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The Team Approach to Tax, Financial and Estate Planning

by Lance Wallach

CPAs are the best and most qualified professionals when it comes to serving their clients needs, but they need to know when and how to coordinate with other experts.

Over the last twenty years we have worked with thousands of practitioners who have decided to add financial services to their practices. They do it for a variety of reasons, but the most common are as follows:

*They don’t want to refer their client elsewhere when they request financial services.

* They want to remain competitive.

*They want to diversify and increase their revenue as opposed to depending solely on tax and accounting revenue.

While helping these professionals add planning and investment services to their core offerings, we have found that they achieve four main benefits after doing so:

1. They are more satisfied with their work.

2. Their clients are more satisfied because they can work with someone they trust to meet financial goals.

3. Their clients give them more referrals.

4. Their incomes increase.

We believe that CPAs are the most appropriate–and perhaps the only–professionals who can provide comprehensive financial services to clients because they understand their clients’ tax and financial situations. Their clients trust these practitioners to provide professional advice that is in their best interest. In fact, we believe that tax professionals have an obligation and responsibility to advise their clients, and clients expect their professionals to advise them in these important areas.

With a combination of never-ending tax reform, the Tax Code’s significant and complex changes, and the market volatility we’ve experienced over the past few years, clients need guidance more than ever. Practitioners who provide financial planning and investment advisory services are in a position to advise and assist their clients with these issues.

Practitioners just starting out in this arena may not possess the myriad skill sets and substantive knowledge required to embark on new business ventures.

CPAs who don’t have all of the necessary talent in-house may find it easier to associate themselves with strategic “partners” who can provide the proper skill sets, training, technology, support and turnkey solutions in their specialized disciplines and niches, to help identify and meet their clients’ financial goals.

Adapted from “The Team Approach to Tax, Financial & Estate Planning,” edited by Lance Wallach, with chapters by Katharine Gratwick Baker, Fredda Herz Brown, Dr. Stanly J. Feldman, Ira Kaplan, Joseph W. Maczuga, Roger E. Nauheimer, Roger C. Ochs, Matthew J. O’Connor, Richard Preston, Steve Riley, Carl Lloyd Sheeler, Peter Spero, Paul J. Williams, and Roger M. Winsby. Product 017235.

No Shelter Here: Beware of These Insurance Plans | Remodeling

No Shelter Here: Beware of These Insurance Plans

Backlash on too-good-to-be-true insurance plan

During the past few years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has fined many business owners hundreds of thousands of dollars for participating in several particular types of insurance plans.

The 412(i), 419, captive insurance, and section 79 plans were marketed as a way for small-business owners to set up retirement, welfare benefit plans, or other tax-deductible programs while leveraging huge tax savings, but the IRS put most of them on a list of abusive tax shelters, listed transactions, or similar transactions, etc., and has more recently focused audits on them. Many accountants are unaware of the issues surrounding these plans, and many big-name insurance companies are still encouraging participation in them.

Seems Attractive

The plans are costly up-front, but your money builds over time, and there’s a large payout if the money is removed before death. While many business owners have retirement plans, they also must care for their employees. With one of these plans, business owners are not required to give their workers anything.

Gotcha

Although small business has taken a recessionary hit and owners may not be spending big sums on insurance now, an IRS task force is auditing people who bought these as early as 2004. There is no statute of limitations.

The IRS also requires participants to file Form 8886 informing the IRS of participation in this “abusive transaction.” Failure to file or to file incorrectly will cost the business owner interest and penalties. Plus, you’ll pay back whatever you claimed for a deduction, and there are additional fines — possibly 70% of the tax benefit you claim in a year. And, if your accountant does not confidentially inform on you, he or she will get fined $100,000 by the IRS. Further, the IRS can freeze assets if you don’t pay and can fine you on a corporate and a personal level despite the type of business entity you have.

Legal Wrangling

Currently, small businesses facing audits and potentially huge tax penalties over these plans are filing lawsuits against those who marketed, designed, and sold the plans. Find out promptly if you have one of these plans and seek advice from a knowledgeable accountant to help you properly file Form 8886.

