Ann Hartz’s Take On Bad Predictions By Experts

Ann Hartz’s Take On Bad Predictions By Experts

Well, we’re staring into the fresh light of 2019 — and that means that we can now take a good, dispassionate look back at our progress towards what we were aiming for in 2018. Which leads to the big question: How was your 2018?

I often believe that reviewing your year is better than setting goals — because resolutions are so often and easily ignored, that laughing at them has become an internet meme.

But reviewing where you’ve been, and how what actually happened for you might fit into your long-term vision (i.e. not just within the micro-span of one year), can reveal to you missed opportunities, good (and bad) choices, and the kinds of life-rhythm adjustments you can make. And these can be even more powerful than goals … because you already have the “lab results” of 2018 from which to base a change.

I would caution you not to play the blame game with anyone but yourself, if things didn’t go the way you would want. You are the only thing you can truly control, after all.

So review your year, and let’s figure out how we can work together to help you change what’s needed, and amplify what worked well.

I also know that we are “enjoying” a healthy dose of expert opinion this week, making predictions for the new year. But here’s the thing: history is littered with the detritus of bad predictions made by individual experts.

I prefer the wisdom of crowds, markets, trends and real-world statistics.

Well, in light of all those who are predicting this and that about the political, economic, and cultural landscape, I thought I’d provide a bit of a light-hearted takedown of “expert opinion”. These are some of my favorites…

Ann Hartz’s Take On Bad Predictions By Experts

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” – Scott Hamilton

“The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.”
-Sir William Preece, chief engineer at the British Post Office, 1878

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?”
-H.M. Warner, Warner Bros., 1927

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
-Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

“Television won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”
-Darryl Zanuck, 20th Century Fox, 1946

“The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000 at most.”
-IBM executives to the eventual founders of Xerox, 1959

“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
-Ken Olsen, founder of mainframe-producer Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

“No one will need more than 637 kb of memory for a personal computer — 640K ought to be enough for anybody.”
-Bill Gates, Microsoft, 1981

“Next Christmas the iPod will be dead, finished, gone, kaput.”
-Sir Alan Sugar, British entrepreneur, 2005

Oh, this from a 1995 NYT book review of a book telling everyone how technology really wouldn’t change the world:

“In the electronic library of the future, you won’t be able to browse through the stacks, although, [the author, Clifford Stoll] adds, given the immensity of the task, the prospect of digitizing all books is probably beyond realization. The flow of bits can be surprisingly slow under certain circumstances. Even the dream of video on demand is unrealizable, [Stoll] writes. ‘It’s a surprisingly tough engineering job, keeping a thousand movies ready for instant retrieval.’ “

from a NYT review of “Second Thoughts on the Information Highway” by Clifford Stoll, Doubleday, 1995

As computer scientist Alan Kay said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Ann M. Hartz, CPA’s Holiday Prayer

As you probably know if you are paying any kind of attention to events OUTSIDE of Des Moines (which, this week, you’d certainly be sane if you DIDN’T pay attention to the national news), the government is in “shutdown mode”.

This means that unless the President and Congress can come together on a budget agreement, a slew of government agencies will be minimally staffed (which might even affect us here in Des Moines), and all kinds of things will be affected — not least of which will be the 800,000 or so federal employees who will be going without pay. We’ll keep you posted.

As for the IRS itself, we’re hearing noises (though nothing definite) that the filing season might be affected, at least in terms of refunds. Certainly there will be no refunds being issued DURING the shutdown, because the agency will be restricting itself to actions that are “Necessary for the Safety of Human Life or Protection of Government Property The Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 amended the Anti-Deficiency Act.”

We can spend days sorting through what that actually means, but basically these are IRS activities that help the agency collect money, as best it can in shutdown situations, to keep the rest of the federal government going.

And without going into a list, there are plenty of things the IRS will NOT be doing during a shutdown, specifically those “regular, ongoing functions whose suspension would not pose an imminent threat to life and property.” Basically things that the IRS has determined aren’t key to the agency’s job of collecting taxes.

So that’s that, I suppose.

But even within this holiday season full of conflict and shutdown, I’m ever more encouraged to see outside of my own situation, and practice empathy for those around me — both here in Des Moines and around the country.

And as the years go along, I’m increasingly aware of how this holiday season is a time of joy for many, as well as a time of pain for a significant portion of my contacts as well. Missing loved ones, loneliness, and pain can sometimes be the most prominent decorations of this season, and if that’s the case for you, know that you are not alone, and that you are loved and appreciated.

And not just by us here at Team Hartz, but undoubtedly by more people than you could possibly imagine. THAT is the bottom-line, real-world truth, whether you believe it or not right now.

So it’s fitting that I would leave you today with my annual holiday prayer. May it ever be true in our lives…

Ann M. Hartz, CPA’s Holiday Prayer

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.” -St. Augustine

“God, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

“Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

“Remind us, Lord, that the scary-looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares …

“Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slowly through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

“Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love. “

Amen.

