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Tax Talk: Gig earners must estimate tax witholdings | Business

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Q. As an Uber driver, I became part of the “gig” economy in 2019. An Uber veteran asked me if I had made any estimated income tax payments. She followed her question with a strong statement indicating these payments are required if penalty and interest were to be avoided. Please help me understand estimated income tax payments.

A. Many people earn money and have no income taxes withheld. “Gig” earners like yourself are self-employed along with a wide array of other folks who operate their own businesses, sole proprietorships or partnerships. Since income tax officials have seen the movie “Jerry Maguire,” they want you to “SHOW (or send) ME THE MONEY!”

Both federal and state governments have estimated income tax payment mandates that require taxpayers to predict their likely tax liability and make estimated payments on April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15. Thus the next estimated tax payment for 2019 is due Wednesday.

Because of the peaks and valleys of earnings, the payments represent a taxpayer’s “guestimate” of what is owed. A “safe harbor” rule enables a taxpayer to avoid both penalty and interest. Succinctly, the “safe harbor” provides protection to a taxpayer if estimated payments add up to 90% of the tax shown on the individual’s current year Form 1040 or 100% of the tax reported on the prior year’s return.

We highly recommend you make a payment on or before Jan. 15 since the penalty provisions can be somewhat Draconian and the interest rates on underpayment of estimated taxes can fluctuate between 5% and 6% depending on the prime rate and other criteria.

Other taxpayers subject to the estimated tax payment rules include people who receive substantial dividends, interest and/or royalty income; report significant capital gains; or withdraw a Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from their IRA or other pension plans. More details on estimated tax payments are available in IRS Publication 505-Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.

Q. I was wondering about capital gains and losses when selling a vacation home. We purchased a Florida condo in 2005 and sold it at a huge loss in 2019. Can we recoup any of the loss through a tax credit or deduction? There was no mortgage involved.

A. The rules on capital gains and losses have more twists and turns than a Cirque du Soleil performance. We’ll cover the parts that apply to your case.

The IRS classifies your Florida vacation home as “personal use” property. That means if you have a gain when you sell, you can treat it (usually) as a capital gain. That’s the good news, since capital gains rates are normally lower than the rates on ordinary income.

The bad news is that a loss on personal use property is not deductible, nor does it qualify for any special tax breaks or credits. It’s one of those Maalox moments that often encourage taxpayers to seek professional counseling. We should add that things would be different if there were at least a partial-business-use component to the Florida property, such as renting to tenants, or conducting some type of commercial activity in or on the property.

Computing the amount of allowable loss could be a challenge. It would include the length of time you owned the property, the amount of depreciation taken before the sale, the percent of business use as opposed to personal use, and several other potentially mind-numbing factors.

Ken Milani is a Professor of Accountancy at the University of Notre Dame. His email is milani.1@nd.edu. Claude Renshaw, an Emeritus Professor of Business Administration at Saint Mary’s College, can be reached at renshaw1040@gmail.com. Email either to submit a question.

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Economy

New Yorkers Turn to “Gig” Economy to Make Ends Meet

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Many New Yorkers who have lost jobs due to the pandemic have turned to the gig economy to make ends meet.

Stasha Gumienny is one of them. She works for DoorDash. She’s a “DoorDasher” on top of her full-time job as a school administrator. She’s been dashing since September after she lost her second job as a restaurant hostess last year.

“I was really feeling the hit of not having that second job,” said Gumienny. “I had visited the food pantry a couple of times.”


What You Need To Know

  • Stasha Gumienny is a single mom who works at a school during the day and door dashes in the evenings and on weekends to make ends meet
  • Gumienny lost her second job as a restaurant hostess in 2020, when restaurants shut down at the height of the pandemic
  • According to Lyft, 20 percent of their drivers reported driving more during the pandemic after getting laid off or having their hours cut due to COVID-19

As a single mom, losing that second income was tough.

“I was in a low. I was really getting nervous,” said Gumienny. “I had a couple financial meltdowns. I kept seeing the DoorDash availability on Indeed, and I said, ‘You know what, what do I got to lose?'”

She’s not alone.

According to DoorDash, nearly two million people became door dashers from March to September of 2020.

According to ride-share app Lyft, 20 percent of their drivers said that they drove more during the pandemic because they were laid off or had their hours cut due to COVID-19.

With DoorDash’s flexible hours, Gumienny usually dashes on weeknights and weekends. She leaves her first job at 3 p.m. and starts door dashing by 4 p.m., all so she can make it home to her daughter in time for dinner.

“I do sometimes feel guilty because I’m giving up those Saturdays and Sundays during prime play hours to be with my daughter, but I also know that I’m modeling for her what it takes, and what I’m doing,” said Gumienny. “And she’s learned the quality of a dollar.”

Each delivery can bring in about $6 to $10, and those deliveries add up.

“That might not seem worth it to someone, but if you do this three times a night, or a week, and maybe one weekend, you’re going to see almost $200,” said Gumienny.

After just two hours on the road, she’s done for the night and heads home to make dinner for her 11-year-old daughter, Hannah.

