It’s the middle of May 2020, when spring is ending and summer is just around the corner. We’re looking forward to Memorial Day and the warmer weather. Unlike last year, we are in the middle of the COVID-19/Coronavirus Crisis in the DMV/Beltway area. The pandemic has put a kink in our summer plans as well as our tax plans.
Our new normal is where some businesses are closed. Quarantines are still in place. The streets and parks are quiet. Life, as we know it, has been put on hold until the government issues new guidelines. It is only speculation as to when life will resume with the same kind of normalcy before the pandemic gripped our country. How can we possibly plan ahead in an uncertain world, let alone a tax plan?
At A.K. Burton PC, we are still open for business. We are available by phone and execute our work virtually and remotely. We are working to help our clients during this unprecedented global pandemic. Our clients are our first priority. Even though the pandemic has turned our lives upside-down here’s a friendly reminder of some tax planning strategies:
- Health Insurance: If you’ve had a major change in income for 2020, and you have your health insurance coverage through the marketplace; update your income information. It may lower your monthly premiums. If you have had a major life change such as losing your job, you may qualify for a “Special Enrollment Period” and be able to enroll in health insurance coverage through the marketplace at healthcare.gov.
- Home office deduction: Since the COVID-19 epidemic, you may have needed to work from home. Depending on the method your income is earned you may or may not qualify for business use of home deduction on your 2020 tax return. If you do qualify for a deduction, your office must be the square footage in your home that is EXCLUSIVELY used for business. It can not be the sofa where you watch TV or your bed where you sleep at night. Keep track of expenses for your home including electricity, WiFi, water, and phone expenses. Keep track of any office supplies such as printer ink or computer paper.
- Capital gains/ losses: Keep records of your trades and holdings in stocks, cryptocurrencies, and commodities. Save all of your trade data so you can report all reportable transactions accurately.
- Online software for business: In order to do business from home, you may have had to purchase or rent certain software. This may include subscriptions to Zoom or other pertinent software programs. Keep accurate records of these receipts.
A.K. Burton, PC, has experienced tax advisors who can assist you in this unprecedented time. We are here for our clients working to file their tax returns. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for a phone consultation. We serve the Bethesda, Rockville, and Montgomery County. MD area.
I do not like to start any blog with the term, “In these uncertain times,” but here we are.
We’ve heard that overused cliché in TV and radio commercials and it is getting old. We are all tired of the quarantine, social distancing and wearing masks and gloves.
However, until this trauma known as “Coronavirus” is over, we have to live with it. In our position as financial advisors at A.K. Burton, PC, we care about our clients during good times and bad times. Unfortunately, it’s the bad times right now. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, life in the United States and in the DMV will return to normal.
Until then, we have some tips on how to save money during the COVID-19 crisis:
- Put all large purchases on hold: You may have planned to buy a vehicle for personal or business use. Even if it may have been a necessary purchase; if you have not signed a contract to buy it, then wait. A large car payment would become an unnecessary monthly expense. What about it you pay for it in cash? Still, not a good idea. With this novel virus, it is uncertain when business and life will be back in the swing of things. Postpone the purchase for now, unless you will put it to work right away (as a driver for UBER or delivering items) providing income for you to pay bills. Otherwise, a car payment is a burden and will take away needed funds for other bills. Avoid buying any other large purchases considered luxury items such as: furniture, boats, bikes and unnecessary home improvements until you have some money saved for emergencies and your income is steadily coming in after this crisis is behind us.
- Call credit card companies about payments: If you have one or several credit cards that are too expensive to pay right now, call the credit card companies and ask them to lower your payment amounts. They may even put your payment and interest charged on hold. ***
- Take advantage of free fitness classes: Many fitness center franchises are offering free live streaming videos. Download their app or access their website for instructions.
- Sign up for free TV: Netflix isn’t the only channel offering free access. Hulu, CBS All Access, Sundance Now, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime, YouTube Premium, Xfinity Flex, and VRV all are offering a month-long free trial. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Now, Philo, Boomerang, and fuboTV are also offering a free week of programming. Free TV is available on apps such as Tubi TV, Pluto TV and IMDb TV. Whatever you do, don’t pay for them! Enjoy the free time and delay purchasing until later.
