Tag: tax

Tips And Services To Help Your Bookkeeping Go Paperless

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a catalyst to shift businesses toward digital transformation, it merely sped up the process. Businesses needed to scramble to move much of their operations online so workers could efficiently collaborate with each other and maintain business continuity during a difficult time.

Fortunately, departments not traditionally associated with the digital universe, like Bookkeeping, had an easier time adapting thanks to online services like Bookstime.com, a provider of digital bookkeeping tools with unique experience in difficult areas like sales tax automation, health benefits administration, and more.

Advantages of digital bookkeeping

Keeping track of every business transaction is among the most important and perhaps underappreciated tasks. Failure to keep track of transactions in a professional manner can result in a business owner making wrong decisions because they have inaccurate information.

Even worse, they might think they end the year with a profit but in reality, a bunch of small bookkeeping mistakes over several months means the business owner really lost money.

A shift to a digital platform eliminates these concerns. Online digital platforms make use of the most up-to-date accounting automation software that erases nearly every careless mistake. This is especially useful for a business owner who does the tedious but necessary job of bookkeeping themselves to save money. The more time a business owner spends on ancillary tasks, the less time they have to generate revenue and keep clients happy.

Some of the other advantages associated with going online include:

  • Eliminating clutter: keeping a clean home office is challenging enough but a digital platform means more space for higher priority files.
  • Save time: A digital bookkeeping platform is always available online with a few short clicks of the mouse. It can be accessed as needed and when needed in a few short seconds.
  • Environmental benefits: It isn’t unusual for a company to use at least 10,000 sheets of paper each year. Shifting resources online may seem like a small benefit but everyone has a responsibility to do a little bit more to protect our environment.

Case in point: Fill in a W-4

Every business owner is happy to hire new workers because it means they are expected to provide value to the company above and beyond their salary. But that doesn’t mean that the formal process is enjoyable.

One of the more undesirable parts of the hiring process is the pesky W-4 form that every employer has to ensure is properly filled in before a worker’s first day. Simply put, the W-4 form confirms how much income tax a worker wants to have withheld from their recurring paychecks. Under-withholding taxes means a worker will likely experience a shock come tax season as they owe money to the government. Over-withholding taxes means a worker is paying the government too much money and has to wait for a refund.

Digital bookkeeping can help simplify this process so you're less prone to errors. When other people’s finances are at stake, small careless mistakes could impact a worker’s desire to give the business owner 100% of their focus.

Businesses that shifted their bookkeeping process online to better navigate through the pandemic quickly realized this was a move that should have been done years ago. The advantages of having access to a clean and organized online tool far outweigh the costs.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How to Buy a Used Car, Step By Step

You’ll have to purchase the report if you’re buying from a private seller, so wait until you’re seriously interested in a particular vehicle. If you’re buying from a dealership, the salesperson should provide a copy of the vehicle history report for free.
The older a car is, the cheaper it’ll be — but the more it’s likely to have issues requiring repair. Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to what they’re willing to handle. A general rule of thumb is that a car is driven about 12,000 miles per year. A higher average could mean the car has more wear and tear.
“Some general things you can do on your own without being super knowledgeable about cars is [to] turn off the radio [and] listen for any strange noises,” Montoya said. “See if the steering wheel stays straight when you drive down the road. Does it pull to one side? Look at the tires to see how old they are.”

Why Buying a Used Car Is a Smart Money Move

“In the first year of ownership, depreciation can continue, and that same car could be worth up to 20% less than its original sale price,” he said.
Knowing the ins and outs of how to buy a used car will make the whole process less stressful and, most importantly, save you money.
Sharifi said to watch out for discrepancies with the odometer reading and if there’s a branded title, which indicates that the car has been significantly compromised in some way.
Be wary of independent car lots that boast they can make you a deal regardless of your credit or circumstance.
Sometimes just looking at a car will give you some idea of its history. Rust, worn out pedals and a side panel painted in a different color are red flags.
Montoya said used car buyers must strike a balance between the age of the car, the amount of miles and what price they’re willing to pay.
When you’re buying from a private party, you may be able to get more accurate information about how they’ve driven and maintained the vehicle and what particular issues it might have, said Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.

