Tag: fha (13 articles found)

How to Find a Business Mentor

by  Janet Behm  on  Friday, October 12, 2018

"It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen." - John Wooden

For those of you in the early stages in your career, this article might be worth more than many of the classes you took in college -- if you follow my advice on how to find a business mentor.

And, for those of you who are further along in your business career in Salt Lake County ... frankly, the advice still applies. I can't tell you how many lunches (or coffees) I've been to with ill-prepared, meandering partners. And while some of the specifics of the questions might change from what I suggest here, and from person to person, and over the years ... there simply isn't a better way to build relationships with someone who is busy and successful than what I suggest below. After all ... they gotta eat!

Go somewhere easy -- and YOU pay.

Nobody has time to meet you for a fancy meal in the middle of a busy work day. A cup of coffee works because you pay in advance. You don't want that awkward moment where you both wait for the bill to come, or to have the server interrupt you a dozen times.

And yes, you might be young and poor-ish. But if you've chosen your lunch partner properly, it's simply good manners to ante up the $20-$30 (or less) to pay for their meal. This signals your valuing of their time, and it will build up good will.

Ask questions the entire time.

You convened the meal -- so it is your turn to ask the questions, pick this person's brain, and get as much feedback as you possibly can on your topic. I highly suggest that you come loaded with questions, ready to fire out.

Oh and there's one thing about questions that you need to know...

Ask good questions.

Please don't ask for their "best tips or advice". That's horribly lame, and they won't know where to start. So make it a rule to not ask general questions, because you'll simply get vague responses that won't help you much.

So what are some good questions?

Well, that of course, does depend on your lunch mate, and your own goals for the time. But, for general-purpose networking, and learning the stories behind someone's success, here are some good places to start:

  • What did you do right after high school? What did you do after college? [You want to see what a successful person has done right after completing their studies. This will usually surprise you.]

  • What does an average day look like in your life? I wonder if there's time for video games?

  • Who else do you work with? [This way, you can find out the other players involved in making their team work.]

  • What would you do if...? [Then you present a specific scenario -- hopefully one that you're experiencing yourself.]

Don't talk about yourself, unless asked directly.

Or, as The Rock used to say: "Know your role and shut your mouth." This is your time to be all ears and become a sponge for information. Don't give your input on every single comment.

Do some research.

Don't walk in confused or clueless about what this person is all about. It's important that you take some time to do your research and figure out exactly what this person has been working on. This will score you some bonus points. It pays to be interested. People want to know that their work is being taken seriously.

I do hope this will save you some embarrassment, and, even, open some doors for you that will take your business to the next level.

Feel very free to forward this article to a Salt Lake County business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance -- or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for families and business owners.

BE THE ROAR not the echo



Janet Behm

(801) 278-2700

Utah Real Estate Accountants


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3% of Businesses are Soaring!

by  Janet Behm  on  Tuesday, October 02, 2018

When I sit down with my Salt Lake County business owner clients (whether in person or on the phone), we try to look at EVERY aspect of their business, not just their books. And there is often great clarity when we peek at what is *behind* the books (marketing, sales, management, asset management, etc.).

The good news for my business owner clients from Salt Lake County is that when we put in place clear metrics and financial reports, they shed clear light on strategic decisions.

But the problem I've often found, is that OUTSIDE of the financial reports we're able to create for our clients, there are very few additional metrics in place to evaluate if they're headed in the right direction -- from a strategic, tactical and growth-oriented perspective.

Sure, financial numbers are great -- but what are your GOALS? And, I don't just mean sales goals. What do you want your business to look like two years from now? Five years from now?

And what are you doing to get there?

Too often, business owners are so busy working "in" their business, that they don't have the time to work ON these sorts of things properly.

Well, I have some short and sweet words for you this week on the subject.

Janet Behm's Five Key Elements For Setting Smart Business Goals

"The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." - Mark Twain

Sometimes, as a business owner, you become so overwhelmed, the only thing you can do is take it one step at a time. And, although this may get you through the week, it's not going to help grow your business. Real growth comes from writing out the goals you plan to achieve -- and then putting those goals into action.

