Monthly Archives: March 2012

Tax Returns for the Deceased

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Two things in life are certain death and taxes. Here’s what to do if the two are combined as far as filing a tax return.

Tax Returns for the Deceased

If a person dies, their finances are immediately converted into something called an estate. The estate is then responsible for filing a tax return covering the finances including income and distributions to heirs and beneficiaries. However, a final personal tax return must still be filed for the deceased.

The final personal tax return for the deceased is known as Form 1040. Yep, you file the same tax form as you would for any personal tax return. It is hard to believe the IRS passed up an opportunity to create another form, but there you go. Miracles do happen.

When determining the income and taxes due for a person who passes away, the date of death is the cutoff. All income earned before that date for the year goes on the personal tax return. All income earned after death is the responsibility of the estate and will be reported on the estate tax return.

As to deductions, there is good news. Regardless of the time of the year when the grim event occurs, you can claim the full deduction for the year and any other expenses that occur prior to death. Put another way, you don’t have to calculate any ratios based on the number of months that have passed. If someone passes away in February, you still get the full write-offs for the rest of the year.

When a person passes away, an executor or trustee will be in charge of their estate. The exact designation depends on what type of estate planning they did. Nonetheless, this person will sign the tax return and note the person is deceased. This should take care of everything with the IRS excluding the estate tax return.

What happens if the deceased is due a tax refund? In such a situation, the IRS will not just kick out a refund unless the deceased was married. If married, the refund is sent to the spouse. If not, you must file a Form 1310 to get the refund. This form basically says you are claiming the refund, have the right to do so and absolve the IRS of any involvement in subsequent disputes.

Preventing Fundraiser Burnout

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Since many schools and other organizations today find themselves suffering from a chronic state of under-funding, they are increasingly forced to hold multiple fundraisers through the course of the year. Unfortunately, this can lead to a complete ‘fundraiser burnout’ for many customers as well as for fundraising salespeople.

So the critical question is: how do you maintain real interest on the part of customers so as to keep support for your group strong, and how do you keep your salespeople from flagging, losing energy and interest in raising money for your organization? Although there are many potential solutions, here are just a few examples to get started with.

In order to keep customer interest high, and as a way of maintaining goodwill, sell different products during each fundraiser throughout the year. There’s nothing wrong with repeating a successful fundraiser, but once a year is probably more than enough even an extremely popular fundraising option can quickly lead to customer burnout if it’s repeated too frequently.

As a matter of maintaining customer goodwill, offer useful products and services in your fundraisers everyone loves cookies and chocolates, but there comes a point where customers will only be buying them to support the organization; some will just quit buying them at all. If you find a way to provide goods or services that supporters of the organization already want, then they are able to support your organization by buying something that they might have somewhere else anyway a win-win situation.

As a corollary of this, be sure not to have too many fundraisers you’re better off with a few wildly successful ones than a dozen mediocre fundraising programs customers will buy more readily when they’re asked to buy less often, and salespeople can stay excited if they’re not asked to sell constantly.

To keep your salespeople excited, offer creative incentives to encourage them to compete with one another. Depending on your organization, the chance to throw pies at a principal or dunk some other authority figure could go over very well. Also, make the connection obvious show your salespeople the benefits that the organization will see from fundraising and by extension the benefits that they themselves will see.

There are many other ways to keep fundraising fun and ensure that your customers and salespeople stay interested just make sure to use common sense and think positively and creatively – your organization is bound to be successful!

Tax Returns – Should You Itemize?

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When you finally decide it is time to prepare your taxes, the first question is whether you should itemize your deductions or take the standard deduction provided by the IRS.

Choices, Choices

Tax deductions are a very simple part of a theoretically simple tax reporting system. If you’ve ever prepared your own taxes, you know this simply isn’t true. Complicated tax forms can be a nightmare to fill out. Ever helpful, the IRS gives you an option of just taking a standard deduction instead of itemizing your deductions. So, what should you do?

