Monthly Archives: April 2012

IRS Lock-In Letters What’s An Employer To Do?

Employers often ask employees to designate the amount of tax withholdings for paychecks. Occasionally, employees will fail to withhold a sufficient amount in the eyes of the IRS. The IRS will then send a “lock-in” letter on the amount to be withheld. What’s an employer to do?

Withholdings

Four taxes must be withheld from employee paychecks Medicare, Social Security, Federal Income and State Income tax. The Medicare tax is set at roughly 1.5 percent of salary while social security is set at 6.2 percent. The withholding for federal and state income tax, however, is subject to adjustments made by employees. The amount of tax required to be withheld by the IRS requires a calculation beyond the scope of this article, but you can look to the “Employer’s Tax Guide” on the IRS web site.

If an employee claims excessive deductions that result in insufficient withholdings, the IRS may respond. The typical response is to send an employer a “lock-in” letter.

The lock-in letter tells the employer to increase the amount of withholding tax of the employee. The IRS will actually specify the maximum number of withholding exemptions the employee can claim. The more exemptions claimed, the less tax withheld in each paycheck. The IRS will also send a copy of the correspondence to the employee.

As an employer, you must comply with the IRS lock-in letter. The IRS will designate a specific compliance date. Better to have died a small child than fail to comply with the letter. Failure to comply will result in the tax liability transferring from the employee to the employer. The employer can also expect the unwanted attention of IRS auditors. In short, make absolutely sure you comply with the lock-in letter.

What should you do if you receive a lock-in letter, but the employee no longer works for you? You must send a written response to the IRS office listed in the correspondence. The response must state the employee no longer works for you and the last date of employment to the best of your knowledge.

What should you do if the employee refuses to comply with the lock-in letter? You must comply with the lock-in letter. The employee’s wish is irrelevant and you have no discretion in the matter. Instead, the employee should be told to contact the IRS directly and request a modification to the lock-in letter.

Lock-in letters can cause stress in employee-employer relationships. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do about.

Are You Overpaying Taxes If You Use Tax Preparation Software?

For many business owners the answer to this quandary is tax preparation software. Fill out a fairly simple interview, click “print” and out comes a completed return that will pass muster with the IRS. The answer to all your problemsor is it?

Can One Software Program Cover All Businesses?

Take a moment to consider the wide range of businesses that exist in the United States. Now cut that number down to those that can be categorized as “Internet businesses”. If you were asked to write a business plan to provide web design services to each of these services, how long would it be? It would be huge and completely useless because each business would have different needs. A Internet business selling flowers would have completely different needs from an online bank which would have different needs from a hosting company and so on. The only way you could create a practical plan for all Internet businesses would be to offer a collection of general services they could all use on their sites. Tax preparation software designers have the same problem.

There are over 15,000 pages in the tax code and over 100,000 pages of regulations interpreting those pages. Changes are made to the tax code ever year, and new regulations are issued constantly. If one were to create a list of questions for every tax deduction and credit detailed in those pages, the list of questions would be the size of a phone book! Yet, tax software programmers have somehow boiled it all down to a simple 30-minute interview process? Common sense should tell you that doesn’t make sense.

As practical matter, tax software programs are designed to make sure that you claim a general set of deductions that are applicable to businesses across all industries. Most programs try to mask this fact by asking you to identify your business before proceeding. For a lark, you might try selecting another industry and then running through the interview process. You will find that the interview process is modified a bit, but you are still being asked the same basic tax deduction questions.

If you are only claiming general business tax deductions, you are paying more than you should in taxes. Ask yourself if you have seen any of the following questions in a tax software program interview:

Q. Do you store business inventory in your house?

Hint: You may be able to claim hundreds or thousands of dollars in deductions.

Q. Did you start a pension plan for your employees?

Hint: You may be able to claim a tax credit for the next three years totaling $1,500.

Q. Do you have a home-based business and a second office?

Hint: You may be able to deduct your commuting expenses each day. Yes, commuting expenses.

Q. Do you have business meetings at your home?

Hint: Did you charge your business for the space?

Q. Should you claim the standard mileage rate for your auto or the actual costs?

Hint: The standard mileage rate may not the best option.

Q. Did you modify your business location to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Hint: You may be able to claim a tax credit AND tax deduction for tax savings of $20,000 or more.

Q. Did you refinance your home?

Hint: The points you paid on your original mortgage are fully deductible now, not over the length of the loan.

