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February 2021

Feature Articles

Tax Tips

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Any accounting, business or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues, nor a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties. If desired, we would be pleased to perform the requisite research and provide you with a detailed written analysis. Such an engagement may be the subject of a separate engagement letter that would define the scope and limits of the desired consultation services.

Tax Filing Season Starts February 12

Although tax season usually starts in late January, this year, the tax filing season is delayed until February 12, 2021. The delayed start date for individual tax return filers allowed the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27, 2020, tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits to many taxpayers. This programming work is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly to minimize refund delays and ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.

File Electronically for Faster Refunds

Last year's average tax refund was more than $2,500. Once again, the IRS anticipates that nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days when filing electronically with direct deposit - and there are no issues with their tax return.

More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year - the majority before the Thursday, April 15 deadline. To speed refunds during the pandemic, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. To avoid delays in processing, people should avoid filing paper returns wherever possible.


Under the PATH Act, the IRS cannot issue a refund involving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The law provides this additional time to help the IRS stop fraudulent refunds and claims from being issued, including to identity thieves.

The IRS anticipates a first week of March refund for many EITC and ACTC taxpayers if they file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns. This would be the same experience for taxpayers if the filing season opened in late January. Taxpayers will need to check Where's My Refund for their personalized refund date.

Key Dates for Taxpayers Filing a Return

Important dates that taxpayers should keep in mind for this year's filing season include:

January 2021

  • January 15. IRS Free File opens. Taxpayers can begin filing returns through Free File partners; tax returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting Feb. 12. Tax software companies also are accepting tax filings in advance.
  • January 29. Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day to raise awareness of valuable tax credits available to many people – including the option to use prior-year income to qualify.

February 2021

  • February 12. IRS begins 2021 tax season. Individual tax returns begin being accepted and processing begins.
  • February 22. Projected date for the Where's My Refund tool being updated for those claiming EITC and ACTC, also referred to as PATH Act returns.

March 2021

  • First week of March. Tax refunds begin reaching those claiming EITC and ACTC (PATH Act returns) for those who file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns.

April 2021

  • April 15. Deadline for filing 2020 tax returns.

October 2021

  • October 15. Deadline to file for those requesting an extension on their 2020 tax returns.

Help is Just a Phone Call Away

Taxes are more complicated than ever. If you have any questions or concerns regarding tax filing this year, don't hesitate to contact the office.

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What's New for 2020 Tax Returns

As always, taxpayers should be aware of several key items involving credits, deductions, and refunds when filing their tax returns. Let's take a look:

1. Recovery Rebate Credit/Economic Impact Payment. In January, the Treasury Department and the IRS began sending the second round of Economic Impact Payments (EIP2) to millions of Americans as part of the implementation of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. As with the first round of Economic Impact Payments (EIP1), taxpayers don't need to take any action to receive these payments.

Taxpayers who didn't receive an advance payment should review the eligibility criteria when they file their 2020 taxes because many people, including recent college graduates, may be eligible for a credit.

Taxpayers who received an Economic Impact Payment should have received Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment, and should keep it with their 2020 tax records.

Individuals who received the full amount for both Economic Impact Payments do not need to complete information about the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR because they've already received the full amount of the Recovery Rebate Credit as advance payments.

Eligible individuals who did not receive an Economic Impact Payment – either the first or the second payment – can claim a Recovery Rebate Credit when filing their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR this year. They may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax year 2020 federal income tax return if:

  • they didn't receive an Economic Impact Payment, or
  • their Economic Impact Payment was less than the full amount of the Economic Impact Payment for which they were eligible.

2. Option to Use Prior Year Income Amounts. Also new this year is the option to use prior year income amounts (2019) when computing the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit.

3. Interest on Refunds is Taxable. Taxpayers who received a federal tax refund in 2020 may have been paid interest. Refund interest payments are taxable and must be reported on federal income tax returns. In January 2021, the IRS will send Form 1099-INT, Interest Income to anyone who received interest totaling $10 or more.

4. Charitable Deductions. In 2020, taxpayers who don't itemize deductions may take a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made in 2020 to qualifying organizations. Please note that this amount applies whether filing individual or joint returns. In 2021, this amount increases to $600 for joint filers ($300 for single filers).

5. Virtual Currency. If in 2020, you engaged in a transaction involving virtual currency, you will need to answer the question on page 1 of Form 1040 or 1040-SR. In 2019, this question was on Schedule 1.

6. Form 1099-NEC. Individuals may receive Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation, rather than Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, if they performed certain services for and received payments from a business in 2020.

Don't hesitate to contact the office with any questions or concerns about these and other tax changes related to the pandemic.

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Employer Tax Credit Extended for Payroll Workers

The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, enacted December 27, 2020, made several changes to employee retention tax credits. These tax credits were previously made available under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The most notable change was the modification of the Employee Retention Credit (ERC). Several of the changes apply only to 2021, while others apply to both 2020 and 2021. As such, employers can take advantage of the newly-extended employee retention credit, designed to make it easier for businesses that choose to keep their employees on the payroll - despite challenges posed by COVID-19.

