Understanding Your South bay Airbnb And Taxes

Understanding Your South bay Airbnb And Taxes

As of this writing, the federal government is still in a "partial shutdown", and things are starting to fray around the edges, even for those whose paychecks aren't being affected. Already, it's the longest in history.

Which, for a media starving for any kind of controversy … well, no doubt you've already heard about it.

Who knows … by the time you get this, things could be back to "normal" (is that word even operative these days?), but here's one thing that won't stop during this shutdown, however long it lasts: your taxes.

That's right, the IRS confirmed last week that they will remain operational during the shutdown, your taxes will STILL be due this year (including your estimated ones, if that applies to you), and the official start of tax filing begins on January 28th. But refunds might yet be affected. We'll keep you posted.

All this shutdown business aside, but while we're still on the subject of taxes, I have been meaning to write on this topic for some time now, as more and more of our South bay clients are affected by it.

I'm talking about Airbnb, VRBO and the like. Because if you're not careful, you could be creating for yourself a tax and financial headache.

Understanding Your South bay Airbnb And Taxes

"Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny space you occupy in the world." -Gustav Flaubert

Have you ever wondered why vacation rental home services like Airbnb or VRBO are so popular? It's not because of refrigerators stocked with free food. Trust me … I check (every time). Not surprisingly, the reason for their surge in popularity is demand.

There are many reasons why that's the case, too many to go into here. Needless to say, the model works.

And one of the reasons it works is because it works for the hosts.

So, let's take a look at a few things you need to consider before you start making side income through renting out your home…

14: The Goldilocks Number

13 is too few, 15 is too many … but 14 days is just right, and here's why:

If you rent out a dwelling unit (a residence you live at longer than 14 days/year or at least 10% of the days you rent it to others at a fair rental price) through an online service, and the amount of days rented out equals 14 or less, you don't have to report any of the rental income (but nor can you deduct expenses as rental expenses). This same 14-day rule applies the same if you only rent out one room of your dwelling unit. Not paying tax on a couple weeks worth of vacation rental income is a sweet deal, all while putting a roof over someone's head.

The 14-day-and-under rule is a great option if the area where you live hosts a major event or two throughout the year that brings in the masses. But if hosting an increased amount of visitors (for an increased amount of income … and taxes) doesn't phase you, then book away to 15 days and beyond.

If the IRS comes knocking at your door because you didn't include the income on your return, all you'll need to do is prove the income was within the 14-day rule. You're all set.

Record Everything … In Detail

If you have never started a business, but like the thought of doing so one day … running a short-term vacation rental can be your training wheels. Keeping detailed notes and records of the days you rent out the space is an important aspect of this decision (tracking whether you remain under, or exceed the 14-day rule).

If you do end up taking the plunge to rent out your South bay home beyond that 14-day period, then, you have the opportunity to deduct ordinary and necessary expenses. Towels, toiletries, ten-dollar bottles of wine to greet your guests upon arrival: all can be deducted from your rental income.

The more detailed you are at keeping records for this "bed and breakfast" business, the less you need to worry about scrounging up proof for the IRS.

Important to Note: If you don't fill out a W-9 form that most vacation rental sites require at the beginning of operation, you are subject to lose 28% of your rental income.

Go the Extra Mile

Vacation rental services charge a service fee to their paying customers — you might have noticed this at checkout if you've ever booked online. When companies like Airbnb send hosts (potentially you!) their 1099 form which includes the amount of service fees accrued in addition to rental income for the year, hosts have the opportunity to deduct the host service fees if they rented out their space more than 14 days during the year.

And while you are in the business of serving others by opening your space, we encourage you to be the hostess with the mostest and offer amenities like breakfast and toiletries. Why? Because it's nice. ALSO, because the IRS might treat you as self-employed if you do.

Self-employment means paying self-employment taxes in addition to income tax. But there are a host of other benefits to be had from having your own "business", with other tax implications, etc. But that is an article for another day. 🙂

Lastly, in your quest to make a little extra income this year and serve travelers from all over, let us remind you that life is more than earning 5-star reviews … it's mostly about walking into a room with hot coffee provided. We trust you'll make that happen. 🙂

I hope this helps. There are additional tax rules to be aware of, and we can help you apply the available deductions in the most tax-advantageous way possible.

