Archive for the ‘Personal Finance’ Category

How To Avoid The Retirement Culture Shock

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015
Retirement Doesn't Have To Hurt Contact Rea & Associates To Learn More - Ohio CPA Firm

When many of us start thinking about the realities of retirement, it’s already too late. Don’t let the “retirement culture shock” sneak up on you, these three tips will help as you attempt to navigate the road to retirement.

If you’re a newly retired American, then you are embarking on a new, exciting phase of your life. For many of you, increased travel, spending more time with grandchildren or pursuing a new hobby may be ways to enjoy this new journey.

Read: How Can I Make The Most of My Retirement?

But before you pack up your things and hop that next plane to Florida, here are three tips to help you avoid the retirement culture shock.

1. Taxes Don’t Vanish At 65

When you were an employee, your taxes were likely withheld from your paycheck. Today, however, is a new day. As a retiree, you no longer have a paycheck from which taxes can be withheld. But there are a few things you can do to make sure you won’t get hit with a large tax bill in April. For example, if you receive a regular pension payment or an annuity, consider withholding your tax payments from those. You also have the option of simply making quarterly estimated tax payments if withholding is not an option.

2. Transfer Your Pension To Avoid Added Tax Cost

If you do have retirement income from a pension plan, make sure to structure the transfer of your pension into an IRA as a direct rollover to avoid an additional tax. Basically, you want to make sure that the check is made out to your IRA and not directly to you, which will ensure that the funds are deposited into your IRA instead of your personal bank account. If you don’t structure your pension plan to disperse your money in this way, the company responsible for your pension payments is required to withhold 20 percent of the funds for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). When this happens, the IRS will likely see fit to assess a tax to this 20 percent, effectively shrinking your retirement nest egg.

3. Don’t Miss Exclusive Tax Benefits

Retirees are eligible to receive a few nice tax incentives – perhaps to offset your new responsibility of paying your own quarterly estimated taxes and transferring your pension plan payments. Either way, these tax breaks are nothing to grumble about. Here are three tax facts to get you started:

  • If you turned 65 during 2014, your standard deduction increased by $1,550. This means that you can claim $7,750 instead of the $6,200 standard deduction allowed for those younger than 65.
  • For the next three years, taxpayers older than 65 are eligible to receive a reduced phase out of their medical expenses. Those who are older than 65 can deduct qualifying medical expenses to that exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income. Those younger than 65 can deduct qualifying medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of their adjusted gross income.
  • Self-employed individuals who have Medicare Part B, Part D or supplemental Medicare policies are eligible to claim an above-the-line deduction for these costs.

You have spent so many years putting in long hours, stressing over money and putting your wants and needs second. Retirement is your time. Make sure you are in control of your finances – and your future. Email Rea & Associates to learn how to make your money go further in retirement.

By Dana Launder, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Have you been (or suspect you’ve been) a victim of identity theft and refund fraud? Rea & Associates recently compiled a variety of information that will help you recover from this nightmarish scenario.

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?”

An increasing number of identity thefts are first identified when a thief attempts to file a tax return on your behalf and claim a federal or state tax refund. To help you navigate some of the issues you may be confronted with, we recently released a compilation of documents and resources.

The documents that are included are intended to help you navigate some of the issues you may be confronted with if you find that you’ve been an identity theft and fraudulent tax return victim.

Read “How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Beat The Identity Thieves

The guidance includes a variety of valuable information for those who have been (or suspect they’ve been) a victim of identity theft and refund fraud. The following is a brief synopsis of information included in this guide.

The IRS has provided a short list of items for you to complete, which is substantially similar to the items the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) covered in its longer, checklist-style guidance.

  • The primary item to complete for the IRS is Form 14039 which initiates the IRS fraud protection procedures.
  • Also included is a form letter, one of several, the IRS may send to a taxpayer if tax return fraud is suspected to be occurring on the account.
  • The IRS has published a number of articles related to identify theft and how to protect yourself. A master page with links to all these topics is included in this packet. You may also check out some of our recent articles on the topic, which can be found in the “Related Articles” portion of this post.

