It’s that time again and the holidays are fast approaching.  It’s a time of excitement, family, get togethers, and…finances!  For most, year-end is the time when we start thinking about taxes and our financial situation for the year.  December 31st is too late, but if you’re reading this now, you have a good chance to get things in order to make tax time and other year-end tasks less stressful.  Keep reading to see how to get ready!

Catch Up Your Bookkeeping

If you have some a back log of bookkeeping to do, now is the time to get caught up and ready for January.  Bookkeeping can be as simple as a spreadsheet if you’re a sole proprietor, or if you have LLC or Corporation, then you really should use software like Xero.  Don’t spend hours and hours on this.  Technology is come along away in the past 5 years so chances are “there’s an app for that”!

Having your books caught up will tell you how much income and expenses you have for the year.  Once you know that, then you’ll have a good idea of what your tax bill is going to look like.

Taxes

If you’re self-employed chanced are that you should be paying estimated tax payments–which are basically tax prepayments.  Reviewing how much you’ve paid in, and making any necessary catch up payments will help ensure you don’t have a large tax bill and will help you avoid any pre-payment penalties.

Additionally, you should review your net income to ensure you aren’t getting caught with a large unexpected tax bill.  Reviewing this will help you know what to expect when it’s time to file taxes.  And if you have extra cash, you can even pay some or all of your tax liability before you file your return.

 

Retirement Accounts

Saving for retirement has almost become a cliché term.  But did you know most business owners aren’t taking advantage of having their company pay themselves for retirement?  It’s one of the great tax planning tools that a business owner can use!  The company (which you own) pays into a retirement account for you.  So it’s like getting a double benefit!  Every business owner should be doing this.

There are many different options for retirement accounts.  Whether it’s a 401K, SEP, or SIMPLE IRA, find the one that works for you and get it started.

Re-evaluate Your Pricing & Costs

End of year is a great time to look at your pricing and costs.  It’s also a great time to review your Gross Profit % and make sure you’re charging enough for your products/services, or adjust your Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).  Keep in mind that generally speaking, your COGS should be no more than 30% of your revenue.  If it is, you could be bleeding cash and you may soon run out.  If you run out of cash, guess what?  The jig is up and you may be out of business.  In order to do this you’ll need to of course have your bookkeeping caught up so do that first, and then review these numbers.

 

…your COGS should be no more than 30% of your revenue

Review Your Systems and Processes

Finally, review your internal systems and processes.  Or, maybe this is the time where you commit to write them down.  Mapping out your systems and processes does a few things for you:

  1. You can discover inefficiencies that you may have never seen.  Writing something down  has the amazing effect of providing objectivity!  You can use paper or online tools like Google Docs or Evernote to do this.  That way, if you ever have staff taking over certain jobs, they’ll know what to do.
  2. It also prepares you to be able to hire staff and delegate tasks or jobs.  Doing this allows you to take on more of a managerial/strategy role and be less of a technician.  As business owners, we should all be moving away from the technical side of the business so we can work on the vision and growing the company.

 

As business owners we should all be moving away from the technical side of the business so we can work on the vision and growing the company

 

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list by any means, but it should get you started.  If you need help, just ask!  We’ve helped countless businesses do these things and we can offer down-to-earth advice that will make doing this, easy!

 

 

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How to Choose payroll service blog post

Whenever I mention payroll to business owners I see the telltale signs of them “checking out” mentally, and it’s not surprising!  With terms like FICA, Workers Comp, Unemployment and ObamaCare, it’s no wonder small businesses are confused and sometimes just downright disgusted by it.  In fact, we often tell clients that if they get one thing right in running their business, make sure you hire a competent payroll service!

We want to help you understand how to make the right choice in choosing a payroll service.  So let’s get into it!

Taxes

Penalties on payroll tax errors are some of the most stringent that the IRS will shell out.  So you need to get this right!  Payroll companies will work payroll taxes in one of two ways: impounding and you paying the taxes yourself.

Impounding means that the payroll company takes the taxes from your account, holds on to them, and then pays them on time to the IRS and state agencies.  Sure, they make money on holding onto your funds, but they also take full responsibility for making the payments on time.

Some providers make it pretty easy to pay the taxes yourself via ACH and electronic payments.  However, it’s up to you to press “Submit” and make them on time.