The standard deduction is the easiest method because it requires no calculations or supporting documentation of any sort. You figure out your adjusted gross income and simply submit the amount for your classification. The amount differs based on whether you are filing as single, married, older than 65 or have kids.

Many people scoff at the mere idea of taking the standard deduction. As with all tax issues, deciding whether to take the standard deduction isn’t so easy. If you have a fairly simple financial life and don’t have many deductions, the standard deduction is almost always the best choice. For instance, if you make $45,000 as an employee of a company, rent a residence and don’t have any major medical bills or losses, the standard deduction is probably going to save you more money than itemizing. Unfortunately, you can never be sure until you take a stab at itemizing your deductions in a rough draft of a tax return.

Itemizing your deductions is exactly what it sounds like. You literally go through your records and categorize every possible deduction. These deductions are then subtracted from your adjusted gross income to get a final figure from which tax is determined using the tax tables. Itemizing is the way to go if you have significant tax deductions or tax credits in your financial life. For instance, you almost always want to itemize if you own a home as mortgage interest can be deducted. Generally, you want to itemize if you own a home, have significant medical bills, can claim a tax credit or suffered some type of major loss. Obviously, there are other situations where itemizing makes sense, but this gives you an idea of the situation.

If you have a simple financial situation, claiming the standard deduction may be the answer. If life is a bit more complicated, itemizing is probably going to save you more on your tax bill.

Political Fundraising Online

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Looking for low cost political fundraising tips? It’s obvious that the campaign fund raising system is badly in need of reform. This article covers a dozen ways political candidates can raise money quickly and easily online.

Getting elected to any type of local, state, or national office is hugely expensive. As a result, most politicians are beholden to special interest groups who contribute heavily to fund their election and reelection campaigns.

There are plenty of ways that political candidates could raise money the right way, but that requires work and quite frankly, a lot of them take the easy way instead.

If they’d only use their brains and build grass roots fundraising organizations, leverage the power of the internet, and avoid wasting money on ineffective advertising, they could get elected without compromising their beliefs.

Remember how Howard Dean shocked everyone in 2003 with his fundraising prowess? Well, that success is a huge arrow pointing at new ways to raise funds online.

12 tips for online political fundraising:

Website name capture

Your candidate website should be designed to capture the names and email addresses of as many visitors as possible. Use the technique known as name capture that presents a special page to visitors asking them to be added to your mailing list. That way, you can add as many as 50% of your site visitors to your follow-up autoresponder messages.

Offer RSS feeds

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) distributes new website postings to everyone who’ve signed up to receive your info. This is great for getting media coverage, creating a lot of links back to your website, and keeping supporters updated.

Blogging

Add a blog to your website explaining your positions on the issues. Blogs are all the rage these days and having one will get you additional exposure within the political community. Be passionate in your postings! Allow visitors to add comments, but set them to be approved.

Podcasts

Doing podcasts explaining your positions on important issues is another great way to push information out to the public. Create multimedia presentations for others to view such as speeches, hot topics, requests for donations, etc. You can get setup to podcast for under $100.

Position papers

Post detailed position statements on your website on how your views contrast with opponents. This will attract people searching for information on the issues.

Press kits

Provide summary info on your website in PDF document format for press kits to increase media coverage.

Collect donations online

Howard Dean stunned everyone back in 2003 with his online fundraising capabilities. Do the same in your race. Make it easy to receive campaign donations with one-click donation buttons.

Interactive website

Include interactive content on their site such as blog comments, forums, streaming videos of speeches, audio files, photos, “tell a friend” capability, etc.

Sell promo materials

Sell tshirts, hats, campaign buttons, bumper stickers, polo shirts, supporter kits, lawn signs, banners, placards, etc. Put the profits into your campaign fund.

Voter Registration

Provide detailed voter registration information for your area. Ask people to sign up for registration drives and Election Day turnouts.

