Posts Tagged ‘QBI’

Micro Business and Side Gig Tax Guide

Enjoy all the tax benefits allowed for owning your own micro business or side gig.

The reason for starting a side business are legion. Maybe early retirement left you with more free time than you know what to do with. Maybe you took early retirement a bit early with the intentions of earning some side income. Or, personal or family issues limit the hours available for gainful activities.

Micro businesses are a great way to earn more money without a massive expenditure of time. You can enjoy the best of both worlds: reasonable income and freedom.

But there is one factor that causes more headaches than any other: taxes. Micro businesses/side gigs have special tax rules that can cause serious problems, or, if done correctly, virtually eliminate your tax bill.

I’ve published on this in the past, but new tax rules require I provide an entirely new guide. Several notable changes require your attention. A misstep will cost you hard-earned tax dollars; a well thought out plan allows you to keep most or all of your side gig income.

 




Highlights of the Changes

First we need to define what I mean by a micro business or side gig. For this discussion I consider a business micro if profits (not revenue!) are less than $30,000 annually and are expected to remain so in the future. This profit level is confined by economic and personal factors. You still have a micro business if you elect to remain small.

By eliminating businesses with over $30,000 of profits we also limit the choices when we plan for taxes. That allows for a detailed analysis of the issues without concerns for larger side gigs.

One of the large changes to the micro business environment involves hobbies. In the past (2017 and prior) hobby income was reported on the front page of Form 1040 with expenses deducted on Schedule A as an itemized deduction. Hobby expenses could not exceed reported income from Form 1040 and the expenses were combined with multiple other deductible items (job search expenses, safe deposit boxes, tax preparations fees, et cetera) and then 2% of adjusted gross income was subtracted.

Starting in 2018 hobby expenses are no longer deductible in any amount while income is still required to be reported. The revamped Form 1040 also means you need Schedule 1 to report hobby income (see inset).

Where to report hobby income on a tax return.

Where to report hobby income on a tax return.

 

The other big change for micro businesses comes from §199A, the Qualified Business Income Deduction. This new animal allows for a 20% deduction on certain business income (profits) without an out-of-pocket expense. We don’t have to worry about limitations since we are focused on businesses/side gigs with under $30,000 of annual profits.

 

While tax code changes didn’t affect LLCs, S corporations or regular corporations (the C corporation), there are considerations for micro businesses when it comes to entity formation.

 

The Hobby Decision Tree

Even without the possibility of deducting any hobby expenses, there are times being a hobby might be advantageous. Before we begin this part of the discussion you should review this article to refresh your memory of who can and cannot report income as a hobby.

Why would anyone want to report income as a hobby? First, you may actually have a hobby rather than a sole proprietorship (a small business for tax purposes). Second, there is still a possible tax advantage to hobby income over small business income.

Hobby income does NOT incur self-employment tax on the income. A hobby with few expenses will be taxed less as a hobby than over a sole proprietorship.

Enjoy all the tax benefits allowed for owning your own micro business or side gig.

Enjoy all the tax benefits allowed for owning your own micro business or side gig.

Example: Fred has a hobby building model ships. He sells a ship every 4 or 5 years without a profit motive; he just likes building model ships in his free time. He meets all the criteria of a hobby. If Fred sells a model ship for $5,000 and reports it as business income he will face income tax at ordinary rates (determined by his income level), plus a 15.3% self-employment tax. Reported as a hobby Fred would not pay around $750 in SE tax. He would still pay income taxes on the hobby income at ordinary rates.

Once the self-employment tax issue is understood (or experienced), smart taxpayers start pushing their tax professional to list income as hobby versus small business income. However, you are automatically considered a business by the IRS anytime you turn a profit in 3 of any 5 year period. 

There are ways around every problem. First, you don’t have to conduct the same hobby every year. If you report hobby income every year, but from significantly different hobbies you should be prepared to explain to Revenue your position. (I would actually explain it with an attachment to your tax return every year you report hobby income in 3 or more of any 5 years.)

