Good Records Key to Claiming Charitable Deductions
As the countdown to April 15th hits the home stretch, the IRS has published a series of articles guiding taxpayers through some of the trickier filing issues. One of our favorites discusses charitable giving and the importance of maintaining good records.
Among the key takeaways:
- Make sure the entity you’re giving to is a qualified organization. Keep in mind that an organization being a nonprofit doesn’t necessarily mean that a gift will be deductible. The IRS’s Select Check tool is a great resource for determining whether the organization you’re thinking about donating to is eligible to receive tax-deductible donations.
- Keep in mind donors must have a written acknowledgement of any gift over $250. So when you receive a letter from a charity acknowledging your gift, it’s not just a receipt – make sure you put it in the proverbial (or often literal) shoe box for tax time!
- Rules may differ depending on the substance of the donation. Check out the article for tips on donations of cash, vehicles, clothing, and others.
- Finally, keep in mind the timing requirements. A gift must have been made in 2014 to be deducted on the 2014 tax return; so if you pledged money but didn’t write the check or charge the card, it isn’t deductible.
Head on over to the IRS article linked above for more details.
And as always, know that we’re always here to help with any tax-time questions about donations (or anything else)!
Don’t Let Tax Issues Trip Up Your Great Idea
Late last week, the New York Times published a story that caught our eye: they profiled several entrepreneurs who ran into some complicated tax issues after running successful Kickstarter or other crowdfunding campaigns.
Not only were some of these people surprised at having to pay taxes despite not having formally set up a business, a couple of them ran into particularly thorny problems, such as determining sales tax liability and having a large tax bill due to incomes that didn’t match up with expenses. Check out the article for the details.
The bigger issue here is that many people don’t know that the IRS has a fairly expansive definition of income. While most think of income as either being earned in a formal job where one receives a paycheck and a W-2 or made in a formal business, there are lots of other ways to earn income. As the NYT story notes, the exchange of money for a tangible good and/or service is almost always considered income to the person receiving money. And though the story doesn’t venture into such choppy seas, it’s important to note that money doesn’t have to change hands for income to have been earned.
If you have any concerns at all about the taxable status of business (or non-business) activities, or if you get a form that you’re not sure what to do with (such as the 1099-K discussed in the story above), give us a call and we’ll be happy to make sure all your bases are covered so that you can go back to doing what you do best.
Is your business using social media effectively?
Ah, social media. An industry that barely existed ten years ago is one of the most talked about parts of the internet, if not the entire business world. Everyone seems to be on it, but could your small business be using it more effectively? Court Cunningham over at Huffington Post has four great tips on how to make it happen, and just in case you didn’t think this is a big deal, his first paragraph should make you reconsider:
If you’re still wondering whether social media is important for your business, think of this: Facebook has facilitated more than 2 billion connections between small businesses and consumers. Instead of wondering “Do I need to be on social media?” start asking “How can I use social media to help me and my business?” For small business owners that are already pressed for time it can be hard to make social media a priority, but in today’s digital age, you need to meet customers where they are. You don’t want to ignore a study conducted by Market Force, which found that 78 percent of U.S. consumers’ purchasing decisions are impacted by posts made by businesses they follow on social media.
Head over to the article for his advice on how small businesses can maximize the potential of social media.
Can you turn your hobby into a business?
Many small businesses are started when someone turns a personal interest into a money-making endeavor. But what’s the difference between a hobby and a business? And why does it matter in the first place?
As with many tax questions, it’s complicated, but Kay Bell at the Bankrate tax blog has a great rundown of the rules to keep in mind.
The IRS defines a hobby as an activity you pursue without expecting to make a taxable profit. Basically, you do it because you like it, regardless of the cost.
But if you demonstrate that you are involved in an activity with the expectation of making money on it, the IRS will consider it a business. As such, you’ll be able to deduct expenses directly from your income. You even can deduct overall business losses in the years you don’t turn a profit.
You must, however, make the right moves to convince the IRS that your sideline is a legitimate business.
Read more: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/taxes/tax-breaks-turn-hobby-into-business.aspx
And as always, know that we’re here to help you navigate all these rules and much more!
IRS provides relief for small businesses from filing Form 3115
On February 13, the IRS released Rev. Proc. 2015-20, which provides a simplified method for qualifying small businesses to comply with the final tangible property regulations.
Here’s an article from the Journal of Accountancy discussing the changes, and here’s a link to the original Revenue Procedure from the IRS.
Finally, don’t forget we’re always available to help small businesses navigate the latest rules and regulations from the IRS.
Now’s the time to change your withholdings!
Whether you ended up owing money or getting a refund at tax time, did you know you can modify the amount of money withheld from your paycheck? Here’s how
Some people love receiving a tax refund every spring, while others prefer to have the money in their regular paychecks and make their refund as small as possible. And then there are those that cringe when they have to write a check to the IRS when filing their tax return.
Though changing your withholdings won’t change how much tax you pay, it can affect whether you owe money or get a refund when filing, as well as how big that refund or payment will be! Check out the article for more information and a brief guide on how to modify your withholdings.
And as always, if you have any questions, we’re ready and willing to help!
IRS Releases Full List of “Dirty Dozen” Tax Schemes
The IRS has released all twelve of the Dirty Dozen tax schemes to look out for during the 2015 filing season.
The Dirty Dozen listing, compiled by the IRS each year, lists a variety of common scams taxpayers can encounter at any point during the year. But many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns.
Identity theft, phone scams, and phishing lead the list this year. Other issues include impersonation of charitable organizations, false income, expenses, or exemptions, and abusive tax structures.
For more information and the full list, click here.
Scharf Pera’s Rob Phillips on WBTV Talking About Tax Changes
Our own Rob Phillips was invited to speak about upcoming tax changes on WBTV’s morning news. Check it out HERE!
Identity Theft at Tax Time: Still a Major Concern for IRS
The Internal Revenue Service today issued a filing season alert warning taxpayers to watch out for identity theft at tax time, one of the year’s “Dirty Dozen” tax scams. The IRS continues to aggressively pursue the criminals that file fraudulent returns using someone else’s Social Security number.
“We remain dedicated to stopping tax-related identity theft and protecting taxpayers, and we are making important progress on that front. Taxpayers still need to be extremely careful and do everything they can to avoid becoming a victim,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
For more information, including helpful videos on what to do if you are a victim of identity theft, click HERE.
Fake IRS scams are on the rise! Here’s what you need to know.
Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain near the top of the annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams for the 2015 filing season. The IRS reports a surge of these phone scams in recent months as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. In fact, nearly 3,000 victims have collectively paid over $14 million to scam artists according to a new warning from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Here’s everything you need to know.