Ten Recordkeeping Rules and Five Bonus Tips in Claiming Travel Expense

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Ten Recordkeeping Rules and Five Bonus Tips in Claiming Travel Expense

Mar 20, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Good recordkeeping may not be in the list of business secrets of successful entrepreneurs. But for the company’s accountant or bookkeeper, it is very important.  It can significantly reduce the amount of profit that a business will pay tax on. Keeping accurate and organized records make it easier for companies to track their cash flow, save time and trouble in filing their tax returns, and perhaps more important, ensure that they are tax-efficient.

Good recordkeeping is particularly vital for business owners and contractors who go on a business trip.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows business owners to claim tax deductions for travel-related expenses such as:

  • Lodging
  • 50 percent of the costs of meals
  • Baggage charges
  • Air, rail, and bus fare
  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Taxi fare and car rental
  • Computer rental
  • Public stenographer fees
  • Telephone or fax expenses
  • Tips on qualified expenses

If you are a business owner,  you should understand how good record keeping is vital. Keeping accurate records will back up your tax deduction claims. And it can spell the difference between winning an audit and the IRS possibly digging up your other tax returns.

The following are some of the recordkeeping rules you should keep in mind when you are to claim on a business trip:

  1. You can’t claim tax exemptions for estimated or approximated expenses.

The IRS doesn’t allow businesses to deduct amounts based on approximate or estimate. You cannot guess the amount you spent for your gas or toll fees,  neither for the cost of your meals during the business trip.

It is thus recommended for entrepreneurs or their bookkeepers to keep adequate records proving their business trip -related expenses.

You should be accurate on the amount to be written off. The IRS recommends keeping documentary evidence to prove your expenses, such as receipts, bills, and checks.

 However, documentary evidence isn’t required when the travel related expense is lower than $75.  You don’t also have to present receipt for meals and lodging expenses if you are to claim per diem, or you took public transportation for which a receipt isn’t readily available.

 You should keep timely records.

 The IRS also recommends keeping records of a business travel during or near the time of the trip. It should also be supported with sufficient documentary evidence. This can make the record more believable than a statement prepared at a later date.

 Let’s cite an example. A business owner wrote off more than $20,000 in his tax return, citing that the amount represented the gas expenses he had when he went out of town during several occasions in 2013 to meet several prospective clients.

 Two years after the trip, the IRS decided that it had enough grounds to audit his tax returns. In order to substantiate his claim, he presented a 2013 calendar as well as printouts of driving directions generated by an online web mapping service. The directions also specified the distance supposedly traveled by the business owner from his place to the offices of his clients.

 Despite those documents presented , the IRS will still disallow the claims of the business owner.  For one, the documents presented were prepared two years after the business trip. Therefore, there is a lack of truthful recall on the part of the entrepreneur to justify the said claim even though an online mapping service was used.

 This illustrates the importance of keeping timely records of your business trip. While you don’t have to record information as soon as you get home, you don’t have to wait for months to do so, either.

  1. You must state the business purpose of an expense.

The IRS encourages business owners and employees who are claiming a business travel exemption to provide a written statement indicating the purpose of an expense. You can indicate that a conference you attended is for networking and meeting potential clients.  You can back up your claim by showing the conference program or invitation from the organizer.

However, this may not be needed if the purpose of an expense is obvious given the surrounding circumstances.

The easiest example of this would be a sales representative. Given the job description of the worker, it is understood that he or she is constantly travelling.  Thus there is no need to submit a written statement detailing the business purpose of each and every trip. The sales representative would only have to record the date of each trip, total miles covered, and back up his or her claims with documentary evidence like receipt or record of delivery.

You can also withhold confidential information in stating the purpose of a business travel expense.  You don’t have to be explicit in stating the purpose of a business meeting like mentioning the amount of deals you booked over dinner.

  1. You can’t use credit card statements to claim an expense.

One of the more common mistakes that business owners make when writing off a business trip expense is using their credit card statements. The IRS, though, won’t accept this as documentary evidence.

A credit card statement can be likened to a canceled check. It only shows the costs but not any further evidence to prove that the expenses were for a legitimate and necessary business purpose.

You should present a receipt alongside the credit card statement to substantiate the travel expenditure.

  1. You should provide direct and supporting evidence in case you have incomplete records of an expense.

If you cannot provide complete records to support a tax deduction, you can still write off an expense by furnishing direct evidence in the form of a written or oral statement and supporting evidence. The written or oral statement details the cost, time, place, and date of a business trip expense like meals or transportation. It may be a written statement from you, your associates, and guests. Documentary evidence, on the other hand, may be receipts or paid bills.

In the absence of documentary evidence, you can present adequate evidence to prove the character of the expense. In the case of lodging expense, a hotel receipt can be presented to and admitted by the IRS if it provides essential information such as the name and location of the hotel, the dates of the stay, and separate amounts for lodging, meals, and communication expenses.

 Another example of adequate evidence would be a restaurant receipt. It can be presented to the IRS for meal expenses as long as it indicates the name and location of the restaurant, the number of people who were served, and the date and amount of the expense.

6. You should record expenses separately.

The IRS says that each payment is considered a separate expense.

Let’s say that you took a taxi to go to a restaurant where you met a client. The dinner expense and the taxi fare are two separate expenses. You should, thus, record them separately in your records.

It is also common for businessmen to treat their clients to sports events. If you bought season or series tickets, and then used these for business purposes, then each ticket in the series should be treated as a separate item.

You can divide the total cost of the season tickets by the number of games in the series to get the cost of each ticket.

 7. You can combine items if the expenses are of a similar nature.

You can combine expenses of a similar nature, and record them as a single expense. These expenses should have happened during the course of a single event.

For instance, you don’t have to record each and every drink during a cocktail party as separate expenses. You can record the total expenses for the refreshments as a single expense.

 8. You can record all vehicle/transport expenses and then divide them into business and personal expenses at the end of the fiscal year.

You can claim gas expenses if you used your car during a business trip. It is also possible to record all your expenses during the year, and then divide them into business trip and personal expenses at the end of the year.  However, you should keep an accurate mileage log if you are to claim a tax deduction for your business trip related expenses.

The mileage log should indicate the starting mileage on the odometer at the beginning of the year, as well as its ending mileage at the end of the year. Every time you use your vehicle for a business trip, you should record details such as the date of your travel, your starting point, and destination. You must also write the purpose of your trip, the starting and ending mileage of the vehicle, and other trip-related expenses such as tolls and parking fees. It is important to keep your mileage log updated regularly, so that your records will be precise.

 9. You can claim deductions using your actual expenses, or by using the standard mileage rate.

There are two ways of claiming transportation related expenses during a business trip. You can deduct your actual expenses, or use the standard mileage rate set by the IRS.

The latter is easier to follow, which makes it the more popular option among employees and entrepreneurs. For 2017, the mileage rage is 53.5 cents for every mile. You simply have to multiply the miles that your vehicle has accumulated for business-related expenses.

For example, your car drove 20,000 miles for business trips in 2017. You will then multiple 20,000 by 53.5, giving you a total of $10,700. This is the amount that you can write off in your next tax return.

You may opt to deduct your actual expenses instead of using the standard mileage set by the IRS. However, you should have a thorough record of your gas, parking, and toll expenses. You can also deduct other expenses like repair and maintenance, tires, car washing, car repair, and gas and oil replacement. While this method requires a lot of record keeping, it can save you a lot of money because it usually results in a larger tax deduction.

  1. Keep records and receipts as long as you can.

You may wonder how long should you keep those receipts related to a business trip that you had two years ago. The IRS recommends keeping records as long as you can, as there will always be a possibility that your tax return is audited up to three years from the date that you filed it.

Bonus Tips

While entrepreneurs are entitled to many tax deductions when they go on a business trip, they won’t be able to write off expenses if these are not properly recorded. The last thing you want to have is the IRS auditing your tax returns for making unsubstantiated claims. Here are some tips to keep in mind so that you will have an easier time in recording your expenses while on a business trip:

  1. Scribble down notes on receipts. This is particularly helpful if you are to claim meal expenses. You should list down the names of those who you dined with, and the business purpose of the meeting.
  1. Scan receipts. If you’re the type of person who keeps on losing receipts, you can simply scan or take photos of these essential documentary evidences.
  1. Keep track of your expenses in a daily business journal. You can download a good daily business journal that you can use to record all your expenses during a business trip.
  1. Use debit and credit cards as much as possible. Using cash can be disadvantageous for anyone on a business trip. It is easy to spend but hard to keep track of.  Instead of using cash, simply your debit and credit cards, then reconcile them with your receipts.
  1. Use an app. There are many apps that you can use to track your business travel expenses. These apps can make it a lot easier for you to document your expenses and make an accurate tax claim.

