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Archives for Tax Preparation

The Importance of Keeping Good Records

Every business owner knows the value of maintaining accurate records for tax purposes, but keeping good records also provides individuals with a measure of the health of their enterprise. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brick and mortar store or operated completely online through e-commerce, good record keeping is critical.

It’s recommended that individuals keep pertinent records for three years and that includes tax returns. Most business owners envision boxes and file cabinets full of paper documents and that can seem overwhelming. Welcoming the digital age and appropriate software programs into a business will eliminate the clutter and keep records immediately available should they be needed for any contingency.

Keeping good records provides business owners with the knowledge required to know if their endeavor is failing or flourishing. It also tells them which products are selling well, where their largest expenditures are, and any areas where changes may need to be made.

Business owners have a legal obligation to maintain full and accurate records about their enterprise. They’ll need those records if they’re audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or asked to explain any items on their tax returns.

Maintaining detailed records enables individuals to prove income, deductible expenses for tax purposes, and make projections about their tax liability. Those records will also be utilized to prepare a variety of financial statements and balance sheets that will be essential when working with banks and creditors.

Good record keeping allows business owners to ascertain where the majority of purchases are originating, along with the reliability of the vendors with which they regularly conduct business. The receipts provide a record of who pays promptly and who doesn’t.

All of those records provide a health check on the business, allowing owners to make critical decisions about issues such as expansions, new product lines, vendors, and employees. Keeping good records is the key to operating any business more efficiently, effectively, and profitably.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Tips for Preventing a Tax Audit

Despite what individuals may have been told in the past, an audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) isn’t random. The IRS utilizes a state-of-the-art software program to flag tax returns for auditing. The software is called Discriminate Income Function (DIF). It flags returns for investigation by comparing the deductions an individual or business takes compared to others that are within the same income bracket.

There’s no reason taxpayers should be afraid to take the deductions to which they’re legally entitled, as long as they have the appropriate documentation to support what they’re claiming. There’s no foolproof way to be protected against an IRS audit, but there are steps individuals can take to minimize the potential.

Targeting Factors

Some jobs, careers, tax brackets, and geographical locations are more likely than others to be targeted for an audit, along with the very rich and the very poor. Individuals with an annual income of less than $25,000 have an audit rate of about 0.69 percent, a figure that’s 50 percent higher than all others.

Areas with a large African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and poor population are audited more. People that regularly receive tips such as hairdressers, waitresses, and bartenders are audited with more frequency, along with accountants, doctors, and attorneys that typically keep their own books. It’s a good idea for anyone in these categories to avoid miscellaneous deductions.

Self-Employed & Small Business

Small businesses and the self-employed are favorite IRS targets. Many choose to incorporate or form a limited liability company as they’re audited less often. File any pertinent worksheets, avoid amendments, know when to file, and hire a professional to prepare tax returns.

Know What’s Questioned

Keeping exemplary records is critical. Home office deductions, medical expenses, casualty losses, and business costs for travel, entertainment, and meals are some of the most often questioned.

Neatness Counts

Being neat really does make a difference. Returns that are difficult to read or have blank lines are more likely to be audited. It’s better to use a zero on a line than to leave it blank.

Do the Math

Use a calculator, double check the math, and make sure federal and state returns match. For those that use online tax preparation software, if it says there’s a problem and something needs to be revisited – pay attention.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Preparing for tax audit

Reduce Your Chance for a Tax Audit

Everyone fears the dreaded tax audit – and with good reason. It means that the algorithm scoring formula used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has found what it deems to be an irregularity on your tax return. Few audits turn out well for the individual or small business being questioned and the following are just a few of the ways that people can help mitigate the chance of being audited.

Hire a Professional

Nothing can compare to the personalized service and expertise available with a tax professional. It’s tempting to use online tax software. It’s easy and convenient, but the software may not be able to account for special circumstances and you may be leaving money on the table that could go in your pocket. Hire a professional if your tax return is complicated or complex in any way.

