Archive for the ‘Tax’ Category

Business Leaders Sought Out Essential Financial Information In July

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

New due dates, new rules, new opportunities to save on your upcoming bill to the IRS. When you think about it, it’s really no big surprise why we would start pushing summertime tax prep tips to all the savvy business owners out there. And, from the look of it, many of you have taken advantage of the great tidbits of information we’ve left for you on our blog.

Are you wondering which posts were getting the most clicks in July? Well, wonder no more! Research revealed that our readers found the following top blog posts to be particularly tasty!

July’s Top 5 Blog Posts

  1. Brush Up On These New Tax Form Due Dates Did you know that the IRS has changed the due dates for many of your tax return forms? Stay out of trouble with the IRS. Start studying up on the new tax form due dates by clicking here.
  2. Work or Pleasure? Make Traveling for Charity Part Of Your Summertime Tax Savings Strategy In addition to planning a fun family get-away this summer, you might want to carve out some time to donate your services to a noble cause as well. For all of you summertime volunteers, listen up and make plans to use some of your travel expenses to help lower your tax bill. Here’s how.
  3. Would You Know If Someone Was Stealing From Your Business? A 20-year employee at a city school charged with managing adult education programs was known as a hard worker who had secured her colleagues’ respect. But when external auditors came into the district to review the school’s financial records, it didn’t take long to realize that something just wasn’t adding up.
  4. How Will A Tax Credits and Incentives Plan Benefit Your Business? If you had a chance to claim thousands of dollars, would you? Well, if you are a business owner, the opportunity is staring you right in the face. But you have to seize the opportunity sooner rather than later.
  5. What Happens if My 401(k) Plan is Out of Compliance with an IRS or DOL Rule? If the IRS retroactively disqualifies your plan, the disqualification (and the IRS’s ability to impose taxation) is effective only for taxable years for which the statute of limitations has not expired.

Did you miss these posts when they went to print? Want to get our top tips delivered directly to your inbox? Subscribe to our blog and never miss a blog post again!

And for those of you who are looking for advice to help move the needle in your business? Contact the experts behind the article. The team at Rea & Associates is always ready to help you find a brighter way!

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

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Tax Credits & Incentives Plan | Ohio CPA Firm

Right now, there is an estimated 3,000 federal, state and local credits and incentives valued at more than $50 billion available to your business. Find out what you can do to capture a piece of the billion-dollar-pie.

If you had a chance to claim thousands of dollars, would you? Well, if you are a business owner, the opportunity is staring you right in the face. But you have to seize the opportunity sooner rather than later.

Right now, there are around 3,000 federal, state and local credits and incentives valued at more than $50 billion available to your business. These opportunities are both statutory and negotiated and include hiring credits, investment credits, real and personal property incentives, utility rate reductions and infrastructure grants – just to name a few. Unfortunately, only a relatively small number of companies are taking advantage of these opportunities. 

Read Also: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Summertime Tax Prep

So why aren’t businesses seizing these opportunities for cash flow enhancement and return on investment? Sometimes companies don’t know they exist, or they think that they are too complex to understand and the opportunities are not worth the effort. Wrong!

If you take the time to develop a credits and incentives plan, your company can capture a piece of the $50 billion pie. Here’s how!

Key Elements of a Tax Credits and Incentives Plan

  1. Outline your key opportunity indicators. Key opportunity indicators are events that your team should come to know and understand that trigger the potential for credits and incentives. They typically revolve around your people and your investment in fixed assets. On the people side, opportunity indicators often involve increases or decreases in employment, turnover, relocations and employee training or retraining. On the fixed asset side, opportunity indicators include site selection and start-up, capital investment, leases and renewals, building acquisitions, facility upgrades and so on. Make a list of these indicators and train your team to spot them. Once an opportunity is spotted, investigate further and contact your CPA to see if it might benefit your business.
  2. Understand that timing is everything. To give your business the best chance of securing a credit or incentive, you must understand that timing is everything. To secure many credits and incentives, the process of securing the opportunity happens well in advance of hiring, training or purchasing fixed assets. In many instances, if your business has hired the employee, spent money on the training or purchased the fixed asset — it is too late. Once you’ve spent the money or announced your plans to the public, you’ve lost most if not all of your ability to negotiate. Understanding this and putting a plan in place to uncover the opportunity well in advance of the investment will put you in a position for maximum success. And outlining your key opportunity indicators is the first step to realizing the potential credits and incentives available to you.
  3. Get your entire team on board. Securing maximum credit and incentive opportunities isn’t just the job of your owner, CFO or CPA. It should also be the job of your HR department, training coordinator and safety director. The more your entire team is able to understand the key opportunity indicators and that timing is everything, the greater chance of success you will have.

Tax Credit Help

If you’re looking to capitalize on these credits and incentives opportunities and would like to learn more, email Rea & Associates. The sooner you move on this, the faster you’ll be able to realize the benefits.

By Chad Bice, CPA (Zanesville office)

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What’s Hotter Than Summertime Tax Prep?!

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

You don’t have to answer that. And also don’t be fooled into believing the the famous Porgy and Bess lyric: “Summertime and the living is easy.”  In fact, can we all just agree that summer can be just as hectic (if not more so) as the other three seasons. But in your hurry to balance kids, vacation planning and your other daily responsibilities, try to make time get your finances in order and prepare for the upcoming tax season.

No, we are not delirious from too much sun. Summertime tax prep can actually save you a ton of work later on while effectively easing your tax burden. Don’t believe me? Here are four posts that might make summertime living a little less stressful!

  1. The Do’s and Don’ts of Summertime Tax Prep: Frankly, who has time to think about itemized deductions and tax-free distributions when you would rather be grilling out, soaking in the sun, or enjoying your family vacation? But now is a great time to look at your taxes and make necessary adjustments to effectively sidestep any potential problems that might cause problems when tax season does arrive.
  2. School’s Out For Summer, But Tax Credits Are Still In: Summer is an exciting time for families. It’s a time to get outside and have fun hanging out by the pool or to catch fireflies in a jar at the end of a long day. For many parents though, the summer holiday is overshadowed by the need to find affordable childcare during your work hours. The good news is that your opportunity to claim the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit doesn’t end at the last day of school.
  3. Does Your Vacation Home Provide Tax Relief? Oftentimes, successful business owners choose to acquire real estate, which serves as a tangible representation of their success. For many, the prospect of buying a second home is a desirable investment, not just because it’s useful, but because it can bring added tax benefits.
  4. Business Travel or Personal Vacation? So you decided to attend that business convention in California over the summer and are rounding up your expenses to turn in to your tax preparer. Oh, you decided to take the entire family along? Here’s a quick guide to help you determine what is a tax deduction and what is not.

Contact the tax team at Rea & Associates for even more tips to help you ease your tax burden all year long.

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Escape The Summertime Lull Will Expert Business Advice

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Top 5 Blog Posts In June

Just because the temperatures are higher and the days are longer doesn’t mean the team at Rea & Associates is taking a break from providing you with the latest financial and business advice.

In June we brought you tips about tax savings, advice on starting your own business, standing out against your competition and so much more. But which blog posts tickled your fancy? The following posts had more clicks than there were fireflies flitting across an open meadow during the summer solstice. Which post was your favorite?

  1. How To Become A Millionaire: The odds of winning Powerball are 1 in 292 million. The odds of winning Mega Millions are 1 in 259 million. The odds of winning Ohio’s Classic Lotto are 1 in 14 million. But if you were to invest the money you would normally spend the lottery into a 401(k) plan, your chances of winning big are all but guaranteed! Keep reading to learn how.
  2. How Are You Different From The Competition?: You have the opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty every time you engage with a client. And don’t think that your superior work and insight will go unnoticed! Click here to find out why.
  3. Looking to Start a Business? Do It the Right Way: Starting a new business is a brave and exciting endeavor. Avoid common slip-ups by following the advice found in this post and you’ll be well on your way to a successful start.
  4. How Can You Track Use Tax in QuickBooks?:  Now that you have filed for use tax amnesty and are all set up with an account, how are you going to track it daily going forward? If you use QuickBooks, the answer is as simple as 1-2-3.
  5. Do You Know The Best Way To Buy A Business?:  Generally speaking, relationships are easier to develop and maintain when you work with the other person. The same is true in business, especially when you’re considering the relationship between a business owner and an advisor.

Do you have a question for our team of business experts? Is there a topic you are just dying to learn more about? Send me a message and put the Rea team to work helping you take control of your success this summer!

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Work or Pleasure?

Thursday, June 30th, 2016

Make Traveling for Charity Part Of Your Summertime Tax Savings Strategy

Travelling for Charity - Ohio CPA Firm

Transportation to and from the job site via plane, train or automobile are deductible on your next tax return if you will be volunteering your time and talents this summer. This includes any transportation costs accrued for travel between the airport or train station and your hotel. Read on to learn more!

In addition to planning a fun family get-away this summer, you might want to carve out some time to donate your services to a noble cause as well. For all of you summertime volunteers, listen up and make plans to use some of your travel expenses to help lower your tax bill. Here’s how.

Read Also: Can My Summer Daycare Expenses Earn A Tax Credit?

  • Make sure you are volunteering your services to qualified charities. If you want to deduct your expenses, the IRS needs to know that the charity you are working with is legit. There are several great online resources that can help you determine if the organization you are helping out is qualified. The IRS’s EO Select Check tool and Guidestar are two of my favorites.
  • Track all out-of-pocket expenses. If you are making necessary purchases that are not directly connected with the services you are performing and are not considered personal living or family expenses; and these expenses were directly result of the volunteerism opportunity, then you may be able take a deduction on your tax return. Keep in mind that you also can’t receive reimbursement by any other means. The ability to deduct out-of-pocket expenses, particularly travel expenses, has huge savings implications. Some of the types of expenses you can deduct include:
    • Lodging
    • Meals
    • Transportation to and from the job site via plane, train or automobile. This includes any transportation costs accrued for travel between the airport or train station and your hotel.
  • Roll up your sleeves and make a big impact. If you are only tagging along or if your duties are minimal, you are not going to be able to make a claim on your tax return. According to the IRS, your charity work must be “real and substantial throughout the trip.” In other words, don’t dillydally!

Now that you know what to do to, let’s take a look at what not to do – or rather, what is not tax deductible.

  • Travel expenses for tagalongs are not deductible. Meaning, only the expenses for the individual(s) volunteering their services can be written off at tax time. For example, if you decided to take your children along on the trip but they will not be logging volunteer hours, you cannot deduct their portion of the travel expenses.
  • Your time and services are valuable, but you can’t deduct the value of your time and services. This is particularly true for those who are donating professional services, including medical, financial and legal. You also can’t deduct the income you may have lost while you were working as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity.
  • You cannot package work and play into a single deductible expense. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy yourself or go out to the beach after a long day of building schools in a third-world country; but if a significant part of your trip is reserved solely for recreational purposes or a vacation, your claim will be denied.

For more information about potential summertime tax savings, email Rea & Associates. You may be surprised by how much you can save when you’re on a mission to do work for those in need!

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

Check out these articles for more summertime tax strategies:

School’s Out For Summer, But Tax Credits Are Still In

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Summertime Tax Prep

How To Become A Millionaire

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Brush Up On These New Tax Form Due Dates

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
Tax Form Due Dates - Ohio CPA Firm

Want a tip to help you stay out of trouble with the IRS? Start studying up on the new tax form due dates.

Did you know that the IRS has changed the due dates for many of your tax return forms? These changes will be effective for taxable years starting after Dec. 31, 2015, meaning your 2016 tax returns filed next year (2017) will be impacted. Since some due dates have been altered quite a bit and others have not even been touched, it’s incredibly important to pay attention to the changes.

Read Also: Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Stay out of trouble with the IRS. Start studying up on the new tax form due dates, below.

  • Form 1065 pertaining to partnerships operating on a calendar year are now due March 15. A six-month extension from that date is allowable. Previously, the due date was April 15. According to the new law, partnership returns are now due on the 15th day of the third month after the year end.
  • Form 1041, which refers to trust and estate taxes, gained a 5½-month extension from the original filing date of April 15. This was an increase of half a month.
  • Your 2016 C Corp tax returns for returns that impact businesses with traditional Dec. 31 and June 30 year-end deadlines will be due on the 15th of the fourth month after the year end. A six-month extension from that date will be allowed.

o   If your year-end is before Jan. 1, 2016, your due date is April 15, with a Sept. 15, extension.

o   If your year-end is after Dec. 31, 2015, your new due date is April 15 with an Oct. 15, extension.

  • For C Corps operating outside a traditional fiscal year end (with fiscal years other than Dec. 31 and June 30), the new due date for your tax return forms is the 15th day of the 4th month after year end and the 15th day of the 10th month after year end.
  • A special rule for C Corps with a June 30 fiscal year end was established and will impact the due date for Form 1120. The new due date will go into effect for returns with taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2015 for the 2017 filing season.

o   Before Jan. 1, 2016, Form 1120 is due Sept. 15 with an April 15 extension.

o   After Dec. 31, 2015, the due date for this form is Oct. 15. The April 15 extension date will not change.

  • For exempt organizations required to file Form 990, the new extension date becomes a single, automatic 6-month extension. This eliminates the need to process the current first 90-day extension.
  • Those filing the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (FBAR) will have to adhere to a new April 15 due date. An Oct. 15 extension date was also established. This report was previously due on June 30.
  • All W-2 and certain 1099-MISC forms are now due to the IRS/SSA no later than Jan. 31, which is the same day they are due to the taxpayer. All other Forms 1099 are due Feb. 28 or, if filed electronically, March 31. This is a change from the Feb. 28 due date (and March 31 date if filed electronically) for all W-2 and 1099 forms that was previously enforced.

For all the changes outlined above, there are a few rules that will remain unchanged. Below are four due dates that will not change in 2017.

  • Form 1120S – These forms are due on March 15 with a six-month extension from the due date.
  • Form 1040 – The individual tax form will continue to be due on April 15 with an Oct. 15 extension date.
  • The due date for Form 5500, concerning employee benefit plans, will not change as a federal law that was enacted in December 2015 effectively repealed a previously enacted extension. These forms are due on July 31 with an Oct. 15 extension due date.
  • Form 3520-A for foreign trusts with a U.S. owner will not be changing. These forms will continue to be due on March 15 with a Sept. 15 extension due date.

Check with your tax advisor to find out if you will be ready to comply with these changes and to ask any tax planning questions you might have. Believe it or not, tax season is closer than you think. Be a proactive business owner. With enough lead time, you can implement a tax savings strategy capable of delivering amazing results. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Are you looking for more tax insight? Check out these articles?

Can The IRS Collect Back Taxes 10-Years After The Organization?

Environmentally Friendly Tax Savings

Don’t Miss Out! Claim The Work Opportunity Tax Credit

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Looking to Start a Business? Do It the Right Way

Monday, June 20th, 2016
Starting new Ohio Business - Ohio CPA Firm

Starting a new business is a brave and exciting endeavor. Avoid common slip-ups by following the advice found in this post and you’ll be well on your way to a successful start.

Starting your own business and becoming a small business owner is part of many Americans’ dreams. For some though, it can become a nightmare. There are definitely some right ways and wrong ways to approach starting your own business. Over my tenure as an experienced business advisor, I have seen plenty of heartache and additional expense along the way. Here are some of Do’s and Don’ts to consider if you want to start your own business:

Read Also: Dream Big: Considerations For The Aspiring Business Owner

  • Do: Go simple – Unless someone besides your spouse will own the business with you, you don’t need anything other than a simple limited liability company. It offers you liability protection while minimizing your tax filing requirements. Being the sole owner and having this sort of entity allows you to file you business’s activity on a Schedule C on your Form 1040. Until the business grows and is successful, this entity type will likely be sufficient for your small start-up.
  • Don’t: Go cheap – Small business owners tend to think they can or should do everything themselves. A lot of sweat equity goes into starting a new business, but be smart and humble enough to know the difference between what you can do and what you should do. It’s OK to ask for help!
  • Do: Involve professionals – This is an area where new business owners tend to want to go cheap. No one likes paying attorneys and folks don’t know they need a tax professional sometimes until it’s too late. Getting set up with the proper legal documents is a critical first step, and it’s one that new business owners like to try to tackle on their own. I know from experience that a good attorney is worth the expense. Don’t know who to ask? Start asking other established business owners who they use.
  • Don’t: Do payroll yourself (unless you have experience) – Some of the heftiest penalties the IRS assesses involves payroll taxes. They don’t mess around when it comes to properly assessing and remitting payroll taxes and paying your employees. Even one slip up can set a business back several thousand dollars. The issues continue to compound if they are not properly taken care of, so don’t ignore this extremely important aspect of your business. Unless you have prior experience with payroll or you hire someone with experience, this is an area where you should seek professional help.
  • Do: Consult your local Chamber of Commerce – Chambers of Commerce exist to assist businesses in a multitude of ways. Our local Chamber offers Small Business Counseling classes that are meant for new business owners who are just starting up a business. These classes include counseling, training and assistance for start-up businesses. This local resource can be invaluable if you choose to utilize it.

Starting a new business is a brave and exciting endeavor. Avoid common slip-ups by following the advice above and you’ll be well on your way to a successful start.

Around the same time you start your business, you’ll also want to consider your business’s growth strategy. Lee Beall, CPA, CEO at Rea & Associates, covered this topic in a podcast episode on unsuitable on Rea Radio. Check it out to learn what you need to do to establish or strengthen your business’s strategic plan.

By Lesley Mast, CPA, MAcc – Taxation (Wooster office)

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Can The IRS Collect Back Taxes 10-Years After The Original Date Of Assessment?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Greetings Drebit! Please excuse my ignorance when it comes to IRS matters. I read your article about finding the date of assessment on my IRS Transcript. My transcript code is 150-5/29/2006. When can I exercise my right under the 10-year Statutes of Limitations? Thank you. – Wendy


Click here to read the original article


Dear Wendy,

Thank you for taking the time to send in your question. You correctly identified the date of assessment on your account transcript by zeroing in on the “150” Transaction Code. Based on this date, I can determine that your tax return was assessed on “5/29/2006.” Because the statute of limitations almost always begins the day after the taxpayer files their income tax return, the simple answer to your question is that the 10-year statute is set to expire on May 30, 2016.

However, there may be other factors to consider. For example, if you entered into an installment agreement with the IRS to pay any amount that was owed, as identified on your 2005 tax return, it’s highly likely that the 10-year statute of limitations date would have been extended to a date ending after May 29, 2016. While we have no way to know for certain if your assessment date was adjusted, I can tell you that, in this scenario, it is common practice for the IRS to extend the timeline to accommodate their ability to collect taxes owed – particularly if the installment payment period extends beyond the original expiration date.

I recommend that you speak with your financial advisor about this matter or email Rea & Associates to speak with a member of our team’s tax experts. You also might find value in the following articles.

Good luck!

By Christopher Axene, CPA (Dublin office)

Check out these articles for more helpful tax advice:

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

How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing

When You Make A Mistake On Your Tax Return

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Protect Yourself From Fake Charity Scams

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making A Donation

Charity Scams - Ohio CP A Firm

Would you be able to spot the charity scam? Even if you are 99 percent certain the check you are about to write will go to a well-respected nonprofit organization, it makes since to ask yourself a few questions. Read on to find out which ones.

From identity theft and tax fraud to criminals finding ways to hack into your company’s network, we are learning every day that it’s simply not safe to let your guard down – for anyone or anything. Unfortunately, that mindset should apply when you are considering gifting a charitable donation as well.

Some fraudsters, in an attempt to prey on the generosity of strangers, have begun to solicit funds for fake charities particularly during and immediately after tax season. But you can shut down these scams by asking yourself these critical questions.

Read also: Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Is this the charity I know and love or is it a spin off?

We are a sucker for the brands we know and love, and criminals will invoke similar names, attributes, branding to trip you up and get you to write that check. Even if you are 99 percent certain the check you are about to write will go to a well-respected nonprofit organization, it makes since to conduct a quick search online to remove all doubt. Two resources to consider are:

  • The Exempt Organization Select Check Tool – this search tool is designed to help you determine the legitimacy of the not-for-profit in question by providing users with information about the organization’s federal tax status and filings.
  • Guidestar – this online resource is great for users who want to find out about the validity of tax-exempt organizations as well as other faith-based nonprofits, community foundations and other groups that are typically not required to register with the IRS.

Do nonprofit organizations ask for personal information?

Don’t make it easy for a fraudster to steal your identity by willingly providing them with your Social Security Number. Legitimate nonprofit organizations will never need your SSN to complete a transaction and they should never need to retain any of your personal information for their records – this includes passwords.

Should my donation be in the form of a check or is it OK to give cash?

Yes! For your own security, and tax purposes, be sure to establish a paper trail. The best way to do this is to avoid making any type of cash donations. Instead, every time you give money to a charity, consider using a check or credit card to establish proof of the transaction. Not only is it important to establish a paper trail as a safety measure, it will help you when to go to claim the contribution on next year’s tax return.

I’m still not sure if it’s a valid nonprofit organization?

If the questions above don’t provide you with the reassurance you need, reach out to a trusted advisor who can help you identify whether a particular charitable organization is reputable or not while giving you pointers to help you protect your hard-earned dollars as well as your identity.

 By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

Check out these articles to learn to learn about other fraud scenarios taxpayers should know about.

Stop Criminals From Hijacking Your Identity With These Top 5 ID Theft Prevention Posts

Then & Now: Data Security In America Since The Target Breach

Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones

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Environmentally Friendly Tax Savings

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

For the last 46 years the global population has come together to channel “human energy toward environmental issues.” On April 22, 2016, the world will once again celebrate Earth Day. You can find a wealth of information on the official Earth Day website, including information about this year’s theme, Trees for the Earth. You can also find some great tips to help you become more energy efficient or help you spread the word about climate change and other topics.

