The Weird and Wacky Things You Can Claim On Your Tax Return

Image Credit: The New York Public Library on Unsplash

This is the second in a three-part series on tax filing that looks at how business owners can maximize their tax savings. Here’s the first part.

It’s nearly the end of the tax year, and that can only mean one thing; it’s almost time to lodge your tax return.

Sure, it can be a stressful and time-consuming chore to get all your receipts together, even more so if you then choose to lodge your return yourself rather than using an accountant. Still, the chances are at the end of it, you’ll get a nice refund cheque back from the ATO to spend on your next holiday or to pay down your debt.

The key to maximising that refund is to make sure you claim all the deductions you’re entitled to. Most of those will relate to things you’ve purchased as part of your job or business. The general rule is that if a purchase is made to enable you to earn income or to operate your business, you can claim a deduction. Some of those deductions will be obvious, but some could be just a bit unusual….

Can you seriously claim a tax deduction for your pet pooch? Well, probably not. But there are circumstances where a deductible dog could be a real possibility.  If your business uses a guard dog to keep your premises secure, a dog is indeed deductible. It’s regarded as a capital asset of the business, and you can claim an immediate deduction for the whole cost using the very generous temporary full expensing tax break. Obviously, it needs to be a dog suitable for the purpose; a poodle is unlikely to cut it. The same logic applies to dogs on a farm, such as a sheepdog.

If you’re a professional performer (actor, musician, dancer, magician, circus performer, etc), there are all manner of strange deductions which you might look at claiming. Mime lessons? Absolutely. The cost of ceremonial swords? Certainly, if you’re a professional sword swallower. Acting classes, dance classes, musical instruments, magic tricks….if you make a living on stage or screen, a whole world of odd and interesting claims opens up to you.

Most offices these days have an array of pretty pictures dotted about the place, often in customer focussed spaces like reception areas and meeting rooms. Using the temporary full expensing tax break, you could be looking at an immediate tax deduction for your business for that fine canvas you’ve had your eye on. Just make sure it really is used in your business.

If the ATO finds out that the picture you claimed was in your office reception area is really hanging in your lounge room at home, your business will lose the deduction and end up paying more tax plus some interest and penalties! Again, provided they are used in a business context (perhaps as part of a communal recreation room in a factory or office), they should be deductible. If you just plan to put them in your own rumpus room at home, however, forget it!

It’s well established that you can claim a deduction for the tools you use in your trade. But depending on what your trade is, your tools could be very different to the hammers, spanners and drills usually claimed. If you work in the adult industry, you could be looking at a deduction for sex toys, lube, and “accessories”. You can only claim the business use element of course; if you use them in your personal activities, forget the tax deduction.

If you’re an exotic dancer, you could even consider a deduction for fake breasts; whilst we’re not aware of anybody making such a claim in Australia, it’s been successfully done in the USA, and there’s no reason in principle why it couldn’t be done under our law. Expect an awkward conversation with the ATO if you try it though. The key to claiming any tax deduction is to keep records such as invoices, receipts and bank statements.

If you are claiming something unusual, expect to be challenged by the ATO but if the way you earn your assessable income is aligned with the items you’ve claimed a deduction for, you should be OK, no matter how strange it is. And one final piece of advice; if in doubt about what you can claim, talk to a tax adviser at H&R Block, who’ll be able to give you specific guidance on your situation.

By: Mark Chapman

Source: The weird and wacky things you can claim on your tax return

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See various ways to save money as well as how to save on taxes. Keep more of your money! Then, prepare your current year return on eFile.com and see how well your tax planning and saving went during the year – eFileIT.

Read below for various real-life scenarios to claim a tax break you may not have thought of.

