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Blog Tax and Financial News

Electric Vehicle Tax Credits and the Future of the Automotive Industry

Electric Vehicle Tax CreditsOne highlight of the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA; HR 5376) includes modifications to what is more commonly referred to as EV credits. Specifically, Section 30D of the Act is where the most important modifications are, and where the present tax credit for electric vehicles is spelled out in the U.S. Code. There is also new stimulus for previously owned electric vehicles, industrial vehicles and “alternative fuel refueling property.”

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation’s estimates, in lieu of what was previously known as the credit for plug-in electric vehicles, there is now a new clean vehicle credit. It is expected to be worth $7.5 billion over the next decade. Other noteworthy tax credits include $1.7 billion for “alternative fuel refueling property,” $1.3 billion available for buying a previously owned qualified plug-in EV, and $3.6 billion in tax credits for qualified commercial clean vehicles.

How the IRA Changes Section 30D and EV Tax Credits

For eligible, new clean vehicles, purchasers may receive $7,500 in federal tax credits and $4,000 for similarly used vehicles. It is important to note that taxpayers who purchase such vehicles are eligible for this tax credit if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) during the current or preceding tax year is no greater than $300,000 for joint filers; $225,000 for heads of household; and $150,000 for single filers. It is also limited to pickup trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles up to a MSRP of $80,000. All other vehicles costing up to $55,000 are similarly eligible.

Critical Mineral Standards

Another important qualification for this tax credit is if the vehicle’s battery has a minimum threshold of critical minerals and if it has been processed in the required geographies. Section 30D(e) requires progressively increasing percentages of critical minerals either processed or extracted in the United States or another country the U.S. has an existing free-trade agreement with. If the stated percentages are recycled in North America, a vehicle’s battery components may also qualify for the tax credit.

Once guidance is issued by the U.S. Treasury and before the start of 2024, there must be at least 40 percent of eligible critical minerals to qualify. Vehicles placed in service in 2024 must have at least 50 percent critical minerals in their batteries. Critical minerals must be 60 percent, 70 percent and 80 percent of a battery’s components in 2025, 2026 and after Dec. 31, 2026, respectively. Dependent on future guidelines developed by the Internal Revenue Service, manufacturers will have to sign off on battery component makeup.

Requirements for Battery Manufacturing/Assembly Requirements

According to Section 30D(e)(2), prior to Jan. 1, 2024, at least half of the components of an EV battery must be assembled or manufactured in North America. Starting in 2024 and through 2025, 60 percent of a battery must meet such requirements. Beginning in 2026 through 2028, this requirement will increase by 10 percent annually, eventually requiring 100 percent of a battery’s construction to meet these standards beyond Dec. 31, 2028.

Other Considerations for Tax Credit Eligibility

If any critical minerals were extracted, handled or recycled by a “foreign entity of concern,” it is prohibited by the IRA for tax credit eligibility. Similarly, final assembly also must take place within North America to retain eligibility for the tax credit. Being considered a “qualified manufacturer” is another requirement that is necessary to maintain tax credit eligibility. This is any manufacturer that adheres to the EPA’s Title II Clean Air Act rules.

With the push for cleaner and greener energy evolving, this is one of many tax credits for consumers and businesses alike to reduce emissions and navigate the U.S. Tax Code.

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Blog General Business News

How Cost Accounting Helps Businesses Measure Performance

Cost AccountingCost accounting is a type of accounting that analyzes a business’ complete production costs by looking at both variable and fixed costs. This includes the concepts of marginal costing, lean accounting, standard costing and activity-based costing. It’s used by a business’ management to evaluate fixed and variable costs involved in the manufacturing operations.

The initial step is to assess and document such costs one-by-one. Once production is finished, it will contrast projected costs to what actual costs ended up being and see how processes can be improved. Management gleans information on how funds are used, revenue is earned, and where funds might be misdirected. It can help businesses create greater productivity and financial efficiencies after analyzing such information.

