Do you drive a heavy vehicle for work? It could lighten your tax load. If you’re a business owner, your SUV, pickup truck or van may be eligible for 100% first-year bonus depreciation. But it must:

What does 6,000 pounds look like?

See below for some business vehicles that can do the heavy lifting.

Other rules apply. Contact your trusted advisor for details.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has released the finalized rule on overtime exemptions for white-collar workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  It is expected to expand the pool of nonexempt workers by more than 1 million.

The new rule is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020. Affected employers should consider prompt action to reduce the impact to their bottom lines

The new rule

Under the finalized overtime exemptions regulations, an employer generally cannot classify an employee as exempt from overtime obligations unless the employee satisfies three tests:

  1. Salary basis test. The employee is paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed.
  2. Salary level test. The employee is paid at least $684 per week or $35,568 annually.
  3. Duties test. The employee primarily performs executive, administrative or professional duties.

The DOL’s final rule specifically increased the salary level test (previously $455 per week or $23,00 annually). Therefore, if an employee’s salary exceeds the new level, the employee will be ineligible for overtime if he or she primarily performs executive, administrative or professional duties. If their salary falls below it, the employee is nonexempt, regardless of duties.

Employers can use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) that are paid annually or more frequently to satisfy up to 10% of the standard salary level test. If an employee does not earn enough in such bonuses or payments in a given year to remain exempt, the employer can also make a catch-up payment within one pay period of the end of the year. However, the payment will count only toward the prior year’s salary amount.

Highly compensated employees

Neither the salary basis nor the salary level test applies to certain employees (for example, doctors, teachers and lawyers). The new rule provides a more relaxed duties test for certain highly compensated employees (HCEs) who are paid total annual compensation of at least $107,432 (including commissions, nondiscretionary bonuses and other nondiscretionary compensation) and at least $684 salary per week.

The final rule sets the total annual compensation threshold at the 80th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried employees nationally.

The DOL opted against automatic adjustments to salary thresholds every three or four years. Instead, the final rule simply indicates the department’s intent to update the earnings thresholds “more regularly in the future,” following the notice-and-comment rulemaking process.

Preparation tips

Employers should begin taking measures to achieve compliance — and minimize the hit to their finances — when the final rule takes effect. Your business may already be well-prepared if you have previously gone through this process. Take care, though, to not rely on past findings as circumstances may have shifted.

A good first step is to check employees’ salary levels against the new thresholds. It may be advisable to give raises to employees who fall just under a threshold and routinely work more than 40 hours per week. Or consider redistributing workloads or scheduled hours to prevent newly nonexempt employees from working overtime.

This also is a good time to review employees’ job duties against the tests for the various exemptions. Check duties on a regular basis, as this is a ripe area of litigation for employees who contend that they deserve overtime despite their job titles. Courts and the DOL agree that actual duties, not job title or even job description, are what matters.

If, according to the final rule, you reclassify currently exempt workers as nonexempt, you must establish procedures for accurately tracking their time to ensure proper overtime compensation. Reclassified employees may require some training on timekeeping procedures.

Plan accordingly

Some employers may find that the new overtime rule substantially increases their compensation costs, including their payroll tax liability.

Contact your trusted advisor to ensure your company is in compliance with the new rule, as well as all payroll tax obligations.

Year-end tax planning will be just as complicated as it was last year due to the complexity of new tax regulations for businesses and individuals. This is of the essence as tax planning strategies to reduce your 2019 tax bill must be taken before year end.

Take advantage of planning strategies for individuals

Individuals often can reduce their tax bills by deferring income to the next year and accelerating deductible expenses into the current year. To defer income, for example, you might ask your employer to pay your year-end bonus in early 2020 rather than in 2019.

To accelerate deductions, consider increasing your IRA or qualified retirement plan contributions to the extent that they’ll be deductible. Such contributions also provide some planning flexibility because you can make 2019 contributions to IRAs, and certain other retirement plans, after the end of the year.

Other year-end tax planning strategies to consider include:

Offsetting capital gainsIf you sold stocks or other investments at a gain this year — or plan to do so — consider offsetting those gains by selling some poorly performing investments at a loss.

