Tax Reform Changes Meal & Entertainment Deductions

By now you’ve probably heard of a little thing called tax reform. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the most significant change to tax legislation in 30 plus years. Its impact if far reaching for individuals and businesses alike. For some great resources on its impacts, go here.

One of the key provisions of the act is the change in deductibility of entertainment, meals and transportation fringe benefits.

What changed?

Before tax reform took effect, businesses could (in general) deduct 50 percent of business-related entertainment and meals. Qualified transportation fringe benefits were also deductible, as were employee meals provided by an employer on its premises for convenience.

Tax reform (you guessed it) changed all that. Here are a few of the changes:

  • Entertainment, amusement or recreation expenses, membership dues for clubs and expenses for facilities related to these items are no longer deductible. Meals consumed during these events remains at 50% deductible.
  • Employee meals provided by an employer on its premises are now only 50 percent deductible through 2025. After 2025, these expenses are no longer deductible. There are no changes to the 100% deductibility for holiday parties or similar social events for all employees.
  • Qualified transportation fringe benefits and some expenses related to commuting transportation for employees are no longer deductible.

So what do I do?

Here are a few tips:

  • Look at your bookkeeping procedures for your company. How will you capture expenses differently in 2018 and beyond?
  • Make sure you’re documenting and correctly tracking expenses. This impacts ALL expenses from January 1, 2018 on.
  • Review your expense reimbursement policies. There’s a pretty good bet that some of the language in there needs to change to comply with the new tax reform act. For a list of some of the questions we’ve encountered already, check out this article.

Ultimately, your course of action will vary based on your particular circumstances as well as updates from the IRS. If you have questions, ask your business advisor or CPA. The new tax reform act can be complicated, but we can help ensure your business is on track and maintaining your books correctly.

Understanding Unclaimed Property

Unclaimed property has become a topic of increased discussion in recent years, especially as states conduct unclaimed property audits. Examples include:

As a business owner, it’s important to be aware of unclaimed property and the role your business plays, as well as how unclaimed property can impact your financial statements and cause reporting issues.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Unclaimed property is an unclaimed financial asset your company owes to another business or individual. This can include uncashed checks, inactive savings accounts, life insurance proceeds, customer overpayments and unused gift certificates.

Unclaimed property happens when a debt remains outstanding for a specific period of time. Typically this is one year or more, as specified by state statute.

For example, your organization issues a pay check to its employee. One of those employees never cashes that check. The paycheck has now become unclaimed property.

So what am I supposed to do?

Here’s the short answer: Give the asset back or turn it over to the state.

In the above example, you should reissue the check if you can locate the employee.

There are a few steps you need to take in order to properly deal with unclaimed property:

  1. Identify the dormant accounts
  2. Notify the property owners
  3. Remit the asset to the property owners or to the state

Identify the dormant accounts

The first step is to determine if you are a holder (company in possession of an asset that belongs to someone else). The best way to determine this is by setting up processes and procedures that allow you to identify where unclaimed property exists.

Some of the procedures include:

  • Follow up on outstanding checks and credits after six months
  • Require all transactions in and out of accounts have to go through review and approval
  • If you’re thinking about acquiring a company, make sure you research and are aware of potential unclaimed property exposure
  • Keep good records, including name, address, taxpayer identification number, etc.

Notify the property owners

The next step to take as the holder is to locate the property’s rightful owner. This is a process known as due diligence.

After this period of due diligence, the holder has to submit a report to the state, listing who you weren’t able to contact, as well as payment for those outstanding accounts.

Remit the asset

At this point, either the asset is turned over to the property owner, or it gets turned over to the state (known as escheatment). Once it’s turned over to the state, they now have responsibility for it. In other words, they hold it so it’s available to the recipient at a later time, should they come looking for it. If no one comes for it, the state keeps the unclaimed property.

As a reminder, unclaimed paychecks are considered unclaimed property and subject to escheatment. If you have an unclaimed paycheck, the unclaimed property laws of the state where the employee last worked apply.

What happens if I don’t do these things?

States have been increasing enforcement efforts. Plus, you can be audited in relation to unclaimed property. The states even have unclaimed property examiners that come in to assess unclaimed property exposure in businesses.

Just to make things more fun, there’s no statute of limitations, meaning the state agencies can come knocking at any time.

Any other tips?