This represents only the tip of the iceberg of available credits and deductions available to you. Just one of these deductions could save you thousands of dollars in taxes. Yet, you are never going to see these questions raised in a tax software program interview. The tax code and regulations are simply too large to be incorporated into a usable software program.

Your business is unique. You face and overcome issues and problems that are unique to your size, financial situation and particular business needs. Don’t short change yourself by limiting your deductions by using tax software programs.

Appealing your property taxes for apartment/commercial owners

Property taxes are one of the largest line item costs incurred by apartment owners. However, many owners do not appeal effectively. Even though owners realize that property taxes can be managed and reduced through an appeal, some view taxes as an arbitrary estimate provided by the government which can’t effectively be appealed. It tends to boil down to the old adage, “You can’t fight city hall”.

Fortunately, the property tax appeal process in Texas provides owners multiple opportunities to appeal. Handled either directly by the owner or by a property tax consultant, this process should involve an intense effort to annually appeal and minimize property taxes. Reducing the largest line item expense has a significant effect in reducing the owner’s overall operating expenses. While it is not possible to entirely escape the burden of paying property taxes, it is possible to reduce taxes sharply, often by 25% to 50%.

Why some owners don’t appeal

Some property owners don’t appeal because they either don’t understand the process, or don’t understand that there is a good probability of achieving meaningful reductions in property taxes. Some owners believe that since the market value of their property exceeds the assessed value, then it is not possible to appeal and reduce the property taxes. Although appeals on unequal appraisal are relatively new, there is a clear-cut way to appeal property taxes at the administrative hearing level based on unequal appraisal. Unequal appraisal occurs when property is assessed inconsistently with neighboring properties or comparable properties. Also, some owners are reluctant to hire a property tax consultant, even though many consultants will work on a contingent fee basis, in which there is no cost to the owner unless property taxes for the current year are reduced.

Overview of appeal process

The following are the primary steps in the annual process for appealing property taxes:

Request notice of accessed value

File an appeal

Prepare for hearing

.Review records

.Review market value appeal

.Review unequal appraisal appeal

Set negotiating perimeters

Administrative hearings

Decide whether binding arbitration or judicial appeals are warranted

Pay taxes timely

Requesting a notice of assessed value

Property owners have the option of requesting a notice of assessed value for their property annually. Section 25.19g of the Texas Property Tax Code provides the owner the option to request a written notice of the assessed value from the chief appraiser. Owners benefit from requesting and receiving a written notice of assessed value for each property because it ensures they have an opportunity to review the assessed value. This notice should be sent on an annual basis. The appraisal district does not have to send a notice of assessed value if the value increases by less than $1,000. However, if an owner was not satisfied with a prior year’s value and the value remained the same, the appraisal district probably will not send a notice of the assessed value for the current year. In this situation, the owner might forget to protest since a notice of assessed value for the property was not received.

How to file and appeal

On or before May 31st of each year, the property owner should file an appeal for each property. However, while many owners are comfortable with an assessed value, in many cases there is a basis for appealing. Two options for appealing include:

1.unequal appraisal, and

2.market value based on data the appraisal district provides to the owner before the hearing.

You can appeal by completing the protest form provided by the appraisal district and indicating both excessive value (market value) and unequal appraisal as the basis for appeal. In addition, the property owner can simply send a notice that identifies the property, and indicates dissatisfaction with some determination of the appraisal office. The notice does not need to be on an official form, although the comptroller does provide a form for the convenience of property owners. (You can access the protest form at http://www.cutmytaxes.com .)

House Bill 201 – helpful information

House Bill 201 is the industry jargon for a property owner’s option to request information the appraisal district will use at the hearing, and to receive a copy 14 days before the hearing. The name House Bill 201 is derived from the bill used to enact the law. The details for House Bill 201 are located in sections 41.461 and 41.67d of the Texas Property Tax Code. When filing a protest, the property owner should additionally request in writing that the appraisal district provide a copy of any information the appraisal district plans to introduce at the hearing. The appraisal district will typically require the property owner to come to the appraisal district office to pick up the information and charge a nominal fee, typically $0.10 per page. While the cost for House Bill 201 requests are quite low (typically $0.50 to $2.00 per property for residential and commercial) the information is invaluable in preparing for the hearing. In addition, filing a House Bill 201 request is important because it limits the info

Preparing for the Hearing

Start by reviewing the appraisal district’s information for your property for accuracy. If the appraisal district overstates either the quality or quantity of improvements, this will justify a deduction. The next step is to review the information on market value and unequal appraisal provided by the appraisal district in the House Bill 201 package. If the subject property is an income property, review the appraisal district’s income analysis versus your actual income and expense statements. Consider the following areas as opportunities to rebut the appraisal district’s analysis:

Gross potential income

Vacancy rate

Total effective gross income, including other income

Operating expenses

Amount of replacement reserves

Net operating income

Capitalization rate

Final market value

Many property owners and consultants start with the actual income and expense data, and use one or two of the assumptions provided by the appraisal district. However, they primarily utilize information from the actual income and expenses in preparing their own income analysis and estimate of market value for the subject property.

