Starting a Business Are Startup Costs Deductible?

There can be no more exciting a time than to go from punching a clock to being your own boss. But starting a business means more than deductible lunch dates and setting your own hours. If you think self-employment means you get to kick back and relax, it won’t happen. Most entrepreneurs will tell you they have never worked harder.

Starting a new business takes time and money. If you do nothing else, begin with a business plan. Your investment of blood, sweat, and tears can pay off for the life of your business—as long as you make prudent choices, and a business plan will help you calculate what you’ll need and how much it will cost.

The money you invest is tax deductible, right?

Well … not always.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming all your startup costs are deductible. As long as your total startup costs are $50,000 or less, the IRS allows you to deduct a limited amount of startup costs, and also organizational costs.

On the other hand, if your startup costs for either area exceed $50,000, your allowable deductions are reduced by that dollar amount. Once you make your first sale, however, you can claim all of your business startup expenses. Read on for details.

What Are Startup Expenses?

These days no business can operate without using some form of technology. Unless you plan to use your 3-year-old laptop to run your online business, you’re going to need to purchase equipment to help facilitate your business. Oh, and you’ll need a smartphone if you want to keep up.

Of course, computers and office equipment would qualify as startup expenses. If you need to rent office space or even a cubicle in a cooperative setting, they would also qualify. However, shelf any plans to stand by the mailbox waiting for your hefty check from the IRS. Neither of these expenses can be deducted until after your first sale, at which time they will be deducted over a period of 15 years.

The Upside?

You can choose to deduct the first $5,000 in your first year of business for startup costs, and another $5,000 for organizational costs. Expenses such as legal fees, corporate filing, DBA, and related expenses fall under this designation, but only if your total startup costs are $50,000 or less. If your expenses were over $55,000 you lose the right to any deduction at all.

Make sure you save all receipts for purchases. The laws change so it’s in your best interest to be aware. Check with your tax professional, who will be aware of the latest IRS tax laws. He or she will advise as to whether your startup expenses qualify for a deduction.

 

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Home-Based Business Mixing Business with Pleasure At Tax Time

Want the attention of the IRS? All you have to do is make personal transactions on your business account. RED FLAG!

It’s called comingling funds, and it can get you into big trouble at tax time.

No, pleading ignorance will not save you.

What’s The Difference?

Expenses associated with personal products or services, living expenses or family expenses are not business expenses and generally non-deductable. Buying a new TV, even if you watch a program or two focused on your industry, is no more a business expense than taking Grandma to dinner.

However, if you have expenses that are partly personal and partly business, as long as you divide the total cost appropriately, the IRS permits deduction of the business portion. Doable, yes, but keep in mind this complicates things during tax season.

For example, let’s say you use your credit card to borrow money. You spend 90 percent of it buying a new office phone system and the other 10 percent for a cordless home phone. The 90 percent used for business is deductible. The remaining 10 percent is a personal expense must be divided out. It’s not deductible.

Home-Based Business Expenses

Here is another potentially sticky spot if you try to fudge.

Do you work from home? Many people do these days. It makes good sense, and not only for entrepreneurs. Many corporations allow employees to sign onto their computers and work from home. The company saves money and ultimately, employees can be more productive in a home setting.

It gets sticky when home-based business owners try to claim all of their home expenses and utilities and file for business deductions on the lump sum.

The IRS sees RED.

It’s best not to comingle funds, but if you find yourself needing to make separate calculations for personal and business expenses from the same account, accuracy is paramount, i.e. don’t make mistakes.

There are two options for home-based businesses at tax time. Which one is right for you?

Regular Method

When using the regular method to calculate expenses, home office deductions will be based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use. Whether you use a part of a room or the whole second floor of your home for conducting business, figure out the percentage of that space and related expenses to determine deductions.

Simplified Option

There’s also a simplified option that makes things easier for many small business owners who seek security to protect their asset, cctv installation Melbourne is the way to go. It was designed to cut out some of the burdens of tedious recordkeeping associated with the regular method.

