FEATURED POST

Advisors Management Group

Mapping Out Your Future with a Financial Plan
Just like a map or a GPS is needed for someone driving a car on a long trip, a financial plan is useful for anyone wondering about their financial future.  A financial plan lets us know if we are heading in the right direction, for example north instead of south.  Much like a long journey, life will have many twists, turns and a few unexpected bumps in the road.  However, with a well-planned route, we can have a clear idea of whether we are heading in the direction of our destination. What is a Financial Plan? A financial plan is a document that evaluates cash flow, assets, goals, and brings the information together in a document that predicts how much money and income you will have in the future. This document will be used to determine if your current strategy will accomplish your goals, or if you need a different one. Who can benefit from a financial plan? Financial plans are useful for people of all ages. A financial plan looks at money that is coming in (wages for most people), assets that you have saved so far, and what you are currently saving. This along with other factors helps to plan a path for your financial future.  This could be saving for a large purchase, paying off debt, or saving for the future (children’s education or retirement).  Financial plans are also helpful for people already in retirement as they can be used to help identify a strategy for creating retirement income, spending down assets, or planning to leave them to heirs. To prepare a financial plan your financial planner will need to gather some information from you. You will likely need to bring the following: Recent paystubs Last year’s tax return Statements for any retirement or investment accounts that you have Information on any pensions that you may have Social Security Statements (get yours at ssa.gov/myaccount ) More complex plans may require information about insurance and/or legal work Your planner will ask some questions to get to know you and find out what is important to you. A good planner will be interested in not just how much money you have, but also in what you would like to accomplish with your money. This conversation along with the data you bring to your appointment will help your planner to craft a financial plan that is specific to your goals. Your planning process will likely consist of several meetings. Costs are generally dependent on the complexity of your plan, and it is even possible that your advisor will provide some basic planning at no cost. Life will continue to change over time, for this reason it is important to revisit your financial plan with your advisor every so often to account for any detours or bumps along the road of life.  Financial plans are working documents that need to be adjusted as circumstances change. You should expect to update your financial plan several times during your working years. Generally, this will be every few years or when a major life change occurs. If you would like to find out more about having your personal financial plan prepared, contact us to set up your no obligation consultation today. Kate Pederson Investment Advisor Representative & Tax Preparer  Kate joined Advisors Management Group in December 2017. Prior to joining the firm, she worked in manufacturing and healthcare during her career as a financial analyst. Advisors Management Group, Inc. is a registered investment adviser whose principal office is located in Wisconsin.   Opinions expressed are those of AMG and are subject to change, not guaranteed, and should not be considered recommendations to buy or sell any security.  Past performance is no guarantee of future returns, and investing involves multiple risks, including, but not limited to, the risk of permanent losses.  Please do not send orders via e-mail as they are not binding and cannot be acted upon.  Please be advised it remains the responsibility of our clients to inform AMG of any changes in their investment objectives and/or financial situation.  This commentary is limited to the dissemination of general information pertaining to AMG’s investment advisory/management services.  Any subsequent, direct communication by AMG  with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where the prospective client resides.  A copy of our current written disclosure statement discussing our advisory services and fees continues to remain available for your review upon request.
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Category: Uncategorized

