You and Your Spouse Own a Business Together. What are the Tax Issues?

    Ahhhhh……….The Husband and Wife owned business.

    Love, love, love……….

    A man and a women holding hands.

    No one knows for sure how many businesses in the U.S. are co-owned by spouses.

    A professor from Oklahoma State University estimated in 2000 that there were 3 million such businesses, so the number today likely is much higher.

    Some giant corporations — Fiji Water, Forever 21, Panda Express, and Houzz — were founded by husband-wife teams.

    There are many personal issues that couples face when co-owning a business.

    Here are some of the tax issues that spouses co-owning a business should think about.

    Tax Filing for Spousalpreneurs

    A couple who co-owns and operates a business that is unincorporated and shares in the profits and losses are in a partnership, whether or not they have a formal partnership agreement. Usually they must file a partnership tax return, Form 1065, as well as report the income, losses, etc. on their personal return. However, they can elect to file Schedule Cs along with their Form 1040 instead of Form 1065, saving them from the complexities of the partnership return. To make this election:

    • Both spouses must materially participate in the business, which essentially means working on a day-to-day basis. (Material participation tests can be found at the IRS.) Neither spouse can be merely an investor.
    • Each spouse must file a Schedule C to report his or her share of income, gain, loss, deduction, and credit attributive to the respective interests in the business. If they split things equally, then both Schedule Cs will look the same.
    • Each spouse must file a Schedule SE to pay self-employment tax on his/her share of the net income from the business. This is the same action that would occur if the couple had filed a partnership return.


    It’s not uncommon for spouses who co-own a business to get divorced. What happens in the property settlement? Some spouses continue to co-own the business after divorce. Others may transfer interests to the other so that only one spouse owns and runs the business after the couple splits up.  How the business interests are addressed all depends on the couples involved.

    From a tax perspective, the transfer of property incident to divorce is tax free. This means the transferring spouse does not recognize any gain or loss on the transfer to the other spouse. The spouse who now owns the business steps into the shoes of the other spouse when it comes to tax basis, so that if the business is later sold, the recipient-spouse recognizes the gain on any appreciation the transferor-spouse had but did not recognize at the time of the property settlement.

    If spouses try to co-own and run a business after the divorce but it doesn’t work out, they can still part ways tax free. That’s what happened recently to one couple who had co-owned three dance-related businesses. After 17 months following the divorce, one party bought out the other for $1.6 million, and the Tax Court said this wasn’t a sale but rather part of the property settlement.

    Innocent Spouse Relief

    Spouses who co-own businesses typically file joint tax returns. These tax returns include the couple’s business income. By filing jointly, each spouse is jointly and severally liable for the tax due on the return, plus any interest and penalties. Can an owner obtain innocent spouse relief for the actions of the other spouse? Seems so.

    In another recent case, one spouse was the sole owner of the business; the other handled the books and all other back-office operations. This spouse routinely had the tax return prepared and, after obtaining the other’s signature, filed it. The problem: She didn’t file it one year and he was assessed interest and penalties (she had died by this time). While he owed the tax, the Tax Court gave him innocent spouse relief for the interest and penalties.

    Bottom Line

    Spouses who co-own businesses should have very good lawyers and tax professionals so that each spouse’s interests are protected.

    Solid Tax Solutions ( is skilled in such matters and can be reached year-round at: (845) 344-1040.


    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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    A Sole Proprietorship May Be The Easiest Route to Travel for SOME Businesses!

    A lot of people think that the first step to starting a business is incorporating or organizing a Limited Liability Company (LLC). While both types of entities can provide your business with additional protection, they’re not the answer for everyone. And that protection comes at a cost. I’ve created a list of some factors that should be reviewed before deciding on an LLC, a corporation, or a sole proprietorship. For the sake of this post, I will assume that your business, at least in the beginning is a one-person show with no partners and no employees. While that leaves out many startups, it encompasses many more.

    The Words 'Sole Proprietorship'.

    Here Are Some Points to Consider:

    Potential Liability. If you’re designing and importing a children’s toys, you will need all the protection you can get. On the other hand, if you’re a carpenter your insurance should be able to handle most liability issues. Many professionals are likely to be sued personally even if the business is incorporated. Things quickly change if you have employees. If that’s the case a corporation or LLC can protect you personally.

    Business Debts. In earlier times the corporate form was used mostly to protect owners from being personally liable for corporate debts. Today, it’s used for personal protection from a range of lawsuits. But for most small businesses, owners will be required to personally guarantee any bank, etc. loans. The only advantage to a corporation or LLC may be avoiding accounts payable on a default. And even a corporation or LLC won’t protect you if don’t respect the formalities of the entity.

    Cost. If you do it yourself, the cost of setting up (and dissolving if it doesn’t work out) a corporation or LLC may be relatively small (generally between $125 and $800). Using an attorney will add to the cost. There may be annual fees such as filing fees and franchise taxes. These vary widely. Not much of an issue if the business is nicely profitable, but a burden if you’re suffering losses. If you do business as a corporation (S or C) you’ll have a separate return to file. That is a consideration if you have a professional prepare it.

    LLC vs. S Corporation. While you could do business as a regular C corporation, you could find yourself subject to double taxes. Most small businesses elect S corporation status where profits and losses are passed through to the shareholders. An LLC with only one member is a separate entity for legal purposes, but is disregarded for federal tax purposes. That is, instead of filing a partnership return (the normal return for an LLC with more than one member (owner)), a single-member LLC reports its income and expenses on the owner’s Schedule C. That, plus the fact no balance sheet is required, can save some preparation costs at tax time.

    DBA. If you’re doing business as a corporation or LLC you will decide on a name when filing with the state. While you could use your own name (e.g., Ralph Kramden, Inc.) that’s usually not the case. As a sole proprietorship, the default is to use your own name. That’s fine if you’re Ralph Kramden, Attorney-at-Law, but not so attractive if you want to brand the business. The solution is filing with your state for a Doing Business As (DBA) to do business under an assumed name (e.g., Ralph Kramden doing business as Brooklyn Auto Body). You have to decide if you want the extra work of a DBA.

    Transactions Between You and Entity. If you’re doing business as a separate entity, you’ve got to respect the formalities. Business assets are purchased and titled in the name of the entity. Assets transferred to shareholders or LLC members should be accounted for on the books and for tax purposes. Loans are taken out in the name of the entity. Not in your name personally. Paying a corporate loan (or other expense) with a personal check won’t get you a deduction. The proper approach is either to make a loan or equity contribution to the business so the business can pay the expense and get the deduction. Alternatively you can submit an expense report and have the business reimburse you. Paying personal expenses with a business check as well as not respecting other formalities such as making customers, creditors, etc. aware that you’re doing business as an LLC or corporation can allow outsiders to challenge the existence of the corporation or LLC. It sounds simple enough, but most small business owners don’t follow through. A sole proprietorship doesn’t have these problems.

    Switching Entities. If you start a business as a sole proprietorship and later decide to incorporate or change to an LLC, doing so is relatively straightforward and there are generally no tax consequences. Going in the other direction can be more complicated, particularly if you have fixed assets. In some cases there may be tax consequences.

    The Best Approach? If you have or will have shortly, owners in addition to yourself, you might as well use a corporation or LLC from the businesses inception. If additional owners are unlikely (at least for some time) a sole proprietorship should be considered if the liability protection of an LLC or corporation isn’t needed. You should discuss the issue with your attorney and with your tax advisor.

    Keep in mind that this discussion is in no way inclusive of all factors to be considered in starting a business.