File on Time

Seeking an extension or filing an amended return can activate you for review by IRS systems, particularly for high-end earners. The same is true for those that file paper returns. It’s always best to e-file and makes sure they’re filed before the deadline.

Documentation

When dealing with the IRS, documentation is everything. If there’s a chance that the IRS may not understand expenses you’ve claimed or deductions, the onus will be on you to provide documentation to prove your right to make the claims. A professional tax preparer will know what documentation you’ll need.

Deductions

Another instance that will red-flag your tax return is the deduction-to-income-ratio. Deduction amounts that are unusually high compared to stated income may be a symptom of claiming the same deductions twice in the eyes of the IRS. Stay away from dubious deductions.

Exemptions

A high number of exemptions and dependents will bring unwarranted attention from the IRS. There are specific rules about what dependents are eligible for you to claim. For example, in some instances, a dependent may be required to file their own return, which means you can’t claim them.

Compliance

Remaining in compliance with your responsibilities in regard to withholding taxes, filing status, deductions, and exemptions will significantly reduce the potential for a tax audit. If you do get audited, having a professional file your tax return will ensure you have knowledgeable backup should you need it.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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What is a Sole Proprietorship?

A sole proprietorship is the business or an individual who has decided not to carry his business as a separate legal entity, such as a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company. This kind of business is not a separate entity. Any time a person regularly provides services for a fee, sells things at a flea market or engage in any business activity whose primary purpose is to make a profit, that person is a sole proprietor. If they carry on business activity to make profit or income, the IRS requires that you file a separate Schedule C “Profit or Loss From a Business” with your annual individual income tax return. Schedule C summarizes your income and expenses from your sole proprietorship business.

 

As the sold proprietor of a business, you have unlimited liability, meaning that if your business can’t pay all its liabilities, the creditors to whom your business owes money can come after your personal assets. Many part-time entrepreneurs may not know this, but it’s an enormous financial risk. If they are sued or can’t pay their bills, they are personally liable for the business’s liabilities.

 

A sole proprietorship has no other owners to prepare financial statements for, but the proprietor should still prepare these statements to know how his business is doing. Banks usually require financial statements from sole proprietors who apply for loans. A partnership needs to maintain a separate capital or ownership account for each partner. The total profit of the firm is allocated into these capital accounts, as spelled out in the partnership agreement. Although sole proprietors don’t have separate invested capital from retained earnings like corporations do, they still need to keep these two separate accounts for owners’ equity – not only to track the business, but for the benefit of any future buyers of the business.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Should I Itimize my Deductions?

When you finally decide it is time to prepare your taxes, the first question is whether you should itemize your deductions or take the standard deduction provided by the IRS.

Tax deductions are a very simple part of a theoretically simple tax reporting system. If you’ve ever prepared your own taxes, you know this simply isn’t true. Complicated tax forms can be a nightmare to fill out. Ever helpful, the IRS gives you an option of just taking a standard deduction instead of itemizing your deductions. So, what should you do?

The standard deduction is the easiest method because it requires no calculations or supporting documentation of any sort. You figure out your adjusted gross income and simply submit the amount for your classification. The amount differs based on whether you are filing as single, married, older than 65 or have kids.

Many people scoff at the mere idea of taking the standard deduction. As with all tax issues, deciding whether to take the standard deduction isn’t so easy. If you have a fairly simple financial life and don’t have many deductions, the standard deduction is almost always the best choice. For instance, if you make $45,000 as an employee of a company, rent a residence and don’t have any major medical bills or losses, the standard deduction is probably going to save you more money than itemizing. Unfortunately, you can never be sure until you take a stab at itemizing your deductions in a rough draft of a tax return.

Itemizing your deductions is exactly what it sounds like. You literally go through your records and categorize every possible deduction. These deductions are then subtracted from your adjusted gross income to get a final figure from which tax is determined using the tax tables. Itemizing is the way to go if you have significant tax deductions or tax credits in your financial life. For instance, you almost always want to itemize if you own a home as mortgage interest can be deducted. Generally, you want to itemize if you own a home, have significant medical bills, can claim a tax credit or suffered some type of major loss. Obviously, there are other situations where itemizing makes sense, but this gives you an idea of the situation.

