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Your 2018 Taxes – Get Started Now

Your 2018 Taxes – Get Started Now

While we are not yet at the end of the year, even though it is fast approaching, now is a great time to take a moment and start your year-end tax planning for 2018. It particularly necessary this tax year because of the changes to the tax law that became effective in 2018. As a result of the significant changes in the law, your taxes may look different this year, so you should allow for some extra time in the preparation. Getting started early is even more essential if you are a business owner, have moved to another state, or plan to make charitable contributions before the year ends.

Things to Consider

Now is the best opportunity to make use of tax strategies to take advantage of tax-deferred growth opportunities, charitable-giving opportunities, as well as tax-advantaged investments among others. During this tax planning process, you will also want to make sure you maximize deductions and credits ahead of the busy tax season. As you consider your year-end options, make sure to sit down with your attorney and financial advisors to review your investments to ensure they still align with your goals, the economic landscape, and the current tax law. This conversation can help you identify where adjustments may be necessary for the future.

What You Need

Know that the “traditional” year-end planning still applies to your 2018 taxes. Make sure you are harvesting losses to offset your gains, are contributing the appropriate amount to your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and/or Health Savings (HSA) accounts, and have taken the necessary required minimum distribution from your IRA (if this applies to you). Other things to consider is fully funding employer-sponsored retirement plan contributions such as 401(k, 403(b) or 457 plans before the end of the year. The same is true for college savings plans, such as 529 plans. You may even want to consider converting a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

Beyond these important points, also make sure to start gathering the necessary documentation you may need for any deductions that you are claiming. These may include copies of statements or receipts regarding your property taxes, medical expenses, dental expenses, child care expenses, education expenses, moving expenses, and heating/cooling expenses. For business owners, the new 199A deduction for business income will have additional paperwork requirements. It’s best to work with your bookkeeper and accountant at gathering those records now, rather than waiting until the hectic tax season.

Seek Professional Advice

With changes to the U.S. tax code now in effect, it is especially important to make the right decisions when it comes to your year-end financial moves. A skilled tax attorney or financial advisor can help explain your options under the law and provide you with guidance so that you can make the best decisions for you, your family, and your future. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at (858) 432-3923.  I look forward to being of service to you.

 

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The Cost of Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors

The Cost of Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors

The rise of the “gig economy” has led to a dramatic increase in the number of businesses using independent contractors (IC) instead of traditional W2 employees. At the same time, there’s been a sharp rise in the number of companies being penalized and/or sued for misclassifying workers as ICs.

Indeed, within the past 10 years, there’s been heightened scrutiny from regulatory agencies at all levels and numerous lawsuits filed over the issue. These lawsuits have forced companies like FedEx, Uber, and Citigroup to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to those they’ve misclassified.

State-level studies show that between 10 and 20 percent of employers misclassify at least one employee as an IC, and you can be penalized regardless of whether or not you did it intentionally. Given this, you should carefully scrutinize all of your workers and have the proper contracts in place to shield your business. Fortunately, with legal guidance from me, you can easily avoid these risks and stay totally compliant.

However, since you can save an estimated 20 to 40 percent on labor costs by not contributing to a worker’s Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits, you may be tempted to take your chances and pass off some of your employees as ICs. But in doing so, you’re risking serious consequences, which have the potential to destroy your business.

Getting busted
It’s easy for the IRS to be alerted to a potential misclassification. A worker can file an SS-8 form, alleging you’re in violation of the law, or he or she might simply receive a 1099 and W-2 in the same year. Beyond that, you can also get caught if a worker tries to claim unemployment or disability, as this results in an audit of your business.

Plus, because there’s no single test to determine a worker’s classification, it can be easy to misclassify a worker by mistake. And regardless of whether or not the misclassification was intentional, if the allegation proves valid, you’re potentially on the hook for paying back taxes, benefits, and numerous fines.

Fines, Back Payments, and Penalties
If you misclassify an employee, you face fines from the U.S. Department of Labor, IRS, and state agencies that can total millions of dollars. Moreover, you can be held responsible for paying back-taxes and interest on employee wages, along with FICA taxes that weren’t originally withheld. Failure to make these payments can result in additional fines.

