2019 Tax Planning and Almost Completely True Facts About Ann Hartz

2019 Tax Planning and Almost Completely True Facts About Ann Hartz

Yes, here I am again — and yes, I know the W-2’s haven’t arrived, and you might not have begun to really think about little ol’ Ann Hartz and your taxes yet. But today I want to offer you some reasons why … well, you should.

In fact, there are LOTS of good reasons.

For instance: get your refund sooner.

Yes — I’ve written before (and will again) of the many reasons why you don’t want to “allow” your hard-earned money to be held by the US Treasury Department on your “behalf” so that they can (oh so kindly) “refund” it back to you after you file your taxes. But not everyone listens. That’s okay.

And yes, if you’re due a big refund, you might even want it sooner — and we have options that can help you do that quick.

But there are other reasons too. Reasons like…

2) Peace of Mind. Get that paperwork monkey off your back. In fact, don’t EVER let it even be on your back. Let us do the heavy lifting.

3) FRAUD. Tax time is famous for criminals grabbing Des Moines identities and filing fraudulent returns. The sooner YOUR returns are filed means the less risk for someone to hack your information, and take YOUR money. Get ahead of the criminals.

4) Make plans for what you might owe. This is way less fun. But you know what’s even LESS fun? Scrambling to avoid penalties in a couple weeks (or even worse — days), because the return was filed in April … and you have to make fast decisions about a big number. Yikes. (But again — we’re here for you, even then. But it isn’t fun for anyone.)

5) To start early on 2020 tax planning. Let’s clear the deck ASAP and get you as clean a slate as possible to be proactive about this year’s taxes. 2019 is already in the rearview, but we can do things NOW to help.

6) Our calendar will be getting full. The sooner you get your stuff to us, the sooner we can do our thing. And as you’ll see in a moment, you WANT us on your side.

And you might be wondering: “Should I use Ann Hartz’s team for my taxes this year?”

Well, with apologies to a certain lawman based out of Texas named “Walker”, I have put together some very true, not-at-all-made-up FACTS which might help you answer that question.

2019 Tax Planning and Almost Completely True Facts About Ann Hartz

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Looking for reasons to use our services this year? Try these on for size. There is even a decent chance that at least some of them are true.

1) Ann Hartz does not sleep after tax season, but only waits.

2) When the IRS Man goes to sleep each night, he checks his closet for signs of Ann Hartz. Carefully.

3) Ann Hartz can lead a horse to water AND make it drink — and analyze a prior-year tax return at the same time.

4) Ann Hartz counted to infinity — twice. The IRS is still counting.

5) When Ann Hartz falls into the water, Ann Hartz doesn’t get wet. Water gets Ann Hartz. And all documentation is still preserved.

6) Ann Hartz CAN believe it’s not butter. Treasury agents think that it is probably butter.

7) Ann Hartz doesn’t read the tax code … but simply stares it down until the information submits.

8) Ann Hartz can divide by zero. Legally.

9) If you look closely, you can see Ann Hartz in every scene of Avengers EndGame. Captain America was grateful for the tax advice.

10) Ann Hartz has never blinked over the course of life. Never. Unlike the IRS when they pick up the phone and Ann Hartz is on the line.

11) Ann Hartz once fixed an incorrect tax return by 
simply looking at it. With eyes of fire.

12) Ann Hartz has never been “away” on vacation. Resort locations come to Ann Hartz. Even during tax season.

13) Ann Hartz never hides, but only seeks. And always on your behalf.

Don’t you feel better with Ann Hartz on your side? Only certain parts of this are actually true, of course. But I’ll leave it to you to figure out which parts.

And all kidding aside — I want you to know how deeply we appreciate the opportunity to serve you and your family with your tax work. With tax season coming at us, it’s important that I communicate that we are so grateful for the chance to put our very specific set of skills to work on your behalf.

We’re here to help. Let me know if you have any questions.

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA and Associates

Ann Hartz’s 2019 Tax Documents List

Ann Hartz’s 2019 Tax Documents List

The new decade is finally in full swing.

With big holidays the last couple weeks, you might be like me — this week is when the real work begins. The work of doing something NOW to start in on those goals for the year.

As I recently wrote: it’s not about the goals … intentions backed up by ACTIONS are what matter.

But wait — 2019 isn’t actually over yet.

No, I’m not stuck in the past. But hey there, it’s me, Ann Hartz — your friendly, Des Moines TAX professional.

And I hate to break it to you, but we’ll be reliving your 2019 decisions here in the next few months when we complete your tax return. I hope that’s not too scary of a thought.

