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September 2011 Newsletter

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

September Tax Due Dates

 

This newsletter is intended to provide generalized information that is appropriate in certain situations. It is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by the recipient, for the purpose of avoiding federal tax penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer. The contents of this newsletter should not be acted upon without specific professional guidance. Please call us if you have questions.

3 Tips for Getting an Accurate Business Valuation

If you're conscientious about financial reporting, you may already have a sense of your company's worth, but in some instances you might need a formal business valuation, such as:  

  • For certain transactions. Selling your business? Planning an IPO? Need financing?
  • For tax purposes. Includes estate planning, stock option distribution, and S Corporation conversions.
  • For litigation. Needed in cases like bankruptcy, divorce, and damage determinations.

There isn't a single formula for valuing a business, but there are generally-accepted measures that will give you a valid assessment of your company's worth. Here are some tips that will help you get a more accurate business valuation. 

  • Take a close look at how your business operates. Does it incorporate the most tax-efficient structure? Have sales been lagging or are you selling most of your merchandise to only a few customers? If so, then consider jump-starting your sales effort by bringing in a seasoned consultant.

Do you have several products that are not selling well? Maybe it's time to remove them from your inventory. Redesign your catalog to give it a fresh new look and make a point of discussing any new and exciting product lines with your existing customer base.

It might also be time to give your physical properties a spring cleaning. Even minor upgrades such as a new coat of paint will increase your business valuation.

  • Keep in mind that business valuation is not just an exercise in numbers where you subtract your liabilities from your assets, it's also based on the value of your intangible assets.

It's easy to figure out the numbers for the value of your real estate and fixtures, but what is your intellectual property worth? Do you hold any patents or trademarks? And what about your business relationships or the reputation you've established with existing clients and in the community? Don't forget about key long-term employees whose in-depth knowledge about your business also adds value to its net worth.

  • Choose your appraisal team carefully. Don't try to do it yourself by turning to the Internet or reading a few books. You may eventually need to bring in experts like a business broker and an attorney, but your first step should be to contact us. We have the expertise you need to arrive a fair valuation of your business.

If you need a business valuation for whatever reason, give us a call today.

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Employee Relocation in a Down Market

Many companies have questions about what to do with an employee's home when he or she is moved to a new job location, especially with the real estate market in a downturn throughout much of the country.

Typically, the employer wants to protect the employee against financial loss on a "forced" sale of the home. Here are the most common ways to do that, and their consequences to the employee:

The employer reimburses the employee's financial loss. Here the employer has the home appraised and agrees to pay the employee the difference between the appraised fair market value and any lesser amount the employee gets on the sale. Such reimbursement would cover the employee's costs of the sale.

Note: The financial loss here is not the same as a tax loss. The financial loss is the home's value less what the employee collects under "forced sale" conditions. In the current real estate market, the value is not always clearly determined. The relocating employee might think the home is worth more, based on earlier appraisals or comparative sales. A tax loss is the property's tax basis (cost plus capital investments) less what's collected on the sale.

If the employee has a gain on the sale (the amount collected on the sale exceeds the basis), gain can be tax-exempt up to $250,000 ($500,000 on certain husband-wife sales). However, tax loss on the sale of one's residence is not deductible.

The employer's reimbursement of the employee's financial loss is taxable pay to the employee. Employers who want to shelter the employee from any tax burden on what is usually an employer-instigated relocation may "gross-up" the reimbursement to cover the tax. But gross-up can be costly. For example, a grossed-up income tax reimbursement for a $10,000 loss would be $14,575 for an employee in the 35% bracket - more where Social Security taxes or state taxes are also grossed-up.

Employer buys the home. Few employers directly buy and sell employees' homes. But many do this indirectly, effectively becoming the homes' owners, through use of relocation firms acting as the employers' agents. An IRS ruling shows how to do this with no tax on the employee:

Option 1. The relocation firm as employer's agent buys the home for its appraised fair market value, and later resells it. The firm collects a fee from the employer, which will cover sales costs and any financial loss to the firm on resale. The IRS now says that this fee is not taxable to the employee. Also, the employee's gain on the sale to the relocation firm qualifies for the tax exemption under the limits described above ($250,000 or $500,000).