Show Passion

Tell us exactly how you will MAKE US BETTER!

Start using these online political fundraising tips today.

Planning A Charity Golf Tournament

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Looking for tips on planning a charity golf tournament? There are many factors to consider, so I’ll stick to the four main ones for this article. The success of your charity golf event revolves around maximizing player turnout, increasing pledge sizes, obtaining sponsored prizes, and planning tips.

Player Turnout

Your success depends on how many players your golf event draws and how actively you have your players solicit sponsors for their own rounds.

To maximize turnout, you need to get major publicity for your event. That means putting out multiple press releases, getting local media coverage from newspapers and television stations, and placing ads in the sports section of the local paper.

For the best results, put your press releases out through PR Web. Appoint a spokesperson to handle all media contacts and follow-up. For more tips, read my article on fundraising publicity.

Charity Pledges

The key is getting each player to collect a certain amount of pledges. I recommend a minimum of $100 per player in pledges. I’ve also played in tournaments where that number was $250 per player.

Obviously, you want to motivate the participants to raise as much money as possible. Some groups offer incentives for the top pledge getters. Others seek corporate sponsorships for that firm’s players.

Pledge amounts determine the success of your charity golf event, so get input from experienced golfers and golf pros in your area.

Top Golfer Prizes

Generally speaking, you’ll draw more golfers if you have great prizes for longest drive, closest to the hole, hole in one, lowest team score, lowest actual score, and best adjusted score (handicap).

You solicit local merchants to sponsor those prizes. Work with an insurance-related prize company for things like the hole-in-one contest. That way you can offer a bigger prize for a much lower outlay.

Aim to get 100 golfers (25 foursomes) and your small group could easily raise $10,000 or more. Larger turnouts will net even more with some charity golf tournaments drawing 500 golfers competing for big prizes.

Plan Ahead

Obviously, bigger pledges, more golfers, corporate sponsorships combined with massive publicity will work wonders for the bottom line of your charity golf tournament. With the right combination of these factors and good advance planning, you can certainly raise $75,000 or more for a charitable cause.

Contact local courses for group rates. Be sure to mention that you are planning a charity event and ask for discounts on cart and greens fees. Once you decide on your preferred location, reserve the date and tee times well in advance.

Charity Golf Event – Final Tips

Plan ahead to maximize the success of your charity golf event. For best results, pick a weekday when courses and large blocks of tee times will be easier to reserve. You’ll often get the best rates by going to the course in person and talking to the pro or pro shop manager.

Corporate sponsors are another good way to go. Get some celebrities to golf with corporate bigwigs and you can easily raise $100k-$150k. Of course, convincing celebrities to donate their time takes some doing, but it’s well worth it.

If it’s your first golf tournament, be open to suggestions from other golfers. Consider working with a fundraising consultant who specializes in organizing charity golf tournaments. They work for a percentage of the gross, but you usually end up raising more funds due to their experience and sponsor contacts.

Tax Returns – 7 Steps To Reduce Your Stress

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The end of year tax return must be the most stressful part of running your own business. It is even worse if you have earnings abroad and have to fill in tax returns from those countries as well.

How can you make life easier?

1. Start an accounts system. This can be in a hardbck ruled ledger that you can buy from any stationery store.

2. Keep receipts for everything. Enter these into your accounts once a week, or once a month

3. Enter any payments made to you in your accounts system as soon as you get them.

4. Look at the different software accounts packages. You will learn to use whatever package you buy, but try to avoid the over complex ones in the first instance. If you are comfortable with using spreadsheets and cell formulae you could keep your accounts in a spreadsheet program.

5. Open the tax return envelope as soon as it comes. Putting it off does not help. Check all the sheets you need are there. Download or send off for any missing sheets.

6. Aim to have your tax return filled in well ahead of the final deadline. That way the IRS or other government revenue department will check your figures and work out how much you owe them. This causes much less stress than having to do it yourself and worrying whether you have the calculation right.

