Saturday, January 29, 2011

Money Matters: Tax Changes for 2010 and 2011

Money Matters: Tax Changes for 2010 and 2011: "There are some new changes in the tax rates and tax laws for 2011 so be sure to get all the information you need to get more of your money b..."

Money Matters: Tax Prep 101: Hiring the Right Person for Tax Prep...

Money Matters: Tax Prep 101: Hiring the Right Person for Tax Prep...: "Whether it's your brother-in-law or a full fledged CPA, it just makes sense to check out the person who is preparing your taxes."

Tax Prep 101: Hiring the Right Person for Tax Preparation

Whether it's your brother-in-law or a full fledged CPA, it just makes sense to check out the person who is preparing your taxes. One tax preparer in Edgewood, Md. was convicted and received a sentence for two years in he federal lock-up for claiming farm related losses for clients who didn't even own a farm, making false claims for deductible expenses, and overstating his client's contributions to various charities.

Most Tax Preparation Services Are Trustworthy

Yes, it is true that most of the tax prep guys out there are going to be as honest as the day is long, there are still a few that may stretch the truth and get you into some serious trouble with the IRS. There are also some well-meaning tax prep folks who simply make an occasional mistake. You just better hope and pray they don't make it on your tax return.

Tax Filing Errors are Common

Back in 2006, the Government Accountability Office conducted some undercover operations to find out just how widespread the tax prep problem might be. The GAO sent about 19 tax returns to random commercial tax preparers. Most of the returns were missing some very common deductions and all of them had mistakes. The bottom line here is that people are not getting all the money they have coming to them.

What to Look for in Your Tax Preparer

To make sure you're getting the most money back on your tax return, ask some questions:

1) Ask your tax preparer how they determine their fees. Most will simply charge a flat fee to prepare certain types of tax forms. For example, a 1040EZ should cost less to prepare than a taxpayer who has numerous investments and rental properties. Make sure you understand all the potential fees and charges and then get a quote in writing.

2) Ask your tax preparer what sort of past experience they have in preparing your type of tax return. Yes, everybody has to learn to do tax returns somehow, just not on your tax return. Resist the urge to help out someone who needs experience and go for the experienced pro who has several years preparing tax returns similar to yours.

3) Ask about any professional designations. Is the person preparing your taxes a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA), or just a guy who is taking accounting classes at the local night school? CPA's, lawyers, and enrolled agents are required by law to go through a continuing education program that keeps them up to date on all the latest tax laws, codes, and regulations. These pros are also going to be authorized by the IRS to represent you in case there's a problem like an audit, appeals, payment plans, or problems with collections.

4) Ask if your tax preparer has represented clients with tax issues or problems. Tax preparers with previous experience dealing with the IRS are going to be invaluable if you have a problem. They will already know what to expect and how to deal with it effectively. But, there is a downside here - you don't want tax preparer who has too much experience with the IRS. You may end up with a guy like the aforementioned gentlemen who claimed farm losses for his clients with no farm. That guy has too much of the wrong kind of experience with the IRS.

Even if you hire the best tax preparer out there, you are the one who is ultimately responsible for the information submitted on your income tax return. Make sure you keep in close communication with your tax preparer and always review and examine the return carefully before you file it.
Whether it's your brother-in-law or a full fledged CPA, it just makes sense to check out the person who is preparing your taxes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Money Matters: Tax Changes for 2010 and 2011

Money Matters: Tax Changes for 2010 and 2011 (Article): "There are some new changes in the tax rates and tax laws for 2011 so be sure to get all the information you need to get more of your money b..."

Debt Financing: Good or Bad for Business?

Debt Financing for Business Has Advantages (Article)

Most companies will use a combination of several methods to finance a company and bring needed cash into a business.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Money Matters: Top 5 Ways To Put $10,000 in Your Savings This Yea...

