410-466-3779

Baltimore CPA Accountant

Steven J. Graber-Top Accounting Consultant of 2018

Steven J. Graber has been selected as one of Fit Small Business’s Top Accounting Consultants of 2018. Fit Small Business scoured the web looking for quality accounting consultants that have outstanding expertise, services, and credentials in the accounting industry.

Fit Small Business’s featured article, 2018 Top Accounting Consultants in the U.S.


Steven J. Graber, CPA, MS is the principal of Graber & Associates, Certified Public Accountancy. The firm, which was founded in July of 1993, provides complete tax services as well as financial statement preparation, financial projections, cash flow management, business valuation services and business development planning. These services are provided to a wide variety of businesses in the Baltimore Metropolitan Area.

Aside from his profession responsibilities, Mr. Graber extends pro bono assistance to numerous non-profit social and educational organizations. Steve is a contributing author of “57 Ways to Grow Your Business, Bright Ideas for Serious Entrepreneurs”.

The Repair Regulations — Opportunities for Businesses

IRS3The IRS allows business owners to deduct the ordinary and necessary expenses of operating a business each year. However, business owners also are required to capitalize the costs associated with acquiring, producing, and improving tangible property used in their businesses (such as equipment, supplies, buildings, etc.). Because these two rules had often proved difficult to reconcile, the IRS issued new final regulations in 2013 clarifying how the rules apply. Though these regulations are extensive and complex, small business owners should be aware of some of the opportunities they provide.

General Rules

The regulations delineate when you may deduct and when you must capitalize amounts paid to acquire, produce, or improve tangible property. Generally, amounts paid to improve a unit of property must be capitalized, while amounts paid for repairs and maintenance, as well as for materials and supplies consumed during the year, may be deducted.

Safe Harbor for De Minimis Expenditures

Qualifying businesses may elect to use a de minimis safe harbor that allows them to deduct costs incurred to acquire or produce tangible property in amounts of up to either $5,000 or $500 per item or invoice. The higher limit is available for taxpayers with an applicable financial statement (AFS). An AFS can be a certified audited financial statement used for nontax purposes, such as for obtaining credit. If you don’t have an AFS, you may still qualify for the $500 safe harbor if you expense amounts in accordance with a consistent accounting procedure in place at the beginning of the tax year.

Use of the safe harbor does not limit the ability to otherwise deduct amounts paid for incidental materials and supplies or for repairs and maintenance. Rather, it is an administrative convenience to allow expensing of smaller items without analyzing each one under the relevant rules.

Safe Harbor for Routine Maintenance

You may deduct amounts paid for recurring activities that keep your business property in its ordinarily efficient operating condition. For buildings and their systems, you must reasonably expect to perform the maintenance more than once during the 10-year period beginning at the time the property is placed in service. For other property, you must expect to perform the maintenance more than once during the property’s class life used for depreciation purposes.

Safe Harbor for Small Taxpayers 

Qualifying small businesses may also deduct the costs of work performed on a building with an unadjusted basis of less than $1 million. To qualify for the safe harbor, the business must have average annual gross receipts of less than $10 million. Additionally, the total amount paid during the taxable year for the building’s repairs, maintenance, and/or improvements may not exceed the lesser of $10,000 or 2% of the unadjusted basis of the eligible building property. The building may be owned or leased.

Additional restrictions may apply for you to qualify for these safe harbors. Contact us if we can help you determine how the final regulations apply to you.

If you would like to become more aggressive on lowering your taxes and worry less about trying to manage this yourself, call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steven Graber.

 

Graber & Associates is a Baltimore CPA Accounting firm that has operated since 1993.  We provide two convenient office locations, International Drive in the Inner Harbor area and Park Heights Avenue near Pimlico, to better serve our clients throughout the broader Baltimore metro.

Payroll Taxes – Do NOT Touch

There is zero wiggle room when it comes to handling the federal income taxes and FICA taxes withheld from employees’ paychecks. The taxes are government property, which employers hold “in trust” and then remit to the IRS on a set schedule. Employers are not permitted to use this “trust fund” money for other purposes.

Serious Penalty

Payroll TaxThe penalty for breaking the rules is harsh. Any person involved in collecting, accounting for, or paying the trust fund taxes — a “responsible person” — who willfully fails to do so may be liable for a penalty equal to 100% of the unpaid taxes. The penalty is aggressively enforced.

Responsible Persons

Generally, a responsible person is anyone with the power to see that the taxes are paid. This might include a corporation’s officers, directors, and shareholders; employees; and the partners in a partnership. Under certain circumstances, even family members and professional advisors may be subject to the penalty.

It’s not uncommon for there to be more than one responsible person. When that’s the case, each responsible person could be found liable for the full penalty.

