Archive for the ‘Personal Finance’ Category

Manage Your Business’s Ethical Framework After You’re Gone

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

While the reasons for drafting an ethical will may seem more personal than business-related, an ethical will can be an effective way for business owners to pass along their vision for the future of their company after they are gone.

A properly drafted last will and testament is critical to ensure your estate’s financial well-being. Perhaps equally important is your responsibility to manage your intellectual assets, including knowledge and ethical values. An ethical will, also known as a legacy letter, is a way for you to pass along information to family, friends, colleagues and even communities.

Ethical wills have been around for many centuries. They were very prevalent in Medieval Times, but lost much of their popularity in modern times. Over the past couple of decades, they have regained their popularity.

While a last will and testament details how a person’s possessions will be distributed after death, an ethical will is a way to pass on a person’s values, hopes, dreams and life lessons – among other viewpoints. Though an ethical will is not a legal document, Business Week has described it as an aid to estate planning.

What should I include in my ethical will?

  • Your personal values – the importance of honesty, integrity and personal responsibility.
  • Your views on work ethic, dedication to one’s chosen profession and work-life balance.
  • Your views on charitable giving and community responsibility.
  • How to develop and cultivate personal and business relationships.
  • Your hopes and dreams for your spouse, children and other family members.
  • Anything that you have learned in life and would like to pass on to others.

When should I draft my ethical will?

  • Marriage
  • Birth of a child
  • Children leaving for college
  • When drafting a succession plan for your business
  • End of life
  • Or anytime

An ethical will can be an integral part of your overall estate plan, so consider putting one together today!

By Cathy Troyer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Retirees Get Cranky Over Tax Returns

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

Tax preparation and tax payments often become MORE complicated in retirement. Why? Because retirement taxation is new for a retiree so there’s a learning curve. Here are a few cliff notes to help new retirees navigate these uncharted waters:

Social Security

The money you receive from Social Security will likely be taxable. Fifteen percent of your Social Security benefit is a return on your lifetime payroll deductions and your employer’s match. Eighty-five percent of your Social Security is the excess benefit payment, or “growth,” in your benefit account and, thus, your untaxed benefit. That 85 percent may be taxable depending on the amount of your other income. This calculation is complex and the tax is difficult to avoid, but it is possible.

IRA Distributions

You must take your IRA distributions when you have reached the age of 70-½. The Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) can be managed and will impact your taxable Social Security. Planning is essential.

Capital Gains

As your lifetime investments are sold to help pay for retirement, capital gains is another obstacle to overcome. Here are a few tips to make them more manageable:

  • It may take a little time, but document when you bought those investments and what you paid for them. Once your record is complete, give the information to your broker to record in your investment account statement.
  • If you own your investments directly, gather them up and put them into an investment account to simplify your tracking, cost barriers, tax preparation and estate administration.

Itemized deductions

The good news is that you have likely paid off your mortgage. The bad news is that you may no longer exceed the standard deduction to itemize. So then why do you keep tracking medical bills if you can’t itemize? “Bunching” deductions may be a planning option. For example, every OTHER year, I have my Mom pay her real estate taxes, Ohio tax estimates and charitable contributions she made during the year. Then I have her prepay next year’s real estate taxes, charitable contributions and Ohio estimated taxes in December. That doubles her itemized expenses and raises her total above the standard deduction. Then, I have her take an additional IRA distribution equal to the excess itemized deductions. That excess distribution equates to a tax-free payment because it is offset by the excess itemized expenses! This option is available to you too!

Estimated tax

You are required to calculate and pay your income tax by managing your social security and IRA retirement tax withholding, along with quarterly tax estimate payments. You must project and declare your taxable income by April 15 in the new-year. And remember, there are NO excuses for not paying them on time.

Complexities You Can Avoid

  1. Watch those managed stock accounts. The amount of programmed buying and selling creates more work for your CPA and will raise your tax preparation fee. Ask yourself if that activity really did make you more money after the incurred income tax and preparation fee. If it didn’t, revisit your managed stock accounts.
  2. Understand the publicly-traded LLCs recommended by your broker and know that you may need to extend your tax return because of the K-1 you will receive to report the income. Your preparation fee will be raised as well. Again, if you didn’t make any money after the incurred taxes and preparation fee, is it really worth it to continue?

The transition into retirement is not easy. Unfortunately, your money management and tax filing won’t be easier either. Our tax experts are always happy to answer any question you may have. Email Rea & Associates to learn more about your options for managing your retirement.

Author: Lee Beall, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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The Totalization Conundrum: Tax Tips for Employees Abroad

Friday, October 31st, 2014

Taxes are confusing enough when geography isn’t a factor. Now imagine that you are accepting a short-term opportunity as an independent contractor overseas. Do you have any tax obligations while you are away? If so, how should these obligations be managed? Is there a difference between working as an independent contractor overseas versus working as an independent contractor in the United States?

Someone recently reached out to us to find answers to these questions. We researched her question a little further to arrive at the following conclusion: yes – on all counts.

As an independent contractor working overseas for a short period of time you will:

  • Owe self-employment tax
  • Have to pay advanced taxes (i.e. make estimated payments)

In fact, if you are an American citizen, it does not matter if the work you complete is inside or outside the United States, your tax obligations are universal regardless of where in the world you are staying.

That said, the bigger question becomes, will the income you generate be taxed more than once. The answer to this question is: maybe.

For example, if you are working in India, you may be expected to pay into India’s social security program. The good news is that the U.S. has made agreements with many nations to prohibit multiple tax practices from occurring. For income tax purposes, these agreements are called Tax Treaties. When the issue pertains to Social Security purposes, they are called Totalization Agreements.

