Category Archives: News

April 2022 Newsletter

Welcome to tax month! Included in this month’s newsletter, read about ideas to manage your emergency fund while in our new inflationary environment and a dozen money topics every young person should understand prior to leaving the nest.

Enjoy! Please feel free to forward the information to someone who may be interested in a topic and call with any questions you may have.

Protect Your Emergency Fund From Inflation

Most financial experts suggest keeping three to six months worth of household expenses in savings to help in case of emergency. But with record inflation, that task just got a lot harder to accomplish as virtually every safe place to put your emergency funds will not provide interest rates that keep pace with inflation. But that does not mean you cannot increase the rate of return on these funds.

Here are some ideas to reduce the impact of inflation on your emergency funds.

  • Actively monitor your savings account rate. Earlier this year the Federal Reserve increased interest rates for the first time since 2018. In addition, the head of the Federal Reserve is suggesting there may be several of these rate increases in the next twelve months. This should increase the interest you can earn on the cash in your emergency account.
    What you need to know: Not all savings accounts are created equal. When the Fed increases the interest rate, your saving account rate should also go higher…immediately. But this is not always the case. If your bank is slow to raise your savings rate, be willing to monitor and shift funds to a bank that does. Just make sure the funds are still FDIC insured and are kept at a reputable bank.
  • Take a look at Series I Savings Bonds. Series I Savings bonds are issued and backed by the U.S. government and feature two interest rate components: a fixed rate and an inflation rate. The fixed rate is set when the bond is issued and never changes during the life of the bond. The inflation rate resets semi-annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
    What you need to know: You must hold an I bond for at least 12 months before redeeming it. And although you can redeem it after one year, you’ll have to pay a penalty worth the interest of the previous three months if you redeem the bond within five years. And remember, you must be prepared to pay the penalty if you need the funds for an emergency.
  • Creative use of Roth IRA funds in an emergency. Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars. Because of this, early removal of the initial contribution is tax and penalty free. If you dip into the earnings, however, you will not only be subject to income tax, but also may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty.
    What you need to know: Use of a Roth IRA is often a creative way to fund your emergency account while achieving higher returns with conservative investment choices, but it is not for the faint of heart. If you get this one wrong, it could cost you in taxes, penalties and lost fund value in a bear market. Prior to removing funds from any IRA, it makes sense to conduct a tax planning session.

Please call if you have questions about how to reduce the impact of inflation on your emergency fund.

Upcoming dates:

April 18
– Individual income tax returns for 2021 are due
– First quarter 2022 estimated tax payments are due

Common April Tax Questions Answered!

The individual tax deadline of April 18th (yes, this year it’s April 18th!) is fast approaching. Here are answers to five common questions that taxpayers typically ask in April.

1. What happens if I don’t file on time?

There’s no penalty for filing a tax return after the deadline if you are set to receive a refund. However, penalties and interest are due if taxes are not paid on time or a tax extension is not requested AND you owe tax.To avoid this problem, file your taxes as soon as you can because the penalties can pile up pretty quickly. The failure-to-file penalty is 5 percent of the unpaid tax added for each month (or part of a month) that a tax return is late.

2. Can I file for an extension?

If you are not on track to complete your tax return by April 18th, you can file an extension to give you until Oct. 17, 2022 to file your tax return. Be aware that this is only an extension of time to file — not an extension of time to pay taxes you owe. You still need to pay all taxes by April 18th to avoid penalties and interest.So even if you plan to file an extension, a preliminary review of your tax documents is necessary to determine whether or not you need to make a payment when the extension is filed.

3. What are my tax payment options?

You have many options to pay your income tax. You can mail a check, pay directly from a bank account with IRS Direct Pay, pay with a debit or credit card (for a fee), or apply online for an IRS payment plan.No matter how you pay your tax bill, finalize your tax payment arrangements by the end of the day on April 18th.

4. When will I get my refund?

According to the IRS, 90 percent of refunds for returns that are e-filed are processed in less than 21 days. You could end up waiting several months, however, if you paper file your return. The IRS is still processing a backlog of several million paper-filed tax returns from last year.You can use the Where’s My Refund? feature on the IRS website to see the status of your refund. The refund information is usually available 24 hours after receiving confirmation that your e-filed tax return was accepted by the IRS.

5. I hear the IRS is still backlogged with last year’s tax returns. Is this true?

Yes. Late changing tax legislation created tons of extra work for the IRS, all while the pandemic played havoc on staffing. During a testimony made to Congress, the Director of the IRS claims the backlog will be cleared up by the end of the year…assuming no major demands for are made on their resources.

Help Your High School Student Become Money Smart

A dozen great topics!

Often lost in the race to get kids through high school and on to life in the real world are basic financial skills. Here are a dozen financial concepts to consider explaining to your kids before graduating high school.

  1. How bank accounts work. While there are numerous online applications, consider using a good ol’ check register when teaching the basics of how to track and reconcile bank account activity.
  2. How credit cards work. Emphasize to your child that credit card spending actually creates a loan. Go through a monthly statement together and show how interest is calculated and stress the need to never carry a balance from month to month by showing how long it takes to pay off the debt with minimum payments.
  3. Tax basics. When your child receives their first paycheck, walk through their paystub to explain Social Security and Medicare taxes, federal income tax withholdings, and state tax withholdings. If they receive a Form 1099 instead of a paycheck, consider opening a savings account and explain that they will need to set aside a certain percentage of their money to pay the IRS.
  4. The power of a retirement account. Explain the advantages of long-term savings tools like an IRA. The wise saver can turn into a self-made millionaire by starting their retirement savings at a young age.
  5. How credit scores work. Consider explaining how credit scores work and the importance of keeping their score at the highest level possible. If your child is like many young adults who currently doesn’t have a credit score, consider downloading your own credit report and walk through it with them.
  6. Spend within your means. Saving first before spending is a simple concept that is becoming a lost art. Help your child understand this by setting their sights on something they want, and then help them save money to buy it.
  7. The art of saving. Part of spending within your means implies that your child has healthy savings habits. Walk your child through the techniques that work for you. Perhaps it is setting up a separate savings account or automatic transfers from a paycheck.
  8. The strength of investing. The most valuable investment a young person can make is in themselves. Whether it’s a college degree or a trade school diploma, your child can build tremendous value with skills that will provide a positive financial return each year.
  9. Understanding of stocks and mutual funds. With an understanding of investments, consider teaching your child some of the basic investments available to them. Stocks and mutual funds are the most common, but also consider explaining bonds, CD’s, annuities and other investments.
  10. Budgeting. Help your child create a basic budget, then help them track their savings and spending against this budget.
  11. Cash flow. The hard way to learn the lesson of cash flow is when bill collectors are calling and there simply isn’t money to pay them. When creating an initial budget, show your child the flow of funds each month.
  12. Calculation of net worth. Assets (what you own) minus liabilities (what you owe others) equals net worth. Every person has a net worth…even a child. So help them understand theirs and periodically calculate it.

The Benefits of Being a Sole Proprietor

Many start-up businesses move from hobby status to a business when they start to make a profit. The tax entity typically used is a sole proprietorship. Taxes on this business activity type flow through your personal tax return on a Schedule C. This business form has many benefits. Here are some to consider:

  • You can hire your kids and decrease your tax bill. As a sole proprietor, you can hire your kids and avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes for their work. While there are exceptions, this can generally save your small business over 7.65% on their wages.
  • Your kids can benefit, too. Any income your kids earn that’s less than $12,950 isn’t taxed at the federal level. So this is a great way to build a tax-free savings account for your children. Remember, though, that their work must reflect actual activity and reasonable pay. So consider hiring your kids to do copying, act as a receptionist, provide office clean up, advertising or other reasonable activities for your business.
  • Fewer tax forms and filings. As a sole proprietor, your business activity is reported on a Schedule C within your personal Form 1040 tax return. Other business types like an S corporation, C corporation or a partnership must file separate tax returns, which makes tax compliance a lot more complicated.
  • More control over revenue and expense. You often have more control over the taxable income of your small business as a sole proprietor. This can provide more flexibility in determining the timing of some of your revenue and business expenses, which can be used as a great tax planning tool.
  • Hire your spouse. If handled correctly, a spouse hired as an employee can work to your advantage as a sole proprietor. As long as the spouse is truly an employee of the business, the sole proprietor can benefit as a member of their employee’s (spouse’s) family benefits. This can include potential medical expense reimbursements.
  • Funding a retirement account. You can also reduce your business’ taxable income by placing some of the profits into a retirement account like an IRA. As a sole proprietor, you can readily manage your marginal tax rate by controlling the amount you wish to set aside in this pre-tax retirement account.
  • It’s not all roses. While there are many benefits of running your business as a sole proprietor, don’t forget the drawbacks. One of the most significant drawbacks is the lack of personal legal protection, which is a feature in other business forms like corporations and Limited Liability Companies. Most sole proprietors address this with proper business insurance, so do not overlook the need to find coverage for yourself.

Please call if you have questions about your sole proprietor business.

March 2022 Newsletter

Tax season is now underway!

In this month’s newsletter, we share the secret to getting a quick tax refund. Also read about tax saving tips for parents and grandparents, why you should consider reading the fine print, and several financial tips about how to navigate rising interest rates.

Please enjoy the information, and pass along articles of interest to all your family and friends. And as always, please call if you have questions or need help.

Debt: Gone But Not Forgotten by the IRS

With the ups and downs of our economy over the last 2 years, you may have had a loan or credit card balance forgiven or cancelled by a financial institution. You would think that the cancellation of debt by a credit card company or mortgage company would be a good thing for you and your family. And it can be, but it can also be considered taxable income by the IRS. Here is a quick review of various debt cancellation situations.

  • Consumer debt. If you have gone through some type of credit workout program on consumer debt, it’s likely that some of your debt has been cancelled. If that is the case, be prepared to receive IRS Form 1099-C representing the amount of debt cancelled. The IRS considers that amount taxable income to you, and they expect to see it reported on your tax return. The exception is if you file for bankruptcy. With bankruptcy, generally the debt cancelled is not taxable.

    Even if you are not legally bankrupt, you might be technically insolvent where your liabilities exceed your assets. If this is the case, you can exclude your debt cancellation income by reporting your financial condition and filing IRS Form 982 with your tax return.

