Tag Archives: maumee accountants

Protect yourself from Tax Refund Fraud

Tax refund fraud has become a growing concern for taxpayers, state and local governments, and the federal government. Tax departments are implementing strategies to prevent and detect for the 2015 tax season.

The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) is implementing additional safeguards this tax season that will delay state tax refunds. The ODT is anticipating an increase in identity theft directly affecting tax fraud.

tax-fraudLast year, ODT stopped an unprecedented number of fraudulent income tax returns seeking to steal refunds totaling more than $250 million. In previous years, attempted tax fraud averaged roughly $10 million.

In order for the ODT to detect refund fraud due to identity theft, an additional up-front filter will now be applied to all tax refund requests to examine the demographic information reported on a return. This examination will then assign a “probability of fraud” factor that will determine how the return is then further processed by ODT.

If a return is pulled for review, ODT’s additional security measures will require some taxpayers to successfully complete an Identification Confirmation Quiz before the return will continue to be processed. If a taxpayer’s return is selected for identity confirmation they will receive a letter from ODT directing them to http://www.tax.ohio.gov. This will provide access to the quiz and detailed instructions on how to complete it. Taxpayers without access to the Internet will be directed to call ODT at 1-855-855-7579.

Processing of returns for refunds will be delayed due to these additional screening and security measures. According to the ODT, electronic returns requesting a refund may take up to 15 days to be direct deposited and paper returns could take up to 30 days for a physical check to be mailed out.

Not only is the ODT taking aggressive action on identity theft and tax fraud but so is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For 2015, the IRS is introducing new procedures which will address some of the issues. Effective 2015 tax season, the IRS is limiting the number of refunds directly deposited into a single financial account or onto a prepaid debit card. Therefore, any of the subsequent refunds will be issued by paper check and mailed to the taxpayer. Exceptions will not be made.
Visit the Taxpayer’s Guide to Identity Theft for helpful tips to protect yourself from identity theft or fraud.

By: Aubrey Forche, Staff Accountant

 

LIFO Inventory Election: Don’t Miss Out

Today’s significantly reduced oil prices creates an financial opportunity for any business that maintains an inventory of products that are petroleum-based. Products such as heating oil, gasoline,lubricating oils, and diesel fuel are all obvious product types that use crude oil as their raw material. However, products such as plastics, fertilizers and other petrochemicals often are also based on crude oil prices.

If your company relies on one or more of those products and maintains an inventory, especially a large dollar value of inventory, then this might be the year for you to consider a “last in first out”(LIFO) inventory election.

Many taxpayers in the U.S.currently use (FIFO) “first in first out” which means they are always valuing their inventory using the purchase price closest to the date of the inventory. The assumption on the flow of cost is that the oldest products are sold first and the cost of the most recent additions to the inventory are maintained as the inventory value.

imageLIFO, on the other hand, reverses that assumption. LIFO maintains inventory values based on the original purchase price, typically the lowest price, and in effect allows current costs to be expensed as incurred. The end result is that many taxpayers who have elected LIFO 30 or 40 years ago are still valuing their inventory at the prices that were in affect at the time they made the LIFO election. This means that all the years of price increases have been expensed as a cost of sales for the year they were incurred, and none were trapped in inventory. In times of rising prices, this is a great benefit to the taxpayer.

Basically, the best time to consider making a LIFO election is at the time when raw material prices are at the lowest point. This election is simply done by attaching several forms to the year-end tax returns and is an automatically approved election by the Internal Revenue Service.

With crude oil prices being under $60 a barrel at the end of 2014, it sets the stage for those taxpayers that have not already elected LIFO to lock-in, what could be, the lowest oil prices we’ll see for years. This low cost would be part of their base inventory cost and they would gain the benefit in all future years, as prices most-likely climb.

If you have questions on any element associated with LIFO inventory or think it may be a valuable option for you, please contact your professional at William Vaughan Company as soon as possible.

By: Bill Horst, CPA, CMA

Year-end Retirement Planning Tips

There are only a few weeks left to make 401(k) and some other retirement plan contributions that will get you a tax deduction on your 2014 tax return. Retirees also need to be aware of deadline dates for distributions from your various retirement accounts.

