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President Trump Signs an Executive Order and Three Memoranda to Provide or Extend COVID-19 Relief to Individuals and Businesses

On Saturday, August 8, 2020, President Trump issued an Executive Order and three Memoranda to provide or extend COVID-19 relief to individuals and businesses.  Although the Executive Orders are not currently operational, at Tarlow, we feel that it is important for us to communicate this update.

Payroll Tax Deferral

The Executive Order directs the Secretary of Treasury to defer the withholding, deposit, and payment of the employee portion of social security tax, excluding Medicare tax, on wages or compensation paid during the period of September 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. The deferral applies to any employee whose pre-tax wages or compensation during any biweekly payroll period are generally less than $4,000, calculated on a pre-tax basis, or the equivalent amount during other payroll periods. The tax payments are deferred without penalties, interest, additional amounts, or addition to the tax.

The Executive Order directs the Secretary of Treasury to issue guidance to implement the Memorandum and to identify methods to eliminate the obligation to pay the deferred taxes. It provides only for the deferral of the employee portion of social security tax and, in the event the Secretary of Treasury does not eliminate the deferred tax entirely, an affected employee will be required to pay any remaining deferred tax. We await further guidance; currently, it is not clear how an employee would pay the deferred tax following the end of the deferral period.

Employers have already had 50% of their portion of payroll tax payments due during the period that begins on March 27, 2020, and ends on December 31, 2020, delayed until December 31, 2021, and the other 50% until December 31, 2022, by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, P.L. 116-136.

The other Executive Orders involve compensation to unemployed individuals, evictions, and student loan relief, as follows:

Disaster Relief/Unemployment Insurance Benefits

The CARES Act provided a $600 per week federally funded unemployment compensation assistance to an eligible unemployed person, in addition to standard state unemployment benefits. This benefit expired on July 31, 2020.

The Disaster Relief Memorandum directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) to provide benefits from the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund. It also directs states to utilize their Coronavirus Relief Fund allocation to provide financial relief to unemployed Americans affected by COVID-19. The maximum amount is $400 per week supplemental unemployment compensation benefit. In comparison to the $600 supplemental benefit under CARES, the Disaster Relief Memorandum calls for two significant changes in eligibility:

  • Individuals must receive at least $100 per week in regular state unemployment compensation assistance, an increase from $1.
  • Individuals must certify that their lost wages are attributable to disruptions caused by COVID-19.

The funding for this new benefit differs from the funding under the CARES Act in that the federal government will only pay for 75% of the costs associated with this benefit. The remaining 25% will be the responsibility of the state governments, subject to an agreement between the federal government and the state in terms of the program and funding.

Eviction Minimization

The Housing Executive Order directs members of the Cabinet to consider, identify, review, and minimize residential evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider whether any temporary ceasing of evictions for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent further COVID-19 spread. President Trump directs the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to identify Federal funds that could be allocated to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners struggling to make monthly payments. The President also directs the HUD Secretary to promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure, including by providing Federal funds to landlords.

Student Loan Payment Relief

The Education Memorandum directs the Secretary of Education to effectuate waivers of and modifications to the requirements and conditions of economic hardship deferments.  It provides such deferments as necessary to continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020. The Education Memorandum also states that student loan borrowers may continue to make payments.

Tarlow is Here to Help – Please Contact Us with Questions

Tarlow Partners and staff members are closely monitoring these Executive Orders, tax-related legislation and regulations, and new guidance from the SBA and the Department of Treasury. We are readily available to assist business owners and will continue to send updates about relevant news and changing guidelines.  If you have any questions about this update or any tax matter, please contact your Tarlow advisor for assistance.

Tarlow Update: SBA Announces Additional Guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program Certification Requirement

We would like to provide an update released today, May 13, 2020, by the Small Business Administration (SBA) regarding how the SBA will review borrowers’ required good-faith certification concerning the necessity of their loan request.

According to the SBA, “When submitting a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application, all borrowers must certify in good faith that ‘current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant.’ SBA, in consultation with the Department of the Treasury, has determined that the following safe harbor will apply to SBA’s review of PPP loans with respect to this issue: Any borrower that, together with its affiliates, received PPP loans with an original principal amount of less than $2 million will be deemed to have made the required certification concerning the necessity of the loan request in good faith.”

Borrowers with loans greater than $2 million that do not satisfy this safe harbor may have an adequate basis for making the required good-faith certification, based on their individual circumstances. The SBA previously stated that all PPP loans in excess of $2 million will be subject to review by SBA for compliance with the program requirements as set forth in the PPP Interim Final Rules and in the Borrower Application Form. If, during the course of the SBA’s review, it is determined that a borrower lacked an adequate basis for the required certification regarding the necessity of the loan request, SBA will seek repayment of the outstanding PPP loan balance and will inform the lender that the borrower is not eligible for loan forgiveness.  If, after receiving notification from SBA, the borrower repays the loan, SBA will not pursue administrative enforcement with respect to the certification regarding the necessity of the loan request. In addition, SBA’s determination concerning the certification will not affect SBA’s loan guarantee.

Tarlow is here to help!

