Preparing for 2017 Taxes: 5 Things You Can Do Now

Preparing for 2017 Taxes: 5 Things You Can Do Now

Your income tax obligation needs to be on your mind year-round. Here are some ways you can get a jump on your 2017 taxes.

Summer’s over. The kids are back in school. And soon, there’ll be only three months left in 2017. If you haven’t started thinking about how to minimize your income tax obligation for this year, there’s still time.

Whether you’re a small business or an individual taxpayer, year-round tax planning is more than just a way to make tax preparation an easier, faster process. By keeping taxes in mind as you go through every 12-month period, you’ll be able to see where you might take specific actions early that will have an impact on what you end up owing. Make it a habit, and you’ll find that it just comes naturally to consider the tax implications of purchase and sales decisions.

Create a System

Effective tax planning requires more than just saving receipts and organizing tax-related documents in physical or digital file folders – though that’s a good start. Create a system in early January that you can maintain throughout the year (of course, a lot of your information will be stored in your accounting or personal finance application, if you use one). But you should be saving statements, receipts, sales forms – anything related to your income and expenses that will eventually feed into IRS forms or schedules.

Evaluate Your Expense-Tracking

Businesses: How do you—and your employees, if you have them—keep track of daily expenses? You may have forms like purchase orders and bills for the big ones, but you probably buy things on occasion that are just documented by paper receipts. How do you categorize and organize these so you won’t miss any when it’s time to complete a Schedule C? Is there a better way?

Do any of your employees make trips on behalf of your business? You really should consider subscribing to an online service that automates the process of creating and approving expense reports. If you’re not aware of these options, ask us.

Know Your Tax Forms

Individuals and businesses file some of the same forms and schedules, but some, of course, are different. Your previous years’ tax returns can be good resources for you. Refer to them occasionally as you go through the year and do some comparing, especially if you must pay quarterly estimated taxes. You may not remember from year to year what’s deductible and what’s not. Revisiting your returns will jog your memory and remind you.

 

Consider Generosity

Are you having a good year? You’ll have an idea of how your financial health is if you’re keeping up with income and expenses. You don’t have to wait until the end of the year to do any charitable giving that you’re going to do (although it’s usually best to hold off until the fourth quarter).

Learn How Changes Will Affect Your Taxes

This is so important for individual taxpayers. Did you get married or divorced, or have a child? Did you move? Buy or sell a home? Get a raise or, conversely, lose regular income for some reason? Did you have educational expenses? All these life events—and more—can change your income tax obligation.

Businesses often experience major changes, too, and your financial state at the end of the year is way harder to predict than it is for an individual with W-2 income. Stay on top of the impact of deviations in income and expenses created by events like the introduction of new products (or the loss of existing ones), personnel fluctuations, and major acquisitions.

Comprehensive Planning

Tax planning should be an element of your overall financial planning. If you have a business or household budget, you’re way ahead of the game. You can compare your actual income and expenses every month to those you built into your budget. A budget can be a tremendous tool as you plan for the current year’s taxes. If you’ve never created one, or if you’ve never stuck to one successfully, we can help you with this.

We’d also be happy to work with you periodically throughout the year on taxes. We can get you set up with financial software if you’re not already using it and advise you on ways to work toward minimizing your 2017 obligation now.

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Tax-Deductible Expenses: Are You Recording All of Them?

Tax-Deductible Expenses: Are You Recording All of Them?

2017 income tax preparation seems a long way off. Make it easier by tracking all the deductions you can take.

You’ve heard it said before: Tax planning should be a year-round process. It’s so true. Your life will be a lot easier early next year when all your tax forms start rolling in.

Forms like 1099s and W-2s do a lot of the tracking for you. You only need to transfer data over to your IRS tax forms and schedules. But what about the daily stuff, the expenses you incur as a part of your workday that no one else is documenting? There are a lot of tax-deductible costs that can really add up when it’s time to file.

The IRS has two criteria for evaluating the validity of business expenses. First, is it ordinary? Is it something that other companies in your trade or profession would commonly buy? Second, is it necessary? Is it “…helpful and appropriate?”

Warning: Some expenses that you think might be deductible are not. Obviously, you can’t claim the costs of personal items. The IRS specifies two other types of expenses that can’t be deducted: Capital Expenses and those used the calculate the Cost of Goods Sold. Questions? Ask us.

Pulling together all that numbers required for the IRS Schedule C can be challenging. Let us know if you have questions.

Here are some examples of expenses that you might not consider, but which should be recorded as they occur so you don’t forget about them come tax time.

