What does it mean for Real Estate Investors “To do Business in California”?

The State of California, by legislation, incorporates the following activities, as sufficient to require registration in California, with the Secretary of State office (http://www.sos.ca.gov/business-programs/business-entities/faqs#form).

  1. Does your business conduct regular and continuous activities in the State of CA? ……… as an example, do you fix and flip houses ? do you wholesale houses? How about Property Management?
  2. Do you have employees who live and work in CA? do you have independent contractors working on your projects?
  3. Do you need to conduct litigation against another business in the State of CA regarding your business activities?

So, the net result, is that if you are active in any of the above items, you are required to register in the State of CA, and also to pay income and/or franchise tax to the State of CA for California’s share of your revenues.

We want to help you structure your entities in such a way to minimize franchise taxes. We want to assist with planning your business process to help you address the following important issues:

  1. Structuring your Franchise Taxes appropriately (minimum $800 per year per entity)
  2. Ensure strong outside charging order protection – shelter your assets from charging orders due to liability concerns
  3. Consider the usage of a Holding LLC as nominee Manager for the active LLC
  4. Too many damn attorneys in the State of CA  – make yourself appear worthless to the outside world, and to the Government
  5. Income Taxes in the State of CA – do I have to pay CA taxes on income generated outside the State of CA ?

What about Activities that do not qualify for the doing business in CA?

  1. Owning Real Estate
  2. Maintain a trading account, and you are an active trader
  3. Private money lending, where you make the loan (c0nsidered the activity) outside of the State of CA, meaning the borrower and the property is outside of CA.

We’re experts in this field – why not work with our legal and tax team to coordinate a plan consistent with your goals. You should work with experts to secure your investments. Please open, review and complete this form, ( https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1epIax5YfvecdZmLg-cpq9MdYkH5kBnkAd83hqcshjlE/edit) and we will follow up with you to schedule your complimentary 30 minute interview. Or, just call us at (949) 502-4680 and we can talk.

We’re passionate about Small Businesses with less than 25 Employees !

Understanding the Small Business Health Care Tax Creditisplogo_premreseller

The Affordable Care Act includes the small business health care tax credit, which can benefit small employers who provide health coverage for their employees.

The small business health care tax credit benefits employers who:

  • have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees
  • pay an average wage of less than $51,600 a year
  • pay at least half of employee health insurance premiums

Here are some facts that will help you understand this tax credit and how it may affect your small business or tax-exempt organization:

  • Credit percentage is 50 percent of employer-paid premiums; for tax-exempt employers, the percentage is 35 percent.
  • Small employers may claim the credit for only two consecutive taxable years beginning in tax year 2014 and beyond.
  • For 2015, the credit is phased out beginning when average wages equal $25,800 and is fully phased out when average wages exceed $51,600. The average wage phase out is adjusted annually for inflation.
  • Generally, small employers are required to purchase a Qualified Health Plan from a Small Business Health Options Program Marketplace to be eligible to claim the credit.  Transition relief from this requirement is available to certain small employers.

Small employers may still be eligible to claim the tax credit for tax years prior to 2014.   Employers who were eligible to claim this credit for prior years – but did not do so – may consider if they are still eligible to amend prior year returns in order to claim the credit.

Gathering the following information will assist you in completing Form 8941,Credit for Small employer Health Insurance Premiums.

  • SHOP QHP documentation or letter of eligibility from SHOP, unless transition relief applies
  • Numbers of full-time and part-time employees and numbers of hours worked
  • Average annual wages for employees
  • Employer premiums paid per employee, if applicable
  • Relevant K-1s and other pass-through credit information
  • Cost of coverage for each employee
  • Payroll tax liability – for tax-exempt organizations only
  • Pass-through credit info – for K-1s of other small employers

For more information about the Affordable Care Act visit IRS.gov/aca.

