Three tax breaks for small businesses

Sometimes, bigger isn’t better: Your small- or medium-sized business may be eligible for some tax breaks that aren’t available to larger businesses. Here are some examples.

1. QBI deduction

For 2018 through 2025, the qualified business income (QBI) deduction is available to eligible individuals, trusts and estates. But it’s not available to C corporations or their shareholders.

The QBI deduction can be up to 20% of:

  • QBI earned from a sole proprietorship or single-member limited liability company (LLC) that’s treated as a sole proprietorship for federal income tax purposes, plus
  • QBI passed through from a pass-through business entity, meaning a partnership, LLC classified as a partnership for federal income tax purposes or S corporation.

Pass-through business entities report tax items to their owners, who then take them into account on their owner-level returns. The QBI deduction rules are complicated, and the deduction can be phased out at higher income levels.

2. Eligibility for cash-method accounting

Businesses that are eligible to use the cash method of accounting for tax purposes have the ability to fine-tune annual taxable income. This is accomplished by timing the year in which you recognize taxable income and claim deductions.

Under the cash method, you generally don’t have to recognize taxable income until you’re paid in cash. And you can generally write off deductible expenses when you pay them in cash or with a credit card.

Only “small” businesses are potentially eligible for the cash method. For this purpose under current law, a small business includes one that has no more than $25 million of average annual gross receipts, based on the preceding three tax years. This limit is adjusted annually for inflation. For tax years beginning in 2022, the limit is $27 million.

3. Section 179 deduction

The Sec. 179 first-year depreciation deduction potentially allows you to write off some (or all) of your qualified asset additions in the first year they’re placed in service. It's available for both new and used property.

For qualified property placed in service in tax years 2018 and beyond, the deduction rules are much more favorable than under prior law. Enhancements include:

Higher deduction. The Sec. 179 deduction has been permanently increased to $1 million with annual inflation adjustments. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, the maximum is $1.08 million.

Liberalized phase-out. The threshold above which the maximum Sec. 179 deduction begins to be phased out is $2.5 million with annual inflation adjustments. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, the phase-out begins at $2.7 million.

The phase-out rule kicks in only if your additions of assets that are eligible for the deduction for the year exceed the threshold for that year. If they exceed the threshold, your maximum deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the excess. Sec. 179 deductions are also subject to other limitations.

Bonus depreciation

While Sec. 179 deductions may be limited, those limitations don’t apply to first-year bonus depreciation deductions. For qualified assets placed in service in 2022, 100% first-year bonus depreciation is available. After this year, the first-year bonus depreciation percentages are scheduled to start going down to 80% for qualified assets placed in service in 2023. They will continue to be reduced until they reach 0% for 2028 and later years.

Contact us to determine if you’re taking advantage of all available tax breaks, including those that are available to small and large businesses alike.

© 2022


Businesses will soon be able to deduct more under the standard mileage rate

Business owners are aware that the price of gas is historically high, which has made their vehicle costs soar. The average nationwide price of a gallon of unleaded regular gas on June 17 was $5, compared with $3.08 a year earlier, according to the AAA Gas Prices website. A gallon of diesel averaged $5.78 a gallon, compared with $3.21 a year earlier.

Fortunately, the IRS is providing some relief. The tax agency announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rate for the last six months of 2022. Taxpayers may use the optional cents-per-mile rate to calculate the deductible costs of operating a vehicle for business.

For the second half of 2022 (July 1–December 31), the standard mileage rate for business travel will be 62.5 cents per mile, up from 58.5 cents per mile for the first half of the year (January 1–June 30). There are different standard mileage rates for charitable and medical driving.

Special situation

Raising the standard mileage rate in the middle of the year is unusual. Normally, the IRS updates the mileage rates once a year at the end of the year for the next calendar year. However, the tax agency explained that “in recognition of recent gasoline price increases, the IRS made this special adjustment for the final months of 2022.” But while the move is uncommon, it’s not without precedent. The standard mileage rate was increased for the last six months of 2011 and 2008 after gas prices rose significantly.

