Name mismatch?

If you or a dependent had a name change in 2016, notify the Social Security Administration (SSA) before you file your tax return with the IRS. If the name on your tax return does not match SSA records, the IRS is likely to notify you about the mismatch. Any refund you expected could be delayed. So if marriage, divorce, or child adoption resulted in a name change, file Form SS-5 with the SSA to inform them of the change.

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Tax tips for newlyweds

The tax implications of marriage are probably not the first thing on the minds of most newlyweds, but paying a little attention to it now can save time and even money later. Here are a few tips to help those who are about to embark on a new life together.

Tip 1: Notify the Social Security Administration with any name change(s). The IRS has a name match program with the SSA and will potentially reject deductions and joint filing if the name change is not made timely. Do this by filing Form SS-5 with the SSA.

Tip 2: Use Form 8822 to update your address with the IRS if either of you is moving.

Tip 3: Change your name and addresses with your employer and the Postal Service to ensure your W-2s are correctly stated and delivered to the proper address.

Tip 4: If selling one or two residences, make sure you review how capital gains tax laws apply to your situation. This is especially important if one of you has been in your home for only a short time or if either home has appreciated in value.

Tip 5: Review legal documents to ensure legal titles are as you wish them to be. This includes bank accounts, titles on property, credit cards, insurance policies, and living wills.

Tip 6: Recalculate your payroll withholdings and file a new W-4. If both newlyweds work, your combined income could put you into a higher tax bracket. This phenomenon is referred to as “the marriage penalty.” By changing withholdings now, you can avoid a big surprise at tax time.

Tip 7: Review your employee benefits and make necessary changes in health care, insurance, retirement account beneficiaries, and tax-preferred spending accounts. Marriage is a qualified event to make mid-year changes by most employees.

If you or someone close to you has questions about marriage and taxes, give us a call. We’d love to help.

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Don’t make an expensive mistake with your IRA

Simple mistakes on your IRA can cost you dearly. Perhaps you accidentally doubled up on your IRA contribution for 2016. Did you forget to take your required minimum distribution and then notice the oversight when you were gathering the information to file your federal tax return? These mistakes can lead to penalties – up to 50% in the case of a missed required minimum distribution. Fortunately, you may be able to get the penalties waived by correcting the errors promptly. Contact us for details.

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Tax records – What you should keep

It’s that time of year when you are getting ready to sort out last year’s financial records and prepare for this year’s recordkeeping. Do you know what you should keep and what can you throw away? Here are some suggestions.

Keep records that directly support income or expense items on your tax return. For income, this includes W-2s, 1099s, and Form K-1s. Keep records of any other income you have received from other sources. It’s also a good idea to save bank statements and investment statements.

Keep documentation that supports all itemized deductions you claim. This includes acknowledgments from charitable organizations and backup for taxes paid, mortgage interest, medical deductions, work expenses, and miscellaneous deductions. Even if you don’t itemize, keep records of child care expenses, medical insurance premiums if you’re self-employed, and any other deductions that appear on your return.

The IRS can audit you routinely for three years after you file your return or the tax due date, whichever is later. But in cases where income is underreported, they can audit for up to six years. So, to be safe, consider keeping your tax records for up to seven years.

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How to prevent identity theft from affecting you

The IRS has made great strides in protecting taxpayers from identity thieves, but you must still be diligent to protect your information.

Identity thieves can steal a taxpayer’s personal information and use it to file a tax return claiming a refund under the taxpayer’s name. Then when the taxpayer actually files a return, the IRS won’t accept it and notifies the taxpayer that a return under his or her name and ID number has already been filed.

The IRS recommends that taxpayers should do the following in order to avoid becoming an identity theft victim:

  • Guard your personal information. Identity thieves can get your information by stealing your wallet or purse, going through your trash, or posing as someone who needs your information for a legitimate reason.
  • Watch out for IRS impersonators. Don’t fall for phone calls, faxes, e-mails, or other contacts made by people claiming to be from the IRS. Do not respond to the message, open any attachments in an e-mail or click on any links.
  • The IRS recommends that you enter “phishing” in the search box at the top of its website (www.irs.gov) to get more information on avoiding tax scams. E-mail suspected scams to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Protect information on your computer. Protect your tax information with a password, and once you’re finished with your tax data, take it off your hard drive.
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Establishing Preferences in QuickBooks

Before you start entering data, make sure QuickBooks is set up appropriately for your company.

QuickBooks was designed to serve the needs of millions of small businesses. To do that, it had to include the tools and processes suitable for a wide variety of companies. But Intuit recognized that every organization is unique, so your copy of QuickBooks can be customized in ways that make it work best for you.

You could just dive in and start adding records and transactions. But we recommend you do some setup first. If you don’t, you may run into some issues later, such as finding that some features you need haven’t been turned on, for example, or that QuickBooks is simply not doing some things the way you do. The good news is that you can change many of these.

Getting There

QuickBooks refers to these options as Preferences. You’ll find them by opening the Edit menu and selecting Preferences.QBC 0217 image 1_zps4s3z4je7.jpg

To start customizing QuickBooks so it works best for you, open the Edit menu and choose Preferences.

As you can see, the left vertical pane contains a list of Preference types. Click on any of these to change the option screens to the right. Always click the tabs labeled My Preferences and Company Preferences to make sure you see everything that’s displayed for each type (sometimes one will have no choices).

