Like many small business owners, you probably find yourself very busy in the wake of the COVID slowdown and are getting back up to speed. But don’t forget about your future.
There are a number of retirement plans available, including Keogh plans and 401(k)s. However, a simplified employee pension plan (SEP) may be your best option.
The reason a SEP is “simplified” is that its retirement contributions are deposited into a traditional IRA account under the control of the SEP participant, thus eliminating most of the employer’s administrative duties. That is why these plans are sometimes referred to as SEP-IRAs. SEPs function much like Keogh retirement plans, and they allow tax-deductible contributions for both employees and self-employed individuals. For an employee, the maximum contribution for 2021 is the lesser of 25% of that employee’s compensation or $58,000. These contributions are excluded from the employees’ wages and are not subject to withholding for income tax or FICA. A self-employed person can contribute 25% of his or her compensation after deducting the employer’s contribution, which boils down to the smaller of 20% of the business’ net profit or $58,000. Each year, the employer can specify a compensation amount between zero and 25% (not exceeding the maximums for the year).
Many companies, as an incentive to employees to help grow the companies’ market value, will offer stock options to key employees. The options give the employee the right to buy up to a specified number of shares of the company’s stock at a future date at a specific price. Generally, options are not immediately vested and must be held for a period of time before they can be exercised. Then, at some later date, and assuming the stock price has appreciated to a value higher than the option price of the stock, the employee can excise the options (buy the shares), paying the lower option price for the stock rather than the current market price. This gives the employee the opportunity to participate in the growth of the company through gains from the sale of the stock without the risk of ownership.
President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum on August 8, 2020, that directs the Treasury Secretary to use his authority to defer the withholding, deposit and payment of employees’ portions of Social Security taxes from September 1 through December 31, 2020. The goal is to put more money in the pockets of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. The deferral applies to the 6.2% tax on wages or compensation paid for a bi-weekly pay period of less than $4,000 or the equivalent threshold amount for other pay periods. In other words, employees with annual wages up to $104,000 are generally eligible for the deferral.
Just a few days before the start of the deferral period, the IRS has issued guidance explaining that the due date for withholding and paying Social Security taxes has been postponed; they are now due between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021. This means that Social Security taxes not withheld in the last 4 months of 2020 are to be ratably withheld from employees’ wages during the first 4 months of 2021, along with the required withholding on the 2021 wages.
If you hire a domestic worker to provide services in or around your home, you probably have a tax liability that you don’t know about – or one that you do know about but are ignoring. Either situation can come back to bite you. When the worker is your employee, your liability includes both withholding and paying payroll taxes as well as issuing a W-2 after the close of the year.
Sure, it is a lot easier simply to pay your worker in cash so as to avoid federal and state payroll taxes – and all the paperwork that goes with them. Your domestic worker will likely be fully cooperative with a cash deal because he or she can also avoid paying taxes. However, if the IRS or your state employment department finds out about these payments, the result could be very unpleasant for you.
Not everyone who performs services in or around your home is classified as an employee. For instance, a plumber or electrician who makes repairs in your home will generally be a licensed contractor; the government does not classify contractors as employees.
With jobs at a premium during the COVID-19 pandemic, you might consider hiring your children to help out in your business. Financially, it makes more sense to keep the family employed rather than hiring strangers, provided, of course, that the family member is suitable for the job. Note, however, that wages paid to children and other relatives aren’t eligible for the Employee Retention Credit created by Congress in 2020 as part of the COVID-19 emergency relief measures for employers.
Rather than helping to support your children with your after-tax dollars, you can instead hire them in your business and pay them with tax-deductible dollars. Of course, the employment must be legitimate and the pay commensurate with the hours and the job worked. The following are typical situations encountered when hiring family members.
Self-employed individuals, unlike employees, don’t have someone withholding Social Security or Medicare (FICA) taxes along with pre-payments toward their federal (and state, where applicable) income tax from their wages during the year.
They are not being paid a wage; instead, a self-employed individual must keep a set of books showing income and expenses associated with their self-employed business that will allow them to determine their taxable profits (or losses). While an employer and an employee each pay half of the FICA taxes due on an employee’s wages, a self-employed person pays 100% of these taxes, termed the self-employment tax or SE tax for short, on his or her self-employment profit. If the individual has more than one self-employment activity, the net profits and losses from all of the self-employment activities are combined to determine the amount of the SE tax. However, two spouses have self-employment income, the couple cannot combine their SE incomes when figuring their individual SE tax.
Taxpayers often will hire an individual or firm to provide services at the taxpayer’s home. Because the IRS requires employers to withhold taxes for employees and issue them W-2s at the end of the year, the big question is whether or not that individual is a household employee.
Determining whether a household worker is considered an employee depends a great deal on circumstances and the amount of control the hiring person has over the job and the worker they hire. Ordinarily, when someone has the last word about telling a worker what needs to be done and how the job should be done, then that worker is an employee. Having a right to discharge the worker and supplying tools and the place to perform a job are primary factors that show control.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) computes standard mileage rates for business, medical and moving each year, based on a number of factors, to determine the standard mileage rates for the following year.
As it does annually around the end of the year, the IRS has announced the 2019 optional standard mileage rates. Thus, beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (or a van, pickup or panel truck) are:
58 cents per mile for business miles driven (including a 26-cent-per-mile allocation for depreciation). This is up from 54.5 cents in 2018;
20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving* purposes. This is up from 18 cents in 2018; and
14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
* For years 2018 through 2025, the deduction for moving is only allowed for members of the armed forces on active duty who move pursuant to a military order.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was passed last year included a new tax credit for employers that allows them to claim a credit based on wages paid to qualifying employees while they are on family and medical leave.
To qualify for the credit, an employer must have a written policy that provides at least two weeks of paid family and medical leave annually to all qualifying employees who work full time, which can be prorated for part-time. The wages paid during the leave period cannot be less than 50 percent of what the employee is normally paid.
The credit is variable. It begins at 12.5% and increases by 0.25%, up to a maximum of 25%, for each percentage point that the rate of payment exceeds 50% of the employee’s normal pay.