Option 2. The relocation firm offers to buy the home for its appraised value, but the employee can choose to pursue a higher price through a broker he or she chooses from a list provided by the relocation firm. If a higher offer is made, the relocation firm pays that price to the employee (whether or not the home is then sold to that bidder). Here again, the employee is not taxed on the firm's fee and the gain is tax exempt under the above limits.

Tip: Either option works for the employee, letting him or her realize full value on the sale of the home (with possibly greater value through Option 2), without an element of taxable pay.

Caution: If the deal is structured so that the relocation firm facilitates a sale from the employee to a third-party buyer (rather than to the relocation firm), the employer's payment of the relocation firm's fee is taxable to the employee.

The Employer's Side

Reimbursing the employee's loss. This is fully deductible as a business expense, as would be any additional amount paid as a gross-up.

Note: It's fully deductible, but it may be more costly, before and after taxes, than buying the home for resale through the relocation firm.

Note: Paying the relocation fee only, without buying the home, as in the "Caution" above, is also fully deductible, as would be any gross-up amount on that fee.

Buying the home. The change in the IRS rule was good news for employees, but it gave nothing to employers, whose tax treatment wasn't covered. The official IRS position is that employer costs (other than carrying costs such as mortgage interest, maintenance, and fees to a relocation management company) are deductible only as capital losses, which, for corporate employers, are deductible only against capital gains. Taxpayer advocates tend to argue that employer costs here are fully deductible ordinary costs of doing business.

Questions?

Are you an employee who is being relocated this fall? Are you wondering about the sale of your home and the tax implications for you? We can answer your questions. Just give us a call.

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A SIMPLE Retirement Plan for the Self-Employed

Of all the retirement plans available to small business owners, the SIMPLE plan is the easiest to set up and the least expensive to manage.

These plans are intended to encourage small business employers to offer retirement coverage to their employees. SIMPLE plans work well for small business owners who don't want to spend time and high administration fees associated with more complex retirement plans.

SIMPLE plans really shine for self-employed business owners. Here's why...

Self-employed business owners are able to contribute both as employee and employer, with both contributions made from self-employment earnings.

SIMPLEs calculate contributions in two steps:

1. Employee out-of-salary contribution
The limit on this "elective deferral" is $11,500 in 2011, after which it can rise further with the cost of living.

Catch-up. Owner-employees age 50 or over can make a further $2,500 deductible "catch-up" contribution as employee in 2011.

2. Employer "matching" contribution
The employer match equals a maximum of 3% of employee's earnings.

Example: A 52-year-old owner-employee with self-employment earnings of $40,000 could contribute and deduct $11,500 as employee plus a further $2,500 employee catch-up contribution, plus $1,200 (3% of $40,000) employer match, or a total of $15,200.

SIMPLE plans are an excellent choice for home-based businesses and ideal for full-time employees or homemakers who make a modest income from a sideline business.

If living expenses are covered by your day job (or your spouse's job), you would be free to put all of your sideline earnings, up to the ceiling, into SIMPLE retirement investments.

A Truly Simple Plan

A SIMPLE plan is easier to set up and operate than most other plans. Contributions go into an IRA you set up. Those familiar with IRA rules - in investment options, spousal rights, creditors' rights - don't have a lot new to learn.

Requirements for reporting to the IRS and other agencies are negligible. Your plan's custodian, typically an investment institution, has the reporting duties. And the process for figuring the deductible contribution is a bit simpler than with other plans.

What's Not So Good About SIMPLEs

Once self-employment earnings become significant however, other retirement plans may be more advantageous than a SIMPLE retirement plan.

Example: If you are under 50 with $50,000 of self-employment earnings in 2011, you could contribute $11,500 as employee to your SIMPLE plus a further 3% of $50,000 as an employer contribution, for a total of $13,000. In contrast, a Keogh 401(k) plan would allow a $25,500 contribution.

