Legal Articles

Internet contracts must be apparent to be enforceable

If you do business using the internet, you want to ensure your internet contracts are enforceable. To do that, terms need to be presented in such a way that users have reasonable knowledge of them.

Your internet agreements may cover a range of terms including allowable use of the site, privacy policies, subscriber agreements, terms of sale, and credit card agreements. These agreements can impact where a lawsuit is adjudicated and whether arbitration is mandatory, among other things. [Read more…]

Tax write-offs for government settlements restricted

Included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a provision that disallowed tax deductions for settlements between federal agencies and companies accused of wrongdoing. While previous tax law already barred deductions for criminal fines and penalties owed to the government, businesses could still deduct payments made to compensate victims or correct damages. The effect, critics said, is that taxpayers ended up subsidizing corporate misconduct. [Read more…]

Can a business refuse service to same-sex couples?

After ruling in favor of a baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving a florist who made a similar denial. The court sent the florist’s case back to a lower court, directing it to revisit the decision in light of the ruling involving the cake, the Masterpiece Cakeshop case.

In ruling for the baker, Jack Phillips, the court held that Colorado commissioners showed hostility toward Phillips’ religious beliefs because the state civil rights commission ruled against him while allowing other bakers to turn away a customer seeking cakes with anti-gay messages.

The court avoided a larger constitutional question regarding whether a business can decline to provide products or services due to religious objections to same-sex marriage. [Read more…]

Glitch in new tax law discouraging business investment

In June, a group of restaurants, retailers, and industry associations sent a letter to lawmakers asking them to correct a mistake in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The law inadvertently increased the tax burden on a category of business investment called Qualified Improvement Property (QIP).

The new tax law included a provision known as “100 percent bonus depreciation,” which allows businesses to write off immediately the cost of short-lived investments. Due to an error, the language excludes QIP investments.

QIP investments include remodeling and other improvement projects to nonresidential buildings. Now, as currently written, businesses must depreciate those deductions over 39 years. This provision is less favorable than rules that existed before the law went into effect. [Read more…]

California’s new data privacy law and your business

In June, California passed a consumer privacy law that could affect many organizations conducting business in the state.

The law, which has been likened to the European Union’s GDPR regulations, gives California consumers the right to know what personal information a business has collected about them, including where it was sourced from and how that information is being used.

Consumers also have the right to opt out of having their information sold, the right to delete their information, and the right to receive equal service and pricing even if they exercise their privacy rights. [Read more…]

Sales tax to hit online retailers

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that online retailers can be required to collect sales taxes in states where they have no physical presence. The decision came in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. and represents a victory for brick-and-mortar stores as well as states that claimed they were losing billions of dollars in revenue.

The ruling effectively overturned a 1992 judgment in which the court ruled that states couldn’t require businesses to collect sales tax unless they had a physical presence in the state.

But as internet retailing grew, states began to feel the loss. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said, “The Internet’s prevalence and power have changed the dynamics of the national economy.” Estimates suggest that states were losing out on sales tax revenues of $8 billion to $33 billion per year. [Read more…]

Hedging Against a Trade War

As a small business owner, the words “trade war” and “tariff” can be unsettling. When cost uncertainty is on the horizon, you will want to be prepared as much as possible. Here are some ideas to help you navigate your business through a possible trade war.

Tariffs defined

A tariff is a tax on imports imposed by a governing authority. The tax can be on specific goods and services, countries of origin, or both. The current tariff conversation appears to be centered around reducing the U.S. trade deficit with China and other trading partners. When a tariff is placed, often times the affected country will impose retaliatory tariffs to protect its own businesses and reset the balance of trade to their favor. [Read more…]

Give your Credit Score a Boost

Your credit score is one of the most important aspects of your financial health. It is used by potential lenders, landlords, and even employers to analyze your financial situation in one way or another. Here are some tips that might help you improve your score: [Read more…]

Combat Employee Turnover

With unemployment at historically low rates, retaining employees is harder than ever. Here are some tips to help your business maintain a thriving workforce:

