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Blog Tax and Financial News

Tax Planning Guide for Disaster Area Victims

Tax Planning Guide for Disaster Area VictimsThe recent hurricane Ian impacted much of the southeast United States. As a result, it is good to know the general tax rules related to disaster victims. Below, we look at several tax topics for disaster area victims.

1. Tax Returns and Filings

Q: I am a disaster area victim and needed to move from my home. I might not be back for a long time or even at all. Which address should I use on my tax return?

A: A taxpayer should always use their current address in filing a tax return. In the situation where you move after filing your return, you need to update your address with the IRS. You can do this either by filing form 8822 or calling the IRS Disaster Hotline at 866-562-5227.

Q: I filed an extension for my form 1040, giving me until Oct. 15 to file. Are there any further extensions available?

A: Taxpayers who already filed for an extension until Oct. 15 and live in a federally declared disaster area of the recent hurricanes receive an automatic extension due date of Dec. 31.

2. Payments

Q: I have a balance due on my 2021 tax return and am currently accruing interest on it. Is there any relief for disaster victims on interest charges?

A: No, the IRS is not giving any forbearance or cancellation of interest on tax balance liabilities. The IRS is, however, willing to waive late payment penalties when the taxpayer can prove the reason they are late is caused by issues related to the disaster.

3. Property and Casualty Loss

Q: During a recent disaster we lost electricity and all the food in my refrigerator and freezers spoiled and I had to throw it away. My homeowners’ insurance reimbursed me, and it was for more than the food cost me. Do I have to report any income on the amount over my food costs?

A: No. The tax code makes a distinction between scheduled property and general reimbursements. For unscheduled property (general reimbursements), the taxpayer does not need to recognize income for reimbursements on personal property, even if it was more than the cost of the lost property.

Q: I need to prove the reasonable value (FMV) of my home. Am I allowed to use property tax assessments to substantiate the FMV of my home?

A: No, the only way a taxpayer can establish the FMV of a property is either with an appraisal by a credentialed appraiser or using the cost of repairs method.

4. Sale of Home

Q: My primary residence was destroyed and the cause was deemed to be a federally declared disaster. After clearing the lot, I sold the land alone for a gain. Do I have to pay taxes on the gain or is there an exclusion since it is where my primary residence used to be?

A: Selling a vacant lot does not qualify for the exemption on gains from primary residences. The exception to this rule is if the land previously had the taxpayer’s main residence on it. In this case, if the taxpayer would have qualified for the main residence exemption before the disaster, the gain on the sale of the vacant land would be exempt here as well.

5. Expenses

Q: I worked in a federally declared disaster area and had to move for my job at my own expense. Can I deduct my travel and related expenses?

A: The answer depends on whether or not the move is expected to last for more than one year. If you expect the move to be temporary, defined as less than one year, then there is no change in your tax home. In this case, you can deduct travel and related expenses to get you both to and back from your temporary work assignment. If the move is long-term, defined as more than one year, then the expenses are not deductible, regardless of whether your employer reimbursed you.

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Blog General Business News

Auditing: What it is & Why It’s Done

What is AuditingThe Importance of Auditing

Auditing typically refers to an objective review of a company’s financial statements, which consists of the cash flow statement, the income statement and the balance sheet. It analyzes the level of accuracy that the business has characterized its financial records. The process looks at how a business documents investing, financing and operating ventures.

Depending on the type of audit and what it aims to accomplish, it can be conducted by internal employees or independent, third-party examiners like a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm or a government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service. When it comes to the United States, the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) is what auditors look to when analyzing financial statement preparation. External audits are guided by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) Auditing Standards Board (ASB). The AICPA requires that the generally accepted auditing standards (GAAS) are followed by external auditors to ensure proper protocol is followed.

When it comes to regulations, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 requires publicly traded companies to have their internal controls’ impacts reviewed. It also states that companies that do not implement and enforce their internal controls may be subject to criminal charges.

Defining Internal Controls

These can be thought of as how businesses can manage operations by regulating permissions, documentation, congruency, protection/safety and partitioning of responsibilities for business processes. These are broken into preventative and detective activities.

Sometimes referred to as protective activities, responsibilities are compartmentalized and distributed among different individuals to dissuade mistakes or deceit from occurring.

It also integrates highly detailed written procedures and validation procedures for further cautionary measures. It’s meant to verify that no sole person is able to approve, document or be responsible for monetary transactions and final products. Permitting invoices and validation of expenses are examples of internal controls. Only permitting appropriate access to the fewest employees necessary and the fewest required business equipment is one way to implement this type of internal control.

Detective Controls Defined

These are redundant systems that are put in place to intercept issues that might have fallen through the initial round of quality control measures. Looking to reconciliation procedures, which matches data in question against known accurate data sets, it’s used to fix discrepancies.

