Posts by Phil

Business Property Tax Reports Due

Business Property Tax Reports Due 3/1

As an individual, you likely have to pay personal property tax each year.  For most, this means paying a tax on personal vehicles, boats, and motor homes.  You normally get a bill from the city or county you live in, and pay the tax to them.

Each year, a business also pays tax on the tangible property used in the business or trade.  Unlike an individual, the business owner self-reports the property used in their business.

Each business is different, and the property reported is different.  However, here are the general guidelines:

The business must report:

  • All office equipment including furniture, fixtures, furnishings, operating equipment, computers, peripherals, hand tools, power tools, books, machinery, and other such tangible property.
  • All NON-LICENSED vehicles and trailers. Tractors, office trailers, storage trailers, etc.  If it has a license plate on it, do not report it.

Basically, if the item can be considered a ‘tool’ or ‘property’ and will last more than a year, list it.  If it is something that you consume in your business or that wear out quickly (like cleaning rags, gloves, a tape measure, chemicals) or something you use on or leave with a customer customers (mulch, nail polish, hair spray, etc.), don’t list it.

For a new business owner, it can be confusing to know exactly what to list.  So, here are some examples:

ProfessionList:Don’t List:
EVERYONEDedicated home office items. If you have a computer and desk for the EXCLUSIVE use of your business, list them.Personal use items, like the kitchen table or the family computer, even if that’s where you do some paperwork.
Cleaning / janitorial / maid service companyVacuum cleaners, floor buffers, and related equipment. Items like a bucket, cleaning rags, cleaning solution, etc. These are all consumable items.
Lawn care / landscaperLawn mowers, power tools, hand tools like rakes and shovels, and any trailers. If your trailer has a license plate, don’t list it.Gloves, fuel, oil, mulch, or any other type of consumable item.
Home Repair / HandymanPower tools, hand tools, ladders, and trailers. If your trailer has a license plate, don’t list it. Note: you normally don’t need to list hand tools individually. You can list ‘bag of asst. hand tools’, with the value of the lot.Personal protective equipment (like a hard hat, gloves, etc.), or any type of consumable item.
Home InspectorLadders, Camera (if you have a dedicated camera for the inspection. If you are using your cell phone, don’t list it.)
Hair/Nail Professionals (not salons)Clippers, hand dryer, scissors.Uniforms (smocks), any chemicals, nail polish, or accessories.
Uber/Lyft DriversPossibly a GPS.Anything else. Your vehicle is your ‘tool’ and is covered by your Personal Property Tax.

Below are links for city/county business property tax forms

City (click city name for form)Due DateNotes
Chesapeake3/1
Hampton3/1
Newport News3/1
Norfolk3/1
Portsmouth3/1As of 2/3/18, Portsmouth does not have their 2018 form posted on their website
Roanoke and Vinton2/1Note early filing date
Salem2/15Note early filing date
Suffolk5/1Note late filing date
Virginia Beach3/1

If you are having trouble or have questions about your business property, please contact our office.

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Understanding Employee vs. Contractor Designation

Understanding Employee vs. Contractor Designation

The Internal Revenue Service reminds small businesses of the importance of understanding and correctly applying the rules for classifying a worker as an employee or an independent contractor. For federal employment tax purposes, a business must examine the relationship between it and the worker. The IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center on the IRS website offers helpful resources.

Worker classification is important because it determines if an employer must withhold income taxes and pay Social Security, Medicare taxes and unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. Businesses normally do not have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors. The earnings of a person working as an independent contractor are subject to self-employment tax.

The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work, not what will be done and how it will be done. Small businesses should consider all evidence of the degree of control and independence in the employer/worker relationship. Whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee depends on the facts in each situation.

Help with Deciding

To better determine how to properly classify a worker, consider these three categories – Behavioral Control, Financial Control and Relationship of the Parties.

