A Memorial Day Tribute

 

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In honor and to remember our troops and their families, I offer you 3 different perspectives: a bystander, parents, and a child. 

 

Whenever I see a Soldier Boy

Whenever I see a soldier boy

No matter where it be

I give him salutation

for he means so much to me

 

He’s not the boy we used to know

In store, at desk or plow

He’s a defender of our faith

He’s in the service now

 

He keeps Old Glory flying

on land and air and sea

He lives to make our homes secure

He dies to keep us free.

by Sam Miller, 1942

 

Yesterday We Were Parents

Yesterday we were parents

We were called mom and dad

I sat and watched the news today

How times over there turned bad

 

A fear welled up inside me

A chill ran down my spine

The USS Cole was bombed

And she held a son of mine

 

Fear ripped through my heart

As I searched for any news

Part of me not wanting to know

Part needing to know the truth

 

I called up my husband

And told him what I heard

He rushed right home to hold me

Not able to say a word

 

We started calling the Navy

Our fate was in their hands

It was her who took him to

That Eastern foreign land

 

It was his call to duty

To honor, serve and protect

A call to duty so many of us

Now seem too easily neglect

 

We have to call back later

No answers can they provide

Don’t they realize how that response

Tears me up inside

 

Now there is a number

For all the “next of kin”

That phrase will forever haunt me

And make my blood run thin

 

…Yesterday we were mom and dad

for right now we still don’t know

if we’ll ever hear those names

or drown in heartbreak and sorrow…

by Michelle Keim

Commander of Royersford VFW Post 6341 in Pennsylvania

U.S.S. Cole

 

 

Lucky

From Reveille to Taps…The Culture of an Army Child and Family”

I never live somewhere too long.

I never planted a tree and watched it grow.

I never know where I will be next week.

I never wore hi-fashion clothes.

I never became “part of the crowd.”

 

There are other things I’ve never done.

I never was afraid to speak freely.

I never was scared to show my religion.

I never worried about unjust laws being made.

I never left flowers at a loved one’s grave,

who died so I might be free.

I never forget how lucky I am.

by Kimberly Anne Davis, age 14, 2 November 1997

 

The poems were selected to share from: www.usmemorialday.org

 

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives and wallets, by helping them build and protect their financial health. Her mission is to be an affordable & accessible resource to help answer money questions for individuals and small business. She can help by being your compass while you captain your ship.

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations and is available for appointments – including remote. More information is available at http://www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Tips for Independent Contactors & Sole Proprietors

 

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Tax Planning & What Money is Really Yours to Spend?

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin

Death will only come once, while taxes linger with us year after year.

Many of us spend 2,000+ hours a year working to earn money. Doesn’t it make sense to spend a few hours to learn how to manage it, particularly, when it comes to tax, which is our most expensive lifetime expense?

This blog is offered as a tool to help Independent Contractors & Sole Proprietors avoid tax “surprises” and pro-actively plan their cash flow.

Why Read? Cash Flow – You need to know: What money is really yours to spend?

Many taxpayers were surprised earlier this year when they filed their 2015 tax returns. Why? They were not prepared for the tax affect of having earned what the IRS calls “non-employee compensation”.   For example, the 15.3% Self-Employment Tax was an unexpected hit to their cash flow.

Who should read? : (Independent Contractors including Direct Sellers, Freelancers, Airbnb Hosts, Uber & Lyft Drivers, Internet Sellers)

Sole Proprietor: Flying Solo

  • Taxpayer is the owner; the business is not separate
  • Unlimited exposure to liability
  • All debts or claims against the business can be filed against the owners’ personal property
  • If the owner is sued, insurance is the only form of protection
  • The business itself is not taxed separately; The IRS calls this “pass-through” taxation, because the business Profit and Loss passes through the business to be taxed on your personal tax return
  • Tax is based on your personal income level and is taxed at graduated rates
  • File your personal income tax on Federal Form 1040 and all business information on Schedule C, Profit or Loss from the business
  • Self-Employment tax is required if your annual net-earnings is more than $400
  • Net Earnings is determined by tracking both the revenue earned and the corresponding acceptable business expense