The Best Time to Buy a Used Car

RobertCorse/Getty Images

“The end of the month (or the end of a quarter) can also be a good time to strike a deal, since dealerships may need to hit monthly or quarterly sales goals,” he said.
“You want to make sure there’s enough room for you,” Montoya said. “Take a look at the cargo area. Take a look at how easy it is to see out of the vehicle. Test out the entertainment system.”
Always, always, always take a car for a spin before buying it. If you can bring a mechanic with you, even better.
So that covers the why. Now let’s get into how to buy a used car.
You can also compare similar vehicles on the market to get an estimate of a car’s value, but keep in mind, no two used vehicles will be the same due to how they were driven and maintained. Use all this information when you sit down to negotiate — and don’t be afraid to walk away if you don’t think you’re getting a fair price.
New cars are sleek, shiny, full of impressive tech and smell amazing — mmm, new car smell. But they also come with price tags that can take your breath away — and not in a good way.
Knowing when and where to buy a used car is just half the battle. Figuring out how to vet a used car can be tough, especially if you have little to no car knowledge.
“Typically they’ll try to get you in with a low price, but you may not be getting the best quality car,” he said. “The other thing is that if you get your financing through those types of dealers, they typically charge you a much higher interest rate.”
Montoya said plans sold by auto manufacturers or reputable dealerships are better options than those sold by third-party companies. Make sure you understand exactly what your plan covers.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

Where to Shop for a Used Car — and Where to Avoid

For any dealer you visit, do some due diligence and check customer reviews online. If you know others who’ve recently purchased a car, ask for recommendations.
Of course, when you need a car might not align with a particular sale or time of month. Shopping for a vehicle before you’re in critical need of one will allow you time to search for the best deal rather than having to settle for something quick.
Outside of dealerships, look for cars online at trusted sites like Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Carfax or Edmunds — or buy from a private seller.
If you’re in the market for a set of wheels that’s more affordable, steer your sights over to the used car lot to save a little money. Or even a lot of money.

Pro Tip
If cost is your primary concern, a private seller is likely to offer a lower price. A dealer folds overhead, repairs and marketing into its price.

According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price of a new car in November 2020 was more than ,000. Yowser.
Unlike new car releases, used cars come on the market throughout the year. It all depends on when their previous owners end their leases, put them up for sale or decide to trade in their vehicles.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
When you’re budgeting for a car purchase, make sure you’re factoring in all the associated costs, like sales tax, insurance and getting the car registered.
DeLorenzo recommends pre-qualifying for a loan at a bank or credit union before visiting a dealership. You can compare the offer with the dealer’s financing terms for better negotiating leverage.

What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

GreenPimp/Getty Images

However, there are certain times when you’re more likely to score a better deal.
If you’ve ever heard someone refer to a car as a depreciating asset, it’s true. The longer you have a car, the less it’s worth. The first year of owning a new vehicle is when depreciation really packs a punch.

1. Find a Vehicle That Fits Your Needs

Think of the big sales that fall around holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
But don’t just assume a car’s history. Getting the car’s history report, such as through Carfax, is a crucial step when buying a used car.

2. Determine How ‘Used’ You’re Willing to Go

It’s best to avoid shopping for a car on the weekend when there’s an influx of customers and sales staff is spread thin, Sharifi said. You’ll get more attention from the sales team by visiting on off hours, specifically on weekdays.
The end of a model year — around September or October — is another good time to shop, DeLorenzo noted, as salespeople are looking to make deals to clear out their used vehicle stock to make room for new inventory.
“[Dealerships] will have more used vehicle inventory as a result of those types of promotions,” he said.