With $100,000 of earnings, it would be a total of $14,500 with a SIMPLE and $35,500 with a 401(k).

Because investments are through an IRA, you're not in direct control. You must work through a financial or other institution acting as trustee or custodian, and you will in practice have fewer investment options than if you were your own trustee, as you would be in a Keogh.

It won't work to set up the SIMPLE plan after a year ends and still get a deduction that year, as is allowed with Simplified Employee Pension Plans, or SEPs. Generally, to make a SIMPLE plan effective for a year, it must be set up by October 1 of that year. A later date is allowed where the business is started after October 1; here the SIMPLE must be set up as soon thereafter as administratively feasible.

If the SIMPLE plan is set up for a sideline business and you're already vested in a 401(k) in another business or as an employee the total amount you can put into the SIMPLE and the 401(k) combined (in 2011) can't be more than $16,500 or $21,500 if catch-up contributions are made to the 401(k) by someone age 50 or over.

So someone under age 50 who puts $8,000 in her 401(k) can't put more than $8,500 in her SIMPLE in 2011. The same limit applies if you have a SIMPLE while also contributing as an employee to a 403(b) annuity (typically for government employees and teachers in public and private schools).

How to Get Started with a SIMPLE Plan

You can set up a SIMPLE account on your own, but most people turn to financial institutions.

SIMPLES are offered by the same financial institutions that offer IRAs and Keogh master plans.

You can expect the institution to give you a plan document and an adoption agreement. In the adoption agreement you will choose an "effective date" - the beginning date for payments out of salary or business earnings. That date can't be later than October 1 of the year you adopt the plan, except for a business formed after October 1.

Another key document is the Salary Reduction Agreement, which briefly describes how money goes into your SIMPLE. You need such an agreement even if you pay yourself business profits rather than salary.

Printed guidance on operating the SIMPLE may also be provided. You will also be establishing a SIMPLE IRA account for yourself as participant.

Keoghs, SEPs, and SIMPLES Compared

Keogh

SEP

SIMPLE

Plan type: Can be defined benefit or defined contribution (profit sharing or money purchase)

Defined contribution only

Defined contribution only

Number you can own: Owner may have two or more plans of different types, including an SEP, currently or in the past

Owner may have SEP and Keoghs

Generally, SIMPLE is the only current plan

Due dates: Plan must be in existence by the end of the year for which contributions are made

Plan can be set up later - if by the due date (with extensions) of the return for the year contributions are made

Plan generally must be in existence by October 1 of the year for which contributions are made

Dollar contribution ceiling (for 2011): $49,000 for defined contribution plan; no specific ceiling for defined benefit plan

$49,000

$23,000

Percentage limit on contributions: 50% of earnings for defined contribution plans (100% of earnings after contribution). Elective deferrals in 401(k) not subject to this limit. No percentage limit for defined benefit plan.

50% of earnings (100% of earnings after contribution). Elective deferrals in SEPs formed before 1997 not subject to this limit.

100% of earnings, up to $11,500 (for 2011) for contributions as employee; 3% of earnings, up to $11,500, for contributions as employer

Deduction ceiling: For defined contribution, lesser of $49,000 or 20% of earnings (25% of earnings after contribution). 401(k) elective deferrals not subject to this limit. For defined benefit, net earnings.

Lesser of $49,000 or 25% of eligible employee's compensation. Elective deferrals in SEPs formed before 1997 not subject to this limit.

Same as percentage ceiling on SIMPLE contribution

Catch-up contribution age 50 or over: Up to $5,500 in 2011 for 401(k)s

Same for SEPs formed before 1997

Half the limit for Keoghs and SEPs (up to $2,750 in 2011)

Prior years' service can count in computing contribution

No

No

Investments: Wide investment opportunities. Owner may directly control investments.

Somewhat narrower range of investments. Less direct control of investments.

Same as SEP

Withdrawals: Some limits on withdrawal before retirement age

No withdrawal limits

No withdrawal limits

Permitted withdrawals before age 59 1/2 may still face 10% penalty

Same as Keogh rule

Same as Keogh rule except penalty is 25% in SIMPLE's first two years

Spouse's rights: Federal law grants spouse certain rights in owner's plan

No federal spousal rights

No federal spousal rights

Rollover allowed to another plan (Keogh or corporate), SEP or IRA, but not a SIMPLE.