If you have a simple financial situation, claiming the standard deduction may be the answer. If life is a bit more complicated, itemizing is probably going to save you more on your tax bill.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Determining Your Tax Status

There are five classifications from which you choose to file: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or qualifying widower with dependent child. If for some reason, more than one status applies to you, you should choose the status that gives you the greatest tax benefit.

 

Determining your status as a single filer seems simple enough, but there are different situations that exist that can qualify the taxpayer as single. For example, if you are legally separated even in the last month of the year, you are considered single for the entire year. With no dependents and you are unmarried, you are considered single. Divorce and annulment within the year also qualifies you to file as single.

 

However, even if you are single, but you have a dependent, or were widowed during the tax year, and you have dependents, your filing status would change to head of household or widowed with qualifying dependent child, not single.

 

When it comes to determining your status as a married taxpayer, there are simple qualification assessments that establish your legal filing status and if you’re considered married. Obviously, if you are legally married and living together as husband and wife, even for a small part of the tax year, then you would be considered married. If you are living together as common law spouses, and it is legally recognized in the state in which you live, or you lived part of the tax year in the state where the common law marriage began, then your filing status is married. Your filing status is still married even if you are married but not living together, but are not legally separated or divorced.

 

If you have unique circumstances, it might not be so easy to determine your filing status. If, for example, you were widowed during the tax year and did not remarry, you can file as married with your deceased spouse, and then file as widowed with qualified dependents for the next two years, so long as you do not remarry. If you remarry within the tax year that your spouse passed away, you would file as married with your current spouse, and file with your deceased spouse as married filing separately.

 

If you are married and want to file a joint return, your tax status is married filing jointly. All income to the household must be included on the one return, and both spouses must sign and date prior to submitting the tax return. All exemptions, deductions, and credits are reported on the joint return, and you share equal responsibility and liability for the information reported on the tax return, as well as any tax money owed. There are ways to ask for release from joint responsibility, either through innocent spouse relief, separation of liability for spouses who have not lived together for the past year, or equitable relief.

 

There are sometimes reasons that a spouse cannot sign a joint tax return, such as a spouse stationed abroad for the military. In this type of situation, you may sign for your spouse as a proxy, and attach a written explanation.

 

Choosing your filing status, while lengthy and sometimes complicated, is an important in the process of completing your Federal Income Tax return.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Electronic Tax Preparation Options

Just in time for tax season you will find yourself presented with this years editions of popular tax preparation programs that promise to make tax filing a breeze for the average person.  Which one is right for you and what are some of the most popular electronic tax filing solutions?  Read on as we discuss your tax preparation options and explore the popularity of electronic tax filing.

What to look for in choosing a tax preparation solution? Newcomers should look for software that takes a step by step approach throughout the digital tax preparation interview and one that presents interview topics that are easy to understand and answer.

One of the most useful features of tax preparation software is that it lets you play around with your figures and try out hypothetical situations.  Many of the top programs also come with importing features that allow the user to import data from other programs directly into the tax preparation software.

Because of their ability to do extensive calculations and other automated checks, electronic tax preparation and filing is reported to have only a small error rate of less than 1 percent.  In fact, using tax preparation software will almost always result in a more complete and more accurate tax return.

With the growing popularity of high-speed Internet connections and advances in Internet security, more and more tax preparation is being done online. Using online income tax preparation services has proven to be secure, easy and accurate.  With an explosion in online resources at your fingertips, the taxpayer can do a job equal to that of a professional.

Either way, it’s clear that electronic tax preparation has really taken off and become quite popular. Its because of these benefits that once again this year, taxpayers will be turning to tax software to help them prepare and file their taxes. Did you know that you can even prepare and e-file your taxes wherever and whenever you access the Internet?  The IRS Free File program, which is designed to help taxpayers file their taxes electronically, is best for those taxpayers who prepare their own taxes and still file paper returns.  It is also important to note that if you are filing taxes for prior years, you are not eligible to file electronically.

