Weekly Tax Brief
- Published: 18 May 2023 18 May 2023
Many businesses use independent contractors to help keep their costs down — especially in these times of staff shortages and inflationary pressures. If you’re among them, be careful that these workers are properly classified for federal tax purposes. If the IRS reclassifies them as employees, it can be an expensive mistake.
The question of whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee for federal income and employment tax purposes is a complex one. If a worker is an employee, your company must withhold federal income and payroll taxes and pay the employer’s share of FICA taxes on the wages, plus FUTA tax. A business may also provide the worker with fringe benefits if it makes them available to other employees. In addition, there may be state tax obligations.
On the other hand, if a worker is an independent contractor, these obligations don’t apply. In that case, the business simply sends the contractor a Form 1099-NEC for the year showing the amount paid (if it’s $600 or more).
No one definition
Who’s an “employee?” Unfortunately, there’s no uniform definition of the term.
The IRS and courts have generally ruled that individuals are employees if the organization they work for has the right to control and direct them in the jobs they’re performing. Otherwise, the individuals are generally independent contractors. But other factors are also taken into account including who provides tools and who pays expenses.
Some employers that have misclassified workers as independent contractors may get some relief from employment tax liabilities under Section 530. This protection generally applies only if an employer meets certain requirements. For example, the employer must file all federal returns consistent with its treatment of a worker as a contractor and it must treat all similarly situated workers as contractors.
Note: Section 530 doesn’t apply to certain types of workers.
You can ask the IRS but think twice
Be aware that you can ask the IRS (on Form SS-8) to rule on whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. However, you should also be aware that the IRS has a history of classifying workers as employees rather than independent contractors.
Businesses should consult with us before filing Form SS-8 because it may alert the IRS that your business has worker classification issues — and it may unintentionally trigger an employment tax audit.
It may be better to properly set up a relationship with workers to treat them as independent contractors so that your business complies with the tax rules.
Workers who want an official determination of their status can also file Form SS-8. Dissatisfied independent contractors may do so because they feel entitled to employee benefits and want to eliminate their self-employment tax liabilities.
If a worker files Form SS-8, the IRS will notify the business with a letter. It identifies the worker and includes a blank Form SS-8. The business is asked to complete and return the form to the IRS, which will render a classification decision.
These are the basic tax rules. Contact us if you’d like to discuss how to classify workers at your business. We can help make sure that your workers are properly classified.
- Published: 11 May 2023 11 May 2023
If you’ve successfully filed your 2022 tax return with the IRS, you may think you’re done with taxes for another year. But some questions may still crop up about the return. Here are brief answers to three questions that we’re frequently asked at this time of year.
When will your refund arrive?
The IRS has an online tool that can tell you the status of your refund. Go to irs.gov and click on “Get Your Refund Status.” You’ll need your Social Security number, filing status and the exact refund amount.
Which tax records can you throw away now?
At a minimum, keep tax records related to your return for as long as the IRS can audit your return or assess additional taxes. In general, the statute of limitations is three years after you file your return. So you can generally get rid of most records related to tax returns for 2019 and earlier years. (If you filed an extension for your 2019 return, hold on to your records until at least three years from when you filed the extended return.)
However, the statute of limitations extends to six years for taxpayers who understate their gross income by more than 25%.
You should hang on to certain tax-related records longer. For example, keep the actual tax returns indefinitely, so you can prove to the IRS that you filed legitimate returns. (There’s no statute of limitations for an audit if you didn’t file a return or you filed a fraudulent one.)
When it comes to retirement accounts, keep records associated with them until you’ve depleted the account and reported the last withdrawal on your tax return, plus three (or six) years. And retain records related to real estate or investments for as long as you own the asset, plus at least three years after you sell it and report the sale on your tax return. (You can keep these records for six years if you want to be extra safe.)
Can you still collect a refund for a tax credit or deduction if you overlooked claiming it?
In general, you can file an amended tax return and claim a refund within three years after the date you filed your original return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
However, there are a few opportunities when you have longer to file an amended return. For example, the statute of limitations for bad debts is longer than the usual three-year time limit for most items on your tax return. In general, you can amend your tax return to claim a bad debt for seven years from the due date of the tax return for the year that the debt became worthless.
