California and Tennessee to Receive Tax Relief Following Disasters

California and Tennessee have been plagued by natural disasters in recent weeks. Californians have been affected by massive wildfires, while Tennesseeans have struggled with storm damage. In light of this, the federal government is offering affected citizens some tax relief options.

California wildfire victims residing in the counties of Lassen, Placer, Plumas, or Nevada, have until November 15th, 2021 to file individual and business returns or payments. This includes quarterly tax payments, excise tax returns, and quarterly payroll. November 15th will also serve as the new deadline for those who had received an extension on their 2020 returns.

Penalties on payments that were due between July 14th and July 29th of 2021 will also be forgiven if the payments were made by July 29.

Tennessee residents or business owners who were impacted by storm damage in Houston, Dickson, Humphreys, or Hickman county also qualify for tax relief. Those who had received an extension to their 2020 returns will now have until January 3rd, 2022 to file. That is also the new deadline for the quarterly tax payments that would’ve normally been due in September of 2021.

Penalties on payments that were due between August 21st and September 7th of 2021 will be dropped if the payments were made by September 7th of 2021.

If you’re a victim of the California fires or Tennessee storms and you receive a notice from the IRS that you’re being penalized for late filing or late payment but you believe you qualify for the tax extensions, you can contact the number on the notice. Explain your situation and they’ll be able to help you determine if you are eligible and if you are, they can remove the penalty from your file.

The IRS is making every attempt to automatically identify taxpayers who reside in the areas covered by the disaster extensions. When they identify these people, they apply the filing and payment relief options to their accounts. This means, that if you live in the affected areas mentioned, you shouldn’t need to contact the IRS to receive your tax extension.

If however, you are a victim of the fires or storm damage that lives outside of the mentioned counties, you will need to contact the IRS at (866) 562-5227 to request the tax relief.

Tax Breaks for Homeowners

While there are many opportunities to create financial wealth and safety in America, few are as powerful as owning a home. Even with decades of mortgage payments, the relative size of those payments usually declines over time as wages rise but the payments stay flat. Also, home values tend to go up over time, representing another way to secure wealth in a home.

Once a mortgage is paid off, families own their own homes and just have to pay taxes and maintenance, seriously freeing their regular income from one of life’s biggest expenses. The advantages don’t stop there. Multiple law enforcement agencies and municipal governments have learned that crime goes way down in communities where at least a third of the residents own their homes as compared to renting.

Buying a home isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s often the biggest single expense most families will make in their lifetimes. Fortunately, there are many tax breaks homeowners can use to make things more affordable.

  1. Capital Gains: If you sell your home and profit from it, then capital gains taxes might apply. However, if it was your primary residence, you might be able to keep capital gains without them getting taxed.
  2. Discount Points: When you get a mortgage, you might get to buy discount points that lower the interest rate applied to the loan. Points you buy to lower the interest rate are tax-deductible.
  3. Home Equity Loan Interest: This is just like having a second mortgage. You can deduct the interest you pay on a home equity loan if you took the funds for home improvements.
  4. Home Office Costs: The actual details are up to the IRS on this one, but home office space might get you tax breaks.
  5. Mortgage Insurance: Also known as PMI or private mortgage insurance, it’s there to give your lender protection if you can’t keep up with mortgage payments. You can itemize the cost of this insurance.
  6. Mortgage Interest: The mortgage interest deduction lets you lower taxable income if you do an itemized deduction.
  7. Necessary Improvements: The scope of what is ‘necessary’ is up to the IRS, unfortunately, but certain improvements can qualify as tax deductions.
  8. Property Taxes: These are often applied at the state and municipal levels. Depending on how you file, you can deduct $5,000 to $10,000 from your federal taxes.

How to Plan Your Income for Retirement

Planning for retirement is important if you want to cope with life after your days in the office. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 4 out of 10 American workers are saving money for their retirement. Do you want to be part of these smart employees or the lost majority? Here are some of the things you need to know about preparing for retirement.

Setting Financial Goals
Saving is a process that demands commitment. Since retirement is definitely not your only saving goal, you should try striking a balance or prioritizing what is necessary and weighty. For instance, you could comfortably do away with lingering debts and saving for vacations, cars, homes, and lattes.