While fuel costs are a significant factor in the mileage figure, the IRS notes that “other items enter into the calculation of mileage rates, such as depreciation and insurance and other fixed and variable costs.”

Two options

The optional standard mileage rate is one of two methods a business can use to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business puroses. Taxpayers also have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicles rather than using the standard mileage rate. This may include expenses such as gas, oil, tires, insurance, repairs, licenses, vehicle registration fees and a depreciation allowance for the vehicle.

From a tax standpoint, you may get a larger deduction by tracking the actual expense method than you would with the standard mileage rate. But many taxpayers don’t want to spend time tracking actual costs. Be aware that there are rules that may prevent you from using one method or the other. For example, if a business wants to use the standard mileage rate for a car it leases, the business must use this rate for the entire lease period. Consult with us about your particular circumstances to determine the best course of action.

© 2022


How to keep remote sales on point

The pandemic has dramatically affected the way people interact and do business. Your company likely undertook various changes to adapt to the initial lockdowns and the ongoing public health guidance over the past two years.

An interesting byproduct of the crisis is that it created a somewhat involuntary experiment in remote work. Many businesses that were previously reluctant to allow telework — and remote sales, in particular — have learned that they can be highly effective.

If your company continues to deploy a remote sales staff, don’t assume it will “run itself” or that this tech-based approach is finished evolving. Here are some tips on keeping remote sales on point.

Devise sound strategies

No matter what the method, sales efforts should be targeted. Remote sales teams can lose their focus when they’re able to literally reach out to the world via the Internet. Don’t let sound sales and marketing strategies fall by the wayside.

For example, it’s far easier to sell to thoroughly researched prospects or, best of all, existing customers — who are already familiar with your products or services and those with whom you have an established relationship.

Continuously leverage technology

This might sound like a silly point given that remote sales are wholly dependent on technology to occur, but tech solutions are constantly evolving. Stay on the lookout for video chat and virtual meeting solutions that might work better for your business.

In addition to video-based products, other types of technology can enhance or support the sales process. For instance, software platforms that enable you to create customized, interactive and visually appealing presentations can help overcome some of the challenges of remote sales. And salespeople can use brandable “microsites” to:

  • Share documentation and other information with customers and prospects,
  • Monitor customers’ activities on these sites, and
  • Tailor follow-ups appropriately.

Also, because different customers have different preferences, it’s a good idea to offer a variety of approaches to communication — including email, texts, instant messaging, videoconferencing and live chat. Good old-fashioned phone calls should, of course, be an option as well.

Provide an outstanding experience

The ultimate goal of any remote sales team is to close deals and bring in revenue. But, rather than getting too caught up in the numbers, your salespeople should always be cognizant of the experience they’re helping provide customers.

Today’s buyers, whether consumer or business-to-business, largely prefer the convenience and comfort of self-service and digital interactions. That’s half the battle. However, your remote sales staff must still ensure that customers’ experiences with both your technology and people are overwhelmingly positive. This might entail occasionally taking off their sales hats and donning a customer service or tech support hat to solve a problem.

Stay competitive

The lasting impact of the pandemic isn’t yet completely clear, but the manner in which it has accelerated the use of remote technology is readily apparent. To stay competitive, businesses need to continue incorporating and enhancing remote sales techniques and IT solutions. Let us assist you in weighing the costs, risks and advantages of your investments in this area.

© 2022


Important considerations when engaging in a like-kind exchange

A business or individual might be able to dispose of appreciated real property without being taxed on the gain by exchanging it rather than selling it. You can defer tax on your gain through a “like-kind” or Section 1031 exchange.

A like-kind exchange is a swap of real property held for investment or for productive use in your trade or business for like-kind investment real property or business real property. For these purposes, “like-kind” is very broadly defined, and most real property is considered to be like-kind with other real property. However, neither the relinquished property nor the replacement property can be real property held primarily for sale. If you’re unsure whether the property involved in your exchange is eligible for a like-kind exchange, contact us to discuss the matter.

