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Military and families get free tax assistance 

 

The IRS offers free tax help to members of the military and their families through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. A VITA site is easy to find on or off base — even overseas.

The Armed Forces Tax Council directs the military tax programs worldwide. Military VITA-certified employees receive training on military tax issues, including tax benefits for service in a combat zone. They can help with special extensions of time to file tax returns and pay taxes, or with special rules that apply to the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Members of the military going to a VITA site for their tax return preparation should bring these things with them:

* A valid power of attorney form, if needed. Married taxpayers filing a joint return generally requires both spouses to sign. If both can’t be present to sign the return, they will need a power of attorney, unless eligible for an exception. 

* Valid military identification card. 

* Social Security or individual taxpayer identification numbers for all household members or adoption taxpayer identification numbers for those who don’t have Social Security numbers. 

* Birth dates for everyone listed on the tax return. 

* Wage and earning forms, such as forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R. 

* Interest and dividend statements. 

* Health Insurance forms. Taxpayers who purchased insurance through Healthcare.gov must bring Form 1095-A. Forms 1095-B and C for other types of insurance are optional this year, but taxpayers should know their coverage dates for all household members. 

* Form 1098-T for students with post-secondary tuition expenses or grant income. 

* A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available. 

* Routing and account numbers for direct deposit of a tax refund. 

* Total amount paid for day care and the day care provider’s identifying number. This is usually an Employer Identification or Social Security number. 

* Other relevant information about income and expenses.

Additional IRS Resources at IRS.gov:

* Military Pay Exclusion – Combat Zone Service

* Publication 4940, Tax Information for Active Duty Military and Reserve Personnel

* Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide

IRS YouTube Videos:

* Military Tax Tips – English | Spanish

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The Right to Privacy: Taxpayer Bill of Rights #7 

 

IRS Tax Tip 2018-50

The IRS is committed to protecting the privacy rights of America’s taxpayers. In fact, the right to privacy is one of ten rights the Taxpayer Bill of Rights gives all taxpayers.

Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, audit, or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary. Taxpayers can also expect that the IRS will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections. Finally, they will provide a collection due process hearing when appropriate.

Here are some more details about what taxpayers can expect related to the right to privacy:

• The IRS cannot seize certain personal items, such as schoolbooks, clothing and undelivered mail.

• The IRS cannot seize a personal residence without first getting court approval, and the agency must show there is no reasonable alternative for collecting the tax debt. 

• Sometimes, a taxpayer submits an offer to settle their tax debt with an offer that relates only to how much they owe. This is formally known as a Doubt as to Liability Offer in Compromise. When a taxpayer makes this offer, they do not need to submit any financial documentation.   

• During an audit, if the IRS finds no reasonable indication that a taxpayer has no unreported income, the agency will not seek intrusive and extraneous information about the taxpayer’s lifestyle.  

• A taxpayer can expect that the IRS’s collection actions are no more intrusive than necessary. During a collection due process hearing, the Office of Appeals must balance that expectation with IRS’s proposed collection action and the overall need for efficient tax collection.  

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Tax-time tips in the final stretch of the tax season

(BPT) – The April 17 tax filing deadline is quickly approaching. While many are excited about the possibility of a tax refund, nearly 1 in 3 taxpayers waits until April to file their return. Whether filing online or meeting with a tax professional, H&R Block shares three tips to help make the final stretch of the tax season less daunting.

1. Get organized

Keeping good records is the foundation for everything else because you can’t deduct what you haven’t documented. Take the time to complete a paper chase and find all tax and financial documents and related information needed to file a tax return. It may be easier to use a customized tax preparation checklist to help you make sure you aren’t missing important documents. Missing tax documents can lead to missing out on tax benefits you are entitled to claim.

Consider starting with your previous year tax return, then track all income and receipts, and finally document each. After that, separate business-only bank accounts and credit cards to make it easier to keep good records and file accurate tax returns. Remember to secure paper and digital records in a safe place like MyBlock, and make sure you back them up too.

