The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently reported in financial exploitation cases that older adults lost an average of $34,200. Unfortunately, these funds are often never recovered. You can ensure this doesn’t happen by learning more about scams and how to protect yourself. Here are some tips:
Recognize the scams. The best way to protect yourself from a scam is to understand what they look and sound like. Here are a few key elements to look for when identifying a scam: Did you know? IRS impersonation scams are the No. 1 scam targeting older adults, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, with more than 2.4 million Americans targeted.
You are promised a great offer or benefits
You are forced to make quick decisions
You are pressured to provide financial and/or personal information
You are threatened
Know why you are a target. You and other older adults may be targeted because you own a home, and have retirement savings and exceptional credit — a treasure trove for con artists to pillage. Scammers take advantage of trusting older adults because they’re less likely to say no and sometimes have cognitive issues that affect decision-making skills. In other cases, family members and non-related caregivers may have easier access to their funds, making them more susceptible to theft.
Keep your personal and financial information safe. Keep your bank information, Social Security card and other finances stored somewhere secure in your home. Think twice about what you are sharing on Facebook, and don’t give out your Social Security or account numbers without vetting the person or company asking you for it. Con artists find useful information on social media sites about your family members and then pretend to be a relative who asks for money, or they could directly ask you for sensitive information over the phone or via email.
Hang up if you feel uncomfortable. Don’t worry about being impolite if someone on the phone is pressuring you into sharing sensitive information. Hang up. If the call comes from a company you trust, you can call back and ask for the department that handles your account to determine if the call is for a legitimate reason.
Turn down unsolicited offers. If you receive a call or an in-person visit from someone you don’t know selling you a product or service you didn’t request, turn it down or tell them you’ll decide at a later time. If the service or product interests you, conduct independent research on three suppliers. Proactively contact all three and determine the best offer. Include a trusted family member in the decision-making process. Doing this can effectively eliminate most scams.
Use direct deposit. You can avoid having your checks stolen when you arrange for your checks to be directly deposited into your bank account. Ask your bank to show you how.
Speak up if you think you’re a scam victim. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or ashamed if you think you’ve been scammed. Instead, let people know right away.
Call your bank and/or credit card companies.
Reset your account passwords.
Call the police to report stolen property.
Submit a consumer complaint using the FTC consumer Complaint Assistant.
Report the scam by calling the United States Senate Special Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline at 1-855-303-9470.
If you suspect elder abuse is also involved, contact adult protective services.
While the maximum capital gain tax rate can be as high as 23.8 percent, most taxpayers pay 15 percent. But there is the possibility to have your capital gains go tax-free; zero percent! In fact, this tax break has been around for more than a decade and comes into play more often than you may think. Here is what you should know:
Qualifying for the 0% capital gains rate:
You qualify for preferential long-term gain treatment if you sell stocks, bonds or real estate (and other capital assets) you’ve owned longer than a year.
For 2019, the zero percent rate applies to long-term capital gains for single taxpayers with taxable income up to $39,375 and married filing joint taxpayers up to $78,750. This often applies if you’re having a low income tax year due to:
• Temporary job loss
• A tax loss passed through to you from an S corporation or partnership
• Income fluctuation for a commission-based job
• Moving to part-time employment
Awareness is the key:
While you may not typically have the zero capital gain tax rate available to you, it is important to note when it comes into play.
Here’s an example: Adam and Eve Johnson recently retire. They have a number of mutual funds they’ve owned for years and have retirement savings accounts. Their current income is $58,700. Should they withdraw money from a retirement account or sell some of their mutual funds? Because they’re aware of the zero percent capital gains, they decide to sell mutual funds with long-term capital gains of $20,000 this year to get the money tax free!
Consider your year-end tax moves:
So, keep the zero percent capital gains rate in mind as the year winds down. Know your projected income for the year and depending on your situation, you might realize capital gains that are subject to no or lower tax rates.
Remember other factors often come into play, including the taxability of Social Security Benefits, so call if you would like a review of your situation.
Handling employment taxes can be complicated, especially when you’re required to file important tax documents throughout the year. Here’s a list of key forms and deadline dates to help keep you on track.
Form 941 — Employer’s quarterly federal tax return
This form is used to report income tax withheld from employees’ pay and both the employer’s and employees’ share of Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Employers generally must deposit Form 941 payroll taxes on either a monthly or semiweekly deposit schedule. There are exceptions if you owe $100,000 or more on any day during a deposit period, if you owe $2,500 or less for the calendar quarter, or if your estimated annual payroll tax liability is $1,000 or less.