  • Pets: There are some notable expenses you may be able to deduct relating to pets or animals:
  • Moving Expenses: If you lost your job and are relocating to start a new job, these moving expenses are tax deductible if you are an active duty military member or if you are an employee who has reimbursed expenses dated before January 1, 2019 and did not claim them on a prior tax return. The expense of moving your cat, dog, bird, or other pet from your old to new home is treated the same as moving your other personal properties.
  • Guard dog: If you have a dog that watched over your business location, pet care costs may be deductible as business expenses.
  • Pest control: A cat or other animal that keeps your business free of pests may come with deductible pet care expenses.
  • Foster or shelter volunteering: fostering animals may be eligible for charitable contributions and volunteer mileage is generally tax deductible.
  • Farming: the IRS may allow you to depreciate your farm animals as they age if they are used for breeding. The IRS once allowed a Louisiana farmer to depreciate the costs for his ostrich.
  • Service animal: expenses for a service animal may be deductible as medical expenses.
  • Cat Food Expenses: Under certain conditions, the cost of cat food might be considered a legitimate deductible expense. A junkyard owner bought cat food to attract local stray cats in order to drive away mice and rats. He claimed it as a business expense and it was approved by the IRS. The average house cat will likely not qualify because the cat would need to perform some task associated with the upkeep of a business.
  • Parenting, Lifestyle, Home:
  • Clarinet Lessons: A parent was able to deduct the expenses for clarinet lessons for her child because she claimed it corrected her child’s overbite. This was based on a 1962 case where an orthodontist argued that playing the clarinet helps correct a child’s overbite, thus allowing it to be claimed as a medical expense.
  • Babysitter Expenses: A mother claimed her babysitter expenses as a deduction because she was performing charitable deeds while she was away from her child. This would mean that you pay somebody to look after your child while you perform volunteer work for a charity. In this case, the tax court rejected and overruled an IRS revenue ruling when, despite not having the money go directly to a charity, a parent used the baby sitter expense as a charitable contribution while volunteering for a charity.
  • Leftover Wedding or Party Items: donated leftover decorations, food, flowers, or attire can be donated and may be deductible.
  • Family Wages Deduction: if you run a family business, wages you pay your kids may be deductible as business expenses.
  • Legitimate Business Expenses:
  • Cost of Body Oil: For one bodybuilder, it worked. He claimed a deduction for the cost of body oil that he used in competitions. The IRS didn’t seem to have any problem with this as it was a legitimate business expense.
  • Cost of Breast Implants: In 1994, one erotic dancer’s attempt to get more tips led her to undergo breast augmentation surgery. She then proceeded to deduct the expense from her taxes. A tax court judge ruled in favor of the dancer, stating that the implants were a stage prop, and thus a legitimate work expense that can be deducted.
  • Lawn Care Expenses: These expenses might be deductible, but your house will have to be your workplace and the state of your lawn would have to have relevance to the performance of your business. In one situation, a sole proprietor successfully deducted lawn care expenses as business expenses because he met his clients in his home office.
  • Private Airplane Expenses: A couple owned and rented out a condo that was a 7 hour drive away from their primary residence. To save time and money, they bought a private airplane and were able to deduct airplane expenses, like fuel and depreciation for business use, for the property management trips to their condo. However, it turned out that the expenses increased the overall loss on the rental condo.
  • Business Trips: Any business trip viewed as “ordinary and necessary” to the course of doing business by the IRS is eligible for a travel expense deduction. In one case, the owner of a dairy took a trip to Africa to conduct research on wild animals, and successfully claimed it as a business expense because it was relevant to his business.
  • Whaling Boat Repairs: Whaling boats need repairs and, since 2004, captains of whaling boats can deduct up to $10,000 for repairs, equipment purchases, and other expenses associated with the business. However, starting a whaling business to claim a deduction is not a smart move. Whaling is banned by the United States government and only certain Native American tribes are allowed to engage in it.
  • Medical Expenses:
  • Swimming Pool Costs: If you have a medical condition that would improve with a swimming pool exercise regimen, your swimming pool expenses might qualify as a deductible medical expense. This happened in the case of an arthritis patient who was prescribed to swim regularly in order to treat his condition. He installed a swimming pool on his property and deducted the expenses from his taxes. After some investigation, the IRS approved the deduction, but if the pool were used for recreational purposes, it wouldn’t have been approved.
  • Sex-Change Operation Expenses: A man who was diagnosed with gender-identity disorder (he felt he was a woman trapped in a male body) wanted to deduct almost $22,000 in out-of-pocket medical expenses for various surgeries—including hormone therapy, sexual-reassignment surgeries, and breast augmentation—in order to become a woman. The tax court decided that the hormone therapy and the sex-change operation in the amount of $14,500 was a qualified medical tax deduction. However, the expenses for the breast augmentation was not; it was deemed nondeductible cosmetic surgery by the court.
  • Medical Expenses to Quit Smoking: You might qualify to deduct expenses for smoking cessation programs, nicotine patches, stop-smoking aides, and other programs geared towards stopping smoking.
  • Costs for Getting in Shape: Weight-loss expenses may be deductible if a doctor signs off on it and claims that your life might be in danger if you don’t start exercising and lose weight. The cost for remedies that help you drop a few pounds, improve your heart rate, or reduce your cholesterol might all be deductible.

These people saved money by claiming deductions and taking advantage of tax breaks. Now, here are some more practical ways to save money on your taxes.

Strange Tax Breaks from Across the U.S. and Around the World

Find state specific tax breaks below as well as other stories from the United Sates and countries with their own tax codes.

