Ann Hartz’s Nine Key Questions That Could Affect Your 2019 Tax Bill

Ann Hartz’s Nine Key Questions That Could Affect Your 2019 Tax Bill

Well, here we are into December, the final month of 2019 — and the final month of this DECADE. A lot sure has changed, for you, for me, and for the world. But before we wax too retrospective, let’s sit where we are for a bit.

The December holidays are upon us.

And it’s also the time for another kind of giving: giving to yourself.

What do I mean by that? Well, it’s simple, really: take some time during the rush of these holidays and do SOMETHING to positively affect your tax bill.

Because the fact remains that anything done after 12/31/2019 won’t be able to help you, at least for 2019 (with a few tiny exceptions, like IRA’s, etc.).

So to that end, I thought I’d work to get you thinking a little, and ask you to consider the following questions, and if you realize you’ve had big changes this year … there might be some moves to make. Send us an email through the button at the top of the page if so.

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.

*****

1) Have you had a significant change in your 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 help to 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 are just a beginning (not an end), 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…

Warmly,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Happy Thanksgiving 2019 from Ann M. Hartz, CPA to your family

Happy Thanksgiving 2019 from Ann M. Hartz, CPA to your family

Imagine …

You are ripped from your childhood home while young and trafficked across the ocean to a country where you don’t speak the language. You are sold to practitioners of a religion that you don’t understand, and there is no apparent possibility of return.

Imagine …

You are quietly going along with your life, worshipping God the way you desire — and then the country you love treats you like you are a second class citizen, and tries to shut down your private expressions. So you band together with friends and family, and you get out of dodge and settle someplace else.

And then most of your friends and family die.

But then, coming out of wilderness walks a man who brings hope.

He is the same man who was ripped from his childhood home while young… and he is now approaching people from the very same country as those who stole his childhood.

And yet he comes in friendship.

The Spanish monks who purchased Squanto from his English slavers did so in a mission of restoration. They taught him languages, they set him free, and after a period of a few years (during which he also learned English), he made it back to his native land.

But his childhood tribe had been decimated by smallpox and was gone. He found his way to another tribe, the Wampanoag … who just so happen to be watching this new band of settlers — the pilgrims.

And Squanto and the Wampanoag help these English pilgrims survive their second harsh winter, and hope begins to arise.

These are the seeds of Thanksgiving.

Imagine …

You are leading a country in the middle of terrible war, one that is ripping families apart and causing bloodshed and death. And you reach towards this history, because you KNOW that no matter what kind of devastation might be surrounding you, the only way through it is to reach for gratitude.

Because when Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in 1863, he did so with the understanding that there is ALWAYS the possibility for hope on the horizon.

And this week, we would do well to remember these stories. To remember that no matter what we are facing, we can reach towards the example of those who have gone before us to find that hope, and move towards gratitude.

I hope you understand that we here at Ann M. Hartz, CPA are so grateful for YOU. We’re grateful for the opportunity to serve Des Moines , and to be a beacon of financial hope for our local families.

YOU are like family to us, and we look forward to walking with you through whatever might come in 2020, saving you on your taxes, and pointing you towards gratitude and joy whenever possible.

Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours.

Warmly,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

How Des Moines Taxpayers Can Avoid Fake Charities

How Des Moines Taxpayers Can Avoid Fake Charities

Is the holiday season indeed “the most wonderful time of the year”? One could make a strong argument.

However, for every gift we receive there are 10 or so emails asking us to give to a cause. Whether online or via snail mail, charitable organizations capitalize on the season’s tax-reducing giving benefits.

No one can blame these organizations — it’s people like me who help their donors (YOU) realize that their (your) tax bill can be reduced, and giving can be amplified as such. Many of these orgs are doing great things.

But there are some out there who do send year-end appeals with mail-icious intent. (See what I did there?)

Yet if you know a few key signs to look for, Des Moines scam artists don’t stand a chance. But they can be tricky!

