Hubert McIntosh

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Steps for Reconciling IRS Form 941 to Payroll

Form 941 is a crucial tool for ensuring your payroll data is accurately reported to the government and for balancing payroll in general. Get insight into reconciling Form 941 with your payroll on a quarterly and a year-end basis.

Most employers must report employees’ wages paid and taxes withheld plus their own share of certain payroll taxes quarterly to the IRS. Additionally, employers must report each employee’s wages and taxes annually, on Form W-2, to the Social Security Administration. Employers use Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, to report income taxes, Social Security tax or Medicare tax withheld from employees’ paychecks and to pay their portion of Social Security or Medicare tax.

In the end, the information on your quarterly 941s must match your submitted Form W-2s. By reconciling your 941 forms with your payroll, you can verify the accuracy of these filings. For best results, reconciliation should be done on a quarterly and a year-end basis.

Quarterly 941 Reconciliation

Step 1: Run a payroll register for the quarter. The register should show wages and deductions for each employee during that quarter.

Step 2: Compare the data on the payroll register with your 941 for the quarterly period.

Areas to check are:

  • Number of employees who received wages, tips or other compensation.
  • Total compensation paid to employees.
  • Federal income tax withheld from employees’ wages.
  • Taxable Social Security wages and tips.
  • Taxable Medicare wages and tips.
  • Total tax payments made for the quarter, including federal income tax, Social Security tax and Medicare tax withheld from employees’ wages plus your own share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Step 3: Fix discrepancies as soon as you find them. For example, you might need to correct the employee’s wages and taxes in your payroll system and file an amended Form 941 for the quarter with the IRS.

Year-End 941 Reconciliation

Step 1: Run a report that shows annual payroll amounts. Compare those figures with the totals reported on all four 941s for the year.

Step 2: Make sure the amounts reported on all the 941s for the year match the respective data fields for your W-2 forms.

For example:

  • For compensation, compare Line 2 of all your 941s with Box 1 of your W-2s.
  • For federal income tax withheld, compare Line 3 of all your 941s with Box 2 of your W-2s.
  • For Social Security wages, compare Line 5a Column 1 of all your 941s with Box 3 of your W-2s.
  • For Social Security tips, compare Line 5b Column 1 of your 941s with Box 7 of your W-2s.
  • For Medicare wages, compare Line 5c Column 1 of your 941s with Box 5 of your W-2s. Also, make sure your total Social Security and Medicare taxes for the year are correct.

Step 3: Perform the necessary adjustments. For example, you may need to file a corrected W-2 form with the SSA and/or an amended 941 with the IRS.

As you can see, this form can get complicated, so it’s a good idea to get professional help with it.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Social Security: Note the Key Changes for 2020

The Social Security Administration has released new numbers for those paying Social Security and those collecting it. Check out the new maximum taxable earnings amount as well as COLA and other key adjustments.

Every year, the Social Security Administration takes a fresh look at its numbers and typically makes adjustments. Here are the basics for 2020 — what has changed, and what hasn’t.

First, the basic percentages have not changed:

  • Employees and employers continue to pay 7.65% each, with the self-employed paying both halves.
  • The Medicare portion remains 1.45% on all earnings, with high earners continuing to pay an additional 0.9% in Medicare taxes.
  • The Social Security portion (OASDI) remains 6.20% on earnings up to the applicable taxable maximum amount — and that’s what’s changing:

Starting in 2020, the maximum taxable amount is $137,700, up from the 2019 maximum of $132,900. This actually affects relatively few workers; the Society for Human Resource Management notes in an article that only about 6% of employees earn more than the current taxable maximum.

Also changing is the retirement earnings test exempt amount. Those who have not yet reached normal retirement age but are collecting benefits will find the SSA withholds $1 in benefits for every $2 in earnings above a certain limit. That limit is $17,640 per year for 2019 and will be $18,240 for 2020. (See the SSA for additional information on how this works.)

