Health Care Options: Using a Flexible Spending Account or Flexible Spending Arrangement

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Health Care Options: Using a Flexible Spending Account or Flexible Spending Arrangement

Oct 14, 2017 Posted by deepak No Comments

Employees who have health plans care of their jobs can use what is called the FSA or the Flexible Spending Arrangement or Flexible Spending Account in order to cover the deductibles, copayments, drugs and health care expenses. Using the FSA reduces the taxes that they have to pay at the end of the day.

What is the FSA?

 A Flexible Spending Arrangement (also regarded as flexible spending account) is an account where anyone can put their money in so that they can use this to cover specific health care costs straight from their pockets. The FSA has no taxes. This means the individual can save a specific amount that is similar to the taxes that he or she paid on top of the money that was set aside.

To explain it further, this is a tax-advantaged account for financial purposes that is set up via what is called “cafeteria plan.” The FSA allows the employees to cast aside portions of the earnings that the policy holders pay the qualified expenses that come in the form of the plan. Money that is deducted from the pay of the employee and then to an FSA is not included in the payroll taxes. This results to substantial payroll and tax savings.

There was a disadvantage when using the FSA before the Affordable Care Act. The funds that were not used will be forfeited by the employer at the end of the year. That is why employees are encouraged to use the FSA, rather than lose it. When reading the terms that are stated under the Affordable Care Act, an employee can carry the amount of a maximum of $500 over to the next year and not have to lose the funds.

Employers can make contributions to the FSA of their employees but it is not a requirement.

Facts About the FSAs

 FSAs come with a limit of $2,600 every year for every employer. If the individual is married, then the individual’s spouse can get a maximum of $2,600 in the Flexible Spending Arrangement with the employer as well.

  • The funds in the FSA can be used to pay for specific dental and medical expenses for the individual, the individual’s spouse if married and the dependents, if there are.
  • FSA funds can be spent to pay copayments as well as deductibles but not for premiums on insurance.
  • FSA funds can also be spent on prescription drugs, along with medicines that are ordered over the counter with the prescription from a doctor. Insulin reimbursements are also allowed even without prescriptions.
  • FSAs can also be used to cover the costs of medical equipment such as bandages, crutches and diagnostic devices specifically blood sugar kits.

 

Limits, Carry Overs and Grace Periods of the FSA

 Policy holders must utilize the money obtained from an FSA within the year that it was set for. However, the employers of these individuals usually offer these two options:

  • FSA provides a specific “grace period” that can last up to 2 and ½ months in order to use as much money in the FSA.
  • The FSA also allows the policy holder to carry over a maximum of $500 every year that can be carried over to the incoming year.

Employers of policy holders can offer one of these two options. However, it is not possible that they offer both. In fact, it is not even a requirement to offer one of these.

Toward the end of the year of the grace period that is given, the policy holder can lose all the money that remains in the FSA. It is very important that the individual also plans carefully and not allocate any more money in the FSA than he or she thinks can spend within that particular year on expenses such as coinsurance, medicine, copayments and other possible health care expenses.

Another important thing to note about the FSA is that it cannot be used alongside a plan from the Marketplace. The Health Savings Account or the HSA allows the policy holder to cast aside money on pre-tax basis in order to pay health expenses if there are high deductibles in the Marketplace health insurance plans.

Types of FSA

 A number of cafeteria plans can offer two major FSAs that focus primarily on dependent and medical care costs. There are a couple of cafeteria plans that are offered to the other kinds of FSAs. It is important to note that participation in one kind of FSA cannot affect the participation in the other kinds of FSA. However, the funds in FSA can be transferred from one to another.

The most common kind of FSA is utilized to pay for the dental and medical expenses that were not covered by the insurance. These are usually the copayments, deductibles and coinsurance for the health plan of the employees.  As of the 1st of January 2011, medications that are ordered over-the-counter are only allowed when bought with a prescription from the doctor, with the exception of insulin. Medical devices that can be ordered over the counter like crutches, bandages and repair kits for the eyeglasses are also allowed.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, the IRS has permitted the employers to enact the maximum election for the employees. Affordable Care Act has also amended what is known as Section 125 to state that FSAs cannot let the employees choose the annual election that exceeds the limit that is determined by the IRS. The yearly limit can reach to $2,500 especially for the first year. The IRS can also index the plans in the subsequent years especially for the adjustments in the cost-of-living.

Employers can also opt to limit the annual elections even further. This specific limit can be applied to every employee, even without regarding the status of the employee – if he or she is married or have children or not. The contributions that are non-elective and made by employers which are not subtracted from the wages of the employees are also not added to the limit. An employee who is employed by various and multiple unrelated companies and employers can also opt to reach the limit of each employer plan. The limit also cannot apply to the HAS as well as the health reimbursement arrangements or even the share of the employee on the cost of the sponsored health insurance care that is provided by the employer.

There are also employers who choose to just issue debt cards to employees who are qualified participants of the FSA. These participants can also use their debit cards in order to pay for the eligible expenses because they are part of the FSA. Grocery stores and pharmacies that opt to go for debit cards as mode of payments have the option to not allow transactions when the participants try to pay for the items that they buy which are not qualified under FSA. Other than that, employers should require their employees to show the itemized receipts as proof for every expense that they charged using the debit card. The IRS can also let the employers waive the requirement in the situation that an individual resorts to the debit card at the grocery store or the pharmacy and comply with the procedure that is stated above. The IRS can also let the employer waive this specific requirement when the amount that is charged using the debit card has eventually become a multiple form of co-pay for the benefit of the group insurance plan for health care of that employee. There are also cases wherein the administering firm of the FSA prefers the actual insurance. The EOBs or the Explanations of Benefits can represent the portion of the patient on the medical expenses as well as other required documentation. This is a requirement that has become less and less cumbersome especially when there are more insurers that let the patient look for the EOBs on the websites.

 

Dependent Care FSA

 

FSAs are also established to pay certain expenses in order to care for the dependents especially when the legal guardian is busy at work. This can pertain to child care, especially for children who are below the age of 13. This kind of FSA can also be used for the benefit of children, regardless of the age, who are mentally or physically incapable of taking care of themselves. This also covers adults and senior citizens who are dependent. In addition to this, the individual or individuals who use the funds on the dependent care are regarded as dependents on the federal tax return of the employee. The funds can also not be utilized for summer camps, with the exception of days camps, or for the long-term care of parents who reside somewhere else, aside from the nursing home that is covered by the insurance provider.

 

The FSA for the dependent care is capped federally at the amount of $5,000 for every year and for every household. Spouses can opt for an FSA but the combined amount that they can obtain must not go beyond $5,000. During tax time, each and every withdrawal that are over $5,000 can be taxed.

 

The difference with medical FSAs is that dependent care FSAs are also not funded early on. This means employees do not have access to receive some kind of reimbursement in the exact and full amount from the contribution that is made since day one. Employees only have the option to reimburse up to a particular amount and they can also deduct that during the entire year.

 

If the spouses are married then they can earn the income from the Dependent Care FSA. There are exceptions such as the spouse who does not work is also disabled or currently studying full time. If one spouse earns lower than $5,000 then benefit amount of the FSA is limited to the amount that the spouse earns.

Other FSAs

 There are also FSA plans for sponsored premium and non-employer reimbursements on parking as well as transit reimbursement. The individual account for premium health insurance lets the employee pay for the spouse’s insurance using pre-tax dollars, for as long as there is coverage that is sponsored by a non-employer. This is also considered as individual plan and billed directly to the individual or his or her spouse. Transit and parking accounts also let the employees cover the parking expenses along with the expenses for public transit using pre-tax dollars but only up to specific limits. It may not be as common as the other FSAs listed above but there have also been a number of employers who have opted to offer assistance in any form of adoption through the FSA. An individual cannot also have health care from the FSA if she or he does not have the HDHP or what is also known as the High Deductible Health Plan that comes with the HAS. In situations such as the employee has both the FSA as well as the HDHP along with the HAS, then he or she can be qualified for what is known the LEX or the Limited Expense FSA. This is also known as the Limited Purpose FSAs. These FSAs can be used in reimbursing vision and dental expenses, no matter the deductible stated in the plan as long as it is at the discretion of the employer and the medical expenses that were incurred are eligible and qualified as soon as the deductible has been met and also reimbursed.

Coverage Period

 The coverage of the FSA can end at the time that the plan year ends for just as single plan or when the coverage of a particular individual has also ended. Example is when there is a loss of coverage because the employee has resigned from the position where he is governed by that employer.

This means that the person who is employed by the company during a given period is only covered when he is with the company. He cannot continue his coverage beyond that.

Everything Everyone Must Know About Medicare

Oct 10, 2017 Posted by deepak No Comments

Medicare is the single payer and social insurance health policy program in the national setting that is administered by the federal government. This has been around since 1966. It is also currently using 30 to 50 privately owned insurance companies all over the United States and is also under contract in the administration.

The Medicare in the US is funded by payroll taxes, surtaxes, and premium from the beneficiaries as well as the general revenue. It also provides the health insurance for Americans who are also over the age of 65 and are 65 years old, as long as they have worked and paid the system through the deductions in their payroll in the form of taxes. Medicare also offers health insurance to the young generation who have disability status as long as it is determined by the SSA or the Social Security Administration. They also consider the individuals who are suffering the end stages of renal diseases as well as the end stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

On average, the health policy Medicare covers half of health care plan policies and charges for those who have been enrolled. These enrollees and participants must also cover the remaining costs using their supplemental insurance or their separate insurance. There are others who even get the payments fresh from their pockets. These costs also vary and depend on the total of the health care policy that the enrollee from the Medicare needs. There might also be costs of the services that have been uncovered. For example, for the long-term policies, these include the hearing, dental as well as vision care. These also include insurance premiums that are supplemental.

It is important to know that Medicare has four Parts. Part A covers the hospice and hospital services and costs. Part B covers the costs for the outpatient services. Part D is the portion that covers the prescription drugs that are self-administered. Part C serves as the alternative to all the other parts that are allowed to experiment with structured plans that are set up differently which also reduces the costs to the government. This lets patients decide which plans to choose and they usually opt for one that has the most benefits.

History of Medicare

 Medicare has always been known as Medicare. This was the original name given to the program that has provided medical care for different families of the people who were serving in the military. They were part of the military and members of the Dependent’s Medical Care Act. This was passed in Congress in 1956. It was President Eisenhower who held the very first White House Conference on the topic of Aging. This was in January 1961. This was also the time when the program for health care that would provide social security benefits was proposed. In July 1965, when Lyndon Johnson was the president, the Congress has enacted under the benefits of Medicare as stated in Title XVIII and stated in the Social Security Act. It also provided the health insurance coverage and policies to individuals aged 65 and even older, no matter how much they earn and their medical history. Johnson then signed the bill and it became a law on July 30, 1965. This was done at the Presidential Library named after Harry S. Truman in Independence, Missouri. The first recipients of the said program were Former President Truman along with his wife, the former First Lady named Bess Truman.