Businesses Can Go Green And Save Green

For business owners, going green can result in significant tax savings as well, which can make environmental responsibility that much more desirable. Take a look at this slide show and find out how green certain eco-friendly initiatives can help strengthen your company’s bottom line.

Environmentally Friendly Tax Cuts For Business Owners from Rea & Associates

Do you want to start saving on your 2016 tax bill? Email Rea & Associates to find out how you can use environmentally friendly tax planning initiatives to ease the tax burden on your business.

By Brian Kempf, CPA (Millersburg office)

Are you looking for more tax tips? Check out these articles:

Go Green For The Planet And Pocket The Savings

Can Making Your Building Green Save On Taxes?

5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden

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There’s Nothing Wrong With 3-Year-Old Money

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Time’s Running Out To Claim 2012 Refund Checks

Unclaimed Tax Refunds  - Ohio CPA Firm

Grab your unclaimed cash before it’s too late! The IRS owes taxpayers about $950 million of unclaimed tax refunds from 2012. But the deadline to file your late return is April 18, 2016. Read on to learn more.

If you are one of the nearly one million taxpayers who didn’t file a tax return in 2012, you may be eligible to receive an additional refund check from Uncle Sam. But if you don’t act fast you will miss your chance to claim your portion of the $950 million.

Funds that are not claimed by April 18, 2016 will become the property of the U.S. Treasury.

Were you a student in 2012 or was your income such that you weren’t legally required to file a 2012 tax return? It’s possible that, at that time, you had too much withheld from your wages (or paid higher quarterly estimated payments) than was actually necessary. And now the government owes you a refund. Additionally, depending on your particular circumstances, you could have also been eligible to claim certain tax credits, which are also just sitting there … waiting for somebody to claim them.

Read Also: From Toddler To Teen And Beyond: Tax Breaks For Families

According to IRS estimates, half the potential refunds are for more than $715. Unfortunately, if you don’t claim this money now, you never will. Taxpayers have three years to file a claim for a tax refund. Funds not claimed in time will become government property.

Here are a few other points to remember if you plan on claiming your share of unclaimed funds.

  • You must file a 2012 federal income tax return to claim your refund. The IRS needs to make sure you don’t owe any federal or state taxes for 2013 or 2014 as well, so if you haven’t filed those returns yet, the IRS may hold your refund to satisfy any tax debts that are owed as well as any past due child support or federal debts, such as student loans.
  • To claim your refund, you must properly address, mail and postmark your tax return no later than this year’s tax deadline (April 18, 2016).
  • Be sure to collect any and all necessary forms and include them with your return, including Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498. If you are missing a form or two, you can request copies from your employer (current and/or previous), your bank or another payer.

If you didn’t file a 2012 tax return and think the government owes you money, you have no time to waste. The IRS provides taxpayers with current and prior year tax forms and instructions on its website or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). You can find additional help, such as tax calculators, refund tracker, record retention schedule and more in the financial resources section of the Rea & Associates website. Check it out!

By Lesley Mast, CPA, MAcc-Taxation (Wooster office)

Check out these articles for more last-minute tax help?

How To Trigger An IRS Audit

How To Make Dealing With The IRS Less Stressful

Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

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What Are You Waiting For?!

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

3 Tips For Taxpayers Who Haven’t Filed Yet

Did you know that according to the IRS 20-25 percent of Americans wait till the last two weeks to file their taxes?! The thought alone is enough to make even the most experienced accountant nervous.

If you’re a last-minute filer, here are some tips to help you (and your accountant) get through the 2016 tax deadline unscathed.

  1. The Truth About Tax Extensions Unfortunately, there are some pretty nasty rumors going around about tax extensions. Hopefully, I will be able to debunk some common tax extension myths while helping those who opted to extend their deadline sleep a little better tonight. Check out the slideshow and get the facts about tax extensions!
  1. How To Pay Your Tax Bill In 6 Easy Steps Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Direct Pay has proven to be a popular choice among Americans who are looking for a quick and easy option for settling their tax balances. Want to learn more about the benefits of Direct Pay, just click here.
  1. Breaking The Tax Bracket Myth Myths and misconceptions about the tax code are rampant and clients frequently express their concerns about a variety of tax-related issues. One topic that comes up frequently is our federal government’s graduated tax bracket system. Oftentimes, people worry that if they make “too much” money, their entire income will be taxed at a higher rate – a worry that has kept countless hard-working taxpayers up at night. But are these concerns valid? Find out.

Don’t wait much longer to file your taxes or request an extension, April 18 will be here before you know it.

Treat Yourself

Don’t want to go through the mad rush again next year? We like to encourage our clients to think about taxes all year long – not just the first four months of the year. Sign up for our bi-weekly digital newsletter to for tax tips and business advice guaranteed to keep you motivated and tax-time ready all year long. And, of course, you can always email Rea & Associates for help along the way.

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Business Leaders Turned To Drebit For Fool-Proof Tax Tips

Friday, April 1st, 2016

When it comes to providing readers with top-notch tips and expert financial advice, we take our job very seriously. That’s why our top blog posts in March were related to tax, compliance and general financial wellness topics. Take a look this month’s top five blog posts for business owners.

1. Does The IRS Care About Your Fantasy Football Team?

Fantasy Football | Tax Guidance | Ohio CPA Firm

When you sit down with your CPA to go over last year’s taxable income and they ask you how your fantasy football team did this year, they aren’t just looking to engage you in casual conversation. In fact, how well (or how poorly) you did over the last year might make a difference in the size of your tax bill. Read on to learn more.

 

 

2. Payroll, HR Departments Targeted By Cyber Criminals

paper dollsOver the last few years, the threat of refund fraud and identity theft has become a very real concern, and criminals have proven that they will go to great lengths to get the information they need to complete their scams. This recent phishing scam is no exception.

 

 

 

 

3. The ACA: Small Businesses Are Also At Risk

Small Business Penalties | ACA | Ohio CPA Firm

Thinking the provisions outlined in the Affordable Care Act doesn’t apply to your business because you are “under the threshold of 50 employees” is a very dangerous assumption to make. Keep reading to find out why.

 

 

 

4. Don’t Miss Out! Claim The Work Opportunity Tax Credit

2016 individual mandate penaltiesThe IRS has finally issued guidance on how to deal with the retroactive extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for 2015. In short, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Can You Afford To Lose Them?

Recruitment & Staffing Strategy | Ohio CPA Firm

When you lose a member of your team, regardless of their position, you can expect their departure to impact your organization’s bottom line. That’s why it’s so important to take a proactive stance with regard to staffing and minimizing your financial burden.

 

 

 

 

 

April brings an end to the 2016 tax season. Don’t forget that the tax deadline is April 18 this year. Looking ahead, you can expect to see some great tips from our business experts as well as some fantastic spring cleaning advice that can be used to prepare for tax season 2017. And, as always, if you have a question for one of our financial experts or business consultants fill out the Ask Drebit a Question form. We are always happy to provide you with responses to your specific questions.

Happy Spring!

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Phishing Scam Is A Threat To Ohio Businesses

Monday, March 28th, 2016
IRS Phishing Scam - Ohio CPA Firm

You can take a proactive stance when it comes to protecting your company from these scams by encouraging your employees to pay close attention to emails that request sensitive information, such as the names of employees, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and/or salary information or copies of employee’s W-2 information.

The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) is echoing phishing scam alerts made by the IRS earlier this month in an effort to protect businesses and employees state-wide from identity theft and tax fraud.

Read Also: Payroll, HR Departments Targeted By Cyber Criminals

According to ODT, payroll and human resources offices at companies nationwide – including some in Ohio – reportedly received emailed requests that appear to be sent from a high ranking member of the company’s management team requesting confidential payroll data. While the emails appear to be legitimate, they are actually being sent by cybercriminals who are looking to fool employees into sending them detailed payroll and W-2 information. The imposters then use the information to file fraudulent tax returns.

“The scam has worked on more than 30 companies resulting in the theft of W-2 tax information for thousands of current and former employees,” ODT’s news release states. “The W-2 form contains an employee’s Social Security number, salary and other confidential data. This information enables thieves to create a realistic looking, but fraudulent tax return requesting a tax refund that is then filed with Ohio or other states, and the IRS.”

The frequency of tax fraud and identity theft continues to increase at an alarming rate. This tax season alone, the IRS reported an approximate 400 percent increase in phishing and malware incidents – a surge that was addressed back in February.

“If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Everybody has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”

You can take a proactive stance when it comes to protecting your company from these scams by encouraging your employees to pay close attention to emails that request sensitive information, such as the names of employees, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and/or salary information or copies of employee’s W-2 information. You can also let them know that they should never send sensitive information until a conversation takes place, either in-person or over the phone, with the member of management seeking the information. You can also check out the information provided here for general insight from ODT that could be used to help your employees identify phishing attempts and email scams.

If your Ohio business has been the victim of or experienced this or any other type of email phishing scheme, contact ODT immediately at 800.282.1780 to protect against potential tax fraud and safeguard Ohio taxpayer dollars.

Those who are interested in learning more about the increasing threat of cybercrime should check out The Columbus Cybersecurity Series. Presentations are scheduled to take place throughout the year and will focus on ways to help business owners learn more about cyber threats. The first installment is scheduled for Wednesday, April 6. The event is free but registration is required to attend. Attendees will walk away with new insight into these attacks as well as tips and advice that will help you protect your business.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want to protect your employees from identity theft and tax fraud or need help recovering? Check out these articles:

How Can You Protect Yourself From Tax Fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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How To Trigger An IRS Audit

Friday, March 25th, 2016
How To Trigger An IRS Audit - Ohio CPA

When was the last time you were happy – jubilant even – after receiving a letter from the IRS ? Exactly … Keep reading to learn how to keep the tax man out of your mailbox.

Only .84 percent of the 146.9 million individual tax returns filed in 2015 were audited by the IRS. The last time the audit rate was that low it was 2004 and most of us were walking around in Uggs. And even though the IRS says it expects to see even fewer audits in 2016, your chance of being audited tends to increase when:

You fail to report all taxable income

You will be notified if the IRS notices any inconsistencies between the taxable income reported on your tax return and the combined amount reported on your 1099s and W2s. Be sure to make the issuer of your 1099 aware of any mistakes, including incorrect income reported or receiving a form that is not yours.

You own a cash-intensive business

If you operate a taxi, car wash, bar, hair salon, restaurant or any other cash-intensive business, the IRS will be watching your tax return closely. Historically, cash-intensive businesses have been less accurate in reporting all taxable income. In response, agents are using special techniques to interview business owners and audit for unreported income.

Read Also: What’s Worse: An IRS Audit Or A Root Canal?

You claim large charitable deductions

IRS agents don’t have a problem with you philanthropic behavior, it’s the people abuse this tax deduction they have a problem with. This is another area the agency has had problems with in the past, which is why agents pay special attention to these types of deductions – especially if the deduction is disproportionately large in relation to your taxable income. So, if you are going to make a gift to a nonprofit organization, make sure to do it the right way. Keep your receipts, document everything and obtain an appraisal if the donation is for property worth more than $500 (and be sure to file Form 8283 with your return). It’s also important to note that donated cars, boats and planes continue to draw special attention.

You claim home office deductions

If you can claim the home office deduction – great! However, many are often unsuccessful because they ultimately realize that they don’t meet the strict requirements. Or, if they do successfully claim it, they overstate the deduction. For this reason, this is another area the IRS tends to scrutinize. Remember, if home office space must be used exclusively and on a regular basis as your primary place of business in order to claim a percentage of the rent, real estate taxes, utilities, phone bills, insurance and other costs.

Your claim for meals, travel and entertainment is disproportionately high

This is another area where taxpayers have made excessive claims in the past, causing the IRS to look closely at meal, travel and entertainment deductions for self-employed taxpayers. When the deduction appears too large for the business, agents look for detailed documentation including the amount, place, persons attending, business purpose and nature of the discussion or meeting.

You claimed 100% business use of a vehicle

It’s very rare that a taxpayer actually uses vehicle exclusively for business, especially if no other vehicle is available for personal use. If an IRS agent sees this type of claim, they won’t just see red flags, they will hear sirens. If you are planning to claim a percentage of your vehicle usage on your tax return, be sure to keep detailed mileage logs and precise calendar entries for the purpose of every road trip.

The best way to guard against an IRS audit is to have your business and personal tax returns prepared correctly every year by a team of tax specialists. Email Rea & Associates to learn what other red flags the IRS is looking for.

By Chad Bice, CPA (Zanesville office)

Check out these articles for even more popular tax tips:

How To Make Dealing With The IRS Less Stressful

How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing?

A Use Tax Audit Could Cost You

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Protect Yourself From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

It’s unfortunate that identity theft and refund fraud have become commonplace in our society, especially during tax season. On the other hand, it’s reassuring to see our government agencies stepping up to protect taxpayers from this threat.

In Ohio, the Identification Confirmation Quiz has been especially successful. Last year, the quiz helped prevent an estimated $259.1 million from going to fraudsters. At a federal level, during the 2013 filing season, the IRS launched a number of counter attacks to prevent around $24.2 billion from being claimed as the result of bogus income tax returns.

Read Also: How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Even though identity theft and refund fraud show no signs of slowing down, in addition to the state-wide and federal efforts to protect taxpayers, there are ways you can help protect yourself. During tax season, take care when choosing your tax preparer. It’s important to be sure that they take their responsibility to safeguard your information very seriously. And, all year long, take common-sense precautionary measures that include:

  • Keeping your computer secure
  • Avoiding phishing emails and malware
  • Protecting your personal information on and offline

Few things are worse than suspecting, and then confirming, that you have had your identity stolen. Recovering from such a violation can be overwhelming. The good news is that you don’t have to go through it alone. Your tax preparer can help you along the way. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

This article was originally published in the March 2016 edition of Consult The Expert column published in Columbus Business First.

By Ashley Matthews, CPA (Dublin office)

Want to learn more about the refund fraud epidemic? These articles will help.

Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Should I still Be Concerned About Identity Theft And Tax Fraud?

Quiz Results Are In – And The News Is Good

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Don’t Miss Out! Claim The Work Opportunity Tax Credit

Friday, March 11th, 2016

The IRS has finally issued guidance on how to deal with the retroactive extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for 2015. In short, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.

How The WOTC Works For Business Owners

To claim this valuable tax credit, employers have 28 days from the date an employee was hired to certify that they fall into one of the qualifying categories. To do this, the new employee is typically asked to complete Form 8850 by the employer. The form is then filed with the IRS, while another form is filed with the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. Once the new employee’s qualification is confirmed, the business may claim a credit against the income tax of a percentage of first-year wages.

Even though the credit was left to expire in 2015, some businesses continued to collect qualifying information from new hires – just in case. This turned out to be a good strategy because late last year, Congress finally voted to pass the PATH Act of 2015, which, among other things, extended the WOTC through 2019.

While some business owners may have phased out the practice of passing out Form 8850 to new employees, those who continued to qualify their new hires now have a chance to retroactively claim the WOTC credit. Employers have until June 29, 2016, to complete and file paperwork for qualifying employees to successfully claim the tax credit.

Tax Credit Available When You Hire Unemployment Recipient

The retroactive WOTC extension is not the only thing business owners should be aware of. In 2016 and until 2019, hiring long-term unemployment recipients (or an individual who has been unemployed for at least 27 consecutive weeks and who has, at some point, received unemployment benefits) will also qualify your business for the tax credit. To qualify for the WOTC under this new category, your employee(s) must have been hired between Jan. 1 and May 31, 2016.

Don’t miss out on your chance to claim the WOTC. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Christopher Axene, CPA (Dublin office)

Are you looking for more tax help? These articles could help guide you along:

‘Ghost Assets’ Haunting Your Business?

What’s The Difference Between Fixed Asset Expensing And Capitalization?

How Does The IRS Treat Property Repair Expenses?

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Payroll, HR Departments Targeted By Cyber Criminals

Friday, March 4th, 2016
Identity Theft | Refund Fraud | Ohio CPA Firm

The best thing to remember when it comes to protecting your business, and yourself, from becoming a victim of fraud is that if something seems a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking out before you act. Read on to learn about the newest threat to your identity.

Over the last few years, the threat of refund fraud and identity theft has become a very real concern, and criminals have proven that they will go to great lengths to get the information they need to complete their scams. This recent phishing scam is no exception.

Read Also: Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Criminals Phish HR, Payroll Departments

The IRS recently alerted payroll and human resources professionals of an “emerging phishing email scheme that purports to be from company executives and requests personal information on employees.” The scam has already claimed several victims.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said that this particular tactic appears to be “a new twist on an old scheme.” These cyber criminals are using the cover of tax season to trick people into sharing confidential data.

“If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond,” said Koskinen. “Everyone has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”

According to the IRS, a criminal investigation is already in place and several cases in which people have been tricked into sharing social security numbers and other sensitive information with criminals are being reviewed. Officials report that criminals regularly use the stolen personal information to file fraudulent tax returns for refunds.

Remind Employees To Remain Alert

To avoid becoming a victim of this particular scam, encourage your employees to pay close attention to emails that contain the following information:

  • The actual name, title and contact information of somebody in the company

o   Oftentimes, criminals will use the name of the company’s CEO to enhance the message’s legitimacy.

  • A request to provide sensitive information, including:

o   The names of employees along with their Social Security Numbers, date of birth, address, and/or salary

o   A PDF of an individual’s 2015 W-2 or an earnings summary of all the company’s W-2s.

Other Scams Abound For Businesses, Individuals

Unfortunately, businesses appear to have seen an increase of cyber attacks – especially over the last year. Last June, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, the FBI and the United States Secret Service issued a fraud alert in response to a scam dubbed the “Business Email Compromise,” in which fraudsters compromise “legitimate business email accounts for the purpose of conducting an unauthorized wire transfer.”

Also, in response to a nearly 400 percent increase in phishing and malware incidents so far during this tax season, the IRS also renewed its wider consumer alert for email schemes. These emails are designed by scammers to trick taxpayers into believing they are being sent directly from the IRS, other tax industry professionals and/or software companies.

The best thing to remember when it comes to protecting your business, and yourself, from becoming a victim of fraud is that if something seems a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking it out before you act.

By Ashley Matthews, CPA (Dublin office)

Want to take steps to ensure that you won’t be a fraud victim this year? These articles feature information that can help.

How can you protect yourself from tax fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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Readers Were Happy To Leap Into Tax Season This February

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Upon reviewing our most popular blog posts for the month of February we are left to conclude that it is once again that time of year – tax season.

February’s most read blog posts were mostly tax related. From additional insight into the Affordable Care Act, to recommendations about how to report your fantasy football winnings and updates about Ohio’s identity theft quiz; one thing is certain – this is shaping up to be another busy year in the world of taxes.

Read on to find out what others were reading in February.

  1. Are Your Employees Skimming From The Top? A question from one of our readers: As a new business without a cash register, what is the best way (accounting method-wise or other) to protect cash receipts from sales against employee theft or dishonest activity? Want the answer? Keep reading to find out how to prevent fraud in your small business.
  2. Five Reasons To Fall In Love With Your Financial Advisor While your financial advisor is probably the last person you are thinking about during those romantic holidays, you may want to reconsider and here’s why
  3. Don’t Miss Your Chance To Secure Tax-Free Wealth We already know that making contributions to tax deferred retirement accounts (i.e. deductible IRAs, SEPs, SIMPLEs and 401(k) plans) is the most obvious way to reduce your current year taxes, but with a little planning, you could develop a strategy to avoid paying future taxes as well. Take a look at these five tax advantage savings ideas and discover how easy it can be to hold on to more of your money.
  4. How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing? As usual, this is a pretty critical topic for our readers, which is why it’s a top blog post again this month! Read on to learn how far back the IRS can audit your tax return.
  5. Theft Safeguards To Cause Tax Return Delays In Ohio Get ready to watch your mailbox – at least if you want to make sure you get your state tax refund. The Ohio Department of Taxation will once again ask some Ohioans to confirm their identity before their refunds are issued. Why? Keep reading to find out.

We have a lot more tips and tidbits coming up in March, so make sure you have subscribed to our blog so you don’t miss a single post.

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Readers Sought Last-Minute Tax Tips In January

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Top 5 Business Blog Posts Revealed

Not a lot happens in January, unless you are a business owner who is scrambling to meet the IRS deadlines in preparation for the upcoming tax season – 2016 is no different. This is why I am glad to be able to provide you with some great tax and IRS articles from the financial experts at Rea & Associates!

If you haven’t read our top five blog posts from January, now’s your chance. You’re sure to find useful tidbit or two to use help you stay on top of your annual responsibilities while continuing to enhance your business over the next year.

  1. IRS Gives Business Owners The Gift Of More Time – While some taxpayers may be rejoicing after learning that the IRS has delayed 1095-C reporting deadline, it’s important to remember that this late Christmas gift may not be as great as it seems – especially when it comes to meeting the deadline to file your individual tax return. Read on to learn what this deadline delay means to you.
  2. National ID Theft Awareness Month: Get In The Know – December was National ID Theft Awareness Month and the fraud prevention team at Rea is a wealth of information when it comes to sharing great tips to help taxpayers protect their identities from fraudsters. Instead of scrolling past posts in our expansive article library or award-winning blog, we’ve compiled this Top 5 list to make your search for information easier. Read on to discover how you can prevent cyber criminals from hijacking your identity all year long.
  3. Anything Can Happen In Cleveland – Since 1999 that phrase has been uttered so many times in reference to the Cleveland Browns it should have been declared Ohio’s state motto. Well, it’s now 2016 and it looks as though next year might finally be THE year. Why am I so optimistic? Because the day after the Browns cleaned house, the franchise announced who would step in as the new Chief Strategy Officer to help rebuild the team – Paul DePodesta! Read on to learn how this move in Cleveland could mean positive things for your business.
  4. How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing – This is a hot topic every month, especially during tax season. Read on to learn how far back the IRS can go when auditing your taxes.
  5. 16 Resolutions For Business Growth In 2016 – New Year’s resolutions aren’t just great ways to set personal goals; they can help keep us on track professionally as well. This year, instead of worrying about which goal you are going to pick from the New Year’s Resolution menu, why not consider committing your energy and resources into ways that will improve the overall health of your business? Keep reading to find out how.