Second, you can enjoy your hobby like Fred. Fred loved the process of fleshing out a detailed ship from times past. He would spend a year or more on each masterpiece. Fred doesn’t have to sell a ship every year. He can sell his growing cache once every 4 or 5 years. (His wife might require Fred to divest in his some of with hobby creations due to space limitations. She might get sick of cleaning the growing horde of ships decorating every corner of the house.)

Because Fred has few expenses (perhaps $500 or less per ship) most of his income from the sale is profit. However, since he is a hobby he avoids paying self-employment tax on top of income taxes.

How do new tax rules affect your hobby decision? While avoiding self-employment tax can be enviable, hobby expenses are no longer deductible, meaning your income tax will almost certainly be higher. Your other income determines your tax bracket. High earners might be better off as a business than a hobby once expenses are considered.

Finally, don’t succumb to temptation to cheat. The IRS watches hobby income and gets irritable when the line is crossed. Yes, if Fred had a model ship hobby where he completed and sold a ship every 5 or for more years for $80,000 he could avoid SE tax. But he better be prepared to explain why he isn’t really a business. Be sure to read the article from the link about to gather a better understanding of where the line is if you plan on reporting income from a hobby.

 




Business Deductions

Business deductions that are “ordinary and necessary” and that are reasonable are allowed. This is a very wide road to travel.

Your business structure doesn’t change what can be deducted. A sole proprietorship, regular corporation, S corporation and partnership can all deduct reasonable ordinary and necessary business expenses.

Let’s talk about common deductions first. Anything related to your business is usually deductible. Advertising, rent, utilities, office supplies and bank fees are just a start. A painting to decorate a wall at your business or home office is ordinary and necessary because it creates a better profit producing environment. (A Picasso would not be reasonable and would be disallowed for all but the largest of businesses and even then might be a problem. Remember the expense needs to be reasonable.) Desks, computers, chairs are also business expenses, though they may need to be depreciated over a number of years.

There is a sweet spot in business deductions, too! While cash going out is easy to record and deduct, non-cash deductions are easily forgotten. You may qualify for an office in the home. With the standard deduction much higher now the office in the home might be a way to benefit from some of your mortgage interest and property tax expenses.

Explore all the tax benefits of a side hustle with this Micro Business and Side Gig Tax Guide.

Explore all the tax benefits of a side hustle with this Micro Business and Side Gig Tax Guide.

Mileage is another expense without an easy correlation. The mileage deduction can exceed actual cost, creating an additional non-cash deduction.

Meals and entertainment offers a choice when traveling. You can use actual expense or a per diem. The per diem can exceed your actual outlay providing another non-cash deduction. The beauty of this method is that you can choose which method you use for each business trip. High meal expense trips can use actual expense and low meal expense business trips can use the per diem.

Bonus depreciation is 100% this year for most new assets. The de minimis election to deduct rather than capitalize tangible property with a class life of 20 years or less and with an initial cost of $2,500 or less also allows for faster expensing of most business assets purchased.

You can even estimate some expenses! If receipts are lost or destroyed you can use reasonable numbers for expenses, except for meals & entertainment, travel, auto expenses and listed property. Advertising, supplies and postage can be estimated if records are unavailable. Be sure to review the rules with the link at the beginning of this paragraph to avoid problems.

And here is a final deduction nugget frequently overlooked. If you have a customer appreciation event, Christmas party for the office or other business event at your home you can charge your business a reasonable fee (deductible) and not report it on your personal return (tax-free) if you rent out your home for 14 or fewer days per year. To determine “reasonable”, check around locally for the cost of renting a similar facility. As always, document ad nauseam.

 




Retirement Planning

Even the owner of a micro business can reduce or eliminate income taxes.

We turn now to deductions that amount to moving money from one hand to the other and receiving tax advantages as a result.

