tax

A Trip to San Diego and A Review of the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum

I spent a fantastic week in San Diego in August, though the trip was more business than pleasure. As part of my Enrolled Agent continuing professional education requirements, I have to take courses in tax law and ethics. I take these courses every year, to keep my skill set sharp and to find out about the latest tax law updates.

This year, as opposed to completing online courses to fill the requirement, I decided to attend the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum. This was my first forum and I attended the San Diego session. The event was held at the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center. I stayed at the Town and Country during the week, so that I could walk downstairs to attend the training instead of driving to the location. The forum featured 40 different training topics, with each session lasting 50 minutes. There were also two networking receptions where attendees can enjoy light refreshments. I was pleasantly surprised by the effort that the vendors and IRS put into creating an enjoyable experience.

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My thoughts

The forum was very informative. What I really liked was the fact that these brief sessions made it easy to customize my learning schedule. The speakers were knowledgeable and there were enough topics to satisfy all attendees at varying knowledge levels.

My only points of dissatisfaction were the hotel itself and the location. The staff at the Town and Country were excellent but even they couldn’t make up for the old rooms and less-than-pristine hotel exterior. Also, the hotel was conveniently located across the street from a major mall, but there weren’t many other attractions that could be easily accessed on foot. Many of San Diego’s main attractions could only be accessed by rental car or by extensively coordinating public transportation. Washington DC may have spoiled me a bit: I like being able to walk to everything that I want to see!

The upside of this hotel is that there were beautiful flowers everywhere. Here are a few pics that I snapped while walking around.

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If I attend next year (and I probably will), I will choose a different hotel that is closer to downtown San Diego and just rent a car to get around. Given the perpetually wonderful weather, I’m sure that any hotel I choose will be even more beautiful than the Town and Country.

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Well, that’s my quick review of the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum, the Town and Country Resort and Convention Center, and, of course, what little of San Diego I got to see. Here’s hoping that my next trip to San Diego will include more sightseeing!

This Week in Tax & Finance

Here’s a quick rundown of the most interesting tax and finance articles I’ve read this week:

Special taxes for soda? Well, Mexico implemented a 10% soda tax, which meant that any sugary, carbonated beverages costs consumers more than the price of a bottled water. According to the article posted by Wired, the US could learn something from how the Mexican soda tax was implemented. Berkeley, California already has a version of this tax, but, without nationwide uniformity, the effects of a soda tax are limited. The researchers remain hopeful about the US implementing something similar, but I remain a skeptic. I know how Americans, in general, feel about any tax. They also believe it is their right to guzzle toxic products, so long as said toxic product tastes good.

The takeaway? A soda tax is highly unlikely in the US, where personal freedom reigns over collective wellbeing.

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Kids are benefiting from “drugs” (marijuana sales) in Colorado. The Cannabist reports that the 2015 excise taxes collected on marijuana sales totals $3.5 million so far, with numbers expected to increase over the upcoming months. The funds are being used for school construction. There is some additional proposed legislation that will help facilitate the continued use of the excise taxes for school, but it’s very likely that the proposition will pass.

The takeaway? Since marijuana purchases in Colorado mean school funding, purchasing cannabis is now a civic duty.

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Do you find that, at the end of the month, you always end up with more month than money? Well, that seems to be a national epidemic, as the federal government managed to overspend its tax revenue by $313 billion dollars. According to CNS News, the feds collected nearly $2.5 trillion dollars in tax revenue over the past 9 months, and still managed to overspend. The largest tax collected came from individual income taxes, followed by payroll (Social Security and Medicare) taxes, then corporate taxes. Despite so many tax streams, the government still spends too much. Let’s hope that this fiscal mismanagement gets under control.

The takeaway? Bouncing checks is a national trait, and it’s detrimental on any level.

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That’s all for this week. Look out for another post this week!

This Week in Tax & Finance …

More of the amusing and interesting stories in the world of tax and finance that I’ve read this week…

If you think that your last speeding ticket was a doozy, just imagine paying $58k for wanting to get to your destination faster. Forbes reports that Finland assesses speeding fines based on a percentage of personal wealth, rather than the fixed rates that most countries impose. This fine was imposed for going just 14 miles over the speed limit. It may sound odd, but since fines and penalties are designed as a deterrent, it makes sense that these fees would be proportionate to income.

