Healthcare Reform Update

Healthcare Reform Update

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – also known as Obamacare – was not the perfect solution to the nation’s need for affordable healthcare, but it did increase the availability of quality, affordable healthcare for small businesses. Companies that had struggled for years – not only to find affordable health insurance for their workers but also to negotiate double-digit premium increases every year – were relieved to have choices and manageable premium rate increases.  Following Trump’s inauguration, Republican attempts to repeal the ACA without providing an alternative solution recreated the nightmare for many small firms. The administration’s ultimate failure to kill Obamacare ended up being a relief for many entrepreneurs and small business owners, but many issues remain unresolved. Healthcare Reform.

Business owners see the need for a bipartisan effort to develop realistic and affordable solutions, which would enable the small business sector to thrive and continue to fuel our nation’s economic growth. Here are some of the concerns that leaders have identified:

  • A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office on the fiscal impact of the Federal government yanking the cost-sharing subsidies that support the ACA marketplaces (a revision that would most likely occur if Republicans continue to gut the ACA) suggests that insurance premiums for small businesses would increase an average of 20 percent next year growing to a 25 percent increase by 2020. Although the Federal government is required by current laws to pay these subsidies, President Trump has indicated he wants to stop these subsidies by any means possible as part of his mission to dismantle the ACA. The CBO has calculated that the potential economic impact on the federal deficit could be as much as $194 billion, because a move like this would require consumers to obtain additional tax credits to offset their premium payments.
  • The elimination of cost-sharing subsidies would likely lead many insurance companies to exit the individual insurance market, and could disrupt the health insurance marketplace and leave small business owners with limited access to affordable health insurance options.
  • Small business advocates oppose the introduction of any measures that would result in separate risk pools for the healthy and the sick, and want to see measures to encourage businesses to establish association health plans.
  • Sector leaders want to see steps taken to expand Medicaid. ACA already had provided coverage to an additional 14 million previously uninsured Americans – a total that includes an estimated 2 million small business employees.
  • Entrepreneurs want to see healthcare tax equity measures in place for the self-employed to allow them to deduct healthcare expenses from FICA tax obligations.

The small business segment is hailed as the champion of job-creation in the United States. If it is to continue in this vital role, lawmakers must expand efforts to do more to reform healthcare insurance.

Avoid IRS Trouble by Reporting Bitcoin Cash

Avoid IRS Trouble by Reporting Bitcoin Cash

IRS guidance on the tax treatment of cryptocurrencies already exists. Right now, the IRS considers cryptocurrencies to be “intangible assets.” As a result, they are subject to capital asset treatment. However, recent developments complicate matters.

On Aug. 1, Bitcoin split into two separate cryptocurrencies – Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. The currently issued guidance does not address cryptocurrency splits, also known as fork transactions.

How to Report Your Bitcoin Cash

At the split, Bitcoin Cash’s initial price was set at 9.5 percent of Bitcoin’s unit price of $2,801 – or $266. Holders of Bitcoin received one Bitcoin Cash unit for every Bitcoin they held at the time of the split, making Bitcoin Cash a separate financial instrument. As a result, this makes it taxable – so recipients of Bitcoin Cash should include the transaction on their 2017 income tax returns.

Since a cryptocurrency is not technically a security or a debt-like interest, the transaction is considered neither a dividend nor interest income. So how should you report the transaction? While there is no clear-cut guidance as of yet, the best place to report the transaction is as “Other Income” on Form 1040, since this is where you can report transactions that do not neatly fit anywhere else.

Another reporting alternative is to use Form 8949, where you report the sale of capital assets. If you use this form you would report $266 per unit and offset it with a corresponding 9.5 percent of your Bitcoin cost basis. By transferring a proportional amount of your basis from the original investment you will reduce your taxable income. This reporting method also has the advantage of allowing you to offset the capital gains with capital losses and carryovers. Beware however, that this method is less likely to be accepted by the IRS.

What to Do if You Sold Your Bitcoin Cash

Selling some or all of your Bitcoin Cash means you’ll need to treat it as a capital gain and report it via Form 8949. If you sell any Bitcoin Cash, make sure you report your receipt as “Other Income” per above, since this will then serve as your basis for offsetting your sale. Your selling price would be whatever value you sold it for, less any commissions or fees on the sale. Also, remember that for your 2017 tax return filing, your holding period would start from the split date of Aug. 1, and therefore be short-term.

