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Cryptocurrency: The IRS is Watching You!

Whether you own cryptocurrency or not, everyone should know the tax rules surrounding this type of property as it becomes more popular. If you have one take away regarding cryptocurrency, it should be this: Remember that Uncle Sam is watching you!

Here’s what you need to know about the IRS and cryptocurrency:

Background

The IRS generally considers cryptocurrency—also referred to as virtual currency or digital currency—to be property, just like stocks and bonds for federal income tax purposes.

Therefore, if you sell cryptocurrency at a gain, it is subject to capital gains tax. Similarly, you may claim a capital loss on the sale or other disposition of cryptocurrency. But that’s not all: Anytime you exchange cryptocurrency for actual currency, goods or services, the IRS says it’s a taxable event.

Say that you hold Bitcoin for longer than one year and then sell it at a gain. The gain is taxable up to 20%. High-income taxpayers may also need to pay a 3.8% surtax on the cryptocurrency gain. Accordingly, you can use a loss from a cryptocurrency sale to offset capital gains plus up to $3,000 of ordinary income. Any excess is carried over to the following tax year.

The IRS Is Watching You!

Cryptocurrency transactions often flew under the radar, but the IRS is now paying much closer attention. Here’s how the IRS is stepping up enforcement efforts:

  • Answer a Form 1040 question. The IRS is so concerned about cryptocurrency transactions being reported that they have a cryptocurrency question on Page 1 of your tax return, just below your name. Before filling out any part of your tax return, the IRS wants you to answer a question about whether you received, sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of any financial interest in any virtual currency.
  • Brokers must report transactions. After 7 years of gently prodding taxpayers to self-report cryptocurrency transactions, Congress has given the green light for the IRS to obtain cost basis and sales proceeds information for all crypto transactions directly from brokers (such as CoinBase, Electrum or Mycelium) or other individuals who regularly provide digital asset transfer services on behalf of other people. Similar to the reporting of stocks and bonds, taxpayers will receive a Form 1099-B from brokers that list all crypto transactions. These new reporting rules are effective beginning January 1, 2023.
  • Expanded $10,000 reporting requirement. Businesses that accept virtual currency as payment may be required to report transactions above $10,000 to the IRS beginning January 1, 2023. In an interesting twist, cryptocurrency and other digital assets would be considered cash for purposes of the $10,000 reporting requirement, while the IRS will continue to treat cryptocurrency as real property (and not cash) for tax compliance purposes.

What you need to do

Here are some suggestions for tracking and reporting your cryptocurrency transactions on your tax return:

  • Keep up-to-date records. Consider tracking each transaction as they occur throughout the year. You may also want to keep your own transaction ledger as a way to double-check the accuracy of your broker’s statements.
  • Set aside money to pay taxes. Consider saving a certain percentage of each cryptocurrency transaction you sell at a gain for taxes you may need to pay.
  • Be aware before you dive into cryptocurrency. As you can see, being involved in cryptocurrency may not be for everyone. Wild swings in valuation are common. Reporting requirements are complicated.

Protecting Your Digital Footprint

In today’s digital age, it is impossible to avoid the internet. Even if you don’t have a computer and actively avoid social media, there is information about you in some corner of the web. Here are some ideas to help you manage your digital footprint:

  • Actively manage your security settings. Every app, social media site and web browser have multiple layers of privacy and security settings. When you download a new app or register with a new site, don’t simply trust the default settings. Look through the options yourself to ensure you are comfortable with the level of privacy. One thing to watch for with apps on your phone is location settings. Some apps will track your location even when the app isn’t running.
  • Protect your online image. Career search firms now have strategies built entirely around recruiting through social media. In addition to recruiting, human resource departments will vet prospective employees by reviewing social media profiles. Pay attention to what others post about you, as well. If you are uncomfortable with what they are sharing, have a conversation with them and ask that it be taken down.
  • Set boundaries for yourself. According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of Facebook users visit the site on a daily basis. And 51 percent say they visit multiple times per day. Try to find the balance that allows you to enjoy connecting with others online, but doesn’t negatively impact other parts of your life. In addition to time spent, draw a bright line between what you consider shareable versus personal information. If you have these boundaries in mind when on social media, it will help you think critically before continuing to scroll or posting something.
  • Know your friends. Be aware of who you are connected to on social media sites. Be cautious of accepting connection requests from people you don’t know, as some of these requests could be a phishing attempt to swipe confidential information.

