Pay Now

News

NON-Retiree Retirement Ideas- Want money when you retire? Here are some tips.

Here are five common retirement planning ideas and what you can do to take advantage of them. The key is retirement planning starts now, not decades from now when you are reaching retirement age.

1. Having a plan

Surprisingly, most do not know how much money is needed for retirement. This is being made much more difficult with inflation playing a major role in finding the right answer. A retirement plan should consider how long you expect to live, an estimate of the amount of money you will need, and a description of your desired lifestyle during retirement. Your plan should have measurable goals that you aim to achieve.

Action item: If you have a plan, review it for possible revisions. If you do not, consider getting one put together as soon as possible.

2. Start early enough

One of the most powerful tools for a well-funded retirement is to start saving for your retirement at an early age. The sooner you start saving, the better off you will be.

Action item: Open a retirement account and start saving now. Increase the percent of your pay that you place in tax-advantaged retirement saving accounts. This includes IRAs, 401(k)s, and other plans.

3. Maximize employer contributions

Many employers have plans available to help their employees save for retirement. If your company has a pension plan, understand how it works and how much you can expect to receive upon retirement. If your company has a retirement plan contribution-matching program, take full advantage of this free money by making minimum contributions required to receive this employer match.

Action item: Review your employer-provided retirement saving options. Maximize the benefits they are providing.

4. Consider working after retiring

Do you plan on working during retirement or avoiding work at all costs? Do you plan on having a pension or Social Security covering all your retirement needs or none of it? Too often retirees plan the extremes, but reality is something in between. For example, if you are someone who plans to have your pension plan fail and Social Security go broke, you may be taking too conservative an approach.

Action item: Create a range of retirement funding scenarios, not just the worst-case or best-case scenario. Consider no work or part-time work. Think about some contribution from Social Security and potential pension income if your employer has a program.

5. Understand the true nature of your retirement

Are you being realistic in your future retirement plans? Have you correctly estimated the cost of health insurance? Have you really thought about the impact of relocating to a warmer climate? How important is living close to family and friends? Will you really downsize your home after the kids leave?

Action item: If you have a retirement plan that includes relocating or traveling to far-off places, consider test-driving this idea before you implement it. You may be surprised at the result.

Retirement should be something to look forward to, especially with a little planning.



I'm Being Audited by the IRS!

Less than 1% of more than 145 million individual tax returns filed during 2021 will be selected for audit. The percentage increases for higher income taxpayers, along with tax returns in areas of specific interest to the IRS. Here’s what you should remember if you receive a notice from the IRS of an impending audit:

  • IRS computers usually flag the tax returns for audits. The vast majority of them are routine.
  • Your audit will usually focus on just a few areas of your tax return.
  • Audits do not automatically mean something is wrong. It is possible to receive a “no change” or even an additional refund as the results of an audit.

What to do if you are audited

  • Don’t panic. Open all correspondence and respond to all requested information in a timely fashion. Remember, many of these notices are only due to the processing backlog at the IRS.
  • Keep good records. Be prepared to support your tax return details. Do this as you prepare your tax records each year and store the prior year’s tax return.
  • Ask for help. You are not a tax professional, the IRS auditor is. Get help and do so as soon as possible after receiving your notice. Let professionals deal with the IRS as much as possible.
  • The best defense is a good offense. Identify the information in question and prepare as much as possible to defend your tax return prior to any meetings with auditors.
  • Answer questions, do not volunteer information. Answer only the questions under review. It helps both you and the often overworked auditor. Avoid attending meetings with an auditor on your own.
  • Do not make it personal. Remember to be polite and avoid making comments about anything other than what is being asked.

If you feel you are being treated unfairly, remember there are numerous means within the system to help you such as talking to an auditor’s supervisor to using the IRS taxpayer advocate service.



Understanding Tax Terms: Pass-through Entities- What everyone should know

Small business owners have a number of options on how to organize their business for tax purposes. And if you sell items on eBay or Esty, drive for Uber, or offer your services as a writer or programmer, you are probably considered a flow-through entity in the eyes of the IRS. Frankly, so much of individual tax is paid by these small businesses, it is important for all taxpayers to understand this tax code logic as politicians debate trying to increase tax revenues.

How pass-through entities work

Pass-through entities do not pay taxes with a separate business tax return. Instead, the business’s taxable income is reported on the owner’s individual tax return. A sole proprietor does this on their Schedule C, while other entities like partnerships and S corporations send owners their respective share of profits via a K-1 tax form.

Generally, business owners prefer pass-through entities because:

  • The business income is taxed once instead of twice as in the case of C corporations.
  • The business format provides owners a level of legal protection that is not available by doing business as a sole proprietor.