The Verdict:

Use payroll services that impound.  It’s easier to manage cash flow because the taxes are taken out right when you run payroll and the payroll company assumes the responsibility to make the payments on time.

Direct Deposit and Checks

This may seem like a pretty basic thing but did you know that you can save yourself some time and costs by ONLY offering direct deposit?  Direct Deposit is a great way to pay your employees because they get paid right into the accounts.  Checks can be used, but they also create a headache when it comes time to reconcile your bank account.  Payroll companies also charge to push that paper around.  Have employees that don’t have a bank account?  Give them a “Pay Card’ that has it’s own routing and account number and you can “load” it with their pay each pay period.

The Verdict:

Use a payroll service that focuses on direct deposit and you will most likely save money on monthly service fees, postage and mailing, and time when reconciling your bank account.

Integration with Other Apps

Do you use accounting or online scheduling software like Xero or Deputy?  Use a service that ingrates with them to eliminate data entry and make running payroll, easy.  If using online scheduling, within a few clicks you can approve timesheets and send them straight to payroll.  This alone can save you hours each pay period.

The Verdict:

Search out payroll services that are open that integrate with other apps that you use.  Who knows, you may even discover an app you can use for your business this way!

Advanced HR Features

Some businesses have 1-5 employees, some have 50.  And depending on how many you have, will determine how much help you’ll need managing them.

If you have a large staff to manage, payroll companies like ADP have robust services beyond just running payroll that offers on-site HR reps that can come out “do your dirty work” for you, a.k.a.hire and fire.  They can also help you navigate the tricky waters of the ACA (ObamaCare) and provide employee handbooks, amongst other things.

If only a few employees, then a company like Gusto is often a good choice.  While they don’t provide robust HR services, they can offer very competitive rates on Workers Comp insurance, and make managing your employees pretty easy.

The Verdict:

Make a choice based on your payroll needs and employee size.

Pricing and Cost

This is what it boils down to right?  There are two methods that payroll services use to charge their fees: a flat fee per month, or fee per pay period.

Flat fee per month gives you a predictable cost each month.  Generally, there is a base cost and then a per-employee-per-month cost.  So as long as you know how many employees you’re paying, your fee is pretty predictable.  And, these companies don’t charge for anything extra like W-2’s and quarterly reports, as long as you are a subscriber.

Per-pay-period providers charge each time your run a payroll.  For most businesses, this is twice per month.  They will also charge additional fees for W-2’s and quarterly reports.  There are also other charges for mailing checks, etc., so make sure you have the payroll service spell our EVERY thing that is going to cost before you sign up.

The Verdict:

Use a service provider that charges a flat fee per month.  There is less confusion on fees and it’s generally cheaper each month.

Make it Happen!

As you can see, there’re lots to consider when choosing the right payroll service provider for you.  We can help you make that choice and get you in touch with the people to make things happen.   Have questions, leave a comment or reach out to us on our Get In Touch page and we’ll be happy to help you make the best decision for you and your business.

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receipts
If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you’ve probably heard something about keeping your receipts.  And we’ve heard some good myths about when and when you don’t have to keep them.  We’re here to set the record straight and tell you exactly when you need to keep receipts.

First, let me explain that there are different suggested records for different types of transactions.  For example, what you keep to prove the purchase of inventory is different than gas for your car.  We’re going to explore two categories today: General, and Travel/Entertainment expenses. But there are many more that we’re not discussing today.

General Expenses

What are they?

General expenses are things like paper, utilities, cell phone, etc.  Those types of expenses must be be proved with a bank/credit card statement, receipt, or invoice that shows the date, amount, and busienss purpose.

How long should I keep records for?

Generally speaking, you’ll want to keep records for at least 3 years from when you claimed them on your tax return.  The good news is that you can keep them in paper form, or electronically.  We’re a big fan of using the mobile app for Xero to take a snapshot of the receipt, and recording the transaction right on the spot when it happens.  You can also use other systems like Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox and Box to store your records.  If you choose to keep paper, then have a good file system organized by year and type of expense, at the very least.

 

Travel & Entertainment Expenses

What are they?

41131785-business-team-on-the-way-to-meetingsJust as it sounds, expenses you incur to travel, take clients out to lunch.  It also covers lodging, rental cars, transportation, and a host of other things.  See IRS Publication 463 that is referenced below for more things that qualify as travel and entertainment expenses.

