Tag Archives: tax blog

LIFO Inventory Election: Don’t Miss Out

Today’s significantly reduced oil prices creates an financial opportunity for any business that maintains an inventory of products that are petroleum-based. Products such as heating oil, gasoline,lubricating oils, and diesel fuel are all obvious product types that use crude oil as their raw material. However, products such as plastics, fertilizers and other petrochemicals often are also based on crude oil prices.

If your company relies on one or more of those products and maintains an inventory, especially a large dollar value of inventory, then this might be the year for you to consider a “last in first out”(LIFO) inventory election.

Many taxpayers in the U.S.currently use (FIFO) “first in first out” which means they are always valuing their inventory using the purchase price closest to the date of the inventory. The assumption on the flow of cost is that the oldest products are sold first and the cost of the most recent additions to the inventory are maintained as the inventory value.

imageLIFO, on the other hand, reverses that assumption. LIFO maintains inventory values based on the original purchase price, typically the lowest price, and in effect allows current costs to be expensed as incurred. The end result is that many taxpayers who have elected LIFO 30 or 40 years ago are still valuing their inventory at the prices that were in affect at the time they made the LIFO election. This means that all the years of price increases have been expensed as a cost of sales for the year they were incurred, and none were trapped in inventory. In times of rising prices, this is a great benefit to the taxpayer.

Basically, the best time to consider making a LIFO election is at the time when raw material prices are at the lowest point. This election is simply done by attaching several forms to the year-end tax returns and is an automatically approved election by the Internal Revenue Service.

With crude oil prices being under $60 a barrel at the end of 2014, it sets the stage for those taxpayers that have not already elected LIFO to lock-in, what could be, the lowest oil prices we’ll see for years. This low cost would be part of their base inventory cost and they would gain the benefit in all future years, as prices most-likely climb.

If you have questions on any element associated with LIFO inventory or think it may be a valuable option for you, please contact your professional at William Vaughan Company as soon as possible.

By: Bill Horst, CPA, CMA

Ohio Municipal Tax Updates

As you may have heard, Governor Kasich recently signed the Municipal Income Tax Reform Bill, which is known as the Amended Substitute House Bill 5 (“HB5”). There is an extensive list of provisions that will take effect on January 1, 2016. Ohio taxpayers have been eager for a bill to emerge that simplifies Ohio’s municipal tax law, and HB5 is a step in the right direction. Here are some of the major changes that you should be aware of:

hb_5_signing

Pass-Through Entity (PTE) Tax: It is important to know that the municipal net profits tax will be imposed at the entity level for pass-through entities (PTE), but PTE owners will generally be taxed on the pass-through income by the municipality in which they reside. HB5 will stay consistent with the previous law set in place for S corporations, meaning tax is imposed at the entity level, and the pass-through income flowing through to resident owners will generally not be taxed by the municipality.

Net Operating Loss Carryforwards (NOL): Starting on January 1, 2017, carryforwards for NOL’s at the municipal level will be consistent across the state. Any loss incurred after the implementation date will have a required 5 year carryforward period, regardless of the municipality. Remember having to keep track of NOL carryforwards separately for each municipality? This is no longer required due to carryforwards now being calculated on a pre-apportionment basis.

Occasional Entrant Revisions: This provision of the municipal tax reform is associated with the amount of days an individual may work in another municipality, away from their primary place of work, before being required to withhold income there. HB5 has increased the amount of days from 12 to 20. Therefore, if an employee is working in another municipality for 20 days or less, the employer will withhold income from where the employee’s primary place of work is located. If the employer expects the employee to work more than 20 days in another municipality, they are required to start withholding from day one. On the other hand, if an employee happens to work over 20 days, which was not originally expected by the employer, the employer must begin withholding income on day 21. For employers who may try to rotate employees to bypass the 20 day rule, provisions are set in place to prevent this.

Does your business collect less than $500,000 of revenue in a given year? This classifies your company as a small business, which means complete exemption from the 20 day rule. Small businesses are only required to withhold income tax from their employees in the municipality of their fixed location, which could be a warehouse, office, etc.

