Category Archives: News

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.