Friday, August 29, 2014

Retirement Plan Options for Small Businesses

Employer-sponsored retirement plans have become a key component for retirement savings. They are also an increasingly important tool for attracting and retaining the high-quality employees you need to compete in today's competitive environment.

Besides helping employees save for the future, however, instituting a retirement plan can provide you, as the employer, with benefits that enable you to make the most of your business's assets. Such benefits include:

  • Tax-deferred growth on earnings within the plan
  • Current tax savings on individual contributions to the plan
  • Immediate tax deductions for employer contributions
  • Easy to establish and maintain
  • Low-cost benefit with a highly-perceived value by your employees
Here's an overview of four retirement plans options that can help you and your employees save:

SIMPLE: Savings Incentive Match Plan

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Hampshire Distracted Driving Law to Ban Handheld Devices While Driving

Effective July 1, 2015, the use of all hand-held electronic devices while driving will be illegal in New Hampshire. Although the bulk of the law will not take effect until July 1, a provision requiring that the public be educated is currently in effect, so New Hampshire drivers can expect to see electronic highway signs warning them about the dangers of distracted driving.

On July 25, Gov. Maggie Hassan signed the bill into law, which will make hand-held cell phone use punishable by a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for subsequent offenses within a 24-month period. According to the Insurance Journal, the law will apply while drivers are temporarily stopped, such as at a red light, but not if they have pulled over, off the roadway. It will still allow hands-free cellphone use, but will ban emailing, texting, and programming GPS systems while driving.

Currently, state law only bans texting while driving, which is not always effective, as it can be difficult to discern whether a driver is typing a text message, dialing, or inputting an address into his/her GPS, for instance. This will no longer be an issue under the new law, as it will prohibit all of these activities, the Insurance Journal reports. The law will also ban all cellphone use by minors while driving, with the exception of emergency calls.

According to the Insurance Journal, the new law will be most heavily promoted in the weeks before it takes effect. For additional information, click here to read the full article on the Insurance Journal.







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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Leaving a Business: Which Exit Plan Is Right For You?

Selecting your business successor is a fundamental objective of planning an exit strategy and requires a careful assessment of what you want from the sale of your business and who can best give it to you.

There are only four ways to leave your business: transfer ownership to family members, Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP), sale to a third party, and liquidation. The more you understand about each one, the better the chance is that you will leave your business on your terms and under the conditions you want. With that in mind, here's what you need to know about each one.

1. Transfer Ownership to Your Children

Transferring a business within the family fulfills many people's personal goals of keeping their business and family together, but while most business owners want to transfer their business to their children, few end up doing so for various reasons. As such, it's necessary to develop a contingency plan to convey your business to another type of buyer.

Monday, August 25, 2014

How to Save for College Tax-Free

According to a 2014 study published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, researchers found that over a lifetime, the average U.S. college graduate will earn at least $800,000 more than the average high school graduate--even after taking into consideration the cost of college tuition and the four years of lost wages it entails. So even though tuition and fees are always on the rise, most people still feel that a college education is well worth the investment. That said however, the need to set money aside for their child's education often weighs heavily on parents.

Fortunately, there are two savings plans available to help parents save money that also provide certain tax benefits. Let's take a closer look.

The two most popular college savings programs are the Qualified Tuition Programs (QTPs) or Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Whichever one you choose, try to start when your child is young. The sooner you begin saving, the less money you will have to put away each year.

Example: Suppose you have one child, age six months, and you estimate that you'll need $120,000 to finance his college education 18 years from now. If you start putting away money immediately, you'll need to save $3,500 per year for 18 years (assuming an after-tax return of 7 percent). On the other hand, if you put off saving until your son is six years old, you'll have to save almost double that amount every year for 12

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Basic Tax Tips about Hobbies

Millions of people enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. Some examples include stamp and coin collecting, craft making, and horsemanship.

You must report on your tax return the income you earn from a hobby. The rules for how you report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business. There are special rules and limits for deductions you can claim for a hobby. Here are five tax tips you should know about hobbies:

1. Is it a Business or a Hobby?  A key feature of a business is that you do it to make a profit. You often engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit. You should consider nine factors when you determine whether your activity is a hobby. Make sure to base your determination on all the facts and circumstances of your situation. For more about ‘not-for-profit’ rules see Publication 535, Business Expenses.

2. Allowable Hobby Deductions.  Within certain limits, you can usually deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted for the activity. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the activity.

