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Monthly Archives: July 2016

5 Estate Planning Gifts to Give Your Children by Scott Montgomery, CLU, ChFC

Posted on July 29, 2016 by Richard Berkowitz, JD, CPA

There does not have to be a special occasion for parents to give gifts to children and grandchildren.  Moreover, it is important to recognize that money is not always the most valuable gift. Rather, preparation and sharing knowledge are two of the most impactful and meaningful gifts to give at any time during the year.

 

To provide subsequent generations with a strong financial foundation and the stability and comfort in one’s own retirement, pre-retirees should consider giving family members the following five estate-planning tools.

 

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  1. Prepare a Living Plan Now.  As life expectancies increase, there is a very real threat that unprepared individuals will outlive their savings.  In these situations, the burden of care is left to family members who may be unaware of an individual’s particular financial situation and his or her wishes for medical treatment, housing and financial management. However, individuals who pre-plan for retirement have the benefit of naming who they wish to oversee their care, selecting who they want to make decisions on their behalf, and ensuring they receive care for themselves and their spouses in the manner they choose. In some circumstances, it will make sense for individuals to consider disability insurance to cover a loss in income from an injury or illness while working, long-term care insurance to cover the costs of medical care, either in one’s home or in a private nursing home, as well as life insurance to provide for a surviving spouse.

 

  1. Document an Estate Plan. Just as a map will direct individuals to a specific location, an estate plan will include all the documentation needed to instruct family members how an individual wishes his or her estate be managed prior to and after death. This can include medical directives and living wills regarding end-of-life care; the transfer of power to make medical and financial decisions should individuals become unable to do so on their own; and wills and revocable trusts that document how individuals wish their assets to be distributed after death.

 

  1. Title Assets Appropriately.  Despite having the benefit of a will to direct survivors how a decedent wishes his or her assets to be distributed after death, there are certain assets that will pass to heirs according to how they are titled and/or who is named a beneficiary.  For example, an investment account held “jointly with rights of survivorship” between a husband and wife will pass automatically to a surviving spouse, regardless of whose name is specified in the decedent’s will. Retirement plans, such as 401Ks and profit-sharing plans, require a spouse to be named as a beneficiary unless the spouse consents to someone else as the beneficiary.  Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) do not have this requirement of spousal consent.

 

It is important that individuals review their retirement accounts regularly and ensure that beneficiaries are clearly specified to prevent the distribution of assets to an unintended recipient.  Additionally, individuals should consider adding contingent beneficiaries on all accounts so that if both spouses pass together, the retirement accounts do not become payable to an estate and cause unnecessary income tax.

 

  1. Plan for Tax Liabilities.The instruments individuals select to include in their estate plans can have far reaching tax implications during one’s life and after death. For example, naming a surviving spouse as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy is an efficient way to pass insurance proceeds outside of probate.  However, doing so will also expose the death benefit to estate tax and probate expenses upon the subsequent death of the surviving spouse.  Alternatively, individuals may consider naming a trust as the beneficiary of life insurance proceeds in order to allow for control and access while creating protection of death proceeds from estate tax, spousal creditors and second marriages.

 

  1. Share your Plan with Family Members.  Communication is perhaps the best gift anyone can give to family members, whether it be the benefit of one’s business knowledge, lessons learned from a life well-lived or simply one’s wishes for the future.  Creating an estate plan is empowering.  Sharing the plan with loved ones helps to ensure individuals leave behind the legacy they intend without any room for misinterpretation.

About the Author: Scott Montgomery, CLU, ChFC, is a director with Provenance Wealth Advisors, an independent financial planning services firm affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants, and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services.  For more information, call (954) 712-8888 or email info@provweath.com.

 

Provenance Wealth Advisors, 515 E. Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 712-8888.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.

Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants.

 

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of PWA and not necessarily those of Raymond James. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. 401(k) plans are long-term retirement savings vehicles. Withdrawal of pre-tax contributions and/or earnings will be subject to ordinary income tax and, if taken prior to age 59 ½, may be subject to a 10 percent federal tax penalty.

 

 

The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

Don’t Overlook Pets in Your Estate Plan by Jeffrey M. Mutnik, CPA/PFS

Posted on July 28, 2016 by Jeffrey Mutnik

For most pet owners, their furry friends are not only constant companions but also cherished members of their families. Just as individuals plan in advance to provide for a spouse and/or children in the event of their death or disability, so too should pet owners consider how their animals will be cared for when they are no longer able to do so themselves.  While it is possible for an owner to make provisions for their pets in their wills, all U.S. states and the District of Columbia now recognize a pet owner’s right to set up a legally enforceable trust fund to provide for the ongoing care of their four-legged friends.

 

Perhaps the most famous example of a pet trust was the one established by multi-millionaire hotelier Leona Helmsley, who left $12 million in trust to her dog when she passed away in 2007.  By establishing a trust and designating a trustee to make regular payments to a named caregiver, pet owners can avoid the process of probate and ensure their animals receive care immediately upon their deaths. Moreover, a trust, unlike a will, can apply not only when the pet owner dies but also if and when the owner becomes ill or disabled.

 

Establishing a pet trust is a rather simple process, but one that will require the assistance of professional counsel experienced in such matters.  The grantors, or persons setting up the trust for the benefit of a pet, should first consider who they believe is best suited to manage the trust assets.  Next, they should think about who they can trust to care for their pet on their behalf. It is in the owner’s best interest to also name a backup caregiver in case something happens to the person named as the first choice.

 

Financially, the grantor should consider how much money will be required to maintain and care for a pet, including costs for veterinary care, medications, shelter, boarding, transportation and nourishment. Special care should be taken to avoid overfunding a trust, since doing so may open it to the possibility of a legal battle.  This was the case with Leona Helmsley’s dog, whose inheritance was eventually reduced to $2 million when a judge decided the initial $12 million was excessive for the pet’s care.

 

By relying on a pet trust, the owner may make his or her wishes for the care of a pet as specific as desired.  For example, the terms of the trust may include what food should be purchased to feed the pets, what toys to buy them and how they should be groomed. To ensure these directions are followed, the grantor may assign the trustee the responsibility to follow up with caregivers in how they use trust funds. This, along with the trustee’s responsibilities to administer the trust, will require the pet owner to set aside a separate amount of funds to pay the trustee for his or her services.

