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How To Reduce You Taxes Through Home Improvement

The paint. The dust. The torn-up room. Home improvement projects may not be high on your list of enjoyable events. But, when you’re ready to sell your house, any money you’ve spent on fixing it up may save you from paying tax on the sale.

The Home-sale Exclusion

You probably know that a married couple is entitled to $500,000 of tax-free gain ($250,000 for singles) on a home sale if they’ve used the house as a principal residence for two out of the five years prior to the sale. Taxable gain is the difference between your basis in the home (essentially, your cost) and the selling price. So, for most people, the exclusion eliminates or severely reduces any tax on a home sale. But not for all.

And that’s where home improvements could come into play. If you’ve kept good records, you can increase your home’s basis by adding in remodeling costs. Generally, any work that adds to your home’s value or extends its life counts toward your basis.

What Counts?

Examples of eligible expenditures include:

  •  Putting in a patio, deck, or swimming pool
  •  Finishing a basement or attic
  •  Landscaping
  •  Adding a room or fireplace
  •  Vinyl or aluminum siding or similar exterior improvements like masonry work
  •  Storm windows and doors
  •  New plumbing or heating system
  •  Air conditioning

Simple repairs, such as painting or fixing broken gutters and windows, don’t get added to your basis. But, if repairs are scheduled as part of a home improvement project, the entire cost of the renovation can be added to your basis.

Connect with our team today for all the latest and most current tax rules and regulations. Give us a call at 510-222-5800.

QuickBooks Online Can Help You Keep Up With Your Bills

There are more pleasant accounting tasks than paying bills, but QuickBooks Online organizes and simplifies this critical chore.

How does your company keep track of its bills now? If you’re like a lot of small businesses, you’re still dealing with a lot of paper. You may have a paper or electronic calendar where you enter all of the due dates as bills come in. When you see one approaching, you either take out your checkbook or schedule an online payment. Then you store all of your paid paper bills in file folders in case you have to look back at them.

It’s probably pretty clear to you that this isn’t the best system. You occasionally miss payments because a bill was lost in transit or for some other reason didn’t make its way to you. Or you were out of the office for a few days and didn’t look back on deadlines you missed.

QuickBooks Online can help keep bill-payment running smoothly and your relationships with vendors on the up-and-up.

Two-Step Process

Before you can start paying bills, you have to enter them into QuickBooks Online. This will entail a bit of extra work the first time you deal with a particular vendor, but there are numerous benefits to handling your accounts payable in this fashion, like:

  • Speed. Once you’ve created a framework (template) for a bill, it will take minimal time to pay it in the future.
  • Documentation. All of your bill payments will be recorded in QuickBooks Online, so you won’t have to hunt through checkbook registers or file folders to see if a bill was paid.
  • Timeliness. QuickBooks Online will always remind you when a bill must be paid (if you’ve set it up correctly).

To enter a bill, click the plus (+) sign at the top of the screen and click on Vendors and then Bill. This screen opens:

quickbooks

You’ll enter information about each bill on a screen like this. There are fields not pictured here that you’ll sometimes have to complete. So let’s start a conversation about the whole process.

Looks pretty simple, doesn’t it? It is – if you have a simple bill like the one you receive for gas and electric. You select the vendor by clicking on the arrow next to the blank field in the upper left and choosing from the list that opens. The Mailing Address and Terms should fill in automatically if you’ve done all of your initial QuickBooks Online setup. If not, you can add and edit this information.

Bill date refers to the date of the bill itself, not the day payment is due to the vendor. That goes in the Due date field. Select your Account from the list that opens when you click in that field, and enter a Description and Amount. If that’s all that’s required for that bill, you can save it and proceed to the next. It’s now recorded as a bill that needs to be paid.

Recurring Payments

Some of your bills are just one-offs,but others arrive on a regular basis. So QuickBooks Online has tools that will minimize the time required to process them after you’ve entered the basic information once. After you’ve completed a bill, click Make recurring at the bottom of the page to see this screen:

quickbooks

QuickBooks Online lets you create templates for bills to use in future payments.

This screen is self-explanatory. You simply tell QuickBooks Online how much notice you want before a bill’s due date so you can process the payment. Take care with this screen to avoid paying bills too early, which affects your cash flow unnecessarily, or too late.

