The Ultimate Guide to Estimated Taxes (Form 1040-ES)

A common question I receive from small business owners is “how do I calculate my quarterly tax payments?” At the heart of this question is the fear of ending up like Al Capone. I hope to alleviate those fears and provide you with this ultimate guide to estimated taxes.

First, what are estimated taxes? Estimated taxes are payments of tax on income that is not subject to withholding. The most common types of income that are not subject to withholding are self-employment income, business income, rental income, and investment income.

Am I required to make estimated tax payments? You may be required to make estimated tax payments if you expect to owe over $1,000 in federal taxes after subtracting out federal tax withholding and credits.

Is there a difference between “ES taxes” and “Estimated Taxes”? Nope! They are the same. Sometimes estimated taxes are referred to as “ES” taxes because individuals would send payment with Form 1040-ES.

When are estimated taxes due? Estimated taxes are due in four installments, usually on the following dates:

  • 1st Quarter – April 15
  • 2nd Quarter – June 15
  • 3rd Quarter – September 15
  • 4th Quarter – January 15

Does the IRS have to receive my payment by the due date if I mail my check with Form 1040-ES? Nope! The IRS will consider your payment timely if postmarked by the due date.

How do I calculate estimated taxes? I like to break estimated tax calculations into two categories – safe-harbor calculations or actual calculations. The safe harbor provision states that as long as you pay 100% of the prior year tax liability (110%, if your AGI was >$150,000 in the prior year) or 90% of the current year tax, you can likely avoid any penalty on potential under payment. While you may owe additional tax come April 15th, this makes ES calculations much more simple!

Where do I find my prior year Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)? Your adjusted gross income can be found on Form 1040, Line 37 (for 2015).

Where do I find the total tax paid last year? The total tax paid in the previous year can be found on Form 1040, Line 63 (for 2015)

I’m still confused about this safe-harbor non-sense, elaborate! If you expect income (and therefore taxes) to increase year after year, you can simply take last years total tax, subtract out any year-to-date withholding (your spouses withholding from their job as an employee, for instance), and divide by 4.

Here’s an example: Last year, the total tax on Line 63 was $40,000. You work freelance and your spouse works as employee. Your spouse’s federal income tax withholding on their paycheck for the current year is $2,500/month or $30,000 for the year. Your business is growing, and just by looking at your financials on QuickBooks you see that you are on pace to increase net profit by 20% for the year! You know that you will owe more in tax, but you would prefer to hold on to the money for short-term capital needs or an equipment purchase, so you decide to make a safe harbor payment. Since your AGI was greater than $150,000 for the prior year, you will need to have a minimum of $44,000 ($40,000 x 110%) of federal taxes paid in for the current year to avoid penalty.  We subtract the amount your spouse will have in withholding, and arrive at $14,000 ($44,000 “safeharbor” tax that needs to be paid in at a minimum, less $30,000 estimated withholding from your spouses paycheck). We divide the $14,000 by 4, to arrive at $3,500. We will make four $3,500 tax deposits by each quarterly due date. Please note, this doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t owe any additional tax at the year of the year, but it does mean you will not owe any interest or penalty for underpayment of taxes.

I know it’s not that easy, do you have any other resources with examples? Okay, maybe your right, maybe estimated taxes are a little more complex than I am making them out to be. The IRS does try to simplify the process and put out instructions and resources on the topic. Estimated tax worksheets and instructions from the IRS website can be found here.

When should I use the safe-harbor provisions and when should I do an actual estimate? I recommend using the prior year tax safe-harbor calculation if you expect taxes to increase from the prior year. The current year safe harbor (90% of the current year tax) is ideal for individuals that may have had a high paying job prior to becoming a consultant or self-employed, and expect their tax liability to decrease significantly. Occasionally, we will calculate an actual tax due amount – if a client has a large unusual transaction, such as a investment property disposal, a large stock transaction, option exercise, or company exit OR if the individual prefers to not owe any tax at the end of the year.