  • States: many states have their own tax code which are often full of bizarre tax deductions and other rules.
  • In Wisconsin, cloth diapers are not subject to sales tax, but disposable diapers are.
  • In Texas, cowboy boots are exempt from the sales tax, but hiking boots are not.
  • In Ohio, a corpse in a mortuary gets makeup applied on it without getting taxed, but a living person is taxed for the makeup that gets applied in a beauty salon.
  • In South Carolina, one can get a $50 deduction if they donate a dead deer to the poor.
  • In Maryland, oyster farmers get a tax break, but those who farm other types of shellfish don’t.
  • Hawaii gives a $3,000 tax deduction to those who grow state-approved trees.
  • People who were persecuted by the Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1923 were exempt from taxes in California (learn more about the history of taxes in United States).
  • A business owner bought a racehorse and claimed it as a business expense. No, he was not in the horse-racing business; he claimed that he needed to entertain his clients and that a racehorse would do just that. The economic stimulus package allowed for a tax deduction as large as $25,000 to be claimed for buying a racehorse, but the deal expired without creating many new purchases.
  • In one case, the use of a yacht was deducted as a business expense because the owner tried to impress his customers and encourage them to do business. Maintenance and cleaning of the yacht, however, was not allowed to be deducted because the IRS code prohibits it.
  • One man who owned several properties hired his girlfriend to manage them. She looked for furniture for the houses, made sure the proper repairs were made, and managed his home. He was able to deduct $2,500 of the $9,000 he paid her as a business expense.
  • A dentist submitted fraudulent insurance claims. When the fraud was discovered, she was ordered to pay the money back as well as serve some time in jail. However, she was able to deduct her repayment to the insurance company as a business expense. That is because the repayment was done to compensate for a loss sustained by the insurance company and therefore was not considered a fine.
  • A man was arrested for drunk driving after he wrecked his car; he had waited to sober up—but obviously not for long enough. His insurance company refused to compensate him for the wrecked car because he broke the law. The driver, however, was able to deduct the cost of his car as a casualty loss because he acted reasonably. If he hadn’t waited to sober up, then it would have been gross negligence and thus nondeductible.
  • In 1981, a drug dealer from the Minneapolis area was caught in possession of large amounts of cocaine, amphetamines, and marijuana. He was arrested and later audited; the tax audit found that he owed $17,000 in taxes. The drug dealer argued that he should be able to deduct a significant amount of the back taxes as business costs incurred by running his business from his home. He was successful in getting a deduction, but still went to jail for drug possession.
  • A man working for a graphic design agency bought a pair of skis from Yamaha Snowmobiles, a company for which he was making a catalog. He used the company discount and then successfully deducted the skis as a business research expense.
  • A hair stylist successfully deducted the entire cost of her wardrobe that she wore while working with her clients as a business expense.
  • Across the world: various countries abide by their own tax code which has certain odd rules.
  • In Germany, one can deduct bribes. While the deduction is seldom used, it does exist as part of the tax code. All one has to do to report it is disclose their name and the name of the official that they bribed.
  • The United Kingdom gives tax breaks to video game companies that create “culturally British” games. The criteria for being culturally British is not very clear; the game must score a minimum of 16 out of 31 points on a test that has been designed to measure the cultural content and contribution of the game.
  • In the Netherlands, those who study and practice witchcraft can claim a tax break given out by the government. It has existed for quite some time, but in 2005 it gained the attention of the public after a judge upheld the tax break in court.
  • During the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, stadiums and businesses in the immediate area surrounding them were exempt from the value added tax as well as the income tax from profits. This allowed FIFA to keep more of the money for itself. Critics did not care for this measure, however, as it deprived the government of South Africa of tax revenue associated with the World Cup matches.
  • In Italy, almost a third of all men over 30 still live at home. To encourage them to move out, the government issued a 1,000 euro tax break to those who rent their homes. However, the problem is considered to be tied to the difficult job market in Italy that prevents young men from obtaining jobs that will support their independent lifestyles. Critics say it’s unlikely that the tax break will encourage many young Italian men to move out on their own.

Related contents:

How much will tax cuts save me? Has this economic strategy worked elsewhere? Will interest rates ever return to level… Sky News

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14 Tips To Meet Your Financial Goals In 2021

Who among us isn’t ready to bid good riddance to the year 2020? The pandemic has upended life across the globe and that includes creating financial chaos and stress for people of all walks of life. The good news is that 2021 is just around the corner. The bad news is that there will be pandemic fallout to deal with in the year ahead, and that could mean a continued rocky ride for your personal finances.

That doesn’t mean postponing or eliminating financial plans and goals altogether. And it doesn’t mean 2021 will be a bust. Instead, you’ll need to be more focused, savvy, and strategic about money goals in the coming year, which is why we asked financial experts across the country to weigh in and provide tips and insights about how to prosper financially in 2021 despite all the uncertainties that lie ahead.

Related: 19 Smart Ways to Get Through a Recession

Create a Rolling Budget

In times of uncertainty, it’s a good idea to create what’s known as a rolling budget, which is a budget that’s dynamic and changes throughout the year. This type of budget typically focuses on the near term, rather than the long term.

“You can’t always foresee every stumbling block in your financial future, so make sure to keep your budget bendable, not only judging the numbers you see at the moment but also make room for the surprises,” says Roy Ferman, founder and CEO of Seek Capital. “Keep a rolling budget and forecast that accounts for potential fluctuations — positive or negative.”