Behavioral Control:  A worker is an employee when the business has the right to direct and control the work performed by the worker, even if that right is not exercised. Behavioral control categories are:

  • Type of instructions given, such as when and where to work, what tools to use or where to purchase supplies and services. Receiving the types of instructions in these examples may indicate a worker is an employee.
  • Degree of instruction, more detailed instructions may indicate that the worker is an employee.  Less detailed instructions reflects less control, indicating that the worker is more likely an independent contractor.
  • Evaluation systems to measure the details of how the work is done points to an employee. Evaluation systems measuring just the end result point to either an independent contractor or an employee.
  • Training a worker on how to do the job — or periodic or on-going training about procedures and methods — is strong evidence that the worker is an employee. Independent contractors ordinarily use their own methods.

Financial Control: Does the business have a right to direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker’s job? Consider:

  • Significant investment in the equipment the worker uses in working for someone else.
  • Unreimbursed expenses, independent contractors are more likely to incur unreimbursed expenses than employees.
  • Opportunity for profit or loss is often an indicator of an independent contractor.
  • Services available to the market. Independent contractors are generally free to seek out business opportunities.Method of payment.An employee is generally guaranteed a regular wage amount for an hourly, weekly, or other period of time even when supplemented by a commission. However, independent contractors are most often paid for the job by a flat fee.

Relationship: The type of relationship depends upon how the worker and business perceive their interaction with one another. This includes:

  • Written contracts which describe the relationship the parties intend to create. Although a contract stating the worker is an employee or an independent contractor is not sufficient to determine the worker’s status.
  • Benefits. Businesses providing employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation pay or sick pay have employees. Businesses generally do not grant these benefits to independent contractors.
  • The permanency of the relationship is important. An expectation that the relationship will continue indefinitely, rather than for a specific project or period, is generally seen as evidence that the intent was to create an employer-employee relationship.
  • Services provided which are a key activity of the business.  The extent to which services performed by the worker are seen as a key aspect of the regular business of the company.

Consequences of Misclassifying an Employee

Classifying an employee as an independent contractor with no reasonable basis for doing so makes employers liable for employment taxes. Certain employers that can provide a reasonable basis for not treating a worker as an employee may have the opportunity to avoid paying employment taxes. See Publication 1976, Section 530  Employment Tax Relief Requirements for more information.

In addition, the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) offers certain eligible businesses the option to reclassify their workers as employees with partial relief from federal employment taxes.

The IRS can help employers determine the status of their workers by using Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding. IRS Publication 15-A, Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide, is also an excellent resource.

Workers who believe an employer improperly classified them as independent contractors can use Form 8919 to figure and report the employee’s share of uncollected Social Security and Medicare taxes due on their compensation.

The IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center provides a multitude of resources for small businesses as well as self-employed independent contractors.

Additional Resources:

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Mileage Rate: Standard Mileage vs. Actual Expenses

If you have a job that requires you to travel a lot by car, you should be deducting your business expenses to prevent overpaying your taxes. These expenses include both “common operating expenses” for the self-employed as well as vehicle expenses—which can be a great way to lower your tax burden.

To deduct the costs associated with the use of your vehicle, you can use either the Standard Mileage method or Actual Expenses method. You won’t be able to take both deductions, so you need to evaluate which method provides the bigger tax benefit for you. To help with the decision, we’ve outlined the basics of each method and highlighted two examples that illustrate the differences among each.

Standard Mileage
The simplest method for calculating your vehicle-related deductions is to use the standard mileage deduction. For tax year 2016, this is $0.54 per mile. In 2017 it will be $0.535 per mile.

You are eligible to count any miles you drive for business-related purposes. For example, if you drive for Uber of Lyft, you can deduct any miles related to your ridesharing services, including the miles you drive looking for passengers to pick up (even if there are no passengers in your car). However, if you run personal errands in between taking customers, you can’t deduct that mileage.