Before Medicare was created, around 60% of individuals who were over the age of 65 had access to health insurance. The coverage, unfortunately, was often unaffordable and unavailable to most, simply because the older individuals paid more than thrice as much for the younger people who had health insurance. Many of this younger group have become eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare because the law was passed and this gave them the benefit.

In 1966 Medicare combatted the racial integration of many people who were in the waiting room. They also promoted desegregation in hospital floors as well as physician practices and made sure that any race is equal whenever they made payments to their health care issuers and providers.

Medicare has been operating for almost half a century and it has gone through several changes. For example, since 1965, the provisions of Medicare have already expanded and included benefits for physical, chiropractic therapy and speech in 1972. Medicare also added the beneficiaries to opt and pay for the health maintenance in the 1980s. Through the years, Congress has already expanded the Medicare eligibility to younger individuals who have been diagnosed with permanent disabilities and also received the SSDI or the Social Security Disability Insurance payments. Those who have also been diagnosed with ESRD or the end-stage renal disease are also eligible for this.

In the 1980s, the association of Medicare with HMOs has begun and it was formalized under the presidency of Bill Clinton. It started in 1997 in the form of Part C of Medicare. In 2003, under the presidency of George W Bush, the program under Medicare that covered almost every drug was submitted to the congress and was passed as the bill. It was also taken in effect in Part D of Medicare.

In the year of 1982, the government has also added the benefits to hospice in order to assist the elder policy holders but only on a temporary basis. It became permanent in 1984. Congress has also expanded this further in 2001 to include the younger individuals with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS or the scientific name being amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Administration of Medicare

 The CMS or the Centers for both Medicare as well as Medicaid Services is the component of the HHS or the Department of Health and Human Services that also administers Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP which is also the Children’s Health Insurance Program, CLIA and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments and also parts of the ACA or the Affordable Care Act. Along with the Department of Treasury and Department of Labor, CMS also looks into the implementation of the insurance reform and the provisions on the Accountability Act of 1996 which is Health Insurance Portability. This is also known as HIPAA. Most aspects and parts of the PPACA or the Patient Protection and Affordable Act. The SSA and the Social Security Administration is also responsible in determining the eligibility for Medicare, payment and eligibility for Extra Help as well as the Low Income Subsidy Payments that are related to the Part D of Medicare. It also collects the payments that are premium for the program that Medicare conducts.

The Chief Actuary of the CMS is also responsible in providing the necessary cost projections and accounting information to the Trustees of the Medicare Board. It is essential in assisting them and also assessing the financial care and health of the Medicare program. The Board is also required by the law to give out annual reports regarding the financial status of the Trust Funds of the Medicare. Those reports are also required to contain the actuarial opinion statement from the Chief Actuary.

Since Medicare programs started, CMS has always been the institution that was contracted with the insurance companies that are privately owned in order to operate the intermediaries between the medical providers and the government to be responsible for administering Part B as well as Part A benefits. The processes that are contracted also include the claims and the processing payment along with clinician enrollment, call center services as well as fraud investigation. In 1997, other insurance and policy plan companies started administering Part C. In 2005, other insurance plans started administering Part D.

The RUC or the Relative Value Update Committee or what is also known as the Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee is composed of a group of physicians that are associated with the AMA or the American Medical Association. This institution advises the policy holders as well as the government regarding the pay standards for the insurance plan of Medicare as well as the procedures that patients should be performed by professionals as well as doctors under Part B of Medicare. A similar yet difference CMS system that also determines the rates that are paid for hospitals along with acute care. This also includes nursing facilities that are under Part A of Medicare.

Financing of Medicare

 Medicare has also several sources where it gets its finances. The inpatient under the portion Part A can be admitted in skilled nursing and hospital coverage and this is largely funded from 2.9% of the revenue and payroll tax. The law also provided a maximum amount when it comes to the compensation of the Medicare tax as well as its being imposed every year. The social Security tax also works in the similar way. On January 1, 1994, the government removed the compensation limit. Employees who are also self-employed are required to pay the full 2.9% on the net earnings of the self-employed individual because they are for the employer as well as the employee. They can also deduct half of the taxes from their income through calculating the income tax.

Starting 2013, the portion of Part A and its taxes from the earned income has exceeded $200,000 for every individual plan. As for married couples that filed jointly, this reached to $250,000. It also rose an additional 3.8% so that the portion of the subsidies can also be paid and mandated by the PPACA.

Parts D as well as Parts B are funded partially by the premiums that have been paid by the Medicare enrollees and these are also considered as the general revenue fund. In 2006, Medicare started adding surtax on the premium of Part B. This was targeted to seniors who earned a higher income in order to fund Part D partially. In the PPACA legislation of the income tax year 2010, Medicare added surtax to the premium portion of Part D and also targeted these to the seniors who were earning lots of income. This is also conducted so that the PPACA can be partially funded along with the beneficiaries from Part B and subject to the double surtax. There is a double amount so that it can also partially fund PPACA.

Parts A, B and D all use trust funds that are separate from one another so that there can be a reimbursement of both the receipt and disbursement of the funds that are mentioned. Part C utilizes all these trusts funds in proportion to one another so that it can be determined by the CMS and reflect that all the beneficiaries of Part C are complete in the full parts of Part A and Part B. Medicare as well as the medical needs for each capita are regarded as fee for service or what is also known as FFS.

Medicare and its spending amounted to 15% of the whole federal spending of the United States. Research all show that this can even exceed 17% by the year 2020.

The retirement of individuals who are called the Baby Boom generation is expected to increase its enrollment by 2030 and reached up to 80 million because that was how the number of workers who are enrolled in the program has declined. The figures dropped from 3.7 and to a low of 2.4. There are the rising and total health care costs that also pose the financial challenges that are substantial to the program. Medicare spending is also projected to even get higher and reach $1 trillion by the year 2020.

It is important to note that for every three dollars, one dollar is spent on Medicare as part of the cost-reduction program. The cost reduction is also influenced by the various factors that include the reduction in unnecessary and inappropriate care through the evidence-based practices of evaluation along with reducing the total amount of duplicative health care. The cost reduction can also be affected by the medical errors that are done when administrative agency increases and the development of clinical guidelines reach the quality standards

Continuing Care Facilities and the Benefits Received from These

Oct 6, 2017 Posted by deepak No Comments

Continuing care facilities or what is also known as continuing care retirement communities, CCRCs for short, provide the residents the lifetime care that they need. They also assure that the care that the recipient receives is provided in the best way possible which also includes nursing assistance, especially when this is needed. This kind of living arrangement can also be useful specifically to couples who are financially stable and in need of different kinds of care and prefer to maintain their togetherness, even if the usual CCRC resident is a financially and physically independent, highly educated, single 80-year-old female.

Although the CCRCs have already gained a negative reputation during the 1980s due to some closed financial difficulty, the total number of the CCRCs available in the US has reached a high of 1,200 and it even continues to increase every year. There are around 350,000 residents residing in the not-for-profit as well as the for-profit facilities This number is predicted to increase because more and more people are expected to qualify and meet the requirements that are set for the CCRCs. The entrance restrictions do specify a specific minimum age, along with a certain statute of finances and health. CCRCs also look for the candidate who:

  • Has an annual earning of 1.5 to 2 times the monthly fee that they usually charge.
  • Will not cost more financially in their contributions especially when they become a resident.

Entrance lists for the qualified beneficiaries are for years and sometimes months. These are long-term residents in the facilities, therefore, it is suggested that individuals begin looking at care facilities that are long term and continue especially for their loved ones.

Levels of Continuing Care

 Most of the CCRCs offer three different levels of continuing care: these are the ILUs or the independent living units, the skilled nursing care and the assisted living. There are cases wherein the individual progresses through all these levels of care. For example, they require little care at the beginning and then as the days progress, they require more and more attention. There are also cases when the residents need additional care for a certain period and then they return to assisted or independent living over time.

  • At the beginning of these levels, especially the independent living units, the resident can choose to reside in his or her own place or residential unit. There are occupancy units that are for married individuals. The majority of this kind of care are for single individuals so they come in the form of single units like a studio apartment, a one-bedroom. For the residents who are married, two bedroom and larger units are also offered. During their stay, the residential services that the patient can acquire include laundry services, meals, and housekeeping. There’s the acute treatment through physical therapy and skilled nursing and the professionals nearby are there to assist them with their personal needs when needed. Most facilities include gardening areas, recreational facilities, swimming pools, walking trails, tennis courts, golf courses and craft rooms which must be taken advantage of especially when residents will stay there for the long run.
  • The assisted living is also a kind of intermediate level of care for residents that prefer to experience the balance between skilled nursing care along with independent living. It is during this period when residents who have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses and require assistance are attended medically and assisted in their personal tasks such as dressing, eating, and bathing.
  • Finally, the skilled nursing care set-up is offered in most CCRCs through short-term and long-term rehabilitative services and nursing care. These mentioned services are offered on the site and there are some facilities that are near these nursing homes, just in case they do not have this specific kind within the vicinity.

Under almost every circumstance mentioned, the individual that is a resident must reasonably independent and also healthy in order to be admitted to continuing care facilities. The levels of care that the resident requires is assessed initially and there is a process that must be explained in the contract. Usually, a group assesses the individual and also checks in with the family members and medical advisers of the individual. The residents are also re-assessed regularly – especially when their circumstances require them to change their level of continuing care over a period of time.

Here are some services that continuing care facilities:

  • Educational programs
  • Gardening space
  • Laundry services
  • On-site health care and nursing
  • Personal conveniences such as banks, haircutters and library)
  • Security Systems
  • Transportation
  • Processing of Medicare as well as insurance reimbursement forms
  • Organized social and recreational activities
  • Meal services
  • Housekeeping
  • Exercise classes
  • Craft and woodworking activities

 Fees and Payment of Continuing Care Services

 The activities mentioned in the previous part of this article are the reasons why there are continuing care facilities that are more expensive than the rest. All fees indicated must be detailed and clear even if it is just the initial contract for an individual who will be residing in the facility. Before the individual or a loved one, on behalf of the future resident, signs the contract, he or she should seek the advice of his or her financial advisor to check the finances so that it is possible to meet all the terms as stated in the contract through the years, since this is a continuing care facility. Additionally, financial advisors should check the finances of the continuing care facilities as well in order to decide whether it is a practical financial investment to make in the future.

