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    Archives for Accounting

    Enhancing Your Visibility as a Business

    Newspaper-300x225Every business needs to get their name out there. Without visibility you don’t have clients. Without clients you don’t have an income. Without an income, well why are you even in business in the first place? The business world is constantly changing. And you need to stay on top of things or else you will be left with nothing but Yellow Pages ads in a world where Google search engine rankings are all that anyone cares about. If you want to maintain a viable player in your field, follow these tips set forth by your accountant in Billings, MT.


    Becoming More Visible as a Business

    There are a number of different ways to spread your name around. They are more than just advertising, and you can’t just pick one. You need to keep at the top of your game across multiple methods. Here are a few that have great success.

    Google – There are two ways to get to the top of Google. You can pay for an AdWords campaign to put your website at the top of the list when people search for specific keywords. Most of the time people skip right by these ads. The alternative is to organically build your site to be search engine optimized. This includes a lot of content, and some other SEO techniques.

    Pay Per Click – You need exposure. One way to do that is to set up a pay-per-click ad campaign targeting local site. Your local news sites will host your ad, but you only ever pay if someone actually clicks on your ad. This drives traffic to you website, and hopefully results in paying clients. You need a great website to convert those visitors to clients.

    Media – Many businesses will benefit immensely from media advertising. This is printed ads in the paper, radio spots, TV commercials, and more. These ads are not for everyone, but they can benefit certain businesses immensely.

    Networking – One word that many professionals hate is networking. But if you get into the right networking group, you will be rewarded greatly. For instance, Biz to Biz is a fantastic way to generate leads and pass referrals.

    Partnering – Some businesses will benefit greatly by partnering with related businesses. For instance, if you are a graphic designer, you may benefit by partnering with a marketing company. You take your information to that company, and the next time they have overflow work, they push it your way. It’s a win-win for both of you.

    Online Reviews –Something under-utilized, especially here in Billings, are Google reviews. Every time you have a satisfied customer, give them a card with your information and ask them to write a review for you on Google. You can offer small bribes such as a free coffee to a local kiosk to get a better response rate.

    Outsourcing the Right Parts of your Business

    Because you are a busy professional, you likely don’t want to take the time to make sure that your business is getting the right visibility. This is where it is important to outsource certain aspects. For instance, how many hours per month do you spend on payroll services? That is something your accountant in Billings, MT can do so you can focus on running your business. Outsourcing your marketing to the professionals is not only easier, but gets dramatically better results. A highly visible business is a profitable business. Where are you lacking?

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, MT. If you need help with your bookkeeping, online payroll services, business consultation, or just simple tax preparation, we are here to help. Call us today at 406-894-2050 to learn more about how we can help you.

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    Becoming More Efficient in Your Business

    Drucker-portrait-bkt_1014Running a business is all about efficiency. Without certain systems in place, you will never be able to accomplish all that you need to get done. For example, if you simply have too much work to get done, then you will need to hire employees. Of course with those employees comes a whole host of other problems that need to be resolved such as payroll, bookkeeping, and many more. You can do all of those yourself, or you can put a system in place to accomplish those tasks for you. Your payroll services specialist in Billings, Montana explains how.


    Becoming More Efficient

    Peter Drucker, the late business consultant and educator, once said, “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” These words have never been truer, especially in today’s world where often business owners try to take on everything rather than delegating and simplifying.

    Eliminate – There are many things that business owners simply don’t have to do. But for some reason, perhaps it’s because they want to make sure that everything gets done properly, they do them anyway. For instance, there are a lot of business owners out there that feel they need to incorporate every form of marketing available.

    So they stress and worry about their radio ads, billboards, TV ads, internet marketing, and social media marketing. In today’s world, they could easily eliminate three or more of those forms of marketing, and still make just as much of an impression on the community.

    Delegate – If you have employees, then you are already delegating. Whenever there is a task that can be done by someone else, you can help alleviate some of the stress by delegating that task to someone else.

    Most of us delegate already. We ask our connections on Facebook for advice, we have employees help us, and we have our accountant run our payroll and our bookkeeping. Any time that you can have someone else do the work, it is usually better to have them do the work.

    Simplify – Sometimes you just need to simplify your work. Instead of having an elaborately designed 10 page color catalog that nobody ever reads, have a 1 page flyer instead. But as we referred to above, if the work doesn’t need to be done, then simplifying isn’t going to make you more efficient.

    That is why we always ask first, “can this be eliminated?” and then, “can this be delegated?” and finally, “can this be simplified?”

    Practical Taxes Can Help

    In your quest for maximum efficiency, Practical Taxes can help alleviate the burden that you feel. If you have employees, and you are still writing paychecks every two weeks, delegate that to us. If you are slogging your way through bookkeeping every months, delegate that to us.

    If you are trying to file your taxes quarterly and are frustrated beyond belief, delegate that to us. As a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana, we can take a lot of the pressure off of you so that you can better run your business.

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    5 Time Saving Tricks You Aren’t Using

    It happens to the best of us. There are simply not enough hours in the day to maximize our productivity. In the end we have to move a good portion of our to-do list from one week to the next; a seemingly endless battle to have everything cleared from our schedule. If you can relate, then this post is for you. You need to incorporate some of these time saving tips into your work life, and for once go home at the end of the day feeling like you have accomplished all that needs to be accomplished. Keep reading as your accountant and payroll services expert in Billings, Montana explains what you need to know.

    Make a Schedule


    You might be saying that you already have a schedule, but I can assure you that not many have a schedule like the one needed to be highly productive. This schedule includes EVERYTHING. Monday to Friday your schedule dictates when you wake up, when you eat, how long you get for your shower, all the way down to bathroom breaks. A highly structured person is a highly efficient person.

    The caveat here is that it is going to take you several weeks to perfect your schedule. Things will change and need tweaking, but if you have everything on your schedule, including not only when but also what you eat for breakfast, you will see productivity soar.

    Learn to Say “No”

    We hear this often, but we continue to ignore this advice. There comes a point in our lives, whether work or personal, that we just need to say “No.” It can be extra work, lunch with a friend or co-worker, dinner out, that ski vacation that you really don’t want to go on but you feel bad because your friend from college wants to keep in touch but you couldn’t even stand him when you were roommates so why would you want to go skiing with him and his family… you get the idea.

    Practice this one. The next time another project comes across your desk, politely decline and say you already have a full plate. If your services are valuable the person will either wait, or offer to pay more.


    Turn Off the Internet

    Most of us think that the internet is required for our job. In some cases it is, but in most cases we can get by without it for an hour or two. Want to increase your productivity? Just reach over and unplug the router. This also means no checking your Facebook on your phone either. Disconnected is always disconnected.


    Passing work off to someone else is one of the greatest joys in life. You have a ton on your plate, and having someone else take part of the workload will make you feel almost guilty, as though you aren’t working hard enough. Don’t be fooled; you are.

    Even if you don’t have employees you can still delegate. There are plenty of companies out there that will do one-time odd jobs for you (such as running errands that consume a ton of your time), and there are virtual assistants that will work for $8 per hour on those tasks that just eat up your time.

    Take More Breaks

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking breaks will actually increase your productivity and save time. Think of it like this: you get your mind working on a project and keep the train of thought until that task is done. Switching over to a new train of thought takes time, and if you don’t do something to take your mind off the previous task, you have trouble getting started on the next one. These breaks should be scheduled into your day, and they should be 5-10 minutes to get a cup of coffee and stare out the window. Maybe click “LIKE” on the funny picture your cousin just posted.

    Practical Taxes Can Help

    About those tasks that you just need to delegate out; that is where we come in. You can do your taxes on your own, or do your own payroll, and do all your own bookkeeping. But why would you? Instead let a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana do the hard stuff for you. This time saving tip alone will clear you up to focus on what you do best: run your business.

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    Three Ways to Run a Better Business

    If you are a business owner then you are always on the lookout for how to run a better business. You want to have a clean and fluid business that can operate without you. You want to be able to take a vacation and know that when you return, there won’t be a pile of work for you to get done. But you wonder how can that can even happen? You’re scraping by now and can only dream of those days.

    It all starts with taking small steps. Let your accountant in Billings, MT explain the three steps it takes to run a better business.

    Invest in Your Presence

    There are two different types of marketing out there: branding and marketing. Branding is letting people know who you are; marketing is letting people know what you sell. Many businesses skip the first step, and jump right into the second step.

    Before you can sell a product to your customer, your customer needs to be familiar with your face. Let’s look at it this way. You need life insurance and the only two companies that you can find are MET Life and XYZ Financial. You have seen the Snoopy commercials, you know “Get MET, it Pays”, and you’re familiar with the brand. XYZ Financial says they offer a premium product for 20% less than MET Life offers. Who do you choose? Most people will go with MET because they trust the brand (although they know nothing about the brand other than they have heard the name often).

    As a business owner, you want your name to become a household name (Coca-Cola, Kleenex, Apple, Toyota, etc.). When people already know your name, then they will be more likely to buy your product.

    Sell to Your Customer; Not to You

    A good sales person knows this rule of sales: make it all about the customer. Don’t tell them what you have to offer, tell them how you can solve their problem.

    accountant and payroll services expert in Billingsaccountant and payroll services expert in Billings

    Often we hear sales pitches that go like this: “We have the best product on the market. Through years of research and development, we have developed a product that blows away the competition. Our product is ranked better than 98% of all others out there, and our sales show that we are the best!”

    Nobody cares. The customer wants to hear a pitch like this: “Are you tired of [xyz]? 98% of our customers report that [product name] has helped them. Don’t suffer any more, try us today. If it doesn’t work out, we have a money back guarantee.”

    See the difference? The first pitch is all about how great the product is. The second is all about how the product helps the customer.

    Meet the customer’s needs, and the sale will make itself.

    Get Organized

    One of the biggest business killers is lack of organization. If you want to run a better business, you have to invest time (every single day) into staying organized. Doing so will help ensure that you will remember to reply to all of those emails, return phone calls, and get everything done.

    Look at it like this. Suppose you remain unorganized. Every morning, before you get any work done, you have to spend an hour remembering where you left off the day before, figuring out what project you are working on, and de-cluttering your desk. Now let’s suppose you spend 15 minutes at the end of every day organizing for the following day. Now you have that entire hour at the beginning of the day (when you are fresh and thinking clearly), to get as much accomplished as possible. You can run a better business with ease because you gave yourself a boost.

    Let Practical Taxes help you Run a Better Business

    As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate. You have work to do, prospects to follow up with, and phone calls to return. The last thing that you want to do is worry about your taxes and payroll. Don’t muddle through doing your own taxes, leave them to us!

    We offer affordable tax preparation services here in Billings, MT. We spend our time on your taxes, so you can spend your time learning how to run a better business.

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    Estate Taxes vs. Inheritance Taxes

    castle-780982_1920-300x225Estate taxes are often referred to as death taxes. It seems that no matter what is going on, the government wants to get a piece of the pie. So when you pass away, if you have a large enough estate, there may be taxes that are owed. On top of that, there are inheritance taxes to be worried about. So how do you know the difference, how much you will owe, and what to plan for? Keep reading as Practical Taxes, your accountant in Billings, explains the difference between estate taxes, inheritance taxes, and who needs to worry about them.


    Federal Estate Taxes

    A few years ago, understanding estate taxes was a pain. There was a set amount that would be excluded, and that number stayed the same for a decade. After 10 years it needed to be adjusted for inflation, but congress was trying to decide what to do. There was a fear that it would reset, and anyone that died during the reset period would be subject to massive taxes.

    Fortunately that has been figured out, and the estate tax exclusion now adjusts annually. For tax year 2015, your assets can total $5.43 million before you owe taxes. That means if your assets total $5.45 million, you only owe federal estate taxes on $20,000. Current estate tax rates are between 35% and 45% depending on your situation.

    If you are fortunate to have an estate larger than the exclusion, and thus you will have to worry about the taxes, pay attention to the name of the tax. Estate taxes are paid by the estate before money is distributed to the heirs. The government doesn’t care if those assets are tied up in real estate either. The estate will have to raise the money any way possible to pay the tax.

    State Inheritance Taxes

    Fortunately there are only 15 states (and D.C.) that have an inheritance tax. Montana is not one of them. But in case you have two residences, pay attention.

    State inheritance tax varies by state. There are different exclusions, different tax rates, and different provisions. Since Montana isn’t included, we won’t go into any details; but we can discuss it with you if your situation calls for it.

    Just as estate taxes are paid by the estate, inheritance taxes are paid by the heir.

    How to Avoid Estate Taxes

    There are a couple of ways to avoid estate taxes. One involves reducing the size of your estate, the other actually involves increasing the size.

    Reducing the size of your estate – The only true way to completely avoid estate taxes is to have an estate smaller than the exclusion of $5.43 million. However, rapidly reducing your estate is tough since you can only give away a certain amount every year. You can give $14,000 each year to anyone and avoid gift taxes. So if you have 10 grandkids, you can move $140,000 out to UGMA or UTMA accounts. You can move money out by donating to charity, or setting up an ILIT.

    Increasing the size of your estate – Moving money into an ILIT will actually increase the size of your estate. Let’s suppose your estate is worth $6 million. You start an ILIT (the trust owns the insurance, the estate is the beneficiary) and give the trust $14,000 per year to pay the premiums. Suppose the death benefit is $4 million, your estate (at the time of your death) will be worth $10 million. The benefit here is that even though you owe taxes on the additional value; it is all paid with liquid money that comes from the life insurance.

    Let Practical Taxes Help with Your Estate Planning

    If you have estate planning needs, Practical Taxes can help. We can work closely with your attorney, your financial advisor, and you to draw up these plans. We will help you plan for your estate taxes, or help you avoid them if we can legally make it happen.

    If you don’t have estate tax issues, we offer affordable tax preparation services in Billings. Give us a call at 406-894-2050 to learn more and to schedule your appointment.


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    Bookkeeping is vital to any business. Everything a business does financially should be recorded for official record. Tax records, financial statements, receipts of purchase, and ledgers should be organized and stored. Record keeping is vital to business success, and here are a few reasons why.


    No one likes an audit. But the more prepared you are for an audit the better. If you have all of your financial documents in one place, an audit goes quick and easy. Oftentimes, what gets audited are small discrepancies that diligent bookkeeping can, hopefully, clear up easily. An audit takes your attention away from your business, and causes unneeded anxieties and stress. If you do get audited, the IRS will request all of your applicable records, so make sure that you have everything ready to show them.


    Tax deductions are important. At tax time, it’s important that every dollar your business spends, gets noted at the end of the year. Each and every dollar counts. This applies to businesses as much as it does to individuals. Keep track of every receipt! If the IRS ever questions an expense, you will have the evidence to back it up!

    Tax Time!

    At tax time, you will have all the required paperwork ready. If your books are well kept, up to date, then everything at tax time should go quick and easy. You don’t want to have to scramble at the end of the year for all of you tax documents.

    If you have any questions as to how to keep diligent books, or would like the assistance of a qualified accounting and tax professional, then Practical Taxes is here to help. At the end of the day, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone qualified have your back? Wouldn’t it be beneficial at the end of the year to have your business in the hands of the reliable services of a tax professional who understands your business’s needs? Practical Taxes is ready to help, and can customize accounting services to fit all your needs. Call today to schedule an appointment.

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    If you own a small business, you know just how important the standard tax write-off is. What you may not know is that marketing costs are win-win write-offs for every small business. Every small business needs to standout, meaning that every small business should be doing everything in their power to get out their name and then to keep their name in their local community (or local online community—i.e. Etsy). And the expense that comes from marketing a business is directly related to a future write-off on your taxes. Now, this isn’t to say that everything you do will lead to a write-off. The IRS believes that all tax write-offs should be reasonable in amount, and directly related to your business (How it’s related could bristle the hairs on the back of an IRS agent’s neck). Here are few ways to market your business that make for simple, straight-forward write-offs at the end of the tax season.

    A new or up-to-date website

    The rules and designs of the web change almost monthly. Google has new rules for keeping websites at the top of search engines, and customers have come to expect proficient designs that are easy to navigate. So, hiring someone (or, if you yourself have the spare time and experience) to update your website, add to its design, or shake things up. If there are any fees involved to host the website through a third party, these may also be accounted for. Also adding premium services so that your website runs smooth and efficient.

    The Google Search Words Campaign

    Many businesses spend exorbitant amounts on google ad-words, search terms. These can add up quickly. At the end of every month google should provide you with a receipt from the month’s transactions—this data is also included in your Google analytics package, however, just to be safe, don’t wait until tax season to save this data, in case anything were to happen.


