Here’s what taxpayers should know about making 2019 estimated tax payments

mall business owners, self-employed people, and some wage earners should look into whether they should make estimated tax payments this year. Doing so can help them avoid an unexpected tax bill and possibly a penalty when they file next year.

Everyone must pay tax as they earn income. Taxpayers who earn a paycheck usually have their employer withhold tax from their checks. This helps cover taxes the employee owes. On the other hand, some taxpayers earn income not subject to withholding. For small business owners and self-employed people, that usually means making quarterly estimated tax payments.

Here’s some information about estimated tax payments:

  • Taxpayers generally must make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe $1,000 or more when they file their 2019 tax return.
  • Whether or not they expect to owe next year, taxpayers may have to pay estimated tax for 2019 if their tax was more than zero in 2018.
  • Wage earners who also have business income can often avoid having to pay estimated tax. They can do so by asking their employer to withhold more tax from their paychecks. The IRS urges anyone in this situation to do a Paycheck Checkup using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov. If the estimator suggests a change, the taxpayer can submit a new Form W-4 to their employer.
  • Aside from business owners and self-employed individuals, people who need to make estimated payments also includes sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders. It also often includes people involved in the sharing economy.
  • Estimated tax requirements are different for farmers and fishermen.
  • Corporations generally must make these payments if they expect to owe $500 or more on their 2019 tax return.
  • Aside from income tax, taxpayers can pay other taxes through estimated tax payments. This includes self-employment tax and the alternative minimum tax.
  • The final two deadlines for paying 2019 estimated payments are Sept. 16, 2019 and Jan. 15, 2020.
  • Taxpayers can check out these forms for details on how to figure their payments:
  • Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov to find options for paying estimated taxes. These include:
  • Anyone who pays too little tax through withholding, estimated tax payments, or a combination of the two may owe a penalty. In some cases, the penalty may apply if their estimated tax payments are late. The penalty may apply even if the taxpayer is due a refund.
  • For tax year 2019, the penalty generally applies to anyone who pays less than 90 percent of the tax reported on their 2019 tax return.

Tax reform changes to fringe benefit deductions affect business’s bottom line

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act includes tax law changes that affect businesses and the 2018 tax returns they file this year. One change is to fringe benefit deductions, which can affect both a business’s bottom line and its employees’ deductions.

Here is a rundown of these changes:

Transportation fringe benefits
The new law disallows deductions for expenses associated with qualified transportation fringe benefits or expenses incurred providing transportation for commuting, except as necessary for employee safety.

Bicycle commuting reimbursements
Under the new tax law, employers can deduct qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements as a business expense for 2018 through 2025. The new tax law suspends the exclusion of qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements from an employee’s income for 2018 through 2025. Employers must now include these reimbursements in the employee’s wages.

Moving expenses
Employers must now include moving expense reimbursements in employees’ wages. The new tax law suspends the former exclusion for qualified moving expense reimbursements. There is one exception for active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. They can still exclude moving expenses from their income. There is additional guidance on reimbursements for employees’ 2017 moves if an employer reimburses the expenses in 2018. Generally, reimbursements in this situation are not taxed.

Achievement awards
Special rules allow an employee to exclude achievement awards from wages if the awards are tangible personal property. An employer also may deduct awards that are tangible personal property, subject to certain deduction limits. The new law clarifies the definition of tangible personal property.

New IRS resources on IRS.gov help businesses understand tax reform

Last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made significant changes to the tax law that affect small businesses. The IRS posted two new resources on IRS.gov to help taxpayers understand how these changes affect their bottom line.

Here are some details about these resources:

New publicationTax reform: What’s new for your business 
This electronic publication covers many of the TCJA provisions that are important for small and medium-sized businesses, their owners, and tax professionals to understand. This concise publication includes sections about:

  • Corporate tax provisions
  • Qualified business income deduction
  • Depreciation: Section 168 and 179 modifications
  • Business-related losses, exclusions and deductions
  • Business credits
  • S corporations
  • Farm provisions

New webpage: Tax Reform for Small Business
This one-stop shop highlights important tax reform topics for small businesses. Users can link to several resources, which are grouped by topic:

  • New deduction for qualified businesses
  • Withholding
  • Deductions, depreciation and expensing
  • Employer deduction for certain fringe benefits
  • Like-kind exchanges
  • Real estate rehabilitation tax credit
  • Changes in accounting periods and methods of accounting
  • Corporate methods of accounting
  • Blended federal income tax
  • Employer credit for paid family and medical leave
  • Farmers and ranchers

More information:
Tax Reform Small Business Initiative

What Every Startup Needs To Know: IP Pitfalls- Poorly Written Or No Agreements- Part Nine

By Debby Winters

Using poorly written agreements or no agreements at all can be a disaster for the startup. Not only is the valuation of a startup based on the IP that it owns, but also on the agreements with IP clauses. Examples are not just limited to things you typically think of as IP agreements but can include employment, consulting, funding, collaboration, settlement, licensing, research, and material transfer agreements. Thus, poorly drafted or non-existent IP-related agreements can be problematic for a startup.

Because of a lack of sufficient funding, many startups attempt to save legal expenses by using template IP-related agreements from a variety of non-professional sources, including the internet. However, such agreements can fail to include clauses that adequately protect the startup’s interest and in many cases, can include clauses that jeopardize a startup’s IP. Thus, when using IP-related agreement templates, the startups should have such agreements at the very least vetted by IP professionals. Startups can also do themselves a disservice by using an attorney who is not familiar with the nuances of IP law.

