Saturday, February 26, 2011

New 1099 Reporting Requirements for Landlords

Congress in 2010 expanded the information return reporting requirements contained in Code Sec. 6041. Generally, Code Sec. 6041 requires payments of $600 or more to a single recipient in the course of a trade or business to be reported by the payor to the IRS and the payee, usually on Form 1099-MISC. There are exceptions to the general reporting requirements but these exceptions begin to disappear in 2011.

One of these disappearing exceptions to the reporting requirements involves landlords. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (2010 Jobs Act) (P.L. 111-240) amended the definition of trade or business to include renting real property. Before 2011, most landlords were not subject to the reporting requirements because renting real property was not considered to be a trade or business. Under the new version of Code Sec. 6041, real property rental is now considered a trade or business but only for purposes of the reporting requirements.

There are some exceptions to the general rule requiring landlords to report payments of $600 or more made in the course of renting real property. The first exception is for those who receive substantially all of their rental income from the temporary rental of their primary residence. The second exception is for individuals who receive "minimal" rental income, which amount will be determined by regulation. Similarly, the third exception applies to individuals receiving rental income if compliance with the reporting requirements would cause hardship. What constitutes hardship will also be defined by future regulations.

Like all returns, Forms 1099 must accurately identify the payor and the payee, as well as the total amount paid. Accurate identification includes the name, address and taxpayer identification number (TIN) of the payor and payee. The telephone number of the payee is also required.

It is the payor's obligation to request this information from the payee and Form W-9 may be used for this purpose. A landlord should request that Form W-9 be completed before making any payments to the payee because, if the payee fails or refuses to provide the correct taxpayer identification number, the payor is usually required to collect backup withholding from any payments due to the payee. The payor may be liable for a penalty for failure to backup withhold so withholding the correct amount from the payee is crucial. Also, a $50 penalty is imposed on a payee who fails to provide a correct TIN upon request.

Since landlords have not, until now, been "engaged in a trade or business," the reporting requirements create a problem. According to the instructions for Form 1099, sole proprietors and others, like landlords, who are not otherwise required to have an employer identification number (EIN) should use their Social Security number (SSN) for reporting purposes. Moreover, the instructions state that the filer's name and TIN should be consisted with the name and TIN used on the filer's other returns. This opens up the opportunity for identity theft.

Fortunately, landlords have a few options to protect themselves. The landlord can organize a separate company or LLC to perform management services for the property, including making payments to contractors. As the payor, the management company or LLC would be responsible for reporting any payments on Form 1099 and could use its own EIN, thus shielding the landlord's SSN. Another option is for the landlord to hire an employee. A spouse or child could be hired and an EIN obtained in order to report the wages of the new hire. This EIN could then be used on Form 1099, again shielding the landlord's SSN. Or, the landlord may be able to place the real property in a trust and use the trust's EIN for reporting purposes.

The deadline for providing Forms 1099 to payees is January 31 of the year following the year of payment. The deadline for filing the returns with the IRS is February 28 of the year following the year of payment. There is an extended deadline, March 31, when the returns are filed electronically.

The 2010 Jobs Act also increased the penalties for failing to file Forms 1099 with the IRS, for filing Forms 1099 late and for failing to provide copies of Forms 1099 to the payee. The increased penalties apply to information returns required to be filed after December 31, 2010.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tax Tips for Contractors

The flurry of recent tax legislation and the lingering effects of the economic downturn make this tax planning environment one of the most challenging in recent memory. Contractors need to do what they can to improve cash flow by effectively managing their tax burdens and leveraging any available new tax incentives.

Tax planning over the next two years will require thoughtful and nimble analysis.

In order to help contractors with their planning, Grant Thornton LLP’s Construction group has developed eight tax tips for contractors. Below is a sampling of some of the things construction contractors should keep in mind:

1)Double bonus depreciation — full expensing! Lawmakers have extended and doubled bonus depreciation, allowing full expensing for many assets placed into service through 2011. Property qualifying for bonus depreciation that is placed in service after Sept. 8, 2010, and through the end of 2011 will be eligible for full 100% expensing.

