MARCH 2018 Tax filing reminders

March 1 – Farmers and fishermen who did not make 2017 estimated tax payments must file 2017 tax returns and pay taxes in full.

March 2 – Automatic extension deadline for employers and health care providers to provide Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to individuals.

March 15

  • 2017 calendar-year S corporation income tax returns are due.
  • 2017 partnership returns are due.
  • Deadline for calendar-year corporations to elect S corporation status for 2018.

Alert: Expired home and education tax breaks revived

Congress passed a federal budget bill in early February that revived dozens of expired tax breaks for the 2017 tax year. They include a deduction for education expenses as well as several tax breaks for homeowners.

If you have not yet filed your 2017 tax return, please be aware these late changes are retroactive to the beginning of 2017. Check out this list of the most useful tax breaks to see if they apply to your situation:

Tuition and fees deduction. If you paid qualified tuition and related higher education expenses, you may be able to deduct as much as $4,000 of those costs. This can be done on a regular return (without itemizing). The deduction is capped at $4,000 for single filers with adjusted gross income (AGI) of $65,000 or less ($130,000 joint) and at $2,000 for single filers with AGI of $80,000 or less ($160,000 joint).

Mortgage insurance deduction. If you paid mortgage insurance premiums, you can now once again deduct those amounts as an itemized deduction. This deduction begins to phase out for taxpayers with AGI of $100,000 or more.

Mortgage debt forgiveness exclusion. If qualifying mortgage debt on your primary residence was discharged or forgiven, you can exclude that amount from your income.

Energy-efficient home improvement credit. Energy-efficient home improvements (such as upgrades to windows, or heating and cooling systems), may be eligible for a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the amount paid, up to $500.

If you think any of these apply to you, bring all the related documentation to your tax filing appointment. If you have already filed, you may need to file an amended tax return to capture these very late law changes.

Answers to commonly asked tax questions

With all of the headlines about the changes to tax law, you probably have lots of questions. Here are answers to some of the most common questions taxpayers have this year.

I’m hearing about a lot of changes to 2018 taxes. What should I do?
A. You’re right, there are a lot of changes in 2018 due to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), including to the income tax brackets. The simple answer to the question, “What should I do?” is to not make any major changes until you finish filing your 2017 taxes. Once you understand your 2017 tax obligation, you are in a better position to plan for 2018.

However, there are a few things you can start thinking about now. Depending on where you fall in the new income tax brackets, you may want to consider ways to lower your taxable income. This could include increasing your contributions to 401(k) retirement accounts or health savings accounts (HSAs). You’ll also want to make sure your employer has adjusted your federal tax withholding so that you don’t have to wait to receive a large refund (or tax bill) next year. You can review the IRS withholding calculator using your latest pay stub data to make sure the changes are accurate.

What is the penalty amount if I didn’t have health insurance in 2017?
A. The penalty per adult is calculated as the greater of either $695 or 2.5 percent of your yearly household income, up to a maximum of $3,264 for individuals or $16,320 for a family of five or more. Note that the penalty is still in place for tax years 2017 and 2018. The TCJA eliminates the penalty for 2019 through 2025.

Is Social Security taxed?
A. It depends. You won’t pay tax on more than 85 percent of your Social Security income, but how much gets taxed depends on your income bracket. If your combined income is less than $25,000 for the year, you won’t pay tax on Social Security income.

When is the last day to do my taxes?
A. Technically, Tuesday, April 17. But don’t wait until the last minute. Ask for help to get started now, or to file an extension so you have time to complete your tax return later. The sooner you file, the sooner you can get your refund. It usually takes about three weeks to arrive from the date you file. Also, remember you need to keep most tax related documents for at least three years, so don’t toss your paperwork after you file.

The IRS contacted me, what should I do?
A. Ask for help. There are numerous scammers who impersonate the IRS during tax season. The real IRS will never contact you via social media, email or text message. In addition, an IRS agent will not contact you over the phone unless you first receive official correspondence in the mail. If you have received a notice in the mail, immediately ask for help to determine how to proceed.