Here’s how the tax rules work

If it’s a straight asset-for-asset exchange, you won’t have to recognize any gain from the exchange. You’ll take the same “basis” (your cost for tax purposes) in the replacement property that you had in the relinquished property. Even if you don’t have to recognize any gain on the exchange, you still have to report the exchange on a form that is attached to your tax return.

However, the properties often aren’t equal in value, so some cash or other (non-like-kind) property is thrown into the deal. This cash or other property is known as “boot.” If boot is involved, you’ll have to recognize your gain, but only up to the amount of boot you receive in the exchange. In these situations, the basis you get in the like-kind replacement property you receive is equal to the basis you had in the relinquished property you gave up reduced by the amount of boot you received but increased by the amount of any gain recognized.

Here’s an example

Let’s say you exchange land (investment property) with a basis of $100,000 for a building (investment property) valued at $120,000 plus $15,000 in cash. Your realized gain on the exchange is $35,000: You received $135,000 in value for an asset with a basis of $100,000. However, since it’s a like-kind exchange, you only have to recognize $15,000 of your gain: the amount of cash (boot) you received. Your basis in the new building (the replacement property) will be $100,000, which is your original basis in the relinquished property you gave up ($100,000) plus the $15,000 gain recognized, minus the $15,000 boot received.

Note: No matter how much boot is received, you’ll never recognize more than your actual (“realized”) gain on the exchange.

If the property you’re exchanging is subject to debt from which you’re being relieved, the amount of the debt is treated as boot. The theory is that if someone takes over your debt, it’s equivalent to him or her giving you cash. Of course, if the replacement property is also subject to debt, then you’re only treated as receiving boot to the extent of your “net debt relief” (the amount by which the debt you become free of exceeds the debt you pick up).

Like-kind exchanges can be complex but they’re a good tax-deferred way to dispose of investment or trade or business assets. We can answer any additional questions you have or assist with the transaction.

© 2022


Weathering the storm of rising inflation

Like a slowly gathering storm, inflation has gone from dark clouds on the horizon to a noticeable downpour on both the U.S. and global economies. Is it time for business owners to panic?

Not at all. As of this writing, a full-blown recession is possible but not an absolute certainty. And the impact of inflation itself will vary depending on your industry and the financial strength of your company. Here are some important points to keep in mind during this difficult time.

Government response

For starters, don’t expect any dramatic moves by the federal government. Some smaller steps, however, have been taken.

For instance, the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates to “pump the brakes” on the U.S. economy. And the IRS recently announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rate tax deduction for the last six months of 2022 (July 1 through December 31). The rate for business travel is now 62.5 cents per mile — up from 58.5 cents per mile for the first half of 2022.

This is notable because the IRS usually adjusts mileage rates only once annually at year-end. The tax agency explained: “in recognition of recent gasoline price increases, [we’ve] made this special adjustment for the final months of 2022.”

Otherwise, major tax relief this year is highly unlikely. Some tax breaks are inflation-adjusted — for example, the Section 179 depreciation deduction. However, these amounts were calculated at the end of 2021, so they probably won’t keep up with 2022 inflation. What’s more, many other parts of the tax code aren’t indexed for inflation.

Strategic moves

So, what can you do? First, approach price increases thoughtfully. When inflation strikes, raising your prices might seem unavoidable. After all, if suppliers are charging you more, your profit margin narrows — and the risk of a cash flow crisis goes way up. Just be sure to adjust prices carefully with a close eye on the competition.

Second, take a hard look at your budget and see whether you can reduce or eliminate nonessential expenses. Inflationary times lead many business owners to try to run their companies as leanly as possible. In fact, if you can cut enough costs, you might not need to raise prices much, if at all — a competitive advantage in today’s environment.

Last, consider the bold strategy of taking a growth-oriented approach in response to inflation. That’s right; if you’re in a strong enough cash position, your business could increase its investments in marketing and production to generate more revenue and outpace price escalations. This is a “high risk, high reward” move, however.

