Business Strategies Archives - Page 4 of 11 - Think Outside the Tax Box

Business Strategies

By Lewis C. Taishoff

TAX COURT ROUND-UP – January 2023

I'm new here, but I know enough not to try to do what everyone else does. I won't try to cover the wider tax picture. I cover United States Tax Court on my blog, so here's a brief round-up on what went on in Tax Court during the last month that I think is of interest to the tax planner and practitioner...


Just Good Business – Curate Your Tech Stack

We’ve all done it. And most other business owners are doing it, too. What is “it”? Succumbing to the promise of “there’s an app for that” and registering for technology of all kinds – and then not using them. You should review and curate your tech stack at least once a year. Why? Because in business, plans often change. Priorities change, new challenges arise, and new opportunities appear. Curating your tech stack annually is just good business. Curating isn’t simply about getting rid of products and services that aren’t meeting your needs it’s also about mindfully adding technology that will help your business to grow (if that’s your goal), help you provide better customer service, and help you manage your business in a way that, one hopes, frees up your time for other activities whether those activities are business- or life-related. Nevertheless, it’s often necessary to clear bandwidth-sucking technological clutter before shifting our focus to identifying problems that tech can solve. Too much tech clutter (like too much physical clutter) can prevent you from seeing problems (and potential solutions) clearly. Additionally, this is an activity that can cut unnecessary expenses from your bottom line and improve upon technological advances. It is possible since the time you first subscribed to an application that there are better, cheaper alternatives. Here’s what to consider step-by-step to grow your take home pay and improve your business practice.

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Don’t Let Estate Taxes Force Your Family Business into Liquidation

My mom knew she was going to die. And she knew it would be sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, it was much sooner than she expected. She had time to put her personal affairs in order but ran out of time for figuring out succession planning for her business. Transitioning her sole-shareholder S-corporation shares over to me upon her death should have been straightforward. It wasn’t. But that’s a subject for another article. Transitioning a family business upon the death of an owner or a significant stakeholder (partner or shareholder) is never easy. Having to grapple with how to pay estate taxes on a closely held business can add complexity and stress to an already fraught process. With proper planning, however, family and other closely held businesses can avoid having to liquidate assets or sell shares or partnership interests to pay estate taxes. Insurance arrangements, operating agreements that include buy-sell provisions, and gifting strategies can all help to ensure a family business remains in the family and can pay any associated estate taxes. But what happens in the absence of proper planning? What happens when beneficiaries inherit a business they would like to keep family owned or closely held, but which is not liquid enough to pay the associated estate taxes within the required nine months? IRC Section 6166 can come to the rescue. Continue reading to learn more.

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Last-minute Tax Fix for PTET Businesses That Missed the 12/31 Deadline

Question: My client is just now paying the PTET for California with a timely filed election. Can they deduct the tax payment if they are an accrual basis taxpayer? Answer: Based on face value, unfortunately, the answer is no. Both cash and accrual basis passthrough entities would need to pay the tax by 12/31/21 (assuming calendar year-end) to get the deduction on the 2021 tax return. This answer is based on IRS Notice 2020-75, stating that an entity could take a deduction in the year paid. While the guidance did not specify cash or accrual in the definition, unless the IRS comes out with any other guidance stating otherwise, it is a federal deduction so it works the same as accrued state taxes, which the taxpayer must pay by the end of the tax year to deduct the amount following the economic performance rules. However, what if your client is an accrual basis taxpayer? While Notice 2020-75 does not specifically distinguish or reference method of accounting, there may be a way to fix your 2021 state tax deductions if you missed the 12/31 deadline. Click here to keep reading.

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Avoiding Self-Employment Tax with a Limited Partner Interest

The best tax planning will often be found where both the form and substance of a transaction align in the client’s interest. One such planning activity focuses on reducing self-employment tax, and while the attempt is admirable, the substance of the transaction might be stronger than its form. Generally, if you’re a partner in a partnership, your distributive share of income is subject to Self Employment Contributions Act (SECA) tax, also known as self-employment tax. This can be up to an additional 15.3 percent on your earnings, unless an exception applies. Many tax pros attempt to mitigate this tax by simply making the spouse of the main business partner a limited partner in the entity. The thought is that an exclusion applies for SECA tax when there is a “limited partner’s” share of partnership income. But be careful! When the underlying substance overrides the form of a transaction, the taxpayer generally will lose. The IRS recently highlighted such a problem with form in its draft partnership tax instructions by saying “For purposes of self-employment tax, however, status as a limited partner is determined under Section 1402(a)(13); whether a partner is a limited partner under state limited partnership law is not determinative.” Simply calling a partner “limited” is not enough. The limited partner exception from self-employment tax creates a significant benefit when applied, but rulings focused on the substance of the partner’s interest have narrowed this exception. Let’s review how to properly qualify as a limited partner in light of the IRS’s recent emphasis in this area. In the process, we will also look at the specifics of how particular forms should still win the day by avoiding SE tax. Keep reading for more.

