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What Taxpayers Need to Know About the Home Office Deduction

If you use part of your home for business, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. The home office deduction is available for homeowners and renters, and applies to all types of homes.

This is a valuable tax deduction that should not go overlooked by taxpayers determined to effectively maximize profits and minimize taxes. Taxpayers cannot deduct more than the net business profit. Any unused home office deduction, is carried over to the following year.

There are two basic requirements for your home to qualify as a deduction:

Regular and Exclusive Use

You must regularly use part of your home exclusively for conducting business.

Principal Place of Your Business

You must show that you use your home as your principal place of business. If you conduct business at a location outside of your home, but also use your home substantially and regularly to conduct business, you may qualify for a home office deduction.

Additional tests for employee use. If you are an employee and you use a part of your home for business, you may qualify for a deduction for its business use. You must meet the tests discussed above plus:

Your business use must be for the convenience of your employer, and

You must not rent any part of your home to your employer and use the rented portion to perform services as an employee for that employer.

If the use of the home office is merely appropriate and helpful, you cannot deduct expenses for the business use of your home.

There are two methods that can be used when approaching home office deductions.

 Simplified Option

For taxable years starting on, or after, January 1, 2013 the simplified option can significantly reduce record-keeping burden by allowing a qualified taxpayer to multiply a prescribed rate by the allowable square footage ($5 per square foot limited to 300 square feet)  of the office in lieu of determining actual expenses.

Regular Method

Taxpayers using the regular method instead of the optional method, must determine the actual expenses of their home office. These expenses may include mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs, and depreciation. Generally, when using the regular method, deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use.

Depreciation and Recapture

Depreciation taken as part of the regular method to deduct home office expenses provides a larger deduction but is recaptured in later years if taxpayers decide to sell the home.

If the regular method is used to calculate the home office deduction all allowed or allowable depreciation must be considered at the time of sale.  For most taxpayers who have a business office, the simplified method is generally preferable when the cost of the residence is $200,000 or less. When the cost of the residence is $300,000 or more, the actual-cost method is preferable. When the cost of the residence is between $200,000 and $300,000, the decision to use the simplified method depends on the marginal tax rate and the business use percentage.

The depreciation will produce a taxable gain if/when the residence is sold, because of the special Sec. 121 recapture rules. Normally, the gain on the sale of a personal residence is tax free provided the gain falls within the allowable exclusion limits but, gains attributable to the accumulated depreciation taken on the residence is taxed at 25% or the taxpayer’s marginal tax rate, if less.

To avoid depreciation recapture taxpayers can utilize the simplified method. Under this option, depreciation is treated as zero and won’t reduce the basis of the home.

Your personal and business finances are the foundation of your success. Contact Camuso CPA today to build your dedicated financial specialist team: https://www.camusocpa.com/contact/#/

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Common Questions Regarding Charitable Remainder Trusts

Do I have to take the income now?

You can set up the trust and take the income tax deduction now, but postpone taking the income until later. By then, with good management, the trust assets could have appreciated considerably in value, potentially resulting in more income for you.

 

How is the income tax deduction determined?

The deduction is based on the amount of income received, the type and value of the asset, the ages of the people receiving the income, and the Section 7520 rate, which fluctuates.

It is usually limited to 30% of adjusted gross income, but can vary from 20% to 50%, depending on how the IRS defines the charity and the type of asset. If you can’t use the full deduction the first year, you can carry it forward for up to five additional years. Depending on your tax bracket, type of asset and type of charity, the charitable deduction could possibly reduce your income taxes by 10%, 20%, 30% or in some cases even more.

 

Who should be the trustee?

You can be your own trustee. But you must be sure the trust is administered properly—otherwise, you could lose the tax advantages and/or be penalized.

Most people who name themselves as trustee have the paperwork handled by a qualified third party administrator.

However, because of the experience required with investments, accounting and government reporting, some people select a corporate trustee (a bank or trust company that specializes in managing trust assets) as trustee. Some charities are also willing to be trustees.

Before naming a trustee, it’s a good idea to interview several and consider their investment performance, services and experience with these trusts.

 

Sounds great for me. But if I give away the asset, what about my children?

