Timing is Everything in Life and Taxes

Image by 401(K) 2012
Image by 401(K) 2012

You’ve probably heard that ‘Timing is Everything in Life’, and you certainly know that your taxes are due on April 15th, if you’re an American citizen. But did you know that it’s not just when you pay your taxes that matters, it also matters what year the payments you’re claiming were received.  Confused yet? Don’t worry; you’re not alone. And fortunately, it’s our job here at Adriana Perry Consulting to make this easy to understand!

If you’re a small business owner, here’s what you need to know:

When a business files its first tax return, an accounting method is determined—cash basis or accrual. In most cases, large businesses use the accrual method of accounting, which recognizes income when the business sends out invoices, regardless of when the income is actually received. The cash basis method of accounting, on the other hand, recognizes income when payment is actually received. So what happens when a cash basis business receives a large check dated December 31, 2013, on January 2, 2014?

According to the IRS, income is constructively received when an amount is credited to your account or made available to you without restriction, even if you don’t have possession of it. If a bank is holding the money for you, it may be considered to be received by you, even if the money is not in your bank account. Income is not constructively received if your control of its receipt is subject to substantial restrictions or limitations.

Therefore, a check dated December 31, 2013, that you receive on January 2, 2014 is constructively received in tax year 2014 because the check was being handled by the United States Postal Service. However, if a customer hands you a check on December 31, you could inevitably cash it that same day. In that case, constructive receipt would be in 2013 and you would have to include it in your 2013 gross income.

Determining constructive receipt is important when large amounts are involved, as it could greatly affect the amount of taxes owed and income reported to the IRS. For instance, a customer sends a large check late in December and files a Form 1099-MISC, the form will report that amount paid to you in 2013. If you did not report that income until 2014, because of constructive receipt, you may be called upon by the IRS to prove when you received the check. Deliberate attempts to delay receipt will not work and the IRS will require the income to be reported in the proper year.†

And if you need any help Growing Your Business, we’re always happy to help entrepreneurs navigate IRS polices, rules and regulations!

Why not give us a call at (877) 630-4722 if you have a question about this matter, or any other? You can also contact us via email.

†Source: NATP