Help available all year long
Contact us if you have questions about retaining tax records, receiving your refund or filing an amended return. We’re not just here at tax filing time. We’re here all year long.
- Published: 09 May 2023 09 May 2023
Whether you’re operating a new company or an established business, losses can happen. The federal tax code may help soften the blow by allowing businesses to apply losses to offset taxable income in future years, subject to certain limitations.
Qualifying for a deduction
The net operating loss (NOL) deduction addresses the tax inequities that can exist between businesses with stable income and those with fluctuating income. It essentially lets the latter average out their income and losses over the years and pay tax accordingly.
You may be eligible for the NOL deduction if your deductions for the tax year are greater than your income. The loss generally must be caused by deductions related to your:
- Business (Schedules C and F losses, or Schedule K-1 losses from partnerships or S corporations),
- Casualty and theft losses from a federally declared disaster, or
- Rental property (Schedule E).
The following generally aren’t allowed when determining your NOL:
- Capital losses that exceed capital gains,
- The exclusion for gains from the sale or exchange of qualified small business stock,
- Nonbusiness deductions that exceed nonbusiness income,
- The NOL deduction itself, and
- The Section 199A qualified business income deduction.
Individuals and C corporations are eligible to claim the NOL deduction. Partnerships and S corporations generally aren’t eligible, but partners and shareholders can use their separate shares of the business’s income and deductions to calculate individual NOLs.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) made significant changes to the NOL rules. Previously, taxpayers could carry back NOLs for two years, and carry forward the losses 20 years. They also could apply NOLs against 100% of their taxable income.
The TCJA limits the NOL deduction to 80% of taxable income for the year and eliminates the carryback of NOLs (except for certain farming losses). However, it does allow NOLs to be carried forward indefinitely.
A COVID-19 relief law temporarily loosened the TCJA restrictions. It allowed NOLs arising in 2018, 2019 or 2020 to be carried back five years and removed the taxable income limitation for years beginning before 2021. As a result, NOLs could completely offset income. However, these provisions have expired.
If your NOL carryforward is more than your taxable income for the year to which you carry it, you may have an NOL carryover. The carryover will be the excess of the NOL deduction over your modified taxable income for the carryforward year. If your NOL deduction includes multiple NOLs, you must apply them against your modified taxable income in the same order you incurred them, beginning with the earliest.
Excess business losses
The TCJA established an “excess business loss” limitation, which took effect in 2021. For partnerships or S corporations, this limitation is applied at the partner or shareholder level, after the outside basis, at-risk and passive activity loss limitations have been applied.
Under the rule, noncorporate taxpayers’ business losses can offset only business-related income or gain, plus an inflation-adjusted threshold. For 2023, that threshold is $289,000 ($578,000 if married filing jointly). Remaining losses are treated as an NOL carryforward to the next tax year. In other words, you can’t fully deduct them because they become subject to the 80% income limitation on NOLs, reducing their tax value.
Important: Under the Inflation Reduction Act, the excess business loss limitation applies to tax years beginning before January 1, 2029. Under the TCJA, it had been scheduled to expire after December 31, 2026.
The tax rules regarding business losses are complex, especially when accounting for how NOLs can interact with other potential tax breaks. We can help you chart the best course forward.
- Published: 04 May 2023 04 May 2023
One popular fringe benefit is an education assistance program that allows employees to continue learning and perhaps earn a degree with financial assistance from their employers. One way to attract, retain and motivate employees is to provide education fringe benefits so that team members can improve their skills and gain additional knowledge. An employee can receive, on a tax-free basis, up to $5,250 each year from his or her employer under a “qualified educational assistance program.”
For this purpose, “education” means any form of instruction or training that improves or develops an individual’s capabilities. It doesn’t matter if it’s job-related or part of a degree program. This includes employer-provided education assistance for graduate-level courses, including those normally taken by individuals pursuing programs leading to a business, medical, law or other advanced academic or professional degrees.