    If you found this information to be helpful drop us a line to let us know and feel free to pass this article along to your friends and family.

    If you are considering starting a business (or already have a business) give us a call for a consultation. Your business will thank you.

    We can be reached at: (845) 344-1040. You can also learn more about us at our website:


    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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    Donating Your Car to Charity – What You Need to Know!

    A customer of mine, whose car recently “died”, told me he wanted to donate that car to charity for a tax deduction. I know that a number of people have expressed an interest in doing the same thing with their cars but think it is as simple as dropping their car off at their favorite charity and then just taking the tax deduction.

    Well it not quite that simple.

    So, for my customer, all of those who have expressed an interest in donating their vehicle, and all of my valued readers, I thought I would review the rules for donating a car.

    Taking a tax deduction for donating your car is not as easy as commercials make it out to be.
    Taking a tax deduction for donating your car is not as easy as commercials make it out to be.

    I have seen a lot of ads that entice you to donate your car to a charity and get a tax deduction – but you should be aware . . .

    First, you will get no tax benefit from donating your personal automobile to charity unless you can itemize on Schedule A! This means the total of your “itemizeable” deductions exceeds your applicable Standard Deduction amount. While the donation itself can put you over the top and cause you to be able to itemize, to get the maximum tax benefit you must be able to itemize without the car donation.

    A few years ago a customer expressed excitement when telling me that he donated his car to charity, and that he expected to get a big tax deduction. Unfortunately, his tax benefit from the deduction was zero, nothing, zilch. He was not able to itemize, and had not in the past, and even with the addition of the value of the car he was still not able to itemize.

    FYI – you may want to itemize if your total deductions do not exceed your applicable Standard Deduction amount if you fall victim to the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The Standard Deduction is not allowed in calculating AMT, but an itemized deduction for charitable contributions is.

    Second, the amount you receive “in your pocket” will be only a small percentage of the car’s value. The amount of cash you will realize depends on your federal and, if your state allows a similar tax deduction (New York does not), state tax bracket.

    And third, you have to wait to file your tax return to get the money. If you donate a car to charity today you will not see the cash until at least next tax season.

    When you donate a vehicle (car, motorcycle, boat, or airplane) to a church or charity the amount you can deduct depends on what the organization does with the donated vehicle.

    (1) If the organization sells the vehicle without significant interim use or material improvement your tax deduction is limited to the gross proceeds from the sale.

    (2) If the organization intends to temporarily or permanently use the vehicle in its operations, or make “material” improvements to the vehicle before selling it, or sell the car to a “needy” individual at a price that is significantly below market value, or give the car to such an individual, you can deduct the “fair market value” of the vehicle.

    You can use the “private party value” for the vehicle, adjusted for mileage and condition, as listed in the Kelly Blue Book ( or a similar established used vehicle pricing guide.  If the fair market value of the vehicle is more than $5,000.00 you must obtain a formal appraisal.

    To claim a deduction of more than $500.00 for donating a motor vehicle to charity you must include Copy B of the IRS Form 1098-C, provided by the charity, with the filing of your Form 1040.

    The Form 1098-C will include the name and Taxpayer Identification Number of the donee organization, the vehicle identification number, the date of contribution, and information on what the charity did with the vehicle. Form 1098-C must be issued within 30 days of either the date of the contribution or the date of the disposition of the vehicle by the donee organization. The charity can give you a statement in lieu of Form 1098-C as long as it contains all the necessary information discussed above.

    So, these are the basics of donating a vehicle to a charitable organization and taking a tax deduction for that donation. If you are considering donating your vehicle, don’t miss out on a very valuable tax deduction. Call Solid Tax Solutions ( before you make the donation: (845) 344-1040.

    Your wallet will thank you!


    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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    Ahh…the ‘Side-Gig’, the ‘Side-Project’, ‘Moonlighting’, or the ‘Side-Hustle’ (NO not this Hustle). From Uber to, there are tons of ways to make some money on the side while pursuing your dream job – or just digging out of debt. If you’re hoping to pick up some extra cash with a side gig this year, here’s what you need to keep in mind on the tax side.

    1) Income is Income. It doesn’t matter if your extra income is from driving a car or trading stocks, income is reportable unless it’s otherwise excluded.

    2) Understand the Difference Between a Real Business and Just a Fun Way to Make Some Money. Income may be income but how and where it’s reported can vary depending on whether you’re engaged in a business or making money with a hobby.

    Hobbies and businesses are reported on different spots on your federal income tax return (line 21 for hobby income versus Schedule C for business income), and they are treated differently for purposes of self-employment tax (business income is subject to self-employment tax while hobby income is not). When it comes to deductions, if you earn income in the pursuit of a hobby, you can offset the income with deductions but you cannot claim deductions that exceed your income: if you spend more than you make, you’re unfortunately out of luck.

    If, however, you earn income in the pursuit of a business, you can offset the income with deductions, and you can carry losses forward or backward to other years. These are sometimes referred to as the “hobby loss rules,” and they’re important.To distinguish a real business from a hobby, the IRS looks at a lot of factors including whether you expect to make money (if so, you’re typically a business) as well as whether you are actually making money (again, typically a business)—so how seriously you treat your new pursuit will matter.

    3) Keep Good Records. It may seem like all good fun when you’re renting out your apartment on the weekends, but you want to be able to verify your income and your expenses. The best way to do this is contemporaneously.

    If you’re working by the hour, keep a log of your time. Save your invoices and document income: if you can stash it in a separate account, even better. When it comes to expenses, keep receipts and annotate the nature of the expense (you can write this right on the receipt, or use a scanner and upload the image with an explanation). And please don’t ditch those receipts immediately after Tax Day (click here to find out how long to hold onto your tax records).

    4) You May Need to Prorate Some Expenses. Typically, you can only deduct expenses primarily for business use. Sometimes, you may have items like your cell phone or your car that are used for business and personal reasons. When it comes to those expenses, all is not lost: you can typically deduct the business portion of the expense.

    To figure that out, you’ll want to document your use and note when it’s for business. The easiest way to do this is to keep a log of your time and mileage (there are also apps that can help you do this). If at the end of the year, you find, for example, that 40% of the use was for business, then you can typically deduct 40% of the expense. Some exceptions apply (for example, the IRS always considers a primary home landline as personal {not business}, even if you swear it’s used solely for business).

    5) You May Need to Make Estimated Tax Payments.The extra few hundred dollars you earn from ads on your blog might not drastically affect your tax bill, but if you’re making a significant amount of money, you’ll want to plan ahead.

    If you expect to owe more than $1,000 at tax time, you’ll want to make estimated tax payments. To make estimated tax payments, you’ll use federal form 1040ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals (downloads as a pdf). Estimated taxes must be paid quarterly: if you skip a payment or pay late, you may be subject to a penalty.

    6) Consider Hiring a Tax Pro. If your tax situation becomes more complicated from your side hustle—especially since all of your income will not be reported by your employer on a W-2, you may need help. Don’t hire just on cost.

    If you have a Side-Gig or are just thinking about starting that Side Hustle, don’t get caught up in the IRS tax net.

    Solid Tax Solutions ( Can Help You!

    Give Us a Call At: (845) 344-1040.

    We Are Open Year-Round!

    Sometimes, a side hustle is just that. But if it turns out to be something more, don’t ignore the business and tax side of things.


    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

    Our Firm’s Website: (or just click on the icon on right sidebar of this page).

    Other Social Media Outlets: (or just click on the icon on right sidebar of this page).

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    Categories: Business, Income Tax


    This post, due to the nature of the topic, will be short.

