Will your tax refund be offset by debts?

Be aware that if you have unpaid federal or state debt, such as overdue child support, state income tax, or student loans, all or part of your 2016 income tax return may be redirected to pay the debt. This is called the offset program. If an offset occurs with your tax return, the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service will send you a notice. The notice will list the original refund and offset amounts, as well as the name and contact information of the agency that received the payment. If you have questions, contact our office.

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Reminder: June 15 tax filing date for U.S. citizens abroad

U.S. citizens and resident aliens living overseas or serving in the military outside the U.S. receive an automatic two-month extension of the regular tax filing deadline. If this extension applies to your living situation, you have until June 15, 2017 to file your 2016 tax return. To use this automatic two-month extension, you must attach a statement to your return explaining that you live overseas or you are serving in the military outside the U.S.

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ITEM #6 – IRS announces business vehicle deduction limits for 2017

The IRS has published depreciation limits for business vehicles first placed in service this year. These limits remain largely unchanged from 2016 limits. Because 50% bonus depreciation is allowed only for new vehicles, these limits are different for new and used vehicles.

  • For new business cars, the first-year limit is $11,160; for used cars, it’s $3,160. After year one, the limits are the same for both new and used cars: $5,100 in year two, $3,050 in year three, and $1,875 in all following years.
  • The 2017 first-year depreciation limit for trucks and vans is $11,560 for new vehicles and $3,560 for used vehicles. The limits for both new and used vehicles in year two are $5,700, in year three $3,450 (up $100 from 2016), and in each succeeding year $2,075.

For details relating to your 2017 business vehicle purchases, contact us.

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The importance of maintaining good tax records

Keeping your tax records organized year-round is a good practice and will keep you from hastily assembling your documents for your annual tax preparation appointment. If you are diligent about maintaining your tax records, you won’t have to worry about losing a valuable deduction because you forgot to list expenses on your return, or having unsubstantiated items disallowed in the event of an audit.

Generally, your tax returns can be audited up to three years after filing. However, if income is underreported more than 25%, the IRS can collect underpaid taxes up to six years later. So, keeping good records means you’ll always be able to verify what you report on your tax return. Hang on to your tax records for seven years.

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Why you should consider a midyear tax review

Most people don’t include tax planning on their summertime agenda, but there are benefits to doing so. The problem with waiting until the end of the year is that you reduce the time for planning strategies to take effect. If you take the time now to schedule a midyear tax planning review, you will have eight months for your actions to make a difference on your 2017 tax return. In addition, proposed tax reform could be cause for additional changes to your tax plan. Planning now for 2017 taxes not only helps reduce your taxes, but it may help you gain control of your entire financial situation. Give us a call to set up an appointment today.

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Are You Memorizing Transactions? Should You Be?

You know that QuickBooks saves a lot of time. But have you explored how it does so by memorizing transactions?

Your accounting work involves a lot of repetition. You send invoices. Pay bills. Create purchase orders. Generate payroll checks and submit payroll taxes.

Some of the time, you only fill out those transaction forms once. You might be doing a one-time purchase, like paying for some new office furniture. Other times, though, you’re paying or charging the same companies or individuals on a regular basis.

QuickBooks contains a shortcut to those recurring tasks, called Memorized Transactions. You can save the details that remain the same every time, and use that template every time the bill or invoice is due, which can save a lot of time and improve accuracy. Here’s how it works.

Making Copies

To memorize a transaction, you first need to create a model for it. Let’s say you have a monthly bill for $450 that’s paid to Bruce’s Office Machines. You’d click Enter Bills on the home page or open the Vendors menu and select Enter Bills. Fill in the blanks and select from drop-down lists to create the bill. Then click Memorize in the horizontal toolbar at the top of the form. This window will open.

QBC 0417 image 1_zpsbsfuxbie.jpgBefore you can Memorize a transaction, you first have to create a model (template) for it.