You can also be held liable for failing to pay overtime and minimum wage under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act as well as under state laws. Such claims can go back as far as three years if it’s found you knowingly made the misclassification.

If the IRS believes your misclassification was intentional, there’s also the possibility of criminal and civil penalties. Additional penalties and fines can be assessed depending on the severity of your misclassification.

Back benefits and a tarnished reputation
Outside of the fines paid to state and federal agencies, if an employee is misclassified, they’re eligible to claim employee benefits he or she missed out on. These can include healthcare coverage, stock options, 401(k) matches, PTO, and even unpaid break time.

Don’t Take The Chance
’With such severe consequences, it’s simply not worth taking the chance of misclassifying your workers. To this end, you should consult with me to make sure you have all of your bases covered.

Whether you need help reviewing your IC classification practices or would like assistance with creating sound employment contracts, I can be of service to you. Contact my office at (858) 432-3923 to get started.

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I’m Starting a New Business – Should I Use an LLC (Taxed as a Partnership) or an S Corporation?

I’m Starting a New Business – Should I Use an LLC (Taxed as a Partnership) or an S Corporation?

Entrepreneurship has been called the new American dream.  Being self-employed starts with an idea that develops into a business plan, but not without careful financial and legal considerations. Among the decisions that new business owners grapple with is whether to form a limited liability company taxed as a partnership (LLC) or a corporation making an S election (S corp).* There are similarities and differences between LLCs and S corps that business owners should understand before choosing between the two.

Similarities

  • Both entities are created by filing the necessary paperwork with the state. Unlike a sole proprietorship or a general partnership, LLCs and corporations are not recognized under state law until the filing has been made. In addition to state filings required to form the corporation, a special filing on Form 2553 is required for the state-law corporation to elect S status for federal tax purposes.
  • Both entities provide owners with limited liability, meaning the owner’s personal assets are protected from any business creditors’ claims.
  • Assuming an LLC does not make an election to be taxed as a corporation, both LLCs and S corps are pass-through tax entities, allowing business profits and losses to flow through and be reported on the owners’ personal tax returns.

Differences

  • Unlike LLCs, which can have an unlimited number and type of owners, S corps are subject to strict ownership rules. S corps can have no more than 100 shareholders, may not have non-U.S. citizens as shareholders, and cannot be owned by corporations, LLCs, partnerships, or many types of trusts.
  • As opposed to LLCs, which have flexibility in structuring the economic arrangement among its owners, S corps cannot issue classes of stock with different economic rights. However, an S corp can issue voting and non-voting classes of stock.
  • S corps are subject to mandatory requirements as to how the entity is managed. For example, S corps are often required to adopt bylaws, issue stock, hold regular meetings, and maintain meeting minutes within its corporate records. LLCs, on the other hand, are not subject to these types of requirements.
  • Owners of S corps, unlike LLCs, may be able to reduce or eliminate the need to pay self-employment tax. An S corp owner can be treated as an employee and paid a reasonable salary. Employment taxes are withheld from the reasonable salary, while corporate earnings in excess of that salary may be distributed to the owners as unearned income, free of self-employment tax.
  • S corp owners must share profits equally based on their percentage of ownership, while LLC owners have wide latitude to split profits and losses in any manner that is agreed upon.
  • LLCs are generally cheaper to form and operate.
  • S corps generally provide enhanced asset protection, as the structure creates more separation between the owners and the company.

*For the sake of simplicity, this brief overview is based on the assumption that (i) any reference to “LLC” is to an LLC taxed as a partnership, and (ii) any reference to “S corp” is to a corporation taxed as an S corporation. These entities are easily confused, in part because an LLC can make an S election. In that case, you have a state law LLC taxed as an S corporation under federal law. Why would anyone choose to do that? In many cases, it is the business owner’s desire to avoid strict state law corporate compliance coupled with the desire for favorable S corp taxation.

Each business has its own set of circumstance to consider and it is important to obtain competent legal advice when staring your own business.  I am here to discuss how to properly structure, form, and protect your business. Please give me a call at (858) 432-3923 to schedule a consultation.

