Maximizing Travel Deductions

5 Tips to Planning Your Holiday Travel with Your Tax Strategy in Mind
With the holiday season here, many people will be traveling so it is a great time to review a few tips on how your travel can help your tax strategy.

The tips I share here are specific to the U.S. tax law. The key is understanding the rules in your country and using them to your benefit in your tax strategy.

Tip #1
When traveling, spend more than 50% of your time each day on business activities and you can deduct 100% of your travel expenses. Plan your business and other activities so you can easily meet this requirement.
Tip #2
Travel expenses for your spouse and your children are 100% deductible if your spouse and children are involved in your business and spend more than 50% of each day on business activities. Planning is the key here. Plan your business and other activities so your family meets this requirement.
Tip #3
Create a reason that is great for your business to travel to your desired location. This is my favorite tip because I find when I create a great business reason to travel, my business benefits in a way that it wouldn’t have without the travel.

I have many friends and family members in Utah that I like to visit as often as I can. I decided to take a business trip there several years ago to explore the possible expansion of my rental real estate business into Utah. I spent more than 50% of each day on business activities and then I also had some personal time to visit with friends and family. My rental real estate business in Utah has doubled since then and my continued travel there is a legitimate business deduction.

Tip #4
If your travel is for personal reasons – treat it as personal and don’t deduct it. If one of your goals for a particular trip is to take a break from business, then treat that trip as personal. Trying to claim that as business travel could draw a lot of scrutiny to your legitimate business travel expenses.

Or, if your spouse and children don’t participate in the business, treat their portion of the travel expenses as personal – trying to deduct their expenses could jeopardize your portion that is legitimate.

Tip #5
Travel outside of the U.S. has a completely different set of rules. Be sure to discuss this with your tax advisor before you travel.
Use Your Travel in Your Tax Strategy
Travel is one of my favorite deductions because it is one of those expenses that most of us already have, and when planned properly, it gives us the opportunity to increase our business’ bottom line while decreasing our tax liability.
                                                                                                                  
Tom Wheelwright
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5 Myths about Tax Preparation

Use taxes to your advantage as a way to increase your wealth! -Joshua Gamen
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5 Myths About Tax Preparation
I’ve been involved in the tax return preparation process for 30 years. During those years, I’ve come across many myths that people believe about tax preparation.

Today, I’ll share the top 5 myths I hear about tax return preparation and why they are not true.

Myth #1: A Refund is Great News
You’ve probably heard some tax preparation firms brag about how many of their customers receive refunds, or the average size of their customers’ refunds.

Isn’t this great news? I’m not so sure it is.

A refund can seem like great news, especially if it isn’t expected, but it usually indicates a lack of tax planning. With proper planning, that refund can be received a whole lot earlier. While most people don’t want to owe tax when they file their return, they also don’t like to part with their money any earlier than they have to and that is exactly what a refund reflects.

Myth #2: Filing an Extension is Bad
Many taxpayers are hesitant to file extensions for their business or personal tax returns for fear that there are hidden disadvantages to doing so. This is not true. In fact, extending your tax return can be a great tool in your tax strategy.

Extensions are helpful to avoid having to file amended returns. Sometimes the forms or information you receive from others to complete your tax return may be amended. If you receive an amended form and you’ve already filed your return, then you must amend your tax return.

Other times, the information you need from others to complete your tax return may be late. Filing an extension provides you with the time to gather this information and accurately report it on your tax return.

Remember: An extension does not mean you are off the hook when it comes to gathering your tax information timely. It is still important to gather all of your tax information timely so the extension can be prepared with the best information available.

Also, an extension does not extend the due date of any taxes due with the return. Any tax liability due with the return is due on the original due date.

Myth #3: Tax Return Preparation is a Cash Outflow
Tax return preparation fees can vary dramatically. This makes it extremely important to look at the big picture rather than just the cash outflow.

Let me give you an example. Suppose you have a choice of paying $500 for your tax return to be prepared or $2,000. All things being equal, anyone would choose to pay the lesser amount.

But, what if all things are not equal? What if the $500 gets you an adequate, accurate return but the $2,000 would get you a return where you legally pay $5,000 less in tax? Which is the better deal? In one, you are out $500. In the other, you are ahead a net of $3,000.

Before you have your next tax return prepared, review your own tax situation and the advice you are receiving from your tax preparer. Are you getting the return on investment you want? Are you getting the planning ideas you need? Are your taxes going down or do they continue to increase?

Myth #4: Accurate Returns Are All The Same
In all the firms and companies at which I have worked, the basic accuracy of tax return preparation was excellent. I find this also to be the case on returns that I see from clients who are new to ProVision. It’s rare that I find a flagrant error in a return.

But, does that mean that these firms all produce the same quality of tax return? The clear answer in my experience is a resounding “NO!”

