Capitol Loss Deduction: Should it Reflect Inflation?

Over the years, the Internal Revenue Code has adjusted for inflation of many different tax incentives to help individuals cope with the negative effects of inflation. Congress selects these provisions and the annual change is driven by the consumer price index. One provision that has not changed is the capital loss deduction.

The capital loss deduction was established in 1976 and allows for a maximum of $3,000 in capital loss deduction each year, and has not changed since it was introduced. There are numerous reasons to explain why there is a cap on the amount of deductions, but it comes down to taxpayers being able to write off all losses, retaining the gain assets and defer taxation by selling them later. It would dramatically decrease the amount in federal tax revenue.

By using the consumer price index inflation calculator, in 2002, the maximum deduction would be around $9,500. Today the deduction maximum would be around $12,000, and if it was tied to inflation the maximum would continue to rise. This would eventually open up the opportunity for people to deduct all losses, or even sell at a loss and retain gained assets, which would defer taxation. This would greatly reduce the amount of federal tax revenue.

So what does this mean for taxpayers? Well, it means at this time, that the highest amount able to be deducted is $3,000. Anything over $3,000 that does not offset capital gains or deducted can be carried over to the next year. Many people argue that this system is has eroded the value of the deduction. However, the real question is can there be a regulation that would increase the amount deducted without undermining the amount of federal tax revenue?

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Looking Out for Property Tax

With any state, the majority of revenue comes from both personal and real property tax. Combined with the erosion of local tax base, many home and business owners may face higher assessed values then in past years. Some tax assessors may be too aggressive with their assessments so they can maintain the tax revenue, but it is important to keep on top of your assessed property value to make sure that you are not paying too much in property tax.

The object of property assessment is to provide fair and equitable value for each property. Most properties are assessed using fair market value. Fair market value is “the price in a competitive market a purchaser, willing but not obligated to buy, would pay an owner, willing but not obligated to sell, taking into consideration all the legal uses to which the property can be adapted and might reasonably be applied.” The property assessment is either full market value or a percentage of the market value. States then take the assessed amount and multiply it by the millage to get the amount owed in real estate taxes. This process can take place yearly, or over a mandated time, usually 3-6 years.

Determining the assessment of residential home tends to be more straightforward then the process of industrial or commercials properties. Houses are compared to other homes in comparable neighborhoods that have recently sold to determine the assessed value. Commercial and industrial properties have more variables to consider before an appropriate assessment is generated. Since there are so many variables, the chance of an assessment error is there, giving the business owner a chance for an appeal of the assessment.

Timely tracking of personal property assessment is essential to guarantee deadlines are not missed. Many only offer a brief deadline for appeal, usually 15-45 days from the assessment date. Once the business owner determines if there is a tax assessment that warrants an appeal, the appeal is filed. There are three levels to the appeals depending on the severity of the assessment. Each needs proper detailed documentation. If you think that there is a problem with your assessment then it would be beneficial to consult with a CPA firm for assistance.

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A Resurgence of Outsourcing

The word “outsourcing”, in some instances, has a bad connotation, but for many it means being able to compete with other companies worldwide. The most basic method of outsourcing is using an external service provider to perform functions that the company does not want to perform itself. There are many ways that this can be done and not all of them mean sending business overseas.

There are two different types of outsourcing: onshore and offshore. When Company A has Company B, which is in their same country, complete the service, which is onshore outsourcing. Offshore outsourcing has two types, nearshoring and farshoring. For any company that is outsourcing to a company that is geographically close to them, but not in their country, they are nearshoring. Farshoring would be using a company that is not geographically close to them.

A company of any size can outsource. There are two sides to outsourcing—a service provider and a service buyer. To help companies find other companies for outsourcing the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) generates a list of the best services providers.

There is not an ideal way of outsourcing for any company. By looking at all the possibilities, finding the right solution for their company is possible, but first we need to know why a company outsources. The main reason is to reduce operating cost, but other reasons include assess to new skills or technology, and to make global operations more effective.

Companies that choose to outsource services are typically outsourcing IT, human resources, finance and accounting, procurements and facilities management. The biggest of those services outsources is IT. Many times the company providing the IT services has technologies that midsize to smaller companies do not have the money to invest in, and it make more economical sense to outsource it to a company that has the technology already.

