Tax

What is Deductible when Your Trip is for Both Business and Fun

Roe CPA Accounting and Tax ServicesBusiness owners who travel out of town on business sometimes like to extend their trips and take a little time to relax and see the sights. When a trip is partly for business and partly for pleasure, various expenses may still be deductible.

Domestic Travel

A self-employed individual whose trip is primarily for business may deduct the full cost of the travel itself (such as airfare or train fare) even though some of the trip is devoted to personal activities. Additionally, various other expenses allocable to business, such as lodging and 50% of meal costs incurred on the business days, are deductible.

If a trip is primarily for personal reasons, the entire cost of the travel is a nondeductible personal expense. However, expenses incurred while at the destination that are directly related to the taxpayer’s business may be deducted.

Foreign Travel

The deductibility rules for combined business/pleasure trips outside of the U.S. are a little more complicated in some respects. Even if the primary purpose of the trip is business, the cost of the travel itself generally has to be allocated, and only the business portion is deductible. However, no allocation has to be made — and the full travel cost is deductible — if:

  • The trip lasts for no more than seven consecutive days (excluding the day of departure but including the day of return); or
  • Personal days total less than 25% of the total days spent on the trip (including both the day of departure and the day of return); or
  • The taxpayer can establish that the opportunity to take a personal vacation was not a major consideration for the trip.

For these purposes, business days include days when business is conducted for only part of the day, days spent traveling to and from a business destination, and weekend days or holidays that fall between two business days.

As this brief overview suggests, with smart planning, self-employed business owners can maximize their write-offs for combined business/pleasure travel.

Call our CPA today at {site_phone} or request a free consultation online to learn more about our tax preparation services.

Making Sense of the 2018 Standard Deduction

Donald Trump’s tax reforms have attracted, if nothing else, a lot of attention and the usual political controversy that follows his administration when he announces changes. However, the 2018 Standard Deduction is not reserved only for the wealthy and/or high-income earners. It covers 70% of all taxpayers. So, we’ve created a succinct overview of the implications posed by this new tax item, as a guide for you and your family.

The first thing to capture one’s attention is that the 2018 Standard Deduction has nearly doubled versus 2017, for all 3 primary categories of taxpayers. So, if you are a single filer, your deduction jumps from $6,350 to $12, 000; similarly, ahead of the household filer goes from $9,350 to $18,000, and joint filers enjoy a leap from $12,700 to $24,000.

As a rule, eye-popping changes like this come with a caveat. Very often apparent big benefits as outlined above are accompanied by a deletion or reduction of another tax allowance. And, that’s also the case here where the longstanding personal exemption has left the stage – effectively eliminating $4,050 for each member of the family. This naturally embraces not only the filer but also dependents such as children and elderly parents, thus making it a focal issue for large families. The removal of the personal exemption per individual (possibly multiple times on a single return) has the effect of pushing taxable income up – perhaps considerably depending on family circumstances.

We advise that you temper any excitement that the 2018 Deduction creates at first glance in favor of making a more sober assessment of the overall situation. Inevitably it means approaching things in a measured way by answering one important question: can the new Standard Deduction offset this clear disadvantage or even override it?

The answer is a little convoluted but comprehensible for most. It should be kept You’ll also want to keep in mind that the new tax laws have also introduced changes in child credit and lower tax rates across the board. Therefore, evaluating the opposite effects of improved deductions and removal of personal exemptions involves looking at things in a collective manner. All of these items end up coming together to converge on the bottom line, resulting in a net effect that varies substantially depending on your family size.

One big change of note: the 2018 Deduction law requires you to detail specific allowable deduction claims through Schedule A. This creates the opportunity to derive obtain extra savings and is a departure from simply relying on one’s filing status. The latter is still nonetheless an option available to filers, although relatively less accommodating if you’re looking to gain every possible tax advantage. The suggested Schedule A route involves more time and forethought but yields bigger tax reductions to make it well worth the effort.

In conclusion, the 2018 tax changes with special emphasis on the Standard Deduction seem, at first glance, to favor single filers and two-member family joint filers. However, larger families who make the effort to expand their overview of their taxable affairs should derive a net benefit as well; or at very least minimize potential tax increases.

