Archive for December, 2015

Business Leaders Were Reading What?!

Monday, December 28th, 2015

2015’s Most Popular Blog Posts

Best Business Blog Posts 2015- Ohio CPA FirmIf you take a moment to scroll through the list of categories, authors and archives on the right-hand side of this page, it’s pretty clear to see just how active Rea’s team of experts are when it comes to providing leaders in the business community with accurate, timely and easy to digest content. We are fortunate to have so much experience and expertise on our staff, and their eagerness to serve you better has allowed us to maintain a bi-weekly electronic newsletter, a quarterly print newsletter, three blogs and a handful of electronic segment specific newsletters. That’s a lot of content – but we are not even thinking about slowing down! I hope you hang around my lily pad for awhile. I’m pretty sure you’ll find a lot of great little tidbits to read about in 2016 too. Until then, I want to invite you to take a look at some of our most popular blog posts and articles. And, if you haven’t already, take a moment to look through the newsletters we offer and sign up to have news, tips and valuable information delivered to your inbox all year long!

Top 5 Dear Drebit Posts In 2015

Dear Drebit is updated every few days with timely information and advice. In addition to covering current trends and issues, readers are also invited to ask financial and business questions on the page, which will be answered by one of Rea’s industry experts. Here are last year’s top posts:

  1. How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Auditing?
  2. Theft Safeguards To Cause Tax Return Delays In Ohio
  3. Six Things 401K Plan Sponsors Need To Do Now
  4. New Adjustments Will Affect Your 2015 Tax Return
  5. File Faster With This Tax Prep Checklist

5 Most Popular Posts On Brushing Up Blog

Brushing Up: The Dental Accounting Blog features a variety of finance and business advice specifically tailored to dental professionals. From purchasing a practice, knowing what to expect from a career in dentistry and hiring the best staff for your practice to general accounting advice, tips for cashing out at retirement and tax tips, this blog is a valuable tool for dental professionals who are looking for ways to secure long-term success in their career. The year’s most-read blog posts are:

  1. How Sales & Use Taxes Apply To Ohio Dental Practices
  2. 6 QuickBooks Tips Every Dentist Should Know
  3. Could A Crown Be A Tax Deduction?
  4. 10 Year-End Tax Planning Strategies For Dentists
  5. Buying An Established Dental Practice? Master The Changeover 

Cultivating Your Business Readers Choose Top 5 2015 Posts

The Cultivating Your Business blog is a resource provided to clients and visitors on the firm’s Know & Grow website. Updated a few times per month, business owners have access to advice, tips and general insight into how to grow their businesses and realize an optimal return on their investment upon retirement. Here are the top blog posts from last year:

  1. Bad Buy-Sell Agreement Claims Another Family Dinner
  2. Will Your Summer Reading List Make You A Better Business Owner?
  3. WARNING: Free Business Valuation Offer Is Unbelievable
  4. Uncover The Secrets To Cashing In On Your Business
  5. How To Communicate To Your Employees That You’re Selling Your Business

Top 10 Articles In Rea’s Library In 2015

In addition to our blogs, the Rea team publishes a lot of other valuable content in print and electronic newsletters. We make sure that all these articles are easily accessible in our article library. This is where you will find many of our niche pieces as well as a lot of general accounting tips and insights. Take a look at some of our most popular posts over the last year.

  1. What Is The Mid-Quarter Convention?
  2. Dangers Of Paying Under The Table
  3. Revenue Recognition Changes Are Coming
  4. Football Ticket Deductions
  5. 401K Loans And Keeping Your Plan In Compliance
  6. Take Control Of Your Vendor Master In Nine Steps
  7. Why Your Traditional Employee Management Method Is Failing
  8. The Birth Of The Taxpayer’s Estate
  9. Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow: But What About Your 401K?
  10. Purchasing Cards Compromise Business Security
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National ID Theft Awareness Month: Get in the Know

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

Stop Criminals From Hijacking Your Identity With These Top 5 ID Theft Prevention Posts

ID Theft Awareness | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Identity theft is a scary thing and you don’t want to become a victim. Take some steps now to protect yourself in the future.

December is National ID Theft Awareness Month and the fraud prevention team at Rea is a wealth of information when it comes to sharing great tips to help taxpayers protect their identities from fraudsters. Instead of scrolling past posts in our expansive article library or award-winning blog, we’ve compiled this Top 5 list to make your search for information easier. Read on to discover how you can prevent cyber criminals from hijacking your identity all year long.

