Divorcing business owners should pay attention to the tax consequences

If you’re getting a divorce, you know the process is generally filled with stress. But if you’re a business owner, tax issues can complicate matters even more. Your business ownership interest is one of your biggest personal assets and in many cases, your marital property will include all or part of it.

Transferring property tax-free

In general, you can divide most assets, including cash and business ownership interests, between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse without any federal income or gift tax consequences. When an asset falls under this tax-free transfer rule, the spouse who receives the asset takes over its existing tax basis (for tax gain or loss purposes) and its existing holding period (for short-term or long-term holding period purposes).

For example, let’s say that under the terms of your divorce agreement, you give your house to your spouse in exchange for keeping 100% of the stock in your business. That asset swap would be tax-free. And the existing basis and holding period for the home and the stock would carry over to the person who receives them.

Tax-free transfers can occur before a divorce or at the time it becomes final. Tax-free treatment also applies to post-divorce transfers as long as they’re made “incident to divorce.” This means transfers that occur within:

  • A year after the date the marriage ends, or
  • Six years after the date the marriage ends if the transfers are made pursuant to your divorce agreement.

Additional future tax issues

Eventually, there will be tax implications for assets received tax-free in a divorce settlement. The ex-spouse who winds up owning an appreciated asset — when the fair market value exceeds the tax basis — generally must recognize taxable gain when it’s sold (unless an exception applies).

What if your ex-spouse receives 49% of your highly appreciated small business stock? Thanks to the tax-free transfer rule, there’s no tax impact when the shares are transferred. Your ex will continue to apply the same tax rules as if you had continued to own the shares, including carryover basis and carryover holding period. When your ex-spouse ultimately sells the shares, he or she will owe any capital gains taxes. You will owe nothing.

Note: The person who winds up owning appreciated assets must pay the built-in tax liability that comes with them. From a net-of-tax perspective, appreciated assets are worth less than an equal amount of cash or other assets that haven’t appreciated. That’s why you should always take taxes into account when negotiating your divorce agreement.

In addition, the beneficial tax-free transfer rule is now extended to ordinary-income assets, not just to capital-gains assets. For example, if you transfer business receivables or inventory to your ex-spouse in a divorce, these types of ordinary-income assets can also be transferred tax-free. When the asset is later sold, converted to cash or exercised (in the case of nonqualified stock options), the person who owns the asset at that time must recognize the income and pay the tax liability.

Avoid surprises by planning ahead

Like many major life events, divorce can have significant tax implications. For example, you may receive an unexpected tax bill if you don’t carefully handle the splitting up of qualified retirement plan accounts (such as a 401(k) plan) and IRAs. And if you own a business, the stakes are higher. Contact us. We can help you minimize the adverse tax consequences of settling your divorce.

© 2023

The tax consequences of employer-provided life insurance

If your employer provides life insurance, you probably find it to be a desirable fringe benefit. However, if group term life insurance is part of your benefits package, and the coverage is higher than $50,000, there may be undesirable income tax implications.

You’re taxed on income you didn’t receive

The first $50,000 of group term life insurance coverage that your employer provides is excluded from taxable income and doesn’t add anything to your income tax bill. But the employer-paid cost of group term coverage in excess of $50,000 is taxable income to you. It’s included in the taxable wages reported on your Form W-2 — even though you never actually receive it. In other words, it’s “phantom income.”

What’s worse, the cost of group term insurance must be determined under a table prepared by the IRS even if the employer’s actual cost is less than the cost figured under the table. With these determinations, the amount of taxable phantom income attributed to an older employee is often higher than the premium the employee would pay for comparable coverage under an individual term policy. This tax trap gets worse as an employee gets older and as the amount of his or her compensation increases.

Look at your W-2

What should you do if you think the tax cost of employer-provided group term life insurance is higher than you’d like? First, you should establish if this is actually the case. If a specific dollar amount appears in Box 12 of your Form W-2 (with code “C”), that dollar amount represents your employer’s cost of providing you with group term life insurance coverage in excess of $50,000, less any amount you paid for the coverage. You’re responsible for federal, state and local taxes on the amount that appears in Box 12, and for the associated Social Security and Medicare taxes as well.