Our Partners and staff members are closely monitoring tax-related legislation and regulations and will continue to update you by sending communications about relevant news and changing guidelines. If you have any questions, please contact your Tarlow advisor.

COVID-19 Update: Paycheck Protection Program – Initial Guidance Issued

On Tuesday evening, March 31, 2020, the U.S. Treasury and Small Business Administration (“SBA”) released their initial Information Sheet (“Fact Sheet”) as well as the Application Form for the Paycheck Protection Program (the “PPP”).   As mentioned in previous email alerts, the PPP is part of The CARES Act, which appropriated $349 billion to enable eligible businesses to apply for loans from approved lenders, which are guaranteed by the SBA.  Proceeds from these loans are intended to be used to cover operational costs such as payroll, benefits, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest payments.

The Fact Sheet provides important guidance for the PPP, including the dates that applicants can begin to apply for PPP loans through participating SBA Lenders:

  • Business and sole proprietors as soon as April 3, 2020; and
  • Independent contractors and self-employed individuals as soon as April 10, 2020.

The guidance issued and the Fact Sheet are similar to the provisions in the CARES Act; however, there are some important differences to the initial guidance issued, which we have highlighted below.  We should note that it is still possible the SBA issues additional rules and regulations regarding the PPP, and we will keep you informed immediately if that occurs.

Maximum Loan Amount 

The CARES Act provides that the maximum PPP loan a borrower can receive is equal to the lesser of (i) 2.5x TTM average monthly payroll costs and (ii) $10 million.   The sample application indicates that (non-seasonal) business applicants will use the average monthly payroll for 2019 (rather than include January or February 2020 in the calculation).

Loan Forgiveness

The CARES Act provided that loans will be eligible for forgiveness in an amount not to exceed the sum of payments for permitted payroll costs, interest payments on mortgages, rent, and utilities paid within 8 weeks from the origination of the PPP Loan.  The Fact Sheet indicates that “due to likely high subscription, it is anticipated that not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs.” This factor needs to be considered if you were planning on applying for PPP loans to cover non-approved costs as a portion of such costs may not be subject to loan forgiveness.

Payroll Costs

In addition to employee compensation, certain paid vacation and leave, cash tips, severance payments, group healthcare benefits, retirement benefits, and payroll taxes, the CARES Act also seemed to define “payroll costs” to include payments to independent contractors as noted in our previous correspondences.  The description of payroll costs in the Fact Sheet suggests that compensation to independent contractors will be considered “payroll costs” (i.e., for purposes of calculating PPP loan size and loan forgiveness amounts) if the applicant is the independent contractor.  This could imply that businesses that pay independent contractors will not be able to include such compensation in the calculation of payroll costs.  We will be reviewing this in-depth to get additional guidance for you.

 

Interest Rate, Maturity Date and Payment Deferral Provisions

Initial guidance was that the interest rate on the PPP loans would be set at 4% and have a 10-year term.  Additionally, it was widely believed there would be no payments on PPP loans due for one year from origination.  Based on the Fact sheet, the interest rate will be set at 0.5%, and the term of the loan will be 2 years from maturity. Additionally, payments will be deferred for six months from origination; however, interest will accrue during these six months.

Foreign Ownership

It was widely believed that foreign ownership would not be an issue for eligibility for a PPP loan.  The application form indicates that if any 20% or greater owner answers no to whether or not they are “a U.S. Citizen” OR “have Lawful Permanent Resident status, “the application will be denied indicating that businesses with foreign ownership may be ineligible for the PPP loan.” We are still reviewing this and will have additional guidance shortly.

The application also makes it clear that for businesses seeking PPP loans each greater than 20% owner will need to complete an application and make certain certifications including: (i) that current economic uncertainty makes the loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant business; and (ii) that the loan proceeds will be used to retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage payments, lease payments, and utility payments.

New Twist for Kiddie Tax with a Refund Opportunity

Article Highlights:

  • Appropriations Act of 2020 
  • Children’s Tax-Filing Requirements 
  • Two Methods for 2018 and 2019 
  • Amendment Possibility for a Dependent Child 
  • Standard Deduction 
  • Wages 
  • Self-employment Income 
  • Investment Income 
  • Parents’ Election 
  • Who Is Responsible for Filing? 
  • Retirement Savings Opportunity 
  • Signing the Return 

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the Appropriations Act of 2020, which included several tax law changes, including retroactively extending specific tax provisions that expired after 2017 or were about to expire, some retirement and IRA plan modifications, and other changes that will, as a whole, impact a large portion of U.S. taxpayers. This article is one of a series of articles dealing with those changes and how they may affect you.

Your dependent child who worked during the year or had investment income, such as interest or dividends, may be required to file a tax return, depending upon the type and amount of the income. Years ago, to prevent parents from putting their investments in their children’s names to avoid or significantly reduce the tax on their investment income, Congress passed what is commonly referred to as the kiddie tax. The kiddie tax taxes children’s income in excess of a small allowance at the parent’s top tax rate.

More recently, as part of the 2017 tax reform, Congress modified the kiddie tax structure, so that the children’s investment income above the small allowance ($2,200 for 2019) is taxed at the fiduciary tax rates*, which can very quickly reach the maximum tax rate. On the other hand, the tax reform virtually doubled the standard deduction (it is $12,200 for 2019 for someone using the single filing status), providing children with substantial tax-free income from working.