What to Do:

Self-Employment requires both basic accounting and additional tax reporting

Accounting:

Maintain a Basic Profit & Loss Statement to determine Net Earnings per Quarter

  • A Profit & Loss statement is needed to determine if you owe income tax and self employment tax
  • If expenses are less than income, the difference is Net Profit
  • If expenses are more than income, the difference is Net Loss
  • Losses may be limited on your tax return
  • Expense definition may differ for “books” and “tax”
  • Tax requires that certain expenses “be capitalized” and expensed over a period of time

Income includes:

IRS Form 1099-Miscellaneous (1099-M)- Income

The Gig Economy is also known as the 1099 Economy because Independent Contractors should receive this form from anyone that has paid them $600 or more during a tax year. The form is sent to both to you and to the IRS. This means, that yes, you need to report the income – even if you did not receive your 1099-M form or if you were paid less than $600 from a single source.

IRS Form 1099-K- shows Income you received through payment processing platforms

  • PayPal and other merchants that process payments for your business will issue this form to you & yes, the IRS
  • The form is issued in settlement of third-party payment network transactions above the minimum reporting thresholds of $20K in transactions and 200 transactions
  • The income reported is the Gross amount of all reportable transactions
  • The Gross amount does not include any adjustments for credits, cash equivalents, discount amounts, fees, refunded amounts
  • The dollar amount of each transaction is determined on the date of the transaction
  • The 1099K only shows income paid to you; it does not include charge backs to your account or fees you paid
  • You are responsible for tracking your “income” – you certainly don’t want to pay tax on more than you actually received

Be aware that possible “double reporting” could occur – Reconcile to avoid  “overlap”:

  • Your clients could issue you a 1099-M and send a copy to the IRS
  • PayPal or another vendor could, theoretically, include this same income when they send you a 1099-K
  • Although it is not required, it is a good idea to at least review, if not reconcile, what is being reported as “income to you”
  • Consider creating a spreadsheet to Cross –Reference payments, for a 1099-M and 1099-K comparison

Business Expense:

1099 Income can be reduced by the related “ordinary and necessary” expense

  • Receipts and mileage logs must be maintained to support the deduction expense you claim on your tax forms
  • Mileage logs should include beginning and ending mileage, where you went, who you saw, and why you went (business purpose)
  • Receipts fade. Add notes in ink and then scan to preserve
  • Ordinary expense = Common or accepted in your trade or business
  • Necessary expense= Helpful or appropriate for your trade or business
  • The IRS code provides for allowable deductible expenses and the IRS can take the deductions away if records are not maintained

When: Tax Tips for Filing Requirements:

Federal, State, & Local Tax may need to be paid each Quarter

  • The IRS expects you to pay tax as the money is earned. If you operate on a calendar year, due dates are 4/15, 6/15, 9/15, and 1/15 for the previous year
  • Quarterly estimated tax payments should be paid if you expect to owe more than $1,000 in federal taxes
  • Use 1040ES- Individual Estimated Payments
  • Reconcile payments on your annual Year End tax return
  • File your federal return on Form 1040 and Schedule C- Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietor)
  • Check to see what tax reporting is required by your state tax board and local municipality

Schedule C:

  • If you drive for Uber and also sell items on ETSY, a separate Schedule C is required for each source of business income.

