Year-End Tax Planning for 2017 for Businesses
If you've been following the news out of Washington, you probably know that corporate tax reform is a real possibility. It's likely that the bill will be sent to the President to sign into law by year's end. Most of the changes would not take effect until next year, and many of the details are still up in the air.
The following are some year-end strategies we should review with respect to your business.
Section 179 Expensing and Bonus Depreciation
If you are looking to reduce your business's taxable income, two of the biggest deductions from which your business may benefit are the Code Sec. 179 expense deduction and bonus depreciation. For 2017, the maximum amount of qualifying property that your business can expense is $510,000. That amount is reduced one-for-one to the extent qualifying property purchased during the year exceeds $2,030,000.
Vehicle-Related Deductions and Substantiation of Deductions
Expenses relating to business vehicles can add up to major deductions. If your business could use a large passenger vehicle, consider purchasing a sport utility vehicle weighing more than 6,000 pounds. Vehicles under that weight limit are considered listed property and deductions are more limited. However, if the vehicle is more than 6,000 pounds, up to $25,000 of the cost of the vehicle can be immediately expensed.
Since the IRS tends to focus on vehicle expenses in an audit and disallow them if they are not property substantiated, you should ensure that the following are part of your business's tax records with respect to each vehicle used in the business:
(1) the amount of each separate expense with respect to the vehicle (e.g., the cost of purchase or lease, the cost of repairs and maintenance);
(2) the amount of mileage for each business or investment use and the total miles for the tax period;
(3) the date of the expenditure; and
(4) the business purpose for the expenditure.
The following are considered adequate for substantiating such expenses:
(1) records such as a notebook, diary, log, statement of expense, or trip sheets; and
(2) documentary evidence such as receipts, canceled checks, bills, or similar evidence.
Records are considered adequate to substantiate the element of a vehicle expense only if they are prepared or maintained in such a manner that each recording of an element of the expense is made at or near the time the expense is incurred.
Retirement Plans and Other Fringe Benefits
Benefits are very attractive to employees. If you haven't done so already, you may want to consider using benefits rather than higher wages to attract employees. While your business is not required to have a retirement plan, there are many advantages to having one. By starting a retirement savings plan, you not only help your employees save for the future, you can also use such a plan to attract and retain qualified employees.
By offering a retirement plan, you also generate tax savings to your business because employer contributions are deductible and the assets in the retirement plan grow tax free. Additionally, a tax credit is available to certain small employers for the costs of starting a retirement plan. Please let me know if this is an option you would like to discuss further.
S Corporation Shareholder Salaries
For any business operating as an S corporation, it's important to ensure that shareholders involved in running the business are paid an amount that is commensurate with their workload. The IRS scrutinizes S corporations which distribute profits instead of paying compensation subject to employment taxes. Failing to pay arm's length salaries can lead not only to tax deficiencies, but penalties and interest on those deficiencies as well. The key to establishing reasonable compensation is being able to show that the compensation paid for the type of work an owner-employee does for the S corporation is similar to what other corporations would pay for similar work. If you are in this situation, we need to document the factors that support the salary you are being paid.