How to Get Reimbursed for Tips and Other Incidental Expenses During a Business Trip

Mar 18, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Traveling for business has a lot of perks. It may mean spending some time away from the office and dealing with a lot of tasks as a result, but for the most part,  it can be very rewarding.

You do not have to be a boss to understand how rewarding business trips can be. Business owners and executives, for one, can meet prospective clients and suppliers.  They can seal deals by wining and dining their associates. Or they can strengthen their relationships with current partners.

Employees, meanwhile, can improve on their skills, update their knowledge, and network with peers when they attend conventions and business conferences. Plus, the time away from the office can re-energize them and make them more productive and inspired when they return to their respective work stations.

Claiming tax deductions

What’s more encouraging is that most business-related expenses can be claimed as tax deductible. Anything related to the business trip can be written off, from airfare, taxi fare, lodging, communication charges, and supplies.

Even incidental expenses can be claimed as tax deductible. These are small costs incurred during a business travel. It may cover for tips or fees that an employee or business owner gives to porters, baggage carrier, maids, and stewards.

In short, incidental expenses are gratuities given to staff of restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, and similar establishments.

Tipping Standards

Tipping is a customary practice in the United States. It should be noted that the federal minimum wage of $8 an hour, so tips can help make up for the low pay of servers.

Thus, business travelers will normally have to spend for gratuities extended to waiters, bell boys, porters, and other servers that they will encounter during their trip.

While there’s no standard rate as far as tips in the US are concerned, the following is a guide on how much business travelers tip for people who serve them:

  • Taxi/limousine driver—at least 15 percent of the total fare
  • Porter- $1 per bag
  • Valet parking attendant– $1-2 for every car retrieved
  • Restaurant waiter/waitress- at least 15 percent of the total bill less tax
  • Bell staff- $1 for every bag delivered to a room
  • Buffet service– $1 to $2
  • Bartender/cocktail—at least 10 percent of the total bill

Tipping, however, is not practiced in other countries.  In fact, outside the United States, the practice is not customary.

For instance, tipping in Australia is practically non-existent. This can be attributed to the fact that the minimum wage in Australia is $16 per hour, or around $622 a week.

It’s also not a practice in other countries such as Japan, Argentina, and Estonia. In most countries in Europe, such as France, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Finland, tips are already included in the bill.

What’s Not Included in Incidental Expenses?

The IRS, however, does not consider the following as incidental expenses:

  • Costs incurred in cleaning and pressing of clothes
  • Long distance telephone calls
  • Local calls
  • Internet connection
  • Fax services
  • Gas for rental vehicles
  • Parking fees

These costs incurred, after all, are reimbursable as other expenses.  For example, costs of cleaning and ironing of clothes can be written off as cleaning expenses. Local and long distance calls, as well as fax and Internet services, may be claimed as communication expenses. Gas for rental vehicles and parking fees, meanwhile, are considered as transportation expenses.

Incidental Expenses-Only

Because incidental expenses are small, it is very common for business owners and employees usually pay out in cash.  The minimal amounts involved in a tip, and the fact that there’s no need to issue a receipt for such expense, has prompted the IRS to set a rule when it comes to claiming incidental expenses during a business trip.

According to the IRS, a business owner or employee who was on a business travel can opt for the incidental-expenses only method in claiming a deduction. In this method, the taxpayer can write off incidental expense of $5 a day.

This method spares taxpayers from the hassle of keeping tabs of the costs they incurred for the tips given during the course of a business trip. Since tips are very small, it can be difficult for business travelers to keep track of the expenses they have incurred.

This method, however, can only be used when the taxpayer did not incur any meal expense.

Thus, a taxpayer cannot claim incidental expenses if he or she had and claimed meal expenses during the business travel.

Let’s cite an example.  Victoria was sent by his boss to a three day business trip to New York.  She incurred meal expenses during that trip.  She could have claimed half of the total amount of those meals under tax rules, but because she could not present the actual costs of the meals,  she just opted to claim a standard meal allowance.

Standard Meal Allowance

For 2016, the federal standard meal allowance is $51 a day.

Thus, Victoria can write off $153 for her meals during that trip. However, because she had claimed meal expenses as tax deductions, then she won’t be allowed to deduct $15 as incidental expenses.

If Victoria didn’t claim any meal expenses, then she can write off the $15 incidental expenses that she incurred during the trip.

By using the standard meal allowance, Victoria has practically claimed both meal and incidental expenses.

Victoria can receive this allowance if her employer does any of the following:

  1. Provides her with lodging, or furnishes it in kind.
  2. Reimburses her for the actual cost of lodging basing on the receipts presented
  3. Pays for the lodging
  4. Expresses reservations about Victoria incurring lodging expenses. This may be due to her having friends or relatives in New York, where she can stay with.
  5. Devise an allowance based on a formula similar to computing Victoria’s compensation like number of hours worked or number of miles traveled.

As mentioned earlier, the M&IE allowance of $51 applies to most small localities in the United States. However, a higher allowance applies to bigger cities like San Francisco, and yes, New York. As of 2017, the M&IE allowance for New York is $74.

There’s also a special standard meal allowance for those working in the transportation industry.  The IRS defines workers in the transportation industry as those who are directly involved in moving goods and people by various modes of transportation such as airplane, bus, barge, ship, or train.

Workers who are regularly required to travel away from their residence, and have to travel to different areas that are qualified for standard meal allowance rates, are also considered to be transportation workers by the IRS.

Those who are in the transportation industry get a standard meal allowance of $64 a day.

Claiming Per Diem

There are instances, though, when claiming the standard meal allowance or using the incidental expenses only method won’t suffice to cover the expenses incurred by a business owner or employee.

For example, what if Victoria had to shell out more than $30 in tips alone during her three-day trip?  She might have brought a lot of bags so that meant she had to give tips to the bellboy and porter. She could have even given the taxi driver a tip for helping her carry her baggage.

One way that Victoria can reimburse those expenses is to claim per diem or per day. Per diem is a daily allowance for expenses that companies give to employees on a daily basis to cover expenses when on a business travel.

Per diem rates cover the costs of lodging, meals, and incidental expenses incurred by an employee during a business trip. If Victoria opts to use this method instead of the incidental expenses only method and the meal and incidental expenses allowance, then she can get reimbursed not just for the tips that she gave but also for her meals and lodging expenses.

Claiming per diem also has one distinct advantage—it spares employees from preparing documentation required to support business travel expenses.  If Victoria opts for this method, then she no longer has to collect every receipt she gets during the trip. There’s also no need for her to note the time, place and purpose of each business meeting she attends. Moreover, she no longer has to hold on to those receipts and other documentation for two to three years, just in case the IRS calls in and questions her business travel deductions.

It can also mean faster reimbursement of expenses on the part of the employee, as there is no need to review and approve monthly expenses reports. It can also prevent processing delays caused by incomplete documentation, or when a supervisor inquires on the reasonableness of a claim.

Simply put, claiming per diem rate simplifies life for employees like Victoria.

However per diem rates aren’t paid to individuals who own more than 10 percent of the business. Thus, business owners cannot opt for this method in claiming tax deductions.

The IRS uses the high-low method in determining the per diem in certain areas in the United States.  Simply put, employees who work in areas like San Francisco, Boston, and Washinton D.C. have a higher per diem rate than those working in areas in the ‘low cost’ list.

For the fiscal year 2017, the IRS has set the per diem rate for high costs areas at $282. The breakdown is $214 for lodging, and $68 for meals and incidental expenses. This applies to all high cost areas within the continental United States.

Some of the high cost areas for 2017 are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and San Jose in California; Denver and Aspen in Colorado, and Sedona in Arizona.

Chicago, Maine, Maryland, and Seaside in Oregon are other high cost areas as defined by the IRS. In Florida, cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale are classified as high cost areas.

Other areas where the per diem rate is $282 for 2017 are Hershey and Philadalphia in Pennsylvania, Park City in Utah, Seattle in Washington, Jamestown, Middletown, and Newport in Rhode Island, and Virginia Beach and Wallops Island in Virginia.

