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An audit is scary. It’s an intimidating ordeal to experience, especially when you have never experienced one before. Imagine this: you receive the notice that you’ve been audited, and the information comes in a letter, cold and dry, black and white. But it’s not an uncommon experience, and the statistics are that about 1% of all tax payers will undergo an audit each year. That doesn’t sound like a huge number of people, but if you are someone for whom the IRS has deemed necessary to target for an audit, you should remember that your first and most immediate option is to call your experienced accountant at Practical Taxes. 

The main reason that an IRS audit is incredibly difficult and scary is that, when a person discovers they are being audited, it sounds as if they’ve done something wrong. But it’s very possible that they didn’t do anything wrong at all. The IRS even states that all tax documents are complex, and that the data they contain must be evaluated and sometimes evaluated with close precision to ensure accuracy. 

If you do discover that you are being audited the first step is to respond to the IRS’s letter. The next step is to contact your tax professional at Practical Taxes. You will need to compile all the necessary documents—everything (that’s why it’s so very important to keep all tax documentation for five years!). Interesting enough is that most audits are completed through the mail. Documents are sent back and forth, etc. Some problems are so small that they can resolved quickly and easily. But make sure before you send anything to the IRS that your accountant at Practical Taxes goes over the documents; you have rights in an audit, and you want to be sure that you have someone who has your interests in mind determine if there are any discrepancies. 

Don’t go through an audit alone. Practical Taxes is ready to answer your questions, help you review all your tax documents, and hopefully the entire audit process will be made a little bit less scary.

We’re a month or so away from the end of the tax season—yes, there are options for those who need an extension to file their 2018 income tax, and if you have any questions about how to file an extension, then call your tax professional at Practical Taxes—and this last month or so is incredibly hectic for many. Everywhere people are scrambling to gather the necessary materials: tax forms, receipts, mileage records, etc. And while it is a hectic time, try not to worry too much, just call your accountant at Practical Taxes and make an appointment to get those 2018 income tax returns filed. 

Make sure to gather together everything. If the IRS notices an omission on your 2018 tax returns that benefits them, they’ll likely contact you; if the IRS finds an omission that benefits you, it’s more than likely you’ll never hear about it from them. Look out for yourself; don’t omit anything; an audit is an especially difficult and trying thing to have to go through. Equally so don’t forget that stack of receipts, don’t forget the paperwork sent to you by student loan companies, mortgage companies, etc. 

Also, due to the recent tax changes, this tax year has been confusing for many. And if you are someone who has always filed his or her own income taxes, and you find yourself struggling to accurately file those 2018 taxes, then call the professionals at Practical Taxes. A qualified, experienced accountant could make all the difference for the 2018 tax season. 

Remember also that your accountant can go through your taxes and determine the best course of action for the 2019 tax season. If you don’t like what you see after this tax season, then your accountant will be able to advise you on the best course of action going forward. 

If you do still need to make an appointment with your tax professional at Practical Taxes to file those 2018 taxes, then make sure to call today.

There are two steadfast rules to know when you are experiencing a financial hardship and are unable to pay your taxes by the deadline. The first rule is that you should get in touch with the IRS immediately; the second is that you should speak with your accountant at Practical Taxes to determine the best course of action going forward. Remember the most pressing business is to notify the IRS, because they have deadlines, and when you cannot meet those deadlines they have policies in place to charge you a penalty or, in the most serious cases, use legal power to enforce the collection of the payment. A financial hardship is nothing to be overly ashamed about; an unexpected financial difficulty can happen to anyone. Here’s a few things you should know if you do have a financial hardship this tax season… 

The IRS offers ways to pay the tax debt, and the options for payment range from receiving an extension on the payment to entering into a structured payment plan. For the most serious cases, the IRS can offer a deferred payment or even a settlement of the debt, however these are special programs. Your accountant at Practical Taxes can help guide you through the repayment process; you don’t have to face the IRS alone, and your accountant may be able to determine if you qualify for a repayment program that could save you money. Before you enter into a repayment program, determine the amount you can afford to pay each month. 

Of course, before you determine whether or not you’re able to afford to pay the tax owed, you need to first file your income taxes. Tax Day is quickly approaching; the deadline is only a few short months away. Remember, February and March are busy months at your accountant’s office, and it’s best to make your appointment early: if there are going to be any difficulties in the completion of your income taxes or if you are going to need to enter a repayment or similar IRS special program, then you will have the time to plan.

When you travel for work you have expenses; you have to pay for fuel, lodging, food, etc. And most of the time those expenses are, without a doubt, considered tax-deductible expenses. But then there are those trips where you travel and you mix, unavoidably, your business needs with leisure. For an example, say you travel to California for work, but when work has concluded for the day you decide to take in a Dodger’s baseball game—tickets, hotdogs, etc.—and then the next morning you go back to work. What in that scenario is considered tax deductible? Here’s a few tips…

When you read the above scenario did you think that anything regarding the baseball game could be considered tax deductible? It’s likely given that straightforward scenario that the meal and drinks were absolutely tax deductible—you have to eat when you travel for work, and the IRS can’t determine where you can and can’t eat. Now consider the baseball game tickets. If you are at the ballgame purely for entertainment reasons then it’s likely that you would have a hard time explaining to the IRS why you are deducting those expenses from your income. But if you went to the ballgame to entertain a client then those tickets are likely to be deductible. Most of the time, when you travel for business, your tax deductible expenses are pretty straightforward, and you should never forget to document those expenses on your tax return at the end of the year.