Claiming the Refundable Tax Credit

Eligible employers can now claim a refundable tax credit against the employer share of Social Security tax equal to 70% of the qualified wages they pay to employees after December 31, 2020, through June 30, 2021. Qualified wages are limited to $10,000 per employee per calendar quarter in 2021. Thus, the maximum ERC amount available is $7,000 per employee per calendar quarter, for a total of $14,000 in 2021.

Employers can access the ERC for the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2021 prior to filing their employment tax returns by reducing employment tax deposits. Small employers (i.e., employers with an average of 500 or fewer full-time employees in 2019) may request advance payment of the credit (subject to certain limits) on Form 7200, Advance of Employer Credits Due to Covid-19, after reducing deposits. In 2021, advances are not available for employers larger than this.

Effective January 1, 2021:

Employers are eligible if they operate a trade or business during January 1, 2021, through June 30, 2021, and experience either:

  1. A full or partial suspension of the operation of their trade or business during this period because of governmental orders limiting commerce, travel, or group meetings due to COVID-19, or
  2. A decline in gross receipts in a calendar quarter in 2021 where the gross receipts of that calendar quarter are less than 80% of the gross receipts in the same calendar quarter in 2019 (to be eligible based on a decline in gross receipts in 2020 the gross receipts were required to be less than 50%).

Employers that did not exist in 2019 can use the corresponding quarter in 2020 to measure the decline in their gross receipts.

For the first and second calendar quarters in 2021, employers may elect to measure the decline in their gross receipts using the immediately preceding calendar quarter (i.e., the fourth calendar quarter of 2020 and first calendar quarter of 2021, respectively) compared to the same calendar quarter in 2019.

The manner in which this is carried out is not yet available but will be provided in future IRS guidance.

The definition of qualified wages was also changed:

  • For an employer that averaged more than 500 full-time employees in 2019, qualified wages are generally those wages paid to employees that are not providing services because operations were fully or partially suspended or due to the decline in gross receipts.
  • For an employer that averaged 500 or fewer full-time employees in 2019, qualified wages are generally those paid to employees during a period that operations were fully or partially suspended or during the quarter that the employer had a decline in gross receipts regardless of whether the employees are providing services.

Retroactive to March 27, 2020:

With the enactment of the CARES Act, the law now allows employers who received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to claim the ERC for qualified wages that are not treated as payroll costs in obtaining forgiveness of the PPP loan.

Help is Just a Phone Call Away

For more information about these and other pandemic-related tax changes, please call the office.

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Social Security Benefits and Taxes: The Facts

Social Security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor, and disability benefits; they do not include Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, which are not taxable.

Generally, you pay federal income taxes on your Social Security benefits only if you have other substantial income in addition to your benefits. Examples include wages, self-employment, interest, dividends, and other taxable income that must be reported on your tax return.

Your income and filing status affect whether you must pay taxes on your Social Security. An easy method of determining whether any of your benefits might be taxable is to add one-half of your Social Security benefits to all of your other income, including any tax-exempt interest.

If you receive Social Security benefits you should receive Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, showing the amount.

Next, compare this total to the base amounts below. If your total is more than the base amount for your filing status, then some of your benefits may be taxable. In 2020, the three base amounts are:

  • $25,000 - for single, head of household, qualifying widow or widower with a dependent child or married individuals filing separate returns who did not live with their spouse at any time during the year
  • $32,000 - for married couples filing jointly
  • $0 - for married persons filing separately who lived together at any time during the year

Taxpayers filing an individual federal tax return:

  • If your combined income (adjusted gross income + nontaxable interest + 1/2 of your Social Security benefits) is between $25,000 and $34,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
  • If it is more than $34,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.

Taxpayers filing a joint federal tax return:

  • If you and your spouse have a combined income ((adjusted gross income + nontaxable interest + 1/2 of your Social Security benefits) that is between $32,000 and $44,000, you may have to pay income tax on up to 50 percent of your benefits.
  • If it is more than $44,000, up to 85 percent of your benefits may be taxable.

Married taxpayers filing separate tax returns generally pay taxes on benefits.

State Taxes

Thirteen states tax social security income as well including Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Retiring Abroad?

Retirement income is generally not taxed by other countries. As a U.S. citizen retiring abroad who receives Social Security, for instance, you may owe U.S. taxes on that income but may not be liable for tax in the country where you're spending your retirement years.

If Social Security is your only income, then your benefits may not be taxable, and you may not need to file a federal income tax return. However, if you receive income from other sources (either U.S. or country of retirement) as well, from a part-time job or self-employment, for example, you may have to pay U.S. taxes on some of your benefits - the same as if you were still living in the U.S.

You may also be required to report and pay taxes on any income earned in the country where you retired. Each country is different, so consult a local tax professional specializing in expatriate tax services.

Even if you retire abroad, you may still owe state taxes--unless you established residency in a no-tax state before you moved overseas. Also, some states honor the provisions of U.S. tax treaties; however, some states do not. Therefore, it is prudent to consult a tax professional.

If you receive Social Security, a tax professional can help you determine if some - or all - of your benefits are taxable.

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Taxable vs. Nontaxable Income

Are you wondering if there's a hard and fast rule about what income is taxable and what income is not taxable? The quick answer is that all income is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it. But as you might have guessed, there's more to it than that.

Taxable income includes any money you receive, such as wages, tips, and unemployment compensation. It can also include noncash income from property or services. For example, both parties in a barter exchange must include the fair market value of goods or services received as income on their tax return.