Pro Tip
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

3. Make Sure The Price is Right

Don’t just look at the tires’ tread. Each tire should include a four-digit number marking the month and year it was manufactured. Tires older than six years can be dried out and need replacing.
Just because you’re buying a car at a lower price point doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck with a clunker that was manufactured decades ago. Cars that are just two or three years old often hit dealership lots when their previous owners reach the end of their lease.
DeLorenzo recommends shopping at franchised car dealerships that have certified pre-owned cars — used vehicles that have been thoroughly inspected and typically come with some type of warranty coverage. Non-certified cars aren’t bad — and they’ll typically cost less — but they’re more likely to have higher mileage and more maintenance needs.

4. Check the History of the Car

“Severe accidents and instances where a car has been declared a total loss should signal the buyer to use caution,” he said. “That said, a small fender bender shouldn’t always mean that a buyer should walk away from a great deal.”
For any used car purchase, but especially if you’re buying from a private seller, have your mechanic inspect the vehicle before committing to buy.
Those vehicles often have low mileage and are in great condition, having had only one previous owner. Sometimes they even still retain a hint of that new car smell.
Before you accept a sales price, research the value of the car to make sure you’re not overpaying. Carfax, Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds all have price appraisal tools online.
Jim Sharifi, formerly a content editor at Carfax, said research shows a new vehicle can lose as much as 10% of its value within the first month.

5. Go for a Test Drive

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Former staff writer Carson Kohler contributed to this post.
Where you shop for a used car matters so you can avoid purchasing a lemon.

Pro Tip
However, you also need to be OK with buying the vehicle as-is and securing your own financing. And be sure the owner has clear title to the car — in other words, don’t let anyone sell you a car they don’t legitimately own.

Matt DeLorenzo, senior managing editor for Kelley Blue Book, said when dealerships host big sales events for new models that can also benefit used car shoppers.
When you buy a used car, the original owner has already taken that initial hit on depreciation and the price you pay accounts for that, so you don’t have to shell out as much cash.
It’s easy to focus on the numbers — age of the car, mileage and cost — but you also want to make sure you’re buying a car that’ll fit your needs for however long you expect to have it. If you have a growing family, you might want to rethink that two-door coupe or compact vehicle.
These tips will give you some guidance to make a good choice.
Buying an extended warranty or service plan can give you peace of mind that certain repairs or maintenance jobs will be covered.

Simple Trusts vs. Complex Trusts

Young couple consults with a financial advisor about trusts

A trust can be a useful estate planning tool, in addition to a will. You can use a trust to remove assets from probate, potentially minimize estate and gift taxes and ensure that assets are managed on behalf of beneficiaries according to your wishes. There are different types of trusts you can establish and some are more specialized than others. Knowing how these broad categories of trusts compare can help with choosing the right option. When it comes to estate planning, including whether to create a trust, a financial advisor can help you make the most informed decision possible.

What Is a Trust?

Infant holding hand of father

A trust is a type of legal entity that can be created in accordance with your state laws to manage your assets. The person who creates a trust is called a grantor and they have the right to transfer assets into the trust. They can also choose one or more trustees to oversee the trust and manage the assets within it.

The trustee’s job is to manage assets according to the grantor’s specifications on behalf of one or more trust beneficiaries. For example, you might set up a trust to hold assets that you want to be distributed among your three children when you pass away. Or you might choose your favorite charitable organization to be a beneficiary of your trust.

There are many different kinds of trusts and they can be categorized in different ways. For instance, a revocable trust can be changed during the grantor’s lifetime. If you have this type of trust and you want to add assets to it or change the beneficiaries, you can do so while you’re still living. An irrevocable trust, on the other hand, involves a permanent transfer of assets.

Trusts can also be categorized as grantor or non-grantor. In a grantor trust, the trust creator retains certain powers over the trust, including rights to the trust’s assets and income. Trust assets may be included in the trust creator’s estate when they pass away. With a non-grantor trust the trust creator has no interest or control over trust assets. Trust assets are generally excluded from the trust creator’s estate at their death.

