Equifax Survivors

By now, I am sure you are aware we have experienced one of the most significant identity theft breaches our country has ever seen.  Stolen information includes names, social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.  This type of information has no expiration date and will affect you and your family members for a lifetime.

On September 7, 2017, Equifax announced that 143 million people had their identities compromised between May and July of this year.  According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), if you have a credit report, there’s a “good chance” you’re one of the 143 million Americans impacted.

Even though the Equifax data breach may be the largest data breach on record, it definitely is NOT the only data breach on record.  The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reports 1,091 cases in 2016 and 1,002 cases in the first half of 2017 ALONE!  This Equifax data breach is just a harsh reminder that forces beyond our control can lead to the exposure of our personal information AND that everyone needs identity theft protection.

In response to the Equifax data breach, Equifax is offering one year of free credit monitoring.  However, please know the solution Equifax is offering is their own product called TrustedID.  Can you trust Equifax to provide minimum credit monitoring for free if they couldn’t protect your sensitive records in the first place? I highly recommend you DO NOT enroll with TrustedID, as it may give you a false sense of security.

In the following short video, Morgan Wright, US State Department, Senior Anti-Terrorism Advisor, talks about the significance of this breach, why you shouldn’t use TrustedID, and why he has selected IDShield (the service we provide) as the service of choice to handle identity theft.

https://www.cnbc.com/video/2017/09/08/antiterrorism-advisor-how-to-protect-yourself-from-equifaxs-data-breach.html

This is a stressful time for many of you knowing that your personal information will be bought, sold and traded, but we’re here to help.  Our members have access to our dedicated and experienced licensed private investigators to ask questions and get help if they become victims of fraud.  Our members also have pro-active credit monitoring through EXPERIAN (NOT Equifax!) and are alerted if there are any changes to their credit report.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Here are steps ANYONE can take to provide an extra layer of security:

  • Set up a FRAUD alert with one of the main bureaus. If you place the alert with 1 bureau, it will ensure it’s placed with the other bureaus as well.
  • Be diligent with your information. Don’t give out your personal information.
  • Change your passwords. (IDShield Members can use IDShield Vault password manager to generate a new strong password.)
  • If you don’t have IDShield yet, this is a great time to sign up for comprehensive identity protection with full service, white-glove restoration.

With over 2,000 data breach cases documented in the past 1 1/2 years, together with the largest known data breach in US history revealed to us just 2 weeks ago, isn’t it reasonable to believe pieces of your personal identity may have been exposed?  If your stolen data is used to get a fake ID, file a false tax return, or commit a crime, it could take up to 18 months or more to resolve, and you may need to take time off from work to deal with this issue.

Be proactive! Protect you and your family with IDShield, a comprehensive identity theft plan that provides access to licensed private investigators, credit monitoring, social media monitoring and more for as little as $9.95 a month.  Visit www.kerezman.com for additional information and to enroll TODAY!  Text me at (574) 215.5505 if you are interested in offering identity theft protection to employee groups at discounted rates.

Posted in Cost-Savings Tips, Identity Theft | Leave a comment

Why Should You Take The 2017 Roadcheck Seriously?

ROADCHECK 2017
The CVSA’s Annual International Roadcheck Inspection blitz will be held on June 6-8, 2017. Although CARGO SECUREMENT will be the main point of emphasis for inspectors this year, drivers must be ready for a Level 1 Inspection.

LEVEL 1 INSPECTION
Inspectors will primarily be conducting the Level I Inspection, which is the most thorough roadside inspection.  It is a 37-step procedure that includes an examination of both driver operating requirements and vehicle mechanical fitness.

CARGO SECUREMENT
The 5 top load securement violations are as follows:

  1. Failure to prevent shifting/loss of load
  2. Failure to secure truck equipment (tarps, dunnage, doors, tailgates, spare tires, etc)
  3. Damaged tie-downs
  4. Insufficient tie-downs
  5. Loose tie-downs

ROADCHECK 2016
Here are some numbers that might interest you from Roadcheck 2016:

  • 62,796 trucks were stopped and inspected
  • 42,236 Level 1 inspections were conducted (67% of all inspections)
  • 9,080 trucks were found with Out-of-Service (OOS) vehicle violations
  • 1,436 drivers were placed Out-of-Service due to critical item violations. The top driver out-of-service violations were for hours of service and false logs.

