April is National Financial Literacy Month, an annual effort to highlight the importance of financial education and help Americans develop healthy personal finance skills. Organizations and institutions across the country come together this month to help communities bolster their efforts by working as one to showcase the many available resources.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the state CPA societies have supported and participated in National Financial Literacy Month since its inception over 11 years ago, and maintains efforts year-round. The AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy program is a national volunteer effort of CPAs to help all Americans understand their personal finances through every stage in life and improve their financial capability. In conjunction with the efforts of the independent state CPA societies, the program combines grassroots financial literacy efforts with free resources for the public and tools for CPAs to help educate Americans of all ages on financial topics.
In the past year, the AICPA’s award-winning efforts have generated over 49 million social media impressions and more than 6.6 million website visits.
Learn more about the CPA profession’s efforts and find out what’s happening in your state.
This may be replaced with specific information from individual state society.
Are you planning to buy a home sometime soon? A total of 63.7% of American families own their primary residence, according to United States Census Bureau statistics, and home ownership is a long-standing part of the American Dream . Whether you’re still shopping or have already set up housekeeping, it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the tax implications of ownership. The North Dakota CPA Society provides a rundown of tax facts you need to know.
Fact: There’s a Mortgage Interest Deduction
Your monthly mortgage bill will include both principal and interest payments. An individual or married couple filing jointly is generally eligible to deduct all interest payments on home acquisition debt up to $1 million (up to $500,000 for a married couple filing separately). Because of the way mortgages are designed, your initial payments are made up mostly of interest, so the deduction is at its highest in the early years of your loan, which is a nice break for new homeowners. Interest on home equity debt of up to $100,000 ($50,000 for a married couple filing separately) is deductible , as well. You can also deduct the cost of points you pay for a mortgage. In many cases, if you use your loan to buy or build your main home and the points paid were not more than the points generally charged in your area, you can fully deduct the points in the year you paid them. Turn to your CPA with any questions about your eligibility for the mortgage interest deduction or about what it can mean for your finances.
Fact: Property Taxes Are Deductible, Too
New homeownership typically means paying real estate taxes, but the good news is that you can generally deduct those taxes, which will reduce their impact on your bottom line. Homeowners’ association fees paid on your personal residence are not deductible , but if you have a home office you may be able to deduct a portion of those HOA fees as an expense related to that office.
Fact: You Should Know the Tax Rules on the Sale of a Home
If you sell your home for more than your adjusted basis in the property, you generally qualify to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from your income ($500,000 for a married couple filing jointly) if you’ve owned and used the home as your main home for at least two of the last five years prior to its date of sale. (There are special exemptions that may apply to those in the military who are on “qualified official extended duty.”) If you don’t meet those requirements, you may still qualify for a partial exclusion of gain if you experience any of a variety of unforeseen circumstances, including death, divorce, job loss or employment changes that render you unable to pay basic living expenses for the household, home damage or condemnation, or a pregnancy with multiple births. Talk to your CPA about any issues you’re facing related to taxes on a home sale.
Fact: You’ll Have to Make Decisions about Itemizing
All taxpayers must determine whether it’s best to take the standard deduction or itemize their deductions on their tax returns, based on which option will give them the best tax break. Before their big purchase, new homeowners may have taken the standard deduction, which is $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly. Once you buy your home, however, it may be time to itemize your deductions because your annual mortgage interest payments could be higher than your standard deduction. Your CPA can offer advice if you’re not sure which choice is best for you.
Fact: Your CPA Can Help
If you’ve recently bought a home or are about to do so, congratulations! This is an exciting time. Since homeownership is a step that will have a significant impact on your finances, this is a good time to reach out to your local CPA. He or she can offer valuable advice to help you address all your financial concerns. Visit 360finlit.org for more tips this tax season.
