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What businesses need to know about the tax treatment of bitcoin and other virtual currencies

What is cryptocurrency, and will it affect you?

Over the last several years, virtual currency has become increasingly popular. Bitcoin is the most widely recognized form of virtual currency, also commonly referred to as digital, electronic or crypto currency.

While most smaller businesses aren’t yet accepting bitcoin or other virtual currency payments from their customers, more and more larger businesses are. And the trend may trickle down to smaller businesses. Businesses also can pay employees or independent contractors with virtual currency. But what are the tax consequences of these transactions?

Bitcoin 101

Bitcoin has an equivalent value in real currency and can be digitally traded between users. It also can be purchased with real currencies or exchanged for real currencies. Bitcoin is most commonly obtained through virtual currency ATMs or online exchanges.

Goods or services can be paid for using “bitcoin wallet” software. When a purchase is made, the software digitally posts the transaction to a global public ledger. This prevents the same unit of virtual currency from being used multiple times.

Tax impact

Questions about the tax impact of virtual currency abound. And the IRS has yet to offer much guidance.

The IRS did establish in a 2014 ruling that bitcoin and other convertible virtual currency should be treated as property, not currency, for federal income tax purposes. This means that businesses accepting bitcoin payments for goods and services must report gross income based on the fair market value of the virtual currency when it was received, measured in equivalent U.S. dollars.

When a business uses virtual currency to pay wages, the wages are taxable to the employees to the extent any other wage payment would be. You must, for example, report such wages on your employees’ W-2 forms. And they’re subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes, based on the fair market value of the virtual currency on the date received by the employee.

When a business uses virtual currency to pay independent contractors or other service providers, those payments are also taxable to the recipient. The self-employment tax rules generally apply, based on the fair market value of the virtual currency on the date received. Payers generally must issue 1099-MISC forms to recipients.

Finally, payments made with virtual currency are subject to information reporting to the same extent as any other payment made in property.

Deciding whether to go virtual

Accepting bitcoin can be beneficial because it may avoid transaction fees charged by credit card companies and online payment providers (such as PayPal) and attract customers who want to use virtual currency. But the IRS is targeting virtual currency transactions in an effort to raise tax revenue, and it hasn’t issued much guidance on the tax treatment or reporting requirements. So bitcoin can also be a bit risky from a tax perspective.

To learn more about tax considerations when deciding whether your business should accept bitcoin or other virtual currencies — or use them to pay employees, independent contractors or other service providers — contact one of the P&R accounting team at Office@CPAsite.com or 904-396-5400.

© 2018

It’s time for a midyear checkup!

Time flies when you’re busy running a business. But it’s important to occasionally pause and assess interim performance — otherwise you’re likely to be surprised by the year-end results. When reviewing midyear financial reports, however, recognize their potential shortcomings. These reports might not be as reliable as year-end financials, unless a CPA prepares them or performs agreed-upon procedures on specific accounts.

Diagnostic benefits

Monthly, quarterly and midyear financial reports can provide insight into trends and possible weaknesses. Interim reporting can be especially helpful for businesses that were struggling at the end of 2017.

For example, you might compare year-to-date revenue for 2018 against 1) the same time period for 2017, or 2) your annual budget for 2018. If your business isn’t growing or achieving its goals, find out why. Perhaps you need to provide additional sales incentives, implement a new ad campaign or alter your pricing.

You can also review your gross margin [(revenue – cost of sales) ÷ revenue]. If your margin is slipping compared to 2017 or industry benchmarks, find out what’s going wrong — and take corrective actions.

Don’t forget the balance sheet. Reviewing major categories of assets and liabilities can help detect working capital problems before they spiral out of control. For instance, a buildup of accounts receivable may signal collection problems. Or, if your company is drawing heavily on its line of credit, operations might not be generating sufficient cash flow.

Potential shortcomings

When interim financials seem out of whack, don’t panic. Some anomalies may not be caused by problems in your daily business operations. Instead, they might be caused by informal accounting practices that are common midyear (but are corrected by your CPA at year end).

