Do you need to think about the alternative minimum tax?

You may not have thought much about the alternative minimum tax, or AMT, since Congress passed a law that permanently fixed the exemption. But the tax, which you calculate separately from your regular tax liability, is still around. Here’s how the AMT might apply to your 2016 tax return.

Certain income and deductions, known as preference items, are added to or subtracted from the income shown on your federal income tax return to arrive at your AMT taxable income. For example, certain bond interest that you exclude from your regular taxable income must be included when computing income for the AMT. This is a “preference item” because tax-exempt interest gets preferential treatment under ordinary federal income tax rules.

AMT “adjustments” also affect whether you’ll owe the tax. These include personal exemptions and your standard deduction. In the AMT calculation, these taxable-income reducers are not deductible. Instead, they’re replaced with one flat exemption, which is generally the amount of income you can exclude from the AMT. For your 2016 return, the AMT exemption is $83,800 when you’re married filing a joint return or are a surviving spouse, $53,900 when you file as single, and $41,900 if you’re married and file separately. The exemption decreases once your income reaches a certain level.

Finally, only some itemized deductions, such as charitable contributions, are allowed in the AMT calculation. Others, including medical expenses and mortgage interest, are computed using less favorable rules.

Need help determining whether the AMT will apply to your 2016 return? Give us a call.

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Get Ready for Tax Prep: What You Should Do

April 17 is still months away, but now’s the time to start preparing.

You’re undoubtedly very busy right now. It’s the middle of the holiday season and moving quickly toward the end of the year, so you probably have reports and other documents to prepare. Perhaps you’re running sales or offering discounts to pare down your inventory before December 31.

TaxPlan 1216 image 1_zpsfgtnxvne.jpgWhy should you be thinking about something that’s not due until next spring?

Two reasons. First, there are tax-related activities you may want to know about and take care of before the calendar flips over to January. And second, you’re already deep into year-end wrap-ups of one kind or another. Some of your tasks may be able to do double duty.

Give your accounting application a workout.

You’ll want to have all of your 2016 expenses recorded, your bills paid up, and all income entered.

  •  Pay special attention to expenses, many of which will be tax-deductible. What about employee expense reports? Ask your staff to submit expenses quickly or risk not getting paid in 2016. Same goes for any billable time they may have forgotten. Have you or your employees bought anything that needs to be charged to a customer?
  • You’ll find a lot of your expenses in your bills.
  •  How do your aged receivables look? Although December is a terrible time to try to collect outstanding debts, at least get on past-due customers’ radar. You may not get paid until January, but you’ll have started the conversation.

Stress the importance of accurate, promptly-submitted timesheets. If you have full-time or contract employees, you’ll have to prepare and dispatch 1040s and/or 1099s in January. Since people will be coming and going during December, send out an email or otherwise remind your employees they’ll need to take care of timesheets before December’s end. You’ll want a solid year of payroll information when tax time rolls around.

TaxPlan 1216 image 2_zpsllupyo3p.jpgCheck your estimated tax payment history for 2016.

You should have made three payments by now. If you need to catch up, try to do so before the end of the year. You may still be penalized, but make a good-faith effort to have fulfilled your 2016 quarterly IRS obligations.

Designate a special place for all tax-related information. This is more applicable if you do your accounting tasks using paper and/or Excel, since accounting applications serve as clearinghouses for all of your financial information. If you do a lot of your financial tracking in Excel, be sure that those spreadsheets are saved to one folder, with nothing extraneous included. Store papers in folders with flaps, not file folders that can spill critical documents.

Shoot for an early filing. You can’t, of course, actually file your taxes until sometime in mid-January, when the IRS releases its finalized forms and opens the official filing season. If you find out in January that you’re going to owe money, you still have almost three months to pull that together.

Make your to-do list for January.

Again, January will fly by because of the holiday slow-down. Remember to:

  • Make your fourth quarterly estimated payment by January 17, 2017.
  • Create and distribute 1099s and W2s.
  • Educate yourself on any end-of-year tax laws changes from 2016. It’s a good idea to do this throughout the year so you can do any financial planning necessary, but certainly see if anything slipped in under the wire.

We can help by answering any last-minute tax questions, and we’d be happy to work with you on preparation. Either way, January is a good time to start thinking about your 2017 income taxes, as odd as that sounds. Year-round tax planning gives you peace of mind throughout the year, and can help you minimize your tax obligation.

