IRS

2017 Q3 tax calendar: Key deadlines for businesses and other employers

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the second quarter of 2017. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

July 31

  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for second quarter 2017 (Form 941), and pay any tax due. (See exception below.)
  • File a 2016 calendar-year retirement plan report (Form 5500 or Form 5500-EZ) or request an extension.

August 10

  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for second quarter 2017 (Form 941), if you deposited on time and in full all of the associated taxes due.

September 15

  • If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the third installment of 2017 estimated income taxes.
  • If a calendar-year S corporation or partnership that filed an automatic six-month extension:
    • File a 2016 income tax return (Form 1120S, Form 1065 or Form 1065-B) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due.
    • Make contributions for 2016 to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.

© 2017

Business owners: When it comes to IRS audits, be prepared

If you recently filed your 2016 income tax return (rather than filing for an extension) you may now be wondering whether it’s likely that your business could be audited by the IRS based on your filing. Here’s what every business owner should know about the process.

Catching the IRS’s eye

Many business audits occur randomly, but a variety of tax-return-related items are likely to raise red flags with the IRS and may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:

  • Significant inconsistencies between previous years’ filings and your most current filing,
  • Gross profit margin or expenses markedly different from those of other businesses in your industry, and
  • Miscalculated or unusually high deductions.

An owner-employee salary that’s inordinately higher or lower than those in similar companies in his or her location can also catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

Response measures

If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS won’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

The good news is that many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve taken. Others may ask you to take receipts and other documents to a local IRS office. Only the most severe version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors.

More good news: In no instance will the agency demand an immediate response. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. To do so, you’ll need to collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If any records are missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If the IRS selects you for an audit, our firm can help you:

  • Understand what the IRS is disputing (it’s not always crystal clear),
  • Gather the specific documents and information needed, and
  • Respond to the auditor’s inquiries in the most expedient and effective manner.

Don’t let an IRS audit ruin your year — be it this year, next year or whenever that letter shows up in the mail. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to how you track, document and file your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit much less painful and even decrease the chances that one happens in the first place.

© 2017

Choosing between a calendar tax year and a fiscal tax year

Many business owners use a calendar year as their company’s tax year. It’s intuitive and aligns with most owners’ personal returns, making it about as simple as anything involving taxes can be. But for some businesses, choosing a fiscal tax year can make more sense.

What’s a fiscal tax year?

A fiscal tax year consists of 12 consecutive months that don’t begin on January 1 or end on December 31 — for example, July 1 through June 30 of the following year. The year doesn’t necessarily need to end on the last day of a month. It might end on the same day each year, such as the last Friday in March.

Flow-through entities (partnerships, S corporations and, typically, limited liability companies) using a fiscal tax year must file their return by the 15th day of the third month following the close of their fiscal year. So, if their fiscal year ends on March 31, they would need to file their return by June 15. (Fiscal-year C corporations generally must file their return by the 15th day of the fourth month following the fiscal year close.)

When a fiscal year makes sense

A key factor to consider is that if you adopt a fiscal tax year you must use the same time period in maintaining your books and reporting income and expenses. For many seasonal businesses, a fiscal year can present a more accurate picture of the company’s performance.

For example, a snowplowing business might make the bulk of its revenue between November and March. Splitting the revenue between December and January to adhere to a calendar year end would make obtaining a solid picture of performance over a single season difficult.

In addition, if many businesses within your industry use a fiscal year end and you want to compare your performance to your peers, you’ll probably achieve a more accurate comparison if you’re using the same fiscal year.

Before deciding to change your fiscal year, be aware that the IRS requires businesses that don’t keep books and have no annual accounting period, as well as most sole proprietorships, to use a calendar year.

It can make a difference

If your company decides to change its tax year, you’ll need to obtain permission from the IRS. The change also will likely create a one-time “short tax year” — a tax year that’s less than 12 months. In this case, your income tax typically will be based on annualized income and expenses. But you might be able to use a relief procedure under Section 443(b)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code to reduce your tax bill.

Although choosing a tax year may seem like a minor administrative matter, it can have an impact on how and when a company pays taxes. We can help you determine whether a calendar or fiscal year makes more sense for your business.

