Hands above a collection of wooden people figures

COVID-19 Relief Law Extends Employee Retention Credit

Many businesses have retained employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and enjoyed tax relief with the help of the employee retention credit (ERC). The recent signing of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) brings good news: the ERC has been extended yet again.

The original credit

As originally introduced under last year’s CARES Act, the employee retention credit was a refundable tax credit against certain employment taxes equal to 50% of qualified wages, up to $10,000, that an eligible employer paid to employees after March 12, 2020, and before January 1, 2021. An employer could qualify for the ERC if, in 2020, there was a:

  • Full or partial suspension of operations during any calendar quarter because of governmental orders limiting commerce, travel or group meetings because of COVID-19, or
  • Significant decline in gross receipts (less than 50% for the same calendar quarter in 2019).

The definition of “qualified wages” depends on staff size. If an employer averaged more than 100 full-time employees during 2019, qualified wages are generally those paid to employees who aren’t providing services because operations were suspended or due to the decline in gross receipts. Qualified wages may include certain health care costs and are capped at $10,000 per employee. These employers could count wages only up to the amount that the employee would’ve been paid for working an equivalent duration during the 30 days immediately preceding the period of economic hardship.

If an employer averaged 100 or fewer full-time employees during 2019, qualified wages are those wages, also including health care costs and capped at $10,000 per employee, paid to any employee during the period operations were suspended or the period of the decline in gross receipts — regardless of whether employees are providing services.

Expansion and extensions

Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), signed into law at the end of 2020, the ERC was extended through June 30, 2021. The CAA also expanded the ERC rate of credit from 50% to 70% of qualified wages. The law further expanded eligibility by:

  • Reducing the required year-over-year gross receipts decline from 50% to 20%,
  • Providing a safe harbor that allows employers to use previous quarter gross receipts to determine eligibility,
  • Increasing the limit on creditable wages from $10,000 in total to $10,000 per calendar quarter (that is, $10,000 for first quarter 2021 and $10,000 for second quarter 2021), and
  • Raising the 100-employee delineation for determining the relevant qualified wage base to employers with 500 or fewer employees (meaning wages qualify for the credit even if the employee is working).

Most recently, the ARPA further extended the ERC from June 30, 2021, until December 31, 2021. The 70% of qualified wages is also extended for this period, as is the allowance for up to $10,000 in qualified wages for any calendar quarter. This means an employer could potentially have up to $40,000 in qualified wages per employee through 2021.

Valuable break

We can help you determine whether your business qualifies for the ERC and, if so, how much the credit may reduce your tax bill. Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC today.

cartoon of hands working on taxes with calculator and spreadsheet

Tax Season 2021: What To Know About 2020 Changes

 We’ve reached 2021, but it has already been an eventful January. Tax season is in full swing, so we want to share a few things:

Stimulus Payments

As you know, there is another round of stimulus payments. Many have already received them. The 2020 stimulus payments will be reconciled on the tax return. These payments are not income.

We will need to know the amount of 2020 stimulus payment you received. At this time, the IRS website only tells us if you received a payment, not how much the payment was. You may not have received the correct amount due to you. For example, if you had a child in 2020, you qualify for an additional $500. If you want to check on your stimulus payment go to this IRS website.

Other Changes for 2020

If you do not itemize deductions, you may qualify for a $600 charitable contribution deduction. This must be a cash donation, not a donation of goods typically given to Goodwill, etc.

Medical expense deduction starts at 7.5% of income, not 10% previously allowed. Keep in mind most people do not qualify for this deduction due to income levels or insurance payments.

Educator expenses now include protective equipment expenses. The maximum credit remains at $250.

Private mortgage insurance premiums can be deductible again for the 2020 tax season.

The standard mileage rate is .56 per mile in 2021.

Did you take a distribution from your qualified retirement plan or IRA? If so, and it was for COVID-19 reasons you will not incur the 10% early withdrawal penalty. Also, you have options on how much to report on your tax return. For example, if you withdrew $60,000 from your IRA you can report the entire amount in 2020 or spread this out over three years.

If you repay the loan within three years amended returns can be filed to refund the tax paid on the distribution. Contact us for the COVID-19 rules on this distribution.

