It’s no secret that return customers are the best. And the best way to keep your customers coming back for more is exceptional customer service. Majority of customers who stopped buying from a particular business did so due to poor customer service, which can give off the impression that they aren’t cared about. As a business owner, you want customers not only coming back, but giving rave reviews about you. Customer service is key and the best way to keep those customers loyal is by communicating with them on a regular basis. You want to remind your customers that you exist and you’re here to help them with their needs.
Here are some great ways to stay connected to your customers:
Newsletters – you can send a monthly or quarterly newsletter to your customers. Newsletters are easy to put together and can be sent my either regular mail or by e-mail. It’s a simple way to stay in touch.
Thank you notes – after a purchase, pop a thank you note in the mail. Make sure you hand write it to give it the extra attention.
Thank them for referrals – there are so many businesses that never thank current customers for referrals. That’s a shame. Take the time to send a handwritten thank you note. Remember they took the time to recommend you, the least you can do is thank them.
Have contests – there are so many different ways to host a contest. You can offer a grand prize, a gift certificate or a night out on the town. Customers can be entered for every purchase they make that month, for any referrals they send your way, or for reviewing your business online.
Remember their needs – if you get a new product or service in then reach out to them if you think they can benefit. Most customers would love the opportunity to find a solution to a problem, so help them get there.
Here are some great tips on how to repair your credit score. Even if you’re just starting out and may not have had a chance to build your credit, these tips can be useful.
ONE: Keep amounts you owe low. By maintaining either no balance or a low balance then that can have a positive impact on your credit score.
TWO: Make Your Payments. Don’t skip payments and try to be on time each month. By being delinquent or missing payments you can do some serious damage to your score.
THREE: Don’t open too many accounts in a short period of time. New accounts will lower your credit score. And new accounts on a rapid basis can make you appear too risky.
Are you in the process of hiring an accountant? If so, then there are a few key questions you should be asking. Remember, you’re hiring an accountant for a purpose – prepare your tax return, bookkeeping, tax planning and so on. It’s your right to have your questions answered. Here’s what you should be asking:
How long have you been an accountant?
What time of services do you provide?
What are your hours?
What is your policy on returning questions and phone calls?
What are your fees and how are they calculated?
What continuing education programs do you attend or does your staff attend?
Can you provide me a list of references?
A majority of these questions apply whether you’re an individual or a small business owner.
Your accountant can be a vital piece to your business. By forming a relationship with them then you will be able to understand your financials better. A lot of owners only see their tax guy during tax season, and that’s a mistake. You should be talking with your accountant throughout the year. Learning what’s working and not working. Your accountant can help you pinpoint areas of your business that need help or what’s working well.
Here are a few key areas you may be missing out on by not having a relationship with your accountant:
One: Tax Planning. Tax planning is a great strategic tool that you should be using. Tax planning can help prepare you for any tax liability that will be due so you do not have any surprises. If done properly and before the end of the tax year, you may be able to relieve some of that tax liability.
Two: Budgeting. Your accountant can help you develop an effective budget. That way you can save and help plan for the future.
Three: Assist in making large decisions. Your accountant can help you in making investment, sales and other large transaction decisions. That way you can make sure it’s in your best interest financially.
Four: Keep record. Your accountant can help you track your sales, expenses, and other important information so you may see how your business is doing throughout the year.
Every tax season and throughout the year, we are asked that question over and over again. The IRS isn’t happy with anyone that misses the deadline for filing their tax return (or extension). Here’s what you need to know:
If you’re entitled to a refund then there will be no interest and penalties. The IRS only applies interest and penalties to those that owe money. However, if you wait over three years then you will lose any chance of a refund.
If you owe the IRS then you will be charged a penalty of 5% of the balance due per month it’s late.
If you don’t pay on time then you will also be charged a failure to pay penalty of 0.5% a month on top of the penalty stated above.
Filing an extension may buy you a little more time, but it will not eliminate the failure to pay penalty. Therefore, when you file an extension it’s important to pay an estimate.
If you can prove an explanation that is reasonable as to why your tax return was late or payment was late then the IRS may remove the penalties due.
As a small business owner, you probably have hundreds of thoughts and reminders run through your mind all day. Some are major and others are minor. It’s vital to keep a running list of things to do nearby. That way you won’t forget and are able to keep track of what’s most important. A recent poll showed the three top worries for small business owners:
ONE: Taxes. It’s important to have a tax professional in your corner. As a small business owner you’re under pressure by the ever-changing tax laws and regulations. By utilizing tax planning, you can avoid being unprepared during tax time.
TWO: Regulations. Many individuals are unaware of changing and new regulations; however, as a small business owner it’s your job to know.
THREE: Poor Sales. Consumers are unsure of how the economy will be in the future, so it’s effecting small business owners’ sales amounts.
Do you have to hire anyone for your business or for your employer? It can be stressful. How do you know if this person will work out? Are they reliable, honest, and trustworthy? Will they work hard?
It’s tough to know. Most hiring managers make the mistake of hiring the first qualified applicant they come across. This can lead to the misconception that there is no good employees to be found. There is a process you should follow when hiring someone new.
Step One: Have the applicant fully complete an application. Make sure your application covers the basic information: employment history, knowledge, skills, and reasons for leaving a previous job. Also, have the applicant answer open-ended questions such as: name a situation that involved teamwork, how do you feel about being critique, what are your thoughts on customer service issues, and so on. Make sure you receive written permission to contact any former employer.
Step Two: Ask your applicants to call in during a specific time before meeting in person. By asking for a quick phone interview you can test their skills on the phone and their ability to follow directions.
Step Three: Do your due diligence. Run a background check, a drug screen and make sure to call their references.
Step Four: Do face-to-face interviews with those that passed the previous steps. Have open-ended questions ready that can really show you how they will handle specific situations.
Step Five: Hire the most qualified applicant on a 90-day probation period.
It’s time to end it. End your unhealthy relationship with your debt.
Think about the amount of money you could have to put towards retirement, your children’s future, your dream home, and so much more if you didn’t have those monthly payments to credit card companies, car payments, and store credit cards.
You could have an extra $1,000 or more a month in discretionary income if you just didn’t have any debt. So how do you go about breaking up with your debt?
It’s simple, stop spending money you don’t have. Sure, a car loan and mortgage is understandable. Even college loans are common these days. But there is no need to have a credit card balance or store card balance.
Credit card companies make everything sound so amazing
“No interest for the first 18 months.”
“Receive 20% off today’s purchase by using your store card.”
It’s hard to say no. But you must resist the temptation to get into deeper debt.
Here are some great tips to help you get out of your debt:
Call your credit card company and ask them to freeze your interest rate. By freezing your interest rate you’ll be able to avoid any increases, but you won’t be able to use your card anymore. Now, not all credit card companies will do this, but it’s worth a shot.
Lower your credit card limit. Did you know you can call your credit card company to lower your limit? It’s true! By lowering your limit you won’t be able to spend as much, which can help teach you discipline.
Leave your card at home. If you can, you should leave your credit card at home to avoid the temptation of easily swiping it. Now, if you’re traveling then you may want to pack your card with you in case of an emergency.
Start putting extra income towards your monthly payments. Paying more than the minimum amount each month can help you pay off debt a lot faster. Remember – the more you’re able to put towards your debt the less amount of interest you’re going to pay.
It can be difficult to talk money and financials with the one you love. There are differing opinions to consider and feelings to take into account. However, talking with your spouse about money can be one of the most important conversations you have. A lot of couples fight over money and it’s a fight that can be avoided.
Before getting upset or starting a fight, try to this tip to work things out. It’s important to realize that you don’t exactly know where the other person is coming from. Spending habits are hard to change, but with open communication and no judgment, couples can work together.
Want to know our number one tip for talking money?
Place yourself in the other person’s shoes.
It’s hard to do, but it’s worth it. By discussing why you spend and how you feel during the conversation then your spouse can develop a deeper understanding. Not everyone thinks alike, which means the reasons we spend money the way we do differs.
Try having money talks on a regular basis to avoid any issues.
Today, I want to share a few tips on how to quickly build your savings account. First, I like to treat my main savings account as an emergency fund. I only dip into in case of an emergency and it must be a real emergency. I also try to keep a minimum balance of $1,000 in the account at all times. That way if something unplanned arises, I’m prepared. However, building your savings account to that $1,000 mark or past it can be hard. There are a few things you can do that can really help you.
ONE: setup an automatic transfer from your checking account into your savings account on payday. This way you will never actually miss the money that you put away because it’s not in your account for very long.
SECOND: establish a portion of each paycheck to be automatically transferred into a savings account. A lot of employers utilize automatic deposit for employees. And they may allow for your check to be deposited into more than one account. If so, use this option. It’s a great way to force discipline.
THREE: Create a savings account at another bank. This one will be hard to establish a transfer for, but you can avoid the temptation of transferring money out of your savings. A lot of people find it difficult to say no when something comes up. A trip out of town for the weekend is not a good reason to transfer money from your savings account. By having a separate banking account at another bank then you can make it harder on yourself to take money out.
Liquidity is a simple way of saying the company’s ability to pay bills. Typically it means paying bills from cash or other assets that can be turned into cash easily and quickly. The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s liquidity.
The quick ratio is a financial ratio, sometimes referred the acid test ratio. It compares the total amount of cash, marketable securities and accounts receivable to the total amount of current liabilities.
A balance sheet reports the dollar amounts of your business’ assets, liabilities and equity as of a specified date.
Assets include cash, inventory, investments, land, accounts receivable, buildings, equipment, goodwill and other intangible assets. Generally assets will be reported at costs or lower due to depreciation.
Liabilities include debts and other obligations of the company. These might look like loan amounts, accounts payable, warranty obligations and taxes due.
Equity or stockholder’s equity reports the amount of assets that are from the owners.
In the end, the balance sheet allows a company to determine the amount of working capital.
It’s important to keep up with current online best practices to protect your online banking access. Here are the recommendations for those who use ACH (Automated Clearing House) for electronic transactions and wire transfers.
ONE: Setup a dollar limit at your bank for all ACH and wire transfers
TWO: Require a second approval for all ACH and wire transfers before being processed
THREE: Require a second token number or code to be entered before sending an ACH or wire transfer
FOUR: Create templates for common ACH and wire transfer transactions
FIVE: Dedicate a computer to be used specifically for online banking and is not used to access email or other websites
SIX: Monitor your account activity throughout the day
If you have any questions to make sure your online banking is secure give your bank a call or call us at 573-686-3053.
Goodwill is an intangible asset that arises when a buyer acquires an existing business. Goodwill does not include any assets that are easily identifiable or are capable of being transferred or sold from the entity. Goodwill is recorded when a company purchases another company and the price is greater than the fair market value less than the liabilities assumed.
Outside of accounting, goodwill refers to the value that has developed as a result of outstanding customer service, management skills, teamwork and other intangible qualities.
If you have any questions or need help, give us a call at 573-686-3053.
Here are some great tips on preventing identity theft. Make sure you protect yourself.
- Do not give your personal information over the phone
- Do not send personal information via e-mail
- Be wary of telephone solicitors who want to send someone to your home
- Be cautious of those mailings that offer a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity
- Choose passwords and PINs that are not obvious
- Maintain security software on your computer
- Consistently shred any unwanted or outdated personal information documents
- Never leave credit cards, bank statements or personal information lying around your home or out for others to easily take
We would like to wish you a Happy Fourth of July celebration. May your day be filled with laughter, making memories, and time spent together. Our office will be closed Tuesday, July 4th in observance of the holiday. We will re-open Wednesday, the 5th. Happy 4th!
Do you know the steps to take if you suspect fraud in your business? Maybe you’ve spotted some behavior or changes in an employee that don’t seem to fit. There are steps you can take if you suspect fraud within your organization.
ONE: Hire experts such as an accountant or forensic accountant to analyze your books. They can help uncover any abnormalities within your transactions or operations. If you aren’t sure who to hire, then speak with your accountant to see if they can help you or recommend a forensic accountant that can.
TWO: Realize that legal action may be the next step. After you review the evidence that shows internal fraud, then litigation may be the next step you take. Consult with your accountant and attorney on taking your case to trial.
THREE: Build in protection to prevent fraud from happening. You need to employ a checks and balances system where someone else is reviewing employees’ reports. Also, it’s important to encourage employees to report any suspicious behavior. You can setup a tip hotline or other method to receive information. Implement a corporate policy that outlines the action plan to report suspicions.
One of the most common concerns with divorce is financial survival. A big mistakes most divorcing couples make is by not being fully away of their finances and how divorce impacts them. For couples facing divorce it’s important to take inventory of your financial situation, gather copies of financial documents, bank accounts, retirement accounts, debts, etc. before any legal proceedings begin.
Most divorce attorneys will require a financial gathering questionnaire so that any property, income, debts, and assets can be split properly between the parties. Here is a checklist to consider when gathering information:
- Income information, which can come from a recent tax return or payroll stubs
- Retirement plans, including: 401Ks, IRAs, Thrift Savings Plans, 403Bs, etc.
- Account balances of any pension plans, profit-sharing plans or employee stock options
- Statements of any other investment or brokerage accounts
- Insurance Policies
- Contents of any safety deposit boxes
- Bank accounts, including: checking, savings, money market accounts, certificate of deposits (CDs)
- Any loan balances – mortgage, automobile, personal, school
- Any credit card balances
- Appraisals of any assets owned
- List of all you and your spouse’s personal property that was acquired before and during the marriage
- List of any inheritance received
We’ve learned that a lot of people like to put off planning for their death. It’s not a fun subject and can sometimes cause great stress on those involved. However, it’s important to realize you already have an Estate Plan in place whether you like it or not. The state you reside in as a standard flow of your assets if you die without a Will or Trust in place. Remember, the way the state directs your assets may not be what you want or desire.
By creating your Estate Plan now then you can avoid losing control over your assets. Here are some of the common Estate Planning mistakes we see.
