It’s Spring – Let’s Get Organized!

SPRING CLEANING

Are you ready?  Well then let’s get started!

I hope you’re energized and ready to start clearing out all of those old documents that you have accumulated over the years. Putting your financial matters in a nice organized manner will give you peace of mind.  Did you not feel good when you finally finished  your “household” spring cleaning … everything now is where it belongs, the smell of bleach and lemon filling the air of the once cluttered rooms and that sense of relaxation after relieving that big inhale.   Now picture that same feeling (minus the smell of bleach and lemon) when it comes to getting your paper work in order.  No more asking yourself, “where is that form, I just had it the other day,” or misplacing your child’s field trip form that was supposed to have been signed a week ago.  On a serious note though folks, let’s just say you get audited – which means you’re going to have to pull out your tax returns along with all the information that was used to prepare that return – well do you know where it is?   Exactly.   Wouldn’t you feel a little relieved knowing that if anything like that ever happened that you would be more than ready?   Also, with the New Year and the start of Spring you may want to consider getting your finances together maybe start a wealth planning program or just get yourself on a budget.  With your paperwork in order it will make the process a whole lot easier.

Now, no one said this is going to be easy but having a checklist and a guide can take a lot of pressure off of having to do it yourself. Think of it as having your own personal assistant.  Now just like starting a business you have to start with a business plan.  You have to know where to start by knowing what you will need to make this process successful.  So to start off, below is a list of things you will need.  How cool is that!!

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I suggest that you take 4 days to do this 4 step process.  But if you think you can get it done in one day go for it.   OK, here we go!

Step 1 – Gather ALL of your documents – (including unopened mail, receipts, bills, etc…).

Step 2 – Set up a filing system –  click here for a list of folder names that you can choose from depending on what you have.  This is where the labels come in handy.  Start writing the names on the tabs so you can later put them on the file folders or if you are going to scan just check mark the the folder tab names on the list so you can later entered them into your computer program.

Step 3 –  Separate – Now it’s time to get your posted notes out and label them with the following:  (1.)  File/Scan  (2.)  Bills To Pay  (3.)  Review  (4.)  Shred.  Spread the posted notes out and start separating your paperwork into the 4 piles.   If you do not know what papers to keep click here for the records retention schedule

Step 4 – File/Scan – It’s time to grab those labels (tabs) you previous made and start putting them on the filing folders (or start creating digital folders with the names you checked on the list into your computer program).  Once that is complete start filing/scanning.  Grab the papers in your “file/scan” stack and start separating them into the appropriate tabbed folders or start scanning them into the labeled digital folders in your computer program.   Next, grab your “bills to pay”  stack and put those in the “Bills to Pay” folder.   Now grab your “review”  stack and put them in the “Review” folder.     After you’ve put the documents in the correct folders it’s time to file them away into a file box or filing cabinet.  If you scanned your documents you can now  save the files onto your flash drive.   Finally, we come to the best part, the “SHRED” pile.  No need to explain that one but I’m going to: Shred with your shredder or burn in your fire pit whichever works best for you.  Just don’t throw them in the trash without being shredded (the trash bag is only to be used for the papers already shredded).   DON’T BE A VICTIM OF IDENTITY THEFT.

OK, you did it!  [High Five] Now don’t you feel GOOD!  I’m so happy for you.  This is the first step of getting your finances in order.

Well it’s been great sharing this information with you.  Until next time relax and have a wonderful day!

Debbie

Affordable Care Act FAQS

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The Affordable Care Act.  Yes!  That’s right I said it.  The AFFORDABLE CARE ACT which is also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act but for most it has been referred to as “Obamacare.” Whatever you choose to call it, it’s all the same.

I know everyone is sick and tired of hearing about this so I’m going to keep it short and simple by answering the most frequent questions from individuals. I mean that’s what everyone is worried about right – how will “Obamacare” affect my 2014 tax return? Here is a list of questions that everyone is asking.

1.) What happens if I can’t afford health care coverage?

You may get financial help to assist in paying for coverage, care, or both. The amount is based on your income, where you live, other coverage that may be available to you, and if you are a U.S. citizen or lawfully present in the U.S.
You can find out if you qualify for reduced premiums and reduced cost sharing through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Here are some general income guidelines that might be used by the government to see if you qualify and how much help you would receive.

If you’re single, you could qualify if you make less than $45,960 (or if you live in Hawaii, less than $52,920).
For couples, you could qualify if you make less than $62,040 (or if you live in Hawaii, less than $71,400).
For a family of 4, you could qualify if you make less than $94,200 (or if you live in Hawaii, less than $108,360).

2.) What is the penalty for not having health care in 2014?

If you’re required to have coverage, you’ll be charged a tax penalty by the government if you go without insurance for 3 consecutive months or longer. You won’t be charged the tax penalty if you are uninsured for less than 3 consecutive months. The penalty is $95/per adult and $47.50/per child for the first year or 1% of your AGI, whichever is greater (Maximum is up to $285 per family). If your household income is above 400% of the federal poverty level then you may be exempt from paying the penalty or if insurance in your area cost more than 8% of your taxable income (taking into account employer contributions or tax credits).