The educational assistance must be provided under a separate written plan that’s publicized to your employees, and must meet a number of conditions, including nondiscrimination requirements. In other words, it can’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. In addition, not more than 5% of the amounts paid or incurred by the employer for educational assistance during the year may be provided for individuals (including their spouses or dependents) who own 5% or more of the business.
No deduction or credit can be taken by the employee for any amount excluded from the employee’s income as an education assistance benefit.
If you pay more than $5,250 for educational benefits for an employee during the year, he or she must generally pay tax on the amount over $5,250. Your business should include the amount in income in the employee’s wages. However, in addition to, or instead of applying the $5,250 exclusion, an employer can satisfy an employee’s educational expenses on a nontaxable basis, if the educational assistance is job-related . To qualify as job-related, the educational assistance must:
- Maintain or improve skills required for the employee’s then-current job, or
- Comply with certain express employer-imposed conditions for continued employment.
“Job-related” employer educational assistance isn’t subject to a dollar limit. To be job-related, the education can’t qualify the employee to meet the minimum educational requirements for qualification in his or her employment or other trade or business.
Educational assistance meeting the above “job-related” rules is excludable from an employee’s income as a working condition fringe benefit.
Assistance with student loans
In addition to education assistance, some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as a recruitment and retention tool. Starting next year, employers can help more. Under the SECURE 2.0 law, an employer will be able to make matching contributions to 401(k) and certain other retirement plans with respect to “qualified student loan payments.” The result of this provision is that employees who can’t afford to save money for retirement because they’re repaying student loan debt can still receive matching contributions from their employers. This will take effect in 2024.
Contact us to learn more about setting up an education assistance or student loan repayment plan at your business.
- Published: 02 May 2023 02 May 2023
If you itemize deductions on your tax return, you may wonder: What medical expenses can I include? The IRS recently issued some frequently asked questions addressing when certain costs are qualified medical expenses for federal income tax purposes.
Basic rules and IRS clarifications
You can claim an itemized deduction for qualified medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. You can also take tax-free health savings account (HSA), health care flexible spending account (FSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA) withdrawals to cover qualified medical expenses. However, qualified medical expenses don’t include those for things that are merely beneficial to your general health.
The answers to the IRS FAQs clarify the following points, starting with the ones we think are most interesting.
- As a general rule, the costs of over-the-counter (non-prescription) drugs don’t count as qualified medical expenses. However, the cost of insulin is eligible. Over-the-counter drugs and menstrual care products can be reimbursed tax-free by an HSA, medical expense FSA, or HRA, but the costs don’t count as qualified medical expenses for medical expense deduction purposes.
- If you pay for nutritional counseling, the cost is a qualified medical expense only if it treats a specific disease diagnosed by a physician, such as obesity or diabetes.
- The cost of a weight-loss program is also a qualified medical expense only if it treats a specific disease diagnosed by a physician such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension or heart disease.
- Gym membership costs are qualified medical expenses only if the gym is for the sole purpose of: 1) affecting a structure or function of the body, such as part of a prescribed plan for physical therapy to treat an injury or 2) treating a specific disease diagnosed by a physician such as obesity, hypertension or heart disease. However, the cost of an exercise program that improves general health, such as swimming or dancing, isn’t eligible even if it’s recommended by a doctor.
- Food or beverages purchased for weight loss or other health reasons are qualified medical expenses only if the food or beverages: 1) don’t satisfy normal nutritional needs, 2) alleviate or treat an illness and 3) are needed according to a physician. Even if all of these requirements are met, the amount that can be treated as a qualified medical expense is limited to the amount by which the cost of the food or beverages exceeds the cost of products that satisfy normal nutritional needs.
- The costs of nutritional supplements are qualified only if they’re recommended as treatment for a specific medical condition diagnosed by a physician.
- Smoking cessation program costs are qualified medical expenses because they treat the disease of tobacco use disorder. Similarly, the amounts paid for programs to treat drug and alcohol abuse are qualified medical expenses because they treat the diseases of substance use and alcohol use disorders.
- The cost of therapy for treatment of a disease is a qualified medical expense. For example, the cost of therapy to treat a diagnosed mental illness is eligible, but the cost of marital counseling isn’t.
- Unsurprisingly, the costs of dental exams, eye exams and physical exams are qualified medical expenses because they provide a diagnosis of whether a disease or illness is present.
