The 1040 Gets A New Look

The Internal Revenue Service has released the redesigned Form 1040, along with six related tax schedules, for next tax season after changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act promised to simplify the tax preparation process.

The Republicans promised a postcard size form and the form, although bigger than a postcard, is shorter, but very deceiving. The prior form 1040, used through 2017, had 79 lines on the front and back, pages 1 and 2. What the new form has done is to push 56 of those lines onto 6 separate schedules to the form 1040.

So, for instance, Schedule 1, Additional Income and Adjustments to Income, is for taxpayers who have to report additional income, such as capital gains, unemployment compensation, prize or award money, or gambling winnings, or who have any deductions to claim, such as student loan interest deduction, educator expenses or self-employment taxes.

Schedule 2, Tax, is for those who are subject to the alternative minimum tax or need to make an excess advance premium tax credit repayment.

Schedule 3, Nonrefundable Credits, is for taxpayers who can claim a nonrefundable credit besides the child tax credit or the credit for other dependents, such as the foreign tax credit, education credits or the general business credit.

Schedule 4, Other Taxes, is for taxpayers who owe other taxes, such as self-employment tax, household employment taxes, additional tax on individual retirement accounts or other qualified retirement plans and tax-favored accounts.

Schedule 5, Other Payments and Refundable Credits, is for taxpayers who can claim a refundable credit aside from the Earned Income Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. They may also have other payments, such as an amount paid with a request for an extension to file, or they want to report excess social security tax withheld.

Schedule 6, Foreign Address and Third Party Designee, is for taxpayers who have a foreign address or a third-party designee other than their paid tax preparer.

The most incredible aspect of this new approach to the complex requirements of form 1040, is the new IRS Section 199A which deals with the possible 20% deduction for “Qualified Business Income” (QBI) for taxpayers who are sole proprietors, or have ownerships in “pass-through” entities such as LLCs, and S Corporations. This extremely complex new deduction is listed on line 9 of the new 1040, and in parentheses is “see instructions”. However, as of January the IRS has not produced the instructions for  QBI or any other schedules or forms of form 1040.

See our blog posting on QBI. Since the regulations regarding this very complex code section have just been released, we will be posting blogs frequently on the most important aspects of this new tax provision.

Please call us if we can be of assistance in explaining and aspects of the new form 1040 and/or the new tax law and how it affects you. Since the IRS has not issued the final forms or instructions, we will have to wait until they do before any tax returns can be filed.

Clarification of deductibility of food and beverage expenses under the new tax law

The IRS on Wednesday issued guidance clarifying that taxpayers may generally continue to deduct 50% of the food and beverage expenses associated with operating their trade or business, despite changes to the meal and entertainment expense deduction under Sec. 274 made by the tax law known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), P.L. 115-97 (Notice 2018-76). According to the IRS, the amendments specifically deny deductions for expenses for entertainment, amusement, or recreation, but do not address the deductibility of expenses for business meals. This omission has created a lot of confusion in the business community, which the IRS is addressing in this interim guidance. Taxpayers can rely on the guidance in the notice until the IRS issues proposed regulations.

Sec. 274(k), which was not amended by the TCJA, does not allow a deduction for the expense of any food or beverages unless (1) the expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances, and (2) the taxpayer (or an employee of the taxpayer) is present when the food or beverages are furnished. Sec. 274(n)(1), which was amended by the TCJA, generally provides that the amount allowable as a deduction for any expense for food or beverages cannot exceed 50% of the amount of the expense that otherwise would be allowable.

Under the interim guidance, taxpayers may deduct 50% of an otherwise allowable business meal expense if:

  1. The expense is an ordinary and necessary business expense under Sec. 162(a) paid or incurred during the tax year when carrying on any trade or business;
  2. The expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances;
  3. The taxpayer, or an employee of the taxpayer, is present when the food or beverages are furnished;
  4. The food and beverages are provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant, or similar business contact; and
  5. For food and beverages provided during or at an entertainment activity, they are purchased separately from the entertainment, or the cost of the food and beverages is stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices, or receipts.

