Taxes can be a confusing time for anyone; especially small to medium corporations that have a lot of tax paperwork to deal with but are wearing many different hats. (P.S. That’s why you should outsource!) We are here to help you this tax season. Let’s go over some of the most common questions our clients ask us around this time.Read More
The best way to make the most of this year is to prepare for it now.
First thing: Review 2019’s deadlines.
Know when everything is due. One of the key tasks for any new year is preparing to file your tax returns. Even though taxes can be tricky to understand, at least the deadlines are clear. So make sure you know the deadlines that apply to you; this way, you can plan ahead to make sure you meet your tax obligation and get all the required paperwork to your accountant.
Important Tax Dates for 2019
Make last 2018 estimated tax payment
First day to e-file and first IRS acknowledgements of e-filed returns
Due date to file calendar year 2018 tax returns or request an automatic 6-month extension of time to file.
Last day to e-file timely returns and extension requests
First 2019 estimated tax payment due
Last day to re-transmit rejected timely filed returns and extensions
Second 2018 estimated tax payment due
Last day to e-file timely extension request for overseas taxpayers
Third 2018 estimated tax payment due
Final due date to file calendar year 2017 tax returns for taxpayers who received a 6-month extension
Last day to e-file returns that received 6-month extension
Last day to re-transmit rejected late or extension returns
2018 Was a Big Year in the Tax World
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) went into effect on January 1, 2018, bringing a lot of changes for small businesses. The new low corporate tax rate may have spurred you into changing your entity structure.
Confirm Employee Data
As businesses expand, it’s important to ensure employee records are kept current. In preparation for each new year, all employee records, compensation, and benefits should be updated so that the proper tax forms can be prepared and submitted. The same goes for contractors.
Conclusion: Boom! You’re ready for 2019.
Sharp Point encourage you to reach out to your accountant to confirm that you’ve successfully wrapped up 2018 and are ready to tackle 2019.
Happy New Year!
Small business owners, have you fully explored taking the home office deduction as a means of lowering your tax burden? This flowchart will help you determine if you qualify.
Itemized Deductions for Homeowners
The IRS defines a home as any house, condominium, cooperative, mobile home, boat, or similar property that has sleeping space, toilet facilities, and cooking facilities. Some homeowners qualify for these deductions.
Real Estate Taxes
You can deduct real estate taxes assessed on all the real estate you own. You are not limited to the tax on just one or two homes.
- Only the amount actually paid is deductible. Don’t confuse this amount with deposits made to your mortgage escrow account.
- Charges for trash collection, sewer, etc., are sometimes added to real estate tax bills. These amounts are not deductible as real estate taxes.
- Special assessments are sometimes added to real estate tax bills. Assessments are not necessarily deductible as real estate taxes.
If you borrow money to buy, build, or substantially improve your main or second home, the mortgage interest may be claimed as an itemized deduction on Schedule A.
Your lender will generally give you Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, to tell you how much interest you have paid.
- An explanation must be attached to your tax return if the amount shown on Form 1098 is different from the deducted amount or if more than one person paid deductible mortgage interest (other than a spouse filing jointly).
- If you did not receive Form 1098, you must provide the name, identifying number, and address of the interest recipient
A home mortgage is any loan secured by your main or second home, including first and second mortgages, home equity loans, and refinanced loans. The loan must be legally recorded, with the home as collateral for the debt. You must be legally liable to make the payments. For example, if you borrow money from your parents to make a down payment on your home, you cannot deduct the interest you pay them unless the loan is legally recorded with the home as collateral.
You may generally deduct the mortgage interest on your main home and a second home, up to the limits described below.
- A loan secured by a third home is a personal loan and the interest is not deductible. Interest on a third home used exclusively for business might be deductible as a business expense.
- Your mortgage interest deduction is limited, based on the type of debt you have.
Note: Slightly different rules apply to mortgages taken out before October 14, 1987.
Debt that is refinanced generally retains its character as acquisition or home equity debt, up to the old loan balance.
