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Members in the News

    Joseph Gil (Nassau)

    What If I Can't Pay My Taxes by April 15?

    Fox Business

    It's not surprising that many Americans may not be able to pay their taxes by the April 15 deadline, especially since 2014 is the first year for which we will be penalized under ObamaCare, if we don't have health insurance. Joseph Gil, a certified public accountant and business advisor in Port Washington, N.Y., says it's important to file on time, even if you can't pay by the deadline.

    Robert Dyson (Manhattan/Bronx)

    MBAF's Robert Dyson's discusses New Revenue Recognition Guidance and Case Studies in The CPA Journal

    Morrison, Brown, Argiz and Farra (MBAF) CPAs and Advisors

    For many years, FASB and the IASB sought to overhaul the guidance on revenue recognition, replacing industry-specific conventions with a common, universal approach focusing on contractual arrangements. The result, Accounting Standards Update 2014-09, focuses on the satisfaction of contractual obligations in order for revenue to be recognized.

    NYSSCPA’s Excellence in Financial Journalism Awards

    Health care, business and broadband stories win Excellence in Financial Journalism Awards

    Yahoo! News

    Four investigations from the Center for Public Integrity have won awards from the New York State Society of CPAs 2015 Excellence in Journalism Awards. The Medicare Advantage Money Grab series won Best Independent or Affiliated Outlet (medium to small). The project examined the billions of tax dollars wasted through manipulation of “risk scores” and the power of the Medicare Advantage industry. It was reported by senior health care reporter Fred Schulte, former data editor David Donald, intern Erin Durkin and news developer Chris Zubak-Skees.

    NYSSCPA Financial Journalism Award

    ProPublica’s Cezary Podkul Wins Financial Journalism Award

    The New York State Society of CPAs announced today that ProPublica’s Cezary Podkul has won its Excellence in Financial Journalism Award for explanatory reporting. Podkul was honored for his series Tobacco Debt: How Cash From Big Tobacco Went From Boon to Burden, which showed that states’ deals with investors yielded money upfront but problematic debts later. The first story in the series found that a handful of states promised to repay $64 billion on just $3 billion advanced. 

    Jamie Block (Rochester)

    Income tax refund options

    CPA Jamie Block discussed two options for income tax filers hoping to get their refund money early Monday on News 8 at Sunrise. Block, a member of the Rochester Chapter of the New York State Society of CPAs and a certified financial planner with Wealth Design Retirement Services, said the quickest way to receive your income tax refund is to file your return electronically and have the refund directly deposited into your bank account. There are two other options, a refund anticipation loan and a refund anticipation check.  For a refund anticipation loan, your tax preparer partners with a bank, which pays the taxpayer their expected refund minus fees and preparation charges.  The bank would then receive the refund as payment.  These type of loans have significantly decreased since 2002 due to government regulations noted Block. 

    Edward Mendlowitz (At large member)

    Art of Accounting: Surprise Staff Leader

    Accounting Today

    One time I was reviewing a time run and noticed a certain staff tax person, Elliot, kept appearing on clients he wasn’t assigned to and I wondered why. When I asked the people in charge of those clients what Elliot did, I was told that they either needed a tax question answered or some research done and asked him to do it. Elliot was one of the younger people in the tax department. I wondered why they asked him and not the tax manager. I was told that they asked the manager a couple of times and got no response. So they asked Elliot, who got them the answer pretty quickly. This was the reply I received from everyone I asked about using Elliot. This gave me two valuable insights: 1) Elliot was respected by his peers and became their go-to person for tax questions. 2) The tax manager was not responsive to the needs of the accounting staff. It appeared he only gave his attention to what he thought were “important” issues on clients he was directly involved with.

    Brian Reese (Utica)

    Tax Tip: Home office deduction

    Whether you are self employed or an employee, if you use part of your home for business purposes you might be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. This can be an audit red flag to the IRS, but if you meet the following specific requirements you can save on your taxes: * You must regularly use part of your home “exclusively” for conducting business. Having a separate room (or even part of a room) designated for business is wise. Conducting business at the kitchen table or from the living room couch won’t fly.* Prove your home office is the principal place of business. Conducting the majority or all of your administrative or management activities from your home office instead of another location would meet that qualification.

    Alan Kahn and Barry Kleiman (Manhattan/Bronx)

    Benefits of Establishing Long-Term Relationship with CPA

    A CPA is more than just a person who does your taxes. In this Money Matters Report, Time Warner Cable News’ Tara Lynn Wagner explains why you might want to make them a more vital member of your team. Don't think of visiting your tax preparer as an annual chore to be checked off your to-do list. Instead, think of the classic line from Casablanca "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." That is because if you use a good CPA, he or she can do a lot more for you than just fill out your return. "They are proactive versus reactive. You can do all kinds of planning with your CPA: tax planning’ financial planning, estate planning, retirement planning," says Alan Kahn, CPA at AJK Financial Group. Granted for many people, the first contact they have with a CPA is simply to find someone to file their return and Untracht Early CPA Barry Kleiman says they are more than up to that task.

