How to Plan Your Income for Retirement

Planning for retirement is important if you want to cope with life after your days in the office. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 4 out of 10 American workers are saving money for their retirement. Do you want to be part of these smart employees or the lost majority? Here are some of the things you need to know about preparing for retirement.

Setting Financial Goals
Saving is a process that demands commitment. Since retirement is definitely not your only saving goal, you should try striking a balance or prioritizing what is necessary and weighty. For instance, you could comfortably do away with lingering debts and saving for vacations, cars, homes, and lattes.

Saving for Retirement
Retirement involves more than just assessing the amount of saving you need. When planning for retirement, it’s is also important that you pay attention to where you save your money. Find the best investment or saving account. Take time to calculate how much you need to save for retirement as well.

Investing
While saving is simply amassing wealth, investing is the process of multiplying the wealth. Cash is not a great way to store your wealth, and there are thousands of reasons why. Before investing your money in any project, assess the reward-to-risk ratio and the return on investment. Which investments are more diversified, and when do you get in for maximum gains.

What Do You Invest In?
Are you ready to have your retirement saving work for you? Well, if that’s the case, setting up an investment portfolio should not be complicated. Acquaint yourself with principal retirement investment rules. Are you a DIY person, or will you need to hire the services of a financial adviser? If you want to manage your retirement saving yourself, it is recommended that you gather sufficient knowledge on investment strategies. If you will choose to work with a professional, get to know about the related costs.

Building Wealth
Retirement investing is not a phenomenon that occurs in one sitting. It is a process that will change with the dynamics of your employment as you move from one job to another or up the promotion ladder. You will also have to endure changes in the stock markets and meet family obligations. However, that does not necessarily mean that you will have to babysit your retirement investment. There are numerous ways to protect and manage your wealth and savings in the long haul.

Post-PPP Taxes to Understand

The Paycheck Protection Program loans were a top priority for most struggling businesses due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Although these loans were beneficial to small businesses, most business owners find it hard to understand the tax implications. Below is a comprehensive description of the Post-PPP tax obligations.

Paycheck Protection Program Loans

PPP loans were awarded to small business owners to prevent them from going out of business and to retain their employees. Under the PPP program, small and medium business owners received a loan of up to two-and-a-half times the average monthly payroll. This loan had a cup of about $10 million.

The PPP loan intent was to cover the payroll and other business expenses during the COVID 19 pandemic. If properly appropriated on the approved expenditure, these loans are forgivable. However, if not, repayment of the funds will attract low interest and extended repayment periods. Although these funds have been beneficial to most small businesses and their employees, confusion about the tax implications has arisen.

Tax Implications of The PPP loans

Will the businesses that received the Paycheck Protection Program loan have a different tax situation than the previous years? This question was the concern of most business owners. The possibility that the loans would get considered as the taxable expense was another confusing aspect of these funds.

Although the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was seen by many as a lifeline, experts warned that the legislation could become a tax-laden time bomb. In May 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-32. This notice declared that if PPP loans were not taxable. However, the expenses usually not considered as tax-deductible wouldn’t be deductible. These expenses include utilities and rent.

This declaration threatened to kneecap the most attractive part of the PPP loans. However, Congress came to the rescue when they passed the recent PPP funding through the (C.R.R.S.A.A) Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriation Act. This act reversed the decision of the IRS made on the Notice 2020-32.

The Congress act declared that any forgiven PPP loan would be tax-exempted income. Thanks to this clarification, business owners can now take a Paycheck Protection Program loan and still get the (ERTC) employee retention tax.

Tools Every Accountant Needs

This blog was originally published to JBowmanAccountant.org.

You may not have thought about it, but accountants all need certain tools to do their jobs right. Many of the tools used by accountants are to make the job easier and provide ways of offering better services. Below is a list of a few of the most important things every accountant should have.

Reliable Computer

Invest in a quality computer because it is the one that takes on most of your work for you! Having a fast, reliable computer will allow you to run multiple programs at once. It also gives you the peace of mind that you will be able to do your job effectively.

Tax Software

Tax software eliminates the need to file taxes by hand and saves you a ton of time and headache. Investing in a great tax software will help you serve more clients at a more efficient rate. Plus, tax software will catch any mistakes you may make and gives you the option to correct them. Doing so can save your client a lot of money.

File Encryption

Adding a layer of security to the confidential and sensitive information found on most of the files you have will ensure clients that their information is safe. By having file encryption in place you will be able to email sensitive materials without the risk of the wrong person getting a hold of that information.

Scanner

In order to convert paper files into easily accessible electronic files, you will need a scanner. You can get a traditional scanner/printer combo or even a file scanner specifically for scanning documents and sorting them. These special document scanners often can scan both sides of a double sided documents at the same. They also turn your bulky paper documents into easily accessible PDFs.