You can make a contribution of up to $17,500 to your 401(k) plan in 2014. Workers age 50 and over can contribute an extra $5,500 to their account as a catch-up contribution for a total of $23,000. Income tax isn’t due on the amount deposited in a traditional 401(k) plan until the money is withdrawn. For self-employed workers, a couple good options are a solo 401(k) plan or a simplified employee pension (SEP). With a SEP, you can contribute up to 20% of your net self-employment income for a total limit of $52,000. The SEP contribution can be calculated before filing your taxes to minimize your tax bill. SEP contributions are not due until the due date of your tax return. That means for a 2014 deduction if you file an extension, your contribution would not be due until October 15, 2015.

Retirement_PlanAnother option is an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). These contributions are not required to be made until April 15th to count toward your 2014 taxes and usually can be figured after your tax liability is determined. The IRA contribution limits are $5,500 or an additional $1,000 for people 50 and over for a total contribution of $6,500. Roth IRA’s have the same limits but are not pre-tax and will not decrease your tax bill, however, are also not taxable when distributed.

Retirees who have reached the age of 70 ½ have required minimum distributions from traditional 401(k)’s and IRAs and income tax will be due on each withdrawal. The date for making the distribution is April 1st after you have reached 70 ½ years of age. The penalty for missing a distribution is 50% tax on the amount that should have been distributed. It is best to consult William Vaughan Company or your financial advisor to make sure the amount required is computed correctly and done by the due date.

It’s probably also a good idea to start planning for the 2015 tax year. The amounts for 401(k) contributions will increase by $500 to $18,000 and $6,000 for the catch-up contributions. Increasing your percent contributed each year can make a big difference in the long run, especially if there is an employer match. There are many options when it comes to retirement plans, make sure you are doing what is best for you and in the necessary time frame to achieve the most benefit.

Diane Cook, Accountant

Don’t Leave Health Care Dollars on the Table

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the end of December to review your finances. You might not have enough time to take full advantage of some money-saving strategies before the ball drops. Here are some healthy yearend moves you may be able to make.

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Check your deductibles

Many health insurance plans have an annual deductible. If you’ve already met yours for the year, now’s the time to schedule any elective procedures you’ve been considering. If it doesn’t look like you’re going to meet your deductible this year, then switch gears and push any non-urgent visits into next year. That might help youmeet your deductible in 2015.

Max out your benefits

Be sure to take advantage of any benefits your health plan provides you free of charge. For example, it may cover an annual physical and various screenings.

If your employer sponsors a wellness program, don’t wait until the end of the year to check your status. You may be eligible for additional rewards for doing something as simple as scheduling a screening.

Review your FSA

If you have a health flexible spending account (FSA) through your employer, check your balance. If you have more money in your account than you can spend by the end of the year, see if the plan offers a grace period so employees can spend down their funds. Or the plan may allow employees to carry over a certain amount to the next year. Find out if your employer offers one of these options.

Tax tips

If you usually itemize deductions on your tax return, you may want to brush up on the details about the medical expense deduction. You won’t be able to qualify for it until your expenses are over 10% of your adjusted gross income (7.5% if you or your spouse is 65 or older). If you’re close to reaching the threshold, it may influence the decisions you make about elective procedures. You can only deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed the threshold.

 

2014 Business Year in Review

Busy is good. Most small business owners would rather things were too hectic than too slow. As the year winds down, though, let your staff handle the busy-ness while you look at the business — where you are, what you’ve accomplished in 2014 and where you’re headed in the new year and beyond.

Your bottom line

The quickest way to figure out where you are is to check your bottom line. Are you making money? Are profits better or worse than they were last year at this time? Are you meeting your expectations? If not, why not?

business_outlookYour business plan

Change is inevitable. And businesses have a way of outgrowing their business plans. But if you don’t have a current plan, you don’t have a way of measuring your progress. So if you’ve been “off road” without a plan for a while, it’s time to formalize a plan that reflects past growth and sets new goals for the next several years.

Your competition

The more you know about your competition, the better. Who are they? How are they different? How are they the same? Where do you overlap each other? Understanding their business model will help you prepare strategically for possible changes in the marketplace.