You have three options when you’re creating a Recurring Bill template. You’ll choose one from the list that opens when you click the arrow in the Type field:

  • Scheduled. This is best used when the details of a transaction don’t change, like rent or a loan payment. You don’t have to do anything for the payment to be dispatched; it’s done automatically for you at the interval you set. You can, however, ask to be notified every time this occurs.
  • Reminder. You could use this for periodic payments that will require editing before they’re sent. For example, you’ll probably need to change the amount on your utility bills every month. QuickBooks Online will place a reminder in your Activities list on the home page.
  • Unscheduled. If you have bills that contain a great deal of detail but aren’t due on a set schedule, you can save the template and call it up when you need it by clicking the gear icon in the upper right and selecting Recurring Transactions.

When you’re ready to learn more about making the most of your QuickBooks, give us a call today at Chahal & Associates. Call us today 510-222-5800

7 Best Practices for QuickBooks Online

Even if you’ve been using QuickBooks Online for a long time, it’s good to step back and evaluate your actions.

“Best practices” aren’t enforceable rules. They’re simply guidelines businesses commonly follow in one area or another. If you’re in retail, for example, one best practice might be to always ask customers checking out if they found everything they were looking for. This serves two purposes: It conveys a feeling of concern for the customer’s shopping experience, and it may also lead to increased sales.

QuickBooks Online has many best practices, some of which may serve multiple purposes, including these:

    • They keep your company data safe and clean.
    • They provide insight on your financial status.
    • They save time.
    • They can lead you to better relationships with customers and vendors.

Are any or all the following common practices for your business?

Reconcile accounts regularly.

One of QuickBooks Online’s most useful features is its ability to connect to your financial institution’s websites and download cleared transactions. QuickBooks Online also offers tools to help you keep your accounts reconciled online, like you used to do every month when your paper statement came. Reconciling accounts can help you uncover errors. It gives you a truer picture of your cash flow, and it improves the accuracy and timeliness of some reports.

It’s not a particularly pleasant process, but you should be reconciling your accounts regularly in QuickBooks Online. We can help.

Clean up your lists.

Some lists in QuickBooks Online aren’t overly long. You don’t have to worry about, for example, Payment Methods, Terms, or Classes. Your lists of customers and vendors, products, and services, on the other hand, can grow unwieldy over the years. This means it can take more time than it should to scroll through lists when you’re using those entities in transactions. It also puts unnecessary stress on your company file. If you can’t delete any, at least make them inactive.

Never leave QuickBooks Online open when you leave your work area.

This goes for everyone, even people who work alone and don’t access their company files away from their work areas. The obvious reason is to keep someone else from getting in and authorizing payments, for example, or otherwise compromising your financial information. It also protects the integrity of your data file in case your internet connection suffers some kind of outage.

Keep track of 1099 vendors.

Whether your company uses 10 vendors or a hundred or more, you may have to supply at least some of them with an IRS Form 1099 at about the same time you’re preparing W-2s for employees. Your 1099-related tasks will be much easier if those individuals and/or companies are earmarked. If you think vendors might need 1099s when you create their records in QuickBooks Online, click in the box to the left of Track payments for 1099 in the lower right corner. Not sure? Ask us.

Classify everything with care.

Every time you have to create a record or transaction where categories are involved (i.e., Classes, Customers and Vendors, Territories), check and double-check that you’ve assigned them the correct classification. Errors here can result not only in problems with daily workflow, but your reports will not be accurate. A related best practice: Create a meaningful group of Classes, and use them faithfully. They’ll help you make better business decisions.

To create your list of Classes, click the gear icon in the upper right and select All Lists | Classes | New.

View reports on a regular basis.

There are some advanced financial reports in QuickBooks Online that we should be creating for you on a regular basis, either monthly or quarterly. These include Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet, and Statement of Cash Flows. The mechanics of creating them aren’t difficult, but analyzing them is. You should be running reports on your own at frequencies that you think would be helpful, like A/R Aging Detail, Unpaid Bills, and Sales by Class Detail.

If you’ve been using QuickBooks Online for a while, you could probably come up with your own list of best practices. If you’re new to the site, consider scheduling some time with us to go over more of them. Develop good habits from the start, and there won’t be nearly as much need for troubleshooting down the road.

Call Chahal & Associates, Inc. at 510-222-5800 when you’re ready to get started making the most of your QuickBooks.

Does the Sale of Your Home Qualify for a Federal Income Tax Exclusion?

You’ve sold your home and made a nice profit on the sale. So you may be wondering if Uncle Sam is entitled to a cut. Although gain on a home sale is potentially taxable, you may qualify for a federal income-tax exclusion.

The Rules in General

If you’re a single taxpayer, you may qualify to exclude gain of up to $250,000 if you owned the home and used it as your principal residence for at least two of the five years before the sale. Married couples who file jointly may exclude up to $500,000 of gain as long as one spouse owned the home — and both spouses used the home as a principal residence — for two of the last five years.