With tax season in full swing, this month we are busy sharing tips of getting ready for meeting with your accountant, preventing tax fraud and so much more. Don’t want to miss a post? Just subscribe to our blog and have them delivered directly to your inbox.

And don’t forget, if you have a question that pops up this tax season, email the team at Rea & Associates!

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Ohio’s Identity Theft Quiz Returns – With Modifications

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Last year, Ohio’s Department of Taxation rolled out the Identification Confirmation Quiz, which required many Ohioans to prove their identities before receiving a refund. Needless to say, there were more than a few unhappy campers. However, despite its shortcomings, the quiz did what it was supposed to do – helped thwart tax fraud, which is why the Ohio tax quiz will make another appearance in 2016.

Read Also: How To Recover From Identity Theft & Tax Fraud

So, how successful was the quiz at stopping fraudsters from stealing refunds? Very. One Ohio news source reported that the quiz helped identify an estimated 234,336 fraudulent refund requests worth $259.1 million in 2015. The year prior, only 64,693 requests were reportedly stopped.

“We are committed to combating tax fraud and ensuring that tax refunds are paid only to legitimate filers,” said Joe Testa, Ohio tax commissioner, in an op-ed piece on the Ohio Bar Association’s website on Jan. 6. “We believe we’re among the leaders in the country in aggressively combating these fraud schemes. Last year, the Identity Confirmation Quiz was instrumental in that fight.”

Testa did go on to say that, after reviewing feedback from last year’s tax season, changes were made to the types of questions asked in an attempt to improve the entire process while facilitating a better experience overall. He said that further improvements were made to the department’s tax return analysis, which should result in fewer taxpayers from being required to take the quiz in order to receive a refund.

Tax fraud and identity theft continues to be a major problem throughout the nation, but you don’t have to stand by and do nothing. This article will provide you with some tips to help reduce your risk of becoming a victim.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want more safety tips to help get you through tax season unscathed? Check out these articles:

Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

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

Let’s Talk About The F-Word

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Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Income tax identity theft and refund fraud has become a huge problem over the last few years; and while billions of dollars are finding their way into the pockets of fraudsters, the IRS is working hard to shut down these schemes.

The IRS paid roughly $5.8 billion dollars in fraudulent refunds to identity thieves over the course of the 2013 filing season. While that is a huge number, it could have been a lot worse. During the same time period, the amount the IRS successfully prevented or recovered totaled around $24.2 billion. But these statistics only take into consideration the fraud we know about.

Identity theft isn’t just a threat during tax season, scammers are exploiting a lot of cracks in your armor. Listen to episode 12: the great data saver on unsuitable on Rea Radio for insight from Joe Welker, CISA, Rea’s IT Audit Manager

The Unknown Number

While it is nice to know that the IRS is working hard to prevent identity theft and refund fraud, the truth is that we don’t yet have all the information to determine how bad the income tax fraud epidemic really is. This means that we continue to be at risk of becoming a fraud victim again this tax season. Perhaps if we knew how many fraudulent tax returns went on to be processed and how many billions of dollars were paid out to scammers looking to make a quick buck we could finally make some educated assumptions about the likelihood of being defrauded out of your refund check.

I don’t like not having all the necessary information.

Read Also: Ohio Department of Taxation Stops Thieves From Stealing Millions

This year, income tax fraud is expected to be higher than ever. This video, produced by abc6 out of Columbus, Ohio, shines more light on the topic of identity theft in Ohio.

Calling In Reinforcements

The IRS has realized that identity theft and refund fraud are threats that are showing no signs of going away. So the agency has requested help. The Internal Revenue Service, in cooperation with state tax administrators and tax industry leaders, has formed a public-private sector partnership to identify and test more than 20 new data elements on tax return submissions that will be shared with the IRS to detect and prevent fraudulent filings. The software industry is doing its part by putting enhanced identity validation requirements in place to protect customers and their personal information from identity thieves.

As of October 2015, 34 state departments of revenue and 20 tax industry members have signed memorandums of understanding regarding coalition’s roles, responsibilities and information sharing measures. More states are expected to sign on later.

Taxpayers Are Encouraged To Fight Back Against Fraud

Over the last 3 years, the IRS has initiated more than 3,000 fraud investigations. Those investigations have gone forward to convict and sentence close to 2,000 thieves to around 40 months in prison apiece. But there is still much to be done. They are doing their part.  We as taxpayers have to do ours.

In January, the IRS launched the “Taxes. Security. Together.” initiative to educate taxpayers on income tax identity theft and ways they can safeguard their information and protect themselves. According to the agency, there are several ways you can protect yourself from identity theft – especially during tax season:

  • Keep your computer secure
  • Avoid phishing email and malware
  • Protect your personal information

Above all, choose your tax preparer wisely and make sure they take their responsibility to safeguard your information very seriously. A tax preparer can also help if you do encounter a situation in which your information could be compromised.

By Ashley Matthews, CPA (Dublin office)

Want to take steps to ensure that you won’t be a fraud victim this year? These articles feature information that can help.

Should I still be concerned about identity theft and tax fraud?

How can you protect yourself from tax fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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The 2016 Tax Season Is In Full Swing, Are You Ready?

Friday, January 22nd, 2016
Tax Planning - Ohio CPA Firm

Tax season doesn’t have to be the stuff nightmares are made of. Believe it or not, it can be a smooth, uneventful process. Just remember, preparation is the key to tax season success.

Your holiday decorations have been tucked away, subzero temperatures have found their way to your neighborhood and your W-2’s are in the mail … tax season is upon us once again!

This year, don’t let the hunt for tax forms, pay stubs and receipts stress you out. Instead, take a few minutes to brush up on some of our best tax season tips and avoid becoming a victim of the last-minute filing chaos that ultimately ensues in April.

Top 5 Tax Season Planning Tools

  1. File Faster With This Tax Prep ChecklistIt’s that time of year again – time to gather your information and prepare to file your tax return. You may be surprised how fast the entire filing process goes if you spend a little time preparing before you make your appointment with the tax preparer. Get your tax prep checklist here to avoid missing the filing deadline.
  1. From Toddler To Teen And Beyond: Tax Breaks For Families: With parenthood comes many rewarding experiences – and expenses. You hear about how expensive it is to raise a child, but you never really know what to expect until that little bundle of joy enters your life. From diapers, pre-school, extracurricular activities and saving for college, the costs of raising kids adds up fast. Read on to discover what tax breaks are available to families?
  1. How To Win Tax SeasonBy mid-January, statistically, most Americans have already abandoned their New Year’s resolutions – those promises you make to yourself to hit the gym, get more sleep or become more organized. But hopefully, you’re not like most Americans – especially if better organization is the goal. Today I want to urge you not to give up at least not until April 15. Keep reading to find out how you can win tax season with these four tax prep tips.
  1. Taxes Are Like FishingAre you wondering where I’m going with this, wonder no more. You are sure to find a lot of valuable insight in this episode of unsuitable on Rea Radio. Episode 9, Taxes Are Like Fishing, features Melane Howell, CPA, a tax manager at Rea, talking about the importance of strategic preparation, just in time for tax season. Listen now for great insight and sound tax tips that are sure to make this tax season the easiest one yet!
  1. The Truth About Tax ExtensionsWhile the first four months of the year is a busy time for accountants, we know that things don’t always go according to plan. But instead of enduring penalties for filing a late return, you may find that filing a tax extension is a better option. Contrary to popular belief, tax extensions aren’t as bad as you may have heard. Read on to learn the truth about tax extensions, and don’t forget to check out the slideshow.

Tax season doesn’t have to be the stuff nightmares are made of. Believe it or not, it can be a smooth, uneventful process. Just remember, preparation is the key to tax season success.

Need help filing your individual or business tax return? Email Rea & Associates for help. Our team of tax advisors can help you change your perspective of tax season into one that is more positive for everyone.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

Check out these articles for more helpful tips for individuals:

Cyber Crime: It Can Happen To You

You Can Still Have The Final Say After Death

Debt vs. Taxes: Should You Pay Off Your Loan

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Egg Nog & Tax Tips: Top 5 Posts In December

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

December is such an exciting time. Shopping, baking, decorating and spending time with family and friends celebrating keeps a frog busy. But, in-between the office parties and family gatherings, the team and I were still able to address some of your end-of-the-year questions and concerns.

From the updates we received from our pals over on Capital Hill to year-end tax tips, there was certainly a lot to write about this month. These were the top-read posts in December

  1. Easy Year-End Tax Tips For Business Owners: There’s no doubt about it, this time of year is busy! I’m willing to be that sitting down at the computer to research tax deductions is the last thing on your mind. You’re in luck! We’ve done the work for you. Click here for some great tips, deductions and insight that will help you keep more of your hard-earned money in your bank account.
  2. Employers: Are You Ready To Change The Way You Withhold Municipal Tax Payments?:  Ready or not, all Ohio municipalities will be welcoming a slew of new provisions designed to bring about a unified system of income tax reporting. House Bill 5 was signed into law by Gov. Kasich on Dec. 19, 2014. The bill, which was championed by the Ohio Society of CPAs and supporters, helped streamline several key measures that help establish meaningful municipal tax reform. Per the legislation, many key provisions are scheduled went into effect Jan. 1 of this year. Read on for Four facts about the changes you need to know.
  3. Congress Gives Taxpayers An Early Christmas Present: Year after year, Congress promises to address the future of many expired tax provisions, and year after year they fail to make a definitive decision – opting only to pass legislation that extends the provisions for another year. In the meantime, taxpayers are expected to take on the impossible task of navigating the terrain amidst legislative uncertainty. Happily, things are about to change. Read on to learn why.
  4. How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing? – As a CPA I’m frequently asked, “How far back can the IRS look to audit my tax return?” That’s a great question. Can the IRS go back and audit your tax return from five years ago? 10 years ago? 25 years ago? Before you start to panic, rest assured that the IRS has a statute of limitations in place that generally puts a limit on the time allowed to audit you and assess additional tax. Keep reading to find out how far back they can go.
  5. Cyber Crime: It Can Happen To You: Fraudsters don’t take holidays. In fact, they tend to be more active this time of year because they believe we are more likely to let our guards down. I don’t intend on falling for any of their traps, and I encourage you to do the same. Check out what you can do to protect yourself.

Now that December is history, let’s look forward to a great 2016. Stay tuned as we provide you with the latest and greatest news in the business and financial world. While you’re at it, don’t forget subscribe to our blog to receive email reminders when new stories are posted.

You can also ask your own question by filling out the simple form at the top, right side of this page.

Finally, remember that the team at Rea is always available to discuss your specific business issues in more depth. All you have to do is email Rea & Associates and we would be happy to set up a time to talk more.

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16 Resolutions For Business Growth In 2016

Monday, January 4th, 2016
Be Accountable In 2016 | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Might we suggest 16 resolutions to help your company prosper in 2016?

New Year’s resolutions aren’t just great ways to set personal goals; they can help keep us on track professionally as well. This year, instead of worrying about which goal you are going to pick from the New Year’s Resolution menu, why not consider committing your energy and resources into ways that will improve the overall health of your business?

Might we suggest 16 resolutions to help your company prosper in 2016?

1. Celebrate your amazing team.

If you’ve been in business for a while, chances are you wouldn’t be where you are today without your team. Just remember that if you don’t work to retain your top performers, you run the risk of losing them. Start celebrating your human capital.

2. Make a gift, but make sure it’s effective.

When we give a monetary gift to a not-for-profit organization, we want to know that it’s going to be used in the best, most effective way possible. Make sure your money is well spent.

3. Design a better retirement plan.

The way your company’s retirement plan is designed can be a huge motivator for your employees. If your plan has a good plan design, participants will be more willing to invest in it. Work with a retirement plan expert to find a retirement plan design that works for you.

4. Review your will, estate plan and buy-sell agreement.

Legal changes over the last few years may have made updating these documents necessary, not to mention any personal changes that may have taken place. It’s just good practice to make sure this important paperwork gets updated regularly. It could get messy if you forget.

5. Develop a line item in your budget for continuing education.

Investing in yourself and your employees is a good way to engage your workforce. One way is to add dollars to the budget for training and continuing education. Find out what else you can do to promote employee retention.

6. Improve your company’s cash flow.

Easier said than done, right? Just remember that you can’t spend the bottom line profit, but you can use the cash flow to reinvest in your business and community. A sustainable cash flow model will ultimately increase the value of your business.

7. Know what your business is really worth.

Your business is easily your most valuable asset. So, how can you nurture its growth if you don’t know how much it’s worth? Discover why it’s so important to know the value of your business.

8. Develop a wellness program.

Healthcare costs are high and one way companies are taking control is by introducing a wellness program. As with any new plan, several factors will greatly increase your company’s success.  Start planning your wellness program implementation and soon you will be saving money.

9. Upgrades for the business.

It seems like there are always better ways to get things done. Perhaps 2016 is a good time to make a few upgrades. In the process, your purchase could be good for a deduction at tax time.

10. Schedule a family vacation.

A successful business has the understanding and support of your family. Long hours … late suppers … numerous emails and a 24/7 mentality have become just another part of the routine. Reward yourself and your family with a family vacation. A vacation isn’t just good for your peace of mind, it’s good for your business.

11. Save more for retirement.

It’s always a good idea to keep your retirement goals top-of-mind, which is why you should evaluate your current retirement plan situation and determine if you need to make any changes to get further ahead in 2016. Ask your advisor if you are setting aside as much as you could (and should) be.

12. Defend your cyber space.

Hackers and fraudsters are stopping at nothing to get to your data. Whether they have plans to steal your system’s information to sell to other criminals or are trying to make a quick buck by holding your data for ransom, if you don’t have a disaster recovery plan you and your business could be in serious trouble. Make 2016 the year you get your data security plan in place.

13. Meet with all your advisors at least once a year.

You work with a lot of people over the course of your career and it’s important to maintain those relationships – regardless of whether you will need their services or not. Set aside some time to meet with your accounting, legal, estate planning, investment, banking, retirement and other advisors, even if it’s just to chat. An impromptu meeting could reveal opportunities you didn’t know were there.

14. Establish a fraud hotline.

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has found fraud hotlines to be the most effective way for detecting and preventing fraud. Don’t let occupational fraud destroy your businesses.

15. Stay organized … for real, this time.

Every year it happens. You promised yourself that this year would be different. Now, once again, you are rushing to your gather receipts, remember how much money you spent at last year’s company retreat, and backtrack through balance sheets. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have this year-end stress anymore? By implementing a few simple procedures, you can avoid another crunch-time crisis.

16. Trim the fat.

If you are really looking for a way to make a significant reduction this year, take a look at your inventory. If you are carrying around some extra weight, chances are your business is feeling the pinch. This simple 3-step program will get you back on track.


Be Accountable In 2016

Have you identified a few resolutions to begin implementing over the course of 2016? Great! Need help holding yourself accountable? Send your list of 2016 New Year’s Resolutions to Rea & Associates and one of our business consultants will work with you to make this your best year in business yet!

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IRS Gives Business Owners The Gift Of More Time

Monday, January 4th, 2016
Form 1095 Deadline Extended - Ohio CPA Firm

Failure to comply with provisions set forth in the ACA can lead to catastrophic penalties, which is why we have actively sought to inform business owners of their responsibility to file Form 1095-C. Unfortunately, we knew that while we could successfully inform many businesses in advance of the original deadline – some were going to be left behind. Time, it seemed, just wasn’t on our side. But the IRS saw this threat and, as 2015 came to a close, took action to delay the 1095-C reporting deadline - (hopefully) keeping many small businesses intact.

While some taxpayers may be rejoicing after learning that the IRS has delayed 1095-C reporting deadline, it’s important to remember that this late Christmas gift may not be as great as it seems - especially when it comes to meeting the deadline to file your individual tax return.

Read Also: Make BIG Changes Or Face BIG Fines

1095-C Reporting Deadline Postponed

As you may already know, failure to comply with provisions set forth in the Affordable Care Act can lead to catastrophic penalties, which is why we have actively sought to inform business owners of their responsibility to file Form 1095-C. Unfortunately, we knew that while we could successfully inform many businesses in advance of the original Jan. 31 deadline – some were going to be left behind. Time, it seemed, just wasn’t on our side. But the IRS saw this threat and, as 2015 came to a close, took action to delay the 1095-C reporting deadline - (hopefully) keeping many small businesses in tact.

Employers now have until March 31 to provide employees with Form 1095-C and the deadline to file the form electronically with the IRS was moved to June 30. The IRS also extended the deadlines for 1095-Bs to these new dates as well.

Remember, all 2014 large employers are required to file these forms, based on 2015 data. Per employee penalties will accrue for those who file late or fail to file. Some businesses may be considered large employers under the ACA, and not even know it; but there are ways to determine your employer status before it’s too late.

That Sounds Great, Except …

Now for the bad news – there will be some individual tax payers who may not get these forms to us until the first week of April. For most taxpayers, this will simply require some additional due diligence with no delay to filing their tax return. However, there will be some individuals who will likely have to file an extension if they do not get their forms in time. Don’t be afraid of tax extensions. As long as you work proactively with your tax advisor, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. In fact, filing a tax extension could be very helpful. Click here to get “The Truth About Tax Extensions”

You Do Not Have Permission To Do Nothing

You’ve been given extra time. Now let’s make the most of it. Rea & Associates is still accepting new clients for 1095-C Form preparation projects, And, as we have previously stated, the top payroll companies are already booked to capacity with wait lists growing by the day. If you haven’t started on this project yet and know that you should, take advantage of this delay and email me for help. My team here at Rea can also help you determine if your business is considered a large employer – which can keep you from being blindsided when the IRS determines that you do, indeed meet the large employer qualifications.

By Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

Want to learn more about your responsibilities under the ACA? These articles will provide you with more insight:

The Cost Of Reimbursing Employees For Health Care

Obamacare: Discrimination Is Not An Option

Secure Form 1095-C Help Now And Avoid Penalties

 

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Business Leaders Were Reading What?!

Monday, December 28th, 2015

2015′s Most Popular Blog Posts

Best Business Blog Posts 2015- Ohio CPA FirmIf you take a moment to scroll through the list of categories, authors and archives on the right-hand side of this page, it’s pretty clear to see just how active Rea’s team of experts are when it comes to providing leaders in the business community with accurate, timely and easy to digest content. We are fortunate to have so much experience and expertise on our staff, and their eagerness to serve you better has allowed us to maintain a bi-weekly electronic newsletter, a quarterly print newsletter, three blogs and a handful of electronic segment specific newsletters. That’s a lot of content – but we are not even thinking about slowing down! I hope you hang around my lily pad for awhile. I’m pretty sure you’ll find a lot of great little tidbits to read about in 2016 too. Until then, I want to invite you to take a look at some of our most popular blog posts and articles. And, if you haven’t already, take a moment to look through the newsletters we offer and sign up to have news, tips and valuable information delivered to your inbox all year long!

Top 5 Dear Drebit Posts In 2015

Dear Drebit is updated every few days with timely information and advice. In addition to covering current trends and issues, readers are also invited to ask financial and business questions on the page, which will be answered by one of Rea’s industry experts. Here are last year’s top posts:

  1. How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Auditing?
  2. Theft Safeguards To Cause Tax Return Delays In Ohio
  3. Six Things 401K Plan Sponsors Need To Do Now
  4. New Adjustments Will Affect Your 2015 Tax Return
  5. File Faster With This Tax Prep Checklist

5 Most Popular Posts On Brushing Up Blog

Brushing Up: The Dental Accounting Blog features a variety of finance and business advice specifically tailored to dental professionals. From purchasing a practice, knowing what to expect from a career in dentistry and hiring the best staff for your practice to general accounting advice, tips for cashing out at retirement and tax tips, this blog is a valuable tool for dental professionals who are looking for ways to secure long-term success in their career. The year’s most-read blog posts are:

  1. How Sales & Use Taxes Apply To Ohio Dental Practices
  2. 6 QuickBooks Tips Every Dentist Should Know
  3. Could A Crown Be A Tax Deduction?
  4. 10 Year-End Tax Planning Strategies For Dentists
  5. Buying An Established Dental Practice? Master The Changeover 

Cultivating Your Business Readers Choose Top 5 2015 Posts

The Cultivating Your Business blog is a resource provided to clients and visitors on the firm’s Know & Grow website. Updated a few times per month, business owners have access to advice, tips and general insight into how to grow their businesses and realize an optimal return on their investment upon retirement. Here are the top blog posts from last year:

  1. Bad Buy-Sell Agreement Claims Another Family Dinner
  2. Will Your Summer Reading List Make You A Better Business Owner?
  3. WARNING: Free Business Valuation Offer Is Unbelievable
  4. Uncover The Secrets To Cashing In On Your Business
  5. How To Communicate To Your Employees That You’re Selling Your Business

Top 10 Articles In Rea’s Library In 2015

In addition to our blogs, the Rea team publishes a lot of other valuable content in print and electronic newsletters. We make sure that all these articles are easily accessible in our article library. This is where you will find many of our niche pieces as well as a lot of general accounting tips and insights. Take a look at some of our most popular posts over the last year.

