Business Feed

Manhattan businessmen meet over lunch. (Photo by Phillip Capper via Flickr Creative Commons) The way to a business contract is through a client's stomach. That revised adage underscores what every business person, whether they run a major corporation or a mom-and-pop company, knows: that personal relationships are key to success. And much of the time, those relationships are cemented over business meals. Business meals still tax deductible: The Internal Revenue Service this week gave business a break — or really left a tax break in place — when it comes to deducting the cost of business meals. The tax agency... Read more →


Another lingering tax deduction concern created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is finally clearer. The Internal Revenue Service says that half the cost of business meals is still tax deductible as an allowable work-related expense. That's what the pre-TCJA tax law said. But because the Republican tax reform bill was cobbled together so hurriedly at the end of 2017, its legislative language left many confused. And the new law's interpretation created a division among tax professionals (and semantics geeks) as to what exactly is entertainment. Meals or entertainment vs. meals and entertainment: A great number of tax... Read more →


My octogenarian mother does an amazing job of taking care of herself and her little dog, aka my furry younger brother. My mother and her pup come to our place, like the Thanksgiving visit pictured here, but usually it's me taking time from work to head her way. (Photo by Kay Bell) But since she no longer drives and hates to impose on friends and neighbors, I make regular trips to her place to help her run errands, take her to doctor appointments and just visit. It's not too much of a hassle because she lives relatively close and it's... Read more →


One thing almost everyone agrees on, both politically and financially, is that we all need to do a better job of saving for retirement. But some young savers are undercutting their own efforts by regularly tapping their workplace retirement accounts early. As part of Labor Day celebrations, Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that, in part, instructed the Treasury and Labor departments to look into ways to make it easier and cheaper for smaller employers to band together to offer 401(k)-type plans for their workers. Expanding these tax-deferred workplace retirement plans is a good idea. With the demise of... Read more →


I know it's a little late for all the business owners in North and South Carolina who better already be on the road or heading out soon to get out of Hurricane Florence's reach. Mea culpa. But for the next time — and there will be a next time — here are some ways to get your business ready for any disaster. Most of these are best practices that tax professionals and other companies already follow, but just in case you're worried you forgot something in your rush to get things done and get out, here's a quick checklist. 1.... Read more →


UPDATE , Oct. 1, 2018: The House has signed off on its three Tax Reform 2.0 bills to extend the individual provisions of 2017's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Senate, however, is not so keen on the measures. Additional Senate tax action this year looks doubtful as the Upper Chamber focuses on other year-end priorities. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act expanded the use of 529 education savings plans to cover elementary and secondary school costs. One of the House's Tax Reform 2.0 bills would also make 529 money available to pay some home-schooling expenses. (Photo by Chris Yarzab... Read more →


The hubby works on what he calls the Law of Two. Basically, he says, it takes (at least) two tries to get anything done properly. I thought of his unofficial law as I read the Internal Revenue Service's clarification of one of its earlier clarifications. Tax geeks already know I'm talking about the IRS and Treasury declaration a couple of weeks ago regarding state tax credit programs tied to taxpayer deduction of state and local taxes, referred to as SALT. Less tax to deduct: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limits the itemized SALT deduction, which includes individual payments of... Read more →


Tourists still love Disney's original castle at its flagship theme park in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Tuxyso via Wikipedia Commons) Most major corporations want cities and states to provide them massive tax breaks to move to or keep their operations in a specific place. Just look at Amazon, which is expected to soon announce the home of its new tax incentive laden second headquarters. The House of Mouse, however, is taking a different approach. This week the Anaheim City Council voted to end agreements with Disney that provide tax breaks for the original Disneyland theme park, Disney California Adventure and... Read more →


Sunsets like this one at Zuma Beach in Malibu, California, make many Golden State coastal properties prime rental investments. But Golden State limits on property taxes on inherited homes cost cities and other jurisdictions billions of dollars. (Photo by Alex Beattie via Flickr CC) Californians love Proposition 13, the grandfather of tax-limiting ballot initiatives. Since its passage in 1978, it has kept a tight cap on property tax increases. But an expansion of the original Prop 13, enacted eight years later, and its unforeseen consequences have cost Golden State school districts, cities and counties of billions of dollars in revenue,... Read more →


Amazon makes money hand-over-fist year after year and that has propelled founder Jeff Bezos to the top of myriad "richest person" lists. But a portion of its success also can be attributed to the billions his company has received in state and local tax subsidies over the years. And that tally will balloon when eventual HQ2 tax subsidies are included. Even at Google in San Francisco, Amazon packages dominate the delivery cart. (Photo by moppet65535 via Flickr CC) Amazon has been promised or received almost $1.6 billion in subsidies from state and local governments over the last 18 years. And... Read more →


