Taxes

Four common tax errors that can be costly for small businesses

A small business owner often wears many different hats. They might have to wear their boss hat one day, and the employee hat the next. When tax season comes around, it might be their tax hat.

They may think of doing their taxes as just another item to quickly cross off their to-do list. However, this approach could leave taxpayers open to mistakes when filing and paying taxes.

Accidentally failing to comply with tax laws, violating tax codes, or filling out forms incorrectly can leave taxpayers and their businesses open to possible penalties. Using IRS Free File or a certified public accountant is the easiest ways to avoid these kinds of errors.

Being aware of common mistakes can also help tame the stress of tax time. Here are a few mistakes small business owners should avoid:

Underpaying estimated taxes
Business owners should generally make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe tax of $1,000 or more when their return is filed. If they don’t pay enough tax through withholding and estimated tax payments, they may be charged a penalty.

Depositing employment taxes
Business owners with employees are expected to deposit taxes they withhold, plus the employer’s share of those taxes, through electronic fund transfers.  If those taxes are not deposited correctly and on time, the business owner may be charged a penalty.

Filing late
Just like individual returns, business tax returns must be filed in a timely manner. To avoid late filing penalties, taxpayers should be aware of all tax requirements for their type of business the filing deadlines.

Not separating business and personal expenses
It can be tempting to use one credit card for all expenses especially if the business is a sole proprietorship. Doing so can make it very hard to tell legitimate business expenses from personal ones. This could cause errors when claiming deductions and become a problem if the taxpayer or their business is ever audited.       

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IRS: Eligible employees can use tax-free dollars for medical expenses

WASHINGTON — With health care open season now
under way at many workplaces, the Internal
Revenue Service today reminded workers they may
be eligible to use tax-free dollars to pay medical
expenses not covered by other health plans.

Eligible employees of companies that offer a health
flexible spending arrangement (FSA) need to act
before their medical plan year begins to take
advantage of an FSA during 2020. Self-employed
individuals are not eligible.

An employee who chooses to participate can
contribute up to $2,750 through payroll deductions
during the 2020 plan year. Amounts contributed
are not subject to federal income tax,
Social Security tax or Medicare tax.
If the plan allows, the employer may also
contribute to an employee’s FSA.

Throughout the year, employees can use FSA
funds for qualified medical expenses not
covered by their health plan. These can include
co-pays, deductibles and a variety of medical
products. Also covered are services ranging
from dental and vision care to eyeglasses
and hearing aids. Interested employees
should check with their employer for details
on eligible expenses and claim procedures.

Under the FSA use-or-lose provision, participating
employees normally must incur eligible expenses
by the end of the plan year or forfeit any unspent
amounts. However, employers can, if they choose
to, offer an option for participating employees to
have more time to use FSA money.

  • Under the carryover option, an employee can carry over up to $500 of unused funds
    to the following plan year. For example, an
    employee with unspent funds at the end of
    2019 would still have those funds available to use in 2020.
  • Under the grace period option, an employee
    has until two and a half months after the end
    of the plan year to incur eligible expenses.
    For example, March 15, 2020, for a plan year
    ending on Dec. 31, 2019.
  • Employers can offer either option (not both)
    or no option.

Employers are not required to offer FSAs.
Interested employees should check with their
employer to see if they offer an FSA.
More information about FSAs can be found at
IRS.gov in
Publication 969, Health Savings Accounts and
Other Tax-Favored Health Plans
.

Taxpayers can take steps now to Get Ready to file their taxes in 2020

There are steps people can take now to make sure their tax filing experience goes smoothly next year. First, they can visit the Get Ready page on IRS.gov to find out more.

Here are a few other things people can do now:

Check their withholding and make any adjustments soon
Since most employees typically only have a few pay dates left this year, checking their withholding soon is especially important. It’s even more important for those who:

  • Received a smaller refund than expected after filing their 2018 taxes this year.
  • Owed an unexpected tax bill last year.
  • Experienced personal or financial changes that might change their tax liability.

Some people may owe an unexpected tax bill when they file their 2019 tax return next year. To avoid this kind of surprise, taxpayers should use the Tax Withholding Estimator to perform a quick paycheck or pension income checkup. Doing so helps them decide if they need to adjust their withholding or make estimated or additional tax payments now. 

Gather documents
Everyone should come up with a recordkeeping system. Whether it’s electronic or paper, they should use a system to keep all important information in one place. Having all needed documents on hand before they prepare their return helps them file a complete and accurate tax return. This includes:

  • Their 2018 tax return.
  • Forms W-2 from employers.
  • Forms 1099 from banks and other payers.
  • Forms 1095-A from the marketplace for those claiming the premium tax credit.

Confirm mailing and email addresses
To make sure these forms make it to the taxpayer on time, people should confirm now that each employer, bank and other payer has the taxpayer’s current mailing address or email address. Typically, forms start arriving by mail or are available online in January.

People should keep copies of tax returns and all supporting documents for at least three years. Also, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need the adjusted gross income amount from their 2018 return to validate their electronically filed 2019 return.

File electronically and choose direct deposit for a faster refund
Errors delay refunds. The easiest way to avoid them is to file electronically. Using tax preparation software is the best and simplest way to file a complete and accurate tax return. Tax prep software guides taxpayers through the process and does all the math. In fact, taxpayers can start looking into their filing options now.

Another way to speed thing up is to use direct deposit. Combining direct deposit with electronic filing is the fastest way to get a refund. With direct deposit, a refund goes directly into a taxpayer’s bank account. They don’t need to worry about a lost, stolen or undeliverable refund check.

