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Ryanne Donahue State Farm Agency

 

Are you looking for a new place to get your insurance? Check out Ryanne Donahue State Farm Agency, located at 60 N. Main Street. Owner Ryanne Donahue said they offer Insurance and Financial services to help people protect what is important to them, prepare for the unexpected, and plan for the future!

What makes them unique from other insurance agencies? Ryanne and the agency team believe in a “good old days” approach to business. “In the world of 15-minute insurance quotes, we want to take the time to get to know the people we serve,” she explained. “We try to always remember that people need their insurance agent most when something bad or scary has happened, we don’t want to be a stranger in those times we want to be a trusted friend.”

Ryanne and her employees are all local residents from Cedar Springs, to Kent City, to Sand Lake. “We know the community and have the same worries, goals, dreams, and fears as our clients. We offer a wide range of services to help cover every day risks, all backed by State Farm!” she said.

Ryanne said they plan to be at 60 N. Main for many years. “Our goal is to have a conversation with every person we come across, to make sure they are getting the best value and protection that their insurance policies can offer. We want to make sure that when something scary happens, our clients can hear us say ‘I am sorry that happened, but we can help!’”

They are open from 8 am to 5 pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 9 am to 6 pm on Tuesday and Thursday. You can check them out at ryannedonahueinsurance.com or give them a call at 616-696-1329.

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Beers from CS Brewing earn gold medals

BUS-CS-Brewing

BUS-CS-Brewing-LA-Gold-MedalTwo beers from Cedar Springs Brewing Company won gold medals at the 2017 Los Angeles International Beer Competition, held the last week in April, in Los Angeles, California.

Küsterer Heller Weissbier was the recipient of the Gold medal in the “South German Style Hefeweizen” category, and Küsterer Weizenbock was the recipient of the Gold medal in the “South German Style Wheat Ale” category.

The beer competition drew entries from as far Croatia, Vietnam, Quebec and British Columbia. Entries were received from 29 US states, including Michigan, California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas, Wisconsin, New York, Arkansas, Oregon, Idaho, Washington DC and Hawaii.

Entries were up 30 percent from last year, not surprisingly, according to competition organizers, with the craft beer industry booming. Beers submitted into 95 divisions. Many styles and price ranges were represented. Beers were tasted over four days by a 100-member panel comprised of BJCP certified judges, brew masters and beer industry officials.

This year, judges handed out 88 Gold medals, 89 Silver and 81 Bronze, as well as 35 honorable mentions.

But these aren’t the first beers from CS Brewing to win awards. Last year, their Küsterer Original Weissbier was awarded the Bronze Medal at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival in the German-Style Wheat Ale category.

“We are humbled and overjoyed to have won with several of our Bavarian-style wheat beers against outstanding international competition, including the world-famous Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen,” stated owner David Ringler. “We are passionate about this style, along with Bavarian brewing traditions, and we continue to create a brewing destination in Cedar Springs as a small part of Beer City, USA.”

Cedar Springs brewing staff includes: Benevolent Overlord of Brewing, Matt Peterson; Fräulein Brewster, Manda Geiger; Director of Happiness, David Ringler; and Kellertyp, Sam Waite.

A complete list of winners can be found at www.labeercomp.com.

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Parks Place Bratdogz

 

BUS-Bratdogz-verticalCedar Springs now has its own brat and hot dog specialty restaurant. Parks Place Bratdogz recently opened at 32 S. Main (where the Alpha Omega Coffe Shop used to be). Owners James and Suzanne Parks said they offer 12 flavors of specialty brats from Ebels (Little Town Jerky) from Falmouth, Michigan, and a variety of hot dogs as well.

They have 40 different toppings to choose from—from the normal ketchup, chili, and cheese, to gourmet toppings such as cherry pie filling, hot fudge, banana slices, and crushed Doritos. They also offer several sides and drinks to complement your brat or hot dog.

“With all the choices we offer for brat flavors and toppings we are not your typical hot dog shop,” said the Parks.