These are just a few of the provisions associated with HB5, which is effective on January 1, 2016. For a deeper look into the provisions and more, click here.

Jason Wenner, Staff Accountant

Driving A Lot? Deduct Your Mileage

I recently met with a client who is starting a new investment firm. He asked me how to determine if an expense can be classified at a business expense. He told me he drives to meet with potential partners and was wondering if any of that mileage would be considered a business expense. I told him if you are using your vehicle to meet people or to scope out locations, etc. then absolutely, those situations would fall under the business expense category.

The question then came up of how to track these expenses in order to receive the deduction. I explained there are two different methods, the first being the allowance method and the second, tracking the actual expenses. Each of these methods has a sidenote worthy of mentioning. The allowance method must be elected in the first year the vehicle is used for business purposes. If it is not, it cannot be used.

Mileage

The allowance method replaces taking a deduction for actual operating costs and depreciation. You can, however, deduct parking fees and tolls that are paid for business purposes. If you use the allowance method, you must keep records of your business trips. These records need to be comprised of the date, customer or client visited, the purpose and the number of miles travelled for business. This can be used for leased vehicles as well. However, it must be used for the entire lease period. The log can be kept electronically or on paper, but must be available at the request of the IRS. The total business miles for the year are then multiplied by the IRS standard mileage rate, $.56 in 2014, and deducted on the tax return.

Actual expenses can be deducted in the first year if the allowance method is not elected, or in any future year. This is only true if the vehicle is not leased. However, electing in a future year forfeits any first-year accelerated depreciation that may be available. Actual expenses must be tracked for items like, gasoline, oil, repairs, license tags, insurance, etc. Depreciation or lease payments can also be deducted. If the vehicle is also used personally, then the total expenses are allocated based on the business use percentage. This percentage is determined based on the total miles driven for the year and the business miles driven for the year.

Deducting automobile expenses can surely save you money on your tax return, just make sure you gather the appropriate documentation the select the right method for your deduction.

To receive a free copy of William Vaughan Company’s mileage log, email Jessica Sloan at sloan@wvco.com

By: Tara West, CPA, CMA

179D and Its Benefits for the Construction Industry

179d

You probably have encountered section 179 and the accelerated depreciation benefits it provides. However, we have found the familiarity with section 179D to be greatly limited. This is discouraging considering the substantial benefits it can provide to those in the construction industry. Let’s take a brief look at 179D and highlight its advantages.

What is Section 179D?
It is a provision for energy efficient commercial buildings built or upgraded with energy efficient improvements after 12/31/2005. The maximum deduction available is $1.80 per square foot and acts as an accelerated depreciation deduction. The calculation for the deduction (up to the maximum) is based upon the interior lighting, HVAC, building envelope costs and efficiencies. This is certainly a nice benefit for building owners. However, the greatest tax savings are obtained by those in the construction industry, including engineers and architects.

Permanent tax benefit
As I eluded to earlier, the 179D deduction is inherently an acceleration of depreciation. Nevertheless, this deduction becomes more than an accelerated deduction for those in the construction industry. Why? The IRS realizes that governmental entities cannot benefit from this deduction due to their tax-exempt status and allows them to allocate (essentially transfer) the deduction to the responsible party for designing the property. This means that this deduction is a permanent benefit (once transferred) that would not otherwise be attainable by the designer. It is a method that reduces the tax burden on each governmental project and increases the after tax earnings for those firms that choose to take advantage of this opportunity.

Please contact your William Vaughan Company representative for further information and for guidance on the facilitation of this deduction.

By: Nate Bernath, CPA

Retirement Plan Fiduciary Responsibilities

Do you manage your company’s retirement plan in your day-to-day activities? Managing a retirement plan such as controlling the plan assets or using discretion in managing the plan makes you the plan fiduciary. According to the IRS, a fiduciary is a person who owes a duty of care and trust to another and must act primarily for the benefit of the other in a particular activity. Fiduciary is not just a title, but the very functions performed for the plan.

