Does Your Tax ID Number Need to be Renewed?

Does Your Tax ID Number Need to be Renewed?

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), just about 2 million Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) are set to expire at the end of 2019.

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How to Organize Spending Priorities for Your Newer Growth Startup

How to Organize Spending Priorities for Your Newer Growth Startup

According to a recent study conducted by U.S. Bank, over 80% of all newly formed businesses that ultimately fail do so due to cash flow problems. If you needed a reason to believe that getting your spending in order and dedicating the time to drafting a proper budget for your new startup is important, look no further than that one.

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Hobby or Business? It Makes a Difference for Taxes – Now More than Ever

Hobby or Business? It Makes a Difference for Taxes – Now More than Ever

Taxpayers are often confused by the differences in tax treatment between businesses that are entered into for profit and those that are not, commonly referred to as hobbies. Recent tax law changes have added to the confusion. The differences are:

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Learn what factors determine whether a household worker qualifies as an employee or an independent contractor.

Household Help: Employee or Contractor?

Taxpayers often will hire an individual or firm to provide services at the taxpayer’s home. Because the IRS requires employers to withhold taxes for employees and issue them W-2s at the end of the year, the big question is whether or not that individual is a household employee.

Determining whether a household worker is considered an employee depends a great deal on circumstances and the amount of control the hiring person has over the job and the worker they hire. Ordinarily, when someone has the last word about telling a worker what needs to be done and how the job should be done, then that worker is an employee. Having a right to discharge the worker and supplying tools and the place to perform a job are primary factors that show control.

Not all those hired to work in a taxpayer’s home are considered household employees. For example, an individual may hire a self-employed gardener who handles the yard work for that individual as well as some of the individual’s neighbors. The gardener supplies all tools and brings in other helpers needed to do the job. Under these circumstances, the gardener isn’t an employee and the person hiring him/her isn’t responsible for paying employment taxes. The same would apply to the person hired to maintain an individual’s swimming pool or to contractors making repairs or improvements on the home.

Contrast the following example to the self-employed gardener described above: The Johnson family hired Maclovia to clean their home and care for their 3-year old daughter, Kim, while they are at work. Mrs. Johnson gave Maclovia instructions about the job to be done, explained how the various tasks should be done, and provided the tools and supplies; Mrs. Johnson, and not Maclovia, had control over the job. Under these circumstances, Maclovia is a household employee, and the Johnsons are responsible for withholding and paying certain employment taxes for her and issuing her a W-2 for the year.

W-2 forms are to be provided to the employee by January 31 of the year following the year when the wages were paid and the government’s copy of the form – sent to the Social Security Administration – is also due by January 31.

If an individual you hire is considered an employee, then you must withhold both Social Security and Medicare taxes (collectively often referred to as FICA tax) from the household employee’s cash wages if they equal or exceed the $2,100 threshold for 2019.

The employer must match from his/her own funds the FICA amounts withheld from the employee’s wages. Wages paid to a household employee who is under age 18 at any time during the year are exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes unless household work is the employee’s principal occupation.

Although the value of food, lodging, clothing or other non-cash items given to household employees is generally treated as wages, it is not subject to FICA taxes. However, cash given in place of these items is subject to such taxes.

A household employer doesn’t have to withhold income taxes on wages paid to a household employee, but if the employee asks to have withholding, the employer can agree to it. When income taxes are to be withheld, the employer should have the employee complete IRS Form W-4 and base the withholding amount upon the federal income tax and FICA withholding tables.

The wage amount subject to income tax withholding includes salary, vacation and holiday pay, bonuses, clothing and other non-cash items, meals and lodging. However, if furnished for the employer’s convenience and on the employer’s premises, meals are not taxable, and therefore they are not subject to income tax withholding. The same goes for lodging if the employee lives on the employer’s premises. In lieu of withholding the employee’s share of FICA taxes from the employee’s wages, some employers prefer to pay the employee’s share themselves. In that case, the FICA taxes paid on behalf of the employee are treated as additional wages for income tax purposes.

Although this may seem quite complicated, the IRS provides a single form (Schedule H) that generally allows a household employer to report and pay employment taxes on household employees’ wages as part of the employer’s Form 1040 filing. This includes Social Security, Medicare, and income tax withholdings and FUTA taxes.