Accuracy in a tax return simply means that the information provided by the client was reflected on the tax return. It does not mean that the tax return was prepared in the best way it could have been prepared. In fact, I rarely see a tax return from a new client that was prepared the way we would prepare it at ProVision.

For example, certain deductions can be classified in different ways. While each way is technically accurate, the tax impact of each can vary dramatically.

It’s not safe to assume your tax preparer (or tax software) knows the difference.

Never use a tax preparer who isn’t also your tax advisor. You may otherwise get great advice that is never used and lose out on great tax savings.

Myth #5: The Software Does All The Work
Whether you do your tax return yourself or hire someone to prepare it, most likely there is tax software involved. Many people make the assumption that the tax software does all the work.

While the tax software performs the calculations (usually quite accurately), it’s easy to get into trouble if the input going in is incorrect.

The true work and expertise – and resulting tax savings – is in the knowledge of the tax preparer.

                                                                                                                          

                   Written by: Tom Wheelwright

Tom Wheelwright

Using Your Retirement Plan in Your Wealth Strategy

Your wealth strategy and your retirement plan are one in the same. Don’t just hand your money to someone else to do what’s in your best interest for you and your family’s future. If it is up to be, it is up to you! -Joshua Gamen

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Using Your Retirement Plan in Your Wealth Strategy
One of the most popular questions I receive about a wealth strategy is this:I want to use the money in my retirement plan for a specific investment. Should I make the investment inside my retirement plan or should I distribute the money from my retirement plan and make the investment outside of my retirement plan?

My answer (of course) is it depends. It depends on your specific facts and circumstances.

Today, I’ll share some of the key factors to consider to help make this decision.

Factor #1: What Investment Options Are Available in Your Retirement Plan?
The term “retirement plan” covers a huge range of retirement plans – each of which has their own specific set of rules.You will first want to determine what your investment options are in your retirement plan. Some retirement plans, like an employer sponsored retirement plan, limit your investment options. Other retirement plans offer a broader range of investment options.

Factor #2: Are the Distributions Subject to Penalties?
While the rules vary by the specific type of retirement plan, in general, if money is distributed from a retirement plan early, meaning before the date allowed by the government and/or employer rules, then the distribution will most likely be subject to penalties.Penalties don’t rule out distributing the money, they just need to be factored in to your analysis.

Factor #3: Are the Distributions Subject to Income Tax
Depending on the type of retirement plan or when the distribution is taken, retirement plan distributions may be subject to income tax.Like penalties, just because the distributions may be taxed doesn’t rule out distributing the money – it just needs to be factored into your analysis.

Factor #4: What is Your Personal Situation?
Your personal situation plays a big role here. For example:– Is your tax bracket low or high?
– When can you take distributions from your retirement plan without penalty?
– What is your expected return on investment inside of your retirement plan?
– What is your expected return on investment outside of your retirement plan?
– What will you do with the investment long term?

Factor #5: What Type of Income Will Your Investment Produce?
Investments can produce different types of income including ordinary income, interest income, dividend income, rental income and capital gain. Some income types work very well inside a retirement plan, and others may cause your retirement plan to pay tax.
Factor #6: Does Your Investment Involve Leverage (Debt)?
If your investment involves debt, then this is a critical factor to understand.In some retirement plans, the tax implications of debt can be significant. For example, income generated from the debt can be taxable. Or, if you guarantee the debt personally, there could be tax consequences.

It’s important to not only understand the tax implication of using debt in your retirement plan, but also to understand how it can impact your investing. Many lenders are not willing to make a loan to a retirement plan without a personal guarantee. However, a personal guarantee, as noted above, could trigger tax. Lenders who are willing to lend to a retirement plan without a guarantee are usually not willing to lend as much as they would if there were a guarantee and the rate is usually higher.

It is extremely important to understand your leverage options inside and outside of your retirement plan before moving forward with your investment.

Factor #7: What Tax Benefits Will Your Investment Generate?
While retirement plans are often viewed as a great tax deferral vehicle, many tax benefits can be lost in retirement plans.For example, if a distribution is taxable from a retirement plan, it is generally taxable at ordinary income tax rates. This is true even if the income inside the retirement plan was capital gain income – which outside of a retirement plan has lower preferred tax rates. The tax benefit of the lower rate is lost.

Another example is investments that create losses for tax purposes. Some investments, like rental real estate or oil and gas, often create losses for tax purposes even though they generate positive cash flow. Losses inside a retirement plan are typically lost because the retirement plan usually doesn’t have any tax for the losses to offset.

Your Retirement Plan and Your Wealth Strategy
Your retirement plan can give your wealth strategy a tremendous boost. The key is understanding the best way to integrate your retirement plan into your overall wealth strategy.

