Post tax season moves to make now

With the IRS deadline to file taxes just past, you may be tempted to relax, pull a Scarlett O’Hara and think about next year’s taxes tomorrow. While that attitude is perfectly understandable, it will cause you to miss an excellent opportunity to make your 2018 tax season much less stressful and more efficient. First, review the tax form you just filed. Should you be making adjustments? Are you paying too much in taxes? Should you be adjusting your withholdings? Should you be paying estimates? If so, are you calculating your estimates correctly? Are you maximizing your deductible IRA contributions? If you are unsure about any of these answers, contact us. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have. Now is also a good time to set up an organizational system for next year’s taxes. Create a file in which you can collect receipts and other tax documents. Label your receipts manually, or categorize them electronically in real time so you don’t have to go back months later and try to figure out which expenses qualify for tax deductions or exemptions. Keep track of any changes in your life that might affect your withholdings and/or credits including marital status, children, home ownership, educational expenses, etc. If you ended up with a particularly jarring tax bill, you can request and submit an Installment Agreement Request Form that will allow you to stretch out your payments.  After you do so, sit down with a professional to figure out what adjustments you can make to prevent a large bill in the future. Lastly, be sure to track changes in the tax laws as they will affect not only your return next year, but also some of the financial decisions you make throughout the year.  We’ll be writing more posts that note some of the upcoming changes and how they will affect you, so be sure to check back in the coming weeks. With… | Read More »

Three ways you can lose money by filing your taxes

With the April 17 deadline fast approaching, many people are scrambling right now to file their taxes on time. While there is both plenty of time to file a traditional return and the option to file an extension, it is critical to proceed with caution. Any missteps probably will wind up costing you money. Here are three ways you can actually lose money by filing your taxes. You file an extension but fail to pay the taxes you owe. All tax payers have the right to a six-month extension to file their taxes, they just need to submit Form 4868. They can also file an extension request online. But you still have to pay the taxes you owe on time. The extension only applies to the paperwork, not the payment. If you fail to pay by midnight on April 17, you’ll face a penalty and you’ll also have to pay interest on the rest of the money you owe. You make a mistake on your return. Typos can cost you a lot of money. The three most common errors are math mistakes (less likely with available tax software but still a concern), an incorrect Social Security number, and the failure to sign or date the tax return. At best these mistakes will delay your refund, at worst they’ll result in penalties. Do not file in haste. If you’re running out of time, file an extension, pay if you owe, and either complete your return carefully yourself or, even better, hire a tax preparer to complete it for you. You don’t claim your refund in time. You have three years to claim a refund. If you file your tax return more than three years after it is due, you forfeit your right to your refund in most cases. In this case, procrastination could cost you a significant amount of money. The IRS offers many helpful tips on its website. If you… | Read More »

Why we’re wearing #LotsofSocks

We’re changing up our footwear today to demonstrate our support for Down syndrome awareness. The #LotsofSocks campaign is designed as a conversation starter that eventually leads to both deeper understanding of Down syndrome and recognition of the gift uniqueness offers. We celebrate uniqueness every day in our office, and we’re especially pleased to join Down Syndrome International as it hosts the 12th annual World Down Syndrome Day. The date, 3-21, represents the third replication of the 21st chromosome, the marker for Down syndrome. Most human cells have 46 chromosomes, or 23 sets of two. In Down syndrome, the cells contain 47 chromosomes, specifically a third chromosome on the 21st set. Since 2006, people have come together across the globe on March 21 to raise awareness and advocate for the rights of individuals with Down syndrome. According to the WDS website, “Down syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that has affected people of all racial, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds, and has occurred all through human history.” In addition to wearing silly socks today, and participating in the annual Down Syndrome Awareness Walk in the fall, we offer educational strategies for Down syndrome families, including why you might need a special needs trust and how to work with an estate attorney to set one up. If you have questions regarding how to set up a legacy plan that will take care of your special needs child, call the office or email the office. We’re always glad to help. If you’re also participating in the #lotsofsocks campaign, please share your photos in the comment section of this post. We’d love to see them!  

Beware the #IdesofMarch and the #IdentityThieves of spring

Beware the Ides of March and the ide-ntity thieves of spring. Historically, the former was the date Romans settled debts accrued during the previous year and it marked Julius Caesar’s assassination.  These days, though the latter pop up throughout the year, they seem to thrive during tax season when they can pose as IRS agents or tax preparation software representatives to con well-intentioned citizens of their hard-earned money. According to last week’s Federal Trade Commission report on fraud and identity theft, 1.1 million people reported that they were victims of fraud last year and lost a total of $905 million. The IRS posts a list of scams on the website and, every year that list grows. You can find it here. While these scammers are becoming more sophisticated each year, their approach remains reasonably consistent. They prey on their victim’s good faith by pretending to represent the government, a relative in trouble, a well-known business or a company’s technical support. Never give your personal information directly to people who solicit it, either by email or phone. The IRS, for instance, will always send a letter to notify you of any fines or underpayment and will never demand immediate payment. Likewise, no tax preparation software representative, like Turbo Tax, will call or email you to solicit further person information from you. Be very wary of people who solicit charitable donations from you and demand immediate payment. Do not donate to a charity or individual through Facebook Messenger, because it’s too difficult to verify the identity of the person or charity behind the profile. Likewise, be very wary of people who contact you regarding any sweepstakes you may have won, especially if you didn’t enter. If you ever have any questions regarding a phone call or email you’ve received, call our office before you respond. We’ll be glad to help you determine the veracity of the request. As Caesar said, “Men are… | Read More »

Financial tips for women in honor of #InternationalWomensDay

In honor of the 100th celebration of International Women’s Day, Winch Financial CEO Christina Winch, CFP®, a trailblazer in the financial planning field, offers seven key tips for women to take control of their finances. According to her, the biggest issues many women face are an unawareness of the resources available to them and a misinterpretation of safety. “All women should have at least a basic understanding of their money,” she said. “Many women who are married depend on their spouses to manage their money. They have a husband who takes care of them and that makes them feel safe. But, that’s not safe.” True safety requires understanding and that takes a little work, but the payoffs can be enormous both in monetary gain and confidence. Treat yourself to an education. Take a class, read financial literacy books, listen to podcasts. We know you’re busy, but the time you carve out for financial education will pay off in the long run. Meet with a trusted financial advisor, preferably one who will have a fiduciary relationship with you. This means your advisor will have a legal responsibility to act in your best interest. Don’t skip the meetings. They provide an invaluable opportunity for you to learn about what’s happening with your money. Ask questions. In her 37 years as an advisor, Christina has fielded all kinds of questions from clients and students. She assures everyone that the only stupid question is the one they were afraid to ask. To maximize your appointment time with your advisor, you might want to bring a list of questions to the appointment. Talk to your friends about money. It does not have to be a taboo subject. Start an investment club with your friends and combine a little socializing with some real-time education and, hopefully, portfolio growth. Who knows? You might be a natural. In any case it’s a good idea to have conversations with… | Read More »