tia delano

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!

A New Way to Approach Your Finances

I’ve met a lot of people that had varying financial circumstances. One of the greatest perks of working as an International Tax Specialist was that I got to see how people around the world financed their lifestyles. With the experience I got working at IRS, I found that the biggest thing keeping people from their lifestyles is their own limiting belief systems. They honestly believe that they cannot afford the life that they desire because of cost. Remember, I saw people living abroad and doing very well, earning much less than many folks here in the US.

To be honest, MOST people can live extremely comfortable lifestyles for far less than they think. The main thing that you will need is a new mindset, or a new way to approach your finances. I will write a few posts about this, as I think that it’s important for everyone to understand my personal beliefs as it pertains to finance, and how I guide my clients’ financial plans. I’m not going to spout a bunch of feel-good theory, but I will share how I approach personal finance when speaking to clients.

First, if you want to live a more quality life, you have to really examine your wants and make them high priority. The key is:

**Redefine your Wants as Needs and You Will Increase the Likelihood of Attaining Those Things**

The problem with most people is that they place their strongest desires in the Wants category, which significantly decreases their importance. I propose that instead of classifying a non-immediate goal as a Want, try classifying it as a Need. When you change how you state your biggest goals, it will tell your subconscious mind that your goals are necessary to your survival and, as with anything needed for survival, your mind will work overtime to find a way to secure whatever survival goal you desire. Here are some examples of Wants redefined as Needs.

*I want a new career
versus
*I need a career that will use my talents to the full and keep me inspired.

*I want financial security
versus
*I need to generate enough passive and earned income so that, even during tough economic times, I may continue to live my fullest life.

*I want to travel internationally
versus
*I need to explore the world, because this feeds my soul and keeps me intellectually stimulated.

When Wants are redefined as Needs, it forces your mind to devote more resources and energy to achieving that redefined goal. I think that any long-term desire can be redefined as a Need. When you make your goals a priority, you will see opportunities that may not have been obvious before; you will also find that you’re subconsciously arranging your life to work in harmony with your Needs.

Writing down your redefined Wants is extremely important. The process of writing takes an idea and makes it something more concrete, tangible, and realistic than when the thought resided in your head. I’d also suggest that every time you take an action toward a goal, make notes of things that worked and things that didn’t. You are apt to repeat a successful experience if you can replicate it.

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Please check back in the upcoming weeks for more tips on finance, as well as some very special updates from me!

The 3 Pillars of Financial Success

As a rule, I like to keep things simple. One of the principles I share with my clients is that there are 3 things- and ONLY 3 things- that need to be implemented in order to ensure financial success. These 3 pillars are the basis for every budget, long term retirement plan, and customized Prosperity Plan that I create. Would you like to know more? (I see you nodding!) Here is what you need to be financially successful:

Reduce Debt

This isn’t a discussion about good debt vs. bad debt. As far as I’m concerned, ALL debt should be eliminated as soon as you possibly can. Debt that isn’t tied to appreciable assets (like land, businesses, or even education credentials) is especially repulsive. Always aim to pay things off, pay on time, and avoid taking on debt unless it’s for something that retains its value.

So long as you are paying money to others, you will find it hard to have money for yourself and for the things that make your heart sing. Debt reduction is critical to financial success. Less debt is always the better choice.

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Earn More

There are lots of arguments made against earning more money. But, those arguments invariably come from people that complain about not having enough money. Not only do those underfunded folks bash those that earn more, but they justify their own scarcity so that they won’t have to make any changes or possibly TAKE ACTION to alleviate their monetary discomfort.

As a general rule, more income, whether it comes from wages, self employment income, or passive income streams, is a good thing. If you have enough money coming in, you automatically have access to more options. OPTIONS are all about freedom: if you have more money, then you are free to choose the things that YOU want, without fearing that you will go lacking in other areas of your life.

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Save More

This is, oddly enough, the hardest part of financial success. Putting money aside and resisting the urge to spend it has to be one of the most challenging parts of becoming financially successful. It seems that whenever someone finally gets a nice little nest egg put away, sudden “emergencies” appear, which whittle down those savings to nothingness. It’s depressing and demotivating when those “emergencies” happen, which is why some people seem to always have no “rainy day” money. They are discouraged from saving again, lest those “emergencies” deplete that nest egg once more.

