More than 52 percent of businesses today are home-based. Every day, people are striking out and achieving economic and creative independence by turning their skills into dollars. Garages, basements and attics are being transformed into the corporate headquarters of the newest entrepreneurs – home-based business people.
And, with technological advances in smartphones, tablets, and iPads as well as a rising demand for “service-oriented” businesses, the opportunities seem to be endless.
Is a Home-Based Business Right for You?
Choosing a home business is like choosing a spouse or partner: Think carefully before starting the business. Instead of plunging right in, take time to learn as much about the market for any product or service as you can. Before you invest any time, effort, and money take a few moments to answer the following questions:
- Can you describe in detail the business you plan on establishing?
- What will be your product or service?
- Is there a demand for your product or service?
- Can you identify the target market for your product or service?
- Do you have the talent and expertise needed to compete successfully?
Before you dive head first into a home-based business, it’s essential that you know why you are doing it and how you will do it. To succeed, your business must be based on something greater than a desire to be your own boss: an honest assessment of your own personality, and understanding of what’s involved, and a lot of hard work. You have to be willing to plan ahead, and then make improvements and adjustments along the road. While there are no “best” or “right” reasons for starting a home-based business, it is vital to have a very clear idea of what you are getting into and why. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you a self-starter?
- Can you stick to business if you’re working at home?
- Do you have the necessary self-discipline to maintain schedules?
- Can you deal with the isolation of working from home?
Working under the same roof that your family lives under may not prove to be as easy as it seems. It is important that you work in a professional environment; if at all possible, you should set up a separate office in your home. You must consider whether your home has the space for a business, and whether you can successfully run the business from your home.
Compliance with Laws and Regulations
A home-based business is subject to many of the same laws and regulations affecting other businesses and you will be responsible for complying with them. There are some general areas to watch out for, but be sure to consult an attorney and your state department of labor to find out which laws and regulations will affect your business.
Be aware of your city’s zoning regulations. If your business operates in violation of them, you could be fined or closed down.
Restrictions on Certain Goods
Certain products may not be produced in the home. Most states outlaw home production of fireworks, drugs, poisons, sanitary or medical products, and toys. Some states also prohibit home-based businesses from making food, drink, or clothing.
Registration and Accounting Requirements
You may need the following:
- Work certificate or a license from the state (your business’s name may also need to be registered with the state)
- Sales tax number
- Separate business telephone
- Separate business bank account
If your business has employees, you are responsible for withholding income, social security, and Medicare taxes, as well as complying with minimum wage and employee health and safety laws.
Money fuels all businesses. With a little planning, you’ll find that you can avoid most financial difficulties. When drawing up a financial plan, don’t worry about using estimates. The process of thinking through these questions helps develop your business skills and leads to solid financial planning.
Estimating Start-Up Costs
To estimate your start-up costs, include all initial expenses such as fees, licenses, permits, telephone deposit, tools, office equipment and promotional expenses.
Business experts say you should not expect a profit for the first eight to 10 months, so be sure to give yourself enough of a cushion if you need it.
Projecting Operating Expenses
Include salaries, utilities, office supplies, loan payments, taxes, legal services and insurance premiums, and don’t forget to include your normal living expenses. Your business must not only meet its own needs, but make sure it meets yours as well.
It is essential that you know how to estimate your sales on a daily and monthly basis. From the sales estimates, you can develop projected income statements, break-even points and cash-flow statements. Use your marketing research to estimate initial sales volume.
Determining Cash Flow
Working capital–not profits–pays your bills. Even though your assets may look great on the balance sheet, if your cash is tied up in receivables or equipment, your business is technically insolvent. In other words, you’re broke.
Make a list of all anticipated expenses and projected income for each week and month. If you see a cash-flow crisis developing, cut back on everything but the necessities.
If you think a home-based business is in your future, then don’t hesitate to give us a call at 865-690-2662. We’ll help you set up your business and help make sure you have the proper documentation system in place to satisfy the IRS.
Given the current economic conditions, you may be faced with tax questions surrounding a job loss and unemployment issues. Here are some answers:
Q: What if I received unemployment compensation in 2012?
A: Unemployment compensation you received under the unemployment compensation laws of the United States or of a state are considered taxable income and must be reported on your federal tax return. If you received unemployment compensation, you should receive Form 1099-G showing the amount you were paid and any federal income tax you elected to have withheld.
Types of unemployment benefits include:
- Benefits paid by a state or the District of Columbia from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund
- Railroad unemployment compensation benefits
- Disability payments from a government program paid as a substitute for unemployment compensation
- Trade readjustment allowances under the Trade Act of 1974
- Unemployment assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act
You must also include benefits from regular union dues paid to you as an unemployed member of a union in your income. However, other rules apply if you contribute to a special union fund and your contributions are not deductible. If this applies to you, only include in income the amount you received from the fund that is more than your contributions.