And it’s also affordable.

“We offer reasonable prices and friendly service,” said the Parks, “and most of the products we serve are locally or Michigan-made.” They said they know their distributors, who are local companies, and they also pride themselves on fair pricing.

Currently the shop offers both dine in and take out, but they hope to add delivery soon, and to also expand their product line to include even more brat flavors and toppings.

You can check them out on Tuesday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. They sometimes stay open later if busy. For more info call them at (616) 439-3220.

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Business owners: keep this Crisis Control Summary in your files: 

 

lessons from United Airlines

Los Angeles, CA. United Airlines has scared potential passengers and created a multi-layered lesson on what not to do in a crisis situation so it doesn’t become a PR crisis. Keep this information handy. Every company has a crisis from time to time; here’s what you need to know and share with your executive team.  A single PR crisis can put your company out of business, or, at the very least, get you and your team replaced.

Try to resolve it with something that comes easily to you, but your customer values.
Whatever business you are in, you get your goods or services wholesale (free flights, even on a standby basis). Try to resolve the problem by offering something that has a high perceived value but is not so dear to you that it creates a large loss. The customer is ‘not’ always right, but the customer can write something about you on Yelp and, as it hurts you more to respond, they will ‘seem’ right to the public, who will only read one side of it all.

Avoid calling the police (of any kind) for a non-criminal incident.
Once you try to make the police force your own, and they step in with people who are trained to control others, you will have alienated your client past the point of no return. Worse yet, if the person flails and touches a police officer, he or she now gets a criminal record thanks to you and believe me, you will pay dearly for that.  As stupid goes, this is the most stupid move a company can use against a client when the company is not at threat. A disagreement is never resolved when one party is fully armed and the other is under threat.

Show them who the management really is, and demonstrate compassion for the situation.
If your story makes it to social media, the first response from the CEO should be an instant public apology. The public needs to think of him or her as a nice, warm, empathetic individual who just had the bad luck of hiring someone who had no common sense. Mistakes happen. The public forgives you. If, on the other hand the CEO makes a bad impression or supports his or her staff, regardless of their stupidity, then people will fear the company and avoid it all costs. Do you understand?

Do not anger a customer and then accuse him or her with being belligerent.
This is a common tactic used by the police to arrest persons. Lawyers use it at trial all the time. You say something inflammatory, the person reacts, and you try to show the jury how unreasonable they are. This is dangerous behavior. Unless you have the powers of arrest, you shouldn’t do something to further anger your customer. If you have an angry customer, you should do everything you can to get them to a reasonable states. The easiest way to do so: Offer something up front, then dine or have drinks with him or her in a casual manner and work out the rest. Using this system you may create the most loyal customer (who refers you business) when you are finished. People understand errors occur: it’s how you handle them.

If you can’t say anthing empathetic keep your mouth shut.
A client/customer may upset you.  They are in a heated state due to what happened. Don’t get offended. Many of them don’t even mean what they say in the heat of the moment. If you don’t internalize the person’s comments, start looking at the situation from their point of view. The easiest way to do it is not to think of them, but to think of one of your parents, your spouse, or your best friend having gone through this and how would you respond? Now do this with your client.

Be careful with your words and positioning of your firm. 
It’s easy to say and do what you want when you have a golden parachute. However, a corporation’s reputation is largely based on the philosophies of the CEO when it comes to customer service. Remember the corporation took care of you and your family when you were looking for a career or opportunity. Now, it needs ‘you’. Do everything with all the integrity the company deserves, even if you have to bite your lip in doing so.

Make contact with the aggrieved party asap.
Call the person, arrange a personal contact and work things out. Do not let it get to the media or to a lawyer’s office. Let the person hear from you and know that you care. The difference it will make is phenomenal. It does not matter that you are on vacation when it takes place or may be sleeping. You are better off losing a night’s sleep than months of sleep in the future while your and you company’s reputation are in the balance. Don’t only contact the party, make this up to them. For example, in the United Airlines’ case, I would have put Dr Dao on a private jet asap, with a limousine waiting at the other end. The scenario would have turned out very differently.