Top 5 Ways To Put $10,000 in Your Savings This Year (Article): "Well the new year has rolled around once again and you find yourself in the same place you were last year at this time - broke and living pa..."

Money Matters: Top Expert Tax Tips

Money Matters: Top Expert Tax Tips: "It's just weeks away - that ominous date that looms out there in the not-so-distant future. April 15, or federal tax filing deadline day as ..."

Tax Changes for 2010 and 2011

There are some new changes in the tax rates and tax laws for 2011 so be sure to get all the information you need to get more of your money back form Uncle Sam. Almost two-thirds of those filing tax returns will take the standard deductions rather than taking the time to itemize deductions.

Be sure to itemize deductions if you have a mortgage, make charitable contributions in 2010, and if you paid state and local sales taxes. The tax bracket thresholds have increased a bit for this year so make sure you take advantage of that.

Each personal and dependent tax exemption is going up $50 to $3,700 for 2011.

Married couples filing jointly in 2011 get a standard deduction of $11,600, up $200 from 2010

Singles and married couples filing separately, the standard deduction is $8,500 for 2011, up $100 from 2010.

Additional standard tax deduction for blind folks and seniors is $1,150 for married individuals, up $50

Taxpayers may file their tax forms online as early as January 11 for e-filers. January 31 is the usual date mandated by the IRS for employers to have all W-2 documents to employees, unless and IRS exemption is provided. And this year, the actual tax deadline falls on April 18, 2011. Any requests for tax filing extensions are also due on that date.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top 5 Ways To Put $10,000 in Your Savings This Year

Well the new year has rolled around once again and you find yourself in the same place you were last year at this time - broke and living paycheck to paycheck. Are you tired of being broke yet? If not, then stop reading now and don't even bother with the rest of this article. If you're still here, then I have a few things to say to you. If you're like me, at some point in your life you will get sick and tired of being broke. When you reach that point, you need to make a promise to yourself. Promise yourself that you will do what it takes to get on top of your financial situation this year.

Are You Sick of Being Broke All the Time?

Let's face it, having no money is a very stressful way to live. You know you're broke when you have to buy another $900 car this month because it's really all you can afford. But you know that it's eventually going to break down after just a few months, and then you'll have to scrape together another $900 to buy your next crappy car. You know you're broke when your tooth starts to ache because of that cavity you couldn't afford to fix last month, you pray that the pain just goes away because there's no way you can afford to go to the dentist. And what about that job? Do you really think 8 bucks an hour is good money?

Wouldn't it be great to walk into a store and buy something without having to even know how much it costs? What about being sure you can pay your bills every month and know there is going to be some money left over to have some fun with? How about going on a vacation that is already paid for before you leave town? Hey, remember what the inside of a new car smells like? You know that more money means more options for you and for your family.

Time to Make Some Big Decisions About Money

You know, most regular folks who have money didn't just fall into it. I know there are a few trust fund kids out there, but most folks simply made a decision to change the way they think about money. They started cutting back and researching before they made decisions on what to buy, or did without some things in order to save some extra money. Some folks simply know how to manage their money and that's the main reason why most folks have money.

If you're the type of person who always has to have the latest iPhone, best computer, most expensive car, or you just spend all the money from your paycheck by Wednesday or Thursday knowing you're going to get a paycheck on Friday. well you're never going to have money. If you spend cash without even caring where it all goes, then you're going to have to make some changes in the way you do things. If you're still with me, then let's look at some great ways to start cutting what you spend and start saving some real money.

A Word About Alcohol, Drugs, Porn, Gambling, and Other Addictions

Let me just say a few things first about addictions because they will affect your being on the most basic level. Addictions are nothing more than time and money pits that suck the literal life out of your soul. If you are addicted to something, and you're thinking that the addiction will never control you or hurt you. then you may be in denial. I'm not being judgmental here, you can do what you want. It's your life after all. But if you want to change your life, and get on with making some serious money, then I suggest you listen up.

