Recordkeeping Feed

Tax and other fun at deductible office holiday parties

'Tis the season to be jolly, but not too jolly at, as the song goes, the annual office Christmas party hop. OK, Brenda Lee doesn't specify "office" party when she sings Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, but that song is a standard at almost every holiday gathering of workers. And you want to make sure that you make the right impression on the boss who's gone to the trouble to throw the soiree. Of course, as today's second Christmas Tax Tip Tune notes, your employer also gets some help from Uncle Sam in staging the seasonal shindig. Fully deductible office... Read more →


Ella Joshua-Dixon is the latest example of the cynical adage that no good deed goes unpunished. The Detroit native just wanted to help her financially struggling hometown by letting the Motor City have her 2011 municipal tax refund of $500. And what did Detroit tax officials do? They sent her a bill for more than 10 times that. The city's income tax division contended that Joshua-Dixon owed back taxes dating to 1999 that, when interest and penalties were added, came to $5,296. Not so fast. Detroit messed with the wrong taxpayer. The 47-year-old Auburn Hills accountant had the documentation to... Read more →


Every small business owner knows that work-related miles can be a valuable tax deduction. I'm not just talking out of town trips. Every time you hit the road for a legitimate business purpose, those miles can be claimed on your Schedule C. Of course, the key to maximizing your travel deduction is good record keeping. Today's technology is here to help. Mileage tracking? There's an app for that: There are dozens of smartphone apps that can help you track your travel. AppAdvice.com has examined the electronic options and come up with its list of the best. The big winner in... Read more →


This post updated June 19, 2017. Part of your hurricane season preparation should be an accurate inventory of your property. This information is critical regardless of which destructive possibility -- hurricane, tornado, blizzard, flood, earthquake, wildfire -- might be prevalent in your area. It's also good to have even for more run-of-the-mill casualty losses. Both your insurance company and Uncle Sam will appreciate the attention to detail when you file a claim. Today's By the Numbers figure can help. It's 2194. Internal Revenue Service Publication 2194 is the agency's Disaster Resource Guide for Individuals and Businesses. The 20-page document contains... Read more →


I can't watch Hoarders. First, those people are scary. And their houses are gross. But I also avoid the show because I am a bit of a pack rat and I don't want to be reminded of what could happen if I go over the "it could be useful one day" edge. That said, when it comes to taxes there are some documents you need to keep. Some only need to be stored for just a few years. A few, however, you should hang onto forever. Determining which tax material falls into what category is today's Weekly Tax Tip. Atop... Read more →


More of us are using electronic financial transactions and that includes our tax dealings. Millions of us e-file our returns, get our refunds via direct deposit and pay any outstanding tax bills electronically. A popular e-payment method is by credit card. This works for folks who have their credit card balance under control, can pay any charges in full so as to avoid interest and who earn rewards for using the card. Of course, paying your taxes by credit card also will cost you a fee. If you want to electronically pay your tax bill and avoid any extra charges,... Read more →


Green is obviously the color du jour on St. Patrick's Day. But going green with your tax receipts by converting the paper to digital format works today and every other day of the year. In fact, cleaning out your crowded tax files and putting the info on your computer or other digital device is such a good idea that it's today's Daily Tax Tip. If you're wondering whether the Internal Revenue Service is OK with the change, the answer is yes. The IRS actually has been accepting electronic and scanned receipts, bills or other tax deduction documents as proof of... Read more →


Getting old tax filing information

During tax filing season you're focusing on last year's tax return. Sometimes, though, you need a copy of an older tax return. This is often the case when you're applying for a loan, especially a mortgage. In the wake of the housing/banking debacle, lenders are taking closer looks at potential customers' finances and that includes copies of old IRS filings. The best source is your own records. You don't need to keep all the documentation indefinitely, but you should hang onto copies of your past returns forever. Digital is fine. Just scan in those decades of 1040s and associated schedules.... Read more →


There's still time to make financial moves that could save you some much-needed cash, as well as reduce your 2011 tax bill. So in these last few days of the year, check out the year-end suggestions on ways to: Cut your taxes, Shape up your investments, Ramp up your retirement savings, Maximize your giving, Improve your small business, and Deal with general financial details. You've got four days until Dec. 31, so hurry! Read more →


The bane of most self-employed workers are the myriad administrative tasks. I took care of one of those this weekend, finally matching some invoices that had piled up with the payments they produced. Photo by raphspam via iStock Thankfully, everything was in order. I have one November payment still due, but I'm hoping that it shows up here in the next week or so. The reason for wanting the money now isn't just because I have Christmas gifts to buy. It's because I want it in plenty of time to make sure that if the client is going to consider... Read more →