Tax documents, calculator, pen and post-it tab markers

CARES Act Gives Some Businesses Chance to File Amended Tax Returns

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act made changes to excess business losses. This includes some changes that are retroactive and there may be opportunities for some businesses to file amended tax returns.

If you hold an interest in a business, or may do so in the future, here is more information about the changes.

Deferral of the excess business loss limits The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provided that net tax losses from active businesses in excess of an inflation-adjusted $500,000 for joint filers, or an inflation-adjusted $250,000 for other covered taxpayers, are to be treated as net operating loss (NOL) carryforwards in the following tax year.

The covered taxpayers are individuals, estates and trusts that own businesses directly or as partners in a partnership or shareholders in an S corporation. The $500,000 and $250,000 limits, which are adjusted for inflation for tax years beginning after calendar year 2018, were scheduled under the TCJA to apply to tax years beginning in calendar years 2018 through 2025.

But the CARES Act has retroactively postponed the limits so that they now apply to tax years beginning in calendar years 2021 through 2025. The postponement means that you may be able to amend: Any filed 2018 tax returns that reflected a disallowed excess business loss (to allow the loss in 2018) and Any filed 2019 tax returns that reflect a disallowed 2019 loss and/or a carryover of a disallowed 2018 loss (to allow the 2019 loss and/or eliminate the carryover).

Note that the excess business loss limits also don’t apply to tax years that begin in 2020. Thus, such a 2020 year can be a window to start a business with large up-front-deductible items (for example capital items that can be 100% deducted under bonus depreciation or other provisions) and be able to offset the resulting net losses from the business against investment income or income from employment (see below).

Changes to the excess business loss limits The CARES Act made several retroactive corrections to the excess business loss rules as they were originally stated in the 2017 TCJA.

Most importantly, the CARES Act clarified that deductions, gross income or gain attributable to employment aren’t taken into account in calculating an excess business loss.

This means that excess business losses can’t shelter either net taxable investment income or net taxable employment income. Be aware of that if you’re planning a start-up that will begin to generate, or will still be generating, excess business losses in 2021.

Another change provides that an excess business loss is taken into account in determining any NOL carryover but isn’t automatically carried forward to the next year.

And a generally beneficial change states that excess business losses don’t include any deduction under the tax code provisions involving the NOL deduction or the qualified business income deduction that effectively reduces income taxes on many businesses.

Because capital losses of non-corporations can’t offset ordinary income under the NOL rules: Capital loss deductions aren’t taken into account in computing the excess business loss and the amount of capital gain taken into account in computing the loss can’t exceed the lesser of capital gain net income from a trade or business or capital gain net income.

Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC with any questions you have about this or other tax matters. 

Yellow sticky note with words Tax Filing Help

Businesses: Get Ready for the new Form 1099-NEC

There’s a new IRS form for business taxpayers that pay or receive nonemployee compensation. Beginning with tax year 2020, payers must complete Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation, to report any payment of $600 or more to a payee.

Why the new form?

Prior to 2020, Form 1099-MISC was filed to report payments totaling at least $600 in a calendar year for services performed in a trade or business by someone who isn’t treated as an employee.

These payments are referred to as nonemployee compensation (NEC) and the payment amount was reported in box 7.

Form 1099-NEC was reintroduced to alleviate the confusion caused by separate deadlines for Form 1099-MISC that report NEC in box 7 and all other Form 1099-MISC for paper filers and electronic filers.

The IRS announced in July 2019 that, for 2020 and thereafter, it will reintroduce the previously retired Form 1099-NEC, which was last used in the 1980s.

What businesses will file?

Payers of nonemployee compensation will now use Form 1099-NEC to report those payments. Generally, payers must file Form 1099-NEC by January 31.

For 2020 tax returns, the due date will be February 1, 2021, because January 31, 2021, is on a Sunday. There’s no automatic 30-day extension to file Form 1099-NEC. However, an extension to file may be available under certain hardship conditions.

Can a business get an extension?

Form 8809 is used to file for an extension for all types of Forms 1099, as well as for other forms. The IRS recently released a draft of Form 8809. The instructions note that there are no automatic extension requests for Form 1099-NEC. Instead, the IRS will grant only one 30-day extension, and only for certain reasons.