By doing taxes online, you are empowered to prepare and e-file your own income tax return.  And, like doing banking online, doing your taxes online is easy, fast, accurate, as well as very secure.  If you’re considering doing your taxes online, why not give it a try this year?  While it still isn’t a blast, doing your own taxes will give you a feeling of accomplishment.

Like most people, your likely dreading the task of doing your taxes that and maybe you would like to make it easier this year.  With some prior planning, you can make doing your taxes a lot less dreadful and can help avoid any unpleasant surprises.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Self-Employed Tax Strategies

The good news is being self-employed is one of the best tax strategies out there. Unlike a salaried employee, the full scope of tax credits and deductions available in the tax code are now available to you. The key, of course, is understanding the available deductions and organizing your business in a manner that allows you to maximize the write-offs.

The number one tax strategy for self-employed individuals is to keep receipts for every business expense and write them off. Practically anything can be deducted, so do it. Acceptable expenses include cell phone usage, business mileage, office supplies, home office deductions including part of mortgage or rent and so on. If you’ve filed a tax return while self-employed, you are probably already aware of this so lets move on to more specific tax strategies for self-employed individuals.

Maximizing your non-capital losses can result in major tax savings. If your expenses exceed your income for a year, you obviously will not have to pay taxes for that year. What most people don’t realize, however, is that such losses can be carried forward for seven years and deducted against future income. Alternatively, the same losses can be carried backward three years to recover past taxes paid. The end result of this situation is you can turn a bad business year into an income generator by applying the losses to taxes in other years which effectively wipes out your tax bill for those years.

Another tax strategy is to look at your side businesses. If you have one business, you’ll often have a second one that is tailored to making some money off a personal interest. While you are in it mostly because you like it, you may not realize it qualifies as a business and can help you reduce your taxes. Let’s assume you are primarily a self-employed consultant, but also write travel articles on the side. You may view the travel articles as a hobby, but it is in fact a business. If you’ve sold or even tried to sell any of your articles to a publication, all of your expenses related to travel writing can be deducted from your taxable income. This includes trips and so on. These, deductions can significantly reduce your taxable income from the consulting business. Make sure to get a grasp of your overall business efforts, even if you don’t really consider them to be a business.

Consider employing your children to save on taxes. A child under 18 that works for you does not have to pay FICA and so on. If the total wages for the year are under $4,250, they will pay no taxes and you can write off this amount as a legitimate business expense. Of course, the child needs to actually be doing a legitimate business task, but filing and similar manual tasks certainly will qualify.

Tax strategies for  the self-employed are plentiful. If you are self-employed, consider getting professional help. A good professional will save you thousands upon thousands of dollars in taxes, more than making up for their fees. Oh, you can also deduct their fees!

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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tax preparation

Are You Overpaying Taxes If You Use Tax Preparation Software?

For many business owners, the answer to this quandary is tax preparation software. Fill out a fairly simple interview, click “print” and out comes a completed return that will pass muster with the IRS. The answer to all your problems…or is it?

Can One Software Program Cover All Businesses?

Take a moment to consider the wide range of businesses that exist in the United States. Now cut that number down to those that can be categorized as “Internet businesses”. If you were asked to write a business plan to provide web design services to each of these services, how long would it be? It would be huge and completely useless because each business would have different needs. An Internet business selling flowers would have completely different needs from an online bank which would have different needs from a hosting company and so on. The only way you could create a practical plan for all Internet businesses would be to offer a collection of general services they could all use on their sites. Tax preparation software designers have the same problem.

There are over 15,000 pages in the tax code and over 100,000 pages of regulations interpreting those pages. Changes are made to the tax code every year, and new regulations are issued constantly. If one were to create a list of questions for every tax deduction and credit detailed in those pages, the list of questions would be the size of a phone book! Yet, tax software programmers have somehow boiled it all down to a simple 30-minute interview process? Common sense should tell you that it doesn’t make sense.

