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What Will Filing Taxes Be Like in 2021 – And How Can You Prepare? September 30, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, COVID, COVID-19, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Rules, Tax Tip, Taxes , add a comment

Some of the tax return changes listed below provide us with likely insights into the IRS’s future audit and cross matching software programs.  The IRS is always trying to close the so-called “tax gap.”  The tax gap is the amount of income taxes due which are not paid in a timely or voluntary fashion.  One of the studies in recent years indicated that about 16 percent of taxes are never paid.  At the time of this study, that amount represented about 18 percent of annual federal revenues (this study was pre-COVID era).

Let me share my thoughts on the dangers of two of the new changes below as recapped by Morris Armstrong.  The first change is the possibility of deferring the deposit and payment of the employer’s portion of the Social Security taxes.  The second one involves receiving retirement plan distributions and deferring their repayments.  Both are akin to kicking the can down the road which typically sounds like a good idea.  But, keep in mind, there is a day of reckoning.  Failure to later pay either the employer’s portion of the Social Security taxes or your retirement plan distributions will result in interest and penalties and maybe even additional income taxes.  Don’t get me wrong, sometimes kicking the can down the road is the only option one may have.  And, if that is the case, then I would take full advantage of the tax law.

-Mark Bradstreet


“THERE HAVE BEEN CHANGES to the tax code this year, and they will be reflected on the Form 1040 of your tax return.

Each year, if necessary, the IRS releases drafts of the forms so professionals may comment, and line numbers are subject to change. However, the advance notice is always appreciated and can give insights into what next year’s taxes will look like.

Here’s how tax-filing will look different in 2021 – when 2020 income taxes are filed – and what you can do to prepare.

A New Focus on Cryptocurrency
This year, the Department of Treasury is focusing on virtual currencies. The first question asks this: At any time during 2020, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?

Over the past several years, the government has focused on cryptocurrencies, issued guidance on its tax treatment and advised certain taxpayers that they may have failed to report transactions properly. Likely, the government must feel that it has in place the infrastructure to trace your transactions.

As you answer this question, remember that you are signing the tax return under penalties of perjury, a conviction of which can carry a five-year prison sentence.

Adjustment to Income Via Charity
A bonus to taxpayers in 2020 is that they may be eligible to reduce their income by up to $300 for charitable contributions, thanks to the coronavirus relief bill.

These contributions must be in the form of cash, check or credit card payments, and you must have the proper documentation. You may not deduct donations of items such as the four bags of clothing that you dropped off at Goodwill this spring.

This “adjustment to income” is nice because it reduces your adjusted gross income, also called AGI, which impacts many other aspects of your financial life. Your Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D premiums and programs at the state level are tethered to AGI. So, having a lower adjusted gross income can reduce those premiums or make you eligible for additional state programs.

Prepare by keeping your receipts and other substantiating documents. Remember, contributions of $250 or more to a charity require a letter of acknowledgment.

Look Out for Changes in Reporting Taxes Paid
In the past, when you reported the amount of federal tax withheld, you reported one number. This would be the paid federal income tax shown on your W-2 and on any 1099 form.

This year, the numbers are being reported on separate lines, and that could mean that someone at the IRS will be focusing on 1099s in the future.

Tax Credit Reconciling the Economic Impact Payments
Line 30 seems to be reserved for something that the government is calling a recovery rebate credit, which refers to the stimulus payments you received. This is where you may receive an additional credit if your 2020 tax return has a smaller AGI than the one that was used to calculate the initial stimulus check or if you have additional dependents.

Prepare by keeping the letter from the IRS telling you how much you received. It is Notice 1444 that you want to have available when you are filing your tax returns.

Payroll Tax Deferment Impacts the Amount You Owe
If you had household employees or are self-employed, which you report on Schedule H and Schedule SE, you may have to pay extra attention to this calculation.

Normally, the calculation is a simple addition of the taxes owed minus any payments and credits, but this year, we have a wrinkle. The coronavirus relief bill allows employers to defer the deposit and payment of the employer’s portion of the Social Security taxes.

The span of March 27 through Dec. 31, 2020 is important because any payroll taxes that were due then may be deferred, with 50% paid by Dec. 31, 2021, and the balance by Dec. 31, 2022. If you are a Schedule C filer, this will apply to you.

Flexibility Around Retirement Plan Distributions for Taxpayers Impacted by COVID-19
The coronavirus relief bill allows for distributions from a retirement account, including an IRA, to be handled differently if the taxpayer was impacted by COVID-19. This does not require contracting the disease but includes having your economic life disrupted by it.

You could be quarantined, furloughed, laid-off or had work hours reduced, been unable to work because you could not find child care– if it is virus related – and qualify for this retirement plan provision.

When the taxpayer self-certifies to these facts, the tax impact is substantial. There will be no 10% penalty if you take a distribution while under the age of 59½, the distribution will be spread over three years, and the taxpayer may repay the amount taken out over three years and avoid taxation.

Prepare by keeping documentation. Since you are self-certifying that you are impacted, you may want to keep any medical records, notices from your employers or notes describing your circumstances.

For most people, these are the main changes that will impact their personal 1040 Form. But keep in mind that Congress is still in session, it is an election year and more changes are possible.”

Credit given to US News & World Report published Sept 1, 2020 by Morris Armstrong.

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.

Good Record-keeping is an Essential Element of Tax Planning September 16, 2020

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

I can go on ad nauseum about the importance of good record-keeping. Of course, being an accountant, I may be more than a little biased. I won’t say that good record-keeping is THE most important piece of the business world BUT it is certainly near the top. You simply must have a way to keep score. Without knowing the score, you may be using the wrong playbook. Most businesses have poor records which results in inaccurate financial statements. Making decisions from incorrect data just sets the stage for a disaster. Eventually, most of your day will be wasted answering calls from past due or incorrect payments on your invoices, screwed up orders, improper or missed billings, unable to obtain credit, poor credit history and losing money all the while not knowing you are underwater until it is too late.
                                                -Mark

Now is a good time for people to begin thinking about next year’s tax return. While it may seem early to be preparing for 2021, reviewing your record-keeping now will pay off when it comes time to file again.

Here are some suggestions to help taxpayers keep good records:

Credit given to – IRS.gov – click here for original article

This week’s Author – Mark Bradstreet, CPA

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.

–until next week.