If you are concerned about replacing the value of the assets that you place into the charitable remainder trust for your children you can take the income tax savings, and part of the income you receive from the charitable remainder trust, and fund an irrevocable life insurance trust (ILIT) or what is referred to as a Wealth Replacement Trust. The trustee of the insurance trust could then purchase enough life insurance to replace the full value of the asset, or more, for your children or other beneficiaries from the income generated.

 

What are my income choices?

You can receive a fixed percentage of the trust assets which is referred to as a unitrust. The amount of your annual income will fluctuate depending on investment performance and the annual value of the trust.

The trust will be re-valued at the beginning of each year to determine the dollar amount of income you will receive. If the trust is well managed, it can grow quickly because the trust assets grow tax-free. The amount of your income could increase assuming the value of the trust grows.

Sometimes the assets contributed to the trust, like real estate or stock in a closely-held corporation, are not readily marketable, so income is difficult to pay. In that case, the trust can be designed to pay the lesser of the fixed percentage of the trust’s assets or the actual income earned by the trust. A provision is usually included so that if the trust has an off year, it can make up any loss of income in a better year.

You can elect instead to receive a fixed income, in which case the trust would be called a charitable remainder annuity trust. This means that, regardless of the trust’s performance, your income will not change.

Who can receive income from the trust?

Trust income, which is generally taxable in the year it is received, can be paid to you for your lifetime. If you are married, it can be paid for as long as either of you lives.

The income can also be paid to your children for their lifetimes or to any other person or entity you wish, providing the trust meets certain requirements. In addition, there are gift and estate tax considerations if someone other than you receives it. Instead of lasting for someone’s lifetime, the trust can also exist for a set number of years (up to 20).

Do I have to take the income now?

No. You can set up the trust and take the income tax deduction now, but postpone taking the income until later. By then, with good management, the trust assets could have appreciated considerably in value, potentially resulting in more income for you

How is the income tax deduction determined?

The deduction is based on the amount of income received, the type and value of the asset, the ages of the people receiving the income, and the Section 7520 rate, which fluctuates. (Our example is based on a 3.0% Section 7520 rate.) Generally, the higher the payout rate, the lower the deduction.

It is usually limited to 30% of adjusted gross income, but can vary from 20% to 50%, depending on how the IRS defines the charity and the type of asset. If you can’t use the full deduction the first year, you can carry it forward for up to five additional years. Depending on your tax bracket, type of asset and type of charity, the charitable deduction could possibly reduce your income taxes by 10%, 20%, 30% or in some cases even more.

What kinds of assets are suitable?

The best assets are those that have greatly appreciated in value since you purchased them, specifically publicly traded securities, real estate and stock in some closely-held corporations. (S-corp stock does not qualify. Mortgaged real estate usually won’t qualify, either, but you might consider paying off the loan.) Cash can also be used.

Who should be the trustee?

You can be your own trustee. But you must be sure the trust is administered properly—otherwise, you could lose the tax advantages and/or be penalized. Most people who name themselves as trustee have the paperwork handled by a qualified third party administrator.

However, because of the experience required with investments, accounting and government reporting, some people select a corporate trustee (a bank or trust company that specializes in managing trust assets) as trustee. Some charities are also willing to be trustees.

Before naming a trustee, it’s a good idea to interview several and consider their investment performance, services and experience with these trusts. Remember, you are depending on the trustee to manage your trust properly and to provide you with income.

 

For more information on charitable remainder trusts, or questions about getting CPA tax help in Charlotte, give us a call today.

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Tax Efficient Way to Purchase Home For Children

There are several ways to approach purchasing a second home for a child to temporarily live in. This is very common for parents with children who are going to college or transitioning into a new stage of life.

With simple planning, your children can gain immediate access to their home and you gain some new tax deductions.  You can rent the home that you purchase to your children and treat the property as a rental for tax purposes.  Courts have ruled that landlords can reduce their fair-market rent by 20% when renting to relatives, the lower rent reflects the savings in maintenance and management costs.

If your children cannot afford rent or you do not wish to burden them with a rent payment, you can claim fair market value rent and claim the amount they don’t pay as a gift from you to them.

