Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Planning 2012: Travel and Entertainment Review

Although the computer age and modern telecommunications have reduced the need for in-person contact, it is still sometimes necessary for businesses to send employees out of town on business, or to entertain clients and customers. How travel and entertainment expenses are handled can have an impact on your net income, your paperwork burden, and on the tax results for you and your employees.

If you require employees to substantiate travel or entertainment expenses that are bona-fide business deductions, partial or complete advances or reimbursements are not treated as compensation income to the employee, and the advance or reimbursement is not subject to social security taxes or to income tax withholding. However, only 50 percent of any business-related meal or entertainment expense is deductible by the company, including costs of meals consumed by employees while they are traveling.

To ensure that the reimbursement is not subject to payroll and withholding taxes, the business must maintain a fairly detailed recordkeeping system. For travel, employees must submit a written statement of the time, place, destination and business purpose of the trip and the amount of expenses incurred by category (e.g., travel, meals, lodging). For meals or entertainment, the employee must submit a written statement showing time, place and cost of the event, who was entertained, and the business purpose of the meal or entertainment (if the event follows or precedes a business discussion, additional recordkeeping is required). Finally, the employee must keep and turn in to the employer documentary evidence such as receipts for all lodging expenses, and for other travel and entertainment expenses over $75.

Because the recordkeeping can be onerous, the law provides some shortcuts, depending on the type and frequency of the travel and entertainment expenses. For example, the paperwork burden and the cost of travel expenses can be decreased by giving employees who travel for business purposes a flat daily allowance, a per diem, which varies by destination, to cover meals, lodging and incidental expenses. If the daily allowances do not exceed IRS-determined maximums, they are payroll and income tax free with a minimum of paperwork; all that is required is a record of the time, place and business purpose of the travel. To-the-penny accounting of expenses and corroborating receipts is not necessary.

One simple way to cut out paperwork while boosting company tax deductions is to give employees a flat allowance for anticipated travel and entertainment, and not require these expenses to be substantiated. The allowance is fully deductible as compensation (assuming the employees' compensation packages are reasonable), and there is minimal paperwork required. The allowance, however, is subject to payroll and income tax withholding, and the company may not be able to determine what their actual travel and entertainment expenses are for budgeting purposes. In addition, there are unfavorable tax consequences for the employee, even if the travel and entertainment expenses are deducted on their own returns.

Travel and entertainment expenses are particularly susceptible to challenge by the IRS. However, in some instances, businesses may fail to deduct qualifying travel and entertainment expenses, or may be deducting these expenses improperly. We can perform a confidential review of your company's travel and entertainment expenses to ensure compliance with the complex rules that govern these deductions. Please call us to arrange an appointment at your earliest convenience.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Planning 2012: Tax Strategies for Dependent Children

Raising a family can be both challenging and rewarding. As a parent, you worry about your children receiving quality child care, paying medical expenses, or saving for college. You want to do what is right for your family, but there are so many factors to consider, including how your choices will impact your family’s overall tax burden. We can assist you in understanding your options and in taking full advantage of the credits and deductions that you are entitled to as a parent.

For instance, you may be able to take a child and dependent care credit if your child is under the age of 13 at the end of the year. However, not all expenses qualify, and some expenses may qualify for both the dependent care credit and the deduction for medical expense, depending on your circumstances. In addition, if your employer offers a flexible spending plan, you might consider whether or not participating in the plan saves you more money than claiming the credit. If you are divorced, the issues can be more complicated. Who is entitled to an exemption for your child and how does claiming the exemption impact other tax benefits for a dependent?