3. Limits on Hobby Expenses.  Generally, you can only deduct your hobby expenses up to the amount of hobby income. If your hobby expenses are more than your hobby income, you have a loss from the activity. You can’t deduct the loss from your other income.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

IRS Updates Phone Scams Warning

The IRS is again warning the public about phone scams that continue to claim victims all across the country. In these scams, thieves make unsolicited phone calls to their intended victims. Callers fraudulently claim to be from the IRS and demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often hostile and abusive.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received 90,000 complaints about these scams. TIGTA estimates that thieves have stolen an estimated $5 million from about 1,100 victims. To avoid becoming a victim of these scams, you should know:

  • The IRS will first contact you by mail if you owe taxes, not by phone.
  • The IRS never asks for credit, debit or prepaid card information over the phone.
  • The IRS never insists that you use a specific payment method to pay your tax.
  • The IRS never requests immediate payment over the telephone.
  • The IRS will always treat you professionally and courteously. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Trying To Calculate Your Vacation Home Rental Income?

If you rent a home to others, you usually must report the rental income on your tax return. But you may not have to report the income if the rental period is short and you also use the property as your home. In most cases, you can deduct the costs of renting your property. However, your deduction may be limited if you also use the property as your home. Here is some basic tax information that you should know if you rent out a vacation home:



  • Vacation Home.  A vacation home can be a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat or similar property.
  • Schedule E.  You usually report rental income and rental expenses on Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss. Your rental income may also be subject to Net Investment Income Tax.
  • Used as a Home.  If the property is “used as a home,” your rental expense deduction is limited. This means your deduction for rental expenses can’t be more than the rent you received. For more about these rules, see Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes).
  • Divide Expenses.  If you personally use your property and also rent it to others, special rules apply. You must divide your expenses between the rental use and the personal use. To figure how to divide your costs, you must compare the number of days for each type of use with the total days of use.
  • Personal Use.  Personal use may include use by your family. It may also include use by any other

Friday, August 15, 2014

Can You Write Off Your Job Hunting Expenses?

Many people change their job in the summer. If you look for a new job in the same line of work, you may be able to deduct some of your job hunting costs.

Here are some key tax facts you should know about if you search for a new job:

  • Same Occupation.  Your expenses must be for a job search in your current line of work. You can’t deduct expenses for a job search in a new occupation.
  • Résumé Costs.  You can deduct the cost of preparing and mailing your résumé.
  • Travel Expenses.  If you travel to look for a new job, you may be able to deduct the cost of the trip. To deduct the cost of the travel to and from the area, the trip must be mainly to look for a new job. You may still be able to deduct some costs if looking for a job is not the main purpose of the trip.
  • Placement Agency. You can deduct some job placement agency fees you pay to look for a job.
  • First Job.  You can’t deduct job search expenses if you’re looking for a job for the first time.
  • Work-Search Break.  You can’t deduct job search expenses if there was a long break between the end of your last job and the time you began looking for a new one.
  • Reimbursed Costs.  Reimbursed expenses are not deductible.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Tax Aspects of Divorce and Separation

When it comes to legal separation or divorce, there are many complex situations to address. A divorcing
couple faces many important decisions and issues regarding alimony, child support, and the fair division of property. While most courts and judges will not factor in the impact of taxes on a potential property settlement or cash payments, it is important to realize how the value of assets transferred can be materially affected by the tax implications.

Dependents

One of the most argued points between separating couples regarding taxes is who gets to claim the children as dependents on their tax return, since joint filing is no longer an option. The reason this part of tax law is so important to divorcing parents is that the federal and state exemptions allowed for dependents offer a significant savings to the custodial parent, and there are also substantial child and educational credits that can be taken. The right to claim a child as a dependent from birth through college can be worth over $30,000 in tax savings.

The law states that one parent must be chosen as the head of the household, and that parent may legally claim the dependents on his or her return.

Example: If a couple was divorced or legally separated by December 31 of the last tax year, the law allows the tax exemptions to go to the parent who had physical custody of the children for the greater part of the year (the custodial parent), and that parent would be considered the head of the household. However, if the separation occurs in the last six months of the year and there hasn't yet been a legal divorce or separation by the year's end, the exemptions will go to the parent that has been providing the most financial support to the

Monday, August 11, 2014

Should You Be Paying Estimated Tax or Having More Withheld Instead?

Some individuals must pay estimated taxes or face a penalty in the form of interest on the amount underpaid. Self-employed persons, retirees, and nonworking individuals most often must pay estimated taxes to avoid the penalty. But an employee may need to pay them if the amount of tax withheld from wages is insufficient to cover the tax owed on other income. The potential tax owed on investment income also may increase the need for paying estimated tax, even among wage earners.