Many IP-related agreements, particularly research agreements, generally include confidentiality, publication, and IP clauses. The startup should review confidentiality and publication clauses to ensure that confidential information, including trade secret information, is protected from disclosure and that the startup has the right to review manuscripts and other materials containing confidential information before publication. With respect to the IP clauses, the startup should make sure the language allows for retaining its own IP and for protecting jointly developed IP.

Furthermore, with respect to patent license agreements involving a third-party licensor, startups need to make sure that the license agreement provides all the rights needed to commercialize the licensed technology, includes future improvements to the technology, and retains the right to sublicense the technology. The agreement should also have a sufficient termination clause in the event the startup needs to opt-out of the agreement.  The agreement should also specify the relevant field of use and possibly other fields for future expansion. Importantly, the startup should review patents to ensure that the commercialized product materials, methods, and tools are properly claimed with patent life remaining. This should be drafted and reviewed by an experienced IP attorney.

In conclusion to the series of blog posts dealing with common IP pitfalls for a startup, the process of bringing a new startup business to life and in launching new products to the marketplace can be an exciting time. However, many startups are so focused on bringing a new product or service to market that they fail to take the necessary steps to protect the associated IP. Failure to put an IP plan in place can cripple valuation and expose the startup to potential third-party infringement risk. In contrast, startups can protect and exploit their IP assets to build value and revenue by developing an IP plan as part of their conception, creating an action plan to protect IP assets including protection of confidential information, securing ownership rights to the IP, conducting freedom-to-operate searches, and ensuring properly drafted IP-related agreements are in place.

If you need help with your IP or with protecting it, let me know.

Failure To Establish Clear IP Ownership-What Every Startup Needs To Know Part 6

By Debby Winters

In the last blog post we looked at how founders and stakeholders can claim IP. In this post we will examine how independent contractors could try to claim IP rights.

Startups often misconceive that hiring a contractor to create work for a business automatically gives the startup ownership rights of the work.  This is not always true and to ensure that the startup does owns all IP created in all startup-funded work, the startup should have independent contractors enter into an independent contractor agreement that states this is the case. Most often the agreement will contain an assignment clause stating that the independent contractor agrees to assign all inventions and IP to the company.

Additionally, startups frequently use independent contractors to create websites, software, marketing materials and prototypes for instance. Failure to implement written independent contractor or consulting agreements with suitable IP clauses that clearly establish the startup’s ownership rights to the IP prior to commissioning the contracted work can be devastating. This is particularly important if the startup plans to sublicense the work to others, make multiple copies of the work for sale, or hire others to modify the work.

Often the startup will agree to allow use for the consultant’s portfolio or work or other limited engagements. These are items open for negotiation between the startup and the contractor.

All agreements should be in writing and signed by both parties. It should be clearly stated that the startup’s confidential information is only for use for the benefit of the startup; require disclosure of ideas, inventions and discoveries related to the agreement; and include a statement of ownership rights over ideas, inventions and discoveries. Recordable assignment of IP rights should be required to show clear ownership of inventions and other IP developed by its contractors or consultants.

While the approach taken with employees of the startup are similar to these, there are some differences so we will discuss those in the next post.

IRS highlights key business tax topics for continued education on small businesses

In recognition of National Small Business Week, April 29 to May 5, which was a HUGE success, the Internal Revenue Service wants to remind everyone of several resources to help small business owners and self-employed individuals understand and meet their tax obligations. The new tax law changes enacted in December 2017 make it especially important for these groups to know about new provisions affecting them.

These resources includ:

  • A series of news releases on various topics including the sharing economy, home office deduction, cybersecurity and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
  • Tax tips about business provisions under the new tax reform law. Topics include tax law changes to depreciation rules and the employer credit for family and medical leave and how it benefits employers. Tax tips are written in plain language and can be subscribed to using the IRS’s Tax Tips email-subscription program.
  • Information for small businesses is also available through IRS social media channels including tax tips and other resources. Stay informed following the hashtag #IRSsmallbiz and help us spread these messages by sharing the @IRSnews, @IRSTaxPros and @IRSenEspanol tweets.

Other small business resources

The IRS encourages business owners to check out other webinars on the IRS video portal. The portal has presentations on a variety of small business topics. Business owners may also be interested in these sites:

More information

Major tax reform was approved by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) on December 22, 2017. The IRS has been working to implement its provisions and give information and guidance to taxpayers, businesses and the tax community as it becomes available.

National Small Business Week: Remember to Check out these IRS.gov Resources

It is the start of 2018 National Small Business Week-  April 29 through May 5. This is the perfect time for small business owners and the self-employed to check out many online products to help them understand their tax responsibilities.

Here are a few of the products in the spotlight for this year’s National Small Business Week:

  • Sharing Economy Tax Center.  This web page provides fast answers to tax questions and links and forms about the sharing economy. People who are involved in the sharing economy are those who use online platforms to engage in businesses, such as renting a spare bedroom, providing car rides, and providing other goods and services.
  • Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center.  The Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center is a great resource for sole proprietors and others who are in business for themselves. This site has many handy tips and references to tax rules a self-employed person may need to know. Self-employed taxpayers will find information on topics, including how to make quarterly payments and business structures.
  • Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.  This online information center features links to useful tools, including Small Business Taxes: The Virtual Workshop and common IRS forms with instructions. Taxpayers can find help on everything from how to get an Employer Identification Number online to how to engage with the IRS during an audit. A link to the IRS Tax Calendar for Businesses and Self-Employed also provides at-a-glance key tax dates for businesses.