Q: Can I have federal income tax withheld?
Yes, you can choose to have federal income tax withheld from your unemployment benefits by filling out Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. If you complete the form and give it to the paying office, they will withhold tax at 10 percent of your payments. If you choose not to have tax withheld, you may have to make estimated tax payments throughout the year.
Q: What if I lost my job?
A: The loss of a job may create new tax issues. Severance pay and unemployment compensation are taxable. Payments for any accumulated vacation or sick time also are taxable. You should ensure that enough taxes are withheld from these payments or make estimated tax payments to avoid a big bill at tax time. Public assistance and food stamps are not taxable.
Q: What if I searched for a job?
A: You may be able to deduct certain expenses you incurred while looking for a new job, even if you did not get a new job. Expenses include travel, resume preparation, and outplacement agency fees. Moving costs for a new job at least 50 miles away from your home may also be deductible.
Q: What if my employer went out of business or in to bankruptcy?
A: Your employer must provide you with a 2012 W-2 Form showing your wages and withholdings by January 31, 2013. You should keep up-to-date records or pay stubs until you receive your Form W-2. If your employer or its representatives fail to provide you with a Form W-2, contact the IRS. They can help by providing you with a substitute Form W-2. If your employer liquidated your 401(k) plan, you have 60 days to roll it over to another qualified retirement plan or IRA.
If you have experienced a job loss and have questions, please call us at 865-690-2662. You need to be prepared for the tax consequences.
Tags: Income Tax, knoxville cpa, mileage rate irs tax, tax tip
The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2013 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2013, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
- 56.5 cents per mile for business miles driven
- 24 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
- 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The rate for business miles driven during 2013 increases 1 cent from the 2012 rate. The medical and moving rate is also up 1 cent per mile from the 2012 rate.
Tips for Safeguarding Financial Records
With the 2012 hurricane season now under way and memories of tornadoes and other natural disasters fresh in our collective minds, now is the time for individuals and businesses to safeguard their tax records by taking a few simple steps.
Take Inventory. Gather all of your documents and make an inventory list. You may find everything in a single location, but more likely than not, you’ll have to hunt around to find all of your documents. Don’t forget to check computer files, storage boxes, file cabinets, old and new computers and laptops, thumb drives, and external hard drives and backup disks.
Depending on how complex your finances are, you may opt for a single list or choose to make two separate lists. The first list might include items such as insurance policies, mortgages and deeds, car titles, wills, pension and retirement-plan documents, powers of attorney, medical directives, and so on. The second list might contain a list of less essential documents such as brokerage accounts, loans that have been paid off, end-of-year bank statements, and copies of old tax returns and supporting documentation.
Create a Backup Set of Records and Store Them Electronically. Keeping a backup set of records — including, for example, bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, etc. — is easier than ever now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, and much financial information is available on the Internet.
Even if the original records are provided only on paper, they can be scanned and converted to a digital format. Once the documents are in electronic form, taxpayers can download them to a backup storage device, such as an external hard drive, or burn them onto a CD or DVD (don’t forget to label it).
You might also consider online backup, which is the only way to ensure that data is fully protected. With online backup, files are stored in another region of the country, so that if a hurricane or other natural disaster occurs, documents remain safe. Contact us if you need assistance with this.
Visually Document Valuables. Another step you can take to prepare for disaster is to photograph or videotape the contents of your home, especially items of higher value. Call us for more help compiling a room-by-room list of belongings.
A photographic or video record can help prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Store the photos or video with a friend or family member who lives outside the area, or as part of your online document backup.
Update Emergency Plans. Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company or organization changes functions, plans should be updated accordingly and employees should be informed of the changes.
Check on Fiduciary Bonds. Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider.
If disaster strikes, call us right away 865-690-2662. We can help you get back copies of tax returns and all attachments, including your Form W-2. We’re here to help.
The IRS does not send taxpayers unsolicited e-mails about their tax accounts, tax situations, or personal tax issues. If you receive such an e-mail, most likely it’s a scam.
IRS impersonation schemes flourish during filing season. These schemes may take place via phone, fax, Internet sites, social networking sites, and particularly e-mail.
Many impersonations are identity theft scams that try to trick victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to access their financial accounts. Some e-mail scams contain attachments or links that, when clicked, download malicious code (a virus) that infects your computer or directs you to a bogus form or site posing as an IRS form or Web site.
Some impersonations may be commercial Internet sites that consumers unknowingly visit, thinking they’re accessing the genuine IRS Web site, IRS.gov. However, such sites have no connection to the IRS.
If you want to know whether a site is legitimate or if you think you have been the victim of identity theft or fraud, please contact us at 865-690-2662. We definitely don’t want you to get scammed.