Your secret weapon

Your workforce is your secret weapon, especially if you’re in a competitive market. Dedicated, well-trained employees providing top-notch customer service can help put you out front of even the largest competitor. A rich, competitive benefits package will help you attract — and retain — a high-caliber workforce. Health insurance and retirement plans are highly valued benefits. You can offer a variety of other benefits to suit your employees’ needs and your budget. Ask your financial professional for information.

Your future

Do you have a formal succession plan? Are you grooming someone to take over? A well-trained successor could help in the successful — and profitable — transfer of your business. And you can use life insurance to pre-fund all or part of the sale.

Your Fantasy Football Team’s Biggest Fan Is…

The fantasy football season is in full swing as we are approaching the middle of the NFL season. For some, the season is going great and you are eagerly awaiting the playoffs, while others are all but eliminated from contention after drafting a team full of underachieving duds. For those of you lucky enough to be in the thick of the playoff hunt, remember that Uncle Sam is cheering you on. That is, he wants a cut of your winnings.

fantasy-football-winningsSome of you may be thinking, “why would the government care about fantasy football? It’s just a fun hobby and gives me something to talk about at the water cooler.” The truth is, fantasy football is a major industry and the IRS is very aware of such notion. According to an article from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association’s website, nearly 37 million people play fantasy football. According to the article, fantasy football players will spend an average of $111 per year. At 37 million players, that’s a staggering total of $4.1 billion each year. You better believe that Uncle Sam wants in on the winnings!

If your fantasy football skills earn you a payout of $600 or more, you will likely receive a 1099-MISC in the mail come January, which reports your winnings to the IRS. The amount of your winnings that are taxable can be reduced by entry fees, transaction fees, research materials (such as magazines) and losses from other leagues where you weren’t quite as lucky. So be sure to keep records of all your expenditures to support the information reported on your 1040.

Once you come to the net of all your winnings less all expenses, this amount will be reported as “other income” on line 21 of your 1040. Since the amount reported will not match the 1099-MISC you received, you will need to attach a statement to the return reconciling the 1099-MISC to the amount reported. Note that if you were in several fantasy football leagues where you lost money and one where you won, you will not be able claim a loss on your return and will just report income of $0.

So I hope everyone’s season is going well, but remember, Uncle Sam has a rooting interest in your team as well.

By: Mark Sawyer, CPA

Are You an Audit Target?

Each year there are individuals who are targeted for IRS audits based on minor decisions they may have made during the year. One goal during tax season, besides being on time, should be to completely avoid the IRS in an ethical manner. There are multiple ways that individuals may intentionally or unintentionally raise red flags, which makes them susceptible to an IRS audit.
While there are a number actions that may call for an IRS audit, here are some of the more common red flags:

auditCharitable donations. Who would have thought being generous could land you in hot water? The truth is, usually, it won’t. However, people who are audited in regards to charitable donations are the ones who over exaggerate the value of their donations, generally when dealing with non-cash items. Avoid the headache of dealing with the IRS and be realistic when it comes to pricing your donations. Also, remember to keep all of your charity receipts just to be safe.

Reported income. Failing to report income seems like an obvious red flag to most people, but you would be surprised to find out how many people honestly forget to report certain income. If you are an individual with multiple brokerage statements, it may be a good idea to create a checklist to keep on hand, ensuring each form of income is reported. Being organized will keep you safe and less stressed come tax time.

Being a millionaire. While the red flags associated with charitable donations and reporting income are ones that you may be able to avoid, there is one red flag that may be waving regardless of your action. Once you become a millionaire, your chance of being audited increases exponentially. While the current audit rate is at 1% on average, the rate climbs all the way up to 9% if you make $1 million. Just to give you an idea of how much the risk of being audited grows in relation to what you earn, people who bring in more than $10 million have a 27% percent chance of an audit. Let’s hope these individuals are reporting all of their income as well, because this percent does not have a limit!

Overall, there are some red flags that individuals will be able to avoid and some that should be expected. The goal should be to eliminate as many red flags as possible while being remaining. Make sure you keep donation receipts, record realistic values on donations and report all of your income. Hopefully, you will be on your way to a headache free tax season!

By: Jason Wenner, Staff Accountant