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lightning-storm-clouds-wallpaper-3

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

Purple-100-Dollar-Money

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.

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Explaining the Basis of Inherited Real Estate

What is cost basis? Stepped-up basis? How does the home sale tax exclusion work?
Provided by Joe Occhipinti

 

At some point in our lives, we may inherit a home or another form of real property. In such instances, we need to understand some of the jargon involving inherited real estate. What does “cost basis” mean? What is a “step-up?” What is the home sale tax exclusion, and what kind of tax break does it offer? Very few parents discuss these matters with their children before they pass away. Some prior knowledge of these terms may make things less confusing at a highly stressful time.

Cost basis is fairly easy to explain. It is the original purchase price of real estate plus certain expenses and fees incurred by the buyer, many of them detailed at closing. The purchase price is always the starting point for determining the cost basis; that is true whether the purchase is financed or all-cash. Title insurance costs, settlement fees, and property taxes owed by the seller that the buyer ends up paying can all become part of the cost basis (1).

At the buyer’s death, the cost basis of the property is “stepped up” to its current fair market value. This step-up can cut into the profits of inheritors should they elect to sell. On the other hand, it can also reduce any income tax liability stemming from the transaction (2).

Here is an illustration of stepped-up basis. Twenty years ago, Jane Smyth bought a home for $255,000. At purchase, the cost basis of the property was $260,000. Jane dies and her daughter Blair inherits the home. Its present fair market value is $459,000. That is Blair’s stepped-up basis. So if Blair sells the home and gets $470,000 for it, her complete taxable profit on the sale will be $11,000, not $210,000. If she sells the home for less than $459,000, she will take a loss; the loss will not be tax-deductible, as you cannot deduct a loss resulting from the sale of a personal residence (1).

The step-up can reflect more than just simple property appreciation through the years. In fact, many factors can adjust it over time, including negative ones. Basis can be adjusted upward by the costs of home improvements and home additions (and even related tax credits received by the homeowner), rebuilding costs following a disaster, legal fees linked to property ownership, and expenses of linking utility lines to a home. Basis can be adjusted downward by property and casualty insurance payouts, allowable depreciation that comes from renting out part of a home or using part of a residence as a place of business, and any other developments that amount to a return of cost for the property owner (1).

The Internal Revenue Code states that a step-up applies for real property “acquired by bequest, devise, or inheritance, or by the decedent’s estate from the decedent.” In plain English, that means the new owner of the property is eligible for the step-up whether the deceased property owner had a will or not (2).

In a community property state, receipt of the step-up becomes a bit more complicated. If a married couple buys real estate in Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin, each spouse is automatically considered to have a 50% ownership interest in said real property. (Alaska offers spouses the option of a community property agreement.) If a child or other party inherits that 50% ownership interest, that inheritor is usually entitled to a step-up. If at least half of the real estate in question is included in the decedent’s gross estate, the surviving spouse is also eligible for a step-up on his or her 50% ownership interest. Alternately, the person inheriting the ownership interest may choose to value the property six months after the date of the previous owner’s death (or the date of disposition of the property, if disposition occurred first)(2,3).

In recent years, there has been talk in Washington of curtailing the step-up. So far, such notions have not advanced toward legislation (4).

What if a parent gifts real property to a child? The parent’s tax basis becomes the child’s tax basis. If the parent has owned that property for decades and the child cannot take advantage of the federal home sale tax exclusion, the capital gains tax could be enormous if the child sells the property (2).

Who qualifies for the home sale tax exclusion? If individuals or married couples want to sell an inherited home, they can qualify for this big federal tax break once they have used that home as their primary residence for two years out of the five years preceding the sale. Upon qualifying, a single taxpayer may exclude as much as $250,000 of gain from the sale, with $500,000 being the limit for married homeowners filing jointly. If the home’s cost basis receives a step-up, the gain from the sale may be small, but this is still a nice tax perk to have (5).

  

Joe Occhipinti may be reached at 714.823.3328 or Joe@warrenstreetwealth.com

www.warrenstreetwealth.com

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. 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 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/determining-your-homes-tax-basis.html [3/30/16]
2 – realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/sellersadvice1/item/34913-20150513-inherited-property-understanding-the-stepped-up-basis [5/13/15]
3 – irs.gov/irm/part25/irm_25-018-001.html
4 – blogs.wsj.com/totalreturn/2015/01/20/the-value-of-the-step-up-on-inherited-assets/ [1/20/15]
5 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/if-you-inherit-home-do-you-qualify-the-home-sale-tax-exclusion.html [3/31/16]

Your Year-End Financial Checklist

Check ListSeven aspects of your financial life to review as the year draws to a close.

