Do you have investments outside of tax-advantaged retirement plans? If so, you might still have time to shrink your 2018 tax bill by selling some investments — you just need to carefully select which ones you sell.

Try Balancing Gains and Losses
If you’ve sold investments at a gain this year, consider selling some losing investments to absorb the gains. This is commonly referred to as “harvesting” losses.

If, however, you’ve sold investments at a loss this year, consider selling other investments in your portfolio that have appreciated, to the extent the gains will be absorbed by the losses. If you believe those appreciated investments have peaked in value, essentially you’ll lock in the peak value and avoid tax on your gains.

Review Your Potential Tax Rates
At the federal level, long-term capital gains (on investments held more than one year) are taxed at lower rates than short-term capital gains (on investments held one year or less). The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) retains the 0%, 15% and 20% rates on long-term capital gains. But, for 2018 through 2025, these rates have their own brackets, instead of aligning with various ordinary-income brackets.

For example, these are the thresholds for the top long-term gains rate for 2018:

  • Singles: $425,800
  • Heads of households: $452,400
  • Married couples filing jointly: $479,000

But the top ordinary-income rate of 37%, which also applies to short-term capital gains, doesn’t go into effect until income exceeds $500,000 for singles and heads of households or $600,000 for joint filers. The TCJA also retains the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT) and its $200,000 and $250,000 thresholds.

Don’t Forget the Netting Rules
Before selling investments, consider the netting rules for gains and losses, which depend on whether gains and losses are long term or short term. To determine your net gain or loss for the year, long-term capital losses offset long-term capital gains before they offset short-term capital gains. In the same way, short-term capital losses offset short-term capital gains before they offset long-term capital gains.

You may use up to $3,000 of total capital losses in excess of total capital gains as a deduction against ordinary income in computing your adjusted gross income. Any remaining net losses are carried forward to future years.

Time is Running Out
By reviewing your investment activity year-to-date and selling certain investments by year end, you may be able to substantially reduce your 2018 taxes. But act soon, because time is running out.

Keep in mind that tax considerations shouldn’t drive your investment decisions. You also need to consider other factors, such as your risk tolerance and investment goals.

Churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious congregations aren’t required to file tax returns, so they might not regularly hire independent accountants. But regardless of size, religious organizations often are subject to other requirements, such as paying unrelated business income tax (UBIT) and properly classifying employees.

Without the oversight of tax authorities or outside accountants, religious leaders may not be aware of all requirements to which they’re subject. This can leave their organizations vulnerable to fraud and its trustees and employees subject to liabilities.

Common Vulnerabilities
To effectively prevent financial and other critical mistakes, make sure your religious congregation complies with IRS rules and federal and state laws. In particular, pay attention to:

  • Employee classification. Determine which workers in your organization are full-time employees and which are independent contractors. Depending on many factors, such as the amount of control your organization has over them, their responsibilities, and their form of compensation, individuals you consider independent contractors may need to be reclassified as employees.
  • Clergy wages. Most clergy should be treated as employees and receive W-2 forms. Typically, they’re exempt from Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes and federal withholding but are subject to self-employment tax on wages. A parsonage (or rental) allowance can reduce income tax, but not self-employment tax.
  • UBIT. If your organization regularly engages in any type of business activity that’s unrelated to its religious mission, be aware of certain tax and reporting rules. Income from such activities could be subject to UBIT.
  • Lobbying. Your organization shouldn’t devote a substantial part of its activities in attempting to influence legislation. Otherwise you might risk your tax-exempt status and face potential penalties.

Trust and Protect
Faith groups can be particularly vulnerable to fraud because they generally foster an environment of trust. Also, their leaders may be reluctant to punish offenders. Just keep in mind that even the most devout and long-standing members of your congregation are capable of embezzlement when faced with extreme circumstances.

To ensure employees and volunteers can’t help themselves to collections, require that at least two people handle all contributions. They should count cash in a secure area and verify the contents of offering envelopes. Next, they should document their collection activity in a signed report. For greater security, encourage your members to make electronic payments on your website or sign up for automatic bank account deductions.

Seek Expertise
Although your religious congregations are subject to less IRS scrutiny than even your fellow not-for-profit organizations, that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore financial best practices. Contact your advisors for guidance.

With the dawn of 2019 on the near horizon, here’s a quick list of tax and financial to-dos you should address before 2018 ends.

Check your FSA balance. If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) for health care expenses, you need to incur qualifying expenses by December 31 to use up these funds or you’ll potentially lose them. (Some plans allow you to carry over up to $500 to the following year or give you a 2½-month grace period to incur qualifying expenses.) Use expiring FSA funds to pay for eyeglasses, dental work or eligible drugs or health products.