 

Finally, it is important for pet owners to consider how funds remaining in a trust should be distributed after the pet passes away. Grantors may elect to distribute remaining funds to family members or other named beneficiaries, or they may choose to donate the remaining assets to a charity, including those that help animals and support animals’ rights.

 

About the Author: Jeffrey M. Mutnik, CPA/PFS, is a director with the Taxation and Financial Services practice of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants, where he provides tax and estate-planning counsel to high-net-worth families, closely held businesses and professional services firms. He can be reached in the CPA firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954) 712-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

 

 

Florida Announces 2016 Sales Tax Holiday in August by Karen A. Lake, CPA

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Karen Lake

Florida residents and visitors will be able to save up to 7 percent in sales tax on certain purchases made during the state’s annual Sales Tax Holiday, which is set for August 5 through August 7, 2016. During those days, shoppers can avoid paying sales tax on school supplies that cost $15 or less as well as clothing and footwear costing $60 or less per item.

 

Florida legislators voted to reduce the holiday from 10 days in 2015 to three this year, while also eliminating the ability of consumers to purchase personal computers and computer accessories free of state sales tax. Despite these cutbacks, Floridians will still be able apply coupons or buy-one-get-one offers to enjoy even greater bargains, especially when planning back-to-school shopping.

 

About the Author: Karen A. Lake, CPA, is an associate director of Tax Services with Berkowitz Pollack Brant, where she helps individuals, businesses and non-profit entities navigate complex federal, state and local taxes, credits and incentives. A state and local tax expert, she can be reached at the Miami CPA firm’s office at (305) 379-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

Outsourced Service Providers Benefit from Service Organization Controls Reports by Steve Nouss, CPA

Posted on July 22, 2016 by Steve Nouss

No longer is the outsourcing of business functions, such as IT, customer service, payroll, billing and collections, restricted to large corporations with big budgets. Today, businesses of all sizes recognize and embrace the multitude of benefits derived from outsourcing entire business functions to outside service organizations that have the personnel, expertise, equipment and technology to accomplish these tasks faster and more economically. Despite these benefits, outsourcing processes to independent service organizations requires businesses to give up some level of control over these tasks and put their trust in the service providers’ abilities to effectively manage critical processes, protect sensitive data, comply with industry regulations and limit risks from internal and external threats. For example, hospitals or physicians’ offices will want to ensure that their billing and collections providers have controls in place to monitor for the prevention of processing errors and to secure patient data in compliance with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards. Similarly, financial service institutions will want to ensure that their service providers implement appropriate security and monitoring measures to protect customers’ personal information from improper disposal or unauthorized access or information sharing under Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) regulations.

 

To help service organizations reassure their customers that they have the internal systems in place to meet users’ needs and maintain appropriate controls, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) developed the Service Organization Control (SOC) reporting framework. More specifically, SOC reports are intended to address the following AICPA Trust Service Principles that are most at risk in today’s business environment:

  • Security. Providers protect their services/systems against unauthorized access.
  • Availability. Providers ensure their services/systems are available for operation and use as defined and committed to.
  • Processing integrity. Providers ensure systems processing is complete, valid, accurate, timely and authorized.
  • Confidentiality. Providers protect information designated as confidential.
  • Privacy. Providers collect, use, retain, disclose and destroy personal information in compliance with customers’ privacy standards and those of the AICPA.

The Makings of an SOC Report

SOC reports are valuable tools to help organizations build customer trust and confidence in their services. They communicate “the suitability of design and operating effectiveness of their controls through a widely accepted reporting format.” They must be prepared by independent accounting firms whose auditors conduct comprehensive evaluations of a providers’ systems. The reports help to validate that an organization offers the scope of services it claims and operates within strict parameters with appropriate levels of control to meet user needs and industry standards during a specific testing period. They typically include management’s description of the organization’s services and systems, followed by the auditor’s opinion of the fairness of the description and results of control testing of the service provider’s delivery systems.  The type of report prepared will depend on the type of service or system provided by the outsourced organizations.

Types of Reports

SOC 1. Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements Report. These reports focus solely on the internal controls a service organization relies on to process customer’s financial transactions. This can include organizations that provide payroll and check processing, billing and collection or financial statement reporting services. An independent auditor will assess and test the service organization’s control environments to substantiate provider’s claims and validate that systems work as intended.

SOC 2. Reports on Controls at a Service Organization over Security, Availability, Processing Integrity, Confidentiality and/or Privacy. These reports involve the independent audit of a service provider’s operational procedures outside of financial reporting processes. They include reviews of the suitability of design and operating effectiveness of interrelated internal controls involving risk management; information collection, processing, storage and distribution; and data backup and disaster recovery. Ideally suited for software, cloud computing and managed IT services providers, SOC2 reports come in one two types. The first is an opinion on whether the provider’s system description is fair and whether or not controls were in place at a single point in time to achieve specific control objectives. Conversely, a Type 2 report covers a longer period of time, typically six to 12 months, and includes an independent auditor’s test results and opinion as to whether the provider’s internal controls operate effectively.

SOC 3. This type of report addresses the same five Trust Principles of security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and/or privacy that are addressed in a SOC 2 report, without including specific details about the provider’s system processes and controls. It provides a general, high-level summary of the provider’s services and controls, which is ideal for marketing purposes. Service providers can reassure prospective customers that they meet specific requirements, without having to divulge the finer details of their product design and business operations.

In today’s rapidly evolving and highly competitive corporate environment, providers that offer outsourced services to other businesses must demonstrate their ability to protect and effectively manage customer data and processes in compliance with a myriad of regulations. It requires a more formal approach to confirm corporate assertions by engaging an independent third-party to test and document audit evidence.

Berkowitz Pollack Brant’s Business Consulting Group is registered with the AICPA to provide service businesses with SOC reports, which provide a unique opportunity for those businesses to assess their operations and enhance their processes by identifying and incorporating best practices into their business controls.