    In light of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose I want to say, first of all, that my heart goes out to those who have dealt with or are about to deal with these catastrophic events.

    A street with a 'Hurricane Evacuation Route' sign.

    Here are a couple of tips that may be of help to you.

    For individuals and businesses in the affected areas, there’s not much time left for preparations. There are two things you can do–or have your kids do:

    1. Take pictures of the interior of the house and important or valuable items, then take pictures of the exterior.
    2. Either take your computer with you or download your most important files onto a flash drive. Accounting records, business data, etc. as well as any personal information such as bank and brokerage account numbers, etc. In the future you should consider backing up the computer to the cloud or to an outboard hard drive (if you don’t already). Make sure you put the flash or hard drive in a waterproof container before leaving the house.

    Again, my heartfelt best wishes to those who have been affected by these hurricanes or who will be dealing with life changing hurricanes in the near future.



    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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    Categories: General 'Thoughts'


    It’s common practice for people to rent out their vacation homes when they are not being used for personal Rest and Relaxation. That rental income can cut the costs of owning and maintaining a second home. But these days, some of you may be cashing in on short-term rentals of your primary homes. Those of you who live in or near vacation destinations or who live in the vicinity of major events can now connect with renters through advertising sites like Craigslist or rental sites like Airbnb. So for example, back in 2015 many Philadelphia residents jumped into the short-term rental market when Pope Francis visited that city.

    House with the words For Rent
    A Short-Term Rental Can Affect Your Taxes!

    Unlike typical vacation home landlords, some taxpayers may be unfamiliar with the tax law rules on rentals of a residence.

    Rule #1:

    Short Term Rentals. Under a longstanding tax rule, many short-term home rentals are essentially tax-free. The IRS says that when a home is rented for less than 15 days during a year, there’s no need to report the rental income or expenses. The rental income and rental expenses are simply ignored for tax purposes. Home-related expenses, such as mortgage interest and property taxes, are deducted as usual if the homeowner itemizes deductions.

    Once rentals hit the 15-day mark, two other rules come into play depending on whether the property qualifies as a personal residence or as investment property.

    Rule #2:

    Personal Residence Rentals. If a personal residence is rented for 15 days or more during the year, all the rental income is included in income. Expenses are allocated between personal and rental use based on the number of days the home is used for each purpose. Otherwise deductible expenses attributable to personal use (mortgage interest, property taxes) can be written off if the homeowner itemizes deductions. All expenses attributable to rental use are deductible—but only up to the amount of gross rental income.

    A home is treated as a personal residence for a tax year if it is used for personal purposes for more than the greater of (1) 14 days or (2) 10 percent of the total days it is rented at a fair rental price.

    Days of personal use generally include any days the home is used by you or a family member or by anyone at less than a fair rental price. However, days the homeowner spends on repairs and maintenance are not personal use days, even if family members use the property for recreational purposes on the same day.

    KEY POINT: This rule is not likely to come into play when a homeowner rents out their primary residence on a short-term basis. But it can crop up with vacation home rentals. For example, if a person uses a vacation home for a three-week vacation each year (21 days), the home will be treated as a personal residence only if rental use is limited to a total of 30 weeks (210 days).

    Rule #3:

    Investment Property Rentals. If a person’s property does not qualify as a personal residence, it’s considered an investment property. In that case, it is subject to the passive loss rules. Rental deductions are not limited to the amount of rental income, but any overall loss on the rental is deductible only to the extent of income from other passive investment sources. There is, however, an important exception: If a person has adjusted gross income of $100,000 or less and is actively involved in rental of the property (for example, by making repairs, approving tenants, and the like), the homeowner can write off up to $25,000 of the net rental loss against non-passive income, including his or her salary. The $25,000 exception is phased out a rate of 50 cents for each dollar of income between $100,000 and $150,000.

    TAX TIP: By fine-tuning personal use of the home, homeowners can pick the rule that will yield biggest tax deductions.

    Example: Bob and Carol Smith have adjusted gross income of about $95,000. The Smiths own a beach home that they use for three weeks each summer and rent for the remaining 12 weeks of the season. Their annual rental income is $18,000. Their total annual expenses for the home, including mortgage interest, taxes, maintenance and depreciation, come to $40,000. Of that amount, $8,000–including $4,000 of mortgage interest and $800 of property taxes—is allocable to personal use. The remaining $32,000 is allocable to the rental. The Smiths’ three weeks of personal use puts the vacation home in the personal residence category. Therefore, the Smiths can deduct the $4,800 of mortgage interest and taxes attributable to their personal use (the remaining expenses attributable to personal use are nondeductible). In addition, they can deduct their rental expenses—but only up to the amount of their rental income. Total deductions: $22,800. 

    Change of Plans: The Smiths limit their annual vacation to just two weeks and rent the home for an additional week, increasing their rental income to $25,500. Based on their new mix of rental and personal use, they allocate $5,320 of expenses, including $2,660 of mortgage interest and $532 of property taxes, to their personal use. The remaining $34,680 of expenses are allocable to the rental.

    Cutting back on vacationing makes the home an investment property. The Smiths lose some deductions on the personal side; they can deduct the $532 of property taxes attributable to personal use, but not the $2,660 of mortgage interest. (Mortgage interest attributable to personal use is deductible only if the home qualifies as a personal residence.) However, they pick up substantial deductions on the rental side. They can deduct their rental expenses up to the amount of their $25,500 of rental income. In addition, because the Smiths’ adjusted gross income is below $100,000, they can deduct their $9,180 loss on the rental ($34,680–$25,500) against other income. Total deductions: $35,212.

    On The Flip Side: Assume the Smiths’ adjusted gross income exceeds $150,000. In that case, they may want to do more vacationing, rather than less. Reason: Whether the home is classified as a residence or an investment property, their rental deductions will be limited to their rental income. But by boosting their personal use, they can increase the amount of deductible mortgage interest and taxes attributable to personal use.

    So, I hope that you have found this article to be helpful. Feel free to drop me a reply.

    If you have a short-term (or even a long-term) rental you may be hurting yourself when it comes to taxes and the IRS.

    So, give Solid Tax Solutions a call at (845) 344-1040 and let us get and keep you on the correct and profitable path.

    And, don’t forget to check out our other informative articles on our blog:

    Until the next time….

    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

    Our Firm’s Website: (or just click on the icon on right sidebar of this page).

    Other Social Media Outlets: (or just click on the icon on right sidebar of this page).

    Twitter: (BTW, We Follow-Back).


    Ahhh……Summer Is Here!


    Summer is typically a “hot season” in the home sale market. Young families typically want to get settled in a new home before school begins in the fall, and older home sellers in northern climates want to head south before winter sets in. People who are buying a new home will need to do some serious number crunching to determine what they can afford to pay and how they will pay it. However, those of you who are home sellers will need to do some number crunching as well.

    Under current tax rules, a loss on a home sale is not deductible. On the other hand, the first $250,000 of gain on a home sale is excluded from income. What’s more, for joint filers, the exclusion is generally doubled to $500,000. However, for long-time homeowners, even those generous exclusions may not shelter all of that gain from tax. Therefore, you will need to:

    Get Back to Basis

    To properly determine gain (or loss) on the sale or exchange of a home, a taxpayer must know the basis of the home for tax purposes. And calculating basis will involve information that dates back to the time the home was purchased. Or perhaps even earlier.

    The amount of gain or loss on a sale is determined by comparing the amount realized on the sale to the adjusted basis of the home. If the amount realized is greater than the adjusted basis, the difference is a gain. If the amount realized is less than the adjusted basis, the difference is a loss.

