Welcome to Keller & Owens’ Blog. It brings you the latest tax and financial news that matter to your bottom line.

Five Financial Lessons to Teach Your Children

“Dad, I need some extra money to go to the movies with my friends.” If you are a parent, you’ve probably heard countless requests like this.

At some point your kids will discover they can no longer rely on you for all their financial needs. Because recent studies have found that teaching financial literacy is lacking in many schools, it’s up to parents to provide the fundamentals of finance to their children. Here are some concepts you can use to begin introducing your kids to the lessons of personal finance.

  • Spend a little, save a little. Whether receiving a birthday gift or allowance money, teach your kids to get into the habit of saving a portion of what they receive. Help them create savings goals like the purchase of a bike or creation of a college fund.
  • Don’t worry about what others have. Teach your children to avoid spending money to follow the crowd. Take a look at the unused toy bin to demonstrate the point. Chasing the need to own $200-$500 sneakers can lead poor financial habits in the future.
  • Be money mindful. Remind your child to think before they spend money. Help them understand that wanting something doesn’t always mean that they need to have it. You can also help them to prioritize their spending. For example, saving for the running shoes your child might need for track may be more important than the money he or she would spend on a night at the movies with friends.
  • Learning about finances is fun. Set aside some time each week to learn about a new personal finance topic together. You can help your child learn about checking accounts, setting up a budget, getting a small loan, or simple ways to start saving. Getting them interested in financial topics at a young age will help them throughout their lives.
  • Tax talk. If your child is old enough to earn a paycheck, teach them tax basics. Walk them through their paycheck. Social security, Medicare, and withholdings are new concepts for them. Help them understand how the money is used. Don’t overlook other taxes as well. They also need to know that sales tax should be factored into the cost of items they choose to purchase.

It’s important to keep the conversation going. Encourage your children to ask questions, and get them involved with your household spending. There are many ways you can help them develop a healthy understanding of personal finance.

Don’t Assume It’s Correct Just Because It’s the IRS

You may receive correspondence from the IRS that contains an error. What should you do?

Here are some quotes from actual IRS correspondence received by clients:

“Our records show we received a 1040X…for the tax year listed above. We’re sorry but we cannot find it.”

“Our records show you owe a balance due of $0.00. If we do not receive it within 30 days, appropriate collection steps will be taken.”

“Payment is due on your account. Please submit payments on or before June 31 to avoid late payment penalties and interest.”

It’s pretty tough to pay a balance due of $0.00 or submit a payment on June 31 when June has only 30 days. The message should be clear. If you receive a notice from the IRS, don’t automatically assume it is correct and then submit a payment to make it go away. The same is true for errors in any state tax agency notices. They are often in error. So what should you do?

Stay calm. Try not to overreact to the correspondence. This is easier said than done, but remember, the IRS sends out millions of notices each year. The vast majority of these notices attempt to correct simple oversights or common filing errors.

Open the envelope. You’d be surprised how often clients are so stressed by receiving a letter from the IRS that they cannot bear to open the envelope. If you fall into this category, try to remember that the first step in making the problem go away is to open the correspondence.

Review the letter. Make sure you understand exactly what the IRS thinks needs to be changed and determine whether or not you agree with their findings. Unfortunately, the IRS rarely sends correspondence to correct an oversight in your favor, but it sometimes happens.

Respond in a timely manner. The correspondence received should be very clear about what action the IRS believes you should take and within what timeframe. Ignore this information at your own risk. Delays in responses could generate penalties and additional interest payments.

Get help. You are not alone. Getting assistance from someone who deals with this all the time makes going through the process much smoother.

Correct the IRS error. Once the problem is understood, a clearly written response with copies of documentation will cure most IRS correspondence errors. Often the error is due to the inability of the IRS computers to conduct a simple reporting match. Pointing the information out on your tax return might be all it takes to solve the problem.

Certified mail is your friend. Send any response to the IRS via certified mail. This will provide proof of your timely correspondence. Lost mail can lead to delays, penalties, and additional interest on your tax bill.

Don’t assume it will go away. Until you receive definitive confirmation that the problem has been resolved, assume the IRS still thinks you owe the money. If you don’t receive correspondence confirming the correction, send a written follow-up.

Do You Live or Work in Kansas?

