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Tax Tip of the Week | When The Questions Are The Answers June 26, 2019

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, General, tax changes, Tax Tip, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

Let’s take a break from tax topics this week. Yes, even I sometimes get tired of talking about income taxes. So, the topic this week is about leadership. All of us lead someone. Of course, the most important person to lead is yourself. And, as the old saying goes, if you can’t lead yourself then how can you lead someone else?

True leaders don’t give out answers. Often, they don’t know the answers. But the good leader knows their staff has inside them the answers that they seek. Good questions from a good leader help reveal these answers.  

This is further explained along with some examples in the following WSJ article, To Be a Better Leader, Ask Better Questions written by Hal Gregersen. It was published on Tuesday, May 14, 2019.  

                               -Mark Bradstreet

It is often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different outcome.

Well, the same can be said of questions: Keep asking the same kind of question, and it is insane to think you are going to get a different kind of answer.

If you want a dramatically better answer, the key is to ask a better question.

In that one simple statement I have found a career’s worth of research, teaching and advisory work. No one raises an objection when they hear it—who could argue with the value of brilliant reframing? But at the same time, that statement alone is rarely enough. Most people want to be handed the five paradigm-smashing questions to ask.

Unfortunately, that isn’t possible. But what is possible is creating the conditions where the right questions are more likely to bubble up. To that end, here are some clear, concrete, measurable steps that any boss—or anyone, for that matter—can take to come up with those paradigm-smashing questions we all seek.

1. Understand what kinds of questions spark creative thinking.

There are lots of questions you can ask. But only the best really knocks down barriers to creative thinking and channel energy down new, more productive pathways. A question that does has five traits. It reframes the problem. It intrigues the imagination. It invites others’ thinking. It opens up space for different answers. And it’s nonaggressive—not posed to embarrass, humiliate or assert power over the other party.

One CEO I know is aware that his position can get in the way of getting honest information that will challenge his view of things. Instead of coming at his managers with something like, “Competitor X beat us to the punch with that move—how did we let that happen?” he gets more useful input with questions like, “What are you wrestling with and how can I help?” He asks customers and supply-chain partners: “If you were in my shoes, what would you be doing differently than what you see us doing today?”

Think about how these questions change the whole equation. People don’t start off defensive. The problem isn’t already tightly framed. The questions are open-ended, and the answers can be imaginative—rather than telling the boss what he wants to hear.

If you want to turn this first point into a trackable activity, how about this: Start noting in a daily diary how many questions you’ve asked that meet the five criteria.

2. Create the habit of asking questions.

Many bosses simply aren’t used to asking questions; they’re used to giving answers. So, in the early stages of building your questioning capacity, it’s helpful to start by copying other people’s questions. It’s the equivalent of practicing your scales. Once you’ve got the scales down, you can start to improvise.

You could do worse than to follow the questions asked by management thinker Peter Drucker, who liked to jump-start strategic thinking by asking: “What changes have recently happened that don’t fit ‘what everyone knows’”?

Another example: A leader in a consumer packaged-goods company constantly asks: “What more can we do to delight the customer at the point of purchase? And what more to delight them at the point of consumption?”

Again, think about what that does. Sure, the CEO could constantly repeat that the company wants to satisfy consumers. But by asking this question, it builds the habit of thinking in questions. And that, in turn, leads to daily inquiry about matters large and small, and an organization that keeps pushing its competitive advantages forward.

3. Fuel that habit by making yourself generate new questions.

Don’t stop with that generic question set, no matter how well you think it covers the bases. It will become just another activity rut reinforcing today’s assumptions if you and others become too familiar with it. Your goal is to generate new and better questions, not to cap your questioning career at the level of playing flawless scales.

New Perspectives, New Solutions

If you or your team are stuck on a problem, stop and spend four minutes generating nothing but questions about it. As in brainstorming, go for high volume and do no editing in progress. This will often yield a new way to look at the challenge and at least one new idea to solve it. Here’s an example of a question burst:

Instead, every day, note something in your environment that is intriguing and possibly a signal of change in the air. Then, restrain yourself from issuing a comment on it—or if it’s your habit, a tweet—and instead take a moment to articulate the questions it raises.

Then share the most compelling of those questions with someone else. Engage with it for a minute. To some extent, this is doing “reps,” exercising your questioning muscles so they’ll be strong enough when the occasion demands. But it’s also more than that, because chances are it will actually be one of these many, seemingly small, questions that yields your next big breakthrough.

Let me offer a well-known example. Blake Mycoskie was in Argentina when by his account he noticed a lot of children running around barefoot. He didn’t need to ask why they didn’t have shoes—obviously they were poor—but here’s the question it brought him to: Is there a sustainable way to provide children with shoes without having to rely on donations? And thus, he launched the social enterprise Toms, with its famous “one-for-one” business model.