What about Self-Employment taxes? Yikes! The dreaded self-employment tax. If you are subject to the self-employment tax, and want to use the current year safe harbor (paying 90% of the current year tax, as opposed to 100/110% of the prior year tax), refer to the worksheets on the IRS website previously mentioned.

How do I make estimated tax payments? You can make estimated tax payments by mailing Form 1040-ES with a check, using DirectPay on the IRS website, or EFTPS with the Treasury Department.

Do you have any other tips? That’s all I have for now – if you have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!

If this post was helpful, feel free to share it with your friends! Since quarterlies are often overlooked, individuals sometimes end up paying penalties or interest that could have been easily avoided. Why give the IRS any more than you have to?

 

 

The Sharing Economy & How It Impacts You

The IRS recently launched a new resource center on IRS.gov aimed at providing tips for individuals that are taking part in the sharing economy. The past few years, the sharing economy has changed the way people travel, commute, and vacation. With new streams of revenue from assets that individuals already possess, come new requirements to ensure individuals file accurate tax returns.

The IRS, working in conjunction with the National Taxpayer Advocate, is taking steps to provide additional information to taxpayers, including the creation of the new Sharing Economy Resource Center on IRS.gov.

To help people meet their tax reporting responsibilities, the new Sharing Economy Resource Center offers tips and resources on a variety of topics ranging from filing requirements and making quarterly estimated tax payments to self-employment taxes and special rules for reporting vacation home rentals.

Here are a few key points people involved in the sharing economy should keep in mind:

  • Taxes. Income received is generally taxable, even if the recipient does not receive a Form 1099, W-2 or some other income statement. This is true if the sharing economy activity is only part-time or a sideline business and even if the recipient is paid in cash. On the other hand, depending upon the circumstances, some or all business expenses may be deductible.
  • Deductions. There are some simplified options available for deducting many business expenses for those who qualify. For example, a person who uses his or her car for business often qualifies to claim the standard mileage rate, currently 54 cents a mile for 2016.
  • Rentals. Special rules generally apply to the rental of a home, apartment or other dwelling unit that is used by the taxpayer as a residence during the taxable year. Usually, rental income must be reported in full, any expenses need to be divided between personal and business purposes and special deduction limits apply. But if the dwelling unit is rented out fewer than 15 days during the year, none of the rental income is reportable and none of the rental expenses are deductible.
  • Estimated Payments. The U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go, based on the wherewithal to pay. This means that people involved in the sharing economy often need to make estimated tax payments during the year to cover their tax obligation. These payments are due on April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15. Use Form 1040-ES to figure these payments.
  • Payment Options. The fastest and easiest way to make estimated tax payments is to do so electronically using IRS Direct Pay or the Treasury Department’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).
  • Withholding. Alternatively, people involved in the sharing economy who are employees at another job can often avoid needing to make estimated tax payments by having more tax withheld from their paychecks. File Form W-4 with the employer to request additional withholding. The Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov can also be a helpful resource.

If you have any questions about how the sharing economy may impact your taxes, feel free to contact our office.

 

Three Tips for Starting a Business

When starting a business, understanding your tax obligation is one key to business success. With the internet and the wealth of information found on the web, it’s easy to be misinformed. Hopefully this post will clear up any questions or concerns you may have when starting your business.