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IRS provides tax inflation adjustments for tax year 2020

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced the tax year 2020 annual inflation adjustments for more than 60 tax provisions, including the tax rate schedules and other tax changes. Revenue Procedure 2019-44 provides details about these annual adjustments.

The tax law change covered in the revenue procedure was added by the Taxpayer First Act of 2019, which increased the failure to file penalty to $330 for returns due after the end of 2019. The new penalty will be adjusted for inflation beginning with tax year 2021.

The tax year 2020 adjustments generally are used on tax returns filed in 2021.
 
The tax items for tax year 2020 of greatest interest to most taxpayers include the following dollar amounts:

  • The standard deduction for married filing jointly rises to $24,800 for tax year 2020, up $400 from the prior year. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $12,400 in for 2020, up $200, and for heads of households, the standard deduction will be $18,650 for tax year 2020, up $300.
  • The personal exemption for tax year 2020 remains at 0, as it was for 2019, this elimination of the personal exemption was a provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. 
  • Marginal Rates: For tax year 2019, the top tax rate remains 37% for individual single taxpayers with incomes greater than $518,400 ($622,050 for married couples filing jointly).
    The other rates are: 35%, for incomes over $207,350 ($414,700 for married couples filing jointly);
    32% for incomes over $163,300 ($326,600 for married couples filing jointly);
    24% for incomes over $85,525 ($171,050 for married couples filing jointly);
    22% for incomes over $40,125 ($80,250 for married couples filing jointly);
    12% for incomes over $9,875 ($19,750 for married couples filing jointly).
    The lowest rate is 10% for incomes of single individuals with incomes of $9,875 or less ($19,750 for married couples filing jointly).
  • For 2020, as in 2019 and 2018, there is no limitation on itemized deductions, as that limitation was eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax exemption amount for tax year 2020 is $72,900 and begins to phase out at $518,400 ($113,400 for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption begins to phase out at $1,036,800).The 2019 exemption amount was $71,700 and began to phase out at $510,300 ($111,700, for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption began to phase out at $1,020,600).
  • The tax year 2020 maximum Earned Income Credit amount is $6,660 for qualifying taxpayers who have three or more qualifying children, up from a total of $6,557 for tax year 2019. The revenue procedure contains a table providing maximum credit amounts for other categories, income thresholds and phase-outs.
  • For tax year 2020, the monthly limitation for the qualified transportation fringe benefit is $270, as is the monthly limitation for qualified parking, up from $265 for tax year 2019.
  • For the taxable years beginning in 2020, the dollar limitation for employee salary reductions for contributions to health flexible spending arrangements is $2,750, up $50 from the limit for 2019.
  • For tax year 2020, participants who have self-only coverage in a Medical Savings Account, the plan must have an annual deductible that is not less than $2,350, the same as for tax year 2019; but not more than $3,550, an increase of $50 from tax year 2019. For self-only coverage, the maximum out-of-pocket expense amount is $4,750, up $100 from 2019. For tax year 2020, participants with family coverage, the floor for the annual deductible is $4,750, up from $4,650 in 2019; however, the deductible cannot be more than $7,100, up $100 from the limit for tax year 2019. For family coverage, the out-of-pocket expense limit is $8,650 for tax year 2020, an increase of $100 from tax year 2019.
  • For tax year 2020, the adjusted gross income amount used by joint filers to determine the reduction in the Lifetime Learning Credit is $118,000, up from $116,000 for tax year 2019.
  • For tax year 2020, the foreign earned income exclusion is $107,600 up from $105,900 for tax year 2019.
  • Estates of decedents who die during 2020 have a basic exclusion amount of $11,580,000, up from a total of $11,400,000 for estates of decedents who died in 2019.
  • The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000 for calendar year 2020, as it was for calendar year 2019.
  • The maximum credit allowed for adoptions for tax year 2020 is the amount of qualified adoption expenses up to $14,300, up from $14,080 for 2019.

401(k) contribution limit increases to $19,500 for 2020; catch-up limit rises to $6,500

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced that employees in 401(k) plans will be able to contribute up to $19,500 next year.

The IRS announced this and other changes in Notice 2019-59, posted today on IRS.gov. This guidance provides cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2020.

Highlights of changes for 2020

The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $19,000 to $19,500.

The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in these plans is increased from $6,000 to $6,500.

The limitation regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts for 2020 is increased to $13,500, up from $13,000 for 2019.

The income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), to contribute to Roth IRAs and to claim the Saver’s Credit all increased for 2020.

Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either the taxpayer or his or her spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. (If neither the taxpayer nor his or her spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, the phase-outs of the deduction do not apply.) Here are the phase-out ranges for 2020:

  • For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $65,000 to $75,000, up from $64,000 to $74,000.
  • For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $104,000 to $124,000, up from $103,000 to $123,000.
  • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $196,000 and $206,000, up from $193,000 and $203,000.
  • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

The income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $124,000 to $139,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $122,000 to $137,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $196,000 to $206,000, up from $193,000 to $203,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

The income limit for the Saver’s Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) for low- and moderate-income workers is $65,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $64,000; $48,750 for heads of household, up from $48,000; and $32,500 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $32,000.

Key limit remains unchanged

The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $6,000. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.

Details on these and other retirement-related cost-of-living adjustments for 2020 are in Notice 2019-59, available on IRS.gov.

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NATP

National Association of Tax Professionals