Looking at it more in-depth, there are different types of costs analyzed. The first is fixed costs, such as a monthly mortgage or lease payment, or those that are static regardless of the production level. The next is a variable cost that correlates directly with the production level. Operating costs can be either fixed or variable, depending on each business’ type of operation. Other types of costs include direct or directly connected; and indirect costs, which are costs such as administrative expenses that are less directly associated with production.  

Variable Cost Ratio

Variable Cost Ratio (VCR) looks at what percentage a business’ variable production costs is of its net sales. Businesses can calculate the VCR by:

VCR = Variable Costs / Net Sales. Net sales is a business’ gross sales after subtracting any discounting, customer returns and allowances.

It can also be calculated this way: VCR = 1 – Contribution Margin

If each widget’s variable unit cost is $40 and it sells for $200 individually, the VCR equals 0.2 or 20 percent. It’s also possible to be completed within a certain time frame. For example, if a single month’s total variable production costs are $6,000, and the business has revenues of $30,000 within that same month, the variable cost ratio is 0.2 or 20 percent.

The VCR shows if a company is able to earn a higher rate of revenues and a slower growth in input costs. It can help businesses determine when it hits an equilibrium between a loss and profit. It’s also important to note that fixed costs are excluded.

Marginal Costing

Marginal costing, or cost-volume-profit analysis, is a way to determine how much more it would cost a company to increase its manufacturing by one more widget.

It helps analyze the impact of varying levels of costs and volume on operating profit. This calculation looks at potentially profitable new products, sales prices to establish for existing products, and the impact of marketing campaigns. It assumes that the retail price and the variable and fixed costs per unit don’t change. It’s a way for businesses to calculate when they’ve developed a price point to cover all expenses. It also can indicate when the business can obtain profits at a particular price point and mix of manufacturing output. It’s a way for businesses to determine which levels are unprofitable, break-even and make a profit.

When it comes to determining how much sales volume a business needs to break even, the formula is as follows:

Sales Volume = Fixed Costs / Contribution Margin (Contribution Margin = Sales – Variable Costs)

If a business is looking to determine its break-even sales revenue figure, it must determine what its fixed costs are and its contribution margin. This calculation would be as follows:

$210,000 in fixed costs and a contribution margin of 30 percent = 210,000 / 0.30 = $700,000

However, it’s important to note that there’s no profit with the first calculation. If the business wanted to make $100,000 in profit, it would add that to the $210,000 in fixed costs. This would be calculated as follows: $310,000 / 0.30 = $1,033,333.33

Considerations of Marginal Costing/Cost-Volume-Profit Analysis

This formula tells a company if a widget is profitable. The contribution margin is what’s left over after each item or a lot of items is sold after deducting the variable costs for the respective number of units sold. When the contribution margin exceeds the fixed cost for the item or respective number of units sold, this signifies a profit. 

Companies that have the time and resources to analyze their performance beyond the traditional financial statements can see what’s right with their processes; but can more importantly, they can find out what’s wrong and how to fix it going forward.

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Blog Financial Planning

Should You Upgrade Your Homeowners Insurance?

Should I Upgrade Your Homeowners Insurance?During the first year of the pandemic, many homeowners spent their down time upgrading their homes. The year 2020 alone experienced at 3 percent uptick in spending on home improvements – to the tune of nearly $420 billion nationwide. This included modifications for remote work, online schooling and leisure activities at home.

Between remodeling, high inflation and today’s elevated real estate prices, it’s important to review your homeowner’s insurance policy to ensure it’s up-to-date. Does it include enough coverage for recent upgrades to your home? Does it carry an inflation factor to ensure coverage is on par with more expensive building material costs and labor increases? Do you have coverage for ancillary factors, such as the cost of meeting local building ordinances, or flood insurance for today’s extreme weather events?

Replacement vs. Actual Value

One term to check on your policy’s declaration page is whether your coverage is determined by replacement cost or actual cash value. Replacement cost will pay for repairs to your home or replace your personal property (e.g., laptop, television) up to coverage limits, regardless of its current value. In other words, the policy will pay for a new computer even if your old one was 3 years old.

