Archive for the ‘Personal Finance’ Category

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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To Shred Or Not To Shred: That Is The Question … Ask Your Financial Advisor

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Are you wondering what to do with all those tax documents and records you have piling up around your office or in your computer files? Are you thinking about wiping them from your company’s hard drive or sending them to the shredder? Not so fast. The IRS has several rules when it comes to how long your business should keep its records. Make sure you are up to date on the current records retention schedule before you permanently delete something important.

Generally speaking, records that support your income or deduction claims for tax return purposes should be kept until the period of limitations for a particular tax return expires. The “period of limitations” is defined as the period of time the IRS gives you to change information on your return, particularly when the information relates to a refund or credit you have claimed. Also, just because you aren’t planning to make any changes to your tax return doesn’t mean the IRS won’t. Therefore it’s in your best interest to keep your documents until the IRS can no longer assess additional taxes or request additional information from you.

Below is a quick reference guide pertaining to some common records your office has been collecting over the years and how long you should keep them.

Records You Should Keep Permanently:

  • Copyright registration
  • Correspondence (legal and important matters)
  • Deeds, mortgages, bills of sale
  • Depreciation schedules
  • Financial statements (end-of-year)
  • General and private ledgers (and end-of-year trial balances)
  • Insurance records, current accident reports, claims, policies, etc.
  • Minute books for director and stockholder (including bylaws and charter)
  • Property appraisals by outside appraisers
  • Retirement and pension records
  • Tax returns and worksheets, revenue agent’s reports and other documents relating to determination of income tax, sales tax, or payroll tax liability

Records That Should Be Retained For At Least Seven Years:

  • Accident reports and claims (settled cases)
  • Accounts payable/receivable ledgers and schedules
  • Expense analyses and expense distribution schedules
  • Garnishments
  • Inventories of products, materials and supplies
  • Plant cost ledgers
  • Telephone logs/message books
  • Time books/cards
  • Withholding tax statements
  • Employee payroll records (W-2, W-4, annual earnings, etc.)

Records That Can Be Destroyed After Three Years:

  • Bank deposit slips
  • Employment records
  • General correspondence
  • Internal work orders
  • Production and sales reports
  • Sales commission reports

If the records you are looking for aren’t listed above, you can find additional record retention recommendations in our current record retention schedule.

IMPORTANT: The actual amount of time you are required to keep a specific document may be longer depending on your business or what is contained in the document. If you have questions about specific documents or would like some advice on your current record retention practices, email Rea & Associates.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

Related Articles:

How Do You Keep Your Tax Documents Organized?

Getting Back To Business: How Outsourcing May Provide Relief To Your Business

How Can You Best Prepare For The Upcoming Tax Season?

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IRS Says You Owe More? Don’t Write That Check Yet!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Tax season can be rough for any business. Just about the time you allow yourself to move on to something else and breathe a sigh of relief … it happens. You sift through your mail and find yourself staring face-to-face with a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In a matter of seconds your adrenaline levels are through the roof. You know that what’s inside the envelope isn’t a simple thank-you note for filing your taxes on time. You carefully tear it open.

Nobody likes to hear that they have to pay more to the IRS than they originally thought. But, before you jump to conclusions and quickly write out a check for the amount the letter says you owe:

  • Stop
  • Take a deep breath
  • Call your financial advisor

4 Tips For Resolving Your Tax Dispute

Believe it or not, the IRS does make mistakes. Agents can accidentally input incorrect information, computers can misread data and tax codes can be inadvertently overlooked or misinterpreted. It happens. If you believe that the IRS was wrong in a decision it made about your business’s tax returns, follow these four steps to reach a resolution.

  1. Follow Instructions. Sometimes the easiest way to resolve the issue is to follow the instructions. Sounds easy enough, but not everybody gets this part right. If the IRS sent you a notice, look for the section that explains what to do if you disagree with their decision and follow directions. Additionally, be sure to attach any supporting documentation and mail it back to the address given by the deadline requested. After the IRS has made its decision, you will be notified via U.S. Mail. When in doubt, opt to send inquiries to the IRS via certified mail and request a receipt.
  2. Make The Call. If your initial challenge was rejected, your next step is to follow up with a phone call. The rejection notice you received should have included another important piece of information: the contact name and number of the IRS employee who rejected your challenge. When you call, in a polite and professional manner, ask to speak to the employee’s manager. Even though you are passing over the employee on the chain of command, take care not to say anything about why you are asking to speak with their supervisor. The last thing you need is to create animosity. When you finally have the opportunity to speak with a supervisor, your case should be laid out in much the same way as your original challenge. You should be clear and concise in your explanation while taking care to address any concerns that were noted by the original employee in their rejection letter. If your letter didn’t include an employee’s name and phone number, send another certified letter to a general supervisor with the agency and request that they reconsider your case.
  3. Appealing To A Higher Office. If you still haven’t convinced the IRS to change its mind, don’t give up – even if you have already mailed several letters and racked up a lot of call time with the agency. Further up the chain of command is the Office of Appeals, an independent office within the IRS. This is just one more step you have to take on your journey to find an IRS employee who agrees with your. To get your case to the Office of Appeals, follow the instructions that were found in the earlier notices. If you are unable to locate these instructions, you can find them on the IRS website.
  4. Welcome to U.S. Tax Court. Sometimes a resolution can’t be achieved in the first three steps of the appeal process. If you find yourself in this situation your final option is to take the case to the U.S. Tax Court. At this point you may be discouraged and may even question whether you should continue on with the fight, but if you still believe that the IRS is wrong it is probably in your best interest to see it out to the end.

If your dispute is less than $50,000 you will have the option to represent yourself. Similar to how a small-claims court operates, there is no jury and the judge will not hold your inexperience against you. Once court is in session you will state your case again, provide evidence and answer any questions a judge may ask about the claim. Be advised, however, that once a decision is made at this phase it is final and cannot be appealed.

Sometimes, even though you have decided that you want to move forward, an IRS attorney may offer to settle out of court for a figure less than what the IRS says you owe. If this happens, you need to decide whether you will accept the settlement or if you will move forward with presenting your case to the judge. The choice is yours.

If you find yourself at odds with the IRS over a tax issue and are not sure how to proceed, email Rea & Associates for more information.

 

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Are You Having Trouble Staying Current With Payroll Taxes?

Does Your Company Have Strong Internal Controls?

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College Costs Keeping You Up All Night? Tax Credits Could Offer Relief

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

As a parent you have spent countless hours preparing your child for adulthood. You have thumbed through your share of board books, mastered the art of singing The ABC Song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on a whim, and have racked up enough mileage driving back and forth from piano lessons, soccer games and summer camps to make a space shuttle cringe. But now it’s here. After nearly 18 years, your son or daughter has become a college student.