Why Cryptocurrency Splits Are Not Tax-Free Exchanges

Some will argue that cryptocurrency splits such as Bitcoin Cash qualify as tax-free exchanges; however, this view is unlikely to hold up to IRS scrutiny since none of the corporate reorganization non-recognition events under Section 368 apply. Bitcoin Cash is economically different from Bitcoin, and therefore should be viewed as a new category of financial instrument.

Beware the IRS

Over the past several years, many investors sold cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, but did not report any taxable income from the transactions, while others used Section 1031 like-kind exchange laws to postpone taxation. The IRS is none too pleased by all of this and is taking action.

The IRS estimates that hundreds of thousands of U.S. taxpayers failed to report cryptocurrency income sales over the past few years. Combined with the recent meteoric rise in prices, the IRS is hungry for the potential to collect billions in interest, penalties and back taxes.

Recently for example, the IRS summoned a large cryptocurrency exchange (Coinbase) to hand over its customer lists. Subsequently, they reached an agreement to disclose only transactions in excess of $20,000; however, it is clear from this case that the IRS is going to get aggressive on the matter.

Cryptocurrency investors need to be aware of the evolving nature of taxation in this space in order to avoid IRS problems. This is an emerging issue and one on which you can bet the IRS is not going to stand down. As always, consult a tax professional for details about your particular situation.

Reimagining Entire Industries with Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

About a year ago, at an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference in Cambridge in the U.K., Dr. Stephen Hawking noted that, “Success in creating AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization … either the best or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.”

The question remains unanswered, even as the AI sector continues to boom. Most of the major advances in AI that we are experiencing originated from research centers and startups – many based in the U.K. It is interesting to note that major U.S. technology leaders like Microsoft, Google and Twitter have entered this arena by acquiring some of the U.K.’s brightest AI stars.

Simply stated, AI is changing many of the ways businesses engage with their customers – whether with “chatbots” providing customer service, or by automated virtual assistants, or using technology to power self-driving automobiles. The advances in this sector are transforming operations at businesses of all sizes. This burgeoning industry has made major strides in helping businesses – especially small businesses – operate more effectively with social media. It used to be that analyzing social dialogue to identify and prioritize consumer targets was a tedious and lengthy process. With an AI software interface, the job takes minutes rather than days.

The blossoming of the AI sector has produced tools that are both super-efficient and inexpensive, offering major benefits to many small businesses. Now, routine customer service, sales and human resource tasks can be automated. As AI takes off, we can expect to see it making major inroads into areas of specific expertise, such as law and medical diagnostics. Expect to see virtual lawyers offer cheaper solutions to traditional legal practitioners. These bots can search law files and resolve complex immigration or employment law questions in minutes – research tasks that would have taken a paralegal many billable hours. Likewise, medical diagnostic AI tools can make assessments faster and often with a greater degree of accuracy than medical professionals.

Cybersecurity is another area where expectations run high for AI applications. In the never-ending battle to counter and defeat complex computer hacking schemes, machine learning is expected to continue to play an important role in combating increasingly sophisticated plots and uncovering potential vulnerabilities before cybercrooks strike.

Ethical Concerns

There are many issues – both ethical and legislative – that will need to be resolved as AI continues to grow and expand throughout the global business world. Some industry observers worry that AI will make many occupations in IT obsolete; others believe that AI will create new jobs by freeing human beings from routine tasks to allow them to focus on the “higher value” cognitive skills that currently elude chatbots and virtual assistants. Some find the proliferation of profiling AI tools – programs that are used to prioritize sales prospects or job candidates based on their LinkedIn profiles – unsettling. Champions of such assessment tools believe they merely speed up the interactions that take place between people, and do so with much less error and bias.

Whether we like it or not, AI is here to stay and is likely to be a game-changer in the way we do business in the near future.

Benefits of Delaying Retirement Number Many

Benefits of Delaying Retirement

Traditionally, retirement was short and peaceful. People worked jobs that were hard on the body – such as farming, manufacturing, tradesmen or railroad workers. If you made it to retirement, you were relieved to have the chance to wind down your days in restful repose.

That all changed in the latter part of the 20th century. Retirees began to take advantage of affordable travel opportunities enabled by cars that could drive great distances and highways that could accommodate them, as well as regional intracontinental airlines. In the 1980s, exercise became a popular pastime and retirees could be found at fitness clubs, aerobics classes and racquetball courts. There was a sweet spot in time when retirement was short enough not to outlive savings and retirees were healthy enough to enjoy an active leisure life.