These are just a few of the questions people have during tax season. If you have more, don’t forget to bring them to your 2017 filing appointment.

Tax checklist for business startups

Starting your own business can be equal parts thrilling and intimidating. Complying with regulations and tax requirements definitely falls into the latter category. But, with some professional help, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can get started with this checklist of things you’ll need to consider.

  • Are you a hobby or a business? This may seem basic to some people, but the first thing you’ll have to consider when starting out is whether you really are operating a business, or pursuing a hobby. A hobby can look like a business, but essentially it’s something you do for its own sake that may or may not turn a profit. A true business is generally run for the purpose of making money and has a reasonable expectation of turning a profit. The benefit of operating as a business is that you have more tax tools available to you, such as being able to deduct your losses.
  • Pick your business structure. If you operate as a business, you’ll have to choose whether it will be taxed as a sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation or C corporation. All entities except C corporations “pass through” their business income onto your personal tax return. The decision gets more complicated if you legally organize your business as a limited liability corporation (LLC). In this case you will need to choose your tax status as either a partnership or an S corporation. Each tax structure has its benefits and downsides – it’s best to discuss what is best for you.
  • Apply for tax identification numbers. In most cases, your business will have to apply for an employer identification number (EIN) from both the federal and state governments.
  • Select an accounting method. You’ll have to choose whether to use an accrual or cash accounting method. Generally speaking, the accrual method means your business revenue and expenses are recorded when they are billed. In the cash method, revenue and expenses are instead recorded when you are paid. There are federal rules regarding which option you may use. You will also have to choose whether to operate on a calendar year or fiscal year.
  • Create a plan to track financials. Operating a business successfully requires continuous monitoring of your financial condition. This includes forecasting your financials and tracking actual performance against your projections. Too many businesses fail in the first couple of years because they fail to understand the importance of cash flow for startup operations. Don’t let this be you.
  • Prepare for your tax requirements. Business owners generally will have to make quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS. If you have employees, you’ll have to pay your share of their Social Security and Medicare taxes. You also have the obligation to withhold your employees’ share of taxes, Social Security and Medicare from their wages. Your personal income tax return can also get more complicated if you operate as one of the “pass-through” business structures.

This is just a short list of some of the things you should be ready to discuss as you start your business. Knowing your way around these rules can make the difference between success and failure, but don’t be intimidated. Help is available so don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions.

Taxes and virtual currencies: What you need to know

Virtual currencies are all the rage lately. Here are some tax consequences you must know if you decide to dip your toe into that world.

The IRS is paying close attention
The first thing to know is that the IRS is scrutinizing virtual currency transactions, so if you live in the U.S. you’ll have to report your transactions in Bitcoins and the like to the IRS. Despite some early misconceptions, virtual currency transactions can be traced back to their owners by governments and other cyber sleuths.

If you decide to use or hold virtual currencies, carefully report and pay tax on your transactions. Act as if you are going to be audited, because if you don’t, you just might be!

It’s property, not money
Note that the IRS doesn’t consider Bitcoin or other virtual currencies as money, because they aren’t legal tender. Instead, they are considered property. That means that if you are paid in Bitcoin, you will have to report it as income based on its fair market value on the date you received it.

And, if you sell Bitcoin, you have to pay tax on your gain using the cost (basis) of when you received it. The IRS has said that if Bitcoin is held as a capital asset, like a stock or a bond, then you would pay capital gains tax. Otherwise, if it is not held as a capital asset (for example if it is treated as inventory that you intend to sell to customers), it would be taxed as ordinary income.

Be aware of the risk
In addition to the increased oversight by the IRS, virtual currencies are at risk of virtual theft with no recourse to a government agency like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, which insures U.S. bank balances. Do your research on storage and security before you invest. And if you need help with any tax questions related to virtual currency, don’t hesitate to call.