When comparable sales are the primary issue in determining market value, start by reviewing the comparable sales data provided by the appraisal district versus the assessed value for your property. Convert the sales prices from the appraisal district to either a per square foot or per unit basis. Then compare the sales to the per square foot or per unit assessment for your property. Sales can be helpful during the hearing.

The cost approach is not typically used in the property tax hearings except for brand new or relatively new properties. If your property is new, the appraisal district will probably want to review the cost information and you probably won’t want to show it to them. In many cases, the actual cost of a property is higher than the estimate provided by the appraisal district. If this is the case, you will likely want to appeal on unequal appraisal instead of on market value. No matter how good your argument or how passionately it is expressed, the appraisal district staff and Appraisal Review Board (ARB) members tend to believe that cost equals value for new properties.

Deferred Maintenance and Functional Obsolescence

Another issue that is important for the market value appeal, and to some extent for a unequal appraisal appeal, is information on deferred maintenance and functional obsolescence. Deferred maintenance could

include items such as:

rotten wood

peeling paint

roof replacement

substantial repair

landscaping updating and other similar items

Most appraisal districts give minimal consideration to requests for adjustments based on deferred maintenance, unless the property owner provides repair costs from independent contractors. There are some exceptions where a cooperative informal appraiser or sympathetic ARB will take an owner’s estimate of deferred maintenance and make adjustments based on those costs. Most appraisers and ARB members are much more inclined to make adjustments if third-party cost estimates are provided. In addition, the appraisers and many ARB members are inclined to only deduct a portion of the total cost using the argument, “we’ve been giving a replacement reserve allowance for this item for the past years and it’d be double-dipping to deduct the whole value off it in the current year.” While this is an incorrect appraisal argument, it does tend to be the practice at many appraisal districts. The reality is, the cost of curing deferred maintenance is deducted from the offer by a prospective buyer.

Examples of functional obsolescence would be a three-bedroom apartment unit that only has one bathroom, or a two-bedroom apartment that does not have washer/dryer connections in an area where those connections are common. Another example would be an apartment that has a window air conditioner in an area where central HVAC is typical and expected.

Unequal appraisal analysis

The Texas Property Tax Code, section 41.43(b)(3), provides for appraising or appealing on unequal appraisal including ratio studies and “a reasonable number of comparable properties appropriately adjusted.” Virtually all unequal appraisal appeals involve a reasonable number of comparables that are appropriately adjusted. Comparables are similar properties.

This is primarily because of the difficulty and cost of performing a ratio study. Historically, the position of many appraisal districts was that the property owner needed to get a fee appraisal for each comparable property and compare the market value estimated by the appraiser to the assessed value. The cost of getting multiple appraisals made this process financially impractical. Compiling a reasonable number of comparables appropriately adjusted is simple and straightforward. The first step is to choose a reasonable number of comparables. Usually four to five comparables is the typical number used at a property tax hearing, but in some cases, property owners choose ten to thirty. In some cases, there may only be one to four comparable properties that merit consideration. Most unequal appraisal presentations include three to ten comparables. The number of reasonable comparables depends on the location, type, size and age of the property. For example, there would be fewer five-year-old bowling alleys in the

After choosing a reasonable number of comparables, array them in a table format, including fields of data such as account number, net rentable area, year built, street address, assessed value and assessed value per square foot.

The next step is to determine whether or not to make appropriate adjustments. For the administrative hearing, if you have truly comparable properties, most boards (appraisal review board or ARB) won’t be concerned with you not making adjustments. If you make adjustments, those would typically be based on factors such as differences in size and age compared to the subject property.

You should also review the information in the appraisal district’s House Bill 201 packet on an unequal appraisal. In many cases, the appraisal districts unequal appraisal analysis will document a reduction in your assessed value! If the appraisal districts unequal appraisal analysis documents a reduction, either the informal appraiser or the ARB should make the adjustment in assessed value for you. Having the opportunity to get an assessed value reduced automatically based on the appraisal districts unequal appraisal analysis is one of the reasons to appeal every property every year.