ONE: not establishing the Estate Plan you want. It’s vital to make sure your important assets are passed down to the loved ones and charities you want.
TWO: Forgetting to update your Estate Plan. When you have children, grandchildren or remarry it’s important to update your Will or Trust. A periodic review of your Estate Planning documents can ensure your wishes are still up-to-date.
THREE: Forgetting to make gifts that can help reduce your estate tax. By talking with your tax preparer you should be able to plan gifts that can help reduce your tax liability.
FOUR: Selecting the wrong person to handle your estate. Choosing an Executor is a difficult choice for most people. Who you place in charge can have a serious impact on your estate.
FIVE: Putting it off. By thinking you can take care of your Estate Plan another time is a big mistake. Putting it off doesn’t make it go away. Sometimes the realization comes too late, such as when there is an unexpected death or disability. To avoid the stress of not having your Estate Plan established, go ahead and take care of it as soon as possible.
If you need help with your Estate Plan, give us a call at 573-686-3053. Dairel is a Board Certified Trust Specialist and can help you make the most of your tax planning.
A buy-sell agreement is sometimes known as a buyout agreement. It is a legal document that binds co-owners of a business on how to handle the situation if one owner dies, is forced to leave the business or chooses to leave the business.
Think of it as a prenuptial agreement between business owners. The contents and arrangements are agreed upon by the owners if something should happen. Some buy-sell agreements are funded by insurance policies in case of death of an owner.
Buy-Sell Agreements contain the co-owners involved in the agreement, what specific events will trigger a buyout, the price to be paid, the date the owners came into agreement, and signatures. There are more considerations that need to be made and it’s important to discuss those with your attorney and your accountant.
A promissory note is a written and signed promise to pay a stated amount of money by a specified date or on demand. The promissory note is to be paid by a specified person and it could involve a loan from a bank, a loan from a relative, or a replacement for an account payable. It is sometimes referred to as a note payable.
The face amount of the promissory note is the written amount of money owed. The face amount will be recorded in the borrower's general ledger with a credit to their liability account Notes Payable. The lender will record the face amount with a debit to its asset account Notes Receivable.
A promissory note could specify an interest rate due on the borrowed amount. If the promissory note specifies an interest rate, which has been agreed to by both parties then it’s used to accrue interest expense and interest payable on the books of the borrower. The lender will accrue interest income and interest receivable. If the promissory note does not specify any interest then it should be assumed the face amount includes some interest.
The terms of the note include the face amount, the interest rate (if stated), the date, terms of repayment and the maturity date. Sometimes the note will also include the lender’s rights in the event of default.
What exactly is a digital asset? Well a digital asset is anything that exists online and comes with the right to use. Such as images, multimedia files, online accounts, etc.
Here’s what to do with your digital property before you pass away
ONE: Make a list of all your digital assets, online accounts, etc. and how to access each of them. These can include: email accounts, social media accounts, domain names, photo storage accounts, copyrighted materials, etc.
TWO: Decide what you want done with each account after you’ve passed away. If you have any digital assets that have a monetary value then you need to instruct the executor of your estate on how to handle these assets. Think of specific account features, such as credit card points, reward points, and so on. Should these accounts be immediately shut down or shut down after it is redeemed?
THREE: You need to name a digital executor. You need to be aware that in most states a Digital Executor is not a legally binding designation, but if it is known then your Executor of your Estate can name that person to handle your wishes as you laid them out.
FOUR: Make sure you store your digital assets’ information in a secure location, but also make sure it’s accessible.
As a small business owner it's important to know just how you're doing. We help business owners every day know just how healthy their business is doing, because sometimes the numbers can be misunderstood. For instance, a business’ revenues are reported on the top line of its income statement, while its earnings are reported on the bottom line (or near the bottom) of the income statement.
Revenues are the gross amounts earned from selling goods or providing services during a certain period. In other words, revenues are the total amounts earned before deducting cost of goods sold, any expenses, and losses the business received.
Earnings are the amounts earned after deducting the cost of goods sold, expenses and losses. It is often presented as net income.
If you need help determining your business' earning, give us a call. Our knowledgeable team can help. Call us at 573-686-3053.
In a simple term, accounts payable is money owed to creditors. Accounts payable may refer to:
The accounting department that is responsible for processing invoices and other bills for goods and services that a company received.
The title of the account containing the amounts owed for invoices and other bills that have been approved but not yet paid.
Amounts owed, which do not involve a promissory note. If a promissory note is involved, the account Notes Payable will be used instead of Accounts Payable.
If you have any questions or would like to sit down with one of our Certified Public Accountants to discuss how we can help you, give us a call at 573-686-3053.
Payroll accounting applies to any business owner and involves recordkeeping of employees' compensation information, which includes:
Salaries, gross wages, commissions, bonuses, and any income earned by employees
Withholding of any payroll taxes, which include federal income taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and state income taxes, if applicable
Withholding for the employees' portion of health insurance premiums, contributions to savings plans, garnishments, etc.
Employer's expense for Social Security, Medicare, state and federal unemployment taxes
Employer's portion of benefits offered to employees. Such as health, vision, and dental insurance, paid holidays, pension and savings plan contributions, vacation and sick days, workers’ compensation insurance, etc.
If you have any questions on payroll accounting or would like assistance, please give our office a call at 573-686-3053.
Tax season is over and you may be grateful to have another year to think about it again. But you shouldn’t put off planning until it’s too late. Go ahead and get organized for the 2017 tax year. Make sure you keep records, retain any receipts, and keep any income sources and expense records. If you start the year off right then you can eliminate any stress at the end of the year. If you need help knowing which records are important and should be kept, just give us a call at 573-686-3053. We’ll be happy to help!
Congratulations to our clients, Debbie and Herschel W. for winning our grandprize! They were the lucky winners of our GoPro giveaway during this past tax season. We hope you enjoy your new GoPro and all of those accessories!
We hold a referral giveaway during tax season each year. Every time a client refers a new client our way, they are entered into our annual grand prize drawing. The giveaways starts December 1st each year and ends the week before the tax deadline. The winner is announced during our Tax Day Lunch.
We wanted to to thank all of our clients for a successful tax season. We’ve been able to help our clients and help new clients throughout the first few months of 2017. We know we would not be where we are today without you.
Congrats again Debbie and Herschel! We appreciate your business!
To stay up-to-date on our other giveways we're having this year, follow us on Facebook.
We’re excited to be hosting our third annual Tax Day Luncheon on Friday, April 14th from 11:00 – 1:00. Come join us to celebrate another successful tax season. We’ll be having lunch and we’ll be giving away door prizes. It’s going to be a great time! Don’t miss it!
Do you know your tax guy’s background? Do they have the education, experience and qualification you want in someone preparing your tax return? At our office we have two Certified Public Accountants that prepare and review every single return. We take pride in knowing the latest tax law changes, utilize cutting edge software and spend time getting to know our clients.
We’re also an Endorsed Local Provider for Dave Ramsey on tax and accounting services. Which means we’ve made the cut to be one of Dave’s trusted advisors. We don’t take that title lightly and work hard to earn the trust of our clients every day.
Not every office feels the same way we do. That’s what makes us different. Give us a call today to have a tax expert help you with this year’s income tax return. Call us at 573-686-3053.
Can you believe March is almost over? Tax Season is in full swing over here at Denton & Associates. We’ve been busying preparing tax returns and helping clients with their tax needs. Have you started preparing your tax return? This year's deadline is Tuesday, April 18th. We're only 21 days away from the deadline. Stop putting off your return. Give us a call to get your appointment scheduled with one of our Certified Public Accountants. Call us at 573-686-3053.
It’s time for some housekeeping for your tax records. A big myth is to keep every single piece of paper that comes your way just in case. Tax and organizational experts say that’s not necessarily correct.
What do you need to hang onto?
Keep records that will help identify income sources, track expenses, determine the value of property, prepared tax returns and their supporting documents.
A good rule of thumb is to hold onto records for 3 years after filing your return. That is typically when a chance of an audit from the IRS will pass; however, if the IRS suspects you underreported income by 25% or more then they can go back 6 years.
Most recommendations are for taxpayers to hold onto their tax documents for about 6-10 years.
If you use something to claim a deduction then hold onto it; however, if you don’t use it then shred it. For example, some taxpayers are unable to deduct their medical expenses.
Some items will eventually sell, such as specific assets. Pension plans, homeownership, stocks and more are such assets. Tax professional recommend hold onto those records for 3 years after you dispose of the asset.
Once you know which records to keep, and which not to keep then it’s time to pick a system. Any system will work, just find one that you like best. It doesn’t matter if it’s a filing cabinet, cardboard box, or computer program. Find a record-keeping system you’re comfortable with it and use it.
Did you know you should report any gambling winnings on your income tax return? If you have winnings over a specific dollar amount then you will be required to claim those amounts on your tax return. The IRS wants to know just how lucky you are at poker, blackjack, slot machines, horse races and more. The institution must get your Social Security Number and let the IRS know you came into some extra money during the year. If your winnings are large enough then it might be smart to pay an estimated tax.
What if your winnings weren’t large enough to trigger a W-2G filing? Well at that point, it’s up to the taxpayer to be responsible to report the winnings to the IRS.
Remember, if you itemize your deductions then you may be able to deduct any gambling losses you faced during the year. If you have any questions, give us a call at 573-686-3053.
Watch our very own Megan Valenzuela, CPA on Business Today for Fox23. She's talking about what to bring to your tax appointment and the importance of bookkeeping for the small business owner.
Did you know the IRS can penalize you for a variety of reasons? For instance, you can receive a tax penalty for not having health insurance, for filing what the IRS deems a frivolous tax return, and for a variety of retirement account inactions or actions. However, most taxpayers usually encounter 3 common offenses:
- Not paying what is owed
- Not filing an income tax return, at all
- Not paying enough tax through the year
If you don’t file a return or an extension by the April deadline then the penalty for not filing will start the very next day. The penalty will continue to grow at 5% per month of any tax balance that is due. The 5% penalty applies to any portion of the month and is not pro-rated.
However, the penalty does max out at 25% of your unpaid taxes. Still, 25% is a pretty hefty fee to pay.
A lot of taxpayers will avoid filing their return if they can’t afford to pay their tax liability. That’s not smart. The IRS considers not filing your return a more serious offense.
Those unpaid liabilities have a penalty, too. Even if you file your return or an extension, but do not pay what you owe in full then you’ll face a penalty of 0.5% of the amount due. Again, it’s added every month that your tax bill is not paid in full. It can grow until it reaches 25% of your tax liability.
Taxes are collected on a pay-as-you-earn system. So if you do not pay enough in as you earn it then will be hit with an underpayment penalty. Most Americans comply with this by having income tax withheld from their paychecks. But if you’re an independent contractor or have a side job to your regular employment then you’re responsible for covering the additional taxes due.
To avoid underpaying your taxes you can pay an estimated tax amount throughout the year.
If you have questions on avoiding the 3 common tax penalties, give us a call at 573-686-3053.
Using the correct filing status is important for your tax return. The marital status is used to determine which requirements you need, your standard deduction and eligibility for certain credits and other deductions. The IRS has five filing statuses:
Single – unmarried, legally divorced or separated according to State law
Married Filing Jointly – couples who are legally married or if your spouse died during the year and you did not remarry
Married Filing Separately – married couples who elect to file their own separate returns.
Head of Household – unmarried or surviving spouses who have paid more than half the cost of maintaining the home for you a qualifying person
Qualifying Widow (Surviving Spouse) with Dependent Child – applies if spouse died during the previous years and you have a dependent child, you have not remarried, and you meet other conditions
Each filing status will impact your income tax return. If you are unsure of which status to use, please contact one of our tax professionals at 573-686-3053.
Let’s be honest, going through an audit is pretty costly – to your pocket book and your time. Here are our 7 triggers to avoid that can cause an audit by the IRS:
1) Using too many round numbers on your tax return
2) Inflating home office deductions
3) Too many losses on your Schedule C
4) Claiming Head of Household when you’re actually married
5) Failing to include income from a W2, 1099 or other form
6) Claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit when you’re not eligible
7) Disproportionately claiming high charitable deductions
At Denton & Associates we recommend having a CPA or tax professional help you file your income tax return. Our CPAs, Dairel and Megan can make sure everything is on track and accurate on your return. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule a meeting.
Did you know someone is posing as the IRS to target taxpayers? They call and say that are with the IRS and are needing more information or payment.
They sound convincing, but do not give any confidential information or payment over the phone. It could be someone trying to scam you out of your money and confidential information.
The scammers will try to put pressure on those on the other end of the phone. They will threaten to send the police to your home for failure to pay or revoke your driver’s license.
Do not be fooled! Even the caller ID will say they are the IRS, but they aren’t! The caller ID may even show a local number.
If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail. The IRS will never make a phone call their first point of contact with someone. If you receive any notices, letters or statements from the IRS, it’s best to bring them to your tax professional.
If you receive any calls from someone claiming to be from the IRS and need payment, please be cautious. Call your tax professional before giving any credit card or payment information to the IRS over the phone.
If you’re recently divorced or are going through a divorce then there are a few tax implications you should be aware of. Divorce can cause tax issues if you are unprepared at tax time. However, talking to a tax professional during the proceedings can help relieve any future stress.
When going through a divorce, it’s best to talk to your tax expert. If you and your spouse have joint liabilities – such as a home mortgage, car loan, a business or credit cards then you need to make decisions now on how those will be handled. Also, taking into consideration joint assets like an IRA, savings account or home can be important when going through a dissolution of marriage.
Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to talk to a tax professional. We can help you through the divorce proceedings to make sure you’re on track for your taxes.
What will your family do if something should happen to you? Do you have a plan to help replace your income if you can no longer work?