Outsourcing in some aspect will continue into the future. There have been predictions that offshoring will continue to increase. With the increase of unemployment, many companies are looking at different cities in the US for outsourcing, but with wages still cheaper in other countries, outsourcing will be here to stay.

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Wealth Management Trends for 2013

With 2013 barely underway, trends for wealth management are undergoing a transition characterized by uncertainty and change. The change will affect everything from business models to how technology influences client relationships. Over the next few months, the changes develop how wealth management services are provided to clients.

A lot of the reevaluation will focus around operating and growth strategies, should companies acquire other companies or partners. The largest wealth management firms will continue to grow through acquisitions and internal building. Whereas the smaller to midsize companies may choose to grow through partners that provide resources that will help them remain current and competitive.  Wealth management firms will become smarter about running their business and become open to working with other companies that has the expertise help them deliver their services.

Along with growth, many advisors will begin to find a successor and groom them to take over their practice. It is important to ensure the longevity of their practice. Finding their ideal successor and connecting them with their clients’ children safeguards their practice from declining after they retire. By bringing in a younger successor, they will be able to establish their own client list, and prove to your established clients that they will be taken care of when you retire.

Wealth management services will also progress through the uses of technology. Larger firms will have an advantage of the newest technology and all that it can provide. Smaller firms that outsource to other companies for some technology needs are currently less efficient. However, there will be a move to efficiency. Many firms will be investing in technology to maintain or create effective ways of working for and with clients. Many firms will find themselves working from the cloud and have an “always on” connectivity through online access.

Overall, there are many transitions to come this year. Be proactive in how the year progresses and grow your business accordingly. Take the change as a positive and the uncertainty as a chance to find your way.

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Combating Fraud

In every business, the reality is that fraud can happen. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiner’s authoritative annual Report to the Nations, estimates that 5 percent of business revenue worldwide, or approximately $3.5 trillion, is stolen through fraud each year. With the magnitude of fraud, business owners need to be aware of how to help prevent fraud.

It is hard to prevent fraud, because fraud happens when an opportunity presents itself and a person is willing or can justify the actions. Funds can be siphoned off for decades before someone realizes what happened.

When looking for fraud, it is important to know that not all audits or compilation will be looking for fraud. It is not a protection against fraud. The best way to detect fraud is from inside the company through internal controls. By completing an audit of your internal controls, a company can find their weakness and put in place monitoring systems that will discourage fraud. One way some companies have found that have been effective is a hotline for reporting dodgy dealings. Almost 40% of fraud cases are find this way, and training and hotlines do not cost much to establish.

The face of fraud is also changing making it difficult to know where the vulnerabilities come from within the company. The fast pace of the technology can also create issues that could lead to fraud. Here are some technology rules that can help curtail fraud:

• Remind employees that they are at work and should not be using the computer for personal purposes
• Use stronger passwords that are less easily guessed
• Make sure that firewalls are installed for all computers, when using the internet
• Treat phones and tablets like a computer, make sure the virus protection is updated
• Keep track of where your technology goes and who is using it.
• When using the cloud, know what protection and assistance you can except in the event of fraud or legal action.

Overall, the most effective way to combat fraud is to make it clear that it is unacceptable and is not tolerated. Do not blindly trust any employee, set out clearly the expectations and rules of the organization, and remember that the attitude starts from the top down. Set the example for employees and they will rise to the standards.

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It’s Tax Season: Here’s Some Write-Offs You Should Know About

Yes, it’s the New Year, which means it’s time to gather your W-2’s and start preparing your tax return. Yes, you’ve got until April to file, but why not start getting your information together now? And a big part of these documents you should be gathering are write-offs. You should already be well aware that you can write-off charitable contributions, money you gave to church and mortgage interest, but here’s a look at some other things that you can write-off to enhance your tax return or minimize what you owe to the IRS.

Student Loan Interest: If you’re still paying off student loans, you can claim the interest paid on them as a write-off.

Business Expenses: Have you purchased items for work that haven’t been covered by your company? Perhaps calendars, electronics, a cell phone, etc.? Write the expenses off on your taxes. As long as your company didn’t buy them for you, that’s an eligible write-off.