The CVSA says an average of 15 trucks and buses are inspected EVERY MINUTE across North America during this 72-hour event.

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE INSPECTION AND DO YOU HAVE LEGAL COVERAGE IN PLACE? Please contact me before MAY 26 if you want complete coverage before this year’s Roadcheck Inspection Blitz!

Posted in CDL Drivers, Legal | Leave a comment

Are You Missing a W-2?

Article Highlights:

  • Employers have until Jan. 31, 2017, to provide 2016 W-2s to employees.
  • Steps to take when W-2 has not arrived by scheduled tax appointment.
  • Contact employer if W-2 is not received, then IRS if it is still missing after Feb. 15, 2017.
  • How to proceed if W-2 is still missing by the return due date.

Have you received all of your W-2s? These documents are essential for completing individual tax returns. You should receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from all of your employers each year. Employers have until January 31 to provide or send you a 2016 W-2 earnings statement, either electronically or in paper form. If you have not received your W-2, follow these steps:

  1. Contact This Office – If your appointment is in the near future, you will be advised whether to keep the appointment or change it to another time. Generally, when a W-2 or 1099 is missing, it is best to keep the appointment so that everything else for the return can be completed. You can then mail the missing document to the office or drop it off at a later date. That way, your return can be finished as soon as the W-2 or 1099 is available, which will speed up your refund, if you are receiving one.
  2. Contact Your Employer – Contact your employer to inquire if and when the W-2 was mailed. If it was mailed, it may have been returned to the employer due to an incorrect or incomplete address. After contacting the employer, allow a reasonable amount of time for the employer to resend or re-issue the W-2.
  3. Contact the IRS – If you still have not received your W-2 by February 15, you can contact the IRS for assistance at 800-829-1040. However, we recommend that you hold off from contacting the IRS until you are certain that you will not be receiving a W-2 from the employer. If you do call the IRS, have the following information on hand:
  • Employer’s name, address, city, and state, including zip code;
  • Your name, address, city, state, zip code, and Social Security number; and
  • An estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and the period in which you worked for that employer. The estimate should be based on year-to-date information from your final pay stub, or your leave-and-earnings statement (LES), if possible. This office can assist you with making the estimate.
  1. File Your Return – Even if you don’t receive a W-2, you are still required to file your tax return or to request a filing extension by April 15.
  • If you anticipate that you will ultimately receive the missing W-2, this office can estimate your 2016 tax liability and file extensions for you. If you have a substantial refund coming, you may opt to have this office prepare a substitute W-2, enabling you to file without the W-2. Refunds for returns that include substitute W-2s can be delayed significantly while the IRS verifies the W-2 information.
  • If you don’t anticipate receiving the missing W-2, then this office can prepare a substitute W-2, enabling you to file your 2016 tax return.

If a substitute W-2 is used and it is later determined that the information used to prepare the substitute W-2 was in error, an amended return may need to be prepared for you to file with the IRS and state tax agency, if applicable.

Please call this office if you have questions or need assistance about missing W-2s, 1099s, or other tax documents.

Posted in Tax Tips, Tax-Planning Tips | Leave a comment

3 AWESOME Reasons to Execute Your Will TODAY

A Will is an official written expression of your wishes concerning many things to be carried out following your death.  With a properly executed Will, YOU name the Executor and his/her duties, YOU decide who takes care of your children, and YOU select those who are to receive your assets.  If you die WITHOUT a Will, the STATE makes these decisions for you.last-will-gift

Leaving a Last Will & Testament for your family is one of the BEST GIFTS you can give them. If you have always intended to, but not yet completed your Last Will & Testament, then I have a GIFT for YOU!

