A Tax Strategy You May Be Missing

One of my joys in April (just before tax season is over) is getting the iPad all cleaned up and updating the app to watch the Masters. The beautiful course is a needed refresher that helps me to persevere the last few days until April 15. The scenery is stunning, the competition is rigorous and the unexpected seems to happen. The app has many ways to watch the competition such as focusing on specific holes like Amen corner or player groupings. As my mind drifts into a post tax season mode, I wonder what it would be like to watch in person one year.

Augusta tax rule
Amen Corner at Augusta Golf Club

There are houses on the course that one must be able to rent….

How much is it to rent?  Do they pay taxes on the rental income?  Surprisingly, the answer to the tax question is they probably don’t pay taxes: the tax code has something called the “Augusta Rule.”  This strategy was created to allow residents of Augusta, Georgia to rent their homes during the Masters’ golf tournament, without having to include this rental income on their tax returns.

The Augusta Rule 

The Augusta Rule has become a tax planning strategy that allows your business to pay rent to you for the purpose of holding business-related meetings in your primary residence or vacation home. For example, if you have a monthly meeting with the board of directors, your company can pay a reasonable amount to rent your home to conduct these meetings. Your company gets to take an expense deduction on the business tax return and you do not have to report the income on your personal tax return. This can be used for a maximum of 14 days each year. Keep in mind that if you go over the maximum of 14 days, you will have to report the entire rental income, and you will not receive any tax benefit since you will have to report the money as rental income on your personal return.

Tax Savings for Your Business 

According to the Augusta rule, you can rent out your home to your business (or for other purposes like Airbnb) for a total of up to 14 days each year. This home can be located anywhere in the United States, and the income from the rental will be excluded from your taxable income. For example, a rental expense of $35,000 (paid to you) generates your corporation $7,350 in tax savings while providing you $35,000 of tax free income.

Establish Rental Rate  

To establish a reasonable rental price you first need to document local pricing standards. You can do this by contacting at least three local establishments where businesses would normally have meetings, such as country clubs or hotels, to get an idea of venue costs in your area. 

You can use your home for a variety of business purposes, including planning sessions and even company parties. It’s recommended that you schedule your meetings in your calendar system and send out an agenda, if possible, since this provides additional documentation at tax time. 

There is no minimum participant requirement for these meetings, but keep in mind: 

  • The daily rental rate doesn’t include the cost of business meals. 
  • The home can’t be considered a full-time rental property. 
  • If you rent out your home for more than 14 days, you’ll have to report all of the income, and you won’t get the tax benefit.

Execute a Rental  Agreement 

To comply with the tax code, a written rental agreement is required between yourself and your company.  Additionally, thorough documentation supporting the rental price must be maintained as well as meeting documentation such as meeting minutes or notes.

Furthermore, to take advantage of the Augusta rule, the business entity structure must be an S corporation, C corporation, or partnership. It can’t be a Schedule C (self-employment income), unless the entity is a Single Member LLC. 

So, if you want to make your accountant and other employees happy, post tax season, consider scheduling a tax planning meeting at your house, on that course near the Masters…and we can help you be compliant with IRS regulations.

Augusta Rule
Augusta Golf Club at Sunset
References: Internal Revenue Code sections and related regulations include PLR 8104117; IRC Section 280A; IRC Section 274(a)(1)(B);IRC Section 267(a)(2); IRC Section 262; IRC Section 162; Gregory v Helvering, 293 U.S. 465 (1935); Frank Lyon Co. v United States, 435 U.S. 561, 573 (1978); Rev. Rul. 76-287; Leslie A. Roy v Commr., TC Memo 1998-125 PLR 8104117 

Minimizing Tax Season Stress (6 Effective Tips That Work)

Minimizing Tax Season Stress

Arf! Arf! It’s me, Breyer, the office curator. This is the next installment of my Cook CPA blog, and I am still giving the best advice a dog can. 

