The Latest Tax Info You Need to Know

The Latest Tax Info You Need to Know

Tax Return Deadline Extended to May 17

The IRS has extended the federal income tax filing due date for individuals from April 15 to May 17. To accommodate the new deadline, we will accept returns until Thursday, April 15th. If we receive your paperwork AFTER April 15, we will file an extension for you. To help you prepare your files, please download a copy of our 2020 Personal Tax Preparation Checklist.

Note that the deadline for estimated tax payments has NOT changed. First quarter payments are still due on April 15.

The American Rescue plan, which was signed by President Biden on March 11th, and other tax law changes probably affected your finances and returns for both 2020 and 2021. Here are some of the details you need to know:

Contribution Deadlines Extended to May 17

In addition to extending the tax return filing deadline to May 17, the IRS has extended other deadlines that would normally fall on April 15. You now have until May 17, 2021, to make 2020 contributions to your:

  • Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs and Roth IRAs),
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs),
  • Archer Medical Savings Accounts (Archer MSAs), and
  • Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (Coverdell ESAs).

This new deadline also applies to the reporting and payment of any 10% additional tax due on 2020 distributions from IRAs or workplace-based retirement plans.

IRS to Review Returns, Issue Refunds for Unemployment Benefits

The IRS will automatically begin refunding money in May if you filed your 2020 tax return and reported unemployment compensation before the American Rescue Plan was passed. The new law allows taxpayers who earned less than $150,000 in modified AGI to exclude 2020 unemployment compensation up to $20,400 (married filing jointly) or $10,200 (other taxpayers).

If you already filed and figured your tax based on the full amount of unemployment compensation, the IRS will determine the correct taxable amount. Any resulting overpayment of tax will be either refunded or applied to other outstanding taxes owed. So there is no need to file an amended return unless the change makes you eligible for additional federal credits and deductions.

If we filed your tax return for you before March 11, we will automatically check it for additional credits and deductions, then let you know if an amended return should be filed. If we have not yet filed your taxes, we will take the new law into account for you. Please contact us if you have any questions about this.

3rd EIP Is Different from Earlier Payments

You may notice that the third Economic Impact Payment you receive(d) is different from the first and second payments. Here’s how:

• The 3rd EIP is an advance payment of the 2021 recovery rebate credit. The two earlier payments are advance payments of the 2020 recovery rebate credit. If you didn’t get a first or second EIP or got less than the full amounts, you may be eligible to claim the 2020 recovery rebate credit on your 2020 tax return.

• The 3rd EIP may be larger. You will receive up to $1,400 as a single taxpayer or $2,800 as a joint filer. If you have qualifying dependents, you will receive up to $1,400 per qualifying dependent.

• More dependents qualify. You will get a payment for all qualifying dependents claimed on your return, not just for children under age 17. This may include older family members like college students, adults with disabilities, parents and grandparents.

• Income phase-out amounts are different. You will not receive a 3rd EIP if your AGI exceeds:

  • $160,000 if married filing jointly or as a qualifying widow/er.
  • $120,000 if filing as head of household.
  • $80,000 if filing single or married filing separately.

• You may be eligible for additional funds. The amount of the 3rd EIP is based on your latest processed tax return (either 2020 or 2019). If it’s based on your 2019 return and is less than the full amount, you may qualify for a supplemental payment after your 2020 return is processed.

Small Businesses: Take Advantage of the Employee Retention Credit

The Employee Retention Credit was modified by the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, and applies to the first two calendar quarters of 2021. The changes include:

  • Increasing the maximum credit amount,
  • Expanding the category of employers eligible to claim the credit,
  • Modifying the gross receipts test,
  • Revising the definition of qualified wages, and
  • Revising the ability of employers to request an advance payment of the credit.

Eligible employers can 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 from January 1-June 30, 2021. Qualified wages are limited to $10,000 per employee per calendar quarter in 2021. Thus, the maximum employee retention credit available is $7,000 per employee per calendar quarter, for a total of $14,000 per employee for 2021.

Employers can access the Credit for the 1st and 2nd calendar quarters of 2021 prior to filing their employment tax returns by reducing employment tax deposits. Small employers may request advance payment of the credit (subject to certain limits) on Form 7200, Advance of Employer Credits Due to Covid-19.

Note that the Employee Retention Credit is also available to eligible employers during the third and fourth quarters of 2021, thanks to the American Rescue Plan. The IRS will provide further guidance on this soon.

