Unfortunately, I feel like I have been alerting our clients of a new tax scam almost every month. Well, here I am again warning you of another IRS tax scam. In the past, we have informed you that the IRS will never call you, they will only contact you via “snail mail”. This was in response to the mass amount of fake phone calls that were being made threatening taxpayers.
It looks like they are now attacking taxpayers via e-mail. They are e-mailing out letters that look ever so similar to the actual letters the IRS sends out when they make changes to your tax returns. The main focus of the letter has to do with the Affordable Care Act, which is the health insurance tax involved with Obama Care. While the letters do look awfully similar to the real IRS letters, there are a few subtle differences. Check it out…Scam Letter
These fake notices are in the e-mail as an attachment. If you happen to receive a suspicious e-mail claiming to be from the IRS, DO NOT open the attachment and forward the e-mail to [email protected] and then delete the e-mail.
In today’s world, criminals will do anything to make a quick buck. They have been very successful in scaring taxpayers into giving them money. For some reason, the IRS and taxes tend to scare people. We are here to protect you from any fear that you may have and give you peace of mind that you are safe. The tactical creativity of the scammers keeps getting better, and I tend to think that sooner or later they will begin to use snail mail in some way.
It is important to remember that any time your receive correspondence, please bring it into our office. Not only will we be able to detect if it is legit or not, but we will also take care of corresponding with the IRS or State if it is a legit letter. Don’t forget to take advantage of our Tax Shield to protect yourself against having to deal with IRS or State letters. The Tax Shield will be a part of our tax packages that will be available this upcoming tax season.
If you have any questions in regards to this scam, or any other scam, please give us a call or e-mail.
Have a great weekend!
P.S. 2015 Tax Returns on extension are due in 2 weeks! Get your information in ASAP if you still need to file.
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
Milwaukee tax preparation, Waukesha tax preparation
School has been back in session for almost a month now. I’m sure all of the college students were glad to get some breathing room from their parents, and the parents of elementary school, middle school, and high school students were glad to get some breathing room from their kids!
Education does not come at a small price. We often get a lot of questions about what school expenses can and cannot be deducted. So, let’s take a look at some of the tax breaks that are available to salvage some of the money spent on educational expenses.
Private School Tuition And School Uniforms
The cost of private school tuition is not deductible on your federal tax return. However, the State of Wisconsin does allow for a subtraction to income as of 2014. The subtraction is limited to $4,000/child for grades K-8 and $10,000/child for grades 9-12. Unfortunately, even if school uniforms are required, the cost is not deductible.
Before/After School Care
For children under age 13, the cost of before or after school care may qualify for a tax credit. These costs would be treated in the same manner as day care expenses and would be categorized under the Child Care Credit.
College Tuition Credits/Deductions
There are three separate tax breaks for paying college tuition. The American Opportunity Credit is available for the first 4 years of post-secondary education at a qualified institution. The Lifetime Learning Credit can be used for tuition after the first 4 years of education, there is no limit on the amount of years this can be taken. The Tuition And Fees Deduction is an alternative to the Lifetime Learning Credit, and can be taken if it provides a better outcome than the credits. It is important to keep in mind that scholarships and grants reduce the tuition paid, and if the amount of scholarships and grants exceeds tuition, it is to be claimed as income. Qualified expenses may include required books and supplies for classes, but it does not include room and board.
Student Loan Interest
Once you make it through the college gauntlet, you have the daunting task of paying off your student loans. The amount of interest that is deductible is up to $2,500, however, this amount may phase out based on income level.
One way to help pay for college is to start a 529 Plan early. This is a mutual fund account that grows like an IRA. However, the earnings on this account are tax-free as long as the money is used in the future for eligible college expenses.
What About The Educators?
If you are a teacher, you are eligible to deduct up to $250 of expenses for classroom supplies. Any out of pocket expenses that you accrue, make sure to keep those receipts for tax time. As of 2015, the State Of Wisconsin also adopted this deduction for State tax return purposes.