For example, some controllers might liberally interpret period “cutoffs” or use subjective estimates for certain account balances and expenses. In addition, interim financial statements typically exclude costly year-end expenses, such as profit sharing and shareholder bonuses. Interim financial statements, therefore, generally paint a rosier picture of a company’s performance than its year-end report potentially may.

Furthermore, many companies perform time-consuming physical inventory counts exclusively at year end. Therefore, the inventory amount shown on the interim balance sheet might be based solely on computer inventory schedules or, in some instances, the controller’s estimate using historic gross margins. Similarly, accounts receivable may be overstated, because overworked controllers may lack time or personnel to adequately evaluate whether the interim balance contains any bad debts.

Proceed with caution

Contact the experienced team at P&R for help interpreting your midyear results, as well as detecting and correcting potential problems. Unlike year-end financials, interim reports are seldom subject to external audit or rigorous internal accounting scrutiny. We can remedy any shortcomings by performing additional testing procedures on your interim financials — or preparing audited or reviewed midyear statements that conform to U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Reach us at Office@CPAsite.com or 904-396-5400.

© 2018

Putting your child on your business’s payroll for the summer may make more tax sense than ever

If you own a business and have a child in high school or college, hiring him or her for the summer can provide a multitude of benefits, including tax savings. And hiring can make more sense than ever due to changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

How it works

By shifting some of your business earnings to a child as wages for services performed, you can turn some of your high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income. For your business to deduct the wages as a business expense, the work done must be legitimate and the child’s wages must be reasonable.

Here’s an example: A sole proprietor is in the 37% tax bracket. He hires his 20-year-old daughter, who’s majoring in marketing, to work as a marketing coordinator full-time during the summer. She earns $12,000 and doesn’t have any other earnings.

The father saves $4,440 (37% of $12,000) in income taxes at no tax cost to his daughter, who can use her $12,000 standard deduction (for 2018) to completely shelter her earnings. This is nearly twice as much as would have been sheltered last year, pre-TCJA, when the standard deduction was only $6,350.

The father can save an additional $2,035 in taxes if he keeps his daughter on the payroll as a part-time employee into the fall and pays her an additional $5,500. She can shelter the additional income from tax by making a tax-deductible contribution to her own traditional IRA.

Family taxes will be cut even if an employee-child’s earnings exceed his or her standard deduction and IRA deduction. Why? The unsheltered earnings will be taxed to the child beginning at a rate of 10% instead of being taxed at the parent’s higher rate.

Avoiding the “kiddie tax”

TCJA changes to the “kiddie tax” also make income-shifting through hiring your child (rather than, say, giving him or her income-producing investments) more appealing. The kiddie tax generally applies to children under age 19 and to full-time students under age 24. Before 2018, the unearned income of a child subject to the kiddie tax was generally taxed at the parents’ tax rate.

The TCJA makes the kiddie tax harsher. For 2018-2025, a child’s unearned income will be taxed according to the tax brackets used for trusts and estates, which for 2018 are taxed at the highest rate of 37% once taxable income reaches $12,500. In contrast, for a married couple filing jointly, the 37% rate doesn’t kick in until their taxable income tops $600,000. In other words, children’s unearned income often will be taxed at higher rates than their parents’ income.

But the kiddie tax doesn’t apply to earned income.

Other tax considerations

If your business isn’t incorporated or a partnership that includes nonparent partners, you might also save some employment tax dollars. Contact the P&R team to learn more about the tax rules surrounding hiring your child, how the kiddie tax works or other family-related tax-saving strategies. You can reach us at Office@CPAsite.com or 904-396-5400.

© 2018

A net operating loss on your 2017 tax return isn’t all bad news

When a company’s deductible expenses exceed its income, generally a net operating loss (NOL) occurs. If when filing your 2017 income tax return you found that your business had an NOL, there is an upside: tax benefits. But beware — the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) makes some significant changes to the tax treatment of NOLs.

Pre-TCJA law

Under pre-TCJA law, when a business incurs an NOL, the loss can be carried back up to two years, and then any remaining amount can be carried forward up to 20 years. The carryback can generate an immediate tax refund, boosting cash flow.

