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With 2020 finally behind us, it’s time to create new habits for 2021. Have you thought about your bookkeeping habits from last year? Did they serve their purpose and help your business grow, or could you stand to adopt better habits in 2021?
Here are a few ways you can improve your bookkeeping habits in 2021 and beyond.
Create a Business Plan
Whether you’re a brand new business owner or a seasoned entrepreneur, it’s essential to have a business plan. If you haven’t already done so, the start of a new year can be a great time to create one.
It doesn’t have to be long or complicated, but it should provide an operational guideline for your business. You’ll be required to have a business plan when you apply for grants, loans, and other capital opportunities. You may need to apply for funds to help your business grow or even to keep it viable if the pandemic continues through the year.
Don’t Forget to Pay Yourself
Cash flow challenges can happen to any business, and it’s become more prominent as the pandemic lingers on. A recent survey by lending platform Kabbage found that about a quarter of small business owners who responded went up to six months without paying themselves.
Regardless of the reason for this, it’s important to pay yourself, whether the business is booming or struggling. You wouldn’t expect your employees to work for free, and you shouldn’t either.
An essential aspect of bookkeeping is keeping track of cash flow, inventory, taxes, and compensation. If you find yourself spending hours on these tasks, it might surprise you that hiring a professional can not only save you time but find the money you can now use to pay yourself.
Make a Plan to Tackle Your Debts
For many businesses, debt is a necessary means to building your company. As a business owner, you wear many hats, which can cause essential aspects like debt management to fall by the wayside.
One way to stay on top of your debts is to automate them. Setting reminders and auto-pay can ensure you’re paying on time with little effort on your part.
If your business requires more capital to keep running, consider an SBA loan rather than maxing out credit cards or other high-interest options. It can be hard to determine the best way to incur more debt and handle existing debts without potentially harming your business.
Work with a Professional
Unless your business is bookkeeping or accounting, it can be worth hiring a professional to keep track of your business expenses and help you craft a winning strategy.
You may only think about your accountant as tax season approaches, but you can benefit from their expertise year-round. Think of your accountant and bookkeeper as part of your team or a business advisor. They can keep you on track, ensure your meeting your goals, and spot potential issues before they become a problem.
Here are some deductions and credits you might be able to claim on your 2020 tax return:
1. Charitable Deductions
If you like to give like no one else, we have some great news! In an effort to encourage more charitable giving, the CARES Act allows you to deduct up to 100% of their adjusted gross income (AGI), which is your total income minus other deductions you have already taken, in qualified charitable donations if you plan to itemize their deductions.3
What if you’re taking the standard deduction? Well, the CARES Act added a new “above-the-line” deduction that will help you write off up to $300 of charitable contributions you made in cash.4
2. Medical Deductions
If you spent a lot of time in the hospital or found yourself with some hefty medical bills last year, you might be able to find at least some tax relief.
You can deduct any medical expenses above 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI), which is your total income minus other deductions you have already taken.5 For example, if your AGI was $100,000, you can deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses above $7,500 in 2020. But you have to itemize your deductions in order to write off those expenses on your tax return.
3. Business Deductions
If you’re self-employed, there are a bunch of deductions you can claim on your tax return—including travel expenses and the home office deduction if you use a part of your home to conduct business.6
But if you’re one of the millions of workers who were sent home to work remotely, you won’t be able to claim the home office deduction since it’s reserved for self-employed individuals only. Sorry!
4. Earned Income Tax Credit
The EITC is a refundable credit designed to help out low- and middle-income workers (workers earning up to $56,844 during the 2020 tax year might be eligible).7 Depending on your income, your filing status and how many children you have, the credit could save you anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on your taxes. But here’s a crazy stat: About one out of five taxpayers who are eligible either don’t claim the benefit on their taxes or don’t file a tax return at all.8 Don’t let that be you!
5. Child Tax Credit
Got kids? Families can claim up to $2,000 per qualified child with this tax credit (the income limits for this credit are $200,000 for single parents and $400,000 for married couples). And since this is a refundable credit, your family can receive up to $1,400 per child as a refund.9
And there are plenty of other deductions and credits that might be up for grabs depending on your situation! If you don’t want to miss out on any tax savings, you’ll want to work with a tax advisor who can make sure you’re not leaving any deductions or credits on the table.
The Internal Revenue Service announced that the nation’s tax season will start on Friday, February 12, 2021, when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.
The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits.