Saving for Retirement
Retirement involves more than just assessing the amount of saving you need. When planning for retirement, it’s is also important that you pay attention to where you save your money. Find the best investment or saving account. Take time to calculate how much you need to save for retirement as well.

Investing
While saving is simply amassing wealth, investing is the process of multiplying the wealth. Cash is not a great way to store your wealth, and there are thousands of reasons why. Before investing your money in any project, assess the reward-to-risk ratio and the return on investment. Which investments are more diversified, and when do you get in for maximum gains.

What Do You Invest In?
Are you ready to have your retirement saving work for you? Well, if that’s the case, setting up an investment portfolio should not be complicated. Acquaint yourself with principal retirement investment rules. Are you a DIY person, or will you need to hire the services of a financial adviser? If you want to manage your retirement saving yourself, it is recommended that you gather sufficient knowledge on investment strategies. If you will choose to work with a professional, get to know about the related costs.

Building Wealth
Retirement investing is not a phenomenon that occurs in one sitting. It is a process that will change with the dynamics of your employment as you move from one job to another or up the promotion ladder. You will also have to endure changes in the stock markets and meet family obligations. However, that does not necessarily mean that you will have to babysit your retirement investment. There are numerous ways to protect and manage your wealth and savings in the long haul.

Post-PPP Taxes to Understand

The Paycheck Protection Program loans were a top priority for most struggling businesses due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Although these loans were beneficial to small businesses, most business owners find it hard to understand the tax implications. Below is a comprehensive description of the Post-PPP tax obligations.

Paycheck Protection Program Loans

PPP loans were awarded to small business owners to prevent them from going out of business and to retain their employees. Under the PPP program, small and medium business owners received a loan of up to two-and-a-half times the average monthly payroll. This loan had a cup of about $10 million.

The PPP loan intent was to cover the payroll and other business expenses during the COVID 19 pandemic. If properly appropriated on the approved expenditure, these loans are forgivable. However, if not, repayment of the funds will attract low interest and extended repayment periods. Although these funds have been beneficial to most small businesses and their employees, confusion about the tax implications has arisen.

Tax Implications of The PPP loans

Will the businesses that received the Paycheck Protection Program loan have a different tax situation than the previous years? This question was the concern of most business owners. The possibility that the loans would get considered as the taxable expense was another confusing aspect of these funds.

Although the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was seen by many as a lifeline, experts warned that the legislation could become a tax-laden time bomb. In May 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-32. This notice declared that if PPP loans were not taxable. However, the expenses usually not considered as tax-deductible wouldn’t be deductible. These expenses include utilities and rent.

This declaration threatened to kneecap the most attractive part of the PPP loans. However, Congress came to the rescue when they passed the recent PPP funding through the (C.R.R.S.A.A) Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act. This act reversed the decision of the IRS made on the Notice 2020-32.

The Congress act declared that any forgiven PPP loan would be tax-exempted income. Thanks to this clarification, business owners can now take a Paycheck Protection Program loan and still get the (ERTC) employee retention tax.

4 Things You Should Know About The R and D Tax Credit

This blog was originally published to JBowmanAccountant.org.

The Research and Development Tax Credit benefits almost any business, no matter the size, age, or industry. Since 1981, this incentive has offered reimbursement for innovative and highly-technical businesses. Here are four things you should know about the R&D Tax Credit.

It is available for many industries

From aerospace organizations to wineries and vineyards, several industries can reap the benefits of an R&D Tax Credit. Organizations within these industries must pass a four-part test to affirm that their research activities qualify for an R&D Tax Credit. The four parts of the test are:

  1. Technological in Nature – “Activities must fundamentally rely on the principles of physical or biological science, engineering, or computer science.”
  2. Permitted Purpose – “Activities must be performed in an attempt to improve performance, reliability, or quality of a new or existing business component.”
  3. Eliminate Uncertainty – “Activities intended to discover information that could eliminate technical uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of a product.”
  4. Experimentation – “All of the activities must include a process of experimentation including testing, modeling, simulating, systematic trial and error.”