  • Invest in current employees. One of the key opportunities for business success is a continual investment in your current workforce. If you have employees with potential to grow, offer training and continuing education to help them realize that potential. With online courses, this is now easy to do without a major disruption in day-to-day activities. These courses can be as general as teaching supervisory skills or obtaining accreditation in a chosen field. Then when there is a need to be filled, often times it can be filled internally with a committed employee.
  • Convert contractors to employees. Utilizing contractors is a great strategy to handle overflow work. You can then have current employees manage the consultant’s work to develop their supervisory skills. At the same time, you can vet contractors to see if they could take an expanded role as a full-time employee. Many contractors prefer to be independent, but that is not always the case. Circumstances change and the security of being an employee might be intriguing.
  • Review compensation and benefits packages. Conduct an annual review to ensure that your company is offering competitive salaries and benefits. This will help protect your business against current employees seeking greener pastures. Consider giving impromptu pay increases and spot awards to top employees to show your appreciation. Also look at being creative with benefits and vacation packages.
  • Explore the benefits of internships. An internship program can not only help you identify your next employees, it can help develop your current employees. While it can be seen as a hardship by your current workforce, it can be a rewarding way to cement your employee’s knowledge and value to the organization as they are seen as a teacher. Plus you may find your next group of potential hires.
  • Assess your corporate culture. Employees want to enjoy going to work every day. Consider conducting an anonymous survey of your current employees to see what they like and get ideas for possible improvements.

[Read more…]

The Eye-Opening Video Games Phenomena

Over the course of the last 20 years, video games have morphed from an entertainment choice into a lifestyle. According to a 2018 Nielsen study, a whopping 66 percent of Americans 13 and older identify themselves as gamers. Here’s what you need to know:

Major Developments

  • A massive 24/7 online community. Instead of needing friends to be physically present to compete against, gamers play with people from all over the world at all times of the day. By having the community attached to the video game, an online society exists where gamers spend hours and even days immersed in this alternate online reality.
  • Video games as a spectator sport. These online game communities create a platform to give visibility to the top game players. Gamers now watch other gamers for new playing strategies and for entertainment.In May, a League of Legends video game event drew a record 127 million online viewers — 23 million more viewers than the 2018 Super Bowl! The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) have taken notice and have their own virtual teams (eSports leagues) as companions to their live-action leagues.
  • Gaming as a career. The top gamers in eSports leagues sign contracts with their teams and have endorsements with outside advertisers. In addition to eSports, skilled gamers can set up accounts on YouTube or Twitch to gain viewers by showing off their abilities. One of the top streamers, who goes by the nickname Ninja, has over 5 million YouTube subscribers and makes more than $500,000 per month playing and commenting on the game Fortnite. Parents can even hire Fortnite tutors for their kids.

[Read more…]

Education: Tax Changes You Need to Know

As students gear up to head back to school, there are some changes to education deductions that could save or cost you more in taxes and even raise college tuition costs. Here is what you need to know to get up to speed:

What is gone

Continuing Education as an itemized deduction: In previous years, you could deduct expenses paid for job-related continuing education as a miscellaneous itemized deduction. This deduction has been eliminated. However, if your employer will pay for the education, they can cover up to $5,250 tax-free.

Home equity line of credit (HELOC) interest for education expenses: A popular method of generating cash to pay for school expenses is taking out a HELOC. Beginning in 2018, you can only deduct HELOC interest if you use the loan proceeds to buy, build or substantially improve your home. This means that if you plan to obtain HELOC for purposes of paying for education expenses, the interest will not be deductible. [Read more…]

Is a Tax Surprise Waiting for You?