Here are some important rules to follow that we've found useful with clients in creating metrics and other goals:

Specific: You know exactly what your goal is.
Measurable: What will tell you that you actually achieved the goal?
Achievable: Speaks for itself. Don't bite off something huge.
Relevant: It fits into a coherent strategy.
Time Bound: Put a deadline on it.

Did you know ... only 3% of the population has written goals?

And, guess what?

This 3% earns far more than the rest.

If you truly want to see improvement and growth in your company, take the time to create SMART goals. Then, be sure to make yourself and your employees accountable for those goals.

Otherwise, you will always be taking it a day at a time.

BE THE ROAR not the echo!

Feel very free to forward this article to a Salt Lake County business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance -- or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for families and business owners.

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3-Reasons to Raise Your Prices

by  Janet Behm  on  Thursday, September 27, 2018

I take a look around the small business world sometimes, and I get a little sad.

It's heartbreaking to watch small businesses in Salt Lake County go out of business or not bring home enough bacon simply because they get trapped into thinking about their pricing in the wrong way.

When you differentiate yourself based on price, you simply cannot provide value. You end up competing on the wrong playing field, and it's not one in which you are built to win.

Yes, price war competitors have been in operation since the days of the Greek agora, but it's important to understand that if YOU want to build a sustainable, scalable -- and one day SALE-able -- business, a core foundational piece of that puzzle is that you must be charging enough for your goods and services.

Last week we addressed the danger of LOWERING your prices. Let's talk today about how you can raise them.

Janet Behm's Price War Strategies: Three Reasons To Raise Your Prices

"I attribute my success to this: I never gave or took any excuse." - Florence Nightingale

Many small businesses remain in perpetual survival mode because of how they price their products.

They believe that their only competitive advantage lies within their pricing, and so they run an ever-accelerating race to the bottom.

But even in shaky times (which, if you're looking at current economic numbers, we are NOT currently facing), people still have money to spend.

So it stands to reason that if you're not bringing it in, you're simply not doing a good enough job showing them that your place of business is the best place to spend it.

You see, it's all about understanding the specific value you provide. And if you're not clear on it, your prospective customers certainly won't be.

So how can you do better in communicating your specific value? Three ideas for you today...

1. Dig into your unique value proposition

Your prospects in Salt Lake County have no way to know if you are the best option for them. To regular consumers, most options are the same -- in almost every industry. So when you compete on price, you attract ... those who are shopping based on price. And, of course, they see you as "just like everyone else".

So, what makes your business different? And how do you show that to the marketplace?  That's what you need to focus on and become able to quickly tell that simple story. Your prospects must turn to you because they trust you, and because they see your business as worth the money -- not because you're the cheapest option.

2. Most consumers make purchasing decisions based on emotion

Why can Nordstrom's charge higher prices for products found elsewhere (i.e. cars, purses, ties, shoes)? It's because of the VALUE they've attached to their brand (i.e. social prestige, enhanced customer service, increased self-esteem). They've moved themselves out of the commodity market and into the heart, emotions and primal urges of their clients.  

You need to (and can) do the same thing in your business. Yes, your customer can get a widget or receive a service for $XYZ ... but what are they NOT getting when they work with that other option? Focus on identifying these aspects of your offering. Your value is not derived from the "features" of your product or service ... it is found in the intangible -- emotional -- benefits from working with or purchasing from YOU.

3. Re-package your offerings based on value

For service professionals in Salt Lake County, there are only so many hours in a day and you'll reach an income plateau very quickly when you are billing by the hour. Not to mention that you have to start every month over at zero -- and there's little stability in that. So, my advice? Begin billing on a flat-fee/value basis.

If you're scared to shift, just think of the *value* your customers will experience having a professional using flat fee billing. They won't be nickel-and-dimed for every phone call, email and message that comes through the office. They can communicate with you as they wish without fear and they can pick their price point of choice if you have multiple flat-fee options. Many people are willing to pay more for certainty. It's a win-win for them -- and it's very much a win-win for the health/sustainability of your business.