    Cost Basis

    In most cases, the starting point for determining basis is the cost of the home. So, if a home was purchased from the builder or from a former owner, the initial cost basis includes the purchase price and certain settlement costs. The purchase price generally includes the down payment and any debt, such as mortgage or notes given to the seller in payment for the home.

    Settlement fees or closing costs associated with the purchase of the home can be added to basis. However, fees associated with a mortgage on the home (e.g., appraisal fees, costs of a credit report or mortgage insurance fees) are not added to basis. In addition, escrow amounts for payment of future liabilities are not included in the basis of the home. Some examples of settlement fees that can be added to basis include:

    • Abstract of title fees
    • Charges for installing utility services
    • Legal fees (e.g., fees for a title search and for preparing the sales contract and deed)
    • Recording fees
    • Survey costs
    • Title insurance
    • Transfer taxes

    When a home changes hands, real estate taxes for the year of the sale are apportioned between the buyer and seller based on the number of days each of them held the property during the year. The date of the sale counts as a day the property is owned by the buyer. Real estate taxes for the year of sale may increase or decrease basis, depending on how the taxes were handled at the closing. If the buyer paid taxes owed by the seller and was not reimbursed, the taxes increase the buyer’s basis of the home. If the seller paid taxes owed by the buyer and was not reimbursed, the taxes decrease the buyer’s basis of the home.

    In the case of a home that was constructed by or for the taxpayer, basis includes the cost of the land plus the construction costs. However, if the taxpayer did all or part of the construction personally, basis does not include the value of the taxpayer’s own labor or the value of any other unpaid labor. 

    Basis Other Than Cost

    Special rules apply in determining basis if a home was acquired other than by purchase or construction—for example, as a gift or inheritance or as part of a divorce settlement. In addition, a taxpayer may have a basis other than cost if a home was acquired as a replacement home in a home-sale rollover under prior law. 

    Adjustments to Basis

    A taxpayer’s basis in a home is not static. Basis may be adjusted upward or downward to reflect expenditures made in connection with the home or payments or other benefits received.

    Improvements that increase basis include:

    • Additions to the home, such an extra bedroom or bath, a family room, a deck or patio, or a garage.
    • Landscaping and other outdoor improvements, such as a new driveway or walkway, fences and walls, a sprinkler system, or a swimming pool.
    • Systems improvements, such as a new heating system, central air conditioning, a new furnace or ductwork, wiring upgrades, a septic system, a water heater or water filtration system, a satellite dish, or a security system.
    • Exterior improvements, such as new storm windows or doors, roof, siding or shutters.
    • Interior improvements, such as built-in appliances, kitchen cabinetry, flooring, wall-to-wall carpeting and insulation.

    CAUTION: Improvements that are no longer part of a home are not included in the home’s basis.

    Example: John Smith bought his home for $200,000 in 2005. In 2006, John added a deck to the home at a cost of $6,000. In 2012, John remodeled the home, which involved removal of the deck and the addition of a new covered porch. The addition and porch cost $30,000. Result: After the addition of the deck in 2006, John’s basis in the home increased to $206,000. However, after the deck was removed in 2012, it was no longer included in the home’s basis. Therefore, John’s basis for the home following the remodeling is $230,000 ($206,000 – $6,000 + $30,000).

    Some examples of repairs that do not increase basis (unless they are part of an overall renovation or remodeling) include interior or exterior painting, fixing gutters, repairing leaks or plastering, and replacing broken windowpanes.


    1. Generally, you can exclude a gain from the sale of only one main home per two-year period.
    2. If you can exclude all of the gain, you probably don’t need to report the sale of your home on your tax return.
    3. You can choose not to exclude the gain from a sale. If you expect to sell another main home within two years, you may want to consider claiming the gain on sale of your current main home instead of excluding the gain. You can only claim an exclusion on the sale of your main home once every two years (See Tax Tip #1). Depending on your specific sale, it may be more beneficial to claim the current gain as income and use the exclusion on the future sale of your main home.
    4. If you can’t exclude all of the gain, or you choose not to exclude it, you’ll need to report the sale of your home on your tax return. You’ll also have to report the sale if you received a Form 1099-S – Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions.
    5. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is usually the one you live in most of the time.
    6. If you received the First-Time Homebuyer Credit when you purchased your home, you may have to pay some or all of it back.
    7. If you didn’t live in the home the entire time you owned it, you may have to pay tax on part of the gain. If your house went up in value when you were not living in it; for example, when you used the property as a rental house, you cannot exclude gain from the time you rented it out. For determining the amount of the gain you cannot exclude, the property is assumed to have gone up in value evenly over the period of time you owed it.
    8. You don’t have to buy a home of greater value, or any other home, to exclude this gain.
      There are no longer any requirements to buy another home after you sell in order to exclude the gain from the sale of your home.
    9. Long-term capital gains rates are lower than the ordinary tax rates you pay on short-term gains. Long-term capital gains tax rates for 2017 are 0%, 15%, or 20%, depending on your income tax bracket. Ordinary income tax rates for 2017 range from 10% to 39.6%. High-income taxpayers must pay an additional 3.8% tax on Net Investment Income (NIIT), including any gain from the sale of a residence that is not excluded from income. For this purpose, a high-income taxpayer is a taxpayer with a Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) of more than $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er), $125,000 if married filing separately).
    10. When you sell your home and move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service. File Form 8822 – Change of Address, to notify the IRS.
    11. Most Importantly——>If you are selling your home (or are just thinking about it) contact Solid Tax Solutions and let us help you: (845) 344-1040.

    Hey, if you like this article let us know and also take the time to look at some of the other helpful articles here at The Tax Nook and please feel free to share our blog with your family and friends.

    Until the next time….


    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

    Our Firm’s Website: (or just click on the icon on right sidebar of this page).

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    This is NOT the best way to claim the Residential Energy Credit!

    A recent Tax Court case, Wainwright v. Commissioner.. Tax Court Memo 2017-70, provides a lesson in how not to claim a residential energy credit. The taxpayer and his friend worked and lived together. They lived in a home that the friend had purchased before she and the taxpayer met. While they were living together in the home, they refinanced the mortgage as co-borrowers. During 2010 and 2011, the taxpayer lived in the home, paid the mortgage payments, and maintained the property. On his 2010 federal income tax return the taxpayer claimed, among other credits and deductions, a $1,500 residential energy credit arising from the installation of energy-efficient windows and “other energy saving assets” in the property. When the IRS issued a notice of deficiency, one of the items it disallowed was the residential energy credit.

    To substantiate the credit, the taxpayer provided an invoice from a local window company, issued to the taxpayer’s friend who also lived in the home. The invoice showed a “contract amount” of $11, 934, a “deposit” of $3,580, and “payments” of $8,354. It showed an “install date” of March 5, 2011.

    The Tax Court found that the invoice was insufficient proof of the claimed credit, pointing to several shortcomings. First, it did not describe in any detail what sort of windows were installed. Second, it did not specify the property on which they were installed. Third, the taxpayer’s name was not on the invoice. Fourth, the invoice did not disclose who paid the deposit or who paid the payments. Fifth, and this is the clincher, the invoice stated that the windows were installed in 2011, but the taxpayer claimed the credit on his 2010 federal income tax return.



    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

    Our Firm’s Website: (or just click on the icon on right sidebar of this page).

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    Twitter: (BTW, We Follow-Back).

    Categories: Income Tax, Tax Court


    Hello again everyone!

    With tax season now in motion, I wanted to take a bit of a break to complete Part 2 of this  blog post giving an overview of entity classification considerations for starting a new business (or looking at your ‘up and running’ business).