  1. Business Structure. One of the first decisions you will make when starting a business is deciding on a business structure. Business structures can have a huge impact on the tax liability of your operations, therefore it is always best to seek council from a CPA or lawyer. The most common forms of businesses are:
    • Sole Proprietorships
    • Partnerships
    • Corporations
    • S-Corporations
    • Limited Liability Company (LLC)
      • There are many misconceptions surrounding the LLC as a business structure.
      • Here are the facts: An LLC is a business structure that is allowed by state statute. Each state has it’s own statutes regarding the requirements for ownership. An LLC has default treatments for federal taxation that may only be changed by timely filing the correct elections. The default treatments are as follows:
        • An LLC with one member (whether individual or another business) is disregarded for federal tax purposes (but still a separate entity for employment taxes and excise taxes)
        • An LLC with two or more members is by default a partnership
      • If an LLC would like to elect a treatment other than the default, it can do so by filing Form 8832 or Form 2553. An LLC can elect to be treated as a Corporation or S-Corporation. An LLC is NOT by default, either of these entities.
  2. Business Taxes. There are four general types of taxes that businesses pay:
    • Income Tax – All business except partnerships must file an annual income tax return. Partnerships, however, file an information return.
    • Self-Employment Taxes -these are social security and medicare taxes primarily levied on individuals who work for themselves (examples would include sole proprietors, single member LLC’s where an individual is the sole owner, and in some cases, partnerships)
    • Employment Taxes – businesses with employees have a responsibility to pay and file forms related to social security taxes, medicare taxes, federal income taxes, and federal unemployment (FUTA) taxes.
    • Excise Taxes – some businesses may be required to pay excise taxes, more information on these taxes can be found on the IRS website.
  3. Employer ID Number (EIN). An EIN or Federal Tax Identification Number is used to identify a business entity. Most businesses can apply for an EIN on the IRS website free of charge. An EIN is recommended, even for sole-proprietors, to obtain a bank account and provide to vendors who may request tax information.

If you have any questions about entity selection or getting your business Launched!, feel free to contact our office or schedule a consulting meeting.

Accelerated Due Date for FinCEN Form 114

FinCEN Form 114, formerly referred to as “FBAR”, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, is used to report a financial interest in or signature authority over a foreign financial account. The “FBAR” is due June 30 this year to report 2015 accounts, with no extensions allowed.

As part of the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, tax years beginning after December 31, 2015 (beginning Jan 1, 2016), will be due April 15 with a maximum extension of 6 months.

The IRS has done a pretty good job with assuming this role on behalf of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Department of the Treasury. The first step they took was the electronic filing mandate a few years ago, and now, matching the deadline to the individual taxpayer deadline and adding an extension makes for a smoother filing season.

For more information on whether you may be required to file FinCEN Form 114, contact Paul Glantz, CPA at paul@launchconsultinginc.com

Due Date for Forms 1099 Quickly Approaching

Form 1099-MISC along with many other informational returns are due to recipients at the end of this month. Last year, I gave a brief outline of who may be be required to file.

Penalties for late filing range from $30-100 per late or incorrectly filed return. The maximum penalty is $250,000 per year. ($75,000 for small businesses).

These are pretty steep penalties for an informational return, and they are set to increase for the 2016 filing period ($50 for the minimum and up to $175,000 for small businesses).

 

For instructions on how to prepare Form 1099-MISC for the 2015 reporting tax year, visit the IRS website.

For information on due dates, and when and where to file, check out this IRS Publication.

If you have any questions about Form 1099-MISC contact Paul Glantz, CPA at paul@launchconsultinginc.com

Controversial Charitable Contribution Regulation Withdrawn

This past September, the IRS proposed a regulation that would require charitable organizations to collect personal information from its donors and file information returns with the IRS with this personal information for donations over $250. The IRS would, in turn, would use informational returns received from the donee to match the amounts with the social security numbers of the donors.

A few days ago, we received notice that the IRS has scrapped these regulations. (whew!) This could have only led to more paperwork for non-profit organizations and greater risks for individuals to become victims of identity theft.

As a reminder, the IRS still requires contemporaneous written acknowledgement of a contribution from a charitable organization if the donation exceeds $250.  The acknowledgement must state the amount of cash or a description (but not the value) of property other than cash contributed. The letter must also state whether the donee provided any “goods or services” in consideration for the contribution. Lastly, if the goods or services received were entirely intangible religious benefits, the letter must provide a statement to that effect.

