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.

Customize QuickBooks Forms for a More Professional Image

Want an easy, free way to make your business look more professional and polished? Customize your forms. QuickBooks has the tools.

You probably don’t get as many paper forms in the U.S. Mail as you used to. But when you do, do you draw conclusions about the business that sent them based on what their forms look like?

Whether or not you think you do, most people make judgements on businesses based on collateral materials. You might notice that there’s no company logo, or that there are unnecessary blank fields. Maybe the print is very light or blurry, and there’s no message at the bottom thanking you for your business and your payment.

How you present yourself on paper does matter. There’s a lot of competition out there, and you need to use all of the tools available to you to stand out. QuickBooks provides one way to do so with its simple forms customization features.

Getting Started

To see what forms are available for customization, open the Lists menu and select Templates to open this window:

Figure 1: QuickBooks’ Templates window shows you what forms can be customized and provides tools for working with them.

Before you try your hand at customizing a form, make a copy to work with first. Highlight Intuit Product Invoice. Click the down arrow next to Templates in the lower left, and select Duplicate. A small window will open, displaying your options. Select Invoice and click OK.

QuickBooks will then take you back to the Templates window, and you’ll see a new entry labeled Copy of: Intuit Product Invoice. Right-click on it and select Edit Template from the menu that opens. This will open the Basic Customization window.

There are two parts to this screen. The editing options for the template you selected will appear on the left, and a preview of your invoice will display on the right. As you make modifications to the template, the preview will change to reflect them.

The best, most noticeable thing you can do to customize your invoice is to add a logo. Click the box in front of Use logo, and locate the file in the computer directory that opens. Double-click it. You logo will appear to the left of your company name and address in the upper left corner of the preview.

Figure 2: The Basic Customization window displays options for modifying your copy of the Intuit Product Invoice template.

You can make numerous changes to your template in this window, like:

  • Selecting a new color scheme,
  • Changing fonts,
  • Deciding how much of your contact information should appear, and
  • Indicating whether the Print Status Stamp (PAID, PENDING, etc.) should appear where appropriate on your invoices.

Note: You can choose to use the same modified design on multiple types of forms. This is a little complicated; let us help you.

More Customizing Options

 

The changes you just made were fairly superficial. However, QuickBooks offers tools that let you go much further, modifying the actual content of the invoice itself, its columns, and its fields. To get started on this, click the Additional Customization button at the bottom of the screen. The window that opens displays a preview of your invoice on the right side, just like in the previous window.

Your customization options appear on the left side, divided into five different sections. You’ll work primarily with three of them for your invoice:

Header. This includes all of the information that appears on about the top third of the form, like Bill To, Terms, Due Date, and Project/Job.

Columns. What are you billing the customer for? Item, Description, Quantity, Rate, etc.

Footer. What information will you want to enter after you’ve completed the invoice’s product or service content? You’ll likely want fields like Total, Balance Due, and Payments/Credits, perhaps a Message.

Need more QuickBooks assistance? Contact our Atlanta CPA Firm and our QuickBooks professionals for more information at 404-504-7051 or request a free cosultation 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.

5 QuickBooks Reports You Need to Run in January

The new year has begun. Does your accounting to-do list look like a clean slate, or are critical tasks from last year still nagging?

Getting all of your accounting tasks done in December is always a challenge. Besides the vacation time you and your employees probably took for the holidays, there are those year-end, Let’s-wrap-it-up-by-December-31 projects.

How did you do last month? Were you ready to move forward when you got back to the office in January? Or did you run out of time and have to leave some accounting chores undone?

Besides paying bills and chasing payments, submitting taxes and counting inventory in December, there’s another item that should have been on your to-do list: creating end-of-year reports. If you didn’t get this done, it’s not too late. It’s important to have this information as you begin the New Year. QuickBooks can provide it.

A Report Dashboard

You may be using the Reports menu to access the pre-built frameworks that QuickBooks offers. Have you ever explored the Report Center, though? You can get there by clicking Reports in the navigation toolbar or Reports | Report Center on the drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

QuickBooks’ Report Center introduces you to all of the software’s report templates and helps you access them quickly.

As you can see in the image above, the Report Center divides QuickBooks’ reports into categories and displays samples of each. Click on one of the tabs at the top if you want to:

  • Memorize a report using any customization you applied.
  • Designate a report as a Favorite
  • See a list of the most Recent reports you ran.
  • Explore reports beyond those included with QuickBooks, Contributed by Intuit or other parties.

Recommended Reports

Here are the reports we think you should run as soon as possible if you didn’t have a chance to in December:

Budget vs Actual

We hope that by now you’ve at least started to create a budget for this coming year. If not, the best way to begin is by looking at how close you came to your numbers last year. QuickBooks actually offers four budget-related reports, but Budget vs Actual is the most important; it tells you how your actual income and expenses compare to what was budgeted.

Budget Overview is just what it sounds like: a comprehensive accounting of your budget for a given period. Profit & Loss Budget Performance is similar to Budget vs Actual. It compares actual to budget amounts for the month, fiscal year-to-date, and annual. Budget vs Actual Graph provides a visual representation of your income and expenses, giving you a quick look at whether you were over or under budget during specific periods.