In other words, budget in a way that accounts for multiple real-world scenarios, says Ferman, creating a plan A, B, C, and possibly even D. “You want each plan fully mapped out as if it was plan A to keep you on top of any discrepancies. Allow yourself to come up with different variations, and allocate for those variations.”

Establish More Than One Stream of Income

Depending on how you define the data, anywhere from 20 million to 30 million people were unemployed or had their income affected by the pandemic, says Marco Sison, financial coach for Nomadic FIRE. To help protect yourself against the impacts of unemployment or reduced income, it’s a good idea to establish multiple streams of income.

“If one job or income stream is cut off, you still have other sources coming in to live off of,” says Sison. “Ideally, these income streams are passive: dividends, rental property, digital side businesses. If your hours get cut, or you lose your job, you can reduce your expenses and live off your side hustles without tapping your emergency fund.”

Budget for Saving

Warren Buffett has been quoted as saying “If you want to make saving a priority, take a look at how you budget. Do not save what is left after spending; instead spend what is left after saving.”

If you truly want to make saving a priority, particularly amid challenging economic times, you cannot plan to simply set aside what is left over, says Robert Johnson, a professor of finance, at Creighton University’s Heider College of Business. “You don’t successfully build wealth by simply taking what you have left after all your expenses,” says Johnson. “We accomplish what we prioritize. Prioritize savings and invest those savings. Saving should be a line item on your budget.”

Develop an Investment Policy Statement

Anyone who makes investments should create what’s called an investment policy statement (IPS) and follow it, says Johnson at Creighton University. “An IPS is a written document that clearly sets out an investor’s return objectives and risk tolerance over that investor’s relevant time horizon, along with applicable constraints such as liquidity needs and tax circumstances,” explains Johnson. “The whole point of an IPS is to guide you through changing market conditions. It should not be changed as a result of market fluctuations.”

Avoid Credit-Card Debt

Credit-card debt is a slippery slope in the best of times. And when the economy is uncertain, it’s best to avoid using credit cards as much as possible. “It’s never advised to spend money you don’t have via revolving lines of credit. And psychologically making purchases via most credit cards makes us a lot less frugal and undisciplined,” says Adem Selita, CEO and co-founder of The Debt Relief Company. “Considering that interest rates are near all-time lows, paying 20% or more on credit-card debt is a terrible financial decision to make.”

Clear Outstanding Debts

One more note about credit-card debt, if you’re able: Wipe out all existing debt. That will be the biggest favor you can do yourself in terms of meeting financial goals in 2021 and laying the groundwork for success (and beyond), says David Meltzer of East Insurance Group. “Chip off your debt bit by bit by paying off a small portion each month,” says Meltzer. “And do some belt-tightening on your spending for the time being. Take a look at your expenses and see which ones you can let go, and which ones you need to minimize, in order to help clear debt.”

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Streamline Your Budget

Study your cash flow, both your income and expenses and outline a realistic household budget, says Meltzer at East Insurance Group. “Your expenses should be exclusively necessities like house bills, groceries, food, mortgage, insurance, and savings,” says Meltzer. “There’s no room for gym memberships and Netflix subscriptions on a tight budget. Most importantly, keep track of your spending. At this point, each cent counts.”

Consider Living Below Your Means

While you’re busy outlining your month-to-month budget goals for 2021 and paring back your spending, you might consider establishing a plan to live well below your means.

“By spending less than you earn, you open up funds to put into a savings account for emergency situations, such as a pandemic, or the loss of a job,” says Mason Miranda, credit industry specialist for Credit Card Insider. “The more you save now, the more financially stable you’ll be later when a crisis hits. Depending on your goals and how much you can save, you could even avoid going into debt and pay for large purchases in cash.”

Prioritize Your Goals and Be Realistic

Prioritizing all of your financial goals allows you to put them into specific categories based on which goals you want to meet first, says George Birrell, CPA and founder of TaxHub. You’ll also want to set a realistic time frame for meeting those goals amid the uncertain economic landscape.

“Setting a realistic timeframe is very important,” says Birrell. “If you set a timeline for one year, but your expenses don’t allow for meeting that timeline or you don’t have the capacity to put in extra work to earn more, you’re not going to reach that goal. Look at it objectively and realistically.”

Set Milestones Toward Larger Goals

Think of a milestone as a smaller goal that helps you get to your larger goal, says entrepreneur Thierry Tremblay, CEO founder of the online database software company Kohezion.

“They are like guideposts on the trail — smaller tasks that you can do to help you stay in line with your overall goal,” says Tremblay. If you fail at various points along the way when pursuing financial goals, think of it as an opportunity to gain valuable insights about things that work and don’t work, says Tremblay. “When you move on to the next goal you’re trying to accomplish, you have an advantage because of the things you’ve learned from your failure,” adds Tremblay.

