A Credit Freeze How-To, and Why Kyle Nagy Recommends It Now

A Credit Freeze How-To, and Why Kyle Nagy Recommends It Now

I hope you’re well today. This is the final week before extended returns are due (Monday, October 16th is the due date this year), so we are working hard with those clients who placed an extension on their filing to make sure that everything is set up and filed properly.

So, it’s a busy week for us in our Kansas City offices this week, and I’d ask for your understanding about that for your communication with us.

But just because it’s busy, doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t take the time to communicate with you, and this week I’m addressing the big Equifax data breach, and what you should know about it, and what you should do. I’ve received some questions about it over the past couple weeks, but based on my research, it’s a messy situation overall, and rock-solid answers to certain questions seem hard to come by.

That said, I have some advice and rock-solid answers to some questions, and a few thoughts on the ones for which information seems unclear.

Here we go…

A Credit Freeze How-To, and Why Kyle Nagy Recommends It Now
“The best way to convince a fool that he is wrong is to let him have his own way.” – Josh Billings

It’s been about one month since the massive “data breach” at Equifax, which affected about 145 million Americans (more than half the country), led to the firing of their CEO, and has caused a great deal of stress to millions of people — including most of us here in Kansas City. And, well, if you’ve done any research on the matter, you’ve also no doubt seen conflicting advice and a fair amount of nonsense.

First of all, it’s still unclear whether the data on the Equifax site EquifaxSecurity2017.com is actually accurate. In other words, you might get a “false positive” and you might get a “false negative” when you submit your information there. There have been multiple reports I have seen in which people submit the same information multiple times and receive varying information. No doubt that their systems were slammed after all of the press coverage, but the fact remains that the site still apparently remains unreliable.

So, it’s a good idea to just assume that your information was part of the breach, even if you have checked and think that it wasn’t.

So what should you do? I’ll keep this simple because there’s just so much noise out there about this topic: First of all, request a credit freeze at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, Transunion).

Here are the online links to do so:

Equifax:
https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian:
https://www.experian.com/ncaconline/freeze

Transunion:
https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp

Don’t trust the online process? Here are the phone numbers for it:
Equifax: 1-800-685-1111
Experian: 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872

Why a credit freeze, and what does this do?
A “credit freeze” essentially locks your credit from being issued to any other person (including yourself). It seems like overkill, but consider it to be like “locking the doors to your financial house”. (In this way, it is far superior to programs like “LifeLock”, which can be understood as a “delayed alarm” system for your credit.)

“Unfreezing” your credit, while it does take a bit of doing, is not burdensome. It takes about 20 minutes to freeze your credit at all three agencies, and as long as you keep the PIN from that process, temporarily unfreezing them as needed is almost instant.

The only time you really need your credit to be active is when you are applying for a new credit card, applying for a loan or mortgage, or switching cell phone carriers (where monthly credit is extended). As long as you are not doing these things several times per year, the hassle is minimal.

Here are a couple things you do NOT need to do:

  1. Check your credit score. All this really does is verify your “credit worthiness” and doesn’t help you determine if you’ve been affected or if your credit is being used by a third party.
  2. Subscribe to a paid credit monitoring service. All that you need is provided for free, especially if you freeze your credit.
  3. PANIC. We are in your corner, no matter what comes.

I do recommend you ensure you are prepared to submit your tax returns as early as possible in 2018. That may sound self-serving coming from me, but the reason security experts agree on this step is so you can close the window for scammers to file in your name, with information they may have obtained from the breach. Obviously, some of my clients have complicated situations that mean waiting on K-1’s, 1099’s, etc. However, it’s a very good idea to not dawdle in the process, and this is ESPECIALLY true if you will be expecting a refund.

Certain people can get a personalized PIN for their taxes, which is another safeguard against fraudulent tax returns in your name. Here is a link to more information about it, but it’s currently only available by IRS invitation, or if you have an address in Florida, Georgia, or the District of Columbia: https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/get-an-identity-protection-pin

I do hope all of this helps. I am not a dedicated expert on these matters, but I have seen enough nonsense to be able to cut through the garbage a little bit for you.

