Equifax Data Breach and Identity Theft Solutions

On September 7, 2017, Equifax announced that 143,000,000 people (nearly half of the US population) had their identities compromised between May and July of this year. Stolen information included names, social security numbers, birthdates, addresses, driver’s license numbers, and credit card numbers. 

As a CPA and Certified Small Business and Employee Benefit Specialist, I want to let you know there are steps you can take to educate yourself about the Equifax data breach and subsequent debacle.

  1. Get your FREE credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. Ensure that your credit information is correct and up-to-date.
  2. Go to the Equifax link below to check your breach status.  It requires you to enter your last name and the last 6 digits of your social security number. (I am guessing you have been impacted by this data breach.) www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/am-i-impacted/.
    1. Equifax is offering its own product called TrustedID as a solution to the most significant identity theft breach our country has ever seen. It is a bare bones breach product that will monitor your credit for free for 1 year.
    2. If someone initially enrolled with TrustedID, they unknowingly gave up their legal rights. Immediate public pressure has forced a change in this policy to better benefit the victim.
  3. Watch this short video where Morgan Wright, US State Department, Senior Anti-Terrorism Advisor, provides tips on what consumers can do to pro-actively protect themselves if they think their personal information was compromised from Equifax’s data breach.

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

  1. My team is doing an encore LIVE teleconference on Equifax and identity theft solutions on Thursday, September 28, 2017 between 8pm – 9pm EST.  Dial in for a 15-20 minute segment any time during the hour, but stay as long as you’d like.  The phone number is 712-770-4010, 160591#.

These past few weeks have been stressful for many of you, knowing that your personal information will be bought, sold and traded for years to come, as your name, social security number, driver’s license and birthdate are very valuable and they DO NOT EXPIRE! You may have realized that no matter how careful you are with your personal information, it is beyond your ability to protect your identity on your own. THAT IS THE WORLD WE LIVE IN!

But, you do NOT have to go it alone! Get on the call tomorrow to educate yourself, and check out the identity theft protection plans available [COMPETITIVE COMPARISONS]. You will discover that IDShield is THE best identity theft solution for THE best price.

Posted in Identity Theft | Leave a comment

Google Pizza ID Theft

Hello! Is this Gino’s Pizza?

No sir – it’s Google Pizza.

I must have dialed a wrong number. Sorry.

No sir – Google bought Gino’s Pizza last month.

OK. I would like to order a pizza.

Do you want your usual, sir?

My usual – you know me?

According to our caller ID data sheet, the last 12 times you called you ordered an extra-large pizza with three cheeses – sausage – pepperoni – mushrooms and meat balls on a thick crust.

OK – that’s what I want .

May I suggest that this time you order a pizza with ricotta – arugula – sun-dried tomatoes and olives on a whole wheat, gluten free, thin crust?

What? I detest vegetables.

Your cholesterol is not good, sir.

How the hell do you know?

Well, we cross-referenced your home phone number with your medical records.  We have the result of your blood tests for the last 7 years.

Okay, but I do not want your rotten vegetable pizza!  I already take medication for my cholesterol.

Excuse me sir, but you have not taken your medication regularly. According to our database, you only purchased a box of 30 cholesterol tablets once, at Drugsale Network, 4 months ago.

I bought more from another drugstore.

That doesn’t show on your credit card statement.

I paid in cash.

But you did not withdraw enough cash according to your bank statement.

I have other sources of cash.

That doesn’t show on your last tax return unless you bought them using an undeclared income source, which is against the law.

WHAT THE HECK? ! ! ! !

I’m sorry, sir, we use such information only with the sole intention of helping you.

Enough already! I’m sick to death of Google – Facebook – Twitter – WhatsApp and all the others!!

I’m going to an island without internet – cable TV – where there is no cell phone service and no one to watch me or spy on me !!

I understand sir – but you need to renew your passport first.  It expired 6 weeks ago.

Posted in 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

9 Tips All Business Owners Should Follow

Business owners are experts in their industry. You know your products and services well – better than the competition. You know how to reach those customers, too. But, managing what’s behind the scenes isn’t always as easy. With the right tools and resources, including a professional by your side, you can enhance the way you do business, reduce your spending, and increase your profit margins. To get started, you need some basic information on finance.

#1: Recognize the Importance of Your Books

Invoices, bank statements, and even some accounting work is commonly done through software programs today. However, it’s more than just accounting for your revenue and expenses that’s important. In other words, you need to turn this data into usable information. Your figures can help you know how to grow profits even further if you know how to read them properly.

