The vast amount of information shared online during tax season makes it a haven for identity thieves, and they’re doing everything they can to take advantage of the opportunity! Here are several ways that identity thieves are targeting you, common signs of ID theft and steps to take if you become a victim.
How Identity Thieves Target You
Impersonating the IRS. Thieves calling you and claiming to be the IRS will try and intimidate you into making an immediate payment using a gift card or wire service. Remember, the IRS will physically mail you a letter as a means of first contact. And the IRS will never call you to demand an immediate payment.
Filing a fraudulent tax return. Identity thieves often try to file a tax return using your Social Security number before you do. So consider filing your tax return as quickly as you can to beat identity thieves at their own game.
Phishing schemes. Be on the lookout for unsolicited emails, texts and social media posts that prompt you to share personal and financial information. These messages could also contain viruses, spyware or other malware that could infect your electronic devices.
Common signs of ID theft
Here are some of the common signs of identity theft according to the IRS:
In early 2023, you receive a refund before filing your 2022 tax return.
You receive a tax transcript you didn’t request from the IRS.
A notice that someone created an IRS online account without your consent.
You find out that more than one tax return was filed using your Social Security number.
You receive tax documents from an employer you do not know.
Other signs of identity theft include:
Unexplained withdrawals on bank statements.
Mysterious credit card charges.
Your credit report shows accounts you didn’t open.
You are billed for services you didn’t use or receive calls about phantom debts.
What you can do
If you discover that you’re a victim of identity theft, consider taking the following action:
Notify creditors and banks. Most credit card companies offer protections to cardholders affected by ID theft. You can generally avoid liability for unauthorized charges exceeding $50. But if your ATM or debit card is stolen, report the theft immediately to avoid dire consequences.
Place a fraud alert on your credit report. To avoid long-lasting impact, contact any one of the three major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian or TransUnion—to request a fraud alert. This alert covers all three of your credit files.
Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit identitytheft.gov or call 877-438-4338. The FTC will provide a recovery plan and offer updates if you set up an account on the website.
Please call if you suspect any tax-related identity theft. If any of the previously mentioned signs of tax-related identity theft have happened to you, please call to schedule an appointment to discuss next steps.
A big jump in cost-of-living calculations means a big jump in how much you can contribute to retirement accounts in 2023! Now is the time to plan your retirement contributions to take full advantage of this tax benefit. Here are annual contribution limits for several of the more popular retirement plans:
Annual Contribution 50 or over catch-up
$15,500 Add $3,500
$14,000 Add $3,000
+ $1,500 + $500
401(k), 403(b), 457 and SARSEP
Annual Contribution 50 or over catch-up
$22,500 Add $7,500
$20,500 Add $6,500
+ $2,000 + $1,000
Annual Contribution 50 or over catch-up
$6,500 Add $1,000
$6,000 Add $1,000
+ $500 No Change
AGI Deduction Phaseouts:
Single; Head of Household Joint nonparticipating spouse Joint participating spouse Married Filing Separately (any spouse participating)
Single; Head of Household Married Filing Jointly Married Filing Separately
138,000 – 153,000 218,000 – 228,000 0 – 10,000
129,000 – 144,000 204,000 – 206,000 0 – 10,000
+ $9,000 + $14,000 No Change
Rollover to Roth Eligibility
Joint, Single, or Head of Household Married Filing Separately
No AGI Limit Allowed / No AGI Limit
No AGI Limit Allowed / No AGI Limit
No AGI Limit Allowed / No AGI Limit
What you can do
Look for your retirement savings plan from the table and note the annual savings limit of the plan. If you are 50 years or older, add the catch-up amount to your potential savings total.
Then make adjustments to your employer-provided retirement savings plan as soon as possible in 2023 to adjust your contribution amount.
Double check to ensure you are taking full advantage of any employee matching contributions into your account.
Use this time to review and re-balance your investment choices as appropriate for your situation.
Set up new accounts for a spouse and/or dependents. Enable them to take advantage of the higher limits, too.
Consider IRAs. Many employees maintain employer-provided plans without realizing they could also establish a traditional or Roth IRA. Use this time to review your situation and see if these additional accounts might benefit you or someone else in your family.