Read Also: Let’s Talk About The F-Word

  1. WARNING: Tis The Season To Practice Safe Online Shopping Habits: While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, cyber criminals are looking for ways to stuff their own stockings – at your expense. The holiday season is also a busy time of the year for scammers because, in general, more money is being spent and more people are clicking through cyberspace for the best deals and tracking their purchases. Find out what you can do to keep your identity safe this Holiday season.
  2. Cyber Crime: It Can Happen To You: Fraudsters don’t take holidays. In fact, they tend to be more active this time of year because they believe we are more likely to let our guards down. I don’t intend on falling for any of their traps, and I encourage you to do the same.
  3. Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones: Researchers and IT security experts from ESET, a global IT security company, recently announced that they had discovered a malware application that is designed to encrypt files and change PINs on Android devices in the United States. In return, victims are demanded to pay up to the tune of $500. Only then will hackers provide users with the recover key. Keep reading to learn how you can protect yourself.
  4. Should I Still Be Concerned About Identity Theft And Tax Fraud?: Identity theft and tax fraud are problems that show no signs of stopping. In 2015, in an attempt to provide an added layer of protection, taxpayers in Ohio had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Ohio Department of Taxation’s (ODT) newest fraud safety measure – the Identification Confirmation Quiz. Read on to see how this quiz has helped reduce fraud in Ohio.
  5. How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud: Suspecting, and then confirming, that you’ve had your identity stolen is a nightmarish scenario. It combines one of your worst fears, losing your wallet or purse, with all of the work of replacing the things that were lost. It can be so overwhelming you might be wondering: “Where do I even start?” We can help you answer that question.

Identity theft is a scary thing and you don’t want to become a victim. Take some steps now to protect yourself in the future.

Want to learn more about keeping your identity safe? Email the team at Rea & Associates, our fraud prevention specialists can be an important of keeping your information protected.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

Looking for tips to secure your business from fraudsters? Check out these posts:

Fraudulent Credit Card Transactions Will Become Merchant’s Problem On Oct. 1

Who Is That Email Really From?

Businesses Beware: Sloppy Data Security Could Cost You

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Congress Gives Taxpayers An Early Christmas Present

Monday, December 21st, 2015

PATH Act Makes Several Key Tax Provisions Permanent

PATH Act Makes Several Key Tax Provisions Permanent | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Congress finally made good on its promise to make take a more definitive stance on the future of many popular tax provisions last week when members voted in favor of making many of them permanent. Other tax provisions received a temporary extension. Read on to learn more.

There is nothing like waiting until the last minute to complete a task. We’ve all been there and we all promise we’ll never do it again. Unfortunately (especially when it comes to determining the future of several valuable tax provisions) our government has fallen victim to the same bad habit.

Year after year, Congress promises to address the future of many expired tax provisions, and year after year they fail to make a definitive decision – opting only to pass legislation that extends the provisions for another year. In the meantime, taxpayers are expected to take on the impossible task of navigating the terrain amidst legislative uncertainty. Happily, things are about to change.

Listen To Our Podcast Taxes Are Like Fishing To Learn More About Tax Strategy

Congress finally made good on its promise to make take a more definitive stance on the future of many popular tax provisions last week when members voted in favor of making many of them permanent. Other tax provisions received a temporary extension. The legislation, Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015, and provides taxpayers a level of certainty that they have been without for quite some time.

This legislation offers a lot of relief to individuals and businesses, alike. Here’s an overview of what you can expect moving forward.

Key Tax Provisions Made Permanent By The PATH Act:

  • 15-year recovery period for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements
  • Extension and modification of the research & development credit, including allowing certain small businesses to claim the credit against AMT liability and employer’s payroll (ie: FICA) liability
  • 179 expensing limitations and phase out increased to $500,000 and $2 million respectively
  • Exclusion of 100 percent of gain on certain small business stock
  • Extension of tax-free distributions from IRAs for charitable purposes
  • Earned income tax credit
  • Child tax credit

Key Provisions Extended Through 2019

  • Extension of the new markets tax credit in which Congress authorized $3.5 billion allocation of credits each year from 2015 until 2019
  • Extension and expansion of the work opportunity tax credit
  • Bonus depreciation is extended at 50 percent for 2015 through 2017, 40 percent for 2018, and 30 percent for 2019

Key Provisions Extended Through 2016

  • Extension and expansion of empowerment zone tax incentives
  • Two-year moratorium on the 2.3 percent medical excise tax imposed on the sale of medical devices
  • Extension of energy efficient commercial buildings deduction

In addition to the extension of key tax provisions, the PATH act also puts more scrutiny on the operations of the IRS. IRS agents will be held accountable for knowing and acting in accordance with the taxpayer bill of rights and prohibits the use of IRS business for political gain.

The passage of the PATH act is a huge victory for American taxpayers, and will allow them to partner more efficiently and effectively with their tax advisors on key issues in years to come without the uncertainty that has plagued them for many years.

Be sure to set up an appointment to speak with your tax advisor or financial planner to talk about how the PATH act will impact your ability to take advantage of tax planning strategies. Do you have questions about specific aspects of the PATH act? Fill out the form on the top, right side of this page to submit your question to Dear Drebit.

By Ashley Matthews (Dublin office)

Are you looking for more ways to save on your tax bill? These articles can help:

Year-End Tax Tips For Business Owners

Dos & Don’ts of Gifting Donations

Should I Make A Big Purchase To Cut Taxes?

