Archive for the "Accounting & Bookkeeping" Category

BHB Advisors LLC, CPAs and Consultants

 

Based in Minnesota, BHB Advisors, LLC is a full service tax and accounting practice, offering the following services:

  1. Tax – planning and compliance work for individuals, corporations and partnerships
  2. Accounting Services and Financial Statements
  3. Consulting and Management Advisory Services

Our mission is to communicate, collaborate and cooperate with our clients to help get them where they want to be financially.

Our specialty is working with individuals and small to midsize companies in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.

We hope that our website will offer you a glimpse of our expertise and help answer tax and accounting questions you may have.

2016 Tax Season Resources

Welcome to another tax season!  To make this busy time a little easier, you can download all the necessary documents right here.

We ask all of our clients to fill out and return a signed Engagement Letter, and Questionnaire. We also have an Organizer that you can fill out to help gather your tax information.

Individual Engagement Letter

Fiduciary Engagement Letter – Available upon request.

Individual Questionnaire  This is a "fill in" PDF form, but will need to be either printed to .pdf or paper to record your answers.

Fiduciary Questionnaire Print and record your answers on paper.

Individual Organizer (Not available for Fiduciary)

If we did your return in 2015, you will receive an Organizer with your prior year information.  If you need a new Organizer, please contact Carrie to have one sent to you.

If you are a new client, please download and complete the blank Organizer that pertains to your situation.

  1. Basic- For taxpayers without Schedule C business income, or rental property.
  2. Business Income- For taxpayers with self-employment income. Please make sure to fill out this Organizer AND the Basic Organizer.
  3. Rental Income – For taxpayers with rental properties. Please make sure to fill out this Organizer AND the Basic Organizer.
  4. Complete- This is the complete version for taxpayers with multiple activities such as business, rental, farm, or foreign income.

If you have Adobe Acrobat see our instructions for filling out your organizer in Adobe.

Can You Deduct the Cost of Tickets?

A business is permitted to deduct the ordinary and necessary expenses it incurs for carrying on the business.  Is it possible to write off the cost of tickets to a sporting event?  The short answer is yes, but certain conditions must be met. This is an area that is often challenged by the IRS.  Proper documentation and some planning ahead of time can make it much easier to prove the eligibility of the expense upon examination.

The first condition to make the tickets deductible is that the event be directly related to the conduct of business.  This means that you must actively engage in a business meeting, negotiation, discussion, or other bona fide business transaction during the event.  This is not the most difficult condition to meet, and the IRS realizes that so there are two other requirements to meet.  First, tickets cannot be provided to an existing or prospective client without a company representative being present.  Without a representative of the company, the tickets are considered a gift which is only deductible up to $25 per person per year.  Second, the environment must be suitable for conducting business. Substantial distractions can lead the IRS to determine that no business transactions could be conducted there.  It can be debated otherwise, but this generally means that general admission tickets do not qualify.  The noise and distraction of the crowd are not favorable to business being conducted.  It is recommended that you use a more secluded section, such as a suite.  No matter which tickets are purchased you need to document which business transactions occurred before, during, and/or after the event.

The cost of a luxury suite is limited to the face value of tickets for non-luxury seats.  You can use the highest priced non-luxury seats that are available to the general public in figuring the amount that is deductible.  Any amount above this price level is not deductible.  Most suite rentals have additional components, other than the cost of the ticket, including advertising, food and beverage, and other fees for use of the suite.  You can work with the venue to determine amounts for each.

The amount recognized for the tickets and food and beverage are subject to a 50% limit.  This is generally applied to all business meals and entertainment expenses.  Any amount determined to be advertising is fully deductible as a business expense.  Generally, any other costs are considered non-deductible.

Businesses regularly take clients to sporting events to develop new or existing relationships.  Start a conversation with your tax advisor to determine the possible tax deduction for sporting event tickets.

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S-corporations and the Home Office Deduction

When you are a shareholder of an S-corp but also work for the company you are considered an employee.  Having employee status means that any home office deductions must be reported on Schedule A which requires that the deduction be greater than 2% of your adjusted gross income in order to have any tax benefit. This is generally not the case.  However there is another way to get a business deduction for the cost of your home office.   If you are not aware if you are eligible for the home office deduction please see our article “Work from Home? A Possible Deduction…

For S-Corp owners that are eligible for the home office deduction, the IRS allows the S-Corp to reimburse the owner and employees for ordinary and necessary business expenses including expenses directly related to keeping an office in their home as a "working condition fringe benefit."

