Posts Tagged ‘tax problems’

Financial Horror Stories

PROTECT YOUR CASH!!! Investments too good to be true are. Learn the language of business before investing. #accounting #investing #Buffett #WarrenBuffett # money #cash #realestate #stocks #alternativeinvestmentsMy office manager, Karen, sat with a new restaurant client. Ten minutes later Karen was in my office with the financials of the client.

“She doesn’t understand why she is losing money, boss,” Karen said. “She says business is good, but she loses money every month.”

I looked at the profit and loss statement for less than ten seconds when I asked Karen, “Is this correct?” 

Karen named the bookkeeping firm the client used. It was a reputable firm. Karen said the client reported all income daily and reported it to the bookkeeper. The bookkeeper paid all the bills and provided a statement each month.

If the P&L was correct there was only one explanation. “One or more of her employees is embezzling.”

“Can you talk with the client?” Karen didn’t know what to tell her.

I went to Karen’s office and explained to the client she had at least one employee embezzling. 

“How do you know?” she asked.

I held up the P&L. “The cost of goods sold compared to wages compared to revenue are off. Someone is either walking out the back door with steaks and seafood or someone is stealing cash receipts.”

The client assured me she had honest employees. With only a glance at her financials I was certain there was malfeasance. 

“It might be a waitress. Do people leave money at the table or take it to the checkout person?

“Checkout person.”

“Okay, it probably isn’t her because the amount is too large. And while steak and seafood might be walking out the back door, the cost of goods sold is somewhat in line with employee wages. It is revenue that is off. 

“So tell me, do you have a security camera on the cash register?”

She told me she had no security cameras. 

“The employee at the cash register might be the problem.

“No,” she said. “That employee has been a friend since we were in kindergarten.”

That was all I needed to hear. With rare exception, embezzlement comes from people you trust the most. Either a family member, close friend or the faithful employee who hasn’t taken a vacation in eight years. There is a reason accountants demand business clients require anyone in their business handling money to take a two week vacation every year. You would be surprised how much embezzlement is uncovered when someone is on vacation.

“Your friend is robbing you blind,” I confirmed.

She still insisted her friend would never steal from her.

“Okay. This is what I want you to do. Go back to your restaurant and call a meeting with your employees. Tell them your new accountant is a real a-hole and demands a security camera be placed over the cash register.”

She did as I asked. Her friend since kindergarten quit on the spot. And profits arrived for the first time at her restaurant.

Unfortunately the theft had gone on for too long and the financial damage too great. A year later she closed her restaurant, deep in debt.

 

Warning Shot

A few weeks ago I published on the Fleecing of the FIRE Community. Some readers were irritated while others were concerned. I wrote things like:

Since you managed to acquire a respectable nest egg you think you are an experienced investor. It is doubtful you are!

and

Buying into an unconventional investment, which these bike communities are, should never happen unless you are very experienced financially and have the ability the lose 100% of your money without changing your lifestyle one iota.

and

You have no idea of some of the people on my desk I’m helping. These are serious issues; small fortunes completely destroyed unless I can find a way to preserve their wealth. I don’t always win.

When I published:

To keep this short I will close with one last suggestion. If you can’t read and interpret financial statements like a seasoned accountant you have no business being in any kind of exotic investment, real estate included. Stick to index funds and money market accounts.

You might not shoot the moon, but you will not suffer a catastrophic loss sending you back to square one, as a neophyte in the FIRE community once again.

people wanted to hear some of the horror stories, hoping to learn from other’s mistakes. 

I stand by my original advice: Don’t invest in things you know nothing about. If you can’t read a financial statement how will you understand if a rental property is a good buy? Or a business?

The next time you are tempted by a slick sales pitch at a conference (this is being published while FinCon is running in D.C.) or camp, come back and read a few of these true stories. Names are changed to protect the guilty (yeah, I think I’m funny); the stories are all true.

 

Supper Club

I have a group of clients that own several businesses around town. Two from this group with several outside investors own a supper club near my office. They called me in to handle taxes and consulting. It was bad from the start.

Once they bought the supper club they hired a manager. This was a guy they knew from running some income properties they owned. 

The manager and his wife handled the books.

