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Taxes on the Mind

16/11/17 10:40 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

It may not be the first thing on everyone’s mind as we head in to the holiday season but for your local CPA, taxes are certainly on the mind. Year end tax planning is always a good idea for a proactive business owner or individual but this year it may be even more important than ever with tax reform coming down the pipeline.

You can’t open a newspaper lately without seeing talks about tax reform. The back and forth and uncertainties surrounding tax legislation is making for an entertaining situation for your local tax nerd. Both the House and Senate have their own plans that are changing by the second; odds are the analysis you read one day will completely change a week later and many details we are hearing about now may be totally different by the time legislation comes across the President’s desk (if that even happens). As your average everyday business owner and taxpayer, you care about the financial well being of you and your company, but chances are you don’t have the time or patience to keep up on the constant changes happening on Capitol Hill. While you may not think any legislation will affect you in the short term, you may be wrong and there may be moves you need to make by the end of 2017.

With uncertainty in the air and the year quickly coming to an end, right now is a great time to get in touch with your accountant. We can educate you about tax reform and its specific effects on you, and help you make sure you make the right moves by year end. Having a good CPA as part of your advisory team is an invaluable resource during times like this.

 

Getting a Head Start on 2017 (taxes that is!)

01/11/17 3:13 pm | Comments (0) | Posted By:

It’s only November but there’s still time to make the filing of your 2017 tax return less taxing in 2018.

Withholding and Estimated Taxes. Make sure enough taxes are withheld to avoid surprises at tax time. Generally taxes are withheld from wages and other income such as pensions, bonuses, commissions and gambling winnings. Taxpayers with interest, dividends, capital gains, rents and royalties will usually make additional tax payments by making estimated tax payments. Self-employed individuals who do not pay tax through withholding will also pay estimated taxes.

  1. Employees starting a new job must fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator to figure out how much tax to withhold.
  2. Taxpayers expecting to owe $1,000, or more than taxes that are withheld, will need to make estimated tax payments to avoid penalties.
  3. Martial status changes, birth of a child or the purchase of a home may change the amount of taxes a taxpayer owes. Employees should submit a new Form W-4 to their employer when necessary.

Name changes. Taxpayers with name changes due to a marital status change should notify the Social Security Administration. SSA should also be notified if there’s a name change for a dependent. Notifying the SSA with name changes will ensure that the new name on the tax return matches the SSA records to avoid any delay in the processing.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers. Taxpayers who use Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers which have expired or are due to expire should apply to renew their ITIN to avoid processing delays next year. A Form W-7 must be completed as well as submission of original or certified copies of identity documents to renew an ITIN.

What happens if I don’t file my taxes on time?

19/10/17 3:51 pm | Comments (0) | Posted By:

With the passing of another tax deadline, I thought it would be helpful to go over the consequences of not filing your tax return on time. If you have not filed your 2016 tax return, file it as soon as possible to minimize the penalties that you may owe.

There are three types of payments that could be assessed if you do not pay the tax owed on time. These are late filing penalties, late payment penalties, and interest.

If you owe taxes and don’t file your tax return or extension by the original due date, or if you filed an extension but fail to file your return by the extension due date you will be subject to late filing penalties.

The late filing penalty is 5% of the tax owed for every month your return is late, up to a maximum of 25%. If you fail to file your return for over 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the lesser of $205 (for 2016) or 100% of the unpaid tax due.

Late payment penalties could be assessed if you do not pay all of the taxes you owe. These apply if you do not pay all of the taxes owed by the original due date, regardless of whether or not you filed an extension. The late filing penalty is 0.5% of the tax owed for each month the tax remains unpaid, up to a maximum of 25%.

If both penalties apply to you the monthly penalty would be 5%, up to maximum penalty of 25%.

You will also be charged interest on any unpaid taxes starting the day after the return’s due date.

If you correctly expect to get a refund there is no penalty. You have three years to file from the due date or you will no longer be eligible for your refund.

 

 

The Tax Aspects of Disasters like Hurricane Harvey

07/09/17 2:35 pm | Comments (0) | Posted By:

Between Hurricane Harvey, the fast-approaching Hurricane Irma and the various wildfires ravaging the west, unfortunately natural disasters have been all too common this summer.

