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Small Business: Tax Consequences of Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding could lead to Taxable Income?!

With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe have become an increasingly popular way for small business owners to stay afloat. The upside is that it’s often possible to raise the cash you need; the downside is that the IRS considers that money taxable income. Let’s take a closer look at how crowdfunding works and how it could affect your tax situation.

What is Crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by gathering online contributions from a large group of backers. It was initially used by musicians, filmmakers, and other creative types to raise small sums of money for projects that were unlikely to turn a profit. More recently, it has been used to fund projects, events, and products, and in some cases, has become an alternative to venture capital. With the onset of coronavirus, however, small business owners have turned to crowdfunding to raise cash to continue operating their business.

There are three types of crowdfunding: donation-based, reward-based, and equity-based. Donation-based crowdfunding is when people donate to a cause, project, or event. GoFundMe is the most well-known example of donation-based crowdfunding with pages typically set up by a friend or family member (“the agent”) such as to help someone (“the beneficiary”) pay for medical expenses, tuition, or natural disaster recovery.

Reward-based crowdfunding involves an exchange of goods and services for a monetary donation, whereas, in equity-based crowdfunding, donors receive equity for their contribution.

Are Crowdfunding Donations Taxable?
This is where it can get tricky. As the agent, or person who set up the crowdfunding account, the money goes directly to you; however, you may or may not be the beneficiary of the funds. If you are both the agent and the beneficiary you would be responsible for reporting this income. If you are acting as “the agent”, and establish that you are indeed, acting as an agent for a beneficiary who is not yourself, the funds will be taxable to the beneficiary when paid – not to you, the agent. An easy way to circumvent this issue is to make sure when you are setting up a crowdfunding account such as GoFundMe you designate whether you are setting up the campaign for yourself or someone else.

Again, as noted above, as the beneficiary, all income you receive, regardless of the source, is considered taxable income in the eyes of the IRS – including crowdfunding dollars. However, money donated or pledged without receiving something in return may be considered a “gift.” As such the recipient does not pay any tax. Up to $15,000 per year per recipient may be given by the “gift giver.”

Let’s look at an example of reward-based crowdfunding. Say you develop a prototype for a product that looks promising. You run a Kickstarter campaign to raise additional funding, setting a goal of $15,000, and offer a small gift in the form of a t-shirt, cup with a logo, or a bumper sticker to your donors. Your campaign is more successful than you anticipated it would be and you raise $35,000 – more than twice your goal.

Taxable sale. Because you offered something (a gift or reward) in return for a payment pledge it is considered a sale. As such, it may be subject to sales and use tax.

Taxable income. Since you raised $35,000, that amount is considered taxable income. But even if you only raised $15,000 and offered no gift, the $15,000 is still considered taxable income and should be reported as such on your tax return even though you did not receive a Form 1099-K from a third party payment processor (more about this below).

Generally, crowdfunding revenues are included in income as long as they are not:

Loans that must be repaid;

  • Capital contributed to an entity in exchange for an equity interest in the entity; or
  • Gifts made out of detached generosity and without any “quid pro quo.” However, a voluntary transfer without a “quid pro quo” isn’t necessarily a gift for federal income tax purposes.
  • Income offset by business expenses. You may not owe taxes however, if your crowdfunding campaign is deemed a trade or active business (and not a hobby) your business expenses may offset your tax liability.

Factors affecting which expenses could be deductible against crowdfunding income include whether the business is a start-up and which accounting method (cash vs. accrual) you use for your funds. For example, if your business is a startup you may qualify for additional tax benefits such as deducting startup costs or applying part or all of the research and development credit against payroll tax liability instead of income tax liability.

Timing of the crowdfunding campaign, receipt of funds, and when expenses are incurred also affect whether business expenses will offset taxable income in a given tax year. For instance, if your crowdfunding campaign ends in October but the project is delayed until January of the following year it is likely that there will be few business expenses to offset the income received from the crowdfunding campaign since most expenses are incurred during or after project completion.

How do I Report Funds on my Tax Return?
Typically, companies that issue third-party payment transactions such as Amazon if you use Kickstarter, PayPal if you use Indiegogo, or WePay if you use GoFundMe) are required to report payments that exceed a threshold amount of $20,000 and 200 transactions to the IRS using Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions. The minimum reporting thresholds of greater than $20,000 and more than 200 transactions apply only to payments settled through a third-party network; there is no threshold for payment card transactions.