Often lost in the excitement of large-scale tax change is how they can negatively impact some individual situations. Check out the questions below to see if you might be in for a tax surprise this year. [Read more…]

Upcoming Dates

September 3: Labor Day

September 17:

  • 3rd quarter estimated tax due
  • Filing deadline for 2017 S corp and partnership returns that received extension

October 1: SIMPLE IRA plan establishment due

Single incident can support hostile work environment claim

Sexual harassment claims tend to take one of two forms: “quid pro quo” harassment, where a supervisor offers favorable treatment in exchange for a sexual relationship, or “hostile work environment” harassment, where a supervisor or co-worker engages in offensive or intimidating conduct that makes the workplace intolerable.  For hostile environment claims, courts look for conduct that is “pervasive.” But a recent federal court case from New York shows that in some instances, one or two incidents can be enough to land an employer in hot water.

In that case, a male corrections officer home recovering from knee surgery was using the bathroom when his male supervisor called to check on him. When he returned the supervisor’s call, he claimed the supervisor asked him if he’d been masturbating.  He also claimed that two years later, while he was sitting in a booking room, the supervisor started rubbing his shoulders and told him in very crude language what he would do to him sexually if the supervisor was a woman. [Read more…]

Employer faces claim by employee ‘regarded as’ disabled

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides broad employment protections for people with disabilities. For example, under the ADA, employers cannot take a “negative employment action,” e.g., demote, underpay, refuse to promote or refuse to hire a worker, based on his or her disability as long as the worker is capable of doing the job with “reasonable accommodations.”

But did you know the ADA will also hold employers accountable if they discriminate against a worker who they “regard as” disabled, even if the worker doesn’t actually have a disability?

This happened recently in Illinois. Ronald Shell applied for a job in a Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway railyard. The job was a safety-sensitive position that involved working with heavy equipment. [Read more…]

High burden for employers justifying pay disparities

Under the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA), employers are required to pay men and women equally for work that requires “substantially equal” skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions. Employers who violate the EPA by paying women less than equally qualified men for the same work risk serious consequences, including enforcement actions by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and lawsuits by employees who claim they’ve been discriminated against.

Employers can defend themselves against EPA claims by claiming they had “gender-neutral” reasons for a pay disparity. But a recent ruling by a federal appeals court shows that employers have to meet a high standard for this to work.

In that case, three state employees in Maryland sued their employer under the EPA, complaining they were being paid less than male co-workers with the same qualifications. [Read more…]

Employers must document performance issues

A recent seven-figure jury verdict in Massachusetts shows that employers who encounter workers with performance issues must document those issues or leave themselves vulnerable to discrimination and wrongful-termination claims.

The employee in question, auto mechanic James Bereford, was fired at age 61 after working at a garage that was part of a regional chain for more than 30 years.

According to the employer, Bereford lost his job because of attitude problems and poor performance. Specifically, the company claimed they fired him because he actively resisted new management’s efforts to modernize garage operations. For example, he apparently refused to use vehicle maintenance software that the company installed to manage its repair services, insisting the old paper record-keeping system was more reliable. He also allegedly told the bosses, “I don’t do computers” and said he had no intention of learning how to use them. [Read more…]

How to address workplace misbehavior in the #MeToo age

Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct have been front and center in the media for months now. Reports of film mogul Harvey Weinstein’s conduct, followed by reports of similar behavior from other famous and powerful men in entertainment, politics, sports, and business, have sparked a new awareness and intolerance for conduct that crosses the line.

Meanwhile, the #MeToo movement has empowered victims to come forward and report misbehavior.

This has implications for employers.  Sexual harassment has been considered a form of illegal discrimination for several decades and employers have long been expected to take allegations seriously. But now there’s an even higher expectation that employers will actively address workplace sexual misconduct and proactively take steps to make it less likely to occur in the first place. Employers who fail to do so risk negative publicity, legal liability and the serious financial fallout that can follow. [Read more…]

Football participation for kids source of conflict in family court

Divorcing parents fight over a range of issues, from big questions like who the children will live with and how to handle major educational and medical decisions to some relatively minor issues.

Now another source of contentiousness has emerged: whether the kids should play football.