As a practical matter, tax software programs are designed to make sure that you claim a general set of deductions that are applicable to businesses across all industries. Most programs try to mask this fact by asking you to identify your business before proceeding. For a lark, you might try selecting another industry and then running through the interview process. You will find that the interview process is modified a bit, but you are still being asked the same basic tax deduction questions.

If you are only claiming general business tax deductions, you are paying more than you should in taxes. Ask yourself if you have seen any of the following questions in a tax software program interview:

Q. Do you store business inventory in your house?

Hint: You may be able to claim hundreds or thousands of dollars in deductions.

Q. Did you start a pension plan for your employees?

Hint: You may be able to claim a tax credit for the next three years totaling $1,500.

Q. Do you have a home-based business and a second office?

Hint: You may be able to deduct your commuting expenses each day. Yes, commuting expenses.

Q. Do you have business meetings at your home?

Hint: Did you charge your business for the space?

Q. Should you claim the standard mileage rate for your auto or the actual costs?

Hint: The standard mileage rate may not the best option.

Q. Did you modify your business location to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Hint: You may be able to claim a tax credit AND tax deduction for tax savings of $20,000 or more.

Q. Did you refinance your home?

Hint: The points you paid on your original mortgage are fully deductible now, not over the length of the loan.

This represents only the tip of the iceberg of available credits and deductions available to you. Just one of these deductions could save you thousands of dollars in taxes. Yet, you are never going to see these questions raised in a tax software program interview. The tax code and regulations are simply too large to be incorporated into a usable software program.

Your business is unique. You face and overcome issues and problems that are unique to your size, financial situation and particular business needs. Don’t short change yourself by limiting your deductions by using tax software programs.


 

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Are You Ready For Tax Day?

Because deadlines are strict, and penalties will be given to late tax payments, you should make sure that you do not put off your “tax day.”  You should definitely start preparing your income tax return well before April 15. Whether you are doing your own income tax return or you are getting the help of a certified public accountant or firm to prepare your income tax return, you should get a few things together before you begin or meet with the CPA.

The main thing you will need for your income tax return is proof of the income you made and the taxes you paid in the previous year.  That includes income made through employers, interest from accounts, dividends from investments, income made through self-employment, income made as a subcontractor, and any other income.  Student loans and other types of loans may also be considered income for the purposes of income tax, as can winnings from a lottery, casino, or other contest. If you are unsure about what can be considered as income for tax purposes, you should contact a certified public accountant.

The other thing that is important is social security numbers for everyone you will claim on your income tax return.  That includes social security numbers for your spouse and any children you will claim. Without social security numbers, proof of residence, and birth dates, you cannot claim deductions on your income tax return for these individuals.

The next thing that you should gather is what you will need for deductions.  If you have a mortgage, your interest paid to the mortgage company may be tax-deductible.  If you use a vehicle for business purposes, you can claim a tax deduction for mileage. If you have children in daycare so that you can work, you can claim a tax deduction for that expense.  You can also claim tax deductions for excessive medical expenses and charitable contributions.  

If you are self-employed, you will need to also gather your receipts for tax-deductible expenses.  A tax-deductible business expense is any expense that is used solely or primarily for the business you are involved in.  The tax-deductible expense must be documented in order to claim it, so any receipts you have, usage logs for computers and vehicles, etc. should be gathered so that you can take the highest deduction possible.  If you have any doubts about what is tax-deductible for your business, you should contact a certified public accountant to assist you in your income tax preparation.

Once you have gathered all of the necessary tax documents, you must determine which tax forms you need to file.  If you are an individual with a few tax-deductible items, you can file a simple tax return. However, if you are self-employed you must also file a tax form called Schedule C.  If you have a lot of tax-deductible items, you will want to file a more complex tax return to itemize your tax deductions. If you are unsure what tax forms you need to file, you should contact a certified public accountant to assist you in your income tax return preparation.

Tax Day can be a stressful time, but it doesn’t have to be.  Gather all of your required tax documents as early as possible, and don’t put off the inevitable.  Contact a certified public accountant as soon as you can if you are unsure what tax forms you need to file, or what tax deductions you can take.  And, most importantly, don’t panic on tax day!

 

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

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