For retailers or product providers, you can only play "margin games" for so long. So, identify monthly services that might augment the experience of using your products. Consider what your customers actually want (on an emotional level) and the problems they face in using your services. Property Maintenance companies could initiate a "VIP club", with special perks, automatic billing and exclusive choices. Merchants can create enthusiast groups, or lessons and coaching.

The point is to go *beyond* the widget ... and into the heart of your customers' desires.

Remember this: There are always consumers out there with more money to spend. And they NEED your products or services. It is left to you to convey the intrinsic value of working with you (even at a higher price point) for you to make a revenue shift with what is left of this year.

For further research, see our article, BE THE ROAR, not the echo, on the Utah Real Estate Investors Association website https://www.utahreia.org/Default.aspx 

Feel very free to forward this article to a Salt Lake County business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance -- or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for families and business owners.


Janet Behm

(801) 278-2700


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Be the ROAR

by  Janet Behm  on  Thursday, September 13, 2018

BE THE ROAR. The idea is to be world-class at one thing your company does, rather than be mediocre at everything. This concept is expressed very well in Jason Fried’s book REWORK. ( https://amzn.to/2NoLrGX ).

Here in Salt Lake County, we are surrounded with world-class businesses. Business that have one thing that they do better than any other company in the world! It was exciting to do the research for this article because it was surprisingly difficult to choose from all the superb businesses serving the real estate industry.

We are looking at Utah businesses that demonstrate world-class performance:

1. Find a Niche where you can serve in a way no other business does,

2. Stay Connected, so when a prospect is ready to buy, your company is top-of-mind, and

3. Provide Service that lesser companies would do well to copy.


There is a real estate brokerage in Utah that offers the usual menu of services…except for one extraordinary service. On their home page they list “Additional Links”. I was literally blown away when I saw that they had a special program to help Elementary School Custodians, apply for credits and discounts to save $thousands on the purchase of a home.

Utah Best Real Estate, Heroes Next Door help school custodians gets credits and discounts to buy a home.

https:// www.utahbestrealestate.com/fine/real/estate/teachers/custom/Teacher-Program


Stay Connected

Right in our backyard, we have a brokerage that is demonstrating the concept of the Passing Parade (have a frequent stay-in-touch strategy). Plus, they have been doing this since June 2013!

Look for an active communication with their target audience. The Utah Homes Team publishes a blog that includes contributions from almost everyone with a real estate license. Pick any month from their Archives and you will likely find a different author each week (4X12=48 blogs per year!) That is WORLD-CLASS CONNECTION!

https://www.theutahhomes.com/blog/closing-costs-whos-paying-how-much/ Their agents contribute multiple articles every month

Provide Service

Under this category, I searched for a Website with lots of free content. It is presumed that if a buyer or seller gets stuck, they will use their services, because they have been so helpful with sharing information. They have the usual calculators but provided great “white paper” articles about everything “real estate”.

City Creek Mortgage shares their story: Read how Tobi and I met, why we got into the mortgage industry, why we made the decisions we did, and the blood, sweat and tears shed to build the most Trusted, Respected, and Loved mortgage company in Utah.


This, ladies and gentlemen, this is WORLD-CLASS SERVICE!

not the echo

Just what is an echo? The echo is a company who is a copy-cat of another companies’ success; always a step behind. In the ‘80’s and ‘90’s my late wife, Jackie, and I owned Eastern Onion Singing Telegram Service. What a great business for natural publicity! We had a swirl of singing services and balloon companies in our wake who were like bubbles coming up from your soda can…pop and gone. That was an echo. The echo is the 80% of businesses who start and don’t make it to their second Schedule C (Form 1040).

Best of State®

Utah has a unique organization, “Best of State®”. Every year they accept nominations for companies who demonstrate a superiority in delivering their product or service, how well they differentiate themselves in the business community, and their contribution to Utah’s quality of life. That is where I went searching to find the companies represented above.

