What do the recent federal tax law changes mean for North Bay businesses?

Federal legislation may allow small businesses to take additional tax credits — or maybe not. The chronically slows IRS may begin to answer phone calls more frequently — or maybe not.

Yes, there’s a lot of tax-law changes to keep tabs on. So we asked North Bay accountants about how things are changing — or not. The answers to the Journal’s questions have been edited for length and clarity.

Business travel means business expenses. So, are you seeing your clients traveling more?

Jon Dal Poggetto: Business travel expenses do seem to be increasing in the last few months, but still below pre-COVID levels.

Jon Dal Poggetto

Managing partner, Dal Poggetto & Company LLP, 149 Stony Circle, first floor, Santa Rosa, CA 95401; 707-545-3311

Jon Dal Poggetto began his career in the Santa Rosa office of Touche Ross & Co. (one of the “Big Eight” accounting firms) and then worked in the San Francisco office of that firm as a manager in their Private Company Advisory Services department. He left the firm in 1982 to manage the Santa Rosa office of Eisenberg & Company and became a partner of that firm in 1984.

In 1986, Eisenberg & Company merged with Touche Ross & Co., and Poggetto became Partner in Charge of that firm’s newly acquired Santa Rosa office. In 1989, Deloitte, Haskins & Sells merged with Touche Ross & Co., and He became Partner in Charge of those combined firms’ Santa Rosa office. When Deloitte decided to close the Santa Rosa office in 1992, he founded Dal Poggetto & Company LLP.

Judy Deniz: Overall, have not seen a significant increase in business travel for the 2021 tax filing season that just wrapped up, but anticipate that may change for the 2022 tax year as people feel more comfortable traveling.

What we did see despite the COVID pandemic was business meal expenses holding steady if not higher than pre-pandemic times. In an effort to stimulate the restaurant industry, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, if expenses for business-related food and beverages provided by a restaurant are 100% deductible in 2021 and 2022 tax years instead of being subject to the 50% limit that generally applies to business meals. I work with many restaurant clients, so a win-win!

Judy Deniz

Tax manager, Linkenheimer LLP CPAs & Advisors, 187 Concourse Blvd. Santa Rosa, CA 95403; 707-546-0272

Working in public accounting since late 2005, Judy Deniz has gained a wide variety of experience including tax, audit and general accounting.  Deniz is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

James Elliott: We are seeing our clients be more strategic and intentional with how they choose to allocate their budgets. For things like continuing education, clients continue to take advantage of technology by attending opportunities remotely.

When networking and personal connections are key components, clients are more likely to travel to attend in-person events.

James Elliott

Partner, BPM LLP, 110 Stony Point Road, Suite 210, Santa Rosa, CA 95401; 707-544-4078

James Elliott predominantly works with entrepreneurial owner-managed businesses and high-net-worth individuals in various industries, including winery and vineyard, retail, real estate, and manufacturing, the company stated.

He is an alumnus of Sonoma State University and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP Wine Industry Services Team.

Daniel Novak: Yes, definitely. There is a lot of pent up demand for in person connections and I’m seeing it in both business travel and leisure travel.

Daniel Novak

Principal, Bregante + Company LLP, 330 Ignacio Blvd., Suite 201, Novato, CA 94949; 415-883-4262

Daniel Novak has been a CPA since 2014 and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the California Society of Certified Public Accountants. He joined Bregante + Company LLP as a manager in 2018 and was promoted to principal in 2021.

Novak works primarily with closely held businesses, high net worth individuals, and nonprofit organizations.

Inflation Reduction Act passed this summer. As it pertains to the work you and your firm do for business clients, what are the top three changes you tell them are the most important?

Jon Dal Poggetto: The energy tax credits are the most relevant to our clients. We do not work with public companies, so the provisions affecting them are not relevant to our clients.

Judy Deniz: While there are many provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act that center around energy efficiency, two components that I think will impact many taxpayers are the provisions around clean vehicle credits and for business owners’ personal returns, the residential clean-energy credit.

The new Clean Vehicle Credit eliminates the limitation on the number of vehicles eligible for the credit and requires assembly of the vehicle now take place in North America. Further beginning in 2023, purchase price and taxpayer income limitations may apply. In addition, the act provides credit provisions for used and qualified commercial clean vehicles.

Overall, the Inflation Reduction Act significantly changes the eligibility rules for tax credits available for clean vehicles, and additional guidance is still to be issued by the IRS.

The residential clean-energy credit has been extended and modified. The personal tax credit for solar electric, solar hot water, fuel cell, small wind energy, geothermal heat pump, and biomass fuel property was set to expire in 2023 and is now extended through 2034.

