Tax records: What should you keep, and what can you toss?

Once you’ve filed your 2012 tax return, you may wonder what records you can toss and what you should keep. Here are some suggestions.

Keep records that directly support income or expense items on your tax return. For income, this includes W-2s, 1099s, and Form K-1s. Also keep records of any other income you might have received from other sources. It’s also a good idea to save your bank statements and investment statements from brokers.

For expense items, keep your cancelled checks as well as support for any itemized deductions you claimed. This includes acknowledgments from charitable organizations and backup for taxes paid, mortgage interest, medical deductions, work expenses, and miscellaneous deductions. Even if you don’t itemize, keep records of expenses for child care, medical insurance if you’re self-employed, and any other expenses that appear on your return.

The IRS can audit you routinely for three years after you file your return. But in cases where income is underreported, they can audit for up to six years. To be safe, keep your records for seven years.

Keep certain other records longer. These include records relating to your house purchase and any improvements you make. Also keep records of investment purchases, dividends reinvested, retirement plan contributions, and any major gifts you make or receive. And finally, keep copies of all your tax returns and W-2s in case you ever need to prove your earnings for social security purposes.

Please call our office if you have specific questions about recordkeeping.

David Bradsher, CPA

Follow the tax rules when you borrow from your corporation

If you’re a business owner and your company lends you money, you’ll enter it in the books as a shareholder loan. However, if your return is audited, the IRS will scrutinize the loan to see whether it is really disguised wages or a dividend, taxable to you as income. Knowing what the IRS might look at may be useful when you structure the arrangement.

* First, the IRS will look at your relationship to the company. If you’re the sole shareholder with full control over earnings, that may weaken your case that the loan is genuine. On the other hand, if you’re one of several shareholders and none of the others received similar payments, that suggests it might be a genuine loan.

* Next, the IRS will look at the details of the loan. Did you sign a formal promissory note? Did you pledge any security against the loan? Does the loan have a specific maturity date, or is there a repayment schedule? What rate of interest are you paying? Have you missed any payments, and if so, has the company tried to collect them? The more businesslike the terms of the loan, the more it will appear to be a genuine debt.

* Finally, the IRS will consider other factors. Is your company paying you a salary that’s in line with the work you perform? Has the company paid dividends, or is this the only payment to its shareholder? Is the size of the loan within your ability to repay? How does the size of the loan compare to the company’s profits?

Whether the IRS will try to tax you on the “loan” will depend on all these factors. If you’ve paid attention to the details, the loan should withstand IRS scrutiny. Contact us if you’d like more information about borrowing money from your closely held corporation.

David Bradsher, CPA