Articles and Letters

Our Recommended Top 3 Education Tax Credits

May 8, 2015

         

These days, it's not just doctors and lawyers who are saddled with years of college debt. The average American college student graduates owing $28,400, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. How can recent college graduates possibly get ahead when they owe so much? 

The government has a vested interest in keeping student debt low, and it has designed several tax incentives that can help keep expenses to a minimum. Read on to find out which one might be right for you or your family. 

* The American Opportunity Tax Credit pays up to $2,500 per college student. Here's how it works: If your household makes less than $90,000 per year (or $180,000 if filing jointly), the government will credit the first $2,000 of your student's expenses and 25 percent of the next $2,000. The $2,500 credit is tax-free, too. The American Opportunity Tax Credit is the best option for many families, and it can be claimed for four years of schooling. 

* The Qualified Tuition Program, or 529 plan, is ideal for people who are saving for college in advance. Parents or grandparents may contribute to - or even pre-pay - a student's education expenses. Here's the catch: The QTP is available only through eligible institutions, and students must be enrolled at least half-time to qualify. This option is also ideal for households that earn more than $180,000 and have the means to save money on a regular basis. 

* The Lifetime Learning Credit is perfect for households earning less than $127,000 jointly (or $64,000 for single filers). You may be credited $2,000 per return, and you can claim the credit for as long as you or your student is in school. The Lifetime Learning Credit may also be applied to courses to acquire or improve job skills. 

Three important additional reminders! 

  • IRAs can be withdrawn without penalty if used for education
  • Series EE or I bonds qualify for interest income exclusion
  • Interest paid on student loans is tax deductible! 

Let the experienced accountants at Grimbleby Coleman help you find the solution that works best for you and your family. Call us today to begin planning your college payment strategy.  To learn more about the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Qualified Tuition Program or the Lifetime Learning Credit, please visit the IRS website

Meet Our Marketing Coordinator, Kadie Helton

 May 8, 2015

        

Kadie Helton graduated Magna Cum Laude with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Multimedia Arts from CSU Stanislaus in 2006. Following graduation, Kadie worked as an independent local graphic designer and later transitioned into nonprofit marketing and management. Kadie joined our team in 2012 and is currently our Marketing Coordinator. Her area of focus includes establishing and implementing firm marketing strategies, business development, and community outreach projects such as Lemonade Day Modesto. Kadie says she knows her work is paying off when a client says, "I didn't know your firm could do that! Can you help me?", and that's when I know we've been doing something right." In her spare time, Kadie enjoys running and participating in races that benefit charities. Kadie also donates her graphic design services to worthy nonprofits as well as friends and family.

Featured Team Member: Marty Fox

April 30, 2015

Meet Martin "Marty" Fox!

Marty Fox, Principal and CPA, has been a vital part of our Grimbleby Coleman team since 2003. Since starting his accounting career by passing the CPA exam in 1981, Marty has spent the majority of his career here in the Modesto area. Graduating magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from California State University Fresno in 1978, Marty takes a holistic financial view with his clients as he leads our management advisory services practice. In other words, Marty analyzes all monetary aspects of a client's business and provides business valuations such as estate and gift tax issues, sales and purchases of businesses, and shareholder disputes. Marty's business consulting services include financial analysis and scenario planning, profit and growth planning, and financial reporting systems. Additionally, Marty has earned both an Accredited in Business Valuation title and a Certified Valuation Analyst title, as well being a charter member of the Consulting Accountants' Roundtable since 1997. When not in the office, Marty can be found teeing off at a golf course or rooting for the San Francisco Giants.  To learn more about Marty please check out his profile on the website. 

Why Didn't I Get a Better Refund?

April 30, 2015

You might be wondering what the heck happened to your refund. What went wrong? As much as it pains us to say it, we do receive feedback from clients who are just plain frustrated.

If you are in this boat, it is critically important to understand how federal and state withholdings work. An unfortunate refund can be based on some or all of the following factors:

  • Not withholding enough from your paycheck
  • Not paying quarterly estimated taxes for other sources of income that created a profit (such as a successful side business or capital gains from stock sales)
  • Not planning for taxes throughout the year. It's important to project your tax liability so you don't get blindsided in April.
  • Inaccurate or no tracking of deductions. Did you forget to include a donation, for example? 
  • Forgetting to tell your CPA about your child's (or your own) college expenses. You or your child might be eligible for federal education tax credits
  • Ever-changing tax laws. Your CPA is your best source for new tax law information.   

Our goal when preparing your return is to get you as close to break even as possible so you are not giving an interest-free loan to the government.

"There is no benefit for paying too much in advance," says Principal and CPA Nathan Miller. "We understand that it can be fun to get a refund; however, that is not always the best route because you could have put that money to work elsewhere throughout the year." 