Work it out before it becomes a lawsuit.
If a situation is so out of control that a lawyer has been hired or litigation is threatened, resolve it immediately. Negotiate and work out a settlement or understanding of some sort. Keep it confidential if you have to, or be generous and go public with it. This is especially the case if you are in the wrong. In today’s world of Yelp and social media, one event can put a small company out of business. The worst thing that can happen in this case is what happened with United Airlines: the lawyer was having free national airtime to say what he wanted.

If a lawyer has been hired, you did not follow the rules above very well. Once the legal game is in play, it will only serve to infuriate the customer more and the legal game is all about sides. At this point, hope the party has a reasonable lawyer as you can no longer directly communicate with the party. Litigation is one of the worst diseases a company can catch, avoid it at all costs unless you’re the plaintiff.

We hope your next crisis is averted rapidly and wish you the best!

Steven Riznyk is the CEO and senior litigator of San Diego Biz Law, a crisis negotiator, and business strategist who is hired to analyze and resolve complex and crisis issues worldwide. He can be reached at 619-793-4827.  

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What to do when an IRS letter arrives in the mail

 

The IRS mails millions of pieces of correspondence every year to taxpayers for a variety of reasons.

Below are some suggestions on how to best handle a letter or notice from the IRS:

Do not panic. Simply responding will take care of most IRS letters and notices.

Most IRS notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice deals with a specific issue and provides specific instructions on what to do. Careful reading is essential.

A notice may likely be about changes to a taxpayers’ account, taxes owed or a payment request. Sometimes a notice may ask for more information about a specific issue or item on a tax return.

If a notice indicates a changed or corrected tax return, review the information and compare it with your original return.

There is usually no need to reply to a notice unless specifically instructed to do so, or to make a payment.

Taxpayers must respond to a notice they do not agree with. Mail a letter explaining why there is a disagreement with the IRS. The address to mail the letter is on the contact stub at the bottom of the notice. Include information and documents for the IRS to consider and allow at least 30 days for a response.

There is no need to call the IRS or make an appointment at a taxpayer assistance center for most notices. If a call seems necessary, use the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Be sure to have a copy of the tax return and notice when calling.

Always keep copies of any notices received with tax records.

Be alert for tax scams. The IRS sends letters and notices by mail. IRS does not contact people by email or social media to ask for personal or financial information. The IRS will not demand payment a certain way, such as prepaid debit or credit card. Taxpayers have several payment options for taxes owed.

For more on this topic, visit IRS.gov. Click on the link ‘Respond to a Notice’ at the bottom center of the home page. Also, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. Get IRS.gov/forms at any time.

To make a payment, visit IRS.gov/payments or use the IRS2Go app to make a payment with Direct Pay for free, or by debit or credit card through an approved payment processor for a fee.

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Need more time to pay taxes?

 

All taxpayers should file on time, even if they can’t pay what they owe. This saves them from potentially paying a failure to file penalty. Taxes are due by the original due date of the return.

Here are four tips for those who can’t pay their taxes in full by the April 18 due date:

  1. File on time and pay as much as possible. Pay online, by phone, with your mobile device using the IRS2Go app, or by check or money order. Visit IRS.gov for electronic payment options.
  2. Get a loan or use a credit card to pay the tax. The interest and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be less than IRS interest and penalties. For credit card options, see IRS.gov.
  3. Use the Online Payment Agreement tool.  Don’t wait for the IRS to send a bill before seeking a payment plan. The best way is to use the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can also file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with their tax return. Set up a direct debit agreement. With this type of payment plan, there is no need to send a check each month.
  4. Don’t ignore a tax bill.  If so, the IRS may take collection action. Contact the IRS right away by calling the phone number on your bill to talk about options. The IRS will work with taxpayers suffering financial hardship.

Remember to file on time. Pay as much as possible by April 18, 2017, and pay the rest as soon as possible to reduce the interest and penalties. Find out more about the IRS collection process on IRS.gov.

