Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Another week, another time of not always knowing exactly where things lie.
First, although this isn’t really related to finances in any way, it does highlight how much uncertainty there is and how universal answers are difficult. There is a page on that tracks Covid-19 cases in the United States. You can see cases decreasing in some areas, rising in others, and staying similar in still others. It is easy then to see how comfort levels will vary in different areas as most start to open up at least a little bit.
Then, there was the release Friday by the Small Business Administration of an application form for Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness. I don’t want to get too deep into that here, but here is an article from Forbes that gives the basics. But the form’s release was almost immediately followed by a plea from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants that urged the government to release more detailed guidance because it has not addressed all necessary issues. So again, stay tuned as we probably do not yet have final answers.
Also, there are people who paid for some education expenses out of a 529 plan, then received a refund of it after their spring semester was either canceled or altered to an online experience. Thankfully that money may not be taxed, but it must be recontributed back into a qualified program. This usually must done within 60 days of receiving the refund, but the IRS has extended that window to July 15 if the recontribution deadline would normally fall between April 1 and July 15. So take that final recontributing step in time to avoid being taxed on a potentially sizable chunk of money or a nice refund is going to then come with a nice future bill.
And finally, the last week has seen some serious moves being made toward another round of stimulus spending by the government. This started with a proposal from Democrats that really stood no chance of being a success, and it was not really intended to be one. It has the dialogue going, though, and has at least started to show the path the next round of government help will take (which very well may include more individual stimulus payouts).
I think that all these things point in one overall direction, though, and that is that it is time for everyone to get on top of things again. Even if you are in a situation where you have not been able to return to work, more and more people are. This can sound like a great thing, but it can also be difficult at times, for just imagine those who could return to work but have kids who aren’t returning to school. So it is time to figure out a plan, figure out what you can do that is best for you in your situation.
And for businesses, start taking real stock of where things stand for you. If you have one of those PPP loans, have a plan to get as much of it forgiven as possible. And even if you don’t, get a grip on what income and money you have, what that will allow you to do, and what you can do to restart growth.
And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some help getting a handle on any of these things.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Are we tired of this yet?
Of course we are, but don’t let that drive you to any rash decisions.
I’m not going to get into a (potentially political) discussion here of whether it is more important to engage in social distancing and other safety measures or to open things up with an eye toward the economic benefits. Those answers will vary in different areas and even across occupations and situations. There are not going to be any universal ‘right’ answers.
So with that being said, with whatever decisions you are making, try to be sure you are doing so from a reasoned and calm space. We will not be well served by jumping into a return to normal because we are antsy and want to get out, but we are also not well served if overgrown fear dictates our decisions too far into the future.
Let’s trust those who know more than us. This is not to say that there is any one source by which we should all run our lives, but look at places you are sure are giving good information, and weigh what it means for you in your individual situation.
This type of strategy can feel difficult, though, because it makes concrete answers difficult to come by. For instance, the federal tax deadline has already been pushed back to July 15 and now there is talk that it could be pushed back another three months (or more?).
Then there is the case of unemployment. There is the obvious huge and disheartening number that about 20.5 million people joined the numbers of the unemployed in April. At the same time, though, around 18 million of them are only expected to be temporary. So there is a light at the end of that tunnel.
These are just two recent cases of how things are constantly changing. It is yet another thing that makes this time difficult and decision-making feel impossible as the rules keep adjusting. Just keep living within the rules of the moment and make the incremental moves within them. Do what is legal, within your comfort zone, and does not endanger others. Those lights at the ends of those tunnels may feel distant, but we keep moving toward them with those small steps - even if some of the steps meant hunkering down and not moving for a bit.
And breathe deep. We are tired, but we will wake.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

If someone had asked us three months ago what we would do with six weeks (and ever counting) time off, we would probably have had grand answers as to what we would get done with that time. Now that that time off has happened for many, though, what was actually accomplished is probably much less.
First, forgive yourself for this. This was not simply time off and was wrapped up with stress and worries coming at us from so many different directions that it would have been impossible to be productive and remain on task for the duration. But second, don’t give up on using this time if you still have some left.