29 Jun 2020

Advisors Management Group

11 Things Every Home Seller Should Do

As a home seller, your goal is to sell your property quickly for the most money possible. However, in the wake of COVID-19, you'll need to take some extra steps to adapt your selling strategy to the current market -- such as incorporating social distancing procedures with in-person home tours. Here, we've outlined several steps would-be sellers should take to seal the deal (safely!) and get top dollar for their home.   Clean and Declutter If you're thinking about putting your home on the market, give it a deep clean in preparation for potential buyers who may visit for an in-person tour. You should also declutter the entire space. That's because you want potential buyers to envision themselves -- and not your junk -- in the home. Decluttering reveals a room's dimensions, architectural details and natural light, according to REALTOR® Magazine. Of all the updates you can make in preparation for a resale, simply cleaning your home is among the least expensive, and it has a big impact. If you do it yourself, you'll only need to foot the bill for cleaning supplies. If you decide to have your home professionally cleaned, you can expect prices to range from $100 to $180 per hour for a cleaning service, according to HomeAdvisor.com. The fee will vary based on the size, location and condition of your home. Once the cleaning is done, it may be worth the investment to hire a professional home stager. This person will reconfigure your space using furniture, art and home decor items to make it more attractive to potential buyers.   Choose the Right Agent for You ust as you would with any contractor, it's smart to interview at least three agents who do a lot of business in your neighborhood or your condo building. Ask friends and neighbors for references. Or you can search for one on Realtor.com by clicking on the Find Realtors® tab. When interviewing potential agents, beware of the one who suggests listing your home for the highest possible price. Chances are, he or she is just trying to snag the listing; reality is, it won't likely sell for that much. This is a tactic that could deter buyers and delay the sale Once you've found an agent you'd like to work with, it's a good idea to commit to the shortest possible listing period -- say, three months -- and renew it if you'd like. But that doesn't mean you're stuck with an agent who turns out to be a nightmare. Before signing a listing agreement, make sure it outlines the agent's duties and includes clauses that allow you to terminate or opt out of the contractual relationship if certain circumstances change (say, a job opportunity fell through or your spouse died) or because you believe the agent has failed to perform.   Determine How Much You'll Have to Pay Your Agent Traditionally, the seller pays a commission ranging from 5% to 6% of the home's sale price. That amount is divided equally between the selling agent and the buyer's agent. For a lower-cost alternative, consider using an agent who works for Redfin, a real estate brokerage active in more than 90 U.S. markets. Sellers who list with a Redfin agent pay 1.5% of their home's sale price in commission -- or 1% if they also buy their next home from a Redfin agent within one year (the 1% rate isn't available in all cities). You still pay a 2.5% or 3% commission to the buyer's agent. So, the total commission ranges from 3.5% to 4.5%. If you have a nice home and are willing to pay more to sell quickly, consider an iBuyer (“i" is for instant), such as Opendoor, Offerpad, Redfin Now or Zillow Offers. If your home meets their criteria, they'll make you a free, no-obligation purchase offer. If you accept the offer, you can close for cash in as little as a week. You'll pay from 6% to 14% of the home's sale price, but you won't pay fix-up or carrying costs while you're trying to sell. If your home is older and in poor condition, you could list it with an agent to sell “as is" to fixer-uppers, flippers or landlords. You'll pay the usual agent's commission, but no fix-up expenses. If you want the quickest possible sale with the least hassle and expense, you could sell directly to a real-estate investor. To find one, ask for a referral from a local real estate agent, search by location at HomeVestors.com or WeBuyHouses.com, or respond to one of the "we want to buy your house" or “sell your house fast" solicitations you've probably received in the mail. (For more information, see Retirees, Sell Your Home Without a Hassle.)   Set the Right Price Your agent should provide you with a comparative market analysis, which examines the selling prices of homes similar to yours in size, amenities and location. You'll want to use it as a guide to help set your asking price. If it's a seller's market (meaning the demand is strong, but the supply is insufficient) and home prices continue to rise, you may get multiple bids that drive up your original list price. If buyers have the advantage and home prices are flattening or declining, you may have to negotiate a lower sale price or offer to pay some of the buyer's closing expenses. Remember, whatever purchase price you agree upon, it still must pass muster with an appraisal of the home's current market value, which protects the buyer and the mortgage lender.   Be Prepared to Disclose Your Home's Defects It's the law in most places to disclose knowledge of any material defects. You may be required to reveal known problems of your home's roof, walls, foundation, basement, plumbing, heating and electrical systems, as well as past pest problems and the presence of hazardous materials such as radon, lead paint and asbestos. Your state may even require you to fill out a standard disclosure form. Honesty is always the best policy. Even if you don't disclose problems, the buyer's home inspector is likely to discover them and your lack of transparency could cause the buyer to walk away. And, if he or she discovers the problem after the sale closes, you could be sued for misrepresentation or omission in your disclosure. You could proactively hire a home inspector to identify small and big problems that you can have fixed before listing your property. The cost of a home inspection will run you about $300 to $400, according to HomeAdvisor.com. The fee may vary by region and sometimes on the age, size and construction of the house.   Protect Yourself and Your Home in the COVID-19 Era As a seller, you have control over how your property is shown. This past spring, as the coronavirus outbreak emerged, many home sellers delayed listing their homes for sale or temporarily took them off the market. Meanwhile, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) strongly urged members to conduct virtual showings and to limit in-person activity as much as possible. Many of the organization's other recommendations will persist as states and localities reopen for business. Your agent should discuss them with you. They include:   When Buyers Show Up, Leave! So you've done your best to prepare your home for sale: You've cleaned, decluttered, repaired and staged. Now, when it's being shown, leave the premises. You want the buyers to feel comfortable looking around your house, not wondering where they'll encounter you lurking next. If they have any questions, their agent will call yours. Besides, when you meet with buyers face-to-face, you might inadvertently reveal how motivated you are to sell and other clues that erode your negotiating power. With social distancing, it's probably safer not to be there, too.   Bridge the Gap Between Homes You may face the dilemma of wanting to buy your next home before having sold your previous one. Where will you get the money to make a down payment and close on the new home? You have a couple of options: You can make your purchase offer contingent on the sale of your current home. Sellers are most likely to accept the contingency if the local market is hot and your previous home is likely to sell quickly. (However, if they have received multiple offers, they may not accept an offer with any contingencies.) Or, you can borrow the money to cover a down payment and closing costs on your new home until your old one sells. Bridge loans, a type of home-equity loan formerly used for this purpose, have all but disappeared. But you can borrow the money you need from a home-equity line of credit secured by your current home, from an IRA or a 401(k), or from your investment portfolio. Ultimately, you'll want to weigh the risk that you could end up owning and paying mortgages on two homes for some time. The safest strategy is to sell first, then buy. For more about borrowing from your retirement accounts to buy a home, see How Home Buyers Can Tap an IRA Penalty-Free and Should You Borrow From Your 401(k)?   So You Sold at a Loss . . . Don't expect Uncle Sam to lend a helping hand if you lose money on the sale of your personal residence. Plenty of homeowners experienced losses if they had to sell in the aftermath of the housing crisis beginning in mid 2006. But, even in a healthy market where home prices are rising, you could lose money if you sell before you've increased your home equity enough (through home-price appreciation and paying down your mortgage balance) to offset your cost to sell.   Next Steps If You Profit From a Home Sale If you own and live in a home for a total of 24 months within the five years prior to the date of sale, you won't owe taxes on up to $250,000 in home-sale profits if single, or $500,000 in profits if married filing jointly. The home must be your main home (for criteria, see IRS Publication 23, Selling Your Home). That means most homeowners won't pay a dime to Uncle Sam on their home-sale profits. If you're married and filing jointly, only one spouse must meet the ownership test (one of you owned the home for a total of 24 months within the five years prior to the date of sale), but both of you must meet the residence test (you both lived in the home for at least 24 months). If you inherit a home, you'll only owe taxes on the stepped-up basis of the home. For exceptions to this rule (notably for divorced spouses, widows or widowers and members of the uniformed services, foreign service, intelligence agencies or Peace Corps on qualified, extended duty), the IRS Publication 523 provides guidance: You may qualify for a partial exclusion of any gain if the main reason for your home sale was a change in workplace location, a health issue, or an unforeseeable event.   The Tax Impact of Selling a Deceased Parent's Home Say your father bought his home in 1950 for $15,000. When he died, he left you the house, which is now worth $315,000. Do you have to pay taxes on the $300,000 gain? Probably not. When you sell the house, your gain or loss will be measured from the fair market value of the home on the date your mother or father died (the tax basis) of $315,000. If you sell for more, the difference will be taxed as a long-term gain. Be sure to keep track of selling costs including the real estate agent's commission, any closing costs you pay and the cost of repairs that you agree to pay after the buyer's home inspection. You can subtract these costs from the sale price of the home to reduce taxable profit. If you sell for less and your capital losses are more than your capital gains, you can deduct the difference as a loss on your tax return. You can claim up to $3,000 of the loss annually (or $1,500 if married and filing separately), and you can carry over the balance of the loss to next year's tax return.   Source: Kiplinger

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17 Jun 2020

Advisors Management Group

When Are 2020 Estimated Tax Payments Due?