Many parents describe this milestone moment as bittersweet; others say they are caught off guard by feelings of anxiety and sadness. And while all parents are proud of their child’s accomplishment, it’s hard not to feel a little buyer’s remorse when you see the statement for the first semester in the mail – especially if you offered to pick up the tab.

College is not cheap, and according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), it’s only getting more costly. The NCES reported that the prices for an undergraduate to attend college at a public institution rose 40 percent between the 2001-02 and 2011-12 academic years; a student who chose to attend a private nonprofit institution saw a 28 percent increase over the same period. The report found that an average undergraduate student paid $14,300 annually for their tuition, room and board at a public institution while a student attending a private for-profit school paid $23,300 per year. And those numbers don’t include the price of books, meals, transportation, insurance, and extracurricular activities … to name a few.

Consider A Tax Credit

Don’t abandon ship just yet. Here are three tips to help give your bank account a break.

  • Utilize the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. These two tax credits could help take the edge off of your initial statement shock. If you qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, you could save up to $2,500 annually for an eligible student during their first four years of school. Because 40 percent of this credit is refundable, you may be able to get up to $1,000 of the credit as a refund. The Lifetime Learning Credit, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to claim up to $2,000 on your federal tax return and has no limit on the number of years it can be claimed. If you decide to take a credit, keep in mind that the IRS will only let you claim only one type of education tax credit per student.
  • Claim your qualified education expenses. Be sure to keep track of the expenses you paid toward tuition and student activity fees that were paid to complete enrollment. According to the IRS, you can make a claim if you paid for any of these expenses with cash, check, a credit or debit card or with money secured from a loan. If you will be taking the American Opportunity Tax Credit, expenses for books, supplies and course equipment are also considered a qualified education expense.
  • Don’t forget your 1098-T. This form, in addition to your receipts, is critical to claim a tax credit. Most schools will send this to you in the mail. Don’t be surprised if the amount on your form doesn’t match your numbers. The 1098-T doesn’t include items such as textbooks.

College doesn’t have to break the bank. To learn more about your college saving options, email Rea & Associates. Our team of tax professionals can guide you through the tax credit process and other college savings options.

Author: Brian Kempf, CPA (Millersburg)

 

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Outright Shale Sales Are Another Option For Landowners

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The work to unearth valuable minerals from the Utica and Marcellus shale deposits in Eastern Ohio continues to move forward at full speed. While many of the area’s landowners entered into mineral land leases years ago, some chose to put off the leasing process for later – it is now 2014. Several years have passed and the landowners who chose to wait are now facing a different set of choices and options concerning their land and the minerals found within.

What Has Changed?

If you’re looking to cash in on the shale boom, the traditional land/mineral lease alternative is no longer your only option. Today, some landowners are considering the outright sale of their mineral interests to an acquiring entity. While both options have their merits, this discussion is not intended to weigh the economic consequences when comparing land/mineral leasing versus the outright sale of your mineral interest. You should be aware of a few points surrounding the sale of mineral interests that may help govern your decision.

  • Outright sale agreements typically state that the landowner will agree to sell their mineral interests, specific to formation or generic, to an acquiring entity.
  • Per the agreement, the seller typically relinquishes all incidents of mineral ownership – and usually all rights to any future income streams based on the future production from the minerals in question.
  • If you choose to sell your mineral interest outright, your decision to do so may trigger tax planning opportunities, such as the “like-kind exchange” tax treatment for real estate transactions also known as the IRC1031 exchange. In other words, this particular transaction could qualify your gain from the sale of mineral interests to be deferred into the acquired “like-kind” real property. The acquired real estate must be held for trade, business or for other investment purposes.

Proceed With Caution

Before jumping the gun and making a decision based on the possibility of triggering the like-kind exchange, understand that the rules governing IRC1031 are very complex. The sale of mineral interest just adds to the complexity. It’s important that you speak with an advisor concerning a “like-kind exchange” before closing on the mineral interest sale, or the replacement property.

The like-kind exchange opportunity is not for everyone. For those who qualify, however, a mineral sale scenario with the right fact pattern coupled with a properly executed 1031 exchange could result in a significant tax planning opportunity for landowners who are seeking ways to minimize the current tax consequences.

While it’s great to have a range of choices when dealing with matters such as these, the larger selection has a tendency of making it harder to zero in on the information needed to make an informed decision. If you’re considering a land/mineral lease or an outright sale alternative, email Rea & Associates to get more information about these options.

Author: Jim Fracker, CPA (Zanesville office)

 

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What to do if You Strike Oil or Gas

Reducing Uncle Sam’s Tax Bite on the Sales of Your Business

How Valid Is Your Buy-Sale Agreement

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When Scammers Demand That You Pay Up, IRS Says You Should Hang Up

Monday, August 18th, 2014

More than 1,000 American taxpayers have collectively lost about $5 million as a result of a recent phone scam that has been reported to be active in virtually every corner of the nation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminds everybody to be vigilant, to never give personal financial information to anybody over the phone, and to report instances of phone scams to the IRS and/or to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

To date, more than 90,000 complaints regarding the scam have been made to the IRS and TIGTA.

Signs of An IRS Phone Scam

A media release, sent Aug. 13, reports that scammers will use fake names and IRS badge numbers, are able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s social security number, and spoof the IRS’ toll-free number on caller IDs so that the calls appear legitimate. Victims reported that they were threatened with jail time or driver’s license revocation if they refused to comply with demands. After hanging up, scammers call back claiming to be local law enforcement or a DMV representative. The second phone call is supposed to reinforce their original claim and demands.

Don’t Be An IRS Phone Scam Victim

  • If you think you might owe taxes or that there may be an issue with your taxes, call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040. An authorized IRS representative can help you determine if you have a payment due.
  • If you get a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you know that you have no IRS issues, report the incident to TIGTA at (800) 366-4484. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use its “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Be sure to add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
  • Don’t let scammers catch you off your guard with questions about your tax history. Call your CPA and be confident about whether you owe money to the IRS or not. When it comes to your financial security, take a proactive approach.

Email Rea & Associates if you’re ever unsure about anything you received from the IRS, whether it is a letter, a phone call or an email. We can help you determine if the inquiry is legitimate.

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

Looking for other articles on how you can protect yourself and your business? We recommend these:

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

Are You Secure? Cyber Security Targets Employee Benefit Accounts

How Do You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?