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Mileage Rates Will Be Reduced In 2016

Friday, December 18th, 2015
2016 Mileage Rates | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Based on a study of the fixed and variable costs associated with operating an automobile, the standard mileage rates take into consideration vehicle depreciation, insurance, repairs, maintenance, gas, etc. However, if you don’t intend on tracking your mileage, you also have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using your own vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates. Read on to find out the 2016 mileage rates.

Drivers were able to get a little more money back for every mile driven in 2015, but next year’s road map tells a different story.

The IRS announced that most of the 2016 optimal standard mileage rates would either remain the same or would be lowered going in to 2016. Among the rates seeing a decrease, were the standard mileage rates for business use of a vehicle, which were reduced to 54 cents per mile – a decrease of 3.5 cents over 2015’s rate of 57.5 cents per mile.

Read Also: 5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden

How Are Optimal Standard Mileage Rates Determined?

Based on a study of the fixed and variable costs associated with operating an automobile, the standard mileage rates take into consideration vehicle depreciation, insurance, repairs, maintenance, gas, etc. However, if you don’t intend on tracking your mileage, you also have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using your own vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates. Just be aware that you will not be allowed to claim both.

For example, if you have plans of claiming an accelerated depreciation on your vehicle, then you will not be able to claim the business standard mileage rate as well. If you are a business owner, you should also note that the standard rate is not available to fleet owners, or those who use more than four vehicles simultaneously. Additional details and rules can be found in Revenue Procedure 2010-51.

Different Rules For Different Road Trips

Here are some of the other common rates drivers should be aware of:

  • The miles you drive for medical or moving purposes will be calculated at 19 cents per mile driven.
  • Those driving their vehicles as a service to charitable organizations may calculate their deductions at 14 cents per mile driven.
  • The portion of your business standard mileage rate that will receive depreciation treatment in 2016 will continue to be 24 cents.

Also in its announcement, the IRS noted an adjustment to the standard automobile cost allowable under the fixed and variable rate (FAVR) plan, which considers the costs taxpayers incur by driving their own vehicles for work-related purposes. In 2015, standard automobile costs may not exceed $28,000 (not including trucks and vans), which is a decrease of $200 from 2015. The maximum standard automobile cost for trucks and vans, however, is $31,000 – an increase of $200 over the 2015 rates).

Travel For Tax Savings

If you use your vehicle for business don’t forget to track your mileage. Every mile you travel is an opportunity to realize real tax savings. A financial advisor can help you find these opportunities as well as many others.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

Are you looking for ways to help you plan for the upcoming tax season? Check out these articles for some great tips:

Easy Year-End Tax Tips For Business Owners

How Long Should You Keep Financial Documents?

What Could Ohio’s Small Business Investor Income Tax Deduction Do For Me?

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When the ACA Tops The Charts, Joe Popp Provides The Play-By-Play

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

What do you know about the new Affordable Care Act’s filing requirements?

Well, if you are a large employer (an employer with 50 or more full-time employees or full time equivalent (FTE) employees), for example, you should be in the process of preparing your 1095-C forms to distribute to employees before the Jan. 31, 2016 deadline. But that’s not all …

I recently spoke with Gary Hunt, senior content editor for the Ohio Society of CPAs, about the “ACA’s latest hits” for an episode of OSCPA Spotlight video series. During this interview, I went into some more detail about the forms large employers are required to file per the ACA, specifically Form 1095-C.

So, if you want to know a little more, including who’s responsible for completing the forms and when they’re due, among other things, click on the video below or check it out on the OSCPA website.

You can also learn more about the services our team at Rea & Associates is offering large employers who are scrambling to meet the deadline – I mentioned this at the end of the segment – when you visit www.reacpa.com/affordable-care-act-consulting.

Don’t say we didn’t warn ya! Here are some more resources that shine light on the upcoming ACA filing requirements:

Secure Form 1095-C Help Now And Avoid Penalties

Make BIG Changes Or Face BIG Fines

The Cost Of Reimbursing Employees For Health Care

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Then And Now: Data Security In America Since The Target Breach

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015
Data Breach - Ohio CPA Firm

The Target breach symbolizes the moment when the threat of personal data security violations became mainstream in America; and today, we don’t think about fraud in terms of if it will happen – it’s when it will happen.

It’s hard to remember a time when reports of data breaches, ransomware attacks and business email compromises (BEC) weren’t part of our daily lives. In fact, not so long ago we were pretty content to believe that the controls companies had in place were enough to protect us from the invisible threat of hackers and cyber criminals. But that was just a dream – and it wasn’t long before that dream manifested into a nightmarish scenario for one of the nation’s largest retailers.

Read Also: Businesses Beware: Sloppy Data Security Could Cost You

Two years ago, cyber criminals gained access to the point-of-sale systems belonging to Target. Authorities later learned that the hacker(s) gained access to about 11 GB worth of data (including highly-sensitive personal and credit card information). When the dust settled, about 70 million consumers nationwide were left vulnerable to identity theft and credit card fraud. This magnitude of this breach was huge and, as a result, companies everywhere made an effort to buckle down and implement a slew of “best practices.” But what has really changed since December 2013?