The Frequency Factor

The exclusion is generally available to sellers only once during a two-year period. A married couple is entitled to the $500,000 exclusion only if neither partner used the exclusion within the two-year period that ended on the sale date.

Reduced But Available

Even if you don’t meet the criteria described above, you may still qualify for a reduced exclusion (of less than $250,000 or $500,000) if the primary reason for the home sale was a change in the location of your employment, a health condition, or certain other “unforeseen” circumstances. The affected individual can be you, your spouse, a co-owner of the residence, or a person sharing your household. You may also qualify for the reduced exclusion if you sell your home to care for a sick family member.

Additional restrictions on gain exclusion may apply if you’ve rented out your home, maintained a home office, or turned a second home into a principal residence.

For more help with individual or business taxes, connect with us today. Our team can help you with all your tax issues, large and small.

5 QuickBooks Online Add-On Apps You May Need in 2017

Not finding quite everything you need in QuickBooks Online? Our Bay Area QuickBooks professionals can help. Give us a call at 510-222-5800.

Here are some handy add-on apps available to get you started.

QuickBooks Online may work for you just fine as is. After all, it was designed to meet the needs of the millions of small businesses that want to manage and track their income and expenses, create records and transactions, and run reports to gauge their financial health. QuickBooks Online was also designed to grow along with your business. But there’s no need for Intuit to add internal features to do so. In fact, that would make it too expensive and unwieldy for many companies.

Instead, Intuit has partnered with other small business websites to provides add-ons–applications that extend the usefulness of QuickBooks Online in one or more areas, like accounts receivable and payable, inventory, and expense-tracking. They integrate easily to share data and do the extra work you need. Here are some of them to consider.

Bill.com

Bill.com automates your accounts receivable and payable processes. It supports electronic billing and payment, as well as multiple approval levels.

You can certainly enter and pay bills using QuickBooks Online. And you can send invoices to customers and receive payments. But adding a connection to Bill.com gives you more advanced options for accounts receivable and payable. Simply send your bills to Bill.com by scanning, emailing, faxing, or taking a picture with your smartphone. The site’s automation tools turn them into digital records and route them through your specified approvers. Once approved, they’re paid electronically or by paper check. Invoices are just as easy to process; customers can pay by using PayPal, credit card, or ACH. Bill.com’s mobile app makes it possible to keep up with invoices and bills while you’re out of the office.

Expensify

Are your employees still paper-clipping receipts to handwritten expense reports? This method is unnecessarily time-consuming – and often inaccurate. Expensify solves both problems. Your staff can take photos of receipts with their smartphones. Expensify then converts the expense information into coded digital records and submits them for approval based on your company’s policies. Credit card purchases can be automatically imported, too. All data is synchronized with QuickBooks Online in real-time and coded to reflect your preference of QBO’s expense accounts, customers/jobs, etc. Once you’ve approved a report, you can have the money deposited in the employee’s bank account the next day.

TSheets Time Tracking

TSheets employee scheduling software automates tasks that QuickBooks Online doesn’t do: scheduling and remote time-tracking for your hourly employees. Your staff no longer has to fill in paper timesheets. Instead, they can use their smartphones to track their hours and GPS location points. And while Excel is certainly better for creating schedules than paper, TSheets takes over that task, too. After you’ve approved timesheets, that information is sent over to QuickBooks, ready for use in your payroll processing.

quickbooks

Your employees can easily “punch” in and out using their smartphones. TSheets also uses GPS technology so that your staff members’ locations are always known to you.

SOS Inventory

QuickBooks Online performs some basic inventory management tasks. You can create records for items and use them in transactions, and keep track of the number of items in stock so you know when to reorder (or have a sale). SOS Inventory goes well beyond those capabilities. You can create sales orders, track cost history and serial numbers, and document work-in-progress (WIP). SOS Inventory supports multiple locations and the entire pick/pack/ship process.

Insightly CRM

You can create thorough customer records in QuickBooks Online and document some of your interaction. But it doesn’t facilitate true Customer Relationship Management (CRM) nor project management. Insightly CRM does both. It lets you build exceptionally thorough customer profiles so that you can view social streams, email history, and any events, opportunities, or events related to them. Its project management features include the ability to track by pipelines or milestones, define contact roles and custom fields, and generate advanced project reporting.

