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IRS Business Owners

Interacting with the IRS: New Business Owners

Did you start or acquire a new business this year? If so, you may feel a little overwhelmed with the new responsibilities and you could be a little intimidated interacting with the IRS for the first time. The first thing you should do as a new business owner is get a tax ID number or Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can apply for this directly through the IRS online.

Your Tax Responsibilities:
  • File your business’s annual income tax return
  • Pay estimated taxes for you if you own a pass-through entity or for your C Corporation
  • Payroll Tax Activities: withholding, depositing payments, and filing employer tax returns
  • Submit information returns if you have independent contractors, maintain qualified retirement plans, or offer other benefit programs to your staff

You can and sometimes must handle certain tax responsibilities electronically. Many online activities can be facilitated utilizing government provided resources listed below. Not everything listed below may apply to you so remember to consult your accountant if you have any questions.

Depositing Taxes
  • If you have a payroll or make estimated tax payments, schedule your tax deposits in advance by using EFTPS.gov.
  • Transmit W-2s to the Social Security Administration
  • Submit copies of employees’ W-2s with an IRS transmittal form (Form W-3) to the Social Security Administration through the Business Services Online. This suite of services allows organizations, businesses, individuals, employers, attorneys, non-attorneys representing Social Security claimants, and third-parties to exchange information with Social Security securely over the internet. You must register and create your own password to access Business Services Online.
  • Remit Information Returns to the IRS
  • You may have to file annual information returns to inform the IRS about your payments to independent contractors you utilize. Complete this task through the Filing Independent Returns Electronically (FIRE) System
Filing Annual Retirement Plan Returns

If you want or need to file a form in the 5500 series electronically, do this through the Department of Labor’s EFAST2. This is an all-electronic system designed by the Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. The purpose is to simplify and expedite the submission, receipt, and processing of the Form 5500 and Form 5500-SF. These forms must be electronically filed each year by employee benefit plans to satisfy annual reporting requirements under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Internal Revenue Code.

If you need assistance with any of the required tasks above, our professionals can help. Click here to contact us today!

The Impact of Increased Take Home Pay on Your Tax Return

What could increased take-home pay mean for your 2018 tax return?

The recent tax reform has instituted a variety of changes in both individual taxes and business taxes starting in 2018. Many Americans can expect a decrease in tax, and with the new federal withholding tables released earlier this year, an increase in take home pay. Less tax and more pay, what’s not to like?

The goal of this change in federal withholding tables was to adjust for the new changes that will impact individual taxpayers. Some of the major changes include a decrease in tax rates, an increase in the standard deduction, and a repeal of personal exemptions.

However, we have found that the change in withholding may not be enough to cover tax liability in many cases. In the past, many relied on Form W-4 without much extra thought to get them close to the amount needed to pay their tax. This year, we suggest analyzing it a little further. Taxpayers may get less of a refund than they are used to or even owe tax in April 2019, even though their tax rate is lower.

Example: Vince is single, has no dependents, and earns $50,000 in wages in 2017. He is paid on a bi-weekly basis. The result is $296 in federal income tax being withheld from each paycheck or $7,707 withheld for the year. Vince’s actual tax liability, including the 2017 standard deduction of $6,350 and exemption of $4,050, is $5,645. This gives Vince a refund of $2,062.

Under the new tax law, assuming the same income, the 2018 standard deduction of $12,000 and no personal exemption, Vince’s tax liability will be $4,370. Due to the withholding changes implemented in February, Vince’s federal income tax being withheld for the year will be $6,247 (The above $296 for two pay periods and the new rate of $236 for twenty-four pay periods). This gives Vince a refund of $1,877.

As you can see above, although Vince’s tax liability decreased $1,275 from 2017 to 2018, he receives less of a refund. This example does not take into account any extraneous circumstances such as investment income, itemized deductions or dependents that many taxpayers have. If Vince has other sources of income and got a smaller refund for 2017, he could owe tax for 2018.

Luckily, the IRS has released a tax calculator to help check how much you should be withholding in 2018. If you are not familiar with how to use the calculator, this video will demonstrate how.

If you identify a needed change in your withholding, please contact your employer to fill out a new Form W-4. LBA Haynes Strand can also provide additional analysis and answer any other questions you might have about this subject.

What Changes Are Coming To Your Social Security and Retirement Plans in 2018?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released cost of living (COLA) changes for 2018.  From 401(k) plans to individual retirement accounts to Social Security, the federal government has been busy in recent weeks adjusting numbers for 2018. Whether you’re an employee or business owner, senior management or nonexempt staff, these changes may affect how you approach retirement in the coming months and years.