(Here is another great place to find answers if I haven’t addressed everything you are concerned about — the New York Times’ continually-updated FAQ about the Equifax breach:
https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/your-money/equifax-data-breach-credit.html )

I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you, and for your referrals – and we’ll be in touch again next week, after the extension deadline!

We’re just a phone call (or email) away: (816) 272-8151 (kyle@kansascity-cpa.com)

Warmly,

Kyle Nagy
(816) 272-8151

Kyle P Nagy, CPA

Should You Set Up A Trust? 5 Questions For Kansas City Families

Should You Set Up A Trust? 5 Questions For Kansas City Families

We all woke Monday morning to news of more senseless tragedy and horror, this time, as you no doubt have heard, from Las Vegas. Yet another picture of a kind of terror that I cannot fathom; imagine going to a simple music festival and suddenly having death rain down from the sky. Words cannot describe.

Our hearts are with you, Vegas.

It seems brutal to “move on” from such a thing, even here in this space, but such is life in the modern world. As we grieve, we press forward with what we must set our hands to.

And Congress must set its hands to figuring out whether or not President Trump’s tax reform agenda will actually take shape. As with many things Congress- or policy-related, we here at Kyle P Nagy, CPA will choose to withhold judgment or action until something actually takes place. And we’ll be right here to explain it for you if it ever does.

But one thing that is certain in the future is that we would all like to be wise about how we would set up the next generation, financially. And so today, I’m covering some information about what you should consider along those lines…

Should You Set Up A Trust? 5 Questions For Kansas City Families
“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” – Leonard Cohen

Parenting here in Kansas City is more than reading to your children or getting them to eat their vegetables. It’s also about securing their financial future. One way to do that is by drafting a trust and naming a trustee.

This is a great tool to consider, and it supersedes a will in many cases. It’s definitely something to consider.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if a trust is right for your family:

Do you anticipate leaving your children more than a modest sum of money? 
A trust may not be worth the effort if you think you’ll only be leaving a child (or children) $100,000 or less. On the other hand, if you’re leaving life insurance money to cover four years of school and you own a home, there’s a good chance a trust would make sense for you.

Do you want to have some say in how your children’s money is spent? 
A trust allows you to restrict spending to basic support, including food, clothing, education and health care.

This is something that can’t be done with a custodial account. If the custodian is a soft touch, he could end up lavishing your child with designer jeans and a fancy car, leaving very little left for the college years. Even worse, if the custodian is also the guardian, he could start writing himself large “support” checks to help cover his other expenses.

Would you prefer that your children not inherit the money when they turn 18 or 21? 
If you think giving a high-school senior a large sum of cash is a recipe for disaster, then you should consider a trust. The ability to delay inheritance is one of the great benefits of a trust.

Should something happen to both parents, for example, kids can receive half of their inheritance at age 30, and the remaining amount when they reach 35 (or some other pre-established benchmark). Our 20’s are such a transitional time that it often makes sense not to burden children with weighty financial decisions.

Do you want the money to be used for a college education? 
If you specifically bought life insurance so that there would be enough money to help fund college in the event of your death, then you’ll definitely want to delay the age at which your kids inherit your money. Otherwise, your child could think a red Ferrari is a better investment than a diploma.

Would you like your children to have recourse if their money is mismanaged? 
One more benefit of a trust that you don’t get with a custodial account is that a trust is a legal contract; the trustee has an obligation to follow your directions and act in a reasonable and prudent manner. If the beneficiary feels the trustee spent the money frivolously, he can demand an accounting, and can sue for reimbursement if the trustee acted improperly with the funds. It may be pretty tough to prove illegal or improper actions with a trust, but just the threat of a possible lawsuit can keep someone in line.

I hope these questions (and answers!) are helpful. Feel free to share this information with your Kansas City friends.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you, and for your referrals.