The club was open for a bit before I was called in. I would review the books monthly and consult before preparing the annual corporate tax return.

I was to meet with the manager. When I arrived it didn’t take long to know something smelled bad. From the front door to the bar was all it took for me to know embezzlement was rife.

The bartender game me a cold attitude. There is no reason an employee of a business client should ever give the accountant an attitude. This told me the employees knew or suspected the malfeasance. The environment was bad.

I was shown to the office where I waited as the manager was running late.

I noticed a gap in the security cameras between the back office where I was and the safe. 

When the manager arrived he was livid. He made it clear I was never to touch the books unless he or his wife were present.

After the meeting I called one of the owners. I told him he had serious misappropriation of funds issues. I told him it was the manager bleeding him dry.

I was assured the manager was a good guy. I pointed out:

  1. The bartender’s attitude was unusual to see. Employees should care less if the accountant shows up. They should have been more interested in serving me a drink, hoping for a tip.
  2. The security camera gap between the office and safe was a serious issue.
  3. Any manager who is that adamant the accountant not see the books without supervision is practically an admission of guilt. There is only one reason to control what the accountant sees.

I knew who was embezzling (manager), where they were doing it (security camera gap near the safe), when they were stealing the funds (at closing the manager or his wife handled the money with no oversight) and how much (I estimated between $100,000 and $150,000 based on revenue).

When I was not taken seriously I said I was not interested in the account and hoped it would not affect my work on their other accounts. 

A year later one of the owners was in my office. It seems I was wrong. The manager was embezzling just as I said he was, except he misappropriated at least $300,000.

I reminded my client he probably did the same when he was managing their rental properties which always seemed to lose money, too.

 

Fish Farming

The moral of the first story is: If you can’t read a financial statement you have no business being in business.

The moral of the second story is: When your accountant’s BS alarm goes off, listen.

Invest in what you understand. Know your circle of competence. It is better to pass on a good investment than to invest in a bad one you don't understand. #stockmarket #business #sidehustle #sidegig #investmentsIn the second story the business survived and even later thrived. (Though I never got the account, but never lost the accounts of their other businesses.)

Now we turn to an income property story.

This didn’t happen to my client. I was a member of the Fox Cities Apartment Association many years ago when I owned a massive amount of real estate when I heard the story.

It seems a neophyte watched late night TV when he discovered he could be a gazzillionaire buying income property no-money down and cash flow right out of the gate. 

This guy bought an up/down duplex, filled the unit and enjoyed his new-found cash flow machine. 

As winter approached the tenant called and said the furnace was not working. The landlord went over to see if he could fix the problem without calling an expensive technician. 

When he gets to his property he finds the problem right off. The basement is filled with water!

It seems the tenant wanted to raise fish. Thank God he didn’t fill the basement to the electrical panel.

The foundation of the building was shot. Insurance didn’t cover the damage because it was the tenant’s fault. The landlord sued the tenant and won, but the tenant had no money and later disappeared. 

The city condemned the property and the bank foreclosed and socked the landlord with the shortage when the bank sold at a fire sale price. The landlord later declared bankruptcy. The stress destroyed his marriage. He lost his easy money investment, wife and had to pay 29% of his gross income in child support. I have no idea how he ever recovered.

The morals of this story are:

  1. Income property is NOT easy money,
  2. Always screen your tenants (his tenant had prior litigation with landlords),
  3. Always check your property, even if you have a property manager. An annual (or more often) personal inspection is a requirement in my opinion,
  4. Alternative investments, including income property, require a reserve to handle maintenance and excess damages, and
  5. No-money down deals are rarely a great deal. They are desperate deals.

This guy did everything wrong. He bought a crap property which attracted crap tenants. He put no money down and had no reserve, He never screened his tenants or inspected his property. What did he expect would happen?

 

Bad Advice

Some readers might notice I have no hair. It’s because I pulled it all out.

What non-bloggers might not understand is that bloggers can see when other blogs link to their site. Usually I’m curious to see what is said; usually I’m sorely disappointed.

For example, a blogger once published she never has an LLC for her income properties and linked to this post of mine as her reasoning. It was a 100% misunderstanding of what I said!

