Two tax-smart ideas for your tax refund

Are you looking forward to your tax refund? By now you know how much you’ll be getting and approximately when the cash will land in your bank account. The only question is, what’s the best way to put the money to work for you?

Here are two tax-smart ideas.

Fund your IRA. Depending on your income, making a contribution to a Traditional IRA could result in a deduction on next year’s tax return – and possibly a credit of as much as $2,000. For 2016, you can contribute a maximum of $5,500 to your IRA. Add another $1,000 for a total of $6,500 if you’re age 50 or older.

Invest in knowledge. Establish a qualified tuition plan, commonly called a Section 529 plan, or a Coverdell Education Savings Account. While contributions are not tax-deductible, the account earnings grow tax-free, and distributions used for educational expenses are also generally tax-free.

Do you need work-related training? Education required by your employer or courses that improve or maintain skills necessary for your present job, can qualify for a deduction.

Give us a call if you would like to talk about how these options apply to your tax situation.

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Tax filing reminder for nonprofit organizations

Nonprofit organizations are required to file annual reports with the IRS. Organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less can file an e-Postcard instead of the longer Form 990. The deadline for nonprofit filings is the 15th day of the fifth month after their year-end. For calendar-year organizations, the filing deadline for 2016 reports is May 15, 2017.

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Last chance to claim a 2013 refund

According to the IRS, nearly one million taxpayers who failed to file a return for 2013 are in danger of losing refunds. Tax law provides a three-year period to claim a refund when no return is filed. That means you’ll have to file a tax return for 2013 no later than this year’s April tax deadline – April 18 – or the chance to claim the refund is gone for good.

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Setting Up Users in QuickBooks

If you plan to have multiple employees using QuickBooks, you can limit their access to specific areas.

Controlling access to your QuickBooks company file is easy when you’re a one-person accounting department. You simply use one password to protect your data.

But when you add new employees to the mix, do you want them to have access to absolutely everything in QuickBooks? Probably not. You have confidence in your employees or you wouldn’t have hired them. But this isn’t solely a matter of trust. It’s just good business practice to restrict individuals to specific areas and responsibilities, no matter what the application.

That’s why QuickBooks has built-in tools to help you limit activity. Here’s how it works.

Identifying Users

To get started, open the Company menu and scroll down the list to highlight Set Up User Names and Passwords. On the slide-out menu, select Set Up Users. The User List window will open, and you should see your own entry as Admin. Click Add User.

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To give an employee access to QuickBooks, enter a User Name for him or her here, then a password.

The Set up user password and access window will open. Fill in those fields and check the box in front of Add this user to my QuickBooks license. This will not be an option if you already have five users, since that’s the maximum number allowed by QuickBooks Pro and Premier. To buy more, open the Help menu and select Manage My License, then Buy Additional User License.

Tip: If you’re not sure how many user licenses you’ve purchased, hit your F2 key and look in the upper left corner. If you’ve maxed out and need more licenses, talk to us about upgrading to QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions.

Click Next. In the window that opens, you’ll define the access level for your new user. Your options here are:

  • All areas of QuickBooks,
  • Selected areas of QuickBooks, or,
  • External accountant (you can grant us access to all areas of the software except for those that contain sensitive customer data, like credit card numbers).

Click the button in front of the second option, then Next.

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You can specify the access rights for individual employees in numerous areas.

The image above shows the first screen of 10 that display the levels of access available in many individual areas of QuickBooks. Be sure to read the whole page carefully before assigning rights. Here, for example, you’re not just allowing the employee to enter sales and A/R transactions. You’re also deciding whether to grant him or her permission to view the Customer Center and A/R reports. As you can see, your options are No Access, Full Access, and Selective Access (three levels there). Check the box below this list if you want the employee to be able to View complete customer credit card numbers.

When you’re finished there, click Next to specify your similar preferences for Purchases and Accounts Receivable, Checking and Credit Cards, Inventory, Time Tracking, and Payroll and Employees. The next two screens contain more complex concepts, but you’ll follow the same process to express your wishes. They are:

  • Sensitive Accounting Activities, like funds transfers, general journal entries, and online banking tasks
  • Sensitive Financial Reporting, which allows access to all QuickBooks reports. The option you choose here overrides all other reporting restrictions that you’ve specified for the employee.

