Another Year, Another New 1040

Another Year, Another New 1040

In 2018, the government attempted to “simplify” the tax-filing process by drastically shortening Form 1040. The result was six new schedules that created a lot of confusion. Now the IRS is attempting to ease some of that pain by revising the form and removing some schedules. Will it help? Here is what you need to know:

  • More information on the main form. To make it easier for the IRS to match pertinent information across related tax returns, new fields have been added on the main Form 1040. For example, there’s now a spot for your spouse’s name if you choose the married filing separate status. In addition, there’s a separate line for IRA distributions to more clearly differentiate retirement income.
  • 3 schedules are gone. What was your favorite memory of Schedules 4, 5 and 6? Was it the unreported Social Security tax on Schedule 4? Or the credit for federal fuels on Schedule 5? While those schedules will no longer exist, those lines (and many others) have found a new home on one of the first three schedules. Less paperwork, but still the same amount of information.
  • You can keep your pennies! For the first time, the IRS is eliminating the decimal spaces for all fields. While reporting round numbers has been common practice, it’s now required.
  • Additional changes on the way. The current versions of Form 1040 and Schedules 1, 2 and 3 are in draft form and awaiting comments on the changes. Because of the importance of the 1040, the IRS is expecting to make at least a few updates in the coming weeks (or months) before they consider it final. Stay tuned for more developments.

How to prepare for the changes

The best way to prepare is to be aware that 1040 changes are coming. The information required to file your taxes will remain the same, but some additional hunting will be necessary to find the shifting lines and fields on the modified form.

Remember, changes bring uncertainty and potential for delays, so getting your tax documents organized as early as possible will be key for a timely tax-filing process.

How to Handle Negative Reviews

How to Handle Negative Reviews

With all the rating services on sites like Amazon and Yelp, it’s not a question of whether your business will receive a negative review, only when. Every business or service must know how to handle these negative reviews. Here are some hints:

The best defense is a great offense

You don’t have to address negative reviews if you never have them in the first place. Proactively identify possible negative experiences and encourage customers to respond directly to you to resolve their issues. Here are some suggestions:

  • Manage expectations up front. If you communicate that it takes two weeks to complete something, make sure it’s done in less time.
  • Actively communicate your contact information at the time of ordering to make it easy to contact you directly to answer questions and fix problems.
  • Contact customers within 24 hours after a sale or service to see if they have questions or concerns.

FIRST fix the problem

When you get a negative review, try to identify the customer and contact them directly. Then work with them to solve their problem. If a solution is not possible, be willing to cancel their service or refund their money. A disgruntled customer that hasn’t been hurt financially quickly becomes a toothless monster. Once this is done, try to have the customer remove their review if they are satisfied. OR even better, try to get them to rave about how you solved their problem!

Know your dissatisfied reviewer

Conduct research on the customer. Are they habitual complainers or bullies? The current public feedback forums have created many of these types. On the other hand, people easily get frustrated with poor service and are simply at their wit’s end. It’s important to know the difference.

Problems are opportunities

Inside every negative review is an opportunity to be better at what you do. Even with the review bullies, there is an element of truth to most reviews. Try to get past the emotional impact of the negative review and think of it as a gift to make your service better than everyone else’s.

Writing the response: FREE advertising

You’ve fixed the problem. You’ve researched the customer. You’ve looked for opportunities to be better at what you do. Now you are ready to publicly respond to the negative review. But — and this is important — you are not responding to the complainer. You are responding to future readers of the complaint! The formula of a great response is:

  • Acknowledge the customer’s feelings.
  • Restate the problem.
  • Tell EVERYONE how you solved the problem.
  • Encourage the complainer to contact you directly in the future so you can handle their issue more effectively than through a public forum.
  • Tone is critical. The reviewer will likely be angry and frustrated. Use this to your advantage. Your tone must sound reasonable with a rational approach. When contrasting the two styles, readers will automatically see your business in a positive light, even when you make a mistake.
  • DO NOT:
    • Act defensive
    • Act like a victim by over-apologizing
    • Talk down to the disgruntled
    • Make the customer appear or seem stupid
    • Tell everyone how irrational this guy is … let readers figure this out on their own
    • Get into a back and forth discussion

Time is of the essence

Try to complete your contact and response within 24 hours. This speed will impress all future readers. A lot must be done to reach this goal, but if you assign someone to monitor review services for you, and they are empowered to solve problems, you can accomplish this goal.

Today’s review systems give entirely too much power to a few complainers. Your goal should be to use these systems to your advantage to build your brand and find new buyers.

Consider the Tax BEFORE You Sell

Consider the Tax BEFORE You Sell

Multiple tax rates hold the key

In times of market volatility or when a financial need arises, it is only natural to consider selling some investments.  Understanding the tax consequences is key to making an informed and planned decision. Here is what you need to know BEFORE you sell:

Investment Tax Rates

Investment Tax Classification Holding Period Tax Rate Comments
Retirement Accounts: 401(k), 403(b), traditional IRA, SEP IRA, SIMPLE IRA Ordinary income (when funds are withdrawn from the account) Determined by the account type (usually withdrawals after age 59 1/2) 0% up to 37%* There is not a tax event when an investment is sold within your account. The tax rate depends on your annual income at time of fund withdrawal
Retirement Accounts: Roth IRA and Roth 401(k) No tax on withdrawals 5 years and 59 1/2 years old or older N/A Earnings are not taxed as long as rules are followed
Short Term Capital Gains (STCG) Ordinary income 1 year or less 0% up to 37%* For investment sales such as stocks and bonds
Long-term Capital Gains (LTCG) LTCG rates More than 1 year 0% up to 20% For investment sales such as stocks and bonds
Depreciation Recapture Special Any 25% When you sell property that has been depreciated in prior years, part of your sale price may be taxed as a recapture of this prior period depreciation
Collectables Special Any 28% A special tax rate applies to gains on the sale of items you collect (like coins and baseball cards)
Investment losses Ordinary income Any Offset benefit: 0% up to 37% Losses can offset ordinary income up to $3,000 each year

* a 3.8% net investment income tax may also apply to these earnings.

As the above tax rate chart suggests, understanding the tax consequence of selling an investment can be complicated. Your tax obligation could be subject to no tax or up to 37 percent plus an additional 3.8 percent for the net investment income tax. Here are some ideas to consider:

Within retirement accounts

  • Generally not taxable. Selling investments within your retirement accounts is not usually a taxable event. The potential tax event occurs when you take the funds out of your account either by a withdrawal or occasionally as a rollover into another account.
  • Follow the account rules. Each of your retirement accounts has its own set of rules. If you follow them, you can avoid early withdrawal penalties. Following the holding period rules within Roth accounts can also make your withdrawals tax-free.

Gains and losses outside of retirement accounts

  • Losses. Your losses are first used to offset any investment gains. Any excess losses can offset your ordinary income up to $3,000 per year. So the benefit of losses can be worth next to nothing or up to 37 percent if it offsets ordinary income.
  • Non-investment losses. Unfortunately, individuals may not offset losses on the sale of non-investment property. So if you sell a car and make money, you need to report the gain. If you sell the car and lose money, there is no deductible loss unless it is part of a business transaction.
  • Long-term better than short-term. Holding an investment for longer than one year is key if you want to minimize your tax obligation. Short-term gains are taxed the same as wages.

Remember your investment decisions can often have quite different tax consequences. The best suggestion is to seek advice BEFORE you sell.

As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation please feel free to call.

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