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

The Art of Connecting With Influencers by Ann Hartz

The Art of Connecting With Influencers by Ann Hartz

Hanukkah is behind us, and Christmas (with its associated slowdown) is just about a week away.

The world seems to quiet around that time, no matter your faith tradition, but here at Ann M. Hartz, CPA, these “holidays” are a bit of a misnomer. That’s because while we still seek very much to be present (if I can use that word) with our families, we can’t help but see the approaching freight train that we accountants call “busy season” barreling its merry way in our direction.

Even more to the point, “year end” is also hurtling at us with frightening speed, which is why I devoted last week’s note to some items you should consider before it is here (and past us). Just to sum up, I told you that you should perhaps…

1) Double-check withholding and estimated taxes.

2) Evaluate where you are with charity giving.

3) Be careful about mortgage moves.

4) Catch up on retirement savings.

5) Consider making large purchases before online sales tax fully kicks in.

6) Don’t forget to give tax-free gifts and use your FSA funds.

This is all “general” advice that you should consider. Every Des Moines person’s situation will be slightly different, and I don’t blame you if you want some guidance. In which case, give us a call: (515) 259-7779 (or send an email through the email button at the top of the page), and we can see if we have any open slots for some quick, year-end tax planning with you.

Oh, and one more “taxy” thing: The IRS JUST released mileage rates for 2019 (finally) and they can be found here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-issues-standard-mileage-rates-for-2019

Now, I have been pretty “tax heavy” of late, by necessity, but I wanted to change my pace here a little. Because I know that so many of my Des Moines clients are soon to be swept up in the New Year’s “change yourself / change your life” momentum that January inevitably brings.

And a significant way that you can bring “change” to your personal or business world is to seek out, learn from, and connect with someone of influence.

Which is what I write about today. Thoughts welcomed.

The Art of Connecting With Influencers by Ann Hartz

“Family and friendships are two of the greatest facilitators of happiness.” – John C. Maxwell

As leaders, parents, workers and friends, we are ALL in the business of moving our ideas forward.

Some do it well, others poorly. And, I think it’s fair to say that those who are good at it do very well in whatever field they choose.

And one of the best ways to act on those ideas — or to learn how — is by connecting with influencers who are already implementing your idea well, and approach them for help.

Now though, when you first approach another person with a request for his or her time, it is essential that you know what it is you want to accomplish before you begin. Once that is clear in your mind, then you should do some homework about that person. Find out about his or her work, if you need to. Pull all the facts together in your mind.

When you finally meet with the person face-to-face, it’s important that you start the meeting talking about that person’s work. If you study the person’s work, you will likely find many positive qualities about what they are doing with their life and talents. Bring that information out into your conversation.

All people like it when their work is appreciated — but here’s the catch — what you say must be sincere, or the person you are trying to make a connection with will feel like you are working a tactic. No bueno.

Once you have spent some time discussing your genuine appreciation for his or her work, then you will have accomplished what you wanted: you will have opened the door to that person’s mind. He or she will be willing to listen to you — and will think you have a great personality.

When you have established all of this, lay out quickly what it is that you have come for. Be self-assured and sincere. Even if the person you have come to cannot do the thing for you that you are requesting, chances are he or she will make every effort to help you and get you to the person who can actually assist you in accomplishing your ends.

Influencers appreciate sincerity and directness. But they are also “real” people, and should be approached as such.

Do it right, and your cause (or even merely your own growth) moves forward.

I’m grateful for your trust, and for your referrals.

Until next week,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Six Key Year-End Tax Moves That Des Moines Folks Should Consider

Six Key Year-End Tax Moves That Des Moines Folks Should Consider

Do you see that train barrelling towards the station? The one with “2018” all over it? This calendar year is about to change in under three weeks, and most people I know couldn’t be happier about the fact.

But what that means for our Des Moines clients and friends here at Ann M. Hartz, CPA … well, ye olde clock is ticking LOUD.

And so this week, I thought I’d dive right in to our particular area of expertise and offer you some generalized considerations for the kinds of things that you can do NOW (i.e. in the next three weeks, before 12/31/18) that can ONLY be done now, and which will reduce your state and federal income tax bill.

Which is always a good thing.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in, shall we?

Six Key Year-End Tax Moves That Des Moines Folks Should Consider

“The work of the individual still remains the spark that moves mankind ahead even more than teamwork.”  – Igor Sikorsky

Firstly, I should say that the following moves that I suggest are intended as generalized advice — which is to say that your particular situation might call for different moves. As such, I am a bit restricted in how strongly I can make certain suggestions.

So shoot me an email through the button at the top of the page if you want to discuss a private tax planning appointment for these year-end tax moves, and we’ll see what is available. Or you can also call us: (515) 259-7779

All that aside, here are some possible tax moves to consider before 12/31/18…

1) Double-check withholding and estimated taxes. Because the individual federal tax changes can either be reducing or increasing your particular situation, it’s hard to know how the various changes will interact with the rate reductions. But, if you are at risk of incurring penalties for underpayments, consider increasing your withholding rate in your December paychecks or bumping up an estimated tax payment. The IRS offers a withholding calculator that can help you evaluate your situation: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator. Regardless, if you are behind, a big jump in your final withholding can reduce penalties (which are NEVER advisable).