 

 

How should I keep records and for how long?

The trick here is to have “adequate” records.  There are 4 main points that you must prove in order to have a deemed adequate expense in this category:

  1. Amount
  2. Time (for travel)
  3. Place or Description
  4. Business Purpose

What that basically means is that you must have a receipt, log book, or some kind of record that proves those 4 main points for each expenses you deduct.  Estimates don’t count.  The long and short of this is: that you keep all receipts/invoices for each expense in this category.  There are only a few exceptions, one of them being that if your expense in under $75 (except lodging), you can simply provide bank statements to prove you expense.  Of course there are more exceptions, but we don’t have time to go into them in this post.

And like above, you should keep these records for 3 years after you file the tax return for the year you’re taking the deduction in.

 

The IRS has some pretty elaborate articles and publications on this topic.  We referenced IRS Publication 463.  Feel free to check it out if you need to dive in a bit deeper.  Or, leave a comment and reach out to us and we can help you navigate the murky waters of business deductions.

 

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QuickBooks giving you a headache?  Or maybe you’d rather listen to nails on a chalkboard rather than do your accounting.  Either way, switching to Xero Accounting will set you on your journey to an easy, and even enjoyable way to get your accounting done.  Even if you are paying an accountant to do this for you, it will still require some input from you, the small business owner.  We’ve worked with lots of small businesses in converting from QuickBooks to Xero.  So we decided to post some useful tips on how to start, and carry out this process.

Step 1: Clean up your QuickBooks company file

Ok, so if you’re not an accountant, and you’ve been doing your own bookkeeping, chances are that you’ve made some “boo boo’s” in your books.  QuickBooks is a very forgiving program.  Meaning that it allows you enough freedom to hang your self…so to speak!   DON’T WORRY…Even if your QuickBooks is a mess, you can still get useful information out of it and get it in shape to transfer to the easiest online accounting tool: Xero Accounting.

Here’s what to do:

Clean up your contacts, vendors, and other lists.  Go through and merge, or archive the ones you don’t need.  Whittle your  customer and vendor lists down to only what you use now.

Next, go through your chart of accounts and do the same thing.  Make sure your chart of accounts is up to date, accurate, and that there aren’t too many accounts that you’re not using.

Lastly, make sure all your transactions are entered into QuickBooks BEFORE  you get the file converted.  Whether that’s bank transactions, credit card transactions, or whatever else, just make sure they’re all in there.  If you want the “extra credit”, reconcile your transactions with the “bank reconciliation” feature.  This is not absolutely necessary, but will make future steps a bit easier.

Once you have done these things, go to Step 2 blog post (coming soon).  If you need help along the way, just reach out to us and we’ll be  happy to help!

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More than 52 percent of businesses today are home-based. Every day, people are striking out and achieving economic and creative independence by turning their skills into dollars. Garages, basements and attics are being transformed into the corporate headquarters of the newest entrepreneurs – home-based businesspeople.

And, with technological advances in smartphones, tablets, and iPads as well as a rising demand for “service-oriented” businesses, the opportunities seem to be endless.

Is a Home-Based Business Right for You?

Choosing a home business is like choosing a spouse or partner: Think carefully before starting the business. Instead of plunging right in, take time to learn as much about the market for any product or service as you can. Before you invest any time, effort, and money take a few moments to answer the following questions:

  • Can you describe in detail the business you plan on establishing?
  • What will be your product or service?
  • Is there a demand for your product or service?
  • Can you identify the target market for your product or service?
  • Do you have the talent and expertise needed to compete successfully?

Before you dive head first into a home-based business, it’s essential that you know why you are doing it and how you will do it. To succeed, your business must be based on something greater than a desire to be your own boss: an honest assessment of your own personality, and understanding of what’s involved, and a lot of hard work. You have to be willing to plan ahead, and then make improvements and adjustments along the road. While there are no “best” or “right” reasons for starting a home-based business, it is vital to have a very clear idea of what you are getting into and why. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you a self-starter?
  • Can you stick to business if you’re working at home?
  • Do you have the necessary self-discipline to maintain schedules?
  • Can you deal with the isolation of working from home?