    A marketing flyer is still be an effective marketing strategy in the digital age. Or a personalized Christmas card from your business to your customers at Christmas. Oftentimes, things like flyers, cards, and letters are easily deductible. Keep every receipt!

    If you need advice as to which potential deductions will benefit your business, Practical Taxes is here and ready to help.

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    Payroll Services

    Did you know that it’s becoming ever-more popular to outsource payroll to an accountant service? It’s true, payroll is the number one thing businesses will outsource. There are many reasons including, cost, productivity, accountability, legality, and service.

    Small businesses can absolutely save money by outsourcing payroll. Add up those hours spent on payroll and then calculate the costs to the company. Most times—especially for small businesses where each minute of the day could be filled with some type of progressive work—the outsourcing of payroll is considerably less than the cost of doing it internally. Oftentimes this is because accountants oftentimes use more sophisticated software than a typical small business, and accountants have the job streamlined.

    If you own a small business you will grow to appreciate the freedom that freeing up internal sources from the job of payroll will provide. You get to focus on the job you want to do, which is especially important for new businesses, not yet established—in today’s world the percentage of new businesses that fail is staggering.

    Did you know that a high percentage of small business pay a penalty to the IRS every year for improperly filed payroll taxes? Hiring an accountant at Practical Taxes makes sense, when you consider that they understand the ins and the outs of current tax policy. This also goes hand in hand with legal compliance. Because a payroll service like Practical Taxes is going to understand the continually shifting laws and obligations involving payroll.

    In today’s modern world you can find just about anything on the internet—including a payroll service! Regardless of how reputable companies are, isn’t it best to have an accounting service such as Practical Taxes with whom you can work, face to face in some cases, and trust all that important paperwork and sensitive documents to a responsible face. If you have any questions as to how Practical Taxes can help your business grow and succeed, be it with the outsourcing of payroll or the general everyday management of your business, call today.

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    Charitable Contributions

    Happy Thanksgiving! This is the time of year to be thankful, and, for some of us, this time of year has us thinking of giving back, making charitable contributions. Charitable contributions to those of your choosing are obviously very important, but it’s also important that you make those contributions in a way that also benefits your taxes. For those of you who don’t know, charitable contributions can be assessed as deductions on your tax bill! Giving is important and the government recognizes your charitable donations as a private citizen, but, it does impress upon you a few stipulations to receive the deduction on your taxes.

    First, the charitable contribution needs to be to a qualified organization. You cannot deduct donations made to individuals or to political campaigns. Also, many contributions to organizations are met with gifts from said organization: consider an outdoor organization at who’s benefit dinner you wind up winning some grand prize because of your donation: the amount you can deduct from your taxes may only be the balance between the fair market value of the gift given to you by the organization and the amount of that year’s donation. If the fair market value of the gift exceeds the donation, then you’re out of luck at tax time. Also, to deduct the contribution you made, you must keep the receipt of the payment you made. The IRS doesn’t want to see a hand written sheet from So-And-So, claiming that you paid them some money; it wants to see receipts, receipts which, if needed, can be tracked back to a source. Non-cash donations are also considered contributions which can be written off, however, in order to claim the contribution on your taxes, for a contribution totaling over five hundred dollars, you must complete a separate IRS form, IRS form 8283, and, if you have trouble understanding the form, Practical Taxes is ready to help.

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    accountant billings mt

    Reasons Why Small Business Owners Need to Keep Meticulous Records

    Being a small business owner, I get it, there is so much to do and keeping track of records just isn’t at the top of the list. But it should be. Keeping things organized and tracing records can help you in the long run.

    Tax Season Billings MT
    If you keep track of your records and receipts, when it comes to tax season, it will be much easier for you to locate your receipts. It will also help you to get all of the deductions that you are entitled to. The IRS does not accept bank statements. They want the actual receipts to validate your expenses.

    Payroll Management Billings MT
    Keeping your payroll records organized can assist you with tracking your employees. It makes it much easier when it comes to paying your employees. If you aren’t comfortable doing payroll or just don’t have time, Practical Taxes can manage your payroll for you.

    Invoicing Billings MT
    When it comes to invoicing your clients, keeping track of your records will help you to know who has paid and who has not. It can also help you to keep track of projects and to know what money is coming in.

    Trust me when I tell you that spending a few minutes each day on your records will pay off in the long run.  Keeping track of your records will make tax season much easier as well.

    Practical Taxes

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. We can help you get the most from your taxes, and make sure that you will get the maximum refund every year. But we don’t just do taxes! We can help with your bookkeeping, payroll, bank reconciliation, budgeting, and more. Give us a call at 406-894-2090 to learn more.


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    Business Expenses | Accountant Billings MT

    Business Expenses

    It’s difficult to run a business, let alone a small business.  For most small businesses every dollar saved counts.  It’s important that a small business owner understands that there are expenses that they can write off at tax time (a write off simply being a deduction to your taxable income).

    For something to be deductible, according to the IRS, it must be both ordinary and necessary to the business.  They define an ordinary expense as one that is common for the business, and a necessary expense as one that is both helpful and appropriate to the business.  However, there is some leniency when considering an expense to be necessary.

    Necessary means that the expense was helpful to a business; the expense does not have to be considered indispensable to the business to be considered necessary.    These expenses should be documented with a receipt of payment. In the case of vehicle mileage, a documented travel log for all miles traveled while on business.

    Business Expenses

    There are many different types of business expenses, however, the following are the most common expenses that are linked to most any business.  To use your home as a place of business allows you—in most circumstances—to deduct expenses for the business use of it.  These expenses could include the home’s mortgage interest, home owner’s insurance, utilities, and depreciation.

    Also, your car, whether it was purchased to be intended for business use or not, if it is being used for business, you can deduct certain expenses from your use of it.  If the car is used for both personal uses as well as business, then you will be able to deduct the mileage of the car while it was in use for business purposes.  Any other business expense such as insurance, retirement, rent or lease payments, interest accrued from the amounts you’ve borrowed on the business and the taxes on the business.

    If you are a small business owner, consider hiring an accountant to advise you on your business expenses.  Also, remember to document every expense, because, when it comes time to pay your taxes, each deduction might mean more money in your pocket.

    Practical Taxes

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. We can help you get the most from your taxes, and make sure that you will get the maximum refund every year. But we don’t just do taxes! We can help with your bookkeeping, payroll, bank reconciliation, budgeting, and more. Give us a call at 406-894-2090 to learn more.


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    Tax Preparation Billings MT

    Increase Your Income by Earning More on the Side

    Side-Job-300x225There are thousands of people who would like to make more money or save more money. It would allow them to afford the lifestyle that they truly want. But they run into problems, such as they are at the top of where they can get to at work, or they have scrimped and saved and really cannot cut costs anywhere else. They wonder where they should turn. In today’s society, packed with internet bills, cell phone bills, high utility fees, and many other things that cost a lot of money, many people need to pick up some sort of side income. Depending on how you earn the money, there could be tax consequences that you want to address (also where an accountant in Billings, Montana could help you out).


    Getting a Second Job

    To bring in extra cash, most people will get a second job. This could be serving at a bar or a restaurant in the evenings, or working part-time as a cashier at a retail store. There are the goods and the bads that come with this choice.

    The benefits of a second job are that you will have regular hours. That means a steady second paycheck. Also, you will get another paycheck where taxes have been taken out; there will be less to worry about come tax season (on top of that, the employer will pay half of your FICA taxes).

    The downsides, however, are that you are stuck working for someone else. You have to follow their hours, their guidelines, and you are likely to be stuck making close to minimum wage (being a server, however, you could make substantially more because of tips).

    Working on the Side

    Because of the lack of flexibility and the low pay of working a side job, many people choose to follow their passions, and monetize their hobbies or interests. This method takes a little more planning, but the benefits in the long run are a lot better.

    The best part about starting your own side business is that you get to set your hours. You work when you want to, and as much as you want to. So if you only have a few hours per week, you don’t have to rearrange your entire schedule just to bring in some extra money. Another positive aspect is that you get to set your own rates. With proper marketing, and if you have the skills, you can make substantially more than minimum wage.

    The biggest drawback of earning income on the side like this is that you will have to pay all of the taxes. Next tax season you will have a bigger tax bill that may drop your tax refund into the negatives. This is especially true because you will be paying ALL of the 15.3% into your FICA taxes (working for someone else, half of this is covered). Combine that with the fact that you have to find all of your own clients, and many people are deterred from this option (even though you can make a lot more, it is quite a bit harder).

    Using an Accountant in Billings, Montana

    If you hire an accountant in Billings, Montana, you will be able to take a lot of the worry away from your side business. Here at Practical Taxes, we know the tax laws, and if you are starting your own side business we can work with you to get the most deductions possible (and help to offset those taxes that you have to pay).

    If you are interested in making more money on the side, consider starting a little side business (often called a side hustle). You will be happy that you did, and the extra income can go a long ways.

    Practical Taxes knows all the current tax laws and can help you with your business needs including business planning, accounting, tax preparation, and more.

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    tax services billings mt

    Reasons To Hire An Accountant

    It is June, which means that the busy tax season has dwindled.  But, accountants are still busy at work, because aiding and preparing tax forms for customers is not the only responsibility of an accountant.  Accountants are busy helping businesses with tax preparations and things like payroll.  And if you own a small business and are looking for some assistance from an accountant, Practical Taxes is here to help.  If you are a small business owner and you have never considered hiring an accountant to assist you, here are a few reasons why you might consider it.

    Depending on how many people you employ, figuring out the payroll consumes your time.  The time in which you are doing payroll cuts into either your work time or your free time or both.  The question is, would it make better financial sense if you could work more, or would the cost of an accountant be worth the time to which you could regain your free time.  Also accountants are familiar with our state’s payroll laws.  Also, an accountant can provide real advice as to future expenditures you plan to grow your business.  Also, an accountant can work with you to track you business spending throughout the year: a second opinion can be a valuable thing for your small business.

    Reasons that you may want to hire an accountant

    There’s plenty of reasons to consult with an accountant outside of tax season, and here are just a few for example.  Consider a purchase in real estate, or say you are setting aside a large chunk of money for your children, or maybe you’re just going to give someone a large gift, be it money or house or car, etc.  An accountant can help you to navigate the required taxes, or set up spaces in which you can protect assets from being dually taxed.

    An accountant, while being a very good asset at the tax season, is a good person to call with other financial questions.  A good accountant may be able to save you both time and money in your small business or even in your own personal finances.

    Practical Taxes

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. We can help you get the most from your taxes, and make sure that you will get the maximum refund every year. But we don’t just do taxes! We can help with your bookkeeping, payroll, bank reconciliation, budgeting, and more. Give us a call at 406-894-2090 to learn more.

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    Invest in Yourself with an IRA

    IRA-300x199When people think of retirement, they generally think of a blissful time where they have no money worries, they can travel the world, and they can enjoy their golden years. But studies have shown that not only are people ill prepared for retirement, but a full one third have not saved ANYTHING. If you would rather be one of those that are well prepared for retirement, and thus able to actually enjoy your golden years instead of scraping by on Social Security, then you need to start an IRA.

    What is an IRA?

    There are actually two forms of Individual Retirement Accounts. There is the traditional IRA and the Roth IRA. Both will help you store up money that can be used later in life, and both have particular tax advantages.

    Both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA are retirement accounts. These accounts are not specifically savings, CD’s, investments, REITs, or cash accounts. They are just the shells that determine how much you can put in, when you can take it out, and how the money is taxed. Just about any form of money can be stored in an IRA, and how you do that is up to you and your financial planner.

    The money that is invested into an IRA, regardless of which type, can only be withdrawn after the age of 59.5 years of age (there are certain provisions, but these accounts are retirement accounts so we will ignore those provisions for now). The money will grow tax free or tax deferred, and then it can be used during retirement. If you take the money out before you hit 59.5 years old (or basically before you’re 60), then you will be assessed a 10% penalty by the IRS.

    Traditional IRA vs. Roth IRA

    Most people will be better of using a Roth IRA if they meet the income requirements.

    A Roth IRA is funded with money that you have already paid taxes on. This means that you make $40,000 per year and you pay taxes on that full amount. Out of your take home pay you can put into your Roth IRA as much as $5,500 (for tax year 2014, this will increase in future years). Once the money is in the IRA, it grows tax free (rate of growth depends on your investment choices). After you are 60 years old, you can sell those investments and withdraw the money. Since you already paid taxes on it, any money that you take out is tax free.

    A traditional IRA works a little differently. You can still only put in $5,500 this year, but the money is deducted off your income. So if you made $40,000 and you fully funded your traditional IRA, you will only pay taxes on $34,500. The caveat is, however, that you will eventually pay taxes on the money. Anything that you withdraw from your IRA is taxed at your current tax rate (that is the rate during the year which you withdraw the money). Plus, there is one more detail. Once you hit age 72, the government requires that you withdraw some of the money. These required minimum distributions are designed so that, based on your life expectancy, some money comes out each year.

    IRA’s are a great way to invest in yourself. And let’s face it, the way Social Security is going, there may not be nearly enough left to cover your living expenses. So before it gets too late for you (investing early is always better than investing late), start up your IRA. Talk to a financial planner about the best option for you, and get your money into the market. Your retired self will thank you.

    If you are looking for an accountant in Billings, Montana, Practical Taxes is where you should go. Practical Taxes knows taxes, business, and everything in between.

    Practical Taxes

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. We can help you get the most from your taxes, and make sure that you will get the maximum refund every year. But we don’t just do taxes! We can help with your bookkeeping, payroll, bank reconciliation, budgeting, and more. Give us a call at 406-894-2090 to learn more.

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    tax preparation billings mt

    A Few of the Most Often Overlooked Tax Deductions

    Hand over keyboard of the laptop in server room

    The end of the year is drawing to a close, and it’s time for many people to start thinking about their taxes. If you are in the habit of doing your taxes yourself (which is great if you have a simple tax return; if it’s more complex you would probably be better suited having an accountant in Billings, Montana look it over), then you need to know about all of the deductions that you may be eligible for. While it is easy to remember charitable giving and interest on your home mortgage, here are a few that you may overlook.

    Gambling Losses – Nobody ever likes to lose money while gambling. But there is a silver lining. If you are out on the town and you stumble into a casino after a few too many beers, you can deduct the losses from your taxes (it goes both ways: if you win money you are supposed to claim it as income as well). Now there are a few provisions.

    If you try to claim that you lost $10,000 gambling one night, but you have no way to prove that you lost $10,000 gambling one night, you might be in a bit of trouble. But if you bought $250 worth of scratch off lottery tickets, and you only won $50, you can deduct the $200 as a loss. As with everything tax related, keep your receipts so you can back up your claims in the event of an audit.

    School Loan Interest – Not only can you get a tax credit for going back to school, you can also deduct the interest that you paid on those loans. Depending on how advanced your degree is, how expensive a school you went to, and how high your interest rate is, that interest could add up to a tidy sum.

    This is one of the easiest deductions to get, since those handling your loans should be sending you a tax document in the mail every year. But if you are like most people who have recently graduated, you have probably moved around a bit. If you don’t remember getting your 1099-E then check with your loan manager to make sure they have your proper address.

    Phone Bill – If you use your cell phone for business related purposes, you can probably write off a portion of the bill. If the phone is 100% used for business you can write off the entire thing, but if you use it to text friends and family, upload pictures of your totally sweet vacation to Facebook, or Snapchat with your best buds, then you should only take a partial deduction.

    The same goes for internet and computers as well. If you have a work computer, then you can write off the purchase price. If you work from home, then your internet bill can be deducted (actually, if you have a home office, then you have a whole lot more deductions at your fingertips).

    Getting the most out of your taxes is a bit tricky at times. It boils down to knowing the tax law, knowing which deductions are available to you, and being able to accurately claim them. If it all sounds like too much work, then you should probably hire an accountant in Billings, Montana to do that for you. Chances are, using the services of an accountant will actually get you a bigger refund (even after accountant expenses) than you realized you could get.

    Practical Taxes

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. We can help you get the most from your taxes, and make sure that you will get the maximum refund every year. But we don’t just do taxes! We can help with your bookkeeping, payroll, bank reconciliation, budgeting, and more. Give us a call at 406-894-2090 to learn more.

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    accountant and payroll specialist billings mt

    Practical Taxes Can Help with your Business Consulting Needs

    Business-Consultant-300x129As an entrepreneur, you have a thousand different thoughts going through your head at any given moment. You are busy with all of the logistics of getting your idea from idea stage, to seeing the results of your labor. What you would rather not get bogged down with are the details of getting all of the business “stuff” in order. That is where an accountant in Billings, Montana, can help you. If you are trying to figure out business planning on your own, you are likely wasting your time.

