Set your tax and financial course for 2015

Were you less than satisfied with your financial situation at the end of 2014? If so, making tax-smart decisions in 2015 could provide a helpful course correction. Here are some suggestions to get you started on the right path.

  • Get structured. That out-of-control feeling from last year might be due to a lack of organization. Set up a simple filing system to arrange your tax papers and records. Once you’re organized, review your monthly expenses and establish a budget you can live with. Online tools can help make that job much easier.

Next, take your planning a step further and create an emergency fund. Consider setting aside six months of living expenses in an account you can tap easily. [Read more…]

Make time for your annual business checkup

You get an annual checkup from your physician to monitor and manage your personal health. Shouldn’t you do the same for your business? To keep your operation in top shape, consider an annual business review. The benefits of such a review are evaluating current performance and better planning of future operations.

Some things you should evaluate in an annual business review include the following:

  • Revisit your business strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. Is your competitive position improving, or are you losing ground?
  • How did you perform relative to your business plan? Did you meet or exceed your objectives? Are sales, profit margins, and cash flow improving?
  • Get a pulse on your customers. An annual customer satisfaction survey is a great way to assess performance, obtain insight on potential new products or services, and to let your customers know how much you value their business.
  • Evaluate your team. Are you developing a superior team, employing their unique talents, and training them to improve performance? Do you reward on merit or simply on seniority?
  • How effective is your marketing? Are your current methods and channels working well, or are you simply doing what you’ve always done?
  • Meet with your insurance agent. Is your coverage adequate and appropriate for changes in your business activities and acquisitions?
  • Review your business tax strategy. Identify opportunities for tax savings. Are you using the right form of business entity? Are you aware of recent changes in the tax code that might benefit your business?
  • How is your scorekeeping? Do your measurements track your progress or do they measure things that don’t matter? What are the key performance measures that drive your business?

If you are serious about improving your business, consider a yearly assessment of your operation. For any assistance you need, give us a call.

Major tax deadlines for March

  • March 2 – Payers must file 2014 information returns (such as 1099s) with the IRS. (Electronic filers have until March 31 to file.)
  • March 2 – Employers must send 2014 W-2 copies to the Social Security Administration. (Electronic filers have until March 31 to file.)
  • March 2 – Farmers and fishermen who did not make 2014 estimated tax payments are required to file 2014 tax returns and pay taxes in full.
  • March 16 – 2014 calendar-year corporation income tax returns are due.
  • March 16 – Deadline for calendar-year corporations to elect S corporation status for 2015.

David Beliveau

I found information about David and his firm on this Avvo site while I was doing some internet research, and thought it was appropriate for me to post my feedback on the site as well.
It had been over 10 years since I had reviewed my estate documents and they needed to be updated. I had to find another attorney since my previous attorney had retired. David’s client reviews were excellent in the areas of estate planning AND he offered a free, initial consultation, which was a requirement for me. Other pluses: licensing in MA, NH, & FL; Medicare expertise; multiple office locations.
At the initial consultation, David presented a good overall picture of the process, including some cost saving options.
Trustworthiness, subject matter expertise, thoroughness, organization, excellent communication and follow-up, and attention to detail are extremely important to me, and David met my expectations. All my questions were answered at my face-to-face meetings, or through email follow-ups, and I never felt rushed at the in-person meetings. I have confidence in David’s knowledge and his personal desire to stay up to date with the ever changing legal environment and believe he is a trustworthy practitioner. I sleep better at night knowing my affairs are now ‘in order’, and I trust David will be able to provide me with the legal advice/support I may require in the future.

~Chris, an estate planning client

Worker fired shortly before her job anniversary can sue

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act applies to workers only if they have been on the job for at least a year. So does that mean a company that doesn’t want to accommodate an employee with pregnancy complications can fire her one day before her first-year anniversary, so she’s not eligible for protection under the law?

No way, according to a federal judge in Minnesota.

The judge sided with a property manager named Ena Wages who was fired after her doctor ordered her not to work more than 20 hours a week. [Read more…]

Employee can use up vacation time before taking family leave

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act allows certain workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a medical problem, for the birth of a child, or to care for an ailing family member.

Usually, businesses want to minimize the time that an employee is away from work. So a lot of companies have a policy that requires employees to use up their accrued paid vacation or sick time as part of their 12 weeks of leave.

Suppose an employee has two weeks of vacation, and wants to take off 12 weeks to care for a sick relative. A business that has such a policy could require that the employee take the vacation as part of the leave. The employee would be paid for two of the 12 weeks of leave, but would have no accrued vacation time left when he or she returned to work. [Read more…]

Training and orientation may have to be ‘on the clock’

In general, hourly workers are paid only for time they actually spend performing their job duties. But there are exceptions. For example, courts have recently ruled that workers should also be paid for time they spend putting on and taking off safety equipment, and even for time they spend showering before leaving the premises if they have been working with hazardous materials.

And according to a federal judge in Chicago, training and orientation for new hourly hires who haven’t started work yet should be considered paid time as well.

