Personal Finance

Minimum Payments to Go Up for Many Credit Card Users

When Americans open their credit card bills this month they will see a warning about how long it will take to pay off their bills if they only make minimum payments, a requirement of the Bankruptcy Reform Law. In addition, they may find that their minimum payment has been doubled.Federal banking regulators have issued guidelines to credit card issuers requiring that minimum payments cover at least one percent of the balance, including finance fees, the Seattle Times reports. The result can be a minimum payment of three percent.
Tax

IRS Announces Uniform Definition of Qualifying Child

Beginning in 2005, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines a qualifying child as someone who meets the same four tests: the relationship test, the residency test, the age test and the support test.
Practice Management

Accountants’ Confidence Slides in December

Accounting and finance workers confidence fell nearly five points in December, according to the Hudson Employment Index. Despite reporting the lowest figure of the year for job satisfaction, at 68 percent, and declining confidence in hiring expectations and job security, they still remained more positive than other workers.
A&A

2005 Tax Changes Affecting Electric & Clean-Fuel Vehicles

Taxpayers who put a qualified electric or clean-fuel vehicle into service during 2005 can claim the maximum electric vehicle credit and/or the maximum clean-fuel vehicle deduction, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Other clean-fuel property placed into service this year may also be eligible to take the maximum deductions. Popular gas/electric hybrid vehicles, such as Toyota’s Prius and Honda’s Insight, not powered primarily by an electric motor, are NOT qualified electric vehicles.
A&A

CCH Issues Small Business Retirement Plan Guidance

During the last week of December, CCH, a Wolters Kluwer company and leading provider of tax, pension and human resource information and software, introduced Retirement Plans for Individuals and Small Business. This new resource was developed to help professionals advise their clients on choosing the right retirement vehicle, setting up and maintaining the plan and complying with relevant laws and regulations.“Retirement Plans for Individuals and Small Business is useful for both the novice and seasoned professional to help cut through the numerous options and related complex
Tax

Retail Return Policies Tighten Up

Retailers are changing their return policies to target customers who abuse more liberal return policies and combat return fraud that costs them $16 billion annually. Penalty restocking fees are being implemented, particularly on electronics, home appliances, tools, lawn and garden items, and automotive items. Retailers are identifying specific items or categories where they suffer the most fraud, according to Joseph LaRocca, vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation, speaking to the Baltimore Sun.
Tax

Vehicle Donations & Recognized Charities

Donating your car is a charitable act, but you cannot use it as a deduction unless properly documenting your donation in your taxpayer return. The charity does even not need to sell your donated vehicle in 2005 for you to deduct your charitable contribution, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). But, like other things in life, some things are not done until the paperwork is completed.The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 specifies that your deduction is limited to the gross proceeds of the sale of the vehicle to the charity.

Sales of New Homes Down; Number of Unsold Homes Increasing

Sales of new homes fell 11 percent in November, after setting a record in October, and the number of houses for sale jumped 3 percent, the Commerce Department reported last week, according to the New York Times. Median prices for new homes -- $225,200 -- is nearly unchanged from last year at this time, the report said. While new homes sales for the first eleven months of 2005 set a record for the fifth straight year, economists predict a leveling off in 2006, because rising interest rates will affect costs for home builders and mortgage rates for potential buyers.
A&A

Estate Planning is Important for Farmers, Too

Much has been said about the federal estate tax, but the myths are not especially the truth. Careful estate planning is the key to unraveling the myths and truths of the “death” tax. Dr. Marsha Goetting, professor and family-economics specialist in the Department of Agriculture and Economics at Montana State University, told the Missoula Independent that seven out of ten Americans die without a will. Goetting continued, “There’s almost a stick-the-head-in-the-sand approach.
Practice Management

Top Resolutions for Business in 2006

A Small Business Television (SBTV.com) poll, of 600 owners of small businesses, reported that 70 percent would make marketing and sales their top business resolution, followed by technology at 26 percent, according to a Principal Financial Group. Only 2 percent of the respondents would make business finance-related resolutions, with the same number resolving to focus on workforce issues. Internet marketing is at the top of the “Six for ‘06” list of business resolutions developed by AllBusiness.com, a leading online resource.

