About Brady Ramsay

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting. His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006. He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

Increase to the Standard Business Mileage Rate

Increase-to-the-Standard-Business-Mileage-Rate

The optional standard mileage rate used to calculate the deductible cost of operating an automobile for business will be going up by 1.5 cents per mile in 2024. The IRS recently announced that the cents-per-mile rate for the business use of a car, van, pickup, or panel truck will be 67 cents (up from 65.5 cents for 2023). Keep reading to learn more about this increase to the standard business mileage rate and what it means for your tax deductions and expenses.

The increased tax deduction partly reflects the price of gasoline, which is about the same as it was a year ago. On December 21, 2023, the national average price of a gallon of regular gas was $3.12, compared with $3.10 a year earlier, according to AAA Gas Prices.

Standard Rate vs. Tracking Expenses

Businesses can generally deduct the actual expenses attributable to business use of vehicles. These include gas, tires, oil, repairs, insurance, licenses, and vehicle registration fees. In addition, you can claim a depreciation allowance for the vehicle. However, in many cases, certain limits apply to depreciation write-offs on vehicles that don’t apply to other types of business assets.

The cents-per-mile rate is helpful if you don’t want to keep track of actual vehicle-related expenses. However, you still must record certain information, such as the mileage for each business trip, the date, and the destination.

The standard rate is also used by businesses that reimburse employees for business use of their personal vehicles. These reimbursements can help attract and retain employees who drive their personal vehicles for business purposes. Why? Under current law, employees can’t deduct unreimbursed employee business expenses, such as business mileage, on their own income tax returns.

If you use the cents-per-mile rate, keep in mind that you must comply with various rules. If you don’t comply, reimbursements to employees could be considered taxable wages to them.

Rate Calculation

The business cents-per-mile rate is adjusted annually. It’s based on an annual study commissioned by the IRS about the fixed and variable costs of operating a vehicle, such as gas, maintenance, repairs, and depreciation. Occasionally, if there’s a substantial change in average gas prices, the IRS will change the rate midyear.

Cents-Per-Mile Rate Not Always Allowed

There are cases when you can’t use the cents-per-mile rate. In some situations, it depends on how you’ve claimed deductions for the same vehicle in the past. In other situations, it hinges on if the vehicle is new to your business this year or whether you want to take advantage of certain first-year depreciation tax breaks on it.

Contact Us with Questions

As you can see, there are many factors to consider in deciding whether to use the standard business mileage rate to deduct company vehicle expenses. If you have questions about tracking and claiming such expenses in 2024 — or claiming 2023 expenses on your 2023 tax return — we can help. Contact the experienced tax professionals at Ramsay & Associates to learn more and get more information as it pertains to your specific situation.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

Company Car Perks and Tax Rules

Company-Car-Perks-and-Tax-Rules

One of the most appreciated fringe benefits for owners and employees of small businesses is the use of a company car. This perk results in tax deductions for the employer as well as tax breaks for the owners and employees driving the cars. (And of course, they enjoy the nontax benefit of using a company car.) Even better, current federal tax rules make the benefit more valuable than it was in the past. Keep reading to learn more about company car perks and tax rules.

Rolling Out the Rules

Let’s look at how the rules work in a typical situation. For example, a corporation decides to supply the owner-employee with a company car. The owner-employee needs the car to visit customers and satellite offices, check on suppliers, and meet with vendors. He or she expects to drive the car 8,500 miles a year for business and also anticipates using the car for about 7,000 miles of personal driving. This includes commuting, running errands, and taking weekend trips. Therefore, the usage of the vehicle will be approximately 55 percent for business and 45 percent for personal purposes. Naturally, the owner-employee wants an attractive car that reflects positively on the business, so the corporation buys a new $57,000 luxury sedan.

The cost for personal use of the vehicle is equal to the tax the owner-employee pays on the fringe benefit value of the 45 percent personal mileage. In contrast, if the owner-employee bought the car to drive the personal miles, he or she would pay out-of-pocket for the entire purchase cost of the car.

Personal use is treated as fringe benefit income. For tax purposes, the corporation treats the car much the same way it would any other business asset, subject to depreciation deduction restrictions if the auto is purchased. Out-of-pocket expenses related to the car (including insurance, gas, oil, and maintenance) are deductible, including the portion that relates to personal use. If the corporation finances the car, the interest it pays on the loan is deductible as a business expense (unless the business is subject to the business interest expense deduction limitation under the tax code).

On the other hand, if the owner-employee buys the auto, he or she isn’t entitled to any deductions. Outlays for the business-related portion of driving are unreimbursed employee business expenses, which are nondeductible from 2018 to 2025 due to the suspension of miscellaneous itemized deductions under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. And if the owner-employee finances the car personally, the interest payments are nondeductible.

