Traditional IRAs vs. Roth IRAs

Roth IRA Nest EggTwo types of IRAs are available to fund your retirement: Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. While both are subject to many of the same rules there are several important differences. It’s important to understand these differences because the type of individual retirement account (IRA) you choose can significantly impact your financial future and that of your family.

Who Can Contribute to an IRA?

Any person with income from wages or self-employment can contribute to an IRA (either traditional or Roth)–including children as long as they meet the income conditions. Individuals can contribute up to $5,500 in 2017. A catch-up contribution of $1,000 is allowed for anyone over the age of 50, for a total contribution of $6,500. Contributions are also allowed for stay-at-home spouses (up to $5,500 in 2017) as long as the couple’s wages or self-employment earnings total at least $11,000.

Note: You cannot contribute to a traditional IRA if you are age 70 1/2 or older even if you (or your spouse, if filing jointly) have taxable compensation. You can, however, make contributions to your Roth IRA after you reach age 70 1/2.

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Tax Tips for Those Affected By Natural Disasters

Every year, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, and other natural disasters affect people throughout the US. The bad news is that recovery efforts after natural disasters can be costly. For instance, when hurricanes strike they not only cause wind damage but can cause widespread flooding. Many homeowners are not covered for damage due to flooding because most standard insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Fortunately, tax relief is available–but only if you meet certain conditions. For business owners and self-employed individuals who may owe estimated taxes, for example, the IRS typically delays filing deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. Continue reading

Business Entertainment Expenses

As a business owner, you are entitled to deduct certain expenses on your tax return such as those relating to entertaining clients. Entertainment is considered any activity that provides entertainment, amusement, or recreation. It may also include meeting the personal, living, or family needs of individuals including providing meals, a hotel suite, or a car to customers or their families.

A meal that you provide to a customer or client may also be considered a form of entertainment. The meal may be part of other entertainment or stand alone. Meal expenses are defined as the cost of food, beverages, taxes, and tips for the meal. To deduct an entertainment-related meal, you or your employee must be present when the food or beverages are provided, and you cannot deduct a meal as both a travel and entertainment expense. Continue reading

Preparing an Effective Business Plan

Business PlanWhether you’re starting a new company, seeking additional financing for an existing one, or analyzing a new market, a business plan is a valuable tool. Think of it as your blueprint for success. Not only will it clarify your business vision and goals, but it will also force you to gain a thorough understanding of how resources (financial and human) will be used to carry out that vision and goals.

Before you begin preparing your business plan, take the time to carefully evaluate your business and personal goals as this may give you valuable insight into your specific goals and what you want to accomplish. Think about the reasons why you are starting a new business; maybe you’re ready to be your own boss, or you want financial independence. Whatever the reason it is important to determine the “why.”

Next, you need to figure out what business is “right for you.” Chances are you already have a specific business in mind but if not you might want to think about your business in terms of what technical skills and experience you have, whether you have any marketable hobbies or interests, what competition you might have, how you might market your products or services, and how much time you have to run a successful business (it may take more time than you think).

Finally, you’ll need to figure out how you want to get started. Most people choose one of three options: starting a business from scratch, purchasing an existing business, or operating a franchise. Each has pros and cons, and only you can decide which business fits. Continue reading

Identity Theft: What to Watch out for and What to do

Tax-related identity theft typically occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. Anyone can fall victim to identity theft. Here is an important reminder of how to protect yourself from identity theft, what to watch out for, and what do if your identity has been compromised: Continue reading

Who Can Represent You Before the IRS?

Many people use a tax professional to prepare their taxes. Anyone who prepares, or assists in preparing, all or substantially all of a federal tax return for compensation is required to have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All enrolled agents must also have a valid PTIN. Tax professionals with an IRS Preparer. If you choose to have someone prepare your federal tax return you should know who can represent you before the IRS–and when–if there is a problem with your return. Continue reading

Ten Key Tax Facts about Home Sales

Home salesIn most cases, gains from sales are taxable. But did you know that if you sell your home, you may not have to pay taxes? Here are ten facts to keep in mind if you sell your home this year.

1. Exclusion of Gain. You may be able to exclude part or all of the gain from the sale of your home. This rule may apply if you meet the eligibility test. Parts of the test involve your ownership and use of the home. You must have owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of sale. Continue reading