Actual cash value refers to a cash payout equal to the current value of your property. In other words, if your computer was 3 years old, you will receive the cash value of a 3-year-old computer – which will not likely cover the cost of a new replacement.

Guaranteed Replacement

In lieu of upgrading your home’s cost coverage each year, you might have the option to pay for guaranteed replacement, which is an extra fee that ensures the policy will cover the entire cost to rebuild your home. Extended replacement cost coverage pays out a certain percentage above your policy’s stated dwelling coverage limit if the cost to rebuild is higher than the face amount. For example, a policy with $200,000 coverage and 25 percent extended replacement coverage will pay up to $250,000 to rebuild your home.

Ordinance Coverage

Homeowners who live in older homes should consider adding ordinance coverage if it is not standard under your policy. Ordinance coverage pays for the cost to meet current building codes should you need to rebuild. These fees can be substantial and would have to be paid out-of-pocket if you don’t have this form of coverage. Note, too, that although guaranteed replacement cost coverage might offer a higher payout, that is only for the material and labor costs to rebuild – not local ordinance fees, licenses or inspections.

Inflation Impact

As you review your current policy, note that the section labeled Coverage A represents the amount available to rebuild your home. It generally rises by 2 percent to 3 percent each year for basic cost-of-living increases. However, it is worth noting that building materials, such as lumber and steel, increased by 19 percent in 2021, and in June the general inflation rate increased to 9.1 percent, its highest level in more than 40 years.

Because home building costs, the inflation rate and the increasing number of weather events have plagued the home insurance industry, policy premiums are starting to increase at a higher rate each year than in the past. In additional to higher costs due to supply chain disruptions and inflation, the home building industry is hampered by a lack of qualified workers – and experienced workers are demanding higher pay. This is yet another component that is factored into calculating insurance premiums. Basically, anything that would lead to a higher cost to repair your home will result in higher rates.

Insurance companies calculate your policy premiums by multiplying your home’s replacement rate with your home’s current value. Therefore, a combination of higher building costs and higher real estate values have contributed to higher insurance premiums. Some states have set an annual percentage cap on how much insurance companies can raise homeowner rates each year. However, given the increasing number of extreme weather events (e.g., storm surge, wildfires) in recent years, state legislators also have increased those rate caps so that insurers have the latitude to cover excess payouts. Note that rate increases vary by geographical area, based on local weather activity, labor costs and building supplies.

Some insurance policies offer an inflation guard, which automatically increases coverage limits to match inflation rates when the policy is renewed.

Flood Damage

Be aware that homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Mortgage lenders require homes located in government-designated Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. However, we have seen inland and even metropolitan areas that are not located in flood zones be devastated by the effects of storm surge following a hurricane. Homeowners who live in these higher-risk areas should consider purchasing a separate flood insurance policy as well. 

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Blog Tip of the Month

Top Side Hustles

Top Side HustlesIn our current economy, or anytime actually, it can’t hurt to have a side hustle to bring in extra cash. Some of these options can be quite lucrative, but like everything, it takes a little work to create a steady income stream. However, with a little pre-planning, you can do it. Let’s take a look.

Become a Tutor

Are you a math whiz? A wordsmith? History nut? Whatever your specialty, you can earn between $10 and $75 an hour. You might vary your price based on whether you’re tutoring high school, college or adult education classes. You can conduct your sessions online or in-person –totally up to you and your comfort level. All you have to do is create a lesson plan, then spread the word on social media, contact your local high schools and universities, or tack a notice near a central location such as a local coffee shop. When you’re sharing your knowledge and helping others, it might not feel like work at all.

Deliver Groceries with Instacart

If you haven’t heard of this, you might have seen people in grocery stores with their carts stuffed with brown paper bags full of items, list in hand – these are most likely Instacart workers. In sum, this gig is a same-day grocery delivery app. You shop for other folks; you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket when you’re at the store; and you can start earning money the very first week. Oh, and you get tips. According to ridester.com, you can make anywhere from $200 to $1,000 a week. Pretty easy and cool, right?

