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.

Tax Consequences for Divorcing Business Owners

Tax-Consequences-for-Divorcing-Business-Owners

If you’re getting a divorce, you know the process is generally filled with stress. But if you’re a business owner, tax issues can complicate matters even more. Your business ownership interest is one of your biggest personal assets, and in many cases your marital property will include all or part of it. Keep reading to learn about potential tax consequences for divorcing business owners.

Transferring Property Tax-Free

In general, you can divide most assets, including cash and business ownership interests, between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse without any federal income or gift tax consequences. When an asset falls under this tax-free transfer rule, the spouse who receives the asset takes over its existing tax basis (for tax gain or loss purposes) and its existing holding period (for short-term or long-term holding period purposes).

For example, let’s say that under the terms of your divorce agreement, you give your house to your spouse in exchange for keeping 100 percent of the stock in your business. That asset swap would be tax-free. And the existing basis and holding period for the home and the stock would carry over to the person who receives them.

Tax-free transfers can occur before a divorce or at the time it becomes final. Tax-free treatment also applies to post-divorce transfers as long as they’re made “incident to divorce.” This means transfers that occur within:

  • A year after the date the marriage ends, or
  • Six years after the date the marriage ends if the transfers are made pursuant to your divorce agreement.

Additional Future Issues

Eventually, there will be tax implications for assets received tax-free in a divorce settlement. The ex-spouse who winds up owning an appreciated asset — when the fair market value exceeds the tax basis — generally must recognize taxable gain when it’s sold (unless an exception applies).

What if your ex-spouse receives 49 percent of your highly appreciated small business stock? Thanks to the tax-free transfer rule, there’s no tax impact when the shares are transferred. Your ex will continue to apply the same tax rules as if you had continued to own the shares, including carryover basis and carryover holding period. When your ex-spouse ultimately sells the shares, he or she will owe any capital gains taxes. You will owe nothing.

Note: The person who winds up owning appreciated assets must pay the built-in tax liability that comes with them. From a net-of-tax perspective, appreciated assets are worth less than an equal amount of cash or other assets that haven’t appreciated. That’s why you should always take taxes into account when negotiating your divorce agreement.

In addition, the beneficial tax-free transfer rule is now extended to ordinary-income assets, not just to capital-gains assets. For example, if you transfer business receivables or inventory to your ex-spouse in a divorce, these types of ordinary-income assets can also be transferred tax-free. When the asset is later sold, converted to cash, or exercised (in the case of nonqualified stock options), the person who owns the asset at that time must recognize the income and pay the tax liability.

Avoid Surprises by Planning Ahead

Like many major life events, divorce can have significant tax implications. For example, you may receive an unexpected tax bill if you don’t carefully handle the splitting up of qualified retirement plan accounts, such as a 401(k) plan and IRAs. And if you own a business, the stakes are higher. If you have more questions about tax consequences for divorcing business owners, contact the business tax professionals at Ramsay & Associates. We can help you minimize the adverse tax consequences of settling your divorce.

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.

Tips for Deducting Meal and Auto Expenses

Tips-for-Deducting-Meal-and-Auto-Expenses

If you’re deducting meal and auto expenses for business, there are some things you should know. The IRS will closely review those deductions, so be sure your recordkeeping is accurate. Keep reading to find out about specific cases and to learn more about what to do and what not to do when deducting expenses.

IRS Review

In some instances of expense deductions, taxpayers have incomplete documentation or try to create records months (or years) later. In doing so, they fail to meet the strict substantiation requirements set forth under tax law. Tax auditors are adept at rooting out inconsistencies, omissions, and errors in taxpayers’ records, as illustrated by one recent U.S. Tax Court case.

Vehicle Expenses: Facts of the Case

In this case, a married couple claimed $13,596 in car and truck expenses, supported only by mileage logs that weren’t kept contemporaneously and were made using estimates rather than odometer readings. The court disallowed the entire deduction, stating that “subsequently prepared mileage records do not have the same high degree of credibility as those made at or near the time the vehicle was used and supported by documentary evidence.”

The court noted that it appeared the taxpayers attempted to deduct their commuting costs. However, it stated that “expenses a taxpayer incurs traveling between his or her home and place of business generally constitute commuting expenses, which … are nondeductible.”