Gear Up

You can have the best computer all the software in the world, but nothing beats old school gear. Have a great calculator handy for crunching numbers. Also have plenty of writing utensils and notepads around for note taking. Being able to do the thing the “old fashioned” way never hurts. You may not always be able to rely on technology and having the tools to complete the job are important.

4 Things You Should Know About The R and D Tax Credit

This blog was originally published to JBowmanAccountant.org.

The Research and Development Tax Credit benefits almost any business, no matter the size, age, or industry. Since 1981, this incentive has offered reimbursement for innovative and highly-technical businesses. Here are four things you should know about the R&D Tax Credit.

It is available for many industries

From aerospace organizations to wineries and vineyards, several industries can reap the benefits of an R&D Tax Credit. Organizations within these industries must pass a four-part test to affirm that their research activities qualify for an R&D Tax Credit. The four parts of the test are:

  1. Technological in Nature – “Activities must fundamentally rely on the principles of physical or biological science, engineering, or computer science.”
  2. Permitted Purpose – “Activities must be performed in an attempt to improve performance, reliability, or quality of a new or existing business component.”
  3. Eliminate Uncertainty – “Activities intended to discover information that could eliminate technical uncertainty concerning the development or improvement of a product.”
  4. Experimentation – “All of the activities must include a process of experimentation including testing, modeling, simulating, systematic trial and error.”

It covers a variety of expenses

With all of the activity that goes on in a given business, it can be difficult to track your direct and indirect R&D expenses. However, taking note of those expenses is essential for receiving the appropriate tax benefits. As a rule, the major expenses that qualify are salaries and supplies and materials. For salaries, employees who work in R&D or directly manage those in R&D are covered. Supplies and materials covers anything from nails to computers.

It offers unique benefits to smaller companies

If your small company has gross receipts for five years or less that average less than $5 million, your company may be eligible for an R&D Tax Credit. This is the case even if your company does not owe any taxes, and the covered amount can reach up to $250,000 of a payroll offset. If your small business does not have credit for offsetting payroll taxes in a given quarter, you can carry that credit into a different quarter. However, to do this, you must not exceed the $250,000 limit.

It undergoes regular updates

The R&D Tax Credit does not behave exactly as it did over a quarter of a century ago. As industries and economies evolve, the R&D Tax Credit does, too. In particular, the removal of the Discovery Rule in 2003 redefined research activities as those that would be “new to the taxpayer” rather than “new to the world.” More recently, the Protecting American from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act ensured that small, mid-size, and startup businesses could benefit from R&D Tax Credits.

John J. Bowman, Jr. is an accountant and tax professional based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter for more blog updates!

The 3 Best Personal Finance Software Options for 2017

Personal finance software can assist you in managing your finances. The software tracks your transactions and warns you about potential problems. Personal finance software organizes your finances daily, which allows you to relax and avoid stress. Here are the best available personal finance software programs

YNAB

The acronym YNAB stands for You Need A Budget, and the software is designed to help people who are budgeting. YNAB wants users to take every dollar that they earn and give that dollar a job. Users can find out exactly what every spent dollar went towards. YNAB can help you manage your immediate expenses; such as mortgage or rent, as well as your discretionary expenses; such as dining out. YNAB is a good choice for people who have constant expenses.

YNAB only allows you to budget money that you have actually earned, which forces you to plan around the money you presently have and not the money that you’ll receive in the future. YNAB will stop you from overspending by taking money out of another category to cover costs. YNAB encourages people to think of any extra money as finances that can help future expenses. By helping users put money aside for future expenses, YNAB believes that it is enhancing the financial security of its users. YNAB offers free webinars to help people understand how the software works.

Mint

One of Mint’s most popular features is its easy setup. The dashboard makes everything clear, so users can easily transition from one column to the next one. Mint recognizes that most people have flexible budgets, so users can set up a budget that makes sense with their expenses. Mint’s budgeting system allows users to make different categories for every expense that you have. Once you have paid for all of your expenses, the rest of your income goes into a category known as Everything Else.

Mint’s budgeting system lets users clarify when the expense will be due, so you can budget every month until the expense is due. You can set aside money every month to help plan for any long-term financial goals. That money will be taken out of your available budget.

Personal Capital

Personal Capital looks at the total net worth of its users through calculating all of their current assets and then subtracting any liabilities. Personal Capital lets users compare their spending during the current month to spending in previous months. Personal Capital shows users how their investments are doing by giving them a breakdown of their individual stocks, as well as an index of any money that has been accumulated or lost. You can seek a breakdown of your finances in both real dollars and percentages.

5 of the Best Accounting Books

If you are an accounting student or even if you are a veteran professional accountant, it’s important to keep learning about the industry. The easiest way to learn outside of the classroom is to pick up a book. Yet with so many accounting books out there, where should you begin? Below are some of the tops accounting books that you should read.