What you should know

  • Individual tax rates. Changes in individual tax rates have an impact on the amount of tax paid by all small businesses that are organized as pass-through entities.
  • New 20 percent deduction. A 20 percent qualified business income deduction is available for pass-through entities and sole proprietorships. There are limitations and other complexities involved, but the bottom line is many small business owners will see a tax break due to this deduction.
  • Owing the tax and having money to pay it can be a problem. Small pass-through business owners must pay income tax on their share of business profits. However, the business entity is NOT required to distribute cash from the company to help pay the tax. So pass-through owners could see a tax bill without money to pay the tax.
  • Concerns for minority shareholders. Minority shareholders in pass-through entities are doubly cursed. They not only may not receive distributions to pay taxes due, but they are often precluded from selling their shares, and they do not have enough ownership to require distribution of funds through shareholder voting.
  • Popular business entity type. According to statistics from the IRS, the S corporation formation is a popular business entity type with 4.72 million S corporations in 2017 – roughly three times the amount of C corporations. LLCs are quickly becoming the new entity of choice with growth from 120,000 in 1995 entities to over 11 million entities today.

With 95% of business entities being taxed on personal tax returns, it is important to understand that raising individual tax rates is really an increase in tax to most businesses in the United States.



What's New in 2022

Here are some key changes to the tax code for 2022. Use this information to help manage your tax obligation, a practice that can pay rich benefits if reviewed throughout the year.

Tax brackets and rates

While there is much discussion in Congress and the Executive branch to raise individual tax rates (currently 0% to 37%), to date no legislation is gaining traction….yet. In the meantime, inflation is impacting the income brackets subject to tax. The cost of living calculation is raising the income brackets subject to tax by approximately 3% to 3.8%.

Standard deductions

The higher standard deductions are still in place. For 2022, they are:

  • Single: $12,950 (up $400)
  • Married Filing Joint: $25,900 (up $800)
  • Head of Household: $19,400 (up $600)
  • Married Filing Separate: $12,950 ( up $400)
  • Taxpayers claimed as a dependent: $1,150 (up $50)

Key tax code changes

  • Child Tax Credit roll back. The advance payment of one half of this credit and the dollar amount for each qualifying child rolls back to prior year limits (2020) of $2,000 per child. Last year you could earn as much as $3,600 per child.
  • Dependent Care Credit qualified expenses now lower. The maximum qualified childcare expenses in 2022 are $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more dependents. The one year expansion of qualified expenses ($8,000 for one and $16,000 for two or more) is now gone.
  • 100% meal deductibility. Business meals are typically only 50% deductible. To help aid restaurants recover from the pandemic, you may deduct 100% of qualified meal expense deductions if the meals are purchased at qualified restaurants thru 2022.
  • Qualified reporting of receiving digital payments expands dramatically. If you receive more than $600 in payments via third-party platforms and the IRS deems these payments to be business related, you will receive 1099-Ks next January. So if you use reseller platforms, receive digital payments through applications like Venmo, or digitally resell event tickets, expect a more complicated tax return.
  • Increase tracking of cryptocurrency transactions. Starting in 2023, there will be more strict reporting requirements of any cryptocurrency transactions handled by brokers and dealers. Please be aware that many of these firms are implementing the changes throughout 2022.
  • Mortgage insurance premium deductibility. Unless extended once again, this deduction is back on the shelf for 2022, so no longer deductible.
  • Charitable deductions if you do not itemize. If you do not itemize, you can NO LONGER deduct up to $300 in qualified charitable deductions ($600 for married couples).

Outlined here are the major changes for current year tax laws. But stay tuned as there are a number of changes that are being proposed, but seem to stuck in Congressional discussion.



Withholding Review Required Now- Avoid tax surprises with a simple review

With tax season in the rear view mirror, now is the time to take a hard look at your federal and/or state withholdings to ensure next year’s tax bill does not surprise you.

A review is more important than ever

There are a number of tax code changes that will impact the amount of tax you pay next year. So much so, that if you do not forecast your tax obligation now, you may be in for a very unpleasant surprise. This is true because:

No more advance payments for the Child Tax Credit. The one year requirement of the IRS to pay out half of the Child Tax Credit in advance is no longer in place. So you will not only need to plan for this change, it will also impact your tax return.

Child Tax Credits are lower. In addition, the Child Tax Credit amount for each child is rolling back to the 2020 dollar amount of $2,000. This could mean as much as $1,600 in lower credits for each of your children.

Dependent care credits are lower. The dependent care credit is also lower in 2022. So if both you and your spouse work and have daycare expenses, you will need to forecast the impact of this on this year’s tax obligation.

New 1099-K reporting may require estimated tax payments. The IRS will be receiving millions of new informational tax forms reporting activity from those using digital payment platforms. So for those reselling event tickets, using sites like eBay, Esty and Amazon, you will now need to account for all this income. It may now require quarterly estimated tax payments throughout the year.

