Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tax Day Has Passed – Now What?

With the 2012 tax filing season behind us, it’s time to start thinking seriously about 2013 tax planning — especially if you’re a higher-income taxpayer, because you might be subject to one or more significant tax increases this year:

  • Taxpayers with FICA wages and self-employment income exceeding $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for joint filers face an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on the excess.
  • Taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income exceeding $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for joint filers may face a new 3.8 percent Medicare tax on some or all of their net investment income.
Taxpayers with taxable income in excess of $400,000 for singles and $450,000 for joint filers face the return of the 39.6 percent marginal income tax rate — and of the 20 percent long-term capital gains rate on long-term capital gains and qualified dividends.

To explore whether you’re likely to be hit with these tax hikes and what strategies you can implement to minimize the impact, contact Doeren Mayhew’s Tax Group, with CPAs in Michigan, Houston and Ft. Lauderdale.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Worker Classification: Why it Matters, How IRS Is Addressing

Over the years, the
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has cracked down on employers during audits for misclassifying workers as contractors to avoid paying payroll tax. To boost tax revenues, the IRS has set its sights on more than 6,000 employers to investigate.

With the introduction of the Voluntary Worker Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) in 2011 came relief for some taxpayers dealing with misclassified workers, but not all. However, recently the IRS announced the expansion of VCSP to more businesses, tax-exempt organizations and government entities.

Under the revamped program, employers under IRS audit (with the exclusion of an employment tax audit) can qualify for the VCSP, and eligible employers are permitted to reclassify independent contractors as employees with less burden. A general rule-of-thumb is that employers will pay an amount effectively equaling just over 1 percent of the wages paid to the reclassified workers for only the prior year.

To avoid the threat of payroll audit, you can apply to be entered into the VCSP program if:

  • You are currently treating workers as nonemployees
  • You have consistently treated the workers in the past as nonemployees and filed the proper Form 1099s
  • You are not currently under audit on payroll tax issues by the IRS or under audit by Department of Labor or a state agency concerning the classification of these workers.

Why Classification Is Important

The distinction is important for employment tax reasons. With an employee, the business and the employee share the responsibility for Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes on the employee’s earnings. The business also must pay unemployment taxes for the worker. With an independent contractor, the contractor is fully liable for his or her own self-employment taxes. FICA taxes do not apply, and unemployment taxes are not required.

Benefits are another consideration. A company’s health and retirement plans must cover an employee once the employee meets plan eligibility requirements. An independent contractor typically does not receive benefits.

How to Decide

To answer the worker classification question for federal tax purposes, a company should analyze its entire relationship with the worker, focusing on the degree of direction and control the company exercises. The more control, the more likely it is that a worker is an employee. Three elements come into play:

  1. Behavioral control over what work is done and how it is done (sequence of work tasks, detailed instructions regarding how to perform the job, etc.)
  2. Financial control over the business aspects of the job (who provides tools/supplies, how the worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, etc.)
  3. Type of relationship (whether it is ongoing, written contracts, provision of benefits, etc.)
Businesses that would like the IRS to determine a worker’s status for purposes of federal employment taxes and income-tax withholding can file Form SS-8. The IRS advises that it could take as long as six months to get a determination.

Statute Says

Federal law specifically classifies certain workers as employees for FICA purposes, even if they are not subject to an employer’s control. These include certain agent and commission drivers, a life insurance company’s sales agents, home workers, and full-time traveling or city salespeople. Similarly, two categories of workers are considered statutory nonemployees (i.e., self-employed): direct sellers and licensed real estate agents (requirements apply).

A Little Relief

In some situations, the IRS may relieve a business from having to pay employment taxes for an incorrectly classified worker. The business must have a reasonable basis for not treating the worker as an employee and must have been consistent in its treatment.

To find out more about whether you are classifying workers correctly and how to take advantage of the VCSP, contact Doeren Mayhew.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

IRS Extends Work Opportunity Tax Credit

IRS Extends Work Opportunity Tax Credit

The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 has been amended to extend the Work Opportunity Tax Credit(WOTC) through Dec. 31, 2013, for taxable employers and qualified tax-exempt organizations. Businesses can still take advantage of the WOTC savings, ranging from $2,400 and up to $9,600, for previous new hires.

The IRS has provided additional guidance and transitional relief for employers claiming the WOTC. Employers that hire members of targeted groups are provided additional time beyond the 28-day deadline for submitting the pre-screening and certification forms to designated local agencies (DLAs).

Employers that hire a member of a targeted group from Jan. 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013, other than a qualified veteran, will be considered to have satisfied the requirements if a completed Form 8850 to request certification is submitted to the DLA by April 29, 2013.

Target groups that could still qualify for the WOTC savings for previous new hires include:

  • Ex-felons
  • Recipients of assistance under Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or its successor program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Recipients of SNAP (food stamps)
  • Recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Vocational rehabilitation referrals
  • Designated community residents living in a Rural Renewal County
  • Summer youth employees

As for the veteran target groups, employers that hire qualified veterans from Jan. 1, 2013, through March 31, 2013, have until April 29, 2013, to submit a completed Form 8850 to the DLA to request certification.
To take advantage of this tax credit opportunity, contact Doeren Mayhew’s dedicated Tax Incentives Group with CPAs in Troy, Houston and Ft. Lauderdale.