    I hope that you found Part 1 to be insightful.
    If, by chance, you missed Part 1 or simply would just like a refresher you can read that post here.

    The second part will definitely continue the journey. So have a cup of coffee (or your favorite beverage) and let’s delve into Part 2 of LLCs, S-Corporations, And Partnerships – The Basics.

    S Corporation Rules and Requirements

    S corporations are just corporations that have elected to be taxed under special rules where the income and losses are passed through to the shareholders. Most, but not all, states recognize S corporations the same way the IRS does. There are a number of rules associated with S corporations. Violating them could result in a loss of S status. Should that occur, losses will be disallowed to the shareholders and profits will be taxed at the corporate level.

    Making the S election is usually pretty straightforward. All of the shareholders must agree to make the election. In many states no separate election is necessary, filing the federal form automatically qualifies the corporation for S status in the state; in others you must file a separate state form.

    Generally, the form must be filed within 2-1/2 months the corporation first has shareholders. Existing corporations can elect S status for a year by March 15 of that year (calendar-year corporations). There are exceptions to the rules, but this is not the place to make a mistake. You don’t want to find out some years down the road that you’ve been denied S-Corporation status. While the election is relatively simple, I would strongly recommend that you seek the services of a qualified professional to guide you through this process (this is not the time to be ‘penny wise and dollar foolish’).

    There are several requirements associated with the shares of an S corporation:

    • The maximum number of shareholders is 100;
    • Shareholders can only be individuals, estates or certain trusts;
    • Shareholders must be citizens or residents of the U.S.; and
    • There can only be one class of stock.

    The first requirement is unlikely to cause a problem for most corporations. All members of a family and their spouses are considered as a single shareholder for determining the 100-shareholder limit.

    The second and third requirements can present pitfalls. Partnerships, corporations, and nonresidents cannot be shareholders. If an existing shareholder sells his or her shares to one of these persons, the S election will be terminated. An IRA cannot be a shareholder. (An inadvertent termination can often be remedied, but not without effort.)

    The last requirement sounds innocent, but can often be a problem. While you’re unlikely to inadvertently issue preferred shares, the IRS has held that unequal distributions to shareholders can result in a second class of stock. For example, John Smith and Susan Jones each own 50% of SoapNSuds Inc. John takes a $50,000 salary; Susan takes only $10,000 annually. Neither takes any cash distributions. But SoapNSuds Inc. pays all the expenses of a car for Susan which Susan uses only 10 percent for business. The 90 percent of personal use is a distribution to Susan. Since Susan has gotten a preferential distribution, SoapNSuds Inc. may now have two classes of stock. Debt other than straight debt can be considered a second class of stock (e.g., convertible debt). Differences in voting rights generally won’t constitute a second class. Health or accident insurance premiums paid on behalf of a 2-percent plus shareholder aren’t considered distributions for the second class of stock requirement.

    As always, the rules are far more complicated than discussed above. There are other requirements as well as exceptions.


    Fringe Benefits

    This is one of the drawbacks of partnerships and S corporations. Certain fringe benefits paid to any partners or more than 2-percent shareholders of an S corporation are not deductible. The fringe benefits generally include:

    • health and accident insurance,
    • qualified transportation fringes,
    • group term life insurance premiums on the first $50,000, and
    • meals and lodging furnished for the convenience of the employer.

    Health insurance premiums are deductible, but only if included on the employee/shareholder’s W-2. The employee can then deduct the amount toward his or her adjusted gross income on their personal tax return. Meals and lodging furnished for the convenience of the employer include meals provided on company premises when employees can’t leave because of work requirements.

    Most other fringe benefits, such as employee discounts, working condition fringes, no-additional cost services, and de minimis fringes should be deductible by the partnership or S corporation.


    Attribution Rules

    This is a technical area that’s beyond the scope of this blog post. However, you should be aware that stock ownership or an interest in a partnership can be attributable to a related party. For example, you own 50 percent of the stock of TicTak Inc. You pay the health insurance for your son who is an employee of TicTac Inc. Your son is deemed to be a more than 2-percent shareholder. In order for his health insurance to be deductible, you would have to include his health insurance premiums on his W-2.


    Excessive Salary

    Excessive salary issues have generally involved C corporations. Because dividends from a C corporation are not deductible by the corporation but income to the shareholder, the best tax way to take money out of a C corporation is generally by salary. But excessive salaries can be challenged by the IRS and deemed to be, in part, dividends.

    With an S corporation, partnership, or similar entity, the IRS may take issue with excessive salaries paid to relatives, claiming you’re trying to shift income to a lower bracket taxpayer. So as an example, let’s say that you are the sole shareholder of MedBuzz Inc. a highly profitable medical electronics manufacturer. You’re in the top tax bracket (i.e., 39.6%). Your son works for the business on a part-time basis. He has a college degree but no special skills, but you pay him $275,000 per year. The IRS may decide he’s only worth $35,000 and disallow a deduction for the remainder.

    If there is any question as to the salary paid to a relative, you should document hours worked and be able to show the salary is not excessive.


    State Taxation

    Most states tax S corporations the same as the Federal government does. (There are certain exceptions.) Of more concern are S corporations, partnerships and LLCs doing business in more than one state or where you have a nonresident shareholder. The partnership, S corporation, etc. must file in each state in which it does business. (This would be a good time to  check with a tax professional on the definition of doing business.) The shareholders or partners must file a personal tax return in those states or file a composite return. So, let me give a couple of examples to help clarify the above.

    Example 1–Lobster Inc. is a Massachusetts corporation owned by two Massachusetts residents, Bob and Carol. Lobster Inc. is also doing business in New Yawk New York. Lobster Inc. has to file a New York state S corporation return. Both Bob and Carol have to file New York nonresident individual income tax returns reporting Lobster Inc.’s share of New York income on their nonresident returns.

    Example 2–Clams Inc. is a Massachusetts corporation owned by Ted and Alice. Clams Inc. does business only in Massachusetts. Ted is a Massachusetts resident; Alice is a New York resident. Alice has to file a Massachusetts nonresident return reporting her share of Clams Inc.’s income.

    That’s the general approach. Some states allow the use of a composite return. If that’s the case the corporation can file a return for the nonresidents and pay the tax directly. While the approach is simpler, the total tax should be about the same. Some states require composite returns; in some it is optional (if available). Many states now require making installment payments for nonresident shareholders.


    Converted C Corporations

    Converting from a C (regular) corporation to an S corporation is generally easy and you can usually avoid any current tax consequences. But there are traps to watch out for.

    The first is the built-in gains tax. It involves appreciated assets held by the corporation while it was a C corporation and sold by the S corporation. Because the sale of appreciated assets would be taxed twice to a C corporation, but not to an S corporation, were it not for the built-in gains tax, converting to an S corporation would provide a loophole.

    Example–In 1996 Green Acres Inc., then a C corporation, purchased 100 acres of land for $100,000. In 2015 when the land is worth $400,000, Green Acres Inc. converts to S corporation status. Green Acres Inc. sells the land in 2017 for $650,000. Any appreciation in the land after Green Acres Inc. converted to S corporation isn’t subject to the built-in gains tax. But the $300,000 gain ($400,000 value at time of conversion less $100,000 purchase price) is subject to the special tax.

    The tax rate is the highest tax rate applied to corporations. The tax does not apply to assets held by the S corporation longer than 5 years at the time of sale. Therefore, in the example above, if Green Acres Inc. had converted to S corporation status in 2010, the tax would not have applied.

    As always, the rules are more complex and you may be able to avoid the tax by careful planning.