For all other areas, the per diem rate is $189 with lodging at $132 and meals and incidental expenses at $57.

Compared to the previous year, the rates have gone up by $7 for high cost areas and $4 for the low cost areas.

Employers should take note that lodging and meal and incidental expenses are separated from each other. Thus under certain circumstances, they can only reimburse for the meals and incidental expenses of their employers. For instance, if Victoria’s company paid for her hotel or lodging then she is only entitled to a per diem reimbursement of her meals and incidental expenses.

In such case, she can only receive a reimbursement of $68 for M&EI as the lodging costs have been shouldered by her employer.

Exclusions

It should be noted that transportation costs and mailing costs aren’t included in incidental expenses. These include transportation between places of business and lodging, as well as mailing expenses incurred for filing travel vouchers.

The IRS states that the high-low method must be used by companies in reimbursing their employees’ travel expenses within the continental United States for the fiscal year. However, it is up to them to use permissible method when it comes to reimbursing their employee expenses for business travel outside of the United States.

Employers are also required to continue using this method for an employee in the last three months of the fiscal year.  This means that the same method utilized in the first nine months of the year should also be used for the final three months.

Conclusion

While tips extended to waiters, bellboys, and other servers are not as costly as meals and transportation expenses, the amount can quickly accumulate during a business trip. Fortunately for most employees, the IRS allows these expenses to be reimbursed either through the incidental expenses-only method, per diem, or the meal and incidental expenses method.

How Freelancers Can Write Off their Business Travel Expenses

Mar 11, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

While there are many risks of being a freelancer, it cannot be denied that there are plenty of benefits, too.

One advantage of being self-employed is that you can make more money than you would if you were an employee. You can also work at the comforts of your home.

Moreover, freelancers like you also get to enjoy many tax deductions like home office and business travel.

If you haven’t realized, going on a business travel can benefit your trade.

Here are three good ideas that you may want to explore if you want to maximize your tax deductions by going on a business trip anytime soon:

  1. Visiting a client

Perhaps you have a client in an area away from your tax home, or your primary place of work. You might want to visit that client and several customers to strengthen you relationship with them.

You don’t need to spend the entire them talking to them. You can schedule a meeting for a few hours.  Just make sure to keep note of the things you talked about during the meet.

  1. Meeting a Vendor

Do you know a supplier of a vendor that you can meet in Miami or another area that’s far from your home? You might want to meet him to negotiate a new deal, or how you can improve your business relationship together.

  1. Attend a conference

Are there any workshops, seminars, or conventions that you can participate in?  Attending one that’s relevant to your trade may teach you new skills or update your knowledge. The activity may also give you the perfect time to meet prospective clients or vendors.

What expenses can you write off?

 Any of the abovementioned ideas are justifiable enough to be the purpose of your next business travel. What’s more exciting is that you can deduct all your business travel-related expenses on your next tax returns.

Remember this–you can write off your business travel expenses as long as the primary purpose of your trip is ordinary and necessary for your work.

An ordinary expense is defined as common and accepted in the trade or business that you are in. If you are in the IT field, then your participation in an information security summit can be considered an ordinary expense.

On the other hand, the IRS considers travel as a necessary expense if it is appropriate for a taxpayer’s business.

You can write off the following travel expenses:

  1. Meal Expenses

You can also deduct the costs of meals that you had while you were on a business travel. However, there’s only a 50 percent limit on meal expenses.

There are two methods that you can choose from in figuring out your meal expenses.

The first is the actual cost.  This simply means claiming 50 percent of the actual cost of your meals during your business trip. If you are to use this method, you should have receipts or records of your actual expenses.

The second option is to deduct the standard meal allowance (SMA) of $51 a day, which is the rate for most of the small localities in the US. The advantage of this option is that you don’t have to keep every receipt, as you simply subtract the SMA.

However, the SMA is a bit low. Thus you may not be able to enjoy larger deductions on your tax return if you opt for this method.

Keep in mind that you can claim meal expenses even if your dinner or lunch with a prospective client didn’t lead to a deal. So even if you met potential clients, you can deduct the costs of their meals in your next tax return.

But you may also wonder—can you claim the meal expenses during a business meeting? After all, it is a common practice to discuss a deal or get to know a prospective partner while eating.

The answer is yes–you can also claim meal expenses that you incurred while entertaining customers or potential business partners.

In fact, it is not only the meals served to your clients that you can claim as tax deductible.  You can even include taxes and tips, cover charges if you brought your guests to a nightclub. The rent that you paid for a room in which you held a dinner party for your guests can also be deducted as a meal expense.

But the IRS won’t allow claiming deductible on lavish and extravagant meals. There’s no definite dollar amount for a lavish or extravagant meal, so it can really be tricky for most business owners to determine which meals to expense.

Let’s say that you treated a potential client to dinner at a five-star hotel. Would that be considered lavish or extravagant meal? Perhaps, but you can also justify that it is reasonable given the circumstances. Maybe the client that you met is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, whom you just can’t bring to any ordinary restaurant.

  1. Lodging Expenses

Unlike in meal expenses where you are limited to a 50 percent tax claim, you can deduct 100% of your lodging expenses during a business travel.

You can even stay an extra day in your destination and claim associated stay-over costs. For example, you had your last meeting on a Friday, but you didn’t leave until Saturday afternoon because you wanted to get a reduced fare on that day. You can claim the stay-over costs on Saturday even though you had no business-related activities on that day.

But if you stayed for a couple more days just to enjoy the sights, then you can’t deduct the hotel charges for those extra days.

  1. Transportation Expenses

Whether you traveled by car, bus, train, or airplane, from your home to the business destination, you can write off your transportation expenses during a business trip.

But if you were provided tickets by a client, your cost is zero.

If you were able to fly because of a frequent flyer reward, then you won’t be able to claim the airfare.

You can also claim transportation expenses to and from the airport to your hotel, and the hotel to the offices of your clients or customers.

If you brought your own car, you can write off your gas expenses, toll fees, and parking. You can even charge the expenses you incurred for maintaining your vehicle, like car wash, replacement of tires, or oil change. However, you have to keep your receipts to prove that you indeed had paid for the said services while you were on a business travel.

Aside from the three major expenses, you can also write off the following:

  • Shipping of baggage
  • Dry cleaning and laundry
  • Business calls
  • Tips
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses such as computer rental fees

The rule of thumb is that expenses that are directly related to your business trip can be written off.  For example, you had paid for the shipping of your brochure or documents needed for a seminar or convention. You can deduct the shipping expenses.

But you can’t expense personal charges like gym or fitness fees. You can’t also deduct fees for movies or games.

Things to Remember Before Traveling for Business

 Now that you have learned the expenses that you can claim on your next tax return, you should then know the things that the IRS will look into before it accepts your tax deduction claim.

These include:

  1. Establish the Purpose of Your Travel

One, your travel should be primarily for business. You can prove this by showing that you have at least one business appointment or meeting schedule before you leave home.

This means that you can’t just depart for the Bahamas or Florida with the hopes of meeting a potential client there. Or collecting business cards of people you would present as business associates.

An invitation to a conference, emails, and other correspondences—these are enough to prove to the IRS that you went to a particular destination for a business-related activity.

But what if you don’t have any invitation or email proving that you went to a certain destination for a business activity?  Let’s say you want to spend a vacation in Miami, and also get some potential clients there.

You can mix pleasure with business, so to speak, by placing several advertisements in the area.

For example, you’re a distributor of computer software. You are hoping to expand your business by distributing more products in Miami.

What can you do to achieve that goal? You can post online ads showing to prove that indeed, you were looking for new business contacts in the area.

And when you get there in Miami, meet a couple of those who have responded to your advertisement. Document your meeting by taking photos, or keeping the business cards of your prospects.

However, you should also look at the time spent for business-related activities during your trip. It would be hard to justify travel costs for a week-long trip to Miami if you only spent 2-3 days meeting with clients.  The IRS will likely call your attention if you declared that you spent just half of your time in Florida meeting prospective customers or dealers.

What if your residence is just a few hours away from Miami? Does that mean you can’t claim your travel expenses as tax deductible?