QuickBooks Online Integration Key

All of these apps can work in standalone settings, but their integration with QuickBooks Online and their mobile capabilities create powerful partnerships that help you serve both your customers and your employees in ways that QuickBooks Online alone can’t.

We’re not trying to sell you applications here. Our concern is that you’re getting as much out of QuickBooks itself as you can. We can steer you toward add-on solutions if that seems necessary, but we’re always happy to work with you on getting to know QuickBooks Online better and matching its capabilities to your company’s needs. Call Chahal & Associates, Inc., a Bay Area accounting firm, at 510-222-5800 when you’re ready to get started. We’re prepared to help you make the most of your QuickBooks software. Or, request a free consultation online.

Best Tax Services in San Francisco – 2017 Award

Expertise.com has recently completed an evaluation of the top tax accounting firms in San Francisco based on five categories and a total of 25 variables.  The five categories are:

  • Reputation
  • Credibility
  • Experience
  • Availability
  • Professionalism

As part of their process, they evaluated 197 tax accounting firms and managed to award twenty (20) top firms.  And fortunately, Chahal & Associates was one of the twenty firms awarded.

Chahal & Associates is an accounting firm with offices in Emeryville, Pinole and San Rafael, CA.  They specialize in servicing small businesses throughout the Bay area by providing accounting, booking, and tax reduction services.

 

 

 

Expertise.com is an online review service that connects people with experts and leading providers in their community.

Business Start-up Costs — What’s Deductible?

Start UpLaunching a new business takes hard work — and money. Costs for market surveys, travel to line up potential distributors and suppliers, advertising, hiring employees, training, and other expenses incurred before a business is officially launched can add up to a substantial amount.

The tax law places certain limitations on tax deductions for start-up expenses.

  • No deduction is available until the business becomes active.
  • Up to $5,000 of accumulated start-up expenses may be deducted in the tax year in which the active business begins. This $5,000 limit is reduced (but not below zero) by the excess of total start-up costs over $50,000.
  • Any remaining start-up expenses may be deducted ratably over the 180-month period beginning with the month in which the active business begins.

Example. Gina spent $20,000 on start-up costs before her new business began on July 1, 2015. In 2015, she may deduct $5,000 and the portion of the remaining $15,000 allocable to July through December of 2015 ($15,000/180 × 6 = $500), a total of $5,500. The remaining $14,500 may be deducted ratably over the remaining 174 months.

Instead of deducting start-up costs, a business may elect to capitalize them (treat them as an asset on the balance sheet). Deductions for “organization expenses” — such as legal and accounting fees for services related to forming a corporation or partnership — are subject to similar rules.

If you are tired of overpaying taxes, simply call 510-222-5800 and ask for Navjeet.  Our initial consultation is free.  Lowering your taxes legally is our expertise.

 

Chahal & Associates services small business owners throughout the Bay area.  We have convenient offices in Emeryville, San Rafael and Pinole.  Chahal & Associates provides additional expertise in QuickBooks Accounting, International Taxation, Restaurant Accounting and Retail Accounting.

New Tax Law Provisions

Last summer’s highway trust fund extension law* includes a few important federal tax provisions that affect business and individual taxpayers.

Return due dates

Tax AvoidThe new law accelerates the filing deadline for partnership returns by one month, effective with returns for tax years that begin after December 31, 2015. As a result, the due date for partnership returns will be the fifteenth day of the third month after the end of the partnership’s tax year — March 15 for a partnership with a calendar year.

C corporations will have an additional month to file their returns, generally effective with returns for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015. As a result, C corporation returns will be due by the fifteenth day of the fourth month after the end of the tax year (by April 15 for a C corporation with a calendar year). The extended deadline doesn’t take effect until tax years beginning after December 31, 2025, for C corporations with fiscal years ending on June 30.

Basis reporting

For federal estate-tax purposes, property included in the gross estate is generally valued at its fair market value on the decedent’s date of death. That same fair market value then becomes the property’s income-tax basis in the hands of the person who acquires the property from the decedent.

The new law doesn’t change this rule. However, it requires the executor of any estate required to file a federal estate-tax return to furnish an information statement to the IRS and to each person receiving property from the estate. The statement must show the value of the property as reported on the return (and any other information the IRS may require). There are penalties for failure to file and for tax understatements resulting from inconsistencies in basis reporting.

Mortgage information returns

Under the new law, mortgage lenders must include additional items, such as the amount of principal outstanding at the beginning of the year, on information returns required to be furnished after December 31, 2016.

If you are tired of overpaying taxes and would like to be more aggressive lowering your taxes but stay within the legal limits, call 510-222-5800 and ask for Navjeet.  Our initial consultation for small business owners is free.