What Have We Learned From Target?

The Target breach symbolizes the moment when the threat of personal data security violations became mainstream in America; and today, we don’t think about fraud in terms of if it will happen – it’s when it will happen. But instead of becoming more vigilant about data security practices, it appears as though consumers have chosen a more desensitized reaction. These days we are content with trusting the credit card companies to notify us of any suspicious activity occurring on our account rather than implementing safer payment practices in our daily lives.

Retailers and credit card companies, on the other hand, have worked hard to make it more difficult for hackers to access their customer data. Since the breach, Target has:

  • Installed EMV compliant point-of-sale (POS) terminals in all stores to allow for transactions to be processed using a token instead of actual credit card numbers.
  • Joined two cybersecurity threat-sharing organizations in order to share and retrieve valuable information concerning data breaches and the source of those breaches.
  • Implemented more stringent firewall rules and governance procedures.
  • Constantly monitors and logs system activity.
  • Applied whitelisting technology, an administrative process that allows only preapproved applications to execute in a system, on the store’s POS systems.
  • Disabled or placed limited access on vendor accounts.
  • Deployed 2-factor authentication.
  • Established password vaults and required the use of more complex passwords.
  • Thoroughly reviewed and revised its process on how to determine which employees and contractors would have access to consumer data.

With the exception of the first two points, the measures Target has taken since its 2013 data breach are considered best practices, which means that if your business doesn’t have these security measures in place, you shouldn’t wait any longer. And, with regard to EMV technology, most businesses were expected to install and activate the new technology before Oct. 1, 2015 to avoid liability for losses resulting from fraudulent transactions.

A Moving Target

As long as there are fraudsters willing to pay for stolen names, addresses, credit card numbers and expiration dates, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, etc., there will be cyber criminals looking for a way to hack into your company’s system to gain access to your consumer data or intellectual property. But if you are really serious about keeping your data safe, there are additional measures you can take.

1. Reinforce Your Firewall

Firewalls should be securely configured and continuously monitored. There are many providers that perform 24-7 firewall monitoring services to protect your company from attacks and or to alert you to signs of a possible breach. Moreover, providers are also coupling these services with the use of whitelists or blacklists, which triggers an immediate response if a potential threat is identified. Another great reinforcement for companies with experienced IT staff, would be the implementation of SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) or IDS (Intrusion Detection System) software.

2. Take Your VIP List Seriously

Not everybody should have access to your company’s domain – especially outside groups, and you should take care to review your employee and vendor access accounts routinely. The 2013 Target breach was a result of a breach that was intended for one of Target’s vendors. But, once in, the hacker was able to work his way into the Target Vendor Portal and infiltrate the Target POS systems.

3. Don’t Take Your Passwords For Granted

While doing so, be sure to verify that these credentials, in particular, require complex passwords, a limit on the number of attempts allowed before automatically disabling the account, and that they are required to be changed regularly. (Believe it or not, the most common password continues to be “123456” – proving that we are still not learning from past mistakes.)

By: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

Check out these articles for more data security best practices

Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones

Who Is That Email Really From?

Could Your Company Be Ransomware’s Next Victim?

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Secure Form 1095-C Help Now And Avoid Penalties

Monday, December 14th, 2015
Form 1095-C Preparation Service | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Finding out you are an Applicable Large Employer is a hard pill to swallow. Finding out you are an Applicable Large Employer after the IRS penalizes you for not filing Form 1095-C is even harder. It’s not too late to get help – yet. Read on to learn more.

If you haven’t made arrangements to complete your company’s Form 1095-C yet, you can’t afford to put it off any longer.

What is Form 1095-C?

Think of the 1095-C like a W-2, but for health insurance instead of wages. It’s a mandatory form applicable large employers (ALEs) must complete. There are non-filing penalties that start small but could lead to larger penalties, such as the pay or play penalty ($2,000 per employee, per year).

Read Also: Make BIG Changes Or Face BIG Fines

Most of the time, it’s pretty easy to tell if your company is an Applicable Large Employer – other times, it’s not as clear. For example, you might have only a few full time employees but lots of part time employees. Every hour a part time worker works counts toward your large employer status. So, if you aren’t quite sure whether your business is actually required to file Form 1095-C, you need to work with an ACA expert immediately.

What Happens If I Don’t File?

The 1095-C is the form that tells the IRS if the employer should be penalized or not, whether the employee should be penalized or not, and if the employee or members of the employee’s family is eligible for premium subsidies. If you don’t file the form, how do you think the IRS will answer these questions? “Yes,” “Yes,” and “No” would be a good guess.

Both the employer and the employees have to do something to avoid being penalized – employer has to offer coverage and employee has to have coverage. If you don’t file, it is likely to cause trouble to both the employer and the employees – and you’ll end up having to file the forms anyway, in addition to the employer paying the late penalties and everyone having to deal with cleaning up all the notices from the IRS.

Am I Too Late?