But a lot of things have changed over the past 30 years. More jobs are automated and life expectancy rates, especially for people who reach age 65, are longer than ever. By middle age, it is common to have developed one or more chronic conditions, making a long retirement a less-than-healthy one. Furthermore, we experienced a pretty severe recession and slow economic recovery, when many pre-retirees had to dig into their savings just to stay above water.

Another area that has changed is the transition from employer-sponsored pensions to 401(k) plans. This has fostered a different way of looking at retirement. Back when many workers had pensions, all they had to do was accumulate enough credits and they could retire with a guaranteed stream of income for life. That gave people something to look forward to. Now, with self-directed retirement plans, workers know that the longer they work the more they can save and the longer their investments have time to grow – which actually creates an incentive to work longer. Another reason people tend to work until at least age 65 is so they don’t have to pay for their own healthcare insurance, for which premiums have grown exponentially over the past 15 years.

In addition, the longer we earn an income the longer we can delay drawing Social Security benefits. Once you start taking a benefit, that payout level remains permanent throughout your life. However, the longer you wait, the higher the payout. In fact, people who delay to age 70 can take advantage of Delayed Retirement Credits, which increase their level of payout 5.5 percent to 8 percent a year past full retirement age.

Now that people are living longer, many are healthy enough to continue working longer as well. Plenty of employees want to continue working not only for the money, but for social interaction and intellectual engagement. When retirement was 10 years or less, that seemed like enough time to wind down and relax. But with today’s workers facing 30 years or more in retirement, the prospect of not having a regular place to go, people to see, and work to do for a few decades isn’t quite as appealing.

However, what if you hate your job and can’t imagine staying on past traditional retirement age? A recent study found that people who changed jobs in their 50s were more likely to work longer. In some scenarios, using well-earned experience can translate into a more rewarding job opportunity. Consider that even if you don’t earn more money, a lateral move could still yield higher financial rewards if you enjoy the new job and want to continue working there indefinitely.

Some retirees decide to go back to work because they’ve had a bit of fun but find they miss the day-to-day routine of work and having a broader network of interpersonal relationships. In fact, they often find their experience and expertise was sorely missed, and in some situations, are more valued by their colleagues. This might not happen in all cases, but the lure of renewing friendships, professional appreciation and additional income offer compelling reasons to come out of retirement.

 

Strategies to Run a Localized and Location-Based Marketing Campaign

The potential for localized and location-based marketing is high – especially with estimates of retail sales from “beacon-triggered messages”, which grew from $4.1 billion to $44.4 billion between 2015 and 2016, according to Statista. Coupled with 77 percent of U.S. citizens having a smartphone, based on a November 2016 Pew Research Center survey, the ability to reach consumers is the best it’s ever been[P1] . With technology and smartphones making sales ripe, how can businesses make the most of localized and location-based marketing to reach consumers and business clients?

Maximize a Localized Consumer Experience

With a mobile website, there’s no one-size-fits-all design. However, there are some common elements that provide better functionality when viewed on a mobile device. These include the ability to press a phone number for assisted dialing or an email address right on the screen to email the business instantly. Other elements include fewer but larger buttons to search the website, navigate between pages, and for easy access to the address, operating hours and social networking sites connected to the business.

Creating a mobile optimized website is the first step to help locals and travelers find nearby businesses. While location-based marketing certainly includes targeting nearby customers as a first priority, it needn’t be limited to potential customers within a defined area. When anyone is looking on the internet for a business in a particular city or town, it is found by a search query for a product or service. For example, a targeted keyword phrase might be “Tampa coffee shop” or “art galleries near L’Enfant Plaza.”

Another way to localize a marketing campaign is to work with one’s location, along with calendar or seasonal events in conjunction with keywords. This can either take the form of marketing campaigns that take advantage of well-known events, such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans. You can target mobile users seeking Mardi Gras information with keyword optimization for, say, festive clothing or regional foods. It can also work with weather events, such as unusually warm spells during Midwest winters. This type of weather event could be leveraged to target customers for fans in the case of heat spells.

