Tips for Form W-2

As tax season rolls around, it’s important to have all your information ready. Not only will you feel more organized, but you’ll be able to provide your employees with all the information they need to file their own personal taxes.

One of the key pieces you’ll need to have for each of your employees is Form W-2.

What is it?

It’s an information form used to report federal and state taxable wages, taxes withheld, and other fringe benefit information to your employees. Information on this form is used by both the taxpayer (that’s your employees) in preparing to file taxes and the IRS to match records to the taxpayer’s tax return.

Do all my employees get one of these?

An employer legally must send out W-2 forms to each of its employees to whom they pay a salary, wage or other form of compensation.

If you need a refresher on who is an employee, go here.

Form W-2 must be filled out if you did any of the following:

  • Withheld any income, Social Security or Medicare tax from wages. This is regardless of the amount of wages.
  • Paid $600 or more in wages, even if you did not withhold any income, Social Security or Medicare tax.
    • Before you get too excited, this only applies to certain classes of employees, such as election workers or foreign ag workers.
  • Would have had to withhold income tax if the employee had claimed no more than one withholding allowance or had not claimed exemptions from withholding on Form W-4.

What do I need to do on the forms?

Form W-2 is made up of multiple parts, all of which is necessary for the taxpayer and the IRS.

Box 1 – Wages, tips and other compensation

This box is for the total taxable wages, tips and other compensation you paid your employee during the course of the calendar year. It includes the following:

  • Total wages
  • Bonuses (including sign-on bonuses) and awards
  • Total noncash payments, including certain fringe benefits
  • Tips reported by the employee to the employer
  • Certain employee business expense reimbursements
  • The cost of accident and health insurance premiums paid on the behalf of a S corp 2% shareholder
  • Taxable benefits from a section 125 plan if the employee chooses cash
  • Employee contributions to an Archer MSA
  • Employer contributions to an Archer MSA (if includible in the income of the employee)
  • Employer contributions for qualified long-term care services (if the coverage is provided through a flexible spending or something similar)
  • Taxable cost of group-term life insurance above $50,000 (above $2,000 for dependents)
  • Payments for non-job related education expenses
  • Employee’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes if you paid them on their behalf
  • Designated Roth contributions made under a section 401(k) plan, a section 403(b) salary reduction agreement, or a governmental section 457(b) plan.
  • Distributions to an employee or former employee from an NQDC plan (or a nongovernmental section 457(b) plan.
  • Amounts includible in income under section 457(f) because the amounts are no longer subject to a substantial risk of forfeiture.
  • Payments to statutory employees who are subject to social security and Medicare taxes but not subject to federal income tax withholding.
  • Cost of current insurance protection under a compensatory split-dollar life insurance arrangement.
  • Employee contributions to a health savings account (HSA).
  • Employer contributions to an HSA if includible in the income of the employee.
  • Amounts includible in income under an NQDC plan because of section 409A.
  • Payments made to former employees while they are on active duty in the Armed Forces or other uniformed services.
  • All other compensation, including certain scholarship and fellowship grants.

 

Box 2 – Federal income tax withheld

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Here we’re talking all federal income tax withheld from an employee’s wages for the calendar year.

 

Box 3 – Social Security Wages

This is the total wages paid (before payroll deductions) that are subject to employee social security tax. This, however, does not include social security tips and allocated tips (you get to save that for Box 7).

Items subject to employee social security tax, and therefore should be included in Box 3 are:

  • Signing bonuses
  • Employee business expense reimbursements
  • Taxable cost of group-term life insurance over $50,000
  • Employee and non-excludable employer contributions to an MSA or HSA except those made through a cafeteria plan.
  • Employee contributions to a SIMPLE retirement account
  • Adoption benefits

As a note, the total of boxes 3 and 7 (Social Security Tips) can’t exceed $127,200, as this is the maximum social security wage base for 2017.

 

Box 4 – Social Security Tax Withheld

Here we’re looking for the total employee social security tax withheld, including social security tax on tips. As a reminder, only includes taxes withheld for 2017.