But keep in mind that the amount in Box 12 is already included as part of your total “Wages, tips and other compensation” in Box 1 of the W-2, and it’s the Box 1 amount that’s reported on your tax return.

What to do

If you decide that the tax cost is too high for the benefit you’re getting in return, find out whether your employer has a “carve-out” plan (a plan that carves out selected employees from group term coverage) or, if not, whether it would be willing to create one. There are different types of carve-out plans that employers can offer to their employees.

For example, the employer can continue to provide $50,000 of group term insurance (since there’s no tax cost for the first $50,000 of coverage). Then, the employer can provide the employee with an individual policy for the balance of the coverage. Alternatively, the employer can give the employee the amount the employer would have spent for the excess coverage as a cash bonus that the employee can use to pay the premiums on an individual policy.

If you have questions about group term coverage and how it affects your tax bill, contact us.

© 2023

Guaranteeing a loan to your corporation? There may be tax implications

Let’s say you decide to, or are asked to, guarantee a loan to your corporation. Before agreeing to act as a guarantor, endorser or indemnitor of a debt obligation of your closely held corporation, be aware of the possible tax implications. If your corporation defaults on the loan and you’re required to pay principal or interest under the guarantee agreement, you don’t want to be caught unaware.

A business bad debt

If you’re compelled to make good on the obligation, the payment of principal or interest in discharge of the obligation generally results in a bad debt deduction. This may be either a business or a nonbusiness bad debt deduction. If it’s a business bad debt, it’s deductible against ordinary income. A business bad debt can be either totally or partly worthless. If it’s a nonbusiness bad debt, it’s deductible as a short-term capital loss, which is subject to certain limitations on deductions of capital losses. A nonbusiness bad debt is deductible only if it’s totally worthless.

In order to be treated as a business bad debt, the guarantee must be closely related to your trade or business. If the reason for guaranteeing the corporation loan is to protect your job, the guarantee is considered closely related to your trade or business as an employee. But employment must be the dominant motive. If your annual salary exceeds your investment in the corporation, this generally shows that the dominant motive for the guarantee was to protect your job. On the other hand, if your investment in the corporation substantially exceeds your annual salary, that’s evidence that the guarantee was primarily to protect your investment rather than your job.

Except in the case of job guarantees, it may be difficult to show the guarantee was closely related to your trade or business. You’d have to show that the guarantee was related to your business as a promoter, or that the guarantee was related to some other trade or business separately carried on by you.

If the reason for guaranteeing your corporation’s loan isn’t closely related to your trade or business and you’re required to pay off the loan, you can take a nonbusiness bad debt deduction if you show that your reason for the guarantee was to protect your investment, or you entered the guarantee transaction with a profit motive.

More rules

In addition to satisfying the above requirements, a business or nonbusiness bad debt is deductible only if you meet these three requirements:

  1. You have a legal duty to make the guaranty payment (although there’s no requirement that a legal action be brought against you).
  2. The guaranty agreement was entered into before the debt became worthless.
  3. You received reasonable consideration (not necessarily cash or property) for entering into the guaranty agreement.

Any payment you make on a loan you guaranteed is deductible as a bad debt in the year you make it, unless the agreement (or local law) provides for a right of subrogation against the corporation. If you have this right, or some other right to demand payment from the corporation, you can’t take a bad debt deduction until the rights become partly or totally worthless.

These are only some of the possible tax consequences of guaranteeing a loan to your closely held corporation. To learn all the implications in your situation, consult with us.

© 2023

Receive more than $10,000 in cash at your business? Here’s what you must do

Does your business receive large amounts of cash or cash equivalents? If so, you’re generally required to report these transactions to the IRS — and not just on your tax return.

The requirements

Each person who, in the course of operating a trade or business, receives more than $10,000 in cash in one transaction (or two or more related transactions), must file Form 8300. Who is a “person”? It can be an individual, company, corporation, partnership, association, trust or estate. What are considered “related transactions”? Any transactions conducted in a 24-hour period. Transactions can also be considered related even if they occur over a period of more than 24 hours if the recipient knows, or has reason to know, that each transaction is one of a series of connected transactions.

In order to complete a Form 8300, you’ll need personal information about the person making the cash payment, including a Social Security or taxpayer identification number.

