816-741-7882
Professional services with a personal touch.

« January 2015 | Main | March 2015 »

6 posts from February 2015

02/27/2015

Have a Complicated Tax Return? Here's What to Do

Is preparing your own income tax return becoming more complicated every year? How do you know when it's time to hire a professional?

Taxpayer with stack of papersConsider these questions as you determine whether you should turn to an accountant to help you file your tax return:  

Are you confident you know enough about new laws that apply to your income tax filing?  

Have you had a major life event that will affect how you file your return such as; the change or loss of a job, buying or selling a home, addition or loss of a dependent, education expenses, borrowing money from an IRA, buying or selling a business, experiencing a major illness, or going through a divorce?

Are you certain you know what forms to use? Are you confident you are calculating deductions and credits properly?  Are you stressing out over what you're finding out about your income and what you don't know about your income taxes?  Have you received a letter from the IRS about an income tax issue?

If any of the above questions apply to you, it's time to talk to an accountant who is experienced and qualified to handle even the most complicated tax return.

What to Do About Complicated Income Taxes

When you realize that you can no longer prepare your income taxes on your own, don't panic. Instead, do your best to get organized to present your income tax "story" to a professional.  This means get your documents in order.  Collect any documents that report income you have earned in the past year as well as any proof of any federal, state and local taxes you may have already paid.

Gather up receipts and statements that will document your expenses that may qualify as tax deductions or result in a tax credit.  Categorize the documents by subject and date to help the tax professional you select better understand your financial picture and how it applies to your tax obligation.

Find copies of your tax returns from the past two years to show your chosen tax professional so that a thorough review of your tax filing history can be made.  There may be something that was missed that could save you tax dollars or cost you in the long-run.  The sooner the issues are identifed, the better.

Note: Complicated tax issues and questions do not go away if you simply ignore them.  Bring any tax-related question or issue you have with you to your appointment with a tax preparation expert. They will help you understand the significance and meaning of IRS letters or other documents. Sometimes taxpayers ignore important notices because they are hard to understand or feel that the information is wrong or doesn't apply to them, but that can be a costly mistake. 

Graphic with ad infoWith tax laws and regulations changing on a regular basis, it is essential that you use a tax professional who fully understands these changes and how to apply them to your unique situation.

Without expert tax preparation assistance, many taxpayers who fill out their own returns make unnecessary errors either through miscalculation of numbers or through not knowing the proper forms to file.  All of this can cost plenty in fees, penalties and interest payments.  So, the cost of making mistakes and omissions should be carefully considered against the cost of bringing a professional on board to help you with tax preparation.

When you decide that it's time you find a tax expert, we hope you'll choose McRuer CPAs.  No matter the tax problem, we can help you make the best choices efficiently and effectively while helping you put together a long-term plan to make certain you pay no more than the taxes you owe. That will give you peace of mind.

Contact us online by clicking here or all us at 816.741.7882.

02/24/2015

Forms 1099 - Delayed Delivery to Taxpayers

Many taxpayers who must report investment income from information they receive on Forms 1099 and Schedules K-1 are learning their investment companies and investment account custodians will be sending them these forms later than usual.

Important-notice-hi1A major investment company has issued an information update warning investors they may not
receive their final 2014 IRS Forms 1099 (B, DIV, INT, OID and MISC) until mid-March. 

Not long ago, these forms were due in taxpayers’ hands by January 31st, with fines for issuers who sent them late.  Now, investment advisors may send a “Pending 1099 Notice” as a temporary substitute to meet the IRS deadlines for sending Forms 1099.

These Pending 1099 Notices inform investors that more information may be coming, but do not provide investors the information necessary to file their returns. The notices instead provide a date when a final tax Form 1099 is supposed to be mailed.  This year, IRS regulations state Forms 1099 must be mailed no later than March 16, 2015 for the 2014 income tax year.

All of this means taxpayers who need information from Forms 1099 to properly complete their income tax return may face several weeks of delays.  Nevertheless, as our clients’ tax advisor, we are encouraging our clients to gather and send us their personal income tax information as soon as they can.

We will begin preparing their returns, then update their information to reflect information from Forms 1099 and other tax documents once they arrive.  This way we may sooner identify and inform clients about any remaining tax-saving opportunities, or notify them about any additional tax payments due.