The best defense of your private information is you. Having a plan and actively managing your online profiles is the best way to minimize the chance of your personal data falling into the wrong hands.

Great Tips for Your Home-Based Business

Home-based businesses can be financially rewarding and provide a certain amount of flexibility with your day-to-day schedule. Here are some tips to keep your business running at full steam.

  • Stay on top of accounts receivable. It’s easy to get caught up with fulfilling your business obligations while invoices you’ve sent out go unpaid. Agree to payment terms in advance with new customers and immediately – but politely – communicate with them as soon as they miss a payment deadline. Keep current with regular invoicing and collections.
  • Keep your bookkeeping records up-to-date. You may not realize you have an unpaid invoice that’s several months old unless your bookkeeping is up-to-date. Keeping accurate books involves more than balancing your bank accounts once a month. In addition to your monitoring your bank accounts, also consistently look at your accounts receivable, accounts payable, any debts (credit card, car loans or other borrowings), and all money you invest in your business. Ask for help if you don’t have enough time to do the bookkeeping yourself, or if you need help properly setting up your bookkeeping software.
  • Check on permit requirements. Depending on what type of home-based business you have, you may be required to obtain various permits, licenses or other registrations. If you have not already done so, check with your town or city for local requirements. The Small Business Administration is also a good source to research information on permits.
  • Get insured. Obtain adequate insurance for the type of operation you’ll be running. Besides the insurance required for business activities, you might consider adding a rider to your homeowner’s policy for liability protection should an accident occur on your property.
  • Stay on top of technology. While you may not need a top of the line computer, be sure that the technology equipment you use can handle the bandwidth of everything you’ll ask it to do, including video calls, software apps and data storage. Also consider scheduling a time for your internet provider to visit your home to make sure everything is in working order and your security protocols are top notch. Have a back-up plan in place for when a device breaks down, including where you’ll go to have it repaired.
  • Cash in on tax breaks. Take advantage of the tax breaks available to home-based businesses, including deductions for supplies, equipment and vehicle expenses. You may even be able to deduct the cost of your home office, including a pro-rated amount of your real estate taxes and utilities, if certain conditions are met.
  • Set aside money to pay your taxes. Ask for help to calculate how much of your incoming cash you should be setting aside to pay your federal, state and local taxes. Consider opening a separate bank account to transfer your tax money into.

I Owe Tax on That?

5 Surprising Taxable Items

Wages and self-employment earnings are taxable, but what about the random cash or financial benefits you receive through other means? If something of value changes hands, you can bet the IRS considers a way to tax it. Here are five taxable items that might surprise you:

  1. Scholarships and financial aid. Applying for scholarships and financial aid are top priorities for parents of college-bound children. But be careful — if any part of the award your child receives goes toward anything except tuition, it might be taxable. This could include room, board, books, travel expenses or aid received in exchange for work (e.g., tutoring or research).

    Tip: When receiving an award, review the details to determine if any part of it is taxable. Don’t forget to review state rules as well. While most scholarships and aid are tax-free, no one needs a tax surprise.
  2. Gambling winnings. Hooray! You hit the trifecta for the Kentucky Derby. But guess what? Technically, all gambling winnings are taxable, including casino games, lottery tickets and sports betting. Thankfully, the IRS allows you to deduct your gambling losses (to the extent of winnings) as an itemized deduction, so keep good records.

    Tip: Know when the gambling establishment is required to report your winnings. It varies by type of betting. For instance, the filing threshold for winnings from fantasy sports betting and horse racing is $600, while slot machines and bingo are typically $1,200. But beware, the gambling facility and state requirements may lower the limit.

  3. Unemployment compensation. Congress gave taxpayers a one-year reprieve in 2021 from paying taxes on 2020 unemployment income. Unfortunately, this tax break did not get extended for the 2021 tax year. So, unless Congress passes a law extending the tax break, unemployment will once again be taxable starting with your 2021 tax return.

    Tip: If you are collecting unemployment, you can either have taxes withheld and receive the net amount or make estimated payments to cover the tax liability.

