Archive for the ‘Retirement Plan’ Category

Retirement Roulette

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
Retirement Roulette - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

The retirement savings provision outlined in the 2016 Budget Proposal not only provides individual Americans with an opportunity to save, it seeks to provide financial incentives to eligible companies that establish their own 401(k), auto-IRA or that offer another similar retirement plan to their employees by expanding the small business tax credit.

It’s difficult to paint a picture that adequately portrays the retirement readiness of the American people. How prepared the average person is for this phase of their life greatly depends on which report you are reading today. As a whole, however, credible sources indicate that as a population we are simply not prepared to take on the financial responsibility of supporting ourselves later in life, which is a problem that has received a lot of attention from our nation’s leaders.

Last year marked the introduction of myRA, a retirement account program that encourages individuals without access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan to save for their retirement. Developed by the United States Department of the Treasury, myRA seeks to offer a solution to those who “face barriers to saving for retirement.” But that’s not the only chatter heard on Capitol Hill these days, with regard to the retirement savings habits of Americans. Members of Congress have proposed other solutions that they hope will make the retirement picture a little bit brighter.

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

2016 Budget Proposal Addresses Retirement Savings

The U.S. government’s 2016 Budget Proposal includes provisions that target the promotion of retirement goals.

“Millions of working Americans lack access to a retirement savings plan at work. Fewer than 10 percent of those without plans at work save in a retirement account on their own. In 2015, retirement security will be one of the key topics of the White House Conference on Aging. The Budget would make it easy and automatic for workers to save for retirement through their employer – giving 30 million more workers access to a workplace savings opportunity. The Budget also ensures that long-term part-time employees can participate in their employers’ retirement plans and provides tax incentives to offset administrative expenses for small businesses that adopt retirement plans.”

What is important to note is that, in addition to retirement security, the Proposal focuses on generating government revenue, which would (in part) go toward the creation of new tax benefit programs. The impact, according to the Whitehouse, would result in savings for as many as 30 million American taxpayers.

Today, nearly 78 million working Americans are unable to save for retirement simply because they are not eligible to enroll or because their employer doesn’t offer the opportunity to save for retirement. This Proposal introduces a solution for those who would like to begin saving for their golden years.

For example, one possible scenario outlined within the budget calls for all part time workers (those who have worked for their current employer at least 3 consecutive years and who have worked at least 500 hours during each year of their employment), who are not currently contributing to a retirement plan, to be allowed to contribute to the company’s existing retirement plan without requiring the plan sponsor to add matching contributions for such individuals.

Another is for those who do not have access to an employer-based retirement plan, however, would be automatically enrolled in a separate IRA program, which would be funded by payroll withholdings. Of course, the taxpayer would have the option to opt out of the program.

What’s In It for the Employer?

The retirement savings provision outlined in the 2016 Budget Proposal not only provides individual Americans with an opportunity to save, it seeks to provide financial incentives to eligible companies that establish their own 401(k), auto-IRA or that offer another similar retirement plan to their employees by expanding the small business tax credit.

This provision would also include an additional credit for small businesses that currently offer retirement plans to include an automatic enrollment feature within their plans.

Employees who are still unable to save for retirement will have a third option available. The Budget Proposal calls for the allocation of $6.5 million to the Department of Labor, which would allow a limited number of states to implement state-based auto enroll IRAs or 401(K)-type programs.

Mind the Cap

President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget Proposal, while ambitious in its initiative to strengthen Social Security and incentivize retirement savings programs for Americans, also includes a provision that had been proposed (and rejected) before. The additional provision seeks to cap (prohibit additional contributions) on IRAs and other tax-preferred retirement plans once they reach a balance of $3.4 million.

According to the president, this step ensures that the individual secures sufficient annual income in retirement while preventing the “overuse” of existing tax advantages by those who are able to contribute additional funds, creating higher balance accounts. The cap would also help the government generate additional revenue because the funds that exceed the $3.4 million cap would now be taxable under this provision.

As always, when it comes to the future of Social Security and the overall retirement readiness of the American people a lot can change in a short amount of time. The 2016 Budget Proposal still has a long way to go before any of the provisions outlined within become reality. It’s important for you to be aware of these provisions and how they could change our current retirement plan landscape.

