Not too late to Plan: Year End Tax Planning

Fall is a beautiful time of year. Holidays are around the corner and taxes are the last thing you want to think about. However, certain events can drastically change your tax liability. Now is the time to plan for these changes so that a large tax bill doesn’t sneak up on you.

Just like the leaves changing, things change during the year.A  job promotion, new job, retirement, adding a new family member, or maybe an inheritance are some examples of significant events that may impact your taxes.

tax advisor AK Burton

Here are a few reasons to contact us at A.K. Burton PC for tax planning services:

  1. A change in employment. Any change in your earnings should have you reaching out to our office to discuss the best course of action. For example: when hired, you fill out form W-4 to set your allowances. Do you want one, two, or what does allowances even mean? By discussing the matter with us, we analyze and make the best decision with you.
  2. Form of compensation. For example: a change in how your money is earned such as from an employee earning income that is reported on form W2 to an independent contractor being compensated by form 1099-MISC triggers a significant tax event. Contact our office to discuss the steps that you need to take as an independent contractor. One of those steps is making estimated tax payments based on your income.
  3. Retirement. If you’re looking at retiring it is essential to contact our office and discuss what the change in income will be and what steps you’ve taken so far in the process. There are many options concerning your retirement and tax liability. Be especially cognizant of required minimum distributions once you turn 70 ½ years old. These distributions are required and the withholding that has been set up in the past may not be enough to avoid a tax liability. Contact our office to plan ahead and work to avoid unnecessary surprises.
  4. Capital gains. A large gain from an investment may trigger a nasty surprise depending on your tax bracket and other income. Any significant change in investment income should be discussed with your tax adviser.
  5. Investment property. There are many taxable situations that occur when dealing with a rental property. Many tax rules are not understood by other professionals to the extent of our staff’s knowledge. Before making the decision to sell that condo you’re renting out; contact our office and double check what tax consequences may ensue. It only takes minutes to shoot us an email or give us a call. You’ll be happy you did.

These are only some of the reasons to engage in year end tax planning with your tax advisor. Any significant change in your life should be discussed with your advisor as soon as possible. Year-end tax planning is a great way to wrap up the year and prepare for filing your taxes. At A.K. Burton, PC we specialize in year-end tax planning because it is a service our clients consistently rely on.

A.K. Burton, PC, which serves the Washington,D.C. and Bethesda, MD area, has experienced and licensed individual financial advisers who can help you with your year-end small business tax preparation. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.

 

Ask your Financial Advisor: Is an LLC the Right Fit for my Small Business?

Fall is here. Leaves are falling. Pumpkins are out. Halloween Costumes are on sale. Bags of candy are available. Coffee shops are offering pumpkin spice latte’.  

What a great time to get an LLC for your business!

Okay, maybe there is no correlation with fall. But, it’s still a great time of year to set up and LLC. Let me explain: Tax Year 2018 ends December 31, so there is still time to get it done and affect your tax returns for good, perhaps.  

small business LLC AK Burton PC

First, let’s explain what an “LLC” is: An LLC (Limited Liability Corporation), according to www.Chron.com, is “owner’s liability protection against company actions and debt similar to a corporation. However, a LLC’s management can be set up as a corporation or partnership for management flexibility and taxation purposes.”

Second, the benefits of having your small business LLC designation are quite attractive:

  1. Have your taxes withheld throughout the year: Instead of having to pay a lump sum at tax time or installments throughout the year, you can have your taxes withheld throughout the year. An LLC gives you the option to have a “Flow-through Entity” meaning you become an employee of your company and pay taxes from each paycheck.     
  2. A “One-person LLC Form”: Your business is taxed as a sole proprietorship. This adds limited personal liability exposure but keeps crucial tax benefits such as the owner compensation with “distributions of profit” taxed at the individual owner’s lower marginal tax bracket (tax rate applicable to the next dollar of taxable income earned); and pass-through of business losses to the owner.
  3. Estate Planning: An LLC can also be placed in a Living Trust. This can be complex so consult with your tax attorney.
  4. Less paperwork: An LLC is less time-consuming once you have completed the forms and filed them. The money will be taken out of payroll. Fewer headaches and less paperwork means you can tend to your business.

