Taxes and Investing

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Deduct work home expenses with an accountable plan.

Deduct Work Expenses When Working From Home

By Keith Taxguy / October 28, 2020 /

The timing could not have been worse for remote workers. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 nixed the deduction for work from home expenses and other unreimbursed employee business expenses. 

Prior to the TCJA it wasn’t the best deduction in the world either. You had to itemize to get the deduction and it was combined with several other deductions and then reduced by 2% of your adjusted gross income. But it was at least available and with some planning could provide modest tax relief.

Self-employed people can still deduct these expenses on their or Schedule C. Same for farmers (Schedule F) and income property owners (Schedule E). 

For employees, the deduction is now gone, unless you know the rules. With proper planning you can benefit by working from home, getting a tax benefit for work related expenses. The home office, the pro-rata share of utilities, insurance, property taxes and/or rent and mortgage interest can get tax-free treatment. Same for office supplies and equipment. And don’t forget business travel expenses.

Working from home has plenty of benefits: no office politics, no fighting traffic and every day is casual day. The downside is you have expenses at home that can’t be deducted on your tax return. We are going to fix that right now.

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What you spend on is more important than frugality.

5 Things Millionaires Spend On

By Keith Taxguy / October 8, 2020 /

When it comes to the blogs and other tracts providing information on building wealth, frugality carries most of the weight. And it makes sense. The greater the difference of income over spending is a strong determinant of the level of wealth an individual will achieve during their lifetime as compared to their income level. 

As important as frugality is, spending is even more important, even if it doesn’t garner the required column inches the matter deserves. Spending less than you earn is the seed money for investments and without investments it is impossible to build significant wealth.

As an accountant I see people from all spectrums of income. Frugality, even hyper-frugality, is the hallmark of those with modest levels of wealth. Even the lowest income earners can amass a half million or more in a working career when frugality is taken to religious levels, with the excess invested in equities like index funds.

Mid-levels of income also do well with only the single tool of frugality. As their wealth grows they sometimes seek out professionals to help them. These clients tend to want short consulting sessions once a year with a review at tax time. 

Then come the serious achievers. These people sometimes have modest incomes, sometimes large incomes.  Regardless their income level, these people smack it out of the park. Their level of wealth is well beyond what would be expected for their income level or level of frugality (the excess of income above spending).

Super-achievers in wealth building focus on spending more than frugality. They know spending is more important. And they know most spending drains their energy and wealth while proper spending can actually make them richer!

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COVID-19

The Financial Agony of COVID-19: Part II

By Keith Taxguy / September 24, 2020 /

Five months ago COVID-19 was just getting started. Fear was rampant. People and businesses made rushed decisions with long-term consequences. In the U.S. fewer than 10,000 people had died from the virus, yet fear was many more would die. 

Over concerns clients and readers (that is you my kind friends) would make poor financial decisions, I published an article encouraging caution and recommended people relax, breathe deeply and think before making a decision. By thinking before acting, I felt my people would be in a better position to make decisions that would serve them well. 

Then I watched my readers act and react on social media. The spread of COVID-19 should have run a chill down the spines of any normal human being. But social media does not bring out the “normal” in people. Some over-reacted with the attitude everyone should shelter in place forever. But as always happens, the disease became “normal” as we saw it every day. Before long people wanted to get out and act as if nothing was wrong or that the risk had ended. The middle, sensible, ground somehow lost out. 

It is sad the intelligent solutions lost out. Again, social media was rife with conspiracy theories, questionable remedies and outright lies. Social distancing, washing hands and masks are three simple things everyone can do to slow the spread of the virus until a vaccine can end its rein of terror.

Logic didn’t work 5 months ago, so now I have to get blunt. This is a financial blog so there is a reason for the focus on a medical issue. Your reaction to COVID-19 is a large part of the way you think. If you conduct stupid, risky behavior with your life, you probably do even worse when it comes to money. The best way for me to convey this message is with the good cop/bad cop routine. 

There are two parts to this post. Part 1 is a mild comedy sketch of the facts. In Part 2 we will put it together and pull out meaningful and valuable data you can use. This value will increase your wealth and allow you to live long enough to enjoy it. Remember, Part 1 is dark comedy and not my opinion. I don’t want hate mail before you read the whole story.

The faulty logic used in our dark humor skit is more than a risk to our physical health; it is the same mindset that harms you financially. We actually have people who believe 1,000 or more dead Americans a day isn’t that bad. There are people who think it is okay to carry on as if nothing has changed because only old people suffer the consequences. They forgot their Hemingway: Do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (For exact quote use the link.) The clock keeps counting for all of us and since I see no old people saying, “I don’t care if young people do stuff that might kill me,” I assume today’s young people will want respectfully behavior from the future’s youth.