Reducing capital gains is particularly important if you are subject to the net investment income tax (NIIT), which applies to taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) over $200,000 ($250,000 for married couples filing jointly). The NIIT is an additional 3.8% tax on the lesser of 1) your net income from capital gains, dividends, taxable interest and certain other sources, or 2) the amount by which your MAGI exceeds the threshold.

In addition to reducing your net investment income by generating capital losses, you may have opportunities to bring your MAGI below the applicable NIIT threshold by deferring income or accelerating certain deductions.

Charitable givingIf you plan to make charitable donations, consider donating highly appreciated stock or other assets rather than cash. This strategy is particularly effective if you own appreciated stock you would like to sell but you don’t have any losses to offset the gains.

Donating stock to charity allows you to dispose of the stock without triggering capital gains taxes, while still claiming a charitable deduction. Then you can take the cash you’d planned to donate and reinvest it in other securities.

Contact your trusted advisor to discuss end of year planning for you and your business.

With the holiday season right around the corner, it is a good time for business owners to focus on strategic planning for next year. Here are some ways to get started.

Begin with your financials

A good place to find inspiration for strategic objectives is your financial statements. They will tell you whether you are excelling or struggling so you may decide how strategically ambitious or cautious to be in the coming year.

Use the numbers to look at key performance indicators such as gross profit, which tells you how much money you made after your production and selling costs were paid. It’s calculated by subtracting the cost of goods sold from your total revenue. Also calculate current ratio, which is calculated by dividing current assets by current liabilities. It helps you gauge the strength of your cash flow.

A CFO or CPA-prepared budget can serve as more than just a management tool – it also can be presented to lenders and investors who want to know more about your start-up’s operations and its expected financial results. Review your findings with your CPA or a CFO consultant if you do not already have a CFO on staff.

Examine other areas

Human resources is another critical area of strategic planning. Consider last year’s employee turnover rate. High turnover could be a sign of poor training, substandard management or low morale. Any of these problems could undercut the strategic objectives you set.

Examine sales and marketing. Did you meet your goals for new sales last year, as measured in both sales volume and number of new customers? Did you generate an adequate return on investment for your marketing dollars?

Finally, take a close look at your production and operations. Many companies track a metric called customer reject rate that measures the number of complete units rejected or returned by external customers. Sometimes a business must improve this rate before it moves forward with growth objectives. If yours is a service business, you should similarly track and assess customer satisfaction.

Set new objectives

With a review of your financials and key business areas complete, you can more reasonably set goals for next year under the banner of your strategic plan. On the financial side, for instance, your objective might be to boost gross profit from 20% to 30%. But how will you lower your costs or increase efficiency to make this goal a reality?

Or maybe you want to lower your employee turnover rate from 20% to 10%. Strategize what will you do differently from a training and management standpoint to keep your employees from jumping ship this year.

Act now

Don’t let year end creep any closer without reviewing your business’s recent performance. Then, use this data to set realistic goals for the coming year.

Contact your trusted advisor to choose the best metrics numbers and put together a solid strategic plan.

Owners of certain rental real estate interests have final guidance on what qualifies for the qualified business income (QBI) deduction.

QBI in a nutshell

QBI equals the net amount of income, gains, deductions and losses — excluding reasonable compensation, certain investment items and payments to partners for services rendered. The deduction is subject to several significant limitations; however, QBI generally allows partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), S corporations and sole proprietorships to deduct as much as 20% of QBI received.

Many taxpayers involved in rental real estate activities were uncertain whether they would qualify for the deduction. The final guidance leaves no doubt that individuals and entities that own rental real estate directly or through disregarded entities (entities that are not considered separate from their owners for income tax purposes, such as single-member LLCs) may be eligible.

Covered interests

The safe harbor applies to qualified “rental real estate enterprises.” For purposes of the safe harbor only, the term refers to a directly held interest in real property held to produce rents. It may consist of an interest in a single property or multiple properties.