If you decide that an LLC is the best move for your small business, you can file the forms, called “Articles of Organization”, in your state. Filing fees range from $100-$500.

Before any major financial or business decision like filing Articles of Organization to set up your LLC, give us a call. We will consider your unique needs and discuss if an LLC suits you. A.K. Burton, PC specializes in helping our small business clients structure their business to maximize benefits to the parties involved. Having an attorney/CPA on staff allows us to give our clients the most value for their money spent. Even after we have set up your business, we are always serving your business needs.

From filing the paperwork to form your business, filing taxes, business advice, and closing your business; we are a one stop shop. We serve the Bethesda, MD and Washington, D.C area. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.  

Estate Planning under Siege: How to resolve estate issues with family members

You’ve heard the stories, or even worse lived through it. Family members fighting each other for the inheritance of their deceased parents. Fights over homes, cars, jewelry, clothing or even, pets ensue.  

These spats get so nasty that the heirs get ‘lawyered up” and take their siblings to court. Sometimes these legal disputes span decades and end up in the national news. Remember the infamous Anna Nicole Smith/J. Howard Marshall case? Other infamous inheritance cases such as Howard Hughes, James Brown also come to mind. a man's hand with a silver pen writing "My Last Will..."

Granted, these are sensationalized court cases; however, they highlight the necessity of estate planning to “regular people”, like us. If your family doesn’t get its arrangements in order, they may have a messy and regrettable experience, too.

Estate Planning may not be a topic you want to discuss, but it is one that every family needs to have. It doesn’t matter what you may be worth or what possessions you may own. Here are a few steps that you can take to avoid probate (and hopefully hard feelings among your heirs) which could last a lifetime:

  1. Leave a list of personal property: Your cars, home, clothing, jewelry, artwork and any other pieces of property that you own needs to be itemized. Then, next to each item of property, put the name of who you want to have it. You may even want to put a sticker with the name of the person on each item to help keep track of who gets what.
  2. Open a line of communication with all heirs: Ask them if they want anything in particular. Keep a record of the conversations and make a list of specific requests.
  3. List any gifts or loans to family members: Parents may make loans or give gifts to children to help them through difficult times. List the names of the children and the loans and/or gifts that were given them.
  4. Avoid joint ownership: In this case, “joint ownership” is where a child jointly owns assets with their parents. An added beneficiary (such as real estate) exposes the parent donor to the co-owner’s liabilities and limits the donor to change his mind in the future.
  5. List spouse as primary and sole fiduciary: Your husband or wife should be the first and primary fiduciary.
  6. Balance needs of spouse and children: Your family members have different needs. One strategy is to assign most of the life insurance money to your spouse, while other property items (i.e. autos, clothing, etc.) go to your children.Consider your individual family member’s needs upon your death to achieve the best balance possible.
  7. Transition the family business: You can gradually hand over the family business while you and your spouse are still alive. Think about grooming your successors by giving them more responsibility and authority.
  8. Keep estate planning confidential: Your finances are your business only. Avoid discussing your estate plan at a dinner with friends or posting plans on social media. Also, don’t give a copy of your estate plan to your children or grandchildren. Once you share your plan, any changes you make to it may be questioned. Avoid the drama. Life changes and with those changes, your estate planning. Only you, your spouse and your estate lawyer should discuss your estate plans.
  9. Make funeral arrangements: Choose where you and your spouse will be buried, the funeral program, interment plans, and other detailed funeral instructions. If you’re choosing to be cremated, iron out all the details and make a clear plan for your remains. These arrangements will save a lot of headaches and embarrassment for your heirs.

You have seen what happens when estates aren’t planned well: family fights, hard feelings, embarrassment, fraud, and litigation. All of these outcomes can be avoided with a solid estate plan. Estate planning is a difficult task and easier if you don’t procrastinate. Don’t delay any longer!