For more information on charitable contributions, please contact Paul Glantz, CPA at paul@launchconsultinginc.com

 

Highway Bill Gives IRS Power over Passports

Last week President Obama signed into law the Highway Bill, a five-year $305 billion law that will focus on improving highway and transit projects. Included in that law were two controversial provisions that didn’t receive as much press.Both these provisions were included as offsets that are expected to cover the infrastructure spending.

Aside from the IRS bringing back private debt collectors, the new law gives the State Department the power to deny or revoke the passport of individuals with unpaid disputed tax bills. The passport revocation would only occur after the IRS has issued a lien or levy. If you have a payment agreement set up with the IRS, don’t worry, you’re in the clear. As far as privatizing debt collectors, expect to see an increase in criminals posing as IRS agents or collection companies.

More information on the Highway Bill here .

If you have questions about safeguarding your personal information, be sure to check out these tips.

For additional questions on how this law may impact you, contact Paul Glantz, CPA at paul@launchconsultinginc.com

How to Choose a Tax Preparer

With the 2015 tax filing season quickly approaching, I thought I would share this article the IRS published earlier this month about how to “Make a Wise Choice when Selecting a Tax Preparer”. I summarized a few key points below, because lets face it, it’s 2015 and nobody has the attention span to read a full article.

Here are some key take-aways:

  • Select a professional you trust. Since they will have access to sensitive data, including your social security number along with income and investment data, make sure you aren’t handing an engagement over to someone who could compromise your personal data. At Launch Consulting, we safeguard your data and use a secure file exchange software to protect your privacy.
  • Ask about preparation fees upfront. No-one likes surprises, especially in April around deadline time. Avoid any preparer that charges a fee based on refund, or says they can get you a larger refund. If a CPA is telling you this, it’s 100% unethical and against the rules of the State Board holding their license.
  • Make sure your preparer doesn’t disappear after April. Sometimes questions arise and you need your preparer to clarify. At Launch Consulting, we are with you year round, not just for tax preparation, but for tax planning and business consulting. We want to see you succeed, and we promise to be there every step of the way to help.

Lastly, only Enrolled Agents (EA), Certified Public Accountants (CPA), and Attorneys have unlimited representation rights in front of the IRS. As a licensed CPA, I can represent you on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals.

 

The full article can be read here.

For any questions about business or personal taxes, contact Paul Glantz, CPA at paul@launchconsultinginc.com

IRS Audit Rates Drop, Again

A recent report shows IRS individual audit rates at the lowest level since 2004. In addition to cuts in IRS funding and staffing, the 8 million phone calls the IRS dropped, and the cyber theft of $39mm from fraudulently filed returns, audit rates have dropped to 0.84%. To put this in perspective, just over 8 returns for every 1,000 filed are examined by the IRS in person or via mail correspondence.

Tax Return, Tax Preparation, CPA, Certified Public Accountant, Austin, Texas, 78701, 78703, 78745, 78746, Tax Refund, 1040, 1065, 1120S

USA Today compiled audit rates from 2000-2015

The drop in audit rates marked the third consecutive year with audit coverage below 1%. Things have not been looking good for the IRS post the Tea-Party Scandal. Revenue from audit collections have been a measly $7.32 billion so far this year, compared with the $14.7 billion average between 2005-2010.

Less head count in the office, fewer audits, and longer phone wait times put the voluntary compliance system at risk for tax cheats and fed up taxpayers.

The IRS is working diligently to correct the problems. We have already seen new processes for ramping up security and battling fraudulent returns.

 

For questions or more information on how this may impact you, or if you are in need of assistance with an IRS audit, contact Paul Glantz, CPA at paul@launchconsultinginc.com

Where did your tax dollars go in 2014?

With the 2014 Tax filing season behind us, whitehouse.gov‘s  interactive tool shows you exactly where your tax dollars were spent. It’s no surprise that over 50% of your taxes went to health care and national defense, but I think one of the more interesting numbers is the 9% we pay just to cover net interest from our nations deficit. Curious to know where your money went? Check out the tax calculator below!