It goes without question that the input of a tax professional can help to clear these muddy waters and will go a long way towards creating a good tax plan. For many, it will go further and propel them into the light at the end of this new twisty tax tunnel. So, give us a call today and see how we can help with your tax questions.

Call 404-504-7051 to set up a free initial consultation with Roe CPA, P.C.

What is Qualified Business Income (QBI) and Why Does It Matter?

The new Section 199A provides self-employed taxpayers the ability to deduct up to 20% of their Qualified Business Income (QBI) on their tax returns. In general, QBI is net income that is received from a Qualified Trade or Business. However, there are some exclusions, the most common of which are capital gains, dividend and interest income. Additionally, any guaranteed payments or “reasonable compensation” paid to owners is excluded.

How Does the New Tax Law Define QBI?

Section 199A(c) defines QBI as, “the net amount of qualified items of income, gain, deduction, and loss with respect to any qualified trade or business of the taxpayer.” The section further states that qualified REIT dividends, qualified cooperative dividends, and qualified publicly traded partnership income are specifically excluded from the definition of QBI.

What are “Qualified Items of Income, Gain, Deduction, and Loss?”

Qualified items of income, gain, deduction, and loss are defined as items that are connected with a trade or business that is operated in the United States and are generally included or allowed when a business determines its taxable income for the year. However, there are items that are specifically excluded:

  • Short-term capital gains and losses
  • Long-term capital gains and losses
  • Dividends
  • Interest income
  • Foreign personal holding income
  • Income from an annuity if not received in connection with the business

These items may not be income or deductions for purposes of calculating QBI. A basic method of viewing QBI is “ordinary” income less “ordinary” expenses. In other words, investment gains and expenses are not QBI for Section 199A purposes.

Reasonable Compensation and Guaranteed Payments

In addition to the items discussed above, any reasonable compensation paid to the taxpayer by the business, including guaranteed payments, is not QBI. For example, if you receive $50,000 in wages from an LLC that you own and your share of income at the end of the year is $100,000 – only the $100,000 would be considered QBI.

Roe CPA, P.C. offers a variety of tax preparation and planning services to both businesses and individuals. Conscientious tax planning throughout the year can save you money and make tax time easier. Call us at 404-504-7051 and request a free initial consultation to learn more.

2018 Tax Changes: Frequently Asked Questions

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) raises many questions for taxpayers looking to plan for the coming year. Below are answers to some of them.

Do I need to adjust my withholding allowances, given that tax brackets have changed?

You may notice a change in your net paycheck as a result of the tax law, which alters tax rates, brackets, and other items that affect how much tax is withheld from your pay. The IRS has already issued new withholding tables, and your employer should adjust its withholding without requiring any action on your part. But you may want to take the opportunity to make sure you are claiming the appropriate number of withholding allowances by filling out IRS Form W-4. This form is used to determine your withholding based on your filing status and other information. The IRS suggests that you consider completing a new Form W-4 each year and when your personal or financial situation changes.

Can I take advantage of the new deduction for pass-through business income?

The new rules for owners of pass-through entities — partnerships, limited liability companies, S corporations, and sole proprietorships — allow them to deduct 20% of their business pass-through income. The 20% deduction is available to owners of almost any type of trade or business whose taxable income does not exceed $315,000 (joint return) or $157,500 (other returns). Above those amounts, the deduction is subject to certain limitations based on business assets and wages. Different deduction restrictions apply to individuals in specified service businesses (e.g., law, medicine, and accounting).

Can I still deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes paid on a second home?

Yes, but the new rules limit these deductions. The deduction for total mortgage interest is limited to the amount paid on underlying debt of up to $750,000 ($375,000 for married individuals filing separately). Previously, the limit was $1 million. Note that the new restriction will not apply to taxpayers with home acquisition debt incurred on or before December 15, 2017. Additionally, the deduction for interest on home equity loans (new and existing) is suspended and will not be available for tax years 2018-2025.

Note that the law also establishes a $10,000 limit on the combined total deduction for state and local income (or sales) taxes, real estate taxes, and personal property taxes. As a result, your ability to deduct real estate taxes may be limited.