About the Author: Steve Nouss, CPA, is chief consulting officer with Berkowitz Pollack Brant, where he provides profit-enhancing CFO services, operational reviews, enterprise risk management, internal audit and anti-fraud services for businesses on all sizes and across international borders. He can be reached in the CPA firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954)712-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

Upcoming Tax Deadlines for Individuals and Businesses – September and October

Posted on July 21, 2016 by Richard Berkowitz, JD, CPA

July 31:                        Deadline for businesses to file Quarterly Payroll Reports

 

July 31:                        Deadline for Employee Benefit Plans to file annual returns via Form 5500-EZ or 5500, Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plan

 

August 1:                     Deadline to file Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, for the second-quarter of 2016

 

August 15:                   Deadline for tax-exempt organization to file annual information returns or an annual electronic notice

 

August 20:                   Due date for monthly Florida sales tax filings

 

August 31:                   Deadline for U.S. individuals, businesses, estate and trusts, and private funds with direct or indirect ownership interest of more than 10 percent in a foreign affiliate to submit Form BE-10, Benchmark Survey, when a three-month extension was previously filed

 

September 15: Deadline for Individual 3rd Quarter Estimated Tax Payment

 

September 15:            Deadline for calendar year Trusts and Estates 3rd Quarter Estimated Tax Payment

 

September 15: Deadline for calendar-year Corporate 3rd Quarter Estimated Tax Payment

 

September 15:            Deadline for calendar-year Trusts, Partnerships and Corporations to file annual Florida returns, when an extension was previously filed

 

September 20:            Due date for monthly Florida sales tax filings

 

September 20:            Due date for monthly Florida sales tax filings

 

October 1:                   Deadline for calendar year Partnerships and Corporations to file annual Florida returns when an extension was previously filed

The Treasure Trove of Wealth-Building Opportunities Found in Your Tax Returns by Eric Zeitlin

Posted on July 21, 2016 by Richard Berkowitz, JD, CPA

With more than half of 2016 behind them, investors should take some time now to assess their current financial well-being and look for opportunities to build wealth and minimize tax and other financial risks for the remainder of the year.  One of the best tools that investors have for beginning this process is their 2015 tax returns.  In fact, individuals need only look at Form 1040 to get a fairly accurate reading on their overall financial health and uncover hidden problems and lost opportunities for which measurable improvements can be made in the future.  This can include reducing tax liabilities and exposure to market swings, improving cash management, maximizing retirement savings and optimizing estate-planning tools.

 

Income

 

Form 1040 is divided into multiple sections, beginning with one’s filing status and the number of exemptions or dependents that they claim. Individuals with dependents may want to consider the benefits of shifting income to 529 college savings plans or special needs trusts which minimize one’s taxable estate while saving money for a child’s future education or medical care.  Similarly, investors have an opportunity to employ gifting strategies that reduce taxable income by making tuition payments directly to a qualified institution on behalf of a dependent child or paying for the medical services of a dependent of any age.

 

The next section focuses on Income. Line 7 lists wages as reported on individuals’ W-2 statements.  When wages are low, it may signal that a worker is not saving for retirement through a tax-advantaged 401(k) or Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or that an older taxpayer is not maximizing his or her Social Security and Medicare benefits.  For the self-employed taxpayer, low wages may serve as a red flag to the IRS of underreported income.  While it is perfectly normal for the owner of an S Corporation to report low payroll, such amounts must be balanced by a specific amount in wages to the business owner.

 

When wages are high, individuals should assess whether they are missing out on important tax-deferral opportunities, such as maximizing contributions to retirement plans. Perhaps they exercised stock options or failed to make an election to pay taxes on equity ownership in a business up front, at present value, when the stock is granted, rather than paying taxes each subsequent year based on the value of the taxpayers vested shares. For taxpayers over the age of 70½, high wages may indicate that they are not taking enough in required minimum distributions from retirement accounts.

 

Wages must be considered in relationship to investors’ other income sources listed on their tax returns in order to identify significant trends or missed opportunities. For example, low wages and high taxable interest income may indicate that an investor is missing out on tax-free investment opportunities and sitting on a lot of cash, which, in the current low-interest-rate environment is not earning them any money. Similarly, high cash balances in bank accounts should set off a red flag for potential issues with FDIC insurance coverage, which is limited to $250,000 per depositor, per bank per ownership category.  Investors should also consider whether there are other vehicles they can rely on to produce more beneficial tax opportunities while assessing the risks of holding money in savings accounts, municipal bonds or other interest-yielding income sources.

 

Dividends are another income source where investors may uncover opportunities to yield significant future tax savings. For example, an investment that pays a qualified dividend will be taxed at a rate of 23.8 percent, compared to a non-qualified dividend that can be taxed at a rate as high as 43.4 percent. Perhaps there is a deliberate reason for an investment in a non-qualified paying dividend, or there is an opportunity for the investor to turn non-qualifying dividends into qualified dividends. Moreover, when reviewing interest and dividends, investors should assess the entirety of their holdings, including how they title assets and whether or not their portfolio of holdings continues to meet their investment income and growth goals.  Changes may need to be made to minimize risk and liability or to maximize investment allocation and align income building opportunities with long-term tax-efficient estate plans.

 

Another consideration in the Income section is whether or not the taxpayer harvested capital losses to offset capital gains. By selling losing investments, a taxpayer may harvest tax losses to offset the taxable amount of income earned from investment gains.  Alternatively, an investor may consider donating highly appreciated assets to a charity via a donor-advised fund in order to receive tax deduction and eliminate the tax liabilities on capital gains generated from the sale of assets.

 

Business Income

Investors who earn income from a qualifying business have a broad range of opportunities to minimize their tax liabilities while establishing a firm financial foundation for their future. Specific topics to consider include the business’s tax structure and owner liability, whether income is earned through passive or active activities and whether these activities are conducted as a hobby, investment or bona fide business venture. Self-employed taxpayers can reap significant tax benefits when they contribute to qualifying retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s or IRAs, or when they take advantage of Section 429 of the Internal Revenue Code, which allows taxpayers to shelter income earned from businesses in which they are passive investors.

Individuals do not need a degree in accounting to understand their tax returns. However, a review of one’s Form 1040 under the guidance of a CPA or a qualified financial advisor may uncover evidence of missed tax-savings and wealth-building opportunities. The professionals with Provenance Wealth Advisors have deep experience working with entrepreneurs and high-net-worth individuals to implement tax-efficient financial-planning strategies designed to help meet desired wealth-preservation goals.

