Considerations For Paying Off a Mortgage Early

For many, buying a home is the biggest asset they will ever own. However, you aren’t able to fully benefit from that asset until you pay off the mortgage; until then it is technically a liability. The most common length of a mortgage loan is 30 years, but most people either sell their home, refinance their mortgage – or even pay it off before the end of that term.

What are the pros and cons of paying off a mortgage early? Obviously, you no longer have to make monthly payments, so money can be directed elsewhere. It is advisable to pay off your mortgage before you retire, when most people live on a lower, fixed income. By having the mortgage paid off, that money can be redirected to other household expenses and/or provide higher discretionary income.

It should be noted that paying off your mortgage doesn’t provide relief from other routine, high-ticket home expenses such as property taxes, homeowners’ insurance or regular maintenance. However, owning your home outright means it can’t be foreclosed on and taken from you. It also provides a large financial asset from which you can tap the equity or sell for a windfall.

While paying off your mortgage can provide security and peace of mind, you should consider all the factors before going down this path. For example, you may not have enough discretionary income to devote to making extra payments to your mortgage loan principal.

Usually in the first 10 to 20 years of homeownership, buyers are juggling a multitude of financial obligations – raising a family, building an emergency fund, saving for college, taking annual vacations and investing for retirement. That doesn’t always leave a lot of money left over for your mortgage.

There are, however, different strategies you can use to pay off a mortgage early:

  • Pay an extra amount toward your principal along with your regular payment every month.
  • Pay an extra amount each year, such as from a work bonus or other annual windfall.
  • If you continue working after retirement age, you may want to allocate required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a retirement account toward your mortgage.
  • Make large payments each year from an inherited IRA transferred from a deceased parent’s retirement account. Non-spouse heirs generally have 10 years to use up these funds. By withdrawing only a portion of the funds each year, the inherited IRA may continue to grow over the full 10-year period.
  • Pay off fully or a significant portion of the mortgage using other inherited funds from a deceased parent.

Not only does paying off the mortgage early shorten the life of the loan, but it also can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments.

For some people, paying off a mortgage early may not be their best strategy. After all, if they have locked in a low, fixed interest rate on the loan for the entire term, their excess income may be better deployed to an investment portfolio. Over a 15-, 20- or 30-year period, regular contributions to an investment portfolio can earn even more than the equity built up in a home.

If you’re locked into a high-interest rate mortgage, you may want to consider refinancing when rates are adjusted downward. This can help you allocate more money toward your principal. However, don’t be quick to refinance to a lower rate if you already have a low rate, as mortgages are structured to pay a higher percentage of interest on the front end of the loan. When possible, it’s best to refinance or pay extra principal in the early years of the loan rather than the later years – because refinancing could cause you to pay more interest in another front-loaded loan for another long term. Also be aware that some mortgages have an early payoff penalty, generally during the early years of a refinance, so check before you pay it off early.

Another consideration is that mortgage interest is tax deductible, which may be a key tax saver for those in a high tax bracket.

It’s a good idea to pay off any high-interest debt you may owe, such as credit cards, auto or student loans before paying down your mortgage early. These debts may be costing you more money than you can save paying off a low-interest mortgage. Once you’re debt free, you can redeploy those payments toward your mortgage principal.

The decision to pay off a mortgage early depends on your situation and your priorities. Specifically, if you still need to build an emergency reserve fund, catch up on retirement savings, or pay down high-interest debt, you might be better off allocating money elsewhere. By the same token, if the investment markets are enjoying an upward trend and you have a low-interest mortgage, you may want to just let your money “ride” in the market so you have more available later – perhaps then you can pay off your mortgage before you retire.

How a No-Spend January Can Kickstart Your New Year

Here we go again. The new year is approaching and those resolutions are staring us in the face – and the most common? Saving money. In fact, according to YouGov, this is the most important resolution for American adults. Now certainly, you can’t not spend money in January (you have to eat), but the idea is to rid yourself of any unnecessary cash outflow so you can kickstart the year with some solid financial habits.

Limit Trips to the Store

Of course, you’ll need food, toiletries and general household staples, but here’s your chance to step back and make lists, as opposed to running out to Target or Starbucks for a quick adrenaline rush. Plan your trips out. Buy store brands. Check prices. Use those coupons. Set your sights on the long view of the month, if not the year. This is one way to work toward getting fiscally fit.