Stock images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

 

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Complete these retirement plan steps before year-end

December 31 is the last day you can benefit from certain retirement tax breaks. For example, if you haven’t put the maximum amount allowed in your 401(k) – $18,000 in 2016 – increasing your contributions can save you money. If you’re over age 50, you can make a catch-up contribution to a 401(k) of an additional $6,000. If you’re age 70½ or older, remember to take required minimum distributions from retirement plans to avoid a penalty. For more tips on managing your retirement plans, contact us.

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Ringing Out 2016 in QuickBooks

2017 is just around the corner. Now’s the time to do your end-of-year QuickBooks tasks.

Since early January of this year, you’ve been faithfully creating new records, entering transactions, and recording payments. You’ve run basic reports. You’ve done your collection duties. You may have paid employees and submitted payroll taxes.

Now the end of the year is rapidly approaching. In the midst of holiday get-togethers, gift shopping, and perhaps preparing for travel, you probably have a list of work tasks that must be completed by December 31.

Is your annual QuickBooks wrap-up on that list? It should be. Here are some of the things we suggest you fit into your busy schedule sometime this month.

Create and send year-end statements.

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As your customers wrap up 2016, too, it’s good to send statements to past-due accounts.

In an ideal world, all of the invoices that are currently due would be paid off by the end of the year. We all know that that’s not usually the reality. Two reports can help you here: the A/R Aging Summary and Open Invoices.

Give everyone a chance to clear their accounts before December 31 by sending statements. Click Statements on the Home page (or Customers | Create Statements) to open the window pictured above.

You have multiple options here that are fairly self-explanatory. The screen above is set up to create statements for all customers who have an open balance as of the date you select, but not for inactive customers or those with a zero balance or no account activity. That way, no one who’s paid in full to date will receive a statement. Of course, if you didn’t want statements created for anyone who’s less than 30 days past due, you’d click in the box in front of Include only transactions over and enter a “30” in the following field. Questions about all of this? Give us a call.

Tip: You can also find out who’s overdue by clicking on the Customers tab in the left vertical pane to open the Customer Information screen. Click on the down arrow to the right of the field just below Customers & Jobs. QuickBooks provides several filters for your list.

Reduce your inventory.

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Want to discount all or selected items in your inventory by the same percentage or amount? Open the Customers menu and click Change Item Prices. We can work with you on the whole item pricing process.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day might be a good time to sell excess inventory by having a sale. If you only sell a few products, you probably know what hasn’t sold well in 2016. If your stable of products is larger, you can run QuickBooks reports like Inventory Stock Status by Item and Sales by Item Detail to identify your slow-sellers and discount them. You may need to filter your reports to see the right data. Talk to us about customization options if you’re unsure of this.

Clean up your contact lists.

If you don’t maintain your customer and vendor lists, you’ll eventually start wasting time scrolling through them when you enter transactions. So this would be a good time to QBC 1216 image 3_zpseoaaqacx.jpgdesignate those contacts that you’ve not dealt with in 2016 as Inactive (you can delete their records entirely, but we advise against that). Simply open a Customer record, for example, and click the small pencil icon in the upper right to edit it. Click on the box in front of Customer is inactive.

Send holiday greetings to customers and vendors.

It’s getting a little late to send a holiday greeting/thanks-for-your-business note in December. Consider doing this in January (Best Wishes for a Successful 2017!) when your customers’ and vendors’ lives have slowed down a bit. You’re less likely to get lost in the crowd. If your lists are short enough, personalize these cards as much as possible. At least sign them by hand if you can.

Tip: You can print customer labels for your cards directly from QuickBooks. Open the File menu and then click Print Forms | Labels.

Run advanced reports.

Here’s where we come in. If we’re not already creating and analyzing QuickBooks’ advanced financial reports (found in the Accountant & Taxes submenu of Reports) monthly or quarterly, talk to us about it. They’re important, and they give you insight that you can’t get on your own. This is another activity that can spill into January.

We’d like to thank you for being a client this year, and to wish you a successful 2017!

Stock image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Are you part of the “sharing” economy?

The IRS defines the “sharing” economy as economic activity generated through the use of technology that lets you earn money from your assets, such as a car. Income from these activities, including room rentals and car rides, is taxable, and you may be able to deduct related expenses. Depending on the work you do, special tax rules can apply. Contact us for information about how to report your sharing activity income.