Nontaxable Income

Here are some types of income that are usually not taxable:

  • Gifts and inheritances
  • Child support payments
  • Welfare benefits
  • Damage awards for physical injury or sickness
  • Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy
  • Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses

In addition, some types of income are not taxable except under certain conditions, including:

  • Life insurance proceeds paid to you are usually not taxable. But if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
  • Income from a qualified scholarship is normally not taxable; that is, amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required books, are not taxable. However, amounts used for room and board are taxable.
  • If you received a state or local income tax refund, the amount might be taxable. You should have received a 2020 Form 1099-G from the agency that made the payment to you. If you didn't get it by mail, the agency might have provided the form electronically. Contact them to find out how to get the form. Be sure to report any taxable refund you received even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.

Important Reminders about Tip Income

If you get tips from customers, that income is subject to taxes. Here's what you should keep in mind:

1. Tips are taxable. You must pay federal income tax on any tips you receive. The value of noncash tips, such as tickets, passes or other items of value are also subject to income tax.

2. Include all tips on your income tax return. You must include the total of all tips you received during the year on your income tax return, such as tips received directly from customers, tips added to credit cards, and your share of tips received under a tip-splitting agreement with other employees.

3. Report tips to your employer. If you receive $20 or more in tips in any one month from any one job, you must report your tips for that month to your employer. The report should only include cash, check, debit, and credit card tips you receive. Your employer is required to withhold federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes on the reported tips. Do not report the value of any noncash tips to your employer.

4. Keep a daily log of tips. Use the Employee's Daily Record of Tips and Report to Employer (IRS Publication 1244) to record your tips.

Bartering Income is Taxable

Bartering is the trading of one product or service for another. Small businesses sometimes barter to get products or services they need. For example, a plumber might trade plumbing work with a dentist for dental services. Typically, there is no exchange of cash.

If you barter, the value of products or services from bartering is taxable income. Here are four facts about bartering that you should be aware of:

1. Barter exchanges. A barter exchange is an organized marketplace where members barter products or services. Some exchanges operate out of an office and others over the Internet. All barter exchanges are required to issue Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions. The exchange must give a copy of the form to members who barter and file a copy with the IRS.

2. Bartering income. Barter and trade dollars are the same as real dollars for tax purposes and must be reported on a tax return. Both parties must report as income the fair market value of the product or service they get.

3. Tax implications. Bartering is taxable in the year it occurs. The tax rules may vary based on the type of bartering that takes place. Barterers may owe income taxes, self-employment taxes, employment taxes, or excise taxes on their bartering income.

4. Reporting rules. How you report bartering on a tax return varies. If you are in a trade or business, you normally report it on Form 1040, Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business.

If you have any questions about taxable and nontaxable income, don't hesitate to contact the office today.

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Do You Need To File a 2020 Tax Return?

Most people file a tax return because they have to, but even if you don't, there are times when you should - because you might be eligible for a tax refund and not know it. The tax tips below should help you determine whether you're one of them.

General Filing Rules

Whether you need to file a tax return this year depends on several factors. In most cases, the amount of your income, your filing status, and your age determine whether you must file a tax return. For example, if you're single and 24 years old, you must file if your income was at least $12,400. If you are age 65 or older, income thresholds are higher ($14,050 in 2020 for single filers). If you're self-employed (see below) or a dependent of another person, other tax rules may apply.

Tax Withheld or Paid

Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay? Did you make estimated tax payments? Did you overpay last year, and have it applied to this year's tax? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you could be due a refund, but you have to file a tax return to receive the refund.

Eligibility for Certain Tax Credits

1. Premium Tax Credit. If you, your spouse, or a dependent was enrolled in healthcare coverage purchased from the Marketplace in 2020, you might be eligible for the Premium Tax Credit - but only if you chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent directly to your insurer during the year. However, you must file a federal tax return and reconcile any advance payments with the allowable premium tax credit.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit. Did you work and earn less than $56,844 last year? You could receive EITC as a tax refund if you qualify with or without a qualifying child. You may be eligible for up to $6,660. If you qualify, file a tax return to claim it.

You may elect to use your 2019 earned income to figure your EITC if your 2019 earned income is more than your 2020 earned income.

3. Additional Child Tax Credit. Do you have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If you don't get the full credit amount, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit and receive a refund even if you do not owe any tax.

4. American Opportunity Tax Credit. The AOTC (up to $2,500 per eligible student) is available for four years of post-secondary education. You or your dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half-time for at least one academic period. Even if you don't owe any taxes, you still may qualify; however, you must complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file a return to claim the credit.

5. Health Coverage Tax Credit. If you, your spouse, or a dependent received advance payments of the health coverage tax credit, you will need to file a 2020 tax return. Form 1099-H, Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) Advance Payments, shows the amount of the advance payments.

Other Situations

You must file a return in other situations as well, including, but not limited to the following situations:

  • You owe special taxes such as the alternative minimum tax (AMT), additional tax on qualified plans such as an individual retirement arrangement (IRA), or another tax-favored account, or household employment taxes. However, if you are filing a return only because you owe these taxes, you can file Schedule H, Household Employment Taxes, by itself.
  • You (or your spouse, if filing jointly) received Archer MSA, Medicare Advantage MSA, or health savings account distributions.
  • You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400.
  • You had wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security and Medicare taxes.