Click screenshot to watch Boston CBS affiliate WBZ's report on this weekend's just-enacted Massachusetts Sales Tax Holiday. Massachusetts has had a difficult relationship with the sales tax holiday concept. Over the years the Bay State's lawmakers have struggled with the need to retain as much tax revenue as possible versus giving residents (and possible voters) a brief break from taxes on some of their purchases. The even has been regularly approved one year, only to be dropped the next, with lawmakers often deciding to hold a tax holiday at the very last minute. That's the case this year. For the... Read more →


Congressional Republicans are still fleshing out additional tax law changes, dubbed Tax Reform 2.0, that they hope to enact later this year. As for the first round of tax laws embodied in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), taxpayers, tax pros, many lawmakers and even the Internal Revenue Service are still sorting exactly what the tax code changes mean. Big and small biz tax breaks: The latest example is the Section 199A deduction. This 20 percent deduction for certain qualified business income ostensibly was created to give certain small businesses, known as pass-through entities, the same type of tax... Read more →


If you've been thinking since the enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) about devising a way to do your current job as an independent contractor instead of as an employee, think again. The Treasury Department today dashed many such tax-driven work-related dreams. Treasury issued (finally!) proposed regulations on the new Section 199A deduction that it says will prevent employees from improperly reclassifying themselves as independent contractors. Lower tax on self-employment income: That work recharacterization seemed appealing in the immediate aftermath of the new tax law. Amid all that was included in the hastily written TCJA, it was... Read more →


Your tax responsibilities as a freelancer can be a hassle, but at least they mean you're making money via your self-employment venture. But what about those clients who ignore your invoices? Here are some ways to deal with problematic payers. You've done your research — including checking into all the new entrepreneurial tax tasks you'll have to handle — and decided, yes, freelancing is the way you want to go. Welcome to my world! Overall, I highly recommend the self-employed life that involves a variety of clients. Even when you specialize like I do, you still get an interesting array... Read more →


Freelancing means more flexibility, such as where to work and the option to wear more comfortable attire. It also means you have some new tax responsibilities. (Photo by Lulu Hoeller via Flickr) The gig economy in the United States is growing at a phenomenal rate that shows no signs of slowing down. That's the analysis of BMO Wealth Management. A recent survey commissioned by the international wealth management company found that gigs — defined as jobs of short or uncertain duration — are the new normal. BMO's findings appear to support Upwork's annual Freelancing in America study, which was released... Read more →


July is almost over. The first day of school is just around the corner. And on this final July weekend (or at least part of it), some southern shoppers will be out in force as Mississippi and Tennessee hold their annual sales tax holidays. Regular readers know that these two states' events are included in my earlier overall look at this summer's back-to-school tax holidays. But since these are the final no-tax shopping appetizers before a buffet of a dozen other such events in August, they get a bit of a spotlight. Same start, different endings: Both start at 12:01... Read more →


Republicans unveiled their outline for additional tax changes on July 24 and it's just that. A bare bones framework. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) acknowledged the skimpy structure. That was by design, he said, with the outline to serve as a starting point for his GOP colleagues to offer feedback. Yes, he said Republican feedback. As with the original Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that was enacted last December, Democrats were excluded from the legislative writing process. Once things are fleshed out, Brady said he expects a Tax Reform 2.0 bill to go before the... Read more →


Rep. Bob Goodlatte opens the hearing on what Congress should do about interstate sales taxes and remote sellers in the wake of the Supreme Court decision that upended prior standards. (House Judiciary hearing video screenshot) If you thought the interstate collection of sales taxes from remote sellers was going to get easier following the recent high court ruling on the matter, think again. Now Congress is getting involved. Again. And if you thought any decision on how federal lawmakers should address the thorny issue of taxes and interstate commerce would be easy, think, yes, again. Long and winding remote sales... Read more →


An historic interplanetary business trip 49 years ago prompted an astronaut to submit some travel expenses to his NASA bosses. Such claims still happen every day for more Earth-bound business travelers, but a tax break for unreimbursed work-related expenses is gone. Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on Earth's Moon, photographs the lunar module at Tranquility Base on July 20, 1969. (Photo courtesy the National Aeronautics and Space Administration/NASA) On a hot July afternoon 39 years ago today, my brother and I were ordered to come in from our play in the West Texas sun so that we could... Read more →


UPDATED to include the Massachusetts' sales tax holiday that was enacted Aug. 10, just in advance of that Bay State's Aug. 11-12 tax-free event. The annual sales-tax-free events generally billed as back-to-school tax holidays kick off the 2018 summer shopping season this week. There are 17 this year, three in July and 14 in August. Yes, kiddos, your summer holiday is winding down. Parents and school officials are getting ready for the resumption of classes in, for some jurisdictions, just six short weeks. That also means that it's time for back-to-school sales tax holidays. These annual events offer shoppers a... Read more →