Self-Employment tax of 15.30% is required on all Annual Net Earnings of more than $400

  • Sole Proprietors & Independent Contractors must pay both the employer and the employee side of Social Security and Medicare taxes; this is called Self-Employment tax
  • The 2015 SE tax rate on Net Earnings is 15.3% (12.4% social security tax plus 2.9% Medicare tax).
  • The Self-Employment tax rate is 15.3% of the first $118,500 of income and 2.9% of everything above that amount
  • If you also work as an employee, be careful that you do not overpay your Social Security tax. The $118,500 applies to your combined wages, tips, and net earnings
  • Self-Employment taxes are reported on Federal Form Schedule SE
  • Sole Proprietors can deduct ½ of this cost on 1040-Line 27, the deductible part of self-employment tax

Tips for Financial Success:

  • Don’t Co-Mingle Personal & Business Money – keep separate accounts
  • Maintaining separate accounts helps to show your business intent of making a profit
  • Use tax planning for better cash flow management
  • Profitability is the goal for most small business and one great tool to get there is to use the tax laws that are designed to help your success

Action Steps:

  • Fine tune your DIY process and use the above information as a guide – schedule time to review financials and calendar dates for payments
  • If you want some help or prefer a “Do it for Me” process, contact me for an introductory special

Your Success matters to me.

My intent is to use my blog to educate and empower others by teaching tax rules to save you money.        Thanks for reading!

You either master money, or on some level, money Masters you” – Scot Alan Turner

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives and wallets, by helping them build and protect their financial health. Her mission is to be an affordable & accessible resource to help answer money questions for individuals and small business. She can help by being your compass while you captain your ship. 

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations and is available for appointments – including remote. More information is available at http://www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

 

 

10 Quotes to “Invest in Your Success”

In honor of ‘Small Business Week 2016”, I offer you 10 quotes to help you ‘Invest in your Success’, the theme for this years celebration.

Dreams, put into action, are the initial seeds we sow before we might become an Entrepreneur or Small Business Owner

  • “We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort”- Jesse Owens

Education

  • The road to success is always under construction” – Paul Harvey

Experience

  • “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is” – Yogi Berra

Self-Development Growth

  • It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.”  – C. S. Lewis

Process – Think, Plan, Execute, Monitor, Measure – Repeat

  • “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. “ – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Investments – Time & Money

  • “Price is what you pay; value is what you get” – Warren Buffet

Measure – Return on Investment (ROI)

  • “The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize” – Shigeo Shingo

Business Efficiencies

  • “I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.”  – Georg C. Lichtenberg

Improvement – Mentor- an easier way to learn and increase efficiencies – Avoid learning the “hard way”

  • That’s the result of Leadership. To make sure that which shouldn’t happen, doesn’t happen” – Tony Blair 

Success- is not a seamless journey. Probably boring if it was. We learn as we grow.

  • I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Diane Ackerman 

The10 most powerful 2 letter words; If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me

Thanks for reading!

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives and wallets, by helping them build and protect their financial health. Her mission is to be an affordable & accessible resource to help answer money questions for individuals and small business. She can help by being your compass while you captain your ship.

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations and is available for appointments – including remote. More information is available at http://www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

 

 

Starting Over – A Happy Tax Story

 

Red Crossed Bandaids

Zig Ziglar said, “We cannot start over, but we can begin now and make a new ending”.

The Problem:

A few years back, I had a contact call me in a panic after she had finished her initial attempt at preparing her own tax return. She owed almost $5,000 and was shocked that she owed that much money.   It was scary because she didn’t have the money to pay that kind of tax bill. She called me for help and advice.

The Beginning:

To put this into perspective, this was her 1st year to file Single.

Previously, her husband of almost 25 years had handled their tax returns. They had filed Married Filing Joint and had dependent children. At work, her tax withholding was based upon her previous situation, not her present circumstance.

Originally, she thought filing a tax return would be simple and at first, it seemed as if it was. TurboTax asked her questions and she completed the answers the best that she could.

The Middle:

After receiving her call, we agreed to meet and I reviewed what she had completed, but had not yet filed. After a good interview process, we had a game plan and she began to collect tax related documents that could be used to determine the feasibility of itemizing rather than to use the standard deduction.