Provided by: Warren Street Wealth Advisors

                       

The end of a year makes us think about last-minute things we need to address and good habits we want to start keeping. To that end, here are seven aspects of your financial life to think about as this year leads into the next…

 

Your investments. Review your approach to investing and make sure it suits your objectives. Look over your portfolio positions and revisit your asset allocation.

 

Your retirement planning strategy. Does it seem as practical as it did a few years ago? Are you able to max out contributions to IRAs and workplace retirement plans like 401(k)s? Is it time to make catch-up contributions? Finally, consider Roth IRA conversion scenarios, and whether the potential tax-free retirement distributions tomorrow seem worth the taxes you may incur today. Be sure to take your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from your traditional IRA(s) by December 31. If you don’t, the IRS will assess a penalty of 50% of the RMD amount on top of the taxes you will already pay on that income. (While you can postpone your very first IRA RMD until April 1, 2015, that forces you into taking two RMDs next year, both taxable events.)1

   

Your tax situation. How many potential credits and/or deductions can you and your accountant find before the year ends? Have your CPA craft a year-end projection including Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The rise in the top marginal tax bracket for 2014 made fewer high-earning executives and business owners subject to the AMT, as their ordinary income tax liabilities grew. That calls for a fresh look at accelerated depreciation, R&D credits, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, incentive stock options and certain types of tax-advantaged investments.2

 

Review any sales of appreciated property and both realized and unrealized losses and gains. Take a look back at last year’s loss carry-forwards. If you’ve sold securities, gather up cost-basis information. Look for any transactions that could potentially enhance your circumstances.

 

Your charitable gifting goals. Plan charitable contributions or contributions to education accounts, and make any desired cash gifts to family members. The annual federal gift tax exclusion is $14,000 per individual for 2014 and 2015, meaning a taxpayer can gift as much as $14,000 to as many individuals as you like in each year without tax consequences. A married couple can gift up to $28,000 tax-free to as many individuals as they prefer. The gifts do count against the lifetime estate tax exemption amount, which climbs to $5.43 million per individual and $10.86 per married couple for 2015.3

 

You could also gift appreciated stocks to a charity. If you have owned them for more than a year, you can deduct 100% of their fair market value and legally avoid capital gains tax you would normally incur from selling them.4

 

Besides outright gifts, you can plan other financial moves on behalf of your family – you can create and fund trusts, for example. The end of the year is a good time to review any trusts you have in place.

 

Your life insurance coverage. Are your policies and beneficiaries up-to-date? Review premium costs, beneficiaries, and any and all life events that may have altered your coverage needs.

 

Speaking of life events…did you happen to get married or divorced in 2014? Did you move or change jobs? Buy a home or business? Did you lose a family member, or see a severe illness or ailment affect a loved one? Did you reach the point at which Mom or Dad needed assisted living? Was there a new addition to your family this year? Did you receive an inheritance or a gift? All of these circumstances can have a financial impact on your life, and even the way you invest and plan for retirement and wind down your career or business. They are worth discussing with the financial or tax professional you know and trust.

 

Lastly, did you reach any of these financially important ages in 2014? If so, act accordingly.

 

Did you turn 70½ this year? If so, you must now take Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from your IRA(s).

Did you turn 62 this year? If so, you’re now eligible to apply for Social Security benefits.

Did you turn 59½ this year? If so, you may take IRA distributions without a 10% penalty.

Did you turn 55 this year? If so, and you retired during this year, you may now take distributions from your 401(k) account without penalty.

Did you turn 50 this year? If so, “catch-up” contributions may now be made to IRAs (and certain qualified retirement plans).1,5,6

 

The end of the year is a key time to review your financial well-being. If you feel you need to address any of the items above, please feel free to give me a call.

 

Warren Street Wealth Advisors

190 S. Glassell Streeet, Suite 209

Orange, CA 92866

Direct: 714-876-6200

Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.
Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered
Investment Advisor. Warren Street and Cambridge are not affiliated.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. 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/RMD-Comparison-Chart-%28IRAs-vs.-Defined-Contribution-Plans%29 [4/30/14]

2 – tinyurl.com/o7wqk7z [3/27/14]

3 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2014/10/30/irs-announces-2015-estate-and-gift-tax-limits/ [10/30/14]

4 – philanthropy.com/article/Donors-Often-Overlook-Benefits/148561/ [8/29/14]

5 – nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/getting-retirement-money-early-without-30168.html [12/2/14]

6 – turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tools/tax-tips/Tax-Planning-and-Checklists/Tax-Tips-After-January-1–2015/INF12070.html [12/2/14]

Talking About Money Before & After You Marry

Talking About Money Before & After You MarryNo money secrets should stand between the two of you as you wed.