The IRS will not allow the entertainment disallowance rule to be circumvented through inflating the amount charged for food and beverages.

The notice contains three examples illustrating how the IRS intends to interpret these rules. All three examples involve attending a sporting event with a business client and having food and drink while attending the game. The examples follow the AICPA’s recommendation that meal expenses be deductible when their costs are separately stated from the cost of the entertainment.

The IRS plans to issue proposed regulations and is requesting comments by Dec. 2 on the notice. It is also asking for comments on:

  • Whether further guidance is needed to clarify the interaction of Sec. 274(a)(1)(A) entertainment expenses and business meal expenses.
  • Whether the definition of entertainment in Regs. Sec. 1.274-2(b)(1)(i) should be retained and, if so, whether it should be revised.
  • Whether the objective test in Regs. Sec. 1.274-2(b)(1)(ii) should be retained and, if so, whether it should be revised.
  • Whether the IRS should provide more examples in the regulations.

Marshall Jones participates in Alpharetta Mayor’s Corporate Challenge

August 23, 2018 the team at Marshall Jones & Co participated in the Alpharetta Mayor’s Corporate Challenge 5k 2018. The Alpharetta Mayor’s Corporate Challenge raises over $100,000 each year to fund service projects in the area and around the world. A large amount of our team resides in Alpharetta and we loved being able to support the community plus improve our health! Charlie even won a medal for placing 2nd in his age group!

Greg Logan and daughter Lorelei participated in the Kids Fun Run together

Greg Logan and Anna Gusalova still smiling after running!

Charlie Jones and his prized medal!

The Most Talked About Provision of the TCJA

For business owners or individuals who have investments in businesses, the most talked about provision of the new tax law is IRC Section 199 (a)

Since the new law gives C corporations a flat rate of 21%, Congress felt the need to give a tax break to other businesses that are commonly known as “pass through entities”. S Corporations, LLC’s, LLP’s, partnerships, etc.

So, Section 199 (a) was created to accommodate this. It’s very complicated. What it basically says is that an entity’s  “Qualified Business Income (QBI)” MAY qualify for a 20% deduction. But there are tons of exceptions, limitations, and complications.

For instance: Specified Service Businesses (doctors, accountants, consultants, and many more) are limited in their QBI calculations to $415,000 (married filing jointly. MFJ). So a doctor who has QBI of $414,999, can get a 20% deduction of that number, or $82,999 deduction from taxable income. If the same doctor had QBI of 415,001, he/she would get no deduction.

The IRS has just (July 2018) released “proposed” regulations which try to clarify many of the complications. For instance. Does the income from a rental property qualify as QBI? The IRS’s answer is “it depends”. Can you aggregate QBI income from multiple entities that you have interests in? “It depends”.

We will be issuing a series of blog articles dealing with the most common of the items that are affecting most individuals and businesses. Please call us if you have any specific questions. There are planning opportunities for 2018 that can have a large effect of those who come under 199 (a).

Breaking news on cryptocurrency

The introduction of a cryptocurrency ETF (Exchange Traded fund) could catalyze an influx of institutional capital and open a new channel for investment in the sector. On June 26, 2018, the SEC received an application from Cboe Futures Exchange to launch the world’s first Bitcoin ETF

One of the first to launch Bitcoin futures, CBOE (Chicago Board Options Exchange) Global Markets has partnered with Van Eyck Investment and SolidX to introduce a Bitcoin ETF to global markets.

On June 26, the SEC received an application by CBOE to offer clients the buying and selling of SolidX shares, which are currently valued at approximately 25 bitcoin. If approved, accredited investors will be able to trade a Bitcoin ETF in the form of baskets of 5 SolidX shares (100 bitcoin) on the CBOE exchange.

This is one of the biggest news items since the advent of the Bitcoin several years ago. What this basically means is that an investor will be able to invest in cryptos by investing in the stock market through ETFs, and not buy cryptos individually.

Note that the most significant item regarding Bitcoin was the invention of the Blockchain, the technology that allows cryptos and many, many other things to be transferred totally secured over the Internet. This is why the large banks, accounting firms, brokerage firms and real estate companies are investing heavily in this technology. For instance, Etherum, the second largest crypto, has nothing at all to do with currency. It’s a platform for companies to build “smart contract” applications.