 

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Were You Overcharged By The Ohio BWC?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Countless small businesses soon may find that they have money coming back to them. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has decided to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that the BWC, over the course of many years, had a system of group rating in place that improperly overcharged many Ohio businesses. A lower trial court originally ruled in favor of the plaintiffs with possible damages exceeding $800 million. While the ruling was upheld on appeal, the appeals court sent the decision back to the initial court to better address the issue of damages.

Now the BWC has agreed to pay out $420 million to those affected by the state agency’s practice of overcharging for workers’ compensation premiums between the years of 2001 and 2008.

To fulfill its obligation under the settlement agreement, the BWC said it will create a fund that will be specifically used to pay: claims made by employers found to be participants in the class action lawsuit, attorney fees, court costs, and costs associated with administering the fund. According to the settlement agreement, any unclaimed money will be returned to the bureau.

Can You Make An Ohio BWC Claim?

In order to make a claim, you must have been a private, non-group rated employer at some point during 2001-2008 who:

  • Subscribed to the state workers’ compensation fund
  • Was not group-rated
  • Reported payroll and paid premiums in a manual classification for which the non-group effective base rate was “inflated” due to application of the group experience rating plan

Employers who were non-group rated for at least one policy year between 2001 and 2008 are eligible to claim a portion of the settlement.  Eligible employers should be receiving a notice that indicated their status as class members and how to make a claim.  A website where claim information can be submitting is currently under development.

Class members are required to submit their claims to Judge Robert McGonagle of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Claims must be postmarked no later than Sept. 22, 2014. More information on this ruling can be found here. More details are coming, so stay tuned!

If you’re entitled to a portion of the BWC settlement, make sure you understand your rights and know how to follow the transaction process. If you’d like more information about how to claim what’s yours, email Rea & Associates and ask for information about this process.

Author: Joseph Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

Stay up-to-date on other recent business advice blog posts. Check these out:

Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Is Your Business Running On Microsoft 2003 Servers? It’s Time To Update 

Why It’s Important To Have A Good Banker As Part of Your Business Advisory Team

 

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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: Don McInstosh (New Philadelphia 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: Don McIntosh, CPA (New Philadelphia 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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How Can I Make The Most of My Retirement?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

During my 30 years of financial planning experience, I have come to find that there are four phases of a person’s life. If you’re a Baby Boomer, each phase is approximately 22 years in length. Phase 1 is our formal education and/or training. During Phase 2, we try to figure out what we are going to do for a living, and then focus on becoming as proficient at it as we can be. In Phase 3, we strive to be on top of our game and begin to accumulate wealth. It’s Phase 4 that should prove to be, as long as we enjoy good health, the most gratifying phase of our lives. For in Phase 4, we should be able to step back and enjoy our journey at a more relaxed pace. It is during this phase that we are oftentimes best positioned to positively impact the people and causes that are important to us, while hopefully leaving this world a little better than we found it.

Financial and Emotional Threats to Retirement

Certainly, there are financial challenges that you may face that you should address in order to live the lifestyle necessary to accomplish your mission. These financial challenges exist for many of us due to longer life spans, the decrease of defined benefit retirement plans, and the uncertainty surrounding programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Because of our longer life expectancies and the disappearance of guaranteed pensions, many Baby Boomers are choosing to cut back the hours that they work rather than retire. For some it becomes a phase-out period of their career, while others choose to commence an entirely new career.

I have had the privilege to work with financially successful people whose fourth phase of life is not threatened by financial insecurity. However, they may have confronted emotional challenges that surface due to their loss of identity. It’s common for a person in a management position of a large company to discover that many of the people they considered friends prove to have been what I refer to as “positional acquaintances.”

Once that person retires and no longer holds a position on the company’s organization chart, the remaining people on the chart begin to interact with the new leader and no longer interact with the retiree.

So regardless of whether the threat to your enjoyment of Phase 4 is financial and/or emotional, below is a list of potential remedies that should be helpful tools as you attempt to position yourself for an enjoyable victory lap of your life’s journey.

7 Remedies To Help You Enjoy Your Retirement

  1. Develop hobbies or participate in community service activities that will provide you with an outlet to use your time and talent.
  2. Diversify your group of friends to include individuals who are not from work.
  3. Be a disciplined contributor to your retirement plan. During Phase 2, always contribute at a minimum the amount that your employer will match. During Phase 3, consider contributing the maximum amount permitted.
  4. Consider phasing out of your career and/or commencing on a new career that is aligned with your time, talents and passions. Continuing to earn an income can afford you the option of delaying access to your retirement funds and Social Security benefits.
  5. Become familiar with your Social Security options. Waiting to access your monthly benefits until you’re 70 years of age can generate a 75 percent increase of your monthly benefit at age 62. With today’s life expectancies, doing so could provide significantly more retirement benefits to you or your spouse during your lifetimes.
  6. Examine your current lifestyle and determine what is important to you. Where possible, trim unnecessary activities and related expenses and begin shaping your desired retirement lifestyle.
  7. Leverage tax law to subsidize the cost of your chosen lifestyle. The American Taxpayer Relief Tax Act of 2012 added a complexity of additional tax brackets and disappearing tax deductions that are tied to income levels. As a result, tax bracket management, where you accelerate or defer income into low tax bracket year and deductible expenses into high tax bracket year has become more important. Proactive tax bracket management, coupled with disciplined investment of realized tax savings, can significantly enhance the cash flow available to you during your victory lap.

By applying the strategies above, the increased amount of cash you could realize during retirement could be the difference between enjoying your retirement or not enjoying it. Consider taking some of these steps today in order to enhance your chances of living your dream in the future.

Retirement Planning Help

If you’re unsure of what your future retirement holds, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio personal tax professionals can help you evaluate where you’re at currently and can help you map out where you want to go on your retirement journey.

Author: Paul McEwan, CPA, MTax, AIFA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Want to gain more tips for retirement planning? Check these blog posts out:

Retirement Is Knocking … Are You Ready To Answer The Door?

Will You Be Ready for Retirement?

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

 

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How Can You Build And Develop Your Organization?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

If you run a manufacturing business, then you know it’s no easy task. You may often find that the day-to-day activities become your focus. It can be hectic, time-consuming and physically and emotionally draining. These issues can take away from your ability to focus on actually growing your business. It can be a “Catch 22” because if you aren’t building the right organizational structure, then the day-to-day activities continue to consume your time and before you know it, you’ll become like a cat chasing your tail.

Going From ‘Good to Great’

In the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, he touches on this very issue. He says, “The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.”

Many closely-held business owners struggle to grasp this concept. In my experience, if you want to grow a successful company and have a reasonable quality of life, you must get your arms around your organizational structure. For individuals who don’t, your company probably won’t reach its potential and you may spend most of your time working in your business and not on it.