Cost-of-living adjustments

Those collecting Social Security will see a slight increase in their checks: Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will receive a 1.6% COLA for 2020. This is based on the increase in the consumer price index from the third quarter of 2018 through the third quarter of 2019, according to the SSA.

detailed fact sheet about the changes is available on the SSA site.

Payroll Taxes: Who’s Responsible?

Any business with employees must withhold money from its employees’ paychecks for income and employment taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes (known as Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes, or FICA), and forward that money to the government. A business that knowingly or unknowingly fails to remit these withheld taxes in a timely manner will find itself in trouble with the IRS.

The IRS may levy a penalty, known as the trust fund recovery penalty, on individuals classified as “responsible persons.” The penalty is equal to 100% of the unpaid federal income and FICA taxes withheld from employees’ pay.

Who’s a Responsible Person?

Any person who is responsible for collecting, accounting for, and paying over withheld taxes and who willfully fails to remit those taxes to the IRS is a responsible person who can be liable for the trust fund recovery penalty. A company’s officers and employees in charge of accounting functions could fall into this category. However, the IRS will take the facts and circumstances of each individual case into consideration.

The IRS states that a responsible person may be:

  • An officer or an employee of a corporation
  • A member or employee of a partnership
  • A corporate director or shareholder
  • Another person with authority and control over funds to direct their disbursement
  • Another corporation or third-party payer
  • Payroll service providers

The IRS will target any person who has significant influence over whether certain bills or creditors should be paid or is responsible for day-to-day financial management.

Working With the IRS

If your responsibilities make you a “responsible person,” then you must make certain that all payroll taxes are being correctly withheld and remitted in a timely manner. Talk to a tax advisor if you need to know more about the requirements.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Understanding Sales Tax in the Post-Wayfair World

If your business operates in two or more taxing jurisdictions, the Supreme Court’s decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair applies to you.

In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court decided South Dakota v. Wayfair. Since then, businesses that operate in two or more of the nation’s 10,000-plus tax jurisdictions have been struggling to understand what they need to do to comply with the new definition of economic nexus. Wayfair affects all businesses, from strictly online sellers to manufacturers and wholesalers to brick-and-mortar retailers.

The Court’s ruling was vastly different from its 1992 ruling in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, which found that sales tax did not have to be collected unless the company had a physical presence in the state. Then again, Quill was decided when the Internet was in its infancy.

Understanding Wayfair

Wayfair did not expressly state a threshold for collecting sales tax, but the South Dakota statute in the case stipulates that any out-of-state business that makes $100,000 in sales or that has 200 or more sales in South Dakota must collect sales tax. Although that is a good guideline, businesses need to remember that not all jurisdictions follow it: some are higher and others are lower.

This creates problems for businesses for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Business registration. Every state has different rules about how businesses must register as taxing entities. In some states, it is enough to register at the state level, whereas in others, the business needs to register at the county and municipality level as well. Some jurisdictions may ask businesses to prove they do or do not meet its thresholds. Noncompliance with these requests can lead to steep penalties. Other jurisdictions have voluntary disclosure programs that can help limit exposure.
  • Goods and service exemptions. There is no one standard for taxing goods and services. For example, clothing is not taxed in New Jersey, but in New York, a neighboring state, the only clothing that costs more than $110 is taxed. There is a never-ending list of discrepancies between jurisdictions, and this list can change quickly.
  • Other factors. Your business may need to rethink its operations. For example, is your inventory stored in another jurisdiction?
  • Effective dates. Just as there is no universal list of which goods and services are taxed, there is no one list of effective dates. A new effective date takes effect every time a jurisdiction decides to tax a good or service, exempt one from taxation or impose a new dollar limit.

