March 28, 2013
Will you be among the thousands of taxpayers who get a big tax refund this year? While most Americans happily accept their tax refund checks, smart taxpayers understand that refunds actually cost them money. Here’s why:
* The government pays no interest on refunds. Kept in your hands, those dollars could have been productive. For example, you could have invested the money or used it to pay off your debt during the year. If the money had been added to a 401(k) plan, tax would have been deferred on both the investment and its earnings. Even better, your employer might have matched all or part of your investment, adding to your retirement savings.
* Refunded cash is not available for use until actually received. Even though most taxpayers get their checks promptly, circumstances or errors can delay (or stop) a refund.
To prevent losing money on tax refunds, consider reducing your withholding or estimated tax payments. For most taxpayers, withholding must equal either the prior year’s tax or 90% of the current year’s liability. If your annual income changes little, it’s relatively easy to avoid overwithholding. You should consider filing a revised Form W-4 withholding statement with your employer if you’re having too much withheld.
For taxpayers with fluctuating income or multiple sources of income, the problem is more complex. The IRS provides a worksheet with Form W-4, but many people find the form complicated. If you’d like assistance adjusting your withholding, contact our office.
January 31, 2013
Unless the owner handles all aspects of computing and paying payroll, there is room for fraud in every small business. The fact that your company has only a few employees does not guarantee that you will be safe.
Perhaps one of the easiest payroll fraud techniques is the overpayment of withholding or payroll taxes. Your bookkeeper simply overpays the government. When the refund check arrives, it is deposited by the employee to his or her personal account. In some cases, the employee will have an account at a different bank but in the company name. Such an account could be used for the fraudulent deposit of other company receipts as well.
The greater the number of employees, the easier it is to pull off a scam. Perhaps the payroll clerk has invented a fictitious employee or falsifies hours or commissions for a cooperating employee who shares the stolen funds. Or perhaps the employee holds the payroll deposit funds in his or her own interest-bearing account until it is time to make the payroll deposit to the government.
A payroll review by an independent accountant may help prevent such employee schemes. Even in small companies, it is possible to divide office tasks to make employee theft more difficult.
Give us a call; we will gladly review your company’s internal controls to determine what changes may be needed.
October 5, 2012
Don’t let penalties for underpaid taxes increase your tax bill next April. Check the total tax you’ve paid in for 2012 through withholding and/or quarterly estimated payments. If you’ve underpaid, consider adjusting your withholding for the final pay periods of 2012.
Withheld taxes are considered paid in equal amounts during the year regardless of when the tax is withheld. Therefore, a year-end adjustment to your withholding could help you avoid a penalty.
April 27, 2012
Are you receiving a tax refund this year? No doubt you’ve already heard the standard admonishment about why you should not be giving the government an interest-free loan. Maybe you’ve decided to “do better” during 2012 by revising your withholding or estimated tax payments to reduce the amount of next year’s refund — or maybe you haven’t.
Either way, set aside your guilt. Financial planning means creating effective strategies that work for you — which can include forcing yourself to save by overpaying your income tax during the year.
The more important consideration is what you do with the money you get back. Here are ideas for making the most of your refund.
* Save. The unexpected happens. The question is, how do you pay the resulting bills? Parking part of your refund in a readily accessible location, such as a bank checking, savings, or money market account, will help you weather short-term, temporary setbacks without incurring penalties or transaction fees.
* Spend. Spending your refund wisely can get your finances in shape and pay off over the long run. For instance, home improvements like energy-efficient windows or a new water heater may result in lower electric and insurance bills. Refinancing your mortgage reduces your monthly cash outlay, freeing money for investing or saving. Ditto for paying down high-interest credit cards — so long as you resist the urge to reload them.
* Self-invest. Using your refund to refresh your current career-related skills or to learn new ones can provide a double benefit: more employment opportunities and tax savings. Unsure of your job security? Put your refund to work by financing a home-based business and creating a second stream of income.
Give us a call for assistance related to your tax withholding, estimated tax payments, or tax refund.
December 9, 2011
* Early this month check the amount of 2011 tax you have prepaid through withholding and quarterly estimates. If you’ve underpaid, consider increasing your withholding before year-end. Withholding is considered to have been paid evenly throughout the year. This could prevent your being charged underpayment penalties for 2011.
* Avoid the marriage penalty. If a wedding or divorce is in your plans, be aware that your marital status as of December 31 determines your tax status for the whole year. Changing the dates of a year-end event may save taxes. Even though recent tax laws provided some relief from the marriage penalty, they did not eliminate it.
* Plan for losses. Check your basis in any S corporation in which you are a shareholder and where you expect a loss this year. Be sure you have sufficient basis to enable you to take the loss on your tax return.
* Use this year’s annual gift tax exclusion. If you make annual gifts to family members or others, make sure you complete your gifts for 2011 by December 31.
* Squeeze in planned equipment purchases before December 31. Taxpayers must usually deduct the cost of business property over several years. A special election allows taxpayers to expense up to $500,000 of new and used property purchased and put into service in 2011. Also check into the 100% bonus depreciation allowance for new equipment purchases.
Property such as machinery, equipment, and furnishings qualify. Be careful with special rules that apply to automobiles and personal computers.