Eat Everything in your Pantry

You probably have cans of soup and pasta sitting on your shelves. Maybe even some canned veggies. Google some simple recipes with the items you have, add some spices and voila, you’ve got a tasty, no-spend meal. Noshing like this can lead to long-term savings.

Forgo Eating Out

Once more, this tip is related to the first two. Truth is, you’ll want to go out to eat a few times – so go – but within reason. The trick is to find affordable spots with delicious grub. Another money-saving idea: split your entrees. You’ll not only save dollars, but also calories.

Reevaluate Your Subscriptions

This is something that might creep up on you during the year. While you’ve been scrolling these past months, you might have seen an irresistible product and you just had to have it – whether it was special vitamins, a hip magazine or yet another streaming station with all those binge-worthy shows you can’t stop watching. But you might ask yourself: are these expenditures really improving my life? Once you see how much money you’ll be saving, you’ll most likely feel better (new and improved!) already.

Invest the Money You’re Saving

Now that you’ve cut back, you should have a surplus of cash accumulated over the year. So, what to do? One of the best things to do is tuck it away in a high-yield savings account. Just like with regular (traditional) savings accounts, you can withdraw when you want to. But with a high yield, you’ll most likely have a limit to how often you can take money out, which is usually six times per month without a fee. The main difference between a traditional and high-yield savings account is the interest rate. The current national average interest rate for a traditional savings account is 0.64 percent APY. Comparatively, top high-yield savings accounts pay between 4.25 percent and 5.27 percent. You in? Thought so.

Moral of the story? No-spend January is all about starting some new habits for 2024 – and watching them pay off. This way during the new year, you’re not just working for your money, but allowing your money to work for you.

 

Sources

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-no-spend-january-can-kickstart-solid-financial-habits-for-2024/

 

Technology Trends for Businesses to Watch in 2024

The unrelenting advancement of technology is still going strong even as we enter 2024. The business landscape is poised for transformative changes, driven by ongoing developments that demand organizations to be innovative and adaptive. Below, we explore some key technology trends that businesses should keenly observe to remain competitive.

1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Advancements: Unlocking New Possibilities

The year 2023 witnessed widespread adoption of generative AI in various applications, from design tools to search engines and office software. This transformative shift changed the way businesses interact with technology.

Continued integration of AI is expected to redefine automation, decision-making processes and customer experiences. Evolving AI algorithms, especially in natural language processing and computer vision, will play a pivotal role. From enhancing customer service interactions to optimizing supply chains and enabling predictive maintenance in various industries, the transformative impact of generative AI will become increasingly evident.

Tech investments geared toward meeting changing priorities will be a hallmark of 2024. More businesses are anticipated to harness AI-driven automation, particularly using Generative Pre-trained Transformers (GPTs), further streamlining operations and enhancing efficiency.

2. Cybersecurity Innovations: Staying Ahead of Evolving Threats

As cyber threats continue to evolve, businesses should anticipate increased data breaches. In response to sophisticated cyber threats, cybersecurity innovations are set to take center stage in 2024. Advanced solutions leveraging AI-driven threat detection and response mechanisms will become more prevalent. The industry will witness an intensified focus on zero-trust security frameworks, heightening data protection measures. Cyber-resilience will be paramount, necessitating proactive measures to safeguard digital assets and ensure business continuity.

3. 5G Technology Implementation: Revolutionizing Connectivity

The widespread adoption of 5G networks will redefine connectivity standards in 2024. Businesses will benefit from faster and more reliable network speeds, unlocking opportunities for innovative applications and services. The increased bandwidth and reduced latency offered by 5G will enable businesses to explore new frontiers in communication, collaboration and data transfer.

4. Edge Computing Expansion: Real-time Data Processing Redefined

Edge computing will gain even more prominence in 2024, playing a pivotal role in real-time data processing and latency reduction. Its integration with Internet of Things (IoT) devices will enable businesses to conduct faster and more efficient data analysis at the source, paving the way for enhanced decision-making and operational efficiency.

5. Blockchain Beyond Cryptocurrency: Transforming Business Processes

Blockchain technology, often associated with cryptocurrencies, will find increased adoption in 2024 for purposes beyond financial transactions. Businesses will utilize blockchain for secure and transparent supply chain management, the execution of smart contracts and the development of decentralized applications. Integration into traditional business processes will enhance security and operational efficiency.

6. Extended Reality (XR) Integration: Shaping Immersive Experiences

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will expand across industries in 2024. These technologies will play integral roles in training, healthcare, retail and more. Improved XR technologies will deliver more immersive and realistic user experiences, unlocking new possibilities for customer engagement and employee training.