Tips for when your employees are family members

Working with family can be a pleasure. It can also be a pain, especially if you have to terminate a family member’s employment. Here are tips to help you ease the strain of mixing your family and employee relationships.

Hire for the right reasons. Make your hiring and firing decisions based on the skill sets needed to keep your business operating effectively. Hiring your son because he’s struggling to find a job is not a good business reason for bringing staff on board.

Set clear expectations. Communicate the job’s performance requirements to your family member right from the start. Clearly define company policies for promotion, compensation and termination. Make it plain that unethical conduct will not be tolerated.

Avoid nepotism. Nepotism is our human habit of treating family members more favorably than others. Keep in mind that your non-family employees will be hypersensitive to any favoritism you show to relatives.

Document performance. Throughout your family member’s tenure, maintain a detailed personnel file that tracks behavior resulting in disciplinary actions. In the unfortunate case of a necessary firing, a well-documented file will provide a narrative record that lays out your reasons and clearly communicates the evidence leading to your decision.

If you have to fire, keep it professional. Set a formal termination meeting. You may want to involve a direct supervisor or a human resources professional to ensure that your company is appropriately represented and to prevent the conversation from lapsing into emotional arguments.

The bottom line: Adhere to formal business standards and communicate in a professional, businesslike manner with your related employees.

New 2018 capital expense rules

There are many provisions in the tax reform bill passed in late 2017 designed to benefit small business owners. There are also a variety of new tax tools affecting how small businesses account for deducting the cost of capital purchases under the new tax law. Here’s what you need to know:

Tool #1: Section 179 deduction
The new law increases the amount of business property purchases that you can expense each year under Section 179 to $1 million (from $500,000 previously). Normally, spending on business property (machines, computers, vehicles, software, office equipment, etc.) is capitalized and depreciated so that the tax benefit is spread out slowly over several years. Section 179 allows you to get the tax break immediately in the year the property is placed into service.

Tips:

  • There is an eligibility phaseout for Section 179 that ensures it’s only used by small businesses, but that was also raised to $2.5 million (from $2 million) by the new law. If you spend more than $2.5 million on business property in total during the year, your ability to use the $1 million Section 179 deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar above that amount.
  • Section 179 deductions can be used on both new and used equipment.
  • You can now use Section 179 on property used to furnish lodging or in connection with furnishing lodging (such as rental real estate). It also includes improvements to nonresidential real estate assets such as roofs, heating and air conditioning, and alarm systems.

Tool #2: Bonus depreciation
Bonus depreciation limits (also known as first-year bonus depreciation) are also improved under the new law, but for a limited time. Bonus depreciation is similar to Section 179 and allows you to immediately expense capital purchases rather than depreciating them over several years.

Under the new law, first-year bonus depreciation increases to 100 percent of the qualified asset purchase price for the next five tax years (starting in 2018) and can now be applied to the expense of purchasing used property as well as new.

Tips:

  • Bonus depreciation is typically used on short-lived capital investments (with a 20-year or less useful life) such as machinery, equipment and software.
  • Bonus depreciation had been only for purchases of new equipment, but can now be applied to used equipment as long as you place it into service at your business during the tax year.
  • The allowable bonus depreciation starts to decline after 2022. It falls to 80 percent in 2023, 60 percent in 2024, 40 percent in 2025 and 20 percent in 2026.

Remember, though tax reform gives you expanded tools to accelerate depreciation, it may not benefit you to use them in every case. Sometimes it’s better to use the standard capitalization and depreciation tax treatment. These tax benefits do not change the amount a capital purchase can be expensed – only the timing. Calculating whether your business will benefit from these

Tax filing reminders

Tax filing reminders

February 28 – Payers must file most other Forms 1099 (except certain Forms 1099-MISC due Jan. 31) with the IRS. (April 2 if filing electronically.)

March 1 – Farmers and fishermen who did not make 2017 estimated tax payments must file 2017 tax returns and pay taxes in full.