You can, as long as you can prove that you had to sleep or rest in Miami so that you can meet the demands of your work. Let’s say that you slept in the hotel where you held a meeting to avoid possible traffic problems. The IRS will consider your overnight stay in Miami to be business-related, and allow you to make a claim.

  1. Allocate your expenses

If you traveled for a business meeting but also went to see some old friends or visited tourist destinations, you will have to allocate your expenses. You can only deduct your business-related expenses, and not the costs that you incurred for personal activities.

For example, you rented a car to take you to Miami from New Orleans. Your business travel amounted to around 2,000 miles round trip. But on your way back to NOLA, you decided to take a detour to Jacksonville to visit your old college buddy.

Because the detour to your college buddy is personal and not business-related, you cannot claim your expenses for that part of the trip.

Generally speaking, you can’t claim the expenses of your spouse if he or she accompanied you in your business trip unless the presence of your significant other was necessary.

No, your spouse taking down notes for you during your trip isn’t justifiable. Your partner should have done something more critical, like serving as your interpreter, or even helping you close a deal.

  1. Keep your receipts and related documents

Lastly, keep all your receipts during the trip. You may even write down details at the back of the receipt, like the names of the business associates you met and the purpose of the meeting.

If your total expense during the trip is $75, you don’t need to show your receipts, though.

Don’t throw away other papers such as conference or seminar program. Those papers can justify your tax deduction claim.

 

Going on a business travel is like hitting two birds with one stone. Your firm not only stands to benefit from you embarking on a business travel, but you can also reduce your tax obligations.

You can meet a potential client during a business travel, or strengthen your relationship with your current customers. You can also attend a convention or seminar to enhance your skills, or learn a new one.

Moreover, you can write off business travel expenses like lodging, transportation, and meals, although the latter has a limit of 50 percent of the total costs.

The IRS, though, has been quite strict when it comes to business travel claims. You can fend off an audit by properly allocating your expenses, keeping receipts and related documents, and establishing the purpose of your travel.

If you’ll follow the tips mentioned in this article, then you should have no problems in claiming business travel deductions.

Deducting Your Trip To India – Detailed Business Expense Guide

Feb 21, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Suppose that you have just arrived from a two week trip to Europe, where you were able to close some deals while visiting some old friends. You’re so happy not only because you were able to snag more business, but you were able to bring home some souvenirs for your family and friends. And of course, you were able to squeeze in some time for relaxation and got to see top sights like the Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower.

But did you know that you can even reduce your next tax bill by declaring your recent trip abroad? Indeed, jet setting can save you a significant amount of money, but only if expenses satisfy certain conditions.

Business Related Travel Expenses are Tax Deductible

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you can deduct ordinary and necessary expenses for travel away from home or business as long as these are connected with your business or job. This applies to both domestic and international travel.

What are ‘ordinary’ expenses? The IRS defines this as a common or accepted expense in your trade or business. For instance, you can consider the costs associated with distributing promotional literature like newsletters and holiday cards as ordinary expenses.

On the other hand, a necessary expense is defined as something helpful and appropriate for your business or work.  Your business trip, which allowed you to close new deals, can be considered as one.

The IRS says that for travel to be considered deductible, it should be ‘away from home.’ This stipulation is almost always  satisfied for international travel. The IRS will consider  you to be away from home if you are on travel outside your tax home (where you live or work)  for a time longer than a typical day’s work.

Keep in mind, though, that eligible deductions for business travel are only for temporary work on the road. If you spent more than a year on the road for a business travel, then it is considered an indefinite assignment and thus doesn’t qualify you for a tax liability. Even short assignments to the same place during a fiscal year may be considered by the tax authorities as an indefinite assignment.

Eligible Business Travel Tax Deductibles

Now you may ask—what are the travel related costs that you can normally deduct on your tax bill?

Among the travel related costs that you can deduct on your next tax bill are:

  1. It doesn’t matter whether you travel by plain or car; you can normally reduce the expenses related to getting to and from a business destination as long as it is not close to your tax home.

For example, you took a cab to get from the airport to the hotel where you met your client. You can deduct the cab fare as a work-related transportation cost. You can also declare car rentals, and even costs incurred when you took your own car (gasoline expenses, parking and toll fees, for example.) You can even claim the expenses of operating and maintaining a vehicle such as repairs, washing, oil change,  and tire replacement as tax deductibles.

What if your client provided you with a free ticket? Or a friend in London gave you a ride? Obviously, you can’t declare these as deductibles.

But what if you took an ocean liner on your way to London? Can you also deduce the costs on your next tax bill?

The IRS has special rules when it comes to luxury water travel. There is a daily limit on the amount that you can deduct. The amount varies depending on the time of the year. It is typically 200% of the highest federal per diem rate allowable during the time of your travel.

For instance, the highest federal per diem for the period January 1 to March 31 is $428. The daily limit on luxury water travel is double that amount, which is $856.

So let’s say that your total bill for a five-day cruise to London from New York for a business travel conducted in February is $5,000. You can only claim $4,280 as your deductible because you exceeded the daily limit of $856 per day.

  1. Shipping and Baggage. You can also deduct expenses that you incurred for shipping almost anything you need for your business or job while on travel. For instance, the $100 bill that you incurred for sending props or other materials required for a presentation.
  1. You can also deduct the full cost of the hotel room or other accommodations if your trip is overnight. Thus, you can reduce a $7000 per night stay at The Savoy on your next tax bill.
  1. You can deduce up to half of the cost of your meals if you are traveling for business. However, the meals should not be lavish or extravagant. There’s no clear-cut definition for a lavish or extravagant meal, but you can expect to get audited if you claimed a meal consisting of lobster and champagne as a deductible.
  1. You can also deduct any communication-related expenses like phone calls and faxes while you are traveling for business. This also includes international calls.
  1. Cleaning – this includes expenses for washing and ironing your clothes during the trip. Because you have to be presentable during your meetings with clients, right?
  2. Tips— you can also deduct the tips that you handed out to waiters, bellboys, and other workers.

Travel Considered Entirely for Business

The IRS maintains that only foreign travel which is spent solely for business is fully deductible. This means that if you spent your entire stay abroad on business-related activities, then you can claim all your travel expenses as tax deductible.

Since you did go spend time visiting friends and sightseeing during your trip, then you’ll have to allocate between tax deductible business expenses and the non-deductible personal ones.

But let’s face it–you do want to deduct the entire cost of transportation during your entire trip abroad, right?  You can deduce your travel expenses even if you didn’t spend the entire trip on business-related activities if you meet any of these conditions:

  1. You don’t have substantial control. According to the IRS, you don’t have substantial control over your trip if you are not a managing executive, or you are not related to your employer. The IRS defines a managing executive as an employee who has the authority and responsibility to decide on the necessity for business travel.

You also don’t have substantial control if you are merely an employee who was ordered by your boss to go to say, Paris, for a business trip.

But if you’re self-employed, then you might not satisfy this condition at all.  The IRS maintains that self-employed individuals and business owners have substantial control over arranging their business trips.

  1. You were outside the US for less than a week. The IRS will consider your travel entirely for business if you were out of the country for a week or less. However, you will have to count the day you return to the US, and not the day that you left.

This can get a bit confusing if you were traveling to different parts of the US before you left for London. For instance, say your home is in Denver. You left for New York on Tuesday, stayed there for a few days for a series of meeting, before flying to London on Saturday morning.

You had several business meetings in London on Sunday and Monday, then spent the next two days sightseeing. You went back to the US on Thursday before going back to Denver on a Saturday.

Although you were away from your home for more than a week, you were out of the US for less than a week. Remember that the IRS won’t count the day you left your home.

So, you may be able to claim the costs of your stay in London from Saturday and Sunday, but you won’t be able to do so for Tuesday and Wednesday.

  1. You spent less than a quarter of your travel on personal activities. But what if you spent more than a week outside the US? Does this mean that you can’t claim that as business related, and thus make you unqualified for tax deductibles?

You can, as long as you spent less than a quarter of your trip on personal activities.

So let’s say that you spent 14 days in London, and only got to see the sights and visit your friends in 1 to 2 days. You deduct the cost of the round trip plane fare, cost of meals, lodging, and other related expenses as mentioned earlier.

  1. Vacation was not a major consideration in arranging the trip. You can claim deductions on your tax bill if you can prove that a vacation was not a major consideration in arranging the trip.