7. Sustainable Technology Solutions: Embracing Environmental Responsibility

A growing emphasis on environmentally friendly technology will be a defining feature of 2024. Businesses will increasingly adopt energy-efficient data centers and integrate sustainable practices into product development. This shift toward green technologies is driven by environmental consciousness and the potential for cost savings and corporate social responsibility.

8. Quantum Computing Developments: Unlocking New Frontiers

Quantum computing will continue to make strides in 2024, with ongoing research potentially leading to practical applications in certain industries. Businesses, particularly early adopters like financial services organizations, will leverage quantum computing to tackle complex problems beyond classical computers’ capabilities, such as fraud detection and optimization challenges.

9. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Evolution: Intelligent and Adaptive Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) capabilities will witness enhancements in 2024. RPA will not only automate routine tasks and processes but will also integrate more seamlessly with AI, providing more intelligent and adaptive automation solutions. This evolution will contribute to increased efficiency and productivity in business operations.

10. Voice and Conversational Interfaces: Transforming User Experiences

The popularity of voice-activated technologies and conversational interfaces will continue to grow in 2024. These technologies will find applications in customer service and various business operations, enhancing user experiences. Integrating voice assistants into diverse applications will further streamline interactions and improve overall usability.

Conclusion

The technological landscape in 2024 promises unprecedented advancements, challenging businesses to stay abreast of these trends for continued growth and innovation. Staying agile and embracing these technological shifts will be crucial for businesses looking to thrive in an ever-evolving digital era.

Relaxing Small Business Accountability and Supporting Veteran Homelessness and Substance Abuse Disorders

A joint resolution providing for Congressional disapproval under Chapter 8 of Title 5, United States Code, of the rule submitted by the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection relating to Small Business Lending Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (SJ Res 32) – This resolution was introduced on June 13 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA). It nullifies a rule issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that requires financial institutions to collect and report credit application data for small businesses to the CFPB. The bill passed in the House and the Senate on Dec. 1, but President Biden has threatened to veto the resolution because he believes it would reduce transparency and accountability in small business lending.

Caregiver Outreach and Program Enhancement (COPE) Act (HR 3581) – This bill supports various Veterans Administration initiatives: 1. Authorizes funding for the implementation, coordination and enhancement of mental health counseling and treatment for participants (family caregivers of veterans) in the VA family caregiver program; 2. Authorizes the VA to contribute to local authorities to mitigate flooding risks on properties adjacent to VA medical facilities; 3. Requires an annual survey of police chiefs, facility emergency management leaders, facility directors, etc., for data regarding VA facility security; 4. Extends certain VA home loan fee rates through March 12, 2032. The legislation was introduced by Rep. Jennifer Kiggans (R-VA) on May 22. It passed in the House on Dec. 4 and is now in the Senate for review.

Housing our Military Veterans Effectively Act of 2023 (HR 3848) – This Act is designed to address issues related to homeless veterans. It increases the maximum per diem payments to authorized entities that provide transitional housing and services to homeless veterans. It also authorizes a maximum of 200 percent of the rate for veterans who live in rural areas, areas with high veteran suicide rates and high rates of veteran homelessness. Furthermore, the bill authorizes the VA, through fiscal year 2024, to use certain funds to provide additional assistance to homeless veterans participating in the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program, and to manage the use of VA land for homeless veterans to live and sleep.The legislation was introduced on June 6 by Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR) andpassed in the House on Dec. 5. Its fate currently rests with the Senate.

Support for Patients and Communities Reauthorization Act (HR 4531) – This bipartisan legislation reauthorizes (through fiscal year 2028) grants, programs and activities that address substance use. The provisions address data collection, education and surveillance activities; support for substance use disorder (SUD) prevention, treatment, recovery and trauma experienced by families of SUD patients; and student loan repayment and other resources for the SUD workforce. The legislation also modifies certain drug schedules of controlled substances and permanently requires that Medicaid cover medication-assisted treatment for eligible SUD patients. This bill was introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) on July 11 and is co-sponsored by 37 Republicans and 27 Democrats. It passed in the House on Dec. 12 and is currently under consideration in the Senate.

Defining Materiality in Accounting

In the world of accounting and auditing, there is a concept called materiality. The term materiality essentially means an amount that if erroneously omitted or included impacts the financials of a company to the point where they don’t tell the truth. One very basic example would be if a $1 million revenue small business made a mistake recording their accounts payable and as result, the business has $100,000 of expenses missing from their results. This would be material. If the same exact mistake happened in a multi-billion multinational company, it would not.