The takeaway? Drive at the speed limit.

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Usually, being the first person to do something is a privilege. It’s a source of pride for years and gives you serious bragging rights. However, Plaxico Burress, NFL wide receiver and New Jersey resident, is finding out that being the first isn’t always a good thing. Burress has been indicted for “willful failure to pay state income tax”. The law went into effect September 2014 and Burress is now the first person to be charged for willful nonpayment. According to the NJ Prosecutor’s Office, Burress filed his state income taxes but experienced a failed Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). The state views failed EFT similarly to writing bad checks.

The takeaway? Make sure that your checks and EFTs are clearing properly, so you won’t be left with fees and (in the case of Burress) legal woes.

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Is it possible to get hooked on doing GOOD for others? According to this Reuters article, microfinancing addictions are REAL and the urge to do more can quickly become consuming. The author mentions that the desire to help as many budding entrepreneurs around the globe can spiral out of control. He suggests that microlenders set a cap to their spending, be patient with issuing loans and receiving repayment. and consult others before going all in with your lending.

The takeaway? Pace your do-gooder inclinations so that you can do good for a longer time.

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That’s all for this week. There will be more posts VERY soon!

This Week in Tax & Finance …

This post is just a summary of the more interesting articles I’ve read about tax and finance over the past few days.

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According to this article published yesterday (April 26, 2015) on NBC News, the Clinton Foundation had errors on its tax return. The errors weren’t of the calculation sort, but were due to misidentified income. I’m fairly certain that someone will lose a job over this, especially since this is the beginning of the Clinton presidential campaign and there is NO room for errors that may make the organization look unethical or careless.

The takeaway lesson? Grant money IS NOT a charitable donation. Identify it properly!

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Next, an article posted by Accounting Today highlights the tax effect of the marijuana business. 27 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana usage in some form, though it is still considered a controlled substance under federal law. Marijuana businesses get taxed on their income as gross income (similar to gambling winnings and alimony) instead of net income (like businesses that aren’t selling controlled substances). This means higher taxes for marijuana retailers- unless they get creative with their taxes. There is also speculation that any providing tax advisory services to a marijuana business could be found in violation of federal law, as they may be found to participating in “aid[ing], abet[ting], counsel[ing], command[ing], induc[ing] or procur[ing] the commission of a federal offense”. Tax preparation isn’t so problematic, as it is done AFTER business transactions have occurred. It’s tax advisement (which occurs BEFORE the taxes are filed) that may punishable by federal law.

The takeaway lesson? A good tax preparer may help marijuana retailers avoid a heavy tax burden, but tax advisors could get in hot water over their advice.

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Say it isn’t so! Hershey’s stock is down and they are hurting. CNN reports that Hershey has recently purchased several other companies, including Mauna Loa, the macadamia nut processors (imagining the tasty treats that can come from that merger). Unfortunately, Hershey isn’t making any money off of those purchases yet. Nestle, however, has seen a 10% overall in stock value, due to the euro weakening and making chocolate production cheaper.

The takeaway lesson? The US dollar is up, the euro is down, and even though Hershey is suffering, this is a great time to take a trip to Europe (perhaps you can enjoy some more affordable Nestle products while you’re there).

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That’s my quick recap of the most interesting articles I’ve seen over the past couple of weeks. Look out for even more fun stuff in May, including some great FREE gifts to subscribers!

Your Taxes Are Filed- Now What?

You have your returns done (or you will have them done soon). Now you get to relax … Actually, don’t relax yet. You have a couple more things to do. But these are quick- I promise!- and will save you a lot of future headaches.

Await your refund

If you are receiving a refund, then it normally takes 2 weeks for electronically filed returns and 4-6 weeks for mailed returns. If you experience delays, you can check the refund status on the IRS “Where’s Your Refund?” application.

Submit your payment

The sooner you pay, the better. Every day that you delay paying your taxes, interest and penalties accrue. Even paying a portion will translate into savings.

Request an extension of time to pay

You can contact IRS to request an extension of time to pay your taxes, in case you aren’t able to pay. The extensions are available for up to 120 days, though if you need less time, that is fine.