That change to the kiddie tax structure created an unintentional tax increase for survivors of service members and first responders who died in the line of duty. As a result, Congress has decided to scrap the new method, which used fiduciary rates, and to revert to the original kiddie tax computation, beginning in 2020, resulting in the child’s net unearned income being taxed at the parents’ tax rate, if it’s higher than the child’s tax rate.

Amended Return Possibility – Taxpayers can choose whichever method provides the lowest tax for 2018 and 2019 and can amend the 2018 return if it allows for a better outcome. This will especially benefit taxpayers with substantial unearned income.

Unearned income generally includes investment income such as taxable interest, dividends (including capital gain distributions), and capital gains, as well as rents, royalties, pension income, survivor benefits, the taxable part of Social Security benefits, taxable scholarship and fellowship grants not reported on Form W-2, and other income types.

A dependent child is defined as being either under the age of 19 during the tax year or under 24 if he/she is a full-time student. Also, to be a dependent, the child needs to live with you for more than half of the year (unless he/she is away due to a temporary absence that includes living away from home while attending school). Although there are no support requirements, the child cannot be self-supporting. When considering whether the child is self-supporting, don’t confuse support for the child with the child’s income. Saved income is not used for support.

How a Child’s Income Is Taxed

  • Wages – When children only have earned income (wages), they file their own tax return and can claim the standard deduction. Thus, only their earnings above the standard deduction, which is $12,200 for 2019, is subject to income tax. As a result, if their earnings are less than the standard deduction, they need not file a tax return unless it would need to be submitted for them to claim a refund of withheld income taxes. 
  • Self-Employed Income – If your child is an entrepreneur and has net income from self-employment, then in addition to income tax, he/she may owe self-employment tax. Self-employment tax is only assessed if the net self-employment income is above $433. Thus, if your child’s self-employment net income is more than $433, he/she must file a return, even if the total income is less than the standard deduction. 
  • Investment Income – If your children only have investment income, such as interest and dividends, their standard deduction for 2019 will be $1,100. For the kiddie tax computation, any investment income over $2,200 (the special allowance previously mentioned in this article) will be taxed, either at fiduciary rates – which start at 10% and reach 37% when the investment income above the special allowance reaches $12,750 (the TCJA method) – or at their parents’ marginal tax rate (the pre-TCJA method that Congress brought back). 
  • Earned Income and Investment Income – This is the most complicated because the standard deduction is the greater of $1,100 or the child’s earned income plus $350. Still, it should not exceed the $12,200 standard deduction for a single individual, while the special allowance for the kiddie tax is $2,200. Generally, in this situation and using the TCJA method, investment income over $350 will be taxed at fiduciary rates, and earned income over the remaining standard deduction will be taxed at the regular single tax rates. Otherwise, if the TCJA method isn’t used, the child’s tax will be the greater of the tax on all of the child’s income or the sum of the tax on the child’s earned income plus the child’s share of the allocable parent tax. The TCJA method is only available for 2018 and 2019. 

Parents’ Election – Parents may elect to include their child’s interest and dividend income (including capital gain distributions) on their own tax return if the total is less than $11,000, instead of the child filing a return of his/her own. However, this election cannot be made if the child has other types of income, either earned or unearned. Also, filing in this manner may result in a more significant tax liability.

Who Should Be Responsible for Filing the Child’s Return? Whether your children’s income is earned or unearned, they may be too young to prepare their tax returns. Then, the responsibility to do so is yours. If your children can file their return, you may want to provide them with this important lesson of being a taxpayer. However, if you make them responsible for submitting their return, make sure they check the “dependent of another” box, or else the IRS will deny you the dependency for the child and create a mess that will be difficult to straighten out.

Retirement Savings Opportunity – If your children have earned income, they can set aside money in an IRA for their eventual retirement. However, they may be reluctant to give up any of their hard-earned money from their summer job or regular employment. A child or young adult is probably not at a stage in life to begin thinking about retirement. However, if you, a grandparent, or others have the financial resources to do so, the amount of an IRA contribution could be gifted to the children, giving them a great start toward their retirement savings and hopefully a continuing incentive to save for their retirement. The maximum amount they can contribute for 2019 is the lesser of their earned income or $6,000.

Roth IRAs are a better alternative; unlike traditional IRAs, Roths provide tax-free income at retirement. However, the contribution to a Roth is not deductible; thus, income over $12,200 would not be tax-free. Even so, the tax rate at the lower-income level is only 10%, and it may be worth paying a small tax now to gain the tax-free retirement income provided by a Roth IRA. An IRA contribution for 2019 can be made up to April 15, 2020.

Signing the Return – Parents who prepare their children’s return can either have them sign for themselves or do so on their behalf, thus signing for them as their guardian or parent. Preparing your children’s return is a good idea in either case, as this notation provides with you the ability to speak on your child’s behalf if the IRS audits or questions the return.

A child’s return can be tricky to prepare. Please contact us for your child’s tax-preparation needs. 

*Fiduciary tax rates are the income tax rates for trusts and estates. 