Requests must be submitted on paper

Line 7 lists reasons for requesting an extension. The reasons that an extension to file a Form 1099-NEC (and also a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement) will be granted are:

  • The filer suffered a catastrophic event in a federally declared disaster area that made the filer unable to resume operations or made necessary records unavailable.
  • A filer’s operation was affected by the death, serious illness or unavoidable absence of the individual responsible for filing information returns.
  • The operation of the filer was affected by fire, casualty or natural disaster.
  • The filer was “in the first year of establishment.”
  • The filer didn’t receive data on a payee statement such as Schedule K-1, Form 1042-S, or the statement of sick pay required under IRS regulations in time to prepare an accurate information return.

Need help? If you have questions about filing Form 1099-NEC or any tax forms, contact the tax experts at David Mills, CPA, LLC. We can assist you in staying in compliance with all rules. 

Q4 Tax Calendar for 2020

2020 Q4 Tax Calendar: Key Deadlines for Businesses

Here are some of the key Q4 tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you.

Contact the experts at David Mills, CPA, LLC to ensure you’re meeting all applicable Q4 tax deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

Thursday, October 15

If a calendar-year C corporation that filed an automatic six-month extension: File a 2019 income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due. Make contributions for 2019 to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Monday, November 2

Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2020 (Form 941) and pay any tax due. (See exception below under “November 10.”)

Tuesday, November 10

Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2020 (Form 941), if you deposited on time (and in full) all of the associated taxes due.

Tuesday, December 15

If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the fourth installment of 2020 estimated income taxes.

Thursday, December 31

Establish a retirement plan for 2020 (generally other than a SIMPLE, a Safe-Harbor 401(k) or a SEP).

Illinois Fair Tax red and green choice signs

Illinois Fair Tax Bill | A Few Thoughts

Illinoisans are being asked to vote on a “Fair Tax” in November. Most of the information being provided is focused on taxing higher-income individuals while opponents are worried that the Illinois Fair Tax Bill opens the door for higher taxes for all.

While this is a valid concern, I think we need to ask more questions. What will the estimated $3.6 billion to be raised from the additional tax be used for? When you and I go to the bank to ask for more money, the lender wants to know how the funds will be used.

While we are not “lending” Illinois money, we certainly have a vested interest in how the money will be spent. 

How will funds be spent?

The largest liability the state has is underfunded pension liability. The deficit is over $137 billion, yet the Fair Tax proposal requires less than 10% of revenue to pay down this liability. Where will the other 90% be spent?

This will be toward current programs and any new programs our legislators deem necessary. 

Does this mean our elected officials think there is no waste that can be eliminated or savings found in our state? Illinois has over six thousand separate taxing units, the most in the nation.

The Chicago region has more than 1,226 local governments. The New York metro area has fewer than 200. Can’t there be savings in the combination or elimination of some of these agencies? Where is the 5, 10 or 15-year plan for Illinois? We live from year to year.

The answer is always more taxes. As I have written before the state receives more than $50 million monthly in new marijuana taxes. Only 10% is earmarked for debt reduction. 

Is it any surprise that any tax increase is seen with scorn, even when the increase may be justified?

If Illinois shows the bond rating companies they are serious about addressing debt and the pension under-funding borrowing interest rates could be lowered. This means less money for interest payments and more funds for state programs that need the money. 

Illinois taxpayers deserve to know how additional tax money will be spent. So far neither side has addressed this issue. Tell voters how the money will be spent and then we can make an informed decision. 

For more information, contact David Mills, CPA, LLC.

Piles of cash represented by $100 US bills

File Cash Transaction Reports For Your Business

Does your business receive large amounts of cash or cash equivalents? You may be required to submit forms to the IRS to report these transactions.

Cash Filing Requirements

Each person engaged in a trade or business who, in the course of operating, receives more than $10,000 in cash in one transaction, or in two or more related transactions, must file Form 8300.

Any transactions conducted in a 24-hour period are considered related transactions. Transactions are also considered related even if they occur over a period of more than 24 hours if the recipient knows, or has reason to know, that each transaction is one of a series of connected transactions.