The process of reporting fraud in Ohio is similar to the IRS procedures.

  • Ohio also sends form letters to the taxpayer.
    • Ohio recently added an identity quiz for roughly 50 percent of taxpayers requesting a refund. This letter simply asks the taxpayer to complete a quiz specifically used to prove their identity. Note: This request doesn’t indicate that your identity has been stolen (unless you haven’t filed your tax return for the year yet).
    • If the Ohio Department of Taxation suspects fraudulent activity on the account, the taxpayer will receive a second letter that will indicate these suspicions.
  • Ohio includes an affidavit (Form IT TA) that must be filled out to initiate their protection procedures, similar to Federal.

The FTC is the primary federal government agency dealing with identity theft.

  • The FTC has put together a very detailed, checklist to help you with the identity theft process. The guidance includes information on most forms of identity theft – of which tax identity theft is just one. While this may be more information than you need, if the fraud has gone beyond your tax returns and includes false credit activity (or you are concerned this may happen), this guide will be very useful for you.
    • The guide includes a wealth of information, such as sample letters and a variety of websites and contact information to relevant organizations that can help you. It also guides you through the process of making a police report in response to the theft of your personal information. Check it out here.
  • Note: The IRS and the FTC generally do not share data with each other. Therefore if you have completed the IRS identify theft notification procedures, don’t assume that the FTC, credit bureaus, etc., are also aware of your situation.

Check Your Mail, Not Your Caller ID

Remember, the first contact taxpayers will have with the IRS regarding any issue will be in the form of an official mailed letter – not a phone call. These scammers appear to be determined to steal your money and/or your identity and reports of these types of scams continue to be on the rise. By educating yourself, your friends and your family, you are taking a proactive stance against these criminals.

If you would like to learn more about how you can protect yourself against, and recover, from Identity Theft & Refund Fraud, click here to view our compilation of documents and resources. You may also email Rea & Associates for more information.

By Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office) and Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

Friday, March 13th, 2015
Ransomware

There is no way to completely protect yourself and your network, but there are ways to preempt an attack against you and your business.

How much would you pay to regain access to your company’s network if it was compromised and held for ransom? Are you willing to shell hundreds of dollars to take your information back from a cybercriminal, or are you willing (and able) to just walk away and start anew? I wish I were asking hypothetical questions but, unfortunately, the increased popularity of Ransomware has made the risk of such an attack a very, very real possibility.

Sandra Ponczkowski, a manager of the IT security company KnowBe4, recently shared Your Money or Your Life Files, a whitepaper that details the history and real threat of Ransomware, a computer infection that encrypts all files of known file types on your local computer and server shared drives. Once infected, it becomes impossible for you to access your documents or applications that use these encrypted files. The only way to recover from such an infection is to either restore your machine by using backup media, or accommodating the hacker’s demands and paying their ransom.

Unfortunately, I know of several situations where the businesses involved in a Ransomware attack had no choice but to pay ransom demands to the cybercriminal. The silver lining for these companies was that, upon paying the ransom, they were able to obtain the assailant’s encryption key code, which allowed them to unencrypt their data and regain access to their data.

Long-term protection, however, cannot be guaranteed and there is a chance that your data can be held for ransom again.

The literature provided by KnowBe4 details the fluency with which the popular Ransomware infection CryptoLocker changes and adapts once a solution to unencrypt infected data files becomes available. When this happens, the CryptoLocker infection will evolve into a new strain, thus making the previous solution unusable.

While there is no way to completely protect yourself and your network, there are ways to preempt an attack against you and your business. I recommend the following best practices.

  1. Train yourself and your employees about computer safety practices.
  2. Complete a yearly review of your employee’s access rights to company-owned computers, server folders and backup media. For example, only a few, strategic employees should have access to the company’s folders and data. As a general rule, employee access should be restricted to include only the programs and software required for them to do their jobs. This also applies to work-from-home employees who typically attach a USB drive to their machines for backup protection.
  3. If you don’t already, put a disaster recovery in place and test it ever year to ensure accuracy and completeness.