Our routines have been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic. That includes the regular process of making estimated tax payments for people who are self-employed or don't have taxes withheld from other sources of taxable income (such as interest, dividends or capital gains). In a normal year, the first estimated tax payment for 2020 would have been due April 15, and the second payment for the year would be due June 15, 2020. But, of course, nothing is normal right now. Estimated taxes are typically paid in four equal installments—one installment for each quarter of the year. For the 2020 tax year, estimated tax payments for the first and second quarter aren't due until July 15, 2020. As a result, the 2020 estimated tax payment schedule is adjusted as shown in the table below.   Due Dates for 2020 Estimated Tax Payments Payment When Income Earned in 2020 Due Date 1st Payment January 1 to March 31 July 15, 2020 2nd Payment April 1 to May 31 July 15, 2020 3rd Payment June 1 to August 31 September 15, 2020 4th Payment September 1 to December 31 January 15, 2021 You don't have to make the payment due January 15, 2021, if you file your 2020 tax return by February 1, 2021, and pay the entire balance due with your return.   No Income Until Later in the Year? You don't have to make estimated tax payments until you have income on which you will owe tax. So, for example, if you don't have any taxable income until July 2020, you won't have to make an estimated tax payment until September 15, 2020. At that point, you can either pay your entire estimated tax by September 15, or you can pay it in two installments by September 15 and February 1.   Farmers and Fishermen If at least two-thirds of your gross income is from farming or fishing, you can make just one estimated tax payment for the 2020 tax year by January 15, 2021. If you file your 2020 tax return by March 1, 2021, and pay all the tax you owe at that time, you don't need to make any estimated tax payments.   How to Pay Use Form 1040-ES to calculate and pay your estimated taxes. There are a number of ways to pay estimated taxes, including by check, cash, money order, credit card and debit card. There are many online payment options, too, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). The various payment methods are described in the instructions for Form 1040-ES.   Penalties Whether you make estimated tax payments or rely on withholding, you could be hit with a penalty if you don't pay enough tax throughout the year. The penalty doesn't apply if you owe less than $1,000 in tax. You can also avoid the penalty if your 2020 withholding or estimated tax payments equal at least 90% of your 2020 tax liability, or 100% of the tax shown on your 2019 return (110% if your 2019 adjusted gross income was more than $150,000).   Don't Forget About Your State Finally, unless you live in a state with no income tax, you probably owe estimated tax payments to your state, too. Due dates for state payments may or may not coincide with the federal dates, so be sure to check with the appropriate tax agency in your state.   Source: Kiplinger

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21 May 2020

Advisors Management Group

AMG COVID-19 Response Plan

This has been a very different couple of months with many changes in everyone’s world.  Although we haven’t been able to meet in person, AMG has continued to work for you while social distancing and following recommended guidelines.  Fortunately, our offices were already set up to accommodate that, for which we feel very blessed.  We are so fortunate to have the technology to continue working and communicating with you, we have enjoyed talking with many of you via telephone or web-conference!    We wanted to reach out to you to give you a status update and let you know our plans moving forward in response to COVID-19 and all of the changes that have come with it.  Our plan is to open our lobbies on June 1st.  This will allow us to be here for you to drop things off and for you to briefly pick things up when needed.  We have had great success with telephone and web meetings, and we will continue to offer that indefinitely from here on out for those who prefer one of those methods.  In addition, beginning June 1st, we will also be offering in-person meetings again for those who choose.  Our only preference is that you have the options you are most comfortable with to do business with us. We are taking the continued health and safety of you and our team very seriously.  We have been disinfecting regularly and maintaining social distance.  We have been keeping up on CDC and Wisconsin DHS guidance and have used this to put together our own specific COVID-19 Response Plan.  This plan is meant to continue making everyone’s health & safety a priority while getting back to delivering things and meeting in person when you desire.  You can find a detailed copy of our detailed COVID-19 Response Plan Here:  COVID-19 Response Plan  A few highlights from our COVID-19 Response Plan that are specific to our offices: Surfaces and supplies are disinfected regularly. Hand sanitizer will be available to you in our office. Phone or Web meetings will be offered to you indefinitely.  For in-person meetings, you will be shown to a private conference room to wait for your meeting or for any discussion/questions rather than wait/discuss in the lobby. Following your current in-person appointment, we will call or email you to schedule future appointments to limit those in the lobby. In the case there is a line to the front desk within the lobby, a 6-foot distance will be maintained between those in line. Internal entry doors will be propped open during business hours in an effort to reduce surfaces being touched by multiple people. For income tax return and document pick up, we will be notifying you of a timeline to stop in and pick things up.  This is in an effort to spread out the traffic stopping in upon opening.  We have hundreds of people who may stop in, so we are doing this to be proactive.  If you are unable to stop in during the timeline given or wish to wait until closer to the filing deadline, please wait a couple of weeks past your assigned timeline to stop in or schedule an appointment.  Lobby interaction will be limited to: Brief drop off/pick up of documents Payment of services We know and appreciate that there are many opinions, comfort levels, and views on how doing business should and will look like moving forward.  We want to make everyone feel comfortable while giving you options, and we plan to do so responsibly at all times.  Thank you all for your patience.  If you have any questions about our COVID-19 Response Plan, please feel free to reach out to Jenna Deets at 608-782-0200 or jennad@amgteam.com.   Sincerely, Your AMG Team    CLICK HERE for a copy of our COVID-19 Response Plan