Put the Consumer in Control

One way for retailers to take advantage of location-based marketing, especially in a store or a defined area near a retail or business establishment, is to let the consumer control his options. Whether using an app, a push notification or text messages, it’s a good idea to ask the user for permission to receive notifications in order to gain his trust. This puts the customer in control of how many messages he’ll receive and when, making them more effective.

Another way to better connect with customers through location-based marketing is to create a fast and convenient experience. Using an app, a brick-and-mortar retailer can ask if the customer would like to place an order and pay for it before he visits the store. All that’s left is to pick up the item in the store or through curbside delivery, if it’s available with the merchant.

Remember, localized and location-based marketing technology can be used effectively to target and increase sales with both local and out-of-town consumers.

[P1] Sources for statistics: 

https://www.statista.com/statistics/428420/us-beacon-triggered-retail-sales/ 
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/

Identity Theft and the IRS

Identity Theft and the IRSThe most common ways that a taxpayer becomes aware that their tax account has been a victim of identity theft are:

1. The taxpayer attempts to file a return electronically but the IRS rejects the return indicating that someone else has filed a return using the same identification number of the filer or a dependent.
2. An IRS notice that indicates more than one return has been filed for a single account.
3. An IRS bill for additional tax, an unknown refund offset , or collection action.
4. The IRS asks for confirmation of information on a return that was not filed by the taxpayer.
5. A notice is received that reflects wages earned from an employer the taxpayer has never worked for.
6. Some kind of compliance action has been taken against the taxpayer for a period which the taxpayer never filed a return nor received a refund.

Businesses are not immune either to identity theft, look for unusual notices from the IRS or other state or local agencies concerning:

1. A closed business.
2. Individuals who were never employees.
3. Unexpected unpaid taxes.
4. Original returns accepted as an amended return.
5. A business that has been “administratively terminated” by the secretary of state for no activity or failure to pay registration fees suddenly comes back to life and notices are received from the SOS.

Things that a taxpayer can do if they are the victim of identity theft:

1. Submit Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, to the IRS as quickly as possible.
2. Respond to any IRS notice or letter immediately.
3. Continue to file and pay taxes even if by paper.
4. Visit www.irs.gov/identitytheft to review all focused identity theft information the IRS provides.

The IRS actions will most likely be:

1. Confirm that the identity theft victim has filed Form 14039.
2. Do a coding of the taxpayer account file to indicate there has been a receipt of  identity theft documentation.
3. Reconcile the account to reflect any valid return information.
4. Place an identity theft indicator on the account, if the IRS deems that step to be necessary.
5. Place a hold on the account during the investigation. Information exchange is limited during this phase and the taxpayer will likely be frustrated with an inability to have a conversation with the IRS regarding their account. From the IRS’s perspective, while attempting to determine the real taxpayer, they will choose to err on the side of caution.
6. Taxpayer will be at the mercy of the IRS until they can satisfy themselves as to proper identity. The policy of the Identity Protection Specialized Unit is to stop the flow of information until all parties have been identified.

If a taxpayer suspects identity theft it may be best to contact their tax preparer, if they have one, to determine the best steps to take. It may be better to do some information gathering like getting a transcript of their account to identify if any discrepancies exist before submitting Form 14039.

REMEMBER the IRS does not call the taxpayer first! That is not how they operate. The first contact from the IRS is always a letter or notice. If you receive a call from someone out of the blue telling you they are the IRS it is bogus and a phishing call by someone trying to get your personal information.

IRS First-Time Abatement Penalty Waiver

Abatement Penalty Waiver

Abatement Penalty WaiverMany have forgotten or don’t know about the IRS first-time penalty waiver program (FTA). This program was introduced more than 15 years ago but still remains a little known method of getting assessed penalties abated for a first-time non-compliant taxpayer for a single tax period. Abatement Penalty Waiver.

Individual taxpayers may request an FTA for a failure file or failure to pay penalty. Business taxpayers can request an FTA on the previously described penalties or a payroll tax deposit penalty.

This penalty abatement request should be taken advantage of only if other penalty relief provisions have been examined and not deemed applicable or have been exhausted.

To qualify, the taxpayer must demonstrate timely filing and timely payment compliance and  have a clean three year penalty history. The taxpayer may have an open installment agreement with the IRS as long as the payments are current.

To satisfy the clean penalty history, the taxpayer must not have had any “significant” penalty amounts assessed in the prior three years for the same tax return for which the taxpayer is requesting abatement. If the IRS rejects the request for abatement because there is some minor penalty during the time frame, the taxpayer or his advisor should remind the IRS of the “significant” qualification in the IRM. Even if the taxpayer has a tax penalty in the prior three years but has a clean history other than that, he may be eligible for relief given his track record.