As more and more evidence links football to long-term brain damage, a lot of parents are having second thoughts about whether their children should play the sport. This has resulted in disagreements that led to some parents going to court over whether their custody orders should bar their kids from taking the field. [Read more…]

Deceased worker’s retirement benefits go to sister, not wife

If you’re getting married and want your retirement and other similar benefits to go to your new spouse if you pass away first, it’s very important to update all your policies and plans to name your spouse as the beneficiary. Otherwise, your property might not get distributed in the way you want.

This happened recently in Texas. A man got married in 2003 but never changed the beneficiary designation for his retirement benefits. He died eight years later.  His wife was also the executor of his estate and went to probate court seeking a ruling that the benefits were rightfully hers as “community property.” The judge, however, said they belonged to her late husband’s sister, who was named as the beneficiary. [Read more…]

Wife who abandoned husband forfeited spouse’s share of his estate

Living separate lives may be the key to some long-lasting marriages. But doing so could result in the forfeit of important interests, as a Missouri case shows.

The couple, in that case, Marilyn and John David Heill, married in 1968. In the 1990s, John started spending most of his time at his parents’ farm in another county.

He returned to the marital home to recover from a heart attack but went back to the farm in 1999 when he inherited it upon his mother’s death. [Read more…]

Father wins custody battle with grandmother

A recent case from Virginia demonstrates that a parent typically has the edge in a custody battle with a non-parent and that it takes extraordinary circumstances for a non-parent to overcome that advantage.

The case involved a dispute between the father of a 9-year-old girl and the maternal grandmother she’d lived with her entire life.

The father was in jail while the girl was a baby. During that time she lived with her grandmother in what the court described as a “spacious” home. Her mother lived there too before relocating to Georgia in 2015. [Read more…]

‘No contest’ clauses not bulletproof

A “no contest” clause is a provision in a lot of estate documents that automatically disinherit anyone who challenges its terms. The purpose is to scare people out of bringing lawsuits claiming that the will or trust doesn’t reflect the creator’s real wishes.

But a recent Massachusetts case shows that these provisions won’t necessarily bar all challenges. In that case, the mother of two adult siblings created an estate plan that distributed what one sibling thought was an unreasonable share of the family assets, which included significant wealth from a multimillion-dollar family ice cream business and valuable real-estate holdings, to her brother and his kids. [Read more…]

Digital spying on your spouse is a bad idea

There’s a lot of cutting-edge technology available today that makes it easy to spy on someone — or for someone to spy on you.

Some programs enable people to “jailbreak” your phone and get past your anti-spyware protection. Once that protection is gone, other programs can give someone access to emails, text messages and call history. Then other programs can be used to encrypt your data and send it to an account where it can be accessed.

Unfortunately, the existence of such technology may tempt someone in a bad marriage to use it to spy on his or her spouse.  That could lead to evidence of infidelity, help dig up dirt for a custody case, or provide evidence that an ex is cohabiting with a new significant other, which the spying spouse could use to get out from under his or her alimony obligations. [Read more…]

Manage Capital Gains Tax Tips

If not tracked and managed properly, capital gains tax can come as a large surprise at tax-filing time. In fact, many taxpayers don’t realize they have a capital gain until they get their 1099 form in January and see a capital gain distribution. Here’s what you need to know.

Understand capital gains and their taxability

Capital gains are recognized when you sell a capital asset for more than your basis in that asset. Capital assets are typically something of value like your home, a car and other investments. The basis is typically the original cost of the asset being sold. The difference between the sales price of the asset and your basis is the amount of the taxable capital gain. [Read more…]

Setting up Your Business Accounting System

You’ve done the hard work. You have a new business idea or you’ve found an existing business to purchase. Want to help ensure your business success? Pay attention to correctly set up your business’ accounting system. Here’s how: [Read more…]

Are you Sharing Too Much Information Online?

In today’s digital age, it is impossible to avoid the internet. Even if you don’t have a computer and actively avoid social media, there is information about you in some corner of the web. Here are some tips to help you manage your digital footprint: [Read more…]

Dramatic Sales Tax Change

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in the South Dakota vs Wayfair case that opens the door for states to impose the sales tax on sellers outside their borders. The case highlights a new standard of business presence called “economic nexus” that may have major implications for businesses and consumers alike.