Even if child care is not a concern of yours, these examples illustrate how complex family tax planning can be. There are many other tax considerations, such as the benefits and pitfalls of shifting income to minor children in light of the kiddie tax; determining what expenses qualify for the education credits and deductions and who can claim them; the eligibility requirements for the earned income credit; or the impact of the alternative minimum tax. We can help you see the bigger picture and develop a plan that both meets your needs and saves you money. Please call our office at your earliest convenience to make an appointment for a full review of your tax situation.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 Planning: Tax Solutions for S Corporations

An S corporation, such as yours, is a pass-through entity that is treated very much like a partnership for federal income tax purposes. As a result, all income is passed through to your shareholders and taxed at their individual tax rates. However, unlike a C corporation, an S corporation’s income is taxable to the shareholders when it is earned whether or not the corporation distributes the income. Because an S corporation has a unique tax structure that directly impacts shareholders, it is important for you to understand the S corporation distribution and loss limitations, as well as how and when items of income and expense are taxed, before developing your overall tax plan.

In addition, some S corporation income and expense items are subject to special rules and separate identification for tax purposes. Examples of separately stated items that could affect a shareholder’s tax liability include charitable contributions, capital gains, Sec. 179 expense deductions, foreign taxes, and net income or loss related to rental real estate activities.

These items, as well as income and losses, are passed through to the shareholder on a pro rata basis, which means that the amount passed through to each shareholder is dependent upon that shareholder’s stock ownership percentage. However, a shareholder’s portion of the losses and deductions may only be used to offset income from other sources to the extent that the total does not exceed the basis of the shareholder’s stock and the basis of any debt owed to the shareholder by the corporation. The S corporation losses and deductions are also subject to the passive-activity rules.

Other key points to consider when developing your comprehensive tax strategy include:
  • the availability of the Code Sec. 179 deduction at the corporate and shareholder level;
  • reporting requirements for the domestic production activities deduction;
  • the tax treatment of fringe benefits;
  • below-market loans between shareholders and S corporations; and
  • IRS scrutiny of distributions to shareholders who have not received compensation.
We can assist you in identifying and maximizing the potential tax savings. Please call our office at your earliest convenience to arrange an appointment.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Check 21 -- Proving Tax Deductions Without Cancelled Checks

By now you must have noticed the growing trend towards remote deposit of checks. Owing to the increasing sophistication of smartphones, you can now photograph a check written out to you and digitally send it to your bank for deposit. All this and more became possible after the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check 21) became effective in 2004. What it meant for most consumers then is that most banks discontinued the practice of retaining a paper version or copy of your checks. Check 21 allowed banks to truncate each of your checks, create a new electronic negotiable instrument called a substitute check, and then destroy the originals.

This industry change has important tax consequences for taxpayers who previously used checks to substantiate their expenses or charitable contributions. But the bottom line is that Check 21 allows you to use a substitute check as proof of payment because it is legally the same as the original check. The IRS, therefore, must accept your substitute check as proof of payment.

Banking online

Many of you may have switched to online banking. If so the IRS will accept image statements of substitute checks as proof of payment. If, however, an IRS auditor is suspicious that the image statement is not genuine, you may still be requested to order the actual substitute check from your bank. This will be a rare instance, however, and will likely occur only if you are audited. As an additional precaution, we suggest that you download and print out your bank statements at the end of the year. That way, even if you are audited several years from now, you'll have a record that's easy to access.

If you still rely on paper bank statements and paper copies of your checks, keep them in good order. The IRS will still accept bank statements that contain images of cancelled checks and/or substitute checks. To be used as proof, an account statement must show check number, amount, payee's name, and the date the check was posted. In order to keep track of your payments more easily for tax purposes, you should also continue to or begin to maintain a careful check register. That way, you'll know on which bank statement to look if you are ever audited.

Please do not hesitate to call this office if you have any further concerns about Check 21.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Selling Your Home

Planning 2012: Maximizing Itemized Deductions

Successful tax planning includes a review of your available deductions and the impact of your filing status on your option to itemize. It is important that all of the technical requirements for your deductions are met. In addition, certain items are deductible only to the extent they exceed a percentage threshold. By reducing your adjusted gross income, you increase the amount of itemized deductions you can claim, because the floor limitation amounts are reduced accordingly.