I have no problem with, and even recommend, income properties be held inside an LLC. What I also say is that you should never place real estate inside an S corporation or LLC electing to be treated as such for tax purposes.

The post this blogger linked to is about small businesses and not real estate so she read it all wrong. Which leads us to our last example so I can take an aspirin to dull this throbbing headache resulting from pounding my head into the corner of my office.

 

When it rains, it pours. I’m not talking salt either.

Last summer I had two consulting appointments with the exact same issue: income properties inside an S corporation. 

Since I could kill two birds with one stone I tried my darnedest to find a solution. I even hired a law firm in California to help. Alas, nothing could be done. Once real estate is inside and S corp it stays there, regardless the negative consequences. 

No-money down real estate is rarely a good deal. Usually you are buying something with lots of problems that is hard to sell. These steps can point out the ones that are really a bargain. #realestate #investing #nomoneydown #investment #goodinvestments(If you transfer real estate from an S corp to an owner of the S corp it is still treated as a sale at fair market value, triggering a capital gain (or loss). )

There are several reason why you should never, ever, ever put real estate inside an S corp or LLC electing to be treated as an S corp. 

First, if the S corp spent any time prior as a regular corporation (C Corp) it probably has accumulated earning. An S corp with any C corp accumulated earnings and 25% or more of the S corp’s earning are passive (rent, interest, dividends), the S corp is taxed at the highest C corp rate.

I know that is a mouthful and a lot of details are disregarded. (It’s actually more complicated than that tongue twister indicates.) Regular corporations now have a flat 21% tax rate so it might not be as bad as it once was. Still, it causes an S corp—a vehicle for managing a business with fewer taxes—to be taxed at the regular corporate rate.

It also adds complexity to the tax return. Good for the tax professional (if he can keep his sanity); bad for you.

This problem is easily avoided by going straight to an S corp which many do.

The real problem—and this is a big one—involves basis.

I know basis is hard to understand, but it is of vital importance here. 

Most people understand they have basis in their S corp if they invest money into their business. What is harder to understand is how loans affect basis.

S corps are unique in that loans by the corporation do not add to the shareholder’s basis unless the loan is from the shareholder. Even if you guarantee a loan taken out by the S corp it does not add to basis!

We will not bog ourselves down today on S corp basis nuances so don’t take my next statements as complete answers; they are not.

The two clients I consulted (and latter prepared their tax returns) have serious S corp basis issues because they had real estate in their S corp and the S corp took out loans. 

When this happens it is possible to show a loss (real estate depreciation can cause a loss while still cash flow positive) and use up basis. When that happens it is possible in some circumstances to pay a capital gains tax on distributions when the S corp shows a loss. 

Accelerating depreciation can really complicate this issue. Current tax law allows faster depreciation in some instances. Repairs and improvements are deducted easier now. And cost segregation studies can super charge depreciation deductions.

When real estate is in an S corp you always have to keep an eye on basis from the corner of your eye. 

Nothing is worse than paying taxes on losses! And it can happen in an S corp when the rules are not followed.

The clients’ intentions were never to break tax laws either. They did what they thought was correct or might have even read some tax articles and misunderstood the complex issues surrounding S corp taxation.

To fix this problem I’m working with the client to verify all loan are from the shareholder. Loans are structured so the shareholder takes out the bank loan and lends the funds to the S corp. That does add to basis! (This is the opposite of what banks do so they have to be told the consequences. If they don’t listen, get a different bank!)

The moral of this story is: Always seek the counsel of a competent legal and tax professional before buying real estate and/or starting an entity.

I know people around here love saving money, but you don’t save when you make a serious tax error. A small investment in an attorney and tax professional can yield massive returns and peace of mind. 

 

Coda

Warren Buffett once recommended you focus less on business school and more on taking a few accounting classes. I couldn’t agree more.

You can’t make an investment or run a business optimally without understanding the language of business: accounting. 

While business classes are great, a fundamental understanding of accounting will serve you in every facet of your life: personal finance, investing, work, side hustle, small business.

You would be surprised at how many people doing their own books record loan payments as an expense. (The interest portion of the payment is an expense; the rest is principle which is recorded against the liability on the balance sheet.) If something as simple as this is not understood, how can you possibly trust your judgement in running the business or in any investment decision?