This approach may reduce a client’s overall tax obligation, and will reduce exposure to late filing penalties and/or tax underpayment penalties associated with not meeting the April 15th tax filing deadline.

Should you have any questions about this issue or possible delays, please call us at 816.741.7882 or contact us online at McRuer CPAs.  

02/21/2015

How to Know When You Need a CPA

The DIY (Do It Yourself) industry is flourishing these days.  This trend also extends to accounting and income tax services.  The availability of affordable computing power, improved entry-level accounting and income tax software, and cloud-based applications and storage options are attractive because they may help you save money by doing it yourself.  Added to that is some very effective advertising claiming that at the push of a button your business accounting and income tax filings will be worry free.  However, be warned; our clients often turn to us when their experience with DIY solutions show the ease and efficiency of using these products has been oversold.

In today’s highly regulated environment, innocent omissions and mistakes from simply not knowing An-accountant-helping-clientshow transactions should be recorded, or how to properly comply with new federal, state or local tax
law, can be costly, and sometimes devastating.  Instead of spending time increasing sales, improving processes and growing their businesses, some business owners say they grow frustrated and waste time trying to learn to use and update the latest software as well as keep up with filing deadlines and regulations by themselves.  That’s when they call us.

Let’s consider how engaging professional help with your business accounting and finances can pay big benefits that will help your bottom line both short-term and long-term. 

For those business owners who have a solid accounting or bookkeeping background and a good understanding of business finances, with McRuer CPAs’ MyMcRuer/BackOffice service offering you may benefit by a combination of some DIY and some professional on-demand services.

MyMcRuer/BackOffice helps business owners control costs by personally managing their business’s books.  In addition, when a difficult issue or a question arises, they have access to a local experienced accounting professional who will view the issue real time to identify the problem and quickly provide a solution.  Then as the business grows and its operations need more of an owner's or manager’s time, a smooth transition can be made to full-time professional accountants and bookkeepers who already know the business.

If you intend to grow your business, the benefits of professional accounting services cannot be overestimated.  Is it time that you utilized a professional for your combined personal and business tax preparation?  When is it cost effective to hire an accounting firm’s experts to help with your business accounting and bookkeeping needs?

Consider the following as a mental checklist to help you find an answer to the question: 

How Do I Know When I Need a Professional Accountant or CPA?

You know you need a professional accountant or CPA when…

(circle the sentence numbers that apply to you and when finished add up the total number of sentences that describe your financial situation)

  1. You are considering investing significant time, money and passion into a business idea. Before you “take the leap” you want input about your business plan from an independent professional who will review the numbers and help you analyze your idea’s future growth potential.
  2. You are starting a new business and want to select the best business structure that fits the marketplace, your proficiency and your goals.  You have been told there are different types of business entities that may limit your personal liability for your business activities, but you don’t understand the tax consequences of this decision.
  3. Your income and deductions have changed and you no longer file a simple tax return, or you suspect you must make quarterly estimated tax payments.
  4. You need new or additional business financing, and your lender or insuror is requesting financial information that must be provided by a third party.
  5. You want to better understand your business’s financial information, and use it to improve profitability, inventory management, and cash flow.
  6. You need more information in order to prepare to sell your business.
  7. You are shutting down your business.
  8. You hire other people to help you, and you need information about employees versus independent contractors.
  9. You have become responsible for another person’s affairs, either during their life or after their passing.
  10. The IRS or another regulatory agency has contacted you about an upcoming audit or other collection actions.
  11. You wish to develop and act on a plan to provide for your financial future, including saving for retirement, your childrens’ education, and/or other obligations.
  12. You want to ensure you have the best estate plan in place by understanding the tax, financial and time-based consequences of that plan.
  13. You want to create a succession plan for passing your business on to the next person when you’re ready to retire or sell.
  14. You want to take responsibility for your business and personal financial affairs, and want a trusted advisor to help you succeed.
  15. You must prepare and file Forms W2 and 1099 annually.
  16. You need to understand your best choices on property purchase versus equipment leasing.

How many of the above statements apply to you?

These are just a few of the practical reasons that you need a professional accountant on your business’ financial team.  If you circled 3 to 5 of the above business and personal accounting points, it’s probably time you considered using an upgraded business accounting tool that provides a live accountant when you need one.  If you circled more than 5, it’s time you connect with a professional accountant long-term with comprehensive services and experience to ensure business success.