If the employer runs a sole proprietorship with employees, the household employees’ Social Security and Medicare taxes and income tax withholding may be included as part of the individual’s business employee payroll reporting but are not deductible as a business expense.

Although the federal requirements can generally be handled on an individual’s 1040 tax return, there may also be state reporting requirements for your state that entail separate filings.

Another form that is required to be completed when hiring a household employee who works for an employer on a regular basis, is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. By the first day of work, the employee must complete the employee section of the form by providing certain required information and attesting to his or her current work eligibility status in the United States. The employer must complete the employer section by examining documents (acceptable documents are listed on the I-9) presented by the employee as evidence of his or her identity and employment eligibility. The employer should keep the completed Form I-9 in his or her records and make it available upon request of the U.S. government. It is unlawful to knowingly to hire or continue to employ an alien who can’t legally work in the United States.

If the individual providing household services is determined to be an independent contractor, there is currently no requirement that the person who hired the contractor file an information return such as Form 1099-MISC. This is so even if the services performed are eligible for a tax deduction or credit (such as for medical services or child care). The 1099-MISC is used only by businesses to report their payments of $600 or more to independent contractors. Most individuals who hire other individuals to provide services in or around their homes are not doing so as a business owner.

Please call this office if you need assistance with your household employee reporting requirements or need information related to the reporting requirements for your state.


Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler Northwest is to earn our clients trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

Isler Northwest

(503) 224-5321

1300 SW 5th Avenue
Suite 2900
Portland, Oregon 97201

How Does Combining a Vacation with a Foreign Business Trip Affect the Tax Deduction for Travel Expenses of a Self-Employed Individual?

How Does Combining a Vacation with a Foreign Business Trip Affect the Tax Deduction for Travel Expenses of a Self-Employed Individual?

Note: effective for years 2018 through 2025, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 suspended the deduction of miscellaneous itemized expenses that must be reduced by 2% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. Employee business expenses, including travel expenses, fall into this category. Therefore, this discussion only applies to self-employed individuals for years 2018-2025.

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June Estimated Tax Payments Are Just Around the Corner

June Estimated Tax Payments Are Just Around the Corner

June 15th falls on the weekend this year, so the due date for the second installment of estimated taxes is the next business day, June 17, which is just around the corner. So, it is time to determine if your estimated tax payment should be lowered if you overestimated your income for 2019 or increased if you underestimated it.

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Top 10 Startup Business Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Answer

Top 10 Startup Business Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Answer

Starting a small business can be one of the most exciting and rewarding events in someone’s life. But it can also be extremely stressful. If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, you might have more questions swirling around in your mind right now than you can count. Don’t despair. This is completely normal. After all, it shows you’re serious about your business venture and care enough to want to do things the right way. Before moving forward with a new business idea, ensuring you know the answers to the following vital questions is crucial.

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How QuickBooks Protects Your Data, and How You Can Help

How QuickBooks Protects Your Data, and How You Can Help

The data in your QuickBooks company file contains some of the most sensitive information on your computer. Make sure it’s secure.

Your customer list is gold. And those Social Security and bank card numbers in your payroll, client, and vendor records need to be protected from intruders and only viewed by authorized employees.

It’s not just large corporations and financial institutions that get hacked. That’s what the bad guys want you to think. In reality, small businesses are often the victims of data breaches because their owners think they’re immune from data theft and destruction.

Even if you’re password-protecting your PCs and running antivirus and anti-malware software, there’s more you need to do when it comes to your accounting records. Here’s what we suggest.

Restrict access by setting up user permissions.

If you have multiple staff members using QuickBooks, don’t share the same user name and password. That obviously gives everyone access to all data and activity. If something goes awry, you have no way of knowing when or how it happened, and who was responsible. To protect yourself and everyone else who logs in, it’s critical that all users have their own unique logins. They should only be allowed to access information and functions that relate to their job duties.

Sales & Accounts Receivable

You can restrict QuickBooks users to certain screens and activities.

To assign these permission levels, open the Company menu and click on Set Up Users and Passwords, then Set Up Users. This opens the User List window, where you should be identified as the Admin. Click Add User. Enter a user name and password for an employee who needs access (this can be changed later). Check the box in front of Add this user to my QuickBooks license.

Tip: Not sure how many users are allowed under your current license? Click F2 and look in the upper left corner. If you need to add licenses, let us know.

