Thursday, July 27, 2017

Keep Your Automatic Payments In Control



When it comes to paying bills, many people can’t imagine returning to paying and sending bills via the U.S. Postal Service. But, the “turn it on and forget it” nature of automatic payments can create zombie payers who no longer challenge or review the details and amounts of bills. Here are some ideas to keep this from happening to you.
Create a list. Make a list of the companies you authorized to use automatic payments to pay your bills. Include in the list the card or account each company uses for the automatic payments, as well as payment amounts and frequency. If you use credit and debit cards to pay companies, record the expiration dates, in case you need to update any company that has your card on file. When there’s a change in a card or bank account, you will be able to consult the list to find the companies you need to notify.
Watch for fees. Make sure the bill payment system you’re using is low cost or no cost. Some companies will charge you a fee for automatic payments. If your biller wants to charge you, pay them with a traditional check.
Beware of price creep. Paying for a product or service automatically can create a situation where you do not notice when your price changes. Monitor your ongoing payment amounts so you are able to question any price increase or discontinue service (if applicable).
Review underlying bills. Along with automated bill payments is the vendor’s desire to stop sending hard copies of your bill. However, because you’re not receiving a bill, you may be unaware of changes. If possible, opt to continue receiving email or paper billing statements so you can verify that your payment has not changed and there are no additional fees or errors.
Take care to review your accounts and statements to avoid zombie paying, and in turn protect yourself and keep your finances in your control.

Call us at (219) 769-3616 with your questions, or email them to tlynch@swartz-retson.com

Friday, July 21, 2017

Business Charitable Deductions Require a Little Tax Wisdom



Aristotle famously lamented that giving away money is easy, but giving it away wisely is another matter. For business owners, smart giving begins with an understanding of a few tax rules.
Your business form. The tax implications of giving to charity from your business depend on your form of entity. A regular C corporation can donate to charity and reduce taxable income accordingly. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations cannot reduce taxable income by donating to charity. Instead, the charitable deduction passes to the owners' personal return as an itemized deduction, where it can be subject to certain limitations.
The type of donation. If your donation results in the receipt of a benefit in return, such as advertising space in a nonprofit's newsletter, the gift might be treated as a qualified business expense for any type of business. Special rules may also apply, such as those that encourage gifts of excess food inventory. All businesses can deduct qualifying donations of food inventory that are deemed "wholesome" and are used by the charity to further its exempt purpose.
Valuation issues. Non-cash donations of inventory by businesses can present tricky valuation issues. C corporations again have the advantage, with the deduction generally valued at basis plus one-half of the difference between the fair value and the corporation's cost basis. The maximum deduction is twice the cost basis of the item. Other entity types are typically limited to the lesser of cost basis or fair market value, although donations of food are generally valued at the fair market value.
Records. Keep in mind that any gift of $250 or more will require a properly worded receipt from the charity before you file your return. Larger gifts might require an appraisal.
For more details on the tax rules for business charitable giving, contact our office.

Call us at (219) 769-3616 with your questions, or email them to tlynch@swartz-retson.com.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Unclaimed Property



Every individual and company has the potential to have unclaimed property. Unclaimed property is any financial asset with no activity by its owner for an extended period of time. This includes unclaimed wages or commissions; savings and checking accounts; stock dividends; insurance proceeds; underlying shares; customer deposits or overpayments; certificates of deposit; credit balances; refunds; money orders; uncashed checks; and safe deposit box contents.
Companies are required to send funds from lost accounts to the state of the owner's last known address. Begin your search on your state’s database or MissingMoney.com, a Web site officially endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), the official collective records from most state unclaimed property programs.
If your legal entity is a business association (corporation, partnership, etc.), governmental agency, or nonprofit, you are required to file annual reports of unclaimed property. For example, in Indiana, you can report property electronically in 5 easy steps on https://indianaunclaimed.gov: (1) download the online reporting guide, (2) register to access reporting software, (3) create your NAUPA formatted report, (4) submit your report via the website, and (5) print remittance detail sheet, attach to physical check, send to: Office of the Indiana Attorney General, Unclaimed Property Division, 35 South Park Blvd, Greenwood, IN 46143. Remember:  Indiana law requires that records be retained for ten (10) years after being remitted to the State. Indiana has a November 1 annual reporting deadline. The one exception in Indiana is for life insurance companies, which must report on May 1. Indiana has the right to assess interest and penalties for noncompliance.
Property becomes lost due to a company having no communication with the owner. You should contact institutions that hold your money or property every year and especially when there is an address change or change in marital status. Keep accurate financial records and record all insurance policies, bank account numbers with bank names and addresses, types of accounts, stock certificates, and rent and utility deposits.
Tips: (1) cash all checks for dividends, wages, and insurance settlements without delay, (2) respond to requests for confirmation of account balances and stockholder proxies, (3) if you have a safe deposit box, record its number, bank name and address, and give the extra key to a trusted person, and (4) prepare and file a will detailing the disposition of your assets.
Call us at (219) 769-3616 with your questions, or email them to tlynch@swartz-retson.com.