The definition of “cash” and “cash equivalents”

For Form 8300 reporting purposes, cash includes U.S. currency and coins, as well as foreign money. It also includes cash equivalents such as cashier’s checks (sometimes called bank checks), bank drafts, traveler’s checks and money orders.

Money orders and cashier’s checks under $10,000, when used in combination with other forms of cash for a single transaction that exceeds $10,000, are defined as cash for Form 8300 reporting purposes.

Note: Under a separate reporting requirement, banks and other financial institutions report cash purchases of cashier’s checks, treasurer’s checks and/or bank checks, bank drafts, traveler’s checks and money orders with a face value of more than $10,000 by filing currency transaction reports.

The reasons for reporting

Although many cash transactions are legitimate, the IRS explains that the information reported on Form 8300 “can help stop those who evade taxes, profit from the drug trade, engage in terrorist financing and conduct other criminal activities. The government can often trace money from these illegal activities through the payments reported on Form 8300 and other cash reporting forms.”

Failing to comply with the law can result in fines and even jail time. In one case, a Niagara Falls, NY, business owner was convicted of willful failure to file Form 8300 after receiving cash transactions of more than $10,000. In a U.S. District Court, he pled guilty and was recently sentenced to five months home detention, fined $10,000 and he agreed to pay restitution to the IRS. He had received cash rent payments in connection with a building in which he had an ownership interest.

Forms can be sent electronically

Businesses required to file reports of large cash transactions on Forms 8300 should know that in addition to filing on paper, e-filing is an option. The form is due 15 days after a transaction and there’s no charge for the e-file option. Businesses that file electronically get an automatic confirmation of receipt when they file.

Effective January 1, 2024, you may have to e-file Forms 8300 if you’re required to e-file other information returns, such as 1099 and W-2 forms. You must e-file if you’re required to file at least 10 information returns other than Form 8300 during a calendar year.

The IRS also reminds businesses that they can “batch file” their reports, which is especially helpful to those required to file many forms.

Record retention

You should keep a copy of each Form 8300 for five years from the date you file it, according to the IRS. “Confirmation receipts don’t meet the recordkeeping requirement,” the tax agency added.

Contact us with any questions or for assistance.

© 2023

Pocket a tax break for making energy-efficient home improvements

An estimated 190 million Americans have recently been under heat advisory alerts, according to the National Weather Service. That may have spurred you to think about making your home more energy efficient — and there’s a cool tax break that may apply. Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, you may be able to benefit from an enhanced residential energy tax credit to help defray the cost.

Eligibility rules

If you make eligible energy-efficient improvements to your home on or after January 1, 2023, you may qualify for a tax credit up to $3,200. You can claim the credit for improvements made through 2032.

The credit equals 30% of certain qualified expenses for energy improvements to a home located in the United States, including:

  • Qualified energy-efficient improvements installed during the year,
  • Residential “energy property” expenses, and
  • Home energy audits.

There are limits on the allowable annual credit and on the amount of credit for certain types of expenses.

The maximum credit you can claim each year is:

  • $1,200 for energy property costs and certain energy-efficient home improvements, with limits on doors ($250 per door and $500 total), windows ($600 total) and home energy audits ($150), as well as
  • $2,000 per year for qualified heat pumps, biomass stoves or biomass boilers.

In addition to windows and doors, other energy property includes central air conditioners and hot water heaters.

Before the 2022 law was enacted, there was a $500 lifetime credit limit. Now, the credit has no lifetime dollar limit. You can claim the maximum annual amount every year that you make eligible improvements until 2033. For example, you can make some improvements this year and take a $1,200 credit for 2023 — and then make more improvements next year and claim another $1,200 credit for 2024.

The credit is claimed in the year in which the installation is completed.

Other limits and rules

In general, the credit is available for your main home, although certain improvements made to second homes may qualify. If a property is used exclusively for business, you can’t claim the credit. If your home is used partly for business, the credit amount varies. For business use up to 20%, you can claim a full credit. But if you use more than 20% of your home for business, you only get a partial credit.

Although the credit is available for certain water heating equipment, you can’t claim it for equipment that’s used to heat a swimming pool or hot tub.