If you have any questions about whether you should file a return, please contact the office.

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Relief for Taxpayers Struggling With Tax Debts

While there have always been payment options available from the IRS to help taxpayers struggling to pay tax debts, the new IRS Taxpayer Relief Initiative was put into place to expand these options and offer relief during the pandemic. These revised COVID-related collection procedures will help taxpayers, especially those who have a record of filing their returns and paying their taxes on time.

These types of relief are not automatic. Taxpayers need to request payment relief by contacting the number on their balance due notice or responding in writing.

Highlights of the Taxpayer Relief Initiative

  • Taxpayers who qualify for a short-term payment plan may now have up to 180 days to resolve their tax liabilities instead of 120 days.
  • The IRS is offering flexibility for some taxpayers who are temporarily unable to meet the payment terms of an accepted Offer in Compromise.
  • The IRS will automatically add certain new tax balances to existing Installment Agreements for individual and business taxpayers who have gone out of business.
  • Certain qualified individual taxpayers who owe less than $250,000 may set up Installment Agreements without providing a financial statement if their monthly payment proposal is sufficient.
  • Some individual taxpayers who only owe for the 2019 tax year and owe less than $250,000 may qualify to set up an Installment Agreement without a notice of federal tax lien filed by the IRS.
  • Qualified taxpayers with existing Direct Debit Installment Agreements may be able to use the Online Payment Agreement system to propose lower monthly payment amounts and change their payment due dates.

If you owe taxes to the IRS, don't hesitate to contact the office about your options. Help is just a phone call away.

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Five Tax Tips for Older Americans

Everyone wants to save money on their taxes, and older Americans are no exception. If you're age 50 or older, here are five tax tips that could help you do just that.

1. Standard Deduction for Seniors. If you and/or your spouse are 65 years old or older and do not itemize your deductions, you can take advantage of a higher standard deduction amount. There is an additional increase in the standard deduction if either you or your spouse is blind.

2. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. If you and/or your spouse are either 65 years or older--or under age 65 years old and are permanently and totally disabled--you may be able to take the Credit for Elderly or Disabled. If you are under age 65, you must have your physician complete a statement certifying that you had a permanent and total disability on the date you retired. You must also have taxable disability income that meets certain requirements. The Credit is based on your age, filing status, and income.

You may only take the credit if you meet the following:

In 2020, your adjusted gross income (AGI) on Form 1040 (or Form 1040-SR) line 11 must be less than $17,500 ($20,000 if married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies), $25,000 (married filing jointly and both qualify), or $12,500 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year).


The nontaxable part of your Social Security or other nontaxable pensions, annuities, or disability income is less than $5,000 (single, head of household, or qualifying widow/er with dependent child); $5,000 (married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies); $7,500 (married filing jointly and both qualify); or $3,750 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse the entire year).

3. Retirement Account Limits Increase. Once you reach age 50, you are eligible to contribute (and defer paying tax on) up to $26,000 in 2020 (and in 2021). The amount includes the additional $6,500 "catch up" contribution (2020 and 2021) for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan.

4. Early Withdrawal Penalty Eliminated. If you withdraw money from an IRA account before age 59 1/2, you generally must pay a 10 percent penalty (there are exceptions - call for details); however, once you reach age 59 1/2, there is no longer a penalty for early withdrawal. Furthermore, if you leave or are terminated from your job at age 55 or older (age 50 for public safety employees), you may withdraw money from a 401(k) without penalty. You will, however, still have to pay tax on the additional income.

5. Higher Income Tax Filing Threshold. Taxpayers who are 65 and older are allowed an income of $1,650 more ($2,600 married filing jointly) in 2020 before they need to file an income tax return. In other words, older taxpayers age 65 and older with income of $14,050 ($27,400 married filing jointly)in 2020 or less may not need to file a tax return.

Don't hesitate to call if you have any questions about these and other tax deductions and credits available for older Americans.

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New Year, New Withholding?

Whether you are starting a new job or reassessing your financial situation, a new year often means a fresh start. Why not get the new tax year off to a good start as well?

One way people can do this is by checking their federal income tax withholding using the Tax Withholding Estimator on This online tool is useful because it helps employees avoid having too much or too little tax withheld from their wages. It also helps self-employed people make accurate estimated tax payments. Having too little withheld can result in an unexpected tax bill or even a penalty at tax time, while having too much withheld results in less money in your pocket.

Taxpayers can use the results from the Tax Withholding Estimator to determine if they should:

  • Complete a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate and submit it to their employer.
  • Complete a new Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments and submit it to their payer.
  • Make an additional or estimated tax payment to the IRS.

The Tax Withholding Estimator asks taxpayers to estimate:

  • Their 2021 income.
  • The number of children to be claimed for the child tax credit and earned income tax credit.
  • Other items that will affect their 2021 taxes.

The Tax Withholding Estimator does not ask for personally identifiable information, such as a name, Social Security number, address, and bank account numbers. Also, the IRS doesn't save or record the information entered in the Estimator.

Before using the Estimator, taxpayers should gather their 2019 tax return, most recent pay stubs, and any income documents. These documents will help taxpayers estimate 2021 income and answer other questions asked during the process.