Working under the same roof that your family lives under may not prove to be as easy as it seems. It is important that you work in a professional environment; if at all possible, you should set up a separate office in your home. You must consider whether your home has the space for a business, and whether you can successfully run the business from your home.

Compliance with Laws and Regulations

A home-based business is subject to many of the same laws and regulations affecting other businesses and you will be responsible for complying with them. There are some general areas to watch out for, but be sure to consult an attorney and your state department of labor to find out which laws and regulations will affect your business.

Zoning

Be aware of your city’s zoning regulations. If your business operates in violation of them, you could be fined or closed down.

Restrictions on Certain Goods

Certain products may not be produced in the home. Most states outlaw home production of fireworks, drugs, poisons, sanitary or medical products, and toys. Some states also prohibit home-based businesses from making food, drink, or clothing.

Registration and Accounting Requirements

You may need the following:

  • Work certificate or a license from the state (your business’s name may also need to be registered with the state)
  • Sales tax number
  • Separate business telephone
  • Separate business bank account

If your business has employees, you are responsible for withholding income, social security, and Medicare taxes, as well as complying with minimum wage and employee health and safety laws.

Planning Techniques

Money fuels all businesses. With a little planning, you’ll find that you can avoid most financial difficulties. When drawing up a financial plan, don’t worry about using estimates. The process of thinking through these questions helps develop your business skills and leads to solid financial planning.

Estimating Start-Up Costs

To estimate your start-up costs, include all initial expenses such as fees, licenses, permits, telephone deposit, tools, office equipment and promotional expenses.

Business experts say you should not expect a profit for the first eight to 10 months, so be sure to give yourself enough of a cushion if you need it.

Projecting Operating Expenses

Include salaries, utilities, office supplies, loan payments, taxes, legal services and insurance premiums, and don’t forget to include your normal living expenses. Your business must not only meet its own needs, but make sure it meets yours as well.

Projecting Income

It is essential that you know how to estimate your sales on a daily and monthly basis. From the sales estimates, you can develop projected income statements, break-even points and cash-flow statements. Use your marketing research to estimate initial sales volume.

Determining Cash Flow

Working capital–not profits–pays your bills. Even though your assets may look great on the balance sheet, if your cash is tied up in receivables or equipment, your business is technically insolvent. In other words, you’re broke.

Make a list of all anticipated expenses and projected income for each week and month. If you see a cash-flow crisis developing, cut back on everything but the necessities.

If you think a home-based business is in your future, then don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’ll set up your business and make sure you have the proper documentation system in place to satisfy the IRS.

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If you haven’t contributed funds to an Individual Retirement Arrangement for tax year 2012, or if you’ve put in less than the maximum allowed, you still have time to do so. You can contribute to either a traditional or Roth IRA until the April 15 due date for filing your tax return for 2012, not including extensions.

Be sure to tell the IRA trustee that the contribution is for 2012. Otherwise, the trustee may report the contribution as being for 2013 when they get your funds.

Generally, you can contribute up to $5,000 of your earnings for 2012 or up to $6,000 if you are age 50 or older in 2012. You can fund a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA (if you qualify), or both, but your total contributions cannot be more than these amounts.

Note: IRA contribution limits increase in 2013 to $5,500 ($6,500 if age 50 or older).

Traditional IRA: You may be able to take a tax deduction for the contributions to a traditional IRA, depending on your income and whether you or your spouse, if filing jointly, are covered by an employer’s pension plan.

Roth IRA: You cannot deduct Roth IRA contributions, but the earnings on a Roth IRA may be tax-free if you meet the conditions for a qualified distribution.

Each year, the IRS announces the cost of living adjustments and limitation for retirement savings plans.

Saving for retirement should be part of everyone’s financial plan and it’s important to review your retirement goals every year in order to maximize savings. If you need help with your retirement plans, give us a call. We’re happy to help.

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Confused about which credits and deductions you can claim on your 2012 tax return? You’re not alone. Even in an ordinary tax year, it’s hard to remember which tax breaks you can take, but the fiscal cliff fiasco this year made it even more difficult to keep everything straight. With that in mind here are six tax breaks for 2012 that you won’t want to overlook.