If you need assistance on how to calculate and claim the Employee Retention Credit, please contact us today.

2021 Appropriations Act Provides Additional Pandemic Relief

2021 Appropriations Act Provides Additional Pandemic Relief

On December 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the newest $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill. The legislation, part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, provides additional pandemic relief and clarifies the deductibility of business expenses paid with forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Key provisions of the new law include:

  • $166 billion for Economic Impact Payments of $600 to each eligible taxpayer (see Money Brief at right).
  • $120 billion for $300 per week in extended weekly unemployment benefits (December 26, 2020-March 14, 2021).
  • $25 billion in emergency rental aid, plus an extension of the national eviction moratorium (through January 31, 2021).
  • $325 billion in aid for small businesses, including $284+ billion for additional PPP loans; $20 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Grants; $15 billion for shuttered live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions; and $12 billion for businesses in low-income and minority communities.
  • $45 billion in transportation funding (for airlines, transit systems, state highways and more).
  • $82 billion in funding for colleges and schools, plus $10 billion in childcare assistance.
  • $22 billion for state, local, tribal and territorial governments.
  • $13 billion for emergency food assistance, including a six-month, 15% increase in SNAP benefits.
  • $7 billion for broadband expansion.

The new law also extends the Employee Retention Tax Credit and several expiring tax provisions, and temporarily allows a 100% business expense deduction for meals (up from the current 50%) as long as the expense is for food or beverages provided by a restaurant. This provision is effective for expenses incurred January 1, 2021, thru December 31, 2022.

Second Round of PPP Funds Available

The new round of PPP — or PPP2 — is similar to the first round of PPP loans, but includes several important differences:

1) PPP2 loans are available to both first-time qualified borrowers and to businesses that previously received a PPP loan. Specifically, previous PPP recipients may apply for another loan of up to $2 million if they:

  • Have 300 or fewer employees.
  • Have used or will use the full amount of their first PPP loan.
  • Can show a 25% gross revenue decline in any 2020 quarter compared with the same quarter in 2019.

2) PPP2 loans are now available to Sec. 501(c)(6) business leagues, such as chambers of commerce, visitors’ bureaus, and destination marketing organizations, if:

  • They have 300 or fewer employees, and
  • Their lobbying activities comprise no more than 15% of their total activities, and cost no more than $1 million during the most recent tax year that ended prior to February 15, 2020.

3) Other first-time borrowers that may now apply for PPP loans include:

  • Businesses with 500 or fewer employees that are eligible for other SBA 7(a) loans.
  • Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and eligible self-employed individuals.
  • Not-for-profits, including churches.
  • Accommodation and food services operations (those with NAICS codes starting with 72) with fewer than 300 employees per physical location.

4) Borrowers that returned all or part of a previous PPP loan may reapply for the maximum amount available to them.

Perhaps the best part of the new law specifies that business expenses paid with forgiven PPP loans ARE tax-deductible. This reverses previous IRS guidance that such expenses could not be deducted.

PPP Forgiveness Criteria Expanded

As before, the costs eligible for loan forgiveness include payroll, rent, covered mortgage interest and utilities. However, PPP2 also makes the following potentially forgivable:

  • Covered worker protection and facility modification expenditures, including personal protective equipment, to comply with COVID-19 federal health and safety guidelines.
  • Expenditures to suppliers that are essential to the recipient’s current operations.
  • Covered operating costs, such as software, cloud computing services and accounting needs.

To be eligible for full loan forgiveness, PPP2 borrowers will have to spend no less than 60% of the funds on payroll over a period of either eight or 24 weeks. PPP2 borrowers may receive a loan amount of up to 2.5 times their average monthly payroll costs in the year prior to the loan or the calendar year, but the maximum loan amount has been cut to $2 million. PPP2 borrowers with NAICS codes starting with 72 (hotels and restaurants) can get up to 3.5 times their average monthly payroll costs, subject to the $2 million maximum.

The new COVID-19 relief law creates a simplified forgiveness application process for loans of $150,000 or less. It also repeals the requirement that PPP borrowers deduct the amount of any EIDL advance from their PPP forgiveness amount.