- Buy groceries and limit restaurant purchases: Of course, restaurants are not dine-in now, so consumers have decided to either get curb-side service or delivery. A more cost effective option is to buy groceries and eat at home. Eating at home is still the best and most economical choice. As much as we want to support the local restaurants, it is still as much as 25%-40% more expensive than buying groceries. Try to save even more while buying groceries by buying generic products over the name brand.
- Save energy: Buy LED bulbs, lower the thermostat 2-3 degrees, pack the dishwasher and clothes washer before using, and use the microwave to heat up food. These simple measures will lower your electricity bill.
COVID-19 has changed our world. It is a temporary situation that is continuously evolving.In the meantime, we are all doing our best. We are in this together. I encourage you to spend as little as possible and when you do spend, spend wisely. Frugality in times of crisis is not only smart, it’s common sense.
A.K. Burton, PC, has experienced financial advisors who can assist you in budgeting during the good times and the bad times. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for a consultation. We serve the Bethesda, Rockville and Montgomery County. MD area.
*** For a list of credit card companies that may be willing to negotiate your credit card payment, click here.
2020 is almost here and you have a million things that you plan to do in the New Year. From starting a new business to getting out of debt to buying a car to sending a child to college, you and your family have plans.
Then, there are plans that may happen whether you plan them or not: employment change, aging, inheritance, and other events out of your control. So, let’s talk about how these life events give you reasons to hire a financial advisor in 2020:
- Inheritance: The unfortunate death of a family member may bring an inheritance. That money and/or property may be substantial. You may have questions on whether it should be invested, taxes owed, (if any), or how it should be distributed or sold. An inheritance can be both a blessing and a burden. Your financial and tax advisor can advise you on using the inheritance to pay down debts, invest in IRAs or other investment vehicles, and other ways to work toward achieving personal and business investment goals.
- Family planning: On the reverse, you may be planning to have children or there may be a pregnancy now. How do you financially plan for that? A child may cost around $234,000*** to raise during their eighteen years at home. Then there is college! Your financial advisor can give you guidance on how to save money for that child, even before they are born, and how that money can be used for a college education years later. Your tax advisor can discuss any tax benefits from these decisions.
- Retirement: Many people hope to retire and enjoy their later years. Some people reach retirement age (65-70) and cannot stop working for financial reasons. However, even if you are in middle-age, it’s not too late to plan now. Your financial advisor can help you make smart retirement investments and plan your social security and estate.
- Remarriage or divorce: Getting remarried or divorced brings on new life challenges. Do you and your new spouse have investments to cover your goals? Do you need to plan a new financial and investment strategy? How do you plan to pay your taxes in the coming years? How do you file your taxes in the coming years? Do you have a plan for Medicare and social security? If you divorce, how do you plan to pay child support or use child support? There are several crucial areas that a financial and tax advisor can direct you to make wise decisions.
- Selling or buying a home: You may be planning to purchase a bigger home or a smaller home based on your family needs (full nest or empty nest). How much do you need for a down payment? How much can you afford to pay as a mortgage payment? If you are selling, how much should you use to buy a new home from that sale? Will the gain from the sale of your home be taxable? A tax advisor can help you make the best decision for you.
A New Year is a “clean slate” in some ways. The new year gives you the opportunity to make major financial decisions you didn’t make or were unable to make in 2019. Consult your financial advisor and let them guide you toward smart investing for now and the future.
A.K. Burton, PC, has experienced tax advisors on staff who can help you plan for the tax consequences of these important financial decisions. Don’t wait. If you have a big life change, it’s time to reach out and call (301) 365-1974 for a consultation. We serve the Bethesda, Rockville and Montgomery County. MD area. ***See the report here.
This is the time of the year when most people are thinking of the holidays and what presents they may be buying for their friends and family. Few people are thinking about retirement planning and that is understandable. Amidst all the turkey, football and naps, you are tempted to take time off from all the work hubbub.
Yet, the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are the perfect times to begin retirement planning. The business year is ending. The tax year is ending. If there was a time to start a retirement investment portfolio, it’s now!