My original comments are correct: People have no business making investments in things they don’t understand! My buddy Warren has said at least a googolplex times. 

All these crazy ideas brought to conferences and the various FI camps are accidents waiting to happen. You can make informed decisions when you understand the language. You, like me, might enjoy making small investments in strange products just to see how it works and plays out. Nothing wrong with that as long as you understand what you are doing.

Making large investments without understanding the investment is insane. Index funds and bank deposits are what you should limit yourself to if your accounting knowledge is limited. In fact, you shouldn’t even listen to any investments offers. All that could happen is you get sold and then God help your net worth because no one on the earth will. 

It is also never too late to learn. Colleges and tech schools around the country have superb accounting classes.The great news is accounting has been around a long time is and virtually unchanged in that time. You don’t need a prestigious college for a good accounting education. Even local night classes will make you a better investor.

 

It is temping to think you know more than you do when your stash grows. Success gives the illusion of intelligence. When the crisis arrives the illusion evaporates. 

Please, kind readers, use common sense. If you don’t fully understand the concept and the financials then take a pass. Better to miss a deal than to go all-in on a scam.

 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Credit Cards can be a powerful money management tool when used correctly. Use this link to find a listing of the best credit card offers. You can expand your search to maximize cash and travel rewards.

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

Hiring a World Class Tax Professional

It's your money. Finding the right tax professional to serve your needs is important. It's not just about adding a few numbers to a return; it's about helping you pay less in taxes and build your nest egg for retirement. Your family is counting on you. Make sure you have the right accountant on your team.What is the largest expense you’ll have in your life?

Some will say it’s the purchase of their home or their college education. Others, thinking about it a while, feel transportation expenses lead the list of lifetime expenses. You would be justified in thinking medical costs, including medical insurance, are the biggest expense you will face in life.

Yet none of these expenses are close to what you will pay in taxes over a lifetime. 

Taxes will consume over half of what the average American earns over a lifetime. This means no other expense can possibly be larger.

The list of taxes in nearly inexhaustible: federal income taxes, state income taxes, sales taxes, excise taxes, payroll taxes, property taxes and now tariffs are being added to the costs of many goods you buy.

Let’s take a look at the taxes a typical American pays:

  1. Federal income taxes: 20% (yes, you get deductions and credits, but many pay 20% or more after these tax reductions)
  2. State income taxes: 5% (some states are higher while some have no income tax)
  3. Sales taxes: 5% of spending (some items are not subject to sales tax however)
  4. Property taxes: 5% of income, but is levied against the value of the property so it can be a larger (or smaller) slice of your income
  5. Payroll taxes: 15.3% (half paid by employee, half by employer)
  6. Excise taxes: What isn’t taxed? From alcohol to fuel to tobacco to vehicle registration and so on.
  7. Import taxes: Tariffs are a tax paid by consumers of the country levying the tariff and that is going up in the U.S.
  8. Other taxes: As a consumer you pay the taxes of businesses in the form of higher prices. Taxes are built into virtually every product and service. Medical expenses are usually exempt from sales taxes, but the taxes on the system are passed on to consumers. If they didn’t they would go broke meaning the survivors do pass on the cost of their taxes.

No one tax seems insidious by itself, but added together they take a massive chunk of your wealth unless you take actions to lower your tax liability.

Some taxes are difficult to reduce. If you buy gasoline you will pay the excise tax, for example. 

You can avoid many taxes by refusing to consume. That is easier said than done after a certain point. Frugality can save a lot of money, but go too far and you cross the line into being cheap. And there is still something to be said about quality of life.

Reducing consumption doesn’t avoid all taxes. Less consumption means less sales tax, but your wages still get hit with payroll and incomes taxes. 

The good news is you can use the tax code to reduce taxes beyond the mere consumption taxes (sales and excise). The United States has a progressive tax system which means your tax bite increases with your level of income. The first $24,000 of income on a joint return is tax-free because that is the standard deduction. Earn several hundred thousand and your top dollar earned can be taxed at over 30%. And that is just federal taxes. The state you live in wants a chunk too.