Be aware of life events. In addition, a change in your situation could create the need to review your withholdings. It could be due to a job change, selling or buying a home, getting married or divorced, or having a birth or death in the family. Whatever the cause, be aware of the potential change and put a sharp pencil to revising your withholdings.

High inflation is impacting everything. Finally, consider the impact of inflation on your situation. This is especially important if you have a small business as higher costs of labor and supplies could dramatically impact your pending tax bill.

Calculating and making adjustments

Using the IRS calculator. The IRS has an online tool to help you calculate how much you will need to withhold. In order to get an accurate reading, you need to have a copy of your latest paycheck or last quarterly estimated tax filing (Form 1040 ES) and a copy of your last tax return.

The IRS tool is here: IRS Withholding Calculator

Simply follow the tool’s instructions and compare the tool’s recommendation to your current withholdings.

Get expert help if necessary. The IRS recently changed the way it calculates recommended withholdings. While the intent is well intended, many are confused by the change. It is always a good idea to call to review your situation if you have any doubts. But do it now, while there is plenty of time in the year to build the proper withholding amount.

File a new withholding form with your employer. Whether you’re paying too much or too little, you can fix it by filling out a new W-4 form and giving it to your employer. If you’re filing quarterly estimated taxes, you can adjust your next quarter’s estimate in a similar way.

In a perfect tax world, you would not owe too much nor get too large of a refund. Think of overpayments as an interest-free loan the government borrowed from you. Conversely, a shortfall means writing a large check when you file your tax return. That’s a surprise few of us want.



A Tax Nightmare on Your Horizon- MUST READ if using digital payment tools or reselling tickets

A recent tax law change by this edition of Congress now requires transaction reporting to the IRS for anyone receiving more than $600 in payments through digital payment tools like PayPal, Venmo, and CashApp. It also impacts anyone using transaction platforms to buy or sell tickets for sporting events and concerts. Here is what you need to know.

What is happening now

They need your Social Security number. If you use digital payment platforms you will now need to provide your Social Security number and a valid name and address to accept digital payments or to buy and sell tickets online.

The IRS will know. Most of these transactions for those receiving funds will now have this activity reported to the IRS if the total for the year exceeds $600. This is true even if you lose money on the transaction. It will be done using Form 1099-K and will be issued to you in January.

Your taxes may be more complicated. If the IRS considers the transaction a business transaction, you will now need to report the transaction on your 2022 tax return, even for casual transactions that lose money. This is often the case when selling event tickets for a loss or taking digital payments at a garage sale.

You may receive many 1099-Ks. You can expect to receive a separate 1099-K from every platform you use where you exceed the $600 threshold.

The IRS watchdog approach. Prior to 2022, the reporting threshold was $20,000 AND more than 200 transactions. But with the perceived under-reporting of income by those in the gig economy, the transaction threshold was eliminated and the dollar threshold was lowered to $600. Now the IRS will use their computer auditing to compare your 1099-Ks with what you report on your tax return and audit you if they do not match.

What to do now

Coach your friends. Whenever you exchange money with friends in a digital format like Venmo, have them mark the transaction as non-business. Each application will handle this differently, but it is critical you do this to avoid getting a 1099-K in error.

Use cash or check. When receiving payments from friends, if there is potential for error ask for a check or cash. This will avoid the 1099-K reporting mess.

Split payments. When splitting a bill at a restaurant, do not have one person pay and then get reimbursement. Instead, ask the restaurant to split the bill and everyone pay their share. You can make this easy on your server if you are willing to split the bill evenly.

Understand the problem. When receiving a digital payment, you are relying on the person paying you to code the transaction correctly. Unfortunately, you cannot make them do it correctly, so you now need to keep track of digital money received, who it was from, and for what purpose.

True business transactions. For those of you in the gig economy, you have a different problem. Many reporting platforms are inconsistent on reporting. Some will report your income twice, once on a 1099-K and again on another tax form (1099-MISC or 1099-NEC). You must actively monitor this information. Plus, you need to know whether the amount reported are gross proceeds (required) or whether they netted out their fees.

Casual users of seller platforms are now in business. Infrequent users of places like E-Bay, Etsy and Amazon are now in business when payments received are more than $600. Be prepared to create a business tax return on Schedule C of your Form 1040.

This seemingly simple change in the tax code is having a wide-reaching impact. It will further complicate filing taxes AND processing taxes for the IRS. Given the level of public outcry, a roll back of this new rule is possible, but given the nature of Congress, do not plan on it.



Maximizing the Tax Benefit of Charitable Deductions

Charitable contribution deductions are still a great tax savings tool, but they now require more planning. Here are some tips to save the most.



If You're Expecting a Refund, Read This!

If you’re getting a refund, here are four useful tips to know.

