That’s Taxable?

Have you ever wondered about the taxability of funds or services you receive? There are many areas in the tax code that cause confusion regarding what’s taxable. These are some of the most common.

Alimony. Alimony is taxable to the person who receives it and deductible to the person who pays it. Special rules apply. Make sure you have proper documentation as part of a divorce decree to ensure you can support your tax position.

Child support. Child support is not taxable to the person who receives it on behalf of their dependent. It is also not deductible for the person who pays it.

Free services. Free service is almost always taxable as ordinary income under IRS barter regulations. You should report the fair market value of services received as income on your tax return. If you exchange services, you can deduct allowable business expenses against the value of services received.

Illegal activities. Even income received from illegal activities is taxable income and must be reported. Incredibly, the IRS even states that stolen items should be reported at the fair market value on the date the thief stole the item.

Jury duty pay. This is taxable as ordinary income. Yes, even doing your civic duty can be a taxable event.

Legal settlements. A general rule of thumb with legal settlements is to consider what the settlement replaces. If the settlement revenue replaces a taxable item, like lost wages, the settlement often creates taxable income. This area is complex and often requires a detailed review.

Life insurance proceeds. Generally life insurance proceeds paid to you because of the death of an insured are not taxable. However, there are a number of exceptions to this general rule. For example, if you receive benefits in installments above the value of the life insurance policy at time of death, or if you receive a cash payout of a policy, you could have taxable income.

Prizes. Most prizes received should be reported as ordinary income using the fair market value of the item received. This area has been a major surprise to contestants on game shows and celebrities who have received large gifts at celebrations like the Academy Awards.

Unemployment compensation. Typically unemployment compensation is to be reported as taxable income. Many are confused by this because of a temporary federal tax law that made unemployment compensation non-taxable during the recent economic recession. This is no longer the case.

Some of these areas can be complicated. What is most important is to realize when to discuss your situation. Call Tardy & Co., PC @ 505-255-1617, if you need help.

Want to inquire about our tax preparation services in Albuquerque? Visit us!

Audit Proof your Deductions

Tax audits still remain relatively rare, but should you face one, be prepared for questions. Tax authorities tend to deny everything and then make you prove that your deductions are valid. Here are some suggestions.

To prove your deduction most auditors are looking for two required documents.

Receipts. The receipt should clearly show the company or entity, the date, the value of the activity, and a clear description of the activity. In the case of donations, the receipt should also have a statement that confirms you received no benefit in return for your donation. It should also state that you are not retaining part ownership of the donation.

Proof of payment. You will need a canceled check, a bank statement, or a credit card receipt and related statement.

Other proof. In addition to the above, there are certain deductions that require additional documentation. Here are the most common:

Contemporaneous. Any proof of payment and receipts should generally match the date of the activity. The IRS and state agencies are quick to dismiss receipts that are obtained after the fact. A good rule of thumb is to ensure receipts and proof of payment are received at the time of the activity. If not, at least make sure you have receipts and payment proof within the tax year the deduction is taken.

Mileage logs. You will need to show properly maintained mileage logs for business miles, charitable miles, and any medical mile deductions.

Business records. You will need financial statements for any business-related activity with supporting documentation.

Residency. If you live in multiple states or multiple countries, you may have to prove where you lived during the year. Keep records that show your physical presence to support your tax filings.

Proof of non-reimbursement. If you claim any unreimbursed business expenses, many states are asking you to prove that you were not able to get these expenses reimbursed from your employer. The easiest ways to do this are to show a denied expense report or to get your employer to write a letter that confirms your expenses were not reimbursed. Those most impacted by this are musicians, barbers/hairstylists, construction workers, and anyone who uses their own tools to do their job for their employer.

While you can never be completely sure you won’t face an audit in your lifetime, you now know which documents an auditor will want. For details, visit Tardy & Co., PC.