To complete a Form 8300, you will need personal information about the person making the cash payment, including a Social Security or taxpayer identification number.

You should keep a copy of each Form 8300 for five years from the date you file it, according to the IRS.

Reasons For The Reporting

Although many of the transactions are legitimate, the IRS explains that “information reported on (Form 8300) can help stop those who evade taxes, profit from the drug trade, engage in terrorist financing and conduct other criminal activities. The government can often trace money from these illegal activities through the payments reported on Form 8300 and other cash reporting forms.”

What’s Considered “Cash?”

For Form 8300 reporting, cash includes U.S. currency and coins, as well as foreign money. It also includes cash equivalents such as cashier’s checks (sometimes called bank checks), bank drafts, traveler’s checks and money orders.

Money orders and cashier’s checks under $10,000, when used in combination with other forms of cash for a single transaction that exceeds $10,000, are defined as cash for Form 8300 reporting purposes.

Note: Under a separate reporting requirement, banks and other financial institutions report cash purchases of cashier’s checks, treasurer’s checks and/or bank checks, bank drafts, traveler’s checks and money orders with a face value of more than $10,000 by filing currency transaction reports.

E-filing And Batch Filing

Businesses required to file reports of large cash transactions on Form 8300 should know that in addition to filing on paper, e-filing is an option.

The form is due 15 days after a transaction and there’s no charge for the e-file option. Businesses that file electronically get an automatic acknowledgment of receipt when they file.

The IRS also reminds businesses that they can “batch file” their reports, which is especially helpful to those required to file many forms.

Setting Up An Account

To file Form 8300 electronically, a business must set up an account with FinCEN’s BSA E-Filing System. For more information, interested businesses can also call the BSA E-Filing Help Desk at 866-346-9478 (Monday through Friday from 8 am to 6 pm EST) or email them at BSAEFilingHelp@fincen.gov.

At David Mills, CPA, LLC, we’re small business tax experts. Contact us with any questions or for assistance.

Computer and packing boxes at a start-up business

Launching A Business? How To Treat Start-Up Expenses On Your Tax Return

While the COVID-19 crisis has devastated many existing businesses, the pandemic has also created opportunities for entrepreneurs to start-up new businesses.

Computer and packing boxes at a start-up business
The way you handle initial start-up expenses can make a difference in your tax bill.

For example, some businesses are being launched online to provide products and services to people staying at home.

Entrepreneurs often don’t know that many expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be currently deducted. You should be aware that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your tax bill.

How Expenses Must Be Handled

If you’re starting or planning a new enterprise, keep these key points in mind:

Start-up costs include those incurred or paid while creating an active trade or business — or investigating the creation or acquisition of one.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, taxpayers can elect to deduct up to $5,000 of business start-up and $5,000 of organizational costs in the year the business begins. As you know, $5,000 doesn’t get you very far today!

And the $5,000 deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount by which your total start-up or organizational costs exceed $50,000. Any remaining costs must be amortized over 180 months on a straight-line basis.

No deductions or amortization deductions are allowed until the year when “active conduct” of your new business begins.

Generally, that means the year when the business has all the pieces in place to begin earning revenue.

To determine if a taxpayer meets this test, the IRS and courts generally ask questions such as:

  • Did the taxpayer undertake the activity intending to earn a profit?
  • Was the taxpayer regularly and actively involved?
  • Did the activity actually begin?

Expenses that qualify In general, start-up expenses include all amounts you spend to:

Investigate the creation or acquisition of a business

  • Create a business
  • Engage in a for-profit activity in anticipation of that activity becoming an active business.

To be eligible for the election, an expense also must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after a business began.

One example is money you spend analyzing potential markets for a new product or service.

To qualify as an “organization expense,” the expenditure must be related to creating a corporation or partnership. Some examples of organization expenses are legal and accounting fees for services related to organizing a new business and filing fees paid to the state of incorporation.

Thinking ahead If you have start-up expenses that you’d like to deduct this year, you need to decide whether to take the elections described above. Recordkeeping is critical.

At David Mills, CPA, LLC we’re here to help answer your business start-up questions and to offer advice. Contact us about your start-up plans. We can help with the tax and other aspects of your new business.