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Beating the SALT Deduction Limit

By Keith Taxguy / July 6, 2020 /

As you can see by the details of the programs from the states above that have some form of pass-through entity tax that the rules vary widely by state. Many use a credit to pass-through the benefit while others adjust income on the member level.

Many considerations need to be taken into account. Even if the SALT limit were eliminated there would still be instances where the pass-through entity tax would be beneficially to entity members. 

There are also reasons not to make the election (except in Connecticut where it is mandatory) as the pass-through entity tax can affect the Qualified Business Income Deduction, Earned Income Credit, Saver’s Credit, Premium Tax Credit and more.

The tax professional preparing the entity return and that of all the members will have an easier time determining the best course of action.

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Charitable Giving for Businesses

By Keith Taxguy / June 1, 2020 /

Sponsorships are technically not charitable giving; they are an advertising or promotional expense to the business. It requires only a modest amount of planning to gain full deductibility of monies paid to non-profit organizations and other social groups. 

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The CARES Act: Maximizing the Employee Retention Credit (ERC)

By Keith Taxguy / May 16, 2020 /

A large number of business owners have avoided the many benefits the government has offered in these trying times. The large number of choices has led to a perfect example of people’s behavior when confronted with too many choices. Even tax professionals are struggling to understanding all the different programs. Alvin Toffler’s overchoice is clearly hampering small business owners. Too many options reduces the number of businesses that will apply for any, even if they qualify. That is the biggest risk facing the American economy in 2020. If business owners shy away from programs designed to help them through these unique times more will fail, costing jobs and long-term damage to the economy and harming America’s competitiveness. 

I encourage you to discuss your situation with a competent tax professional. Yes, the IRS is still playing with the rules because they haven’t figured it all out yet themselves. But you can still plan accordingly. Whether a PPP loan or the Employee Retention Credit is best for you, you owe it to your employees, community and yourself to explore all the options.

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This is Not the Next Great Depression

By Keith Taxguy / May 6, 2020 /

The willingness of leaders in Washington to spend whatever is necessary, coupled with the Federal Reserve’s willingness to use unlimited resources to counter the economic dislocation, make it impossible for economic activity to descend into the chaos of the 1930s. Stimulus checks to individuals and forgivable loans to small businesses will limit the damage. Make no mistake, the damage will be acute and will linger. That lesson was taught us by The Great Depression. WWII spending proved the path necessary financially to beat the economic demon into submission. 

More proposals keep coming forward. Nearly $3 trillion in stimulus spending is already passed and working its way into the hands of individuals and businesses. It is not enough and will run short. Congress knows it and keeps pumping more stimulus measures at every whiff of a slowing economy. How much more stimulus spending will come is anyone’s guess. All I know is nobody seems to want to rein in the excesses at this time. And that is probably a good thing. The 26% of GDP deficit in 1943 is only the worst year of many with large fiscal deficits in the early 1940s. The spending was insane back then and America thrived afterwards. With the money going into the hands of Americans (back then and now) there is no doubt in this accountant’s mind the economy will pass this painful speed bump reasonably quickly with far fewer casualties than if belated measures similar to 2008-9 were used; or worse, the reluctant policies of 1929-1932.

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Why the Economy Will Struggle to Restart

By Keith Taxguy / April 16, 2020 /

Restarting the economy is going to be more difficult than it was stopping it. A vigorous discussion on the topic is desperately needed as many feel talking about opening the economy is akin to reigniting the infection rate when in reality the discussion is needed to formulate an appropriate and workable plan.

Talking about restarting the economy is good policy. Shutting down large swaths of economic activity was necessary for public health. And for the most part it was a fairly easy process: governors gave the order and their state ground to a halt as people sheltered in place, giving COVID-19 no viable path to propagate. The same happened around the world. It is The Day the World Stopped.

The spread of COVID-19 had slowed and in many countries has all but stopped. Concerns the virus is picking up steam where social distancing is relaxed is still a real risk. However, policies designed to slow the spread of the virus appear to be working. Multiple medical therapies hold promise and a massive effort to develop a vaccine are in progress. A vaccine would be a game changer, but realistically that is still as much as 1 ½ years away before it becomes available. The economic price would be too high, and the resulting harm to human health from lack of services, too damaging to wait over a year before reopening the closed parts of the economy.

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