In order to claim this deduction, you need to keep a detailed mileage log. Your mileage log should include the date, start time and end time, the activity involved, and the beginning and ending odometer readings. Mileage and expense-tracking tools can help you maximize this mileage amount because they are the most comprehensive.

Choosing the Standard Mileage deduction means that you cannot deduct any other expenses related to your car. If you’d prefer to deduct other items, you need to use the Actual Expenses method.

Actual Expenses
When deducting actual expenses, you can only deduct the portion associated with your self-employed work (e.g. if half of your $100 cell-phone bill is used for work, deduct only $50).

Here are some of the items you can include in your deduction:

  • A portion of your lease payment (if you are leasing your vehicle)
  • Auto loan interest (if you’re financing the purchase of your vehicle)
  • Auto Insurance
  • Maintenance and Repairs (like oil changes, new tires, replacing brake pads, etc.)
  • Depreciation: When you use the Actual Expenses method, you can use a depreciation table to deduct a portion of this on your taxes. Just make sure the deduction is in proportion to your business driving time.
  • Registration: You can’t deduct your title, licensing and registration fees in all states. However, if your car registration cost is based on a particular formula, you might be able to deduct a portion of the cost. Check with a knowledgeable tax professional to determine whether this is an option for you.

Remember to save all of your receipts and keep good records so that you have the information you need to make a decision.

Example: Part-Time Rideshare Driver
part-time-rideshare-driver-expenses
Assume you drove 10,000 miles in the year 2016, and 5,000 of those miles were for business. Here’s how you would break down your deductions using the Actual Expenses method:

  • Gas: $1,000
  • Insurance: $1,500
  • Repairs: $400
  • Lease Payments: $6,000
  • Oil: $100
  • Washes: $500

These figures total to $9,500 in car-related expenses. Since you used your car for business purposes 50% of the time, you would multiply your total expenses by 50% to get your actual deduction, which comes out to $4,750.

If you use these same figures to calculate your deductions using the Standard Mileage method, you would multiply your business mileage (5,000 miles) by the standard mileage rate (54 cents per mile), which comes out to $2,700.

As you can see, in this example, you’ll save the most on taxes by using the Actual Expenses method for the deduction.

Example: Full-Time Rideshare Driver
fulltime-rideshare-driver-expenses
Now, assume you drove 40,000 miles in the year 2016, and 30,000 of those miles were for business. Here’s how the Actual Expenses method would work in this instance:

  • Gas: $4,000
  • Depreciation: $3,160
  • Insurance: $1,500
  • Repairs: $1,200
  • Oil: $190
  • Tires: $500
  • Washes: $750If you add these up, your total expenses come out to $11,300. Since you used your car for business 75% of the time, you would multiply your total expenses by 75% to get your actual deduction, which comes out to $8,475.

If you use the Standard Method with these same numbers, you would multiply the number of miles driven for business (30,000) by the standard mileage rate (54 cents per mile), which comes out to $16,200.

In this particular example, you’ll save the most on taxes by using the Standard Mileage method.

As you can see, the method you choose to calculate your car-related expenses can translate to either saving on taxes or adding to your tax burden. Accounting software like QuickBooks Self-Employed can help you keep track of mileage, automate your deductions and calculate both methods, allowing you to decide which method works best for you. And an accountant can also help if you’re having trouble with the decision. For more tax-time tips, see our complete guide to taxes for the self-employed, as well as our guide to deductions and expenses.

This article is intended to provide you with general information; it does not constitute any type of tax advice. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone, and do not represent the opinions of Lyft, Uber or any employee thereof. For recommendations related to your overall financial and tax status, contact Hampton Roads Accounting today.

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Marketing Opportunities to Boost Revenue During Your ‘Slow’ Season

This week, I spent some time with my lawn care provider, and we discussed how his business was going.  He said that business was good, but slowing.  In Virginia, grass is growing slower as we enter the fall and winter.   When I asked how he was marketing to his during the winter, he said he hadn’t thought about it.