The business can, however, elect instead to carry the entire loss forward. If cash flow is strong, this may be more beneficial, such as if the business’s income increases substantially, pushing it into a higher tax bracket — or if tax rates increase. In both scenarios, the carryforward can save more taxes than the carryback because deductions are more powerful when higher tax rates apply.

But the TCJA has established a flat 21% tax rate for C corporation taxpayers beginning with the 2018 tax year, and the rate has no expiration date. So C corporations don’t have to worry about being pushed into a higher tax bracket unless Congress changes the corporate rates again.

Also keep in mind that the rules are more complex for pass-through entities, such as partnerships, S corporations and limited liability companies (if they elected partnership tax treatment). Each owner’s allocable share of the entity’s loss is passed through to the owners and reported on their personal returns. The tax benefit depends on each owner’s particular tax situation.

The TCJA changes

The changes the TCJA made to the tax treatment of NOLs generally aren’t favorable to taxpayers:

* For NOLs arising in tax years ending after December 31, 2017, a qualifying NOL can’t be carried back at all. This may be especially detrimental to start-up businesses, which tend to generate NOLs in their early years and can greatly benefit from the cash-flow boost of a carried-back NOL. (On the plus side, the TCJA allows NOLs to be carried forward indefinitely, as opposed to the previous 20-year limit.) * For NOLs arising in tax years beginning after December 31, 2017, an NOL carryforward generally can’t be used to shelter more than 80% of taxable income in the carryforward year. (Under prior law, generally up to 100% could be sheltered.)

The differences between the effective dates for these changes may have been a mistake, and a technical correction might be made by Congress. Also be aware that, in the case of pass-through entities, owners’ tax benefits from the entity’s net loss might be further limited under the TCJA’s new “excess business loss” rules.

Complicated rules get more complicated

NOLs can provide valuable tax benefits. The rules, however, have always been complicated, and the TCJA has complicated them further. Please contact us if you’d like more information on the NOL rules and how you can maximize the tax benefit of an NOL.  Reach the Patrick & Raines CPAs accountants at Office@CPAsite.com or 904-396-5400.

© 2018

Clergy, Exec. Directors Now Need Accountable Business Reimbursement Plans… and Nonprofits Must Budget Differently

If you’re a community-minded businessperson, you likely serve on at least one nonprofit or church board of directors. Your work helps ensure the nonprofit’s leader focuses on the mission rather than personal financial issues, such as his or her next income tax return.

The new tax law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), just complicated your achieving that objective with more budget planning now required.

Effective January 2018, TCJA eliminated one of the primary ways clergy and nonprofit staff received compensation for unreimbursed business expenses, such as travel, meals, education and clothing, when it cut the “unreimbursed business expenses subject to two percent of adjusted gross income” deduction from the 1040 Schedule A.

The IRS is still developing guidelines for the new law, and opinion in professional journals and websites remains just that—opinion—until the IRS finalizes its interpretation of TCJA. So clergy members and their houses of worship along with nonprofit staff and their boards should establish accountable, documented reimbursement plans until further guidance is codified.

Since in the past these expenses may have been truly “unreimbursed,” the nonprofit didn’t pay—or budget for—these expenses, and you and your board colleagues should now consider a new expense line item on its financial statements.

In short, the religious and nonprofit boards need to work with their clergy and paid staff to decide exactly what expenses will now be funded.

An important item specifically for clergy that didn’t change in the new law: the clergy housing allowance, at least not yet. It’s the greatest tax benefit available to clergy members. IRS guidelines require your employing house of worship to officially designate your home as a portion of your compensation in advance of the qualified costs being paid. However, be aware a federal appeals case on this benefit, which could threaten this legacy tax exclusion, is being considered this year.

Of course, we’ll monitor developments and IRS updates and bring you more information as it’s decided and published.

At Patrick & Raines CPAs, our experienced, committed team prides itself on its work with nonprofits, including many houses of worship. We build long-lasting, trusted relationships with our nonprofit clients to help them reach their management and financial goals.

Contact us when you need help with your tax or financial planning questions: Office@CPAsite.com or 904-396-5400.

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