I am so glad that we dogs rely on your humans to take care of us–we don’t have to worry about an annual tax filing. I am sorry to let you know that even though you provide great care for us, you can’t claim us as a dependent. 

What I can help you with, though, is by giving you some efficient tips on finding a way to minimize tax season stress. This blog will identify key steps you can take to make the process smoother, resulting in less stress for you.

Reducing Tax Season Stress By Reviewing Your Documents

Minimizing Tax Season Stress 6 Effective Tips That WorkThe most significant step you can take to make the process easier and alleviate tax season stress is reviewing your information and documents before handing these materials over to your CPA firm. 

This ensures that your CPA is able to accurately calculate your return on the first review. This will minimize any surprises since updated information may result in recalculating your return or what is owed. 

Another reason to review everything before handing the materials over is to avoid the kind of back-and-forth requests for information. 

These always remind me of a dog friend of mine who waits at the door to go out, two minutes later is waiting at the door to come in, and once in, is waiting at the door to go out again. By the time this exchange is over the dog and owner are frustrated. 

We suggest creating “financial mindfulness” which starts with having your documents organized as you move through the year, making sure that you are comfortable with the different technologies for retrieving and sharing those documents, and making a point to communicate questions early on. 

The Tax Organizer – A Tax Season Stress Reliever

Most CPA firms will ask you to complete a tax organizer; this is your opportunity to communicate about important tax events that happened during the year. The organizer will allow you to upload key documents. We recommend becoming familiar with technology so that you are comfortable sending and receiving documents.

Minimizing Tax Season Stress By Creating A Clear Communication Path 

Some other ways to minimize your tax season stress are about creating a clear path for communication. When you promptly respond to questions from your CPA firm, they can continue processing your return. 

Consider requesting an exit meeting to review tax returns since this can help you to understand a complex tax return and this meeting would give you an opportunity to clear up any question you may have. This type of meeting can also help you prepare for the next tax season, further minimizing stress. 

Eliminating Tax Season Stress (6 Powerful Tips) 

Eliminating Tax Season Stress 6 Powerful TipsWe dogs have a mental checklist as we prepare for our walks–leash (check), circle three times near the door (check), bark and nudge the door (check), and finally, get the owner on the end of the leash (check). Below is our 6-point checklist to help you work toward a more stress-free tax season: 

  • Save tax documents to a separate tax folder as they arrive
  • Schedule your tax appointment as early as possible to avoid last minute stress
  •  Use the tax organizer to make sure you have addressed everything. Don’t forget to completely fill out the organizer since doing so ensures you are ready for your appointment
  • Provide all documents such as W-2s, form 1099s, cost basis of securities sold, total of charitable donations, and a rental recap in excel to your CPA at the first meeting.  By providing all items, your return will be completed more quickly
  • Sign all documents such as the engagement letter and e-file authorization as timely as possible. Failing to sign these will create delays in filing which can lead to frustration for you
  • Be kind. It is a very busy time as deadlines change and there is an amazing amount of data for a CPA firm to process during this time. Kindness will create cooperation instead of adding more stress

 

How To Get Your Business Back On Track: An Actionable Guide

How To Get Your Business Back On Track An Actionable Guide

Arf! Arf! It’s me, Breyer, the office curator. This is the next installment of my Cook CPA blog, and I am still giving the best advice a dog can.

When dogs are chasing a squirrel, we get caught up in the moment and we may end up tumbling over in the bushes or we may even jump the wrong fence while chasing our passion.  Business owners who are initially off to a good start also sometimes end up off track when they are chasing success and growth in their business venture. 

This blog will review how to get your business back on track and set a focus on top line revenue growth. 

How To Get Your Business Back On Track By Revisiting the Initial Steps for Setting up a Business 

Get Your Business Back On TrackThe blog “Common Things to Consider When Starting a Business” discussed initial considerations for potential business owners such as meeting with professionals and setting up insurance. Once you have taken some initial steps and your business is moving forward, you may want to revisit some of these. And this is an essential step if you want to learn how to get your business back on track. 

