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.

Net Operating Loss Deductions Under the New Tax Law

This week, I continue my exploration of the reforms brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Today’s topic: Net Operating Loss Deductions.

Net Operating Loss Deduction – Old Law

NOL deductions are computed on Schedule A of Form 1045 and taken on Line 21 of the Form 1040. Under the previous law, if your business incurred an operating loss (expenses exceeded revenues) or you as an individual incurred a disaster loss in a Presidential Disaster Area (Hurricane Harvey), then you could compute and use an NOL deduction. NOLs could be carried back either 2, 3, or 5 years depending on the type of loss, and then carried forward. The taxpayer also had the option to waive the carryback period, but to qualify they were required to attach an election to their timely filed tax return—and that includes the additional time allowed if they filed an extension. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed things.

Net Operating Loss Deduction – New Law

The new law repeals the various carryback periods, but provides a two-year carryback for certain losses incurred in farming businesses and insurance companies. The new law provides that NOLs may be carried forward indefinitely. The new law also limits the amount of the NOL that may be deducted in any one year to 80% of taxable income, determined without regard to the NOL deduction itself. The effective date of the new law is defined as tax years beginning after December 31, 2017. Therefore, any taxpayer with NOL carryovers from tax years prior to January 01, 2018 will not be subject to the 80% of taxable income limitation and taxpayers will have to distinguish between the two types of losses when computing the NOL deduction.

That is all today. I look forward to visiting with you next week. Let me know if you have a question—you can reach my office at (713) 785-8939 or just leave a comment on this post.

Tax Reform Update—Changes to the Child Tax Credit

Under pre-Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) law, parents could claim a child tax credit (CTC) of $1,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17. The CTC was phased out for taxpayers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) above certain thresholds—$110,000 for married filing joint taxpayers and $75,000 for single and head of household taxpayers. The CTC was reduced by $50 for each $1,000 or fraction thereof that their AGI exceeded their threshold amount.

All that is changing for 2018 and beyond. Below, I examine the changes in detail.

New Law – Qualifying Child

For tax years after December 31, 2017 and before January 1, 2026, the TCJA modifies the CTC by increasing the credit to $2,000 for each qualifying child under 17 and increasing the phase-out threshold to $400,000 for married filing joint taxpayers and $200,000 for all others. The phase-out computation stays the same. It is also important to know that the CTC has a refundable portion of $1,400. This means that if your total tax liability is less than the sum of your total child tax credits, then up to $1,400 per child can be refunded.

Example: H and W have three qualifying children under age 17 and their total tax liability is $1,500. Their total CTC is $6,000. Their refund is limited to $4,200 ($1,400 x 3).

New Law – Other Dependents

The CTC is also modified to provide a $500 non-refundable credit for qualifying dependents other than qualifying children. This would include dependent children 17 and over (such as college students), disabled adult children, or elderly parents under your care. The phase-out thresholds are the same as the CTC.

That is all today. I look forward to visiting with you next week. Let me know if you have a question—you can reach my office at (713) 785-8939. You can also leave a comment on this post.

Tax Reform Update—Here’s What to Expect

The IRS is working on implementing the changes created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).  Here are some of the major tax reform changes you can expect.

New Business Deduction Form

One of the most exciting TCJA changes is the new form the IRS is developing for taxpayers to calculate the qualified business income deduction (QBI). Self-employed taxpayers, partners, and S corporation shareholders will use this form to claim the QBI deduction on their tax return. If you are in this group then stay tuned for IRS guidance expected to come out during 2018 and be sure to work with your tax preparer to maximize your QBI deduction. I will keep you informed.

TCJA Changes for Individuals

One important change: You won’t claim a dependent exemption for your children or other dependents or a personal exemption for yourself or your spouse. You will still need to provide the information needed to take the credits for your children and non-child dependents if you qualify. Another change is the doubling of the standard deduction to $24,000 for taxpayers who are married and filing jointly. But your total allowable deduction for state and local taxes such as sales tax, state income tax, real estate tax, and personal property tax is limited to $10,000. The interest payments on your home equity loan might not be deductible. As we discussed in recent weeks, you can no longer deduct employee business expenses on Form 2106 and you can no longer deduct miscellaneous itemized deductions. Casualty and theft losses are no longer deductible unless they occur in a federally declared disaster area. And lastly, medical expenses are only deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5% of AGI. I hope this helps—I will continue to review TCJA tax law changes in the weeks and months to come.

That is all today. I look forward to visiting with you next week. Let me know if you have a question—you can reach my office at (713) 785-8939. You can also leave a comment on this post.

Deducting Travel, Meals, and Entertainment as a Business

Last week, we discussed how all employee business expenses are non-deductible for individuals on their Form 1040. The only way an individual could be reimbursed (without it being included in his W-2) for an out of pocket business expense would be if his employer had an Accountable Plan, which is when you itemize your business expenses on an expense report, with your receipts attached, and your employer reimburses the exact amount. The bottom line is that the Form 2106, Employee Business Expenses is now obsolete and the Miscellaneous Expenses section of Schedule A, Itemized Deductions is also obsolete.