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06 May 2020

Advisors Management Group

10 IRS Audit Red Flags for Retirees

ou may be wondering about your odds of an IRS audit. Most people can breathe easy. The vast majority of individual returns escape the IRS audit machine. In 2018, the Internal Revenue Service audited only 0.59% of all individual tax returns, and 81% of these exams were conducted by mail, meaning most taxpayers never met with an IRS agent in person. So the odds are generally pretty low that your return will be picked for review. That said, your chances of being audited or otherwise hearing from the IRS escalate depending on various factors. Math errors may draw IRS inquiry, but they'll rarely lead to a full-blown exam. Check out these 10 red flags that could increase the chances that the IRS will give the return of a retired taxpayer special, and probably unwelcome, attention.   Making a Lot of Money Although the overall individual audit rate is only about one in 170 returns, the odds increase as your income goes up, as it might if you sell a valuable piece of property or get a big payout from a retirement plan. IRS statistics for 2018 show that people with incomes between $200,000 and $1 million who do not file a Schedule C had an audit rate of 0.6%. The rate is 1.4% for Schedule C filers. Report $1 million or more of income? There's a one-in-31 chance your return will be audited. We're not saying you should try to make less money — everyone wants to be a millionaire. Just understand that the more income shown on your return, the more likely it is that you'll be hearing from the IRS.   Failing to Report All Taxable Income Failing to report taxable income from wages, dividends, pensions, IRA distributions, Social Security benefits and other sources will almost certainly draw unwanted attention from the IRS. The IRS gets copies of all the 1099s and W-2s you receive. This includes the 1099-R (reporting payouts from retirement plans, such as pensions, 401(k)s and IRAs) and 1099-SSA (reporting Social Security benefits). The IRS's computers are pretty good at matching the numbers on the forms with the income shown on your return. A mismatch sends up a red flag and causes the IRS computers to spit out a bill. So, be sure to report all income, whether or not your receive a form such as a 1099. For example, if you got paid for tutoring, giving piano lessons, driving for Uber or Lyft, dog walking or selling crafts through Etsy, the money you receive is taxable.   Taking Higher-Than-Average Deductions If deductions on your return are disproportionately large compared with your income, the IRS may pull your return for review. A large medical expense could send up a red flag, for example. But if you have the proper documentation for your deduction, don't be afraid to claim it. There's no reason to ever pay the IRS more tax than you actually owe.   Claiming Large Charitable Deductions We all know that charitable contributions are a great write-off and help you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. However, if your charitable deductions are disproportionately large compared with your income, it raises a red flag. That's because the IRS knows what the average charitable donation is for folks at your income level. Also, if you don't get an appraisal for donations of valuable property, or if you fail to file Form 8283 for noncash donations over $500, you become an even bigger audit target. And if you've donated a conservation or façade easement to a charity, chances are good that you'll hear from the IRS. Be sure to keep all your supporting documents, including receipts for cash and property contributions made during the year.   Not Taking Required Minimum Distributions The IRS wants to be sure that owners of IRAs and participants in 401(k)s and other workplace retirement plans are properly taking and reporting required minimum distributions. The agency knows that some folks age 70½ and older aren't taking their annual RMDs, and it's looking at this closely. Those who fail to take the proper amount can be hit with a penalty equal to 50% of the shortfall. Also on the IRS's radar are early retirees and others who take payouts before reaching age 59½ and who don't qualify for an exception to the 10% penalty on these early distributions. Individuals age 70½ and older must take RMDs from their retirement accounts by the end of each year. However, there's a grace period for the year in which you turn 70½: You can delay the payout until April 1 of the following year. A special rule applies to those still employed at age 70½ or older: You can delay taking RMDs from your current employer's 401(k) until after you retire (this rule doesn't apply to IRAs). The amount you have to take each year is based on the balance in each of your accounts as of December 31 of a prior year and the life-expectancy factor found in IRS Publication 590-B.   Claiming Rental Losses Claiming a large rental loss can command the IRS's attention. Normally, the passive loss rules prevent the deduction of rental real estate losses. But there are two important exceptions. If you actively participate in the renting of your property, you can deduct up to $25,000 of loss against your other income. This $25,000 allowance phases out at higher income levels. A second exception applies to real estate professionals who spend more than 50% of their working hours and more than 750 hours each year materially participating in real estate as developers, brokers, landlords or the like. They can write off rental losses. The IRS actively scrutinizes large rental real estate losses. If you're managing properties in your retirement, you may qualify under the second exception. Or, if you sell a rental property that produced suspended passive losses, the sale opens the door for you to deduct the losses. Just be ready to explain things if a big rental loss prompts questions from the IRS.   Running a Business Schedule C is a treasure trove of tax deductions for self-employed people. But it's also a gold mine for IRS agents, who know from experience that self-employed people sometimes claim excessive deductions and don't report all their income. The IRS looks at both higher-grossing sole proprietorships and smaller ones. Sole proprietors reporting at least $100,000 of gross receipts on Schedule C, cash-intensive businesses (hair salons, restaurants and the like), and business owners who report a substantial loss have a higher audit risk.   Writing Off a Loss for a Hobby Your chances of "winning" the audit lottery increase if you file a Schedule C with large losses from an activity that might be a hobby, such as dog breeding, jewelry making, or coin and stamp collecting. Your audit risk grows if you have multiple years of hobby losses and you have lots of income from other sources. IRS agents are specially trained to sniff out those who improperly deduct hobby losses. So be careful if your retirement pursuits include trying to convert a hobby into a moneymaking venture. To be eligible to deduct a loss, you must be running the activity in a business-like manner and have a reasonable expectation of making a profit. If your activity generates profit three out of every five years (or two out of seven years for horse breeding), the law presumes that you're in business to make a profit, unless the IRS establishes otherwise. If you're audited, the IRS is going to make you prove you have a legitimate business and not a hobby. Be sure to keep supporting documents for all expenses. Failing to Report Gambling Winnings or Claiming Big Losses Whether you're playing the slots or betting on the horses, one sure thing you can count on is that Uncle Sam wants his cut. Recreational gamblers must report winnings as other income on the 1040 form. Professional gamblers show their winnings on Schedule C. Failure to report gambling winnings can draw IRS attention, especially because the casino or other venue likely reported the amounts on Form W-2G. Claiming large gambling losses can also be risky. You can deduct these only to the extent that you report gambling winnings. Writing off gambling losses but not reporting gambling income is sure to invite scrutiny. Also, taxpayers who report large losses from their gambling-related activity on Schedule C get an extra look from IRS examiners, who want to make sure that these folks really are gaming for a living.   Neglecting to Report a Foreign Bank Account You may be traveling more in retirement, but be careful about sending your money abroad. The IRS is intensely interested in people with money stashed outside the U.S., and U.S. authorities have had lots of success getting foreign banks to disclose account information. Failure to report a foreign bank account can lead to severe penalties. Make sure that if you have any such accounts, you properly report them. This means electronically filing FinCEN Form 114 (FBAR) by April 15 to report foreign accounts that total more than $10,000 at any time during the previous year. And those with a lot more financial assets abroad may also have to attach IRS Form 8938 to their timely filed income tax returns.   Source: Kiplinger

