Two Ways Your Taxes are Like a Vacation. Really!

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1. They both require planning.

You’ve probably never thought about it quite this way, but just like a vacation, maximizing the tax benefits you are entitled to requires some advance planning.

2. The best months to plan are May, June, and July.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive at first, removing the pressures and deadlines of tax filing season translates to more focused, big picture planning.

Meeting with clients about their taxes as we approach year end—or worse, during the height of filing season—is almost like trying to plan your vacation on your flight home. Traditionally, clients most often come in to meet with us during February and March, which limits our discussion to a prior year’s tax filing. And because the main focus is to complete your income tax return at that time, we are constrained to discussing only past events.

Over the course of the last three years we have determined that the best window for effective client meetings is from late spring through early summer. This timeframe allows us to take a longer view of your financial future and provide more in-depth assistance that will be to your advantage.

Whether you are interested in seeing us for current tax planning, budgeting assistance, or exit strategies for retirement, we are confident that—just like a good vacation—scheduling these meetings in warmer weather will take away some of the stress of tax planning and bring the most benefit to all of our clients. Keep an eye out for more information about scheduling financial strategy meetings with us in 2019.

Payroll Withholding Calculator

Curious about whether your 2018 withholding will be sufficient under the new tax laws? The IRS has made available a new self-service online tool which can help you determine this. It is important to read the instructions carefully before you start, as you will need to have documentation handy to answer several of the questions (e.g.most recent tax return, pay stubs).

The system will prompt you for missing information, but you will need to know things like your projected income for 2018, and number of children who qualify for the child tax credit (they must be under age 17 as of 12/31/18), so make sure to gather everything you need before you start the questionnaire. Also, please note that If your health care is through the Health Connector, this amount will not factor in to the ACA premium tax credits.

You can access the Withholding Calculator at this link:
https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator

Fraud Alerts

Scam AlertUnfortunately, we continue to hear frequently from clients who are concerned about threatening phone calls claiming to be from the IRS about delinquent taxes. Please know that the IRS will never initiate contact with you via email, nor call and threaten you with arrest. We cannot state strongly enough that you should never send personal financial data in response to an unsolicited email, nor give it over the phone to someone you can’t verify.

Criminals continue to find new ways to steal people’s money and identities. One of the latest scams involves trying to direct you to a phony IRS website that will ask for personal data. The following link will take you to the real IRS website for information about the many phone and e-mail scams that are currently making the rounds: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-scamsconsumer-alerts

We also want to make you aware of a new payroll theft scheme where employee login information is stolen through fake e-mails. Once cybercriminals have this, direct deposits can be diverted to fraudulent accounts. The link below is a public service announcement from the FBI detailing the specifics.
https://www.ic3.gov/media/2018/180918.aspx

Portal Uploads: ***Important*** Information You Need to Know

Before you upload your documents to the portal this tax season, take a moment to make sure you have collected everything we’re going to need to process your return. We keep a log of client upload notifications, and process them in the order they are received, provided that we have all of the necessary documentation. If information is missing and/or if we receive multiple notifications of uploads to your folder, you will be required to notify us when the FINAL upload has been submitted. This will allow us to log you in as received and begin processing your returns.

One upload per client ensures that we can keep returns moving through as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thank you for helping us continue our commitment to excellence in customer service!

Remember: Don’t file your taxes until all of your 2018 health insurance tax forms have been received

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The Mass Health Connector will send Form 1095-A to members by the end of January. Those insured through the Health Connector should wait to get a Form 1095-A before filing their federal tax return.

If you had a 2018 ConnectorCare plan, or a monthly tax credit to lower your premiums in 2018, you must file a federal income tax return.Filing is a requirement even if you normally don’t file a federal tax return because you have no income or your income is low.

What is Form 1095-A?

Form 1095-A provides the following information for Health Connector members

  • Months covered by the Health Connector
  • How much tax credit was applied to monthly premiums in 2018
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Form 1095-A has information needed to answer questions for Form 8962 when you file a federal tax return. Form 8692 tells the IRS if you got the correct amount of tax credit in 2018.  For more information, you can visit the Mass health connector website here.

Tax Year Organizers: Keep an Eye Out for the E-mail

Our only automated delivery method for organizers this year will be via the portal, though we will still make hard copies available to our clients by special request.

You should keep an eye on your inbox for an e-mail with a link to the portal where you can retrieve your organizer. If you do not have an e-mail on file with us, or would prefer to receive a hard copy mailed to you, you will need to call our office at (781) 337-8788 to make the request.

As always, we are happy to accommodate hard copy requests, but bear in mind that this may cause a delay in receiving your organizer, and consequently in processing your return.

Deductible Mileage Rates Increase for 2019

The optional standard mileage rates taxpayers use in computing the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, or moving expense purposes are going up for 2019. Keep in mind, though, that there are also new rules to consider under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and not everyone can deduct these expenses.  

Notably, for self-employed business owners there will be an increase to 58 cents per mile for cars, vans, pickups, or panel trucks used for business.The IRS has issued Notice 2019-02, available here, which details all of the new rates.

The notice also provides the amount taxpayers must use in calculating reductions to basis for vehicle depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

An overview of the recently issued notice, including eligibility limitations and can be found on the official IRS website here.

IRS: Tax Filing Season Won’t Be Delayed by Government Shutdown

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According to Ken Corbin, the commissioner of the IRS’s Wage and Investment division, the IRS will start the tax filing season on time in spite of the agency being shut down as Congress negotiates a government funding deal.

“The start of the filing season hasn’t yet been announced, but the agency is ‘tracking very well’ for it to begin in late January or early February, as is typical,” said Corbin. The agency will announce a start date after it has completed testing all systems in compliance with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. When the government shuts down, “the agency can still have ‘critical staff’ work to complete tasks required to launch the filing season,” he said.

If anything should change, we’ll be sure to keep you informed.

2019 MA Vehicle Rentals Will Support Police Training

Starting January 1, 2019, if you rent a vehicle in Massachusetts you might notice a small but unexpected addition to your bill. In July of 2018 Governor Baker signed into law Bill H.4516, “An Act Relative to the Municipal Police Training Fund,” that, in part, adds a two-dollar surcharge to short-term vehicle rentals in the state.

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The proceeds from the vehicle rental surcharge will go to support the efforts of the Municipal Police Training Committee, which is responsible for setting standards and conducting trainings for local police, UMass police, and state environmental police.

Vendors are being notified of this new surcharge, which they will be required to add to rentals of passenger cars, trucks, vans, and trailers, but only for contracts with a duration of more than 12 hours, but less than 30 days.

You can visit the Mass.gov website here if you are interested in learning more.

The Potential Tax Reform Timing Glitch

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Let’s face it: Taxes are complicated. That’s why so many people hire professionals to assist in the process. Ironically, this year’s tax season headaches started for the IRS shortly after the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last year. While many are anticipating a simpler process moving forward, the sheer amount of documentation that must be updated to comply with new and existing rules is anything but simple for the agency that regulates it.Imagine all the different forms, guides, systems and software the IRS uses that have to be changed and checked before April 15th, 2019. The article linked below discusses how, even though the IRS didn’t waste any time setting up a plan to get the revisions done as quickly as possible, the complex nature of the overall task is pushing deadlines. 

What does this mean for you? It could mean that the filing window gets delayed. And while that may be frustrating for early filers who count on quick returns, it’s also a reminder that an undertaking this massive—that affects literally every taxpayer in the country—requires special attention. And that may take some extra time.Read more about the details here: http://www.fool.com/taxes/2018/11/18/why-the-2019-tax-season-could-get-off-to-a-rocky-s.aspx