The credit is nonrefundable. That means you can’t get back more on the credit than you owe in taxes. You can’t apply any excess credit to future tax years. However, there’s no phaseout based on your income, so even high-income taxpayers can claim the credit.

Collecting green for going green

Contact us if you have questions about making energy-efficient improvements or purchasing energy-saving property for your home. The Inflation Reduction Act may have other tax breaks you can benefit from for making clean energy purchases, such as installing solar panels. We can help ensure you get the maximum tax savings for your expenditures. Stay cool!

© 2023

The advantages of using an LLC for your small business

If you operate your small business as a sole proprietorship, you may have thought about forming a limited liability company (LLC) to protect your assets. Or maybe you’re launching a new business and want to know your options for setting it up. Here are the basics of operating as an LLC and why it might be a good choice for your business.

An LLC is a bit of a hybrid entity because it can be structured to resemble a corporation for owner liability purposes and a partnership for federal tax purposes. This duality may provide the owners with the best of both worlds.

Protecting your personal assets

Like the shareholders of a corporation, the owners of an LLC (called “members” rather than shareholders or partners) generally aren’t liable for the debts of the business except to the extent of their investment. Thus, the owners can operate the business with the security of knowing that their personal assets are protected from the entity’s creditors. This protection is much greater than that afforded by partnerships. In a partnership, the general partners are personally liable for the debts of the business. Even limited partners, if they actively participate in managing the business, can have personal liability.

Tax issues

The owners of an LLC can elect under the “check-the-box” rules to have the entity treated as a partnership for federal tax purposes. This can provide a number of benefits to the owners. For example, partnership earnings aren’t subject to an entity-level tax. Instead, they “flow through” to the owners, in proportion to the owners’ respective interests in profits, and are reported on the owners’ individual returns and taxed only once.

To the extent the income passed through to you is qualified business income, you’ll be eligible to take the Section 199A pass-through deduction, subject to various limitations. (However, keep in mind that the pass-through deduction is temporary. It’s available through 2025, unless Congress acts to extend it.)

In addition, since you’re actively managing the business, you can deduct on your individual tax return your ratable shares of any losses the business generates. This, in effect, allows you to shelter other income that you (and your spouse, if you’re married) may have.

An LLC that’s taxable as a partnership can provide special allocations of tax benefits to specific partners. This can be a notable reason for using an LLC over an S corporation (a form of business that provides tax treatment that’s similar to a partnership). Another reason for using an LLC over an S corp is that LLCs aren’t subject to the restrictions the federal tax code imposes on S corps regarding the number of owners and the types of ownership interests that may be issued.

Consider all angles

In conclusion, an LLC can give you corporate-like protection from creditors while providing the benefits of taxation as a partnership. For these reasons, you may want to consider operating your business as an LLC. Contact us to discuss in more detail how an LLC might be an appropriate choice for you and the other owners.

© 2023

A tax-smart way to develop and sell appreciated land

Let’s say you own highly appreciated land that’s now ripe for development. If you subdivide it, develop the resulting parcels and sell them off for a hefty profit, it could trigger a large tax bill.

In this scenario, the tax rules generally treat you as a real estate dealer. That means your entire profit — including the portion from pre-development appreciation in the value of the land — will be treated as high-taxed ordinary income subject to a federal rate of up to 37%. You may also owe the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT) for a combined federal rate of up to 40.8%. And you may owe state income tax too.

It would be better if you could arrange to pay lower long-term capital gain (LTCG) tax rates on at least part of the profit. The current maximum federal income tax rate on LTCGs is 20% or 23.8% if you owe the NIIT.

Potential tax-saving solution

Thankfully, there’s a strategy that allows favorable LTCG tax treatment for all pre-development appreciation in the land value. You must have held the land for more than one year for investment (as opposed to holding it as a real estate dealer).

The portion of your profit attributable to subsequent subdividing, development and marketing activities will still be considered high-taxed ordinary income, because you’ll be considered a real estate dealer for that part of the process.

But if you can manage to pay a 20% or 23.8% federal income tax rate on a big chunk of your profit (the pre-development appreciation part), that’s something to celebrate.

Three-step strategy

Here’s the three-step strategy that could result in paying a smaller tax bill on your real estate development profits.