Internal Audits

This type of audit is usually conducted by the business’ employees, primarily performed as a way to evaluate internal operations and internal controls. It looks to identify any deficiencies or weaknesses in the business’ operations, often occurring before an external auditor reviews its financial statements. It’s also meant to review and identify any legal or regulatory compliance issues.

External Audits

This type of audit occurs when an independent auditor, such as a third-party CPA firm, assesses a business’ internal controls and financial statements. It is performed to provide an objective opinion that an audit conducted by the business itself cannot. With a “clean opinion” or “unqualified opinion” provided by the independent auditor, businesses can provide those looking at financial statements confidence that such financial statements are reliable. It enables the outside entity to focus on the financials, the business’ internal controls, etc. by providing a conflict-of-interest-free perspective.

Government Audits

This type of audit is done to ensure that businesses have accurately reported their taxable income to respective government agencies. This can include federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), which are the U.S. and Canada’s respective tax collection agencies.

When an IRS audit has concluded its review, there may be a few different preliminary results and resulting paths. The tax return may see no modification. There may be a modification the taxpayer agrees to, which could result in additional money being owed. The third result occurs when the filer doesn’t agree with the change, and it is worked out through an appeal process.

Whether it’s an investor for a publicly traded company or a business looking for creditors for help with money, materials, etc., having audited financial statements provides confidence that they’ll see a return on their investment or a high likelihood of their debts being satisfied in the future.

Sources

https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/house-bill/3763

 

 

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Blog Financial Planning

Do You Have an Investment Exit Strategy?

Investment Exit StrategyAre you a trader or an investor? The difference is frequently discerned by how closely you monitor the stock market and how quickly you move in and out of investments. Traders are often referred to as market timers because they actively seek to buy into positions when share prices drop, and sell out when those prices rise.

Many financial planners and professional money managers are not strong proponents of market timing. The reality is that no one can predict market movements accurately over the long term, so success is often a matter of luck and opportunity.

However, market timing is not the same as having a carefully structured and disciplined investment exit strategy. One reason this is important is that it can help prevent investors from panic selling. If you have considered the growth potential and market risks of a particular security or type of investment, and you put parameters in place that reflect your comfort level, then you can control your losses to a great extent. Without this analysis, you may be subject to emotional responses and sell for a significant loss because you can’t take the stress of watching your investment lose money day after day.

Exit Strategy

When share prices drop unexpectedly – and continue to fall – many investors let their emotions get the best of them and sell prematurely. Having a preconceived exit strategy is a good way to prevent this type of panic selling.

An exit strategy basically means that you set a target sell price, but it’s important that you have the discipline to sell at that price. Often when a stock’s share price is rising quickly, it is tempting to “let it ride” and ignore your exit strategy. However, that tide could change quickly in the other direction, turning a profitable trade into a loss. When this happens, you may stubbornly hang on to that declining stock knowing that you missed your opportunity to cash in – and hope that it will come around again.

An effective exit strategy should have two plans in place; a price point to sell for a gain and a price point to sell for a loss. This tactic can help keep your asset allocation strategy on target by not letting gains or losses in any one position throw your target asset allocation percentages out of whack. At the same time, you can manage risk by not allowing your portfolio to lose too much money. There are certain tactics that can help implement your exit strategy. For example:

  • Stop-Loss – an order to sell a security when its price is declining at the point when it reaches your assigned stop price (sell-stop).
  • Stop-Limit – a limit order gives instructions to sell a stock at a minimum price point. Stop-limit orders can be set to expire at the end of the current market session or carried over to future trading sessions (GTC – good ‘til canceled).
  • Trailing Stop – a modified stop order that can be set as either a percentage or dollar amount below or above the market price of a security.

Tax Considerations

An investor’s exit strategy should take into consideration potential taxes on capital gains. The amount you pay depends on how long you hold a position. If held for less than one year, the short-term capital gains tax rate is the same as your regular income tax. If held for one year or longer, the tax rate is 0 percent, 15 percent or 20 percent – depending on income tax bracket and filing status. When determining your exit strategy, it is prudent to set a long-term perspective with a plan to harvest gains on positions more than a year old.

Risk Management

Setting up an exit strategy is one component of a risk management plan. The following are other complementary strategies you can deploy to set boundaries on how much money you are willing lose.

  • Risk/reward ratio – Set a minimum ratio. For example, 1:3 means you are willing to risk $100 for a potential profit of $300.
  • 1 percent (or 2 percent) rule – Limit your risk to investing no more than 1 percent of your portfolio on any one trade.
  • By spreading your investments across a variety of assets, you can reduce portfolio losses through diversification.

Remember that investing is replete with uncertainty; not even the most experienced money managers can predict the direction of the markets. Developing an exit strategy for stock holdings is a way to minimize potential losses while strategically targeting specific returns to meet your goals.