4. Respond with the power of the pause.

When someone comes to you with a problem, don’t immediately respond with an answer. This is harder than it sounds, because you have probably internalized a sense long ago that you’re the boss because you’re decisive and have good judgment—in other words, you have the best answers.

Instead, make it your habit to respond with a question—ideally one that reframes the problem, but at least one that draws out more of your colleague’s thoughts on the matter. I’m not talking about the cop-out rejoinder of, “Well, what do YOU think we should do?” Help the person think through how the decision should be made, with questions like: “What are we optimizing for?” “What’s the most important thing we have to achieve with whatever direction we take?” Or: “What makes this decision so hard? What problem felt like this in the past?”

The payoff here comes in two forms. You’re teaching the colleague the value of pausing to get the question right before rushing to the answer. And nine times out of 10, you’re going to wind up with a better answer than the one you would have blurted out with less deliberation.

5. Brainstorm for questions.

This is an idea that is so simple, and involves an exercise so fast, that it constantly surprises me how effective it is. Whenever you or your team is at an impasse, or there is a sense that some insight is eluding you regarding a problem or opportunity, just stop and spend four minutes generating nothing but questions about it. Don’t spend a second answering the questions, or explaining why you posed a certain one. As in brainstorming, go for high volume and do no editing in progress. See if you can generate at least 15-20.

Eighty percent of the time, I find, the exercise yields some new angle of attack on the problem, and it virtually always re-energizes people to go at it with renewed gusto.

Here’s an example from an innovation team in a consumer-goods company. Struggling to come up with a new concept to test, we tried one of those question bursts. It started with, “What if we launched a response to [a competitor’s product] and did it better?” But soon enough it arrived at, “Are we stuck on assuming a certain price range? What if a customer was willing to give us 10 times that—what could we deliver that would be that valuable to them?” Bingo—the team zeroed in on that question as having real juice in it, and started generating more exciting ideas.

6. Reward your questioners.

Finally, keep track of how you respond when someone in the room asks a question that challenges how you’ve been approaching a problem or feels like it threatens to derail a solution train already leaving the station.

I remember hearing from executives at one company that the boss always surprised his top team by being willing to hear out even the craziest ideas. When others in the room were shaking their heads and hastening to move along, he would be the one to say, “Wait, say more…” to find the part of that flight of fantasy that could work.

If there’s one constant theme here, it’s the idea that bosses should reconceive what their primary job is. They aren’t there to come up with today’s best answers, or even just to get their teams to come up with them. Their job is to build their organization’s capacity for constant innovation.

Their enterprise’s future—and their own career trajectory—depends on their resolve to ask better questions.

Credit given to By Hal Gregersen. Dr. Gregersen is executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and author of “Questions Are the Answer.” He can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

This Week’s Author – Mark Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | IRS Audits June 19, 2019

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, General, tax changes, Tax Tip, Taxes , add a comment

No one in their right mind would welcome an IRS audit. However, sometime during your life, you may expect to have an IRS audit of some sort, even if only a correspondence audit. Other types of IRS audits include what they call a field audit which occurs at your place of business and an office audit which occurs at the IRS office. From time to time, clients will mention to me that they don’t fear an audit because they have done nothing wrong and have all of the necessary substantiation. Even, in the best of cases, audits are no fun – they are ALWAYS a huge time suck for you and for your professional and, thusly, can be quite expensive.

A further note about correspondence audits – at least half of the tax notices you receive from the IRS are incorrect. Yet, too many taxpayers upon receiving a notice with a balance due simply send the IRS a check. Yes, the IRS loves people like that! Upon receipt of any IRS correspondence, please immediately relay it to your CPA for an appropriate review and response.

It is rare, but not entirely unheard of, for an IRS agent to appear at your home or place of business. If that were to happen and regardless of how friendly they appear your best response is typically very simple. Be polite and inform the agent your CPA will be handling the questions on your behalf. Then, give the agent the name and contact information of your CPA. Ask the agent nicely to call your CPA with any questions that they may have. The same is also true for the receipt of an IRS letter notifying you that your income tax returns are under audit. Get that letter to your accounting firm so they can handle the audit on your behalf. It is not in your best interest to speak to the IRS agent before, during or after the audit. That is the job of your professional.  

The below article written by Jane Hodges – HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT IRS AUDITS? was published in the WSJ on March 25, 2019. It provides further information on the IRS process.

                                          –    Mark Bradstreet

The Internal Revenue Service audits tax returns every year—striking fear in the hearts of many whose accidental or deliberate errors may have led them to underpay the U.S. Treasury.

While the prospect can be terrifying, very few returns are actually audited and many audits are resolved through correspondence. The volume of IRS audits has declined in recent years to 933,785 in 2017 from 1.56 million in 2011, according to IRS data. Some audits even result in a refund. Many, of course, result in tax liabilities.