There are a host of retirement plans available to micro business owners unless the income is classified as hobby income.

SEP plans are probably not the best choice for a micro business due to contribution limitations based on income. (20% of a $20,000 profit is only $4,000).

401(k) plans, including solo plans, allow for larger deductions ($18,500 in 2018 and $19,000 in 2019) but can have higher fees than other options.

If other income doesn’t preclude an IRA contribution you then have a choice: Roth or traditional. The maximum contribution allowed for either is $5,500 in 2018 and $6,000 in 2019; folks 50 and older on the last day of the tax year can add an additional $1,000.

If the traditional or Roth IRA are not allowed or not enough for your needs you should consider a SIMPLE IRA. SIMPLE IRAs are just the way they sound: simple. They are simple to setup and maintain with low fees, if any. Investment houses like Vanguard and Fidelity will help you with the process if you have issues. The best part of SIMPLE IRAs is the higher contribution limits: $12,500 ($13,000 for 2019) with a $3,000 additional catch-up provision for those 50 and older on the last day of the tax year. Also, you can contribute 100% of your business profits up to the contribution limits! This means if your micro business earns $10,000 per year you can contribute the entire amount, avoiding income tax on your business income (SE tax is stilled owed on business profits regardless of retirement plan contributions).

 

§199A: The Qualified Business Income Deduction

This new and unique deduction is in the news a lot lately. The Code is vague on certain issues at it pertains to the §199A deduction. While vague may sound like a problem, tax professionals deal with vague tax issues all the time. It comes with the territory.

We can avoid many of the complicated issues because we limited our discussion to micro businesses of less than $30,000 of annual profits.

Owning a micro business/ side gig/ side hustle is rewarding and profitable. Use this guide to pay the least amount of taxes with your venture.

Owning a micro business/ side gig/ side hustle is rewarding and profitable. Use this guide to pay the least amount of taxes with your venture.

Real estate investors of income property can also benefit from the 199A deduction. (Generally an income property investor must meet the definition of a “trade or business” (undefined as of this writing) before taking the QBI deduction up to the level of profit or 2.5% of the original basis before adjustment, whichever is less.)

Regular corporations saw a massive reduction in their marginal tax rates, except for the lowest bracket which was increase from 15% to the flat rate for regular corporations of 21%. Unlike partnerships, S corporations and sole proprietorships, the §199A deduction does not apply to regular corporation.

Revenue issued some guidance on the QBI deduction. One thing is certain, the deduction is allowed for all business entities, except regular corporations. Partnerships that pay guaranteed payments to partners (the paycheck portion paid to owners of a partnership, in a manner of speaking) will reduce the QBI deduction.

Example: Sally and Mark form a 50/50 partnership to sell widgets. They have one part-time employee. The employee receives a weekly wage and a W-2 at year-end. Sally and Mark agree to pay themselves $100 per week. They do not get a W-2! Instead, their payments are considered guaranteed payments to partners. If profits are $20,000 after all expenses, including guaranteed payments to partners, they use $20,000 to calculate their QBI deduction of $4,000.

S corporations generally require more than $30,000 of annual profits to be a viable choice for tax reductions. If you have an S corporation you must pay reasonable compensation to owner/employees which reduces the QBI deduction.

Sole proprietors do not pay themselves a wage or receive a W-2. Instead, they take draws. QBI is generally the reported profit of the sole proprietorship without regard to self employment taxes. Once again, multiple by 20% and deduct.

The QBI deduction is not taken at the entity or business level. The deduction is claimed on page 2 of Form 1040, Line 9 (2018 tax forms).

Claiming the Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction(Section 199A) on your tax return.

Claiming the Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction(Section 199A) on your tax return.