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Blog Tip of the Month

How to Write Great Happy Holiday Emails

How to Write Holiday Email newslettersThere’s no better time than the holidays to show your employees and your clients how much you appreciate them. Here are five simple steps to help you craft the perfect email in no time.

Decide on the Audience and Purpose

Before you begin, determine who will be your recipients. For instance, if you’re writing to your team, it will be a bit different than writing to your clients. However, no matter who you are addressing, you’ll probably want to start by expressing your gratitude. After that, you can further refine your message. If it’s to your employees, acknowledging their hard work and dedication is a great place to start. After that, you might tout the many wins you’ve all experienced over the year. If you’re writing to your clients, you might want to share how great your partnership has been recently and that you’re hoping for an even better year ahead.

Keep it Brief

When expressing a seasonal message, less is more. Take time to think through exactly what you want to say. A good way to begin is to write what you want to say imperfectly. Get the thoughts out – it’s okay if it’s too long. Then come back and refine and cut. But be sure to give yourself enough time to do so. Few things are as challenging as trying to write a great message in a hurry.

Personalize Your Message

Craft your message as if you were talking to an individual, as opposed to a group. You don’t want it to be stuffy or overly corporate. Think about what you’d like to hear. Put yourself in the recipient’s place. Even if you feel your audience is more on the formal side, the holidays are the right time to be transparent and real. No one wants to receive a message that feels forced or fake.

Proofread Your Text

This is critical. Read every single word; and do it out loud. This works. Why? When you don’t do this, your brains fills in missing words. When you speak the words you wrote, you’ll instantly discover your mistakes. Imagine sending a holiday message that says, “Season’s Gratings!” Of course, you’d never do this, but this is hyperbole to make a point.

Choose a Clear Subject Line

Straightforward, concise and professional is what you want to aim for. A few simple examples are:

  • Sending You Warm Holiday Wishes
  • Season’s Greeting From [Company Name]
  • Wishing You a Wonderful Holiday Season

However, you can always be more creative and weave in something that happened over the year that will resonate with the audience, something that is specific either to your company’s culture or the culture of your client.

At the end of the year, as crazy as things can get with schedules, parties and shopping, it’s always nice to open your inbox and receive a message that warms the heart. These days, with everything that’s going on around us, it can make a world of difference.

Sources

https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/happy-holidays-email

 

 

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Blog What's New in Technology

Quantum Computing Uses That Solve Business Problems

Quantum Computing for businessEarly technology adopters are more likely to gain better business results, including higher revenue growth and market position. With businesses facing complex problems every day, it is no doubt that they are always watching out for the next big tech that offers a better solution.

Although still in its infancy stages, quantum computing is a technology whose commercial use will disrupt the business environment.

What is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing is a technology that focuses on manipulating and controlling different laws of physics. This non-classical technology uses quantum mechanical concepts like superposition and quantum entanglement.

The idea of quantum computing is not new and has come a long way. The first algorithm of large integer factorization for quantum computing was introduced in 1994. This algorithm intended to reduce the time it would take classical computers to find the prime factors of large numbers. It’s worth noting that the majority of the current infrastructure for encryption and information security is built on prime factorization.

Since the first algorithm was developed, more technological advances have been reported, and the field is continuously receiving funding. According to the McKinsey & Company Quantum Technology Monitor, funding from private and public sectors for this new technology is skyrocketing worldwide.

How it Works

Unlike classical computing whose information is encoded by bits, in quantum computing a qubit is the basic unit of quantum information. Qubit allows all combinations of information to exist simultaneously so that quantum computers can solve problems exponentially faster and with less energy consumption than classical computers.

In 2019, Google, in partnership with NASA, achieved quantum supremacy by demonstrating that quantum computers can compute in seconds what would take advanced supercomputers thousands of years.

Advanced development in this technology has also seen the introduction of quantum-computing cloud infrastructure through Quantum as a Service (QaaS). QaaS provides access to quantum computing platforms over the internet to customers. Major technology companies, such as Amazon, Alibaba, IBM, Google and Microsoft, have already launched commercial cloud services for quantum computing.

With the continued increase in the quantum computing ecosystem and emerging business use cases, business leaders must stay aware and prepare to adopt the new technology.

Business Use Cases for Quantum Computing

1. Quick Data Analytics

Today more than ever, businesses are faced with big data and a large quantity of information requiring analysis and storage. Since classical computers are built to solve one task at a time, it takes longer to solve these complex problems.

However, quantum technology has the potential to turn complex computations into simple calculations that are solved in less time.

2. Optimize Investment Strategies

Optimization is all about finding the most ideal solution in a situation. When many options are available, it takes a classical computer a long time to find a solution. Therefore, classical computers use shortcuts, and the final solution is partly optimal. But, with quantum computing, there will be better optimization.