  4. Social Security benefits. If your income is high enough after you retire, you could owe income taxes on up to 85% of Social Security benefits you receive.

    Tip: Consider if delaying when you start collecting Social Security benefits makes sense for you. Waiting to start benefits means you’ll avoid paying taxes on your Social Security benefits for now, plus you’ll get a bigger payment each month you delay until you reach age 70.

  5. Alimony. Prior to 2019, alimony was generally deductible by the person making alimony payments, with the recipient generally required to report alimony payments received as taxable income. Now the situation is flipped: For divorce and separation agreements executed since December 31, 2018, alimony is no longer deductible by the payer and alimony payments received are not reported as income.

    Tip: Alimony payments no longer need to be made in cash. Consider having the low-income earning spouse take more retirement assets such as 401(k)s and IRAs in exchange for reduced alimony payments. This arrangement would allow the higher-earning spouse to make alimony payments by transferring retirement funds without paying income taxes on it.

When in doubt, it’s a good idea to keep accurate records so your tax liability can be correctly calculated and you don’t get stuck paying more than what’s required.

Easy-to-Overlook Tax Documents

This year is a little more challenging

With tax season now officially underway, here are several tax documents that may be easy to miss in your mailbox or inbox:

Child tax credit letter. From July through December 2021, the IRS paid out 50% of projected child tax credit payments to qualified households. The IRS is sending out a recap of these advance payments in Letter 6419 that you can use to correctly account for these payments on your tax return. This letter should have arrived in your mailbox by late January.

Updated info – The IRS alerted a small group of taxpayers that their Letter 6419 may have an incorrect dollar amount. If you believe your Letter 6419 might not be accurate, confirm the dollar amount by using your online account at IRS.gov.

Stimulus payment letter. The IRS issued millions of economic impact payments in 2021. The IRS is mailing a summary of these payments you received in Letter 6475. As with the child tax credit letter, you can use this letter to accurately report your economic impact payments on your tax return. This letter also should have arrived in your mailbox by late January.

Identification PIN. The IRS may have assigned you an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) to help protect your identity. An IP PIN is a six-digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This IP PIN is known only to you and the IRS. If you are a confirmed victim of tax-related identity theft and the IRS has resolved your tax account issues, the IRS will mail you a CP01A Notice with your new IP PIN each year.

Corrected tax forms. If an error is discovered on a tax form you’ve already received, a corrected version will be created, then mailed to both you and the IRS. You can also request a corrected tax form if you believe you found an error. Here are some of the forms you might see with corrections:

  • Form W-2 from your employer that shows corrected wages, salary and taxes withheld
  • Form 1099-INT or Form 1099-DIV from your investment broker that shows a revision in interest and dividend income
  • Form 1099-NEC from a client to whom you provide services
  • Form 1098 that shows how much mortgage or student loan interest you’ve paid

You may not be aware you were issued a corrected tax form until it shows up in your mailbox (or inbox). If you do receive a corrected form, don’t throw the old version away! Save both the original version and corrected version in case either are needed for future reference.

Often the ease of filing your tax return is dependent on having the correct information, so remember to look for everything, including these often-overlooked forms.

Ideas to Improve Your Financial Health in 2022

A new year. New resolutions. Here are five ideas to consider to help improve your financial health in the upcoming year.

  1. Save more for retirement. Plan for the future by feathering your retirement nest egg. For instance, you can contribute up to $20,500 to a 401(k) account in 2022, plus another $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older. Plus, your company may provide matching contributions up to a stated percentage of compensation. And you can supplement this account with contributions to IRAs and/or other qualified plans.
  2. Update your estate plan. Now is a good time to review your will and make any necessary adjustments. For example, your will may need to be updated due to births, deaths, marriages or divorces in the family or other changes in your personal circumstances. Also review trust documents, powers of attorney (POAs) and healthcare directives or create new ones to facilitate your estate plan.
  3. Rebalance your portfolio. Due to the volatility of equity markets, it’s easy for a portfolio to lose balance against your investment objectives. To bring things back to where you want, review your investments periodically and reallocate funds to reflect your main objectives, risk tolerance, and other personal preferences. This will put you in a better position to handle the ups and downs of the markets.
  4. Review, consolidate, and lower debt levels. One sure-fire method for improving your financial health is to spend less and save more. Start by chipping away at any existing debts. This may mean giving up some luxuries, but it’s generally well worth it in the long run. Pay extra attention to debts with high interest charges like credit card debt. If possible, consider consolidating several of these debts into one or two obligations if you can lower your interest rate in the process.
  5. Contingency planning. No one can foresee every twist and turn that 2022 will take. To avoid potential financial hardship, look to improve your emergency fund by setting aside enough funds to pay for six months or more of your expenses in case of events like a job loss or a severe health issue.

