Tax and financial advice from the Silicon Valley expert.

How to make a retroactive small business accounting election for California

The Franchise Tax Board has released preliminary guidance about how to make a small business accounting election on a 2018 income tax return.  California recently passed legislation, the “Loophole Closure and Small Business and Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2019”, adopting some of the provisions of the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, including elections for certain small businesses that were previously required to use the accrual method of accounting to use the cash method and other accounting simplification measures.  The effective date for these accounting changes is for years beginning on or after January 1, 2019, but taxpayers may elect to apply the changes for years beginning on or after January 1, 2018.

Until formal procedures are issued, taxpayers may make the election by providing the following information to the Franchise Tax Board:

  1. A statement with the original or amended California income tax return stating the taxpayer’s intent to make a small business accounting election and which election(s) the taxpayer is making;
  2. On the top of the first page of the original or amended tax return, write “AB 91 – Small Business Accounting Election” in BLUE INK; and
  3. Mail the return to:

Franchise Tax Board

PO Box 942857

Sacramento, CA  94257-0500

Note:  These returns must be PAPER-FILED.

(Spidell’s Flash E-mail: How to make a retroactive small business accounting election, July 31, 2019.)

Heterosexual couples under age 62 can now be registered domestic partners in California

Governor Newsom approved Senate Bill No. 30 on July 30, 2019.  The bill was authored by Senator Scott Weiner (Democrat state senator from San Francisco).  Under the new law, California’s Family Code is amended to allow heterosexual couples (a man and a woman) under age 62 to be registered domestic partners.

Before the change, only same-sex couples and heterosexual couples age 62 and greater could be registered domestic partners in California.

This change is important because registered domestic partners have essentially the same legal rights as married couples in California (including community property rights), and the relationship is not recognized as being married by the federal government.  THEREFORE, HETEROSEXUAL COUPLES WHO ARE CALIFORNIA REGISTERED DOMESTIC PARTNERS CAN AVOID THE FEDERAL INCOME TAX MARRIAGE PENALTY.

The federal marriage penalty means that a couple that files their income tax returns as married persons generally pays more income taxes than they would as unmarried persons.  The federal marriage penalty was increased under the Trump tax legislation, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Registered domestic partners are treated the same as married persons for California income tax reporting.

Be aware that registered domestic partners don’t qualify for some federal tax benefits that married couples do qualify for.  For example, gifts to a spouse who is a U.S. citizen qualifies for an unlimited marital deduction.  A bequest to a spouse who is a U.S. citizen also qualifies for an unlimited marital deduction.  The executor of a deceased spouse can elect on an estate tax return to give any unused lifetime exemption of the deceased spouse to a surviving spouse.  Only married persons are allowed to treat property settlements incident to a divorce as tax-free.

Heterosexual couples who are California residents and are planning to be married should consider being registered domestic partners, instead.

Heterosexual married couples who are California residents and who are paying a substantial federal marriage penalty should consider terminating their marriages and becoming registered domestic partners.  (Consult with your tax advisor to find out if you actually have a marriage penalty.)

I recommend consulting with a lawyer that specializes in family law and estate planning before making your decision.

(California S.B. 30, July 30, 2019.)

California sales tax relief for small businesses

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s Wayfair decision, retailers that sell tangible personal property to customers located in states where they don’t have a physical presence may be required to collect sales and use tax.  For example, a company located in Nevada that sells furniture to a California customer may be required to collect California sales and use tax and report the sale and pay the tax to California.

The same concept can require a retailer located in one sales tax district, say Santa Clara County, that sells property to a customer located in another district, say Los Angeles County, to collect and remit the sales and use tax to the district where the customer is a resident (in this example, Los Angeles County.)  (This requirement has long applied to sales of motor vehicles.)

Initially, California’s Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) issued rules imposing this collection requirement when a taxpayer had in either the preceding or current calendar year either (1) sales into the state or district exceeding $100,000 or (2) 200 or more separate transactions.

The new requirements were proposed to be effective on April 1, 2019.

Smaller retailers complained that the requirements were too burdensome — especially because they might have 200 separate transactions with a small dollar amount.

On April 25, 2019, Governor Newsom approved Assembly Bill No. 147, which provides relief to smaller retailers.

The new threshold for the requirement to collect California state and district sales and use taxes is more than $500,000 of sales of tangible personal property to customers located in California.  (Sales of motor vehicles are still subject to the use tax reporting requirement, regardless of the amount.)

The second threshold of 200 or more separate transactions has been repealed and is disregarded.

The new $500,000 of sales threshold is retroactively effective on April 1, 2019.

A change in the new law this isn’t favorable to small businesses doing business in California is that district sales and use taxes for all districts must be collected and reported when a business reaches the $500,000 threshold for all of California.  Under the previous guidelines, reporting and collection was only required when the $100,000 or 200 transactions threshold was reached for the district.  To help get the rates that apply, the CDTFA has on online lookup tool, Find a Sales and Use Tax Rate by Address.  Here is a link to the tool. https://gis.cdtfa.ca.gov/public/maps/taxrates/  (Spidell’s California Taxletter, May, 2019, p. 3, California adopts $500,000 economic nexus threshold for use taxes.)

Retailers with a physical presence in California are still required to report and collect California sales and use tax and local district sales and use tax.  They only need to be concerned about the $500,000 threshold as it relates to sales to customers located in another district.

The new law also includes a new requirement that requires “marketplace facilitators” that sell goods for other companies on their web sites, like Amazon and EBay, to treat those sales as made by the marketplace facilitator.  The marketplace facilitator will report the sales and collect and remit the sales and use taxes when it exceeds the $500,000 of sales threshold for the State of California and the various districts.

If the marketplace facilitator reports the sale and collects and remits the sales and use tax, the retailer isn’t required to do so.

The marketplace facilitator rules won’t be effective until October 1, 2019.

Some retailers might have to report sales made through a marketplace facilitator from April 1 through September 30, 2019 and their reporting burden may be shifted to marketplace facilitators thereafter.

There may be audit issues with the new marketplace facilitator reporting requirement, because the sales reported on the sales tax report won’t agree to the books and records of the retailer and the marketplace facilitator.

Despite the complexity of the new reporting requirements, many smaller retailers will find a lot to be thankful for in this relief legislation.

What should you know about California real estate change of ownership?

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell  on Friday, July 21, is with G. Scott Haislet, CPA and attorney at law.   Our interview subject is “Real estate reassessment change of ownership in California.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

What should you know about spousal and child support for a California divorce? (Part 2)

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell this Friday, February 24, is with Mark Erickson, attorney at law.   Our interview subject is “Divorce California Style – child and spousal support – part 2 of 2.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

What should you know about property settlement for a California divorce?

The interview on Financial Insider Weekly to be broadcast in San Jose and Campbell on Fridays, February 3 and 10, is with Mark Erickson, attorney at law.   Our interview subject is “Divorce California Style – property settlement basics.”  The interview will be broadcast at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time on CreaTV, Comcast Channel 15 in San Jose and Campbell, and will be broadcast as streaming video at the same time at www.creatvsj.org. You can find broadcast times for other San Francisco Bay Area cities and past episodes at www.financialinsiderweekly.com.

Tax and financial advice from the Silicon Valley expert.