Welcome to Tax Season! Details on the New 199A Deduction

Tax season has begun. This week, I examine a new section to the Internal Revenue Code that intends to give some degree of parity to certain types of small businesses—you can find the details below.

The New Section 199A Deduction

Congress added a new section to the Internal Revenue Code. Section 199A is intended to give some degree of parity to small businesses that operate as partnerships, S corporations, sole proprietorships, trusts, publicly traded partnerships, and REITS. Since C corporations are now taxed at 21%, Congress decided to give small flow-through businesses taxed at the higher individual level a break. The deduction is limited to the lower of 20% of Qualified Business Income or 20% of the individual’s taxable income.

If you are a Service Trade or Business, i.e. health, law, accounting, actuarial services, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services, or any other trade or business that relies on the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees, then your deduction is only allowed if your taxable income is below $315,000 if filing MFJ and $157,500 for all others.

For businesses other than service—businesses whose owners have taxable income above the phase out limit of $415,000 for MFJ and $207,500 for all others—there are deduction limitations based on W-2 wages and depreciable assets. It is a little complicated, but it is a great deduction.

Tax Season Has Begun

The IRS has begun accepting 2018 tax returns and is issuing refunds. Now is the time to begin gathering your tax data and making an appointment with your tax preparer. If you need a tax preparer and would like to use our firm, then do not hesitate to give me a call and we will set an appointment for you.

That is all today. I look forward to visiting with you next week. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a question—you can call my office at (713) 785-8939 or leave a comment on this post. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy New Year – Remember to File Your Personal Income Tax Return

I hope everyone had a restful and spiritual holiday season. As you know, it is my job to remind you that the New Year brings about your renewed responsibility to file your personal income tax return. It will be due on April 15, 2019. Also due on April 15 are your Trust returns on Form 1041 and your C Corporation returns on Form 1120. On March 15, 2019, your S Corporations on Form 1120S and your Partnerships on Form 1065 are due. These deadlines can all be extended.

You may also want to know that your Property Renditions are due to the HCAD by April 1, 2019 and your Texas Franchise Tax Reports are due to the State Comptroller by May 15, 2019. I probably don’t need to tell you that your payroll reports, which include your W-3, W-2s, Form 941, Form 940, and your TWC Report are due at the end of January.

I Want To Help You Understand the New Tax Law

I would like for you to consider having me come to your business to give a short (hour or less) seminar on the new tax law to your employees. I would talk about how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affects your business in particular and how it affects your employees. There are many changes that will seriously impact many taxpayers, and this would be a great opportunity to educate them. Afterward, we could have a Q&A session. We can discuss the content that would benefit your employees. There would be no obligation and it would be free.

That is all today. I look forward to visiting with you next week. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a question—you can call my office at (713) 785-8939 or simply leave a comment on this post. I’d love to hear from you.

Business Expenses and the New Tax Law

It is important to remember the age-old tax rule: “Expenditures are not deductible unless specifically allowed by law, and all income is taxable unless specifically excluded by law.”

With that in mind, let’s discuss Travel, Meals, and Entertainment under the new law. The new law makes it very simple. If you are a Form W-2 employee and you previously deducted your business expenses on Form 2106 Employee Business Expenses, then your Travel, Meals, and Entertainment are no longer deductible. That’s right! No longer deductible.

But there is a solution, and it’s called an Accountable Plan. It is not new, but it now has greater importance. With an accountable plan, you itemize your business expenses on an expense report, include your receipts, and your employer reimburses the exact amount. The employer gets the deduction and you have no income. Many employers give their employees a “flat allowance.” For the employee, this flat allowance will be income on their Form W-2 and the related expenses will not be deductible.

I recommend you be frank with your boss about the new law’s favoritism toward businesses. You may want to ask for reimbursement under an accountable plan and for certain costs to be covered for reimbursement. Good Luck.

For those taxpayers that are self-employed and report their income and expenses on a Schedule C, corporate return, or partnership return, then we will discuss what Travel, Meals, and Entertainment you can deduct in our tax letter next week.

Why is the Deadline April 17 this Year?

This tax season, April 15 falls on a Sunday and Monday, April 16 is Emancipation Day. Emancipation Day is a holiday in Washington D.C. to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act, which President Abraham Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862. It is annually held on April 16 and is a legal holiday in Washington D.C., and it has the effect of nationally extending the due date for filing your personal and trust income tax returns. The Compensated Emancipation Act freed about 3,000 slaves in Washington D.C. in 1862, but slavery did not officially end in the United States until after the Civil War in 1865, when the House passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

If you don’t file your return by the due date or you don’t get an extension and you owe tax, then you will be subject to the late filing penalty and the late payment penalty. Together, they add up to 5% per month, or fraction thereof, up to a maximum of 25% of your unpaid tax. Please give me a call if you would like to file for an extension of time to file your return. If you know that you will owe additional tax with your return, then you must pay your tax with the extension to avoid the above penalties. Remember, this is an extension of time to file, not an extension of time to pay; you will have six months to get the job done—until October 15, 2018. See you soon.