About the Author: Eric P. Zeitlin is managing director of Provenance Wealth Advisors, an independent financial services firm affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants, and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. For more information, call 800-737-8804 or email info@provwealth.com.

 

Provenance Wealth Advisors, 515 E. Las Olas Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301 (954) 712-8888.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.

Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants.

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of PWA and not necessarily those of Raymond James. You should discuss any tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

 

 

 

 

How to Survive an IRS Audit by Andreea Cioara Schinas, CPA

Posted on July 20, 2016 by Andreea Cioara Schinas

The thought of an IRS audit can strike fear and loathing in any law-abiding U.S. taxpayer. As the unlucky recipient of an examination notice from the IRS, it is the taxpayer who shoulders the responsibility to prove that previously filed tax returns were both complete and accurate. The law provides that the burden of proof is on the taxpayer, not the IRS. Failure to substantiate items on the tax return can result in significant penalties and even jail time.

This burden of proof highlights the importance of keeping organized records; taxpayers under IRS scrutiny may spend countless hours and dollars to comply with information document requests and produce evidence to substantiate their claims of deductions, credits and income, estate and gift tax liabilities. As overwhelming as this may sound, taxpayers should not panic. Cooperation, organization and professional assistance can go a long way toward a hassle-free examination and favorable audit outcome.

Look Back

The IRS relies on two methods for selecting tax returns for examination. The first is the agency’s Discriminant Inventory Function (DIF) computer system, which looks for abnormalities in processed tax returns. The second relies on uncovering discrepancies between entries on a taxpayer’s return and information contained on 1099s and W-2s the IRS receives from third parties, such as banks and employers. The IRS produces transcripts that show the forms and amounts reported on a taxpayer’s account.  As a best practice, if a taxpayer generally receives many such items, it is advisable that a copy of the IRS transcript be obtained prior to filing the taxpayer’s return, in order to prevent a mismatch and an examination.

Engaging the experience of a professional accountant to match transcript items with taxpayers’ records, can prevent an audit and expedite the process of identifying and resolving any discrepancies.

Do Not Handle It Alone

Considering the complexity of the tax code, taxpayers should never respond to IRS notices on their own. Rather, it is vital that taxpayers engage the knowledge and expertise of tax preparers or CPAs who understand the IRS’s rules of engagement and speak the same language as IRS agents.  Not only does a tax preparer have a professional stake in their clients’ audits, they have the knowledge and expertise to easily identify the reason for an IRS exam and help businesses and individuals prepare documentary evidence to counter claims of tax deficiencies.  Even those individuals who prepare and file their taxes without professional assistance will find that engaging a CPA during an audit will simplify the audit process and help to avoid complications and costly issues down the road.

When working with a CPA, taxpayers should execute a Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative to give their designated tax advisors the authority to speak and act on their behalf in all communication with the IRS. Doing so will help ensure that taxpayers do not make statements or provide to the IRS information that could foreseeably damage their cases. Most of the time, the entire audit-related communication is handled directly between the CPA and the agent.

Remember, a person who represents himself has a fool for a client.

Be Responsive

IRS notices typically detail why a tax return is flagged and what additional information the agency requests. Failing to respond to these communications in the allotted time frame may result in additional interest and penalty charges, liens, levies, and other unpleasant consequences.

Once the audit is underway, taxpayers will have 30 days to comply with each Information/Document Request (IDR) from the IRS. Should that 30-day deadline pass, taxpayers will be granted a 10-day grace period, at which time they will receive one delinquency notice demanding a response within 15 days. Failure to respond to a notice of delinquency will result in a summons that will, in essence, force a taxpayer to produce requested information.

Because time is of the essence, taxpayers should contact a CPA as soon as they receive any notice from the IRS. CPAs understand this time crunch and are well-prepared to make the initial contact with the IRS, and then help taxpayers review, organize and present information to comply with the strict timelines for each IDR. This sense of urgency should extend to taxpayers themselves, who must be quick to respond to their CPAs’ requests for information in order to meet the required timeframe.

Get Organized

No one, including IRS examiners, wants to spend time sorting through a shoebox of jumbled files and receipts. Individuals who disagree with tax deficiency notices have the responsibility to prove their positions to the IRS. This means locating missing records and producing requested items in orderly and timely fashion. Because of their experience working with the IRS, tax accountants and CPAs know exactly what information to include and how to best present it. The more organized the taxpayer is in submitting the requested documentation, the easier it is for the examiner to understand and review the audit trail, which in turn makes the entire process smoother for both the taxpayers and the IRS.

Know Your Rights

As in any civil matter, taxpayers facing an audit have certain rights, including the right to speak with a tax preparer before and during an audit or to have a CPA speak on their behalf. This right also allows taxpayers to refuse to be personally interviewed by an IRS agent, unless the taxpayer received a summons compelling them to do so.

With the benefit of professional counsel, taxpayers can ensure that all of their communication with the IRS stays on point and avoid the risk of self-incrimination, or worse, being referred for criminal investigation.

Conclusion

While it is true that the number of tax returns audited by the IRS has been decreasing since 2010, the audit rate increases along with taxpayers’ income levels. For example, in fiscal year 2015, the IRS audited less than 1 percent of all individual tax returns filed. That rate increases to 7.5 percent for taxpayers will income above $200,000 and 34.69 percent for individuals with income of $10 million or more. The same trends hold true for corporate tax returns.

An IRS audit is not something any taxpayer wants. Yet, coming under the scrutiny of the agency is not a cause for alarm. By understanding one’s rights, maintaining organized records and retaining the counsel of a CPA, taxpayers can confront an audit with confidence and walk away unscathed.

About the Author: Andreea Cioara Schinas, CPA, is a director with Berkowitz Pollack Brant’s Tax Services practice, where she provides corporate tax planning for clients through all phases of business operations, including formation, debt restructuring, succession planning and business sales and acquisitions. She can be reached in the CPA firm’s Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., office at (954) 712-7000, or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

Financial Statement Red Flags: Detecting the Threat from Within by Richard A. Pollack, CPA

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Richard Pollack

Despite the rising number of security breaches conducted by criminals outside corporate offices, businesses throughout the world are continuing to be plagued by internal threats that result in significant losses in revenue and reputation. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners Global Fraud Study for 2016, businesses worldwide are continuing to lose 5 percent of revenue each year due to occupational frauds committed by their very own employees. In 94.5 percent of fraud cases, perpetrators took some effort to hide the fraud by creating or altering physical documents.