When it comes to materiality in accounting, there are many nuances that need to be considered when evaluating and determining what’s material and what’s not. One way to look at materiality from an accountant’s perspective is to determine how much a particular transaction (such as a purchase) or event (such as a lawsuit) will have on a company’s financial performance. Whether it’s an omission or a mistake in calculating and reporting such an event, the way an accountant evaluates and decides how to proceed with reporting the information (or not) can make a big difference in whether or not such information is material or immaterial.

Another way to look at whether information is material or immaterial is to determine if omitting (or through an accounting mistake) such information would mislead or change a person’s actions regarding the company (investing in, providing a loan to the company, etc.). If omitting the information would influence an outside party’s decision, it would be material. If including the mistake would not change an outside party’s decision regarding the company, it would be immaterial.

One consideration is the benchmark a company uses to determine if a transaction or event would trigger a materiality classification. For example, net profit, operating income, total assets/shareholder’s equity, gross profit or gross revenue are commonly used. However, it’s important to keep in mind that operating income might not be the best metric if the business loses money or breaks even or is modestly profitable.

When it comes to looking at net income and a loss, what matters is how big of a percentage the loss represents against the net income. If there’s a $10,000 loss of inventory (for example, due to a termite infestation of a special type of wood) at a furniture manufacturer that has annual sales of $100 million, it would be immaterial and not necessary to report it on the income statement. However, if this occurred at a start-up furniture factory with a net income of $50,000, it would be a 20 percent loss and would certainly make a material impact to investors, lenders, etc.

Documenting Decisions

The next step is for accountants to document their judgments and the reasons why they made each type of documentation. It’s a way for the internal financial managers or the auditor to determine what was done and why. One example looks at whether or not to depreciate or expense an item – for which the materiality depends on the item’s cost.

If an office desk costs $125, depreciating the office desk seems impractical and would likely be classified as a business expense during a company’s tax year. However, depending on the size of a business’ net income, a start-up may consider it material; but an established, publicly traded consumer staple corporation buying the same item would likely consider it immaterial.

Determining (im)materiality is often a judgment call by the financial experts within a company and the auditors who evaluate companies’ financial statements. With a consistent approach, businesses can make measured decisions for their internal and external audiences.

The 2023 Tax Planning Guide


It’s that time of year again: time for year-end tax planning. With the end of 2023 coming fast, the time to act is now. In this article, we’ll look at the moves you can make to optimize your tax situation in 2023 as an individual taxpayer.

Itemized Deductions

Flexing your timing on itemized deductions is a solid strategic move. It can help you shift to a bigger itemized deduction in 2023 versus 2024 (but not both). This can be advantageous if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket in one year compared to the other. Key itemized deductions to consider are home interest, state and local taxes, charitable deductions and medical expenses.

Electric Vehicles

If you are in the market for a new car, consider buying an electric vehicle (EV) to save some taxes as well. Many new EVs can get you a credit of up to $7,500 and used versions up to $4,000. The credit is limited based on the cost of the vehicle, with more expensive models ineligible for the tax credit. Generally, the MSRP of a sedan cannot exceed $55,000, and SUVs, trucks and vans cannot be more than $80,000.

In addition to the price limit on the EV itself, the credit is limited by taxpayers’ income levels. Married couples’ modified gross income cannot be more than $300,000 to get the credit on a new EV and $225,000 for a used version. Single taxpayers are capped at $150,000 for a new version or $75,000 for a used EV.

One important distinction here is that if you buy an EV in 2023, you’ll need to claim the credit via your tax return, which means you won’t get the benefit right away. In 2024, however, you can choose to transfer the credit to the car dealer when you buy the vehicle and pay less as a result immediately. So, if you plan to buy now or in early 2024, it may be better to wait if you have the choice.

Home Improvements

There are two tax credits you can get related to making “green” upgrades to your home. The first is the residential clean energy property credit, which is installing alternative energy systems such as solar, wind, geothermal, etc., giving you a credit of up to 30 percent of the materials and cost of installation. The second is the energy-efficient home improvement credit. This applies to smaller upgrades like boilers, central air-conditioning systems, water heaters, windows, etc., that meet qualifications for specific energy efficiency ratings. The credit is for 30 percent of the cost, with $1,200 yearly maximum (from all upgrades).

