Your Taxes - Rip-off Tipoffs
By: Pam ~
It is that wonderful time of the year again! Taxes, Taxes, Taxes! In my view, it is an annual event to look at past activity to answer why I am currently in the good (or bad) position I am in now. Many folks actually go through some very real anxiety and traumas at this event. We all have our different ways to cope.
• Filing or not filing
• Use your own software or hire outside help
• Locate backup documents
• If filing, get it out correctly and on time.
• If not filing, rehearse a good story to tell the IRS, if that should come up.
On the negative side, I am never surprised at the far out stories I hear about the frauds, motives and lifestyles that occur in order to reap benefits from the US Treasury. Because behind it all, this activity usually involves the same components such as:
A perfect combination for fraud, deception and personal gain.
This article will concentrate on how to create your own path for getting the tax issue resolved, and that you feel you have presented the best return you can. Tax filing is a part of life whether you are on the right side or the wrong side of reporting.
Let’s Get Started
The following is a good article. It shows one of the reasons filers will take a high interest, short-term loan based against their anticipated refund amount. I am personally amazed!
It shows one of the reasons tax return filers will take a high interest, short-term loan based against their anticipated refund amount. I was shocked! However, it may be viewed as a “predatory practice”, is it any different from the same mindset of those who use the rapidly growing check cashing or advance on payroll services that are already established? The only difference I see is that a tax refund is basically money due to the consumer, whereas check-cashing services are loans against the consumers themselves, usually with minimal resources to repay.
Though this next link is an ad, it shows some interesting warnings on using outside tax prep firms.
Remember the question to ask yourself when using an outside firm or individual:
What is in it for me? How do they profit on this service from me? Need counseling or strategy? Remember these types of firms are using people who most likely had a course in Tax Prep 101. It is a “surface knowledge”. Meaning, if you have items and activity that are beyond a 1040-EZ or 1040-A, you are on a wish and a prayer that they will know how to deal with exemptions, depreciation, different forms of interest, income, or expenses. They just usually do not have beyond basic skills and minimal practice.
So, whether firm or individual, are they licensed? Do they have a business license? Do you find any controversy on the internet about them?
I recently saw a show that used these three ways to shop for tax preparation.
Turbo Tax or Quicken – The upside is that you provide the software and the data. It will prompt for questions. It is low cost, has good history. Your personal information stays in house (except for the IRS). You know what your refund or balance due based on formulas within the program. The downside is that you have to be personally aware of all facets of your financial activity, meaning, did you buy or sell property, change in household activities, depreciation, business based activity or write-offs.
Tax Prep Service or Individual – How current are they with changes in state or federal tax laws? What is their limit of knowledge for how to treat important items on your return? How will they charge? How long has the person who will be preparing your return had with personal taxes? I have worked with finance and accounting individuals who actually get a glaze over their eyes when looking at their own personal tax reporting needs. They send them out for preparation by a CPA or tax preparer because it is just not an activity they are proficient or comfortable with. What is the preparer’s COMPLETE FEE? Look for hidden costs such as enrollment fee, review fee, limit on talk time, etc. You want this knowledge before you hand over any documents or money. Even if they charge different fees for different Schedules, you want the total fees disclosed upfront.
CPA or Accounting Firm – This is my personal preference in the years of my life that involved multi state, a corporation, wage and divorce. I knew I was above my head in these years. Too much going on! A CPA will usually employ a bookkeeper or such that handles the prep of the documents (You should be given an Organizer to collect your documents, fill out basic information). The CPA should be current in his or her knowledge of tax laws and changes. You should feel comfortable with who you hire. Not necessarily warm and fuzzy, but comfortable enough to ask questions. You should get a price upfront, as well as the turnaround time.
This article is a recap of what we’ve discussed, but it adds a few more questions and concerns.
Some other interesting news that may apply:
During tax time, you will likely see an increase in the advertising of tax firms via the internet or cable. The rules still apply. Follow their links and phone numbers to see if they are just a “front business” looking to get your credit and personal information or even “who” and “where” are they are licensed as a professional tax preparer.
Identity theft is huge during the tax process, whether you prepare on paper, e-file, or third party involvement. Cyber security, hackers and internet predators are having a field day. I recently saw a show that profiled that hackers trying to infiltrate the IRS data banks are approximately fifty percent (50%) successfully getting filers information via the internet. So whoever you use, how secured are they? And how about your information that you provide?