 

Box 5 – Medicare wages and tips

Similar to box 3, this is where you record the wages and tips that were subject to Medicare tax. Wages that are subject to this are the same as those listed in box 3. The only difference? There’s no wage base limit to Medicare tax.

 

Box 6 – Medicare tax withheld

Here’s where you put the total of the Medicare tax withheld for 2017, including any additional Medicare tax withheld (there is an additional Medicare tax of 0.9% on taxable wages that exceed $200,000 for an employee in a calendar year).

 

Box 7 – Social security tips

Separate from box 3, this is where you show the tips your employee reported to you. All tips need to be recorded here, even if you did not have enough employee funds to collect social security tax for the tips.

And remember, the maximum amount for boxes 3 and 7 (combined) cannot exceed $127,200.

But wait, there’s more …

  • Box 8 – Allocated tips: The tips allocated to your employees
  • Box 9 – Verification code: If you’re participating in the W-2 Verification Code Initiative, the verification code goes here.
  • Box 10 – Dependent care benefits: This is the box for total dependent care benefits paid or incurred by you for your employee. This includes fair market value of daycare provided by you.
  • Box 11 – Nonqualified plans: The purpose of this box is to determine if any of the amounts in boxes 1, 3 or 5 were earned in a prior year. The Social Security Administration uses this information to ensure they have paid the correct amount of social security earnings.
  • Box 12 – Codes: The purpose of this box is to report the amounts for various fringe benefits to the employee along with the code to denote what fringe benefit it pertains to. For instance, 401k contributions made by an employee would be reported with a code of D. The IRS has a list of all of the codes along with a description for each one in the General Instructions for Forms W-2 and W-3, which can be found on the IRS website.

 The moral of the story

These forms matter, as they’re used by your employees, the IRS, Social Security Administration, and the state and local government. It’s your legal responsibility as an employer to provide each of your employees with a W-2 that accurately reflects the above items.

Yes, these forms can be confusing and time consuming. But it’s important to ensure they’re done correctly. If you need help, ask your business advisor for guidance. Or, come see us. We’re here to help.

 

 

Fringe Benefits: What You Need to Know

As an employer, you want to ensure your employees are happy and thriving in your business. From time to time, you may even reward them for a job well done. But before you give a reward that’s outside the scope of their pay rate, think twice.

Welcome to the world of fringe benefits.

What are fringe benefits?

Fringe benefits are any form of payment that is considered compensation beyond your employee’s normal pay rate. This could include property, services or cash.

Why do I need to think twice?

Often, fringe benefits are taxable to the employee. And if it’s taxable, you have to report it on the employee’s W-2.

Fringe benefits that are taxable include:

  • Vacations
  • Personal use of an employer-provided vehicle
  • Gym memberships
  • Bonuses
  • Moving expenses (those in excess of your qualified expenses)
  • Group term life insurance
  • Gift cards

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should at least get you thinking.

What else do I need to know?

When we talk about fringe benefits, we’re often talking about value. The IRS has a little rule called de minimis fringe benefit, otherwise known as “one for which, considering its value and the frequency with which it is provided, is so small as to make accounting for it unreasonable or impractical.”

In other words, when you talk about value in regard to de minimis fringe benefits, if the benefit is so small it makes reporting it impractical, you don’t have to worry about it. And before you ask, there’s no specific dollar amount given.

One thing to remember is that cash or cash-equivalent gifts are NEVER non-taxable. For example, gift cards have an easily ascertainable value and can be redeemed for merchandise or a cash equivalent. So they need to be reported as part of an employee’s wages.

If you give items that are not cash, you will more than likely utilize fair market value. For instance, say you have a drawing during your company holiday party and an employee wins a 60 inch TV. This would not be considered de minimis and would need to be included in their income so taxes could be withheld. In this instance you can easily ascertain the value of the TV.