Monthly depositors are required to deposit payroll taxes accumulated within a calendar month by the 15th of the following month.
Semiweekly depositors generally must deposit payroll taxes on Wednesdays or Fridays, depending on when wages are paid.
Return filing deadlines:
Jan. 31, 2020 – Due date for filing Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2019. If you deposited your taxes in full and on time, you have until Feb. 10, 2020, to file this return.
April 30, 2020 – Due date for filing Form 941 for the first quarter. If you deposited your taxes in full and on time, you have until May 11, 2020, to file this return.
July 31, 2020 – Due date for filing Form 941 for the second quarter. If you deposited your taxes in full and on time, you have until Aug. 10, 2020, to file this return.
Nov. 1, 2020 – Due date for filing Form 941 for the third quarter. If you deposited your taxes in full and on time, you have until Nov. 10 to file this return.
Form 940 — Employer’s annual federal unemployment tax return (FUTA)
This return is due annually. However, FUTA tax must generally be deposited once a quarter if the accumulated tax exceeds $500.
Jan. 31, 2020 – Due date for filing 2019 Form 940. If you deposited your taxes in full and on time, you have until Feb. 10, 2020, to file this return. This day is also the deadline for depositing federal unemployment tax for October, November and December 2019.
April 30, 2020 – Deadline for depositing federal unemployment tax for January, February and March 2020.
July 31, 2020 – Deadline for depositing federal unemployment tax for April, May and June 2020.
Nov. 1, 2020 – Deadline for depositing federal unemployment tax for July, August and September 2020.
Form W-2 — Wage and tax statement
Employers are required to send this document to each employee and the IRS at the end of the year. It reports employee annual wages and taxes withheld from paychecks.
Jan. 31, 2020 – Due date for employers to provide 2019 Forms W-2 to employees, and for employers to send copies of 2019 W-2s to the Social Security Administration, whether filing electronically or with paper forms.
Tax deadline extensions for disaster areas
For taxpayers living in designated disaster areas, the IRS extends certain filing and tax payment dates. Taxpayers living in the affected areas (and those whose tax professionals are located in those areas) have relief from penalties for filing under the new extended dates. These filing and payment extensions are also available to some relief workers.
There’s still time to reduce your potential tax obligation and save money this year (and next). Here are some ideas to consider:
Estimate your 2019 and 2020 taxable income. With these estimates you can determine which year receives the greatest benefit from a reduction in income. By understanding what the tax rate will be for your next dollar earned, you can understand the tax benefit of reducing income this year AND next year.
Fund tax-deferred retirement accounts. An easy way to reduce your taxable income is to fully fund retirement accounts that have tax-deferred status. The most common accounts are 401(k)s, 403(b)s and various IRAs (traditional, SEP and SIMPLE).
Take your required minimum distributions (RMDs). If you are 70½ or older, you need to take required RMDs from your retirement accounts by Dec. 31. Don’t forget to make all RMDs because the fines are hefty if you don’t — 50 percent of the amount you should have withdrawn.Keep in mind, even if you don’t have RMDs yet, removing a planned amount from your retirement accounts each year may be more tax efficient than waiting until you are required to do so.
Manage your gains and losses. Rebalance your investment portfolio, and take any final investment gains and losses. When you have more losses than gains, up to $3,000 can be used to reduce your ordinary income. With careful planning, you can take advantage of this loss amount each year.
Finalize your gift-giving strategy. Each year you may gift up to $15,000 without tax reporting consequences to as many individuals as you choose. Consider any gift-giving you wish to make up to the annual limit. This could include gifts of cash or property, and investments.
Donate to charities. Consider making end-of-year donations to eligible charities. Donations of property in good or better condition and your charitable mileage are also deductible. Receiving proper documentation that acknowledges your contributions is important to ensure you obtain the full deduction. Have a plan by knowing your total deductions for the year to help you decide how much and when to donate. Pulling some donations planned for 2020 into 2019 may be a good strategy.
Review your automated billing transactions. This is a good time to identify what automatic monthly expenses should be reviewed for reduction or elimination. You may also discover billing for services you thought were canceled. This specific review often catches errors that a simple account reconciliation may be missing.
Organize records now. Start collecting and organizing your tax records to avoid the scramble come tax season.
Develop your own list. Use these ideas as a jumping off point to create your own list of annual review items. It might also include reviewing college savings accounts, beneficiaries, insurance needs, wills, and going through an aging parent’s financial accounts.
Questions about the most effective money-saving moves for your situation? Call today.