As I mentioned before, education is not cheap. It is important to be aware of possible tax benefits from all of the money that you spend on your children’s education. Hopefully this list provides some clarity for all the parents out there, and as always if you have any questions, please give us a call! These deductions are just part of how we help people in Milwaukee, Waukesha, New Berlin, Brookfield, Wauwatosa with tax preparation.
Here’s to a successful school year for all of the students out there, and some relaxation for the parents!
Until next time,
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
The financial mishaps of wealthy celebrities always intrigues me. How can someone with millions of dollars end up in debt? This is exactly what happened to the famed rapper Nelly. I myself am a big Nelly fan and grew up listening to a lot of his hit songs. If you are reading this and have no clue who this Nelly character is, ask your child or grandchild and they can fill you in. I actually recently attended a Nelly concert at Summerfest, and while it was obvious his talent was diminishing, I had no clue his bankroll was also on the down slide.
The IRS ‘Grillz’ Nelly With A $2.40 Million Tax Lien
Yes, you read that right, he owes the IRS a whopping $2.40 million. I would be willing to bet that he had no idea he was behind in tax payments. Many times celebrities entrust their financial people to handle all financial matters for them and to make sure everything is paid for. Well, Nelly’s tax guy wasn’t keeping up with those estimated tax payments. The tax lien that the IRS imposed means that they are going to start taking his assets if he does not settle this debt. The IRS can impose a tax lien when they have tried to collect past due taxes, but have not received any response.
What To Do If You Receive A Tax Lien
Tax liens don’t only happen to celebrities that owe millions of dollars, it happens to many taxpayers across the country that owe amounts generally above $10,000. I’m sure you have heard radio or TV commercials from the national companies claiming they can settle IRS tax debt for pennies on the dollar. In most cases, this is a lie, and just a ploy for you to give their 1-800 number a call. Many of these companies have been reported for taking clients’ money and not completing the work they said they would do for them. We work with our clients throughout the whole process and provide an in-person meeting so that they know who they are working with the entire time. As Enrolled Agents, we are able to talk to the IRS on behalf of our clients and try to reach a settlement. To find out some ways that we help people out with tax debt, visit that section of our website https://hammernikassoc.com/irs-representation/tax-resolution/ .
So, What’s Next For Nelly?
Nelly fans across the world are trying to help their beloved rapper out by streaming his songs. Spotify reported that in the last week, his songs are up 200%. However, there will need to be a lot of songs streamed to make up that amount of debt. Songs will need to be streamed between 4-5 million times to accrue the $2.4 million, and that does not even account for the share allotted to his record label, producers, etc.
Regardless, Nelly better hire a good tax professional to represent him in negotiation with the IRS, or they are about to make it hot in herre for him.
If you, or somebody you know, needs help with IRS debt, please contact our office at 414-545-1890. We help people in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Brookfield, New Berlin, Wauwatosa with tax debt and liens.
The first step in getting back to solid tax standing is to stop the bleeding. We are here for you to set up a game plan to get rid of that tax debt once and for all.
Have a great weekend!
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
Does anybody actually go to the mall anymore? I can personally count on one hand the number of times I have been inside a mall in the last year. Many millennials, like myself, would much rather do our shopping in the comfort of our own homes. It isn’t only millennials, websites like Amazon.com and Ebay.com have seen their activity soar over the last decade. Online shopping is the new way to shop for many reasons. One of those reasons, that you may not even be aware of, is that in most cases you do not pay for sales tax on your purchases. Thus, online shopping is not only convenient, but it is also cheaper!
Well, Congress is well aware of this and the money that they are missing out on. The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce estimated that in the 2nd quarter of 2016, there were e-commerce sales of $97.3 billion. For local purposes, let’s assume that this was all in the State of Wisconsin. At the general sales tax rate of 5%, this equates to $4.865 billion in uncollected sales tax.