Investment Diversification with a Tax Focus

Diversifying your investments involves spreading your risks by investing in a variety of asset classes such as stocks, bonds, commodities, and real estate. But with a changing tax landscape, you might consider three more classes: taxable, tax-deferred, and tax-free.

Years ago, taxpayers often worked under the assumption that their tax bracket would be lower after they retire. Therefore, a common strategy was to defer as much taxable income as possible to the golden years. Now, however, with the possibility of higher tax rates in the future, it could be more efficient to pay those taxes today while rates remain lower. Since no one knows for sure what Washington will do, it might be time to hedge your tax risk and allocate your portfolio between accounts with differing tax consequences.

* Taxable accounts, such as savings or brokerage accounts, result in current taxation on earnings, but they also provide maximum flexibility. You can withdraw as much as you wish whenever you wish, with no IRS penalties. Keeping some of your nest egg in this type of account will provide immediate funds for major purchases, debt reduction, or emergencies.

* Tax-deferred accounts, such as IRAs or 401(k)s, only postpone the payment of taxes; eventually you will have to pay Uncle Sam when you withdraw the funds. But in the meantime, you generally receive a current-year tax deduction when you contribute, and the account can grow tax-deferred until you take it out at retirement.

* Tax-free accounts, such as Roth IRAs, are funded with after-tax dollars. What you put in, including any investment earnings, can be later withdrawn tax-free. The downside? You generally must wait until after age 59½ (and the account has to be open for five years) to make a tax-free withdrawal.

Diversifying your portfolio is only the first step. The next (and trickiest) step is properly investing in each tax class. For instance, your goal for a taxable account might be to generate growth while keeping taxable earnings to a minimum. This could be done by investing in tax-exempt municipal bonds or low-dividend yielding growth stocks.

In a tax-deferred account, investment income is not taxed until withdrawn, so earnings can come from any source without immediate tax implications. However, since you must start withdrawing funds from an IRA or 401(k) at age 70½, you might want to consider this in your planning.

Tax-free Roth IRAs offer the longest time horizon for investing since you are not required to make a withdrawal at any age.

In an era of high uncertainty and low-to-moderate economic growth forecasts, tax-efficient investing has never been more important. To review the tax implications of your investments, give our office a call today @ 505-255-1617. Contact Tardy & Co., PC today!

A Tax Refund for you or an Interest-Free Loan for the IRS?

Millions of taxpayers receive refunds each year. Will you be among them? Most of us will happily accept our tax refund checks, because we can usually use the money. However, it’s important to understand that refunds actually cost you money. Here’s why:

* The government pays no interest on refunds. Kept in your hands, those dollars could have been productive. For example, you could have invested the money or used it to pay off your debt during the year. If the money had been added to a 401(k) plan, tax could have been deferred on both the investment and its earnings. Even better, your employer might have matched all or part of your investment, adding to your retirement savings.

* Refunded cash is not available for use until actually received. Even though most taxpayers get their refund checks promptly, circumstances or errors can delay (or stop) a refund.

To manage potential tax refunds, consider reducing your withholding or estimated tax payments. For most taxpayers, withholding must equal either the prior-year’s tax or 90% of the current year’s liability. If your annual income changes little, it’s relatively easy to avoid overwithholding. You should consider filing a revised Form W-4 withholding statement with your employer if you’re having too much withheld.

For taxpayers with fluctuating income or multiple sources of income, the problem is more complex. The IRS provides a worksheet with Form W-4, but many people find the form complicated. If you’d like assistance adjusting your withholding, contact our office.

Call Tardy & Co., PC at 505-255-1617. For information about tax planning in Albuquerque, visit us!

Building Customer Loyalty – A Few Basics

Studies have shown that businesses often spend five to six times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. Over the long term, those dollars add up. In fact, a company’s ability to care for its customers often determines its survivability in the marketplace. Make customers happy and they’ll stick with you; disappoint them and they’ll tell their friends.

Building customer loyalty is a matter of focusing on the basics. Does your company need to refocus on any of them?