 

The intentional misstatements or omission of material information in an organization’s financial reports are typically perpetrated to conceal poor financial performance or to create an inflated picture of a business’s true financial health. While these instances of financial statement fraud represent the least common form of occupational fraud, they typically are the most costly, resulting in median losses of $975,000 per organization. Moreover, the longer a fraud goes undetected, the greater the financial damage to the company.

 

Preventing and mitigating the damaging effects of financial statement fraud requires businesses to accept the possibility that it can happen to them and to put into place a series of internal anti-fraud controls. Because perpetrators will go to extremes to evade these controls, businesses must also be able to recognize the red flags that point to the most common schemes.

 

Misstated Assets. In order to portray a business in the most positive financial light, fraudsters may exaggerate assets by improperly presenting accounts receivables, inventory, fixed assets and investments. They may create fictitious clients, sales transactions, assets and accounts receivable, or they may understate an asset’s basis, manipulate the estimation of an asset’s useful life and residual value, or fail to account for obsolete inventory.

 

Red flags may include a large and unexplainable accumulation of fixed assets or depreciation schedules and estimates of assets’ useful lives that are inconsistent with the business’s industry. Or, there may be missing documents and discrepancies between recorded transactions and evidence obtained from third-parties. Similarly, a warning sign of misstated assets may be identified when a business reports a growth in inventory without corresponding growth in sales.

 

Concealed Expenses and Liabilities. A business may understate or hide expenses and debt in an effort to bump up its recognition of revenue. Examples of expense manipulation include misclassifying expenses as assets, failing to record certain obligations as liabilities or leaving special purpose entities or subsidiaries off a parent company’s books.  In some instances a business may avoid recording any expenses at all, including notes and loans to executives, or it may overstate liabilities in order to establish “cookie jar reserves” to pay for future expenses and appear that it is boosting profits.

 

Red flags can include a high number of complex third-party transactions, unauthorized journal entries or discrepancies between journal entries and that which is reported in financial statements, as well as transactional entries made to unrelated or rarely used accounts. Additionally, a business may manipulate its expenses by improperly capitalizing expenses in excess of industry norms.

 

Improper Revenue Recognition. The most common form of financial statement fraud occurs when a business falsifies revenue.  This is often accomplished by overstating revenue through premature revenue recognition or the recording of fictitious sales that never actually occurred. Alternatively, a business may understate its revenue by shifting revenue to a later period or improperly recording its percentage-of-completion contracts.

 

Red flags include the reporting of increasing revenue without corresponding growth in cash flow, a significant increase in revenue at the end of a reporting period, and the recording of revenue for consignment sales, or any sale, before a product or service is delivered to a customer. Similarly, a business engaged in improper revenue recognition may report growth in revenue or margins that far exceeds those of other companies in the same industry, or it may report positive earnings while cash flow declines.

 

Fraudulent Disclosures. Businesses may include footnotes in their financial statements to provide readers with material information and additional explanations about their operations that are not easily understood by reviewing the numbers in the financial statement by themselves. However, there are times when a business will purposely omit from these statements information, such as related-party transactions, liabilities arising from legal actions or accounting method changes, in order to conceal its true financial condition and outlook.

 

Financial statement fraud is a real threat to businesses large and small across all industries. The first line of defense against these criminal activities is the implementation of systems, policies and controls intended to safeguard an organization and deter fraud or stop it in its tracks at the first sign of detection. Investigations conducted by qualified forensic accountants can also aid in exposing a fraud before businesses suffer significant losses. These professionals have the knowledge and experience required to interview relevant parties and analyze multiple years of financial records, public documents and other forms of physical and electronic evidence to identify the source of a fraud. Moreover, their understanding of the law and their ability to provide expert testimony in legal proceedings further provide businesses with valuable support in prosecuting fraudsters.

 

About the Author: Richard A. Pollack, CPA/ABV/CFF/PFS, ASA, CBA, CFE, CAMS, CIRA, CVA, is director-in-charge of the Forensic and Business Valuation Services practice with Berkowitz Pollack Brant, where he has served as a litigation consultant, expert witness, court-appointed expert, forensic accountant and forensic investigator on a number of high-profile cases. He can be reached in the CPA firm’s Miami office at 305-379-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

 

 

Florida Passes Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act by Richard A. Berkowitz, JD, CPA

Posted on July 18, 2016 by Richard Berkowitz, JD, CPA

Facebook recently sent me a notification about the birthday of a close friend who passed away a year ago. Did I want to post a birthday message? After a moment of mourning, I was struck by the conundrum fiduciaries face in managing the electronic communications of those who are no longer here.

 

Today, individuals store most all of their important data electronically, including emails, text messages, social media postings, banking and other financial transactions, as well as photos and audio/visual files. Federal and state privacy laws prohibit unauthorized users from accessing an individual’s digitally stored data after the individual passes away or becomes incapacitated. As a result, this lack of access has prevented survivors from paying bills, downloading cherished photos or identifying insurance policies or financial accounts for which a decedent did not make them aware.

 

For residents of Florida, however, the ability to preserve, manage, share, and/or dispose of these digital assets and electronic records after death is now possible under the recently enacted Florida Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act.

 

Effective July 1, 2016, Floridians may authorize a named fiduciary to act on their behalf to access, manage and control the personal and business-related digital property they leave behind after death, including the following:

  • Email accounts
  • Financial banking, credit cards, brokerage, insurance and bill-pay accounts
  • Accounting firm or healthcare provider portals
  • Utilities, including Internet service providers
  • Tax filing sites, such as e-file and EFTPS accounts
  • Social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn
  • Retail shopping sites, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Target
  • Travel accounts used for hotel bookings and managing airline mileage
  • Entertainment sites such as iTunes and Netflix
  • Sites for storing and sharing photos, videos and important documents, including Google Cloud, Amazon Drive or Shutterfly

 

Naming a fiduciary ensures that these personal records are addressed after an individual’s death in the same way and with the same legal authority that a fiduciary will manage one’s tangible assets. Special care should be taken to designate an appropriate custodian who an individual can entrust to act on behalf of his or her best interests.  This may include a personal representative, a guardian of the property of minors or incapacitated persons, or a trustee or administrator of an estate.