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IRS urges taxpayers not to rush; choose return preparers wisely

 

WASHINGTON – As the tax filing season deadline approaches, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers to select who will prepare their 2016 federal tax return carefully.

With the filing deadline less than two weeks away, appointments with some tax professionals may be limited. A reputable preparer will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts and can help file an extension to give the taxpayer time to collect any missing documents. The IRS urges taxpayers to avoid fly-by-night preparers who may not be available after April 18 and suggests checking the return preparer’s qualifications and history.

The IRS Choosing a Tax Professional page has information about tax preparer credentials and qualifications. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help taxpayers identify local preparers by type of credential or qualification.

All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. They must sign the return and include their PTIN. Ask about fees before providing personal financial records and receipts. Review the return and ask questions before signing it.

Free Tax Preparation

Each year, millions of tax returns are prepared for free by taxpayers using IRS Free File or by volunteers at community-based sites l staffed by IRS-trained volunteers that are located across the country.

IRS Free File lets taxpayers who earned less than $64,000 prepare and e-file a return for free using name-brand software. Go to IRS.gov and click on the ‘Filing’ tab for options. Free File software walks users through the tax preparation process and helps identify those tax changes that may affect their return. Those earning more than $64,000 can use Free File Fillable Forms, electronic versions of IRS paper forms.

IRS trained and certified volunteers at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (VITA and TCE) sites nationwide offer free tax preparation and e-filing. VITA offers free tax return preparation to taxpayers who earn $54,000 or less. The TCE program is mainly for people age 60 or older and focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program and helps taxpayers with low- to moderate incomes.

To find the closest VITA site, visit IRS.gov and search the word “VITA.” Or download the IRS2Go app on a smart phone. Site information is also available by calling the IRS at 800-906-9887.

To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, visit aarp.org, or call 888-227-7669.

There are also VITA and TCE sites that provide bilingual help.

Taxpayers who can’t file by the deadline should request an extension by using Free File on IRS.gov. In a matter of minutes, anyone can e-file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and get a six-month extension. Requesting an extension to file does not extend the time to pay.

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Private collection of some overdue taxes starts in April

 

Taxpayers: Watch Out for Scam Calls

WASHINGTON – Starting this month, the Internal Revenue Service will begin sending letters to a relatively small group of taxpayers whose overdue federal tax accounts are being assigned to one of four private-sector collection agencies.

The new program, authorized under a federal law enacted by Congress in December 2015, enables these designated contractors to collect, on the government’s behalf, unpaid tax debts. Usually, these are unpaid individual tax obligations that are not currently being worked by IRS collection employees and often were assessed by the tax agency several years ago.

Taxpayers being assigned to a private firm would have had multiple contacts from the IRS in previous years and still have an unpaid tax bill.

“The IRS is taking steps throughout this effort to ensure that the private collection firms work responsibly and respect taxpayer rights,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS also urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers who might use this program as a cover to trick people. In reality, those taxpayers whose accounts are assigned as part of the private collection effort know they have a tax debt.”

The program will begin this week with a few hundred taxpayers receiving mailings and subsequent phone calls, with the program growing to thousands a week later in the spring and summer. Taxpayers with overdue taxes will always receive multiple contacts, letters and phone calls, first from the IRS, not private debt collectors.

How the New Program Works

The IRS will always notify a taxpayer before transferring their account to a private collection agency (PCA). First, the IRS will send a letter to the taxpayer and their tax representative informing them that their account is being assigned to a PCA and giving the name and contact information for the PCA. This mailing will include a copy of Publication 4518, What You Can Expect When the IRS Assigns Your Account to a Private Collection Agency.

Only four private groups are participating in this program: CBE Group of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Conserve of Fairport, N.Y.; Performant of Livermore, Calif.; and Pioneer of Horseheads, N.Y. The taxpayer’s account will only be assigned to one of these agencies, never to all four. No other private group is authorized to represent the IRS.