There are three kinds of payments that exist for the continuing care facilities. This also include the plan with the monthly and entry fee as well as plan with the rental fee and the plan that is based on the equity of the

  • The monthly and entry fee plans are widely used the most. It is under this coverage that the resident is required to pay an expensive entry fee upfront and most of the time, this is non-refundable. If it is, then it is refundable but it decreases over time. It can also be partially refundable or completely refundable. The policies that concern most residents are the initial fee for entry because it really varies between the different continuing care facilities out there. It is strongly advised that individuals check the contract so that they can go for the specific facility that they feel worth paying for. On average, the entrance fees for these CCRCs range from $60,000 to as much as $120,000. Therefore, the monthly fees can be as much as $1,000 to $1,6000 and these are also charged in order to cover the expenses that are associated with the units that the residentials live in, the assistance services and the medical care.
  • Rental plans as stated on the contract resort to the monthly fee that comes in the form of rental to cover the services as well as the housing that the residents receive. There are times when health care is not included in these services so it is better to check carefully especially when looking at the said plans.
  • The equity based plans allow the individuals to buy their own residential areas. When they do this, the individuals can gain money all for their appreciation of the resident that they are living in. They can also resell the unit when they are deemed qualified to do so. When this is the case, then the owner’s association is the institution that governs the health care and the residential services, which the residents can purchase aside from the living area that they already are in.

No matter what kind of payment plan that the residents opted for the costs actually vary depending on the age, marital status, gender and location of the facility. Individuals must expect their loved one to pay even more than the average rate if he or she is:

  • Young and secure on the financial aspect and capable of consistently paying the monthly rate for a long period of time.
  • Female because it is believed that they live longer
  • Married because there is a higher possibility that the spouse will eventually become ill and both of them will move to a smaller unit, therefore increase the turnover in the residential area of the resident.
  • Looking for units in the West, South, Northeast regions of the United States.

Individuals are also greatly encouraged to have their lawyers review the contract of the CCRCs before signing this. The document because it is a contract legally binds the resident to the CCRCs for the remainder of his or her life.

The payment contracts of continuing care facilities are prepared in one of these three ways:

  • These are contracts that are quite comprehensive and completely cover the residential services, long-term nursing care, amenities and shelter and not increase the monthly payments that the resident has already signed up for. There is an excepti0on though and that is for the inflation adjustments if the situation calls for it. The set-up of this kind of contract spreads the risk in health on the residents in order for no resident would experience any form of financial ruin. A majority of the CCRCs offer this kind of agreement.

 Modified contract covers the residential services, shelter, and amenities of a specific amount of nursing care. After the period when the stated kind of nursing care has been utilized, then the resident pays for the required services on a monthly or even a daily basis.

 The fee-for-service kind of contract covers residential services, shelter, and amenities, as well as short-term nursing care and emergencies. Residents must then pay these fees in the long run but at a number of daily rates.

The overall fees for each kind of contract decrease for every kind of service provided and it decreases as well. It is very crucial to note the resident that a number of CCRCs are also participants of Medicaid and Medicare and sometimes even both of these programs.

Finding the Right Continuing Care Facility

 Since no federal regulations for the CCRCs get in the way, it is possible for everyone to look for their local or state guidelines. It is also crucial that they check which facilities are accredited by the CCAC or what is called the Continuing Care Accreditation Commission. This is an accrediting body that is independent and is also sponsored by what is called the Association for the Home and Services of Aging Individuals. The accreditation of the CCAC is required to submit all the financial statements that were incurred yearly and must also be renewed every fifth year of the resident in that said facility.

The same with all the residential communities, the loved ones should also sign the continuing care community facility once they have already checked the facilities. When interviewing prospective facilities, it is very important to have a long list of questions to ask. Here are examples of questions that can be asked especially when a loved one is investing in continuing care. These questions must be asked along with the basic questions regarding the facility.

  • Is it accredited by CCAC?
  • What kinds of recreational activities can residents engage in? How often are the activities conducted?
  • Can the residents have pets?
  • How much is the upfront entry fee? Is it refundable?
  • How do you calculate the monthly fees?
  • What kind of health care do you provide to the residents when they are in your facility? How often are the residents reassessed?
  • Do you provide long term or short-term health care?
  • Are there limits on the fees?
  • Will there be changes on the monthly rates? If so, why?

Once the individual has found the right facility for their loved ones and these fit the needs that they require then it is a good investment to let their beloved elderly stay there and be assured that the latter will be taken care of and looked after in the best way possible.

COBRA – Continuation Health Coverage

Sep 20, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Are You Covered?

Congress passed the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act that has health benefit provisions since 1986. This law amends Employee Retirement Income Security Act, Public Health Service Act and Internal Revenue Code. The goal of COBRA is to continue health coverage for groups that must be terminated otherwise.

COBRA has provisions giving former retirees, employees, dependent children and former spouses the right for temporary continuation of coverage on health insurance plans in terms of group rates. However, the coverage can only be made available when this is lost because of specific needs. The Group health plan coverage for participants in COBRA is more expensive than the health coverage of employees who are currently active. Usually, it is the employer that pays the portion of the premium for the employees who are currently working while the COBRA participants pay the full premium themselves. Surprisingly, it is less expensive than the usual health policies.

Employers who have 20 or more individuals in their company are required to provide COBRA coverage for them. It is also their responsibility to notify the employees that this coverage is available. COBRA also applies to the health plans that have been maintained by the employers in the private sector as well as those that are sponsored by local governments and most state.

Who are entitled to COBRA benefits?

There are three qualifications for COBRA benefits. In fact, COBRA has already established specific and clear data for the policy plans, qualifying events and qualified beneficiaries.

Plan Coverage: Employers who have 20 employees under their wing for more than half of the typical business days in the year before are required to be under COBRA. Both the part time and full-time employees are included in the tally of determining whether the health plan is more suitable for COBRA> Every part-time employee is a fraction of the other employee, therefore what one gets is equal to what the others guest, if they share the same number of rendered hours. The calculation is the hours that part time employee rendered divided by hours that the employee will work if he will be rendering full time hours in the future.

Qualified Beneficiaries: To be considered as a qualified beneficiary, the individual must be covered by a health plan for groups on the very day before an even that is considered to be qualifying by either the employee, the spouse of the employee or the dependent child of the employee. There are cases wherein the retired employee or the spouse of retired employee and dependent children of retired employee are also qualified beneficiaries. Aside from this, a child that was born or placed through adoption with an employee who is covered during COBRA coverage is also regarded as a beneficiary that is qualified. Independent contractors, agents and directors who are part of the health care for groups can also be eligible beneficiaries.

Qualifying Events: As mentioned earlier, these are events that cause the employee to lose or discontinue his health coverage plan This kind of qualifying event can also determine who among them will be qualified beneficiaries as well as the time duration that the plan will be offered to cover them through COBRA. The plan, using its discretion, can also provide a longer period of coverage that will continue for a long time.

These are qualifying events specifically for employees:

  • Voluntary termination as well as involuntary termination of the individual’s employment due to reasons aside from gross misconduct.
  • Reducing the total hours of the individual’s employment.

These are qualifying events specifically for the spouses of the employees:

  • Voluntary termination as well as involuntary termination of the individual’s employment due to reasons aside from gross misconduct
  • Reducing the total hours that are worked by the employee who is covered by the plan
  • The individual who is covered by COBRA is entitled to get Medicare
  • The legal separation or divorce of the individual who is covered
  • The death of the individual who is covered

Qualifying events for the dependent children of the individuals who are covered are similar to that of the spouse but has this addition:

  • Losing the status of being a dependent child as listed in the rules of the specific plan.

 What are the Benefits Covered Under Cobra?

 The qualified individuals and beneficiaries must also receive a coverage that is similar and available to those who are situated in the same beneficiary as those not receiving the coverage of COBRA. In general, this is the similar coverage that an eligible beneficiary has as immediately as possible before he or she has qualified for a coverage that continues. If there is a change in benefits due to the specifics of the plan for an employee who is currently working, this will still apply to the beneficiaries who qualify. Qualified beneficiaries can also make similar choices that are offered to the individuals who are not under COBRA, like periods of enrollment in the plan in an open setting.

Who is charged for the COBRA coverage?

The beneficiaries are required to pay for the coverage under COBRA. This premium may not go beyond the 102% of the total cost of the plan especially for individuals who are similarly situated but have no incurred the qualifying events as specified. This also includes the portion that is covered by the employees as well as the portion that the employer has already paid for even before the event that qualifies, atop the 2% rendered to cover the administrative costs.

For beneficiaries who qualify, they receive the 11-month disability that is the extended duration of the coverage. This is also the premium targeted for the additional months that can also increase to as much as 150% for the total cost and coverage of the health plan.

COBRA premiums can also increase if there are costs to the said plan that also increases but these can also be fixed when set in advance for every premium cycle of 12 months. The plan can also let the qualified beneficiaries pay the premiums indicated on monthly basis if they requested for this. The plan can also let them make the payments in other intervals, the choices are weekly basis and quarterly basis.

The initial payment of the premium can also be made during the 45 days after the COBRA election date of the qualified beneficiary. The payment can also cover the coverage period after the COBRA election date that is retroactive to the loss of coverage date because of the event that is considered to be qualifying. The premiums for successive coverage periods are due and set on the date that is stated and mentioned in the plan coverage with 30-day minimum for grace period payments. Payment is also considered to be made accordingly on the specific date that is directly sent to the plan coverage.

If the premiums have not been paid on the first day of the coverage period, then the plan can opt to cancel the coverage until the payment for this has been received and immediately reinstate the coverage as retroactive to the start of the coverage period.

If the amount of payment that was made to the coverage was conducted in error but not significantly lower than the amount due, then the plan requires to be notified by the beneficiary that is qualified and report it as a deficiency. The individual will then be granted a period that is reasonable, which is usually 30 days, to pay for the difference. The plan coverage is also not required to send the individual monthly notices of the premium.

The COBRA beneficiaries stay as subject to the rules especially to the plan and must also satisfy the costs that are related to deductibles and co-payments. These are also subject to benefit limits.

The Federal Government and COBRA

The continuing coverage of COBRA as administered by the several agencies like Department of Treasury and Department of Labor have jurisdiction especially on the private-sector and health group plans. Meanwhile, Department of Health and Human Services also administers the coverage as it continues because it has an effect on the plans for the health of the public sector.

The regulatory and interpretative responsibility of the Labor Department can be limited to the notification requirements and disclosure of COBRA. If further information is needed about ERISA in general, then the individual can just write to the office of EBSA that is nearest to him or her. It is also possible to consult the US Department of Labor as well as the US Government for the listing in the phone directory of the office near them. EBSA is Employee Benefits Security Administration under US Department of Labor.

The Department of Treasury as well as the IRS has also issued regulations on the provisions of COBRA that is related to the coverage, eligibility and premiums. Both the Department of Treasury and the Department of Labor share the jurisdiction for enforcing the said provisions.

COBRA coverage and the Marketplace

When the individual loses the insurance that is received from his job, then he is also offered the continuation coverage of COBRA by his or her former employer, if the latter opts to do so.