March 2 – Automatic extension deadline for employers and health care providers to provide Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to individuals.

March 15

  • 2017 calendar-year S corporation income tax returns are due.
  • 2017 partnership returns are due.
  • Deadline for calendar-year corporations to elect S corporation status for 2018.

The best way to avoid an audit: Preparation

Getting audited by the IRS is no fun. Some taxpayers are selected for random audits every year, but the chances of that happening to you are very small. You are much more likely to fall under the IRS’s gaze if you make one of several common mistakes.

That means your best chance of avoiding an audit is by doing things right before you file your return this year. Here are some suggestions:

Don’t leave anything out. Missing or incomplete information on your return will trigger an audit letter automatically, since the IRS gets copies of the same tax forms (such as W-2s and 1099s) that you do.

Double-check your numbers. Bad math will get you audited. People often make calculation errors when they do their returns, especially if they do them without assistance. In 2016, the IRS sent out more than 1.6 million examination letters correcting math errors. The most frequent errors occurred in people’s calculation of their amount of tax due, as well as the number of exemptions and deductions they claimed.

Don’t stand out. The IRS takes a closer look at business expenses, charitable donations and high-value itemized deductions. IRS computers reference statistical data on which amounts of these items are typical for various professions and income levels. If what you are claiming is significantly different from what is typical, it may be flagged for review.

Have your documentation in order. Keep your records in order by being meticulous about your recordkeeping. Items that will support the tax breaks you take include: cancelled checks, receipts, credit card and investment statements, logs for mileage and business meals, and proof of charitable donations. With proper documentation, a correspondence letter from the IRS inquiring about a particular deduction can be quickly resolved before it turns into a full-blown audit.

Remember, the average person has a less than 1 percent chance of being audited. If you prepare now, you can narrow your audit chances even further and rest easy after you’ve filed.

Mileage rates for 2018

The IRS recently announced mileage rates to be used for travel in 2018. The standard business mileage rate increased by 1 cent to 54.5 cents per mile. The medical and moving mileage rates also increased by 1 cent, to 18 cents per mile. Charitable mileage rates remained unchanged at 14 cents per mile.

 

Remember to properly document your mileage to receive full credit for your miles driven.

Looking ahead: Tax reform in 2018

Congress has passed tax reform that will take effect in 2018, ushering in some of the most significant tax changes in three decades. Here are some major items in the new bill that impact individual taxpayers.

  • Reduces income tax brackets. The bill retains seven brackets, but at reduced rates, with the highest tax bracket dropping to 37 percent from 39.6 percent.
  • Double standard deductions. The standard deduction nearly doubles to $12,000 for single filers and $24,000 for married filing jointly. To help cover the cost, personal exemptions and most additional standard deductions are suspended.
  • Limits itemized deductions. Many itemized deductions are no longer available, or are now limited. Here are some of the major examples:
    • Caps state and local tax deductions. State and local tax deductions are limited to $10,000 total for all property, income and sales taxes.
    • Caps mortgage interest deductions. For new acquisition indebtedness, mortgage interest will be deductible on indebtedness of no more than $750,000. Existing mortgages are unaffected by the new cap as the new limits go into place for acquisition indebtedness after Dec. 14, 2017. The act also suspends the deductibility of interest on home equity debt.
    • Limit on theft and casualty losses. Now only available for federally declared disaster areas.
    • No more 2 percent miscellaneous deductions. Most miscellaneous deductions subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income threshold are now gone.
  • Cuts some above-the-line deductions. Moving expense deductions get eliminated except for active-duty military personnel, along with alimony deductions beginning in 2019.
  • Weakens the alternative minimum tax (AMT). The bill retains the alternative minimum tax but changes the exemption to $109,400 for joint filers and the phaseout threshold to $1 million. The changes mean the AMT will affect far fewer people than before.
  • Bumps up child tax credit, adds family tax credit. The child tax credit increases to $2,000 from $1,000, with $1,400 of it being refundable even if no tax is owed. The phaseout threshold increases sharply to $400,000 from $110,000 for joint filers, making it available to more taxpayers. Also, dependents ineligible for the child tax credit can qualify for a new $500-per-person family tax credit.
  • Expands use of 529 education savings plans. Qualified distributions from 529 education savings plans, which are not subject to tax, now include tuition payments for students in K-12 private schools.
  • Doubles estate tax exemption. Estate taxes will apply to fewer people, with the exemption doubled to $11.2 million ($22.4 million for a married couple).
  • Reduces pass-through business taxes. Most owners of pass-through entities such as S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships will see their income tax lowered with a new 20 percent income reduction calculation.