In lieu of calculating and dividing expenses, the simplified method allows qualified taxpayers to multiply a prescribed rate by the allowable square footage of the business space.

Mixing Business with Pleasure

Be aware that mixing personal expenses in with business expenses by running them through your business will likely NOT go unnoticed. You won’t be the first to try and the IRS is paying attention.

Never use your business account for personal purposes, and if you do, don’t claim those expenses on your taxes. Home rent, pet care, and other personal expenses are blatantly disallowed.

What surprises many new business owners is that clothing (yes, even though you get dressed for meetings) and groceries are not deductible. Don’t even try.

Certain items, such as gifts and entertainment, may be allowable if they are business expenses. Hold onto receipts and keep good records. Always talk to your tax professional to be sure.

You can avoid a red flag by keeping business and personal accounts separate. Right. Two different accounts. This will minimize issues at tax time, and help you avoid an IRS audit.

 

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Putting a Value on Donated Property

Donating noncash property valued at more than $5,000 to a charitable organization generally requires a qualified appraisal that meets IRS guidelines.* Fair market value is the price that property would sell for on the open market. Its principles — willing buyer and willing seller, no compulsion to buy or sell, and reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts — remain mainstays of the valuation rules. However, the IRS cites other factors that may be considered in making the determination.

Cost or selling price. The price paid for an item can be an accurate measure of fair market value when the transaction and the donation dates are close and no change has occurred that would affect the item’s value.

Sales of comparable properties. Sales prices of comparable properties may be used to help determine value based on the degree of similarity of the property, the time between the sale and the donation, and the sale conditions.

Replacement cost. The cost of buying property similar to the donated item may be a consideration. An appropriate amount for depreciation must be deducted.

Opinions of experts. The expert should be knowledgeable and competent, and his or her opinion should be thorough and supported by facts.

Choosing a Qualified Appraiser

A qualified appraiser is someone who

  • Has earned an appraisal designation from a recognized organization or has met certain education and experience requirements.
  • Regularly prepares appraisals for a fee.
  • Is not an “excluded individual.” In general, this would include the donor; the donee; a person who sold, exchanged, or gave the property to the donor or acted as a transfer agent; or a person “related to” any of the above. (Other exclusions apply.)

A qualified appraisal must be signed and dated. The appraisal must be made no earlier than 60 days before the valued property is donated.

For more help with individual or business taxes, connect with us today. Our team can help you with all your tax issues, large and small.

 

* IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property

 

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IRS Requirements for Documentation for Charitable Donations

Recently, the U.S. Tax Court denied a taxpayer’s claimed deductions for over $27,000 of charitable contributions because the taxpayer had failed to properly document them.

 

Individual taxpayers and business owners claiming deductions must be able to substantiate them according to specific rules established by the IRS. Watch out for these common pitfalls.

 

Donations. Cash contributions of less than $250 require a bank record or written receipt indicating the name of the organization and the date and amount of the contribution. For noncash donations, you need a receipt and a record showing the donee’s name and a description of the gift. If the value of any gift equals $250 or more, you also need a contemporaneous written acknowledgment, a statement of whether the charity provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift, and, if so, a description and a good faith estimate of the value. Additional rules apply to contributions of noncash property of more than $500.

 

Hobbies. Deductions for hobby expenses are strictly limited. If you wish to claim the full extent of any expenses, you must be prepared to show that your activity qualifies as a business. The IRS will presume it’s a business if you can show a profit in three of the past five years. If that isn’t the case, then you should be prepared to produce evidence to satisfy a number of more subjective tests to avoid application of the tax law’s “hobby loss” restrictions.

 

Divorce. Alimony payments are tax deductible, but payments for child support are not. Taxpayers should retain their final divorce decree and any agreements for child support and/or separate maintenance in case the IRS questions claimed deductions. Also, retain any agreements regarding who will claim exemptions for dependent children. For capital gains purposes, save cost records for both jointly owned and settlement property.

