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Construction on Culver’s begins

Crews began clearing the lot this week where a new Culver’s will be built. Photo by S. Reed.

The clearing of brush and trees began this week on the lot where a new Culver’s restaurant will be built. 

The restaurant will be built on land located across the street from Big Boy, behind Arby’s and Citgo. Culver’s is taking the north part of the parcel and the other left open for another drive thru restaurant. They are shooting for a July opening. 

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Spectrum Health United named a top 100 hospital

 

Spectrum Health United Hospital was named one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals by IBM Watson HealthTM. Formerly known as the Truven Health Analytics® 100 Top Hospitals, this study spotlights the top-performing hospitals in the U.S. based on a balanced scorecard of publicly available clinical, operational and patient satisfaction metrics and data.

The Watson Health 100 Top Hospitals® study uses independent and objective research to analyze hospital and health system performance in 11 areas, addressing: inpatient mortality; 30-day mortality rate; complications; core measures; 30-day risk-adjusted readmission rate; severity-adjusted average length of stay; mean emergency room throughput; inpatient expense per discharge; Medicare spend per beneficiary; adjusted operating profit margin; and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) score (patient rating of overall hospital performance). The study has been conducted annually since 1993. This is the eighth time Spectrum Health United Hospital has been recognized with this honor. 

It is an honor to be recognized as one of the nation’s top 100 hospitals,” said Andrea Leslie, President, Spectrum Health United Hospital. “To receive this award eight times is truly a reflection of our sustained focus on improving the health of the communities we serve.” 

Based on the results of this year’s study, we extrapolate that if all Medicare inpatients received the same level of care as those treated in the award-winning facilities: 

  • More than 102,000 additional lives could be saved;
  • More than 43,000 additional patients could be complication-free; 
  • More than $4.4 billion in inpatient costs could be saved; 
  • Approximately 200,000 fewer discharged patients would be readmitted within 30 days.

“The country’s best hospitals have proven that an unrelenting focus on quality, supported by constant measurement against peer performance benchmarks, can drive improved outcomes while reducing costs and growing profit margins,” said Jean Chenoweth, senior vice president, 100 Top Hospitals Programs, IBM Watson Health. “Congratulations to this 25th anniversary class of 100 Top Hospitals who have helped raise the bar for healthcare in the U.S. and improve the healthcare experiences of the people in their communities.”

The winning hospitals were announced in the March 5th edition of Modern Healthcare magazine.

For more information, visit www.100tophospitals.com

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Sam Adams Motors

 

If you are looking to purchase a used vehicle, you might want to check out a new auto dealership in Solon Township. Sam Adams Motors, located at 2365 17 Mile Rd., south of Algoma Avenue, provides quality, pre-owned vehicles that are reliable, according to owner Sam Dabaja. “We also stand behind the vehicles we sell,” he added.

Dabaja said that they are a family-owned business with deep ties in the area, and have been a part of the business community for over 20 years. 

He feels that their edge over the competition is that they are in it for the long haul, not just a one-time deal. “We look at each deal as a beginning of a partnership,” explained Dabaja, “where we can continue to serve that family for many years to come. We do all of our car deals at the kitchen table.”

Dabaja said they are planning to grow their inventory in the coming months, and as their business grows, hire local employees as well.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over and check out Sam Adams Motors today! They are open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and closed on Sunday. For more info call (616) 439-4750.

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Venture Capital can finance a new business

 

SCORE, Counselors to America’s Small Business

Free Business Counseling

 

In assessing options for financing a new small business, many entrepreneurs  look to venture capital. This approach can benefit a relatively unproven enterprise that appears to have a promising  future. Securing this type of funding is not easy, however. Venture capital firms expect a business to return their investment with interest plus a large profit. And after the disappointments  with many tech-sector companies in recent years, venture capital providers are particularly wary about where they invest.

Many venture capital firms are affiliated with banks, insurance companies, other financial institutions and large corporations. Some are owned by individuals or private groups of investors; others are publicly held. The minimum investment is generally from $50,000 to $500,000, but investment ceilings are almost unlimited.

The interest of a venture capital firm in a small business usually depends on the stage of the new firm’s development.  An investor may be interested only after the new firm has established itself and has a working organizational  structure, a viable business plan and start-up arrangement. However, some firms prefer to come in at a later stage-perhaps when the new company is in its second or third round growth stage and needs more capital either to carry out expansion plans or to tide it over until a merger or public offering takes place.

