Mentoring the Next Generation to Take Over the Family Business

Young happy mother going through home finances and communicating with her baby son.Many owners of small businesses would love to see a family member take over their business. If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews that you think might be interested in running the business in the future, you can help lay the groundwork for that potential transfer of ownership in several ways. Use the following strategies and tips to encourage the next generation to become part of the family business.

See Who Is Interested

One or more of your children may already have shown some interest in the family business and asked about its operations. It’s important to encourage that interest. Talk about the company’s history and your vision for its future. Share the excitement you experience as a business owner.

Over time, you can teach an interested child more about the business’s operations. Consider putting the child to work doing various tasks around the business on weekends and over school holidays.

Education Is Key

Over the years, the child’s interest in the business may wane or it may become more intense. If the child (or children) continue to express an interest in working for the family business, you might want to bring up future education plans. You can suggest that the child should consider obtaining a degree that would be beneficial in running all or part of the family business. For example, a degree in engineering could be a huge asset if the family business is involved in property development, construction, or design/build. A degree in accounting or finance can be helpful for businesses of all types. In addition, a degree in a related field would give your family member credibility when it comes to interacting with clients, bankers, and employees.

Insist on Outside Experience

Promoting a family member to a leadership position within the family business when that person has little experience can be a recipe for trouble. It can cause discord among employees, especially those who have worked hard with the expectation that they could move up in the ranks. Additionally, it can undermine the family member’s credibility in the eyes of clients and other business owners.

It often makes more sense and can be hugely helpful to have the family member obtain a post-college job outside the family business. Working in a different company in a similar industry to yours can give your family member a level of experience, confidence, and credibility that would not be obtainable by simply transitioning to the family firm. The skill set established through working elsewhere may help propel your family business in a new, more growth-oriented direction. Family business experts suggest that a child expected to take the reins of a family business should spend at least five years working elsewhere before joining the family firm.

When Multiple Children Are Involved

What happens when more than one family member is interested in becoming part of the business? Encourage them to follow the areas of the business that interest them most. With the appropriate education and experience working for other firms, they may be ready to run their own areas of the business when they rejoin the family firm. This is when their talents can develop and shine.

Bring in Outside Experts

The input of outside professionals who are skilled in different business areas, such as operations, finance, manufacturing, logistics, or marketing can be invaluable to the upcoming generation of family members joining the business. Mentors can guide and serve as a sounding board for the ideas of the child or children working for the family business.

Consider Staying on as an Advisor

You could consider making yourself available as an advisor to the incoming new generation of family members. Whether the arrangement is formal or informal, it should not be open-ended. Determine how long you will offer your services. The goal is to ensure that the new generation of leaders in the family business will be able to run the business independently.

Successfully transitioning a family business to the next generation takes time and planning. For planning assistance, consult an experienced financial professional.

How to Overcome Accounting Challenges Most Small Businesses Face

Woman Working From Home Using Laptop On Dining TablePerhaps the number one action you can take to support the financial health of your small business is to stay on top of accounting. Make sure you’re aware of most small businesses’ accounting challenges and learn how to overcome them. We’ll tell you how here!

Banking

You’ve been banking for years, and you know how to manage the task. However, when you own a business, banking isn’t like managing personal checking and savings accounts. Unfortunately, many small business owners use their personal funds to pay for business expenses, especially when first starting out. Even small costs add up over time. This “cross contamination” of spending between personal and business accounts can lead to costly mistakes, not to mention headaches for your accounting team. Keep personal expenses, and business expenses separate all the time. Have dedicated bank accounts and credit cards only used for one or the other. If you need to track down an expenditure, you only need to look in one place.

Budget

When bank accounts are separated, budgeting becomes exponentially easier. You can even use an accounting software program to help you keep up with money coming and going to and from your business. However, recognize that simply entering information into a software program is not the end of the work when balancing a budget. Thinking that is true ends up being the downfall of many small businesses. Budgeting for a business means forecasting to ensure that unexpected expenses can be covered, managing inventory, taxes, and more. A shift in any direction can throw off any budget. That’s why many small businesses opt to outsource their accounting. The known upfront expense of doing so can far offset costly budgeting errors down the road.

Unexpected expenses

As mentioned above, you must consider the unexpected as part of your budget. Additional (new) taxes, payment delays from customers, rising costs of materials and supplies, new employee training, etc., are all possibilities. A qualified accountant is aware of these unexpected expenses and others that your business could face and knows how to prepare you for them. Awareness of what could financially happen in business is crucial to long-term profitability.

