Double-Check Before Filing Your IRS Return

It may seem like common sense, but going back over the information you enter may be the most important part of your tax filing duties.

March 6, 2018

It’s tax time. And as you work with your advisor or tax preparer to maximize your refund, or at least minimize what you owe, keep in mind that one of the most important things taxpayers can do to limit errors is to double-check the information they input into software or a printed form.

It may seem like common sense, but going back over the information you enter may be the most important part of your tax filing duties. As you know, it’s very easy to put a figure on the wrong line – in fact, one of the most common errors is not putting in the right Social Security numbers for you, your spouse and your dependents. An error like that can cause a significant delay in the processing of your return or, even worse, could trigger an audit.

So do make an effort to recheck what you’ve entered before moving to the next line or screen. While you’re going back over your return for wrong entries and typos, take the time to look up numbers such as cost basis for investments sold and real estate tax paid, rather than estimating. And double-check your math, too, because simple miscalculations can commonly lead to errors as well.

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Benefit from Your Birthdays

The road to and through retirement is dotted with time-sensitive financial planning milestones.

January 23, 2018

Not all birthdays are about a driver’s license, getting to vote or toasting with a glass of wine. Some are important to your comfort in retirement, too. No matter who you are, the years leading up to and during retirement contain a number of key financial planning opportunities worth capitalizing on. You and your spouse may hit these dates at different times, so be sure to coordinate before making any decisions.

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Done Deal: Tax Bill Takes Effect

Ed Mills, Washington Policy Analyst, breaks down the major components of the new tax legislation.

January 11, 2018

The tax bill lowering the corporate tax rate and making a number of adjustments to the individual tax code was signed into law on December 22, 2017. The final tax bill sets a corporate tax rate of 21% starting January 1, 2018, and makes a number of changes to individual tax rates (including lowering the top individual to 37%). Key changes on the individual side include doubling the standard deduction ($12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for joint filers) but the bill reduces and/or removes many existing deductions. On the corporate side of the bill, businesses will have the benefit of 100% depreciation of qualified capital expenditures for the next five years, repeal of the corporate AMT, and a shift towards a territorial tax system (from a worldwide tax system). The bill also repeals the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In this report, we review the changes to the corporate and individual tax code and cover next steps on tax legislation in 2018.

Done Deal: Tax Reform Passes Congress

Ed Mills, Washington Policy Analyst, breaks down the major components of the newly approved tax legislation.

December 20, 2017

The tax reform bill lowering the corporate tax rate and making a number of adjustments to the individual tax code has been approved by Congress and is set to become law. The final tax bill sets a corporate tax rate of 21% starting in 2018, a top individual rate of 37%, the repeal of the corporate AMT, a $1 million phase-out threshold inclusion for the individual AMT, a $750,000 mortgage interest deduction cap through 2025, a 20% deduction on pass-through income, an increase in the estate tax exemption (but not repeal), a $10,000 deduction for state, local, sales or property tax (SALT), 100% deduction of cap-ex for five years, maintaining the deductibility of interest from private activity bonds, and a repeal of the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In this report, we review the effects of the final provisions and cover next steps for Congress as we head into 2018.

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What’s the Best Age to Claim Social Security?

By blogger, csquires

Congress has cut back some of the loopholes married couples once used to enhance their lifetime household Social Security benefits, restricting it to a dwindling pool of near-retirees. But that doesn’t mean claiming your Social Security benefits is a no-brainer.

By understanding how Social Security benefits and spousal benefits are calculated, you can make an informed decision when retirement comes. The Social Security Administration itself says there’s no “best age” to file, just the age that fits your retirement goals.

A few things to consider, and some links to Social Security’s helpful website:

Savvy Steps to Stay Cyber-Safe

Raymond James, Point of View. Defend yourself with simple, everyday practices that can help protect your identity, your accounts and your devices.

October 3, 2017

Americans lose tens of billions of dollars each year to financial fraud. In the digital frontier, many crimes – including identity theft, tax fraud and elder abuse – are committed by online outlaws, making cybersecurity all the more important. As cybercrime becomes more prevalent, learn how to defend yourself with simple, everyday practices that can help protect your identity, your accounts and your devices.

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How to protect your identity when you travel

Margarette Burnette is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website, provides insight on how to protect your identity when you travel.

Oct 2, 2017 10:40 a.m. ET

If you’re traveling far from home, you probably want to do all you can to make sure your wallet or purse doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. But according to a recent Experian ProtectMyID survey, 30% of travelers have experienced identity theft while away from home or know someone who has.

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US Exit from Paris Climate Agreement Changes Very Little

Pavel Molchanov, Senior Vice President and Energy Analyst, comments on the United States’ announced withdrawal from the climate change agreement.

June 2, 2017

President Trump yesterday announced – confirming press leaks from earlier in the week – that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which was signed in December 2015 and took effect in November 2016. What does the decision to exit mean in economic practice, separate from the PR and diplomatic consequences? Here is the short answer: It means virtually nothing.Press coverage of this issue has (incorrectly) portrayed the president’s decision as an impactful and even pivotal policy step. But it is purely a matter of political symbolism, with no substantive read-through in terms of how energy is produced or consumed in the U.S. market. In particular, we would underscore that the trend visible across the U.S. power sector (coal losing share, natural gas and wind/solar gaining) will not be affected in any sense by the Paris withdrawal.

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Never Say Never

Read the weekly investment strategy commentary from Chief Investment Strategist Jeff Saut.

June 5, 2017

“Never say never. Never say always. Always reevaluate. And never give up.”

. . . An old Wall Street wag

Upon entering this business in 1971 my father gave me this advice:

“Son, if you think the stock market is going up be bullish. If you think it is going down be bearish, but for gosh sakes take a stand! There are far too many folks in this business that talk out of both sides of their mouths such that no matter what the stock market does they can say, ‘See, I told you that was going to happen.’”

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Mitigating the Medicare Surtax

Smart strategies can help high-income earners reduce their Medicare taxes and overall tax bill.

February 23, 2017

We’ve had a few years now to get familiar with the Medicare payroll tax and surtax that went into effect at the beginning of 2013. If you need a reminder, taxpayer with modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of $200,000 for individuals or $250,000 for couples filing jointly face a 3.8% surtax on net investment income or the amount of MAGI that exceeds the thresholds prescribed for high-income taxpayers. The second 0.9% Medicare payroll tax applies to wages and self-employment income over the same MAGI thresholds. And while we may have gotten more used to the higher tax, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look to smart planning to avoid overpaying. Talk to your financial advisor, alongside your accountant or tax advisor, to identify and implement the strategies that are most advantageous for your situation. Here are some options to consider.

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