CPA Salt Lake City

Wholesome Food Contribution Rules (IRC Sec. 170(e)(3)

Wholesome Food Contribution Rules

For those of you involved mainly in the grocery or restaurant business there is an a great tax deduction for donating to charitable organizations wholesome food that you no longer will sell due to your own internal standards. The points are as follows:

1. A taxpayer engaged in a trade or business is eligible to claim an enhanced deduction for donations of food inventory.

2. The enhanced deduction equals the lessor of (a) what you paid for the food (basis) PLUS half of the ordinary income that would have been recognized if the property were sold at fair market value (FMV) at the contribution date, or (b) twice the property’s basis.

3. To qualify for the deduction a contribution of food inventory must be apparently wholesome food – i.e. meant for human consumption and meeting certain quality and labeling standards.

4. For a taxpayer other than a C Corporation, the aggregate amount of contributions of apparently wholesome food that may be taken into account for the tax year cannot exceed 15% of the taxpayer’s aggregate net income from trades or businesses from which the contributions were made.

As we approach year end this is something to keep in mind to get that extra tax deduction and you will also be helping out those less fortunate as well.

Quick Notes on Education Expenses

Education Expenses Salt Lake City

Quick Notes on Education Expenses Salt Lake City

As the new school year approaches here are some things to remember regarding certain deductible and non deductible education expenses:

  1. The cost of private or parochial school tuition is not deductible. However for those children under age 13, some of the costs could be attributable to childcare and may qualify the taxpayer for a tax credit.
  2. Charitable contributions for school fundraisers are limited by the fair market value of any goods or services you receive in exchange for your donation.
  3. Earnings in 529 Plans are not taxable and can be withdrawn tax free if the money is used for eligible college expenses.
  4. Tax deferred accounts like Educational Savings Accounts can be used to pay for qualified educational expenses including books and computers for elementary, high school and for college expenses.
  5. Student loan interest is deductible as an above the line deduction, meaning you do not have to itemize in order to claim the deduction. You can deduct up to $2,500 of interest. The deduction is gradually reduced if your modified gross income is with a certain range.
  6. The American Opportunity Tax Credit is a very robust credit wherein you can get up to a $2,500 credit against your taxes per eligible student each year for the first four years of their college education. $1,000 of this credit can be refundable even if you owe no tax. Eligible expenses include tuition, books and supplies. Adjusted gross income limits also apply to this credit.
  7. A lifetime learning credit is also available for qualified education expenses paid for students enrolled in eligible educational institutions. The credit is a non refundable credit of 20% of qualified education expenses up to a maximum of $10,000 ($2,000 credit). This credit can not be taken in conjunction with the American Opportunity Tax Credit. There is no limit on the number of years this credit can be taken. Adjusted gross income limits apply.

Just some things to keep in mind as you eye the rising costs of education for your children.

New Qualified Improvement Property Classification

Property Taxes Salt Lake City UT

Property Taxes Salt Lake City UTOn Dec. 18, 2015, Congress passed a tax extenders package, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 and in that Act gave a new definition to non residential real property improvements falling in the category named Qualified Improvement Property. The definition of this property is as follows:

Qualified improvement property is any improvement to an interior portion of a building that is nonresidential real property if the improvement is placed in service after the date the building was first placed in service, excluding:

  1. ) enlargements;
  2. ) elevators/escalators; and
  3. ) internal structural framework. The improvements do not need to be made pursuant to a lease.

Qualified improvement property is depreciated over 39 years unless it also qualifies as qualified leasehold, restaurant or retail property. If falls into one of these classifications the improvements can be depreciated over 15 years. The real kicker in this is that all of these improvements are eligible for bonus depreciation.

Bonus depreciation for property placed in service thru December 31, 2017 is 50% of the cost.

In 2018 it is 40% and 2019 it is 30%. This is quite the expansion of the deduction for these types of costs and could provide significant tax savings in the year the improvements are completed. For a more in-depth explanation of qualified improvement property and a refresher on the definition of leasehold, restaurant or retail improvements, Give Us a Call and we would be happy to discuss it with you.


Areas of Service: Property Taxes Salt Lake City UT, Property Tax UT