    What is Business Consulting?

    Business consulting takes on a number of different components. Primarily, however, it entails getting your business set up with the proper structure so that you can maximize your tax liability. For instance, if you have a small business where you are the only employee, then you will likely want to set your business up as an LLC. However, if you have some partners, and you think you will be growing much bigger in the near future, you would want to look at getting set up as an S Corp. With so many different structures available, why waste your time figuring them out? Instead, A+ Accounting and Consulting can do that for you.

    But even after you determine your business structure, there is much more to it. You have to file the appropriate paperwork with the city. And you have to file with the state. You then have to wait until you get your employer tax ID number. All the while you are losing precious hours that you could be pouring into your work and prepping your business to succeed. Let an accountant take care of the business planning side for you, while you focus on what you do best.

    There is even more than just planning out the tax structure of your business that an accountant can help you with. When it comes to running an effective and lasting business, you need advice throughout the course of your career. You will need to understand whether it is better to write off the entire cost of a vehicle, or take the standard mileage deduction. You will need to know if spending thousands of dollars on marketing is a better use of your money than spending it on updating equipment. Your business consultant can help you figure out everything.

    Besides all of that, your accountant will be able to file your taxes appropriately when the time comes.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. Everything from basic accountant services, to business consulting, to bank reconciliation; we can do it all. Get in touch today to find out more about how we can help your business grow!  Give us a call at 406-894-2090 to learn more.

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    Accounting services billings mt

    When to Hire an Accountant

    If you don’t want to waste hours of your time on your taxes, hiring an accountant is the way to go. Likewise, if you have a complicated tax return, you will want to hire an accountant. If you have tax questions that you need answered, or if you want to get a larger refund than you could get on your own, then using a professional is the way to go.

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    The Home Office Deduction

    Work from Home? A Home Office Deduction is for you.

    Home-office-deduction-300x200If you work from home, or use part of your home for your business, you can decrease your tax burden by claiming home office deductions. To be able to deduct home office costs, the IRS requires that the use of part of your home is done regularly and exclusively for business purposes in order to claim the home office deduction.

    Need to know more about this method of offsetting taxes? Practical Taxes, your choice for affordable tax preparation in Billings, has the answers.


    What is a Home Office?

    If you are self-employed or a business owner, one of the following should be true about the “business side” of your home:

    – It is your principal or main place of business

    – It is a place where you deal with customers, clients, or patients on a regular basis, as part of your normal business routine

    – It is a separate structure that is not attached to your house (ex. garage, studio) but used solely for your business, and never for personal activities

    – It is used to provide day care services for children, the elderly, or handicapped individuals, and meets corresponding local and state licensing requirements.

    – It is used as a storage area for inventory or products that you sell in relation to your business, and your home is your only place of business.

    If you are an employee, home office deductions can be claimed if you meet the home office requirements as a business owner (mentioned above) and:

    – You work from home not for your own convenience, but for your employer’s convenience (ex. your employer does not have his/her own headquarters so you have no choice but to provide your own work space)

    – You do not rent the office part of your home to your employer and use it to accomplish your tasks as an employee (in other words, you do not get to receive rent income for doing office work in your own home)

    What Expenses are Considered Home Office Expenses?

    Direct expenses – These are the costs incurred to maintain your business space such as painting the walls, or treating the windows for privacy and security reasons. Direct expenses are fully deductible.

    Indirect expensesIndirect expenses are the costs incurred for maintaining your entire home such as rent, mortgage payments, real estate taxes, utility bills, general repairs, cleaning services, trash collection fees, security services, homeowner’s association fees, and depreciation. Only a percentage of indirect expenses is deductible based on its proportion to your entire home. Take note that only those costs which benefit your entire home and affect your business space in some way will count as an indirect expense. For example, if you are paying for a cable bill, and you do not have a TV with cable in your business space because it is irrelevant to your business and the cable is strictly for personal enjoyment, then you can’t include your cable bill as an indirect expense. In other words, money you spend specifically for personal benefit (ex. installing a jacuzzi in your bathroom) can never count as a home office deduction. The IRS is also very specific about excluding lawn service payment from being counted as an indirect expense.

    How to Claim Home Office Deductions

    Regular method. With the regular method, home office deductions will depend on the percentage of your home that is used for your business. To illustrate, if your business space takes up 25% of your house, you can deduct 25% of your expenses. This method is a bit more complicated and time-consuming because of all the records and documents you would need to support your claim.

    Simplified option. With the simplified option, home office deduction will be computed by multiplying your office area (in terms of square feet) by $5.00. The maximum allowable area is 300 square feet for a maximum home office deduction of up to $1,500.00. Simple enough as it is, the trade-off for selecting this method over the regular method is the maximum cap it has. If you know for a fact that your deductions are way above $1,500.00, this method will not be beneficial for you.

    Practical Taxes can Help

    Here at Practical Taxes in Billings, we know that working from home is a great benefit. We also know that working from home can present some unique challenges. But most importantly, we know that you get a good tax deduction when you use your home for business purposes.

    If you are unsure of how to do your taxes this year since you have started working from home, don’t panic! We can prepare your taxes so that you receive the biggest refund possible using the home office deduction.

    Give us a call at 406-894-2050 to get started.


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    Why You Should Invest In Your Web Presence

    Your Web Presence is Important

    Web-Presence-300x212Do you know of anyone who doesn’t turn to the Internet to look for information about a product or service that he/she is interested in? No? And that’s precisely why online presence is now an essential part of having a successful business. You do want your business to grow, right? By not being online, you are missing out on so many benefits. Practical Taxes, your best choice for an accountant in Billings, lists out 6 of the most compelling ones that should spur you to action, in case you are still unconvinced or half-hearted about investing in your web presence.



    More and more customers are going online to search for solutions to their problems or needs. When they type their query into the search engine, there’s no chance of you showing up if you do not have a website. So stop being invisible and do what you can to make sure you show up on the front page of that search results list.


    With a website and strong web presence, your business becomes accessible to all people from all walks of life, in any part of the world, at any time during the day, because the Internet never sleeps. If you have an online store, as soon as a potential customer makes the decision to buy your product, he/she can immediately place his/her order. Which means better sales potential for you because you are able to immediately meet the customer’s urge or impulse to buy, in contrast to just having a physical store which is restricted to specific operating hours.

    Trust and Credibility

    By having a well-maintained website, you establish a permanent venue where customers can check out all kinds of information about your business — your background, your mission, the products and services you are offering, reviews about your business, your interactions with other customers, and all other activities you engage in. If you have a blog, it can serve as a reference for what your brand stands for, what you support, and what is important to you. And if you have social media accounts, you get to connect to your customers on a more personal level and further your web presence. Projecting a positive image on your website and your social media accounts makes you more credible in the eyes of customers, making them trust you more easily, and therefore, more likely to avail of your offers, as well as leave good feedback for you.

    Wider audience

    Because anyone who has Internet connection can find out about your business, having a website and overall web presence will exponentially increase your reach not only locally, but globally too. So instead of just relying on those who physically visit your store, you now have the ability to tap a much broader customer base. And with the power of social media, you can reach so many more!

    Effective marketing tool

    Many people like to take their time before finally making a purchasing decision. Having a website that provides detailed descriptions about your products and services allows you to address the needs of these types of buyers who would prefer to check out information on their own rather than deal with an aggressive salesperson. Plus, marketing through your website is significantly less costly compared to traditional advertising. Letting people know about your new offers and promotions is also much, much faster when done online.

    Better customer service

    One of the most important sections that your website should have is an FAQ section. This way, consumers will have a quick way to get answers to the most common questions and issues related to your offers, without having to do anything else but browse through the available information. If they happen to have unusual or deeper concerns, having a “Contact Us” section can help them get in touch with you easily. And the sooner you get back to them, the better chances you will have of making a new sale, as well as keeping your existing customers happy.

    Practical Taxes helps Businesses Succeed

    By providing full accounting services, Practical Taxes can relieve some of your stress as a business owner. We offer tax preparation, payroll, and more. Give us a call at 406-894-2050 to schedule your time to learn what we can do for your business.

    Practical Taxes serves the Billings, Montana area. We specialize in offering affordable accounting services for businesses and individuals.


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    Should I Keep A Budget?

    Is it Important to Keep a Budget?

    Budget-300x200Anyone who has money to spend should, at some point, learn how to set a budget. At the very least, a budget will give you some kind of direction — a plan to follow so that you’ll have enough money to pay for the things you need, and hopefully, for the things you want. Everyone has goals, right? And in terms of financial goals, it is practically impossible to achieve what you are aiming for if you do not have a budget.

    If you still need a bit of convincing to start one, Practical Taxes, your affordable accountant in Billings, lays out 4 of the most important reasons.


    Control Spending and Avoid Debt

    Before the age of credit cards, it was much easier to live within one’s means. It’s quite simple, you have to make sure that you spend just enough so you can pay for everything you need, or else you might end up having nothing to eat, having your utilities disconnected, or having to be thrown out from your apartment because you can’t pay for rent. Now that there’s plastic money, however, responsible spending has become more of a challenge, rather than what used to be a norm. It’s just become so easy to have your credit card swiped, and promise to pay for it later. There’s hope, though. Even if you have access to both cash and credit card, with a set budget, it will still be possible to manage your finances and make sure that you know just how much you can spend each month — with savings to spare, and without having to go into debt.

    Set Short-Term Goals; Achieve Long-Term Goals

    Keeping a budget will give you a clearer picture of where you are, and where you are going. If you have short term goals, it’s only logical that you should have long term goals too. How else could you give something up if you aren’t looking forward to something better in the future? So you might feel bad that you can’t have that new laptop or that divine-looking dress you know would look absolutely gorgeous on you. But if you remind yourself that it’s a small sacrifice you’re making so that you can buy that new car you’ve been saving up for, then it will be probably be that much easier to keep your money in your pocket and walk out of that store.

    Be Prepared for Emergencies, and Retirement

    If you don’t keep a budget, it will be that much harder to practice what financial experts have been recommending, is to pay yourself first, before paying others. Essentially, you should make savings part of your budget, and not an afterthought. This way, you’ll have what you need to deal with the unexpected (emergencies), as well as the expected (retirement).

    Develop Discipline

    One of the primary purposes of having a budget is for you to keep track of how much you are spending, and what you are spending for. If you don’t set a budget, there won’t be anything stopping you from eating out for every meal, buying all those clothes and shoes that catch your eye, going out for a drink every night, and just spend, spend, spend. But, if you are aware and mindful of where your money should go and where you want it to go, you will learn when to say “yes”, when to delay and say “some other time”, when to say “it’s time for a change”, and when to say with conviction — “definitely not!”

    Practical Taxes Helps you Keep a Budget

    A budget is not something you get right the first time. Changes are always happening and you need to be able to adjust accordingly. Remember that a budget is something to guide you after all, not restrict you from actually having a life. So while you’re working your butt to pay for all those bills, don’t forget to keep your eye on the prize and assure yourself that though the journey might be hard, reaching your destination will make it worth your while.

    Let Practical Taxes prepare your taxes this year. We can help save you money, and get a larger refund than you thought possible. This means that you can bolster your emergency fund and not have to worry about breaking your budget if something unexpected happens.  Call 406-894-2050 today to schedule an appointment.

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    Best Accountant in Billings

    How to Find the Best Accountant in Billings

    Are you looking for the best accountant in Billings? Then you don’t have to look any further. Practical Taxes is your trusted accounting expert, and we want you as a client for life. Here is a look at why we believe we can surpass all of your expectations.

    Practical Taxes Saves You Money



    When it comes time to do your taxes, you have a lot of options. Many people will choose to work with an accountant so that they don’t have to worry about anything. However, accountants can tend to get pretty expensive.

    To combat those high rates, there are big national firms that offer tax preparation services. These firms are in business about 3 or 4 months out of the year, and only charge slightly less than an accountant that is available all year round.

    To compete against those national firms, there are some seasonal accountants in Billings. They offer affordable tax preparation, but they tend to make a lot of mistakes. They refresh their accounting skills every January, prepare dozens of returns for the next few months, and then move on to a different job for the remainder of the year.

    Here at Practical Taxes, we believe that everyone should be able to afford an accountant. We also believe that your accountant should be available if you have questions outside of tax season.

    We are the best accountant in Billings because we offer affordable tax preparation, by a trained accountant, that is available all year round.

    Practical Taxes Saves you Time

    Best accountant in BillingsThere are a lot of people that choose to do their own taxes. Now if your taxes are simple, such as you only have a single W2 and you claim the standard deduction, then your taxes won’t take that long to do yourself. But most people don’t fall into that category.

    Instead, people will use tax preparation software and spend a number of hours on their taxes. In the end they wonder if they did them correctly, spend at least 4 hours, and have a small refund to show for it.

    Here at Practical Taxes, we want you to spend time with your friends, family, and doing things that you love. Don’t waste even an hour on doing your own taxes. Just make an appointment, have a professional accountant prepare your return, and be done with it.

    We are the best accountant in Billings because we offer affordable tax preparation, by a trained accountant, that saves you a lot of time.

    Practical Taxes Gets you More

    How to do your own taxesEveryone wants the biggest tax refund possible. There are some accountants that will cut corners and fudge the numbers to help you get a bigger refund. We are not that kind of accounting firm. We will help you get the largest tax refund available to you legally.

    When you do your own taxes, you might miss out on some credits and deductions. We do continuing education courses all year round so that we don’t miss those. In the end, your tax refund is bigger than if you were to do your own taxes.

    Practical Taxes is the best accountant in Billings because we offer affordable tax preparation, by a trained accountant, that can get you a bigger refund than you can on your own.

    Let us Prove we are the Best Accountant in Billings

    We can tell you everything in the world. Now let us prove it! Have Practical Taxes prepare your tax return this year, and we will show you how we blow the competition away.

    You save money.

    You save time.

    You get more back.

    With our three promises, you will leave happy. Come see as at 2201 Grand Ave. in Billings, MT.

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    We Top the List of Billings Accountants

    When it comes time to do your taxes, we know that you have choices. Here at Practical Taxes we have three goals in mind:

    You save money using Practical Taxes

    You save time using Practical Taxes

    You get more using Practical Taxes

    As we seek to provide you with the best service possible, we also seek to shoot to the top of the list of Billings accountants. Through excellent customer service, top notch tax preparation, and fast responses, we believe that we can be number one in the Billings community.

    Billings Accountants


    List of Billings Accountants

    If you were to try to put all of the accountants in Billings into a list, you would see some distinct categories come up.

    The Seasonal Firms – These are mostly the big nationwide companies. They open their doors in early January, and by the end of April they are nowhere to be found. They offer fast tax preparation, and they are usually pretty competitively priced. The problems arise when you can’t get a hold of anyone outside of the regular tax season.

    The CPA’s – Many accountants continue their education and earn their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification. This opens them up to a larger variety of services beyond tax preparation. If that is what you need, we recommend checking out Kevin King & Company. CPA’s are great at their jobs, but if all you need is tax preparation, then a CPA is probably more expensive than what you need.

    The Accountants – The bulk of the list of Billings accountants is made up of those who are accountants. The majority of their seasonal work is to help with tax preparation, but they also can perform other services like bookkeeping, payroll services, and the like. Here at Practical Taxes, we know accounting.

    Here at Practical Taxes, we offer a more personalize service than the seasonal firms (generally at a lower price), a more affordable tax preparation service than a CPA can offer, and we believe our customer service is the best in the industry. Here is how we top the list of Billings accountants.

    Our Customer Service Goals

    The bottom line is that we aren’t happy unless you are happy. And for most people, that sounds like a bunch of buzzwords. Here’s what it means for you.

    You are looking for the most affordable way to do your taxes. You have probably read our blog post on how an accountant saves you time, money, and can often get you a larger refund. Now you are here and you wonder why you should choose Practical Taxes for your needs.

    You are looking for customized service. If you go to a seasonal accounting office, you get run through a template. While templates are great for the business owner, they speed things up dramatically, they irritate the customer. You don’t want to be a number; you want attention to your details.

    You are looking to save time. You know that you could spend less out of pocket if you do your own taxes. But you also know that you will waste a ton of your time. Practical Taxes won’t waste your time when you come in to have your taxes prepared.

    You want a big refund. While we can’t artificially inflate numbers, we can find the best deductions that fit your situation. There are no guarantees that we can find things that other accountants won’t find, but we do know the tax laws and we do know how to make sure you are maximizing your credits and deductions.

    You want someone you can trust. We can throw numbers and figures at you all day long. When it comes down to it, you want to find a Billings accountant that you can trust with your personal information. We consider our client’s taxes as important as our own. We will keep your private life private.