Unfortunately, business owners nationwide are having problems finding a service provider who can help them locate the information needed to complete the form. Some payroll providers will offer their assistance, but they will likely require you to buy more services than you want or need to do it. Fortunately, you do have another option – Rea & Associates.

Ours is one of only a few firms offering stand-alone 1095-C service. Not only will our experts generate the 1095-C Forms you need, they will help you retrieve the data you already track and have access to or that you would have to retrieve from your service provider anyway.

But time is still of the essence. Don’t wait! Learn more about our Form 1095-C Preparation Services and then call me at 614.923.6577 to talk about your specific needs.

By Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

Want to learn more about your responsibility under the Affordable Care Act? Check out these articles:

The Cost Of Reimbursing Employees For Health Care

Obamacare: Discrimination Is Not An Option

What You Need To Know About Obamacare Employee Dumping

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Easy Year-End Tax Tips For Business Owners

Friday, December 11th, 2015
Tax Savings - Ohio CPA Firm

Put some extra cash in your piggy bank this tax season with these deductions.

In just a few days … this year will be history. And while you may have run out of time to wrap up (or start, let’s face it …) last year’s resolutions, it’s not too late to tap in to some last-minute tax saving strategies to help reduce your tax bill. Actually, there are quite a few things you can do to before the ball drops to secure some valuable savings.

Read: How Can You Best Prepare For The Upcoming Tax Season?

We’ve Done The Research For You

There’s no doubt about it, this time of year is busy! Family gatherings, shopping, decorating, cooking … sitting down at the computer to research tax deductions are probably isn’t ranking too high on your priority list. Happily, we’ve done the work for you. Check out the four articles below for some great tips, deductions and insight that will help you keep more of your hard-earned money in your bank account.

  1. What companies can do now to get ready for tax season: Are you willing to accept a larger-than-expected tax bill simply because you didn’t make time to touch base with your financial advisor before the end of the year? Well, if you failed to let your CPA know about any significant changes that occurred over the last year, you could miss a valuable opportunity. Read on to learn more.
  2. 5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden: From claiming the Ohio small business deduction to taking a personal vehicle deduction, these frequently overlooked deductions can result in real savings. Read on to learn more.
  3. Should I Make a Big Purchase to Cut Taxes?: Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of buying a big piece of machinery for your business for a while now, but you haven’t really been sure if it’s the right move. A call to your tax advisor could help point the right direction. Oftentimes, business owners can realize some really great savings opportunities just by spending a little bit more. That’s right, you get the upgrade you’ve been wanting AND the tax deduction. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too?!
  4. Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late! Year-End Tax Planning Tips: Business owners aren’t the only ones who are able to tap into last-minute tax savings. There are ways individuals can make the most of the month of December too. From paying state & local tax estimates by the end of the year to prepaying your real estate taxes, taking a little time to plan ahead can help put more money in your pocket.

Do you think you can benefit from any of these tips? Email a tax expert at Rea & Associates to discuss what you should do before year-end to take advantage of major tax savings opportunities you may have missed in the past.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster Office)

Want more? Here are more tips to help you start the year off on the right foot.

Employers: Are You Ready To Change The Way You Withhold Municipal Tax Payments?

How to develop a forward-looking financial forecast for your business

Don’t Start The New Year Without Updating Your Business Plan

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Dos and Don’ts of Gifting & Donations

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Is it just me, or can you feel the magic in the air this time of year? Even though the days are colder and the nights are longer, the holidays seem to bring out the best of humanity; and, having worked with many not-for-profit organizations over the course of my career, I have the pleasure of seeing some of the best of humanity first hand.

Listen now: The Warm Glowing of Giving

People choose to make donations to organizations and initiatives for many reasons. We learned in episode 11 of our podcast: “The Warm Glow of Giving,” that charitable donations are primarily guided by the heart and that 87 percent of all donations are made by individuals. That being the case, I still believe individuals – as well as businesses – should embrace strategy (the head) when it comes to writing checks to a worthy cause.  Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when writing your check to charity.

Gifting Donations - Ohio Accounting Firm

Looking to make a donation this holiday season to your favorite charity? Keep these dos and don’ts in mind before making that donation.

Do

  1. Do your research. Make sure you learn all you can about the organization you are donating to. You want to make sure you are donating to a worthy cause and not a fake charity.
  2. Know where your money is going. Find out how the organization will use your donation. It is OK to ask prior to your donation.
  3. Understand how this will affect your taxes. Most people know that making a donation can lead to a tax deduction, but do you know how much you can claim? If not, this is something your Rea advisor can help you understand.
  4. Get documentation. Any donation of $250 or more requires documentation if you are going to use it as a tax deduction. A cancelled check, receipt, etc. all work as documentation to include with your tax return.
  5. Give away appreciated assets, such as stocks. When doing this you get a deduction for the full value in most cases and you escape  the capital gains on the appreciation.

