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    2018 Taxes: What Do You Do with The Paperwork?

    Don’t fret about an audit, because, for most of us, an audit isn’t an overly scary thing. If you payed your taxes and had the professionals at Practical Taxes help to get your paperwork in order and helped you file that paperwork correctly, by the correct date, you’re probably fine. But still an audit can happen. And it can happen even a year or two after the tax year for which the IRS wishes to audit (Sometimes an audit can come seemingly out of nowhere, a complete surprise). And if you are going to be audited, you will want to be prepared; you will want to be able to show the IRS everything for that particular tax year.

    Keep all your receipts from the tax year with your tax paperwork. Oftentimes proof of a particular expense is all the IRS needs to happily close your case and move on. You want every receipt, every scrap of paper that was official evidence that you had an expense pertaining to your tax liability. If you wrote off gas mileage and the like, then make sure to keep that evidence handy as well. Gas logs are invaluable at times like these.

    How Long Should I Keep the Records?

    The statute of limitations (Admittedly that term sounds too officially criminal, but it just refers to the limit on the span of time for which the law can investigate and then try a person) is different in every state. For most of us it’s important to keep our tax records for five years—longer if you kept tax records for employees.

    If you have any questions about dealing with an IRS audit, or if you need accounting help in the coming year—Practical Taxes can help with payroll services, and full service, year-round accounting services—then make sure to call the tax experts at Practical Taxes. Remember, most times an IRS audit is nothing to be worried about, but you can have even more confidence when Practical Taxes guides you through.

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    Tax Bill

    Unless you have been hiding under a rock, or you pay as little attention to the news as possible, you would have heard that our Government—in particular the Republican Party in the Senate—is attempting a massive tax reform. It’s interesting and a little unsettling—the bill passed in the Senate, late at night, just hours after the almost 500-page document—parts of which were edited in pen and scribbled on the margins (taxes are a hotly contested and divisive topic right now!)—was given out to members of the Senate But this is the politics of tax reform. And what does the tax bill, at least at it stands today, mean for the rest of us?

    Ok, let’s only scrape the surface of this, focusing only on how a possible tax reform could affect the average person’s taxes. Regardless of the politics behind tax legislation—these days politics are a very, very divisive topic—remember that these numbers will likely—most definitely—change, at least somewhat, and nothing here is completely definitive (nor is it a sure thing) as this bill has only been voted on, and passed, in the Senate; but, the statistics, at least so far, are interesting to dissect. First, earners from across the board, including people who make only ten-thousand dollars every year on up to people making over a million dollars a year could see a possible tax cut in the first year that this bill gets enacted—2019. A good percentage of the people who make over forty-thousand dollars annually on up to over a million will see a tax cut—not everyone, but a good percentage. But—and here is where the legislation gets tricky—by the year 2027, those tax cuts, especially for the people earning under one-hundred-thousand dollars every year, don’t exist, and these people will be required to pay in on their taxes.

    No, the current discussion of tax reform will not affect this year’s taxes, which are coming up fast. Make sure to make your appointment with Practical Taxes and forego the anxieties involved with the tax season.

     

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    Marketing

    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.

    Flyers

    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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    Time To Start Thinking About Tax Season

    Happy Holidays! And, it’s only a few weeks’ time until the New Year begins, and tax season comes into full-swing. Some of you may have undergone some changes this last year, changes that will affect how you file your 2016 taxes. For instance, did you know that if you are married on or before December 31st, 2016, you will file jointly? You will file jointly regardless if you have been single for three-hundred sixty-four days of the year. How then will filing jointly affect your taxes? What if you purchased a home, or had a child? These major events will have impacts on your taxes. Here’s what to expect from these changes during this upcoming tax season.

    Filing jointly may affect the tax bracket to which your taxable income is determined. Both you and your spouse may be bumped into a higher tax bracket with the combined income. While this can be seen as a negative, there are a few positives as well. Because you are now married, both of you will be able to now claim the other as an exemption. The deduction is double that of someone filing as single. Children are a major deduction on your taxes. Remember that if you are married, you should have these changes reflected on your W-4.