Setting Up Reminders

Let’s look closely at one set of Preferences: Reminders. It’s very important that you visit these screens when you begin using QuickBooks. Depending on how big your company is and how complex your accounting processes are, there may be things you need to do every day, like pay bills and follow up on overdue invoices. It would be nearly impossible for you to do everything on time if you didn’t ask QuickBooks to keep track of critical dates and remind you of them.

Click Reminders in the left vertical tab. You’ll see one option under My Preferences. Do you want QuickBooks to show Reminders List when opening a Company file? If so—and this is a good idea—click the box in front of that line if there isn’t a checkmark there already.

Then click Company Preferences. Here’s where you’ll tell QuickBooks whether you want to see summaries or lists for each reminder, or neither. You can also specify how much advance notice you want for specific tasks by entering a number of days. QuickBooks comes with default settings, but you can easily change these.

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QuickBooks comes with default settings for Reminders, but you can enter your own Preferences here.

As you can see, it’s easy to specify your Company Preferences. Click the appropriate button under Show Summary, Show List, or Don’t Remind Me. If you’ve requested a reminder, delete any number that appears in the box in front of days before or days after and then enter your own.

Critical Areas

We recommend that you look through all of QuickBooks’ Preferences and change any that don’t fit your company. Some simply have to do with the way QuickBooks displays information and how it functions, but others have direct impact on your accounting work. As always, we’re available if you have questions here.

There are many that you will probably want to visit. They may have numerous options, but here’s some of what you can establish in each:

  • Accounting. Do you want to use account numbers and classes?
  • Checking. Which accounts should QuickBooks automatically use for tasks like Open the Pay Bills, Open the Make Deposits, and Open the Create Paychecks?
  • Finance Charge. Will you be assessing finance charges on late payments from customers? What’s the interest rate, minimum finance charge, and grace period?
  • Items & Inventory. Do you want inventory and purchase orders to be active?
  • Multiple Currencies. Does your company do business using other currencies?
  • Payments. Can customers pay you online? What methods can they use?
  • Payroll & Employees. Will you be processing payroll using QuickBooks?
  • Sales & Customers. Do you want to use sales orders? How should QuickBooks handle invoices when there are time and costs that need to be added?

You can see why it’s important to study QuickBooks’ Preferences early on. It’ll help you avoid unnecessary roadblocks and ensure that your company’s needs are reflected well in the software.

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Using Custom Fields and Classes in QuickBooks Online

QBO’s tools are generic enough that myriad businesses can use it. But custom fields and classes help you shape it to meet your specific needs.

Small business accounting is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Your company is unique in that sense; you have your own customers and products, vendors and services. Your requirements for your accounting application—what it must do and how it does that—is unlike anyone else’s.

QuickBooks Online contains a standard set of features that can accommodate a broad cross-section of the millions of small businesses in the U.S. It also offers customization options that you can use to make it your own. Two of these are custom fields and classes.

Start from the Beginning with Custom Fields

You can start working with custom fields and classes at any time. They’re most effective, though, when you build them in as you’re just starting to use QuickBooks Online.

Let’s look at custom fields first. When we refer to “fields,” we simply mean the rectangular boxes in records and forms that either already contain data or that can be filled in by you, either by entering the correct word or phrase, or by selecting from drop-down lists. Most of these are already named. On an invoice, for example, there are fields for information like Invoice date and Due date.

But you can add up to three additional fields to sales forms. To do so, click the gear icon in the upper right corner of the screen and select Account and Settings, then click Sales in the vertical navigation bar on the left. The second block here contains Sales form content. Click Custom fields, and you’ll see something like this:

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You can define up to three custom fields on sales forms and make them visible internally and/or to your customers.

Click the word Off if it appears, and it will change to On and display three blank fields. Think carefully about what you would like to appear here, as this isn’t something you’ll want to change. If you haven’t yet met with us about how to set up QuickBooks Online, let’s schedule some sessions to go over all your setup procedures, including custom fields.

Enter the words or phrases you want displayed on sales forms in the three fields. Then decide whether you want them to be visible only to you and your accounting staff or to your customers, too. Click within the Internal and Public to create checkmarks. When you’re done, click Save.

Additional Categorization with Classes

QuickBooks Online’s classes provide another way to categorize transactions. You can use them to differentiate between, for example, departments or divisions. If you’re a construction company, you might have different classes for New Construction and Remodel. Unlike custom fields, you’re not limited to three classes.

You can filter many reports by class. QuickBooks Online contains report templates designed specifically for reporting by class, like Sales by Class Detail, Purchases by Class Detail, and Profit and Loss by Class.

Here’s how you create your own list. Click the gear icon in the upper right of the screen and select Account and Settings. Then click Advanced in the left vertical navigation toolbar. Under the fourth heading, Categories, you’ll see Track classes. If the word “Off” appears to the right, click in the box to turn this feature on. A box like this will appear:

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Class-tracking in QuickBooks Online helps you create more targeted reports.

Even if you’ve defined a number of classes, they’re not required on transactions. If you want to be reminded should you forget to classify one, click in the box in front of Warn me when a transaction isn’t assigned a class. You can also choose to assign one class to an entire transaction or to each individual row. Click the arrow to the right of One to entire transaction to drop the option box down and make your choice. When you’re done, click Save.

You can create classes as you’re entering transactions by clicking the arrow next to Class over to the right of the screen and selecting +Add new. We recommend, though, that you think this through ahead of time and make at least an initial list by clicking the gear icon in the upper right and choosing All Lists, then Classes, then New.

Great Flexibility

These are two of the customization tools that are built into QuickBooks Online. Whether you’re just getting started or you’ve been using the site for a while, we can introduce you to all the ways that you can make QuickBooks Online your own.

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