3.) How will “Obamacare” affect my HSA (Health Savings Accounts)?

1.) The law eliminated one’s ability to use money in their HSA account to buy over-the-counter drugs

2.) The big change is that the law increased the penalty for withdrawing funds from your HSA before you reach age 65. The early withdrawal penalty increased from 10% to 20%.

4.) Can I keep the plan I already have?

That will depend on when your current plan first went into effect – what we call the “effective date” of your plan.
If your plan has an effective date before March 23, 2010, you may have what’s called a “grandfathered” health insurance plan, and you may have the option to stay on that plan or change to one of the new metallic plans.   But, your plan will lose its “grandfathered” status if your insurance company makes significant changes to your plan that reduce its benefits or increase its costs (which you may want to ask before they go changing things to trick you into buying another health plan that you didn’t need) So please get educated on what you need.
If your plan has an effective date between March 24, 2010 and January 1, 2014, it is a “non-grandfathered” plan and it may have to be converted to a new metallic plan in 2014.
Even if your plan’s renewal date is later in the year, it may need to be converted to a metallic plan by no later than March 31, 2014 or earlier.
But, in some instances your insurers may make the conversion as early as January 1, 2014.
If your plan is purchased with an effective date of coverage that is after January 1, 2014, that plan would need to have one of the metallic benefit levels.

5.) What will happen if my application gets declined?

Insurance companies are NOT allowed to decline your application for health insurance because you have a pre-existing medical condition, or for any other health-related reason. Which started January 1, 2014.

We’ll I hope this answered some questions. We also have a page dedicated to this. Just click HERE to be directed. I’m here to make your life a little less complicated. Feel free to send me a question at debbie@dmtbookkeeping.com.

Have a wonderful and healthy day!

Debbie

You’re Responsible For Your Tax Return

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Hello Friends!  I’m having a WONDERFUL day and I hope you are as well.

I’m here today to speak to you about something very important about your tax returns.  Yes I know….BORING!  But this could save you penalties and keep you from receiving IRS letters, years later, yes I said years later.  So do I have your attention NOW!

Ok, let me start by saying YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR TAX RETURN even if it was prepared by someone else.  By me saying that –  it means if your preparer files a false income tax return by claiming inflated personal and business expenses, false deductions, unallowable credits or excessive exemptions, that is considered return preparer fraud.  Some even manipulate income figures to obtain tax credits, such as completing a fraudulent schedule C with false income to obtain credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit.  TIP: If you didn’t have a business and you notice a Schedule C within your income tax return you may want to ask questions.

Some of you (taxpayers) may not have knowledge of your tax preparer doing this but when the IRS detects the false return, the taxpayer “client” –not the preparer– must pay the additional taxes and interest and may be subject to penalties.

So be very careful when choosing a tax preparer.  Remember even if someone else prepares a tax return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for all the information on the tax return.

Don’t get me wrong tax preparers do get caught and in some cases get sentenced to prison. So if you suspect tax fraud or know of an abusive return preparer, report the activity using IRS Form 3949-A and send it to:  IRS, Fresno, CA  9388.  Don’t worry you’re not required to identify yourself, but it is helpful. Below are some helpful tips on choosing a return preparer.

 

  • Be cautious of tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund.  Use a reputable tax professional who signs the tax return and provides a copy.
  • Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of the tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.
  • Check the person’s credentials. Only enrolled agents (EAs),  attorneys and certified public accountants (CPAs) can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.
  • Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.

Well my friends it was a pleasure sharing this with you.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me for any reason at hello@dmtbookkeeping.com  or leave a comment.  Have a Wonderful Day! 

 

Debbie

 

 

What is a “Rapid Refund?”

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Hello Friends,

It’s that time of the year where some of you go to your local tax franchise and get your taxes completed so you can get that “Instant Refund.”  STOP!  Before you go and take that step again or should I be advising the first timers.  Either way let me explain what it really means to get that “instant” or “rapid” refund.

Getting an “Instant” or “Rapid” Refund means your getting the equivalent of your refund NOW instead of just waiting a couple of weeks for a check or seven to ten days to receive your refund via deposit to your bank account from the government.  But should we really call it a “rapid refund?”   No I don’t think so.  It is really a short-term loan from a bank in anticipation that they get your tax refund.  That’s why you have to fill out extra paperwork, including a loan application and a form releasing your refund to the ones who make the loan. Your refund will arrive straight to the lender to pay back what you owe. The fees and interest on these loans are considered predatory by consumer advocates making some preparers trying to inflate your refund to make borrowing against it more appealing because of the high fees at stake.

So why are you paying steep fees to borrow your own money?  I Mean you’ve waited a year without the money and your saying that you can’t wait a couple of weeks to get ALL your money back that you’ve overpaid to the government.  This is a bad way to start the new year of taking control of managing YOUR money.

Remember there are tax preparers who don’t charge to e-file your return and set you up for direct deposit.  Do your research.  Also, check out the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistant and Tax Counseling for the Elderly Program (VITA/TCE)  or call 1-800-906-9887 – they offer free tax help for taxpayers who qualify.

Have a productive day, friends!

Debbie Continue reading