Online retailers are not required to charge sales tax if they do not have a physical location that they sell from. Therefore, the sales are charged with what is called a use tax. The use tax puts the burden on the consumer to report the sales tax on their state tax return. If you ever wonder why your tax consultant may ask if you made any internet purchases for the year, this is why. Although consumers are supposed to report their internet purchases on their tax return, many do not.
Congress wants their money!
There have been attempts in the past by Congress to impose sales tax laws against the e-commerce businesses. Those efforts have failed, but they are not giving up. Judiciary Committee Chair Bob Goodlatte has taken it upon himself to take another swing at it. The big boys like Ebay and Amazon are keeping a close eye on his proposals as it would drastically effect their businesses.
His proposal states: “A state may impose a sales, use or similar tax on a seller, or impose on a seller an obligation to collect such a tax imposed on a purchaser, with respect to remote sale of a product or service only if — (1) The State is the origin State for the remote sales (where the company had the most employees during the previous calendar year); (2) The tax is applied using the origin State’s tax base applicable to non-remote sales; and (3) The State participates in the State tax clearinghouse.”
The online shopping world is great for consumers, and it is a retail giant that is only going to continue to grow. So keep on clicking those purchases from your computer, but be aware that your checkout bag price may be a tad higher in the future.
Until next time,
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
Milwaukee, Waukesha, Brookfield, New Berlin, Wauwatosa tax preparation
Are you ready for the big news? Your tax return next year is going to be delayed. If you were planning on getting that refund quickly to pay for something…time to change your plans. The IRS has put in place a new law which requires them to hold refunds longer. The IRS is warning taxpayers that their refunds are going to be delayed several weeks more than the normal time. In the past, it usually took the IRS 2-3 weeks to process refunds. Therefore, this new law means that it is going to take at least a good month for you to receive your refund check.
What has caused this law to go into place?
- Earned Income Credit & Child Tax Credit : The IRS has had issues with people taking advantage of these credits and receiving refunds they should not be receiving. Therefore, they will be spending additional time reviewing these returns for accuracy. Thus, this will cause a log jam in tax returns being processed and delay the processing of all returns.
- Identity Theft : We all know how big of a pain in the butt Identity Theft has been, especially if you have been a victim. The IRS recognizes that it is a major problem and is taking extra steps to prevent it. They will be examining returns to look for anything that may look suspicious.
What to do if you do not want to wait for your refund…
Take your refund now…What do I mean by this? Use the remaining 4 months of the year to take larger paychecks instead of your refund. You can do this by adjusting your W-4 to lower your tax withholding. Hammernik & Associates specialized in W-4 tax planning and can help you avoid waiting for your refund later. There is a large population that loves getting that huge refund check every tax season, but how long is too long to wait for it?
We can help residents of Milwaukee, Waukesha, New Berlin, Brookfield, Wauwatosa with all of their tax preparation and tax planning needs.
Give Hammernik & Associates a call to avoid waiting for your refund next year and receiving more of that money now. After all, the Government is just taking longer to pay you back on that interest free loan you are giving them.
If you have any questions about this new law or if you want to take tax planning action, call 414-545-1890.
Until next time,
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
I was struggling to decide a topic to blog about this week, so I took to Twitter to help me out. After all, Twitter is the best way to see what everyone is currently talking about in the world. You can follow us on Twitter at @HammernikTax. I did a simple search for the word “tax” on Twitter. Here are the main topics currently being discussed involving the word tax.
Donald Trump’s Tax Return
This is not a political blog, so I will not be discussing politics, however, this is relevant to our industry. The main topic of discussion revolves around Donald Trump not yet releasing his tax return. It seems like everywhere you go, your tax return is wanted to evaluate your current financial situation. Examples of this include: buying a car, buying a house…and running for president.