  1. A Will allows you to pick your Executor. Without a Will, the State will assign someone to take care of your children, your possessions, and your business.  This person will most likely request a fee, leaving less to distribute to your family.
  2. A Will allows a parent to transfer guardianship of minors to trusted friends or loved ones.  Without a Will, the State could place your minor children in temporary foster care.
  3. A Will allows you to spell out who gets your stuff.  Without a Will, the State determines who gets your stuff.

For more information, contact me to schedule a private presentation.  Enroll in January to take advantage of our FREE WILL PREPARATION BENEFIT, as well as receive a FREE $10 gas card.

Posted in Estate Planning Tips, Legal | Leave a comment

Are You in Compliance with your Multi-State Income Tax Filings?

Are You In Compliance With Your Multi-State Income Tax Filings?

Article Highlights:

  • Individuals with Multi-State Income
  • Businesses with Nexus In Multiple States
  • Federal Law PL 86-272
  • Dual Taxationusa

We all know that we must file individual and business entity federal tax returns when specified income thresholds are met, and we will also need to file a return for our resident state if it has an individual or business entity income tax filing requirement.

But what may be overlooked is the possible requirement to file returns in other states as well. This can happen in a variety of situations. Here are some examples for individuals:

  • If they earned wages in another state.
  • If they have rental property in another state.
  • If they receive gas or oil royalties from another state.
  • If they are a partner in a partnership or stockholder in an S corporation doing business in another state.

Generally, investment income, such as income from interest and dividends, is taxable to a taxpayer’s state of residence only and does not require multi-state filings.

Business entities can also be subject to state taxes in multiple states and to filing requirements in states where they have nexus. Although nexus is defined on a state-by-state basis, certain activities or conditions indicate when nexus exists. Nexus is generally present in the following situations:

  • Incorporation within a state
  • Having legal domicile within a state
  • Having a principal place of business within a state
  • Having an office or other facility within a state
  • Employment of capital or property within a state
  • Providing services within a state
  • Solicitation of business from within a state

Federal Law PL 86-272, enacted in 1959, blocks the various states from claiming nexus if the only contact within a state is the employment of salespersons or independent contractors whose only purpose is to solicit sales of tangible personal property for out-of-state approval and fulfillment.  This exception is very narrow and limits the activities of the salesperson or contractor; it doesn’t apply to solicitations for the sale of real estate, services or intangible property. All decisions and customer support must be handled outside the state or states in which the salesperson works.

Many states are extremely aggressive in their interpretation of nexus, often leading to confrontations with state tax authorities.  It is relatively easy for states to find delinquent tax filers by matching payroll, sales or property tax forms against required income tax filings.

If you have questions about the information providing here, please give this office a call.

Posted in Tax-Planning Tips | Leave a comment

Tax Breaks for Hiring Your Children in Your Family Business

Article Highlights:

  • Child Under the Age of 19 or a Student Under the Age of 24
  • Kiddie Tax
  • Tax on a Child’s Earned Income
  • Deduction for the Business
  • Employment Taxes
  • IRAs and Retirement Planskids-at-work

You might consider hiring your children to help out in your business. Financially, it might make more sense to keep the family employed rather than hiring strangers, provided, of course, that the family member is suitable for the job.

Rather than helping to support your children with your after-tax dollars, you can instead hire them in your business and pay them with tax-deductible dollars. Of course, the employment must be legitimate and the pay commensurate with the hours and the job worked. The following are typical situations encountered when hiring family members.

Employing a Child – A reasonable salary paid to a child reduces the self-employment income and tax of the parents (business owners) by shifting income to the child.  When a child under the age of 19 or a student under the age of 24 is claimed as a dependent of the parents, the child is generally subject to the kiddie tax rules if their investment income is upward of $2,100. Under these rules, the child’s investment income is taxed at the same rate as the parent’s top marginal rate using a lower $1,050 standard deduction. However, earned income (income from working) is taxed at the child’s marginal rate, and the earned income is reduced by the lesser of the earned income plus $350 or the regular standard deduction for the year, which is $6,300 for 2016. Assuming that a child has no other income, the child could be paid $6,300 and incur no income tax. If the child is paid more, the next $9,275 he or she earns is taxed at 10%.

