410-466-3779

Steve Graber

Depreciating Property for Tax Purposes

Depreciation2Depreciation deductions can be extremely valuable for a business. For example, in a recent court case, a federal judge ruled a company could begin taking its depreciation deductions for two buildings housing retail stores at a point prior to when they were “open for business.” The ruling allowed the company to show a loss for that tax year, which the company then used to offset income in earlier years and ultimately claim a total tax refund of over $2 million.*

Although this case involved a special 50% depreciation allowance made available by the Gulf Opportunity Zone Act of 2005, the fact remains that even regular depreciation deductions can significantly reduce a company’s tax bill.

General Rules

If business property has a useful life greater than one year, the owner generally is prohibited from deducting the full cost of the property in the year it is placed in service. Instead, a portion of the cost may be deducted each year as depreciation. The depreciation rules apply to most types of tangible property, with notable exceptions being inventory and unimproved land.

Different schedules specify the proper depreciation calculations for different types of property. The most widely used schedules are set forth under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). MACRS assigns property to a recovery class based on the property’s “class life.”

For example, office equipment is assigned to the seven-year MACRS class. Assume a business purchased a piece of equipment for $20,000 and placed it in service in 2012. The property would be in its fourth year of service in 2015. Applicable IRS tables indicate that the appropriate deduction percentage is 12.49% of the cost, so the business could deduct $2,498 for that equipment in 2015.**

Placed in Service

As the above-mentioned court decision suggests, the date property is placed in service can be an important consideration. Though the IRS has specific definitions for different types of assets, generally, property is first placed in service on the date the taxpayer first places it “in a condition or state of readiness and availability for a specifically defined function.”

Because the definition is broad, taxpayers sometimes litigate how it should be applied to specific situations. In the decision mentioned above, the key issue was the “placed-in-service” date of two buildings that would eventually be used as building supply stores. The IRS had argued that the “placed-in-service” requirement meant that the buildings had to be open for business for retail customers. The court disagreed, however, holding that the buildings were placed in service when they were substantially complete and limited certificates of occupancy had been issued so that workers could enter the buildings to install necessary racks and shelving.

Related Provisions

Businesses may be able to benefit from the tax law’s Section 179 provisions to garner faster write-offs for some of their asset purchases. Currently, businesses will be allowed to expense up to $25,000 of qualifying property placed in service during the 2015 tax year, with that limit subject to further reduction once the amount placed in service exceeds $200,000.*** In addition, a current deduction may be available for certain limited amounts paid for property that the business expenses for financial accounting purposes. We can tell you more about these “de minimis safe harbor” regulations.

If you are tired of overpaying taxes, then call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steve Graber.  Lower your overall tax liability using depreciation is right up our alley.

 

Graber and Associates is a Baltimore CPA Accounting Firm with two convenient office locations, Downtown Baltimore and Pikesville.  To better service our small business clients who use QuickBooks, we are Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisors.

 

 

 

* Stine, LLC v. USA (DC LA, 1/27/2015)

** Calculation assumes the half-year depreciation convention.

*** Congress kept the Section 179 limit at $500,000 for 2014 in late-year extender legislation.

Workman’s Comp Coverage – What it Means for Your Business

Workers CompWhile rules and regulations for workman’s comp insurance change from state-to-state, there some general guidelines you need to know and follow no matter where your business might be located.

First, as an employer, you are required to protect employees that are killed on the job, are injured, or become ill. Most employers obtain either state sponsored or private insurance. Others will use self-insurance. Regardless of which option you select, it is the employer who foots the bill.

Secondly, workman’s comp is a state based program as opposed to a federal program. Most states require some form of workman’s comp, and as the employer, you are expected to accept the rules and regulations. For those businesses with under four employees, there is an exemption to carrying the coverage, at least in some states.

Workers Comp2Next, workman’s comp pays four different types of benefits. These are survivor’s benefits, disability benefits, rehabilitation benefits, and medical benefits. The injured employee or their heirs receive a lump sum payment which then relieves the business of any further liability.

Also, employees are covered with a few exceptions. These exceptions include business owners, independent contractors, unpaid volunteers and domestic employees in private homes.

