Sunday, March 4, 2018

Should I Have A Separate Bank Account For …?


One of the accountants recently told me that a client had asked whether he/she should set-up a separate bank account for their business.

The short answer is: yes.

It is not always about taxes. An attorney might recommend that your corporation have annual meetings and written minutes – or that you memorialize in the minutes deferring a bonus for better cash flow.  It may seem silly when the company is just you and your brother. Fast forward to an IRS audit or unexpected litigation and you will realize (likely belatedly) why the recommendation was made.

I am skimming a case where the taxpayer:

·      Had three jobs
·      Was self-employed providing landscaping and janitorial services (Bass & Co)
·      Owned and operated a nonprofit that collected and distributed clothing and school supplies for disadvantaged individuals (Lend-A-Hand).

The fellow is Duncan Bass, and he sounds like an overachiever.

Since 2013, petitioner, Bass & Co …, and Lend-A-Hand have maintained a single bank account….”

That’s different. I cannot readily remember a nonprofit sharing a bank account in this manner. I anticipated that he blew up his 501(c)(3).

Nope. The Court was looking at his self-employment income.

He claimed over $8 thousand in revenues.

He deducted almost $29 thousand in expenses.

Over $19 thousand was for

·      truck expenses
·      payment to Lend-A-Hand for advertising and rental of a storage unit

He handed the Court invoices from a couple of auto repair shops and a receipt from a vehicle emissions test.

Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was trying to show mileage near the beginning and end of the year, so as to establish total mileage for the year.

Seems to me he next has to show the business portion of the total mileage.

Maybe he could go through his calendar and deposits and reconstruct where he was on certain days. He would still be at the mercy of the Court, as one is to keep these records contemporaneously.  At least he would field an argument, and the Court might give him the benefit of the doubt.

He gave the Court nothing.

His argument was: I reported income; you know I had to drive to the job to earn the income; spot me something.

True enough, but mileage is one of those deductions where you have to provide some documentation. This happened because people for years abused vehicle expenses. To give the IRS more firepower, Congress tightened-up Code Section 274 to require some level of substantiation in order to claim any vehicle expenses.

And then we get to the $9,360 payment to Lend-A-Hand.

Let’s not dwell on the advertising and storage unit thing.

I have a bigger question:
How do you prove that his business paid the nonprofit anything?
Think about it: there is one checking account. Do you write a check on the account and deposit it back in?

It borders on the unbelievable.

And the Tax Court did not believe him.

I am not saying that the Court would have sustained the deduction had he separated the bank accounts. I am saying that he could at least show a check on one account and a deposit to another.  The IRS could still challenge how much “advertising” a small charity could realistically provide.

As it was, he never got past whether money moved in the first place.


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