Benefits of Trusts in Estate Planning

Trusts can be used inside an estate plan to perform a number of functions. For example, you might create a trust to:

  • Pass on specific assets to your chosen beneficiaries
  • Ensure that certain assets aren’t subject to the probate process
  • Manage estate and gift tax liability
  • Protect assets from creditors
  • Ensure that a special needs beneficiary is cared for when you’re gone
  • Receive the proceeds of a life insurance policy when you pass away

Some of these scenarios may call for a simple trust, while others may require a more specialized trust. One thing that’s important to keep in mind is how each one is treated for tax purposes when creating a simple vs. complex trust.

Simple Trust, Explained

A simple trust is a type of non-grantor trust. To be classified as a simple trust, it must meet certain criteria set by the IRS. Specifically, a simple trust:

  • Must distribute income earned on trust assets to beneficiaries annually
  • Make no principal distributions
  • Make no distributions to charity

With this type of trust, the trust income is considered taxable to the beneficiaries. That’s true even if they don’t withdraw income from the trust. The trust reports income to the IRS annually and it’s allowed to take a deduction for any amounts distributed to beneficiaries. The trust itself is required to pay capital gains tax on earnings.

Complex Trust, Explained

A complex trust also has certain criteria it must meet. In order for a trust to be complex, it must do one of the following each year:

  • Refrain from distributing all of its income to trust beneficiaries
  • Distribute some or all of the principal assets in the trust to beneficiaries
  • Make distributions to charitable organizations

Any trust that doesn’t meet the guidelines to qualify as a simple trust is considered to be a complex trust. Complex trusts can take deductions when computing taxable income for the year. This deduction is equal to the amount of any income the trust is required to distribute for the year.

There are also some other rules to keep in mind with complex trusts. First, no principal can be distributed unless all income has been distributed for the year first. Ordinary income takes first place in the distribution line ahead of dividends and dividends have to be distributed ahead of capital gains. Once those conditions are met, then the principal can be distributed. And all distributions have to be equitable for all trust beneficiaries who are receiving them.

Simple vs. Complex Trust: Which Is Better?

When it comes to simple and complex trusts, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. The type of trust that ultimately works best for you can hinge on what you need the trust to do for you.

A simple trust offers the advantage of being fairly straightforward when it comes to how assets and income can be distributed and how those distributions are taxed. A complex trust, on the other hand, could offer more flexibility in terms of estate planning if you have a sizable estate or numerous beneficiaries.

When comparing trust options, consider whether you want to retain control or an interest in the assets that are transferred to it. If you choose a simple or complex trust, you’re choosing a non-grantor trust which means you’ll no longer have an interest in the trust assets. Talking to an estate planning attorney or trust professional can help you decide which type of trust may work best for your financial situation.

The Bottom Line

Helping hand concept picture

The main difference between a simple vs. complex trust lies in how income and assets are distributed and how those distributions are taxed. Whether it makes sense to establish a simple vs. complex trust can depend on the size of your estate, the nature of the assets you want to include and your wishes for managing those assets. It’s important to understand the tax rules before creating either type of trust as well as how a trust fits into your larger estate plan.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about whether it makes sense to use a trust to plan ahead for the distribution of assets or to manage estate and gift taxes. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with a financial advisor in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized recommendations online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • While trusts can offer numerous benefits, creating one doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t also need a last will and testament. You can use a will to distribute assets that you don’t want to include in a trust. Or you could create a pour-over will to transfer assets into a trust.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/skynesher, ©iStock.com/Lisa5201, ©iStock.com/scyther5

 

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5 Speedy Ways to Come Up With a Down Payment

Sally Elford/Getty Images

The best way for first-time home buyers to come up with a down payment for a home: save for one, of course! But sometimes you’re in a hurry. Maybe your dream house just popped up on the market, or you’ve simply had it with being a renter. Whatever the reason, you’re ready to buy a house, now. But while your credit is good and your career is stable, you still need to come up with that big chunk of change for a down payment.

Watch: 4 Things You Can Give Up to Make a Down Payment

 

Never fear: There are plenty of ways to amass a sizable down payment fast. Check out these tactics, along with their pros and cons.

1. Dip into your 401(k)

If you’ve been socking away money in your 401(k), it is possible to borrow from that for a home loan—and get that cash in hand fast.