Tax Deductibility for PPP Expenses Clarified

Perhaps the best part of the new law specifies that business expenses paid with forgiven PPP loans ARE tax-deductible. This reverses previous IRS guidance that such expenses could not be deducted. The new law states that “no deduction shall be denied, no tax attribute shall be reduced, and no basis increase shall be denied, by reason of the exclusion from gross income provided” by Section 1106 of the CARES Act (which has been redesignated as Section 7A of the Small Business Act). This provision applies to both PPP1 and PPP2 loans.

Keep in mind, however, that the state of Georgia may not follow the new federal rules regarding business expenses. For example, for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2018, and before January 1, 2019, Georgia has NOT adopted any of the 2019 or 2020 federal changes, including the federal CARES Act. So we may need to wait a bit — or file an amended state return — to find out how Georgia will handle the newly passed federal tax law.

We’re currently putting together a list of items we’ll need from you to file your taxes. Please bear with us as we negotiate all the changes involved due to COVID-19. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Source: Journal of Accountancy

Prepare Now for Tax Season

We expect tax season to be a little more chaotic this year, so we’ll be putting together a checklist of items you’ll need to supply with your paperwork for us to prepare and file your taxes. Look for it early next year!

Beginning on January 8, 2021, we’ll be open on Fridays to assist you with your tax and financial planning needs.

We’re also taking tax appointments now if you’re a new client or have major changes to your taxes. Plan ahead and call Amber at 706-632-7850 to reserve your spot. Note that you do NOT need an appointment for us to handle your tax preparation — you can just drop off your files when you’re ready.

Money Brief: New $600 Stimulus Payments

You can expect to receive $600 directly deposited into your bank account within the next week or two, if you haven’t already. Paper checks have also started mailing out. The payments are part of the COVID-19 relief package signed by President Trump on December 27. Eligible individuals who meet income limits will receive $600; couples, $1,200; and families, an additional $600 per child. As before, your most recent tax return determines your eligibility for the stimulus payment — you’ll receive the full amount if you made under $75,000 as an individual or $150,000 as a couple.

Money Brief: GDOL Update

If you are a Georgia business owner, note that your 2021 Annual Unemployment Insurance (UI) Tax Rate Notice will be delayed. The Georgia Department of Labor expects to release the notices on the Employer Portal in February. Because of this, Employer Quarterly Tax and Wage reports will NOT be accepted for the 1st quarter of 2021 until the new tax rates are released. Look for an email once the 2021 tax rate notices are published — they will NOT be mailed. If you are not already registered on the GDOL Employer Portal, be sure to register to avoid delays in receiving your notice. Go to dol.georgia.gov, click on the Employers tab, and select Employer Portal.

Money Brief: 2021 Mileage Rates Decrease

The standard mileage rate for business use of a vehicle is decreasing in 2021 — to 56 cents per mile — down from 57.5 cents per mile in 2020. The rate applies for self-employed taxpayers who deduct automobile expenses if they qualify as ordinary and necessary business expenses, and employers who reimburse their employees for operating an automobile for business.

Money Brief: EITC/ACTC May Delay Refunds

If you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit, your refund (if any) may be delayed. By law, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with EITC/ACTC — until at least mid-February. If you choose direct deposit, EITC/ACTC-related refunds should be available by the first week of March.

Is Your “Side Hustle” a Hobby or a Business?

Is Your “Side Hustle” a Hobby or a Business?

With a little extra time at home on your hands this year, you may have taken up a new hobby — maybe selling photographs, creating skin-care products or trading antiques — whether for fun or to make a few extra bucks. But is it just a hobby? Maybe you’re thinking it could turn into a new business venture. What’s the difference? And how does it affect your taxes?

The general thinking is that a business is operated to make a profit. A hobby, on the other hand, is engaged in for sport or recreation — it’s not intended to make a profit.

Whatever you consider your “side hustle” to be, keep in mind that you must report income earned on your annual federal tax return. How it’s reported depends on whether it’s a business or a hobby.

Differentiating Between a Hobby and a Business

The IRS usually considers your activity a business if you’ve made a profit for three of the past five years. Otherwise, you have to establish a profit motive. Consider how you would answer the following questions to help determine whether your hobby is really a business:

  • Is the activity carried out in a businesslike manner, where you maintain complete and accurate books and records?
  • Does the time and effort you put into the activity show that you intend to make it profitable?
  • Do you depend on income from the activity?
  • Are any losses due to circumstances beyond your control — or are they normal for the startup phase of your business?
  • Have you change your methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Do you have the knowledge needed to carry out the activity as a successful business?
  • Were you successful in making a profit from similar activities in the past?
  • Do you expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of any assets used in the activity?