You need to think about it. Really think. Will your family be able to pay the mortgage, keep the electricity on, and put food on the table if all of a sudden you’re down to one income, or no income? Will your children still be able to attend college, debt-free if you’re no longer there to financially support them?
If your family depends on your income to survive then life insurance is a necessity. If you should die, life insurance replaces your income and if you should become disabled due to an illness or accident and can no longer work the same or bring in the same amount of income, disability insurance provides income.
Another reason to have life insurance is to help with any debts that you may have when you pass away. A lot of Americans have a mortgage, credit card debt, personal loans, and car loans. Being prepared with life insurance will help cover living expenses, including mortgages, car loans, and credit card debt.
Having the right type and the right amount of insurance can bring peace of mind.
Insurance is one of those things that we hope we never need, but are sure thankful to have it. If you would like to sit down to look at your situation to make sure you have enough coverage then give us a call at 573-686-3053.
Some facts from the IRS about tax fraud:
- In 2015 the IRS reported 2.7 million taxpayers had identities stolen in the previous year.*
- In 2011 the IRS paid identity thieves 5.2 billion dollars.*
- Advances in technology have helped stop the payment of fraudulent money, and between 2011 and 2014 the IRS has stopped $63 billion worth of fraudulent tax refunds.*
Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself this year: Thieves steal your personal information before you even receive your W-2 from your employer. Thieves will then file a fake income tax return on your behalf before you get a chance to file a legitimate return. The thieves then sit back and collect the refund check. It seems to happen fairly fast, and with the IRS trying to issue refund checks within three weeks of receiving your return there really isn’t much time to catch the fraud.
Want to know the best way you can deter tax refund fraud? File early, and file electronically! The IRS will reject any tax returns with your Social Security Number that are filed after yours is received. By filing early and electronically you are ensuring your tax return is processed before any fraudulent ones can be received.
Have questions about how to prevent identity theft tax refund fraud for you? Give me a call at 573-686-3053 and I’ll be happy to sit down with you.
If you’ve been following along the past few weeks then you know we’ve discussed what bookkeeping is and answered who needs bookkeeping. Today we wanted to answer why you need bookkeeping for your business.
Remember bookkeeping is the recording, storing and retrieving of day-to-day financial transactions for your business. It helps organize your business, keeps you in compliance with State laws and allows you to see in-depth of how your business is doing.
So why do you need bookkeeping?
Well if you’re interest in reducing the risk of an IRS audit, then bookkeeping is the first step and most important step in this reduction. Bookkeeping allows you to track your profits by organizing your finances in a way where you can understand where your profits and expenses are coming from. You’ll be able to visualize reports for your company – actually getting to see how money is being allocated, including a profit-loss ratio.
Tax savings are a huge benefit to proper bookkeeping. By streamlining the process you will be able to provide correct, error-free reports to your accountant. In addition, you’ll be able to final separate your business from your personal expenses by organizing your books.
Certified Bookkeepers can help you do all of this. With one phone call you can sit down with one of our CPAs and one of our Certified Bookkeepers to get started organizing your business’ records. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to get your appointment scheduled.
Last week we share what bookkeeping is and how it can help your business stay in compliance with State laws. This week we’re answering the question, “Who needs bookkeeping?”
It’s a question we get all the time from our business owners and it applies to a variety of business owners. We have come up with a list of questions that we like to ask business owners to see if they need bookkeeping.
Are you fearful of an audit from the IRS who typically operates on “guilty until proven innocent?”
Are you an owner that wants to ensure honest and clear records are being kept?
Are you worried about possible internal theft?
Are you afraid of paying more in taxes than you should due to missed deductible expenses?
Are you wanting to improve your business’ cash flow issues?
Are you concerned with timely and accurate filing of payroll tax, sales tax and use tax?
Are you wanting to avoid the year-end scramble and tax time stress?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you need bookkeeping for your business. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to sit down with either of our CPAs, Dairel or Megan to discuss how we can help you. Next week we’ll talk about why you need bookkeeping and how to find the best team for you.
Here at Denton & Associates we believe that your financials are the heartbeat of your company. So to make sure you have a strong and healthy heartbeat, you need to be handling your bookkeeping properly. A lot of new business owners aren’t always sure what bookkeeping is, who needs it and why you need it. That’s where we come in. We like to educate our clients to help them understand the benefits of bookkeeping and why it’s important to have a professional help you.
Today, we want to share with you what bookkeeping is. Stay tuned to next week’s post where we will go more in depth who needs bookkeeping.
What exactly is bookkeeping?
Bookkeeping is the recording, storing and retrieving of day-to-day financial transactions for your business. It helps provide financial reports and statements, monitors accounts receivable and records receipts from customers. Bookkeeping also simplifies paying invoices from suppliers on time and records depreciation for your business. In addition, bookkeeping processes employee payroll and payroll taxes to help keep your business legal.
Bookkeeping is vital to your business’ success. It computes and files all sales and use taxes for business owners on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis to ensure compliance with State laws.
Who needs bookkeeping? Well look for next week’s post and we’ll share what type of business owner actually needs bookkeeping. If you have any questions before then or would like to sit down with one of our CPAs, give us a call at 573-686-3053.
The holiday season is upon us. Many of us find ourselves with too long of to-do lists, family get-togethers to plan and finding ourselves short on time to get it all done. However, the holiday season is also a busy time for giving to charity. With charity gift giving, there are factors you should keep in mind.
- It’s important that any charitable gifts must be received by December 31st to count on your 2016 tax return.
- All donations must be made to a qualified charity. If you are unsure if your charity is qualified, then you can use Select Check, which is a searchable online tool available through the IRS to ensure your charity of choice is qualified.
- Any contributions made through a credit card are deductible for 2016 if made prior to the end of the year, even if the credit card statement is paid in 2017.
- If possible, get a receipt for all donations made whether money or household items.
Rules for Charitable Contributions of Clothing and Household Items
Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens. Clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better to be tax-deductible. Donors must get a written receipt or acknowledgement from the charity for gifts worth $250 or more. It must include a description of the items contributed.
Rules for Monetary Donations
Documentation must show charity’s name, the date of the contribution and the amount. Bank records will count as documentation, and they include canceled checks and statements.
Money donations cash, check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.
Taxpayer must receive a receipt or acknowledgment for any donation that is $250 or more. However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet both requirements.
If you have any questions on charity gift giving, please give us a call at 573-686-3053.
If you’ve decided to hire a tax expert, like a CPA this coming year then there are a few items you need to be prepared for:
1) Bring Your W-2s – if you’ve received your W-2s from your current or former employer, please bring them with you.
2) Bring your 1099s – again, if you’ve received any 1099s then please bring those along too.
3) 1098 form – bring any information on your mortgage interest because no homeowner wants to miss an interest deduction on their tax return.
4) Bring a copy of last year’s return – it’s important for your CPA to get a full picture. So we recommend bringing your prior year’s return to the appointment.
5) Any other tax forms or information – if you have any other tax information that is important to filing your return, please bring it with you.
If you have any questions about what to bring to your tax preparing appointment, please give us a call at 573-686-3053.
The holiday season is fast approaching. This time of year is notorious for feeling stressed over money. We have gifts, holiday travel, celebrations, dinners, time off work, and so much more creeping in on us. It’s no wonder so many people feel like their overwhelmed as they head into the holiday season.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We do not have to let money control us. You can choose how you deal with your money. What if you decided to hire a financial planner to help you create a realistic and do-able financial plan for 2016?
It would be a wonderful tool to have on your side. Being able to budget your money so the stress of taxes, holidays and bill paying doesn’t cause panic attacks.
Denton & Associates is a full-service accounting and financial planning firm. We love working with business owners and families of all ages. We enjoy helping people who want to learn how to manage their money in a whole new way. We work with you to create a comprehensive financial plan that will actually work for you – to help you achieve your dreams and goals.
Let us help you. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule your meeting with our knowledgeable staff. Let’s finish 2015 and start the New Year with clarity about our money.
I believe that our money is a tool for us to use to better our lives. So we can live the dream we’ve always had, retire comfortably, provide for our family and have less stress. But to be able to fully use our money to our benefit, we need to know where we are on our financial journey. Knowing where you are also means being honest about our debt.
Facing our debt situation can be intimidating and overwhelming, but avoiding it doesn’t help. Ignoring our situation only makes it worse. We need to take inventory of our debt, list out everything – how much we owe, who we owe and the interest on each. Then we can create a plan of action to tackle our debt.
Here are the steps you need to take to be honest about your debt:
ONE: Write out all of your debts on a piece of paper or in an Excel spreadsheet. Here’s the info to include: who the debt is owed to, the amount owed, minimum monthly payment, interest rate, due date.
TWO: Prioritize your debt. Take a look at your list. Are there any debts that could be easily knocked out? If so, make it a plan to pay them off within a month or two.
You need to rank the rest of your debt in order so you can focus on one at a time. When you have too many irons in the fire it can be overwhelming. So you need to break it down debt-by-debt. Work on paying one off and then move to the next.
THREE: Make sure you’re paying something. It’s important to not ignore your debt. You need to take care of the most important or high-priority ones first, but that doesn’t mean ignoring others.
FOUR: Ask for a lower interest rate. If you have a good history of making payments on time then you might be able to ask for a lower interest rate.
Getting out of debt can make you feel free. No more ties to credit card companies, no more monthly loan payments need to be made and so on. The most important step in getting out of debt is deciding to do something. Then you need to follow-through.
If you need help with your debt-reduction strategy, give us a call. I’m here for you. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule a time for us to get together.
It’s important to be prepared for a rainy day because no one can predict the future. We would all love a crystal ball to see when our hot water heater was going to break or when the car isn’t going to start on a cold morning, but that’s not possible.
Since we can’t predict the future, we need to be prepared for the possibilities that could be thrown our way.
You should open a savings account that is your designated emergency fund. Used only for emergencies.
How much should you save in your emergency fund?
That’s a tough question. We recommend starting with $1,000. The end goal is to have 9-12 months of living expenses saved in your emergency fund. The best way to figure that number is to add up all your necessities for one month: utilities, groceries, house payment, car payment, insurance costs, etc. and multiply it by 12 or how many months you want to save for.
You should you have more than 12 months of expenses saved?
Every person and every family is different. No one is a like, which means their financial situations differ. You should really talk to your accountant or financial advisor before making this decision.
If you would like help coming up with your emergency fund savings plan, give us a call at 573-686-3053.
Protect Yourself from Tax Fraud
Tax fraud is becoming more and more prevalent. In 2013 the IRS reported that 5.2 billion dollars were dispersed to identity thieves, according to the Government Accountability Office. The thieves filed fraudulent tax returns for unsuspecting individuals, and the IRS did not catch it until well after the refund check had been cashed.
The full extent of the fraud issue is hard to comprehend, but it is an issue that you need to be aware of.
Identity thieves steal your personal information, such as your Social Security Number, before you even receive your W-2 or 1099. Thieves will then quickly file a fake income tax return on your behalf. Then they collect the refund. The IRS typically tries to issue refund checks within three weeks, which doesn’t really give much time to catch identity thieves.
Here’s how to protect yourself for tax fraud:
File early, and file electronically! The IRS will reject any tax returns with your Social Security Number that are filed after yours is received. By filing early and electronically you are taking the necessary steps to make sure your tax return is processed before any fraudulent ones can be received.
Have questions about how to prevent identity theft tax refund fraud for you? Give me a call at 573-686-3053 and I’ll be happy to sit down with you.
Have You Received an IRS Notice?
A notice from the IRS are sent out for a variety of reasons, but please do not panic. If you receive a notice from the IRS, please give us a call. We are happy to take a look at the notice or letter and answer any questions that you may have about it. We’ll help you take care of it so you don’t receive notices in the future.
Please give us a call and we’ll be happy to help. Call us at 573-686-3053.
Are Tips Taxable Income?
If you receive compensation through tips then there are some key issues to take note of:
Tips are treated as taxable income. They are subject to federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes. Also, the value of non-cash tips are considered income.
Tips need to be included on your tax return. You must include in your gross income all cash tips you receive from customers, tips added to credit cards or debit card purchases and your share of any tips you receive from a splitting agreement.
Keep a daily log of your tip income. It’s best to keep a running log of any tips you receive. The IRS Publication 1244, Employee’s Daily Record of Tips and Report to Employer should be used.
Report tips to your employer. Typically the minimum that needs to be reported is $20 or more in one month. So if you receive $20 or more in one calendar month then you need to be reporting that income to your employer. Your employer is required to withhold the correct federal tax, Social Security tax and Medicare tax.
State income tax. Tip income might be taxable by your state. It’s best to talk to your tax preparer to make sure you’re on track.
If you have any questions about your tips, then give us a call at 573-686-3053.
7 Common Triggers for an Audit by the IRS
Going through an audit from the IRS is not fun and it can be costly. There are ways to avoid running the risk of getting audited. Here’s are 7 triggers that are common:
Claim Earned Income Tax Credit when you’re not eligible
Inflating Home Office Deductions
Claim Head of Household when you’re actually married
Failing to include income, like a W2, 1099 or other form
Using Too Many Round Numbers
Too Many Losses on your Schedule C
Claiming High Charitable Deductions Disproportionately
At Denton & Associates we recommend having a tax professional like a CPA assist you with filing your tax return. We can help you make sure everything is on track. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule a meeting with one of our CPAs.
Trying to By a New Home?
Home buying can be stressful whether it’s your first home or your second home. There are many different criteria to take into consideration before even looking at homes. Here are few steps you should do first:
Decide on a budget. If you’re not sure how much house you can afford then I would recommend talking to your accountant. He can help you look over your budget and get you started.
Start saving for the down payment. It’s recommended to put down at least 20% of the purchase price to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). Start with creating a monthly budget to see how much you can put back each month towards your goal.
Determine when you would like to move. By setting a target date, this will help you stick to your savings goal.
Talk to the bank. You will need to complete an application for a mortgage once you have an idea of a home, but by talking to the bank early you may be able to find how much you qualify for.