  • Primary home. If your home is short sold or foreclosed and the lender receives less than the total amount of the outstanding loan, expect that amount of debt cancellation to be reported to you and the IRS. But special rules allow you to exclude up to $2 million in cancellation income in many circumstances. You will again need to complete IRS Form 982, but the exclusion from taxable income brought about by the debt cancellation on your primary residence is incredibly liberal. So make sure to take advantage of these rules should they apply to you.
  • Student loans. If your school closes while enrolled or soon after you withdraw, you may be eligible to discharge your federal student loan and not include the forgiven amount as taxable income. You also may be eligible to exclude from taxable income any student loans discharged due to your school misleading you or engaging in other misconduct in violation of certain state laws.
  • Second home, rental property, investment property, business property. The rules for debt cancellation on second homes, rental property, and investment or business property can be extremely complicated. Given your cost of these properties, your financial condition, and the amount of debt cancelled, it’s still possible to have this debt cancellation income taxed at a preferred capital gains rate, or even considered not taxable at all.

Please call if you have questions about how a cancellation of debt situation applies to you.

Upcoming Dates:

March 15
– Due date for partnership and S corporation tax returns (Forms 1065, 1120S)

Reminders
– Daylight saving time begins Sunday, March 13

The Secret to a Quick Tax Refund

Here’s how to get your overpayment as soon as possible

Delayed tax refunds, penalties for not filing 2020 tax returns on time that were actually filed on time, and timely tax payments being flagged as late are just some of the headaches taxpayers are grappling with due to a massive backlog of several million unprocessed tax returns the IRS is trying to wade out from under.

Here’s how to avoid getting your tax refund delayed and steer clear from late-filing and payment penalties resulting from the IRS backlog:

What you need to know

  • E-file your return! The secret to getting a quick tax refund is to e-file your 2021 tax return! The IRS says approximately 90% of the more than 160 million individual tax returns expected for the 2021 tax year will be e-filed. The majority of these taxpayers will avoid any issues filing their return and getting their refund. If you do e-file, don’t forget to sign Form 8879, which authorizes the e- filing of your return.
  • Stay calm if you receive a letter from the IRS. You may receive an IRS notice indicating you have an unfiled tax return or that you have an unpaid balance on your account. If the notice was mailed because of the backlog and you indeed filed the tax return in question or paid the amount due listed, the IRS says there is no need to call or respond to the notice as it’s continuing to process prior year tax returns as quickly as possible.
  • Certified mail is your friend. If you receive an IRS notice for a situation not related to the backlog, you’ll want to respond in a timely fashion via certified mail. This will provide proof of your timely correspondence. So even if your response gets lost or caught up in the backlog, you’ll have evidence that you responded by the deadline listed on the notice. Remember that delays in responses could generate penalties and additional interest payments.
  • Be patient if you need to talk with the IRS. The IRS received a record 282 million phone calls during its 2021 fiscal year, according to National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins. Only 32 million of these calls were answered. Collins said the best time to call the IRS are Wednesdays through Fridays, especially early mornings starting at 7 am Eastern time.

Review Financial Decisions When Interest Rates Change

Interest rates are expected to increase this year in response to inflation that is running at a 40-year high. How will you be affected?

Any interest rate revision can cause a ripple effect throughout the economy. Accordingly, the Federal Reserve’s actions probably will exert at least a moderate influence over financial choices that you may make at home and in your business in 2022 and beyond.

Savings and debt

As a consumer, you stand to gain from rising interest rates because you’ll likely earn a better return on your deposits. Over the last ten years, placing your money in a certificate of deposit or passbook savings account has been hardly more profitable than stuffing it under a mattress. On the other hand, the cost of borrowing money will likely increase. As a result, mortgages, car loans, and credit cards will demand higher interest rates. That’s not a big deal if you’re already locked into low-interest fixed-rate loans. But if you have a variable rate loan or carry balances on your credit cards, you may find your monthly payments starting to increase.

Investments

On the investment front, market volatility may increase because rate increases are not completely predictable. Market sectors will likely exhibit varied responses to changes in interest rates. Those sectors that are less dependent on discretionary income may be less affected – after all, you need to buy gas, clothes, and groceries regardless of changes in interest rates.
As you adjust your financial plan, you might only need to make minor changes. Staying the course with a well-diversified retirement portfolio is still a prudent strategy. However, you may want to review your investment allocations.

Your Business

Rising interest rates can also affect your business. If your company’s balance sheet has variable-rate debt, rising interest rates can affect your bottom line and possibly your plans for growth. As the cost of borrowing increases, taking out loans for new equipment or financing expansion with credit may become less desirable.

Please call if you have questions about deciding on the most beneficial response to potential future changes in interest rates.

Tax Saving Tips for Parents AND Grandparents

Leveraging the kiddie tax rules

With careful tax planning, you can use the kiddie tax rules to reduce your tax obligation. Here’s what you need to know.

Background

The term kiddie tax was introduced by the Tax Reform Act of 1986. The rules are intended to keep parents from shifting their investment income to their children to have it taxed at their child’s lower tax rate. In 2022 the law requires a child’s unearned income (generally dividends, interest, and capital gains) above $2,300 be taxed at their parent’s tax rate.

Who the Kiddie Tax Applies To

  • Children under the age of 18
  • Full-time students under the age of 24 and providing less than half of their own financial support
  • Children with unearned incomes above $2,300

Who/What the Kiddie Tax Does NOT Apply To

  • Earned income (wages and self-employed income from things like babysitting or paper routes)
  • Children that are age 18 or older and have earnings providing more than half of their support
  • Gifts received by your child during the year

How the Kiddie Tax Works

  • The first $1,150 of unearned income is generally tax-free
  • The next $1,150 of unearned income is taxed at the child’s (usually lower) tax rate
  • The excess over $2,300 is taxed at the parent’s rate

Tax Planning With the Kiddie Tax Rules

While your child’s unearned income above $2,300 is a problem, you will still want to leverage the tax advantage up to this amount. Here are some ideas:

  • Maximize your lower tax investment options. Look for gains in your child’s investment accounts to maximize the use of your child’s kiddie tax threshold each year. You could consider selling stocks to capture your child’s investment gains and then buy the stock back later to establish a higher cost basis.
  • Be careful where you report a child’s unearned income. Don’t automatically add your child’s unearned income to your tax return. It might inadvertently raise your taxes in surprising ways by reducing your tax benefits in other programs like the American Opportunity Credit.
  • Leverage gift giving. If your children are not maximizing tax-free investment income each year, consider gifting funds to allow for unearned income up to the kiddie tax thresholds. Just be careful, as these assets can have an impact on a child’s financial aid when approaching college age years.

Properly managed, the kiddie tax rules can be used to your advantage. But be careful, this part of the tax code can create an unwelcome surprise if not handled properly.

February 2022 Newsletter

With tax season now officially underway, you’ll start seeing more and more tax documents show up in your inbox or mailbox. And this year, there are some unusual ones arriving, so outlined here is what to expect. Plus, there is a great article discussing common areas of tax surprises and some great ideas for you if you have a home-based hobby or business.

Please enjoy the information and pass along articles of interest to all your family and friends. And as always, please call if you have questions or need help.

Easy-to-Overlook Tax Documents

This year is a little more challenging.

With tax season now officially underway, here are several tax documents that may be easy to miss in your mailbox or inbox:

Child tax credit letter

From July through December 2021, the IRS paid out 50% of projected child tax credit payments to qualified households. The IRS is sending out a recap of these advance payments in Letter 6419 that you can use to correctly account for these payments on your tax return. This letter should have arrived in your mailbox by late January.

Stimulus payment letter

The IRS issued millions of economic impact payments in 2021. The IRS is mailing a summary of these payments you received in Letter 6475. As with the child tax credit letter, you can use this letter to accurately report your economic impact payments on your tax return. This letter also should have arrived in your mailbox by late January.

Identification PIN

The IRS may have assigned you an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) to help protect your identity. An IP PIN is a six-digit number that prevents someone else from filing a tax return using your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. This IP PIN is known only to you and the IRS. If you are a confirmed victim of tax-related identity theft and the IRS has resolved your tax account issues, the IRS will mail you a CP01A Notice with your new IP PIN each year.

Corrected tax forms

If an error is discovered on a tax form you’ve already received, a corrected version will be created, then mailed to both you and the IRS. You can also request a corrected tax form if you believe you found an error. Here are some of the forms you might see with corrections:

  • Form W-2 from your employer that shows corrected wages, salary and taxes withheld
  • Form 1099-INT or Form 1099-DIV from your investment broker that shows a revision in interest and dividend income
  • Form 1099-NEC from a client to whom you provide services
  • Form 1098 that shows how much mortgage or student loan interest you’ve paid

You may not be aware you were issued a corrected tax form until it shows up in your mailbox (or inbox). If you do receive a corrected form, don’t throw the old version away! Save both the original version and corrected version in case either are needed for future reference. Often the ease of filing your tax return is dependent on having the correct information, so remember to look for everything, including these often overlooked forms.

Reminders

– Organize filing records (1099s, 1098s, W-2s, etc.)
– Schedule tax appointment meeting, in person or via Zoom/Phone Call
– Begin tax planning for 2022

I Owe Tax on That?

5 Surprising Taxable Items

Wages and self-employment earnings are taxable, but what about the random cash or financial benefits you receive through other means? If something of value changes hands, you can bet the IRS considers a way to tax it. Here are five taxable items that might surprise you:

  1. Scholarships and financial aid. Applying for scholarships and financial aid are top priorities for parents of college-bound children. But be careful — if any part of the award your child receives goes toward anything except tuition, it might be taxable. This could include room, board, books, travel expenses or aid received in exchange for work (e.g., tutoring or research).
    Tip: When receiving an award, review the details to determine if any part of it is taxable. Don’t forget to review state rules as well. While most scholarships and aid are tax-free, no one needs a tax surprise.
  2. Gambling winnings. Hooray! You hit the trifecta for the Kentucky Derby. But guess what? Technically, all gambling winnings are taxable, including casino games, lottery tickets and sports betting. Thankfully, the IRS allows you to deduct your gambling losses (to the extent of winnings) as an itemized deduction, so keep good records.
    Tip: Know when the gambling establishment is required to report your winnings. It varies
    by type of betting. For instance, the filing threshold for winnings from fantasy sports betting and horse racing is $600, while slot machines and bingo are typically $1,200. But beware, the gambling facility and state requirements may lower the limit.
  3. Unemployment compensation. Congress gave taxpayers a one-year reprieve in 2021 from paying taxes on unemployment income. Unfortunately, this tax break did not get extended for the 2022 tax year. So unless Congress passes a law extending the 2021 tax break, unemployment will once again be taxable starting with your 2022 tax return.
    Tip: If you are collecting unemployment, you can either have taxes withheld and receive the net amount or make estimated payments to cover the tax liability.
  4. Social Security benefits. If your income is high enough after you retire, you could owe income taxes on up to 85% of Social Security benefits you receive.
    Tip: Consider if delaying when you start collecting Social Security benefits makes sense for you. Waiting to start benefits means you’ll avoid paying taxes on your Social Security benefits for now, plus you’ll get a bigger payment each month you delay until you reach age 70.
  5. Alimony. Prior to 2019, alimony was generally deductible by the person making alimony payments, with the recipient generally required to report alimony payments received as taxable income. Now the situation is flipped: For divorce and separation agreements executed since December 31, 2018, alimony is no longer deductible by the payer and alimony payments received are not reported as income.
    Tip: Alimony payments no longer need to be made in cash. Consider having the low-income earning spouse take more retirement assets such as 401(k)s and IRAs in exchange for reduced alimony payments. This arrangement would allow the higher-earning spouse to make alimony payments by transferring retirement funds without paying income taxes on it.