Do some research and you'll see what addictions can do to people on a personal level and on a financial level. If you're already into any sort of addictive behavior, you already know what I'm talking about. When my Dad was getting ready to lay some serious stuff on me as a kid, he would say that we need to have a "come-to-Jesus-meeting." Well, you need to have one of these meetings with yourself. Be honest and determine if you really are addicted to something, and then figure out what it's costing you in time, money, and relationships. I'm not going to tell you anything else on this. You know if you need to change or not. If you do need to change, do whatever is necessary to get yourself healed and let's move on.

Start Out by Making a Plan and a Budget

You know that before you would even start a trip across the country, you would need to study some sort of map, and from that information, figure out the best route to get where you want to go. When you're on the path to making money, you do the same thing. Go and get a pad of paper and a pen, grab all your receipts from last year, find a quiet spot where you won't be disturbed, and start thinking about all the money you spent over the past 12 months. Look at your receipts and cancelled checks and come up with one number - the amount of money you spent last year on everything.

Next, get your paycheck stubs and come up with your next number, the amount of money you earned last year. If you made more than you spent, you're like most folks. But, like most folks, there won't be much of a difference between these two numbers. If your expenses are more than your income, then you're in serious trouble, my friend. The goal here is to get a real sense of just where your money is going. Look at all those receipts and cancelled checks. Where did all your money go last year?

Budget Cuts and Other Hideous Things You're Not Going to Like

So, you have an idea of where your money went last year. Let's start looking at some expenditures that might fall into the "I-should-have-never-have-spent-money-on-that" category. I don't know what is on your list so I'll share a few of the things that some other intelligent people have stupidly spent money on in the past. I know of one fellow who had more than 30 magazine subscriptions that were costing him about a thousand dollars per year. How about the family of five who ate out 10 to 12 times per week and would spend an average of $60 at every meal not including the tip. Or the

So where can you make cuts for the following year? Cut out that fancy coffee 5 times a week and make your own at home. Total savings: about $750 a year. Take a sack lunch to work instead of eating out five times a week. Save yourself about $1,500 a year. What about cutting off your cable TV? I can almost hear you gasp when I dare to mention it. You know, people lived on the earth for thousands of years without cable television and they seemed to do pretty well for themselves. With the average cable bill about $71 for a household, cutting Cable TV could save you about $850 a year.

Hey if you use coupons and shop for whole foods, not those prepackaged foods, you could save thousands on your grocery bill this year. What did you spend on clothing last year? There are actually people who just buy a few clothing items once or twice a year or buy their clothes at a thrift store. Hey, don't knock it until you've tried it. Some items in thrift stores are practically brand new, if not entirely new. Cutting here and there really does add up. If you cut just a few things, you could put several thousand dollars into your savings account by the end of this year.

Put an End to Over-Spending

If you've been studying those receipts and check registers, you should have a pretty good picture of your spending. As they say, if your outflow exceeds your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall. There are basically two ways people over-spend their money, The first is all those little expenses that don't really cost all that much by themselves, but can really add up over the course of a year. The second most common way people over-spend is spending way too much on big-ticket items like TV's, cars, boats, vacations, etc.

One friend I know makes about $250,000 per year. Now that's a serious income and you would think this guy would be having trouble finding places to spend his money. His mortgage is super high because he lives in a larger house than he needs in a fine neghborhood, he leases his luxury Hummer, Escalade, and his kid's cars, they all go on several cruises every year, and the kids attend the most expensive private schools in town. This guy is hard up for cash every month because he spends every dollar he makes. Mike Tyson earned over $300 million in his career and filed for bankruptcy in 2003 still owing about $27 million.

Don't overspend your money. Make a budget for your money and stick to it. Another family I know who don't make near that $250,000 a year salary, actually manage to get by on just about half of what they earn. The rest they save, put toward retirement, or invest. They're doing well because they have a plan for their money.

We'll discuss more ways to cut costs and save even more money in our next post.