  1. What Is The Mid-Quarter Convention?
  2. Dangers Of Paying Under The Table
  3. Revenue Recognition Changes Are Coming
  4. Football Ticket Deductions
  5. 401K Loans And Keeping Your Plan In Compliance
  6. Take Control Of Your Vendor Master In Nine Steps
  7. Why Your Traditional Employee Management Method Is Failing
  8. The Birth Of The Taxpayer’s Estate
  9. Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow: But What About Your 401K?
  10. Purchasing Cards Compromise Business Security
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Congress Gives Taxpayers An Early Christmas Present

Monday, December 21st, 2015

PATH Act Makes Several Key Tax Provisions Permanent

PATH Act Makes Several Key Tax Provisions Permanent | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Congress finally made good on its promise to make take a more definitive stance on the future of many popular tax provisions last week when members voted in favor of making many of them permanent. Other tax provisions received a temporary extension. Read on to learn more.

There is nothing like waiting until the last minute to complete a task. We’ve all been there and we all promise we’ll never do it again. Unfortunately (especially when it comes to determining the future of several valuable tax provisions) our government has fallen victim to the same bad habit.

Year after year, Congress promises to address the future of many expired tax provisions, and year after year they fail to make a definitive decision – opting only to pass legislation that extends the provisions for another year. In the meantime, taxpayers are expected to take on the impossible task of navigating the terrain amidst legislative uncertainty. Happily, things are about to change.

Listen To Our Podcast Taxes Are Like Fishing To Learn More About Tax Strategy

Congress finally made good on its promise to make take a more definitive stance on the future of many popular tax provisions last week when members voted in favor of making many of them permanent. Other tax provisions received a temporary extension. The legislation, Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act), is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2015, and provides taxpayers a level of certainty that they have been without for quite some time.

This legislation offers a lot of relief to individuals and businesses, alike. Here’s an overview of what you can expect moving forward.

Key Tax Provisions Made Permanent By The PATH Act:

  • 15-year recovery period for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements
  • Extension and modification of the research & development credit, including allowing certain small businesses to claim the credit against AMT liability and employer’s payroll (ie: FICA) liability
  • 179 expensing limitations and phase out increased to $500,000 and $2 million respectively
  • Exclusion of 100 percent of gain on certain small business stock
  • Extension of tax-free distributions from IRAs for charitable purposes
  • Earned income tax credit
  • Child tax credit

Key Provisions Extended Through 2019

  • Extension of the new markets tax credit in which Congress authorized $3.5 billion allocation of credits each year from 2015 until 2019
  • Extension and expansion of the work opportunity tax credit
  • Bonus depreciation is extended at 50 percent for 2015 through 2017, 40 percent for 2018, and 30 percent for 2019

Key Provisions Extended Through 2016

  • Extension and expansion of empowerment zone tax incentives
  • Two-year moratorium on the 2.3 percent medical excise tax imposed on the sale of medical devices
  • Extension of energy efficient commercial buildings deduction

In addition to the extension of key tax provisions, the PATH act also puts more scrutiny on the operations of the IRS. IRS agents will be held accountable for knowing and acting in accordance with the taxpayer bill of rights and prohibits the use of IRS business for political gain.

The passage of the PATH act is a huge victory for American taxpayers, and will allow them to partner more efficiently and effectively with their tax advisors on key issues in years to come without the uncertainty that has plagued them for many years.

Be sure to set up an appointment to speak with your tax advisor or financial planner to talk about how the PATH act will impact your ability to take advantage of tax planning strategies. Do you have questions about specific aspects of the PATH act? Fill out the form on the top, right side of this page to submit your question to Dear Drebit.

By Ashley Matthews (Dublin office)

Are you looking for more ways to save on your tax bill? These articles can help:

Year-End Tax Tips For Business Owners

Dos & Don’ts of Gifting Donations

Should I Make A Big Purchase To Cut Taxes?

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Mileage Rates Will Be Reduced In 2016

Friday, December 18th, 2015
2016 Mileage Rates | Rea & Associates | Ohio CPA Firm

Based on a study of the fixed and variable costs associated with operating an automobile, the standard mileage rates take into consideration vehicle depreciation, insurance, repairs, maintenance, gas, etc. However, if you don’t intend on tracking your mileage, you also have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using your own vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates. Read on to find out the 2016 mileage rates.

Drivers were able to get a little more money back for every mile driven in 2015, but next year’s road map tells a different story.

The IRS announced that most of the 2016 optimal standard mileage rates would either remain the same or would be lowered going in to 2016. Among the rates seeing a decrease, were the standard mileage rates for business use of a vehicle, which were reduced to 54 cents per mile – a decrease of 3.5 cents over 2015’s rate of 57.5 cents per mile.

Read Also: 5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden

How Are Optimal Standard Mileage Rates Determined?

Based on a study of the fixed and variable costs associated with operating an automobile, the standard mileage rates take into consideration vehicle depreciation, insurance, repairs, maintenance, gas, etc. However, if you don’t intend on tracking your mileage, you also have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using your own vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates. Just be aware that you will not be allowed to claim both.

For example, if you have plans of claiming an accelerated depreciation on your vehicle, then you will not be able to claim the business standard mileage rate as well. If you are a business owner, you should also note that the standard rate is not available to fleet owners, or those who use more than four vehicles simultaneously. Additional details and rules can be found in Revenue Procedure 2010-51.

Different Rules For Different Road Trips

Here are some of the other common rates drivers should be aware of:

  • The miles you drive for medical or moving purposes will be calculated at 19 cents per mile driven.
  • Those driving their vehicles as a service to charitable organizations may calculate their deductions at 14 cents per mile driven.
  • The portion of your business standard mileage rate that will receive depreciation treatment in 2016 will continue to be 24 cents.

Also in its announcement, the IRS noted an adjustment to the standard automobile cost allowable under the fixed and variable rate (FAVR) plan, which considers the costs taxpayers incur by driving their own vehicles for work-related purposes. In 2015, standard automobile costs may not exceed $28,000 (not including trucks and vans), which is a decrease of $200 from 2015. The maximum standard automobile cost for trucks and vans, however, is $31,000 – an increase of $200 over the 2015 rates).

Travel For Tax Savings

If you use your vehicle for business don’t forget to track your mileage. Every mile you travel is an opportunity to realize real tax savings. A financial advisor can help you find these opportunities as well as many others.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

Are you looking for ways to help you plan for the upcoming tax season? Check out these articles for some great tips:

Easy Year-End Tax Tips For Business Owners

How Long Should You Keep Financial Documents?

What Could Ohio’s Small Business Investor Income Tax Deduction Do For Me?

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Easy Year-End Tax Tips For Business Owners

Friday, December 11th, 2015
Tax Savings - Ohio CPA Firm

Put some extra cash in your piggy bank this tax season with these deductions.

In just a few days … this year will be history. And while you may have run out of time to wrap up (or start, let’s face it …) last year’s resolutions, it’s not too late to tap in to some last-minute tax saving strategies to help reduce your tax bill. Actually, there are quite a few things you can do to before the ball drops to secure some valuable savings.

Read: How Can You Best Prepare For The Upcoming Tax Season?

We’ve Done The Research For You

There’s no doubt about it, this time of year is busy! Family gatherings, shopping, decorating, cooking … sitting down at the computer to research tax deductions are probably isn’t ranking too high on your priority list. Happily, we’ve done the work for you. Check out the four articles below for some great tips, deductions and insight that will help you keep more of your hard-earned money in your bank account.

  1. What companies can do now to get ready for tax season: Are you willing to accept a larger-than-expected tax bill simply because you didn’t make time to touch base with your financial advisor before the end of the year? Well, if you failed to let your CPA know about any significant changes that occurred over the last year, you could miss a valuable opportunity. Read on to learn more.
  2. 5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden: From claiming the Ohio small business deduction to taking a personal vehicle deduction, these frequently overlooked deductions can result in real savings. Read on to learn more.
  3. Should I Make a Big Purchase to Cut Taxes?: Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of buying a big piece of machinery for your business for a while now, but you haven’t really been sure if it’s the right move. A call to your tax advisor could help point the right direction. Oftentimes, business owners can realize some really great savings opportunities just by spending a little bit more. That’s right, you get the upgrade you’ve been wanting AND the tax deduction. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too?!
  4. Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late! Year-End Tax Planning Tips: Business owners aren’t the only ones who are able to tap into last-minute tax savings. There are ways individuals can make the most of the month of December too. From paying state & local tax estimates by the end of the year to prepaying your real estate taxes, taking a little time to plan ahead can help put more money in your pocket.

Do you think you can benefit from any of these tips? Email a tax expert at Rea & Associates to discuss what you should do before year-end to take advantage of major tax savings opportunities you may have missed in the past.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster Office)

Want more? Here are more tips to help you start the year off on the right foot.

Employers: Are You Ready To Change The Way You Withhold Municipal Tax Payments?

How to develop a forward-looking financial forecast for your business

Don’t Start The New Year Without Updating Your Business Plan

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Dos and Don’ts of Gifting & Donations

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Is it just me, or can you feel the magic in the air this time of year? Even though the days are colder and the nights are longer, the holidays seem to bring out the best of humanity; and, having worked with many not-for-profit organizations over the course of my career, I have the pleasure of seeing some of the best of humanity first hand.

Listen now: The Warm Glowing of Giving

People choose to make donations to organizations and initiatives for many reasons. We learned in episode 11 of our podcast: “The Warm Glow of Giving,” that charitable donations are primarily guided by the heart and that 87 percent of all donations are made by individuals. That being the case, I still believe individuals – as well as businesses – should embrace strategy (the head) when it comes to writing checks to a worthy cause.  Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when writing your check to charity.

Gifting Donations - Ohio Accounting Firm

Looking to make a donation this holiday season to your favorite charity? Keep these dos and don’ts in mind before making that donation.

Do

  1. Do your research. Make sure you learn all you can about the organization you are donating to. You want to make sure you are donating to a worthy cause and not a fake charity.
  2. Know where your money is going. Find out how the organization will use your donation. It is OK to ask prior to your donation.
  3. Understand how this will affect your taxes. Most people know that making a donation can lead to a tax deduction, but do you know how much you can claim? If not, this is something your Rea advisor can help you understand.
  4. Get documentation. Any donation of $250 or more requires documentation if you are going to use it as a tax deduction. A cancelled check, receipt, etc. all work as documentation to include with your tax return.
  5. Give away appreciated assets, such as stocks. When doing this you get a deduction for the full value in most cases and you escape  the capital gains on the appreciation.

Don’t

  1. Expect a gift in return for your donation. That’s not the true meaning of a donation. Also, to be deductible, a gift cannot be received when making the donation, including a meal. If the donation was made at a dinner event, the cost of the meal must be subtracted from the donation amount.
  2. Pay with cash. For tracking and to prevent fraudulent activity, paying by check or credit card is usually the best option.
  3. Give randomly. Do your homework when donating, you won’t regret it. Make sure your money is going to a good cause and being used properly.
  4. Give more than you can afford. We all want to help, but donating more money than you can afford just creates more problems for you. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you are giving away more money than you can afford.
  5. Give away assets that have declined in value. Doing this will waster the capital loss opportunity for you.

Around 358 billion dollars are donated to not-for-profit organizations every year and these organizations turn around and do amazing things with your gift. From feeding the hungry, providing support to veterans and ensuring that others get the health, monetary or education assistance they need, nonprofits are an critical component of our society and you can be sure that the money you donate to any one of these types of organizations is appreciated. But you should still make sure you are using your head when making a donation to ensure that your money is being used in the best way possible. Want to learn more about how to choose the right not-for-profit organization for your tax-deductible donation? Listen to episode 11 of our podcast, Unsuitable on Rea Radio. You can also email Rea & Associates to get answers to your specific questions..

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

Learn more about the benefits of donating to charity. Check out these blogs posts:

Is It A Charity Or A Scam?

Tis The Season: Charitable Giving Through A Donor-Advised Fund

Charitable Giving Is Good For The Heart, The Soul And The Tax Return

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Quiz Results Are In – And The News Is Good

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Ohio Department of Taxation Stops Thieves From Stealing Millions

Identity Theft & Income Tax Refund Fraud Resource | Ohio CPA Firm

The implementation of an identification verification quiz by the Ohio Department of Taxation has helped stopped identity theft and income tax fraud since it was implemented last year for the 2015 income tax season.
Rea & Associates recently compiled a variety of information to help victims of identity theft and refund fraud recover from this nightmarish scenario. Click the image above to access this resource.

Tax fraud has been on a steady upswing for quite a while – a frightening trend that has led the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) to take innovative measures during the 2015 tax season. Nearly one year after announcing plans to implement the state-wide quiz designed to filter tax-refund requests by analyzing demographic information reported on the taxpayer’s return, officials boasted incredible results.

While ODT reported a 400 percent increase in fraudulent refund requests in 2015 from the year prior, the quiz helped the department prevent 232,898 suspicious returns from being filed – which saved the state about $256.5 million in illegitimate funds.

Read Also: Should I still be concerned about identity theft and tax fraud?

The implementation of this verification method was deemed necessary after ODT noticed a monumental increase in fraud cases during the 2014 tax season – $250 million in attempted tax fraud – compared to previous years when the average was around $10 million.

“We appreciate the taxpayer’s time in taking this extra step before receiving their refund,” said Joe Testa, tax commissioner, in a release. “The quiz has been and will continue to be instrumental in stopping fraud.”

According to the ODT, the tax quiz has been effective because of its effectiveness when analyzing tax returns for inconsistent data points against public and commercial data sources. For example, a return may be flagged if your name and/or Social Security number show up in a different parts of the state (or in another state altogether) when you have been primarily located in another area of Ohio over the last few years. To claim your refund, you will be required to take the identity quiz, which would either indicate that you’ve moved in the last year or that a fraudster is trying to claim your refund. For your return to be processed, you must either take the quiz or provide documentation to verify your identity.

Testa also said that the department has gathered feedback and have “made some changes to improve the process and provide a better experience for taxpayers who take the quiz.”

Looking ahead, taxpayers should expect to see more of the identification quiz in 2016 and beyond. Here are three things you should know about the identification quiz:

  1. Allow more time

Traditionally, it takes up to 15 days to process refunds that have been distributed to the taxpayer via electronic deposit. Those who opt to receive their refunds in check form could have to wait up to 30 days. The quiz, however, could prolong the process.

  1. Know, don’t guess

Those who are selected to take the quiz, will receive a letter that will explain your next steps. If you do not receive this letter, you will not be able to complete the quiz.

  1. Be prepared

If your return is flags, you will have 60 days to complete the multiple choice quiz. Furthermore, the quiz is timed and must be completed online.

To learn more about the effectiveness of this measure or for more great information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions available on the DOT website.

Are you wondering if you are going to need help filing your 2015 tax return this spring? Email Rea & Associates for assistance.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want to discover more ways to prevent or recover from identify theft? Check out these articles.

How Do You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Cyber Crime: It Can Happen To You

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Employers: Are You Ready To Change The Way You Withhold Municipal Tax Payments?

Monday, December 7th, 2015
Municipal Payments - Ohio CPA Firm

The new year also marks new changes to the way many employers withhold their municipal taxes. Read on to learn more.

Ready or not, all Ohio municipalities will be welcoming a slew of new provisions designed to bring about a unified system of income tax reporting. House Bill 5 was signed into law by Gov. Kasich on Dec. 19, 2014. The bill, which was championed by the Ohio Society of CPAs and supporters, helped streamline several key measures that help establish meaningful municipal tax reform. Per the legislation, many key provisions are scheduled to take effect at the first of the year. Here are four facts about the changes that you need to become familiar with:

For more insight into why these changes were necessary, read: Tackling Ohio’s Tough Municipal Tax Issues

1. Due dates have changed. 

Municipalities will have to adhere to new withholding due dates with regard to their monthly filing and payment requirements. They are due on the 15th following the month they were withheld. Due dates for quarterly filing and payments will be on the 15th day of the month following the end of the quarter.

2. New withholding thresholds.

If you withheld more than $2,399 in municipal taxes during the last calendar year or more than $200 during one or more months during the recent quarter, you will now be required to file your withholdings monthly.

3. A defining moment for temporary work sites.

An employer is not required to withhold municipal income tax on qualifying wages for the performance of personal services in a municipal corporation that imposes such a tax if the employee performed such services in the municipality on 20 or fewer days in a calendar year, unless one of the following conditions apply:

  • The employee’s principal place of work is located in the municipal corporation.
  • The individual is a professional entertainer or professional athlete, the promoter of a professional entertainment or sports event, or an employee of such a promoter.
  • The employee performed services at one or more “Presumed Worksite Locations.”
  • The employee is a resident of the municipal corporation and has requested that the employer withhold tax from the employee’s qualifying wages.

If an employer does not withhold for those first 20 days, they have to withhold the principal place of work’s municipal income tax. Because it’s impossible to be in two places at once (a rule that is just as true in accounting as it is in the metaphysical world) special guidelines are needed for those employees who work in more than municipality on a given calendar day. If an employee works in multiple municipalities in a single workday, for example, the municipality that they worked in the most number of hours would be the one that would be counted for that day. The rules that govern this provision are very detailed. Click here to read more. Once the employee exceeds the 20 day threshold, taxes must be withheld for that municipality. Retroactive withholding, however, is NOT required.

4. New rules for small businesses.

If your business earned less than $500 thousand over the preceding taxable year, the government considers your establishment to be a small employer, which means that the withholding process is just a little different. Small businesses must withhold municipal income tax on all employees’ qualifying wages and remit that that tax only to the municipal corporation in which the employer’s fixed location is located – regardless of the number of calendar days worked throughout the year. Further clarification can be found here. Federal government, state government, state agency or municipalities, political subdivision or any entity treated as a government for financial accounting and reporting are excluded from the small business rule.

Additional information can be found here. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the upcoming changes and how you can remain compliant with these new provisions; email Rea & Associates and ask to speak with one of our tax experts.

By Heather McNichols, (New Philadelphia office)

Are you looking for some more tax tips to help you prepare for the 2016 filing season? Check out these articles:

Breaking The Tax Bracket Myth

Does Your Vacation Home Provide Tax Relief?

New Payment Option Available To Ohio Pass Through Entities

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Cyber Crime: It Can Happen To You

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Phishing Scam Targets Tax Preparers To Get To Taxpayers

IRS Phishing Scams - Ohio CPA Firm

One thing you can do to help protect yourself from cyber criminals is to make sure your address bar reads “https” and NOT like the one pictured above. Read on for additional tips.

Fraudsters don’t take holidays. In fact, they tend to be more active this time of year because they believe we are more likely to let our guards down. Instead, I don’t intend on falling for any of their traps, and I encourage you to do the same.

It’s A Trap

We recently published a blog post with tips to help online shoppers protect themselves against some of the more common tactics used by cyber criminals. From click bait to phishing emails, every link, sponsored post and flashing banner ad is a potential threat and we encourage you to protect yourself at all costs.

For example, you likely receive regular electronic correspondence from companies, organizations, groups and other reputable groups. In fact, you probably willingly provided them with your email address. You may even trust these contacts so much that you never thinking twice about whether their email is valid, and that’s what criminals are counting on. Nobody is immune.

Read Also: Who Is That Email Really From?

A current scam finding its way into inboxes across the country is targeting tax preparers. The email, which is supposedly being sent by the IRS, looks legit and includes the agency’s letterhead, logo and copyright language, among other information designed to add credibility to the piece. But there’s a problem – this email is not official IRS correspondence. Instead, it’s being sent by cyber criminals who are looking to capture usernames and passwords to gain access to taxpayers’ sensitive data.

We’re Not Falling For It

The American Institute of CPAs reached out to the IRS to verify whether the email in question is, indeed, a phishing scam. The government agency confirmed that the email was a scam and were quick to advise recipients to delete the message immediately.

This is just one example of a phishing scam in action. Emails like these are distributed every day and, oftentimes, they come from trusted businesses, organizations or people. As cyber threats continue to be rampant in our society, we must never allow ourselves to become complacent.

What You Can Do

Here are some tips to help keep you safe.

  1. Do It Yourself – Never click on hyperlinks found within the body text of the email – especially if you received the message from an unknown sender. If you do want to check the validity of an offer or content, manually type the URL into your web browser. Same results, less risk.
  2. ‘S’ For Safety – If confidential information is being traded, take a look at your address bar to make sure it reads “https” rather than the standard “http” to be sure the web page you are visiting is, indeed, secure.
  3. If It Pops, Run – Sometimes, the best and easiest strategy you can take to protect yourself from scammers is to configure your computer’s settings and buy and install the proper tools. We recommend disabling all popups, keeping an updated antivirus, use anti-spam and anti-spy software and install and maintain a firewall. Cyber criminals are always looking for ways to get around these measures, but they still provide you with a great first defense.
  4. Watch Your Back With A Backup – We keep a lot of irreplaceable items on our computers and, to many, the thought of permanently losing their data, photos and other documents is terrifying. One way to take the power away from the scammers is to create and maintain a backup of your data – especially when considering the very real threat of ransomware. That way, if something were to happen, you wouldn’t lose these vital items.
  5. Education Is Power – These criminals are slick and they are always finding new ways to take what belongs to you. So, one of the absolute best ways to guard against an attack is to educate yourself on current cybercrimes, identity theft trends and tactics being used by fraudsters.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster Office)

Want to know more about what other threats are out there? Check out these articles:

Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones

Fraudulent Credit Card Transactions Will Become Merchant’s Problem On Oct. 1

How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

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New Payment Option Available To Ohio Pass Through Entities

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
Tax Payment Process - Ohio CPA Firm

What is your business made of? If it’s a pass through entity, you now have an easier way to pay your tax bills. Read on to learn more.