The trick with estimated taxes is to pay a sufficient amount of estimated tax to avoid a penalty but not to overpay. The IRS will refund the overpayment when you file your return, but it will not pay interest on it. In other words, by overpaying tax to the IRS, you are in essence choosing to give the government an interest-free loan rather than invest your money somewhere else and make a profit.

When do I make estimated tax payments?

Individual estimated tax payments are generally made in four installments accompanying a completed Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals. For the typical individual who uses a calendar tax year, payments generally are due on April 15, June 15, and September 15 of the tax year, and January 15 of the following

Friday, August 8, 2014

Avoid Summertime Tax Scams

Ah, summertime! Warm days, rest and recreation and…tax scams. Thieves don’t stop victimizing unsuspecting taxpayers with their scams after April 15. Identity theft, phone and phishing scams happen year-round. Those three top the IRS’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams this year. Here’s some important information you should know about these common tax scams:

1. Identity Theft.  Identity thieves steal personal and financial information to commit fraud or other crimes. This can include your Social Security number or bank information. An identity thief may file a phony tax return to claim a fraudulent refund.

 The IRS has a special identity protection page on IRS.gov. It has many resources you can use to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. The page can also tell you what steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft and need help. This includes how and when you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.

2. Phone Scams.  In these scams, thieves pose as the IRS and call would-be victims with one goal in mind:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Home-Based Business: Basics to Consider

More than 52 percent of businesses today are home-based. Every day, people are striking out and achieving economic and creative independence by turning their skills into dollars. Garages, basements and attics are being transformed into the corporate headquarters of the newest entrepreneurs--home-based businesspeople.

And, with technological advances in smartphones, tablets, and iPads as well as a rising demand for "service-oriented" businesses, the opportunities seem to be endless.

Is a Home-Based Business Right for You?

Choosing a home business is like choosing a spouse or partner: Think carefully before starting the business. Instead of plunging right in, take time to learn as much about the market for any product or service as you can. Before you invest any time, effort, or money take a few moments to answer the following questions:

  • Can you describe in detail the business you plan on establishing?
  • What will be your product or service?
  • Is there a demand for your product or service?
  • Can you identify the target market for your product or service?
  • Do you have the talent and expertise needed to compete successfully?


Monday, August 4, 2014

IRS Tip Sheet on Gambling Income and Losses

Whether you like to play the ponies, roll the dice or pull the slots, your gambling winnings are taxable. You must report all your gambling income on your tax return. If you’re a casual gambler, odds are good that these basic tax tips can help you at tax time next year:

1. Gambling income.  Gambling income includes winnings from lotteries, horse racing and casinos. It also includes cash prizes and the fair market value of prizes like cars and trips.

2. Payer tax form.  If you win, you may get a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, from the payer. The IRS also gets a copy of the W-2G. The payer issues the form depending on the type of game you played, the amount of your winnings and other factors. You’ll also get the form if the payer withholds taxes from what you won.

3. How to report winnings.  You must report all your gambling winnings as income. This is true even if you don’t receive a Form W-2G. You normally report your winnings for the year on your tax return as ‘other income.’

4. How to deduct losses.  You can deduct your gambling losses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The amount you can deduct is limited to the amount of the gambling income you report on your return.

5. Keep gambling receipts.  You should keep track of your wins and losses. This includes keeping items such as a gambling log or diary, receipts, statements or tickets.

If you need additional help calculating gambling winnings and losses for your return, please let us know.






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Friday, August 1, 2014

Paying off Debt the Smart Way

Between mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and student loans, most people are in debt. While being debt-free is a worthwhile goal, most people need to focus on managing their debt first since it's likely to be there for most of their life.

Handled wisely, that debt won't be an albatross around your neck. You don't need to shell out your hard-earned money because of exorbitant interest rates or always feel like you're on the verge of bankruptcy. You can pay off debt the smart way, while at the same time saving money to pay it off even faster.

Assess the Situation

First, assess the depth of your debt. Write it down using pencil and paper or use a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel. You can also use a bookkeeping program such as Quicken. Include every instance you can think of where a company has given you something in advance of payment, including your mortgage, car payment(s), credit cards, tax liens, student loans, and payments on electronics or other household items through a store.

Record the day the debt began and when it will end (if possible), the interest rate you're paying, and what your payments typically are. Next, add it all up--as painful as that might be. Try not to be discouraged! Remember, you're going to break this down into manageable chunks while finding extra money to help pay it down.

Identify High-Cost Debt