Accountant over shoulderConsider using a CPA (Certified Professional Accountant) that is experienced and trained specifically to be your business and personal financial planner, management consultant, management information specialist, business consultant and more. 

Yet, don’t forget to consider whether the professional you bring on board is someone you get along with personally.  Financial decisions are a reflection of the production and goals of real people like you who are working to make profits in order to enjoy the life you love.  It’s important to find an accountant who will work well with your business team and shares your concerns about accuracy, reliability, efficiency, and long-term effectiveness.

When you know you need an accountant, we’re here.

At McRuer CPAs, we know business “numbers” are personal and we make the extra effort to match the personalities of our professional accountants with you and your business team.  You may discover the latest online tools with the on-demand help of a CPA are the best choice for you and your business.  Maybe it's time to have a full-time accounting professional join your team?  How do you what to do?

Let’s find out what will work best for you.  Contact us for a strategic planning session by calling 816.741.7882 or contact us through our confidential online resource.  We’ll review your goals and help you make the best choice.

02/19/2015

Tax Software vs Professional Accountants

As we enter into the peak of tax preparation season, we are often asked about the difference between using tax preparation software and using the services of a professional accountant.  Today there are dozens of preparation software options online and in software packages that can help a taxpayer complete their tax return.  This as today's tax liabilities and concerns are growing more complicated than they've ever been. 

1040 form with glasses and penniesA recent Wall Street Journal article revealed as taxpayers try out new tax software tools, they are making more and more mistakes.  Often, it has to do with not knowing the right questions to ask to discover their best options.  Many times, incorrectly entered numbers cause automatic equations to produce the wrong totals.  

Don't misunderstand, there are good reasons to choose tax software to help you complete your income tax return on your own.  There are also good reasons to choose a professional accountant.  We came across an interesting and concise article online on Investopedia that explains your options clearly.

Here is that article for your consideration as you choose the best steps to take regarding the preparation of your federal and state income tax returns. 

Tax Software Vs. An Accountant: Which Is Right For You?    By Jason Steele | Updated January 29, 2014

""With every important job comes the question of whether or not individuals should do it themselves or hire a professional. While the ever-improving selection of tax preparation software certainly makes it easier to do your own taxes, it has hardly put Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and other personal tax preparers out of business. 

The Advantages of Using Tax Software
Price
There is no way around the fact that you will pay less for a software package than you will to hire a CPA or another qualified tax professional. The price of tax preparation software ranges from the $10 to $120 range to websites that offer the service for free. On the other hand, the least expensive tax preparers will cost at least $100 and a CPA is likely to charge at least twice that amount. The upfront savings of using tax software over an accountant is one of the most attractive benefits of filing your own taxes. 

The Advantages of Using Tax Software
Price
There is no way around the fact that you will pay less for a software package than you will to hire a CPA or another qualified tax professional. The price of tax preparation software ranges from the $10 to $120 range to websites that offer the service for free. On the other hand, the least expensive tax preparers will cost at least $100 and a CPA is likely to charge at least twice that amount. The upfront savings of using tax software over an accountant is one of the most attractive benefits of filing your own taxes. 

The Benefits of Hiring a Professional Accountant
Better Software
Accountants pay around $1,000 to $6,000 for their software, which is far more sophisticated than the products sold to consumers. These more advanced programs have the ability to quickly scan your information and organize line items and forms correctly. By automating much of the data entry and organization, there's less chance for human error to hurt your tax return.

Human Touch
Like a good family doctor that knows your medical history, you can develop a relationship with an accountant so that he or she understands your family's financial situation and future goals. According to Wehner, who has been preparing taxes for 45 years, "A tax professional is often able to make valuable tax savings suggestions that a software program just can't anticipate." The value of this advice can easily exceed the additional cost of consulting with a professional. For example, a tax accountant can provide you advice on tax-friendly ways to save for your children's education, or how to reduce taxes on your capital gains.

Accountants Can Answer Your Questions Year Round
As a trusted professional, a good accountant will be able to answer important questions that arise not just during your annual consultation, but at other times during the year.