Did you know that there are no gross income limits to how much a small business owner can deduct? But if you are an employee, and you don’t have your expenses reimbursed by your employer (Hopefully, your expenses for work are always reimbursed by your employer when you travel for work), you should be able to deduct those expenses as itemized miscellaneous deductions.

If you have any questions about tax write-offs, or how the tax professionals at Practical Taxes can help you and your business succeed, then call today.

If you don’t understand the significance of the October 15th extension deadline then chances are you have already filed your 2017 income taxes. But did you know that there are over fourteen million American tax payers who have not yet filed their annual return? It’s true. And while some of those people did not file for an extension, the bulk of that group did. And that deadline will soon be here. What happens if you miss the deadline? The IRS will charge you, monthly, a five-percent penalty until you file your income taxes. The penalty will increase monthly by five-percent, and the penalty will cap out at twenty-five percent. But, if you are owed a tax return by the IRS you owe them nothing. But the later you file the later you’ll get your refund. Bummer.

If you filed an extension, you made yourself known the IRS. All jokes aside, the IRS is not sifting through the one-hundred forty million tax payers who filed at the tax deadline. They know who you are and they are going to expect you to file your return. And if you need help filing that return—amazingly, only fifty-eight percent of people use a special tax preparer during the tax season, but over eighty-percent hire out for the professional experience of a tax preparer when they’ve requested an extension (oftentimes an extension means that there is a question or difficulty on the return)—remember that Practical Taxes is ready to help you file that return. Don’t let the IRS charge you more than they already plan to. And if you need help in paying any of the 2017 income tax there are options, and your experienced tax preparer at Practical Taxes can advise you as to the best way for you to pay.

If you have any questions regarding your 2017 tax returns, or if you would like to speak with a tax expert about any other tax question, then make sure to call Practical Taxes today.

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.

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.

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.

It’s becoming a popular thing to do: start up a small business, even a “micro” small business (consider the tiny online stores on the Etsy and Ebay websites). And the talk in Government is all about the encouragement of more small business; encourage the working man or woman to set out on their own, get a tax break in the process… And it’s true that owning a small business has considerable benefit to those willing to take on the responsibility: there can be great pride in building a business, pride in ownership, in being your own boss. But there are many overlooked costs and responsibilities that people may not consider when starting out on their own. Here’s a few.

Wait time and Cost of Licensure, Insurance, Registration…

Most folks consider the process of licensure when they start up the business, but not everyone considers the cost and scope of insurance; the cost and scope of insuring employees, or the liability of using contractors, operating on their own specialized license, in relation to the liability of the business.

Paperwork

Sometimes people get into business without any real foundation of the required paperwork—everywhere in business there seems to be paperwork—and to be bogged down and unprepared for the banal methods of paperwork can be costly for your business. You may want to consider hiring an accountant to help with payroll and other accounting jobs; Practical Taxes will ensure your annual tax liability gets handled smoothly. Did you know, for instance, that when you work for yourself there is a self-employment tax? Have you ever considered how much of your precious time will be taken away by employee background checks and payroll?

Unfortunately, even businesses built with the best of intentions don’t last long without proper financial planning. If you are planning to go into business on your own soon, or if you are still on the fence, considering it, remember that a quality accountant can help your business run smarter and more efficient. If you have any other questions as to how Practical Taxes can help your business, call today.

 

A great way to build wealth is to own a house. Now keep in mind that buying a house ajust because you think it’s the perfect investment is actually not the way to go. A house is a good investment, but there are better ways to invest that will earn a bigger return.

But what happens when you want to sell your house? Suppose you want something bigger, or maybe smaller. Perhaps you’re sick of maintaining your home and you want to move into a rental. Or you have been transferred out of state for your job. No matter what the reason for selling, there are tax implications of selling your house that you need to be aware of (don’t worry, your accountant in Billings, Montana will know the specifics; you just need to be aware).

Avoiding Taxes when Selling Your House

In 1997 the Taxpayer Relief Act was passed. This law provided a big relief to those who were selling their home and making a bit of a profit on it. Before the law was passed you had to reinvest those profits into another home (a bigger home) within a certain time period. Now you get a big break.

2 of the last 5 – The law states that if you have lived in the house, as your primary residence, for at least two of the last five years, then you can claim the capital gains exclusion when selling your house.

$250,000 to $500,000 – If you file your taxes as single, then you can profit $250,000 on the sale of your house and not have to pay taxes on the gains. If you are married, then you can profit up to $500,000 on the sale of your house.

Age is Just a Number – You can claim the capital gains exclusion no matter how old you are. You don’t have to be over 55 to get this.

Before 1997 it was pretty hard to sell a house, make a profit, and get away without paying the taxes. Now it is pretty easy to sell a house, make a profit, and not have to worry about paying taxes on the gains. But there are times when you still might owe.

When do You Pay Taxes when Selling Your House?

Not everyone can get away without paying taxes on the sale of their house. But you almost have to try hard to pay those taxes.

If you profit more than the exclusion allows, then you will owe taxes when selling your house. But the good news is that you don’t owe taxes on the full amount. For instance, if you are married, and you sold your house and made a profit of $500,100, you would only have to pay taxes on the $100 over the exclusion amount. There is more though. If you make over $200,000 per year, there is a Medicare tax imposed on the gains over and above the exclusion.

Keep in mind that you can only claim the exclusion for one house at a time. So if you sell your primary residence, you can claim the exclusion. But then if you sell your vacation home, you cannot claim the exclusion (because you weren’t living there for 2 of the last 5 years).

Taxes when Selling Your House

Still have questions about the tax implications when selling your house? Contact Practical Taxes today!