We’re just a phone call (or email) away: (816) 272-8151 (kyle@kansascity-cpa.com)

Warmly,
Kyle Nagy
(816) 272-8151

Kyle P Nagy, CPA

Tax Planning Strategies For Kansas City Individuals and Families

Tax Planning Strategies For Kansas City Individuals and Families
As a planner, I hate speculation. I would much rather plan for what I can control, and harvest the fruits without surprise.
And that’s exactly what we do with our Kansas City clients — at least with those who are smart enough to take us up on it — we PLAN for the upcoming tax season so there are no nasty surprises come tax time, and for many even, a few nice little perks.
Last week, we discussed the various steps you can take to prepare in advance for tax season, and to consider making decisions NOW that can affect how your tax return actually turns out.
Because sure — it’s nice to be “prepared” so that the tax preparation process is easy. But it’s even NICER to be able to be proactive about saving yourself from having to pay too much tax.
As it is often said, there really are two different tax codes in this country: one for those who don’t bother to have someone help them use it, and another for those who take advantage of every legal, ethical and available deduction to help them save.
Tax planning strategies can (and should) impact many financial decisions. Like how you might consider funding various kinds of retirement accounts — and how different tax implications should be considered as you do.
Along those lines today, I’d like to give you just one small example of how you can be utilizing the “other” tax code to avoid having to pay unnecessary taxes on your hard-earned assets.
Tax Planning Strategies For Kansas City Individuals and Families
“What we know is a drop, what we don’t know is an ocean.” – Isaac Newton
Too many Kansas City folks wait until the winter before they look at their tax obligations. Even worse, too many even among our clients wait until that season before they speak with us in any kind of proactive way.
That’s a problem, and it could be costing you some serious savings.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say that you were considering taking money out of a pension (401k) to finance the down payment on a house.  It’s quite a common maneuver. But let’s say next that you do this withOUT discussing it ahead of time with a professional. That could be a four (or five) figure mistake.
If you were to come into our offices before such a move, I would ask you a few easy, but very important questions, and then (depending on the answer) likely advise you to first roll the money ($10,000) into a Traditional IRA.  You could then withdraw the money at a savings of $1,000.00. This is because money used for a first home, up to $10,000, is penalty-free when taken from an IRA, but NOT a 401K.
Would you be pleased by that move? I’d guess “yes”, especially if you knew about some other local folks I know of, who failed to plan. This couple just learned of the $41,000.00 penalty they had to pay for doing the same thing, but from their 401k.
Ouch.
Other “penalty-free” withdrawal opportunities (I should note here: these are NOT “tax-free”, but penalty-free):
* Unreimbursed medical bills — The government will allow investors to withdraw money from their qualified retirement plan to pay for unreimbursed deductible medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income. (401k or IRA)
* Total and permanent disability (401k or IRA)
* Health insurance premiums after 12 weeks of unemployment (IRA only)
* Death (401k or IRA)
* Higher education costs (IRA only)
There are a few other obscure situations available, but again — these decisions are best made under consultation.
Now, I should say that there is no guarantee that you will save by speaking to us in advance.  But this I CAN guarantee: If you don’t speak with us in advance, we won’t have the chance to save you all we possibly could, on your 2017 taxes.
We’re a phone call (or email) away: (816) 272-8151 (kyle@kansascity-cpa.com).
I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you, and for your referrals.
Warmly,
Kyle Nagy
(816) 272-8151
Kyle P Nagy, CPA 

Kyle Nagy’s 2017 Tax Planning Guide

Kyle Nagy’s 2017 Tax Planning Guide

The third quarter of 2017 is officially behind us, and we are moving into the final portion of our year. The NFL is in full swing, school is back, and life begins to barrel at all of us in new ways. Believe it or not, the holidays are around the corner!

(In fact, there have even been Halloween decorations popping up around Kansas City and in stores here and there — which, I must say, seems a little early — but it does demonstrate my point.)

So, before this season gets REALLY busy, it’s a great time for us to take a look at where things are for your taxes over this year.

I’ve put together a simple primer, similar to what I’ve posted in years past, on what you should be pulling together by the end of the year. But the BEST way to be prepared is to have a customized conversation now about installing a proactive strategy to minimize your specific tax burden. 

January through April may be “tax season”, but September through early-November is “tax planning season” — and to that end, I suggest you call us ((816) 272-8151) or send me an email and set up a time for a tax planning session.

And this is a great start…

Kyle Nagy’s 2017 Tax Planning Guide
“The measure of life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.” -Peter Marshall

Believe it or not, now is the time to start making sure that you’ll be ready for a few months from now, when tax time is upon us.

Generally speaking, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return. Individual taxpayers should usually keep the following records and supporting items on their tax returns for at least three years:

• Bills, Credit card and other receipts
• Invoices, Mileage logs
• Canceled, imaged or substitute checks or any other proof of payment
• Any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return.