2) Evaluate where you are with charity giving. If you are itemizing, and you plan to give year-end gifts, there are a whole host of strategies that can deepen your charitable impact AND more pronouncedly help your tax bill at the same time. Gifts of appreciated securities can be great because the recent tax bill (the TCJA) retained the “fair market value” deduction for charitable contributions of appreciated property (like stock and real estate), and you can still avoid capital gain tax on the appreciation when you contribute appreciated property to charity outright. That way, you can avoid part of the gain tax and defer the rest if you use the property to create a life income gift.

And if you have a big chunk to give, you can “bunch” your contributions and indicate that you want the contributions to count for more than one tax year — which helps the charity, and might help your FUTURE tax bills at the same time.

3) Be careful about mortgage moves. In the past, making an additional mortgage payment was an easy way to reduce your tax, but the new tax laws lowered the amount of debt taxpayers can use to claim a mortgage interest deduction — from $1.1 million to $750,000. But there are grandfathering rules for some pre-existing mortgages in that range, and we can help you if it applies to you.

4) Catch up on retirement savings. Contributions can still be made pre-tax, which reduces taxable income dollar-for-dollar. The 2018 contribution limits are $18,500 for qualified plans and $5,500 for IRAs, with additional catch-up contribution amounts permitted for taxpayers age 50 or over at the end of the calendar year. However, what did change was that we cannot “recharacterize” a Roth conversion after 12/31 … so let’s make sure you are clear on if you want the Roth benefits or not for your IRA.

5) Consider making large purchases before online sales tax fully kicks in. If you have some large items to purchase online, here’s a good place for you to look to determine when your state will begin to require sales tax for online purchases: https://taxfoundation.org/post-wayfair-options-for-states/. Many states kick in on January 1, but others already have.

6) Don’t forget to give tax-free gifts and use your FSA funds. Both of those options reset on 1/1/19, so remember that you can give up to $15K tax-free to individuals before 12/31. And if you have FSA funds to use, make sure you take full advantage before the year ends.

That’s all I have for now from a generalized point of view. Though, of course, I reserve the right to offer you MORE advice in the next couple weeks. 🙂

And if you want to get more granular about your particular situation, well, we’re only an email or phone call away.

Until next week,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

2018 Tax Planning Strategies Questionnaire For Des Moines Taxpayers

2018 Tax Planning Strategies Questionnaire For Des Moines Taxpayers

Wait, you thought I meant the holidays?

Ha. As much as I love Andy Williams, what I REALLY mean is tax planning season. That is to say, year-end moves. 🙂

And next week, I’ll give you some generalized moves you can make that can affect your tax bill (in positive ways only).

But the real reason I get excited about this month is that the inevitability of the calendar turning is upon us — we’re in the final month — and little alarm bells should be going off for you that there ain’t much time left to get ahead of the game.

(And yes, I said “ain’t”. I’m a tax pro, not an English major.)

You see, because as much as we enjoy unlocking the puzzle of forms, statements and spreadsheets that form the tax preparation process, what actually revs our engines is the feeling we get when the advice we’re able to offer, and the plans we craft, make a big bottom-line difference in the lives of our Des Moines clients.

Which might mean the difference between taking a vacation this year … or not. Or more, better gifts for the children over the holidays. Or maybe just that much more saved for college, retirement and weddings (my favorite).

This is the time to make and execute tax planning strategies for the end of 2018. So, take a moment to answer the questions below and email us your answers by using the email button at the top of the page. We’ll get back to you if there’s something you can do this month that would make a difference, or have you set a time to chat directly with us.

So, again, this isn’t our “official” tax preparation questionnaire, it’s simply designed to help us figure out if we can do something before year-end to make a real difference … before we can’t anymore. Please email us your answers to the below questions by clicking the email button at the top of the page.

*****

1) Have you had a significant change in your wage (or non-wage) income this year?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

2) Have you taken capital gains or losses this year? Are you planning to?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

3) Did you start or sell a business this year?

BONUS QUESTION: Do you know anyone who did, that would like input on their tax situation?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

4) Did you purchase real estate?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

5) Did you make your full contributions to retirement accounts?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

6) Have you considered a Roth IRA?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

7) Did you withdraw from retirement accounts, and for what purpose?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

**8) Have you sent your family and friends our way — and, if not, is there a way we can make this easier?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

9) Are there any other tax or financial (or other) issues you think we should know about?

<Put YOUR answer here in your email reply>

*****

Now — your answers to these questions form the “tip of the iceberg”, and they will help us to know which direction to take as we work with you over the next month to prepare for year-end. With your permission, we’ll contact you back, as appropriate, and set up a time to discuss them further with you, whether by phone or other method.

Hope to see you in here soon…

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

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