7. As an alternative to steps 3-6, you can employ an accountant. You can pay the accountant to fill in your tax return and to do your accounts for you. The amount you will pay will depend on the amount of work involved. If you just take in a box of receipts and deposit slips you can only expect to pay a higher fee than the person who presents the accountant with neatly filed receipts and accounts.

Pizza Fundraiser Ideas

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Fundraising with pizza is a great idea for most any size group. It provides your buyers with something everyone wants, and can be very profitable as a fundraising idea.

There are three different types of pizza fundraisers:

Sales of pizza by the slice

Sales of pizza fundraising discount cards

Sales of pizza supplies – make your own kits

Each of these fundraisers varies in effort, requirements, and profitability. Let’s take a brief look at each one.

Pizza Fundraising By The Slice

This is a quick and easy profit source for just about any type of youth sports team. You purchase your pizzas at a quantity discount and have them delivered piping hot to your event.

Papa Johns and Dominos both offer the delivery service from any location. Of course, you’ll need to pay cash when the pizzas are delivered.

Sell the individual slices at close to 100% markup so that your team receives $2 for every $1 in cost.

That markup covers any unsold or damaged slices.

Tips: Don’t overbuy, reorder instead. Also, sell them fast before they cool off. Plain cheese is the most popular followed by pepperoni.

Pizza Fundraising Discount Cards

A pizza fundraiser card is a discount card with an offer tied to a single merchant, usually a national chain. It often provides a two- for-one offer on every order and is tends to be priced at $10 for a card good for a one-year period.

Offers vary with most being tied to either a single location or a small group of outlets for a national chain. Pizza Hut cards are good for eat-in dining while most others are aimed at the take-out or delivery market.

Given how popular pizza is with younger children as well as teenagers, pizza cards are excellent school fundraising ideas.

The cards for Pizza Hut and those for some of the other chains place a limit on the number of times you can use the card, often 21 times. That is a lot of free pizza for $10. Usage is tracked via holes punched in marked spots on the card.

Some of the offers also specify that your initial order must be for a large pizza while your free pizza is a medium size. When you think about it, that works well for most adults because they usually want a different set of toppings than what their children enjoy.

Profit Tip: Pizza cards can be obtained from many suppliers. Most offer the same set of national chains and prices can vary widely, so it pays to shop around.

All in all, pizza cards are among the best easy fundraisers based on profitability and ease of sale.

Fundraising Sales of Frozen Pizza, Supplies, or Kits

Little Caesars and several other companies offer a “do it yourself” pizza kit that many schools, youth groups, and sports teams have successfully sold.

The basic concept is the same as a cookie dough fundraiser. Your sellers use an order-taker brochure, collect payment upfront, and deliver the goods after you receive your bulk shipment.

As with all order taker sales efforts, there is slightly more work involved than with immediate sale items. The delivered product must be received, counted, and sorted by customer.

Pricing is generally close to the price the customer would pay at retail. Profit margins are in the 30%-40% range.

Tip: Because the dough is frozen, deliveries need to be timed well. Your customer pickup/delivery needs to take place within 4 to 6 hours after your bulk delivery.

If you are looking for a great fundraising idea for your school, youth group, or sports team, try pizza this year!

Oh, No! Another School Fundraiser!

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If you have children still attending school, then you probably know all too well the feeling you get when you receive a flyer stating the need for yet another fundraising event! That horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach that says you’re going to have to contribute in some way, either buying something you really don’t need and really can’t afford, or by donating hours of your time, hours that you don’t have either.

But do not despair. Life for fundraising people has got easier because of the Internet, and with computers in general, as you can use the computer to make your life easier in many ways. You can document the jobs needed to be done by volunteers, you can email volunteers to keep them all informed of meetings, jobs and the like, and computers can help you keep track of donors, donations, and so much more.