How to Owe Nothing with Your Federal Tax Return September 9, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Depreciation options, General, tax changes, Tax Preparation, Tax Rules, Tax Tip , add a comment

Here’s how to fine-tune your W-4 and avoid writing a fat check next year.

It’s a calming thought: owing nothing on your federal tax return. And you can make it happen if you handle your withholding strategically.

Here’s how:

The W-4 form that you fill out for your employer when you start a new job determines how much income tax will be withheld from your paycheck and, ultimately, how much tax you will either owe or get back as a refund at the end of the year.

What you may not know is that it’s not a one-time thing. You can submit a revised W-4 form to your employer whenever you want. Managing how much your employer withholds through your W-4 form will give you a better shot at owing no taxes come April.

You also should avoid having too much withheld, of course. That would be giving Uncle Sam an interest-free loan all year.

Here’s how to get your tax bill closer to zero before tax time arrives:

KEY TAKEAWAYS
• The W-4 form that you fill out for your employer determines how much tax is withheld from your paycheck throughout the year.
• An online calculator can help you estimate your tax liability for the year and determine whether you’re having too little or too much withheld.
• Once you know that, you can submit a new W-4 to get you closer to owing zero at tax time.

Estimate What You’ll Owe
If you are a salaried employee with a steady job, it’s relatively easy to calculate your tax liability for the year. You can predict what your total income will be.

Millions of Americans don’t fall into the above category. They work freelance, have multiple jobs, work for an hourly rate, or depend on commissions, bonuses, or tips. If you’re one of them, you’ll need to make an educated guess based on your earnings history and how your year has gone so far.

From there, there are several ways to get a good estimate of your tax liability:

Use an Online Check Calculator
There are a number of free income tax calculators online. If you enter your gross pay, your pay frequency, your federal filing status, and other relevant information, the calculator will tell you your federal tax liability per paycheck.

You can multiply that by the number of pay periods in a year to see your total tax liability.

This method is easy, and the result will be reasonably accurate, but it may not be perfect since your actual tax liability may depend on some other variables, such as whether you itemize deductions and which tax credits you claim.

Use a Tax Withholding Estimator
The tax withholding estimator on the Internal Revenue Service website is particularly useful for people with more complex tax situations.

It will ask about factors like your eligibility for child and dependent care tax credits, whether and how much you contribute to a tax-deferred retirement plan or health savings account, and how much federal tax you had withheld from your most recent paycheck.

Based on the answers to your questions, it will tell you your estimated tax obligation for the year, how much you will have paid through withholding by year’s end, and your expected over-payment or underpayment.

Fill Out a Sample Tax Return
Another option is to complete a sample tax return for the year, either by using tax software or by downloading the forms you need from the IRS website and filling them out by hand.

This method should give you the most accurate picture of your annual tax liability.

If you’re using last year’s tax software or IRS forms, make sure there haven’t been significant changes to the rules or the tax rates that would affect your situation.

How To Get The Most Money Back On Your Tax Return

Adjust Your Tax Withholding
Once you know the total amount you will owe in federal taxes, the next step is figuring out how much you need to have withheld per pay period to reach that target but not exceed it by Dec. 31.

Then fill out a new W-4 form accordingly.

You don’t have to wait for your employer’s HR department to hand you a new W-4 form. You can print one yourself from the IRS website.

If Not Enough Is Being Withheld
The W-4 form has a place to indicate the amount of additional tax you’d like to have withheld each pay period.

If you’ve underpaid so far, subtract the amount you’re on track to pay by the end of the year, at your current level of withholding, from the amount you will owe in total. Then divide the result by the number of pay periods that remain in the year.

That will tell you how much extra you want to have withheld from each paycheck.

You could also decrease the number of withholding allowances you claim, but the results won’t be as accurate.

If You’ve Been Overpaying
Unless you’re looking forward to a big refund, try increasing the number of withholding allowances you claim on the W-4.

Deciding on the exact number can be tricky. The best method is to plug different numbers of withholding allowances into a paycheck calculator until it hits the amount closest to the federal tax you want to have withheld for each pay period going forward.

Note that the IRS requires that you have a reasonable basis for the withholding allowances you claim. It doesn’t want you fiddling with its form just to avoid paying taxes until the last minute.

If you don’t have enough tax withheld, you could be subject to underpayment penalties.

Bear in mind that you need to have enough tax withheld throughout the year to avoid underpayment penalties and interest. You can do that by making sure your withholding equals at least 90% of your current year’s tax liability or 100% of your previous year’s tax liability, whichever is smaller.

You’ll also avoid penalties if you owe less than $1,000 on your tax return.

Other Considerations
If it’s so early in the year that you haven’t received any paychecks yet, you can just divide your total tax liability for the year that just ended by the number of paychecks you receive in a year. Then, compare that amount to the amount that’s withheld from your first paycheck of the year once you get it and make any necessary adjustments from there.

If you adjust your W-4 to make up for any underpayment or over-payment partway through the year, you’ll want to fill out a new W-4 in January or your withholding will be off for the new year.

Of course, if your income fluctuates unpredictably, this is all a lot harder. But following the steps above should help you get close to a reasonable number.

And remember: You can redo your W-4 several times during the year if necessary.

Article credit given to – Amy Fontinelle – click here for original article

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.

–until next week.

Two New Employer Tax Credits July 15, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, Business Consulting, COVID, COVID-19, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

July 15, 2020                         

Many businesses that have been severely impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19) will qualify for two new employer tax credits – the Credit for Sick and Family Leave and the Employee Retention Credit.

Sick and Family Leave – Credit for Sick and Family Leave

An employee who is unable to work (including telework) because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, is entitled to paid sick leave for up to ten days (up to 80 hours) at the employee’s regular rate of pay, or, if higher, the Federal minimum wage or any applicable State or local minimum wage, up to $511 per day, but no more than $5,110 in total.

Caring for someone with Coronavirus

An employee who is unable to work due to caring for someone with Coronavirus, or caring for a child because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or the paid child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, is entitled to paid sick leave for up to two weeks (up to 80 hours) at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay or, if higher, the Federal minimum wage or any applicable State or local minimum wage, up to $200 per day, but no more than $2,000 in total.

Care for children due to daycare or school closure

An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, is also entitled to paid family and medical leave equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in total. Up to ten weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the family leave credit.