Tax Consequences of Hobbies vs. Businesses

If you make money from a hobby, you must report that income on your tax return (Schedule 1, Form 1040). The income will not be subject to self-employment tax. However, because of tax law changes made via the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you cannot deduct expenses for that hobby. Previously, you may have been able to add them to your miscellaneous itemized deductions, but these can no longer be deducted.

If your activity is considered a business, however, you will report your income on Schedule C. And you’ll pay self-employment tax on your earnings. However, you will also be able to deduct your expenses, including any qualifying home office expenses. These deductions can help reduce the amount of tax due on any income you made.

The rules regarding income and expenses for hobbies and businesses can be confusing. If you’re not sure the best way to handle your new “side hustle,” contact us. We’ll be happy to help you sort out the specifics of your situation.

Lodging Tax Increase Coming

If you’re a cabin rental owner, please note that BOTH Fannin County AND City of Blue Ridge Lodging Tax Rates are going up!

The county’s tax rate will rise from 5% to 6% beginning January 1, 2021. For rentals within the city limits, the City of Blue Ridge’s Hotel/Motel Excise Tax will increase from 5% to 8%, effective November 1, 2020.

This is in addition to the 7% that goes to the State of Georgia.

Let us know if you need help updating your systems for the new tax rates. We’ll be glad to help you with the process.

MONEY BRIEF #1

If you filed your 2019 return by this year’s extended July 15 deadline and either received a refund in the past three months or will receive a refund, you may also receive an interest payment from the IRS. The IRS is sending interest payments — averaging about $18 each — to about 13.9 million individual taxpayers who are receiving refunds. If you received your refund by direct deposit, you will also receive your interest payment by direct deposit. Otherwise, you will receive a check. Note that any interest payment you receive from the IRS of $10 or more is taxable — you will receive a Form 1099-INT and must report it on your 2020 federal income tax return you file in 2021.

MONEY BRIEF #2

Did you know unemployment compensation is taxable? Any UI benefits you receive this year will be considered taxable on your 2020 tax return next spring. This is especially important to keep in mind if you chose not to have tax withheld from your benefits when you applied. Taxable benefits include regular UI plus any additional unemployment compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. If you did not choose withholding, or if the amount withheld is not enough, you can make quarterly estimated tax payments instead. Payment for the first two quarters of 2020 was due on July 15. Third and fourth quarter payments are due on September 15, 2020, and January 15, 2021, respectively. If you’re unsure of your situation, contact us today and we’ll help you work it out.

What You Need to Know About Unemployment

What You Need to Know About Unemployment

Thanks to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, unemployment payment amounts will increase, more folks will qualify, and benefits will be available longer.

Previously, only those workers who receive W-2s from their employer qualified for unemployment benefits. However, with the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) through the CARES Act, folks who are self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors or have a limited work history can now also file for unemployment benefits.

The normal unemployment application is being modified for these types of workers and is now available on the Georgia DOL website. If you have already filed a claim with the GDOL and will be eligible to potentially receive benefits under this program, you do NOT have to refile your claim. Instead, you will be sent an email with a link to provide additional information for the PUA Program.

Other Important Details

GDOL expects to start distributing an additional $600 from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation next week. This would be added on top of Georgia’s existing unemployment benefits package, which ranges from $55 to $365 weekly. So, the most someone could receive weekly is $965 with the federal and state packages combined.

  • The Georgia DOL time period for receiving unemployment benefits has been extended from 14 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • With the CARES Act, the time period could increase 13 more weeks.
  • UI recipients can earn up to $300 per week before earnings begin to count against their benefits.
  • If your employer files the unemployment claim for you (the preferred method), you should receive your first payment within a week or so. If you file a claim yourself, it could take up to three weeks.
  • Payments will arrive via a “Way2Go” Debit MasterCard that has been sent to you or by direct deposit.

You can visit the GDOL website to access an application and follow step-by- instructions and video tutorials on applying for unemployment.

The Georgia Department of Labor processed 390,132 unemployment claims during the week of March 29-April 4 — more claims in seven days than were processed in all of 2019! And the U.S. Department of Labor announced that around 10% of the total American workforce are currently unemployed.