However, a tax return may not always tell the whole story. Our job as tax consultants is to devise strategic plans for our clients to reduce the amount of income they are showing on their tax returns. For instance, we may suggest a client defers more money to their 401K to reduce their taxable income. The tax return will now show that they are making less money, when in reality, they are making the same amount but are “hiding” some of it. So while it seems that we are often judged on the numbers on our tax returns, the tax return is just a sneak peek into the whole story. On that note, you have a little over 3 months left to do your own tax planning to create your own story. That is where the strategic plans on our part come into play. If you think you need to move some things around before the year is over, contact our office ASAP.
Are Contributions To Political Campaigns Tax Deductible?
(Don’t mind the Cubs Profile Picture)
What do you know, Twitter is all about politics right now. The simple answer to this…NO. While you are free to donate your money to a political movement that you believe in, it will not benefit you on your tax return. In order to be tax deductible, contributions must be made to a qualified charitable organization. If you are unsure if the organization qualifies, ask them, or use this IRS Tool.
Federal Student Tax Scam
The Internal Revenue Service issued a warning to taxpayers about bogus phone calls from IRS impersonators demanding payment for a non-existent tax, the “Federal Student Tax.”
Even though the tax deadline has come and gone, scammers continue to use varied strategies to trick people, in this case students. In this newest twist, they try to convince people to wire money immediately to the scammer. If the victim does not fall quickly enough for this fake “federal student tax”, the scammer threatens to report the student to the police.
“These scams and schemes continue to evolve nationwide, and now they’re trying to trick students,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remain vigilant and not fall prey to these aggressive calls demanding immediate payment of a tax supposedly owed.”
This is just another tactic being used by scammers. We have probably all heard of or received of these phone calls, this is just a different target towards college students. REMEMBER: The IRS will never call or e-mail you.
Complaints About Olympic Athletes Taxed On Medals
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Olympic athletes are taxed on both their winnings AND the value of the medal that they receive. There is much banter on Twitter from people complaining that the IRS needs to change this rule. However, it is important to remember that the IRS does not make the tax law….Congress does!
By the way Ryan Lochte & Co. will not be able to deduct their legal expenses for their debacle against their earnings 🙂
Twitter is the first place I go to for updated news. It has become the first source that reporters go to…it is instant news. I enjoyed seeing what people were talking about regarding the word “tax”, I think I may have to do this more often!
Until next time,
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
Earlier in the week, our Facebook account posted a really interesting article from Forbes about the Olympics and taxation. You can view that article here: Facebook Article . By the way, if you are not already following us on Facebook, please give us a “like”!
The article references how Olympic athletes are taxed and how it depends on if they treat their participation as a business or as a hobby. The IRS has strict rules to distinguish what is a hobby and what is a business. They regularly monitor Schedule C’s that are submitted to verify that they are indeed a business activity.
So, What Does The IRS Consider A Hobby Vs. A Business?
Per the IRS tax code, here are some things to consider when determining if you are participating in a business or a hobby:
Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
Does the activity make a profit in some years?
Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?
As a rule of thumb, the IRS considers an activity is being carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year — at least two of the last seven years for activities that consist primarily of breeding, showing, training or racing horses.
What Is The Difference In Taxation Between A Business And A Hobby?
If you determine that your activity is a business, then you will report all of your income and expenses involved on the Schedule C. On the other hand, if your activity is considered a hobby, you will report your income as “Other Income” and your expenses will only be deductible along with your other itemized deductions on the Schedule A.
Business vs. Hobby is a section of the tax code that the IRS audits frequently, and for good reason. Incorrect deductions of hobby expenses account for a portion of the overstated adjustments, deductions, exemptions and credits that add up to $30 billion per year in unpaid taxes, according to IRS estimates.
We help business owners in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Brookfield, New Berlin, Wauwatosa with business tax return preparation and tax planning.
If you are currently doing any side projects, or are considering starting one up, please contact your tax guy at Hammernik & Associates to determine if it is a business or a hobby. Your tax planning strategy may depend on it!
Until next time,
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
This is the final installment in my analysis of the rapidly growing shared economy. So far, we have outlined the popular transportation and home rental segments, which can be viewed here:
Today, we will analyze the taxation for those who sell their talent online.