Advertising and promotion

Some of these expenses are obvious. For example, you might report printing costs for brochures, ad space bought, and postage for mailers and other business correspondence. But there’s much more that fits into this category. Think about everything you do that helps promote your business, like expenses related to:

  • Business cards
  • Team sponsorships
  • Your website (including start-up and maintenance fees)
  • Graphic design
  • Workshops/Webinars

Insurance

Do you have any kind of business insurance, like liability or malpractice? Your premiums are deductible.

Car and truck expenses

Understandably, you can only deduct expenses for miles driven for business purposes. If you have a vehicle—either owned or leased—that you also use for personal driving part of the time, you’ll need to track those two separately.

There are two options for calculating business mileage: Actual Expenses and Standard Mileage. To calculate the latter, you’d multiply the number of business miles driven by 53.5 cents for the tax year 2017, then add tolls and parking fees. The Actual Expense method is more complicated; it involves many costs and recognizes depreciation of the vehicle. Check with us if you’re planning to claim expenses for a car or truck, as there are additional rules governing this deduction.

Postage and office supplies

Yes, they’re deductible if you need them for your business.

Meals and entertainment

Familiarize yourself with the rules for this one. They’re complicated, and the IRS looks closely at such deductions.

Business use of your home

Ditto. There are all kinds of regulations, restrictions, and exceptions here, even if you use the simplified method that the IRS introduced a few years ago. Further, the home office deduction can be an audit red flag.

The rules are very specific and very rigid. For example, even if you use your home’s land line for business, you can’t deduct it. Add another line for business, and you can.

Professional and legal fees

If you pay an individual or firm for services provided to help you operate your business, those fees are often deductible. This includes lawyers, accountants, and tax preparers, of course, but as always, there are exceptions. You can’t usually, for example, deduct attorneys’ fees if you were getting legal help to buy business assets.

Dealing with Details

As you can see, there are many allowable business expenses that require meticulous record keeping. You can, of course, do this on paper or in a spreadsheet. There are cloud-based applications specifically designed for this purpose. If you’re interested in checking these out, let us know. We’re always available to help you plan for future tax filings.

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Hired Your First Employee? Your Tax Obligations

Hired Your First Employee? Your Tax Obligations

It’s a major milestone for you, but it comes with a lot of paperwork that must be done correctly. Bringing a new employee into your business is a reason to celebrate. You’ve done well enough as a sole proprietor that you can’t handle the workload by yourself anymore. Onboarding your first worker, though, comes with a great deal of extra effort for you at first. You have to show him or her the ropes so you can offload some of the extra weight you’ve been carrying.

But first things first. Before your employee even shows up for the first day of work, you should have assembled all the paperwork required to keep you compliant with the IRS and other federal and state agencies.
A New Number
As a one-person company, you’ve been using your Social Security number as your tax ID. You’re an employer now, so you’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can apply for one here.
The IRS’s EIN Assistant walks you through the process of applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Once you’ve completed the steps in the IRS’s EIN Assistant, you’ll receive your EIN right away, and can start using it to open a business bank account, apply for a business license, etc.
You’ll also need an EIN before you start paying your employee. It’s required on the Form W-4. If you’ve ever worked for a business yourself, you’ve probably filled out this form. As an employer now, you should provide one to your new hire on the first day. When it’s completed, it will help you determine how much federal income tax to withhold every payday. If you’re not bringing in a full-time employee but, rather, an independent contractor, you won’t be responsible for withholding and paying income taxes for that individual. You’ll need to supply him or her with a Form W-9.
Note: Payroll processing is probably the most complex element of small business accounting. If you don’t have any experience with it, you’ll probably want to use an online payroll application. After you’re set up on one of these websites, you enter the hours worked every pay period. The site calculates tax withholding and payroll taxes due, then prints or direct deposits paychecks. Let us know if you want some guidance on this.
Don’t forget about state taxes if your state requires them, and any local obligations. The IRS maintains a page with links to each state’s website. You can get information about doing business in your geographical area, which includes taxation requirements.
More Forms
You also have to be in contact with your state to report a new hire (same goes if you ever re-hire someone). The Small Business Administration (SBA) can be helpful here, as it is in many other aspects of managing a small business. The organization maintains a list of links to state entities here.
All employees are required to fill out a Form I-9 on the first day of a new job.
New employees must also prove that they’re legally eligible to work in the United States. To do this, they complete a Form I-9 from the Department of Homeland Security. As their employer, you’re charged with verifying that the information provided is accurate by looking at one or a combination of documents (U.S. Passport, driver’s license and birth certificate, etc.). By signing this form, you’re stating that you’ve done that.
You can also use the U.S. government’s E-Verify online tool to confirm eligibility.
A Helping Hand
The Department of Labor has a great website for new employers. The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor helps employers understand what DOL federal employment laws apply to them and what record keeping they’re required to do.
Please consider us a resource, too, as you take on a new employee. Preparing for a complex new set of tax obligations will be a challenge. We’d like to see you get everything right from the start.

