Delayed Tax Refunds

As of June 5, the IRS reported there are more than 18 million 2020 returns in its pipeline to be processed, and a few million others yet to be finalized from 2019. This past year has been extraordinary, the least of which being the COVID public health crisis and widespread unemployment. In addition, a series of stimulus payments from the federal government to help people navigate COVID financial woes was also managed by the IRS, and to ensure all eligible citizens received stimulus money, the IRS told Americans that everyone should file a tax return. Between more returns, unemployment amendments, issuing stimulus money and processing regular returns, the IRS has had its work cut out for it. Like many businesses during the pandemic, the IRS also had obstacles to overcome like switching its workforce from onsite to virtual and operating with a reduced staff.

If you have not received your refund 21 days after filing, it is likely that it is under further review. This happens more frequently when a return includes a recovery rebate credit, suspicion of identity theft or fraud, a claim for an earned income credit or other criteria that will ping a return for a manual review.

If you receive any correspondence from the IRS regarding your return, please contact us with a copy of the letter you received, and we can guide you through that. Unfortunately, due to the delays in processing, some notices are being sent by the IRS despite timely follow-up by you, or your accountant on your behalf. At this point, I am as powerless as you to speed up the IRS process, so patience is our best option right now.

6 Ways Income Taxes Will Be Different in 2021

Every year brings some degree of change regarding filing income taxes. While 2020 taxes are a done deal, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the next tax year. To help you be prepared for next year’s filing, here are 6 Ways Income Taxes Will Be Different for 2021.

Standard Deduction Increase

Standard deductions reduce the amount of your income that is subject to federal tax. Most taxpayers do not have enough deductions to itemize, so they take the standard deduction. Annual adjustments for inflation cause the standard deduction to increase slightly each tax year. For 2021, here are the standard deductions and the amount of the increase from the prior year.

  • Married filing jointly $25,100, up $300
  • Single and married filing separately $12,550, up $150
  • Head of household $18,800, up $150

While itemizing is more work, if your itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction allowance for your tax filing category, itemizing makes sense.

Higher Tax Brackets

You already know the more money you earn, the more you pay in taxes. How much you earn, your income, along with your filing status, determines your tax bracket. There are seven tax brackets with the top tax rate being 37 percent for taxable income over $518,400. Brackets are adjusted annually to account for inflation. For 2021, tax bracket thresholds were increased by about 1 percent over 2020 levels.

Capital gains

When you sell an investment like real estate, stocks, or bonds, for more than you paid the net profit you make is taxed as either short- or long-term capital gains. If you held your investment for less than one year, you pay short-term capital gains. For investments held more than one year and one day, the capital gains tax on the profit you made is long-term. Short-term capital gains are taxed like regular income and up to $3,000 of short-term losses can be deducted. However, long-term capital gains are taxed different rates (0 – 20 percent) depending on taxable income and marital status.

For example, if you’re single and your income is below $40,400 in 2021, you fall into the 0 percent capital gains tax bracket. However, if you’re single and earn between $40,401 and $445,850, you move into the 15 percent bracket. Above that, it’s the 20 percent bracket for you.

The 0 percent bracket is approximately double for married couples ($80,800), but above that, brackets are close to the single filer brackets (15 percent up to $501,600 and 20 percent above that).

Individual Tax Credits

Tax credits lower your overall tax bill. There are quite a few credits to consider, but the most popular ones are the earned income tax credit, the saver’s tax credit, and the lifetime learning tax credit.

Earned income credit is for low- and middle-income taxpayers and is based on income, filing status, and number of children, although taxpayers without children can qualify. For 2021, the earned income credit ranges are up very slightly over 2020 and range from $543 to $6,728. Some criteria for the credit are having at least $1 of earned income, investment income must be $3,650 or less. Other stipulations apply, so check with your tax preparer to see if you qualify.

Saver’s credit is also designed for low- and middle-income taxpayers and is to encourage retirement contributions. Taxpayer adjusted gross income (AGI) must be less than $33,000 in 2021 (up slightly from $32,500 in 2020) to qualify for the credit for single or married filing separately. Married filing jointly AGI must be less than $66,000 in 2021 (up from $65,000 in 2020).

Lifetime learning credit is for taxpayers who incur education expenses during the year. There was little change in this credit for 2021. Married filing jointly income limits increased $1,000 (from $118,000 to $119,000 for full credit and from $138,000 to $139,000 for partial credit). Other filing statuses will see no change for 2021.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The AMT exemption amount for 2021 is $73,600 for singles and $114,600 for married couples filing jointly. This is a change from 2020 when the exemption amount was $72,900 and $113,400 for married couples filing jointly.

Fringe Benefits, Medical Savings Accounts, and Estates

Most employee fringe benefits allowances for 2021 will continue at their 2020 levels; however, changes occur in health savings account (HSA) contributions, which increase by $50 for single and $100 for families from 2020.

The maximum out-of-pocket amounts for high-deductible health plans (HDHP) increases by $100 for single and $200 for families.

The federal estate tax targets the amount of wealth you can pass along when you die. It is no concern unless your estate is worth more than $11.7 million when you die. That figure is up from $11.58 million in 2020.

Retirement Plans

Contributions for 401(k) plans will not change from 2020 top off amount of $19,500 with a $6,500 catch-up contribution allowed for individuals 50 or older. Maximum contributions from all sources (employer and employee) rise by $1,000.