In the above example, you utilize fair market value. However, there are items that don’t have an easily discernible value. In that case, look at what a willing buyer would pay for that particular item. If you need a little more help, the IRS lays out guidelines for the valuation of certain items, like the lease of an employer-provided vehicle. You can find more information on that here.

So what would be considered de minimis?

So what would be considered de minimis? An example would be giving each of your employees a T-shirt, turkey, or something similar in value. The key here is that it HAS to be something tangible (as a reminder, this doesn’t mean cash or anything with a value attached … even a $5 gift card counts).

The moral of the story?

Fringe benefits are a great way to reward your employees and help you stand out from your competition. However, you need to be careful that you’re actually reporting these benefits as part of your employee’s wages.

1099 Reminder

Way back in July, we taught you the basics of the 1099 forms. Now that the deadlines for these forms are coming into view, we thought we would give you some tips and helpful reminders for getting them filled out.

Wait, what are these for again?

The most common type of 1099, the 1099-MISC, needs to be completed for anyone who has provided services to you amounting to $600 or more. This can be anything from accounting services to snow removal – if it was $600 or greater worth of work, it goes on the 1099-MISC. However there are a few exceptions to the rule (go figure!). A 1099-MISC isn’t required if:

  • The company providing the services is incorporated – except with lawyers.
  • The person who provided services is your employee.
  • The amount of services provided is less than $600 worth.

Do I need to report anything else on the form?

The 1099-MISC requires you to report any rent paid to an individual or business that isn’t incorporated. It also requires you to report royalties of $10 or more and any other income payments such awards and prizes, and even employee wages paid after death. In other words, most miscellaneous payments are reported on the 1099-MISC.

Any other forms I should know about?

Another common 1099 is the 1099-INT. This form focuses on – you guessed it – interest reporting. Any interest paid amounting to $10 or more, any foreign tax and interest or backup federal withholdings – regardless of the interest payment amount — must be reported on this form.

So, when are they due?

Depending on the type of form you are filing, the due dates may vary. The IRS website gives a great picture of when each form is due. You can check it out here.

Anything else I should know before I get to work filling these out?

As always, these forms are more complex than meets the eye, and this list of items to include is not all-inclusive. Our pals at the IRS do a great job of explaining them, and we’ve also crafted a handy blog to help you get a picture of what these forms include.

We’re hopeful these reminders will give you the information (see what we did there?) you need to fill out the 1099. If your head is still spinning, let us know. We’re always here to help!

The Importance of Classifying Workers

Recently, the IRS released a fact sheet to help remind small businesses of the importance of correctly classifying workers. Sometimes IRS lingo can be complicated, so we broke it down for you.

Let’s start with the question that’s probably going through your head – why does this matter?

When you classify your workers, this can help determine if you need to withhold income, social security and Medicare taxes. It also helps determine if you actually have to pay these taxes on employee wages. When it comes to independent contractors, businesses usually don’t have to withhold or pay taxes. If you’re not classifying correctly, you can get stuck with some harsh fines and penalties.

So how do you determine if the individual is an independent contractor or an employee? One general rule to follow is that your worker is an independent contractor if the business has the right to control only the result of the work, not how the work will be done. However, there are three categories that can help you make your determination.

Behavioral Control

A worker is considered an employee when the business gets to be bossy. Okay, maybe bossy isn’t the right word, but the business does have the right to direct and control the work being done. Behavioral control can be broken down into a few more distinct categories:

  • Type of instructions – This can include telling the employee where to work, when to do the work and how the work should be done.
  • Instruction complexity – The higher the complexity of the instructions given, the more likely it is the individual is an employee. When the instructions have less detail, this gives the worker more control to do the job how they see fit, which points towards the worker being an independent contractor.
  • Evaluation – How a business evaluates the work can help determine if the worker is an employee or contractor. If the details of how the work was done are evaluated, then the worker is likely an employee. However, if only the end product is being evaluated, it’s more likely you have a contractor.
  • Training – This one is fairly simple. Would you like someone else telling you how to do your job? If a worker is an employee, the business has the authority to do just that. For independent contractors, they are the experts and generally don’t require training from the hiring company.