Payroll

While unexpected expenses are likely the most daunting for a small business, payroll is almost always the most significant. Payroll entails more than what you pay employees. New employee classification, if incorrect, could cost you a bundle in penalties. Other payroll-related accounting challenges are pay accuracy, proper tax filing, compliance, and paid time off tracking.

Unless you’re an HR professional, and chances are you’re not if you’re the business owner, consider recruiting a qualified accountant to help you manage payroll. It will save you headaches in the short term and money in the long term.

Taxes

A conversation about accounting and small business isn’t complete without discussing taxes. The tax struggle can be daunting, from filing to making sure you pay enough but that you don’t overpay. A significant challenge regarding taxes is merely keeping up with the ever-changing tax laws. A qualified accountant or CPA will be up-to-date on new regulations and guidelines so that you don’t have to be.

Overcoming accounting challenges like these is easy with a qualified accounting team on your side. Consider outsourcing your accounting needs so that your focus remains where it should – on running your business your way.


Contact our accounting professionals now for help managing your small business finances.

The 5 Most Common Small Business Accounting Mistakes

Businesswoman working at the officeSmall businesses make accounting errors and oversights regularly. Here, we cover five of the most common small business accounting mistakes. Read on to see if you’re making any of these mistakes and how to avoid them in the future.

1. You don’t take bookkeeping as seriously as you should.

Recording everything is an excellent rule to follow for bookkeeping and accounting for a small business. Ensuring that everything is recorded and categorized correctly in your accounts is essential, from small transactions like purchasing office supplies to large payments from customers and clients. No matter how small your company is, accurate bookkeeping and accounting methods are essential for a reliable assessment of your company’s health.

If you’ve slacked in this area, find the weak spots. For example, you may need to: categorize your assets and liabilities correctly, have a monthly accounts review, or establish a new bookkeeping system. A sound bookkeeping and accounting system is the only way to know how your business performs.

2. You refuse to outsource your accounting needs.

If you read point one above and the need to establish a new bookkeeping and accounting system rings true, you’ve identified a serious issue. Many small business owners decide to handle bookkeeping and accounting in-house because they feel “too small” to justify outsourcing those tasks. While the temptation to reduce costs by controlling the books in-house is tempting, it can be overwhelming when trying to manage a business and wear the accountant hat.

Handling your own accounting could be costing you money. Accountants understand ways to save businesses money that can escape others. They know all the ins and outs of taxes, deductions, write-offs, etc. It’s what they do all day, every day. Consider outsourcing your accounting to a qualified firm instead of missing out on opportunities to save money.

3. You outsource, but you fail to communicate with your accountant.

So, maybe you have already outsourced your business’s accounting. Are you communicating with your accountant? Does your bookkeeper know what’s happening in your business? Keeping up with all transactions – great or small – and sharing those with your accountant is vital. Overlooking even a small purchase can lead to costly issues over time.

A great way to make sure your accountant is fully apprised of any and all expenditures. Keep receipts and a record of all transactions. You can use receipt tracking software or keep a paper or digital log. Regardless of the method, your accountant will appreciate your efforts. Their job will be easier, and it can save you money in the long run.

4. You don’t record every expense, even the small ones.

This point cannot be emphasized enough. It is essential to record all business spending, no matter how insignificant you think. That $5 of petty cash you took out of the register to send your employee to pick up stamps for the business counts! This is particularly crucial for cash-based (i.e., retail) businesses. No expense is insignificant. This is a fundamental rule to follow for new companies. While it is easy to overlook the small stuff, as your business grows, you will be glad you were attentive because it makes managing your books so much easier. Again, this can be a big money-saver in the long run.

The bottom line: No transaction is too small to record. Save receipts, keep a record, tell your bookkeeper.

5. You assume that profit always equals healthy cash flow.

If you make a sale of $1000 that cost your business $300, did you profit $700? Not necessarily. Depending on the type of business you are in, additional costs could be associated with the sale that reduces the profit. For example, if you’re in retail sales, you must account for expenditures like overhead. What if the merchandise is returned and refunded? Handling the refund costs you money, and that cuts into profit. Suppose you’re in a business that provides services like construction or home improvements. In that case, you must consider setbacks and delays due to receiving materials, weather, etc. Any setback you experience in completing a job means less profit to your firm.