Here was a huge revenue opportunity he was missing.

We talked about the need to stay in contact with his customers, and offer additional services to keep his revenue stream strong during the winter.  We also discussed building a calendar for his marketing efforts, based on the needs of his customers.

Here is an example of what we came up with.   These are complimentary services his customers will need, in addition to grass cutting:

November and December

  • Remove storm debris
  • Remove leaves
  • Dormant pruning
  • Trim all shrubbery (in preparation for holiday events)
  • Set up Christmas décor (this is both lighting and providing wreaths)
  • Snow/ice removal / salt sidewalks and driveways

January / February

  • Take down Christmas décor
  • Remove storm debris
  • Remove Christmas trees
  • Dormant pruning
  • Snow/ice removal / salt sidewalks and driveways

March / April

  • Snow/ice removal / salt sidewalks and driveways
  • Aeration, fertilization
  • Remove storm debris
  • Schedule mulching appointments for May

There are two important things to keep in mind when building a marketing plan:

  1. It is much more expensive to get new customers than it is to keep existing ones. By providing services to your customers throughout the year, you won’t need to re-introduce yourself in the spring, and your customer churn will be much lower.
  2. To be different from your competition, you have to do something different. In the spring, my front door will have several door hangers from lawn care companies.  Honestly, I won’t even look at them.  ‘My lawn guy’, who has been taking care of my needs during the winter, will be my ONLY choice for the rest of the year.  However, I might look at those door hangers if I feel my lawn care provider has forgotten about me.

Think about what additional services your customers need that you can provide during your slow season, and both you and your customers will benefit.

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It’s Not Too Early to Organize for Your Tax Returns

We are entering the holiday season – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.  Homes will be busy with holiday shopping, entertaining family and friends, and lots of holiday decorations.  Before you know it, it will be time to file your 2017 taxes.

Take a few moments now to collect the tax-related paperwork that reflect the special events that happened in your life this year, and put it safely away for January.

Here are some events to consider, and some items to collect now:

  • Did you buy or sell a home? A copy of your mortgage and closing documents
  • Did you have any casualty, theft or loss? A copy of all paperwork relating to the event
  • Did you get married? Social security cards
  • Did you get divorced or separated? A copy of the divorce decree or separation agreement, showing child support, alimony, and property settlement arrangements
  • Did you have any medical expenses? A copy of ALL unreimbursed receipts from any medical provider, pharmacy, and insurance provider
  • Did you move? Old and new address, and receipts for ALL expenses related to the move
  • Did you have a baby? Date of Birth, and Social Security Number (if you have one)
  • Did you start a new job? Receipts related to a new job search, or anything related to you getting the new job.
  • Did you or someone in your family attend school (beyond high school)? Receipts for all school related expenses including tuition, room and board, books, and other items
  • Did you start a new business? This list is VERY long.  I recommend you visit our website and review the July 2017 Client Newsletter, which lists much of the paperwork needed to record new business expenses.
  • Did you donate to a charity/non-profit/religious organization? A copy of your receipt is needed.
  • Did you pay for daycare? You will need either the name and SSN of the person (if an individual), or the name, address, and EIN or the business or organization
  • Did you pay Personal Property Tax? A copy of the receipt
  • A copy of your 2016 Federal and State tax returns should be kept with your 2017 paperwork.
  • A copy of ANY other paperwork you feel is important, or you have questions about (“I wonder if this is deductible?”). It is far better to have a copy of an item you have a question about, than to later learn you need it but can’t find it.

A simple filing system to keep everything organized is to file:

  • Family (birth/marriage/divorce/daycare)
  • Home (sale/purchase/casualty/theft/loss)
  • Moving or job related
  • Medical
  • Business
  • Other/Miscellaneous

My BEST recommendation is – keep ALL of your receipts.  As you can see from the brief list above, many normal events in your life have a tax implication.  If you have a question about an expense, keep a receipt, and ask us when we prepare your tax returns.rns.