Written by: Tom Wheelwright

Tom Wheelwright

Making Your Tax Savings a Reality

No tax strategy is bad and will cost you a lot of money that you never even knew you had – Joshua Gamen
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Last week I shared a few tips about forming your tax strategy.

A tax strategy is a step-by-step action plan that ensures you are paying the least amount of tax allowable by law, regardless of your business or investment situation.

A tax strategy is comprehensive. It considers:

– Your personal and financial goals and dreams
– Your business, your investments and your family situation
– How your businesses and investments are owned
– The appropriate entity structure for your business and investments
– Your current situation to uncover deductions and other permanent tax saving opportunities

Those who are most successfully in their tax strategy make it a part of their every day activities. To them, a tax strategy is not a one-time event. Rather, it is something that becomes part of their routine.

A tax strategy helps you to view your every day activities in a different way – one that works toward the goal of permanently reducing your taxes.

The reality is that just about everything you do can have an impact on your taxes. So, why not make sure that impact is a positive one?

Here are a few examples of every day activities that can impact your taxes:
– Paying expenses
– Receiving money from an entity you own
– Putting money into an entity you own
– Having a meeting with partners, vendors or advisors
– Buying or selling investments
– Having an important discussion about your business or investments

The above items are activities you probably already do on a regular basis. By keeping your tax strategy in mind while doing these activities, you can improve the results of your tax strategy – all without having to do anything out of the ordinary.

Paying your expenses
When you pay your expenses, who is paying for that expense? Is it you personally? Should it be your entity instead? What type of documentation do you need to keep for your tax strategy?

Unless you have your tax strategy in mind, it is easy for this ordinary transaction to have a negative impact on your taxes.

You may pay for business expenses personally and forget to have your business reimburse you – this means the expense gets missed as a tax deduction.

When you keep your tax strategy in mind, it will be routine to have your business reimburse you. Or, even better, it will feel wrong to not have your business pay for the expenses in the first place.

Receiving money from an entity you own
Every payment you receive from your entity can have an impact on your taxes. This may include salary, distributions, expense reimbursements or other forms of payments.

Your tax strategy maps out the best way to take money out of your entity. Making sure those payments are treated as they are supposed to be, should be part of your every day activities.

For example, if you are receiving a salary, it should look like salary. This means it’s paid on a set schedule (weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc.) and the proper taxes are withheld.

Similarly, if you are taking a distribution, it should look like a distribution. Distributions are usually not paid more frequently than quarterly. Also, distributions are usually not a set amount as they are typically tied to the profitability of the entity. If your distribution is paid every two week, it looks more like a salary and this can have a negative impact on your tax strategy.

Keeping this in mind, as you receive payments from your entity, helps the success of your tax strategy.

Having a meeting with partners, vendors or advisors
If you are meeting with a partner, vendor or advisor, odds are you are discussing items that impact your tax strategy. These meetings likely cover topics important to your tax strategy, like investments, new opportunities, strategic decisions or major purchases.

All of these are great to have documented in the form of meeting minutes. Meeting minutes provide tremendous support for deductions, investments and business purpose – all of which help the success of your tax strategy.

Your Tax Strategy
Those who are most successful in their tax strategy are those who have incorporated it into their routine. When reaching for a credit card to pay for lunch, they are asking themselves, “Should I pay with the business card or my personal card?”

It is the every day activities that make tax savings a reality.

                                                                                                                                            
Tom Wheelwright

Tax Strategy is Important for Building Wealth

Understanding how taxes work is critical to growing wealth. Rule #2 of the new rules of money: Keep more money. -Joshua Gamen
Forming Your Tax Strategy
There are two big obstacles most people run into when forming a tax strategy.

Obstacle #1: What is a tax strategy?

Obstacle #2: Where do you start?

What is a Tax Strategy?
Let’s break this term down and start with strategy.

A strategy is a systematic plan of action intended to accomplish a specific goal or purpose.

The specific goal or purpose is to permanently reduce your taxes.

So, a tax strategy is a plan of action to permanently reduce your taxes.

Of course, most people are all for permanently reducing their taxes. What is typically missing in their quest to do that is the strategy piece. And it’s the strategy piece that produces the maximum results.

The strategy piece helps focus our actions and thoughts every single day on permanently reducing taxes.

It doesn’t have to take hours every day to get maximum results from your tax strategy. Instead, your strategy becomes a part of your daily routine.

Every transaction you do can have an impact on your taxes. Your tax strategy helps you think about your daily transactions in a way that gets you to your goal of permanently reducing your taxes.

Where Do You Start?
Think about planning a vacation.

Let’s say you are going to Hawaii. When you go to book your ticket, you need to know where you are departing from, right? This is your starting point.

It is impossible for you to get to Hawaii unless you know where you are starting.

The same applies to a tax strategy. You must know where you are starting. In your tax strategy, this means you must know your current financial position.