Are there any changes to capital gains rates and rules that I should know about?

The rules concerning how capital gains are determined and taxed remain essentially unchanged. But since short-term gains (for assets held one year or less) are taxed as ordinary income, they will be taxed at the new ordinary income rates and brackets. Net long-term gains will still be taxed at rates of 0%, 15%, or 20%, depending on your taxable income. And the 3.8% net investment income tax that applies to certain high earners will still apply for both types of capital gains.

2018 Long-Term Capital Gains Breakpoints

Rate Single Filers Joint Filers Head of Household Married Filing Separately
0% Below $38,600 Below $77,200 Below $51,700 Below $38,600
15% $38,600-$425,799 $77,200-$478,999 $51,700-$452,399 $38,600-$239,499
20% $425,800 and above $479,000 and above $452,400 and above $239,500 and above

Can I still deduct my student loan interest?

Yes. Although some earlier versions of the tax bill disallowed the deduction, the final law left it intact. That means that student loan borrowers will still be able to deduct up to $2,500 of the interest they paid during the year on a qualified student loan. The deduction is gradually reduced and eventually eliminated when modified adjusted gross income reaches $80,000 for those whose filing status is single or head of household, and over $165,000 for those filing a joint return.

I have a large family and formerly got to take an exemption for each member. Is there anything in the new law that compensates for the loss of these exemptions?

The new law suspends exemptions for you, your spouse, and dependents. In 2017, each full exemption translated into a $4,050 deduction from taxable income which, for large families, added up. Compensating for this loss, the new law almost doubles the standard deduction to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for joint filers. Additionally, the child tax credit is doubled to $2,000 per child, and the income levels at which the credit phases out are significantly increased. Depending on your situation, these new provisions could potentially offset the suspension of personal exemptions.

I have been gifting friends and relatives $14,000 per year to reduce my taxable estate. Can I still do this?

Yes, you may still make an annual gift of up to $15,000 in 2018 (increased from $14,000 in 2017) to as many people as you want without triggering gift tax reporting or using any of your federal estate and gift tax exemption. But TCJA also doubles the exemption to an estimated $11.2 million ($22.4 million for married couples) in 2018. So anyone who anticipates having a taxable estate lower than these thresholds may be able to gift above the annual $15,000 per-recipient limit and ultimately not incur any federal estate or gift tax. Note, however, that the higher exemption amount and many of TCJA’s other changes to personal taxes are scheduled to expire after 2025, unless Congress acts to extend them.

This communication is not intended to be tax advice and should not be treated as such. Each individual’s tax circumstances are different. You should contact your tax professional to discuss your personal situation.

We invite you to request a consultation online now or call Roe CPA at 404-504-7051 to learn more about how we can help you save money on your taxes.

Understanding The Financial Differences Between Home Renovations

Some improvements are likely to increase your home’s value. However, others may actually decrease potential buyers’ interest in your home. So, put away your toolbox until you know more about projects that typically don’t pay.

Too Much Improvement

When you remodel your house, it should be in keeping with your neighborhood. Having your house stand out as the nicest one by far is often not a good thing when you’re trying to sell. Too much improvement may not pay off since the market price of your house may be limited by your neighborhood’s home values.

House Unusual

Unusual renovations, such as converting a garage into a home gym or adding a backyard basketball court, could turn off potential buyers. Another thing to consider is keeping things standard shapes and sizes throughout the home. You also may want to stick with standard sizes and heights for countertops and kitchen and bathroom fixtures.

Amateur Workmanship

Don’t do it yourself if you’re not handy. First of all, the results will probably show that you didn’t hire a professional. And secondly, structural mistakes and building code errors will show up during a home inspection. If your home fails an inspection, you could either lose a sale or be forced to lower your selling price.

To learn more about how to make most of your home as an asset give us a call today. Our Atlanta Accounting and Tax team is always available to answer any questions you may have. Call us at 404-504-7051 or request a free consultation online.

Does The Sale of Your Home Qualify For A Federal Income Tax Exclusion?

So, you’ve sold your home and made a nice profit on the sale. Now you may be wondering if Uncle Sam is entitled to a cut of this profit. Although gain on a home sale is potentially taxable, you may qualify for a federal income-tax exclusion.