Credit for eligible employers

Eligible employers are entitled to receive a credit in the full amount of the required sick leave and family leave, plus related health plan expenses and the employer’s share of Medicare tax on the leave, for the period of April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.  The refundable credit is applied against certain employment taxes on wages paid to all employees. Eligible employers can reduce federal employment tax deposits in anticipation of the credit.  They can also request an advance of the paid sick and family leave credits for any amounts not covered by the reduction in deposits. The advanced payments will be issued by paper check to employers.

Employee Retention Credit

Eligible employers can claim the employee retention credit, a refundable tax credit equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 in qualified wages (including health plan expenses), paid after March 12, 2020 and before January 1, 2021.  Eligible employers are those businesses with operations that have been partially or fully suspended due to governmental orders due to COVID-19, or businesses that have a significant decline in gross receipts compared to 2019.

The refundable credit is capped at $5,000 per employee and applies against certain employment taxes on wages paid to all employees.  Eligible employers can reduce federal employment tax deposits in anticipation of the credit.  They can also request an advance of the employee retention credit for any amounts not covered by the reduction in deposits. The advanced payments will be issued by paper check to employers.

Need more information on how to apply? Click here

This week’s article – From IRS.gov – Click Here

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.

Correction/Update to an earlier Tax Tip of the Week regarding municipal income taxes.  A local Income Tax Administrator was kind enough to send the below information to us as follows:

“H.B. 197 sets aside 718.011 of the Ohio Revised Code, stating:

…during the period of the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, and for thirty days after the conclusion of that period, any day on which an employee performs personal services at a location, including the employee’s home, to which the employee is required to report for employment duties because of the declaration shall be deemed to be a day performing personal services at the employee’s principal place of work.

That said, employees who were sent home to work during the pandemic are still considered to be working at their principal place of work and not their city of residence.  That’s why employees should not have had a change in their municipal withholding from pre-pandemic times.  There are those that question the constitutionality of the executive order, so I’m sure that the State or others will address this at a later time.  Unfortunately, due to ORC Section 718, municipalities cannot pass legislation to override H.B. 197 or any section of 718.”

– until next week.

-Mark

Tax Tip of the Week | New Tough Tax Rules for Business Losses March 4, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, Business consulting, Deductions, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Rules, Tax Tip, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

March 4, 2020

Some businesses are very profitable, others are not – many businesses exist somewhere in the middle. Until recently, a Net Operating Loss (NOL) could be carried back two (2) years and the remainder forward for twenty (20) years (all within various limitations). Things have changed. For the vast majority of businesses, NOLs may only be carried forward without a sunset provision. BUT and there always is a BUT with the tax law – NOLs may not exceed certain amounts and percentages.  This is explained in greater detail below:
                                -Mark Bradstreet

Okay, you’re not in business to lose money but it can happen from time to time. The tax law has new rules in store for you when it comes to writing off business losses in 2018 and beyond. These rules make it more difficult to use losses to save taxes.

Net operating loss

Essentially, a net operating loss arises when the amount of a current business loss is greater than what can be used in the current year (i.e., greater than taxable income), and it becomes a net operating loss (NOL). (Technical rules apply to make an NOL more complicated than this.)

When and how the NOL is used has been changed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

•    NOLs arising prior to 2018. Generally these NOLs can be carried back for 2 years (there are some special rules for certain situations and an option to waive the carry-back) and forward for up to 20 years. The NOLs can offset up to 100% of taxable income.
•    NOLs arising in 2018 and beyond. No carry-back is allowed (other than for certain farming losses and losses of property and casualty insurance companies), but there’s an unlimited carry-forward. However, the NOL can only offset up to 80% of taxable income. Learn more about Gst registration Service Singapore to make your business grow financially.

Record-keeping. If you have a carry-forward of a pre-2018 NOL, be sure to keep track of it separately from newer ones so you can use it as a 100% offset going forward. NOLs are taken into account in the order in which they are generated, so that old NOLs are used before newer ones. This rule hasn’t changed.

Non-corporate excess business losses

If you own a pass-through entity—sole proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, or limited liability company—the rules for writing off your losses have changed dramatically. Until now, if you had $1 million in revenue and $1.6 million in expenses, the $600,000 loss passed through to you would be deductible on your return (limited by your basis in the business).

Now there’s an important change in the treatment of losses. Instead of being currently deductible, excess business losses are characterized as net operating losses that must be carried forward.

What is a non-corporate excess business loss?This is the excess of business deductions for the year over the sum of (1) gross income or gain from the business, plus (2) $250,000 for singles or $500,000 for joint filers (with these dollar amounts adjusted for inflation after 2018).

So continuing the example I started earlier, under the new loss limit, instead deducting $600,000 in 2018, assuming you’re single, you’d only be able to write off $350,000 ($1.6 million – [$1 million + $250,000]). The balance of the loss–$250,000—is treated as a net operating loss that becomes deductible in 2019 to the extent permissible (explained earlier).

For owners of partnerships and S corporations, the limit is applied at the owner level, based on the owner’s distributive share of business income and expenses.

The excess business loss limit applies after applying the passive activity loss limit. The excess business loss limit is effective from 2018 through 2025.

Conclusion

To sum it up, when you’re doing well, the government is your partner by sharing in your good fortune via taxes. But when you aren’t doing well, the government doesn’t want to know you anymore. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act rewards profitable businesses by lowering the taxes to be paid on profits. But this same law essentially penalizes unprofitable businesses by imposing limits on utilizing losses. In the past, for example, if you had an NOL, you could carry it back to generate an immediate cash refund that could be ploughed into the business. In effect, a loss could be turned into a gain. No longer.

Perhaps the lesson here is: Be profitable. Take the steps you need to ensure this—cut expenses, raise prices, etc. And work with your tax advisor to see what other measures can be used to keep you in the black.

Credit given to – Barbara Weltman

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.  

Today’s author – Mark Bradstreet

– until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | How is Hobby Income Taxed? February 12, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes , add a comment

February 12, 2020

The hobby world has been turned upside down. In the past, hobby expenses were deducted to the extent of hobby income. Starting with 2019 and moving forward, hobby expenses are no longer deductible but your hobby income is fully taxable. Why? I have no idea. Hobbyists should be making whatever efforts necessary to convert their hobby to a business. Unlike hobby expenses, business expenses are deductible.  