    When all is said and done, we meet the criteria for topping the list of Billings accountants.

    • → You can trust us with your personal information
    • → You can afford our tax preparation services
    • → You will get the biggest refund possible
    • → You will save time and money

    Let Practical Taxes Help with your Finances

    Practical Taxes understands finances. We can help you with your tax preparation needs, and provide advice along the way.

    If you are a business owner, we offer even more services to help lighten your load. Our payroll services can save you multiple hours every month, and our bookkeeping services can keep you worry free knowing that your taxes are in good hands.

    When it comes time for you to do your 2015 taxes, don’t waste your time doing them yourself; don’t waste your money on a high priced accountant; and don’t let worry take over by using a seasonal accountant. Come to Practical Taxes, the firm that’s at the top of the list of Billings accountants.


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    We are Your Billings Accountant

    Guerilla-Marketing-300x200Tax season begins soon. And that means people across the country will frantically be trying to find the best deal on preparing their taxes. Some will do them the long way, by filling out a 1040. Others will turn to one of the many software programs available. And some will enlist the help of a Billings accountant.

    Those who do their taxes on their own are usually trying to save money. Accountants in Billings can be expensive. However, they don’t have to be. We want to be your Billings accountant, and we have positioned ourselves to make sure we can prepare your taxes at the lowest cost possible.

    In the end, you are better off using an accountant for tax preparation than learning how to do your own taxes. Here’s why.

    An Accountant can get a Bigger Tax Refund

    When you use an accountant to help you prepare your taxes, you generally receive a larger tax refund than if you were to do your own taxes. This isn’t guaranteed, but it is often the case. Here’s how your Billings accountant can help you get a bigger tax refund.

    Let’s suppose you are doing your own taxes. During 2015 you took some college classes, and you know that you can claim one of the education credits. Good start, but which do you claim? The American Opportunity Credit? The Hope Credit? The Lifetime Learning Credit? You can’t claim more than one, so you have to make sure to claim the one that is going to maximize your refund.

    Doing your taxes on your own might end up with you choosing the wrong credit. Sure you’ll get some money back, but you could have received MORE money back. When you use an accountant, they will crunch the numbers and make sure that you are getting the most back that you possibly could.

    When it’s a choice between three credits, all of which you know about, it isn’t quite as hard to maximize your tax refund. But what if there are deductions available that you didn’t even know about? There are plenty of those deductions around, and having a Billings accountant, especially one that you have worked with for a while and he or she knows your situation, will help you deduct the most from your income that is legally allowed.

    The end result is that if you do your own taxes, your refund is often smaller than if you were to let an accountant do your taxes for you.

    An Accountant can Save you Time

    Preparing a tax return takes time. It all comes down to who spends that time: you, or your accountant in Billings, MT. Let’s look at the time spent doing taxes in various ways.

    Taxes by Form – Most people won’t do their taxes by filling out a form 1040. It’s simply too confusing, and with all of the software programs out there, why spend the extra time? There are some who still do. In fact, we know of former accounting students who went on to pursue different careers that do their taxes the long way every year because it’s a bit of nostalgia for them. If it’s a hobby, then spend as much time on your taxes as you want. If it’s not, then you are spending as much as 8 hours doing your taxes by hand in order to save a little bit of money.

    Taxes by Software – Companies like Tax Act and TurboTax know that people are not going to sit down and do their taxes by hand. They also know that most people don’t want to spend money on an accountant. For a long time there was this middle ground. People had to spend the money, or spend the time. Tax preparation software filled that gap. They offer low cost software that helps you prepare your own taxes, but you don’t have to spend the high costs on an accountant. It still takes time though. Plugging in all of your data can take about 4 hours.

    Billings AccountantTaxes by Accountant – You alternative to filling out the forms or plugging numbers into the software program is to have an accountant handle your taxes. There are a couple of ways you can do this. If you are in Billings, you can swing by the Practical Taxes office and drop off your tax documents. Or, you can make an appointment and sit down with an accountant in order to have your taxes prepared (this gives you the opportunity to talk to the accountant and make sure everything is in order). Alternatively, you can send in your documents electronically. This is great for those that are out of town. Sign up with an account on ePractical Taxes, and you don’t even have to leave the house! The time using an accountant 5 to 60 minutes.

    Your choices have a wide range. Those who do their taxes the long way by hand can spend 8 or more hours. Those who choose to have a Billings accountant do the work for them spend essentially no time on their taxes.

    An Accountant can Ultimately Save you Money

    The idea that you save money with an accountant is counter intuitive for most people. They think that an accountant charges far more than using a tax software or doing their taxes by hand. But there are several factors that come into play here.

    Doing Taxes by Hand – Using our example above, doing your taxes by hand takes about 8 hours. Let’s suppose you value your time at $25 per hour; you are spending $200 to do your own taxes. And let’s suppose that using an accountant can get you a refund that is $200 larger than if you do your own taxes. The end result: doing taxes by hand doesn’t appear to cost you anything, but in reality it costs $400.

    Doing Taxes with Software – Again using our example above. If you use a tax software you can likely buy the software for $25. You then spend 4 hours ($100 worth of time) to complete your own tax return. But you don’t maximize your refund, so you end up with $200 less than if you used a Billings accountant. The end result: you spend $25 out of pocket, $100 in time, and $200 in a lower return. A total of $325.

    Using an Accountant – Let’s suppose you upload everything to ePractical Taxes. Your time commitment is essentially nothing. Your Billings accountant prepares your taxes for $125. The end result: you spend $125 out of pocket, nothing in time, and get more back. A total of negative $75 spent.

    Naturally your situation will vary depending on how much time you spend, how big your refund is, how much you miss, and how much you would otherwise spend on an accountant. But for many people, using an accountant in Billings, MT would result in a net gain of $75, as opposed to spending $400 doing it the “cheapest” way possible.

    An Accountant is Always Here

    If you do your own taxes by hand, you rely only on yourself. You can Google some answers, but for the most part you are your only resource.

    If you use a tax software, there is a help section and an online forum where you can ask questions (other users will do their best to answer). But you have to spend extra in order to have access to an accountant that can actually answer your questions (the right way).

    If you use an accountant in Billings, your accountant is always here. If you have questions during the preparation period, your accountant can answer.   If you have questions in June, the accountant will be there. If you have questions that come up, no matter what the month is, an accountant will be there. The same can’t be said for online tax programs, or even the big national tax preparers that are in business 3 months out of the year.

    An Accountant does more than Tax Preparation

    Most people don’t need to worry about much more than having their taxes prepared. As employees they have taxes deducted from their wages all year long. When tax season comes along, they file a return, and they’re done with taxes until next year.

    Payroll servicesBut there are some that need ongoing services. Business owners have payroll and quarterly taxes that need to be filed. Those who are wealthy have estate issues, trusts, and other money problems that need to be solved on an ongoing basis.

    Your Billings accountant can help solve all of those issues for you. Don’t waste your time writing paychecks, let Practical Taxes help. Don’t worry about whether you are filing on time; let Practical Taxes do it all for you.

    You focus on running (and growing) your business, we focus on taking care of the finances.

    Practical Taxes is your Choice as a Billings Accountant

    We know you have choices. And we strive to provide exemplary customer service. In the end you get an accountant preparing your taxes, you save money, you save time, and you have an advocate for all of your financial needs.

    Want to learn more about how we will be the best accountant in Billings to handle your needs? Feel free to give us a call at 406-894-2050.

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    Word of Mouth Advertising

    Networking-300x127Word of mouth refers to the spread of messages from one person to another. It can be done through face-to-face interactions, through mobile phones, through the Internet and other media channels like TV and radio. Particularly when it is done voluntarily without any kind of payment involved, word of mouth advertising is very powerful because you are putting your reputation on the line by making a recommendation.

    To generate word of mouth advertising and maximize its benefits, follow these 6 tips from your Billings, Montana accountant:

    Respond Immediately to Word of Mouth Advertising

    Whether it’s positive feedback or negative feedback, it is important to respond promptly. If it’s a simple thank you for a great product or great service provided, a simple welcome or acknowledgement will be sufficient. And when it’s anything negative, responding with urgency is even more crucial because it gives a customer the feeling of being valued. Sometimes, what started out as a disastrous encounter can be transformed to an amazingly memorable one, if you just take the time and exert sincere effort to set things right and turn a disappointed customer to a happy patron (who is likely to refer you to more people).

    Have Social Media Presence

    Let’s face it. The influence of social media has been going strong for some time (Facebook has been around for over a decade), and it doesn’t take a genius to see that knowing how to capitalize on this will be a big promotional help for any type of business. People talk on social media all the time so make sure you have accounts on the most popular channels like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Know what your customers are talking about and make it an effort to interact with them. Connect with them on a more personal level and talking about you with their friends, family, and other associates will come naturally. Word of mouth advertising spreads quickly on social media; especially through customer service watchdog groups.

    Be Honest

    Marketing has a tendency of exaggerating the positive and undermining the negative. While this is generally a given, it is still important to set limitations so customer expectations can be managed more effectively. When a question about your service or product is asked, answer truthfully. If you lie and it results in some kind of injury, illness or damage, the situation will be that much harder to address and might even result in major losses. Keep in mind that even if you might not have been able to sell your product at that instant because it really isn’t what the customer needs, he/she will remember your honesty and possibly tell other potential customers about your business.

    Share Positive Feedback

    You’ve been working hard to provide a great product and exceptional service. When customers take the time to write about how pleased they are about your business and express appreciation for your efforts, isn’t it only fitting that you take pride in what you accomplished? Don’t be coy about it. When you receive positive reviews, proudly display them on your website and your social media pages. Especially now that most consumers tend to rely on reviews before deciding on making a purchase or availing of services, testimonials from satisfied customers boost interest in your products and encourage others to give your business a try. Of course, never ever forget to thank your customers for such inspiring feedback.

    Provide Incentives

    When waiting for customers to talk about your product is taking a bit too long, it’s time you give them a little push. This can be done by providing incentives. For example, you can give coupons or discounts to customers who leave reviews, or those who refer their friends. The best word of mouth advertising is done because people love your service or product, but sometimes they need a gentle reminder (in the form of a gift card).

    Aim for Personalized Service

    It is not uncommon for customers to remember the service provided even more than the actual product purchased. When a customer makes a special request, rather than look at it as an inconvenience, it should be regarded as an opportunity to exceed, and not just satisfy expectations. He/she will surely be pleased that you went out of your way to provide what he/she was asking for, and telling other people about the great experience will be a strong likelihood. Plus, you will have gained a loyal customer for sure.

    Practical Taxes is here to Help

    When you have your word of mouth advertising down just right, your business is going to explode with growth. All that growth will mean that you don’t have time for things like preparing your own taxes, and doing your own payroll. You focus on your business, and let us focus on the mundane accounting details.

    Practical Taxes provides tax preparation and accounting services to the Billings, Montana area.

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    4 Important Concepts to Grow your Business

    Grow-your-business-300x235If your business has been bringing in steady profit for a while, it is no doubt time to start thinking about how to step up and take things to the next level. Similar with what you probably went through during the startup stage, growing your business will likewise require the same, if not an even higher degree of planning and research to make sure that your business moves forward in the right direction. Consider these 4 simple concepts to help grow your business.


    Product and Service Diversification

    No company can remain successful without regularly coming up with new and innovative products and services. Change has always been a constant factor and people are always looking for something new. This implies continuous research and development so the company can readily adapt to the changing needs of the market and the times. New products mean more sales from existing customers, plus additional sales from new customers.

    Physical Expansion

    Eventually, staying in just one location can result in market saturation. When you have the means, expansion should be the next logical move. By expanding, you will be able to penetrate new markets and build a new customer base. It can be as simple as opening a new store in a different location, or something as ambitious as going from local to global. Whatever the case may be, expansion can make your business soar to new heights as there will always be new markets to conquer. Just make sure that you have done your part in studying the market that you intend to bring your business to so you can achieve maximum gain at minimum risk.

    Build Your Online Presence

    The Internet has become an integral part of our everyday lives and it is useless to fight it. As the fixation on social media and online shopping continues to intensify, businesses should capitalize by building and maintaining a strong online presence. This does not simply mean that you should have your own web store where consumers can buy your products conveniently from their own homes. Equally important is having accounts on popular social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Through your social media accounts, you can be all business-like by regularly providing updates about company offerings and events. At the same time, you can also interact with your customers for a more personalized relationship. Using online resources will help grow your business much further than ignoring them.


    As information exchange has become relatively faster and easier, it has become more critical than ever to ensure that you are able to take care of your customers and make them feel how important it is for you to keep them happy and satisfied. Instead of allocating a big chunk of your marketing funds for the usual ads and promotions, why not give back to your customers? To further strengthen their loyalty to your brand, try rewarding them with gifts like being entitled to discounts, rebates, or other exclusive offers simply by referring new customers to you. It’s a win-win deal. As your loyal customers, you already know how much they believe in your brand so referring their friends will come naturally to them. Being given special treats for doing so will just be like a bonus for them.

    Practical Taxes can Help Grow Your Business

    As your business grows, you will become busier and busier. We can alleviate some of those growing pains by taking things off your plate. We offer tax preparation services, which will free up hours of your time, and we offer payroll services, which will free up even more hours of your time.

    If you want to take your business to the next level, get in touch with us and we can help you grow.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, MT. We love helping small businesses grow and succeed.



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    5 Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

    Marketing-300x212As essential as it is for any business, marketing is quite the challenge because there is no universal formula for success. At the very least, though, you should have a clear idea of who your target customers are, what they need, and what they want. With this in mind, your accountant in Billings, MT explains 5 simple marketing tips that can help boost sales for your small business.


    Be Active on Social Media

    If social media has yet to be part of your business, then you are missing out. Get on it right away and create accounts on popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Then comes the hard part; coming up with quality content that will continually engage your target audience and keep them coming back to your page. Don’t just post about your products as this will make it seem like your page is purely an advertising channel. Include posts about useful tips and hacks, best practices, interesting top 10 lists, and tutorial videos. If there are comments and questions, respond accordingly so your readers will feel that they are important to you. Strive to inform, entertain, and interact. Make sure also that your content is relevant in some way to your customers, as well as your brand, otherwise, you’re just wasting time and effort.

    Establish Community Presence

    Business should not always have to be all about profit. Let your customers know that you embrace this philosophy by giving back to the community. Participate in local events, sponsor local contests by providing your products and services as prizes, donate to charity, do volunteer work. The more involved you get, the more you’ll become recognizable as an organization that cares about more than just making money.

    Advertise Relentlessly – Day and Night

    All materials related to your business should show your website name. This includes your business cards, posters, flyers, banners, brochures, signs, delivery vehicles, and all other advertising materials. Go further by having clothing items (shirts, jackets, caps) branded with your logo and company name. Distribute and encourage everyone in the organization to wear these as often as they can to help improve awareness of your brand. You might also want to have stickers made to put on your car, or even on your kids’ bikes. Additionally, make use of the power of search engines to make it easier for customers to find you. There are a number of search engines out there – register your website to as many as you can, and use search engine optimization techniques.

    Reward Loyal Customers

    It’s been said that the second sell is more important than the first sell simply because it implies that the customer was satisfied with the purchase and is well on the way to becoming a regular buyer of that product or service. It is not enough, though, that the customer remains satisfied. You need to go one step further and make sure they know that their loyalty is appreciated, and that you are always working on maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship. One sure way to achieve this is through an incentive program. By continuing to buy from you, as well as referring and endorsing your products to family, friends, colleagues or associates — your existing customers get to receive discounts, rebates, special deals, and other gifts.  

    Repeat What Works and Improve on It

    Analyze what’s been bringing in more sales and conversions. Once you find out which strategy or strategies are working best, focus on these, and find ways for improvement.

    Let Practical Taxes Help with Marketing Tips

    We can’t offer to do your marketing, but we can offer marketing tips, and we can take your mind off other things. If every two weeks you are slogging through your payroll, let us take that burden off you. If you are sitting down every spring and spending hours and hours on your taxes, you need to stop! We can free up those hours where you can be more invested in your business.

    Practical Taxes offers affordable tax preparation services, as well as many other accounting products, to the Billings, Montana community. Give us a call at 406-894-2050 to learn how we can help you.


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    What is Middle Class?

    winchester-mystery-house-cali-1547880-300x225We hear terms like Middle Class, Lower Class, Poor, Upper Class, 1%, and more almost every day. While many people have their idea of what socioeconomic status they fall into, there are actually preset definitions of how much you have to make in order to be in a particular bracket. The Pew Charitable Trusts defines middle class as those making 67-200% of the state’s median income.