 

Investing in Tax Avoidance

Tax avoidance can be a dirty word in the tax profession since it is often the words we use when illegal activities are involved to avoid taxes. However, tax avoidance can be 100% legal!

There are two type of tax avoidance you need to consider: tax deferred and tax-free.

Tax deferred strategies push the tax into the future when you pay them with deflated dollars and potentially a lower tax bracket. Tax-free strategies avoid income taxes completely.

Is your tax professional Wealthy Accountant Certified? The right accountant can  reduce your taxes, help you accumulate wealth and achieve your financial goals.The Tax Code is massive and changing all the time. At the risk of sounding self-serving, you need a qualified tax professional if you are serious about reducing your tax liability. The Tax Code is too complex to navigate effectively without experienced help.

I could go into several tax reducing strategies today, but this isn’t a post on specific strategies. Besides, your facts and circumstances will probably dictate a slightly to radically different approach to meet your needs.

This is where you might think I would recommend my office for your needs. Except that isn’t going to happen.

I closed my office to new clients six months ago until June 1st (which is fast approaching). Unfortunately, a few factors will not make that a good choice for you after June 1st.

First, my regular clients filled May and June to the hilt so in reality July is the earliest I can get a new client in for a consultation.

Second, I decided (with my team) to focus more on local clients. (I owe my community my services. They breathed lifeblood into my firm and spreading myself too thin is very problematic.)

Third, my health had deteriorated significantly.

Before we continue onto solutions you can use I will take short detour into my health issues.

 

Learning to Breathe

When I was 18 or 19 years old I entered a silo with silo gas. Like a good worker I toughed it out to finish the work. Unfortunately, silo gas damages the lungs.

The best accountants do more than prepare taxes; they advise their clients for maximum wealth. You work hard for your money. Keep as much as legally possible while growing your net worth.I’ve since had short bouts of difficult breathing. These bouts are accompanied with persistent coughing. Cold weather makes it worse.

This past winter started early and lasted long. It isn’t hard to say we had a good six months of winter in the Northwoods of Wisconsin this year. 

I started out good this winter, but didn’t travel south for a short respite from the cold this year.

Around mid-February I started losing my voice (some might actually think that is a good thing). The cough soon followed. With tax season in full swing I was never granted a reprieve. The cough got seriously worse.

Here it is mid-May and the cough is still running strong; three months of hell and still going. The doctor said there is nothing she can do and recommended extended rest. (Well, that doesn’t work well with me.) 

I hurt. A lot. Nothing I do or take seems to work. Summer heat can’t come soon enough.

The cough has sapped my strength to the point I nearly faint when coughing spells hit which is often (like 5-10 times an hour).

To top it off my voice is gone. It has started to come back a bit, but the last days of tax season were so bad I couldn’t talk and breathe at the same time. It was difficult breathing at all! I still find it hard to breathe often. (And I never smoked, in case you’re wondering.)

 

Finding an Ace Tax Professional

No one person can be the go-to guy of the industry. I might be good, but pushed my body too hard and now the price is being paid. 

My openings available this year will be limited so I can produce two courses you will find valuable and to make Camp Accountant a reality. If my health does not improve I will take no additional clients this year.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve been sitting around twiddling my thumbs! I am fully aware of my limitations and have taken steps to provide more qualified choices for you.

Hopefully you have noticed the Finding a Local Tax Pro link at the top of most pages of this blog. The list of tax professionals is still small, but growing.

Not all areas of the U.S. are covered. If you are a tax professional who follows my philosophy, consider adding your name to the list. If you know of a tax professional who does outstanding work, consider nominating them for inclusion on the list. I will contact them before adding them to the list. (They have to want to be a part of this.)

 

Certified Wealthy Accountant Tax Professionals

And that brings up a good point. What level of quality do the tax pros on the list have?

The question recently arrived via email. A reader wanted to know what I thought of one of the tax pros on the list. In that instance I confessed I did not know the tax pro mentioned and could not vouch for their level of competence.

However, those on the list had to take action to get there. They either read this blog or follow my work as I post it around social media. I would be surprised if they were below average. (Let me know your experience. Too many bad marks and they will be off the list. The good news is I have received no bad comments on any tax pros on the list! Fingers crossed that continues.)