© 2017

2017 Q1 tax calendar: Key deadlines for businesses and other employers

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2017. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

January 31

  • File 2016 Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” with the Social Security Administration and provide copies to your employees.
  • File 2016 Forms 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Income,” reporting nonemployee compensation payments in Box 7 with the IRS, and provide copies to recipients.
  • File Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” to report Medicare, Social Security and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2016. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return. Employers that have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944,“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return.”
  • File Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return,” for 2016. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it’s more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.
  • File Form 945, “Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax,” for 2016 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on accounts such as pensions, annuities and IRAs. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 28

File 2016 Forms 1099-MISC with the IRS and provide copies to recipients. (Note that Forms 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation in Box 7 must be filed by January 31, beginning with 2016 forms filed in 2017.)

March 15

If a calendar-year partnership or S corporation, file or extend your 2016 tax return. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2016 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.

© 2016

Are you ready for audit season?

It’s almost audit season for calendar-year entities. A little preparation can go a long way toward facilitating the external audit process, minimizing audit adjustments and surprises, lowering your audit fees in the future and getting more value out of the audit process. Here are some ways to plan ahead.

The mindset

Before fieldwork begins, meet with your office team to explain the purpose and benefits of financial statement audits. Novice staff members may confuse financial audits with IRS audits, which can sometimes become contentious and stressful. Also designate a liaison in the accounting department who will answer inquiries and prepare document requests for auditors.

Reconciliation
Enter all transactions into the accounting system before the auditors arrive, and prepare a schedule that reconciles each account balance. Be ready to discuss any estimates that underlie account balances, such as allowances for uncollectible accounts, warranty reserves or percentage of completion.

Check the schedules to reveal discrepancies from what’s expected based on the company’s budget or prior year’s balance. Also review last year’s adjusting journal entries to see if they’ll be needed again this year. An internal review is one of the most effective ways to minimize errors and adjusting journal entries during a financial statement audit.

Work papers
Auditors are grateful when clients prepare work papers to reconcile account balances and transactions in advance. Auditors also will ask for original source documents to verify what’s reported on the financial statements, such as bank statements, sales contracts, leases and loan agreements.

Compile these documents before your audit team arrives. They may also inquire about changes to contractual agreements, regulatory or legal developments, additions to the chart of accounts and major complex transactions that occurred in 2016.
Internal controls

Evaluate internal controls before your auditor arrives. Correct any “deficiencies” or “weaknesses” in internal control policies, such as a lack of segregation of duties, managerial review or physical safeguards. Then the auditor will have fewer recommendations to report when he or she delivers the financial statements.

Value-added
Financial statement audits should be seen as a learning opportunity. Preparing for your auditor’s arrival not only facilitates the process and promotes timeliness, but also engenders a sense of teamwork between your office staff and external accountants.

© 2016

Tax-Related Identity Theft

Identity theft is a growing problem, and tax-related identity theft in particular continues to increase each year. In 2015, tax-related identity theft continued to hold a high spot on the IRS’s annual “Dirty Dozen” tax scams list.

Tax return identity theft occurs when the taxpayer’s personal information, such as name, Social Security number (SSN), employer identification number, or other identifying information, is used without the taxpayer’s authority to file a fraudulent tax return (usually to claim a fraudulent refund or to obtain tax benefits). This type of identity theft carries serious consequences. It can take victims months just to prove their identity to the IRS, which in turn delays the processing of legitimate refund claims. According to the IRS, individual victims of identity theft “may lose job opportunities, be refused loans, education, housing or transportation, and may even be arrested for crimes they didn’t commit” (IRS Publication 4535, Identity Theft Prevention and Victim Assistance). Businesses may incur significant damage to their reputations, in addition to financial losses and the costs incurred to resolve the issues with numerous agencies.

Scams – Unless you have been in communication with a specific IRS agent regarding a specific matter, the IRS will never contact you via phone or email. Scammers often use these mediums to get personal information or con taxpayers into paying fake taxes/penalties. If the IRS needs to reach a taxpayer they generally do it via U.S. mail. Be suspicious. If you receive a notice that seems suspicious, we recommend that you contact a CPA.

Need help communicating with the IRS because you have been a victim of tax-related identity theft or you have received a suspicious notice? Atchley & Associates LLP may be able to assist you.

See the full article issued by The Tax Adviser on this topic at : http://www.thetaxadviser.com/issues/2015/dec/assisting-clients-with-tax-related-identity-theft.html#sthash.09Lk7sql.dpuf

The IRS Raises Tangible Property Expensing Threshold to $2,500; Simplifies Filing and Recordkeeping for Small Businesses

The IRS has made some changes today and simplified requirements for small businesses regarding paperwork and recordkeeping. According to the Notice 2015-82, the safe harbor threshold for deducting certain capital items has been raised from $500 to $2,500.