2)Review deferred compensation plans. Most contractors are struggling to remain profitable in this difficult environment. If your company cannot afford large bonuses to retain key employees, now is the time to revisit alternative compensation arrangements.

3)Certain S corporations should consider taking gains in 2011. If you converted to S corporation status in 2004 or 2005, consider sales of “gain” property in 2011. Special provisions enacted over the last two years provide a reduced seven-year period for sales that take place in 2009 or 2010 and a five-year period for sales of property during 2011.

4)Take full advantage of capital asset expensing deductions. Rules originally intended for small businesses were significantly expanded to allow contractors to expense up to $500,000 of 2010 fixed asset costs, provided less than $2 million of assets were placed in service throughout the year. Unlike bonus depreciation, this applies to new or used assets.

5)Maximize Section 199 deductions. The Section 199 domestic production activities deduction is a unique tax incentive available to most contractors. This incentive allows taxpayers to deduct 9% of qualifying production activities, which includes the construction or substantial renovation of domestic real property.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Small Biz to Congress: Deep-Six the 1099 Expansion

Small-business owners enumerate the costs that will come with more tax reporting.

The expansion of Form 1099 reporting requirements that lawmakers buried in the health-care reform bill has caused no shortage of anxiety among business owners and executives, many of whom already feel buried in paperwork. Following the Senate's vote last week to repeal the measure and President Obama's indirect endorsement of a repeal in his January State of the Union address, the House Committee on Small Business held a hearing this week to let executives air their concerns. Not surprisingly, the testimony universally encouraged Congress to drop the new requirements, and quickly.

Currently, a business must provide a 1099 form to the Internal Revenue Service for any services it receives from an unincorporated firm, such as a partnership. Last March the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act broadened the requirement so that a business would have to file the form for every vendor it uses, regardless of incorporation status, both for services and goods that exceed $600 in a year. The measure, scheduled to take effect January 1, 2012, was intended to generate additional tax revenue to help fund health-care reform.

Business owners have complained that tracking all corporate purchases to determine when to file would be an overwhelming and expensive job, not to mention collecting hundreds of tax identification numbers from vendors. For example, "the simple task of tracking fuel purchases from multiple gas stations . . . is not as simple as collecting receipts," testified Mike Kegley, a Kentucky-based builder who appeared at the committee hearing on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders. Instead, "businesses must determine the taxpayer identification numbers for each gas station, as they are likely owned by different franchise owners. Many businesses will be forced to hire additional staff to comply, and few home builders are in the position to do that."

Kegley said his bookkeeper estimated that his company would likely spend at least $9,000 in the first year the new rules take effect, not including software costs, and at least $1,900 per year after that.

John "Mark" Eagleton, a restaurant franchisee in Colorado who testified on behalf of the National Restaurant Association, noted that the new rules mean he would have to file forms for the fresh lettuce he buys each day at the local grocery store, as well as his miscellaneous purchases at dollar stores, among the other 200 to 300 vendors he deals with, since those purchases typically exceed $600 in a year. The 1099 expansion "may seem like a simple edict, but it could put me out if business," said Eagleton, whose restaurant was slightly cash-flow negative last year after debt payments.

While repeal of the 1099 expansion looks like a distinct possibility, the main obstacle right now is money. "The budget has been based on this additional revenue coming into the coffers, so the argument right now is, 'If we repeal and don't bring in this additional revenue, what are we going to do to offset it?'" says James Guarino, a partner with Boston-based tax and accounting firm Moody, Famiglietti & Andronico.

Some relief has already come in the form of the IRS agreeing to exempt any credit-card transactions from the requirement. However, that's not enough, business owners say, since not all purchases can be made, or accepted, with a credit card.