Max out tax-advantaged savings. Reduce your 2018 income by contributing to traditional IRAs, employer-sponsored retirement plans or Health Savings Accounts to the extent you’re eligible. (Certain vehicles, including traditional and SEP IRAs, allow you to deduct contributions on your 2018 return if they’re made by April 15, 2019.)

Take RMDs. If you’ve reached age 70½, you generally must take required minimum distributions (RMDs) from IRAs or qualified employer-sponsored retirement plans before the end of the year to avoid a 50% penalty. If you turned 70½ this year, you have until April 1, 2019, to take your first RMD. But keep in mind that, if you defer your first distribution, you’ll have to take two next year.

Consider a QCD. If you’re 70½ or older and charitably inclined, a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) allows you to transfer up to $100,000 tax-free directly from your IRA to a qualified charity and to apply the amount toward your RMD. This is a big advantage if you wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a charitable deduction (because you don’t itemize, for example).

Use it or lose it. Make the most of annual limits that don’t carry over from year to year, even if doing so won’t provide an income tax deduction. For example, if gift and estate taxes are a concern, make annual exclusion gifts up to $15,000 per recipient. If you have a Coverdell Education Savings Account, contribute the maximum amount you’re allowed.

Contribute to a Sec. 529 plan. Sec. 529 prepaid tuition or college savings plans aren’t subject to federal annual contribution limits and don’t provide a federal income tax deduction. But contributions may entitle you to a state income tax deduction (depending on your state and plan).

Review withholding. The IRS cautions that people with more complex tax situations face the possibility of having their income taxes underwithheld due to changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Use its withholding calculator (available at irs.gov) to review your situation. If it looks like you could face underpayment penalties, increase withholdings from your or your spouse’s wages for the remainder of the year. (Withholdings, unlike estimated tax payments, are treated as if they were paid evenly over the year.)

Jen: This is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook. I’m Jen Lemanski, and I’m here again with Ryan Istre, one of our audit directors here at PKF Texas. Ryan, welcome back to the Playbook.

Ryan: Thanks for having me, Jen.

Jen: So, how has the process of the PCAOB inspections of auditors of broker dealers impacted us and what we’re doing with our broker dealer clients?

Ryan: That’s a good question. About four years ago, the PCAOB began inspecting auditors of broker dealers. What that means for us is that there’s a new level of rules that we have to play by, however, if you were a client of ours, you would probably not even know the difference. Over all of the previous years that we’ve been doing audits, we’ve been under inspections for AICPA rules, PCAOB rules and various other organizations that ensure our audit quality is up to par. So, from a client’s perspective, you probably wouldn’t even notice a difference.

Jen: So, has anything changed at all then?

Ryan: There are a few changes that have happened. With the PCAOB being the official body over this inspection process for broker dealers, one of the rules has been changed recently is that there’s a concept of what’s called an “engagement quality reviewer.” That is not the lead partner on an engagement, but it’s the second partner to ensure quality control. The PCAOB rules specifically disallow partners who’ve participated in the previous two engagements as the lead partner from turning into that engagement quality reviewer. So, that basically allows for new sets of eyes to happen with regard to the quality controls over the audit.

Jen: So, does any other information come out of the PCAOB’s inspection process?

Ryan: There’s been some good information that’s come out of it. PCAOB is in what they consider their interim inspection period right now. So, while they’re not posting auditor-specific reports as they do with their normal public companies, they’re going to be posting general guidance around what they’ve learned from the inspection process. Unfortunately, there’s been several deficiencies that they’ve found in their audit inspection process – probably higher than I’d like to let onto – but it’s going to be a good thing, because a lot of the infractions that they’ve noticed probably were fairly minor. But there have been some that have been more serious, such as independence infractions and partner rotation rules for some of the smaller firms that may not have been super familiar with the PCAOB’s rules.

Jen: Well, good. And I know our audit team really sticks on to those PCAOB rules.

Ryan: Absolutely. You have to, you have to.

Jen: Perfect. Well, we’ll get you back to talk a little bit more.

Ryan: Yep, sounds good.

Jen: Thank you. This has been another Thought Leader production brought to you by PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook. Tune in next week for another chapter.

