Taxes

Don’t Do This

There is one financial transaction that I strongly discourage clients from doing and here’s why . . .

Do not withdraw from your retirement accounts early! Here are the reasons why I hear most people want to withdraw from their retirement accounts:

  1. Purchase a house
  2. Pay for expenses while unemployed
  3. As a temporary loan, with the intentions of replacing the money
  4. To pay for unforeseen expenses
  5. You need the money for (fill in the blanks)

The main reason to not do this is because it is one of the major reasons for tax problems. Aside from early withdrawal penalties, additional income taxes are accessed  on the balance, withholdings are not usually taken or not enough, and you may end up increasing your income, which sometimes pushes you into an even higher tax bracket. Once you add up all of the penalties and taxes, then the amount withdrawn can disappear by half for some.

What are some other options as you are most likely withdrawing your retirement funds because you desperately need the money and do not have a cash cushion? If you are employed, you may be able to obtain a retirement plan loan from your employer, which is not a taxable event. Alternatively, you might be able to borrow the money from your home’s equity. In some cases, you may be able to delay what you need the money for if not needed for emergency purposes.

Over the long-term, this is why I stress slowly building up a cash emergency fund. Yes, it’s boring and unexciting, but you will be glad you did when the time comes.

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5 Risks to be Aware of that Will Hurt Your Finances

There are ups and downs in life, good times and bad, and everything in between. Unfortunately, some events can hurt your finances in a significant way and may even be beyond your control. What are some of these risks to be aware of and what can you control?

Health Issues

As we become older, there are more chances of having a serious health issue. What is not commonly thought of is that family members, such as spouses, elderly parents, and children can develop health issues, both physical and mental. We have a responsibility to take care of our family, and the time spent will take time away from our job or business, which will eventually lower our earnings. While you cannot control the health of others, you can take charge of your own health and that of your children by living a healthy lifestyle.

Addictions

Do not think that you are immune to addictions. Aside from alcohol, illegal drugs, and gambling addictions, there are other destructive addictions that will ruin your finances such as prescription drugs, video games, and pornography/sex. The statistics on who has these addictions, how they start, age groups, and the impact on your brain are alarming. Be aware of these addictions and do your best to stop them before they start.

Divorce

Aside from paying legal fees, there are statistics that show that divorced women experience a prolonged loss of earnings and lower standard of living after divorce, even though various studies show that approximately 70% of women initiate divorce. Surprisingly, statistics show that a man’s earnings increase significantly after divorce. Focus on a healthy marriage and your finances will be stronger, plus some studies show that divorce does not lead to a better life.

High Income then Low Income

Inconsistent income patterns can hurt your finances in multiple ways. The first is that if your income is very high in one year, then your spending will probably increase, and once your income drops, your spending will probably not drop as quickly, if at all. Second, if you have a very good year in your business and don’t set aside a reserve for taxes, then you won’t have the money to pay your tax bill, especially if your income is lower in the following year. I have seen this situation happen repeatedly.

Expense Creep

Expenses have a way of increasing faster than your income and are hard to lower once they do. A good rule is to increase your savings in the same proportion as your income, and do not incur additional debt. This way, it does not really matter what you spend, and yes, I really did say that, because mathematically it does not matter. It’s putting first things first.

 

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COVID-19 Tax and Financial Updates 04-17-2020

Tax Updates

  • Some taxpayers have started to receive their Economic Impact Payments
  • The CARES Act also provided retroactive tax law changes, such as allowing improvements to nonresidential buildings to be eligible for bonus depreciation (the ability to be expensed 100% in one year), while reducing the number of years of depreciation from 39 to 15 years
  • Business losses from 2018, 2019, and 2020 are eligible to be carried back up to five years and losses carried to 2019 and 2020 can now offset 100% of taxable income versus 80% previously

Paycheck Protection Program Info

  • The PPP loans have reached their maximum in less than two weeks, and now we have to wait to see if there will be an increase to the limitation.
  • So far, not one client has informed me that they received funds from the PPP

Adapting to the Situation

  • We hear stories from our clients and others who are making changes to their businesses to help adapt and survive through this financially. Some changes include:
    • Virtually serving clients and customers, when possible
    • Creating new services that are in demand now
    • Selling products online versus traditional retail
  • It also appears that there is a renewed sense of putting things in perspective, focusing on what is important, not living just to work, and a general sense of community. I like those changes.

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COVID-19 Tax and Financial Updates 04-10-2020

Here are the latest updates and some reminders:

Tax Updates

  • Tax deadlines: both New Jersey and New York have finally extended the tax deadline from April 15th to July 15th.
  • If you have an existing installment agreement with the IRS, payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 are suspended.
  • CARES Act economic impact payments: payments will begin this month and you do not have to take any action if you filed a return for 2018 or 2019.