Count all eligible expenses
If you meet or are close to the threshold to deduct medical expenses, you want to count every one that’s eligible. Be sure to save documentation and we can evaluate expenses when we prepare your tax return.
- Published: 30 March 2023 30 March 2023
When preparing your tax return, we’ll check one of the following statuses: Single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or qualifying widow(er). Filing a return as a head of household is more favorable than filing as a single taxpayer.
For example, the 2023 standard deduction for a single taxpayer is $13,850 while it’s $20,800 for a head of household taxpayer. To be eligible, you must maintain a household, which for more than half the year, is the principal home of a “qualifying child” or other relative of yours whom you can claim as a dependent.
Who is a qualifying child? This is a child who:
- Lives in your home for more than half the year,
- Is your child, stepchild, adopted child, foster child, sibling, stepsibling (or a descendant of any of these),
- Is under age 19 (or a student under 24), and
- Doesn’t provide over half of his or her own support for the year.
If the parents are divorced, the child will qualify if he or she meets these tests for the custodial parent — even if that parent released his or her right to a dependency exemption for the child to the noncustodial parent.
A person isn’t a “qualifying child” if he or she is married and can’t be claimed by you as a dependent because he or she filed jointly or isn’t a U.S. citizen or resident. Special “tie-breaking” rules apply if the individual can be a qualifying child of more than one taxpayer.
You’re considered to “maintain a household” if you live in the home for the tax year and pay over half the cost of running it. In measuring the cost, include house-related expenses incurred for the mutual benefit of household members, including property taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, insurance on the property, repairs and upkeep, and food consumed in the home. Don’t include items such as medical care, clothing, education, life insurance or transportation.
Maintaining a home for a parent
Under a special rule, you can qualify as head of household if you maintain a home for a parent of yours even if you don’t live with the parent. To qualify under this rule, you must be able to claim the parent as your dependent.
You must be unmarried to claim head of household status. If you’re unmarried because you’re widowed, you can use the married filing jointly rates as a “surviving spouse” for two years after the year of your spouse’s death if your dependent child, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child lives with you and you “maintain” the household. The joint rates are more favorable than the head of household rates.
If you’re married, you must file either as married filing jointly or separately — not as head of household. However, if you’ve lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the year and your dependent child, stepchild, adopted child, or foster child lives with you and you “maintain” the household, you’re treated as unmarried. If this is the case, you can qualify as head of household.
We can answer questions if you’d like to discuss a particular situation or would like additional information about whether someone qualifies as your dependent.
- Published: 30 March 2023 30 March 2023
- Published: 29 March 2023 29 March 2023
If you’re starting a business with some partners and wondering what type of entity to form, an S corporation may be the most suitable form of business for your new venture. Here are some of the reasons why.
A big benefit of an S corporation over a partnership is that as S corporation shareholders, you won’t be personally liable for corporate debts. In order to receive this protection, it’s important that:
- The corporation be adequately financed,
- The existence of the corporation as a separate entity be maintained, and
- Various formalities required by your state be observed (for example, filing articles of incorporation, adopting by-laws, electing a board of directors and holding organizational meetings).
Dealing with losses
If you expect that the business will incur losses in its early years, an S corporation is preferable to a C corporation from a tax standpoint. Shareholders in a C corporation generally get no tax benefit from such losses. In contrast, as S corporation shareholders, each of you can deduct your percentage share of losses on your personal tax return to the extent of your basis in the stock and in any loans you made to the entity. Losses that can’t be deducted because they exceed your basis are carried forward and can be deducted by you in the future when there’s sufficient basis.
Once the S corporation begins to earn profits, the income will be taxed directly to you whether or not it’s distributed. It will be reported on your individual tax return and be aggregated with income from other sources. Your share of the S corporation’s income won’t be subject to self-employment tax, but your wages will be subject to Social Security taxes. To the extent the income is passed through to you as qualified business income (QBI), you’ll be eligible to take the 20% pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations.
Note: Unless Congress acts to extend it, the QBI deduction is scheduled to expire after 2025.