Following these practices should make your business’s Ransomware prevention and recovery much easier. Email Rea & Associates to learn find out more about the importance of protecting your company’s online security.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Obamacare: Some Taxpayers Get Second Chance To Purchase Health Insurance

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Special Obamacare Open Enrollment Period

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have taken steps to create a special enrollment period to allow individuals and families to secure 2015 health insurance coverage through the federal marketplace. – Rea & Associates – Ohio CPA Firm

Did you get hit with the “shared responsibility payment” for not carrying health insurance on yourself or your family members in 2014? If so, you’re not alone.

Read: Are You Prepared To Pay? Obamacare’s Shared Responsibility Provision

Americans who were unaware of (or who simply didn’t understand) the fees they would be subjected to as a result of not carrying health insurance coverage may have been equally surprised to learn that the open enrollment period to obtain coverage for 2015 closed last month – meaning that even if they wanted to avoid the fees next year, they were out of luck. Fortunately, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) realized this dilemma and took steps to create a special enrollment period to allow individuals and families in this bind to secure 2015 health insurance coverage through the federal marketplace. This will be a big help to those who may have found out that they were eligible for premium subsidies to help pay for insurance – a little too late. The new open enrollment period is March 15, 2015, through April 30, 2015, and is only available for individuals and/or families that:

  • Are not currently enrolled in federally-facilitated coverage for 2015,
  • Had to pay an individual mandate on Form 1040 of their 2014 tax return, and
  • Live in a state with a federally-facilitated exchange (Ohio residents qualify. Those who do not live in Ohio may click here for a full list of other qualified states).

According to CMS, eligible enrollees also must “attest that they first became aware of, or understood the implications of, the Shared Responsibility Payment after the end of open enrollment in connection with preparing their 2014 taxes.” “We recognize that this is the first tax filing season where consumers may have to pay a fee or claim an exemption for not having health insurance coverage,” sad CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a press release. “Our priority is to make sure consumers understand the new requirement to enroll in health coverage and to provide those who were not aware or did not understand the requirement with an opportunity to enroll in affordable coverage this year.” Note that even if you don’t qualify for this open enrollment, there are a number of qualifying events that let you sign up for coverage on the exchange any time of year. If you want to know whether you qualify for subsidies to help shoulder the burden of health insurance, click here. Or you can email Rea & Associates for any Affordable Care Act questions.

By Joseph Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)  

 

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Is It A Charity Or A Scam?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

Remember when writing a check to a charity left you with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment? Unfortunately that feeling has been replaced with vulnerability and uncertainty as soliciting for fake charities has become a common way for scammers to prey on the generosity of strangers.

Remember when writing a check to a charity left you with a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment? Unfortunately that feeling has been replaced with vulnerability and uncertainty as soliciting for fake charities has become a common way for scammers to prey on the generosity of strangers. Before you tear that check from your checkbook, take another look at the “Pay to the Order Of” line. That person who just spent the last 15 minutes explaining why your donation is critical to their organization might have less-than-admirable intentions.

Every year the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) warns taxpayers about what it considers to be the “Dirty Dozen” of tax scams. The annual report identifies schemes that appear to be more prevalent during filing season. And while you may be inclined to use some of your refund to help a worthwhile charity, the IRS reminds taxpayers to remain vigilant against scammers “masquerading as a charitable organization to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors” – particularly this time of year when scammers appear to be more active.

If you are approached by somebody who claims to be soliciting money for charity, here are a few tips to ensure that your money will be used for a worthwhile cause.

What’s In A Name?

Sometimes fake charities will adopt a name that’s similar to one you are sure to recognize and consider to be a respected organization within your community or nationwide. Even if you are confident that the not-for-profit you are about to donate to is reputable, a quick online search can remove any doubt. The IRS provides access to a search tool designed to help the public identify valid charitable organizations. You can also find registered 501(c)(3) organizations on Guidestar, an online tool that provides users with data and information about tax-exempt organizations and other faith-based nonprofits, community foundations and other groups typically not required to register with the IRS.

