EagleStone Tax & Wealth Newsletter – March 2019

Due Date Approaches for 2018 Federal Income Tax Returns

Tax filing season is here again. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to start pulling things together — that includes getting your hands on a copy of your 2017 tax return and gathering W-2s, 1099s, and deduction records. You’ll need these records whether you’re preparing your own return or paying someone else to prepare your tax return for you.

Don’t procrastinate

The filing deadline for most individuals is Monday, April 15, 2019. Residents of Maine and Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019, to file their 2018 tax return because April 15, 2019, is Patriots’ Day and April 16, 2019, is Emancipation Day.

Filing for an extension

If you don’t think you’re going to be able to file your federal income tax return by the due date, you can file for and obtain an extension using IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Filing this extension gives you an additional six months (to October 15, 2019) to file your federal income tax return. You can also file for an extension electronically — instructions on how to do so can be found in the Form 4868 instructions.

Filing for an automatic extension does not provide any additional time to pay your tax. When you file for an extension, you have to estimate the amount of tax you will owe and pay this amount by the April filing due date. If you don’t pay the amount you’ve estimated, you may owe interest and penalties. In fact, if the IRS believes that your estimate was not reasonable, it may void your extension.

Note: Special rules apply if you’re living outside the country or serving in the military and on duty outside the United States. In these circumstances you are generally allowed an automatic two-month extension (to June 17, 2019) without filing Form 4868, though interest will be owed on any taxes due that are paid after the April filing due date. If you served in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, you may be eligible for a longer extension of time to file.

What if you owe?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not filing your return because you owe money. If your return shows a balance due, file and pay the amount due in full by the due date if possible. If there’s no way that you can pay what you owe, file the return and pay as much as you can afford. You’ll owe interest and possibly penalties on the unpaid tax, but you’ll limit the penalties assessed by filing your return on time, and you may be able to work with the IRS to pay the remaining balance (options can include paying the unpaid balance in installments).

Expecting a refund?

The IRS is stepping up efforts to combat identity theft and tax refund fraud. New, more aggressive filters that are intended to curtail fraudulent refunds may inadvertently delay some legitimate refund requests. In fact, the IRS is now required to hold refunds on all tax returns claiming the earned income tax credit or the refundable portion of the child tax credit until at least February 15.

Most filers, though, can expect a refund check to be issued within 21 days of the IRS receiving a return. However, delays may be possible due to the government shutdown.

Nine Things a Business Owner Should Know After Tax Reform

As a business owner, you should be aware of some recent federal tax legislation changes. Many of the changes can affect the bottom line for the business as well as you as the business owner — some in a good way and some in a bad way.

1. The taxable income of a C corporation is now taxed at a flat 21% rate. Previously, the tax rates generally ranged from 15% to 35% (but some income was taxed as high as 39%). There is no longer a corporate alternative minimum tax.

2. Individual income tax rates have been reduced to 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. Net long-term capital gains and qualified dividends continue to be taxed generally at 0%, 15%, and 20%, depending on the amount of your taxable income.

3. A new pass-through income deduction is available to many owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations. This deduction is for up to 20% of qualified business income (QBI) from such business entities. If your taxable income exceeds certain thresholds, the deduction is limited based on factors such as the wages and qualified property of the business. Additionally, individuals with higher taxable incomes may not be able to claim a deduction if the business involves the performance of services in fields that include health, law, accounting, performing arts, consulting, athletics, and financial services, among others.

4. Small businesses have the option of expensing certain purchases under IRC Section 179 rather than depreciating the value of the purchases over time. Up to $1,020,000 (in 2019) of qualifying Section 179 property can now be expensed. The amount that can be expensed is reduced to the extent that qualifying property exceeds $2,550,000 (in 2019). These amounts are indexed for inflation and may increase in future years.

5. When a business purchases an asset, the business can generally deduct the cost of the asset over a period of time. For qualified property purchased after September 27, 2017, first-year bonus depreciation of 100% is available if the property is placed in service before 2023 (2024 for certain property). The 100% allowance is phased down by 20% each year after 2022 (or 2023 for certain property). The 100% bonus depreciation essentially allows business property to be expensed, rather than deducting the cost of depreciable property over a number of years.