Building Your Organization May Require Tough Choices

In my career I have worked with many companies that have had a difficult time building their organization.  It’s not easy and you won’t always get it right. When you get it wrong you must move swiftly to make the necessary changes. Most of us know when we have the wrong person in the wrong position, but we just procrastinate in making a change. Making the right move is critical for building an organization, even when it’s a tough choice.

Maximize your time and talents – and the time and talents of your employees. But know that it can’t be done without the right people around you. Make sure you have a solid management team surrounding you that can help you move your business in the direction you want it to go.

Author: Mike Taylor, CPA (Millersburg office)

Are you interested in reading more blog posts about managing your business? Check these ones out:

What Are 6 Things You Can Do To Improve The Health Of Your Business in 2014?

What Are The Top 10 Signs Your Business’s Internal Controls Aren’t Strong?

What Are The Top 5 Challenges Business Owners Face in Today’s Economy?

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What Should You Do After Tax Season?

Monday, April 14th, 2014

Now that most of you have either filed your 2013 tax return or at least gathered your tax information and sent it off to your CPA, I know what you’re thinking. Phew! I’m done with my taxes for yet another year! But guess what? No, you aren’t!

Now is the time to start planning for next year. The sooner you plan ahead and strategize for next year’s tax season, the better off you may be. Not happy with the amount of taxes that you had to pay this past year? Not happy that you seem to work harder and harder only to pay more in taxes and get further behind? Start planning now for future tax seasons!

Tax Planning For the Future

Here are a few things you can start working on now to help create a better tax experience for yourself next year:

  • Develop an investment strategy. Most people don’t understand the affect this can have on your tax return. You can control when and how to take gains from your investments. You should work on developing a long-term investment strategy with your investment advisor.
  • Create a plan to sell property. Are you considering selling property sometime in the future? Did you know that there are ways to minimize taxes that need to be paid on the sale of property? This isn’t done by calling your financial advisor and letting them know you just sold some property. Get them involved now and discuss that you plan to sell some property in three to five years. Your financial advisor can help you structure the property sale and ultimately help you control the tax effect.
  • Establish a business plan. If you’re thinking about starting a new business, work with your financial advisor now to determine what tax savings you may be able to realize. Depending on the type of entity there could be significant tax savings down the road. 

Tax Planning Help

While there’s no single quick fix to solving all of your business and tax woes, planning now will certainly help you when tax season rolls around next year – and the year after that and so on. If you need help with your tax planning, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax planning professionals can help you develop a tax strategy that best suits you for years to come.

Author: Dave McCarthy, CPA, CSEP (Medina office)

 

Want to read some more articles related to tax planning? Check these posts out?

What Is The Difference Between Fixed Asset Expensing And Capitalization?

So Is It a Tax Credit Or a Tax Deduction?

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

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Retirement Is Knocking … Are You Ready To Answer The Door?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014

Traveling to exotic places. Spending hours on the links. Enjoying time with the grandkids. Supporting philanthropic efforts. While these all might be things you hope to do during retirement, do you have any idea the likelihood that you’ll actually get to do them? Sadly, more and more individuals are finding that they’re not adequately prepared for retirement. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI’s) March 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey, 49 percent of individuals surveyed are “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that they’ll have enough income when they hit retirement. That’s an astounding, yet insightful number. How would you answer the question, “How confident are you that you’re prepared for retirement?” If you find yourself in either of the categories mentioned above, all hope is not lost.

For many of you, retirement probably seems light years away. But there may be some of you who are fast approaching retirement age. Wherever you’re at on the retirement spectrum there are practices you can put in place now to move you toward your retirement goals.

Five Practical Tips for Retirement Readiness       

  1. Look at your ability to save and cut corners where you can to save money. Even if your savings goal seems beyond reach or too distant in the future to be of concern now, re-evaluate where you can save and strive for it. Some individuals won’t begin to save if they see the goal as unattainable and set themselves up for failure before they even begin. Just as a tiny grain of sand can form into a pearl within an oyster over time, small steps in saving for retirement can lead you to your goals. Take responsibility to make it happen, and get financial advice if you need some help.
  2. Determine what you expect your retirement lifestyle to look like. If you dream or envision traveling to those exotic places I mentioned earlier, or perhaps you want to buy a motor home and travel the United States, it’s critical that you have the funds to do it. In theory it sounds like a great idea, but what many people realize upon retirement is that they don’t have enough funds to support these kinds of adventurous or carefree lifestyles. The EBRI survey cited above also showed that seven out of 10 individuals haven’t talked with a financial advisor about their financial situation nor have they put together a plan for retirement. If you want to have a retirement that’s close to what you dream of, put a realistic plan together for what you expect retirement to look like and go after it to make it happen.
  3. Evaluate your debt. Have you purchased a new car? Is your mortgage paid off? Are you (or are you planning on) paying for your kids’ college education? As you prepare for retirement, it’s important you evaluate your debt situation. Ideally, you don’t want to go into retirement with any debt. Work hard now to pay off debt you may have. It’ll pay off (literally and figuratively) later on down the road!
  4. Consider what monetary resources you have to pull from. There’s a whole slew of ways you can fund your retirement. Make certain you are taking advantage of any retirement plan your employer offers. Not only does this give you the ability to save for retirement, but many employers will also contribute money for you – do your best to take full advantage of the contribution your employer will make for you. Personal savings and other avenues, such as an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or investment in property, could be considered. Social security benefits can also be factored in as part of your retirement benefits, but should not be viewed as the only or primary source of retirement income.
  5. Anticipate medical costs and needs. You may feel fit as a fiddle. But unfortunately for many of us, that feeling won’t last our entire lives. As we get older, our bodies age, and it’s important for us to prepare financially for any potential medical costs or needs we could encounter. Medical costs are one of the more commonly overlooked items when planning for retirement. Knowing your family’s medical history could be helpful when anticipating your future medical costs. 

Retirement Planning Help

While these five tips won’t completely solve all of your retirement woes, they’ll help you get in better shape for retirement. Don’t wait until it’s too late. To celebrate National Employee Benefits Day, which is today, start preparing for the retirement of your dreams today. If you need guidance or additional insight on how to best plan for your retirement, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you put together a plan to ensure you’re on a good path to retirement.

Author: Darlene Finzer, CPA, QKA, CSA (New Philadelphia office) 

 

Looking for more advice on retirement planning? Check out these posts:

What Are Ways You Can Ensure You’re Ready for Retirement?

Will You Be Ready for Retirement?

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

 

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Where’s Your Tax Refund?