The watchwords in real estate are location, location, location. The personal financial world has its own triplicate mantra: details, details, details. Sure, you were meticulous in making your year-end tax, investing, retirement and giving moves. But there's still some financial housekeeping left. Get organized You have all your financial documents, but are they easily accessible? I'll admit that I too often tend to let things stack up in my email inbox or, when they're in paper form, on the floor next to my filing cabinet. That means I have to sort through the stack when I need a document or... Read more →


A taxpayer's out-of-pocket expenses while doing volunteer work with a qualified charity generally are tax deductible, as long as the individual can prove the expenditures if the IRS asks. That's the costly lesson a cat lover learned when she claimed more than $12,000 in expenses incurred on behalf of a nonprofit that works with feral felines. The U.S. Tax Court subsequently slashed many of the allowable charitable deductions that were in excess of $250. The reason for the dramatic tax deduction reduction? Insufficient record keeping. Cat lady's case: Jan Elizabeth Van Dusen claimed $12,068 as a charitable contribution deduction on... Read more →


It's been a month since most Americans filed their federal tax returns. So what happened to all the material they used to fill out their 1040s? If they had a record keeping system in place, they probably immediately shifted "2010 taxes to-do" documents to their "2011 taxes done" files. But just in case you aren't that obsessive and/or organized, there's still time to get your old tax paperwork in order and plenty of time to set up a system to make next filing season easier. Tax record-keeping tips is today's featured Weekly Tax Tip. That story has lots of good... Read more →


The Senate voted on Tuesday, April 5, to eliminate the controversial Form 1099 reporting rule that has bedeviled businesses even though it never came close to taking effect. The provision was part of last year's health care reform law. It would have required businesses, charities and state and local governments to file a 1099 form with the IRS on annual purchases from contractors of more than $600. Supporters argued that the additional third-party reporting would generate additional tax revenue vendors who previously had been under reporting their income. The new reporting rule had been scheduled to take effect on Jan.... Read more →


$1.1 billion in tax refunds waiting to be claimed, but only until April 18

About a month ago, the IRS announced that millions of people didn't file a 2007 tax return. By neglecting this tax task, they left behind $1.1 billion in unclaimed tax refund money. Some taxpayers in every state are owed refunds they didn't claim three years ago. And the IRS still is trying to give this money back. The IRS estimates that half of these potential refunds are $640 or more. But if the negligent taxpayers don't send in a 2007 return by this year's April 18 filing deadline, their money becomes official U.S. Treasury property. Tax records critical before and... Read more →


Texting Japan earthquake donations

In January 2010, phone technology and philanthropy came together, with millions donated via texts to help survivors of the Haiti earthquake. That new-style contribution infrastructure is being put to use again in the wake of the 8.9 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck Japan today. Several groups are accepting text donations: American Red Cross, text REDCROSS to 90999 Salvation Army, text JAPAN to 80888 Convoy of Hope, text TSUNAMI to 50555 GlobalGiving, text JAPAN to 50555 World Relief, text WAVE to 50555 The last three groups on the list are featured SMS, or short message service, relief efforts at mGive... Read more →


Everyone's hoping that the housing market will at least begin to recover in 2011. And it looks like that might just happen. Sales of existing homes in December 2010 grew at their fastest pace since May 2010. Where home prices are still dropping, Housing Predictor says its data show the values are deflating at a slower rate for the second year in a row. And now there are indications that as many as 17 states, primarily in the Midwest and Northern-most parts of the country, will see home prices rise in 2011, demonstrating, says Housing Predictor, that housing markets are... Read more →


I've become a big fan of handling my finances online. But there are two issues with which I continually wrestle. First is all those log-in IDs and passwords. I try to be secure and use different ones to stymie identity thieves. Most of the time, however, the roadblocks slow me, not some hacker, down! So I constantly have to refer to my sign-in cheat sheet. The other issue is remembering to check my accounts for statements. Yes, I do get e-mail notifications that my statement or bill is ready. But I get so much (too much) electronic communication that these... Read more →


Mileage tax deduction rates
for tax years 2010 and 2011

If you use a vehicle for business travel, moving, to go to medical treatments or to help out a charity, those miles might be deductible. IRS standard mileage deduction rates per mile for 2010 and 2011 tax years Business Medical Moving Charity 2010 cents/mile 50 16.5 16.5 14 2011 cents/mile 51 19 19 14 Use the 2010 rates for applicable travel you can claim on that year's tax return, due by April 18. The 2011 rates will give you an idea of what next year's deduction amount will be. Business travel options: The standard mileage rate for business is based... Read more →


Something unheard of happened to me over the weekend. In going through my 2010 receipts, I discovered that a client had paid me twice for some work. That's a very nice surprise for a freelance writer. Like countless other small business people, we depend on prompt payment to cover our bills and buy the occasional Frappuccino. Naturally, my unexpected and financially positive turn of events got me thinking about taxes and the perennial question I get from other independent writers each year: If I get a check dated Dec. 31, but it doesn't arrive in my mailbox (yes, some clients... Read more →