The trick with fundraisers is to find something that people want to buy from you, either a product or a service, and that you want to sell and promote. And of course, if the event is because you are fundraising for your school, ideally it should be something that will inspire as many students as possible to participate.

That rules out the good old favourite bake sale, as it is hard to devote the time to helping preschoolers bake for a bake sale, but with so many food allergies around, and fear of food contamination, I think those days are over. I remember how awful I felt when I baked for the school fundraiser, only to find that my daughters had bought the goods so they could see what mommy’s baking tasted like! I must admit, baking didn’t happen very often because of a shortage of time, but I didn’t realize my family felt so deprived!

Then there are car washes, and this one I like because the time involved can be limited to one day, or one weekend, and the kids can take part themselves, under adult supervision of course. Kids love to get wet on a nice hot day, so summer car washes often work well, and aside from advanced advertising, there is not a lot of preparation to do in advance, and very few funds need to be spent on supplies.

There are school fairs that can be lots of fun and they can raise significant income, but the level of organization means it is not for everyone. And there are so many more options, too many to list here.

Ok, so how else can computers help you, other than with the organization of your fundraising events? There are websites out there that provide you with a ton of advice and loads of suggestions that you can look at to see what fundraiser best suits your group. They suggest how to go about organizing it, how to advertise and promote it to your best advantage. There’s information about how to target your fundraiser, in other words, lots of information about aspects of fundraising that you may not have even considered in the past.

One of the problems I always encountered with fundraising, was that I provided some goods to sell, but then was expected to buy some at the event too, so it seemed like a double hit to me. Instead, see if there is a section of the community that you can target. For example, our daughters always did very well when they were collecting donations by standing outside a liquor store. I don’t know whether it was a guilt thing or not, but people entering the liquor store seemed to give more readily than those entering a grocery store! ( Not all municipalities permit this kind of fundraising, so you need to check first.)

You need to consider what your expenses will be especially those needed in advance of your fundraising. Do you have the funds to cover this? Is it worth paying for advertising? Is it worth mailing to companies to ask for donations, or to others to ask for support? Who is likely to support your fundraising cause? Are there others out there that could be reached? Easily?

Yes, it will take a little time to read all this information, but it can be well worth it, as it may save you from having to organize a second event if the first one does not raise the funds you need. It gets you thinking about who you can sell your goods or services to, other than those already involved in your organization, who will benefit from your product or service, and how you can reach them without huge expense and without a huge commitment of time.

So get a coffee, take a deep breath and re-evaluate your school fundraiser!

Tax Return Forms

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According to federal laws governing taxation, any person, receiving an income in one form or the other, need to pay income taxes to the government annually. But, the job of preparing tax returns, the calculations and the many tax forms involved, constitute one of the harrowing experiences being an honest tax payer. To make matters worse, the complexity of calculations increases with the income. That is, more the income, more complex will be associated tax calculations and also the number of tax forms involved. This article focuses on the last of the facts mentioned, the tax forms, especially 1040ez, 1040a, and 1040.

The first step in the run-up to tax return submission is selecting the right form. The basic of the tax forms is the 1040 also 1040ez and 1040a which has to be appropriately filled by every person filing tax returns in any case. It is meant for all kinds of income, over $100,000 annually, and also for itemizing deductions when not opting for standard deductions. 1040ez, again a basic tax form, on the other hand is meant for people who are single or when married, jointly. The conditions governing the 1040ez form are, the tax payees must not have any dependents, not blind, age less than 65, and have an annual earned income (taxable) less than $100,000 with an earned interest not more than $1,500, and have non-itemized deductions. Finally, the form 1040a is for those who have an income less than $100,000 annually, but with itemized deductions.

