Archive for Money and Business

Tax Returns E-Filed Today

irs_logo.pngEarlier than anticipated, the last important 1099 document became available today. I expected at least two more weeks before the investment consolidated 1099 would be available. But, since I reported being 99 percent complete on the 17th of this month, it was a mere few mouse clicks to validate the latest documented information and file the returns, both AZ and FED. The 2019 Tax Season is done except for a small refund from the IRS which (according to the IRS) will be e-deposited within a week or two.

For 2020, we will continue to track our expenses with the assumption that we may use itemized deductions rather than the standard deduction which was the case for the 2019 return. We may not ever file using itemization again, but we will track expenses as though we were going to. We will also continue with our contributions to charities that we see fit to support, particularly those that support Veterans, the Second Amendment, Christianity and Canine Rescue (among others not mentioned here).

Speaking of tracking expenses, I have been using Quicken for a long time. So long, in fact, that the file size of my records going back for the last twenty years has somehow exceeded the programs data storage capability. The symptom is that I get corrupted data when I start the program and have to load in a backup record to make it behave correctly. It is a bit tedious in that I have to make a backup of the data on a daily basis and restore the backup the next time I use the program. The gurus at Quicken say there isn’t a practical limit on record sizes, but I believe there is a declaration somewhere in their code that screws up my very lengthy financial data records.

As soon as I can get to it, I am going to start a new Quicken File with the first of this year as the starting date. It will be easy to update recent (January ‘20) data, since the program can download it directly from our financial institutions. I will keep the old file on hand since I find it handy to look back in the registers from time to time. There are a lot of important things logged into the old data which I would hate to permanently lose.

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2019 IRS Return 99% Complete

taxes.jpgAs of today, I can say that the 2019 returns are about complete. All we’re waiting for is the final 1099s from investments, retirement, etc. One such investment 1099 won’t be available until the second week in February, so we will have to wait another month for that little (very minor) tidbit of fiscal information.

Looking at the bottom line, i.e. the cash back or balance due, it seems that we planned pretty well in 2019 and the resulting difference is a relatively small amount in our favor. We used a predicted tax rate based on past experience and forecast that value for 2019 in our “Withholding Planning” spreadsheet. We adjusted the rate of withholding according to the results of the spreadsheet and it worked out to a difference to within a few hundred dollars from breaking even. I love it when a plan comes together.

This year is the first year that we have taken the standard deduction rather than itemizing. We went through the deductions exercise to see if we could surpass the new $27000 (married filing jointly) Standard amount, but the total of all our deductible fees, charity, mortgage interest, medical premiums and other miscellaneous items did not surpass the Standard. That actually makes it easier for us if we can depend on claiming the SD in the future, but we will track the deduction numbers just in case.

Tax year 2020 will be a bit different from the past since the Damsel will become eligible for some SSA income. We have that factoid programmed into the 2020 version of the spreadsheet to account for the difference. The delta from adding her income will be conveniently offset by a reduction in my draw from the IRA to retain about the same level as before with an appropriate cost-of-living increase of course.

Now awaiting the forms so we can claim our paltry refund. :)

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A New Tax Season Is Almost Upon Us

irs_logo.pngDue to an upcoming change in income status, we started to review our 2019 and 2020 Income Tax situation. It seems that Damsel will now begin getting back some of her hard-earned money that the .gov stole from her while she was working. I know, there are laws that congress passed that made the removal of money from our earnings “legal” under the Social Security Act or whatever. Still, we as individuals would be better off if we had access to those funds to properly invest and not have them deferred for some of the ridiculous spending by congress. It is tantamount to theft in our opinion.

</rant>

OK - now that I have that out of my system, I can expound on the tax prep thing. It seems that if we have Damsel’s SSA distributions coming into the household, I have to make adjustments to some things, like withholding and IRA distribution rate. This is to be done in order to attempt to keep us in the current tax brackets and such.

Since the new income will start later this year, I had to analyze whether it would be prudent to make adjustments to those things I mentioned above. Fortunately, for this tax year, that won’t be necessary. It may cause us to owe a little more for 2019, but, as I have said before, we would rather owe a bit than loan the .gov interest free money.

Because of our retirement lifestyle, we set our income rate to accommodate our established needs. Now, because of the increase in available funds, I can reduce the IRA withdrawal rate to the RMD (required minimum distribution) as set by the IRS for retirement accounts. This is a good thing thus preserving those funds for the future while they multiply in our IRA investment pool.

So, until I see some of the exact numbers forthcoming, I have set up a spreadsheet with preliminary numbers to analyze our 2020 income and withholding situation. At first glance, it looks like we’re going to be getting our 2020 tax situation under control. We will fine tune things as soon as the actual numbers can be seen.