Tips in Filing Business Travel Expenses

Now that you have an idea which business-related travel expenses you can claim as a tax deductible, here are some tips that you should remember so that you will be able to maximize your savings the next time you file your tax returns:

  1. Keep track of all your receipts and records. You can save a lot of time in looking for receipts when you keep every slip that you get during the course of your travel. You should also write on the back of each slip the location and date, the name of the person that you met, as well as the reason of the expense. This way, you won’t have to scavenge for slips when it is time to file your tax returns.
  1. Document everything. If you’re taking a client to a fancy dinner, you can claim that as a deductible. But you should be able to justify to the IRS that the nature of the meeting warranted such a fancy dinner. Thus it is recommended that you document the business you discussed so that you can justify the claim or pass an audit.

If you attended conferences or meetings while on travel, it would be a good idea to keep the programs or brochures you received. You can also keep the emails sent to you by people whom you met during the business meetings as proof to back up your claim.

Make it a habit to write down the names and business relationship of all the people you met during your travel. Write down their names as well as the business discussed.

You should also know that the IRS does not require receipts for travel expenses less than $75. So if you checked in a hotel for an overnight stay at a discounted price of $70, you’re not obligated to show the actual receipt.

  1. Try apps. If you have too many documents to keep track of, you might want to download and use apps for travel expenses. There are apps such as Tax Tracker that can help you in documenting business and travel expenses.

Mobile apps can monitor your travel expenses, time spent on the road, and miles traveled so you can file taxes and claim deductions quick, easy, and accurately.

  1. Be honest. The best way to avoid a date with the IRS is to be honest about declaring your tax returns. Deduct only the expenses that you are entitled to. Keep all supporting documents just in case you are called for audit. Remember, you not only end up losing deduction but also pay additional tax, interest, and penalties if the tax authorities find out that you make unsubstantiated claims.

Worse, the IRS may subject your tax return to further scrutiny. And you don’t want them to start digging.

The bottom-line is that you can make a lot of exemptions when you travel abroad for business purposes. Now that you know which travel expenses you can deduct, start saving those receipts and recording every expense. You’ll be surprised at the amount that you can save during the tax season.

Claiming Auto Repair Expenses as Tax Credit

Apr 10, 2015 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Expenses for car or auto repairs can be considered as tax deductions, subject to certain limitations and rules. Before you start filing your tax return, here are some important points that you should know about.

  • The burden of proof lies on the shoulders of the taxpayer. He has to prove that
  • The car was used for business purposes or, if the taxpayer is an employee, the car was used in the conduct of his job;
  • There was actual damage to the car that rendered it in need of repair;
  • The taxpayer has incurred expenses to have the damage repaired and bring the car back in working condition.

In cases where the car was both for personal and business use, the only amount eligible for tax deductibility would be that which pertains to the business purpose of the vehicle. Therefore, car repairs must be clearly separated or distinguished according to their uses or purposes.

  •  In order to be able to claim deductions for car or auto repairs, the individual must have qualified to do so under the Actual Expense method, as opposed to the Standard Mileage Rate, which does not consider actual cost of repairs and maintenance.
  •  Individuals must keep adequate to complete records of all expenses incurred on the repairs of the car. These include copies of receipts, invoices, and job order documents. File them chronologically, for easier access later on when claiming for the deduction. Note that you will only be allowed to deduct those that are supported by these valid documents.
  •  If the taxpayer is an employee using your car for business purposes, the amount that can be deducted would only be the amount which was not reimbursed by the employer. Record-keeping is also essential. Employees should maintain records of expenses on car repairs. Records of the reimbursements made to them by their employers for said repairs should also be kept. This is so that it will be easier to identify the amount not reimbursed, and can be claimed as deduction from tax later on.
  •  It’s not just repairs for damages that may be considered for tax credit purposes. Even repairs that have to be made in order to pass state laws or regulations, such as emission tests and smog tests, may also be claimed for deduction.
  •  Individuals who have claimed these expenses as tax deductions are also advised to keep these pertinent records for a period of 3 to 5 years, even 7 years, in case post-audit processes call for them.

Of course, it goes without saying that the best option would still be to keep your car in good working condition to avoid the need to have it repaired or undergo overhauls. This will definitely save you the high cost of repairs and maintenance. However, in the event that they are unavoidable, you can still claim them as tax deductions, as long as you have records and proof to show when filing your tax return.

Tax Credit on Car Expenses: Standard Mileage Rate vs. Actual Expenses

Apr 8, 2015 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Many people are still confused on what amount to deduct from their tax for expenses incurred on a personal vehicle’s repairs. They are given two options: deducting the actual expenses incurred, or deducting the amount computed by using the standard mileage rate. Which one is better? Which will benefit the taxpayer more?

In order to answer these questions, it would be best to get a clearer understanding of the two methods.

Using Actual Expenses

This is straightforward enough: deduct the amount actually spent or incurred on the operation, repairs and maintenance of a car or vehicle.

There must be a clear indication on which part of the amount was used for personal purposes and which part was for business use.

To come up with the final amount, the following are included in the computation:

  • Expenses on gas, oil and lubricants
  • Toll fees paid
  • Lease payments made
  • License fees
  • Insurance premiums paid
  • Rental and other fees directly related to the car, such as garage rental and parking fees
  • Cost of repairs (includes cost of spare parts and labor)
  • Cost of tires
  • Depreciation

Using the Standard Mileage Rate

Individuals will use a standard mileage rate set by the tax authorities. For tax year 2014, the rate was $0.56 for every mile. Only the miles used for business will be allowed as tax credit. This means that, in this method, the individual must keep track of the miles driven by the car, especially the miles driven for business.

The following are exclusions in this method; meaning, they cannot be claimed as deductions if the individual chooses to use the standard mileage rate, since they are already considered to be part of the rate set forth by the IRS.

  • Fees incurred on registration of vehicle
  • Insurance premiums on the vehicle
  • Fuel and maintenance expenses, including repairs
  • Lease payments on the vehicle, if any

A Comparison

In both cases, there is a need to divide the expenses between personal and business expense. An individual can only claim expenses on cars, including for auto repairs, if they have been used for business purposes.

Compared to the actual expenses method, choosing the standard mileage rate comes with several limitations or restrictions. For example, once it was chosen and clearly stated on the individual’s tax return, it is irrevocable, at least until the following tax year. Any amendments of the return within the year will also have to follow this method, even if the individual wants to switch to using the actual expenses.

Experts recommend that owners of new vehicles go for the standard mileage rate method during the first year that they use their car for business purposes. In the succeeding years, it would be up to the individual whether he wants to switch to using the actual expenses, or stick to the standard mileage rate.

Clearly, the simpler option would be using the actual expenses, provided you have documentation (e.g. receipts, toll tickets) to back it up. It also has the advantage of letting the taxpayer have his expenses for car repairs as a deduction. This method is also more advantageous for those who drive only a few business miles.

When trying to decide which of the two would be better, try performing mock-computations. The one that gives you a greater amount of deduction is surely the better option.

 

writing off car expenses

Writing Off Car Expenses

Feb 16, 2015 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

The Six Different Ways of Writing off Car Expenses

Cars are among the most costly items anyone can own but you can use them to reduce your taxes by writing off car expenses.  You can great deal on taxes considering the initial cost of purchasing and expenses incurred due to ongoing maintenance. It is fortunate that there are legitimate ways of offsetting such costs through tax deductions. You may in fact quality for one of these options, which pertain to individual, self-employed, small business or other business deductions. Ignoring such government incentives could exclude a person from enjoying tax savings. You can get complete details about writing off car expenses on the IRS website.

  1. Charitable Contributions

You can consider donating your automobile to charity as opposed to making some profits by disposing it off in used form. Taking this option saves you the trouble of posting an advert along with the rigorous process of negotiating with potential buyers for its sale. If your vehicle is not worth an attractive value, donating this would qualify you for a deduction equivalent to its current market value. A lot of charitable organizations might even pick up the car you donate themselves. This kind of tax deduction could apply to personal as well as business use. As such, it is necessary to ensure obtaining official receipt from the involved charity, inclusive of value of your donated vehicle.  Writing off car expense is a great benefit but doing so without receipt can result in tax penalties in future.