Keep Personal Information Private

Nonprofit organizations do not need your Social Security Number to complete the transaction, nor do they need to retain it for their files. So if someone claims to represent a charity and asks for any of your personal information (including passwords) – don’t give it to them! Scammers use this information to steal their victim’s identity. Protect yourself from fraud and remember to keep your personal information private.

Where’s The Proof?

When you make a decision to donate to a tax-exempt organization, make sure to have proof of the transaction. For your own security – and for tax record purposes – you should never make a cash donation. Use a check or credit card every time you give money to charity. Doing so not only proves that you made the donation; it will help you claim the contribution on next year’s tax return.

Ask An Expert

A trusted advisor can help you identify whether a particular charitable organization is reputable or not and can help you make the most of your donated dollars. Email Rea & Associates for more information.

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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From Toddler To Teen And Beyond: Tax Breaks For Families

Monday, February 2nd, 2015
Families of all kinds can take advantage of a variety of tax incentives, which can ease some of the financial burden.

Families of all kinds can take advantage of a variety of tax incentives, which can ease some of the financial burden.

With parenthood comes many rewarding experiences – and expenses. You hear about how expensive it is to raise a child, but you never really know what to expect until that little bundle of joy enters your life. From diapers, pre-school, extracurricular activities and saving for college, the costs of raising kids adds up fast. My wife and I welcomed our daughter into our family last year; and this life-changing event got me thinking: What tax breaks are available to families?

Relief for New Parents

Families of all kinds can take advantage of a variety of tax incentives, which can ease some of the financial burden. From deductions to credits, this list will give you a good idea as to what is available to you.

  • Adoption Credit

-         A credit of up to $13,190 – dollar for dollar of qualified expenses – is available to families who have adopted children.

-         Qualified expenses include adoption fees, attorney fees, court costs, etc.

-         Adopting a child with special needs results in the full credit amount regardless of whether qualifying expenses were made.

  • Child Credit/Additional Child Credit/Dependent

-         Child Credit – This credit applies to up to $1,000 for qualifying children younger than 17. This credit is generally non-refundable, but the taxpayer may be able to qualify for the additional child credit if he/she has enough earned income.

-         Additional Child Credit – Part of the child credit may be refundable for taxpayers with more than $3,000 worth of earned income.

-         Dependent – Each child listed on a tax return may be eligible to be listed as a dependent, which results in an additional $3,950 exemption per dependent.

  • Earned Income Credit

-         This is one of the largest credits available to taxpayers and claiming it can save you thousands of dollars in taxes. Taxpayers with three or more children and who have earned income as high as $52,427 may qualify for the earned income credit. This credit generally decreases with fewer qualifying children or for those with higher income levels.

More To Know As They Grow

In addition to child and earned income credits, here are some additional ways to save on your taxes as your children continue to grow.

  • Dependent Care Credit

-         This non-refundable credit goes toward a portion of a dependent’s child care expenses. Common qualifying expenses include day care, pre-school, day camps and similar programs.

  • Preempting College Costs

-         Education Savings Accounts allow taxpayers to contribute up to $2,000 per year for children younger than 17. While there are no tax benefits for the year of the contribution, distributions toward qualified higher education expenses (including earnings on contributions) are tax-free. Taxes and penalties may apply if the funds are not used for qualified education expenses.

-         State College Savings (529 plans) allow taxpayers to make contributions to an investment account and take a deduction toward their state income tax. (There is no federal income tax deduction available when taking this option.) Similar to education savings accounts, taxes and penalties may apply to funds used on unqualified expenses.

  • Flexible Spending Plans

-         If you have a flexible spending plan through your employer, remember that your child-related medical expenses qualify under the plan too. The funds you already contribute to your plan are deducted pre-tax up to certain thresholds. But don’t forget to use the entire amount withheld in your plan before March 15 of the following year or you will lose it.

The College Years

It probably seems like it was just yesterday that your son or daughter was crawling across the living room floor – now you are preparing to send them off to college. But just because they are all grown up doesn’t mean that the tax incentives end. Here are some tax perks to help during your child’s transition into adulthood:

  • Dependency Extension

-         You can claim your child as a dependent until they are 19-years-old as long as you continue to provide more than half of their support and they lived with you for more than half the year. You may also continue to claim your child if they are younger than 24 and a full-time student.