So, here a few retirement planning strategies your financial advisor may tell you:
- Charitable contributions: At this time of year, donations to non-profits are at a yearly high. People feel driven to donate to causes such as homeless shelters, food banks, disease research, and other charitable organizations. So, they can do a QCD or Qualified Charitable Distribution. It is complicated but basically works like this: People with IRAs subject to a required minimum distribution have not yet taken it for the year, they can then use the qualified charitable distribution (QCD) provision. Thus, they can make their contributions directly from their IRA. It is then counted toward the RMD and be excluded from income. Thus it creates a tax deduction in addition to the standard deduction. It applies only to IRAs, not to plans, and only IRA owners or beneficiaries who are at least 701/2 qualify. Donor-advised funds and private foundations are not eligible. No gifts can be accepted, either. This must be done by December 31, 2019.
- Roth IRA Conversions: Since 2018, conversions cannot be reversed. Now, they are permanent and the tax is due after funds are converted. Roth conversions qualify for this year if the funds are converted from the IRA or plan by year’s end. There are a lot of things to keep in mind here such as Social Security taxability, Medicare Part B/D premium increases, financial aid and other considerations. Please consult with your financial advisor on this strategy.
- Split inherited IRAs by December 31: If the owner of the IRA died last year and had a number of named beneficiaries, those beneficiaries can use their life expectancy for calculating required minimum distributions. The IRAs are split into separate shares before the year is over following the IRA owner’s death.
- Pay off debt: If you can pay more on your mortgage payments and pay it off early, you can then pay more money into your IRA. Pay off credit cards, car loans, and balloon loans.
- Plan where you will live when you retire: Every state is ranked on which is best or worst to retire in. You choose where you want to live and then calculate how much you will need to retire and begin investing now to do that. There are a number of websites such as www.moneywise.com which rank the states as to which is most retirement-friendly and how much income you need to make to live “comfortably.”
There are a number of other financial moves you can make before the end of the year. So, the best step to take? Consult your financial advisor. They can help you to make the smart moves NOW, before the holidays and the year-end.
Enjoy time with your family and friends. Those memories are priceless. But, retirement isn’t. So, call your financial advisor today and take those first or additional steps that will make your retirement better and smarter.
A.K. Burton, PC, has experienced financial advisors who can advise you on retirement planning, no matter what your occupation or age. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for a consultation. Our accounting firm serves the Bethesda, Rockville, and Montgomery County, Maryland areas.
It’s almost summer but vacation season really begins now: Memorial Day Weekend.
The grills come out. The bags are packed. The beach hotels are full. The gas tank is filled. Everyone is in vacation mode. The next three months will have millions of Americans spending billions of dollars taking time away from work.
Speaking of billions of dollars, you don’t have to spend a ton of money on your vacation if you plan it right. In fact, using tried and true methods, you can budget your time away and have it paid off, even before you leave.
Here are some financial tips to save on your vacation:
- Get a Travel Card from your bank: Every major bank has a card that you can use for vacation. You can transfer funds to it and take it with you. If it is lost or stolen, you just report it and it will be canceled. You won’t lose money. Plus, it keeps you honest. If you have $1,000 on it, you will try to keep within that number when vacationing.
- Stay at a vacation rental of Air BNB: Hotels typically hike their rates during the summer so you could spend $250-$450 a night at a resort or middle-class hotel, depending on the location. That means you could spend upwards of $1,500 for six nights at a hotel. That could be a budget buster. Instead, load the VRBO app at www.vrbo.com. Using this app, you can find vacation rentals which are in people’s homes and spend, instead, around $75 per night. A huge difference in savings!
- Flight prediction apps: We all know there are better and cheaper days and times to fly. (Tuesdays and Wednesdays, typically.) You could spend $850 on a roundtrip flight to San Francisco that leaves on Friday or save money and leave on a Tuesday but spend only $375. Load the Hopper app (www.hopper.com) to your smartphone and save. This flight prediction app gives you the best days and times to fly. It also tells you when flight fees go up or down. Once you see the cheapest ticket, you buy it. It is simple and saves you a lot of time, too.
- Eat where the locals eat: Of course the tourist trap restaurants will be pricy. They have a captive audience who is looking for convenience. Instead, find out where the locals eat. Go to Yelp (www.yelp.com) and Chowhound (www.chowhound.com) to see the restaurants locals like. Also, ask for recommendations from people you meet.
- Meet with your financial advisor before you leave: Your licensed and experienced financial advisor can help you budget and also make money-saving recommendations.
Here at A.K. Burton, PC we wish you a summer vacation for the books! Contact us at (301) 365-1974 or email@example.com. We serve the Bethesda, MD area.