If you have any questions on the home-buying process, please give us a call at 573-686-3053.
It’s Never Too Early To Be Thinking About Taxes
Around here, we don’t believe in it ever being too early to start thinking about this year’s taxes. Especially for business owners and farmers. We would recommend giving your tax professional a call if you have a question. It’s easier to plan ahead then it is to fix a mistake.
Give one of our tax experts a call at 573-686-3053 to see if that equipment purchase or business move is tax-smart.
Do You Need Life Insurance?
Do you know how your family will provide for itself, financially, if you’re gone? What will happen if they no longer receive your paycheck or retirement money?
Think about it.
Will your wife or husband be able to pay the mortgage payments, will they be able to afford electricity or even put food on the table? What would happen if your family was down to only one income?
If your loved ones depend on you for financial support then you should take a look at life insurance and disability insurance. Having the right type of insurance is imperative when you have young children or when you provide majority of the household income.
Another benefit of having the right type of insurance and the right amount is to have peace of mind once you’re gone. Your loved ones will not have to worry about final costs or bills if you have insurance in place.
Everyone hopes that nothing bad or life-altering will happen. But it’s best to be prepared. We can help. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule a meeting with Dairel to see what type of insurance would best fit your needs and to get a plan in place.
Be cautious of an IRS Phone Scam
Did you know someone is posing as the IRS to target the elderly? They call and say that are with the IRS and are needing more information or payment.
They sound convincing, but do not give any confidential information or payment over the phone. It could be someone trying to scam you out of your money.
The scammers will try to put pressure on those on the other end of the phone. They will threaten to send the police to your home for failure to pay or revoke your driver’s license.
Do not be fooled! Even the caller ID will say they are the IRS, but they aren’t!
If the IRS needs any information from you, then they will typically contact you by mail first. The IRS will hardly ever call someone, unless you have an audit ongoing. If you receive any letters or statements from the IRS that you are not expecting, it’s best to bring them to your tax professional.
If you receive any calls from someone claiming to be from the IRS and need payment, please me cautious. Call your tax professional first to be sure before handing over any credit card or payment information.
Is Your Beneficiary Information Up-To-Date?
Do you know who you have listed as a beneficiary on your 401K, retirement accounts, life insurance, or bank accounts? It’s important to keep that information as up-to-date as possible.
Designating someone as a beneficiary on your account says you want that person to inherit that specific account’s worth.
I have a Will that lists someone different then on the individual account, what will happen?
Well your designation on the specific account will inherit it, regardless of what your Last Will and Testament states.
This is a big deal for those that have been remarried and haven’t got around to updating your beneficiary information. Changing your Last Will and Testament will not update your beneficiary information for your retirement accounts, insurance policies or bank accounts.
Also, there are tax implications you need to consider. You should talk to a tax professional who has experience in estate planning to make sure you’re on the right track. Dairel can help you, give him a call at 573-686-3053 today.
Do Want to Help Your Grandchildren with the Cost of College?
One question we get asked quite a bit from our clients that have grandchildren is “how can I help them with college? It’s so expensive?”
Well, we can help you create a plan that your grand kids can benefit from – no matter their age! We’ve helped clients with education accounts for newborns, for those grandchildren that are already in school to getting ready to head off to college. It’s never too late to do something, but it’s easier the earlier you start.
There are three main ways to help your grandchildren with college costs:
Gifts: You can make an outright cash gift your grandchild each year. However, there is a limit on the amount you can give that is set by the IRS. To avoid the gift tax liability, give us a call to see what that amount is because it’s subject to change.
Direct Payments: You can make direct payment to the college or university. Now, these payments are only for education costs. They do not cover dorm fees, meals, or book. Making direct payments might avoid the gift tax limit, but you should be sure to ask your tax professional to be on the safe side.
Education Accounts: You could setup a Coverdell education savings account or a Section 529 plan for your grandchild. These plans offer tax-free growth of the amount you contribute. Age, income and contributions limits apply so you will need to talk to your financial professional for more information.
To discuss any of these options or to find the one that best fits your needs and wants, please give us a call at 573-686-3053. We’ll be happy to take a look and create the best plan for you.
Just Married? Find Out What Tax Forms and Changes You Need to Know
Were you just married or know someone getting married? Well, the IRS has a form for that. Actually, several forms. Let Denton & Associates help you make the process simpler!
We are in the middle of wedding season and there will be quite a few couples walking down the aisle. Just remember as you’re getting married or attending weddings that there is a form for that!
Name change? Change in tax withholding? Address change? There are forms for all of those!
If either party is changing their name then you will need to file for a new Social Security Card. The name on your Social Security card will need to match your tax return.
The paperwork you filled out when you started your job will need to be re-done. Your combined income will change after you say “I do,” which may change your tax bracket. However, there might be a benefit to filing “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately.”
You need to talk to a tax professional to get a plan that’s best for you and your new spouse. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to discuss what options are best for you!
Divorce and Your Taxes
Divorce can play a role in causing a list of tax problems for you. Some problems might be smaller than others. However, talking to a tax professional during the proceedings can help.
When going through a divorce, I can advise you and help plan for several issues. If you and your spouse have joint liabilities – such as a mortgage, car loan or credit cards this can play a role in the decisions you need to make now. Also, taking into consideration joint assets like an IRA, savings account or home can be important when going through a dissolution.
Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to talk to a tax professional. We can help you through the divorce proceedings to make sure you’re on track for your taxes.
Why should you use a Certified Public Accountant to file your tax return? Why can’t you just file your own return or use one of those discounted places?
You may think avoiding paying a professional will end up saving you money, but that’s not always the case. The answer is in the numbers – the dollars you will end up with in your wallet.
The difference in a return prepared and filed by a tax professional compared to filing it yourself can be hundreds. Dave Ramsey, a financial educator, motivational speaker, and author has conducted research on the topic. According to a survey conducted by his company, the Lampo Group, Inc. they found the difference between a self-filed return and a return filed by a tax professional was between $347 to $841.
That’s a lot of money.
That difference is one that more than pays for itself by hiring a professional. Dave Ramsey recommends America’s Tax Professionals through the Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) Program. As one of his ELPs, we are proud to offer our expertise and knowledge to our clients.
Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to see what a difference a tax professional can make!
Our Summer Hours Are Starting
Starting May 27th we will be beginning our summer hours here at Denton & Associates. We will be open Monday through Thursday from 7:00 am until 6:00 pm. Our office will be closed on Fridays through the rest of the summer. If you need assistance from anyone, please feel free to give us a call at 573-686-3053. Thank you.
Starting A Small Business
Do you need help getting your small business off the ground? There are a few things you might need to consider first.
What kind of business do you want? There are several types of business entities out there: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), corporation, and S corporation. The kind of business entity you choose will determine how you need to file your taxes.
Our Certified Public Accountants can help you determine the best entity for your small business. We can answer your tax questions to make your startup less overwhelming.
Most businesses need to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is like a Social Security Number for your business and is used as an identifier for tax purposes.
Also, it’s essential to keep accurate records and financials to track your business expenses and prepare your tax returns. Our staff of CPAs and bookkeepers can help you find a system that works best. We have access to an account software that will allow you to track your expenses and income for financial statements, cash flow statements and tax return preparation.
For any questions, please give us a call at 573-686-3053. We would be happy to schedule a meeting to answer any of your business tax questions.
How Bad Is It If I Can’t Pay My Tax Bill?
The problem of not paying your tax bill can be minimal if you decide to do something about it or it could be detrimental if you ignore it.
The IRS offers alternatives if you cannot pay your taxes when our file your return. However, you just have to do something. Here are some of the alternatives the IRS offers:
If you need help deciding on an alternative and need assistance contacting the IRS, then give us a call at 573-686-3053. Owing taxes and not being able to pay isn’t ideal, but dealing with it can really help negate a bad situation.
Did you forget to include some information this year’s tax return? Or do you need to provide a correct number?
Give us a call. We can let you know what your best course of option would be. Is it do nothing or do you need to file an amended return? Only a tax expert can give you the best advice.
In some cases, the best option is to do nothing. The IRS will eventually send you a notice requesting the missing information or form.
In other instances, the best course is to file an amended return with the correct income or deduction amount.
Let us help. Give one of our tax experts a call at 573-686-3053 to discuss which option is best for you.
Saving money should be everyone’s game. Everybody wants to save money, right?
But implementing money saving tactics can be a bit tricky and overwhelming.
That’s where we come in. We’ve compiled our top 10 money saving tips to take the stress of it off your shoulders. Today, we’re sharing you our first 5 money saving tips.
Tip 1 - Pay Yourself First.
I recommend starting with your savings. Setup an automatic transfer from your checking account to a designated savings account. I would establish the automatic transfer for the day your paycheck hits your checking account, that way you will never miss it. Your savings will start building on its own without you having to take time each month.
Tip 2 - Actually Fill Out Cash-Back Rebates
How many times do you go to the store and receive a rebate for something you purchased? Probably more often then you realize. Rebates are available on a lot of different products, especially big-ticket items. However, they can be on smaller ones, too. Recently, I purchase anti-freeze and was offered a $1 back for every 2 gallons I purchased. Make it a habit to fill out the forms and send them in as soon as possible.
Tip 3 - Eat At Home More Often
You can save so much money just by eating at home more. I recommend taking time to find great recipes and creating delicious meals. It will help cooking at home seem more appealing.
Tip 4 - Cut Back on Cable
Take a look at your cable bill or satellite bill. See if there is a lesser program that you could easily switch to for less money. For the most part, most families don’t watch 300 channels on a regular basis. Typically, you find a group of channels you like and stick to those. Most companies offer smaller lineups with the channels you like that are at a cheaper rate.
Tip 5 - Pay Your Credit Card Balances in Full Every Month
Save yourself the interest fee by paying off your balance each month. Most credit card companies do not charge interest as long as you pay within the month. You can avoid the high interest rate.
It’s important to not lose focus on your financial journey. Each person has different goals they are trying to reach – planning for a comfortable retirement, being able to pay for your children’s college expenses, expanding your business’ empire, and so many more. You have to stay focused on your end goal and create workable smaller goals along the way.
Know what’s most important to you and your spouse then we can create a plan together to achieve it. I have access to a great tool that will help us and you see how you’re doing reaching your goals. I feel that it’s important to have a plan that allows you to chart your progress.
I realize it’s impossible to predict your future down to every moment, which is why your plan should allow for flexibility to make changes due to unexpected life events. Utilizing a unique tool for planning, I have the ability to assist in:
- Prioritizing your life goals,
- Monitoring your progress along those goals, and
- Making revisions when necessary.
Through a conversation about your financial goals, we can visual whether or not you are on track to reach those goals, regardless of the economy. Please feel free to call me at 573-686-3053 to schedule a time to talk about setting up a clear plan for you.
Then you have to work at it. You have to save, spend smarter and then you’ll actually have fun managing your money.
Let’s be honest, to have more money then you need to have your finances in order. You need to develop the right money mindset, create attainable financial goals, build a cash cushion, and pay off your debts.
Want to know where to start?
You need to create a budget. And stick to it!
One of my top tricks for creating a realistic budget that you can easily use is to carry it with you. I recommend using tools that can be accessed from anywhere. I personally use Google Sheets for our family budget.
Google Sheets is a great tool because you can use it on a desktop computer, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. So no matter where you are, you can pull it out and look at it. This will really help you stay on track.
Google Sheets acts and functions very similarly to Microsoft Excel. So if you’re familiar with Excel then you should be able to utilize Google Sheets without any problems.
Having a budget that you can take with you is vital to stay on top of your money. You will be able to track your spending as its happening, just like a check register! The best part, no more guessing whether or not you have room in your budget for eating out or that last-moment splurge at the store. You will know for a fact if it’s in the budget.
If you need help getting your budget started, please give me a call at 573-686-3053. I’ll be happy to sit down with you and take a look at your monthly income and expenses. You have to start somewhere and it’s best to not put it off for too long.
“I don’t have enough _____.”
We always can find something that we need more of. More discipline when it comes to working out and eating right. More money so we can do more. More talent so we can become a world famous singer or actor.
However, we have to stay present and aware of our blessings because it’s so easy to fall into the “not enough” mindset.
When comes to our money, watching our negative thoughts on having enough is most important. Whether you’re rich, poor or in the middle. The way you see your financial well-being comes from the inside.
To help you erase this scarcity mindset, we’ve come up with a quick exercise:
- write out three things you’re grateful for in this moment
- set your intentions each and every day
- make sure you’re saving some for a rainy day
- surround yourself with positive, up-beat people and avoid the negative ones
- don’t spend more than you make
Jordan is our newest staff member to join our team. He came to us in June 2015. He is the first person to greet our clients as they walk in the door at the office and usually the first person they reach when our clients call in. Jordan assists, Meredith our Marketing Director in all of our client touches.
Jordan lives in Poplar Bluff and is working towards a degree in Business Administration. He enjoys playing golf, fishing and watching the St. Louis Cardinals.
Meet Dawn, our CPA Assistant and Bookkeeper. She joined our team in September 2014 with over 16 years of tax preparation experience. Currently, she assists our CPA, Megan with any day-to-day tasks. She handles several of our business clients’ needs with bookkeeping, payroll and answering any of their account questions.
Dawn recently earned her Certified Public Bookkeeper designation, Certificate in Accounting and her Payroll Certification. She is currently working towards her Associate of Arts degree in Accounting from Three Rives College.
Dawn lives in Ellsinore with her husband, Josh and their two children: Connor and Zoe. She enjoys spending her free time with her family, playing video games and reading.
Meredith spent lots of time during summer break at the office. She would follow her dad around pretending to be just like him. I guess, after growing a little older she decided to join the family business. Meredith joined Denton & Associates in the summer of 2014 as the Marketing Director. She has since passed the Series 6 and 65 exams and is a licensed financial advisor. Meredith is currently studying for the Certified Financial Planner® designation.