When in doubt, it’s a good idea to keep accurate records so your tax liability can be correctly calculated and you don’t get stuck paying more than what’s required.

Great Tips for Your Home-Based Business

Home-based businesses can be financially rewarding and provide a certain amount of flexibility with your day-to-day schedule. Here are some tips to keep your business running at full steam.

  • Stay on top of accounts receivable. It’s easy to get caught up with fulfilling your business obligations while invoices you’ve sent out go unpaid. Agree to payment terms in advance with new customers and immediately – but politely – communicate with them as soon as they miss a payment deadline. Keep current with regular invoicing and collections.
  • Keep your bookkeeping records up to date. You may not realize you have an unpaid invoice that’s several months old unless your bookkeeping is up to date. Keeping accurate books involves more than balancing your bank accounts once a month. In addition to your monitoring your bank accounts, also consistently look at your accounts receivable, accounts payable, any debts (credit card, car loans or other borrowings), and all money you invest in your business. Ask for help if you don’t have enough time to do the bookkeeping yourself, or if you need help properly setting up your bookkeeping software.
  • Check on permit requirements. Depending on what type of home-based business you have, you may be required to obtain various permits, licenses, or other registrations. If you have not already done so, check with your town or city for local requirements. The Small Business Administration is also a good source to research information on permits.
  • Get insured. Obtain adequate insurance for the type of operation you’ll be running. Besides the insurance required for business activities, you might consider adding a rider to your homeowner’s policy for liability protection should an accident occur on your property.
  • Stay on top of technology. While you may not need a top-of-the-line computer, be sure that the technology equipment you use can handle the bandwidth of everything you’ll ask it to do, including video calls, software apps and data storage. Also consider scheduling a time for your internet provider to visit your home to make sure everything is in working order and your security protocols are top notch. Have a back-up plan in place for when a device breaks down, including where you’ll go to have it repaired.
  • Cash in on tax breaks. Take advantage of the tax breaks available to home-based businesses, including deductions for supplies, equipment, and vehicle expenses. You may even be able to deduct the cost of your home office, including a pro-rated amount of your real estate taxes and utilities, if certain conditions are met.
  • Set aside money to pay your taxes. Ask for help to calculate how much of your incoming cash you should be setting aside to pay your federal, state, and local taxes. Consider opening a separate bank account to transfer your tax money into.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have.

Cryptocurrency: The IRS is Watching You!

Whether you own cryptocurrency or not, everyone should know the tax rules surrounding this type of property as it becomes more popular. If you have one take away regarding cryptocurrency, it should be this: Remember that Uncle Sam is watching you!

Here’s what you need to know about the IRS and cryptocurrency:

Background

The IRS generally considers cryptocurrency—also referred to as virtual currency or digital currency—to be property, just like stocks and bonds for federal income tax purposes.

Therefore, if you sell cryptocurrency at a gain, it is subject to capital gains tax. Similarly, you may claim a capital loss on the sale or other disposition of cryptocurrency. But that’s not all: Anytime you exchange cryptocurrency for actual currency, goods or services, the IRS says it’s a taxable event.

Say that you hold Bitcoin for longer than one year and then sell it at a gain. The gain is taxable up to 20%. High-income taxpayers may also need to pay a 3.8% surtax on the cryptocurrency gain. Accordingly, you can use a loss from a cryptocurrency sale to offset capital gains plus up to $3,000 of ordinary income. Any excess is carried over to the following tax year.

The IRS Is Watching You!

Cryptocurrency transactions often flew under the radar, but the IRS is now paying much closer attention. Here’s how the IRS is stepping up enforcement efforts:

  • Answer a Form 1040 question. The IRS is so concerned about cryptocurrency transactions being reported that they have a cryptocurrency question on Page 1 of your tax return, just below your name. Before filling out any part of your tax return, the IRS wants you to answer a question about whether you received, sold, exchanged, or otherwise disposed of any financial interest in any virtual currency.
  • Brokers must report transactions. After 7 years of gently prodding taxpayers to self-report cryptocurrency transactions, Congress has given the green light for the IRS to obtain cost basis and sales proceeds information for all crypto transactions directly from brokers (such as CoinBase, Electrum or Mycelium) or other individuals who regularly provide digital asset transfer services on behalf of other people. Similar to the reporting of stocks and bonds, taxpayers will receive a Form 1099-B from brokers that list all crypto transactions. These new reporting rules are effective beginning January 1, 2023.
  • Expanded $10,000 reporting requirement. Businesses that accept virtual currency as payment may be required to report transactions above $10,000 to the IRS beginning January 1, 2023. In an interesting twist, cryptocurrency and other digital assets would be considered cash for purposes of the $10,000 reporting requirement, while the IRS will continue to treat cryptocurrency as real property (and not cash) for tax compliance purposes.

What you need to do

Here are some suggestions for tracking and reporting your cryptocurrency transactions on your tax return:

  • Keep up-to-date records. Consider tracking each transaction as they occur throughout the year. You may also want to keep your own transaction ledger as a way to double-check the accuracy of your broker’s statements.
  • Set aside money to pay taxes. Consider saving a certain percentage of each cryptocurrency transaction you sell at a gain for taxes you may need to pay.
  • Be aware before you dive into cryptocurrency. As you can see, being involved in cryptocurrency may not be for everyone. Wild swings in valuation are common. Reporting requirements are complicated.

January 2022 Newsletter


The new year is upon us and so is another tax filing season.

With all the late breaking tax law changes, advance payments of the child tax credit, and several stimulus payments, this year’s tax return may be a bit chaotic. But your situation does not have to be. Included in this month’s newsletter are some tips to help your tax journey be a smooth one. There are also timely updates to retirement plan contribution limits for 2022 and a great list of ideas to help your small business prepare for the upcoming tax season.

Please enjoy the information and pass along articles of interest to all your family and friends. And as always, please call if you have questions or need help.

Ideas to Improve Your Financial Health in 2022

A new year. New resolutions. Here are five ideas to consider to help improve your financial health in the upcoming year.

  1. Save more for retirement. Plan for the future by feathering your retirement nest egg. For instance, you can contribute up to $20,500 to a 401(k) account in 2022, plus another $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older. Plus, your company may provide matching contributions up to a stated percentage of compensation. And you can supplement this account with contributions to IRAs and/or other qualified plans.
  2. Update your estate plan. Now is a good time to review your will and make any necessary adjustments. For example, your will may need to be updated due to births, deaths, marriages or divorces in the family or other changes in your personal circumstances. Also review trust documents, powers of attorney (POAs) and healthcare directives or create new ones to facilitate your estate plan.
  3. Rebalance your portfolio. Due to the volatility of equity markets, it’s easy for a portfolio to lose balance against your investment objectives. To bring things back to where you want, review your investments periodically and reallocate funds to reflect your main objectives, risk tolerance, and other personal preferences. This will put you in a better position to handle the ups and downs of the markets.
  4. Review, consolidate, and lower debt levels. One sure-fire method for improving your financial health is to spend less and save more. Start by chipping away at any existing debts. This may mean giving up some luxuries, but it’s generally well worth it in the long run. Pay extra attention to debts with high interest charges like credit card debt. If possible, consider consolidating several of these debts into one or two obligations if you can lower your interest rate in the process.
  5. Contingency planning. No one can foresee every twist and turn that 2022 will take. To avoid potential financial hardship, look to improve your emergency fund by setting aside enough funds to pay for six months or more of your expenses in case of events like a job loss or a severe health issue.

These five tips can help you thrive in 2022!

Upcoming dates:

January 17
– Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 18
– 4th quarter installment of 2021 estimated income tax is due for individuals, calendar-year corporations and calendar-year trusts & estates

Start tax filing for 2021
– Organize filing records (1099s, 1098s, W-2s and other records)
– Schedule tax appointment for drop off or meeting; in-person or virtual

Begin tax planning for 2022
– Create a budget
– Adjust your withholdings
– Rebalance investment portfolios

Make Order Out of Chaos

Prepare for this year’s tax return filing season.

Tax return filing season usually gets a little crazy, but this year will be more turbulent than most. Due to new tax legislation and guidance from the IRS, you will have to cope with a wide variety of tax changes, some of which relate to the pandemic. Here are several tips for making some order out of the chaos.

Unemployment benefits

Unemployment benefits are taxable once again in 2021. In 2020, the first $10,200 of benefits received by taxpayers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $150,000 were exempt from tax. Unfortunately the tax-free nature of unemployment benefits in 2020 was made long after many of you filed your tax return. If this pertains to you, and you haven’t received a refund from a tax overpayment yet, you might need to file an amended 2020 tax return.

Small business loans

To kick start the economy during the pandemic, Congress created a loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Similarly, your small business might have received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) or grant. These loans may be forgiven in 2021 without any adverse tax consequences if certain conditions were met. So gather your records—including what you received and when—for optimal tax protection.

Economic impact payments

Congress handed out three rounds of Economic Impact Payments to individuals in 2020 and 2021. The third payment provided a maximum of $1,400 per person, including dependents, subject to a phaseout. For single filers, the phaseout begins at $75,000 of AGI; $150,000 for joint filers. So review your records and be very clear what payments you received in 2021. Only then can you use your 2021 tax return to ensure you receive credit for your full stimulus payments.