You can treat each interest in a similar property type as a separate rental real estate enterprise or treat interests in all similar properties as a single enterprise. Properties are “similar” if they are part of the same rental real estate category (that is, residential or commercial). In other words, you can only hold commercial real estate in the same enterprise with other commercial real estate. The same applies for residential properties.

Bear in mind, if you opt to treat interests in similar properties as a single enterprise, you must continue to treat interests in all properties of that category — including newly acquired properties — as a single enterprise. If, however, you choose to treat your interests in each property as a separate enterprise, you can later decide to treat your interests in all similar commercial or all similar residential properties as a single enterprise.

Notably, the guidance provides that an interest in mixed-use property may be treated as a single rental real estate enterprise or bifurcated into separate residential and commercial interests.

Safe harbor requirements

The final guidance clarifies the requirements you must fulfill during the tax year in which you wish to claim the safe harbor. Requirements include:

Keeping separate books and records. You must maintain separate books and records reflecting income and expenses for each rental real estate enterprise. If the enterprise includes multiple properties, you can meet this requirement by keeping separate income and expense information statements for each property and consolidating them.

Performing rental services. For enterprises in existence less than four years, at least 250 hours of rental services must be performed each year. For those in existence at least four years, the safe harbor requires at least 250 hours of rental services per year in any three of the five consecutive tax years that end with the tax year of the safe harbor.

The rental services may be performed by owners or by employees, agents or contractors of the owners. Rental services include:

Financial or investment management activities, studying or reviewing financial statements or reports, improving property, and traveling to and from the property do not qualify as rental services.

Maintaining contemporaneous records. For all rental services performed, you must keep contemporaneous records that describe the service, associated hours, dates and the individuals who performed the service. If services are performed by employees or contractors, you can provide a description of them, the amount of time employees or contractors generally spent performing those services, and time, wage or payment records for the individuals.

This requirement does not apply to tax years beginning before January 1, 2020. The IRS cautions, though, that taxpayers still must establish their right to any claimed deductions in all tax years, so be prepared to document your QBI deduction.

Providing a tax return statement. You must attach a statement to your original tax return (or, for the 2018 tax year only, on an amended return) for each year you rely on the safe harbor. If you have multiple rental real estate enterprises, you can submit a single statement listing the requisite information separately for each.

Excluded real estate arrangements

The safe harbor is not available for all rental real estate arrangements. The guidance excludes:

The guidance states that taxpayers that do not qualify for the safe harbor may still be able to establish that an interest in rental real estate is a business for purposes of the deduction.

Next steps

The final safe harbor rules apply to tax years ending after December 31, 2017, and you have the option of instead relying on the earlier proposed safe harbor for the 2018 tax year. Plus, you must determine annually whether to use the safe harbor.

Contact your trusted advisor to determine whether you are eligible for this and other valuable tax breaks.

Bitcoin and other forms of virtual currency are gaining popularity worldwide. Yet many businesses, consumers, employees and investors are still confused about how they work and how to report transactions on their federal tax returns. The IRS recently announced that it is reaching out to taxpayers who potentially failed to report income and pay tax on virtual currency transactions or did not report them properly.

The nuts and bolts

Unlike cash or credit cards, small businesses generally don’t accept bitcoin payments for routine transactions. However, a growing number of larger retailers and online businesses now accept payments. Businesses can also pay employees or independent contractors with virtual currency. The trend is expected to continue, so more small businesses may soon get on board.

Virtual currency has an equivalent value in real currency and can be digitally traded between users. It can also be purchased and exchanged with real currencies (such as U.S. dollars). The most common ways to obtain virtual currency like bitcoin are through virtual currency ATMs or online exchanges, which typically charge nominal transaction fees.

Tax reporting

Virtual currency has triggered many tax-related questions. The IRS has issued limited guidance to address them. In 2014, the IRS established that virtual currency should be treated as property, not currency, for federal tax purposes.

As a result, businesses that accept bitcoin payments for goods and services must report gross income based on the fair market value of the virtual currency when it was received. This is measured in equivalent U.S. dollars.

