Wealth Management Blog

Posts tagged Tax Planning

Six Things to Make the Most of Your Summer Months

By JJ Burns

July 13, 2017

As a kid, you waited all year for summer. It was the time in which getting up early, going to school, doing homework and taking tests, ceased to exist.

Of course, now that we are adults, we don’t get the summer off—nor do our finances.

Cash flow and tax planning play a part in our financial plans for the year. However, with the summer vacation months, those plans can sometimes fall off track.

Keep reading to find out how you can avoid a sharp summer’s hit to your finances, and still maintain a work/life balance that can help you further enjoy the mid-year vacation months.

Know Your Cash Flow

Within reason, your finances shouldn’t get in the way of your enjoyment of the summer vacation months.

Even if you have mortgage and car payment obligations in addition to adhering to your year-long financial plan, this doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun in the summer sun.

Check out your cash flow to see what you can afford to do with your family this summer. Make sure what you plan to spend does not affect your emergency fund (which should be six months’ worth of your yearly salary).

Plan Your Taxes

Next, see if your taxes are in order. For instance, are all your taxes paid? If you’re self-employed, have you made the correct estimated tax payments? Look into what you might owe federally or to the state where you live. Make it a point to also verify your property tax is paid.

Plan ahead for your deductions and credits before the tax year ends. You can maximize your deductions by making charitable donations, contributions to qualifying retirement accounts, or deposits to your health savings account (HSA). Consult your wealth manager for the maximum amounts you can contribute to avoid a tax penalty. Also, be sure to keep good records to make the tax filing process easier.

Introduce Your Kids to Finance

It’s never too early to teach your kids about finance, and summer can be your perfect opportunity to teach them financial value and responsibility.

For instance, for your younger ones, consider giving them a set amount of money for the summer, and then teach them how to budget to make the most of their money until the start of school. Suggest that they perform small odd jobs around the house, such as cleaning the yard or washing the family cars to make money that can further supplement their summer savings.

Your older kids can also learn financial life-long lessons this summer by becoming more independent. For instance, let them grocery shop or cook for themselves as well as their friends instead of going out to a potentially expensive lunch or dinner.

If your son or daughter drive to a job or paid internship this summer, encourage them to pay their fuel expenses, and of course auto insurance. Doing so will help them understand the importance of keeping up with not just their financial responsibilities, but also their real-world responsibilities.

Give your older kids other ideas to help build their financial independence. If your son or daughter has plans to attend music festivals or take summer weekend trips with friends, encourage them to work, save toward their goals. Paying for their own recreation or time away from home can have a monumental financial impression on them that could last a lifetime.

Vacation Within Reason

Okay, so maybe this summer you don’t feel like spending thousands of dollars on that villa in Tuscany. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the summer months while being a bit closer to home.

If the beach or the mountains are near, spend a couple weekends this summer playing in the waves or staring at the majestic high-altitude views. Doing so will be much more cost effective than going on an expensive vacation, especially abroad.

Also, for the fun of it, check out your local paper’s real estate section to find out if any timeshare resorts near you might be offering free weekend stays. If all you have to do in return is attend a seminar for potential timeshare buyers, the cost might be worth it.

Celebrate Smart, Particularly with Summer Weddings

All of us know weddings are expensive, particularly with some nuptials rising into the tens of thousands of dollars.

If someone in your household is getting married this summer, try to be fiscally responsible in spite of the fact that this is a special once-in-a-lifetime event for you, your son or daughter.

For instance, with weddings, budget experts suggest the event not be held on Saturday, but instead on a Sunday, or any other day of the week. Many hotels and resorts charge more for Saturday weddings as opposed to other days of the week.

Try to get married at the end of the season. You can save a good amount if yours’ or your son or daughter’s wedding is held in late August or September, as opposed to June or July.

Budget experts and wedding savers also suggest that you find a venue that doesn’t require you to use “in-house” vendors. Try to find a marriage and/or reception location where you can bring your own catering.

Additional savings can also be realized if the wedding and reception are held in the same location.

A Better Work/Life Balance

Summer is when we recharge ourselves, start new, and strengthen up for the remaining six months of the year.

In order to make the most of your summer, it's important to have a written plan of what you want to accomplish. Keep track of your finances, your taxes as well as any additional expenses this summer, such as a wedding or travel, and you’ll have a better chance to enjoy some quality down time without breaking the bank.

If anything, your work/life balance deserves it.

Tax-Cutting Moves To Make Now

By JJ Burns

December 19, 2013

Decisions you make between now and Dec. 31 will directly affect what you pay on your income taxes on April 15.  Here are six ideas to trim your taxes.

