Schedule Your Appointment TODAY!

schedule your appointment

schedule your appointmentIf you’re anything like I am, then you’re still having a hard time writing down 2018 whenever you have to write the date.  Here we are, a couple weeks into the brand new year, and I still find myself scratching out a “7”, or trying to rework it so it appears as if I just have a wonky-looking “8”.  But that’s neither here nor there at the moment.  Do you know what IS here right now? Tax time. Tax time is here again. Schedule your appointment like yesterday.

Schedule Your Appointment…NOW!

We get busier every single year.  In fact, this year we are needing to hire additional staff to keep up with the demands of our amazing clients!  But it also means that you need to schedule your appointments NOW!  We offer super easy ways to get on the schedule.  You can schedule your appointment by visiting our website and clicking on the pretty blue “Make An Appointment” button.  Or you can simply click here and allow us to directly reroute you to our online scheduler.  Easy peasy. Remote appointments are available and are the best way to quickly and conveniently get you squared away with getting those 2017 taxes prepared.  The best part is you don’t even have to put on a bra for the appointment!  Unless you want to.  We won’t judge.  Too much…Evening and weekend appointments fill up extremely quickly.  If you require an evening or weekend time slot, be sure to get yourself on the schedule as soon as possible.

You’ve Booked Your Appointment. Now What?

First and foremost, give yourself a little pat on the back for being so organized and together at the start of 2018. Congratulations! Maybe have a little get-together to celebrate.  Perhaps we can discuss ways to claim it as a deduction when we file your 2018 taxes…

Remote Appointments

Now it’s time to put your stellar organization skills into hyperdrive.  Gather your documents like your W-2s, Form 1098 (mortgage statement), property tax assessment, and any other important tax-related documents.  Many of them are required to be mailed to you no later than January 31, so keep your eyes on your snail mail for those important documents.  For remote appointments, we ask that you send us your documents no later than 24 hours prior to your scheduled time slot.  They can be delivered in a number of ways, but our favorite and preferred method is via our secure document portal.  You may also send them via regular mail, fax, email, drop them by in person, send a courier, or perhaps try a homing pigeon.

In Person Appointments

We love to see our clients’ lovely faces so we look forward to these appointments.  If you are choosing an appointment at our office, we ask that you arrive five minutes early and bring your personal tax information with you to the appointment.  Visit our website for more details regarding specific documents to bring.  Individual appointments are scheduled in blocks up to 50 minutes long.  For partnerships, trusts, and S-Corps we offer 90-minute time slots.

Time is precious, and we know how important your time is to you.  We want to make your appointment to get your 2017 income taxes prepared as easy as possible.  We can get it done without you ever having to leave your home or office through our remote appointments.  It makes getting your taxes filed a piece of cake! But first thing’s first—get that appointment scheduled as soon as possible.  Next, did somebody say cake?!?

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Gambling With Your Taxes

Gambling, Wins and Losses

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.  Unfortunately, the IRS tends to disagree with that sentiment, especially when it comes to your taxes.  Whether you are a consistent gambler or your winnings (or losses) are the result of a one-off weekend trip, the IRS still wants its cut and the result of your trip(s) should be included on your tax forms.  Claiming your winnings is a fairly straight-forward of putting down the amount you have won.  For gambling losses, you must be able to itemize deductions in order to receive those claims.

Gambling Tips

I will let Kenny Rogers take it from here.

  1. Know when to hold ‘em
  2. Know when to fold ‘em
  3. Know when to walk away
  4. Know when to run

Tax Tips

As I mentioned above, the IRS wants to know the monetary specifics of your gambling trips.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you gamble.

  1. Income from gambling can come from the casino, horse racing, or even the lottery.  Non-cash items, such as cars or trips, are considered income as well.  For example, if you won a car, you are expected to pay the taxable amount for the going market value of that vehicle.
  2. In some instances, you may receive Form W-2 G, Certain Gambling Winnings. You should not expect this form every time, but certain establishments will provide them depending on the circumstances.  The establishment will also give Form W-2 G if they withhold taxes from your winnings and the IRS will receive a copy of this form as well.
  3. Report all if your winnings to the IRS.  Unless you are a professional gambler, you will generally mark these earnings on your tax return as “Other Income”.  This is expected even if you did not receive the Form W-2 G.
  4. For losses you will use Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The only catch here is that you cannot deduct more losses than the total of your winnings.
  5. Keep your receipts! Make sure you are keeping a thorough journal of your wins and losses.  Read Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, for more info on gambling and Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, for more info on losses and more examples of specific records you will want come tax time.

Need help with your taxes?  Click here to call us!