A taxpayer isn’t relieved of the obligation to substantiate business mileage, even if he or she opts to use the standard mileage rate (65.5 cents per business mile in 2023), rather than keep track of actual expenses.

The court also ruled the couple wasn’t entitled to deduct $5,233 of travel, meal, and entertainment expenses because they didn’t meet the strict substantiation requirements of the tax code.

Recordkeeping Dos and Don’ts

This case is an example of why it’s critical to maintain meticulous records to support business expenses for vehicle and meal deductions. Here’s a list of “DOs and DON’Ts” to help meet the strict IRS and tax law substantiation requirements for these items:

DO keep detailed, accurate records. For each expense, record the amount, the time and place, the business purpose, and the business relationship of any person to whom you provided a meal. If you have employees whom you reimburse for meals and auto expenses, make sure they’re complying with all the rules.

DON’T reconstruct expense logs at year-end or wait until you receive a notice from the IRS. Take a moment to record the details in a log or diary or on a receipt at the time of the event or soon after. Require employees to submit monthly expense reports.

DO respect the fine line between personal and business expenses. Be careful about combining business and pleasure. Your business checking account shouldn’t be used for personal expenses.

DON’T be surprised if the IRS asks you to prove your deductions. Vehicle and meal expenses are a magnet for attention. Be prepared for a challenge.

We Can Help

With organization and guidance from the business tax professionals at Ramsay & Associates, your tax records can stand up to inspection from the IRS. There may be ways to substantiate deducting meal and auto expenses that you haven’t thought of, and there may be a way to estimate certain deductions (called “the Cohan rule”), if your records are lost due to a fire, theft, flood, or other disaster. Contact us to learn more.

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.

Motivate Employees with Education Benefits

Motivate-Employees-with-Education-Benefits

An education assistance program is a popular fringe benefit that allows employees to continue learning and perhaps earn a degree with financial assistance from their employers. Companies can attract, retain, and motivate employees with education benefits to help team members improve their skills and gain additional knowledge. Keep reading to learn more about some requirements and how an educational assistance program works.

Defining Education

Under a “qualified educational assistance program,” an employee can receive, on a tax-free basis, up to $5,250 each year from his or her employer.

For this purpose, “education” means any form of instruction or training that improves or develops an individual’s capabilities. It doesn’t matter if it’s job-related or part of a degree program. This includes employer-provided education assistance for graduate-level courses, such as those normally taken by individuals pursuing programs leading to a business, medical, law, or other advanced academic or professional degrees.

More Requirements

The educational assistance must be provided under a separate written plan that’s publicized to your employees and must meet a number of conditions, including nondiscrimination requirements. In other words, it can’t discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. In addition, not more than five percent of the amounts paid or incurred by the employer for educational assistance during the year may be provided for individuals (including their spouses or dependents) who own five percent or more of the business.

No deduction or credit can be taken by the employee for any amount excluded from the employee’s income as an education assistance benefit.

Job-Related Education

If you pay more than $5,250 for educational benefits for an employee during the year, he or she must generally pay tax on the amount over $5,250. Your business should include the amount as income in the employee’s wages. However, in addition to, or instead of applying the $5,250 exclusion, an employer can satisfy an employee’s educational expenses on a nontaxable basis, if the educational assistance is job-related. To qualify as job-related, the educational assistance must:

  • Maintain or improve skills required for the employee’s then-current job, or
  • Comply with certain express employer-imposed conditions for continued employment.

“Job-related” employer educational assistance isn’t subject to a dollar limit. To be job-related, the education can’t qualify the employee to meet the minimum educational requirements for qualification in his or her employment or other trade or business.

Educational assistance meeting the above “job-related” rules is excludable from an employee’s income as a working condition fringe benefit.

Recruit with Student Loan Repayment Assistance

In addition to education assistance, some employers offer student loan repayment assistance as a recruitment and retention tool. Starting next year, employers can help more.

Under the SECURE 2.0 law, an employer will be able to make matching contributions to 401(k) and certain other retirement plans with respect to “qualified student loan payments.” The result of this provision is that employees who can’t afford to save money for retirement because they’re repaying student loan debt can still receive matching contributions from their employers. This will take effect in 2024.

Contact Us with Questions

If you want to learn more about how you can motivate employees with education benefits, the knowledgeable professionals at Ramsay & Associates are here for support. We can answer your questions and help set up an education assistance or student loan repayment plan at your business. Contact us today.

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.