The following steps must be followed to take advantage of this reimbursement plan and business deduction:

  1. The employer must adopt an accountable plan for business expense reimbursements and follow the substantiation rules.  Example
  2. The employee must provide an accounting (expense report with supporting documents) of the following expenses and apply a business use percentage based on the square footage of the area used exclusively for business to the entire home.

The following expenses are allowed (subject to the business use "square footage" percentage):

  1. Utilities
  2. Insurance
  3. Repairs and maintenance

The following "direct" expenses are allowed 100%:

  1. Office supplies
  2. Computer equipment
  3. Cell phone charges

The following expenses are NOT allowed for reimbursement:

  1. Depreciation of home
  2. Mortgage interest
  3. Property taxes

Mortgage interest and property taxes may be deductible elsewhere on your personal tax return so they do not qualify for reimbursement by the employer.  If you rent your home, you may also be able to deduct the business percentage of the rent paid as well.  Please contact your tax advisor if you have any questions and to discuss your specific situation.

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Work from Home? Possible Tax Deduction:

If you work from home you may be entitled to a tax deduction.  This deduction ordinarily benefits self-employed persons, but is available to employees as well.  Though it is available to employees, most will not see a tax benefit as the deduction is subject to a 2% of adjusted gross income reduction.  A future article will explain a way for certain employees (S-corp shareholders) to take advantage of the home office deduction.

In order to qualify for the home office deduction you must meet certain criteria.  The office space must be used exclusively and regularly as a principal place of business.  Let's break down these components separately.  Exclusive use means that the home office is not used for personal matters.  So an office that doubles as a spare bedroom does not qualify.  The regular use condition is satisfied if you use the space continually and in the normal course of business.  Occasionally meeting clients at home does not qualify.  Meeting the principal place of business requirement is more ambiguous but there are two main factors used to determine eligibility.  First, the importance of activities performed must be essential to the business.  The second factor, used if the first one is not clear, is the time spent in/at each place.

If you are an employee there is an additional requirement that the home office must be for the convenience of the employer.  This is a difficult test to meet, and lots of employees will not qualify.  Each situation should be evaluated specifically as there are exceptions but here is a quick reference that answers the basic question.  If you have space to conduct your business (i.e. office space) provided by your employer, you do not qualify.  The opposite is also true, if your employer does not provide office space; the home office is for the convenience of the employer.

If you meet the criteria and are eligible for a home office deduction how much is it worth?  As with most situations with the IRS there isn't just one solution.  There are two possible ways to calculate what your deduction may be.

  • Simplified Method – You receive a $5 deduction per square foot of office space; with a maximum of 300 square feet. With this method the record keeping requirements and allocations discussed below are eliminated.
  • Standard Home Office Deduction – There are three main components to the home office deduction
    1. Indirect expenses – these are taken based on the business use square footage percentage; the percentage of your home that the office occupies. These expenses impact the entire home.
      1. Utilities
      2. Insurance
      3. Repairs & maintenance
      4. Property taxes
      5. Landscaping & snow removal
    2. Direct expenses – related to the home office only.
      1. Repairs & maintenance for the office only
    3. Depreciation –this is a deduction for the decrease in value of your home over time. This deduction is allowed on the same percentage basis as indirect expenses.

As you can see, the amount of work to calculate and maintain the records for the standard home office deduction are quite substantial.  Also keep in mind that when you eventually sell the home any depreciation allowed for the period used for business must be taken into account for the purpose of determining taxable gain on the sale.  You can determine each year whether to take the simplified or the standard home office deduction.

We recommend taking advantage of every tax deduction available to you.  Not everyone qualifies for the home office deduction but if you do, it can be very advantageous.  With a little planning it is much easier to track and record everything needed.  If you have questions related to your specific situation, please contact your tax advisor.House2

2015 Tax Season Resources

Welcome to another tax season!  To make this busy time a little easier, you can download all the necessary documents right here.

We ask all of our clients to fill out and return a signed Engagement Letter, and Questionnaire. We also have an Organizer that you can fill out to help gather your tax information.

Individual Engagement Letter

Fiduciary Engagement Letter

Individual Questionnaire – This is a “fill in” PDF form, but will need to be either printed to .pdf or paper to record your answers.

Fiduciary Questionnaire  – Print and record your answers on paper.

Individual Organizer (Not available for Fiduciary)

If we did your return in 2014, you will receive an Organizer with your prior year information.  If you need a new Organizer, please contact Carrie to have one sent to you.

If you are a new client, please download and complete the blank Organizer that pertains to your situation.

  • Basic – For taxpayers without Schedule C business income or rental property.
  • Business Income – For taxpayers with self-employment income. Please make sure to fill out this Organizer AND the Basic Organizer.
  • Rental Income – For taxpayers with rental properties. Please make sure to fill out this Organizer AND the Basic Organizer.
  • Complete – This is the complete version for taxpayers with multiple activities such as business, rental, or farm income.