Review contributions to other tax-advantaged plans, including flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs).
The best way to take advantage of increases in annual contribution limits is to start early in the year. The sooner, the better.
The beginning of a new year brings the need to recap the previous one for Uncle Sam. Here are some tips and a checklist to help get you organized.
Look for your tax forms. Forms W-2, 1099, and 1098 will start hitting your inbox or mailbox in the next couple of weeks. If you have not already done so, review last year’s records and create a checklist of the forms to make sure you get them all.
Collect your tax documents using this checklist. Using a tax organizer or last year’s tax return, sort your tax records to match the items on your tax return. Here is a list of the more common tax records:
Informational tax forms (W-2s, 1099s, 1098s, 1095-A) that disclose wages, interest income, dividends and capital gain/loss activity
Other forms that disclose possible income (jury duty, unemployment, IRA distributions and similar items)
Business K-1 forms
Social Security statements
Mortgage interest statements
Tuition paid statements
Property tax statements
Mileage log(s) for business, moving, medical and charitable driving
Medical, dental and vision expenses
Records of any asset purchases and sales, including cryptocurrency
Health insurance records (including Medicare and Medicaid)
Charitable receipts and documentation
Bank and investment statements
Credit card statements
Records of any out of state purchases that may require use tax
Casualty and theft loss documentation (federally declared disasters only)
Moving expenses (military only)
If you aren’t sure whether something is important for tax purposes, retain the documentation. It is better to save unnecessary documentation than to later wish you had the document to support your deduction.
Clean up your auto log. You should have the necessary logs to support your qualified business miles, moving miles, medical miles and charitable miles driven by you. Gather the logs and make a quick review to ensure they are up to date and totaled.
Coordinate your deductions. If you and someone else share a dependent, confirm you are both on the same page as to who will claim the dependent. This is true for single taxpayers, divorced taxpayers, taxpayers with elderly parents/grandparents, and parents with older children.
With proper organization, your tax filing experience can be timely and uneventful.
Here are several strategies to consider to shrink your tax bill in 2023.
Consider life events. Consider whether any of the following key events may take place in 2023, as they may have potential tax implications:
Purchasing or selling a home
Refinancing or adding a new mortgage
Getting married or divorced
Incurring large medical expenses
Welcoming a baby
Manage your retirement. One of the best ways to reduce your taxable income is to use tax beneficial retirement programs. Now is a good time to review your retirement account funding. Here are the contribution limits for 2023:
401(k): $22,500 ($30,000, Age 50+)
IRA: $6,500 ($7,500, Age 50+)
SIMPLE IRA: $15,500 ($19,000, Age 50+)
Defined Benefit Plan: $66,000
Look into credits. There are a variety of tax credits available to most taxpayers. Take a look at those you currently use and determine whether you qualify for them again next year. Here are some worth reviewing:
Child Tax Credit
Earned Income Tax Credit
Premium Tax Credit
Elderly and Disabled Credit
Educational Credits (Lifetime Learning Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit)
Assess your income. Forecast how your 2023 income will compare to your 2022 income, then review your most recent tax return and find your effective tax rate by dividing your total tax by your gross income. Then apply that rate to your new income. This will give you a rough estimate of next year’s tax obligation.
To avoid getting stuck with an unexpected tax bill, consider scheduling several tax planning sessions throughout the year. Remember, some tax saving ideas may require funding on your part. It is best to identify them now so you can save the cash necessary to take advantage of them throughout 2023.
Many people dream of making more money, but cutting expenses can have the same effect. Identify unnecessary expenses with these six money-saving ideas and help free up some cash:
Eliminate late fees. Most late fees are the result of being too busy, traveling or simply forgetting. Fortunately, late fees are almost entirely avoidable if you have a plan. A lot of people only think of credit card late fees, but they can also show up in many places including utility bills, subscriptions and registration fees. Take a look at your bills and identify the kinds of charges you’re getting. Scheduling automatic payments should help you avoid late fees going forward. And if you get one, call and try to get it canceled. It just might work!
Cancel unnecessary subscriptions. Subscriptions are popping up everywhere. They include everything from weekly shaving products to video and music streaming services. With so many options, it’s easy to double up on services or forget to cancel one that you were planning to use for just a short time. Review all your monthly subscriptions and cancel the ones that are no longer providing value.