Charitable Donations

If you are considering making charitable donations, consider donating appreciated property, like stocks or mutual funds, where you have unrealized gains. This way, you’ll get to deduct the full amount of the fair market value without having to sell and pay taxes on the gains first.

Beware Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) Rules for IRAs

The penalty for failing to take your RMD dropped from 50 percent down to 25 percent with the Secure 2.0 Act in 2023, but it is wise to avoid the still hefty penalty. The general rule is that taxpayers 73 and older must take annual payouts, and there is a specific calculation behind it based on your age and account balance. You can also be subject to RMDs at a much younger age if you inherited an IRA. If you don’t feel comfortable making this determination, it’s best to check with your CPA or financial advisor to ensure you withdraw the right amount.

Max Out Retirement Plans

The deadline to fund workplace 401(k) plans is December 31, 2023, while 2023-year IRA contributions are allowed up until April 15, 2024. Taxpayers can contribute up to $22,500 in a 401(k) ($30,000 if age 50 or older); and $6,500 for IRAs ($7,500 if over 50).

Capital Gains and Tax Loss Harvesting

The capital markets have seen a volatile year, and interest rates are at highs not seen in quite some time. This may create situations where tax loss harvesting is advantageous.

Generally, if you have losses in some securities, understand that you can take losses against positions with gains up to the number of gains you realize, plus a maximum of $3,000 against other income. Excess losses are carried forward to future years. So, if you have a combination of winners and losers in your portfolio, consider tax loss harvesting to lower your tax bill.

Beware of the wash-sale rules, however. The wash-sale rules forbid you to sell and then repurchase “substantially identical” securities within 30 days of the sale on loss positions. One nuance here is that cryptocurrencies are not subject to the wash-sale rule as of yet.

Increase Your Withholdings

If you expect to have a hefty tax bill, then it may be wise to have additional amounts withheld from your paycheck or make an estimated payment. This can help you avoid a penalty for underpayment of taxes. As long as you prepay via tax payments or withhold a minimum of 90 percent of your 2023 total tax bill or 100 percent of what you owed for 2022 (110 percent if your 2022 AGI exceeded $150,000), you are clear of the penalty.

Conclusion

As we prepare to enter the final month of 2023, now is the time to take a look at your financial and tax situation to see if there are any moves you can make to minimize your 2023 tax liabilities and maximize your wealth.

Wage Garnishment Considerations for Business Owners

According to the United States Department of Labor’s Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA), wage garnishments are a complex legal process for employers to account for when it comes to employment matters. This article specifically refers to Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. 

Usually authorized through a court order, a wage garnishment directs an employer to withhold or garnish an employee’s wages for a certain amount or percentage to satisfy an outstanding debt. Wage garnishments also can be implemented for delinquent tax obligations and other debts owed to federal agencies of the U.S. federal government, as well as for state-level tax collectors. 

Another consideration for Title III is that for a single debt, employees may not be fired; but if an employee’s earnings are garnished for two or more distinct debts, an employer has the discretion to involuntarily separate an employee from its business. This law also permits varying amounts and percentages of an employee’s “disposable earnings” that may be withheld.

The first step is determining how earnings are defined in the course of deciding the final wage garnishment calculation. Examples include but are not limited to retirement and pension payments to the employee, hourly wages, yearly salaries, commissions, bonuses, along with profit sharing, etc.

When it comes to lump-sum payments, the CCPA requires counting earnings that are for personal services, but not including non-personal service-related lump-sum payment compensation as the first step when calculating the final wage garnishment. 

Defining Disposable Earnings

The final amount able to be garnished is determined by the employee’s disposable earnings. This is defined as the earnings remaining once legally mandated deductions are factored into an employee’s earnings. Example deductions include local, federal and state taxes, along with withholdings for unemployment, Medicare and Social Security taxes. Voluntary deductions, such as health premiums, voluntary retirement plan contributions, etc., are not factored into the disposable earnings calculation.

When it comes to regular garnishment guidelines, which include non-support, bankruptcy or tax-based requests, for both state and federal taxes, the maximum weekly amount is the smaller amount of either one-fourth of the worker’s disposable earnings or how much the worker’s disposable earnings exceed 30 times the U.S. minimum wage of $7.25 per hour x 30 hours = $217.50 (as of June 2023).