1. State Sales and Income Taxes

Thanks to the fiscal cliff deal, the sales tax deduction, which expired at the end of 2011, was reinstated retroactive to 2012 (it expires at the end of 2013). As such, IRS allows for a deduction of either state income tax paid or state sales tax paid, whichever is greater.

If you bought a big ticket item like a car or boat in 2012, it might be more advantageous to deduct the sales tax, but don’t forget to figure any state income taxes withheld from your paycheck just in case. If you’re self-employed you can include the state income paid from your estimated payments. In addition, if you owed taxes when filing your 2011 tax return in 2012, you can include the amount when you itemize your state taxes this year on your 2012 return.

2. Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Most parents realize that there is a tax credit for daycare when their child is young, but they might not realize that once a child starts school, the same credit can be used for before and after school care, as well as day camps during school vacations. This child and dependent care tax credit can also be taken by anyone who pays a home health aide to care for a spouse or other dependent. The credit is worth a maximum of $1,050 or 35% of $3,000 of eligible expenses per dependent.

3. Job Search Expenses

Job search expenses are 100% deductible, whether you are gainfully employed or not currently working–as long as you are looking for a position in your current profession. Expenses include fees paid to join professional organizations, as well as employment placement agencies that you used during your job search. Travel to interviews is also deductible (as long as it was not paid by your prospective employer) as is paper, envelopes, and costs associated with resumes or portfolios. The catch is that you can only deduct expenses greater than 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

4. Student Loan Interest Paid by Parents

Typically, a taxpayer is only able to deduct interest on mortgages and student loans if he or she is liable for the debt; however, if a parent pays back their child’s student loans the money is treated by the IRS as if the child paid it. As long as the child is not claimed as a dependent, he or she can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest paid by the parent. The deduction can be claimed even if the child does not itemize.

5. Medical Expenses

Most people know that medical expenses are deductible as long as they are more than 7.5% of AGI for tax year 2012 (10% in 2013). What they often don’t realize is what medical expenses can be deducted such as medical miles (23 cents per mile) driven to and from appointments and travel (airline fares or hotel rooms) for out of town medical treatment.

Other deductible medical expenses that taxpayers might not be aware of include: health insurance premiums, prescription drugs, co-pays, and dental premiums and treatment. Long-term care insurance (deductible dollar amounts vary depending on age) is also deductible, as are prescription glasses and contacts, counseling, therapy, hearing aids and batteries, dentures, oxygen, walkers, and wheelchairs.

6. Bad Debt

If you’ve loaned money to a friend, but were never repaid, you may qualify for a non-business bad debt tax deduction of up to $3,000 per year. To qualify however, the debt must be totally worthless, in that there is no reasonable expectation of payment.

Non-business bad debt is deducted as a short-term capital loss, subject to the capital loss limitations. You may take the deduction only in the year the debt becomes worthless. You do not have to wait until a debt is due to determine whether it is worthless. Any amount you are not able to deduct can be carried forward to reduce future tax liability.

Are you getting all of the tax credits and deductions you are entitled to? Maybe you are…but maybe you’re not. Why take a chance? Make an appointment with us today and we’ll make sure you get the tax breaks you deserve.

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One of the biggest hurdles you’ll face in running your own business is staying on top of your numerous obligations to federal, state, and local tax agencies. Tax codes seem to be in a constant state of flux making the Internal Revenue Code barely understandable to most people.

The old legal saying that “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is perhaps most often applied in tax settings and it is safe to assume that a tax auditor presenting an assessment of additional taxes, penalties, and interest will not look kindly on an “I didn’t know I was required to do that” claim. On the flip side, it is surprising how many small businesses actually overpay their taxes, neglecting to take deductions they’re legally entitled to that can help them lower their tax bill.

Preparing your taxes and strategizing as to how to keep more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket becomes increasingly difficult with each passing year. Your best course of action to save time, frustration, money, and an auditor knocking on your door, is to have a professional accountant handle your taxes.

Tax professionals have years of experience with tax preparation, religiously attend tax seminars, read scores of journals, magazines, and monthly tax tips, among other things, to correctly interpret the changing tax code.

When it comes to tax planning for small businesses, the complexity of tax law generates a lot of folklore and misinformation that also leads to costly mistakes. With that in mind, here is a look at some of the more common small business tax misperceptions.