Don’t

  1. Expect a gift in return for your donation. That’s not the true meaning of a donation. Also, to be deductible, a gift cannot be received when making the donation, including a meal. If the donation was made at a dinner event, the cost of the meal must be subtracted from the donation amount.
  2. Pay with cash. For tracking and to prevent fraudulent activity, paying by check or credit card is usually the best option.
  3. Give randomly. Do your homework when donating, you won’t regret it. Make sure your money is going to a good cause and being used properly.
  4. Give more than you can afford. We all want to help, but donating more money than you can afford just creates more problems for you. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you are giving away more money than you can afford.
  5. Give away assets that have declined in value. Doing this will waster the capital loss opportunity for you.

Around 358 billion dollars are donated to not-for-profit organizations every year and these organizations turn around and do amazing things with your gift. From feeding the hungry, providing support to veterans and ensuring that others get the health, monetary or education assistance they need, nonprofits are an critical component of our society and you can be sure that the money you donate to any one of these types of organizations is appreciated. But you should still make sure you are using your head when making a donation to ensure that your money is being used in the best way possible. Want to learn more about how to choose the right not-for-profit organization for your tax-deductible donation? Listen to episode 11 of our podcast, Unsuitable on Rea Radio. You can also email Rea & Associates to get answers to your specific questions..

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

Learn more about the benefits of donating to charity. Check out these blogs posts:

Is It A Charity Or A Scam?

Tis The Season: Charitable Giving Through A Donor-Advised Fund

Charitable Giving Is Good For The Heart, The Soul And The Tax Return

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Quiz Results Are In – And The News Is Good

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Ohio Department of Taxation Stops Thieves From Stealing Millions

Identity Theft & Income Tax Refund Fraud Resource | Ohio CPA Firm

The implementation of an identification verification quiz by the Ohio Department of Taxation has helped stopped identity theft and income tax fraud since it was implemented last year for the 2015 income tax season.
Rea & Associates recently compiled a variety of information to help victims of identity theft and refund fraud recover from this nightmarish scenario. Click the image above to access this resource.

Tax fraud has been on a steady upswing for quite a while – a frightening trend that has led the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) to take innovative measures during the 2015 tax season. Nearly one year after announcing plans to implement the state-wide quiz designed to filter tax-refund requests by analyzing demographic information reported on the taxpayer’s return, officials boasted incredible results.

While ODT reported a 400 percent increase in fraudulent refund requests in 2015 from the year prior, the quiz helped the department prevent 232,898 suspicious returns from being filed – which saved the state about $256.5 million in illegitimate funds.

Read Also: Should I still be concerned about identity theft and tax fraud?

The implementation of this verification method was deemed necessary after ODT noticed a monumental increase in fraud cases during the 2014 tax season – $250 million in attempted tax fraud – compared to previous years when the average was around $10 million.

“We appreciate the taxpayer’s time in taking this extra step before receiving their refund,” said Joe Testa, tax commissioner, in a release. “The quiz has been and will continue to be instrumental in stopping fraud.”

According to the ODT, the tax quiz has been effective because of its effectiveness when analyzing tax returns for inconsistent data points against public and commercial data sources. For example, a return may be flagged if your name and/or Social Security number show up in a different parts of the state (or in another state altogether) when you have been primarily located in another area of Ohio over the last few years. To claim your refund, you will be required to take the identity quiz, which would either indicate that you’ve moved in the last year or that a fraudster is trying to claim your refund. For your return to be processed, you must either take the quiz or provide documentation to verify your identity.

Testa also said that the department has gathered feedback and have “made some changes to improve the process and provide a better experience for taxpayers who take the quiz.”

Looking ahead, taxpayers should expect to see more of the identification quiz in 2016 and beyond. Here are three things you should know about the identification quiz:

  1. Allow more time

Traditionally, it takes up to 15 days to process refunds that have been distributed to the taxpayer via electronic deposit. Those who opt to receive their refunds in check form could have to wait up to 30 days. The quiz, however, could prolong the process.

  1. Know, don’t guess

Those who are selected to take the quiz, will receive a letter that will explain your next steps. If you do not receive this letter, you will not be able to complete the quiz.

  1. Be prepared

If your return is flags, you will have 60 days to complete the multiple choice quiz. Furthermore, the quiz is timed and must be completed online.

To learn more about the effectiveness of this measure or for more great information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions available on the DOT website.

Are you wondering if you are going to need help filing your 2015 tax return this spring? Email Rea & Associates for assistance.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want to discover more ways to prevent or recover from identify theft? Check out these articles.

How Do You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Cyber Crime: It Can Happen To You

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Employers: Are You Ready To Change The Way You Withhold Municipal Tax Payments?

Monday, December 7th, 2015
Municipal Payments - Ohio CPA Firm

The new year also marks new changes to the way many employers withhold their municipal taxes. Read on to learn more.