    David Young (Rochester)

    In the military? Don't miss out on these tax benefits

    CNN Money

    Tax-free combat pay: Like anyone else with a paycheck, enlisted military personnel's pay is subject to income tax. But if you're assigned to a designated combat zone or to a unit that directly supports military action in a combat zone, your pay during that assignment is excluded from federal income taxes. Combat pay for officers is also tax free, but only up to the amount that the highest-paid enlisted soldier makes -- which is roughly $5,460 a month, said Rochester, N.Y.-based CPA David Young, a combat veteran and retired Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Army Reserve. Combat pay is also free of state taxes in every state but New Jersey, said Julie Sforza-Smith, a principal tax research analyst at H&R Block's Tax Institute. Greater flexibility in claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit: Normally you have to have earned taxable income to qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is intended to help lower income households, especially those with children.

    Jonathan Horn (Manhattan/Bronx)

    Airbnb Income May Be Tax-Free–But There’s a Catch

    Wall Street Journal

    It is one of the tax code's best freebies: a provision allowing people to rent out their homes for fewer than 15 days a year and pocket the income-tax-free. This break is often called the Masters exemption because of its popularity in Augusta, Ga., during the famous April golf tournament. Now services such as Airbnb and FlipKey are making it easier for people to take advantage of the Masters exemption by offering short-term rentals of their homes. Some firms are required to send 1099 forms to both the taxpayer and the IRS indicating how much income the taxpayer earned from renting through them. Yet there isn't an easy way for a host who rented for fewer than 15 days to tell the IRS such income was tax-free. In fact, IRS Publication 527, Residential Rental Property, says that taxpayers don't need to report such income at all. As a result of these conflicting rules, some taxpayers who act as hosts may get computer-generated letters from the IRS in a year or so asking about tax on their hosting income--even though no tax is due on it, says Jonathan Horn, a certified public accountant in New York.

    Alan Strauss

    Know the Rules of Tax Extensions or IRS May Rule Against You

    With the tax deadline day of April 15 approaching fast, you might be thinking "delay, delay, delay," and that's no crime — unless you don't let the IRS know you plan on filing for an extension. If you do plan on filing taxes late, you're not alone. About 8% of all tax filings — about 11 million taxpayers — are filed after April 15. But don't do it unless you know the rules, so Uncle Sam doesn't come knocking with a big tax bill in hand. When you do provide your debt obligation, go big, says Alan Strauss, a tax professional and former chairman of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants. "Be sure to overestimate your expected tax liability — even if you cannot pay that amount now. Don't worry about what you can pay; show your liability to be what you really think it will be after some conservative calculating. If it turns out you owe less than you thought,  nothing happens. If you owe more than you report, you could be liable for either a 'failure to file' penalty or a 'failure to pay' penalty or both."

    Fred Slater (Manhattan/Bronx) and Ellen Minkow (Sullfolk)

    CPA Tax Advice for Financial Literacy Month

    Accounting Today

    April is Financial Literacy Month and Fred Slater, CPA, and Ellen Minkow, CPA, of MS 1040 LLC in New York City are offering some special tax advice. “It is important to have a year-round budget, and keep finances in check,” said Slater. “An important part of this is year-round tax planning.  This can help you prepare for life changes while staying on track to achieve financial goals.” “For many people, this is planning for college,” Minkow added. “It is important to know if scholarships and grants are subject to federal income tax. If you are a candidate for a degree at an educational institution and receive a qualified scholarship or fellowship that you use for tuition, fees, and required expenses (e.g., books, supplies, and equipment), you need not include the scholarship amount in your taxable income. If, however, your scholarship includes money for room, board, and other incidentals, those dollars are taxable. If you are not a candidate for a degree, your entire scholarship is taxable.”

    Michael Benison (Nassau)

    Property tax assessment – straight from the horse’s mouth

    Real Estate Weekly

    The Big Apple real estate market is booming, and in turn, the New York City Tax Commission office has been receiving between 50,000 and 53,000 applications for property tax assessments each year. EisnerAmper Senior Tax Accountant Michael Benison recently sat down with New York City Tax Commission President Glenn Newman to learn valuable information about the process. Newman told Benison that most of the city’s major players are filing applications through the Tax Commission’s office these days. The most important factor and starting point in reviewing a tax assessment, he noted, is an honest and accurate application. “Taxpayers need to pay attention to all of the details listed in the application and complete a true and accurate income and expense statement of the assessed property,” said Newman.

    Scott Stavin (Nassau)

    Here Are the Last-Minute Tax Breaks and Deductions You're Overlooking

    It's not too late to find some extra savings in your 2014 tax return. In fact, while you're checking under the cushions for loose change in 2014, it's actually a good time to make sure cash doesn't fall out of your pockets in the first place. Scott Stavin, a certified public accountant and tax principal at Friedman LLC in New York, notes that finding savings typically requires a little bit of foresight. “We're preparing people's 2014 tax returns, but we're also setting the foundation for 2015, and that's very important,” he says. “There are things you can do with taxpayers at this stage of the year to get them set up for the rest of the year.” With the tax deadline looming, we pressed Stavin and Criscuolo for some last-minute tips for keeping the IRS at bay. The following suggestions should not only keep you covered for this year, but help you prepare for 2015 as well.