Paycheck Protection Program Info

  • Sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed persons can start applying for this loan starting today
  • The banks are completely overwhelmed with loan applications and some have temporarily stopped taking new applications, especially if your business does not have an existing relationship with the bank
  • The information required consists mainly of prior year’s payroll filings, loan applications, etc.
  • The program will be available until June 30, 2020
  • We are not sure how long it will take to receive funding, but if you have received funding, then please let us know

Existing SBA Loans

  • The SBA will automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of current 7(a), 504, and microloans for a period of six months.
  • The SBA will also automatically pay the principal, interest, and fees of new 7(a), 504, and microloans issued prior to September 27, 2020.

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COVID-19 Tax and Financial Updates 03-27-2020

There have been a lot of tax and financial announcements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some highlights of updates as of this writing:

Tax Updates

  • Tax deadlines: The Treasury Secretary announce that the tax deadline for all businesses and individuals is delayed from April 15th to July 15th. Additionally, they will be able to make payments without interest or penalties. This also applies to the first quarter 2020 estimated income tax payment that is due on 4/15/20, however it does not postpone the second quarter estimated tax payment due on 6/15/20. Yes, that is strange, but we are living in unique times. IRA contributions for the year 2019 can be made until 7/15/20. So far, there isn’t any news from the State of NJ.
  • Existing Installment Agreements: For taxpayers under an existing IRS installment agreement, payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 are suspended. Taxpayers who are currently unable to comply with the terms of an Installment Payment Agreement, including a Direct Deposit Installment Agreement, may suspend payments during this period if they prefer. Furthermore, the IRS will not default any Installment Agreements during this period. By law, interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights

Generally, the Act provides that employees of covered employers are eligible for:

  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
  • Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine (pursuant to Federal, State, or local government order or advice of a health care provider), or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19, and/or the employee is experiencing a substantially similar condition as specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor; and
  • Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

Covered Employers: The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees.

Eligible Employees: All employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick time for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Employees employed for at least 30 days are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave to care for a child under certain circumstances related to COVID-19.

Qualifying Reasons for Leave: Under the FFCRA, an employee qualifies for paid sick time if the employee is unable to work (or unable to telework) due to a need for leave because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of Labor and

Important points for employers:

  • The effective date of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
  • The law is intended to be neutral for employers. Employer pays benefits and recovers the cost of such leave through a refundable, dollar-for-dollar payroll tax credit (up to certain dollar limits)
  • Employer receives 100% reimbursement for paid leave and certain health insurance costs, but
  • the amount is includible in income
  • Paid leave itself is exempt from employment taxes, and if the employer continues the employee’s health insurance coverage while he/she is out on leave, then the credit is grossed up to cover this additional expense

SBA Loans

The SBA is offering low-interest loans of up to $2 million with a low interest rate of 3.75% and long repayment terms. The SBA is waiving the “credit elsewhere” clause. The process should take 2 to 3 weeks and the website to go to is:

https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela

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Tax and Financial Updates

There have been a lot of tax and financial announcements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some tax, unemployment and loan updates.

Tax Filing and Payment Due Dates Extended

The Treasury Secretary announce that the tax deadline for all businesses and individuals is delayed from April 15th to July 15th. Additionally, they will be able to make payments without interest or penalties. Initially, the extension was only for paying your taxes, but now it is for both filing and paying. So far, there isn’t any news from the State of NJ

Unemployment

If you were laid off, then do not hesitate to collect unemployment through your state’s Department of Labor website, even if it is temporary. Be aware that some of the websites have crashed due to the high volume of claimants. Also, for business owners, such as officers who own 5% or more of a corporation, you generally cannot collect unemployment.

SBA Loans

The SBA will offer low-interest loans of up to $2 million with low interest rates and long repayment terms. To qualify, you must show: a lack of working capital and loss of revenue related to COVID-19, financing is not available elsewhere (i.e., a rejection from your bank that you are currently using), your state’s governor will need to request that the Disaster Assistance Loans be open to their state, and meet the lending requirements.

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What Keeps Business Owners Up at Night?

Aside from worrying about everything, there are really just a few timeless concerns of most business owners. If you don’t have at least one of these concerns then that is probably a concern. Here they are with a few solutions:

Employees: No matter how well you run your business, it will always be a challenge to manage employees. Common problems are: finding good employees, keeping good employees, and making sure that they are productive. There are several ways to address these concerns that are simple, but no way full-proof. The first step is to take your time hiring and to hire the right people from the beginning. Next, treat your employees well and fair. Lastly, spend the time to train your employees properly so they are productive. It sounds so simple, but maybe that is why it is so difficult.

