Tag: Buyers List (3 articles found)

MORE SCAMS: ALERT!

by  Janet Behm  on  Monday, July 16, 2018



"Don't let the same dog bite you twice." - Chuck Berry


The most common forms of scams targeting taxpayers occur before April 15th (or the 18th, as it was this year), but as tax planning and correspondence continues year-round, so do the fraudsters.

It seems that once they get a taste of that sweet, sweet stolen money, they keep inventing more ways to engage you and your money.

So here are some newer ones for which to be on guard, as well as a reminder about some of the regular variety...

Real bank accounts sent fraudulent money
This is a new twist to a common problem: fake returns filed. But in this instance, the criminal sends funds to YOUR bank account ... and then comes to you, claiming that there has been some sort of error. They do this to prevent the IRS from raising an alarm for funds being deposited into unrelated accounts.

The scammers then contact you, either posing as an IRS representative calling about a refund error or as an agent of private collection agency going after tax debts. As fake agents, they tell you to send the funds back to the Treasury -- except it's really going into their hands. As collection agent impersonators, they instruct you to forward the money to their little fake collection agency.

Fake charities come calling
Every time a natural disaster strikes, these outfits pop up like moles to be squashed. They advertise and spread via social media and typically don't appreciate it when you ask difficult questions. That's why if you have any questions about a charity and the group seeking your contribution won't answer them...don't give. Legitimate  nonprofits are happy to prove that they are really doing the good work they advertise.

The IRS has set up an online tool to verify charitable organizations called "Select Check" that can help you navigate the murky waters of this area. In general, a good rule of thumb is to give to established charities, or those endorsed by trusted friends.

Fake withholding verification
In this doozy, the crooks will mail (or fax, if you can believe it) a letter to their scam targets, most often those who are international taxpayers or non-resident aliens. The letter tells them that although they are exempt from withholding and reporting income tax, they need to authenticate their information by entering personal and tax info on the enclosed, phony version of Form W-8BEN and faxing it to the crooks.

The first problem is that these forms are only supposed to be sent to a "withholding agent", and they often reference fictitious forms. Don't fall for this one -- run these sorts of things through us before complying.

Fake IRS agents calling you
This one has been a common tax scam as of late. The IRS estimates that 2 million taxpayers have been called over the past year. And lest you think we're getting collectively wise, they also estimate that they have already gathered over $60 million in fraudulent funds. And they are still going at it. Watch out.

There are more out there like this, so if you suspect you're being targeted, here's what you should do... 

  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA's "IRS Scam Reporting" web page to report the incident.
  • You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the "FTC Complaint Assistant" on FTC.gov. 
  • Send any phishing emails you think you've received to: phishing@irs.gov 

If you think you may owe taxes, but are leery of the source telling you: 

  • Ask for a call back number and an employee badge number.
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you.
  • Or, if you would rather not land in phone-tree oblivion with the IRS, you can give us (Utah Real Estate Accountants) a call: (801) 278-2700
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First, NOW is the time to act…Did I say NOW?!?!

You may have established an estate plan in the past, or you may not have gotten around to it, but it is critical that you ALWAYS have an up-to-date plan. 

Most people are smart enough to keep their car in good working order -- it requires oil changes, an annual physical check-up, etc. But I'm always surprised by the common misconception about how often they should have their estate plan reviewed.

You see, most people see estate planning as something you "do once" and never have to think about again. That's just flat incorrect. 

Just like your health can take a dramatic turn (for the better or worse) in a year, your estate planning decisions can change dramatically in a short period. Sometimes, something simple happens, such as an out-of-state move by the people you've identified to serve as the guardians for your minor children. That's just one of many good reasons to revisit your estate planning decisions.

Plus, though there's been a lot of talk in recent years about the higher estate tax threshold, there are many ways in which out-of-date plans can be "burned", by not complying with new laws.

Your estate plan is a "living and breathing" plan (at least when done right) and therefore has to be maintained to reflect your life as it is today. 

Second, PLEASE ensure you have chosen the proper executor. 

Whether you're dealing with significant sums, or with a more modest estate, choosing the person to handle these transactions is a critical decision for EVERY Salt Lake County family.

