It’s Small Business Week! Resources for Small Business Owners

The U.S. Small Business Administration is celebrating National Small Business Week this week.

Small Business Week from Carpenter, Evert and Associates

Image from Small Business Administration www.sba.org

The SBA is an independent agency of the federal government. Their mission is to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation.” In short, they are a valuable resource for all small businesses, whether you are just starting out or have an established, successful business.

A few of the resources available at www.sba.gov available year-round include:

To celebrate Small Business Week, the SBA is offering a series of free webinars this week:

5 Fabulous Habits of Local Business Champions
Presented by YP
May 3, 2017 | 2:00-3:00 pm ET
Register here

Grow Your Business Online
Presented by Google
May 3, 2017 | 4:00-5:00 pm ET
Register here

The Future of Small Business Innovation
Presented by Salesforce
May 4, 2017 | 2:30-3:30 pm ET
Register here

How to Write Your Email Content in 15 Minutes or Less
Presented by Constant Contact
May 4, 2017 | 3:30-4:30 pm ET
Register here

Find the Hidden Money in America
Presented by Chase
May 4, 2017 | 5:00-6:00 pm ET
Register here

Carpenter, Evert and Associates specializes in services for small businesses, including outsourced accounting, tax planning and preparation, and a wide range of consulting services. Contact us here or at (952) 831-0085 for a free consultation.

IRS Warns Taxpayers of Summer Surge in Automated Phone Scam Calls

WP - Scam - red blurred words

On Tuesday, the IRS issued a new warning about recent phone scams. Read the details in this press release from the IRS.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers to stay vigilant against an increase of IRS impersonation scams in the form of automated calls and new tactics from scammers demanding tax payments on iTunes and other gift cards.

The IRS has seen an increase in “robo-calls” where scammers leave urgent callback requests through the phone telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Once the victim calls back, the scammers may threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the driver’s license of the victim if they don’t agree to pay.

“It used to be that most of these bogus calls would come from a live person. Scammers are evolving and using more and more automated calls in an effort to reach the largest number of victims possible,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should remain alert for this summer surge of phone scams, and watch for clear warning signs as these scammers change tactics.”

In the latest trend, IRS impersonators are demanding payments on iTunes and other gift cards. The IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill by putting money on  any form of gift card is a clear indication of a scam.

Some examples of the varied tactics seen this year are:

  • Demanding payment for a “Federal Student Tax”–IR-2016-81
  • Demanding immediate tax payment for taxes owed on an iTunes or other type of gift card
  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals–IR-2016-34
  • “Verifying” tax return information over the phone–IR-2016-40
  • Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry–IR-2016-28

Since these bogus calls can take many forms and scammers are constantly changing their strategies, knowing the telltale signs is the best way to avoid becoming a victim.

The IRS Will Never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money and you don’t owe taxes, here’s what you should do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

For more information about how to keep your tax information confidential, contact the tax experts at Carpenter, Evert and Associates at (952) 831-0085 or click here to request a consultation. 

Small Business Week – Helpful Resources for Entrepreneurs

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It’s National Small Business Week!

Sponsored by the Small Business Administration, this week celebrates the American entrepreneurial spirit with events throughout the country and access to vital information that every small business owner needs.

Whether you’re starting a new business or managing an existing one, you need as many resources as possible to help you navigate. Here, we have compiled some of the top places to go when you have questions. These resources will be there for you year-round, providing the most up-to-date answers for your business.SB 3

Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov

The Small Business Administration was founded in 1953 to assist small businesses in getting a fair shot at government contracts. Later they began providing loans to entrepreneurs who would have otherwise been unable to get funding through conventional means.

Today, the SBA has expanded their services significantly to encourage small businesses in many areas: management assistance; specialized outreach to women, minorities and armed forces veterans; providing loans to victims of natural disasters; and specialized advice and assistance in international trade.

One of the best services the SBA offers is their Online Learning Center. They offer dozens of free courses on a wide variety of topics, like:

  • Buying a business
  • Getting a loan
  • Sales and marketing
  • Customer service
  • Cybersecurity

and much more. They also have great articles and videos on virtually every part of running a small business, from choosing your business structure to paying taxes. And if you register online, you will have access to tools that can help you manage tasks like writing your business plan and qualifying for government contracts.SB 4

The Online IRS Small Business Tax Center

Unlike the complicated instructions that often come with tax forms, the information on the IRS Small Business Tax Center site is easy to understand, informative, and covers a wide variety of topics helpful to small business owners. Some of the topics covered:

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Carpenter, Evert and Associates Online Library

CEA’s website is full of great information for entrepreneurs. We have hundreds of informative articles and offer advice on a variety of small business issues. Here are just a few:

If your small business needs help today, contact the small business experts at Carpenter, Evert and Associates. We have accounting, tax and advisory services that can help you build your best company.

Call us at (952) 831-0085 or Click Here to request more information or a free consultation.