 

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Taxes and Traveling for Charity

Over the summer months, some people might travel to participate in charity work.  Not only is that a wonderful, selfless contribution to society, but it could also be tax deductible!  For the purposes of this blog we will not be delving into the warm, fuzzy feelings volunteering gives, but the potential tax deductions that you could qualify for.

The following are a few tax tips to keep in mind to ensure a better tax refund.

Qualified Charities

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is very important to make sure that the charity falls under the IRS guidelines as a qualified charity.  Churches, governments, and school trips generally fall under the umbrella of qualified charities and need not apply, but most groups need to apply to the IRS to be eligible.  Of course, it is completely up to the person about whom they volunteer or donate to, but to be sure you can deduct expenses or donations it is smart to ask the group about the tax status.  The IRS has a handy tool to ensure your group’s status- the IRS Check Tool.

Out-Of-Pocket Expenses

You may find that the money you spent on your trip is deductible.  Personal expenses are not covered and these expenses must be directly related to the trip.  For example: if you threw a charity dinner- that could be deducted from taxes; the bar trip afterwards celebrating your successful dinner- that would be a personal expense and not tax deductible.  In order to be eligible for a refund, the expenses must not have been reimbursed, directly related to the services you provided, and not personal, living, or familial expenses.

Genuine and Substantial Duties

A substantial part of your trip needs to be the charity work for tax deduction purposes.  If the majority of your trip is personal time, you cannot expect to have your expenses deducted.

Value of Time or Service

This simply means you cannot use charitable work as a stand-in for your job.  This would include time lost to go do charitable work in lieu of work.  Even though you make X-amount an hour, that does not mean you can expect that to be a refundable “expense”.

Travel Expenses Deductible

You may be eligible to include your travel expenses in your deductions.  This would include plane, train, and bus transportation.  If you travel by personal vehicle it may include mileage accrued.  You will also find that you can deduct your personal accommodations and meals during your stay.  Ubers, taxis, or Lyfts are also deductible.  As long as you used them back and forth between the airport, station, and hotel.  Again, if your charity work does not encompass a substantial portion of your travels, you do not qualify for these deductions.

For further reading, checkout Publication 526 for more info on these rules and what is and what is not considered eligible, and as always contact us for any tax questions or comments!

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Teens And Taxes- What You Need to Know

Summer Jobs and Taxes

A summer job is a rite of passage for most teenagers.  It gives a taste of responsibility, builds character, and most importantly- extra spending money.  The lure of making extra money in the summer is quite a draw, but many people, parents and teens alike, do not think of the tax implications that come with a summer job.  Most people will not find it legally necessary to file if they only work a few months out of the year.  However, filing taxes is the only way to get back the money that was withheld from your paycheck.  Also, it pays to remember that filing thresholds for dependents are not the same as an ordinary taxpayer.

Self-Employment

Lawn care or babysitting is a fairly typical line of work for teens looking for a low-pressure summer job.  Work like this is considered self-employment for tax purposes.  Workers that are self-employed pay directly to the IRS based on their income and a good way to ensure you don’t get stuck with a large bill come tax time is to pay estimated taxes throughout the year.  When self-employed it is up to you to keep up with all payments received and business expenses accrued.  The gas you have put into your lawnmower are write-offs that can earn you money come tax time.  Remember, any expenses could be considered write-offs.  Keeping up with your receipts and claiming those expenses means you could get that money back.

Service Industry

The service industry is another line of work that pays well for teens looking for spending money.  In this industry, the majority of your money will not come directly from their employer, but comes from tips received from customers.  Keeping a daily journal of tips you have gotten during the shift is a good way to see if the money you are making is worth the hours put in and it will to give you an accurate account of tips received on your tax forms.  By law, the IRS requires workers to report tips if they equal or surpass $20 per month.

Seasonal Workers

A lot of seasonal workers will find that they do not make enough money in their brief employment to hit the mark to owe income tax.  If that is the case, the company will still take money out for Social Security and Medicare.  You are responsible for the the necessary taxes when self-employed.

Summary

The main thing is just being aware of the tax implications that come with a summer job.  It is very tempting to rip the check away from your pay-stub and forget about it.  But keeping track of all of your job-related paperwork will save you a headache at the end of the year.  Once you have your paperwork and W-2s in order it is a simple matter of filing.  Here at Gagliano Associates we offer half price taxes for dependents.  Schedule your appointment at:  http://gaglianoassociates.com/contact/

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Owe Back Taxes? PCAs, Tax Scams, And You

 

An unexpected call from the IRS trying to collect back taxes is never fun, and recently, it became more likely.  In December 2015, the IRS started to use four private collection agencies (CBE, ConServe, Performant, and Pioneer) to collect on outstanding tax accounts.  The accounts that the PCAs will take over are the older cases that the IRS is no longer pursuing directly.  The issue with a third-party collection agency is the confusion it brings to taxpayers.  Common tax scams will prey on the confusion created by new tax collection methods to collect an easy payday at your expense.