    The second danger associated with a converted C corporation involves excess net passive investment income. The S corporation must first have accumulated earnings and profits as a C corporation (while the rules aren’t exactly the same, accumulated earnings and profits are similar to retained earnings). Then it must have more than 25 percent of its gross receipts from royalties, rents, dividends, interest, and annuities. An S corporation that meets these tests is subject to a separate tax at the highest corporate tax rate on the excess net passive income.

    While the tax is unlikely to affect most operating corporations (an S corporation in the business of renting property enjoys a special exception to the rent rule), there is a real danger for corporations where operations have been terminated. For example, ABC Inc. has been in business for many years about half of them as a C corporation. It sells most of its operations for cash. Rather than distributing the cash, the corporation invests it and collects dividends and interest.

    The third trap uses the same tests as in the second (excess net passive income and accumulated earnings and profits) but adds a third test–three years of excess passive income. Here the penalty is termination of S corporation status. Clearly something you want to avoid.

    The fourth trap involves distributions. Generally, distributions of income from S corporations are nontaxable. The shareholders pay tax on all the income when earned, so they avoid a second tax on distributions. For converted C corporations with accumulated earnings and profits distributions out of the earnings while the entity was an S corporation are nontaxable. But once those earnings have been distributed, additional earnings will be from accumulated earnings and profits of the former C corporation and are taxed just like ordinary dividends.

    There are several options to avoiding these problems, but they may depend on your specific situation.



    I’ve discussed basis in other places, but a review is worthwhile. Generally, your basis in an S corporation, partnership or LLC is equal to:

    Your original and any subsequent capital contributions, + your share of the income of the entity, + your share of the separately stated income (e.g., dividends, interest, etc.), – your share of the losses, – your share of the separately stated deductions (e.g., a Section 179 expense option), – your share of the distributions.

    There are a number of items that can enter into the calculation (such as when property rather than cash is contributed to the entity), but the basic approach remains the same. In addition to your basis in equity capital, S corporation shareholders and partners have a basis in any money loaned to the entity. Partners can increase their basis in the partnership by partnership debts for which they are liable. Once your equity basis has been exhausted by losses, additional losses will reduce your loan basis.

    Your basis is important for determining your amount at-risk, the amount up to which you’re allowed to deduct the losses of the entity. It also determines your gain or loss on the sale of the business.

    Just because you can’t take the losses doesn’t mean they don’t reduce your basis. The Section 179 expense option can create a particular trap. Because of a limitation, you may not be able to use the deduction elected by the S corporation or partnership, but your share of the amount elected will reduce your basis.

    Another trap arises from nondeductible expenses. Even though they don’t decrease your profit or increase your loss, they do reduce your basis. The most commonly encountered one is the 50 percent of meal and entertainment expenses that aren’t deductible.


    Loss Limitations

    I’ve said that income and losses of S corporations, partnerships, LLCs, etc. are passed through to the partners, shareholders, etc. That’s generally true, but in order to take the losses you have to pass some tests. The first I discussed in Part 1, material participation. (Actually the material participation test is applied first.) But you also have to have sufficient amount at-risk. That is, your economic investment in the entity must be at least as much as the losses.

    What’s your amount at-risk in the entity? A complete discussion would be involved, but most taxpayers won’t get into the nuances. In most cases, your amount at-risk is very similar to your basis. And, in many cases, a shareholder or partner needs to go no further. But there can be substantial differences, particularly in the case of partnerships. Here are some points:

    • You are not at risk with respect to amounts protected by nonrecourse loans, guarantees or stop-loss agreements.
    • You are not at risk with respect to amounts borrowed from a person who has an interest (or than as a creditor) in the entity or a person related to a person with such an interest.
    • In some cases the at-risk rules can be applied separately to separate activities.

    Two examples based on simple situations should help clarify.

    Example 1–Vince invests $5,000 in XYZ Inc. to start the business (he’s the only shareholder). During year 1 XYZ Inc. has income of $30,000 and Vince takes a distribution of $9,000. Vince’s basis in XYZ Inc. at the end of year 1 is $26,000 ($5,000 + $30,000 – $9,000). In year 2 XYZ Inc. has a loss of $15,000 and Vince takes a distribution of $2,000. Vince’s basis at the end of the year is $9,000. In year 3 XYZ Inc. has a loss of $16,000; Vince takes no distribution. Vince can only deduct $9,000 of the $16,000 loss. The remaining $7,000 loss can be carried forward and used in a year when he has sufficient basis.

    Example 2–The facts are the same as in example 1, but in year 3 Vince loans XYZ Inc. $10,000. The loan increases his total basis in XYZ Inc. to $19,000 (the $9,000 equity basis at the end of year 2 plus the $10,000 loan basis). Viince can take the full $16,000 loss, leaving him with no equity basis (you use equity first) and only $3,000 in loan basis ($10,000 original loan basis less $7,000 loss applied to loan basis).

    Here comes a trap. Assume XYZ Inc. ceases operations (just to simplify the example) when XYZ Inc. starts repaying the loan to Vince, a portion of each principal payment will be income because Vince’s basis in the loan is only $3,000.

    A second trap involves loans from a party who has an interest in the entity other than as a creditor. For example, Vince and Kathy are 40-60 shareholders in XYZ Inc. Vince wants to increase his interest to 50 percent and borrows $30,000 from Kathy to make an equity investment. Vince is not at risk for the $30,000 additional investment.

    It sounds like I have spent a considerable amount of time explaining what may sound like a fine point. However, many small businesses are financed with only a minimal amount of equity and a large amount of debt.

    Partnerships, LLCs and sole proprietorships can get more complicated. The basic rules are the same. But your amount at-risk in a partnership or sole proprietorship is increased by any loans for which you are personally liable and decreased by the relief of any debt for which you are liable. For example, Bonnie and Clyde are 50-percent partners in Green2Go Co., a general partnership. Each contributed $5,000 to start the business. Green2Go Co. borrows $20,000 from Ketchum Bank to purchase inventory. Bonnie and Clyde are considered to have increased their amount at risk by their share of the loan, $10,000 each.

    But that increase is elusive. Assume Green2Go Co. has losses of $30,000 ($15,000 for each) in the first year. Bonnie and Clyde can deduct all the losses because their amount at risk is $15,000 each. That decreases the at risk amount to zero. Assume in year two Green2Go Co. has cash flow but no profit for the partners. Green2Go Co. uses $10,000 of the cash generated to pay off the bank loan. Bonnie and Clyde will have $5,000 of taxable gain because of the reduction in the bank loan. A similar situation could occur if the partner is no longer at-risk with respect to the loan or investment.


    Sale of Interest

    Selling your interest in an S corporation can be as simple as signing over the shares of stock. More than likely you’ll draft a purchase and sale agreement providing for a noncompete clause, payment terms, etc. Some of the proceeds will be outside the gain or loss on the business. For example, the noncompete agreement is usually between the owner of the business and the buyer. The corporation isn’t involved. It’s more complicated in the case of a partnership, since there are a number of special issues to be dealt with and that’s beyond the scope of this blog post. However, the starting point for computing gain or loss is similar.

    Whether you have a gain or loss on the sale of an asset is determined by your selling price and the basis. That can be good news or bad news, depending on your basis. Keep in mind that your basis in an S corporation or partnership depends on your equity investment plus any income less losses and distributions. For example, Vince started XYZ Inc. with $5,000. Over the years XYZ Inc. has had income of $85,000; Vince takes no distributions. He sells his stock for $160,000; he has a $70,000 gain (selling price of $160,000 less $90,000 basis). Katlin started World Inc. with a $100,000 investment. World Inc. has losses of $90,000; her basis is $10,000 ($100,000 investment less $90,000 in losses). Katlin sells her stock for $160,000. She has a gain of $150,000 ($160,000 selling price less $10,000 basis).