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Thank you for subscribing to IRS Tax Tips, an IRS e-mail service. For more information on federal taxes please visit www.coreperformance.net

Does your Accountant focus on your MAGI ( Modified Adjusted Gross Income) ? …. they should

When you meet with Your Accountant, he or she should review with you and Pay close Attention to Your MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income) in order to insure you still Qualify for Tax Breaks. Proper planning with your Accountant now will help avoid getting caught up in an MAGI tax trap.

Take a look at your 2013 tax return after it’s prepared. How close to the edge did you come to losing tax benefits due to tax phase-outs? As you begin your 2014 tax planning, consider the effects of these benefit-limiting provisions, many of which are based on modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI. Knowing how close you are to the “edge” can help you preserve tax breaks for 2014.

A caution: Since the definition of MAGI as applicable to individual phase-outs varies, you might have to choose between conflicting opportunities. For instance, if you have a child in college this semester, the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit may be on your mind. Both benefits are education-related, yet the qualifying requirements differ – including the MAGI threshold.
Education benefits. The American Opportunity Credit is a partially refundable, dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill, with a maximum of $2,500 per student. This year the credit starts to shrink when your MAGI reaches $160,000 and you’re married filing jointly ($80,000 when you’re single). It disappears completely when your MAGI is greater than $180,000 for joint returns, and $90,000 when your filing status is single.

For 2014, the Lifetime Learning Credit begins to phase out at $108,000 when you’re married filing a joint return and $54,000 when you’re single. Once your MAGI reaches $128,000 (married) or $64,000 (single), the credit is no longer available.

Other education benefits, such as the above-the-line tuition and fees deduction, also have MAGI limitations. If you qualify, you can claim the maximum annual limit of $4,000 when you’re married filing jointly and your MAGI does not exceed $130,000 ($65,000 if you’re single). The deduction phases out completely when your income reaches $160,000 ($80,000 for singles).

Retirement plans. Phase-outs affect retirement planning too. The deduction for contributions to your traditional IRA is limited when you are eligible to participate in your employer’s plan and your MAGI exceeds $96,000 ($60,000 when you’re single).

And while Roth IRA contributions are not tax-deductible, the amount you can contribute for 2014 begins to phase out when your MAGI reaches $181,000 ($114,000 if you file single).

In addition, the federal “saver’s” credit for making contributions to retirement plans phases out when your 2014 modified adjusted gross income is more than $60,000 and your filing status is married filing jointly ($30,000 for singles).

Other phase-outs. Finally, the exclusion of social security benefits from taxable income also has a phase-out calculated on the amount of your MAGI over the base amount of $32,000 when you’re married and $25,000 when you’re single.

Other phase-outs affecting your 2014 federal tax return reduce personal exemptions, itemized deductions, and the alternative minimum tax exclusion. Contact Peter Cullen at our office for guidance in managing income for maximum tax breaks.

Are you forming a Non-Profit organization?

January 10, 2014 · Posted in Accounting, Cloud Accounting, Cost-Saving Tips · Comment 

CorePerf-5449We can help you – as well, the IRS now has an online form to guide you through the initial steps of completing the Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under 501(c)(3), and its associated schedules.

Take a look at http://www.stayexempt.irs.gov/StartingOut/InteractiveForm1023Application.aspx

Have You Been Hacked? How to Minimize Your Risk

Just about every day, we read in the news that another company has been hacked.  You might have already been directly affected by the password thefts at LinkedIn last year or Evernote this year.  Or you might have had your own social media account, email, website, network, or computer hacked.  Worse, many of you have been hacked but don’t even know it.

So how can you minimize the damage and risk of hackers?  Here are several tips, some familiar, some not so familiar.  As you go through the list, check off the ones you’re already doing and make a list of new ideas to implement to protect your business and personal assets.

Signing Your Life Away

Your signature might look great in a graphic in your email signature line, your website, or your newsletter, but it’s a huge risk.  You’re giving away your handwriting, and forgers can easily replicate, master your handwriting, and impersonate you.  To reduce identity theft, don’t publish your real signature anywhere.