Looking at a weekly view, if disposable earnings are $217.50 or less, no garnishment can occur. If disposable earnings between $217.50 and up to $290 are considered, only $72.50 may be garnished, depending on how much the outstanding debt is in total. If the worker’s disposable earnings exceed $290 for a weekly pay period, up to one-fourth of the pay period’s disposable earnings can be considered to be garnished. It’s important to note that some bankruptcy court orders, state/federal tax debts and court orders for child support and/or alimony are not necessarily subject to the garnishment ceilings discussed above.

While this information is not comprehensive for employers, it’s important to understand all the federal, state and local regulations to ensure compliance is achieved to reduce the chances for adherence complications.

How to Manage Taxes in Retirement

The biggest difference between managing taxes throughout your career versus during retirement is that when you are retired, you are responsible for calculating how much you owe and paying it on a timely basis. Retirees normally have several different income sources, and not all automatically withhold taxes from distributions.

Retirement Income Sources

Having multiple sources of income during retirement is a good strategy, as it helps protect you from market declines, tax legislation changes and potential defaults or cutbacks in pensions or entitlement programs. However, be aware that the more income sources you have, the more effort it takes to determine how much you owe in taxes for the year.

As a general rule, retirement income is taxed as either ordinary income or long-term capital gains. Ordinary income includes:

  • Employer wages
  • Taxable interest payments
  • Ordinary dividends
  • Short-term capital gains (on assets held a year or less)
  • Taxable withdrawals from retirement accounts
  • Taxable Social Security benefits
  • Withdrawals from health savings accounts (HSAs) for nonqualified expenses
  • Annuity payouts
  • Rental income
  • Pension payouts

Income subject to long-term capital gains is taxed at 0 percent, 15 percent or 20 percent, depending on your total taxable income. This type of income is generated from:

  • Profits from the sale of a business (assuming you started and sold the business over more than 1 year)
  • Real estate (excluding rental income)
  • Securities
  • Most other investments held for over a year
  • Qualified dividends

Additional Investment Tax

Single taxpayers may be subject to an additional 3.8 percent net investment income tax (NIIT) on income generated from invested assets – if their modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $200,000 or more ($250,000 or more if a married couple filing jointly). Examples of investment assets include interest, dividends, long- and short-term capital gains, rental income, royalty income and nonqualified annuities.

Automate Tax Withholding

One way to make tax planning easier in retirement is to have taxes automatically withheld whenever you take income distributions. Much like having payroll taxes withheld from your paycheck, when you file year-end taxes you reconcile the amount owed by either paying more or receiving a refund.

There are certain income sources on which taxes are automatically withheld, but be aware that a fixed percentage (e.g., 10 percent) may not be the appropriate amount for all taxpayers. The fixed percentage withheld may vary by investment type, and in many cases the account holder can change the default withholding. The following shows how taxes are handled for different retirement income sources.

  • 401(k), 403(b) and other qualified workplace retirement plans – Basic distributions are typically subject to 20 percent withholding. However, required minimum distributions (RMDs) are subject to a 10 percent withholding. Note that if the plan balance is high enough for the RMD to place the taxpayer in a higher tax bracket, a 10 percent withholding may be too low. Set up or change the withholding percentage by submitting Form W-4R to the plan administrator.
  • IRA (Traditional, SEP and SIMPLE) – Unless the retiree specifies otherwise, non-Roth IRAs typically withhold 10 percent of distributions. Set up or change the withholding percentage by submitting Form W-4R to the custodian.
  • Annuity – Annuities are taxed as ordinary income, thus subject to a tax rate based on the total amount of income the retiree receives throughout the year. Note that a non-qualified annuity is usually comprised of already taxed income plus earnings. When a retiree starts receiving distributions, only the earnings portion is taxed. Set up or change the withholding percentage by submitting Form W-4P to the issuer.
  • Pension – Pensions are taxed as ordinary income, thus subject to the total amount of taxable income received throughout the year. Set up or change the withholding percentage by submitting Form W-4P to the payer
  • Social Security – If Social Security benefits and all other income total less than $25,000 per year, the beneficiary generally does not have to pay income taxes. However, if a retiree earns a higher amount through a combination of income sources, including tax-exempt income, up to 85 percent of Social Security benefits may be taxable. In this scenario, the retiree can request that the government withhold a fixed percentage (7 percent, 10 percent, 12 percent or 22 percent) from his Social Security paychecks. Set up or change the withholding percentage by submitting Form W-4V to the local SSA office.
  • Taxable bank or brokerage accounts – These accounts may give you the option to have a percentage of taxes (10 percent or choose your own percentage) withheld from investments with realized capital gains, dividends or other asset-based income. Retirees who withdraw regular income or periodic high distributions may want to elect a percentage of taxes withheld to reduce their tax liability at the end of the year. You can make this election at the time you set up your withdrawal.