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Important Tax Considerations During Health Insurance Open Enrollment

123On Tuesday, the IRS published three important tips for tax payers who will be eligible for the premium tax credit through the Health Insurance Marketplace. 

When you apply for assistance to help pay the premiums for health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, the Marketplace will estimate the amount of the premium tax credit that you may be able to claim.  The Marketplace will use information you provide about your family composition, your projected household income, whether those that you are enrolling are eligible for other non-Marketplace coverage, and certain other information to estimate your credit.

Here are three things you should consider during the Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment period:

1. Advance credit payments lower premiums – You can choose to have all, some, or none of your estimated credit paid in advance directly to your insurance company on your behalf to lower what you pay out-of-pocket for your monthly premiums.  These payments are called advance payments of the premium tax credit or advance credit payments.  If you do not get advance credit payments, you will be responsible for paying the full monthly premium.

2. A tax return may be required – If you received the benefit of advance credit payments, you must file a tax return to reconcile the amount of advance credit payments made on your behalf with the amount of your actual premium tax credit.  You must file an income tax return for this purpose even if you are otherwise not required to file a return.

3. Credit can be claimed at tax time – If you choose not to get advance credit payments, or get less than the full amount in advance, you can claim the full benefit of the premium tax credit that you are allowed when you file your tax return. This will increase your refund or lower the amount of tax that you would otherwise owe.

For more information about open season enrollment, which runs through January 31, 2016, visit Healthcare.gov. See our Questions and Answers on IRS.gov/ca for information about the premium tax credit.

Tax and Accounting News for Small Businesses

WP - News - computersA Dozen Deductions for Your Small Business

By Dana Dratch at Bankrate.com

Small-business tax rule No. 1: Don’t mess with the IRS. But that doesn’t mean you should cheat yourself. Take every legal deduction you can. Here are a dozen that even savvy small-business owners and entrepreneurs sometimes forget.?>>> Read More

5 Tasks Entrepreneurs Are Better Off Outsourcing

By Jacqueline Whitmore, Entrepreneur.com

Being an entrepreneur means theres always more work to do, and not enough time to do it. Thats why the most successful business owners delegate certain tasks to freelance contractors who specialize in providing valuable time-saving services. >>> Read More

5 Questions for Your Small Biz Before Summer’s End

By Melinda Emerson, Huff Post

For many small businesses, summer is slower than the rest of the year. Rather than getting caught up in another game of Words with Friends, use these fleeting long days to take a look at your business operations. >>> Read More

10 Best Cities for Small Businesses

From CNN Money Online

A review of the top ten cities for small ?businesses from thumbtack.coms fourth annual ranking. >>> Read More

Don’t Forget About Changes That Could Affect Your Premium Tax Credit

Medical - Health insurance - form stethascopeIf you have insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may be getting advance payments of the premium tax credit. These are paid directly to your insurance company to lower your monthly premium. Changes in your income or family size may affect your premium tax credit. If your circumstances have changed, the time is right for a mid-year checkup to see if you need to adjust the premium assistance you are receiving. You should report changes that have occurred since you signed up for your health insurance plan to your Marketplace as they occur.

Changes in circumstances that you should report to the Marketplace include:

  • an increase or decrease in your income
  • marriage or divorce
  • the birth or adoption of a child
  • starting a job with health insurance
  • gaining or losing your eligibility for other health care coverage
  • changing your residence

To estimate the effect that changes in your circumstances may have upon the amount of premium tax credit that you can claim – see this change in circumstances estimator.

Reporting the changes will help you avoid getting too much or too little advance payment of the premium tax credit.  Getting too much means you may owe additional money or get a smaller refund when you file your taxes. Getting too little could mean missing out on premium assistance to reduce your monthly premiums.

Repayments of excess premium assistance may be limited to an amount between $300 and $2,500 depending on your income and filing status.  However, if advance payments of the premium tax credit were made, but your income for the year turns out to be too high to receive the premium tax credit, you will have to repay all of the payments that were made on your behalf, with no limitation. Therefore, it is important that you report changes in circumstances that may have occurred since you signed up for your plan.

Changes in circumstances also may qualify you for a special enrollment period to change or get insurance through the Marketplace. In most cases, if you qualify for the special enrollment period, you will have sixty days to enroll following the change in circumstances. You can find Information about special enrollment at HealthCare.gov.

IRS offers relief to small businesses that haven’t filed their retirement plan returns.

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News from the IRS this week:

WASHINGTON —The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged eligible small businesses that did not file certain retirement plan returns to take advantage of a low-cost penalty relief program enabling them to quickly come back into compliance.

The program is designed to help small businesses that may have been unaware of the reporting requirements that apply to their retirement plans.

Small businesses that fail to file required annual retirement plan returns, usually Form 5500-EZ, can face stiff penalties – up to $15,000 per return. However, by filing late returns under this program, eligible filers can avoid these penalties by paying only $500 for each return submitted, up to a maximum of $1,500 per plan. For that reason, program applicants are encouraged to include multiple late returns in a single submission.