Money, Honey

Implement strong passwords on all of your financial accounts:  banks, credit unions, PayPal, credit cards, and your accounting system.  We know it’s painful, but do not use the same password for your financial accounts anywhere else, especially social media!  If possible, use a different password for each account to reduce risk further.

What’s Your Password?

Here are some quick password tips:

  • Do not use your name, your pet’s names or your kid’s names in your passwords.  There’s just too much information available publicly to do that safely anymore.
  • Mix up letters, numbers, capital letters, and special characters, if they are allowed.
  • The longer, the more secure; most apps require at least 8 digits.
  • Change passwords quarterly to be on the safe side.

Password Storage

Most apps that help you save time with passwords are NOT safe!  Here’s what we do and don’t recommend:

DO:

  • Password-protect your computer, even though you don’t have to.
  • Keep a separate file of your passwords on your computer, but DO password-protect that file and make sure it is not shared with anyone on a network.  Also name the file something totally unrelated like bio, letter, or goulash recipe; do not name it “passwords.doc!”
  • You can also keep a record of your passwords offline, but be sure to lock it up in a safe.
  • When you make file and disk backups, be sure those are locked up and password-protected too.  They will no longer have your PC password to protect them.

DON’T

  • Don’t give in to your browser or any website when it asks to remember your user ID and password, especially for your financial accounts or client information.  All of the major browsers have been hacked – Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and even Safari.

If you use password management applications, proceed with caution.  Be sure you have properly vetted their security claims.  Most of these are simply form fillers that are not safe.

Vulnerable Applications

Avoid leaving vulnerable PC ports open and unattended, including chat, messaging, FTP (file transfer protocol), Skype, webinars, Google hangouts, video sharing, and the like. It’s like having all the doors and windows unlocked in your house; an intruder has a lot of choices for easy entry.  When you are on these more vulnerable connections, shut the others down, and close the applications you don’t need.  Then logoff when you are done.

A Plug for Software

As soon as a hacker has found a new exploit, the software companies will learn about it and make an update available within days.  The hacker community is tight;  other hackers will look for software that is not updated and exploit the hack.  Avoid the copycat hackers by staying on top of your software updates, not just your anti-virus, but also your Microsoft and other software updates.  Doing this will eliminate a great deal of the risk out there.

New Users

If multiple team members need to access your software, consider setting up additional users rather than having one account.  If one person gets hacked, the others will likely still have access and can react quicker to the intrusion.

Stay Safe Out There

How many of these are you already doing?  Give yourself a reward, and then get busy implementing the rest so you can stay safe.

What Is Cloud Accounting?

One of the most exciting changes in the accounting industry is cloud accounting.  The concept is easy to grasp:  cloud accounting simply puts your accounting system in a private space online so that it is fully accessible to you via a browser or a secure remote connection.

Two Ways to Be in the Clouds

There are primarily two ways to have your accounting system in the cloud.  First, it can be “hosted.”  This means that the current software you are using on your desktop, such as QuickBooks or Sage, does not change.  Neither does your company file.

The only thing you do differently once it’s set up is click a different icon to start the software.  Once you log in, most everything else is the same.  There are a couple of differences in printer access, Microsoft Excel® access, and some of the other interfaces, but it’s essentially the same experience.

So if it’s the same, why would you want to move to the cloud?  Because it completely eliminates the passing back and forth of the file among you, your CPA, your bookkeeper, and anyone else that needs to update or access your accounting file.  No more restores.  No more DropBox or YouSendIt downloads.

Hosting saves a ton of time because the people you grant access to can login to your file from anywhere.

The second way to have your accounting system in the clouds is to switch to an online accounting system.  In industry jargon, this is called SaaS, which stands for Software as a Service.  Examples of online accounting systems include QuickBooks Online, Xero, Wave, and Kashoo.  These systems have fewer features and will only be right for a client with a need for a simpler accounting system.

When you switch from desktop accounting software to SaaS, it will likely require conversion, setup, and training.  It’s a major change.