The last thing on anyone’s mind living in those areas is taxes, but nonetheless, there are various tax aspects of a disaster that people should be aware of. Fortunately, this is one area that the IRS makes rapid decisions to help those in need. Below is a sampling of the latest relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey from the IRS. Those impacted by disasters should check the IRS’s page frequently as other disasters may get similar relief from the IRS in the near future.

  •  The IRS has provided special relief to encourage leave-based donation programs. Under these programs, employees may forgo their vacation, sick or personal leave in exchange for cash payments the employer makes, before Jan. 1, 2019, to charitable organizations providing relief for the victims of this disaster. The donated leave will not be included in the income or wages of the employees. Employers will be permitted to deduct the cash payments as business expenses.
  •  401(k)s and similar employer-sponsored retirement plans can make loans and hardship distributions to victims of Hurricane Harvey and members of their families who live or work in disaster area localities affected by Hurricane Harvey and designated for individual assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). For a complete list of eligible counties, visit The FEMA Disaster website page. To qualify for this relief, hardship withdrawals must be made by Jan. 31, 2018. In addition, the six-month ban on 401(k) and 403(b) contributions that normally affects employees who take hardship distributions will not apply.
  •  Hurricane Harvey victims in parts of Texas and any area designated by FEMA as qualifying for individual assistance (currently 18 counties are eligible) have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. This includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out on Oct. 16, and businesses with extensions that run out on Sept. 15. This also includes the Sept. 15, 2017 and Jan. 16, 2018 deadlines for making quarterly estimated tax payments. In addition, the IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area.

Finally, for those who want to help and support those victims of any natural disaster, be cautious of who you make donations to. In order for donations to be tax deductible, they must be made to recognized charitable organizations under the IRS. For instance, Go Fund Me donations are typically not deductible as they go to a person and not a charitable organization. If you are donating online, make sure you are on the legitimate website for the charity. Unfortunately, it is all too common for charity scams to pop up during disasters with fake websites that are very similar to legitimate ones. You should ensure that the organization clearly has their Employee Identification Number (EIN) posted and you can use that and their name to check their exempt status on the IRS website. If you are donating a significant sum, that little bit of homework on your part is well worth it.

 

Elvis should have hired a CPA before he left the building

13/07/17 11:13 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

Recently I had the delight to visit Graceland, Elvis Presley’s former home and now an excellent place to reflect on Elvis’ life and get taken back in time to the 1970s. There I viewed many of Elvis’ cars including his pink Cadillac, a couple Rolls Royce’s and Mercedes, Lincolns and his Ferrari. His home was just how he left it back in 1977 with his dozen TVs scattered throughout the home, shag carpeting and roof, the colorful kitchen, his dad’s old office, and many other furnishings that were a flashback to the 70s.

As a CPA and tax guy, I was also fascinated with the financial documents that were displayed detailing many of Elvis’ large purchases and even his dad’s tax return after he was born showing he paid 1% tax on his income . Elvis must have trusted his dad immensely as there were dozens of checks signed by Elvis’ father Vernon as Vernon took care of all of his son’s finances. This is surprising given that Vernon spent a year in jail during Elvis’s childhood for check forgery and only had an eighth grade education.

Elvis would have benefited immensely if he would have utilized a CPA to assist his dad in tax planning and financial management. Even though Elvis was the largest U.S. taxpayer in 1973 and the highest paid entertainer for many years, he died with an estate worth “only” $10.2 million dollars. Apparently Elvis didn’t like to utilize pertinent tax deductions and had a horrible deal with his manager Colonel Tom Parker, who received over 50% of Elvis’ earnings . Parker even convinced Vernon to pay him 50% of the income from the Elvis’ estate after he died! With this mismanagement, Elvis’ estate lost $9 million in value over two years, and was only worth $1 million in 1979.

Many lessons can be learned with Elvis, but one financially is the importance of trusts for estate planning in which attorneys can be invaluable and utilizing competent and qualified CPAs to assist with tax, estate and financial planning.

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