Child tax credit

Many families will benefit from an enhanced Child Tax Credit (CTC) on their 2021 tax return. The new rules provide a credit of up to $3,000 per qualifying child ages 6 through 17 ($3,600 per qualifying child under age six), subject to a phaseout beginning at $75,000 of AGI for single filers and $150,000 for joint filers. What will complicate this year’s tax filing are any advance payments you received from the IRS during the second half of 2021. It is important that you accurately identify all the payments you received. Only then can correct adjustments be made on your tax return to ensure you receive the full Child Tax Credit amount.

Dependent care credit

The available dependent care credit for qualified expenses incurred in 2021 is much higher than 2020, with a corresponding increase in phaseout levels. The maximum credit for households with an AGI up to $125,000 is $4,000 for one under-age-13 child and $8,000 for two or more children. The credit is gradually reduced, then disappears completely if your AGI exceeds $440,000.

Due to the ongoing debate of proposed legislation in Washington, D.C., this year’s tax filing season will seem a bit chaotic. With proper preparation, though, your situation can be orderly…but only if you prepare!

Small Business Tax Return To-Do List

Eight ideas to make filing your tax return easier

Consider these suggestions for helping to make tax season smooth sailing this year for your small business:

  1. Make your estimated tax payments. Tuesday, January 18th is the due date to make your 4th quarter payment for the 2021 tax year. Now is also the time to create an initial estimate for first quarter 2022 tax payments. The due date for this payment is Monday, April 18.
  2. Reconcile your bank accounts. Preparing an accurate tax return starts with accurate books. Reconciling your bank accounts is the first step in this process. Consider it the cornerstone on which you build your financials and your tax return. Up-to-date cash accounts will also give you confidence that you’re not over-reporting (or under-reporting!) income on your tax return.
  3. Organize those nasty credit card statements. If you use credit cards for your business, develop an expense report for these expenditures, if you have not already done so. The report should recap the credit card bill and place the transactions in the correct expense accounts. Attach actual copies of the expenses in the credit card statement. You will need this to support any sales tax paid in case of an audit. Use this exercise to show you are only including business-related expenses by reimbursing your business for any personal use of the card.
  4. Reconcile accounts payable. One of the first tax deadlines for many businesses is issuing 1099 forms to vendors and contractors at the end of January. Get your accounts payable and cash disbursements up-to-date so you have an accurate account of which vendors you paid.
  5. Get your information reporting in order. Now identify anyone you paid during the year that will need a 1099. Look for vendors that are not incorporated like consultants or those in the gig economy and don’t forget your attorneys. You will need names, addresses, identification numbers (like Social Security numbers) and amounts billed. Send out W-9s as soon as possible to request missing information.
  6. File employee-related tax forms. If you have employees, file all necessary W-2 and W-3 forms, along with the applicable federal and state payroll returns (Forms 940 and 941). Do this as soon as possible in January to allow time to identify any potential problems.
  7. Compile a list of major purchases. Prepare a list of any purchases you made during 2021 that resulted in your business receiving an invoice for $2,500 or more. Once the list is compiled, find detailed invoices that support the purchase and create a fixed asset file. This spending will be needed to determine if you wish to depreciate the purchase over time, take advantage of bonus depreciation, or expense the purchase using code section 179. Your choices create a great tax planning tool.
  8. Review the impact of COVID-19. There are a number of federal and state initiatives that will need to be considered when filing your 2021 tax return. If you received payroll credits for employee retention or have a Paycheck Protection Program loan that needs to be accounted for this year, be prepared with the details. It will be important to correctly account for these funds.

Should you need help, please reach out for assistance.

Plan Your Retirement Savings Goals for 2022

There’s good news for your retirement accounts in 2022! The IRS recently announced that you can contribute more pre-tax money to several retirement plans in 2022. Take a look at the following contribution limits for several of the more popular retirement plans:

Plan: SIMPLE IRA

Annual Contribution in 2022: $14,000
50 or over catch-up: Add $3000

Annual Contribution in 2021: $13,500
50 or over catch-up: Add $3000

Change: +$500
50 or over catch-up: No change

Plan: 401(k), 403(b), 457 and SARSEP

Annual Contribution in 2022: $20,500
50 or over catch-up: Add $6,500

Annual Contribution in 2021: $19,500
50 or over catch-up: Add $6,500

Change: +$1,000
50 or over catch-up: No change

Plan: Traditional IRA

Annual Contribution in 2022: $6,000
50 or over catch-up: Add $1,000

Annual Contribution in 2021: $6,000
50 or over catch-up: Add $1,000

Change: No change
50 or over catch-up: No change

AGI Deduction Phaseouts

Single; Head of Household

2022: 68,000-78,000
2021: 66,000-76,000
Change: +$2,000

Joint Nonparticipating Spouse

2022: 204,000-214,000
2021: 198,000-208,000
Change: +$6,000

Joint Participating Spouse

2022: 109,000-129,000
2021: 105,000-125,000
Change: +$4,000

Married Filing Separately (any spouse participating)

2022: 0-10,000
2021: 0-10,000
Change: No change

Plan: Roth IRA

Annual Contribution in 2022: $6,000
50 or over catch-up: Add $1,000

Annual Contribution in 2021: $6000
50 or over catch-up: Add $1,000

Change: No change
50 or over catch-up: No change

Contribution Eligibility

Single; Head of Household

2022: 129,000-144,000
2021: 125,000-140,000
Change: +$4,000

Married Filing Jointly

2022: 204,000-206-000
2021: 198,000-208,000
Change: +$6,000

Married Filing Separately

2022: 0-10,000
2021: 0-10,000
Change: No change

Rollover to Roth Eligibility

Joint, Single, or Head of Household

2022: No AGI Limit
2021: No AGI Limit
Change: No AGI Limit

Married Filing Separately

2022: Allowed / No AGI Limit
2021: Allowed / No AGI Limit
Change: Allowed / No AGI Limit

What You Can Do

  • Look for your retirement savings plan from the table and note the annual savings limit of the plan. If you are 50 years or older, add the catch-up amount to your potential savings total.
  • Then make adjustments to your employer provided retirement savings plan as soon as possible in 2022 to adjust your contribution amount.
  • Double check to ensure you are taking full advantage of any employee matching contributions into your account.
  • Use this time to review and re-balance your investment choices as appropriate for your situation.
  • Set up new accounts for a spouse and/or dependents. Enable them to take advantage of the higher limits, too.
  • Consider IRAs. Many employees maintain employer-provided plans without realizing they could also establish a traditional or Roth IRA. Use this time to review your situation and see if these additional accounts might benefit you or someone else in your family.
  • Review contributions to other tax-advantaged plans, including flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs).

Now is a great time to make 2022 a year to remember for retirement savings!

December 2021 Newsletter


To help celebrate this holiday season and momentarily forget about potential supply shortage frustrations you may encounter while shopping, this month’s newsletter features recent tax court cases that have great tax messages for all of us, five great money tips, and ideas to help your business prepare for surprise expenses.

Please call if you would like to discuss how this information could impact your situation. If you know someone who could benefit from this newsletter, feel free to send it to them.

Five Great Money Tips

Creating a sound financial foundation for you and your family is anything but easy. With low interest rates as an incentive to borrow more and even lower interest rates on savings accounts is it any wonder that it’s tough to retain the discipline to save? Here are five thoughts that may help.

  1. Pay yourself first. Treat saving money with the same care you pay your bills. Take a percentage of everything you earn and save it. Using this technique can help build an emergency fund and keep you from living paycheck to paycheck.
  2. Know and use the Rule of 72. You can roughly calculate the number of years compound interest will take to double your money using the Rule of 72. Do this by dividing 72 by your rate of return to estimate how long it takes to double your money. For example, 10% interest will double an investment in 7.2 years; investments with an 8% return will double in nine years. Use this concept to understand the power of saving and investment.
  3. Use savings versus debt for purchases. Unpaid debt is like compound interest but in reverse. For instance, using a 12% interest credit card to pay $1,500 for home appliances costs over $2,000 if paid back over 5 years. The result is that you have to work harder and earn more to pay for the items you purchase. A better idea may be to save and then buy your dream item.
  4. Understand amortization. When a bank loans you money, it gives you a specific interest rate and a set number of years to pay it back. Each payment you make contains interest as well as a reduction of the amount owed, called principal. Most of the interest payments are front-loaded, while the last few payments are virtually all principal. Making additional principal payments at the beginning of the loan’s term will decrease the amount of interest you pay to the bank and help you pay off the loan more quickly.
  5. Taxes are complex and require help. Tax laws are complicated. They are made even more complex when the rules change, often late in the year. Even worse, the IRS is not in the job of telling you when you forget to take a deduction. The best way to stay out of the IRS spotlight AND minimize your taxes is to ask for help.

Upcoming dates:

November 28-December 6
– Hanukkah

December 25
– Christmas Day

December 26
– Kwanzaa begins

January 18
– 4th Quarter Estimated Payments Due

Take final year-end actions
– Deductible gifts
– Capital gains/losses
– Charitable giving
– Dividend income

Surprise Bills: Prepare Your Business for the Unexpected

Getting a bill for an unexpected expense can put a significant dent in your business’s cash flow. Here are some tips your business can use to deal with a surprise bill.

  • Stick to a reconciliation schedule. The best advice is to be prepared for the unexpected. Do this by knowing how much cash you have in your bank account at any given time. This is done by sticking to a consistent bank reconciliation schedule. Conventional wisdom suggests reconciling your bank account with bills paid and revenue received once a month. But if your business doesn’t have that many transactions, you could reconcile once every two or three months. No matter what time frame works for you, be consistent with your review!
  • Create a 12-month rolling forecast. This exercise projects cash out twelve months. Then each new month you drop the prior month and add another month one year out. This type of a forecast will reflect the ebbs and flows of cash throughout the year and identify times that you’ll need more cash so when a surprise bill shows up, you know exactly how it will impact your ability to pay it.
  • Build an emergency fund. Getting surprised with an unexpected business expense isn’t a matter of if it will happen, but when. Consider setting money aside each month into an emergency fund to be used only in case of a significant expense. A longer term goal could be to save enough money to cover 3 to 6 months of operating expenses.
  • Partner with a business advisor. Even small businesses sometime need help keeping their cash flow in line and avoiding unexpected expenses. Please call if you have any questions about organizing your business’s cash flow and preparing for surprise expenses.

Court Is In Session – Notable Tax Court Cases

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest and severe weather events, the Tax Court has continued to churn out decisions affecting individual and business taxpayers. Here’s a brief sampling of several cases that may be of particular interest.