A company’s business plan serves as the primary analytical tool for the interested venture capital investor. In analyzing the plan, investors have three specific concerns:

1.  The product or service. Investors seek product or service innovations that give the company a strong competitive advantage. A new idea, backed by market surveys (measuring  the appeal of the product or service and its potential market), may be appealing to investors.

2.   Management capability. No matter how good the product or how innovative the service, the quality and experience  of the management are key factors in the success of the business. The astute investor looks for solid evidence of such management skill.

3.   The industry’s  growth. Investors also want to be sure that the product or service is in a growth field. A significant or revolutionary product improvement  may nevertheless lack luster in a declining product or service category.

Most venture capital investors purchase common or convertible stock rather than burden the fledgling enterprise with interest payments on debt or debentures. They may want more than 50 percent ownership. Additionally, while investors may insist on a position on the board of directors or expect to give management and technical advice, they are rarely interested in day-to-day management issues unless the survival of the business and their investment are at stake.

Before taking the next step for obtaining venture capital, get outside advice. Talk with your accountant and tax advisor. You should also contact SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” SCORE is a nonprofit organization with more than 35 volunteer counselors in the Grand Rapids office, who provide free and confidential advice to veteran entrepreneurs and those just starting out, or find a counselor online at www.scoregr.org.

Free and Confidential Counseling

SCORE, 111 Pearl Street NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

(616) 771-0305   www.scoregr.org

E-mail:  score@grandrapids.org

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Uncle Sam wants you to save for retirement

The Saver’s Credit—a little-known tax credit made available by the IRS to eligible taxpayers—could make saving for retirement more affordable than many people realize.

(NAPS)—If you ever feel your finances are too stretched to save for retirement, you’re not alone—and there could be good news for you. The Saver’s Credit—a little-known tax credit made available by the IRS to eligible taxpayers—could make saving for retirement more affordable than you think. It may reduce your federal income taxes when you save for retirement through a qualified retirement plan or an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

“The Saver’s Credit is a fantastic tax credit because it pays you to save for retirement. It offers eligible workers an added incentive to save for retirement on top of the benefits of tax-deferred savings when they contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or IRA,” says Catherine Collinson, president of nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies®.

Here’s how it works:

1. Check Your Eligibility

Depending on your filing status and income level, you may qualify for a nonrefundable credit of up to $1,000 (or $2,000 if filing jointly) on your federal income taxes for that year when you contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), 457(b) or similar retirement plan, or IRA.

Single filers with a maximum Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of up to $31,000 in 2017 or $31,500 in 2018 are eligible. For the head of a household, the AGI maximum is $46,500 in 2017 or $47,250 in 2018. For those who are married and file a joint return, the AGI maximum is $62,000 in 2017 or $63,000 in 2018.

You must be 18 years or older by January 1 and cannot be a full-time student or be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return. If you fit within these parameters, the Saver’s Credit may be for you.

2. Save for Retirement

Save for retirement in your employer’s retirement plan, if offered, or in an IRA. In general, for every dollar you contribute to a qualified retirement plan or IRA (up to the lesser of the limits permitted by an employer-sponsored plan or the IRS), you defer that amount from your current overall taxable income on your federal tax returns—and you may also qualify for the Saver’s Credit.

3. File Your Tax Return and Claim the Credit

When you prepare your federal tax returns, you can claim your Saver’s Credit by subtracting this tax credit from your federal income taxes owed.

Workers who are eligible to claim the Saver’s Credit are also eligible to take advantage of IRS’ Free File program for taxpayers with an AGI of $66,000 or less. Twelve commercial software companies make their tax preparation software available through the Free File program at www.irs.gov/FreeFile. 

  • If you are using tax preparation software, use Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR. If your software has an interview process, be sure to answer questions about the Saver’s Credit, also referred to as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit and/or Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions.
  • If you are preparing your tax returns manually, complete Form 8880, the Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to determine your exact credit rate and amount. Then transfer the amount to the designated line on Form 1040, Form 1040A or Form 1040NR.
  • If you are using a professional tax preparer, be sure to ask about the Saver’s Credit.
  • Consider having any refund you receive directly deposited to an IRA to further boost your retirement savings.

Note that the Saver’s Credit is not available with Form 1040EZ.

The 18th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey found that just 36 percent of American workers are aware that the credit exists. Don’t overlook Uncle Sam’s Saver’s Credit; it may help you pay less in your current federal income taxes while saving for retirement.