Do you currently enjoy the benefits associated with owning a pass through entity (PTE) in Ohio, including better tax treatment and limited liability protection? Well, earlier this month the Department of Taxation announced another little perk – online payments! According to the release, the Treasurer of Ohio is now accepting tax payments per its Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) program on its website. This announcement impacts:

EFT, according to the Treasurer’s Office, is a secure, online payment option for those seeking a convenient way to pay recurring commercial activity, corporate franchise, sales, streamlined, use, withholding and now pass through entity taxes. To utilize this online payment system, you must have a federal employer identification number.

Even though the online payment process is in full swing, pass through entities are still unable to register electronically. Once completed, you can submit the form to the Electronic Payments Unit of the Treasurer’s Office.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

What Does Having The Right Business Structure Mean To You?

Did you know that business structure plays a huge role when determining what your business can and cannot do? It also helps determine your tax liability. Take a look at the slideshow below to learn more or click here to learn even more about the business structures that are available to you. You can also email Rea & Associates if you have additional questions.

Want A Better Business? Structure Matters from Rea & Associates
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Drebit Readers Prefer Business Solutions To Ghost Stories

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Top 5 Blog Posts For Business Leaders in October

Can you believe it is already November? October seemed to fly by – and sharing top financial advice and business news certainly keeps a frog busy! Last month, we featured stories about trends occurring in the manufacturing industry, advised readers to start preparing for the upcoming 2016 tax season, shared news of Rea & Associate’s new podcast and so much more. I didn’t want you to miss out! Take a look at some of our most popular posts. 

Top 5 Posts In October

Below are the five most read posts from October. Which one was your favorite?

  1. Debt vs. Taxes: Should You Pay Off Your Loan Without the tax deduction, you will pay a little more in income taxes but you will be left with more money in your bank account at the end of the day.
  1. You Can Still Have The Final Say After Death It doesn’t matter if you have a lot of assets to pass on or very few, estate planning is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for those you love.
  1. Can’t Collect Payments? New Chip Technology Could Be Hurting Business’s Bottom LinesNetflix, known for offering award-winning shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black to users online recently reported a lack-luster third quarter performance. The company points to its inability to collect payments from users who have not yet updated their Netflix account information to reflect new payment card information they may have been issued as a result of the new EMV technology.
  1. Don’t Get Blown Away By A Cash WindfallBefore you make a move with your money, take a little time to think about you want to do with your cash and consider getting some advice from a financial professional and review these four tips for managing sudden wealth.
  1. What Do I Need To Know About Unclaimed Property in Ohio? We have all lost things from time to time. Our keys, our phones, and sometimes it seems our minds. But did you know that more than 200,000 Ohioans have lost financial assets worth more than $1 billion? As a result and in an effort to protect property rights and reunite the owners with their rightful funds, Ohio enacted unclaimed property laws.

You guys keep me busy and I am thankful for that! Enjoy October’s top 5 posts and don’t forget that I am always available to answer your questions as well. Use the form at the top, right of this page and submit your question today. The answer to your question will be featured in an upcoming blog post. You can also email Rea & Associates to discuss your financial and business concerns one-on-one with an industry expert.

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How Do I Avoid Obamacare Penalties?

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has put a lot of stress on business owners over the last couple years, and 2016 will be no exception. However, if you look closely, you might be able to uncover areas of opportunity. Here are three points all business owners should know to avoid penalties:

Obamacare Penalties - Ohio CPA Firm

Learn more about ways to avoid Affordable Care Act penalties by listening to our podcast, “Unsuitable on Rea Radio.” Episode 5, “Don’t Get Burned By Obamacare.”

  1. Large employers (50+ full time employees) have to worry about large employer reporting and potential pay or play penalties (roughly $2,000 per employee annually).
  2. All employers need to avoid excise taxes for discrimination and violating the ACA’s “all or nothing” mandate. These are business busters – $100 per employee, per day for noncompliance – meaning you could owe the government as much as $36,500 per employee, per year! Excise taxes can be triggered by continuing to do things you’ve always done, such as offering reimbursement arrangements to your employees.
  3. Employers also have the opportunity to review their insurance options and compensation structure. SHOP, drop, roll (“traditional” insurance), self-insure, private exchange and models like reference-based pricing are all options to explore. Dropping insurance can often actually result in less expenses and improved benefits for the employers and employees alike. In some industries this can also be a deterrent to competing businesses that are trying to recruit your workforce.

Don’t wait any longer. Work with an ACA expert who can help you determine the best option for your business while helping you identify areas of opportunity and risk. To learn more, listen to our podcast, “Unsuitable on Rea Radio.” Episode 5, “Don’t Get Burned By Obamacare,” covers this topic in more detail. Check it out at www.reacpa.com/podcast.

This article was published in the November 6, 2015 issue of Columbus Business First – Ask The Expert.

By Joseph Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

Want more articles about Obamacare? Check these out:

Obamacare Lives Another Day

Obamacare: Some Taxpayers Get Second Chance To Purchase Health Insurance

Obamacare: Discrimination Is Not An Option

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Debt vs. Taxes: Should You Pay Off Your Loan

Friday, October 9th, 2015
Loan Repayment - Ohio CPA Firm

Without the tax deduction, you will pay a little more in income taxes but you will be left with more money in your bank account at the end of the day.

Have you ever heard someone say they couldn’t afford to pay off their loan because they would lose the interest deduction on their tax return?

Although it’s true that the taxpayer will be able to deduct their loan interest at tax time, there’s a lot more to consider – read on to learn more about the tax treatment of loans and interest to identify a repayment strategy that works best for you.

Read Also: Don’t Let Tax Incentives Determine How You Donate

It Is Worth It To Be In Debt?

Let’s assume that you are in the 25 percent tax bracket, which means that for every dollar you pay the bank in interest, the government will give you 25 cents back in tax savings. BUT – you have to remember that you are still out of pocket 75 cents of every dollar you pay the bank in interest. From an overall cash flow standpoint, that doesn’t really sound like a winning strategy to me.

Even though it would be nice to have a tax break to look forward to in the spring, you will ultimately end up paying more over the duration of your repayment period if you choose not to pay your loan off. That being said, if you have the funds available to pay off the principal loan balance you will save yourself the cost of the interest you are being charged by the bank.

Without the tax deduction, you will pay a little more in income taxes but you will be left with more money in your bank account at the end of the day.

Possible Reasons to Hold On To Your Loan

  • Investment Opportunities

Let’s say your loan balance is $50,000. If you have $50,000 of excess funds available to pay off your loan, you may also want to consider what your investment options are if you didn’t pay that loan off. Could you earn a rate of return greater than the interest rate you are paying on your loan? If so, then you may be better off keeping the loan and investing your excess funds.

  • Liquidity

Another consideration is the liquidity. You may have the funds to pay off the loan but you may want to keep a reserve of funds for an emergency or unknown need that may arise. Everyone has their own comfort level when it comes to maintaining an excess supply of cash reserves and your decision may vary whether you are holding on to a home mortgage loan or a business loan. As a business owner, for example, you might find it to be more beneficial to keep the borrowed money readily available to cover any fluctuations pertaining to your company’s equipment or inventory needs. Or you may want to keep a reserve of funds to get through your slow season.

Depending on where you are with your business or personal finances, you’ll want to consider various factors when deciding if you should pay off your mortgage or business loan. If you are only looking at the tax savings, then paying off the loan is likely your best option. However, it may also be important to consider other factors such as alternative investment options and liquidity. If you have questions about paying off your loan, email your Rea advisor.

By Mark Fearon, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Are you looking for more tips and tax breaks to maintain your financial security? Check out these articles for more tips and advice.

Become A Brank Reconciliation Warrior

Does Your Vacation Home Provide Tax Relief?

The Birth Of The Taxpayer’s Estate

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What companies can do now to get ready for the 2016 tax season

Monday, October 5th, 2015

It’s time to do your business tax planning and, just like a doctor’s check-up, if you decide to skip it, you may regret it.

You could face a larger tax bill because you weren’t in close enough contact with your advisers when you did a transaction, changed a policy or practice, or amended what you are doing with insurance. You may encounter wide swings in income and tax due from one year to the next if you don’t check in with your advisers.

Smart Business recently interviewed Tracy Kaufman and Joe Popp about tax strategies business can implement now to prepare for the upcoming 2016 tax season. Want to learn more and see what you can start doing now? Check out the interview on Smart Business’s website.

What to read more posts about tax planning strategies? Check these out:

The Truth About Tax Extensions

Is Simplicity Worth The Cost Of Peace Of Mind?

5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden

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Drebit’s Top 5 Insights In September

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Sharing top financial and business news keeps a frog busy. In September he helped get the word out about new changes within the credit card industry, fraud, cyber security … and even shared a little bit of personal finance advice.

Top 5 Insights

But, what were you reading? Great question! Below is a quick recap of the top blog post from September. If you haven’t already, take a look. Some of these tips could save you and your business a lot of money!

  1. Fraudulent Credit Card Transactions Will Become Merchant’s Problem On Oct. 1 – As of Oct. 1, 2015, the liability for fraudulent transactions will no longer be assumed by the credit card issuing institution. Instead, if you (the merchant) fail to adopt EMV technology, your business will be responsible for any loss that results from a fraudulent transaction. Is your business ready?
  2. Who Is That Email Really From? – E-mail Account Compromise (EAC) is a sophisticated scam that uses legitimate email accounts that have been compromised to target unsuspecting victims, oftentimes tricking even the most tech-savvy individuals. Want to know how to protect your email? Read on.
  3. 5 Financial Secrets Of Successful Business Owners – After following through with a 13-week cash flow for almost a year, you will have better insight into how to spend your profits to help your business generate additional cash and sales. Want to learn more? Check out Rea’s podcastUnsuitable on Rea Radio.
  4. Will EMV Technology Change The Online Payment Option? –  Does a company that doesn’t physically swipe credit cards have to worry about increased liability when the new EMV rules are implemented in October? The answer might surprise you.
  5. How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing? – As a CPA I am frequently asked, “How far back can the IRS look to audit my tax return?” That’s a great question. Can the IRS go back and audit your tax return from five years ago? 10 years ago? 25 years ago? Before you start to panic, rest assured that the IRS has a statute of limitations in place that generally puts a limit on the time allowed to audit you and assess additional tax. Keep reading to find out how far back they can go.

Drebit is glad that you’ve been finding the tips and insight shared on his blog to be valuable and we want to keep providing you with the information and advice that matters most to you. So, if you’ve got a burning financial or business question? Ask away, Drebit – and the bright team at Rea – is here to help!

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Colored Pencils, Glue and … Rubber Pants? Oh My!

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ohio’s Tax Holiday

Ohio Sales Tax Holiday - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA FirmRegardless of whether you are a parent with younger children, a student, a teacher, or maybe just someone who wants to stock up on a ridiculously large supply of colored pencils and glue, by the time you buy everything you need for that first day of school, you (and your bank account) are drained. OK – maybe it’s really not that bad, but by the time you purchase new clothes and shoes, a book bag or two and all the items that go in it, you will have spent a large sum of money.

Fear not fellow Ohioans! The Department of Taxation is offering relief.

This year, for the first time ever, the State of Ohio is giving those who shop for clothing (priced at $75 or less per item), school supplies (priced at $20 or less per item) and school instructional material (priced at $20 or less per item) a break from paying sales tax beginning 12:01 a.m. Friday, Aug. 7 and ending 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. And there is no limit on the quantity of items you can purchase.

“As the new school year approaches, additional expenses can put a strain on family budgets, said Ohio Tax Commissioner in a news release. “The sales tax holiday will give back-to-school shoppers a break from paying sales tax, and let Ohio families save some money.”

The one-time tax holiday, which was enacted as a result of Senate Bill 243, also applies to eligible items purchased online, by mail, telephone or email. But to qualify, the order must be placed, paid for and accepted by the retailer for immediate shipment during the hours the tax holiday is in effect. That being said, actual delivery can occur following the tax exemption period.

Read on to learn five interesting facts about the upcoming tax holiday.

Five Things You Didn’t Know About Ohio’s Tax Holiday

  1. Retailers cannot “opt out” of the 2015 Ohio Sales Tax Holiday event. The holiday is set by law, therefore all vendors must comply.
  2. Qualifying items placed on, or picked up from, layaway during the sales tax holiday ARE exempt from sales tax.
  3. During the sales tax holiday, all clothing that costs $75 or less is exempt from sales tax. So, obviously items such as shirts, pants, dresses, uniforms, shoes, coats, etc. are tax exempt; but items like receiving blankets, diapers, rubber pants and athletic supporters also made the cut.
  4. While you won’t have to pay sales tax on your aprons, belts and beach capes, wigs, belt buckles and wetsuits are another story. Make sure to check the official web page for more clarification.
  5. Teachers are also encouraged to take advantage of the holiday! In addition to traditional school supplies, the tax exemption is valid for reference books, maps, globes, textbooks and workbooks.

SOURCE: http://www.tax.ohio.gov/sales_and_use/salestaxholiday/holidayfaq.aspx

Click here to learn more about Ohio’s 2015 Sales Tax Holiday. Happy back-to-school shopping!

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 Want to learn more about state and local tax topics that impact your life?
You might like these articles:

[SLIDESHOW] The Truth About Tax Extensions
[INFOGRAPHIC] Top 3 College Savings Account Strategies
How To Pay Your Tax Bill In 6 Easy Steps

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Like Losing Your Wallet – Only Worse

Friday, July 31st, 2015
Retirement Plan Returns- Ohio CPA Firm

Typically, owners of businesses and their spouses who fail to file their annual retirement plan returns are in full-scale crisis mode – and rightfully so, since missing this deadline results in a penalty that’s about the size of a small fortune.

For most of us, misplacing our keys, losing sight of our shoes and occasionally forgetting to pay the phone bill on time is not a catastrophic phenomenon. It happens; and most likely we will freak out for a minute, find what we were looking for and move on – only to repeat our dysfunctional routine countless times over the course of a lifetime. Forgetting to file your retirement plan returns on the other hand … well, let’s just say that’s typically not a stress-free event.

Read Also: Do You Know What Your Retirement Plan Is Costing You?

Typically, owners of businesses and their spouses who fail to file their annual retirement plan returns (Form 5500-EZ) are in full-scale crisis mode – and rightfully so, since missing this deadline results in a penalty that’s about the size of a small fortune. To be more precise, in years past, those who failed to meet their filing obligation could face a penalty totaling up to $15,000 per return. Fortunately, the IRS recently announced that instead of facing such an extreme late fee, eligible business owners can take advantage of a “low-cost penalty relief program.”

How Much Would You Pay?

The relief initiative, which started as a one-year pilot program in 2014, was tremendously successful, resulting in the collection of about 12,000 late returns. Because of this success, the program secured it’s permanency in May of this year. According to the news release, the program allows eligible business owners and their spouses to file late returns and only pay a $500 penalty for each return submitted with a maximum of $1,500 per plan. Because the IRS caps the maximum penalty at $1,500, applicants are encouraged to include multiple late returns in a single submission.

Eligibility

The IRS says that businesses with plans that cover the owner or the business’s partners (depending on how the business is set up) and their spouses are eligible to take advantage of this low-cost plan. Complete information about the program can be found by clicking here.

Learn More

Remember, your return must be filed annually no later than the end of the seventh month following the close of your plan year. So, for example, if your plan is governed by the calendar-year, as most are, your 2014 return was due today (Friday, July 31, 2015). Did you fail to file your small business’s annual retirement plan returns? Would you like to find out if you qualify for this program? Email a retirement plan expert at Rea & Associates and take control of your IRS debt now.

By Andrea McLane, QKA (Dublin office)

Want to read more about the importance of Retirement Plan Compliance?
Check out these articles:

401(k) Loans and Keeping Your Plan In Compliance
Retirement Roulette
The ‘Van Halen Philosophy’ of Retirement Plan Compliance

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A Fair Assessment?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
Back taxes - Ohio CPA Firm

When a taxpayer files a false or fraudulent return, the taxpayer waves their right to statute of limitations protection. And if a taxpayer fails to file their income tax return, the IRS is allowed to undertake collection proceedings at any time and without assessment.

Bob recently received a copy of his account transcripts from the IRS. Upon reviewing the paperwork, he noticed that the government agency made note of a “date of assessment,” which prompted him to wonder how the date of assessment was determined? Moreover, he wanted to know what role one’s date of assessment plays with regard to the time frame the government has to collect back taxes.

If you ever find yourself in a situation similar to Bob’s, with questions about your tax history, in addition to speaking with your tax advisor, you can request that a copy of your tax return transcript and tax account transcript be mailed to you. Fill out the online form here, but make sure you are making the request for the current tax year’s transcript or transcripts for three years prior.

If you are requesting transcripts for older tax years or you need a wage and income transcript or verification of non-filing letter, you’ll need to complete Form 4506-T and send it to the address listed on the form’s instructions. Due to a recent security breach, your transcripts will not be sent electronically.

How Far Back Can The IRS Go To Collect Back Taxes?

If the IRS is attempting to collect past due taxes, the agency will assign a date of assessment to your IRS account transcript.

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

Like many of the invoices you see every day, every item on your transcript will be assigned a code. Your date of assessment is no different. To identify the date of assessment on your account transcript for the tax year in question, look for Transaction Code “150.”

As a general rule, the IRS must assess tax, or file suit against the taxpayer to collect the back taxes, within three years after the original tax return was filed. This three-year period of limitation on assessments also applies to penalties. In fact, this rule continues to apply regardless of whether the return was filed on time or not. In general, the statute of limitations will almost always begin the day after the taxpayer files their income tax return.

The Rules May Not Apply

It seems as though there are always exceptions to the rules we work so hard to uphold – taxes are not excluded from this trend. For instance, when a taxpayer files a false or fraudulent return, the taxpayer waves their right to statute of limitations protection. And if a taxpayer fails to file their income tax return, the IRS is allowed to undertake collection proceedings at any time and without assessment.

Parting Shots

While the statute of limitations for assessment is three years after your return has been filed, the IRS still has 10 years to actually collect the assessed tax. Below is an example of the assessment process in action:

  • April 15, 2015 – you filed your 2014 tax return with the IRS
  • March 31, 2018 – the IRS assesses additional taxes on your 2014 tax return
  • The IRS has until March 31, 2028, to collect the additional tax or file suit against you.

While this information may help to shine some light on IRS assessments and statute of limitations rules, every situation is unique and hinges on several specific variables. Your tax advisor can help you sort through codes and details to get you back on the right track. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Christopher Axene, CPA (Dublin office)

Check out these articles to learn more about your responsibilities as a taxpayer:

How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing?

The Truth About Tax Extensions

If Something Happens To me, What Will Happen With My Financial Matters?

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Should I still be concerned about identity theft and tax fraud?

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

This article was published in the July 2015 issue of Columbus Business First – Ask The Expert.

Identity theft and tax fraud are problems that show no signs of stopping. This year, in an attempt to provide an added layer of protection, taxpayers in Ohio had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Ohio Department of Taxation’s (ODT) newest fraud safety measure – the Identification Confirmation Quiz.

fraud_small

We hear about cases of fraud every week, but steps are being taken to slow it down and ultimately stop it.

While you may have heard your friends and family comment (perhaps unfavorably) about this added step, government officials have said that the quiz helped thwart countless attempts to steal refund checks from Ohio taxpayers this year. During the 2014 tax season, fraudsters pocketed more than $250 million worth of taxpayer refunds, prompting the need for additional safety measures. Due to its success, the ODT expects the quiz to become a mainstay of your tax prep routine.

But just because tax season is over, doesn’t mean you should let your guard down – quite the contrary. When it comes to protecting your identity, you must remain vigilant. Whether you are aware of it or not, criminals are still looking for ways to steal your personal identification information for a myriad of uses.

Do you know what to do if your ID is compromised? Visit www.reacpa.com and click on the “Tools” button in the top navigation bar. From there, you can read our compilation piece How to Recover from Identity Theft & Refund Fraud for more insight and information that can help you recover from identity theft and tax fraud.

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The Plight of the Snowbird

Friday, June 19th, 2015

It’s warm and muggy now, but once winter blankets the Buckeye State with record snowfall and subzero temperatures again, you will likely be kicking yourself for not having hightailed it to Florida after last year’s bitter cold snap. Sure, it’s easy to say that you would like to pack up and head for a warmer climate during a seemingly endless freeze, but once the icicles melt and the flowers bloom, you begin to remember why you’ve stayed around for so long in the first place. Maybe the fact that your family and friends still call Ohio home is enough to convince you to stay put. Or perhaps its memories of your own childhood that are keeping you tethered to the state. Either way, now that it’s summer – the need doesn’t seem so intense anymore … that is, unless you are considering taking advantage of possible tax savings.

Will Taxes Influence Your Decision To Fly South This Winter?

The Plight of the Snowbird - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Now that you have settled on whether or not you will be packing up and moving for tax and/or weather reasons, make sure you know what’s involved when it comes to changing your state of domicile.

What if I told you that the State of Ohio has made it a little easier for you to escape the winter chill, spend more time in the nation’s heartland during the seasons you love and save on your tax bill? Would you consider making the move then? If so, you’re in luck!

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

Which State Do I Call Home?