Looking for a QuickBooks Expert?

QuickBooks ProAdvisor Houston Tx

Working with a QuickBooks ProAdvisor is the best way to learn how to use QuickBooks to help your business grow and flourish. You won’t find a better way to get the support you need anywhere else.

As a small business owner, we realize that you may not have the budget to hire a QuickBooks expert. If you’re looking for a more economical way to get set up on QuickBooks, we provide cloud bookkeeping programs to match any business requirement. Here are our Quickbooks ServicesQuickBooks SetupQuickBooks Training, and QuickTune-up.

You can feel confident in knowing that our STAC Bizness Solutions team are Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors. Meet Our Team.

If you would like to learn about all the benefits that STAC offers, just give us a call and we’ll provide you all the details. Call us at (844) 424-9637.

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Recording Simple Expenses in QuickBooks Online

Recording Simple Expenses in QuickBooks Online

Tracking even the little expenses is important.

How do most of the money you owe individuals and companies get disbursed? Do you print checks, or write them by hand? Use credit cards? Pay online through your bank’s website?

Keeping track of your outgoing funds can be challenging since there are so many ways to complete those transactions. But it’s important that all expenses are recorded correctly and consistently, to keep your company files accurate. In addition, so many of your expenses are tax- deductible. You don’t want to miss any of them.

But when do you enter and pay bills using QuickBooks Online bill-paying screens? In what situations would you use a purchase order? Why would you record a purchase on the dedicated expense screen? These are all questions we can answer for you. If you’re new to QuickBooks Online or simply puzzled by your options here, we’d be happy to schedule some time to go over these purchase issues.

Setting Up the Site

How you set up these preferences depends on your company’s individual structure and needs. We can help you determine the answers that are right for you.

Before you start recording expenses, you’ll need to make sure that your site settings match what you need. Click on the gear icon in the upper right, then Your CompanyAccount and Settings| Expenses to see what we mean. Most of these options will turn columns on the Expense screen off or on (though you can change them for individual transactions). As for the Track billable expenses and items as income preference, that’s something we can discuss when we go over this topic.

Billable or Not?

Let’s say you need to buy some landscaping tools for your business that you’ll use with multiple customers. One of your customers has asked you to purchase some additional tools for her own use. This is how you could record your purchases on that trip. You’d click the + sign in the upper right, then select Expense. Click the down arrow in the payee field and select the name of the store (or add it if it’s not there by clicking + Add new).

In the field to the right, you’ll select the source of the money you’ll be paying. Choose the name of the Checking account from the drop-down list.

Note: Even if you’re using a credit card for this purchase, the money will ultimately come out of your checking account. So be sure to choose the correct option here.

Make sure the date is correct, and choose the Payment method that you’re using to complete the purchase at the store.

 

This is the portion of the Expense screen where you’ll enter the actual details of your purchase

 

Click in the field under ACCOUNT to display a list of categories and click the correct one. In the DESCRIPTION field, enter descriptive text about the item – enough that it will be recognizable when you see it later. Type in the AMOUNT of the item. Since you’re buying these tools for company use, you can’t bill them to an individual customer. Click in the TAX field if necessary.

However, you’re buying the second item for a specific customer. You’ll click in the BILLABLE field to create a checkmark and add your company’s MARKUP PERCENTAGE in that field. Open the drop-down list in the CUSTOMER column and select the correct one. Choose a CLASS if you use them and save the transaction.

When you look at that customer’s transaction list, you’ll see an entry for a Billable Expense Charge. You can click Start invoice if you want to bill for this one item. If not, you’ll see this charge in the vertical column to the right the next time you create an invoice for that customer.

 

Mobile Expenses

QuickBooks Online has a companion mobile app that lets you—among other things—track expenses when you’re away from your computer.

As you can see in the image above, you’ll be able to enter the details of your expenses manually. Click on the camera icon in the upper left, and you can take a picture of a receipt and attach it to the transaction. The next time you log into QuickBooks Online, you’ll see the expense with the photo file attached.

QuickBooks Online can simplify the entry and tracking of expense data, but as we said, it’s important to enter purchases in the right places – and to categorize them correctly. We’re ready to work with you on expenses when you are.