Once a year they throw an Awards Gala, to present medals to all the Best of State® winners. It’s a big public relations opportunity, plus you get a medal to display on your advertising and to hang in your office. Best of all, it is a chance for me to wear my tuxedo, black cummerbund and bowtie!

Go to their website https://bestofstate.org/categories_new.php?c=CM and check the categories for awards.

You can nominate your own company, or yourself as an individual. If you are not feeling that frisky, then use this organization as another form of motivation to BE THE ROAR, not the echo, for the next year’s judging.


Janet Behm

Utah Real Estate Accountants


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A Family Budget Plan

by  Janet Behm  on  Monday, August 13, 2018

"Don't just count your years, make your years count." - Ernest Meyers

In my previous note, I wrote about some "big picture" exercises to have with your partner, or for your own financial reconfiguration.

Those were: 1) Writing Your Money Story and 2) Imagining Your Ideal Financial Scenario. Both of these exercises were to lay the foundation for getting practical -- because the practical outworking that comes from these exercises is where steady foundations are built, or becomes the place at which change actually occurs.

So, this is a small bit of practical advice, building upon those first exercises...

Create Your Family Budget Plan Now
As a couple, begin with the assumption that you will pool your money.

Couples enjoy an economic bonus because two can live more cheaply than both could alone. However, do not expect to achieve financial peace without a plan!

I highly recommend that you plan to live on one salary for the first several years. This is a challenge that too few couples in Salt Lake County accept. If you max your lifestyle to pay for a mortgage, car payments, gym memberships, and the like, you will have no flexibility to adjust when children come. Your first years of marriage offer a great opportunity to save for an emergency fund and a down payment on your first house.

Start by tracking your current expenses to give you a starting point for creating your own budget. Budgeting is like healthy eating. You need to maintain balance and avoid excessive indulgences. 

Going through this exercise will likely reveal who has the greater interest in paying the bills. Even when only one of you will be paying the bills, you can only build trust if you decide together how your money will be spent.

Remember to allocate some savings. After all, as I've written, wealth is not what you spend but what you save and invest.

Now you can build a financial fortress that re-writes your story, and which takes you to the place of your greatest hopes.

Until next week,

Janet Behm

Janet Behm is a CPA for Utah Real Estate Accountants.  To contact Janet, please visit the Business Directory located at:  https://www.utahreia.org/VendorListings.aspx


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All of the tax media outlets (and even some non-tax ones) were shouting about a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that showed that (gasp) millions of taxpayers are underwithholding, and that they will face a tax bill come 2019. Apparently, there was an increase of 3% of those who will owe the IRS due to not adjusting withholding per the new tax law.

Fortunately, the IRS does have a handy calculator, updated with all of the new tables, that can give you a general sense for what you should be withholding.

But, as usual, there is a side to this story that most people in Salt Lake County aren't noticing. The actual percentage of people who are
underwithholding is 21% (up from 18%). But the number of people who are OVERwithholding is 73%.

THAT is the story, in my opinion: almost three-quarters of taxpayers are loaning the government their money throughout the year, simply because they haven't taken the time to run the numbers. Or maybe it's because they like the feeling of getting a refund, come tax time.

But as I've
nagged said to you before, getting a refund just means that you didn't project properly. You're giving a multi-trillion dollar organization (the federal government) a loan from YOUR accounts, instead of having use of that money throughout the year.

If that's fine with you, so be it.

Only 6% of the population are striking that golden mean of withholding just the right amount.

But either way, let's not make this decision simply by default, and not planning ahead!

That's why it's helpful to have someone in your corner who can help you get the numbers right. If you haven't had a tax planning meeting with us this summer, there's still plenty of time to do so before the end of the year. Don't miss out on the opportunities available to you to save lots of your hard-earned income from the grasping hands of the IRS.

If you are married, these are the sort of things that you should decide together with your spouse, or at least have clarity about how these decisions should be made, if one partner is tasked with these kinds of choices.