Tax filing reminders

  • January 16 – Due date for the fourth installment of 2017 individual estimated tax.
  • January 31 –
    • Due date for employers to furnish W-2 statements to employees, and to file Forms W-2 with the Social Security Administration (both paper and electronic forms).
    • Due date for payers to provide most Forms 1099-MISC with non-employee compensation in box 7 to recipients and to the IRS.
    • Employers must file 2017 federal unemployment tax returns and pay any tax due.
    • Due date for providers to send Forms 1095 to recipients and the IRS.

What’s due on April 18?

  • 2016 individual income tax returns
  • Calendar-year 2016 C corporation income tax returns
  • 2016 annual gift tax returns
  • 2016 IRA contributions
  • 2017 individual estimated tax first quarter installment
  • 2013 individual tax return amendments unless the 2013 return had a filing extension

Apply for an extension if you can’t file by April 18

Tax time can be stressful, but don’t panic if you can’t file your tax return on time. There’s still time to get an automatic six-month deadline extension.

There are four ways to obtain an extension:

  1. File a paper copy of Form 4868 with the IRS and enclose your payment of estimated tax due.
  2. File for an extension electronically using the IRS e-file system on your computer.
  3. Using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, pay all or part of your estimated income tax due and indicate that the payment is for an extension.
  4. Have your tax preparer e-file for an extension on your behalf.

Remember that even if you file for an extension, you are still required to pay any taxes you owe by the April 18 filing deadline. An extension gives you more time to file your tax return, but not more time to pay the taxes you owe. You will be charged interest on any taxes you owe and do not pay by the filing deadline. If you are unable to pay on time, contact the IRS to set up a payment agreement.

Special extension rules apply to members of the military serving in combat zones and to certain others who live outside the U.S. Give us a call so we can discuss whether or not an extension is right for your situation.

IRS interest rates remain the same for second quarter 2017

Interest rates charged by the IRS on underpaid taxes and applied by the IRS on tax overpayments will remain the same for the second quarter of 2017 (April 1 through June 30). Therefore, the rates will be as follows for individuals and corporations:

For individuals:

  • 4% charged on underpayments; 4% paid on overpayments.

For corporations:

  • 4% charged on underpayments; 3% paid on overpayments.
  • 6% charged on large corporate underpayments.
  • 5% paid on the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000.

Springtime remodeling – know the tax impacts

Spring fever often influences homeowners to update and remodel. Maybe you’re considering a new project, too. You may need to replace your deck or remodel your kitchen. If you have a remodeling project coming up, you should understand the tax consequences.

If your project qualifies as an improvement to your home, you’ll enjoy some tax benefits. But if the project is a repair, there’s generally no tax benefit. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell the difference.

An improvement is defined by the IRS as something that adds value to your home or extends its life. Putting in a new kitchen, building an extension or adding a new deck are considered improvements because they add value. Replacing the roof is an improvement because it extends the life of your home.

On the other hand, a repair merely keeps the home in good working order. Examples of repairs include painting the interior or exterior or replacing a few missing shingles.

You can get tax benefits by adding the cost of your home improvements to your original cost basis. That’s the amount you first paid for the home. When you sell, a higher cost basis means a smaller capital gain. And generally you’ll only pay tax on a capital gain greater than $500,000 ($250,000 for singles). So, the smaller your capital gain, the less likely you are to owe tax when you sell.