1. Establish an S corporation

If you individually own the appreciated land, you can establish an S corporation owned solely by you to function as the developer. If you own the land via a partnership, or via an LLC treated as a partnership for federal tax purposes, you and the other partners (LLC members) can form the S corp and receive corporate stock in proportion to your percentage partnership (LLC) interests.

2. Sell the land to the S corp

Sell the appreciated land to the S corp for a price equal to the land’s pre-development fair market value. If necessary, you can arrange a sale that involves only a little cash and a big installment note the S corp owes you. The business will pay off the note with cash generated by selling off parcels after development. The sale to the S corp will trigger a LTCG eligible for the 20% or 23.8% rate as long as you held the land for investment and owned it for over one year.

3. Develop the property and sell it off

The S corp will subdivide and develop the property, market it and sell it off. The profit from these activities will be higher-taxed ordinary income passed through to you as an S corp shareholder. If the profit is big, you’ll probably pay the maximum 37% federal rate (or 40.8% percent with the NIIT. However, the average tax rate on your total profit will be much lower, because a big part will be lower-taxed LTCG from pre-development appreciation.

Favorable treatment

Thanks to the tax treatment created by this S corp developer strategy, you can lock in favorable treatment for the land’s pre-development appreciation. That’s a huge tax-saving advantage if the land has gone up in value. Consult with us if you have questions or want more information.

© 2023

Retirement account catch-up contributions can add up

If you’re age 50 or older, you can probably make extra “catch-up” contributions to your tax-favored retirement account(s). It is worth the trouble? Yes! Here are the rules of the road.

The deal with IRAs

Eligible taxpayers can make extra catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 annually to a traditional or Roth IRA. If you’ll be 50 or older as of December 31, 2023, you can make a catch-up contribution for the 2023 tax year by April 15, 2024.

Extra deductible contributions to a traditional IRA create tax savings, but your deduction may be limited if you (or your spouse) are covered by a retirement plan at work and your income exceeds certain levels.

Extra contributions to Roth IRAs don’t generate any up-front tax savings, but you can take federal-income-tax-free qualified withdrawals after age 59½. There are also income limits on Roth contributions.

Higher-income individuals can make extra nondeductible traditional IRA contributions and benefit from the tax-deferred earnings advantage.

How company plans stack up

You also have to be age 50 or older to make extra salary-reduction catch-up contributions to an employer 401(k), 403(b), or 457 retirement plan — assuming the plan allows them and you signed up. You can make extra contributions of up to $7,500 to these accounts for 2023. Check with your human resources department to see how to sign up for extra contributions.

Salary-reduction contributions are subtracted from your taxable wages, so you effectively get a federal income tax deduction. You can use the resulting tax savings to help pay for part of your extra catch-up contribution, or you can set the tax savings aside in a taxable retirement savings account to further increase your retirement wealth.

Tally the amounts

Here’s the proof of how much you can accumulate.

IRAs

Let’s say you’re age 50 and you contribute an extra $1,000 catch-up contribution to your IRA this year and then do the same for the following 15 years. Here’s how much extra you could have in your IRA by age 65 (rounded to the nearest $1,000).

4% Annual Return 6% Annual Return 8% Annual Return $22,000 $26,000 $30,000

Remember: Making larger deductible contributions to a traditional IRA can also lower your tax bills. Making additional contributions to a Roth IRA won’t, but you can take more tax-free withdrawals later in life.

Company plans

Say you’ll turn age 50 next year. You contribute an extra $7,500 to your company plan next year. Then, you do the same for the next 15 years. Here’s how much more you could have in your 401(k), 403(b), or 457 plan account (rounded to the nearest $1,000).

4% Annual Return 6% Annual Return 8% Annual Return $164,000 $193,000 $227,000

Again, making larger contributions can also lower your tax bill.

Both IRA and company plans

Finally, let’s say you’ll turn age 50 next year. If you’re eligible, you contribute an extra $1,000 to your IRA for next year plus you make an extra $7,500 contribution to your company plan. Then, you do the same for the next 15 years. Here’s how much extra you could have in the two accounts combined (rounded to the nearest $1,000).

4% Annual Return 6% Annual Return 8% Annual Return $186,000 $219,000 $257,000

Make retirement more golden

As you can see, making extra catch-up contributions can add up to some pretty big numbers by the time you retire. If your spouse can make them too, you can potentially accumulate even more. Contact us if you have questions or want more information.