How is Etsy.com Taxed?
Etsy tax? No, this is not a new tax the government has decided to implement. This has to deal with the taxation of those who sell on the popular website Etsy.com. Etsy is an online marketplace for the general public to buy and sell handcrafted items. Sellers on Etsy range from the casual crafter that wants to make some money off of their hobby, to the businesses that use Etsy as a supplement marketplace to their own website or storefront.
The main cogs of Etsy include jewelry, clothing, and accessories, most of which are handcrafted by the sellers. The sellers will receive a 1099 for their total amount of sales for the year. We help people in Milwaukee and Waukesha counties that sell on Etsy with tax preparation and tax planning.
What kind of expenses can you deduct?
The main expenses involved with selling on Etsy are the Cost of Goods Sold. The Cost of Goods Sold are going to be the materials purchased which are needed to produce the product. Also, equipment needed to produce your product can be deducted as well. Sewing machines, computer software, and other large machinery would be considered equipment.
Another expense to take into account is the Home Office Deduction. If you have a designated room in your home that is used exclusively for running your Etsy business, then you can deduct this as an expense. There are two ways you can do this. The first option is the Simplified Method, which gives you a $5 deduction per square foot of the room. The other option is the traditional method. With the traditional method, you compute the percentage of square feet the office is in comparison to the entire home. This percentage is used to deduct a portion of you real estate taxes, mortgage interest and utility bills.
Mileage: Any miles driven to gather supplies and materials can be deducted using the standard IRS mileage rate.
What about Fiverr? … What is Fiverr?
Fiverr.com is a website that can help consumers pretty much with anything. It is a gold mine for business owners, and we have personally used services on Fiverr a few times. Services include: graphic design, writing, video editing, music & audio, programming. and advertising. The sellers on Fiverr utilize their talent in these categories to produce a product based on the buyer’s order. It is a pretty cool concept, and I suggest you check it out if you ever need help with anything you don’t want to waste your own time on.
The taxation of Fiver sellers is similar to those on Etsy. However, they may not incur as many direct expenses. Their main expenses are going to comprise of equipment and the home office. In most cases, there are not many supplies or materials needed because they are using their expertise to produce a final product.
Both Etsy and Fiverr members may incur processing fees from the website. These fees are also deductible as expenses.
What have we learned about the Shared Economy?
The shared economy is a highly successful business model that is being carried over into many different sectors and industries. The main concept is that the Business lets us, the general population, do their work for them. They benefit off of the processing fees and advertising space, but rely on the citizens of the world to produce for their business.
The important thing to remember for all of those that are “working” for these companies is that you are not their employee, you are your own business! It may be your full time gig, or just something you do to supplement your income, but you are a business owner. You are no longer treated by the IRS as an employee and you will be taxed differently. It is important for you to know how to keep records of your business and stay compliant with the IRS tax code.
If you are currently involved in the shared economy, or if you want to make some extra money and join the shared economy, please contact your tax consultant to learn more of what you need to do.
Have a great weekend!
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
In my last post, I talked about the tax ramifications of the rapidly booming shared economy phenom, Uber. The IRS has taken notice and is beginning to crack down on those involved with making money from the shared economy. Today, we will move to the vacation rental sector of the shared economy. The biggest player here is Air BnB, followed by other services such as VRBO, Home Away, and FlipKey. So how does it work? Let’s say you want to take a trip to Florida for a week of vacation…If you either feel that hotels are too expensive, or you don’t like the overall feel of hotels, you would opt for the shared economy option. Hosts list their homes or apartments on the website with the price per day, location, # of rooms and pictures. If you think it looks like a place you would like to stay, you pay them via the website and receive instructions from there.
So, if you are a host receiving money for visitors to stay at your house…how are you taxed?