A.K. Burton, PC, which serves the Washington,D.C. and Bethesda, MD area, has experienced and licensed individual estate planning advisers who can help you create a will that will meet you and your family’s needs. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.

Planning for the Fall: Small Business Accounting Practices to Keep You Ahead of the Game

Summer is half over. The days are getting shorter.

Parents are preparing to send their children back to school next month.

This season, as we know it, is coming to a close. Pretty soon, we are all back from vacation, kids have returned to school, Labor Day is over and the next holiday is Thanksgiving, months from now.

The end of summer can be a drag. two men sitting across from one another working on laptops

However, as a business owner, you can do some things now during these low-key summer days, that will benefit you, your employees, your clients and other stakeholders (i.e. The IRS). So, take some time now and do these small business accounting practices that will keep you ahead of the game before the cooler days of fall hit:

  1. Business and Personal bank accounts need to be separated: Much of the confusion and stress business owners have in accounting has to do with bank accounts. If you are using your business account also as your personal bank account, you will run into some serious tax issues that could take many hours and days to untangle when tax time comes around. So, create separate bank accounts for each and save yourself lots of confusion and billable hours with your accountant (or worse, an IRS auditor).
  2. Record bank deposits accurately: Make sure all loans, sales, refunds and other receipts are recorded accurately. You may have to set up a meeting with the small business account specialist at your bank to make sure you are doing it correctly. They can go through each monthly statement with you. Your accountant can also advise you on the best accounting program to use.
  3. Record all business expenses: During a typical business year, your company could be spending thousands (or more) in expenses. From inventory to travel to fuel to rent, there are many business expenses that need to be recorded accurately and backed up with receipts. Make sure you and your administrator(s) are tracking all expenses. Many business expenses are tax-deductible, so failing to record them could be costly.
  4. Bring in an outside accounting expert: Accounting and bookkeeping can be agonizing and time-consuming. So, perhaps, once a month or once a quarter, hire an accountant to take a few hours and review the books. They can make recommendations and corrections, keeping your company on track.
  5. Set aside time for accounting: It all will pile up very quickly and become a monster if you don’t watch out. So, set a day and time each week or month to record and file receipts or visit the bank.
  6. Labor expense tracking: This is the largest expense for most companies. Keep track of hours paid, overtime, bonuses and other expenses to make sure you are paying your employees accurately.
  7. Inventory control: You may have a warehouse full of inventory. If so, take  time to record all of the items in your inventory, including items that are being returned to the manufacturer/supplier.
  8. Meet with your administrator monthly: If your company has a staff member dedicated to accounting, meet with them monthly or regularly to review statements. It may be quite boring to do, but it keeps you and your admin on top of the bottom line: expenses and income. After all, that is why you are in business!

Poor accounting practices have damaged or sunk many businesses. Just doing even a few of these tasks will keep you and your business on track and successful.

A.K. Burton, PC, which serves the Washington,D.C. and Bethesda, Md area, has experienced and licensed individual financial advisers who can help you sort through your bookkeeping. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.

        

Wake up and smell the coffee!: Small business accounting services that your accountant has-and you should be using

“Shoot, if I had only known!”

How many times have you said that to yourself. If you had only known that your favorite restaurant had a free dessert Wednesday night or that suit you wanted was half price, yesterday, or that the radio station was giving away tickets to your favorite singer’s concert.

Oh, if only…

It’s a familiar lament but, sometimes, there are second chances to great opportunities. Those opportunities missed are aggravating because you realize that you’ve lost out on something beneficial to your life. However, there is a much more important opportunity that exceeds any dessert, suit or concert ticket. We are speaking of small business accounting, of course.

Your business pays the bills and may even be the main source of income for your employees. It is crucial to your life. Don’t take the accounting and bookkeeping services your accountant has to offer for granted.

As any accountant will tell you, you may understand a lot about bookkeeping, but no one knows everything. Leave that to the professionals.   