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23 Apr 2020

Advisors Management Group

Stimulus Check Tracker: Payment Status Not Available Message

With a fair amount of fanfare, the IRS recently released its "Get My Payment" tool. This online app—located on the IRS website at irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment—is supposed to let you: Check the status of your stimulus payment; Confirm your payment type (paper check or direct deposit); Get a projected direct deposit or paper check delivery date (or find out if a payment hasn't been scheduled); and Enter your bank account information for direct deposit if the IRS doesn't have your direct deposit information and they haven't sent your payment yet. Unfortunately, however, many people (millions?) can't get any information out of this tool. They keep getting a message saying: "Payment Status Not Available. According to information that we have on file, we cannot determine your eligibility for a payment at this time." It can be very frustrating if you're one of the people getting this message every day—believe me, I know, because I'm one of them. According to the IRS, there are several reasons why the "Get My Payment" tool will give you the "Payment Status Not Available" messages, including: The IRS hasn't finished processing your 2019 return; The tool doesn't have your data yet; You used the "Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here" tool, but the IRS hasn’t processed your entry yet; You receive Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement Board benefits, or Veterans Administration benefits, and the necessary information from the agency that administers those benefit programs hasn't been loaded onto the IRS system yet (for people who don't normally file a tax return; or You're not eligible for a payment. For many of us, it looks like we'll just need to wait a little longer. The IRS updates the tool once per day (overnight), and they're working on adding more data to allow more people to use the tool. So, I guess working a little harder on being patient will do me some good. source: Kiplinger

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20 Apr 2020

Advisors Management Group

10 Fun Things to Do in Your Free Time That Cost Nothing

GOING STIR CRAZY YET? In these self-quarantining times, we're all looking for something fun to do in our free time. Some of us, like kids who are going to virtual school and no longer have after-school activities, may have a lot more free time than they know what to do with. You can clean out your garage or organize the pantry some other day. For now, let's think of ways to entertain ourselves. Here are 10 ideas:   Work on Your Family Tree Clémence Scouten owns AtticsAnonymous.com. She helps people publish books about their family history. Even if you don't go as far as writing a memoir, Scouten says that there are a lot of fun things you can do alone or with your kids. "Work on a family tree together," Scouten suggests. "Draw it. Do it in PowerPoint. Include photos of people. Draw countries of origin." She says you could have a storytelling hour where you tell family stories. You could interview the grandparents on the phone. "Record them if you can," Scouten says. "There are free genealogy websites. A big one is familysearch.org." If you don't have kids or they're out of the house, Souten says this would be a good time to organize your boxes of family papers and photos and old documents. "You could create an e-collection to share with the whole family," she says.   Pull Out the Board Games This is one of those obvious ideas, but have you done it lately? Surely you have a Monopoly board somewhere. Chess? Risk? It only sounds cheesy until you start doing it and then remember why board games became so popular in the first place.   Work a Jigsaw Puzzle You might have to buy one, but find a challenging one, which could lead to hours of fun. Get some puzzle glue and a cheap frame after you're finished, and you have art to hang in your home.   Set Up a Craft Corner That's an idea from Amy Maliga, a financial educator with Phoenix-based Take Charge America, a nonprofit financial counseling agency. She is envisioning it for families with young children, though arguably a crafty adult might enjoy this, too. Maliga suggests: "Set up a small table in the corner of the family room – or, if weather allows, on the patio – with paper, glue, stickers, paints, crayons, glitter (if you dare!) and other craft supplies." She suggests keeping the table stocked at all times, so it's ready to go whenever anybody's creative juices are flowing, and to cover the table with a sheet or tablecloth when it's not being used to minimize visual clutter.   Look Through Your Old Yearbooks "Even though you're probably connected with some of those folks on social media, there's nothing like paging through yearbooks and reading the messages to make those memories come flooding back," Maliga says. She adds: "If you have kids, they'll get a big kick out of seeing the big '80s hair or crazy '90s fashions and hearing some of your best stories." Of course, some parents might think that's a little overly optimistic.   Start a Blog "Now is a great time to set an online project such as a blog, a podcast or a YouTube channel. There's even the potential for these things to gain some momentum and make some money over the medium to long term," says Ben Taylor, founder of the HomeWorkingClub.com, an online website for freelancers and home workers. "The great thing about these projects, beyond being highly diverting, is that they involve learning new skills and building something tangible," Taylor says. "Individuals can work alone, and parents can involve children. Younger ones love to be videoed or 'interviewed,' and the older ones will enjoy things like sound and video editing." He adds: "Yes, there are some small potential costs for those who want to take things to the next level, but there are free or cheap options for everything."   Go On a Nature Hike It'll get you out of your home and into the great outdoors. Depending where you go – some nature parks have admission fees – it's often free. AllTrails.com is a good website to check out to find trails near you. And if you're a camper, this may be an excellent time to find somewhere remote and pitch a tent.   Read a Book Yes, you could order a new book, but if we're talking free and cheap, surely you have some favorite titles lying around the house that you would like to revisit – or ones you purchased that you haven't gotten around to yet. And if you're seeking a new book, try your library. You can go there without going there. Maliga suggests getting the Libby app. "It's a free app that connects you to your local library and allows you to check out e-books and audiobooks. You'll need a current library card to get started," she says.   Bake a Cake Or cookies. If you have some eggs, flour, sugar and other staples, you might even want to try to create something out of scratch. Or try out a new recipe and cook something special for dinner.   Write a Letter to a Family Member We're not talking about sending an email but writing an old-fashioned letter. Even better, send that letter to a relative at a nursing home or take a cue from Jennifer Buchholz, mother of three and director of marketing for The English Contractor & Remodeling Services in Cincinnati. You could even send a letter to someone else's relative. She says that her son's high school soccer coach started thinking about his wife's 98-year-old grandfather in a nursing home who is unable to have visitors. "So he challenged the team to write notes to residents at area nursing homes and hospitals as part of their homework today," Buchholz says. "In my house, we're getting the entire family involved, sending notes, pictures and poems. Not only do we hope to send a bit of cheer to someone who might need it, but we're having fun as a family in planning out our letters." source: U.S News