Company Drug Prescription Plans Vary

The Kaiser Family Foundation has released a new retiree health benefits survey showing that almost 80 percent of employers that currently offer retiree health benefits will take government subsidies to maintain prescription coverage in 2006. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the basic Medicare coverage of more than 12 million retirees is supplemented by company health plans. The annual survey was released last week in Washington.
A&A

Good Estate Planning Involves Communication with Family Members

When getting their “financial house in order” through setting up an estate plan, is high on a person’s list of New Year’s resolutions, he or she should remember that communicating the details of the estate plan to family members is an important part of the process, according to research by The Hartford Financial Group.
Technology

Tips for Last Minute Gifts to Charities

Holiday giving is strong this year, U.S. charity officials report. “It seems to be a phenomenal year,” said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, according to the Associated Press. “Donor fatigue is something not many charities are seeing.”The primary motivation for holiday giving is love for an organization and its work, Tony Martignetti, manager of Planned Giving Advisors told the New York Daily News.
Tax

Don't Let Holiday Time Be Scam Time

Santa and his elves are not the only busy people at this time of year. Robbers, thieves, carjackers and shoplifters all seem to thrive during the holiday season.
Tax

Only Two Weeks Left to Make Final Tax Moves for 2005

Taxpayers only have two weeks left to make their final financial moves for the 2005 tax year. Before making any moves, or beginning to prepare their 2005 tax returns, taxpayers will want to review the tax law changes featured on the IRS web site at www.irs.gov.Among the moves that can still be made are:Under the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005, taxpayers can deduct cash contributions made to qualified charities, up to 100 percent of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), through December 31, 2005.
Community News

How to Hire Holiday Care-Givers

The holiday season is a busy time of year. For many people, care-giving, either for children or older family members, becomes a major issue. Whether the need is for someone to “fill-in” for a few hours and provide care while a primary care-giver goes shopping or attends a holiday function, or a longer term need for ongoing care-giving throughout the coming year, finding and hiring the right care-giver can be tough.The Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal reports demand for part-time care-givers, especially babysitters, has been surging this fall.

Illness Impacts Family Finances Without Disability Insurance

A new survey from MetLife reveals that nearly 60 percent of Americans have $5,000, or less, in personal savings available for use in the event of a major illness. Even more ominous, nearly half would have to borrow against retirement savings, or secure a line of credit on their home, if they needed access to between $10,000 and $35,000 to cover expenses related a major illness.
A&A

Household Employment Services Offer Employers a Helping Hand

Accounting for eldercare providers, nannies, and other domestic employees can be difficult on your own. Fortunately there are several alternatives. You could purchase payroll software developed especially for household employers, such as Essentia Software’s NannyPay 2000. You can also contract with one of several Internet-based services that provide tax and payroll specifically services for household employers. GTM Associates offers a tax and payroll service and provides tax and overtime calculators on their web site, as well as a tax calendar and tax forms for easy reference.
Tax

A Little Help Around the House Can Become a Tax Liability

Who wouldn’t welcome some extra help around the house this holiday season? If you are thinking of hiring baby-sitters, cleaning people, yard workers, drivers, health aides/private nurses, or similar domestic workers, there are some things you should know to help minimize tax implications later on.The most important thing to know is how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) defines an employee. According to the IRS a “worker is your employee if you can control not only what work is done, but how it is done.” That’s it. It doesn’t matter if the work is full-time or part- time.
Tax

The Art of Office Gifting

“It’s important to give gifts at the holiday,” Leah Ingram, author of You Shouldn’t Have! How to Give Gifts They’ll Never Forget, told the Ladies Home Journal. “It’s how you say thank you to people who support you throughout the year, and how you show appreciation to your professional mentors.”It may be important but it can also be a nightmare. Striking the right balance between a truly heart-felt, appropriate gift and shameless sucking up can be quite a challenge, especially in a small office.

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