Minimize interest expense. Paying for day-to-day expenses with a credit card to rack up points to use for airfare or other perks is a great cash management tool, but the interest that builds up if you don’t pay it off every month negates the perks and creates an extra expense. If you find yourself in a situation with multiple credit card balances, consider a consolidation loan with a lower interest rate.
Be selective with protection plans. With virtually every purchase, the store or website offers to sell you insurance in the form of a protection plan. And for good reason — they’re profitable to them and not you! Insurance should be reserved for things you can’t live without like your health and your home. Pass on the protection plan for your toaster.
Review your deductibles. A deductible is a set amount you pay before your insurance kicks in to cover the cost of a claim. The higher the deductible, the lower your monthly premium. If you have enough in savings to cover a higher deductible when disaster strikes, raising the deductible may save you some money on a month-to-month basis.
Try a little DIY. If you own a house, you know it’s just a matter of time before something breaks or stops working. When this happens, don’t instantly reach for the phone to call a repairman. Repair videos are in endless supply online. An easy fix will often do the job. Simple fixes can lead to big savings, especially since repair services charge minimums and fuel surcharges.
While some ideas take a little more analysis to understand the true benefits, many are just the result of paying attention. Taking a proactive approach can provide a big boost to your budget.
If you have children or grandchildren, you have an opportunity to give them a jump-start on their journey to becoming financially responsible adults. While teaching your child about money and finances is easier when you start early, it’s never too late to impart your wisdom. Here are some age-relevant suggestions to help develop a financially savvy young adult:
Preschool – Start by using dollar bills and coins to teach them what the value of each is worth. Even if you don’t get into the exact values, explain that a quarter is worth more than a dime and a dollar is worth more than a quarter. From there, explain that buying things at the store comes down to a choice based on how much money you have (you can’t buy every toy you see!). Also, get them a piggy bank to start saving coins and small bills.
Grade school – Consider starting an allowance and developing a simple spending plan. Teach them how to read price tags and do comparison shopping. Open a savings account to replace the piggy bank and teach them about interest and the importance of regular saving. Have them participate in family financial discussions about major purchases, vacations and other simple money decisions.
Middle school – Start connecting work with earning money. Start with activities such as babysitting, mowing lawns or walking dogs. Open a checking account and transition the simple spending plan into a budget to save funds for larger purchases. If you have not already done so, now is a good time to introduce the importance of donating money to a charitable organization or church.
High school – Introduce the concept of net worth. Help them build their own by identifying their assets and their current and potential liabilities. Work with them to get a part-time job to start building work experience, or to continue growing a business by marketing for more clients. Add additional expense responsibility by transferring direct accountability for things like gas, lunches and the cost of going out with friends. Introduce investing by explaining stocks, mutual funds, CDs and IRAs. Talk about financial mistakes and how to deal with them when they happen by using some of your real-life examples. If college is the goal after high school, include them in the financial planning decisions. Tie each of these discussions into how it impacts their net worth.
College – Teach them about borrowing money and all its future implications. Explain how credit cards can be a good companion to a budget, but warn them about the dangers of mismanagement or not paying the bill in full each month. Discuss the importance of their credit score and how it affects future plans like renting or buying a house. Talk about retirement savings and the importance of building their retirement account.
Knowing about money — how to earn it, use it, invest it and share it — is a valuable life skill. Simply talking with your children about its importance is often not enough. Find simple, age-specific ways to build their financial IQ. A financially savvy child will hopefully lead to a financially wise adult.
Your business’s ability to retain customers is one of the most important components to sustained growth and profitability. Here are the three retention metrics useful for every business owner.
Retention rate. Most customer retention is measured over a set period of time, typically one year. To determine your rate, take a look at the number of customers who ordered from you last year. Then see what percent of them order at least once from you over the current year. If you measure this percent each month you can see how your retention builds throughout the year. The key is to compare your retention rate to the same period in prior months and years. A rising rate means you are on the right track; a shrinking rate means you need to make changes. According to the Harvard Business Review, a 5% increase in your retention rate increases profits by 25% to 95%!