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26 Mar 2020

Advisors Management Group

Important Update from Advisors Management Group

AMG, as part of the financial services industry, is considered an essential service and therefore we will continue to remain open for operations other than in-person appointments and tax return drop off/pick up.  We will have a combination of team members here in the office as well as working remotely, and we want to reassure you that we are working to fulfill the ongoing management of your portfolio and/or tax preparation and accounting needs.  Another thing to be aware of is the extension of the federal tax filing deadline from April 15th to July 15th, which most states are following as well. AS of March 23, 2020, Gov. Evers of Wisconsin announced a “Safer at Home” order that is in place until at least April 24, 2020.  In an effort to adhere to the Safer at Home order, and to support the health and safety of the community as well as the AMG Team, our lobbies are closed for in-person traffic effective as of March 24, 2020. We will reopen the lobbies upon upon the lifting of the Safer at Home order.  If you have an appointment scheduled in the next couple of weeks, you will be receiving a phone call from our office to discuss whether you prefer a phone or web meeting, or to postpone over the next few days.  Any meeting can be done remotely…we encourage you to keep your scheduled meeting with us.  In the meantime, we also encourage you to send us your tax information if you have not already done so.  We want to be able to get your return filed so you can claim your refund or plan for any amount due as soon as possible.  There are a few ways you can still get your information to us: Securely upload to our website (call our office if you do not have a login already) Securely email to us (call or email any of us to request the encrypted email thread) Mail via USPS, UPS, or FedEx We will get to work on things right away upon receiving your information. As always, you can call or email us at any time and we will respond and be accessible as usual this way. We wish you the best and hope everyone is staying healthy.   Regards, Your AMG Team

