Payroll Taxes

A Sweeter Tax Than Most

When you hear the word "tax," you probably think of something the IRS takes out of your paycheck. Or you might think of something they take out of an inheritance. But taxes affect virtually every financial transaction you make. Take, for example, that simple jar of honey lurking on the shelf in your refrigerator.

Americans eat more honey than anyone else in the world — about 400 million pounds of it a year. Most of it goes towards sweetening foods like cereals, cookies, and breads. Even whiskey producers are adding honey to their blends to attract younger drinkers. (The Scotch Whiskey Association just stung Dewars for labeling their new "Highlander Honey" as "scotch" rather than "spirit drink.")

More Than Meets the Eye

We usually try and keep these dispatches light and entertaining. We know you'd rather read about "Tax Strategies for Somali Pirates" than, say, the latest regulations governing domestic international sales corporations. But every so often it's time to put on our serious face, and this is one of those times.

By now, of course, we all know that Congress spent their New Year's crafting a last-minute deal to avoid a "fiscal cliff" disaster. The "American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012" extended the Bush tax cuts, permanently, for incomes up to $400,000 for single filers and $450,000 for joint filers. Ordinary income above those thresholds will be taxed at 39.6%; corporate dividends and long-term capital gains will be taxed at 20%. The Alternative Minimum Tax is "patched" for good, and the estate tax is eliminated for estates under $5 million.

If your income isn't quite that high, you may think you've just dodged a bullet. But the sad reality is, you're probably already paying more tax, even if your income is nowhere near $400,000:

Dying to Save Taxes?

2013 is here, and after months of post-election sound and fury, we took a quick "test leap" off the dreaded "fiscal cliff." Look out below!

By this point, we're all familiar with the income tax consequences of the cliff. The Bush tax cuts expired, as scheduled, on December 31, sending everyone's taxes up. The 2% payroll tax holiday expired at the same time, with no hope of resuscitation. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which up until this week had never been indexed for inflation, still hadn't been "patched" for 2012, meaning it would catch 27 million more Americans in its claws. There are even new Medicare taxes and a 3.8% "unearned income Medicare contribution" on earned income and investment income for individuals earning over $200,000 and joint filers earning over $250,000. (Okay, those new Medicare taxes aren't technically part of the "fiscal cliff" -- but they don't give upper-income earners much reason to cheer 2013, either!)

But the fiscal cliff also threatened some dramatic estate tax changes as w

By Any Other Name

In Shakespeare's classic drama Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed protagonists from feuding families meet and fall in love. In Act II, when the impossibility of their courtship has become clear, Juliet leans out her balcony and declares to her lover "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The line, of course, implies that Romeo's last name should mean nothing, and the two should be together.

Shakespeare may or may not have been right about love and roses. But what about taxes? Does that which we call a "tax," by any other name smell as sour? Apparently, Washington thinks not — if you pay attention to all the new euphemisms, you'd think Washington has given up imposing new "taxes" entirely!

HIRE Act Affidavit Posted by IRS, Form W-11

The Internal Revenue Service has been working over time thanks to all the new tax laws just passed. Thankfully they placed a rush order for their team to create the new form needed to allow employers to take advantage of some nice provisions of the HIRE Act.

Form W-11, "Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act Employee Affidavit," is now posted on, along with answers to frequently asked questions about the payroll tax exemption and the related new hire retention credit. The new law requires that employers get a statement from each eligible new hire, certifying under penalties of perjury, that he or she was unemployed during the 60 days before beginning work or, alternatively, worked fewer than a total of 40 hours for anyone during the 60-day period. Employers can use Form W-11 to meet this requirement.

Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act

As was expected, today President Obama signed the most recent jobs bill passed by Congress, the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act.  While many businesses are hesitant about hiring new employees within the current economic climate, "this jobs bill should help make their decision that much easier," President Obama said during the bill signing.

While I am happy to see some effort being made to help small businesses let us be sure to keep this HIRE Act in perspective. First, unless you were already considering hiring another employee the Act is not going to offer you enough hard dollar incentive to make a hire. For example, if you were to hire a qualified previously unemployed worker and pay her $30,000 this year your tax savings would amount to $1,860. Plus, if you kept her on the payroll for a full 52 weeks you would also get a tax credit of $1,000. Your total potential savings is $2,860.  You can see that while nice to have, it is not likely these tax breaks by themselves will create much hiring. But, for all you business owners out there currently debating whether you need to add staff, this just might help you pull the trigger and make the hire.