Your current financial position includes:

Your Current Balance Sheet
Your current balance sheet tells you your current net worth. It’s calculated as follows:

Your Assets (what you own) – Your Liabilities (what you owe) = Your Net Worth

When you know your current net worth, you know the exact resources available to you to use in your tax strategy. Your specific assets and liabilities help create the best path for you in your tax strategy.

Your Current Statement of Cash Flows
Your current statement of cash flows tells you your net cash flow. It’s calculated as follows:

Your Income – Your Expenses = Your Net Cash Flow

Identifying your sources of income is the starting point of identifying how to reduce the tax on that income.

Identifying your expenses is the starting point of maximizing your deductions.

Get Started
The starting point to reducing your taxes and forming a tax strategy is understanding your current financial position.

If you haven’t created your tax strategy yet, start by updating your balance sheet and statement of cash flows.

If you already have your tax strategy in place, review your current financial position regularly to identify new opportunities for your tax strategy.

Your Tax Strategy and Your Wealth Strategy
If you are like most, the single biggest expense draining your cash flow is your taxes.

When you reduce your taxes, you immediately increase your cash flow. Increased cash flow can be used to create wealth. Your taxes are a powerful way to feed your wealth strategy!

                                                                                                                                            

Reduce your Audit Risk

I wish I had read this 4 years ago.. I have been audited, and it’s not a very pleasant process. The professional fees are crushing to deal with an audit.

From my accounting advisor: Tom Wheelwright

One question  I am regularly asked is: “What are my chances of being audited?” 

Most people find the audit process unpleasant and scary.  There may be additional taxes, interest and penalties, not to mention professional fees if you have your tax advisor handle the audit.

While some tax returns are selected for audit randomly, others are chosen because of how the tax return is prepared.

For example, let’s say there is a larger than usual deduction to claim on a tax return.  A large deduction like this could draw scrutiny – increasing the chance of audit.

There are ways to minimize this scrutiny during the tax preparation process.

First, where the deduction is claimed on the tax return can impact audit risk.  In this situation, I would ask the taxpayer questions about the deduction to get a better understanding so I could then determine which rules apply.  In many cases, more than one set of rules applies and that can provide an opportunity to reduce audit risk.

Second, voluntarily attaching documentation to explain the larger than usual deduction can impact audit risk.  If the return is flagged because of the large deduction, an agent will review it and the additional documentation may resolve the issue with no further action taken.

Tax preparation can have a significant impact on audit risk!

How do you know your tax preparer is taking the right steps to minimize your chances of being audited?

And if you are audited, how do you know your tax preparer has taken the right steps to minimize your audit adjustments?

Here are a few questions you want your tax preparer to ask you to let you know they have your audit risk in mind.

#1 Would you like an audit defense plan?
The professional fees incurred during an audit usually well exceed the tax preparation fees.  Even if your audit is successful and there are no adjustments, there are still professional fees to pay.

An audit defense plan is like an insurance policy for audits.  While the defense plan doesn’t insure you won’t get audited, it does insure that if you do get audited, the professional fees are covered.  The fee for the audit defense plan is usually a percentage of the tax preparation fees.

If your tax preparer offers an audit defense plan, it is a good indicator that they are confident in their work and that they likely have procedures and controls in place as part of their tax preparation process to minimize audit risk and audit adjustments.

#2 Do you need help with entering our adjusting entries?
When a business tax return is prepared, it is common for the tax preparer to make adjusting entries to the bookkeeping so the numbers reported on the tax return are accurate.  The accuracy of the books can help reduce the chance of audit.

The accuracy of the books can also help minimize the chance of audit adjustments.  Inaccurate books can draw scrutiny during an audit which can often lead to audit adjustments.

When a tax return is audited, one of the first things an auditor will ask for is the books so it is very important that the numbers reported on the books match the numbers reported on the tax return.

It is impossible for the books to match the tax return unless the tax preparer provides the adjusting entries that are made.

If your tax preparer is asking you about adjusting entries, it indicates they are thinking through the long-term process rather than just trying to get the tax return done before the filing deadline.

This also applies to personal tax returns because personal tax returns may report investing or business activity which should have their own books.

#3 Do you keep annual minutes for your company?
Whether your company is an LLC, partnership, corporation or other form and whether it files its own tax return or not, annual minutes are one of the best audit defense tools when it comes to minimizing audit adjustments.

Unfortunately, annual minutes are rarely used this way.

An auditor is usually looking at money you took out of the company, or money you put in the company, or expenses the company paid that were for your benefit.  All of these items can be supported and documented in the annual minutes.

If your tax preparer is thinking about your audit risk, they will ask you about your company minutes and provide you with specific items to include in your minutes to support your tax return.

Focus on your wealth!

Tom Wheelwright
Founder & CEO

http://www.tomwheelwright.com