The very good news (if you’re my client) is that my team and I have big sleeves, and lots of tricks up in them to keep your tax bill as low as (ethically and legally) possible. And yes, that’s even if we choose together to opt for the standard deduction.

Those who know, know.

Now, the start of actual tax filing will not begin until January 27th (this is UPDATED from last week). That means that the IRS won’t be issuing refunds or otherwise officially accepting returns until that time.

And as in recent years, the IRS will delay processing (by 2-3 weeks) those income tax returns that have the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC). Some shady characters have used those credits in the past for shady things (hence the issuance delays), but there ARE other options for faster refunds, if that’s something you want to explore.

So yes … living in 2019 again with good ol’ Ann. But let’s make that process smooth, shall we? Here’s my annual list of things you should start pulling together as soon as you can…

Ann Hartz’s 2019 Tax Documents List

“Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.”  – Henry David Thoreau

Filing your taxes on your own is not for the faint of heart. That’s even with nice-looking softwares on the market which purport to make it easy for you.

But that’s what we’re here for. Let *us* make it easy for you.

Below is a list of what you will need during the tax preparation process. Not all of them will apply to you — probably MOST will not. Nonetheless, it’s a useful checklist.

Before you get overwhelmed: yes, this is a long list — but it’s the unfortunate reality of our tax code that it’s not even comprehensive! But these items will cover 95% of our clients. Really, this is for ensuring that we’re able to help you keep every dollar you can keep under our tax code.

Also note: Certain deductions went away this year, that we’re used to handling on behalf of our clients. And some that you might be used to as well. This list has changed a little, and I’ve notated additional changes coming down the pike.

But again … we will be your guide. That’s what we’re here for.

Even if for some strange reason you won’t be using our cost-effective services this year, feel free to use this list as a handy guide…

Personal Data
Social Security Numbers (including spouse and children)
Child care provider tax I.D. or Social Security Number

Employment & Income Data
W-2 forms for this year
Tax refunds and unemployment compensation: Form 1099-G
Miscellaneous income including rent: Form 1099-MISC
Partnership and trust income
Pensions and annuities
Alimony received
Jury duty pay
Gambling and lottery winnings
Prizes and awards
Scholarships and fellowships
State and local income tax refunds
Unemployment compensation

Health Insurance Information

NOTE — As it says on the IRS health insurance information page, form 1040 will not have the “full-year health care coverage or exempt” box and Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, will no longer be used. You need not make a shared responsibility payment or file Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, with your tax return if you don’t have minimum essential coverage for part or all of 2019.

* All 1095-A Forms from Marketplace providers (if you purchased insurance through a Marketplace)
* Records of credits and/or advance payments received from the Premium Tax Credit (if claiming)

Homeowner/Renter Data
Residential address(es) for this year
Mortgage interest: Form 1098
Sale of your home or other real estate: Form 1099-S
Second mortgage interest paid
Real estate taxes paid
Rent paid during tax year
Moving expenses (if in active military, and moving for new orders)
Reimbursements for moving (counts as ordinary income)

Financial Assets
Interest income statements: Form 1099-INT & 1099-OID
Dividend income statements: Form 1099-DIV
Proceeds from broker transactions: Form 1099-B
Retirement plan distribution: Form 1099-R
Capital gains or losses

Financial Liabilities
Auto loans and leases (account numbers and car value) if vehicle used for business
Student loan interest paid
Early withdrawal penalties on CDs and other fixed time deposits

Automobiles
Personal property tax information
Department of Motor Vehicles fees

Expenses
Gifts to charity (receipts for any single donations of $250 or more)
Unreimbursed expenses related to volunteer work
Investment expenses
Job-hunting expenses
Education expenses (tuition and fees)
Child care expenses
Medical Savings Accounts
Adoption expenses

Self-Employment Data
Estimated tax vouchers for the current year
Self-employment tax
Self-employment SEP plans
Self-employed health insurance
K-1s on all partnerships
Receipts or documentation for business-related expenses
Farm income

Deduction Documents
State and local income taxes (note: $10,000 limit, as last year)
IRA, Keogh and other retirement plan contributions
Medical expenses
Other miscellaneous deductions

An important thing to understand is that we will guide you through the process, and that although much has changed this year, we are on top of these changes on your behalf.

We’re here to help. Let me know if you have any questions.