Develop a Tax Payment Plan

One of the best ways to enjoy retirement is to automate your tax payment plan. You can do this by actively selecting a withholding percentage for each income source you own, and vary it based on the amount and frequency you tend to draw down each year.

Another option is to pay estimated quarterly taxes (due Jan. 15, April 15, June 15 and Sept. 15 every year). This is how most independent business owners and contractors self-pay their taxes in order to avoid an underpayment penalty. This strategy works best if you receive unexpected income throughout the year, earn self-employment income or receive rental or taxable investment income.

The good news is that after your first full year of retirement, you will have set the bar for how much you owe in taxes – referred to as your safe harbor. Thereafter, you’re not subject to an underpayment penalty as long as you pay at least:

  • 90 percent of the prior year’s full tax bill, or
  • 100 percent of the prior year’s full tax bill (if AGI is $150,000 or less;$75,000 or less if married filing separately), or
  • 110 percent of the prior year’s full tax bill (if AGI is more than $150,000; more than $75,000 for individuals or married couples filing separately)

Remember that in addition to creating a retirement income plan, it’s important to develop a tax payment plan as well. This will help make tax season go a whole lot easier.

4 Smart Ways to Maximize Your IRA Contributions

Unless you’re near retirement, chances are you’re depositing a certain amount of cash each year in your IRA at tax time, then kind of forgetting about it, not thinking much about it until the next year. This dynamic can cost you a lot of money – today and at retirement age. Here are few ways to make all your hard-earned money work even harder.

Invest your money, don’t simply fund it. According to a Vanguard study, two-thirds of last-minute IRA contributions end up just sitting in money market funds. The result? They’re just a little more than a checking account with a fancy name. Lesson: Don’t let your funds sit idle. They should be placed in the right investment; perhaps, a target-date mutual fund. Maybe a bond fund, or some carefully selected stocks. Do the work now. Take time to analyze what’s right for you so you can max out your investment.

Convert to a Roth. This scenario might not apply to you, but it’s a reality that quite a few have encountered: A sharp mid-career income loss, say, because of the pandemic, which would put you into a lower tax bracket. If this applies to you, it’s a good time to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth. Another scenario where converting might be a good idea is if tax rates are temporarily lowered by Congress. There’s also the backdoor Roth, which is a good tax reduction strategy; it works best for people who have high salaries (think C-suite) and access to a workplace retirement plan that causes them to be ineligible to deduct their traditional IRA contributions in the first place. It’s easy. Open a new traditional IRA, make non-deductible contributions, then convert it to a Roth. All said and done, no matter where you fall on the income spectrum, Roth IRAs are well worth looking into.

Avoid the procrastination penalty. Sure, making a full-sized IRA contribution right before your filing deadline feels good. You’re doing what you’re supposed to do, right? Taking the tax break for the prior year, right? Yes, but not so fast. (Just to refresh, it’s $6,500 for individuals in 2023; $7,500 for people 50 and older; the contribution cap is $7,000 for individuals in 2024 and $8,000 for people 50 and older.) But here’s the rub: You’ve left more than 15 months of potential investment income on the table. What? Yes, that is $6,500 that you should have invested during the previous year, maybe placed in a mutual fund or stock, that could have been earning for you. So, think again about waiting until the last minute to contribute. It might end up being quite costly.

Invest in stocks and bonds – strategically. If you’ve been lucky enough to maximize your tax-advantaged account contributions and have some cash left over in your standard investment accounts, think about buying bonds in your IRA and stocks in your standard account. But why? Bond dividends are taxed as ordinary income. Stocks and stock-filled mutual funds generally generate capital gains. Specifically, these gains aren’t simply regular payments you get from your stocks. They’re the increase in their sticker price each year. It’s important to understand the difference. Capital gains, which only occur when you sell a stock or fund, are taxed at a lower rate. It makes sense to put them in taxable investment account and then save your tax-advantaged accounts for larger investments. Regardless of which IRA you decide upon, you won’t pay taxes on money while it stays put in your account.

Saving for retirement is one of the most important things you can do. Granted, life happens and sometimes you get off track. But if you keep your eyes on your future nest egg and max out contributions while you’re working, you’ll be better prepared to enjoy your next season of life.