 

Business expenses for travel, meals, and entertainment, and transportation. Generally, you must retain documentation to establish the amount, time, place, and business purpose for each expenditure. Specific expense categories may have additional requirements.

 

Business use of an automobile. Maintain records for the cost of the car and any improvements; the date you started using it for business; the mileage, destination, and business purpose for each trip; and the total mileage for the year. When you use the actual expense method rather than the IRS standard mileage rate, you also need records of your operating costs, such as gas, oil, repairs, maintenance, and insurance.

 

Home office. Be prepared to produce records that substantiate your claimed expenses and show regular and exclusive business use of that part of the home.

 

To learn more about tax rules and regulations, give us a call today. Our knowledgeable and trained staff is here to help.

 

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How to Determine the Value of Your Property Before You Donate

The tax deduction available for making a charitable donation of property may be no more than the fair market value of the property on the date of the gift. Fair market value is the price that a willing buyer and seller would agree to when neither is required to act and both have a reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.

The IRS lists several factors that may be considered in determining fair market value.*

Cost or selling price can be an accurate measure of fair market value when the transaction and the donation dates are close and there has been no change that would affect the item’s value.

Sales of comparable properties may be useful for determining value where the properties sold and the property donated are similar and the sales occurred reasonably close in time to the date of the donation.

Replacement cost may be a good indicator of value in some situations, provided that depreciation is subtracted from the cost to reflect the property’s physical condition and obsolescence.

Expert opinion is relevant to the extent the expert has the appropriate education and experience and has thoroughly analyzed the transaction.

* IRS Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property

Who Qualifies as an Appraiser?

Generally, where a charitable deduction of more than $5,000 is claimed for donated property, the IRS requires a qualified appraisal by a qualified appraiser. A qualified appraiser is someone who:

Has earned an appraisal designation from a recognized professional organization or has met certain education and experience requirements

Regularly prepares appraisals for a fee

Is not an “excluded individual,” such as the donor, the donee, or a party to the transaction in which the donor acquired the property being appraised (Other exclusions apply.)

The qualified appraisal must be signed and dated and can be made no earlier than 60 days before the valued property is donated.

To learn more about tax rules and regulations for donations, give us a call today. Our knowledgeable and trained staff is here to help.

 

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How to Determine the Tax Value of Artwork

Making a donation of artwork to a museum, educational institution, or other qualifying charitable organization can give you an opportunity to share your collection with others and provide you with a charitable income-tax deduction. If such a contribution is among your charitable goals, your first step generally should be to obtain a written appraisal from a qualified source to support your claim.

 

What Constitutes a Qualified Appraisal?

 

A qualified appraisal is one that’s made by a qualified appraiser and dated no earlier than 60 days before the date you donate the artwork. Very generally, a qualified appraiser is one who has the education and experience to value the type of property being appraised and who regularly prepares appraisals for a fee.

 

Typically, the appraisal should include the following:*

 

  • A sufficiently detailed description of the artwork (e.g., size, subject matter, medium, name of artist)

 

  • The authenticity and condition of the artwork

 

  • Any donor restrictions (or the terms of any other agreement) on the disposition or use of the artwork by the charitable organization

 

  • The appraised fair market value of the artwork

 

  • The specific basis for the valuation

 

  • The date (or expected date) of the contribution

 

Claiming the Deduction

 

The IRS has certain requirements that must be met in order to claim the deduction for donated artwork. For donations of artwork valued at $20,000 or more, you must attach a complete copy of the signed appraisal to your tax return and be prepared to provide a conforming photograph of the artwork if requested by the IRS. If the artwork has been appraised at $50,000 or more, you can request a Statement of Value for the item from the IRS before filing your return. A copy of the qualified appraisal and a check or money order for $5,700 (for up to three items) must be submitted with your request.