If the individual chooses not to take the coverage of COBRA any longer, then he or she can just enroll in the Marketplace plan. Losing the coverage from the job-based health premium lets the individual qualify for the Special Enrollment Period. This is a period of 60 days that allows the individual to enroll the health plan and this can be done even if it is outside the Open Enrollment Period.

Is it possible to change from COBRA to a Marketplace Plan?

If the individual’s COBRA is running out, he or she can still change during Open Enrollment. It is also possible to change outside Open Enrollment as long as the individual qualifies for the Special Enrollment Period.

If the individual is ending his or her COBRA coverage earlier than expected, he or she can still change to the Marketplace plan during Open Enrollment. It is however a different case outside Open Enrollment. The individual can no longer change from Cobra to Marketplace in this scenario. He or she has to wait for the COBRA to run out and for him or her to qualify for the Special Enrollment Period in one way or another.

If the COBRA costs have changed because the individual’s former employer have also stopped contributing and is required to pay the full cost of the coverage, the individual can still change to the Marketplace Plan during Open Enrollment. It is the same during outside Open Enrollment. He or she can still change especially when he qualifies for the Special Enrollment Period.

More information on COBRA

COBRA also qualifies as the health coverage or what is also regarded as the minimum essential coverage. That being said, if the individual has the COBRA coverage, then he or she does not have to pay the complete fee that other people who are not covered by COBRA are required to pay.

If the individual has already signed for COBRA coverage but then eventually finds the premium and payments to be too expensive, his or her options depend entirely on whether it is the Open Enrollment Period. He or she can change to the Marketplace but that can cost him or her more than usual because he or she has to opt out of the coverage.

As for people who are wondering if it is possible to switch to Medicaid from their COBRA coverage but outside the period of Open Enrollment, it is important to note that it is also possible to apply for as well as enroll to be covered by Medicaid at any time. The process is to drop the COBRA coverage earlier than expected and to check if the individual qualifies for both Medicaid and CHIP. This is done by people who leave the employers and those who find the COBRA coverage more expensive than expected.

Medical Expenses Deduction – What you can and can not do?

Sep 13, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Medical bills can sure burn a hole on your wallet especially if there are emergencies that come out of nowhere and are not completely covered by one’s insurance. This being said, the IRS allows the taxpayers some relieve, making these expenses somehow tax-deductible. In order for anyone to make the most out of the tax deduction, they must know what is regarded as medical bills and the steps to claim deduction from these.

Deduction from medical bills

The IRS lets tax payers to subtract medical expenses that are qualified and also exceed 10% AGI. The AGI or the adjusted gross income is taxable income and also deducts any adjustments such as contributions and deductions to the traditional interest from student loan and IRA.

Take this for example, a modified AGI that totals $45,000 that has medical costs of $5,475 can be calculated by $45,000 and 0.10 to find out the 10 percent which means $4,500 is deducted to the amount. This then leaves the tax payer a deduction on his medical expenses that amounts to $975. This was calculated by deducting $4,500 from $5,475.

Which medical bills can be deducted?

The IRS lets the tax payer subtract preventative care, vision and dental care and treatment surgeries as medical expenses that qualify. Consultations with psychiatrists and psychologists are also deducted. Appliance like contacts, glasses, hearing aids and false teeth as well as prescription medications are also considered as deductibles.

The IRS allows the tax payer to subtract the expenses for travel when the purpose is medical care. This includes bus fare, parking fees and mileage on cars.

What cannot be deducted?

Medical expenses that is reimbursed, like from the payer’s employer or insurance, is not deductible. This also includes the fact that IRS usually does not allow expenses for cosmetics. The cost for drugs that were not prescribed, with the exception of insulin, as well as purchases primarily for the purpose of general health, like health club bills, toothpaste , diet food or vitamins, nicotine products that are non-prescription or medical bills that were paid for in a previous year cannot be deducted.

How to claim the deduction for medical expenses

To claim the deduction from medical expenses, this must be itemized. Itemizing medical expenses requires the taxpayer does not follow the deduction that is already considered as standard but only the expenses deduction in the situation that it is greater than the former.

Those who choose to itemize must use the Form 1040 when filing their taxes and then attach this to Schedule A. Here, they can also document the total of their medical expenses that they paid for that year on Line 1. The AGI income can be found in Line 2.

Then the 10% of the AGI is placed in Line 3.

Difference between the expenses as well as 10% of the AGI is in Line 4.

The total amount that is listed in Line 4 will then be subtracted to the AGI to reduce the income that is taxable for that year.

If the amount obtained, along with the standard deductions claimed, is lower than the standard deduction, then this should not be itemized.

Maximizing Medical Expense Deduction

If taxpayers spent loads of their hard-earned cash on medical bills, they can write those off but the first requirement is that it should exceed a hefty amount before it is regarded as a deduction.

  • The IRS allows the taxpayer to subtract the costs of medical bills on their tax returns if it is beyond 10% of the AGI. Only the costs that go beyond this amount is deducted.
  • Taxpayers aged 65 and older can use 7.5% from the previous year when claiming the medical expenses that have been itemized.

Which Medical Deductions Are Covered?

The taxpayer’s bills from medical and dental expenses along with his or her spouse and dependents are listed on the tax return. Therefore, these are allowed deductibles. However, medical expenses for parents are not considered due to exemption purposes. Another deductible is that of a dependent that has passed away during the year that they were covered.

Medical Deductions That Are Often-Overlooked:

  1. Travel expenses when going to and returning from locations for medical treatments. The IRS considers this as a deductible and also evaluates the allowance through a standard rate of cents-per-mile. For this income tax year, the rate per mile is 17 cents.
  2. Insurance payments income that has already been taxed. This also covers insurance cost for long-term care, which has certain limits depending on the age of the claimant.
  3. Medical treatments that are uninsured, like eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids, false teeth and even artificial limbs.
  4. Cost of treatment for drug and alcohol abuse.
  5. The cost for corrective vision surgery through laser. This is also tax-deductible. This is often-overlooked and such a shame because taxpayers can have lots of tax deductible from this.
  6. Medical costs as prescribed by physicians. For example, if a doctor prescribes installing a humidifier into the home’s air-conditioning and heating to relieve problems concerning chronic breathing, the device along with the extra costs on electricity for it to operate are partially deductible.
  7. Costs for medical conferences. Expenses on admission and transportation to any medical conference of a chronic illness that is suffered by the tax payer, his or her spouse or dependents can be covered. Lodging costs and meals incurred during the seminar cannot be reduced.
  8. Weight-loss programs. There are some instances that may count as deductible, just like the programs to stop smoking. However, diet programs are also medically necessary. Take this for example, a doctor can recommend a particular regimen to decrease the risks of obesity and hypertension in one’s health.

One can also get a tax break with a flexible account for medical spending. Taxpayers can check for plans they can participate in to increase pay that they can take home.

Special medical needs

The cost for special medical needs can also be written off. These are wheelchair, equipment that lets the deaf person use a phone, devices that produce television captioning and crutches. Service animals specially there for the hearing impaired and the blind and the costs in retrofitting cars with hand controls and spaces to hold wheelchairs can also be written off.

Other Aging-in-place remodels in the home that can be written off:

  • Ramp installation
  • Widening hallways and doors as well as lowering cabinets and counters
  • Adjusting fixtures and electrical outlets
  • Exterior landscaping that can ease the house access

There are home remodeling that can be prescriptions for tax breaks, in the situation that the IRS rules and doctors’ orders are followed.  If needed, adding chairlift can also be used to ascend and descend the stairs all for medical condition. Therefore, this is also considered an expense that is legitimate.

Changes to one’s home in order to make this specially accessible for any handicapped resident are also tax-deductible. Taxpayers must remember that they won’t be able to be considered as deductions from the over-all costs of the tax return. Once there is an improvement, it increases the property’s value, then the amount is deducted from the cost of the project. The difference, then, can count as medical expenses.

Elevators are not deductible. IRS regards this as structural changes that add more to the value of the home and therefore does not necessarily require a medical deduction.

Medical yet not tax-deductible

Cosmetic surgery and health club payments or bills from weight-loss programs are not deductible because these are not medically necessary. Operations for hair transplant and electrolysis treatments are also not deductible. For these procedures, taxpayers can consider financing surgeries that are not medical related and has credit card cash-back.

6 Medical Deductions That Can Be Deducted Without the Taxpayer Itemizing

Calculating medical expenses for deduction is difficult due to the Adjusted Gross Income floor of 10%. If the tax payer is below 65 years of age, it is 7.5%. There are medical expenses that are considered to be deductible despite one not qualifying for deducting the medical expenses in the form of itemized deduction. Deducting expenses can also lower the taxable income and also cut the taxpayer’s taxes. Filing status as well as the number of dependents usually does not affect the deductions.

Listed are the medical deductions that the IRS considers, even without itemizing:

  1. Account Contributions from Health Savings. If the taxpayer contributes any amount to the HSS or the Health Savings Account, then it serves as deduction from the taxable income of the taxpayer. The maximum that is allowed can reach to a maximum of $3,350 for the individual. For families, it is $6,650 per year. If the taxpayer is beyond 55, he or she can contribute an additional $1,000 every year. If the employer contributes to the HSA, this can either be deducted or not deducted in the contributions.
  2. Account Contributions from Flexible Spending. Like the HSAs, when there is an employee-sponsored that can be spent in a flexible manner, which is also known as the FSA, the taxpayer is contributing his income before tax and therefore, reducing his income that is taxable. For income tax year of 2016, the rate was $2,550 for every spouse.
  3. Health Insurance for the Self-Employed. If one is self-employed, he or she can deduct the premiums from the insurance for himself or herself, his or her dependents. The premiums for LTC or long-term care insurance can also be paid for the year.
  4. Work Experiences That Are Related for the Impaired. If the taxpayer is physically as well as mentally disabled and requires services or equipment in order to perform a job, then this can be deducted. Expenses can also include readers, personal assistants and pieces of equipment that are required and necessary for the job. There are expenses that are paid by the taxpayer’s employer and are also considered as reasonable accommodation as it is stated under the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act.

Personal Physical Injury Damages

If the taxpayer is reimbursed for physical injuries as well as expenses from a legal action, then the tax payer can deduct this amount from the taxes. If they are receiving a settlement and the reimbursement,  there is a tax on the settlements but there are no reimbursements. The taxpayers cannot reduce medical costs that have been covered by reimbursement.

Tax Credit on Health Coverage

The HCTC or the Health Coverage Tax Credit covers the monthly health insurance premium for as much as 72.%%. These are premiums that are paid by taxpayers who are regarded as eligible. These are the requirements for those who wish to claim HCTC:

  • TAA or Trade Adjustment Assistance recipient
  • Recipient of the Reemployment TAA
  • Alternative TAA recipient
  • PBGC or Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation pension. This is for the payer who covers his own health insurance.
  • Any qualifying members that are listed of the individuals above.

