September 2007 Tax Newsletter

Major Tax Deadlines


For September 2007


September 17 – Due date for individuals to pay third quarter installment of 2007 estimated tax.
September 17 – Due date for filing 2006 tax returns for calendar-year corporations that had an extension of the March 15 filing deadline.
October 1 – Deadline for businesses to adopt a SIMPLE retirement plan for 2007.
NOTE: Businesses are required to make federal tax deposits on dates determined by various factors that differ from business to business.
Payroll tax deposits: Employers generally must deposit Form 941 payroll taxes (income tax withheld from employees’ pay and both the employer’s and employees’ share of social security taxes) on either a monthly or semiweekly deposit schedule. There are exceptions if you owe $100,000 or more on any day during a deposit period, if you owe $2,500 or less for the calendar quarter, or if your estimated annual liability is $1,000 or less.
Monthly depositors are required to deposit payroll taxes accumulated within a calendar month by the fifteenth of the following month.
Semiweekly depositors generally must deposit payroll taxes on Wednesdays or Fridays, depending on when wages are paid.
For more information on tax deadlines that apply to your business, contact our office


The Latest News in Taxes: IRS launches new audit program



Beginning next month, the IRS plans to audit about 13,000 individuals for tax year 2006 as part of a research project to update the Service’s audit selection process. Audits will focus on those parts of the individual’s tax return that cannot be verified through third-party information reports sent to the IRS.


If the program is extended for several years, as the IRS hopes, it will also provide information about the tax gap (the difference between taxes owed and taxes actually collected).




An HSA might be your solution to rising health care costs


Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are tax-sheltered accounts that, when combined with a high-deductible health insurance plan, allow a tax deduction for contributions made to the HSA. HSAs have been around for some time, but new legislation passed at the end of 2006 makes them an even more powerful tool with which to pay medical bills.

* Deductible contributions Essentially, the contribution to an HSA is deductible annually up to $2,850 if you’re single and $5,650 if you’re married. An additional $800 can be contributed if you are 55 or older.

These deductions help to reduce your current income taxes. Funds with-drawn from the HSA to pay medical bills are not treated as taxable income to you. It’s the best of all possible worlds: you receive a deduction for the contribution to the HSA and don’t have to recognize income when qualified medical payments are made by the HSA.


* Eligibility requirements In order to qualify, you must participate in a high-deductible health policy (HDHP). This simply means that the deductible on your health policy can’t be less than $1,100 for self-only coverage and $2,200 for family coverage.


These are minimum deductible limits, and you’re free to participate in a health plan with higher limits and still qualify for an HSA. However, the maximum out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles and co-payments, but not insurance premiums) can’t be more than $5,500 for self-only coverage or $11,000 for family coverage. All of the limits noted are for 2007; these limits will be adjusted for inflation in future years.


* New rules In addition to raising the HSA deduction limits, the 2006 legislation also changed two other rules.


You can now fund your HSA with IRA money. You can make a transfer of funds from an IRA to an HSA without realizing any income or penalties for such transfer.


Also, if your employer maintains a flexible spending account (FSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA), you can transfer these funds to an HSA. A transfer from an FSA could make a lot of sense when FSA contributions can’t be used up and would otherwise be lost.


In both cases, the transfer can’t exceed the annual contribution limits, and it can only be made once in your lifetime.


Many taxpayers will benefit from the changes in the HSA rules and should consider using an HSA to help control the cost of health care. If you need assistance in analyzing the use of an HSA in your situation, please call us.




How happy are your customers with your service?


According to a recent survey, 48% of consumers say that customer service is the biggest factor in creating loyalty to a company. 37% said it was product quality; 13% said it was price. Brand name or the company’s reputation was cited by the remaining 2%.


Is your business paying enough attention to customer service? If you need further convincing, take a look at the following:


* Satisfied customers tell five people about good service they receive. Dissatisfied customers tell ten people when they receive bad service.


* For every unsatisfied customer who complains, there are 26 other unhappy customers who say nothing. Of those, 24 won’t come back.


* The average company loses about 20% of its customers each year.


* Of customers who take their business elsewhere — 15% find cheaper products somewhere else. 15% find better products somewhere else. 65% leave because of poor customer service.




How to make the most of your deductible car expenses


Taxpayers generally may use one of two methods for computing business car expenses: the actual cost method or the standard rate method. The standard mileage rate may not be used in certain situations; the actual cost method may be used by any taxpayer.


* Standard mileage: With the standard mileage method, you simply multiply your business miles driven during the year by the IRS’s standard rate. The rate, which is set by the IRS each year, is 48.5¢ per mile for 2007. If you use the standard mileage deduction, you can also deduct related tolls, parking fees, and the business portion of interest expense on your car loan. (Interest expense is not deductible by employees.)


* Actual cost: With the actual cost method, you can deduct the actual expenses of operating the car for business. These expenses include gas, tolls, insurance, parking, repairs, maintenance, registration and license fees, loan interest (except employees), and depreciation.


* Recordkeeping Regardless of the method you select, you need records to support the deduction. You’ll need to keep track of your mileage under both methods, but the actual cost method requires more record-keeping than the standard mileage method.