Important fiduciary responsibilities include:
– Acting solely in the interest of the participants and their beneficiaries
– Acting exclusive purpose of providing benefits to workers participating in the plan and their beneficiaries, and defraying reasonable expenses of the plan
– Following the plan documents (unless inconsistent with ERISA)
– Diversifying plan investments
– Carrying out your duties as a fiduciary prudently, with care, and diligence

fiduciaryWho sets the standards for fiduciaries of retirement plans?

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act, also known as ERISA, set standards of conduct for those who manage employee benefit plans and its assets. It is important for the fiduciary to follow through with their responsibilities because they act on behalf of the participants in the retirement plan and their beneficiaries. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), the significance of being a fiduciary is acting solely in the interest of plan participants and their beneficiaries, with the exclusive purpose of providing benefits to them.

Carrying out duties prudently is one of a fiduciary’s central responsibilities under ERISA. In other words, a fiduciary should have knowledge and expertise in a variety of functions necessary to operate the plan. It is recommended to consult experts in accounting and investments to assist in carrying out your fiduciary responsibilities the best that you can.

It goes without saying, the responsibility of being a fiduciary should not be taken lightly. It is a big responsibility and often times businesses hire someone to act as their fiduciary to handle the responsibilities set forth above. Even if you hire a financial institution or retirement plan professional to manage your plan, you retain some fiduciary responsibility for the decision to select and keep the service provider. You should document your selection process and monitor the services provided to determine if you need to make a change.

By: Aubrey Forche, Staff Accountant

Special Per Diem Rates for 2014-2015 Travel Expenses Issued

The IRS has released its annual update of special per diem rates for use in substantiating certain business expenses taxpayers incur when traveling away from home in 2014 and 2015. IRS Notice 2014-57 includes rates for incidental-expenses-only deduction, special meals and incidental expenses in the transportation industry, and high-low substantiation method.

Transporation_Airplane6Rates for special meals and incidental expenses in the transportation industry are $59 for travel anywhere in the continental United States and $65 for travel outside of the continental United States. Regardless of whether you are traveling inside or outside of the continental United States, the per diem rate for incidental expense-only deduction will be $5 per day. The per diem rates for the high-low substantiation method have increased from $251 to $259 for travel to any high-cost locality and $172 for travel to any other locality in the continental United States. Out of the $259 high rate and $172 low rate, the amounts treated as paid for meals is $65 for travel to any high-cost locality and $52 to any other locality within the continental United States. A list of high-cost localities with a per diem rate of $216 can also be found in Notice 2014-57.

These new per diem rates went into effect on October 1, 2014 and are intended for any employee traveling away from home on or after that date.

By: Rachel Mossing, Accountant

Tools of the Trade: Financial Statements

Some “tools of the trade” are specific. Carpenters need hammers. Programmers need computers. Financial statements, however, are critical tools for all businesses. They allow you to monitor profitability, improve financial management, and provide banks and other lenders with vital information.

Primary Tools

There are several financial statements. The two most well-known are:

  • The Balance Sheet shows the assets of your business and the amounts it owes (liabilities) on a particular date. The difference in the two numbers is the amount of owners’ equity.
  • The Income Statement is a summary of your business’ revenue and expenses over a certain period of time. It reveals your income (or loss) from core operations and then incorporates other income and costs and any extraordinary items to arrive at a net income figure.

Level of Services

financial-statementA CPA can provide different levels of service when it comes to financial statements. How you plan to use the statements will determine the level of review or verification required.

Compilation. If you want reports mainly for internal use, a CPA will simply compile the figures you provide and prepare the appropriate statements. No assurances are made about whether the statements are presented fairly.

Review. Potential lenders will generally require more than a simple compilation. The CPA will need to provide limited assurance that, based on limited procedures, nothing came to the accountant’s attention that would indicate that material changes to your financial statements are necessary. That requires looking at your accounting policies and practices, how your business operates, the actions of your board of directors, recent changes in your business, and so forth.

Audit. In some instances, you may need to have audited financial statements prepared. This is the highest level of service and requires the CPA to thoroughly examine your books and records and all of your financial policies and procedures. Then, the CPA can provide an opinion about your statements.