Archive for the ‘Personal Finance’ Category

Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

You get a call from a man who said he was from the IRS and was informing you that criminal activity was found after the IRS performed an audit on your past taxes. Then he asks if you had a criminal lawyer to represent you. And as you tried to get a word in edgewise, he told you not to interrupt him because the IRS and local authorities were recording your phone call. Pretty unnerving, right?

Well, unfortunately, this phone call actually took place with a client. And these types of phone calls are happening constantly. Back in April, the IRS issued a warning for consumers about phone scams targeting taxpayers. During the 2013 tax filing season numerous phone scams occurred, but the IRS has seen an increase in these scams since then. Because the IRS believes that these incidents will continue to plague taxpayers, it’s important to be vigilant for these kinds of calls.

The 4-1-1 On These IRS Phone Scams

  • Some taxpayers who received these calls were told they’re entitled to a big tax refund, or that they owe a lot of money to the IRS that needs to be paid immediately. Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t contact you via phone about these matters. If you ever owe the IRS money, you’ll be sent a written notification via mail.
  • The IRS will never ask you for personal financial information over the phone, such as your credit or debit card information. If you’re asked for this information from someone claiming they’re from the IRS, don’t give it and report the incident immediately to the IRS.
  • Some IRS scammers use fake names/surnames (most of the time these names are common) and IRS badge numbers when they identify themselves.
  • It’s possible that a scammer knows and can tell you the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • The phone number that a scammer calls you from could look like it’s from the IRS toll-free number.
  • If you take one of these scam calls, you may receive a bogus follow-up email to make it look like it is a legitimate inquiry from the IRS.
  • You may be threatened with jail time or driver’s license suspension from one of these scammers. They may then hang up on you and then call back pretending to be the police or DMV, further trying to prove their claim to you.

What Should You Do If You Get One Of These Calls?

So have you received one of these calls? If so, and you’re not sure the next step, here’s what you should do:

  • If you think you might owe taxes or there may be an issue with your taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. Someone at the line can help you determine if you indeed have a payment due.
  • If you feel you received this call unexpectedly and know you have no IRS issues, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

In light of these increasing incidents, be on the lookout and don’t fall prey to these scams. Hang up if you’re uncomfortable with the call. And know that the IRS would never ask for personal financial information over the phone or in an email. If you receive any suspicious emails, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Ohio Tax Help

If you’re ever unsure about anything you received from the IRS, whether it be a letter, a phone call or email, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine if the inquiry is legitimate, and assist you with responding.

Author: Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

Looking for other articles on how to protect you and your business? Check out these articles:

How Can Heartbleed Affect You and Your Business’s Online Identity?

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

Are You Secure? Cyber Security Targets Employee Benefit Accounts

 

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What Should You Ask When Reviewing Your Life Insurance Policy?

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Throughout the past several months, I have written a couple of articles that explained the importance about why you should review your life insurance policy. It’s one of those things that we get for the “just in case” moment, and then sometimes forget about it. You’d be surprised how often unexpected slip-ups occur with life insurance policies. That’s why it’s so important to review your policy … to ensure that you’re not paying too much or too little for coverage, and to ensure that your policy is working properly for you.

All that said, here are six important questions you should ask when reviewing your life insurance policy:

Has my life situation or needs changed since I purchased my policy

Back in January, I wrote an article that outlined six common life changes that should cause you to stop and review your life insurance policy. These life changes ranged from the purchase of a new home to the changing of your job to the death of your spouse. If your life situation has changed since you originally purchased your policy, you’ll want to evaluate whether you need to increase or decrease coverage.

Have assumptions, such as interest rates, related to my policy change?

When you first purchased your life insurance policy, your insurer made some assumptions based on the market conditions at the time of your policy purchase. But as market conditions change, so can the assumptions your insurer originally made. By reviewing your policy, you’ll be able to determine if you need to make some policy adjustments that will help you receive the best benefits possible for your policy.

Do I have too much or too little life insurance coverage?

When you first took out a life insurance policy, you may have been making a lot less than you’re making now. If you’re making more now, you may find the need to increase your coverage. If you just said “Adios” to your youngest child who left your nest, you may find that you need less life insurance coverage now. It’s important to align your life insurance coverage with your needs and consider whether you’re paying for too much or too little of coverage.

Are my beneficiaries properly identified?

If you were to pass away while your life insurance policy is in effect, do you know who would receive the money? Many individuals name their spouses, children or parents as the beneficiaries. But if it’s been awhile since you purchased your policy, you might want to review it to ensure that your beneficiaries are properly identified. Make sure that your life insurance money will go to the individuals you really want it to go to.

How reliable is my insurer?

When you first purchased your life insurance policy, how well did you research the life insurance company you did business with? If you can’t recall spending a lot of time figuring out whether the company solid and reliable, you may want to evaluate the reliability of your insurer. The industry is rapidly changing, and with industry changes come concerns over whether certain insurers can continue to provide reliable service. If you question or are concerned about this, you’ll want to consider whether you need to change insurers.

Is my life insurance policy aligned with my estate/business plan?

Believe it or not, the lack of alignment between a person’s life insurance policy and their estate/business plan is seen more often than not. There are tax consequences for your beneficiaries if these two items don’t align, so in order to provide your beneficiaries with the maximum amount of money, ensure that your policy aligns with your estate/business plan.   