Optimal moves

Again, the optimal moves for your company will depend on a multitude of factors related to your industry, size, mission and market. One thing’s for sure: Inflation to some degree is inevitable. Let’s hope it doesn’t get out of control. We can help you generate, organize and analyze the financial information you need to make sound business decisions.

© 2022


3 summertime marketing ideas for 2022

You can’t stop it; you can only hope to use it to your best business advantage. That’s right, summer is on the way and, with it, a variety of seasonal marketing opportunities for small to midsize companies. Here are three ideas to consider.

1. Support summer camps and local sports

Soon, millions of young people will be attending summer camps, both the “day” and “overnight” variety. Do some research into local options and see whether your business can arrange a sponsorship. If the cost is reasonable, you can get your name and logo on camp t-shirts and other items, where both campers and their parents will see them nearly every day for weeks.

Look into using the same strategy with summer sports. Baseball teams sponsored by local businesses are a time-honored tradition that can still pay off. There might be other, similar options as well.

2. Attend outdoor festivals or other public events

The warmer months mean parades, carnivals, outdoor musical performances and other spectacles of summertime bliss. Investigate the costs and logistics of setting up a booth with clear, attention-grabbing signage. Give out product samples or brochures to inform attendees about your company. You might also hand out small souvenirs, such as key chains, pens or magnets with your contact info.

And don’t just stay in the booth — dispatch employees into the crowd. Have staff members walk around outdoor events with samples or brochures. Just be sure to train them to be friendly and nonconfrontational. If appropriate, employees might wear distinctive clothing or even costumes or sandwich boards to draw attention.

3. Heat up your social media strategy

You probably knew this one was coming! For many, if not most, businesses today, using some form of social media to get the word out and interact with customers is a necessity. But hammering the same message 365 days a year isn’t likely to pay off. Tailor your social media strategy to celebrate summer and inspire interaction.

For example, launch a summertime travel photo contest. Come up with a catchy hashtag, preferably involving your company name, and invite followers to share pics from their summer vacation spots. Offer a nominal prize or enticing discount for the top three entries.

Alternatively, look around for some charitable events or activities that you, your leadership team and employees could participate in this summer. Post a narrative and pictures on your social media channels.

Make the most of midyear

As people head outside and on summer trips, raising awareness of your brand could mean a bump in sales and strong midyear revenues. We can help you assess the costs of potential marketing strategies and measure the return on investment of any you pursue.


Want to turn a hobby into a business? Watch out for the tax rules

Like many people, you may have dreamed of turning a hobby into a regular business. You won’t have any tax headaches if your new business is profitable. But what if the new enterprise consistently generates losses (your deductions exceed income) and you claim them on your tax return? You can generally deduct losses for expenses incurred in a bona fide business. However, the IRS may step in and say the venture is a hobby — an activity not engaged in for profit — rather than a business. Then you’ll be unable to deduct losses.

By contrast, if the new enterprise isn’t affected by the hobby loss rules because it’s profitable, all otherwise allowable expenses are deductible on Schedule C, even if they exceed income from the enterprise.

Note: Before 2018, deductible hobby expenses had to be claimed as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to a 2%-of-AGI “floor.” However, because miscellaneous deductions aren’t allowed from 2018 through 2025, deductible hobby expenses are effectively wiped out from 2018 through 2025.

Avoiding a hobby designation

There are two ways to avoid the hobby loss rules:

  1. Show a profit in at least three out of five consecutive years (two out of seven years for breeding, training, showing or racing horses).
  2. Run the venture in such a way as to show that you intend to turn it into a profit-maker, rather than operate it as a mere hobby. The IRS regs themselves say that the hobby loss rules won’t apply if the facts and circumstances show that you have a profit-making objective.

How can you prove you have a profit-making objective? You should run the venture in a businesslike manner. The IRS and the courts will look at the following factors:

  • How you run the activity,
  • Your expertise in the area (and your advisors’ expertise),
  • The time and effort you expend in the enterprise,
  • Whether there’s an expectation that the assets used in the activity will rise in value,
  • Your success in carrying on other activities,
  • Your history of income or loss in the activity,
  • The amount of any occasional profits earned,
  • Your financial status, and
  • Whether the activity involves elements of personal pleasure or recreation.