Still, it never hurts to prepare taxes with care, save records and understand changing tax laws (or work with professionals who do) so your returns will be less likely to raise flags.

What follows is a quiz to help readers hone their smarts about IRS audits.

1. What does the IRS call an audit?

A) Audit
B) Examination
C) Tax year review
D) Tax interview

Answer: B. Audits are referred to as examinations, and a taxpayer being audited corresponds with or meets an “examiner” assigned to his or her case.

2. What percentage of returns were audited during 2017?

A) 0.5%
B) 1.5%
C) 3.8%
D) 6.2%

Answer: A. During fiscal 2017, the IRS audited 0.5% of the 196 million returns it received during the calendar year 2016. That was down from 0.7% the previous year.

3. How does the IRS choose which tax returns to audit?

A) It hires private investigators
B) It looks at tax returns associated with filers undergoing existing audits
C) Computer screening
D) It reviews those whose income has more than doubled in a 10-year period

Answer: B and C. The IRS looks at the company that audit subjects keep. “We may select your returns when they involve issues or transactions with other taxpayers, such as business partners or investors, whose returns were selected for audit,” it says in an FAQ about audits on an IRS website. It also uses random computer screening in which algorithms track “norms” for deductions and expenses relative to the filer’s income and other factors.

4. How does the IRS notify a person or business of an audit?

A) By letter
B) By phone
C) Through email
D) Via process server

Answer: A. The IRS typically notifies taxpayers of audits in letters citing what years are under examination and which deductions or aspects of the returns need verification, substantiation or discussion. Once the audit is under way, a representative may call, but the IRS doesn’t initiate audits over the telephone. If you get a call from someone claiming to represent the IRS and notifying you of an audit, it is likely a scam.

5. Where are audits conducted?

A) In an IRS office
B) At the taxpayer’s home or place of business
C) Via correspondence
D) At the office of an authorized representative (tax attorney, CPA, enrolled agent)

Answer: Any of the above, depending on the degree of the inquiry or where the taxpayer stores records or conducts business and other factors. The IRS generally makes the final determination.

6. What percentage of tax audits are conducted by correspondence?

A) 12.6%
B) 32.5%
C) 50.9%
D) 70.8%

Answer: D. During fiscal 2017, when the IRS examined tax returns for the prior year and before, some 70.8% of audits were conducted by correspondence.

7. How long does the IRS expect taxpayers to keep tax records?

A) Forever
B) Five years following the date a return is filed
C) Three years following the date a return is filed or two years from the date a tax is paid
D) Six years, or seven years if the taxpayer is writing off bad debt or worthless securities

Answer: C, and sometimes D. Generally, the IRS suggests taxpayers keep tax records for three years after filing a return or two years from the date they paid tax. In some circumstances, say, if you failed to report income, didn’t file a return, or were flagged for filing a fraudulent return, it’s advisable to keep records longer.

8. Which household income level experiences a 12.5% incidence of audits?

A) $125,000 or more
B) $200,000 or more
C) $250,000 or more
D) $1 million or more

Answer: D. According to Intuit, 1% of taxpayers earning $200,000 or less are audited. Beyond that, the more a taxpayer earns, the more likely an audit is. Some 4% of those earning more than $200,000 are audited, and 12.5% of those earning $1 million or more are audited.

9. When filing taxes, what form of filing is most error-prone, according to the IRS?

A) Electronic filing
B) Returns filed by mail
C) Returns filed from abroad
D) Returns that are filed after an extension request

Answer: B. According to IRS information provided to TurboTax, those who file a return by mail show a 21% incidence of errors, while those who file electronically show only a 0.5% incidence of errors. TurboTax does not cite a reason why online filers have less errors, but presumably online filing software runs math or does automatic calculations which could reduce math-related errors.

10. How far back does the IRS go when choosing returns to audit?

A) 2 years
B) 3 years
C) 6 years
D) 10 years

Answer: B and C. The IRS generally goes back no more than three years in choosing returns to audit, but if it finds a “substantial error,” the agency says it may go back as far as six years.

Credit Given to: By Jane Hodges. Ms. Hodges is a freelance writer in Seattle and has been audited. She can be reached at reports@wsj.com. This appeared in the March 25, 2019, print edition as ‘How Much Do You Know About IRS Audits?’

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

This Week’s Author – Mark Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week.

Tax Law: An Art or a Science? May 29, 2019

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Tip, Taxes , add a comment

Is preparing tax returns an art or a science? My answer may depend upon the day you ask me. But, more often than not, I would say that tax preparation is a blend of an art AND a science.