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Ann Hartz’s Guidelines for Setting Financial Goals You Can Keep

Ann Hartz’s Guidelines for Setting Financial Goals You Can Keep

Just like last week, this week straddles the holidays, and so regular routines are still a little choppy, probably, for you.

And here at Team Ann M. Hartz, CPA, we’re working HARD on end-of-year moves for various Des Moines clients, as I write this, knowing that EVERYTHING changes on Wednesday of this week (which might already be past by the time you read this).

It’s a whole new decade, which I’m sure you’ve heard somewhere. 😉

And, in my opinion, these upcoming weeks are actually crucial to how the rest of your decade goes. 

Why? Because intentions backed up by ACTIONS are what matters.

No, I certainly don’t subscribe to a mystical law of attraction — but I DO believe that how we act out what we intend to do sets a subconscious belief system in place which can have an impact for months — and even years (decades?) — at a time.

In other words — do what you *intend* to do this week, and it’ll be much easier to carry that forward into the rest of 2020 … and the entire decade. At least, that’s been my experience.

What about you? Do you find the beginning of the year to be full of opportunity? Or is it full of discouragement? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

And as I mentioned, for my staff and me … it’s certainly full of preparation. This is one of our most intense years of groundwork for tax season, simply because we continue to uncover fun little nuggets within the tax code that we are using on behalf of our clients.

Also, an important note: the start of actual tax filing will not begin until January 20, 2020 for most returns. This does NOT mean that we can’t begin the preparation process earlier (we can, if you really have your paperwork in order), but it does mean that the IRS won’t be issuing refunds or otherwise officially accepting returns until that day.

The IRS is also continuing to delay processing (by 2-3 weeks) of those income tax returns that have the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), since these credits have often been the focus of misuse and abuse. There are other options for faster refunds, if that affects you and is something that matters to your situation.

So, let’s turn the page into the 20’s today, shall we?

Ann Hartz’s Guidelines for Setting Financial Goals You Can Keep

“Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.” -John W. Gardner

At the risk of making you feel badly, I should tell you that for every seven years you delay saving and investing for the future, you cut in half the income you might enjoy at the end of your life. So, let’s make 2020 the year we finally do this thing right together.

Here are some guidelines, should you choose to accept them…

1) Set goals that are attainable … and share them.

First, ask the right questions, and stay the course until you’ve found the answers. Goals that are shared are ten times more likely to be acted on. Don’t wait until you have everything set up to seek out accountability.

2) Make the goals CLEAR (and concrete) then write them down.

Set your savings goals as a specific annual percentage of your adjusted gross income (AGI). It’s a great idea to save at least 10% of your AGI in tax-free retirement accounts and another 5% toward retirement in taxable investments. If you are behind on your savings, you may want to save even more in order to catch up.

3) Identify the strategy to meet those financial goals.

This should include prioritizing the appropriate retirement vehicles. Start by investing just enough to get the entire match from your company’s 401(k) plan (if you have one), and then fund your Roth IRA accounts next. After these two, make certain you have enough non-retirement savings.

4) Set it so you can forget it.

Automating the deposit of money in an employer-defined contribution plan is easy. Automating a taxable savings plan is just as painless. Most banks or brokers offer an automatic money link between an investment account and a checking account. They should also offer a monthly automatic transfer between the two accounts.

Going into further detail would entail sitting down and creating a true, full financial plan — which is impossible over a blog post (though very doable in person).

But I will say one last thing: the most critical component of wealth management in the new year will be AGI minimization. It’s never been more important to monitor the number upon which the IRS is basing their picture of you. Let us help you do it right.

Warmly,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

Ann Hartz’s Annual Holiday Prayer

Ann Hartz’s Annual Holiday Prayer

Congress has been busy.

They’re home for the holidays, but before they left, they passed a flurry of bills that you might be interested in.

Oh, and yes … the House impeached the President. There is also that. I make no comment about that, but I DID want you to see these provisions that had been set to expire (but which are now extended into the 2019 tax year — and in some cases retroactively “extended” so that they would apply to 2018).

Specifically, they extended…

  • The ability to exclude from gross income the amount of discharged debt in connection with the reworking of a mortgage on your principal residence.
  • The option to count private mortgage insurance (PMI) premiums as qualified residence interest and deduct it as an itemized expense.
  • The continuation of the 7.5 percent deduction floor for itemized medical expenses.
  • The renewal of the educational above-the-line deduction for tuition and qualified fees.

They also passed the SECURE Act, which is worthy of its own note in the future.

But I also want to share with you my annual holiday prayer here, especially in this age of impeachment and social media-driven antagonism, as it seems … pertinent.