Completing Hearing Preparation

After reviewing the appraisal district’s information on your property, the House Bill 201 package, and your market value and unequal appraisal analyses, determine the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and decide which basis of appeal provides the best opportunity for a meaningful reduction. Although appeals on unequal appraisal have clearly been the law of the land since 2003, some appraisal districts and review boards have chosen to disregard the option for unequal appraisal put forth by the Texas Legislature. Although there is litigation underway which should resolve this issue within the next year, it would be prudent to visit someone who is knowledgeable in local property tax appeals to determine whether the county appraisal district and ARB in your area are considering appeals on unequal appraisal.

Set Negotiating Perimeters

After reviewing the information, it is important to set the highest level of assessed value you will accept at the informal hearing because after you accept an assessed value, the appeal process will be complete for the year and you will not be able to appeal further.

Administrative Hearing Process

The two steps to the administrative hearing process are the informal hearing and the appraisal review board hearing.

The Informal Hearing

The following procedure and rules are typical at the informal hearing:

Meet with an appraiser representing the appraisal district. You should be polite and prepared at this meeting. While many property owners are frustrated and angry at the high level of real estate taxes, the appraisal district appraiser does not control the tax rate set by various entities nor the policy regarding property taxes in the area or the state. The appraisal district appraiser is trying to execute his job in a professional manner and appreciates it when property owners work with him on that basis.

Provide the appraiser information on your property and he will review that information and information he has available.

The appraiser will likely make an offer to settle the assessed value of your property fairly quickly. You can either accept the value or negotiate further. Either way, you should know within ten to twenty minutes whether the appraiser will offer an acceptable value. If the value is acceptable, conclude the negotiation by agreeing to the value for the current year. If the value offered is not acceptable, ask to go forward with an ARB hearing.

Appraisal Review Board Hearing (ARB)

The ARB hearing panel consists of three impartial citizens selected and paid by the appraisal district. The age of most ARB members ranges from fifty to eighty. There is an unfortunate bias in the system since the ARB members are selected and paid by the appraisal district, but most ARB members are reasonable people who want to make appropriate decisions.

Like the appraisal district appraiser, the ARB does not set tax rates or tax policy. The members are also not responsible for the effectiveness of local government. It is unlikely to help your case if you complain to the ARB members about either the high level of property taxes or the poor quality of some aspect of local government.

The ARB will expect you to make your presentation in about three to ten minutes. They will typically wait patiently while you make your presentation and may have questions after you conclude. An appraiser from the appraisal district, who may or may not be the same person who attended the informal hearing, will represent the appraisal district at the ARB hearing. The appraiser will comment on the evidence you presented and will often present other information the appraisal district has available. If you requested a House Bill 201 package for your property, it substantially limits the evidence the appraisal district appraiser can offer at the hearing. The ARB members may have questions after the appraisers presentation. Then the property owner will be given a final opportunity to rebut evidence presented by the appraisal district appraiser and quickly summarize the evidence. The ARB members strongly prefer you not repeat your entire presentation at this point.

After hearing the evidence, the ARB members will confer and make a decision. This decision is not subject to negotiation and they will not revise the decision if further evidence is presented. When this decision is announced, the hearing is effectively over. The ARB will send a letter two to four weeks later summarizing their decision and notifying the owner of a 45 day limitation from the date receipt of the ARB decision to either request binding arbitration or file a judicial appeal.

Binding Arbitration or Judicial Appeal

Beginning September 2005, owners of properties with an assessed value of $1 million or less may file a request for binding arbitration. The owner must file with the appraisal district no more than 45 days after receipt of the notice of the ARB’s decision. The binding arbitration option is interesting because it includes a loser pays provision. The appraisal district pays for the arbitrator’s fee if the final value is closer to the owner’s opinion of value, and the owner pays for the binding arbitration if the final decision is closer to the appraisal district’s opinion of value. Binding arbitration was passed to provide an alternative to judicial appeals, which can be expensive to prosecute.

Many owners pursue judicial appeals to further reduce property taxes. In 2005, O’Connor & Associates filed over 1,200 judicial appeals on behalf of property owners in the state of Texas. The judicial appeals can be expensive if the property owner and attorney don’t understand the process and have a plan in place to minimize the cost of legal and expert witness fees. Judicial appeals are typically successful. However, success requires cooperation from the property owner, such as providing responses to questions, documents and a deposition if requested. The judicial appeal is meaningful as an option to minimize property taxes since it reduces the base value. This is important because the appraisal district and ARB consider the base value in the subsequent year when setting the administrative hearing value.