That’s why it’s important to save bills and receipts for any projects that may qualify as improvements. Include notes that describe the related home improvement. You may need to keep these receipts for years until you sell your home. But when you do, these updates could be the key to reducing a possible tax bill.

If you want to know whether your project is a repair or an improvement, please call our office.

2013 unclaimed tax refunds

The IRS announced that an estimated one million taxpayers who did not file an income tax return in 2013 could claim their share of $1 billion in unclaimed refunds for the 2013 tax year. The law gives most taxpayers a three-year time period to claim a tax refund. After that time, the money belongs to the U.S. Treasury. So if you did not file in 2013, to be safe, send your 2013 tax return via certified mail to arrive at the IRS by April 18.

Major tax deadlines for March

March 2

  • Large employers and others must furnish Form 1095-B or Form 1095-C to employees.

March 15

  • 2016 calendar-year S corporation Form 1120S income tax returns are due.
  • 2016 calendar-year partnerships Form 1065 income tax returns are due.

March 31

  • Forms 1095-B and 1095-C due to the IRS, if filing electronically. Employers who have 250 or more employees are required to file electronically.

Reminder: Partnership tax returns due one month earlier

Remember, partnership tax returns are now due on March 15. This is a month earlier than last year. The change is important to note, as filing the tax return late could result in unexpected penalties. The new due date now aligns filing Form 1065 with other flow-through entities like S corporation Form 1120S. If you get caught by surprise with this earlier filing date, contact us immediately. 

2016 proof of health insurance: the Form 1095 wrinkle

Under the current Affordable Care Act (ACA), all Americans must have health insurance. If you receive your health insurance through the ACA marketplace or from your employer, you will receive a Form 1095. This form is used as documentation that you have adequate insurance and is used for other ACA reporting and potential tax benefits.

What’s happening now

Prior to filing your tax return you should receive your Form 1095 and review it for accuracy. If you receive your health insurance through a state or federal marketplace you will receive Form 1095-A. Otherwise your version of the form will be either Form 1095-B or Form 1095-C. Unfortunately, some providers of the “B and C” versions of Form 1095 are still having trouble issuing the forms on time. Because of this, the IRS has issued a notice backing off on this “receive the form before you file” requirement. While you will still need to prove you have adaquate health insurance, the suppliers of the Form 1095-B and Form 1095-C were given until as late as March 2 to get the form out to you.

What to do

  • If you have health insurance through a state or federal marketplace, you will receive a Form 1095-A. You should have already received this form, and you must have it prior to filing your tax return.
  • If you receive health insurance through your employer, or another program that generates Form 1095-B or 1095-C, for 2016 only, you can still file a tax return without receiving the form. Just make sure you can prove health insurance coverage for you, your spouse, and your dependents for the year.
  • Place Form 1095 in your tax files. Even though some Forms 1095-B and Forms 1095-C will be received later, you must still retain the form in your files.
  • If you file your tax return and then discover an error in your reporting based on a Form 1095-B or Form 1095-C received after February 1, there is penalty relief from the IRS if you need to amend your tax return.

Remember, this applies to the 2016 tax year only. For the 2017 tax year, unless changed, you will be required to use a Form 1095 as proof of health insurance prior to filing your tax return.

Current tax law requires health insurance

During his first week in office, President Trump signed an executive order asking federal agencies to reduce the economic burden the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) puts on American citizens.

Unfortunately, this executive order is causing confusion. Many people are left wondering if fines will no longer be imposed or rules no longer need to be followed. Until the agencies impacted by this executive order publish their intent, act as though current laws are still in play. This includes:

  • The requirement to have health insurance
  • The requirement to pay a shared responsibility tax if you do not have continuous health insurance coverage
  • The ability to receive a health insurance premium credit if you qualify
  • Possible health insurance credits for qualifying small businesses

It’s important to realize that unless tax laws actually change, you are expected to follow the laws as they are currently written.