Not accounting for costly setbacks can give you a false sense of how your business is performing. While the numbers may look good on paper, a distorted picture of its financial health is detrimental to your success.

Awareness of these small business accounting pitfalls can help you improve in weak areas and position your business for long-term success and a healthy financial future.


Contact our accounting professionals now for more help managing your small business finances.

4 Tips on How Small Businesses Can Reduce Taxes

Female florist using laptop in flower shopAs a small business owner, tax liability is the money you owe the government when your business generates income. With changing laws and gray areas regarding deductions, exemptions, and credits, it’s no wonder small business owners rank taxes at the top of the list of the most stress-inducing aspect of business ownership. To reduce that stress, taxes shouldn’t be something to focus on only at year’s end. Use these tips on reducing your business tax year-round and see your taxes and stress level decrease!

1. Business structure

Your company’s business structure is how it is organized – it answers questions like who is in charge, how are profits distributed, and who is responsible for business debt. The most common business structures are:

  • Sole proprietorships have one owner who takes all profits as personal income. The owner is personally liable for any business debts.
  • Partnerships are structured like sole proprietorships but can have an unlimited number of owners.
  • C corporations have unlimited shareholders who each own part of the company. Profits are distributed as dividends between them. Owners are not personally liable for business debts.
  • S corporations are structured like C corporations, but the number of shareholders is capped at 100.

In addition to affecting how a business operates, business structure impacts how much a company pays in taxes. The U.S. tax code is complex and includes four main tax categories:

  • Income tax – paid on profits
  • Employment tax – employee Social Security and Medicare contributions
  • Self-employment tax – Social Security and Medicare contributions for self-employed individuals
  • Excise tax – special taxes for specific goods and services like tobacco, alcohol, etc.

IA sole proprietorship or partnership is a good idea for businesses wanting tax simplicity. For those with less than 100 owners, an S corporation might be the right fit and best tax option. Again, business structure and tax laws are complex and are best determined by a qualified, experienced accountant.

2. Net Earnings

Net earnings (i.e., net income or profit) is the gross business income minus business expenses. Regardless of the business, it begins with gross income (the income received directly by an individual, before any withholding, deductions, or taxes), and allowable expenses are deducted to arrive at net income. How this figure is calculated is dependent upon business structure.

Net earnings are used to calculate business income taxes. Again, the calculation process differs slightly for different business structures. It is best to seek a professional to help with net earnings calculations for the proper calculation and maximum legal deductions.

3. Employ a Family Member

One of the best ways for small business owners to reduce taxes is hiring a family member. The (IRS allows a variety of options for tax sheltering. For example, suppose you hire your child, as a small business owner. In that case, you will pay a lower marginal rate or eliminate the tax on the income paid to your child. Sole proprietorships are not required to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on a child’s wages. They can also avoid Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax. Consult a trusted accounting professional for details about the benefits of hiring your children or even your spouse.

4. Retirement contributions

Employee retirement plans benefit employees, but they can also be good for your small business. Employer contributions to an employee retirement plan are tax-deductible. They can also carry an employer tax credit for setting up an employee retirement plan. Again, this is a task an accountant can handle for you. They can guide you on retirement plan choices based on your business’s situation, employees, and other factors.

As a small business owner, you can deduct contributions to a tax-qualified retirement account from your income taxes (except for Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s). Sole proprietors, members of a partnership, or LLC members can deduct from their personal income contributions to their retirement account.

As with any tax situation, consulting your trusted accounting professional is always best. They are up to date on the latest tax laws, information, and allowable deductions. By being aware of ways your small business can reduce taxes, you can bring these topics up with your accountant, discuss the best options for you, and be prepared long before tax time rolls around.


Contact our tax professionals to learn more about how you can control tax exposure for your small business.

Financial Analysis for Your Small Business

Comparing a business’s key financial ratios with industry standards and with its own past results can highlight trends and identify strengths and weaknesses in the business.

Financial statement information is most useful if owners and managers can use it to improve their company’s profitability, cash flow, and value. Getting the most mileage from financial statement data requires some analysis.

Ratio analysis looks at the relationships between key numbers on a company’s financial statements. After the ratios are calculated, they can be compared to industry standards — and the company’s past results, projections, and goals — to highlight trends and identify strengths and weaknesses.

The hypothetical situations that follow illustrate how ratio analysis can give company decision-makers valuable feedback.