Another perhaps not so taxpayer friendly provision is the extension of the limit on excess business losses of non-corporate taxpayers.

Under prior law, there was a cap set on business loss deductions by non corporate taxpayers. For 2018 through 2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limited deductions for net business losses from sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers).

Losses in excess of those amounts (which are adjusted annually for inflation) may be carried forward to future tax years under the net operating loss rules.

Although another law (the CARES Act) suspended the limit for the 2018, 2019 and 2020 tax years, it’s now back in force and has been extended through 2028 by the Inflation Reduction Act.

James Elliott: There are some important, smaller provisions in the Act, like the extension of the renewable energy tax incentives through 2034 (now called residential clean energy credit). The doubling of the R&D credit for small taxpayers will also be a great opportunity for our clients.

The biggest thing, however, is what’s not included in the Act, which is no direct changes to the corporate or individual income tax rates.

Daniel Novak: Most of the questions I’ve received around the IRA have been related to the energy incentives.

But the way the law was written, with many requirements for U.S. made products, it’s left significant uncertainty as to what may qualify.

This uncertainty has led to a “wait and see” stance until we have more guidance from the IRS.

What’s funny to an accountant?

There’s humor in everything and so our survey participants were asked to tell us their favorite jokes.

Jon Dal Poggetto: Joe, an accountant, is the speaker at a service club luncheon. The master of ceremonies introduces him, and wraps up the introduction by saying “and just last year, Joe made over $1 million in oil investments in Texas!”

After the applause dies down, Joe says, “Thank you for the warm reception. However, I feel obligated to correct a few things that were said in my introduction.

“First of all, it wasn’t $ 1 million, it was more like $100,000.

“Second, it wasn’t Texas oil, it was coal from Pennsylvania.

“Third, It wasn’t me, it was my brother; and he did not make it, he lost it!”

Judy Deniz: In honor of Halloween for parents taking their kids out trick or treating, give them an early lesson in tax by charging them the “Candy Tax” – 50% is yours for taking them out.

(OK, maybe not a joke. But I’m an accountant, remember?)

James Elliott: Why did the ghost stumble home on Halloween?

He was wearing an off-balance sheet.

Daniel Novak: What does bowling and the CPA exam have in common?

Both have a perfect score of 300.

(If you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny, right? Well for the courtesy chuckle, the CPA exam is four parts. It’s pass or no pass. A passing score is 75, so if one were to get four 75’s, one would have a cumulative score of 300. That would signify that the person didn’t under-study or over-study. And 300 happens to also be the highest score in bowling.)

But also want to ask, that $80 billion in additional funding for the Internal Revenue Services: How much and how soon will it have an impact on the issues you have had in getting service from this key government agency, if at all?

Jon Dal Poggetto: We have not seen any improvement in service from the IRS yet. We hope that the funding allows them to restore their services such as receiving telephone calls on notices and working with us to resolve disputes.

Judy Deniz: I think it’s going to be a couple of years before we see improvement, but I think the improvement will relate more so to the IRS catching up from the bag log created during the pandemic.

Over the last couple of years, we could be on hold for hours, and that’s if you were lucky enough to even get through to a hold status. In the 17 years I have been in public accounting, I can’t ever say it has been “easy” dealing with the IRS as there’s always a hold, lag, or tedious process to get to the right department.

James Elliott: Of the $80 billion, only $3 billion will be directed to taxpayer services, while the rest will be allocated to enforcement ($46 billion), operations ($25 billion) and business systems modernization ($5 billion).

Daniel Novak: It’s definitely going to take some time to see how the funds are allocated and what the impact will be. Hopefully the first improvements we notice will be in customer support and the ability to get an issue resolved efficiently.

We are also hoping that this will enable them to stop using fax machines and move into the 21st century from a technological standpoint.

Are you concerned related to that it will increase audits on clients, though Treasury Secretary Yellen has told the agency not to go after small businesses more aggressively?

Jon Dal Poggetto: No, increased audit activity is not a concern.

James Elliott: Our professional associations have been advocating heavily on behalf of CPAs and our clients, and we have heard very promising feedback on how funds are intended to be spent.

Overall, we feel the increased funding to IRS will benefit our clients.

Daniel Novak: I am not concerned, and the reason is that the IRS needs to get up to a minimum level of service before increasing focus on enforcement.  In a 2022 report from the taxpayer advocate service in 2021 the IRS only was able to answer 9% of phone calls and as a tax practitioner I still regularly have to fax documents to the IRS.

Adding additional agents and spending on updated technology will not increase audits on clients and should instead improve the overall experience of dealing with the IRS.

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