These five tips can help you thrive in 2022!

Small Business Tax Return To-Do List

Eight ideas to make filing your tax return easier

Consider these suggestions for helping to make tax season smooth sailing this year for your small business:

  1. Make your estimated tax payments. Tuesday, January 18th is the due date to make your 4th quarter payment for the 2021 tax year. Now is also the time to create an initial estimate for first quarter 2022 tax payments. The due date for this payment is Monday, April 18.
  2. Reconcile your bank accounts. Preparing an accurate tax return starts with accurate books. Reconciling your bank accounts is the first step in this process. Consider it the cornerstone on which you build your financials and your tax return. Up-to-date cash accounts will also give you confidence that you’re not over-reporting (or under-reporting!) income on your tax return.
  3. Organize those nasty credit card statements. If you use credit cards for your business, develop an expense report for these expenditures, if you have not already done so. The report should recap the credit card bill and place the transactions in the correct expense accounts. Attach actual copies of the expenses in the credit card statement. You will need this to support any sales tax paid in case of an audit. Use this exercise to show you are only including business-related expenses by reimbursing your business for any personal use of the card.
  4. Reconcile accounts payable. One of the first tax deadlines for many businesses is issuing 1099 forms to vendors and contractors at the end of January. Get your accounts payable and cash disbursements up-to-date so you have an accurate account of which vendors you paid.
  5. Get your information reporting in order. Now identify anyone you paid during the year that will need a 1099. Look for vendors that are not incorporated like consultants or those in the gig economy and don’t forget your attorneys. You will need names, addresses, identification numbers (like Social Security numbers) and amounts billed. Send out W-9s as soon as possible to request missing information.
  6. File employee-related tax forms. If you have employees, file all necessary W-2 and W-3 forms, along with the applicable federal and state payroll returns (Forms 940 and 941). Do this as soon as possible in January to allow time to identify any potential problems.
  7. Compile a list of major purchases. Prepare a list of any purchases you made during 2021 that resulted in your business receiving an invoice for $2,500 or more. Once the list is compiled, find detailed invoices that support the purchase and create a fixed asset file. This spending will be needed to determine if you wish to depreciate the purchase over time, take advantage of bonus depreciation, or expense the purchase using code section 179. Your choices create a great tax planning tool.
  8. Review the impact of COVID-19. There are a number of federal and state initiatives that will need to be considered when filing your 2021 tax return. If you received payroll credits for employee retention or have a Paycheck Protection Program loan that needs to be accounted for this year, be prepared with the details. It will be important to correctly account for these funds.

Plan Your Retirement Savings Goals for 2022

There’s good news for your retirement accounts in 2022! The IRS recently announced that you can contribute more pre-tax money to several retirement plans in 2022. Take a look at the following contribution limits for several of the more popular retirement plans:

What You Can Do

  • Look for your retirement savings plan from the table and note the annual savings limit of the plan. If you are 50 years or older, add the catch-up amount to your potential savings total.
  • Make adjustments to your employer provided retirement savings plan as soon as possible in 2022 to adjust your contribution amount.
  • Double check to ensure you are taking full advantage of any employee matching contributions into your account.
  • Use this time to review and re-balance your investment choices as appropriate for your situation.
  • Set up new accounts for a spouse and/or dependents. Enable them to take advantage of the higher limits, too.
  • Consider IRAs. Many employees maintain employer-provided plans without realizing they could also establish a traditional or Roth IRA. Use this time to review your situation and see if these additional accounts might benefit you or someone else in your family.
  • Review contributions to other tax-advantaged plans, including flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs).

Now is a great time to make 2022 a year to remember for retirement savings!