1. The average refund is more than $3,500. Through February 18, the IRS reports the average refund is $3,536, which is up 22% versus the same time last year. Since a refund is really your money to begin with, it’s like giving the federal government an interest-free loan.

Tip: If you’re getting a big refund this year due to overpayment of tax, it may be worth adjusting your withholdings to eliminate overpayment for 2022.

2. Most refunds still arrive within three weeks. The IRS says it issues nine of 10 refunds within 21 days. However, electronically filed returns will usually get a refund faster than those filed by paper in the mail. Don’t expect that turnaround with a paper filed return, however. The IRS says they are still processing a backlog of last year’s returns and don’t expect to be caught up until year end.

Tip: The best way to check the status of your refund is by visiting https://www.irs.gov/refunds. While you can see the status of your refund, there isn’t a whole lot you can do about it until the IRS processes the refund.

3. Sometimes refunds are wrong. If your refund isn’t the amount you expected, there could be multiple reasons why. The primary culprit may be caused by the numerous incentives available during the 2021 tax year, driven by the increased Child Tax Credit. But there could also be a typo or calculation error, or the IRS may have disallowed some deductions or credits. If you owe other debts to the government, they may have these garnished from your refund check.

Tip: If your refund amount is different than the amount on your tax return, try to understand why this is the case before cashing the check. Follow up with the IRS for an explanation about the missing amount. Amounts cashed that are larger than you expect can actually cause problems if the IRS expects repayment.

4. Con artists prey on refund checks. Year after year, IRS scams are among the most commonly reported frauds. Con artists call unsuspecting taxpayers and claim to be from the IRS. They say that you owe money or that a refund was issued in error and demand immediate repayment.

Tip: An IRS agent will never call a taxpayer over the phone without first sending an official letter, and will neither threaten a taxpayer nor demand immediate payment. They’ll also never ask for credit card or debit card numbers over the phone. If you are contacted by a suspected scammer, report it to the IRS by calling 800-366-4484.



It's Tax Time! Estimated Taxes are Due.- Now is the time to file your taxes and make your estimated tax payment.

Reminder: Tax returns AND first quarter estimated taxes are due by Monday, April 18th.



April Fools! You've Been Scammed.- Great tips to identify scams BEFORE they happen

In honor of the traditional day of practical jokes and harmless antics, instead of chasing the hottest new tax scam, why not arm yourself with traits that will help identify even the most recent version of them. Here is what you need to know:

You are a target

While virtually anyone can be a target of scams, thieves usually target those that are most likely to respond. So if you fit into one of these categories, your scam meter should go way up:

  • Elderly. Why: High trust, generally less tech savvy
  • Students. Why: Low income, high debt, and lack of street smarts
  • Immigrants. Why: Easy to threaten residence status, lower understanding of processes
  • Heavy social media users. Why: More willing to give away their identity and to click on things.

Action: If one of these groups describes you, understand you will be subject to a scam…probably every year. If not, then understand who you need to coach for heightened awareness.

Hints to identify scams

While not a sure-fire way to avoid all types of scams, if you follow these hints to identify scams, the likelihood of being a victim lowers dramatically.

  • Personal information is requested via email, web, or phone.
  • The contact comes to you, and not the other way around.
  • Emails ask you to click on something.
  • You are asked to visit a website.
  • Initial contact from the “IRS” is anything other than mail.
  • You feel threatened.
  • Fear is used as a tactic.

Never give them your keys

You would never give your car keys to a complete stranger. So keep that thought in your mind as it relates to your identity, and your money. Drive your own car when it comes to the IRS by controlling the process. You do this by:

  • Understanding. Initial contact with the IRS and their collection agents always uses the mail. So never respond via email or web or phone.
  • Not taking the bait. Any non-mail initial contact is met by hanging up the phone or deleting the email. And NEVER click on any links in an email or go to a website directed by a stranger.
  • Independent confirmation. Never respond directly unless a trusted expert handles the correspondence for you. In addition, ask any IRS agent for their pocket commission and HSPD-12 card. Then go to www.irs.gov, get the appropriate phone number and call them for confirmation that the person or form is legitimate.
  • Ignore, non-mail, non-federal. Scammers know it is harder to scam with an IRS ID, so they will claim to be from the state, local law enforcement, Social Security and even the Taxpayer Advocate Service. IN ALL CASES, either ignore or hang up the phone. Then independently look up the number of the agency and call them directly to confirm the validity of the claim. If they say they are legit, ask for mail confirmation, but DO NOT give them your address, they should already have it.
  • Payment only goes one place. Finally, all IRS payments are made out to the US Treasury and sent via approved addresses or direct deposit. This can be found on www.irs.gov. There are no exceptions to this. So do not give credit card information, buy gift cards, send a check to anyone other than approved addresses, or pay anyone other than the US Treasury.

Remember, your best defense is a good offense, so call immediately if you need help. And now you really can have a happy April Fools Day!