Life Insurance Review Help

Not sure where you and your life insurance policy stand? Don’t wait any longer. Get a review of your life insurance policy. Contact Rea & Associates, and we can help connect you to individuals who can help you with a life insurance review. You and your family will be glad you did.

Author: Lee Beall, CPA (Dublin office)

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What You Should Know Before Dipping Into Your 401(k)

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Got a 401(k) plan? Have you ever withdrawn money from your 401(k) account? If so, you’re part of the growing number of Americans using their 401(k) accounts to fund other areas of their lives. A recent Bloomberg article explains that more and more Americans are turning to their 401(k) accounts rather than to other means, such as a loan, to help cover any unexpected financial needs that come up.

Historically, Americans have used their homes as a source of additional money. According to the article, when home values rose, homeowners refinanced or took out second mortgages. But due to the housing collapse back in 2008, many homeowners don’t have these options anymore – so they turned to their 401(k) accounts. What many people don’t realize is that depending on their 401(k) plan, they could be penalized for either taking an early withdrawal and/or not putting that money back into their account in the appropriate amount of time.

Shocking 401(k) Withdrawal Statistics

The Bloomberg article cites an IRS report that states the agency collected $5.7 billion in withdrawal penalties in 2011. In other words, Americans withdrew nearly $57 billion from their retirement accounts. That’s $5.7 billion that the IRS would otherwise not have banked on receiving. And what’s the federal government doing with this “extra” income? Funding federal agencies and projects.

Think Before You Dip

Before you turn to your retirement plan for help, you should be aware of some things. It may seem like an easy option, but the IRS actually has some rules that you have to meet before taking money from your 401(k). One of the following conditions must occur before you can take money out without being penalized:

  • You lose your job
  • You claim disability
  • You or your spouse dies
  • You turn 59 ½ years old

401(k) Withdrawal Based on Financial Hardship

If you don’t meet the criteria listed above, but are facing a financial hardship, you may also be able to take an early withdrawal from your retirement account. The IRS’ hardship rules require you have one of the following needs to qualify for a hardship withdrawal:

  • Medical expenses for you or your immediate family
  • Financial assistance in the purchase of your primary residence (this excludes mortgage payments)
  • Tuition or other educational fees (maximum of 12 months) for you or your immediate family
  • Prevent the eviction of you from your primary place of residence
  • Burial or funeral expenses for deceased parent, spouse or other immediate family member
  • Expenses for the repair of damage to your principal residence

The amount of money you take can’t be more than the amount you actually need to cover your hardship. It’s important to note that your early withdrawal due to a financial hardship is subject to state and federal taxes, and is also subject to a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty if you are under age 59 ½. So keep all of these considerations in mind when deciding whether to dip into your retirement account.

401(k) Withdrawal Help

If you’re not sure if a retirement withdrawal is the best route to go, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio retirement plan services professionals can help you determine if you’re eligible and what you need to do to minimize your tax liability from a withdrawal.

Author: Steve Renner, QKA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for more information related to 401(k) or retirement plan withdrawals? Check out these blog posts:

Will I Be Penalized for a Hardship 401(k) Withdrawal?

Raiding Your 401(k)? It’ll Cost You

What Are The Rules For Taking A Distribution from My 401(k) Plan?

 

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How Can A Small Business Owner Keep More Money In Their Pocket?

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Who doesn’t want more money in their pocket? It’s something I think all of us would love to have. And small business owners are in luck! Accountants throughout the state of Ohio advocated for small business owners and worked with Ohio legislators to develop the Ohio Small Business Investor Income Deduction provision. In the 2013 tax year, Rea clients eligible for this tax deduction submitted nearly $80 million in tax deductions, and realized nearly $4 million in tax savings. This provision has truly helped small business owners keep money in their pocket!

How Do You Know If You Eligible For The Ohio Small Business Income Deduction?

If you’re a taxpayer who owns a business, such as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a limited liability corporation, and you bring in $125,000 in Ohio-sourced income (that would be $250,000 if you’re married and file jointly), you’re eligible for this deduction. For the first $125,000 (or $250,000 married, filing jointly) you report, you can take up to a 50 percent tax deduction. For many business owners, that’s real, significant savings. Keep in mind that businesses themselves are not eligible for the deduction, but rather the business owner, as an individual taxpayer, is eligible.

Why This Deduction Matters  

This provision, along with others, provides a tax cut for individual taxpayers. Last year, Ohio Governor John Kasich released a broad tax reform package that was aimed at putting money back into Ohio taxpayers’ pockets. Part of this reform was the Ohio Small Business Investor Income Deduction (SBD). The Ohio SBD, along with a string of other tax cutting provisions, is aimed at cutting taxes for Ohio business owners and individuals by $2.7 billion over the next three years. The end goal: to build and accelerate economic and job growth in Ohio.

If you were eligible for this deduction in 2013, you should have realized tax savings. In looking to the future, have you considered what your 2014 tax savings could be by taking advantage of the Ohio SBD? If not, it’s something you should be looking into so you can keep more money in your business.

Ohio Tax Help

Unsure of your eligibility or need help in understanding how this deduction can apply to you? Contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can review your operating structure and help you maximize your 2014 tax savings.

Author: Lee Beall, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Interested in reading more blog post about tax savings? Check these posts out:

How Will A Tax Credits and Incentives Plan Benefit Your Business?

So Is It a Tax Credit Or a Tax Deduction?

How Do You Make Your Charitable Contributions Count?

 

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