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4 posts from April 2017

04/13/2017

Taxes on Tips

While tips are discretionary and reflect a happy customer, taxes on tips are not optional and, if overlooked, can cause unhappy headaches for both taxpayers and their employers.

Tip jar picAll cash and non-cash tips are considered income and are subject to Federal income taxes. Tips include cash left by a customer, tips added to debit or credit card charges, and tips received from other employees or employer through tip sharing, tip pooling or other arrangements.

Employees who receive tips regularly are responsible for keeping a daily tip record and reporting all tips on their individual income tax return.  They must report tips that total $20 or more in any month by the 10th of the following month regardless of total wages and tips for the year.

If an employee doesn’t have or isn’t assigned a tip-tracking and reporting tool, the IRS provides a Daily Record of Tips (Form 4070) that an employee may use to document tips in the manner which is considered sufficient proof of tips received. Reliable proof of tip income would include copies of restaurant bills and credit card charges that show the amounts customers added as tips.

Automatic service charges that are often added onto bills are not considered tips, but rather are treated as regular wages so any taxes owed would be withheld by an employer on an employee’s next paycheck. Examples of service charges include things like bottle service charges, gratuity that is automatically added to a bill for large parties, delivery charges, and room service charges.

Employers must withhold income, social security and Medicare taxes on tips just as they would on other income earned by their employee.  If tips are not reported to an employer as required, an employee may face a penalty of 50% of the unpaid social security and Medicare taxes due.

If there are any unreported tips, a taxpayer must file a report of the income through another Form 4137 "Social Security and Medicare Tax on Unreported Tip Income" which helps the employee figure the amount that is subject to tax and how much is owed.

It can be a tedious process especially for workers who make money through a predetermined hourly wage with unpredictable tip income added to the total.  Workers who receive their tips at the end of each shift must make certain they record the tip amounts on their monthly tip report to their employers.  The taxes owed would then be deducted from their next paycheck. It’s possible that hourly wages may not cover the taxes owed. When this happens, any remaining taxes owed can paid out of the next paycheck through an employer agreement. This is the area where most problems occur as tax obligations on tips for one month may impact several paychecks.  It’s up to the employee to keep track of required tax payments so that there are no outstanding payroll taxes owed at year’s end.

If you need more help understanding how to record and report tip income, please contact one of our tax preparation experts at McRuer CPAs.

04/12/2017

Tax Reform Timeline

Although Republicans appear to have more agreement on the specifics of tax reform than health care reform, experts predict we’ll be hearing more debate in committees and in the media before an actual tax reform bill makes it to the House or Senate floor.  Now many experts predict a tax reform or reduction bill will pass, but it may not happen in 2017.

Capitol-hill-washington-d_cThe White House and Republican lawmakers know they need a more unified front to sustain a push for major tax reform, especially in the wake of continued angst and division over health care reform. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is a key player in drafting and negotiating a tax reform proposal.  He says he is optimistic that a comprehensive plan should win approval by the Congressional recess this August. But President Donald Trump has been less specific. When asked recently whether he could “cut a deal on tax reform this year” by a Financial Times editor, Trump responded he did not want to talk about timing saying, “We will have a massive and very strong tax reform. But I am not going to talk about when.”

Leading House Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have proposed tax code changes that include a much-debated border adjustment tax. CEOs of 16 U.S. companies including General Electric and Boeing support the proposal that would reduce corporate income tax from 35% to 20%.  It would also impose a 20% tax on imported goods while removing taxes on exported goods.  Critics claim such a tax structure would cause consumer prices to rise and unfairly burden retail and automotive manufacturing industries that purchase low-cost parts and supplies from overseas.

Trump has also expressed an interest in pushing simplified personal income and corporate tax reform through at the same time and may also include an infrastructure investment package in a comprehensive tax plan. Tackling big issues with a massive all-encompassing bill may provide opportunities to please all parties, but may also result in the same kind of partisan and intraparty fractures suffered by health care reform efforts.  

Democrats are also unlikely to support major income tax cuts at either the corporate or personal level.

Based on their recent disappointment over a failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans know they need to build and confirm support for significant tax reform.  Many financial experts say that means an agreement may not be reached until late 2017 or early 2018.

04/10/2017

Deducting Work-Related Expenses

Work expensesTaxpayers who work for an employer and who pay for work-related expenses out of their own pocket may be able to deduct them on their income tax returns.  Qualified employee business expenses are deductible if when combined with other miscellaneous deductions, the total spent is more than two percent of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income.