 

Designating a custodian may be accomplished through a revocable trust, a power of attorney or a will. The latter, however, will become public record after one’s passing. Individuals should also look to each of their online service providers to determine if there is an option for them to name a custodian directly on the providers’ websites. For example, Facebook users may log in to their accounts and designate a “legacy contact” to manage their profiles, download photos and even post messages after their passing.  Similarly, Google allows its users to name and grant permission for their friends or family members to download data from their accounts, when those accounts go unused for three months.

 

To take advantage of the new law, individuals should provide to their named fiduciary a current inventory of all of their digital assets and electronic communications and include URL’s, locations of files, login information, passwords and answers to security questions, which should be updated periodically. Under the law, individuals may specify the amount of access they grant to a custodian as well as details on how they wish each electronic record or digital asset to be preserved or destroyed. For example, individuals may grant a fiduciary the authority to access the complete contents of their digital assets, or they may limit a custodian’s access to a listing of the records. They may grant the custodial permission to cancel subscriptions, continue making automatic payments from bank accounts or delete or preserve social media accounts.

 

As technology advances, records management and estate planning options will evolve to keep up with these changes.  In response, individuals should regularly review and update their estate plans and adapt to new planning methods to ensure their estates are properly settled, to their wishes, after death.

About the Author: Richard A. Berkowitz, JD, CPA, is founder and CEO of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants, where he works with individuals, families and entrepreneurs to develop comprehensive income, estate and business plans that meet goals and improve tax efficiencies. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Miami office at 305-379-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

 

Qualifying Businesses May Opt-Out of Florida’s Annual Sales Tax Holiday by Karen A. Lake, CPA

Posted on July 15, 2016 by Karen Lake

For the first time, Florida legislators voted to allow certain businesses the option to not participate in the state’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday, which is set for August 5 through August 7, 2016. To qualify for the exemption, businesses must meet certain criteria and send written notice to the Florida Department of Revenue by August 1, 2016.

 

More specifically, businesses that can opt out of the sales tax holiday include those for which less than 5 percent of their gross sales on tangible personal property in 2015 would be exempt during the sales tax period. For newly established businesses, the option to opt out of the sales tax holiday may apply when less than 5 percent of their sales inventory would be exempt.

 

About the Author: Karen A. Lake, CPA, is an associate director of Tax Services with Berkowitz Pollack Brant, where she helps individuals, businesses and non-profit entities navigate complex federal, state and local taxes, credits and incentives. A state and local tax expert, she can be reached at the Miami CPA firm’s office at (305) 379-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

Tax Basics for Students with Summer Jobs by Nancy M. Valdes, CPA

Posted on July 14, 2016 by

During the summer months, more than 20 million students will join the workforce and take temporary jobs to earn experience and money. Along with these benefits, students also gain an introduction to the complicated U.S. tax system and their responsibilities to pay their fair share to Uncle Sam. Here’s what every young worker needs to know about summer wages.

 

Form W-4. Employers require summer workers to complete Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, just as they do for full-time employees to determine how much they should withhold, or deduct, from a worker’s paycheck to cover that worker’s federal and state income taxes responsibilities. When the wrong amount of income taxes are withheld, workers may owe unpaid taxes on April 15 of the following year or they may have too much deducted from their paychecks and take home less pay. While the latter situation will usually result in workers receiving a tax refund, the workers will miss out on an opportunity to invest that money and benefit from compounding interest. Regardless of the amount withheld for federal income taxes, employers will deduct from employees’ paychecks Social Security and Medicare taxes, which are not refundable.

 

Personal Allowances. In addition to asking for basic information, such as name, address and social security number, the W-4 asks workers to identify the total number of allowances they wish to claim. The more allowances, the less the employer will withhold from a worker’s paycheck. In most cases, young workers under the age of 19, or 24 for full-time students, who may be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns should claim zero (0) allowances. Alternatively if young workers expect to earn more than $6,300 in salary during a tax year, they may claim themselves as one dependent and file their own individual tax returns by April 15 of the following year.

 

Exempt from Withholding. When student workers had no tax liability in the previous year and expect the same for the current hear, they may claim “exempt status” on Form W-4. Doing so informs employers that they should not deduct any federal income taxes from the workers’ wages. However, exempt status is not available to any student who may be claimed as a dependent on another person’s tax return.

 

Independent Contractor Arrangements. There are times when an employer will hire a summer worker as an independent contractor rather than as an employee. In these situations, the employer will not deduct from wages nor pay any taxes on behalf of the student. As a result, it is the student worker’s responsibility to set aside money from each paycheck to cover any potential tax liabilities due in April of the following year. When the student earns $600 or more, he or she will receive Form 1099-MISC at the end of the year indicating how much compensation he or she received that is subject to taxes.

 

Spend it or Save it. While many students will take a summer job to earn spending money or to save up for a specific purchase, they should not overlook the importance of saving their earnings for the future. Workers may set aside a portion of their earnings in a savings or money market account and benefit from the magic of compounding interest. Or, they may instead contribute up to $5,500 of their earnings into a Roth IRA to allow their investment to grow tax-deferred until they reach retirement age, at which time they may withdraw funds free of tax. Both options enable students to begin a habit of savings that will benefit them far into the future.

About the Author: Nancy M. Valdes, CPA, is a senior manager with Berkowitz Pollack Brant’s Tax Services practice, where she focuses her practice on tax strategies for business owners and high-net-worth individuals and families. She can be reached at the CPA firm’s Miami office at (305) 379-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

 

IRS and Treasury Issue Anti-Inversion Regulations by James W. Spencer, CPA

Posted on July 10, 2016 by James Spencer

In April 2016, the Department of the Treasury and IRS issued its third package of regulations in as many years to curtail the practice of corporate inversions in which U.S. companies change their tax residence overseas in order to reduce or avoid paying corporate U.S. taxes. To be sure, businesses that pursue inversions, often through a merger or the establishment and restructuring of a foreign subsidiary, tout the strategic benefits and competitive advantages these transactions will yield to their operations and their stakeholders. However, the tax savings they may reap by re-domiciling in a low-tax foreign country is substantial enough that the U.S. government has taken notice.