At least we have the holidays.

But even these can so easily become stressful. Because whatever your faith background, it’s hard to ignore the holiday clamor. In my opinion, it’s a crying shame that a season of reflection and prayer would become transformed into something so… busy. It’s almost as if we now have to rush around to purchase or artificially create these nostalgic moments, when they probably would have earlier happened on their own.

Now look — as a proud Des Moines business owner, I have no problem with people earning money during this season … I just wonder when it’s time to say “enough”?

Maybe it really is the holidays, because as I’ve been meeting with Des Moines clients recently, I’ve discovered that many of you are worried and stressed — about finances, business problems, family, personal circumstances, etc. It’s not my job to save the world on your behalf of course, but I do get to be somebody in your world who can encourage you to slow down, take a breather and keep your perspective on what’s really important.

Ann Hartz’s Annual Holiday Prayer

“There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.” – William Butler Yeats

“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.”

Warmly,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA

How Year-End Giving Changes You by Ann Hartz

How Year-End Giving Changes You by Ann Hartz

We’re almost done with 2019, cue the fireworks. It’s been a tough year for many (including some of our clients), and you might be eagerly looking forward to that calendar change.

Shoot, we’re about to set forth into an entirely new DECADE. It’s as good a time as any to consider making some serious shifts in your atmosphere.

If nonprofit orgs were smart, they would be running “decade-end” campaigns, instead of year-end giving campaigns, simply to ride that hopefulness that this new decade (might) bring.

And yes, I’m obviously aware that the “year-end” thing is for tax considerations. This is my job after all.

By the way, when I talk about the hopefulness of 2020, I’m not even touching the political arena right now. Keeps me sane, and focused on serving my Des Moines clients come tax season … which is right around the corner.

I promise I’m going somewhere with all of this. It’s time to shift the atmosphere. It might ALSO be time to save on your 2019 taxes. And I have an idea that might do both in one fell swoop.

How Year-End Giving Changes You by Ann Hartz

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” -Hamilton Wright Mabie

When you write a check to a worthy cause, you do more than just “give”. There’s more to it than a tax deduction, and more to it than adding value to whichever organization you happen to support.

You see, when you do so, something happens within your unconscious soul, that sends a powerful signal to your lizard brain, the part of you that operates from fear and instinct. You show yourself that you aren’t ruled by your bank balances or your desires. You show your innermost being that you have well more than “enough”.

And I’ll tell you what I’ve seen more often than not from my Des Moines clients who do this: even more money seems to find itself in your hands.

Look … this isn’t some “prosperity scheme” or a magic secret formula. I’m merely pointing out what I’ve observed over the years of watching client finances, and what happens when people make an effort to be charitable.

Money seems to find itself with those who are willing to give it away.

Those who choose to give are often those who, when they look back on the past decade, realize that they made a decision to give more, and years later, they are in a far better financial position than when they gave less. Coincidence?

But the MAIN reason is not because “give and you will receive” … I’d say the main, best reason is that you find yourself set free from the money fears that might rule you.

Why else should you give?

There are a couple of other good reasons I can think of:

You create for yourself a network of people and organizations who are grateful. I’ve seen this dynamic at play in the business arena as well. When you are openhanded, someone to whom you’ve donated or given (be it time, money, connections, or other resources) eventually comes back to you with something you need, at just the right time.

When you act or give generously, it’s the most powerful form of networking on the planet. Obviously, there are better, less self-interested reasons to give … but there are certainly worse ones.

You realize that your circumstances really aren’t as tough as you might think. This is especially true when you don’t just give financially, but also of your time and heart.

Sometimes giving to institutions that work with the poor can bring home an appreciation of your actual enormous wealth. And it can also bring home the awareness of a personal poverty that isn’t solved by adding zeroes to a bank balance. If you do it right, you are changed for the better.

With these reasons, AND the monetary benefits to your tax return, I urge you: stretch yourself this month. Give more than you think you should. See what happens.

And let’s talk in 2029 about what happened when you did.

All this said, I firmly advocate for being careful with your implementation of how you give. I don’t suggest impulsivity, just some measured risk-taking.

But don’t risk losing out on the tax advantages to gifting appreciated stock, or other, less common, forms of gifting. Shoot me an email through the email button at the top of the page, or give us a call ((515) 259-7779) if you want to discuss the tax implications of your year-end giving.

It is, after all, what we do.

Warmly,

 

Ann Hartz

(515) 259-7779

Ann M. Hartz, CPA and Associates

 

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