#2: Stop Putting It Off

It is much harder to manage that stack of papers at the end of the month than it is to spend a few minutes each day entering details. Having a pro to do this for you makes it even easier. If you are procrastinating, though, you’re hurting your short-term and long-term financial goals.

#3: Know Your Risks

Although most small business owners set out to grow their companies, many often lack the attention needed to minimize risks. What’s the worst-case scenario? What’s your break-even point?

To address risks as a part of your financial strategy really can streamline your finances should the year not go as you planned.

#4: You Really Didn’t Budget, Did You?

Some small to medium businesses lack the time it takes to budget. It’s understandable, but that doesn’t make it okay. Budgeting helps address those risks, but it also helps you to make better buying decisions. And, when you have tools in place to help you monitor inventory, expenses, and other unforeseen costs, you can create better budgets that allow you to do more with your profits.

#5: Tax Mistakes Are Common

Small to medium businesses suffer from some of the most complicated taxes. Without having a professional to monitor and guide your taxes throughout the year, your business could suffer significantly.  Most small businesses need reliable support to ensure tax filing and reporting isn’t a secondary importance.

#6: Build from Your Strengths

You don’t have to build your business on new products or start from scratch each time. It’s best to simply build onto what you have. For example, you’ll want to pinpoint where your biggest profit margins come from. Once you understand who your moneymakers are, target them within your business. By identifying and focusing on these areas, you can build your revenue and profits faster, therefore giving you the room to expand in other areas later.

#7: Building a Business Is More Than Hours Worked

It’s very common for business owners to spend a lot of time and hard work building their business on their own. Are you putting in 80 hours a week? If so, you may be limiting your growth potential. Instead, empower professionals and employees to help you with delegated tasks. This can give you more time to spend on what’s really making you money and help you to sleep at night.

#8: Focus on Lean Practices

Less really is more. As a business owner, you’ll want to incorporate the lean philosophy of keeping less on hand so you reduce your overhead. You create more value for your customers with less.

#9: Access Capital When You Can, Not When You Need To

Having a steady stream of income on hand is important. Instead of waiting until you are desperate for funding, and having to show your investors that you are in that place, focus on planning ahead and minimizing the risk of a negative situation.

As a business owner, making wise financial decisions for your company is an ongoing process. But, you don’t have to do it alone. Allow professionals to help you along the way to better manage your money and you could see it grow faster than you thought possible.

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

I Need Advice On . . .

IF you could wake up tomorrow morning and know every decision you made from that point forward was the right decision, do you suppose you’d want to put yourself in that position?  Well… OF COURSE YOU WOULD!

IF you had a question or concern AND you could call an expert in that area AND that expert could tell you what would happen if you did this OR what would happen if you did that, is it fair to say that conversation would help you make a good (or better) decision?

Have you ever wasted valuable time or lost sleep googling answers to any of the following topics?

■ Landlord/Tenant Disputes.  Crooked landlord. Hazardous home conditions. Tenant eviction issues.  Lease Agreements.

■ Consumer Finance.  Tax disputes and IRS audits.  Collection agency harassment and billing disputes.  Vehicle financing issues and pay day loans.  Collect monies owed to you.

■  Traffic.  Moving traffic or parking citations, driving record, driver’s license suspension.  Car accidents, personal injury and damages.

■ Estate Planning.  Preparation of Last Will & Testament, Living Will, POA and related documents.  Simple Trust, Special Needs Trust, Guardianship/Conservatorship.

■  Real Estate.  Real estate closing, construction, oil and gas, zoning permits.

■  Employment.  Wrongful termination.  Mistreated at work.

■ Family Law.  Divorce, legal separation, child custody, child support, grandparent’s rights, paternity, alienation of affection, adoption, name change.

■  Civil Litigation.  What happens if I get sued?

■  Criminal Charges.  Can I afford a good attorney?

IF I told you that you could call an expert and say, “I need advice on (any of the above topics)…” and (s)he would call you back within 8 business hours, would you worry less?

IF I told you that you could call as many times as you wanted and not receive a bill, would you worry less?

IF I told you that we are a 45 year-old company that serves over 1.6 MILLION members throughout the 50 states and 4 provinces, would you worry less?

To obtain more information or to sign up for a monthly membership (that costs less than 60 cents a day!), please contact me at terri@kerezmancpa.com or call my office phone (574) 291.9367 to schedule a 15-minute presentation. I am confident once you understand the power of our services, you will wonder how you lived this long without it.

Posted in Estate Planning Tips, Legal, LegalShield, Profitability Tips, Tax Tips, Tax-Planning Tips, Time Management Tips | 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