We work with a lot of small businesses and I am sure that many of them would have answered that hypothetical question at least partially with ways to improve their business. Now, however, we see many of them that cannot do this because their business cannot operate. That situation gains someone the ultimate forgiveness.
Even when you can’t do all that you want, though, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be preparing for the future. And one of the best ways to prepare yourself is through education. This is why I suggest business owners check out some of what Dell is gathering into one place as part of their Small Business Podference this month (
I don’t know if this is something Dell had planned for a while or if it was an idea that arose out of the current crisis, but either way it feels extra timely. It is a collection of podcasts from a wide variety of presenters all aiming to share stories and advice about succeeding in business. Chances are you will find a name you know involved, so give them a listen. Chances are even better that you’re going to find a name you never heard of before, so give them a listen, too.
After all, some of the best lessons come from places you don’t expect. If you only listen to the people you already follow, you’ll only ever be a follower. This is a chance to find some new views spoken by new voices. And really it’s only an hour of your life and we have enough of those currently, no? Or even better, if you don’t like it, turn it off before it is over. This will be much less awkward than walking out of a presentation at a conference.
There are benefits to this situation after all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wait a minute, you say it’s almost May? When did that happen?
In some ways, many have expressed how every day feels the same. At the same time, though, that monochromatic blur is passing quicker than we realize. After all, and leaving the politics and decision-making of it aside, we are seeing some states start to reopen this week, so we actually may be slowly moving into some of the next stages of these unprecedented times.
In some ways, that just feels good. No matter what our lives were like before, I think everyone is missing something. It is different things for different people, but we all yearn for something that is not currently available or at least is not the same as it used to be. In other ways, this feels scary, and I think it is impossible for it not to. This comes out of wanting to do things the right way and make sure that we continue to take our forward steps without going so far that we then have to run backward again.
As we start to look toward those times, though, it can be good to take stock of how you have spent these last few weeks. Hopefully, you can look on it and see some positives, feeling good about things you have accomplished. Even if these things are not grand (and that is understandable, as many of us needed to just feel like we had steady ground beneath us), they are still worthy of being appreciated.
If you do not feel enough has happened, though, it may be time to start doing a little more. Just as it felt overwhelming to jump into lockdown mode, there Is also the chance of being overwhelmed by getting out of it. I mean, there are many families that are going to be stuck navigating returning to work with kids who cannot return to school, certainly not an easy proposition. It is a good idea to get as much in order as you can before those times come.
This means I must give a reminder that although everyone gained an extra three months to file their taxes, it is almost May. July 15th may come quicker than it felt like it could have four to six weeks ago. So even if you have not been able to have an in-person meeting with us, still contact us, we can find a way to get a move on this. Make it be one of those things you can knock off the eventual to-do list so that that list shrinks and does not feel like an obstacle as we keep moving forward.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Hopefully by the time you read this, people will have begun to receive deposits into their bank account as part of the stimulus package the federal government has passed due to the coronavirus. It is going to be a welcome arrival for many who are very much in need of those funds to help get them try to get through to the end of this crisis.
The IRS is also making some good moves to help these payments get to the most people in the quickest way possible. The agency has set up a webpage where you can check the state of your payment (though as most things these days, it does say it could take a waiting period to access with heavy traffic). This will also allow you to update direct deposit information if the IRS did not have it or update an address if you are going to be expecting to receive your money by paper check.
In addition, that webpage also includes a place for people who did not file taxes in 2018 or 2019, yet are still eligible for the economic impact payment, to enter information that will help them get their payments.
Another bit of relief granted by the agency was the extension of the tax filing deadline until July 15. That was clear cut for many, but still led to some murkiness, such as some people being in a spot where it looked like they might have to pay their estimated taxes for the second quarter of this year before they had to pay those for the first quarter.
I don’t want to spend too much time here going deep into what are the deadlines and for what situations, but if your situation is not clear enough that ‘July 15’ answers all the questions, the IRS has a good question-and-answer page set up here.
I would like to spend more time, however, with a final note of good wishes. So much has changed so fast for so many. We certainly felt that around here over the last couple of weeks with various clients trying to figure out what they needed to apply for, and how to apply for, much of the stimulus relief that the government passed. But even in that madness is hope that help is being offered and will be received.