No Employees This Quarter? You Still May Need to File IRS Form 941

As an employer, you have plenty of obligations when it comes to filing taxes. Among these is the need to file IRS Form 941, the Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, on the last day of each month following the end of a quarter. Sticking to these deadlines — April 30, July 31, October 31 and January 31 — is essential for remaining in compliance and avoiding an inquiry from the Internal Revenue Service.

What is Form 941, and Who Has to Submit It?

Form 941 is a summary of the total taxes withheld during the previous quarter by anybody —business or individual — that compensates an employee or employees.

If you are an employer who pays wages to household employees or agricultural employees, you are exempt from this rule. Those who employ seasonal workers who don’t get paid during one or more quarters of the year are exempt as well.

All other employers are required to submit the form, regardless of whether they pay employees during a given quarter or not. This is a common misconception that is important to be aware of to remain compliant.

What the Form Contains

Form 941 requires a significant amount of information, including how many employees a business pays, what the total wages paid were for the quarter, as well as what the total withholding of taxes was for the quarter.

It’s necessary to gather all payroll records and other documentation for the quarter, including reports of any taxable tips that your employees indicated that they received to fill the information out accurately. Once calculated, the employer must send in the form, the appropriate withholding and federal income tax, and 1.45 percent of all taxable wages for the Medicare tax payment. Social Security payments of 6.2 percent of each employee’s wages must also be submitted (up to $132,900 for tax year 2019). For those employees paid more than $200,000 per year, employers also must withhold the Additional Medicare Tax.

Penalties for Failure to File

Form 941 must be submitted four times per year by the above-referenced dates and employers who fail to do so face significant penalties of a percentage of whatever tax had been due for each month or portion of a month that is delayed. As you may imagine, this penalty can add up quickly. According to IRS Publication 15 (2020), these are the penalty rates for amounts not timely or adequately deposited:

  • 2% – Deposits made 1 to 5 days late. 
  • 5% – Deposits made 6 to 15 days late. 
  • 10% – Deposits made 16 or more days late, but before ten days from the date of the first notice, the IRS sent asking for the tax due. 
  • 10% – Amounts that should have been deposited, but instead were paid directly to the IRS, or paid with your tax return. (See “Payment with return” within Pub. 15 for an exception.) 
  • 15% – Amounts still unpaid more than ten days after the date of the first notice the IRS sent asking for the tax due or the day on which you received notice and demand for immediate payment, whichever is earlier.

Balancing Out the Year

At tax time, businesses need to reconcile the amount reported on the four Form 941s they submitted with the employee wages reported on the W-2 forms provided to employees so that they can fill out their tax returns. The total of the Form 941s should be the same as the total on the W-2s, as well as on the Form W-3 that employers file with the IRS. Contact us for assistance or any questions regarding your Form 941 requirements.

Congress Allowing Higher Medical Deductions for 2019 and 2020

Article Highlight:

  • Appropriations Act of 2020
  • Medical AGI Limitations
  • Sometimes Overlooked Deductions
  • Deductible Health Insurance
  • Above-the-Line Health Insurance Deduction for Self-Employed

On December 20, 2019, President Trump signed into law the Appropriations Act of 2020, which included several tax law changes. The changes include extending specific tax provisions that expired after 2017 or were about to expire, some retirement and IRA plan modifications, and other changes that will impact a large portion of U.S. taxpayers as a whole. This article is one of a series of articles dealing with those changes and how they may affect you.

Medical expenses are deductible as an itemized deduction, but only to the extent they exceed a percentage of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). For a long time, the rate was 7.5%, which was then raised for under-age-65 taxpayers to 10% for 2013 through 2016 and then lowered back to 7.5% for all taxpayers for years 2017 and 2018. It was scheduled to go back up to 10% starting with the tax year 2019. However, with the passage of the Appropriations Act of 2020, Congress reduced that percentage back to 7.5% for tax years 2019 and 2020, allowing more taxpayers to qualify for the medical deduction.

However, keep in mind that the total of the itemized deductions must exceed the standard deduction before the itemized deductions provide a tax break. So even if your medical deductions exceed the 7.5% floor, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a tax benefit from them.

To help you maximize your medical deductions, the following are some medical expenses other than those for doctors, dentists, hospitals, and prescriptions that are sometimes overlooked:

  • Adult Diapers
  • Acupuncture
  • Birth Control
  • Chiropractor Visits
  • Drug-Addiction Treatment
  • Fertility Enhancement Therapy
  • Gender Identity Disorder Treatments
  • Guide Dog Expenses
  • Health Insurance Premiums

*Including the premiums you pay for coverage for yourself, your dependents, and your spouse, if applicable, for the following types of plans:

    • Health Care and Hospitalization Insurance
    • Long-Term Care Insurance (but limited based upon age)
    • Medicare B
    • Medicare C (aka Medicare Advantage Plans)
    • Medicare D
    • Dental Insurance
    • Vision Insurance
    • Premiums Paid through a Government Marketplace, Net of the Premium Tax Credit

* However, premiums paid on your or your family’s behalf by your employer aren’t deductible because their cost is not included in your wage income. If you pay premiums for coverage under your employer’s insurance plan through a “cafeteria” plan, those premiums aren’t deductible either because they are paid with pre-tax dollars.

  • Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals
  • Lactation Expenses
  • Learning Disability Special Education
  • Nursing Home Costs
  • Nursing Services (which need not be performed by a nurse)
  • Pregnancy Tests
  • Smoking-Cessation Programs

This is not an all-inclusive list, so please contact us with questions related to expenses that you think might qualify as a medical expense.

As a tax tip, if you are self-employed, you may be able to deduct 100% (no 7.5%-of-AGI reduction) of the cost of medical insurance without itemizing your deductions. This above-the-line deduction is limited to your net profits from self-employment. If you are a partner who performs services in that capacity and the partnership pays health insurance premiums on your behalf, those premiums are treated as guaranteed payments that are deductible by the partnership and includible in your gross income. In turn, you may deduct the cost of the premiums as an above-the-line deduction under the rules discussed in this article.

No above-the-line deduction is permitted when the self-employed individual is eligible to participate in a “subsidized” health plan maintained by an employer of the taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse, any dependent, or any child of the taxpayer who hasn’t attained age 27 as of the end of the tax year. This rule is separately applied to plans that provide coverage for long-term care services. Thus, an individual who is eligible for employer-subsidized health insurance may still deduct long-term care insurance premiums, as long as he or she isn’t eligible for employer-subsidized long-term care insurance. Also, to treat the insurance as subsidized, 50% or more of the premium must be paid by the employer.

This above-the-line deduction is also available to more-than-2% S corporation shareholders. For purposes of the income limitation, the shareholder’s wages from the S corporation are treated as his or her earned income.

The above-the-line deduction includes the premiums you pay for health coverage for yourself, your dependents, and your spouse, if applicable, for the types of plans listed under “Health Insurance Premiums” above.

If you have any questions related to medical itemized deductions or the self-employed above-the-line deduction for health insurance premiums, please contact us.

Is It Better to Have a Tax Credit or a Deduction?

Article Highlights:

  • Itemized Deductions
  • Above-the-Line Deductions
  • Business Deductions
  • Asset-Sale Deductions
  • Refundable Credits
  • Nonrefundable Credits
  • Carryover Credits
  • Business Tax Credits

People often say that an expense is a tax write-off and interpret this to mean that the expense will have a tax benefit. Generally, such a benefit takes the form of either a deduction or a credit.  The effects of these benefits are quite different; however, and each type has various categories. As a result, the tax implications may not be as expected. This is especially true when the write-off claim comes from a salesperson who is touting the tax benefits of a product or service, as such individuals often leave out key details. In general, a deduction reduces taxable income, whereas a credit reduces the tax itself.

Tax Deductions – In one way or another, tax deductions reduce the taxable portion of an individual’s income, which thus reduces the tax on that income.

Itemized Deductions – When taxpayers think of deductions, they typically think of the itemized deductions that are claimed on Schedule A. This is the only way to deduct personal expenses such as medical costs, state and local tax payments, investment and home-mortgage interest, charitable contributions, disaster-casualty losses, and various rarely encountered expenses. In some cases, itemized deductions are limited. For instance, medical expenses are only deductible to the extent they exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). Similarly, state and local tax payments (including those for income, sales, and property taxes) are capped at $10,000. On top of that, itemization only reduces taxable income to the extent that the total of the itemized deductions exceeds the standard deduction. When the sum does not exceed the standard deduction, the itemized deductible expenses provide no tax benefits at all.

Above-the-Line Deductions – Certain deductions reduce income. These are commonly called above-the-line deductions because, when applied, they reduce the income figure that is used to calculate AGI. Thus, their benefits apply regardless of whether the taxpayer uses itemized deductions. Above-the-line deductions include educators’ expenses; contributions to health savings accounts, traditional IRAs, and certain qualified retirement plans; deductible alimony payments; and student-loan interest. Most of these deductions have annual maximums.

Business Deductions – Taxpayers who operate noncorporate businesses can deduct from their business income any expenses that they incur when operating their businesses. These deductions (which cover advertising fees, employee wages, office-supply costs, etc.) are used to reduce profits, which in turn reduces taxable income and, ultimately, income tax. In addition, most self-employed taxpayers pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on their net business income, so any reduction in their business profits also reduces their Medicare taxes and possibly their Social Security taxes.

Asset-Sale Deductions – An individual who sells an asset is allowed to deduct that asset’s cost from the sale price to determine the taxable profit. Good recordkeeping is helpful here because the original expense may have been incurred years prior, even though it is only deductible when the asset is sold. For example, any improvements that an individual makes to a home over years of ownership are not deductible until the home is sold. At that point, the individual can reduce the taxable gain from the sale by counting the improvements as part of the home’s cost.

Tax Credits – Tax credits come in several varieties, and the amount of benefit can vary:

Refundable Credits – A refundable credit offsets current tax liability; it is so-called because any amount of unused credit is refunded to the taxpayer. Refundable credits include the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Additional Child Tax Credit, and the Premium Tax Credit (net of any advances received), as well as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (an education credit that is 40% refundable). As a matter of general interest, these credits are subject to significant filing fraud because of their refundability. The IRS also considers prepayments such as income-tax withholding and estimated tax payments to be refundable credits.