That is all today. I look forward to visiting with you next week. Let me know if you have a question—you can send an email to robert@robertstevensoncpa.com or call (713) 785-8939. You can also leave a comment on this post.

Hurricane Harvey Casualty Loss and NOLs

As Tax Day draws nearer, I continue to hear questions from taxpayers whose homes were affected by Hurricane Harvey. Today, I explore one instance in which a casualty loss from Harvey may be treated as an NOL, or net operating loss, and used to recover prior tax payments.

Can Your Casualty Loss from Hurricane Harvey Create an NOL for Carryback?

Yes. There may be an opportunity for an additional refund.

Individuals can claim an NOL for casualty losses that exceed the amount that can be utilized in the year the loss was sustained and reported. For those who suffered severe damage, the casualty loss may exceed their income and, therefore, they would not be able to fully utilize their casualty loss deduction for the year in which the loss occurred. The IRS allows such individuals to treat the loss as an NOL and carry it back to prior years. If income was insufficient in the prior years, a carryforward is available.

If done within one year of the NOL year, then you would use Form 1045; this will allow the taxpayer to receive a prompt refund. If the claim is filed more than one year after the close of the NOL year, then it must be filed on Form 1040X within the relevant statute of limitations for the loss year. Your normal NOL gets a two year carryback, but a special rule for casualty losses extends the carryback period to three years.

Congress enacted a special five-year carryback for those who suffered a loss from Hurricane Katrina. However, a similar special five-year carryback was not enacted for those who suffered losses from Hurricane Sandy. Tax professionals will be keeping an eye out for any new legislation that might extend the carryback period for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Hopefully very few taxpayers will need five years to absorb their loss.

That is all for today. I look forward to visiting with you next week. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. Feel free to email robert@robertstevensoncpa.com or call my office at (713) 785-8939. I’m also available by text at (713) 906-8331.

Attention Small Business Owners: Don’t Forget Your Franchise Tax Report

Everyone seems to remember their federal tax returns, but for small business owners, state tax returns are also due. If you have a small business and you filed Articles with the Secretary of State to get state law protection in some form, such as an LLC, or a corporation, or another form of protection suitable to your needs, then you will need to file a Texas Franchise Tax Report and a Public Information Report by May 15, 2018.

These reports must be filed electronically and to file electronically you must have your Webfile Number. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts sent you a reminder last week that your Franchise Tax Report is coming due. This reminder will have all the information your CPA (or you) will need to file the return electronically, including your Webfile Number. Please be sure to keep this form and get it to your CPA as soon as possible along with your federal tax information — and definitely before May 15.

Hurricane Harvey Casualty Loss and Form 4684

As Tax Day draws nearer, I’ve had a number of questions about Hurricane Harvey and casualty loss. Today, I’ll walk you through what you need to file Form 4684 for casualty loss deductions with your 2017 tax return.

Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts was designed especially for storms like Hurricane Harvey. In 2017, you will be able to take an itemized deduction by completing the form and attaching it to your Form 1040. Also, it’s important to know that twenty counties along the Texas Gulf Coast, including Harris County, were Presidentially Declared Disaster Areas. Once the President declares an area a Presidentially Declared Disaster Area, then the IRS can administratively make temporary changes to the law, such as extending the due dates of returns and estimated tax payments, and they can lift the 10% of AGI threshold for casualty losses. And that is what they did. If your home was flooded and your personal possessions were lost in the flood, then you need to complete Form 4684.

Here is what you will need to complete the form:

  • The cost or basis of your home
  • Your insurance or other reimbursement (ie: FEMA)
  • Your fair market value before the storm
  • Your fair market value after the storm

This is the information you will need to complete your casualty loss deduction. If you struggle with any of these items, such as the FMV of your home after the storm, don’t hesitate to ask your realtor or real estate appraiser, or contact the Harris County Appraisal District. If you need any help with any of this, then please give me a call.

That is all today. I look forward to visiting with you next week. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions — you can call my office at (713) 785-8939 or leave a comment on this post to get in touch.

Three Exceptions to the Three-Year Statute of Limitations for Tax Assessments & Refund Claims

Statutes of limitations are provisions of law that require actions to be initiated for prior events within a certain maximum prescribed time period. Therefore, if an action is to be brought or pursued for a prior event, it typically must be initiated before the maximum prescribed time period expires. The purpose of statutes of limitations is to allow for the best evidence that is available to be presented in the pursuit of the action. As time expires, evidence may become lost or unavailable, witnesses may no longer be available, and prosecuting such untimely actions and defending them will become very difficult. Therefore, statutes of limitations are designed to compel action be initiated before evidence becomes unavailable. Failure to initiate such action within this specified maximum prescribed time period is a valid defense and precludes the pursuit of the action.

Statutes of limitations apply for federal income tax matters, as well as other legal matters, civil and criminal. The Internal Revenue Code prescribes specific provisions for when prior tax matters may be pursued by either the IRS or the taxpayer. It depends on whether the IRS is seeking an additional assessment of tax or the taxpayer is seeking a claim for refund. The general rule for imposing additional tax or claiming a refund is three years from the date the tax return is filed or the due date, whichever is later.

As with any rule, there are exceptions.