Still, there's good reason to hope. Congress "may drag [the repeal] out," says Guarino, "but I sense that one way or another it's going to get passed."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Facebook Overvalued at $50B in Global Poll of Investors

Only 10 percent of respondents say Facebook's valuation is appropriate while 51 percent say valuation signals the 'beginning of dangerous new bubble'.

Facebook Inc. isn’t worth $50 billion, according to a poll of global investors that shows skepticism about Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s recent estimate of the largest social-networking site’s value and concern that a bubble may be forming in the technology sector.

Sixty-nine percent of investors say Facebook is overvalued after Goldman Sachs invested $450 million in a deal that put the company’s worth at $50 billion, according to the quarterly poll of 1,000 Bloomberg customers who are investors, traders or analysts. Only 10 percent of respondents say Facebook’s valuation is appropriate; 4 percent say it’s worth more. The full story is online here.

The poll conducted Jan. 21-24 shows that investors disagree with Goldman Sachs’ assessment that Facebook is worth more than Web pioneers such as Yahoo! Inc., the biggest web portal, and eBay Inc., owner of the biggest online retail marketplace. Palo Alto, California-based Facebook surpassed Yahoo! in October as the third most visited website in the world.

Facebook raised $1.5 billion in a Goldman Sachs-led financing round this month. In addition to Goldman Sachs’ $450 million investment, Russia-based Digital Sky Technologies put up $50 million and Goldman Sachs clients outside the U.S. snapped up a $1 billion stake in the company. Goldman Sachs, which retained the right to sell $75 million of its stake to Digital Sky, had originally offered Facebook shares to its U.S. clients in a private placement. That was called off after details became public because the offering risked running afoul of U.S. securities laws.

Stephen Cohen, a spokesman for New York-based Goldman Sachs, declined to comment. A Facebook spokesman, Jonathan Thaw, declined to discuss the valuation. “We’re focused on creating a useful service and building our business for the long term,” he said in an emailed statement.

The Bloomberg poll shows that the Facebook deal has made investors uneasy about internet companies in general. More than half the respondents (51%) say the firm’s valuation signals the “beginning of a dangerous new bubble” in the market, while only 17 percent saw it as the foundation of a lasting boom.

Investors worldwide have doubts about the Facebook deal, and those outside the U.S. were most pessimistic. Seventy-two percent of non-U.S. respondents say the company was overvalued. Among U.S. investors that number is 63 percent.

The $50 billion valuation puts Facebook in league with the publicly-traded Tencent Holdings Ltd., the Shenzhen, China-based internet company whose services include online games and instant messaging that is worth more than $42 billion on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Tencent trades at about 15 times revenue. The Facebook valuation is about 25 times its 2010 revenue. Google’s price-to-sales ratio is 9, analysts estimate. eBay’s market value is $40.5 billion and Yahoo!’s is $21.2 billion.

LinkedIn Corp., a Mountain View, California-based professional networking firm, filed yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission to raise as much as much as $175 million in an initial public offering. The company is valued at $2.5 billion on SharesPost Inc., a San Bruno, California-based online marketplace for trading shares in private companies.

Among European investors in the poll, 56 percent say the Facebook deal signals a bubble among online firms while less than half of U.S.-based respondents (47%) agree. About a quarter of Asian investors (24%) see the deal as the start of a new boom in online companies, while overall 17 percent of those polled are positive.

In 2008, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive officer, became the world’s youngest billionaire at 23 when Forbes Magazine listed his wealth at $1.5 billion. The magazine now says his net worth has reached $6.9 billion. Zuckerberg is the central character in the hit movie “The Social Network,” about the founding of Facebook, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards this month.

Facebook’s social network has more than 500 million members and trails only Google and Microsoft Corp. as the world’s most visited website, according to ComScore Inc.

The company had revenue of $1.2 billion in the first three quarters of last year, up from $777 million, according to a person who had viewed documents sent to potential investors by Goldman Sachs. The company reported profit of $355 million in the first three quarters of last year, compared with profit of more than $200 million for all of 2009.