Rent an Extra Room Through Airbnb

While this might require some prep like buying extra towels and toiletries, as well as communicating with customers, you can make a lot in the long run. It might take a couple of months to get up and running, but you can bring in around 7 percent to 12 percent of your property value per year.

Help with Finances

If you have a background in accounting or finances, you might start up a business doing someone’s books, taxes or other services that have to do with money and/or budgeting. You can make from $20 to $100 an hour. Be sure to check with your city and state to find out what licenses and certifications you need.

Walk Dogs

Yes, dog walking can bring in more than you think. And you’ve probably seen these hearty souls on the sidewalks, sometimes with more than one furry friend in tow. If you live in a big city, there’s ample opportunity to make this work: you can make between $10 and $100 per day. And this is just a ballpark estimate. Plus, you’ll get your steps in. It’s healthy both fiscally and physically.

Write Resumes and Cover Letters

With all the job seekers out there, you could make a good chunk of change doing this. And you don’t necessarily need to be a writer. If you have a background in HR, recruitment or you’ve worked as a hiring manager, you’ll be ready to go. Hesitant about all that punctuation? One word: grammarly.com. This app will help you navigate all those writing questions you might have that inevitably come up when you’re composing. The average you might earn is somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 or more.

One Thing to Note

If you make more than $600, you must report it to the IRS. If you see that your side hustle is booming, if you start making thousands or tens of thousands of dollars a year, you might want to start a business. You could enjoy additional tax write-off opportunities so you can keep more of what you earn.

So start exploring, hang those shingles and watch the extra dough come rolling in.

Sources

https://careersidekick.com/side-hustle-ideas/

https://time.com/nextadvisor/financial-independence/best-side-hustles/

How Much Can You Make A Week With Instacart In 2022?

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Blog What's New in Technology

Risk of Browser Extensions and How to Stay Safe

Risk of Browser ExtensionsWeb browsers such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge, among others, play an essential role in enabling access to websites on the internet. Most browsers allow users to install extensions, also referred to as add-ons or plug-ins. These extensions are applications or small software modules that add functionality and other useful features to a browser.

By means of the extensions, users can carry out various tasks such as password management, cookie management, ad blocking, interface modification, productivity tracking, grammar and spell-checking, etc.

However, although the extensions offer different useful functionalities, cybercriminals have taken advantage of them, creating a security risk to users and their data.

The Need to Beware of Browser Extensions

Browsers enable websites to collect information such as viewing history, adding cookies, etc. Also, when installing the extensions, some require to be allowed various permissions, like the ability to read or change data. For instance, according to a recent study by Talon, a digital security company, most Chrome Web Store extensions (62.43 percent of extensions) require dangerous permissions, including permission to read or change user data and activity. This means that an extension can see the sites visited, keystrokes, login credentials and private data, such as payment card details.

Since this information is readily available on a user’s web browser, cybercriminals can use a malicious extension to collect the data for their gain. At the same time, the data collected is sold without user consent or knowledge and used by third-party data brokers to send users tailor-made ads.

Although not all browser extensions are a security risk, some might be built to impersonate legitimate extensions, especially those from third-party resources. In other cases, legitimate extensions have been compromised or bought by a developer who uses them for malicious purposes.

Some browser add-ons are built to download malware onto your device, redirect search traffic to malicious websites or download ad ware and Trojan horse viruses.

The extensions can automatically update without requiring any action from a user. This means that if a legitimate extension is compromised, it can be used to install malware without user knowledge. Even secure extensions are prone to attacks or can be compromised, enabling attackers to gain access to data stored by browsers.

Additionally, malicious extensions can be built to bypass fraud detection by official Web stores. For instance, in 2020, Google removed over 500 extensions from its web store that violated policies, with some already having infected users and stolen their data. This followed the discovery of some malicious extensions that users had already downloaded.

A recent report released by Kaspersky, a cybersecurity firm, shows just how dangerous malicious add-ons are. After the firm analyzed data from January 2020 to June 2022, it discovered that over this time frame, 4.3 million users were attacked by adware hiding in browser extensions. This put adware as the highest representative of browser extension risks, with malware coming second. The report also indicates that Kaspersky products prevented more than 6 million users from downloading adware, malware or riskware disguised as browser extensions.