Form 1099-K includes the gross amount of all reportable payment transactions and is sent to the taxpayer by January 31 if payments were received in the prior calendar year. Include the amount found on your Form 1099-K when figuring your income on your tax return, generally, Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business for most small business owners.

Again, tax law is not clear on this when it comes to crowdfunding donations. Some third-party payment processors may deem these donations as gifts and do not issue a 1099-K. This is why it is important to keep good records of transactions relating to your crowdfunding campaign including a screenshot of the crowdfunding campaign (it could be several years before the IRS “catches up”) and documentation of any money transfers.

Seek Professional Tax Advice
If you’re thinking of using crowdfunding to raise money for your small business, call a tax and accounting professional who will evaluate your tax situation and help you figure out a course of action that will help your small business succeed.

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How does this new employee withholding W-4 form work?

Five Step Process in place of Exemptions:

Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, has been redesigned for 2020. Previously, income tax withholding was based on an employee’s marital status and withholding allowances or tied to the value of the personal exemption. With the revised Form W-4, however, income tax withholding is generally based on the worker’s expected filing status and standard deduction for the year. Furthermore, workers can also choose to have itemized deductions, the Child Tax Credit, and other tax benefits reflected in their withholding for the year.

The redesigned Form W-4 makes it easier for withholding to match tax liability. While it uses the same underlying information as the old design, it replaces complicated worksheets with more straightforward questions that make accurate withholding easier for employees.

Here’s what taxpayers should know about the new Form W-4 for 2020:

Five Steps

The form is divided into 5 steps. The only two steps required for all employees are Step 1, where you enter personal information such as your name and filing status, and Step 5, where you sign the form. The form is not valid unless it is signed and dated by the employee. Taxpayers should only complete Steps 2 – 4 only if they apply to your tax situation because doing so will make your withholding more accurately match your liability.

New Employees

All new employees starting employment in 2020 are required to fill out the new Form W-4; however, employees who have furnished Form W-4 in any year before 2020 are not required to furnish a new form merely because of the redesign. Employers will simply continue to compute withholding based on the information from the employee’s most recently furnished Form W-4.

*Employees with a change in life events such as marriage, buying a house, or the birth of a child, however, may want to fill out the form, however.

More than One Job

It is important for people with more than one job at a time (including families in which both spouses work) to adjust their withholding to avoid having too little withheld. For most taxpayers, using the Tax Withholding Estimator located on the IRS website is the most accurate way to do this, although they may fill out the Multiple Jobs Worksheet found in the instructions instead.

If a spouse works both should check the box on their respective Forms W-4; however, only one spouse should fill out the rest of the form (i.e., Steps 3 and 4). If not, and both spouses claim the child tax credit, for example, it is possible that not enough will be withheld and they will owe money at tax time.

*Withholding will be most accurate if the highest paid spouse completes Steps 3 – 4(b) on the Form W-4.

Additional Withholding

As in the past, employees can also choose to have an employer withhold an additional flat-dollar amount each pay period to cover, for example, income they receive from the gig economy, self-employment, or other sources that are not subject to withholding.

If you have any questions about tax withholding, need assistance filling out the redesigned 2020 Form W-4, or would like more information about this topic, please call.

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Didn’t Receive PPP funds? Additional Assistance Programs Exist…

Before you file your 2nd Quarter Payroll Tax Reports, check out the Employee Retention Credit!

Businesses that have been impacted financially by COVID-19 may be able to take advantage of a new, refundable tax credit called the Employee Retention Credit. The credit is designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll and is worth 50 percent of qualifying wages up to $10,000 that are paid by an eligible employer.

Does my business qualify for the Employee Retention Credit?

  • The credit is available to all qualified employers regardless of size, including tax-exempt organizations.
  • The credit is not available to small businesses who take small business loans or state and local governments and their instrumentalities.

What is a qualifying employer?

There are two categories of qualified employers:

  • The employer’s business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during a calendar quarter.
  • The employer’s gross receipts are below 50 percent of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts go above 80 percent of a comparable quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter.

