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The Problems Faced Between You and Your Current CPA This Past Tax Season

Once the corporate, individual and foundation tax reporting season is complete, there’s always an opportunity to evaluate and reassess the taxpayer’s level of satisfaction with their CPA relationship. Lack of communication, unwanted tax return extensions, incorrectly prepared Schedule K-1’s, and inability to accurately apply the qualified TCJA reform benefits  are just a few of the many frustrations that may have been experienced this past tax season.

Situations can arise in a taxpayer-CPA relationship which makes a taxpayer to question whether or not their current accounting firm is the right fit for them.  Small to mid sized closely held companies and family business owners may feel as though they have outgrown their small practice CPA or might feel under served by their larger accounting firm.  Some of the common situations where Wright Ford Young is referred into a new client relationship have been:

  • Delayed responses from their current CPA or lack of follow up communication that caused their tax returns to be unnecessarily extended.
  • Excessive turnover of accounting firm staff that caused the need for re-training and more work to be completed by company employees.
  • Need for new growth capital, loan or line of credit that requires a company’s financial statements to be audited, reviewed or compiled for the first time.
  • When a company’s employee benefit plan exceeds 100 participants for the first time, thus requiring a qualified ERISA auditor to audit the plan (i.e. 401(k)).
  • When a business owner considers a liquidity event, yet doesn’t want to fully exit the business, the consideration of structuring a tax-friendly ESOP is warranted.
  • The need for a family business owner to take advantage of the new tax strategies relating to personal estate and trust planning.
  • Anytime a company financial leader or family business owner no longer sees a true correlation between the accounting fee they pay and the value of service they receive.

If you are a small to mid-sized company or family business owner who is dissatisfied with your current accounting firm, please contact Wright Ford Young to schedule a no-obligation conversation with one of our audit, tax, or estates and trusts planning specialists.

Spend some time getting to know us and you’ll see how you can achieve compliance without feeling like a number in a “check the box” environment.

Learn how a proactive year-round tax strategy can serve as a valuable improvement vehicle to your profitability, not just a tax time expense.

Understand why estate planning is critical to maximizing your wealth preservation while you are still able to fully enjoy life with your family, not after.

See how our partners and staff are hands-on and better equipped to respond to individual requests from all our clients and not shielded with layers of staff, and realize a true correlation between the fee you pay and the value of service you actually receive.

Big Changes in Social Security and Retirement Plans for 2018

From 401(k) plans to individual retirement accounts to Social Security, the federal government has been busy in recent weeks adjusting numbers for 2018. Whether you’re an employee or business owner, senior management or nonexempt staff, these changes may affect how you approach retirement in the coming months and years.

Social Security: New ceilings

First, let’s start with what is not changing. The 7.65 percent Social Security deduction remains the same. And as before, it’s doubled to 15.30 percent for the self-employed.

However, the maximum earnings subject to Social Security rises from $127,200 to $128,700, a $1,500 increase. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates that this change means 12 million more workers will be paying more Social Security tax than before. The 1.45 percent Medicare portion, which has no ceiling, remains unchanged.

Those who are working while collecting Social Security catch a small break: The SSA is raising slightly the amount people can earn before losing a portion of Social Security benefits. The new amounts are $10 or $40 a month, depending on the recipient’s status.

Another significant change is to the maximum Social Security benefit for those retiring at full retirement age, which changes from $2,687/month to $2,788/month, a $101 increase. More details are available on the Social Security site.

Retirement plan limits rise

Workers who can afford to do so can put away a little more for retirement: The limit for 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $18,000 to $18,500.

It’s a little more complicated for those contributing to IRAs:

  • For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $63,000 to $73,000, up from $62,000 to $72,000.
  • For married couples filing jointly, where the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $101,000 to $121,000, up from $99,000 to $119,000.
  • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s income is between $189,000 and $199,000, up from $186,000 and $196,000.
  • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Roth IRA contributors also get a bump up: The income phase-out range is $120,000 to $135,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $118,000 to $133,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $189,000 to $199,000, up from $186,000 to $196,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.

Some IRA numbers are not changing, however:

  • The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains $5,500. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals age 50 and over remains $1,000.
  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees age 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,000.

These are just summaries of complex rules. Be sure to give us a call or email a WFY advisor at info@cpa-wfy.com so we can explain how these changes may affect your situation.

© Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

The Pros and Cons of Becoming an ESOP

An ESOP is not the only way for employees to own a company, but it is by far the most common. Although the concept was almost unknown until 1974, by 2014, about 7,000 companies had ESOPs covering 13.5 million employees, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership, a nonprofit membership group that provides information and research on ESOPs.

An ESOP can work in a variety of ways. Employees can buy stock directly, be offered it as a bonus, receive stock options or obtain stock through a profit-sharing plan. Some employees become owners through worker cooperatives in which every staffer has an equal vote.

Many have the impression that ESOPs are just a last resort for troubled companies, but only a handful of ESOPs are set up for this purpose. They are most commonly used to provide a market for the shares of departing owners of successful closely held firms. Their purpose? To motivate and reward employees or to take advantage of incentives to borrow money for acquiring new assets in pretax dollars. In almost every case, ESOPs are a contribution to employees rather than an employee purchase.

Getting to the details

ESOPs are a kind of employee benefit plan, similar in some ways to a profit-sharing plan. In an ESOP, a company sets up a trust fund. Then, the firm contributes new shares of its own stock or cash to buy existing shares. The ESOP can borrow money to buy new or existing shares as the firm makes cash contributions to the plan, enabling it to repay the loan. So no matter how the plan acquires stock, company contributions to the trust are tax-deductible, within certain limits.

Shares in the trust are allocated to individual employee accounts. Although there are some exceptions, generally all full-time employees who are at least 21 participate in the plan. Allocations can be made based on pay. As employees accumulate seniority in the company, they acquire an increasing right to the shares in their accounts — known as vesting — but employees must be 100 percent vested in three to six years, whether vesting happens (by virtue of the plan rules) all at once or gradually.

When employees leave the company, they receive their stock — and then the company buys it back from them at fair market value unless there is a public market for the shares. In private firms, employees must be able to vote their allocated shares on major issues such as whether the firm should close or relocate. In public companies, employees must be able to vote regarding all issues.

Here are some of the tax benefits of ESOPs:

  • Contributions of stock are tax-deductible.
  • Cash contributions are deductible.
  • Contributions used to repay a loan the ESOP takes out to buy company shares are tax-deductible. ESOP financing is accomplished with pretax dollars.
  • Sellers of C corporations can get a tax deferral. Once an ESOP owns 30 percent of all the shares in the company, the seller can reinvest the proceeds in other securities and defer any tax on the gains.
  • In S corporations, the percentage of ownership held by the ESOP isn’t subject to income tax at the federal level, and often not at the state level either.
  • Dividends are tax-deductible.
  • Employees pay no tax on contributions to the ESOP, only on distributions of their accounts, and then at potentially favorable rates.

But there also are limits and drawbacks such as:

  • ESOPs are not allowed in partnerships or most professional corporations.
  • ESOPs can be used in S corporations, but don’t qualify for rollovers and have lower contribution limits.
  • Private companies must repurchase the shares of any departing employees, and this can become a major expense.

ESOPs can improve your company’s performance, but only if they are combined with opportunities for employees to participate in decisions affecting their work.

These are the basics. Provisions can be complicated and there are exceptions. You should work with a qualified professional to set one up and learn the details in advance. Give us a call or email a WFY advisor at info@cpa-wfy.com if you are interested in learning more about ESOP and for referral of specialist ESOP advisory firms.

© Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.