Monthly Archives: January 2014

IRA Contributions

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman has all the answers to all your personal finance questions!

One popular tax savings outlet available to taxpayers today is the Individual Retirement Account, more commonly referred to as an IRA.

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Keep your nest egg secure with these quick tips!

There are several options you have when deciding which type of IRA account to enter into. You may be able to take a tax deduction for the contributions to a traditional IRA, depending on whether you€” or your spouse, if filing jointly are covered by an employer’s pension plan and how much total income you have. Conversely, you cannot deduct Roth IRA contributions, but the earnings on a Roth IRA may be tax-free if you meet the conditions for a qualified distribution.

Generally, you can contribute a percentage of your earnings for the current year or a larger, €œcatch-up€ if you are age 50 or older. You can fund a traditional IRA, a Roth IRA (if you qualify), or both, but your total contributions cannot be more than these annual amounts (currently $5,500 for 2013, or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older).

You can file your tax return claiming a traditional IRA deduction before the contribution is actually made. However, the contribution must be made by the due date of your return, not including extensions. If you haven’t contributed funds to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) for last tax year, or if you’ve put in less than the maximum allowed, you still have time to do so. You can contribute to either a traditional or Roth IRA until the April 15 due date for filing your tax return for last year, not including extensions.

Be sure to tell the IRA trustee that the contribution is for last year. Otherwise, the trustee may report the contribution as being for this year, when they get your funds.

If you report a contribution to a traditional IRA on your return, but fail to contribute by the deadline, you must file an amended tax return by using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You must add the amount you deducted to your income on the amended return and pay the additional tax accordingly.

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Bedford NY, Chappaqua NY, Harrison NY, Scarsdale NY, Mt. Kisco NY, Pound Ridge NY, Greenwich CT and beyond.

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Capital Gains and Losses: FAQs

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions! The following are frequently asked questions our Westchester accounting firm regularly receives regarding capital gains and losses, and how to handle them. a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4375850315/Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset. The IRS says when you sell a capital asset, such as stocks, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis, which is usually what you paid for it, is a capital gain or a capital loss. While you must report all capital gains, you may deduct only your capital losses on investment property, not personal property.

While you must report all capital gains, you may deduct only your capital losses on investment property, not personal property. A “paper loss” — a drop in an investment’s value below its purchase price — does not qualify for the deduction. The loss must be realized through the capital asset’s sale or exchange.

Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term, depending on how long you hold the property before you sell it. If you hold it more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, your capital gain or loss is short-term. For more information on the tax rates, refer to IRS Publication 544, Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, the excess is subtracted from other income on your tax return, up to an annual limit of $3,000 ($1,500 if you are married filing separately). Unused capital losses can be carried over indefinitely to future years to net against capital gains, however the annual limit still applies.

Capital gains and losses are reported on Form 8949Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets, summarized on Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, and then transferred to line 13 of Form 1040. Accounting and planning for the sale and purchase of capital assets is usually a very complicated matter, so please contact us so that you may receive the professional advice you deserve.

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Armonk NY, Bedford Hills NY, Katonah NY, Larchmont NY, Purchase NY, Scarsdale NY, Rye NY, Stamford CT and beyond.

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Choosing a Legal Professional for Your Business: FAQs

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions! The following are frequently asked questions our Westchester accounting firm regularly receives regarding choosing a legal professional for your business.
▼ Should I hire an attorney?

It is necessary to hire an attorney for some disputes that require a lot of time. Having an attorney makes you more prepared, but you may also hire one for a significant business transaction. http://www.flickr.com/photos/safari_vacation/6260723020/If there is a problem where the court is concerned, it is advisable to hire an attorney.

 

 

The following should be considered when determining if an attorney is necessary:

  • Is this a difficult legal dispute or will I end up in court? What is involved in terms of money, property, or time? Positive answers demonstrate the need for an attorney.
  • Does a book exist that will be able to help me so I don’t have to hire an attorney? Some problems can be resolved with little help.
  • Have you looked for non-Lawyer legal resources to help?

Certain disputes can be solved without needing an attorney. For example, a living will can be prepared by a non-legal organization such as the American Association of Retired Persons. There are several organizations that can aid in the process of obtaining a living will form from the state along with information for filling it out.

▼ What process do I follow to handle the dispute by myself?

The use of letters and negotiation solves many disputes without the need of an attorney. Arbitration or mediation may also be used. There are legal self-help manuals and conferences that can aid in resolving disputes.

Idea: Instead of hiring an attorney to fully represent you, only use them for paper review or advice.

Negotiation without a lawyer: This can resolve many small disputes. Many books cover the process of negotiation.

Idea: Make sure to learn about the legal issues that could be brought up before the negotiation by speaking with a legal hot line or consulting resource.

Mediation or arbitration: You can find dispute resolution centers in almost every state. The areas that they commonly focus on are complaints from consumers, rental property disputes, and arguments between neighbors or members of a family.

Mediation consists of a third party who helps the two parties talk about the problems and hopefully reach an agreement. Arbitration is a more formal process where a third party reaches a conclusion after hearing both sides.

These are the low cost options in comparison to going to court or hiring a lawyer for representation.

Small claims court: Each state defines the limits for the amount of damages, which can be filed in small claims court. These are less formal and require less paperwork than normal courts. You must be prepared to function as your own lawyer in small claims court, which involves compiling evidence, investigating the law and making your story known in court.