Calculator help and form 1040A CPA Saves You Time When Handling Complicated Issues
Taxpayers who find themselves at the center of complicated business and investment matters may even have the skill to sort through their taxes on their own, but is it worth their time? A professional tax preparer is so familiar with the system; he or she can quickly and easily accomplish tasks that might take even skilled taxpayers hours of research. For busy non-tax professionals, their time can generally be better spent earning money in their area of expertise. Even if your tax situation is straightforward, hiring a professional will save you the time and stress of doing your taxes.

The Bottom Line
Ultimately, there is no universally correct answer to the question of hiring a tax professional or doing your taxes yourself with software. Your comfort and familiarity with IRS rules will be part of your decision, but the complexity of your finances should be the key deciding factor. Those with a single employer and few investments may save hundreds of dollars by preparing their own taxes, while those with business income or rental properties will find the expense of hiring an accountant to be worth their peace of mind and potential tax saving.""

##  So, as we add one final thought to the article above, consider that the more complicated your taxes are, the more likely you need comprehensive accounting services and an accounting professional to help you make the best decisions. For us at McRuer CPAs, it's all about making certain you pay no more taxes than you owe.

If you have any questions, or would like to review your income tax situation with an accountant, contact us at McRuer CPAs to set up a consultation.  We'll take a look and provide you options so you can make the best choice.  Call us:  816.741.7882 or contact us online.

 

02/10/2015

What is Minimum Essential Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act?

The IRS has issued new information on how to interpret "Minimum Essential Coverage" under the Affordable Care Act.

Many individuals and businesses have been concerned about having the right kind of "qualifying" health care coverage for themselves and their employees.  Here is the latest notice about Minimum Essential Coverage from the IRS that may be helpful as 2014 federal income tax returns are being prepared and tax plans are being implemented for the 2015 tax year.  If it sounds complicated, it can be. If you have any questions or need to design a tax plan to cover this and many more important issues as you prepare your tax return, contact us and we'll help you with a confidential consultation to review all your options.  You may also consider using the services of a professional team like ours for your tax preparation needs.

 

Accountants workingIRS Release:

Individual Shared Responsibility Provision - Minimum Essential Coverage

The individual shared responsibility provision requires you and each member of your family to have qualifying health care coverage (known as minimum essential coverage), qualify for an exemption from the responsibility to have minimum essential coverage, or make an individual shared responsibility payment when you file your federal income tax return. If you are not required to file a tax return and don’t want to file a return, you do not need to file a return solely to report your coverage.

The chart shows some types of coverage that qualify as minimum essential coverage and some that do not.

Coverage TypeQualifies As Minimum Essential CoverageDoesn't Qualify As Minimum Essential Coverage

Employer-sponsored coverage:

  • Group health insurance coverage for employees under –
  • A governmental plan, such as the Federal Employees Health Benefit program
  • A plan or coverage offered in the small or large group market within a state
  • A grandfathered health plan offered in a group market
  • A self-insured group health plan for employees
  • COBRA coverage
  • Retiree coverage

 

Yes
 

Individual health coverage:

  • Health insurance you purchase directly from an insurance company
  • Health insurance you purchase through the Health Insurance Marketplace
  • Health insurance provided through a student health plan
  • Health coverage provided through a student health plan that is self-funded by a university (only for a plan year beginning on or before December 31, 2014, unless recognized as minimum essential coverage by HHS)
  • Catastrophic plans
Yes  

Coverage under government-sponsored programs:

  • Medicare Part A coverage
  • Medicare Advantage plans
  • Most Medicaid coverage
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Most types of TRICARE coverage
  • Comprehensive health care programs offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs
  • State high-risk health insurance pools (only for a plan year beginning on or before December 31, 2014, unless recognized as minimum essential coverage by HHS)
  • Health coverage provided to Peace Corps volunteers
  • Department of Defense Nonappropriated Fund Health Benefits Program
  • Refugee Medical Assistance
Yes  

Other coverage:

  • Certain foreign coverage
  • Certain coverage for business owners
Yes  

Certain coverage that may provide limited benefits:

  • Coverage consisting solely of excepted benefits, such as:
    • Stand-alone dental and vision insurance
    • Accident or disability income insurance
    • Workers' compensation insurance
  • Medicaid providing only family planning services*
  • Medicaid providing only tuberculosis-related services*
  • Medicaid providing only coverage limited to treatment of emergency medical conditions*
  • Pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage*
  • Medicaid coverage for the medically needy*
  • Section 1115 Medicaid demonstration projects*
  • Space available TRICARE coverage provided under chapter 55 of title 10 of the United States Code for individuals who are not eligible for TRICARE coverage for health services from private sector providers*
  • Line of duty TRICARE coverage provided under chapter 55 of title 10 of the United States Code*
  • AmeriCorps coverage for those serving in programs receiving AmeriCorps State and National grants
  • AfterCorps coverage purchased by returning members of the PeaceCorps

*In Notice 2014-10, the IRS announced relief from the individual shared responsibility payment for months in 2014 in which individuals are covered under one of these programs. See the instructions for Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, for information on how to claim an exemption for one of these programs on your income tax return.