© 2023

Corporate officers or shareholders: How should you treat expenses paid personally?

If you play a major role in a closely held corporation, you may sometimes spend money on corporate expenses personally. These costs may end up being nondeductible both by an officer and the corporation unless the correct steps are taken. This issue is more likely to happen with a financially troubled corporation.

What can’t you deduct?

In general, you can’t deduct an expense you incur on behalf of your corporation, even if it’s a legitimate “trade or business” expense and even if the corporation is financially troubled. This is because a taxpayer can only deduct expenses that are his own. And since your corporation’s legal existence as a separate entity must be respected, the corporation’s costs aren’t yours and thus can’t be deducted even if you pay them.

To make matters worse, the corporation won’t generally be able to deduct them either because it didn’t pay them itself. Accordingly, be advised that it shouldn’t be a practice of your corporation’s officers or major shareholders to cover corporate costs.

What expenses may be deductible?

On the other hand, if a corporate executive incurs costs that relate to an essential part of his or her duties as an executive, they may be deductible as ordinary and necessary expenses related to his or her “trade or business” of being an executive. If you wish to set up an arrangement providing payments to you and safeguarding their deductibility, a provision should be included in your employment contract with the corporation stating the types of expenses which are part of your duties and authorizing you to incur them. For example, you may be authorized to attend out-of-town business conferences on the corporation’s behalf at your personal expense.

What’s the best alternative?

Alternatively, to avoid the complete loss of any deductions by both yourself and the corporation, an arrangement should be in place under which the corporation reimburses you for the expenses you incur. Turn the receipts over to the corporation and use an expense reimbursement claim form or system. This will at least allow the corporation to deduct the amount of the reimbursement.

Contact us if you’d like assistance or would like to discuss these issues further.

© 2023

Inheriting stock or other assets? You’ll receive a favorable “stepped-up basis”

If you’re planning your estate, or you’ve recently inherited assets, you may be unsure of the “cost” (or “basis”) for tax purposes.

How do the rules work?

Under the current fair market value basis rules (also known as the “step-up and step-down” rules), an heir receives a basis in inherited property equal to its date-of-death value. So, for example, if your grandfather bought stock in 1940 for $600 and it’s worth $1 million at his death, the basis is stepped up to $1 million in the hands of your grandfather’s heirs — and all of that gain escapes federal income tax.

The fair market value basis rules apply to inherited property that’s includible in the deceased’s gross estate, and those rules also apply to property inherited from foreign persons who aren’t subject to U.S. estate tax. It doesn’t matter if a federal estate tax return is filed. The rules apply to the inherited portion of property owned by the inheriting taxpayer jointly with the deceased, but not the portion of jointly held property that the inheriting taxpayer owned before his or her inheritance. The fair market value basis rules also don’t apply to reinvestments of estate assets by fiduciaries.

What if assets are given before death?

It’s crucial to understand the current fair market value basis rules so that you don’t pay more tax than you’re legally required to.

For example, in the above example, if your grandfather decides to make a gift of the stock during his lifetime (rather than passing it on when he dies), the “step-up” in basis (from $600 to $1 million) would be lost. Property that has gone up in value acquired by gift is subject to the “carryover” basis rules. That means the person receiving the gift takes the same basis the donor had in it ($600 in this example), plus a portion of any gift tax the donor pays on the gift.

A “step-down” occurs if someone dies owning property that has declined in value. In that case, the basis is lowered to the date-of-death value. Proper planning calls for seeking to avoid this loss of basis. Giving the property away before death won’t preserve the basis. That’s because when property that has gone down in value is the subject of a gift, the person receiving the gift must take the date of gift value as his basis (for purposes of determining his or her loss on a later sale). Therefore, a good strategy for property that has declined in value is for the owner to sell it before death so he or she can enjoy the tax benefits of the loss.

Need help with estate planning and taxes?

These are the basic rules. Other rules and limits may apply. For example, in some cases, a deceased person’s executor may be able to make an alternate valuation election. Contact us for tax assistance when estate planning and taxes as they relate to inheritances.

© 2023

134 Sipe Avenue Hummelstown, PA 17036