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Client Alert

Just Good Business – Review Your Fixed Asset List for Hidden Deductions

Most businesses require the purchase of equipment or other property to help generate income. How you deduct the costs of these business assets depends on what it is and how long it will be useful (what are called asset classes and the Business Use Percentages (BUP)). In some situations, you can deduct the full cost of the asset the year you buy it, rather than depreciating it over time, but many times you are deducting a portion of what you paid for the property each year you have it. Fixed assets are assets that have a useful life of more than one year and/or are not expected to be converted to cash within a year (those types of assets are current assets). Land, buildings, furniture, and equipment (including vehicles) are the most common types of fixed assets for businesses. Fixed asset listings are records of the costs of business property and what tax deductions or improvements have been made over time. Unfortunately, these lists can get quite messy and confusing over time, especially the longer a business is in operation, and the more frequently you have changed tax professionals. What most business owners (and even their tax advisers) don’t know is that there are often thousands in tax savings contained on these lists, especially when they are messy or confusing. There are four savings opportunities buried in these records and what you do with them can result in less cash to the IRS. Continue reading to learn more.

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Top 10 Federal Tax Cases and Relevance to Practice

Every year, tax courts hear more than 600 federal tax cases, mostly by the U.S. Tax Court. The vast majority are trial court decisions, again, mostly from the U.S. Tax Court, but also district courts throughout the U.S. Independent of the IRS, the court hears cases relating to income, estate, and gift tax and its rulings can be used as precedent for better interpreting the laws. It practically can provide a roadmap as to what the judges are looking for in defense of a taxpayer’s claim or position. Among the Tax Court decisions, most are memorandum and summary opinions focused on figuring out facts so practitioners can apply the proper law. Annually, we might see fewer than 50 regular Tax Court decisions involving a new interpretation of the tax law. But this still leaves a lot of potentially significant cases in attempting to identify the top 10federal tax cases dating back to the start of our modern income tax in 1913. Which are the most significant? That all depends on you and what you are trying to learn from each case. When it comes to tax planning, read on to learn about the top 10 cases of all time.

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Just Good Business – Review Your Beneficiary Designations

It seems so simple, right? You open an account and as you complete the paperwork, you enter something on the line labeled “Beneficiary,” and that’s that. But how many accounts are there? What about other assets? What about, well, life? Because life happens, it can have odd effects on the distribution of assets. This is a cautionary tale of unintended consequences and a reminder to review your beneficiary designations, if not annually, at least every time you experience a major life event. Consider a retired couple one of whom has a large 401(k) (or similar) account. Both have Social Security and true pensions, as well. Typically, the Social Security and pension benefits will end with the death of the individual. The 401(k), however, remains and the listed beneficiary is the spouse. The beneficiary spouse dies before the spouse with the 401(k). Upon the death of her spouse, the account holder creates a will using a popular online tool, which does not advise her to review beneficiary designations on her bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts. Keep reading to learn what to check, when, and how to avoid what goes wrong.

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OSHA and CDC Guidelines Are Not ERC Suspensions

The Employee Retention Credit is worth big bucks. Qualifying companies can get significant relief money – sometimes millions of dollars. So, it was no surprise to me when I heard some outlandish eligibility statements such as “the national emergency declaration counts” or even some “every business gets it” claims. There is a lot of desire to qualify out there and plenty of credit consultants looking to make money. But recently I have heard a different argument from multiple sources which has intrigued me. The argument is dressed up much better and almost looks legitimate. Here is a summary of how the line of thinking goes: OSHA rules mandate compliance with CDC guidelines creating partial suspension eligibility for ERC. I call it the “OSHA argument.” That thinking has not set well with some – particularly as the argument results in qualification for every business for all of 2020 and 2021. Red states have had little or no restrictions in 2021 and even deep blue states generally lifted their restrictions in the spring of 2021. But conveniently, the OSHA argument would mean state and local orders do not need to be reviewed at all as a national order is in place. For a consultant charging a percentage of the ERC, they can sell this service now to everyone and avoid the headache of eligibility discussions. Let’s take a closer look at this argument and reasons why it does not work.

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