Click Next. The next screen lists three options. You can grant access to all areas or to selected areas. You can also create a login for us as your external accountant, which lets us see everything except sensitive customer data. Select the second option and click Next. You can see in the image above that you can give the employee different levels of responsibility. When you’ve made your choice, click Next. The subsequent nine screens deal with different areas of QuickBooks and their related activities.

Tip: When you need to change your password, which you should do at a minimum every three months, go to Company | Set Up Users and Passwords | Change Your Password.

Save your company file elsewhere.

You should always be backing up your company file to an external storage device (like a CD or thumb drive).  To set this up, open the File menu and select Back Up Company, then Create Local Backup. This window will open:

The Create Backup window

The Create Backup window

Make sure Local backup is selected, then click the Options button below (not pictured here). Click Browse to see a directory of your PC and select the correct destination. Leave the two boxes below it checked; this will add the backup date/time to the filename and limit the number of backup copies to three.

By default, QuickBooks will remind you to back up your file every fourth time you close your company file; you can change this number if you prefer. Leave the Complete verification option checked and click OK, then Next. Specify when you want to save your backup copy and click Next again. You can schedule regular backups of your company file on the next screen if you’d like. When you’ve completed this screen, click Finish.

You should also consider saving a copy of your company file to the cloud. Intuit offers its own service for this; it costs $9.95/month or $99.95 annually, but it gives you 100 GB of storage space, so you can back up other critical business files, too.  If you can’t swing this financially, at least store your backups to a portable device that you can carry offsite.

Warning: If you already pay for cloud storage from another vendor, don’t assume you can just copy your QuickBooks file to it. Talk to us.

Other Steps

There are other things you can do to protect your QuickBooks data, including:

  • Insist on strong passwords. Yes, it’s a pain to create and remember them, but it’s critical here.
  • Keep everything That includes your operating system and anything else that requires updates.
  • Minimize web browsing on work computers and remind employees about smart email behaviors.

We strongly recommend that you consult with us as you’re setting up any kind of backup system for QuickBooks. The software’s instructions are straightforward, but we don’t want you to do anything that would jeopardize the integrity of your company file.


Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler Northwest is to earn our clients trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

Isler Northwest

(503) 224-5321

1300 SW 5th Avenue
Suite 2900
Portland, Oregon 97201

May 2019 Due Dates

May 2019 Individual Due Dates

May 10 – Report Tips to Employer

If you are an employee who works for tips and received more than $20 in tips during April, you are required to report them to your employer on IRS Form 4070 no later than May 10. Your employer is required to withhold FICA taxes and income tax withholding for these tips from your regular wages. If your regular wages are insufficient to cover the FICA and tax withholding, the employer will report the amount of the uncollected withholding in box 12 of your W-2 for the year. You will be required to pay the uncollected withholding when your return for the year is filed.

May 31 –  Final Due Date for IRA Trustees to Issue Form 5498

Final due date for IRA trustees to issue Form 5498, providing IRA owners with the fair market value (FMV) of their IRA accounts as of December 31, 2018. The FMV of an IRA on the last day of the prior year (Dec 31, 2018) is used to determine the required minimum distribution (RMD) that must be taken from the IRA if you are age 70½ or older during 2019. If you are age 70½ or older during 2019 and need assistance determining your RMD for the year, please give this office a call. Otherwise, no other action is required and the Form 5498 can be filed away with your other tax documents for the year.

May 2019 Business Due Dates

May 10 – Social Security, Medicare and Withheld Income Tax

File Form 941 for the first quarter of 2019. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

May 15 – Employer’s Monthly Deposit Due

If you are an employer and the monthly deposit rules apply, May 15 is the due date for you to make your deposit of Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax for April 2019. This is also the due date for the non-payroll withholding deposit for April 2019 if the monthly deposit rule applies.


Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler Northwest is to earn our clients trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

Isler Northwest

(503) 224-5321

1300 SW 5th Avenue
Suite 2900
Portland, Oregon 97201

Employees’ Fringe Benefits after Tax Reform

Employees’ Fringe Benefits after Tax Reform

Tax reform made a lot of changes, some of which impacted employees’ fringe benefits. This article reviews the most frequently encountered fringe benefits, including those that were and were not impacted by tax changes. These changes can affect both a business’s bottom line and its employees’ deductions.

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