 

Call us today for more tips on how to ensure you’re getting the most tax benefit out of your donations.

 

 

* This is not an exhaustive list.

 

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What are Substantiate Charitable Contributions

If you want to take a charitable contribution deduction on your income tax return, you need to substantiate your gifts. You must have the charity’s written acknowledgment for any charitable deduction of $250 or more. A canceled check alone isn’t enough to support your deduction.

It’s your responsibility to obtain the charity’s acknowledgment (receipt), and you need to have it when you file your return. The acknowledgment must include:

– The amount of cash you contributed

– A description of any property you gave

– A statement as to whether the charity provided services or goods (a meal or tickets, for example) as full or partial consideration for your donation, plus a description and good faith value estimate of the services or goods

A charity may acknowledge each gift of $250 or more separately, or it may give you a single statement covering all your gifts. The charity does not have to place a value on the property you donate. That’s still up to you.

Also, a charity must provide you with an acknowledgment for a donation of more than $75 that is partially a contribution and partially in exchange for goods and services from the charity. This acknowledgment must:

– Tell you that your deductible contribution amount is the donation minus the value of the goods or services

– Give you a good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services

IRS regulations on substantiating charitable deductions cover two more contribution types:

– Goods Or Services That Don’t Have Substantial Value

A charity doesn’t have to include token items in its acknowledgment. Examples of these items include posters, mugs, and key rings.

– Payroll Deduction Contributions

Donations that employers make on behalf of employees who have signed payroll deduction authorization cards can be a problem because the charity lacks the individual donor information needed to prepare its acknowledgments. To substantiate these payroll deduction contributions, you can use employer documents that show the amount withheld (payroll stubs, W-2 forms, or other employer reports) plus the charity’s pledge card or other documents with a statement that you received no goods or services in exchange for your contribution.

For more help with individual or business taxes, connect with us today. Our team can help you with all your tax issues, large and small.

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Understanding the Tax Ramifications of Investing in Rental Real Estate

Investing in residential rental properties raises various tax issues that can be somewhat confusing, especially if you are not a real estate professional. Some of the more important issues rental property investors will want to be aware of are discussed below.

Rental Losses

Currently, the owner of a residential rental property may depreciate the building over a 27½-year period. For example, a property acquired for $200,000 could generate a depreciation deduction of as much as $7,273 per year. Additional depreciation deductions may be available for furnishings provided with the rental property. When large depreciation deductions are added to other rental expenses, it’s not uncommon for a rental activity to generate a tax loss. The question then becomes whether that loss is deductible.

$25,000 Loss Limitation

The tax law generally treats real estate rental losses as “passive” and therefore available only for offsetting any passive income an individual taxpayer may have. However, a limited exception is available where an individual holds at least a 10% ownership interest in the property and “actively participates” in the rental activity. In this situation, up to $25,000 of passive rental losses may be used to offset nonpassive income, such as wages from a job. (The $25,000 loss allowance phases out with modified adjusted gross income between $100,000 and $150,000.) Passive activity losses that are not currently deductible are carried forward to future tax years.

What constitutes active participation? The IRS describes it as “participating in making management decisions or arranging for others to provide services (such as repairs) in a significant and bona fidesense.” Examples of such management decisions provided by the IRS include approving tenants and deciding on rental terms.

Selling the Property

The gain realized on the sale of residential rental property held for investment is generally taxed as a capital gain. If the gain is long term, it is taxed at a favorable capital gains rate. However, the IRS requires that any allowable depreciation be “recaptured” and taxed at a 25% maximum rate rather than the 15% (or 20%) long-term capital gains rate that generally applies. Find out how to find property managers in Aventura and to protect your investment and valued property.

Exclusion of Gain

The tax law has a generous exclusion for gain from the sale of a principal residence. Generally, taxpayers may exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for certain joint filers) of their gain, provided they have owned and used the property as a principal residence for two out of the five years preceding the sale.