Tags: CPA, Income Tax, IRS, knoxville cpa, tax tip
Whether a dependent has to file a return generally depends on the amount of the dependent’s earned and unearned income and whether the dependent is married, is age 65 or older, or is blind.
Note: A dependent may have to file a return even if his or her income is less than the amount that would normally require a return.
Even if you are not legally required to file, you should file a federal tax return to get money back if any of the following apply:
- You had income tax withheld from your pay.
- You qualify for the earned income credit.
- You qualify for the additional child tax credit.
Contact us at 865-690-2662 for further information. We’ll advise you about your particular situation.
Tags: Income Tax, knoxville cpa, tax tip
The New Year has arrived, which means . . . it’s tax time!
This year, do you want your refund faster? Have it deposited directly into your bank account. More taxpayers are choosing direct deposit as the way to receive their federal tax refunds. More than 78.4 million people had their tax refunds deposited directly into their bank accounts last year. It’s the secure and convenient way to get money in your wallet faster.
- Security. The payment is secure – there is no check to get lost. Each year thousands of refund checks are returned by the US Post Office to the IRS as undeliverable mail. Direct deposit eliminates undeliverable mail and is also the best way to guard against having a tax refund stolen.
- Convenience. There’s no special trip to the bank to deposit a check!
You can also electronically direct your refund to multiple accounts. With the new “split refund” option, taxpayers can divide their refunds among as many as three checking or savings accounts and three different U.S. financial institutions. The split refund option, using Form 8888, is also available for paper returns.
Caution: Some financial institutions do not allow a joint refund to be deposited into an individual account. Check with your bank or other financial institution to make sure your direct deposit will be accepted. Also, make sure you have the correct nine-digit routing number and your account number when selecting direct deposit.
To request direct deposit, just ask us. We are happy to assist you. Call 865-690-2662
For business use of an automobile remains at 55½ cents per mile. For medical or moving expenses, it is 23 cents per mile (a half-cent decrease from the second half of 2011). For services to charitable organizations, the rate (which is set by statute) is 14 cents per mile.
Rather than using the standard mileage rates, taxpayers may instead use their actual costs if they maintain adequate records and can substantiate their expenses. The rules for substantiating these amounts appear in Rev. Proc. 2010-51.
For automobiles a taxpayer uses for business purposes, the portion of the business standard mileage rate treated as depreciation is 23 cents per mile for 2012 (it was 22 cents per mile for 2011).
With less than two months remaining in the calendar year, it’s a great time to double check your federal withholding to make sure enough taxes are being taken out of your pay.
The average refund for 2010 was just over $3,000. Although in part due to tax credits associated with the economic stimulus package, it’s still an increase of nearly 10 percent from the previous year. In addition, even though the Making Work Pay Tax Credit lowered tax withholding rates in 2010 for millions of American households, some workers and retirees still need to take steps to make sure enough tax is being taken out of their checks.
Certain folks should pay particular attention to their withholding. These include:
- Married couples with two incomes
- Individuals with multiple jobs
- Some Social Security recipients who work
- Workers who do not have valid Social Security numbers
- Retirees who receive pension payments
Taxpayers who wind up owing too much tax because not enough money was withheld from their paychecks during 2011 may qualify for special relief on a penalty that sometimes applies. Depending on their personal situation, some people could have less withheld from their paychecks than they need or want.
Failure to adjust withholding could result in potentially smaller refunds or, in limited instances, a taxpayer may owe tax rather than receive a refund next year.
If you’re not sure how much you need to withhold from your paycheck, just give us a call at 865-690-2662, and we’ll figure it out with you.
The IRS has announced the maximum contribution limits for your 401(k) and other retirement plans for 2012. In general, many of the pension plan limitations will change for 2012 because the increase in the cost-of-living index met the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment. However, other limitations will remain unchanged. Highlights include:
Individuals Limits for 401(k): Annual compensation limit $250,000 in 2012 (up from $245,000 in 2011); maximum annual contribution $17,000 in 2012 (up from $16,500 in 2011) with a $5,500 contributions for age 50 and older.
Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE): Contribution limit $11,500 with a $2,500 catch up clause for age 50 and older. Remains unchanged from 2011.
Individual Retirement Plans (IRAs): Maximum contribution $5,000 with a $1,000 catch up contribution for those age 50 and older. The contribution can be split between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA, but must not exceed $6,000. Remains unchanged from 2011.
Looking Ahead to 2012
The value of each personal and dependent exemption will increase $100 to $3,800 in 2012.
The new standard deduction is $11,900 in 2012 for married couples filing jointly. Individuals and married people filing separately will see the standard deduction rise to $5,950 and the standard deduction for head of household rises to $8,700. Nearly two out of three taxpayers take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing deductions.
Annual gift tax exclusion remains at $13,000 in 2012. The basic exclusion from estate tax amount increases to $5,120,000, from $5,000,000 in 2011