For more details and resources on the Saver’s Credit and an online retirement planning calculator, visit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® at www.transamericacenter.org.

Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) is a division of Transamerica Institute®, a nonprofit, private foundation. 

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Avoid making improper claims for business credits

 

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service warned that taxpayers should avoid making improper claims for business credits, a common scam used by unscrupulous tax preparers.

Two common credits targeted for abuse by shady return preparers include the research credit and the fuel tax credit. Both credits have legitimate uses, but there are specific criteria that taxpayers need to qualify for these.

As part of the 2018 “Dirty Dozen” tax scams, the IRS reminds taxpayers to watch out for these red flags involving business credits when dealing with return preparers. Remember, the taxpayer is responsible for the information on the tax return long after the scammer is gone.

Each year, the IRS publishes its “Dirty Dozen” list of a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter any time. These can especially peak during the tax filing season as people prepare their returns or hire people to help with their taxes.

Research Credit Scams

Section 41 of the Internal Revenue Code provides a credit for increasing research activities, commonly known as the “research credit.” Congress enacted the research credit in 1981 to provide an incentive for American private industry to invest in research and experimentation.

The IRS continues to see significant misuse of the research credit. Improper claims for this credit generally involve a failure to participate in or substantiate qualified research activities and/or a failure to satisfy the requirements related to qualified research expenses.

To qualify for the credit, a taxpayer’s research activities must, among other things, involve a process of experimentation using science with a goal of improving a product or process the taxpayer uses in its business or holds for sale or lease. However, there are certain activities specifically excluded from the credit, including research after commercial production, adaptation of an existing business product or process, foreign research and research funded by the customer. Qualified activities also do not include activities where there is no uncertainty about the taxpayer’s method or capability to achieve a desired result.

The IRS often sees expenses from non-qualified activities included in claims for the research credit. In addition, qualified research expenses include only in-house wages and supply expenses and 65 percent (typically) of payments to contractors. Qualified research expenses do not include expenses without a proven nexus between the claimed expenses and the qualified research activity.

Steps to Properly Claim the Credit

Taxpayers who qualify for the credit may claim up to 20 percent of qualified expenses above a base amount by completing and attaching Form 6765, Credit for Increasing Research Activities, to their tax return. For tax years beginning in 2016, eligible small businesses may use the research credit to offset the alternative minimum tax. Also for tax years beginning in 2016, qualified small businesses may elect to use a portion of the research credit as a payroll tax credit against the employer’s portion of the Social Security tax. Qualified small businesses make this election on Form 6765 and must complete and attach Form 8974, Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities, to their Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

To claim a research credit, taxpayers must evaluate and document their research activities contemporaneously (i.e. over the period of time in which the research occurs) to establish the amount of qualified research expenses paid for each qualified research activity. While taxpayers may estimate some research expenses, taxpayers must have a factual basis for the assumptions used to create the estimates.

Unsupported claims for the research credit may subject taxpayers to penalties. Taxpayers should carefully review reports or studies prepared by third parties to ensure they accurately reflect the taxpayer’s activities. Third parties who are involved in the preparation of improper claims or research credit studies also may be subject to penalties

Fuel Tax Credit Scams

Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim and can result in a penalty of $5,000. Furthermore, illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

The fuel tax credit is generally limited to off-highway business use or use in farming.  Consequently, the credit is not available to most taxpayers. Still, the IRS routinely finds unscrupulous tax return preparers who have enticed sizable groups of taxpayers to erroneously claim the credit to inflate their refunds.

The federal government taxes gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, alternative fuels and certain other types of fuel. Certain commercial uses of these fuels are nontaxable. Individuals and businesses that purchase fuel for one of those purposes can claim a tax credit by filing Form 4136, Credit for Federal Tax Paid on Fuels.

The tax is on fuels used to power vehicles and equipment on roads and highways. Taxes paid for fuel to power vehicles and equipment used off-road may qualify for the tax credit and may include farm equipment, certain boats, trains and airplanes.

Improper claims for the fuel tax credit generally come in two forms. An individual or business may make an erroneous claim on their otherwise legitimate tax return. It is also possible for an identity thief to claim the credit as part of a broader fraudulent scheme.

The IRS has taken a number of steps to improve compliance processes involving fuel tax credits. IRS compliance systems are preventing a significant number of questionable fuel tax credit claims from being processed. For example, new identity theft screening filters have also improved the IRS’s ability to identify questionable fuel tax credit claims during return processing. 

