What Are Important Things To Know For 2020 Taxes?

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“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

So much has happened already in 2021 that the CARES Act and many of the "new" tax and financial provisions we operated from in 2020 can seem like ancient history.

But not us ... we're knee deep in these details right now (while keeping an eye on all of the NEW new things happening in tax code land).

So, I thought it might be useful for me to quickly run down important things to keep in mind about 2020 taxes (LAST year's taxes).

I also have learned that the more I can educate, the better.

So here goes. (And this is NOT a comprehensive list, so you know.)

Tax Brackets
For tax year 2020, the standard deduction for single filers is $12,400 and $24,800 for married filing jointly. "Head of household" filers is $18,650.

In many cases, the standard deduction works great. But there are other things to consider this year, aside from simple deductions. For example ...
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When The Crazy Customer Strikes

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“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” - Lao Tzu

Last week, I wrote about handling upset customers, and I laid out a simple four-step method: H.E.A.R.

1) Hear the customer and don't interrupt.  
2) Mirror back (Empathize) with something like: "I can understand why you're upset.  I would be upset too." Or, "I'm really sorry that happened to you."
3) Ask: "What can I do to make this right?" 
4) Resolve - Unless the request is absolutely ridiculous, DO IT!

But what happens if the customer is completely ridiculous?

It starts here: as the owner or general manager of the business you'll need to decide just how much empowerment you'll give your staff to resolve an issue.

Let's assume you have 3 levels of personnel in your business – front-line, manager, and you. You might give the front-line person the authority to give $100 worth of satisfaction (credit, whatever) when the customer isn't just being ridiculous -- and up to a $50 credit even if the request is ridiculous.
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An Easy Tax Add-On: Estate Plans

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.” - H. Jackson Brown Jr

As we have seen this year, life can turn on a dime ... and we can't plan for every one of the specific ways it may do so. But we CAN plan broadly.

For me and my family, we've put some simple plans in place for a VARIETY of circumstances, not just financial or legal. And it truly helps us sleep better at night, just knowing we have it all covered.

And the unfortunate reality is that the most recent numbers indicate that almost 60% of Americans don't have a basic will -- and that's a big problem.

One of the big reasons that most families don't yet have this in place is because of some incorrect thinking about whether it's right for them or if it's even necessary. And sure, some just haven't gotten around to creating a will or trust. Others think they don't need an estate plan because they're not "rich".

I've even heard from people that they don't want to put it in place because when they do, it's sending some sort of death wish into the universe (or some such).
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What Numbers Should You Be Looking At In Your Business?

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"You have been blessed with a mind that can direct your actions in any way that you choose." -Ramon Luis

It's easy to get lazy when a business can pick the low hanging fruit available in an easy marketplace.

But, that's not always the case, is it?

Markets shrink, funding dries up, prospects aren't as easily found, or profitability margins decrease. So what do you do? Many business owners don't know how to tweak their marketing and sales systems, so they can track the numbers at each step in the sales process and grow in new directions.

I have seen (in several industries) that the businesses who create a culture of accountability, have weekly sales meetings, track their numbers, and hold team members accountable, are successful ... while those that guess and "assume" are usually out of business. It's just a matter of time.

The key is knowing the numbers -- what is the average expected result, and how you are measuring up against that result for each step in the process. This is where accountability starts.

But many people don't want to track the numbers, because they might have to admit that they aren't doing their job and letting their teammates down. Others simply do not have the systems or do not understand how to track those numbers or understand the benchmarks of the average business, the good business -- and the great business.   
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A Checklist For Business Owners’ For 2020 Personal Income Taxes

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"Don't wait. The time will never be just right." - Napoleon Hill

As I mentioned last week, depending on how your business entity is structured, you could be paying anywhere from 15-25% (or more!) of your business revenue into the coffers of the IRS and various state departments of revenue.

This is the outcome of these blog posts: Guiding you in better business decisions.

Below is a list of what you will need during the tax preparation process on the personal side. Not all of them will apply to you -- probably MOST will not. Nonetheless, it's a useful tax checklist.

Before you get overwhelmed: yes, this is a long list -- but it's the unfortunate reality of our tax code that it's not even comprehensive! These items will cover 95% of small businesses. Really, this is for ensuring that you're able to keep every dollar you can keep under our tax code.

Also note: There are certain CARES Act (stimulus) and CAA (second stimulus) items that you will need to know as well. I've notated them in italics.

Personal Data
Social Security Numbers (including spouse and children)
Child care provider tax I.D. or Social Security Number
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Six Options For Small Business Aid And Tax Savings

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"15 years ago, the internet was an escape from the real world. Now, the real world is an escape from the internet." -Noah Smith

Depending on how your business entity is structured, you could be paying anywhere from 15-25% (or more!) of your business revenue into the coffers of the IRS and various state departments of revenue.