While corporate inversions are legal, the government is seeking to make these transactions “less economically beneficial” by closing tax loopholes that allow abuses to occur. The most recent set of regulations focuses on limiting serial inversions and addresses intercompany transactions and earnings stripping.

An Intro to Inversions

It is said that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate of all industrialized nations. When combining the federal rate of 35 percent with state taxes, a U.S.-based company can expect to pay as much as 40 percent in corporate taxes. However, the federal tax system allows these companies to take advantage of tax credits and expense deductions, which essentially reduce their corporate tax liabilities.

In order to shift some of their profits to lower-taxed countries and reduce the amount of income subject to domestic taxes, U.S. companies may consider an inversion. One commonly employed strategy involves a domestic business merging with a foreign company and moving its legal tax address overseas. By making the foreign country the tax domicile of the parent company, these companies avoid paying U.S. taxes on profits by repatriating the cash, but not the earnings, back to the United States.

Reigning In Serial Inversions

Under its most recent guidance, the U.S. government has focused its aim on what it refers to as “serial invertors” or large companies created through multiple mergers with, or acquisitions of, U.S. companies. The new regulations exclude from the calculation of a company’s ownership the stock attributable to assets acquired from a U.S. company within three years prior to the signing date of a current acquisition. By disregarding the assets of recently acquired U.S. companies, a foreign entity will appear significantly smaller and may fail to meet the 20 percent foreign ownership threshold that would allow a U.S. company to be treated as a foreign corporation exempt from U.S. corporate taxes. When foreign entities own at least 40 percent of the combined firm, they may still be considered foreign-owned for U.S. tax purposes, but restrictions on tax benefits will apply. However, the new regulations attempt to prohibit entirely the practice of establishing third-party holding companies to serve as the “acquirer” of any inversions in which U.S. shareholders own at least 60 percent of the inverted entity.

Restricting Earnings Stripping

Historically, inversions have allowed participating companies to reduce their U.S. corporate tax rate through the practice of earnings stripping, which involves intercompany transactions that effectively shift taxable earnings outside the U.S. to the parent company’s lower foreign tax rate. In these related-party transactions, the foreign parent company may lend money to its U.S. subsidiaries, loading them up on debt. The U.S. subsidiary will make interest payments to its foreign parent company and deduct the amount from its U.S. earnings subject to U.S. taxes. As a result, the interest payments will be taxable to the foreign parent company, often at much lower foreign tax rates.

Newly proposed debt-equity regulations address these practices of eroding U.S. corporate tax liabilities by re-characterizing the treatment of certain debt issued between related companies as equity. More specifically, the regulations would require businesses to treat as stock dividend distributions, interest payments and principal repayments on debt in which a U.S. subsidiary borrows cash from a related company and makes a purported “interest repayment and principal repayment” to its foreign parent. Additionally, debt instruments would be treated as stock if they are “issued by a U.S. subsidiary to its foreign parent in a shareholder dividend distribution, or issued in connection with certain acquisitions of stock or assets from related corporations in transactions that are economically similar to a dividend distribution.” The only exception to this rule and treatment of debt as stock is related-party debt incurred to fund actual business investments, such as the building or equipping of a factory.

In an effort to ensure compliance with the new regulations, the IRS will require inverted companies to conduct due diligence and document, up front, that a financial instrument is indeed debt. This includes documenting binding obligations for issuers to repay the amount borrowed, a reasonable expectation of repayment, rights of creditors and other evidence of an ongoing debtor-creditor relationship.

Long-Term Implications

With the announcement of these anti-inversion rules, U.S.-based Pfizer and Ireland-based Allergan were prompted to call off their merger-in-the-making, which was being touted as the largest inversion in history. Additional fallout from the regulations remains to be seen. In the meantime, businesses considering inversions should seek the advice of experienced accountants to weigh the remaining tax benefits of cross-border mergers and acquisitions against the backdrop of further regulations that may be applied retroactively in the future.

About the Author: James W. Spencer, CPA, is a director with Berkowitz Pollack Brant’s International Tax Services practice, where he focuses on a wide range of pre-immigration, IC-DISC, transfer pricing and international tax consulting issues for individuals and businesses. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Miami office at 305-379-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

 

The Taxing Consequences of Dwyane Wade’s Departure from Miami by Karen A. Lake, CPA

Posted on July 07, 2016 by Karen Lake

South Florida sports fans were shaken on July 6, when Miami Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade announced he would leave the city where he began his professional NBA career 13 years ago to play for the Chicago Bulls in a two-year deal worth $47.5 million. While the Sunshine State struggles to recover from its surprising loss, Wade himself may be in for quite a financial shock when he makes the move to the Windy City.

State Income Tax

Unlike in Florida, where there is no state income tax, Illinois imposes a 3.75 percent tax on its residents’ net income. Should Wade move to Illinois, he will be expected to pay more than $890,000 in taxes on salary alone for each year of his two-year contract. In addition, he will be subject to a 3.75 percent state tax on annual income he earns from endorsements, which, depending on the source, is between $12 million and $15 million per year. On the conservative end, Wade would be liable for $900,000 in taxes per year, or $1,125,000 when the calculation is based on his higher endorsement potential. Combined, Wade would pay more $1,453,125 in state income taxes for each year in Illinois, or $2,906,250 over the term of his contract with the Bulls.

Despite his new income tax liability, Wade will still net almost $3 million more in Chicago than he would with his one-year $20 million contract with the Miami Heat. However, leaving Florida will also expose Wade to Illinois estate tax, which can be as high as 28.5 percent of a resident’s net worth.

Estate Taxes

Under the Federal tax system, U.S. residents can shield up to $5.45 million from federal estate taxes should they pass away in 2016. This amount, which is double for married couples, is indexed for inflation, meaning that with each year, estates can avoid paying taxes as high as 40 percent on assets above the exemption threshold.

This is not the case for residents of the handful states that impose estate taxes on its residents’ assets, sometimes with lower exemption amounts. For example, Illinois not only has a lower exemption than the Federal system, but the amount is not indexed to inflation nor may married couples pass an unused exemption to a surviving spouse.

