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January 2007


by Andrew D. Schwartz, CPA

I'm not a big TV person.  That goes double for the reality shows. Even so, I found myself watching The Biggest Loser this fall along with my wife, who became a big fan of the show as the drama unfolded.

My wife Susan is a Certified Financial Planner and I'm a CPA.  While watching the show, we would find ourselves commenting that the process of losing weight isn't very different from the basic financial planning process.  

Let's look at the steps people take to lose weight:

  1. Set an attainable goal: On the show, each contestant wanted to lose a lot of weight in a relatively short period of time.

  2. Take steps to reach the goal: The contestants ate smaller quantities of healthier food, and exercised a lot.

  3. Periodically monitor your progress:  Every week, each contestant would get weighed.

Step 1, Set Attainable Goals

New Year's Day is a time to start anew.  Take this opportunity to reset some of your short-term basic financial planning goals.  Make sure that your goals are both challenging and attainable.  But don't forget that these goals should fit into your long-term financial plan as well.

Start by looking back at the financial resolutions you made last year.  If you reached all your goals, then consider pushing yourself a little harder.  If you fell short, were last year's goals attainable or do you need to bring them in line with what you can reasonable expect to afford? 

Here are a few suggested goals:

  • Build up your emergency savings account to a certain level.

  • Determine how much to contribute to your employer sponsored retirement plan, or if you're self-employed, to a SEP, SIMPLE or Solo 401(k).

  • Decide whether to also contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA.

  • Determine how much to contribute to a 529 Plan or Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) to fund a child's education.

  • Target how much you plan to pay down your credit cards and student loans.

  • Decide how much extra you plan to pay towards your mortgages and equity loans.

Step 2, Take Steps To Reach Your Goal

Like weight loss, financial planning is an ongoing process.  While it's important to look at the big picture, it's also important to set annual goals as well. 

To reach your retirement savings goals, January is the time to instruct your employer to reset your monthly contributions. This year, you can contribute up to $15,500 ($20,500 if 50 or older by December 31, 2007) into your 401k or 403b plan at work through salary deferrals. 

If you're self-employed, you can contribute up to $45,000 into a SEP or Solo 401k ($50,000 into a Solo 401k if 50 or older), depending on your net self-employment income.  Most people find it easier to reach their retirement savings goals by contributing a set amount on a monthly basis versus trying to come up with a lump sum at the end of the year.

To reach your other financial goals, take the time now to set up for automatic transfers from your checking account into your emergency savings, IRAs, 529 Plans, or ESAs.  You can also instruct your bank to automatically pay a set monthly amount towards your credit cards, student loans, or mortgages. 

Setting up for automatic transfers helps you reach your annual goals for a variety of reasons.  Besides avoiding the hassle of mailing out a check each month, automatic transfers remove the temptation of remitting a smaller amount, or nothing at all, each month.  Couple that with fact that most people are too lazy to turn off an automatic transfer once it's set up, and you see why this free service usually does the trick.

Step 3: Periodically Monitor Your Progress:

It's all about accountability, says the accountant.  Every once and a while, take a look to see that you're on track to reach your 2007 goals.

Sounds tough, right?  Not really, assuming you set up for monthly contributions into your retirement accounts, and monthly transfers from your checking account to meet your other 2007 financial goals. 

All you need to do is open your mail and look at the monthly and quarterly statements you receive from your banks, financial institutions, and lenders to make sure your pre-set payments and contributions are being correctly applied to your accounts. 

Invest Some Time

Sometimes it's just as valuable to invest your time as your money.  During January, invest some time to set your 2007 financial goals, and then set up or adjust your automatic transfers to bring them in line with each of your goals.  By doing so, you might end up being this year's "Biggest Winner". 



by Andrew D. Schwartz, CPA

The phrase "IRS Audit" is made up of eight letters.  Few pairs of four-letter words pack the punch of finding out that you've been selected for an IRS audit.

In recent years, the IRS has increased the number of tax returns they are looking at.  What are your chances of being audited in the near future?

The Tax Gap

In recent years, the IRS has become very concerned with the "tax gap", which is the difference between the total taxes that should have been remitted and the amount of tax revenues actually collected.  The IRS most recently estimated the tax gap for 2001 and determined that tax revenues fell short by approximately $345 billion that year.  Of that amount, 75% of the tax gap was due to small business owners and self-employed individuals.

The IRS has acknowledged that the Service can't "audit its way out of the tax gap."  Even so, audits remain an important compliance tool.

To make the most of their available resources, the IRS has taken steps to streamline the audit process while trying to better select which returns to audit.  Although a CPA representing a client is thrilled when an audit ends as a "no change", the IRS prefers that those tax returns never even get selected in the first place.

Audit Stats

The IRS has acknowledged that they will bring in almost $50 billion in tax revenues next year on a $10 billion budget.  Even with results like that, there are no plans in place to significantly expand the IRS' budget, so the Service needs to be very careful as to which returns are selected for audit. 

Currently, the IRS is auditing the following groups of taxpayers each year:

Category of taxpayer Audit Rate
Individuals with income greater than $1 million


Sole proprietors


Everyone else


Trust But Verify

One of the IRS's long-term goals is to move away from traditional audits to more of a "trust but verify" environment.  The Service has observed that the tax gap is greatly reduced in areas where there is third party verification, such as W-2s to report wages, 1098's to report mortgage interest, or social security numbers for dependents.  A big challenge for the government, however, is to find a source of third party verification that covers small businesses and self-employed individuals.

More Audits and Better Audits

Until the tax gap is brought under control, expect the IRS to rely on audits as a deterrent against non-compliance with the current tax laws.




Income Taxes

Saving and Investing




  • 4th quarter 2006 estimates due 1/15/07
  • Expect to receive W-2s and 1099s by January 31, 2007
  • Review your withholding for 2007, and, if necessary, file a new W-4 Form with your employer to adjust your withholding
  • Establish a savings and debt reduction goals for the year
  • Try to increase your monthly contributions to your 401(k) or 403(b) plans.  The maximum annual contribution for 2007 is $15,500.  Anyone 50 or older can contribute an extra $5,000
  • Automatically transfer $333.33 per month from your checking account into a Roth or Traditional IRA, and $166.67 per month into an Education Savings Account for each of your children


2006 & 2007 TAX FACTS

  • For 2006, the standard deduction for a single individual is $5,150 and for a married couple is $10,300. A person will benefit by itemizing once allowable deductions exceed the applicable standard deduction. Itemized deductions include state and local income taxes (or sales taxes), real estate taxes, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and unreimbursed employee business expenses.
  • For 2006, the personal exemption is $3,300. Individuals will claim a personal deduction for themselves, their spouse, and their dependents. 
  • The maximum earnings subject to social security taxes is $97,500 for 2007, up from  $94,200 in 2006.
  • The standard mileage rate is $.445 per business mile for 2006, increasing to $.485 per mile in 2007.
  • The maximum annual contribution into a 401(k) plan or a 403(b) plan is $15,500 in 2007.  And if you'll be 50 or older by December 31, 2007, you can contribute an extra $5,000 into your 401(k) or 403(b) account this year.
  • The maximum annual contribution to your IRA is $4,000 for 2006 and 2007.  And if you turn 50 by December 31st, you can contribute an extra $1,000 that year.  You have until April 15, 2007 to make your 2006 IRA contributions. 


copyright - 2007 - CPANiche, LLC

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Most recent information issued by the IRS

Check out the memorandum issued by the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis and you'll see that the court found that medical residents and fellows might not be subject to FICA taxes in many instances.

For more information, go to our February 2001 Newsletter or read through the IRS' Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum on this issue.

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