COVID Charitable CARES Contributions graphic

Business Charitable Contribution Rules Have Changed Under CARES Act

In light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many businesses are interested in donating to charity. In order to incentivize charitable giving, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act made some liberalizations to the rules governing charitable deductions.

The Limit on Charitable Deductions for Corporations has Increased 

Before the CARES Act, the total charitable deduction that a corporation could generally claim for the year couldn’t exceed 10% of corporate taxable income (as determined with several modifications for these purposes).

Contributions in excess of the 10% limit are carried forward and may be used during the next five years (subject to the 10%-of-taxable-income limitation each year).

What changed? Under the CARES Act, the limitation on charitable deductions for corporations (generally 10% of modified taxable income) doesn’t apply to qualifying contributions made in 2020.

Instead, a corporation’s qualifying contributions, reduced by other contributions, can be as much as 25% of taxable income (modified). No connection between the contributions and COVID-19 activities is required.

The Deduction Limit on Food Inventory has Increased

At a time when many people are unemployed, your business may want to contribute food inventory to qualified charities.

In general, a business is entitled to a charitable tax deduction for making a qualified contribution of “apparently wholesome food” to an organization that uses it for the care of the ill, the needy, or infants.

“Apparently wholesome food” is defined as food intended for human consumption that meets all quality and labeling standards imposed by federal, state, and local laws and regulations, even though it may not be readily marketable due to appearance, age, freshness, grade, size, surplus, or other conditions.

Before the CARES Act, the aggregate amount of such food contributions that could be taken into account for the tax year generally couldn’t exceed 15% of the taxpayer’s aggregate net income for that tax year from all trades or businesses from which the contributions were made. This was computed without regard to the charitable deduction for food inventory contributions.

What changed? Under the CARES Act, for contributions of food inventory made in 2020, the deduction limitation increases from 15% to 25% of taxable income for C corporations.

For other business taxpayers, it increases from 15% to 25% of the net aggregate income from all businesses from which the contributions were made.

CARES Act Questions

Be aware that in addition to these changes affecting businesses, the CARES Act also made changes to the charitable deduction rules for individuals.

Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC if you have questions about making charitable donations and securing a tax break for them. We can explain the rules and compute the maximum deduction for your generosity. 

PPP Loan written in letter blocks

Received a PPP Loan? Forgiven Expenses Aren’t Deductible

The IRS has issued guidance clarifying that certain deductions aren’t allowed if a business has received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

Specifically, an expense isn’t deductible if both:

PPP Basics

The CARES Act allows a recipient of a PPP loan to use the proceeds to pay payroll costs, certain employee healthcare benefits, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, and interest on other existing debt obligations.

A recipient of a covered loan can receive forgiveness of the loan in an amount equal to the sum of payments made for the following expenses during the 8-week “covered period” beginning on the loan’s origination date:

  1. Payroll costs,
  2. Interest on any covered mortgage obligation,
  3. Payment on any covered rent, and
  4. Covered utility payments.

The law provides that any forgiven loan amount “shall be excluded from gross income.”

Deductible Expenses

So the question arises: If you pay for the above expenses with PPP funds, can you then deduct the expenses on your tax return?

The tax code generally provides for a deduction for all ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on a trade or business.

Covered rent obligations, covered utility payments, and payroll costs consisting of wages and benefits paid to employees comprise typical trade or business expenses for which a deduction generally is appropriate.

The tax code also provides a deduction for certain interest paid or accrued during the taxable year on indebtedness, including interest paid or incurred on a mortgage obligation of a trade or business.

No Double Tax Benefit

In IRS Notice 2020-32, the IRS clarifies that no deduction is allowed for an expense that is otherwise deductible if payment of the expense results in forgiveness of a covered loan pursuant to the CARES Act and the income associated with the forgiveness is excluded from gross income under the law.

The Notice states that “this treatment prevents a double tax benefit.” Two members of Congress say they’re opposed to the IRS stand on this issue. Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and his counterpart in the House, Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard E. Neal (D-MA), oppose the tax treatment.

Neal said it doesn’t follow congressional intent and that he’ll seek legislation to make certain expenses deductible.

For more tax advice or information, contact the experts at David Mills CPA, LLC.