Monthly Archives: August 2013

Bonds FAQ

▼ What is a Bond?

A bond is simply a certificate which the borrower promises to repay within a certain time period. Bonds FAQ for retirement from Scarsdale accountantFor the privilege of using the money, the government entity, municipality or company will agree to pay a certain amount of interest per year, usually an exact percentage of the amount loaned.

Bondholders do not own any part of the companies they lend to – they do not receive the benefits of dividends or the privilege to vote on company matters as stockholders would, and the success of the investment isn’t related to that company’s record in the market either. A bondholder is entitled to receive the amount that was agreed upon, as well as the principal of the bond.

Corporate bonds are generally issued in the denominations of $1000. This price is referred to as the face value of the bond – this is the amount that is agreed to be paid by the company at the time that it matures. Bond prices can differ from their face values, because the prices of the bonds are correlated to the current market rates. When these rates change, the value of the bond will as well. If one were to sell the bond before the time that it matures, the bond may be worth less than was initially paid. A callable bond is one that the issuer may choose to buy back at full face value before the maturity date.

There are three major features of bonds:

  • Issuing Organization
  • Maturity
  • Quality

Short Term Bonds mature in two years or less and long term bonds mature in ten or more. Intermediate is between two and ten years.

▼ What is Bond Quality?

Bond quality is the rating of the creditworthiness of an issuing organization. There are organizations that specialize in judging bond quality. The higher the rating, the lower the risk of the investment. The rating system uses letters A through D. The only bond considered to be risk free is the U.S. Treasury Bond.

▼ How Does the Bond Rating System Work?

Highest Quality Moody’s Standard & Poor’s
High Quality Aaa AAA
Good Quality Aa AA
Medium Quality Baa BBB
Speculative Elements Ba BB
Speculative B B
More Speculative Caa CCC
Highly Speculative Ca CC
In Default - D
Not Rated N N

▼ How do Interest Rates Affect Bond Prices?

Generally bond prices and interest rates have an inverse relationship – as interest rates drop, bond prices rise and vice versa.

▼ How does Maturity Affect Bond Prices?

Bond prices are heavily influenced by maturity – the longer the maturity, the greater the change in price for a change in interest rates. If interest rates rise, it would make a larger difference in the 20 year bond, as opposed to a 10 year bond. Because of this, bond fund managers will attempt to change the fund’s average maturity to anticipate changes in interest rates.

▼ What is a Bond Call Provision?

A “call” is when the issuer of the bonds has an opportunity to redeem the bonds after a certain specified amount of time has passed. This doesn’t guarantee a continuation of a high yield after the call date – it limits the appreciation of the bonds, and it makes the investment more risky. These call provisions can be complex, so it is best for investors that don’t have strong knowledge to avoid bonds with a call feature.

▼ Should I Buy Bond Funds Directly or go Through a Mutual Fund?

A bond mutual fund has within it multiple bonds, and for that reason it is impossible to lock in the payment rate or the principal, which you would be able to do if you were directly buying a fund.

A bond mutual fund is an investment company which manages a portfolio of individual bonds. The investors buy ownership in the company, and each share represents ownership in all of the company’s holdings. Managers will use these investments to buy and sell bonds that align with the objective of the fund.

Because a bond fund manager has more resources to deal with, they can invest in a vast array of bonds – many more than could any individual investor. There are also certain investments that cost tens of thousands of dollars a share – a bond fund costs far less.

Liquidity plays a major role in bond buying. If you purchase a bond individually and wish to sell it, you must find a buyer for your bond, but if you are invested in a bond fund, that fund has to buy your shares back at any time you wish.

▼ What are the Different Issuing Organizations?

  • Municipal bonds are offered by local governments, states and cities. The interest of these bonds is not subject to federal income tax, and if the bondholder lives in the jurisdiction of the governing authority, the interest is exempt from state and local tax. Because of all of these tax advantages, the interest rates paid on these bonds is usually lower than others.
  • Like municipal bonds, the U.S. government also issues these securities. Since they are issued by the U.S. Government, they are considered to have the best safety of all bonds.
  • Treasury bills can be bought through a broker or directly from the Federal Reserve.