Control over Finances

This category looks at what control the business has over the financial and business pieces of the worker’s job. Factors to consider include:

  • Equipment investment – Independent contractors are much more likely than employees to make significant investments in the equipment they are using to get the job done. Employees are often provided equipment from their employer, rather than investing in it on their own.
  • Expense reimbursement – Businesses generally reimburse expenses for their employees, not for independent contractors.
  • Availability – Independent contractors generally have the freedom to seek out more business opportunities, while employees work is usually contained to the one business.
  • Payment – This one is easy to understand. When you have employees, you usually guarantee them a regular wage. With independent contractors, a flat fee is usually agreed upon and paid on the completion of the work.

Relationship Elements

What the business or worker offers in the relationship can also determine classification. Some key elements to consider are:

  • Contracts – Written contracts which describe the relationship the parties plan to create are a fairly simple way to determine which type of worker the business has. However, it’s important to note that a contract stating the worker is a contractor or an employee isn’t enough on its own to classify the worker’s status.
  • Benefits – Insurance, retirement, vacation and sick pay are benefits provided to employees. It’s rare for these benefits to be given to independent contractors.
  • Forever or just a fling – The length of time of the relationship can help determine a worker’s status. When an employee is hired, the expectation is that the relationship is long term. For contractors, the relationship isn’t permanent. Instead, both parties enter the relationship with the assumption of a certain amount of time for the work to be completed.

When businesses wrongly classify their workers, they are still liable for the related taxes and payments for those workers, and may even face other sanctions. Correctly classifying your workers helps you avoid this, making it easier for you to run your business.

We know this stuff can be kind of confusing – and even scary. But don’t fear! We are here to help.. just ask!

 

Updates to Per Diem Rates

Back in August, the General Services Administration (a.k.a GSA) issued its annual update on federal maximum per diem rates. These new rates pertain to locations within the continental United States – otherwise known as CONUS. This includes the lower 48.

Before we go into detail on the new rates, let’s do a little refresher.

Per Diem: A Latin word that translates to per day, or for each day. In the case of this post, per diem is being discussed as the daily allowance employees are paid and reimbursed for when they travel for work. Common expenses covered under per diem rates include:

  • Lodging
  • Meals
  • Tips
  • Ground Transportation
  • Wi-Fi Charges
  • Other incidental expenses, such as dry cleaning

Another simple way to put it: it is the amount of money an employee is able to spend, per day, on a business trip, attending conferences and events related to work and traveling to work away from the home office. Think of it as an allowance. However, it is important to note the per diem rate doesn’t include the cost of transportation to the site, such as flights or driving. Those costs are usually paid separately by the employers.

So, let’s get back to the main point: these rates are changing, and if you or your employees travel for work, it’s important to know them and stay in compliance!

The new FY18 rates apply to work travel on or after October 1, 2017. If the per diem allowance given to an employee is equal to or less than the federal rates, the allowance is excludable from income tax; those over the federal rates are subject to employment taxes.

Let’s take a look at what FY18 per diem rates have to offer.

The first takeaway to note is the CONUS meal and incidental expense (M&IE) rate hasn’t changed – it is staying at $51. The M&IE rates for non-standard areas – areas still within CONUS which have different rates for travel – will also stay the same. However, all locations in CONUS that don’t appear on the non-standard area list will have an increase in the lodging per diem rate. This has gone up from $91 to $93.

There are also some changes to the non-standard areas list. While no new locations were added, there were 14 locations removed for FY18. They include:

  • Redding, CA
  • Cedar Rapids, IA
  • Bonner’s Ferry/Sandpoint, ID
  • Dickinson/Beulah, ND
  • Watertown, NY
  • Youngstown, OH
  • Enid, OK
  • Mechanicsberg, PA
  • Scranton, PA
  • Laredo, TX
  • McAllen, TX
  • Pearsall, TX
  • San Angelo, TX
  • Gillette, WY

These removed locations are now considered part of the regular CONUS, and follow CONUS standard rates.