Most income is taxable, including unemployment compensation, refund interest, and income from the gig economy and virtual currencies. Therefore, taxpayers should also gather any documents from these types of earnings, such as W-2s, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, and Form 1099-NEC. Forms 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement may also be useful for those claiming the premium tax credit.

As a reminder, the Tax Withholding Estimator results will only be as accurate as the information entered by the taxpayer. People with more complex tax situations, including taxpayers who owe alternative minimum tax or certain other taxes, and people with long-term capital gains or qualified dividends, should consult a qualified tax professional.

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Who Qualifies for the Earned Income Credit

The earned income tax credit can give qualifying workers with low-to-moderate income a substantial financial boost. The credit not only reduces the amount of tax someone owes but may give them a refund even if they don't owe any taxes or aren't required to file a return. If you lost your job in 2020 or your earnings were significantly lower, you may qualify for the earned income tax credit; however, taxpayers must meet certain requirements and file a federal tax return in order to receive this credit. Here's what you need to know:

There's a new rule this tax season to help people impacted by a job loss or change in income in 2020. Taxpayers can use their 2019 earned income to figure your EITC, if their 2019 earned income was more than their 2020 earned income. The same is true for the additional child tax credit.

EITC eligibility

Taxpayers qualify based on their income and the filing status they use on their tax return. The credit can be more if they have one or more children who live with them for more than half the year and meet other requirements. As such, a taxpayer's eligibility for the credit may change from year to year and can be affected by major life changes such as:

  • A new job or loss of a job
  • Unemployment benefits
  • A change in income
  • A change in marital status
  • The birth or death of a child
  • A change in a spouse's employment situation

Taxpayers who are married filing separately can't claim EITC.

Those who are working and earned less than these amounts in 2020 may qualify for the EITC:

Married filing jointly:

  • Zero children: $21,710
  • One child: $47,646
  • Two children: $53,330
  • Three or more children: $56,844

Head of household and single:

  • Zero children: $15,820
  • One child: $41,756
  • Two children: $47,440
  • Three or more children: $50,954

The maximum credit amounts are based on whether the taxpayer can claim a child for the credit and the number of children claimed. For example, the maximum credit for one child is $3,584 and for two children is $5,920.

For more information about this and other tax credits and deductions you might qualify for when you file your tax return this year, please call the office.

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Tax Due Dates for February 2021

February 1

Employers - Give your employees their copies of Form W-2 for 2020. If an employee agreed to receive Form W-2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting. File Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W-2 you issued for 2020.

Employers - Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2020. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you already deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

Farm Employers - File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2020. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

Certain Small Employers - File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2020. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more from 2020 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2020. Deposit any undeposited tax. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

Employers - Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2020 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit any undeposited tax. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.

Payers of Gambling Winnings - If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W-2G.

Payers of nonemployee compensation. - File Form 1099-NEC for nonemployee compensation paid in 2020.

Businesses - Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments made during 2020. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. Form 1099 can be issued electronically with the consent of the recipient. This due date only applies to certain types of payments.

Individuals - who must make estimated tax payments. If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) for 2020 by February 1. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 1, 2021, prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by February 1, file and pay your tax by April 15.

February 10

Employees - who work for tips. If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2020. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

Farm Employers - File Form 943 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2020. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

Certain Small Employers - File Form 944 to report Social Security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2020. This tax due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

Employers - Nonpayroll taxes. File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2020 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

Employers - Federal unemployment tax. File Form 940 for 2020. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time.

February 16

Individuals - If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4 you gave your employer, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year.

Employers - Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

Employers - Nonpayroll withholding. If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

All businesses. Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments made during 2020. You can use the appropriate version of Form 1099 or other information return. This due date applies only to payments reported on Form 1099-B, Form 1099-S, and substitute payments reported in Box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in Box 10 of Form 1099-MISC.

Employers - Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2020, but did not give you a new Form W-4 to continue the exemption this year.

March 1

Businesses - File information returns (for example, certain Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2020. However, Form 1099-NEC reporting nonemployee compensation must be filed by February 1. There are different forms for different types of payments. Use a separate Form 1096 to summarize and transmit the forms for each type of payment. See the General Instructions for Certain Information Returns for information on what payments are covered, how much the payment must be before a return is required, what form to use, and extensions of time to file.

If you file Forms 1097, 1098, 1099 (except a Form 1099-NEC reporting nonemployee compensation), 3921, 3922 or W-2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains February 1.

Payers of Gambling Winnings - File Form 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns, along with Copy A of all the Forms W-2G you issued for 2020. If you file Forms W-2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 1.

Health Coverage Reporting - If you are an Applicable Large Employer, file paper Forms 1094-C, Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns, and 1095-C with the IRS. For all other providers of minimum essential coverage, file paper Forms 1094-B, Transmittal of Health Coverage Information Returns, and 1095-B with the IRS. If you are filing any of these forms with the IRS electronically, your due date for filing them will be extended to March 31.

Large Food and Beverage Establishment Employers - with employees who work for tips. File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027-T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31.

Farmers and Fishermen - File your 2020 income tax return (Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR) and pay any tax due. However, you have until April 15 to file if you paid your 2020 estimated tax by January 15, 2021.

March 2

Health Coverage Reporting - If you are an Applicable Large Employer, provide Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage, to full-time employees. For all other providers of minimum essential coverage, provide Form 1095-B, Health Coverage, to responsible individuals.