Such figures from just one cybersecurity firm are worrying, considering the study focused only on users that use their security solutions. This creates a need for users to be more vigilant when using browser extensions.

How to Make Sure Browser Extensions Are Safe

There are various ways to help reduce the risks posed by browser extensions:

  1. Ensure the extension is from an official web store. Since these extensions can also be compromised, it is best to find out more information about the developer.
  2. Check reviews as they help to know what other users think of the extension and if there have been any complaints. However, users should be cautious of identical comments or too many 5-star reviews, as these could be fake.
  3. Check whether the extension is updated regularly. An extension last updated many years ago might not be reliable.
  4. Review extension permissions for each extension.
  5. Check that you are not installing clones of the original extension. For instance, if you search for an extension, you can find other similar ones that look legit.
  6. Uninstall browser extensions that you don’t recognize or those you no longer need.
  7. Use browsers that have the features you want.
  8. Install reliable antivirus software that will help spot malicious activities or applications.

Conclusion

Browser extensions play an important role in the user browsing experience. Although not all extensions are dangerous, users must conduct due diligence to ensure they install legitimate extensions.

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Blog Congress at Work

Productive Month Passing Domestic Manufacturing and Prescription Drug Allowances, Climate and Gun Violence Mitigation, and Veteran Burn Pit Healthcare Legislation

Productive Month Passing Domestic Manufacturing and Prescription Drug Allowances, Climate and Gun Violence Mitigation, and Veteran Burn Pit Healthcare LegislationInflation Reduction Act of 2022 (HR 5376) – This legislation was originally introduced as the Build Back Better Act, President Biden’s signature bill of 2021. After suffering defeat in the Senate, the bill was later revised with fewer provisions to enhance its likelihood of passage, and renamed the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill authorizes funding for investments in domestic energy production and manufacturing with the goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030. The bill provides tax credits for clean energy home enhancements and electric vehicle purchases, permits Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices,and extendslower healthcare premiums for insurance purchased via the Affordable Care Act program through 2025. Also billed as a deficit reduction tool, the legislation imposes a minimum 15 percent corporate tax rate on large businesses with more than $1 billion in reported income, and a 1 percent excise tax on corporate stock buybacks. Furthermore, the bill increases previously reduced funding for the IRS in order to help track down and recoup taxes unlawfully skirted by high income earners. Initially introduced on Sept. 27, 2021, the Act was passed by both the House and the Senate in August and signed into law on Aug. 16.

CHIPS and Science Act of 2022(HR 4346) – This legislation includes $280 billion in funding to build a domestic supply chain for semiconductor chips as well as scientific and technological research to help keep U.S. industries competitive. The bill authorizes new and expanded investments in STEM education for K-12 to community college, undergraduate and graduate education.The bill was enacted on Aug. 9.

Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (S 2938) – Introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Oct. 5, 2021, this Act expands background checks for anyone under age 21 who seeks to purchase firearms, and offers incentives for states to pass red flag laws to remove weapons from people deemed a threat to themselves or others. The bill provides $11 billion in funding for mental health services in schools and local clinics, and to support mental health courts, drug courts, veterans’ courts and extreme risk protection orders. The final version of the bill passed in the Senate on June 23 and in the House on June 24. President Biden signed the bill into law on June 25.

Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 (S 3373) – This legislation, which expands healthcare benefits for veterans who were exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances while on active duty, was introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) on Dec. 9, 2021. Amid much fanfare and controversy this summer, this bipartisan bill was finally passed in both the House (July) and the Senate (August, requiring a second vote) and was signed into law by President Biden on Aug. 10.

PPP and Bank Fraud Enforcement Harmonization Act of 2022 (HR 7352) – Introduced by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) on March 31, this bill amends the Small Business Act to extend the statute of limitation to 10 years for criminal charges and civil enforcement against borrowers under the Paycheck Protection Program, enacted during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill passed in the House on June 8 and in the Senate on June 28. It was enacted on Aug. 5.