  • Tax Relief For Education

When it comes to paying for higher education, there are a few opportunities for tax relief. Below are a few of your options. Remember that you may only claim one of these options. A financial advisor can help you determine which option is right for you.

-         You can claim the American Opportunity Credit for up to $2,500 (100 percent of the first $2,000 and 25 percent of next $2,000) for qualified education expenses. This tax credit is only available for undergraduate students. Qualified expenses include tuition, fees, books, supplies, etc. This credit is also 40 percent refundable.

-         Qualified education expenses, such as tuition, fees, books, etc., qualify you to claim the Lifetime Learning Credit, which could total up to $2,000 (20 percent of up to $10,000). Even though this credit is entirely nonrefundable, it helps reduce your tax bill.

-         If you are paying for tuition, fees, books and other school supplies for your student, you may find this above the line deduction of up to $4,000 for these expenses to be beneficial.

  • Student Loan Relief

-         Help is also available to those making payments on student loans. An above the line deduction of up to $2,500 is available for interest paid on education loans.

In addition to being expensive, taking care of children can be confusing at times. Claiming these tax deductions and tax credits doesn’t have to be. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Jordan Miller, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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How To Drive For Business And Save On Your Tax Bill

Monday, February 2nd, 2015
Deducting expenses related to your car or truck is an allowable business expense – as long as the vehicle is used for business purposes.

Deducting expenses related to your car or truck is an allowable business expense – as long as the vehicle is used for business purposes.

If you are one of the many men and women who drive their personal vehicles for business, don’t forget to claim the appropriate tax deduction on your tax return – the savings just might help you keep more cash in your bank account and more gas in your tank.

Here’s what you need to know. …

Deducting expenses related to your car or truck is an allowable business expense – as long as the vehicle is used for business purposes. And if you use it exclusively for business purposes, you may be able to deduct the full cost of your vehicle. But before you start claiming deductions on your tax return, make sure you understand what the IRS considers to be a valid business purpose. Hint: Commuting from your home to work is not considered a valid business purpose.

When To Claim A Deduction

Do – claim a deduction if you use your vehicle for travel between two places of business.

Do – claim travel expenses that result from traveling from one job to another, traveling from one customer or client to another and traveling from your office or business location to perform other business tasks.

Do – claim your travel expenses that accrue between your home and a business destination if you have a home office that is considered your primary place of business.

Which Deduction Is Better?

There are many factors to consider when choosing a deduction method that will result in the most tax savings. The two biggest factors are the cost of the vehicle and how many business miles you drive each year. Here are the nuts and bolts of your two options:

  • Standard Mileage Method – If you keep good notes, then you may prefer the standard mileage method to keep track of your deduction. Here’s how it works: Start by keeping a log or a journal of all your business trips – include who, what, when and where. Then add up all the miles you racked up on your trips and multiply that number by the IRS’s standard mileage rate – which currently stands at 57.5 cents per mile. For example: if you were to drive 15,000 business miles over the year, you can multiply that number by 57.5 cents per mile to claim an $8,625 deduction.
  • Actual Costs Method – This method requires that you to keep track of all costs associated with your vehicle, including depreciation, repairs, maintenance, gas, tires, etc. When you have collected all these costs and arrived at a total, multiply this number by the percentage of time the vehicle is used for business purposes. Your deduction is limited to the percentage of time the vehicle was used for business purposes.

So, which deduction method is better?

Say you purchased a car for $30,000 and you use it exclusively for business purposes. You have figured that you drive about 10,000 miles for business each year. If you use the standard mileage method, you could claim a $5,750 deduction each year. But if you were to use the actual costs method, instead you would find that during the first five years of owning the car the actual vehicle expenses significantly add up to a larger tax deduction.