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Supplemental Employee Benefits – What exactly are they and should we be looking at them for our business?

Why do employees want to work for you? More importantly, why do they want to stay? If you have as little as one employee, you should be thinking about benefits. We offer a variety of benefits with our Gusto payroll system, but one additional benefit you can offer, at LITTLE TO NO COST to the business, is Supplemental Employee Benefits. Let’s take a look at what you can do for your employees:

Accident, Cancer, Critical Illness, Hospital Indemnity, Disability, Life

Benefit to Employers

Employers who offer supplemental benefits provide a valuable financial safety net to their employees. Offering these products allows you to enhance your current benefit package at little to no cost to the business, and gives your employees a wide array of options to choose from to help protect their financial security. It takes the burden off of the employer to make difficult decisions on whether or not to financially assist employees through a difficult financial time, caused by injury or illness.
Offering supplemental benefits can help reduce worker’s compensation experience and assist you in attracting and retaining quality employees. There can also be some payroll tax savings when combined with a Section 125 plan. When employers make supplemental coverages available at the workplace, employees respond favorably toward their employer. It is truly a win-win situation for both parties.

Benefit to Employees

Supplemental benefits provide cash directly to your employees when an unforeseen accident or illness strikes an employee or one of their family members. Payments can be used to pay non-medical expenses in addition to deductibles and co-pays. Benefits are payable over and above any other insurance they may have, including group medical. (No coordination of benefits required). These cash payments assist your employees in dealing with out-of-pocket costs and loss of income. Since most employees today live on virtually 100% of their paycheck, any unexpected, sudden reduction in income can have serious consequences to their lifestyle. Even with disability coverage, families can experience a severe hardship when they are unable to work due to an injury or illness. Many times, it is a family member who is injured or sick, and this is not covered under the employee’s disability plan. Having a menu of supplemental benefits to choose from allows you to customize your benefit package to meet your employee’s family’s specific needs and concerns.

Hampton Roads Accounting Clients have a special agent standing by to discuss your particular needs and see how Supplemental Employee Benefits can be offered in your company.

To get started, or to just learn more,
call Tammy at 757-499-1880 and tell her you were referred by Hampton Roads Accounting.

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Book Your Appointments Online!

 

Our website was upgraded recently, and a great new feature was added.  Now, you can book your appointment online and take advantage of our extended evening and weekend hours!

Our extended hours are set aside for new and existing client phone meetings.  These extended hours give us an opportunity to discuss your needs at a time convenient for you.

On the top and bottom of each page on our website, you can find the following button:

Just click it to go to our appointment page.

You will get an email reminder for your meeting, and can add the meeting directly to your Google or Outlook calendar.

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Taxpayers Should Be Wary of Unsolicited Calls from the IRS

Taxpayers who get an unexpected or unsolicited phone call from the IRS should be wary – it’s probably a scam. Phone calls continue to be one of the most common ways that thieves try to get taxpayers to provide personal information. These scammers then use that information to gain access to the victim’s bank or other account.

When a taxpayer answers the phone, it might be a recording or an actual person claiming to be from the IRS. Sometimes the scammer tells the taxpayer they owe money and must pay right away. They might also say the person has a refund waiting, and then they ask for bank account information over the phone.

Taxpayers should not take the bait and fall for this trick. Here are several tips that will help taxpayers avoid becoming a scam victim.

The real IRS will not:

  • Call to demand immediate payment
  • Call someone if they owe taxes without first sending a bill in the mail
  • Demand tax payment and not allow the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed
  • Require that someone pay their taxes a certain way, such as with a prepaid debit card
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other agencies to arrest a taxpayer who doesn’t pay
  • Threaten a lawsuit

Taxpayers who don’t owe taxes or who have no reason to think they do should follow these steps:

  • Use the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scam Reportingweb page to report the incident.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission with the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov.

