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Tax Scams – Watch Out For New Tricks!

24/09/15 1:16 pm | Comments (0) | Posted By:

For many years now, the IRS has been continually warning the public about the ever-changing tax scams used by individuals to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers. These schemes can take place by mail, email, or over the phone and most often involve tricking the taxpayer into giving up personal financial information or intimidating the taxpayer into making fake tax payments directly to the scammer. On August 6, 2015, the IRS released yet another warning to taxpayers alerting them to new variations of these scams.

One of the most common schemes is deception over the phone by impersonating an agent of the IRS or another governmental agency. The new variation of this scheme involves the use of technology. Nowadays, scammers have the ability to change what shows up on a taxpayer’s caller ID to make it appear as if it is a legitimate call from the IRS or another agency, such as the DMV. In addition, to make the call seem genuine, they will gather as much of the taxpayer’s online personal information as possible. Finally, they will use false names, titles, and badge numbers to try to establish their fraudulent identities.

Another way to deceive taxpayers is by mail. In some circumstances, scammers will duplicate official IRS letterhead and direct taxpayers to the nearest bank or business at which they can make payments. Some fraudsters will even provide an actual IRS address to which the victim can send his or her proof of payment.

The IRS stresses that the underlying factor of these scams is fear. Scammers will often use threats of arrest, deportation, or license revocation. In addition, they will emphasize that the matter is urgent and requires immediate attention. The IRS also highlights that while scammers used to only target vulnerable individuals, such as elderly taxpayers or taxpayers whose first language is not English, this is no longer the case. Today, any taxpayer is at risk. In fact, according to the IRS, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received approximately 600,000 complaints since October 2013. In addition, there have been over 4,000 victims with a combined total of $20 million in financial losses due to these scams.

In order to protect yourself, here are a few of the tips that the IRS has listed on its website. The IRS will never:

  • Insist on immediate payment over the phone
  • Call about taxes owed without having first corresponded through mail
  • Make threats to bring in local police to arrest you
  • Compel you to use a specific means of payment

For more information on how to protect yourself or what to do if you find yourself a target, go to the IRS website.

 

 

High Potential or High Performer. Which One Are You?

10/09/15 2:32 pm | Comments (0) | Posted By:

 

I was intrigued by the article “High Performers and High-Potential Employees Are Not One in the Same” , by Andre Lavoie.  So I did a bit more investigation and found some other references out there. The consensus was:

High Performers achieve your goals today.

High Potentials help you achieve your future.

High-potentials have the ability and aspiration to be successful leaders within an organization. A high-performer may also have high potential but not necessarily. They may be great at their job and take pride in their work and accomplishments, but don’t have the potential (or desire) to assume a leadership role. Lavoie lined out four traits of high potentials vs. high performers:

1. Proactive vs. reactive – High potentials take a proactive approach to problem-solving, planning for the future versus waiting until a problem occurs and reacting.

2. Leaders vs. followers – High-potentials are characterized by their ability to go above and beyond. They don’t leave the office the second the clock strikes five. They don’t focus on themselves but on the team as a whole.

3. Receptive vs. unreceptive to feedback – Employees who are truly receptive to feedback will take immediate action, not to save their own skin, but to become an all-around better worker. Employees with high potential will avoid making the same mistake twice.

4. Knowing the business vs. knowing the job – High performers and high potentials both strive to reach peak performance, but high potentials aim above that peak. They can clearly see how their work contributes to overall success and set out to achieve the company vision through achieving their individual work goals. Whereas high performers seek to do well as individuals, high potentials desire to do well as a company. High potentials have that entrepreneurial spirit.

So what should companies be looking to retain? High performers for today. But high potentials for tomorrow. And we need those future leaders. These are the high potentials you should be identifying and sending to leadership development programs. Everyone need not apply.

 

Did you buy a new home this summer? – Basis tracking and accounting can save you thousands in the future.

02/09/15 11:17 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

 

The housing market is beginning to turn around in Nevada over the last couple years. Data provided by Trulia.com indicates that twice as many home sales occurred in 2015 when compared to the bottom of the market in 2009. Many home owners who either lost, or liquidated, their homes over the past several years are finally in a stable financial position to get back into the market.

Many of the homes that are being purchased during this period of growth are those that have either been left vacant for years, require some refurbishing, or need massive upgrades and overhauls to qualify for lending, or to even be livable! Even new homes require additional capital influx in order to complete the front or backyard landscaping.