Too often when people are presented with a tax problem of sorts – what do they do? Well, of course, they pull out their smartphone and GOOGLE their question. In all honesty I am guilty of this quick fix as well. Naturally, we are all looking for the answer that we wish to hear. That being anything that will save us taxes. Most GOOGLE responses, especially the ones near the top of the search page are click bait. They have the answers you want to see. You are doing yourself a disservice if you stop with that “fast and loose” answer. You have to look for the “odd” stuff, the twists and turns that accompany the exceptions to every tax rule. Some of these may help you while others will cost you money. Even once you have found the exceptions then one must continue to look for how your question fits in with or conflicts with other sections of the Internal Revenue Code. And, what about that tax law change or court case that was handed down yesterday. What about that new tax law on the horizon? Did you notice that the website where you fell in love with the answer is six (6) years old?

The “art” part comes from trying to hit a moving target. A target that is not always visible but at the end of the day you have to take the shot. Or, at least spin it in a fashion so that you have not crossed the often-fuzzy line and stayed in the gray.

                                        –    Mark Bradstreet

An Internal Revenue Service official once introduced me to the rule of PUNG. When writing about taxes, he said, make frequent use of the words “probably, usually, normally and generally.”

That’s generally good advice—not only for tax columnists struggling to explain tricky tax laws but also for tens of millions of taxpayers racing to file their returns on time. “The law is chock-full of exceptions and counterintuitive twists that are easy to overlook and can often have an important impact on your tax bill”, says Claudia Hill, owner of TaxMam Inc., a tax services firm in Cupertino, Calif.

With the tax-filing deadline fast approaching for most of us, here are a few reminders from tax pros on how the fine print can sometimes be your friend.

Filing deadline: For most taxpayers, the filing deadline is April 15. But it’s April 17 for taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts because of the Patriots’ Day holiday there on April 15 and the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia on April 16. It can be even later for other taxpayers, such as those in places designated as federal disaster areas.

If you need more time to file, as millions of people do each year, don’t panic: The IRS gives automatic six-month extensions until Oct. 15. But its website notes that an “extension of time to file your return doesn’t grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes.” The IRS estimates it will receive more than 14.6 million extension requests; a spokesman says.

Casualty losses: Fires, floods, mudslides, tornadoes, hurricanes and many other natural disasters made 2018 a year many of us are eager to forget, and this year already is shaping up as another grim reminder of Mother Nature’s awesome power.

At first glance, the wide-ranging tax law enacted in late 2017 might seem like yet another disaster for the many people who suffered major casualty losses. That law generally eliminated personal casualty and theft-loss deductions for most taxpayers, starting last year. But there is an important exception, says Jackie Perlman, principal tax research analyst at The Tax Institute at H&R Block Inc. in Kansas City, Mo. Victims still are eligible to deduct net personal casualty losses “to the extent they’re attributable to a federally declared disaster,” the IRS says.

Warning: There are important loss limitations and other tricky calculations to consider. For details, see IRS Publication 547.

Here is a holdover from the old law that may surprise some people because it sounds counterintuitive: Victims in federal disaster areas can choose to claim their losses for the year in which the disaster actually struck or for the prior year. For example, taxpayers with net personal casualty losses this year could claim their losses on their return for 2018—or they could wait until next year and claim it on their return for 2019, says Ms. Jackie Perlman of H&R Block. Taxpayers who suffered losses in 2018 could claim those losses on their return for that year—or on their return for 2017 (typically by filing an amended return).

14-day rule: As a general rule, the net rental income you get from renting out your home is subject to tax. But “there’s a special rule if you use a dwelling unit as a residence and rent it for fewer than 15 days,” the IRS says on its website. “In this case, don’t report any of the rental income and don’t deduct any expenses as rental expenses.”

Those 14 days don’t have to be consecutive, says Ms. Claudia Hill, who is also an enrolled agent (enrolled agents are tax specialists authorized to represent taxpayers at all levels of the IRS). But if you rent your home for 15 days or more, include all of that rental income in your income, says Ms. Jackie Perlman.

Refund claims: Don’t assume that you have forever to file your federal income-tax return as long as you are entitled to a refund. About 1.2 million taxpayers could lose almost $1.4 billion in unclaimed refunds because they still haven’t filed a 2015 Form 1040 return, the IRS warned in a recent press release.

“In cases where a federal income tax return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity to claim a tax refund,” the IRS says. If they miss that deadline, “the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury. For 2015 tax returns, the window closes April 15, 2019, for most taxpayers.”

Here are other reasons to pay attention: The IRS reminded taxpayers seeking a 2015 tax refund “that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2016 and 2017. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or a state tax agency and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.”

Credit for excess Social Security tax: Most people probably assume it’s a waste of time to check and see how much their employers withheld from their paychecks for Social Security. But consider doing it anyway, especially if you’re a high-income taxpayer who worked for two or more employers last year. The maximum amount that should have been withheld for 2018 was $7,960.80 (6.2% of $128,400, which was the maximum amount of wages subject to the tax.) If more than that was withheld, claim a credit for the excess amount. However, if any single employer withheld too much, ask the employer to adjust the tax for you, the IRS says. “If the employer doesn’t adjust the overcollection you can file a claim for refund using Form 843.”