The End:

After several weeks of back and forth questions and answers, I had the documentation that I needed to help her complete a revised return. This resulted in about a $3,900 savings and she thankfully, filed her federal and state tax returns.

The Zig Ziglar quote is great, but it did not fully apply in this situation. She could “start over” and could also make a new ending.

Since that time, we work together every year. We don’t just wait until the tax season to talk. We use tax planning and action during the year to manage her annual tax bill and to keep it as low as possible. Frequently she knows her current tax situation before 12/31. We don’t know the exact number, but she does have the comfort of “No Surprises” when the tax season officially arrives.

The Lessons:

  • Sometimes, a 2nd look can make a big difference
  • If the tax filing process is new to you, having someone help you, may prove to be beneficial
  • If you ask someone to help,  try to find someone that will take the time to educate you about the process.
  • It is empowering to learn and apply the tax rules; it saves you money 

Thanks for reading!

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives and wallets, by helping them build and protect their financial health.

Debbie offers free 30 minute no obligation consultations and is available for appointments – including remote. More information is available at http://www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com 

Financial Health: 8 Ways to Check

8 Ways to Check and/or Protect your Financial Health

Many of us see the doctor for an annual check-up.

Probably, even more of us have our car checked on a routine basis.

Few of us take a holistic view of our financial health, particularly, on a routine basis.

I encourage you to be an early adopter, change this, and become proactive with your financial health.

For our physical health, our doctor might check our weight, blood pressure/pulse, LDL/HDL and then compares the findings to our initial baseline results.

For our financial health, we should also establish a baseline /benchmark and then, periodically compare our results to our previous records,

How are we going to know how we are doing unless we take the time to look?

How are we going to tell if we are getting better if we don’t have an initial baseline to compare to?

The factors that you choose to use are up to you. My list includes possibilities for you to consider. Record your answers & date it. Some responses will result in a number, others will be a yes/no and perhaps initiate a new thought process. Here are my suggestions: 

  1. Determine your Personal Net Worth
  • Create a Balance Sheet: Assets = Liabilities & Equity
  • Assets are the value of what you own; liabilities are what you owe
  • Assets – Liabilities = Equity in a business or your personal Net Worth
  1. Review the Liability limits on your insurance policies (Homeowners, Renters, Auto, Business). Is the limit high enough to protect your Net Worth if something serious happened? You don’t want to leave your “assets” (money) exposed to risk of loss without making the conscious decision to do so.
  1. Cash Flow- Positive or Negative?
  • Money coming in, money going out, and when?
  • Is it steady through out the year or does it fluctuate?
  • Are you spending more than you bring in?
  1. Liquidity – Emergency Fund +
  • Emergency Fund savings for 3-6 months of living expenses?
  • Any other “reserves” you keep – Christmas or vacation fund?
  1. Your Personal Savings rate
  • Do you try to pay yourself first?
  • Are “you” built into your required monthly expenses?
  • Do you fully participate in your company’s matching program?
  1. Determine your Debt/Income Ratio
  • Lenders use this to determine your ability to manage payments
  • Total monthly debt payment/monthly gross income
  • 43% is generally the maximum for a Qualified Mortgage as per Consumer Finance
  1. Review your Retirement Allocations
  • Does it make sense?
  • Is it balanced?
  • Are you earning a return? 
  1. Check your credit score – It is your Financial Reputation
  • Obtain your free annual credit report from each of the 3 major reporting agencies, check it for accuracy, and dispute anything that is not correct
  • Obtain your FICO score

Taking the time to manage our money provides benefits:

  • Feeling in control
  • Knowing our capacity to absorb financial shocks
  • Finding if we are on track to meet our financial goals or
  • Having peace of mind and the flexibility to make choices

The road to financial freedom is full of potholes. If you take the time to discover, find, and fix them, your trip will be less eventful and you will reach your destination faster & safer.