  • Coming Up Aces. (Coleman, TC Memo 146, 10/22/20) You can generally deduct gambling losses up to the amount of your winnings from gambling activities if you can provide proper documentation. Now the Tax Court has allowed one taxpayer to estimate his expenses absent proper documentation.
     
    Facts: A compulsive gambler was able to show that he likely spent the money from a $150,000 personal injury settlement in local casinos. The gambler, however, didn’t have the usual records to substantiate his claims. The Court allowed an estimated deduction because it was clear he had incurred significant expenses. The gambler was able to net his $350,000 in gambling winnings with $350,000 in estimated gambling losses.

    Tax Tip: Save documentation for all your tax deductions, including gambling winnings and losses. Don’t rely on a tax court ruling!

  • Home (Not) Sweet Home. (Soboyede, TC Summ. Op. 2021-3, 1/26/21) Your tax home for deducting travel expenses isn’t necessarily the place where you live. It’s the general area of your primary workplace.
     
    Facts: The taxpayer was an attorney with separate law practices in Minnesota and Washington, D.C. He deducted his hotel expenses and other travel costs in the D.C. area. But his records showed he actually spent more than 50% of his work time in or near the D.C. location. The Tax Court concluded that the attorney’s tax home is actually in D.C. As a result, he couldn’t deduct his hotel and other expenses from the D.C. area.

    Tax Tip: You can deduct travel expenses only away from your tax home. If you work in multiple locations, be sure you know which location the IRS considers to be your tax home.

  • Skidding Off The Race Track. (Berry, TC Memo 2021-42, 4/7/21) A business can deduct advertising and marketing expenses that are related to its business activities. No write-off is allowed, however, for personal expenses.
     
    Facts: A father and son who owned a construction company were race car enthusiasts. They deducted expenses for the son’s racing activities that were incurred as an advertising and marketing expense of the construction company. The Tax Court disallowed the deduction, ruling the expenses were a hobby expenditure, not an ordinary and necessary business expense that can be deducted for tax purposes.

    Tax Tip: Understand what is considered an ordinary and necessary business expense by the IRS and know whether your activity is deemed to be either a hobby or a for-profit business enterprise.

  • A Slight Understatement. (Pragrias, TC Memo 2021-82, 6/30/21) The IRS normally has three years from the due date of a tax return to conduct an audit of that return. This three-year period is extended to six years, however, if the tax return omits more than 25% of taxable income.
     
    Facts: The taxpayer received $4.9 million from a complex investment but reported only about $1.5 million. The IRS audited the return after three years. Despite the taxpayer’s contention that he didn’t omit taxable income—he said he merely understated it—the Tax Court ruled that the longer six-year limit applies. And as a general rule, there is no statute of limitations for the IRS when fraud is involved.

    Tax Tip: Understand the applicable statute of limitations with your tax returns.

Please call if you have any questions about these tax court cases or any other circumstances that you think apply to your tax situation.

November 2021 Newsletter


Time is running out to minimize your tax obligation before the end of the year! This month’s newsletter features several tax moves to consider making by December 31st to lessen the amount of money you owe the IRS plus review the Social Security benefits and their recent changes. All this and ideas for your business are outlined in this month’s newsletter.

Please call if you would like to discuss how this information could impact your situation. If you know someone who could benefit from this newsletter, feel free to send it to them.

Year-End Tax Planning Ideas For Your Business

Here are some ideas to lower your business taxes, get organized, and to prepare for filing your 2021 tax return.

As 2021 winds down, here are some ideas to consider in order to help manage your small business and prepare for filing your upcoming tax return.

  • Identify all vendors who require a 1099-MISC and a 1099-NEC. Obtain tax identification numbers (TIN) for each of these vendors.
  • Determine if you qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) safe harbor threshold that allows you to deduct certain 2020 expenses on your 2021 tax return.
  • Consider accelerating income or deferring earnings, based on profit projections.
  • Section 179, or bonus depreciation expensing versus traditional depreciation, is a great planning tool. If using Section 179, the qualified assets must be placed in service prior to year-end.
  • Business meals are 100% deductible in 2021 if certain qualifications are met. Retain the necessary receipts and documentation that note when the meal took place, who attended and the business purpose of the meal on each receipt.
  • Consider any last-minute deductible charitable giving including long-term capital gain stocks.
  • Review your inventory for proper counts and remove obsolete or worthless products. Keep track of the obsolete and worthless amounts for a potential tax deduction.
  • Set up separate business bank accounts. Co- mingling business and personal expenses in one account is not recommended.
  • Create expense reports. Having expense reports with supporting invoices will help substantiate your tax deductions in the event of an audit.
  • Organize your records by major categories of income, expenses and fixed assets purchased to make tax return filing easier.
  • Review your receivables. Focus on collection activities and review your uncollectable accounts for possible write-offs.

Tax Moves to Make Before Year-End

There are always moves you can make to reduce your taxable income. Some of these tax-saving moves, however, must be completed by December 31. Here are several to consider:

  • Tax loss harvesting. If you own stock in a taxable account that is not in a tax-deferred retirement plan, you can sell your underperforming stocks by December 31 and use these losses to reduce any taxable capital gains. If your net capital losses exceed your gains, you can even net up to $3,000 against other income such as wages. Losses over $3,000 can be used in future years. Just be sure you do not repurchase the same stock within 30 days, or the loss will be deferred.
  • Take a peek at your estimated 2022 income. If you have appreciated assets that you plan on selling in the near future, estimate your 2022 taxable income and compare it to your 2021 taxable income. If your 2022 income looks like it may be significantly higher than 2021, you may be able to sell your appreciated assets in 2021 to take advantage of a lower tax rate. The opposite also holds true. If your estimated 2022 taxable income looks like it may be significantly lower than your 2021 taxable income, lower tax rates may apply if you wait to sell your assets in 2022.
  • Max out pre-tax retirement savings. The deadline to contribute to a 401(k) plan and be able to reduce your taxable income on your 2021 tax return is December 31. See if you can earmark a little more money from each of your paychecks through the end of the year to transfer into your retirement savings accounts. For 2021, you can contribute up to $19,500 to a 401(k), plus another $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older. Even better, you have until April 18, 2022, to contribute to a traditional IRA and be able to reduce your taxable income on your 2021 tax return.
  • Make cash charitable contributions. If you’re like 90% of all taxpayers, you get no tax benefit from charitable contributions because you don’t itemize your personal deductions. On your 2021 tax return, however, you may contribute up to $300 in cash to a qualified charity and deduct the amount whether or not you itemize your deductions. Married taxpayers who file jointly may contribute $600. You can make your contribution by check, credit card, or debit card. Remember that this above-the-line deduction is for cash contributions only. It does not apply to non-cash contributions.
  • Bunch deductions so you can itemize. Are your personal deductions near the amount of the standard deduction for 2021: $12,550 for singles, $18,800 for head of household and $25,100 for married filing jointly? If so, consider bunching your personal deductions into 2021 so you can itemize this year. For most, the easiest way is to bunch two years of charitable contributions into a single year. These can include gifts of appreciated stock where you get to deduct the fair market value without paying capital gains tax.

Upcoming Dates

November 11
– Veterans Day

November 25
– Thanksgiving

November 26
– Black Friday

Reminder
– Conduct year-end tax and financial planning

The Power of Comparative Financial Statements

Your business has a story to tell. And one of the ways to hear your business’s story is by reading through comparative financial statements.

The importance of comparative financial statements

An up-to-date balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flows are essential financial reports you should consistently analyze. But these financial statements by themselves don’t tell the whole story about your business. Consider the following:

  • Company XYZ: The most current balance sheet shows $1 million in liquid assets with zero liabilities.
  • Company ABC: The most current income statement has a net profit margin of 35%.
  • Company 123: The statement of cash flows shows that the company has consistently brought in more cash than it has spent over the past three years.

And here’s the rest of the story:

  • Company XYZ: Liquid assets decreased from $5 million to $1 million over the past 12 months.
  • Company ABC: Net profit margin is typically around 20% for this company. However, a recent round of layoffs temporarily pushed total salaries and wages lower, while pushing the net profit margin much higher.
  • Company 123: There has been a steady decline in positive cash flow over the past three years.

These examples show the importance of analyzing your financial statements in comparison with something else. Reading through the first list of bullet points only tells part of the story.

What you can do

Here are several types of comparative financial statements you can create for your business and some tips for getting the most out of these reports.

  • Current period vs. Prior period. Compare this month to the same month one year prior (October 2021 vs. October 2020) or compare by year (2021 Year-to-Date vs. 2020 Year-to- Date).
  • Current period vs. Current period forecast. This is known as a variance analysis. You compare what you think was going to occur during a particular period to what actually happened. This report can also be done either by month [October 2021 (actual) vs. October 2021 (forecast)] or by year [2021 Year-to-Date (actual) vs. 2021 Year-to-Date (forecast)]
  • Use both absolute figure and percentages. Percentages allow you to quickly see the degree of change between the two periods that are being compared. Here’s an example of what this could look like:
  • Ask for help! Please call if you would like help creating or analyzing comparative financial statements for your business.

Social Security Announces 2022 Adjustments

YOUR 2022 SOCIAL SECURITY benefits have changed

AVERAGE RETIREMENT BENEFITS

Starting January 2022

  • All workers in 2021: $1,565/mo
  • All workers in 2022: $1,657/mo
  • The 2022 maximum Social Security retirement benefits a worker retiring at full retirement age: $3,345/mo

DID YOU KNOW …

  • 97% of U.S. citizens over age 60 either receive Social Security or will receive it.
  • 1 in 4 seniors expect it to be their primary source of income.
  • Social Security pays benefits to more than 70 million people including retirees, children and surviving spouses.
  • 165+ million people work and pay Social Security taxes
  • Social Security has provided financial protection for Americans since 1935

SOCIAL SECURITY PAYMENTS EXPLAINED

  • Social Security retirement benefits are for people who have paid into the Social Security system through taxable income.
  • Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) benefits are for people who have disabilities but have paid into the Social Security the system through taxable income.
  • Supplemental Security Income benefits are for adults and children who have disabilities, plus limited income and resources.

HOW DOES SOCIAL SECURITY WORK?

  • When you work, you pay taxes into Social Security.
  • The Social Security Administration uses your tax money to pay benefits to people right now.
  • Any unused money goes into Social Security trust funds and is borrowed by the government to pay for other programs.
  • Later on when you retire, you receive benefits.
  • HERE’S HOW YOU QUALIFY FOR RETIREMENT BENEFITS

    When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits toward benefits. The number of credits you need to earn retirement benefits depends on when you were born.