If you use your vehicle for business purposes, a financial advisor can help you identify the best route to maximize your tax savings. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Tom Jeffries, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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Virtual Money Is Real Money – Don’t Forget To Report Your Bitcoin

Monday, February 2nd, 2015
Virtual Money Is Real Money – Don’t Forget To Report Your Bitcoin

Virtual Money Is Real Money – Don’t Forget To Report Your Bitcoin

Now that the official 2015 tax season is upon us, you may be going through the process of checking off the laundry list of forms you need to have on hand to file your 2014 tax return. (If you still aren’t sure what files to gather, you can find a thorough checklist here.) While you’re collecting your W-2s and 1099s, don’t forget Form 1099-MISC, which is the form to use if you have used virtual currency over the last year.

The IRS informed taxpayers of the proper way to report virtual currency such as Bitcoin last year. Because the value of virtual currency is converted to the value of real currency, for tax purposes, Bitcoin and other virtual currencies are considered capital assets by the IRS. Therefore, these forms of currency are subject to capital gains rules for any applicable gains or losses that may accrue.

Capital gains rates are more favorable than normal tax rates. For most taxpayers, the rate will be no more than 15 percent. However, if you are in one of the following categories, you will be taxed at 20 percent:

  • If you earned more than $406,750 in taxable income
  • If you are married and filing jointly and earned more than $457,600
  • If you’re the head of your household and earned more than $432,200
  • If you’re married, but filing separately and earned more than $228,800

Do you treat Bitcoin as an investment?

If you buy and sell virtual currency, the IRS will treat it as if you were buying and selling stock. You will be required to report the cost basis of the transaction, also known as the difference between the cash price and the futures price of stock. In addition to being taxed at a lower capital gains rate, losses can cancel out any gains. And left-over losses can be deducted from your regular income.

Do you use Bitcoin like cash?

From ordering a pizza to shopping for a new computer, the transactions you make online with Bitcoin may result in gains or losses as well – although determining the value of a particular item or service based on market value is easier said than done. A financial advisor can help you identify whether you have gains and losses to report to the IRS.

Do you get paid in Bitcoin?

For example, for tax purposes, a babysitter who is paid in Bitcoin is the same as a sitter who’s paid in cash and those earnings must go through the same channels to be considered by the IRS. Payments of virtual currency are required to be reported on Form 1099-MISC or a similar form and must be reported using the fair market value of virtual currency, which should be converted to U.S. dollars.

For more information about managing and reporting Bitcoin, email Rea & Associates.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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How To Prepare For A Federal Tax Return Headache

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Planning to buy a new big-screen television? Airline tickets for that Caribbean vacation you’ve been looking forward to?  A new car? You might want to wait a little longer.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently warned American taxpayers that some federal refunds could be delayed for a week or more because of recent budget cuts. So, if you file your tax return on paper, before you start spending that income tax refund check, you might want to wait for the cash to actually find its way into your bank account. Expect to feel a little discomfort during this tax season.

Refund Delays

Historically, refunds for electronically filed federal returns were processed within 21 days of the e-filing acceptance date. Paper returns were typically processed within six to eight weeks from the date they were received. Amended tax return refunds take even longer – the turnaround for these returns were typically 12 weeks.

“People who paper file tax returns could wait an extra week – or possibly longer – to see their refund,” said Koskinen in a memo sent to IRS staff. “Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.”

In his memo, Koskinen didn’t explicitly address electronically filed returns, but it wouldn’t be a surprise for these refunds to be delayed (at least a little bit) as well.

Phone Jams

Nearly eight out of ten taxpayers receive an average tax refund totaling $2,800, which prompts many taxpayers to check in on the status of their refunds by calling the IRS. The agency is predicting an abysmal connection rate of these calls this year – 43 percent connection rate with a hold time of 30 minutes or more.

Instead, if you would like to track the status of your refund, hang up the phone and log onto the IRS’s website to use its Where’s My Refund feature.

Time will only tell how these budget cuts will impact next year’s tax return process, as well as other services provided by the IRS. In the meantime, start preparing to file your tax return as early as possible to avoid additional delays. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Meredith Mullet, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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File Faster With This Tax Prep Checklist

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

It’s that time of year again – time to gather your information and prepare to file your tax return. If you want the process to go smoothly, make sure to gather and organize your information before sitting down with your tax preparer. You may be surprised how fast the entire filing process goes if you spend a little time preparing!