Start With What You Have

Financial advisers often recommended setting aside three to six months’ worth of income in an emergency fund, which can seem overwhelming if you’re living paycheck to paycheck as many are right now, says Emma Healey, family finance and budgeting expert and founder at Mum’s Money. Rather than giving up on establishing an emergency savings altogether in 2021, simply start smaller.

“Start with what you have. Even if you can only spare $5 a week, stashing it aside to help pad out your budget when times are tough,” says Healey. “It is a decision you’ll never regret. Add more as you can, but the most important thing is to start.”

Automate Your Savings, Debt, and Bill Payments

It’s hard to spend money if you’ve already sent it somewhere else, says Chelsie Moore, CFA and director, wealth management and financial planning for Country Financial. Create automatic debt payments, bill payments and automatic transfers from your checking account to your savings account.

“A little bit adds up over time,” says Moore. “Automatic payments may help you avoid late payment penalties, which are a waste of money, and automatic savings can add up without effort or feelings of sacrifice.”

Meeting your financial goals in the best of times can often be challenging. But when the world is topsy-turvy it can be even more perplexing trying to figure out how to accomplish your goals once you’ve defined them. A personal finance professional can help you navigate the uncertainty and plot a path to success.

“Seek the advice and guidance of a financial professional who has the expertise to assist you,” says Tracey Bissett, CFA and president of Bissett Financial Fitness. “The best way to find one is to seek recommendations from someone you trust and then interview potential advisors to find the best fit. You should feel comfortable talking to the professional and asking them questions.”

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s important to remember as you embark upon 2021, and any year for that matter, that financial fitness is a lifelong journey. “Take small, imperfect actions daily to increase your financial knowledge and movement towards your goals. If you make a misstep, be kind to yourself and get back on track,” says Bissett.

By: Mia Taylor

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THE BROKEN WALLET

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Great Ways to Get Charitable Tax Deductions

Follow these tax tips to get the biggest tax savings when making charitable contributions of cash or checks, household goods, cars or appreciated property.

Choose the right organization

In order for your donation to be deductible, it must go to a nonprofit group that is approved by the IRS. Most often, these are charitable, religious or educational organizations, though they can also be everything from your local volunteer fire company to a group for the prevention of cruelty to animals.

  • If you’re not sure whether the group you want to help is approved by the IRS to receive tax-deductible donations, check online at IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check.
  • This site allows you to enter an organization’s name and location to instantly find out if it qualifies.

Make sure it counts

To write off any cash contributions, no matter how small, you need a canceled check, bank record or a receipt with the charity’s name and donation amount. That means that putting cash in the church collection plate or the Salvation Army bucket is a no-no if you want to be able to take a deduction for it.Your resource on tax filingTax season is here! Check out the Tax Center on AOL Finance for all the tips and tools you need to maximize your return.Go Now

As with all deductions, timing is everything. You can take the deduction for your contribution in the year that you make it.

  • For example, if you mailed a check to your favorite charity on December 31, you can write it off on that year’s tax return.
  • If you charge the donation on a credit card, the write-off is claimed in the year the charge is made, even if you don’t pay the credit card bill until the following year.
  • But a pledge to make a donation is different: Because it’s only a promise to make a future donation, there’s no deduction until you actually follow through.

Donations are limited

There’s also a limit on how much you can deduct. The basic rule is that your contributions to qualified public charities, colleges and religious groups can’t exceed 60 percent of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) (100% of AGI in 2020 for qualified charities).

  • The caps are a bit lower for gifts to other types of nonprofits. When it comes to gifts of appreciated property, the limit drops to 30 percent of AGI.
  • If these restrictions limit your write-off in the year of the gift, the excess deduction carries over to the next year.

Also, keep in mind that you can’t write off a contribution to the extent that you get something in return.

For example:

  • If you buy a $50 ticket to a fundraising dinner at a church, but the cost of the dinner is $20, you can deduct $30.
    • $50 donation – $20 return = $30 deduction
  • For donations of more than $75, the nonprofit must give you a written statement telling you the value of what you received in return and reminding you that you can’t deduct that portion of your contribution.

There’s also a special rule for folks who donate to colleges and universities and receive the right to buy tickets to school athletic events: They can deduct 80 percent of their donation.

Appreciated property

Cash may be king, but if you want a really big tax saver, your best bet may be a donation of appreciated property—securities, real estate, art, jewelry or antiques.

  • If you have owned the property more than a year, you can deduct its full fair market value and escape income tax on the appreciation.
  • For property held one year or less, IRS only allows you to claim a deduction on the price you paid for it.

Let’s say you own stock that you bought many years ago for $1,000 that is now worth $10,000, and that you intend to make a $10,000 gift to a major fundraiser for your alma mater. If you write a check for $10,000, the college gets $10,000, and you get to deduct $10,000.