This year the gift exclusion not subject to gift tax is $14,000 per taxpayer.  By renting the home to your children, you can take all of the common tax deductions and tax breaks associated with a rental property. You will still need to consider your income level and classification as an investor, but the tax benefits may be significant.  ( https://www.camusocpa.com/real-estate/real-estate-professional-status-a-cpas-perspective/#/)

At Camuso CPA we encourage families to plan their finances and taxes as a whole, considering the situations of all family members. We can help you with the transfer of property from parent to child with our Charlotte CPA services.

Camuso CPA PLLC  offers a series of services to develop and tailor a first-rate tax plan for your investment portfolio.  Reach out to our team regarding any questions about tax planning or retirement planning.

Contact Us Today: https://www.camusocpa.com/contact/#/

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Single Member LLC’s (SMLLC)

Single-Member LLC’s offer significant benefits to their owners’; whether such an entity is beneficial for your business depends on the details of your own personal situation.

As the name implies, a Single-Member LLC is a limited liability company with only one owner.

Single-Member LLCs protect personal assets from the liabilities associated with the business conducted by the LLC.  If you use an LLC to hold rental property, and a tenant sues that plaintiff will be required to sue the LLC, not you personally.  If the plaintiff wins the lawsuit, they will only be able to come after the assets owned by the LLC, not the owner.

Single-Member LLCs are treated as disregarded entities for federal income tax and its profit or loss will be reported on an individual member’s Schedule C as if it were a sole proprietorship. This will save the member time and money for tax preparation of tax returns, since the separate LLC is not required to file an additional tax return.

A Single-Member LLC is beneficial if you own one or only a few rental properties. As the number of your rental properties grow, it is easy and cost effective to establish a Multi-Member LLC or Multi-Entity Structure from this original structure.

Single-Member LLCs are beneficial for operational businesses that are just beginning or recently established.  As the business grows the Single-Member LLC can convert to an S-Corporation when your income reaches a level to justify the cost/benefit analysis: https://www.camusocpa.com/tax/is-s-corporation-structure-right-for-your-business/#/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmVq5OSDCNA

 

Camuso CPA PLLC’s focus and specialization delivers a unique perspective on best industry practices to provide the most value to clients.

Contact us today for Charlotte business finance and tax planning, and get your company in orderhttps://www.camusocpa.com/contact/#/

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Steps to Establishing An LLC

The requirements for establishing an LLC can vary from state to state, but there are commonalities across states. The name of your LLC must comply with the rules of your state’s LLC division.

  • the name cannot be the same as the name of another LLC on file with the LLC office
  • the name must end with an LLC designator, such as “Limited Liability Company” or “Limited Company,” or an abbreviation of one of these phrases (such as “LLC,” “L.L.C.,” or “Ltd. Liability Co.”),
  • the name cannot include certain words prohibited by the state, such as Bank, Insurance, Corporation or City

You also must ensure that the name you choose does not violate another company’s trademark. Further, you will want to reserve the website domain for your new business entity and confirm that it is available.

After choosing a name, the next step is to prepare and file the articles of organization with your state’s LLC filing office.

You will be required to list the name and address of a person, usually one of the LLC members, who will act as your LLC’s registered agent which means the person designated to receive legal papers in any future lawsuit involving your LLC.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ca2XWhNtajg

Operating agreements are not required to be filed with the LLC filing office and are rarely required by state law, but it is essential that you create one. In an LLC operating agreement, owners set out rules for the ownership and operation of the business.

A typical operating agreement includes:

  • the members’ percentage interests in the business
  • the members’ rights and responsibilities
  • the members’ voting power
  • how profits and losses will be allocated
  • how the LLC will be managed
  • rules for holding meetings and taking vote

Some states require the newly established company to publish a notice in a local newspaper, stating that you intend to form an LLC. Owners are required to publish the notice several times over a period of weeks and then submit an affidavit of publication to the LLC filing office.

After completing the steps above, owners must obtain the licenses and permits that all new businesses must have to operate. These may include a business license, a federal employer identification number, a sellers’ permit, or a zoning permit.

Camuso CPA PLLC’s focus and specialization delivers a unique perspective on best industry practices to provide the most value to clients. If you are setting up a business in Charlotte, you can save a lot of money enlisting our help establishing an LLC.