 Common Scammer Tactics

Over the past couple of years, taxpayers have lost millions of dollars to tax scammers.  Here are some general guidelines to spot a scam:

  • The scammers will use aggressive tactics over the phone designed to intimidate the taxpayers.  The scammer may even threaten legal action to frighten you into giving up personal info.
  • A scammer will try to pressure you into making payments over the phone. They will ask for payment from a pre-paid debit card or a wire transfer.
  • Scammers will use false numbers to seem like they are coming from an official agency.  However, these scammers may have your personal information (full name, address) to seem more legitimate.
  • A true IRS agent will never call demanding credit or debit card information.  Furthermore, they will never demand payment without first mailing a bill.
  • If you feel like you are on the receiving end of a scammers phone call hang up and do not give out nor confirm any personal information.  If you feel like you are a victim of a tax scam you can report it at https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/

PCA Info

The agency handling your case is still obligated to follow the same federal rules and guidelines as the IRS.  Both the IRS and the PCA that is assigned to your account will send a confirmation letter notifying you of the transition.  Nevertheless, if you do not receive letters from both agencies you should contact the IRS for an update on your case.  To continue working with the IRS, you must send a written document notifying these agencies of your intent.

Moving Forward

The PCA agent will set up a payment plan to move forward and get your payments on track.  Your PCA agent will never coerce or intimidate you into making a payment.  Remember, it is in their best interests to setup a payment plan that works for all parties involved.  The payments you do make should go directly to the IRS or Department of Treasury and never to a third-party.  Remember, if at any time you feel like a red flag is raised, again, report your experience to the IRS fraud line.

 

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Tips for Budgeting for Your Household

budgeting for a family

A lot of people live bbudgeting for a familyeyond their means. It’s easy to do when you find yourself with a few thousand dollars worth of credit open on a piece of plastic and a mall full of wonderful shinyful things. Or a restaurant full of delicious sounding entrees that would be much easier to order than to prepare yourself. Unfortunately the result is that too often, too many people find themselves living paycheck to paycheck and not a lot of hope of saving for the future. Rising medical costs combined with less coverage leaves too many of us on the brink of disaster. What do I mean by that? No savings and a potential medical emergency forces far too many families into bankruptcy. With a little planning and a little know-how, you can learn tips for budgeting for your household that allows you to put aside a little something for a rainy day.

Tip 1: Assess Your Spending

Track everything. Absolutely everything. Whether you pay with cash, card, check, or buttons and pocket lint. Keep a running record. If you allow yourself a cash “allowance” that you can spend on whatever you want, that’s great. But track those expenses too. They all count. You will be amazed to see how much the morning lattes add up to, or how much those scratch tickets are costing at the end of a month. A lot of times seeing the actual amount written in numbers and black and white can show where you’re bleeding out financially, and you can make adjustments accordingly. By tracking what you’re spending, you can work on budgeting accordingly.

Tip 2: Go on a Debt Diet

Stop using your credit cards unless it is an absolute emergency for one month. Thirty days. It’s harder than you might think, but it can be a valuable way of assessing what is a need versus a want. This means eliminating even the smallest purchases if they aren’t absolutely necessary. So no candy for the kiddos at the checkout of the grocery store. No bottle of soda from the cooler near the register. No zipping to the coffee cart in the middle of your workday to get over the 2 pm slump. It means a month of brown-bagging your lunches. Furthermore, it means filling your thermos with coffee before you leave for work for the day. It means a difficult few weeks, but at the end of it all you should have a pretty good stash of cash that you can put towards savings or paying off debt,

Tip 3: Eat at Home

Even just the occasional pass through the drive-thru to save the hassle of making dinner on a really long day can add up. The average cost of a fast food dinner for a family of 4 is around $28. Compare that to approximately $1-$3 per person to make dinner at home, and you have a pretty big gap in price. Sure, experiences are crucial to quality of life. However, when you are living beyond your means, it is often necessary to forego experiences in favor of better quality of life in terms of less stress and more financial security. Budgeting for food is probably the biggest household expense aside from mortgage payments. When you cut eating out from your expenses, you can greatly reduce your food bills every month.