Analyzing Exposure

The Wayfair ruling is not going away, so businesses need to take several steps to analyze their exposure. Businesses need to:

  • perform a detailed analysis of the business’s annual sales and number of transactions in every jurisdiction in which it operates;
  • determine which goods and services are taxable in each of those jurisdictions;
  • figure out when and where to register, what penalties it may incur and whether registering will make it subject to other taxes, such as franchise taxes; and
  • determine how it will manage sales tax compliance going forward.

Businesses don’t need to do this on their own. Contact us today for professional help in figuring out your business’s sales tax responsibilities.

Family Loans — Tax Considerations

Obtaining financing to start or expand small businesses and buy homes can sometimes be difficult. If your child or grandchild is having a hard time getting a loan from a commercial lender, you may be willing to help out by lending the money yourself.

Have a Written Agreement

Start by putting the loan agreement in writing. This may seem like an unnecessary formality, but without a written loan document, the IRS could argue that the transaction was a gift instead of a loan, potentially creating gift tax issues.

Having written documentation is also important in case the borrower fails to repay all or part of the loan. In that situation, you’d want to be able to show you’re entitled to write off the unpaid amount as a nonbusiness bad debt.

Charge Adequate Interest

The second step is setting an interest rate. While there’s no rule against interest-free loans or loans that have below-market interest rates, in a family context they can lead to tax complications. If you don’t charge sufficient interest, the difference between the amount of interest you actually receive (if any) and the amount you should have received — referred to as “imputed” interest — is taxable to you.

You can avoid the imputed interest rules by charging interest at the appropriate “applicable federal rate” (AFR). The IRS publishes AFRs monthly for loans of different maturities. These rates have been relatively low recently, reflecting the current market interest rate environment. For example, in November 2019, the annual AFR (using a monthly compounding assumption) was:

  • 1.68% for a short-term loan (three or fewer years)
  • 1.59% for a mid-term loan (more than three but no more than nine years)
  • 1.94% for a long-term loan (more than nine years)

These are the minimum rates for intra-family loans initiated in November 2019. For a term loan, the rate can remain fixed for the life of the loan. For a demand loan (one that gives you the right to demand full repayment at any time), you have to charge a floating AFR to avoid imputed interest issues.

Exceptions

When you lend your child or grandchild no more than $100,000, the amount that can be added to your taxable interest income under the below-market interest rate rules generally can’t exceed the borrower’s net investment income. Even better, you won’t have to report any imputed interest if the borrower’s net investment income amounts to $1,000 or less. You can also sidestep imputed interest on small loans of no more than $10,000 (all outstanding principal) provided the borrowed funds aren’t used to buy or carry income-producing assets.

 

Can You Take Advantage of the Research and Development Tax Credit?

You don’t have to wear a while lab coat to claim the federal research and development tax credit if you meet the four criteria outlined in Internal Revenue Code Section 41 and its regulations. Learn why failing to explore this credit may be leaving money on the table.

Many manufacturing companies fail to take advantage of the generous research and development (R&D) tax credit simply because they don’t have staff working in a lab. The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) definition of R&D is codified at Internal Revenue Code Section 41 and its related regulations — and it may not be exactly what you think it is.

From 2018 to 2027, the estimated value of R&D tax credits to be claimed by U.S. companies is estimated at $163 billion, with $148 billion of that going to corporations.

You can take advantage of this tax credit as long as your company performs activities such as the following:

  • Redesigns its production process to be more efficient.
  • Introduces artificial intelligence or robotics into your manufacturing process.
  • Develops software that enhances your company’s processes or procedures.
  • Designs, constructs or tests product prototypes.
  • Develops second-generation or improved products.

This list is not all-inclusive. According to the IRS, many activities may qualify if they are performed in the United States and meet the following four-part test.

Part 1. Permitted purpose

The IRS test is to create a new or improved product, business component or process that increases performance, function, reliability, composition or quality or that reduces costs for your company. It does not have to be new to your industry.

Development of internal use software may meet the permitted purpose test if it:

  • is an innovation that provides economically significant results;
  • requires a certain amount of economic risk and use of resources to develop when recovery of the cost is uncertain over a reasonable time; and
  • is not commercially available for the intended purpose, although commercially available software may be eligible if it is significantly modified.