  1. Convert Your Automobile

If you intend to keep your car and are keen on reducing emissions, you may consider investing in an electric drive conversion kit. You may hire it from an auto repair mechanic for installation onto your car or have the professional do it on your behalf. Before purchasing the kit, seek the opinion of a mechanic concerning whether your vehicle is worth undergoing conversion. In certain situations, like of older vehicles with short lifespan, cost of conversion could be an investment that is not worthwhile. Converting a newer vehicle with good shelf-life might earn you tremendous savings on daily fuel usage. Such an exercise could also afford you an individual tax credit of up to $4,000. This form of tax credit that applies to conversions got phased out on December 31, 2011.

  1. Obtain a Hybrid Vehicle

In case you bought a hybrid car either on or prior to January 1, 2011, an individual tax credit is available that directly deducts a certain percentage from the federal tax you owe, dollar for dollar. The credit program has now been phased out however, implying hybrid car you cannot claim purchases done after this date on you taxes. Business enterprises may also fall under this tax deduction as well. This applies to purchases of new hybrid vehicles or even when you have restocked your fleet of business vehicles with hybrid vehicles before the deadline. Hybrid vehicles can prove quite costly to buy, but you the tax reduction offset along with money saved on fuel could turn to be a smart investment.

  1. Fleet Deductions for Small Business

If operating a small business and have a car that is exclusively used for business, this can add to annual tax deductions being part of your operating expenditure. Cost of overhauling a business car does not qualify as a type of deduction, but you may deduct the repair cost. In such case, capitalization cost must include overhauling and be factored into cost of depreciation. It is important to maintain clear records of auto repairs, since the IRS frowns upon simple acts of making claims based upon estimated costs.

  1. Deduct Business Use

A freelance professional or self-employed individual can legitimately deduct cost of business use for even personal cars. This method is ideal for individuals who operate a sole proprietorship, as opposed to legal business structure like a corporation. What matters most here is separating business from personal use. This can be performed through tracking mechanism such as CarCheckup, a small gadget that plugs into the car for business trips. It then uploads mileage details along with related data to the computer once plugged in via USB.

  1. Business Expenses not-reimbursed

Owners of personal cars who have utilized them for business-related matters can claim such expenses as tax deduction. This applies if they are employees who have not been reimbursed by the employer. Such expenses might include costs of maintenance and fueling. Under normal circumstances, their cost is calculated per mile, which is updated on regular basis by the IRS. The key, just as pertains to self-employed tax deductions, is keeping clear records and differentiating between personal and business use.

Unless using the car exclusively for business objectives, one is not permitted to deduct the full cost associated with its purchase, repair and maintenance. It is however advisable to make all deductions allowed. Ensure to attach all the necessary documents required to show support for your claims.

By filing clearly-outlined tax forms indicating itemized individual deductions with the IRS, you may duly claim all of the above tax deductions and incentives. Deductions reduce taxable income resulting in lower next taxes. Depending upon your records, you might end up paying less tax or benefit from larger refund some time later.  Keep a log to help you in writing off car expenses.

 

 

car deduction

How to Make Tax Deductions for Cars and Trucks ?

Mar 5, 2015 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Cost of operating a truck, car or other kind of automobile is tax-deductible when moving and relocating or driving for medical, business or charity purposes. The deduction made corresponds to the mileage driven for such tax credits. You may opt for standard rate of mileage in place of calculating actual car expenditure for these individual tax credits.

Medical Purpose

Driving in order to obtain medical care for either yourself or your dependents is what Medical Purpose covers. This kind of drive must primarily cater for medical care, as indicated by IRS (Publication 502) and the deduction is reflected on Schedule A and comprises part of medical expenses for an individual.

Business Purpose

Business purpose pertains to driving away from your regular employment location to a different work site in order to meet with client or travelling for a business engagement. Commuting from home to office does not qualify for this category of individual tax credits. This kind of incentive is captured by Schedule C for self-employed individuals, Schedule F for farmers or as itemized deduction that forms part of unreimbursed business expenses provided in Form 2106 for an employee.

Moving and Relocating

You can deduct the driving cost for relocating to a new place of residence as part of moving expense deduction. To qualify for this incentive, it will be necessary to cover a distance of at least 50 miles away from the old home more than what you earlier covered in-between the old home and old job. The deduction is present on Form 3903.

Charitable Purpose

Individual tax credits are available for any vehicle used for providing services to charitable organization. The corresponding deduction is covered by Schedule A as part of charitable donations. It may involve driving for volunteer causes for a charity, church or hospital.

Actual Expenses

Various elements count as truck or car expense including:

  • parking fees and tolls
  • vehicle registration fees
  • interest on loan
  • rental and lease expense
  • vehicle registration fees
  • personal property tax
  • fuel and gasoline
  • insurance
  • depreciation
  • repairs including tires, oil changes and such routine maintenance

However, fines and tickets such as for parking may not be deducted. In addition, expenditure relating to commuting or personal use is not deductible. Various car expenses may also be deducted depending upon why you are driving. One cannot claim interest, insurance and depreciation as well as auto repairs for medical expense and charity deductions.

Standard Mileage Rates

Rather than tally up all actual car expenditures, you may utilize a standard mileage rate to aid in calculating deductions. There are standard mileage rates to achieve this goal. It is multiplied by the mileage drive to establish the dollar amount deductible for car expenses as obtained from Notice 2014-79 of IRS.

Standard Mileage Rates
Type of use Year 2015
Business 57.5 cents per mile
Medical or moving 23 cents per mile
Charitable service 14 cents per mile

 

In addition to standard mileage rate, taxpayers may also deduct tolls and parking fees as stipulated by the IRS in chapter 4 of Publication 463.

Comparing between Actual Expenses and Standard Mileage Rate

You may use any method that will lead to a larger amount of your tax deduction. This varies with individuals depending upon the number of miles driven, amount of depreciation claimed and other expense variables. Claiming standard mileage rate provides results with less paperwork. It is suited best for situations where the car is driven at times for charity, work or medical appointments and the owner is avoiding lengthy scrutiny of all car-related expenditure.

 

You will require selecting the standard mileage rate option within the first year of using your automobile for business purposes in order to claim the corresponding deduction. If you start by claiming actual expenses, it will be necessary to retain the actual expense option for the entire time duration of using your vehicle for business. IRS Publication 463 offers further clarity on this situation.

Where to Make Claims for Car and Truck Expenses

Expenses for vehicles get reported on Schedule C for self-employed individuals and Form 2106 for the Employee Business Expenses. In particular, this deduction is miscellaneous itemized deduction that is subject to 2 percent of the adjusted gross income limit. It implies that unreimbursed employee expenses may be deducted, although the tax payer does not benefit from the full deduction dollar-to-dollar on tax returns.

Vehicle expenses get reported on Schedule A for medical vehicle uses, together with other medical expenses.

For charitable car use, the expense gets reported on Schedule A, together with related charitable donations.

Practicing Good Record-Keeping

Ensure keeping a mileage log as it will demonstrate your eligibility for car and truck individual tax credits. This document should show date of each trip made that is tax-deductible. It will be necessary as well to record the total mileage covered for the entire year, which makes it pivotal indicating the odometer reading as each year begins at the first.

The Basics of Health Savings Account

Oct 21, 2017 Posted by deepak No Comments

An HAS is a kind of savings that lets the employer and the employee put aside some money as a pre-tax in order to pay for eligible medical expenses. It is important to note that an HAS can only be used if the employee has a HDHP or what is also known as the High Deductible Plan.

The HAS is also a medical savings that has a tax-advantaged made available to all taxpayers in the US. The over-all funds that are in the account may not be subjected to federal tax especially during the time of the deposit. The difference between the FSA or what is known as the Flexible Spending Account, is that the HAS can carry over and also accumulate every year if this has not been spent. The reason for this is because the HAS is owned by the employee, therefore setting it apart from the HRA or the Health Reimbursement Arrangement which is owned by the company. This is also an alternate source for tax-deductible funds. Both, however, are paired with standard health plans or the HDHPs.

HSA funds can also be used for eligible medical costs that have no liability or even penalty on federal taxes. Starting early 2011, the medications that are purchased over the counter can no longer be paid using the HSA if there is no prescription from the doctors. The withdrawals for these non-medical costs are also regarded in the same way as those of the IRA or the individual retirement accounts. This is because they can provide the tax advantages if these are taken after they retire. They can also incur penalties when these are taken earlier. These accounts are components of health care that is specifically targeted to consumers.