The stickiest part with tax preparation in fact is the right selection of the tax forms. Boy! It can be really confusing. To make matters worse, most of the people, they start thinking about tax returns only in the 13th hour, all warnings and ads by the tax department not withstanding. Some even end up paying the fine for delayed tax returns. But, none of these last minute heroic acts is ever going to give any respite to the person as far as the ordeal waiting for them is concerned, if not compounding it further. Here, one simply cannot afford to go wrong in the selection of tax forms and filling it. An error anywhere in the type of form (1040ez or 1040a or 1040) or the data incorporated – could lead to other complexities such as an unprecedented delay in tax refunds or even a fresh request to pay the income taxes from the tax department to clear the confusion.

Hence, considering such possibilities, it is advisable that if anyone is confused regarding the tax forms to use or with tax calculations, don’t hesitate to consult a tax specialist. They could help you with the tax calculations and the selection of the right form and documents (of course, they’ll take a pay for the service). On a general perspective, however, it is only advantageous to remain educated about taxation’s various dimensions and requirements. A professional could extend the much needed assistance, but it is always on a safer side for the individual himself/herself to be aware of the basic rules regarding taxation. Let’s not take everything for granted!

Another plus with acquiring enough knowledge about the different dimensions of tax preparation and the tax forms – 1040ez, 1040a, or 1040 is that then he/she could easily and safely shift to tax preparation software like TurboTax that are easily available in the internet to complete the formalities. TurboTax software is accurate, easy and simple to use, and what all you need to do is to first download the tax preparation software on your PC, and then provide the figures the computer asks of you. However, it is very important that the right figures be provided to the Turbo Tax software always so that there are no mistakes that may arise in the 1040a, 1040ez, or 1040 forms, when all the calculations are finished.

One could get the tax forms – 1040ez, 1040a, or 1040 from IRS or public library.

Make sure that you fill it out properly and include all the required documents before submitting it to the authorities. Ensure your signature on it and also the social security number without any errors. A misquoted SSN could cause lots of difficulties, both for the tax payer and the tax authorities.

Officially Licensed Products Give A Kick To Your Youth Or School Fundraiser

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Fundraisers have changed somewhat from when I was a kid. We sold one thing and one thing only, candy. Candy for the school basketball team, candy for the local baseball league and yes, candy for the football team too. Don’t get me wrong, it was good candy, but we didn’t have the choices today’s organizations do.

Everything imaginable is generating funds for our children’s sports these days. The local or school leagues genuinely need this money too. Many struggling families in today’s economy would be unable to enroll their children in some of the wonderful programs out there. Programs like Pop Warner that emphasize scholastics as well as sports. In many cases these programs would be doomed even though they are adequately priced.

One great fundraising campaign I recently became aware of was the Spirit Cup program offered by BRAX Fundraising. This program distributes Officially Licensed NFL, MLB and Collegiate drinking cups to youth and school fundraisers across the country. These amazing 3D cups have a version for every NFL and MLB team as well as some specialty versions. Their unique design, and BRAX’s no upfront cost program, has enabled skyrocketing earnings for youth and school fundraisers across the country.

For over 20 years the principals of the BRAX team have been actively involved in sports marketing on a national scope. Through BRAX’s various license affiliations, they have gained a clear understanding of the power of collegiate and professional sports merchandise when aligned with fundraising.

The BRAX partners have coached at the high school and collegiate levels. And their sales associates have backgrounds in youth, high school, college, and even professional sports, as participants and/or coaches.

“We believe strongly that our sales associates will provide the best customer support and care to your organization because we are aware of the many challenges your organization faces,” states Pete Hexter, one of BRAX’s principals.

“We want to keep our approach simple, and appeal to the passion of the American sports fan by offering these team related products. In turn, the sports fans are happy knowing they are supporting their local youth sports organizations.”

The BRAX goal is to always provide the best possible pricing, customer care, and ongoing support to all of their fundraising partners. They do not develop relationships anticipating that this is a one time opportunity rather the beginning of a long term partnership. It is this foundation that has maintained their outstanding reputation as leaders in the sport marketing business.

Come to think of it, that candy wasn’t so good after all

-Dave