Tag Archives: tcja

Heed the lessons of your tax return and check your withholding

Every year’s tax return provides valuable lessons on the optimal amount that taxpayers should have withheld from their paychecks. Heeding these lessons is especially important if you end up owing a substantial amount of money.

Of course, even if you get a nice tax refund, that shouldn’t necessarily be your goal. It essentially means you’re giving the government an interest-free loan. Here’s a primer on why and how to review your withholding and change it, if necessary.

The TCJA’s impact

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the IRS updated the withholding tables that indicate how much employers should hold back from their employees’ paychecks. In general, the amount withheld was reduced. This was done to reflect changes under the TCJA — including the increase in the standard deduction, suspension of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates.

The new tables provided a reasonable amount of tax withholding for some individuals, but they caused other taxpayers to not have enough money withheld to pay their ultimate tax liabilities. Although many people have since adjusted to the TCJA’s impact, the IRS urges taxpayers to review their tax situations annually and adjust their withholding as appropriate.

The agency provides a withholding calculator to assist you. The calculator reflects tax law changes in areas such as available itemized deductions, the increased child credit, the dependent credit and the repeal of dependent exemptions. You can access the IRS calculator at https://bit.ly/2aLxK0A.

Circumstances that trigger change

There are a variety of specific circumstances that should trigger you to check your withholding. For example, if you adjusted your withholding in 2019 — especially in the middle or later part of the year — give it another look. Also, as mentioned, if you got hit by a bigger tax bill than you expected, or received a sizable refund, you may want to make an adjustment.

Certain life changes typically warrant adjusting withholding as well. These include getting married or divorced, having a child or adopting one, buying a home, or incurring notable changes in income.

You can modify your withholding at any time during the year, or even multiple times within a year. To do so, simply submit a new Form W-4 to your employer. Changes typically go into effect several weeks after a new Form W-4 is submitted. (For estimated tax payments, you can make adjustments each time quarterly estimated payments are due. The next payment is due on Monday, June 15.)

We can help

Contact us to discuss your situation and what you can do to remedy any shortfalls to minimize taxes due, as well as any penalties and interest. We can help you sort out whether to adjust your withholding.


Reviewing business meal expenses under today’s tax rules

As the world battles coronavirus (COVID-19), companies aren’t doing much “wining and dining” of customers, prospects, vendors or employees. But someday you will again. With a hopeful eye on the future, let’s review the rules for deducting business meal expenses under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

3 basic rules

Among the biggest changes is that you can no longer deduct most business-related entertainment expenses. The TCJA disallows deductions for entertainment expenses, including those for sports events, theater productions, golf outings and fishing trips.

You can still deduct 50% of the cost of food and beverages for most meals conducted with business associates. However, you need to follow three basic rules in order to prove that your meal expenses are business related:

  1. The expenses must be “ordinary and necessary.” This means your food and beverage costs are customary and appropriate. They shouldn’t be lavish or extravagant.
  2. The expenses must be directly related or associated with your business. This means that you expect to receive a concrete business benefit from them. The principal purpose for the meal must be business. You can’t go out with a group of friends for the evening, discuss business with one of them for a few minutes, and then write off the check.
  3. You must be able to substantiate the expenses. There are requirements for proving that meal and beverage expenses qualify for a deduction. You must be able to establish the amount spent, the date and place where the meals took place, the business purpose and the business relationship of the people involved.

Set up detailed recordkeeping procedures to keep track of business meal costs. That way, you can prove them and the business connection in the event of an IRS audit.

Other considerations

What if you spend money on food and beverages at an entertainment event? The IRS clarified in guidance (Notice 2018-76) that taxpayers can still deduct 50% of food and drink expenses incurred at entertainment events, but only if business was conducted during the event or shortly before or after. The food-and-drink expenses should also be “stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices or receipts,” according to the guidance.

Another related tax law change involves meals provided to employees on the business premises. Before the TCJA, these meals provided to an employee for the convenience of the employer were 100% deductible by the employer. Beginning in 2018, meals provided for the convenience of an employer in an on-premises cafeteria or elsewhere on the business property are only 50% deductible. After 2025, these meals won’t be deductible at all.

More complicated

The treatment of meal and entertainment expenses has become more complicated under the TCJA. We can keep you up to speed on the issues and suggest strategies to save taxes on your business meal bucks.