Accounting Made Simple: Accounting Explained in 100 Pages or Less Mike Piper

Accounting Made Simple prides itself on explaining some of the most important accounting concepts in simple-to-read language. The book is currently the best selling accounting book on Amazon—a testament to its popularity with readers. In its pages, you’ll find information about things like the accounting equation and financial statements.

Accounting All-in-One For Dummies Kenneth Boyd

The Dummies series of books are great for people who need a brief, yet in-depth, overview of a subject. Accounting All-in-One is a great resource for people who have to learn accounting basics in a short period of time, like small businesses or one person startups. When you’re finished with this book, it’s a great resource to keep on the shelf. This book is written in a similar easy-to-read style like Accounting Made Simple.

Barron’s Accounting Handbook – Joel G. Siegel Ph.D.

Barron’s Accounting Handbook is written by two finance professors. The book covers just about every accounting topic that is worth studying. One of the best features of the book is its A-Z dictionary of important terms to know. The dictionary alone makes the book worth the price.

The Tax and Legal Playbook: Game-Changing Solutions to Your Small-Business Questions – Mark J. Kohler

Even if you are not a small business owner, this is an important book to own—especially since you will most likely help small business owners at some point during your career. The chapters that discuss tax are particularly useful to business owners. Many readers note that the book is not only informative but entertaining as well due to the examples it presents from the real world.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street – Burton Gordon Malkiel

Burton Gordon Malkiel is a Princeton economist. While his book doesn’t specifically focus on accounting, accountants will find its advice on investing very useful. Although it’s written by an academic, it’s easy to read. The book’s main point is that it’s incredibly difficult to “beat the market” unless you have a stroke of luck to assist you. Here is an interview with the author that highlights the main ideas of the book.

Tax Filing Tips for Married Couples

If you got married on or before December 31 of last year, then you and your spouse will have to do your taxes a little bit differently this year. Keep reading to learn some of the top ways that getting married affects your taxes.

Filing Status

Now that you’re married you can no longer file with a single status. You either have to choose Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately. For the majority of married couples, Married Filing Jointly is more beneficial than Married Filing Separately. The latter status usually gives you access to more beneficial deductions and credits.

Tax Bracket

Your tax bracket determines the tax rate that you will be responsible for. It’s likely that your tax bracket will change now that you’re no longer filing as single. Couples who file jointly often face a higher tax bracket since their incomes are combined.

Exemptions and Standard Deduction

Married couples get to claim two exemptions instead of the one that single individuals get to claim. The standard deduction is highest for married couples who file jointly. This year the standard deduction is $12,600 for joint filers and $6,300 for married couples who file separately.  The standard deduction is subtracted from your income that you are taxed on. Therefore, the higher the standard deduction the better.

W-4

After getting married it’s usually a good idea to change your W-4. Whenever you start a new job you are required to fill out Form W-4. The form tells your employer who how tax to withhold. Changing your status to married might lessen the amount of taxes you have to pay. The IRS provides a helpful withholding calculator that you can use to determine whether you should fill out a new W-4.

First Home

A number of married couples buy their first home as a result of their combined incomes. The mortgage interest that you pay can be deducted from your taxes if it is itemized. If the two of you already own a home, lived in it for two years, and sell it while married, you can exclude up to $500,000 of the money you made on the sale. Read this article to learn more.

Standard Deduction or Itemizing?

Depending on your financial situation it might be better to itemize rather than claim the standard deduction. Most married couples who own a home find it more beneficial to itemize since itemization allows deductions for mortgage interest. Every married couple’s situation is different, so it might be a good idea to speak with a tax professional when deciding on which option you should choose. To learn more take a look at this article.

Which Tax Software Should You Use?

It’s January, and that means that employers have begun to give employees their W2 forms. When it comes to filing your taxes, you should consider your options. Do you want to meet with a professional, or would you rather use a tax software? This article focuses on tax software. Below is a breakdown of three of the most popular tax software options.

TurboTax

TurboTax is one of the most popular names when it comes to online tax software. The software is easy to navigate, and the instructions are straightforward which makes it a great choice for taxpayers who are using tax software for the first time. Furthermore, the software allows you to import documents from over a million employers and financial institutions. The bottom line is that TurboTax is one of the most user-friendly tax software options that are available. With TurboTax it’s never an issue to go back and update your entries, so you don’t have to worry if you forget to add something. One of the only cons with TurboTax is its price. There’s a fee for using the online version and a fee for getting a state tax return. Plus if you have certain investments you might have to use TurboTax Premier which is more expensive than their basic version.