And as we are turning the corner into the end of summer, the wedding season is winding down, and I thought I would offer some unsolicited advice for the newlyweds among us, as well as those who have been "seasoned" a bit in their marital journey. 

And I also think that even for those who are single, there are some things in here you should think through...

Janet Behm's Two Financial Exercises To Strengthen Your Family Finances
"If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable." - Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Wedding season is almost over. For many of my clients in Salt Lake County, that ship has sailed … but this is a great opportunity to pass on something smart to your children. Or, perhaps you need a refresher for your existing marriage.  

Either way, your marriage is sure to have many challenges, and mastering money is a big one. Expect a few good money fights. "You bought ___ !?" is often the first sign that the dam is breaking and a torrent is about to flow.

Couples who fail to prepare for a shared money maturing process will likely experience longer and sharper growing pains. Because the fact is that most people bring in emotional baggage from their childhood years that can complicate the matter.

So that being the case, I've put together a series of exercises which are useful conversations for any engaged couple -- or, even, those with some years under their marriage belt.

And because of the length of this, I'll make it a two-parter, and be back with more of these money exercises next week.

Exercise 1: Start With Your Money Story
Begin by separately writing an autobiography that focuses on your relationship to the money you have acquired. The fact is, you've been shaped by experiences with money management, and you picked up most of them through implicit observation.

Now, if you are like me, you may want to just list bullet points, or you may prefer to compose several paragraphs. Some people end up writing a small book! What events have shaped your thinking? 

What fears do you have about money? What voices remain inside your head? For example, "I don't want to act like my Uncle Tommy who..." Some voices are helpful and others not so much; be sure to name them all.

This exercise can be most powerful when shared with other couples, both married and engaged. As you share these stories and ask questions to better understand each other more deeply, you are developing the kind of communication skills that big money questions will require of you.

Exercise 2: The Dream Scenario
Begin by reflecting on this question: 

"Imagine you are fully financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs now and in the future. How would you live your life?" 

Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don't hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is completely and richly
yours. Because here's the truth: you can be sure that any unspoken goals will never be fulfilled.

This exercise is particularly helpful when you feel financially stuck. Naming our desires forces us to confront our associated fears. Speaking these goals brings them into the light. Your future (or current) spouse can respond and offer support or constructive criticism. 

You can expect that this exercise might bring about a reprioritization of your time and money. You will find the work of life comes much easier when it is aligned with your passions and aptitudes. Perhaps, for example, you might be led to a downsizing of your lifestyle so you're able to work for that nonprofit you've always had your eye on.

All of this may sound too fuzzy or creative, but nothing is more important in your financial management. 

Why do I say that? 

In all of my years of working with family finances, I've seen this truth:
financial woes often don't come from a lack of income ... but from our failure to live according to our true values.

Get those right, and the rest begins to follow.

More to come next week.

I do hope this helps  ... and no matter where you find yourself, there is "no shame in our game". We are in your corner.

Until next week, 

Janet Behm

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 An Effective Lead Generation Strategy From Business Owner To Another
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Advertising is obviously a crucial ingredient of any effective business plan, yet it actually works against many businesses -- especially small businesses. You see, most small businesses mimic what they see the "big boys" doing (I mean, big mammoth corporations or large, well-established ecommerce stores that have gone viral), and that's like a thoroughbred horse jockey trying to imitate an elephant trainer.

You have an entirely different agenda as a small business owner in Salt Lake County than does a larger business.
Many large corporations are engaged more with "marketing" than they are with direct advertising (which is what I addressed last week).

You see, to run a successful ad for a small business, it must do one of two things -- and do these ONLY:
1)  Generate Sales, or
2)  Generate Sales Leads.

Even better -- do it in a measurable, quantifiable way.

The best part -- when you do this right, then you have no problem "getting your name out there" ... but you'll also make money in the process.

Unfortunately, most businesses simply attempt to "get their name out there," and it's very likely that they won't generate sales OR sales leads with such advertising.

Business owners don't expect nearly enough from their advertising, and they don't hold it accountable for results. So they waste thousands of dollars, and then they start pounding their sales people for orders on the 26th of every month.