Example: You are in the 25% tax bracket and own an unincorporated business. You hire your child (who has no investment income) and pay the child $11,800 for the year. You reduce your income by $11,800, which saves you $2,950 of income tax (25% of $11,800), and your child has a taxable income of $5,500, $11,800 less the $6,300 standard deduction) on which the tax is $550 (10% of $5,500).

If the business is unincorporated and the wages are paid to a child under age 18, he or she will not be subject to FICA – Social Security and Hospital Insurance (HI, aka Medicare) – taxes since employment for FICA tax purposes doesn’t include services performed by a child under the age of 18 while employed by a parent. Thus, the child will not be required to pay the employee’s share of the FICA taxes, and the business won’t have to pay its half either. In addition, by paying the child and thus reducing the business’s net income, the parent’s self-employment tax payable on net self-employment income is also reduced.

Use the same example from above. Assuming your business profits are $130,000, by paying your child $11,800, you not only reduce your self-employment income for income tax purposes, but you also reduce your self-employment tax (HI portion) by $316 (2.9% of $11,800 times the SE factor of 92.35%). But if your net profits for the year were less than the maximum SE income ($118,500 for 2016) that is subject to Social Security tax, then the savings would include the 12.4% Social Security portion in addition to the 2.9% HI portion.

A similar but more liberal exemption applies for FUTA, which exempts from federal unemployment tax the earnings paid to a child under age 21 while employed by his or her parent. The FICA and FUTA exemptions also apply if a child is employed by a partnership consisting solely of his parents. However, the exemptions do not apply to businesses that are incorporated or a partnership that includes non-parent partners. Even so, there’s no extra cost to your business if you’re paying a child for work that you would pay someone else to do anyway.

Retirement Plan Savings – Additional savings are possible if the child is paid more (or works part-time past the summer) and deposits the extra earnings into a traditional IRA. For 2016, the child can make a tax-deductible contribution of up to $5,500 to his or her own IRA. The business also may be able to provide the child with retirement plan benefits, depending on the type of plan it uses and its terms, the child’s age, and the number of hours worked. By combining the standard deduction ($6,300) and the maximum deductible IRA contribution ($5,500) for 2016, a child could earn $11,800 of wages and pay no income tax.

However, referring back to our original example, the child’s tax to be saved by making a $5,500 traditional IRA contribution is only $550, so it might be appropriate to make a Roth IRA contribution instead, especially since the child has so many years before retirement and the future tax-free retirement benefits will far outweigh the current $550 savings.

If you have questions about the information provided here and other possible tax benefits or issues related to hiring your child, please give this office a call.

Posted in Business Tips, Cost-Savings Tips, Payroll Tips, Profitability Tips, Tax-Planning Tips | Leave a comment

IRS Scam Alert

Ingenious Scam Targets Taxpayers

Article Highlights:

  • Scammers Change Tacticsirs-scam-alert
  • Fake IRS Mail Notices
  • Have Your Tax Preparer Review Notice

Crooks have tried all sorts of e-mails scams, but almost everyone has figured out that the IRS does not send out notices by e-mail. So crooks have changed their tactics. Now, there are reports of taxpayers receiving by mail fake notices requiring immediate payment to a PO Box.  The PO Boxes are located in cities where the IRS has service centers, but of course are not IRS PO Box addresses.

These scammers have duplicated the look of official IRS mail notices, which to the untrained eye would lead one to believe a notice was really from the IRS.

So be extremely cautious of any notice you may have received from the IRS. If a notice is demanding immediate payment and there has not been any prior contact by the IRS over the issue, then the notice is probably from a scammer. Reports indicate the initial letters were numbered CP-2000.

