With tax season now in the rear view mirror for most of us, it’s time to start thinking about how to minimize your taxes on next year’s tax return.
In this month’s newsletter, get a start on your tax planning by learning about the tax consequences of different types virtual transactions, from cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens to internet marketplaces and online courses.
Also read about maximizing your working-from-home opportunity, as well as the “The Home Gain Exclusion” Make Sure You Qualify. Finally, information regarding making your Home Office a tax deduction.
Please feel free to forward the information to someone who may be interested in a topic and call with any questions you may have.
May 8 – Mother’s Day
May 30 – Memorial Day
In this issue:
- Tax Consequences of Virtual Transactions
- The Home Gain Exclusion: Make Sure You Qualify!
- Making Your Home Office a Tax Deduction
Tax Consequences of Virtual Transactions
As social distancing turns convenience into necessity, the number and types of activities moving to the internet is exploding. It’s important to remember that these virtual events often trigger real-world tax implications.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Internet marketplaces – Proceeds of sales of goods and services on internet marketplaces can be taxable income. That’s true whether you’re a hobbyist or running an online business. Depending on your level of activity, tax rules may limit your deductions. Internet sales may also be subject to sales or use taxes, which vary by state. If the platform is considered a Marketplace Facilitator, sales taxes are collected by the marketplace itself and remitted to the appropriate taxing entities. In other cases, that responsibility may fall on you. So you need to know the difference.
- The IRS is watching – New reporting requirements require more reselling activity to be reported to the IRS. So if you resell your sporting event tickets or concert tickets using an online tool, expect the platform to ask you for information about yourself, including your Social Security number. Why? E-bay, StubHub, Ticketmaster and similar platforms must now report a lot of this activity to the IRS via new Form 1099-K reporting rules!
- Online courses – Social media platforms are loaded with advertisements for how-to courses on every conceivable topic – including how to create your own online course. If you decide to share your knowledge in a particular subject matter by developing and selling an online course, proceeds can be subject to income tax. Sales and use taxes may also be due on the purchases of these courses in some jurisdictions.
- Crowdfunding – If you use crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to raise funds for your business venture or project, the money you receive can be taxable. If you provide a reward in exchange for different amounts, the funds you receive are treated as sales proceeds. Crowdfunding transactions may also be subject to state sales and use taxes. If backers of your venture receive equity in your startup company, those transactions may not be taxable as income, but they are regulated by the Security and Exchange Commission.
- Online fundraising – Funds you receive through an online fundraising campaign to pay for medical bills, disaster recovery or other personal expenses generally are treated as nontaxable gifts. Donations to such campaigns may even qualify as deductible charitable contributions by the donors.
- Social media influencers – It may seem like fun to develop a significant following on social media, but capitalizing on that audience through product endorsements and other influencing activities is treated as business income. Endorsement payments are taxable and so is the value of any products received in exchange for reviews or brand placements in social media posts.
- Virtual currency – Payments you receive in the form of virtual currency for goods and services are treated similar to cash transactions and are included in your gross income at fair market value. But to add a level of complexity, that virtual currency is also considered property, which can result in taxable gains or losses. So you will also need to attach the fair market value to that virtual currency as of the receipt date of the currency. Then when you use the currency you will need to track a gain or loss on that future transaction.
Please call if you need help sorting out the tax implications of any virtual activity or transaction.
The Home Gain Exclusion: Make Sure You Qualify!
Across the country, many homeowners are cashing out to multiples over list price, especially since one of the largest tax breaks available to most individuals is the ability to exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 married) in capital gains on the sale of your personal residence. Here is what you need to know.
As long as you own and live in your home for two of the five years before selling your home, you qualify for this capital gain tax exclusion. Here are the official hurdles you must jump over to qualify for this tax break:
- Main home. This is a tax term with a specific definition. Your main home can be a traditional home, a condo, a houseboat, or mobile home. Main home also means the place of primary residence when you own two or more homes.