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Software Or Tax Pro: What the difference can mean for you

Doing it yourself, even with the help of the latest technology, may not be the wisest course when it comes to figuring out your taxes. Sometimes, finances need a human touch—and brain.

(NAPS) According to the National Taxpayer Advocate, nearly 60 percent of taxpayers hire paid preparers to do their taxes. With all the tax software programs out there, why do so many people turn to a professional?

“It really depends on the situation,” explained Rich Rhodes, EA, an enrolled agent in Ohio. “Young, single adults with one or two W-2s can probably do fine with tax software, but what if you’re married, own a home, have kids, are going to college or have kids going to college? There are plenty of confusing tax traps just waiting for you.”

A knowledgeable tax pro should actually save you money because he or she will interview you in person and ask a lot of questions to determine for which deductions you may qualify. Tax laws change every year and, if it’s not your full-time job, it’s hard to keep up. 

Here are just a few areas where you could be missing out on saving money on taxes.

Education and child care. The IRS publication explaining the variety of education credits alone is 94 pages long. How about childcare expenses? That publication is a “quick read” at only 19 pages. Now consider this: Those two publications cover just two line items on most 1040 forms.

Volunteer expenses. Rhodes points out that if you are a Scout leader, volunteer in your church or food bank, deliver books to a hospital or meals to seniors, many of your volunteer expenses, including mileage, may be deductible.

Job-related expenses. Perhaps you’re a traveling nurse. Do you wear a uniform? Do you carry protective glasses and a stethoscope for which you’re not reimbursed? Do you have to renew a license or take continuing education courses to maintain a license? Job-related expenses may also be deductible on your tax return.

Filing status. Married people don’t always file jointly. There are many reasons why filing separately might be a good idea and many why it might be a bad one.

Are you paying off student loans? Wondering if you should contribute to a Traditional IRA? Paying alimony? You don’t even have to itemize deductions because these items can reduce your income and that reduces your tax bill. All these are questions that can affect the amount of taxes you have to pay—and a wrong answer can cost you money. Hiring a tax professional is a solid investment. 

Tax professionals such as enrolled agents are licensed and required to take continuing education courses every year to stay up-to-date on all the latest tax changes. In fact, EAs are known as America’s tax experts. They’re the only federally licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. Those who are members of the National Association of Enrolled Agents must also adhere to a stringent Code of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct.

Learn More

To find an EA nearby, you can use the “Find a Tax Expert” directory on www.eatax.org.

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Understanding the 2018 Tax Act

 

From Action Tax Service

The 2018 Tax Act officially titled the “Tax Cut and Job Act of 2017” will dramatically affect everyone’s tax returns. It has provisions that will eliminate deductions that we have grown accustomed to seeing such as the amount we claim for each exemption while it also increases the amount of some credits such as the Child Tax Credit that will offset the loss of the exemption amount. At a little over 1,000 pages, it has a tremendous amount of detail but ultimately we believe that almost everyone will see a decrease in tax for 2018 over 2017. Let’s go over what I would call as the Top Ten main provisions that will affect millions of taxpayers. 

1.  Increase the Standard Deduction.  The Standard Deduction is increased for single and married filing separate taxpayers from $6,350 to $12,000.  Joint filers and qualifying widows or widowers will increase from $12,700 to $24,000.  Head of household filers will increase from $9,350 to $18,000.  This provision will dramatically reduce the number of taxpayers who itemize deductions.

2.  Eliminate Exemption Amount.  The Exemption amount of $4,050 is no longer allowed. The increased Standard Deduction will offset this loss.

3.  Increase Child Tax Credit.  The current Child Tax Credit of $1,000 is increased to $2,000.  Up to $1,400 of that amount is refundable; an increase from the current $1,000.  

4.  Family Tax Credit. A new nonrefundable credit of $500 is added for 2018.   The $500 is allowed for each dependent who is not eligible for the Child Tax Credit.  Those dependents would be family members age 17 or older and could include dependent parents and adult disabled children.  

5.  Limited Deductions for Property Tax, Sales Tax, and State Income Tax. All of these deductions as a group will be limited to $10,000. There is no limit currently.

6.  Mortgage Interest Paid Limited. In 2018, mortgage interest paid on acquisition debt of up to $750,000 will be the rule. The limit now is $1,000,000. The $1,000,000 rule will apply to future years for contracts in place as of 12/15/17. 