 


Looking for a QuickBooks Expert?

QuickBooks ProAdvisor Houston Tx

Working with a QuickBooks ProAdvisor is the best way to learn how to use QuickBooks to help your business grow and flourish. You won’t find a better way to get the support you need anywhere else.

As a small business owner, we realize that you may not have the budget to hire a QuickBooks expert. If you’re looking for a more economical way to get set up on QuickBooks, we provide cloud bookkeeping programs to match any business requirement. Here are our Quickbooks ServicesQuickBooks SetupQuickBooks Training, and QuickTune-up.

You can feel confident in knowing that our STAC Bizness Solutions team are Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors. Meet Our Team.

If you would like to learn about all the benefits that STAC offers, just give us a call and we’ll provide you all the details. Call us at (844) 424-9637.

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Are You Protecting Yourself from Tax Identity Theft?

Are You Protecting Yourself from Tax Identity Theft?

The IRS has thwarted some identity theft attempts, but thieves are still stealing billions of dollars every year from taxpayers.

Another annual income tax deadline has come and gone. Maybe you had to pay in, but perhaps you were owed a refund. If the latter is true, did you receive it?

A lot of taxpayers didn’t, because hackers swooped in and stole their sensitive tax-related information. Tax identity theft is a serious problem, despite the IRS’s efforts to stop it.

But there are steps you can take to keep from being a victim, some of which are simply a matter of common sense.  For example, consider the security of any wireless network you use when you’re working on your taxes. Don’t ever do so on a public network, and make sure your home or office wireless is password protected.

Offline Risks                 

You don’t have to be online to be at risk for tax identity theft. Hackers can grab your personal information in other ways. For example, do you ever carry your tax-related papers back and forth to work or some other location? Know where they are at all times; don’t ever leave them laying around where someone can copy your Social Security number and other details.

Always be aware of your surroundings. If there are other people around when you’re working on your taxes—if you’re in a coffee shop or library, for example—make sure no one is reading over your shoulder.

Phone calls can be risky. A good rule of thumb is never provide someone who calls you with any sensitive personal data – unless you can verify it was a call you were expecting, like one from your bank or a medical office. When you place a call to a legitimate number, it’s generally okay.

Other Traps

You’d think that a call from the IRS would be safe. In reality, the IRS doesn’t ask for personal information over the phone. They send letters through the U.S. Mail. If you ever get a phone call from someone who claims to be from the agency and is demanding some sort of payment immediately, hang up. This is a popular phone scam. You can always contact the IRS directly to see if there is some sort of issue.

Don’t make a practice of carrying your Social Security card with you. Keep it in a safe place unless you absolutely need it away from home for some reason. Also:

  • File your return early to keep a hacker from getting in line for your refund in front of you.
  • Reduce your refund by adjusting your withholdings at work. It’s nice to get that big payment after you file, but couldn’t you use that money throughout the year?
  • Request direct deposit of your refund. That way, no one can steal your check out of your mailbox or somehow re-route a paper payment.

Cyber attack written on a computer screen with 1’s and 0’s.

Online Thieves

Be especially careful if you’re preparing your taxes on a website. Before you even begin, investigate the publisher’s security protocols to ensure that your very sensitive tax-related data will be treated with great care. Also, update any applications that will be involved, including your browser and antivirus/anti-malware tools.

The IRS will never send you an email out of the blue asking you to click a link or download an attachment or fill in fields to update personal information. In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid taking those actions anytime unless you’re expecting an email and can verify the sender’s address.

Finally, use a very strong, unique password, one you don’t use anywhere else. You’re probably tired of hearing that piece of advice, but it’s absolutely critical when you’re working with a tax preparation application.

Take Action Quickly

It’s possible to get stung by a tax identity thief even if you’re being careful. If it happens to you, you’ll need to complete and submit IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and watch for responses from the agency. Contact your credit bureaus and financial institutions to apprise them of the situation. Tax identity thieves sometimes try to open new credit cards, for example. You should also file a report with the FTC.

Recovering from tax identity theft isn’t a quick process nor an easy one. If you have questions about it or simply want to talk to us about your year-round tax planning and preparation process, be sure to contact us.

 

 


Looking for a QuickBooks Expert?

QuickBooks ProAdvisor Houston TxWorking with a QuickBooks ProAdvisor is the best way to learn how to use QuickBooks to help your business grow and flourish. You won’t find a better way to get the support you need anywhere else.

As a small business owner, we realize that you may not have the budget to hire a QuickBooks expert. If you’re looking for a more economical way to get set up on QuickBooks, we provide cloud bookkeeping programs to match any business requirement. Here are our Quickbooks ServicesQuickBooks SetupQuickBooks Training, and QuickTune-up.