In addition, workers’ comp is paid on the no-fault basis. This means that regardless of who is at fault for the injury, the employee receives the benefits, and the business does not have to admit liability.

Finally, even when an employee is outside of the workplace, they may be covered. This can include traveling for business purposes, running work related errands, or attending a required business social event.

The state rules and regulations for workman’s comp insurance can be tricky, but they do protect both the employee and employer. When purchasing this insurance, it is always best to work with a professional that can ensure your business’s needs are met.

Cost Segregation – Tax Reduction for Businesses

Cost segregation is the process of identifying your assets and classifying those assets correctly for the purpose of paying federal taxes. In this process, personal assets that are mixed with real property assets are separated out, so all assets can be depreciated properly and potentially increase your bottom line.

Cost Segregation Studies

Cost Seg2A cost segregation study is performed to determine which assets can be claimed as personal property instead of real property. These items usually include indirect construction costs, non-structural elements of buildings, and exterior land improvements.

By separating these assets, they can be depreciated over a shorter term which will reduce your current income tax liabilities and increase cash flow. This decreased depreciation period is typically between five and fifteen years instead of the twenty-seven and a half to thirty-nine years for non-residential real property.

For example, items such as carpeting, wall paper, parts of the electrical system, and even sidewalks and landscaping all qualify for the shorter depreciation periods.

Eligibility and Advantages of Cost Segregation

To be eligible for cost segregation, a building must have been purchased, remodeled, or constructed since 1987. This method of tax reduction is best used on new construction, but it can be used retroactively on older buildings as well.

Beyond the benefits of reduced tax liability and increased cash flow, a cost segregation study will provide your business with an audit trail of all costs and asset classifications. This will help put to rest any unwanted inquiry from the IRS in its early stages. Finally, during this process, you may identify possible ways to reduce your real estate tax liabilities as well.

While there are some costs associated with performing a cost segregation study, as long as the assets in question are valued over $200K, it’s worth the time and expense to complete the study and categorize these assets correctly.

If you are tired of overpaying taxes, then call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steven Graber.

 

Graber & Associates is a Certified Public Accounting firm in Baltimore.  We have been operating since 1993 and have offices in Downtown Baltimore – Inner Harbor and Pikesville.  Learn more about our real estate accounting services.

Tax Rules on Vacation Home Rentals

Vaca Home RentalsIf you have ever considered renting out your vacation home, before you do there are several tax rules you will need to keep in mind to help you stay on the right side of the IRS. Luckily, they aren’t too complex, but they will guide you in determining how you want to use your vacation home.

Number of Rental Day’s Per Year

It is important to understand that the number of days you rent your vacation home has a direct impact on how the IRS views the property. For example, if you rent your vacation home for 14 or fewer days, you will not need to report the income on your taxes.

If, however, you decide to rent your home for more than 14 days, you become a landlord, and all rental income will need to be reported. You can also deduct rental expenses, but keep in mind, the expenses will need to be allocated between when the home is used as a rental property and when the home is used for personal vacations.

Finally, if you use the home more than 10% of the number of days it is rented, or more than 14 days for personal use, it is still considered personal property, but you are allowed to take a deduction for rental expenses up to the amount of rental income received; although, losses cannot be taken as a deduction.

The Definition of Personal Use Days

What becomes most important, besides the number of days you rent the home, is the number of personal use days. Even when a family member is occupying the home, instead of yourself, the IRS considers those days personal use, regardless of whether or not the family member is paying rent. This is also true of days you donate the home to a charity auction.

The advantage to keeping your personal days to 14 days or less or 10% of the rental days is that the home is then considered a business. As such, you can deduct expenses and take up to a $25,000 loss each year you rent the property depending on your income. It’s important to know that the days you spend maintaining the property are not included in personal use days.

If you are tired of overpaying taxes and worrying about tax rules, call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steven Graber.  We have two convenient office locations and have been serving the Baltimore metro since 1993.

 

Graber & Associates is a Baltimore CPA Accounting firm with offices on International Drive in the Legg Mason Building and Pikesville.  Our practice offers additional expertise in real estate accounting for commercial property owners, investor groups, property management companies and investor groups.