A strategy commonly used in year-end individual tax planning is to determine the best timing for claiming itemized deductions. Generally, it is beneficial for taxpayers to defer income and accelerate expenses. This strategy may enable you to itemize your deductions if you claimed the standard deduction in the past. This year, there is more uncertainty due to the sunset of various tax incentives originally provided by EGTRRA and regularly extended by other tax acts.

Unless they are retroactively extended by Congress, the following provisions are not available for 2012:

  • Itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes
  • Mortgage insurance premium deduction
  • Above-the-line deduction for certain out-of-pocket classroom expenses
  • Above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses
  • Alternative minimum tax (AMT) patch
  • Nonrefundable tax credit offset of entire regular and AMT tax liability
  • Tax-free IRA distributions to charity
Tax planning for higher-income taxpayers is more complicated. Generally, you must reduce your otherwise allowable itemized deductions if your adjusted gross income exceeds a specified threshold amount. Although the phase-out of itemized deductions and personal exemptions for higher-income taxpayers is eliminated through 2012, the phase-out limits are set to return in 2013.

The failure to take the alternative minimum tax (AMT) into account may also jeopardize your tax planning strategy, as the AMT continues to negate many itemized deductions. The AMT exemptions amounts have been increased through the 2011 tax year, but uncertainty exists for 2012 and later years.

You may benefit from planning strategies designed to take advantage of the current tax laws. Maximizing your itemized deductions is an important aspect, but there are other issues that you may need to consider in light of your overall tax scenario. We hope to provide you with planning options that enable you to achieve the greatest tax savings possible. Please contact our office at your earliest convenience to make an appointment to discuss your tax planning options.

Thursday, July 26, 2012



We have seen this e-mail being sent to many clients. It is a phishing scam which will lead you a .doc which could affect your computer. I would advise you to delete the e-mail. Please see the information below directly from the Internal Revenue Service.

Report Phishing

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or any social media tools to request personal or financial information

What is phishing?Phishing is a scam typically carried out by unsolicited email and/or websites that pose as legitimate sites and lure unsuspecting victims to provide personal and financial information.
All unsolicited email claiming to be from either the IRS or any other IRS-related components such as the Office of Professional Responsibility or EFTPS, should be reported to phishing@irs.gov.
However, if you have experienced monetary losses due to an IRS-related incident please file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission through their Complaint Assistant to make that information available to investigators.

What to do if you receive a suspicious IRS-related communication



You receive an email claiming to be from the IRS that contains a request for personal information …
  1. Do not reply.
  2. Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer.
  3. Do not click on any links.If you clicked on links in a suspicious email or phishing website and entered confidential information, visit our identity protection page.
  4. Forward the email as-is, to us at phishing@irs.gov.
  5. After you forward the email and/or header information to us, delete the original email message you received.
Note:Please forward the full original email to us at phishing@irs.gov. Do not forward scanned images of printed emails as that strips the email of valuable information only available in the electronic copy.
You discover a website on the Internet that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus … ... send the URL of the suspicious site to phishing@irs.gov. Please add in the subject line of the email, 'Suspicious website'.
You receive a phone call or paper letter via mail from an individual claiming to be the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee … Phone call:
  1. Ask for a call back number and employee badge number.
  2. Contact the IRS to determine if the caller is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you.
  3. If you determine the person calling you is an IRS employee with a legitimate need to contact you, call them back.
Letter or notice via paper mail:
  1. Contact the IRS to determine if the mail is a legitimate IRS letter.
  2. If it is a legitimate IRS letter, reply if needed.
If caller or party that sent the paper letter is not legitimate, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
You receive an unsolicited e-mail or fax, involving a stock or share purchase ... and you are a U.S. citizen located in the United States or its territories or a U.S. citizen living abroad.
  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the email, 'Stock'.
  3. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may submit a complaint through the FTC Complaint Assistant.
... and you are not a U.S. citizen and reside outside the United States.
  1. Complete the appropriate complaint form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
  2. Contact your securities regulator and file a complaint.
  3. Forward email to phishing@irs.gov.
    Please add in the subject line of the e-mail, 'Stock'.
  4. If you are a victim of monetary or identity theft, you may report your complaint to econsumer.gov.
You receive an unsolicited fax (such as Form W8-BEN) claiming to be from the IRS, requesting personal information … Contact the IRS to determine if the fax is from the IRS.
  • If you learn the fax is not from the IRS, please send us the information via email at phishing@irs.gov. In the subject line of the email, please type the word ‘FAX’.
You have a tax-related question ... Note: Do not submit tax-related questions to phishing@irs.gov. If you have a tax-related question, unrelated to phishing or identity theft, please contact the IRS.