                                -Mark Bradstreet

If you earn money from a hobby, you must report it as income on your federal income tax return. But if your hobby turns into a business, you may be eligible to take business deductions as well.

If you’re like most people, you probably have at least one hobby.

Unless your hobby’s mining for cryptocurrencies, you may not profit much from it. But you could still have at least a little hobby income coming in. If you do, you’re probably wondering: How is hobby income taxed?

The answer: You must pay taxes on any money your hobby makes, even if it’s just a few dollars. The good news is, if you incurred hobby expenses, you might be able to deduct them. It’s important to know how to declare hobby income, how to deduct hobby expenses and how to know if your hobby’s a business. You can find out about the rules right here.

Is it a hobby, or is it a business?

First things first — are you pursuing a hobby or running a business? Generally, if you’re doing something with the intention of making a profit, that’s a business, according to the IRS. A hobby is something you do for sport or recreation, and not for the objective of making a profit.

Some additional factors the IRS considers when defining a hobby versus a business include:

•    Do you depend on the income from your hobby?
•    Do you conduct your hobby like a business, maintaining meticulous records?
•    Have you taken steps to make your hobby more profitable?
•    Do you (or anyone who’s advising you) have the knowledge you would need to conduct your hobby as an actual business?
•    Can you expect to turn a profit from appreciation of assets you use in your hobby?

Maybe you answered “no” to all of the questions above. Sometimes, however, your hobby isn’t just for fun and you decide to try to make a living doing what you love. If your hobby becomes a business in the eyes of the IRS, the rules change. Check out the IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center if you find that your hobby has turned into a business.

You must declare hobby income

The IRS wants you to declare all your hobby income, even if it’s a small amount of money.

“If your hobby or side business has a net profit, you have to pay income taxes on that net profit, even with the new tax law,” says Irene Wachsler, a CPA at Tobolsky & Wachsler CPAs LLC in Canton, Massachusetts.

If you file your taxes using Form 1040, you’ll typically report your hobby income on Line 21, labeled “Other income.” While this is the simplest approach for most situations, there’s an alternative if you’re a collector.

If your hobby income comes from selling collectibles at a profit, you may report income from sales, including stock sales, on Schedule D. Reporting profits on a Schedule D means you could be taxed at capital gains rates instead of ordinary income tax rates.

Hobby expenses

Most hobbies — even those that earn you income — also cost money. Prior to the 2018 tax year, you could deduct hobby expenses equal to your hobby income. For tax years after 2018, this deduction is no longer available.

Since tax reform has significantly increased the standard deduction for 2018, you may be thinking you’ll likely lose the ability to deduct hobby expenses if it no longer makes sense for you to itemize. In fact, it doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t itemize — you’ve lost the deduction for hobby expenses in 2018 anyway because tax reform removed the miscellaneous deduction.

“Under the new tax reform bill, there is no place to deduct the expenses, so income will be recognized but the expense will not, starting in 2018,” says Alan Pinck, an enrolled agent and founder of A. Pinck & Associates, San Jose, California.

When does your hobby become a business, and why does it matter?

If your hobby becomes a business, you’re subject to a whole different set of tax rules.

First, you’ll typically have to declare income on Schedule C and pay both income tax and self-employment taxes (self-employment taxes include taxes for Social Security and Medicare, which an employer normally pays half of when you earn wage income). You can also deduct losses from a business, even if those losses exceed income the business earns, which differs from hobby losses.

It may seem tempting to classify your hobby as a business so you can deduct all your expenses, but proceed with caution — as mentioned earlier, the IRS uses specific criteria to differentiate a hobby from a business.

“If the activity makes a profit during at least three out of the last five years, the IRS will generally consider it a business,” Pinck explains, noting that the rules change if horses are involved.

Still, if you decide you do want to turn your hobby into a business and reap the tax benefits of business deductions, Wachsler recommends you keep a log showing your attempts to participate materially in the business.

Your log could include details on your efforts, including advertising, meetings, trying to obtain income or sell services, mileage logs and work logs. Of course even if you make an effort, the IRS may still decide your “business” isn’t really a business at all if you suffer persistent losses year after year.

Bottom line

Now that you know how hobby income is taxed, it’s up to you to decide if making money doing something for fun is worth the potential tax ramifications. While declaring income earned from your hobby may seem like a hassle — especially since you can’t deduct expenses after 2017 — you don’t want to get in trouble with the IRS for not reporting all your income.

Be sure to follow the rules for paying taxes on any money your hobby earns, and be sure you understand the differences between a hobby and a business. If the IRS decides you incorrectly classified your hobby as a business or vice versa, you could face additional taxes, penalties and interest.

Credit Given to: Christy Rakoczy Bieber

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.  

Today’s author – Mark Bradstreet

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | How to do 1031 Exchanges to Defer Taxes February 5, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, General, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes , add a comment

Like-kind tax free exchanges aka Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 are one of the most valuable yet underutilized sections of the IRC (the last major tax law change eliminated 1031 exchanges for anything but real estate).  We have prepared thousands of individual income tax returns and only a very small fraction of those with commercial and residential real estate sales use Section 1031.  Why?  I speculate lack of 1031 education is the primary culprit.  Also, the people that are aware simply don’t wish to tackle its complexities.  Its rules are unforgiving and the deadlines are engraved in stone as the accompanying article discusses.  However, it benefits may be significant.

                                    -Mark Bradstreet 

The Definition of Like-Kind Properties Has Changed Over the Years

The time-worn saying “Nothing is certain but death and taxes” is only half true for a savvy American taxpayer who is planning the sale of an investment or business property. Since capital gains tax on your profits could run as high as 15 percent to 30 percent when state and federal taxes are combined, why not take the necessary steps to avoid this loss? A big tax bite could wipe out money you could use for future investments.

Enter the 1031 tax-deferred exchange. To many taxpayers, this is like money dropping from the skies.

1031 Exchanges Defer Taxes

The 1031 Exchange has been cited as the most powerful wealth-building tool still available to taxpayers. It has been a major part of the success strategy of countless financial wizards and real estate gurus. Taking its name from Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, a tax-deferred exchange allows a taxpayer to sell income, investment or business property and replace it with a like-kind property.

Capital gains on the sale of this property are deferred or postponed as long as the IRS rules are meticulously followed. It is a wise tax and investment strategy as well as an estate planning tool. In theory, an investor could continue deferring capital gains on investment property until death, potentially avoiding them all together.