Benefits

There are many benefits to moving to the cloud; here are just a few of the more common ones:

  • Anywhere, anytime access to your accounting system.  Companies with multiple locations will benefit significantly from a hosted solution.
  • No more worrying about who has what version and whether the changes the accountant made were updated or applied.  There is one central file, and multiple people can be accessing it at the same time as long as you have the right number of user licenses.
  • No more software updates that you have to apply yourself or wait for.  This is done by the hosting provider or the SaaS.
  • Tighter security for your data.  The data centers typically have multiple state-of-the-art data security controls and must pass a rigid audit, which is far more protection than any small business can afford to provide for their own data.
  • Automatic offsite backup for disaster recovery purposes.

Concerns

Clients’ two major concerns include security, which is covered above, and costs.  When it comes to costs, the most important thing to look at is return on investment.  Will the time you save be of greater value to you than the costs of hosting or moving to a SaaS?  That answer varies for each client.

Curious About the Cloud?

If we’ve piqued your curiosity about cloud accounting, please feel free to reach out so we can continue the conversation.

Five Ways to Protect your Cash

As entrepreneurs, we work hard for our money, and the last thing we need is to have it disappear due to fraud, hackers, or identity theft.  Some people have called 2013 the year of the hacker, which is worrisome.  But you’re far more likely to experience risks with disgruntled or financially desperate employees and contractors.  Mistakes happen, too, and when they do it can be costly to get them corrected.

Here are five ways to increase your financial controls so that you can lower your business risks when it comes to the handling of cash and cash equivalents.  As you read the list, check to see where you can tighten up controls in your business.

Checking for Checks

Do you have blank checks lying around?  If so, reduce the temptation and get them locked up.  You can also go a step further and have your accountant run a report each month (or week) of missing check numbers.  If any checks are unaccounted for, take action by processing Stop Payment orders at your bank.

Bank on It

If you are still getting your bank reconciliation on paper, where does it get mailed?  The business owner should always see the bank reconciliation before anyone else does.  Also, make sure the person that performs the reconciliation is not the same person that deposits the checks.  Segregation of duties is essential to improve cash controls.

Today, it’s a good idea to do all your banking online, if possible, so that nothing gets mailed.  In that way, you have some reduced risk over identity theft.

Some banks offer multiple-user access to your banking account, so that bookkeepers can get the information they need.  Lock that user ID down as much as possible, so that the user can only get to what they need to.  If they’re honest, they will appreciate the reduced level of responsibility and consider it a smart financial move.

PayPal Protection

If you have a PayPal account, keep the balance low by transferring funds frequently to your bank account.  You can also restrict access to reduce your risk.

Credit Card Control

If you use credit cards in your business, you’ll want to maintain tight control over them.  For each employee or contractor that needs to charge items on a credit card, here are a couple of points to consider:

  • If the credit limit on the current card is sky-high, then ask the bank to lower it or set up a new card with very low credit limits just for employee use.
  • Contact your credit card company and get a card in the employee’s name.
  • Make sure you can access the credit card transactions online.  They are immediate, and if necessary, you can closely monitor what’s going on.
  • Insist on a receipt brought to you for every purchase.
  • Create clear procedures, limits, and approvals before the spending occurs.
  • Don’t let the employee “keep” the credit card during off hours.  Keep it locked up on your premises instead.

Safeguarding Payroll

One of the biggest cash outflows for small businesses is payroll.  Here, segregation of duties comes into play again.  The person preparing the payroll should not be the one who approves it and actually runs it.

You can do this by having different user accounts and controls within your payroll system.

Hopefully, you already have a lot of these ideas in place.  If not, add the ideas you like to your to do list so that your business risks will be reduced.

Five Places to Find More Profits

It’s always a good idea to be on the lookout for ways to increase your profits, and luckily, there are many ways to do that.  One way is to focus on cost-cutting, and here are five places that are good to periodically review for cost-cutting possibilities.