Interesting exception: Interest income you receive on U.S. Treasury bills, notes and bonds is taxable at the federal level. But don’t forget that such interest is tax-free at the state and local level. That can be especially important for taxpayers in New York City, California or other high-tax areas.

Additional standard deduction: Thanks to the 2017 law, tax professionals predict many more people will claim the standard deduction for 2018, rather than itemizing. That law included a sharp increase in the basic standard deduction and generally limited state and local tax deductions to $10,000 per household. The basic standard deduction for 2018 is $24,000 for married couples filing jointly, or $12,000 for most singles and those who are married but filing separately.

But there is an extra amount for older taxpayers, those who qualify as blind, or both. For example, if you’re married filing jointly and you and your spouse each are 65 or older, the total standard deduction for 2018 would be $26,600. See IRS Publication 17 for more details.

IRA deadline: It might seem logical to assume there is nothing you can do now to affect your return for 2018. But for some people, it isn’t too late: The IRS says contributions to a traditional IRA can be made for a year “at any time during the year or by the due date for filing your return for that year, not including extensions. For most people, this means that contributions for 2018 must be made by April 15, 2019 (April 17, 2019, if you live in Maine or Massachusetts).”

Educator Expenses: Teachers and other educators who pay for educational supplies and other expenses out of their own pockets should be aware that those costs may be deductible up to $250 a year. This special deduction applies to teachers from kindergarten through grade 12, instructors, counselors, principals or aides in school for at least 900 hours during a school year. Qualified expenses include “ordinary and necessary expenses paid in connection with books, supplies, equipment (including computer equipment, software, and services), and other materials used in the classroom,” the IRS says. But you can’t deduct expenses for home schooling or for “nonathletic supplies for courses in health or physical education.”

If you and your spouse file jointly and both are eligible, “the maximum deduction is $500,” the IRS says. “However, neither spouse can deduct more than $250 of his or her qualified expenses.” This deduction goes on Schedule 1 of Form 1040, line 23.

Credit given to: Tom Herman. This article was written for the WSJ on Monday, March 25, 2019. Mr. Herman is a writer in New York City. He was formerly The Wall Street Journal’s Tax Report columnist. Send comments and tax questions to taxquestions@wsj.com.

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.

This Week’s Author – Mark Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week.

10 Tips for Tiger Woods (Professional Athletes) and the New Tax Law April 17, 2019

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, Depreciation options, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Tip, Taxes , add a comment

The odds are good that this Tax Tip of the Week won’t reach more than a handful of professional athletes and maybe not even that many. Regardless, in the world of tax, many similarities exist between a professional athlete and an employee who travels around the country. Sadly, those similarities are the only things that I will ever have in common with the likes of Tiger Woods, Lebron James, Stephan Curry and Tom Brady. The commentary below was taken from an article dated April 23, 2018 by Travis Tandy who is a staff accountant with Ferguson, Timar & Co in Fullerton California. As you read through this article, please note that the tax laws are no different for you than for a professional athlete, especially if your job necessitates travelling between various taxing entities and you have been itemizing your deductions in the past.

                                                        – Mark Bradstreet

Whether you’ve provided tax and accounting services for professional athletes in the past or are just getting started, you’ll want to pay special attention to these 10 key issues that are unique to this type of client. Adding to the special circumstances these athletes have faced in the past year is the new tax law. Many business expenses that are common among professional athletes are no longer deductible or are limited. Tax planning opportunities abound for this type of client as we all sort through the ramifications of the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Here are some of the many things you’ll face.

1. Jock Tax: Under the terms of what is commonly called the “Jock Tax,” athletes must report their income in each state in which they play. An additional challenge from a tax planning standpoint is player trades during the year. We may set up a tax plan, only to have the player traded to a different state or team in which they will play in an entirely different set of states.

2. Residency: Establishing residency can be most challenging for rookie players. Rookies are often young and unestablished outside of their parents’ home state. Veteran players have the benefit of choosing a permanent residency based on their tax situation. The key is to establish residency in a favorable county near the home stadium. Establishing residency can be done simply by finding a living space, obtaining a driver’s license in that state and setting up utilities in the player’s name. Many players choose states like Florida, Texas, and Washington that have no state tax requirements.

3. Charitable Giving/Non-profit: Players can take advantage of their status to help others through charitable giving. This allows them to support a cause close to their heart. You can help by explaining the value of maximizing charitable donations.