Same as Keogh rule

Rollover after 2 years to another SIMPLE and to plans allowed under Keogh rule

Some reporting duties are imposed, depending on plan type and amount of plan assets

Few reporting duties

Negligible reporting duties

Please contact us if you are a business owner interested in exploring retirement plan options, including SIMPLE plans.

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5 Tips for Taxpayers Who Owe Money to the IRS

The vast majority of Americans get a tax refund from the IRS each spring. But what if you're not one of them? What if you owe money to the IRS?

Here are five tips for individuals who still need to pay their taxes.

  1. If you get a bill for late taxes, you are expected to promptly pay the tax owed including any additional penalties and interest. You can pay the balance owed by electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier's check, or credit card, or cash. If you are unable to pay the amount due, it is often in your best interest to get a loan to pay the bill in full rather than to make installment payments to the IRS.
  2. If you cannot pay the liability in full you may request an installment agreement. This is an agreement between you and the IRS for the collection of the amount due and is payable in monthly installment payments. To be eligible for an installment agreement, you must first file all required returns and be current with estimated tax payments.
  3. You can also use an installment agreement if you owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties, and interest. The IRS will inform you usually within 30 days whether your request is approved or denied or if additional information is needed. If the amount you owe is $25,000 or less, provide the monthly amount you wish to pay with your request. At a minimum, the monthly amount you will be allowed to pay without completing a Collection Information Statement is an amount that will fully pay the total balance owed within 60 months.
  4. You may still qualify for an installment agreement if you owe more than $25,000, but a Collection Information Statement must be completed before an installment agreement can be considered. If your balance is over $25,000, consider your financial situation and propose the highest amount possible, as that is how the IRS will arrive at your payment amount (based on your financial information).
  5. If an installment agreement is approved, a one-time user fee will be charged. The user fee for a new agreement is $105 or $52 for agreements where payments are deducted directly from your bank account. For eligible individuals with incomes at or below certain levels, a reduced fee of $43 will be charged. This is automatically figured and is based on your income.  

If you owe the IRS money, give our office a call. We can help you set up installment agreements and other payment options.

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What Income Is Nontaxable?

Generally, you are taxed on income that is available to you regardless of whether it is actually in your possession, but there are some situations when certain types of income are partially taxed or not taxed at all.

Here are some examples of items that are NOT included in your income:

  • Adoption expense reimbursements for qualifying expenses
  • Funding of your Health Savings Account (HSA) with a one-time direct transfer from your qualified individual retirement plan (Roth IRA or IRA, but not an ongoing SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA), an Archer MSA, health reimbursement account (HRA), or health flexible spending account (FSA), but not from an ongoing SIMPLE IRA and SEP IRA
  • Child support payments
  • Gifts, bequests, and inheritances
  • Workers' compensation benefits
  • Meals and lodging for the convenience of your employer
  • Compensatory damages awarded for physical injury or physical sickness
  • Welfare benefits
  • Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer

Here are examples of items that may or may not be included in your income:

  • Life Insurance. If you surrender a life insurance policy for cash, you must include in income any proceeds that are more than the cost of the life insurance policy. Life insurance proceeds paid to you because of the death of the insured person are not taxable unless the policy was turned over to you for a price.
  • Scholarship or Fellowship Grant. If you are a candidate for a degree, you can exclude amounts you receive as a qualified scholarship or fellowship. Amounts used for room and board do not qualify.
  • Non-cash Income. Taxable income may be in a form other than cash. One example of this is bartering, which is an exchange of property or services. The fair market value of goods and services exchanged is fully taxable and must be included as income on Form 1040 of both parties. <>

Please contact us if you'd like more information about what income is nontaxable.

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Moving Soon? Let the IRS Know

If you changed your home or business address, notify the IRS to ensure that you receive any refunds or correspondence. Although the IRS uses the postal service's change of address files to update taxpayer addresses, notifying the IRS directly is still a good idea.

