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Firm News

Greetings from Ana, James, and Barbara                                                                Contact Us Now!

Happy New Year 2018!

We hope that all of you had a wonderful holiday season and a joyous New Year!  We wish the best for you and yours this year.

Ana, James, daughter Remy, and Barbara went on an epic road trip this summer.  We set out in late June when it was dripping heat in Bakersfield and headed north up Highway 395.  Our destination was Cheyenne, Wyoming.  We truly enjoyed the drive together, spent time visiting family and had many adventures.  When we arrived in Cheyenne we visited a bison ranch.  (Yes, we both fed the bison and ate bison.  It was delicious.)

https://secure.emochila.com/swserve/siteAssets/site11617/images/Terry_Buffalo_Ranch_238x160.jpg

On the way back we got to explore Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, took the scenic tour through Zion National Park in Utah, and spent the night at a picturesque resort – in an old-fashioned western wagon.  It was truly the trip of a lifetime.

 

New Assistants at Your Service

We are pleased to introduce you to the newest members of Better Ledger, Christie and Jesekah.  You will note the friendly voices and easy smiles of both new employees on the phone and at the front desk. 

You will see Barbara in her usual office, working closely with James.  Ana will be in the office directly next door, and will visit clients in the Kern River Valley.

We are happy it is Tax Season.  Talk to you soon!

Better Ledger, Inc.             1400 Easton Drive, Suite 135, Bakersfield, CA  93309

www.betterledger.com 661-871-1625   fax 661-840-5735

ana@betterledger.com

barbara@betterledger.com

james@betterledger.com

admin@betterledger.com

 

Set a Tax Appointment:  Phone, Online or Email                          

We are getting ready for tax season, and we look forward to hearing from you!  Starting on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, our office will be fully staffed and ready to set appointments.  Please call our office at 661-871-1625 to set your appointment by phone.  You can also go to www.betterledger.com and click on Contact Us Now!  There you can request your appointment date, send a message to us, or even get driving instructions to our office from your location.   As always, you can also contact us by email (admin@betterledger.com).  Don’t forget to let us know if you would like to receive your appointment reminder by text, email or mail.

Best Practice:  Use a Secure Client Portal

Sometimes we can’t meet in person.  Instead, it would be more convenient if you could send your documents to me.  You can take the traditional route and mail me your tax documents.  If you prefer to fax me your documents, my fax number is 661-840-5735.  It may be easiest to send me scanned copies. 

However . . . Have you ever thought about the potential risk of emailing tax documents electronically?

The best way to protect your sensitive tax data is to send and receive tax documents with Better Ledger using a secure client portal.  Once you have a digital copy of your document it is simple to upload it to your secure portal hosted by Better Ledger.  There is no additional cost to you to use the secure portal, and it is as easy as accessing an email, logging in, and uploading a file as an attachment.  Please contact us and we will promptly set up your secure portal.

A digital copy can be:  downloaded from your workplace, a scanned copy, or a clear and well-lit picture.  (If you can’t read it on your phone, I probably can’t read it either.)

As soon as your tax return is complete, we can post a copy of your tax return to your secure portal so you can download it to keep in your files.

Please note, you do need to have a working email address and internet access to use the secure client portal. 



Have you had a major event in your life?

There is a chance that it will have an impact on your tax return.

 Make sure that you tell us about your changes! 

Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, adoptions, going to college, searching for a new job, buying or refinancing your house, buying a rental property or starting a new business.


 

Tax Law Changes Specific to 2017

When Congress passed the “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015” (PATH Act) many tax provisions were made permanent.  These include:  The Child Tax Credit, the American Opportunity Credit for education, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and $250 Teacher Expenses Deduction. 

However, a number of tax provisions that were renewed through December 31, 2016 by the PATH Act expired and are not applicable to 2017.  This means:

► Cancellation of Debt income may be taxable if you experienced a short sale or foreclosure of your principal residence after December 31, 2016.  If you had Cancellation of Debt income resulting from your principal residence, it can no longer be excluded from your taxable income (unless it was included in a bankruptcy, you are insolvent, or other possible exclusions). 