    • If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits (10 years of work) to receive retirement benefits
    • The earnings needed to a credit in 2022 is $1,510
    • 4 credits maximum per year

    DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN CHECK YOUR BENEFITS STATUS BEFORE YOU RETIRE?

    • You can check online by creating a my Social Security account on the SSA website. If you don’t have an account, you’ll be mailed a paper Social Security statement 3 months before your 61st birthday.
    • It shows your year-by-year earnings, and estimates of retirement, survivors and disability benefits you and your family may be able to receive now and in the future.
    • If it doesn’t show earnings from a state or local government employer, contact them. The work may not be covered within Social Security.

    Fake Products (and Money!) Are Big Business

    How to protect yourself from modern-day counterfeiters

    Counterfeiters are getting better at tricking you. They do this by using fake images, creating realistic websites and promising low prices. According to the Organization for Economic Co- operation and Development (OECD), fraudsters hold an estimated 3.3% of world trade, up from 2.5% in 2016. Here are some commonly counterfeited items and what you need to know to protect yourself.

    Commonly Counterfeited Items

    • Currency. The U.S. Treasury estimates that there are nearly $9 million of counterfeit bills in circulation. While creating an excellent counterfeit $100 bill would seem difficult, criminals can trick you if you aren’t paying attention.
    • Shoes & Clothing. Manufacturing a low-quality knock-off and slapping a brand name label on a shirt or a pair of shoes is a tale as old as time. It’s much harder to spot a fake through online pictures and videos than seeing and touching it in person. With online purchases continuing to increase, it’s even easier to pull off this deception.
    • Collectibles. Trading cards and collecting memorabilia are gaining in popularity over the past few years. People are willing to spend top dollar for a mint condition Fernando Tatis, Jr. rookie card or boxing gloves autographed by Mohammed Ali. Where there’s money, counterfeiters are looking to take advantage.
    • Electronics. As technology continues to evolve, so does the ease of assembling electronics. Using cheap components and labor, companies can slap together their version of the real thing. This process cuts corners and sometimes skirts safety procedures that can lead to knock-off electronic products that can pose a hazard to your health.

    How to Protect Yourself

    • Know the real thing. The best way to spot a fake is to know the real thing inside and out. In the case of currency, the new $100 bills have plenty of watermarks, different textures and a security ribbon that make it difficult to fake. For products, do your research to know the characteristics of the legitimate item before you buy. Clues often come from irregularities in logos, colors and packaging.
    • Shop from trusted sources. Shopping around for the lowest price is a wise practice. Automatically going with the cheapest option is not. If your purchase is important, stick to reputable vendors.
    • Research, research, research. The more you know the product, the less likely you will be tricked. Look at products from local stores and read through reviews of online vendors. Conduct research on scams and common tricks used by counterfeiters. Be wary of reviews from the website you are thinking about making the purchase from. Instead, conduct a web search of both the product and the vendor to see what people have to say.
    • Stay skeptical. When conducting your research, have the mindset that the product and company are fake until proven legitimate. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

    October 2021 Newsletter

    With the 2021 tax filing season just a few months away from starting, the IRS is warning taxpayers to be on the lookout for signs that your identity has been stolen. This month’s newsletter alerts you to some of the common signs of identity theft and what you can do if you discover that you’re an identity theft victim. Also in this month’s edition, learn about a bank secret that can be yours, and tips for dealing with common accounts payable problems in your business.

    Please call if you would like to discuss how this information could impact your situation. If you know someone who could benefit from this newsletter, feel free to send it to them.

    IRS Warns of Identity Theft Signs

    With identity thieves continuing to target the tax community, the IRS is urging you to learn the new signs of identity theft so you can react quickly to limit any damage.

    The common signs of ID theft

    Here are some of the common signs of identity theft according to the IRS:

    • In early 2022, you receive a refund before filing your 2021 tax return.
    • You receive a tax transcript you didn’t request from the IRS.
    • A notice that someone created an IRS online account without your consent.
    • You find out that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security Number.
    • You receive tax documents from an employer you do not know.

    Other signs of identity theft include:

    • Unexplained withdrawals on bank statements.
    • Mysterious credit card charges.
    • Your credit report shows accounts you didn’t open.
    • You are billed for services you didn’t use or receive calls about phantom debts.

    What you can do

    If you discover that you’re a victim of identity theft, consider taking the following action:

    • Notify creditors and banks. Most credit card companies offer protections to cardholders affected by ID theft. Generally, you can avoid liability for unauthorized charges exceeding $50. But if your ATM or debit card is stolen, report the theft immediately to avoid dire consequences.
    • Place a fraud alert on your credit report. To avoid long-lasting impact, contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion – to request a fraud alert. This covers all three of your credit files.
    • Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit identitytheft.gov or call 877-438-4338. The FTC will provide a recovery plan and offer updates if you set up an account on the website.
    • Please call if you suspect any tax-related identity theft. If any of the previously mentioned signs of tax-related identity theft have happened to you, please call to schedule an appointment to discuss the next steps.

    Tips For Dealing With Common Accounts Payable Problems

    The accounts payable process is typically very labor-intensive for many small business owners. While moving to a paperless environment may help alleviate some of your accounts payable headaches, there will be new problems you’ll have to successfully navigate.

    Here are some of the most encountered accounts payable problems and several solutions to consider.

    Common problems with accounts payable

    • Double payment. A vendor sends you an invoice for $100. Your company promptly pays this vendor $100, but a short time later another payment for $100 goes out to the vendor. Sometimes this can be the fault of the vendor sending an invoice in different ways (i.e. via fax and e-mail). Or the vendor moves to digital invoicing and emails more than one person in your company, effectively duplicating the invoice electronically. Or even worse, you print out a digital invoice twice.
    • Vanishing invoices. Your company could get an invoice from a vendor and have that invoice get misplaced, or the invoice accidentally gets destroyed before ever making it into your A/P system. With digital invoices, how do you know which one is the original and which one is a duplicate?
    • Sending payment prior to delivery. There are sometimes benefits to paying an invoice as soon as possible. However, if your company pays an invoice before a shipment arrives, that could lead to an awkward conversation with your vendor if any of the shipment arrives with damaged or missing items.
    • Matching errors. A manual investigation is often required if a discrepancy is discovered between purchase orders, invoices and other documents. This often happens when multiple invoices are paid with one check, and the breakout of the invoices does not fit on the check stub or other payment documentation. It gets more complicated if your supplier applies payments haphazardly creating a past due account, all while you continue to pay the bills.

    What you can do

    • Update your internal controls. Have your A/P team help update internal processes and document how invoices should be handled. Pay special attention to separation of duties and full use of purchase orders to ensure invoices are accurate.
    • Have one inbox for A/P. All e-mails with invoices should go to one inbox. This will help reduce the chances that an invoice will be received or paid twice. Limit access to this billing address.
    • Limit access to cash accounts. It’s more important than ever for someone without authorization to your company’s cash accounts to review bank reconciliations. Not only will this help to potentially uncover erroneous payments, but it could also help to uncover potential fraud that is occurring in your company.
    • Track key performance indicators. Create a report each month of all unpaid invoices and another report that shows payments made. Explore bank security features to identify duplicate payments and allows you to control checks that are confirmed for payment. Use your accounting software help identify duplicate dollar amounts and duplicate invoice numbers.
    • Be cautious with ACH. Giving a vendor automatic access to your firm’s checking account needs to be tightly controlled. Explore ways to ensure you are reviewing these auto payments on a timely basis and that you are receiving supporting invoicing of these payments.

    Please call if you have any questions about improving your business’s accounts payable process.

    Upcoming Dates:

    October 15
    – Filing deadline for extended 2020 individual and C corporation tax returns

    IRS Backlog of Historical Proportions

    What you need to know if one of your tax returns is stuck

    The IRS is coping with a backlog of historical proportions and it is impacting millions of taxpayers. According to IRS sources, as of July 31, there are still over 13 million tax returns that are to be processed. The nearly unprecedented delay is being attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, under staffing at the IRS, and a slew of recent tax law changes. The challenge is how to navigate the IRS notices if you are caught up in this mess.

    Complicating your tax life

    • You’ve filed for an extension via mail, but the IRS says you haven’t filed your return yet and issues notices and penalties.
    • You keep getting letters from the IRS after responding to initial inquiries.
    • You filed your tax return on time, but the IRS says it doesn’t have your return, even though you may have received a confirmation.

    What you can do

    While you may not be able to get your tax return processed any faster, there are steps you can take to stay informed and make it easier for the IRS to work with your tax situation:

    • Track your refund status. The IRS has developed an online tool, “Where’s My Refund?” that can provide updates. Find it at https://www.irs.gov/refunds.
    • Check out IRS2Go. The agency also provides a mobile app called IRS2Go that checks your tax refund status. You can see if your return has been received, approved, and sent.
    • Stay calm and keep responding. If the IRS sends you notices, keep detailed records of the notices and your timely replies. Eventually, they will get caught up. So keep good records by leaving a digital footprint and back up electronic records with paper versions.
    • Prior correspondence is your friend. When you’re replying to IRS notifications, attach copies of prior correspondence with your latest letter. Make it easy for the IRS to follow your paper trail by dating each response and keeping the most recent response on top.
    • Keep proof of delivery. Use express delivery or certified mail to confirm that the IRS receives your responses in a timely manner.

    Remember that the IRS is working as quickly as it can to clear this backlog. Please call if you have any questions about a tax return you believe to be stuck because of this situation.

    As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation please feel free to call.

    This Bank Secret Can Be Yours

    Know the way loans work… and use it to your advantage!

    Every banker knows that the majority of the money they make on a loan is made in the first few years of the loan. By understanding this fact, you can greatly reduce the amount you pay when buying your house, paying off your student loan, or buying a car. Here is what you need to know:

    Your payment never changes

    When you obtain a loan, the components of that loan are interest, the number of years to repay the loan, the amount borrowed, and the monthly payment. Assuming a fixed rate note, the payment never changes. Here is an example of a $250,000 loan.

    It is important to note that your payment in month one is $1,158 and your monthly payment thirty years later is the same amount…$1,158.

    Each payment has two parts

    What does change every month is what is inside each payment. Every loan payment has two parts. One is a payment that reduces the amount of money you owe, called principal. The other part of the payment is for the bank, called interest expense. Now look at the component parts of the first payment and then the last payment:

    So while your monthly payment never changes, the amount used to reduce the loan each month varies DRAMATICALLY. Remember your total cost of borrowing $250,000 includes more than $166,000 in interest!