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2019. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact your advisors to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

January 31

  • File 2018 Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement,” with the Social Security Administration and provide copies to your employees.
  • Provide copies of 2018 Forms 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Income,” to recipients of income from your business where required.
  • File 2018 Forms 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation payments in Box 7 with the IRS.
  • File Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return,” for 2018. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it’s more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return.
  • File Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return,” to report Medicare, Social Security and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2018. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return. (Employers that have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944,“Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return.”)
  • File Form 945, “Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax,” for 2018 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on accounts such as pensions, annuities and IRAs. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 11 to file the return.

February 28

  • File 2018 Forms 1099-MISC with the IRS if 1) they’re not required to be filed earlier and 2) you’re filing paper copies. (Otherwise, the filing deadline is April 1.)

March 15

  • If a calendar-year partnership or S corporation, file or extend your 2018 tax return and pay any tax due. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2018 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans.

Communication breakdowns between a not-for-profit’s accounting and development departments can lead to confusion, embarrassment and even financial problems. Here are three ways your organization can facilitate cooperation between these two critical functions.

1. Recognize Differences
Accounting and development typically record their financial information differently, which is why they can produce numbers that vary but nonetheless are both correct. Development may use a cash basis of accounting, while accounting records contributions, grants, donations and pledges in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Let’s say a donor makes a payment in March 2018 on a pledge made in December 2017. The development department will enter the amount of the payment as a receipt in its donor database in March. But accounting will record the payment against the pledge receivable that was recorded as revenue when the pledge was made in December. Receipt of the check won’t result in any new revenue in March because the accounting department recorded the revenue in December. Both departments’ figures for March 2018 (and for December 2017) will be accurate, but they’ll disagree with each other.

2. Establish Policies and Procedures
Your not-for-profit should try to reconcile its accounting and development schedules at least monthly. It also needs clear protocols for communicating important activity — or both departments, and your organization, could experience negative consequences.

If, for example, development fails to inform accounting about grants on a timely basis, the latter won’t be aware of the grants’ financial reporting requirements and could forfeit funds for noncompliance. If the accounting department doesn’t record grants or pledges in the proper financial period according to GAAP, your organization could run into significant issues during an audit, which could jeopardize funding.

3. Require Regular Communication
Schedule meetings so that accounting representatives can educate development staff about the information it needs, when it needs it and the consequences of not receiving that information. For its part, development should provide accounting with ample notice about prospective activity such as pending grant applications and proposed capital campaigns.

Development should also present status reports on different types of giving, including gifts, grants and pledges. This is especially important for those items received in multiple payments, because accounting may need to discount them when recording them on the financial statements.

Two-way Road
The activities of your accounting and development departments directly affect each other, so careful coordination is essential.

Under the amendments in Accounting Standards Update 2018-17, a private company will be able to elect not to apply Variable Interest Entities (VIE) guidance to legal entities under common control (including common control leasing arrangements) if both the parent and the legal entity being evaluated for consolidation are not public business entities, simply by adopting a new accounting policy election – all current and future legal entities under common control will have to follow the same practices.

There will still be a need to provide detailed disclosures about a company’s involvement with and exposure to the legal entity under common control.

By adopting this guidance, private companies will have the same result as the previous alternative not to apply VIE guidance under common control leasing arrangements with all other legal entities under common control.

This accounting alternative is expected to provide more useful and meaningful information to the users of private company financial statements – as many of the stakeholders aren’t necessarily concerned with common control entities.

For entities other than private companies, the amendments in this Update are effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2019 and interim periods within those fiscal years. The amendments in this Update are effective for a private company for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2020 and interim periods within fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2021. All entities are required to apply the amendments in this Update retrospectively with a cumulative-effect adjustment to retained earnings at the beginning of the earliest period presented. Early adoption is permitted.

Click here for additional details on Accounting Standards Update 2018-17.

For more information, visit www.fasb.org.

Jen: This is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook. I’m Jen Lemanski, and I’m back with Ryan Istre, an Audit Director and a member of the PKF Texas SEC team. Ryan, welcome back to the Playbook.

Ryan: Thanks for having me, Jen.

Jen: So, I’ve heard that the SEC has made some amendments about the definition of a smaller reporting company. What do these companies need to know?

Ryan: The SEC is in process of expanding the definition of what a small reporting company is. The way a public company determines whether it’s a smaller reporting company is at June 30th of each year, it has to calculate its public float. Public float means how many common shares does the company have outstanding multiplied by the trading price of the shares on that date. Historically $75 million was the cutoff, so if a company’s public float was less than $75 million, it was considered a smaller reporting company. So, the changes that the SEC has made has increased the amount of public float to $250 million, so a lot more companies are going to fall under the definition of a smaller reporting company.

Jen: So, if they’re not actively traded, what if there’s no public float? How do they determine that?