Rising Sales, Rising Profits?

The recent increases in Company A’s sales figures have been impressive. But the owners aren’t certain that the additional revenues are being translated into profits. Net profit margin measures the proportion of each sales dollar that represents a profit after taking into account all expenses. If Company A’s margins aren’t holding up during growth periods, a hard look at overhead expenses may be in order.

Getting Paid

Company B extends credit to the majority of its customers. The firm keeps a close watch on outstanding accounts so that slow payers can be contacted. From a broader perspective, knowing the company’s average collection period would be useful. In general, the faster Company B can collect money from its customers, the better its cash flow will be. But Company B’s management should also be aware that if credit and collection policies are too restrictive, potential customers may decide to take their business elsewhere.

Inventory Management

Company C has several product lines. Inventory turnover measures the speed at which inventories are sold. A slow turnover ratio relative to industry standards may indicate that stock levels are excessive. The excess money tied up in inventories could be used for other purposes. Or it could be that inventories simply aren’t moving, and that could lead to cash problems. In contrast, a high turnover ratio is usually a good sign — unless quantities aren’t sufficient to fulfill customer orders in a timely way.

These are just examples of ratios that may be meaningful. Once key ratios are identified, they can be tracked on a regular basis.

Small Business Taxes: Who Pays What?

Business people working on business contract papers at officeThere are various federal taxes that may apply to your small business. The type and form of business you operate determines what taxes you must pay and how you pay them. At the federal level, several different taxes may apply.

Excise Taxes

The IRS defines an excise tax as a tax imposed on the sale of specific goods or services, or on certain uses. Federal excise tax is typically imposed on the sale of items such as tobacco, fuel, alcohol, tires, heavy trucks and highway tractors, and airline tickets. Many excise taxes are placed in trust funds for projects related to the taxed product or service, such as highway or airport improvements.

An excise tax may be imposed at the time of import, sale by the manufacturer, sale by the retailer, or use by the manufacturer or consumer. Some excise taxes are collected by a third party, which then must remit the taxes to the IRS in a timely manner. An example of a third-party collector of an excise tax is a commercial airline, which collects the excise taxes on airline tickets that are paid by airline passengers. Businesses that are subject to federal excise taxes must generally file Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return. Certain excise taxes, such as those owed to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, are reported on different forms.

Income Taxes

Income taxes must be paid on business profits. How that tax is paid depends on how the business is structured. Most small businesses are pass-through entities, which means that the business’s profits or losses are passed through to the owners and reported on their personal income tax returns.

Partnerships and multi-member limited liability companies (LLCs) generally file a partnership business tax return for informational purposes only. The individual partners and LLC members pay income taxes for their share of the income of the business. Note, however, that some LLCs elect to be treated as a corporation for tax purposes.

An S corporation files an S corporation income tax return for the business. Like a partnership, an S corporation’s net income is divided among the owners, who pay tax on their share of that income individually.

A sole proprietor reports business profit or loss on a separate schedule filed with the sole proprietor’s individual income tax return. Unless an election to be treated as a corporation has been made, the owner of a single-member LLC also reports the company’s profit or loss directly on the owner’s return.

Social Security and Medicare Taxes

Employers must generally withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from their employees’ wages and must pay a matching amount. Employers must also withhold the 0.9% additional Medicare tax on employee wages and compensation that exceeds a threshold amount.

Self-Employment Taxes

Self-employment tax is a Social Security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes paid for other workers.

Federal Unemployment Tax

Employers are required to report and pay the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax separately from federal income taxes and Social Security and Medicare taxes. FUTA tax is not withheld from wages; employers are responsible for paying the tax.

Business owners should exercise extreme care when it comes to paying taxes since any mistakes on their part could result in significant penalties. For assistance, consult a tax professional.

Cash Flow Strategies for Cash-Strapped Businesses

Businessman with cash dollars - business concept,computer and finance,investment,save.Cash is critical to the functioning of every business. Maintaining a healthy cash flow not only allows a company to meet its financial obligations but also gives it the flexibility to take advantage of emerging opportunities.

All too often, however, small businesses find themselves in a cash crunch, struggling to pay the bills and stay afloat. The good news is that businesses can take various measures to manage cash flow more effectively.