A Word About Willful

Failure to pay trust fund taxes can be willful without being an intentional attempt to evade paying the taxes. Temporarily “borrowing” from the trust fund to meet bona fide business expenses in a pinch can qualify as being willful.

If you would like to become more aggressive on lowering your taxes and worry less about the audits and fines, call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steven Graber.

 

Graber & Associates is a Baltimore CPA Accounting firm that has operated since 1993.  We provide two convenient office locations, International Drive in the Inner Harbor area and Park Heights Avenue near Pimlico, to better serve our clients throughout the broader Baltimore metro.

Business Start-up Costs — What’s Deductible?

Start UpLaunching a new business takes hard work — and money. Costs for market surveys, travel to line up potential distributors and suppliers, advertising, hiring employees, training, and other expenses incurred before a business is officially launched can add up to a substantial amount.

The tax law places certain limitations on tax deductions for start-up expenses.

  • No deduction is available until the business becomes active.
  • Up to $5,000 of accumulated start-up expenses may be deducted in the tax year in which the active business begins. This $5,000 limit is reduced (but not below zero) by the excess of total start-up costs over $50,000.
  • Any remaining start-up expenses may be deducted ratably over the 180-month period beginning with the month in which the active business begins.

Example. Gina spent $20,000 on start-up costs before her new business began on July 1, 2015. In 2015, she may deduct $5,000 and the portion of the remaining $15,000 allocable to July through December of 2015 ($15,000/180 × 6 = $500), a total of $5,500. The remaining $14,500 may be deducted ratably over the remaining 174 months.

Instead of deducting start-up costs, a business may elect to capitalize them (treat them as an asset on the balance sheet). Deductions for “organization expenses” — such as legal and accounting fees for services related to forming a corporation or partnership — are subject to similar rules.

If you would like to become more aggressive on lowering your taxes and worry less about trying to manage this yourself, call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steven Graber.

 

Graber & Associates is a Baltimore CPA Accounting firm that has operated since 1993.  We provide two convenient office locations, International Drive in the Inner Harbor area and Park Heights Avenue near Pimlico, to better serve our clients throughout the broader Baltimore metro.

 

New Tax Law Provisions and Twists

Last summer’s highway trust fund extension law* includes a few important federal tax provisions that affect business and individual taxpayers.

Return due dates

The new law accelerates the filing deadline for partnership returns by one month, effective with returns for tax years that begin after December 31, 2015. As a result, the due date for partnership returns will be the fifteenth day of the third month after the end of the partnership’s tax year — March 15 for a partnership with a calendar year.

C corporations will have an additional month to file their returns, generally effective with returns for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015. As a result, C corporation returns will be due by the fifteenth day of the fourth month after the end of the tax year (by April 15 for a C corporation with a calendar year). The extended deadline doesn’t take effect until tax years beginning after December 31, 2025, for C corporations with fiscal years ending on June 30.

Basis reporting

For federal estate-tax purposes, property included in the gross estate is generally valued at its fair market value on the decedent’s date of death. That same fair market value then becomes the property’s income-tax basis in the hands of the person who acquires the property from the decedent.

The new law doesn’t change this rule. However, it requires the executor of any estate required to file a federal estate-tax return to furnish an information statement to the IRS and to each person receiving property from the estate. The statement must show the value of the property as reported on the return (and any other information the IRS may require). There are penalties for failure to file and for tax understatements resulting from inconsistencies in basis reporting.

Mortgage information returns

Under the new law, mortgage lenders must include additional items, such as the amount of principal outstanding at the beginning of the year, on information returns required to be furnished after December 31, 2016.

If you would like to become more aggressive on lowering your taxes and worry less about trying to manage this yourself, call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steven Graber.

 

Graber & Associates is a Baltimore CPA Accounting firm that has operated since 1993.  We provide two convenient office locations, International Drive in the Inner Harbor area and Park Heights Avenue near Pimlico, to better serve our clients throughout the broader Baltimore metro.

 

* Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Improvement Act of 2015

Baltimore Businesses – Lock In Tax Breaks

Tax BreaksIf you run a small business, you already have a full plate. The last thing you need is for the IRS to question any of your business expense deductions. But it could happen. And that’s why having records that prove your expenses is so important. Even deductions for routine business expenses could be disallowed if you don’t have appropriate records.

What Records Are Required?

Except in a few instances, the tax law does not require any special kind of records. You’re free to have a recordkeeping system that is suited to your business, as long as it clearly shows your expenses. In addition to books that allow you to track and summarize your business transactions, you should keep supporting documents, such as:

  • Canceled checks
  • Cash register receipts
  • Credit card sales slips
  • Invoices
  • Account statements

The rules are stricter for travel, entertainment, and transportation expenses. You should retain hotel bills or other documentary evidence (e.g., receipts, canceled checks) for each lodging expense and for any other expense of $75 or more. In addition, you should maintain a diary, log, or account book with the information described below.