Contact us today for financial and tax planning and get your finances in orderhttps://www.camusocpa.com/contact/#/

 

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Tax Planning For S-Corporation Health Insurance Deductions

If you are a more than 2 percent shareholder of an S corporation, you must take the correct measures to capture a health insurance deduction.

The first step is for the S-corporation to pay the insurance company directly for the cost of the health insurance. Next, the S-corporation includes the cost of the health insurance as additional compensation to the shareholder-employee on the employee’s W-2 which is subject to income tax withholding but exempt from Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes. The W-2-reported health insurance is treated as a cost of self-employed health insurance. This amount is deducted on page 1 of Form 1040.

This is an area where tax planning is imperative. The S-corporation must reimburse you for all medical insurance that you pay for yourself and your family. This includes Medicare and accident and health premiums paid to schools and athletic programs to cover your children.

S-corporation owners can pay health insurance costs personally. In this case, the owner must have the S corporation reimburse the cost of the insurance to the owner-employer to qualify for the health insurance tax deduction.

Taxpayers may have to pay payroll taxes on the amount included in wages for your insurance premiums If the corporation does not provide health insurance to your non-owner employees, then you are exposed to payroll taxes. If the corporation does provide health insurance to your non-owner employees, you are not exposed to payroll taxes. If the corporation has no other employees, you are not exposed to payroll taxes.

If you are eligible to participate in an employer-subsidized health plan maintained by either you or your spouse’s employer, you may not claim the self-employed health insurance deductions for the months when you were eligible to participate in an employer plan.

If a taxpayer pays for the health insurance themselves and does not submit it to the corporation, the  cost of health insurance becomes an itemized deduction suffering from both  the 10 percent of adjusted gross income floor and  the phaseout of itemized deductions, possibly completely eliminating the deduction.

Camuso CPA PLLC’s focus and specialization delivers a unique perspective on best industry practices to provide the most value to clients.

Contact us today for financial and tax planning and get your finances in orderhttps://www.camusocpa.com/contact/#/

 

 

 

 

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Streamline Your Accounting System – A CPA’s Perspective

Maintaining records allows you to gain perspective on your company and provides a basis for business decision making. The level of documentation and systems that you invest time and money into utilizing will depend on your level of business development and financial sophistication.

Business owners and investors in earlier stages of business often do not keep records or have very poor recordkeeping systems which exposes their business to an unnecessary level of risk. The business owner or investor does not know how their business or investments are performing throughout the year and they cannot properly substantiate deductions.

The first step to implementing a proper system is to develop a better system for documenting all income and expenses and maintaining them properly.  Business owners and investors can do this by first establishing a separate business bank account and following best practices detailed in an earlier article regarding commingling funds: https://www.camusocpa.com/finance/commingling-funds-a-cpas-perspective/#/

All payments that are made to vendors or creditors should be paid by cash or credit to maintain a document trail to track payments. All receipts and miles driven for businesses should be tracked and recorded in apps that allow ease of use and accessibility.

Additionally, before allowing any contractor to perform work for your business, they should be required to complete a W-9. All work and payments that you make should be codified in a signed agreement.

All records should be maintained on a business computer, with two backup versions maintained on the cloud and a thumb drive with a folder hierarchy that allows you to easily find and sort data.

Following the above guidelines is the first step to developing a system that will allow you to gain value from utilizing comprehensive software as your business advances.

After business owners or investors have established and integrated a documentation system they can utilize technology to help organize and file applicable documents. This will allow greater freedom to generate financial information so that you can measure business or investment performance.

At this level of financial sophistication and business activity taxpayers do not need comprehensive automated accounting systems but do need timely and accurate financial information for personal and bank purposes. This can be accomplished through a combination of the use of spreadsheets and banking tools.

Business owners and investors should create separate checking accounts for each business, rental property, or investment that they own.

This streamlines the process of tracking expenses and developing financial statements. Each quarter take the time to analyze and log your income and expenses into an excel spreadsheet, reconcile your bank accounts, and review your financial position with your CPA. https://www.camusocpa.com/contact/#/

In the next article on upgrading your accounting system, we will discuss accounting automation and outsourcing your accounting function: http://bit.ly/CamusoAcctII

All investors, agents and business owners should implement best practices regarding business account segregation and general accounting practices.  Maintaining separate personal and business accounts is the first step to establishing foundational accounting practices for your finances.

