Could the U.S. Supreme Court Change the Way You Shop Online?

Jun 20, 2018

April 17 was not only the end of tax season but also the day the Supreme Court heard South Dakota vs. Wayfair, Inc. This case will likely affect every business, no matter size or revenue. This case spotlights the collection and remittance of sales tax, specifically whether the responsibility should lie with the state or the business. Sales tax is considered a consummation or a value-added tax and is typically assessed to the end purchaser or user of a product. Most businesses are responsible for collecting and remitting these taxes. However, with any tax law, there are exemptions.

One of these exemptions comes from a previous Supreme Court Case from 1992 – Quill v. North Dakota. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled businesses only had to collect sales tax in states where they had a physical presence. Therefore, an out-of-state business whose only contact with a state was the sale of tangible personal property, did not need to collect and remit sales tax. If the sales tax wasn’t collected by the business the burden to remit to the State was then transferred to the resident of the State. Basically, if you don’t pay sales tax on a taxable purchase, YOU are now required to pay the tax on your individual tax return. And this is where the issue lies.

States governments argue the cost to enforce collections from an individual greatly outweigh any unpaid tax. As a result, state officials are pushing for the responsibility to lie with the business. Last year, South Dakota took action with the following economic threshold law: if your business has $100,000 in gross sales or over 200 varying transactions to consumers located within the state, then your business must collect and remit tax – no exceptions.

This brings us to South Dakota vs. Wayfair, Inc.

South Dakota wants to overturn the 1992 Quill ruling arguing the development of the internet and e-commerce establishes the physical presence of a business as outlined in Quill, therefore making businesses responsible for the tax collection. In addition, state officials maintained if an online business is doing substantial trade within their borders, then bricks-and-mortar businesses are at a disadvantage as consumers may opt to purchase a product online without paying sales tax.

Conversely, Wayfair argues the complexities of such transactions are too much for smaller businesses to overcome. Under current law, 45 states and thousands of local jurisdictions assess sales tax. Additionally, each state has varying laws on what is a taxable transaction and was is not. Lastly, Wayfair has contended any internet sales are at a disadvantage due to shipping and handling charges.

All eyes are now on the Supreme Court, who is set to rule by the end of this month on the “tax case of the millenium”.  Stay tuned to see how this may impact you.

Categories: Tax Compliance


Gift-giving and Taxes

May 25, 2017

The recipient of a gift need not worry about the tax consequences; receipts of gifts are non-taxable events.  However, that is not always the case for the giver.  Every year the IRS allows for the tax-free transfer of a specified amount of monetary gifts. For 2017 this amount stands at $14,000 per person, per year.  Amounts given to any one individual, by any one individual, during a tax yearbring about no consequences as long as they are at or below $14,000.  For example, a husband and wife can each give $14,000 in cash ($28,000 total) to each of their grand-kids every year, with no resulting tax or return filing consequences.

Gifts in excess of this annual exclusion can also be tax-free; however, these gifts are required to be reported against the givers lifetime gift and estate exemption.  The total lifetime exemption for 2017 stands at $5.49 million per individual.  Gifts made during the year in excess of the annual exclusion ($14,000) require the giver to file a gift tax return.  This return discloses the excess gifts given annually as well as tracking their lifetime excess/remaining exclusion.  Typically annual gift returns come with no tax due; however, these returns reduce the tax-free amount allowed upon death and could have potential tax consequences down the road.

Bottom line?  If you have a large estate and make any large gifts during the year, consult your tax advisor.  We may be able to offer advice on how to better structure these transactions.

– Courtney Elgin, CPA

Categories: Other Resources, Tax Compliance, Tax Planning


Home Sweet Office

May 10, 2017

Do you have a room in your home that you use just for your business? If so, you could claim a deduction on your tax return for your home office.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, we should acknowledge that you will have to meet certain requirements. However, most are able to deduct a percentage of the costs of running the home such as utilities, rent, insurance, depreciation, mortgage interest, real estate taxes, some casualty losses, repairs, and improvements as related to the portion of your home used for business.

A “home”, as defined by the IRS, can be a condo, house, apartment, mobile home or boat (with provided amenities). The home can be rented or owned,  however, to qualify for the home office deduction you must meet two tax law requirements:

  1. You must regularly use part of your home exclusively for a trade or business.
  2. You must be able to show that you use your home as your principal place of business meaning you meet patients, clients, or customers at your home or you use a separate structure on your property exclusively for business purposes.

Regular use: 

The IRS doesn’t offer a clear definition of regular use – only that you must use a part of your home for business on a continuing basis, not just for occasional or incidental business. You should qualify by working a couple days a week for a few hours.