Caution! My journals have some conflicting advice on reasonable compensation to S corporation owner/employees and guaranteed payments to partners. Before Revenue released guidance on August 8th some felt guaranteed payments to partners and reasonable compensation to S corporation owner/employees would be added back before calculating QBI. Sharp readers called me on this. The reason for the assumed (by some people) add-back before guidance was released is so high earners couldn’t play with reasonable compensation to qualify for the QBI deduction in certain service businesses. Guidance now indicates QBI is profit after reasonable compensation or guaranteed payments.

Planing tip! Because S corporations require reasonable compensation to owners/employees, micro businesses probably do better as a sole proprietor since there are no wages to the owner to reduce QBI.

 

Entity Selection

I preach LLCs treated as S corporations a lot. However, micro businesses rarely benefit taxwise from such a structure. In most cases S corporation treatment does not lower taxes enough to offset costs of organizing as an S corporation until profits consistently exceed $30,000. Even $30,000 is really low! I prefer to see $50,000 or more before deciding to switch to an S corporation and only if it appears profits will remain north of $50,000 in future years.

We are discussing micro businesses of under $30,000 of annual profits so organizing as an LLC is fine for legal purposes, but electing to be treated as an S corporation is a questionable move if taxes are the reason why.

Your S corporation may have started as something bigger and withered over the years as you downsized. Keeping the S corporation may be more convenient than moving to a sole proprietorship.  For these reasons we’ll touch on S corporations.

S corporations generally pass all their profits to the owners on Form K-1. The QBI deduction is not lost! Rather, as stated above, owner’s wages are added back with 20% of this higher total deducted on page 2 of Form 1040.

We already discussed partnerships above.

While I focus on tax considerations, entities serve a legal purpose as well. I encourage you to discuss the legal ramifications of entities with a competent legal professional.

While the sole proprietorship is easy to organize, it also pays the most tax of any form of conducting business. Sole proprietors also face a highest federal audit risk, around 4% per year. Corporations (regular and S) and partnerships are audited at well below 1% per year. For this reason  alone you may wish to organize even a micro business as an S corporation, regardless of the tax ramifications.

 

The Best Tax Choice

Here is a step-by-step guide to deciding how to manage your micro business:

  1. Are you a Hobby or business? It makes a difference. A hobby is by far the easiest way to report income. But no expenses are allowed while SE tax is avoided.
  2. Choose an entity structure. An LLC provides legal protections and takes on the tax flavor you want. A single member LLC defaults to a sole proprietorship and if there are two or more owners to the business, partnership is the default. These are called disregarded entities (disregarded for tax purposes only, not legal purposes.)
  3. Make sure you don’t miss any deduction.
  4. Take advantage of the QBI deduction.
  5. Consider retirement plans.
  6. Enjoy! It is a micro business for a reason. Your goal is a bit of extra money while engaging an enjoyable activity.

 

Note: Technical corrections were made to this article. The complexities of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have caused serious issues when tax planning. The IRS issued some guidance on August 8, 2018, but more issues remain. Tax professionals are encouraged to contact the author if they disagree with a statement here. I have attended several training programs this year on the new tax rules and there are areas of disagreement between programs. I’ll make additional technical corrections as they are discovered by readers (or me) or further guidance is provided by Revenue.

 

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The IRS Issues Proposed Regulations on the Qualified Business Income (QBI) Deduction

The IRS is true to their word when they said they’d issue regulations on the Qualified Business Income Deduction, otherwise known as QBI, by the end of summer. In the past week proposed regulations were published, coming in at 184 pages. Remember these are “proposed” regulations. Final regulations come after guys like me pick it apart. Most of what you see probably survives so it is a good time to start the planning process.

Accountants who wanted to get a jump-start advising clients on ways to maximize the deduction are in for a rude surprise. Most schemes are out. At the end of this post I will outline what can be done to maximize the deduction.

The 184 pages of proposed regs cover more than just QBI. We will discuss the most relevant here. Consider consulting with a tax professional to review how your personal situation is affected by these proposed regulations.

If I find any other juicy tidbits, I’ll publish. If not, I’ll wait until the final regs are issued.




Who Qualifies?

