Breaking Down the Numbers
New Tax Provisions Could Benefit Small-business OwnersAs tax practitioners, we are often asked by our clients during tax time to help them lessen their overall tax burden. So we employ various tax strategies that apply to them and calculate their taxes. We remind our clients that we should talk often during the year so that we can better assist them with their needs.
Our job is to keep up with the ever-changing tax laws, and we can do better tax planning during the year, not after. Almost comically, I tell my clients to “contact your legislator.” Call, write, e-mail, text, blog, Facebook, or Twitter them. Our elected officials are always working on tax legislation at some point during the year, and their votes will have a direct impact on what you pay for taxes.
Both of these recommendations are important, and here is why. As for contacting your legislator, to quote John F. Kennedy, “my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can you do for your country.”
How does this apply to an article on taxation? The answer is simple: service via involvement. In the speech from which the above quote originates, he was encouraging all citizens of our country to become involved.
The economy of our country relies on the success of small business. The Small Business Administration (SBA), in its 2009 report to the president states that “half of all Americans that work in the private sector are employed in a small firm.” There are millions of small firms in America. By getting and staying involved, small businesses can and will have an impact on how they are taxed. When the small business can reduce both its own taxes and its owner’s taxes, it theoretically would have more resources available to grow the business and, ultimately, enhance the overall economy.
In 2010, there were various lobbying efforts led by businesses and business associations (or their lobbying groups). Because of this, many new tax laws were passed this year to help businesses.
However, there is a lot more tax relief needed for individuals. For example, there’s the alternative minimum tax (AMT), which, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, could affect approximately 28 million taxpayers in 2010 unless Congress acts before the end of the year. The AMT is a second tax calculation that impacts higher-income taxpayers who itemize their deductions on Schedule A.
And let’s not forget about the Bush tax cuts from 2001 that will expire on Dec. 31, 2010, which will affect every business and individual. The 10% personal income tax bracket will go away, the marriage penalty will come back, and capital gains tax rates will increase. Congress, by not acting on this, will raise everyone’s taxes on Jan. 1, 2011. Ouch.
Recently Enacted Tax Changes
The remainder of this article focuses on the recent Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, which was signed into law by President Obama on Sept. 27. These are the highlights of this legislation:
• SBA loan limit increase. It’s no secret that, during a recession, credit for businesses is hard to obtain, if not impossible. With revenues down, many small businesses are becoming undercapitalized, and may also have a lot of cash tied up in receivables or inventories. An option available for credit has always been by way of a Small Business Administration loan, or SBA loan for short, obtainable through most banking institutions.
These loans have federal government backing that makes a favorable credit decision by your bank a lot easier to obtain. In this new legislation, the maximum lending limit for SBA loans was permanently increased to $5 million for two of its largest loan programs, the 504 and 7(a) loan. A manufacturer could qualify for up to $5.5 million in the 504 program. It also temporarily increases the more popular SBA express loans from a maximum of $350,000 to $1 million. Smaller businesses often utilize these fast-track loans with fast approval and lower fees.
• Increase in Section 179 capital acquisitions. This provision gives a company the option to expense up to $500,000 of eligible new capital equipment and furnishings purchased, if the total capital outlays are less than $2 million. This section of the federal tax code, more commonly referred to as the Section 179 deduction, was set to return to a maximum of $25,000 to write off in 2011. Congress, in expanding the total capital purchases limit to $2 million, significantly expands this favorable tax deduction to up to $4.5 million for individuals and businesses to get this benefit, according to the president’s press release on Sept. 27, when he signed this legislation into law.
• New $30 billion lending fund. This new fund was established to provide smaller banks with much-needed capital and incentives to then lend out to small businesses. According to the legislation, eligible institutions “must provide to the government a small-business-lending plan describing how the institution’s business strategy and operating goals will allow it to address the needs of small businesses in the areas it serves, as well as a plan to provide linguistically and culturally appropriate outreach, where appropriate.”
• Health-insurance deduction for the self-employed. This provision now allows a self- employed business owner to deduct the cost of their own health insurance premiums on their Schedule C profit or loss from business. These business owners were previously allowed to take this as a deduction from their adjusted gross income and reduce their taxable income only. The new provision allows for the health-insurance deduction against the self-employment tax, which could amount to a 14.13% tax savings on the premiums paid.
• $10,000 deduction for start-up costs. This provision allows for a new company to expense its startup costs of up to $10,000, if no more than $60,000 is spent. Startup costs, which typically include initial fees for attorneys, consultants, state filing fees, and other one-time setup costs, are normally capitalized and amortized over a number of years. A new company may elect to opt out of the expensing option, especially if it already has a loss for the first year.
Meet with Your Outside Accountant
Chances are you have one. If you don’t, consider getting one. The reason you’re in business is because you have a niche and do it well enough to have your own business. The reason you need an outside accountant is because they too have a niche and do it well enough to help you and your business. In other words, do what you do on a daily basis because it is what put you where you are in the first place, and use the expertise of an independent accountant or CPA to advise you on tax strategies.
Your CPA should be acutely aware of your business and keep you abreast of any new or changing tax initiatives that apply to you and your business. Your CPA should also know your banker and be able to work directly with you and them in designing lending programs that fit. Remain in contact with your CPA frequently during the year, even if it’s a quick phone call or e-mail. Even more importantly, schedule a review of your year-to-date financials well before Dec. 31 so that you will have ample time to implement their suggestions into your own personal scenarios.
One key to success for you and your business is to stay in contact with your accountant. He or she can be an important and reliable asset to you and your business, whether it’s by helping you with financing, business advice, or tax planning. And stay on those legislators; they may even help you with tax relief if enough businesses and individuals get involved.
Nicholas LaPier, CPA, is the principal at Nicholas LaPier CPA, P.C., located in West Springfield; (413) 732-0200; www.lapiercpa.com