This programming work is critical to ensuring IRS systems run smoothly. If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers. These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.
To speed refunds during the pandemic, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. People can begin filing their tax returns immediately with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners. These groups are starting to accept tax returns now, and the returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting February 12.
“Planning for the nation’s filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop to prepare for this as well as delivering Economic Impact Payments in record time,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Given the pandemic, this is one of the nation’s most important filing seasons ever. This start date will ensure that people get their needed tax refunds quickly while also making sure they receive any remaining stimulus payments they are eligible for as quickly as possible.”
Last year’s average tax refund was more than $2,500. More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year, with the vast majority before the Thursday, April 15 deadline.
Under the PATH Act, the IRS cannot issue a refund involving the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The law provides this additional time to help the IRS stop fraudulent refunds and claims from being issued, including to identity thieves.
The IRS anticipates a first week of March refund for many EITC and ACTC taxpayers if they file electronically with direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax returns. This would be the same experience for taxpayers if the filing season opened in late January. Taxpayers will need to check Where’s My Refund for their personalized refund date.
Overall, the IRS anticipates nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically with direct deposit if there are no issues with their tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers and tax professionals to file electronically. To avoid delays in processing, people should avoid filing paper returns wherever possible.
3 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Bookkeeper for Your Small Business
Starting a business of your own is, naturally, a source of immense pride and satisfaction. Knowing that you actively run a business of your own is a deeply satisfying experience, and something that is sure to leave you with a greater level of self-belief and happiness, however you do need to find time to organice your books or find someone to do this for you, so here are the 3 reasons that you should think about hiring a bookkeeper for your small business.
1. You Don’t Have Time to Do it Yourself
No matter how hard we try to extend it, a day will always contain 24 hours. If a petition ever went around, asking for the day to go to 30 hours, I’d be the first to sign it. Until then, there are just so many things we can accomplish each day. If you are trying to juggle sales, marketing, shipping, and bookkeeping at once, something is going to suffer.
There is nothing more important to an entrepreneur (especially when they are the only employee) than effective time management. Spending 5 hours doing a bank reconciliation that would take a bookkeeper 30 minutes just doesn’t make sense. Sure, it’s an extra cost each month, but how many more sales could you have made in those 5 hours? Which scenario is really costing you more money?
2. You’re Not an Expert in Bookkeeping
I’m sure most of you wouldn’t attempt your own dentistry in order to save some money. If debits and credits are as confusing to you as differentials and tie rods (I think those are car parts) are to me, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. At best, you’re not getting an accurate picture of where your business is at.
At worst, you will be getting a call from the IRS, etc. that include words like “audit” and “jail time”. The costs I’ve seen people spend on late fees, interest, and penalties are breathtaking. Once again, is doing it yourself really saving you money?
3. The Process Leaves You Feeling Less Than Enthused
On a less serious note, bookkeeping is really boring (for almost everyone). I’ll bet most of you would much rather be selling, or reaching out to new clients than printing out trial balances and income statements.
I know you want to have that data available to you, but wouldn’t you rather just have it show up like a gift every month. Although business isn’t supposed to be all fun and games, filling your days with tasks you hate makes it hard to get motivated. Don’t worry, you’ll still have angry customers, shipping delays and software bugs to drive you crazy.
I completely understand the desire to do everything yourself. I’m equally stubborn, so the idea of admitting I can’t do something, and then paying someone else to do it usually ranks up there with root canals. At the end of the day, you need to make the most of your time, money, and expertise.
Bookkeeping is a very important aspect of your business. It can give you a very good picture of where you’ve been, which will help you make informed decisions on where to go next. If you don’t feel like you have the time, knowledge or desire to do it yourself. Looking for a Bookkeeper? Alvarez Tax Services Can Help!
Watch Out For Gift Card Scam
Taxpayers should always be on the lookout for scams especially during the holidays. Crooks want to trick people in order to steal their personal information, scam them out of money, or talk them into engaging in questionable behavior with their taxes. Scam attempts can peak during tax season, but taxpayers need to remain vigilant all year.
Gift card scams are on the rise. In fact, there are many reports of taxpayers being asked to pay a fake tax bill through the purchase of gift cards.
Here’s how one scenario usually happens:
• Someone posing as an IRS agent calls the taxpayer and informs them their identity has been stolen.
• The fake agent says the taxpayer’s identify was used to open fake bank accounts.