Here’s a list of some items to compile before you get started.

Personal Information

Hopefully you know YOUR social security number and date of birth by heart. But do you know your spouse’s SSN? Your kids? Make sure you remember to bring the social security numbers and birth dates of everybody who will be claimed on your tax return.

Income Info

While your W-2 is important, there are many other pieces of information you will need to collect before you will be able to get started. Gather the following pieces of relevant information:

  • W-2s for you and your spouse.
  • Investment income: This type of income will be listed on various 1099 forms including –INT, -DIV, -B, etc). You may also have K-1s and stock option information to provide to your tax preparer.
  • Income received from state and local income tax refunds and/or unemployment. This income can be found on the Form 1099-G.
  • Gather information about any alimony you may have received.
  • If you are a business owner or farmer, don’t forget to provide a profit/loss statement and capital equipment information.  And if you use your home for business, your tax preparer will need to know the size of your house, the size of your office and what you have paid to maintain your home and office.
  • You will need to provide your IRA/pension distributions as well. This information will be provided to you on Forms 1099-R or 8606.
  • If you rent a home or other type of property, be sure to gather that information that proves the profit or losses you realized as a result of the rental.
  • Be sure to claim any Social Security benefits you may have received. This information is found on Form SSA-1099.
  • If you sold your house in 2014, you must provide your tax provider with Form 1099-C, which will include the income you received from the sale of the property. Your preparer will also take the home’s original cost and cost of improvements, the escrow closing statement and cancelled debt information into consideration.
  • Some other information you will need to pass along to your tax preparer includes items such as jury duty, gambling winnings, scholarships, etc.

Adjustments To Your Income

Now that you have collected all the information you can to adequately identify your income in 2014, some adjustments may need to be made. Making the following adjustments to your income may help increase your tax refund or lower the amount you owe to the government. If you have documentation of any of the following information, be sure to bring them to your appointment.

  • IRA contributions
  • Student loan interest
  • Medical Savings Account contributions
  • Moving expenses
  • Self-employed health insurance payments
  • Pension plans such as SEP and SIMPLE
  • Alimony you paid
  • Educator expenses

Itemized tax deductions and credits

This is another way to increase your refund or reduce what you owe. The following deductions and credits help lower the tax burden on individuals. Be sure to collect this information before filing your return.

  • Child care costs – child care provider’s name, address, tax ID number and amount paid
  • Education costs – these can be found on Form 1098-T
  • Adoption costs – the SSN of the child as well as legal, medical and transportation costs associated with the adoption
  • Home mortgage interest and points you paid, which can be found on Form 1098
  • Investment interest expense
  • Charitable donations that were made to not-for-profit organizations. Make sure you have the amounts and value of the donated property, and any out-of-pocket expenses you may have accrued in your effort to make the donation, including transportation costs. Include receipts for any contribution over $250

o   Losses you realized as a result of casualty and loss (the cost of the damage and insurance reimbursements

  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Energy credits
  • Other deductions include items such as union dues, unreimbursed employee expenses, such as unreimbursed employee expenses

New for 2014 returns

For the first time, you will need to provide information about your health insurance coverage to your tax preparer. Be prepared to answer questions such as these:

  • Was everyone claimed on your tax return covered by health insurance?

o   If not, why?

  • Did you or anyone on your return obtain health insurance coverage through Healthcare.gov or through a state run exchange in 2014?

o   If yes, did any of those individuals receive a premium tax subsidy, cost reduction, or premium tax credit? If yes, provide Form 1095-A.

It’s likely that you have already started receiving tax forms in the mail from various places. It’s easy to misplace these documents if you’re not careful. If you haven’t already, set aside a place for these items until you have collected them all. Once you have everything you need, you can set an appointment to file your taxes with your financial advisor or tax preparer. For additional tax information, or to speak with a tax expert, email Rea & Associates.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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