For some, it’s relatively easy to buy and maintain several homes across state lines. The hard part comes when the Internal Revenue Service wants you to decide which home should be considered your primary residence based on how much time you spend in each state. These are the facts that will ultimately influence whether you pay taxes or not. If you are a snowbird who flocks back and forth between Ohio and Florida, for example, to avoid reporting your income to Ohio for tax purposes, it’s up to you to prove that you have spent no more than seven months (or fewer than 212 contact periods) in the Buckeye State. That compares to the 182 contact sessions (or six months) snowbirds were allowed to remain in Ohio under prior rules. The rules were changed in March.

How Do I Change My Residence For Tax Purposes?

Now that you have settled on whether or not you will be packing up and moving for tax and/or weather reasons, make sure you know what’s involved when it comes to changing your state of domicile. Some states, such as Florida, require basic documentation to establish your change of domicile. Therefore, you should make sure all your paperwork is in order, including your Declaration of Domicile. And while you are filing paper work to establish your new residence for tax purposes, keep in mind that some states, including Ohio, require documentation in order to relinquish your residency. Ohioans looking to relocate must complete and sign an Affidavit of Non-Ohio Residency/Domicile. This document helps establish your desire to establish nonresidency within the state. But keep in mind that there are there are other bright line tests the State of Ohio may look at to help determine whether you are actually domiciled in another state. For example, the State may look for information that indicates where you are registered to vote, which state issued your driver’s license, where your vehicles are titled and what address is listed on your tax return.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about the tax benefits some snowbirds enjoy and whether migration is right for you.

By Trista Acker, CPA, CFP (Dublin office)

 

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Want A Better Business? Structure Matters

Friday, June 5th, 2015
Minimal Tax Liability - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Perhaps the biggest argument for establishing your business as an S-Corp is the minimal tax liability it provides to shareholders and to the business as a whole. Only the wages paid to owners and employees are considered earned income and subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax for Social Security and Medicare. Other net earnings passing through to shareholders are considered “passive income,” protecting them from the taxes that would otherwise be assessed per the Self Employed Contributions Act (SECA) tax.

Are you an entrepreneur who wants to take advantage of the benefits often awarded to small-to-midsize business owners? If so, you may want to consider establishing a limited liability company or an S-corporation. Both options offer several distinct advantages depending on the size and scope of your business and it’s even possible to combine the two – potentially providing you with the best options of both worlds.

Read: Is It Time To Review Your Choice Of Entity?

Keep in mind that in some circumstances, making the change to an LLC may simply be impractical. Given your particular situation, the switch may have unfavorable consequences. Consider working with a knowledgeable financial advisor and/or business consultant who can assist you with proper planning and who can articulate the advantages and disadvantages of each option. If you are ready for a structure change, be sure to look closely at your short and long term goals and objectives – and be sure to build in some flexibility so that your business can adapt as it matures.

While it may be nearly impossible to find a perfect fit with regard to your specific needs, you may find one option to be better than another when working toward accomplishing your unique financial and tax goals. Read on to learn more about a few organizational structures that might make sense for you.


Want A Better Business? Structure Matters – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Just Passing Through

Regardless of whether you establish an LLC or an S-corp, you will receive the benefits associated with owning a pass through entity, meaning that your company’s income will pass directly through to the business owners – potentially receiving better tax treatment. Furthermore, both options grant owners with some form of limited liability protection.

What To Expect From Your LLC

If you decide to structure your business as an LLC you will likely enjoy the tax efficiencies and operation flexibility this traditional sole proprietorship or general partnership will provide. If you plan to enter into a partnership, each owner will be considered members and will report their portion of the profits and losses to the internal revenue service (IRS) on their personal federal income tax return. Another great benefit LLC members report is the ease of their operation and administration responsibilities. Members also enjoy fewer restrictions when the time comes to distribute earnings through profit-sharing.

Be aware, however, that the liability protection provided by an LLC is typically limited to each member’s personal investment in the company.

What To Expect From Your S-Corp

Corporate income, losses, deductions and credits are passed directly through to owners (or shareholders) of S-corporations. Shareholders of the company are then expected to report the business’s income and losses on their federal tax returns – similar to an LLC. Keep in mind that S-Corps may have no more than 100 shareholders. Furthermore, partnerships, corporations and non-resident aliens are not eligible to own S-corps. Shareholders only consist of individuals and certain trusts and estates.

Perhaps the biggest argument for establishing your business as an S-Corp is the minimal tax liability it provides to shareholders and to the business as a whole. Only the wages paid to owners and employees are considered earned income and subject to Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax for Social Security and Medicare. Other net earnings passing through to shareholders are considered “passive income,” protecting them from the taxes that would otherwise be assessed per the Self Employed Contributions Act (SECA) tax.

But be forewarned, even though S-Corps have some great tax benefits, they also have complex administrative and recordkeeping obligations. All S-Corps are required to maintain formal minutes, bylaws, forms and filings. Additionally, because shareholders earnings are limited to a proportional percentage of capital contributions, profit sharing is difficult to establish. In other words, if you are looking for a relatively low-maintenance option – you may not want to choose to establish an S-Corp.

The Best Of Both Worlds

Wouldn’t it be great if you could structure your business in a way that allows you to enjoy the benefits of minimal tax liability, profit sharing, and fewer administrative and operational responsibilities while curtailing the restrictions posed by establishing the company solely as an LLC or S-Corp? Good news – that option exists!

There are steps you can take to establish your business as an LLC while allowing it to receive the tax treatment of an S-Corp – it just requires you to seek insight from a professional in business and financial matters and a special election with the IRS via Form 2583.

The decisions you make today will impact the future of your business for years to come. Email Rea & Associates to learn more about the pros and cons of LLCs and S-Corps, as well as other options that may be available to address your specific challenges.

By Gene Spittle, CPA, PFS, CGMA (Wooster office)

 

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What’s That ‘New’ Charge On Your Amazon Bill?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Amazon Looks To Drone Delivery - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Amazon appears to be unaffected by the possible repercussions of adding sales tax to customer’s invoices as its focus seems to have shifted from a superior price point strategy to high efficiency and extra speedy service. According to reports, the online giant continues to move forward with initiatives that promise even speedier delivery – further cutting the time it takes for a product to hit the customer’s front porch after the order was placed.

If you aren’t already aware, Amazon is in the process of bringing three of its data centers and a distribution center to Ohio. And yes, the company’s decision to open up shop in the Buckeye State is expected to boost the state-wide economy and add about 1,000 jobs to the ranks. But what is generating the most excitement these days (at least throughout Ohio’s retail industry) is the company’s new responsibility to collect sales tax from our state’s shoppers.

Read: If You Buy Online You Might Owe Use Tax

Traditional retailers anticipate this move will effectively level the playing field, helping encourage the growth of the state’s locally-owned businesses. Amazon, however, appears to be unaffected by the possible repercussions of adding sales tax to customer’s invoices as its focus seems to have shifted from a superior price point strategy to high efficiency and extra speedy service. [SPOILER ALERT: Drone delivery appears to be imminent!] According to reports, the online giant continues to move forward with initiatives that promise even speedier delivery – further cutting the time it takes for a product to hit the customer’s front porch after the order was placed. The company is also exploring ways to keep the cost associated with such speed minimal – information from the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals the company’s desire to “dominate the skies.”

Ohio-Based Amazon Shoppers Begin Paying Sales Tax

Paying taxes on your purchased items is not a new phenomenon. In fact, you’re probably not too shocked to see the roughly 7 percent (based on your county) charge permanently affixed to the bottom portion your receipts whenever your purchase a variety of products from a local brick-and-mortar shop. Until June 1 though, Ohio residents didn’t see this charge when purchasing products from Amazon, simply because the online retailer wasn’t required to make those living in the Buckeye State pay these taxes.

In Ohio, only vendors with a physical presence in the state, such as a storefront, warehouse, factory or call center, must charge sales tax to in-state customers. Otherwise, it’s up to individual taxpayers to report and pay the taxes when filing their annual tax returns, which is a relatively uncommon practice.

“The Ohio Department of Taxation has estimated that Ohio will lose out on about $400 million in unpaid sales or use tax on unpaid sales or use tax on so-called remote sales this year,” reported The Columbus Dispatch. “More than 5 million Ohioans filed tax returns for 2012. Of those, a little more than 50,000 paid a total of $3 million in taxes due on Internet or mail-order purchases. Retail groups and analysts welcomed the news that Amazon will start collecting taxes.”

Ohio Taxpayers Still On The Hook For Other Purchases

It may seem like it’s too soon to start thinking about your 2015 tax return, it’s actually a great time to start collecting information you will need to complete your paperwork early next year. For example, while you won’t need to collect your Amazon receipts anymore, you may have to keep tabs of your Etsy habit (for example) to help make calculating your 2015 use tax as simple as possible.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about use tax.

By Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

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Hackers Target IRS – 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts Breached

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
Hackers Target IRS – 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts Breached  - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Reports state that cyber-criminals were able to gain access to taxpayer accounts by obtaining specific, personal information, which allowed them to navigate the Get Transcript authentication process. The IRS said, since February, there have been about 200,000 attempts to access taxpayer’s Get Transcript accounts from “questionable email domains – of which, about 100,000 were successful.

Just when you thought it was safe to let your guard down, cyber-criminals have blindsided us again. This time they’ve used the Internal Revenue Service’s “Get Transcript” application to gain access to approximately 100,000 taxpayer accounts.

Read: Could A Cyber-Attack Cripple Your Business In 2015?

The IRS released a statement Tuesday stating the government agency is “working aggressively to protect affected taxpayers and strengthen [their] protocols even further going forward,” after learning that hackers used “non-IRS sources” to access data, including Social Security information, dates of birth and street addresses associated with the accounts of nearly 100,000 taxpayers. The IRS said the security breach occurred when criminals gained access to its online Get Transcript application, which has since been shut down pending a full investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

According to the IRS, “the online application will remain disabled until the IRS makes modifications and further strengthens security for it.”

The data breach was limited to the Get Transcript application, said an IRS representative. The main IRS computer system that manages tax filing submissions was not affected and remains secure.

Reports state that the criminals were able to gain access to the accounts by obtaining information specific to the certain taxpayers, which allowed them to navigate the Get Transcript authentication process, which includes asking the user to answer several personal questions to confirm their identity. The IRS said, since February, there have been about 200,000 attempts to access taxpayer’s Get Transcript accounts from “questionable email domains – of which, about 100,000 were successful.

Expect to receive a letter in the mail if your account was one of the 200,000 accounts targeted. And if your account was one of those that were compromised, your letter will provide additional information, including specific instructions to access free credit monitoring services that will be provided by the IRS to ensure your data is not being used in other financially damaging ways. According to the IRS, the letters started going out this week.

Concerned about identity theft as a result of this breach? Click here to learn what to do if your identity is stolen or if your personal information is compromised.

If you are a business owner, do you have protocols in place to protect your business from a cybercriminal?Email Rea & Associates to learn how you can protect your business from a cyberattack. You can also get some useful tips and information in the related articles below.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Charter Schools Can Thrive In An Era Of Reform?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

It’s hard to avoid the topic of charter school reform these days. From news reports to proposed policy changes, everybody seems to have an opinion when it comes to the proper way to manage these public educational institutions. While it’s still too early to rewrite policy, it doesn’t hurt to monitor the ever-changing pulse of the legislature, especially when it has the potential to drastically impact the way our state’s charter schools are managed.

As students continue to flock to charter schools within their communities, the increased demand has effectively changed the landscape of Ohio’s education facilities. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reports that during the 2013-14 school year a record 119,533 students opted to attend one of Ohio’s 400 charter schools. Such a shift in our educational system has spurred increased scrutiny of the charter school industry and has prompted state leaders to call for increased organizational and financial transparency and accountability.

Slideshow: Top 5 Tips For Charter Schools


Top 5 Tips For Charter Schools – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Charter Schools Continue To Grow In Popularity

Charter schools have proven their worth and show no signs of going away, which has fueled efforts to secure greater regulation and oversight over the institutions. So far this year there has been no shortage of charter school reform proposals – with the most recent one being introduced by State Sen. Peggy Lehner mid-April.

The charter school reforms that are being debated in Ohio’s legislature call for companies and organizations responsible for operating the schools to do so under “higher standards” of quality education. Proponents of reform cite a trend of lower test scores and point to the government funding charter schools currently receive to back a position of greater accountability and transparency.

“Charter schools can be examples of exceptional education,” Lehner told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in April. “But Ohio has been ‘extremely loose’ in its rules about who can run (manage) schools … and (has) ‘failed to put up the sort of guardrails’ that force the schools to be of high quality.”

According to the Cleveland publication, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) points to the success of many national charter schools as examples how communities and students can continue to benefit from properly managed privately-held institutions and point to the importance of outside agencies, namely school districts, state or city panels, colleges and non-profits, “to do a better job of making sure schools provide solid educations to children.”

The three proposals introduced so far this year all call for stricter oversight with regard to which entities are authorized to set up charter schools across the state.

How Are These Proposals Different?

 

Charter School Changes - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

The more charter schools grow in popularity, the more attention they get in the legislature – especially in Ohio where during the 2013-14 school year a record 119,533 students attended one of the state’s public charter schools.

Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal called for Ohio’s charter schools to receive two new potential funding sources while holding school sponsors to a higher standard of accountability. His proposal sought to generate a $25 million facilities fund, which would be available only to the highest-rated sponsors. Those highly-rated sponsors would also be allowed to seek local tax levies while advocating for the closure of poorly performing schools. Furthermore, he would:

  • Require all sponsors to be approved by the Ohio Department of Education and go through the state review and rating process.
  • Prevent sponsors from selling goods and/or services to the schools they sponsor in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Mandate that all charter schools only employ treasurers, auditors and lawyers who are not affiliated with the school’s sponsor or management company.
  • Advocate for stronger rules for schools and operators that apply directly to the state for sponsorship.

The next charter school reform that was proposed, House Bill 2, was touted as a solution that would promote accountability, transparency and responsibility by:

  • Requiring all charter schools – including district-created dropout recovery schools – to be included in the Ohio Department of Education’s report card.
  • Mandating that all contracts between schools and sponsors include more detail about expected academic performance of the schools as well as details about the school’s facilities and rental or loan costs.
  • Preventing charter schools from frequently changing sponsors in order to appear as though they are in good standing.
  • Requiring the full disclosure of all conflicts of interest.
  • Calling for the annual disclosure of financial reports that allow sponsors to better monitor the school while advising it.
  • Instructing all management companies or organizations to begin reporting their performance.
  • Prevent sponsors from selling goods and/or services to the schools they sponsor in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Prohibiting school district employees and vendors from sitting on the school’s governing board.
  • Ensuring that school treasurers will no longer be hired by the school’s sponsor.

State Sen. Lehner’s most current proposal reportedly “takes many pieces of [the other proposals] and adds additional controls – and benefits.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer states “the bill does not have the state directly close poor-performing charters quickly … instead [it] takes the more indirect path that the charter school community prefers nationally. The bill pressures the ‘sponsors’ … to raise standards.” Her bill aims to:

  • Strengthen language that will prohibit “sponsor hopping.”
  • Increase the transparency associated with expenditures generated by operators.
  • Require all sponsors to have a contract with the Ohio Department of Education [ODE].
  • Incorporate Gov. Kasich’s charter school sponsor oversight proposal.
  • Limit the direct authorizing by the ODE and allows it to decline applicants.
  • Prohibit sponsors from spending charter funds outside of their statutory responsibly.
  • Encourage high performing schools with facilities by encouraging co-location and facility funding.

I am sure we will hear much more about this issue before it comes to a vote. But in the meantime, keep following these events and consider how changes might affect you. Email Rea & Associates to find out how we can help you overcome current challenges while preparing for the future.

By: Zac Morris, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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Cash Continues To Flow From Ohio’s Shale Industry

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
Companies Eye Mercer County For Fossil Fuel

Current news reports suggest that oil and gas companies will continue to invest in Ohio’s shale industry which could provide more opportunities for land owners.

For many of us, the future of Ohio’s shale industry has become a regular topic of conversation. And as a landowner in the state’s Marcellus and Utica shale regions, you’ve probably wondered what (if any) effect current events, such as the state budget and plunging energy prices, will have on your financial well-being. While nobody can predict the future, I’m optimistic we won’t see any major slowdowns over the next few years. Here are a few reasons why:

Severance Tax Sees The Cutting Room Floor

We recently learned that Gov. Kasich’s plan to increase the state’s severance tax on horizontal drilling to pay for the plan to cut income taxes was removed in the newest rendition of the state’s proposed budget bill.

The governor’s original two-year budget plan called for oil and gas produced by horizontal wells to be taxed at a 6.5 percent tax rate for product sold at the wellhead – while 4.5 percent tax would have been applied to product sold downstream. Earlier this year, Ohio Tax Commissioner Joe Testa told the media that the governor’s proposed tax hike was because Ohio’s horizontal drilling industry has become more developed and that drilling has proved to be less expensive than anticipated. In response, American Petroleum Institute’s Executive Director, Chris Zeigler, argued that the original budget proposal placed the “future development of Ohio Shale at serious risk.”

Now that the proposed tax increase in question has been removed, one could assume that drilling companies are breathing a sigh of relief. However, while there appears to be no new initiatives in play to raise the existing severance tax rate at the moment, the new budget proposal still has a long legislative journey to make before the June 30 deadline.

Shale Investment Appears To Be Untouched By Low Energy Prices

Lower prices at the pump might be a bit unnerving if you are, for example, in the process of finalizing a mineral lease agreement. But have no fear, even though new drilling initiatives in Ohio’s shale regions are slowing, according to Business Journal Daily, “oil and gas exploration continues to have positive ramifications across the region.”

As Ohio’s oil and gas industry matures, it continues to become more efficient, which has helped it persevere at a time when oil producers in the Middle East and elsewhere appear to be maintaining higher production quotas in an effort to price horizontal drillers out of the market. For example, the practice of “super fracking,” by which producers pump higher quantities of sand into the wells they fracture, has increased productivity from 400 barrels a day to 600. The result is a lower break-even cost for producers and, in general, more staying power than experts had initially thought.

To date, Energy In Depth, an oil and gas trade organization, estimates that Ohio’s shale industry has grown to $22.3 billion, and expects it to grow by another $8.1 billion by 2016, with the construction or extension of additional pipeline infrastructure, power plants and processing plants. In other words – don’t expect the Ohio’s oil and gas industry to slow down any time soon. In fact, it could be expanding as landowners from other parts of the state appear to have been approached by companies looking to increase their reserves.

Companies Eye Mercer County For Fossil Fuel

About 10,000 acres of farmland located in the Mercer County area, about 60 miles southwest of Lima, has been leased for 3D seismic oil and gas exploration according to The Daily Standard, a local news publication. The leased property, which is primarily farmland, will be subjected to noninvasive 3D seismic tests that will identify whether “significant amounts of oil and/or gas” are present. The results are expected to be available by June.

The newspaper reports that “[more] than 90 land leases involving thousands of acres have been filed in Mercer County since 2013 between various companies and property owners … the legal documents give companies access to test, drill or perform other action on the land as stipulated in each agreement.” Mercer County Commissioners agreed to test some government-owned property as well.

This news is not only important to the residents of Mercer County, but to residents throughout Ohio. The fact that companies are actively seeking to further their investment within the state is promising for all landowners. And at the very least, this recent move signifies that these companies have no plans packing up and shipping out anytime in the near future.

Email Rea & Associates if you have questions about how current events could affect your leasing options or if you are considering entering into a lease agreement for drilling or exploratory purposes.

By David Shallenberger, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Last Chance To Claim Valuable Retroactive Tax Credit

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
Work Opportunity Tax Credit - Ohio CPA Firm.

All businesses that hired members of targeted groups, such as qualifying veterans, must submit Form 8850, a pre-screening notice and certification request for each employee hired between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014 to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services no later than April 30, 2015 to qualify for the WOTC.

It was a cold evening last December when Congress finally voted in favor of extending more than 50 tax provisions considered critical by several businesses and individuals. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 provided assurance that certain incentives would remain intact and that certain provisions would be put in place to allow for the retroactive extension of some key deadlines. Among them was the deadline to claim the 2014 Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). Now, as we teeter at the end of April, that deadline is set to expire.

Read: How Do You Qualify For Tax Credits And Incentives?

What You Need To Know

All businesses that hired members of targeted groups, such as qualifying veterans, must submit Form 8850, a pre-screening notice and certification request for each employee hired between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014 to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services no later than April 30, 2015 to qualify for the WOTC.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, under normal circumstances, eligible employers are required to file the appropriate information with their respective workforce agencies within 28 days of the employees start date. Section 51 of the Internal Revenue Code concerning the WOTC states that eligible employers may claim a tax credit for a percentage of the qualified employee’s first-year wages (and second-year wages for some eligible hires).

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about tax incentives that can impact your business’s bottom line.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia)

 

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Research & Development Credit Benefits Businesses Of All Sizes

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015
Plan For The Future - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

While the 2014 tax season is now over, it’s never too early to start strategizing to secure future tax savings. For example, have you thought about improving your current processes to become more efficient? Believe it or not, taking steps to make your company “lean” may be just what you need to qualify for future tax savings.

If you own a small-to-midsize company, you probably haven’t given much thought to how the Research & Development (R&D) tax credit could help you. You might even think that the R&D credit is reserved for big businesses with tons of money to spare on technological investments. If so, then you may want to change your thought process and your business strategy.

Planning ahead is a great way to save your company’s tax dollars and there are many successful strategies from which to choose.
Click here to find out if you should be making a big purchase for your company that will help cut your tax bill.

The R&D tax credit applies to more than just businesses that have research facilities. In fact, many businesses across a range of industries may qualify for this valuable credit, but instead of asking their financial advisor for guidance, they give in to the misconception that they are not “big enough” or that they have not “big enough investments in technology.”