  • Research the laws in your state and know the particulars of unclaimed property reporting by state.
  • Set up policies and procedures to ensure you have good records and are tracking potential unclaimed property concerns.
  • If you’re confused or just need extra help, contact your CPA or business advisor.

 

 

 

Forms, forms and more forms

There are many forms to remember as part of owning a business. There are forms to document employee wages, forms for contractors, forms for donated vehicles, forms for acquisitions … the list goes on and on.

Understanding what each form is, and which ones you need to fill out, is an important aspect of your business. Today we’re breaking down some of the most common information return forms and what gets reported on them.

First we’ll start with a definition. An information return is a tax document businesses use to let the IRS know about transactions. These forms are mandatory, meaning you don’t get a choice in filling them out and reporting your transactions to the IRS.

Now on to the forms …

 

Form W-2

The W-2 is also known as the wage and tax statement. It should be pretty familiar as it is used to document wages, tips and other compensation, Medicare, Social Security, income tax withholdings and more for each of your employees.

Every employer in a trade or business with employees who are compensated for their work needs to fill out the Form W-2 for them. If income, social security or Medicare tax was withheld, you get to fill out this form for your employees.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31, for federal and most states
  • To IRS: January 31both e-file and paper copies

 

Form W-2G

Form W-2G is a specific form used for gambling winnings and losses. You will need to file a W-2G if you receive:

  • $600 or more in gambling winnings (if the payout is at least 300 times the amount of the wager)
  • $1,200 or more in winnings from bingo or slot machines
  • $1,500 or more from keno
  • More than $5,000 from a poker tournament

As a friendly reminder, all gambling winnings are subject to income tax.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099 Series

The Form 1099 series is a group of forms used to report ordinary kinds of payments, such as dividends, interest, retirement distributions and miscellaneous income payments.

Form 1099-MISC

Form 1099-MISC is filed by a business for payments made to nonemployees who do work for your business or trade. In other words, if they’re not an employee, but you’re paying them for a service, you have to report it on Form 1099-MISC.

Form 1099-MISC is required for each person you’ve made payments to based on the following criteria:

  • $10 or more in royalties or broker payments in lieu of dividends or tax-exempt interest
  • $600 or more in rents, services, prizes and awards, other income payments, medical and health care payments, crop insurance proceeds, cash payments for fish you purchase or cash paid from notional principal contract to an individual, partnership or estate
  • Any fish boat proceeds
  • Gross proceeds to an attorney
  • Direct sales of at least $5,000 of consumer products to a buyer for resale anywhere other than a permanent retail establishment
  • Any backup withholding regardless of the amount

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31, for federal and most states
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically) or January 31 (if any payments for nonemployee compensation are reported in box 7)

 

Form 1099-DIV

This form is used for dividends and distributions. Specifically it’s filed for each person for whom you’ve:

  • Paid dividends and other distributions on stock of $10 or more
  • Withheld or paid any foreign tax on dividends and other distributions of stock
  • Withheld any federal income tax under the backup withholding rules
  • Paid $600 or more as part of a liquidation

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-INT

The Interest Income form is used for reporting interest payments when:

  • Interest of $10 or more is paid or credited on earnings
  • Interest of $600 or more from other sources in the course of trade or business
  • Forfeited interest due to premature withdrawals of time deposits
  • Federal backup withholding and foreign tax withholding and paid on interest
  • Payments of any interest to bearers of certificates of deposit

This form is specifically for interest payments made in the course of your trade or business, including federal, state and local government agencies.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-OID

Form 1099-OID is also known as the Original Issue Discount. It’s used when you purchase a bond for lesser price than the face value or principle amount. This discount is given instead of a bond earning interest. If you purchase a bond for less the face value, you should receive a Form 1099-OID, which is where you report $10 or more in gross income from that bond.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-R

This form is used to report any distribution of $10 or more form pension sharing or retirement plans, any individual retirement arrangements, annuities, pensions, insurance contracts, etc. It’s also used to report death benefit payments made by you as the employer that are not part of a pension, profit-sharing or retirement plan.