2. Don’t overlook credits and deductions

The tax refund is the single largest financial transaction many taxpayers will have in a year. The stakes can be high and mistakes can be costly, especially when it comes to life changes – getting married, having a baby, buying or selling a home, sending a child off to college or retiring. Not understanding how these life changes can impact your return causes many taxpayers to make mistakes and leave money on the table. In fact, the IRS announces annually that approximately $1 billion goes unclaimed in federal tax refunds.

Most taxpayers file their taxes using the standard deduction, but you may be eligible for a variety of deductions or credits that could possibly save you more, including:

* Education benefits: Federal tax credits can help offset the costs of higher education for yourself or your dependents – depending on your academic program, what year the student is in, etc. To qualify, you must pay for post-secondary tuition and fees for yourself, your spouse or your dependent.

* Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income workers: Twenty percent of eligible taxpayers, particularly lower-income workers, do not claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Keep in mind that eligibility may fluctuate based on financial, marital and parental status, which may cause taxpayers to be ineligible one year, but eligible the next. Also, people tend to overlook the EITC because they may not earn enough income to have to file a return. Remember that the EITC is a refundable credit, so even those who don’t need to file a return can still claim the credit.

* Itemizing deductions: Itemizing can save taxpayers hundreds of dollars, as only 1 in 3 taxpayers itemize, but millions more should. Owning a home is often the key that unlocks itemization, but some taxpayers with high state taxes and charitable contributions may also be able to itemize.

3. Avoid common filing pitfalls 

Selecting the wrong filing status can affect which credits and deductions you are eligible for, the value of your standard deduction and your tax bracket. In addition, common clerical errors such as mixing up names, forgetting to include information reported on your W-2, 1099 or other forms, or even making mathematical errors can also affect your tax benefits.

Not filing at all is even worse – as the penalty for not filing a tax return is 10 times greater than the penalty for not paying in full. The best way to avoid this penalty, which could add up to 25 percent to your tax bill, is to file a completed tax return or apply for an extension. An extension to file is not an extension to pay any taxes you might owe. To avoid a penalty, you will need to estimate what you owe and pay at least 90 percent by April 17.

To ensure you get the maximum refund without delay this year, or if you find yourself filing incorrectly, visit hrblock.com for more information, to make an appointment with a tax professional or to start your own tax return online for free.

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Withholding calculator reflects changes in new tax law

 

To help taxpayers, the IRS updated the special Withholding Calculator tool on IRS.gov to reflect changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December.

With most employees seeing withholding changes in their paychecks, the IRS recommends taxpayers use the Withholding Calculator to do a “paycheck checkup.” This will help taxpayers check that they are having the correct amount of income tax withheld from their paychecks.

Doing a checkup can help protect against having too little tax withheld and facing an unexpected tax bill or penalty at tax time in 2019. Some taxpayers might prefer to have less tax withheld up front and receive more in their paychecks, which would reduce their tax refund next year.

The IRS encourages everyone to check their withholding as soon as possible, but it’s especially important for these people to use the Withholding Calculator to make sure they have the right amount of tax withheld:

  • Two-income families
  • People with two or more jobs at the same time or who only work for part of the year
  • People who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit
  • People who claim older dependents, including children age 17 or over
  • People who itemized deductions in 2017
  • People with high incomes and more complex tax returns
  • People with large tax refunds or large tax bills for 2017

Remember, the Withholding Calculator does not ask the user for personally identifiable information, such as name, social security number, address, or bank account numbers. The IRS does not save or record the information the taxpayer enters in the calculator.

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Contribute to an IRA by April 17

 

Claim it for 2017

WASHINGTON —The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers that it’s not too late to contribute to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) and still claim it on a 2017 tax return. Anyone with an IRA may be eligible for a tax credit or deduction on their 2017 tax return if they make contributions by April 17, 2018.

This is the sixth in a series of nine IRS news releases called the Tax Time Guide, designed to help taxpayers navigate common tax issues. This year’s tax-filing deadline is April 17.

An IRA is designed to enable employees and the self-employed to save for retirement. Most taxpayers who work are eligible to start a traditional or Roth IRA or add money to an existing account.