This week, we will discuss when Travel, Meals, and Entertainment are deductible by a business.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) completely eliminates the employer (business) tax deduction for entertainment, either paid directly or reimbursed to the employee. But there is one way for a business to get a deduction. If the business pays entertainment expenses on behalf of or by reimbursement to an employee and the amount is included in his Form W-2 as compensation, then the employer may take a 100% deduction as Wages. Otherwise, business entertainment is 100% non-deductible for expenses paid or incurred after December 31, 2017 for both employee and employer. Don’t be surprised if reimbursement policies change.

Business Meals are more complicated. The 50% limitation for business food and beverage expense still applies to meals while traveling away from home on business, and it still applies to business meals with clients as long as it’s not extravagant. Now it also applies to food and beverages provided to employees through an employer-operated eating facility, and to employer-provided de minimis food and beverages at the workplace such as coffee, cokes, donuts, water service, and overtime meals for the convenience of the employer.

The 100% deductible items include travel expenses such as airline tickets, hotels, rental cars, and taxis. Also the office holiday party, the company picnic, and any company provided gathering that lifts employee morale is still 100% deductible. So feel free to plan your company Christmas party and be sure to deduct 100% of your expenses.

Finally, you may want to establish separate general ledger accounts for: Non-deductible Entertainment; 50% Food and Beverage; and 100% Travel and Holiday Party.

That is all today. I look forward to visiting with you next week.

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.

Can You Deduct Interest on a Home Equity Loan Used to Remodel Your Home?

In short, yes.

Debt secured by a first or second home and used to improve the place has always been considered acquisition indebtedness, so the new law’s crackdown on home equity loans doesn’t apply. After 2017, you can no longer deduct interest on home equity debt used for other purposes, such as to buy a car, pay off credit card debt, or pay college tuition. Remember when we changed the Texas Constitution to allow borrowing on the equity in your farm, ranch, or home for purposes other than home improvements? It was the early 1990s. Well, you can still borrow on your equity for other purposes, you just can’t deduct the interest.

There is also a new limit on eligible acquisition mortgage debt. The new law limits the deductibility of interest on acquisition indebtedness to $750,000 for tax years after December 31, 2017. The new law allows homeowners with existing mortgages to continue to deduct interest on a total of $1 million of debt for a first and second home, but for new buyers, the $1 million limit fell to $750,000 for a first and second home.

When it comes to refinancing your mortgage, homeowners can refinance mortgage debt up to $1 million that existed on December 14, 2017, and still deduct the interest. But the new loan cannot exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced, unless used to improve your home.

Example: If Joe has a $1 million mortgage he has paid down to $800,000, then he can refinance up to $800,000 of debt and continue to deduct interest on it. If he refinances for $900,000 and uses the $100,000 of cash to upgrade the home, then he could deduct the interest on the $900,000. But if he uses the $100,000 for other purposes, such as paying off credit card debt, then he couldn’t deduct interest on any of the $900,000 refinancing. I hope this helps.

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.

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The new tax law took effect on January 1st, and it is a big win for the American taxpayer. It is too big to cover in one post, so we will be discussing various provisions throughout the year. You will feel it immediately both in your federal withholding and in your quarterly estimated tax payments. The basics include:

  • Rate cuts for all brackets
  • A doubling of the standard deduction
  • A doubling of the child tax credit and a raising of the phaseout starting at $400,000 for MFJ (married, filing jointly)
  • The exemption for the AMT (alternative minimum tax) is increased to $109,400
  • The phaseout begins at $1M for MFJ
  • The phaseout of itemized deductions is gone
  • The unified credit for estates and gifts is doubled to $11.1M per person and the 40% rate stays the same

High income individuals that live in high tax states such as NY, NJ, and CA will not get much of a break. The rate reduction is significantly offset by the fact that they cannot deduct the high state and local taxes that they previously deducted. Say you make $2M and pay $100,000 in state and city tax and then save $40,000 in federal income tax. Now, that deduction and the tax savings are gone, so you cannot say this is a windfall for the wealthy. It is also good economic policy because it does not subsidize high tax states at the expense of the American taxpayer in low tax states. The $10,000 limit on the deduction of state and local tax does not apply to your business or other income producing property.

Regular corporations are getting a rate reduction from 35% to 21%. You may have noticed the stock market is factoring in the new bottom line. Also, foreign profits held overseas are being deemed repatriated at a rate of 15.5% for cash and 8% on other assets. The market gets to figure the effect that will have on values also. For S Corporations, sole proprietors, LLCs, and partnerships, there is a 20% deduction based on the lower of three amounts which is designed to achieve parity with the C corporations. This 20% break is phased out for professional service firms with taxable income between $315,000 and $415,000 for MFJ. The section 179 deduction is being doubled to $1M and bonus depreciation is being increased to 100%. My advice is get in the market.

This is all for today.  If you need more information, please feel free to give me a call at (713) 785-8939 or leave a comment on this post.