It's always a great idea to get professional advice in making these selections. But, if you choose to "go it alone" for some reason, here's what you need to keep in mind as you consider who will be your executor:

An executor must:  

 * Obtain certified copies of your death certificate
 * Locate Will beneficiaries
 * Examine and inventory your safe deposit boxes
 * Collect your mail
 * Cancel credit cards and subscriptions
 * Notify the SSA and other benefit plan administrators of your death
 * Learn about your property, which may involve examining bank statements, deeds, insurance policies, tax returns and other records
 * Get bank accounts covered by the Will released
 * Place notices in newspapers so creditors can make claims
 * Hire a probate attorney


Either the executor or the probate attorney must:  

 * File court papers to start the probate process and obtain legal authority to act as your executor
 * Manage your assets during the probate process, which usually takes six months to a year
 * Handle court-supervised probate matters, including transfer of property to your beneficiaries and making sure your final debts and taxes are paid
 * Have final income tax forms prepared, and, if necessary, have estate tax returns for your estate prepared and filed

Of course, the open probate process is something you will absolutely want to minimize and even avoid. A sound plan does this.

But this right here (the choice of executor), is where it starts.
In the future, I'll have more to say about an executor and why that choice is so important.

Warmly, Janet Behm, EA

Utah Real Estate Accountants

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How Money Can Buy You Happiness

by  Janet Behm  on  Tuesday, July 03, 2018
 How Money Can Buy You Happiness

By Janet Behm, Utah Real Estate Accountants

Despite assertions to the contrary, science tells us that money can buy happiness. To a point. From a recent study (my emphasis):

We report an analysis of more than 450,000 responses to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, a daily survey of 1,000 US residents conducted by the Gallup Organization. […] When plotted against income, life evaluation rises steadily. Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ~$75,000. For reference, the federal poverty level for a family of four is currently $25,100. Once you reach a little over 3 times the poverty level in income, you've achieved peak happiness, as least far as money alone can reasonably get you.

This is something I've seen echoed in a number of studies. Once you have "enough" money to satisfy the basic items at the foot of the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs pyramid – that is, you no longer must worry about food, shelter, security, and perhaps having a bit of extra discretionary money for the unknown – stacking even more money up doesn't do much, if anything, to help you scale the top of the pyramid.

But even if you're fortunate enough to have a good income, how you spend your money has a strong influence on how happy – or unhappy – it will make you. And, again, there's science behind this. The relevant research is summarized in a recent study in Journal of Consumer Psychology by a quartet of Harvard researchers: If money doesn't make you happy, then you probably aren't spending it right:

Most people don't know the basic scientific facts about happiness — about what brings it and what sustains it — and so they don't know how to use their money to get it. It is not surprising when wealthy people who know nothing about wine end up with cellars that aren't much better stocked than their neighbors', and it shouldn’t be surprising when wealthy people who know nothing about happiness end up with lives that aren't that much happier than anyone else's. Money is a chance for happiness, but it is an opportunity that people routinely squander because the things they think will make them happy often don't.

What is, then, the science of happiness? I'll summarize the basic six points as best I can…

  1. Buy experiences instead of things

Things get old. Things become ordinary. But experiences are totally unique; they shine like diamonds in your memory, often more brightly every year, and they can be shared forever. Whenever possible, spend money on experiences such as taking your family to Disney World, rather than things like a new television.

  1. Help others instead of yourself

Anything we can do with money to create deeper connections with others tends to tighten our social connections and reinforce positive feelings about ourselves and others. Imagine ways you can spend some part of your money to help others – even in a very small way – and integrate that into your regular spending habits.

  1. Smaller purchases are more satisfying

Because we adapt so readily to change, the most effective use of your money is to bring frequent change. Break up large purchases, when possible, into smaller ones over time so that you can savor the entire experience. When it comes to happiness, frequency is more important than intensity. Discover how many small, pleasurable purchases are more effective than a single giant one.

  1. Pay now and consume later

Immediate gratification can lead you to make purchases you can't afford or may not even truly want. Impulse buying also deprives you of the distance necessary to make reasoned decisions. It eliminates any sense of anticipation, which is a strong source of happiness. For maximum happiness, savor (maybe even prolong!) the uncertainty of deciding whether to buy, what to buy, and the time waiting for the object of your desire to arrive.

  1. Think about what you're not thinking about

We tend to gloss over details when considering future purchases, but research shows that our happiness (or unhappiness) largely lies in exactly those tiny details we aren't thinking about. Before making a major purchase, consider the mechanics and logistics of owning this thing, and where your actual time will be spent once you own it. Try to imagine a typical day in your life, in some detail, hour by hour: how will it be affected by this purchase?

  1. Beware of comparison shopping

Comparison shopping focuses us on attributes of products that arbitrarily distinguish one product from another but have nothing to do with how much we'll enjoy the purchase. They emphasize things we care about while shopping, but not necessarily what we'll care about when actually using what we just bought. In other words, getting a great deal on cheap chocolate for $2 may not matter if it's not fun to eat.

Happiness is a lot harder to come by than money. So, when you do spend money, keep these lessons in mind to maximize what happiness it can buy for you. And remember: it's science!

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