Travel. Your records should show the cost of each separate expense for travel, lodging, and meals. For each trip, record your destination, the dates you left and returned, and the number of days spent on business. Also record the business purpose for the expense or the business benefit you gained or expected to gain. Incidental expenses, such as taxi fares, may be totaled in reasonable categories.

Entertainment. Record the date the entertainment took place and the amount of each separate expense, along with the name and address or location of the place of entertainment. Note the business purpose for the expense or the business benefit you gained or expected to gain and the nature of any business discussion or activity that took place. Also list the identities and occupations of the individuals you were entertaining or other information that indicates their business relationship to you.

If the entertainment was directly before or after a business discussion, be sure to indicate the date, place, nature, and duration of the discussion and the individuals who took part in both the discussion and the entertainment activity. For a business meal, you must prove that either you or your employee was present.

Transportation. As with travel and entertainment, you should record the amount and date of each separate expense. Note your business destination and the business purpose for the expense. If you are deducting actual car expenses, you’ll need to record the cost of the car and the date you started using it for business (for depreciation purposes). If you drive the car for both business and personal purposes or claim the standard mileage rate, keep records of the mileage for each business use and the total miles driven during the year.

Don’t Mix Business and Personal Expenses

Things can get tangled if you intermingle business and personal expenses. You can avoid headaches by having a separate business bank account and credit card.

If you would like to become more aggressive on lowering your taxes and worry less about trying to manage this yourself, call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steven Graber.  Our initial consultation is free for small business owners.

 

Graber & Associates is a Baltimore CPA Accounting firm that has operated since 1993.  We provide two convenient office locations, International Drive in the Inner Harbor area and Park Heights Avenue near Pimlico, to better serve our clients throughout the broader Baltimore metro.

Why Hire a QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor

QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisors are accountants that have gone through a rigorous training process developed by Intuit, the company that developed QuickBooks.  And at the end of this training, a series of tests must be passed in order to become certified.

QB Pros

Why Hire a Certified ProAdvisor? 

A Certified ProAdvisor can provide accounting and tax assistance well beyond a technical staff person at Intuit.  Often, they have extensive experience that can save you precious time and money rather than trying to figure out something yourself.

Graber QBSecond, a Certified ProAdvisor often knows what is currently available on the market today to solve your day-to-day challenges either with a QuickBooks product or another vendor that integrates with QuickBooks software.  Surprisingly, there are many apps and software vendors that make QuickBooks operate more effectively and save you time.

And third, a Certified ProAdvisor will attend conferences to learn what changes are around the corner.  For example, the cloud accounting changes to QuickBooks are rapidly changing so staying abreast of these changes will be key to better serving your business needs.

At Graber & Associates, we are QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisors and a Baltimore CPA Firm.  We have been serving the Baltimore market since 1993.  Our overall goal is to minimize your tax obligations legally and QuickBooks is a tool to help us minimize your taxes.  To learn more, call 410-466-3779 and ask for Steven Graber, CPA.

To better service you, we have two convenient offices, International Drive in the Inner Harbor and in Baltimore near Pikesville.

Foreign Bank Account Reporting – IRS Priority List

IRSIf you have a foreign bank account that has not been reported to the IRS, then you could be facing serious civil penalties and even criminal penalties. These penalties fall under the Foreign Bank Account Report, FBAR violations.

To illustrate, the IRS Dirty Dozen tax scam list for 2016 clearly illustrates the emphasis placed upon hiding money or foreign bank accounts (see excerpt below).

The Internal Revenue Service today said avoiding taxes by hiding money or assets in unreported offshore accounts remains on its annual list of tax scams known as the “Dirty Dozen” for the 2015 filing season.

“Our continued enforcement actions should discourage anyone from trying to illegally hide money and income offshore,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We have voluntary options to help taxpayers get their taxes and filing obligations in order.”

Since the first Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) opened in 2009, there have been more than 54,000 disclosures and we have collected more than $8 billion from this initiative alone. The IRS conducted thousands of offshore-related civil audits that have produced tens of millions of dollars. The IRS has also pursued criminal charges leading to billions of dollars in criminal fines and restitutions.

The IRS continues to beat this drum more aggressively each year. If you would like to discuss this situation, simply call 410-466-3779 and ask for Stephen Graber, CPA.  

 

Graber CPA is a full service CPA Accounting Firm with two offices in Baltimore to better serve you, Pikesville and Inner Harbor on International Drive (Legg Mason Tower).  Regardless of your situation, our goal is to minimize your tax obligation within the legal guidelines.  We have served the Baltimore community since 1993 and we are experts in taxation.

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.