Still, it is not good enough to just put names on a list without vetting them. Over the next year I will take steps to “certify” tax pros on the list as Wealthy Accountant Approved. (They can be still be on the list if not “certified”, but I think people visiting this blog will steer toward the “certified” names.) It might eventually roll out to a national designation showing tax professionals who not only are competent, but can add value to their clients by consulting and providing actionable tax strategies to increase wealth (like maxing out retirement plans, maximizing tax credits, et cetera).

Tax professionals who attend Camp Accountant will be offered the “certified” designation. Tax professionals I have worked with personally and trust their work will also gain the designation. 

Rather than simple testing, I plan an in-depth vetting process to include the best of the best tax professionals on this blog’s list with the Wealthy Accountant Approved designation.

This is a valuable resource for you and the tax pro. You know the tax pro meets a high standard and the tax pro can charge more for their exceptional level of professionalism. (Smart people are never afraid to pay more for quality. It is the high price for mediocre quality that irritates.)

 

Putting a Good Tax Pro to Work

Top-notch tax professionals are always busy. The good news is you don’t have to settle for one tax pro!

As the tax pro list grows you will have more opportunities to find a Wealthy Accountant tax pro locally. Until then you can keep your current accountant while gaining the full benefit of using a Wealthy Accountant tax pro.

You work hard for your money. The right accountant can help reduce your tax burden while helping you build your retirement accounts. Save for your future; have more time with friends and family; travel the world. It all starts with the right accountant on your team.Tax season is not the time you save money tax planning. Tax season is triage in ALL tax offices! The options for saving taxes on the return being filed is massively limited (y’all want an IRA deduction with that, is about all we can do).

Reducing your taxes happens now, outside tax season. A few hours of consulting can pay off with a massive return. It is not uncommon for my clients to save 10 times or more than my fee in taxes. This is a 1,000% return! Some clients save even more. In some cases I don’t reduce their taxes but help them understand their tax and financial situation better so they can maximize wealth creation even if taxes are not reduced.

It is rare for a client consultation to end with tax reductions less than my fee. In those cases the value is usually increased wealth from other sources or fixing a tax issue that is sure to bite the client in the future.

I encourage you to use this resource: the Finding a Local Tax Pro list. I do NOT charge anyone to be on this list! This is for you, kind readers. There is no financial benefit to me. You get the value and I get the warm fuzzy feeling more of you are getting the service you deserve and that I can no longer provide. Yes, Camp Accountant has a fee, but that is to cover the costs of the Camp. I want Wealthy Accountant Certified to mean something everyone can trust. I want a day to come when everyone demands their tax professional be Wealthy Accountant Certified whether on this list or not.

 

As much as I want to help the world, I am one man who has pushed his body too far. I have to think smarter if I am to help every one of you kind readers. Just because I can help someone doesn’t mean I should. Too much work can break the horses back. Well, this horse is struggling with health issues as a result. 

I’m never one to shy away from work. I love what I do, even when it hurts. But if I go down no one is helped. I owe it to you, every one of you, to act and think smarter. The audience is too large for one small office in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin to handle. 

I need a team and one is being built. I will give all I have because you deserve only the best. When I push too far it is impossible to give the best. 

With the expanding team of tax professionals around the nation we can serve you at the highest level possible.

Don’t be afraid to hire a tax pro from the list. Ask the right questions before hiring. I published two posts on this in the past: 7 Questions Rich People Ask Their Accountant and Finding a Good Accountant.

Ask questions to verify the tax pro can serve your needs. Many tax professionals specialize. As long as you’re going to pay for the service you may as well get the best one possible.

 

In parting, do not worry about your favorite accountant. I thought the end of tax season would give me a breather (pun intended), but so far the cough and breathing issues have not improved. Warmer weather and time off (tax season really doesn’t end until June or so as extensions and questions come in rapid-fire until then) should allow me to heal. I am a bit worried this has lasted so long and so strong.

I’ll survive, no matter how much it hurts. I always do. I am fully aware of your presence and need, kind readers. I will find a way to get every one of you served to the level you deserve and more.

 

 

More Wealth Building Resources

Credit Cards can be a powerful money management tool when used correctly. Use this link to find a listing of the best credit card offers. You can expand your search to maximize cash and travel rewards.