- Ownership test. You must own your home during two of the past five years.
- Residence test. You must live in the home for two of the past five years.
- Other nuances:
- You can pass the ownership test and the residence test at different times.
- You may only use the home gain exclusion once every two years.
- You and your spouse can be treated jointly OR separately depending on circumstances.
When to pay attention
You live in your home for a long time. The longer you live in your home, the more likely you will have a large capital gain. Long-time homeowners should check to see if they have a capital gain prior to selling their home.
You have old home gain deferrals. Prior to the current rules, home gains could be rolled into the next home purchased. These old deferred gains reduce the cost of your current home and can result in a capital gains tax.
Two homes into one. Newly married couples with two homes have a potential tax liability as both individuals may pass the required tests on their own property but not on their new spouse’s property. Prior to selling these individual homes, you may wish to create a plan of action that reduces your tax exposure.
Selling a home after divorce. Property transferred as a result of a divorce is not deemed a sale of your home. However, if the ex-spouse that retains the home later sells the home, it may have an impact on the available amount of gain exemption.
You are helping an older family member. Special rules apply to the elderly who move out of a home and into assisted living and nursing homes. Prior to selling property, it is best to review options and their related tax implications.
You do not meet the five-year rule. In some cases you may be eligible for a partial gain exclusion if you are required to move for work, disability, or unforeseen circumstances.
Other situations. There are a number of other exceptions to the home gain exclusion rules. This includes foreclosure, debt forgiveness, inheritance, and partial ownership.
A final thought
The key to obtaining the full benefit of this tax exclusion is in retaining good records. You must be able to prove both the sales price of your home and the associated costs you are using to determine any gain on your property. Keep all sales records, purchase records, improvement costs, and other documents that support your home’s capital gain calculation.
Making Your Home Office a Tax Deduction
The home office deduction is a great tax break for the millions of Americans who are now working from home, either occasionally or full-time. But there’s one huge catch…you can’t be an employee!
That’s right, if you’re working from home for an employer, you normally can’t deduct your office expenses.
Here’s a quick look at the basic requirements to be able to deduct your home office expenses, along with some suggestions for how to qualify for the deduction and turning your home office into a tax planning opportunity:
There are two requirements for having a tax-deductible home office:
- Your home office is only used for business purposes. Your home office must be used exclusively for operating your business. It can’t double as the family media center or living room. To meet this requirement, set up your office in a separate area of your house. Then if you get audited by the IRS, there is no doubt that your office is used exclusively for business purposes.
- Your home office is your primary place of business. You need to demonstrate that your home office is the primary place you conduct your business. The IRS has clarified that you can meet clients and conduct meetings at separate office locations, but your home office must be the only location where your administrative work is completed. So if you meet with clients or work on any part of your business away from your home office, keep a journal of each specific activity undertaken and describe how it doesn’t violate the primary place-of-business rule.
Looking at these two criteria, everyone that is now required to work from home probably meets both qualifications.
Qualifying for the deduction
While it usually makes little sense to move from an employee to a contractor simply to get a home office deduction, too many ignore the move when it could be available to them. Here are some ideas.
- Become an independent contractor. The easiest way to deduct your home office expenses is by switching from being an employee to an independent contractor. With a number of firms cutting pay and benefits due to the pandemic, it may be worth exploring. If you can meet the IRS requirements for becoming an independent contractor, it may be worth doing the math by considering all the deductions your home office may make available to you and comparing them to the cost of lost benefits as an employee.
- Start a side business. If becoming an independent contractor for your current employer isn’t an option, consider starting a side business. You can deduct all business-related expenses on your tax return, including your home office expenses. If you go this route, ensure your home office is in a different location in your home than your other work space.
- Consider your entire household. Even if you don’t qualify for the home office deduction, maybe someone else living in your home does qualify. So look into your options to see if a family member can take advantage of the home office deduction.
Figuring out how to properly deduct your home office can be a lot more complicated than it appears. If you need help, please call.
As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation please feel free to call.
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