Part 2. Technological in nature

The research must fundamentally rely on the hard or physical sciences, such as engineering, physics, chemistry, biology or computer science.

Part 3. Uncertainty eliminated

You must be able to demonstrate that you’ve attempted to eliminate any uncertainty about the usefulness of the development, improvement or design.

Part 4. Process of experimentation

You must be able to demonstrate during the research process that you’ve experimented and evaluated alternatives. This may have been done through research techniques like modeling, simulation, trial and error or some other method.

Documenting R&D Activities

Claiming the credit requires a lot of supporting documentation, however. It is worth taking the time to assess whether the amount of tax relief you’ll get is worth the effort. For example, you’ll need to determine how much of a credit your company is eligible for, how difficult it will be to document your company’s R&D activities, whether the credit can be used to offset alternative minimum tax liability and whether you can claim previously unused credits.

Many, if not all, manufacturers may find they can reduce their taxes by taking advantage of the federal R&D tax credit. In addition, many states have an R&D credit that is available to manufacturers. It’s worth investigating and we can help. Contact us today to determine whether you should be claiming this credit.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Worker Classification: Pay Attention

It isn’t easy deciding whether a worker should be treated as an employee or an independent contractor. But the IRS auditors will look at the distinction closely.

Tax Obligations

For an employee, a business generally must withhold income and FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes from the employee’s pay and remit those taxes to the government. Additionally, the employer must pay FICA taxes for the employee (currently 7.65% of earnings up to $137,700).*

The business must also pay unemployment taxes for the worker. In contrast, for an independent contractor, a business is not required to withhold income or FICA taxes. The contractor is fully liable for his or her own self-employment taxes, and FICA and federal unemployment taxes do not apply.

Employees Versus Independent Contractors

To determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee, the IRS examines factors in three categories:

  • Behavioral control — the extent to which the business controls how the work is done, whether through instructions, training, or otherwise.
  • Financial control — the extent to which the worker has the ability to control the economic aspects of the job. Factors considered include the worker’s investment and whether he or she may realize a profit or loss.
  • Type of relationship — whether the worker’s services are essential to the business, the expected length of the relationship, and whether the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance, vacation pay, or sick pay, etc.

In certain cases where a taxpayer has a reasonable basis for treating an individual as a non-employee (such as a prior IRS ruling), non-employee treatment may be allowed regardless of the three-prong test.

If the proper classification is unclear, the business or the worker may obtain an official IRS determination by filing Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding.

Year-End Statements

Generally, if a business has made payments of $600 or more to an independent contractor, it must file an information return (Form 1099-MISC) with the IRS and send a corresponding statement to the independent contractor.

Consequences of Misclassification

Where the employer misclassifies the employee as an independent contractor, the IRS may impose penalties for failure to deduct and withhold the employee’s income and/or FICA taxes. Penalties may be doubled if the employer also failed to file a Form 1099-MISC, though the lower penalty will apply if the failure was due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.

Correcting Mistakes

Employers with misclassified workers may be able to correct their mistakes through the IRS’s Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP). For employers that meet the program’s eligibility requirements, the VCSP provides the following benefits:

  • Workers improperly classified as independent contractors are treated as employees going forward.
  • The employer pays 10% of the most recent tax year’s employment tax liability for the identified workers, determined under reduced rates (but no interest or penalties).
  • The government agrees not to raise the issue of the workers’ classification for prior years in an employment-tax audit.

Your tax advisor can help you sort through the IRS rules and fulfill your tax reporting obligations. *Internal Revenue Service. For 2020, the Social Security tax rate is 6.2% and is applied to earnings up to $137,700. The Medicare tax rate is 1.45% on the first $200,000 and 2.35% above $200,000.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

What’s Taxable to an S Corporation Shareholder?