Here’s how to tell…

How Des Moines Taxpayers Can Avoid Fake Charities

“To do more for the world than the world does for you — that is success.” -Henry Ford

An unfortunate reality: fake charities abound in this country. Many individuals set up nonprofits for the sake of financial gain — and some are really good at the disguise. Charity Navigator is a simple online tool to look up the validity of various charities (or lack thereof).

The Fraud Advisory Panel has a plethora of resources for you to thumb through should you wish to learn more.

Contact Authorities

If you come across a charity that you know is a scam, the IRS recommends the following:

  1. Don’t reply.
  2. Don’t open attachments. They might carry malware that will affect your computer or phone.
  3. Don’t click any links. (If you have in the recent past, visit IRS identity protection for further steps to take.)
  4. Forward the scam email, preferably with its full headers (to, from, subject, etc.), to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
  5. Delete the original email.

Seek Real Causes to Support

The nature of my thoughts today make it sound like you should always be skeptical. And that’s true … to an extent.

Like I said earlier, there are MANY out there who are doing great work through legit nonprofits. That’s why it’s a shame this season gets sullied by a bunch of people seeking money for illegitimate reasons. But my advice to you is to dive personally into a nonprofit or two throughout the year. Don’t let November or December roll around, only for you to give money to an organization you don’t know much about.

Attend an event, ask your close friends and make your support a year-long process.

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” – John Bunyan

So consider giving this holiday season.

Warmly,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

A Trusted Des Moines Professional’s Thoughts For Your 2019 Taxes

A Trusted Des Moines Professional’s Thoughts For Your 2019 Taxes

November is a wonderful start for holiday season with several traditions to match: pumpkin-spiced everything, no-shave November (apologies to those spouses affected), watching football and of course … Thanksgiving.

Sorry to poke my accountant’s green shades into all those festivities, but it also happens to be a perfect time to strategize. (Add that to your new November “traditions” list.) We’re going to look at five key tax moves you can make it in November. Before we know it, spring will bloom and you’ll be glad you read this.

But just reading/talking about these moves is one thing — acting on them is what will save you money in the future.

Now THAT’S a tradition worth celebrating no matter the month.

Please reach out to me so that we can start implementing some of these strategies ASAP. You bring the latté; I’ll bring the game plan.

A Trusted Des Moines Professional’s Thoughts For Your 2019 Taxes

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” -Theodore Roosevelt

In Q4, we often strategize for our 2019 taxes. But this is also a vital time to take 2020 into consideration. Don’t wait until January 1 to make some sort of new year tax resolution. We all know how those end up most of the time.

Instead, let’s get a jump start on this year and next. The first step is to determine your income thus far in 2019, then forecast what that number will be by year’s end. Once you have that number, we can decide what 2020 will look like (More? Less? The same?) — and strategize accordingly. Doing this allows us to defer and/or accelerate write-offs. I’ll help you get this process started!

Itemized vs. Standard Deductions

The two-year strategy also allows you the option to itemize or use larger standard deduction amounts. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) 2019 standard deduction is $12,200 for single filers and twice that amount if filing as a married couple.

There are a few more strategies to look at when it comes to deductions. And we’re best served sitting down together to discuss your unique tax situation.

Focus on Form W-4

The TCJA certainly shifted tax rates and income amounts taxed beneath those rates. Unfortunately, many were not ready for the refund they received last spring because they were unaware of rate changes.

In an effort to adjust your expectations, this IRS withholding calculator will take your paycheck and provide a more accurate forecast for the spring. This is a crucial move in November because we can get a sense of what paycheck changes need to happen now — there’s still time to spread paychecks out moving forward.

Invest in Your Health

Many Des Moines companies offer a medical flexible spending account (FSA), and if you’re one of those lucky individuals it’s time to schedule that doctor appointment. Many FSA accounts require that the money saved is spent by December 31, so don’t hold onto that cash too long.