 

Chahal & Associates is a California Tax and Accounting firm that focuses on lowering your taxes legally.  We have three convenient locations to service the broader Bay area and are the fastest growing firm locally.  Our offices are located in Marin County – San Rafael, Emeryville – Alameda County, and Pinole – Contra Costa County.

While we work with all types of businesses, Chahal & Associates also has specialty services like International Taxation, Expatriate Tax, Restaurant Accounting, Retail Accounting, QuickBooks Accounting and Auto Repair Accounting.

* Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Improvement Act of 2015

Setting Up Your Business in the United States

Set Up Biz in USInternational businesses that want to do business in Northern California face a mountain of issues.  To make this process simpler, Chahal & Associates is doing something about this.

Chahal & Associates has created a unique concept designed around making the process for helping international companies to smoothly and quickly establish a United States entity for doing business in California.

With this program, our team of experts is available to assist with business aspects of this transition.  And for the legal aspects, we will provide you with recommendations on the best immigration law firm for your particular circumstances.

The Chahal & Associates team will help you with the following issues:

  • Determining the type of entity most suitable for your business
  • Establishing a business entity
  • Obtaining all tax ID numbers and business licenses
  • United States tax expertise
  • Relocating employees to United States
  • Transfer pricing consulting and establishing United States payroll

Our team is fluent in six different languages ranging from English to Hindu to Punjabi and many more.

If you are seeking assistance for establishing a business in California, then our unique concept is ideal for you.

Call 510-222-5800 and ask for speak with Navjeet Chahal regarding your business.

 

Tax Breaks for Bay Area Businesses

Tax BreaksIf you run a small business, you already have a full plate. The last thing you need is for the IRS to question any of your business expense deductions. But it could happen. And that’s why having records that prove your expenses is so important. Even deductions for routine business expenses could be disallowed if you don’t have appropriate records.

What Records Are Required?

Except in a few instances, the tax law does not require any special kind of records. You’re free to have a recordkeeping system that is suited to your business, as long as it clearly shows your expenses. In addition to books that allow you to track and summarize your business transactions, you should keep supporting documents, such as:

  • Canceled checks
  • Cash register receipts
  • Credit card sales slips
  • Invoices
  • Account statements

The rules are stricter for travel, entertainment, and transportation expenses. You should retain hotel bills or other documentary evidence (e.g., receipts, canceled checks) for each lodging expense and for any other expense of $75 or more. In addition, you should maintain a diary, log, or account book with the information described below.

Travel. Your records should show the cost of each separate expense for travel, lodging, and meals. For each trip, record your destination, the dates you left and returned, and the number of days spent on business. Also record the business purpose for the expense or the business benefit you gained or expected to gain. Incidental expenses, such as taxi fares, may be totaled in reasonable categories.

Entertainment. Record the date the entertainment took place and the amount of each separate expense, along with the name and address or location of the place of entertainment. Note the business purpose for the expense or the business benefit you gained or expected to gain and the nature of any business discussion or activity that took place. Also list the identities and occupations of the individuals you were entertaining or other information that indicates their business relationship to you.

If the entertainment was directly before or after a business discussion, be sure to indicate the date, place, nature, and duration of the discussion and the individuals who took part in both the discussion and the entertainment activity. For a business meal, you must prove that either you or your employee was present.

Transportation. As with travel and entertainment, you should record the amount and date of each separate expense. Note your business destination and the business purpose for the expense. If you are deducting actual car expenses, you’ll need to record the cost of the car and the date you started using it for business (for depreciation purposes). If you drive the car for both business and personal purposes or claim the standard mileage rate, keep records of the mileage for each business use and the total miles driven during the year.

Don’t Mix Business and Personal Expenses

Things can get tangled if you intermingle business and personal expenses. You can avoid headaches by having a separate business bank account and credit card.

If you are tired of overpaying taxes and would like to be more aggressive lowering your taxes but stay within the legal limits, call 510-222-5800 and ask for Navjeet.  Our initial consultation for small business owners is free.

 

Chahal & Associates is a California Tax and Accounting firm that focuses on lowering your taxes legally.  We have three convenient locations to service the broader Bay area and are the fastest growing firm locally.  Our offices are located in Marin County – San Rafael, Emeryville – Alameda County, and Pinole – Contra Costa County.

While we work with all types of businesses, Chahal & Associates also has specialty services like International Taxation, Expatriate Tax, Restaurant Accounting, Retail Accounting, QuickBooks Accounting and Auto Repair Accounting.