Personal Capital is an incredible tool to manage all your investments in one place. You can watch your net worth grow as you reach toward financial independence and beyond. Did I mention Personal Capital is free?

Side Hustle Selling tradelines yields a high return compared to time invested, as much as $1,000 per hour. The tradeline company I use is Tradeline Supply Company. Let Darren know you are from The Wealthy Accountant. Call 888-844-8910, email Darren@TradelineSupply.com or read my review.

Medi-Share is a low cost way to manage health care costs. As health insurance premiums continue to sky rocket, there is an alternative preserving the wealth of families all over America. Here is my review of Medi-Share and additional resources to bring health care under control in your household.

QuickBooks is a daily part of life in my office. Managing a business requires accurate books without wasting time. QuickBooks is an excellent tool for managing your business, rental properties, side hustle and personal finances.

cost segregation study can reduce taxes $100,000 for income property owners. Here is my review of how cost segregation studies work and how to get one yourself.

Worthy Financial offers a flat 5% on their investment. You can read my review here. 

New Tax Law Changes Dangerous to Your Wealth

On a recent ChooseFI podcast where I was the guest speaker I mentioned the possibility the backdoor Roth and her sister tax strategy, the laddered Roth, could be going away. Many people heard me say it WAS going away. That is false. It is only a proposal at this time.

Because so many potential tax law changes now whispered in the halls of Congress have the potential to cause great damage to those in retirement or working an accelerated program toward financial independence (FI), now is the perfect time to review those with the highest possibility of happening. A word of caution before we begin. These are only ideas floating around Congress. They are NOT current tax law! Not all ideas whispered in the halls of Congress become law, but all laws start as a whisper in the halls of Congress. There is a difference.

Most ideas for tax law changes never see the light of day or are significantly modified before becoming a law. Some ideas become law in a few years, other may take a decade or longer before working through both houses of Congress and signed into law by the President. As we review the ideas now floating around Congress I will give my opinion on the likelihood the change will take place and how soon.

Remember, this is one guy’s opinion. My opinion carries weight because I have decades of experience. I also rely upon sources outside my own viewpoint, such as continuing education courses I’ve attended, The Kiplinger Tax Letter, and calls to several Congressmen. (It should be noted I rarely get to speak with an actual lawmaker. Usually I speak with a staff member. They can still be very helpful with potential tax law changes working through the system.)

What’s All the Hubbub, Bub?

The Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House. There is a strong desire to cut taxes on businesses massively while not raising taxes on individuals. This is easier said than done. Cutting the top tax bracket for most businesses to 15% – 20%, while leaving individual rates unchanged, would blast a multi-trillion dollar hole in the federal budget. This is a serious problem.

The only way to make it work is to reduce or eliminate deductions and tax strategies. Congress can pass a tax bill without a tax bracket increase and claim they didn’t raise taxes even if what you owe goes up. But if you pay more in taxes it is a tax increase! So you can get a tax increase while the politicians smile big claiming they didn’t raise anyone’s taxes. Taxes make liars out of everyone, especially politicians.

Some changes make sense even if they hurt the demographic reading this blog. I don’t like the idea many powerful tax strategies might go away, but I understand why Congress may plug certain tax loopholes. Always remember I am on your side.

The original premise of this post started from my statement the backdoor Roth and laddered Roth would go away. I love the backdoor Roth, but it is really an end around of what Congress intended. The current law says you can contribute into a Roth IRA until your income reaches a certain level and then the Roth option is phased out until it is completely unavailable to high income taxpayers. The backdoor Roth is just a sneaky way to do an end around regardless of income. The laddered Roth the same.

Since the backdoor Roth raises very little tax revenue it is an easy target. Money not invested in a Roth IRA might be spent, increasing economic growth, leading to modest increases in tax collections by the government. The real advantage is down the road when the tax-free growth is taxed instead.

Once again, now is not the time to panic. This is NOT tax law yet. It may never happen. It could be effective January 1st of 2018, which is the earliest I think it could happen. A more likely outcome is a January 1st, 2019 effective date. Time will tell.