Recent court case

In one U.S. Tax Court case, a married couple’s miniature donkey breeding activity was found to be conducted with a profit motive. The IRS had earlier determined it was a hobby and the couple was liable for taxes and penalties for the two tax years in which they claimed losses of more than $130,000. However, the court found the couple had a business plan, kept separate records and conducted the activity in a businesslike manner. The court stated they were “engaged in the breeding activity with an actual and honest objective of making a profit.” (TC Memo 2021-140)

Contact us for more details on whether a venture of yours may be affected by the hobby loss rules, and what you should do to avoid a tax challenge.


AI for small to midsize businesses isn’t going away

Artificial intelligence (AI) has made great inroads into certain sectors of the U.S. economy. However, it hasn’t reached many small to midsize businesses (SMBs) in a major way … yet.

In 2021, AI analysis firm Unsupervised published a survey of 520 SMB owners that found 48% of them still found AI too cost prohibitive. Forty percent said their businesses lacked the staff expertise to use it. But the survey also found that one in five owners were implementing some form of AI, and 20% of respondents already using AI believed it had increased their profitability.

Defining the term

People sometimes confuse AI with data analytics or the application of intense mathematics. It’s so much more. AI generally refers to using computers to perform complex tasks typically thought to require human intelligence — for example, image perception, voice recognition, decision-making and problem solving.

Several types of technologies fall under the AI umbrella. One is machine learning, which applies statistical techniques to improve machines’ performance of a specific task over time with little or no programming or human intervention. Another is natural language processing, which uses algorithms to analyze unstructured human language in documents, emails, texts, conversation or otherwise. And a third is robotic process automation, which automates time-consuming repetitive manual tasks that don’t require decision-making.

Finding uses

Going back to the survey above, 28% of SMB owners said they were still determining precisely how to implement AI. The answer for your company depends on what you do and which technologies you rely on. Here are some examples of how businesses can use AI:

HR. AI software can significantly expedite the hiring process by soliciting and screening candidates. It can narrow the field and save interviewing time, freeing up HR staff to deal with other issues that require human attention. AI also might reduce the risk of discrimination claims because human subjectivity plays less of a role in the process.

Communications. Chatbots and other tools make it easier to maintain efficient and effective communications with customers and prospects. Specifically, these tools can respond to frequently asked customer service questions, allowing front-facing employees to focus on more targeted or complex issues.

Growing companies can also use AI tools to automate communications with vendors and employees. Doing so ensures the timely delivery of information and minimizes the chance of costly or embarrassing human errors.

Cybersecurity. Every company, no matter how big or small, faces the threat of hackers and ransomware schemes — and the risk has grown only more intense in recent months.

In fact, given the sheer number of cyberthreats out there, and the virtually infinite ways that cybercriminals can vary their attacks, AI is fast becoming an essential defensive tool. For example, through machine learning, AI can devise “classification algorithms” to detect spam and malware.

Proceeding with caution

AI for business — including SMBs — isn’t going away. Does this mean you should throw caution to the wind and spend exorbitantly on an AI solution today? Not at all. Like any technology initiative, an AI implementation project should involve careful research into your needs and a prudent budget. We can help you weigh the costs vs. benefits of any tech upgrades you’re considering.

© 2022


Are you ready for the 2021 gift tax return deadline?

If you made large gifts to your children, grandchildren or other heirs last year, it’s important to determine whether you’re required to file a 2021 gift tax return. And in some cases, even if it’s not required to file one, it may be beneficial to do so anyway.

Who must file?