Nonrefundable Credits – A nonrefundable credit only offsets tax liability; any unused amount is lost (unless it can be carried over to another year; see below). Over time, Congress has become more generous with credits; most credits that are not refundable now carry over for a given period. Nonrefundable credits include the Saver’s Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the personal portion of the Electric Vehicle Credit.

Carryover Credits – For some nonrefundable credits, any unused current-year credit can be carried over to the next tax year (or for a longer period) until the carryover amount is used up. These credits include the Adoption Credit (which can carry over for up to five years) and the Home-Solar Credit (which carries over through at least 2021; tax law is unclear on whether it will expire then).

Business-Tax Credits – Numerous business-tax credits are available; however, they are grouped into the General Business-Tax Credit, which is nonrefundable but which carries forward for twenty years and back for one year. (This allows a business owner to amend the prior year’s return to claim the credit.) This category includes the business portion of the Electric Vehicle Credit.

If you have questions related to how you might benefit from tax credits or deductions, please contact us.

Child Daycare and Taxes

Article Highlights:

  • Daycare Providers
  • Simplified Food Deduction
  • Special Rules for Business Use of the Provider’s Home
  • Home Sale Consequences
  • Other Expenses
  • Other Daycare Provider Issues
  • Daycare User Credit
  • Employer Dependent Care Benefits
  • Other Credit Criteria

When discussing daycare for children so their parents can work, there are two primary areas of discussion: one from the viewpoint of the individual providing the daycare services and another from the parents using a daycare provider’s services. Tax law provides exclusive benefits for both.

DAYCARE PROVIDERS

Daycare providers are generally self-employed individuals who provide care in their home, and like other self-employed individuals conducting a business, they are allowed to deduct business expenses, including the following:

  • Business Use of a Vehicle – Examples of business-related use of a personal vehicle by a daycare provider include taking the kids to the park, on field trips, or the movies. Also eligible are miles used to purchase supplies and other business-related travel. What’s deductible is the standard mileage rate of 58 cents per business mile (2019) or the prorated business portion of the actual operating expenses for the vehicle. In either case, daycare providers should maintain a contemporaneously prepared log detailing all business-related trips.
  • Food – Daycare providers can deduct the cost of meals provided to the children, not including meals for their own children. The simplest method, which does not require documenting food purchases, is to use the simplified meal deduction. The simplified meal deduction does not preclude a care provider from using the actual expenses if the actual cost is higher, and the provider is willing to document the costs without including food purchased for his or her own family’s use. The simplified meal deduction amounts for 2019 are illustrated in the table below. 
Year States Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack
2019 Contiguous States
Alaska
Hawaii
$1.31
$2.09
$1.53
$2.46
$3.99
$2.88
$2.46
$3.99
$2.88
$0.73
$1.19
$0.86

The rates do not include the cost of nonfood supplies (e.g., utensils), which may be deducted separately. The number of meals per day per child is limited to the amounts below. (The table uses the amounts based upon the rates for contiguous states and will be higher for Alaska and Hawaii.)

Meal Rate 2019 Allowance
One Breakfast $1.31 $1.31
One Lunch $2.46 $2.46
One Dinner $2.46 $2.46
Three Snacks $0.73 $2.19
2019 Daily Maximum Per Child $8.42

If the provider receives some form of reimbursement or subsidy, then the provider may deduct only the part of the simplified rate that exceeds the reimbursed amount.

Business Use of the Home – Self-employed individuals may take a business deduction for the business use of a portion of their home if that portion is used exclusively for business. Daycare facilities are not subject to the exclusive use requirement that applies to other home offices. However, that special rule only applies to providers who:

  1. Are licensed, certified, registered, or approved as a daycare provider under state law;
  2. Have a pending application for licensing, certification, registration, or approval under state law as a daycare provider that has not been denied; or
  3. Are exempt from licensing, certification, registration, or approval under state law.

Any daycare provider not meeting one of these three requirements is still subject to the exclusive use rules. These rules will generally preclude them from the deduction unless they use some portion of the home exclusively for daycare purposes, such as a bedroom or a storage area. The daycare facility exception does not apply if the services performed are primarily educational or instructional (e.g., musical instruction). However, the limitation does apply if the services are mostly custodial and if the educational, developmental, or enrichment activities are only incidental to the custodial services. The services must be provided for individuals age 65 or older, children, or individuals who are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves.

When calculating the percentage of the business use of the home, both the space used to operate the daycare business and the amount of time that space is used to provide daycare, including preparation and cleaning time, are factors.

Example: Edna uses her living room, kitchen, and bathroom ten hours a day, five days a week, to provide licensed daycare services. The home is 2,400 square feet, and the living room, kitchen, and bathroom are a combined 1,400 square feet. The exclusive use requirement doesn’t apply. Edna’s percentage use of her home for business is determined as follows:

Once the percentage is established, all of the home expenses, including interest, taxes, home insurance, maintenance, utilities, and depreciation, are summed up and multiplied by the percentage to determine the deduction for the business use of the home. If an individual rents the home, the rent expense replaces the interest, taxes, and depreciation. After determining the deduction, it is further limited to the gross income from the daycare. If limited by the total income, there is a specific order in which the home expenses can be used (not discussed in this article).