    What Makes Middle Class in Montana?

    Most of us understand that the wages in Montana are near the bottom of the list. While we aren’t quite as low as some states (mostly southern states have lower median incomes), we still come in about 36th. According to recent data (from 2013), the median household income in Montana is $46,972. This accounts for families with one wage earner, two earners, and no earners. It averages all of those out to determine that number.

    Using the definition set forth from Pew, that middle class is defined as 67-200% of the median household income of $46,972; we can arrive at what it takes to be middle class in Montana. It’s surprisingly lower than you would think.

    Middle Class in Montana is defined as a household making between $31,316 and $93,944 per year.

    For some those number may seem like good incomes; for others those numbers, especially the lower one, are absurdly low.

    The Lower End of Middle Class

    Let’s take a look at that lower number: $31,316. A household that brings in just this much is considered to be middle class. That is a shockingly low number.

    Household income is defined as the total income of all working people in a household: including earnings, investment income, and government subsidies. Let’s suppose there are two wage earners in the household, no subsidies, and 2 children.

    According to this data, a family of 4 would be earning $7.52 per hour each, and trying to support 4 people. Out of those wages (which are less than minimum wage) they have to feed, clothe, provide daycare, and all other household expenses. That is something that is really not feasible; and definitely wouldn’t be considered by many to be middle class.

    Where Most Americans Fall

    Despite these seemingly low wages, this is where the majority of Americans fall. Here is how that breaks down:

    Poverty Class: Household income up to $24,000 – 15%
    Middle Class: Household income between $24,001 and $100,000 – 69%
    Upper Class: Household income between $100,001 and $250,000 – 15%
    One Percent: Household income over $250,001 – 1%

    Depending on geographic location, which source you look at, and a variety of other factors, these numbers can change a little bit. But taking strictly average, for a family of 4, we find that about 84% of Americans earn less than $100,000 annually.

    How You Can Change Your Class Structure

    The good news is that you are not stuck in one class! There are a lot of social factors that come into play, but nobody is stuck making a lower wage than he or she believes they deserve. If you want to move yourself up the socioeconomic ranks, here is how to do it.

    Start Saving – There are few people that can get by without savings.

    Start Investing – You need to plan for the long term. Investing is the only way to build sufficient wealth.

    Start Earning – You aren’t stuck at just your low paying job. Side incomes make up a good portion of many people’s earnings.

    Start Cutting – Trim the fat on your expenses. Negotiate interest rates, cut the cable, skip the latte. Dow whatever it takes.

    Practical Taxes Can Help

    No, we can’t give you a better paying job. But we can help with your taxes, or help you start a side business. We offer a variety of services including tax preparation, online payroll, business consulting, and much more. If you are serious about moving to the next class level, just get in touch by calling 406-894-2050.

    But remember, more money doesn’t mean happier. It’s all about quality of life.

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    What is the Role of the CFPB?

    cfpb-logo-300x225The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a government organization that was implemented by the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, has a ton of great information to help the consumer avoid becoming the victim of fraud. That is great as long as people know where to go to get the information that they need. But most people have not been well educated, and they can become the victim of financial fraud even though they take great care to protect themselves. Fortunately the CFPB does more than just provide information.


    The CFPB is There For You

    The CFPB is a resource for the people. Since the financial industry is so big, including investments, savings, loans, credit cards, and mortgages, there was a surprising lack of oversight. The idea was to regulate the entire financial services industry with one organization. While their role has changed a little over the years, the CFPB is still there to help the little guy.

    Since finances are so big, and intrinsically involve so much money, there is also a lot of fraud and scamming that occurs. There will always be unscrupulous people who would rather swindle hard working people out of their money instead of working hard themselves. The CFPB was designed to help put a stop to financial fraud.

    But it isn’t just scam artists that are being hunted down by the bureau. Big companies have a way of bilking their clients out of money as well. Credit cards with hidden fees, savings with unnecessary complications, loans with outrageous interest rates, and similar products exist. When a consumer feels that he or she has been swindled, they can turn to the CFPB for advocacy.

    How the CFPB Works

    When a person has a complaint about a financial services company, they can fill out the form on the complaint page of the bureau’s website. If you have a complaint, there are likely others that are in your situation that have also complained.

    The CFPB will then launch an investigation to determine the validity of your complaint. They will look into the company that is being alleged of taking advantage of you, and determine if they need to have sanctions put in place.

    But the ultimate goal is to have educated consumers and not entitled consumers. This department seeks to make sure that every American knows what they are getting into before signing up for anything. This helps to reduce their workload, take the stress of the individual, and keep the unscrupulous companies at bay.

    Paying special attention to those that are at risk, such as Older Americans, Service members and Veterans, and Students, the CFPB has special programs designed just for those people. Every American deserves to have an advocate; those who have more needs deserve a stronger advocate.

    Practical Taxes

    As your accountant and payroll specialist in Billings, Montana, we strive to make your experience nothing but extraordinary. If you ever have a complaint about our services, we would urge you to contact us first for resolution. Our goal is to make you happy with our service!

    We are a full service accounting firm, we do everything from tax preparation, to payroll services, to bank remediation. If you are a business owner we have consultation services available, and we can help you register your new business! Give us a call at 406-894-2050 to learn more.

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    Investment Fees to Consider

    IRA-150x150Financial security has different meanings for different people.  Some feel it is having enough money saved up that they never have to work again.  Others feel it is having a job where they know they are never in danger of losing that job and being forced into unemployment.  Still others feel it is having a good cushion in the event that they do lose their job, they don’t have to worry about finding something new immediately.  Regardless of the definition, almost everyone will have to accumulate wealth outside of a savings account.  They need to invest their money so that it can grow fast enough to live on after they retire.   Those investments, no matter how they are done, come with fees.  Make sure you understand the fees associated with investments before you choose to invest your money.

    Investment Fees: Sales Charges

    Most investments will come with a sales charge.  This is an upfront charge that is taken off the top of any investment that you make.  Legally the sales charge cannot be greater than 8.5%, and if a fund is charging this top rate, they have to make sure that the investor knows about the charge (and that it is justifiable to charge such a large expense).  Most actively managed funds charge a fee of around 5.75%.

    This means that if you invest $1,000, that full $1,000 is not going to be put into your account.  Instead, the fund company will take $57.50 off the top.  This pays for their services, the costs associated with owning the fund, and it pays the commission that will go to your broker.  There are ways around these fees.

    Investing in index funds, there are many of them out there, will avoid the initial sales charge and also the larger expense ratio (discussed below).  The tradeoff for these lower fees, however, is that your investments will do just worse than the stock market does.  A good actively managed mutual fund will actually recoup those fees and more (the trick is to find a good actively managed fund).

    The other way to avoid mutual fund sales charges is to invest a large sum of money.  All mutual funds have breakpoints.  When these investment markers are met, the sales charges drop.  Usually you have to invest $1 million before you are able to eliminate charges all together.

    Investment Fees: Expense Ratios

    In order to hold on to your money, the mutual fund needs to charge an ongoing expense.  These are called expense ratios.  They are a part of every mutual fund out there, and there is no way to get around them.  However, there are things to look for so you don’t end up paying more than you need to.

    Actively managed mutual funds have a higher expense than those that are not managed.  The difference is that in an actively managed fund, a team of investment advisors are constantly looking at the stocks and bonds in a fund, and moving them around as needed.  In a fund that is not managed, there is a set of stocks and bonds and you get a portion accordingly; they aren’t bought and sold based on how well they are doing.

    There are two theories when it comes to expenses.  Some say that the higher expenses paid to an actively managed fund are justified because the managers get a better rate of return.  Others say that most managers aren’t good enough to pick the right stocks and bonds, and there is no sense in paying them.

    If you want to avoid expense ratios, stick with an index funds.  Most of those have ongoing expenses of about .1% to .2%.  If you want an actively managed fund, try to avoid funds with expenses greater than 1% (some go as high as 2.5%). 

    Don’t worry; you don’t have to write a check for the fees.  They are taken out automatically (as a lowered rate of return).

    Investment Fees: Financial Advisor Fees

    Just like any other profession, a financial advisor needs to be paid for his or her work.  There are two ways to do this depending on the type of account.

    Some advisors act as brokers.  They will sell you the investments that are appropriate to your situation.  These advisors are paid a commission.  This commission pays them for the work they did at the time of the sale, and legally they sold you the investment that was appropriate at the time of the sale.  After that, it is up to you to come back and visit with them to make sure it is still appropriate.

    Others choose to collect their fee as an advisor fee.  This is done two ways.  They can charge a fee to develop a plan for you (and then usually you don’t pay commissions if you use them to implement the plan).  Or they can charge a fee that is ongoing.  The industry average is a 1% advisor fee that is in addition to the expense ratio that you are already paying (upfront sales charges are waived in most advisory accounts).

    When you pay an advisory fee, the idea there is that you get ongoing advice.  So if one fund isn’t doing well, or it doesn’t fit your goals any longer, then there is an ongoing duty to let you know.

    When you have an advisory account, you can deduct these fees off of your yearly taxes.

    Practical Taxes Can Help

    We aren’t investment advisors, so we can’t help you buy and sell your funds.  But we can help with the tax deductions and making sure that you using the proper accounts to meet your tax goals.  When it comes tax time, we will prepare your taxes to make sure you get as big of a refund as possible (and then suggest that you use that refund to invest in your future).  Of course as payroll services experts in Billings, Montana, we can also help with your business needs.  Call us today at 406-894-2050. to learn more about how we can help you.


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    Money Tips for the Rest of Us

    The internet is littered with money tips. Just type it into Google and you will see that everyone has an opinion. Some are absolute rubbish, others are great, and some only apply to those who have a substantial income already. For the rest of us, however, we need some tips on how to save money doing the things that we are already doing. We don’t want to spend 3 hours making our own toilet paper in an effort to save a dollar, but we do want to trim the fat off the areas where we are wasting money. Your Billings, MT payroll services expert lays out 5 ways that you can cut costs without drastically changing your lifestyle.

    Make Meal Plans



    For some reason planning meals is hard. We all fall guilty to this, so there are a few ways that we can save a lot of time, and a lot of money, with a little planning ahead.

    Making a meal plan is the easiest way to make sure that you stick to your shopping list. Each week buy only what is on your meal plan list, and avoid those impulse buys. This will help you spend less, have less food waste, and streamline your day.

    Sometimes that’s a little too much, you are a busy professional after-all. You can sign up for a service, like that provided by emeals.com, for just a few dollars per month. It will give you the recipes, the shopping list, and help make life simpler.

    Cut Your Utility Bill

    Payroll Billings, MontanaYou’re not going to become rich slashing your utility bill. But you will feel better with extra money in your bank account, and you will be helping the environment.

    The easiest way to cut your bills is to upgrade your appliances. But that can be expensive. So start smaller. Upgrade your old incandescent light bulbs to CFL’s. Many people saw an immediate savings of $10 to $20 per month when they upgraded. If you already use CFL’s, make the switch to LED’s. They’re a bit pricey still, at about $5-$10 per bulb. But they last longer, use even less electricity, and have more functionality than a CFL.

    Use Your Calendar

    Business Planning Billings, MontanaIf you work for yourself, then you know the need to maximize your time. If you follow our blog, then you may remember some posts on the subject (like Eliminate, Delegate, Simplify).

    The truth is that many people seem to neglect their calendar. They have a basic idea of what they need to get done during the day, but they tend to just haphazardly prioritize. Instead, fill that calendar up. Mark down that for the first hour of the day you will respond to emails. Then close your email system until the last hour of the day when you follow up. Set a specific time limit for each task, and when the time is up, you move on. Doing so will help you get more done, and ultimately make more money.

     Trip Planning

    Money TipsPlanning out your trip in advance, especially for a longer vacation, can mean a difference of hundreds of dollars. It will allow you to negotiate rates, find the best deals, and take advantage of freebies going on.

    But trip planning doesn’t have to be a big ordeal. In fact, it can be as simple as maximizing your time while running errands. You will save gas, have more free time, be less likely to make impulse buys, and let you relax more. Schedule your errands on your calendar, and make a route so you hit each store in succession.


    Practical Taxes

    Here at Practical Taxes, we know that you want to save the most money. Follow these money tips, and when tax season comes around next year, you can save money by letting us prepare your taxes for you. No need to spend a ton of money at a seasonal preparer when you can have a professional that is available all year round helps you with your taxes. Give us a call at 406-894-2050 to learn how we can help you.

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    5 Reasons Your Business is Failing

    Business-is-Failing-e1433276166382-300x226Nobody likes to fail. That’s a given. But sometimes when you are in business you struggle and things feel like they are never going to turn around. If you keep doing what you have always been doing, then it’s true: things won’t turn around. However, if you can discover your weakness and eliminate it, then you can thrive again. Your accountant in Billings, Montana explains 5 of the most common reasons that businesses fail.




    Your Business is Failing Due to No Website Optimization

    Just a couple decades ago people would open up the phone book to find a company that they needed. A large print ad would do wonders for your business. Now those same people (and the subsequent generation) will open up Google and type in what they need (for instance, people search for “Accountant Billings, Montana”). Your business may be struggling because you have yet to optimize your website so that you show up at the top of the search results.

    Your Business is Failing Because you Charge too Little

    Pricing your product or service is tough to do. On the one hand you want to price it competitively because you want people to come to you rather than your competitor. But on the other hand you want to charge enough so that people take you seriously: too cheap and you may be seen as fly-by-night or that you don’t know what you’re doing. Here’s something to consider: would you rather have 100 clients that pay $5 each, or 5 clients that pay $100 each? The clients willing to pay more are generally easier to deal with.

    Your Business is Failing Because You are Selling the Wrong Product

    I’m not saying that instead of selling widgets you should be selling gadgets. Nor am I saying that instead of providing accounting services you should be providing computer repair services. I’m saying that you are selling to what you want instead of what your customer wants. Bad: We are the best accountant around and we can do your taxes quickly! Good: Your time is valuable, we will prepare your taxes while you are out golfing; all you do is sign the documents! Focus on the customer and they will focus on you.

    Your Business is Failing Because You’re Bad at Marketing

    There is a common misconception that says as a startup business you have to do it all: tech repairs, website optimization, marketing, accounting, payroll, etc. People seem to think that doing it themselves means that they will save money. And they do, but they waste time. Instead of trying to be an expert at marketing, hire that out. You can then focus on serving the new customers that come in.

    Your Business is Failing Because You are Trying to do it All

    Tying in with the bad marketing idea, the same applies for all areas of your business. You went into business because you were good at what you did. Now you are trying to be a business owner and you are neglecting the activities that got you into business in the first place. Instead of trying to do it all, you need to hire out things that sap your time (like computer repair, marketing, and bookkeeping) so that you can hone your skills and bring in more money.

    Practical Taxes Can Help

    If your business is struggling, you likely need some outside help. Here at Practical Taxes we have a deep network of individuals that can provide services so that you can focus on what you do best. Let us worry about the accounting, and we can bring in people to help with other aspects of your business.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm here in Billings, MT. We offer everything from tax preparation, to payroll services, to bookkeeping. We can take the burden off you so you can run your business.

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    4 Reasons Business Owners Need an Accountant

    Business Accountant

    When you have an office to build, don’t waste your time trying to learn accounting.

    As a business owner, you need an accountant. But if you are just getting started, you may not want to have to deal with the costs that come with hiring someone to do something that you feel you can do on your own. So what do you do? Do you suck it up and spend a little bit of money, or do you suck it up and spend extra time learning how to do it all yourself? If you ask around to all of the successful entrepreneurs out there, you will find they all say the same thing: hire an accountant. Your accountant in Billings, MT outlines 4 great reasons to use an accountant rather than do it yourself.




    An Accountant Can Help You Determine Business Structure

    Before you even begin your journey as an entrepreneur, you need to determine what the best business structure is for you. We talked about this a few months ago, so rather than repeat everything just go back and read about how to determine the proper business structure.

    What it boils down to is this: what type of business are you starting, how big do you expect the business to grow in the next few years, how many employees will you end up having, and what your tax goals are. If you can answer those questions, your accountant can help you set up the right business for you.

    An Accountant will Save You a LOT of Time

    Starting a business takes a lot of work. Most of that work will be done by you in order to make sure that everything is moving along nicely and that everything is organized properly. Throw some employees into the mix and now you have to manage the business as well as manage your employees. That includes setting schedules, performance evaluations, dealing with unhappy employees, and payroll.

    But if you have an accountant, you can alleviate a lot of that burden. Your accountant in Billings, Montana can handle the payroll, bookkeeping, and manage all of your finances for you. There’s no need to go with Quickbooks or a similar program when you have a real live person that can do it all. This frees you up to do what you do best: run a business. Read about how using a payroll service will actually save you money.