Ready or not, all Ohio municipalities will be welcoming a slew of new provisions designed to bring about a unified system of income tax reporting. House Bill 5 was signed into law by Gov. Kasich on Dec. 19, 2014. The bill, which was championed by the Ohio Society of CPAs and supporters, helped streamline several key measures that help establish meaningful municipal tax reform. Per the legislation, many key provisions are scheduled to take effect at the first of the year. Here are four facts about the changes that you need to become familiar with:

For more insight into why these changes were necessary, read: Tackling Ohio’s Tough Municipal Tax Issues

1. Due dates have changed. 

Municipalities will have to adhere to new withholding due dates with regard to their monthly filing and payment requirements. They are due on the 15th following the month they were withheld. Due dates for quarterly filing and payments will be on the 15th day of the month following the end of the quarter.

2. New withholding thresholds.

If you withheld more than $2,399 in municipal taxes during the last calendar year or more than $200 during one or more months during the recent quarter, you will now be required to file your withholdings monthly.

3. A defining moment for temporary work sites.

An employer is not required to withhold municipal income tax on qualifying wages for the performance of personal services in a municipal corporation that imposes such a tax if the employee performed such services in the municipality on 20 or fewer days in a calendar year, unless one of the following conditions apply:

  • The employee’s principal place of work is located in the municipal corporation.
  • The individual is a professional entertainer or professional athlete, the promoter of a professional entertainment or sports event, or an employee of such a promoter.
  • The employee performed services at one or more “Presumed Worksite Locations.”
  • The employee is a resident of the municipal corporation and has requested that the employer withhold tax from the employee’s qualifying wages.

If an employer does not withhold for those first 20 days, they have to withhold the principal place of work’s municipal income tax. Because it’s impossible to be in two places at once (a rule that is just as true in accounting as it is in the metaphysical world) special guidelines are needed for those employees who work in more than municipality on a given calendar day. If an employee works in multiple municipalities in a single workday, for example, the municipality that they worked in the most number of hours would be the one that would be counted for that day. The rules that govern this provision are very detailed. Click here to read more. Once the employee exceeds the 20 day threshold, taxes must be withheld for that municipality. Retroactive withholding, however, is NOT required.

4. New rules for small businesses.

If your business earned less than $500 thousand over the preceding taxable year, the government considers your establishment to be a small employer, which means that the withholding process is just a little different. Small businesses must withhold municipal income tax on all employees’ qualifying wages and remit that that tax only to the municipal corporation in which the employer’s fixed location is located – regardless of the number of calendar days worked throughout the year. Further clarification can be found here. Federal government, state government, state agency or municipalities, political subdivision or any entity treated as a government for financial accounting and reporting are excluded from the small business rule.

Additional information can be found here. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the upcoming changes and how you can remain compliant with these new provisions; email Rea & Associates and ask to speak with one of our tax experts.

By Heather McNichols, (New Philadelphia office)

Are you looking for some more tax tips to help you prepare for the 2016 filing season? Check out these articles:

Breaking The Tax Bracket Myth

Does Your Vacation Home Provide Tax Relief?

New Payment Option Available To Ohio Pass Through Entities

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How to develop a forward-looking financial forecast for your business

Friday, December 4th, 2015

Financial statements and tax returns are a rearview glance in the mirror at what has already happened at your organization. Instead of always looking back at your financial data, it’s important to develop a forward-looking forecast.

Smart Business recently interviewed Dave Cain about ways to develop a forecast for your business and the benefits of it.

“It might sound simple, but it can be difficult for business owners because they are working at 100 miles an hour to run and grow their business. They feel like they don’t have an opportunity to step back and do some forward thinking,” says Dave.

To read online, check out the article on Smart Business’s website.

Want to read more articles about forecasting advice for your business? Check these out: 

How Can A Focus on Inventory Management Help My Business?

Do You Need a CFO?

What Are 6 Things You Can Do To Improve The Health Of Your Business?

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Move Over Santa, This List Is What Business Leaders are Checking

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

Top 5 Dear Drebit Post for the Month of November

November is over and the Holiday season is in full swing. But even though we are busy practicing our caroling and searching for the best online bargains, we still have time to share the latest in business and financial news.

From filling you in about some of the topics we have covered in our weekly podcast to providing you with information and updates about unclaimed funds in Ohio and the Affordable Care Act – we were providing you with posts designed to help protect your finances, your identity and so much more.

Take a look to find out what our top 5 blog posts were in November and read up on anything you may have missed.