How is the credit calculated?

The amount of the credit is 50 percent of qualifying wages paid up to $10,000 in total. Wages taken into account are not limited to cash payments, but also include a portion of the cost of employer-provided health care. Qualified health plan expenses generally include both the portion of the cost paid by the employer and the portion of the cost paid by the employee with pretax salary reduction contributions. Amounts paid by the employee with after-tax contributions are not included.

What is a qualifying wage?

Qualifying wages are wages that are based on the average number of a business’s employees in 2019. There are two different measures for business, depending on size:

  • Employers with less than 100 employees. If the employer had 100 or fewer employees on average in 2019, the credit is based on wages paid to all employees, regardless if they worked or not. If the employees worked full time and were paid for full-time work, the employer still receives the credit.
  • Employers with more than 100 employees. If the employer had more than 100 employees on average in 2019, then the credit is allowed only for wages paid to employees who did not work during the calendar quarter.

How do I receive the credit?

While many tax credits are available when filing a tax return, the employee retention credit works differently in that employers can be reimbursed immediately by reducing their required payroll tax deposits. Payroll taxes, which include federal income tax withheld as well as taxable social security wages and tips, taxable Medicare wages and tips, and additional Medicare tax withholding, are taxes that have been withheld from employees’ wages. Generally, these payroll tax deposits are filed quarterly on Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

When can I start reporting qualified wages?

Eligible employers should report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on Form 941 beginning with the second quarter (March 12, 2020).
Wages paid through December 31, 2020, are also eligible for the credit.

What if my payroll tax deposits are less than the credit?

If the employer’s employment tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the employer may receive an advance payment from the IRS by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19

Help is just a phone call away.

Please contact the office if you need more information on the Employer Retention Credit and other COVID-19 economic relief efforts.

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Estimated Tax Payments Delayed until July 15, 2020!

As a reminder, taxpayers now have until July 15, 2020, to file and pay federal income taxes originally due on April 15 and no late-filing penalty, late-payment penalty or interest will be due. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this relief has been expanded to include additional returns, tax payments and other actions:

  • All taxpayers that have a filing or payment deadline falling on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020.
  • Individuals, trusts, estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers now qualify for the extra time.
  • Americans who live and work abroad, can now wait until July 15 to file their 2019 federal income tax return and pay any tax due.

Extension of time to file beyond July 15

  • Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the July 15 deadline can request an extension to October 15, 2020, by filing Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
  • Businesses who need additional time must file Form 7004, Application for Automatic Extension of Time To File Certain Business Income Tax, Information, and Other Returns.

!An extension to file is not an extension to pay any taxes owed. Taxpayers requesting additional time to file should estimate their tax liability and pay any taxes owed by the July 15, 2020, deadline to avoid additional interest and penalties.!

Estimated Tax Payments

Relief is also extended to estimated tax payments due June 15, 2020. This means that any individual or corporation that has a quarterly estimated tax payment due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020, can wait until July 15 to make that payment, without penalty.

Unclaimed Refunds

There is a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund from prior years’ tax returns. If taxpayers do not file a return within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury. For 2016 tax returns, the normal April 15 deadline to claim a refund has also been extended to July 15, 2020.

If you have any questions regarding the coronavirus pandemic and your taxes, help is just a phone call away.

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Don’t be fooled during this critical time.

Read more about how scammers are taking advantage of the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

Taxpayers should be on the lookout for calls and email phishing attempts regarding the Coronavirus, or COVID-19 that could lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft. Because criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims during times of need, taxpayers should also be skeptical about text messages received and websites and social media attempts to request money or personal information.

 

Retirees Targeted

Seniors should be especially careful at this time. In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments (sometimes called recovery rebates or stimulus payments) into the direct deposit account taxpayers previously provided on tax returns and taxpayers should not provide their direct deposit or other banking information for anyone to input on their behalf into the secure portal.

For retirees, the $1,200 payments are sent automatically. There is no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive this. Retirees – including recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 − should also know that they will not be contacted by the IRS via phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment.

 

What to Watch Out For:

Scammers use a number of techniques including:

  • Emphasizing the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Asking the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
  • Asking by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
  • Suggesting that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
  • Mailing the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

Unsolicited emails, text messages or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

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