When we purchase a house, many of us use this required influx of capital to negotiate down the current selling price. But how many of us keep track how much actual additional capital we put back into the house after the sale has been completed? Improvements and substantial repairs such as landscaping, a new roof, fencing, etc., should be accounted for and included in your basis (capital costs) of your home. Keeping track of and having the appropriate record keeping of, these improvements can save you thousands of dollars in capital gains, and possibly net investment income tax, when you decide to sell the home in the future. Even if you decide that renting the home is a better course of action, having an accurate recordkeeping of the basis will allow you to depreciate the maximum allowable amount in order to reduce the rental income created from the business use of the property.

Keeping track of your basis in real property is an important part of homeownership that many of us forget about until it is time to sell. Twenty years from now, will you remember how much you paid the landscaper to put in a sprinkler system? Probably not. So help your future self out of a headache, and probably save a couple bucks, and keep track of those expenditures that you put into your new home. And after you are done, sit down on that new patio with a cold drink and relax, you’ve earned it.

 

 

Presidential candidate tax returns show how tax law has changed

27/08/15 3:04 pm | Comments (0) | Posted By:

Like almost all presidential candidates trying to be transparent to their voters, Jeb Bush recently released tax returns dating back to 1981 and going through 2013.

I could write the standard blog on how Mr. Bush’s income went from nothing in the 1980’s to topping $1,000,000 for many years in the 90’s, becoming in the low six figures in the 2000’s while he was governor to ballooning to over $2,000,000 for almost every year after 2007. How his income went above $6,000,000 for 2011 & 2013 while he was getting rich from speaking fees and consulting for banks. Or I could write about how his net worth has gone up 14 times since he left the governor’s mansion in Florida in 2007 or question how he got in excess of $1,000,000 consulting for Lehman Bros and over $10,000,000 in speaking fees since 2007.

But as a Reno CPA that wasn’t practicing during the 1980s & 1990s, I found it interesting how much the tax code has changed just from reviewing Mr. Bush’s return. For instance, when Mr. Bush sold his first home in 1981 he wasn’t allowed to exclude from income up to $500,000 from the sale of his primary residence as taxpayers can now. His gain of $34,980 decreased the basis in his new residence he purchased to give him a higher gain and tax in the future when that home was sold.

I also found it interesting how in the 1980s political contributions were allowed to be deducted and up until 1986 charitable contributions were deducted without having to itemize on Schedule A. This was the same in 1983 when employee business expenses were an above the line deduction; today they must be on Schedule A and less than 2% of adjusted gross income. There was also the deduction for married couples that both worked that was present in the tax code in 1982, which Mr. Bush and his wife did not utilize. In the 1980s it was also possible to deduct interest expense on credit cards and car loans as a personal interest expense. With the somewhat new tax regulations associated with the Affordable Care Act and constant bickering and promises by Congress about changing the tax code I’m sure in 20 years the tax code will again be drastically different.

 

Want to start a family? It helps to be financially prepared!

20/08/15 11:37 am | Comments (0) | Posted By:

When preparing to start a family, it is important to look at your finances, and assess your current financial situation. You are not always in a situation where you can do this, but if you can plan this ahead of time it could help ease some worry to know you are financially prepared. There is no exact amount you need to have saved when preparing to add a new family member, but it is important to make sure you have the bare essentials covered.

There are many added expenses that come with having a baby. A good way to plan for all of these new expenses will be to assess what is essential and put them at the top of your list to save for. A good way to limit your spending on some of the items needed would be to try to borrow them or buy them used.

Start looking at your financial situation by tracking all of your expenses to see if your income is covering your current expenses and determine if you have additional money left over. It is recommended to do this for at least a month, but this should only be used as a guideline since your monthly spending will vary, and this wouldn’t account for seasonal changes. Once you have listed your expenses, go through them and separate the items you need verse the ones you can go without. This will be helpful to determine the areas that you could limit your spending to help save.

When looking at your monthly income, it is important to factor in the difference in earnings that will occur when you are on maternity leave. Check to see what your company’s policy is for maternity leave. This can make a large difference to your monthly income if your plan is to take time off work and it is either unpaid or a percentage of your income.

Ideally, you should have enough savings to account for the change in your earnings over maternity leave, or if you are planning on changing your work schedules after you have the baby. It is also recommended to have an eight month emergency fund to keep you out of debt if anything unexpected occurs. It is never too early to start saving – the earlier you save the less of a burden it will be to set the money aside and get your finances in order.

 

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