    Also, if you have bought your first home this year that will greatly affect your taxes. Conversely, if you have sold a home in the last year, this will also affect your taxes. The interest you pay on your home can be deducted at tax time.

    If you are married, it’s important to determine which deduction—standard vs. itemized—will best suit you at tax time. The standard deduction may be better for those who don’t own their own home, and have very few deductions. However, when you own your own home, deductions such as mortgage interest are valued as higher deductions than what is standard.

    We hope you had an excellent 2016, and when you are preparing your 2016 taxes, Practical Taxes will be ready to help you through them.

    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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    What if We Told You that You Can Save $1,000 Easily?

    Saving money doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, by making some very slight lifestyle tweaks you can save a significant amount of money. The key is to make the adjustments small enough so that you don’t even notice them; cut expenses on the things you hate paying for (like car insurance and cell phone bills). Then live more comfortably knowing that you’re money isn’t going to things that don’t bring you enjoyment. Here are 12 ideas from your Aurora accountant to get you started. If you then think of 3 more you will be well on your way to financial freedom.

    Skip Eating Out for Lunch

    Instead of dining out every day of the week when the noon meal rolls around, do it just once a week, then brown bag home-prepared food for the rest of your work days.

    Just Drink Water

    Aside from the fact that water is the healthy, staying away from flavored drinks and pop will help you save quite a bit of money. Drinking a pop per day can add up to over $350 per year.

    Goodbye Car Wash

    Rather than bringing your car to the car wash, why not make washing the car an additional chore? If you have kids, sign them up and make car washing a weekly family chore. If you have to, you can bring your car to the car wash just once a month, instead of once a week.

    Groom your dog.

    You love your pet, right? So show him/her by personally washing your pet instead of taking him/her to the groomer every time. If nothing else you can increase the time between grooming.

    Brew Coffee at Home

    We all know how easy and convenient it is to buy ready-made coffee from those coffee shops that are just everywhere. You can choose to continue with this coffee-buying attitude or you can try brewing your own coffee for a change, and for the better. Sure, you can treat yourself occasionally but if you’re determined to save up, you’ll be surprised at how much you can save by making your own coffee.

    Get Your News Online

    Are you still subscribed to the local newspaper? If yes, consider discontinuing your subscription and catch up on local, international and all kinds of news online instead.

    Do Your Own Nails

    Rather than paying someone else to do your nails for you every time, learn to do it yourself and save some bucks in the process.

    Exercise for Free

    Still paying for gym membership? Time to drop it and exercise on your own. There are so many articles and videos about exercise. Take some time to go over those that relate to the type of exercise you have in mind, then get work out your body based on the information you got.

    Go Generic

    When you experience some minor but common discomforts like headaches or migraines, you don’t always need to buy name brand medicine. If it’s just a simple headache, a generic aspirin can likely make the pain go away just as well as a branded aspirin. Some generic products are just as good as their brand name counterparts, but others (usually foods) aren’t quite up to snuff.

    Negotiate your Car Insurance

    Car insurance is one of those things that you have to pay for. If you want the luxury of driving a vehicle, you have to maintain insurance in case something bad happens. But how many of us have taken the time to actually go over our insurance lately? There is a good chance that you are overpaying your premiums. A 30 minute phone call with your agent could save you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars per year.

    Downgrade your Cell Service

    Do you really need that $90 monthly cellphone service? Are you able to use it up or is part of it always getting wasted because your phone usage doesn’t really go that high? Maybe it’s time you reviewed your phone consumption and get a lower plan — one that actually fits your cellphone habits. Most major carriers have switched to plans based on data usage. It’s as simple as a 15 minute call to save $30 per month.

    Find other ways to relax.

    Getting a massage is always a treat. But do you really have to do it every week? There are many other ways to relax. Find a relaxation technique that you can do for free. From healthy eating, to exercising at home, there are ways to relax without expense.