You might also be wondering about rates in places that aren’t part of the CONUS, such as Alaska, Hawaii or even Puerto Rico. If your employees are lucky enough to travel to Hawaii for work, it’s important to note these rates are not updated annually, but rather on an irregular basis.

The Department of State steps in and updates per diem rates for foreign travel, but also on an irregular schedule.

To find these rates, as well as the CONUS rates, be sure to check out the GSA website.

In the meantime, if you’re struggling to understand how much to reimburse your employees for their travels, reach out to us. We would be happy to help!

1099 Basics – In July

That’s right, it’s never too early to start the process of preparing your 1099s (you will thank us come January). Here are a few tips to start preparing those 1099s.

Who do I prepare 1099s for?

The simplest answer for the most common type of 1099, the 1099-MISC, is they need to be prepared for anyone that provided services to you. However, they are not given to someone who is an employee (here’s your refresh), and you need to have paid them $600 or more for the year (we’re talking accounting, legal, janitorial services, repairs, snow removal or lawn maintenance, etc. unless the company is incorporated). If the company is incorporated, then a 1099-MISC is not required, except with lawyers … then you still get to fill out the form.

Other items reported on a 1099-MISC include rent paid to an individual or a business that is not incorporated, royalties of $10 or more, other income payments including prizes and awards, employee wages paid after death in the year following death, director fees, etc.

Another common 1099 form is the 1099-INT. This form is required for interest paid of $10 or more, any foreign tax on interest withheld and paid, or backup federal withholdings regardless of the amount of the interest payment.

Please note, this is a very simplified list of items that 1099s need to be issued for. IRS.gov has several booklets that go into more detail on what is required and instructions for each form is available. On their website, type 1099 instructions in the search box and a list of forms and instructions will pop up.

So what am I supposed to do in July?

Identifying the vendors that need 1099s now will save you a lot of headache come year end. You can do this by having each of your vendors complete and return to you a Form W-9 (also found on IRS.gov). This form will give you their business name, address, tax identification number and type of entity. Best practice is to have all of your vendors complete this form, even if you know they will not be providing services to you. If circumstances change and you are required to provide a 1099 to them in another year, then you are already prepared!

Once the W-9s are returned, you can begin updating your records so when it comes time to complete your 1099s you will have the correct name, address, and TIN on file. You should also flag your vendors so it accumulates the amounts for you. Many accounting programs, such as QuickBooks, allow you to indicate the vendor will need a 1099 at the end of the year. Most also allow you to indicate the type of form and which box the amounts should be reported in. Having your system set up to accurately do the work for you will save tons of time at year end.

If all of these suggestions are followed, you should have time in January to put your feet up on your desk and relax because you won’t be spending hours trying to find vendor information and trying to figure out the amounts to report.

If you have questions, we’re always here to help.

Ringing in the New Year with New Mileage Rates

Mileage changesAs you get read to embark on 2017, one of the things to keep in mind is the IRS. Why you may ask? Well the IRS likes to ring in the New Year with all sorts of changes (don’t believe us? Check out this blog).

One of their newest additions is the change in rate for mileage. Beginning on January 1, 2017, the standard mileage rates for business, medical and moving will change. Happy New Year.

The new rates will be:

  • 53.5 cents for business mileage (that’s a whopping half cent change from 54 cents in 2016)
  • 17 cents for medical or moving purposes (it was 19 cents in 2016)

Why the change? As a reminder, the mileage rates for business are based on a fancy study on the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. So the IRS is just keeping up with the times.

These are important calculations to watch if you’re reimbursing your employees for driving on or for the job. While half a cent might not seem like much, it can add up if you’re not paying attention to these types of changes. Anything paid to an employee above the federal mileage rate becomes taxable wages to the employee.

Don’t feel like calculating the mileage rates? You can always calculate the actual cost of using a vehicle instead.