1984 Legislation Changed Some Aspects

In the early days of “like-kind exchanges,” the term was taken quite literally and often posed difficulties. For instance, if you owned a three-story brick apartment building that you wanted to sell through a 1031 exchange, you would have to find another three-story brick apartment building whose owner wanted to swap. Then the two of you would meet, and the exchange would take place.

3 Saving Habits to Steal and 3 to Skip

In the past, there were no time constraints on the exchange. The IRS demanded stricter controls on the process, which resulted in Congress passing in 1984 Section 1031(a). This legislation limited deferred exchanges, further defined “like-kind” property and established a timetable for completing the exchange.

Qualifying

Real estate property held for business use or investment qualifies for a 1031 Exchange. A personal residence does not qualify and, generally, a fix-and-flip property also doesn’t qualify because it fits into the category of property being held for sale. Vacation or second homes, which are not held as rentals do not qualify for 1031 treatment; however, there is a usage test under Paragraph 280 of the tax code that may apply to those properties. A tax expert should be consulted in this case.

Land, which is under development, and property purchased for resale do not qualify for tax-deferred treatment. Stocks, bonds, notes, inventory property, and a beneficial interest in a partnership are not considered “like-kind” property for exchange purposes.

To qualify as a 1031 exchange today, the transaction must take the form of an “exchange” rather than just a sale of one property with the subsequent purchase of another. First, the property being sold and the new replacement property must both be held for investment purposes or for productive use in a trade or a business. They must be “like-kind” properties.

The following types of real estate swaps fit the requirement for a qualified exchange of “like-kind” property:

•    An office in exchange for a shopping center
•    A shopping center in exchange for land
•    Land in exchange for an industrial building
•    An apartment building in exchange for an industrial building
•    A single family rental in exchange for a tenants in common (TIC) property

Today, you could exchange that brick apartment building for raw land, a warehouse, or a small office building. However, there are strict time constraints which must be met, or the 1031 Exchange will not be allowed, and tax consequences will be imposed.

Prior to 1984, virtually all exchanges were done simultaneously with the closing and transfer of the sold property (Relinquished Property), and the purchase of the new real estate (Replacement Property). In addition to the problems encountered when trying to finding a suitable property, there were difficulties with the simultaneous transfer of titles as well as funds. Not so today.

The delayed 1031 Exchange avoids those pre-1984 problems, but stricter deadlines are now imposed. A taxpayer who wants to complete an exchange, lists and markets property in the usual manner. When a buyer steps forward, and the purchase contract is executed, the seller enters into an exchange agreement with a qualified intermediary who, in turn, become the substitute seller. The exchange agreement usually calls for an assignment of the seller’s contract to the Intermediary. The closing takes place and, because the seller cannot touch the money, the Intermediary receives the proceeds due to the seller.

Exchanges Carry Time Restrictions

At that point, the first timing restriction, the 45-day rule for Identification, begins. The taxpayer must either close on or identify in writing a potential Replacement Property within 45 days from the closing and transfer of the original property. The time period is not negotiable, includes weekends and holidays, and the IRS will not make exceptions. If you exceed the time limit, your entire exchange can be disqualified, and taxes are sure to follow.

Types of Replacement Properties to Identify:

1.    Three properties without regard to their fair market value.
2.    Any number of properties as long as their aggregate fair market value at the end of the identification period does not exceed 200 percent of the aggregate fair market value of the relinquished property as of the transfer date.
3.    If the three-property rule and the 200 percent rule is exceeded, the exchange will not fail if the taxpayer purchases 95 percent of the aggregate fair market value of all identified properties.

What Is Boot?

Realistically, most investors follow the three-property rule so they can complete due diligence and select the one that works best for them that will close. Generally, the goal is to trade up to avoid the transfer of “boot” and keep the exchange tax-free.

“Boot” is the money or fair market value of any additional property received by the taxpayer through the exchange. Money includes all cash equivalents, debts, liabilities to which the exchanged property is subject. It is “non-like-kind” property, and the rules governing it during the exchange are complex. Suffice it to say, without expert advice, receiving “boot” can result in taxes.

Subject to the 180-Day Rule

Once a replacement property is selected, the taxpayer has 180 days from the date the Relinquished Property was transferred to the buyer to close on the new Replacement Property. However, if the due date on the investor’s tax return, with any extensions, for the tax year in which the Relinquished Property was sold is earlier than the 180-day period, then the exchange must be completed by that earlier date. Remember, a portion of this period has already been used during the Identification Period. There are no extensions and no exceptions to this rule, so it is advisable to schedule the closing prior to the deadline.

Since the law requires that the taxpayer not touch the proceeds from the first transaction, the Qualified Intermediary acquires the Replacement Property from the seller at closing and after the transaction is completed, then transfers it to the taxpayer.

Are Not for Do-It-Yourself Investors

It is a basic description of how a successful 1031 Exchange works. Depending upon the taxpayer’s situation, the type of property relinquished, and the characteristics of the Replacement Property, other aspects of the Exchange may be involved. Its completion may become complex, and experts should always be consulted. This is no task for a “do it yourself” investor.

Using the power of the 1031 Exchange to build and preserve wealth and assets, generate cash flow from investments, restructure, diversify and consolidate real estate holdings is the right of every owner of investment property in the United States. American taxpayers should never have to pay capital gains taxes on the sale of their investment property if they intend to reinvest those proceeds in more investment property.

Today’s author – Elizabeth Weintraub

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.  

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | 12 Essential Pieces of Small Business Advice January 22, 2020

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

Seems like a great time to reflect on some business pointers from some very wise people. Always fun to ponder on where we have been, where we are, where we are going, how will we get there and who will be on the bus with us. Rarely, do I get out of the pounding surf long enough to think through these questions. Regardless, this line of thinking should drive the events of 2020 and beyond.

Some brief gems of business advice follow – just maybe one of them will open a new door for you and your company.

                                -Mark Bradstreet 

At Dreamforce 2018, the Salesforce small business team asked attendees to share their most essential advice for small business owners. Over the course of four days, we collected more than 1,000 pearls of wisdom.

To celebrate National Small Business Week, we’ve distilled those 1,000+ suggestions down to 12 bits of small biz advice. And for fun, we’ve included some runner-ups that expressed similar ideas in different words.