4. Agent Fees & Unions Dues: As of the tax year 2018, union dues and agency fees directly related to the generation of W-2 income no longer qualify as an itemized deduction. Rookie players have minimum dues exceeding $17,000 per year and agent fees of around 3%. These once-deductible items will need to be removed from the player’s tax plans moving forward, or different tax structures need to be explored. However, we are working diligently to review the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement in conjunction with the new tax laws in hopes of changing the way this is handled.

5. Player Fines: Nobody wants to see a situation where a player does something to generate a fine against them. The fines are often donated in the name of the player, turning the fine into a tax deductible expense to the player. Fines not donated to a charity may be considered a necessary and ordinary business expense to the player, subject to new and limiting tax rules.

6. Athletic Equipment: Footballs, golf clubs, tennis rackets, racquetball rackets, basketballs, etc. are considered ordinary and necessary for the player to continue to play at a high level, and to maintain their employment with their team. Again, new tax rules cause us to reexamine the nature of this former itemized deduction. Look for professional athletes to start incorporating themselves to take advantage of more favorable tax provisions.

7. Royalties: Royalties can sometimes be a difficult issue with athletes. Most are unsure of the amount due to them through the year, making tax planning for royalty income a difficult task. Royalty deals also come and go based on player performance. A fluctuation in a multi-million dollar royalty deal can really change the outcome of the player’s tax situation.

8. Unknown increased salaries: It doesn’t happen all that often, but a veteran player may get sent to the injured list for the season. This means a lower paid backup player will be used to replace the player. Players moving from the bench to a starting position receive a significant increase in pay. This can cause a change in their current tax rate and plan.

9. Signing bonuses: The benefit of a signing bonus all comes down to the form in which the bonus is paid out. If the bonus is paid out properly by the league, it may not need to be included in state income.

10: Taxable Swag: Gifts or swag given to players is not truly a gift and it actually comes with a price tag. The items are almost always given in connection with an appearance or as a bonus for the player’s appearance. Unfortunately, the IRS will want a cut of that swag in the form of a tax payment. These fortunate events create additional taxable income for the players often overlooked in the excitement and lack of notice from the agency providing the swag.

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

This week’s author – Mark Bradstreet, CPA

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 360 | It’s Not Personal, It’s Your Business June 22, 2016

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, Business Consulting, General, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Tip, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

Tax Tip of the Week | June 22, 2016 | No. 360 | It’s Not Personal, It’s Your Business


You may think of your business as an extension of yourself, especially if you’re a sole proprietor or the only shareholder. But keeping the two of you separate — particularly in the area of finances — is a tax-smart move. One reason: In addition to making sure the expenses you pay are ordinary and necessary, you need adequate records to support them so you can claim a deduction on your business return. Intermingling personal and business finances may lead to disallowed deductions.

Here are three ways to separate your personal and business life:

Set up a bookkeeping system. In general, federal income tax law does not specify a particular type of recordkeeping system. Your accounting records can be as simple as a logbook with pockets to store receipts. The main requirement is to track your expenses in a manner that provides a complete and accurate account of your business activities.

Open a business bank account. Having a separate bank account can help put to rest the question of whether you are running a business or indulging in a hobby. Why? To open a business account, financial institutions usually require employer identification numbers, business licenses, certificates of incorporation, and other legal documents that signify genuine business activity.

Take a salary.  (Not an option if you are a sole proprietor) Besides providing a clear separation between your personal and business expenses, paying yourself a reasonable wage helps you maintain a budget. Establishing a distinction is especially important for corporations. In some cases, amounts you withdraw from your corporation for your personal benefit can be considered dividends instead of a deductible expense.

If you need help establishing or organizing your business records, please do not hesitate to contact our office.

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504.  Or visit our website.

Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW…until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 332 | NSA Blasts Congress on IRS Cuts December 9, 2015

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Tax Tip of the Week | December 9, 2015 | No. 332 | NSA Blasts Congress on IRS Cuts

We thought you might be interested in this article we read recently……

The National Society of Accountants has delivered what it calls “a strongly worded letter” to the chairs and ranking members of the Appropriations Committees of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives criticizing them for slashing the IRS budget by hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to the NSA, a House bill calls for an $838 million cut in 2016 from the 2015 budget of $10.9 billion, which is also $2.8 billion less than President Obama’s 2016 budget request. A Senate bill proposes a cut of $470 million.

“Individual and small-business taxpayers are being harmed by IRS budget cuts on a daily basis,” NSA executive vice president John Ams wrote. “They are desperate for the kind of help and guidance that only the IRS can provide, but for which the agency has little or no budgeted funds.” He added that these cuts continue a multi-year trend of declining budgets for the IRS.

The IRS Taxpayer Advocate found that in 2014, 35.6 percent of phone calls went unanswered by IRS customer service representatives, NSA added, and half of written correspondence was “not handled in a timely manner.”

