Are You Hurting Your Own Leadership Potential?

Are you on the path to leadership? Perhaps you’ve already received a promotion and you’re well on your way? So what’s next? Do you continue down the same path that got you where you are today? Or, do you look for new ways to improve so you can get to the next step?  

It’s easy to stick with what’s working. But what got you one promotion might not be enough to get you the next one. In order to continue on your path to leadership, you have to look beyond the past. After all, you don’t want to get in your own way and impede your development and growth. So if you want to keep moving forward make sure you’re not making these mistakes and sabotaging your own potential. 

  1. Focus on a direction instead of a task. No one likes working for micromanagers. Instead of staying ultra focused on the task at hand, set a focus for yourself and for those you lead toward a specific direction. 
  1. Don’t say yes to everything. While it’s great to be a doer and get involved in as much as you can, there might be someone else that can do it better. Additionally, if you say yes to too many things, you might not be able to accomplish them all, and every task will suffer. 
  1. Ask questions. Always ask why. Don’t just do things blindly. Ask yourself is there is a better way. Additionally, if something isn’t working then ask questions to find out why and more importantly how to do it better.
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Tax Changes That Could Be Better Over the Long Haul

Thanks to the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) there have already been many changes to the country’s tax law. Americans will really see many of those changes come tax season in early 2019. Whether you like the changes or not, there are some tax breaks that could end up being better in the long run. Here are three to consider.

Capital Gains Tax – the Trump administration has openly discussed the idea of indexing the basis of an investment to inflation, which would lower the amount of a capital gain that could be taxed. Whether or not this happens, it does make some sense.

Indexing an investment’s purchase price to inflation could lower the loss amount a person could claim as a deduction. Investments that lose money could then be carried forward to future tax returns when future gains absorb the losses. Additionally, as the market keeps ticking up, the idea of increasing that basis might help encourage investors to hold onto highly appreciated stocks longer.

Estate Tax – thanks to the estate tax threshold being raised to $11 million per person, wealthy individuals must decide whether to donate to heirs now or wait till they pass on. By giving it away now, the money can grow in the heir’s estate. And it would only be subject to capital gains.

The downside is gifts given through an estate are subject to a step-up basis. That means the assets are valued on the date the giver dies. However, if you were worth $25 million and you made a $10 million gift now, and you lived another 10 years, you could save as much as $4 million dollars at 5 percent growth rate.

Charitable Giving – because the standard deduction has been raised most people will no longer do itemized deductions. That could be an issue for many wealthy taxpayers. Numerous wealthy individuals are prone to donate, but unless they donate enough to surpass the $12,000 threshold they no longer get a tax break for their donation.

One option to overcome this would be to donate five years worth of donations into a donor-advised fund. If you donated $5,000 for each year you would easily surpass the $12,000 threshold. You would also be able to claim a deduction and give out the money over the five-year period.

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You Can No longer Claim These Tax Deductions in 2018

Believe it or not, 2018 is already two-thirds of the way over. That means before you know it, it will be time to start thinking about taxes again. The fact is it’s always a good time to think about taxes, because the more you know the better prepared you will be.

The 2019 tax season (for the 2018 tax year) stands to be a busy one. With so many changes from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, taxpayers need to be ready. For example, there are numerous tax deductions that you might have enjoyed in the past that will no longer be available come tax time next year. Here are a few big ones to be aware of.

  • Personal exemptions will no longer exist, which means taxpayers will lose $4,050 for every dependent they claim.
  • The laws governing the mortgage interest deduction from a home equity loan have changed. Most current homeowners will not be affected. But anyone purchasing a home going forward will only be able to deduct mortgage interest on debt up to $750,000.
  • Taxpayers can no longer claim moving expenses starting in 2018, nor can they claim job expenses.
  • Getting your taxes prepared professionally is a good idea, but starting this year you can no longer claim those expenses as a deduction.
  • The casualty and theft loss deduction is now only available to people living in areas that are under a presidential declaration as a disaster area.

These are just a few of the deductions that will no longer exist in 2018. For more info on how the Tax Cut and Jobs Act might affect your tax return, contact GROCO.

