Black April: The Twitch Partner Reckoning

April 2016 may have seemed like just another month on Twitch.tv, but the volume of Twitch partners struggling with the complexity of taxes on social media was louder than ever.

 

People are continuing to take their hobby of streaming video games and turning it into careers, many with great success. These successful careers are creating lives for many people that they haven’t experienced before, getting paid to do what they love. With this new found success and income came an increase in payments to the outstretched hand of the tax man, Uncle Sam. While for a majority of the people who have experienced this before, their thought may be: “Seems standard.” In this case, many who were impacted the most were not prepared for the impending tax bill and did not know what steps to take to soften the blow. Successful streamers in the past got away with standard tax preparations in their first year of business, but they did not anticipate the increase in the complexity of their taxes with the increase in their annual pay. This has always been a problem for those making a significant amount of money, a relatively new situation in the Twitch world.

 

Obviously, some may allude to the fact that tax preparation should be common knowledge. It’s hard to disagree with that statement, but many of these young entrepreneurs look at themselves as employees taking home a paycheck instead of as small business owners looking to manage their tax burden. Streamers who grew their respective gaming communities were thrust into a new position that some were not prepared for from a financial standpoint.

 

What is the glaring issue here? The main issue was the lack of knowledge on the streamer front as to how to handle taxes proactively. This was a first time experience for many, and for someone working under the 1099 independent contractor banner, it can be easily forgotten that taxes are a looming liability. The even more forgotten concern is the full 15.3% payroll tax that becomes the liability of the streamer versus only paying half as a W2 employee. If taxes are not adequately addressed in the current tax year, it can create years of future problems, additional payments, and more time spent dealing with the IRS.

 

The silver lining to this story is the viability of the interactive media market as a career for professional players, streamers, or content creators. This growing market is a breeding ground for sponsors to find new users of their products and create lifetime customers. Each micro-community on Twitch represents a unique opportunity for streamers to leverage their audience.

 

With taxes continuing to be an annual problem for streamers, there are solutions. Individual firms, consultants, and even pro-bono counseling groups are being formed for the sole purpose to better educate, prepare, and potentially offer professional services to those in need. One example is the Player Resource Center being developed by esports lawyer Bryce Blum and former professional gamer Stephen “Snoopeh” Ellis to fill this exact void. The growing interactive media environment needs professional infrastructure to help it continue to thrive into the future.

 

Outside of being able to generate a living via streaming, the biggest financial problem that streamers face is proper consideration towards taxes at the end of the year. With many firms looking to help and resources becoming available to those in need, there is hope that these entrepreneurs will continue to increase their efficiency and make the most of their success for years to come.

warrenstreetadvisors006
Joe Occhipinti
Joe@warrenstreetwealth.com
714.823.3328

Reduce your Tax Bill: ESPORTS & Streamer Edition

Co-Authored by:
Blake Street CFP® & Joe Occhipinti

 

The world of eSports has turned a hobby into a full time profession for many people around the world. Streamers, professional players, and YouTube stars have been able to take their specific talents and turn their passion into a career.

However, with this newly found cash flow comes a new liability in the form of taxes. The knock from Uncle Sam will only get louder as revenue streams, prize pools, and sponsorship deals increase.  Many eSports professionals find themselves scratching their heads come tax time, trying to sort through W2 wages, 1099 income, and even how to handle income from organizations that didn’t report it in the first place.

The burden remains on the the individual to accrue cash to pay taxes, keep their books, properly report income, and make sure they are in compliance with the IRS. The IRS, as always, does no favors in helping you make your tax bill small.

If you’re a streamer, influencer, or competitor there is a high likelihood that you yourself are considered a small business in the eyes of the IRS. This means you’re liable for the 15.3% payroll tax on your earnings that you might only otherwise be liable for half of as a W2 employee. In addition, you may have liabilities from your business activities and even employees or contractors you may hire to do work for you.  From what we’ve found thus far, few have addressed these variables with adequate intent.

 

How do you fix this problem?

 

1) Keep Good Books

First things first get setup to adequately track  business related expenses and any deductions that may reduce your tax burden.  This is the first and easiest thing to control. A good start is separate banking for your business efforts and a solid piece of accounting software.

2) Incorporation

Next, how are you incorporating your business? Sole proprietor? LLC? S-Corp? Each classification has its own nuances that will impact the bottom line dollars you keep and the liability you bare. It is important to look at not only the amount you make, but also the consistency of earnings, and the amount of liability your services or content generate before choosing a type of incorporation.

3) Build Cash Reserves

As money comes in the door, aside from saving for goals, you need to save for taxes. Companies should be withholding taxes on your W2 wages, but any other forms of income the burden is on you. Generally our clients set aside 20-30% of every dollar of revenue aside for potential taxes. The struggle is real!

4) Tax Deferral & Planning

Still have lots of profits left and nothing to spend it on? Why pay taxes on those dollars now? Consider opening a tax advantaged savings plan. Depending on your need, one might consider a Traditional IRA, ROTH IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA, or Solo 401(k). All of these plans allow for tax deferred or tax advantaged savings and investing but each offers a different level of complexity and contribution limits.