Here is a rundown of the medical expenses you can deduct:

  • Fees to doctors, dentists, psychiatrists, surgeons, chiropractors and other medical professionals.
  • Medical insurance premiums that are beyond the portion of what the employer pays
  • Long term care insurance premiums that are up to certain limits
  • Long term care
  • Inpatient drug treatment and alcohol programs
  • Dentures
  • Ambulance service
  • Modifications to the tax payer’s home for medical care, like wheelchair ramps
  • Weight loss programs for specific diseases that have been diagnosed by a certain physician
  • Fertility treatments like sterilization and pregnancy test kits
  • Nursing supplies like breast pumps
  • Prescription drugs as well as insulin
  • Glasses, hearing aids, contacts and crutches
  • Guide dogs for the deaf or the blind
  • Cosmetic surgery required because of a disease or an accident
  • Removing lead based paint from surfaces that are in poor repair and is within the reach of any child
  • Admission and transportation going to a conference about a chronic condition of the taxpayer or any of the dependents
  • Stop smoking programs, but excluding non-prescriptions drugs such as patches and nicotine gum
  • Psychiatric care

For a complete list of deductible medical expenses, anyone can just check the IRS Publication 502. These deductions are then used when filing out Form 1040 or Schedule A. Writing off medical expenses as deductions can make for a healthier bottom line on anyone’s tax return. Taxpayers should make sure that the only appropriate expenses are included because auditing IRS can be stressful. It is also possible to ask for the assistance of experts so there are no mistakes made in taxation and the appropriate deductibles.

Getting Started with Your Very Own Business Venture

May 16, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

A great start-up business always starts out as an idea, but you have to transform that idea into action. That’s where many individuals can start to feel overwhelmed. It’s understandable to freeze up at the deluge of things that are required to get a business started, but getting going is actually easier than you might think.

Like any big goal, if you start by breaking it down into smaller tasks, you’ll be able to tackle enough of the actions necessary to get started. Here are six ways to break down the process and simplify getting started with your own small business.

Right now, aspiring entrepreneurs all across the country are planning their paths to business ownership. It’s a journey that requires a lot of hard work, and many people end up failing. But if your company survives, the rewards of entrepreneurship are well worth the obstacles you’ll face on the road to success.

Choose your Industry

Every new business starts with an idea. Maybe there’s something you are really knowledgeable and passionate about, or perhaps you think you’ve found a way to fill a gap in the marketplace. Wherever your interests lie, it’s almost guaranteed that there’s a way to turn it into a business. If you know your strengths and what you enjoy, you are more likely to tackle a business problem that is best suited to your skills and interests and is less sensitive to your shortcomings. Capitalize on your strengths, and accept input from advisors and the team on decisions outside your range. Everyone will see you as a better listener and a stronger leader who is not autocratic and knows how to tackle the many unknowns of a new business. Too many people fail because they are working on someone else’s problem. You won’t be happy in the wrong business.

Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following, and business model are already in place; all you need is a good location and the means to fund your operation.

Once you’ve narrowed your list of ideas down to one or two, do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what the current brand leaders are doing, and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don’t (or deliver the same thing, but faster and cheaper), you’ve got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.

Writing the Business Plan

During the brainstorming, you should also start thinking about your business plan. A smart entrepreneur has a vision of where he/she sees herself and the business in the foreseeable future and writing it down in a business plan helps you stay on track and focus on your goal. A business plan is an essential road map for business success. This living document generally projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the route a company intends to take to grow revenues.

Among the possible sub parts of your business plan includes the:

  1. Executive Summary which is the snapshot of your business plan as a whole and touches on your company profile and goals. This section briefly tells your reader where your company is, where you want to take it, and why your business idea will be successful. If you are seeking financing, the executive summary is also your first opportunity to grab a potential investor’s interest.
  1. Company Description provides information on what you do, what differentiates your business from others, and the markets your business serves. This section of your business plan provides a high-level review of the different elements of your business. This is akin to an extended elevator pitch and can help readers and potential investors quickly understand the goal of your business and its unique proposition.
  1. Service or Product Line answers questions like what do you sell? How does it benefit your customers? What is the product life cycle? Get tips on how to tell the story about your product or service. If you have any existing, pending, or any anticipated copyright or patent filings, list them here. Also, disclose whether any key aspects of a product may be classified as trade secrets. Last, include any information pertaining to existing legal agreements, such as nondisclosure or non-compete agreements.
  1. Funding Request and Financial Projection tackles the possibilities if you need funding. This provides financial projections to back up your request is critical. You should develop the Financial Projections section after you’ve analyzed the market and set clear objectives. That’s when you can allocate resources efficiently.  If you are planning to make your new business your full-time job, it’s wise to wait until you have at least some money put away for startup costs and for sustaining yourself in the beginning before you start making a profit.
  1. Marketing & Sales reveals how you plan to market your business? What is your sales strategy? Marketing is the process of creating customers, and customers are the lifeblood of your business. In this section, the first thing you want to do is define your marketing strategy. There is no single way to approach a marketing strategy; your strategy should be part of an ongoing business-evaluation process and unique to your company. After you have developed a comprehensive marketing strategy, you can then define your sales strategy. This covers how you plan to actually sell your product.

Selecting Your Preferred Business Structure

An important step in forming a new business is to choose the type of business structure you will use. There are several types of business entities to choose from, including sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, and limited partnership. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, as well as tax consequences of which you should be aware. When beginning a business, you must decide what form of business entity to establish. Your form of business determines which income tax return form you have to file. Legal and tax considerations enter into selecting a business structure.

You have to decide which of these entities best suits your business objectives and needs. You can get help in making this decision from a tax practitioner, such as an accountant, enrolled agent, or attorney. A tax practitioner can also provide information about how to establish the business structure you choose.

As an entrepreneur, you will have no place and no one to hide behind. Knowledge of yourself is the key to confidence, and confidence builds leadership. Building a new business requires good leadership to develop the market, attract customers, motivate the team and conquer the unknowns.

Register your Business

Obviously, you need to register your business and declare proprietorship to it. But before you can do that, you have to settle on what to call it. Naming your business is an important branding exercise, but if you choose to name your business as anything other than your own personal name then you’ll need to register it with the appropriate authorities. This process is known as registering your “Doing Business As” (DBA) name.

Choosing a business name is an important step in the business planning process. Not only should you pick a name that reflects your brand identity, but you also need to ensure it is properly registered and protected for the long term. You should also give a thought to whether it’s web-ready. Many businesses start out as freelancers, solo operations, or partnerships. In these cases, it’s easy to fall back on your own name as your business name. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it does make it tougher to present a professional image and build brand awareness.

After you register your business, the next step is obtaining an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. While this is not required for sole proprietorships with no employees, you may want to apply for one anyway to keep your personal and business taxes separate, or simply to save yourself the trouble later on if you decide to hire someone else.

Take Care of the Legalities

To run your business legally, there are certain federal and state licenses and permits you will need to obtain. For some other industries like buying and selling liquor, special certificates are needed before you start operating or else you might find yourself and business in an unnecessary trouble. The form of business you operate determines what taxes you must pay and how you pay them. The following are the five general types of business taxes according to Internal Revenue Services.

 Income Tax

All businesses except partnerships must file an annual income tax return. Partnerships file an information return. The form you use depends on how your business is organized. The federal income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax. You must pay the tax as you earn or receive income during the year. An employee usually has income tax withheld from his or her pay. If you do not pay your tax through withholding or do not pay enough tax that way, you might have to pay estimated tax. If you are not required to make estimated tax payments, you may pay any tax due when you file your return.

Estimated tax

Generally, taxes must be paid as you earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. If the amount of income tax withheld from your salary or pension is not enough, or if you receive income such as interest, dividends, alimony, self-employment income, capital gains, prizes, and awards, you may have to make estimated tax payments. If you are in business for yourself, you generally need to make estimated tax payments. Estimated tax is used to pay not only income tax but other taxes such as self-employment tax and alternative minimum tax.

If you don’t pay enough tax through withholding and estimated tax payments, you may be charged a penalty. You also may be charged a penalty if your estimated tax payments are late, even if you are due a refund when you file your tax return.

Self-Employment Tax

Self-employment tax (SE tax) is a social security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. Your payments of SE tax contribute to your coverage under the social security system. Social security coverage provides you with retirement benefits, disability benefits, survivor benefits, and hospital insurance (Medicare) benefits.

It should be noted that anytime self-employment tax is mentioned, it only refers to Social Security and Medicare taxes and does not include any other taxes that self-employed individuals may be required to file.

 Excise Tax

This section describes the excise taxes you may have to pay and the forms you have to file if you do any of the following. Excise taxes are taxes paid when purchases are made on a specific good, such as gasoline. Excise taxes are often included in the price of the product. There are also excise taxes on activities, such as on wagering or on highway usage by trucks. One of the major components of the excise program is motor fuel.

  • Manufacture or sell certain products.
  • Operate certain kinds of businesses.
  • Use various kinds of equipment, facilities, or products.
  • Receive payment for certain services.

 Form 720 – The federal excise taxes consist of several broad categories of taxes, including the following.

  • Environmental taxes.
  • Communications and air transportation taxes.
  • Fuel taxes.
  • Tax on the first retail sale of heavy trucks, trailers, and tractors.
  • Manufacturers taxes on the sale or use of a variety of different articles

Employment Taxes

When you have employees, you as the employer have certain employment tax responsibilities that you must pay and forms you must file. Employment taxes include the following:

  • Social security and Medicare taxes
  • Federal income tax withholding
  • Federal unemployment (FUTA) tax

Aside from national laws that your business needs to abide by, there are also local state laws that you need to be aware of and observe for a smooth sailing operation. It is very important where your establishment located, and what government rules apply.

 

The good and the bad news is that as an entrepreneur, you won’t have a manager charged with directing your efforts or peers helping you implement, and your new team will be quick to tell you only what you want to hear. Thus the burden is on you to capitalize on your strengths, find co-founders and team members to fill the gaps and find mentors and advisors you trust.

How to Effectively Manage Business Risks

Apr 30, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Risks are normal in any business. Even the most successful businesses today had to deal with certain threats in the past that almost laid their success on the line. Sometimes, it is tempting to wish that your business no longer has to take any calculated risk and be as smooth sailing as possible, but that just cannot be.

In the real world, business is tantamount to risk-taking and you can’t just wish to keep risks at bay. Why? Because business does not work that way. Taking risks is necessary in any business for without it, growth is never possible. Remember, it is through risks that you get to meet new clients, discover new sectors and learn new things. Without risks, business loses its essence.

Risk Management

 People in the business sector are pretty familiar with the term risk management. By definition, risk refers to the probability of an event and its consequences. When you manage risks, you use certain methods, processes and tools to deal with these risks.