Controlling Expenses

A good place to start is by reviewing expenses to determine if there are areas where you can shave costs by contracting with another vendor or renegotiating existing contracts. Costs for ongoing goods and services, such as utilities, shipping, and telecommunications, should be reviewed frequently to see if expenses can be reduced. And when paying suppliers, consider whether it makes financial sense to take advantage of any early payment incentives that may be offered.

Keeping Debt in Check

Debt can be a useful tool if used properly, so be sure to keep it at a manageable level. Before your business takes on a new loan, reach out to multiple lenders and compare the terms they offer. When acquiring equipment, consider whether leasing may be a better option than borrowing money to finance its purchase. For short-term financing needs, a line of credit is a helpful tool. The lender will base interest charges only on the amount your business draws from the credit line.

Managing Inventory

Maintaining excessive inventory can tie up cash unnecessarily. If your business carries inventory, avoid overstocking. Your inventory management system should be able to indicate the minimum quantities that you need to keep on hand in order to meet your customers’ needs.

Simplifying Billing and Collections

Employees who handle billing and collections should have specific, clear guidelines. By standardizing the process, you help ensure your business will be paid promptly. You can speed up payments by offering discounts for early payment or by encouraging your customers to pay using electronic funds transfer. To help minimize the problem of unpaid accounts, consider making follow-up calls or sending email or text message reminders within a set period after you have provided goods or services or when a bill’s due date passes. Minimizing Taxes When Possible

Deductions and credits can help your business limit its tax burden and boost its cash flow. A knowledgeable tax professional can keep you informed of any special tax breaks that may be of value to your business, such as the energy credit for the acquisition of various types of alternative energy property.

Make Planning a Priority

Identifying the causes of reduced cash flow and taking steps to rectify a cash flow crunch is critical to the ongoing success of your business. Proper cash flow planning can help you make better use of budgets and employ financing and capital more effectively to increase revenues as well as boost profits. If erratic cash flow is a recurring issue for your business, it can be helpful to gain the insights and the input from an experienced financial professional.

How to Create Estimates in QuickBooks Online

Roe CPA Firm DuluthWhether you sell products or services, you may need to create estimates in QuickBooks Online. Here’s how it’s done.

It would be nice if you could just instantly invoice every sale. But sometimes your customers need to know what a particular purchase will cost before they make the decision to buy. So you need to know how to create an estimate. If the sale goes through, you’ll of course want to send an invoice.

QuickBooks Online automates this entire process. It even helps you track the progress of your estimates by providing a special report. Here’s how it works.

Just Like An Invoice – Almost

The process of creating an estimate in QuickBooks Online is almost identical to creating an invoice. You click the New button in the upper left and select Estimate.

When the form opens, you’ll notice one difference right away. Directly below the Customer field, you’ll see the word Pending next to a small down arrow. Click it to see what your options are here. You’ll be able to update its status later. Select a Customer to get started. If this is a new customer, click + Add New and enter at least the name. If you want to build a more complete profile at this point, click Details and complete the fields in the window that opens. To send a carbon copy or blind copy of the estimate to someone else, click the Cc/Bcc link.

Next to the Estimate date, there’s a field for Expiration date. Enter that and continue on to add the products and/or services that will be included, just as you would on an invoice. If you’re generating an estimate for a new product or service, click + Add new in the drop-down list. A panel will slide out from the right that allows you to create one.

You’ll see more options for your estimate at the bottom of the page. You can add a message in the message box (or leave the default message if there is one). You can also Customize it, Make recurring, or Print or Preview it. When you’re satisfied, Save it, and send it to the customer.

Updating the Status

Your estimate will not be considered a transaction until you accept it. To do this, click the Sales link in the toolbar, then All Sales. Find your estimate in the list by looking in the Type column. Click the down arow next to Create invoice to see your other options there. You’ll see that you can Print or Send it or save a Copy.

Click Update status. In the window that opens, click the down arrow next to Pending. From the list that drops down, select Accepted. You can also mark it Closed or Rejected. If you choose any of the last three options, another window opens that allows you to enter the name of the individual who authorized the action and the date it was done.

Click Create invoice if your estimate was accepted. You’ll have three options here. You can invoice your customer for:

  • The estimate total.
  • A percentage of each line item.
  • A custom amount for each line.

After you’ve made your selection, click Create invoice to open the form with the amounts filled in based on your preference. Complete anything that’s unfinished but do not change any of the product or service line items. Save it, and your invoice is ready to go. You can always check the status of your estimates by running the Estimates by Customer report.