Here we go:

1. “Every journey starts with one step – make sure you have the right shoes to go far.”

Launching a small business involves many important decisions, both big and small. The choices you make today can affect your business for years to come, so it’s critical to get off to a strong start and put your business on the path to success.

Runner-ups:

2. “Don’t boil the ocean — think small and fast.” 

Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by complexity or paralyzed by the quest for perfection — keep things simple when and where you can.

Runner-ups:

3. “Trust your instinct — you may just know the next industry trend!”

Running a small business is daunting, but you’ve got this. You’re the captain of the ship, so trust yourself to steer the right course.

Runner-up:

4. “Dream big, but remember to scale for the future. Planning is your best tool to ensure continued success!”

It’s great to have a vision of where you want your company to go. But it’s even more important to plan ahead so that the decisions you make today don’t box you in tomorrow.

Runner-ups:

5. “Be open to the journey without being too rigid on the outcome.” 

Running a small business is an unpredictable adventure. Flexibility is one of the entrepreneur’s best tools for overcoming unexpected adversity.

Runner-ups:

6. “One great employee is better than 10 bad employees.”

Employees are your biggest asset. Hiring (and then listening to and trusting) the right people is one of the most important steps to success.

Runner-ups:

7. “Listen. Listen. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.”

Details (and good communication) matter.

Runner-ups:

8. “Know your numbers, but know your customers better!”

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, but especially for small businesses. Treating them right and giving them a reason to come back is critical.

Runner-ups:

9. “Whether you think it’s possible or not, you are right!”

Elvis sang it best – “Only the strong survive.” When the going gets tough, successful small business entrepreneurs get going.

Runner-ups:

10. “Work for a company you’re proud of.”

Once you’ve hired great employees you need to treat them right so they stick around. The churn and expense of replacing good workers can debilitate even the strongest small business.

Runner-ups:

11. “Do what you say you’ll do!”

What does your company stand for? If it doesn’t stand for much it likely won’t be around for long.

Runner-ups:

12. “You have one life. What is important to you?”

There’s only one you! It’s impossible to create and run a successful company if you aren’t functioning at 100%. Be good to yourself, so that you’re around to enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Runner-ups:

Many thanks to our great Dreamforce attendees for taking the time to pass along so many thoughtful and helpful suggestions.

Credit Given to:  Daniel Krewson. 

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 | Great News from the IRS for Retirement Savers January 15, 2020

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

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gave retirement savers an early holiday gift this year in the form of higher contribution limits for 2020. According to its November 6th announcement, workplace retirement plan contribution limits would be increased in 2020. Likewise, the income limits for Traditional IRAs and ROTH IRAs will also rise in 2020.

Larger contributions to retirement accounts will allow you to further minimize your current tax bills. Additionally, higher retirement account contribution limits can be great for those who are playing catch up for retirement and/or who are making good incomes.

2020 Contribution Limits for Workplace Retirement Plans

The employee contribution limit will be increasing from $19,000 to $19,500 for the following types of retirement accounts in 2020:
•    401(k) plans
•    403(b) plans
•    Most 457 plans
•    Thrift Savings Plans
•    Profit-Sharing Plans
•    Cash Balance Pension Plans

For those of you with a SIMPLE IRA at work, the contribution limit will be increasing from $13,000 to $13,500. If your employer offers a SIMPLE IRA it may be time to ask them to upgrade your retirement plan to a 401(k), or something similar, that offers larger contribution limits.

Larger Catch-Up Contributions for Workers Who are 50+

Workers, at least 50 years old, are allowed to contribute even more to workplace retirement accounts. In 2019, the maximum catch-up contribution to a 401(k) was $6,000. For 2020, that amount will increase to $6,500.

That means workers who are at least 50-years-old will be allowed to contribute a combined total of $1,000 more than they could have in 2019. For example, a worker who is 55 years old in 2020, with a workplace retirement plan, will be able to contribute up to $19,500 to his 401(k) plus a maximum catch-up contribution of $6,500. If he makes the maximum contributions, they will equate to an investment of $26,000 into his retirement account. That’s $1,000 more than the maximum amount he could have invested in 2019.

Catch-Up Contributions are Typically Allowed on the Following Retirement Plans
•    401(k)
•    403(b)
•    Most 457 plans
•    Thrift Savings Plan

Sadly, catch-up contributions are not allowed on SEP IRAs.

Solo 401(k) Contribution Limits for 2020

With a Solo 401(k), small business owners can contribute as both the employee and the employer. That could lead to some pretty nice tax savings for those who max out the plans. As the employee, you can contribute the aforementioned $19,500 for 2020, plus the catch-up contribution if you are at least 50 years old. Total contribution limits as both the employee and employer have increased by $1,000 to $57,000 for 2020. That number does not include the potential $6,500 catch-up contribution. That means small business owners who are at least 50 years old have the option to contribute the maximum contribution limit of $65,500 for a Solo 401(k) plan.

Defined Benefit Pension Plan Benefits Increase In 2020

Small business owners who are maxing out their 401(k) or profit-sharing plan, and who want to save more on taxes, should check out a Cash Balance Pension. This defined benefit plan will allow even larger pre-tax retirement plan contributions when combined with a 401(k) profit-sharing plan. 

Effective January 1, 2020, the limitation on the annual benefit of a Pension plan will be increasing from $225,000 to $230,000. While this may not seem like a big deal, it will allow for a larger contribution, each year, to the pension plan. Your potential contributions will depend on how the plan is designed, your age, and your income. I work with many business owners who are stashing away hundreds of thousands of dollars each, pre-tax, into a Defined Benefit Pension Plan every year.

No Increase to IRA Contribution Limits

Bad news plus some good news for IRA or ROTH IRA lovers. The maximum contribution limits for individual retirement accounts are remaining the same. Also remaining the same are catch-up contributions for individual retirement accounts. For 2020, the catch-up contribution will be just $1,000 for an IRA and ROTH IRA. It should be noted that cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for IRAs are not indexed to inflation. 

The good news is that the income limits to fully contribute to a ROTH IRA, or to fully deduct contributions to a Traditional IRA, have increased for 2020.

The income limits for both types of IRAs, ROTH or Traditional, will vary depending on your federal income tax-filing status and, of course, your income. For specifics, check out the IRS announcement. Knowing those thresholds will help making the choice of going with a ROTH IRA or Traditional IRA easier.