 What method should I use to find a good attorney?

Speak with friends, relatives, clergymen, social workers or your doctor for their opinions. You can also use the referral lists that are compiled by the Bar Association.

Pay close attention to the specialty area in the Bar Association lists, as many attorneys work in different areas. A lawyer that is a part of one of the organizations may have just what you are looking for.

More sources are the Who’s Who in America Law and the Martindale Hubbell Law Directory. Make use of referral services for particular groups (for example, people with disabilities, elders or victims of domestic violence).

If using the referral service, ask for details on how the lawyers were selected. Many referral services use lawyers who are members of a certain organization.

The court and your bank can be great referral sources as well as the yellow pages. After the list is compiled, spend time with each of them and slowly eliminate attorneys.

▼ What should I ask my possible lawyers?

Before beginning a consultation, the following questions should be asked:

  • Is the first consultation free?
  • How long have you been an attorney?
  • Do you have a lot of cases that are like mine? (Try to find an attorney that has experience in your problem area.)
  • Are there references, such as trust officers in banks or other attorneys that I can contact?
  • Are there any clients or special-interest groups that you work for that may cause a conflict of interest?
  • Can we make a fee agreement? May we discuss the fees?
  • Is there anything in particular that I should bring to the first consultation?

Make sure to consult with at least two of the attorneys from your list. There is no need to be embarrassed about choosing the best attorney or changing appointments with an attorney after all investigation is complete.

It is now time to interview the possible attorneys. Make sure to have a brief summary of the case at hand as well as general questions to ask the attorney. There are two objectives for meeting with the attorney: 1) to see if the attorney has the talent needed to represent you, and 2) to see if you are comfortable with attorney and the fee agreement.

 Is a certain fee agreement better for me?

The basic rate for legal services depends on location. Based on your knowledge of the fees, a “fair” fee should be selected. Here are a few factors that play a role in the decision:

  • What can you afford?
  • Is this a routine case or do I need someone with special experience?
  • What is the going rate for the attorneys in my area?
  • What can I take care of without the attorney?

The following are basic fee agreements in use by attorneys:

Flat fee: There is a specific total that will be charged for work on your case.

  • Idea: Make sure to ask if copies, transcribing and other expenses are included in this rate.
  • This is normally offered only if the case is simple or routine.
  • Note: Litigation is not usually a flat fee, but an attorney can give you a fair estimate beforehand.

Hourly rate: A rate will be charged for each hour or part of the hour that the attorney works on your case. For example, if the attorney’s fee is $50 per hour and puts in five hours of work, then the cost will be $250. Some rates may vary depending on whether they are hours spent in court or doing investigation and preparation.

  • Idea: If you decide on an hourly rate, find out how much expertise the attorney has in your particular problem area. Someone who is less experienced will need more hours to complete the work, even though the hourly rate is lower.
  • The size of the firm also affects the price. Smaller firms and urban lawyers usually charge a higher hourly rate than lawyers in rural areas and large law firms charge the most.
  • Idea: Find out what is included in the hourly rate. Will you be charged for other staff members time put into the case and if so, how? Are there any other expenses that I will be billed for besides the hourly rate?

Contingency fee: The final amount owed is based on the amount awarded in the case. In this scenery, if you lose the case, the lawyer does not receive anything besides expenses. This is normally one-third of the total.

  • Idea: Find out if the fee will be calculated before or after expenses are taken into account. This can make a significant difference in the amount of the fee.
▼ What can I do to save money on legal fees?

Bear in mind that attorney fees are usually negotiable even though you will not be asked to bargain over the fees. The following are a few tips to make sure you save the most money possible:

  • Shop around for flat fees on routine cases.
  • Discuss the method of billing for hourly rates. To avoid problems, have a written agreement stating the fee agreement as well as what is involved.
  • Find an attorney with the qualifications necessary for your case. The majority of legal work is fairly routine. Knowing what form needs to be completed and then who to file that with plays a large role.
  • Propose to help with the workload.
  • Use the lawyer as the middleman. If you only need a letter written to the opposing party, some attorneys will negotiate a lower fee.
  • Work the lawyer as your coach. Hire a lawyer to guide you and review documents and letters that you prepared and signed if you would like to represent yourself in court (pro se).
  • Select an attorney that specializes in your particular case.
  • Always arrive prepared to lawyer meetings. The more information you have at hand means that less time that the lawyer needs to spend looking for that information.
  • Be forthcoming with your attorney. To save time and money, make sure the attorney knows all the pertinent facts as soon as possible to reduce the need for more investigation.
  • If factors change, inform your lawyer immediately. This can possibly save the lawyer’s time or keep the lawyer from working on the case in the wrong direction.
  • Be prepared when having contact with your lawyer. Ask all questions in one call. When you receive a letter or information in writing, pass it on to other staff members instead of contacting the attorney, unless you have a specific need.
  • Pay close attention to invoices. Ask that you receive an invoice regularly. This applies to all types of fee agreements including a contingency fee. If you have a question regarding any of the items, you should immediately speak with your attorney.

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Armonk NY, Bedford NY, Harrison NY, Chappaqua NY, White Plains NY, Scarsdale NY, Purchase NY, Greenwich CT and beyond.

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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.