More credits require questions

Common errors have helped to make the Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC) a major source of what the IRS calls “improper payments.” The agency estimates that of the $66 billion in EIC funds paid in 2015, nearly a quarter were collected by filers who didn’t qualify to receive them. To help combat this problem, the IRS now requires additional confirmation of information regarding the EIC and three new credits beginning in 2016.

Now if you claim the EIC, the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), or the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), additional information may be requested of you.
For the CTC and ACTC, you may be asked how long your children lived with you over the past year, or whether they lived with an ex-spouse, relatives, or other guardian.

If you are eligible for the AOTC, which is a credit to defray as much as $2,500 in higher education costs for you or your children, you will need to provide Form 1098-T from the college or university. You will also need receipts for related expenses.

You may also be asked to double-check your social security numbers and dates of birth for the dependents on your return, as these are two common sources of error.

If you get more questions than usual or are asked for additional documents, be aware that it’s just a new reporting requirement required by the IRS.

Mark your calendar: First quarter 2017 tax deadlines

Tax return filing season has arrived, which means it’s time to mark your calendar for these 2017 tax deadlines.

  • January 17 – Due date for the fourth and final installment of 2016 estimated tax for individuals (unless you file your 2016 return and pay any balance due by January 31).
  • January 31 – Employers must furnish 2016 W-2 statements to employees, and send copies to the Social Security Administration (both paper and electronic).
  • January 31 – Payers must file all copies of 2016 Forms 1099-MISC with non-employee compensation in Box 7. For these forms, the January 31 due date applies to both paper and electronic filing.
  • January 31 – Employers must generally file 2016 federal unemployment tax returns and pay any tax due.
  • February 28 – Payers must file information returns (except certain Forms 1099-MISC) with the IRS. (Except for certain Forms 1099-MISC, March 31 is the deadline if filing electronically.)
  • March 1 – Farmers and fishermen who did not make 2016 estimated tax payments must file 2016 tax returns and pay taxes in full.
  • March 2 – Large employers must furnish Form 1095-B and Form 1095-C to employees.

Note the new due dates for Forms W-2 and 1099

Did you spot the new due dates on the tax calendar? As you begin your January payroll preparation, take into account earlier due dates for two common information reporting forms.
Forms W-2 for 2016 are due January 31 for all copies. In the past, you had to provide Forms W-2 to your employees by January 31. Now the January 31 deadline also applies to copies submitted to the Social Security Administration.

The due date for filing all copies of 2016 Forms 1099-MISC with non-employee compensation in Box 7 is January 31, 2017. For these forms, the January 31 due date also applies to both paper and electronic filing.

IRS extended the due date for Forms 1095

When you’re an applicable large employer (generally, when you employ 50 or more full-time workers and equivalents), you’re required to provide information about health coverage to the IRS and to your employees. The IRS extended the date on which two of these forms are due to your employees. Instead of being due January 31, Form 1095-B, Health Coverage, and Form 1095-C, Employer Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage,  are now due March 2, 2017. There is no change to the February 28, 2017, due date for filing paper forms with the IRS, nor the March 31, 2017, due date for filing electronically.

2017 financial shape up: Small steps toward big goals

Shaping up your finances in 2017 may seem like a big goal, perhaps even too daunting. But if you take one small step at a time, these small steps will add up. Here are suggestions.