My best suggestion is to put the money in an account that requires an unusual amount of effort to do withdrawal. My federal job has the option for thrift savings accounts, and it takes quite a bit of paperwork in order to do a withdrawal. That, in my opinion, is enough of a deterrent to keep me from going in and recklessly spending my retirement savings.

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Those are my top tips for achieving financial success. These are recommendations that I’ve personally implemented successfully. What are some of your favorite financial strategies/tips?

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!

This Website is One Month Old!

I’m so excited to announce that this website is officially one month old!

I’m still learning so much, as I have never worked on WordPress so extensively. I have found myself accidentally submitting blog posts when what I meant to do was save them as drafts (that has happened more than once, and actually happened earlier today)! I found out- the hard way- that the beautiful colors I’d selected were only available under Premium accounts. I learned about email forwarding, sharing on social media, and the amazing convenience of scheduling posts.

Working through the details of a business, then going into the creation of a website, was quite the undertaking. I’m just glad that I’m finally on this path. I look forward to sharing more valuable information with you all in the future! In the meantime, I will be celebrating this one month anniversary!

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!

5 Ways to Save Money TODAY!

I’ve spent the past few weeks digging through tax returns (yay for life after April 15th!) and love that I can now turn my attention to overall financial fitness. If we want to live more prosperous lives, we have to watch the habits of those that are living quality lifestyles. Many wealthy individuals use certain techniques to maintain their standard of living; mainly, they focus on keep their expenses low, while simultaneously growing their assets. No matter what you earn, you can always employ the “Reduce Expenses, Increase Assets” perspective.

These tips are in no way original, but who doesn’t occasionally need a helpful reminder?

1. Eat at home. According to the Wall Street Journal, individuals in lower income levels spend more on food than those in higher income brackets. Now, the infographics featured on WSJ are simple snapshots and doesn’t account for everyone’s circumstances, but generally speaking, these hold true. The convenience of purchasing something premade or dining at a restaurant often comes at a higher price, both monetarily and healthwise. So, instead of dining out or buying something prepackaged, eat a healthy, homecooked meal. Make sure that you cook enough so that you will have tasty leftovers for the next day’s lunch!

2. Cancel an unnecessary subscription. Most of us have at least one subscription that we can eliminate, whether it’s a magazine, newspaper, subscription box full of “surprise” items or premium cable television stations. One of my hobbies is genealogy and I had a paid subscription to a genealogical research website. I cancelled the subscription to the website in favor of going to the library. I find that going to the library helps me to focus and use my time more wisely; the monetary savings is just a perk! So, go ahead and cancel that subscription. If you find that you cannot live without it, you can always renew your subscription.

3. Avoid shopping websites and physical stores. This is so obvious, yet how many of us find ourselves mindlessly wandering over to our favorite online stores, perusing the “What’s New” pages and making a mental list of the items we want to get soon? If we don’t visit the websites, then we can’t be tempted. The same thing goes for visiting our favorite shops to see what has been stocked since our last visit: if we want to save money, avoid the places that want you to spend your money!

4. Call a service provider to reduce a bill or get additional perks. This can work for any business with whom you have an account. It works particularly well if you have cable television, credit cards, or even a bank or credit union account. When contacting the provider, mention how long you’ve been a customer and how much you’ve enjoyed doing business with them, then ask if they have any specials or if your account qualifies for any bonuses. The key to this is to be pleasant and not demanding. The customer service representative will be thrilled that you aren’t irate, and they will eagerly share what offers are available to valued customers like you.

5. Plan a free activity. I once knew a person that could not fathom doing any activity that didn’t cost money. In fact, every time his wife asked him to go out and do something fun, his excuse was that he had no money (of course, his wife knew his financial situation; he didn’t lack money, he lacked creativity and originality). Every time he did something fun, it cost him a significant amount of money. As you can imagine, his finances were in shambles because none of his entertainment was free. Do a free activity for a change. Even small towns have lots of free activities available. Try going to a local museum, enjoying a picnic in the park, visit the local library (these often have fantastic free events), joining (or creating!) a book club, or finding a local festival that has no admission costs. If you live in a medium- to large-sized city, there are a plethora of free options. Get creative!

Those are just 5 quick, easy tips to help you save money today. What are some of your favorite money-saving ideas and activities? Please comment below and share some of the ways you’ve reduced your expenses.