Tax Impact of Buying A Business

Don’t underestimate the tax impact of an acquisition

If your company wants to acquire another business, you’ll need to anticipate many challenges. To improve your odds of success, it’s important to devote resources to intensive tax planning before — and after — your deal closes.

During deal negotiations, you and the seller will likely discuss issues such as to what extent each party can deduct their transaction costs and how much in local, state and federal tax obligations the parties will owe upon signing the deal. Often, deal structures (such as asset sales) that typically benefit buyers have negative tax consequences for sellers and vice versa.

Tax management during integration is also important. It can help your company capture synergies more quickly and efficiently. You may, for example, have based your purchase price on the assumption that you’ll achieve a certain percentage of cost reductions via postmerger synergies. But if your tax projections are flawed or you fail to follow through on earlier tax assumptions, you may not realize such synergies.

Negative tax consequences of an acquisition can haunt a company for years. Let us help you avoid them and identify tax benefits that can improve the acquisition as a whole. Please contact us for more information.

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