 

 

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Rewarding Your Employees By Giving Them the Business

Rewarding Your Employees By Giving Them the Business

Retiring from your business can a tough decision. To ensure that what you have built continues on, there needs to be a plan for succession. For some people, they have spent years grooming a child or other family member to take over, wanting the business to stay in the family. Others look to sell to a third party for a quick way out that will also give them a nest egg for their next phase of life. However, there is a third option–transferring the business to your employees. If you like the idea of transferring your business to long-time faithful employees who have contributed greatly to the company’s success over the years, below are a couple of options for you to consider.

Management Buyout

This type of transfer is a process, not an event. The management team comes together with the financing and arranges a deal with you to buy the assets and operations of the business. A management buyout has the benefit of being quicker and more confidential than a third party transaction, and the structure of the deal can be more flexible. There is also the added benefit that the legacy of the company will continue in the hands of those in management who have earned the opportunity to buy the business with his or her loyalty and hard work.

With this option, you may also be able to provide some continued service to the company as an officer and/or director. In addition, you may even be able to continue in some part of the business that you enjoy. And you may be able to keep some control over the company.

When considering this option, it is important that you consider the following:

  • How much cash, debt, and earn-out will be involved?
  • When will the transfer of control occur?
  • If management has little or no capital, where will they get the money for the buyout?

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs)

An ESOP is a qualified plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Instead of selling directly to management, you are making the sale to the ESOP, which has been set up by the company. The ESOP can either attempt to get bank financing to purchase the stock from you, or you can take a note for the value of your shares and have the repayment taken care of internally. The employees become plan participants, similar to other employee incentive programs and are entitled to benefits at certain points as determined by the terms of the ESOP.

This option is similar to a management buyout, but with potentially valuable tax benefits. With an ESOP, you are selling stock in the company, not the assets, so the taxes are capital gains, not ordinary income taxes. Because of this distinction, there are planning techniques available that may help save on taxes with this transaction.

When reviewing this option, there are a few things to consider:

  • In order to repay the note, most (if not all) of the excess cash flow from the business may be needed, instead of using it to grow the company;
  • The company must set aside money to meet repurchase obligations on the ESOP when an employee retires, dies, becomes incapacitated or terminates his or her employment after vesting;
  • Stock in an ESOP is allocated based on payroll, so there are no extra management incentives.

Both management buyout and ESOPs are options that should be considered if you are looking to transfer your business to your employees.  I am a knowledgeable Estate Planning and Business Attorney and I am here to help you. Give my office a call at (858) 432-3923 and I would be happy to discuss these options more and find a solution that best protects you and your legacy.

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Passing Along a Benefit, Not a Burden

Passing Along a Benefit, Not a Burden

Why Incapacity Planning for Business Owners is an Indispensable Component of Your Plan

Most business owners have their estate planning prepared because they are worried about what will happen to their business after they are dead. However, proper estate planning has the added benefit of allowing you to make plans for what will happen if you are incapacitated or needing to be away from your business for an extended period of time.

As the owner, you are responsible for the day-to-day operations of your business. This is a full-time responsibility. But what will happen if you can’t be there all the time? You don’t necessarily have to be in a coma to be unable to participate in your business. You could be on an extended vacation or have a medical diagnosis that requires you to take several months away for treatment or recovery. During this time, your business needs to continue on so that you and your employees can continue to take home money.

It is important to think ahead about who will be in charge of the day-to-day operations because a ship without a captain can be dangerous. Not only does this individual need to understand the business, he or she needs to have the respect of your employees, and be confident in making tough decisions in your absence. Without this planning, everyone could jump to the conclusion that he or she is in charge, or alternatively, no one will step up, resulting in chaos either way.

If you have family members working in your business it is also important to explain to them what will happen in your absence and who will be in charge so that someone does not assume they are in charge just because they are family. Importantly, remember that just because your family is involved with your business does not mean that he or she is the best choice to succeed you.

I can help you develop a plan to keep your business running while you are away. From choosing the right individual to putting processes in place for your incapacity, I am here to help.  Feel free to contact me at (858) 432-3923 for any questions you may have.

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