    Use the knowledge to your advantage

    Here’s how you can use this information to your advantage.

    For new loans

    • Only sign up for loans that allow you to make pre-payments without penalty.
    • When borrowing money, keep some of your cash in reserve. Try to reserve a minimum of 10 to 20 percent of the amount borrowed. So in this example, try to reserve $25,000 to $50,000 in cash.
    • Immediately after getting the loan, consider using the excess cash as a pre-payment on the note. By doing this you can dramatically reduce the interest expense over the life of the note, all while keeping your payment constant. Even though your monthly payment may be a little higher, the extra payment amount will pay back the loan more quickly.

    For existing loans

    • Create and look at your loan’s amortization table. This table shows how much of each payment is used to pay down the loan balance and how much goes to your lender as interest. In the above example, 67 percent of the first payment is for the bank, while only 1⁄2 of 1 percent of the last payment is for the bank.
    • Pay more to you than the bank. Aggressively prepay down any loan until more of each payment goes to you versus the bank. This is the crossover point of your loan.
    • Find your sweet spot. After hitting the crossover point, next consider the efficiency of each prepayment and determine when you consider your prepayment ineffective. No one would consider prepaying that last payment when interest expense is only $4.00. But if more than 25% of the payment goes to interest? Keep making prepayments.

    Final thought

    When you make a prepayment on a loan, reduce the loan balance by your prepayment, then look at the amortization table. See how many payments are eliminated with your prepayment and add up all the interest you save. You will be amazed by the result.

    September 2021 Newsletter


    With a little over four months remaining until you can begin filing your 2021 tax return, now’s the time to kick your tax planning into high gear. Also read about how to give your business a financial check-up, and becoming aware that inflation is with us and what you can do about it.

    Please call if you would like to discuss how this information could impact your situation. If you know someone who could benefit from this newsletter, feel free to send it to them.

    Time to Schedule Your Tax Planning Session


    Now is the time to schedule a tax planning appointment. If you are on the fence, here are some things to consider:

    It can make a difference.

    This is especially true if you have a major event that occurs during the year. For example:
    Even in uneventful years, external forces like new tax laws can be managed if planned for in advance.

    • Selling a house? You can avoid taxes if primary residence requirements are met.
    • Starting a business? Choosing the correct entity can lower your taxes every year!
    • Getting ready to retire? Properly balancing the different revenue streams (part-time wages, Social Security benefits, IRA distributions and more) has a huge impact on your tax liability.

    Put yourself in control.

    Timing is important when it comes to minimizing taxes, and the timing is often in your control. For instance, bundling multiple years of charitable contributions into one year can create an opportunity to itemize deductions. Plus holding investments for longer than one year to get a lower tax rate, and making efficient retirement withdrawals are other examples of prudent tax strategies that you control.

    There are tax planning opportunities for every level of income.

    There are tax strategies to be implemented at all income levels, not just those at the top of the tax bracket. Tax deductions are available for student loan interest, IRA contributions and others even if you claim the standard deduction. Certain tax credits (called refundable credits) will increase your refund even if you don’t owe taxes. Missing any of these tax breaks can unnecessarily increase your taxes.

    There may still be COVID tax breaks.

    While it’s true that many one-time tax breaks were offered for only the 2020 tax year, there are still plenty of COVID tax breaks available in 2021. Some of these tax breaks include an expanded child tax credit, an increased child and dependent care credit, the ability to roll forward unused funds in your Flexible Spending Account and charitable deductions that are available to all taxpayers, even if you don’t itemize your deductions.

    You have help.

    Tax planning is often as simple as looking for ways to reduce taxable income, delay a tax bill, increase tax deductions, and take advantage of all available tax credits. The best place to start is to bolster your level of tax knowledge by picking up the phone and asking for assistance.

    Thankfully, it’s not too late to get on track for 2021. If you haven’t scheduled a tax planning session, now is a great time to do so.

    Even Non-Income Tax States Have Taxes

    With the increased popularity of working-at-home, you may consider moving to one of the nine states that don’t impose an individual income tax. Before doing so, you should understand how each of these states raises its revenue. And then consider how you can reduce your tax obligation in your current home state.

    Here’s some help.

    According to Kiplinger and the Tax Foundation, here is how the nine states that collect no individual income taxes collect money from their residents.

    Alaska

    • Alaska is one of five states with no sales tax, but local jurisdictions may impose sales taxes, with rates reaching 7.5%. The average is 1.76%.
    • The median property tax rate is $1,182 per $100,000 of assessed home value, slightly above the national average.

    Florida

    • The statewide sales tax is 6%, but local jurisdictions can add up to 2.5%, with an average combined rate of 7.08%.
    • The median property tax rate is $830 per $100,000 of assessed home value, a middle-of-the-road figure nationally.

    Nevada

    • The state sales tax rate is 6.85% while local jurisdictions can add up to 1.53%. The average combined rate is a lofty 8.23%.
    • The median property tax rate is $533 per $100,000 of assessed home value, one of the lowest in the country.

    New Hampshire

    • Besides no state income tax, this tax haven has no state or local sales taxes.
    • Property tax is the main revenue source. The median property tax rate is $2,050 per $100,000 of assessed home value, the third-highest rate in the U.S.

    South Dakota

    • The 4.5% state tax may increase to an average combined rate of 6.4%, below the national average.
    • The median property tax rate is $1,219 per $100,000 of assessed home value, above the national average.

    Tennessee

    • Tennessee previously had an income tax on dividends and interest, but it disappeared after 2020. The current 7% state sales tax rate may be combined with a 2.75% on sales of single items for an overall maximum rate of 9.55%, the highest in the U.S.
    • The median property tax rate is $636 per $100,000 of assessed home value, below the national average.

    Texas

    • The sales tax in the Lone Star state is 6.25%, plus local jurisdictions can add up to 2%, with an average combined rate of 8.19%, which is well above the national average.
    • The median property tax rate is $1,692 per $100,000 of assessed home value, which is a tie for the seventh-highest rate in the country.

    Washington

    • Municipalities can increase the 6.5% state levy by 4% for an average combined rate of 9.23%, the fourth-highest in the nation.
    • The median property tax rate is $929 per $100,000 of assessed home value. This is middle of the pack.
    • Unlike the other eight states, Washington has an estate tax, with a $2.193 million exemption (indexed for inflation). Tax rates range from 10% to 20%.

    Wyoming

    • The 4% sales tax may be increased by municipalities for a combined rate of 5.33%. This is the eighth-lowest in the U.S.
    • The median property tax rate is $575 per $100,000 of assessed home value, tied for the tenth-lowest in the nation.

    Here are some ideas to lower your property and sales tax bills:

    Appeal your property’s valuation assessment. You may be able to lower your property tax bill by providing evidence that your home’s assessed value should be lower. Start your appeals process by contacting your county assessor’s office. Some appeals can be done online, while others may require a visit to your assessor’s local office.

    Shop during tax-free weekends. Many states feature one or two weekends each year where sales taxes are suspended. These sales tax holidays sometimes correspond to high volume shopping periods, such as back-to-school sales in late summer.

    Deduct sales taxes on your Form 1040 tax return. You’re allowed to deduct up to $10,000 of combined property taxes and sales taxes on your tax return, so be sure to look into this deduction if you itemize your Schedule A deductions. The only potential headache if you deduct sales taxes is needing to track and record all sales taxes you’ve paid throughout the year.

    As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation please feel free to call.

    Upcoming dates:

    September 15
    – Filing deadline for extended 2020 calendar-year S corporation and partnership tax returns

    – 3rd quarter installment of 2021 estimated income tax is due for individuals, calendar-year corporations and calendar-year trusts & estates

    October 15
    – Filing deadline for extended 2020 individual and C corporation tax returns

    Give Your Business an End-of-Summer Check-up

    As summer winds down, your business’s financial statements may be due for a quick check-up. Here are several review suggestions to help determine the health of your business prior to year end.

    Balance sheet reconciliations.

    Reconcile each asset and liability account every quarter. A well-supported balance sheet can guide decisions about cash reserves, debt financing, inventory management, receivables, payables, and property. Regular monitoring can highlight vulnerabilities, providing time for corrective action.

    Debt service coverage.

    Do you have enough cash to adequately handle principal and interest payments? Calculate your cash flow to ensure you can handle both current and future monthly loan payments.

    Projected revenue.

    Take a look at your income statements and see how your revenue has performed so far this year versus what you thought your revenue was going to be. If revenue varies from what you expect, get with your sales and marketing team to pinpoint what has gone better, or worse, than expected.

    Projected expenses.

    Put a stop to disappearing cash by conducting a variance analysis of your expenses. What did you expect to spend so far in 2021 on salaries and wages compared to what you actually paid your employees? What about other big expenses like rent or insurance? Take the amount of money actually spent so far in 2021 in each of your major expense accounts and compare it to your spending forecast. Then create an updated forecast for the balance of the year.

    A review of your financial statements now will help you be prepared if you need to navigate an obstacle or capitalize on potential opportunities to expand your business.
    Please call if you have any questions on how to dig deeper in your analysis of your business’s financial statements.

    It’s BACK! Inflation is Among Us.

    How to shield your money from inflation.

    Recent high inflation rates are driving up the price for almost everything and eroding the value of your money. With varying opinions on the potential duration of the current inflation surge, it’s important to understand the causes and how you can protect your money.

    Possible causes of this inflation

    While the root causes of inflation are not always easy to identify, the premise is simple – prices are going up for goods and services. This is often because demand is higher than supply. Here are some of the basic drivers of today’s inflation.

    • The demand-pull situation. Demand for a product increases but the supply remains the same. Think of a vendor selling ponchos at a state fair. If it rains, demand is going to spike and fair-goers are willing to pay up to keep dry. This situation is rampant during the pandemic, as we all see runs on things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer. And now we are seeing pent-up demand being released, as some of the pandemic restrictions are eased. An example of this is popular vacation locations being all booked in advance.
    • The cost-push situation. Demand stays constant but supply is reduced. An example of this is a lower-yield crop season when a major drought hits a region. Consumers still want their dinner salads, but lettuce is sparse. So retailers charge more to cover their increased costs. Or when paper mills switched production to handle higher toilet paper demand, pulp used for paper and packaging had supply reductions creating a shortage which increased their prices.
    • Factoring in the money supply. The more money there is available to spend (high money supply), the more the demand on all goods and services goes up. This is being manifested in wage increases as employers are having a hard time filling jobs and is also the result of many of the government spending programs during the pandemic.