“Most 401(k) plans allow you to borrow up to 50% of the vested balance, or up to $50,000, and it takes about a week,” says Todd Huettner, owner of Huettner Capital, a residential and commercial real estate lender in Denver.

But it will cost you: If you take funds out of your 401(k) early—that is, before you’re 59½ years old—you’re going to take a 10% penalty on that withdrawn money. And it counts as gross income, which can bump you into a higher tax bracket.

Check out this Wells Fargo calculator to see what your penalties would be. In addition to penalties, most companies require you to repay that vested money over five years—or sooner if you quit or get axed. So be sure your career is stable.

2. Crack your IRA

Digging into your IRA usually carries the same 10% penalty of breaking open your 401(k) piggy bank, with one major difference: The penalty doesn’t apply to first-time home buyers. And unlike a 401(k), you don’t have to repay what you take out of an IRA. However, the withdrawal is still taxable. Plus there’s the matter of not repaying yourself, which can hurt your long-term retirement. So if you take out a sizable chunk, restoring this nest egg to its former level will take you many years.

3. Hit up your boss

Let’s get real: You don’t want to stroll into your boss’ office and demand help buying your house. But you can ask if your company has an employer-assisted housing program. Think about it: Companies hate employee turnover, so what better way to keep you around than pitching in to help you buy a home? It’s a win-win: Home loans are often low- or zero-interest and are usually structured to be forgivable over a period of time, often five years, which further encourages employees to stay put. The downside? Not all employers offer it. Hospitals and universities most often do, so be sure to ask to avoid overlooking this ready source of financial assistance.

4. Explore state and city programs

Local assistance programs abound to help you scratch up cash for a down payment. Offered by either your state, your city, or nonprofits, these programs often partner with banks, who hope to gain clientele they might pass over otherwise: Bank of America, for instance, recently launched a searchable database of local programs. Wells Fargo’s partnership with NeighborhoodLIFT offers down payment assistance up to $15,000.

The catch? You’ll need to qualify. For NeighborhoodLIFT, for instance, your household income has to be no more than 120% of the median in your area.

5. Get a gift from family or friends

Understandably, many home buyers turn to their family for help buying a home, and for good reason: There are no limits on how much a family member can “gift” another family member, although only a specific portion can be excluded from taxes ($14,000 per parent).

But it’s not just as easy as that. Gifters, even family, will need to provide paperwork in the form of a gift letter. And if the gifter is a friend, it gets even more complicated. For example, you’ll have to wait about 90 to 120 days before you can use any of those funds.

The post 5 Speedy Ways to Come Up With a Down Payment appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

A Guide To Everything You Need To Know About Home Ownership Costs [Free Download]

Along with the excitement of purchasing a new home, comes the additional costs that you will be expected to pay as a homeowner. Apart from covering the mortgage of your home, you’ll have additional expenses – such as home insurance – that you will be expected to cover. If you’re looking to budget for a home purchase, it’s important that you consider these costs as they can add up to thousands of dollars each year.

To help you make educated decisions when budgeting, we’ve compiled a list of the major home ownership costs in one free, downloadable guide. Get the Home Ownership Costs to Consider guide here.

Home Insurance

Home insurance policies help protect against serious damage and destruction, like fires, leaks, floods, or break-ins. It also protects a homeowner from personal liability. Some banks may offer home insurance products, although you can typically purchase a home insurance policy through a home insurance agent or broker. 

Tip: You may get better rates if you use a broker or agent. It’s also important to keep in mind that policies typically renew on an annual basis.

Condo Fees

The cost of maintenance fees should be taken into account when you’re buying a condo. This recurring cost is in addition to your mortgage and impacts how much home you can afford. 

Your mandatory monthly fee will vary by your building and square footage. It typically covers:

  • Utilities (such as water and garbage collection)
  • Building insurance
  • Maintenance of common areas (such as the gym, pool, front desk, hallways, landscaping)
  • Building reserve fund (covers emergencies and long-term maintenance projects such as a new roof or elevators repairs)

What Are Status Certificates?