Friday, March 28th, 2014

Do you find yourself checking your mailbox every day? Or maybe you’re watching your bank account to see if your account balance went up? It’s the time of year that many Americans are waiting with bated breath for their coveted tax refund. If you haven’t already, you’re probably getting ready to file your tax returns in the next few weeks, and you may be wondering when you can expect to receive your refund or if there’s anything you can do to speed it up. Well, wonder no more and read on!

Speeding Up Your 2013 Tax Refund

The best way to receive your tax refund sooner than later is to file your tax return electronically and to select “direct deposit” as the delivery method for your refund. Electronic filing is faster, more accurate, and more secure than paper-filing your return. Likewise, direct deposit is faster and more secure than receiving a paper check refund. There’s no chance of your refund check being lost or stolen if it’s electronically deposited directly into your bank account. Please note that calling the IRS will not speed up your refund.

When Will You Receive Your Federal Tax Refund?

If you’ve already submitted your 2013 tax return and are curious where your refund is at, you can check the status of your federal tax refund using the IRS program, “Where’s My Refund?” This is available at http://www.irs.gov/Refunds, or you can use the mobile app, IRS2GO. If you file your return electronically, you can check the status 24 hours after your return was electronically submitted. If you file a paper return, you can check the status four weeks after your return is mailed.

In order to use “Where’s My Refund?”, you’ll need the primary taxpayer’s social security number, the filing status, and the exact amount of the refund. Your return will be in one of three stages:  Return Received, Refund Approved, or Refund Sent. While using “Where’s My Refund?” will not speed up the waiting time, it’s a convenient way to check the status of your refund.

Got Tax Questions?

If you have tax-related questions, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Author: Cathy Troyer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for other tax-related articles? Check these out:

What Tax Benefits Exist When You Donate to Charity?

What Tax Liabilities Accompany Inherited Real Estate?

What’s The Relationship Between Side-Businesses And Tax Deductions?

 

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What Tax Benefits Exist When You Donate to Charity?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

We’re three months into 2014, and you may be thinking about what charitable donations you’d like to make this year. If you’re planning to make a donation to a qualified 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, make sure to look at your investment portfolio before you write a check.  (more…)

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Which Life Insurance Policy Is Right For You?

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Back in January, I shared some insight about six common stages of life where you should review your life insurance policy. Today I want to provide some insight about how you can know what the right life insurance plan is for you.  (more…)

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What Are Ways You Can Ensure You’re Ready for Retirement?

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Yes, yes. You have a million things going on, and retirement planning may be the furthest thing from your mind. But it really shouldn’t be. In order to be well-prepared for retirement, you need to start now regardless of where you’re at in your career. Here are five financial requirements you should focus on as you prepare for retirement: (more…)

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What Tax Liabilities Accompany Inherited Real Estate?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

So you just inherited some real estate. You’re probably now wondering – is this a blessing or a curse? From the tax perspective, of course. And that’s a good question to ask. Just because you inherit something doesn’t mean that you’re free and clear of any potential tax liabilities. Depending on how you use the property and if you sell it will determine if you have a taxable situation. So here’s what you should know about taxes and inherited real estate.  (more…)

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What’s The Relationship Between Side-Businesses And Tax Deductions?

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Do you or someone you know enjoy knitting or jewelry-making? Or perhaps you do résumé writing or other professional consulting work? If you do any of these as a side business and make a profit, did you know that you can deduct expenses that are ordinary and necessary to your business? If your side business expenses exceed the income for your business, then the loss can be deducted against other income. However, if your loss is from a business that’s not making a profit, then you’re not allowed to deduct your loss against other income.  (more…)

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When Is The Best Time To Review My Life Insurance Policy?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Cartoon characters and celebrities all tell you to get it – life insurance that is. Now that you have it (or are at least considering purchasing it), is that it? Do you just sit back and pay your monthly life insurance fee until your policy expires? No way!  (more…)

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Will You Be Paying With Cash, Credit Or Bitcoins?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Bitcoin has been all over the news lately, and you may be asking – what exactly is it? Bitcoin is a virtual currency. Only existing online, it’s powered by its users and not backed by any government agency. This new currency offers anonymity, convenience, helps facilitate international commerce and can fluctuate in value. Check out www.bitcoin.org for more information and frequently asked questions.  (more…)

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What Should You Know About 2014 Standard Mileage Rates?

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Do you use your personal vehicle for business purposes when you’re on the clock? Or do you use your vehicle medical, moving or charitable purposes? If so, did you know that you can claim a tax deduction on the mileage you rack up?  (more…)

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Obamacare Exchange Enrollment Deadline Extended One Day

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Things are continually changing on the Obamacare front. I wanted to provide you with a brief update since my blog post from last Friday. In last Friday’s post, I explained that today (Dec. 23, 2013) was the last day for individuals to sign-up for insurance through the federal government (“the Exchange”) that would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. However, the Obama administration announced today that it is extending the deadline by one day. If you’re interested in obtaining health insurance through the Exchange, you can now enroll through tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 24. For more information on the deadline extension, view this recent CNNMoney article(more…)

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Do I Need To Have Health Care Coverage Before Jan. 1, 2014?

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Christmas is upon us, but you know what else is? The federal deadline to pay for exchange insurance that’s effective Jan. 1, 2014. Yes, that’s right. If you want health insurance through the federal government, you’ve got until Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, to apply and pay for it. Some insurance companies have delayed this deadline to Jan. 10, 2014 – but not all. So don’t wait – make sure you’re covered today.  (more…)

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Where Can I Find Easy-To-Use Tools For Calculating Complex Data?

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

The holidays are upon us, and right now you’re probably looking forward to celebrating with family and friends. Your finances may be one of the furthest things from your mind, but once Jan. 1 hits, the holidays are over and we all go back to our “regular” lives. If you’re an individual who sets goals or resolutions for the New Year, you may find yourself hoping to get into better physical shape or get better organized. But in the craze of the holidays and in the midst of your New Year’s resolutions, have you considered your finances?  (more…)

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Why Should Your Digital Assets Be Part of Your Estate Plan?

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Just when you think your estate plan is complete, is it really? Your will gives your personal property to your daughter, Suzie. Great, Suzie gets your laptop and your smartphone. But what happens to your online accounts, emails, Facebook account, iTunes account, that special digital crown won in an online game, and digital pictures stored in the “cloud”? Does Suzie know where to find your usernames or passwords? Even if she does, does she have a right to access the accounts?  (more…)

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How Does DOMA Affect Me?