What all this talk of reducing the advantages of retirement plans you need to kick it in the tail and max out those retirement accounts now while you have the full advantage available. If ever there was a motivation to supercharge your FI goals, now is the time. The backdoor Roth and the following ideas to change the tax code makes waiting to up your savings rate a dangerous, expensive and wealth endangering exercise.

The Bad News Bears

Many of the ideas being toyed with by Congressmen are vague. What is coming out of Congress in whispers are not complete tax code changes. Some of what is reaching my ears requires some background tax knowledge to understand what is probably being proposed. Some of these ideas are so vague I am only making an educated guess as to how the change would be accomplished. Regardless, you need a basic understanding of what lawmakers are anticipating changing in the tax code. It is essential in your tax planning process.

Many of these proposals come from a 2014 tax reform plan that never got traction. As mentioned above, these things frequently take time before they start moving forward. Variations of some of these proposals are likely to be enacted.

Now it’s time to scare the bejesus out of you.

Have a seat, kind readers, there are lawmakers serious about a proposal to reduce the amount of pretax contributions to your 401(k) by up to half! The current annual contribution limit is $18,000 with an additional $6,000 allowed for those 50 and older. This means you could only deduct up to $9,000 per year or $12,000 for older taxpayers if this proposal is enacted. The key word here is pretax. The contribution level would still be $18,000, but any amount over $9,000 would automatically go into a Roth 401(k). On its surface this may not seem like a serious issue. However, it takes away a massive planning tool. Many credits are calculated off total income or adjusted gross income. Your mix of retirement investments between traditional and Roth plans can be modified each year to maximize your tax savings. If this controversial proposal becomes law it will seriously curtail your ability to reduce your tax burden by adjusting your retirement investment mix.

The above proposal also means if you are in a higher tax bracket while you are working—a common occurrence—you will be limited in your deduction at today’s higher tax rate and will be unable to take advantage of your lower tax rate in retirement.

Another idea floating around is to eliminate all traditional (deductible) IRA contributions, limiting IRA contributions to Roth IRAs only. As much as I love the Roth IRA, this accountant is horrified over the loss of flexibility from the loss of deductible retirement contributions. People do not save enough already in the U.S. These proposals will take away a massive incentive to get people to start or continue to save and invest.

Short-sighted goals to raise tax revenues for the government will end badly. The low savings rate of the U.S. would be forced lower to raise a small amount of revenue to offset massive tax cuts for businesses. The small added gain to economic growth would be temporary. With fewer savings, hence a smaller personal safety net, would exacerbate future recessions and strain the system more as people age; forget about early retirement.

Another bone-headed idea is to eliminate the Simple 401(k) and SEP plans. Existing plans would be grandfathered. This idea has been bounced around for several years now. If you are able to open a Simple 401(k) or SEP, now might be the time to preserve the option. (Note: Simple 401(k) plans look and act a lot like SIMPLE IRA plans.)

If all this isn’t damage enough, there are some lawmakers who favor cutting the cap on retirement contribution by employers and employees or freezing the contribution limits so they are not inflation adjusted. The Republican proposals are built on a foundation of discouraging savings and investments. Your favorite accountant does not favor short-term solutions to solve long-term federal budget problems. It seems to me if more Americans had a higher liquid net worth it would be better for the country, not worse.

According to Kiplinger (not an affiliate link), the White House claims retirement plan incentives are safe. Considering the current environment, I take no comfort, nor do I trust, what comes out of Congress or the White House. This could be a fight for the ages. Stay tuned.

Some (Modest) Good News

There are several proposals to improve S corporations. The most notable is allowing IRAs to be eligible shareholders. This could open powerful possibilities if it becomes law. There are additional S corporation changes proposed, but they will affect a much smaller group. Due to their complexities and time I will leave that discussion for another day when it appears the changes are imminent.

The one piece of good news seems unlikely to become law unless it is part of a larger tax reform bill.

Sorry for the downer this morning. It was too important to leave unsaid. You, kind readers, need this information to plan accordingly. Now more than ever it is imperative you increase your savings rate now. Eliminate debt, save and invest. A solid plan can reduce the damage the government inflicts. Those who wait will take the full blunt force of the assault.

As readers of this blog there is no need for you to be the victim.