The fun part about Form 1099-R is that there are nine numeric codes and 18 alpha codes to use when reporting amounts in box 7 of the form. For more information on these, and what to put in what box, check out our W2/1099 ebook.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-PATR

This form is specific to cooperatives and must be filled out if $10 or more in distributions paid from the cooperative is passed through to their patrons. This includes any domestic production activities deduction and certain pass-through credits.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-LTC

This form is used if you pay any long-term care benefits, including accelerated death benefits. Payers include insurance companies, governmental units and viatical settlement providers.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-SA

Here we’re looking at reporting distributions made from an HSA, Archer MSA or Medicare Advantage MSA. Form 1099-SA can be used if the distribution is paid directly to a medical service provider or to the account holder. A separate return has to be filed for each plan type.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-A

Also known as the Acquisition or Abandonment of Secured Property, Form 1099-A is used for each borrower you lend money to in connection with your trade or business. Specifically, this applies to the full or partial satisfaction of a debt.

Deadline:

  • To borrower: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-C

Use this form for each debtor for whom debt of $600 or more was cancelled. Specifically, you must file Form 1099-C if:

  • You are a financial institution
  • A credit union
  • A corporation that is a subsidiary of a financial institution or credit union
  • A federal government agency
  • An organization whose significant trade or business is the lending of money

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-B

Form 1099-B is specifically for a broker or barter exchange. It must be filled out for each person for whom the broker:

  • Sold stocks, bonds commodities, regulated future contracts, foreign currency contracts, debt instruments, etc. for cash
  • Received cash, stock or other property from a corporation that the broker knows had stock acquired in an acquisition
  • Exchanged property or services through a barter exchange

Deadline:

  • To recipient: February 15
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-K

This one is specific to a payment settlement entity (PSE) for payments made in settlement of reportable payment transactions within the calendar year.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1099-Q

Form 1099-Q is used for payments from qualified education programs. Specifically, you must file this form if you’re an officer or employee having control of a program established by an eligible educational institution and have made a distribution from a qualified tuition program.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: January 31
  • To IRS: February 28 or March 31 (if filing electronically)

 

Form 1042-S

This form is used to report income subject to withholding paid to nonresident aliens, foreign partnerships, foreign corporations or nonresident alien or foreign fiduciaries of estates or trusts.

Deadline:

  • To recipient: March 15
  • To IRS: March 15

 

The moral of the story

This is a high level overview of just some of the information returns that exist. It’s important to understand what forms apply to your organization and what information to report on each form. To learn more, check out our W2/1099 year end planning book or contact your business advisor.

 

 

Things that Should Scare Small Business Owners

HalloweenWhen you’re running a business, there are a lot of things to consider. From payroll to people to marketing, you have a lot on your plate. In fact, we’re guessing there’s more than a few things that keep you up at night.

There are all sorts of scares lurking around the corner when it comes to owning and running a small to mid-sized business. Here are a few of the ones we find particularly frightening:

You hire without doing your research.

It’s true, you wear a lot of hats as a small business owner. It’s also true that quite a few of those hats are ones you don’t know anything about. Small business owners normally get into business because they have a dream to pursue, not to worry about the day-to-day details of running a business.

To solve that problem, you hire quickly for areas you don’t know anything about. Sounds good right? Not so fast …

  • Are they qualified? When you don’t know anything about the position you’re hiring for, you don’t know if the person (or consultant) is qualified to take on that role. For example, if you’re thinking about hiring someone to look at your financials, do you want a bookkeeper or a CFO? Or somewhere in between? There are several differences, including experience, duties and even pay.
  • How do you measure success? If you don’t know anything about the subject or position you’re hiring for, how do you measure success for that individual? How do you know your expectations and proposed timelines are reasonable?
  • Have you checked all the boxes when it comes to hiring? Another thing to consider is the entirety of the hiring process. Maybe you found the perfect candidate and you want them to start right away. But have you taken into account the necessary steps when it comes to hiring? There are several forms to fill out, items to consider and that pesky thing called onboarding. All of this has to be taken into account before you make that hire.

We’re all for hiring (whether it’s an employee or a consultant) to help you run your business. Just make sure you do the research and know what you want and need in order to help your business run more effectively.

You don’t take your financials seriously.

Having up-to-date, accurate financials is of paramount importance. If you don’t, you’re in for a world of hurt. Without it, you don’t know how much money you’re making (or losing), nor can you even begin to understand the basic state of your business.

Further, you won’t be able to make strategic business decisions and set a course for the future of your business. Plus, financial information is pretty important to creditors, investors and buyers.