Economic nexus explained

The exact definition varies, but in general, economic nexus makes a connection between a taxing authority (usually a state) and a seller based on certain sales or transaction levels. The Supreme Court agrees with South Dakota that having an economic presence is enough to require an out-of-state retailer to register with the state to collect and remit sales tax. For example, the state of South Dakota mandates that if a retailer has $100,000 in annual in-state sales or has 200 separate in-state sales transactions over the previous 12 months, they must collect sales tax on all sales in South Dakota. [Read more…]

Ideas to Improve Your Financial Health

No-one likes to be blindsided by financial hardship. Listed here are 10 ideas to help ensure your financial situation stays healthy. [Read more…]

Student Loan Forgiveness Creates New Tax Trap

There’s a new student loan repayment program that forgives some student loan debt if other payments are made. This new debt forgiveness is creating a tax surprise for the unsuspecting student. Here is what you need to know.

The debt forgiveness program dilemma

To combat the hardship of high student loan debt, a popular new repayment option is the income-based repayment plan. These plans limit monthly payment amounts to a percentage of discretionary income. They also limit the number of repayment years. If your loan is not paid by a pre-determined future date and you’ve been making the payments as agreed, the balance of the loan is forgiven. [Read more…]

Know when to consult a real estate attorney

It’s generally wise to seek the advice of a real estate attorney any time you buy or sell a property.  Common sale scenarios pose specialized legal risk, and you should consult an experienced attorney if any of the following apply to your sale:

  • Judgements or liens: If there’s a lien on your property, retain an attorney to evaluate the validity of the lien and how to remove it before it holds up a sale.
  • Heir to a property: If you’re an out-of-state heir, you should work with an attorney to ensure all ownership and title issues are in order. Talk about disclosure issues and how to best represent a property when you may have little knowledge of its past or potential concerns.
  • Joint ownership: The ownership structure of your property may impact your ability to sell, particularly if it’s a jointly inherited house. Ensure all joint tenants are on the same page and agree how to split the proceeds. A qualified attorney can help sort out deed issues and sale agreements to ensure your interests are protected and the house can legally be sold.
  • Unmarried domestic partners: Once you and your partner have agreed on expectations, contact a real estate attorney who can draft a home sale agreement that establishes how proceeds will be allocated and what responsibility each party will take for any debts or encumbrances.
  • Disclosure concerns: If you’re concerned about potential issues with the property (e.g., a death on the property or nuisance neighbors), consult an attorney about your disclosure obligations. Remember, you’re required to answer buyers’ questions truthfully, to the best of your ability.

[Read more…]

Getting a mortgage with frozen credit

Remember the Equifax data breach last summer? Roughly 145 million Americans had their personal information and credit data compromised, leaving them open to identity fraud and theft.

As a result, U.S. credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) saw a surge in consumers signing up to freeze their accounts.

Now some would-be homebuyers are running into a hurdle in the mortgage application process: frozen credit. Fortunately, you can request a temporary “thaw” that allows lenders to access your account without permanently lifting your freeze. [Read more…]

Buyers increasing down payments to gain edge

Buyers are facing heavy competition in certain U.S. housing markets, and many are increasing their down payment to gain the competitive edge.

In purchase situations with multiple offers, the buyer with the larger down payment is likely to win out. In part, that’s because larger down payments suggest less risk that financing could fall through. More importantly, a higher down payment can effectively bridge any financing gaps should the home appraisal come in at less than the offered purchase price. [Read more…]

Home values could decline, thanks to tax changes

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law in late December, will affect millions of Americans in different ways. When it comes to real estate, legal experts suggest that the massive tax overhaul could have some unintended consequences, including discouraging homeownership and slowing the pace of home appreciation.