Conclusion

Property owners can generate substantial reductions in property taxes by appealing annually. Consider appeals on both market value and unequal appraisal and obtain the House Bill 201 information when preparing for the appeal hearing. Property owners should consider all three levels of appeal: informal hearing, ARB hearing and judicial appeal/binding arbitration. While the ARB hearing and judicial appeal/binding arbitration can be an intimidating process, each is straightforward once you understand the mechanics.

Appealing taxes for your home – The Basics

Property taxes are a substantial expense for Texas homeowners, averaging about $3,600 annually. To reduce this expense, property owners should annually review and consider appealing property taxes. While there is no guarantee that an appeal will be successful, a recent survey conducted by O’Connor & Associates indicates that 70% of property tax appeals are successful.

Since the mortgage company typically disperses payments, property taxes tend to be a stealth tax. Although the homeowner writes a check, including taxes and insurance monthly, the property tax component is not evident. The property tax component can become quite evident when the homeowner is asked to fund a deficit in the escrow account.

Although 70% of property tax appeals are successful, only 7% of homeowners appeal each year. Research indicates five primary reasons homeowners do not appeal:

1.The process seems overwhelming and they do not know how to appeal,

2.They do not think an appeal is likely to be successful,

3.They think their home’s assessed value is below market value and there is no basis for appealing,

4.They do not understand they can appeal on unequal appraisal,

5.They are busy and do not want to set aside time, given the presumption that “you can’t fight city hall”.

Why appeal?

Consider an appeal for a $150,000 house where the property taxes are reduced by 5%. This would reduce the assessed value by $7,500 and the property taxes by $225, based on a 3% tax rate. Since the typical appeal hearing takes less than an hour, these are meaningful savings for the time involved. Regularly appealing your property taxes will minimize the value, so you are assessed for less than most of your neighbors. Most of the property tax appeals are resolved at the informal hearing, which is the first step in the process.

How to appeal

The first step to appealing annually is to send a written notice to the appraisal review board (ARB) for the county in which your home is located. Even if you have not received a notice of assessed value from the appraisal district, file a notice of appeal by May 31st for the following reasons:

1.The notice of assessed value can get lost in the mail,

2.A notice of assessed value is not necessary unless your assessed value increases by $1,000, and

3.You should appeal annually

You can file a notice of appeal by utilizing the Comptroller’s form available at http://www.cutmytaxes.com or by sending a letter to the ARB. The letter to the ARB simply needs to identify the property being appealed and the basis for your appeal. You should always appeal on both market value and unequal appraisal. Since the appraisal district staff is extremely busy during late May and early June, sending any data on the value of your property tax is probably a waste of time. At the same time you send your notice of appeal to the ARB, send a “House Bill 201” request to the chief appraiser at the appraisal district. The House Bill 201 request will provide you a volume of information at a modest price.

Reasons for obtaining House Bill 201 information

Since most homeowners are not familiar with House Bill 201, you may be wondering what it is and when it became available. House Bill 201 is the term used by property tax consultants to describe provision 41.461 of the Texas Property Tax Code. This section reads as follows:

“at least 14 days before hearing on a protest, the chief appraiser shall: inform the property owner that the owner or the agent of the owner may inspect and may obtain a copy of the data, schedules, formulas, and all other information the chief appraiser plans to introduce at the hearing to establish any matter at issue.”

The property tax code further provides the chief appraiser the right to charge up to $15 for each residence, and up to $25 for each commercial property owner for this information. However, there are limits on the cost per page an appraisal district can charge. Practically speaking, the maximum charge is $1 to $2 for a residence. In Harris County, most homeowners can print this information from the appraisal district’s web site once an appeal has been filed using the “I file” system.

This section of the tax code was added in 1991, but many appraisal districts have attempted to ignore this section of the property tax code for years and some still do. After discussing this section of the Texas Property Tax Code on a radio show in 2005, several listeners called back a week or two later to report certain appraisal districts were claiming to be unaware of this section. When O’Connor & Associates sent House Bill 201 requests to appraisal districts in 2005, some called us and said “what do you mean you want our information, we plan to use your information at the hearing to prove our value.” While these examples seem quaint and cute, it is surprising that 15 years after taxpayer friendly legislation has been passed, that appraisal districts are still ignoring property owners and tax consultants who ask for this information.