1. All Start-Up Costs Are Immediately Deductible

Business start-up costs refer to expenses incurred before you actually begin operating your business. Business start-up costs include both start up and organizational costs and vary depending on the type of business. Examples of these types of costs include advertising, travel, surveys, and training. These start up and organizational costs are generally called capital expenditures.

Costs for a particular asset (such as machinery or office equipment) are recovered through depreciation or Section 179 expensing. When you start a business, you can elect to deduct or amortize certain business start-up costs.

For tax years beginning in 2010, you can elect to deduct up to $10,000 of business start-up costs paid or incurred after 2009. The $10,000 deduction is reduced (but not below zero) by the amount such start-up costs exceed $60,000. Any remaining costs must be amortized.

2. Overpaying The IRS Makes You “Audit Proof”

The IRS doesn’t care if you pay the right amount of taxes or overpay your taxes. They do care if you pay less than you owe and you can’t substantiate your deductions. Even if you overpay in one area, the IRS will still hit you with interest and penalties if you underpay in another. It is never a good idea to knowingly or unknowingly overpay the IRS. The best way to “Audit Proof” yourself is to properly document your expenses and make sure you are getting good advice from your tax accountant.

3. Being incorporated enables you to take more deductions.

Self-employed individuals (sole proprietors and S Corps) qualify for many of the same deductions that incorporated businesses do, and for many small businesses, being incorporated is an unnecessary expense and burden. Start-ups can spend thousands of dollars in legal and accounting fees to set up a corporation, only to discover soon thereafter that they need to change their name or move the company in a different direction. In addition, plenty of small business owners who incorporate don’t make money for the first few years and find themselves saddled with minimum corporate tax payments and no income.

4. The home office deduction is a red flag for an audit.

While it used to be a red flag, this is no longer true–as long as you keep excellent records that satisfy IRS requirements. Because of the proliferation of home offices, tax officials cannot possibly audit all tax returns containing the home office deduction. In other words, there is no need to fear an audit just because you take the home office deduction. A high deduction-to-income ratio however, may raise a red flag and lead to an audit.

5. If you don’t take the home office deduction, business expenses are not deductible.

You are still eligible to take deductions for business supplies, business-related phone bills, travel expenses, printing, wages paid to employees or contract workers, depreciation of equipment used for your business, and other expenses related to running a home-based business, whether or not you take the home office deduction.

6. Requesting an extension on your taxes is an extension to pay taxes.

Extensions enable you to extend your filing date only. Penalties and interest begin accruing from the date your taxes are due.

7. Part-time business owners cannot set up self-employed pensions.

If you start up a company while you have a salaried position complete with a 401K plan, you can still set up a SEP-IRA for your business and take the deduction.

A tax headache is only one mistake away, be it a missed payment or filing deadline, an improperly claimed deduction, or incomplete records and understanding how the tax system works is beneficial to any business owner, whether you run a small to medium sized business or are a sole proprietor.

And, even if you delegate the tax preparation to someone else, you are still liable for the accuracy of your tax returns. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call today. We’re here to assist you.

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Thanks to the passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), many tax provisions that expired in 2011 were retroactively extended (or made permanent) that are of benefit to taxpayers filing 2012 returns this year. Here are six of them:

1. Education-Related Tax Deductions

ATRA extended, through 2017 and retroactive to 2012, two popular and widely used education-related tax benefits that expired in 2011: the deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses and the deduction for certain expenses of elementary and secondary school teachers. Both are above-the-line deductions, which means that they can be taken before calculating adjusted gross income (AGI).

2. Limited Non-Business Energy Property Credits

Non-business energy credits expired in 2011, but were extended (retroactive to 2012) through 2013 by ATRA. For 2012 (as in 2011), this credit generally equals 10 percent of what a homeowner spends on eligible energy-saving improvements, up to a maximum tax credit of $500 (down significantly from the $1,500 combined limit that applied for 2009 and 2010).

Because of the way the credit is figured however, in many cases, it may only be helpful to people who make energy-saving home improvements for the first time in 2012. That’s because homeowners must first subtract any non-business energy property credits claimed on their 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2011 returns before claiming this credit for 2012. In other words, if a taxpayer claimed a credit of $450 in 2011, the maximum credit that can be claimed in 2012 is $50 (for an aggregate of $500).