If you’re planning to provide fringe benefits such as health and life insurance, you should be aware that the costs of providing such benefits to a more than 2% shareholder are deductible by the entity but are taxable to the recipient.
Protecting S status
Also be aware that the S corporation could inadvertently lose its S status if you or your partners transfer stock to an ineligible shareholder such as another corporation, a partnership or a nonresident alien. If the S election was terminated, the corporation would become a taxable entity. You would not be able to deduct any losses and earnings could be subject to double taxation — once at the corporate level and again when distributed to you. In order to protect against this risk, it’s a good idea for each shareholder to sign an agreement promising not to make any transfers that would jeopardize the S election.
Before finalizing your choice of entity, consult with us. We can answer any questions you have and assist in launching your new venture.
- Published: 24 March 2023 24 March 2023
April 18 is the deadline for filing your 2022 tax return. But a couple of other tax deadlines are coming up in April and they’re important for certain taxpayers:
- Saturday, April 1 is the last day to begin receiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs, 401(k)s and similar workplace plans for taxpayers who turned 72 during 2022.
- Tuesday, April 18 is the deadline for making the first quarterly estimated tax payment for 2023, if you’re required to make one.
Here are the basic details about these two deadlines.
Taking a first RMD
RMDs are normally made by the end of the year. But anyone who reached age 72 during 2022 is covered by a special rule that allows IRA account owners and participants in workplace retirement plans to wait until as late as April 1, 2023, to take their first RMD. For an IRA, you must take your first RMD by April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn 72, regardless of whether you’re still employed.
You may have heard the age for beginning RMDs went up. Under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement 2.0 Act (SECURE 2.0), the age distributions must begin increased from age 72 to age 73 starting on January 1, 2023. But if you turned 72 during 2022, you must take your first RMD by April 1.
If your RMDs in any year are less than the required amount for that year, you’ll generally be subject to a penalty.
Making estimated tax payments
You may have to make estimated tax payments for 2023 if you receive interest, dividends, alimony, self-employment income, capital gains or other income. If you don’t pay enough tax during the year through withholding and estimated payments, you may be liable for a tax penalty on top of the tax that’s ultimately due.
Individuals must pay 25% of their “required annual payment” by April 15, June 15, September 15, and January 15 of the following year, to avoid an underpayment penalty. If one of those dates falls on a weekend or holiday, the payment is due the next business day. For example, this year the filing deadline is April 18 for most taxpayers because April 15 falls on a Saturday and April 17 is a holiday in the District of Columbia.
The required annual payment for most individuals is the lower of 90% of the tax shown on the current year’s return or 100% of the tax shown on the return for the previous year. However, if the adjusted gross income on your previous year’s return was more than $150,000 ($75,000 if you’re married filing separately), you must pay the lower of 90% of the tax shown on the current year’s return or 110% of the tax shown on the return for the previous year.
Generally, people who receive most of their income in the form of wages satisfy these payment requirements through the tax withheld from their paychecks by their employers. Those who make estimated tax payments generally do so in four installments. After determining the required annual payment, they divide that number by four and make four equal payments by the due dates.
But you may be able to use the annualized income method to make smaller payments. This method is useful to people whose income isn’t uniform over the year, for example because they’re involved in a seasonal business.
Staying on track
Contact us if you have questions about RMDs and estimated tax payments. We can help you stay on track so you aren’t liable for penalties.
- Published: 21 March 2023 21 March 2023
Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines that apply to businesses and other employers during the second quarter of 2023. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.
- If you’re a calendar-year corporation, file a 2022 income tax return (Form 1120) or file for an automatic six-month extension (Form 7004) and pay any tax due.
- For corporations pay the first installment of 2023 estimated income taxes.
- For individuals, file a 2022 income tax return (Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) or file for an automatic six-month extension (Form 4868) and pay any tax due.
- For individuals, pay the first installment of 2023 estimated taxes, if you don’t pay income tax through withholding (Form 1040-ES).
- Employers report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for the first quarter of 2023 (Form 941) and pay any tax due.
- Employers report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for the first quarter of 2023 (Form 941), if they deposited on time and fully paid all of the associated taxes due.
- Corporations pay the second installment of 2023 estimated income taxes.