How to identify phishing email scams claiming to be from the IRS and bogus IRS websites

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
The IRS does not ...
... request detailed personal information through email.... send any communication requesting your PIN numbers, passwords or similar access information for credit cards, banks or other financial accounts.

What to do if you receive a suspicious email message that does not claim to be from the IRS



You receive a suspicious phishing email not claiming to be from the IRS ... Forward the email as-is to reportphishing@antiphishing.org.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Visit OnGuardOnline.gov to learn what to do if you suspect you have malware on your computer.
You receive an email you suspect contains malicious code or a malicious attachment and you HAVE NOT clicked on the link or downloaded the attachment … Forward the email to your Internet Service Provider’s abuse department and/or to spam@uce.gov.

2012 Planning: Tax Issues for Higher-Income Individuals

We know that you have worked hard for your money and would like to reap the benefits to the greatest extent possible. Your ultimate goal is to sustain a successful wealth-building strategy while avoiding unnecessary and expensive tax consequences. We are interested in helping you achieve these objectives.

You are probably aware that the previously extended EGTRRA tax benefits are set to expire at the end of 2012. Numerous tax reform proposals have been made, including variations of the “flat tax,” as well as the imposition of a minimum effective tax rate for higher-income taxpayers (the so-called “Buffet Rule.”) However, it does not appear that fundamental tax reform will come to fruition before the fall elections. Beginning in 2013, higher-income taxpayers like you may assume an increased tax burden through higher tax rates and/or more limited deductions. It may be advantageous for you to shift income into 2012 while the lower tax rates are still available.

Although you are still able to benefit from the individual marginal income tax rate reductions provided by EGTRRA in 2012, the following tax provisions will not be available unless they are retroactively extended by Congress:

  • Above-the-line deduction for certain out-of-pocket classroom expenses
  • Above-the-line higher education tuition deduction
  • AMT patch
  • Itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes in lieu of state and local income taxes
  • Mortgage insurance premium deduction
  • Personal tax credits allowed against regular tax and AMT
  • Tax-free IRA distributions to charity

Even more tax incentives will go by the wayside in 2013 unless Congress acts to extend them or make them permanent. These include:
  • Child tax credit, child and dependent care credit, and adoption credit enhancements
  • Employee payroll tax cut
  • Marriage penalty relief
  • Reduced capital gain rates
  • Repeal of the itemized deduction and personal exemption phase-outs
  • Taxation of dividends at capital gain rates
  • Various education-related incentives, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit
There are several revenue-raising provisions that were enacted as part of the healthcare legislation in 2010 that target higher-income taxpayers. These provisions become effective for tax years beginning in 2013:

  • Additional Medicare tax for higher-income employees and self-employed individuals
  • Additional Medicare tax of 3.8 percent on a portion of your net investment income
  • Itemized medical expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed ten percent of adjusted gross income (the previous threshold was 7.5 percent of AGI)Contributions  to Health FSAs through salary reductions limited to $2,500
If you have global financial interests, you can expect greater scrutiny by the IRS. You may have exposure under the FBAR and/or FATCA provisions of the HIRE Act, which increases disclosure and reporting requirements for foreign accounts, and provides penalties for noncompliance. However, to encourage full disclosure of unreported offshore accounts, the IRS has reopened the offshore voluntary disclosure program (OVDP). This program offers individuals the opportunity to disclose their foreign accounts and pay reduced penalties, rather than risk IRS detection and possible criminal prosecution at a later date.

