Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Posts tagged ‘businesses’

Guidelines for keeping good records for tax season and beyond

Good recordkeeping is essential for individuals and businesses before, during, and after the tax filing season.

First, the law actually requires taxpayers to retain certain records for a specified number of years, for example tax returns or employment tax records (for employers).

Second, good record is essential for taxpayers while preparing their tax returns. The Tax Code frequently requires taxpayers to substantiate their income and claims for deductions and credits by providing records of various profits, expenses and transactions.

Third, if a taxpayer is ever audited by the IRS, good recordkeeping can facilitate what could be along and invasive process, and it can often mean the difference between a no change and a hefty adjustment. Finally, business taxpayers should maintain good records that will enable them to track the trajectory of their success over the years.

Here you will find a sample list of various types of records it would be wise to retain for tax and other purposes (not an exhaustive list; see this office for further customization to your particular situation):

Individuals

Filing status:

Marriage licenses or divorce decrees – Among other things, such records are important for determining filing status.

Determining/Substantiating income:

State and federal income tax returns – Tax records should be retained for at least three years, the length of the statute of limitations for audits and amending returns. However, in cases where the IRS determines a substantial understatement of tax or fraud, the statute of limitations is longer or can remain open indefinitely.

Paystubs, Forms W-2 and 1099, Pension Statements, Social Security Statements – These statements are essential for taxpayers determining their earned income on their tax returns. Taxpayers should also cross reference their wage and income reports with their final pay stubs to verify that their employer has reported the correct amount of income to the IRS.

Tip diary or other daily tip record – Taxpayers that receive some of their income from tips should keep a daily record of their tip income. Under the best circumstances, taxpayers would have already accurately reported their tip income to their employers, who would then report that amount to the IRS. However, mistakes can occur, and good recordkeeping can eliminate confusion when tax season arrives.

 

Military records – Some members of the military are exempt from state and/or federal tax; combat pay is exempt from taxation, as are veteran’s benefits. (In many cases, a record of military service is necessary to obtain veteran’s benefits in the first place.)

Copies of real estate purchase documents – Up to $500,000 of gain from the sale of a personal residence may be excludable from income (generally up to $250,000 if you are single). But if you own a home that sold for an amount that produces a greater amount of gain, or if you own real estate that is not used as your personal residence, you will need these records to prove your tax basis in your home; the greater your basis, the lower the amount of gain that must be recognized.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA) records – Funds contributed to Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs and the earnings thereon receive different tax treatments upon distribution, depending in part on when the distribution was made, what amount of the contributions were tax deferred when made, and other factors that make good recordkeeping desirable.

Investment purchase confirmation records – Long-term capital gains receive more favorable tax treatment than short-term capital gains. In addition, basis (generally the cost of certain investments when purchased) can be subtracted from gain from any sale. For these reasons, taxpayers should keep records of their investment purchase confirmations.

Substantiating deductions:

Acknowledgments of charitable donations – Cash contributions to charity cannot be deducted without a bank record, receipt, or other means. Charitable contributions of $250 or more must be substantiated by a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the qualified organization that also meets the IRS requirements.

Cash payments of alimony – Payments of alimony may be deductible from the gross income of the paying spouse . . . if the spouse can substantiate the payments.

Medical records – Disabled taxpayers under the age of 65 should keep a written statement from a qualified physician certifying they were totally disabled on the date of retirement.

Records of medical expenses – Certain unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 10 percent of adjusted gross income may be deductible.

Current health insurance policy – The new health care law requires most individuals to obtain minimum essential health coverage. If your employer has not provided you with records of coverage because you have your own policy, or for some other reason, you should be able to substantiate the amount of your coverage.

Mortgage statements and mortgage insurance  – Mortgage interest, premiums paid toward mortgage insurance, and real estate taxes are generally deductible for taxpayers who itemize rather than claim the standard deduction.

Receipts for any improvements to real estate – Part or all of the expense of certain energy efficient real estate improvements can qualify taxpayers for one or more tax credits.

Keeping so many records can be tedious, but come tax season it can result in large tax savings. And in the case of an audit, evidence of good recordkeeping can get you off to a good start with the IRS examiner handling the case, can save time, and can also save money. For more information on recordkeeping for individuals, please contact our offices.

Businesses

 

Taxpayers are required by law to keep permanent books of account or records that sufficiently substantiate the amount of gross income, deductions, credits and other amounts reported and claimed on any their tax returns and information returns.

Although, neither the Tax Code nor its regulations specify exactly what kinds of records satisfy the record-keeping requirements, here are a few suggestions:

State and federal income tax returns – These and any supporting documents should be kept for at least the period of limitations for each return. As with individual taxpayers, the limitations period for business tax returns may be extended in the event of a substantial understatement or fraud.

Employment taxes – The Tax Code requires employers to keep all records of employment taxes for at least four years after filing for the 4th quarter for the year. Generally these records would include wage payments and other payroll-related records, the amount of employment taxes withheld, reported tip income, identification information for employees and other payees; employees’ dates of employment; income tax withholding allowance certificates (Forms W-4, for example), fringe benefit payments, and more.

Business income – These would go toward substantiating income, and could include cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, a cash receipts journal, annual financial statements, Forms 1099, and more.

Inventory costs – Businesses should keep records of inventory purchases. For example, if an electronics company purchases a certain number of widgets for resale or a manufacturer purchases a certain number of ball bearings for use in the production of industrial equipment that it manufactures and sells. The costs of these goods, parts, or other materials can be deducted from sales income to significantly reduce tax liability.