It covers a variety of expenses

With all of the activity that goes on in a given business, it can be difficult to track your direct and indirect R&D expenses. However, taking note of those expenses is essential for receiving the appropriate tax benefits. As a rule, the major expenses that qualify are salaries and supplies and materials. For salaries, employees who work in R&D or directly manage those in R&D are covered. Supplies and materials covers anything from nails to computers.

It offers unique benefits to smaller companies

If your small company has gross receipts for five years or less that average less than $5 million, your company may be eligible for an R&D Tax Credit. This is the case even if your company does not owe any taxes, and the covered amount can reach up to $250,000 of a payroll offset. If your small business does not have credit for offsetting payroll taxes in a given quarter, you can carry that credit into a different quarter. However, to do this, you must not exceed the $250,000 limit.

It undergoes regular updates

The R&D Tax Credit does not behave exactly as it did over a quarter of a century ago. As industries and economies evolve, the R&D Tax Credit does, too. In particular, the removal of the Discovery Rule in 2003 redefined research activities as those that would be “new to the taxpayer” rather than “new to the world.” More recently, the Protecting American from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act ensured that small, mid-size, and startup businesses could benefit from R&D Tax Credits.

John J. Bowman, Jr. is an accountant and tax professional based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter for more blog updates!

5 of the Best Accounting Books

If you are an accounting student or even if you are a veteran professional accountant, it’s important to keep learning about the industry. The easiest way to learn outside of the classroom is to pick up a book. Yet with so many accounting books out there, where should you begin? Below are some of the tops accounting books that you should read.

Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less Mike Piper

Accounting Made Simple prides itself on explaining some of the most important accounting concepts in simple-to-read language. The book is currently the best selling accounting book on Amazon—a testament to its popularity with readers. In its pages, you’ll find information about things like the accounting equation and financial statements.

Accounting All-in-One For Dummies Kenneth Boyd

The Dummies series of books are great for people who need a brief, yet in-depth, overview of a subject. Accounting All-in-One is a great resource for people who have to learn accounting basics in a short period of time, like small businesses or one person startups. When you’re finished with this book, it’s a great resource to keep on the shelf. This book is written in a similar easy-to-read style like Accounting Made Simple.

Barron’s Accounting Handbook – Joel G. Siegel Ph.D.

Barron’s Accounting Handbook is written by two finance professors. The book covers just about every accounting topic that is worth studying. One of the best features of the book is its A-Z dictionary of important terms to know. The dictionary alone makes the book worth the price.

The Tax and Legal Playbook: Game-Changing Solutions to Your Small-Business Questions – Mark J. Kohler

Even if you are not a small business owner, this is an important book to own—especially since you will most likely help small business owners at some point during your career. The chapters that discuss tax are particularly useful to business owners. Many readers note that the book is not only informative but entertaining as well due to the examples it presents from the real world.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street – Burton Gordon Malkiel

Burton Gordon Malkiel is a Princeton economist. While his book doesn’t specifically focus on accounting, accountants will find its advice on investing very useful. Although it’s written by an academic, it’s easy to read. The book’s main point is that it’s incredibly difficult to “beat the market” unless you have a stroke of luck to assist you. Here is an interview with the author that highlights the main ideas of the book.

Tax Filing Tips for Married Couples

If you got married on or before December 31 of last year, then you and your spouse will have to do your taxes a little bit differently this year. Keep reading to learn some of the top ways that getting married affects your taxes.

Filing Status

Now that you’re married you can no longer file with a single status. You either have to choose Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately. For the majority of married couples, Married Filing Jointly is more beneficial than Married Filing Separately. The latter status usually gives you access to more beneficial deductions and credits.

Tax Bracket

Your tax bracket determines the tax rate that you will be responsible for. It’s likely that your tax bracket will change now that you’re no longer filing as single. Couples who file jointly often face a higher tax bracket since their incomes are combined.

Exemptions and Standard Deduction

Married couples get to claim two exemptions instead of the one that single individuals get to claim. The standard deduction is highest for married couples who file jointly. This year the standard deduction is $12,600 for joint filers and $6,300 for married couples who file separately.  The standard deduction is subtracted from your income that you are taxed on. Therefore, the higher the standard deduction the better.