5) Hire the Right People

Find folks with the expertise to guide you through the setup and management of each step we detailed above. This person or firm will need to network with their CPA’s and attorney’s or even your existing team to make the most of your new found success. The goal is to minimize your tax bill, grow your net worth, and protect you from some of the common financial pitfalls seen in both traditional and eSports.

 

More About Us

Warren Street Wealth Advisors was founded by a retired Counter-Strike: Source professional, and we are well aware of the challenges you face. We offer services that give streamers, professional esports players, and interactive media talent the ability to transform themselves from just a  revenue generating entity to a well rounded and tax efficient business. If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact Blake Street or Joe Occhipinti directly.

 

Disclaimer
Blake Street and Joseph Occhipinti are Investment Advisor Representatives of Warren Street Wealth Advisors, a Registered Investment Advisor. The information posted here represents his opinions and is not meant as personal or actionable advice to any individual, corporation, or other entity. Any investments discussed carry unique risks and should be carefully considered and reviewed by you and your financial professional.  Nothing in this commentary is a solicitation to buy, or sell, any securities, or an attempt to furnish personal investment advice. We may hold securities referenced in the blog and due to the static nature of content, those securities held may change over time and trades may be contrary to outdated posts.

Common Deductions Taxpayers Overlook

Make sure you give them a look as you prepare your 1040.

Provided by: Warren Street Wealth Advisors

 

Every year, taxpayers leave money on the table. They don’t mean to, but as a result of oversight, they miss some great chances for federal income tax deductions.

 

While the IRS has occasionally fixed taxpayer mistakes in the past for taxpayer benefit, you can’t count on such benevolence. As a reminder, here are some potential tax breaks that often go unnoticed – and this is by no means the whole list.

 

Expenses related to a job search. Did you find a new job in the same line of work last year? If you itemize, you can deduct the job-hunting costs as miscellaneous expenses. The deductions can’t surpass 2% of your adjusted gross income. Even if you didn’t land a new job last year, you can still write off qualified job search expenses. Many expenses qualify: overnight lodging, mileage, cab fares, resume printing, headhunter fees and more. Didn’t keep track of these expenses? You and your CPA can estimate them. If your new job prompted you to relocate 50 or more miles from your previous residence last year, you can take a deduction for job-related moving expenses even if you don’t itemize.1

 

Home office expenses. Do you work from home? If so, first figure out what percentage of the square footage in your house is used for work-related activities. (Bathrooms and other “break areas” can count in the calculation.) If you use 15% of your home’s square footage for business, then 15% of your homeowners insurance, home maintenance costs, utility bills, ISP bills, property tax and mortgage/rent may be deducted.2

 

State sales taxes. If you live in a state that collects no income tax from its residents, you have the option to deduct state sales taxes paid the previous year.1

 

Student loan interest paid by parents. Did you happen to make student loan payments on behalf of your son or daughter last year? If so (and if you can’t claim your son or daughter as a dependent), that child may be able to write off up to $2,500 of student-loan interest. Itemizing the deduction isn’t necessary.1

 

Education & training expenses. Did you take any classes related to your career last year? How about courses that added value to your business or potentially increased your employability? You can deduct the tuition paid and the related textbook and travel costs.3,4

 

Those small charitable contributions. We all seem to make out-of-pocket charitable donations, and we can fully deduct them (although few of us ask for receipts needed to itemize them). However, we can also itemize expenses incurred in the course of charitable work (i.e., volunteering at a toy drive, soup kitchen, relief effort, etc.) and mileage accumulated in such efforts ($0.14 per mile, and tolls and parking fees qualify as well).1

 

Armed forces reserve travel expenses. Are you a reservist or a member of the National Guard? Did you travel more than 100 miles from home and spend one or more nights away from home to drill or attend meetings? If that is the case, you may write off 100% of related lodging costs and 50% of meal costs  and take a mileage deduction ($0.56 per mile plus tolls and parking fees).1

 

Estate tax on income in respect of a decedent. Have you inherited an IRA? Was the estate of the original IRA owner large enough to be subject to federal estate tax? If so, you have the option to claim a federal income tax write-off for the amount of the estate tax paid on those inherited IRA assets. If you inherited a $100,000 IRA that was part of the original IRA owner’s taxable estate and thereby hit with $40,000 in death taxes, you can deduct that $40,000 on Schedule A as you withdraw that $100,000 from the inherited IRA, $20,000 on Schedule A as you withdraw $50,000 from the inherited IRA, and so on.1

 

The child care credit. If you paid for child care while you worked last year, you can qualify for a tax credit worth 20-35% of that amount. (The child, or children, must be no older than 12.) Tax credits are superior to tax deductions, as they cut your tax bill dollar-for-dollar.1

 

As a precaution, check with your tax professional before claiming the above deductions on your federal income tax return.