What Should You Do Now?

Whether you are maxing out your contributions, or not, take them up a notch for 2020. If you already maximize your tax-saving by contributing the maximum amount allowed for your retirement plan, adjust your contributions in 2020 so that you stay at the maximum. 

If you are unsure about your investment choices or about how much to save for retirement, talk with an independent fee-only financial planner who can help make the process smoother and easier for you. While it is never too late to improve your retirement outlook, the more you procrastinate, the harder it will be to reach financial freedom.

Credit given to: David Rae, a Certified Financial Planner and Accredited Investment Fiduciary. This article was published by Forbes on Nov 20, 2019.

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.  

–until next week.

Tax Tip of the Week | Rental Property Deduction Checklist for Landlords January 8, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business Consulting, Deductions, Depreciation options, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes , 1 comment so far

A business tax deduction is typically of more value than a personal tax deduction. Personal tax deductions are commonly in the form of itemized deductions. These may be of no value though if the standard deduction exceeds the so-called long form (itemized) deductions.

The following article by G. Brian Davis discusses business tax deductions specific to rentals. As an addition to his article, I will add that rental losses, if deductible on your federal income tax return, are also deductible on the State of Ohio and School District income tax returns. Within income limitations, rental income is not taxed to Ohio but is taxed by municipalities and school districts.

One lofty goal in the tax world is converting what otherwise was a nondeductible personal expense into a tax deduction. The world of rentals provides such opportunities.

                                            -Mark Bradstreet

The billionaires of the world are not doctors or lawyers, they’re entrepreneurs. Specifically, they are people who started their own businesses, whether those businesses are online, brick and mortar, or real estate empires.

Starting and owning a business provides a long list of tax advantages, and real estate investments provide all the usual tax advantages plus some extras unique to real property. Every expense associated with rental properties – plus some just-on-paper expenses – are tax deductible.

However, tax laws change fast and that means it is imperative for all those who invest in real estate must educate themselves. So, before you jump into the rental property deductions checklist, make sure you’re up to speed on how the new tax law affects landlords’ tax returns.

The changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) impacted homeowners, real estate investors and landlords alike. Here’s an outline of what you need to know as a real estate owner, and when in doubt, hire a professional who knows accounting with a real estate investing focus. Ideally one who invests in real estate themselves.

Lower Income Tax Rates

From 2018 through 2025, rental property investors will benefit from generally lower income tax rates and other favorable changes to the tax brackets. The TCJA retains seven tax rate brackets, although six of the brackets’ rates are lower than before. In addition, the new tax law retains the existing tax rates for long-term capital gains.

No Self-Employment Taxes for Landlords

In many ways, landlords get the best of both worlds: the tax benefits of owning a business, without the downside of self-employment taxes.

Real estate flippers can sometimes fall under the “dealer” category, and find themselves subject to double FICA taxes. FICA taxes fund Social Security and Medicare, and cost both employees and employers 7.65% of all income paid. Self-employed people end up having to pay both sides of FICA taxes, at 15.3% of total income.

But the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 ended up leaving landlords and their rental income free from any FICA taxes.

New Passive Income Loss Rule

If you have losses from “passive activities” such as owning rental properties, typically you can only deduct those losses to offset other passive income sources, such as other rental properties. For example, if you earn $10,000 from one rental property and have an $8,000 loss on another, you can offset your $10,000 income with the $8,000 loss, for a net taxable rental income of $2,000.

But if you have a net loss, that can’t be used as a deduction against your active income from your 9-5 job. You can carry it forward however, to offset future passive income earnings and rents.

Here’s how the TCJA changes matters: there’s a new $250,000 cap for single filers, $500,000 cap for married filers, for passive losses. Any passive losses that you’re allowed, in excess of those caps, must be carried forward to the next tax year.

It won’t affect most landlords, but it’s something to be aware of.

20 Tax Deductions for Landlords

Here are 20 rental property expenses you can deduct on your tax return, to keep more of your money in your pocket where it belongs. It’s not 100% exhaustive, as there are a few obscure tax deductions that only apply to a few landlords, but think of this as a rental property deductions checklist for the average landlord.

IMPORTANT: These rental property tax deductions are “above the line” deductions, meaning they come directly off your taxable income for rental properties. That means you can deduct these expenses, and still take the standard deduction.

1. Losses from Theft or Casualty
The TCJA suspended the itemized deduction for personal casualty and theft losses for 2018 through 2025. Before 2018 deductions of this kind were permitted when they exceeded $100. But landlords can still deduct losses from theft or damage to their rental properties, as business expenses.

2. Property Depreciation
This is a handy “paper expense.” Much of the cost of buying your property can be written off as a tax deduction, although it must be spread over 27.5 years (don’t ask me where that number came from). Buildings lose value as they age (at least theoretically), so the IRS lets you deduct 1/27.5 of the property’s cost each year.

Major property upgrades and “capital improvements” must be depreciated as well, rather than deducted in the year you make them. For example, a new roof is a capital improvement that must be depreciated, rather than deducted all at once.

But the patching of a roof leak? That’s a repair.

3. Repairs & Maintenance
Basic repairs and maintenance such as new paint and new carpets are deductible for your rental properties. That’s not the case for your primary residence, in which repairs are not deductible. Remember, if it’s a large improvement or replacement (like the roof example), it may count as a “capital improvement,” in which case you’ll have to spread the deduction over multiple years, in the form of depreciation.

The line isn’t always crystal clear however, like the roof example above. Here’s an example of how it gets blurry: if you replace all your windows to modernize and improve your energy efficiency, it’s a capital improvement. If a baseball goes through one window, which you replace, it’s a repair. But what if you replaced a few windows last year, but not all? Talk to an accountant, and build a defensible argument for any repairs you deduct.

4. Segmented Depreciation
Some improvements, such as landscaping and “personal property” inside the rental/investment property (e.g. refrigerators) can be depreciated faster than the building itself. It’s more paperwork, to segment the depreciation of certain improvements as separate from the building’s depreciation, but it means a lower tax bill right now, not in the far distant, unknowable future.

5. Utilities
Do you pay for gas, heating, trash removal, sewer or any other utility for your rental? They are tax deductible.

Take heed however, if your tenant reimburses you for a utility, that would be considered income. So, you have to declare both the income and the expense, even though they offset each other.