W-4

After getting married it’s usually a good idea to change your W-4. Whenever you start a new job you are required to fill out Form W-4. The form tells your employer who how tax to withhold. Changing your status to married might lessen the amount of taxes you have to pay. The IRS provides a helpful withholding calculator that you can use to determine whether you should fill out a new W-4.

First Home

A number of married couples buy their first home as a result of their combined incomes. The mortgage interest that you pay can be deducted from your taxes if it is itemized. If the two of you already own a home, lived in it for two years, and sell it while married, you can exclude up to $500,000 of the money you made on the sale. Read this article to learn more.

Standard Deduction or Itemizing?

Depending on your financial situation it might be better to itemize rather than claim the standard deduction. Most married couples who own a home find it more beneficial to itemize since itemization allows deductions for mortgage interest. Every married couple’s situation is different, so it might be a good idea to speak with a tax professional when deciding on which option you should choose. To learn more take a look at this article.

Which Tax Software Should You Use?

It’s January, and that means that employers have begun to give employees their W2 forms. When it comes to filing your taxes, you should consider your options. Do you want to meet with a professional, or would you rather use a tax software? This article focuses on tax software. Below is a breakdown of three of the most popular tax software options.

TurboTax

TurboTax is one of the most popular names when it comes to online tax software. The software is easy to navigate, and the instructions are straightforward which makes it a great choice for taxpayers who are using tax software for the first time. Furthermore, the software allows you to import documents from over a million employers and financial institutions. The bottom line is that TurboTax is one of the most user-friendly tax software options that are available. With TurboTax it’s never an issue to go back and update your entries, so you don’t have to worry if you forget to add something. One of the only cons with TurboTax is its price. There’s a fee for using the online version and a fee for getting a state tax return. Plus if you have certain investments you might have to use TurboTax Premier which is more expensive than their basic version.

H&R Block

H&R Block’s tax software is just as easy to use as the TurboTax software. One of the best features of Block’s software is the checklists it provides. For example, one checklist makes sure you don’t forget to provide all of the required tax forms before you submit your filing. Block also provides “Learn More” links that answer most of the questions you will have when completing your taxes. The cost of using Block is similar to TurboTax; however, unlike TurboTax, you don’t have to pay more if you have investment income. One of the only downsides of Block is its search feature. It doesn’t always provide the best resources to help you get the answer you’re looking for.

TaxAct

TaxAct is one of the most inexpensive software on the market. However, if you decide to itemize you may have to pay more than you would otherwise. Still, the software offers a great deal when compared to competitors. Compared to competitors’ software, it’s not as easy to update your filing if you realize you forgot to add information. TaxAct probably isn’t the best choice for taxpayers who have never used tax software before. Other programs do a better job of hand-holding. The software has some reassuring security features, though. If you leave the program open but aren’t active, it will automatically log you out after a couple of minutes. Ultimately, TaxAct is the best software to use if your biggest concern is affordability. The software’s “Price Lock Guarantee” means that once you pay for the program you won’t have to pay more—even if you purchase it in January and wait until April to submit your filing.

Cash vs Accrual: Which is King?

There are two methods by which most accounting is done and by which income is reported to the IRS. There is the Cash method and the Accrual method.

These two things are basically the methods of business keeps track of its income and expenses. They have to do with the timeframe in which debits and credits are made. Which method a business uses is entirely up to them. However, it is important to understand how each one works.

Cash

The cash method is the common way in which small business tracks their debits and credits. With this method, income is not counted until cash is actually received, and expenses are not counted until they are actually paid.

Accrual

The accrual method is income that is counted when the sale occurs. It is also the method by which expenses are counted when the goods or services are obtained. In this method, you don’t have to have money in hand or actually pay money out, to record a transaction.

Choosing a method

As stated, you are free to choose whichever method you want for your business, with some exceptions. NOLO.com states that the exceptions are as follows:

Most small businesses (with sales of less than $5 million per year) are free to adopt either accounting method. You must use the accrual method if:

 

  • your business has sales of more than $5 million per year, or
  • your business stocks an inventory of items that you will sell to the public and your gross receipts are over $1 million per year. Inventory includes any merchandise you sell, as well as supplies that will physically become part of an item intended for sale.