  1. Make those charitable deductions by Dec. 31. To the United Way, to your college, your child's college or school, the local Humane Society, your church or synagogue, the local non-profit theatre company. Basically, any group that qualifies as a 501 (c)(3) organization. You can contribute cash. You can also contribute stock, mutual funds or other securities that you've held for more than a year.
  2. Fund your retirement plan and, if you're a business owner, overfund your company's pension plans. If you have a 401(k) plan, try to max out your contributions. That reduces adjusted gross income. The 2013 limit is $17,500.  If you're 50 or older, you can add an additional $5,000. A business owner should look at making contributions to Keogh, SEP-IRAs, IRAs and the like. (For more, check this Internal Revenue Service release. Yes, sometimes the government IS here to help.)
  3. Defer income. Got a big bonus coming? Tell your company to defer the payment until next year so it's not 2013 income. If you're self-employed, send out invoices on Jan. 1. Have a big stock gain? Don't sell and defer the gain until next year.
  4. Pay next month's mortgage and 2014 property taxes now. Mortgage interest is deductible. Make your January payment on Dec. 31, and that month's interest is deductible. Pay your property taxes for 2014 on Dec. 31.
  5. Buy that new equipment. Are you expecting to add a new machine to your factory, put a new printer or buy a new dental or medical equipment? Buy it before Dec. 31, and you may be able to take advantage of the bonus depreciation and section 179 deductions available in 2013.
  6. Don't forget the AMT. This alternative -- and dreaded -- method of computing an income-tax bill is supposed to ensure everyone pays some tax. In New York, Connecticut and other high-tax states, too many deductions can trigger the AMT. Go through your income and expenses to see if these could trigger the AMT. You may want to push some deductions into 2014.

One last tip. Start thinking about your 2014 tax bill. Your income tax return for 2013 offers a guide to what your 2014 taxes may look like. Planning now can keep your taxes under control. Here's what we mean. If you need surgery and expect big-out-pocket expenses, maybe wait until next year. You can only deduct the expenses that exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income.

On behalf of our team we wish you health and happiness this holiday season!

Knowhow on Year-End Tax Planning

By JJ Burns

March 12, 2012

There’s no time like the end of the year for tax planning. By making a few small adjustments, you may be able to cut your tax bill for the current year by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Sometimes, simply pushing up a payment or postponing income by just a few days could make all the difference.

Of course, every situation is different and there are no right or wrong strategies to use across the board. For instance, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket in 2012 than you are in 2011, you might defy conventional wisdom and accelerate taxable income into the current year.

To further complicate matters, there is a possibility—admittedly remote—that Congress might reform the tax code by the end of 2011, and your best-laid plans could be thwarted. Still, you shouldn’t hesitate to implement fundamental tax strategies. Typically, individuals may benefit from shifting charitable deductions, medical expenses, and the like, while small business owners might purchase equipment or supplies at year-end to boost deductions for 2011.

Do you think you know the basics? Here’s a brief quiz to test your knowledge.

1) If you install qualified energy-saving improvements in your home in 2011:

  1. You may qualify for a 10% credit.
  2. You may qualify for a 30% credit.
  3. You may deduct the full cost.
  4. You may depreciate the cost over time.

2) For 2011, unreimbursed medical and dental expenses:

  1. Are completely deductible
  2. Are completely nondeductible
  3. Are deductible only in excess of 7.5% of adjusted gross income (AGI)
  4. Are deductible only in excess of 10% of AGI

3) If you donate used clothing to charity, you can generally deduct:

  1. The amount you paid for the clothing
  2. The amount that charity receives for selling the clothing
  3. The fair market value of the clothing
  4. Zero

4) If you charge a charitable gift of $100 in December 2011 and you pay the credit card bill in January 2012, how much can you deduct in 2011?

  1. Zero
  2. $25
  3. $50
  4. $100

5) The alternative minimum tax (AMT) may be triggered by:

  1. An overabundance of “tax preference” items
  2. Failure to pay sufficient estimated tax
  3. Filing separate tax returns, if married
  4. Excess expenses in the last quarter of the year

6) Which of the following is not deductible by individuals in 2011?

  1. State and local income taxes
  2. Credit card interest
  3. Miscellaneous expenses (subject to limits)     
  4. Casualty losses (subject to limits)

7) Which of the following is true about a holiday party for all employees?

  1. A small business can deduct none of the cost
  2. A small business can deduct 25% of the cost
  3. A small business can deduct 50% of the cost
  4. A small business can deduct 100% of the cost

Answers: 1-a; 2-c; 3-c; 4-d; 5-a; 6-b; 7-d