Telephone

Re-negotiating with the phone company every one to two years is a really good idea.  Many telecommunications companies will often bargain with you or offer you a new deal just for checking in with them.

Has your business changed?  Do you need all those extra features you are paying for?  Could you do without those extra lines?  Would another phone plan save you money on long distance or international calls?

The risk is low:  one quick call will let you know if you can save money in this area.  It’s worth it to give it a shot, and while you’re at it, you can call your smartphone provider too.

Travel

Travel is always a great area to look into for possible ways to save.  Are all trips necessary and profitable?  Are there any meetings that can be done virtually instead of face-to-face?  Virtual tools such as GoToMeeting can make travel unnecessary.

What trips can be cut this year?  Can the number of people sent per trip be cut?  Can travel arrangements be made early to save money?  Are booking dates flexible so you can compare and find the lowest rates?  Is a taxi or rent car cheaper?

Dues and Subscriptions

Paying our annual dues for the club or association we’ve belonged to forever may be a habit, but is it beneficial for your business?  We might enjoying seeing everyone once or twice a year at the meeting, but we may not necessarily have to have a membership to do that.  Sometimes paying the guest rate is more affordable than the member rate if we are attending infrequently enough.

Review a list of organizations and publications you and your employees are part of, and choose which ones you are truly benefiting from.   If being an officer in one of your organizations is not getting you any new business, then you may eliminate a time drain by bowing out and letting someone else volunteer.

Labor

As your business grows, it can be a challenge to decide who to hire next.  The first place to look before you decide should be your existing employees.  What tasks are they doing that you are paying them too much for?  For example, do you have a manager doing clerical work?  If so, you may be able to piece together an administrative job that frees your current staff from all the clerical work they are doing.

It’s worth a look to see where your current employees are being overpaid and find someone to do those parts of the job.  You’ll save labor costs and come out ahead in the long run.

Fixed Assets and Equipment

Another place to save money that can be significant is purchases of large items such as furniture, automobiles, and production equipment.  It’s a good idea to get three bids from reputable vendors so you have a choice.  Going with the lowest bid is not always a good move; going for the highest quality is.

Look in these five places, and let us know how much you find to increase your profits.  As always, if we can help, let us know.

Seven Year-End Adjustments to Make to Your Books

November 29, 2012 · Posted in Accounting, Bookkeeping Tips, Business Tips, Cost-Saving Tips · Comment 

Year-end is coming up for many businesses, and it’d be nice to know what your final revenue and profit numbers will be for the year.  Before we can calculate these key numbers, there are year-end adjustments that may need to be made to your books that will change the numbers. Here are seven common ones.

Bonuses

It’s great to give bonuses to employees at year-end, but it’s not so great to forget about the tax part of it. Bonus checks should always be run through payroll, but often are not, which requires an adjustment after the fact.

Retirement Plan Contributions

If cash is available at year-end, it’s a great idea to maximize the allowable deductions for the retirement plan you qualify for.  One example is a SEP IRA.  You can deduct up to 25% of your or your employee’s salary (up to $50,000 deduction maximum per employee for 2012, but please check with us or your tax professional for numerous exceptions and rules.

Withholding

If you are both the owner and an employee of your company and have not made enough tax payments throughout the year to account for all that money you’ve earned in 2012, you can adjust your last few paychecks to withhold the amount you need.  Sometimes, this also reduces or eliminates the penalty for underpayment of estimated taxes.   To find out more, please check with your tax professional.

Depreciation

If you have assets that will last longer than one year, such as factory equipment or a fleet of automobiles, an adjustment may need to be made to reduce the value of those assets.   This adjustment will reduce your profit and will also reduce your tax bill.

Amortization

If you have a loan of any type, the payment consists of both principal and interest.  Each time you make a payment, the principal and interest amounts can vary.  At the beginning of the loan, you pay more interest and less principal.  At the end of a loan, it’s reversed.  Each payment is different, and if they haven’t been recorded correctly each month, it’s time to make the adjustment so that the loan balance is correct.