 

Warmly,

 

Andre Sugars

(310) 327-1985

Champion Tax Service

 

Andre Sugars’ Take On Bad Predictions By Experts

Andre Sugars’ Take On Bad Predictions By Experts

Well, we're staring into the fresh light of 2019 — and that means that we can now take a good, dispassionate look back at our progress towards what we were aiming for in 2018. Which leads to the big question: How was your 2018?

I often believe that reviewing your year is better than setting goals — because resolutions are so often and easily ignored, that laughing at them has become an internet meme.

But reviewing where you've been, and how what actually happened for you might fit into your long-term vision (i.e. not just within the micro-span of one year), can reveal to you missed opportunities, good (and bad) choices, and the kinds of life-rhythm adjustments you can make. And these can be even more powerful than goals … because you already have the "lab results" of 2018 from which to base a change.

I would caution you not to play the blame game with anyone but yourself, if things didn't go the way you would want. You are the only thing you can truly control, after all.

So review your year, and let's figure out how we can work together to help you change what's needed, and amplify what worked well.

I also know that we are "enjoying" a healthy dose of expert opinion this week, making predictions for the new year. But here's the thing: history is littered with the detritus of bad predictions made by individual experts.

I prefer the wisdom of crowds, markets, trends and real-world statistics.

Well, in light of all those who are predicting this and that about the political, economic, and cultural landscape, I thought I'd provide a bit of a light-hearted takedown of "expert opinion". These are some of my favorites…

Andre Sugars' Take On Bad Predictions By Experts

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude." – Scott Hamilton

"The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys."
-Sir William Preece, chief engineer at the British Post Office, 1878

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
-H.M. Warner, Warner Bros., 1927

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
-Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"Television won't be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."
-Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946

"The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most."
-IBM executives to the eventual founders of Xerox, 1959

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
-Ken Olsen, founder of mainframe-producer Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer — 640K ought to be enough for anybody."
-Bill Gates, Microsoft, 1981

"Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput."
-Sir Alan Sugar, British entrepreneur, 2005

Oh, this from a 1995 NYT book review of a book telling everyone how technology really wouldn't change the world:

"In the electronic library of the future, you won't be able to browse through the stacks, although, [the author, Clifford Stoll] adds, given the immensity of the task, the prospect of digitizing all books is probably beyond realization. The flow of bits can be surprisingly slow under certain circumstances. Even the dream of video on demand is unrealizable, [Stoll] writes. 'It's a surprisingly tough engineering job, keeping a thousand movies ready for instant retrieval.' "

from a NYT review of "Second Thoughts on the Information Highway" by Clifford Stoll, Doubleday, 1995

As computer scientist Alan Kay said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it."

 

Andre Sugars

(310) 327-1985

Champion Tax Service

 

Champion Tax Service’s Holiday Prayer

As you probably know if you are paying any kind of attention to events OUTSIDE of South bay (which, this week, you'd certainly be sane if you DIDN'T pay attention to the national news), the government is in "shutdown mode".

This means that unless the President and Congress can come together on a budget agreement, a slew of government agencies will be minimally staffed (which might even affect us here in South bay), and all kinds of things will be affected — not least of which will be the 800,000 or so federal employees who will be going without pay. We'll keep you posted.

As for the IRS itself, we're hearing noises (though nothing definite) that the filing season might be affected, at least in terms of refunds. Certainly there will be no refunds being issued DURING the shutdown, because the agency will be restricting itself to actions that are "Necessary for the Safety of Human Life or Protection of Government Property The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 amended the Anti-Deficiency Act."

We can spend days sorting through what that actually means, but basically these are IRS activities that help the agency collect money, as best it can in shutdown situations, to keep the rest of the federal government going.

And without going into a list, there are plenty of things the IRS will NOT be doing during a shutdown, specifically those "regular, ongoing functions whose suspension would not pose an imminent threat to life and property." Basically things that the IRS has determined aren't key to the agency's job of collecting taxes.

So that's that, I suppose.

But even within this holiday season full of conflict and shutdown, I'm ever more encouraged to see outside of my own situation, and practice empathy for those around me — both here in South bay and around the country.