Claiming the business use of the home deduction will also impact any future sale of the home. For taxpayers who own and use their home for two years out of the five years before the sale, they can generally exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) of any resulting gain. However, any depreciation claimed, or that could have been claimed after May 15, 1997, cannot be excluded and, as a result, will be taxable to the extent of any gain from the sale.

Example: A care provider is entitled to claim $1,000 per year of home depreciation, and she operates that business for ten years, claiming a total of $10,000 in depreciation. Whenever she ultimately sells her home, the $10,000 cannot be included in the excluded gain and will always be treated as a taxable capital gain to the extent of any home sale gain.

  • Other Expenses – Other expenses include just about any cost that has to do with operating the daycare facility, including, for example:
    • Advertising
    • Business banking account fees
    • Daycare licensing
    • Daycare organization membership expenses
    • Seminars and education related to managing a daycare center
    • Business insurance
    • Games and toys
    • Supplies, diapers, wipes, and cleaning supplies
    • Phone services
    • Prorated internet service
    • Field trip expenses
    • Payroll for employees
    • Additional important tax issues apply to daycare providers:

Self-Employment Tax – Like all self-employed taxpayers, daycare providers must pay self-employment tax, which is made up of the Social Security tax of 12.4% on the first $132,900 (2019) of profit from the business and a 2.9% Medicare tax on all of the profits. In addition, there is an additional 0.9% Medicare tax on the extent to which the profits exceed $200,000 for single taxpayers, $250,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separately. Also, daycare providers can deduct half of the self-employment tax from their gross income.

Retirement Plan Contributions – Profits from a daycare business qualify for IRA contributions and self-employed retirement plans, allowing daycare providers to put away substantial amounts for their future retirement.

Medical Insurance Above-the-Line Deduction 

While most taxpayers must itemize their deductions to deduct the cost of their medical insurance, self-employed taxpayers, including daycare providers, can deduct the premiums from their adjusted gross income and avoid the 10% medical expense haircut when itemizing deductions.

Employer Identification Number – Most daycare clients can claim a tax credit for the cost of daycare. However, to do so, they must include either the daycare provider’s Social Security number (SSN) or an employer identification number (EIN) on their tax returns. It is a best practice in this age of ID theft not to use the SSN and instead obtain an EIN.

DAYCARE USERS 

Individuals who use the services of daycare providers may qualify for a tax credit if the expense is an “employment-related” expense. For example, it must enable a taxpayer or spouse, if married, to work, and it must be for the care of a child, brother, sister, or stepsibling (or a descendant of any of these) who is under 13, lives in the taxpayer’s home for more than half the year, and does not provide more than half of his or her own support for the year. Married couples must file jointly, and both spouses must work (or one spouse must be a full-time student or disabled) to claim the credit.

The qualifying expenses are limited to the income from working and, in the case of a married couple, are limited to the lower of the spouse’s income from working. However, under certain conditions, when one spouse has no actual income from working and that spouse is a full-time student or disabled, that spouse is considered to have a monthly income of $250 (if the couple has one qualifying child) or $500 (for two or more qualifying children). This means the income limitation is mostly removed for a spouse who is a student or disabled all year.

The qualifying expenses can’t exceed $3,000 per year for those who have only one qualifying child, while the limit increases to $6,000 per year for those with two or more qualifying persons.

If there are two children, the care expenses are not divided equally. For example, if the taxpayer paid $2,500 in qualified expenses for the care of one child and $3,500 for the care of another child, the $6,000 can be used to determine the credit. The credit is computed as a percentage of qualifying expenses, in most cases, 20%. See the table below for the credit percentages based on the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.

AGI Adjusted Applicable Percentage

AGI
Over
But Not
Over
Applicable
Percent
AGI
Over
But
Not Over
Applicable
Percent
0 15,000 35 29,000 31,000 27
15,000 17,000 34 31,000 33,000 26
17,000 19,000 33 33,000 35,000 25
19,000 21,000 32 35,000 37,000 24
21,000 23,000 31 37,000 39,000 23
23,000 25,000 30 39,000 41,000 22
25,000 27,000 29 41,000 43,000 21
27,000 29,000 28 43,000 No Limit 20

 

Example: Al and Janice both work with combined earned income in excess of $50,000 for the year. Janice has a part-time job, from which she earns $10,000 for the year. Her work hours coincide with the school hours of their 11-year-old daughter, Susan, so while school is in session, Al and Janice incur no childcare expenses for Susan. However, during the summer vacation period, they place Susan in a day camp program that costs $4,000. Since the expense limitation for one child is $3,000, their childcare credit would be $600 (20% of $3,000).

The credit reduces a taxpayer’s tax bill dollar for dollar. Thus, in the above example, Al and Janice would pay $600 less in taxes by the credit. However, the credit can only offset income tax and alternative minimum tax liability, and any excess is not refundable. The credit cannot be used to reduce self-employment tax if a taxpayer is self-employed, or the taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act.