Request that penalties be waived

While you’re requesting your extension of time to pay, you can ask for a penalty waiver. When penalties are waived, your overall bill will be reduced. This is at IRS’s discretion, so it may or may not work. But it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Double-check your records

A few weeks after submitting your returns, compare your tax returns to your receipts and other documents. Sometime between June and August, get copies of all of your income statements from IRS (you can do this online). If you see a forgotten 1099 or W-2, you can amend your tax return to include that newly discovered information.

Prepare for next year

Adjust your W-4s at work if your withholding was inadequate. Start digitally scanning your receipts and other relevant documents so that you can have all of your information in one place.

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This short list will help you catch any errors and reduce your tax stress. Here’s to low-stress future tax seasons!

Tax Day is Two Days Away: Freebies For ALL!

With Tax Day (April 15th) being upon us, it only makes sense that all of us taxpaying citizens get something for doing this annual test of patience. Several major media outlets have published the places where you can get freebies on Tax Day. Here is a list of everyone that is giving away Tax Day Freebies:

DailyFinance has a comprehensive list of restaurants and retailers that are offering freebies on Tax Day. My favorites from their list are Burger King (the chicken fries are back!), Olive Garden, and Bonefish Grill.

DealNews has a brief list of freebies, but a notable one is HydroMassage, where you can get a free massage via water jet. Just what you need to relax after a stressful tax session.

Kiplinger mentions that Boston Market, California Tortilla, Schlotsky’s, Office Depot, and several other places are giving away Tax Day Freebies. Let’s just rejoice over the fact that California Tortilla is participating.

SunSentinel highlights the fact that Staples will be allowing people to shred up to 5 lbs of documents for free, up to May 2. Sounds like a great way to handle some of that overdue spring cleaning.

eSmart Tax features some yummy deals, like Maggie Moo’s, IHOP, and Cinnabon. Those are some of the sweetest, tastiest deals I’ve seen.

Will you all be joining in the Tax Day Freebie fun?

Less Than 1 Week From April 15th- Are You Ready?

During my time as a tax professional, I have devised a quick checklist of items to have on hand before preparing your taxes. It never fails that, when I mention the items needed, at least one item is missing every time. Save yourself some time and aggravation by having these items ready when you go to file your taxes:

  • Social Security Numbers for everyone to be listed on the tax return
  • Copies of all W-2s, 1099s, and 1098s received during the year (yes, that job you worked for less than a month should be included!)
  • Bank and credit card statements showing business expenses paid
  • Any receipts for items purchased for your job, if you are an employee
  • Copies of local taxes paid, sales taxes paid, property taxes paid, and real estate taxes paid
  • Copies of any expenses that you’ve paid, that you are unsure if you can claim on your return (a skilled preparer can tell you if those “mystery” expenses can be deducted)
  • Copies of charitable donation receipts
  • Brokerage statements
  • Receipts for any energy efficient upgrades that you’ve completed during the year

This is not an all-inclusive list, but having these items nearby will making it much easier to prepare your taxes quickly and efficiently.

Countdown to Tax Day- If You Need More Time …

April 15th is right around the corner. Are your taxes already done, or will you be sending in your taxes right before the deadline?

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For many people, there is some anxiety surrounding tax day, either because they cannot submit their tax return on time, or they cannot pay the tax due by April 15th. If you fall into either category, relax! There are things you can do to give you more time to file and pay your taxes.

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If you need a little more time to do your taxes, have no fear. You can request an extension of time to file electronically or using a paper form. To submit it electronically, just go to any one of IRS’s FREE FILE providers to request for an automatic SIX MONTH extension. You can submit this extension request regardless of your income. If you prefer to mail in the extension request, use Form 4868 and mail it to the appropriate address as indicated in the form.

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If you have your return ready but you can’t pay your taxes, you can request an extension of time to pay. The extension of time to file IS NOT the same as an extension of time to pay. If you need more time to pay your tax, you have to complete a different form. You will need to complete Form 1127 in order to get more time to pay your taxes. Granting a payment extension is at IRS’s discretion, and they do not promise that everyone will be allowed more time to pay. They generally only allow it under hardship circumstances. But it never hurts to try, especially if you cannot afford to pay by April 15th.

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If you have other IRS questions, feel free to contact me for a FREE consultation. I’d love to help you!