One other implication: The purchase of the car by the corporation has no effect on the owner-employee’s credit rating.

Careful Recordkeeping is Essential

Supplying a vehicle for an owner’s or key employee’s business and personal use comes with complications and paperwork. Personal use needs to be tracked and valued under the fringe benefit tax rules and treated as income. This article only explains the basics.

Contact Us with Questions

Despite the necessary valuation and paperwork, a company-provided car is still a valuable fringe benefit for business owners and key employees. It can provide them with the use of a vehicle at a low tax cost while generating tax deductions for their businesses. (You may even be able to transfer the vehicle to the employee when you’re ready to dispose of it, but that involves other tax implications.)

Contact the team at Ramsay & Associates with additional questions surrounding company car perks and tax rules. We can help you stay in compliance with the rules and explain more about this fringe benefit.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

What to Know About Restricted Stock Awards and Taxes

What-to-Know-About-Restricted-Stock-Awards-and-Taxes

Restricted stock awards are a popular way for companies to offer equity-oriented executive compensation. Some businesses offer them instead of stock option awards. The reason: Options can lose most or all their value if the price of the underlying stock takes a dive. But with restricted stock, if the stock price goes down, your company can issue you additional restricted shares to make up the difference. Here, we’ve outlined the essentials of what to know about restricted stock awards and taxes.

Restricted Stock Basics

In a typical restricted stock deal, you receive company stock subject to one or more restrictions. The most common restriction is that you must continue working for the company until a certain date. If you leave before then, you forfeit the restricted shares, which are usually issued at minimal or no cost to you.

To be clear, the restricted shares are transferred to you, but you don’t actually own them without any restrictions until they become vested.

Tax Rules for Share Awards

So, what are the tax implications? You don’t have any taxable income from a restricted share award until the shares become vested — meaning when your ownership is no longer restricted. At that time, you’re deemed to receive taxable compensation income equal to the difference between the value of the shares on the vesting date and the amount you paid for them, if anything. The current federal income tax rate on compensation income can be as high as 37 percent, and you’ll probably owe an additional 3.8 percent net investment income tax (NIIT). You may owe state income tax, too.

Any appreciation after the shares vest is treated as capital gain. So, if you hold the stock for more than one year after the vesting date, you’ll have a lower-taxed, long-term capital gain on any post-vesting-date appreciation. The current maximum federal rate on long-term capital gains is 20 percent, but you may also owe the 3.8 percent NIIT and possibly state income tax.

Special Election to Be Currently Taxed

If you make a special Section 83(b) election, you’ll be taxed at the time you receive your restricted stock award instead of later when the restricted shares vest. The income amount equals the difference between the value of the shares at the time of the restricted stock award and the amount you pay for them, if anything. The income is treated as compensation subject to federal income tax, federal employment taxes, and state income tax, if applicable.

The benefit of making the election is that any subsequent appreciation in the value of the stock is treated as lower-taxed, long-term capital gain if you hold the stock for more than one year. Also, making the election can provide insurance against higher tax rates that might be in place when your restricted shares become vested.

The downside of making the election is that you recognize taxable income in the year you receive the restricted stock award, even though the shares may later be forfeited or decline in value. If you forfeit the shares back to your employer, you can claim a capital loss for the amount you paid for the shares, if anything.

If you opt to make the election, you must notify the IRS either before the restricted stock is transferred to you or within 30 days after that date. We can help you with election details.

Your Important Decision

The rules are fairly straightforward regarding what to know about restricted stock awards and taxes. The major tax planning consideration is deciding whether to make the Section 83(b) election. The trusted team at Ramsay & Associates is here to help. Consult with us before making that choice.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

Claiming Casualty Loss Tax Deductions

Claiming-Casualty-Loss-Tax-Deductions

This year, many Americans have been victimized by wildfires, severe storms, flooding, tornadoes, and other disasters. No matter where you live, unexpected disasters may cause damage to your home or personal property. But claiming a deduction has gotten more complicated. Keep reading to learn the rules for claiming casualty loss tax deductions.

Defining Casualty

What’s considered a casualty for tax purposes? A “casualty” is a sudden, unexpected, or unusual event, such as a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, fire, act of vandalism, or a terrorist attack.

Before the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), eligible casualty loss victims could claim a deduction on their tax returns. But currently, there are restrictions that make these deductions harder to take.

The Rules and Exception

For losses incurred from 2018 through 2025, the TCJA generally eliminates deductions for personal casualty losses, except for losses due to federally declared disasters.