Only the business portion of your total mileage is deductible. For example, if your business mileage is 15,000 and your total driving mileage is 20,000 this year, you can deduct 75% of your total automobile expenses if you choose the actual cost method. If you choose the standard mileage method, you multiply your 15,000 miles of business driving by 48.5¢ a mile and deduct $7,275.


* Tax impact You might be inclined to choose the standard mileage rate to simplify your recordkeeping, but before you opt for this method, consider the potential impact of each method on your tax bill. The price for using the mileage rate’s simplicity may be lost deductions. If you drive often or long distances for business, or if your car expenses are high, the alternative actual cost method may be better.


If it’s advantageous, you can switch to the actual cost method even if you started with the standard mileage rate. Be aware, however, that once you begin using the actual cost method on a vehicle, you can’t switch to the standard mileage deduction for that vehicle. In making your decision, you should consider how long you’ll keep the car and the estimated total tax savings under each method.


The rules governing business car deductions are full of exceptions and limitations. To be certain you use the method that’s right for you – and that maximizes tax savings – give us a call. We can review your situation and your options with you.




The Latest in Finances: Why going paperless is not always best


It can be convenient to cut out “paperwork” by conducting your financial activities online. But if you do your banking and your investing through online bank and brokerage services, your heirs may have trouble sorting through your finances once you’re gone.


Putting some information on paper – even in a world trying to go paperless – is probably a good idea. At least record basic information about your assets, the names of advisers, and the location of your estate planning documents. Include any other information your heirs will need in order to locate various things and to be able to follow your wishes concerning the disposition of your estate.




How do you choose between saving for retirement and your child’s college costs?


A college education. Retirement. What do these major life events have in common? One shared characteristic is that each comes with a price tag. Here’s another: If you have school-age kids, you might be facing the challenge of having to decide which goal to save for. They’re both important. So how do you make the choice?


Here are some suggestions that can help you reach a sensible solution.


* Eliminate excuses for not making a decision. Procrastination can be costly. For example, to accumulate $100,000 in five years, you’d have to deposit a little over $1,500 every month in an account that earns 4%. But with a ten-year time horizon, assuming the same return, you can build up $100,000 by socking away less than half that amount, or approximately $700 per month.


What you need to know: Estimate the total amount required for both goals, how much time you have, and how much cash you’ll need to set aside on a regular basis.


* Expand your resource horizon. Once you’ve computed the expense side of the equation, figure out how much you can afford to save. You may find that, with one pool of income and two goals, there’s not enough money to fully fund both goals.


But who says you have to pay for everything yourself? Turn an obstacle into an opportunity by searching out alternatives. For instance, while your income in retirement may be dependent in large part on your savings, there are plenty of options for paying college tuition.


Where to look: Investigate the possibility of advanced placement credits while your child is still in high school. Other potential sources of help include scholarship prospects, federal work/study programs, and summer internships.


* Adopt a flexible approach. Broadly speaking, you have three alternatives for divvying up your available savings between the two goals. You can save for retirement only, save for college only, or opt to do both.


Yet within each alternative are creative strategies. As an illustration, you could start out by saving strictly for retirement, shift toward saving for college when your child reaches a certain age, then switch back after graduation.


Caution: Be careful of falling into the deadline trap. It’s likely your kids will attend college before you retire. Since the tuition deadline is closer, you might be tempted to reduce or eliminate retirement plan contributions in the early years of your savings plan in order to focus on education savings.


But consider this: A typical retirement will generally last longer and cost more than your child’s education. By putting college tuition first, you could end up with less than you need in your retirement nest egg. Instead, take your overall time horizon into account.


For assistance with the numbers, give us a call.




That’s interesting


Looking back 100 years
Compare the following statistics for 1907 with today. What a difference 100 years makes!
* The average life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years.
* A three-minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.
* There were only 8,000 cars in the U.S. and only 144 miles of paved roads.
* Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more heavily populated than California.
* The average U.S. wage was 22 cents an hour.
* 90% of all U.S. doctors had no college education.
* The American flag had 45 stars. Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Alaska hadn’t become states yet.
* The population of Las Vegas was 30.
* There was no Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

The information contained in this newsletter is of a general nature and should not be acted upon in your specific situation without further details and/or professional assistance. For more information on anything in the ONLINE ADVISOR, or for assistance with any of your tax, business, or financial strategy concerns, contact our office.

Huddleston Tax CPAs of Seattle & Bellevue
Certified Public Accountants Focused on Small Business

(800) 376-1785
40 Lake Bellevue Suite 100, Bellevue, WA 98005

Huddleston Tax CPAs & accountants provide tax preparation, tax planning, business coaching, Quickbooks consulting, bookkeeping, payroll and business valuation services for small business. We serve Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Tacoma, Everett, Kent, Kirkland, Bothell, Lynnwood, Mill Creek, Shoreline, Kenmore, Lake Forest Park, Mountlake Terrace, Renton, Tukwila, Federal Way, Burien, Mercer Island, West Seattle, Auburn, Snohomish, Mukilteo, Seatac, Des Moines, Woodinville, Edmonds, Sammamish and Issaquah. We have a few meeting locations. Call to meet John Huddleston, J.D., LL.M., CPA, Lance Hulbert, CPA, Grace Lee-Choi, CPA, Jennifer Zhou, CPA, or Jessica Chisholm, CPA. Member WSCPA.