    An Accountant will Prepare Your Taxes

    Naturally when people think of an accountant, they think of someone to prepare their taxes. Your accountant can do that, but when you become a business owner, it is more important than you think.

    With a business in place, your taxes now become harder than ever to get in place. You have to make sure that you are deducting the right amounts, putting incomes in the right places, filing on time (business taxes are due March 15), and making sure everything is done correctly. Why learn accounting when you have a business to run?

    Your Accountant can Maintain Records

    Most people that become business owners are fairly well organized. If they aren’t, then they end up going out of business. However, sometimes things get a little sloppy because there are just so many things to do.

    You have two options here. You can hire a personal organizer to come in and develop a plan for you. After that you do all the work and keep your own records. Or you can hire an accountant to take over. You pass along the proper information (hours worked, pay structures, cash in, cash out, etc), and then your accountant in Billings, Montana can handle all of that record keeping for you.

    Practical Taxes

    As a full service accounting firm in Billings, MT, we can handle all of your accounting needs. The bottom line is that we can save you a lot of time by taking these things off your plate. In the end, you get to focus on what you know best (and what you love), and you don’t have to worry about the things you don’t know that only slow you down. Give us a call at 406-894-2050 to learn more about how we can help your business succeed.

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    The Best Business Investment You Can Make

    Books-300x168Being in business means that you have to make hard decisions. One of those decisions is where you should invest your capital. You can invest in employees, in technology, in infrastructure, in product, in yourself, in training, and a whole host of other places. So how do you decide where the best business investment is? There is one place where you should invest if you are struggling to figure out where you should invest. Your accountant in Billings, Montana explains where.


    Your Best Business Investment

    Business owners and employees alike know that money comes and goes. If you have a big loss, you work hard and recoup that loss. Every failure is an opportunity to learn and succeed the next time. So your investment is not something that you make with money.

    Your best investment will actually be a time, commitment, and intellectual investment rather than one that you spend money on. There will be some money involved, but it will be mostly self study and training that helps you to succeed.

    Think about this scenario. When you choose a business that you want to work with, who would you rather use: the business that has the cheapest product, or the business that charges a little more but they are an expert in the industry? Many people will go with the cheapest around, but the longest term clients will stick with those that really know their industry.

    Becoming an expert is actually not that hard to do. In fact, it can be done in your spare time over the course of just a few weeks. With the internet, there are millions of websites offering free information about just about any topic you can imagine. Spending 20 minutes per day reading will put you light years ahead of your peers.

    To put yourself even further ahead as an expert, invest in some books. Buy 5 or 10 books that relate to your business, business in general, and your industry. Read them over the course of the next year. By doing so you will be vastly more knowledgeable than anyone else around.

    Take that even further and invest in training for yourself. Now there are a number of fly-by-night companies that offer training in your industry. They have no clue what they are doing, and they will gladly take your money and offer minimal value. So do your research before you commit. When you find one that gets glowing reviews, it will be worth your money; even if it costs several thousand dollars.

    Make your Best Business Investment

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. We know that you are a busy business owner, so we offer a variety of services (such as payroll services) to help ease your burden. With that time free, you can make the best business investment you have ever made and grow yourself as a leader, an entrepreneur, and a business owner.

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    Enhancing Your Visibility as a Business

    Newspaper-300x225Every business needs to get their name out there. Without visibility you don’t have clients. Without clients you don’t have an income. Without an income, well why are you even in business in the first place? The business world is constantly changing. And you need to stay on top of things or else you will be left with nothing but Yellow Pages ads in a world where Google search engine rankings are all that anyone cares about. If you want to maintain a viable player in your field, follow these tips set forth by your accountant in Billings, MT.




    Becoming More Visible as a Business

    There are a number of different ways to spread your name around. They are more than just advertising, and you can’t just pick one. You need to keep at the top of your game across multiple methods. Here are a few that have great success.

    Google – There are two ways to get to the top of Google. You can pay for an AdWords campaign to put your website at the top of the list when people search for specific keywords. Most of the time people skip right by these ads. The alternative is to organically build your site to be search engine optimized. This includes a lot of content, and some other SEO techniques.

    Pay Per Click – You need exposure. One way to do that is to set up a pay-per-click ad campaign targeting local site. Your local news sites will host your ad, but you only ever pay if someone actually clicks on your ad. This drives traffic to you website, and hopefully results in paying clients. You need a great website to convert those visitors to clients.

    Media – Many businesses will benefit immensely from media advertising. This is printed ads in the paper, radio spots, TV commercials, and more. These ads are not for everyone, but they can benefit certain businesses immensely.

    Networking – One word that many professionals hate is networking. But if you get into the right networking group, you will be rewarded greatly. For instance, Biz to Biz is a fantastic way to generate leads and pass referrals.

    Partnering – Some businesses will benefit greatly by partnering with related businesses. For instance, if you are a graphic designer, you may benefit by partnering with a marketing company. You take your information to that company, and the next time they have overflow work, they push it your way. It’s a win-win for both of you.

    Online Reviews –Something under-utilized, especially here in Billings, are Google reviews. Every time you have a satisfied customer, give them a card with your information and ask them to write a review for you on Google. You can offer small bribes such as a free coffee to a local kiosk to get a better response rate.

    Outsourcing the Right Parts of your Business

    Because you are a busy professional, you likely don’t want to take the time to make sure that your business is getting the right visibility. This is where it is important to outsource certain aspects. For instance, how many hours per month do you spend on payroll services? That is something your accountant in Billings, MT can do so you can focus on running your business. Outsourcing your marketing to the professionals is not only easier, but gets dramatically better results. A highly visible business is a profitable business. Where are you lacking?

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, MT. If you need help with your bookkeeping, online payroll services, business consultation, or just simple tax preparation, we are here to help. Call us today at 406-894-2050 to learn more about how we can help you.

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    The Hardest Part of Running a Business

    Business-Taxes-300x199There are two types of people in this world: those with an entrepreneurial mindset and those without. Neither is better than the other, it all has to do with their desires and their goals. There are tradeoffs to each method of making a living. As an employee you don’t have to worry about all the stress a business owner does, plus you can get some other great perks and benefits. Running a business can take a whole lot more work, and there can be some extremely stressful aspects, but watching your business grow and the unlimited income potential can make it all worthwhile. But want to know the hardest part of running a business? Your accountant in Billings, MT fills you in on what you need to know.


    All of the Aspects of Running a Business

    When you are an employee, you have one job to do (often that job entitles many different duties, but for the most part you have one job). As a business owner, that is often not the case. In the beginning you have to be the CEO, the president, the HR director, the bookkeeper, the manager, the service technician, customer service representative, payroll clerk, and the list goes on and on. Because there are so many different jobs and duties to perform, many businesses fail. They try to do it all themselves, and fail to realize that hiring out portions will end up making them more profitable along the way. For instance, instead of trying to complete payroll services on your own, let an accountant in Billings, MT that specializes in payroll services to do that part for you. But wearing all of those hats is not the hardest thing about running a business.

    Even when you get your business fine tuned, and you have outsourced what you need to outsource, there is still one major concern when running a business. You have to make sure that you have cash. Now there are a few different ways to get that cash, and depending on your business and its size and service, one may be better than another. Some people turn to investors to provide a huge lump sum of cash all at once in exchange for equity in the company. Others will turn to a bank to provide a loan and that debt is repaid over time. Still others will bootstrap and rely on sales to bring in a consistent and steady cash flow. Without cash, without an income, a business is doomed. No matter how smoothly things are running, a sudden halt in cash flow can cause any business to shut down. But keeping cash flow at a maximum is still not the hardest thing about running a business.

    Every business is going to be different. Even if you are an accountant in Billings, MT, your business is going to be different than all of the other accountants in Billings, MT. Your specialties will be unique, your clientele will be unique, your marketing will be unique, and your troubles and trials will be unique. While there are some aspects that you can look at other business models and get the answers, many will be your own problems. Building a business doesn’t have a recipe that you can follow; there are no step by step instructions for running a business. The hardest part of running a business is that there are hard parts about running a business. And there are no clear answers.

    Making the Most of Your Team of Advisors

    To take the burden off of you, you need a team of advisors. This means you need an accountant that can handle your taxes, your payroll services, and your bookkeeping. You need a marketing expert to handle your PR, advertising, and other marketing ideas. You need a financial advisor to help you manage your money. You need an IT person to manage your website, including a content writer to search engine optimize your site.  A+ Accounting & Consulting can help with some of that.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, MT. We can help take the burden off of you so you can focus on running your business and making money, instead of worrying about another hat to wear. Contact us today at 406-894-2050 to learn more.

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    Accountants are Problem Solvers

    When someone thinks of an accountant, they imagine a guy in a button up shirt with a calculator. They imagine someone that sits around all day long crunching numbers and preparing taxes long-form. While it is true that most accountants are numbers guys (or gals), it is not true that an accountant loves to sit and crunch numbers. So what does your accountant in Billings, Montana say is the most satisfying part of the job?

    Job Satisfaction

    Being unhappy at your job is almost synonymous with working in America. After all, nearly everyone complains about their job. The hours are too long, the boss is too strict, the co-workers are stupid, the office is dirty… the list can go on and on (almost always topped off with “I’m overworked and underpaid”). Fortunately, many people do love their job. And that can be for a variety of reasons.

    A recent survey talked with accountants and finance professionals to find out what part of their job brought them the most satisfaction. The number one most enjoyable part of an accountant’s job? Solving problems. With 41% of those surveyed saying they love solving problems, it is clear to see that your accountant in Billings, Montana is not just a number cruncher. Although with 22% saying that their work with numbers is the most satisfying part of the job, it’s still a big part of the job.

    How is an Accountant a Problem Solver?

    One of the reasons that problem solving came up so high on the list was simply because it is a huge category. It can encompass quite a few different issues. Some that your accountant in Billings, Montana likes to work on are:

    Tax Preparation – Let’s face it, a huge chunk of the work an accountant does is prepare your taxes. This is the number crunching portion.

    Online Payroll – If you run a business and you have employees, then you need payroll services. Solving this problem, and making your business run more efficiently, is one of the best aspects of the job.

    Business Consulting – This is a pretty broad category. It starts with setting up the business, determining structure, filing paperwork, finalizing roles, etc. But it goes long beyond the beginning, and business consulting can last throughout the life of your business.

    Budgeting and Bookkeeping – If you run a business, you don’t want to be bogged down in the details. Here at A+ Accounting we make sure to take away those details so you can focus on growing your business.

    There are so many more areas that your accountant can help you with. It all depends on what services you need, and where your business needs a little boost. If there is something that you don’t want to have to worry about any longer, then chances are we can take care of it.

    Practical Taxes

    We are a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. If you have any accounting needs, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone to see how we can help. Schedule a time to chat by calling 406-894-2050.

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    Half of Americans are Failing at Financial Planning

    Grade-FPlanning for your future is something that everyone should be doing. From the time you are done with college, you should have your eyes set on the goal: retirement. This means investing your money, building your business or career, and making sure that you’re setting aside enough to live comfortably in retirement. Even with all of the education out there, a recent study by Genworth found that about half of Americans are not prepared for retirement. Your accountant in Billings, Montana looks deeper.



    Americans’ Financial Concerns

    The Genworth study looked into a lot of different variables and polled thousands of individuals on their savings and investment habits, as well as their outlook on where they will be during retirement. The focus was obviously on finances, but there are other major areas of concern as well.

    For instance, when asked what their major concerns were concerning retirement and getting older, 71% listed health as a major concern. And there is good reason for it. American healthcare is in a transitional period. With the Affordable Care Act being rolled out slowly, people living longer than ever, and all of the other flair around healthcare and health insurance, it is reasonable that people wonder: what will healthcare look like in 10, 20, or 30 years?

    The second ranking area of major concern was finances. Study after study after study shows that Americans simply are not good savers. So when they finally realize, at age 40, they need to start saving for retirement, it is too late to do it comfortably. In fact, the study found that the average age to start saving is age 33, and the average balance of a retirement plan is a mere $7,360. Considering that most people said they need about $1.7 million to retire comfortably, at the average savings rate they will have about 1/3 of what they need by the time they hit age 65. Here’s some of the math behind retirement.

    Start at age 21 and save $5,000 per year. Compounding at 7%, by the time you are age 65 you will have $1.48 million. Bump your savings up to $6,000 per year and that grows to $1.78 million.

    Start at age 31 and save $5,000 per year and you will have just $840,000 by age 65.

    Start saving at age 41, and if you only put aside $5,000 per year, you will have just $374,000 when you want to retire.

    The study dives into a lot of different aspects of Americans and their retirement goals. If you want to read the full study, it can be found on the Genworth website. It has a lot of good action steps to help you get going. Also, if you want to do your own retirement savings calculations, check out the Moneychimp Compound Interest Calculator.

    It All Starts with Planning

    Your accountant in Billings, Montana is a great resource for all of your finance and planning needs. He can obviously get you the best tax refund possible, but he can also point you in the right direction of who can help you with investment, insurance, and other financial planning needs.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. For the next couple weeks we are focusing on getting tax returns completed, but we offer a whole host of other services. For those going into business, we do business consulting; for those with employees we do payroll and have online payroll services. Give us a call at 406-894-2050 to learn more.

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    Budgeting 101: Your Budget doesn’t Need to be Fancy

    budget-289x300Most of us know the importance of a budget. We know we should watch our spending, track where our dollars go, and we know that when we do it properly it is easier to save money. But too often budgets get ignored, and we forget about trying to keep track anyway. So how do we make a budget that we know we will actually keep? It’s a whole lot easier than you think; your accountant in Billings, Montana explains how it can be done.






    Two Different Budget Systems

    There are two primary forms of budgeting, each one has its merits, and each one will help different people.

    The Cash Envelope Budgeting System – This is Dave Ramsey’s favorite way to budget. The reason is that it’s highly controlled, and it works well. It’s hard to cheat this budget, so for those who want more structure, this is the way to go.

    First, you must understand all of your bills. There are some that fluctuate, like utilities, but for the most part they are all pretty set bills. These should be set up to come out of your account automatically. For those who want to use the envelope method, you withdraw the cash needed to pay each bill, and you put it in an envelope. So you will have a dozen envelopes each marked with different items such as “cell phone bill” or “gas bill.”

    Next you set up your savings and investments to come out of your account automatically. This should be seen as another bill, and not as something you do if you have the money left over. If you need more structure, you can make a “savings and investment” envelope as well. But there is little need to put money in an envelope if it is immediately going to go into your savings or investment accounts.

    Now for the fun stuff. Let’s suppose you like to buy new clothes. You have an envelope that says “new clothes” on it, and every month you put a portion of your budget into that envelope. If you are planning a vacation, you make a vacation envelope. If you like to eat out, you have an eating out envelope. And so on and so forth.

    The idea behind the envelope system is that when the envelope is empty, then you can’t spend any more on yourself. So if you give yourself $100 to eat out each month, if you deplete your eating out envelope, you can’t rob other envelopes.

    There is another method for those who don’t need quite so much structure.

    The Automatic Budgeting System – Rather than take the time to build the envelope system, and rather than keep that much cash on hand, many people choose an automated system. This one is very simple.

    You have a good idea of how much you will make every month. Schedule your bills, savings, and investments around your paydays. This means that when you are paid a few days later a portion of that money goes to paying for your mortgage, some to your utilities, some to your savings and investments, and others to wherever else you might owe money. This is all built to go on behind your back. You don’t have to think about it at all.

    The way this system works is that shortly after everything has come out, you will have the leftovers in your checking account. Obviously you will want to keep a few hundred in there to make sure you have a buffer, but for the most part that is all spending money. You can spend it on new clothes, travel, eating out, or whatever else you want. All of your needs have been met, so this is what you use to play with.

    The automatic budgeting system is much easier than playing with envelopes, it allows for more freedom, and it still takes care of all your living expenses.

    Your Accountant in Billings, Montana Can Help

    When it comes time to prepare your taxes, an accountant can often get you a bigger refund than if you try to go it alone. This means that your savings and investments have a bigger buffer early in the year, and you can dedicate more to other areas of your life.

    Practical Taxes can help you prepare your taxes, consult with you on all of your business needs, set up payroll services for your business and much more. We are a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana; if you have a question or want to set up an appointment to get started, just give us a call at 406-894-2050.

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    A Cut Rate Accountant vs. an Affordable Accountant: There’s a Difference!