 

IRS Treatment of Bitcoin Payments

BitcoinIf you’ve paid attention to the news the last few years, you will have heard of Bitcoins. In fact, you may even have considered accepting them as payment for services or product sales. Before you do, you’ll want to make sure you have an understanding of how the IRS treats Bitcoin payments.

First, it’s important to be aware of the fact that the IRS does not consider Bitcoins, which are virtual currency, as a legitimate state-backed currency. Instead, they see Bitcoins as property.

This means that the tax rules that apply to property transactions will also apply to payments received in Bitcoins. When a person, or business acquires property, they are required to record the fair market value of the property. This will become the owner’s basis for the property.

Once the property is sold or exchanged, if the fair market value of the property has increased, then the owner will have a taxable gain. On the other hand, if it has decreased in value, the owner will have a loss.

This means that if a business owner sells a product today and receives Bitcoins worth $100 but then converts them to dollars next week and the value has increased to $120, they will have a gain of $20 that will be taxed as capital gains.

This becomes even more complicated when multiple Bitcoin transactions take place. Each transaction needs to be tracked separately and each will have its own gain or loss depending on the current valuation of Bitcoins when they are converted to dollars.  The amount of paperwork and record-keeping becomes significant.

There are a couple of workarounds for this. First, each transaction can be converted to dollars immediately. Secondly, there are now Bitcoin merchant service providers that will deal with all of the backend record-keeping that is necessary. This allows businesses to accept Bitcoins without ever actually dealing with them.

The IRS ruling treating Bitcoins as property turned the Bitcoin world and those who want to accept them on their heads, but technology and even the IRS will eventually catch up to the new reality of virtual currencies, but it may take awhile.

Tax Extenders for Baltimore Businesses

Tax BreaksTax extenders are a group of fifty tax breaks that apply not only to small businesses but teachers and individuals as well. What you need to be concerned with are those that apply directly to small businesses. While these tax breaks are temporary in nature, they can have a serious impact on how you conduct your business for the next year.

In 2013, these tax breaks actually expired on December 31st, but the United States Congress retroactively extended the tax breaks into 2014. They typically do this at the last moment of the year, or right after the first of the new year, making it difficult for small businesses to plan ahead. These tax breaks are also only renewed for one year meaning they will have need to extend them again before the end of 2014, so they can carry over into 2015.

Currently, the tax extenders for small businesses include such items as a work opportunity tax credit of $1,375, a 15-year straight line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements for restaurant and retail establishments of $2,382, and bonus depreciation of $1,492.

Additional tax extenders include:

  • Exclusion of 100% of gain on certain types of small business stocks
  • A reduction in the S Corporation recognition period for built-in gains tax
  • Qualified zone academy bonds
  • An employer wage credit for activated military reservists
  • A new market tax credit

While not all tax extenders are good policy for the government or businesses, some of the tax breaks do help level the playing field and provide companies a way to define actual business expenses with less effort.

If you are tired of overpaying taxes, then call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steve Graber.  Our initial consultation for small businesses is free.  

 

Graber & Associates is a full service Baltimore CPA Firm.  Our firm has been servicing small businesses and individuals throughout Baltimore for over twenty years.  We provide two convenient office locations, Downtown Inner Harbor on International Drive and Park Heights near Pikesville MD.

Corporate Inversions – This Loophole Needs Fixing

A corporate inversion, simply put, is a method corporations use to reduce their tax responsibilities. While this loophole may present a sound tax solution for the corporation in question, it has a direct impact on tax revenue collected by the United States government, as well as on competition between companies.

Corp InversionsA corporate inversion takes place when a U.S. corporation renounces it’s citizenship by merging with a smaller company in a foreign country. This country typically has a more favorable corporate tax structure as well as tax rules that allow the U.S. corporation to reduce its tax burden.

Once the corporation merges with the foreign entity, it declares the new country as its place of residency. At that point, the United States can no longer impose or collect taxes on the corporation for future or past income. While this may be a positive situation for the company, it does has a negative effect as it reduces tax revenue for the U.S. as well as creates an atmosphere of unbalanced competition between corporations that have transacted an inversion and those that have not.