Example: Cut’em Nail Salon starts the year with 700 active clients. They add 300 new customers during the year, and their active client base is 800 at the end of the year. On the surface things look good, right? This increase of 100 clients is over 14%! But when you calculate the retention rate, it is 71.4% (800 clients minus 300 new clients means 500 of last year’s clients still use Cut’em. 500 divided by 700 equals 71.4%). What happened to the 200 customers that did not return? Cut’em doesn’t know if this is good or bad news, as it only makes sense when comparing it to the last few years’ retention performance.
Existing customer revenue percentage. Core customers almost always contribute the most to your profitability. But how much? To figure out your returning customer revenue percentage, start with a list of revenue by customer for the last 12 months. Identify the returning customers and add up revenue attributed to them. Divide that number by your total revenue. Use this information to balance your spending between new customer acquisition and retaining your core customers. If you are like most businesses, you will realize there is tremendous value in spending more time and effort on retention, even when your business is full!
Part 2 Cut’em Nail Salon Example: Assume the nail salon’s total revenue is $1 million and the revenue from the 500 returning clients is $900,000. In this case, the core customers represent 90% of the revenue but only 62.5% (500 divided by 800) of the customers!
Most valuable customers. Now identify which customers spend the most and buy the most often. Odds are, many of your top customers have similar characteristics. In the end, your goal is to keep these customers happy and get more just like them!
Part 3 Cut’em Nail Salon Example: In the example above, the average revenue per client is $1,250 per client or over $100 per month ($1 million divided by 800 clients). If the top 20 clients represent $100,000 in revenue or $5,000 per client, you can quickly see how important they are!
The key take away is that sustained growth and profitability comes from the core customers you retain each year. And the best place to start is to calculate and understand your retention numbers and their trend.
Here’s a roundup of several recent tax court cases and what they mean for you.
Thou Shalt Not Commingle Funds
(Vorreyer, TC Memo 2022-97, 9/21/22)
Don’t let sloppy record keeping prevent you from deducting legitimate business expenses. The Tax Court agreed with the IRS that business expenses must first be deducted on that business’s tax return before flowing to the owner’s tax return.
Facts: A married couple, the sole shareholders of an S corporation, operated a family farm in Illinois. In 2012 they paid the farm’s utility bills of $21,000 and property taxes of $109,000 from their personal funds, then deducted these payments on their individual Form 1040 tax return as business expenses.
Even though the utility and property tax bills were legitimate business expenses, the deduction was disallowed because the expenses should have first been deducted on the farm’s S corporation tax return, then flowed through to the shareholder’s individual tax return.
Tax Tip: To pay an expense on behalf of your business, first make a capital contribution to your business, then have your business pay the expense. Then include this expense on your business’s tax return.
Adding Tax Insult to Injury
(Dern TC Memo 2022-90, 8/30/22)
Payments received to settle a physical injury or illness lawsuit are generally considered non-taxable income. But you better be sure that the lawsuit you file is actually to compensate for a physical injury or illness, and not something else.
Facts: Thomas Dern, a sales representative for a paint products company in California, was hospitalized for acute gastrointestinal bleeding and a subsequent heart attack. When the company fired him because he could no longer do his job, he sued for wrongful termination. The parties eventually reached a settlement.
Dern argued in Tax Court that his illness led to his firing, and therefore the settlement should be classified as non-taxable income. The payment he received, however, was to settle a discrimination lawsuit and not a physical injury. The settlement therefore did not qualify to be non-taxable income.
Tax Tip: Pay attention to the tax consequences of settlement payments so you don’t get surprised with an unexpected tax bill.
You’re Stuck With the Standard Deduction
(Salter, TC Memo 2022-49, 4/5/22)
Facts: Shawn Salter, a resident of Arizona, requested and received a distribution of $37,000 from his retirement plan after being laid off from his job in 2013. Salter failed to file a tax return for 2013, so the IRS created a substitute tax return for him using the standard deduction of $6,500 for a single taxpayer. The IRS also assessed an early withdrawal penalty of 10% on the distribution.