Friday, September 6th, 2013

This article discusses the changes to individual tax payers that are in a legal same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court declared that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional.  Section 3 of DOMA required that same-sex spouses are to be treated as unmarried for purpose of federal law.  It is now recognized that same-sex couples that were legally married in states that recognize same-sex marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, even if the state they are currently residing in does not allow same-sex marriages.  The same is true for couples married legally in a foreign jurisdiction.  This now allows for same-sex married couples to file with the status of “married filing jointly” (MFJ) or “married filing separately” (MFS). (more…)

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

Monday, August 12th, 2013

So maybe you’ve been storing up money in your 401(k) plan for years, possibly even decades. Or maybe you’ve just started paying into your 401(k), and have a little bit of money in your account. You suddenly find yourself in a situation where you need money… and you need it now. What do you do? (more…)

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Need Some Cash Now?

Friday, July 19th, 2013

Are you in the market for a new home? Or maybe you’re looking to purchase a new car for your daughter or son? Don’t have enough cash for a down payment? No problem. There’s a nice workaround that can provide short-term relief for your immediate need.  (more…)

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How Can Retirement Provisions in the President’s 2014 Budget Proposal Affect You?

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

The past few weeks have been full of high visibility news stories ranging from the tragic Boston Marathon bombing to the devastating plant explosion in West, Texas. Amidst these stories and others, there was one important story you may have missed that could affect you and your retirement in a very significant way. President Obama recently unveiled his 2014 budget proposal that resulted in varied opinions over the retirement-related provisions that could greatly impact the retirement industry. (more…)

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How Do You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

“Interested in credit card theft? There’s an app for that.”

Those were the recent words of Gunter Ollmann, a technology security consultant. To Mr. Ollmann’s point, identity theft is getting easier and easier to perpetrate. Identity thieves are using the internet to find victims and steal their private data.  But, the use of technology swings both ways; consumers are increasingly using it to protect themselves and their identities.  Here are some on- and offline steps you can take to protect yourself from those trying to gain access to your data: (more…)

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How Does Getting Divorced Impact Your Taxes?

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Like so many Hollywood couples these days, maybe you are finding yourself a newly divorced person. With all the legal shenanigans that can happen during a divorce proceeding, have you taken the time to consider some of the more practical matters related to your finances? There are several tax-related items and helpful advice tidbits to be discovered after a change in your marital status. (more…)

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Have You Reviewed Your Life Insurance Lately?

Monday, February 4th, 2013

You’re used to discussing your financial assets with your CPA. You talk to your accountant about your income, your business and your estate plan. But there’s one financial asset that doesn’t always come up in discussions of your financial situation: your life insurance policy. Insurance might seem more like a safeguard than an asset, but it’s an important part of your financial portfolio. And, it’s important to review it regularly with the same diligence that you devote to your income, your business and your estate.

Why review your life insurance? Three reasons: to save money, reduce risk and ensure policy suitability. (more…)

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What Are 5 Things You Should Do Financially At the Beginning of the Year?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013
As a small business owner, the beginning of the year is a busy time. It’s January and you’re trying to determine what the New Year will bring. One of the keys to being a successful business owner is taking a break from the day-to-day routine and spending some time doing valuable planning. This is sometimes referred to as working on your business, not just working in your business. To help you with this process, here are five things you should consider doing as a small business owner as you start the New Year.  (more…)
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Will You Be Ready for Retirement?

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

You may have heard the retirement terminology “three-legged stool” used to describe the three most common sources of retirement income: Social Security, employer sponsored retirement plan and personal savings. Many factors affect the strength of each “leg,” so you must continually evaluate what changes you need to make to keep the stool strong and upright. (more…)

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How Do Your Avoid IRS Penalties on Your IRA?

Friday, September 21st, 2012

With our government requiring more cash each year, there is growing sentiment is the financial community that the IRS is becoming more vigilant in obtaining all revenue available related to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). According to a recent article, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimates that the IRS failed to collect as much as $286 million of revenue in 2006 and 2007 alone. From a political aspect, it is easier to raise revenue by simply enforcing the existing rules, than it is to cut spending or pass a new tax increase. (more…)

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You Got a Tax Notice… Now What?!

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

You know the feeling well… you’re just going about your business, walking out to the mailbox to pick up the daily mail. For some reason, the pile feels a bit heavier today. And as you sort through the junk and the magazines and the bills, you find that you’ve received a little love note in the form of a tax notice from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). No wonder the mail is so heavy today… the IRS is looking for more of your well-earned money. (more…)

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How Do You Get Your Social Security Statement?

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

If you’re not yet nearing retirement age, Social Security probably means two things to you: the amount of money that disappears from your pay checks and the annual statements that you get in the mail. If you’ve ever taken the time to read these statements, you’ve probably learned some neat things about your finances – like your lifelong earning history and the amount of Social Security benefits that you’d receive if you were to need them right now. (more…)

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How do you manage your personal cash flow?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

There’s no such thing as a free lunch… but a little planning ahead can make it a lot cheaper.

Let’s say you go out for lunch, on average, twice a week. At $8 per meal, you’ll spend more than $800 in one year on those lunches. And if you add in a weekly dinner out ($20), you’ll spend upwards $1,800 per year in restaurants. These little indulgences – fast food here, a sit down dinner there – add up and wreak havoc on your checkbook – and possibly your credit. (more…)

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If Something Happens to You, What Will Happen to Your Finances?

Friday, February 24th, 2012

One day, I received a call from a client whose husband had been hospitalized for a couple of weeks.  He had mentioned that he thought a tax payment was due that day.  She did not know how to make that payment, or if it needed to be paid.  We worked things through, but learned a valuable lesson: she realized she doesn’t know much about the family finances. (more…)

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Did You Discuss Finances Before Saying “I Do?”

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

It may not be the most romantic Valentine’s Day conversation, but financial planning is an important part of starting your marriage on solid financial footing. After all, married couples fight over personal finances more than they fight over anything else. (more…)

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Is Your Farm a Hobby or a Business?

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Farming is a pleasure activity for some individuals, and for others, it’s how they support themselves. If you farm for profit, how do you prove it to the IRS? (more…)

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Thinking of Gifting Money to Relatives? Late 2011 and Early 2012 May Be Best Timing

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

If you’ve been considering making a monetary gift to your children or other relatives, you may want to make your gift well before December 31. And better yet, if you haven’t made any previous gifts in 2011, you can gift up to $13,000 in 2011 and follow up with a gift of up to $13,000 in early 2012. (more…)

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Is 2011 the Year to Give? IRA Contributions to Charity

Friday, December 9th, 2011

If you’re thinking about donating a portion of your IRA to charity, you’ll receive a greater tax benefit if you do so before December 31. A popular provision is set to expire at the end of the year, and there is no guarantee the provision will appear in an extender bill in Congress anytime soon. (more…)

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Are You Ready for the Next Phase of InvestOhio?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Recently we’ve been telling you about Ohio’s new nonrefundable tax credit program called InvestOhio. Through it, Ohio taxpayers who invest in qualifying Ohio small businesses can qualify for a 10 percent credit against their personal Ohio income tax if they meet certain requirements. In less than two weeks, taxpayers can begin the second step in the application process for this tax credit. (more…)

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Do you know the 2012 Retirement Limits?