Once the IRS letter is sent, the designated private firm will send its own letter to the taxpayer and their representative confirming the account transfer. To protect the taxpayer’s privacy and security, both the IRS letter and the collection firm’s letter will contain information that will help taxpayers identify the tax amount owed and assure taxpayers that future collection agency calls they may receive are legitimate.

The private collectors will be able to identify themselves as contractors of the IRS collecting taxes. Employees of these collection agencies must follow the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and like IRS employees, must be courteous and must respect taxpayer rights.

The private firms are authorized to discuss payment options, including setting up payment agreements with taxpayers. But as with cases assigned to IRS employees, any tax payment must be made, either electronically or by check, to the IRS. A payment should never be sent to the private firm or anyone besides the IRS or the U.S. Treasury. Checks should only be made payable to the United States Treasury. To find out more about available payment options, visit IRS.gov/Payments.

Private firms are not authorized to take enforcement actions against taxpayers. Only IRS employees can take these actions, such as filing a notice of Federal Tax Lien or issuing a levy. To learn more about the new private debt collection program, visit the Private Debt Collection page on IRS.gov.

Watch out for Phone Scams

The IRS reminds taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers posing as private collection firms. The IRS will be watching for these schemes as the collection program begins, and this effort will include working with partners in the tax community and law enforcement about emerging scams.

People should remember that these private collection firms will only be calling about a tax debt the person has had – and has been aware of – for years and had been contacted about previously in the past by the IRS.

“Here’s a simple rule to keep in mind. You won’t get a call from a private collection firm unless you have unpaid tax debts going back several years and you’ve already heard from the IRS multiple times,” Koskinen said. “The people included in the private collection program typically already know they have a tax issue. If you get a call from someone saying they’re from one of these groups and you’ve paid your taxes, that’s a sure sign of a scam.”

If taxpayers are unsure if they have an unpaid tax debt from a previous year – which is what the private collection firms will handle – they can go to IRS.gov and check their account balance: www.irs.gov/balancedue. If the account balance says zero, that means nothing is due, and you typically wouldn’t be getting a contact from the IRS or the private firm.

Whether or not a taxpayer’s account is assigned to a private collection agency, the IRS warns taxpayers to beware of scammers pretending to be from the IRS or an IRS contractor. Here are some things the scammers often do but the IRS and its contractors will never do:

Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes, and if a case is assigned to a PCA, both the IRS and the authorized collection agency will send the taxpayer a letter. Payment will always be to the United States Treasury.

Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.

Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

“Unexpected and threatening calls out of the blue from someone saying they’re representing the IRS to collect a tax debt is a warning sign people should watch out for,” Koskinen said.

For more information, visit the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on IRS.gov.

Don’t Wait to Hear from the IRS or a Contractor

As always, the IRS encourages taxpayers behind on their tax obligations to come forward and either pay what they owe or set up a suitable payment plan. This means there’s no need to wait for a phone call or letter from the IRS or any of its contractors.

Frequently, taxpayers qualify for one of several payment options, and taking advantage of them is often easier than many people think. These include the following:

Most people can set up a payment agreement with the IRS online in a matter of minutes. Those who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can use the Online Payment Agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to 72 months. Taxpayers can choose this option even if they have not yet received a bill or notice from the IRS. With the Online Payment Agreement, no paperwork is required, there is no need to call, write or visit the IRS and qualified taxpayers can avoid the filing of a Notice of Federal Tax Lien if one was not previously filed. Alternatively, taxpayers can request a payment agreement by filing Form 9465. This form can be downloaded from IRS.gov and mailed along with a tax return, bill or notice.

Some struggling taxpayers may qualify for an offer-in-compromise. This is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier, a free online tool available on IRS.gov.

“If people have a problem paying their tax bill, we encourage them to reach out to us,” Koskinen said. “We have many programs designed to help people who are having trouble meeting their tax obligations. It’s better to reach out to us sooner rather than later for help, because interest and penalties on unpaid taxes can add up quickly.”