So ... what about when you're trying to generate leads? Well, don't try to accomplish overmuch at that stage.

You must remember that all you're really trying to do for lead generation is to get people to "raise their hands" and identify themselves as someone who has a problem -- and tell you who they are.

Anything more than that, will actually reduce your response. The purpose of pure lead generation advertising is NOT for you to tell them all about yourself -- not in the first step anyway.

The only purpose is for them to tell you who they are.

When you do this correctly, it's simple and effective.  And most importantly, nobody feels like you're chasing them.

And THAT'S a power position you want.

Feel very free to forward this article to a business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance -- or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for families and business owners.

You can find our listing in the Business Directory found on this site.


Janet Behm
Utah Real Estate Accountants


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We love what we do. 

I'm not sure if it's always obvious, but perhaps you can take a cue from the fact that I take the time to post you these sorts of notes on a regular basis, if not by other factors.

We love this stuff, and consequently, we work hard for our Salt Lake County clients.

Crafting elegant, tax-saving and easy-to-understand strategies to help you save on your taxes is a joy. And, of course, removing from our clients the annoying hassle of dealing closely with government paperwork, deadlines and personnel -- while not exactly a "joy" -- provides us with great satisfaction because we know that we get to serve our clients and help them not have to deal with stuff that isn't exactly "fun".

But sometimes (usually a rare instance), there are circumstances in which, despite great planning and implementation of strategy, things go sideways.

That is REALLY not fun.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about estate planning, and I do want to touch on it one more time here today -- despite the fact that it isn't our primary area of service. It's such a critical part of a family's financial picture, but it doesn't really get focused on, occasionally only until it's too late.

You see, even the most well-crafted estate plan can be ruined by a poor choice of executor.

Of course, we can always do our best to help our Salt Lake County clients and and their families deal with it and navigate through this poor choice, once it becomes apparent -- we have definitely handled that sort of thing.

But it's always better if the choice is made well.

So, this week, I have some words about this, as you consider your current executor, and whether they fit the profile ...

And by the way, this is just as important for the single person as it is for those who have families to think about.  Last year I lost my brother-in-law, Thad.  He was an "old bachelor".  He had a trust, so we were able distribute his one asset, a Mazda Miata, without losing stride.

Janet Behm's Guide For Choosing An Executor Of Your Estate Plan
“Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it.” - Harper Lee

Whenever you have any kind of estate plan in place, your executor is the person who manages the process when it is actually "executed". They are what is called a "fiduciary", which means he or she must be someone who will act in good faith when handling your affairs. He or she cannot take advantage of his or her position, or unfairly profit from financial transactions from your estate. The executor will meet the standard of a fiduciary duty if he or she does a competent, honest job.
You want your fiduciary to be both trustworthy and capable of handling the tasks. You have to have complete faith in him or her. Make sure he or she understands the responsibility of the job and is willing to accept it. This obviously should require a discussion before you make your Will.

Oh, and if you make NO plan, the state will be the one who chooses your executor through a process called probate.
It sounds a bit strange, but name someone who is healthy and likely to be around after your death. To be secure, you should definitely select at least one successor executor to serve if your first choice is unable or unwilling to do so when the time comes.
For many people, the choice is obvious -- their spouse. Others select a close friend, a grown child or other close relative. If no obvious person comes to mind, make a list of your possible selections and use common sense (and this article as your guide) to make the wisest choice.

Remember, as I wrote last week ...

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

So the choice is important when it comes to choosing an executor.

But lastly, as you make these decisions, consider telling your family and loved ones exactly what you plan.

This gives you the chance to head off any possible disagreements among your family about how things "should" be handled. If you happen to die or lose capacity, it's usually too late.

Eliminate surprises and keep those family fights at bay.

Perhaps the LAST thing to say is: make sure you have competent help by your side, in ALL things financial (especially when it comes to your existing finances and tax strategy). 

And that, of course, is what we're here for.

Until the next time I write to you (which will be soon), I am warmly yours, 
Janet Behm

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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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