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IRS 2018 Tax Return Filed - Almost

irs_logo.pngWhen the new tax rates came into effect in early 2018, we did our spreadsheet analysis to try and pinpoint the correct withholding to use for the remainder of the tax year. I think we did pretty well with the withholding although we got a bit more in the deductions due to a couple of things: 1) we were especially generous this year with a couple of new pro-2A foundations* and 2) we paid the vehicle tax on the motorhome for 2019 in advance when we were upgrading to the W7GD call plates. All this resulted in a modest over-withholding to the tune of getting a good chunk back from the Feds and a small amount from the state. For the latter, our contributions to the Arizona Private Education Scholarship Fund completely eliminates any state income tax liability and are also deductible under 501(c)(3).

So, now all that is left to do is the actual filing; on-line for the Fed and via mail for the state. Since I only got the last of the 1099s today and because of an unusual circumstance involving class-action litigation from which we received a modest sum, I want to go over the numbers one more time before pulling the big handle.

So, that’s just about it for the 2018 tax fiasco. I am going to adjust the 2019 withholding spreadsheet since the Damsel will now start to get a small pension from her previous employer. We are still waiting for those figures to come in for us to account for them.

* Arizona Citizens Defense League Foundation and Gun Owners of America Foundation, both 501(c)(3) charities.

UPDATE 02/06/2019: Our refund was posted in the account today, less than ten days from the time we filed. The Feds seem to have the process worked out. Not so much Arizona, That refund is forecast to be deposited on or about the 11th of February. That’s still a lot faster than the old days.

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‘Tis the Season to be . . . Tax Prepared?

tax-time-1040.jpgWell, maybe we’re not really hard over on getting the tax return for 2018 in the works just yet. We did, however, get our 2018 copy of the tax program we use and installed it on the laptop.

One thing we do want to evaluate is how well we did with our estimation of how much to withhold this year. We used IRS Notice 1036 to get a head start on the withholding and posted about it in February. With the new Tax Cuts, we hope to be fairly close on the figures. During the tax year we also tweaked the withholding a time or two.

Another item I am interested in seeing what effect it might have and that is having ordered my Ham Radio Call Plates also resulted in prematurely (in 2018 rather than 2019) paying the Vehicle License Fee on the RV which will increase the deduction for taxes paid. It’s not a trivial amount, so it will be interesting to see. We may wind up getting a refund again and you may know how I hate to lend the .gov interest-free $$$.

So, the program is installed and I will begin dribbling information into it over the next couple of weeks in order to gain an inkling as to how well our estimated withholding worked. I’ll post on that when I know something more.

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IRS Withholding Calculator is Back Online

irs-logo.pngI mentioned in my two Federal Income Tax posts about filing and tweaking withholding that the IRS Calculator was offline due to the GOP Tax Reform Bill being enacted this year. I went back to the link to check the status of the calculator and it was back online. Today, I decided to check the numbers I calculated from IRS Notice 1036 and my withholding spreadsheet last month.

The calculator requires some accurate estimates of our 2018 income and deductions, so I gathered up our 2017 Tax Return and my spreadsheet before starting to input numbers. There is a list of things you will need to have handy on the calculator main page.

First, the calculator asks about filing status and whether someone else can claim you as a dependent. Then, it asks about income sources and if you and your spouse are over 65 years old as of January 1, 2019. There is also some child and dependent care credit questions, none of which are applicable to us. Finally, the user inputs income and adjustments before submission.

When I got my result report, the bottom line is that we are over withholding by about $785. We decided not to change anything at this time until we see how our expenses and deductions start to play out for the year. I made a note in the electronic calendar to check things out again in the fall.

The IRS withholding calculator may be found at this link.

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Tweaking the IRS Withholding Amounts

bucks.pngSince the IRS Withholding Calculator is still unavailable as of this writing, I bypassed it and went directly to IRS Notice 1036 (pdf) which is intended to guide employers as to how much to withhold from employee pay. This notice is a typical IRS offering which is both confusing and difficult to understand. I did manage, however, to get the info I needed to proceed with our 2018 withholding “tweaking.”

The financial entity which manages our two pension distributions treats each one as if it were your entire income, thus complicating the final calculation because we actually have several sources of retirement income. Since they are virtually complicating things, I opted out of withholding altogether from the two pensions.

We do, however, have control over the rollover IRA and its exact (to the integer percentage amount) withholding. I figured out what we are paid in each month, cross referenced it to the IRS notice above and determined what we should be sending to the IRS each month.

I have a spreadsheet that I have used in the past for withholding and modified it to determine (to the closest percentage point) what the number should be. I used the “effective tax rate” method based on the numbers I derived to allow me to adjust the withholding from the IRA. This way, I only have one place that I need to be tweaking.

I should have done this last year instead of effectively loaning the .gov interest-free $$$! :(

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