Investments offering special tax breaks or free points, etc. are also booming this time of year. This gets us back to the combo of human behavior that is, “power, greed and opportunity” which we already touched on. We live in evolving times. Some items are not pleasant. So check yourself. Nothing regarding any aspect of taxes is for FREE!!
Wedding $$ Woes
By: Pam ~
The plans for your “forever after” event are now beginning. The people, location, budget, expectations and ceremony aspects are under planning. Because there are many websites and blogs that discuss how to plan for this event to go smoothly, let us take another aisle to walk down. When good things go bad.
I have found through my own experiences and those of others, the pitfalls are never given a serious thought because “what could go wrong”?! This is not a doom approach, but rather a common sense, approach to issues not even on the radar screen until……
In actuality, the planning and budgeting of a wedding gives a good view of how the two parties view their finances and plans. How the discussions go regarding this one event will most likely create a template on the attitudes and behaviors of the couple’s future views and expectations of future events and planning. Later into the marriage, the cake gets stale, the flowers wilt, and the glaze is removed from the eyes of the two. How, why, when and with what emotion, can the two parties plan their event, monies and expectations? The wedding is just a litmus test.
How much dependency will be put on the couple’s family and friends? Does mummy and daddy have an endless wallet that is open to you for this event? They want the very best for their child. However, is it open knowledge that this is a onetime “finance” event? Is there a payback involved? Does this create an unexpected expectation to think the parents should or will be there for the future? Remember you are marrying into a different person’s values, ethics, mores and expectations! You may be loved now, but after the first disagreement…….
This can even be applied to who you will invite. Is there pressure to keep adding to the list, or is there a set number based on a budget? Are guests being asked for gifts of money and that is the source of funding the event? What if they pull out at the last minute? Do you know if you have large food appetites coming, in which you need to price additional food? How about the bar? No alcohol, wine and beer only, or a full bar?
Are you able to stay pleasant but firm to deny the “extra” friends and family that want to come? Along that line, the troublemakers? Your budget needs to stop swinging from end to end, like a pendulum as you get closer to preparing for services. On the up side, that affords you the default answer of “I’m sorry but we have already made our budget”. That only works if one side is not prone to caving in.
This topic has greatly changed through the years. It is no longer a choice limited to “home” or “church”.
This is also called the venue. The venue can take on a life of its own. Unless it is the simple setting, most venues require that you either tie into or meet the requirements of the particular venue. It is important to qualify the venue’s requirements because it could influence any personalized efforts you are trying to make. Again, this allows you to take your time and shop for the best, most convenient, or best-timed venue.
Public facilities definitely have restrictions and liabilities. Reception halls, destination weddings as well as private settings all have their own quirks to safety and liability. Need to check this out. It is not their first rodeo! Ever think you would need an insurance policy rider for your wedding? Well…
So destination weddings. Here is a popular trend. The “judge shows” are full with this topic on their show. Are guests to pick up a portion of this cost? Airfare, lodging, amenities, liquor license? What is the refund policy to them or you for “no shows”? Do you get dinged for this? Is it to all go through one credit card? How and when can you get refunds? Full or partial, for what reason or method? There is such a big trend in DIY (do it yourself) weddings. I think that is a great trend. It allows the two parties to express themselves and their wishes. In doing so, in any event, its participants, providers and activities still need to be looked at as a business event when it comes to money.
Let us talk Money
So, how do you fund a DIY responsibly or realistically?
Who pays for what? In what proportion? Since the two parties are not yet usually not a legal union, who puts their name on what portion? Who has the better credit rating or access to funds? In what proportion should there be an agreement?
Refunds – How to obtain? Under what circumstances and conditions? This will involve a good review of your contract (or expectations with another party).
- If the weather changes, adversely
- If the guest list changes from the inception of the contract
- If the vendor goes out of business
- If the wedding has an urgent need to be postponed
- Can the rings be returned
- Under what conditions can the dresses or tuxedos be returned
- Does the budget include tax and gratuities
- If elopement turns out to be the best option after plans are set
To turn a deaf ear to the “what ifs” can cause compounded problems. However, all of this begins a reality based discussions and forecasting for the two, to see how they view things. The wedding is only the beginning. A marriage needs a good, healthy and realistic basis for the two to come to some basis in which they start the communication process.
That’s the Good Stuff!!