The vendor’s name will already be filled in on the Memorize Transaction screen. Look directly below that. There are three ways that QuickBooks can handle these Memorized Transactions when one of their due dates is approaching:

  • Add to my Reminders List. If you click the button in front of this option, the current transaction will appear on your Reminders List every time it’s due. You might request this for transactions that will change some every time they’re processed, like a utility bill that’s always expected on the same day, but which has a different amount every month.
  • Do Not Remind Me. Obviously, QuickBooks will not post a reminder if you click this button. This is best used for transactions that don’t recur on a regular basis. Maybe you have a snow-shoveling service that you pay only when there’s a storm. So the date is always different, but everything else is the same.
  • Automate Transaction Entry. Be very careful with this one. It’s reserved for transactions that are identical except for the issue date. They don’t need your approval – they’re just created and dispatched.

Click the down arrow in the field to the right of How Often and select the correct interval. Then click the calendar icon to pick a date for the next occurrence. If you have selected Automate Transaction Entry, the grayed-out lines below Next Date not shown here) contain fields for Number Remaining and Days in Advance to Enter.

How Does QuickBooks Know?

Obviously, you’ll want advance warning of transactions that will require processing. QuickBooks lets you specify how many days’ notice you want for each type. Open the Edit menu and select Preferences. Click Reminders in the left vertical pane, then the Company Preferences tab. You can tell QuickBooks whether you want to see a summary in each category or a list, or no Reminder. Then you can enter the number of days’ warning you want.

QBC 0417 image 2_zpsedmcmzru.jpgQuickBooks lets you specify the content and timing of your Reminders.

Working with Memorized Transactions

Once you’ve created some Memorized Transactions, you will undoubtedly need to review them at some point. QuickBooks makes this happen. Open the Lists menu and select Memorized Transaction List to see all the templates for recurring bills, invoices, etc., that you’ve defined. Right-click on one you want to work with, and this menu appears:

QBC 0417 image 3_zpsegt29tkf.jpg

The Memorized Transaction List with the right-click window open

You have several options here. If your list is so long that it fills multiple screens, you can Find the transaction you’re looking for. If you’ve created multiple related transactions, you can save them as a New Group. You can also Edit, Delete, and Enter Memorized Transactions.

Anytime you’re letting QuickBooks do something on its own, it’s critical that you thoroughly understand the mechanics of setting the process up. We’d be happy to go over the whole topic of Memorized Transactions with you, or any other aspect of QuickBooks operations.

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Find the best employees to contribute to your company

Turnover is an often overlooked cost of doing business. Sometimes it can run as high as 25% of salary and benefits. One way to reduce this cost is to hire wisely. It’s an oft-quoted cliché that employees are a company’s most valuable assets. Try generating revenue with unmotivated or unskilled employees, and you’ll soon discover that the cliché rings true.

How do you locate the best employees?

Know what you’re looking for. Before you publish a job announcement or talk to potential candidates, consider the type of skills that would fit best with your company. This may involve clarifying the types of skills that are essential to your company, as well as skills that are specific to the position being filled. For example, if the business prides itself on written communications, you don’t want to hire a candidate who struggles with grammar or balks at the prospect of writing a report.

Look in the right places. Once you’re clear about the type of employee you’re hoping to hire, focus on discovering the best candidates and drawing them to your company. You might post the position on job boards of specific trade organizations, network with local colleges and technical schools, or ask for recommendations from your current employees. In general, the more specific skills you hope to find, the wider net you’ll have to cast.

Make the interview count. Potential candidates are often counseled to conduct mock interviews, and wise employers will hone their interviewing skills too. You want to identify candidates who will be eager to contribute to your company. Asking focused questions and listening with a purpose are key to the interview process. A good interviewer will also attempt to identify “red flags” that indicate potential problems. For example, the candidate may provide vague or rambling answers to simple questions. This could indicate normal interview anxiety, or he or she might be hiding key facts from you – information that could directly affect your hiring decision.

Finding quality employees that will mesh well with your company culture is not an exact science. But, thoughtful preparation and careful interviewing can pay dividends for years to come.

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