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Will New Alimony Tax Rules Affect Your Retirement?

One of the lesser talked about changes from the Tax Cut and Jobs Act is how it will affect alimony. Starting in 2019, the big difference is that the person who makes the alimony payments will no longer get to claim that money as a deduction. On the other side, the person receiving the payment does not have to pay taxes on that money. That is exactly the opposite of how it used to work.

But there is another change that could offset that new rule. That’s because there are now rules on how divorced people on both sides may or may not use their retirement accounts.

Under the new law, you can now make alimony payments by transferring funds from your retirement account to the payee. Doing this means you could still get the same benefit as before. By paying through an IRA you don’t pay tax on the money you use for your alimony payments. In addition, the receiving spouse would be taxed once they receive the money from the IRA.

However, the receiving spouse must be 59½ to take money from the IRA. If not they will also pay a 10 percent penalty on the withdrawals. Using a retirement account to pay alimony would have to be set up in the divorce agreement. And the payee should make sure that using funds directly form his or her retirement account makes sense.

There is another thing to consider. If you go this route, you can no longer invest money from retirement funds in an individual retirement account because those assets are no longer considered taxable income.

 

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Top Tax Planning Tips for Self-Employed

People who work for themselves enjoy several perks and benefits. However, a nice tax break is not necessarily one of those perks. Because self-employed taxpayers have to pay their own payroll tax – the entire 15.3 percent Social Security and Medicare tax – they often get taxed heavily.

There is some relief starting this year thanks to the Tax Cut and Job Acts and a new 20% “pass-through deduction.” That means self-employed workers can now deduct 20 percent from their self-employment income before taxes. That will definitely help, but there are some other steps you can take to help you reduce your tax bill.

Start by estimating your business income. If you’re going to earn a lot and qualify for a higher tax bracket, then start looking for deductions. Taking as many deductions as possible is a good idea if you’re going to end up in a higher bracket.

It’s also a good idea to time your income. In other words, you can do your billing towards the end of the year and use it to your advantage. You can also sell assets before or after the end of the year, based on your estimated income and tax bill.

It’s also a good idea to time your expenditures. You can even purchase items on December 31 and still get the benefit of depreciation for the entire year. Lastly, make sure you count your medical insurance premiums as a deduction. This can help save you big.

These are just a few of the things you can do to help reduce your tax bill when you’re self-employed. For more valuable tips to save on taxes contact GROCO.

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Stock Market Moves for Newbies

Are you new to the stock market? Are you still on the outside looking in? You likely have plenty of questions. There are countless stock market strategies out there, so which ones are the best for new investors? Here are a few to consider. 

The IRA Route – if you have an IRA, either a Roth or a traditional one, you can use that account to invest in the stock market. By using an IRA, instead of a typical 401k plan, you often have a lot more choices in how to invest your money. 

Invest Your Extra – getting into the stock market is a good idea for just about anyone. However, if you don’t have a surplus of income, then it might be better to wait. Investing only the money you won’t need for the next five years is a safe way to go. 

Be Passive – that doesn’t mean you don’t take any risks. But it does mean you pool multiple stocks instead of betting on one single company stock. This creates a good balance because the strong stocks help offset the weaker ones. Over time the passive stock strategy historically offers much higher gains than aggressive strategies. 

Limit Active Stock Trades – that being said, it’s ok to invest in individual company stocks. However, you should limit the amount you put into these kinds of stocks to 10 percent of your portfolio. 

Stock trading always has risk, but using these tips can help reduce the risk, which is important for many new investors. 

 

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Republican Senator Wants to Reduce Capital Gains Taxes

Now that the republican-led congress has pushed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) through, it’s looking to continue the momentum. Next on the radar are capital gains taxes. And recently, republican senator Devin Nunes, from California, introduced legislation that would lower the amount taxpayers fork over for capital gains. 

Nunes, who is a senior member of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, argues that indexing capital gains to inflation would build off the TCJA and incentive investment. Nunes says the bill would continue the tax-cutting trend started by the TCJA. He said: “This is a common-sense reform that will remove an unjust tax, contribute to economic growth, and help both large and small investors keep more of their own money.” 