Some examples of qualified deductible employee business expenses may include:

  • the cost of purchasing required uniforms or work clothes not worn away from the work environment,
  • business use of a home,
  • business use of a personal vehicle,
  • business-related meals and entertainment,
  • work-related travel away from home, and
  • tools and supplies purchased for use on the job.

Other deductible expenses that employed taxpayers often overlook are costs of things like the depreciation of their own computer they use for work-related purposes, union dues, malpractice or business liability insurance premiums and subscriptions to professional journals and trade magazines related to work.

Taxpayers must to itemize the deductions and maintain records of income along with receipts of expenses.  If expenses have been reimbursed by an employer, they are not tax deductible.

The expenses must also be ordinary and necessary for their work.  An employee who purchases an item featuring their company’s logo may not deduct the expense unless the employer requires them to wear or use the item while performing their job.  For example, flight attendants who must buy their own uniforms to wear while serving passengers on an aircraft may deduct the expense of the uniform, but not the cost of personal earrings worn to complement their uniform.

K-12 teachers may be able to deduct up to $250 of certain out-of-pocket expenses.  Deductible expenses for 2016 federal income taxes may include the cost of books, classroom supplies, equipment and other materials teachers use to help instruct students.  For example, a physical education teacher may deduct up to $250 of athletic supplies purchased for students that were needed and used by the student(s) to complete or perform physical education course requirements. This particular work-related deduction is calculated as an adjustment to income rather than an itemized deduction, so they need not itemize to claim this deduction.

IRS Publication 529 “Miscellaneous Deductions” and Publication 463 “Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses” provide more specific details about deducting employee business expenses.

If you need more information on deducting work-related expenses, contact one of our experts on tax preparation at McRuer CPAs.

04/07/2017

Tax Deadline Dance

So, once again, the mandated income tax filing deadline day gets a little kick and a jump this year from the designated April 15 date on the calendar.  For the second year in a row, the last day to file your federal and state income tax returns for the 2016 calendar year is April 18. And next year’s filing deadline for 2017 income tax returns will be April 17. The reasons for the date changes are nearly as complicated as tax laws.

Gene kelly tap dancing picThe three-year stretch in adjusted tax deadline days is due to the odd assortment of federal holidays and a restriction against the deadline falling on a weekend day. This tax season the assigned April 18 deadline is partly due to the fact that April 15 falls on a Saturday.  Normally the deadline would have then been moved to the next Monday.  However, this year, Monday is a holiday observed in Washington D.C. and, thereby, is a holiday that is observed by the IRS.  So, the tax deadline day for filing 2016 income tax returns moves to the next available calendar day which is Tuesday, April 18.  In case you’re wondering, the holiday on April 17 is Emancipation Day which commemorates the day President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery.

Taxpayers in some states have an even longer time to file their tax returns because the IRS has enacted its authority to extend deadlines for taxpayers living in designated federal disaster areas.  In past months, thousands of taxpayers were affected by damaging storms in Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi.  Those who live or own a business in Louisiana parishes designated as disaster areas have been given additional time to file their income and business tax returns as well as any quarterly tax payments. The deadline for them has been extended to June 30. Taxpayers living in disaster-designated counties in Georgia and Mississippi have until May 31.

For taxpayers living in Maine or Massachusetts, the Patriot’s Day holiday occurs on April 18 which pushes their income tax filing deadline to April 19.

Taxpayers living and working abroad as well as military personnel serving abroad or in combat zones may also qualify for an extension of time to file a return and/or pay their income taxes.

If you’re not able to get your records together in time for the tax return filing deadline that applies to you, you will need to request an extension of time to file to escape penalties. The IRS allows six extra months to qualifying taxpayers.  However, the deadline to pay the taxes you owe remains the same as the original tax filing deadline.  Penalties and interest accrue for all unpaid dollars.  Dare we mention that this year, IF you file for a six-month extension, even though the actual six-month calendar would reflect an October 18 deadline to file, the actual deadline is Monday, October 16.  That’s because the October deadline is based on the originally mandated April 15 filing deadline.  But, because the 15th of October falls on a Sunday, October 16 becomes the deadline. Makes you want to shake your head a bit, doesn’t it?

If you need help completing your tax return or submitting a request for an extension to file a return, please contact one of our tax experts at McRuer CPAs.

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