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Tax Planning Tips for Your Business

Tax planning involves implementing various strategies that ultimately minimize the amount of taxes your business pays. It reduces tax liabilities by identifying and taking advantage of all legal credits, exemptions, deductions, and allowances. Tax planning is essential for several reasons. Other than lowering your tax burden, it reduces conflict with local, state, and federal tax authorities.

It also gives you greater control over when taxes are paid, as well as improving overall productivity. Tax planning requires regular updates due to ever-evolving tax laws. Let’s discuss some of its most efficient techniques.

Consider Changing Entity Type

As your business grows, you might have to change its entity type to make it more tax efficient and give you liability protection as the owner. The Tax Foundation estimates that pass-through businesses account for more than 90% of all commercial entities. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 made crucial changes to the tax code. Some of its benefits to small businesses are:

  • A lower corporate tax rate of 21%, down from a previous high of 39.6%
  • On top of business expense deductions, you can enjoy 20% off from your qualified business income. Your taxable income in 2021 must be below $164,900 if you’re a single filer and $329,800 for joint filers. Eligible entities include sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, and S corporations.
  • Higher write-off levels for purchasing business equipment, Section 179 deductions include depreciation on building improvements such as security systems, alarms, and HVAC units.

While states have varying procedures for statutory conversions, they follow some general steps. The first is presenting a plan to the company’s partners, the board of directors, and other relevant stakeholders. Once they approve, you can fill your desired entity’s formation documents at the state level. You’ll probably need a new Employer ID Number (EIN).

You can update your federal tax entity classification by filing Form 8832. Most states also require you to inform your vendors, customers, advisors, and local authorities of the changes. Before opting for an entity conversion, ensure the potential tax savings are worth it.

Be Aware of New Changes

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) helps your business stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your business can apply for this loan to fund payroll costs, as well as cover expenses such as mortgage interest, worker protection, utilities, and rent. The Small Business Administration (SBA) may forgive the loan if you meet their employee retention criteria and use the funds as stipulated.

Although the IRS won’t count your forgiven PPP loan as taxable income, the expenses you paid using the funds won’t be deductible. Consult with a tax professional to get the most out of this coronavirus relief package. The CARES Act also offers various tax breaks to encourage you to keep your workers employed during the pandemic. They include:

  • Expanded deductions on charitable donations
  • Delayed payroll tax payments
  • Net operating loss (NOL) carrybacks
  • The suspension of business loss deduction cap

Contribute to a Retirement Account

Offering your employees retirement plans is beneficial to both them and your business. The costs of setting up a SEP IRA, 401(k), or Simple IRA are deductible from your company’s tax return. Contributions to these plans are also deductible. As the owner, you stand to benefit from a tax perspective.

You’ll shelter more of your income since such contributions are usually higher than individual employee retirement accounts. Employees can also reduce their annual income tax by deferring higher portions of their wages. Organizations that offer retirement plans attract and retain skilled employees for longer.

Take Care of Payroll Early

The IRS conducts heavy scrutiny of payroll activities. Other than filing the proper returns, you’re required to offer W-2 and 1099 reports to your employees and temporary hires, respectively. These documents should indicate their wages and how much you’ll withhold. Your tasks include accurately paying state and federal taxes and maintaining the appropriate records. Unless your payroll tax is under $1000, you’re required to file Form 941 every quarter.

This document reports the wages paid, including Medicare, social security, income, and other taxes owed. Ensure you submit it within a month of the end of every quarter to avoid IRS penalties. The agency can either offer you a semi-weekly or monthly payroll tax deposit schedule. For the former, you must make the deposit every Wednesday or Friday after payday. Submit monthly deposits by the 15th of the next month.

Seek Professional Assistance

Tax planning isn’t as complicated as it sounds. The right strategies can realize significant long-term cost savings. The best option is to consult an expert in the field. Some CPAs also double as investment advisers. Other professionals include certified financial planners, chartered financial analysts, and enrolled agents. Identify the one most suited to your specialty, submit all the relevant information, and enjoy the benefits of their expertise.

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What You Should Know Before Applying for a Credit Card

Getting your first credit card might be an exciting experience, but you also need to take precautions. With so many providers in the market, it’s advisable to do thorough research before settling on the ideal one.

The choice you make will have a significant impact on your financial well-being. It will help you establish a good credit rating, which has various advantages. They include low-interest mortgages, auto loans, and business financing. The higher your FICO score is, the more likely you are to reap the financial benefits.

The lowest possible credit score is 300, while the highest is 850. Although it’s improbable for anyone to hit those extremes, always try to keep yours above 670. Another important aspect of financial literacy is understanding the difference between a debit and a credit card. With debit cards, you only spend the funds you deposit in your bank account. Credit cards allow you to borrow from your card issuer up to a specific limit.

Types of Credit Cards

The multiple credit cards in the market fall under these categories:

1. Standard Credit Cards

These cards are the most widely issued by financial institutions. They are unsecured, meaning the issuer doesn’t need a security deposit to prove your ability to repay advanced funds. Examples are:

  • Balance transfer credit card: You can use this card to transfer your high-interest balance onto a separate card with a lower interest rate.
  • Low-interest credit card: This card either offers you a low fixed APR or a low introductory rate that rises after a specified period.