• The caller tells the taxpayer to buy gift cards from various stores and await further instructions.
• The scammer then contacts the taxpayer again telling them to provide the gift cards’ access numbers.
Here’s how people can know if it is really the IRS calling. The IRS does not:
• Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
• Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
• Demand that taxpayers pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they owe. All taxpayers should be aware of their rights.
• Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
• Revoke the taxpayer’s driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status.
People who believe they’ve been targeted by a scammer should:
• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. They can also call 800-366-4484.
• Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. They should add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
• Report an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, to the IRS at email@example.com. The sender can add “IRS Phone Scam” to the subject line.
Regardless of whether you just started your new side business or you’ve been operating for years, you’ll need to report the income on your 2020 tax return.
Some online services, including Uber, OnlyFans, DoorDash and Etsy, will issue you a Form 1099 in January, detailing the money you’ve earned in the prior year. A copy of this form goes to the IRS as well.
Here’s the catch: Not all services will give you this information. For instance, in order to receive a Form 1099-K, merchants on Etsy must have made at least $20,000 in sales via Etsy and they must have received at least 200 payments that year.
Even if you don’t get a 1099, you’re on the hook for accurately tracking and reporting income.
Here’s how to head off those first-year tax mishaps.
Set aside cash for taxes
Small business owners pay quarterly estimated taxes. The due dates are Jan. 15, April 15, June 15 and Sept. 15.
This can come as a surprise to new entrepreneurs who are accustomed to having income taxes withheld from each paycheck as employees.
Here’s another tax lesson: While employees share the burden of payroll taxes with their employer – 12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare – self-employed people pay the entire amount themselves. It’s part of their quarterly payment to the taxman.
Watch your expenses
When it comes to deductibility of expenses, the IRS has a set of rules that determine whether a venture is a business or a hobby.
All income must be reported, but if you’re engaging in a hobby, you can’t deduct the expenses you paid to participate.
Nevertheless, track your costs and have them ready when it’s time to file your taxes.
Those breaks can include the home-office deduction, the mileage deduction, as well as expenses incurred when you bought materials and equipment necessary for your business.
Hire a professional
Invest in yourself. Hire an expert to walk you through year-end tax planning and get you on solid footing for 2021.
This tax year might prove to be a complicated one, given that taxpayers could be juggling a Form W-2 from their regular job, as well as multiple 1099s from unemployment and different sources of side-gig income.
The Internal Revenue Service announced today that the deadline to register for an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) is now November 21, 2020. This new date will provide an additional five weeks beyond the original deadline.
The IRS urges people who don’t typically file a tax return – and haven’t received an Economic Impact Payment – to register as quickly as possible using the Non-Filers: Enter Info Here tool on IRS.gov. The tool will not be available after November 21.
“We took this step to provide more time for those who have not yet received a payment to register to get their money, including those in low-income and underserved communities,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS is deeply involved in processing and programming that overlaps filing seasons. Any further extension beyond November would adversely impact our work on the 2020 and 2021 filing seasons. The Non-Filers portal has been available since the spring and has been used successfully by many millions of Americans.”
Special note: This additional time into November is solely for those who have not received their EIP and don’t normally file a tax return. For taxpayers who requested an extension of time to file their 2019 tax return, that deadline date remains October 15.
To support the ongoing EIP effort, many partner groups have been working with the IRS, helping translate and making available in 35 languages IRS information and resources on Economic Impact Payments.
To help spread the word, the IRS sent nearly 9 million letters in September to people who may be eligible for the $1,200 Economic Impact Payments but don’t normally file a tax return. This push encourages people to use the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov.
“Time is running out for those who don’t normally file a tax return to get their payments,” Rettig added. “Registration is quick and easy, and we urge everyone to share this information to reach as many people before the deadline.”
While most eligible U.S. taxpayers have automatically received their Economic Impact Payment, others who don’t have a filing obligation need to use the Non-Filers tool to register with the IRS to get their money. Typically, this includes people who receive little or no income.
The Non-Filers tool is secure and is based on Free File Fillable Forms, part of the Free File Alliance’s offering of free products on IRS.gov.
The Non-Filers tool is designed for people with incomes typically below $24,400 for married couples, and $12,200 for singles who could not be claimed as a dependent by someone else. This includes couples and individuals who are experiencing homelessness.
Anyone using the Non-Filers tool can speed the arrival of their payment by choosing to receive it by direct deposit. Those not choosing this option will get a check.