Home Business Grant: Do you work out of your home? Then you’re likely eligible for a home business grant, where you can write-off things like energy and utility bills, Internet costs, phone bills, ink cartridges and the costs of any new office equipment on your taxes.

Job Hunting Costs: As our country still lingers from its economic recession, the reality is that many Americans are still looking for work. And with job hunting comes travel expenses, mailing costs, food and room (in the case of overnight trips) and cab fares. Don’t let the opportunity to write these expenses off pass you by should you qualify.

Relocation Costs: Did you get a job within 50 miles of your original address that requires you to move? If you’re not given a relocation allowance by your new employer, these expenses can be written off on your tax return. This includes moving expenses, parking expenses, tolls, etc.

Child Care: You should already be aware of the fact that you can claim your children as a dependent for a tax credit, but did you know that you can also claim up to 35 percent of what you pay for child care services – that is, if you have your children in child care while you’re working? You can – and it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t be passing up. Child care is expensive – don’t be shy about recouping some of the costs.

While tax season for most is anything but fun, utilizing write-offs and deductions to the fullest extent can put money back into your pocket. Now we’re talking fun!

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Steps to Prepare for the Tax Season

The start of a new year is a busy time for any individual. Although the year has just begun, it is time to start preparing for the tax season. By starting the preparations early, it is easier to avoid mistakes and ensure the paperwork is ready before deadlines start coming up.

Gather and Organize Paperwork

Although the W2 forms are not normally sent out or even prepared until the middle to the end of January, the forms are only part of the paperwork involved in taxes. Paperwork will also include the tax deductions, charity donation receipts and other receipts related to taxes.

Gathering as much paperwork and documentation as possible beforehand will make it easier to put the information into the tax documents after the W2 forms finally arrive. Early organization and preparation simplifies the amount of organization that is required later, which makes it easier to complete and submit the IRS forms before the due date.

Write Down Questions

Tax paperwork and preparation can lead to many complicated questions. Taking extra time to write down any questions that arise will prevent confusion when the paperwork is being prepared. The taxes that are related to new events, such as filing jointly after marriage when compared to filing separately, can lead to many questions.

When new situations arise or new tax laws are applied to the paperwork, it is important to write down the questions and find out the answers before working on the paperwork. The preparatory step makes it easier to avoid accidental mistakes.

Review Any Changes to Laws

Laws related to taxes are constantly changing as world events and the situation of the country takes different paths. Since the laws can change when new regulations are passed, every individual should learn about any changes to the filing system or any regulations that might apply to a personal situation.

After learning about any changes, determine if other questions arise. The legal aspects of taxes are often confusing and complicated, particularly when it differs from previous years. If any new questions arise related to legalities, then it is important to add the question to the list.

Look for Mistakes

Financial statements are not always accurate. Before using any financial statements on tax paperwork, it is important to look for and correct any mistakes. Although mistakes are uncommon, catching problems and changing the data to accurate figures will reduce the risk of accidentally filing the wrong information.

With the tax season around the corner, it is important to start taking steps to prepare the paperwork and documentation. Early organization is a key part of simplifying the process and avoiding complications when the tax paperwork is filed.

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How to Reduce Internal Fraud

In all businesses, having effective internal controls is very valuable. How do you know that your practices are effective? What can you as a business owner do to deter fraud in your business? Having effective internal controls will help your business keep up with the fast pace of the changing business practices. The following questions can help companies examine their internal controls to help prevent fraud.

Which businesses need to protect themselves against fraud?

No company, big or small, is immune to fraud. All the companies that have experienced fraud have one thing in common: they did not think that they were susceptible to fraud.

Businesses, especially smaller businesses, require employees to perform multiple tasks are at a greater risk of internal fraud. Businesses that cannot separate “conflicting tasks” increase the chance of fraud. When these tasks are separated, perpetrators are required to work together to steal from the company, which is harder to do then a single person doing all the tasks.

In larger business with more staff, tasks are separate, but perpetrators will still look for loopholes in the system. When owners are lax with monitoring, and given the opportunity weaknesses are exploited.

What Condition Motivates Internal Fraud?

When a perpetrator meets poorly designed and monitored internal controls, fraud happens. Companies should work to design proper controls, and be attentive in monitoring their effectiveness. The controls should be adapted to changing practices in the business, and not be ignored when the business becomes too busy to implement them. Owners need to be aware of internal controls and make them propriety to deter employees who might commit fraud.