In that case, nearly 10,000 people hired to work as security guards for Securitas Security Services USA were forced to attend an unpaid orientation and training session before starting their employment. [Read more…]

Protections for disabled workers are expanding

Under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, workers who are otherwise qualified for a position but who have a disability must be given “reasonable accommodations” that enable them to do the job.

In other words, if a worker has the skills, training and aptitude to do a job, but needs some modifications – such as a flexible schedule, a more handicap-accessible workplace, or minor alterations to job duties – the employer has to allow them, as long as they don’t overly burden the business.

For example, Jane Harris worked as a resale steel buyer for Ford Motor Company. Her job required telephone and computer contact with co-workers, and she received excellent performance reviews. However, she also suffered from a severe case of irritable bowel syndrome, which was so bad that she often couldn’t drive to work or get up from her desk without soiling herself. [Read more…]

Workers’ ‘right to complain’ is expanded by the U.S. government

Recently, a car salesman in Arizona met with the owner of the dealership and a couple of managers to complain about his wages, commissions and break times. During the discussion, the owner became frustrated and told the salesman that if he didn’t like things the way they were, he was free to seek employment elsewhere.

The salesman flew off the handle, and unleashed a torrent of obscenities at his boss. Not surprisingly, he was fired.

End of story, right? Not quite. Even though the salesman didn’t belong to a union, he complained to the National Labor Relations Board. And the Board decided that he had been wrongfully fired, and ordered the dealership to reinstate him with full back pay.

How could this be? [Read more…]

Divorced mom sued for lying about who was the father

A man who claimed his ex-wife lied to him when she told him he was the father of her child can sue for damages, the Tennessee Supreme Court recently ruled.

The woman was already pregnant when the couple married in 1991. The husband claimed that she assured him at the time that he was the father. When the couple divorced nine years later, the husband was ordered to pay child support.

But he sued his ex-wife after learning from DNA tests that he was not in fact the boy’s biological father. He claimed his ex-wife knew all along that another man was actually the father. [Read more…]

‘Wrongful death’ payment can’t be tapped for child support

A woman whose ex-husband was killed in a motorcycle accident couldn’t collect back child support from the proceeds of a “wrongful death” lawsuit filed by the man’s estate, the West Virginia Supreme Court recently decided.

The estate negotiated a $300,000 settlement from the other driver’s insurance company. The mother argued that some of that money should be used to pay off the $60,000 in back child support the ex-husband owed her but never paid.

But the court said that under state law, a wrongful death lawsuit is intended to benefit a deceased person’s beneficiaries, and not his or her creditors. [Read more…]

Switch to working night shift might affect custody

A mother could get primary custody of her children after the father was put on the night shift at work, the Michigan Court of Appeals recently decided.

The parents had previously shared joint custody. The father argued that this arrangement should continue, since a different shift at work didn’t amount to a significant change in circumstances.

But the court disagreed, and said that given the facts of this case, the overall change in the children’s home environment as a result of the shift change had a substantial impact on their well-being.

Mother who turned children against father loses custody

Parents are frequently angry with each other during the divorce process, but it’s important to remember that children need both parents and that it’s not a good idea to express your anger through your children. Not only can this be harmful to your children, but it can affect your own legal rights as well.

In one recent case in Pennsylvania, a mother’s actions resulted in her losing custody altogether.

In that case, a judge determined that the mother had coached her children – ages 9 and 12 – to hate their father. She told the children to refuse to eat food he served, to kick him, to spit on him, and to actively disrespect him in numerous other ways. [Read more…]

Can spouses be forced to show how child support is spent?

The rapper Clifford Harris – who performs under the stage name “T.I.” – had two sons with his girlfriend Lashon Dixon before the couple split up. Afterward, T.I. was ordered to pay $2,000 per month in child support, plus private school tuition, medical expenses and other costs.

Dixon went back to court seeking an increase to about $3,000 a month. T.I. objected, and argued that Dixon was misusing the payments by living off the money herself instead of actively seeking employment. He demanded an accounting of how exactly the money would be spent if she received an increase.

Disputes about how child support is being spent are fairly common. But whether and when a parent can be forced to explain how the money is actually being used depends a great deal on the circumstances, and varies from state to state. [Read more…]

Student loan debt can complicate divorce settlements

As the cost of higher education continues to skyrocket, so does the amount of student loan debt that graduates are saddled with going forward. Some 70% of students who earned bachelor’s degrees in 2012 had student loans, and these loans averaged a startling $29,400. Many students who have also taken out loans for graduate or professional degrees are now leaving school with debts in six figures.

According to the Federal Reserve Board, Americans now owe more money on student loans than they owe on auto loans or credit cards.

So what happens when couples with significant student loan debt divorce? Who gets stuck having to pay off the bill? [Read more…]

IRS cracks down on alimony

If you’re paying alimony, you can declare the amount you’ve paid each year on your income tax return and receive a deduction. Similarly, if you receive alimony, you’re required to report the amount you receive during the year on your tax return as income.

Unfortunately, it appears many taxpayers are being less than completely precise when they report these amounts on their returns.

A recent government report identified a huge national gap between the alimony deductions claimed by payers and the alimony income claimed by receivers. And as a result, the Internal Revenue Service is cracking down. [Read more…]