I recommend you avoid this mindset at all costs.

Plan For The Future

While the 2014 tax season is now over, it’s never too early to start strategizing to secure future tax savings. For example, have you thought about improving your current processes to become more efficient? Believe it or not, taking steps to make your company “lean” may be just what you need to qualify for future tax savings.

Are you familiar with Lean Six Sigma and how it can help you improve efficiency and effectiveness?
Read: Can You Explain The Concept Of Waste In Lean Six Sigma? to learn more.

According to consulting firm Smart Devine, in order to qualify for the R&D credit, your company must engage in an activity or initiative that:

  • Is technological in nature – Meaning it must rely on at least one of the following: physical sciences, biological sciences, computer science and engineering.
  • Is being conducted for a permitted purpose – Meaning that it must be intended to improve functionality, performance, reliability and quality.
  • Involves the elimination of uncertainty – Meaning the activity must be intended to identify information required to eliminate technical uncertainty.
  • Involves an experimentation process – Meaning that there must be some elements of experimentation, such as trial and error testing, prototyping, development and analysis of hypothesis.

The expenses that will be used to calculate the credit include your wages for research, supplies and contract research expenses.

Still Not Sure?

OK, so maybe you haven’t committed to an extensive lean-oriented strategy yet. That’s alright. There are many ways to qualify for this credit. Start by asking yourself the following four questions:

  1. Are you constantly developing new products or altering old products for new uses?
  2. Have you had a lean event to try and increase the productivity of a manufacturing facility, a single manufacturing line, or even a specific machine?
  3. Have you developed internal software because you couldn’t find one that met your needs on the market?
  4. Do you constantly develop prototypes to make sure your machines can produce a product that meets customer specifications?

If you answered yes to any one of these scenarios, chances are good that you will qualify for the credit.

Next Steps

If you do indeed qualify to receive the R&D credit, make an extra effort to maintain adequate records to substantiate the credit. This may seem daunting, but you are probably gathering the necessary information already. You probably just need to filter or tweak what you are already doing.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about the Research & Development Credit and how to identify expenses that could qualify while promoting your company’s overall growth and sustainability. You may also be eligible to claim the R&D credit retroactively, contact us to learn more.

By Ben Froese, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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The Truth About Tax Extensions

Friday, April 10th, 2015

We find ourselves, once again, at the end of another income tax season. A time of year that many American taxpayers (and accountants) hold dear. We, however, know that while tax season may be “officially” over, there is still plenty of tax work to be done.

The first four months of the year is a busy time for accountants and, because we work closely with so many small businesses all year long, we are acutely aware of how much stress you are under to meet your first quarter obligations. This is why, instead of rushing just to get your taxes filed and out the door ahead of the April 15 deadline, we frequently recommend that our clients file for a tax extension.

Unfortunately, there are some pretty nasty rumors going around about tax extensions. Hopefully, I will be able to debunk some common tax extension myths while helping those who opted to extend their deadline sleep a little better tonight. Check out the slideshow and get the facts about tax extensions!


The Truth About Tax Extensions – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Myth 1:

Filing a tax extension increases your chance of an audit.

Truth:

First and foremost, your chance of being audited by the IRS does not increase simply because you chose to file a tax extension. In fact, in the event that you are chosen to undergo an audit, you will be able to go into the process with more confidence. Tax extensions can be great for businesses that were simply overwhelmed by other critical responsibilities during the first quarter of the year. When you give yourself the luxury of filing an extension, you give yourself more time to compile all the files and information necessary to make tax return prep as seamless and thorough as possible.

Myth 2:

Tax extensions burden accountants.

Truth:

On the contrary, fling an extension not only gives your accountant extra time to check and double check the work, it gives them the added time needed to provide better service. For example, we pride ourselves on our work ethic, attention to detail and client service – especially during busy season. However, as trusted financial advisors, we are able to better serve our clients better when we have a chance to help them understand the opportunities they qualify for and how they can use certain tax strategies to help plan for the future. Believe me when I tell you that we do not look at extensions as burdens.

Myth 3:

There is nothing to gain by filing a tax extension; it’s just a way to prolong the inevitable.

Truth:

Filing a tax extension not only gives you more time to file your return with the IRS and the state, it effectively stalls some of your other looming deadlines as well. For example, a tax extension can award you more time pay your profit sharing plan, defined benefit, or your SEP IRA as part of your retirement plan contribution, which is an excellent short- and long-term benefit! Once your extension has been filed, you will have more time to file your retirement plan contribution, all while claiming the deduction in your prior year’s return.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about the benefits of filing income tax extension with the IRS and the state.

By Joe Popp, LD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

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Preserve Ohio History While Filing Your Taxes

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

We’re down to the wire. Just another week to go before April 15 – Tax Day. If you’re still working on your taxes, and are looking for an opportunity to make a donation on your state tax return – consider supporting the Ohio History Connection’s efforts. Read on to find out how you can support history preservation efforts throughout Ohio and even in your community.

 

Guest blog post by Emmy Beach of the Ohio History Connection:

The Ohio History Connection has developed an innovative way to help Ohioans support history preservation efforts across the state and in their communities. The best part: it can all happen in a matter of seconds.

It’s called the History Fund. The History Fund creates grants to help support local history and preservation-related projects in communities throughout Ohio. The History Fund is supported by Ohio taxpayers that select “Ohio Historical Society” as a donation fund on their state tax returns (the state tax form hasn’t caught up with their recent name change yet.).The entire process takes just seconds to complete.

The impact of donations can last for generations. Over the last three years, the History Fund has received nearly $300,000 in voluntary funding from Ohio taxpayers. This allowed the Ohio History Connection to green light more than 30 historic preservation projects that wouldn’t have received funding otherwise. History organizations have been able to accomplish important projects that have been on their wish-lists for years.

The History Fund impacts organizations big and small. This year, Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame received a grant to preserve the work of Plain Dealer rock and roll reporter Jane Scott; in Athens, the Dairy Barn Arts Center received a grant to repair the structure of their community’s popular arts venue. In each case, the generosity of Ohioans helped preserve a chapter of Ohio’s more than 200-year-old story.

“The History Fund helps us share and preserve Ohio’s story by supporting local projects and programs in communities throughout the state,” said Burt Logan, executive director and CEO for the Ohio History Connection. “The work of local history organizations is helping to strengthen our heritage and ensure Ohio’s story is told for years to come.”

The History Fund needs to receive at least $150,000 this coming tax season to stay on Ohio’s tax forms for the next two years.

The grant program received $165,000 last year, with average donations of around $10.

“Small donations can make a big difference,” said Andy Verhoff, History Fund grants manager. “If every donor who gave last year gives just $10 from their refund, we’ll cross over the $150,000 threshold easily and have even more to grant in the future.”

The tax check-off process is a win-win for taxpayers and the state. History and preservation organizations across Ohio are revitalizing their communities, one project at a time.

To learn more, visit the Ohio History Connection History Fund page. You can also see historic Ohioans Annie Oakley and the Wright Brothers promote the History Fund in public service announcements videos below.

 

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How To Pay Your Tax Bill In 6 Easy Steps

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
Pay Your Tax Bill With Direct Pay - Rea & Associates

Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Direct Pay has proven to be a popular choice among Americans who are looking for a quick and easy option for settling their tax balances.

By now, you probably have a good idea whether you have an outstanding tax bill from the government, but did you know you can settle your balance online? Since May 2014, Direct Pay, a free and secure payment option, has provided millions of taxpayers with the option of making payments to the Internal Revenue Service at a time, and in a place that is convenient for them.

Late last year, employers learned that they were expected to file their taxes and make payments exclusively online. Click here to read more.

According to the IRS, four months after the initial launch of the payment program, more than a million payments, totaling more than $1.7 billion, were successfully processed. The web site currently accepts payments for current year tax returns, estimated tax payments, extension payments and prior year balances.

Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Direct Pay has proven to be a popular choice among Americans who are looking for a quick and easy option for settling their tax balances. Those who make payments receive an instant confirmation message that their payment has been submitted. Or, if you need a little more time, you can schedule your payment up to 30 days in advance as well as choose if you would like your payment to be withdrawn directly from a checking or savings account. Making a payment is as easy as following six simple steps.

How To Make An Online Tax Payment

  1. Visit the government website at www.irs.gov/payments
  2. Click on the blue box labeled: “IRS Direct Pay”
  3. Choose the reason for making your payment. Your choices are that you are making an installment agreement payment, a tax return payment, an estimated tax payment, an amended return payment or “other” type of payment. Be sure to choose the applicable year.
  4. Next, verify your identity by confirming your filing status, social security number, address and date of birth. ID verification is required for each payment requested.
  5. Then, you must enter the amount you plan to pay and your bank information. (The IRS does not retain any routing or account numbers.
  6. Finally, you will be directed to a “final authorization” page, which will provide you with an online confirmation.

Once your payment has been submitted using Direct Pay, allow two business days for processing. Note: Payments submitted after 8 p.m. EST will be processed on the next business day. And if you need to make a change to your scheduled payment, you can edit or cancel the payment up to 11:59 p.m. EST two business days before the payment is scheduled payment date.

Ohio Online Tax Payments

If you owe taxes to the State of Ohio, you can make your payments online as well by visiting www.tax.ohio.gov. The state’s online payment system also allows for advance payments and does not require registration.

Online payment options are another way government entities are making an effort to provide more user friendly services. By using Direct Pay, or the state’s web-based payment option, you can avoid a trip to the post office and, better yet, have more control over when your payment is made and received. Your tax preparer can help you determine if online payments make sense for you and can answer any questions you may have. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Wendy Shick, CPA (Mentor office)

 

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Is Simplicity Worth The Cost Of Peace Of Mind?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015
New Final Tangible Property Regulations - Ohio CPA Firm

Just because the IRS says you are no longer required to file Form 3115 to comply with its final tangible property regulations doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to stop. Read the article and find out why.

The IRS recently made the road on which business owners must travel to comply with final tangible property regulations a little less bumpy.  Currently, most businesses that buy, depreciate, or repair property were required to file Form 3115 basically telling the IRS that the business had changed its accounting methods to comply with the new IRS rules and safe harbor, regardless of whether the change actually impacted their income.

Today, now that Revenue Procedure 2015-20 (15-20 relief) is in effect, small business taxpayers have the option of foregoing that extra paperwork. This relief removes the requirement to file a 3115 or statement with the tax return just to tell the IRS that you are making the changes. But, is that a good idea?

The main reason that you might still want to file a 3115 is if you have favorable tax adjustments from the past that you can harvest and take on your tax return this year. Filing the form is the only way to get at those. You also waive the audit protection for prior years that would be available with filing the 3115.  But, you do get to save some money on tax prep fees and paperwork.

Here’s a brief “true-or-false” quiz to help you decide what to do.  Of course you have to be eligible for the 15-20 relief, so the eligibility statements must be true. You should also consider filing a 3115 if you answer false to the later items.

Eligibility

  • True or False? Your small business’s assets total no more than $10 million or, over the last three years, your gross receipts have totaled no more than $10 million. (only need one of these to be true).
  • True or False? You will not file Form 3115 for any other business activity or any other change in accounting method for the year.

Non-eligibility

  • True or False? You get no benefit (or you don’t care about the benefit) from harvesting favorable 481(a) adjustments as a result of partial dispositions made in previous years.
  • True or False? You don’t care about prior year audit protection.
  • True or False? You believe that adequate records will otherwise be maintained with regard to what you have done (and are going to do) to protect against an audit. For example, if you have chosen not to do repair X, Y and Z because of your obligation to list it on Form 3115, will you continue to maintain that information in the event an audit were to occur?

Better Safe Than Sorry

Because it’s the only way to harvest prior year benefits and because most taxpayers desire the audit protection on these issues for prior years, we will likely continue to file Form 3115 for many of our clients.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about Revenue Procedure 2015-20 and to find out if the new simplified method of reporting property changes is right for you.

By Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin 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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How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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

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

Suspecting, and then confirming, that you’ve had your identity stolen is a nightmarish scenario. It combines one of your worst fears, losing your wallet or purse, with all of the work of replacing the things that were lost. It can be so overwhelming you might be wondering: “Where do I even start?”

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

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

Read “How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

Beat The Identity Thieves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check Your Mail, Not Your Caller ID

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

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

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

 

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Update: Ohio Tax Quiz Appears To Be Working

Friday, March 13th, 2015
Tax ID Quiz

According to officials at the Ohio Department of Taxation, while the new Identification Confirmation Quiz may be a pain in the neck, it appears to be working as a identity theft deterrent – Rea & Associates – Ohio CPA Firm

We have learned over the last month that Ohio’s new system of validating taxpayer identification, the Identification Confirmation Quiz, appears to be working.

In an effort to boost security and prevent tax-fraud in the state, the Ohio Department of Taxation introduced the quiz at the onset of the 2015 tax season and began flagging tax returns with data points that are inconsistent with public and commercial data sources. If their returns are flagged, taxpayers are required to take a Quiz to prove their identities.

Read: Theft Safeguards To Cause Tax Return Delays In Ohio

“Through Feb. 18, more than 1.3 million tax returns have been filed with about 874,000 requesting a state income tax refund. About half of the refund requests have been selected for additional screening to ensure that they were not filed by an I.D. thief,” stated Ohio’s Tax Commissioner Joe Testa in a press release. “About 97 percent of taxpayers taking the quiz are passing. That proves they are who they say they are.”

That means about 3 percent who fail the test are being declined to receive refunds that they would have normally received in previous years. As long as that 3 percent consists of actual identity thieves, the results reported are significant.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia Office)

 

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5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Tax Deductions Add Up

If you made a donation to a nonprofit organization last year, it’s almost guaranteed that you are eligible to deduct at least a portion of your contribution from your income.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported earlier this month that nearly 59 million 2014 federal tax returns have been filed so far this filing season. While that may sound like a lot, there’s still a ways to go as, according to IRS estimates, three of five taxpayers are still waiting to file. For those of you still working on your tax prep, there is still time to claim some valuable deductions. Here are five deduction options to help small businesses make the most of the 2015 filing season:

1. Ohio Small Business Deduction

Many small business owners in Ohio are eligible to receive help from the state on their 2014 tax returns through the Ohio Small Business Deduction. Initiated by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and considered to be “the largest overall tax reduction in the country,” the deduction allows eligible small businesses to take a 50 percent tax deduction on their first $250,000 of business income. However, for the 2014 taxable year only, that percentage was increased to become a 75 percent deduction of “net business income from an individual’s adjusted gross income reported on their Ohio personal income tax return.” Your financial advisor can help you learn more about the Ohio Small Business deduction and help you take your business strategy to the next level.

Read More

2. Section 179 Deduction

When Congress voted in favor of the Tax Extenders Act late last year, among the many tax incentives that were extended included an action to retroactively reinstate the $500,000 depreciation limit on the Section 179 deduction as well as the 50 percent bonus depreciation. Together, these tax incentives have the potential to save you and your company hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment purchases. Limits and restrictions do apply, however, so make sure to work with a trusted advisor who can make sure your purchases actually qualify.

Read More

3. Personal Vehicle Deduction

If you drive your personal vehicle for business, then you may be able to deduct the expenses related to your car or truck as long as the vehicle was actually used for business purposes and not just commuting. A professional advisor can help you determine if you qualify to claim the deduction and can help determine which deduction method is the best one to use given your personal circumstances.

Read More

4. Stock Gains Deduction

Some qualified businesses may also be able to exclude the gains generated by qualified small business stock per provision IRC Sec. 1202. Originally passed by Congress in the 1990s, this provision was designed to help reinvigorate the importance of continued investment into our country’s small business infrastructure. This incentive is a little more difficult than some of the others, but if you qualify, you could realize significant savings. Because of the complicated nature of this particular provision, it is essential that you work with a tax advisor to find out if you qualify.

Read More

5. Charitable Giving Deduction

If you make a donation to a nonprofit organization during the year, it is almost guaranteed that you will be able to deduct at least a portion of your contribution from your income. But there are rules that need to be adhered to. A good financial advisor can help you get the maximum benefit for every dollar donated.

Read More

For more information related to specific tax and deduction questions related to your business, email Rea & Associates.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Obamacare: Some Taxpayers Get Second Chance To Purchase Health Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Joseph Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)  

 

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Is A Sale-Leaseback Transaction Right For Your Business?

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015
Sales-Leaseback Transaction

Is it a better business strategy to enter into a sale-leaseback transaction on your current office building or other business property? Make sure you know the pros and cons before making any decisions – Rea & Associates – Ohio CPA Firm

Are you looking for a plan to increase your business’s cash flow? If you own business property, you may be able to benefit by entering into a sale-leaseback transaction. But while there several great benefits to this type of agreement, there are also some significant drawbacks. So, before you draw up the paperwork, schedule a time to meet with your financial advisor to find out if the benefit outweighs the risk.

Advantages Of A Sale-Leaseback Transaction

A sale-leaseback transaction occurs when you, the real estate owner and occupier, sell your property to a third party on the condition that they agree to lease the property to you. Entering into this type of arrangement has several benefits, including increasing your business’ cash flow while freeing your business up to allocate the capital to other areas of your business. Additional benefits include:

  • As the seller and eventual lessor, you essentially maintain control of the property, which prevents operational disruptions from occurring.
  • Assuming the current property is financed with debt, this long-term debt can be eliminated from the balance sheet under certain lease arrangements.
  • From a tax perspective, you gain an additional annual “write-off” for the portion of rent related to the land (as land is not depreciated).

Drawbacks Of A Sale-Leaseback Transaction

Perhaps the most significant disadvantage of entering into this type of agreement is that you stand to lose the flexibility that comes with owning the property outright since these transactions usually are for longer terms than a typical property lease (15 or more years). The typical sale-leaseback transaction takes the form of a “triple net lease,” which usually states that you, as the tenant, will be responsible for the net real estate taxes, net building insurance and net common area maintenance. Other disadvantages include:

  • The loss of the real estate’s appreciation value over the course of a lengthy lease term.
  • Significant income tax impact that comes in to play when a property’s sale price significantly exceeds the property’s “book value.” This typically occurs when you are selling a property that has been owned for a long period of time prior to the sale.
  • A decrease in your Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) as your depreciation expense on the property is replaced by the rent expense.

The financial benefits of sale-leasebacks must be balanced with your unique strategic and operating considerations. A financial advisor and business consultant can help identify whether this option is right for you and your business. Email Rea & Associates to learn more about sale-leaseback transactions and other strategic business decisions. By Ben Antonelli, CPA (Dublin office)  

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If You Buy Online You Might Owe Use Tax

Monday, March 2nd, 2015
Ohio Use Tax

Amazon purchases aren’t the only ones to consider when you sit down to file your tax return this year. Other popular online retailers and groups, including Etsy, are also depending on their consumers to pay use taxes on the products they sell. – Rea & Associates – Ohio CPA Firm

If you are one of the millions of people who love to browse and buy online, it may shock you to learn that the Ohio Department of Taxation is looking at you to declare and pay a little more when you go to file your 2014 tax return. From gifts to grocery shopping, many of us use the ease of online shopping to snag a good deal and avoid the hassle of braving the brick-and-mortar shops – especially during the holidays, but sometimes that convenience might come at a price.

Were you charged sales tax for that pair of shoes you bought last October or those books you had shipped to your house in June? If the company you made purchases from doesn’t have facilities in the state or a law that requires it to collect sales taxes for your state, then it’s likely you owe use tax to Ohio – and you have to report your use tax on Line 19 of your Ohio Form IT 1040.

Use Tax Is Not A New Tax

Declaring and paying sales and use tax on your state tax return is not a new responsibility. The Ohio Department of Taxation states that “in transactions where sales tax was due but not collected by the vendor or seller, a use tax of equal amount is due from the consumer.” In Ohio, the use tax rate is the same as sales tax rate you would have paid if sales tax was correctly charged by the vendor.  This is usually the place of purchase (or your home address for shipments from outside Ohio). You can read Ohio’s use tax law in its entirety here.

As a courtesy, Amazon provides a brief explanation of the consumer’s responsibility to pay use tax on its website. Because Amazon suspects its customers aren’t keeping a file of receipts, the online retailer provides customers with the option to create and download an Order History Report, which compiles your download, shipment, return and refund activity and can be used to help calculate use tax.

But your Amazon purchases aren’t the only ones to consider when you sit down to file your tax return this year. Other popular online retailers and groups, including Etsy, are also depending on their consumers to pay use taxes on the products they sell. So make sure you take a second look at that packing slip and receipt.

Little Box, Big Pause

While the responsibility of paying use tax isn’t new, this is the first year taxpayers in Ohio are required to certify their use tax claim before filing their return with the state. If you didn’t shop online or make a “sales tax-free” purchase, you should have nothing to worry about – simply check the box and continue on. On the other hand, if you did partake in online retail therapy in 2014 and don’t have your receipts handy, you may have to pause your tax preparation to give yourself a little more time to find out what you owe.

To find out more use tax, email Rea & Associates.

By Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

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Governor’s Budget Proposal Makes The Case For Tax Reform

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015
Proposed tax increase on oil and gas production

If the proposed two-year state budget proposal passes, oil and gas produced by horizontal wells will be taxed at a 6.5 percent tax rate for product sold at the wellhead. If sold downstream, a 4.5 percent tax will be applied.