Salter, arguing that the distribution was to pay for medical expenses which aren’t subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty, eventually did file a 2013 tax return with $25,000 of itemized medical expenses. The Tax Court disallowed the $25,000 of itemized deductions, stating that once a substitute return is created by the IRS using the standard deduction, the taxpayer can no longer claim itemized deductions for that year. Tax Tip: Try to avoid a situation where the IRS files a substitute tax return on your behalf. Once this happens, you have no choice but to use the standard deduction for that tax year.
Long-term care costs that drain your nest egg is a financial pothole that is hard to avoid. Here are some ideas to help manage this hazard.
How much is needed
Here’s how much money you’ll need for three different types of senior living arrangements according to Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey:
In-home care – $4,957 to $5,148 monthly; $59,484 to $61,776 annually
Community and assisted living – $1,690 to $4,500 monthly; $20,280 to $54,000 annually
Nursing home facilities – $7,908 to $9,034 monthly; $94,896 to $108,408 annually
The traditional source of payment problems
Too many people unfortunately think that Social Security, Medicare and health insurance will cover the costs of long-term care. While about half of adults age 50 and over believe that Medicare will cover the cost of long-term care services, according to an AARP survey, the reality is that Medicare provides very limited coverage for long-term care.
What you can do
Here are some suggestions for how you can care for yourself and your loved ones when you need it.
Review long-term care insurance. While it’s hard to find a cost-effective policy, long-term care insurance helps pay for several types of services ranging from in-home care to nursing homes. It can be difficult to qualify for long-term care insurance, however. Policy underwriters require you to answer questions and possibly complete an exam to determine medical eligibility.
Some employers offer long-term care insurance that is purchased at group rates. If your company offers coverage, it may be a better alternative than purchasing a policy on your own.
Take advantage of tax benefits. Long-term insurance premiums may be tax deducible. Tax-qualified polices are considered a medical expense and the premiums are listed as an itemized deduction. For more information, speak with an insurance agent specializing in long-term care policies as well as your tax professional.
Research long-term care costs in your state. The cost of long-term care services varies by state, type of services required, and type of services preferred. Knowing the cost of long-term care available in your area is a good starting point in the planning process.
Leverage life insurance. Certain life insurance policies with an early withdrawal for terminal illness or care needs can be an alternative to long-term care insurance. And if structured properly, it can also have tax-free status when used.
Before taking steps for your care as you age, please talk to qualified experts. While long-term care is costly, so is making the wrong decision on how you are going to fund it.
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 a challenge to successfully get off the ground. Here are some of the ingredients that good business partnerships require:
A shared vision. Business partnerships need a shared vision. If there are differences in vision, make an honest effort to find common ground. If you want to start a restaurant, and your partner envisions a fine dining experience with French cuisine while you want an American bistro, you’re going to be disagreeing over everything from pricing and marketing to hiring and décor.
Compatible strengths. Different people bring different skills and personalities to a business. There is no stronger glue to hold a business partnership together than when partners need and rely on each other’s abilities. Suppose one person is great at accounting and inventory management, and another is a natural at sales and marketing. Each is free to focus on what they are good at and can appreciate that their partner will pick up the slack in the areas where they are weak.
Defined roles and limitations. Before going into business, outline who will have what responsibilities. Agree on which things need consensus and which do not. Having this understanding up front will help resolve future disagreements. Outlining the limits of each person’s role not only avoids conflict, it also identifies where you need to hire outside expertise to fulfill a skill gap in your partnership.
A conflict resolution strategy. Conflict is bound to arise even if the fundamentals of your partnership are strong. Set up a routine for resolving conflicts. Start with a schedule for frequent communication between partners. Allow each person to discuss issues without judgment. If compromise is still difficult after a discussion, it helps to have someone who can be a neutral arbiter, such as a trusted employee or consultant.
A goal-setting system. Create a system to set individual goals as well as business goals. Regularly meet together and set your goals, the steps needed to achieve them, who needs to take the next action step, and the expected date of completion.
An exit strategy. It’s often easier to get into business with a partner than to exit when it isn’t working out. Create a buy-sell agreement at the start of your business relationship that outlines how you’ll exit the business and create a fair valuation system to pay the exiting owner. Neither the selling partner nor the buying partner want to feel taken advantage of during an ownership transition.