Michele Sweeten

Tax Break Extensions for 2014 Returns

At the end of 2014, the Senate approved HR 5771, or The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, which passed by a landslide in the House early last month on December 3rd. This bill extended expiring tax provisions from the end of 2013 and 2014 for individuals and businesses whom Sweeten CPA service, so we wanted to keep our clients informed about what this means, specifically about which provisions are being extended:

  • The threshold under Section 179 has been increased to its previous threshold of $500,000, from its diminished threshold of $25,000, allowing for the expensing of qualified asset purchases rather than the spreading out of those expenses over time through regular depreciation.
  • Energy efficient renovations to your home, like more effective doors and windows for your home, are back under the previous rules with a 10% credit of the cost of the improvements, with a lifetime limit of $500.
  • Energy efficient renovations to commercial property, like replacing existing energy systems with high efficiency systems, are back under the previous rules with a possible deduction of up to $1.80 per square foot.
  • Other improvements, made to leased buildings, restaurant property, and retail establishments, are also back under the previous depreciation rule involving a 15 year straight-line depreciation method.
  • For seniors, seventy and a half years or older, 2014 distributions from your IRA to charity are tax-free.
  • Teachers can again claim above-the-line deductions of up to $250 for books and materials used in the classroom purchased out-of-pocket.
  • Tuition-payers can again claim above-the-line deductions of up to $4,000 for higher education expenses.
  •  Cost of new property purchased or used in 2014 can be expensed by 50%, using the Special Depreciation rule.

Enjoy these extensions and if you’re confused, don’t worry: Sweeten CPA can manage these changes in your tax return this year!

The Affordable Care Act and your 2014 taxes, Part II

The Premium Tax Credit (a.k.a. government assistance in paying for your government health insurance premiums based on financial need)

Beginning in the 2014 tax year, the Affordable Care Act enacted the Premium Tax Credit. It is designed to assist individuals and families with low to moderate income afford health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace (government sponsored exchanges). Continue reading…

The Affordable Care Act and your 2014 taxes, Part I

 The Individual Shared Responsibility Provision and Payment (a.k.a. have health insurance or pay a fine)

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all individuals—including children—are required to have minimal essential monthly health insurance coverage for him/herself as well as all dependents for whom he/she is financially responsible. Here are some Q’s and A’s to help you understand. Continue reading…

Should I do my company’s payroll?

Payroll Time!Congratulations! Your new business venture is doing well and it’s time to start paying yourself a salary and possibly even hire an employee. You ask yourself, “I wonder if I can just do the payroll myself?”

Or let’s say times require belt-tightening in your company’s budget. To save money, you consider ditching your payroll service in favor of tackling it yourself “for free.”

What is our recommendation?

Unless you were previously a payroll accountant and have extra time on your hands, then we would urge small business owners not to take on payroll themselves. We have the utmost confidence in the competence of good small business owners, but if payroll is not your core business, the cost/benefit ratio will almost always be in favor of hiring out this pesky task to professionals. Continue reading…

"How do I read my company's financial reports?" Presenting The Dashboard!

Still as true as it was when presented to us in formative days by SchoolHouse Rock: “Knowledge is power!”

But what if you can’t understand those scary, long reports full of numbers called financial statements? Income Statements, Profit and Loss, and Statement of Operations (hint: they’re all the same thing) reports? And don’t even get us started on the Balance Sheet! Ugh! Numbers are not your thing, right? That is what your accountant is for. However, even with an accountant or software generating perfectly accurate financial reports, they are just a lot of stale numbers if you don’t know how to dig in to them!

We at Sweeten CPA have developed a system to bridge the chasm between financial reports and key conclusions they can provide. We call it “The Dashboard.” (Think of all the key indicators on the dashboard of your vehicle that help you drive correctly.) When we provide your company with its own personalized Dashboard, one of our CPAs will sit and consult with you as as your honorary CFO. The CPA will point out and explain the measurements and ratios that mean the most for your business and industry, and exactly what they mean for your company.  Some of these metrics will come from the data available in your accounting software or financial reports; some of it may come from outside sources.

Want proof that The Dashboard can benefit your company? Continue reading…

"What will my raise do to my taxes?"

Good question! The answer? If only it were easy to figure!

Getting a raise, promotion, or accepting a new position often means more money in your pocket. But it can also mean a change in your taxes.  (In rare cases a salary increase can actually mean less net pay!) The IRS has a dizzying amount of tax and deduction thresholds–think of it as an income level trigger–so that it is almost impossible to remember each one, or more importantly when you have reached and passed one.

Until now!

Presenting our extremely handy IRS threshold charts! These charts give the 2013 thresholds (the 2014 ones still unavailable) in ascending order. Continue reading…

Stay-at-home parent? You need retirement savings, too!

stay-at-home-momThere are over 5 million stay-at-home parents in the United States.  We give these individuals snaps for forgoing earnings (at least for a time) to make sacrifices that are important to them! However, these people are not exempt from aging, and therefore need to be concerned about a retirement nest egg.

Are you a stay at home parent? Have you thought about saving the money you will need for your retirement? Be careful not to assume your partner has it all taken care of–he/she may not! Here are some practical ways to save, suited specifically for your unique situation. Continue reading…

"I'm self employed. How do I get health insurance with the new health care laws?"

(insurance_help_deskTake a second to laugh heartily at the picture and then let’s get to business.)

The health insurance world has been turned on its head courtesy of the Affordable Care Act, and reality has yet to settle in. But in the mean time I have felt anxious for all our self-employed friends, and I dedicate this blog post to you. May it be of help to you in your quest to find health insurance, now a legal requirement. Continue reading…

Retirement Savings: A Simple Start

It takes moneyRetirement traditionally means the well-earned rest from 9 to 5 work in the golden years of life. But interestingly the word “retirement” more often invokes a sense of anxiety and dread; a heavy pit in one’s stomach. So instead of having dreams of golf and travel, we are instead tortured and obsessed with how we will possibly afford a retirement! Then there are the every present questions, “How much do I need to save?” and “Where do I put the money?” Continue reading…