As the end of the year approaches, turn your attention to ways you can reduce your 2016 tax liability. Here are some suggestions that can add up to a lower tax burden next April:
- Business equipment.Take advantage of end-of-year sales on business equipment. For 2016, a maximum Section 179 deduction of $500,000 and 50% bonus depreciation are generally available for qualified property placed in service anytime during the year. Be aware that special limits apply to vehicles.
- Business trips.When you travel to wrap up year-end business deals, you can write off your expenses – including airfare, lodging and 50% of the cost of meals – if the primary motive of the trip is business-related. Costs attributable to personal side trips are nondeductible. If you travel by car, deduct actual business-related auto costs or a flat rate of 54 cents per mile (plus tolls and parking fees).
- Entertainment and meals.Generally, you can deduct 50% of the cost of entertainment and meals that precede or follow a “substantial business discussion.” For example, you might treat a client to dinner and drinks after completing a contract earlier in the day. In this case, you can include 50% of the expenses for the client and yourself, as well as for spouses and significant others.
- Company outings.Generally, deductions for business entertainment and meals are limited to 50% of the cost. However, if you throw a company-wide holiday party before year-end, you might be able to deduct 100% of the cost when you meet certain requirements, such as inviting your entire staff.
- Hire your child.Does your teenaged child want a job to help pay for holiday gifts? If you hire your child, reasonable wages paid for actual services rendered are deductible, the same as wages of other employees. The wages will be taxable to your child at your child’s tax rate, which may be lower than your rate or that of your business.
- Job credits.When your business hires workers from certain “targeted groups,” such as veterans and food stamp recipients, you may be able to claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. The maximum credit is generally $2,400 per qualified worker.
Depending on your situation, there may be other steps you can take now to reduce the taxes you’ll pay for 2016. Please call our office to schedule a year-end tax planning consultation.
Did you inadvertently miss the 60-day time limit for making an IRA or retirement plan rollover? You may be able to avoid taxes and possible penalties by notifying your account trustee with a “self-certification.”
When you take a distribution from your IRA or qualified plan with the intention of depositing it, or “rolling it over,” into another IRA or qualified plan, the 60-day rule says you’re required to complete the rollover within 60 days of receiving the distribution. In the past, when you missed the deadline, you generally had to request relief from the IRS. That meant paying a fee and going through a process to obtain a written statement waiving the rule.
Now, the IRS says that in some cases you can “self-certify” by submitting a written letter to your financial institution or trustee explaining why you missed the 60-day deadline. Your error must be one of eleven allowable reasons, such as death or serious illness in your family, severe damage to your principal residence, or misplacing and never cashing the distribution check.
Do you regularly monitor your company’s cash accounts? Being aware of where your cash is going can help prevent theft or improper expenditures, which are among the chief sources of loss for small companies.
What can you do to reduce the risk of losses? The textbook answer is to implement “internal controls.” Internal controls are standard procedures for assuring the integrity of your financial processes. For example, segregation of duties, such as having more than one person involved in preparing, signing, and reconciling checks, is an internal control
Utilizing internal controls and other cash monitoring strategies can minimize the chances of your business losing money unnecessarily. Here are a few suggestions for safeguarding your company’s cash:
- Make sure all invoices have an approval signature before being paid.
- Personally verify that new vendors exist.
- Require sign-off of employee expense reports by a higher-level employee.
- Don’t permit the person who prepares a company check to sign that check.
- Consider requiring two signatures on checks.
- Maintain a list of void checks and compare them to your bank statement.
- Use a bank stamp to endorse checks immediately upon receipt.
- Personally open bank statements and other mailings from the bank.
- Review and reconcile your bank statement regularly.
- Monitor online access to your business account.