    Jonathan Horn (Manhattan/Bronx)

    Last-Minute Tax Moves

    Wall Street Journal

    Budget cuts also have affected the IRS’s ability to conduct audits. The overall rate was 0.86% during fiscal year 2014, well behind the recent high of 1.11% in 2010 and 2011. Experts say the slide in IRS service has slowed all kinds of responses, from the processing of amended returns to audit appeals. Jonathan Horn, a CPA in New York, says it took two years of letters to four different IRS service centers, plus the involvement of the Taxpayer Advocate’s office, to secure a $250 refund for a client who overpaid Social Security taxes in 2012. The check came last week. “I refused to give up, even though the client told me not to bother,” Mr. Horn says.

    NYSSCPA (COAP Program)

    Free Summer College Program for High School Juniors

    Black Enterprise

    Calling all rising high school juniors interested in the accounting profession: Application deadlines are approaching (see deadlines below) for those who want to study on a college campus in New York State this summer for five days, free of charge. The Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession program, or COAP, teaches students about college life in the context of pursuing a career in accounting. The free program will be held in June and July and is targeting groups underrepresented in the accounting field. It is part of the New York State Society of CPA’s Foundation for Accounting Education. According to a statement released by COAP, students will encounter a curriculum of business and personal development courses taught by top industry professionals. They will visit corporations, accounting firms, and government agencies. Housing, meals and field trips will be provided by each campus.

    Brian Reese (Utica)

    Tax tip: Health savings accounts now favored option for insurance

    Within the last few years, health savings accounts have become the favored option for health insurance between employers and employees. Health savings accounts work in conjunction with high deductible health insurance plans that lower costs for employers and help individuals build up a savings account for current and/or future medical expenses. Contributions to these accounts are 100 percent tax deductible regardless of your income level. Withdrawals to pay qualified medical expenses are never taxed. Withdrawals, however, for non-medical expenses come with a large penalty (until age 65). Unlike flexible spending accounts, unused money in the savings account isn’t forfeited at the end of the year; it continues to grow tax deferred until it is needed.

    Eric Cohen (Rochester)

    Your credit card is about to take the next evolutionary step

    Rochester Business Journal

    Apple Pay” is not how teachers are paid or a way to keep doctors away. “Chip and PIN” is not a local pub. EMV is not an online version of the DMV. They are, however, all affecting how we in the United States deal with credit cards. The way we pay for things is evolving; we are in for some massive change, much sooner than you might think. Their demise has long been called for, and may be here. Swiping to pay with your credit card? That will be mostly gone in six months. I am, by the way, intrigued and concerned. “Paper” is going away—signatures with pen on paper are going away. Mag stripes are going away. Technology will be the foundation. We take our cell phones to the gym, to the beach, places we may wish we didn’t have to take a wallet.  But my cell phone’s battery has been close to dying multiple times just before having to show a mobile boarding pass for a flight; my identity and ability to pay can’t be contingent on juice in the cell phone, let alone cell signal or Internet availability.

    James Lewis (Southern Tier)

    NY small businesses feeling left out

    When Tim Ward turned on the television in his Florida hotel room, a Start-Up NY commercial was promoting the benefits of the state's tax-free zones. The 59-year-old Vestal resident and retired IBM Corp. accountant was bewildered. Ward — on his eighth small-business venture — wondered what company would relocate from Florida to New York for a 10-year tax-free guarantee from the state with a reputation for some of the highest taxes and most expensive business operating costs in the nation. No doubt, the corporate tax rate cut comes as welcome relief to many of the state's larger employers. But for more than three-quarters of the estimated 1.7 million businesses across the state the action was a non-event. "It was irrelevant for most of my clients," said James Lewis, managing partner at the Binghamton accounting firm of Piaker & Lyons. "It will help the Kodak's and the IBM's." Most businesses across the state will get absolutely no tax relief from last year's action by the governor's office and the state legislature.

    Anil Melwani (Manhattan/Bronx)

    Procrastinating On Your Taxes? Your Accountant May Fine You

    Bloomberg Business

    Anil Melwani, a CPA and founder of 212 Tax & Accounting Services, starts with a carrot—a 10 percent discount to clients who hand in their documents or come in before the end of February. About 25 percent of clients take advantage of the discount, he says. He also sets an early deadline for clients who want returns filed by April 15. This year, they had to turn in their forms by March 21, 10 days sooner than the March 31 date he used in prior years—after too many clients were showing up in April. Some accountants set deadlines even earlier. Marilyn Niwao, a CPA and president of the National Society of Accountants, tells clients that if all their tax information isn't in by March 15, their returns may require extension, which means a more costly return because she'll have to estimate the tax due.

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