Over the last decade, corporate migration has increased to the point that now only one-tenth of total tax revenues collected come from corporations. That’s down from one-third in the 1950s. In fact, in the past ten years, a total of 47 U.S. corporations have performed corporate inversions and changed their legal residences to countries outside of the United States.

While it stands to reason that a corporation should do all it can to reduce its tax burden, and it could even argue that doing so is its fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders, this particular tax loophole is stripping tax revenues from the U.S. government at an unsustainable rate.

In addition it is also pitting the corporations that have made an inversion against the corporations that have not creating a toxic business environment which is why this is one loophole that needs to be fixed.

 

Most Hated Tax – Alternative Minimum Tax

AMTThe AMT, also known as the alternative minimum tax, is one of the most hated taxes in the United States and for good reason. For those individuals above a certain threshold of taxable income, or corporations, trusts, and estates, the AMT creates a higher tax burden beyond that imposed on those that fall under the threshold.

The alternative minimum tax was first originated with the thought that those individuals and corporations in the higher tax bracket were able to find and utilize large tax breaks that the middle class could not. It was decided that the AMT would ensure that those with the highest incomes would pay a minimum tax rate regardless of the tax breaks and loopholes they may have available to them.

The current AMT was enacted in 1982 and is applied to all taxable income when an individual or entity’s taxable income falls above a pre-determined level. In 2013, that level was tied to inflation, or CPI rates.

As it stands now, the alternative minimum tax rates are 26 and 28%, and to determine whether or not you are subject to regular tax rates or the AMT rates, you would be required to calculate your taxes twice. This can become problematic as the AMT does not allow the same deductions as the regular tax does, so your adjusted income levels will be different.

The bottom line is you will be required to pay the higher of the two rates. It can become quite complicated to determine if you are subject to the AMT as well as what deductions are allowed and which are not. Often, the best course of action is to contact a qualified tax accountant to walk you through the process.

The AMT is hated for good reason. It’s complicated and some would say creates a separate class of citizens that is being penalized for their financial success.

If you are tired of overpaying taxes, call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steve Graber.  Our goal is to minimize your tax liability within the legal limits.

3 Tasks Entrepreneurs are Better Outsourcing

Outsource

 

As a business owner, it can be difficult to delegate important tasks. When you complete them yourself, you know they will be done correctly and in a timely manner. Even so, if you want your business to grow, and keep expenses low, there are three tasks that you should consider outsourcing.

Website and Graphic Design

By outsourcing your website and graphic design, you will have access to an expert in the field, on demand. The person or company you outsource to will have the equipment, experience, training and knowledge to provide you with design concepts that would otherwise be beyond your reach.

You will also receive a professional product which is doubly important as your website is your online business card. This is one area that you want and need a professional’s assistance.

Payroll

As your company grows, the complexities of your payroll grow as well. In addition to saving time and money, payroll is one area of your business that the government takes great interest in. Payroll specialists make it their job to stay current in government regulations which means they will keep you and your company compliant.

In addition, payroll companies can provide you and your employees with an added layer of security. This can reduce the risk of embezzlement, identity theft, and interference, by an employee, with company records for financial gain.

Accounting and Tax Returns

Much like payroll, your accounting and tax returns are not an area of your business where you can afford errors. Without specialized tax knowledge, you run the risk of missing deductions leading to paying higher taxes than necessary or to making errors that result in penalties.

One of the main benefits of outsourcing any task is that while you may pay more per hour for the task to be completed, you will save much more money, in the long run, than if you hired a full-time employee when you take into consideration salary, benefits, taxes, health insurance, as well as the overhead to provide space for the employee to work. In the end, outsourcing can be a cost efficient way to expand your business.

If you would like to outsource accounting, tax reporting or payroll processing, then call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steve Graber.  Our initial consultation if free.

 

Graber & Associates is a Baltimore CPA Firm with two convenient offices.  We service all types of small businesses throughout Baltimore and surrounding suburbs.