Business expenses – Ordinary and necessary expenses for carrying on business, such as the cost of rental office space, are also generally deductable from business income. Such expenses can be substantiated through bank statements, canceled checks, credit card receipts or other such records. The cost of making certain improvements to a business, such as through buying equipment or renovating property, can also be deductible.

Electronic back-up

Paper records can take up a great deal of storage space, and they are also vulnerable to destruction in fires, floods, earthquakes, or other natural phenomena. Because records are required to substantiate most income, deductions, property values and more—even when they no longer exist—taxpayers (and especially business taxpayers) should digitize their records on an electronic storage system and keep a back-up copy in a secure location.

Business taxation can be extremely complicated, and the requirements for recordkeeping vary greatly depending on the size of the business, the form of organization chosen, and the type of industry in which the business operates. For more details on your specific situation, please call our offices.

ACA impact SHOP, tax credits, Marketplaces, and more

Despite the 16-day government shutdown in October, a number of important developments took place impacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, especially for individuals and businesses. The Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) was temporarily delayed, Congress took a closer look at income verification for the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit, and held a hearing on the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. Individuals trying to enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov also experienced some technical problems in October.

SHOP

The Affordable Care Act created two vehicles to deliver health insurance: Marketplaces for individuals and the SHOP for small businesses. Marketplaces launched as scheduled on October 1 in every state and the District of Columbia. Qualified individuals can enroll in a Marketplace to obtain health insurance. Coverage through a Marketplace will begin January 1, 2014.

The October 1 start of SHOP, however, was delayed. Small employers may start the application process on October 1, 2013 but all functions of SHOP will not be available until November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported. If employers and employees enroll by December 15, 2013, coverage will begin January 1, 2014, HHS explained.

SHOP is closely related to the Code Sec. 45R small employer health insurance tax credit. This tax credit is designed to help small employers offset the cost of providing health insurance to their employees. After 2013, small employers must participate in SHOP to take advantage of the Code Sec. 45R tax credit. For tax years beginning during or after 2014, the maximum Code Sec. 45R credit for an eligible small employer (other than a tax-exempt employer) is 50 percent of the employer’s premium payments made on behalf of its employees under a qualifying arrangement for QHPs offered through a SHOP Marketplace. The maximum credit for tax-exempt employers for those years is 35 percent. Maximum and minimum credits are based upon the level of employee wages. If you have any questions about SHOP and the Code Sec. 45R credit, please contact our office.

Code Sec. 36B tax credit

Effective January 1, 2014, qualified individuals may be eligible for the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit to help pay for health coverage through a Marketplace. The credit is linked to household income in relation to the federal poverty line (FPL). Generally, taxpayers whose household income for the year is between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line for their family size may be eligible for the credit.

When taxpayers apply for coverage in a Marketplace, the Marketplace will estimate the amount of the Code Sec. 36B credit that the taxpayer may be able to claim for the tax year. Based upon the estimate made by the Marketplace, the individual can decide if he or she wants to have all, some, or none of the estimated credit paid in advance directly to the insurance company to be applied to monthly premiums. Taxpayers who do not opt for advance payment may claim the credit when they file their federal income tax return for the year.

The October 16 agreement to reopen the federal government directed HHS to certify to Congress that Marketplaces verify eligibility for the Code Sec. 36B credit. HHS must submit a report to Congress by January 1, 2014 on the procedures for verifying eligibility for the credit and follow-up with a report by July 1, 2014 on the effectiveness of its income verification procedures.

Employer mandate

The Affordable Care Act generally requires an applicable large employer to make an assessable payment (a penalty) if the employer fails to offer minimum essential health coverage and a number of other requirements are not met. The employer mandate was scheduled to take effect January 1, 2014. However, the Obama administration delayed it for an additional year, to 2015.

In October, the House Small Business Committee heard testimony on the definition of full-time employee status for purposes of the employer mandate. An applicable large employer for purposes of the employer mandate is an employer that employs at least 50 full-time employees or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that equals at least 50. A full-time employee with respect to any month is an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.

Employers testifying before the GOP-chaired committee urged an increase in the 30-hour threshold. “Many small businesses simply cannot afford to provide coverage to employees who average 30 hours per week,” the owner of a supermarket told the committee. “Business owners will have to make tough choices and many part-time employees will face reduced hours,” he added. “Many franchise businesses are being turned upside down by the new costs, complexities and requirements of the law,” another business owner told the committee.

Legislation (HR 2575) has been introduced in the House to repeal the 30-hour threshold for classification as a full-time equivalent employee for purposes of the employer mandate and to replace it with 40 hours. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee.

HealthCare.gov

As has been widely reported, the individuals seeking to enroll in Marketplace coverage through HealthCare.gov experienced some online problems in October. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has undertaken a comprehensive review of HealthCare.gov. In the meantime, HHS reminded individuals that in-person assistance centers are open as are customer call centers.

Enrollment

The Affordable Care Act generally requires individuals to carry health insurance after 2013 or make a shared responsibility payment (also known as a penalty). For 2014, the penalty is $95 or the flat fee of one percent of taxable income, $325 in 2015 or the flat fee of two percent of taxable income, $695 in 2016 or 2.5 percent of taxable income (the $695 amount is indexed for inflation after 2016).

Open enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplaces began October 1, 2013 and runs through March 31, 2014. The enrollment period overlaps with the January 1, 2014 requirement to carry health insurance or make a shared responsibility payment. On social media, the Obama administration clarified that individuals who enroll in coverage through a Marketplace at anytime during the enrollment period will not be responsible for a penalty.

If you have any questions about these developments or the Affordable Care Act in general, please contact our office at (908) 725-4414.