If instead, you give the $10,000 worth of stock,

  • The college still gets $10,000 (it won’t owe any tax on the profit when it sells the stock.)
  • You still get to deduct $10,000.
  • You eliminate the tax you’d owe if you sold the stock for $10,000: Such a sale would trigger a capital gains tax on the $9,000 of profit, and that would cost you $1,350. Making your gift with stock instead of cash saves you that $1,350.

If you don’t really want to part with the stock because you think it’s still a good investment, give it away anyway. Then use your $10,000 of cash to buy the shares back in the open market. That way you’ll only be taxed on future appreciation.

How a gift is used affects donor value

If you’re donating tangible personal property, what the charity does with the item affects how much you can deduct.

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  • If you donate land so the local homeless shelter can build a new facility to house more people, you can write off the full market value.
  • If you donate a work of art to the shelter for its fundraising auction, you only get a deduction for the price you paid for the artwork.
  • What if you donated the piece of art to a museum that will display it as part of its collection? In that case, you get to deduct the full market value.

For property worth more than $5,000 ($10,000 for stock in closely-held firms), you’ll need to get a formal appraisal. You’ll also have to make sure the appraiser is a member of a recognized professional group or meets minimum education and experience guidelines. If you don’t, the IRS can disallow your deduction.

Contributing household items

Donating used goods such as clothing, linens, electronics, appliances and furniture gets you a write-off for the item’s fair market value at the time you donated it, which may be considerably less than what you originally paid.

The IRS has a helpful booklet on this subject, Publication 561: Determining the Value of Donated Property.

For items valued at more than $500, you’ll need to fill out Form 8283 and attach it to your return. On this form you have to

  • describe each item over $500 that you donated,
  • identify the recipient, and
  • provide information about the value of the item, including your cost or adjusted basis.

Congress has clamped down on donations of household goods to make sure folks aren’t inflating the value of their used stuff.

  • No tax deduction is allowed unless an item is in good condition or better.
  • If an item in less-than-good condition is valued at more than $500, you can take a deduction only if you get the item appraised and attach the appraisal to your return.
  • Congress also gave the IRS broad authority to deny deductions for low-value items such as used socks and underwear.

When preparing your taxes with TurboTax, you can use ItsDeductible Online to help you value and track your donations. This free program gives guidance on prices for commonly donated items and is designed to transfer your donation information to your tax return. ItsDeductible is a built-in feature on TurboTax Deluxe and above.

Donating vehicles

If the claimed value of your donated vehicle is more than $500, in most cases your deduction is limited to the amount the car brings when it’s sold at auction.

  • The charity has 30 days after it sells your vehicle to issue you a Form 1098-C that shows the sale price.
  • You must attach that form to your tax return or the IRS will disallow the deduction.

There are, however, some situations where you’re permitted to claim the car’s estimated market value:

  • If the charity significantly improves the vehicle,
  • makes significant use of it, or
  • gives the vehicle (or sells it at a discount) to a poor person who needs transportation.

For more information, check the IRS article: IRS Guidance Explains Rules for Vehicle Donations.

Volunteer services

Don’t overlook the volunteer work you perform, which may also generate a deduction. You can write off many out-of-pocket expenses you incur to do good work, such as costs for:

  • materials
  • supplies
  • uniforms
  • stationery
  • stamps
  • parking
  • tolls

You can also deduct the cost of driving to and from your volunteer work, at a rate of 14 cents per mile. If you take public transportation, that bus or rail fare is deductible, too.

But here’s the bad news: The value of services you provide as a volunteer don’t merit a write-off. For instance, if you’re a carpenter and you help a nonprofit group build a home for the poor, you can deduct travel costs and building supplies you buy, but not the value of the work you do. (That’s not as hard-hearted as it may seem. If you were paid to do the work, you’d have to report the pay as income, which would drive up your tax bill.)

For more tax tips in 5 minutes or less, subscribe to the Turbo Tips podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and iHeartRadio

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Retirement Planning Demystified

What you need to know about taking tax deductions for charitable donations. Links in this video: Retirement Planning Insights – https://www.tenonfinancial.com/newsle… Taxes in Retirement – https://www.facebook.com/groups/taxes…#RetirementPlanning#TaxPlanning#CharitableDonations

What You Can Do Right Now to Make 2021 Your Best Tax Year Ever

Traditional tax planning is transactional and, honestly, not nearly as beneficial as one might think. You ask your taxes preparer questions and figure out what to do in the spur of the moment. Creating a long-term plan of action for your taxes is how to create real savings, but it takes months to create an effective plan. Now is the time for business owners and investors to be planning to reap the rewards for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

Analyze income

Many accountants suggest pushing income to a later year. There are a few different factors to consider when deciding whether to do this. First, is your income so low you lose deductions? Many personal deductions don’t carry over to the next year. Rather than taking deductions now, you may want to accelerate your income to make use of all your deductions. Another factor to consider is the next year’s tax rates. There’s a real chance that income tax rates could increase in 2021, so the best plan would be to accelerate your income into 2020 to avoid paying at a higher rate.