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12 Mar 2020

Advisors Management Group

10 Surprising Things That Are Taxable

If you work for a living, you know that your wages are taxable, and you're probably aware that some investment income is taxed, too. But the IRS doesn't stop there. If you've picked up some extra cash through luck, skill or criminal activities, there's a good chance you owe taxes on that money as well. To avoid being caught off guard on April 15, take a look at our list of 10 surprising things that are actually taxable. If you collected any of the income or property on the list, make sure you declare it on your next tax return!   Scholarships If you receive a scholarship to cover tuition, fees and books, you don't have to pay taxes on the money. But if your scholarship also covers room and board, travel and other expenses, that portion of the award is taxable. Students who receive financial aid in exchange for work, such as serving as a teaching or research assistant, must also pay tax on that money, even if they use the proceeds to pay tuition.   Gambling Winnings What happens in Vegas doesn't necessarily stay in Vegas. Gambling income includes (but isn't limited to) winnings from lotteries, horse races, casinos and sports betting (including fantasy sports). The payer is required to issue you a Form W2-G (which will also be reported to the IRS) if you win $1,200 or more from bingo or slot machines, $1,500 or more from keno, more than $5,000 from a poker tournament, or $600 or more from other wagers if your take is more than 300 times the amount of your bet. But even if you don't receive a W2-G, the IRS expects you to report your gambling proceeds on your tax return. The good news: If you itemize, your gambling losses are deductible, but only to the extent of the winnings you report as income. For example, if you won $4,000 last year and had $5,000 in losing bets, your deduction for the losses is limited to $4,000. You can't deduct the balance against other income or carry it forward. Your state may want a piece of the action, too. Your home state will generally tax all your income (if it has an income tax)—including gambling winnings. But also watch out for a tax bill if you place a winning bet in another state. You won't be taxed twice, though. The state where you live should give you a tax credit for the taxes you pay to the other state. Also, check to see if your state allows a deduction for gambling losses.   Cancelled Debt Don't get too excited if a credit card company says you don't have to pay off the rest of your balance. That's because debt that is cancelled or otherwise discharged for less than the amount you owe is generally treated as taxable income. This applies to credit card bills, car loans, mortgages, or any other debt that you owe. So, for example, if your bank says you don't have to pay $2,000 of the $6,000 you still owe on a car loan, you have $2,000 of cancellation of debt income that you must report on your next tax return. There are some exceptions to the general rule, such as for certain student loans, debts discharged in bankruptcy, qualified farm indebtedness and a few other types of debt. Also, in the case of "nonrecourse" debt—i.e., where the lender can repossess any collateral property if you fail to pay, but you're not personally liable for the unpaid debt—any cancelled debt is not considered taxable income (although you might realize gain or loss from the repossession). If you do have a debt forgiven, the creditor may send you a Form 1099-C showing the amount of cancelled debt. The IRS will get a copy of the form, too—so don't think Uncle Sam won't know about it.   Stolen Property If you robbed a bank, embezzled money or staged an art heist last year, the IRS expects you to pay taxes on the proceeds. "Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income," the IRS says. Bribes are also taxable. In reality, few criminals report their ill-gotten gains on their tax returns. But if you're caught, the feds can add tax evasion to the list of charges against you. That's what happened to notorious gangster Al Capone, who served 11 years for tax evasion. Capone never filed a tax return, the IRS says.   Buried Treasure If you unearth a cache of gold coins in your backyard or discover sunken treasure while deep-sea diving, the IRS wants a piece of your booty. Found property that was lost or abandoned is taxable at its fair market value in the first year it's your undisputed possession, the IRS says. The precedent for the IRS's "treasure trove" rule dates back to 1964, when a couple discovered $4,467 in a used piano they had purchased for $15. The IRS said the couple owed income taxes on the money, and a U.S. District Court agreed.   Gifts from Your Employer Ordinarily, gifts aren't taxable, even if they're worth a lot of money. But if your employer gives you a new set of golf clubs to recognize a job well done (or to persuade you to reject a job offer from a competitor), you'll probably owe taxes on the value of your new irons. More than 50 years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that a gift from an employer can be excluded from the employee's income if it was made out of "detached and disinterested generosity." Gifts that reward an employee for his or her services don't meet that standard, the court said. Gifts that help promote the company don't meet that standard, either.   Bitcoin While you can use bitcoin to purchase a variety of goods and services, the IRS considers bitcoin—along with other cryptocurrencies—to be an asset. If the bitcoin you used to make a purchase is worth more than you paid for it, you're expected to pay taxes on your profits at capital gains rates—just like stocks and bonds. As the use of cryptocurrency has increased, the IRS has begun to crack down. In 2019, it sent letters to more than 10,000 people who may not have reported transactions in virtual currencies. If your employer pays you in bitcoin or some other virtual currency, it must be reported on your W-2 form, and you must include the fair market value of the currency in your income. It's also subject to federal income tax withholding and payroll taxes.   Bartering When you exchange property or services in lieu of cash, the fair market value of the goods and services are fully taxable and must be included as income on Form 1040 for both parties. But an informal exchange of similar services on a noncommercial basis, such as carpooling, is not taxable. If you exchanged property or services through a barter exchange, you should expect to receive a Form 1099-B (or a similar statement) in the mail. It will show the value of cash, property, services, credits or scrip you received from bartering. Every year, thousands of young, healthy women donate their eggs to infertile couples. Payments for this service generally range from $6,500 to $30,000, according to Egg Donation, Inc., a company that matches donors with couples. Those payments are taxable income, according to the U.S. Tax Court. Fertility clinics typically send donors and the IRS a Form 1099 documenting the payment.   The Nobel Prize If you were selected for this prestigious honor—worth more than $900,000 in 2019—you must pay taxes on it. Other awards that recognize your accomplishments, such as the Pulitzer Prize for journalists, are also taxable. The only way to avoid a tax hit is to direct the money to a tax-exempt charity before receiving it. That's what President Obama did when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. If you accept the money and then give it to charity, you probably will have to pay taxes on some of it because the IRS limits charitable deductions to 60% of your adjusted gross income. Source: Kiplinger