S corporation shareholders have an added reason to worry about their company’s annual performance: It has a direct impact on their own income taxes.

How It Works

Unlike a regular C corporation, an S corporation usually doesn’t pay federal income taxes itself. Instead, each shareholder is allocated a portion of the corporate income, loss, deductions, and credits on a special “K-1” tax form. The shareholder then must report the items listed on the K-1 on his or her personal tax return.

The K-1 allocations are based on stock ownership percentages. So, for example, if an S corporation has $100,000 of taxable business income for the year, a person who owns 75% of the stock in the corporation would be allocated 75% of that income, or $75,000.

This scheme can get complicated thats why we recommend the accountant Sydney services to help you in the process. Case in point: The K-1 may show more income than the shareholder actually received from the company during the year. That’s because the K-1 figure is based on the corporation’s actual taxable income — not on the distributions made to the shareholder.

Here’s an example: Tom starts a new corporation, electing S status. In the first year, Tom draws a $30,000 salary and receives no other distributions from the company. The company’s ordinary business income (after deducting his salary) is $10,000. Since Tom is the only shareholder, all the company’s $10,000 of income is allocated to him on his K-1. Tom must include both the $30,000 of salary and the $10,000 on his personal income tax return, even though all he actually received from the corporation was his salary.

This result seems harsh, but it’s not the end of the story. Special rules in the tax law prevent the same income from being taxed again. Essentially, Tom will be credited with already having paid taxes on the $10,000 so that any future distribution of the funds will not be taxable.

Tracking Basis

To determine whether non-dividend distributions are tax free, S corporation shareholders must keep track of their stock basis.* The computation generally starts with a shareholder’s initial capital contribution (or the stock’s cost if it was purchased) and changes from year to year as the shareholder is allocated corporate income, loss, etc. Non-dividend distributions that don’t exceed a shareholder’s stock basis are tax free.

Note that S corporation shareholders may be eligible to deduct up to 20% of their S corporation pass-through income. Eligibility depends on taxable income and other factors. S shareholders will want to consult their tax advisor to see if they can take advantage of the deduction to lower the taxes on their business income.

*Most distributions made from an S corporation are non-dividend distributions. Dividend distributions can occur if the company was previously a regular C corporation (or in other limited situations).

 

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

Will the SECURE Act Affect Your Retirement Planning?

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the SECURE Act) was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The Act will likely impact large numbers of working Americans as well as those already retired. In general, the Act is intended to increase access to tax-advantaged retirement plans and to help prevent older Americans from outliving their assets.

Here are some of the changes that could affect your planning.

Delayed Deadline for Taking Required Minimum Distributions

Tax law has generally required individual retirement account (IRA) owners and retirement plan participants to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their accounts once they reach age 70½. The new law pushes back the age at which these distributions must begin to age 72 for IRA owners and plan participants born on or after July 1, 1949. This change allows individuals to take advantage of their retirement account’s tax-deferred nature for a longer period.

No Age Limit for Making Traditional IRA Contributions

Beginning with the 2020 tax year, the new law eliminates the 70½ age limit for making annual contributions to traditional IRAs. This is a plus for those people who continue to work past age 70½ and want to keep saving for retirement on a tax-deferred basis.

Penalty-Free Birth and Adoption Distributions

The new law also expands the exceptions to the 10% penalty for early withdrawals from IRAs and other tax-deferred retirement plans by adding an exception for “qualified birth or adoption distributions” up to $5,000. The new law defines a “qualified” birth or adoption distribution as a withdrawal from an IRA or other eligible retirement plan made during the one-year period beginning on the date the IRA owner’s or the plan participant’s child is born or the adoptee’s adoption is finalized. If desired, parents may replenish their retirement savings by repaying the amount distributed.