 

Camuso CPA PLLC  offers a series of services to develop and tailor a first-rate accounting system for your business needs.  Reach out to our team regarding any questions about commingling funds or establishing a first-rate accounting system.

Contact Us Today: https://www.camusocpa.com/contact/#/

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Do The “Billionaire Math”

Take the time to analyze the numbers and calculate how much business activity, sales, or investments are required to reach your perceived level of financial freedom.

This exercise is widely recommended and can often seem frivolous but this is not the case. This simple and quick exercise gives you an objective perspective of the level of activity and effort required to reach your goals in clear terms that you can use as a foundation to develop business goals.

If you know your numbers you will never obtain them because you won’t have the right mindset. Math is a universal language. Thinking big requires attention to detail and a methodological approach to the design and plans for your daily life and business.

Camuso CPA PLLC takes an industry focused approach to offering a tailored, comprehensive financial solution focused on cash flow improvement, profit improvement, tax minimization, and financial retirement.

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S Corporation Business Structure – When Does It Make Financial Sense- A CPA’s Perspective

S corporations can save their owners a significant amount of tax. This tax savings can exceed their entire annual CPA fee. The IRS is naturally monitoring for abuses in this area as the potential dollar savings are substantial. An ideal CPA to advise in this area is a financial expert that works primarily with real estate agents and other professionals utilizing S corporations so they have industry data and up to date knowledge of the acceptable standards.

To reduce your self-employment tax bill, you can create an S corporation and hire yourself as an employee. You pay the yourself who is classified as an employee a reasonable wage for your work. If there is profit left over at the end of the year, the partner which would also be yourself split the earnings. Self-employment tax is only paid on wages — not on the company profit which results in significant tax savings.

Tax planning and industry financial expertise is critical in this area. Setting your salary too low exposes you to risk of IRS examination which can result can be payment of unpaid employment taxes and hefty penalties and interest. Setting your salary too high leads overpaying taxes. Over the course of your business’ life the overpayments of tax and lost investment opportunities can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Clients at Camuso CPA PLLC receive an annual in depth analysis of reasonable compensation. Our team of CPA’s is constantly gathering support from every level of legislative and administrative tax authority. This is essential and should be offered by the CPA advising you. While there are other options, S-Corporation tax structure is an advanced tax planning strategy available to real estate agents and other self-employed professionals that can financially benefit.

A common question we receive from our clients is when should I form an S corporation to take advantage of the tax savings?

The answer to this question requires an analysis of the reasonable compensation that you will pay yourself, this will dictate the level of tax savings you can realize by avoiding self-employment tax when you distribute your remaining earnings to yourself. If your salary cannot be reasonably set significantly below your overall gross income you will not make a distribution large enough to receive a substantial tax benefit. After you have a reasonable estimate of the amount of tax savings you can capture by structuring as a S corporation you must consider whether the amount of tax savings will significantly exceed the additional compliance and administrative cost burden related to an S corporation.

The S corporation creates extra tax-related paperwork each time you take money (or any other asset) out of the corporation, because you must treat each withdrawal in one of three basic ways:

1.     As a salary or bonus paid to you in your capacity as a corporate employee,

2.     As a distribution of corporate earnings paid to you in your capacity as a corporate shareholder, or

3.     As proceeds from a loan made by the corporation to you.

Additionally, you face the extra cost of tax returns and corporate compliance. Unlike the Form 1040 Schedule C of a proprietorship, the S corporation tax return includes a balance sheet in addition to the required Schedule K-1 pass-through information. You also must have a reasonable compensation study to substantiate the salary that you set for yourself to protect yourself from IRS scrutiny.

Reach out to our team regarding any questions about entity structuring or establishing a first-rate comprehensive tax strategy. We are the people to call for S Corporation tax services in Charlotte. For more information, please do not hesitate to give us a call at your earliest convenience.

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Commingling Funds – A CPA’s Perspective

Commingling funds is a substandard business practice although it is common for small businesses and entrepreneurs to commingle funds. This is something that is especially common for our clients that are in the early stages of business and finances. When you commingle funds, you treat business funds as personal money, whether it is income or expense.

