Click on the links below to jump to each section in this article:
- Small Business Update: Payroll Tax Deferral
- It’s Never Too Early to Check Tax Withholding
- Preparing for a Successful Retirement
- Tax Considerations When Hiring Household Help
- Tax Tips for Workers in the Gig Economy
Small Business Update: Payroll Tax Deferral
On August 8, 2020, the President issued a Memorandum allowing employers to defer withholding and payment of an employee’s portion of the Social Security tax (i.e., the 6.2% FICA portion of the federal payroll tax on employees). Medicare taxes, however, are not covered. The payroll tax deferral is effective starting September 1, 2020, and also applies to the employee portion of the Railroad Retirement Act Tier 1 tax. While employers are allowed to defer the withholding and payment of the payroll taxes on employees’ applicable wages, they are not required to do so.
Let’s take a look at how this affects employers and employees:
Applicable wages refer to wages paid to employees during the period September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. The payroll tax deferral only applies to an employee’s taxable wages that are less than $4,000 during a bi-weekly pay period (approximately $104,000 per year) or the equivalent threshold amount with respect to other pay periods.
An employee earning $50,000 a year will owe approximately $1,073 in deferred taxes next year while one making $104,000 will owe $2,232.
No deferral is available for any payment to an employee of taxable wages of $4,000 or above for a bi-weekly pay period.
The determination of applicable wages is made on a pay period-by-pay period basis. For example, if the amount of wages or compensation payable to an employee for the pay period is less than the corresponding pay period threshold amount, then that amount is considered applicable wages for the pay period, and the relief applies – irrespective of the amount of wages or compensation paid to the employee for other pay periods.
Payment of Deferred Applicable Taxes
The IRS has issued a draft of a revised Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return that adds a line to reflect any payroll tax deferrals. If an employer chooses not to defer the FICA portion of an employee’s wages (i.e., the taxes are withheld as they normally are), payment of any applicable payroll taxes is required as it normally is.
Unless Congress authorizes forgiveness for these tax liabilities, employers deferring payroll tax obligations must withhold and pay the total applicable taxes between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021. Interest, penalties, and additions to tax do not begin to accrue until May 1, 2021. This means that employees could, in effect, have double the deduction taken from their paychecks next year to pay back the deferred portion of tax.
Additional information regarding payroll tax deferral is likely forthcoming, but if you have any questions about payroll tax deferment right now, please don’t hesitate to call.
It’s Never Too Early to Check Tax Withholding
While it probably seems like tax season just ended, it is never too early to do a “Paycheck Checkup” to make sure the right amount of tax is withheld from earnings – and avoid a tax surprise next year when filing your 2020 tax return. As a reminder, because income taxes operate as a pay-as-you-go system, taxpayers are required by law to pay most of their tax as income is received.
Income tax withholding is generally based on the worker’s expected filing status and standard deduction. The Tax Withholding Estimator is a tool on IRS.gov designed to help taxpayers determine how to have the right amount of tax withheld from their paychecks. It allows workers, retirees, self-employed individuals, and other taxpayers to enter their information using a clear, step-by-step method that helps them determine if there is a need to adjust their withholding and submit a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, to their employer.
Who Should Check Income Tax Withholding
People who should check their withholding include anyone who:
- is part of two-income families
- works two or more jobs or who only work for part of the year
- has children and claims credits such as the child tax credit
- has older dependents, including children age 17 or older
- itemized deductions on their 2019 tax return
- is a high-income earner with a complex tax return
- received a large tax refunds or had a substantial tax bill for 2019
- receives unemployment at any time during the year
When To Do a Paycheck Check-Up
Taxpayers should check their withholding annually and when life changes occur, such as marriage, childbirth, adoption, and buying a home. The IRS recommends anyone who changed their withholding this year or received a tax bill after they filed their 2019 return should do a Paycheck Checkup.
By law, unemployment compensation is taxable and must be reported on a 2020 federal income tax return. Taxable benefits include any of the special unemployment compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted this spring.
Millions of Americans currently receiving unemployment compensation (and for many individuals, an extra $600 in addition to regular unemployment benefits) may not realize that unemployment benefits are considered taxable income by the IRS and that tax should be withheld now to avoid owing taxes on this income when filing a federal income tax return next year.
Withholding is voluntary; however, federal law allows any recipient to choose to have a flat 10 percent withheld from their benefits to cover part or all of their tax liability. To do that, fill out Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request (PDF), and give it to the agency paying the benefits. Do not send it to the IRS. If the payor has its own withholding request form, use that form instead.
There are a number of different types of payments that taxpayers should check their withholding on including:
- Unemployment compensation includes: Benefits paid by a state or the District of Columbia from
- the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund
- Railroad unemployment compensation benefits
- Disability benefits 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 of 1974, and
- Unemployment assistance under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 Program
Recipients who return to work before the end of the year can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to make sure they are having enough tax taken out of their pay.