6. Under a new provision, an excess business loss cannot be deducted. An excess business loss is equal to the amount by which your total deductions from all of your trades and businesses exceed your total gross income and gains from all of your trades and businesses plus $250,000 ($500,000 in the case of a joint return). As before, losses from a passive trade or business activity may be limited under the passive loss rules. The passive loss rules are applied before this new limitation is determined. Disallowed excess business losses are treated as a net operating loss carryover to future tax years.

7. A net operating loss generally arises when a taxpayer’s deductible expenses for a year exceed its gross income. Previously, a net operating loss for the current year could be carried back to prior tax years and forward to future tax years as a deduction against taxable income. The deduction for a net operating loss for a taxpayer other than a C corporation is now limited to 80% (previously 100%) of taxable income computed without regard to this deduction. Even though a net operating loss can no longer be carried back two years, it can still be carried forward for up to 20 years, subject to the deduction limit in the carryover years. Certain farming losses may now be carried back only two years (rather than five years), as well as carried forward for 20 years.

8. A like-kind exchange provision allows property to be exchanged tax-free under certain circumstances. The general like-kind exchange provision now applies only to exchanges of real property held for use in a trade or business or for investment and not to exchanges of personal or intangible property. For example, assume you own your office building without a mortgage. You are interested in moving to a new office building. If you sold your current office building, you would recognize capital gains. If instead you exchanged your current office building for the new office building in a like-kind exchange without receiving any cash or non-like-kind property, you would not recognize any capital gains at the time of the exchange.

9. A deduction is no longer allowed for entertainment expenses. Food and beverages provided during entertainment events are not considered entertainment if purchased separately from the event. Taxpayers may still deduct 50% of the expenses for business meals.

Key Financial Ratios for Small-Business Owners

Financial ratios are an important tool in any business owner’s toolbox. Used to measure a business’s condition and performance, financial ratios help you evaluate your organization’s financial status and rate of success. They are also used by those evaluating your business for potential investment or lending opportunities.

Generally speaking, there are four categories of financial ratios: liquidity, profitability, activity, and leverage. Your balance sheet and income statement will help you calculate the ratios within each category.

Liquidity

Liquidity ratios assess your organization’s ability to meet its obligations in the short term. Put simply, liquidity measures your firm’s ability to pay its bills.

Current ratio: This measures the amount of debt relative to total assets (total assets divided by total liabilities). A current ratio of at least 1 (ideally, greater) indicates your business has enough assets to cover its current obligations.

Acid test or quick ratio: This ratio measures your organization’s ability to pay its current obligations with accessible assets. In other words, it helps you assess its “cash position.” The calculation is (cash and cash alternatives plus marketable securities plus accounts receivable) divided by current liabilities. The higher the ratio, the stronger its position. A low ratio could indicate a potential cash crunch.

Profitability

These ratios help measure how profitable your organization is.

Gross profit margin: This ratio determines how much remains after accounting for the cost of goods sold (COGS) to pay for expenses, taxes, interest, etc. It is calculated by dividing gross profit by sales. (Gross profit equals sales minus COGS.)

Net profit margin: Net profit allows you to gauge how well your company is performing per dollar of revenue. It is calculated by dividing net income (income after expenses) by net revenue (revenue after adjusting for discounts and refunds). While growing revenue year over year can be impressive, growing revenue alongside a growing net profit margin demonstrates strong overall management.

Return on assets: Calculated by dividing net income by average total assets, this ratio shows the organization’s ability to generate income relative to overall assets. Therefore, it helps gauge management effectiveness in putting those assets to use. (To calculate average total assets, add the total assets at the beginning and end of the year and divide by two.)

Activity

Also known as efficiency ratios, activity ratios measure how effectively your organization manages its assets.

Accounts receivable turnover ratio: This ratio is used to evaluate the quality of receivables and to help determine how successful your organization is in collecting outstanding payments. It is determined by dividing net sales by average receivables outstanding over a given time period. (Average receivables outstanding is calculated by adding the beginning and ending balances of accounts receivables over a period of time and dividing by two.)