Running a business involves different types of risk, and while some risks can go only as far as causing serious but manageable damage to your business, there are risks that are beyond repair and have the potential to destroy your business. That is why businesses, no matter how big or small, need to be equipped with the right methods and tools to prepare for these risks before they strike. While preparing for risks does not guarantee 100% that your business will be free from risks, such preparations can moderate their impacts on your business.

Risk management involves determining what could go wrong with your business and evaluating which of the possible risks you should deal with. After doing so, you implement strategies that will help you manage those risks. Managing risks before they strike is the most cost-effective way of dealing with them.

Potential Business Risks

 Before you try to understand Risk Management as a process, it is important that you familiarize yourself with the different types of risk that businesses usually face.

  • Strategic Risks. Strategic risks are risks that have to do with how you operate in the industry where your business is in. These risks usually arise from changes in demand, mergers and acquisitions and other changes in the industry. For instance, a big U.S. company is acquiring your major Canadian competitor. If the acquisition activity happens, then your competitor will have the potential to have a distribution arm in the U.S. So, what should you do?

 Now that you know that this potential acquisition activity can pose a risk on your business, you have to prepare how you will respond once the risk is already at hand. As you do this, you may consider researching if there is any U.S. company that is big enough to do the acquisition and which among your Canadian competitors might be a target of this U.S. company.

  • Compliance Risks. As the name suggests, these risks have to do with your need to comply with certain regulations, as well as your need to act in such a way that your customers and potential investors will be pleased. To manage compliance risks, you must consider whether certain safety or health legislations can force charges in your business or increase your overheads.

When it comes to legislative risks, you may want to ask yourself if certain legislations, particularly tax laws, can make your products and services less marketable. For instance, some tobacco businesses were threatened when legislations pushing up the costs of tobacco products were passed. The significant increase in the cost of their products reduced their appeal and made it difficult for tobacco business owners to promote and sell their products.

  • Financial Risks. Financial risks are associated with the overall finances of your business, including your financial systems and the transactions that your business enters into. Some examples of financial risks are customers who did not pay you for your services, or the growing interest of your business loan. But how do you prevent such risks?

The first and most important thing you should do to prepare your business for financial risks is by regularly examining your financial operations, most especially your cash flow. Being too dependent on one customer is not good for your business, because if that customer fails to pay you, that could have some serious implications when it comes to the viability of your business. Aside from cash flow, some of the other things you should examine are the ones who owe you money, the way you extend credit to your customers, and the things you should do to recover your owed money.

  • Operational Risks. Operational risks are the risks that have to do with the operations and administrative procedures taken by your business, including recruitment of employees, supply chain, IT systems, accounting controls, regulations and the composition of your board.

As you run your business, it is necessary for you to examine each aspect of your operations and make provisions for every possible risk that may turn up. For instance, being too reliant on just one supplier may pose operational risks for your business. Imagine if your sole supplier goes out of business. Where does that leave you? You can minimize this risk by looking for some other suppliers that you can do business with and not depending too much on the one that you currently have.

One of the most common operational risks today has to do with information security. As a business, you keep track of necessary information. That is why part of your responsibilities as a business owner is ensuring that every bit of information is protected from hackers who may break into your IT system and steal valuable data from you. Many business owners have experienced losing large sums of money from their accounts to hackers due to poorly secured IT systems.

Aspects of the Risk Management Process

 The process of managing risks is one of the most crucial parts of any business. It is often considered an indispensable part of strategic management because it helps you identify the risks confronting your business and address them. By doing so, you are able to increase the likelihood of your business’ success.

The risk management process basically involves micro processes, such as systematically identifying the risks facing your business, evaluating the possibility of the occurrence of an event, understanding how you should respond to these events, setting up systems to tackle the consequences of these events, and monitoring how effective or ineffective your risk management processes are.

 How Risk Management Benefits Your Business

 While risk management does not totally guarantee the success of your business, it makes the risks manageable enough. Among the common results of the risk management process are the following:

  • It allows you to allocate your resources more efficiently
  • It allows you to project or expect what may go wrong with your business, hence minimizing the impact of risks and preventing considerable financial loss
  • It helps improve your planning and decision-making
  • It increases the chances that you will be able to conduct your business according to your business plan and budget

 If you are the type of business owner who always loves to try something new, knowing how to manage risks efficiently can benefit your business a lot. For instance, you plan on launching a new product. Two of the risks that you should consider in this case are the competitors that follow you in the market and the existing technologies that can possibly make your new product redundant.

Evaluating Risks

Part of the risk management process is risk evaluation. This technique particularly lets you identify the significance of potential risks to your business and decide whether you are going to accept these risks or prevent them. But how do you evaluate these risks?

Evaluating risks basically involves identifying them and ranking them afterwards. You can do this by determining the consequence and probability of each risk, such as asking yourself if their consequences and probabilities are low, medium or high. Businesses that efficiently assess their risks can attest to the advantages of this practice.

It helps to include a risk evaluation in your business plan, in which you determine the risks that can impact your objectives and assess them in the light of costs, concerns of investors and even legal requirements. In cases when the cost of preventing a potential risk is too high, not preventing the risk at all makes more sense. So, it is important that you assess these risks and weigh which will cost you more—preventing them or mitigating them once they’re already at hand?

In evaluating potential risks and assessing them based on cost, concerns and legal requirements, it is best to plot a risk map and include there the likelihood of the risk’s occurrence. In this risk map, you rate each risk on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning that the risk is of major concern to your business. You can also include in the risk map the probability scale of each risk, which you do by assessing if the risk:

  1. Is very likely to occur
  2. Has some chance of occurrence
  3. Has small chance of occurrence, or
  4. Is not likely to occur

By plotting this map, you are easily able to visualize all the possible risks in relation to each other and see the extent of damage they can do to your business.

 Four Ways to Deal with Risks

 Since risks are normal in every business, they are not supposed to make you nervous. As a business owner, you have all the freedom to plan around these risks, limit their impacts and prevent the worst from happening. You only have four options when dealing with risks—mitigate it, avoid it, transfer it, or accept it.

  • Mitigating the Risk. To mitigate a potential risk, you should come up with contingency plans before the risky situation arrives. So, when it’s already there, you can easily carry out your Plan B. For example, you have an upcoming promotional event for your new product and you expect several investors to attend. Since the event is set in an open area, the risk is that it might rain. Rain can be considered a risk since that may affect the number of people to attend the event. To mitigate the risk, you may consider renting a large tent to shelter your guests or giving out free umbrellas to them.
  • Avoiding the Risk. There are certain instances when you find the risk consequences to be too high. In such cases, it is best for you to cancel that high-risk initiative altogether. One example would be a product launch that could exhaust all of your company’s finances. Instead of letting this new product cripple your business financially, cancel the launch and avoid the risk of being broke.
  • Transferring the Risk. This strategy is very common in insurances. Since it involves passing the risk on to someone else, it mainly applies to risks and situations that you can put in black and white, such as in contracts. A good example is insuring yourself against the risk of a car accident. In this case, your insurer will carry the financial risk in case you get caught in such an accident.
  • Accepting the Risk. In managing risks, remember that you always have the choice of doing nothing. However, you have to make every conscious effort possible to understand the risk and to decide whether it is fine to accept it. If you think the risk is insignificant and won’t have any impact on your business, then you can choose to take no action at all.

When you manage potential risks to your business, you can take advantage of any of these four strategies independently or in combination. Just like in any endeavor, business requires careful planning. Even if you think that a risk is not likely to happen, it is still best to prepare yourself for it.

How to Simplify Business Taxes

Apr 23, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

If the only purpose of the tax system is to raise the government’s revenue, it could have been simpler. Unfortunately, its goals include ensuring efficiency, fairness and enforceability, influencing social policy and delivering benefits for certain industries, so simplicity in taxes seems out of the question.

While the current tax system is already too complicated, it gets even more complex year after year. Oftentimes, tax simplicity contradicts certain policy goals. While most people think that taxes should be equally conductive, fair, enforceable and simple, it is a fact that even those people who agree on these goals also disagree when it comes to their relative importance. Consequently, policies serve to balance the competing goals and simplicity ends up being least prioritized.

If you own a small business and are unfortunately not a tax expert, you may find it hard to deal with your business taxes. Because of the complexity of the tax system, it is very common for business owners to spend their tax time in panic and stress as they scramble to get their documents together in hopes of meeting deadlines and avoiding penalties.

Business owners often experience tax woes since they are supposed to treat business taxes as a process that needs careful attention throughout the year. The complexity of the tax system makes business tax preparation just as difficult that business owners sometimes feel like preparing for the tax season is an all-year burden that they have to carry.

Business taxes may be a bit complicated, but the good news is that there are ways through which you can simplify them. But before you know how to simplify business tax, it is better to understand first what business taxes are all about.

Business Taxes

 Business taxes have five general types, and the type you pay depends on the form of business that you operate. The give general types of business taxes are:

  • Income Tax. Except partnerships, all types of business are required to file an annual income tax return. The form that you use in filing depends on the organization of your business or your business structure. This type of tax is a pay-as-you-go tax, which means that you pay it as you earn or receive your income. Usually, this is withheld from your pay. Otherwise, you might be required to pay estimated tax.
  •  Estimated Tax. It is by making regular payments of this type of tax during the year that you pay your taxes on income, including your self-employment tax.
  •  Self-Employment Tax. This business tax is primarily for those who work for themselves. Whatever self-employment tax you pay contributes to your social security system coverage, which is responsible for providing you with disability benefits, retirement benefits, survivor benefits and hospital insurance benefits. The law requires you to pay your SE tax if you meet any of the following requirements: (1) your net earnings from being self-employed were $400 or more; (2) you work for a church or any organization controlled by a church which elected an exemption from the FICA taxes.
  •  Employment Tax. You should pay your employment tax if you have employees whose social security and Medicare taxes, as well as federal income tax withholding and federal unemployment (FUTA) tax you are responsible to file.
  •  Excise Tax. You need to pay your excise tax if you do manufacture or sell products, operate different businesses, use various kinds of facilities, products or equipment, or receive payment for certain services. This tax has several tax programs, and one of the major components of these programs is motor fuel.

 Now that you know the different business taxes that you need to pay, and considering how complicated filing and paying them are, it is time to understand how to simplify your business taxes.

 Preparing for the Tax Season

 The key to simplifying your business taxes is to treat them as something that requires your attention throughout the entire tax year. As you begin to see it that way, preparing for tax time won’t be as burdensome for you anymore and it will no longer have to take your time away from your business.

Business taxes are manageable if you know how to prepare them right. Basically, you will need a reliable technology to help you automate your finances. Other things that you need will be—

 Establish better habits for next year and beyond. After completing your taxes for the current year, commit to establish better habits for the following years. You may have promised yourself to do the same last tax year and in the years prior, but this time, make sure that you will stand by your commitment to do better.