If so, the recent changes WILL AFFECT YOU!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  • These changes are retroactive and apply starting January 1, 2017.
  • Business and rental income (Sole Proprietors, S Corporation and Partnership owners) which was previously exempt from Kansas tax is once again taxable.
  • Increase in tax rates for 2017.  The highest rate will be 5.2% for those with Kansas income in excess of $60,000.  These rates will increase again in 2018 to a high of 5.7%.
  • No taxpayer penalties or interest will be charged for underpayment of taxes due to this change in law as long as the underpayment is paid by April 17, 2018.
  • Limitations on itemized deductions will ease but not in 2017.  Starting in 2018 a portion of medical expense will be allowed and mortgage interest and property tax deductions will phase back in.
  • For W-2 employees, Kansas withholding tax rates were updated on July 1, 2017.  These rates have been updated for the remainder of 2017 at the higher 2018 rates to compensate for the first 6 months of withholding at lower rates.   However, some employees may still not have enough tax withheld for the year.

WHAT STEPS TO TAKE:

  • Consider making higher KS estimated tax payments to avoid a large Kansas tax bill at April 17, 2018.
  • Consider having extra Kansas tax withheld from your paycheck.
  • Contact us to prepare a projection of the Kansas tax you may owe for 2017.

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about these changes!

Could the Coverdell ESA be the Right Fund for You?

You’re probably familiar with 529 college savings plans. Named for Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, they’re also known as qualified tuition programs, and they offer tax benefits when you save for college expenses.

But are you aware of a lesser-known cousin, established under Section 530 of the code? It’s called a Coverdell Education Savings Account and it’s been available since 1998.

The general idea of Coverdell accounts is similar to 529 plans – to provide tax incentives to encourage you to set money aside for education. However, one big difference between the two is this: Amounts you contribute to a Coverdell can be used to pay for educational costs from kindergarten through college.

Generally, you can establish a Coverdell for a child under the age of 18 – yours or someone else’s. Once the Coverdell is set up, you can make contributions of as much as $2,000 each year. That contribution limit begins to phase out when your income reaches $190,000 for joint filers and $95,000 for single filers.

Anyone, including trusts and corporations, can contribute to the account until the child turns 18. There are no age restrictions when the Coverdell is established for someone with special needs.

While your contribution is not tax-deductible, earnings within the account are tax-free as long as you use them for educational expenses or qualify for an exception. In addition, you can make a tax-free transfer of the account balance to another eligible beneficiary.

Qualified distributions from a Coverdell are tax-free when you use the money to pay for costs such as tuition, room and board, books, and computers.

Please call for information about other rules that apply to Coverdell accounts. We’ll be happy to help you decide whether establishing one makes sense for you.

Find the Best Employees to Contribute to Your Company

Turnover is an often overlooked cost of doing business. Sometimes it can run as high as 25% of salary and benefits. One way to reduce this cost is to hire wisely. It’s an oft-quoted cliché that employees are a company’s most valuable assets. Try generating revenue with unmotivated or unskilled employees, and you’ll soon discover that the cliché rings true.

How do you locate the best employees?

Know what you’re looking for. Before you publish a job announcement or talk to potential candidates, consider the type of skills that would fit best with your company. This may involve clarifying the types of skills that are essential to your company, as well as skills that are specific to the position being filled. For example, if the business prides itself on written communications, you don’t want to hire a candidate who struggles with grammar or balks at the prospect of writing a report.

Look in the right places. Once you’re clear about the type of employee you’re hoping to hire, focus on discovering the best candidates and drawing them to your company. You might post the position on job boards of specific trade organizations, network with local colleges and technical schools, or ask for recommendations from your current employees. In general, the more specific skills you hope to find, the wider net you’ll have to cast.

Make the interview count. Potential candidates are often counseled to conduct mock interviews, and wise employers will hone their interviewing skills too. You want to identify candidates who will be eager to contribute to your company. Asking focused questions and listening with a purpose are key to the interview process. A good interviewer will also attempt to identify “red flags” that indicate potential problems. For example, the candidate may provide vague or rambling answers to simple questions. This could indicate normal interview anxiety, or he or she might be hiding key facts from you – information that could directly affect your hiring decision.

Finding quality employees that will mesh well with your company culture is not an exact science. But, thoughtful preparation and careful interviewing can pay dividends for years to come.