—Lance Wallach, National Society of Accountants Speaker of the Year and member of the AICPA faculty of teaching professionals, is a frequent speaker on retirement plans, financial and estate planning, and abusive tax shelters.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as specific legal or financial advice.

Seven Tax Deductions You Might Not Know

You are not a better American if you pay extra taxes. Most people do pay a lot more than they have to. While this article will not share proprietary tax deductions, these reminders might help you keep more in your pocket.

Here are eight tax breaks often overlooked by taxpayers, which could save you money. Some are for those who itemize only, others any filer can claim.

1. Many medical costs

It is often difficult for taxpayers to reach the 10 percent of adjusted gross income threshold(7.5 percent for seniors 65 or older) required before you can claim any medical expenses. But adding in miscellaneous medical costs might make it easier. Some miscellaneous costs include travel expenses to and from medical treatments, insurance premiums you pay for from already-taxed income, and even alcohol or drug-abuse treatment programs. Read the list of deductible medical expenses.

2. Charitable Giving

You can’t deduct the value of your time spent volunteering, but if you buy supplies for a group, the cost of that material is deductible. Similarly, if you wear a uniform in doing your good deeds, for example as a hospital volunteer or youth group leader, the costs of that apparel and any cleaning bills also can be counted as charitable donations.

Also deductible is use of your vehicle for charitable purposes, such as delivering meals to the homebound in your community or taking the Scout troop on an outing. The IRS will let you deduct that travel at 14 cents per mile.

3. Job hunting costs

While college students can’t deduct the costs of hunting for that new job across the country, already-employed workers can. Costs associated with looking for a new job in your present occupation, including fees for resume preparation and employment of outplacement agencies, are deductible as long as you itemize. The one downside here is that these costs, along with other miscellaneous itemized expenses, must exceed two percent of your adjusted gross income before they produce any tax savings. But the phone calls, employment agency fees and resume printing costs might be enough to get you over that income threshold.


  1. Child, and more, care credit

Millions of parents claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit each year to help cover the costs of after-school day care. However, you shouldn’t overlook claiming the tax credit for childcare costs during the summer. This tax break also applies to summer day camp costs. The key here is that the camp is a day-only getaway that supervises the child while the parents work. You cannot claim overnight camp costs.

If you have an adult dependent who needs care so that you can work, those expenses can be claimed under this tax credit.

5. Moving expenses

Most taxpayers know they can write off many moving expenses when they relocate to take another job. But what about your first job? Yes, the IRS allows this write-off then, too. A recent college graduate who gets a first job at a distance from where he or she has been living is eligible for this tax break.

6.  Mortgage refinancing points

When you buy a house, you are entitled to deduct the points paid on the loan on your tax return for the year of purchase. But if you refinance your home loan, you might be able to deduct points incurred when you refinance your home too, as long as you use refinanced mortgage proceeds to improve your principal residence.

7. Educational expenses

The Internal Revenue Code offers many tax-saving options for individuals who want to further their educations. The tuition and fees deduction can help you take up to $4,000 off your taxable income and is available without having to itemize.

The Lifetime Learning Credit could provide some students (or their parents) up to a $2,000 credit.

Don’t forget the American Opportunity tax credit, which offers a dollar-for-dollar tax break of up to $2,500. This new education tax break was created as part of the 2009 stimulus package as a short-term replacement for the Hope tax credit and subsequently was extended through tax year 2012.

Some of these tax breaks can save some filers a nice chunk of tax money. With others, the savings might be relatively small. But when it comes to taxes, every bit of savings helps. So make sure you don’t overlook any of these possible tax breaks as you finish up your 2015 return.

Using Captive Insurance Companies for Savings

Small companies have been copying a method to control insurance costs and reduce taxes that used to be the domain of large businesses: setting up their own insurance companies to provide coverage when they think that outside insurers are charging too much.
Often, they are starting what is called a “captive insurance company” – an insurer founded to write coverage for the company, companies or founders.

Here’s how captive insurers work.

The parent business (your company) creates a captive so that it has a self-funded option for buying insurance, whereby the parent provides the reserves to back the policies. The captive then either retains that risk or pays reinsures to take it. The price for coverage is set by the parent business; reinsurance costs, if any, are a factor.

In the event of a loss, the business pays claims from its captive, or the reinsurer pays the captive.