 Your business finances need your attention as much as your family finances do. If you are not the type of business owner who keeps track of your business income and expenses, then you are one of those business owners who see tax time as a nightmare.

  •  Track your Business Income and Expenses. To save yourself the trouble, make it a habit to track your income and expenses all the time. That may sound a bit demanding, but it definitely works. To keep track of your finances as they happen, use a spreadsheet or a software program. Reconstructing all your income and expenses for months at once will not only lead to an erratic report but will also leave you drained.

Another advantage of keeping track of your income and expenses in a simple spreadsheet is that you get to see the profit you make and all the numbers you need for tax time.

  • Set Aside Money for Taxes. One of the easiest ways to avoid getting hit with a surprisingly hefty tax bill is to make it a habit to allot money for your business taxes each month. For most businesses, that is equivalent to 30% of your total income. If you set aside this percentage, you will be better off than business owners who don’t set aside anything for tax time.

If you make a conscious decision now to set aside money for your taxes, you don’t only get to avoid considerable penalties but also ease the burden of having to pay a huge sum when the due date for filing taxes comes. That may seem difficult to do at first, but it positively forces you to not procrastinate your taxes until the crazy tax time arrives.

Record everything electronically. Most business owners keep piles of receipts and other important documents in a box, particularly a shoebox. Such a practice is highly inefficient because when the receipts pile up, everything becomes a mess and things become even more stressful for you since you will end up not even knowing what’s in that box. Why don’t you ditch it and start learning how to record everything electronically? That way, you can be sure that your archive is automatically ready when the filing time next year comes.

It is also best to set aside one time to sort out your records. If you plan to do this once a month, a good date would be the time you get your monthly statement for your business checking account. Come up with a checklist that includes your bank account reconciliation and look through all of your transactions to make sure that you don’t commit errors.

Back up your records. Have you ever thought of what may happen to all your data in case a huge disaster hits your place? That is why it is important that you back up all your files and records regularly to a remote location, such as in the cloud. You may also do the backing up on-site, but make sure that you store away all valuable business information from the office. Remember that the law does not find lost records as an excuse when the auditing time comes.

Find a good accountant/ tax advisor. If you think you can’t handle all the paperwork by yourself, you can get an accountant. Accountants are trusted advisors that you can rely on throughout the year. They can help you plan and prepare for the tax season.

If you have just started your business, it is better if you talk to a tax advisor as soon as now. You can explain the basics of your business to your accountant and tax advisor so he can clue you in on the tax deductions you are entitled to. You may not appreciate having a tax advisor by your side straightaway, but when the demands of tax time get more complicated, you will. Since they are savvy about business taxes, they can help you go about every stage of the process.

In the months leading up to tax time, accountants and tax advisors are business owners’ best friends. Ahead of this dreaded season, request from them a tax preparation document to ensure that you have enough time to prepare and that you get all the deductions and breaks you are entitled to.

Use online banking. In most cases, banks allow their clients to download all of their transactions. To help you prepare for the tax season, you can visit the bank every month to mark all your tax-deductible transactions. That way, you can prepare a comprehensive list of all your tax deductible items before the tax season comes.

As you prepare for the tax season, it also helps to use reminders and alerts. You may consider having a specific calendar that’s especially dedicated to your business finances. There, you can set up all your financial reminders for all the payments, transfers and other transactions that you need to perform. This way, you don’t let your financial tasks get lost in the rush of your daily business reminders. It is also advisable that you put alerts on your business checking account so the calendar can alert you when your balance gets too low, or when a new transaction is made.

Automate accounting process. If you own a business, considering an accounting solution is a big help to your tax woes. Finding an accounting solution will help you drive accuracy and efficiency throughout the year and ease your burden during tax time. When you use online accounting for your finances, you don’t only get the latest version of the accounting tool but you also remove the need to invest a large sum of money upfront.

If you own a small business, you can easily pull the transactions you had from your business bank accounts and automatically update them. That way, you can come up with customized financial reports and view your balances more straightforwardly, especially if you use a software that features customizable reports. This is a big time-saver, you’ll see.

Another benefit of automating your accounting process is that you get to plan ahead for your important deadlines. Most accounting software today don’t only keep track of your income and expenses but also have alert features to ensure that you are up-to-date with your business finances and deadlines.

File online. Filing your taxes online is not only faster for you but also ensures that it your filing is less prone to errors. In most cases, tax agencies also require online than manual filing.

When you start having your business financial tracking set in place, you will discover that it actually takes so little time to accomplish your financial review and just a bit of effort to get rid of tax woes that are usually experienced by delinquent business owners. The business tax system is complicated, yes, but there is always something you can do to streamline the process.

If you have just started out your business, it’s normal if your expenses outweigh your income. Setting up a system to track your finances may seem unnecessary at this point, but you shouldn’t make the mistake of waiting until all your financial records have already piled up. Simplifying your business tax is a result of easy habits that you need to learn from the beginning. Try it. When the tax time comes around, you’ll be grateful you’re prepared.

Hire Your Children To Save Taxes

Jan 19, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Child labor is a subject that has a negative connotation in our society. For most people, it means depriving children of their childhood. It means forcing them to work when they should be at home watching TV, or playing in the fields.

But it is a different matter altogether if the child is employed by his or her parent’s company.

If you have a small business and you have children aged below 18 years old, it is highly recommended that you hire them as employees. It can be a very fulfilling experience to them. It can hasten their growth, develop a sense of pride and self-worth, and teach them to be more responsible.

Moreover, it can save your company thousands of dollars in taxes. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone—your children can be productive during their spare time and you andyour company can get to save a lot of money.

Hiring teen and young adults in a family owned business benefits both parents and the young ones. Parents get to save more as their businesses have lesser tax burden. Children, on the other hand, can be productive and get some extra money for their extracurricular and summertime activities.

Tax Benefits

There are several ways for your company to benefit from hiring your children as workers:

  1. The child’s salary is free from taxes.

You might know that the first $6,300 of income in a fiscal year is free from federal taxes. This is called the Standard Deduction. So if you hire a child as an employee of your firm, you’re basically keeping that amount in the family. Hire someone else and that $6,300 is taken out of you.

That money coming from your own pocket can be used by your son or daughter to buy a car, or go on a vacation. Even better, he can use it to support himself or his college education.

  1. The child’s salary will be tax deductible.

Let’s say that you are hiring your child with an annual pay of $6,300.  You can declare that amount as tax deductible from your business income.  The first $6,300 earned by a child working in his/her parent’s firm is not subject to tax. Yes, this means that your child’s earning will not only be subject to federal income tax tax but also state tax, FICA, or Medicare.

You, as the business owner, meanwhile, can declare that amount as fully deductible. This means that you will get a tax relief based on your child’s salary as an employee of your business.

For instance, your business is in the 35 percent tax bracket. You hire your 14-year old son to work in your office and help you with the filing of documents, or working  with the spreadsheets. For the year, he earns $6,300 in wages. He must also has no other sources of income.

You, as the business owner, stand to save $2,205 since the full amount of his wages will be deductible as compensation.

  1. No FICA taxes.

As mentioned earlier, your child’s salary isn’t subject to FICA tax. This means your firm won’t have to pay FICA taxes on your child’s wages.

However, there are certain requirements for your child’s salary to be exempt from this kind of tax:

  1. Your business is a sole proprietorship
  2. It is a husband-wife partnership
  3. It is a husband-wife LLC considered as husband-wife partnership for tax purposes
  4. It is a single member LLC treated as sole proprietorship for tax purposes

It should be noted that your child’s salary is not exempt from FICA taxes if your business is a corporation. FICA tax exemption is also not applied if the business is a partnership, or one or more partners are not parents of the child.

  1. Setting up retirement savings plan.

What most people don’t realize is that children under 18 can contribute to their own individual retirement account (IRA). This can be a great way for them to get a head start as far as saving and investing money is concerned.

Your child can contribute up to $5,500 to a traditional IRA. He can subtract the amount from their income for tax purposes. However, your child can’t make more contribution to what he earned in a year. So if he earned $5,000 in a year, the maximum IRA contribution he can make is $5,000.

  1. Shifting a parent’s higher taxed income to a child.

Since your child can save by a) having his income exempt from taxes and b) having the option to set up IRA on the income, you can then shift your higher taxed income to him.

Going back to our examples, your son makes $6,300 and then adds $5500 as a contribution to an IRA. Thus he has $11,800 shielded from taxes, and your business can write off that amount as a legit business expense that can reduce your gross income.

That’s the maximum amount that your child can make in a year sans tax. If you give him a higher pay than $6,300 in a year, the next $9,275 will only be taxed at a rate of 10%.

Thus, your son stands to have a tax of just $927.50 for the year on aggregate earnings of $21,075.

You’ll be wise enough to include that amount in your own income as you can incur a tax liability of $10,600. You can save up to $9,672 in taxes by doing so.

Guidelines

There are several things that you should know if you are to hire your kids as employees. Knowing these guidelines should keep the IRS from disallowing your company from claiming said tax exemptions:

  1. He/she must be a real employee.

Your children should be hired as bona fide employees. This means that they have work that is helpful and appropriate for your business. Typical jobs for children include routine office work such as typing jobs, stuffing envelopes, cleaning the office, answering phones, or making deliveries.  Tech-savvy teenagers can help in marketing a company through social media. Or they can help in maintaining the spreadsheets of the firm.

They can’t be hired for jobs that have no connection with your business, like mowing your lawn at home. Suffice to say, children shouldn’t be asked to do household chores and get compensated for it.

Since your child is considered as a real employee, he or she should fill out their timesheets. It is also recommended that they sign a written employment agreement that specifies the duties and work hours of the employee.

  1. The work must be age-appropriate.

The work assigned to your child should be age-appropriate. There’s a chance that a 8 or 9 -year old child can help in some tasks in the office like stuffing envelopes or even making deliveries. But it will be difficult for the IRS to believe that a child aged below that age can perform any useful work for your firm. Employing a 6 or 7 year old for photocopying work or filing can put you in trouble with the IRS.

It’s also a no-no for children aged 16 years and below to work in a dangerous industry. Hence if your business is heavy equipment contracting, you can’t assign your 15-year old son to the field.

  1. Child should comply with legal requirements.

Since the child is considered a real employee, he or she should comply with the same legal requirements as you would when you hire a stranger. Thus, he will have to apply for a Social Security Number and fill out IRS Form W-4. He or she should also complete Form I-9 of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

  1. Compensation must be reasonable.

Simply put, your child’s salary should be consistent with market rates.

Many shrewd business owners would try to give their children a big compensation because it can give them more tax savings in the long run. It would enable them to shift much of their income to their kids who are likely to be in a much lower income tax bracket. But you shouldn’t attempt to do this as the IRS would eventually find out about this if they do an audit.