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5 QuickBooks Online Add-On Apps You May Need in 2017

Not finding quite everything you need in QuickBooks Online? Here are some handy add-on apps available.

QuickBooks Online may work for you just fine as is. After all, it was designed to meet the needs of the millions of small businesses that want to manage and track their income and expenses, create records and transactions, and run reports to gauge their financial health.

QuickBooks Online was also designed to grow along with your business. But there’s no need for Intuit to add internal features to do so. In fact, that would make it too expensive and unwieldy for many companies.

Instead, Intuit has partnered with other small business websites to provides add-ons—applications that extend the usefulness of QuickBooks Online in one or more areas, like accounts receivable and payable, inventory, and expense-tracking. They integrate easily to share data and do the extra work you need. Here are some of them to consider.

Bill.com

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Bill.com automates your accounts receivable and payable processes. It supports electronic billing and payment, as well as multiple approval levels.

You can certainly enter and pay bills using QuickBooks Online. And you can send invoices to customers and receive payments. But adding a connection to Bill.com gives you more advanced options for accounts receivable and payable. Simply send your bills to Bill.com by scanning, emailing, faxing, or taking a picture with your smartphone. The site’s automation tools turn them into digital records and route them through your specified approvers. Once approved, they’re paid electronically or by paper check. Invoices are just as easy to process; customers can pay by using PayPal, credit card, or ACH. Bill.com’s mobile app makes it possible to keep up with invoices and bills while you’re out of the office.

Expensify

Are your employees still paper-clipping receipts to handwritten expense reports? This method is unnecessarily time-consuming – and often inaccurate. Expensify solves both problems. Your staff can take photos of receipts with their smartphones. Expensify then converts the expense information into coded digital records and submits them for approval based on your company’s policies. Credit card purchases can be automatically imported, too. All data is synchronized with QuickBooks Online in real-time and coded to reflect your preference of QBO’s expense accounts, customers/jobs, etc. Once you’ve approved a report, you can have the money deposited in the employee’s bank account the next day.

TSheets Time Tracking

TSheets employee scheduling software automates tasks that QuickBooks Online doesn’t do: scheduling and remote time-tracking for your hourly employees. Your staff no longer has to fill in paper timesheets. Instead, they can use their smartphones to track their hours and GPS location points. And while Excel is certainly better for creating schedules than paper, TSheets takes over that task, too. After you’ve approved timesheets, that information is sent over to QuickBooks, ready for use in your payroll processing.

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Your employees can easily “punch” in and out using their smartphones. TSheets also uses GPS technology so that your staff members’ locations are always known to you.

SOS Inventory

QuickBooks Online performs some basic inventory management tasks. You can create records for items and use them in transactions, and keep track of the number of items in stock so you know when to reorder (or have a sale). SOS Inventory goes well beyond those capabilities. You can create sales orders, track cost history and serial numbers, and document work-in-progress (WIP). SOS Inventory supports multiple locations and the entire pick/pack/ship process.

Insightly CRM

You can create thorough customer records in QuickBooks Online and document some of your interaction. But it doesn’t facilitate true Customer Relationship Management (CRM) nor project management. Insightly CRM does both. It lets you build exceptionally thorough customer profiles so that you can view social streams, email history, and any events, opportunities, or events related to them. Its project management features include the ability to track by pipelines or milestones, define contact roles and custom fields, and generate advanced project reporting.

QuickBooks Online Integration Key

All of these apps can work in standalone settings, but their integration with QuickBooks Online and their mobile capabilities create powerful partnerships that help you serve both your customers and your employees in ways that QuickBooks Online alone can’t.

We’re not trying to sell you applications here. Our concern is that you’re getting as much out of QuickBooks itself as you can. We can steer you toward add-on solutions if that seems necessary, but we’re always happy to work with you on getting to know QuickBooks Online better and matching its capabilities to your company’s needs.

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S corporation loss for 2016? Check your basis

Typically, stock basis in an S corporation begins with the capital contribution you make to get the company started. At the end of each taxable year, your stock basis is adjusted to reflect your business’s operating results. After your stock basis reaches zero, you may be able to deduct additional losses, up to the extent of your debt basis. However, once your stock and debt basis are both reduced to zero, losses incurred are suspended, and you get no current tax benefit. Contact us if you’re in this situation. We can provide a solution and guide you through the rules.

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