Copyright 2017 The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
This is the month when taxpayers begin dreaming of refunds. The average federal tax refund in recent years has been around $3,000 , according to the Internal Revenue Service. Whether it’s a refund, an inheritance or a bonus, there are many windfalls that can change your financial situation. The North Dakota CPA Society has some smart tips for people who want to get the greatest benefit from a cash jackpot.
Don’t Act Too Soon
Getting a nice check in the mail is exciting, and your first impulse may be to treat yourself with a big splurge. Before you do, CPAs recommend depositing the check in the bank and giving yourself a cooling off period. You’ll be better able to make a good decision when you’ve had a chance to get some perspective. You may ultimately decide that splurging just a little is a better decision and one you’ll be less likely to regret later. Consider limiting any splurges by buying a prepaid debit card that you can use for impulse spending.
Don’t Talk about It
If you get a windfall, even a relatively small one, you may be approached by friends and family seeking loans or financial help for a variety of reasons. With that in mind, once again, it’s probably best to hit pause and keep your good news to yourself, at least until you’ve had time to create a plan for what you’re going to do with the money. Having a plan in place will make it easier to stick to your priorities. If you do decide to lend money to friends or family, be sure to set up a clear, realistic repayment plan with deadlines to help avoid misunderstandings or hard feelings in the future.
Solve Your Biggest Financial Problems
Make your most pressing financial concerns your priority. If you’re carrying a lot of debt, behind on some of your payments or haven’t gotten around to starting a savings account, address those issues first. Getting rid of debt can reduce your monthly cash outflow, lower your stress level and leave you better able to create a balanced household budget. And putting at least some of your windfall into a savings account will help you reach your financial goals—such as a new home, college for your kids or a comfortable retirement—more easily.
Make Smart Purchases
Create a wish list and then spend some time deciding which items are really most important to you. Try to give added weight to the ones that offer long-term benefits. Everyone loves a tropical vacation, but instead consider spending your money on things like making needed car repairs, sprucing up your kitchen or upgrading your aging furnace. You will benefit daily from these types of improvement projects while also increasing the value of your assets.
Consult Your Local CPA
Your CPA can help you understand any tax implications of your good fortune, as well as help you create a plan to make the most of your windfall. Whether you win the lottery or simply have questions about your day-to-day finances, your local CPA can help. He or she can provide the answers you need for all your financial decision making. Visit 360finlit.org for more personal finance tips and resources.
Did you know that there are many easy, everyday opportunities to save more, spend less ans gain greater peace of mind about your finances? The North Dakota CPA Society highlights just a few options that you can put to work immediately.
Make Savings Automatic
Setting aside money for the future is always a good idea, but you’re more likely to do it if you make automatic contributions to savings. This task can be even easier with mobile apps that allow you to set a budget for spending and saving and track your progress toward your goals. Remember to do some online research to find the best savings account interest rates. Not sure where you’ll find the cash to save? Start by contributing just a small amount and see how it can add up over time.
Do a Financial Review
Once you’ve set up automatic savings, don’t forget to review all your investment choices at least annually to ensure they still meet your needs. For example, if your income has gone up recently—or if you have a child who’s getting closer to college—it may be time to increase the amount you’re setting aside for the future. And as you get closer to retirement, you may want to pump up your contributions to an IRA or other tax-advantaged savings vehicle and adjust your investment choices depending on your goals and your risk tolerance. Review your investment accounts, too, to see how they’ve reacted to market swings, if they’re still performing well and if they’re on target to help you reach your goals. When you have outstanding credit card debt, assess your accounts regularly to see if you can find a lower interest rate or pay off your balance sooner.
Don’t Overlook Company Benefits
Are you taking advantage of your employer’s matching contribution to a workplace retirement plan? Will using an employer sponsored flexible spending account or health savings account help lower your medical costs? Do employees qualify for discounts on travel or retail purchases? Does the organization have financial literacy or wellness programs? Don’t miss out on the range of valuable benefits that many companies offer that can save you money or provide useful financial planning or health information.