The Department of Labor offers a similar relief program for businesses with retirement plans that include employees, known as the Delinquent Filer Voluntary Compliance Program.

Started as a one-year pilot, the IRS program was made permanent in May 2015. The IRS has received about 12,000 late returns since the pilot program began in June 2014.

The IRS reminds retirement plan sponsors and administrators that in most cases, a return must be filed each year for the plan by the end of the seventh month following the close of the plan year. For plans that operate on a calendar-year basis, as most do, this means the 2014 return is due on July 31, 2015.

If you need assistance becoming compliant or completing your Form 5500, contact the retirement plan tax experts at Carpenter, Evert and Associates

The Affordable Care Act – How to Account for Seasonal Workers

People - construction workers

When determining if your organization is an applicable large employer, you must measure your workforce by counting all your employees.  However, there is an exception for seasonal workers.

If an employer’s workforce exceeds 50 full-time employees for 120 days or fewer during a calendar year, and the employees in excess of 50 who were employed during that period of no more than 120 days were seasonal workers, the employer is not considered an applicable large employer.

A seasonal worker for this purpose is an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis. For example, retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons are seasonal workers.

The terms seasonal worker and seasonal employee are both used in the employer shared responsibility provisions, but in two different contexts. Only the term seasonal worker is relevant for determining whether an employer is an applicable large employer subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions.  For this purpose, employers may apply a reasonable, good faith interpretation of the term seasonal worker.

To learn more about this topic and about when the definition of a seasonal employee is applicable, see the IRS website Q & A page. Or contact an ACA expert at Carpenter Evert for more information.

How many full-time employees do you really have?

Jumbled numbers greenThe Employer Shared Responsibility provisions of the Affordable Care Act are based on the number of employees a business has. A business with over 50 full-time (or full-time equivalent) employees has certain responsibilities to provide group health insurance or make shared responsibility payments.

Read more about the Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions

It’s pretty easy for most companies to determine how many full-time employees they have – if you have 10 total employees, you can be pretty sure your company is not an applicable large employee (ALE). If you have 250, you can be pretty sure you are an ALE.  But, if you have close to 50 full-time employees, or have a significant number of part-time employees, it might not be so simple. Here is how the IRS explains it:

Whether an employer is an applicable large employee (ALE) is determined each calendar year, and generally depends on the average size of an employer’s workforce during the prior year.  If an employer has fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, the employer is not an ALE for the current calendar year and is not subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions or the reporting provisions for the current year. Employers who are not ALEs may also be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit.

If an employer has at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, the employer is an ALE for the current calendar year, and is therefore subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions and the employer information reporting provisions.

To determine its workforce size for a year an employer adds its total number of full-time employees for each month of the prior calendar year to the total number of full-time equivalent employees for each calendar month of the prior calendar year and divides that total number by 12.

Full-Time Employees – full-time employee is an employee who has on average at least 30 hours of service per week during the calendar month, or at least 130 hours of service during the calendar month.

Full-Time Equivalent Employees – An employer determines its number of full-time-equivalent employees in two steps:

  1. Combine the number of hours of service of all non-full-time employees for the month but do not include more than 120 hours of service per employee, and
  2. Divide the total by 120.

An employer’s number of full-time equivalent employees (or part-time employees) is only relevant to determining whether an employer is an ALE.  An ALE need not offer minimum essential coverage to its part-time employees to avoid an employer shared responsibility payment. 

There are exceptions for seasonal workers and new businesses. More information can be found at the IRS website’s Q & A on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions.

Still confused? Your CPA can be a good resource for help navigating the Affordable Care Act. Contact one of Carpenter Evert’s ACA experts at (952) 831-0085 or info@carpenterevert.com.

Obama Proposes Big Changes to Overtime Pay

Concept - pay day - man holding checkOn Monday, President Obama announced a proposal to extend overtime benefits to an additional 5 million workers in the U.S.

Currently, anyone working 40 hours a week and making less than $23,660 a year must be paid overtime, regardless of their employment status. This rule includes salaried employees, and discourages the practice of employers calling their workers “managers” so they can avoid paying overtime. The President thinks this bar is way too low. His proposal would more than double the threshold, making it $50,440 a year for all full-time salaried employees.

President Obama introduced the proposal in a blog post Monday. “In this country, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay,” wrote the President. “That’s at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America. Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve.” The White House has released a fact sheet on the proposal today, and an official announcement from the President is expected on Thursday.

The implications for both employees and their employers are numerous.  Republican lawmakers and business-friendly organizations are already coming out against the proposal, while labor groups are backing it wholeheartedly. There is expected to be much debate and negotiation before the proposal can be put into place officially.

Click here to read today’s release from the White House, Fact Sheet: Middle Class Economics Rewarding Hard Work by Restoring Overtime Pay. The US Department of Labor has also published an info-graph outlining the details called Overtime – Rewarding Hard Work.