Related: 5 Tax Strategies to Help Your Business Survive the Coronavirus Slump

Identify opportunities

With both economic and political uncertainty, it’s likely that we’ll see another economic downturn in 2021. During those times there are always opportunities to succeed, but if you don’t plan for them, you’ll be left with remnants. Now that you have an income tax plan in place to reduce your taxes, you can plan to use those savings to invest when the market goes down and investments are cheaper. We all saw the winners and losers following The Great Recession, so make sure you’re prepared to take advantage of opportunities that increase your wealth.

Become someone tax law favors

While preparing to make investments, consider if they’re the ones the government wants you to make. Tax laws are a series of incentives for business owners and investors and it’s easy to take advantage of the opportunities when you understand how the laws can work in your favor.

The government favors producers like business owners, real estate investors and commodity providers and has created huge tax incentives for these activities because they spur economic growth. While consumers typically owe 40% in taxes, producers can easily pay less than 20% in taxes based on the level of their activity. This reduction in taxes allows you to continue to reinvest and grow your wealth.

Related: Analyzing Joe Biden’s Tax Plan

As you can see, reducing your taxes is a valuable and time-consuming process. While 2020 was a difficult year for many, 2021 holds opportunities for those who plan appropriately. Don’t allow yourself to be stuck in a tax rut doing the same things you’ve always done. It’s time to reevaluate your plan and set yourself up for your best tax year yet.

By: Tom Wheelwright / Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

In this 7-minute video clip recorded this morning – 24th August 2020 – Paul takes a brief look at the minimal tax changes in this years’ CF, ER and CeMAP syllabus. Paul’s at https://www.archertraining.co.uk/

Lessons of Lockdown: What Creative Freelancers Will Be Doing Differently When Things Return To Normal

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Over the last two weeks, our entire world as we know it has been turned upside down in a bid to protect the NHS and save lives. Although we’re happy to do our bit, it’s especially tricky for freelancers and small businesses in the creative industries, as often the first thing to be cut is marketing.

A lot of the design, illustration, photography and copywriting that keeps our clients ticking over is on hold and we don’t know when they’ll be hiring us again. For some of you, outstanding invoices haven’t yet been paid, and you’re wondering how long this will continue.

Rather than focus on what we can’t control, many of you are finding ways to adapt and survive. You’re refreshing your portfolios, approaching your network, starting side projects, and refusing to let the current situation stop you from staying positive and afloat.

We’re learning many lessons and are taking this time to reflect. We’re asking the question, how will we do things differently when all this has blown over? I asked Twitter about some of these lessons to share them here and help all of us be prepared in future.

1. Save, save, save

We’ve always said it at Creative Boom: have a healthy reserve of cash before you go freelance. There will be moments of quiet and you’ll need to be ready for them. However, no one could’ve predicted COVID-19 or the current lockdown. No one. If you’re struggling, first of all: don’t be hard on yourself if you’ve not got enough savings (you are not alone); just make sure you priorities having money in the bank in future.

“I’ve always had a bit of a buffer, by over-saving for tax and things,” says web designer Dave Smyth. “That’s seen me through quieter periods and times of prolonged interruption (like paternity ‘leave’), but something like this is quite different: there’s no endpoint, and it affects everyone.”

2. Change the way you get paid

Sick of waiting 30 days for payment? Yes, we are, too. It doesn’t have to be this way. You can choose how and when you get paid. “Make your payment terms work for you,” says London-based photographer Ameena Rojee.

“Even before coronavirus, my payment terms were 14 days after delivery because I thought to wait for an entire month was just ridiculous. I’m now requesting payment within seven days and also ask for a % on photoshoot completion, and the last % on delivery. I’ve surprisingly had very little kickback.”

Ameena makes an excellent point: start asking for payment in stages – how many depends on the length of a project. A deposit upfront might be all you need for smaller jobs. But if you expect the work to continue for months, then it’s not unusual to request payment as you go along. Manage expectations before any project begins, so your client fully understands how you like to be paid.

3. Remember that clients are human, too

“Be kind and human to clients, at all times,” says freelance graphic designer and web developer, Simon Minter. “You never know what individuals may be going through (even when not in a situation like we’re in right now). No need to treat them simply as the one that pays your invoices or gives you difficult feedback.”

It’s a valid point. We’re all in the same boat, so try not to make assumptions or forget that your client will be struggling too. In which case, pick up the phone and chat with them. If they can’t pay your invoice now, what could they afford to spend? Could they do it in stages? If they still need support, what can you do to help but at a reduced cost? Anything is better than nothing, right? And they’ll remember your kindness and loyalty when things return to normal.