Reviving Your Business By Revisiting Your Business Plan 

Remember that business plan you created when you set up your business or secured initial financing? Dust off that plan and review it to see whether the financial targets you set are becoming a reality. You can work with your bookkeeper to get daily financials to make sure your projected income is meeting the plan. You may also want to review the plan to make sure you have implemented other business goals as well.

Perhaps you were that dog who jumped in and forgot to create a business plan?  Work with your CPA to set up a business plan, get a tax ID, and finance the business. After getting financing, you may need to set up bank accounts and bank cards in your business name, if you haven’t already done so. Setting a plan and securing additional financing can help you to meet your growth targets.

Business Revival Strategies – Reviewing Your Business Entity 

Business Revival StrategiesIf you worked with an attorney initially to set up your business name and form an entity, you may still need to work with your bookkeeper and CPA to make sure your business entity meets your needs and future goals. Reviewing your daily financial and monthly financial reports from your bookkeeper can give you important information about whether you are meeting your growth targets. This information can help your CPA determine if your business entity is the right one for tax purposes and future growth. 

For those entrepreneurs who had trouble narrowing down a business idea initially, this review may be a good time to make a commitment to the products and services that are most successful. Reviewing your financial statements will help you to narrow your focus to the products and services that are most feasible for long term growth. 

Get Your Business Back On Track By Getting Social 

Have you still been marketing by referral? It’s time to create a website or contract out for someone who can create one. Make sure you are making the most of social media to promote your business and fulfill orders. 

Reviving Your Business By Implementing Efficient Hiring Practices 

As you move from doing all the work yourself to having a team of employees take on the workload, you may need to clarify your hiring practices as well as set up policies and procedures for the work environment. If you haven’t yet, be sure that your business or employees have obtained any necessary licenses or permits so that you are operating within state or county guidelines. 

Remember that reviewing your financial targets and company goals is also a chance to clarify your brand and where your business should grow in the future. Growth is an important part of a puppy’s life to create a successful dog. Growth for businesses leads to success. 

Focusing On Top Line Revenue Growth To Get Your Business Back On Track 

As you review your initial plans for your business and update your future objectives, one area to focus on is top line revenue growth. 

What Is Top Line Revenue Growth? 

How To Get Your Business Back On Track An Actionable GuideTop line revenue growth means the increase in gross sales of a company over a certain time period, and the measure indicates the financial strength of a company. The name “top line” doesn’t indicate something that is superior; instead, the name comes from this figure being at the top of a company’s profit/loss statement. This measure applies to a specific reporting period, and the figure is calculated on core business operations (doesn’t include interest or gains from sale of assets).

Hiring A Good Bookkeeper To Get Your Business Back On Track 

Not sure how profitable your business is? Hire a good bookkeeper so that your financial statements can be quickly calculated for each monthly, quarterly, and annual period. Bookkeepers are responsible for providing four types of financial statements that can help you in evaluating your profitability and top line growth. 

A good bookkeeper will provide an income statement (profit & loss or P&L statement) which indicates your revenue and expenses over a specific time period. 

Two other helpful reports your bookkeeper can provide are a balance sheet which is a snapshot of your financial position at a point in time and a cash flow statement which records the cash and cash equivalents entering and leaving the company. 

Having a good understanding of your financial top line will allow you to make decisions that increase profits such as taking on more clients, increasing sales, improving your brand, or any strategy that can permanently increase your profits. 

Once you have a clear understanding about where you are at financially, it is time to consult with your CPA firm. They can assess whether your entity type is the best one from a tax standpoint. 

Keep that business on the right path by reviewing your plans and keeping that passion for business growth alive! Meanwhile, I have some squirrels to chase.