Exclusive use: 

Exclusive means that you must use a portion of your home only for your business. If you use a portion of your home for work but also for personal use then you will not meet that requirement. However, you are able to use a portion of a larger room as long as your personal activities do not enter that area.  There are two exceptions to the exclusive use rule. If you run a qualified daycare out of your home or store inventory or product samples then you do not have to meet the exclusive use test.

If you are storing inventory or samples in your home, you can still qualify for the home business expense even if you are not using that space exclusive for your business.The inventory will need to be stored in a certain location such as the garage, a closet, or bedroom.  However, you will not get the deduction if you have an office or business location outside of your home.

Remember you can only claim this deduction if you are running a business. If the IRS believes it’s a hobby the deduction will not be honored.

– Brittany Jennings, Staff Accountant

Categories: Audit & Accounting, Other Resources, Tax Compliance, Tax Planning


Tax Implications Of A Divorce

Jun 24, 2016

Divorce can be stressful enough without discovering down the road the assets weren’t divided equitably even when spouses were in agreement about the division of their property. Failing to take taxes into account may be to blame when one spouse receives a smaller net share than expected.

Here are some issues to consider if divorce is on your horizon.

Taxable or Not Taxable?

Legal_Balance3Payments from one spouse to the other can have tax consequences for both spouses depending on how the payments are designated. Alimony generally is deductible by the spouse who pays it and is taxable to the recipient. Child support isn’t tax deductible by the person paying it nor is it taxable income to the recipient.

Who Claims the Exemptions?
The IRS has specific rules for determining which spouse is entitled to claim the dependency exemptions for the couple’s children. Who claims the exemption can also affect eligibility for certain tax credits, such as the child tax credit. Typically, the custodial parent claims the dependency exemption. However, parents can also choose to alternate claiming the exemption. And couples with more than one child may decide to split the exemptions.

The QDRO and Retirement Benefits

A qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) is a court order that specifies the property rights regarding qualified retirement plan assets of a spouse or dependent during a divorce. A QDRO allows the transfer of all or a portion of the assets in a qualified retirement plan from one spouse to the other without loss of the plan’s tax advantages. A QDRO should be carefully executed to avoid costly mistakes.

What’s Its Future Worth?

The value of assets that seem equal may no longer be equal once taxes come into play. Selling an asset in the future may create a tax liability. So spouses will need to consider more than current value when dividing investments and similar property.

Issues related to dividing assets during a divorce can be complex. Couples should seek professional advice.

Categories: Other Resources, Tax Compliance, Tax Planning


You Are Being Audited: Now What?

Jun 03, 2016

Here is the situation:  you have received a letter from the IRS; they are reviewing a previous tax year and you must provide support for your tax position(s). Hence, you are being audited.

Tax_AuditDon’t panic! Numerous taxpayers are audited on a yearly basis. You won’t be the first or the last. Since the IRS is such a large government institution, the process will be slow. The best thing you can do is remain calm and begin to make a plan.

Read the Audit Letter. Once you have taken the time to thoroughly examine the letter and its contents, determine what they looking for? Audits vary in length and scope. Pay attention to the time frame the IRS has provided for you to compile the requested documents.

Gather all information requested. Begin gathering the info requested. If you maintain good records, the process may be easier. If you are having difficulty locating certain documents, you may call and request an extension . If necessary, you may send the information piecemeal as some auditors appreciate some information rather than none. It is important to send only those items requested. Obviously, the IRS has the power to open additional audits of anything/anyone they feel is questionable or suspicious. So while you may think offering additional supporting information would be helpful, it may in the end cause additional issues. Rule of thumb is to stick to their list, The IRS will notify you if additional information is necessary.

Work with the auditor. Auditors are people too! More often than not, auditors are willing to work with you. Being upfront and honest can go a long way. If you are unable to locate a receipt, tell them. They may allow a credit card invoice or some other proof of payment as alternative substantiation.

Talk through the results and ask questions. Once the auditor has reviewed your paperwork, they will inform you of any issues. In some cases, you may be asked to provide more substantive evidence for expenses. In other cases, the auditor may try to assess penalties. In all of these instances, make sure you ask questions to understand why such circumstances are occurring. Many times, penalties are negotiable and occasionally even completely abatable. Make sure you take the time to understand what’s happening and go from there.

Pay the tax. Once you’ve gone through the process and settle on what you believe to be the final tax owed, make sure you pay it! This sounds straight-forward, taxpayers often think they can deal with the balance at a later time. The IRS will assess additional penalties and interest on any outstanding amounts due. If needed, payment plans are available.

If you are the subject of an audit and are unsure of the actions being taken, or have questions about the process, feel free to contact a William Vaughan Company audit representative.

Courtney Elgin, CPA

Categories: Audit & Accounting, Tax Compliance