Beginning two weeks after they register, people can track the status of their payment using the Get My Payment tool, available only on IRS.gov.
The Internal Revenue Service today reminds taxpayers who filed an extension that the Oct. 15 due date to file their 2019 tax return is near.
Taxpayers should file their tax returns on or before the Oct. 15 deadline. For those who still owe, pay as soon as possible to reduce any penalties and interest.
Convenient electronic filing options, including IRS Free File, are still available. Taxpayers and tax professionals should continue to use electronic options to support social distancing and speed the processing of tax returns, refunds and payments.
Although Oct. 15 is the last day for most people to file, some taxpayers may have more time. They include:
Members of the military and others serving in a combat zone. They typically have 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due.
Taxpayers in federally declared disaster areas who already had valid extensions. For details, see the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.
BOOSTING HISPANIC ENTREPRENEURS DURING NATIONAL HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH
National Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 through October 15, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate the contributions of Hispanic small business owners to our nation’s economy and discuss how we can help them thrive and grow their businesses.
Hispanic-owned businesses generate significant economic benefit, spurring innovation and building wealth in diverse communities throughout America. Hispanic-owned small businesses are opening at a rate far above the national average, with the Hispanic share of all U.S. business owners growing 46% between 2007 and 2012. To encourage these positive trends, the small business community should offer more support, training and resources that enable Hispanic entrepreneurs to build and expand their businesses.
Fortunately, many small business assistance centers do already provide education focused on the Hispanic community, including many that offer resources in Spanish. Read on for a list of organizations that offer assistance specifically to Hispanic business owners:
- The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) represents more than 4.37 million Hispanic-owned businesses through its network of 200 local chambers of commerce. USHCC and its local affiliates offer information and networking opportunities for Hispanic entrepreneurs. They also offer education on policy issues facing Hispanic small business owners, like access to capital, international trade, immigration, education and workforce development, and infrastructure.
- The Minority Business Development Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, oversees a network of business centers that offer help in finding capital, securing government contracts and other aspects of expanding your small business.
- The National Hispanic Business Group is one the nation’s largest networking organizations for Hispanic businesses of all sizes.
- The National Minority Supplier Development Council works nationwide to help minority-business owners expand through a national network of minority suppliers.
- Centro Community Partners is an organization that helps entrepreneurs launch their business ideas through a number of programs. Many of these programs, including their basic program to build a small business and their app for developing a business plan, are available in Spanish.
- Code2040—named in recognition of the fact that the U.S. will be majority people of color in 2040—is a group working to support black and Latinx technology entrepreneurs with a goal of making tech more inclusive and representative.
- SCORE Mentors is a national nonprofit organization that matches entrepreneurs with mentors who can help them navigate the process of starting a business, and you can filter by language to find Spanish-speaking mentors.
- Your local Small Business Development Center (SBDC) or economic development agency likely offers resources in Spanish, especially if you live in a Hispanic-majority community. Find your local SBDC to see if they can provide support to your small business.
- Many national small business organizations have dedicated Spanish-language resources:
This list is far from exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start looking for organizations that work to promote and inspire Hispanic entrepreneurs. As we celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, we should focus on how we can better support this community by helping current business owners grow their businesses and empowering aspiring entrepreneurs.
Victims of California wildfires getting IRS disaster relief.
California has been hit by a series of wildfires going back to Aug. 14. Taxpayers now have until Dec. 15, 2020 to file their various individual and business tax returns and make any tax payments.
The IRS says the relief is for taxpayers and businesses in any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as qualifying for individual assistance.
This currently includes Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma and Yolo counties in California. Taxpayers in other localities that are added to the disaster declaration later will automatically get the same relief.
The most current list of eligible counties and locations is available on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.
The IRS says these relief measures postpone various deadlines that occurred starting Aug. 14.
“As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until December 15, 2020, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period,” an IRS release states. “This means individuals who had a valid extension to file their 2019 return due to run out on Oct. 15, 2020, will now have until Dec. 15, 2020, to file.”
It should be noted, however, that because payments related to these 2019 returns were due by July 15, 2020, those payments are not included in the relief package.
The Dec. 15 deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income tax payments due Sept. 15 and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due Oct. 31. It also applies to tax-exempt organizations operating on a calendar-year basis that had a valid extension date to run out on Nov. 15.
Businesses with extensions also have the additional time, including, among others, calendar-year corporations whose 2019 extensions run out on Oct. 15.