Hopefully some of that calm is starting to bleed through in your personal life, as well. Sure, those who celebrate Easter may not have done so in their traditional manner this past weekend, but I hope there was still some a of strength and peace that could be reached within it.
There has been a lot of talk of getting to out ‘new normal,’ which is not a term I’m particularly fond of, for I hope this is an aberration instead of any dose of normality. But we should be proud and hold on to the moments we find where we are able to still be (or at least be close to) our true selves. So this is a wish that those moments are starting to come more frequently and starting to feel easier to capture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

I wrote about the coronavirus a couple weeks ago, and boy, that feels like three years and 30,000 miles away from today. Since then we have arrived in an unprecedented place. That makes it impossible to come in here and pretend to have some grand advice, the best things to do to get through this are going to be so wildly different for everyone based on their individual situation anyway. My only wish now is that everyone finds some peace while doing what they need to keep themselves, their families, and their community safe and healthy.
There is no one whose life has not been affected by this situation. Local, state, and federal authorities all came out with requests, rules, and edicts and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by it. Alright, so maybe in there comes one piece of advice I can give, which is to tune out for a time when the news feels like too much. If you are caring that much about it, then you are already someone giving enough thought to your actions that you are largely doing the right things. Allowing yourself a mental break so you can refuel a little bit is just another of those right things.
As more and more things got pushed back over the last week, it took a little time, but the Treasury even eventually caught up to the trend. On Tuesday, Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that individual taxpayers who owe up to a million dollars can defer tax payments until July 15, as well as corporations for up to $10 million. They are, however, still encouraging filing taxes by April 15. Things are still changing by the day, though, so of course there remains the possibility of that deadline changing.
But if nothing else changes and you need to get documents to us and your tax return filed, this can be done electronically and accomplished without any face-to-face contact. We will do our best to make the process as painless as possible, for there are more important places in which to place your thoughts. For those expecting a refund, after all, the importance of getting that money may have increased over the past week
I will stop there for now in the interest of not adding to that overwhelming amount of things we have to think about, while remaining optimistic that we are not far from the time when I will be able to put a more normal message in this space.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Without fail, every tax season we talk to someone who has a tax bill that they cannot pay. Without fail, outside of tax season we talk to someone who didn’t file their taxes because of a tax bill they cannot pay.
When hearing of someone with a large tax bill they cannot pay, many people’s first reaction is, “Didn’t they know they had to pay taxes?” Quite often it is the case that these people were aware they had to pay but didn’t have the means to do so. Some then just push it to the side and hope it never catches up to them. Others intend to pay, never quite get the funds to settle the bill, then decide to not file taxes the next year because of it, and things continue to snowball.
There are a couple things to keep in mind in this situation. One is that the chances you get away without paying are very small. If you received a W2 or a 1099 that says you earned money during the last year, the IRS also received a copy of it. If you owe them money because of it, the agency knows that, too. A second thing to remember is that if you then don’t file taxes, it doesn’t mean it’s going to take longer to catch up to you. The agency will then also know you didn’t file and slap you with extra fees for not filing on top of those for not paying.
No matter what you think about the justice of the tax system, it is not wrong for the IRS to want the money that it is owed. It’s therefore not surprising that the agency recently put out a release that speaks to all the ways you can pay your tax bill. This isn’t bad information to have overall, but issues with nonpayment rarely involve simply not knowing how to get your money to the government.
Lower in that release, though, is some information on what you can do if you have a tax bill you cannot pay. Maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that the IRS gives less space to these topics than what you can do to simply pay your debt in full but be aware that these things do exist.
Sure, there will be some fees and interest involved when you don’t pay a bill on time. There are ways to get a plan in place immediately, though – and thus minimize that extra money that you have to pay – and there is a lot to be said for the peace of mind that comes with that.
The more you owe, the tougher it can be to gain that peace of mind. Again, however, the sooner you start to move forward on making a plan to do it, the sooner the worries go away. What tactics are the best to use will depend on your situation, so I can’t give a roadmap here for how it would happen. If you want to know how things could be handled for that tax bill you didn’t think you could pay, though, please don’t hesitate to contact us and make an appointment.