So, here is a list of small business accounting services your accountant has and you should be using:

  1. Quickbooks Advice: Quickbooks is always updating, changing and upping its game. It is still the premiere business accounting program. Sometimes, keeping up with those changes can be a chore, if not impossible, during your long work weeks. Your accountant must keep up with the updates as they are probably using it themselves! Utilize their knowledge and expertise on this program and all you have to do is call.
  2. Setting up an Accounting System and Structure: Starting a business is a huge challenge and getting the correct accounting system for your business can be agonizing. There are many choices and many different fees. Do you know which accounting system is best? Most business owners and managers are not accountants plus they have too much on their plate, already. So, contact your accountant. They will analyze your business according to volume of business, number of employees and other factors to help you figure out which accounting system is best for your business. Then, your accountant can help you install it and set it up.
  3. Startup/New Business Consultation: You’ve got a great idea for a new business. You’ve done the research and even chosen a storefront. But, how do you get the financing? Hire employees? Set up payroll? Purchase inventory? Those and many important questions need to be answered. Your accountant can help you make all of these crucial, business startup decisions and get the launch of your dream off right.
  4. Record-keeping techniques: It is imperative that your business keep accurate accounting records. You have to deal with suppliers, employees, vendors, landlords, travel agents, garages, the IRS. That’s no small list of people and agencies who depend on your company to pay them. So, use the best accounting record-keeping methods you can find. Your accountant can advise you on what you can use that will be efficient, affordable and can be used by everyone in your company.
  5. Assistance with registering your company with all the appropriate tax authorities: What is an LLC and should your company be one? Which tax authorities do I register with in Washington, D.C., Maryland or Virginia? Or, should I register with all three? Do I need any licenses and permits to run my business? All good questions and they need to be answered. Your accountant can help you register, apply for the correct permits and licenses.

Did you know that these are just some of the services that your local accountant can provide for you and your company, no matter what its size or if it hasn’t even opened its doors, yet?! Like most business owners, you probably didn’t know it.

Running a business is hard work. Don’t make it even harder. Contact your accountant and have them be a partner in your success.      

A.K. Burton, PC, which serves the Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, MD area, provides all these services and more. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.

 

It’s Tax Day Already?: Income Tax Preparation for Procrastinators

So, it’s “Tax Day” and you are still rifling through your tax documents form last year. The baby is crying. Your spouse is irritated that the papers are still strewn all over the kitchen table. They haven’t been able to eat at that table for weeks since you last poured all your papers out on it. Still nothing has been done.

Oh, did we say that it’s “Tax Day” today?

You are really, really late. In fact, your accountant hasn’t even heard from or seen you since last year.

You are hours away from missing the deadline to send your tax return to the IRS. Your family is sick of seeing a pile of unorganized receipts and statements gathering dust on the kitchen table. And, finally, your accountant is looking up your name in the local paper obits to see if you’re still around.

You’re late to file. All seems lost. Will you ever recover from this incredible example of “Tax Filing Procrastination”?

Actually, all is not lost and, yes, you can recover. However, you need to act now. Here are Five Ways to Do Your Tax Preparation and Filing after you have passed the Tax Day deadline:

  1. Don’t panic: Losing your cool and bashing your head against the wall only compounds the mistake. Admit to yourself and everyone in your household that you are late this year filing your/their tax returns. There may have been circumstances that caused it (i.e. illness, surgery, family tragedy, etc.) or you may have just been flat-out neglectful. Whatever the cause, admit to it and then calmly get your tax filing plans in place.
  2. Organize your documents: You cannot file accurately if you don’t have all of your previous tax year papers organized. Now is the time to staple them all together or photograph them and store them on a flash drive. Clear the kitchen table and place all these documents in a hard file folder and/or electronic file.
  3. Contact the IRS: This is the scariest step to do, we know. However, the Internal Revenue Service has customer service people on call 24/7/365 to assist you with your questions to help you with your income tax preparation. Give them your contact information so they can note that you will be filing late.
  4. Request a Tax File Extension: Filing an extension pushes the due date for your tax returns up giving you time to get it completed. Just keep in mind that and extension for you to complete your income tax preparation protects you from likely possible late-filing penalties. Those penalties can be five percent (5%) of the amount due with your return for each month that you’re late.
  5. Consult with your licensed bookkeeper/accountant: Your accountant can be your best friend during these high-stress times. You may believe you’re the only client who has ever done this, but we can assure you, we have seen it all! So, get your documents in order and bring or send them to us. We recommend that you set up an appointment with your trusted accountant to help you with tax preparation,tax filing and, most importantly, communications with the IRS. You need to make sure all of your communications with the IRS are documented and your accountant will do that for you. We are your advocate.