Cash: Pros and Cons

Pro: provides a more accurate picture of how much actual cash your business has and you can deduct expenses in the year they are paid instead of having to wait until the related revenue is earned and reportable.

Con: may offer a misleading picture of longer-term profitability. You also need to report revenue as soon as payment is received, which means you may end up paying tax on the gross amount if your deductible expenses aren’t reported until a future tax year.

Accrual: Pros & Cons

Pro: shows the fluctuation of business income and debts more accurately.ou can deduct expenses in the year you receive the underlying service or property and become liable for payment, even if you don’t actually make payment until a future tax year.

Con: Does not show accuracy in which cash reserves are available. In addition, you will have to report income in the year your customers have a legal obligation to make payment, not at the time of actual payment. Because of this, you may end up paying tax on money you didn’t receive during the tax year.

Again, most small businesses function well on the cash method. This is the easiest to track and manage. However, there was a recent article written by Forbes in the Entrepreneur section of its website that might interest those considering the accrual method. It discusses some little known tax advantages of this method. You can find that article here.

No matter what method chosen, it is important to be knowledgeable about the choices available. Both cash and accrual have their advantages and should be considered with care.

Frequently Overlooked Tax Deductions & Credits

Every year, millions of dollar in unclaimed and undelivered tax refunds stack up in the IRS bank account. The rightful owners of this money, often times, do not even know the money is waiting for them or how to claim it. In an effort to help you get all the money you deserve back into your pocket, I offer 9 frequently overlooked tax deductions and credits that you should familiarize yourself with going into the next tax season.

1) Job-Hunting Costs

If you spend time looking for a job during the year (as long as it is not your first job) then most of the expenses incurred while job-hunting can be deducted from your taxes. These expenses include: transportation costs (56 cents a mile for driving), parking, tolls, cab fares, food and lodging, employment agency fees, and cost of printing resumes, business cards, postage, and advertising.

2) Moving Expenses For New Job

If you moved over 50 miles away from your old home than you can qualify for moving expensed deductions. You can deduct the cost of moving yourself and your household goods to the new location. A few of the larger eligible deductions include: 23.5 center per mile while driving your car, parking and tolls, and lodging. This deduction is available even if you do not itemize.

3) Sales Tax

You have the option to deduct sales taxes or state taxes off your federal income tax. The sales tax deduction is especially important if you live in a state that does not impose a state income tax. However, even if you have to pay state taxes, the sales tax break may be the better deal if you made larger purchases (such as a car or engagement ring).

4) Child-Care

You are eligible for a tax credit worth between 20% and 35% of what you pay for child care while you work. A tax credit is even better than a deduction! It is also legal to list the cost of a babysitter as a charitable contribution on your tax return if you can document that you were volunteering while the babysitter was performing their duties.

5) Energy-saving Home Improvements

If you install qualified residential alternative energy equipment then you can be eligible for a credit of up to 30% of the total cost of such systems installed through 2016. This can include things such as a solar hot water heater, geothermal heat pump, or wind turbines.

6) Lifetime Learning Credit

The Lifetime Learning credit can provide students up to an additional $2,000 a year. You are eligible to take 20% off of the first $10,000 you spend on education after high school in an effort to give yourself a new or improved skill. While this deduction phases out at higher income levels, it does not discriminate based on ones age.

7) Health Insurance Premiums

In some cases, insurance premiums can be deducted from your taxes. Medical expenses usually need to exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income in order to be deducted. However, if you are self-employed and responsible for your own health insurance cover then you can actually deduct 100% of your premium cost. This will be taken off your adjusted gross income as opposed to an itemized deduction.

8) Self-employed Social Security

If you are self-employed and forced to pay the full 15.4% Social Security tax on your own, then you can write off half of what you pay. This deduction can be found on the face of the 1040 form, therefore, you do not need to itemize to take advantage of this deduction.

9) Out-of-pocket Charitable Deductions

You can write off out-of-pocket expenses incurred while doing charity work. For instance, if you make food for a soup kitchen or fundraiser, you can deduct the cost of ingredients used to make the food. It is important to save the receipts or itemize the cost inc case you are audited.