I-Bond Interest Rates Adjusted Down To 4.28% Effective 5/1/24

We first wrote about I-Bonds in an article included with our November Newsletter available at:

https://schwartzaccountants.com/2021/11/earn-a-guaranteed-and-risk-free-7-12-interest-rate-through-april-while-making-your-portfolio-a-little-more-conservative-by-purchasing-i-bonds/

I-bonds are a great place to park some extra money if you are worried about the short-term prospects for the stock market (which are now at record high levels) and are nervous that increasing interest rates will cause bond funds to decline in value too. Please note that I-Bond purchases are limited to $10k per person per year, plus up to $5k additionally purchased with your income tax refund when you file your tax return.

According to: https://www.treasurydirect.gov/indiv/research/indepth/ibonds/res_ibonds.htm:

A Series I savings bond is a security that earns interest based on both a fixed rate and a rate that is set twice a year based on inflation. The bond earns interest until it reaches 30 years or you cash it, whichever comes first. NEWS: The initial interest rate on Series I savings bonds is 4.28% percent through November 30, 2024.

More information on I-Bonds is available at: https://treasurydirect.gov/indiv/products/prod_ibonds_glance.htm

The treasury department resets I-Bond rates every six months based on the inflation rate the day the calculation is made.  Here are the prior interest rates paid:

  • 5/1/24 – 4.28%
  • 11/1/23 – 5.27%
  • 5/1/23 – 4.30%
  • 11/1/22 – 6.89%
  • 5/1/22 – 9.62%
  • 11/1/21 – 7.21%

Estimated Taxes For 2nd Quarter Due 6/17/24

If we set up for you to pay quarterly estimated taxes, please make your Q2 payments by June 17. Generally, taxpayers who are self-employed, are shareholders in S-Corporations that typically pay out distributions in addition to the wages paid to the owners, are partners in profitable partnerships, and/or report a good amount of investment income should consider paying in estimated taxes during the year.

The IRS now recommends that individuals make their estimated tax payments electronically.  Read more at: National Small Business Week: Making estimated tax payments electronically is fast and easy | Internal Revenue Service (irs.gov).

To pay your estimated taxes electronically, go to www.irs.gov, click on Make a Payment and then click on Pay Now with Direct Debit.  Follow the prompts and make the payment by direct debit from your bank account.  Other options are available to pay your estimated taxes including how pay them by credit card and the associated fees to do so.

Q2 Entity Level Tax Payments Due 6/17:

If we set up your S-Corp or Partnership to pay the entity owner’s personal Massachusetts income taxes as a deductible business expenses called the Entity Level Tax, the Q2 ELT estimated tax payment is due June 17.  We posted information on this topic last month at: ELT (Entity Level Tax) Update – Schwartz & Schwartz PC (schwartzaccountants.com).

 

5/31 Deadline To Opt Into $5.6b Visa And Mastercard Merchant Fee Settlement Extended Until 8/30/24

Good news for procrastinators and class action skeptics.  You now have until 8/30 to register your practice to receive a tiny percentage of a whopping $5.6 billion settlement related to merchant fees paid between 1/1/2004 and 1/25/2019.

According to the website for this class action settlement: www.paymentcardsettlement.com:

Updated May 14, 2024: In an Order dated May 14, 2024, the Court granted an extension of the claims-filing deadline. The deadline to submit claims is August 30, 2024. If you received a Claim Form in the mail and want to file a claim online using the Claimant ID provided, please click the “Submit a Claim” button. If you did not receive a claim form, you can start the claim filing process by clicking the “Submit a Claim” button and providing your Taxpayer Identification Number.

The lawsuit is about claims that merchants paid excessive fees to accept Visa and Mastercard cards because Visa and Mastercard, individually, and together with their respective member banks, violated the antitrust laws. The settlement creates the following Rule 23(b)(3) Settlement Class: All persons, businesses, and other entities that have accepted any Visa-Branded Cards and/or Mastercard-Branded Cards in the United States at any time from January 1, 2004 to January 25, 2019.