First, let’s clarify what the QBI deduction is. The QBI deduction is a 20% non-cash deduction for qualified business income (generally profits) for small businesses (sole proprietors, LLCs, S corporations, partnerships and some trusts) and income property investors.

The IRS confirmed what I suspected when they said QBI applies to self-employed persons, along with pass-through entities (S corps, partnerships, LLCs) and certain trusts. I think there is room for debate of the sole proprietor issues, but if the IRS gives the green light I’m happy to oblige. QBI is also available for income property owners with somewhat different rules.

Some issues the IRS clarified are pretty straight forward from H.R. 1. Phase out of the deduction starts at $315,000 for joint returns and $157,500 for the rest of the crowd if the business is in a listed field. The deduction is reduced to zero for that business once income exceeds $415,000 for joint returns; $207,500 for other returns.

The fields restricted by the above phase out are:

  • Health
  • Law
  • Accounting
  • Consulting
  • Performing Arts
  • Actuarial Science
  • Athletics
  • Financial/Brokerage/Investment Management/Securities Trading/Securities Dealers

One issue worth pointing out is the phase out is applied per business! This opens a potential planning opportunity where you break a larger company into parts to fall under the limits. Except the IRS knows this trick already and nixed it.

You deserve every legal deduction allowed. Pat the lowest amount of taxes legally, including the new tax bill. Investment property owners and small businesses have more deductions than ever, included non-cash deductions. #cash #deduction #taxes #taxdeductions #legaldeductionsThis doesn’t mean you can’t have multiple businesses. QBI is calculated separately for each business, but if the same owner/s has two or more similar businesses they are combined in many cases! The “bust the company into a bunch of littler companies” idea doesn’t work.

Small businesses are still punished in a way for raising employee wagesItems I published previously are correct.

And talking about wages: enterprising tax professionals may have advised you to fire employees and hire them back as independent contractors. This way the old employees are really business owners and get a 20% deduction on their wages. The IRS has made clear this will NOT be allowed. This and similar schemes will be pursued and denied by Revenue. Penalties and interest will apply. You’ve been warned.

Investors in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have clarity with the proposed regs when claiming QBI. I’ll discuss this in a future post closer to tax season as the planning opportunities are limited for most taxpayers.

S corporations exclude reasonable compensation to owners when calculating QBI. The same applies to guaranteed payments to partners. Every idea I’ve seen to game the system involving owner’s compensation is clarified in the proposed regs and not allowed. But there are legal ways to maximize QBI.




Legal Ways to Increase QBI

Fancy footwork may seem the way to go when dealing with the new tax rules, but the old reliable methods of reducing income have a better chance having stood the test of time.

Lowering your income if you are already below the phase out has less benefit than in the past as business deductions are technically only worth 80 cents on the dollar. (You get a 20% deduction anyway if you don’t invest in the expense.) Below the phase out you need to consider the long-term effects on your tax situation. Additional equipment purchases or promotional expenses may not be the best choice when you consider the reduced profits mean a reduced QBI deduction. Example: You elect to spend an additional $10,000 on advertising. The additional deduction is only $8,000 since you would have received a $2,000 QBI deduction anyway.

The phase out is where things really get interesting. If you’re reasonably close to the phase out threshold, a modest amount of planning could make the difference between the full QBI deduction and no deduction at all. Remember, you can’t just increase your paycheck (assuming you are an owner receiving reasonable compensation) to reduce the company profits since reasonable compensation isn’t considered when calculating QBI. Let’s start with some small things and work up to large deductions you can take to qualify for the QBI deduction.

Office in the home: Sole proprietors can deduction a regular and exclusive office in the home using actual expenses or the safe harbor of $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet. This is more valuable than in the part with the standard deduction much higher and state and local taxes (SALT) deductions limited on Schedule A.