Inventory turnover ratio: This ratio can help determine whether your company is efficiently managing inventory. It is calculated by dividing the COGS by the average inventory (the average of the beginning and ending inventories over a period of time). A high ratio may indicate that inventory typically runs low and may present a risk of “selling out.” By contrast, a low ratio may indicate that product is overstocked or not moving well for a particular reason that might warrant further investigation.

Leverage

Also known as debt, coverage, or solvency ratios, leverage ratios can help assess whether debt levels are appropriate.

Debt to asset ratio: This ratio measures the percentage of assets that is financed with debt, rather than equity. The calculation is total debt divided by total assets.

Debt to equity ratio: This ratio compares an organization’s total debt to its total equity. The calculation is total liabilities divided by total equity. A high ratio may indicate a business has assumed a great deal of risk.

Understand your industry’s benchmarks

Before evaluating your organization’s financial ratios, it may be helpful to understand ratio benchmarks within your industry. What may seem like a high or low ratio on its own may actually be in line with other, similar operations in your field.

What are some ways to prepare financially for severe weather?

Floods, tornadoes, lightning, and hail are common spring events in many parts of the country and may result in widespread damage. Severe weather often strikes suddenly, so take measures now to protect yourself and your property.

Review your insurance coverage. Make sure your homeowners and auto insurance coverage is sufficient. While standard homeowners insurance covers losses from fire, lightning, and hail (up to policy limits), you may need to buy separate coverage for hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and other disasters. Consult your insurance professional, who can help determine whether you have adequate coverage for the risks you face.

Create a financial emergency kit. Collect financial records and documents that may help you recover more quickly after a disaster. This kit might contain a list of key contacts and copies of important documents, including identification cards, birth and marriage certificates, insurance policies, home inventories, wills, trusts, and deeds. Make sure your kit is stored in a secure fireproof and waterproof container that is accessible and easy to carry. The Emergency Financial First Aid Kit, available online at ready.gov, offers a number of checklists and forms that may help you prepare your own kit, as well as tips to guide you through the process.

Protect your assets. Take some commonsense precautions to safeguard your home, vehicles, and other possessions against damage. For example, to prepare for a possible power outage, you might want to install an emergency generator and a sump pump with a battery backup if you have a basement or garage that is prone to flooding. Inspect your yard and make sure you have somewhere to store loose objects (e.g., grills and patio furniture) in a hurry, cut down overhanging tree limbs, and clean your gutters and down spouts. Check your home’s exterior, too, to make sure that your roof and siding are in good condition, and invest in storm windows, doors, and shutters. In addition, make sure you know how to turn off your gas, electricity, and water should an emergency arise. And if you have a garage, make sure your vehicles are parked inside when a storm is imminent.

What records do I need to file my taxes?

Tax season is a good time to get your financial records in order. And whether you are doing it on your own or hiring a tax preparer to assist you, you’ll want to make sure that you have all of your information organized to make the process of filing your taxes easier.

Sometime in January you should have received your W-2 form from your employer. Your W-2 form lists your gross income, taxable income, and the amount of state and federal taxes withheld from your pay. It also will show any 401(k), health insurance, and flexible spending account contributions you have made.

Around the same time that you got your W-2, you should also have received 1099 forms from financial institutions for any dividend and interest income. And if you have a mortgage, your mortgage servicer sent you a 1098 form, which contains information on interest paid along with other mortgage-related expenses.

In addition to the above-referenced forms, you’ll need to provide your personal information, including your date of birth and Social Security or tax ID number. If you are married and/or have children, you will need their information as well. You should also have documents that list any additional sources of income, such as self-employment, rental, retirement, or unemployment income.

Depending on whether you qualify for any tax deductions or credits, you may also need the following information:

  • Records of cash and noncash charitable donations
  • Amounts paid toward medical, dental, and vision expenses
  • Federal, state, and local taxes paid (including quarterly estimated tax payments)
  • Dependent-care provider information
  • Receipts for education-related expenses

Make sure that you keep all your financial records in a safe and easy-to-find place. Being organized is not just a good idea during tax time, but is also helpful at other times of the year (e.g., when you apply for a loan or financial aid for college).

 

IRS Circular 230 disclosure: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) was not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any matter addressed herein.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2019

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