Contributions to a traditional IRA are often tax deductible, but distributions are generally taxable. Contributions to a Roth IRA are not deductible, but qualified distributions are tax-free. To count for a 2017 tax return, contributions must be made by April 17, 2018. In addition, low- and moderate-income taxpayers making these contributions may also qualify for the Saver’s Credit.

Generally, eligible taxpayers can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA. For someone who was 50 years of age or older at the end of 2017, the limit is increased to $6,500. The same general contribution limit applies to both Roth and traditional IRAs. However, a Roth IRA contribution might be limited based on filing status and income. An individual can’t make regular contributions to a traditional IRA in the year they reach 70½ and older. However, they can still contribute to a Roth IRA and make rollover contributions to a Roth or traditional IRA regardless of age.

If neither the taxpayer nor their spouse was covered for any part of the year by an employer retirement plan, they can take a deduction for total contributions to one or more traditional IRAs up to the contribution limit or 100 percent of the taxpayer’s compensation, whichever is less.

For 2017, if a taxpayer is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA is generally reduced if the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income is between:

  • $0 and $10,000; married filing separately
  • $62,000 and $72,000; single and head of household
  • $99,000 to $119,000; married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er)
  • $186,000 to $196,000; married filing jointly where the IRA contributor is not covered by a workplace retirement plan but is married to someone who is covered

The deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA is claimed on Form 1040, Line 32, or Form 1040A, Line 17. Any nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA must be reported on Form 8606. 

Even though contributions to Roth IRAs are not tax deductible, the maximum permitted amount of these contributions is phased out for taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is above a certain level:

  • $0 to $10,000; married filing separately
  • $118,000 to $133,000; single and head of household
  • $186,000 to $196,000; married filing jointly

For detailed information on contributing to either Roth or Traditional IRAs, including worksheets for determining contribution and deduction amounts, see Publication 590-A, available on IRS.gov.

Also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, the Saver’s Credit is often available to IRA contributors whose adjusted gross income falls below certain levels. Eligible taxpayers get the credit even if they qualify for other retirement-related tax benefits. Like other tax credits, the Saver’s Credit can increase a taxpayer’s refund or reduce the taxes they owe. The amount of the credit is based on several factors, including the amount contributed to either a Roth or traditional IRA and other qualifying retirement programs.

For 2017, the income limit is:

  • $31,000; single and married filing separate
  • $46,500; head of household
  • $62,000; married filing jointly.

Taxpayers should use Form 8880 to claim the Saver’s Credit, and its instructions have details on figuring the credit correctly.

Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No appointments required and no waiting on hold.

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The right to finality — 

 

Taxpayer Bill of Rights #6

Taxpayers who are interacting with the IRS have the right to finality. This right comes into play for taxpayers who are going through an audit. These taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS has finished the audit. This is one of ten basic rights—known collectively as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights—that all taxpayers have when dealing with the IRS.

For taxpayers who are in the process of an audit, here’s what they should know about the right to finality:

  • Taxpayers have the right to know:
  • The maximum amount of time they have to challenge the IRS’s position.
  • The maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt.
  • When the IRS has finished an audit.
  • The IRS generally has three years from the date taxpayers file their returns to assess any additional tax for that tax year.
  • There are some limited exceptions to the three-year rule, including when taxpayers fail to file returns for specific years or file false or fraudulent returns. In these cases, the IRS has an unlimited amount of time to assess tax for that tax year.
  • The IRS generally has 10 years from the assessment date to collect unpaid taxes. This 10-year period cannot be extended, except for taxpayers who enter into installment agreements or the IRS obtains court judgments.
  • There are circumstances when the 10-year collection period may be suspended. This can happen when the IRS cannot collect money due to the taxpayer’s bankruptcy or there’s an ongoing collection due process proceeding involving the taxpayer. 
  • A statutory notice of deficiency is a letter proposing additional tax the taxpayer owes. This notice must include the deadline for filing a petition with the tax court to challenge the amount proposed. 
  • Generally, a taxpayer will only be subject to one audit per tax year. However, the IRS may reopen an audit for a previous tax year, if the IRS finds it necessary. This could happen, for example, if a taxpayer files a fraudulent return.

For more info on the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, visit www.irs.gov/taxpayer-bill-of-rights.

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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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