Finally, you’ll tell QuickBooks whether this person can change or delete transactions in designated areas, and whether he or she can do so to transactions that were recorded before the closing date (if this applies). The last screen displays a summary of the access and activity rights you’ve given the employee. Check them carefully, and if they’re correct, click Finish.

Housekeeping Options

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The User List window

QuickBooks then takes you back to the User List window, where you’ll see the employee’s name displayed. If you want to Add, Edit, Delete, or View a user, make sure the correct name is highlighted and click the button for the desired action.

If you’re just now looking to add your first employee to QuickBooks or if you’re starting to outgrow the five-user limit, give us a call. There are more issues to consider when you take on multi-user access. We’d be happy to discuss them with you.

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Your First Hour with QuickBooks Online

Whether you’re just launching a business or you’re going online with an existing company, take some time to get acquainted with QuickBooks Online.

Your first hour with any web-based application is probably spent exploring and clicking buttons, links, and other navigation tools to get the lay of the land.

QuickBooks Online should be no different. In fact, it’s even more important to take it slow when you’re using an accounting solution. If you start entering data without understanding how everything works together, you may make mistakes early on that will be difficult to undo down the road.

Simple Setup

If you’re not absolutely certain you’re going to stick with QuickBooks Online, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial (no credit card required). You’ll first create an account by entering a user name, password, etc., then be asked a few simple questions about your business and the features you plan to use (invoicing, inventory, bills, etc.).

If you have data in a desktop QuickBooks file, you can start the import process here, but we strongly recommend that you let us help with setup if you’re planning to do this.

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Once you start entering data, your QuickBooks Online Dashboard will give you an overview of your finances.

When you’ve completed your account setup, the main QuickBooks Online screen opens. You’ll see your Dashboard, a collection of data and charts that provides critical information like your bank balances, your outstanding invoices, and your current profit and loss.

You’ll eventually be using the vertical pane on the left for navigation. But you don’t need to click the links there yet – you have other setup tasks to do first.

Specifying Options

If you’ve used a desktop version of QuickBooks, you know about its many menus and its Preferences window. QuickBooks Online uses a different convention for choosing options and entering the information that will serve as the backbone for your company file. To get there, click the small gear icon in the upper right corner.

Tip: There are two other links next to the gear icon. You’ll be able to search for transactions by clicking the magnifying glass link. The plus (+) sign opens a window with links to screens where you can create transactions and initiate other activities.

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You’ll spend a lot of time working with the links in the Your Company window when you’re setting up QuickBooks Online. You can always refer back to it later on.

As you can see, you have access to a lot of data and activity in the Your Company window. You don’t have to go through absolutely every link before you start using QuickBooks Online, but two you should look at early are Account and Settings and Manage Users.

The Account and Settings page is divided into multiple areas that you can access from a navigation bar on the left. They include:

  • Company. Fill in contact details and upload your company logo for use on sales forms.
  • Sales. Customize sales form content (preferred terms, custom fields, discount field, etc.). Would you like to turn on inventory tracking?
  • Expenses. Do you use purchase orders? Track expenses and items by customer? Make expenses and items billable?
  • Payments. Do you want to subscribe to QuickBooks Payments so you can accept credit cards and/or bank payments through QuickBooks Online?
  • Advanced. You’ll have numerous decisions to make here. For example, what tax form will you use? Will you want to automate some activities, like applying bill payments? Do you need to support multiple currencies?

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The Advanced page of QuickBooks Online’s Account and Settings presents you with numerous options. You may want our help with this.

Multi-User Access

Will more than one person at your company be using QuickBooks Online? If so, you’ll most likely want to specify what areas they’re allowed to visit and what activities they can do. Click the gear icon in the upper right and then select Manage Users. QuickBooks Online displays a mini-interview in a window here that walks you through the process of assigning access rights to individuals (Custom User, Time Tracking Only, etc.).

We’ve probably taken up more than your first hour by now, but we wanted to stress the importance of thoroughly setting up QuickBooks Online before you start entering contact records and creating transactions. If this is your first experience with an accounting application, we highly recommend that you engage us in your first hours of using QuickBooks Online. We can come in at any time and troubleshoot problems, but it’ll be more economical and less time-consuming if we work with you from the start.

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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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