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Small Business Tax Strategies

Is morale down in your workplace? There’s a low-cost way you can start the creative juices flowing.

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Are you planning to sink money into your own or someone else’s fledgling business venture? The rewards can be high, but so are the risks. And if the business eventually goes under, you could be saddled with a tax loss of somewhat limited value. On the other hand, you might ben­­efit from a unique tax break should the stock become worthless.

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Q. We’re adding a deck to our principal residence. Is any of the cost deductible?

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Suppose your adult child needs a helping hand to launch a new business or buy a home. Give the child a low- or even no- interest loan. As long as you stay within the tax law boundaries, your family will have no tax worries. However, if you’re not careful, you could be blindsided by an unexpected tax bill.

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Don’t tell your CPA anything you wouldn’t want the IRS to know. A 1998 law effectively authorizes a “CPA-client privilege,”  but the privilege is hardly bullet-proof. In fact, it’s riddled with exceptions.

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The tax law favors real estate investors who rise to “real estate professionals.” Generally, they aren’t limited by the passive activity rules for other investors. Strategy: Elect to treat multiple activities as one real estate activity.

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The IRS is increasing efforts to catch identity theft crooks. It has launched more than 200 investigations into ID theft and other schemes this tax filing season.

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The federal government’s ability to regulate tax return preparers has been successfully challenged in court. The next move is up to the feds. But that doesn’t hinder the rights of individual states to initiate their own registration programs.

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Normally, the federal government requires employers to pay FUTA tax at a 6.0% rate on the first $7,000 of annual wages for each covered employee. This 6.0% tax may be offset by credits of up to 5.4%, so the net FUTA tax rate is usually only 0.6%. However, if a state borrows funds from the federal government to pay unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and defaults on repayment, the UI tax credits for employers in that state are reduced.

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Have you outsourced payroll duties to a third party provider? It can save time and money. Alert: Be aware that outsourcing doesn’t relieve you of your tax obligations. The IRS could still come after your company.

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Q. Can I increase Coverdell contributions for my child by having my parents make separate contributions?

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On April 9, 2014, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing titled “The Biggest Tax Problems for Small Businesses.” Chairman Sam Graves, R-Mo., pointed out several issues hampering the small business community, including higher taxes, new concerns like the Medicare surtaxes, increased complexity, uncertainty for the future and the lengthy time required to resolve issues with the IRS.

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Several tax breaks for charitable donations by corporations recently expired. It’s not yet clear if any of them will be extended into 2014. But at last one special tax deduction remains on the books.

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The budget deficit remains daunting, but the IRS has fewer resources to close the estimated $385 billion “tax gap.” Don’t be surprised if Congress is compelled to implement the “Buffett rule” or a similar revenue-generating provision. If you’re a high-income taxpayer, take steps now to reduce your tax exposure if the Buffett rule becomes law.

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Q. My father is 88 and in poor health. He has a $80,000 capital loss carryover from 2013. Can this be transferred to a relative?

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Q. I filed my tax return late but I’m getting a refund. Will I be penalized?

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Accord­­ing to a statement from IRS Com­­mis­­sioner John Koskinen to the Asso­­ci­­ated Press, the IRS audited less than 1% of individual tax returns in 2013, the lowest overall rate since 2005.

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The U.S. government, in cooperation with foreign jurisdictions, is making it tougher for taxpayers to stash money in “offshore accounts” and similar hiding places without meeting their tax obligations.

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As we head into summer, the outlook for taxes remains cloudy. Here are 10 midyear tax moves that can’t miss under the existing tax rules.

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On March 18 the IRS announced that one of its staffers used a thumb drive to walk out of the office with personal information on about 20,000 IRS employees (past and present) and independent contractors.

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