The more complex issues faced by higher-income individuals create a challenging planning environment for the 2012 tax filing season. We would like to meet with you to discuss the options that are best suited to meet your personal financial goals, while minimizing your tax liability. Please contact our office at your earliest convenience to make an appointment.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Truck Driver Expenses


Hi Ralph.  Hope all is well with you.  *** finally got a job.  He just got his CDL-A and was hired as entry level truck driver with **** Transportation.  He is on the road and in training for 12 weeks and then will be local, so I have no idea what the salary will be.  We will just deal with that at the end of the year.  But, I do have one question.  While he is on the road there are expenses that he incurs that are out-of-pocket--meals, showers ($24.00 for a shower at the truck stop), laundry, and just little job related expenses.  The employer told him that he could claim these on his income tax, but I am deferring to the expert here.  Are there some kind of guidelines for what can be claimed while he is on the road? 

Here is a link to a great discussion about your trucking questions on my website. I also have a form which can be used for tracking. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Who built your business?

"If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be ‘cause I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen." - President Obama

I agree with the President on this, but I will not give credit to the government like he suggests. If your business has been successful, get on your knees and thank God. It is God who has given you the gifts to make your business successful, don't ever think that the government can do it. Thank God today for what he has given you and ask him for his will moving forward. I thank God everyday for my business, the opportunities that I have to witness to my clients and the ability to serve God in my chosen vocation. If we want our country to be strong again we need to look to the Lord for his guidance and stop counting on the government for direction.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

US Supreme Court Decision on Healthcare

On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and its companion law, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA).  In a nutshell, the nation’s highest court upheld the law – except for certain Medicaid provisions.  The 5 to 4 decision preserves many far-reaching tax provisions and health insurance reforms. In coming months, lawmakers and legal scholars will examine all of the nuances of the Court’s highly complex decision.  More immediately, individuals and businesses are concerned about what steps they need to take next.

Court challenges

After passage of the PPACA, several states challenged the law on constitutional grounds.  The cases started in the federal district courts, worked their way through the circuit courts of appeal and eventually landed before the Supreme Court.

In March 2012, the Supreme Court heard three days of oral arguments on whether the individual mandate in the law is a proper exercise of Congress' taxing power or its power under Constitution's commerce clause.  The Court also heard arguments on the viability of the PPACA without the individual mandate. Another issue before the Court was whether the law’s expansion of Medicaid exceeds the government's spending authority.  Finally, the Court heard arguments on whether the Anti-Injunction Act (Code Sec. 7421) applies.

Individual mandate

The PPACA includes a shared responsibility requirement for individuals.  This has come to be known as the individual mandate.  Broadly, this provision requires individuals to obtain minimum essential health coverage or pay a penalty starting in 2014.  Many individuals, however, are exempt from the penalty.  These include individuals covered by Medicare and Medicaid, individuals with coverage under military health plans, undocumented individuals, and others.  The PPACA also imposes no penalty on individuals who could not afford coverage.  Additionally, individuals with employer-provided coverage generally are treated as having minimum essential coverage and are exempt from the penalty unless the coverage is deemed unaffordable.

In National Federation of Independent Business et al. v. Sebelius, June 28, 2012, Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan found that the individual mandate was a valid exercise of Congress’ taxing power under the Constitution.  “Under the mandate, if an individual does not maintain health insurance, the only consequence is that he must make an additional payment to the IRS when he pays his taxes. That, according to the Government, means the mandate can be regarded as establishing a condition—not owning health insurance—that triggers a tax—the required payment to the IRS. Under that theory, the mandate is not a legal command to buy insurance. Rather, it makes going without insurance just another thing the Government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning income.”