From the buyer’s perspective, purchases made using bitcoin result in a taxable gain if the fair market value of the property received exceeds the buyer’s adjusted basis in the currency exchanged. Conversely, a tax loss is incurred if the fair market value of the property received is less than its adjusted tax basis.

Wages paid using virtual currency are taxable to employees and must be reported by employers on W-2 forms. They are subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes, based on the fair market value of the virtual currency on the date of receipt.

Virtual currency payments made to independent contractors and other service providers are also taxable. In general, the rules for self-employment tax apply and payers must issue 1099-MISC forms.

IRS campaign

The IRS announced it is sending letters to taxpayers who potentially failed to report income and pay tax on virtual currency transactions or did nott report them properly. The letters urge taxpayers to review their tax filings and, if appropriate, amend past returns to pay back taxes, interest and penalties.

By the end of August, more than 10,000 taxpayers will receive these letters. The names of the taxpayers were obtained through compliance efforts undertaken by the IRS. The IRS Commissioner warned, “The IRS is expanding our efforts involving virtual currency, including increased use of data analytics.”

Last year, the tax agency also began an audit initiative to address virtual currency noncompliance and has stated that it is an ongoing focus area for criminal cases.

Implications of going virtual

Contact your trusted advisor if you have questions about the tax considerations of accepting virtual currency or using it to make payments for your business. If you receive a letter from the IRS about possible noncompliance, consult with your trusted business advisor before responding.

If your small business doesn’t offer its employees a retirement plan, you may want to consider a SIMPLE IRA. Offering a retirement plan can provide your business with valuable tax deductions and help attract and retain employees. For a variety of reasons, a SIMPLE IRA can be a particularly appealing option for small businesses. The deadline for setting one up for this year is October 1, 2019.

The basics

Unlike cash or credit cards, small businesses generally don’t accept bitcoin payments for routine transactions. However, a growing number of larger retailers and online businesses now accept payments. Businesses can also pay employees or independent contractors with virtual currency. The trend is expected to continue, so more small businesses may soon get on board.

As the employer, you can choose from two contribution options:

1. Make a “nonelective” contribution equal to 2% of compensation for all eligible employees. You must make the contribution regardless of whether the employee contributes. This applies to compensation up to the annual limit of $275,000 for 2018 (annually adjusted for inflation).

2. Match employee contributions up to 3% of compensation. Here, you contribute only if the employee contributes. This isn’t subject to the annual compensation limit.

Employees are immediately 100% vested in all SIMPLE IRA contributions. 

Employee contribution limits

Any employee who has compensation of at least $5,000 in any prior two years and is reasonably expected to earn $5,000 in the current year, can elect to have a percentage of compensation put into a SIMPLE IRA.  SIMPLE IRAs offer greater income deferral opportunities than ordinary IRAs, but lower limits than 401(k)s. An employee may contribute up to $12,500 to a SIMPLE IRA in 2018. Employees age 50 or older can also make a catch-up contribution of up to $3,000. This compares to $5,500 and $1,000, respectively, for ordinary IRAs, and to $18,500 and $6,000 for 401(k)s.

A SIMPLE IRA might be a good choice for your small business, but it isn’t the only option. Contact your trusted advisor to learn more about a SIMPLE IRA or to hear about other retirement plan alternatives for your business.

Contact your trusted advisor with any questions.

Look beyond day-to-day financial management.

Many business owners reach a point where managing the financial side of their enterprise becomes overwhelming. This is usually a good thing; the company has grown to a point where simple bookkeeping and basic financial reporting no longer suffice.

If your business has similarly expanded past its capacity, it may be time to add a chief financial officer (CFO) or controller – on either a full-time or part-time basis. Before taking the leap to hire, consider whether your payroll can take on this high-paying position as a full-time employee, or if hiring a part-time CFO consultant is a better fit. Read more to understand exactly what services you are paying for and what makes the most business sense for your company.

The broad role

The role of a CFO or controller is to look beyond day-to-day financial management to more holistic, big-picture planning of financial and operational goals. CFOs take a seat at the executive table and serve as a higher level of support for all matters related to the company’s finances and operations.