 

 

Yes

 

 

02/09/2015

Employer Health Care Choices Raise Questions

With the launch of tax season, employers are asking a flood of questions about mandates in the Affordable Care Act (ACA aka ObamaCare ) and whether they are understanding the choices that are available.  

The Employer Shared Responsibility provisions became effective January 1st of 2015.  No Employer Shared Responsibility payments will be assessed for 2014, but employers are expected to use their 2014 number of employees and their hours of service to determine whether they are subject to the payments in 2015.

ACA in washingtonBusinesses in 2015 employing generally 50 full-time employees, or a combination of full-time and part-time employees that is equivalent to 50 full-time employees, will be subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions under section 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code.   The IRS defines a full-time employee as an individual employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week.

The IRS says, "Under the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions, if these employers do not offer affordable health coverage that provides a minimum level of coverage to their full-time employees (and their dependents), the employer may be subject to an Employer Shared Responsibility payment if at least one of its full-time employees receives a premium tax credit for purchasing individual coverage on one of the new Affordable Insurance Exchanges, also called a Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace)."

New Questions

One of the many issues that employers are asking about has to do with acceptable alternatives to providing a company health insurance plan for employees.  

Some businesses are asking if reimbursements to employees for premiums those employees may pay for health insurance (whether it is purchased through the ACA Marketplace or outside the Marketplace) is enough to meet regulations.  The IRS says an employer payment plan generally does NOT include an arrangement under which an employee may have an after-tax amount applied toward health coverage or take that amount in case compensation.

Here is an IRS which provides a question and answer section on this issue:

"Q1.  What are the consequences to the employer if the employer does not establish a health insurance plan for its own employees, but reimburses those employees for premiums they pay for health insurance (either through a qualified health plan in the Marketplace or outside the Marketplace)?

Under IRS Notice 2013-54, such arrangements are described as employer payment plans. An employer payment plan, as the term is used in this notice, generally does not include an arrangement under which an employee may have an after-tax amount applied toward health coverage or take that amount in cash compensation. As explained in Notice 2013-54, these employer payment plans are considered to be group health plans subject to the market reforms, including the prohibition on annual limits for essential health benefits and the requirement to provide certain preventive care without cost sharing.  Notice 2013-54 clarifies that such arrangements cannot be integrated with individual policies to satisfy the market reforms.  Consequently, such an arrangement fails to satisfy the market reforms and may be subject to a $100/day excise tax per applicable employee (which is $36,500 per year, per employee) under section 4980D of the Internal Revenue Code.

Q2. Where can I get more information?

On Sept. 13, 2013, the IRS issued Notice 2013-54, which explains how the Affordable Care Act’s market reforms apply to certain types of group health plans, including health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs) and certain other employer healthcare arrangements, including arrangements under which an employer reimburses an employee for some or all of the premium expenses incurred for an individual health insurance policy.

The Department Labor (DOL) has issued a notice in substantially identical form to Notice 2013-54, DOL Technical Release 2013-03. On Jan. 24, 2013, DOL and HHS issued FAQs that address the application of the Affordable Care Act to HRAs. On Nov. 6, 2014, DOL issued additional FAQs that address the application of the Affordable Care Act to HRAs and other payment arrangements."

There are a number of questions related to the ACA you may have, whether you employ 3 or 300 or 30,000 workers.  Answers depend upon a number of factors and can have a number of financial consequences.  Contact us at McRuer CPAs for a session with one of our tax experts to help you have confidence the decisions you make will be the best for the bottom line of your business.

RSS Feed

Welcome from Scott McRuer
& the McRuer CPAs Team

Scott McRuer
Learn more about Scott

Follow Scott and his team on your favorite social media

Facebook LinkedIn YouTube