The majority concluded: “Our precedent demonstrates that Congress had the power to impose the exaction in Section 5000A under the taxing power, and that Section 5000A need not be read to do more than impose a tax. That is sufficient to sustain it.”

Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito dissented. According to the dissenting justices, the majority’s decision that the individual mandate imposes a tax in essence was a rewrite of the PPACA and not an interpretation.  The dissenting justices would have struck down the entire law.

Tax provisions

Along with the individual mandate, the PPACA includes many tax provisions, which remain law.  It cannot be over-emphasized that the tax provisions impact nearly every individual and business. 

Here’s a run down some of the tax-related provisions:

Code Sec. 45R small employer health insurance tax credit

Additional Medicare tax for higher income individuals

Medicare tax on investment income

Contribution limits on health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs)

Increased itemized medical expense deduction threshold

Excise tax on high-dollar health insurance plans

Additional tax on distributions from health savings accounts (HSAs) and certain other arrangements

Excise tax on certain medical devices

Indoor tanning excise tax

Tax credit for therapeutic discovery projects

Disclosure of cost of employer-provided coverage on Forms W-2 for informational purposes

Limits on use of health FSA dollars on over-the-counter medications

Enhanced simple cafeteria plan rules for small businesses

Changes to retiree prescription drug subsidies

Codification of the economic substance doctrine

Branded prescription drug fees

Reforms for charitable hospitals

Reporting requirements for sponsors of health care coverage

The PPACA also imposes a penalty on applicable employers (generally employers with more than 50 full-time employees) that do not provide affordable health insurance coverage to their employees.  The penalty is scheduled to take effect after 2013. Employers need to review their coverage to determine if it satisfies the minimum essential coverage and affordability requirements under the PPACA.  Employers also should review their benefits packages for compliance with the PPACA. 

Since passage of the PPACA/HCERA, the IRS and the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Labor (DOL) have issued extensive guidance on the new law. The pace of guidance is expected to accelerate now that the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court.  

Insurance reforms

Along with the tax-related provisions we have discussed, the PPACA has set in motion many insurance reforms.  They include:

Enhanced coverage for certain dependents

Summary of benefits coverage and uniform glossary

New rules for internal and external reviews of adverse decisions by health insurance carriers

Patient’s bill of rights

New rules for preventive services

Like the tax provisions, federal agencies have been busy issuing guidance on the insurance reforms.  More guidance is expected in coming weeks and months.

Health insurance exchanges

The PPACA requires every state to establish an American Health Benefit Exchange and Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP Exchange) to provide qualified individuals and qualified small business employers access to qualified health plans.  Some states have already begun the process of setting up exchanges. Other states waited to see the outcome of the Supreme Court case. 


The PPACA also expanded Medicaid to cover more individuals with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government would cover 100 percent of the Medicaid costs of the newly eligible individuals, with the percentage dropping to 90 percent (with states covering the difference) by 2020.  States would be required to make up the difference.  The PPACA also set minimum essential levels of Medicaid coverage and made other changes. States that fail to comply with the PPACA risk termination of all Medicaid funding from the federal government.

The Supreme Court held that Congress could expand Medicaid.  However, Congress could not penalize states that choose not to participate in the expansion by taking away their Medicaid funding.

Looking ahead

Employers, taxpayers – indeed everyone – must prepare for sweeping changes in health care in coming years.  Many of the provisions in the PPACA have already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.  Other provisions are scheduled to take effect after 2012.  The Supreme Court’s upholding of the PPACA clears the way for implementation of the new law (unless a future Congress votes to repeal the law). Our office will keep you posted of developments and the steps you need to take in the coming months and years.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy July 4th

I want to wish everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday. Enjoy time with family and friends and take a moment to thank God for all we have and the remaining freedoms we have in this country.