After the exclusion was enacted, some landlords moved into their properties and established the properties as their principal residences to make use of the home sale exclusion. However, Congress subsequently changed the rules for sales completed after 2008. Under the current rules, the gain will be taxable to the extent the property was not used as the taxpayer’s principal residence after 2008.

This rule can be a trap for the unwary. For example, a couple might buy a vacation home and rent the property out to help finance the purchase. Later, upon retirement, the couple may turn the vacation home into their principal residence. If the home is subsequently sold, all or part of any gain on the sale could be taxable under the above-described rule.

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What are the Deductions for Charitable Donations

If your contributions to charity begin and end with check writing, you may be missing out on some satisfying volunteer opportunities — and a few tax deductions. IRS rules allow you a number of tax breaks for contri­butions other than cash that you make to qualified organizations.

 

Deduct Getting There and Back

 

You can deduct the costs of going to and from a location where you volunteer your services. You can also deduct the costs of driving for the organization — for example, to pick up or deliver items. To compute your deduction for charitable driving, use a standard mileage rate of 14 cents per mile or deduct the actual cost of your gas and oil. Either way, parking fees and tolls are also deductible.

 

Recoup Your Expenses

 

Out-of-pocket expenses you pay in giving services to a qualified organization may count as a charitable donation if you’re not reimbursed for them. You cannot deduct your personal expenses, such as child-care costs, even if they are necessary for you to volunteer. You may, however, deduct the costs of buying and cleaning a uniform you’re required to wear while volunteering if it is not suitable for everyday use.

 

No Time To Volunteer?

 

Many charities accept noncash donations. Giving investments that have increased in value can be a smart tax move. Instead of selling the investment and paying capital gains tax, give it to a qualified organization. If you held the investment for more than one year, you generally can deduct its fair market value at the time of the donation. Remember that you’ll need a receipt from the organization to claim a tax deduction and other records also may be required.

 

Some Restrictions

 

Contributions must be made to qualified organizations that meet IRS guidelines. Not sure? The IRS has an online tool (Exempt Organizations Select Check) on its website (www.irs.gov). Or call the IRS at 1-877-829-5500.

 

Things you can’t deduct include contributions to a specific individual; the value of your time or services; personal expenses incurred while volunteering, such as the cost of meals (unless you must be away from home overnight); and appraisal fees to determine the value of donated property.

 

Connect with us today for more information on charitable donations.

 

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Alimony and the IRS – What You Need to Know

If you and your spouse are ending your marriage, you’ll have many decisions to make. You will have to divide your belongings in a fair and equitable way. If you have children, you’ll have to work out custody arrangements. You may even have to decide who keeps the cat or the dog.

Another important decision you’ll face is whether alimony payments will be part of your divorce decree. This decision can have significant tax consequences for both of you. The IRS rules regarding alimony payments are complex. Before your divorce agreement becomes final, both you and your spouse should understand the tax implications of your arrangement.

The Rules

Alimony payments are tax deductible by the person who pays them and are considered taxable income to the recipient. However, to be tax deductible, alimony payments must meet certain requirements. For one thing, payments can’t be voluntary — they must be required by your divorce or separation agreement. Payments must also be in cash. You can’t, for example, do yard work or buy your ex a new TV and have that count as alimony, although you can agree to cover a specific expense such as the rent or mortgage.

You and your former spouse must be living apart for payments to qualify as alimony. And payments must stop if the recipient dies. If payments are to continue, none of the payments — even those made while the recipient is living — are deductible. However, if alimony payments stop because your ex-remarries, their deductibility is not affected.

Child Support Is Different

Unlike alimony payments, payments made for child support are not tax deductible by the person paying them, nor are they considered taxable income to the person who receives them. If alimony payments will decrease once a child reaches a certain age, the differential is treated as nondeductible child support.

Your tax situation and that of your spouse may affect your decision to designate payments as tax-deductible alimony or nondeductible child support. Our tax advisors can offer you the guidance you need, so give us a call today.

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