May you have a safe, prosperous, and fulfilling journey.

Thanks for the reading!

Deb

P.S. I welcome and encourage comments and questions. It is one way to see how I am doing. 

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives by helping them build and protect their financial health. She offers free 30 minute, no obligation consultations and is available for appointments – including remote. More information is available at http://www.DeborahFoxCPA.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com.

Financial Fitness: Improving your Tax Story

2013 Tax

Our tax returns tell a story.

A Tax Return is the Story of your recent Past; it is your 2015 financial story.

The story tells the reader lots of information about you:

  • Marital Status (tax rate) Single; Head of Household; Married filing Separate; Married filing Joint; Widowed
  • How you earn your money – employee, self-employed, real-estate investments/rents; royalties
  • How you support yourself if you are not working – unemployment, retired, pension, social security, Required Minimum Distributions
  • How you spent your money: mortgage interest; children; student loans; medical bills; charitable donations
  • Did you have a good year with gambling winnings? Capital Gains?
  • Did you have financially devastating year, as many unfortunately did this year, because of so many natural U.S. catastrophes in 2015?

 

Income Tax Planning is one of the best ways to build your financial wealth.

2015:

Yes, 2015 is over and there is limited opportunity to improve that tax bill. However, depending on your circumstances, there might still be a way to reduce the amount you pay.

  • Contribute to your IRA before 4/18/16
  • If you are married, can you start and fund a Spousal IRA?
  • For 2015 and 2016, your total contributions to all of your traditional and Roth IRAs cannot be more than:

$5,500 ($6,500 if you’re age 50 or older), or your taxable compensation for the year, if your compensation was less than this dollar limit

Your Traditional IRA contributions may be tax-deductible. The deduction may be limited if you or your spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work and your income exceeds certain levels.

 

Be Careful of Excess IRA Contributions:

If you exceed the 2015 IRA contribution limit, you may withdraw excess contributions from your account by the due date of your tax return (including extensions). Otherwise, you must pay a 6% tax each year on the excess amounts left in your account

Note that Employer contributions made under a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension) plan do not affect the amount you can contribute to an IRA on your own behalf.  You can both receive employer contributions to a SEP-IRA and make regular, annual contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA.

2016:

Our Financial Life is not stagnant. Like the ocean or a river, it changes all the time – it is a continuous evolving, moving, financial puzzle. New life stages & events provide us an opportunity to make new financial decisions & implement a revised plan.

The key to changing your Tax Story requires you to take action, now, in the present, and in the future.

Here are some tips to help you strengthen your Financial Fitness in this New Year:

  1. If you are an employee, review your withholding allowance on Form W-4. Is it accurate for what you anticipate in 2016? If not adjust, as soon as possible. The earlier you do this during the year, the more accurate your withholding will be.
  1. If you are Self-Employed, even part-time, do you know if you are required to make estimated quarterly payments to the IRS?  Avoid penalties & interest by ensuring that you make the required payments if they apply. Independent Contractors, Freelance workers, those that conduct Internet based sales (Etsy, eBay, Airbnb) and even Uber Drivers should review the information on the IRS website.

The IRS expects you to pay tax as the money is earned. If you operate on a calendar year, due dates are 4/15, 6/15, 9/15, and 1/15 for the previous year.

  1. If you have a High Deductible Health Insurance Plan, consider setting up a Health Savings Account (HSA). This is a tax- advantaged account to help pay for your medical expenses.

It is also an “Above the Line” deduction on your 1040 Individual tax return, which means you can use it to reduce your income, even if you do not itemize. Lower income, generally indicates, lower taxes.

  1. If you gamble, including playing the lottery, save all of your 2016 “expense” receipts. Why? If you win big, you can reduce the amount you won by the amount that you lost and only pay tax on the difference.

Gambling income includes but is not limited to winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, and casinos. It includes cash winnings and the fair market value of prizes, such as cars and trips.