- Debt used to substantially improve your home is acquisition debt, even if it is refinanced home equity debt.
- Refinanced acquisition debt that exceeds your old debt may qualify as home equity debt.
Terms such as points, loan discount, loan origination fees, etc., refer to certain charges you might pay in order to obtain a mortgage. If you pay points to borrow money, the points are deductible as prepaid interest.
- Points are deductible ratably over the life of your loan. Points you pay at the time of your home purchase are deductible in full.
- Points you pay to the lender in exchange for a lower interest rate are generally shown on your closing statement. Each point charged to obtain a loan is 1% of the loan amount. For example, 2.5 points charged on a $100,000 loan equals $2,500 ($100,000 × 2.5%).
- Fees your lender charges for specific loan services are not deductible. Examples include appraisal, notary, and document fees.
Mortgage Insurance Premiums
Premiums paid for acquisition indebtedness for insurance contracts issued after December 31, 2006, on a first or second home are treated as deductible mortgage interest. The deduction begins to phase out when AGI exceeds $100,000 ($50,000 MFS). Qualified mortgage insurance providers include the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Federal Housing Administration, or the Rural Housing Service, and private mortgage insurance.
The deduction expires for premiums paid or accrued after December 31, 2016.
Medical Expense Deductions
You may need to make home improvements in order to provide medical care for yourself, your spouse, or your dependent. Examples: (1) Lifts or elevators, (2) therapy pool for help with a specific medical condition, (3) bathroom or countertop modifications to accommodate a person who is disabled, (4) ramps, handrails, support or grab bars, (5) modifications to halls and doorways.
An expense may generate a medical deduction to the extent the expense does not result in an increase to the home’s value. Not every expense results in such an increase.
Operation and Upkeep
Amounts you pay to operate and maintain a medically-related home improvement qualify as medical expenses, if the main reason is for medical care. This is true even if only part or none of the asset cost qualified for a deduction.
Other Itemized Deductions
Casualty and Theft Losses
If your home is damaged or destroyed due to an identifiable event that is sudden, unexpected, and unusual, you may have a casualty loss. Losses are calculated on Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts, and carried to Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
Business Use of the Home
If you use a home office as an employee, you may be able to claim a miscellaneous itemized deduction for the business use of your home.
- You must use your home office for the convenience of your employer.
- You may not rent your home office to your employer.
There are many events that occur during the year that can affect your tax situation. Preparation of your tax return involves summarizing transactions and events that occurred during the prior year. In most situations, treatment is firmly established at the time the transaction occurs. However, negative tax effects can be avoided by proper planning. Please contact us in advance if you have questions about the tax effects of a transaction or event, including the following:
- Pension or IRA distributions.
- Significant change in income or deductions.
- Job change.
- Attainment of age 59½ or 70½.
- Sale or purchase of a business.
- Sale or purchase of a residence or other real estate.
- Notice from IRS or other revenue department.
- Divorce or separation.
- Charitable contributions of property in excess of $5,000.
This blog post contains general information for taxpayers and should not be relied upon as the only source of authority. Taxpayers should seek professional tax advice for more information.
Steps to Take Now to Safeguard Your IdentityRead More
“It's not the will to win that matters...everyone has that. It's the will to prepare to win that matters.” Bear Bryant
Preparation is everything. From the victorious team at the Super Bowl to a business owner building a profitable venture, preparation is the key to success. For those hungry for business growth, an essential component of preparation is the willingness to fuel one’s inner fire with self-empowering knowledge. A life-long pursuit of personal growth helps entrepreneurs to perform at peak levels not only in the workplace, but in their home life too.