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Secrets smart investors use year-round to save on their taxes

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(BPT) – Come tax time, many people work to locate tax breaks. While this is always a smart financial move, a little-known way to help build your net worth is to keep taxes top of mind throughout the entire year.

Reducing taxes means you keep more of what you earn, according to Nick Holeman, a financial planning expert at Betterment.com.

“You can’t control the stock market, but you can control some of your taxes,” Holeman said. “Knowing how your investments affect your tax bill can help you save money not just on April 15th, but for years to come.”

Check to see whether your long-term investment strategy is running efficiently with these tips from Holeman.

Invest your tax refund: One smart place to invest your tax refund is in an IRA. Normally, investors might divert a portion of the refund into this account as part of a well-rounded investment strategy and claim the deductions for next year’s tax time. Invest your refund, and you may get a portion of that back in tax savings. Stay in the habit of investing that refund if you can and watch those small returns add up over time.

Think several moves ahead: Investing is complex and from time to time you will have to sell some of your investments; everybody does. It might be to rebalance your portfolio or maybe your goals have changed and your investments no longer match their intended purpose.

Still, smart investors need to think ahead before blindly selling parts of their portfolio. This is because selling could potentially lead to taxes. By carefully choosing which investments to sell, you can help minimize that hefty tax consequence.

One way to do this is to partner with an investment company that has the tools to make this information easy to access and understand. Betterment.com, for example, offers Tax Impact Preview, which lets investors see estimated potential tax on a sale before making the trade. If you don’t think the pros outweigh the cons, don’t do it.

Reorganize your investments: Another way to potentially leverage even small tax advantages into long-term growth is to build your portfolio like an energy-efficient engine, built to run for more miles with less need to refuel. You can help accomplish this by reorganizing your portfolio. Move inefficient investments like international stocks and other assets that are taxed more often into a tax-deferred account, such as an IRA or a Roth IRA. That way, you can enjoy the high growth for less tax. Then, move less-taxed assets, such as municipal bonds, into taxable accounts.

Benefit from losses: Help keep your portfolio in balance by selling off the laggards and replacing them with a similar investment. You can receive a tax deduction from your losses that can help cancel out the taxes you owe on assets that have gains. This is done automatically for investors at many automated services through a strategy called tax loss harvesting. Smart investors should always remember that investments involve risk and may result in loss.

Give to a worthy cause: While it’s important to secure your future, many investors see community support as an important goal. Consider donating a to a nonprofit organization in your community. Not only are you helping to improve the quality of life in your locale, you can potentially claim a deduction from your income tax. It can pay to do the right thing.

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Know these facts before deducting a charitable donation

 

If taxpayers gave money or goods to a charity in 2016, they may be able to claim a deduction on their federal tax return. Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool, Can I Deduct my Charitable Contributions?, to help determine if their charitable contributions are deductible.

Here are some important facts about charitable donations:

Qualified Charities. Taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. Gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates are not deductible. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool.

Itemize Deductions. To deduct charitable contributions, taxpayers must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with a federal tax return.

Benefit in Return. If taxpayers get something in return for their donation, they may have to reduce their deduction. Taxpayers can only deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to events or other goods and services.

Type of Donation. If taxpayers give property instead of cash, their deduction amount is normally limited to the item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price they would get if the property sold on the open market. If they donate used clothing and household items, those items generally must be in good condition or better. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations.

Noncash Charitable Contributions. File Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, for all noncash gifts totaling more than $500 for the year. Complete section-A for noncash property contributions worth $5,000 or less. Complete section-B for noncash property contributions more than $5,000 and include a qualified appraisal to the return. Taxpayers may be able to prepare and e-file their tax return for free using IRS Free File. The type of records they must keep depends on the amount and type of their donation. To learn more about what records to keep, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

Donations of $250 or More. If taxpayers donated cash or goods of $250 or more, they must have a written statement from the charity. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether they received any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/electronic-filing-pin-request.

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