    As always, things can be more complicated. The point to remember here is that your gain or loss is based on more than just your original investment.



    In our Part 1 of this article I said it really doesn’t matter if you take a distribution or not, the income from an S corporation, partnership, etc. is taxable to you. But what about the distribution? Is that taxable? This is another time when the answer depends on your basis.

    Generally, distributions up to your basis are nontaxable. Distributions in excess of your basis are taxed as a capital gain.

    Example–Chris invested $5,000 to start LMN Inc. LMN Inc. has had earnings of $23,000. Chris takes a distribution from the company of $35,000. At the time of the distribution, Chris’ basis in LMN Inc. was $28,000. Of the $35,000 distribution, $28,000 is nontaxable, the remaining $7,000 is treated as a capital gain and, assuming the required holding period is met, taxed at long-term capital gain rates.

    The rules for partnerships are similar. How can you distribute more money than you put in? Simple. If you financed the business with debt or even have accounts payable, you could have cash available for distribution.

    In the discussion above I assumed that only cash is distributed. Distributing property (e.g., a truck used in the business given to your son) will complicate the issue. A distribution of appreciated property by an S corporation could result in a taxable gain. And the amount of the distribution will be the fair market value of the property. A distribution of property by a partnership won’t result in gain until it’s sold by the partner. But a distribution of property encumbered by a liability (a truck with a loan outstanding on it) can trigger an overall decrease in partnership liabilities. The reduction in the partners’ liability will result in a deemed distribution to the partners.


    In Conclusion:

    As I wrap up this two-part post I will say that I know that this post was a long read (in addition to Part 1) but the length just reflects how intricate choosing an entity classification can be for your business. The decision is not to be taken lightly.

    But, keep in mind, what I covered in these two posts only scratched the surface. So, if you are starting a business or even if you are already ‘in business’, give Solid Tax Solutions
    ( a call so that we can help you make informed and smart decisions for your business.

    We can be reached at (845) 344-1040 year round.


    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

    Our Firm’s Website: (or just click on the icon on right sidebar of this page).

    Other Social Media Outlets: (or just click on the icon on right sidebar of this page).

    Twitter: (BTW, We Follow-Back).


    Hello All!

    Over the past year a number of people who have started a business or contemplated starting a business, have asked me various questions about LLCs, S-Corporations, and Partnerships and which of these forms of ownership is best.

    These questions have come to me by way of visits to our office, through this blog, facebook (, or even through twitter ( But there was a common denominator among these questions. A lack of understanding of what these entities represent and the responsibilities required by each.

    So, I’ve decided to put pen to paper (so to speak) to give a foundation on which business formation and operation decisions can be made.

    I’ve decided to break this up into two parts so as not to overwhelm. But keep in mind that the two parts do not represent all that needs to be considered when forming a business or contemplating changing the ‘entity type’ for the business.

    So, here we go…………



    While it’s too early to predict what effect any tax legislation in 2017 will have on S corporations and partnerships, you should be aware that significant changes are possible.

    An Introduction

    LLCs, S corporations, and partnerships, have been around for some time and are very popular with small businesses. But despite their extensive use, there are still a number of misconceptions among business owners and the entities have their own particular traps. This blog post is not a detailed treatise, and certainly won’t make you an expert. That would take way to many pages. Rather, I’ve tried to assemble a list of misconceptions and traps that I’ve encountered over the years. Many of the basic rules are the same for LLCs, S corporations, partnerships . I’ll point out important differences as I discuss the topic.


    • The Middletown company used in the examples below is always assumed to be an S corporation or a partnership or LLC.
    • References to owners can mean either shareholders or partners.
    • LLCs are generally treated as partnerships (Note: An LLC can also have only one member in which there would be a different tax treatment. But for now I will talk about the LLC as if there is more that one ‘owner’, hence partnership treatment).


    Basic Operation of a Pass-Through Entity

    S corporations, LLCs and partnerships are known as pass-through entities. The idea behind a pass-through entity is that the entity doesn’t pay any taxes. Instead, the income and losses and certain separately stated items are passed through to the shareholders or partners and reported on their personal tax returns. That’s the big advantage of a pass-through. If a business operates as a C (regular) corporation, it pays a corporate level tax. Any payments made to the shareholders are taxed again on the shareholder’s personal tax return (therefore a double tax for C corporation shareholders. But I digress). Avoiding the corporate tax can produce substantial savings, depending on the tax level of the corporation. An additional advantage is that accidental constructive dividends (e.g., when the corporation pays for a shareholder’s personal expenses) avoid the double tax. Instead, in the case of a pass-through entity, the deduction is simply disallowed and considered a distribution.

    In the simplest situation, the income or losses are passed through to the shareholders/partners. For example, Middletown, LLC has two equal partners, Darren and Fred. For the year it (the partnership) has gross receipts of $250,000 and expenses of $140,000. Of the total net income of $110,000, $55,000 is reported on Darren’s K-1 and the same amount reported on Fred’s K-1. Darren and Fred report the income on their respective Form 1040s.


    Separately Stated Items

    But, it’s often more complicated. Some items are considered to be “separately stated”. Instead of affecting the income or expense of the entity, they’re passed through to the owners separately. For example, Middletown, LLC makes a charitable contribution of $200. Instead of deducting that amount from Middletown, LLC’s income, it’s reported separately on the K-1 to the owners. The owners can take their share of the contribution on Schedule A of their 1040, but only if they itemize. Similarly, interest and dividend income isn’t included in the entity’s gross income, but passed through to the owners and reported on their Form 1040.

    Unfortunately, a number of items that you might consider to be business income and expenses are also passed through to the shareholder/partners separately. They include the -Section 179- expense option (writing off equipment purchases), capital gains and losses, gains and losses on the sale of equipment, all credits including the work opportunity, disabled access, energy, foreign taxes, certain special expenses such reforestation expense deduction. Investment expenses, such as portfolio management fees, must also be separately stated.

    Rental activities must also be passed through separately. For example, Middletown, LLC’s business is providing advice to manufacturers. Because the partners saw an opportunity to buy a building containing five small offices at an attractive price, they did so. The income and expenses of the rental property are reported on a specific tax form and the net income (or loss) is not reported on Middletown LLC’s return but passed through to the owners.

    Tax Tip 1–Problems can arise if the entity has more than one owner and the owners have different tax situations. For example, Middletown, LLC bought raw land as an investment three years ago. Sue and Fred each own 50% of Middletown, LLC. Fred has a large capital gain this year; Sue rarely has investment activity. The land has declined significantly in value and Fred wants to sell it. His share of the loss could be used to offset his gain. Sue can only take $3,000 of the loss this year and carry the remainder forward indefinitely. Passive losses resulting from rentals might be limited by the phase-out of the $25,000 exception for one or more owners, but not for other owners, depending on their individual tax situation. There are other examples.

    Tax Tip 2–Using the S corporation or partnership to hold investments, make contributions, etc. can increase the complexity of a return. That will add to preparation cost and make tracking certain items more difficult. While often a minor concern, before complicating your business, make sure there’s a valid reason for doing so. That may be particularly true with respect to rental properties in the business. It is often smarter to hold them in your own name or a separate LLC for both tax and non-tax reasons.