Ryan: That’s a good question. The SEC has also included in the definition of a smaller company a smaller reporting company with no public float annual revenues less than $100 million.

Jen: Okay. Are there any benefits to this to smaller reporting companies?

Ryan: Definitely. In normal public company filings for accelerated filers, you have to include three years of historical financial statement – two years of balance sheets, three years of income statements. And in smaller reporting company rules, you only have to include two years of historical income statements. That doesn’t sound like a lot that they’re dropping off from the requirements, however, in each of the financial statement footnotes and all of the sections of the NDNA, for example, anything under 10 K, because of the amount of disclosures necessary for public companies, dropping off an entire year is actually…

Jen: That’s huge.

Ryan: Definitely, definitely. It’s a big help. The SEC staff actually assumed that about 960 filers will be able to benefit from these expanded rules of smaller reporting companies.

Jen: That’s great. We’ll get you back to talk about it a little bit more.

Ryan: Sure.

Jen: Thank you. For more about this topic, visit PKFTexas.com/SECdesk. This has been another Thought Leader production brought to you by PKF Texas The Entrepreneur’s Playbook. Tune in next week for another chapter.

Jen: This is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook. I’m Jen Lemanski, and I’m here today with Ryan Istre, an audit director and a member of the PKF Texas SEC team. Ryan, welcome back to the Playbook.

Ryan: Thanks, Jen. Appreciate it.

Jen: So, I’ve heard FASB is making some changes to share-based payment accounting. What do public companies need to know about this?

Ryan: Changes to the share-based payment accounting is happening pretty soon. A lot of companies will issue share-based payments to some of their employees, sometimes they’ll issue it to some of their consultants, and in the past, the accounting for those two may differ significantly.

Jen: It seems like that would be a little bit confusing to companies.

Ryan: It could be. The FASB issued this new standard to try to simplify the problem of divergent accounting. Now, one of the items, for example, that’s going to change with the new rules is that the point in time when you have to measure and the amount that you have to measure the compensation at, was different if it was a non-employee versus an employee. And historically it was at the commitment date, and now it’s going to be at the grant date of the actual share-based payment, so that’s going to bring the two in line and make it a little bit simpler for companies to apply.

Jen: Sounds good. Now when is this actually going to be effective?

Ryan: For most public companies, it’s going to be effective starting January 1, 2019, but an earlier option is permitted.

Jen: And what do they need to do to get ready for that?

Ryan: They just need to assess how much share-based payments they issue to non-employees and determine whether it benefits them to early adopt or to wait until the normal adoption date.

Jen: Perfect, sounds good. Well, we’ll get you back to talk about some public company information.

Ryan: Sure.

Jen: For more about this topic, visit PKFTexas.com/SECdesk. This has been another Thought Leader production brought to you by PKF Texas The Entrepreneur’s Playbook. Tune in next week for another chapter.

How efficient is your not-for-profit? Even tightly run organizations can use some improvement — particularly in the accounting area. Adopting the following six tips can help improve timeliness and accuracy.

  1. Set cutoff policies. Create policies for the monthly cutoff of invoicing and recording expenses — and adhere to them. For example, require all invoices to be submitted to the accounting department by the end of each month. Too many adjustments — or waiting for different employees or departments to turn in invoices and expense reports — waste time and can delay the production of financial statements.
  2. Reconcile accounts monthly. You may be able to save considerable time at the end of the year by reconciling your bank accounts shortly after the end of each month. It’s easier to correct errors when you catch them early. Also reconcile accounts payable and accounts receivable data to your statements of financial position.
  3. Batch items to process. Don’t enter only one invoice or cut only one check at a time. Set aside a block of time to do the job when you have multiple items to process. Some organizations process payments only once or twice a month. If you make your schedule available to everyone, fewer “emergency” checks and deposits will surface.
  4. Insist on oversight. Make sure that the individual or group that’s responsible for financial oversight (for example, your CFO, treasurer or finance committee) reviews monthly bank statements, financial statements and accounting entries for obvious errors or unexpected amounts. The value of such reviews increases when they’re performed right after each monthly reporting period ends.
  5. Exploit your software’s potential. Many organizations underuse the accounting software package they’ve purchased because they haven’t learned its full functionality. If needed, hire a trainer to review the software’s basic functions with staff and teach time-saving shortcuts.
  6. Review your processes. Accounting systems can become inefficient over time if they aren’t monitored. Look for labor-intensive steps that could be automated or steps that don’t add value and could be eliminated. Often, for example, steps are duplicated by two different employees or the process is slowed down by “handing off” part of a project.