There are at least seven reasons to utilize House Bill 201 to obtain the information the appraisal district will use at the hearing:

1.It is an effective way to obtain information regarding both market value and unequal appraisal for your property tax appeal,

2.You will receive the appraisal district’s information regarding the size, condition and other qualitative and quantitative data for your house,

3.The information can be obtained for a nominal cost,

4.It is helpful to know what information your adversary will be able to use at the hearing,

5.Making the request limits what information the appraisal district can present at the hearing. If you do not request their information prior to the hearing, they can use any information available to them at the hearing. However, if you request the appraisal district information using a House Bill 201 request, they may only use information previously provided to you,

6.If they do not provide you information on market value or unequal appraisal in the House Bill 201 request, you win by default at the ARB hearing, and

7.In many cases, the appraisal district House Bill 201 information clearly supports a lower value.

Preparing for the hearing

When you receive the appraisal district House Bill 201 information, start by reviewing the appraisal district’s description of your home and ask yourself these questions:

1.Is the year built accurate?

2.Are the qualities and amenities accurate?

If the appraisal district overstates either the quantity or quality of improvements to your property, this is an excellent means to reduce your property taxes both for the current year and subsequent years.

Filing a 2525c Appeal

If the appraisal district has overstated the size of your house by more than 5% to 10%, even if you did not file a property tax appeal in prior years, you should consider filing a 2525c appeal. This will allow you to reduce the assessed value of your property for the current year and for prior years.

Read more about Preparing for the Hearing.

and The Hearing Process at http://www.poconnor.com

Andorra Raises 2006 Entry Price

While Monaco is a well known European tax haven, Andorra has remained little known outside of the financial community – despite enjoying the same tax advantages and arguably more private banking than her better known rival.

In contrast to the similar financial benefits both Monaco and Andorra residents enjoy, the two small countries have quite different climates.

Monaco has good all year round weather and is located next to the French Riveria, while Andorra is in the Pyrenees and between early December and late April attracts nearly ten million tourists for ski holidays. Monaco has year round tourists, peaking twice a year in May for the Grand Prix, and September for the Yacht Show.

Neither Andorra or Monaco have their own airports Nice airport has a helicopter link, a ten minute ride direct to Monaco, Andorra is not so fortunate and the nearest airport is Barcelona, a three hour drive away from the principality.

Both countries have opted to stay out of the EU, preserving their ability to maintain a no income tax policy.

The biggest difference is the entry price for becoming a resident which entails buying or renting a house or apartment.

One bedroom apartments in Monaco start at 800,000 Euros, but in Andorra the same size apartment starts at less than a third of the price at 250,000 Euros. And while a house in Monaco is a rarity, there is a good choice of houses for sale in Andorra, with prices starting at under a million Euros.

Rising Prices

Given Andorra’s property price advantage for would-be residents choosing between Europe’s primary tax havens, it has come as a surprise to many that the closing costs for buying a property in Andorra has not only been less than half that of Monaco, but also less than buying a property in many other mainland European countries at around four and a half per cent.

But Andorra has just raised property closing costs by introducing a three and a half per cent sale of goods and services tax on property purchases from January 1, 2006 – bringing the tax haven more in line with neighbouring France and Spain.

Demand for property in Andorra and Monaco is unlikely to be affected by the recent increases though, according to European tax haven specialists Tribune Properties.

‘Andorra and Monaco have historically seen an increase in property activity and residency applications when taxes are increasing elsewhere. The new German government has recently increased the top rate of income tax and the United Kingdom has seen an increase in the number of indirect taxes, making the zero per cent personal income tax both Andorra and Monaco offer an attractive preposition to high income earners.

Andorra’s property inflation has been over ten per cent annually for the last three years, and when the 2005 figures are released we would expect it to be four years in a row, with no sign of a levelling off of demand for the year ahead.

With Andorra and Monaco’s high speed cable and broadband internet access more and more company owners are moving their residence to low and no tax countries and running their companies from a distance geographically, while being able to share information with their head office in real time’.

As well as buying a property in Andorra or Monaco, both countries require residency applicants to establish a local bank account and deposit around 50,000 Euros (Andorra) or 100,000 Euros (Monaco), take out private health insurance, and to live there for six months of the year.

Alternative Minimum Tax Online Tool

Hell hath no fury like a person who just found out the alternative minimum tax applies to them. The IRS has set up an online tool to figure out if you do.