Hire friendly people. You have probably visited a business where you encountered a grumpy salesperson or a bashful receptionist. Unlikeable staff will not generate repeat business. The staff you employ should enjoy interacting with people. If your employees regularly hide out in the back room instead of greeting clients, it’s time to take a hard look at your hiring practices.

Request customer feedback. This can be as simple as spending a few minutes with a customer to inquire about his or her experience with your company. Be specific. Instead of asking “How was our customer service today?”, ask a more specific question like, “Did our salesperson answer all your questions about XYZ product?” You might also establish a focus group of customers to solicit ideas for improving your products and services.

Follow up. If customers spend valuable time providing their opinions via surveys, suggestion boxes, or focus groups, don’t ignore what they have to say. Let them know that you take their ideas seriously and are looking for ways to implement at least some of their suggestions.

Never stop training. Often employees treat customers rudely or disrespectfully because they simply lack training in proper etiquette. Show them the proper way to answer phone calls, how to make eye contact and smile, how to help without being pushy. With a little focused training, most people can learn good customer service skills. Take time upfront to develop these skills in your employees and you’ll reap dividends in customer loyalty.

Model proper behavior. Simply put, the boss should exemplify top-notch customer service. If your employees see you treating clients poorly, don’t be surprised if they assume that such behavior is acceptable.

Remember: it’s easier to keep an existing client than to beat the bushes for a new one. It’s cheaper, too.

Visit Tardy & Co., PC – Business consultants & CPAs in Albuquerque now!

Tax Tips for Newlyweds

The tax implications of marriage are probably not the first thing on the minds of most newlyweds, but paying a little attention to it now can save time and even money later. Here are a few tips to help those who are about to embark on a new life together.

Tip 1: Notify the Social Security Administration with any name change(s). The IRS has a name match program with the SSA and will potentially reject deductions and joint filing if the name change is not made timely. Do this by filing Form SS-5 with the SSA.

Tip 2: Use Form 8822 to update your address with the IRS if either of you is moving.

Tip 3: Change your name and addresses with your employer and the Postal Service to ensure your W-2s are correctly stated and delivered to the proper address.

Tip 4: If selling one or two residences, make sure you review how capital gains tax laws apply to your situation. This is especially important if one of you has been in your home for only a short time or if either home has appreciated in value.

Tip 5: Review legal documents to ensure legal titles are as you wish them to be. This includes bank accounts, titles on property, credit cards, insurance policies, and living wills.

Tip 6: Recalculate your payroll withholdings and file a new W-4. If both newlyweds work, your combined income could put you into a higher tax bracket. This phenomenon is referred to as “the marriage penalty.” By changing withholdings now, you can avoid a big surprise at tax time.

Tip 7: Review your employee benefits and make necessary changes in health care, insurance, retirement account beneficiaries, and tax-preferred spending accounts. Marriage is a qualified event to make mid-year changes by most employees.

If you or someone close to you has questions about marriage and taxes, call our CPA Albuquerque firm. We’d love to help.

Two Tax-Smart Ideas for your Tax Refund

Are you looking forward to your tax refund? By now you know how much you’ll be getting and approximately when the cash will land in your bank account. The only question is, what’s the best way to put the money to work for you?

Here are two tax-smart ideas:

Fund your IRA. Depending on your income, making a contribution to a Traditional IRA could result in a deduction on next year’s tax return – and possibly a credit of as much as $2,000. For 2016, you can contribute a maximum of $5,500 to your IRA. Add another $1,000 for a total of $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older.

Invest in knowledge. Establish a qualified tuition plan, commonly called a Section 529 plan, or a Coverdell Education Savings Account. While contributions are not tax-deductible, the account earnings grow tax-free, and distributions used for educational expenses are also generally tax-free.

Do you need work-related training? Education required by your employer or courses that improve or maintain skills necessary for your present job, can qualify for a deduction.

Give Tardy & Co., PC a call for tax preparation services in Albuquerque and if you would like to talk about how these options applies to your tax situation.