H&R Block

H&R Block’s tax software is just as easy to use as the TurboTax software. One of the best features of Block’s software is the checklists it provides. For example, one checklist makes sure you don’t forget to provide all of the required tax forms before you submit your filing. Block also provides “Learn More” links that answer most of the questions you will have when completing your taxes. The cost of using Block is similar to TurboTax; however, unlike TurboTax, you don’t have to pay more if you have investment income. One of the only downsides of Block is its search feature. It doesn’t always provide the best resources to help you get the answer you’re looking for.

TaxAct

TaxAct is one of the most inexpensive software on the market. However, if you decide to itemize you may have to pay more than you would otherwise. Still, the software offers a great deal when compared to competitors. Compared to competitors’ software, it’s not as easy to update your filing if you realize you forgot to add information. TaxAct probably isn’t the best choice for taxpayers who have never used tax software before. Other programs do a better job of hand-holding. The software has some reassuring security features, though. If you leave the program open but aren’t active, it will automatically log you out after a couple of minutes. Ultimately, TaxAct is the best software to use if your biggest concern is affordability. The software’s “Price Lock Guarantee” means that once you pay for the program you won’t have to pay more—even if you purchase it in January and wait until April to submit your filing.

Tax Refund Boosting Hacks

Tax season will be here before you know it. It’s time to start thinking about the ways you can get the most out of your return. Taxes can be tricky to navigate. There are a lot of factors that go into your return, some of which automated tax software won’t be able to pick up on. Before you file your taxes, take a look at the following items to see if you can take advantage of the unique benefits they offer.

Use Tax Deductions!

Many people shy away from tax deductions. Most of the time it’s only because they don’t understand them or didn’t know they qualified. You can deduct charitable donations and unreimbursed work expenses. There is even a deduction available if you’ve moved over 50 miles for a new job. You can claim all the moving, storage, and travel expenses associated with your move. Save all work expense and charitable donation receipts throughout the year so you can receive the right deduction and have the proof to back it up.

File Early

Filing early does not have a direct effect on the amount of money you get back. It does, however, expedite the refund process. You may even save yourself some money if you use part of your refund to pay off debt from the holidays. The sooner you pay down the debt, the less interest you have to pay.

Retirement Contribution Benefits

If you contribute to an IRA account, try your best to max out your contribution before the end of the year. You can receive a tax deduction for as much as your maximum contribution allotment. You may even be lucky enough to reap the benefits of a rare “double dip.” If you qualify for a saver’s credit, you’ll receive an additional deduction on top of retirement contribution deduction.

Dependents

Did you know that family members are not the only ones you can claim as dependents? If you have taken in and supported a friend for the entire year, you could receive a dependent exemption. There are some caveats to this rule. In order to qualify, non-relatives must reside within your home, but relatives do not. In either situation, you must provide for over half of their support. Finally, the dependent must also not make more than $4,000 in taxable income. If you think you may be able to claim dependents, it will not hurt to look into!

Raising Money-Savvy Kids

Unfortunately, money management does not fall under the curriculum taught in school. Parents are responsible for leading by example and teaching the basics of money management. It may seem like a daunting task, because most people do not remember how they were taught about money, they just know it now. That’s why I put together this list in order to give you ideas on how to start raising money-savvy kids.

Talk About Money

The first step in teaching your children about money is constructing an ongoing, open discussion about money. Talking about money is something we don’t normally deem acceptable. We do not disclose salaries, we try not to lead onto how much we have, and we certainly do not ask other people about their money. These social norms have their place within our society and it’s important to stress that to your children as well. There’s a time and a place for everything. When it comes to money, let your children know they can talk to you about it, ask questions, and not fear making you uncomfortable.

Budget Together

Budgeting is a huge part of money management. Keeping track of spending and setting restrictions on yourself is a great habit to establish early. Budgets are hard to implement after bad habits are formed, so to avoid forming them, budget together. You can be as open about this as you’d like. If you want to be completely transparent and work on the household budget, go for it! If that seems too daunting, work on a personal budget with your child. Have them outline goals and also learn how to work with the income (allowance) they receive.

Utilize Teachable Moments

There will be many teachable moments throughout your money management lessons. Identifying them and knowing how to come out the other side with a lesson is a great way to further instill all you both have been working towards. There are opportunities for real world application everywhere. Include your children in on the family grocery shop. Explain how much you plan on spending and how you came up with that number. Then work together to stick to it!

Use Tough Love (even when it’s hard)

Tough love is a necessary evil when it comes to learning about money. You more than likely ran into some financial trouble at one point or another. After you recovered and stabilized your finances, you learned a valuable lesson about what not to do. Providing children with these realizations early on can firmly cement your teachings into their minds. They may have to find out the hard way that it wasn’t a good idea to blow all their money on a toy the day they receive their allowance. Your child won’t even learn that lesson until a few weeks later when they do not have enough money for something else they desperately want. By not giving in and buying it for them, you’re practicing tough love so they can learn a valuable lesson.