    Salaries, Distributions, and Business Income

    This, unfortunately, could be one of the most misunderstood areas of pass-through entities. More than once I’ve heard a taxpayer say “How could I owe so much money? I didn’t take a salary last year.” Or “I won’t take a salary so I’ll save on taxes”. Here’s were the rules on S corporations and partnerships and LLCs separate.

    Basically, whether or not you take anything out of your pass-through entity, the owners will be taxed on all the income. In the case of a partnership or LLC, all the income is taxable as self-employment income. That means you’ll owe the self-employment tax on your share of the income.

    An S corporation is just a ‘wee bit’ more complicated. Let us first assume that you take no salary from the corporation. In that case, like a partnership or LLC, all the income of the corporation is still taxable to the owners, but is not subject to the self-employment tax. Before you think you’ve spotted a loophole, you should be aware that the IRS requires corporate officers/employee/shareholders to take a salary. The salary you take will be subject to the usual FICA and Medicare taxes (as well as state and federal unemployment). Your share of the FICA/Medicare is withheld from your salary; the business pays the other half, just as if you were an employee at an unrelated employer.

    A couple of examples should make it clearer.

    Example 1–Fred is the sole shareholder of Middletown, Inc., an S corporation. Middletown, Inc. needs the cash, so Fred decides not to take a salary during 2016. He takes no distributions from the corporation of any kind. At the end of the year, Middletown, Inc. has a profit of $250,000. On his Form 1040, Fred reports the entire $250,000 of corporate profit as income. Fred has no other items of income, so his adjusted gross income is $250,000. (I assumed no other income to make the examples easier.) Example 2–Sue is the sole shareholder of Chester Inc., an S corporation. Chester, Inc. has excess cash. Sue takes her regular salary $100,000 and a distribution of $60,000. At the end of the year, Chester, Inc. has a profit of $150,000 (after accounting for Sue’s salary). On her Form 1040, Sue reports the corporation’s profit of $150,000 as income and the $100,000 salary as income. The distribution of $60,000 doesn’t enter into the computation. She has no other items of income, so her adjusted gross income is $250,000 ($100,000 in salary plus the $150,000 of Chatham’s profit).

    Clearly, either way, the total income from the entities reported by the shareholders are the same. It doesn’t matter how you take the money out, or even if you take it out. The only difference will show up in FICA and Medicare taxes. By taking less of a salary, you can avoid some of these taxes. The flip side is that you’ll have less earned income for funding a pension plan or for other purposes.

    There is a situation where you can end up disadvantaged from a tax standpoint.

    Example 3–Middletown, Inc. has net income of $20,000 through late December. Fred, a 100% shareholder takes a $50,000 salary that creates a net loss of $30,000 for Middletown, Inc. Fred’s basis (I’ll discuss that later; for now assume it’s his investment in the corporation) is $5,000. Fred can only deduct losses up to his basis. On his personal return he’ll report $50,000 of salary, but can only deduct $5,000 of his loss.

    With a partnership or LLC, the results are similar. Leave the money in or take it all out. You’re still taxed on the full amount earned. In addition, you’ll pay the self-employment tax on the full amount either way.

    There may be reasons for not taking the money out, such as loan covenants, avoiding contributing funds back to the business for cash flow purposes, etc., but there are no real tax advantages or disadvantages.


    Hobby Loss Rules

    Just because you incorporated or set up an LLC or partnership doesn’t mean you’re immune from the hobby loss rules. The rules prevent taxpayers from deducting losses from activities that are not real businesses. This is rarely an issue if you’ve got an operating business with employees, a storefront, you have one or more years of income despite losses, etc. But if you run the business as a sideline, there are significant recreational elements (e.g., horse boarding, dog breeding), you have consistent losses that are unlikely to be reversed and you don’t carry on the activity in a business like manner (e.g., don’t keep good records, don’t attempt to reverse losses, don’t have professional advisers) you could be in trouble.

    If you fall into the latter category (e.g., it’s a sideline) there are a number of steps you can take to insure you won’t have a problem with the IRS.


    Separate Activities

    Tax law requires S corporations, partnerships and LLCs (and sole proprietorships) to break down their businesses into separate activities for purposes of the passive activity rules. (See next.) This could mean that if your S corporation, etc. has more than one activity, you may not be able to use losses from one to offset profits from another. For example, Middletown, Inc. has two businesses. Fred manages and operates a machine shop that rebuilds aircraft engines in Albany, NY. Sue runs Middletown Inc.’s two stores selling kayaks on Cape Cod. Neither Fred nor Sue interfere in the operation of each other’s respective activities. They get together a few hours monthly to review the combined financial statements and provide each other with business advice. Middletown Inc. must account for the businesses separately and losses from the kayak sales can’t be used to offset profits from engine rebuilding.

    While this may be an extreme example, the message here is that you should not assume that you can put two completely diverse businesses together so that the losses may be utilized. When do you have to split the business into separate activities? That’s a difficult question that depends on the facts. The IRS will look at five factors–similarities or differences in the types of businesses; extent of common control; extent of common ownership; geographical location; and interdependence between the activities. There’s a good chance you won’t run into the situation. And, fortunately, even if you do, the answer is often obvious. In the example above, there’s no chance this is a single activity. But the operation of a chain of auto repair shops would be a single activity, as would rebuilding aircraft engines and operating an airport.


    Passive Activities and Material Participation

    One of the reasons for the complexity of the rules surrounding S corporations and partnerships stems from the ability to pass through losses to the owners. The uncontrolled use of partnerships (and S corporations to a lesser extent) in the early 1980’s led to restrictions on the use of the losses. Congress wanted to deny losses to passive investors while allowing them to owners who were active in the business. They arrived at the concept of “material participation”. If the owner materially participated in the business (as most small business owners do), the losses could be used to offset other income such as dividends, interest, salaries, etc. On the other hand, owners who did not materially participate (passive investors) could not use these losses to offset other income. They could be used to offset other passive income or used to offset other income when the investment was completed disposed of.

    What’s material participation? There are seven tests. Pass any one and you’re in. Most business owners will pass one of these three tests:

    1. You participate in the activity for more than 500 hours during the tax year.
    2. Your participation constitutes substantially all of the participation in the activity of all individuals (including non owners) for the tax year.
    3. You significantly participate in the activity and your total participation in all significant participation activities during the year exceeds 500 hours. The threshold for significant participation is 100 hours.

    Most small business owners will pass the first test. But participation counts only if it’s actually managing or working in the business. The second test is available for sidelines or very small businesses. So for example, let’s say that you’re a flight instructor and on trips to various airports you try and sell a line of aviation electronics. You’re the only employee and spend about 300 hours a year at the business. Test 3 is for owners who own a number of businesses and significantly participate in each of them for more than 100 hours a year, but don’t make the 500 hour test for any one business.

    Keep in mind that there are four other tests. I’ve found that most small business owners qualify under the three listed above.

    If you don’t materially participate in the activity, you can’t currently deduct the losses. The losses are passive and can only be used to offset current or future passive income or on the disposition of the activity. And that’s the reason for the definition of activity. In our example above, Sue can deduct her losses in the kayak activity. Fred can’t. He can only deduct losses incurred in his aircraft engine operation.

    What does it all mean? Before you agree to part with a bunch of cash and join your buddies in a new venture, you should thoroughly understand the rules. While it still may be a good deal even if you can’t take any losses currently, you may want to reconsider.

    Don’t get hung out to dry with your business, contact Solid Tax Solutions
    . It will be worth it.

    We can be reached at: (845) 344-1040.

    Are you ready for Part 2? Well you can read it right here.


    Bruce – Your Host at The Tax Nook

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