Alternative Minimum Tax

The alternative minimum tax is a procedure that was set up to keep the richest of Americans from avoiding tax paying responsibilities. As is typical of the federal government, the failed to include any language adjusting for income growth and so on. As a result, the alternative minimum tax creams many taxpayers even though it was never intended to cover them.

So, why don’t our beloved leaders just amend the relevant codes? Politicians giving up money they can spend on wars and favorite, but unnecessary, projects in their districts to keep voters happy? Surely, you aren’t that nave anymore. Oh, they will talk about repealing or modifying it, but it just never seems to happen. Hmmmm

To determine if the alternative minimum tax applied to your situation, you have to take a very simple step. Fill out your taxes using both the regular 1040 forms and the alternative minimum tax forms. What a complete waste of time. Fortunately, the IRS seems to agree.

Much like those handy online mortgage calculators, the IRS has taken the alternative minimum tax into the digital world. It has created a new online tool where you can enter the relevant information and find out if you are subject to the alternative minimum tax. One simply goes to the IRS web site, does a search for “AMT Assistant” and starts entering information. The process takes between five and 10 minutes if you have your financial number handy. If you don’t, add however much time it takes you to get your records together.

Now, you might be a little nervous about entering financial information on the IRS site. What if they are tracking you? Don’t worry. It is anonymous. The information can’t be tracked back to you unless the IRS wanted to hunt IP numbers through hosting companies and computer systems. Given it takes 30 minutes just to get an IRS representative on the phone, it is highly unlikely this will occur.

When you’ve got your courage up to full tilt, give it a try. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find you aren’t subject to the alternative minimum tax.

Adult ADD And Taxes

I know you still have about three months until you have to file your U.S. tax forms, but now is a good time to think about taxes. Many adults with ADD would rather scrub the floor with a toothbrush then work on preparing their taxes. Here are some tips to help make taxes less taxing: (pardon the pun)

1. Set up a folder ( green, black, or red are good colors) or a box where you will put all of the tax forms that you are receiving now and put it with all of your other important documents.

2. Get Help – Hiring an accountant to help you prepare you taxes can save you from unnecessary financial anxiety, plus you don’t have to worry about missing potential tax breaks. There are also many computer programs (both on-line and on CD-Rom) that will help you step by step to prepare you own taxes. With these programs you should be able to file your taxes on-line, saving you a couple of steps of having to put the tax forms in a envelope, put a stamp on the envelope, and dropping it in the mailbox.

3. Get a tax buddy – I am not saying that you want to share all of your tax information with your friends, but if you view preparing your taxes as a social event you will be more likely to start and finish the task.

4. Many tax preparers are willing to offer you tax refund loans, where you can get most of your rebate immediately. Basically these refund loans are a rip-off that takes advantage of the impulsive nature of adults with ADD. With fees ranging from around $ 70 to $ 130 you are paying a steep price to get your money a week or two faster. If you need the money that quickly you probably need financial counseling to get your finances back on track.

Accounts Receivable Financing, Tax Write Off And What Does It Cost?

Banks won’t lend money to a business seeking to acquire larger contracts because its not viewed as an asset. So if you are a small start up company, funding for expansion may be hard to obtain. Accounts Receivable Financing could be the key to funding for a start up with desires to bid on large Government (or Corporate) contracts.

So what is Accounts Receivable Financing? It is the selling of your accounts receivable invoices for cash versus waiting 30-60 or 90 days to be paid by your customer. Accounts Receivable Financing is also know as Factoring.

Securing the services of an Accounts Receivable Financing Company will allow a small company to bid on almost any contract within reason. A small company would know in advance that the funds needed to produce goods or provide services are available once they win the contract. In fact, some A/R Companies will advise you on which companies they will Factor Invoices from and which to avoid! (Federal Government contracts are considered “gold” however not all Factoring companies can handle Government Receivables)

One of the major concerns for most small business owners is how much does Accounts Receivable Financing cost? Between 1 to 5% generally speaking. Since Accounts Receivable Financing rates depend on the credit-worthiness of your customers, your average invoice, average payment cycle, and factoring volume, its hard to predetermine the exact cost of the money. However, you should remember, whatever the cost is: Its TAX DEDUCTIBLE and this is important. This means that the cost to factor is offset by IRS.