The cost of certain high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters and stoves that burn biomass all qualify, along with labor costs for installing these items. In addition, the cost of energy-efficient windows and skylights, energy-efficient doors, qualifying insulation and certain roofs also qualify for the credit, though the cost of installing these items do not.

3. Mortgage Insurance Deductible as Qualified Interest

ATRA extended, through 2013 (and retroactive to 2012), a tax provision that expired in 2011 that allows taxpayers to deduct mortgage insurance premiums as qualified residence interest. As such, taxpayers can deduct, as qualified residence interest, mortgage insurance premiums paid or accrued before Jan. 1, 2014, subject to a phase-out based on the taxpayer’s AGI.

4. AMT “Patch” Made Permanent

The AMT ‘patch” was made permanent by ATRA; however, exemption amounts for 2012 and beyond are higher than in years’ past and are now indexed to inflation. For tax-year 2012, the alternative minimum tax exemption amounts increase to the following levels:

  • $78,750 for a married couple filing a joint return and qualifying widows and widowers, up from $74,450 in 2011.
  • $39,375 for a married person filing separately, up from $37,225 in 2011.
  • $50,600 for singles and heads of household, up from $48,450 in 2011.

5. Transportation “Fringe Benefits”

Parity for transportation fringe benefits provided by employers for the benefit of their employees expired at the end of 2011; however, ATRA reinstated this parity retroactive to 2012. As such, the monthly limit for qualified parking is $240 and the benefit for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle or a transit pass is $245 for tax year 2012.

6. State and Local Sales Taxes

Retroactive to 2012, ATRA extended (through 2013) the tax provision that allows taxpayers who itemize deductions the option to deduct state and local general sales and use taxes instead of state and local income taxes.

If you have questions about these or other tax changes, please call us. We’d be happy to assist you.

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According to the IRS, under-reporting of income is the biggest contributing factor to the IRS tax gap–the amount owed by individuals and businesses versus the amount that was actually paid in taxes. In 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, under-reporting across taxpayer categories accounted for an estimated $376 billion of the gross tax gap.

Overall, the IRS found that compliance is highest where there is third-party information reporting (1099 forms used to report taxable income earned that is not considered salary and wages) and/or withholding (W-2 forms). In the case of W-2 forms, the IRS found that a net of only 1% of wage and salary income was misreported; however, amounts subject to little or no information reporting had a 56 percent net misreporting rate in 2006.

In an effort to close that tax gap, the IRS has changed some reporting requirements for 1099s for tax year 2012. Here are some of those key changes:

1. 1099-MISC. Starting in 2012, compensation of $600 or more paid in a calendar year to an H-2A visa agricultural worker who did not give you a valid taxpayer identification number must be reported on 1099-MISC. You must also withhold federal income tax under the backup withholding rules. However, if the worker does furnish a valid taxpayer identification number, then report the payments on Form W-2.

2. 1099-B. New boxes have been added to Form 1099-B for reporting the stock or other symbol (box 1d), quantity sold (box 1e), whether basis is being reported to the IRS (box 6b), and state income tax withheld (boxes 13-15). Other boxes on the form have been moved or renumbered. In addition, brokers must report on Form 1099-B sales of covered securities by an S corporation if the S corporation acquired the covered securities after 2011.

3. 1099-C. The titles for boxes 1, 2, and 6 on Form 1099-C have changed. Box 1 is now Date of Identifiable Event; box 2 is now Amount of Debt Discharged; and box 6 is now Identifiable Event Code, and requires the entry of a code for the identifiable event. See Box 6–Identifiable Event Code. For 2012, all codes are optional except for Code A–Bankruptcy.

4. 1099-DIV. Exempt-interest dividends from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company (RIC) are now reported on Form 1099-DIV and are no longer reported on Form 1099-INT, Interest Income. Also, boxes 12 through 14 have been added to Form 1099-DIV to report state income tax withheld.

5. 1099-INT. Exempt-interest dividends from a mutual fund or other regulated investment company (RIC) are no longer reported on Form 1099-INT. Instead, those amounts are reported on Form 1099-DIV, Dividends and Distributions. In addition, boxes 11 through 13 have been added to Form 1099-INT to report state income tax withheld.

If you need help with 1099s this year, don’t hesitate to give us a ring. We’re happy to help you out.

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