If you itemize, Mortgage Insurance Premiums are no longer a deduction.

The Tuition and Fees Deduction is not available in 2017, although the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit are. 

The Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit is not available.  If you made energy efficient improvements to your home in 2017 like replacing windows or adding insulation, there is no tax benefit.  Tax Credits for Residential Renewable Energy Systems like Solar, Wind, and Geothermal Power are still available!          

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

Major changes in tax law were discussed and negotiated in both houses of Congress in the final months of 2017, resulting in the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act”, passed into law on December 20, 2017.  The new tax law went into effect on January 1, 2018, and will not impact the 2017 tax returns that we are preparing to file now.  We are fervently studying the information available about how the new laws will be applied and how they will affect you.  We will be ready to talk at your tax appointment, or by telephone or email, about the likely impact of the new tax law on your individual situation.

What Changes Are Expected in 2018 from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act?*

Child Tax Credit          Increases to $2,000 per child

Standard Deduction    Increases to $24,000 for MFJ, $12,000 Single, $18,000 Head of Household

Personal Exemption    Repealed entirely.  No personal exemptions.

Moving Expense         The deduction is eliminated in most cases.

AMT Exemption          Increased, so Alternative Minimum Tax doesn’t kick in as quickly.

Estate Tax                 The exemption was doubled to $10 million, indexed for inflation.

 

For Schedule A          Job Expenses and Certain Miscellaneous Deductions on the Schedule A                                                       are eliminated.  

Itemizers                  State and Local Taxes, including Property Taxes are limited to $10,000.     

      Mortgage Interest is limited to a debt maximum of $750,000, and does not                allow home equity loan debt

*Please see the full text of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.


Important Reminders:

 

Charitable Contributions Require Receipts

When a Charitable Contribution is being deducted, a single contribution of $250 or more needs a receipt from the charity showing the description and amount of the donation and, must state that “no goods or services were received” in exchange for the donation.  When you make a list of the items that you donate, have it signed by the person accepting the donation to acknowledge receipt.   See IRS Tax Tip  2017-32

Earned Income Credit and Refundable Child Tax Credit Refunds May be Delayed

According to the IRS, if you claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, your refund may be placed on a temporary hold.  Following the PATH Act, IRS cannot issue refunds for those credits before February 15th.  IRS expects the earliest date taxpayers could receive those refunds starts February 27, 2018 if they choose direct deposit. 

Phone Scams and Hoaxes

In 2017 taxpayers all over the country continued to receive threatening phone calls, usually from someone claiming to be from IRS.  Do not be alarmed if you receive one of these calls, and DO NOT give any private information over the phone!  Threats of arrest or bank account seizure are false!

Legitimate tax agencies will ALWAYS contact you by mail multiple times before potentially having access to your assets, like a bank account.  If you get a letter from IRS, FTB or another tax agency, PLEASE OPEN IT and forward it to our office as soon as possible.  If you or someone you know has given a suspected thief personal or financial information you may contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-438-4338 or IRS Identity Protection Unit at 800-908-4490.  Go to the IRS identity protection tips page for more information.

Mandatory Reporting of Foreign Financial Assets

If you have any foreign accounts worth more than $10,000 on any day of the year, it is important to accurately report the information at tax time on the FBAR (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report).  Although you are not taxed on the content of the accounts, penalties for willfully not reporting foreign assets can be as high as 50% of the value of the account.  Please let us know if this may apply to you.

 

By the Numbers

The standard mileage rates are used to calculate travel expenses for business, medical, charity, and moving expenses.  Here are the rates for tax years 2017 and 2018.

 

2017

2018

Business Mileage

53.5 ¢ per mile

54.5 ¢ per mile

Medical/Moving Mileage

17.0 ¢ per mile

18.0 ¢ per mile

Charity Mileage

14.0 ¢ per mile

14.0 ¢ per mile