If you have Adobe Acrobat see our instructions for filling out your organizer in Adobe.

Repair Expense Safe Harbor Increased

Companies that do not submit financials to the SEC or have their financial statements audited each year could only deduct repair expenses up to $500 under the IRS's de minimis safe harbor.  This safe harbor applies to a large number of small businesses.  The IRS has increased the de minimis safe harbor amount to $2,500 for tax years beginning after 2015.  They also stated that they will not challenge this for earlier years if other conditions are met.  You must have a policy in place at the beginning of the year to take advantage of this safe harbor.  Consider adopting this policy soon to prepare for the 2016 tax year.  Do not hesitate to contact your tax advisor to ask about this new policy change.

Sample Capitalization Policy

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Common QuickBooks Mistakes

Throughout my years working with QuickBooks and doing bookkeeping I have observed that problems with year end and interim financial statements can be boiled down to simple input error. Many business owners do not have the ability to hire a bookkeeper with extensive knowledge of the software and find themselves (as usual…) doing everything.  So here are a few common mistakes to avoid while doing your books…

  1. Make end-of-the-year journal entries.  Most CPA's after reviewing the books for official consolidated financial statements and tax returns will come up with a few adjustments to the books and give the adjustments to the owner for entry. A common pitfall is to fail to make these adjustments.  Failure to make these adjustments will mean that your year end will not match what is filed for taxes and the next year your CPA will have to spend additional time to reconcile the balance sheet. This can get expensive.

 

  1. Do not change entries from a prior year.  Similarly to the first common mistake that owners will make is to change an entry in a prior year.  This will again throw off the balance sheet, which will need to be reconciled before new data can be interpreted.  If you feel a change from a prior year is necessary, talk to your accountant first! They will be able to tell you if the corresponding change will effect what was reported to the IRS or if you may do a simple journal entry as of January 1st of the current year.  It can be easy to make a mistake at the beginning of a new year when entering a date. Luckily, QuickBooks has user preferences that can be used to prevent these mistakes. First you can set a closing date that will prompt you to enter a password before you can make any changes to a prior year. Or you can set a range warning that will prompt you if the date you entered is a certain number of days in the past or future of the current date.  Both of these options can be found under the EDIT > PREFERENCES tab.

 

  1. Pay attention to dates. Do we see a theme starting? Timing is a very important aspect of accounting/bookkeeping. It is important to record transactions when they occur.  If you wait to enter data into QuickBooks at the end of every month or every other month, that is fine but make sure not to use the current date for every transaction.  Using the current date will make it very difficult to reconcile your bank account. For example, if you have two transactions with the same amount you may not actually know which has cleared. Using the current date for all transactions will also prevent you from having good data to analyze business performance.  For example you will not be able to tell which months perform well vs. poor, which expenses have risen, and the cause and effect of external factors on your financials.

 

  1. Be consistent. Bookkeeping is about processes. Therefore if you use the QuickBooks accounts payable function make sure you always enter the invoice before paying the bill.  Writing a check against the accounts payable account without entering a bill will give you negative accounts payable.  If you use the accounts receivable function, make sure to enter an invoice before receiving payment or you will throw off undeposited funds.  If you use the class function, make sure to always enter a class before saving a transaction or you may not have accurate reports by class.  QuickBooks has many defaults that create warnings when you start doing things out of order or forget something; don't turn these off, they will help you.

 

  1. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your accountant/CPA is there for you, if you have a weird scenario or just a question, call them.  They see weird transactions everyday and a quick call could save you a lot of money in the long run.

Hopefully spelling out a few of the common mistakes will help you save time and money. For any general questions, questions about outsourcing your bookkeeping, or questions about getting some QuickBooks training give us a call. We have many years of experience with QuickBooks and would be happy to help.

Self – Employment & Taxes

A question on a lot of minds is "What does it mean to be self-employed for tax purposes?"

There are several factors that you must be aware of when you decide to open that business or strike out on your own.

  1. For income tax purposes, you will report your income and expenses on Schedule C of your Form 1040. The net income will be taxable to you regardless of whether you withdraw cash from the business. Your business expenses will be deductible against gross income (i.e., "above the line," and not as itemized deductions subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income floor). If you have any losses, the losses will generally be deductible against your other income, subject to special rules relating to hobby losses, passive activity losses and losses in activities in which you weren't "at risk."