Currently, people pay capital gains taxes on the difference between the amount they pay for the stock and the amount they earn when they sell it. The new bill would change that formula. Instead investors would pay the difference between how much they paid for the investment, plus inflation, and how much the investment was sold for. 

Many conservatives are pushing the Treasury Department administration to make it happen. However, democrats say the Treasury Department does not have that kind of power. Treasury Secretary, Steen Mnuchin, for his part, has said he thinks the battle over indexing capital gains should be fought in Congress. 

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States Taking the Federal Government to Court Over Tax Changes

The battle over the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) continues and now two several states are taking the matter to court. One of the biggest controversies of the TCJA was the reduction of the state and local income tax deduction from federal returns. Many American taxpayers used this deduction to help shave hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars off their tax bills. 

The problem is many taxpayers who live in states with high income taxes are feeling the pinch of this change, including many residents in New York and New Jersey. Several states have taken measures to find loopholes for wealth taxpayers who will be hit the hardest come tax time. 

Now, four states, including New York and Jersey, have sued the federal government in Federal District Court in Manhattan, claiming the new law is an “unconstitutional assault on their sovereignty.” 

The filing also claims, “limits on the deduction, and the potential economic damage as a result of its implementation, deliberately seeks to compel certain states to reduce their public spending.” 

The so-called “SALT deduction” places a limit on combined state and local income taxes, including property and sales taxes, of $10,000.  

While the suit has been filed, it remains to be seen how the courts will receive it, especially if it reaches the Supreme Court, which could soon lean conservative. 

 

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New Tax Reform Could Change How Dependents Affect Your Taxes

For years, taxpayers have enjoyed a certain number of personal exemptions at tax time. If nothing else they could count themselves. If you were married and dependent children then the number of exemptions just kept going up. But now things have changed under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act. So here’s what you need to know. 

Gone is the personal exemption, which in 2017 was worth $4,050 for each dependent you claimed, including yourself. That is a lot of money for families with many children or other dependents. The standard deduction has gone up, but for big families the increase will not be enough to offset the difference from losing the personal exemption. 

On the plus side, the Child Tax Credit is still in place and it could be worth as much as $2,000 per qualifying child. The exact amount will depend on your income. The credit is also refundable now. In years past it was not. That means if the credit exceeds your tax liability you receive the remaining amount as a cash credit. That could help offset losing the personal exemption, as well. 

It remains to be seen how each family with dependents is affected, but the bottom line is the new tax law could change your tax situation this year. If you want to get a better idea of your tax liability for the 2018 tax year, then click here to use the IRS withholding calculator. You should do this sooner rather than later. 

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Shareholders Pleased as Musk Decides Against Taking Tesla Private

Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk recently created quite a stir after suggesting he was considering taking his car company private. Things got even more serious last week when Musk hired Morgan Stanley to advise him regarding such a bid. 

However, news broke early Saturday morning that Musk had abandoned the idea. Although he said there was more than enough funding to do it, ultimately he decided against it because current shareholders asked him not to. 

Investors surely had their reasons for wanting the company to stay public, including a very large tax bill if Tesla had gone private. Musk had said his idea would’ve been to allow current shareholders to remain invested if they wanted, via a special fund. He also said he would’ve offered $420 a share to those who wanted to sell. 

That being said, if current shareholders would’ve stayed invested they would have had to sell their current shares and then purchase shares in the special fund. So what would the tax implications had been if that had happened? Any investors that made a profit from selling those shares would’ve been taxed no matter what they did with the money. 

For investors that got in at the beginning a hefty tax bill would have awaited them. Consider that when the company first went public it opened at a price of $19 a share. The stock has since climbed to a current rate in the neighborhood of $340 a share. For someone that originally invested $10,000, that would now be worth close to $179,000 at the current share price. With the top capital gains tax rate at 20 percent, that’s a $33,800 tax bill. 

But shareholders are breathing a sigh of relief knowing they won’t have to pay that price, at least for now. 

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