Here is a sample fake IRS CP-2000 supplied by Iowa State University.

https://www.calt.iastate.edu/sites/default/files/files-page/SCAMletter.pdf

Posted in Identity Theft, Tax-Planning Tips | Leave a comment

Top 4 Mistakes By Small Business Owners

Article Highlights: 

  • Reporting employees as independent contractorsoops
  • Not reconciling bank accounts regularly
  • Forgetting to record payments against open invoices
  • Not understanding the differences between cash flow and profit

When you decided to open for business, you had a vision for the future. You identified a need and came up with a solution you could provide and sell, and you invested your time, your money, your knowledge, and your drive to make it into a reality. The only problem in this scenario, if you’re like a lot of small business owners, is that you did not anticipate having to handle your business’s accounting needs. Many highly intelligent, responsible business operators get caught making common small-business accounting mistakes that can trip them up and cost them in the long run. If you are afraid this might happen to you — or if it already has — the best way to avoid these costly errors is to learn the top four small-business accounting mistakes and how to prevent them.

The Top 4 Accounting Mistakes Made by Small Businesses

The truth is that these 4 mistakes are relatively easy to address. The best way to avoid them is to set aside time every week for the specific purpose of taking care of basic accounting tasks. Once you get into the habit of doing them regularly and the right way, you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of having to go back and correct these mistakes in the future.

Let’s look at each one individually, in a bit more depth.

Reporting Employees as Independent Contractors

If you hire people to work for you, it’s important for you to understand the difference between employees and contractors, and to classify them correctly. There are very specific ways that you must account for each type of worker, and if you don’t get it right you will likely have to make corrections — and possibly pay penalties — in the future. If somebody is your employee, then you have control over when they work, how they get paid, and how they do their job. You are also responsible for withholding payroll tax on their behalf. By contrast, when you bring somebody in to do work for you as an independent contractor, they have more control over their own schedule, the work that they do, and how they get paid by you. They are responsible for their own taxes.

Not Reconciling Bank Accounts Regularly

Just as there are certain tasks that need to be done to keep your business running smoothly, there are certain accounting tasks that need to be addressed on a regular basis. Reconciling your bank accounts is one of those things. You need to make sure that every expense and every deposit is recorded in your books, and the best way to do that is to compare what you’ve written down to the statement that the bank provides. When you do this regularly, you are able to more immediately identify and address items that don’t match up so that you can correct any mistakes and take full advantage of available deductions. Far too often small business owners assume that this task is a waste of time and wait until the end of the year to do it. Not only is this much more time consuming, but it is harder to catch all mistakes and figure out what is missing when you have a full year’s worth of information to go through.

Forgetting to Record Payments Against Open Invoices

You receive a check in the mail or make a deposit into your bank account for an open invoice. If you don’t go back and check off the box showing that receivable as paid, your accounting data will be incorrect and incomplete. Get into the habit of immediately linking payments to their open invoices in order to avoid problems in the future.

Not Understanding the Differences Between Cash Flow and Profit

The money that comes in from your customers and the money that goes out as you make expenditures to operate your business represents cash flow. It’s important to have a positive cash flow, as that is a good indication that your company is healthy. It also means that you can pay your bills. But cash flow is not the same thing as profit. Profitability is a measure of whether you are making more from the sale of your service or product than you spend in bringing it to market. You may be profitable, but if the cash isn’t in hand then you can still have a negative cash flow. And people can pay you quickly so that you have cash on hand but you still may not be making a profit.

The single best and easiest way to avoid these mistakes is by taking advantage of all of the tools and functions that your accounting software package offers. Most accounting programs include powerful tools and how-to guides, but in many cases small business owners just invest in the packages without taking the time to learn all that they can do — or to learn it well. By taking a little time on the front end to go through the available tutorials, you’ll find that you’ll save yourself both time and trouble on the back end. Our best advice is to set aside time one day of the week, first to learn the software and then, going forward, to go through that week’s records. Set aside the same time slot each week as if it is a meeting or appointment. It’s a good habit to get into.

If you find yourself struggling to learn your software and you need help, don’t hesitate to contact us for tips and/or training — we’re happy to help. And once you learn what you’re doing, make sure that you include backing up your files as part of your weekly appointment with yourself. There’s nothing quite like doing the right thing and then having it disappear into the ether.