And as the years go along, I'm increasingly aware of how this holiday season is a time of joy for many, as well as a time of pain for a significant portion of my contacts as well. Missing loved ones, loneliness, and pain can sometimes be the most prominent decorations of this season, and if that's the case for you, know that you are not alone, and that you are loved and appreciated.

And not just by us here at Team Sugars, but undoubtedly by more people than you could possibly imagine. THAT is the bottom-line, real-world truth, whether you believe it or not right now.

So it's fitting that I would leave you today with my annual holiday prayer. May it ever be true in our lives…

Champion Tax Service's Holiday Prayer

"People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering." -St. Augustine

"God, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

"Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

"Remind us, Lord, that the scary-looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares …

"Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slowly through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

"Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love. "

Amen.

 

Andre Sugars

(310) 327-1985

Champion Tax Service

 

The Art of Connecting With Influencers by Andre Sugars

The Art of Connecting With Influencers by Andre Sugars

Hanukkah is behind us, and Christmas (with its associated slowdown) is just about a week away.

The world seems to quiet around that time, no matter your faith tradition, but here at Champion Tax Service, these "holidays" are a bit of a misnomer. That's because while we still seek very much to be present (if I can use that word) with our families, we can't help but see the approaching freight train that we accountants call "busy season" barreling its merry way in our direction.

Even more to the point, "year end" is also hurtling at us with frightening speed, which is why I devoted last week's note to some items you should consider before it is here (and past us). Just to sum up, I told you that you should perhaps…

1) Double-check withholding and estimated taxes.

2) Evaluate where you are with charity giving.

3) Be careful about mortgage moves.

4) Catch up on retirement savings.

5) Consider making large purchases before online sales tax fully kicks in.

6) Don't forget to give tax-free gifts and use your FSA funds.

This is all "general" advice that you should consider. Every South bay person's situation will be slightly different, and I don't blame you if you want some guidance. In which case, give us a call: (310) 327-1985 (or send an email through the email button at the top of the page), and we can see if we have any open slots for some quick, year-end tax planning with you.

Oh, and one more "taxy" thing: The IRS JUST released mileage rates for 2019 (finally) and they can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-issues-standard-mileage-rates-for-2019

Now, I have been pretty "tax heavy" of late, by necessity, but I wanted to change my pace here a little. Because I know that so many of my South bay clients are soon to be swept up in the New Year's "change yourself / change your life" momentum that January inevitably brings.

And a significant way that you can bring "change" to your personal or business world is to seek out, learn from, and connect with someone of influence.

Which is what I write about today. Thoughts welcomed.

The Art of Connecting With Influencers by Andre Sugars

"Family and friendships are two of the greatest facilitators of happiness." – John C. Maxwell

As leaders, parents, workers and friends, we are ALL in the business of moving our ideas forward.

Some do it well, others poorly. And, I think it's fair to say that those who are good at it do very well in whatever field they choose.

And one of the best ways to act on those ideas — or to learn how — is by connecting with influencers who are already implementing your idea well, and approach them for help.

Now though, when you first approach another person with a request for his or her time, it is essential that you know what it is you want to accomplish before you begin. Once that is clear in your mind, then you should do some homework about that person. Find out about his or her work, if you need to. Pull all the facts together in your mind.

When you finally meet with the person face-to-face, it's important that you start the meeting talking about that person's work. If you study the person's work, you will likely find many positive qualities about what they are doing with their life and talents. Bring that information out into your conversation.

All people like it when their work is appreciated — but here's the catch — what you say must be sincere, or the person you are trying to make a connection with will feel like you are working a tactic. No bueno.

Once you have spent some time discussing your genuine appreciation for his or her work, then you will have accomplished what you wanted: you will have opened the door to that person's mind. He or she will be willing to listen to you — and will think you have a great personality.

When you have established all of this, lay out quickly what it is that you have come for. Be self-assured and sincere. Even if the person you have come to cannot do the thing for you that you are requesting, chances are he or she will make every effort to help you and get you to the person who can actually assist you in accomplishing your ends.

Influencers appreciate sincerity and directness. But they are also "real" people, and should be approached as such.

Do it right, and your cause (or even merely your own growth) moves forward.