In January 2021, unemployment benefit recipients should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (PDF) from the agency paying the benefits. The form will show the amount of unemployment compensation they received during 2020 in Box 1, and any federal income tax withheld in Box 4. Taxpayers report this information, along with their W-2 income, on their 2020 federal tax return.
Paying Estimated Taxes
Taxpayers with a substantial portion of their income not subject to withholding − the self-employed, investors, retirees, those with interest, dividends, capital gains, alimony, and rental income − often need to pay quarterly installments of estimated tax.
Recipients of unemployment compensation that don’t choose withholding – or realize that the amount withheld is not enough – can also make quarterly estimated tax payments. The payment for the first two quarters of 2020 was due on July 15. Third and fourth quarter payments are due on September 15, 2020, and January 15, 2021, respectively.
Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, includes instructions to help taxpayers figure their estimated taxes. They can also visit IRS.gov/payments to pay electronically. IRS offers two free electronic payment options where taxpayers can schedule their estimated federal tax payments up to 30 days in advance with IRS Direct Pay or up to 365 days in advance with the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).
Financial transactions, especially those incurred late in the year, can often have an unexpected tax impact. Examples include year-end and holiday bonuses, stock dividends, capital gain distributions from mutual funds and stocks, bonds, virtual currency, real estate or other property sold at a profit.
Don’t hesitate to contact the office if you need assistance figuring the correct withholding amount or have any questions about your tax situation.
Preparing for a Successful Retirement
As you approach retirement, it’s vital that you pay attention to several important financial matters to ensure a smooth transition. Here are five of them:
1. Health Insurance
Are you among the lucky few who will continue to be covered after retirement? If not, then you’ll need to replace your health coverage.
If you will be eligible for Medicare at the time of your retirement, then you may want to start checking into “Medigap” coverage. Original Medicare pays for much, but not all, of the cost for covered health care services and supplies. Medigap is Medicare Supplement Insurance that helps fill “gaps” in and is sold by private companies to individuals age 65 and older that covers medical expenses not covered or only partially covered by Medicare.
If your employee plan coverage is broader than Medicare, then take care of any non-emergency medical, dental, or optical needs before you retire.
2. Other Insurance
Once you retire, and depending on individual circumstances, you may need to replace employer-provided life insurance with extra coverage. You should also consider purchasing long-term health care insurance in case of a lengthy nursing home stay in the future. Premiums for qualified long-term care insurance policies are tax deductible to the extent that they, along with other unreimbursed medical expenses (including Medicare premiums), exceed 10 percent of the insured’s adjusted gross income in 2020.
3. Social Security
Decide whether you want to take early Social Security benefits if you’re retiring before your full retirement age, which is currently 66 years of age for people born between 1943 and 1954 and age 67 for those born after 1960. The years in between are prorated accordingly. If you choose to retire as early as age 62, doing so may result in a reduction of as much as 30 percent of your full benefits. Conversely, starting to receive benefits after normal retirement age may result in larger benefits.
Taking Social Security benefits at full retirement age makes financial sense for most people, but if you think you might need to take early benefits, please call and speak to a tax professional first.
4. Pension Plan or 401(k) Retirement Plan Payout
You should plan well in advance how you’ll take the payout from your pension plan or 401(k) plan. For example, will you transfer the funds to a conventional or Roth IRA? How will the funds be invested?
If you’re planning a move to another state or country, make sure that you fully explore the financial ramifications of living there before you move. Cost of living as well as rates of taxation can vary significantly from one region of the country to another.
If you have any questions or need assistance planning for a smooth transition into retirement, please contact us.
Tax Considerations When Hiring Household Help
If you employ someone to work for you around your house, it is important to consider the tax implications of this type of arrangement. While many people disregard the need to pay taxes on household employees, they do so at the risk of paying stiff tax penalties down the road.
Household Employee Defined
If a worker is your employee, it does not matter whether the work is full-time or part-time or that you hired the worker through an agency or from a list provided by an agency or association. It also does not matter whether you pay the worker on an hourly, daily or weekly basis or by the job.
If the worker controls how the work is done, the worker is not your employee but is self-employed. A self-employed worker usually provides his or her own tools and offers services to the general public in an independent business.
Also, if an agency provides the worker and controls what work is done and how it is done, the worker is not your employee.
You pay Kate an hourly wage to babysit your child and do light housework four days a week in your home. Kate follows your specific instructions about household and childcare duties. You provide the household equipment and supplies that she needs to do her work. Kate is your household employee.
You pay Nick to care for your lawn. Nick also offers lawn care services to other homeowners in your neighborhood and provides his own tools and supplies, He hires and pays any helpers he needs. Neither Nick nor his helpers are your household employees.
USCIS Form I-9: Employment Eligibility Verification
When you hire a household employee to work for you on a regular basis, they must complete USCIS Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. It is your responsibility to verify that the employee is either a U.S. citizen or an alien who can legally work. Once this is determined, you then complete the employer part of the form.