So, as you can see, procrastination in filing your tax returns is not the end of life as we know it. You do have a “second chance.” Just get moving now and try not to let it happen in the future. (While this blog may be helpful, we also advise that you read the IRS specific instructions if you are filing late.)

If you need help with late tax preparation and tax filing, contact our A.K. Burton, PC offices in Bethesda, Maryland. Our experienced and licensed tax lawyers and accountants can answer all your questions and also assist you with your communications with the IRS. We serve clients in the Washington, D.C., Bethesda, Maryland and Northern Virginia region.

Satire Alert: The IRS is On Its Way or How to Really Mess Up Your 2018 Income Tax Preparation

You have read many blogs and articles, here and elsewhere, that give you steps 1, 2, 3, etc., on how to save money, pay your tax bill, incorporate your business. They all have tried and true advice which you may have used in your business and personal finances.

Blah, blah, blah…

We know that they can all be boring after awhile. So, to break up the boredom of your typical “How-to” finance article, we are going to offer you a satirical,  tongue-in-cheek Guide to Messing Up Your 2018 Income Tax Preparation:

  1. Don’t organize any of your documents: Be sure to pile them in a shoebox, willy nilly, with absolutely no organization whatsoever. Make sure they are ripped, have nothing noted on the receipts and are the wrong year.
  2. Forget to include statements: Credit cards, payroll, expenses. They are so much trouble to print.
  3. Travel expenses mileage: Don’t use mileage records during the taxable year, just make up a mileage number! It’s just fuel after all.
  4. Write all your contractors expenses on a piece of paper: Instead of submitting contractor expense receipts, just use a notepad with amounts on it. No dates or receipts needed. Too much trouble!
  5. Don’t ask for any receipts for donations to non-profit/charitable organizations: Donations are just a nice thing we all do. Sure, you may owe less to the IRS if you accepted them or kept them, but you did it for a good cause. Who needs to brag about it, after all!?
  6. Turn in all your tax documents to your accountant on April 14: Everyone is so persistent in getting the tax filing postmarked by April 15, Tax Day. That is so arbitrary! Besides, your accountant is working 24 hours a day anyway, from January 1 to April 15. They won’t mind one more client bringing their files in at the last minute. They should be happy to be doing your taxes, anyway. It’s job security, right? Be sure your shoe boxes have your last name and phone number on them.
  7. Argue with Your Accountant over their fee: Your accountant is charging that much per hour to add up numbers? Good grief that is highway robbery. All they need is a calculator and number two pencil and they got it made. Make sure they know you can do it better and be late in paying the bill.
  8. Forget to pay the IRS bill: They had the temerity to charge you even more after you have paid them all year from your paychecks!! You’ll show them. Yeah, pay late. That will scare them. Mean old government agency.

Now, do you feel better? Actually, no. This was after all, satirical,  tongue-in-cheek blog not meant to be taken seriously. You should do EVERYTHING OPPOSITE to what you read above.

After all, there are serious legal complications if you fail to comply with the tax laws. The IRS has an ITA (Interactive Tax Assistant) online which can help you with some legal questions you may have.

In fact, the best tax advice, besides doing exactly opposite of 1-8 above, is to contact our A.K. Burton, PC offices in Bethesda, Maryland. Our experienced and licensed tax lawyers and accountants can answer all your questions and also assist you with your income tax filing preparation. We serve clients in the Washington, D.C., Bethesda, Maryland and Northern Virginia region.

How Smart Tax Preparation Can Help You Get A Better Refund in 2018

Everyone is wondering: Now that the new tax laws have passed, will I be paying the IRS more or less in 2018?

