Posts

Employee Meals: 50 or 100 Percent Deductible?

Everyone loves a free meal – especially employees. However, your business tax return will be affected differently depending on the circumstances of the mealtime experience.

While you can generally deduct only half the cost of meals related to your business activities, the tax code includes specific exceptions that allow a deduction of 100 percent of what you spend on food and beverages in certain situations. Here are three examples:

  • Social gatherings and parties. That once-a-year holiday party qualifies for 100 percent deductibility as long as it is primarily for the benefit of all your employees.
  • Food with nominal cost. Do you supply morning-meeting donuts, meals for overtime work or special occasion treats for your staff? “De minimis” employee benefits — those small items your business pays for that are not considered taxable income to your employees— are typically 100 percent deductible.
  • Employees on emergency calls. If you provide food for your employees during working hours so they can be available for emergency calls, the meals will likely be able to be deducted 100 percent.

Remember that you’ll still need to keep detailed records to substantiate your deductions for meals and food served under these exceptions.

Here’s How to Stop Dreading Year-End Employee Reviews

It’s the time of year when you may be scheduling employee reviews. The employee knows he or she will hear about the good and the bad, and the supervisor will finally have to discuss those issues he or she has been avoiding all year. Usually both parties fudge a little and are glad that it’s over for another year. It’s another chance for open communication and feedback lost.

This year, don’t miss out on an opportunity to connect with your employees. Instead, try these tips:

Hold occasional employee check-ins. To improve the process, consider holding performance appraisals more frequently, perhaps even quarterly. This can help make the appraisal less of a “special event” and more of a routine exchange of information. It also means your feedback is more directly related to your employee’s recent performance, rather than coming months later.

Give timely feedback. If an employee does something wrong, or something good, tell him or her immediately. Point out the problem, make sure the employee acknowledges it, and make clear what you expect in the future. And if it’s something good, the employee will appreciate receiving a pat on the back. With immediate feedback, there should never be any surprises at review time.

Create an employee review summary. At the end of every appraisal, summarize the discussion and put the highlights in writing. Make sure your employee gets a copy. Before the next appraisal, ask your employee to review the copy and prepare his thoughts on his most recent performance. Ask him to present his opinions to start the discussion. If there are areas needing improvement, agree on an action plan and put that in writing too. And that might be a two-way street. It could involve your providing training or taking actions to support the employee, so make sure you’re living up to the agreement.

Don’t limit the appraisal to a scorecard on the employee’s achievements. If appropriate, use it to discuss career planning, cross-training or job enrichment. Solicit ideas from the employee. These techniques can help turn a judgmental meeting into a constructive exchange of ideas.

Do You Live or Work in Kansas?

If so, the recent changes WILL AFFECT YOU!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • These changes are retroactive and apply starting January 1, 2017.
  • Business and rental income (Sole Proprietors, S Corporation and Partnership owners) which was previously exempt from Kansas tax is once again taxable.
  • Increase in tax rates for 2017.  The highest rate will be 5.2% for those with Kansas income in excess of $60,000.  These rates will increase again in 2018 to a high of 5.7%.
  • No taxpayer penalties or interest will be charged for underpayment of taxes due to this change in law as long as the underpayment is paid by April 17, 2018.
  • Limitations on itemized deductions will ease but not in 2017.  Starting in 2018 a portion of medical expense will be allowed and mortgage interest and property tax deductions will phase back in.
  • For W-2 employees, Kansas withholding tax rates were updated on July 1, 2017.  These rates have been updated for the remainder of 2017 at the higher 2018 rates to compensate for the first 6 months of withholding at lower rates.   However, some employees may still not have enough tax withheld for the year.

WHAT STEPS TO TAKE:

  • Consider making higher KS estimated tax payments to avoid a large Kansas tax bill at April 17, 2018.
  • Consider having extra Kansas tax withheld from your paycheck.
  • Contact us to prepare a projection of the Kansas tax you may owe for 2017.

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about these changes!

Avoid Hiring Mistakes in Your Start-Up

Staffing errors can spell disaster for your start-up. Here are three to watch out for.

  1. Staffing the firm with friends and family. While this strategy may work in some circumstances, hiring pals and relatives often spells trouble. For one thing, friends and family members often expect – even subconsciously – to be treated differently from other employees. A double standard, whether real or perceived, can hurt morale and productivity. As a general rule, focus hiring decisions solely on the needs of your firm and applicant qualifications.
  2. Trusting in a handshake. Spell out employee arrangements in writing. This can be as simple as drafting employee offer letters that cover compensation, rights to intellectual property, and bonus arrangements. Employee handbooks are also a good way to spell out the responsibilities of your firm and staff.
  3. Bringing in a partner for the wrong reasons. Downside risks of bringing in a partner include surrendering a portion of your company and control over important management decisions to someone else. Before selling part of your company, ask yourself what the partner will contribute besides money. Can you find other ways to fill gaps in your team? Choosing wisely can help you avoid ending up in the business equivalent of divorce court.

For assistance with issues facing your start-up business, give us a call.

Accountable Plans Are a Win-Win Business Idea

Are you looking for a way to give your employees a tax-free benefit that is also tax-deductible for your business? Consider an accountable plan. These arrangements let you reimburse your employees for expenses incurred on behalf of your company, such as driving to the post office or office supply store. With a properly administered plan, you can deduct the reimbursements on your business tax return, yet the payments are not considered income to your employees.

How can you make sure your plan qualifies? Here are three requirements.

  • The reimbursements must be for allowable business expenses. For instance, you can repay employees for hotel and other travel expenses when traveling to a trade convention.
  • Your employees need to keep records of the expenses, and provide those records to you.
  • If you pay or advance your employees more than the actual amounts spent on business items, the excess must be returned to you. Amounts not returned are income to your employee, and are subject to payroll taxes.

Contact us to discuss your policies for repaying employees’ business expenses. We’ll help you make your plan accountable.

Start Preparing Now for New Overtime Rules

In May, the U.S. Department of Labor updated the rules for paying overtime.

Under the new rules, salaried employees who earn less than $913 per week ($47,476 per year) will be eligible for overtime pay. That’s double the annual exempt amount of $23,660 under current rules.

The changes take effect December 1, 2016, which means you need to begin reviewing your payroll now, as penalties and fines can be assessed for noncompliance.

One important step is to begin tracking hours for your salaried employees.

Contact us if you need assistance in this area.