CFOs go far beyond merely compiling financial data. They interpret the data to determine how financial decisions will impact all areas of your business. These individuals can plan capital acquisition strategies, so your company has access to financing, as needed, to meet working capital and operating expenses.

In addition, a CFO or controller will serve as the primary liaison between your company and its bank to ensure your financial statements meet requirements should you require help negotiating any loans. Analyzing possible merger, acquisition and other expansion opportunities also falls within a CFO’s or controller’s purview.

Specific responsibilities

A CFO or controller typically has a set of core responsibilities that link to the financial oversight of your operation. This includes making sure there are adequate internal controls to help safeguard the business from internal fraud and embezzlement.

The hire also should be able to implement improved cash management practices that will boost cash flow and improve budgeting/cash forecasting. They should be able to perform ratio analysis and compare the financial performance of your business to benchmarks established by similar-size companies in the same geographic area. A controller or CFO should analyze the tax and cash flow implications of different capital acquisition strategies — for example, leasing vs. buying equipment and real estate.

Major commitment

Make no mistake, hiring a full-time CFO or controller represents a major commitment in both duration of the hiring process and dollars to your payroll. These financial executives typically command substantially high salaries and attractive benefits packages. Another option is to outsource this role to a part-time or fractional CFO consultant who provides business advisory services for a set amount of time. Starting with a part-time CFO may help you assess your current processes and internal controls, then help your company to transition to a full-time CFO position down the road.

Regardless of the route you choose, contact your trusted advisor to help you assess the financial impact of the idea.

The Colorado Department of Revenue issued the following statement regarding proposed sales tax rules to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s South Dakota v. Wayfair decision and destination sourcing:

“As part of our rulemaking process to implement sales tax rules for in-state and out-of-state retailers, we have heard from legislators and the business community, and the Department of Revenue agrees it is important for the state to take the time to get this right.

“As such, the Department is extending the automatic reprieve for Colorado businesses and out-of-state retailers to comply with the emergency rules from the current March 31, 2019 deadline to May 31, 2019. We will evaluate the need for another extension as May 31 nears. This additional time will give the state legislature an opportunity to find innovative solutions to streamline and simplify our sales tax collection laws in accordance with the wishes of the residents of Colorado.

“This is an opportunity to simplify sales tax for all parties: for businesses that collect and remit sales tax, for customers who pay it, and for those of us in state government whose obligation it is to carry out the tax laws passed by the state legislature. No one desires a streamlined and simplified sales tax collection and compliance system more than the Department of Revenue.”

If you have questions about sales tax in Colorado or in other states, please contact your tax advisor.

It is a small business world after all. With the ease and popularity of e-commerce, as well as the incredible efficiency of many supply chains, companies of all sorts are finding it easier than ever to widen their markets by crossing state lines.

But therein lies a risk: Operating in another state means possibly being subject to taxation in that state. The resulting liability can, in some cases, inhibit profitability while in other cases it can produce tax savings.

Do you have “nexus?”

Essentially, “nexus” means a business presence in a given state that is substantial enough to trigger that state’s tax rules and obligations.

Precisely what activates nexus depends on that state’s chosen criteria. Triggers can vary by state, but common criteria can include:

A minimal amount of business activity in a given state may not create tax liability there. For example, an HVAC company that makes a few tech calls a year across state lines probably would not be taxed in that state. If you ask a salesperson to travel to another state to establish relationships or gauge interest – as long as he or she does not close any sales, and you have no other activity in the state, you likely will not have nexus.

Strategic moves

If your company already operates in another state and you’re unsure of your tax liabilities there — or if you’re thinking about starting up operations in another state — consider conducting a nexus study. This is a systematic approach to identifying the out-of-state taxes to which your business activities may expose you.

Keep in mind that the results of a nexus study may not be negative. For example, you may find that your company’s overall tax liability is lower in a neighboring state. In such cases, it may be advantageous to create nexus in that state.

The complexity of state tax laws offers both risk and opportunity. Contact your CPA business advisor to learn more.