Scarsdale tax preparers at Herman & Company CPA’s are here to help you with all your personal finance needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Bedford NY, Scarsdale NY, Mount Kisco NY, North Salem NY, South Salem NY, Rye NY, Larchmont NY and beyond.

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Mutual Funds and Stock FAQs

Scarsdale tax preparers at Herman & Company CPA’s have all the answers to your personal finance questions! Mutual funds and stocks faqs from scarsdale cpa paul hermanThe following are our most popular FAQs regarding mutual funds and stocks:

Mutual Funds FAQ

▼ How are mutual funds taxed?

All mutual funds distributions should be reported as income, whether you reinvest or not. Taxable distributions come in two forms, ordinary dividends and capital gains. The distributions of ordinary dividends represent the net earnings of the fund and are paid out periodically to the shareholders. Since these payments are considered to be dividends to you, they must be accounted for accordingly.

Capital Gain Distributions are the net gains of the sales of securities in the fund’s portfolio and will be taxed at a different rate than that of ordinary dividends. Yearly, your mutual form will send you a form, called the 1099-DIV, which will have a detailed breakdown of all of these.

▼ Can I avoid tax by reinvesting mutual fund dividends?

Funds will generally give you the opportunity to automatically reinvest in the fund. This does not prevent you from paying tax on your assets, but this reinvestment will prevent you from paying more “buy” fees to get into the fund, so it is advantageous.

▼ What taxes apply to my return-of-capital distributions?

Mutual funds sometimes will distribute back to shareholders monies that haven’t been attributed to the funds earnings. This is a non-taxable distribution.

Stock FAQ

▼ How does stock trading work?

Stocks are traded in quantities of 100 shares, called round lots. Any quantity of stock under 100 shares will be considered an odd lot.

▼ What is the difference between Preferred and Common Stock?

Most stocks are common stocks. However, there is another type (known as preferred) which gives certain advantages regarding dividends. Generally, preferred stock holders do not have the same voting rights that the holders of common shares do. Common stocks are based on company performance, while preferred stocks will usually have a stated dividend.

▼ How can I invest in foreign stocks?

It is fairly easy to invest in foreign corporations, because these corporations need to register these securities with the SEC. These companies are subjected to the same rules as U.S. companies.

Scarsdale CPA Paul Herman is here to help you with all your personal finance needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Rye NY, Larchmont NY, Scarsdale NY, Katonah NY, Chappaqua NY, Bronxville NY, Dobbs Ferry NY and beyond.

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2014 HSA Amounts

By Paul Herman

Scarsdale tax preparers at Herman & Company CPA’s have all the answers to your personal finance questions!

Health savings accounts (HSAs) were created as a tax-favored framework to provide health care benefits mainly for small business owners, the self-employed, and employees of small- to medium-sized companies who do not have access to health insurance. Health Savings Account advice from Scarsdale CPAThe tax benefits of HSAs are quite substantial. Eligible individuals can make tax-deductible (as an adjustment to AGI) contributions to HSA accounts. Funds in the account may be invested (somewhat like an IRA), so there is opportunity for growth. The earnings inside the HSA are free from federal income tax, and funds withdrawn to pay eligible health care costs are tax free.

An HSA is a tax-exempt trust or custodial account established exclusively for paying qualified medical expenses of the participant who, for the months for which contributions are made to an HSA, is covered under a high-deductible health plan. Consequently, an HSA is not insurance; it is an account that must be opened with a bank, brokerage firm, or other provider (i.e., insurance company). It is therefore different from a flexible spending account in that it involves an outside provider serving as a custodian or trustee.

The 2014 inflation-adjusted deduction for individual self-only coverage under a high-deductible plan is limited to $3,300, while the comparable amount for family coverage is $6,550. This is an increase of 1.5% and 1.6%, respectively, from 2013. For 2014, a high-deductible health plan is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,250 for self-only coverage and $2,500 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles and copayments, but not premiums) must not exceed $6,350 for self-only coverage or $12,700 for family coverage.

Scarsdale CPA Paul Herman is here to help you with all your personal finance needs. Please contact us for all inquiries and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Scarsdale NY, Larchmont NY, Mamaroneck NY, Purchase NY, Rye NY, White Plains NY and beyond.

Photo Credit: Sal Falko via Photopin cc

Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.