 

  1. If you will be working from an office in your home, performing management or administrative tasks from a home office, or storing product samples or inventory at home, you may be entitled to deduct an allocable portion of certain of the costs of maintaining your home. And if you have a home office, you may be able to convert nondeductible commuting expenses (of going from your residence to another work location) into deductible transportation expenses. See an additional blog on deductible miles.

 

  1. You will also be required to pay self-employment taxes: a social security tax at a 12.4% rate on your net earnings from self-employment of up to $118,500 (reduced by any wages that you earn from employment), and a Medicare tax at a 2.9% rate on the excess. A portion of your self-employment taxes will be deductible as a trade or business expense (that is, as a deduction against gross income, not subject to the limits that apply to itemized deductions). Note: no SE taxes will be assessed on self-employment income under $400.

 

  1. You may be allowed to deduct your health insurance costs as a trade or business expense. This means your deduction for medical care insurance won't be limited by the normal 10%-of-AGI floor on itemized medical expenses. Your health care insurance can include your spouse and your children and still qualify for a deduction.

 

  1. Your income won't be subject to withholding tax. However, you will be required to pay estimated taxes quarterly. You should work with your tax advisors to minimize the amount of your estimated tax payments while avoiding any underpayment penalty.

 

  1. You will have to maintain complete records of your income and expenses. In particular, you should pay attention to recording your expenses in order to be able to take the full amount of the deductions to which you are entitled. Certain types of expenses, such as automobile, travel, entertainment, meals, and home office expenses, are subject to special recordkeeping requirements or limitations on their deductibility and require special attention. See our blog on record keeping for more information.

 

  1. If you hire any employees, you will have to get a taxpayer identification number and will have to withhold and pay various payroll taxes. Hiring employees and other independent contractors can lead to additional accounting obligations. The first of which is to decide whether the person should be hired as an employee or an independent contractor.  To determine if a person should be an employee or contractor please see the following client letter:  Employee – contractor letter.  If you hire someone as an independent contractor and pay them $600 or more, you may be required to send them and the IRS Form 1099 in the following year reporting the amount you paid them.  When you consider hiring, it is important to contact your tax advisor to discuss the matter in detail.

 

  1. You should consider establishing a qualified retirement plan. The advantage of a qualified retirement plan is that amounts contributed to the plan are deductible at the time of the contribution, and aren't taken into income until the amounts are withdrawn. Because of the complexities of ordinary qualified retirement plans, you might consider a simplified employee pension (SEP) plan, which requires less paperwork. Another type of plan available to sole proprietors that offers tax advantages with fewer restrictions and administrative requirements than a qualified plan is a "savings incentive match plan for employees," i.e., a SIMPLE plan. If you don't establish a retirement plan, you may still be able to make a contribution to an IRA.

 

This list is simplified and far from exhaustive, if you have additional questions or you are considering starting your own business.  Please consult your advisors and see our blog “Starting a biz”

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Starting a Business

Starting a business is a big decision; whether you are leaving a steady income stream or just beginning your career, venturing out on your own can seem like a daunting task.  Having an idea of what lies ahead can help.  What follows is a basic road map for the formation of a business.  Not every venture requires each step; having a trusted advisor to help along the way is invaluable.

First is the choice of entity: sole proprietorship, LLC, S corporation, and C corporation are the most common but there are others.  It is best to analyze this from both a legal perspective and a tax perspective to determine which one is the best fit.  This means meeting with an attorney and a CPA to discuss the options.  Make sure that you and your professional advisors are on the same page about the direction of the business; including the ultimate goal whether that is the sale of what you have built or a succession plan.

After the type of entity is chosen, the capital structure of the business should be developed.  This can be as simple as $100 from the owner to get things started or as complex as multiple equity offerings with different profit and loss allocations for each tier.  Deciding whether to pursue debt (loans) financing or equity (ownership) financing should be made in this step.  Your advisors will guide you through this and make recommendations along the way.

Next are some government filings.  In Minnesota you must establish the business with the Secretary of State's office.  Then you can obtain a federal employer identification number and other state identification numbers, sales tax, withholding tax, if necessary.

The next step to your business formation is to develop an accounting system.  It is best to determine and lay out some processes in the beginning of your formation.  These processes will make it easier to track income and expenses and give you an accurate and timely picture of the business' financial situation.  What you need will vary depending on the type and size of the business as well as the personal preferences of the owner(s) therefore it may be useful to contact your accounting advisor during this step.

Now it is time to solicit business… wait… that was most likely happening before and during all of these activities already.  This business is your and possibly some other partners/investors project.  Make sure that throughout the formation process the development of the business corresponds with your initial vision.  Your advisors should be able to answer any questions you have and help you to be comfortable with each step, all while remaining a valuable asset you can take with you to the next new step your venture brings.