Which, of course, is what we're here to help you minimize.

That's why the "second stimulus bill" signed into law in late December 2020 was a welcomed one for us here at Utah Real Estate Accountants -- simply because it means small business owners are getting more choices during a very tumultuous time. Review this blog to see what is appropriate for your unique situation.

So, because we've been getting so many questions about these, I'd like to run them down as simply as possible so you can make the right choice of action. Because action will be necessary in some cases.

1) Revamped and expanded Employee Retention Tax Credit
In order to get this credit, you must have fewer than 500 employees  (previously 100). You also must have been forced to at least partially suspend business operations in 2020 or had a 20% revenue decline in any quarter compared with the same quarter of 2019.
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My Small Business Health Quiz (part 2)

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“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” -Confucius

Regardless of national events, or where things are at with PPP and EIDL -- as a small business owner, it's important that you take a REGULAR, clear-eyed look at the underlying legal and financial foundations of your business.

As we all pull our tax documentation together, I can't think of a better time.

I started with these last week, and I'm wrapping them up today.

My Small Business Health Quiz (Part 2)

From last week...

#1: Is the value of your business firmly established?
(Buy/Sell Agreements)
#2: Is there an emergency plan?
(Will & Asset Protection Strategy)
#3: What happens next?
(Business Succession Plan, and more)

Now to the next questions...
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My Small Business Health Quiz (Part 1)

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#1: Is the value of your business firmly established?
Questions to consider:

  • Have I ever had my business value appraised by an outside party?
  • Do I have a formal buy/sell agreement in place?
  • Is my buy/sell agreement funded?
  • Does my buy/sell agreement adequately protect my heirs, my business, and my partners?
  • Has this agreement been reviewed in the last 3 years?

If you have any plans to someday extricate yourself from your business (and you should ALWAYS consider your exit strategy), these are critical questions.

#2: Is there an emergency plan?
Questions to consider:

  • Do I have a will, and is it up to date with my business wishes?
  • Do I have a plan to retain key employees if something were to happen to me?
  • Are my assets protected from potential litigation?
  • Have I identified and written down my trusted advisors?

Unless you plan to forever cheat death, a business owner would be foolish to not prepare for that event.

#3: What happens next?
Questions to consider:

  • Do I have a formal succession plan prepared and on file?
  • Does my succession plan have a provision for disability?
  • Have I involved both family members AND key employees in my succession planning?
  • Do I have a disability buy-sell, or overhead expense coverage?
  • Do I have contribution protection for my retirement if I were to become disabled?

Again, these eventualities always seem remote on the front end ... but if your answer is "no" to more than a couple of the above questions, it would be a good idea to get in contact with someone competent to help you fix it.
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Provisions of the Second Coronavirus Relief Bill That Affect Small Businesses

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"What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” -Robert Schuller

The passage of this relief bill brought some changes that we had been hoping to see for months (notably the deductibility of PPP-related expenses), but there is much more to this relief bill than merely that, and the $600 stimulus payments that get all of the press.

So I thought I'd delve a little deeper than I did last week on the high points of this CAA bill.

Eviction Relief
This new measure extends the moratorium on evictions under the CARES Act, designed to protect renters from eviction, until January 31, 2021. That means, if you are a renter, you have one more month to get right. For landlords, you need to know that you will have to wait one more month.

PPP-Related Provisions
As I mentioned, businesses are now allowed to deduct expenses associated with their forgiven PPP loans -- this is amazing news.

Further, the new law provides $284.45 billion to reopen and strengthen PPP for first and second time borrowers and reauthorizes the program through March 31, 2021. However, the requirement in order to receive a second PPP is that the small business has less than 300 employees and can demonstrate a revenue reduction of 25 percent.
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Last of the LAST Minute Tax Moves

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“Every task, goal, race and year comes to an end…therefore, make it a habit to FINISH STRONG.” - Gary Ryan Blair

As I mentioned, time is short, and some moves do require more than this week to pull off -- so I'm restricting myself to those items which you can realistically do something with before the end of the year.

And, again--these are focused on what will apply to your business

Also, the fact that expenses paid via PPP loan proceeds are now deductible might affect these calculations for you.

1) Buy Supplies in Advance (to increase expenses and offset income)
How much disposable equipment do you expect to use in 2021? Order it now so the cost is deductible in 2020 if you need to offset income. Buy what you think you'll need for the coming year, as long as you have the space to store it. This is especially easy to do with software, information courses, or other subscriptions that you know you want to keep.

A word of caution: Under a 12-month rule, you cannot deduct prepaid expenses that run more than the end of the year following the current year. For example, if you prepay a three-year subscription to a trade journal, the cost is deductible over three years (not just one).
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