In the meantime, don’t just wait for changes to happen. Take steps today that will maintain the flexibility of your existing benefit plan while optimizing your company’s current and future ROI. Email the Benefit Plan Audit team at Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Darlene Finzer, CPA, QKA, CSA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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How To Avoid The Retirement Culture Shock

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

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

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

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

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

1. Taxes Don’t Vanish At 65

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

2. Transfer Your Pension To Avoid Added Tax Cost

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

3. Don’t Miss Exclusive Tax Benefits

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

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

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

By Dana Launder, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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The ‘Van Halen Philosophy’ of Retirement Plan Compliance

Thursday, March 5th, 2015
David Lee Roth Performs

Singer David Lee Roth once said he “found the SIMPLE life ain’t so simple.: We think the same can be said about retirement plan compliance.
Pictured above: David Lee Roth performs with classic rock band Van Halen during a concert in 2012. Photo by Robert Yager

While I don’t really believe David Lee Roth and Van Halen were thinking about SEP or SIMPLE IRA retirement plans when they performed their 1978 classic rock song, “Runnin’ with the Devil,” the connection between the two is an easy one to make.

“I found the SIMPLE life ain’t so simple”

The many small business clients we work with who choose to sponsor these types of retirement plans do so because they are inexpensive to administer and they enable our clients to provide a reasonable retirement benefit for themselves and to their employees. However, these plans are far from simple to operate and, if you’re not on your game, can be full of costly traps. The “Devil” is in the details as they say.

Top 5 SEP and SIMPLE Compliance Failures

Here is a rundown of the top five compliance failures we see. If not identified and corrected in a timely manner, these compliance concerns can result in the loss of favorable tax benefits for you and your employees or potentially large penalties and corrective contributions for your business.

  1. No Current Plan Document – All retirement plans require a governing document that identifies the plan sponsor (and any related employers) and defines the plan’s terms. The IRS provides a model document for you to use for these types of plans, but you have to complete it and keep it in your plan files.
  2. All Employees are Not Covered – Both SEPs and SIMPLE plans require that all employees (including employees of related employers) meeting a minimum eligibility requirement be covered and that they receive the same contribution (as a percentage of their compensation). Other than for minimal service and age requirements specified in the plan document, no other employees may be excluded.
  3. Using the Wrong Definition of Compensation – Compensation used to determine the contributions that need to be made to the plan generally includes all wages, bonuses, tips, commissions and any elective salary deferral contributions, and is limited to a certain dollar amount depending on the year (for 2014 the limit was $260,000).
  4. Untimely Employee Notices and No Summary Plan Description – Sponsors of SIMPLE IRA plans need to tell employees before the beginning of each year whether they intend to make a  match contribution or a profit sharing contribution . Eligible employees must also receive a summary of the basic SEP or SIMPLE plan provisions.
  5. Untimely Remittance of Employee Salary Deferrals – All employee contributions must be remitted to the IRA of each participant within 30 days after the month in which the employee would have otherwise received the money.

A great time to review your compliance with retirement laws and regulations is during tax time at year end. Whether you need help understanding your plan design options or compliance requirements as a retirement plan sponsor, help is available. Email Rea & Associates for more information.

By Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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File Faster With This Tax Prep Checklist

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

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

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

Personal Information

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

Income Info

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

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

Adjustments To Your Income

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

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

Itemized tax deductions and credits

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

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

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

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

New for 2014 returns

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

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

o   If not, why?

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

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

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

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Six Things 401k Plan Sponsors Need To Do Now

Friday, January 16th, 2015
2015 Retirement Plan Deadlines - Ohio CPA Firm

Mark your calendars and don’t forget these 2015 retirement plan deadlines. Click on the image to easily see what is due and when to file.

January may be flying by, but the New Year is still fresh. This is still a great time to make sure that the qualified 401k plan you offer your employees helps them effectively save for retirement and remains qualified. Not sure where to start? Here are six ways to get the most out of your 401k plan:

1. Review Your Match Formula

An employer match can be critical to helping your employees meet their retirement goals and stretching the match formula is a great way to entice employees to save more. Instead of matching 100 percent on the first 2 percent of deferrals, consider changing your contribution formula to 50 percent on the first 4 percent of deferrals, or 25 percent on the first 8 percent of deferrals instead. Each one of these formulas will result in a 2 percent wage cost to you, the employer, but changing the formula may encourage additional employee saving. Instead of saving 4 percent of their income (2 percent employee income plus 2 percent employer match), the employee may be motivated to increase contributions to their retirement plan to 10 percent (8 percent employee income plus 2 percent employer match). Contact your TPA to discuss different strategies.

2. Check Your Contribution Limits

Did you know that the 401(k) and 403(b) plan deferral limits have increased to $18,000? Employees older than 50, now have the option to defer an additional $6,000 of their wages toward retirement. Encourage your employees to review their payroll deduction to ensure that they are on target to meet their personal savings goals.