I'm grateful for your trust, and for your referrals.

Until next week,

 

Andre Sugars

(310) 327-1985

Champion Tax Service

 

Six Key Year-End Tax Moves That South bay Folks Should Consider

Six Key Year-End Tax Moves That South bay Folks Should Consider

Do you see that train barrelling towards the station? The one with "2018" all over it? This calendar year is about to change in under three weeks, and most people I know couldn't be happier about the fact.

But what that means for our South bay clients and friends here at Champion Tax Service … well, ye olde clock is ticking LOUD.

And so this week, I thought I'd dive right in to our particular area of expertise and offer you some generalized considerations for the kinds of things that you can do NOW (i.e. in the next three weeks, before 12/31/18) that can ONLY be done now, and which will reduce your state and federal income tax bill.

Which is always a good thing.

So, without further ado, let's dive in, shall we?

Six Key Year-End Tax Moves That South bay Folks Should Consider

"The work of the individual still remains the spark that moves mankind ahead even more than teamwork."  – Igor Sikorsky

Firstly, I should say that the following moves that I suggest are intended as generalized advice — which is to say that your particular situation might call for different moves. As such, I am a bit restricted in how strongly I can make certain suggestions.

So shoot me an email through the button at the top of the page if you want to discuss a private tax planning appointment for these year-end tax moves, and we'll see what is available. Or you can also call us: (310) 327-1985

All that aside, here are some possible tax moves to consider before 12/31/18…

1) Double-check withholding and estimated taxes. Because the individual federal tax changes can either be reducing or increasing your particular situation, it's hard to know how the various changes will interact with the rate reductions. But, if you are at risk of incurring penalties for underpayments, consider increasing your withholding rate in your December paychecks or bumping up an estimated tax payment. The IRS offers a withholding calculator that can help you evaluate your situation: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator. Regardless, if you are behind, a big jump in your final withholding can reduce penalties (which are NEVER advisable).

2) Evaluate where you are with charity giving. If you are itemizing, and you plan to give year-end gifts, there are a whole host of strategies that can deepen your charitable impact AND more pronouncedly help your tax bill at the same time. Gifts of appreciated securities can be great because the recent tax bill (the TCJA) retained the "fair market value" deduction for charitable contributions of appreciated property (like stock and real estate), and you can still avoid capital gain tax on the appreciation when you contribute appreciated property to charity outright. That way, you can avoid part of the gain tax and defer the rest if you use the property to create a life income gift.

And if you have a big chunk to give, you can "bunch" your contributions and indicate that you want the contributions to count for more than one tax year — which helps the charity, and might help your FUTURE tax bills at the same time.

3) Be careful about mortgage moves. In the past, making an additional mortgage payment was an easy way to reduce your tax, but the new tax laws lowered the amount of debt taxpayers can use to claim a mortgage interest deduction — from $1.1 million to $750,000. But there are grandfathering rules for some pre-existing mortgages in that range, and we can help you if it applies to you.

4) Catch up on retirement savings. Contributions can still be made pre-tax, which reduces taxable income dollar-for-dollar. The 2018 contribution limits are $18,500 for qualified plans and $5,500 for IRAs, with additional catch-up contribution amounts permitted for taxpayers age 50 or over at the end of the calendar year. However, what did change was that we cannot "recharacterize" a Roth conversion after 12/31 … so let's make sure you are clear on if you want the Roth benefits or not for your IRA.

5) Consider making large purchases before online sales tax fully kicks in. If you have some large items to purchase online, here's a good place for you to look to determine when your state will begin to require sales tax for online purchases: https://taxfoundation.org/post-wayfair-options-for-states/. Many states kick in on January 1, but others already have.

6) Don't forget to give tax-free gifts and use your FSA funds. Both of those options reset on 1/1/19, so remember that you can give up to $15K tax-free to individuals before 12/31. And if you have FSA funds to use, make sure you take full advantage before the year ends.

That's all I have for now from a generalized point of view. Though, of course, I reserve the right to offer you MORE advice in the next couple weeks. 🙂

And if you want to get more granular about your particular situation, well, we're only an email or phone call away.

Until next week,

 

Andre Sugars

(310) 327-1985

Champion Tax Service

 

« Previous Entries