Why Are Totalization Agreements Important?

A Totalization Agreement is meant to improve Social Security protection for those who have worked (or are working) in multiple countries. The agreement essentially provides a way to manage how taxes are distributed and how workers are credited for the progress made toward their Social Security benefits (or similar programs abroad) between the two or more countries in which the employee has worked.

Again, using India as the example, because no Totalization Agreement exists, a U.S. citizen working in India should be prepared to pay in to each country’s social security program. This isn’t the case in countries where Totalization Agreements are in place.

A U.S. citizen working in the Canadian Province of Quebec, as an independent contractor, for example, would only be obligated to pay U.S. Social Security taxes. In this example, a Totalization Agreement between Quebec and America would also mean:

  • A self-employed American citizen working in Quebec would not have to pay in to Quebec’s social security program.
  • The taxes and Social Security accumulated by an employee of an American company working in Quebec would be distributed by the American company to the U.S. government.

You can learn more about the Totalization Agreement between the United States and Quebec here. Or you can view a list of countries with Totalization Agreements in place with the U.S. here.

Additional Deductions Are Available

Even though Americans working in India may be required to pay into social security programs in both countries, a Tax Treaty protects U.S. citizens from paying income taxes to both countries. Additionally, there are other ways to find tax savings as an employee working overseas.

  • Even though you may be required to pay into the county’s social security program, this cost can likely be deducted per the foreign tax credit, which was established to assist American taxpayers who find themselves working from countries where Totalization Agreements are not in place – such as India.
  • If you are planning a temporary absence from your tax home in the U.S. for business, your away-from-home expenses may also be deductible. So keep track of your travel, meal and lodging costs.

If you are an American working overseas who is struggling with the tax obligations between your country of residence and your country of employment, email Rea & Associates today. Our tax professionals will help you identify your tax obligations while you are abroad and can help you successfully deduct business-related expenses on your next tax return.

Author: Ben Jonard (Dublin office)

 

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

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

American businesses have been feeling the push and pull of Obamacare on their bottom lines for a while. Now, it’s time for individuals who chose to forego health insurance coverage to see what the individual shared responsibility provision has in store for them. If you did not have insurance coverage in 2014, you may need to send a little more money to the IRS when you go to file your 2014 federal tax return.

The individual shared responsibility provision became active in 2014 and, absent an exemption, requires individuals to pay a fee into the system if they choose not to carry health care insurance.

An exemption may be granted if:

  • The minimum cost for your premiums totals over 8 percent of your household’s total income.
  • You have had a gap in your health insurance coverage for less than three consecutive months.
  • You have a hardship that prevented you from obtaining coverage.
  • You are a member of certain religious groups (e.g. Amish) and you have Supplemental Security Income (SSI) exemption on file.
  • There are several other criteria and fine print you can see here.

According to the IRS, your shared responsibility payment for 2014 will either be “the greater of one percent of the household’s income above the income filing threshold for your tax filing status, or a flat dollar amount of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (under the age of 18) – but no more than $285 per family. The individual shared responsibility payment is also capped at the cost of the national average premium for bronze level health plans available through the health insurance marketplace that would cover everyone in your family who does not have minimum essential coverage and does not qualify for an exemption – for example, $12,240 for a family of five.”  This fee will increase in future years.

As you prepare to file your 2014 federal tax return, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You must make the IRS aware of whether your household had minimum essential coverage for each month in 2014. This can be done by checking a box identified on your tax return document.
  • If your household qualified for an exemption in 2014, an additional form must be attached to your tax return, which will provide the IRS with the information needed to approve the exemption claim.
  • Those required to make an individual shared responsibility payment, must make the payment when you submit your federal tax return to the IRS.

If you’re unsure whether you qualify for an exemption or need help calculating how much you will owe to the government when making your shared responsibility payment, email Rea & Associates. We can help you determine how the shared responsibility provision will affect you.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin)

 

Interested in other Obamacare-related posts? Check these out:

Health Insurance Options: Shop, Drop, Roll, or Self-insure?

How Will ACA Federal Exchange Premiums Affect Ohio Small Businesses And Consumers?

With The Affordable Care Act ‘Pay Or Play’ Provision Delayed, I Don’t Have To Do Anything Until 2015, Right? Wrong!

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Ready, Set, Download: IRS2Go Mobile App 2014

Monday, October 20th, 2014

In June, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made the 2014 version of IRS2Go available to mobile users. This free app can help you stay on top of your federal income tax refund. You can also request your tax return or account transcript or receive tips and updates from the IRS via the app.

Benefits of IRS2GO App

Compatible with Apple and Android devices, the IRS2Go mobile app has been redesigned and includes several new and updated features, such as:

  • IRS2Go makes it easier for individuals to check their refunds at a time that’s convenient for them. To get there, just click on “Refund Status,” enter your Social Security Number (which is masked for security purposes), then select your filing status and the amount of your anticipated refund. The new “status tracker” allows users to identify where their return is in the tax return process. NOTE: Returns filed electronically can be viewed 24 hours after the return was received by the IRS. Paper returns take longer to process and can take up to four weeks before their status is available to view.
  • Another helpful feature is your ability to request your tax records or your account transcript. While, for security reasons, the records cannot be viewed immediately on your Smartphone or device, the request will be processed and your records will be delivered promptly to the address on record.
  • If you need help preparing your tax return, IRS2Go helps users find IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs by simply entering a ZIP code and mileage range.
  • Users also have the opportunity to stay connected, view more content and interact directly with IRS on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or by signing up for email updates.

To download the IRS2Go app on your Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch device, visit the iTunes app store. To download IRS2Go on your Android devise, visit the Google Play store.
By Kelly Leslie, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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