Make Order Out of Chaos

Prepare for this year’s tax return filing season

Tax return filing season usually gets a little crazy, but this year will be more turbulent than most. Due to new tax legislation and guidance from the IRS, you will have to cope with a wide variety of tax changes, some of which relate to the pandemic. Here are several tips for making some order out of the chaos.

Unemployment benefits

Unemployment benefits are taxable once again in 2021. In 2020, the first $10,200 of benefits received by taxpayers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $150,000 were exempt from tax. Unfortunately, the tax-free nature of unemployment benefits in 2020 was made long after many of you filed your tax return. If this pertains to you, and you haven’t received a refund from a tax overpayment yet, you might need to file an amended 2020 tax return.

Small business loans

To kick start the economy during the pandemic, Congress created a loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Similarly, your small business might have received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or grant. These loans may be forgiven in 2021 without any adverse tax consequences if certain conditions were met. So, gather your records—including what you received and when—for optimal tax protection.

Economic impact payments

Congress handed out three rounds of Economic Impact Payments to individuals in 2020 and 2021. The third payment provided a maximum of $1,400 per person, including dependents, subject to a phaseout. For single filers, the phaseout begins at $75,000 of AGI; $150,000 for joint filers. So, review your records and be very clear what payments you received in 2021. Only then can you use your 2021 tax return to ensure you receive credit for your full stimulus payments.

Child tax credit

Many families will benefit from an enhanced Child Tax Credit (CTC) on their 2021 tax return. The new rules provide a credit of up to $3,000 per qualifying child ages 6 through 17 ($3,600 per qualifying child under age six), subject to a phaseout beginning at $75,000 of AGI for single filers and $150,000 for joint filers. What will complicate this year’s tax filing are any advance payments you received from the IRS during the second half of 2021. It is important that you accurately identify all the payments you received. Only then can correct adjustments be made on your tax return to ensure you receive the full Child Tax Credit amount.

Dependent care credit

The available dependent care credit for qualified expenses incurred in 2021 is much higher than 2020, with a corresponding increase in phaseout levels. The maximum credit for households with an AGI up to $125,000 is $4,000 for one under-age-13 child and $8,000 for two or more children. The credit is gradually reduced, then disappears completely if your AGI exceeds $440,000.

Due to the ongoing debate of proposed legislation in Washington, D.C., this year’s tax filing season will seem a bit chaotic. With proper preparation, though, your situation can be orderly…but only if you prepare!

The Power of Comparative Financial Statements

Your business has a story to tell. And one of the ways to hear your business’s story is by reading through comparative financial statements.

The importance of comparative financial statements

An up-to-date balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows are essential financial reports you should consistently analyze. But these financial statements by themselves don’t tell the whole story about your business. Consider the following:

  • Company XYZ: The most current balance sheet shows $1 million in liquid assets with zero liabilities.
  • Company ABC: The most current income statement has a net profit margin of 35%.
  • Company 123: The statement of cash flows shows that the company has consistently brought in more cash than it has spent over the past three years.

And here’s the rest of the story:

  • Company XYZ: Liquid assets decreased from $5 million to $1 million over the past 12 months.
  • Company ABC: Net profit margin is typically around 20% for this company. However, a recent round of layoffs temporarily pushed total salaries and wages lower, while pushing the net profit margin much higher.
  • Company 123: There has been a steady decline in positive cash flow over the past three years.

These examples show the importance of analyzing your financial statements in comparison with something else. Reading through the first list of bullet points only tells part of the story.

What you can do

Here are several types of comparative financial statements you can create for your business and some tips for getting the most out of these reports.

  • Current period vs. Prior period. Compare this month to the same month one year prior (October 2021 vs. October 2020) or compare by year (2021 Year-to-Date vs. 2020 Year-to-Date).
  • Current period vs. Current period forecast. This is known as a variance analysis. You compare what you think was going to occur during a particular period to what actually happened. This report can also be done either by month [October 2021 (actual) vs. October 2021 (forecast)] or by year [2021 Year-to-Date (actual) vs. 2021 Year-to-Date (forecast)]
  • Use both absolute figure and percentages. Percentages allow you to quickly see the degree of change between the two periods that are being compared. Here’s an example of what this could look like:
  • Ask for help! Please contact your financial advisor or accountant if you would like help creating or analyzing comparative financial statements for your business.