The qualified business income deduction is complicated. Guarantee you get the maximum value for your tax deduction. Tax planning can save more than ever. Maximize your QBI deduction here. #QBI #qualifiedbusinessincomededuction #tax #taxes #taxdeductions #business #businessdeductionsMissing deductions: It might sound strange, but many business owners forget to take all their deductions. Business miles are deductible. Keep a log book in your vehicle so every mile is counted. Small cash payments for business expenses add up. Track them all.  Any expense related to the business should be included. The IRS used “ordinary and necessary” as their term for what is allowed as a business expense. This is a wide road.

Section 1.263(a)-1(f) de minimis election: The de minimis election allows you to deduct all items that would normally be depreciated under $2,500. This is per item! For businesses this doesn’t mean much as bonus depreciation (more on this later) allows much larger deductions. But income property owners benefit mightily! Most stoves and refrigerators are under $2,500. Expensing anything connected to real estate under Section 179 isn’t allowed, even stoves and refrigerators. For most taxpayers this is a moot point as bonus depreciation counts for all assets with a class life of 20 years or less. But, many states limit Section 179 depreciation or don’t exactly follow federal tax rules for bonus depreciation. To my knowledge, all states follow this de minimis election, thereby bypassing Section 179 and bonus depreciation issues. Note: you can clean your depreciation schedule, too. Previous items under $2,500 can be currently expensed if the election is made. This could be a sizable deduction if you have a lot of small items on your depreciation schedule from prior years.

Repair Regs: Section 1.263(a)-3(h) election: This election allows for a deduction of up to $10,000 for an improvement as a repair. Property improvements do not fall under the bonus depreciation rules. Example: a bathroom or kitchen in an office or income property is probably an improvement by most measures and therefore depreciated over 27.5 or 39 years. If the remodel is $10,000 or less (per remodel or improvement) you can elect to treat the improvement as a repair and expense the entire amount. This is important. You might have a deck on a property replaced for $3,000, a roof for $9,000 and a minor bathroom remodel for $6,000. Each is a separate event. Each is under $10,000. You can elect for each improvement (you make multiple elections for multiple improvements) to deduct the amount as a repair expense. In this case the total repair expense deducted is $18,000.

Bonus depreciation: Bonus depreciation is back at 100% for assets with a class life of 20 years or less. This is by far the easiest way to chew huge chunks of reportable profit from a business. The decision for a machine shop to purchase a new piece of equipment this year or next for $200,000 will require a review of the current circumstances. If this year’s profits are too high for the QBI deduction, it might be advantageous to purchase the equipment this year. If not, you can save the purchase for next year. Facts and circumstances will prevail. If there is one area to get creative, it’s here. One caveat: restaurant, retail and leasehold improvements (qualified improvement property) acquired and placed in service between September 28, 2017 and December 31, 2017 get the 100% bonus depreciation, but not afterwards unless the tax law glitch is fixed. Don’t hold your breath.

 

I don’t want to get any longer on such a technical post. I just want you to understand there are many ways to take advantage of the current tax environment. The proposed regulations cover a wide variety of material. When the regs finalize I’ll publish more.

Until then, feel free to leave questions in the comments. I’ll answer the best I can with the limited information you provide me and as time permits. As previously noted, the proposed regs run 184 pages. I focused on the issues affecting my clients most. There are lesser issues that also affect clients I didn’t touch on. For example, I didn’t touch on the “reputation or skill” clause as it relates to QBI.

To keep this blog readable I’ll break up the technical tax posts with plenty of entertaining and useful wealth building, early retirement, side hustle and frugal living posts. It’s always good to have a family friendly blog.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

PeerSteet is an alternative way to invest in the real estate market without the hassle of management. Investing in mortgages has never been easier. 7-12% historical APRs. Here is my review of PeerStreet.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

A cost segregation study can save $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregations studies work and how to get one yourself.

Amazon is a good way to control costs by comparison shopping. The cost of a product includes travel to the store. When you start a shopping trip to Amazon here it also supports this blog. Thank you very much!