The NSA letter expressed support for a November 9 letter signed by five former IRS commissioners sent to these same Congressional leaders. “If you truly believe, as you state, that, ‘We need the IRS to enforce tax laws, stop and prevent fraud, prepare forms and instructions, process refunds, collect revenue and assist taxpayers in complying with tax obligations,’ then the first step would be to develop a budget for the IRS that would actually provide the agency the means with which to do so,” NSA president Kathy Hettick concluded.

We can tell you from first-hand experience the IRS has become almost dysfunctional when we try to respond to correspondence audits.

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504.  Or visit our website.
Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW

…until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 324 | Form 8300 Filing Requirements October 14, 2015

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Tax Tip of the Week | October 14, 2015 | No. 324 | Form 8300 Filing Requirements

What do you do when you receive a payment in excess of $10,000?

The IRS recently reminded business that they have an obligation to report any cash payments in excess of $10,000 on Form 8300.

The simple rule is:  You must file Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business, if you receive cash payments in excess of $10,000 cash per customer. These requirements apply to cash transactions occurring in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as U.S. possessions and territories.

The IRS indicates you must report cash payments if they are:

– More than $10,000

– Received as:

One lump sum of more than $10,000, or Installments totaling more than $10,000 within one year of the initial payment

-Received in the ordinary course of your trade or business

Received from the same agent or customer

-Received in a single transaction or two or more related transactions

-Received from an individual, corporation, partnership, association, trust or estate

Avoid these common mistakes:

Not reporting in time.  Generally you must file Form 8300 within 15 days after you receive the payment. If the 15th day falls on a weekend or holiday, you must file the report by the next business day.

Not reporting related transactions. You must file Form 8300 for related transactions. Related transactions can be those occurring between you and the same customer within a 24-hour period, as well as transactions that occur outside of the 24-hour window, but may be one of a series of connected transactions.

Not getting the right information. You must provide the correct taxpayer identification number (TIN) of the person from whom you received the cash, and you may be subject to penalties if this is incorrect or missing. If you’re unable to obtain the TIN, file Form 8300 and include information about the circumstances surrounding the missing number.

Not providing a written statement to customers. Generally, when you file a Form 8300, you must provide written notification to your customer. You must provide the written statement on or before January 31 of the year following the cash payment.

Not keeping a copy of your records. Keep a copy of every Form 8300 you file – as well as the required statement sent to your customers – for at least five years from the date filed.

A complete discussion of this filing requirement goes beyond the scope of this article.  Just remember to give us a call if you receive a payment over $10,000.

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504.  Or visit our website.
Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW

…until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 266 | Home Office Deduction Not Precluded by Minor Personal Use September 3, 2014

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip , add a comment

Tax Tip of the Week | Sept 3, 2014 | No. 266 | Home Office Deduction Not Precluded by Minor Personal Use

A recent court case….

The Tax Court sided with the plaintiff in a recent case involving the rules surrounding the home office deduction. The deduction is allowed for the portion of a residence that is used exclusively and on a regular basis as the principal place of business for a taxpayer.

Setting aside an area of the dwelling for exclusive use is not always easy, however. In Lauren Miller’s case, the IRS challenged her deduction for the expenses allocable to one-third of her New York City studio apartment of 700 square feet.

Miller was employed by BrandingIron Worldwide (BIW), a company that provides public relations, advertising, and marketing services. BIW is headquartered in Los Angeles, while at the time she was hired; Miller was BIW’s only employee in New York.

Miller used part of her apartment as an office throughout 2009. BIW listed her apartment address and telephone number on its Web site as the address and phone number for its New York office.  Miller usually worked weekdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., but was generally expected to be available at all times.

Miler’s studio apartment, a single room, was divided into three equal sections: an entryway, a bathroom, and a kitchen area; office space, including a desk, two shelving units, a bookcase, and a sofa; and a bedroom area including a platform bed and dressers. Miller has to pass through the office space to get to the bedroom area.

Miller frequently met with BIW clients in the office space, and she performed work for BIW using a computer on the desk. The bookcase and shelving units were used to store books, magazines, supplies and samples related to her work for BIW and its clients. Although she used the office space primarily for business purposes, she occasionally used the space for personal purposed. BIW did not reimburse Miller for any of the expenses related to her apartment.

The Tax Court, in Summary Opinion 2014-74, noted that if the taxpayer is an employee, the deduction for a home office is only allowable if the exclusive use of the office space is for the convenience of the taxpayer’s employer. In Miller’s case, BIW listed her apartment address on its Web site as its New York office address, and Miller “testified credibly that she regularly used one-third of her apartment space as an office to conduct BIW business, she met with clients there, and she was expected to be available to work well into the evening.”

The court agreed with Miller that her apartment was her principal place of business that she was obliged to use the space as an office for the convenience of her employer, and that BIW was not able or willing to reimburse her for any of her apartment-related expenses.