3. Better Forecast and Prediction

Businesses rely on forecasts and predictions generated after analyzing complex and large data sets. Quantum computing is built to process huge amounts of data quickly and more accurately. As a result, better forecasts and predictions will enable better decision-making.

4. Solve Problems With Financial Services

There are various computationally intensive jobs in finance that could be facilitated by quantum computing, such as credit-risk management, financial crime reduction and trading strategy optimization. These tasks will greatly benefit from quantum algorithms that increase the speed of financial calculations.

5. Improve Data Security

Quantum computers are built to break encryptions that ordinary computers cannot. This might become a problem if hackers were to acquire encrypted data and store it until large-scale quantum computers are operational. To handle this problem, postquantum cryptography, a type of cyber security that can be used by conventional computers, is currently being developed. Therefore, a switch to quantum-resistant cryptography will prevent the possibility of data being exposed. At the same time, it will ensure better protection of digital assets.

Final Thoughts

Quantum computers will not replace classical computers; however, the two will form a hybrid solution whereby each task will be assigned to the most suitable machine – either quantum or classical.

Achieving the aforementioned benefits will require businesses to have teams of experts who are knowledgeable about the implications of quantum computing and who can recognize the company’s potential future needs, opportunities and vulnerabilities.

With signs of commercial quantum computing becoming a reality, it’s not too early for business leaders to consider how it will encourage digital investment, reshape industries and ignite innovation. Therefore, having a thorough understanding of quantum applications is essential for positioning a business to gain a competitive edge.

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Blog Congress at Work

Saving Animals, Enhancing Government Efficiency, and Supporting Global Food Security

Saving Animals, Enhancing Government Efficiency, and Supporting Global Food SecurityPlanning for Animal Wellness Act /PAW Act (S 4205) – Introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on May 12, this act instructs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to compile best practices and federal guidance for handling household pets, service and assistance animals and captive animals during emergencies and disasters. Initiatives include preparedness (e.g., sheltering and evacuation planning), response and recovery.The bill passed in the Senate on Aug. 6, in the House on Sept. 14 and was signed into law on Oct. 17 by President Biden.

Bulb Replacement Improving Government with High-Efficiency Technology Act/BRIGHT Act (S 442) – Presently, public buildings managed by the General Services Administration (GSA) must be equipped with energy-efficient lightbulbs and fixtures. This new bill expands requirements to ensure buildings are equipped with the most cost-effective and energy-efficient lighting systems available. Procurement must take into consideration factors such as motion sensors, fixture distribution and other elements. The act was introduced by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) on Feb. 25, 2021. It passed in the Senate on March 30, the House on Sept. 14 and was enacted into law on Sept. 17.

FTC Collaboration Act of 2021 (HR 1766) – Introduced by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) on March 10, 2021, this bill authorizes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to work with state attorneys general to evaluate procedures, such as accountability mechanisms, to better facilitate efforts to prevent and detect fraud and scams. FTC proposals must provide the opportunity for public comment, then submit legislative recommendations based on the results of the study. This bill passed in the House on April 14, 2021, and in the Senate on Sept. 29, 2022. It was signed into law on Oct. 10.

Expedited Delivery of Airport Infrastructure Act of 2021 (HR 468) – This legislation was introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) on Jan. 25, 2021, to amend Title 49 of the United States Code. New provisions allow for incentive payments to expedite certain federally financed airport development projects, subject to an allowable project cost standard. The bill passed in the House on June 15, 2021, the Senate on Sept. 27, 2022, and was signed into law on Oct. 10.

Supporting Families of the Fallen Act (S2794) – This legislation impacts service members (or former members) covered by the Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance program and the Veterans’ Group Life Insurance program. Specifically, it increases the maximum life insurance coverage amount from $400,000 to $500,000. The bill was introduced by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) on Sept. 22, 2021. It was passed in the Senate on March 23, 2022, and in the House on Sept. 29. It was signed into law by the president on Sept. 17.

Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021 (HR 4693) – Introduced on July 26, 2021, by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), this bipartisan bill directs the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop initiatives designed to prevent and treat malnutrition globally. The USAID is charged with choosing recipient countries based on specified malnutrition-related indicators. These initiatives andcountry selections must be made within five years, and the provisions are scheduled to terminate seven years after the bill’s enactment. The bill passed in the House with a 90 percent vote on April 27, 2022, in the Senate on Sept. 20, 2022, and was signed into law on Oct. 19.

Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2022 (HR 8446) – This act reauthorizes funding to support the government Global Food Security Strategy and the Emergency Food Strategy programs through fiscal year 2028. The first program is designed to promote nutrition and food security, with a newly enhanced focus on improving efficiency and reliability in agriculture production. The latter program provides market-based assistance throughout the world. The bill was introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) on July 20. With 78 percent of the vote, it was passed in the House on Sept. 29 and is currently under consideration in the Senate.