4. Be more cautious about new clients

“I won’t be starting any work until the initial invoice has been paid,” says graphic designer Karen Arnott. “I won’t be coy with my pricing, either. I won’t work with people who don’t value design. I’ll be more assertive with scope creep and price chasers. And I won’t work with clients who use phrases like ‘quick job’ or ‘it won’t take you long’.”

Karen probably shares what we’ve all been thinking: we’ve got fire in our bellies. We’ve had time to think about what’s important and the bullsh*t we won’t be putting up with moving forward.

5. Find a better balance

The slower pace and chance to work from home have meant that many of us are finding balance like never before. “I will be working on getting a better work/life balance, take more afternoons off and enjoy long weekends to appreciate the outside world,” remarks Ellen Forster.

Creative Director Neil A Evans agrees: “Remember, you might love what you do: but you can’t burn the candle at both ends indefinitely. You will burn out. Making time to recharge your creative batteries, giving yourself thinking time, time for admin, time for eating and exercise and family and friends, is important.”

Writer Joan Westenberg adds: “I won’t be letting work overcome my boundaries to consume and define me. And I’ll be finding purpose outside of it all.”

6. Develop more income streams

In times such as these, it becomes apparent that we shouldn’t have all our eggs in one basket. “As creatives, we are frequently encouraged to be more niche or focused, and I often worried I had too many small revenue streams,” says illustrator Niki Groom. “But it’s been my saviour, I’ve switched all attention to my online shop, and it’s bringing me an income. I trade as a limited company, so don’t get government support.”

Writer Luc Benyon reminds us that: “Your biggest asset is not necessarily your product, but your expertise. When the delivery of your product is under threat, you can always find a new way to monetize your skills and knowledge.”

You have to adapt, expand your skills and find out new ways to make money. “I’ve diversified the writing services I offer and developed virtual ones like Skype-based consultations,” says writer and singer-songwriter Miranda Dickinson. “All of my income came from book sales, most of them physical, and author events, so the move to e-sales and virtual events has had to be swift to provide any income.”

7. Learn to say ‘no’ without guilt

Now we have all this time to step back and reconsider, many of us are realizing that we’re not happy in some aspects of our work. We might feel like we’ve been on a treadmill for too long and are craving change.

“If the work isn’t what you want to do or if it doesn’t add value to your portfolio, if the client has previously been trouble, or if you’re concerned in any way about getting paid fairly – don’t be afraid to say no,” says Neil A Evans. “Saying ‘no’ is empowering for small business owners.”

Writer Becca Magnus adds: “I’ll be doing work that feels genuinely human, different and empathetic. Marching to the beat of my own drum rather than copying anyone else.” It’s this fighting spirit and determination to gain back some integrity that we can all resonate with right now.

8. Continue to be efficient where possible

“We’re hoping that more of our clients will carry on video calling rather than insisting on client meetings,” says Ben Mainwaring, a digital marketer from Northampton. “It’s way more efficient and productive than spending six hours a week driving to meetings.”

We couldn’t agree more. Many of you are also providing virtual consulting, too. Some at discount rates compared to face-to-face. It’s a no-brainer and follows the growing eagerness to be more upfront and confident about how we run our businesses, how we get paid and what our expectations are for a healthy client relationship.

You might also be considering cutting costs elsewhere, now that you’ve seen how much you save from not having a co-working membership; nevermind the commuting!

9. Don’t forget your own PR and marketing

“It’s important to work on your website or marketing right now. Company marketing/PR spend will most probably be reduced even when this is done, so you need to be on top versus your competitors to get what work will be out there,” says Elizabeth Wilson, a freelance copywriter in Australia.

Elizabeth is right. What better time to focus on our websites? I’ve just overhauled my PR agency, Boomerang, bringing a new brand identity to life on an existing Squarespace theme. It was supposed to be built on a bespoke platform, but we’ve never found the time. With lockdown continuing, it suddenly doesn’t matter. What can you do today to improve your brand, copy, website, portfolio, marketing materials?

Still not convinced? We’ll leave you with these wise words from graphic designer Rob Birkenhead: “As an old boss of mine used to say… When the going gets tough, the tough get marketing.”

10. Get more secure, ongoing work

“I want to find more retainers to balance out the uncertainty,” says Sally Wanless, an illustrator, designer and photographer based in Edinburgh. It’s a valid point: how can we, as creatives, become so indispensable that our clients don’t just drop us the minute trouble strikes?

You need to find ways to keep things ticking over. If you’re a web designer, could you provide web hosting and ongoing site maintenance? If you’re a designer, what can you do that your clients will always need? If you write for a living, shouldn’t your client maintain its blog?

Could it be worth reminding your clients right now about the importance of marketing, especially when their own competition might be cutting back? Start with a small retainer and know that you can always increase it, should things change.

By:

Source: https://www.creativeboom.com

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