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Employees and individual retirement plan owners can contribute more toward their retirement benefits next year. (more…)

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Are You Ready for the InvestOhio Tax Credit? Register for Tax Credit This Week

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Ohio taxpayers who invest in a qualifying Ohio small business can qualify for a 10 percent credit against their Ohio income tax if they meet certain requirements  – and they can now apply for the credit. (more…)

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Have You Determined a Beneficiary for Your Retirement Plan?

Friday, November 11th, 2011

A single dad wanted to designate his two children as beneficiaries of his retirement benefits. He mailed his beneficiary designation form to his employer with a cover letter explaining his wishes. When he died, the benefits administrator noticed the designation form wasn’t signed. Should the plan assets pass to the estate or the children? (more…)

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Investors: Have You Learned the Lessons of 2008?

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

What are the lessons investors and advisors have learned from the Great Recession? Investment Partners’ Doug Bambeck shares these four tips. (more…)

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Are You Secure? Cyber Security Targets Employee Benefit Accounts

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

In July 2011, federal solutions group RSA’s Anti-Fraud Command Center detected more than 25,000 phishing attacks, the most recorded in a one-month period.  A part of the reason: Employees are increasingly being deceived into providing personal information through their employee benefit accounts. (more…)

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Can Medical Concierge Fees Be Applied to Health Savings Accounts?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

“Medical concierge” physician practices are growing in popularity with both physicians and patients. In this type of practice, patients pay a set fee that entitles them to much quicker access and more dedicated time with their physician as well as the opportunity to participate in additional diagnostics, wellness services and preventive care programs. (more…)

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Going, Gone? Tax Provisions that Could End in 2012

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Late in the year last year, Congress extended several tax law provisions but only for a short period of time. Below are items that may expire at the end of this year if no action is taken by Congress. (more…)

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Will I Be Penalized for a Hardship 401K Withdrawal?

Monday, October 17th, 2011

A reader asked: I wanted to do a hardship with my 401k and was wondering if would be penalized 10 percent of the balance? I borrowed from my 401k and haven’t paid all of it back yet. Will I be able to do a hardship with remaining balance left? (more…)

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Have You Received an IRS Notice? Nine Things to Know

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

The Internal Revenue Service sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers for a variety of reasons each year. Here are some things to know if you receive one. (more…)

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So the Grass Wasn’t Greener? Time to Reverse Your Roth IRA Conversion

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

If you converted a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA account last year, you may be facing an account that is worth much less than when you converted it. But you might also be facing a tax bill on value you no longer have. You do have an option, but only if you act quickly – reverse your 2010 Roth conversion.

If you converted your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA last year, the transaction triggered a taxable distribution from the traditional IRA, followed by a contribution to your Roth account. That tax will be based on the value of the traditional IRA on its conversion date. That means if your account is worth less now, you will owe taxes on money that no longer exists.

How to Reverse Your Roth IRA

Thankfully, the Roth conversion regulations allowed for the ability to reverse the conversion – but only if you do so before October 17. This involves completing the proper paperwork with your IRA custodian or trustee. When properly filed, the IRS considers your account as being “recharacterized” from a Roth account back to traditional IRA status. It’s as if the conversion never happened, and your tax liability disappears.

You’ll need to amend your 2010 tax return to allow for the reversal, or adjust your 2010 return if you have filed for an extension. Your reversal of the Roth conversion this year will also trigger some additional documentation requirements for your 2011 tax return.

Reconverting to Roth

Now that you’ve lessened your tax liability on phantom income that vanished due to the market’s versatility, you might consider using the down market to your advantage. You can reconvert your now traditional IRA back to a Roth – and pay less tax on it than you would have paid last year. You must wait 30 days after the reversal to reconvert it. Reconverting your traditional IRA account to a Roth can make sense if you expect your assets to appreciate quickly.

Your tax professional can assist you in amending your 2010 tax return or adjusting your extended 2010 return. He or she can also walk you through the reporting process that will be required should you decide to reconvert your IRA.

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How Can I Apply for Ohio’s Use Tax Amnesty Program?

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

By now you may have heard that the Ohio Department of Taxation has changed the process for businesses and individuals to voluntarily come forward to declare use tax they owe. A voluntary disclosure program that started earlier this year was suspended when the Ohio legislature approved a new Use Tax Amnesty Program as part of the biennial budget bill. (more…)

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What to Do? Uncertainty Continues to Make Tax Planning Difficult

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Ohio business and individual taxpayers, as well as their tax professionals, faced a great amount of uncertainty in 2010 as they waited to see what tax rules would apply to them for 2011 and 2012, until the 2010 Tax Relief Act was signed into law in December. Now, the recently approved debt ceiling legislation averted another immediate crisis, but continued this guessing game as Americans wait to see if comprehensive tax reform will be accomplished. (more…)

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Have Offshore Income? Time is Running Out for Voluntary Disclosure

Friday, August 26th, 2011

If you have undisclosed income through offshore accounts, time is running out to voluntarily disclose it and bring your taxes current. The IRS is winding down a voluntary disclosure program that began February 8 and will end on August 31. (more…)

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Waiting on the Airline Refund? Now It’s Not on the Way

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

So much for the airline tax refund you may have been expecting.