- The most important factor to consider is the 14 day rule. If you rent the property out for 14 days or less, the income you receive is not taxable. Money that isn’t taxed?! I’m not crazy, this is a thing. I actually had a friend/client avoid having to pay tax on the money he earned through Air BnB by having him stop renting the place out at 14 days. You will still receive a 1099 from Air BnB showing the income that they paid you for the year. You DO need to report this on your tax return. You are able to post an adjustment on your tax return stating that you qualify for the 14 day rule to cancel out this income. It is important that you keep diligent records of the number of days that your place is rented out by visitors in case it is ever put in question. Air BnB usually does a good job of doing this for you, but keep your own records as well to be safe.
- What happens if you rent out your home for more than 14 days? Now you will need to pay taxes on the income that you have brought in. This income will be reported on the Schedule C, NOT the Schedule E. The IRS considers this income to be a self employed business and not a rental property. The fact that you are providing bookings, amenities and other hospitality services makes you a business owner and not a landlord.
- So, now that you are running a business, what can you deduct? In order to reduce your tax liability, you need to track possible deductions to offset some of your income. First, keep track of any amenities that you provide visitors. If you purchase new bed sheets, towels, linens etc. for new visitors, these costs can be deducted. Also, if you are a gracious host and provide your visitors with food and beverages, these can be deducted as well. Next, you will be able to use a portion of your real estate taxes, mortgage interest, and utility bills. Take the total number of days your place was rented and divide that by 365 days. Whatever percentage you come out with, that is the percentage of your taxes, interest and utilities that you can deduct from your business income on the Schedule C. The remaining amount of the real estate taxes and mortgage interest will be part of your itemized deductions on your Schedule A. It is important to know that you can not take the full amount on Schedule A and still use your percentage on Schedule C. Also, if you only rent out a single room in your house, then you will need to use the percentage of the total square footage of that room compared to the total area of the house. Any service fees that Air BnB assesses to you can also be deducted.
- Occupancy Tax may be coming… Many hotel and lodging operators have put in complaints that they have to pay occupancy taxes when they have visitors, but Air BnB hosts do not pay these taxes. Many states are in the process of enforcing occupancy tax on the shared economy hosts. If this goes into effect in your state, you will need to charge your visitor an occupancy tax and then pay that amount to the government.
Like Uber drivers, many times Air BnB hosts do not realize that they may have become a business owner overnight. It is important to educate yourself on how you will now be treated under the tax code. I was able to save my friend a couple hundred dollars in taxes by making him aware of the 14 day rule. If you currently rent out your place through the shared economy, or are considering doing so for a big upcoming event, please consult with a tax professional to keep yourself educated and compliant. We can help with the tax preparation and tax planning of taxpayers involved in the shared economy.
The Milwaukee and Waukesha County areas are in high demand during events such as Summerfest, State Fair, and various sporting events. It is a good opportunity to put some extra cash in your pocket, but be aware of how it could affect you at tax time. Plan now before it is too late! Hammernik and Associates specializes in helping Milwaukee, Waukesha, Brookfield, New Berlin, Wauwatosa with Air BnB tax preparation and tax planning.
Next week, the final segment of the shared economy industry will focus on the online retail sector.
Nicholas Hammernik, EA
The IRS will begin to take a closer look at examining the rapidly growing “sharing economy”. The sharing economy are activities which people get paid for through an online platform. The most popular companies of the sharing economy include Uber, Lyft, Air BnB, Etsy, Fiverr and TaskRabbit. Over the next few weeks I will be focusing on these different activities to raise public awareness regarding the tax consequences involved with the sharing economy.
To begin, I will focus on the transportation sector of the shared economy. This is by far the most booming sector. In fact, it has surpassed taxis/cabs in corporate spending reports. There are two main players in the transportation shared economy game, Uber and Lyft. I personally use Uber almost every weekend and any time I am on vacation. It is easy to use, convenient and cost effective. It is focused on providing the millennial market an easy way to get from point A to point B. Uber and Lyft’s business plans are centered around having “employees” (the drivers) work for them using their personal automobiles. However, in reality, the drivers are not employees of said companies, they are sole proprietors.