Meredith enjoys learning every facet of Denton & Associates and prides herself on being available to all of our clients. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and her Master of Business Administration from Missouri State University.
Meredith resides in Poplar Bluff with her husband, Justin and their three dogs: Maggie, Tiny and Bud. Meredith and Justin are excited to be expecting their first child, a son, in early May. She enjoys traveling, taking the boat out on the lake during the summer, and spending time with family and friends.
Tammy moved to the Poplar Bluff Area back in the summer of 2005 with her twin sons, Branden and Tristen. She joined Denton & Associates a few months after getting settled in town and has never looked back.
Tammy is our lead bookkeeper, earning her Certified Bookkeeper designation in 2007 and her Payroll Certification in 2015. Tammy is our go-to person for many of our business owners. She handles their payroll needs, prepares financial statements and helps prepare their sales tax and payroll tax payments.
When she’s not in the office you can find her spending her time with the Wappapello Lady Eagles, volunteering to help local families in need. She enjoys spending time at the lake, family cookouts, camping, fishing and reading.
Meet Megan. Megan is a Certified Public Account and has been with Denton & Associates for over eight years. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Southeast Missouri State University before studying for the CPA exam. Megan is a go-to resource for our local farmers, business owners and families. She assists our business owners and farmers throughout the year to ensure they are track for tax season. Megan is also our Quality Control Director, which means she keeps her eye on everything and makes sure processes are running smooth.
Megan lives in Poplar Bluff with her three children: Baylee, Jakob and Addison. When she’s not in the office, you can find her cheering on her kids at one of their many sports activities. She enjoys spending time with her family, taking family trips and being outdoors.
In the second part of our meet-the-staff series, we’d like to introduce you to Jill. She has been with Denton & Associates for over 24 years and is the glue that keeps this place together.
Jill and her husband, Curt enjoy traveling across the country together. Their goal is to visit all of the major baseball stadiums in the nation. They have visited many together and are slowly crossing them off their list one-by-one. Jill also has one son, Jordan who currently works for Denton & Associates at the Front Desk. This office really is family ran and operated!
Jill and her team has dominated the Park Department Volleyball league for several years and have no desire to give up their title. You can usually catch her during the week cheering on her team and coaching them to another victory.
Jill earned Associate of Arts in Business from Three Rivers College and she earned her Bachelor of Science in Finance from LaSalle University. She also holds the designations of Certified Fund Specialist and Registered Paraplanner.
As we’re beginning another tax season here at Denton and Associates, we want to take the time for you to get to know us. We’re going to be doing a little “Meet the Staff” series here on our blog. For a quick get-to-know-us, check out the About tab at the top of the page.
Let’s start our series off with introducing our leader, Dairel L. Denton, Jr.
Dairel has lived in the Poplar Bluff area for most of his life. He graduated from Poplar Bluff High School in the mid-1970s and attended Southeast Missouri State University where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. While attending college, he met Genise. They’ve been married for over 36 years and have two children, Melissa and Meredith.
Dairel loves bragging on his two girls – Melissa is an attorney living in the St. Louis area and Meredith is following in her dad’s footsteps to become a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner®.
Dairel and his wife share their home with two dogs, Zella and Cotton. Dairel likes to only claim Zella has his and is adamant on telling others that Cotton is Genise’s dog. But don’t let him fool you, he’s just as sweet and caring to Cotton as he is to Zella.
Dairel enjoys traveling to tropical locations with his wife. He has visited the Caribbean several times and always finds something else to love when he goes. He loves trying new places to snorkel and enjoys spending time on the beach reading a good book.
Recently, Dairel was named as an Endorsed Local Provider from Dave Ramsey for his expertise in tax services. He is proud of earning that designation and is happy to serve Poplar Bluff and the surrounding areas to bring Dave’s teachings to others.
Dairel is a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner®. He is happy to help you, your family and your business reach their goals. Feel free to give him a call with an financial planning or tax related question. He loves being able to assist his clients through life and help them reach their business and retirement goals.
Goals are a great thing to have. Professionally and personally. I have many of them that fit both categories, and I’m constantly working at achieving them.
Many goals that we see are long-term, big-picture types. You know the ones – saving for retirement, buying a home, saving for your kids’ college education, and so on. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the overall goals because there are so many big ones. It’s stressful to think about everything you have to do, how much you need to save and how long you have to do it.
So here’s my recommendation: Break up your big-picture goals into bite-sized ones. Create yearly, monthly, weekly or daily goals to achieve. Here’s the kicker – make sure those small goals line up with your life goals. By focusing on smaller, more quickly attained goals then you will create the momentum you need to move forward.
Let’s face it, it’s all about moving forward in life. We want to accomplish more and do more for our kids then we ever thought possible. Try not to get overwhelmed with the long-term goals, but set your sights for smaller ones.
If you need help trying to prioritize and set goals that best fit you, then give us a call at 573-686-3053. We’ll be happy to help.
Money can be a great thing. It helps you keep your heat on in the winter and your AC in the summer. It fills your grocery cart with food for your family and your gas tank to get around. However, it’s easy to let your money control you.
Your financial situation can become all-encompassing if you let it. There are tips that I’d like to pass on to you that will help you become the boss of your money.
1) Budget your money. I am a firm believer that everyone should have a budget. Having a money-guide will help prevent you from overspending. You’ll be able to put some away for a rainy day and prepare for your long-term goals.
2) Have a weekly money date. Each week you need to sit down with your check register, bank account and your budget. See where you stand for the week. Do you need to cut back? Can you a little more into savings then you thought? If you aren’t present with your money then you’ll miss out on opportunities.
3) Build your support team. It’s imperative to surround yourself with people that want to see you succeed. Pull your spouse in or someone that’s important to you. Make sure they have the same mindset you do when it comes to money.
These are some of the great steps you can take starting today to really get control over your money. If you need help, please give us a call at 573-686-3053.
Curious about what makes up your credit score? Well there are five factors to consider and understand. By understanding these then you will be better equipped to increase your credit score.
The higher the credit score you have then the more appealing you are to lenders. If you’re looking at purchasing a new car, buying a home or opening a credit card then you’re going to want a good credit score. There are five factors that go into your credit score and it’s important to understand so you can have a healthy credit score.
One way to check your credit score is by going to annualcreditreport.com. They have the three credit bureaus listed to look at your credit report. From there you will pay a nominal fee to see your credit score.
1) Payment history – making your payments on time and never missing a payment contributes to about 35% of your credit score.
2) Total amounts owed – how much balance you carry against the total credit limit, which is called the debt utilization ratio. This contributes to about 30% of your credit score.
3) Length of history – how long that particular credit has been open. So if you opened a credit card when you were 20 and still have that same card open at the age of 40 then you’d have 20 years of credit history with that one lender. It’s seen as a good thing because you will appear as a loyal client and trustworthy borrower. When you close an account you are basically ending that history with a longstanding borrower.
4) New credit – when you go to apply for a new loan then this appears as a credit inquiry and accounts for 10% of your credit score. So by continually apply for loans or credit cards that could have a negative effect on your credit score.
5) Types of credit you currently have – student loans, mortgage, car loans, personal loans, store credit, etc. This equates to about 10% of your credit score.
Now that you know the five factors that go into your credit score, it’s important to know where you should keep your credit score. Your credit score can range between 300-850. Ideally, you want to be 760 or greater.
As the holiday season is upon us, we find ourselves reflecting on 2015. It's been quite a memorable year for Denton & Associates! We would like to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas. We hope your holiday is filled with laughter and joy.
Three Easy Tips to Improve Your Credit Score
If you want to buy a new car, a new home, apply for a credit card then you will need your credit score to be in good shape. Basically, your credit score is your ranking on what type of borrower you are – are you safe for the lender or are they taking quite a risk by lending you money?
You credit score is also known as FICO and is calculated from your credit report. Your credit score can range anywhere between 300 to 850 points. The higher the score, the more appealing you are to lend money to. Not only does a lower score make you appear more of a risk, but it will also affect your interest rate on any loan.
Want to improve your score to look more appealing?
Here are three easy tips to improve your credit score:
1) Check your credit report regularly to see what your score is and what is being reported. Many individuals only check their scores when they are looking at taking out a new car loan or mortgage. That’s not the time to find out your score is not where you thought it was.
I recommend putting a reminder in your calendar to check your report at least once a year. By adding an alert then you are sure to not forget.
Make sure you actually look through the report when you get it. Look it over for any errors to make sure it’s accurate. When you’re done, file it with your important financial documents for the year.
2) Make sure you pay your bills on time. One way to do this is to establish automatic payments. That way you never miss a payment for your utilities, student loan, car payments, mortgage, etc... The weight of making your payments on time adds up to about 35% of your credit score. So make sure you aren’t missing any of them.
By setting up auto-draft on your bills you will eliminate the worry of having late payments. You won’t have to depend on the post office to deliver your check on time, no more trying to count mail days to make sure it’s sent on time.
If you’ve had missed payments in the past then make sure everything is setup on auto-pay so you can build up your payment history of being on time.
3) Work on decreasing the total amount of debt you have. By eliminating your debt that will greatly improve your credit score.
Another huge factor in calculating your credit score is the debt utilization ratio. The debt utilization ratio is the balance amount divided by the total available credit. So if you have a credit card with a $3,000 balance and the credit limit is $5,000 that means you have a debt utilization ratio of 60%. The ratio you want to strive to be under is 30%. So you need to work on paying down debt so that you’re total debt balance is only 30% of the total available credit.
The debt utilization ratio accounts for about 30% of your credit score, which is a pretty large chunk. Make sure you’re working on paying down your debt. One way to work on quickly paying down your debt is to make extra debt payments each month.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to implement these three easy tips on increasing your credit score. If you have any questions, please give us a call at 573-686-3053.
As we count our blessings this Thanksgiving, we realize just how lucky we are to have clients like we do. Thank you for making this year a great success. We hope your day is filled with joy, laughter and yummy food. We wish you a very happy Thanksgiving and a joyful holiday season.
When becoming more financially sound you need to know where you stand. Shopping malls have the store directories that look like a big map of the entire complex. There are three steps to working those maps: 1) know where you currently are 2) know where you want to go and 3) map out a route. Typically, the first thing you do is look for the giant red star on the map that states “You are here.” Then you find the store you want to go to, map out the quickest route, and start walking.
You may know where you want to go, but you can’t map out a proper plan without finding where you currently are at.
There are several ways to help you determine your giant red star on your life’s map. Take a hard look at your financials, your bills, you savings, and your current retirement planning. By seeing where you stand then you’ll be better equipped to create a roadmap.
We can help you create the best roadmap to reach your goals. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule a meeting with our financial professionals to talk about your roadmap.
The next step in becoming more financially sound is mastering your cash flow. We’re not only talking about the money that is coming in, but also the money that is going out. The most financially successful people are on top of every aspect of their money.
They know what comes in, what goes out and how much is being saved. How do they know where every dollar is going? By using a budget.
A budget is a simple tool that can really help you become the master of your finances. I recommend to everyone to use a budget for their monthly expenses. It helps you see where your money is coming from and where it’s going. You can really stay on top of the mindless spending by tracking every dollar.
A lot of people cringe at the thought of having a budget, but I’m here to tell you that it’s one of the most beneficial tools to help you become more financially sound. A budget doesn’t have to be too complicated. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be.
The main components of a budget are:
Know when and how much income is coming in
Track expenses – bills, paying towards debt, grocery shopping, gas purchases, and any other purchases made
Amounts going towards savings, retirement planning and other goals
If you need help getting started on your family’s budget, then give us a call. We’d be happy to sit down with you and take a look at your cash flow to help you master your budget. Call us at 573-686-3053 and we’ll be happy to schedule time to talk to you about your finances to make sure you’re on track.
A goal is “something that you are trying to do or achieve,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. What are you working towards? What are you trying to achieve? Those simple questions need to be asked. If you’re married, then it should be asked to you and your spouse. Make sure you’re on the same page and know what’s important to one another.
Here are a few questions you can ask you and your significant other to get the ball rolling:
When do you see yourself retiring?
Do you want to retire debt-free (and you should want that!)?
Do you want to help our children and grandchildren with their college expenses?
Am I concerned about how much money we’ll have in retirement?
Answering these quick questions and anything else that comes to mind can really help narrow down your goal. Also, it’s okay to have more than one goal to be working towards. You just have to set a priority and get to work.
If you know what you’re working towards or what you’re trying to achieve it will make everything much easier. Knowing that you would like to retire at the age of 60 means you will have to get started earlier in life saving for retirement. But by talking about your goals now, there is time to get them done.
I’m happy to sit down with you to talk about your goals and to make sure you’re on the right track. Give me a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule a time with me. Having a plan is the best way to reach your goals. Let me help you create the best plan for you.
Today, I’m talking about building your support group. This is the fifth step in the 8 steps to becoming more financially sound series. Last time we talked about developing tax strategies to help you. This week, I want to share the importance of having a support group.
When you’re trying to make financial strides to better yourself, pay down debt, save for retirement or saving for a home it’s important to surround yourself with people that understand.
Talk with your spouse. Make sure you both are on the same page and want the same things. Working hard on paying down debt while having a spouse not understand can be difficult.
Let your close friends know what’s going on. It’s important to let those close to you know so they can cheer you on.
Get a financial expert. Make sure you have a financial expert that is there for you. Having someone that will listen to you and understands your goals is vital. Make sure you talk with your financial expert and let them know what you are wanting to accomplish. The two of you can develop a plan to help you reach your goals.
If you would like to sit down and talk about your goals to create a plan, give me a call at 573-686-3053. I’d be happy to have a conversation.
I’m back to talk about Step Four from the 8 Steps To Becoming More Financially Sound series. Today, I’d like to talk about the importance of tax strategies.
Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Every citizen has to be taxes to the federal government. For individuals that deadline to file your personal tax return is April 15th each year. There are certain steps you can take prior to the end of the taxable year to help you. The taxable year for most individuals is on December 31st.
There are certain steps you can take before December 31st to help your tax situation. A few strategies available are charitable contributions, tax-deductible IRA contributions or purchasing equipment. Each strategy depends on your personal circumstances. You might be able to take advantage of multiple strategies, too.
Keep in mind there are more strategies available. I recommend talking with your tax professional before making any decision. If you don’t have a tax professional, give me a call at 573-686-3053. I’d be happy to sit down to discuss your situation.
I've been sharing our 8 Steps To Becoming More Financially Sound with you. Today, I’d like to talk about investing in your future. You should start thinking about retirement and college planning early. Investing your money in the right vehicles can really help you reach your long-term goals.
By having your money in an interest-bearing account you possibly could earn more money than just having it sit in a savings account. You should be familiar with the different types of investments available. Each one is different and provides their own specific benefits. It’s important to be matched to the best one for you.
There are different types of investment accounts available, here are a few:
401(k) through your employer
Majority of employers offer a retirement plan for their employees. These plans are typically a 401(k). Many employers will match a portion of your contributions. If you don’t participate, it’s like passing on free money. For example, an employer may match 3% of your pay if you put in 3%. So it’s like saving 6% of your income for only half the cost.
401(k) plans offer tax-deferred earnings. That simply means you start paying less in taxes because your contribution comes out of your paycheck before any income taxes are deducted. Therefore your taxable income is less, which helps to lower your tax bill.
Most offer a variety of investment vehicles to choose from inside the plan. Which gives you more control over the level of risk you want to take.
Mutual Funds give investors a piece of the bigger pie. They help investors with asset diversification, which involves the mixing of differing investments within one portfolio. Diversification helps investors manage their level of risk.
Economies of Scale, which is similar to bulk pricing. Mutual Funds are able to take advantage of their buying size by offering reduced transaction costs for investors. Reduced costs make it easier for individual investors to get more bang for their buck.
Stocks are a form of ownership that the investor has in an organization. Many people like the idea of owning a piece of a certain company, like Disney or Pepsi. Stocks can also pay a dividend to their investors, which is related to the company’s performance.
Stock prices can vary dramatically if the company is in a decline or incline. There is no guarantee of value and if the company goes under there is no guarantee of payment.
Bonds are a form of debt with which the investor is the lender. They are a loan made between investors and organizations, which will repay the loan amount on a premium. If for any reason a company should go bankrupt, bonds are repaid to the extent of the company’s capital.
Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
The IRA accounts are unique. There are two different types, Traditional and ROTH. Contributions made to a Traditional IRA can be deductible on your individual tax return if your adjusted gross income falls below certain limits. While contributions made to a ROTH are not tax deductible, their qualified distributions can be tax-free.
It’s important to talk with your financial planner about which investments are best for you. If you don’t have a financial planner, give me a call at 573-686-3053. I think it’s best to sit down with a financial expert to have a conversations. You and I can discuss what you want your money to do. From there we can create the best financial plan for you.
Not too long ago we shared the 8 Steps To Becoming More Financially Sound. These are key steps you and your family can take to build a successful foundation for your finances. Today, I want to share with you on how to protect yourself and your family.
Do you know how your family will provide for itself and if something should happen to you? Think about it. Really think. Will your family be able to pay the mortgage, keep the electricity on, and put food on the table if all of a sudden you’re down to one income, or no income?
If your loved ones depend on you for their financial support then life insurance is a must. Life insurance replaces your income if you should die. Disability insurance provides income if you should suffer a disability illness or accident and can no longer work the same or bring in the same amount of income. Having insurance is especially important for parents of young children.
Another reason to have life insurance is to help with any debts that you may leave behind. Let’s face it, majority of people have a mortgage, credit card debt, personal loans, and car loans at one point in our lives. Being prepared with life insurance will help cover every day living expenses, including mortgage payments, car loan payments, and credit card debt.
Having the right type and the right amount of insurance can bring peace of mind.
We all hope nothing ever happens and we never need insurance, but we’ll be so thankful if we have it and need it. If you would like to sit down to look at your situation to make sure you have enough coverage then give us a call at 573-686-3053. We look at the whole picture to make sure you don’t have too much insurance or too little to take care of the ones you love.
To read more on the 8 Steps check out our post on building an emergency fund here: http://bit.ly/1K7mhCx.
Persuading your working children to make retirement contributions may not be easy, but investments in Roth IRAs may be the wisest possible use of their earnings. The nature of Roth IRAs, coupled with the effects of long-term compounding, can create exceptional returns on such early investments.
Although contributions to Roth IRAs are not deductible, earnings within the accounts (such as interest or dividends) are not taxed and qualified withdrawals are completely tax-free. Tax-free compounding can result in sizable accumulation in a Roth. For example, if a 15-year-old contributes $2,500 for each of four years, and the account earns 5% annually, the fund will be worth about $85,000 when the child reaches age sixty.
It's generally best to leave IRA funds untouched until retirement, but if necessary, your child's contributions to a Roth IRA (excluding the earnings) can be withdrawn at any time without triggering taxes or penalties. This flexibility provides an advantage over a traditional IRA, where most withdrawals before the owner reaches age 59½ will be taxed and penalized.
The owner's ability to deduct contributions is the one advantage a traditional IRA offers over a Roth IRA. However, this feature is relatively insignificant for most young earners. The first $6,300 of a child's 2015 income will be entirely sheltered by the standard deduction, and any earnings above $6,300 are likely to be taxed at very low rates.
This year, most working people can contribute up to the lesser of their earned income or $5,500 to a Roth IRA. Although Roth eligibility is phased out for individuals with income above certain ceilings (e.g., $116,000 to $131,000 for a single person in 2015), a working child's revenue rarely will approach such thresholds.
If you'd like to learn more about the benefits of setting up Roth IRAs for your children, contact us at 573-686-3053 for assistance.
Preparing for your retirement is a journey. And like most journeys, success or failure often hinges on decisions made early in the trip. Consider some of these pointers as you develop your personal road map to retirement.
A solid retirement plan begins with an honest assessment of what your golden years will look like. Will they involve exotic travel, special purchases, or carefree living? Or do you plan to live modestly, perhaps working part time? A possible hint might be to consider how you are living right now. Many people assume that their living costs will decline later in life, but they often stay about the same or even increase.
Once you know how you want to live, it's time to take stock of your assets. Are your investments where they should be, or do you have some catching up to do? Keep in mind that those 50 years and older can contribute an extra amount each year into their 401(k) or IRA to help get up to speed. And no matter what career stage you are in, be sure to take full advantage of the matching provision in your employer's plan.
Like any excursion, your path to retirement will need an occasional tweaking to stay on course. As your working years draw to a close, consider shifting your asset allocation from higher risk securities to those with less price volatility and steadier cash flows. And along the way, take steps to keep your household budget in check. Think hard before incurring additional debt that might stymie your retirement plans. Analyze your spending to see what you really need to live on.Finally, assemble a team of professionals to help chart your path. You might need to coordinate life and health insurance, estate plans, and tax issues to achieve your retirement goals. If you need assistance, give our office a call at 573-686-3053.
Estate planning is not just a task for the wealthy. Even though federal tax implications kick in only if your estate exceeds $5,430,000, there are other issues that make estate planning important for most individuals.
Start your estate planning by meeting with an attorney and your accountant. They can instruct you in the essentials of estate tax law and the requirements for establishing an estate plan. A key part of estate planning is compiling the documents that will accomplish your goals.
A basic estate plan should include the following documents:
* Your will, which should name the guardian you choose for your minor children and an executor (personal representative) to carry out your instructions.
* A listing of your assets. Include your home and other properties, pension and retirement accounts (401(k) & IRAs), investments (noting the cost basis), automobiles, jewelry, and any other assets.
* Life insurance information such as your insurer, your policy number, the amount of insurance, and the location of your policies.
* Financial and business records, including real estate deeds, tax returns and related support papers, your social security number, investment statements, and stock and bond certificates.
* Funeral instructions, including your burial wishes and people to be notified upon your death.
* Medical information and a list of your doctors.
* Durable power of attorney, designating the individual(s) you select to act on your behalf if you're incapacitated.
* Health care proxy naming the individual(s) you want to make health care decisions for you if you aren't capable.
Keep your original documents in a fireproof safe or with your attorney. Put your list of documents and the copies in a binder at home and tell your executor where the documents are located. If you would like assistance with your estate planning, please contact our office at 573-686-3053.
As a business owner or manager, you may think that if you want things done "the right way," you have to do them yourself. But that isn't always the best approach at work, even if you firmly believe you're the best person for the job. There simply isn't enough time in the day – not if you have a business to run.
Like it or not, you must learn how to delegate work to subordinates. Here are some helpful hints.
* Get organized. Start by deciding which tasks to delegate and which employees will be assigned responsibilities. The workload doesn't have to be etched in stone, but you should develop a game plan for subdividing jobs.
* Focus on self-starters. You will need to rely on people who can think for themselves. Don't rely on employees who you anticipate will be constantly seeking your guidance. If you have to show someone what to do every step of the way, it defeats the entire purpose.
* Give workers authority to act independently and make decisions on the fly. Don't hinder the process by requiring employees to obtain your approval on every decision. This will only turn into a variation of doing things the same old way.
* Monitor work progress. This aspect must be handled with sensitivity. You'll want to keep an eye on employees, but you can't keep looking over their shoulders either. Find the proper balance.
* Analyze the results to determine if the work met your expectations. If it didn't, offer constructive criticism for improvements. Make this a learning experience for both of you.
As you become more comfortable delegating work, you can continue to loosen the reins. When you spend less time on routine matters, you'll have more time to devote to growing your business profits. I'd be happy to sit down with you to discuss what areas you can let go of. Give me a call at 573-686-3053.
Most businesses hope to grow. They consider themselves successful if growth is taking place, and the faster the growth the better. Can too much business growth be bad for a company? It can be if the growth is not adequately planned.
For example, an established company that doubles its sales volume in a year may find itself strapped for cash, for working space, and for trained personnel.
For most established companies, a 12% to 15% annual growth rate would probably be manageable. The ideal growth rate for your company depends on the unique circumstances in your firm and industry.
A new company (starting with zero sales) must obviously grow more rapidly than an established one. Some new businesses may double their sales each year for the first five years or so before reaching the level where a 15% annual rate is healthy.
Rapid growth often requires more inventory and more space. And it may require money to fund additional work-in-process or accounts receivable. Who will fund the growth? A 15% growth rate can probably be funded by retained earnings. A more rapid rate may require an injection of outside capital. If the owners can't provide the money, will it be the suppliers (increasing the accounts payable) or a banker (new short-term debt)?
Every business should have a written business plan with its growth projections clearly identified. The plan should include provisions for the finances, space, equipment, and personnel that such growth will require.
Your company's growth should be both workable and profitable. Please contact us at 573-686-3053 for assistance with your business planning.
If you didn't file a tax return for the year 2011, you're not necessarily in trouble. In fact, you could be about to lose out on a nice refund check. The IRS reports that it is holding an astonishing one billion dollars in refunds from the year 2011. Here's how the situation arose.
Nearly one million filers, many of them students and retirees, had taxes withheld from their earnings that year but didn't bother to file a return. That was quite legal if they didn't earn enough to reach the minimum income for required filing. And in many cases they forgot that taxes had been withheld and that they were eligible for a refund. For example, a student might have worked at a summer job, gone back to school in the fall, and not given taxes a second thought.
If you think you are due a refund for 2011, it's worth filing a return. The IRS estimates that around half those who are eligible would receive refunds of over $1,000. In some cases, you could find you're eligible for even more than the refund. If you were a low-income worker that year, you might also have qualified for the earned income tax credit. But you'll need to act fast. Unless you file a year-2011 return by April 15, 2015, the statute of limitations will have run out and you'll be too late to claim your refund.
Be aware that the IRS won't issue a 2011 refund check unless you've also filed returns for years 2012 and 2013. And if you owe taxes for those years, they'll deduct that from the amount of the 2011 refund.
Contact our office at 573-686-3053 as soon as possible if you think you might be due a 2011 refund.
Did you sign up for social security benefits last year? If so, you may have questions about how those payments are taxed on your federal income tax return.
The good news is the formula is the same as prior years. That's also the bad news, because the thresholds for determining taxability are not indexed for inflation, and did not change either. Those thresholds, or "base amounts," remain at $32,000 when you're married and file a joint return, and $25,000 when you're single.
How much of your social security benefit is taxable? To determine the answer, calculate your "provisional income." That's your adjusted gross income plus tax-exempt interest, certain other exclusions, and one-half of the social security benefits you received.
When you're married filing jointly, your benefits are 50% taxable if your provisional income is between $32,000 and $44,000. If your provisional income is more than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable. For singles, the 50% taxability range is $25,000 to $34,000.
In some cases, diversifying the types of other retirement income you receive can reduce the tax burden on your social security benefits. Contact us at 573-686-3053 if you want more information or planning assistance.
Marriages end, and so do business ventures. If your business is owned by two or more persons, a buy-sell agreement is one of the most important legal documents your business can have. This document provides for the "buyout" of an owner's interest when that owner leaves. Here are the areas that a buy-sell agreement should typically address.
* Describe the events that will trigger the agreement, such as a divorce, disability, death, or notice that an owner simply wants to leave.
* Set a value for each owner's interest, or provide a formula to value each interest at a later date. Your agreement might require an independent business appraisal.
* Without a method to set the value, there could be some serious problems. Let's say you and your partner reach a point where you can no longer work together. You believe the company is worth $2 million. Your partner refuses to sell, but he makes you a $100,000, take-it or leave-it offer for your 50% interest. You could face a drawn-out legal battle to settle things.