Learn more by reading through the FAQs. If you want our help filing for your practice to participate in this $5.6B class action, please email practicehelp@schwartzaccountants.com. Our fee is one-third of the settlement received.

 

It May Be Time for a Quick “Check-Up”

Did you:

  • have either a large balance due or refund received on your 2023 tax return
  • change jobs the beginning of 2024
  • change your marital status this year?

If so, we recommend contacting your tax preparer to see if any adjustments may need to be made to the taxes withheld from your pay or to your quarterly estimated tax payments scheduled to be paid for 2024 .

Getting a head-start on your tax planning considerations earlier in the year vs waiting until closer to year-end makes it easier to achieve your desired goals.   Making a few minor changes early in the year can result in a bigger impact than if you wait until the end of the year. Waiting until year-end often requires a significant adjustment to make up for the entire year with only a month or two remaining at that point.

If you think changes may be needed or would like to discuss the items mentioned above, contact your tax preparer who can advise you on how to best prevent big surprises at tax time next winter.

Be Sure to Check Your Paystub During the Year

Surprises” on employee paychecks, though generally infrequent, do occur.  A few items to check throughout the year on your paystub to be sure your payroll company is reporting income and deductions accurately per your instructions throughout the year:

  1. Are your federal and state withheld taxes being withheld at the rate requested per your current W-4 certificate?
  2. If your employer is located in another state be sure taxes are being withheld to the correct state (generally your state of residence unless you are physically present and working in another state).
  3. Are benefits being deducted correctly on your paystub (flexible spending accounts for dependent care benefits and health care, health savings account, health and dental insurance, group-term life insurance)?
  4. Check that your salary deferral funded into your 401k or 403b plan is being properly withheld and properly categorized as either Roth or pre-tax.
  5. Be sure that your most recent pay increase and bonus payments are properly reflected on your paystub.

Still Waiting on Your 2023 US Tax Refund?

Most federal tax refunds are issued by the IRS within 21 days of filing a tax return.  However, there are infrequent situations when the IRS needs more time than normal to review a tax return and issue a refund.  The IRS has a simple to use tool on their website for taxpayers that are waiting on a refund to assist taxpayers to check on the status of their tax return still in process by the IRS.  Taxpayers can go to “Where’s My Refund?” on the IRS website found at the link below:

https://www.irs.gov/wheres-my-refund

This site is updated once per day.  Taxpayers will need their social security number, filing status of the tax return, and the exact amount of the refund to enter in order to receive an update on the processing status of their tax return.  Once the requested information is entered, taxpayers will receive an update based upon one of the three statuses listed below:

  • Tax return received,
  • Tax refund approved, or
  • Tax refund sent

There is also an automated call-in line to check on your refund status.  The Refund Hotline number is 800-829-1954.

The IRS also offers on-line assistance for taxpayers to check on the status of a federal amended tax return.  Taxpayers can get an update by using the IRS link: https://www.irs.gov/filing/wheres-my-amended-return

To access information on the status of your amended tax return on this site, taxpayers will need their social security number, date of birth and zip code to be input at this site.  The typical time frame for processing of amended tax returns is approximately 20 weeks.

Need to Pay Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments?

The IRS offers a quick and easy way to make your quarterly estimated tax payments online using their Direct Pay tool:

https://www.irs.gov/payments/direct-pay

Taxpayers can make a variety of tax federal payments via this IRS on-line payment tool, such as tax return balances due, estimated tax payments, tax balances owed as a result of an IRS tax notice received, and installment agreement payments among other types of tax payments needing to be paid to the IRS.  Taxpayers using this payment site will receive immediate confirmation of the payment made using this website once the on-line transaction has been completed.

And most states offer a similar on-line payment tool as well.

Still Need to File a tax Return for Your Child’s W-2 They Received in January?

Frequently, children may need to file a tax return when they work a summer or part-time job while in school.  And although their income often is below the filing requirement threshold of owing any income tax, filing a tax return would be primarily to get the federal and state withheld taxes from their pay refunded to them.