401(k) elective deferrals:

Employees who participate in 401(k)’s, 403(b)’s and certain 457 plans can electively defer up to $18,500 of compensation in 2018, up from $18,000 in 2017.

Individual Retirement accounts:

Eligible individuals will be able to contribute up to $5,500 to their IRA in 2018, unchanged from 2017.  The deduction phase out at certain AGI levels for individuals covered by employer plans will increase as well as AGI levels for allowable Roth contributions, depending on filing status.

Catch-up contributions:

Eligible individuals age 50 and above may continue to make contributions to IRA’s, 401(k)’s and other savings arrangements in 2018.  The amounts of $1,000 for IRA’s and $6,000 for 401(k)’s, SEP’s, 457’s, and 403(b)’s remain unchanged for 2018.

Annual compensation limits:

The maximum annual compensation counted for an eligible employee participating in 401(k)’s, SEP and certain other qualified plans will increase to $275,000 in 2018, up from $270,000 in 2017.  The total amount that can be contributed will increase from $54,000 to $55,000.

Social security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI):

Social Security and SSI beneficiaries will receive a 2% increase in their benefits in 2018 based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index for the year ending September 30, 2017.  However, beneficiaries having the Medicare Part B premiums deducted from their benefits may see an increase in the amount of monthly premiums by the lesser of $3.00 or their COLA increase in monthly Social Security benefit.

Other Social Security related changes for employees and employers:

The maximum taxable earnings for Social Security taxes will increase to $128,700 in 2018, up from $127,200 for 2017.  The Social Security withholdings will continue at 6.2% on the maximum earnings and the Medicare tax withholding will continue at 1.45% on all compensation.

In 2018 individuals under full retirement age who have filed for Social Security benefits can earn $17,040 per year or $1,420 per month before $1 in benefit will be withheld for every $2 of earnings above these limits.  In the year the individual reaches full retirement age, they may earn $3,780 per month during the months prior to attaining full retirement age

Please contact us if you have any questions on these changes or the new phase out levels.

Tax Deductions to Keep in Mind When Traveling for Charity

It’s almost that time again… Tax Season! We want to make sure that you are taking advantage of all the tax deductions that are available to you when you are traveling for charity. There are a few things that you want to make sure you are doing to make sure the deductions qualify. 

A few tips to remember are:
  • Make sure the Charity qualifies by the IRS standards
  • Ask the Charity about their status before you donate
  • Know what Out-of-Pocket Expenses are deductible
  • Recognize the travel expenses that are deductible and not deductible – some types of travel are NOT deductible

To see specific tips from the IRS on this topic, CLICK HERE. If you have any additional questions about tax deductions when traveling for charity, contact us today!

IRS Announces Top Tax Scams for 2017

The IRS has announced the completion of its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. The annual list highlights various schemes that taxpayers might encounter throughout the year, and especially during tax-filing season. “Taxpayers need to guard against ploys to steal their personal information, scam them out of money or talk them into engaging in questionable behavior with their taxes,” the IRS said.

The “Dirty Dozen” scams the IRS highlighted in 2017 are as follows:

Phishing: Taxpayers are advised to be on guard against fake emails or websites looking to steal their personal information. Specifically, they are warned to avoid opening surprise emails or clicking on web links claiming to be from the IRS, as the IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email about a bill or refund.

Phone Scams: Taxpayers are warned that aggressive and threatening phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing danger. The IRS said it has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years, as con artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation, and revocation of their driver’s license if they fail to pay a bogus tax bill.

Identity Theft: The IRS is advising taxpayers to watch out for identity theft, especially around tax time. Taxpayers are cautioned to always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections, to make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update, to encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on the computer, and to use strong passwords.

Return Preparer Fraud: Taxpayers are cautioned to be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers, and to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare a tax return.

Fake Charities: The IRS is warning taxpayers to be wary of groups masquerading as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors, and especially of charities with names similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Taxpayers should avoid giving out financial information to individuals soliciting for charity, and should check the status of charitable organizations using the IRS website.

Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers are cautioned to be on the lookout for individuals promising inflated refunds. In particular, taxpayers should be wary of anyone who asks them to sign a blank return, promises a big refund before looking at their records, or charges fees based on a percentage of the refund.

Excessive Claims for Business Credits: The IRS is warning taxpayers to avoid improperly claiming the fuel tax credit, pointing out that this tax benefit is generally not available to most taxpayers, as it is usually limited to off-highway business use. Taxpayers are also cautioned to avoid claiming the research credit unless they can demonstrate that they participated in qualified research activities or satisfy the requirements related to qualified research expenses.

Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns: Taxpayers are urged to resist the temptation to falsely inflate deductions or expenses on their returns. In particular, the IRS warned taxpayers against overstating deductions such as charitable contributions and business expenses, or improperly claiming credits such as the earned income tax credit or the child tax credit.

Falsifying Income to Claim Credits: The IRS is advising taxpayers to avoid inventing income to erroneously qualify for tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit. Taxpayers are warned that individuals are sometimes talked into falsifying their income by con artists. These scams can lead to taxpayers facing large bills to pay back taxes, interest, and penalties; and may even result in criminal prosecution.

Abusive Tax Shelters: Taxpayers are cautioned against using abusive tax structures to avoid paying taxes, and are advised to be on the lookout for individuals advertising tax shelters that sound too good to be true. The IRS emphasized that it is committed to stopping complex tax avoidance schemes and the individuals who create and sell them.

Frivolous Tax Arguments: Taxpayers are warned not to use frivolous tax arguments to avoid paying tax, as the penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000. The IRS noted that there are frivolous schemes that encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims, even though such claims have been repeatedly thrown out of court.

Offshore Tax Avoidance: The IRS is cautioning taxpayers against trying to hide money and income offshore, pointing to a recent string of successful enforcement actions against offshore tax cheats and the financial organizations that help them. The IRS recommended that taxpayers with unreported funds in offshore accounts catch up on their filing and tax obligations through the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program.

*Content provided by MHM publications*

Tax Design Challenge: Reimagine The Taxpayer Experience

The IRS has created a tax design challenge for the taxpayers. Taxpayers are encouraged to reimagine the entire taxpayer experience and design the experience of the future. The IRS is offering a $10,000 award for the Best Overall Design and a number of other prizes for those that are most useful and most financially capable. To see the full Challenge outline: CLICK HERE! Submissions must be made by May 10, 2016 at 11:59AM Eastern Time.

Judging Criteria:

The review panel will make selections based upon the following criteria:

  • Overall Appeal
  • Taxpayer Usefulness
  • Financial Capability
  • Visual Hierarchy
  • Information Density
  • Accessibility
Prize Information

A review panel will select winners based on defined criteria and an individual submission can win multiple awards:

  • Overall Design—$10,000 (1st), and $5,000 (2nd).
  • Best Taxpayer Usefulness—$2,000 (1st), and $1,000 (2nd).
  • Best Financial Capability—$2,000 (1st), and $1,000 (2nd)
Think You Have What It Takes?

If you have been frustrated with the tax paying process and experience, then this is your chance to offer a solution. With this opportunity, you have a chance to make the tax paying experience easier, simpler, and better! Throughout the competition, participants will have the chance to engage with policy experts and a network of mentors that include world-class strategists and designers from government and non-government organizations. The team at LBA Haynes Strand will be happy to assist you with this tax design challenge!

Be Prepared: Fraud Is On The Rise During Tax Season

Did you know that ALREADY the IRS is warning that is has seen a 400% surge in phishing and malware compared to the last tax year?  Unfortunately tax season now coincides with “fraud season”.

Last week the IRS warned of the dramatic increase in official-looking text and email messages that taxpayers have received.  Phishing messages have been received asking for a wide variety of sensitive information, including filing status, personal information confirmations, PIN verifications, and more.  The messages have been created to look official as if they have been sent from the IRS or a tax software company and are being received in every corner of the United States.

Next time you open up that email that is asking for important personal information, take notice of who the sender is and the link that they are trying to make you click on.  Chances are that the link is hyperlinked to a fraudulent website, in hopes that you enter in your information there.  A trick is to “hover” your mouse above the link and then see where you are really being re-directed, if the link looks odd (which it probably will), then delete the email.  If you are unsure, you can always send the email to your CPA, and he or she can then advise on the validity of the email.

Remember: The IRS generally does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text, or social media, or phone calls for that matter. So if you receive a message, be suspicious!

Some subject lines that the IRS has seen in phishing scams, include:

  • Confirm your personal information
  • Get my IP PIN
  • Get my E-file PIN
  • Order a transcript
  • Complete you tax return information
  • Variations about people’s tax refunds
  • Update your filing details, which can include references to W-2

To report a phishing scam to the IRS, email phishing@irs.gov.

This blog was created for your protection, please be aware of these circumstances and alert your CPA if you are ever unsure.  We have experience in dealing with the IRS and can quickly let you know if something is or isn’t a fraudulent message.