The annual gift tax exclusion has increased in 2022 to $16,000 but was $15,000 for 2021. Generally, you must file a gift tax return for 2021 if, during the tax year, you made gifts:

  • That exceeded the $15,000-per-recipient gift tax annual exclusion for 2021 (other than to your U.S. citizen spouse),
  • That you wish to split with your spouse to take advantage of your combined $30,000 annual exclusion for 2021,
  • That exceeded the $159,000 annual exclusion in 2021 for gifts to a noncitizen spouse,
  • To a Section 529 college savings plan and wish to accelerate up to five years’ worth of annual exclusions ($75,000) into 2021,
  • Of future interests — such as remainder interests in a trust — regardless of the amount, or
  • Of jointly held or community property.

Keep in mind that you’ll owe gift tax only to the extent that an exclusion doesn’t apply and you’ve used up your lifetime gift and estate tax exemption ($11.7 million for 2021). As you can see, some transfers require a return even if you don’t owe tax.

Why you might want to file

No gift tax return is required if your gifts for 2021 consisted solely of gifts that are tax-free because they qualify as:

  • Annual exclusion gifts,
  • Present interest gifts to a U.S. citizen spouse,
  • Educational or medical expenses paid directly to a school or health care provider, or
  • Political or charitable contributions.

But if you transferred hard-to-value property, such as artwork or interests in a family-owned business, you should consider filing a gift tax return even if you’re not required to. Adequate disclosure of the transfer in a return triggers the statute of limitations, generally preventing the IRS from challenging your valuation more than three years after you file.

The deadline is April 18

The gift tax return deadline is the same as the income tax filing deadline. For 2021 returns, it’s April 18, 2022 — or October 17, 2022, if you file for an extension. But keep in mind that, if you owe gift tax, the payment deadline is April 18, regardless of whether you file for an extension. If you’re not sure whether you must (or should) file a 2021 gift tax return, contact us.

© 2022


There still may be time to cut your tax bill with an IRA

If you’re getting ready to file your 2021 tax return, and your tax bill is more than you’d like, there might still be a way to lower it. If you’re eligible, you can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA right up until the April 18, 2022, filing date and benefit from the tax savings on your 2021 return.

Do you qualify?

You can make a deductible contribution to a traditional IRA if:

  • You (and your spouse) aren’t an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, or
  • You (or your spouse) are an active participant in an employer plan, but your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) doesn’t exceed certain levels that vary from year-to-year by filing status.

For 2021, if you’re a joint tax return filer and you are covered by an employer plan, your deductible IRA contribution phases out over $105,000 to $125,000 of modified AGI. If you’re single or a head of household, the phaseout range is $66,000 to $76,000 for 2021. For married filing separately, the phaseout range is $0 to $10,000. For 2021, if you’re not an active participant in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, but your spouse is, your deductible IRA contribution phases out with modified AGI of between $198,000 and $208,000.

Deductible IRA contributions reduce your current tax bill, and earnings within the IRA are tax deferred. However, every dollar you take out is taxed in full (and subject to a 10% penalty before age 59½, unless one of several exceptions apply).

IRAs often are referred to as “traditional IRAs” to differentiate them from Roth IRAs. You also have until April 18 to make a Roth IRA contribution. But while contributions to a traditional IRA are deductible, contributions to a Roth IRA aren’t. However, withdrawals from a Roth IRA are tax-free as long as the account has been open at least five years and you’re age 59½ or older. (There are also income limits to contribute to a Roth IRA.)

Another IRA strategy that may help you save tax is to make a deductible IRA contribution, even if you don’t work. In general, you can’t make a deductible traditional IRA contribution unless you have wages or other earned income. However, an exception applies if your spouse is the breadwinner and you’re a homemaker. In this case, you may be able to take advantage of a spousal IRA.

How much can you contribute?

For 2021, if you’re eligible, you can make a deductible traditional IRA contribution of up to $6,000 ($7,000 if you’re 50 or over).

In addition, small business owners can set up and contribute to a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plan up until the due date for their returns, including extensions. For 2021, the maximum contribution you can make to a SEP is $58,000.

Contact us if you want more information about IRAs or SEPs. Or ask about them when we’re preparing your return. We can help you save the maximum tax-advantaged amount for retirement.