3. Offer Your 401(k) Plan To All Eligible Employees

If your 401(k) plan has an entry date of Jan. 1, be sure all newly eligible employees were provided the opportunity to participate in the plan. Even if you have an employee who doesn’t want to participate, I recommend that you obtain a signed election form that indicates a 401(k) election of “0 percent.” By doing this, you have documentation that they employee was offered the chance to participate, even though they decided not to.

4. Provide Employee Census To Your TPA

Your third party administrator (TPA) needs yearly plan census information to conduct compliance testing, verify 401(k) and to calculate matching contributions and profit sharing allocations. The deadline for most compliance tests is March 15.

5. Check Your Fidelity Bond

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires a fidelity bond for every plan fiduciary and for those who handle the funds or property of a plan. The bond must be at least 10 percent of the company’s plan assets. It’s a good idea to ensure that your bond is still meeting the 10 percent minimum requirement.

6. Restate Your Plan Document

Prototype documents for 401(k) plans currently are in a restatement window; therefore, if your plan uses a prototype document, it must be updated to meet new IRS standards. This document restatement period is a great time to examine your plan provisions. For example, do you want to change eligibility requirements or add a loan provision that you have contemplated adding in the past? This is a good time to make those changes. The deadline for restating 401(k) prototype documents is April 30, 2016. Managing your company’s retirement plan can be confusing or overwhelming at times, but it doesn’t have to be. Email Rea & Associates today to learn more. By Steve Renner, QKA (New Philadelphia office)

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Take Control Of Your Financial Wellness In 2015

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Are you still looking for the perfect New Year’s resolution? What about challenging yourself with one that could put you financially ahead? Here are 15 ways you can start your year off on the right foot.

15 Tips For A Prosperous 2015

Adjust your 401(k) plan contribution.

If you have a 401(k) plan, your contribution limit will increase to $18,000 in 2015, and if you’re 50 years or older, you can contribute an additional $6,000 into your plan. When it comes to retirement savings, every little bit helps, so even if you can’t afford to contribute the maximum, at least consider increasing your contribution a little bit over what you put into it last year.

Pay off your debt.

Make 2015 the year you pay off all debts. Once you settle past debts, it will be easier to save for future expenses and retirement. For example, do you have credit card debt? Pay off the cards with the highest interest rates first. Once you have caught up, make it your goal to pay any outstanding balance monthly.

Set up a budget and follow it.

Review your monthly income and expenses and allocate money toward savings, debt resolution and other financial goals. Once you have a plan in place, stick to it. Try to set aside some time to review your budget to make sure you are on track.

Build a “rainy day” fund.

Some people say that you should have enough money saved to cover your expenses for at least six months to protect you and your family against unforeseen events that could impact your finances. Don’t let the timeline intimidate you, though. Get your rainy day fund up to one month’s worth of expenses and build from there.

Work with your significant other – not against them.

If you are planning to strengthen your financial foothold in 2015, make sure you have support from your significant other. If you and your significant other are on the same page, then you will have a better chance for success. For example, coming to an agreement on how much you each can spend on unnecessary expenses early on can save unnecessary drama in the future – and costs less than a divorce.

Review your company’s Section 125 plan.

If your employer offers a Cafeteria Plan to its employees, make sure you are aware of what benefit options are available to you and your family and that you taking full advantage of the pretax nature of these benefits. Benefits offered as part of your employer’s Section 125 plan could include health savings accounts, dependent care assistance, adoption assistance, group-term life insurance and others. If you are not sure what benefits are available to you or would like to make sure you are receiving the maximum benefit, set aside some time to speak with your company’s human resources department.

Know your credit score – then improve it.

An excellent credit score is one that is between 760 and 850. If you’re not sure what yours is, request your free copy and find out. Companies such as Experian, Transunion and Equifax will provide you with a free copy of your credit score. Once you know your score, work to increase your rating. This can be done any number of ways, but it takes time and hard work. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t see a massive increase over the next year. Even 20 points is considered a significant improvement.

Set up your will and power of attorney.

Don’t put off this critically important responsibility. If you haven’t already, make it a priority to establish your will and power of attorney as soon as possible. Or if you already have one in place, make sure it is not outdated. Set aside some time to review your current documents with your significant other and update it if needed.

Plan for the inevitable.

If something happens to you, will your family be able to carry on? Meet with your HR department to make sure you are taking full advantage of your life insurance options and disability plan.