Another tool offered on the IRS website is the option to “File your taxes for free”.  Typically, as long as the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for a taxpayer is $79,000 or less, this tool is an easy-to-use option for less complicated tax returns needing to be filed.  This free e-file link can be found on the IRS website noted below:

https://www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free

And if your child’s tax return is filed late (after the April 15 filing due date), as long as no taxes are owed and your child’s tax return is due a refund, then there are no late penalties assessed for the late filed tax return.

Now Available Online – Watch Alex’s Recent Financial Webinars

If you missed any of Alex Oliver’s great webinars this tax season, don’t worry!  We’ve posted recordings of them on our Webinar Library:

INVESTMENT VISION FOR 2024

What does the climate look like for investing in 2024? Last year saw a rally in stocks amidst rising interest rates and tempering inflation. The Ukraine war continued, China displayed some economic weakness, and the conflict in Israel unsettled the world. Join wealth advisor Alex Oliver for his annual recap and themes to watch for in the new year.

THE QUICK & DIRTY PERSONAL FINANCE CHECKUP

If you like benchmarks and checklists, this is the webinar for you. We will build the foundation of a financial plan with high level thoughts on where you should be at your age or stage of life. Looking to retire early, or just simply around age 65? We will discuss where you should be now. Is your family properly covered by insurance and an estate plan? We’ll cover the basics for what you need today. Think you are close to retirement today? We will cover the financial and non-financial items you need to consider before you leave the paycheck and employer benefits behind!

ROTH CONVERSIONS TO LOWER INCOME TAX LIABILITY 

You may have been properly advised all your working life to maximize your 401(k) and take advantage of the pre-tax deduction. This avoided income tax on those contributions during your highest earning years. However, Uncle Sam always looms large. Those 401(k) plans will soon need to pay taxes when they are withdrawn. With proper planning for your own retirement income needs as well as the inheritance you wish to leave to your heirs, we can work together to ensure Uncle Sam needs to find income from someone else. Join Alex Oliver as he runs through several situations and tax calculations for ideas you may wish to implement.

REVIEWING “DIE WITH ZERO” AND “I WILL TEACH YOU TO BE RICH”

Personal finance self-help books have always been around, but these two have captured the attention of many Americans these past two years. The “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” book was even turned into an eight-episode Netflix series. Both do a fantastic job of discussing behavioral finance topics, initiating high-level conversations around how to “think” about money before actually diving into the specific strategies and tactics to employ. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, Alex Oliver would like to highlight some of the strongest takeaways from these two books that he discusses regularly with his clients.

Tax FAQs: Per Diem Rates and Sales Tax

Here are some commonly asked tax questions we received lately along with our responses:

Q: I’ll be traveling abroad for business soon and want to base my deduction for meals on the Per Diem rates instead of keeping track of all my meal receipts.  Where can I find the updated Per Diem Rates?

 A: Each year, the federal government assigns one of six per diem rates to every metropolitan area in the continental United States and posts them at Home | GSA. The Department of Defense sets the per diem rates for travel to foreign destinations as well as Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories, and makes them available at: Per Diem Rate Lookup | Defense Travel Management Office (dod.mil).

Q: I applied to collect sales tax with the state but I am confused as to how it works. I own a dental practice.  When I buy toothbrushes, I pay sale tax there, then I sell it back for extra $15 profit or whatever. Do I then at end of year, calculate the tax off the profit I made and pay the state?

A: Once you sign up to collect and remit sales taxes with Mass, you need to notify the toothbrush vendor that you should no longer be subject to sales taxes when you purchase the toothbrushes since you are now registered with Mass as a reseller.  You should be able to complete your own resale certificate (commonly known as the ST-4 form) and provide that to the vendor at which time will stop charging you sales taxes on your purchases. You will then be responsible for collecting sales taxes on the full price of each toothbrush you sell. More information is available at:  dor-sales-use-form-st-4.pdf (mass.gov)