 

Common Things to Consider When Starting a Business

Common Things to Consider When Starting a Business

Arf! Arf! It’s me, Breyer, the office curator. I’m back at Cook CPA, writing my blog to give the best advice a dog can.

 

My dog friends and I patrol around outside to keep our owners safe, but we don’t normally spend much time thinking about how to manage that business.  Afterall, we are dogs and we are good at the business of barking, so the business comes easy to us!  For you humans, though, starting a new business and managing it, may not come so easily.  Here is my advice for you humans.

Starting a Business

You new business owners really need to think about your team.  We dogs rely on our teams everyday to get our jobs done and so should you.  The professionals you need to support your new business include humans with the following expertise: bookkeeper, CPA, attorney, insurance professional, technology consultant, mentor (another business owner), recruiter.

Team Members Your New Business May Need

Research on new businesses and entrepreneurs all points to the need for support. New business owners can’t focus on the big picture if they are weighed down by trying to manage the day to day.The new owner needs help to create success and grow the business. Below is a list of typical professionals that can support small businesses and a brief summary of how they can help a new business owner:

Find a Bookkeeper:

A bookkeeper keeps track of the money earned and spent; they record daily financial transactions.  Because no special training is needed for bookkeeping, many new business owners attempt to keep their own books with the help of software. Unfortunately, by the time they realize they need help, they are often delivering a mess to their accountant at tax time or finding out that because the books were not tracked well, they are unable to apply for loans or other funds.  A bookkeeper tracks the financial transactions so that your business can stay on track!  Our human can recommend knowledgeable and efficient bookkeepers for your business.

Hire an Accountant/CPA:

Your CPA will use the information compiled by your bookkeeper to produce financial reports. Your accountant can help you interpret your financial data and make decisions such as when and how to incorporate. They will help with filing your taxes and notifying you of changes in tax law.  The tax rules change more frequently than they did in the past – ask how they help their clients navigate these changes. With their extensive training and financial expertise, they can help you see the big picture and create a plan for your business’ financial future.

Ask an Attorney:

A business attorney can provide advice on which legal entity is best to form business (LLC, etc.), about legal consequences of using employees versus independent contractors, on terminating a contract or an employee, or about merging or acquiring another business. Additionally, the attorney can draft and negotiate contracts for you. It is best to have a relationship with an attorney before you need legal advice to address a matter.  An attorney who can develop a relationship with is a better fit than an online service.

Invest in Insurance:

An insurance agent can help you navigate which type of business insurance and endorsements you need to protect your assets and ensure that your liabilities are covered. Cyber Insurance is an item that should be discussed with your insurance agent.

Choose a Path for Information Technology (IT): 

Having information technology specialists you and your employees can turn to for hardware and software issues can be an important time saver. There are three ways to go about IT support:  use the support that is provided with each piece of software or hardware you purchase, hire a dedicated IT support person, or outsource IT support to a firm that handles IT for multiple businesses. Consider what you can afford and use an approach that works best for your business needs.

Consult a Mentor or Coach:

While some small business owners may pay for a coach to listen and give advice, others may be able to find a mentor to turn to for advice or a group of owners who can provide support. Meeting monthly with other owners can provide that mentoring and support.  Look for others to connect with at professional organizations or other community events.

Consider a Recruiter/Employment Agency:

Recruiters or employment agencies can take some of the pressure off the owner for hiring. These professionals can screen applicants so you only interview the top candidates.

Use a Client Recruiter/Marketing:

Many businesses that are looking to grow might benefit from a client recruiter or marketing professional who can bring in new business or maintain existing client relationships.

Starting a Business

My dog knowledge and human research all indicates that support is essential for new business owners to get the job done right. In addition to having support professionals, other studies suggest that planning (having a written business plan) leads to greater success.  Planning your business strategy and planning for your support network go together to create your success. If you are thinking about starting a business or have recently started one, be sure that you have buried all your bones where you can find them when you need them.  These bones are your plan and your support system.