  • Shift out of automatic. Have you established automatic bill pay at your bank or service provider, or automatic charges to your credit card?
    Small step: Look for payments for goods or services you no longer use, such as recurring monthly subscriptions, and cancel them.
    Big goal: Reduce total expenses and increase savings.
  • Take the urgency out of emergency. Sure, you know that having an account with enough funds specifically earmarked for emergencies is a good idea. But the amount you need to save seems overwhelming. The good news is you don’t have to immediately fund six months of living expenses.
    Small step: Set up a separate account with automatic deposits of $5 or $10 per paycheck, perhaps with funds you’ve redirected from those unused recurring monthly subscriptions.
    Big goal: An emergency fund with enough cash to cover six months of expenses.
  • Give yourself credit. Maybe you intend to pay off your credit card debt. But do you have a plan? Knowing where you stand is the first step in getting to where you want to be.
    Small step: Make a list of your cards, the balances, the minimum payments, and the interest rates.
    Big goal: Eliminate finance charges by being able to pay off your balance each month.
  • Retire your excuses. Does your employer offer a retirement plan? If so, you may be leaving money on the table.
    Small step: Find out what amount is on offer as “matching” funds. That’s money your employer will add to your account when you make contributions.
    Big goal: Maximize your retirement contributions.
    Small steps can lead to big improvements in your financial well-being. Contact us for more tips.

Standard mileage rates go down for 2017

Have you noticed the price of gas? So has the IRS – and the reimbursement rate for business mileage has gone down as a result. The new rate for 2017 is 53.5¢ per mile, down from the 2016 rate of 54¢ per mile.

The rate for medical and moving mileage also decreased. Effective January 1, the standard rate is 17¢ per mile, down from last year’s 19¢. The charitable mileage rate remains 14¢.

Some federal income tax refunds may be temporarily delayed

In general, you can expect your federal refund to be issued approximately 21 days after your electronically filed tax return has been accepted. However, identity theft is still a major problem, and the IRS continues to implement new strategies to protect taxpayer data. For example, if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on your 2016 individual federal income tax return, your refund will be held until February 15.

Save yourself some stress. Start your year-end tax review now

An important part of our service to you is to help identify actions you can take before year-end to minimize your personal 2016 federal income tax bill. Accelerating or delaying income and deductions, contributing to retirement plans, and taking investment losses are just a few of the strategies you might want to consider. Here’s a checklist to help you get started.

  • Max out your 401(k) before year-end. For 2016, you can set aside $18,000 if you’re under age 50. If you’re 50 or older, you can contribute $24,000.
  • Get your investment planning in order. Year-end sell decisions, either to rebalance your portfolio at the lowest tax cost or to offset gains and losses, are only one aspect of investment planning. Another is keeping good records for the reinvested dividends of stocks you sell in 2016. Reinvested dividends add to your cost basis and reduce taxable gain or increase the deductible loss on the sale. Finally, consider the wash sale rule. This rule disallows a current-year loss when you purchase substantially identical securities within a 61-day period. If you plan to sell stocks to secure a loss, and intend to buy the stock back, don’t wait until the last moment.
  • Make gifts before year-end. The use-it-or-lose-it tax-free gifting allowance is $14,000 per donee for 2016. Remember, gifts to individuals are not tax-deductible.
  • Contribute to your Health Savings Account. Within limits, contributions are tax-deductible and can be used tax-free to pay unreimbursed medical expenses.
  • Keep an eye on the “kiddie tax.” This tax on your dependent child’s unearned income in excess of certain limits applies when your child is under age 19 (under age 24 if a full-time student).

We have more planning strategies to save you tax dollars. Contact us for a year-end review.

Insurance enrollment begins this month

Beginning this month, you can sign up for a new 2017 health insurance policy on the health insurance Marketplace. You can also change or renew the policy you purchased during the last enrollment period. Even if your current policy has an automatic renewal feature, you’ll want to verify that you’re getting the best deal, and that you are still eligible for the federal premium tax credit.

What if you didn’t sign up last winter and didn’t have health insurance coverage in 2016? You may owe a penalty on your 2016 federal income tax return. The penalty is calculated in one of two ways: as a percentage of your income, or on a per-person basis. You pay whichever is higher.

For 2016, the penalty is 2.5% of your annual household income, up to a maximum of the national average premium for a Bronze plan. The per-person penalty is $695 per adult and $347.50 per child under 18 (up to a maximum per-family penalty of $2,085).