“Although Petitioner admitted that she used portions of the office space for nonbusiness purposes, we find that her personal use of the space was de minimis and wholly attributable to the practicalities of living in a studio apartment of such modest dimensions.”

Therefore, the court concluded that Miller was entitled to the home office deduction.

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504.  Or visit our website.

Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW

…until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 261 | Do You Have A FROG File? July 30, 2014

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Tax Tip of the Week | July 30, 2014 | No. 261 | Do You Have A FROG File?

Everyone needs one of these…

I recently attended a seminar on estate planning. The attorney presenting the class provided a nicely summarized list of important information that everyone should have prepared prior to their death.  She called this list a “FROG File” (For Your Own Good).

The list includes:

The Essentials

–    Executed Will Document
–    Trust Document(s)
–    Letter of Instructions:
o    Funeral Arrangements
o    Contact information for CPA, Attorney, Financial Advisor, Insurance Agents, Bankers, etc.

Proof of Ownership

–    Housing, land, and cemetery deeds
–    Proof of loans made and debts owed
–    Vehicle Titles
–    Stock Certificates, savings bonds and brokerage accounts
–    Partnership and/or Corporate Operating Agreements
–    Tax Returns (at least five years)

Bank/Brokerage Accounts

–    List of all Bank and Brokerage Accounts
–    List of all user names and passwords to access the accounts
–    List of safe-deposit boxes
o    For each, indicate who is the named beneficiary or has joint ownership

Health Care

–    Personal and family medical history
–    Durable health-care power of attorney
–    Authorization to release health-care information
–    Living Will
–    Do-Not-Resuscitate Order

Life Insurance and Retirement Accounts

–    Life Insurance policies
–    Individual Retirement Accounts
–    401(k) accounts
–    Pension documents
–    Annuity Contracts
o    Make sure beneficiary information is up-to-date!

Certificates and Licenses

–    Marriage License
–    Divorce Decrees
–    Military Records

Since we never know when we will be “hit by the bus” it would be a good idea to start your FROG file today!

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504.  Or visit our website.

Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW

…until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | No. 256 | People with High Incomes Paying Zero Federal Income Taxes June 25, 2014

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes , 1 comment so far

Tax Tip of the Week | June 25, 2014 | No. 256 | People with High Incomes Paying Zero Federal Income Taxes

Now that takes some tax planning…

The Internal Revenue Service has released the spring 2014 edition of its quarterly Statistics of Income Bulletin, with statistics up through 2011 indicating there are still people who earn over $200,000 a year who pay no federal income taxes, although the number of them has been decreasing. “For 2011, there were 4.8 million individual income tax returns with an expanded income of $200,000 or more, accounting for 3.3 percent of all returns for the year. Of these, 15,000 returns had no worldwide income tax liability,” according to one report in the bulletin by Justin Bryan. “This was a 6.7-percent decline in the number of returns with no worldwide income tax liability from 2010, and the second decrease in a row since reaching an all-time high of 19,551 returns in 2009.”

However, the advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice pointed out that the numbers are still high when looked at over a longer period.

“From the report’s first publication in 1977 through 2000, the number of high-income Americans paying no tax never exceeded 3,000.  But the past four years have seen an explosion of high-end tax avoidance: in each of these years, the number of zero-tax Americans found in this report has exceeded 30,000. In 2011 (the latest year for which data are available), almost 33,000 people with incomes over $200,000 paid no federal income tax. For this group—less than one percent of all Americans with incomes over $200,000 in 2011—tax-exempt bond interest and itemized deductions are among the main tax breaks that make this tax-avoiding feat possible.”

In addition to the report on high-income tax returns through 2011, the spring 2014 Statistics of Income Bulletin also contains articles on individual income tax rates and sharesindividual noncash contributions and individual foreign-earned income and foreign tax credits for 2011.

The IRS noted that of the 145 million individual tax returns filed in tax year 2011, 91.7 million were classified as taxable returns or returns with a total income tax greater than $0. Adjusted gross income (AGI) for taxable returns was nearly $7.7 trillion, up 6 percent from the prior year. Total income tax was more than $1 trillion. To be included in the top 1 percent of returns for 2011 required an AGI of $388,905.

For tax year 2011, there were more than 22 million individual taxpayers who reported a total of $43.6 billion in deductions for noncash charitable contributions. About a third (7.5 million) of these taxpayers reported nearly $39 billion in deductions for charitable contributions of $500 or more. Nearly 450,000 U.S. taxpayers reported $54 billion of foreign-earned income for tax year 2011, representing growth in real terms of over 32 percent since the last study in 2006.

The Statistics of Income Bulletin is available for download at IRS.gov/taxstats.

Give us a call to see how the tax code can work for you!

You can contact us in Dayton at 937-436-3133 and in Xenia at 937-372-3504.  Or visit our website.

Rick Prewitt – the guy behind TTW

…until next week.