The Rules in General

If you’re a single taxpayer, you may qualify to exclude gain of up to $250,000 if you owned the home and used it as your principal residence for at least two of the five years before the sale. Married couples who file jointly may exclude up to $500,000 of gain as long as one spouse owned the home — and both spouses used the home as a principal residence — for two of the last five years.

The Frequency Factor

The exclusion is generally available to sellers only once during a two-year period. A married couple is entitled to the $500,000 exclusion only if neither partner used the exclusion within the two-year period that ended on the sale date.

Reduced But Available

Even if you don’t meet the criteria described above, you may still qualify for a reduced exclusion (of less than $250,000 or $500,000) if the primary reason for the home sale was a change in the location of your employment, a health condition, or certain other “unforeseen” circumstances. The affected individual can be you, your spouse, a co-owner of the residence, or a person sharing your household. You may also qualify for the reduced exclusion if you sell your home to care for a sick family member.

Additional restrictions on gain exclusion may apply if you’ve rented out your home, maintained a home office, or turned a second home into a principal residence.

For more help with individual or business taxes, connect with us today. Our team can help you with all your tax issues, large and small.

Know Your Tax Requirements for Your Rental Properties

Woman inspecting house interiorFor years, owners of rental properties that show a tax loss have had to contend with the tax law’s “passive loss” limitations. With limited exceptions, real estate rental losses may be used only to reduce passive income — the rental losses are not currently deductible against nonpassive income, such as salary.

Now, owners of real estate rental properties that show a profit also face a potential tax headache. In addition to regular taxes, their profits could be subject to the 3.8% surtax on net investment income first introduced in 2013.

A Break for Real Estate Professionals

Taxpayers who can demonstrate that they “materially participate” in their real estate rental activities as “real estate professionals” may be able to avoid both the passive loss limitations and the 3.8% surtax on rental income. However, the requirements are stringent.

Very generally, a real estate professional spends more hours working on real-estate- related trade or business activities during the year than working in non-real-estate trades or businesses. Additionally, the time spent on the real estate activities must total more than 750 hours during the year.

Material participation means regular, continuous, and substantial participation. IRS regulations contain seven tests for establishing material participation. Each rental property is separately evaluated for material participation unless the taxpayer makes an election to treat all rental real estate activities as one activity.

To avoid the 3.8% surtax, a real estate professional must also establish that his or her rental income was derived in the ordinary course of a trade or business. The IRS will presume this was the case if the taxpayer devotes more than 500 hours per year — or in five of the last ten years — to each real estate rental activity or to all real estate rental activities viewed as a group.

Give our Atlanta CPA firm a call today at 404-504-7051, so we can help you determine the right course of action for you. We specialized in Real Estate Accounting services, and understand the common financial issues real estate businesses are up against and will be ready to assist you with practical accounting solutions and tax strategies.

Must-Know Rules for the Self-Employed

If you’re in business for yourself, you know how challenging it can be to run your business and keep on top of your tax situation. Here’s a refresher on the tax rules you need to be aware of if you’re a self-employed sole proprietor or are thinking of becoming one.

Income Taxes

As you probably know, sole proprietors do not file a separate federal income-tax return for the business. Instead, they summarize their business income and expenses on Schedule C of their personal income-tax returns.

Be sure to keep complete records of your income and expenses. Deducting all your ordinary and necessary business expenses will help minimize your tax liability. If you have losses, these are generally deductible against your other income, subject to special rules relating to hobby losses, passive activity losses, and activities for which you were not “at risk.”

Self-employment (SE) Taxes

Any self-employed person who has net earnings of at least $400 from the business is subject to SE taxes on those earnings. SE taxes generally track the Social Security and Medicare taxes paid by employees and their employers and are partially tax deductible.

Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments

Your net SE income will be taxable whether or not you withdraw cash from your business account. Moreover, you may be subject to penalties if you fail to make appropriate quarterly estimated tax payments.

Home Office Deduction

If you work out of your home, you may be able to deduct a portion of the costs incurred to maintain your home. You also may be able to deduct commuting expenses incurred to travel from your home office to another work location.