Six Tips for a No-Sweat Tax Season Next Year

Incorporate the necessary steps now to prevent common pitfalls

April 10th, 2015

Congratulations! By now, you've probably met with your CPA and made it through another year of tax preparation. For some, this can be a rather stressful time trying to gather a year's worth of information.  Looking to avoid some of the pitfalls and stresses that you endured this year? Want to do a better job next year?

       

Here's the simple answer: Avoid the guesswork at the end of the year by tracking all of your personal and business expenses throughout the year with finance software. At the end of the year, gathering your tax information will be as simple as running a report from the software instead of guesstimating.  

Make sure you meet with your CPA in October or November to get a head start on year-end tax planning. Your CPA will look at your books and give you valuable recommendations so you have your ducks in a row come January.

We have a few time-tested tips to make your tax planning easier:

For individuals:

  1. Incorporate electronic software such as Quicken or Quickbooks into your household bookkeeping efforts. This is especially important if you have outside income from property rentals, a small farm or an in-home business (such as a small jewelry business, for example).
  2. Track your charitable contributions throughout the year and do not rely on thank-you letters from organizations.
  3. Remember to track your personal deductions such as mortgage interest, property taxes, and DMV registration fees.

For businesses:

  1. You absolutely should use accounting software. Take the time to learn how to use it properly. 
  2. Keep your business and personal expenses separate.
  3. Have dedicated business credit cards and refrain from using your personal cards for business, and vice versa. 

If this was a particularly challenging tax preparation year, we recommend breaking down the preparation and meeting with your CPA quarterly. Although we're happy to help clean up your accounting records at the end of the year, you'll see enjoy a greater value from the sound business advice that an expert at Grimbleby Coleman can provide.

Remember - track, track, track all year! 

Featured Article

Succession Planning for Farming Families: Scary, But Necessary
What happens next? That question can haunt farm families when it's time to exchange ownership from one generation to the next. How can farm families and businesses plan for their children's futures and ensure financial security? Who is entitled to what? And by the way, how can you broach these emotional and potentially contentious topics without ruining a holiday dinner? We recently hosted a farming succession event with succession planner Kevin Spafford, who gave us helpful tips he's discovered while working with hundreds of ag families. We think they'll help you, too. Five Keys to Succession Planning: Plan, plan, plan! This is a big fish to fry for any farming family. Don't avoid "The Talk" because it is a touchy or fight-triggering subject. Have an honest conversation with all parties involved and discuss who will be taking ownership of the farm in the coming years. Remember:  preparation will steer the farm away from failure.         Obstacles like greed, family disharmony, control freaks, self-interest, and lack of contribution are tricky topics to air. Speak candidly about those downfalls and nip them in the bud with new solutions. Come to terms with the fact that your family and in-laws are dynamic people who make mistakes. No matter what the concern, you must focus on the BIG picture - your children's futures and the future of the farm. Families can find common ground and unity by writing down both small and major goals that every person can agree on. What are your family's values? Write, type or record what your family's values are so they can properly be passed down to the next generation. Make sure every family member is aware of what you stand for and what your goals are. Good communication with relatives is crucial to a farm, so it's important to schedule regular meetings with the entire family during the year. If a family member can't attend because of a scheduling conflict, have them attend the meeting via speakerphone or Skype. Again, make sure that notes are taken at every meeting; it doesn't matter whether they are handwritten, typed, or even recorded. If these meetings become unfriendly, make it a rule that any family member can call a timeout. All the planning in the world isn't going to save a business if people don't commit, so strive to have every person on board with your family's succession plan. Speak freely when issues arise and keep lines of communication open. Grimbleby Coleman is a trusted ally when it comes to assisting with succession planning. We want every family to accomplish its long-term financial and farm goals. There's no time quite like the present when it comes to the matter of succession planning - make plans with your family today. 

Featured News

Growing Tulips with Women in Agriculture!
       

On March 26th, Linda Bossard, EA and USTCP and Lisa Mazza, Partner and CPA, attended the Women in Agriculture for Mentoring and Empowerment mixer at Dutch Hollow Farms in Modesto. The ladies were hosted by Farmer John, who presented information about growing tulips. We enjoy supporting our ag clients by participating in California women's agriculture events here in Stanislaus County. 

Featured Staff

Jeff became a principal of the firm in 2010. His specialty is tax, and he leads the firm's agribusiness industry team.

Jeff is a Modesto native, and grew up in a local farming family. He has an MBA and a Masters in Taxation degree, and is a CPA. Jeff enjoys “being able to explain a concept or communicate information that helps a client, and being able to learn from the experience of clients who are very successful at what they do.”

When he’s not helping clients, Jeff's focus is on spending time with his wife and three daughters. If it’s June, he’s outdoors—probably gardening, grilling, or hiking in the High Sierras. In October, you’ll find him spending time with family and still spending time outside if the weather is nice. But in January … where else would he be but in the office? “It’s tax season!”

Jeff’s favorite number is 2000. “For the year that I got married, and also started my first public accounting job.”

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