It is unlawful for you to knowingly hire or continue to employ a person who cannot legally work in the United States. Keep the completed form for your records. Do not return the form to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If you have a household employee, you may need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, or you may need to pay federal unemployment tax or both. If you pay cash wages of $2,200 or more in 2020 to any one household employee, then you will need to withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Also, if you pay total cash wages of $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter of 2019 or 2020 to household employees, you are also required to pay federal unemployment tax.
If neither of these two contingencies applies, you do not need to pay any federal unemployment taxes; however, you may still need to pay state unemployment taxes. Please contact the office if you’re not sure whether you need to pay state unemployment tax for your household employee. A tax professional will help you figure out whether you need to pay or collect other state employment taxes or carry workers’ compensation insurance.
Social Security and Medicare Taxes
Social Security taxes pays for old-age, survivor, and disability benefits for workers and their families. The Medicare tax pays for hospital insurance. Both you and your household employee may owe Social Security and Medicare taxes. Your share is 7.65 percent (6.2 percent for Social Security tax and 1.45 percent for Medicare tax) of the employee’s Social Security and Medicare wages. Your employee’s share is 6.2 percent for Social Security tax and 1.45 percent for Medicare tax.
You are responsible for payment of your employee’s share of the taxes as well as your own. You can either withhold your employee’s share from the employee’s wages or pay it from your own funds.
Do not count wages you pay to any of the following individuals as Social Security and Medicare wages:
- Your spouse.
- Your child who is under age 21.
- Your parent.
Exception. You should count wages to your parent if they are caring for your child and your child lives with you and is either under age 18 or has a physical or mental condition that requires the personal care of an adult and you are divorced and have not remarried, or you are a widow or widower, or you are married to and living with a person whose physical or mental condition prevents him or her from caring for your child.
- An employee who is under age 18 at any time during the year.
However, you should count these wages to an employee under 18 if providing household services is the employee’s principal occupation. If the employee is a student, providing household services is not considered to be his or her principal occupation.
Maximum Taxable Earnings. If your employee’s Social Security and Medicare wages reach $137,700 in 2020, then do not count any wages you pay that employee during the rest of the year as Social Security wages to figure Social Security tax. You should, however, continue to count the employee’s cash wages as Medicare wages to figure Medicare tax. Meals provided at your home for your convenience and lodging provided at your home for your convenience and as a condition of employment are not counted as wages
Help is Just a Phone Call Away
As you can see, tax rules for hiring household employees are complex; therefore, professional tax guidance is highly recommended. This is definitely an area where it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have any questions at all, please contact us to set up a consultation.
Tax Tips for Workers in the Gig Economy
The gig economy, also called sharing or access economy, is defined by activities where taxpayers earn income providing on-demand work, services, or goods. This type of work is often carried out via digital platforms such as an app or website. There are many types of sharing economy businesses including two of the most popular ones: ride-sharing, Uber and Lyft, for example, home rentals such as Airbnb, and TaskRabbit.
If taxpayers use one of the many online platforms to rent a spare bedroom, provide car rides or other goods or services, they may be part of the sharing or gig worker economy. If so, there are several things taxpayers should keep in mind.
Income is Taxable
Income from these sources is taxable, regardless of whether an individual receives information returns. This is true even if the work is full-time, part-time, or a side job or if an individual is paid in cash or if an information return like a Form 1099 or Form W2 is issued to the gig worker. Taxpayers may also be required to make quarterly estimated income tax payments and pay their share of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid taxes.
Special Rules for Renting Out Your Home
Special rules generally apply if a taxpayer rents out his home, apartment, or other dwelling but also lives in it during the year – this residential rental income may be taxable. For more information about these rules, see Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes). Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant Tool, Is My Residential Rental Income Taxable, and/or Are My Expenses Deductible? to determine if their residential rental income is taxable. Generally,
Worker Classification: Employee or Independent Contractor
While providing gig economy services, the taxpayer must be correctly classified. This means the business or the taxpayer must determine whether the individual providing the services is an employee or an independent contractor. Taxpayers can check out the worker classification page on IRS.gov to determine how they are classified.
This is important because some gig workers may be classified as independent contractors and may be able to deduct business expenses, depending on tax limits and rules. Taxpayers need to keep records of their business expenses. For example, a taxpayer who uses his or her car for business often qualifies to claim the standard mileage rate, which is 57.5 cents per mile for 2020.
Paying Taxes on Gig Income
Since income from the gig economy is taxable, it’s important that taxpayers remember to pay the right amount of taxes throughout the year to avoid owing when they file. An employer typically withholds income taxes from their employees’ pay to help cover income taxes their employees owe. However, gig economy workers who are not considered employees must pay their taxes. There are two ways to do this:
- Submit a new Form W-4 to their employer to have more income taxes withheld from their paycheck, if they have another job as an employee.
- Make quarterly estimated tax payments to help pay their income taxes throughout the year, including self-employment tax.
If you have any questions about the sharing economy and your taxes, help is just a phone call away.