Taxpayers who think they might actually owe taxes should follow these steps:

  • Ask for a call back number and an employee badge number.
  • Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.

Every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov to explore their rights and the agency’s obligations to protect them.

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Tips to Keep in Mind for Taxpayers Traveling for Charity

During the summer, some taxpayers may travel because of their involvement with a qualified charity. These traveling taxpayers may be able to lower their taxes.

Here are some tax tips for taxpayers to use when deducting charity-related travel expenses:

  • Qualified Charities.  For a taxpayer to deduct costs, they must volunteer for a qualified charity. Most groups must apply to the IRS to become qualified. Churches and governments are generally qualified, and do not need to apply to the IRS. A taxpayer should ask the group about its status before they donate. Taxpayers can also use the Select Check tool on IRS.gov to check a group’s status.
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses.  A taxpayer may be able to deduct some of their costs including travel. These out-of-pocket expenses must be necessary while the taxpayer is away from home. All costs must be:
    • Unreimbursed,
    • Directly connected with the services,
    • Expenses the taxpayer had only because of the services the taxpayer gave, and
    • Not personal, living or family expenses.
  • Genuine and Substantial Duty.  The charity work the taxpayer is involved with has to be real and substantial throughout the trip. The taxpayer can’t deduct expenses if they only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip.
  • Value of Time or Service.  A taxpayer can’t deduct the value of their time or services that they give to charity. This includes income lost while the taxpayer serves as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity.
  • Travel Expenses a Taxpayer Can Deduct.  The types of expenses a taxpayer may be able to deduct include:
    • Air, rail and bus transportation,
    • Car expenses,
    • Lodging costs,
    • Cost of meals, and
    • Taxi or other transportation costs between the airport or station and their hotel.
  • Travel Expenses a Taxpayer Can’t Deduct. Some types of travel do not qualify for a tax deduction. For example, a taxpayer can’t deduct their costs if a significant part of the trip involves recreation or vacation.

For more on these rules, see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

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Summer Camp Costs and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

 

Many parents send their children to summer day camps while they work or look for work. The IRS urges those who do to save their paperwork for the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. Eligible taxpayers may be able claim it on their taxes in 2018 if they paid for day camp or for someone to care for a child, dependent or spouse during 2017.

Here are a few key facts to know about this credit:

Qualifying Person
The care must have been for “qualifying persons.” A qualifying person can be a child under age 13. A qualifying person can also be a spouse or dependent who lived with the taxpayer for more than half the year and is physically or mentally incapable of self-care.

Work-Related Expenses
The care must have been necessary so the taxpayer could work or look for work. For those who are married, the care also must have been necessary so a spouse could work or look for work. This rule does not apply if the spouse was disabled or a full-time student.

Earned Income
The taxpayer — and their spouse if married filing jointly — must have earned income for the tax year. Special rules apply to a spouse who is a student or disabled.

Credit Percentage/Expense Limits
The credit is worth between 20 and 35 percent of allowable expenses. The percentage depends on the income amount. Allowable expenses are limited to $3,000 for care of one qualifying person. The limit is $6,000 if the taxpayer paid for the care of two or more.

Care Provider Information
The name, address and taxpayer identification number of the care provider must be included on the return. The childcare provider cannot be the taxpayer’s spouse, dependent or the child’s parent.

Dependent Care Benefits
If you receive dependent care benefits from your employer, special rules apply.  You can send us an email with your questions, or review IRS Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses for more information on the rules.

Special Circumstances
Since every family is different, the IRS has a series of exceptions to the rules in the qualification process. These exceptions allow a greater number of families to take advantage of the credit. For more information, send us an email or see IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.

Even if the childcare provider is a sitter in the home, taxpayers may qualify for the credit. Taxpayers who pay someone to come to their home and care for their dependent or spouse may be a household employer. They may have to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare tax and pay federal unemployment tax.  If you feel that this might apply to you, contact our office.

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