Creating and tracking estimates is as easy as working with invoices. You may run into difficulties, though, if you need to do anything beyond that point with estimates, such as modifying it and re-submitting them. We’re here to answer any questions you might have about this. It’s important that you get your estimates and their subsequent invoices exactly right, so you don’t lose money or sales. Let us know if you want to go over these concepts.

Deducting Home Office Expenses

New home owners with keyIf you’re one of the many people working from home this year, you may have questions about the home office tax deduction and whether you can qualify for it. Here’s a rundown of the rules.

Employees

Unfortunately, home office expenses incurred while working as an employee are not currently deductible. The reason: the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act temporarily suspended the itemized deduction for unreimbursed employee business expenses (and various other miscellaneous expenses). Unless lawmakers make a change, the deduction won’t become available again until 2026.

Self-Employed Individuals

The news is better if you are self-employed. You will be eligible for a home office deduction provided you can satisfy certain requirements. If you do, you can deduct all direct expenses and part of the indirect expenses involved in working from home. The deduction is generally limited to income from the business, and excess expenses may be carried over to the next year.

Direct expenses are costs that apply only to your home office. The cost of painting your home office is an example of a direct expense. Indirect expenses include expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, maintenance, and homeowners insurance. You can deduct only the business portion of your indirect expenses. These expenses are typically allocated between business and personal use based on square footage.

IRS Requirements

To qualify, a home office — a room or another separately identifiable space — generally has to be used regularly and exclusively for business purposes. The home office also must be (1) your principal place of business; (2) a place where you meet patients, clients, or customers; (3) a separate unattached structure that you use in connection with your business; or (4) a space within your residence that you regularly use to store inventory or product samples in connection with the business, if the residence is the only fixed location of your business (in this situation, the space doesn’t have to be used exclusively for storage).

You don’t necessarily have to spend most of your work hours in your home office for it to meet the principal place of business requirement. A home office can qualify if you use it for administrative or management activities and it is the only fixed location where you conduct those activities. Some examples of administrative or management activities include: billing customers, clients, or patients; keeping books and records; ordering supplies; setting up appointments; forwarding orders or writing reports.

Simplified Option

If you prefer not to keep track of your expenses, there’s a simplified method that allows qualifying taxpayers to deduct $5 for each square foot of office space, up to a maximum of 300 square feet. When the simplified method is used, qualified mortgage interest and property taxes are separately deductible as itemized deductions.

Your tax professional can help you determine whether you qualify for a deduction and what you may need to do to take advantage of it.

Selling Inherited Property? Tax Rules That Make a Difference

Sooner or later, you may decide to sell property you inherited from a parent or other loved one. Whether the property is an investment, an antique, land, or something else, the sale may result in a taxable gain or loss. But how that gain or loss is calculated may surprise you.

Your Basis

When you sell property you purchased, you generally figure gain or loss by comparing the amount you receive in the sale transaction with your cost basis (as adjusted for certain items, such as depreciation). Inherited property is treated differently. Instead of cost, your basis in inherited property is generally its fair market value on the date of death (or an alternate valuation date elected by the estate’s executor, generally six months after the date of death).

These basis rules can greatly simplify matters, since old cost information can be difficult, if not impossible, to track down. Perhaps even more important, the ability to substitute a “stepped up” basis for the property’s cost can save you federal income taxes. Why? Because any increase in the property’s value that occurred before the date of death won’t be subject to capital gains tax.

For example: Assume your Uncle Harold left you stock he bought in 1986 for $5,000. At the time of his death, the shares were worth $45,000, and you recently sold them for $48,000. Your basis for purposes of calculating your capital gain is stepped up to $45,000. Because of the step-up, your capital gain on the sale is just $3,000 ($48,000 sale proceeds less $45,000 basis). The $40,000 increase in the value of the shares during your Uncle Harold’s lifetime is not subject to capital gains tax.

What happens if a property’s value on the date of death is less than its original purchase price? Instead of a step-up in basis, the basis must be lowered to the date-of-death value.

Holding Period

Capital gains resulting from the disposition of inherited property automatically qualify for long-term capital gain treatment, regardless of how long you or the decedent owned the property. This presents a potential income tax advantage, since long-term capital gain is taxed at a lower rate than short-term capital gain.

Be cautious if you inherited property from someone who died in 2010 since, depending on the situation, different tax basis rules might apply.