You can feel confident in knowing that our STAC Bizness Solutions team are Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors. Meet Our Team.

If you would like to learn about all the benefits that STAC offers, just give us a call and we’ll provide you all the details. Call us at (844) 424-9637.

Hire a QuickBooks ProAdvisor

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Paying Estimated Taxes? When You Should

Paying Estimated Taxes? When You Should

It’s not just the self-employed who must submit estimated taxes. IRS obligations are pay-as-you-go.

Much as we may grumble about them, estimated taxes and payroll withholding are good things. Imagine preparing your taxes in April having not paid in anything through the 12-month tax period. Chances are, a large percentage of taxpayers would be filing extensions (which doesn’t get you off the hook for paying by the April deadline: You’re still expected to submit an estimate of the tax due).

If you’re a salaried or hourly employee of a company, it’s up to your employer to collect and submit an estimate of your income tax obligation every pay period, based on the withholding information you provided on your W-4.

The number of allowances you claim affects how much money is taken from each paycheck for taxes. If an insufficient amount is withheld, you may need to pay estimated taxes to avoid penalties.

But if you’re a freelancer or contractor who has no money withheld, the burden is on you. The IRS expects you to do the same thing an employer would: periodically (every three months) make a payment that approximates what you would owe for that quarter. Then, like everyone else, you’ll include that information when you prepare your income taxes, at which time you’ll either get a refund or have to pay in.

Warning: We’ll tell you up front: Calculating estimated taxes is difficult, and the IRS rules and exceptions are complex. If you’ve never gone through this process before, or if your financial situation is changing in 2017, we recommend you gather up your income and expenses, and let us help you with this.

Everyone Is Subject

What this means is that the IRS expects all taxpayers to keep up with their taxes throughout the year. If you’re not having enough taken out of your paycheck, you should be submitting estimated taxes. You’ll avoid paying penalties, and you probably won’t have to file an extension.

Even if your withholding is working well for you, there may be times when you have extra money coming in because of things like alimony, interest and dividends, and prizes. You’ll need to factor this into your income. If you’re a sole proprietor, partner, or S corporation shareholder, and you believe you will owe $1,000 or more in taxes for the 2017 tax year, you’re expected to make quarterly payments. For corporations, the cutoff amount is $500.

Note: The IRS has different requirements for farmers, fishermen, certain household employers, and some high-income taxpayers.

Unless you’re paying electronically, you’ll need to visit this IRS page to print your estimated tax vouchers.

A Complex Calculation

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for calculating the estimated taxes you should pay every quarter. That’s why they call them “estimated.” And changes to the tax code aren’t finalized by Congress until the end of the year, by which time you should have made three payments (April 18, June 15, and September 15, 2017; your final quarterly payment is due January 16, 2018).

You can use the worksheet that the IRS supplies (you’ll find payment vouchers here, too). If you’re using accounting software or a website, it’ll be much easier to assemble the numbers. (And if you’re still doing your accounting manually, we can help get you set up with a solution that works for you.) If your financial situation hasn’t changed much since the previous year, you could use your most recent return as a model.

The IRS offers multiple ways to make your quarterly estimated payments electronically. In fact, the agency encourages it.

Don’t Forget State

Do you live in a state that requires you to pay income taxes? If so, you’ll need to check with your state tax agency to see how to handle state estimated taxes. The Small Business Administration (SBA) maintains an online directory that you can consult to locate the appropriate website.

There’s no reason to add penalties to your tax bill when paying estimated taxes can help you avoid that. We’ll be happy to consult with you so you understand your obligation and can fulfill it.


Looking for a QuickBooks Expert?

QuickBooks ProAdvisor Houston TxWorking with a QuickBooks ProAdvisor is the best way to learn how to use QuickBooks to help your business grow and flourish. You won’t find a better way to get the support you need anywhere else.

As a small business owner, we realize that you may not have the budget to hire a QuickBooks expert. If you’re looking for a more economical way to get set up on QuickBooks, we provide cloud bookkeeping programs to match any business requirement. Here are our Quickbooks ServicesQuickBooks SetupQuickBooks Training, and QuickTune-up.

You can feel confident in knowing that our STAC Bizness Solutions team are Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors. Meet Our Team.

If you would like to learn about all the benefits that STAC offers, just give us a call and we’ll provide you all the details. Call us at (844) 424-9637.

Hire a QuickBooks ProAdvisor

To schedule an initial consultation with us, please click the button below.

Schedule an Initial Consultation