Income & Expense Graph

You’ve probably been watching your income and expenses all year in one way or another. But you need to look at the whole year in total to see where you stand. This graph shows you both how income compares to expenses and what the largest sources of each are. It doesn’t have the wealth of customization options that other reports due, but you can view it by date, account, customer, and class.

A/R Aging Detail

QuickBooks’ report templates offer generous customization options.

Which customers still owe you money from last year? How much? How far past the due date are they? This is a report you should be running frequently throughout the year. Right now, though, you want to clean up all of the open invoices from last year. A/R Aging Detail will show you who is current and who is 31-60, 61-90, and 91+ days old. You might consider sending Statements to those customers who are way past due.

A/P Aging Detail

Are you current on all of your bills? If so, this report will tell you so. If some bills slipped through the cracks in December, contact your vendors to let them know you’re on it.

Sales by Item Detail

January is a good time to take a good look at what sold and what didn’t before you start placing orders for this coming year. We hope you’re watching this closely throughout the year, but looking at monthly and annual totals will help you identify trends – as well as winners and losers.

QuickBooks offers some reports in the Company & Financial and Accountant & Taxes categories that you can create, but which really require expert analysis. These include Balance Sheet, Trial Balance, and Statement of Cash Flows. You need the insight they can offer on at least a quarterly basis, if not monthly. Connect with us, and we can set up a schedule for looking at these.

Social media posts

January is a good time to run reports you didn’t have time to in December. Talk to us about which are most important.

QuickBooks provides templates for some reports that you probably need help analyzing, like Balance Sheet. We can help with these.

Have you explored QuickBooks’ Report Center? It offers a variety of tools and guidance for managing reports.

Did you create a budget last year? Now’s the time to run QuickBooks’ Budget vs Actual report.

Need more help with setting up QuickBooks or staff training to use the software. Contact our Atlanta CPA Firm at 404-504-7051 to learn more about our QuickBooks support and training services.

Understand the Tax Breaks of Moving

New home owners with keyEverybody likes tax breaks. For many taxpayers, the tax break they get on the gain from selling a home is one of the most valuable of all. If you’re thinking the time is right to put your house on the market and it has appreciated in value, make sure your gain will qualify for the home-sale gain exclusion before you make your move.

Good Deal

Here’s how the home-sale gain exclusion works: If you make a profit when you sell your principal residence, all or part of your gain may be tax free. Eligible individual filers may exclude up to $250,000 of gain from their income; married couples filing jointly may exclude up to $500,000 of gain.

Ownership and Use Tests

In general, this tax break is available only once every two years. To qualify, you generally must have owned and used the home as your principal residence for at least two years (a total of 24 full months or 730 days) during the five-year period ending on the date of the sale. The ownership and use periods don’t necessarily have to coincide.

Only one spouse must pass the ownership test, although neither spouse may have excluded gain from a previous home sale during the two-year period ending on the sale date. As for the use test, both spouses must pass it. Note that short, temporary absences count as periods of use. So, for example, a three-week vacation tour of Europe would count as time spent in your principal residence.

Reduced Exclusion Possible

If you don’t meet the requirements for the full $250,000/$500,000 exclusion, you might qualify for a reduced exclusion under certain circumstances: if you have to sell your home because of a change in employment, you move for health reasons, or there are other qualifying “unforeseen circumstances.” The amount of the reduced exclusion is based on the portion of the two-year use and ownership periods you satisfy.

Call us today at 404-504-7051 for more tips on your tax and accounting needs. Our Atlanta CPA Firm is here to help!

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.

Business Start-up Costs — What’s Deductible?

Start Up2Launching a new business takes hard work — and money. Costs for market surveys, travel to line up potential distributors and suppliers, advertising, hiring employees, training, and other expenses incurred before a business is officially launched can add up to a substantial amount.

The tax law places certain limitations on tax deductions for start-up expenses.

  • No deduction is available until the business becomes active.
  • Up to $5,000 of accumulated start-up expenses may be deducted in the tax year in which the active business begins. This $5,000 limit is reduced (but not below zero) by the excess of total start-up costs over $50,000.
  • Any remaining start-up expenses may be deducted ratably over the 180-month period beginning with the month in which the active business begins.

Example. Gina spent $20,000 on start-up costs before her new business began on July 1, 2015. In 2015, she may deduct $5,000 and the portion of the remaining $15,000 allocable to July through December of 2015 ($15,000/180 × 6 = $500), a total of $5,500. The remaining $14,500 may be deducted ratably over the remaining 174 months.

Instead of deducting start-up costs, a business may elect to capitalize them (treat them as an asset on the balance sheet). Deductions for “organization expenses” — such as legal and accounting fees for services related to forming a corporation or partnership — are subject to similar rules.

If you would like to minimize your taxes legally, call 404-504-7051 and ask for John Charles Roe.

 

Roe CPA is an Atlanta CPA Accounting firm with two convenient office locations, Buckhead and Norcross.  We service self employed business owners of all types.  For additional complexity, we have specialty services in restaurant accounting, hotel accounting, real estate accounting and entertainment accounting.