If you commingle funds you create the potential legal liability of “piercing the corporate veil” which eliminates the separate liability between your personal assets and business. Legal troubles can put all the incorporation efforts at risk if the court determines that the veil has been pierced. The financial and time investment of forming a L.L.C. or corporation, such as filling the Articles of Organization or paying attorney and filing fees will be rendered meaningless.

When courts examine if the company has “pierced their veil” the first thing they consider is the commingling of funds. When funds are found to be commingled the courts will then hold your personal assets liable. The IRS does not require that you maintain separate bank accounts for your personal and business activities but it is encouraged. Commingling funds is mainly a legal issue not a tax issue.

Common examples of commingling funds that we have seen with our community:

 

  •          Transferring money between business and personal accounts without documentation
  •          Writing business checks for personal expenses
  •          Having only one bank account for personal and business operations
  •          Depositing business checks into your personal bank account
  •          Withdrawing money from your business account to pay personal expenses without documentation

The first measure to take to avoid commingling funds is to create a separate bank account to document all expenses, withdrawals, and deposits. Adequate documentation allows you to maintain better records for taxes.

Maintaining quality accounting standards by keeping separate bank accounts and only using business funds for business expenses will help you observe how your business is performing which leads to better business decisions. It also enables you to keep personal funds separate and creates a personal budget since you will not be conflating business and personal funds.

Personal tax and business tax are treated differently. Your personal expenses may not qualify as a valid business expenses. Of course, the IRS does not allow you to deduct business expenses that you cannot document. When combine the accounts for personal and business expenses it is hard to substantiate you entitled deductions.

Tracking business income and expenses in a segregated business account is crucial to help minimize taxes and maximize deductions. Establishing a separate business account, you allow you to avoid commingling funds and creates a more organized and efficient way to reduce liability and taxes.

In the event, like many investors, agents, and business owners you do not follow best practices and you commingle funds we can retroactively adjust the books to correct mistakes. This is imperative for tax purposes as we will want the books of the business to reflect what we report on the tax return.

In addition, we can also implement an accountable reimbursement plan for corporations. This will provide flexibility when using personal accounts for business expenses.  This is common practice for corporations and is discussed in greater detail later in the article.

If you are operating as a sole proprietor commingling funds is not a significant liability from a tax or legal perspective. This is because you won’t have an entity’s corporate veil to maintain. The benefit of maintaining separate account for sole proprietors is that the business bank account can serve as your accounting platform allowing you to segregate and track all income and expenses. As you grow, you’ll want to integrate a comprehensive accounting platform but this will be sufficient in the early stages of your business finances.

When you establish a corporation commingling funds and maintaining best practices becomes imperative. If a mistake does occur, we can retroactively fix it. This is common for investors and business owners who are still implementing best practices into the finances side of their business.

C and S Corporation owners face much more serious implications if they commingle funds from a tax, accounting, and legal perspective. If commingling exists and is not dealt with properly and timely, the IRS could disallow deductions.

Many investors and agents use their personal credit cards to pay for expenses because they receive better rewards or because it may be more convenient at the time of purchase. This makes sense an and an occasional purchase generally will not pierce the corporate veil.  When you consistently use your personal credit cards for business expenses and establish a pattern you threaten the integrity of your corporate veil.

It is imperative that a shareholders and employees of corporations establish best practices for segregating personal and business expenses. However, utilizing the personal card for a business expenses is still permitted if an accountable reimbursement plan exists.

An accountable reimbursement plan eliminates the commingling issues for corporations. It allows the owner to use a personal card for business expenses and receive a business write-off for the expense.

The accountable reimbursement plan enables employees of a corporation to be reimbursed for expenses. If a corporation does not implement an accountable reimbursement plan, some business expenses will no longer be deductible by the business. The employee will be required to report the business expenses on Schedule A as an unreimbursed expense. Considering the regulations for Schedule A reporting, the employee will lose the deduction those expenses.

 

All investors, agents and business owners should implement best practices regarding business account segregation and general accounting practices.  Maintaining separate personal and business accounts is the first step to establishing foundational accounting practices for your finances.

Camuso CPA PLLC  offers a series of services to develop and tailor a first-rate accounting system for your business needs.  If you need CPA accounting help commingling funds in Charlotte, we are the people to call. Reach out to our team regarding any questions about commingling funds or establishing a first-rate accounting system.

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