The HSAs and its proponents believe that these are necessary reforms that can reduce the increase in expenses regarding health care as well as the effectivity of the system. According to these proponents, the HSA can encourage people to save for their unexpected future health care as well as the expenses that go along with it. This allows patients to obtain the necessary care and there is no gatekeeper involved. Usually the gatekeepers determine what the individual can receive as benefits. Consumers are now more responsible when it comes to their own choices in their health care all because of the HDHP.

As for those who do not find the HSA necessary and are opponents of this, they believe that it makes the medical system worse. Health care in the US cannot improve through the HSA because individuals may even hold back on their expenses. They may also spend it in unnecessary circumstances simply because it has already accumulated the penalty taxes just by withdrawing it. Those who have problems in their health have annual costs that are predictable and choose to avoid the HSA so that the costs can be paid by their insurance. There is a current ongoing debate about the satisfaction of the customers who hold these plans.

These usually have lower monthly premiums than most plans that have low deductibles. Using the untaxed funds in the Health Savings Account allows the employee to pay for the medical costs even before the deductible has been reached. This also includes other deductibles such as copayments which are usually payments done from the employee’s pockets. This eventually reduces the over-all value of health care expenses.

The funds from the employee’s HSA carries or rolls over to the next year if it has not been spent in the year it was allocated. The HAS can also earn interest. It is possible for employees to open the HSA through their banks or financial institutions that they have access to.

History of the HSAs

 The Health Savings Accounts were established in compliance with the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act. This is also the enactment of the Section 223 of Internal Revenue Code. This was signed on December 8, 2003 by President George Bush. They were also developed so that it can replace the account system for the medical savings.

Deposits of the HAS

 Deposits to the HSA fund can be made by any individual who holds the policy, as long as this also comes with a HDHP or the high deductible health plan care of the individual’s employer. If the employer makes the deposit to the plan for all his employees then everyone must be regarded equally. This is covered in the non-discrimination rules that is also stated in the act. If the contributions have been made via the plan stated in Section 125 then the rules for non-discrimination also do not apply. Employers have to treat the part time and the full time employees differently. Employers can also treat the family and individual participants n different manner. The treatment of the employees who have not been enrolled in the eligible and high deductible health plan covered by the HAS is not also considered solely for non-discrimination purposes. Employers can also contribute more than usual for the employees who have not been compensated as highly as the others.

The contributions from the employer and to the employee’s HSA can also be made on the pre-tax basis, depending on the preference of the employer. If the said option is not considered by the employer then these contributions are made on post-tax basis and also used to reduce the GTI or gross taxable income on the Form 1040 of the following year. The pre-tax contributions of the employer are also not subject to the Medicare Taxes as well as Federal Insurance Contributions Tax Act. It is important to note that the pre-tax contributions of the employee that were not made via the cafeteria plans cannot be subject to Medicare and FICA taxes. No matter what the method used or tax savings associated regarding the deposit, these can be made by persons that cover the HAS-eligible and high deductible plan that does not include coverage way beyond what is qualified and eligible for the health care coverage.

The maximum deposit on the annual HAS is also the lesser compared to the deductible or what is specified in the limitations of the Internal Revenue Service. Over time, Congress has then abolished this particular limit, basing this on the set statutory and deductible that limits the contributions to its maximum amount. Every contribution that is sent to the HAS, no matter the source, can also be included in the maximum annual amount.

The catch up and statute provision can also apply for the participants of the plan who are aged 55 and older. This allows the IRS to limit the increase. In the income tax year 2015, the limit to the contribution is $3,350 for single individuals and it is $6,650 for married individuals. There is an additional $1,000 increase for those who are older than 55.

Every deposit that is made to HSA can ultimately become the possession of the plan holder, no matter where the deposit comes from. The funds that have been deposited and are not withdrawn can be carried over to next year. Plan holders who also discontinue their qualified insurance coverage from the HSA can deposit even more funds, and the funds that are already placed in the individual’s HSA can still be used.

On December 20, 2006, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act was signed and put into law. It also added another provision that allowed the roll-over of all IRA assets for just one time so that it can equally fund up and amount to a maximum contribution for the HSA that is set for a year. However, the tax treatments on the HSA for every state varies. There are three states that do not let HAS contributions be deducted from the tax earnings or the state income taxes. These are Alabama, New Jersey and California.

Investments on the HAS

 The funds in the HSA can also be invested in the same manner as that of investments that have been done for the IRA or the individual retirement account. The investment earnings that have been sheltered from the taxation until the point that the money has been withdrawn can also be sheltered at that time.

Similar to the IRA that is self-directed, the account for health savings can also be treated as such. A usual HSA custodian offers investments like stocks, mutual funds, bonds, financial institutions and CDs. These also provide the accounts that offer alternatives on investments which can also be made through the HAS. The Section 408 of Internal Revenue Code does not prohibit the investment in collectibles and life insurance but HSAs can also be used to invest in various assets which also include precious metals, real estate notes, private and public stocks and more.

HSAs can roll over from one fund to another and HAS cannot roll into the IRA or the 401k. Funds from these investment vehicles can also be rolled into the HAS, except for the IRA transfer that is done one time as mentioned in the previous paragraph. Unlike the contributions to the 401k plan, the HAS contributions that belong to the plan holder, no matter the deposit source, is already his or her possession. An individual that is contributing to the HSA has no obligation whatsoever to contribute to the HSA that is sponsored by his or her employer. However, employers require payroll contributions be made to the HSA plan that is sponsored.

Withdrawals for HSA

 Policy holders of the HSA do not have to get the advance approval are of the trustee of the HSA or the medical insurer for them to withdraw their funds. Funds are not also subject to taxes if these are for eligible medical costs. The costs include expenses for items and services that have been covered by the plan but is also subject to the cost-sharing of the company like coinsurance, copayments and deductible. This can also over the expenses that are not included in the medical policies. These are vision, dental, chiropractic care as well as the medical equipment that should last for a long time, specifically hearing aids and eyeglasses. Transportation that is connected to medical care are also included in this health plan.

There are many ways to fund the HSA can be obtained. There are HSAs that come with a debit card. There are others that give the policy holders checks so that this can be used. Some have reimbursement processes that is close to having a medical insurance. A number of HSAs also have a number of possible methods for withdrawal of the HSA. The methods that are available vary from one HSA to another. The debits and checks cannot be made payable to provider of the health plan. The funds can also be withdrawn for this reason. Withdrawals are not documents when it is not a qualified and eligible medical costs. These are subject to taxes with a penalty of 20%. This is waived for individuals who are aged 65 and older and have unfortunately become disabled during the time when the withdrawal is done. The only tax that is paid in this situation is taken into effect when the account has already become tax-deferred, somehow similar to the IRA. Medical expenses remain to free of taxes.

The account holders are also required to retain their documentation to show the qualified medical costs. The failure to do this and to show documentation can also cause Internal Revenue to rule out the withdrawals that have not been qualified for the medical expenses along with the over-all costs and subject to the additional penalties of the taxpayer.

Self-reimbursements have no deadline for qualified medical costs that are incurred after HSA has been established. The participants can also make the most of paying for these medical costs fresh from their pockets and also retain the receipts as long as their accounts are tax-free. Money can also be withdrawn for reasons to the value of the recipients.

When to Incorporate and When Not to Incorporate

Apr 19, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

It is true that operating as a corporation has its share of drawbacks in certain situations. For example, as a business owner, you would be responsible for additional record keeping requirements and administrative details. More important, in some cases, operating as a corporation can create an additional tax burden. This is the last thing a business owner needs, especially in the early stages of operation.

You do not have to incorporate to be in business. You can be in business just by being paid for a service or a product. You are then a sole proprietor as well as a self-employed freelancer. But there are certain pros that you and your business can benefit to incorporating.

 Advantages of Incorporating

Founders of startup companies often wait to incorporate a company until they are confident that their concept is viable or fundable.  At some point, however, an entrepreneur will need to formally incorporate a company.

Aside from tax reasons, the most common motivation for incurring the cost of setting up a corporation is the recognition that the shareholder is not legally liable for the actions of the corporation. This is because the corporation has its own separate existence wholly apart from those who run it. However, there are four other reasons why the corporation proves to be an attractive vehicle for carrying on a business.