Only 40% of small businesses say they are “extremely” or “very knowledgeable” in accounting and finance. (source)

Bookkeeping is not as simple as just throwing numbers into a spreadsheet. You need to understand basic accounting terminology in order to make informed decisions. For instance, just because your books say there’s money coming in, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Cash flow and profit are two different things.

The solution? Invest in accurately tracking your business financials. Find a consultant or hire an accountant (once you’ve done your research) who can help you navigate your current situation and also look out for potential pitfalls.

You don’t have accountability.

Success matters to small businesses, especially in the early stages of your company. But what does success mean? Can you define it in a measurable way? Can your employees?

Businesses work when roles are defined and individuals understand their performance expectations. That’s why it’s important to have KPIs (key performance indicators) in place for your company and your employees.

It’s here where we remind you that KPIs are quantifiable measurements for critical success. Quantifiable is key as it helps you track progress and whether or not you’re accomplishing your goals. If you’re not tracking, then you have no idea if it’s working or if you need to find ways to improve.

You don’t value your product … or yourself.

Let’s start with the basics … one of the keys to starting a business is that you have a product or service people actually want. Once you’ve got that, the next step is pricing it effectively.

Often, business owners play the cheapest option game to get their product into the market. This path undermines the real value of your product. Plus, it’s a lot of work to come back from under pricing your product.

Take the time, instead, to do some market research and really find a price point that shows the value of your product and also allows for market entry. Also, ensure the price point you’ve chosen will help your business financially … which is why it helps to have up-to-date financial information from the beginning.

But let’s not forget about YOU. In addition to your product’s value, you have value as the business owner. At the beginning you’re trying to do it all. It’s important to realize when you’re in too deep and you need help.

“Your new venture demands that every aspect is handled by someone who understands what they’re doing. And no amount of good intention will turn an IT specialist into a good bookkeeper.” (source)

The moral of the story here is to value yourself. Value your time, know your strengths and why you got into business. Let someone whose passion is for numbers or marketing or HR or whatever the subject may be handle the tasks you need done. And remember, if you don’t want to hire someone full time, you can always outsource it.

You’re not playing by the rules.

To say there are more than a few updates to rules and regulations affecting small businesses each year would be an understatement. Did you know, for instance, the General Services Administration annually updates the federal maximum per diem rates? This update would affect any business that has employees travel for work.

Or did you know that several states and cities are now introducing mandatory paid sick leave policies? If you have workers, your policies (if your business is in any of the affected areas) will have to align with this new ruling.

These are just a few examples of the rules and updates small business owners face on a regular basis. Many of these rules directly affect your financials, how you report information about your company and its customers and the benefits and rights your employees get.

That’s why it’s important to know what’s going on and ensure you’re in compliance. Find a consultant who can stay on top of these updates and regulations and ensure your business is following the rules.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t be a Dud: How to be a Shiny Firework!

With it recently being the Fourth of July, you likely took in many red, white and blue festivities. We’re willing to bet you also watched some fireworks displays.

When it comes to fireworks, there’s nothing quite like the glitter and pageantry, as well as the loud booms and inevitable oohs and ahhs for every firework that goes off. That is, unless there’s a fizzle. We’ve all seen the ones that lift off … and never actually explode.

The same can be said with small businesses. There are companies that lift off the ground and soar to new heights, and then there are others that lift off and never reach their full potential. In other words, they fizzle.

While we can’t be your source for everything business related (though we could certainly try … we’re pretty awesome like that), today we’re talking about four (for 4th of July … corny, we know) accounting issues that will help your business be a firework rather than fizzle into the night sky.

#1: Taxes: DIY v. Business Advisor

Also known as everyone’s favorite word and subject for that matter. If you feel like you’re constantly banging your head against a wall, or continually hearing from your pals at the IRS, you’re not alone. Did you know that 52% of small businesses say they’re paying too much in taxes or are unsure of the amount? In other words, you’re not the only one. It’s hard to even begin to know all the possible deductions you can take, the information you need and the planning you’ll want to do.

The best way not to fizzle in the wake of the overwhelming tax burden is to use a professional. Use someone whose job is specifically tax focused (there are definitely people out there … and they even like it!) who can help you look at the overall picture of your company and find ways to ensure you’re paying just the right amount, and not a penny more (or a penny less). The money you spend on a tax advisor will be minimal in comparison to the money you may have to pay for not doing it correctly. In fact, they may even save you money as they know what to look for and how to minimize your tax liability.