In paying your children, you should give them a reasonable compensation. The total compensation must include the salary plus all the fringe benefits such as health insurance and medical expense reimbursements.

To get an idea on how much you are to pay your child, you can call an employment agency to see the typical compensation for the type of work that your youngster will do in your business.

  1. Pay in cash.

It’s up to you to decide how much you would pay your son for the services he renders to your business. Just make sure that you pay him in cash if you don’t want to get in trouble with the IRS. Compensation in the form of foods and other things won’t cut it.

There was this case of a tax preparer in Washington who also owned an employment agency. She employed her three children aged 8, 11, and 15. The kids earned a combined $15,000 in two fiscal years for doing tasks like filing and stuffing envelopes. Their mom deducted their salary as business expenses. The IRS disallowed it.

Why?  It’s because the children’s wages was used by their mom to pay for their food, often pizza.  Also, she used the money to pay for their tutor’s fees.

While the mother argued that it was her children who asked her to spend their earnings that way, the Tax Court ruled in favor of the IRS. It noted that it is her parental obligation to provide food and support her children’s education, and the wages of the kids should not be used for these purposes.

  1. Be diligent about documentation and book keeping.

One way to ensure that this arrangement won’t backfire on you is to be diligent about the documentation and book keeping. Doing so would convince federal or state auditor that you reasonably employed your children for your business, and that your tax claims are legit.

Aside from getting all the state permits necessary to employ children, your company’s recordkeeping and payroll tax accounting must also be fool-proof. The payroll for your kids must be done in the same way that an employer would do the payroll for another employee. Paying a fair market rate, as mentioned earlier, would also satisfy the auditors.

  1. Your child should also help your business.

Finally, business owners should not only be concerned with the tax savings they’ll get when they hire their children. They must also be sure that their children can do the tasks assigned to them. The children should be able to help the business, and not just for the tax savings that the firm gets because of them.

Sure, they’ll reduce taxes by employing a child. But if the child doesn’t do a good job at work, then it would probably best to hire another individual to do the job for the firm.

Let’s say that a father hires his 15-year old son to help typing documents in his office. He’s able to save $3,000 in taxes for doing so. But if his son just lounges around the office and doing nothing, then the father didn’t really get the best out of this arrangement. It would have been better for him to hire another person who can actually help his company.

With the tax savings that small business owners can get, it really makes a lot of sense for them to hire their children during summer or even on weekends. The business owner not only stands to save on taxes, but also instils in his/her children values like hard work and responsibility.

If you decide to do this, you should ensure that you do things right. Get your children the necessary permits. Do your accounting cleanly. And give them real wages—not slices of pizza. If you do things correctly, you can save thousands of dollars in taxes while training your children who could be your successor one day.

Dividing Your Family Fortune In The United States

Oct 29, 2016 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Dividing Your Business Fairly Among Your Children

You’ve done well in your life. You’ve had a successful career as an entrepreneur and built up a business that you can pass on to your kids. After spending much time and energy to build up your company, you naturally want the firm to outlive you and become more successful in the future. So you count on your children to continue your legacy.

But your problem is this—only one of your children is involved in your company. The others have shown no interest at all in your business, or have gone to different career paths. So how do you prepare your estate plan, knowing that more than half of your fortune (if not all) is tied up with your business?

There are many factors you will have to weigh in as you contemplate your estate plan. One  is that there is your desire for the company to live beyond your life. After all, it was you who built up the firm. Would that mean that the child who’s now involved in the business gets a lion’s share of your estate?

On the other side of the fence, your plan to give a majority of your wealth to the child involved in the family business would likely hurt your other children. As a parent, the last thing you want to happen is for your family to fall apart because of disagreements in dividing the family fortune.

First of all, you should realize that your predicament isn’t uncommon. In fact, this is one of a more typical problems facing families that own or operate a business. Passing on a family business can get really tricky when not all the children are working in the company.

In estate planning for a business owner, equal distribution of wealth may not always be fair. It’s a given that most parents will try to be generous, so they’ll think that the fair way of distributing wealth among their children is to divide the fortune equally among the siblings.

But that isn’t fair at all to the child (or even spouse) who is involved in a company, much more to one who has helped tremendously in growing it. The child may feel resentment toward his siblings who had nothing to do with the business but end up getting lots money from it.

There are three options that you may want to explore if you want to distribute your wealth to your children fairly. These are:

Life insurance

Life insurance is considered by some experts as the most tax-efficient way of leaving wealth to children since all life insurance proceeds are received tax-free by the beneficiaries. It is also an effective way of equalizing the wealth distribution in your family especially when only one or two children are involved in the family business.

Since the child who’s involved with the family business is likely to take over from you as the owner or majority shareholder of the company, it would be practical to name the child or children not involved in the company as the beneficiary.

But there are some downsides to doing

Tax Planning with Sanjiv Gupta CPA

Tax Planning with Sanjiv Gupta CPA

this strategy.  There’s the risk that the child involved in the business may feel that he or she is not getting a fair share. The child may be taking over as the company head honcho, but the fact remains that he has to maintain and nurture the business. On the other hand, the other children will simply have to invest the money you left them in a bank or brokerage account.

You’ll also have to determine how much insurance to buy. It’s tricky, to say the least. Your company may be worth a few million dollars today but it could double its value by the time the insurance policy pays out.

Buy-sell Agreement

Another way, albeit more complicated, is to have a buy-sell agreement to the interested child, or the one who is involved, willing and capable of taking over the family business.

A buy-sell agreement can be an integral part of your estate planning, especially if you have children that are not heavily involved in your family business.  In this scenario, you can equally divide the shares of the business among your children but give some privilege to the one who’s been helping you in the company.  It could be the win-win solution to your estate planning woes.

A buy-sell agreement can put limitations on the future sale or transfer of the business. This would minimize, if not completely eliminate, any chances that your business would be transferred or acquired by other people or those who aren’t part of your family. This can also give your child involved in the business the first right to buy the shares owned by his/her siblings.

Think of a buy-sell agreement as a prenup. The document can stave off a lot of  problems that can potentially destroy your family. It would prevent conflicts within your family, particularly your children.

A buy-sell agreement clearly establishes procedures that must be followed in case that you, as the business owner, becomes disabled or dies. It would establish the price and terms of a buyout, in case the children who are not involved in the business decide to give up their stake.

Buy-sell agreements often take into consideration the following issues:

  • Triggering events—these pertains to events that trigger the provisions of the agreement, such as the death of the business owner, divorce, and retirement.
  • Business valuation—this sets the value of shares to be transferred.
  • Buyout terms—buyout terms usually favor the buyer, in this case, the child who is involved in the business. That means lower down payments, interest rates, and even longer buyout periods.
  • Funding—this determines how the departing owner will be paid. Funding may be obtained through insurance coverage such as life, disability and business continuation insurance.  Others opt for installment purchases dependent on cash flow, or through savings generated in a sinking fund.

There are two kinds of buy-sell agreement that you and your heirlooms can enter into—mandatory and optional buy-out. In mandatory buy-sell agreement, the child who is involved in the business will be obligated to purchase your shares in the company when you die. Funding could come from the options mentioned earlier. This is the more recommended type of buy-sell agreement because you can be assured that your business stays within the company once you are gone.

But if the buy-sell agreement is optional, there should be a right of first refusal to prevent your children from transferring their shares to a third party without offering these first to the son or daughter involved in the business. This would prevent them from selling their stakes in your company to other people, or those who are outside of your family.

Since the son or daughter who is involved in the family business appears to be favored in a buy-sell agreement, there’s one way for you to balance things out, so to speak. You can leave your other personal assets to the other children who are not involved in the business. For example, you can name them as primary beneficiaries of your home to make up for the fact that you are basically leaving your business to your son or daughter who is working for your company.

Giving the Business to All Your Children

If neither of those two options appeals to you, then you could just leave your business to all your children. If you have two children, you can give 51 percent to the child who is involved in the business. The other child gets the other 49 percent. Then you can make a writing or agreement that the child with who’s involved in the business will buy his/her sibling’s shares at a predetermined time.

There are pros and cons in this arrangement.

One major advantage of this arrangement is that you won’t have to take any cash out of your business to pay for the life insurance premiums which would later be used by the child involved in the company in buying your share.  This means that your company will have more opportunity to grow as it won’t have to allocate part of its income in paying for rather expensive life insurance policies.

Another advantage is that the child who’s not working in the company won’t feel left out with the way you divided the shares. It’s unlikely for the child to feel slighted with the way you divided the shares especially if you make him/her understand that the higher percentage of shares is a reward for the other sibling who has been helping out the company.

However, a disadvantage of this agreement is that your children are hitched together. If the child who gets the majority of the shares screws up or fails to keep the business profitable, then the other child will have to pay the price as well.  You could also argue that the child who has majority stake has undue pressure to perform because the fortunes of his siblings depend on him.

If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, you might even want to ask your children about how you can divide your business fairly. The child who’s involved in the business may even ask his sibling to do some consulting work for the company just to even things out.

Planning Ahead

Regardless of the arrangement you eventually decide to adapt in dividing your business assets to your children, you should plan now how you will be transferring your wealth to your family members.  Doing so would spare your children a lot of worries by the time that you have to leave the company due to disability and even death.

This underlines the need to plan your timeline for the transfer of your wealth. By planning early on, you will be able to divide your fortunes fairly to your children. It can prevent any animosity amongst your kin, especially when there is one child who is heavily involved in the operations of your business. You want to reward him/her for helping you out but not in a way that would offend his/her siblings, right?

There are several things that you need to ask yourself in planning your estate:

  1. How long do you think you will work?
  2. What are your sources of income once you retire?
  3. Do you want to continue working for the business if you have given up your position/retired?
  4. Do you prefer a traditional, leisurely retirement; one which you are no longer involved in the final decision-making in your company?

By answering these questions, you can have a better perspective of your overall financial situation and estate plan. You can then work out an estate plan that would be in sync with your goals as well as those of your kin.

Once you have made up your mind on when to divide your estate fairly among your children, look for a financial planner and an attorney who have solid experiences in succession planning.

Unexpected life events should not only be the reason for you to start planning about succession and distribution of your wealth. Planning early also means that you and your family will have more time for in-depth conversations, so you can respond to the concerns of your children and spouse.

The pros like the financial planner and attorney can give you sound advice on how to deal with the concerns of your family members. They will also be there to support you through the various legal and documentary requirements needed in distributing wealth to your children.

The most important part is to open your communication lines with your family, especially your children. Keep the conversation healthy by sticking to the issue at hand. You must also deal with any emotions such as feelings of insecurity and jealousy by speaking to each child, if you think you must.

The bottom line is that by planning your succession early on and having this communicated with your children, you can look forward to a future wherein your business flourishes and no cracks whatsoever on the foundation of your family.