Here’s how the new law affects homeowners:

  • Lower limits on mortgage interest deductions: Under the new law, homeowners can deduct interest on mortgages up to $750,000, down from $1 million. The reduction makes it more expensive to borrow money for high-priced homes.
  • Limits on SALT deductions: Previously all state and local taxes (SALT) could be claimed as an itemized deduction. Now all SALT tax deductions — including property, income and sales taxes — have a collective $10,000 cap.
  • Standard deduction doubled: The new law doubles the standard deduction to $12,000 for an individual filer and $24,000 for a married couple. That means fewer couples will have an incentive to itemize because their mortgage interest and $10,000-capped SALT deduction won’t exceed $24,000.
  • Home equity loan advantages gone: In the past, homeowners were able to deduct up to $100,000 in interest on home equity loans. That deduction is gone altogether, even if you take out the loan for real estate improvements. The change does not have a grandfather provision, meaning everyone with a home equity loan will be affected.
  • Most relocation deductions eliminated: Under the old law, you could deduct some of your moving expenses when relocating for a new job. Now, only active duty service members may deduct those costs.

[Read more…]

HUD makes reverse mortgages less attractive

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has made changes to the federal reverse mortgage program. Citing the need to put the program on better financial footing, HUD has raised reverse mortgage fees for some borrowers and lowered the amount homeowners can borrow. The changes took effect on October 2, 2017. They affect borrowers who take out new loans, but not existing loans.

A reverse mortgage allows a homeowner who is at least 62 years old to use the equity in his or her home to obtain a loan that does not have to be repaid until the homeowner moves, sells, or dies. In a reverse mortgage, the homeowner receives a sum of money from the lender, usually a bank, based largely on the value of the house, the age of the borrower, and current interest rates. Seniors sometimes use the loans to pay for long-term care. [Read more…]

Should you enroll in two popular Medigap plans while you can?

If you will soon turn 65 and be applying for Medicare, you should carefully consider which “Medigap” policy to enroll in because two of the most popular plans will be ending soon.

Between copayments, deductibles, and coverage exclusions, Medicare does not cover all medical expenses. Medigap (or “supplemental”) plans offered by private insurers are designed to supplement and fill in the “gaps” in Medicare coverage. There are 10 Medigap plans currently being sold, identified by letters. Each plan package offers a different combination of benefits. [Read more…]

What happens when a nursing home closes?

The expansion of alternatives to nursing homes, such as assisted living and community care, has been financially challenging for the nursing home industry, and every year a small percentage of facilities close their doors. The state or federal government may also shutter a facility for safety issues.

Moving into a nursing home can be a stressful experience by itself. If that nursing home closes, residents can experience symptoms that include depression, agitation, and withdrawn behavior, according to The Consumer Voice, a long-term care consumer advocacy group. While there may not be much that can be done to prevent a closure, residents do have some rights. [Read more…]

How to reverse Medicare surcharges when your income changes

Are you a high-income Medicare beneficiary who is paying a surcharge on your premiums but who has experienced a drop in income or is anticipating one? If your circumstances change, you can reverse those surcharges.

Higher-income Medicare beneficiaries (individuals who earn more than $85,000) pay higher Part B and prescription drug benefit premiums than do Medicare beneficiaries with lower incomes. The extra amount the beneficiary owes increases in stages as the beneficiary’s income increases. The Social Security Administration uses income reported two years ago to determine a beneficiary’s premiums. So the income reported on a beneficiary’s 2016 tax return is used to determine whether the beneficiary must pay a higher monthly premium in 2018. [Read more…]

Three reasons why giving your house to your kids isn’t the best way to protect it from Medicaid

Are you afraid of losing your home if you have to enter a nursing home and apply for Medicaid? While this fear is well-founded, transferring the home to your children is usually not the best way to protect it.

Although a home generally does not have to be sold in order to qualify for Medicaid coverage of nursing home care, the state could file a claim against the house after you die. If you get help from Medicaid to pay for the nursing home, the state must attempt to recoup from your estate whatever benefits it paid for your care. This is called “estate recovery.” If you want to protect your home from this recovery, you may be tempted to give it to your children. Here are three reasons not to: [Read more…]

Useful Online Productivity and Security Tools

Here are several popular free or inexpensive online tools that can help manage and protect your online activities. They range from password management tools to security protection services.