What does this mean if you are a driver for Uber or Lyft?
The answer….Congratulations you now own your own business! We help Milwaukee and Waukesha Uber and Lyft drivers with tax preparation and tax planning.
The reason why the IRS is trying to raise public awareness among the shared economy community is because that these drivers don’t realize that they are their own business and not employees. This can result in major tax problems when it comes time to file your tax return. When it comes to tax preparation, there are some important things you need to know when you own your own business.
Here are five things that all Uber and Lyft drivers should be aware of:
- The income checks that you receive are not all yours to keep. When you are an employee, your medicare and social security tax are paid half by you and half by your employer. Guess what? You have to cover the employer and employee portion of this as a business owner. This is known as self employment tax. On top of this tax, you are also responsible for paying federal and state income tax on your net business income. It is important to make quarterly estimated tax payments to the IRS and State to stay compliant and avoid penalties. Hammernik & Associates works with business owners by tax planning throughout the year to stay compliant.
- All income you receive is to be reported to the IRS, this includes cash tips. The third party network will send you a tax form at the end of the year showing the total amount of income that they paid you. This will be reported on Form 1099-MISC if they paid you over $600 or on Form 1099-K if they paid you over $20,000 or there were over 200 transactions. The IRS also received this tax form, so it is important to keep track of the income that you receive throughout the year for year-end reporting. I would suggest that you create a bank account separate from your personal account to keep track of business activity only. Do not co-mingle funds between your personal account and your business account.
- Create an LLC. A LLC is a cost effective way to protect your personal assets. LLC stands for Limited Liability Company. The reason to create an LLC is to protect your personal assets in the event that something goes wrong with your Uber or Lyft business. If somebody decides they want to sue you, they can only go after any assets that are in the LLC. They can not go after your personal items, such as: your house, your savings account, your IRA or 401(k), etc. As I mentioned before, it is important to keep your business activity in a separate bank account. Any activity between your personal account and the business account can put the LLC protection into question.
- Keep track of your mileage. Not all the income you receive is going to be taxable. The way that we reduce the taxable income is by deducting business expenses. The main deduction that an Uber or Lyft driver is going to have is mileage. In 2016, the IRS mileage deduction rate is $.54/mile. It is important that you keep a log of the miles that you drive for business purposes. Make sure that you keep this log separate from the miles that you drive for personal use. There are mobile apps available which make it easy to log your miles, otherwise an Excel sheet works fine as well. You can only choose to deduct mileage OR actual expenses (gas, oil changes, repairs, etc.). More often than not, mileage is the most effective way to go.
- Other ways to reduce taxable income. What other things can you deduct as business expenses? A lot of the Uber drivers I have received rides from have water or candy available to their passengers to improve their experience. If you are one of those drivers, keep your receipts, this is deductible. It is important for Uber drivers to keep their cars clean to provide a nice environment for their passengers, therefore, any car washes, detailing, or interior cleaning expenses are all deductible. Lastly, in order to be an Uber driver you need to use a smart phone. If you are using your personal phone, you are able to deduct a portion of your phone bills. You will need to determine the percentage of use that your business takes up of the overall use of your phone, and that percentage of your bill will be deductible.
The IRS knows that the shared economy is here to stay and is growing every year. They will begin putting more focus on patrolling the tax returns of taxpayers that participate in these activities. Hammernik & Associates is here to make sure that you stay complaint, tax plan to save money, and know what you can and cannot deduct. Also, as a business owner, you now have additional tax savings opportunities available to you. If you are an Uber or Lyft driver or if you frequently use the service, let it be known that Hammernik & Associates knows how to deal with the tax implications involved with being an Uber or Lyft driver.
Hammernik & Associates helps business owners and individual taxpayers save on taxes by proactive planning.
The next blog post will discuss the home rental sector of the shared economy. Stay tuned.
Have a great weekend,
Nicholas Hammernik, EA