Your ability to perform at optimal levels is significantly enhanced when you make the continual effort to increase your knowledge base. Implementing the strategies gleaned from motivational books can have far-reaching effects on your business success. If you are a performance-focused entrepreneur determined to achieve better results, the following five books should be on your reading list:
The Secret Collaborative Economy - Marsha Wright
Marsha Wright’s The Secret Collaborative Economy will have you rethinking your approach to business. Instead of the traditional competitive business mindset, this powerful book espouses the wisdom of business owners collaborating with each other. The adage ‘a rising tide lifts all boats’ is applicable to the collaborative economy mindset. Entrepreneurs working with each other instead of in competition are capable of much greater achievement than those toiling alone. The Secret Collaborative Economy offers a goldmine of actionable tips on everything from cultivating relationships to strategic business partnerships.
Focus on Impact - Wendy Lipton-Dibner
Focus on Impact by Wendy Lipton-Dibner helps entrepreneurs and small business owners understand that true business success comes through a focus on making an impact in the lives of their customers. Rather than concentrating on closing the deal or making the sale, the most successful leaders focus on how their business can improves the lives of their customers. This ability to truly make an impact comes from understanding your own inner entrepreneurial drive and being fully aware of the ‘why’ that guides your business journey. Once you have read Focus on Impact you will understand how helping others to grow leads to profound personal growth at the same time.
Never Eat Alone - Keith Ferrazzi
Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone offers powerful insights on networking. It is through building a network of individuals you can help (with no concern for repayment of that help) that you facilitate your own growth as an entrepreneur or small business owner. Honing your ability to reach out to others and offer assistance grows your network as a by-product, not as a means to an end. While this book does contain some not so subtle #humblebrags, the author does get his point across that building a life as a successful business owner comes from focusing on the quality of those in your network not the number of social media followers you collect or the number of contacts in your smartphone.
The ONE Thing - Gary Keller with Jay Papasan
The ONE Thing from Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is a panacea for our crazy, busy, distracted lives. Instead of being consumed the myriad of items demanding our attention, The ONE Thing teaches you to narrow your focus on completing the one critical thing that will make the most difference. This ability to focus on doing a few select things well catapults you into accomplishing more than you imagined possible. If you are ready to put your multi-tasking ways behind you and accelerate your success, add this business guide book to your must-read list.
Grit to Great - Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval
If you are an entrepreneur who believes that success will just magically happen overnight, Grit to Great is not for you. If on the other hand you believe that true success comes to those who never say die and who find a way to make their dreams a reality regardless of the speed bumps along the way, then this essential read is for you. Grit to Great teaches you strategies to help strengthen your resiliency and power your tenacity. Warning: this is not a read for the weak-willed.
Just like a football player becomes an elite athlete by relentlessly practicing their sport and studying the winning plays of others, increasing your performance as an entrepreneur or small business owner comes from dedication and a willingness to apply growth-enabling information. These five must-read books will not only help hone your professional development, they will accelerate your personal growth too. Are you ready to supercharge your entrepreneurial spirit?
Click HERE to check the status of your Federal refund
When to check status of your refund:
- Within 24 hours after the IRS has received your e-filed tax return; or
- 4 weeks after mailing your paper return.
When the IRS processes your tax return and approves your refund, you can see your approximate date of refund deposit. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days after they receive your tax return, it’s possible your tax return may require additional review and take longer.
You should only call the IRS if it has been:
- 21 days or more since you filed electronically;
- More than 6 weeks since you mailed your paper return; or
- The Where’s My Refund? tool directs you to contact them.
Click HERE to check the status of your IL refund.
Select the blue "Individuals" button at the top of the page and click the "Where's My Refund?" link under "Individual Income Tax-related Items" in the left hand column.
The Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) is taking additional steps to protect Illinois taxpayers from identity theft and fraud. As a result of the new security measure, your refund may take longer than in previous years.
Small business owners are the kings of DIY and pride themselves on wearing many hats: marketing, managing, creating, IT, customer relations - the list goes on and on. The accessibility of financial software apps such as QuickBooks and Zero contributes to entrepreneurs’ belief that they should be doing their own bookkeeping too. Is spending time deep in the books a better use of your time than meeting with prospects and customers, finding new sales opportunities or developing your marketing plans? Chances are, you and only you can handle these all-important tasks, and finding a good bookkeeper will pay dividends in giving you the breathing room to engage in activities that are the lifeblood of your business. Add in the potential for saving money, and you will begin to wonder why you ever sat down with those piles of receipts to begin with.