Those businesses that do not maintain an audited financial statement will be affected by these changes. Change applies to amounts spent to acquire, produce or improve tangible property that would qualify as capital item. The change in threshold to $2500 applies to any of these that is substantiated by an invoice.

“This important step simplifies taxes for small businesses, easing the recordkeeping and paperwork burden on small business owners and their tax preparers.” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.

The new $2,500 threshold takes effect starting with tax year 2016. The IRS will also provide audit protection to eligible businesses by not challenging use of the new $2,500 threshold in tax years prior to 2016.

For further information about this change, check the latest information found in Notice 2015-82, or in the IRS website.

Charitable Contributions

Whether you make your gifts during this season of giving, or spread your charitable giving throughout the year, good record keeping is essential to making sure that you can qualify for the full charitable contribution deduction allowed by IRS.

First, you must be sure that the organization is eligible for a tax-deductible donation. The IRS offers Select Check an online search tool that you can use to verify that you are giving to a qualified organization. Places of worship are also eligible, but not included in this database. Gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates are not eligible.

You must have documentation for all charitable gifts. See the table below for guidelines according to what type of donation you make.

Charitablecontributions

Vehicle donations require special reporting requirements. Contact your tax professional for details before make your donation.

You need to have all of your acknowledgements in hand before you file your tax return. So now is the time to check your records and contact the recipients if you need statements. Atchley & Associates is happy to answer any questions you have regarding charitable donations deductions and your specific tax situation.

Take steps to avoid this tax “gotcha”

Last summer the Trade Preferences Extension Act (TPEA) was signed into law, giving the President fast-track trade authority. But like many complex pieces of federal legislation, some provisions buried deep in the law don’t get as much publicity as the headline provisions. However, they can have a big impact on business.

One of these is Section 806, which has nothing to do with trade or globalization but everything to do with raising revenue. Specifically, Sec. 806 increases by up to 150% the potential penalties that must be paid by businesses that fail to file correct information returns or that provide incorrect payee statements.

Specifically, failing to file Forms W-2 and 1099 will trigger the increased penalties. So will failing to file new information returns required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the first time in 2016. They include Forms 1094-C and 1095-C for applicable large employers and forms 1094-B and 1095-B for small employers.

Effective dates are imminent

The new penalties are effective for statements and information returns filed after December 31, 2015. Short-term penalty relief is provided under IRC Sections 6721 and 6722 for companies that demonstrate a good-faith effort to comply with the new ACA information reporting requirements. But this relief applies only to reported information that’s incorrect or incomplete (such as Social Security numbers). Relief isn’t available for companies that fail to file or furnish statements in a timely manner.

The general penalty for failing to file a correct information return with the IRS or provide correct payee statements has increased from $100 to $250 per return or statement. Meanwhile, the maximum annual penalty a company may be subject to has doubled — from $1.5 million to $3 million for large businesses and from $500,000 to $1 million for small businesses (those with gross annual receipts under $5 million).

Companies that correct their filing failures or inaccuracies within 30 days can pay a lower penalty. However, this also has been increased — from $30 to $50 per return with a maximum annual penalty of $175,000 for small businesses (up from $75,000) and $500,000 for large businesses (up from $250,000).

Intentional disregard is costly

If a failure is due to what the IRS considers to be intentional disregard, the penalty rises from $250 to $500 per return or statement with no annual maximum. The penalty amounts are expected to be adjusted for inflation every five years.

Also, failing to file required information and to provide required payee statements could lead to penalties that are double the annual maximum. This is because each of these errors is treated as a separate infraction. So, a large business that doesn’t file W-2 forms with the IRS or provide W-2 forms to employees could face annual penalties of up to $3 million for each error, for a total of up to $6 million.

Systems and controls are recommended

One of the best ways to guard against making the kinds of errors that lead to these increased penalties is to implement appropriate systems and controls for information reporting.

For example, consider using the IRS’s Taxpayer Identification Number On-line Matching service, which enables you to compare the 1099 information you have to the IRS’s records before filing an electronic return. If the information doesn’t match, you can ask payees for verification — and that can help reduce mistakes and subsequent penalties.

Be prepared

Don’t let Section 806 sneak up on you. Take steps now to make sure you aren’t subject to these tougher penalties.

© 2015