6. Home Office
This is a popular deduction, but it’s also one you need to be careful about, as it can trigger audits. You have to set aside a percentage of your home for only doing work/business/real estate investing-related activities, and that percentage of your housing bill can be deducted. And 2018 may see this deduction scrutinized even more.

One new downer: no more home office deduction for those who work for others in the comfort of their home. But as a real estate investor, you’re a business owner, so you can still claim it if you use the space exclusively for “business.”

Make sure and talk to an accountant about this, and keep the percentage realistic.

7. Real Estate-Related Travel
Another popular-but-dangerous deduction, you can deduct travel expenses if your travel was for your real estate investing business… and you can prove it. Many people get cute with this one, and when they go on vacation, they’ll go see one or two “potential investment” properties and then write the entire trip off as a business expense.

Whenever you plan on deducting travel expenses, put together as much documentation as you possibly can so that you can make a strong case that it was an actual business trip. For example, meet with a real estate agent in the area, and keep all of your email correspondence with them. Keep all listing information and investment calculations for any properties you visit. Track your mileage for all driving done to and from rental properties.

C-Y-A!

8. Closing Costs
Many closing costs are tax deductible, and others can be depreciated over time as part of your acquisition cost. Use an accountant with a deep knowledge of real estate investments, and send them the HUD-1 (settlement statement) for each property you bought last year.

9. Mortgage Insurance (PMI/MIP)
No one likes mortgage insurance (other than banks). At least you can deduct the cost from your taxable rental property income.

10. Property Management Fees
Paid a property manager to handle the headaches for you and field those dreaded 3 AM phone calls from tenants? You can write off their management fees, including both monthly fees and tenant placement fees.

11. Rental Property Insurance/Landlord Insurance
Like homeowner’s insurance for your primary residence, your landlord insurance premium for each property is also tax deductible.

12. Mortgage Interest
All interest you pay to your mortgage lender on rental property loans remains tax deductible. As mentioned above, it’s an “above the line” deduction that simply comes off of your taxable rental property income.

But for your primary residence, 2018 limits the deductibility of mortgage interest only up to $750,000 of home mortgage debt.

13. Accounting, Legal & Other Professional Fees
All professional fees associated with your rental properties are tax deductible. Bookkeeping, accounting, attorney, real estate agent and any other fees you pay out for professional services can be deducted from your taxable income. Don’t forget the cost of any bookkeeping or landlord software (ahem!) you use.

One wrinkle introduced by the TCJA however is that personal tax preparation expenses are no longer deductible from 2018 onward. But business accounting – such as for your real estate LLC or S-corp – is still deductible as a rental business expense for landlords. Talk to your accountant about shifting as many of your tax preparation expenses as possible to the “business” side of the books!

14. Tenant Screening
If you paid for tenant credit reports, criminal background checks, identity verifications, eviction history reports, employment and income verification or housing history verification, those fees are deductible.

Even better, have the applicant pay directly for tenant screening report costs. Which, I might add, our landlord software allows you to do!

15. Legal Forms
Bought a state-specific lease agreement this year? Eviction notices? Property management contracts? The cost of legal forms is also deductible.

16. Property Taxes
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, landlords can still deduct rental property taxes as an expense.

But it’s a little more complicated for homeowners, and even though this is a list of landlord tax deductions, let’s take a moment to review the changes for homeowners, shall we?

In 2018, you can no longer deduct for state and local taxes in excess of $10,000. These state taxes include things like: state and local income tax, sales taxes, personal property tax, and… property taxes.

What does this mean for high-tax states like New York, New Jersey or Connecticut? Well, it could mean that more people may relocate to lower-tax states like Florida, and may even spark lower property values in states such as New Jersey. Only time will tell.

17. Phones, Tablets, Computers, Phone Service, Internet
Bought a new phone this year? Maybe a new laptop or tablet? If you use it for work, you can probably persuade your accountant (and the IRS) that the costs should be deducted from your taxable income. Likewise, for internet bills, phone service charges and the like, with the caveat that you need to be able to document that it was for business purposes. Printer toner, computer paper, pens, and the like; keep those receipts.

18. Licensing Fees
Licensing and registration fees are sometimes a local requirement for rental properties. For instance, in the city of Philadelphia, a rental license fee is required along with an inspection of the property.

So, if you’ve had to purchase or renew a landlord or rental license for the property, that cost is deductible.

Furthermore, some localities will require a vacation rental license for short term rentals such as seasonal, AirBnB and the like. These licensing costs are deductible as well.

19. Occupancy Tax
There are states that assess an occupancy tax on collected rental amounts, comparable to paying sales tax. This is more of a common practice in states where short-term rentals are common. Florida, Arizona and New Jersey are examples of states that charge an occupancy or tourist tax.

If you own rental property in an area that charges an occupancy-like tax, then the amount is tax deductible. Remember, however, that the tax will not only differ from state to state but also from local jurisdictions like cities and counties.

20. Business Entity Pass-Through Deduction
There are significant changes in 2018 tax regulations on how legal entities (e.g. LLCs) and pass-throughs and the like are going to be treated. Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, and Corporate Entities are now entitled to a “pass-through” deduction as long as the rental activities meet the requirements for business tax purposes.

The short version is that landlords can deduct 20% of their rental business income from their taxable business income amount. For example, if you own a rental property that netted you $10,000 last year, the pass-through deduction reduces your taxable rental business income from $10,000 to $8,000. Pretty sweet, eh?

There are restrictions, of course. The deduction phases out for single tax payers with adjusted gross incomes over $157,500, and married taxpayers earning over $315,000. Although under some conditions, higher-earning landlords can still take advantage of the pass-through deduction – definitely discuss with your accountant.

One more reason, beyond asset protection, to own rental properties under a legal entity!

Final Word

It’s hard to get ahead if 50% of your income is going to taxes (which it probably is, if you add up everything you pay in sales tax, property tax, federal income tax, state income tax, local income tax and FICA taxes). But by being savvier with your documentation and deductions, landlords and real estate investors can pay less in taxes than other people, and truly realize the advantages of entrepreneurship.

Remember to always document every expense you plan to deduct. That means keeping receipts, invoices and bills throughout the year as expenses pop up; to help with this, keep a separate checking account for your real estate expenses if you don’t already. Never swipe that debit card or write a check from that account without first getting documentation!

Credit Given to:  G. Brian Davis

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.