Tip 4: Cut Extra Expenses

How much is your cable bill every month? Are you still paying for a landline? What about your energy bills? Look at your monthly expenses and start trimming away what you don’t really need. It may be difficult to bear the thought of eliminating cable. However, you’d be surprised at how quickly you get used to not having a hundred channels at your fingertips. Between Netflix and Amazon and all different types of streaming services, you can still have access to your favorite entertainment options without paying cable t.v. prices.

Additionally, you may want to consider getting rid of that old landline. Fewer and fewer households rely on a landline phone anymore, and the reason is that it is providing the same service as a cell phone at an additional price. Another place where you may be able to save some extra cash is on your energy bills. Simply lowering your thermostat one degree will save approximately 3% off your overall bill. Those dollars add up over the course of the colder months and you can potentially save hundreds of dollars in a single winter. If you want to take your energy savings even further, consider switching to energy efficient light bulbs. Turn off lights when you aren’t using them. Only do full loads of laundry and dishes. Start stacking your energy savings and you will be surprised at the difference in your budget.

Additional Budgeting Tips for Households

There are a number of different apps available that you can use to save extra money. Different apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 offers users rebates on specific items. The key to using these types of apps is that you need to make sure they are items you would buy anyway. If not, you are wasting money. The beauty of these apps is that you are able to combine rebates with coupons in order to save even more. Also checkout Target’s Cartwheel app and consider a RedCard Debit Card. It is different than a credit card in that it works just like your regular bank card, except users get 5% off of all purchases every time they use the card. No interest, no monthly payments, no credit. What’s not to love?

I’m not going to tell you to clip coupons and scour sales ads–though those are other great ways to save money for your family. However, many people find they waste a lot of time looking for coupons they will likely never use. Instead, check sales ads for local stores. Buy pantry items when they are on sale. Purchase meat in bulk if possible and freeze it in smaller portions. Pay attention to sale papers. Most importantly, pay attention to what you’re spending on a daily basis. You will be surprised to see where you are spending the most money. Once you see where most of your expenses are coming from, you can work on changing your habits. Start saving for a rainy day. Budgeting for a household isn’t hard. It’s sticking with the budget that can be tricky.

 

 

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Security: Web Access Strengthened by IRS

IRS taking additional security measures to protect your personal information

IRS taking additional security measures to protect your personal informationIf you’ve been following along with us, you know that we focus a lot on security. Not only is our tax preparation software extremely secure, but we take every precaution imaginable to ensure our clients’ information is protected. The last thing in the world we want is somebody’s personal identifying information stolen. The same goes for the IRS. They are taking a lot of precautions to strengthen security at every turn. As a wider effort to protect taxpayers, the IRS took steps this year to strengthen access to several web applications. This includes adding requirements for the use of security codes texted to mobile phones to access certain tools.

Web Tool Access Strengthened

The security code process used by the IRS is a two-step process. It is used to authenticate the user’s identity and right to access specific information. Using this safety measure is becoming more common in a lot of apps–including social media as well as in financial and tax areas. The two-step process to access accounts are your login information plus an added security code, and the code is sent as a text.

Other Security Measures Taken by the IRS for 2017

The IRS has partnered with several agencies–state tax agencies as well as the nation’s tax industry–to combat identity theft. They are asking for your help in their efforts to make a difference in keeping everybody’s personal information safe. The new process is called “Secure Access” and is the result of scammers trying to impersonate taxpayers. Each year, criminals are able to get their hands on more and more taxpayer information. Typically it is usually stolen from places outside of the tax system. This information is used to file fake returns or get access to accounts.

The Secure Access Process

The process supports the IRS Get Transcript Online and Get an IP PIN tools. Here is what you need:

  • An email address
  • Social Security number
  • Filing status and address from your last filed tax return
  • Your personal account number from any of the following: credit card, home mortgage loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, or a car loan
  • A mobile phone. You can only use U.S. based mobile phones. Your name must be associated with the wireless account to complete the process in one session. If you have a Google Voice or other virtual phones or a pay-as-you-go plan, you can get a code by mail. However this takes five to ten days for delivery. Unfortunately, you cannot use landlines or Skype.

Every time you log into your IRS accounts, you need to have all of your info ready. This means you need your username, password, and your cell handy to get your code. It is similar to logging into Facebook, Twitter, or your bank account from an unrecognized device. This provides customers with an extra measure of protection.

What’s the Purpose of these Safety Measures?

It all boils down to security. The IRS wants to make sure you and only you can get into your account. All of the new measures are part of the Security Summit’s series of initiatives. Additionally, it protects you from any tax-related identity theft.