* Outline a funding plan. Different purchase and financing plans can be used to cover different situations. For example, cross-purchase agreements allow the remaining owners to buy an exiting owner's share. A redemption agreement allows the company to buy back an exiting owner's share. Financing options might include owner financing (an installment contract) or life insurance, in the case of an owner's death.
* Prevent unwanted transfers. Generally owners don't want a business associate they didn't choose. Yet this could happen if one owner divorces, dies, or sells his shares to an outsider.
A buy-sell agreement is designed to provide fair compensation to an exiting owner, while making it possible for the remaining partners to continue in business. We can work with you and your attorney to develop a buy-sell agreement or to review your existing agreement. Call us at 573-686-3053 to schedule your complimentary consultation today.
Divorce can be an emotionally draining process.
If you are in the middle of one, you probably just want it to be over. But be careful. Divorce has serious tax implications, and the choices you make now may affect you for many years. Consider the following:
* Alimony and child support. Alimony is tax-deductible if you pay it and taxable income if you receive it. Child support, on the other hand, is neither tax-deductible nor taxable as income.
* Exemptions. If you are awarded physical custody of your child, you will usually be entitled to the tax benefits related to that child. Special rules may apply if you share custody. In addition to a $4,000 dependency tax deduction, tax benefits may include the dependent care credit, the child tax credit, the earned income credit, and education tax credits. You can transfer your right to claim your child to your former spouse each year, for tax purposes, by signing a special IRS form.
* Retirement accounts and IRAs. Your former spouse may be awarded part of your retirement account or IRA. If your ex-spouse receives the benefits, he or she will generally be responsible for the taxes. But unless the accounts are divided and transferred in just the right way, you could end up paying the tax.
* Property settlements. You are allowed to transfer property (house, cars, investments, etc.) to your ex-spouse without triggering income tax, if it's part of your settlement agreement. But whoever ends up with your marital assets may owe taxes when the assets are sold. Take future taxes into consideration during your negotiations, or you might end up with large and unexpected tax liabilities.
Call us early in the divorce process, and let us help you and your attorney make informed choices. Give us a call at (573)686-3053 to sit down with one of our Certified Public Accounts.
A few weeks we shared the 8 Steps To Becoming More Financially Sound. Today, we’re jumping in feet first into the first step – building your emergency fund. It’s important to be prepared for a rainy day, to have a little stowed away for when you need it most.
People get confused with their savings. They think it’s for the trip out of town to see friends, extra money to spend around the holidays on gifts, or to hold you over until next payday because you went out to eat one too many times this month. But that’s not right.
You should have a savings account that is your emergency fund. Used only for emergencies. You can decided what an emergency is and set those limits on yourself. Maybe it’s when you wake up to find your refrigerator went out or you had an unexpected flat on the highway or maybe your youngest fell and broke their arm on the playground. Whatever it is you need to be prepared.
How much should you save in your emergency fund?
That’s a tough question. We recommend starting with $1,000 then start saving more. The end goal is to have 9-12 months of living expenses saved. The best way to figure that number is to add up all your necessities for the month: utilities, groceries, house payment, car payment, insurance costs, etc. and multiply it by 12 (or how many months). That’s your final number.
You should you have more than 12 months of expenses saved?
Every person and every family is different. No one is a like, which means their financial situations differ. You should really talk to your accountant or financial advisor before making this decision.
If you would like help coming up with your emergency fund savings plan, give us a call at 573-686-3053.
How does becoming financially independent sound to you? I bet knowing that you will be able to provide for your family, pay for your children’s college expenses, and retire comfortably sounds pretty good to you. Right?
As you probably have realized by now, money is just a tool in your box. It’s a tool to help you create the life you have always dreamed of. By becoming more confident in this tool, the better you’ll be at making the right financial decisions to get you to where you want to be.
There are steps you can take to be more financially independent. Want in on what they are?
For the next eight weeks we’re going to dig deep. You’re going to learn how to make wise financial decisions and build for the future you want. If you can’t wait to learn about these steps over the next two months, then I invite you to give us a call. Our CPAs are happy to sit down and discuss these topics with you. Call us at 573-686-3053 to schedule your consultation.
Budgets, like diets, are short lived for most of us. You do a proper job of planning by looking over the past and determining where you need to make changes to meet your goals. And, you live by your plan for a few days, maybe even a few weeks. But, then all the detail of keeping track of what comes and goes gets to be more than you are willing to put up with.
If you can plan a budget and live with it, more power to you. This should put you with the 5% of people who can retire without financial assistance from family or the government.
For those of us who can't live with the detail of tracking budget numbers, here is a simple way to make sure you don't retire totally broke. Take a fixed percentage of every dollar that comes into the household and set it aside for retirement investing. Say, for example, that you decide to save 10% of your $100,000 income. Here are some rough numbers for those aged 35 who would like to retire in 30 years. $10,000 invested each year will accumulate to $697,000 in 30 years at a 5% annual return. The earlier you start, the greater the retirement benefits. If you started at age 25, the accumulated value at age 65 would be over $1,268,000.
You may think it is impossible to save 10% of your current income. Let's assume that you lose your current job. The next job you find pays 10% less than your current job. The chances are that you will figure out where to cut the spending to make it work. So, why not discipline yourself and your family in order to make your current income provide both a current living and an investment in your retirement.
If you would like some help preparing your budget, give us a call at (573)686-3053. We'll be happy to take a look at your expenses with you.
So you’re looking at buying your first house. Or maybe upgrading your current house to a bigger one for your growing family. You’re not sure how to get started. You know you’ll need a down payment, but you’re not sure on how to save for it.
1) Decide on your budget for the house
(not sure how to do this? Talk to your
While going through these tips you may realize that the amount you can save each month and your time frame don’t exactly match up. That’s okay. Take another look at your monthly expense budget and see if there is anything else you can cut out. Maybe limit your eating out to only one time a week instead of three, carpool with friends or family when going out of town to save on gas money, or make homemade DIY presents for birthdays and Christmas to lighten your spending.
If you have removed everything from your budget that you can and your time frame is still not reachable then it’s time to be realistic. Stretch out your goal a few months. You don’t want to stress yourself out and lose sight of the end goal.
If you would like more help before buying your home then give us a call at 573-686-3053. We can take a look at your financial situation to help you set a realistic and reachable goal.
It’s easy to get in the mindset that you will never get too sick to work or you will never not be able to get up each morning and go to work. Let’s face it - with technology and the ability to work from anywhere, I can see where you would start to think you’re invincible. It’s hard not to.
But I want you to ask yourself some hard questions AND I want you to be honest with yourself. Do you really think it’s wise to live this way? Do you not want to protect your family? Don’t you think you should plan to have income coming in if something actually does happen to you?
If you think you should then you’re right, my friend.
Disability insurance can be the glue that holds everything together, financially. Let’s be honest – we hope we never need disability insurance, but we will be really happy to have it if we do need it.
I’d like to share some key points about disability insurance and why this is something you must consider having in your financial journey.
1) In 2012 an estimated 12% of the United States reported a disability, that’s over 37 million people. More than 50% of those disabled Americans are between the ages of 18-64.
Still think your Superman? It’s time to start planning and preparing to protect yourself and your family’s future. Give us a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule your meeting.
*statics from Council for Disability Awareness
You may already be in retirement or currently transitioning from the working world to the peace and quiet of retirement. No matter which phase of retirement you’re in, you can find creative ways to stretch your dollars. Here are my top 5 tips to save money during retirement:
1) Make a budget. Remember the days when you and your spouse were first starting out? Money may have been a bit tight and you had to be creative with your spending. Well those days may be behind you, but sometimes it really saves to get creative. Set an outline of how much to spend each month for travel, groceries, living expenses, etc. You may not always be able to stick to it perfectly, but creating an awareness of your money will really save in the long run.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Many restaurants, movie theaters, and other businesses offer major savings for retirees. Make sure to take advantage and ask for the senior discount wherever you go. I once heard of a mechanic offering a discount to drivers 55 and over. You may be surprised by who offers a discount. It never hurts to ask about a discount and the savings can really add up.
2) Guard yourself against spams. There are people and businesses in this world that target retired-age individuals. These businesses and individual will try to sell you a home repair service that you simply may not need nor may they be equipped to take on such a repair. You may also be asked to purchase a magazine subscription or help out with a cause. Make sure to do your homework before opening your wallet.
of who you give your information to. Never
give out your credit card, bank account, social security number or other
important information to someone over the phone or to someone you do not know.
3) Have a
trusted advisor. Do you have a Certified
Public Accountant or Certified Financial Planner that you trust? No matter your age or where you are at in
your working life, everyone should have someone who is educated in finances. Having someone you rely on to answer tax
questions or give sound investment advice is really important. The savings could be substantial when you
have someone who is knowledgeable and experienced in your corner.
your living expenses. You no longer have
the kids living at home, which means you may not need the super deluxe cable
package or the fastest internet speed.
Take a look at your cable package, internet and phone bundle to decide
what you really will use. You may be
able to save a pretty penny by downsizing your packages.
5) Save money on clothes. Being retired probably means you no longer have to purchase new suits every few months or have a uniform that you’re required to wear. By being able to purchase more casual clothes, you will be able to save money.
Hope these tips will help you save money during retirement. If you have any questions, please call your Certified Public Accountant or Certified Financial Planner. Don’t have a trusted advisor? Then give me a call, I’d be happy to discuss your concerns with you. Call me today at 573-686-3053.
Many small start-up businesses are off and running before any record system has been set up. There is money deposited into the new business checking account, some from invested funds and some from sales. Money has been paid out for equipment and supplies, some by check and some by cash out of pocket or from sales receipts.
This informal method of cash receipts and disbursements needs to be formalized. The bookkeeping system does not need to be complicated. In most cases, you can continue to operate much as you have. You just need to do it in a way that leaves a few more tracks.
For example, make all purchases by check. The small miscellaneous cash paid-outs from your pocket (or the petty cash box) are reimbursed by a check with a listing of the expense codes. All your cash receipts are deposited into the bank. No more taking cash from the till for lunches, supplies, etc.
If all the money received by the business is deposited into the bank and all expenses are paid by a company check, the proper journal entries are easy to create from the bank statement.
If you are starting a new business, don't wait until the end of the year and surprise your accountant with a box of miscellaneous receipts. That is the most expensive and least effective use of your accounting information. In addition to setting up the proper record system, your accountant will provide you with guidance on other business, tax, and financial matters.
Want to talk to a CPA to help you with your record system? Give me a call at 573-686-3053, I'd be happy to sit down with you.
More and more people are breaking away from the past work cycle and striking out on their own. Working for someone else used to be the safe and easy route, but now many individuals are finding the reality of having someone else be the boss. With many companies downsizing the past few years, the rate of people opening their own business has skyrocketed.
Being an entrepreneur has many benefits – you’re your own boss, you call the shots, you directly affect the end product. Being your own boss comes with many rewards, but can also come with many obstacles to overcome.
1.) Be mindful. Being mindful simply means being in the present. It’s easy to dream big and set high goals, but to survive you must also be present. You will save energy by having the ability to focus on one task and execute it.
2.) Focus on finances. It’s important for any business, especially a new start up to be aware of their financial setting. One key factor is having a Certified Public Accountant to rely on to answer questions and to deal with any issues that arise. Many entrepreneurs spend too much of their time handling the books, payroll, bill paying, and tax return. Having a professional handling the financial details will free your time to handle the business details – such as growing your firm, landing your next job, or finalizing a project.
3.) Don’t be afraid to fail. You will have to be able to take risks when owning your own business. There’s a saying “if it was too easy everyone would be doing it.” You have to realize that owning your business takes hard work and doesn’t happen overnight.
With simple ideas in mind, you will be one step closer to having your own successful business. If you have any questions, be sure to give us a call. I am passionate about assisting small business owners grow. Give me a call at 573-686-3053 to setup a meeting.
Many small business owners pay too little attention to their financial statements. This is due in part to not understanding just what the statements have to offer. In fact, many may not be able to tell you the difference between a Balance Sheet and an Income Statement.
Think of them this way. The Balance Sheet is like a still picture. It shows where your company is at on a specific date, at month-end, or at year-end. It is a listing of your assets and debts on a given date. So Balance Sheets that are a year apart show your financial position at the end of year one versus the end of year two. Showing how you got from position one to position two is the job of the Income Statement.
Suppose I took a photo of you sitting behind your desk on December 31, 2013. And on December 31, 2014, I took a photo of you sitting on the other side of your desk. We know for a fact that you have moved from one side to the other. What we don't know is how you got there. Did you just jump over the desk or did you run all the way around the building to do it? The Income Statement tells us how you did it. It shows how many sales and how much expense was involved to accomplish the move.
To see why a third kind of financial statement called a Funds Flow Statement is useful, follow this case. A printer has started a new printing business. He invested $20,000 of his own cash and borrowed $50,000 from the bank to buy new equipment. After a year of operation, he has managed to pay off the bank loan. He now owns the equipment free and clear. When he is told his net profit is $50,000, he can't believe it. He might tell you that he took nothing out of the business and lived off his wife's wages for the year. And since there is no cash in the bank, just where is the profit? The Funds Flow Statement will show the income as a "source of funds" and the increase in equipment is an "application of funds." The Funds Statement is even more useful when you have several assets to which funds can be applied and several sources of funds such as bank loans, vendor payables, and business profit or loss.
Don't be afraid to ask your accountant questions about your financial statements. The more questions you get answered, the more useful you will find your financial statements. Accounting is sort of a foreign language. Learn to speak a little of it.
If you have any questions, please give me a call at 573-686-3053.
In 2013 the IRS reported that 5.2 billion dollars were dispersed to identity thieves, according to the Government Accountability Office. The thieves filed fraudulent tax returns for unsuspecting citizens, and the IRS did not catch it until well after the refund check had been delivered.