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27 Feb 2020

Advisors Management Group

What Not to Keep in Your Wallet

One of the worst feelings is reaching for your wallet and finding it's not there. Panic ensues: Did you leave it at home? Drop it? Were you the victim of a pickpocket? Following our advice won't salve that panic, but it may lessen it. If your wallet is stuffed fat with personal and financial information, know that much of that information can be exploited by identity thieves. All the bad guys need to get started is your name and Social Security number. That alone can lead to bogus loan applications and the opening of fraudulent accounts. It can get worse if they can steal from your wallet your government-issued photo ID and doctor the image. We reached out to consumer protection experts to identify the things you should immediately purge from your wallet. Oh, and one quick tip before we dive in: Photocopy the front and back of whatever remains in your wallet. That way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you can at least quickly and easily file reports with the appropriate government agencies and financial institutions.   Social Security Card Losing your Social Security number is a sure ticket to identity theft. Once stolen, rogue identity thieves could use that number to get loans in your name or obtain credit cards. For that reason, identity theft experts say, never carry your Social Security card -- or even a piece of paper with your Social Security number on it. If you need it for one-off identification purposes -- say, closing on a home loan or filing for benefits -- go home directly from that appointment and stow it in a secure location. That task done, make sure nothing else in your wallet has your Social Security number on it, including other forms of identification. States can no longer display your SSN on newly issued driver's licenses, state ID cards and motor-vehicle registrations. However, if you still have any old photo IDs with your Social Security number on them, request a new ID immediately. Even if there's an additional fee, it's worth it to protect your identity. Password Cheat Sheet We all have them, someplace: password cheat sheets. That's because the average American uses at least seven different passwords to access everything from ATMs to credit card accounts. The smart play, experts say, is to have individual passwords made up of unique combinations of numbers, letters and symbols that you change regularly. But how do you remember them all? For 73% of people, according to a 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, it's a cheat sheet. And one of the worst places for a password cheat sheet with your ATM card's PIN is your wallet. There are better options: If you have to keep passwords jotted down somewhere, keep them in a locked box in your house. You should also explore a digital password manager. It's also a good idea to enable two-factor authentication on any account that allows you to. You'll enter your username and password as usual, but the account will then confirm your identity by asking you to enter a code that has been sent to your smartphone or e-mail address.   Spare Keys A lost wallet is bad enough. A lost wallet containing your spare house key along with your ID that shows your home address is an invitation for real-world thieves to break into your home. Security experts say don't put your property, and your family, at risk. (And even if your home isn't robbed after losing a spare key, you'll likely spend over $100 to pay a locksmith to change the locks for peace of mind.) The best move is to keep your spare key with a relative or friend. If you're ever locked out, it may take a little bit longer to retrieve your backup key, but that's a relatively minor inconvenience.   Checks Old school, yes, but some of us still write checks, though far fewer than back in the day. And for emergency purposes, our parents said, carry a blank check in your wallet, "just in case." That's not good advice. Blank checks are risky. In the wrong hands, a blank check could be used to quickly drain money from your bank account. And even if the stolen check isn't used, the check has on it your bank account and routing numbers, a target for electronic withdrawals from your account. To pile on, that blank check will also likely have your home address on it (and some people have added their Social Security numbers, too, another no-no). The better option: Only carry with you the check or checks you think you might need immediately, and leave the checkbook at home. Passport A passport, like any government-issued photo ID, can be a weapon used against your finances if it falls into the wrong hands, ID-theft experts warn. It could be used to travel in your name, get a new copy of your Social Security card or open bank accounts. If you're thinking, "Who carries their passport book in their wallet?" there are passport wallets with slots for cash, credit cards and more. When traveling in the U.S., have with you only your driver's license or other personal ID. Leave your passport book and wallet-size passport card in a secure place such as a fire-proof home safe. When traveling abroad, experts advise, carry a photocopy of your passport and leave the original in a hotel safe.   Multiple Credit Cards You could slim down that fat wallet by rolling with fewer credit cards in it. That way, if your wallet is lost or stolen, you won't have as many credit cards that you'll have to cancel. Our recommendation: Carry one rewards card for everyday purchases as well as a backup card for unplanned purchases or emergencies. And as we mentioned, photocopy the front and back of everything in your wallet, or write the cancellation phone numbers or websites for your credit cards on a piece of paper at home. The "lost or stolen" number is typically on the back of your credit card, but if your credit card is stolen, that won't do you any good.   Birth Certificate Your birth certificate, stolen, won't get anyone very far. But if they have it in conjunction with other types of fraudulent IDs, security experts say, thieves could do some major damage to your finances. Be especially vigilant on the rare occasions when you're required to carry all of your most sensitive documents at the same time. One example of that is at a mortgage closing, when you might need to bring your birth certificate, Social Security card and passport. Don't let them out of your sight, and take them straight home before you celebrate that closing. It's not a good idea to leave them in your car.   A Stack of Receipts You don't need all those receipts jammed into your wallet. While businesses have not been allowed to print on paper receipts more than the last five digits of your credit card number for years, ID-theft experts say skilled thieves could use those last five digits and merchant information on receipts to phish for the remaining numbers on your credit card (quite often, your name is also on those receipts). Remove those receipts from your wallet daily and shred them. If you need to retain receipts, for possible returns or warranties, ask the merchant to skip the paper and send you a digital receipt instead. Most retailers will. If you have a printed receipt you need to keep, consider making it digital and storing it securely in the cloud.   Medicare Card Many retirees still may have old Medicare cards with their Social Security numbers printed on them in their wallets. Carry only your new Medicare card. Medicare has stopped issuing Medicare cards with Social Security numbers on them and replaced them with new, paper cards. The new Medicare cards have a number on it that's unique to you. If you have an old Medicare card with your Social Security number on it, remove it from your wallet and replace it with the new card. Shred the Medicare card that has your Social Security number on it.   Gift Cards Many of us carry gift cards in our wallets just in case we happen to end up in the retailer or restaurant that the card is good for. That's not such a great idea. Retailers don't ask for ID when using gift cards, after all, because your name isn't on them (even though the Home Depot gift card you got on Father's Day does say "To Dad" on the back). That means anyone who rifles through your lost wallet can redeem those gift cards same as cash -- no questions asked. The smarter way to use them is to leave them at home until you know for sure you are headed to that destination where you can use those gift cards. Source: Kiplinger

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13 Feb 2020

Advisors Management Group

Valentine’s Day Spending Expected to Break Records Again

It’s no surprise that consumers buy gifts for their significant others on Valentine’s Day, but a new survey shows that many are spending more on their pets, family members and friends. The Valentine’s Day shopping season is stronger than ever, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation, a retail trade association, and market research firm Prosper Insights & Analytics. The survey of 7,267 adults found that consumers expect to spend an average of $196.31 this holiday, up 21% from last year’s record of $161.96. Overall spending for Valentine’s Day is projected to reach a record $27.4 billion, which would be up 32% from last year’s record of $20.7 billion. Valentine’s Day not just for romance The additional money isn’t necessarily being spent on romantic partners. In fact, pets may be one of the biggest recipients of the increased Valentine’s Day spending, as 27% of consumers said they will spend money on their pets for Valentine’s Day, up from 17% in 2010. While consumers spend, on average, 52% of their Valentine’s Day budget on spouses and significant others, that percentage is down from 61% 10 years ago. In that same time period, the share of the Valentine’s Day budget spent on co-workers has risen from 3% to 7%. The share of the budget spent on Valentine’s Day gifts for pets has doubled from 3% to 6%. Survey respondents said they expected to spend, on average: $101.21 on significant others, up from $93.24 last year $30.19 on family members other than spouses, up from $29.87 last year $14.69 on friends, up from $9.78 last year $14.45 on their children’s teachers and classmates, up from $8.63 last year $12.96 on co-workers, up from $7.78 last year $12.21 on pets, up from $6.94 last year $10.60 on others, up from $5.72 last year The biggest spenders will be those between ages 35 and 44, who expect to put down $358.78 for Valentine’s Day. That’s followed by those between ages 25 and 34, who expect to spend $307.51, and those between ages 18 and 24, who expect to spend $109.31. Men plan to outspend women $291.15 to $106.22. Consumers expect to spend the most money ($5.8 billion) on jewelry, followed by: $4.3 billion on an evening out $2.9 billion on clothing $2.4 billion on candy $2.3 billion on flowers $2 billion on gift cards $1.3 billion on greeting cards While Valentine’s Day may be a great time to show the people (and pets) who mean a lot to you how much you care, make sure you follow common-sense money rules. For example, take the time to create a Valentine’s Day budget before you start spending money. Not only might you end up spending less, but you may less likely experience shopper’s guilt after Valentine’s Day is over. Source: Yahoo Finance 

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