Take Back Your Time
Outsourcing your bookkeeping tasks frees up valuable time which can be spent growing the business and developing critical systems – fundamental to bringing your business to the next level. At every stage of business, your time is money, and the hours you reclaim will allow you to concentrate on your core business, innate skills, and billable activities. Even if you have the necessary background and skills to complete the bookkeeping yourself, delegating the tasks will empower you and position you away from non-essential activities and towards customer-critical tasks.
Cutting Edge Expertise
Your business will benefit from full-time expertise without having to pay a full-time salary. By leveraging the knowledge base and experience of your outsourced bookkeeper, you will reap the benefits of best practices and efficiency that larger firms enjoy. An experienced bookkeeper is a highly skilled professional, and will be able to complete the job in less time while providing value through expert suggestions, comparisons to industry standards, and economies of scale. Tax and compliance regulations and technology change quickly – a bookkeeper who invests in training to stay current on issues and state-of-the-art solutions can reduce your risk and give you an important competitive advantage.
Better & More Timely Information
When your books are up-to-date, you have the necessary information at your fingertips to make informed decisions about your business. From applying for a loan to completing your annual workman’s comp audit, everything is more efficient with clean books. You can easily compare your monthly expenditures to your budget, and there’s the added benefit of having your information organized in a way that’s helpful when making forecasts. Estimating future income is always challenging, but the process is easier when you make your projections using sound historical data.
At first thought, you might be inclined to handle all your books yourself, or delegate the work to an existing employee. This may seem ideal on the surface – but consider what comes along with doing everything in-house. Unless you or another employee are experienced in bookkeeping, mistakes are inevitable – and the time to correct them can quickly outweigh the cost savings from not outsourcing. Outsourcing your bookkeeping means you won’t miss important payments, get behind on client invoicing, or make mistakes on critical compliance tasks such as filing payroll taxes and forms. These mistakes result in expensive penalties and interest, and cumbersome paperwork to fix the problems. While proper bookkeeping cannot guarantee you will never be subject to an audit, it may reduce your risk of being flagged for an audit. If you are audited, properly documented books will help you support your position with the IRS.
Every small business owner is looking to cut expenses, and hiring a bookkeeper seems counterintuitive to this goal. However, there are a number of ways in which professional assistance in this area can actually save you money. You will save money by having your books ready for year end with your tax accountant. You will save money by avoiding late fees. You will save money by not paying for hiring and training expenses, payroll taxes, employee benefits and IT equipment and support of an in-house employee. You will save money by not having to pay someone to fix your mistakes when it would have been cheaper and easier to have it done properly the first time. Finally, a dedicated bookkeeper is extremely focused on the tasks at hand instead of being distracted by other operational issues, so the hours you are paying for are all productive ones.
Outsourced bookkeeping allows you to expand or cut back as your needs require. A good bookkeeping firm will have the resources in place to start your project right away. A flexible service contract with your preferred vendor allows you to increase or reduce your level of service as your business requires. Hiring your own internal bookkeeper, by comparison, can take weeks or months and requires resources to train him and provide the support he needs. When you hire internally, you are committing to a dedicated payroll; with outsourced bookkeeping you pay only for what you need at the time.
Take the Next Step
When it comes down to it, finding a bookkeeper you trust can be extremely beneficial to you and your business; keeping costs down and allotting more time for you to attend to higher level matters in the company that require your particular area of expertise. You will want to make certain that your prospective bookkeeper has undergone a background check, has experience helping others in your industry, and has systems in place which will enhance accountability, communication, data security and uniform bookkeeping procedures. If there is anything the Sharp Point team can do to assist you in your search for the right bookkeeper, please feel free to contact us.
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