Even though $5.2 billion sounds like a lot, which in reality it really is, the IRS stopped another 24.2 billion dollars in attempted fraud. The full extent of the fraud issue is hard to fathom, but it is still an issue that everyone needs to be aware of.
Here’s what you need to know: Thieves steal your personal information before you even receive your W-2 from your employer. Thieves will then file a fake income tax return on your behalf before you get a chance to file a legitimate return. The thieves then sit back and collect the refund check. It seems to happen fairly fast, and with the IRS trying to issue refund checks within three weeks of receiving your return there really isn’t much time to catch the fraud.
Want to know the best way you can deter tax refund fraud? File early, and file electronically! The IRS will reject any tax returns with your Social Security Number that are filed after yours is received. By filing early and electronically you are ensuring your tax return is processed before any fraudulent ones can be received.
The good news is that the IRS is starting a program to distribute single-use personal identification numbers (PIN) for protection to taxpayers for identity purposes. The initiative is still trying to get its feet off the ground, so be sure to file early to prevent any fraudulent activities.Have questions about how to prevent identity theft tax refund fraud for you? Give me a call at 573-686-3053 and I’ll be happy to sit down with you.
Have you ever thought about when you’re time will come to kick up your feet, travel the world, and spend more time with your family? When will your day come to retire comfortably? You’ve probably thought about retirement, but let’s think a little deeper for a minute. What does retirement mean to you? How much are you going to need?
Think about what you truly want from your retirement. Do you want to quit your job, move to warmer temperatures and spend the rest of your life playing golf every day? Probably not. You may dream of that life, but I bet you won’t be working on your golf game too long before your bored and dreaming of something new to do.
In a perfect world you would no longer have to work for your money because the money you have worked so hard for most of your life, now works for you. It means you get to do what you want to do when you want to do it. To get to this point, you need to have saved enough money so you can live off the earnings.
What is your number? If you don’t have any idea then don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Most people have no clue what their number is.
Determining your number is not that easy. There are a lot of factors to consider and some that are even hard to predict. Variables such as inflation, health care costs of the future, investment returns, your plans, etc.
I can help you determine a more accurate number of how much you will need. If you are curious to determine what your number is then give me a call. I would like to sit down and talk about how I can give you an idea of how much money you need to invest during your working life to enjoy your retirement the way you have always dreamed.
Give me a call at 573-686-3053 to schedule a conversation.
Who have you designated as beneficiaries for your insurance policies and retirement accounts? If you can't remember, you're not alone. But it's worth checking. If you make the wrong decision, it could affect who inherits those assets. In some cases, it could also change the taxes your beneficiaries will pay and the value they'll receive. Here are some key facts about beneficiary designations.
* When you designate a beneficiary for an account, you are naming the person you want to inherit that account.
* Your designation determines who will inherit the assets in the account, regardless of what your will might say. Generally, the assets will bypass probate and go straight to the person or institution you named.
* You can designate a person or group of persons, a charity, a trust, or your estate. You may also want to designate a secondary or backup beneficiary in case the primary is no longer living.
Why are they important?
* It's important to keep beneficiary designations up to date because they determine who will inherit the assets in your accounts. Changing your will won't change the beneficiaries.
* There can be tax implications too. With a traditional IRA, your choice of beneficiary can affect how quickly withdrawals must be made and taxes paid. That can change the value of the IRA to your beneficiary.
How do I update them?
* First, find copies of all your current designations. Contact your insurance company and plan trustees if you can't locate the documents.
* Review them and decide what changes you'd like to make. Make an appointment to go over the changes with your tax or estate planning advisor.
* Send your updated designations to the account trustees. Make sure you receive confirmations and keep copies in your records.
When it comes to taxes, being self-employed has some advantages. Whether you work for yourself on a full-time basis or just do a little moonlighting on the side, the government has provided you with a variety of attractive tax breaks.
* Save for retirement. When you're self-employed, you're allowed to set up a retirement plan for your business. Remember, contributing to a retirement plan is one of the best tax shelters available to you during your working years.
Take a look at the SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA, or Solo 401(k), and determine which plan works best for you.
* Hire your kids. If your business is unincorporated, employing your child under the age of 18 might make sense. That's because your child's earnings are exempt from social security, Medicare, and federal unemployment taxes. This year, your son or daughter can earn as much as $6,200 and owe no income taxes. You get to deduct the wages paid as a business expense.
* Deduct health insurance. Are you paying your own medical or dental insurance? How about long-term care insurance? As a self-employed individual, you may be able to deduct 100% of the cost of these premiums as an "above the line" deduction, subject to certain restrictions.
* Take business-use deductions. Self-employed individuals can also deduct "mixed-use" items directly against their business income. Use your car for business and you can deduct 56¢ per business mile driven. The business-use portion of your computer purchases, Internet access, and wireless phone bills is also allowable. And if you meet the strict requirements, claiming the home office deduction makes a portion of your home expenses tax-deductible.
Please give me a call at 573-686-3053 to find out more about the tax breaks available to self-employed individuals.
As the year draws to a close, you may decide to donate cash or property to one or more worthy causes. Besides the satisfaction of helping others, there's another reward for your benevolence: a tax deduction on your 2014 return. But the IRS recommends that you keep the following points in mind:
If you have questions about documentation for your charitable donations, contact my staff at 573-686-3053.
I understand how much love you probably have for your family pet. I have pets too and I can’t imagine a day without their companionship. However, as one couple in Colorado learned, your pets cannot run your business. A Colorado couple was accused of filing their tax returns in their pets’ names. Matthew Zuckerman and Sandra Zuckerman were both sentenced in September of 2014 on income tax related charges. Mr. Zuckerman was sentence to serve 24 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $693,706 in restitution to the IRS. Mrs. Zuckerman was sentenced to serve 36 months of probation and she was jointly liable for $112,511 of that restitution.
According to the Department of Justice, a cat and dog were named among the officers and directors in documents filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. The Zuckermans were indicted in April 2012, and plead guilty to tax evasion and willful failure to pay income taxes. They filed the fraudulent tax returns then allegedly took the savings on their returns to go on a cruise and have a plastic surgery procedure done.
The morale of the story is – your dogs and your cats cannot be executive directors of your business. You may think they are a genius for being able to play to bring you the morning newspaper, but having them run your company will simply not fly with the IRS.
In our busy lives, it's sometimes tough to corral our financial records. Bills, paycheck stubs, tax returns, and bank statements can disappear into dusty attic corners and bulging desk drawers. Important insurance policies can hide out beneath bins of holiday ornaments and electrical supplies. Mortgage documents can sneak into old books or ensconce themselves in nooks and crannies throughout the house.
Take the time now to coax those papers out of hiding. Here are four suggestions for getting organized.
If you'd like additional guidance in organizing your finances, give me a call at 573-686-3053.
If you do volunteer work for a charitable organization and have not kept track of your out-of-pocket expenses, you might be passing up an excellent opportunity to lower your tax bill. To qualify, your unreimbursed expenses must relate directly to the charity, and you must itemize your deductions on your tax return. Here is a brief rundown of some possible deductions.
* Volunteers may deduct the cost of phone calls, postage stamps, supplies, and other out-of-pocket costs incurred in their volunteer work. For volunteers who are required to wear a uniform, the cost of buying and cleaning uniforms is deductible if they are unsuitable for everyday wear.
* The cost of your time, no matter how valuable it may be, is not deductible. That's true even if you would normally be paid for the type of service you contribute. For instance, accountants who perform free consulting for charities can't deduct what they would normally charge for their services.
* Using your car in connection with volunteer work can earn you a deduction. The standard mileage rate for volunteers who use their own cars is 14 cents per mile. Alternatively, you may deduct your actual unreimbursed expenses for gas and oil - but not maintenance, depreciation, or insurance. Either way you choose, related parking fees and tolls are deductible as well.
* If you travel overnight for charitable purposes, your expenses are deductible as long as they are reasonable in amount and not connected with personal activities or any element of recreation.
* Special rules apply to conventions. Travel and other out-of-pocket expenses related to attendance at a convention for volunteers are deductible only if you have been chosen as a delegate to represent the organization.
Finally, just remember that it is up to you, the volunteer, to substantiate your deductions. If you take these deductions, you should be prepared to show the IRS the connection between the costs claimed and the charitable work performed. If you have any questions about deducting your charitable work, be sure to call your CPA. Don't have a CPA? Give us a call at 573-686-3053 and one of our CPAs will be happy to talk with you.
How much money did you save last year? If you didn't save at least 10% of your earnings, you didn't save enough. If your savings in 2013 fell short, the only solution is to take charge of your financial future right now and start saving more money.
Saving money doesn't have to be hard work. In fact, many successful savers have found simple ways to cut spending and increase their savings. Here are some tips to help you get started and stay on track.
* Set goals. To give your savings purpose, set specific financial goals. For example, it's advisable to have an emergency fund of approximately six months' worth of living expenses to cover any cash outlays that may catch you by surprise. Nothing can derail your financial plans faster than a series of mishaps that force you to take drastic financial measures. Other saving goals may include a college savings fund, vacation fund, or a fund for major purchases.
* Treat your savings as your most important monthly bill. Write a check to savings first, or have your savings automatically deducted from your checking account or paycheck.
* Tax-deferred retirement accounts offer a smart way for you to save money for retirement. If your employer offers a 401(k) or SIMPLE retirement plan, contribute the maximum amount allowed. If your employer offers no plan, contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA). The money you contribute to a retirement account can reduce your taxable income and grow tax-free until withdrawn.
* Another way to maximize savings is to track your expenses for a few months. This is a great way to spot unnecessary or wasteful spending; it doesn't take much work to see potential cutbacks.
* When it comes to saving, think "control." For example, control the use of your credit cards. The amount you pay each month in finance charges could go to savings instead. Also, control the use of your ATM card. Get in the habit of giving yourself a regular cash allowance, and try to live with it.
You should be saving at least 10% of your earnings. Seem impossible? If you took a new job at 10% less pay, you would get by. For help in setting financial goals and developing a savings plan, call me at 573-686-3053.
The death of a spouse can be a devastating experience, both emotionally and financially. As the survivor, you'll have to make important decisions while you're in what could be the most vulnerable and distracted stage of your life. The suggestions that follow might at least help ease your financial stress.
* Don't make major decisions right away. Put off selling your house, moving in with your grown children, giving everything away, liquidating your investments, or buying new financial products.
* Get professional help. You'll need an attorney to help interpret and explain the will and/or applicable law and implement the estate settlement; your accountant to provide financial advice and prepare the necessary tax documents; one or more insurance brokers to help with filing and collecting death benefits; and a funeral director, who in addition to the obvious services, can obtain needed copies of the death certificate.
* Gather and review any applicable documents, such as the decedent's social security card and statements, insurance policies, loan and lease agreements, your spouse's birth certificate, the death certificate, investment paperwork, mortgage statements and agreements, deeds, retirement plans and related statements, credit cards and credit card statements, employment and/or partnership agreements, divorce agreements, funeral directives and/or contracts, safe deposit box information, and tax returns. (You'll need a dozen or more copies of the death certificate to provide to insurance companies, government agencies, creditors, credit card agencies, banks, and a host of others.)
* Determine who must be paid, and when. You'll need to notify your spouse's creditors (including joint creditors) and continue paying for mortgages, car loans, credit cards, utilities, and insurance premiums not specific to your spouse. Notify health insurance companies (including Medicare) that you'll no longer be paying your spouse's premiums, and cancel your spouse's memberships and subscriptions.
* Alert the credit card agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Request addition of a "deceased notice" and a "do not issue credit" statement to the decedent's file. Order credit reports, which will provide a complete record of your spouse's open credit cards.
* Determine what payments are due to you, such as insurance proceeds, social security or veteran's benefits, and pension payouts. File claims where needed.
* Maintain your joint checking account to facilitate the deposit of incoming checks payable to your spouse.
Finally, call us at 573-686-3053 as soon as you can. We're always ready to advise and assist you, before or after life's tragic events.
Whew! The rush is over once your personal income tax return is done for another year - or so you thought, right up until the moment you discover information you forgot to include.
The action you take depends on the type of information you forgot. For instance, say you reported all your income on the return you mailed to the IRS. But now you realize you neglected to attach a copy of your wage statement.
In this case, doing nothing is the best option. You'll eventually get a notice from the IRS requesting the missing form.
Other mistakes, such as omitting income or deductions, or deciding you're eligible for a credit you didn't claim may require amending your return.
To do this, you'll need to complete Form 1040X. Explain any changes and mail the form to the IRS after your original return has been processed. At present, e-filing isn't available for Form 1040X, so you'll have to use a paper return, even if you submitted the original electronically.
As a general rule, Form 1040X has no set due date. But if the information you left off increases the amount of tax you owe, filing promptly can help reduce interest and penalties.
When the correction results in less tax, you'll need to file before the time for claiming your refund expires (usually three years from the due date of the original return).
Please contact me at 573-686-3053 if you find additional information after filing your federal and state tax returns. I'll be glad to help you make any necessary changes.
Are you a grandparent who wants to help pay for a grandchild's college education? You'll find several ways to do this, each with its own limitations and tax consequences.
GIFTS. The simplest way is to make an outright cash gift to your grandchild each year. In 2014, you can give up to $14,000 without any gift tax liability. If your spouse joins in the gift, you can jointly give each grandchild up to $28,000 each year.
DIRECT PAYMENTS. You can give unlimited amounts without gift tax consequences if you make the payments directly to a qualified education institution on behalf of your grandchild. Payments can only be for tuition, not for dorm fees, meals, books, etc.
EDUCATION ACCOUNTS. You could set up a Coverdell education savings account or a Section 529 plan for your grandchild. These plans offer tax-free growth of amounts you contribute to them. Age, income, and contribution limits apply, however.
To discuss the options best suited to your circumstances, contact me at the office at 573-686-3053 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to take a look with you and create a plan that will fit your needs.