Taxes: Who wants to overpay their taxes? Not only paying taxes, but staying compliant with all of the numerous tax filings can be a huge burden. Having a good accountant can help to alleviate this concern.

Growing: If you are not growing then your expenses will soon eat up a good portion of your profits. Growing sales is a major concern, however, the focus should be to grow your sales profitably. Aside from smart marketing, each new dollar of sales should be profitable to you, otherwise something is wrong.

Cash flow: Either not knowing where your cash is going or not having enough are both problems. Your accountant should help to explain where your cash is going and why there is a shortage. Common solutions are to improve your accounting systems and procedures, increase sales, implement better collection processes, increase your profit margins, and obtain a line of credit.

Too many hours: I don’t think that you are allowed to stop thinking about your business so technically you work 24 hours a day. How can you work less hours? There are dozens of ways, but a few easy to implement solutions are: better scheduling, delegation, and a commitment to work smarter, not harder.

There are a few other closely-related concerns, such as health insurance for employees, feeling burnt out, and the economy. Unfortunately, we cannot control the economy.

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Beware of These 3 Conflicts Between Husbands and Wives When Both Work, Which Lead to Marital Tensions

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 61.1% of both parents work in families that have children under 18 years of age.  It seems to make economic sense to have both parents working nowadays, but it can create underlying tensions, which you should be aware of:

Independence vs. interdependence: Spouses are interdependent upon one another, but with both spouses working, this can create a lack of unity. Problems may arise by simply and innocently having separate checking accounts for each spouse. The problem is that this can create disunity and a lack of joint decisions regarding financial matters versus working together to make decisions jointly.

Income comparisons: When there is a large disparity of income, which there commonly is, one spouse may look down upon the other spouse as not contributing enough financially to the household. There may also ensue an unspoken, unhealthy competition between each spouse whereas they focus too much effort on who makes more money.

Importance comparisons: Everyone wants to believe that their job is more demanding, more stressful, and harder than others, whether this is real or perceived. Even so, comparisons to your spouse’s job are not going to make for a pleasant conversation at dinnertime.

There are many more, but they are just variations of the overall theme of comparisons and a lack of working together. Can you imagine what a comparison-free, working-together household would look like?

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Do This to Avoid a Big Tax Surprise

If there is one recurring theme from this tax season that caused the biggest tax surprise it is this:

Double-check your withholdings: The withholding tables were revised and many taxpayers were under withheld, which caused them to owe taxes versus receiving a refund. The easiest way to correct this is to see how much you owed and then divide it by the number of paychecks left in the year. Then, either ask your employer to withhold this extra amount or complete a new Form W-4 to request this additional amount to be withheld from your paycheck.

Remember, a lower refund does not mean a lower tax liability. A refund is a function of your withholdings and estimated tax payments versus your tax liability.

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Some Horrible Ways to Lower Your Tax Bill That are Not Recommended

I don’t think that I ever met anyone that likes to pay taxes. Everyone feels better when their taxes are paid in full with no outstanding balances, but not actually paying them. Sometimes this hatred of paying taxes can go too far and here are a few examples of what not to do:

Understate your income: As a business owner there is a huge temptation to “pocket” any cash that is received or cash checks instead of depositing them to your account. However, if you understate your income too much then you may be facing jail time and massive penalties.

Overstate expenses: Maybe you really like cars and use multiple cars for your business. However, if your spouse does not work in your business then her car payment is not a tax deduction. The same goes for personal meals, personal expenses, and outright lying about your expenses and deductions. Most likely you do not give 15% of your income to charitable. It’s possible, but not very probable.

Losing money in a side business: The main purpose of starting a business is to make money. Maybe some contemporary experts think that you should try to change the world, but most likely you are selling a product or service that is not going to cure illnesses. Sometimes a newer business owner is so intent on losing money to not pay taxes that they never let their business actually become a business. A business can only lose money for so long. The same goes for real estate investments and traditional investing.

Spend a dollar to save a quarter: Do not ever spend money on an unnecessary tax deductible expense just to save taxes. The math is very simple – spend $1 to produce $.25 of tax savings, which equals $.75 lost.

Multi-state taxation: The tax laws are extremely complex and each state has its own set of rules. However, don’t let this stop you from doing business or working in other states to take advantage of opportunities.

Tax-exempt investments: Even though municipal bonds are exempt from Federal taxes and possibly state taxes, this does not mean that they are appropriate for you. You must do the math to make sure you compare after tax returns of taxable investments to tax exempt investments, otherwise you may be worse off economically.

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