My answer to that question is this: I have no Idea. It’s impossible to know or to even contemplate. Even with the new tax laws, everyone’s tax return situation is different. You may get more money back this year or you may pay even more money this year.

Yes, it’s complicated.

This year is done. But you can prepare for next year.

Of course, it all starts with your documentation and preparation. Here are Smart Ways Your Tax Preparation Can Improve Your Refund in 2018:

  1. Reconsider how you file: Do you always file jointly if you’re married? That is always the best way, right? Actually, no it isn’t. Don’t do the “auto-reply” on your filing. Married-filing-jointly is not always the best way. If you do married-filing-separately instead, you may get a larger return. AGI or Adjusted Gross Income determines if some deductions can be used for medical and certain other expenses. Filing separately may gives each spouse a lower AGI. So, don’t automatically file jointly. Do both jointly and separately if there are a fair number of medical expenses and COBRA payments.
  2. IRA Contributions: You can still take out an IRA contribution up until April 15thfor the previous You can then claim it on your return by filing early and then claiming the credit on your return. You can file early and use your tax refund to open the traditional IRA account. Just remember that it will reduce your income and you must be at least 50 years old. (Check the IRS guidelines on IRAs for detailed rules.)
  3. It’s all in the timing: There is an old saying from the famous golfer, Arnold Palmer that “Timing is everything, in life and golf.” It’s everything in tax filing with the IRS, too. If you pay your mortgage payment by December 31, you improve your chances of getting a larger refund. Also, schedule medical appointments by the end of the year and pay those bills before January 1, too. Keep in mind that your mortgage payments and medical expenses are still deductible expenses. They will certainly increase your refund.

These are just three basic but crucial ways to increase your refund in 2018 and beyond. However, it all starts now. Our best thought on this topic: See your licensed accountant or tax adviser. They can give you the best advice based on experience and knowledge of tax laws.

A.K. Burton, PC, which serves the Washington,D.C. and Bethesda, Md area, has experienced and licensed individual tax advisers who can help you with any questions you have on the new tax laws and how you should file. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.

 

New Quickbooks Services Upgrades in 2018

Just when you thought it was safe to figure that you have Quickbooks down, they change it again. Changes, however, can be a good thing and Quickbooks upgrades for 2018 are more than good-they are stellar.

In fact, the Quickbooks upgrades will make your accounting life for your business a bit easier, even for those erstwhile accountants who begrudgingly do it on a monthly basis (or less).

Here are a number of the Quickbooks Services Upgrades in 2018:

  1. Cash accurate toggle on reports: You will be able to get quicker assessment and management using the 1-clickthat changes from cash based accounting and accrual based accounting on a per-report basis. All in just one click!
  2. Merge vendors: This is so much easier now as you can go from manual duplicate vendor look-up, to leveraging QB search. Then, sort sort tools to identify vendors that need to be merged. You now can merge four vendors at a timeinstead of just You can also move account information from duplicate vendors under the master vendor account option.
  3. Portable bar code scanner: It enables the choosing process which improves accuracy. It also allows users to track thestatus of inventory movements. You have three options: Sent for Pick, Pick in progress, and Picked/Partially Picked. The efficiency of this upgrade is quite incredible, too.
  4. Payroll liability reminder: Penalties are a killer. You can void them by identifying alerts on QBDT home page. Then you can create an automated reminder display on the payroll setup. This version also has new alerts displayed on the homepagea week before the
  5. Past due stamp/payroll badge reminder: Payments arrive faster when you use the past due stamp tool to tag past due open invoices.Past due stamp labels are added on the PDF This option can be turned off.
  6. Secure web mail: Yes, your work is even more secure now! Oauth 2.0, the new security standard in emails, is now available.

These are just a few of the upgrades to the Quickbooks accounting and bookkeeping system, but we are impressed. We highly recommend if for your small business. It truly has all the tools you need to do your work efficiently.

A.K. Burton, PC, which serves the Washington, D.C. and Bethesda, MD area, works with Quickbooks every day and can provide all the Quickbooks Services you and your small business needs. Contact us at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at info@cpa-maryland.com.