Health Insurance Costs

When tax law requirements are met, you may deduct your health insurance premiums as a trade or business expense, including premiums paid for your spouse, dependents, and children under the age of 27.

Retirement Plan

If you don’t already have a tax-favored retirement plan, you may want to consider establishing one. Contributions to the plan would be tax deductible, within certain tax law limits. Types of retirement plans available to sole proprietors include solo 401(k) and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans.

Don’t deal with tax issues on your own. Call us right now at 404-504-7051 or fill out our free consultation form to find out how we can provide you with the answers you need.

How Does Refinancing Your Home Affect Your Taxes?

ThinkstockPhotos-495007813As the real estate market improves and mortgage rates remain low, many homeowners are considering refinancing their home mortgages. Following are some of the general tax rules for deducting the charges associated with refinancing. Roe CPA, P.C. is an Atlanta CPA Accounting Firm that can help you with all your real estate tax and accounting needs.

Interest

Interest on a refinanced loan will be deductible to the extent the loan refinances up to $1 million of home acquisition debt, plus up to $100,000 of home equity debt (limits are $500,000/$50,000 for married taxpayers filing separately). Home acquisition debt is a mortgage loan used to buy, build, or substantially improve a first or second home. Home equity debt is generally any other debt secured by a first or second home.

These limits, however, operate separately. For example, if a couple had $300,000 remaining in principal on their original mortgage loan and then refinanced that debt with a new $450,000 mortgage, they would be able to deduct the interest on only $400,000 ($300,000 plus $100,000). Interest on the remaining $50,000 would be nondeductible because that portion is in excess of the combined limits.

Points

Points paid for the refinancing of a loan that does not exceed the above limits are deductible over the life of the loan. However, any points paid in connection with the portion of a mortgage used to finance home improvements may be deductible in the year of the refinancing.

Penalties and Fees

Generally, a prepayment fee paid on the old mortgage is considered a payment of interest on that mortgage and, therefore, is deductible in the year it is paid.

However, other fees, such as those for credit reports, appraisals, and loan origination, are not deductible.

For more help connect with us today at 404-504-7051. Our Atlanta CPA tax team can help you with all your tax issues, large and small.

IRS Going After Golf Courses for Tax Deduction

Golf Course Easement3It’s getting much tougher to successfully claim a charitable deduction for a conservation easement.  Unfortunately, this will further erode the construction of new golf course projects in 2016 and beyond.

Typically, a new golf course project will make consideration plans to conserve and protect the natural habitat of fish, wildlife, and natural ecosystem by preserving open space for the scenic enjoyment of the general public.   These easements often amount to sizeable charitable deductions which help offset the investment.

Although the IRS has lost several conservation easement cases regarding golf courses, they turned the tide in 2003 and 2005 and have become more aggressive fighting these situations.  In 2003 and 2005, the IRS went to Tax Court over two North Carolina golf course easements.  In both instances, the IRS disagreed with the taxpayers over charitable deductions.   The court, the IRS stated that “fairways, tee boxes and greens … are sodded or planted with 419 Bermuda and Tidwarf, which are Golf Course Easement2nonnative grasses and consequently do not provide a relatively natural habitat for the pitcher plants and Venus flytraps.”  Additionally, the court found that the use of pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and fertilizers not only does not preserve the natural habitat, but actually “injures or destroys” the habitat. And, being part of a gated community that is not open to the general public does not provide scenic enjoyment for the general public.  In both cases, the IRS won.

In 2009, a coastal Alabama golf course project, Kiva Dunes, won a three year court battle which vindicated their $28.7M tax break in exchange for leaving 141 acres of land undeveloped.  This setback created a round of legislative changes aimed at banning golf course easements altogether.  Fortunately, this effort was blunted by the golf industry.

Since the beginning of 2014, there have been 19 cases heard in US Tax or federal district court regarding conservation easements for golf courses.

If you are seeking to minimize your tax obligations legally, call 404-504-7051 and ask for John Charles Roe.

 

Roe CPA is a Georgia licensed CPA Firm with two convenient office locations, Atlanta and Norcross.  We work with all types of businesses and also have specialty services in golf course accounting, restaurant accounting, and real estate accounting.