Not all Factoring companies are created equally (you can’t tell that by looking at their web pages). A Cash Flow Consultant or an Accounts Receivable Broker can stir you in the right direction. There are issues such as: process to acquire funding, will the Accounts Receivable Financial company (factoring) company handle your collections, will they provide the funds through a credit card or will they wire the monies into your business checking account, will the Accounts Receivable Financial company factor with recourse or without recourse? (Meaning will they take responsibility for the debt or will you the client take ultimate responsibility? The rates are different)

Sometimes an A/R Broker has a choice, but not all the time. For instances, there are not that many companies that provide Accounts Receivable Financing for health care or construction. It all depends on what type of business you have and what your needs are.

Accounting Outsourcing Nitty-Gritty that you need to Know

Are you dreading about clearing the accounting and bookkeeping work which has piled up in your desk in view of the approaching tax season? Simply opt for accounting outsourcing to deal with the issue with ease and perfection. This is the simplest way for accounting firms and CPAs to deal with heavy workload to meet customer demand during the peak tax season. Simply undertaking accounting outsourcing will not serve your purpose, until you have proper knowledge about all the aspects of outsourcing.

Imagine you are going to give out your entire business process to be handled by another organization. I am sure you will want to know all you can about this particular aspect. You will surely not want to be caught unaware; if goes wrong with the entire process. Research and more research is the answer for you to meet such eventualities.

Choose the right outsourcing company to do your accounting outsourcing work. Numerous outsourcing come up with attractive and lucrative offers to do the work for accounting firms like yours. Find out carefully as many things as you can about the company before you actually let them do your work.

The internet is a storehouse of information and utilizing it in the best possible manner is in your hands. Check out the services provided by the various companies. Also try to get testimonials from firms who have already done accounting outsourcing from the particular outsourcing company.

Check out the various security measures put in place by the company to protect your company and customer data. This is an important aspect of with which you must take special care. In this internet age, people have become increasingly skeptical about giving out information about their financial details online. Security measures must be stringent enough to deal with this issue and to also bring back the faith of customers to the entire process of accounting outsourcing.

Your work will be done very quickly and you will be able to meet customer deadlines with plenty of time to spare. Highly qualified professionals are always hired for doing outsourcing work. So this means that you serve your customer’s with the best possible service that you can afford with in your budget. Accounting outsourcing work is done faultlessly by the professionals.

Monetary wise accounting outsourcing works out just perfectly for your accounting firm. You do not need to undertake any additional financial investment for the process. In fact you can earn through accounting outsourcing. Imagine you do not spend an extra cent and yet end up earning profits. This is just incredible; you must not waste time pondering over pros and cons of accounting outsourcing.

Check to see if the outsourcing firm provides any offers for free trails. You can actually take up this opportunity to see for yourself the quality of the work done by the firm. Based on this work done, you can decide whether you actually want to work any further with the company for accounting outsourcing work or not.

Accounting outsourcing can turn out to be beneficial to you in many ways. All of these benefits are subject to your working with the right accounting outsourcing company. So try outsourcing your accounting and experience a faster and more efficient way of doing business today!

Accounting Methods Cash and Accrual

When starting a business, you have to determine the method you are going to use for accounting and paying taxes. The two choices are the cash method and the accrual method.

Cash Method

If you are looking for simplicity, the cash method is probably your best accounting choice. Generally, income and deductions can be claimed when payment is actually received or made. This is best shown with an example.

I open a small business and have to order business cards and stationary. I receive the products and pay the invoice on November 18, 2005. Under the cash method, I can deduct the cost on my 2005 tax return.

Some businesses are restricted from using the cash method. C corporations may only use the cash method if they have less than $5 million in gross revenues for a particular year. Professional Service Corporations can use the cash method without limit, while farming corporations can due so if gross revenues are less than $25 million. Tax shelters are prohibited from using the cash method.

Accrual Method

The Accrual Method of accounting is a bit more complex. Under this method, the focus in on the date the expense is incurred, not paid. Although this may seem a small difference, it can play havoc with your books and piece of mind.

Using our previous example, assume I order business cards and stationary on the December 18, 2005. I receive the products on December 30th, but don’t pay the invoice until January 20, 2006. When can the expense be claimed? It depends on when economic performance occurred.

Generally, economic performance occurs when goods or services are provided to you. In the above example, economic performance would arguably occur when the business cards and stationary were delivered with the invoice on December 30th. Thus, I would be able to deduct the expense for the 2005 tax year.

In Closing

As you can see, the cash method is the easier of the two accounting methods. To determine the best method for your business, speak with a tax professional.