Restrictions on Stretch IRAs

The new law places severe restrictions on the use of “stretch” IRAs. A stretch IRA generally permitted beneficiaries to take their RMDs from an inherited IRA over their life expectancy. Thus, beneficiaries were able to stretch payments from the inherited IRA over many years and potentially pass on the inherited IRA to their own beneficiaries. The SECURE Act changes the RMD rules for beneficiaries of IRA owners (and plan participants) who passed away in 2020 or later. Under the SECURE Act, the use of stretch IRAs is restricted to a limited group of IRA beneficiaries. The specific details on who is eligible to use stretch IRAs is complex, and IRA owners who base their estate plans on the use of a stretch IRA should consult with a financial professional to see how they might be impacted.

Small Business Retirement Plans

Good news if you own a small business — the SECURE Act provides incentives to make it easier for you to establish a retirement plan. Starting in 2020, eligible employers that establish a 401(k) or SIMPLE IRA plan with automatic enrollment may qualify for a new tax credit of $500 per year for up to three years. In addition, the existing credit for small employer plan startup costs has increased to as much as $5,000 per year for three years. Previously, the annual credit maximum was $500. Employers also have more time to establish a qualified retirement plan. Previously, a qualified plan, such as a profit-sharing plan, had to be adopted by the last day of the employer’s tax year to be effective for that year. The SECURE Act allows a qualified plan to be adopted as late as the employer’s tax filing deadline (plus extensions).

Your financial and tax professionals can provide more details about these and other important SECURE Act changes and how they may affect your retirement planning.

…from the Team of Professional at RE-MMAP We are just a click or call away. www.re-mmap.com and phone # (561-623-0241).

“Extender” Legislation Impacts Individuals and Small Businesses

Tax Tip: Extenders - Ketel Thorstenson, LLP

The federal spending package that was enacted in the waning days of 2019 contains numerous provisions that will impact both businesses and individuals. In addition to repealing three health care taxes and making changes to retirement plan rules, the legislation extends several expired tax provisions. Here is an overview of several of the more important provisions in the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Act of 2019.

Deduction for Mortgage Insurance Premiums

Before the Act, mortgage insurance premiums paid or accrued before January 1, 2018, were potentially deductible as qualified residence interest, subject to a phase-out based on the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). The Act retroactively extends this treatment through 2020.

Reduction in Medical Expense Deduction Floor

For 2017 and 2018, taxpayers were able to claim an itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses to the extent that such expenses were greater than 7.5% of AGI. The AGI threshold was scheduled to increase to 10% of AGI for 2019 and later tax years. Under the Act, the 7.5% of AGI threshold is extended through 2020.

Qualified Tuition and Related Expenses Deduction

The above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses for higher education, which expired at the end of 2017, has been extended through 2020. The deduction is capped at $4,000 for a taxpayer whose modified AGI does not exceed $65,000 ($130,000 for those filing jointly) or $2,000 for a taxpayer whose modified AGI is not greater than $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers). The deduction is not allowed with a modified AGI of more than $80,000 ($160,000 if you are a joint filer).

Credit for Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

The 10% credit for certain qualified energy improvements (windows, doors, roofs, skylights) to a principal residence has been extended through 2020, as have the credits for purchases of energy-efficient property (furnaces, boilers, biomass stoves, heat pumps, water heaters, central air conditions, and circulating fans), subject to a lifetime cap of $500.

Empowerment Zone Tax Incentives

Businesses and individual residents within economically depressed areas that are designated as “Empowerment Zones” are eligible for special tax incentives. Empowerment Zone designations, which expired on December 31, 2017, have been extended through December 31, 2020, under the new tax law.

Employer Tax Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave

A provision in the tax code permits eligible employers to claim an elective general business credit based on eligible wages paid to qualified employees with respect to the family and medical leave. This credit has been extended through 2020.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

Employers who hire individuals who belong to one or more of 10 targeted groups can receive an elective general business credit under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program. The recent tax law extends this credit through 2020.

For details about these and other tax breaks included in the recent law, please consult your tax advisor.

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