Redeem Your Rewards
Choose a credit card that offers rewards you can use , whether that means cash back, travel, or some other type of reward. Find the card that gives you the best rewards for the purchases you make and offers easy redemption. In making your selection, watch out for high annual fees and determine if their costs could erase the card’s benefits. Be sure to redeem your rewards rather than letting them expire or go unused. A recent survey found that few Americans actually take advantage of these perks to save on airline travel and hotels.
Protect Your Documents
Many important documents are critical to our financial lives. That’s why it’s important to store them—including your will, bank and investment account information and insurance policies, among others—in a disaster-proof location that will be easy to access in case of emergency. Make sure that your loved ones know how to find the documents and have whatever keys or passwords they’ll need to access them.
Consult Your CPA
When you set up a personal meeting with your local CPA, you receive expert advice on a wide range of financial topics, including insights that can help you enhance any area of your financial life. Turn to your CPA for help with all your financial concerns.
Copyright 2017 The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
Are you missing out on chances to lower your tax bill? No matter what your tax bracket, you will pay more than necessary if you don’t take advantage of all the tax breaks for which you qualify. The North Dakota CPA Society reveals some commonly overlooked deductions that could save you money.
State Sales Tax
Taxpayers who File a Form 1040, and itemize deductions on Schedule A, are allowed to deduct either their state and local income taxes or their state and local sales taxes, but not both, on their federal tax return. There are seven states with no income tax. It may make sense to deduct your state and local sales taxes, instead of your state and local income taxes, if your state has a low income tax rate or if you made a substantial purchase during the tax year, such as a car or boat. The federal state sales tax deduction became permanent in December 2015 through the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act.
Support for a Parent
You may know that you can claim your children as dependents, as long as they are either under 19 (or under 24 and a student) or any age if they are permanently and totally disabled. But were you aware that families who offer financial support to aging parents may be able to claim them as dependents? You must meet certain requirements to qualify. They generally include, among other things, that your parent’s gross income for the year can’t be higher than the Internal Revenue Service exemption amount, that you provided more than half of your parent’s support for the year and that your parent is not being claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return. Your CPA can further explain all the relevant rules.
Valuable Self-Employment Deductions
Self-employed people may know they can take deductions for qualifying expenses such as the costs of an office, supplies and equipment, but they may overlook other deductions. For example, you may be able to deduct the amount you paid for medical and dental insurance and qualified long-term care insurance for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents . Medicare premiums you voluntarily pay to obtain insurance in your name that is similar to qualifying private health insurance can be used to figure the deduction. The deduction is not available, however, for any month you were eligible to participate in a health plan subsidized by your or your spouse’s employer. In addition, for the 2016 tax year, self-employed people will pay a 12.4% Social Security tax on up to $118,500 of income and a 2.9% Medicare tax on all of their income, but they can deduct one-half of that tax. And does your business require you to travel away from home? Then you can deduct your travel expenses, including airline ticket costs, baggage fees, taxi fares and other ordinary and necessary expenses related to your business travel.
Hidden Charitable Deductions
How much did you spend on the ingredients that you used when you contributed treats to a school bake sale? What were your gas, tolls and parking costs for driving that you did to perform services for your favorite charity? The little things add up, and if you make these kinds of contributions to a qualified organization, you can claim your expenses as a deduction. Be sure to keep records to prove the amount of the contributions you made during the year.
Turn to Your CPA
These are just some of the overlooked deductions you might be able to claim on your tax return. Your CPA can help you decide if itemizing your deductions is the best choice and spot other deductions you might have missed. Contact your CPA today for valuable tax and other financial planning advice. For additional resources when filing your taxes, visit 360finlit.org.
North Dakota CPA Society2701 South Columbia Road, Ste D Grand Forks, ND 58201
Phone: (701) 775-7100 or (877) 637-2727 Email: email@example.com
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