“This is why I wouldn’t want to DoorDash past 6 o’clock. Hannah’s doing homework, and we try to get a good night in,” said Gumienny, as she prepared dinner for the night.

She does this multiple times a week, a grueling work day all to make life a little easier for her and her daughter.



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Economy

‘Lapsis’ and the Rise of Gig-Economy Sci-Fi

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Ray Tincelli, a good-humored, pot-bellied, middle-aged guy with a “’70s mobster” vibe and money troubles, is looking for a new gig. His day job as a courier for a sketchy lost baggage company isn’t cutting it. Played with hangdog charm by Dean Imperial—he looks like Jeremy Piven gone to seed—Tincelli is a brusque Queens dude who could be imported from any number of prestigious cable dramas. For these reasons and more, he’s the offbeat, magnetic center of Lapsis, the funny and surprisingly humane new science fiction indie from first-time feature director Noah Hutton.

The grubby world Ray inhabits looks like ours, but the details are slightly skewed. Ray’s younger half-brother Jamie (Babe Howard), a once-hearty hiker, is now sidelined with a mysterious chronic fatigue syndrome called Omnia. This syndrome is widespread enough that there’s an entire scammy cottage industry around treating it, and Ray is hoping to get his brother into a treatment center. After his courier job is kaput, he seeks advice from a slippery neighborhood character named Felix (James McDaniel), who hooks Ray up with a “cabling medallion” as long as Ray promises to share a cut of his profits. A twist on a taxi medallion, the cabling medallion is a black-market ticket into the world of “cabling,” a bustling new line of contract work where “cablers” spend their days stringing yards upon yards of fiber-optic cables through wooded areas to attach to large metal boxes plopped in forests. It’s all in service of quantum computing, a new information superstructure that has taken over the globe. According to Felix, they’re paid handsomely for their troubles. And so Ray goes forth, into the woods, huffing and puffing his way toward the enigmatic boxes and potential financial freedom.

Lapsis, which is currently available on VOD, is a film in the tradition of lo-fi sci-fi, a genre of independent, dialog-dense science fiction without high-budget spectacle. Think Robot & Frank, Primer, or Being John Malkovich. Or think Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You, another satire about the gig economy set in a slightly alternate, slightly futuristic reality. Both are political parables, using genre to prod the callous excesses of capitalism. But while Sorry to Bother You is balls-to-the-wall bonkers, Lapsis is a gentler outing, unspooling its story through long hikes in the woods.

The mechanics of cabling make little sense, but the film isn’t concerned with explaining the logic of its quantum computing empire. The setup is as arcane to the average person as bitcoin mining, because the details don’t matter. What matters is that it’s the newest iteration of grunt work in a global economy reliant on low-paying, no-benefits contractors for human fuel. During his first week on the job, Ray doesn’t learn a thing about what plugging the wires into the boxes actually achieves; what he does learn is that the cabling underclass is justifiably and mightily pissed off—and that the cabling medallion he used once belonged to a notorious former cabler known as “Lapsis Beeftech.”

He learns even more once he strikes up a friendship with Anna (Madeline Wise), a seasoned cabler attempting to organize her coworkers. The cabling company uses tiny doglike robots as pacers for its human workers; if a robot passes them on the trail, it can steal their route and take their money. They’re the bane of the cablers, who scheme to derail the little machines, and the brainchild of the original Lapsis Beeftech. Anna helps Ray trap one of the pacers, and they become confidants. And despite his best efforts to keep his head down and continue earning, Ray is quickly embroiled in a larger plot to find the original Lapsis and instigate a worker revolt.

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Economy

Nigerian fintech startup ImaliPay raises pre-seed funding to service gig workers’ financial needs

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Nigerian startup ImaliPay, which leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to offer tailored financial products that promote the inclusion of gig economy platforms and workers across Africa, has raised a round of pre-seed funding to scale more quickly.

Co-founded early last year by Tatenda Furusa and Sanmi Akinmusire, ImaliPay offers both new and existing gig workers or freelancers the ability to seamlessly save their income and receive in-kind loans through a buy now, pay later model tied to their trade.

As gig workers save money or repay loans on time, they are able to build a credit history that will in turn unlock more formal financial services in the future.

ImaliPay has secured an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding in order to scale its customer base, with the round led by Australian venture capital firm TEN13, which has also invested in the likes of Chipper Cash and Bookipi. Other investors included in the raise are FINCA Ventures, Optimiser Foundation, Mercy Corps Ventures, Changecom, and angels from Nigeria, Kenya, Norway, and the United Kingdom (UK). 

The primary aim of the investment is to expand and accelerate its growth and footprint in Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa, with ImaliPay aiming to become the one-stop-shop for gig workers’ financial needs. 

“It’s a great opportunity for investors to participate in the fintech revolution and a fast-growing segment. Our vision at ImaliPay is to advance financial health and inclusion for gig workers who struggle to manage and access flexible financial services that are often only available to traditional SMEs”, said Furusa.

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