To deduct your losses, you must be able to provide receipts, tickets, statements, or other records that show the amount of both your winnings and losses

  1. Defer at least some of your income through a 401K match or similar program to reduce your taxable income for the year & to build savings for the future.
  1. If you itemize or might be able to itemize, record all of the miles you drive, by category: Charity ($0.14); Medical/Moving ($0.19) and Business ($0.54).

It can all add up, faster than you might think and may also make the difference between claiming the standard deduction and being able to itemize. The more you can legally write off, the lower your tax bill.

You can keep a paper calendar in your car & record what, where, why, & how many miles for each trip or use a Smart Phone App to help you.

Whatever you do, ensure you keep good records. If you are audited & can’t prove the deduction, the deduction can be denied and you could owe a penalty and interest for the underpayment.

  1. If you have a business and operate on a cash basis, it is imperative that you keep great records for both cash coming in & cash going out. This recent article highlights the reason why you need to do this: http://smallbiztrends.com/2015/12/recent-irs-case-highlights-need-sophisticated-small-business-management.html

 

  1. Think like a Tax Professional: Know your “Income” Types & their Tax Rates:

Taxable “Income”:

  • Ordinary Income is income earned from providing services or the sales of goods
  • Capital gains are usually associated with the sale or exchange of property characterized as capital assets
  • Short Term Capital Gains are taxed at your Ordinary Income tax rate (10 % to 39.6%)
  • Long Term Capital-Gains tax rates vary by your income tax bracket and the type asset sold
  • Generally, if you’re in the 10% or 15% tax bracket, you’ll pay 0% on those gains. Most other taxpayers pay 15%; however, the rate can also be 20, 25, or 28% for certain asset classes and/or income levels.

Tax Deferred Investment Income includes:

Withdrawals from Traditional IRAs and your 401K, which are, taxed as ordinary income (10% to 39.6%)

Tax Free Investment Income: Roth IRA

  • Tax Free Income as long as the account has been open for at least 5 years
  • Provides flexibility in the timing of future income – you decide
  • Required Minimum Distributions do not apply to Roth accounts as are required by Traditional IRA plans
  • Roth IRA distributions are not considered as income when determining how your Social Security payments are taxed. Qualified Roth distributions are not included in either net investment income or in the modified adjusted gross income calculation for assessing the 3.8% net investment income tax

 

  1. Manage your Tax Bracket:
  • Try to keep your Ordinary Income in the lower tax brackets
  • “Fill up” each bracket, where possible
  • Be aware of tax consequences before making decisions that push you into the next highest rate bracket; i.e. can you defer a bonus or sale to new year if it means you will be taxed 10% less?
  • If you itemize, group deductions where possible; i.e. elective medical or dental procedures; charitable contributions to reduce your taxable income – Plan

 

  1. Your income tax bill is perhaps the biggest bill you will pay over your lifetime. Learn, Plan, Act to reduce and keep more of your money in your pocket, not Theirs (The IRS).

Yes,  to be in compliance, we need to file & pay.  The IRS rules are there for us to use. It is our responsibility and our choice to use them or not. The IRS is not going to tell you, you could have paid less, if you had just (xxx). There are a lot of possible ways to “fill in the blank”. Each Tax Story is unique.

As a CPA – Tax Advisor, I love learning the rules and then sharing information to help other people reduce their tax bills. It is my way to help empower other people and hopefully, make a small difference in their quality of life. Nobody likes paying taxes; almost all of us like to save money.

Have fun leaning, planning, and saving.

Cheers to a happier, healthier, & wealthier 2016!

Thanks for reading,

Deb

 

 

Deborah Ann Fox, CPA is working to make a difference in peoples lives, hearts, and wallets by helping others protect their financial health and is available for side-by-side, remote, or mobile appointments. More information is available at http://www.debfoxfinancial.com. Questions or comments can be sent to debfoxfinancial@gmail.com