 

Warren Street Wealth Advisors

190 S. Glassell St., Suite 209

Orange, CA 92866

714-876-6200 – office

714-876-6202 – fax

714-876-6284 – direct

 

This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 – kiplinger.com/article/taxes/T054-C000-S001-the-most-overlooked-tax-deductions.html [1/7/15]

2 – irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Home-Office-Deduction [1/9/15]

3 – irs.gov/publications/p970/ch06.html [2015]

4 – irs.gov/publications/p970/ch12.html [2015]

 

 

2015 IRA Deadlines Are Approaching

Here is what you need to know.

Provided by: Warren Street Wealth Advisors

 

Financially, many of us associate April with taxes – but we should also associate April with important IRA deadlines.

 

*April 1 is the absolute deadline to take your first Required Mandatory Distribution (RMD) from your traditional IRA(s).

*April 15 is the deadline for making annual contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.1

 

Let’s discuss the contribution deadline first, and then the deadline for that first RMD (which affects only those IRA owners who turned 70½ last year).

 

The earlier you make your annual IRA contribution, the better. You can make a yearly Roth or traditional IRA contribution anytime between January 1 of the current year and April 15 of the next year. So the contribution window for 2014 is January 1, 2014- April 15, 2015. You can make your IRA contribution for 2015 anytime from January 1, 2015-April 15, 2016.2

 

You have more than 15 months to make your IRA contribution for a given year, but why wait? Savvy IRA owners contribute as early as they can to give those dollars more months to grow and compound. (After all, who wants less time to amass retirement savings?)

 

You cut your income tax bill by contributing to a deductible traditional IRA. That’s because you are funding it with after-tax dollars. To get the full tax deduction for your 2015 traditional IRA contribution, you have to meet one or more of these financial conditions:

 

*You aren’t eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan.

*You are eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan, but you are a single filer or head of household with modified adjusted gross income of $61,000 or less. (Or if you file jointly with your spouse, your combined MAGI is $98,000 or less.)

*You aren’t eligible to participate in a workplace retirement plan, but your spouse is eligible and your combined 2015 gross income is $183,000 or less.3

 

If you are the original owner of a traditional IRA, by law you must stop contributing to it starting in the year you turn 70½. If you are the initial owner of a Roth IRA, you can contribute to it as long as you live provided you have taxable compensation and MAGI below a certain level (see below).1,3

 

If you are making a 2014 IRA contribution in early 2015, be aware of this fact. You must tell the investment company hosting the IRA account what year the contribution is for. If you fail to indicate the tax year that the contribution applies to, the custodian firm may make a default assumption that the contribution is for the current year (and note exactly that to the IRS).4

 

So, write “2015 IRA contribution” or “2014 IRA contribution” as applicable in the memo area of your check, plainly and simply. Be sure to write your account number on the check. Should you make your contribution electronically, double-check that these details are communicated.

 

How much can you put into an IRA this year? You can contribute up to $5,500 to a Roth or traditional IRA for the 2015 tax year, $6,500 if you will be 50 or older this year. (The same applies for the 2014 tax year). If you have multiple IRAs, you can contribute up to a total of $5,500/$6,500 across the various accounts. Should you make an IRA contribution exceeding these limits, you will not be rewarded for it: you will have until the following April 15 to correct the contribution with the help of an IRS form, and if you don’t, the amount of the excess contribution will be taxed at 6% each year the correction is avoided.1,4

 

If you earn a lot of money, your maximum contribution to a Roth IRA may be reduced because of MAGI phase-outs, which kick in as follows.3

 

2014 Tax Year                                                          2015 Tax Year

Single/head of household: $114,000 – $129,000          Single/head of household: $116,000 – $131,000

Married filing jointly: $181,000 – $191,000                      Married filing jointly: $183,000 – $193,000

Married filing separately: $0 – $10,000                 Married filing separately: $0 – $10,000

 

If your MAGI falls within the applicable phase-out range, you may make a partial contribution.3

 

A last-chance RMD deadline rolls around on April 1. If you turned 70½ in 2014, the IRS gave you a choice: you could a) take your first Required Minimum Distribution from your traditional IRA before December 31, 2014, or b) postpone it until as late as April 1, 2015.1

 

If you chose b), you will have to take two RMDs this year – one by April 1, 2014 and another by December 31, 2014. (For subsequent years, your annual RMD deadline will be December 31.) The investment firm hosting your IRA should have already notified you of this consequence, and the RMD amount(s) – in fact, they have probably calculated the RMD(s) for you.5

 

Original owners of Roth IRAs will never face this issue – they are not required to take RMDs.1

 

Warren Street Wealth Advisors

190 S. Glassell St., Suite 209

Orange, CA 92866

714-876-6200 – office

714-876-6202 – fax

714-876-6284 – direct

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Citations.

1 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [11/3/14]

2 – dailyfinance.com/2014/12/06/time-running-out-end-year-retirement-planning/ [12/6/14]

3 – asppa.org/News/Browse-Topics/Sales-Marketing/Article/ArticleID/3594 [10/23/14]

4 – investopedia.com/articles/retirement/05/021505.asp [1/21/15]

5 – schwab.com/public/schwab/nn/articles/IRA-Tax-Traps [6/6/14]