Our clients are what makes us successful, and you can rest assured that we are following every security protocol available. Furthermore, we do everything possible to make sure your personal information is safe. Knowing that your personal data is safe with us is one less thing you should have to worry about.

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Working Grandparents May be Eligible For EITC

More than ever before, grandparents are raising their grandchildren. The IRS wants working grandparents to know they may qualify for for the Earned Income Tax Credit, and to claim it if they qualify. But, before going into too much detail about determining if you qualify for the EITC, let’s first explain what it is, shall we?

What is the Earned Income Tax Credit?

The EITC is a federal tax credit for workers whose income is below a certain level. For 2016, that level is $53, 505 or less. Basically, it is a refundable credit which means people who qualify for it could pay less federal tax, pay no federal tax, or even get a federal tax refund. According to the IRS, the EITC could put anywhere between an extra $2 to an extra $6269 back into a taxpayer’s pocket.

Who Qualifies for the EITC?

Aside from meeting income requirements, there are other requirements taxpayers need to meet in order to qualify for the credit. The basic rules for qualifying for this tax credit include having a social security number, having income, and you must file your tax returns in one of the following ways:

  • Married filing jointly
  • Head of household
  • Qualified widow or widower
  • Single

There are some additional rules for qualifying for the credit. Check out the IRS website for additional details.

Grandparents can Claim the EITC

So, as I said earlier, grandparents are caring for more and more children in the United States. They are often unaware of being eligible to claim the credit on their tax returns. A grandparent who is working and who has a qualifying child living in the household may be able to claim the credit even if the grandparent is 65 or older. Special rules apply if the child’s parents also qualify for the EITC

Services that Set Us Apart from the Rest

what makes our services better than the rest?

what makes our services better than the rest?Tax season is ramping up right now. The IRS began accepting returns on Monday, January 23, which means many of you are looking to get your house in order and get your taxes filed. You may be wondering what the benefit is of using a tax professional versus doing it yourself. And if you DO decide to use a professional, what makes Gagliano Associates a better choice than say the kiosk inside WalMart? Well, for one thing, we offer a variety of services that many of the large chains don’t offer. We focus on quality, not quantity. But we also provide a number of services that many of the other professionals in the area do not.

S Corporation Tax Preparation and Partnerships

One of the services we provide which others don’t is tax preparation for S-Corps and small partnerships. What is an S-Corp? Well, I’m glad you ask! It is a type of business where corporate taxes, losses, deductions, and credits are passed onto shareholders for federal tax purposes. In plain English that means shareholders bear the brunt of liability on their personal income taxes. But it also means that they are taxed at their individual income rates. For a corporation, it reduces the tax liability.

Gagliano Associates handles tax preparation for small S-Corps. By small, I mean we handle taxes for S-Corps which have only a few members who takes an S election. This saves on taxes because members are required to do payroll. Any leftover profits are distributed as dividends and aren’t subject to self-employment taxes.

Payroll Services (Only for S-Corp Clients)

Did you know that we handle payroll? Yep. We do. We handle payroll for small businesses and S-corps so you can focus on what’s important–running your business. We manage payroll taxes and tax codes. Being tax experts makes it easy for us to handle the payroll and take any and all guesswork out of it.

Small Business Consultations

Whether you’re starting your own business for the first time, or you’re looking to make some changes in your current business plan, we offer small business consultations to help get your business off the ground. We do everything from advising how to set up your books to helping you decide whether you should be a sole proprietorship, LLC,  or S-Corp. Here are some of the other services we offer with small business consultations:

  • Payroll
  • Determine what is deductible
  • Advise how to take a home office deduction
  • Calculate estimated payments and provide vouchers
  • Advise on how setting up a self-employment retirement account in order to help you pay less taxes
  • Advise on the procedure to become an LLC
  • Advise on the steps to get an EIN (Employment Identification Number)
  • Most importantly, we specialize our services to fit YOUR needs.

What Else You Can Expect From Gagliano Associates

We also prepare individual tax returns. We have been providing world class customer service since 1987. Our reputation is extremely important to us, which is why most of our business comes from referrals and word of mouth. We offer personalized service to meet your specific needs. And the best part is that you aren’t just our client from the time you bring us your paperwork until the time you get your refund (or pay your tax bill). We stand by you all year round. We are available to answer your tax questions, concerns, or offer advice all year–not just through tax season. We look forward to serving your tax preparation needs.

Finally, remember to book your appointment if you haven’t already! We offer remote services, evening, and weekend appointments for your convenience. You can also schedule your appointment online. Just remember: evening and weekend appointments fill up quickly! So go ahead–book your appointment. We look forward to working with you soon.

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