Author Archives: c04432601

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!

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.

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:

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.
  • 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!

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!

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 contact your financial advisor or accountant if you would like help creating or analyzing comparative financial statements for your business.

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.

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.
  • Make your 2021 fourth-quarter estimated tax payment by January 18, 2022.

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.

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.