Introducing the 2017-18 Tax Planning Guide

Tax planning guideTaxes are important, especially as you’re running your business. Paying attention to tax laws, and planning in a timely fashion for taxes, can seriously help you in the long run. For instance, you can estimate your tax liability and even look for ways to reduce it. That’s why we created our annual tax planning guide.

The guide highlights all sorts of information related to tax planning and tax law. Topics include:

  • Executive compensation
  • Investing
  • Real Estate
  • Business Ownership
  • Charitable Giving
  • Family & Education
  • Retirement
  • Estate Planning
  • Tax Rates

To learn more, or download the guide, click here.

Change could be coming …

There’s a large possibility that tax laws could be seriously changing, thanks to a change in White House administration and Republicans maintaining a majority of Congress. But for now, following current tax laws is the way to go.

However, it’s important to know that change could come quickly and you need to be ready to respond. We encourage you to have a tax adviser who can help you navigate these changes if they happen.

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!

Tax Changes: What’s New?

Surprise – we’re back! We disappeared for a while, but we’re back to share some important updates on, you guessed it, taxes!

It should come as no surprise there are constant changes in the tax world, and staying up to date on all these changes and regulations can be taxing (don’t worry, we haven’t lost our sense of humor).

So, what’s been changing? We’re glad you asked.

Physical Nexus

A while back we brought you info on nexus (you can check it out here if you need a refresher). States are now looking to overturn the physical nexus requirement for sales tax and replace the current presence test with a new test which would be based on sales or transaction volumes. These changes are important to pay attention to, as they just might have an effect on your nexus and filing duties.

Sales Tax Reporting

Changes are happening to sales tax reporting in Colorado, which is important if you do business in the state. Back in July, reporting requirements began for sellers who don’t currently collect Colorado sales tax and have annual sales greater than $100,000. If the seller doesn’t let the buyer know on the invoice they need to pay use tax, the seller will be penalized.

Penalties are also being imposed on those who fail to provide their buyers with a year-end transaction summary – if the customer makes more than $500 in purchases. Customer information also must be provided to the state.

Other states such as Kentucky, Louisiana, Vermont and Washington have put similar requirements in place, and it’s likely others will follow. It’s important to pay attention to these changes – your state could be next!

Economic Standard

As if changing the sales tax reporting requirements wasn’t enough, states are also imposing an economic standard for any business conducted in a state that leads to an income tax requirement. The standard for “doing business” generally looks like:

  • $50,000 in property or payroll in a state
  • $500,000 of sales into a state
  • An amount of activity in the above categories that is more than 25% of the company’s total

Of course, these minimum amounts of sales, payroll and property can vary by state. The following states currently have similar definitions for doing business:

  • Alabama
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington

The Market-Based Method

Businesses who don’t sell tangible property have been using the “cost of performance” method of revenue sourcing for quite some time. However, states are now starting to source this kind of revenue using a market-based method.

Unsure of what a market-based method is? This method means the sale is attributed to the actual location of the customer, rather than where the work was performed. This change has been adopted by many states, with a lot more likely to play copycat. Stay aware of these changes – filing requirements and taxes may be due in states where taxpayers haven’t previously filed.

This is great info, but why should I care?

Understanding these issues and changes can help you prevent costly surprises. Simply filing in a state where a company has a physical location is no longer valid, and is even considered an invalid excuse for failing to handle sales and income taxes.

Taxes are important. To learn more, or ask some questions, reach out. We’re here to help you!

A version of this blog first appeared on eidebailly.com

Meet the Team: Sandy Kundert

124What is my role? My role is to ensure our clients are getting the best possible Eide Bailly experience they can. I do this by making sure we understand what our clients need, what they wish for and suggesting things they may not have thought of. Then we try to match a member of our team with the client. If our clients are successful, then we are successful!

Why are numbers important for business? Numbers are like lab test results from the doctor. They not only show us the current health of the business but aid in what we need to do in order to improve over time. Good decisions come from being informed and numbers do just that.

Why do I want you to succeed? I have several clients I have worked with for many years. You get to know each other on a personal level and they become like family. I always feel a little pride when my clients have a win, no matter how big or small and I’m thankful they let me be a part of that.

#ILoveSmallBiz – Whether a small business succeeds or fails, it has a huge impact on their employees, customers, and the local economy. By helping small businesses succeed, we all become winners.

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.

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!