If you traveled by air and purchased a plane ticket on or before July 22, 2011, for a trip leaving July 23 or later, you may have heard that you may be eligible for a refund on the air transportation excise tax you paid. Recent legislation means there will not be a refund. (more…)

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Are You Eligible for an Airline Tax Refund?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

If you traveled by air and purchased a plane ticket on or before July 22, 2011, for a trip leaving July 23 or later, you may be entitled to a refund on the air transportation excise tax you paid. (more…)

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Starting a Business? Tips to Managing Your Credit

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Developing a credit record for your business that is separate from your personal credit record is important as your business grows. It can lead to lower rates on loans and leases as well as protect your personal credit record. The Better Business Bureau offers these tips to establishing business credit. (more…)

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Less Ohio Tax Centers, No Tax Booklets, But Still Many Resources

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

With more Ohio taxpayers now filing state returns electronically, the Ohio Department of Taxation has closed seven regional taxpayer centers and will no longer mail its income tax booklets to taxpayers. (more…)

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Determining a Retirement Beneficiary? It Isn’t Always Simple

Monday, June 20th, 2011

A single dad wanted to designate his two children as beneficiaries of his retirement benefits. He mailed his beneficiary designation form to his employer with a cover letter explaining his wishes. When he later died, the benefits administrator noticed the designation form wasn’t signed. Should the plan assets pass to the estate or the children? (more…)

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Live or Do Business in Michigan? Tax Amnesty Ends Soon

Monday, June 13th, 2011

The Michigan Department of Treasury is providing an opportunity for delinquent taxpayers to pay their taxes while avoiding penalty charges and criminal prosecution, but time is running out to participate in the program. (more…)

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Employees on the Fence? Ten Reasons to Join Your Ohio 401(k)

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

In spite of recent history in the stock market, when you compare 401(k) plans to other savings plans available to employees, the 401(k) plan has many positive points. Here are ten reasons your employees should participate. (more…)

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Live or Do Business in Michigan? Your Tax Laws Are Changing!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

In late May, the Michigan legislature voted to make dramatic changes to Michigan’s corporate and individual income tax laws. The measure repeals the Michigan Business Tax and eliminates numerous individual income tax credits, deductions and exemptions as well as changes future income tax rates. (more…)

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Saving for College? Use Sallie Mae’s New Mobile App

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

If you’re saving money for college through a tax-deferred 529 plan (or you know someone who is), a new mobile app from Sallie Mae could help you add even more to the till. (more…)

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What If Will and Kate Married in the US? Financial Advice for Newlyweds

Friday, May 13th, 2011

As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge settle into married life, they may manage many of the same financial issues that any other newlyweds face with a new union. So, what if William and Kate got married in the United States instead? What financial advice might they receive that soon-to-be brides and grooms might also heed? (more…)

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Didn’t File Your Taxes or Can’t Pay Them Now? Here’s What To Do

Friday, April 29th, 2011

The federal tax deadline has come and gone. What if you haven’t filed your taxes? (more…)

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Raiding Your 401K? It’ll Cost You

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

A recent study by Bankrate found that nearly one-fifth of full-time employed Americans have raided their retirement accounts in the past year to cover emergency expenses. These results match a Fidelity Investments study last year that reported the number of workers borrowing against their retirement accounts had reached a 10-year high. Given the financial stress that many workers face today, the numbers are not that surprising, but the long-term consequences can be. (more…)

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Looking at Target Date Retirement Funds? Here Are Some Considerations

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Does your company provide target date funds as an option in its 401(k) plan?  Many 401(k) plans use them as the default investment for plan participants who do not select their investments under the plan. Target date funds do make investing much easier for participants by automating the asset allocation process, but they still require careful consideration both before and after the investment decision is made. (more…)

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Did You Win at March Madness? Remember to Pay Uncle Sam

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

If your NCAA college basketball bracket brought you some winnings, remember that your earnings count as taxable income, and you’ll need to report it when you file your 2011 taxes. (more…)

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Is This Really A Message From The IRS?

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

It’s that time of year when unsuspecting taxpayers receive suspicious emails, phone calls, faxes or notices claiming to be from the IRS. Many of the scams use the IRS name or logo to appear more authentic. (more…)

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Should I Pay Taxes Now or Later for My Roth IRA?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

If you took advantage of last year’s law change allowing you to convert your IRA to a Roth IRA, you face a big all-or-nothing tax payment decision on April 18: pay the taxes on your pretax contributions and gains in 2010, or split the tax bill between 2011 and 2012. (more…)

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IRS Goes High Tech: Are You Connected?

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Taxpayers can now check the status of their IRS refund on their smart phone. The IRS has unveiled IRS2Go, a smart phone application, and also announced a news feed on the social media platform Twitter. The new communication channels are two of a growing list of ways the agency is working to communicate with taxpayers. (more…)

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Add $1,000 to retirement account without sacrifice? Here’s how

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

A provision of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 decreased the employee portion of the Social Security tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for 2011. Now you have a rare opportunity for to increase your 401(k) contribution without any change in your net take-home pay in 2011 when compared to 2010. (more…)

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How will selling a house from an estate impact my taxes?

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Dear Drebit:

My mother passed away October 30, 2009. She left my brother and me her house, which has just been released from probate court. We have someone wanting to buy it and we would split around $140,000. What kind of taxes do we face? The house is in SC. I would appreciate your help. (more…)

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What Will You Do With Your Two Percent Salary Increase?

Monday, January 17th, 2011

When Congress passed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Jobs Creation Act of 2010 during the lame duck session late last year, one element of the bill puts more money in the pockets of employees through a one-year cut in Social Security taxes. (more…)

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Can I still do an IRA rollover to charity for my 2010 taxes?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

As part of the recently passed tax extensions, Congress extended, once again, the popular IRA rollover to charity provision – but with a twist. (more…)

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Donating to Charity from Your IRA? Seniors Get 2010 Deadline Extension

Friday, January 7th, 2011

As part of the recently passed tax extensions, Congress extended, once again, the popular IRA rollover to charity provision – but with a twist. (more…)

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Does the IRS Tax Filing Delay Mean A Delay For You?

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

You probably heard by now that the IRS won’t begin processing several types of tax returns, including tax returns with itemized deductions, until mid- to late February. Why? It needs time to reprogram its processing systems to accommodate the tax law changes that the lame duck session of Congress passed late last month. (more…)

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What Tax Deductions and Credits Have Been Renewed for Individuals?

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Part of the recently passed Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 has extended many popular deductions and credits for individual taxpayers through 2012.  Many of these are part of the list of tax “extenders” that Congress has temporarily extended (usually at the last minute) for the last several years.  These provisions benefit taxpayers at various income levels. (more…)

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How does the new estate tax work?

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Congress has finally gotten around to fixing the federal estate and gift tax, even if they are a full year late and have made only temporary rules for the next two years.  The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 revives the estate tax for 2010 and makes a number of other changes for 2011 and 2012. (more…)

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What do the tax extensions mean to me?

Monday, December 20th, 2010

On Friday, December 17, 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (HR 4853) after the compromise bill worked its way through approval by both houses of Congress. The new law contains a number of extensions of popular tax provisions for individuals, businesses and estate/gift taxes. Below is a quick roundup of the provisions for individual taxpayers. We will outline business provisions in a separate post. Most of the provisions below are scheduled to sunset in some way on 12/31/20112. (more…)

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