Note: There’s an exception to the general rule of allowing casualty loss deductions only in federally declared disaster areas. If you have personal casualty gains because your insurance proceeds exceed the tax basis of the damaged or destroyed property, you can deduct personal casualty losses that aren’t due to a federally declared disaster up to the amount of your personal casualty gains.

Claim a Refund with a Special Election

If your casualty loss is due to a federally declared disaster, a special election allows you to deduct the loss on your tax return for the preceding year and claim a refund. If you’ve already filed your return for the preceding year, you can file an amended return to make the election and claim the deduction in the earlier year. This can potentially help you get extra cash when you need it.

This election must be made no later than six months after the due date (without considering extensions) for filing your tax return for the year in which the disaster occurs. However, the election itself must be made on an original or amended return for the preceding year.

Calculating the Casualty Loss Deduction

You must take the following three steps to calculate the casualty loss deduction for personal-use property in an area declared a federal disaster:

  1. Subtract any insurance proceeds.
  2. Subtract $100 per casualty event.
  3. Combine the results from the first two steps and then subtract 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year you claim the loss deduction.

Important: Another factor that makes it harder to claim a casualty loss than it was years ago is that you must itemize deductions to claim one. Through 2025, fewer people will itemize because the TCJA significantly increased the standard deduction amounts. For 2023, they’re $13,850 for single filers, $20,800 for heads of households, and $27,700 for married joint-filing couples. So, even if you qualify for a casualty deduction, you might not get any tax benefit because you don’t have enough itemized deductions.

Lawmakers Debating the Issue

Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington introduced a bill that would make the deduction available to more taxpayers. The proposed Casualty Loss Deduction Restoration Act would reinstate the deduction to all taxpayers with a casualty loss — not just those located in a federal disaster declaration area. Passage of the bill is uncertain at this time.

We Can Help

When it comes to claiming casualty loss tax deductions, the rules described here are for personal property. Keep in mind that the rules for business or income-producing property are different and other rules may apply. As it happens, it’s easier to get a deduction for a business property casualty loss. If you’re a victim of a disaster, contact us. The knowledgeable team at Ramsay & Associates can help you understand the complex tax deduction rules.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.

Structuring Payable-on-Death Accounts with Your Estate Plan

Structuring-Payable-on-Death-Accounts-with-Your-Estate-Plan

Payable-on-death (POD) accounts can provide a quick, simple, and inexpensive way to transfer assets outside of probate. However, some account designations may conflict with plans you already have in place. Keep reading to know what to look for — and what to avoid — when structuring payable-on-death accounts with your estate plan

Setting Up POD Accounts

POD accounts can be used for bank accounts, certificates of deposit, and even brokerage accounts. Setting one up is as easy as providing the bank with a signed POD beneficiary designation form. When you die, your beneficiaries simply need to present a certified copy of the death certificate and their identification to the bank, and the money or securities will be theirs.

Beware of Potential Pitfalls

Be aware, however, that POD accounts can backfire if they’re not coordinated carefully with the rest of your estate plan. Too often, people designate an account as POD as an afterthought without considering whether it may conflict with their wills, trusts, or other estate planning documents.

Suppose, for example, that Shannon dies with a will that divides her property equally among her three children. She also has a $50,000 bank account that’s payable on death to her oldest child. The conflict between the will and POD designation may have to be resolved in court, which will delay distribution of her estate and generate substantial attorneys’ fees.

Another potential problem with POD accounts is that if you use them for most of your assets, the assets left in your estate may be insufficient to pay debts, taxes, or other expenses. Your executor would then have to initiate a proceeding to bring assets back into the estate.

POD accounts are often used to hold a modest amount of funds that are available immediately to your executor or other representative to pay funeral expenses, bills, and other pressing cash needs while your estate is being administered. Using these accounts for more substantial assets may lead to intrafamily disputes or costly litigation.

Rely on Your Advisor

Structuring payable-on-death accounts with your estate plan can be tricky if you’re unsure of what to look for. If you use POD accounts as part of your estate plan, be sure to review the rest of your plan carefully to avoid potential conflicts. Contact the trusted professionals at Ramsay & Associates with any questions you have regarding coordinating the use of POD accounts with your estate plan. We’re always here to help.

About the author

Brady is the owner of Ramsay & Associates. He specializes in financial statement preparation and personal, fiduciary and corporate tax and accounting.

His professional experience includes seven years' experience for local and national CPA firms before joining Ramsay & Associates in 2006.

He has a Bachelor of Accounting degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He is a Certified Public Accountant, a member of the Minnesota Society of CPA's, an Eagle Scout, as well as an active volunteer in the community.