Posted in Accounting, Bookkeeping Tips, Business Tips, Computer Tips, Cost-Savings Tips, Management Tips, Payroll Tips, Profitability Tips, Quickbooks, Tax-Planning Tips, Time Management Tips | Leave a comment

Gambling Can Increase Your Health Insurance Costs

Article Highlights:

  • Adjusted Gross Incgambling
  • Reporting Gambling Winnings
  • Reporting Gambling Losses
  • Netting Gambling Winnings & Losses
  • Premium Tax Credit
  • Game Show Winnings
  • Medicare Premiums

If you are a recreational gambler, there is a quirk in the tax law that can actually cause you to pay more for your health insurance if you have gambling winnings, even if the overall result from gambling for the year is actually a loss.

How can this be? Well, you know how tangled a web our tax laws are, and adding Obamacare into the equation has created some interesting fallout, such as this oddity.

To understand how it happens, you must first understand how gambling winnings and losses are treated on your tax return. They are generally not netted on the tax return. The total gambling winnings are included in your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year, and your losses are taken as an itemized deduction and limited to an amount not exceeding your reported winnings.

So, whether or not you itemize your deductions and deduct your gambling losses, the full amount of the gambling winnings is included in your AGI, and your AGI is included in your household income, which is used to determine the amount of premium tax credit (PTC) to which you are entitled. PTC is the subsidy provided by the government to help pay for your insurance when you purchase it through the government insurance Marketplace. The higher your income, the lower your PTC, and the lower the PTC, the higher your insurance premiums.

If your gambling winnings exceed certain thresholds based on the type of gambling you did and the amount you won, the casino, poker palace or racetrack is required to send you and the IRS a Form W-2G that shows the winnings, so you can be sure the IRS will be aware of your gambling income. Even if your losses for the year exceed your winnings, or if you don’t receive a W-2G form, the IRS expects you to report your winnings, which will increase your AGI and, likely, your Marketplace-purchased insurance premiums also.

The same requirement applies if you win on a game show: the winnings are included in your AGI, and even if you give the goods you won to charity and deducted the contribution as an itemized deduction, your gross income includes the entire winnings.

Although impacting very few individuals, if you are retired and on Medicare, there is a similar scenario that can increase the cost of Medicare B and D premiums. An individual’s Medicare B and D premiums are based on his or her AGI from two years prior. Thus, if you hit it big a couple of years back, you could see a rise in both your monthly Medicare B premium and a supplement for the Medicare D premium (prescription drug coverage).

However, the Medicare premium increase generally impacts higher-income individuals who can deal more easily with the increased costs. If you have any questions about how gambling winnings and losses may affect your tax return and medical insurance costs, please give this office a call.

 

Posted in ACA (ObamaCare), Tax-Planning Tips | Leave a comment

2 Driving Records?

Did you know that professional truck drivers have TWO driving records? One is their Motor Vehicle Report (MVR), like we all have.  In addition, they have a second record called CSA (Compliance, Safety & Accountability).  Their MVR affects their license to drive a truck.  Their CSA score affects their insurability. cdlp-target

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS: When a professional truck driver is convicted of too many traffic violations, his license to drive will be suspended.  He CANNOT provide for his family! When a professional truck driver gets too many CSA points, his company cannot afford to insure him.  They cannot give him an uninsured load to deliver.  Again, he CANNOT provide for his family!

With one of our specialty legal plans, many of the driver’s tickets will NOT appear on his MVR! THEN, our transportation law firm can provide the driver with the court documentation needed to lower his CSA score.  Having one of our legal plans is a WIN for the employer-employee, a WIN for the owner-operator, and a WIN for the FAMILY!

Many professional truck drivers log over a million miles in their career.  They know they are at risk for tickets EVERY SINGLE MILE.  Under these working conditions, doesn’t it just make sense to have access to affordable and quality legal protection?

Text me at 574.215.5505 to find out if you qualify for one of our specialty legal plans.  For about a $1 a day, you can protect your ability to make a living and continue to provide for your family. Please share this post with the trucker in your life!

Posted in CDL Drivers, Cost-Savings Tips, Legal | Leave a comment