How Can Companies Prevent Internal Fraud?

To help reduce the chances for fraud, companies must take a “top down” approach. Modeling and exhibiting the greatest degree of integrity set the tone for the company. Owners that do not uphold any level of integrity with aspects of the company cannot expect their employees to do so either.

When assessing controls, companies should identify areas with the biggest risk. Implement controls to shore up vulnerabilities uncovered in the assessment. Have a certified CPA audit financial records and procedures to determine where weaknesses are in the company. If the CPA specializes in fraud, this is especially helpful in determining what controls should be implemented to prevent fraud. Controls should be monitored and review regularly to truly reduce the likelihood of fraud.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Subtracting Holiday Bonuses From Company Accounts

As the holiday season comes around, businesses are providing year-end bonuses or holiday benefits to employees as an additional reward for hard work. The problem that many small businesses and companies face is accounting for the additional expense. Recognizing the appropriate accounting method is the key to providing bonuses and benefits during the holiday season.

Cash Bonus Accounting

The process of accounting for a cash bonus is relatively simple. Business owners or the appropriate department within a company must determine the bonus amount for each employee and record the bonus in a similar method as regular income.

Payroll departments or an outsourced service are informed of the bonus and make appropriate calculations for withheld amounts. The paycheck is then given to the employee through direct deposit or a check, depending on the normal method of payment.

The company accounting books will reflect the bonuses provided to employees as a company expense along with regular paychecks. Since the process of providing a cash bonus is similar to a regular paycheck, accounting for the special pay is not a complicated process.

Non-Cash Bonus Accounting

Although a cash reward or bonus is commonly provided to employees, a non-cash bonus is another option for business owners. Non-cash bonuses include the expenses of a company party, holiday hams given to employees or similar gifts that come from the company during the holiday season. Accounting for a non-cash bonus is a little more challenging because it is not subject to the same tax laws.

The appropriate way to add non-cash bonuses during the holiday season is through “de minimis” on IRS tax forms. It is included in the costs and expenses of a company, but employees are not taxed for the gift.

Any non-cash bonuses provided to employees are accounted as a company expense or liability. As a result, the business will pay less in taxes due to the increased expense from the holiday bonus.

Although the non-cash bonus is added as an expense to the company, employers need to use caution when providing de minimis bonuses. The IRS has limitations on the number and amount of rewards employers can offer. A large number of non-cash bonuses might result in paying more in taxes.

The holiday season is a time to offer bonuses and special perks to employees. The bonus is a motivation to continue working hard and is not difficult to add to company accounts. Bonuses for the holiday season are added to the company books as an expense, but the taxation requirements will vary based on the type of holiday benefit offered to employees.

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Defined Benefit Pension Plans

EmployeesSo what is a defined pension plan?

A defined pension plan is an employer commitment to pay its employee a specific benefit for life beginning at retirement. Typically, this monthly or quarterly check will continue until that person dies. Depending on the plan, other options that may be available, such as the survivor option, which allows a spouse to receive payment, or a lump sum payment.

What does this mean to you?

To determine how much an employer contributes, the most being $195,000, to an employee’s benefit plan the employer calculates the cost of future risks by taking into account the employee’s life expectancy, normal retirement age, possible changes to interest rates, annual retirement benefit amount, and potential employee turnover. Other factors that affect benefits are age, earnings, and years of service. This allows the employer to ensure that when the employee retires that there will be enough money to pay for the benefit promised.

When will an employee receive benefits?

That is what every worker wants to know. All vested (a specific number of years the employee has worked or contributed to the plan) employees will begin receiving benefits no later than 60 days after the end of the plan year if they have been on the plan for 10 years or they leave their employer. A retired employee that reaches the age of 65 or the specified age of retirement will also receive payments.

There are always some stipulations with any retirement plan. Some of them are:

  • Unless you have under $5000 vested, you cannot be forced to receive your benefits before you normal retirement age.
  • If you leave the company before retirement, your benefits are frozen and held in a trust until the age of retirement.

This all seems like a complicated system, and it can be, but just remember that a defined benefit plan represent an employer’s obligations to active and retired employees. It is your promise of retirement and the benefits that you will receive.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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