    Taxes3-300x224There are two schools of thought out there. Some believe that using the absolute cheapest is the best way to go. They know that buying the cheapest product means that it will likely wear out faster than buying a more expensive version, but they also understand that a cheaper product also means they can afford a replacement easier. This works great when buying a physical product, but how does it look when you are hiring a service? Your accountant in Billings, Montana looks at the differences between a cut rate accountant and an affordably priced accountant.



    A Cut Rate Accountant Churns and Burns

    There is an old saying in the stock industry of “churn ‘em and burn ‘em.” Basically it is getting a client, selling them a stock, and then burning the client, or dumping them. The idea is to make a quick commission and then turn them loose. Likely they will be upset, but you made your money right?

    A cut rate accountant will often churn and burn. They want to make some money off preparing your taxes, and then once you’re out the door, you are on your own.

    An Affordable Accountant Cares About You

    In contrast to the churn and burn mentality, an affordable accountant cares about you and what you have going on. Your affordable accountant in Billings, Montana knows that you work hard for your money, so they don’t want to charge you an arm and a leg to prepare your taxes.

    Unlike the churn and burn mentality, your affordable accountant is here all year round. Long after your taxes have been prepared, you can still stop by and get answers because we are here all year round, not just during tax season.

    A Cut Rate Accountant Makes Mistakes

    When you hardly charge anything for tax preparation services, you have to hustle through each tax return. What this means is that the likelihood of mistakes skyrockets.

    But once the client is out the door, once the client has signed to accept the tax return, once the client indicates they are satisfied, all of this doesn’t matter anymore. With a cut rate accountant, your risk of audit could be higher, and they aren’t going to back up the work that they did.

    An Affordable Accountant Double Checks

    Despite having low prices, an affordable accountant in Billings, Montana will double check all of his work. He wants to make sure he earns you as a client for life; not just as a client for this year.

    So instead of rushing through your tax return, Mike will sit down and double check the numbers. This means your return is picture perfect, and you won’t have to worry as much about an audit. Even if it does happen, Mike will provide all necessary documents to show his calculations were correct.

    Your Affordable Accountant in Billings, Montana

    If you have yet to do your taxes, don’t worry! There is plenty of time before your return must be filed. Instead of going somewhere that will get your tax return prepared quickly and cheaply with no guarantee to accuracy, go to Practical Taxes where you get years of training, education, and experience; and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. We are here all year round, and can answer any questions that pop up; no matter what season.   On top of tax preparation services we also offer business consulting, online payroll services, and much more. Call us today at406-894-2050 to schedule an appointment.

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    Understanding What Type of Home Loan You Need

    real-estate-agent-billings-montana-300x226When it comes to buying a house, you have a lot of different choices. There are so many types of home loans out there, that it can be difficult to choose the right one. Now, the best thing to do is to speak with a loan officer, they are the ones that will figure out what type of loan fits your budget and needs perfectly. If you want to do a little research before you go in to talk with them, then keep reading as your accountant in Billings, Montana explains the varying home loans.




    Do You Want a Fixed or Adjustable Rate Home Loan?

    No matter what style of mortgage you choose, you will have to decide if you want a fixed rate mortgage, or an adjustable rate mortgage. Here’s the difference between the two.

    Fixed Rate – A fixed rate mortgage is exactly that. When you sign on the dotted line, you are locked into an interest rate that won’t change until you refinance or pay it off. These are the most popular types of loans and they come almost always in 15 and 30 year options.

    Adjustable Rate – An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), on the other hand, has interest rates that adjust periodically. Generally speaking they are fixed for a few years, and then readjust after that. For instance, a 5/1 ARM is a mortgage that is fixed for the first 5 years, and then adjusts every year thereafter based on the current interest rates.

    Your particular financial situation will determine which is best for you.

    Do you Want a Government-Insured or a Conventional Home Loan?

    After deciding term and interest structure, you need to decide which type of loan you want. There are a lot of qualifying factors, which if you don’t meet those, then you have to go with a conventional home loan.

    Conventional Loan – Basically this is just a home loan. It’s not government insured in any way.

    Government Insured FHA Loan – The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is an insurance program through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Most people will qualify for this type of loan, even if they are not first-time home buyers. These loans help people get into houses even when they can’t meet the 20% down rule. The caveat, unless you put 20% down, you have to pay that pesky Private Mortgage Insurance.

    Government Insured VA Loan – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wants to make sure they take care of those who have served our country. Since many people returning from deployment don’t have the savings needed to put money down on a house, the VA loan allows for financing of up to 100% of the loan.

    Government Insured USDA/RHS Loan – The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has teamed up with the Rural Housing Service (RHS) to help those who live in rural areas that need homes. These are catered to those who have a low or modest income and don’t qualify for a conventional loan. These eligibility requirements are strict.

    Do You Want a Jumbo or a Conforming Home Loan?

    The final choice in loans is dependent on how big of a loan you are looking for. While most people are not going to need a jumbo loan, there are quite a few out there.

    Conforming Loan – A conforming loan is simply one that conforms to the guidelines of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Most of the guidelines have to do with the size of the loan; for many areas, like here in Billings, Montana, the loan must be under $417,000 in order to be conforming. That number adjusts periodically to account for inflation, and it varies depending on where you live in the country.

    Jumbo Loan – A jumbo loan is simply one that is bigger than the limits imposed by Fannie and Freddie. These types of loans represent a larger risk to the issuer, so those obtaining them need to prove themselves worthy. That means a good high income, a great credit score, and a sizeable down payment.

    Who knew that getting a home loan would have so many options? Fortunately, most people don’t need to worry about the majority of this. In fact, after speaking with your mortgage lender, you will likely only need to decide if you want a 15 year fixed rate, 30 year fixed rate, or adjustable rate mortgage.

    When you do get your home loan, keep in mind that you can write off the interest that you pay on it. For 2015, you can deduct up to $1,000,000 off your taxes. Most people will never come close to hitting that mark. As your accountant in Billings, Montana, I can help you determine exactly what can be deducted and what cannot.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm here in Billings, Montana. We don’t do home loans or initiate mortgages, but we do know the tax implications behind them. If you have recently bought a house, and you are worried about your tax situation, then we are here to help.

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    3 Things Your Accountant in Billings, Montana can do for You

    Business MeetingThere are millions of people around the US that want to do their taxes on their own. They either love to sit down and crunch the numbers, or they want to save money by not paying someone else to do their taxes. Whatever their reason, they think they are better off without hiring an accountant in Billings, Montana to help prepare their taxes.

    And they may be better off; it all depends on their tax situation. What most people don’t realize is that their accountant does more than just help prepare their taxes. Here are three important roles that your accountant plays in your financial life.


    Your Accountant Helps Prepare Your Taxes

    While Practical Taxes does do a number of different tasks, preparing your taxes is still a huge part of our work. Whether you have a simple tax return or a complex one, we can get it done quickly and, more importantly, affordably. We have some of the lowest rates you will find, and likely you will pay less than if you went to one of those seasonal tax preparers.

    We are your accountant in Billings, Montana and will get your taxes done, and help you get a bigger refund than you imagined you would get. The reason your refund can be bigger is because we know all of the tax nuances. There may be some deductions that you miss if you try to do your own taxes, and others that the seasonal preparers don’t even know about.

    Your Accountant Helps Process Payroll

    Payroll services are a huge part of the accounting process. If you have employees, then you definitely need to have someone do your payroll for you. Trying to do payroll on your own only opens you up to liability that you don’t need to worry about. Besides that, it is much more worth your time to work on your business rather than spend the hours and hours it takes each month to complete the payroll on your own.

    Payroll services are much more affordable than you think; the amount of time you save by letting your accountant in Billings, Montana process your payroll will be well worth it.

    Your Accountant Does Business Planning

    If you are thinking of starting a business, or starting a new business, you can schedule time to sit down with us to determine all the ins and outs of that business.

    We will help you analyze the viability of the business as well as determine the most appropriate business structure needed. He will then work with you to fill out all of the appropriate paperwork to make sure your business is processed and recorded with the city and the state. Since we are accountants in Billings, Montana all year round, and not just during tax season, that means he can help you with any little problems that come up throughout the year.

    Using an accountant in Billings, Montana to do your taxes is a great idea. But don’t think that your relationship needs to end there! By developing a team of advisors, one of which is your accountant, you can make sure to have accurate and valuable advice from all angles.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. As you can see above, the relationship is much more than tax preparation! Call 406-894-2050 to schedule your appointment!

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    Who is the Most at Risk for Identity Theft?

    Button-IDT-300x150Identity theft is becoming much more common. With the internet controlling the vast majority of our lives, it is easy for unscrupulous people to steal someone’s credit card number and rack up a bunch of charges. While that is one form of identity theft, there are actually a number of other ways that people can have their identity stolen. So who is the most at risk? Your accountant in Billings, Montana will tell you the answer to that.


    Versions of Identity Theft

    Before we address who is the most at risk of having their identity stolen, we should look at what the different versions of identity entail. They range from the simple that don’t really harm you (other than your reputation perhaps) to the more complex that can have lasting effects.

    Impersonation Identity Theft– Believe it or not, using a fake name on your social media account is a form of identity theft. Now if you come up with the name Johnny McAwesomesauce, nobody is going to care. But if you use the name John Smith, and then use pictures of someone with that same name, you are committing identity theft.

    Driver’s License Identity Theft – Here is one that takes a little more cunning. It’s not exactly a crime of opportunity, but something planned out well in advance. Suppose you lose your driver’s license and someone finds it. They can sell it to someone that looks enough like you to pass as you. Now if that person is pulled over, arrested, or otherwise gets in trouble, they just give the officer your name and you now have a criminal record.

    Social Security Identity Theft – Too often people are careless with their Social Security Number. Once a criminal has that, they can do a lot of damage to your identity. With a Social Security Number, and just a little more information, they can take out a loan in your name, get a passport, apply for credit cards, and a lot of other things that can have long term effects.

    Medical Identity Theft – Medical identity theft is the fastest growing form of identity theft, even with the Affordable Care Act in place. The criminal steals your identity, and makes claims against your medical insurance. You end up with the bill; they end up with the treatment. To make matters worse, your medical record is now all screwed up.

    Juvenile Identity Theft – For the parents out there, when was the last time you checked your child’s credit score? Likely never because what child has a credit score? Those who have had their identity stolen do. If your child’s identity is stolen, the thief can apply for loans, create documents, and commit a lot of other crimes and most people won’t even catch on until their child turns 18.

    So Who is at the Most Risk for Identity Theft?

    Now that we have covered the basics, who is at the most risk? The answer is everyone. No matter if you live your life completely offline, you are still at risk of having your identity stolen. No matter how careful you are, you can have your identity stolen.

    Do you have a social media account? Then you are likely putting yourself at risk of impersonation identity theft. If you have a driver’s license, you are at risk of driver’s license identity theft. You have a Social Security Number (if you live in the states) so you are at risk of having that stolen, and everyone has been to a hospital at some point in time. As we see above, even children aren’t safe.

    But there is good news. Legal Shield will protect you from those who are looking to steal your identity. You may think you’re covered because your credit card has fraud protection, but that only makes it so you’re not liable for the monetary side of things. It doesn’t actually protect your identity.

    Your accountant in Billings, Montana also represents Legal Shield. For a low monthly rate you can have 24/7 access to an attorney, and make sure your identity is protected. Call us today at 406-894-2050 to learn more.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. Right now we are in the heart of tax season so things are pretty crazy around here! But we can still handle all of your accounting needs from payroll services, to tax preparation, to Legal Shield inquiries.

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    Hiring an Accountant in Billings, Montana

    Taxes3-300x224When it comes time to do your taxes, you have a lot of different choices. Some will choose to do their taxes on their own, others will go to a seasonal tax preparer, and still others will seek out an accountant in Billings, Montana. If you have not completed your taxes yet, here are the pros and cons of each method of tax preparation.





    Choosing an Accountant in Billings, Montana

    An accountant in Billings, Montana is always going to be your best bet for the most accurate information. We are on the job all year round. They are constantly learning about the latest tax laws, reading the latest tax books, and taking classes and attending seminars. Your accountant in Billings, Montana will be there for you not matter what time of year it is.

    The pitfall of many accountants is that during tax season they are extremely busy. Because they are so busy, there are a number of them that raise their rates to make it more worth their time. This means that often an accountant in Billings, Montana will be more expensive than choosing one of the other methods. However, at Practical Taxes we don’t want to use you. We keep our rates low; in fact often lower than most of the seasonal preparers.

    Choosing a Seasonal Tax Preparer in Billings, Montana

    The biggest perk of using a seasonal tax preparer in Billings, Montana is there are a lot of them. They can file hundreds of returns every day because they have so many people working for them. Often you get in and out quickly, and they are generally cheaper than most of the accountants in Billings, Montana (see the caveat above).

    The downsides, however, are big. These are usually not tax professionals. They have some basic finance training, but they have not devoted their career and life to learning about taxes. They are on the job for a few months out of the year, so if questions arise later, you have trouble getting in touch with them. Your visit with a seasonal tax preparer can end up taking longer than expected because they are not well versed in tax laws and filing requirements.

    Choosing to Do Your Taxes Yourself

    One method that has become much more popular over the years is doing your taxes on your own. With the fancy software advancements, programs like TurboTax have snatched up a huge market share. With good reason, they are incredibly cheap. The software is easy to use and cheap to buy (in fact if you have a basic return you don’t even have to pay for it).

    The downside to doing your taxes yourself is that you have to go through every single step to make sure nothing is missed. That means several hours of your time is spent plugging in numbers, checking, double checking, and then wondering if you did everything right.

    Choosing an Accountant in Billings, Montana

    There are three basic methods to completing your taxes. If you have a simple return, then using a program and doing your taxes yourself is a great method to save some money. However, if you want to make sure that your deductions are maximized, then using an accountant in Billings, Montana is your best bet. If you are already taking the time to use a seasonal tax preparer, then you might as well choose Practical Taxes. You will be surprised at how affordable we are, and you will be in and out faster than if you choose a seasonal preparer.

    Here at Practical Taxes we do more than just prepare taxes. We can help with all of your accounting, payroll, and business planning needs.

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    The 3 Most Overlooked Business Startup Costs

    store_closing-300x150Many people dream of becoming business owners. They want the freedom that comes with being their own boss, the idea that the sky is the limit appeals to them, and they want to do something that they love. The problem is that most people fail to plan accordingly, and most small businesses fail within a few years of starting. Before you take the plunge, and risk failing right off the bat, read these three overlooked costs of starting a business. Then you will want to talk with an accountant in Billings, Montana to make sure that you have everything else in order.

    Licenses, Insurances, Registrations, and More

    Not all businesses are created the same. Some, by their very nature, have more liability than others. For instance, if you start a business that provides home décor and organizational tips then you are not going to have as much liability as a business that provides physical therapy or roof installation.

    Even though not all businesses are created equal, there are some things they all have to do. For instance every business needs to file with the state and the city where they are conducting business. These fees are not expensive, but if you fail to do so then you can end up paying a severe penalty.

    Like failing to register your business, failing to maintain the proper insurances can lead to penalties as well. If you don’t have liability insurance and surety bonds in place, and you try to do work on someone else’s house, you could end up in a lot of trouble.

    Business consulting services provided by Practical Taxes can help you get everything in place before you start your business.

    Employee Costs and Payroll Services

    Many businesses can be run without employees. However, there are others that simply need personnel to keep them going. If you are starting a business, you will not only need to find those employees, but you may also need to run background checks on them. Once they are hired, there is a lot of bookkeeping that goes into making sure they are paid on time. It may be tempting to try to do all of this work yourself, but in the long run it is more efficient to enlist the services of an accountant in Billings, Montana.

    A+ Accounting & Consulting provides payroll services and online payroll services for those located anywhere in the country.

    Self-Employment Taxes

    When you work for someone else, and you are on their payroll, they are responsible for paying half of your FICA taxes (about 7.65%) and you are responsible for the other half. When you work for yourself, you pay the entire amount of FICA taxes. This additional 7.65% in taxes are often called the self-employment taxes. Now there is a bit more to it than just tacking on an additional 7.65%, but the bottom line is that your tax bill may end up being quite a bit higher than you realize.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana and can help with all of your tax issues that pop up.

    Enlisting the Help of Practical Taxes

    Starting a business is no small task. Most businesses that are started on a whim don’t last very long. Those that take the time to prepare, plan, and enlist the services of outside professionals tend to fare better. If you are looking to start a business, begin your journey by consulting with an accountant in Billings, Montana.

    Practical Taxes can help with payroll services, online payroll services, business consulting, tax preparation and more.