2. Credit Card Reward Programs

Commercial entities issue these credit cards in partnership with financial institutions. Every time you use it, you gain points that you can later redeem for various incentives. Examples are cash back cards, travel point cards, retail reward cards, and gas cards with rebates.

3. Frequent Flier Cards

Airlines have custom cards with redeemable points as incentives. You can receive and redeem air mile credits every time you use the card. The options include an airline-specific card or a generic miles card.

4. Specialty Credit Cards

These cards are suitable if you have unique uses. They’re appropriate for students and businesspeople.

5. Credit Cards For Bad Credit

You can still apply for these types of credit cards if you have a bad credit score. Examples are:

  • Secured credit cards: The card issuer asks for a predetermined amount as a security deposit before accepting your application.
  • Prepaid credit cards: Although they’re not credit cards in the strictest sense, you can still use them as such. You’ll only spend the amount you transfer to the card. These prepaid cards prevent you from sinking deeper into debt.

About APR

The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) is the yearly interest rate you pay on loans or earn from your deposit account. It applies to a wide range of financial products, including mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards. APR increases the total cost of your loan by adding interest and associated fees to the principal amount.

Your credit card can either have a fixed APR with a constant interest rate for the debt duration or a fluctuating variable APR. Most lenders peg their variable APRs to the Federal Reserve’s prime rate index. Your lender should notify you in advance before changing the APR. It’s advisable to read and understand the binding agreement before applying for a credit card.

Beware of Annual Fees

Credit cards offer convenience and increase your purchasing options. You can use them to buy useful items or even fund your business, then repay later at favorable interest rates. They’re also secure and allow you to earn incentives such as cash, air miles, and other gifts. However, if you’re not careful, they might make your financial situation worse in the following ways:

  • They reduce your future income since you’re using money that you don’t have.
  • Your fees and APRs could cost you hundreds of dollars annually, depending on the card and how you use it.
  • You could get deeper into debt by using credit cards on items that don’t increase your income or net worth.

Credit cards come in handy during emergencies such as home improvement, car repairs, and replacing broken equipment. Although readily available, avoid getting into a vicious debt cycle by using these funds for impulse and luxury purchases. A budget helps you identify and spend on essential needs.

Do Your Homework

With so many credit cards on the market, it’s easy to get confused when applying for one. Other than reading this helpful article, take your time to compare indicators such as APR. You may also consult a qualified financial advisor on the best type of card for your situation or business. Whatever choice you make, your ultimate goal should be to achieve financial freedom.

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FAQs on Taxes for Expats

The IRS expects you to file taxes if you’re an American citizen or green card holder living or working abroad. You’re required to file IRS Form 1040 if your worldwide income is above a certain threshold. This figure is a combination of your US and foreign earnings. You can reduce your tax obligation through benefits such as the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) and the Foreign Tax Credit.

You should file your Form 1040 by April 15th every year, although there’s a two-month extension for Americans living abroad. The IRS can grant an extension of up to 6 months through Form 4868. It’s advisable to file your taxes accurately to avoid penalties. Tax authorities can use the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) to determine your income. The law requires foreign financial institutions to report assets held by American clients to the US government.

1. Do US Citizens Living Overseas File US Tax Returns?

Yes. If you live abroad as an American citizen or resident alien, your worldwide income is subject to taxation. The IRS expects you to file tax returns regardless of where you live or how long you’ve been away. For tax purposes, a resident alien is either a green card holder or an individual who passes the “substantial presence” test. Publication 519 of the IRS has clear guidelines on the taxation of resident and non-resident aliens.

2. How Does Expat Taxes Work?

Although you must file tax returns if you meet the minimum threshold, you’ll also gain from generous deductions. You’ll likely pay little or no tax due to the treaty and foreign housing exclusions, the FEIE, and Foreign Tax Credit. The following documents will ease the filing process:

  • Your employer-issued W-2 form. This document provides a summary of your remuneration and associated taxes
  • Form 1099 or a foreign equivalent if you trade in stocks, earn interest income, or receive dividends
  • Form 1098-E if you’re servicing a student loan
  • Form 1098 if you’re paying off a mortgage
  • Evidence of charitable donations, if any
  • Receipts showing your recent moving expenses
  • Documents detailing unreimbursed business and medical expenses

3. If I Pay Taxes Where I Live, Do I Still Need to Pay US Taxes?

Yes. You must file US income tax even if you’re also doing so in a foreign country. The only way to avoid this obligation is to either relinquish your green card status or renounce your American citizenship. Form I-407 notifies the US Citizenship and Immigration Services of your intention to abandon your lawful permanent residency status.

The internal revenue code has provisions for individuals who choose this option for tax purposes. It has different requirements depending on the date of expatriation. If you did so from June 4, 2004 onward, you should file Form 8854. Failure to do so could attract penalties, including a $10,000 fine where applicable.

4. If I Make Less Than the Foreign Earned Income Amount, Do I Still Need to File?

Yes. Although you’ll not pay US tax if your income is below the FEIE threshold, you still have to file returns. The exclusion doesn’t apply automatically to those who qualify. You must claim it by including Form 2555 with Form 1040. If you fail to file your returns, the IRS will conclude that you didn’t claim your FEIE. This situation may complicate matters if the tax agency pursues you for taxes owed.