  • Unlimited life. Unlike proprietorships and partnerships, the life of the corporation is not dependent on the life of a particular individual or individuals. It can continue indefinitely until it accomplishes its objective, merges with another business, or goes bankrupt. Unless stated otherwise, it could go on indefinitely.
  • Transferability of shares. It is always nice to know that the ownership interest you have in a business can be readily sold, transferred, or given away to another family member. The process of divesting yourself of ownership in proprietorships and partnerships can be cumbersome and costly. Property has to be retitled, new deeds drawn, and other administrative steps taken any time the slightest change of ownership occurs. With corporations, all of the individual owners’ rights and privileges are represented by the shares of stock they hold. The key to a quick and efficient transfer of ownership of the business is found on the back of each stock certificate, where there is usually a place indicated for the shareholder to endorse and sign over any shares that are to be sold or otherwise disposed of.
  • Ability to raise investment capital. It is usually much easier to attract new investors into a corporate entity because of limited liability and the easy transferability of shares. Shares of stock can be transferred directly to new investors, or when larger offerings to the public are involved, the services of brokerage firms and stock exchanges are called upon.
  • Limited Liability. The main advantage to incorporating is the limited liability of the incorporated company. Unlike the sole proprietorship, where the business owner assumes all the liability of the company, when a business becomes incorporated, an individual shareholder’s liability is limited to the amount he or she has invested in the company.

Owners of a corporation may only be liable for business losses and obligations up to their investment in the company. As explained on the Entrepreneur website, the shareholder’s personal assets may not be taken to cover liabilities of the corporation. However, shareholders of an incorporated business may be liable for the company’s debts if they sign a personal guarantee on a corporate loan. In addition, shareholders that engage in criminal activities will be individually held responsible for their acts.

If you’re a sole proprietor, your personal assets, such as your house and car can be seized to pay the debts of your business; as a shareholder in a corporation, you can’t be held responsible for the debts of the corporation unless you’ve given a personal guarantee.

On the other hand, a corporation has the same rights as an individual; a corporation can own property, carry on business, incur liabilities and sue or be sued.

Disadvantages of Incorporating

Incorporating a business can seem like a good idea, but the process and requirements of incorporation can actually hinder an organization’s growth and success, especially for smaller start-up companies. Incorporating a business provides some benefits, but the corporation definitely pays the price for these benefits in fees and legal hurdles. The main reasons not to incorporate include a sizeable initial investment, tax disadvantages, increased complexity in bookkeeping and public disclosure mandates.

  • Corporations require annual meetings and require owners and directors to observe certain formalities. Corporations are more expensive to set up than partnerships and sole proprietorships. The process costs money. You can do it on your own, technically, but it’s more advisable to get the help of a lawyer and an accountant. It also requires periodic filings with the state and annual fees. Incorporating later in the life of a business is always an option but a little more expensive, depending on the complexity involved in transferring business assets into the corporation and registering the accompanying tax elections.
  • No Personal Tax Credits and Less Tax Flexibility. Another disadvantage of incorporating is that being incorporated may actually be a tax disadvantage for your business. Corporations are not eligible for personal tax credits. Every dollar a corporation earned is taxed. As a sole proprietor, you may be able to claim tax credits a corporation could not. A corporation doesn’t have the same flexibility in handling business losses as a sole proprietorship or a partnership. As a sole proprietor, if your business experiences operating losses, you could use the loss to reduce other types of personal income in the year the losses occur. In a corporation, however, these losses can only be carried forward or back to reduce the corporation’s income from other years.
  • Ongoing fees. You must file articles of incorporation with the state, plus applicable fees. Many states impose ongoing fees—which are steeper for a corporation than for a sole proprietorship or general partnership.
  • More record keeping. Corporations must follow initial and annual record-keeping requirements—which sole proprietorships, general partnerships and limited liability companies (LLCs) avoid. There is a lot more paperwork involved in maintaining a corporation than a sole proprietorship or partnership. Corporations, for example, must maintain a minute book containing the corporate bylaws and minutes from corporate meetings. Other corporate documents, that must be kept up to date at all times, include the register of directors, the share register and the transfer register.
  • Liability May Not Be as Limited as You Think. The prime advantage of incorporating, limited liability, may be undercut by personal guarantees and/or credit agreements. The corporation’s much vaunted limited liability is irrelevant if no one will give the corporation credit. When a corporation has what lending institutions consider to be insufficient assets to secure debt financing, they often insist on personal guarantees from the business owner(s). So although technically the corporation has limited liability, the owner still ends up being personally liable if the corporation can’t meet its repayment obligations.
  • Added Requirements. Another reason to avoid incorporation is the increased complexity of organizations operating under a corporate shield. Besides the financial and document requirements, corporations are forced to operate with a formal organizational structure of stockholders, a board of directors and officers; these members are required to conduct annual, timed meetings. The last disadvantage of corporations is the amount of information that must be made public. Corporations are publicly traded companies, therefore requiring more business information to be disclosed for the benefit of investors. Besides being required to make accounting records public, the organization must also identify all directors and officers publicly.

 Process of Incorporating

To start the process of incorporating, you can contact your attorney or CPA.  If you wish to do it yourself than contact the secretary of state or the state office that is responsible for registering corporations in your state. Ask for instructions, forms and fee schedules on business incorporation. It is possible to file for incorporation without the help of an attorney by using books and software to guide you along. Your expense will be the cost of these resources, the filing fees, and other costs associated with incorporating in your state.

If you do file for incorporation yourself, you’ll save the expense of using a lawyer, which can cost from $500 to $1,000. The disadvantage of going this route is that the process may take you some time to accomplish. There’s also a chance you could miss some small but important detail in your state’s law. You may also choose to use an incorporation service company to prepare and file the documents with the state.

One of the first steps you must take in the incorporation process is to prepare a certificate or articles of incorporation. Some states will provide you with a printed form for this, which either you or your attorney can complete. The information requested includes the proposed name of the corporation, the purpose of the corporation, the names and addresses of the parties incorporating, and the location of the principal office of the corporation.

You’re not required to incorporate in the state where your business operates; you can choose from any one of the 50 states or the District of Columbia.

Note that simply transacting business via mail order or the Internet typically does not equal transacting business; however, the determination is made on a case-by-case basis. Again, consult your attorney for specifics, as this list is not intended to be comprehensive.

The corporation will also need a set of bylaws that describe in greater detail than the articles how the corporation will run, including the responsibilities of the shareholders, directors and officers; when stockholder meetings will be held; and other details important to running the company. Once your articles of incorporation are accepted, the secretary of state’s office will send you a certificate of incorporation.

 After You’ve Incorporated

Once you’re incorporated, be sure to follow the rules of incorporation. If you don’t, a court can pierce the corporate veil and hold you and the other owners personally liable for the business’s debts.

To make sure your corporation stays on the right side of the law, practice these exercises:

 Get Documents and Records in Order

After incorporating a business, you’ll need to prepare bylaws that describe how your new corporation will operate. A few states also require you to publish a newspaper notice of your incorporation.

You should set up a corporate minute book and a file or binder where you will keep important corporate documents such as your certificate of incorporation, bylaws, shareholder information and resolutions. Some states require you to file an initial report after incorporation and you will generally need to hold shareholder and director meetings at least once a year.

 

  1. Get an Employer Identification Number

An employer identification number, or EIN, is a number that the Internal Revenue Service uses to identify businesses—sort of like the business version of a Social Security number. Most businesses need an EIN, though solo business owners who don’t have employees or pay excise taxes can use their Social Security Number instead.

  1. Open a Business Bank Account

A business bank account will help you keep your business finances separate from your personal finances. This makes record keeping and tax preparation easier and helps preserve your business’s separate identity.

 

For most businesses, the question is not if, but when, to incorporate. There are many pros and cons of incorporating a small business, depending a lot on individual situations. But too many businesses fail to revisit the question of whether to incorporate. As your business matures, and the realities of your legal and tax situations change, asking the question again may bring a different answer. A business with anticipated losses and little legal risk can likely start as a sole proprietorship, but increasing risk and more significant earnings will favour incorporating later on.

Deciding whether or not to incorporate is much more than just understanding the disadvantages of incorporation; the decision also requires knowledge about the advantages and disadvantages of other legal business formation options, such as sole proprietorships, partnerships and limited liability companies.

You should definitely discuss your personal situation with your accountant and lawyer before you decide. He or she will be able to give you a much more exact picture of how incorporation could benefit your business, and help you see whether or not the trouble and expense of incorporation will be worth it to you.