Schedule a wellness visit for your mortgage.

When was the last time you reviewed your home mortgage? If it’s been awhile, you should review the interest rate and conditions of your loan. If you have been in your home for a while, you may be surprised to learn that there might be options out there that could save you money.

Organize, organize, organize.

Improving organization is one of the more popular resolutions to make. While you may be eying your closets, garage or basement, I suggest taking a look at your mailbox. Resolve to gather and organize your tax information as it is received. Doing so will ensure that you are not wasting time trying to find a piece of mail you misplaced a month ago and it will help you cut down on random clutter.

Review your retirement plan.

A new year means that you have another birthday on the horizon, which also means that you are another year closer to retirement. Schedule a time to meet with your financial advisor to determine if you should rebalance your portfolio to remain in line with your retirement goals.

Set up a 529 plan.

Are you saving for your children’s or grandchildren’s college education? Set up a 529 plan today and contribute to it early in the year to earn a return all year long. Earnings generated as a result of your contributions are not subject to federal or state taxes when used for qualified education expenses.

Find savings around the home.

If you take a hard look at your reoccurring monthly expenses, you may find that you don’t really need a lot of the services and utilities you are paying for. For example, does your home internet really need to be turbo-charged? Do you ever use the call forwarding or call waiting options on your home phone? Do you use your home phone at all? Are you paying for extra insurance to protect against a gas line leak? Depending on your circumstances, you could find significant savings by cutting back on some utilities you barely use.

Pass on the product warranties.

While it may seem like a good idea to pay a little extra for a warranty on that new appliance, a better option might be to put that money toward your rainy day fund instead. Sure, warranties are great for your peace of mind, but so is your rainy day fund. By opting out of the product warranty you will be able to put more money away while maintaining the freedom to spend it a way that makes more sense in the future.

Do you want this year to be filled with prosperity for you and your family? Email Rea & Associates to get more information on how you can succeed financially in 2015.

By Dave McCarthy, CPA, CSEP (Medina office)

 

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Save More For Retirement in 2015

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

As you work to secure your retirement, you may be pleased to find out about changes to several retirement-related items that may allow you to put a little more cash away in 2015. In October, the IRS announced several adjustments to the limitations previously set on retirement planning tools as a result of an increased cost-of-living. So what does that mean to you and your retirement plan(s) of choice? Take a look:

  • If you contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), 457 plan or a Thrift Savings Plan, the following changes could impact how you contribute:

-        You can now invest up to $18,000 annually – this is an increase up from $17,500.

-        If you’re 50 years old or older and are trying to catch-up on your retirement savings, you may now invest $6,000 annually. The previous catch-up contribution limit was $5,500.

  • If you contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA), you will see the following changes in 2015:

-        The annual limit and additional catch-up contribution limit for an IRA for individuals 50 years old and older will not change in 2015. The annual contribution is $5,500 and the catch-up contribution is $1,000.

-        Single filers and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $61,000 and $71,000 will no longer be eligible to receive a deduction for contributing to their traditional IRA. This has increased from $60,000 and $70,000 in 2014.

-        Married couples who file jointly, where one spouse makes an IRA contribution that is covered by a workplace retirement plan, will see an increased income phase-out range for taking the deduction as well. The new range is $98,000-$118,000 – up from $96,000-$116,000.

-        If you’re an IRA contributor, not covered by a workplace retirement plan, but are married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if you and your spouse’s income falls between $183,000 and $193,000 – up from $181,000 and $191,000.

-        The phase-out range for a married taxpayer who files a separate return and who is covered by a workplace retirement plan will not change in 2015. The range remains $0 to $10,000.

  • If you make contributions to a Roth IRA, you will see the following changes:

-        The phase-out range for married couples filing jointly is $183,000 to $193,000 – an increase from $181,000 to $191,000.

-        The phase-out range for single filers and heads of household is $116,000 to $131,000 – an increase from $114,000 to $129,000.

-        The phase-out range for a married individual who files a separate return is unchanged.

As we approach the end of the year, there’s not a better time to evaluate your current retirement plan situation and determine if you need to make any changes for 2015. To learn more about how these retirement plan changes could impact your financial situation, email Rea & Associates.

By Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

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

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

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

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

What should I include in my ethical will?

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

When should I draft my ethical will?