Sources

https://www.forbes.com/advisor/retirement/maximize-ira-contribution

Impact of Digital Currency on Businesses’ Accounting

The emergence of digital currency is reshaping how businesses operate and account for financial transactions. As accounting professionals navigate this transformative wave, understanding the profound impact of digital currency on business accounting becomes not just relevant but imperative.

What is digital currency?

Digital currency is a form of currency that exists only in electronic or digital form, without a physical counterpart like coins or banknotes. There are two main types of digital currencies.  First, there are decentralized cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or stablecoins such as USDC (that track to the US dollar at 1-1). Cryptocurrencies are always based on blockchain technology.  The other main type and more likely to serve as a substitute for traditional government issued currencies are digital currencies such as central bank digital currencies (CBDCs).  Unlike crypto-currencies, CBDCs are centralized and issued by issuing authority and also are not necessarily based on a blockchain or immutable ledger systems.

Immutable ledger systems ensure transparency, traceability and security in financial transactions. The technology also has given rise to decentralized finance, or DeFi, designed to offer access to financial services without the need for institutions such as banks. This translates into a paradigm shift for accounting professionals, as digital currency and crypto currency is continually adopted to make payments, investments and as a reservoir of value.

The Impact of Digital Currency on Business Accounting

  1. Enhance Financial Reporting – Digital currencies facilitate real-time transactions, eliminating the lag time associated with traditional banking processes. This newfound speed provides accounting professionals with instant access to financial data, enabling quicker and more accurate financial reporting. Businesses can now assess their financial health daily, leading to more informed decision-making.
  2. Smart Contracts Streamline Auditing Processes – Smart contracts, self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement written directly into code, bring automation to the auditing process. This reduces the risk of human error and accelerates auditing procedures. Accounting professionals can leverage smart contracts to automate routine tasks, allowing them to focus on higher-value analytical work.
  3. Cross-Border Transactions Simplify Global Accounting – Accounting for international transactions has historically been intricate due to varying currencies and exchange rates. With digital currencies, businesses can streamline these processes, reduce the complexities associated with global accounting, and provide accounting professionals with standardized data for analysis.
  4. Enhanced Financial Inclusion Accounting for a Broader Audience – Digital currencies can enhance financial inclusion by providing access to financial services for unbanked or underbanked individuals. Accounting professionals will need to consider the unique accounting challenges associated with this expanded user base, such as diverse transaction volumes and varying levels of financial literacy.

Challenges of Digital Currencies

Accounting professionals face both challenges and opportunities as businesses increasingly adopt digital currencies for transactions. Accounting standards may need to evolve to accommodate the unique characteristics of digital currencies.

The integration of digital currencies with traditional accounting systems is another critical consideration. Businesses will likely operate in a hybrid financial environment for the foreseeable future, necessitating seamless integration between digital and conventional accounting systems. Accounting professionals must adapt to this coexistence, ensuring data accuracy and integrity across platforms.

The volatile nature of digital currencies poses both risks and opportunities for businesses. While the potential for significant gains exists, so does the risk of value fluctuations. Accounting professionals play a pivotal role in developing robust risk management strategies, ensuring businesses can thrive in the evolving landscape of digital currency without exposing themselves to undue financial risks.

The regulatory environment surrounding digital currencies is still evolving. Accounting professionals must stay abreast of changing regulations to ensure businesses remain compliant. This adaptability is crucial as governments define and regulate digital currencies worldwide. For instance, the lack of a precise classification of digital currencies poses difficulties in determining their financial treatment. The absence of standardized guidelines complicates valuation, reporting and compliance, requiring accountants to navigate a complex landscape where traditional classifications may not fully capture the distinctions of these evolving assets. Therefore, a proactive approach to compliance will be integral to the long-term success of businesses in this space.

As digital currencies evolve, accounting professionals must commit to continuous learning. Staying ahead of technological advancements, regulatory changes and industry best practices is paramount. Professional development in areas such as blockchain technology, cryptocurrency taxation and digital auditing will be essential for accounting professionals aiming to thrive in the digital era.

Conclusion

The impact of digital currency on business accounting is transformative and far-reaching. Accounting professionals are at the forefront of this paradigm shift, navigating the challenges and harnessing the opportunities presented by the digital revolution. Embracing innovation, adapting to changing regulations and continuously honing skills will ensure businesses survive and thrive in this dynamic era of digital currency.