  1. How Do I Avoid Obamacare Penalties? The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has put a lot of stress on business owners over the last couple years, and 2016 will be no exception. However, if you look closely, you might be able to uncover areas of opportunity. There are three points all business owners should know to avoid penalties, read on to find out what they are.
  2. WARNING: Tis The Season To Practice Safe Online Shopping Habits — While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, cyber criminals are looking for ways to stuff their own stockings – at your expense. The holiday season is also a busy time of the year for scammers because, in general, more money is being spent and more people are clicking through cyberspace for the best deals and tracking their purchases. KnowBe4 recently published a blog about the top five scams shoppers should be on the lookout for, and we wanted to pass these on to our readers. Consider the following information to be an early gift from us to you, and hopefully your bank account can welcome the New Year unscathed.
  3. File and Suspend Strategy Suspended Deciding when to claim your Social Security benefits is often one of the most significant financial decisions older Americans must make today because, for many, Social Security benefits make up a substantial portion of their retirement income. Unfortunately, Congress recently passed legislation that will put an end to two popular strategies being used to maximize benefits married couples receive in their golden years.
  4. Do You Need to Send an Annual Notice to Your 401k Participants?As we begin the last quarter of the year, if your company sponsors a calendar year 401k plan, don’t forget about participant notice requirements.  They must be furnished by December 1 and may impact the operation or qualification of your plan.  Here is a checklist that may be helpful, but check with us if you are not certain which of these requirements apply to your plan.
  5. New Payment Option Available To Ohio Pass Through Entities Do you currently enjoy the benefits associated with owning a pass through entity (PTE) in Ohio, including better tax treatment and limited liability protection? Well, earlier this month the Department of Taxation announced another little perk – online payments! According to the release, the Treasurer of Ohio is now accepting tax payments per its Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) program on its website.

We hope you enjoy the top five posts from November. We are always updating this page, so be sure to subscribe to Dear Drebit – or you can subscribe to our bi-weekly electronic newsletter – and never miss the critical information we provide to readers. You are also welcome to ask us a specific question about, well … just about anything finance or business related and one of our subject matter experts will provide you with a response. Just scroll up to the top of the page and fill out the form on the top, right corner.

Finally, don’t forget, you that you can always email Rea & Associates to have an in depth conversation about your existing personal or professional challenges. Our CPAs and business advisors are always happy to speak with you.

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Cyber Crime: It Can Happen To You

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Phishing Scam Targets Tax Preparers To Get To Taxpayers

IRS Phishing Scams - Ohio CPA Firm

One thing you can do to help protect yourself from cyber criminals is to make sure your address bar reads “https” and NOT like the one pictured above. Read on for additional tips.

Fraudsters don’t take holidays. In fact, they tend to be more active this time of year because they believe we are more likely to let our guards down. Instead, I don’t intend on falling for any of their traps, and I encourage you to do the same.

It’s A Trap

We recently published a blog post with tips to help online shoppers protect themselves against some of the more common tactics used by cyber criminals. From click bait to phishing emails, every link, sponsored post and flashing banner ad is a potential threat and we encourage you to protect yourself at all costs.

For example, you likely receive regular electronic correspondence from companies, organizations, groups and other reputable groups. In fact, you probably willingly provided them with your email address. You may even trust these contacts so much that you never thinking twice about whether their email is valid, and that’s what criminals are counting on. Nobody is immune.

Read Also: Who Is That Email Really From?

A current scam finding its way into inboxes across the country is targeting tax preparers. The email, which is supposedly being sent by the IRS, looks legit and includes the agency’s letterhead, logo and copyright language, among other information designed to add credibility to the piece. But there’s a problem – this email is not official IRS correspondence. Instead, it’s being sent by cyber criminals who are looking to capture usernames and passwords to gain access to taxpayers’ sensitive data.

We’re Not Falling For It

The American Institute of CPAs reached out to the IRS to verify whether the email in question is, indeed, a phishing scam. The government agency confirmed that the email was a scam and were quick to advise recipients to delete the message immediately.

This is just one example of a phishing scam in action. Emails like these are distributed every day and, oftentimes, they come from trusted businesses, organizations or people. As cyber threats continue to be rampant in our society, we must never allow ourselves to become complacent.

What You Can Do

Here are some tips to help keep you safe.

  1. Do It Yourself – Never click on hyperlinks found within the body text of the email – especially if you received the message from an unknown sender. If you do want to check the validity of an offer or content, manually type the URL into your web browser. Same results, less risk.
  2. ‘S’ For Safety – If confidential information is being traded, take a look at your address bar to make sure it reads “https” rather than the standard “http” to be sure the web page you are visiting is, indeed, secure.
  3. If It Pops, Run – Sometimes, the best and easiest strategy you can take to protect yourself from scammers is to configure your computer’s settings and buy and install the proper tools. We recommend disabling all popups, keeping an updated antivirus, use anti-spam and anti-spy software and install and maintain a firewall. Cyber criminals are always looking for ways to get around these measures, but they still provide you with a great first defense.
  4. Watch Your Back With A Backup – We keep a lot of irreplaceable items on our computers and, to many, the thought of permanently losing their data, photos and other documents is terrifying. One way to take the power away from the scammers is to create and maintain a backup of your data – especially when considering the very real threat of ransomware. That way, if something were to happen, you wouldn’t lose these vital items.
  5. Education Is Power – These criminals are slick and they are always finding new ways to take what belongs to you. So, one of the absolute best ways to guard against an attack is to educate yourself on current cybercrimes, identity theft trends and tactics being used by fraudsters.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster Office)

Want to know more about what other threats are out there? Check out these articles:

Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones

Fraudulent Credit Card Transactions Will Become Merchant’s Problem On Oct. 1

How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

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