Gaining Understanding of the Blockchain

We should think of the Blockchain as another class of thing like the Internet – a comprehensive information technology with tiered technical levels and multiple classes of applications for any form of asset registry, inventory, and exchange, including every area of finance, economics, and money; hard assets (physical property, homes, cars); and intangible assets (votes, ideas, reputation, intention, health data, information, etc.). But the blockchain concept is even more; it is a new organizing paradigm for the discovery, valuation, and transfer of all quants data (discrete units) of anything, and potentially for the coordination of all human activity at a much larger scale than has ever been possible before. This technology has a built-in ‘robustness’ as it stores blocks of information that are identical across its network and can be controlled by any single entity and has no single points of failure. The days of hearing large corporations make public statements  about data breach are long gone. Blockchain technology is the platform that was invented to allow Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to function. Bitcoin was invented in 2008 and since then has not had one significant disruption.  This will also lead to the idea of decentralization. Blockchain technology is managed by a network, not one central authority. Stock market trades will become simultaneous and will basically eliminate the need of record keeping.

So, how does this pertain to you? The Blockchain does not need to be necessarily understood for it to provide use in your life. Before using the internet did you actually understand how it works? Probably not, but you used it. Think about the amount of money spent on money transfers. In 2015 the World Bank estimates over $430 billion was sent via money transfer. With the Blockchain this would basically eliminate the middleman. While it may seem foreign now it  will soon become a large part of everyday life.

 

Tax Reform: Effects on Financial Planning

The recently passed tax reform bill has received a considerable amount of press, and for good reason. As the most comprehensive tax reform in over 30 years, the new tax laws will impact every individual & business in America. Its impact also extends to the way we approach financial planning for our clients.

Estate Planning

The most significant change in regards to estate planning is the doubling of the Estate & Gift Tax Exemption. Beginning in 2018, this means that individuals will be able to claim exemptions up to $11.2 million, and $22.4 million for couples. For many high net worth individuals, this could simplify estate planning, as only amounts over the exemption limits will be subject to Federal tax. This provision is set to expire at the end of 2025, at which time the exemption amounts will revert to their pre-2018 levels, with inflation adjustments.

Charitable Giving

For those who are charitably inclined, the doubling of the standard deduction means that giving levels may need to be increased in order to receive a tax benefit. For a married couple, if itemized deductions are under the new standard deduction amount of $24,000, there will be no tax benefit to itemizing. For individuals, this limit will be $12,000. In order to maximize the tax benefits, donors may want to consider the use of a Donor Advised Fund. A Donor Advised Fund allows taxpayers to contribute an amount of their choosing to the fund and take a tax deduction for the full amount in the year the contribution is made. They may then choose to direct gifts from the Donor Advised Fund to specific charities over an extended time frame.

The annual gift tax exclusion has also been increased to $15,000 per person for 2018, meaning that couples can gift up to $30,000 per year without incurring any tax, and without using any of their lifetime exemption amount. Single taxpayers can gift up to $15,000 per person.

IRA Recharacterizations

Under the new tax bill, the ability to recharacterize a Roth conversion is eliminated. Previously, taxpayers had up until the tax filing deadline plus extensions to recharacterize any amount converted from a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, if the account had fallen in value, or if the amount converted results in a higher tax than originally anticipated. Under the new laws, this will no longer be allowed. This is one of the few permanent changes within the bill. Note that this change only applies to the recharacterization of Roth conversions; contributions to either Traditional IRAs or Roth IRAs are still able to be recharacterized.

For planning purposes, this means that individuals wishing to convert need to be certain of their ability and willingness to pay the taxes. It will also likely lead to more conservative recommendations regarding the amount to convert in a given year. As always, a potential Roth conversion should be discussed with a tax professional prior to implementing.

Distributions from 529 Plans

Distributions from 529 Plans of up to $10,000 per year, per individual used for the cost of K-12 expenses will now be considered qualified and therefore will be non-taxable. Funds may be used for students enrolled in public, private or religious school. Post-secondary education expenses remain qualified.