5. What is the 330-day Rule?

You can only claim your FEIE benefits if you prove to the federal tax agency that you live and work abroad. The Physical Presence Test shows that you’ve been outside the US for at least 330 days of a 365-day year. This test is also known as the 330-day Rule.

The other one is the Bona Fide Resident Test. It proves that you’re a permanent resident in your foreign country of residence or employment. You can do so by producing a residency visa, evidence of utility bills for a permanent home, or paying income tax in that country.

The 330-day Rule is preferable if you work in more than one foreign country in a year.

6. Who Needs Expat Tax Services?

The tax code is already hard to understand for US-based taxpayers. It gets even more confusing if you’re living or working abroad. Never make the mistake of assuming that you’re tax-exempt simply because you’re not on US soil. Hiring a professional tax preparer that’s conversant with expatriate taxation helps reduce your tax burden. Their advantages are:

  • They understand the ever-changing US tax code and can interpret it for you.
  • They can identify all the benefits you’re eligible for, including credits, deductions, and exemptions.
  • Expat tax preparers are conversant with the tax laws of your country of residence. They can help you take advantage of any special treaties between it and the US.
  • Hiring a tax preparer means you have more time to pursue your interests.

The IRS has a directory of licensed tax preparers to ensure you file your returns accurately wherever you reside.

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Types of Financial Statements for Your Business

One aspect of a properly managed business is the maintenance of accurate records through financial statements. They help you keep track of your inventory, sales, purchases, expenses, cash flow position, debt, and other indicators. The generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) prioritize these three main statements: The cash flow statement, income statement, and balance sheet.

A Statement of Retained Earnings also comes in handy if you’re interested in attracting investors. It contains information about your net income and how you distribute it in the form of dividends. Financial statements give a snapshot of your company’s overall health to potential investors, financiers, regulators, and other relevant stakeholders.

Cash Flow Statement

This document shows a summary of the cash or cash equivalents flowing in and out of your business. It indicates the company’s ability to finance operating expenses and pay debts. You may break it down into three categories:

1. Operating activities: This type of cash flow evaluates the direct costs and income generation associated with production and sales. They include advertising, vendor payments, interest paid or received, depreciation, and the purchase of raw materials.

2. Investing activities: It tracks cash spending on equipment, property, principal loan payments, and long-term investments such as bonds.

3. Financing activities: This category covers cash input and output from shareholders, investors, creditors, employee stock options, and dividend payments. The cash flow statement is essential in various ways. It assists with investor attraction, debt reduction, stock buybacks, company acquisitions, calculating dividend payments, and re-investing in the business.

Income Statement

Also referred to as a profit and loss statement, this document compiles your expenses and revenues over a particular period. To prepare an income statement, you must first choose a reporting period, then create a trial balance report. The next steps involve calculating total sales revenue and cost of sold goods.

Determine your gross margin by deducting the value of goods sold from your total revenue. Compile your total operating expenses as listed in the trial balance, then record them as selling and administrative expenses. You’ll get your pretax income by subtracting these costs from your gross margin. Finally, deduct your income tax from this figure to determine your net income. An income statement is important because it shows whether you’ve made a net profit or loss.

Balance Sheet

This statement provides a summary of your company’s assets and liabilities, as well as owners’ equity over a given period. It’s used as a source document when analyzing its capital structure and calculating the rates of return. This financial statement by itself can’t provide an analysis of long-term trends but is useful when compared to past balance sheets or those of similar companies.

You can also use it to determine four crucial ratios. One of them is the net working capital. It shows the amount of money you would have if you paid off all short-term debts and remained with your current assets. The second one is the debt-to-asset ratio, which calculates the value of assets that your business purchased through debt. Others are current and quick ratios and solvency ratios.

Statement of Retained Earnings

Retained earnings refer to the portion of your business profits that you reserve for reinvestment instead of distributing to shareholders. Apart from using these funds as working capital, you can also utilize them to facilitate debt payments and purchase fixed assets.

Retained earnings appear in the balance sheet in the stockholders’ equity section. They represent a valuable connection between your balance sheet and the income statement. Your net income and dividend payments have a direct impact on your retained earnings balance.

How to Prepare Your Financial Statements

The accounting cycle has the following eight steps, which are appropriate when preparing financial statements:

  • Identify the relevant transaction and record it accordingly.
  • Create journal entries for every transaction depending on whether you use the cash or accrual accounting method.
  • Post these transactions to the relevant accounts in a general ledger.
  • Prepare a trial balance at the end of the accounting period.
  • Create a worksheet and use it to balance credits and debits.
  • Make the necessary adjustments to your journal entries.
  • Use the previous entries to create your financial statements.
  • Close your books at the end of the accounting period and prepare a performance analysis.

If you use accounting software, it will automatically create these entries for you. It’s advisable to hire a professional accountant for a comprehensive analysis of the impact of financial statements on your business.

The Data You Need to Run Your Business

Data is one of the most precious resources in the modern world. Financial statements help you analyze your company’s performance and meet your overall business objectives. It shows you which aspects of your business are doing well and the ones that need improvement. It also makes it easy for regulators, bankers, suppliers, and other stakeholders to partner with you. Hiring a professional accountant helps ensure accuracy. It also allows you to enjoy all these benefits while focusing on your core business.

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