Provided by: Warren Street Wealth Advisors

 

 

 

No married couple should suffer from financial infidelity. If you hide debt, income or assets from your spouse, it can lead to a fight and possibly even an impasse in your relationship.

 

Communication & transparency are essential when it comes to money. That truth should be recognized by every couple tying the knot, or even just cohabitating. Yes, financial matters can prove hard to discuss – but if you can’t talk about them together, that’s already a serious problem.

 

That problem may affect more couples than we realize. In 2013, 7% of engaged individuals who answered a National Credit Counseling Foundation poll said that if they discussed money issues with their fiancé, it would prompt a fight; 11% felt such a talk would uncover financial secrets, and 5% said it would “cause us to call off the wedding.”1

 

On the bright side, 32% felt a conversation about financial matters would be “a productive and easy conversation to have.” The most frequent response (45%) was that a money discussion would be “awkward,” but also necessary for the health of the marriage.1

  

You have to tell your future spouse about your debts. Do it before you get married, not after. That debt will become your spouse’s financial concern as well as yours. The two of you should plan together to pay down your individual debts in the coming months or years. Again, this represents a shared commitment. Don’t put your name on your deeply indebted spouse’s credit card. Attaching your name to that account will have minimal impact on your FICO score, but you don’t want to pay a (literal) price for your spouse’s runaway financial impulses.2

 

If you have six credit cards between the two of you, see if you can slim it down to three or four – the ones with the lowest fees and best rewards programs. Or see if you can just use those three or four and let the other accounts lie dormant. That might be a better move than just canceling the excess credit cards – that could hurt you, especially in the case of older accounts. About 15% of your FICO score is based on the duration of your credit history, so if that was good history, you don’t quite want to say goodbye to it.2

 

Think about a new joint credit card account for the two of you. If you feel your spouse needs debt counseling before you can make that move, don’t be shy about requesting it. Even if your spouse has been living on plastic, think twice about leaving him or her without a credit card. You want (and need) to show some credit history.

 

You will have to compromise. The most valuable verb in marriage is also really valuable when it comes to your shared financial life. Maybe you’re a good saver, a future “millionaire next door” – and yet your spouse is a comparative spendthrift. If you can’t compromise on a “money policy,” then maybe you can find a middle ground by saving for a special experience. Or, maybe each of you can set aside a bit of money per month to spend or save purely at your discretion.

 

You may want to pay the bills proportionately. If one of you earns 70% of the household income, then maybe that spouse should pay for 70% of the household bills and expenses. To many newlyweds, that seems entirely fair.

 

Build retirement savings & an emergency fund together. Financially, there are few better ways to signify your long-term commitment to one another.

 

Wait on a big purchase. Consider waiting 24 hours (if you can) before going through with it. Or, alternately, set a dollar limit on such purchases – give each other limited financial autonomy I making major purchases that ends at X hundred or X thousand dollars. If the money exceeds that limit, then you both have to discuss it before it can occur.

 

Make a budget. In fact, strive to make a zero-based version, a budget in which income minus expenses comes precisely to zero each month. This is a way of accounting for each and every dollar spent (actual or projected) and a way to pinpoint potential monthly savings or redirection of income toward expenses.

 

Watch those taxes. Should you file your taxes jointly? Not necessarily. That is wise for many couples, but if your incomes vary greatly it may be better to file separately. Consult a tax preparer for an answer. Also, look at your W-4 at work. It may be time to adjust your withholding status. If your spouse isn’t employed, you get to add another withholding allowance. Assuming he or she is employed, you can turn to irs.gov to learn how many allowances you are due in total. Then, you can divide that total by two. You and your employer need to follow the instructions on the W-4 so you don’t withhold more or less than you should.

 

Talking about money isn’t always pleasant, but candor, communication and full disclosure can lead to clarity in your financial lives.

 

Warren Street Wealth Advisors

190 S. Glassell Street, Suite 209

Orange, CA 92866

 

Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC.
Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a Registered
Investment Advisor. Warren Street and Cambridge are not affiliated.

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. 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 – nfcc.org/press/multimedia/news-releases/two-thirds-of-engaged-couples-express-negative-attitudes-toward-discussing-money/ [5/31/13]

2 – washingtonpost.com/news/get-there/wp/2014/09/23/for-richer-or-poorer-a-financial-plan-for-newlyweds/ [9/23/14]