While many of the changes within the tax reform bill are temporary and will revert back after 2025, some changes are permanent, including the increase in standard deduction, the elimination of the personal exemptions, the elimination of the ability to recharacterize Roth IRA conversions, and the changes regarding the use of 529 Plan funds.

Effect of new taw law on economy.

New tax law having positive effect on economy

According to the Wall Street Journal, July 13, 2018. The effect of the new tax law can be seen in June government statistics. According to the U. S. Treasury, tax revenues fell 7% in June compared to June 2017. Corporations and Individuals are lowering their tax payments and withholdings due to the lower rates. Even though revenues fell, the budget deficit narrowed to $74.86 billion from June 2017 because of a 9% drop in government outlays.

Keeping Your R&D Credit

 

 

Business owners are often surprised to learn they may be able to claim the Research & Development tax credit.

The credit was originally created as way to encourage American companies to conduct R&D activities domestically. While initially thought to apply to large companies with formal R&D departments, “smaller businesses” in a wide range of industries, such as manufacturing, engineering, software development, architecture, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and defense, metal foundries, chemical companies and others, have discovered they can also claim the benefit. However, it’s important to be aware of best practices when claiming the credit, especially in areas where issues commonly arise, such as a lack of supporting documentation. Mistakes in documenting qualified research can result in missed opportunities and create problems should the company be selected for an IRS audit.

 

 

Common Documentation Mistakes

  • Lack of supporting documentation: R&D tax credit studies are at their weakest when they lack contemporaneous supporting documentation. Studies are often performed after the tax year is closed out. Some studies simply comprise a report that summarizes the findings and a brief description, if any, of the qualifying business component. One of the objectives of an R&D tax credit study should be to answer a common question under audit: Why does this business component qualify? In order to properly address this question, it’s important to take a fluid approach to documentation. No two taxpayers are the same. No two projects are the same. As such, taxpayers may need to be creative in the identification of documents that show how projects meet the qualification criteria with specific emphasis on the presence of uncertainty and experimentation. Information such as project records, lab notes, design drawings, photos of the design/build and testing trials, prototypes and patent applications are needed to corroborate customary R&D expenses. Having access to this information is especially helpful in the event of an IRS audit.

 

  • Informal documentation process: If a company is considering claiming the R&D tax credit for a project, it would be useful to implement a formal documentation process before beginning. Because many companies don’t understand who should be documenting, what they should be documenting and when the process should be occurring, it’s often left as a task to complete at year-end. When this happens, a single person is often assigned the task of poring over hundreds of documents to find proof of qualifying expenses. The result is that expenses are often missed, and the potential credit value is diminished. To overcome this, a best practice would be to implement a process that collects relevant information on an ongoing basis, while the R&D activities are occurring. The more thorough the process, the greater the likelihood that qualifying expenses will be captured and used appropriately when claiming the credit.

 

  • Lack of clarity: A common issue in the documentation process is that it’s unclear how the various expenses, personnel or other items relate to the R&D project. Remember that an IRS agent will not be familiar with your business, product or research process. Because they will be the primary judge of whether an expense qualifies toward the R&D credit, it’s essential to ensure the relationship between the expense and qualifying activity is clear. Avoid incomplete or inadequate descriptions, general statements that sound canned, and documentation that is not clearly related to the project. The more you rely on an IRS auditor to figure out how your documentation supports expenses, the greater the risk of exposure.

Charlie Jones featured on Atlanta’s ‘Shrimp Tank’

Last week, our company was invited to be on the national broadcast The Shrimp Tank which is produced here in Atlanta, GA. We had a great time on the show and gave lots of tidbits and nuggets to all of the listeners on how to become a better business owner.

To that end, we wanted to share the post show wrap up video that was shot on site and say thanks to all of you for allowing us to work with you. None of this could be possible without having the best clients on the planet!

If you want to hear a download of the full broadcast, please go to www.shrimptankpodcast.com. They have the entire show on the website and some fascinating articles to read as well.

Thanks again for all of your support for our company.