If you’re looking to purchase a condo, you’ll want to look into obtaining a status certificate so that you have as much information about the building and your unit as possible before buying. A status certificate provides valuable information about the condo corporation and its financial

situation. It includes details on the budget, legal issues, the reserve fund, maintenance fees, and any fee increases expected in the future. 

Tip: You’ll want to carefully review your status certificate with your lawyer before making a purchase.

Property Tax

Property taxes are paid annually by homeowners to their municipality. These taxes are ongoing and are separate from your mortgage. Your annual property tax can often be paid in installments.

Tip: It’s important to remember that this cost is not due at closing, but is a recurring cost.

How Are Property Taxes Calculated?

Your property tax rate will vary depending on the value of your property as assessed by your provincial assessment authority. This is then multiplied by a rate that falls between 0.5% to 2.5%.

How Do You Pay Property Taxes?

You can pay your property taxes either through your mortgage provider or directly to your municipality. 

Your Utility Bills

When you purchase a home, you’ll have to set up or transfer your utility bills to your new home. If you live in a condo, these costs may be included in your monthly maintenance fee. Your utility bill will include:

  • Hydro (electricity)
  • Heat
  • Water and Garbage
  • Internet, Phone, Cable

For the full details on the home buyer’s journey including examples, advice, pictures and sample calculations, download a copy of our free Home Ownership Costs to Consider Guide here.

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5 Reasons to Buy an Electric Car

5 Reasons to Buy an Electric Car

We’ve been hearing about electric cars for a while, but it sometimes seems that the only people who buy them are either very into being energy efficient or very wealthy. But there are a lot of good reasons for you to consider buying an electric car. They are good for the environment, but they can also be good for your pocketbook. And who doesn’t want to satisfy the demands of their conscience and their bank account at the same time?

Check out our cost of living calculator.

1. Electric cars help the U.S. with energy independence.

The United States spends about $300 billion importing oil into the country. That’s two-thirds of the U.S. trade deficit. Being dependent upon foreign oil leaves the United States more vulnerable to international problems and fluctuations in the supply of oil abroad.

2. Electric cars are more efficient. 

5 Reasons to Buy an Electric Car

With an electric car you never have to stop for gas. You can charge your electric car in your own garage overnight and be ready to travel wherever you want to go in the morning. In addition, you won’t be wasting any time or money buying snacks or pumping gas at the gas station.

3) You’ll likely save money.

Even though oil prices are the lowest they’ve been since 2008, electricity is still the less expensive option. Right now, if you purchase an electric car, recent data shows you will spend $3.74 worth of electricity to travel 100 miles. However, if you purchase a comparable car that uses gasoline, it will cost you about $13.36 to travel 100 miles. In addition, gas prices have a way of rising (or at least being unpredictable), so that journey of 100 miles can quickly get even more expensive for people with conventional cars.

4) You can get paid to buy an electric car .

5 Reasons to Buy an Electric Car

Right now, the federal government offers a tax credit that can reduce the cost of a new electric car by up to $7,500. That can effectively eliminate the cost difference between a gasoline-powered car and an electric car. Sometimes it can even make the cost of buying a gasoline-powered car more than the cost of buying an electric car. However, the tax credit offer might not last forever, so you might want to buy an electric car sooner rather than later if that’s an important factor for you.

Related Article: 3 Tips for Claiming the Energy Tax Credit

5) They’re Low Maintenance

With an electric car you’re not going to have to take your car to the mechanic as often. Although all cars may have problems, electric cars generally have lower maintenance costs than gasoline-based car. With an electric car you’ll also spend less time worrying about how to get by while your car is in the shop, or waiting around at the garage for the maintenance to be performed.

Bottom Line

You don’t have to be a hippie or a billionaire to opt for an electric car. There are advantages for anyone who takes relatively short car trips and has access to charging facilities.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Anna Bryukhanova, ©iStock.com/Drazen Lovric, ©iStock.com/stockvisual

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