Important Update on Corporate Tax Reform

A new tax plan recently passed through the House, and this week, everyone in Washington is talking about corporate tax reform. I parsed the legislation and have summarized some key points below. The implications for S and C Corporations are especially great.

Tax Reform – Don’t Get Excited Unless You’re a “C Corporation”

Unfortunately that’s true. It appears the only real winners are your regular corporations, or C corporations as they are called. Their rate reduction is expected to go from 35% down to 20%. Individual taxpayers may discover that they, depending on your circumstances, got very little from this version of tax reform. I’m not saying your tax liability won’t go down at all, I’m just saying that the House bill takes away too many deductions and the rates are not significantly different from the rates we now have. There are other changes that make the bill good such as repeal of the AMT, a significant increase in the unified credit (for estates and gifts), and the doubling of the standard deduction, but rate reduction is the true solution to creating jobs.

The House Bill and S Corporations – A Major Tax Increase and More Complication

The House Bill passed last week has a top rate of 25% for S Corporations and other pass-through businesses, but in many cases the real rate is significantly higher. S Corporation shareholders need to pay attention. If you are a professional service firm, the 25% rate doesn’t apply to professional service businesses. Specifically, the bill excludes businesses engaged in “the performance of services in the fields of health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services, any trade or business where the principal asset of such trade or business is the reputation or skill of one or more of its employees, or investing, trading, or dealing in securities, partnership interests, or commodities.”

What this means is that the top tax rate prescribed in H.R. 1 is the new rate for personal service corporations. For active owners of non-professional services corporations, the bill imposes a separate limitation on the 25% pass-through rate. It would cap the owner’s profit eligible for the 25% rate at 30% of the sum of their wages and profits from the business. The remaining 70% would be subject to the higher personal rates. It gets even more complicated, because H.B. 1 makes S Corporation profits subject to the self-employed payroll tax and your state and local income, sales, and property taxes are not deductible.

Next Week

Next week we will discuss Records Retention and how long you need to keep those old tax records. We will also review H.B. 1 changes to tax credits and other tax items related to paying for college.

Thanks for reading. Wishing you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.

Three Tax Issues to Watch For in 2017 and Beyond

Between now and April, I’ll use my blog to periodically answer client questions and spread awareness about some of the biggest tax issues that could affect your 2017 return. Let’s begin with a brief overview of three potential changes with large implications.

Health Care

The individual and employer health insurance mandates remain the law now that the Senate has rejected GOP proposals for a repeal of  Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act remains in force unless and until changed by Congress. Uninsured individuals must pay a penalty tax if they don’t qualify for an exemption. Employers with 50 or more full-time employees but no affordable health plan owe a penalty tax if their employees opt to buy insurance on an exchange and qualify for the premium tax credit. Trump’s executive orders on Obamacare do not change the law, per the IRS. Don’t be surprised to see more exemptions to the individual mandate. There are several now.

Also, keep an eye out for a bipartisan plan with significant changes to Obamacare. A new proposal by the 30 plus members of the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus sets forth solutions intended to help stabilize the individual health insurance market. It includes two tax provisions: First, repeal of the 2.3% tax on medical device sales; second, an easing of the employer mandate so it would only apply to businesses with 500 or more employees, up significantly from the current 50-employee threshold. In addition, the 30 hour per week threshold to qualify as a full time employee would be hiked to 40 hours.  

Identity Theft

The incidence of reported individual tax identity theft is on the decline, but an increase in business tax identity theft is causing concern. This occurs when fraudulent individuals file bogus corporate, payroll, or excise tax returns, Schedule K-1s, and others, using stolen tax ID numbers and claiming false tax refunds. The IRS has flagged 10,000 suspicious business tax returns filed thus far in 2017. To help alleviate the problem, the IRS is asking more from tax return preparers. Beginning next year, tax preparation software will be updated to require additional data, such as the name and Social Security number of the executive signing the return and the company’s payment and filing history. The IRS anticipates that these questions will help it identify suspicious returns. Be ready for this. This would become a requirement by way of an internal IRS administrative ruling.    

Tax Reform

Tax reform is a priority in Congress, and GOP tax writers and their staff are busy working on a proposal to overhaul the federal tax system, which they expect to release after the August recess. In the meantime, those in the know are making the following forecast.

Will the business tax rate be cut to 15%? No. Despite President Trump’s promise to slash the current 35% corporate rate to 15%, this won’t fly with moderate congressional Republicans. There just aren’t enough revenue raisers to offset such a low rate, they argue, especially now that the projected savings from the repeal of Obamacare is no longer in the mix. GOP lawmakers will aim for a 20 to 25% rate in their plan which will also apply to owners of pass-through businesses such as partnerships and S Corporations and self-employed business owners, such as those filing on Schedule C with their personal tax return.



If you have tax questions, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to call me at (713) 785-8939 or email me at robert@robertstevensoncpa.com – I may even feature your question in a future blog post.

Until next time,
Robert Stevenson, CPA