‘Tis the Giving Season

Naturally, November and December present a big push for nonprofit + charitable giving opportunities. If you aren’t factoring how these giving strategies could affect your tax strategy, then we must meet to discuss why it’s so important. However, if taxes are the only reason you’re giving to a charity, I might suggest you rethink “why” you give.

If there are no organizations on your radar, do some research in your area. It’s vital to support Des Moines local businesses, and therefore communities, with the money that’s been entrusted to you.

And there you have it! There are certainly more November tax strategies, but these are a good start. Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be more than happy to start a conversation.

Until then, may we prepare our stomachs for the Thanksgiving feast. And more than good food and drink, may we look for ways we can serve others in need — so that we can all truly give “thanks” this holiday season.

Warmly,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Ann Hartz’s Tips For Using Credit Cards And Avoiding Credit Card Debt

Ann Hartz’s Tips For Using Credit Cards And Avoiding Credit Card Debt

Do you remember that old Visa commercial? It had quite a run during sporting events about a decade ago … everything in the restaurant/market is running smoothly — chefs are shipping up meals, customers are moving in an orderly fashion, credit card payments are keeping the line short, and then…

…the main character pulls out his wallet, thumbs for some CASH and ruins everything.

Credit cards are now so woven into the fabric of our society, it’s hard to imagine the slower, cash-centered society of yesterday. And with smartphones constantly evolving into new kinds of app-based payment systems on their own, the process is accelerating further.

Money can start to become mere numbers on a computer screen. And that’s when things can get really out of control for many Des Moines families.

So managing all of this — especially the credit card accounts — has become a more essential skill than ever.

Ann Hartz’s Tips For Using Credit Cards And Avoiding Credit Card Debt

“To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.” – George Washington

Let me say off the bat: it is not a bad thing to own multiple credit cards. However, if you possess multiple credit cards that you rarely touch, it’s time to pare down. Signing up for in-store credit cards, for instance, to capitalize on savings and rewards is okay if you shop there often.

But please consider credit cards only if you will use them on a regular basis. And then set a budget for each one.

Psychologically, buying things with a credit card is a cinch — all you do is run a piece of plastic through a machine. But before you know it, all that swiping adds up to a heaping amount of debt. In 2018, the average American household possessed an average of $5,700 in credit card debt.

An unfortunate statistic, but something we can take steps toward alleviating if we stick to a regular budget. Here is a list of the best online budgeting tools (but if you use one, make sure you check and update it on a weekly basis):

Whichever option you choose, consider downloading the app to your smartphone (available on all three resources listed). The more you get in the habit of checking your credit card spending, the better handle you will have of your money.

Rewards and Reports

Credit card reward systems have redefined financial strategy for countless Americans over the last decade. Many credit cards offer cash back, discounts or other free rewards in exchange for the amount you swipe. If you are going to swipe a credit card, at least make it count with a certified system.

Lastly, running a regular credit report is essential if you have any credit cards on file. Visit Annual Credit Report to have the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — run a credit report for you today. A credit report will tell you how many delinquencies you have against your credit (i.e. how late you are to pay credit card pills) and your debt-to-credit ratio.

This is much more than “knowing your score” — which many platforms now provide. It’s a way to verify that you don’t have extraneous accounts piling up, and that you are also not getting victimized by account or identity theft.

When you adhere to credit card budgets, rewards and reports, you are well on your way to managing the plastic. Because the amount of credit card debt has soared so high over the years, credit cards often receive a bad rap. But, like many facets of adulthood:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Funny how a little rectangular piece of plastic can have so much power over your life, and that’s why you should use it wisely — at your discretion. The benefits of credit card use can be vast: track spending, maintain a credit score or receive cash back.

But if they are causing out of control spending … it’s a smart idea to just kill them altogether. Go full-on Dave Ramsey before you find yourself buried.

The main thing is to keep yourself in check, and stay that much closer to wise spending.

Warmly,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

« Previous Entries