    Bonus: Cut the Cable

    With so many online streaming options for television, do you need to be paying $60 per month for TV that is turned off most of the day? Cut back to Netflix and Hulu and you could save $40/month. That’s an instant savings of $480 per year by getting rid of something you’re not using anyway.

    Practical Taxes is Here to Help

    We want to make sure that you are financially healthy. By offering our online tax preparation services to the Aurora, Colorado area, we are helping thousands of people to be able to afford the services of an accountant, and ultimately get a bigger refund than they would have on their own. That refund can help jump start your emergency fund, bolster your retirement savings, or let you splurge on one of the things above that we just told you to cut out.

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    Property Taxes

    Property Tax

    Property taxes are beneficial because they support many of our community’s public services. Property taxes can support schools, police and fire, parks services, and street maintenance.  But, because most people pay different, varying sums in property tax, it can be confusing to know if you are paying your fair share, or too much.  The following is the how/why of property taxes.

    Tax Assessments

    Tax assessments are the basis for all property tax. These assessments are based on how much a home is worth. Usually, the higher a home’s value, the higher it’s property taxes. This is something to consider if you are planning to trade-up for a new home, know your property taxes will likely be assessed at a higher rate, because the new home possesses a greater value. This could also be true of the neighborhood, if the other houses in the neighborhood are considered to have considerable value. That value will likely be figured into the assessment of your new home (even in the case of buying a less expensive home in a neighborhood). The reasons for this is that a tax assessment is conducted by an assessor who groups together comparable homes, comparing all the home’s in the value range, and comes up with a tax figure that they determine to best assesses the home’s value. It’s a process akin to a home appraisal, however everything, including neighborhood, etc. is put into consideration.

    Appeal your Property Tax Rate

    It’s not unheard of to appeal your property tax rate. There’s formal processes for those folks thinking that the assessor may have missed something in determining a home’s value. Reasons for appeal are varied, but the most common could include: incorrect assessments of the home’s square footage, missing something like an addition, or possibly even incorrectly determining the number of bedrooms within the home. It’s times like these your accountant is ready to help you get through the appeal process. You can hire also a home appraiser, who may come in, and do a private assessment as to a home’s value.

    If you find yourself struggling with property taxes, or just have tax questions in general, give us a call today.

    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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    How Saving Energy can save you on your Taxes

    In the current wake of drought, the dire predictions of global warming, and the ever-expanding population, the talk of energy efficiency is becoming more prevalent.  There are no immediate answers yet, however what we do know is that many of our appliances, our vehicles, etc. directly contribute to green house gas emissions.  Newer appliances, however, are being built to perform to higher standards of energy efficiency.

    How Saving Energy can save you on your Taxes

    Everything from washers and dryers, water heaters, kitchen appliances, etc. each year seem to supersede the appliances that came before.  To install new appliances throughout the home, however, is expensive, although it will help to lower the cost of a homeowner’s energy bills.  The government offers the Residential Energy Efficient Property Tax Credit, and the Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit.

    How Saving Energy can save you on your Taxes

    Residential Energy Efficient Tax Credit

    The Residential Energy Efficient Property Tax Credit involves modifications to one’s home that are considered energy efficient.  These updates include the use of solar, wind, geothermal, and, in some cases, fuel-cell technology.  To qualify for the upgrades, upgrades need to be in direct use with the home. The electricity generated from solar power should be responsible for powering the home.  The credit to be issued at tax time is the equivalent of 30% of the cost of the improvement—this includes the cost of installation, which for items like solar panels can be quite costly.

    Nonbusiness Energy Property Tax Credit

    This is where some of your appliance purchases, etc. can qualify for tax credits.  This could include everything from new home insulation to a new electric water heater.  However, there are qualification requirements for the appliances. While these are not often advertised by companies, you may call the companies themselves and ask if they are participating, and, if so, with which models.  The recouped costs of the tax credit is 10%, or, if you have already participated in this tax credit, $500 for all the years combined.

    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 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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