7.  Tuition Deduction Eliminated. The Tuition and Fees Deduction of up to $4,000of qualifying Tuition and Fees is no longer allowed.  This deduction worked in conjunction with the Education Credits.

 8.  Tax Rates Decreased. There will still be 7 Individual Tax Rates ranging from 10% up to a maximum of 37%. For the most part, the rates are decreased by 2-3%.  The result is that total income tax for a taxpayer with the same amount of income subject to tax in 2018 should be lower than the same number for 2017.  

9. Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions Eliminated. The 2% Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions such as Investment Expenses, Tax Preparation Fees, and Out of Pocket Employee Business Expenses will no longer be deductible.

10. Corporate Tax Rates Reduced. The Corporate Tax Rates have been reduced across the board to 21%. This lower rate will apply to tax years beginning after December 31, 2017.  

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Families eligible for homestead property tax credit 

 

Average tax credit was $521 for 2016 tax year

Working families and individuals with a household income of $50,000 or less a year may be eligible for a Homestead Property Tax Credit, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Michigan’s Homestead Property Tax Credit can help taxpayers if they are a qualified homeowner or renter and meet certain requirements. For most people, the tax credit is based on a comparison between property taxes and total household income, with homeowners paying property taxes directly and renters paying them indirectly with their rent.

“Homestead Property Tax Credits provide tax relief for Michigan’s working families and individuals,” said Deputy State Treasurer Glenn White, head of Treasury’s Tax Administration Group. “These tax credits can reduce tax owed and may provide a refund.”

During the 2016 tax year, more than 1 million taxpayers claimed the Homestead Property Tax credit, totaling more than $532 million with an average credit at $521.

Taxpayers may claim a Homestead Property Tax Credit if ALL the following apply:

  • Your homestead is in Michigan
  • You were a resident of Michigan for at least six months during the year
  • You own or are contracted to pay rent and occupy a Michigan homestead on which property taxes were levied
  • If you own your home, your taxable value is $135,000 or less (unless unoccupied farmland)
  • Your total household resources are $50,000 or less

Taxpayers who are required to file a state income tax return should claim the Homestead Property Tax Credit with their return. Taxpayers may file a Homestead Property Tax Credit claim by itself.

To learn more about the Homestead Property Tax Credit, the forms required to obtain the credit or state income taxes, go to www.michigan.gov/incometax and click on “Credits and Exemptions” at the bottom of the page. 

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Itemize or take standard deduction for tax year 2017

 

IRS Tax Tip 2018-28

Most taxpayers claim the standard deduction when they file their federal tax return. However, some filers may be able to lower their tax bill by itemizing when they file their 2017 tax return. Before choosing to take the standard deduction or itemize, it’s a good idea to figure deductions using both methods and choose the method with the most benefit. The IRS offers the following tips to help taxpayers decide:

• Figure Itemized Deductions. Taxpayers who itemize basically add up the year’s deductible expenses to arrive at their total deduction. Deductions include: 

Home mortgage interest

State and local income taxes or sales taxes – but not both

Real estate and personal property taxes

Gifts to charities

Casualty or theft losses

Unreimbursed medical and employee business expenses above certain amounts

• Know the Standard Deduction. For taxpayers who don’t itemize, the standard deduction for 2017 depends on their filing status:   o Single — $6,350

Married Filing Jointly — $12,700

Head of Household — $9,350

Married Filing Separately — $6,350

Qualifying Widow(er) — $12,700

If a taxpayer is 65 or older, or blind, the standard deduction is more, but may be limited if another person claims that taxpayer as a dependent.

  • Use IRS Free File. Taxpayers who earned $66,000 or less in 2017 qualify to use free, brand-name software to prepare and file their federal tax returns electronically. IRS Free File software helps taxpayers determine if they should itemize. Taxpayers who can’t use Free File have other e-file options.
  • Check the Exceptions. There are some situations where the law doesn’t allow people to claim the standard deduction. This rule applies to married taxpayers who file separate returns, and either spouse itemizes. In this case, the standard deduction is zero and they should itemize any deductions.
  • Use IRS.gov Tool. Use the Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov. There are several tools that can help people determine whether to itemize or take the standard deduction.  
  • File the Right Forms. For taxpayers to itemize their deductions, they must file Form 1040 and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Filers can take the standard deduction on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.

More Information:

Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information

Publication 17

Taxpayer Bill of Rights: #3, The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax

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