Password Managers

A decade-old study by Microsoft estimates that the average person memorizes about six passwords and reuses them over and over. Today most people use dozens if not hundreds of online sites that require passwords. You put your security at risk if you are still using a few of the same old passwords. [Read more…]

Elements of a Good Business Partnership

Like a bundle of sticks, good business partners support each other and are less likely to crack under strain together than on their own. In fact, companies with multiple owners have a stronger chance of surviving their first five years than sole proprietorships, according to U.S. Small Business Administration data.

Yet sole proprietorships are more common than partnerships, making up more than 70 percent of all businesses. That’s because while good partnerships are strong, they can be hard to make. Here are some elements that good business partnerships require: [Read more…]

Is It Worth It to Amend Your Return?

Whether it makes sense to amend your return depends on which of these situations you’re in:

If you owe the IRS

If you discover an omission on your tax return that results in you owing additional tax, you need to correct it with an amendment and provide the tax due.

Don’t delay if this is your situation. If the IRS discovers the omission before you do, they may add interest and penalties to your bill. [Read more…]

Become Debt-Free

The average household carries $137,063 in debt, while the median household income is less than $60,000, according to data from the Federal Reserve and U.S. Labor Department. While it’s easy to get into debt, it can be hard to get out. Here are five tips personal finance experts recommend to lower your debt burden: [Read more…]

How Long Will It Last?

Planning to replace common items

Part of financial planning is having a good sense of how much it will cost to replace your possessions when they break down or wear out. But many of the big-ticket consumer products may cost more to replace and wear out sooner than you think.

An essential part of financial planning is to budget replacing some of these items each year. To help you do this, here are some common big-ticket items, how long they tend to last, and how much it may cost to replace them. [Read more…]

Five Tax Breaks for New Parents

New parents have their work cut out for them. Not only are they dealing with lost sleep, they also face the extra cost of raising a child. At least there are a lot of potential tax breaks available to them. Check out this list and share it with any new parents you know. [Read more…]

This month:

July 4: Independence Day

July 31: Quarterly federal excise tax returns (Form 720) due

July 31: Employer quarterly federal tax returns (Form 941) due

July 31: Calendar-year employee retirement and benefit plan returns (5500 series) due [Read more…]

Buying long term care insurance for your parents

Are your parents adequately prepared for retirement? If not, are you planning to help them out?

In many families, one or more adult children will step up to help Mom and Dad when they can no longer safely take care of themselves. That could mean time away from your family and job or pitching in financially to cover a variety of expenses. [Read more…]

When your parents die with debt

At any age, the death of a parent is a difficult experience. But these days more adult children are dealing with an added stressor: the realization that Mom or Dad died with debt.

In the past decade, there’s been a steep increase in debt among senior households. According to a report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, half (49.8 percent) of families age 75 and older have debt, averaging $36,757.

Most senior debt is tied to housing expenses, but auto loans, medical bills, credit cards and student loans also factor in. If you think your parent may die with debt, here are some things to remember: [Read more…]

New tax law prompts IRA conversions

Lower income tax rates make this an attractive time to convert your traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. By converting, you’ll pay taxes on those funds now instead of at some future (likely higher) rate.

The main hurdle will be paying taxes owed. If you convert $50,000 from a traditional IRA to a Roth, your taxable income will increase by $50,000. If you’re in the 24% tax bracket, that amounts to $12,000 in taxes owed. That might feel like a hit now, but it could be a financially sound decision, particularly if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket later in life. [Read more…]

Protect work with lasting value: Estate planning for copyrights

Artists and their families have unique needs when it comes to estate planning. Be aware of the following strategies to protect the value of an artist’s work during and after his or her lifetime:

Copyright eligibility. The first step is understanding what constitutes a copyrightable work. Protection is available to original works that are either written or otherwise recorded, including literary, musical, artistic and certain other intellectual works. These categories are to be interpreted broadly and can include maps, architectural plans, buildings and mobile apps. [Read more…]