New Acquisitions or Obligations

If you’ve made a significant acquisition, such as real estate, buildings, large equipment, or another company, and somehow the transaction did not get properly recorded on your books, then now is the time.   Similarly, if you’ve taken on new debt, the new liability needs to be put on the books.

Noncash Transactions

It’s easy to overlook transactions that do not require a cash outlay, but these need to be recorded as well.   For example, if you performed consulting services in exchange for a spa gift certificate, this transaction should be reflected in the proper revenue and expense accounts.

Year-End Profit

Once your books are adjusted for all of these changes, you’ll have all the information you need to find out how your business performed for 2012.  You can then use your 2012 revenue and profit numbers to set new goals for 2013.

Compliance Checklist: Seven Items You May Have Forgotten

Running a business is filled with regulations everywhere you turn.  These can drain precious time away from the core of your business, but if you ignore them, there could be huge financial consequences you may be risking without even realizing it.  The best way to handle them is to understand your exposure, consult with any experts you need to bring in, create a checklist, and make sure you’re in compliance.

Here’s a head start in creating that checklist.  This is by no means a comprehensive list.  These items apply to most businesses and are often overlooked.   Go through the list to make sure there aren’t any surprises for your business.  If there are, feel free to contact us, and we’ll help you find out where to get answers.

1. EIC notice to employees.

It’s now required annually to notify certain employees about the Earned Income Credit so that more people who need it can take advantage of it.   If you have employees, the next deadline for this compliance item is the first week of February 2013 and can be met if you get the right W-2 forms.  Details are in IRS Publication 15.

2. Corporate meeting minutes.

Just about the first thing the IRS will ask for in an audit is your corporate meeting minutes.  If you are incorporated as a C Corp or S Corp, you need properly formatted and executed documentation of the annual shareholders’ meeting, even if it is just you.  The risk in not having it includes a potential increase in tax liability from undocumented deductions.

3. PCI compliance. 

PCI stands for Payment Card Industry, and if you take credit cards, you may have compliance requirements under this industry standard.  The standard is designed to provide the cardholder with a minimum acceptable level of security, and your requirement is to maintain certain processes and procedures to safeguard the stored credit card data.

4. Document retention.

While it’s a great thing to go paperless, you may get caught by surprise if you are not downloading and preserving the items you used to have on paper.  The IRS and other agencies still need proof of these items in order to approve the deduction.  This includes invoices that are coming via email in PDFs, bank statements you’ve gone green on, and direct deposit payroll stubs, to name a few.

Fax copies fade after a few years and can catch you by surprise when you go to look up an old record and can no longer read it.  It’s best to scan fax receipts in so they will stay readable for the length of the retention period.

You’ll also want to keep up-to-date on how many years it’s necessary to maintain these items in the case of an audit.

5. New hire reporting.

In small business, most of us are hiring so infrequently that it’s easy to forget this one.  Most state unemployment agencies require that you report new hires within about three weeks of their start date.  The purpose of this is to track fathers who have missed child support payments.

6. Changes in state tax compliance.

As geographic borders disappear and our business expands, we need to regularly re-evaluate state requirements on income, franchise, and sales tax obligations.  It can be too easy to “do things the way we’ve always done them” and forget that as our business expands into new territories, new obligations can arise.

If we’ve hired a virtual employee in another state, we may have new obligations.  If we’ve earned money during a speaking engagement in another state, we may have income to report in that state.    And, of course, if we open new offices in another state, we have new compliance items to deal with.

7. Payroll posters.

Surprisingly, the highest payback item in this list for those of you that have employees may be posting your payroll posters.  Compliance usually costs less than $100, and the fines avoided can be as much as $17,000, a pretty big dent, no matter how big your small business is.

Small Business Compliance

Did you get caught by any surprises?  If so, let us know how we can help to bring your business into compliance and help you avoid unnecessary costly risks.

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