Since it was unveiled last month, Gov. John Kasich’s proposed two-year state budget has many individuals, businesses, school districts, not-for-profit organizations and others scrambling to find out how his proposed tax reform package will affect them. In his recommendation, Gov. Kasich says his proposal seeks to “create more opportunities for each and every Ohioan.” To this end, the budget focuses on four primary objectives:

  1. To ensure that students are ready for college and careers
  2. To help more students get degrees
  3. To cut and reform taxes
  4. To help Ohioans move up and out of poverty and into jobs

To achieve these goals, Gov. Kasich has proposed implementation of several tactics to help fund his $35.5 billion 2016 budget, which is up 15.5 percent over the state’s projected spending in fiscal year 2015. Of those tactics, a slew of tax cuts and increases are central to his budget initiative. The following points address some primary changes Ohioans can expect to see if Gov. Kasich’s 2016-2017 budget plan is approved.

Proposed Tax Cuts

  • A 23 percent across-the-board income tax rate reduction. This proposed cut would drop the top income tax rate to 4.1 percent, the current from 5.33 percent.
  • Business owners of pass-through entities with gross receipts less than $2 million will pay no income tax on their business income.
  • Other Ohio business owners will see the 50 percent reduction incentive on income that totals $250,000 and less become permanent.
  • Individuals who earn less than $40,000 will see a $1,600 increase in their personal exemption (from $2,400 to $4,000). The personal exemption for those who make between $40,000 and $80,000 will increase by $900 (from $1,950 to $2,850).

Proposed Tax Increases

  • The commercial activity tax (CAT), which is measured by a business’s gross receipts on business activities in the state, will increase 0.6 percent to 0.32 percent.
  • The state’s sales tax will increase to 6.25 percent. The current sales tax rate is 5.75 percent and would be expanded to include management consulting, lobbying, market research and opinion polling, public relations, debt collection services, cable subscriptions and parking and travel services.
  • Means-tested tax credits and exemptions for retired taxpayers who earn more than $100,000.
  • Oil and gas produced by horizontal wells will be taxed at a 6.5 percent tax rate for product sold at the wellhead. If sold downstream, a 4.5 percent tax will be applied.
  • The state currently reduces the price paid for the new car or boat by the value of the trade-in. The proposal calls for a 50 percent deduction in this exemption.
  • The discount vendors receive for collecting, reporting and remitting sales tax will be capped at $1,000 per month.

To learn more about how tax reform could affect you, email Rea & Associates.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

 

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Is It A Charity Or A Scam?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015

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

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

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

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

What’s In A Name?

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

Keep Personal Information Private

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

Where’s The Proof?

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

Ask An Expert

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

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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From Toddler To Teen And Beyond: Tax Breaks For Families

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

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

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

Relief for New Parents

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

  • Adoption Credit

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

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

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

  • Child Credit/Additional Child Credit/Dependent

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

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

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

  • Earned Income Credit

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

More To Know As They Grow

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

  • Dependent Care Credit

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

  • Preempting College Costs

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

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

  • Flexible Spending Plans

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

The College Years

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

  • Dependency Extension

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

  • Tax Relief For Education

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

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

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

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

  • Student Loan Relief

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

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

By Jordan Miller, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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How To Drive For Business And Save On Your Tax Bill

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

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

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

Here’s what you need to know. …

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

When To Claim A Deduction

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

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

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

Which Deduction Is Better?

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

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

So, which deduction method is better?

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

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

By Tom Jeffries, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you treat Bitcoin as an investment?

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

Do you use Bitcoin like cash?

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

Do you get paid in Bitcoin?

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

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

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Signing On The Dotted Line

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Know What Your Pipeline Easement Agreement Entails Before Signing

For years, state and national economists have pointed to the Marcellus and Utica shale regions as a source of relief for Ohio’s economic well-being. As momentum continues to grow, more and more pipeline infrastructure will be built, providing landowners with an opportunity to enter into a pipeline easement agreement. While you may be handed a contract that looks favorable to you, make sure you completely understand your rights and responsibilities before signing.

6 Things To Know Before You Sign

  1. A pipeline easement grants a pipeline company permission to use your real property to transmit natural gas liquids. This means that your entire property is not affected – just the portion outlined in the contract.
  2. Understand the difference between a temporary easement and a permanent easement. A permanent easement refers to a time period of 30 years or longer and the amount is taxed at capital gains rates. This happens when the amount received exceeds the cost basis of the portion of the property where the permanent pipeline covers. A temporary easement pertains to a shorter amount of time and is taxed at your ordinary tax rate. A permanent easement is normally more favorable to the taxpayer because of the capital gains treatment.
  3. You are eligible to be compensated for anticipatory damages to your property. Anticipatory damages are awarded for damages that have not yet taken place. They are generally negotiated with the easement. There are two types of anticipatory damages; Compensatory and Non-Compensatory damages.
  4. Compensatory damages are linked to items such as crop damages, business income interruption, temporary work site rental and temporary road access. Basically if you are using the property to produce ordinary income or the pipeline company wants to rent a portion of the property while they work, the anticipatory damage income you receive is taxed at your ordinary rate.
    Non-compensatory damages are damages that are not tied to the items listed above and are taxed at capital gains rates.
    As a landowner, you can also receive actual damages after the pipeline easement is complete. Actual damages are taxed at capital gains rates and any amount of the actual damage payment that is invested back into the property is non-taxable.
  5. Pipeline easement payments are not ongoing. You will be compensated once, which will likely be when you sign the contract.
  6. Different opportunities are available for different people. For many, a pipeline easement may be an opportunity to save for retirement. For others, additional economic opportunities may be available. Your CPA is qualified to help individuals identify your best options – those that make financial sense and those that do not alter your lifestyle.

There are many different myths about pipeline easements. Your financial advisor can help you understand the facts, ensure that you get a fair price and manage your tax obligations.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about how to make the most of your pipeline easement.

By David Shallenberger, CPA (Wooster office) and Scott Moyer, CPA (Zanesville office)

 

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How To Prepare For A Federal Tax Return Headache

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

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

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

Refund Delays

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

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

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

Phone Jams

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

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

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

By: Trista Acker, CPA, CFP (Dublin 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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Theft Safeguards To Cause Tax Return Delays In Ohio

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

If time is money then the new security measures to protect Ohio taxpayer’s returns and prevent identity theft comes at a price. The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) said that in an effort to boost security and prevent tax-fraud in the state, Ohio will implement an “up-front filter to all tax-refund requests to analyze the demographic information reported on the return.”

According to Joe Testa, the state’s tax commissioner, the ramped up security is in response to increased fraud attempts. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the state foiled $250 million in attempted tax fraud during the 2014 tax season, which is a significant increase over the foiled tax fraud average of $10 million in previous years. Figures of how much fraud went undetected last year or in previous years are not available.

The Tax-Fraud Quiz

If your tax return is flagged as a result of anomalies in reported demographic information then you will have to complete an Identification Confirmation Quiz, according to Testa. If you are selected to take the quiz, you should expect a delay as to when your funds will be dispersed. Traditionally, it takes up to 15 days to process refunds that will be distributed to the taxpayer via electronic deposit. Those who opt to receive their refunds in check form could wait 30 days to receive their money. This year, those who must take the quiz to validate their identities, may have to wait longer than they have in previous years to receive their refunds.

Which Returns Will Be Flagged?

On its website, the ODT says that tax returns will be analyzed for certain inconsistent data points against public and commercial data sources. For example, in the Dispatch article, taxation spokesman Gary Gudmundson said that “names and Social Security numbers that show up in a different part of the state, or in another state, after being located for years in a specific area of Ohio” may be flagged. This means that if you moved this year, your return may flagged as one that has a higher probability of fraud. The next step is to take the quiz to verify your identity. If the return is flagged, the taxpayer will be required to complete the quiz or prove their identity through documentation before the tax return will be processed.

How To Know If Your Return Was Flagged?

The ODT will send a letter to taxpayers who are required to take the identification quiz. Those who don’t receive a letter will not be able to complete the quiz. Those who are selected will have 60 days to complete the multiple choice quiz. The quiz will be timed and it must be completed online. The state agency has provided answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the quiz on its website.

Contact your financial advisor or seek out a tax professional to help guide you through these security measures. Email Rea & Associates for more information about this and other tax-related concerns.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (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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Too Close For Comfort?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

 

Tax Provisions Extended Just In Time

They may have waited until the 23rd hour, but members of Congress finally voted to extend more than 50 expired tax provisions slated to expire at the end of the year. Tuesday evening’s 76-16 vote in favor of the extensions was enough to send a collective sigh of relief among tax professionals nationwide. The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature. Many tax professionals were worried that Congress would postpone the vote until after the New Year, which could have postponed the start of the 2015 tax season and hurt those on the tax prep front lines, including the IRS, tax preparers and some software providers. But today is a new day and instead of planning for the worst case scenario, tax planning can commence as planned. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, or H.B. 5771, temporarily extends several tax breaks and provisions while correcting some technical errors found in prior legislation. Including:

  • Extensions that benefit individuals:

-        A $250 above-the-line deduction for certain expenses of teachers

-        An election to deduct state and local sales tax

-        Tax-free charitable distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs)

-        The private mortgage insurance (PMI) itemized deduction

-        The energy efficient home improvement tax credit

  • Extensions that benefit businesses:

-        The work opportunity tax credit

-        A research and experimentation credit

-        The Section 179 expensing limit

-        50% bonus depreciation

A complete list of 2014 tax extenders can be found in this article, published by the Journal of Accountancy. Another bill within H.B. 5771 was also up for Congressional consideration – the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. The legislation seeks to provide for tax-favored accounts that allow those who are disabled to save money to pay for disability expenses. This portion of the ABLE Act amends the definition of personal holding company income, institutes certain inflation adjustments and, for employment tax purposes, allows for certified professional employer organizations to be treated as employers for work-site employees who perform services for customers of the organization. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 is by no means a long-term fix. There were earlier proposals that sought to permanently extend some provisions while extending others for more than a year, but those suggestions were unable to find traction throughout the legislature. So, while we may be able to relax this year, we will likely have bouts of Déjà vu over the course of 2015. By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

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Put Your Property Easement Agreement To Work

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

The shale oil and gas play has spurred a significant amount of pipeline and infrastructure activity throughout certain areas of the United States. As a result, many landowners are now being approached by landmen armed with cash offers and easement agreements in the hopes of acquiring the right to use your property to process and transport oil and gas related products. Before you sign on that dotted line, be sure to seek advice from someone well versed in the complexities of property easements.

Be An Informed Property Owner

You probably want to keep as much money in your bank account as possible. So when it comes to paying your taxes, you probably have no intention of giving the government more than its fair share, right? Did you know that when you enter into certain agreements, such as land easements, you may be able to dictate the type of tax treatment your income receives? The trick is to fully understand the tax consequences of language in the agreement.

The tax treatment of a land easement typically is determined (at least in part) by the easement agreement itself. The easement language will either determine if the agreement is for a permanent (or perpetual) easement period, which is exclusive in nature; or if it’s a temporary easement, which will be effective for a finite period of time.

Understand Your Options

If you enter into a permanent easement agreement, the taxable part of the transaction could qualify for capital gains, which may result in an opportunity to save some money during tax season. If you are able to apply the capital gains tax treatment to the income generated from the land easement contract, as opposed to the ordinary income tax rate, you could stand to see your tax rate that is applied to this income drop by almost half.

  • Capital Gains tax rate = 20 percent
  • Regular Income tax rate = 39.6 percent

On the other hand, if you are looking for another option, which could eliminate current payment of tax all together (defer the tax consequence into the future), you might consider the like-kind exchange tax planning strategy. Like-kind exchange rules require the property that is exchanged and the property that is acquired to be held for productive use or investment purposes.

Agreements that receive like-kind treatment under U.S. Code 1031 may result in the deferral of your taxes being due until well into the future or until you dispose of the property acquired in the like-kind exchange. For this to work, the easement agreement must be considered perpetual or permanent and must also involve real estate that is used as part of your trade or business or that is being held for investment purposes.

Don’t Disqualify Yourself

While the thought of exchanging your land easement for other real estate while deferring your taxes may seem attractive, the process of entering into, and maintaining, a like-kind exchange is very complex and must be strictly adhered to. In other words, you will need to seek out help to navigate the waters. If you would like to see if you qualify for a like-kind exchange, email Rea & Associatesfor more information. And remember to always consult your current financial advisor or another professional well versed in like-kind exchange taxation, before signing any land easement contract. Failure to do so may disqualify you from favorable like-kind exchange treatment.

By Jim Fracker, CPA (Zanesville office)

 

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Should I Make a Big Purchase to Cut Taxes?

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

This is a hectic time for business owners who are working to close their books on the previous year while strategically planning for the year ahead. For me, this is the time of year I find myself frequently fielding questions from clients who want to know if buying equipment will help them keep their taxes down.

Unfortunately, without the proper information, any answer I could provide would be about as useless as seeking business advice from a Magic 8-Ball. Fortunately, the answer really isn’t difficult to find, especially if you have a well-maintained balance sheet.

To determine whether purchasing equipment would be beneficial to your business from a tax perspective, I have to know what your profit looks like. And while it may be easy to pull out your profit and loss statement to find the answer, I would encourage you to take a look at your balance sheet as well. It’s capable of painting a detailed picture of your business and is a great tool that can help you make sound financial decisions for your business.

Before you make any decisions that could impact your business’s financial stability, make sure these six items on your balance sheet are accurate.

  • Cash Reconciliation
    • Check to make sure that all cash has been reconciled and make special note of checks that have remained uncashed for an extended period of time.
    • Verify that all checks – incoming and outgoing – have been recorded, and their status tracked.
  • Collectability of accounts receivable
    • Does your business currently have any bad debts? If so, have you taken the necessary actions to determine that the account in question is uncollectable?
    • Once an account is uncollectable, take the steps needed to prove that determination and receive the benefit from it.
  • Accurate Inventory
    • The end of the year is an ideal time to take a physical inventory.
    • An inaccurate inventory can greatly impact your profit – not to mention your ability to properly manage your resources.
  • New/Disposed Fixed Assets
    • Be sure to add all new assets (equipment, fixtures, etc.) to the correct accounts. Don’t let them become buried in your purchases.
    • If you are planning to sell your company in the next 5-10 years, it is extremely important to keep an accurate record of your assets because they can help determine your asking/selling price.
  •  Liabilities
    • Keep a current record of all your liabilities and update it regularly to maintain accuracy.
    • Make sure that all debts are tracked and recorded.
  • Member Draws
    • Check to make sure that your member withdrawal account is accurate. If there are any expenses you expected to see but didn’t, investigate and find out why.
    • If after year end you happen to find personal expenses that were in regular expenses, your profit increases and so do your taxes.

Your company’s profit is not just a number. Your profit is determined by a wide range of factors – and these are just a few. If you are really want to lower your taxes, make sure your bookkeeping is accurate before developing a plan.

Email Rea & Associates to discover more ways to increase your business’s profitability.

By Joel Yoder, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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The Tax Professional’s Christmas List

Friday, December 12th, 2014

Move Over Santa, This One’s For Congress

While the holidays typically bring about feelings of joy and comfort, they can also be a time of stress. And as the year comes to a close, many individuals are left to frantically resolve a number of tasks that they had hoped would be completed before the end of 2014 – yet they are still lingering on their to-do lists.

If tax professionals across the country were to compose a letter this holiday season, it wouldn’t be sent to Santa. Instead, it would pass over the North Pole en route to Washington D.C. – and it would be addressed to the members of the United States Congress.

This year, all we want for Christmas is for our congressional leaders to extend the more than 50 tax provisions that were left to expire at the end of 2013 – before the end of the year. Failure to do so could have a negative impact on the 2015 tax season.

While it is possible for Congress to wait until the New Year to enact these provisions next month, a retroactive approach would ultimately hurt the IRS, tax professionals and software providers. This is why it is so important for the provisions to be extended before Dec. 31.

Furthermore, postponing this legislative action could postpone the start of the 2015 tax season, which would delay refunds to millions of American taxpayers.

What tax provisions are at risk?

Individual tax payers are at risk of losing:

  • A $250 above-the-line tuition deduction
  • An election to deduct state and local sales tax
  • Tax-free charitable distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • The private mortgage insurance (PMI) itemized deduction
  • The energy efficient home improvement tax credit

Popular business tax benefits at risk of disappearing include:

  • The work opportunity tax credit
  • A research credit
  • The Section 179 expensing limit
  • Bonus depreciation

This holiday season, it is our hope that Congress will move quickly to resolve this issue in a way that is favorable for American tax payers. Doing so would not only provide the IRS and tax professionals with the time they need to prepare for the 2015 tax season; such legislative action would help promote the financial wellbeing of the American taxpayers.

Would you like to discuss tax planning options for yourself or your business? Email Rea & Associates to speak with a tax professional today. Will you want help filing your 2014 business taxes and/or personal taxes? Would you like a little extra help preparing for the 2015 tax season, our tax experts will work with you to make your experience as worry-free and seamless as possible.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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New Year, New Mileage Rates

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Every mile you drive for business will be worth a little more next year, according to a recent IRS announcement. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the optional standard mileage rate for those calculating the deductible costs of driving for business will be 57.5 cents, which is up from 56 cents.

Based on a study of the fixed and variable costs associated with operating an automobile, the standard mileage rates take into consideration vehicle depreciation, insurance, repairs, maintenance, gas, etc. However, if you don’t intend on tracking your mileage, you also have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using your own vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates. Just be aware that you will not be allowed to claim both.

For example, if you have plans of claiming an accelerated depreciation on your vehicle, then you will not be able to claim the business standard mileage rate as well. If you are a business owner, you should also note that the standard rate is not available to fleet owners, or those who use more than four vehicles simultaneously. Additional details and rules can be found in Revenue Procedure 2010-51.

While the standard mileage rate for the business miles you drive will increase in 2015, those who use their vehicles for medical or moving purposes will see a reduction of half a cent in their mileage rates. Starting Jan. 1, the miles you drive for medical or moving purposes will be calculated at 23 cents per mile driven. And those driving their vehicles as a service to charitable organizations may calculate their deductions at 14 cents per mile driven.

Also in its announcement, the IRS noted an adjustment to the standard automobile cost allowable under the fixed and variable rate (FAVR) plan, which considers the costs taxpayers incur by driving their own vehicles for work-related purposes. In 2015, standard automobile costs may not exceed $28,200 or $30,800 for trucks and vans.

Do you use your vehicle for business? Make sure you track of your mileage. Every mile you travel is an opportunity to realize real tax savings. Our expert financial advisors can help professionals like you find opportunities you never even knew existed. Email Rea & Associates today and start the New Year out right.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Employers Must File Taxes, Make Payments Electronically

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Starting this January, employers filing in the state of Ohio will be required to use the Ohio Business Gateway (OBG) to file and remit payment for state and school district income tax withholding returns, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. The new rule was finalized earlier this month and will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The OBG Electronic Filing system was established to save Ohio time and money by simplifying business’ relationships with government agencies while providing them with an easier means to comply with regulatory requirements.  However, it is understood that some employers may not be able to use the electronic filing system at this time, which prompted the department to allow some preparers to opt out of the requirement if they can establish a valid reason for why they are unable to comply. To opt out of the department’s new rule, employers must provide the department with the following information on form WT OOR, including their:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Employer withholding number and Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
  • Withholding type
  • Detailed reason for the request to be excluded from electronic filing and payment provisions.

“Preparers seeking to opt out of electronic filing must present strongly compelling reasons to justify the waiver of the requirement,” the department states in the Frequently Asked Questions page of its website. “Preparers filing tax returns with the state of Ohio should plan to comply with the electronic filing mandate and not assume that their request to opt out will be granted.” Anyone may apply to be excused from the electronic filing requirement and permitted to file their return by non-electronic means. However, if approval is given, it is only valid for one year. Preparers are required to resubmit their requests annually. The opt out request form can be found on the “Forms” portal of the department’s website or by calling 888.405.4039 – option 1. Otherwise, you can register or log in to use the Ohio Business Gateway, click here. Additional assistance with navigation, filing a return and/or remitting payment, can be found by visiting the Self Help eLibrary. Email Rea & Associates to learn how you can stay in compliance with these new filing requirements and lessen the stress of filing and paying your state and school district withholding returns.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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New Adjustments Will Affect Your 2015 Tax Return

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

The calendar may still say 2014, but the IRS is already looking ahead to 2016 – when you will file your 2015 tax returns. In doing so, it recently announced slight adjustments to more than 40 tax provisions to account for inflation. So, what can you expect? The adjustments are outlined fully in Revenue Procedure 2014-61, but a few points that may be of special interest include:

  • The new 39.6 tax rate. This rate will affect those who are single with income that exceeds $413,200, which is up from $406,750. Those who are married filing jointly will be affected if their income exceeds $464,850 – up from $457, 600. You can check out a great break down of the other tax rate increases here.
  • A slight standard deduction increase. Those who are single, or married filing separately, can expect their standard deduction to be $6,300 – up from $6,200. Married couples filing jointly will see standard deductions increase to $12,600 – up from $12,400.
  • Increasing elective contribution limits. In 2015, taxpayers will be allowed to defer $18,000 to your 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan. The deferral limit in 2014 was $17,500. The catch-up contribution limit for employees who are 50 and older will increase to $6,000 – up from the 2014 rate of $5,500.

You can read the full IRS article here. Navigating tax rate and IRS procedure changes can be difficult – not to mention time consuming. To get more information on how you may be impacted by these adjustments, email Rea & Associates.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Retirees Get Cranky Over Tax Returns

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

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

Social Security

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

IRA Distributions

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

Capital Gains

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

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

Itemized deductions

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

Estimated tax

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

Complexities You Can Avoid

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

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

Author: Lee Beall, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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The Totalization Conundrum: Tax Tips for Employees Abroad

Friday, October 31st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Are Totalization Agreements Important?

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Deductions Are Available

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

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

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

Author: Ben Jonard (Dublin office)

 

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

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

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

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

An exemption may be granted if:

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin)

 

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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)

 

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