Of course, these are an overview of changes for the 2021 tax year. To be sure you’re up to speed on all the tax changes that impact you, be sure to speak to your trusted accountant.

PPP Alert January 2021

Did you miss out on the first two opportunities to receive your tax-free Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) cash?

 

Many did miss out. Why?

One reason: the word “loan.”

Who wants a loan? No one. Well, almost no one

But who wants a cash gift, tax-free?

 

If you do, read on for the details. But first, you should know that the big picture works like this:

 

  1. You obtain your PPP tax-free monies from a lender (it’s called a “loan,” but watch that word disappear as you read this letter).
  2. You spend all the PPP money on yourself if you are self-employed or operate as a partnership; on payroll (including pay to you, if that applies); and on other covered expenses such as rent, interest, utilities, operations, property damage, suppliers, and worker protection.
  3. You apply for loan forgiveness and achieve 100 percent loan forgiveness, which is easy-peasy when you spend 60 percent or more of the money on payroll (and yourself if you are self-employed or a partner in a partnership).
  4. You deduct the expenses that you paid with the PPP loan monies that were forgiven.

 

New Money on the Table

The new COVID-19 stimulus act sets aside $35 billion for first-time PPP applicants, with $15 billion of that made in loans for first-time applicants with 10 employees or fewer or made in amounts less than $250,000 to businesses in low-income areas.

 

New Deadline

The new deadline of March 31, 2021, replaces the expired deadline of August 8, 2020.

 

The monies available in this new round of PPP funding are on a first-come, first-served basis. Don’t procrastinate. Get your application for your first-time PPP monies in place now.

 

If you would like to discuss the PPP, please call our office at 847-593-7558.

Can You Take Advantage of the Research and Development Tax Credit?

You don’t have to wear a white lab coat to claim the federal research and development tax credit if you meet the four criteria outlined in Internal Revenue Code Section 41 and its regulations. Learn why failing to explore this credit may be leaving money on the table.

Many manufacturing companies fail to take advantage of the generous research and development (R&D) tax credit simply because they don’t have staff working in a lab. The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) definition of R&D is codified at Internal Revenue Code Section 41 and its related regulations — and it may not be exactly what you think it is.

From 2018 to 2027, the estimated value of R&D tax credits to be claimed by U.S. companies is estimated at $163 billion, with $148 billion of that going to corporations.

You can take advantage of this tax credit as long as your company performs activities such as the following:

  • Redesigns its production process to be more efficient.
  • Introduces artificial intelligence or robotics into your manufacturing process.
  • Develops software that enhances your company’s processes or procedures.
  • Designs, constructs or tests product prototypes.
  • Develops second-generation or improved products.

This list is not all-inclusive. According to the IRS, many activities may qualify if they are performed in the United States and meet the following four-part test.

Part 1. Permitted purpose

The IRS test is to create a new or improved product, business component or process that increases performance, function, reliability, composition or quality or that reduces costs for your company. It does not have to be new to your industry.

Development of internal use software may meet the permitted purpose test if it:

  • is an innovation that provides economically significant results;
  • requires a certain amount of economic risk and use of resources to develop when recovery of the cost is uncertain over a reasonable time; and
  • is not commercially available for the intended purpose, although commercially available software may be eligible if it is significantly modified.

Part 2. Technological in nature

The research must fundamentally rely on the hard or physical sciences, such as engineering, physics, chemistry, biology or computer science.

Part 3. Uncertainty eliminated

You must be able to demonstrate that you’ve attempted to eliminate any uncertainty about the usefulness of the development, improvement or design.

Part 4. Process of experimentation

You must be able to demonstrate during the research process that you’ve experimented and evaluated alternatives. This may have been done through research techniques like modeling, simulation, trial and error or some other method.

Documenting R&D Activities

Claiming the credit requires a lot of supporting documentation, however. It is worth taking the time to assess whether the amount of tax relief you’ll get is worth the effort. For example, you’ll need to determine how much of a credit your company is eligible for, how difficult it will be to document your company’s R&D activities, whether the credit can be used to offset alternative minimum tax liability and whether you can claim previously unused credits.

Many, if not all, manufacturers may find they can reduce their taxes by taking advantage of the federal R&D tax credit. In addition, many states have an R&D credit that is available to manufacturers. It’s worth investigating and we can help. Contact us today to determine whether you should be claiming this credit.

Guidance Clarifying the Deductibility of Expenses Where a Business Received a PPP Loan

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released guidance today clarifying the tax treatment of expenses where a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan has not been forgiven by the end of the year the loan was received.

Since businesses are not taxed on the proceeds of a forgiven PPP loan, the expenses are not deductible. This results in neither a tax benefit nor tax harm since the taxpayer has not paid anything out of pocket.

If a business reasonably believes that a PPP loan will be forgiven in the future, expenses related to the loan are not deductible, whether the business has filed for forgiveness or not.  Therefore, we encourage businesses to file for forgiveness as soon as possible.

In the case where a PPP loan was expected to be forgiven, and it is not, businesses will be able to deduct those expenses.

“Today’s guidance provides taxpayers with greater clarity and flexibility,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.  “These provisions ensure that all small businesses receiving PPP loans are treated fairly, and we continue to encourage borrowers to file for loan forgiveness as quickly as possible.”