Clean your financial house for the new year

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Out with the old, in with the new. No matter whether you apply the expression to changes in attitude or to life adjustments, the end of the year is a great time to assess your household finances and prepare for new opportunities. Here are suggestions.

 
Review your credit report. Request a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. If the reports contain errors, get them corrected.

 
Make or update your home inventory. Go through your house and make a video describing what you see, along with information such as purchase dates, prices, and estimated values. Your home inventory can be vital for getting insurance claims approved in case of disaster.

 
Calculate your net worth. Your net worth is the value of your assets, including your house, personal property, bank accounts, car, and investments, minus liabilities such as your mortgage, credit card balances, and loans. This is a great yardstick for measuring your household’s financial growth (or shrinkage) from year to year.
Increase your savings. If you get a year-end raise, consider contributing a portion of the extra money to your 401(k) plan or other savings account.

 
Purge financial records. If you’re a financial packrat with stacks of old cancelled checks and bank statements that are no longer needed for an IRS audit or your own use, shred them.

 
Need help? Contact our office.

How to calculate the amount of your loss and ease financial burdens when violent weather wreaks havoc.

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Violent weather can wreak emotional and financial havoc. If your home, vehicle, or other personal property is damaged or destroyed by a sudden, unexpected casualty, an itemized tax deduction may help ease the financial burden.

 
In most cases, you claim a casualty loss in the taxable year the calamity strikes. However, if you’re in a federally declared disaster area, you have the option of amending your prior year return. Either way, to receive the maximum benefit you’ll need to calculate the amount of your loss. Here’s how.

 
File an insurance claim. If your property is insured, file a timely claim.

 
Get an appraisal. An appraisal determines the decline in fair market value caused by the casualty. Tax rules require that you measure the difference between what your home or property would have sold for before the damage and the probable sales price afterward.

 
Establish basis. Generally, adjusted basis is what you originally paid for the damaged property, plus improvements. If your records were lost in the casualty, recreate them using reasonable estimates or the best information you have.

 
Keep receipts for repairs. In some situations, repairs you make to restore your property to pre-casualty condition can be used as an indicator of the decline in the fair market value.

 
Remember, you’re not alone. In the aftermath of a casualty, we’re here to help you resolve the tax issues.

Victim of a disaster, fire or theft? You may be eligible for a tax deduction

 

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If you suffer damage to your home or personal property, you may be able to deduct these “casualty” losses on your federal income tax return. A casualty is a sudden, unexpected or unusual event, such as a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, etc.), fire, accident, theft or vandalism. A casualty loss doesn’t include losses from normal wear and tear or progressive deterioration from age or termite damage.

 
Here are some things you should know about deducting casualty losses:

 
When to deduct. Generally, you must deduct a casualty loss in the year it occurred. However, if you have a loss from a federally declared disaster area, you may have the option to deduct the loss on an amended return for the immediately preceding tax year.

 
Amount of loss. Your loss is generally the lesser of 1) your adjusted basis in the property before the casualty (typically, the amount you paid for it), or 2) the decrease in fair market value of the property as a result of the casualty. This amount must be reduced by any insurance or other reimbursement you received or expect to receive. (If the property was insured, you must have filed a timely claim for reimbursement of your loss.)

 
$100 rule. After you’ve figured your casualty loss on personal-use property, you must reduce that loss by $100. This reduction applies to each casualty loss event during the year. It doesn’t matter how many pieces of property are involved in an event.

 
10% rule. You must reduce the total of all your casualty or theft losses on personal-use property for the year by 10% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). In other words, you can deduct these losses only to the extent they exceed 10% of your AGI.

 
Have questions about deducting casualty losses? Contact us!