#2: Using a Spreadsheet

A sure fire way to fizzle is to not have any idea what your finances look like … or how your business is doing. It’s also really hard to track your business, and get useful metrics, when you’re using spreadsheets to track your financial data.

Don’t get us wrong, as numbers nerds spreadsheets do get our hearts racing. However, they are not the most efficient or effective means of tracking financial data. There are a number of accounting software options that can easily track, compile and show you your current financial state.

So if you’re using a spreadsheet, or software that’s not giving you the information you need, it might be time to think about a change. Not sure if you’re ready to make the change? Ask yourself these questions.

#3: Knowing Your Finances & What They Mean

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, your finances are important. They tell a story about your business and help you see where you’re going. Numbers are also probably not the reason you got into business, so they’re frustrating and even aggravating at times. In fact, only 40% of small businesses say they are “extremely” or “very knowledgeable” in accounting and finance.

So if you’re in the vast majority that don’t have a solid accounting knowledge base, what do you do? To begin, we really think you should have a good foundation of financial knowledge and at least understand basic concepts (we talk about a lot of them on this blog). But beyond that, hire someone with CFO or controller level knowledge (here’s the difference) to help you.

And before you even begin to say you don’t have the money for a full time hire, remember you can always OUTSOURCE it. These numbers nerds will help you not only understand your current financials, and make sure they’re cleaned up, but they can also help you with larger picture ideas and goals … feel free to ooh and ahh at any time.

#4: So how’s business?

Can you answer this question honestly … do you know the health of your organization? Remember, just because you have money in the bank doesn’t mean you’re doing great (cash does not equal profitability).

It’s important to know the overall health of your business, as well as ways you can improve. Here are a few ways you can gauge the health of your business:

  • Compare yourself with other fireworks (see what we did there) via benchmarking.
  • Projections and forecasting, which you can only do if you have accurate financial data (see numbers 2 & 3).
  • Have up-to-date books with accurate financial data … please tell us we don’t have expand further on this.

The moral of the story

All of these are easily attainable and can change your fizzle into a firework. Just make sure to take the time to dedicate to the numbers part of your organization and find a trusted business advisor to help you along the way. From there, you can watch your business rocket into the sky and shine bright as ever!

From all of us at Eide Bailly, we hope you had a wonderful 4th of July!

Is it Time to Upgrade?

Accounting software is a great tool for your business. It helps you keep track of invoices, let’s you see where are your money is going and even allows you to access your information basically anytime, anywhere.

But if your accounting software is out of date, it actually might be doing more harm than good for your business. Here are some signs that it might be time to look into an updated system.

  • Are you still communicating with vendors and customers through email or even *gasp* snail mail? If so, it may be time to look for a system that provides an easier way to communicate.
  • If your desk is covered in papers and you have paper invoices and timecards coming out your ears, it’s time to stop endangering the tree population and look into a system that can do this electronically.
  • It might be time to look into some new software if your system doesn’t allow you to look at your information anytime, anywhere. This includes your cell phone – many systems allow you to have all of your information at the swipe of a finger.
  • Is your chart of accounts endless? Or, maybe you need to create a whole new set of accounts each time you add another profit or cost center (grants, jobs, products lines, etc.). Either way, both are major signs that it’s time to upgrade and update.
  • Your account system should do what you need it to, without you having to perform extra steps and work arounds. If your system is doing the exact opposite of its intended purpose, it’s time for something new.
  • If your vendor has completely stopped (or won’t be for much longer) supporting your software, you’ll need to upgrade. Although this sounds pretty obvious, we see this problem quite often!
  • It’s time to upgrade to a new system if you’re still using spreadsheets to track date and compute calculations. (Hint: accounting software does this for you!)
  • Here’s a big one. Do you enter manual journal entries – maybe you’ve even compiled them in your spreadsheets? Are you operating in several systems that don’t sync together? Time to get on board with a new, updated system!
  • Consider how much time you are devoting to closing the books each month. If you’re manually creating reports and manually completing the consolidation process, you’re wasting your time. An updated system can help you save your time to dedicate to other parts of your business.

If any of these common warning signs sound like something you are experiencing, now is probably a good time to start looking for new, updated accounting software. Although the transition won’t be easy, the benefits to your business will be worth it!