    Ideas to protect yourself during high inflation

    • Alternative savings that is NOT cash. The value of your money sitting in your wallet or in low interest bank accounts is shrinking before your eyes. The past year has seen the highest inflation rates in the last decade at 5.4%, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). That means if your savings account is earning 0.6%, you’ve lost 4.8% in purchasing power over the last 12 months. Get your money to work for you by considering:
      • Low risk, dividend-paying stocks
      • CDs, bonds and other investments with various maturities to prepare for higher rates
      • Direct lending vehicles through vetted, respected facilitators
      • Investing directly in property, small businesses or other tangible assets
      • Invest in yourself to learn a new trade or skill
    • Lock in fixed rates on debt. Inflation can be your friend if you have a low interest, fixed-rate loan. For example, inflation will tend to increase the value of your house over time, yet your monthly payment will remain the same. So borrowing money at a low fixed interest rate, while the underlying property value increases with inflation, can be a strategy to consider.
    • Delay large expenditures. Do your part to reduce demand by postponing large purchases. Consider delaying the purchase of a new car, adding to your home or taking an overseas trip until demand flattens and prices come back to a normal rate.

    It’s impossible to avoid the effects of high inflation altogether, but with some smart investing and the will-power to temporarily curb spending, you can reduce inflation’s impact on your personal bottom line.

    August 2021 Newsletter

    Summertime means the 2020 tax filing season is firmly in the rearview mirror for millions of Americans! This year, summer also means more money for you thanks to the child tax credit advance payments. Find out what you need to know about these payments in this month’s newsletter. Also read about how to maximize your vehicle expense deduction if you’re a business owner, and several things to consider when looking for your next banking relationship.

    Please call if you would like to discuss how this information could impact your situation. If you know someone who could benefit from this newsletter, feel free to send it to them.

    Get Your Child Tax Credit Payments NOW!

    The first advance payment from the newly expanded child tax credit was recently sent out by the IRS. Payments are scheduled to be made on the 15th of each month through December.

    Here’s what you need to know about the child tax credit and the advance payments.

    Background

    For the 2021 tax year, an expanded child tax credit reduces your tax bill by $3,600 if you have a qualifying child that’s age 5 or under, or by $3,000 if you have a qualifying child from age 6 to 17.

    If the total amount of the child tax credit for your family exceeds the total taxes you owe, you’ll receive the amount of the credit as a refund.

    Child tax credit advance payments

    Instead of waiting to file your tax return to receive the entire amount of your child tax credit, the IRS is directed by Congress to send 50% of the credit to you in six monthly payments beginning in July 2021.

    For example, say you have three kids, ages 10, 12 and 16. Also assume your income is not too high and your children meet the IRS definition of a qualifying child. Instead of waiting until 2022 when you file your 2021 tax return to receive the entire $9,000 child tax credit, you can get paid half of the child tax credit amount, or $4,500, in 2021.

    The advance payments began July 15 and continue for six months until December 15. The family in this example would receive six payments of $750 starting July 15, for a total of $4,500.

    What you need to know

    The monthly payments are automatic. You’ll automatically receive advance payments if:

    • You filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return and claimed the credit, OR
    • You gave information in 2020 to receive the Economic Impact Payment using the IRS non-filer tool, AND
    • The IRS thinks you are eligible, AND
    • You did not opt-out of the early payments.

    Register with the IRS. If you didn’t file a 2019 or 2020 tax return but are otherwise eligible for the child tax credit, you’ll need to register with the IRS to receive the child tax credit. Click here to visit the IRS website to find out if you need to register.

    Consider if you should opt out of the advance payments. Getting half of your child tax credit ahead of time may not be the right move for everyone. For example, if your 2021 income ends up higher than expected, you may need to pay back the advance payments when you file your tax return. To opt out, click here to visit the IRS’s child tax credit update portal.

    Help! I Just Got a Letter From the IRS

    Summertime means the 2020 tax filing season is firmly in the rearview mirror for millions of Americans. But summertime is also the season when the IRS sends letters to unlucky taxpayers demanding more money!

    If you receive a notice from the IRS, do not automatically assume it is correct and submit payment to make it go away. Because of all the recent tax law changes and so little time to implement the changes, the IRS can be wrong more often than you think. These IRS letters, called correspondent audits, need to be taken seriously, but not without undergoing a solid review. Here’s what you need to do if you receive one.

    Stay calm. Don’t overreact to getting a letter from the IRS. This is easier said than done, but remember that the IRS sends out millions of these correspondence audits each year. The vast majority of them correct simple oversights or common filing errors.

    Open the envelope! You would be surprised how often taxpayers are so stressed by receiving a letter from the IRS that they cannot bear to open the envelope. If you fall into this category, try to remember that the first step in making the problem go away is to open the correspondence.

    Conduct a careful review. Review the letter. Understand exactly what the IRS is explaining that needs to be changed and determine whether or not you agree with their findings. The IRS rarely sends correspondence to correct an oversight in your favor, but sometimes it happens.

    Respond timely. The IRS will tell you what it believes you should do and within what time frame. Ignore this information at your own risk. Delays in responses could generate penalties and additional interest payments.

    Get help. You are not alone. Getting assistance from someone who deals with this all the time makes the process go much smoother. And remember, some of these letters could be scams from someone impersonating the IRS!

    Correct the IRS error. Once you understand what the IRS is asking for, a clearly written response with copies of documentation will cure most IRS correspondence audits received in error. Often the error is due to the inability of the IRS computers to match documents it receives (for example 1099s or W-2s) to your tax return. Pointing out the information on your tax return might be all it takes to solve the problem.

    Certified mail is your friend. Any responses to the IRS should be sent via certified mail or other means that clearly show you replied to their inquiry before the IRS’s deadline. This will provide proof of your timely correspondence. Lost mail can lead to delays, penalties, and additional interest tacked on to your tax bill.

    Don’t assume it will go away. Until receiving definitive confirmation that the problem has been resolved, you need to assume the IRS still thinks you owe them money. If no correspondence confirming the correction is received, you should follow-up with another written confirmation request to the IRS.

    Upcoming Dates:

    September 6
    – Labor Day

    September 15
    – Filing deadline for 2020 calendar-year S corporation and partnership tax returns on extension
    – 3rd quarter installment of 2021 estimated income tax is due for individuals, calendar-year corporations and calendar-year trusts & estates

    Make the Most of Your Vehicle Expense Deduction

    Tracking your miles whenever you drive somewhere for your business can get pretty tedious, but remember that properly tracking your vehicle expenses and miles driven can lead to a significant reduction in your taxes.

    Here are some tips to make the most of your vehicle expense deduction.

    • Keep track of both mileage and actual expenses. The IRS generally lets you use one of two different methods to track vehicle expenses – the standard mileage rate method or the actual expense method. One year the mileage method may result in a higher deduction, while the actual expense method may be higher in a subsequent year. But you won’t know which method results in a higher deduction unless you track both your mileage and actual expenses.
    • Consider using standard mileage the first year a vehicle is in service. If you use standard mileage the first year your car is placed in service, you can then choose which expense tracking method to use in subsequent years. If you initially use the actual expense method the first year your car is placed in service, you’re locked in to using actual expenses for the duration of using that car in your business. For a car you lease, you must use the standard mileage rate method for the entire lease period (including renewals) if you choose the standard mileage rate the first year.
    • Don’t forget about depreciation! Depreciation can significantly increase your deduction if you use the actual expense method. For heavy SUVs, trucks, and vans with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating above 6,000 pounds, 100% bonus depreciation is available through the end of the 2022 tax year if the vehicle is used more than 50% for business purposes. Regular depreciation is available for vehicles under 6,000 pounds with annual limits applied.
    • Don’t slack on recordkeeping. The IRS mandates that you track your vehicle expenses as they happen (this is called contemporaneous recordkeeping). You’re not allowed to wait until right before filing your tax return to compile all the necessary information needed to claim a vehicle deduction. Whether it’s a physical notebook you stick in your glove compartment or a mobile phone app, pick a method to track your mileage and actual expenses that’s most convenient for you.

    Please call if you have any questions about maximizing your business’s vehicle expense deduction.

    Get the Best Bank for Your Buck


    A checking account at one bank is the same as a checking account at another bank, right? Well, maybe not. In fact, according to the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, now 41% of people do all their banking online. This is a pretty big shift from traditional banking.

    After reviewing the financial strength of a bank, here are several other things to consider as you decide what’s really most important to you in selecting a bank.

    The online bank versus nearby location

    While having a nearby brick-and-mortar location is important to many banking consumers, you might find better interest rates with an online-only bank because they don’t spend lots of money to maintain physical branches. As people switch to taking care of all their basic banking transactions online, one of the reasons to visit your local bank branch is to talk with a banker. If you believe you’d benefit from such discussion, make sure the online bank you’re considering will facilitate that for you.

    Understand key bank fees

    In addition to charging loan fees when they lend out money, banks bring in much of their revenue by charging fees on your deposit accounts. You’ll have a much more positive experience by ensuring your bank’s fees don’t outweigh the benefits of the account you’re considering. Here are three key fees to understand:

    • Monthly maintenance fees. This is a monthly fee a bank charges on an account. Understand how yours works. Banks will waive these fees if your account is above a certain balance. Others waive the fees if you behave in a way they want you to behave. For instance, if you use a debit card versus writing a paper check. Others want you to make direct deposits. Still others want you to use their bill pay service. Understand this fee class and determine if you can abide by the terms your bank sets for them.
    • Overdraft fees. These fees are charged to a checking account if you attempt to buy something but don’t have enough money in your account. There are a variety of ways to avoid overdraft fees, such as signing up for a protection program or linking your savings account to automatically pay the rest of the bill. Take the time to understand your bank’s options to avoid overdrafts and the cost associated with them.
    • ATM fees. Some ATMs require you to pay money to use their machines, especially if the ATM you’re using isn’t in your bank’s network. Don’t overlook the opportunity to save money by ensuring that the bank you’re considering supplies ATMs in your area so you won’t have to pay a fee every time you need to use an ATM.

    Other banking tools

    Banks often provide tools to help you budget your daily and monthly expenses. Many offer free credit scores and credit monitoring. Others offer automatic transfers into a savings account. Still others offer the ability to open multiple savings accounts and label each account for different purposes.

    Keep these tips in mind the next time you need to choose a new bank. With many different banks to choose from, a little research can ensure the bank you choose fits your financial needs and priorities.