Therefore, should Dwyane Wade pass away unexpectedly while living in the Prairie State or holding assets there, his estate would be liable for taxes on the amount above Illinois’s $4 million exemption. Assuming Wade has a net worth of $159 million, as reported by MoneyNation, his estate would be entitled to the $4 million exemption, leaving $155 million taxable at a rate of 28.5 percent. The resulting tax liability would total more than $44 million.

Hopefully Wade consulted with experienced accountants and financial advisors before making his decision to exit the city where he earned three NBA championship titles. Proper tax and estate planning can minimize liabilities and help to build and retain wealth during one’s lifetime and beyond.

The tax advisors and accountants with Berkowitz Pollack Brant work with individuals and businesses across a broad range of industries and municipalities, including international locations, to maximize their tax-savings opportunities throughout the year.

 

About the Author: Karen A. Lake, CPA, is an associate director of Tax Services with Berkowitz Pollack Brant, where she helps individuals, businesses and non-profit entities navigate complex federal, state and local taxes, credits and incentives. A state and local tax expert, she can be reached at the Miami CPA firm’s office at (305) 379-7000 or via email at info@bpbcpa.com.

 

 

 

Latest Tax Scam Targets Students by Joseph L. Saka, CPA/PFS

Posted on July 07, 2016 by Joseph Saka

Even though the April tax deadline has passed, scammers are continuing to look for ways to trick people into making bogus tax payments and revealing their personally identifiable information.

In the latest scheme uncovered by the IRS, criminals posing as agency officials demand that students make immediate wire payments for what they call a “student federal tax,” which, in reality, does not exist. To coerce taxpayers into making the payments, scammers will employ intimidation and bullying tactics, including threats of arrest and revocation of a taxpayer’s driver’s license.

With this news, the IRS advises taxpayers to be on alert for potential scams, including calls and emails requesting verification of tax return information and payment of taxes owed. It is important to remember that the IRS will only contact taxpayers via U.S. mail, and the agency will never demand payment without giving taxpayers an opportunity to question or appeal the amount of taxes they may or may not owe. Should a taxpayer receive any communication purporting to be from the IRS, he or she should immediately contact a qualified accountant or tax professional.

About the author: Joseph L. Saka, CPA/PFS, is co-CEO of Berkowitz Pollack Brant and co-director-in-charge of the firm’s Tax Services practices. He provides a full range of income and estate planning, tax consulting and compliance services, business advice, and financial planning services to entrepreneurs, high-net-worth families and family companies and business executives in the U.S. and abroad. He may be reached in the CPA firm’s Miami office at (305) 379-7000 or via e-mail at info@bpbcpa.com.

 

 

IRS Offers Reduced Application Fee for Some Not-for-Profits by Adam Cohen, CPA

Posted on July 06, 2016 by Adam Cohen

U.S. organizations that wish to be recognized as a 501(c)(3) must apply to the IRS for tax-exempt status and pay a related application fee. Effective July 1, however, organizations with assets of $250,000 or less and annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less will be required to pay a user fee of $275, rather than previously required $400, when filing Form 1023-EZ, Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

The IRS introduced the three-page-long Form 1023-EZ in 2014 to make it easier for smaller charities to apply for tax-exempt status and expedite the agency’s approval process. At the time, the IRS estimated that as many as 70 percent of its existing applicants would qualify to use the streamlined form, which can only be filed electronically at www.irs.gov or www.pay.gov.

Understanding 501(c)(3) eligibility and compliance can be complicated. The advisors and accountants with Berkowitz Pollack Brant works with a broad range of not-for-profit clients, including public charities, hospitals and family foundations, to meet their related tax obligations while minimizing compliance risks.

 

About the Author: Adam Cohen, CPA, is an associate director in the Tax Services practice of Berkowitz Pollack Brant, where he works with closely held businesses and non-profit charities, hospitals and family foundations to maintain tax efficiency and comply with federal and state regulations. He can be reached at the CPA firm’s Ft. Lauderdale office at (954) 712-7000 or via e-mail info@bpbcpa.com.

 

 

 

8 Tips to Help Women Improve Financial Literacy by Kathleen Marteney, CRPC

Posted on July 02, 2016 by Richard Berkowitz, JD, CPA

For too long, women were socialized to believe that they were bad with money or that financial management was a role better left to their husbands. While women have come a long way, there remains a significant gender gap in financial literacy.

 

According to the results of a recent study conducted by the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at the George Washington University School of Business, women are less likely than men to provide correct answers to questions about basic financial concepts and more likely than men to admit that they do not know the answer to such questions. This lack of self-confidence in women’s abilities to manage money is alarming, especially considering that women outlive men.

 

Ninety percent of women will need to be self-reliant with financial decisions at some point in their lives, due to late-in-life marriage, divorce or widowhood. Rather than sitting on the sidelines, women of all ages should get in the game and start to take responsibility for their long-term financial success, now, before divorce or a spouse’s death results in financial surprise in the future. Here are some tips to get started:

 

  1. Be actively engaged in pursuing knowledge and building financial self-confidence.
  2. Ask questions and begin a conversation about personal finance by focusing on a topic on which you feel comfortable and to which you can relate easily.
  3. Be involved in financial decisions that affect you or your family.
  4. Pay yourself first by participating in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Or, if you are self-employed or are a stay-at-home parent, create a retirement plan that you can contribute to for your future.
  5. Spend less than you earn.
  6. Build an emergency fund equal to three- to six-months of expenses.
  7. Set short- and long-term goals and develop an estate plan, including a will, which you can review regularly to ensure it continues to meet your needs and life circumstances.
  8. Seek the guidance of experienced financial advisors who you can trust to guide you through the process and help you make the decisions that are key to your long-term financial success.

 

About the Author: Kathleen Marteney, CRPC, is a financial planner with Provenance Wealth Advisors, an independent financial services firm affiliated with Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants, and a registered representative with Raymond James Financial Services. She can be reached at 800-737-8804 or via email at info@provwealth.com.

Provenance Wealth Advisors, 200 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami FL 33131 (954)712-8888

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC.

Raymond James is not affiliated with and does not endorse the opinions or services of Berkowitz Pollack Brant Advisors and Accountants.

This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of PWA and not necessarily those of Raymond James. You should discuss any tax and legal matters with the appropriate professionals. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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