Employer Dependent Care Benefits – Some employers provide dependent care assistance programs to help their employees with the cost of daycare. Payments under these plans used by employees to pay dependent care expenses are excludable from employees’ income, up to the lower of:

  1. The employee’s earned income (for married employees, this is the earned income of the lower-paid spouse) or
  2. $5,000 ($2,500 for married filing separate).

Because reimbursement up to these limits is excludable from income, the benefits the employee receives are treated as reimbursement for daycare expenses that reduce the expense limits of $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more children. Compensation above these limits is taxable to the employee and does not reduce qualified expenses for the credit.

Other Credit Criteria:

  • Age of the Child – If the qualifying child turned 13 during the year, count only the care expenses paid for the child for the part of the year when he or she was under age 13.
  • Day Camps – Many working parents must arrange for care for their children under 13 years of age (or any age if disabled) during school vacation periods. A popular solution, with a tax benefit, is a day camp program. The cost of day camp can count as an expense toward the child and dependent care credit. However, it’s essential to note that fees for overnight camps do not qualify. Also, not eligible are expenses paid for summer school or tutoring programs.
  • Both Parents Working in an Unincorporated Business – When both spouses of a married couple are jointly involved in an unincorporated business, it is relatively common, but incorrect, for all of that business’s income to be reported as just one spouse’s income. As a result, they lose the benefits of the childcare credit, which requires both spouses to have income from working.
  • School Expenses – Only school expenses for a child below the kindergarten level are considered qualifying expenses for this credit.
  • In-Home Care Providers – If a taxpayer provides daycare in their home, the daycare provider is considered a household employee.

This article provides an overview of the various tax issues related to daycare from the perspectives of both the provider and the recipient of daycare services. However, as in everything taxes, many more rules and issues exist than could be included in this article. For additional information about daycare and how it impacts your taxes, please contact us.

Tax Tips for Students with a Summer Job

Many students hold a summer job during their time off from school. Here are some tax issues that should be considered when working a summer job.

  1. Completing Form W-4 When Starting a New Job – This form is used by employers to determine the income taxes that will be withheld from your paycheck. Taxpayers with multiple summer jobs will want to make sure all of their employers are withholding an adequate amount of taxes to cover their total income tax liability. Generally, a student who is claimed as a dependent of another with income only from summer and part-time employment can earn as much as $6,300 (the standard deduction amount) without being liable for income tax. However, if the student is a dependent and has investment income, the tax determination becomes more complicated and subject to special rules.
  2. Tips – If the student works as a waiter, camp counselor, or some other common summer jobs, the student may receive tips as part of the summer income. All tip income received is taxable income and is therefore subject to federal income tax. Employees are required to report tips of $20 or more received while working with any one employer in any given month. The reporting should be made in writing to the employer by the tenth day of the month following the receipt of tips. The IRS provides publication 1244 that can be used to record tips for a month on a daily basis. The employer withholds FICA (Social Security and Medicare) and income taxes on these reported tips and then includes the tips and wages on the employee’s W-2.
  3. Cash Jobs – Many students do odd jobs over the summer and are paid in cash. Just because the job is paid in cash does not mean that it is tax-free. Unfortunately, the income is taxable and may be subject to self-employment taxes (see below). These earnings include income from odd jobs like babysitting and lawn mowing.
  4. Self-Employment Tax – When an individual works for an employer, the employer withholds Social Security and Medicare taxes from the employee’s pay, matches the amount dollar for dollar, and remits the combined amount to the government. Self-employed workers are required to pay the combined employee and employer amounts themselves (referred to as self-employment tax) if their net earnings are $400 or more. This tax pays for their future benefits under the Social Security system. Even if a worker is not liable for income tax, this 15.3% tax may apply. Even though skirting the law, some employers prefer to treat their workers as “independent contractors” who receive their pay with no taxes withheld, because the employers avoid paying their share of the employment taxes. While the employees may like getting a larger check each pay day, they may find themselves owing income tax and possibly the self-employment tax on their earnings when they file their tax returns for the year. If the worker is offered a job on an independent contractor basis, and that job would normally be filled by an employee, the worker should seriously consider if this arrangement is suitable under the circumstances.
  5. Employed in a Family business – If the family business is unincorporated, and pays wages to a child under age 18, the child is not subject to payroll taxes (FICA) since they do not apply to a child under the age of 18 while employed by a parent. Thus, the child will not be required to pay the employee’s share of the FICA taxes, and the parent’s business will not have to pay its half either. In addition, paying the child, and thus reducing the business’s net income, can reduce the parent’s self-employment tax. However, the wages must be reasonable for the services performed.
  6. ROTC Students – Subsistence allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pay—such as pay received during summer advanced camp—is taxable.
  7. Newspaper Carrier or Distributor – Special rules apply to services performed as a newspaper carrier or distributor. An individual is a direct seller and treated as self-employed for federal tax purposes under the following conditions:• The person is in the business of delivering newspapers;
    • All of the pay for these services directly relates to sales rather than to the number of hours worked; and
    • A written contract controls the delivery services and states that the distributor will not be treated as an employee for federal tax purposes.
  8. Newspaper Carriers or Distributors Under Age 18 – Generally, newspaper carriers or distributors under age 18 are not subject to self-employment tax.