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

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

By Cathy Troyer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Retirees Get Cranky Over Tax Returns

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

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

Social Security

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

IRA Distributions

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

Capital Gains

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

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

Itemized deductions

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

Estimated tax

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

Complexities You Can Avoid

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

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

Author: Lee Beall, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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You Can’t Know Enough: The Importance of Knowing Your Fiduciary Responsibility

Friday, July 25th, 2014

You may find that the spotlight isn’t for you. But as the fiduciary of your company’s retirement plan, the spotlight is all on you. The Department of Labor (DOL) has placed a major emphasis on fiduciary responsibility in the past few years and continues to push the matter in its initiatives. So it’s important that you understand what you’re responsible for.

To meet your fiduciary responsibilities as a retirement plan sponsor, you need to understand the fiduciary standards of conduct as adopted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). With these fiduciary responsibilities, there is also potential liability. Fiduciaries that don’t follow the basic standards of conduct may be personally liable to restore any losses to the plan. Pretty serious, right? To help ease your mind, here’s what you need to know.

Identifying Your Plan Fiduciaries

A plan’s fiduciaries will ordinarily include the named trustee in the document, investment advisors and all individuals exercising discretion in the administration of the plan. Under ERISA regulations, fiduciaries are responsible for:

  • Loyalty to the plan participants – acting in their exclusive best interest
  • Prudence – documenting expertise and a decision-making process
  • Following the plan documents
  • Diversifying plan assets
  • Paying only reasonable expenses for necessary services

Mitigating Your Risk As A Fiduciary

As a fiduciary of your business’s retirement plan, you should consider these items and answer these questions to ensure that you comply with ERISA regulations:

  • If participants in your plan make their own investment decisions, have you provided sufficient information for them to exercise control in making those decisions? Regulations under ERISA list the information and process required to be provided to participants in order to legally shift the responsibility for making investment decisions to the participants. Are you making the required participant fee and fund performance disclosures required annually by ERISA of all plans permitting participant investment direction?
  • How frequently do you deposit participants’ contributions in the plan, and have you made sure it complies with the law? Participant contributions, including loan repayments, are required to be remitted on a timely, consistent basis. Not remitting these funds in a timely manner is considered a misuse of plan assets, which is a prohibited transaction. Not meeting this requirement creates penalties for the plan sponsor.
  • If you’re hiring third-party service providers, including investment advisors, have you looked at several providers, given each potential provider the same information, and considered whether the fees are reasonable for the services provided? It’s required that you receive fee and service disclosures from all plan service providers, and you should also receive written acknowledgements from service providers serving in a fiduciary capacity. Here are some other items to consider relating to third-party service providers:

1. Have you documented your service provider hiring process?
2. Are you prepared to monitor your plan’s service providers, including investment fund performance?
3. Do you have a process in place to determine that the fees paid to service providers remain reasonable for the services provided?

  • Have you reviewed your plan document in light of current plan operations and made necessary updates? Have you provided participants with an updated summary plan description (SPD) or summary of material modifications (SMM)? Plans are required to operate according to the provisions stated in the plan document and these provisions must be communicated to participants. Changes are generally permitted, but again are required to be communicated to participants. If the plan is not operating in accordance with the written plan document, the plan could be disqualified, which would result in negative tax implications for you, the plan sponsor, and the participants.
  • Are individuals handling plan assets covered by a fidelity bond as required by ERISA?  Have you considered purchasing fiduciary insurance to mitigate the personal risk of loss to those employees you identified that are serving as plan fiduciaries? While a fidelity bond and fiduciary insurance are slightly different, both are a form of coverage to provide protection in regards to plans. The bond insures the assets of the plan in the event of employee misconduct and the fiduciary insurance provides personal protection to fiduciaries in the event of any claims for alleged errors, omissions, or breach of fiduciary duties.

Being a plan fiduciary comes with enormous responsibility. Don’t take your fiduciary responsibilities lightly. If you’re interested in learning more about what you’re responsible for as a retirement plan fiduciary, consider registering for a FREE seminar all about knowing your fiduciary responsibility. Rea & Associates has partnered with the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio (HRACO) to provide an all-day seminar dedicated to helping fiduciaries understand their responsibilities. The seminar will feature speakers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the DOL. It will be held on Tuesday, August 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at BMI Federal Credit Union Event Center in Dublin, Ohio. More details, including a schedule, can be found here. Click here to register for this free event.

Fiduciary Responsibility Help

If you need assistance navigating the responsibilities of being a fiduciary, contact Rea & Associates or speak with one of our financial advisors.

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

 

Looking for more articles about fiduciary responsibility? Check out these articles!

What Are The Responsibilities of a Fiduciary?

How Can I Make My Benefit Plan Audit A Smoother Process?

Will You Be Ready For Retirement?

 

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