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    Consolidate Your Savings Accounts to Simplify Your Taxes


    A surprising number of people have their savings accounts spread out over a number of different institutions. For some they just have not taken the time to close one account and move the money into another, for others they are fearful of losing their money if the institution were to fail. There are different reasons for spreading out money, but the bottom line is that it really doesn’t make any sense to do so.





    FDIC Insurance Protects Your Savings

    Most banks and credit unions are members of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The FDIC protects the deposits at that bank against a variety of factors that could wipe them out. For instance, back when Washington Mutual went under due to stress from the Great Recession, most people were still able to get their savings back without any problems.

    FDIC insurance protects your deposits up to $250,000 per person, per institution. What this means is that you can have $250,000 in all of your combined accounts at one bank, and never have to worry about losing that money if the bank is robbed, burns to the ground, or fails financially. If you happen to have over $250,000, you may want to spread it between institutions, or take the risk that anything about the limit won’t be replaced if it’s lost.

    Why Consolidate Your Savings Accounts

    Nearly all savings accounts offer interest. This interest is taxable. Because it is taxable the institution where you have your savings account must issue you a 1099-Div each year. Even if you only earned $20 in interest, you get a tax form. If you have 10 different savings accounts, then you will get a tax form from each of them. Every added form makes your taxes that much more complicated, and your accountant in Billings, Montana has to do even more work.

    Simplifying your taxes is a huge reason to consolidate your savings accounts. But there are other reasons as well. Many savings accounts, especially those online, give you a bonus if you maintain a certain balance. For instance, if you have over $20,000 in your savings, you might get an additional .25% interest every quarter you have the higher balance. By consolidating your savings accounts, you get the opportunity to earn more interest.

    Aside from the monetary reasons to consolidate, there are organizational reasons as well. Moving all of your savings accounts to the one that pays the highest interest rate will let you get rid of a lot of paperwork from your life. Each account you close is one less thing to worry about. Imagine simplifying from 10 to just 1. Even if it only saves you an hour per account per year, that’s 9 hours of less stress.

    Contact Practical Taxes

    Tax season is approaching, and if you are looking for an affordable way to get your taxes prepared, you need an accountant in Billings, Montana. Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm. We can handle your tax preparation needs, business consulting needs, online payroll services needs, and more. Call 406-894-2050 to schedule your appointment today.

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    Benefits of Online Payroll Services

    Payroll-300x200If you are a small business owner, you know that payroll can be a hassle. You have to make sure time cards are turned in, you have to calculate out taxes and withholdings, and you have to double check all of your work to make sure that you didn’t make any mistakes. In the end, you spend a lot of time doing payroll when you could have been spending all of that time building your business and increasing your bottom line. But maybe you have looked into payroll services and found that they are too expensive. It may be time to go with online payroll services from a more affordable accountant in Billings, Montana.


    Payroll Services vs. Online Payroll Services

    There are a lot of accountants out there that offer payroll services. You go in and meet with them, they get all of the accounts set up, and every two weeks they need a time card from each employee. They then charge a lot of money to do a simple service for you.

    With online payroll services you don’t even have to live in the same state as the accountant that is preparing your employee’s paychecks. Everything can be set up over the phone, email, and paper copies through the mail, and after that all you have to remember to do is get time sheets in on time.

    Submitting time sheets has never been easier. There is no need to mail in a paper copy. In fact, there is no need to even fax a paper copy. Snap a quick picture with your phone and text or email it over, scan the page and email it, or get it in via whichever method is the easiest for you.

    With online payroll services you don’t have to worry about making mistakes on your taxes. Your business likely has little to do with accounting, so there is a chance you could make a small error on your payroll that has huge consequences.

    Online payroll services let you relax and focus on your business instead of worrying about getting paychecks delivered on time. Sure you might not worry about getting paid a few days late, but your employees are likely counting on that check coming through at a certain time.

    Unless you read books about the tax code in your spare time, you probably don’t know about all of the regulatory changes when they happen. However, as an accountant in Billings, Montana, Practical Taxes has to keep up with those things. Utilizing online payroll services means you get access to top-of-the-line knowledge.

    Most importantly, to you at least, is the fact that online payroll services from Practical Taxes are incredibly affordable. After using our services you will wonder why you ever tried to do payroll on your own.

    Contact Us Today

    If you want to learn more about online payroll services, call A+ Accounting & Consulting at 406-894-2050. We are a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. If you need accountant services like payroll, business consulting, tax preparation, and many others, we can handle your needs.

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    Getting a Loan with Poor Credit


    There are some purchases that require loans. Some people may be able to save up in order to make those larger purchases, but often the goals are just too large, or the need is immediate. However, poor credit choices in the past can come back to haunt you in the form of a low credit score. There are ways to get the loan you need, even if your credit score is less than desirable. Here are a few of the things to keep in mind.

    Put More Down

    Credit scores are a measure of risk. A lower credit score means that you are more likely to default on the loan, and the lender will suffer a financial loss. A higher score means that you are more likely to make on-time payments, and the lender will get their money back. If you pay more for your down payment, then you are able to reduce the risk to the creditor. This means that they will be more likely to give you the loan.

    For instance, suppose you want to buy a car for $15,000. You decide to put $5,000 down, but the lender won’t give you the loan. So you increase the amount down to $8,000. If you still default on your loan, the lender can have the vehicle repossessed, and likely be able to sell it quickly to recoup the remaining $7,000 loss.

    Pay More in Interest Charges

    Higher credit means the lender is more likely to get their money back. So they want to encourage those with better credit to take out more loans. In order to draw them in, lenders offer lower interest rates for those with a high credit score. This is not good news for those suffering from poor credit.

    Instead of waiting, you can get that loan now, and pay the higher interest rates. After a year or two, take a look at refinancing. You may be able to get the interest rate down to something that is more appealing after your score has gone up over the past two years of making on-time payments.

    Build Your Poor Credit to Good Credit

    If you have a low credit score (which is defined as having a score of less than 640) then you may be better off waiting on the big purchase while you increase your credit score. There are a few ways to get your score up that will not require a lot of work on your part.

    Increase your credit card limit: Believe it or not, increasing the limit on your card can actually boost your score. Your credit card reports each month how much you owe on it (even if it’s paid off every month), and what your limit is. So if your limit is $5,000 and you charge $4,999 every month, you are using basically 100% of your limit (and posing a risk of going over or missing a payment). However, if you raise that limit to $10,000, and you still charge $4,999 every month, you are only using about 50% of your limit and you are seen as though you are in better standing.

    Take out a credit card: If you don’t have a credit card yet, then you should get one. If the bank gives you trouble about it, ask for a secured card. This means you put $500 (or whatever the bank requires) into a CD or savings account. This is your collateral on the card which will have an equivalent credit limit. If you miss a payment, the bank has the right to dip into your savings to pay your bill. Just don’t let that happen; instead spend $10 or $20 each month and pay it off right away.

    The bottom line is make timely payments on your credit, and over time your score will go up.

    Getting a Loan with Poor Credit

    If you need to make a big purchase this year, and you suffer from poor credit, then 2015 is the time to get that back on track. After you have an accountant in Billings, Montana prepare your taxes, and you have received your refund, then use that money as the down payment on the loan. That may be all it takes to secure it. If not, follow the above tips to help get your credit to a better status.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana. If you need a simple tax preparation, then make an appointment to come on in. If you need payroll services, business consulting services, or other finance related services, give us a call and set up an appointment.

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    Avoid Paying Taxes by Using Permanent Life Insurance

    Retirement-300x225Did you know there is a way you can access money without paying taxes on the benefit? It is completely legal; we are not avoiding any laws here. But tapping into the cash value of a permanent life insurance policy will help you to boost your income during retirement, but not boost your tax bill. There are multiple other ways as well to keep your income high, but your tax bill low. Talk with an accountant in Billings, Montana, if you want to learn about some of the other ways to do so.



    How Permanent Life Insurance Works

    There are two basic types of life insurance: term and permanent. Term insurance will provide a death benefit as long as you are up-to-date on your premiums, and you die within the term specified. Permanent, on the other hand, will provide a death benefit as long as you are up-to-date on your premiums no matter when you die. But that’s not all.

    Permanent insurance is a unique financial tool because it not only gives you the death benefit, but also has cash value. This cash value is like a little side fund where your money can grow, tax free, until you withdraw it or you die (if you die you don’t get both the death benefit and the cash value, but rather just the death benefit). That cash value can be tapped into at any point, but there are ways to get at it without taxes.

    Using the Cash Value of Permanent Life Insurance

    Suppose you own a house, and you want to utilize the equity that you have built up. Would you sell off a portion of the house? Or would you use a home equity loan? If you have a house with a lot of land, you may consider selling off a few acres from the back of the lot, but for the most part people will take out a loan. Using the cash value from your permanent insurance will work the same way.

    Instead of cashing in your insurance, which would leave you with a lower death benefit, most people choose to take a loan against the cash value. They can utilize the cash, and not have to worry about losing their insurance. Even better, though, is that since it is a loan, there are no taxes that are owed on the money.

    Repaying the loan can be done in a few different ways. Many people choose to repay it slowly, a few hundred dollars each month or year, but some choose a different method. Since the death benefit is still intact, and if the loan isn’t too big to risk the policy running out of cash, some people do not even bother paying off the loan. They simply wait until they die, and then the death benefit (a benefit that is almost never taxable) will repay the loan and the remainder will go to the beneficiaries.

    Maximizing Your Retirement Income

    Retirement takes planning. There is no way to get around that. By starting early, and setting up a Roth IRA, getting permanent insurance, relying a little bit on Social Security, and having a 401k, you can set up your retirement so that there are minimal taxes, but considerable income. If you are approaching (or in) retirement, talk with Practical Taxes to determine your best course of action.

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm. We can do payroll, tax preparation, business planning, online payroll, and much more.

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    Protect Yourself with Disability Insurance


    If you ask people the question, “What is your greatest asset?” you will get a range of answers. Many will say that it is their house, others will boast that their 401k is the biggest, and still others will jokingly say that their life insurance will pay out a million dollars, but only if they’re dead. Almost everyone will miss the true answer: your earning ability. Over the next few decades, you have the potential to earn millions of dollars. But that ability disappears if you are hurt, injured, or suffer an illness that leaves you unable to work. Disability insurance can help you offset that risk, but you should understand how it works, and what the tax implications are.


    What is Disability Insurance?

    There are big misconceptions about what disability insurance is, and what it can do for you. Here are a few of the biggest ones:

    • Major Disabilities – Disability insurance covers all disabilities. If you cannot perform the duties of your job, then you are disabled. You don’t have to be paralyzed or comatose. There are a number of people out there that have lower back injuries and prevent them from sitting for long periods at a time: they are disabled even though they can still go rock climbing. A painter that fractures his wrist could still do a lot, but is disabled. The policy will dictate own occupation or any occupation.
    • On the Job – Disability insurance is not workers compensation insurance. If you are injured on the job, or off the job, a disability policy will provide an income if you cannot work (assuming you meet the requirements, for instance you can’t become disabled because you were committing a felony).
    • Employer Coverage – Most people mistakenly assume they have coverage through work. While some do, many do not. And even if a person has disability insurance through their job, that policy will often only cover 60% of their income; and the benefit received is subject to taxes.

    Taxation of Disability Insurance

    Disability insurance is taxed differently depending on who owns the policy. Figuring it out is not too difficult, but in the event of an oddly worded policy, you may need the help of an accountant in Billings, Montana to do so.

    • Employer Provided Policies – A disability policy that you get as a benefit of your job is almost always taxable. Look at it this way: do you pay for the policy? If not, then it is most likely a taxable benefit. These benefits pay about 60% of your salary, so after taxes that could be less 50%.
    • Personal Disability Insurance – A disability policy that you took out, and you pay the premiums on it, is most likely not taxable. You have paid taxes on the money going into the policy, so the money coming out of the policy is not taxed. There can be some situations where this is not the case, so A+ Accounting & Consulting can help you figure that out.

    Protecting Yourself with Disability Insurance

    If you are working, even if you are not supporting a family, you should have disability insurance. This coverage will protect you in case you cannot work and cannot provide an income any longer. Seek out a financial professional to get a quote on what it will cost to protect your greatest asset; if it is too much then get enough coverage to at least pay for your rent or mortgage. If you need help determining whether or not your policy will be taxable, then you should talk an expert at Practical Taxes. We knows about taxation of disability insurance, tax preparation, business planning, online payroll, and a whole lot more.

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    Tips to Paying Off Your Holiday Debt

    Holiday-Debt-300x224Christmas is barely over, and the New Year is rapidly approaching. Now isn’t exactly the time you want to think about what to do about the debt that has crept up from spending on the holidays, but it is a great time to make a plan to wipe out that debt as quickly as possible. Most people end up spending more than they would like to every year. This causes them to go into debt; and if that debt isn’t taken care of it can be a huge drain on your finances. Here are some tips to get out of debt quickly, and get on track for next year’s holiday season.



    Determine Your Holiday Debt

    The first step to getting out of holiday debt quickly is to figure out just how much you have. This shouldn’t be difficult, since you will soon be getting statements showing what you owe. If you have more than one credit card that you owe on, create a simple spreadsheet that shows the amount and the interest rate.

    Call Your Card Companies

    Most people don’t understand that the interest rate they are paying is not set in stone. A five minute phone call can help to reduce that rate immensely, and help you pay off your holiday debt sooner rather than later. Keep in mind that the first person you speak to will likely say that they can’t change your interest rate. Politely ask to speak with someone who has that authority. If they push back, tell them you have a 0% interest balance transfer card ready to go, and you will be canceling your account with them if a deal can’t be reached. Be prepared to back up your statements.

    Pay Extra on the Highest Interest First

    Once you have negotiated the interest rates on all of your cards, it is time to make a plan to wipe them out. Your spreadsheet will tell you how much you owe and what the new interest rates are. Pay the minimum on the lowest interest cards, and put all of your extra money toward the highest interest card. When that one is paid off, move on down the line.

    Slash Expenses and Earn More on the Side

    Until your holiday debt is gone, no more extra expenses. Cut the cable out, stop dining at restaurants, avoid frivolous purchases, and even keep the lights off to save on your utilities. The goal is to have as much money as possible to wipe out that holiday debt. You may want to pick up some extra money by selling unneeded items, shoveling sidewalks and driveways, or starting your own side hustle.

    Use Your Tax Refund

    If you haven’t paid off your holiday debt by the time you get your tax refund, you can use that to wipe out the remainder of it. But then take it one step further. Anything that remains from your refund should be set aside to avoid debt when next year’s season comes around. Set up a side account at your bank (most will do this for free), and then put another $50 into it every month. Use that money for Christmas presents and avoid the fiasco in the future.

    Hire an Accountant to Help

    If you need help planning your holidays, an account in Billings, Montana is probably not going to help you out too much. But  here at Practical Taxes can help you get the biggest tax refund possible. You may be surprised that you have more coming back to you than you originally thought. With his services you can get your holiday savings back on track quickly.

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    Accountants Do Much More than Prepare Your Taxes

    Accountant-in-Billings-300x225Most people, when they think of the services provided by an accountant, think of tax preparation. While that is a huge part of their job, it really only encompasses a small part of what they do throughout the year. If you are a business owner or a busy professional, an accountant in Billings, Montana can be the best way to maximize your time.





    Business Consulting – For those who are just starting up a new business, and they need help planning out all of the finer details, your accountant can help you with this. Should you form an LLC or an S Corp? Should you have partners, or take things on yourself? Need help filing the paperwork and making everything official? An accountant is where you will want to turn to get all of your questions answered.

    Tax Planning – Taxes incorporate so much more than your simple Form 1040 tax return every April. If you are a business owner, then you understand that taxes are a year-round issue. Filing quarterly estimates can be a huge drain on your time; instead you can focus on running your business and let your accountant do the tax planning.

    Payroll Services – Professionals that have employees know that running payroll services is essentially a full time job. Not only do you have to remember to write the paycheck, but you also need to calculate out taxes, double check your work, get checks mailed or direct deposited on time, and a whole host of other tasks that end up bogging you down. Instead of using your valuable time to process payroll every two weeks, let your accountant do that for you.

    Accounting services go far beyond a simple tax preparation (although if that is what you need, we would be glad to have you as a client and handle your tax prep needs). If you have a need that has to do with business planning, taxes, staffing, or payroll services, A+ Accounting & Consulting is the right choice that will be able to answer all of your questions.

    Before tax season comes around, check out what A+ has to offer. As a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana, we are able to do it all. From payroll, to tax prep, to business planning and consulting, we are here to help make your life easier. You may be surprised at how much time you have been wasting on services that you can let someone else handle for far less than you thought it would cost.

    Learn more about payroll services, or online payroll.

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