There are several ways to do this.

  • On your tax return. You may correct the address legibly on the mailing label that comes with your tax package or write the new address in the appropriate boxes on your tax return when you file.
  • Form 8822. You may use Form 8822, Change of Address, to submit an address or name change at any time during the year.
  • Verbal Notification. If an IRS employee contacts you about your account, you may verbally provide a change of address.
  • Written Notification. To give written notification, write to the IRS center where you file your return and provide your new address. The addresses for the IRS centers are listed in the tax instructions. In order to process an address change, the IRS will need your full name, old and new addresses, your Social Security number or employer identification number, and signatures. If you filed a joint return, you should provide the same information for both spouses. If you filed a joint return and have since established separate residences, you each should notify the IRS of your new addresses.

It's a good idea to notify your employer of your new address so that you can get your W-2 forms on time.

If you change your address after filing your return, don't forget to notify the post office at your old address so your mail can be forwarded.

You should also notify the IRS if you make estimated tax payments and you change your address during the year. You should mail a completed Form 8822, Change of Address, or write the IRS center where you file your return. You can continue to use your old pre-printed payment vouchers until the IRS sends you new ones. However, do not correct the address on the old voucher.

Gift Taxes

In 2011, if you give any one person gifts such as cash or property valued at more than $13,000, you must report the total gifts to the Internal Revenue Service. You may have to pay tax on the gifts, but the person who receives your gift does not have to report the gift to the IRS or pay gift or income tax on its value.

Gifts include both cash and property, including the use of property, without expecting to receive something of equal value in return. For example, if you sell something at less than its value or make an interest-free or reduced-interest loan, you may be making a gift.

There is a lifetime maximum of $1 million and there are some exceptions to the tax rules on gifts. The following gifts do not count against the annual limit of $13,000 in 2011:

  • Tuition or medical expenses that you pay directly to an educational or medical institution for someone's benefit
  • Gifts to your spouse
  • Gifts to a political organization
  • Gifts to qualifying charities (also deductible on your tax forms for the value of the gifts made)

If you are married, both you and your spouse can give separate gifts of up to the annual limit of $13,000 each or a total of $26,000 in 2011 to the same person without making it a taxable gift.

If you're confused about gift taxes or need more information,we can help clear up the confusion. Contact our office today.

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Tips for Recently Married or Divorced Taxpayers

Newlyweds and the recently divorced should ensure the name on their tax return matches the name registered with the Social Security Administration (SSA). A mismatch could unexpectedly increase a tax bill or reduce the size of any refund.

  • For recently married taxpayers, the tax scenario begins when the bride says "I do." If she takes her husband's last name, but doesn't tell the SSA about the name change, complications may arise. For example, if the couple files a joint tax return with the bride's new name, the IRS computers will not be able to match the new name with the Social Security number.
  • After a divorce, a woman who had taken her husband's name and made that change known to the SSA should contact the SSA if she goes back to her previous name.

If you have any questions related to your requirements to the IRS after getting married or divorced, or need help changing your name with the SSA, give us a call. We're happy to help.

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Tax Due Dates for September 2011

September 12

Employees Who Work for Tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during August, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

September 15

Individuals - Make a payment of your 2011 estimated tax if you are not paying your income tax for the year through withholding (or will not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES. This is the third installment date for estimated tax in 2010.

Corporations - File a 2010 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120 or 1120-A) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you made a timely request for an automatic 6-month extension.

S corporations - File a 2010 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due. This due date applies only if you made a timely request for an automatic 6-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1120S) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

Partnerships - File a 2010 calendar year income tax return (Form 1065). This due date applies only if you were given an additional 5-month extension. Provide each shareholder with a copy of Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) or a substitute Schedule K-1.

Corporations - Deposit the third installment of estimated income tax for 2011. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you make an estimate of your tax for the year.

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in August.

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Copyright © 2011  All materials contained in this document are protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. All other trade names, trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks are the property of their respective owners.

  

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