Tax Professional Advice

Can the group please recommend a Tax Professional that has experience working with Notaries Public? I live in California,

Sue Harke in Orangevale. She’s also a notary, CPA, and very knowledgeable.

I tried to reach out to Sue Harke via email, but it bounces. Do you have an email address that I can use to reach Sue?

I used sue@sueharke.com.

Perhaps I can help.

I am an Enrolled Agent (a credential granted by the US Treasury/IRS), admitted to practice before the IRS, states’ tax agencies and a number of state tax courts/tribunals. My firm specializes in research, representation and complex returns, Additionally, a number of our accountants are Notary Signing Agents (NSA .

Do you have any specific questions? If so, please post so our peers can benefit from the discussion.

The basics of a NSA return are relatively standard, only varying based on how the taxpayer is organized (individual or entity) and other specific elements of the fact pattern.

Whether signings are a primary or ‘after-hours’ job, informational returns (W-2’s, 1099’s, etc…) for all income sources should be gathered. Payments not reported on 1099 (e.g.: <$600 from a payer) should be tallied.

Per Treasury Regs. 1.1402©-2(b)(2), only statutory notary fees are exempt from self-employment tax.

For example, a signing package for H&W contains 5 acknowledged documents and 3 sworn affadavits executed by each (8 notary acts per signer x 2 signer = 16 notary acts). NY Executive Law 136(2) prescribes a statutory fee of $2 per notary act, per signer, totaling $32 (16 x $2). The signing agency or closing agent pays $100. The entire $100 is taxable as ordinary income, although self-employment tax is assessed on only $68 of the income; the remaining $32 is exempt from self-employment tax.

There are specific procedures for appropriately completing the returns, such as for the SE-exempt income.

Obviously, you need to capture expenses - mileage/parking/tolls, paper, ink, office supplies, insurance, membership, certification, training are just a few.

I recommend reconciling against one’s notary journal to make sure nothing is missed, either for income or expense. To ease SE-tax reconciliation, it’s a good practice to record the exact number of notary acts in the journal next to the entry for each signing.

Depending upon business organization (S/P, C-Corp, S-Corp, etc.), certain tax treatments may, or may not, be allowable. Income and expenses would be reflected on Schedule C, 1120, 1120S and/or other forms appropriate to the entity.

Obviously, taxation is substantially dependent on fact pattern, and is a much more exhaustive topic than can be adequately covered in a single post.

Finally, if you let me know where in CA you are, I can talk to some colleagues to refer you.

HWB.

Howard W. Bleiwas, EA, CAA
Richards, Allison & Company, Inc.
Pomona, NY
hbleiwas@richardsallison.com

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I thought I replied to your post this morning, but don’t see anything so here goes again. First I want to thank for clearing explaining the nuances of what a Notary Public should be doing on their taxes with respect to Self Employment Taxes.

  1. What is the level of income that needs to be reached before one has to worry about Self Employment taxes?
  2. Is there a problem with a Notary setting aside 20% of affected income for Federal Self Employment taxes and 10% for California State taxes? My plan is to setup a weekly payment plan with the IRS, but wanted to make sure that these numbers are not too conservative.

I am also working on an Excel Spreadsheet that is currently being vetted by several Notaries Public, and I will be releasing this spreadsheet to several forums on Facebook. This spreadsheet will have tabs for Jan-Dec plus a YTD rollup. I have also allowed for the capture of mileage and will allow individuals to enter their tax rate that will be used to make the calculations for taxes that should be set aside for Self Employment tax purposes.

Thank you for the info. So your comments would mean that I have to keep track of every acknowledgement and jurat or is there a percentage you could use?

Howard thank you for your info. I am Ohio. It seems that your comments would mean I have to keep track of my acknowledgements and jurat from every job? Or is there a percentage I could use?
Thank you Ron

Record the number of notary acts - acknowledgements, jurats, etc…

Pretty much, every time you use your stamp, it’s a ‘hash mark’ on your note paper. At the end of the signing, I total the ‘hash marks’ and put the number in the margin next to my journal entry for the signing.

If it’s a multiple signer situation (most often, spouses), I total up the notary acts, divide by number of signers, and put that number in the margin. You could also keep close track for notary acts relevant to each signer; I’ve never done that, so I don’t know if that would start to become confusing.

HWB.

For spouses divide? In Ca they require a act for each person and a line for that act in the book. Notary Assist has a great program you input the info into and print out for your tax person. It gives them the amounts they need to enter into your tax forms. Unless I missed something from my last class that is what we were told for CA. So far its worked for about 20 years.

Wil, Samantha Betanzos is a notary as well as a tax preparer. She’s in Hemet, CA. Here is her website: https://paperworklady.com/

Howard are you able to deduct your health insurance with SE and can it include your wifes

Health insurance for employees (or principals of a sole proprietorship or partnership) are generally deemed a valid business expenses per Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 162(I)(1)(a) through (d). Valid insureds would include the employee, spouse, dependents and qualified children (under 27).

Per IRC 162(I)(2), the deduction is limited to the amount of earned income, and is disallowed for any calendar month in which the employee/principal is eligible to participate in a subsidized health plan maintained by any employer of the employee/principal, their spouse or any covered dependent.

Long-term care premiums(as defined in IRC 213(d)(10) may also be deductible.

HWB.

skenton;

Different states have different criteria for what constitutes a ‘notary act’; in some it’s per acknowledgement/jurat regardless of signer quantity, and some are per signer.

Basic rule: Use the criteria which guide the statutory fee (e.g.: NY=$2.00). If the fee can be charged per act and/or signer, the exclusion from S/E tax would apply equivalently.

HWB.

Folks:

Just a recommendation.

In many jurisdictions, the criteria to qualify individuals as ‘tax preparers’ are loose, minimal or even non-existent.

Much of my own tax practice centers on representation and remediation when one of these ‘tax preparers’ (including the ‘big box’ chains) has given markedly incorrect advice. Some of these mistakes run into 6-digit ($100,000+) tax liabilities and cost 5-digits ($10,000+) to resolve.

I strongly recommend a credentialed tax preparer, holding either a PA/CPA license, issued by a state government, or an Enrolled Agent credential, which is issued by the US Treasury/IRS, In addition to the knowledge requirements, both credentials involve examination(s), background investigations, and continuing education requirements.

Credentialed practitioners are also held to a higher standard, enforced by disciplinary action, substantial civil penalties and/or criminal prosecution.

These licensed professionals also can represent taxpayers in audits, examinations and collection actions.

When dealing with more advanced topics (i.e.: those that require research) the difference is even more striking.

With the proliferation of good tax software, some offered without cost, those with simpler returns may want to consider self-preparing their returns. Many of the packages will walk the taxpayer through a step-by-step interview to complete their return, and may offer access to tax professionals by telephone or web conference.

Finally (and perhaps, most importantly) notaries should remember to keep clear, organized records of income and expenses (which may include records and receipts for transportation, office supplies, telephone, computer equipment, training, certification and many other items).

Copies of travel logs, substantiation of large or uncommon expenses and other documentation should be filed away with the return and retained for at least 3-7 years; with the ability to scan documents and destroy the original, electronic copies may be held permanently.

It’s much easier to prevail at an audit or examination with adequate substantiation of the items on a return.

HWB.