There are two exceptions from the general rule for IRS assessment of additional tax. The first exception applies to the substantial omission of income. In the case of substantial omission of income, the statute of limitation for the general rule described above is extended to six years. For this exception to apply, substantial omission of income is defined as more than 25% of the gross income is omitted on the tax return. For example, if the taxpayer has $126,000 of gross income and only reports $100,000, then this will trigger the six-year statute of limitation. If the taxpayer had reported $102,000, then the general rule three year statute of limitation would still apply. It is noteworthy to recognize that the six-year statute of limitation applies only to the substantial omission of income and not to other items such as claiming excessive deductions, etc.

The second exception to the general rule for assessments applies to fraud (the willful intent to evade tax) or to tax returns not filed at all. In either of these cases there is no statute of limitations. There is no time limit for the IRS to assess additional tax or initiate a court action. The burden of proof generally remains with the IRS in cases of fraudulent tax returns or tax returns not filed.

The third exception has to do with how long a taxpayer has to claim a refund for the overpayment of tax. A claim for refund must generally be made within three years from the date the tax return was filed or the due date, whichever is later. If no tax return is filed, then the claim for refund must be made within two years from the date the tax was paid. Any tax deducted and withheld from the wages of a taxpayer is treated as paid on April 15. My advice: If you have a refund, then be sure to file within two years of the due date of the return.

9 Tips for Reconstructing Records after Hurricane Harvey

Taxpayers who are victims of a disaster might need to reconstruct records to prove their loss. Doing this may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or an insurance reimbursement.

Here are nine things individual taxpayers can do to help reconstruct their records after a disaster:

  1. Taxpayers can get free tax return transcripts by using the Get Transcript tool on IRS.gov, or use their smartphone with the IRS2Go mobile phone app. They can also call (800) 908-9946 to order it by phone.
  2. To establish the extent of the damage, taxpayers should take photographs or videos as soon after the disaster as possible.
  3. If a taxpayer doesn’t have photographs or videos of their property, a simple method to help them remember what items they lost is to sketch pictures of each room that was impacted.
  4. If you lost your car, there are several resources that can help you determine the FMV before the loss. These resources are all available online or at the library: Kelley’s Blue Book, National Automobile Dealers Association, or Edmunds.
  5. Taxpayers can contact the title company, escrow company, or bank that handled the purchase of their home to get copies of their destroyed documents.
  6. If you bought furniture or appliances with your credit card, then you should contact your credit card company or bank for past statements.
  7. Homeowners should review their insurance policy as the policy usually lists the value of the building to establish a base amount for replacement and starting point for determining FMV before the loss.
  8. Absent that, you can go to the HCAD website for a record of the value of your property, both land and improvement.
  9. You can also support your loss with cancelled checks, credit card receipts, photographs on your phone, and videos.

I hope this helps!

Robert T. Stevenson, CPA

3 Common Tax Return Myths

Nobody wants to be the target of an IRS audit. Fear of an audit leads taxpayers to believe myths about what may or may not catch the eyes of the IRS. Unfortunately, these misconceptions could steer taxpayers toward greater audit risk and a higher tax liability. Below, I unpack three widespread individual tax return myths — and reveal the truth behind them.

Myth #1: Extending an Individual Return Increases Your Chances of Being Audited

The IRS offers an automatic six month extension to all individuals with no explanation necessary. If the IRS viewed extended returns as risky, then there would be rules in place to restrict extensions. Quite the opposite is true — the IRS makes it very easy for individuals to file extensions.

Individuals may rush to file their personal returns out of fear that they will be penalized for an extension, even if their returns are incomplete or inaccurate. This behavior may result in higher audit risk if the IRS catches the inaccuracies. Instead, taxpayers should take the time to collect and review their tax information to ensure they have included everything. If that involves filing an extension, then it is better to extend than to file without all of the information.

While an automatic extension extends your time to file your income tax return, it does not extend the time you have to pay your tax. If you expect to owe additional money with your income tax return, then you will need to pay all tax due when you file your extension.

Myth #2: Getting a Large Refund Means You Are Maximizing Deductions and Minimizing Risk

A large income tax refund may simply mean that you are over withholding on your Form W-2 or overpaying your estimated taxes. That refund is actually interest-free money that you overpaid to the government.

Be leery of those who brag about their IRS Refunds. Rather than optimizing deductions, they may be getting back money that they had over withheld. Discuss your personal circumstances with your CPA to ensure that you maximize your deductions.

Large refunds have now become potential red flags for the IRS. With the drastic increase in identity theft, the IRS is now on the lookout for returns seeking large refunds to ensure that those returns are legitimate.

Myth #3: Individuals Should Not Take the Home Office Deduction Due to Audit Risk

Unlike in the past, working from home is very common today due to technology and the savings to companies in office space. Therefore, remote employees and the self-employed do not necessarily increase their audit risk.

There are some rules to consider. First, individuals can only claim space used exclusively and regularly for business. Also, the home office deduction is available only to individuals who do not have nearby access to a physical office location. Also, the deduction is only allowed to the extent of profit in the business.


If you have additional tax questions, give me a call at (713) 785-8939. I’d love to hear from you.