You should normally keep records relating to property until at least three years after you sell or otherwise dispose of the property. Examples include…

• A home purchase or improvement
• Stocks and other investments
• IRA transactions
• Rental property records

Health insurance verification
The IRS will be sending out “information returns” (form 1095) before the end of January (presumably) that should cover your documentation … but as with everything in dealing with the IRS, it’s a good idea to be armed with your own documentation as well, which would include insurance cards, EOB forms, statements from your insurer, etc.

If you are a small business owner, you must keep all your employment tax records for at least four years after the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later.

Examples of other important documents business owners should keep include:

• Gross receipts: Cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, receipt books, invoices, credit card charge slips and Forms 1099-MISC
• Proof of purchases: Canceled checks, cash register tape receipts, credit card sales slips and invoices
• Expense documents: Canceled checks, cash register tapes, account statements, credit card sales slips, invoices and petty cash slips for small cash payments
• Documents to verify your assets: Purchase and sales invoices, real estate closing statements and canceled checks

Here’s the best part of all of this: 

By pulling together this information NOW, we can really work our “magic” and ensure that we aren’t simply playing catch-up for you after the fact. 

That’s what tax planning is all about, and we very well might be able to pro-actively affect your 2017 tax bill during this final quarter of the year.

So give us a call this week, and let’s plan out the rest of 2017 and beyond.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you, and for your referrals.

Warmly,
Kyle Nagy
(816) 272-8151

Kyle P Nagy, CPA

Hurricanes, Tax Deadlines in Kansas City and Data Breaches

Hurricanes, Tax Deadlines in Kansas City and Data Breaches

Our hearts and prayers continue with Houston, and with those in the path or wake of the western wildfires. And now, of course with the entire state of Florida. Fortunately, some of the most dire Irma scenarios did not play out, but we are still dealing with a storm that is the 7th-worst such storm ever to hit the mainland since we’ve been recording the data. And with millions without power, and countless numbers displaced … well, it’s no fall picnic, that’s for sure.

The IRS has set up a “catch all” page for those cleaning up from Harvey, Irma, and other such disasters, and it can be found right here: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-in-disaster-situations. And here’s a recent article that goes into deeper detail about financial and data recovery in the wake of disasters: https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/irs-offers-taxpayer-disaster-planning-and-recovery-advice-for-hurricane-irma

And of course, if you have been impacted by any of these disasters in any way, we are here for you (or for your friends)! Allow us to help you sort through the financial muck so you can better deal with all of the mess of cleaning up other aspects of your life.

To top it off, the news of the Equifax data breach snuck under the radar, but 140+ million people were affected. (More here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do) Keep an eye on your credit reports in the following months, and this is just another reason to be prepared to submit your tax returns as EARLY as possible (so scammers can’t do so with your data)! And go to the link above to see if you were affected, plus to enroll in some free credit monitoring.

Last bit of “housekeeping”: Third quarter estimated taxes are due on Friday, September 15th (as well as a few other tax deadlines). If you are in one of the designated “disaster areas”, this deadline has been waived, however (see the link above from IRS.gov for more info, if that might be you).

Phew! Lots of details today, which aren’t my favorite with which to open a post here, but I wanted to make sure you saw this information, on the chance you might have been affected by any of it.

In fact, there’s so much information in the above, that instead of my normal tips for managing your finances and Kansas City household, I thought I’d leave you with a story. It’s one of those “old yarns”, and it’s a little cheesy … but I thought it fitting for this week.

Hurricanes, Tax Deadlines in Kansas City and Data Breaches
“The measure of life, after all, is not its duration, but its donation.” -Peter Marshall

A ship was wrecked during a storm at sea, and only two sailors survived. They reached a small, deserted island.

The two sailors were good friends, but they agreed that they should separate to avoid fighting with each other over food and shelter. They split up and lived on opposite sides of the island.

The first sailor prayed to God for food. The next morning he discovered a tree bearing fruit on his side of the island. From a hill, he saw his friend still scrambling to find something to eat. “God must have heard my prayers, but not his,” he thought.

That night he prayed for fresh water, and the next day he found a spring. The other sailor had to ration his own water and wait for rain.

Lonely, the sailor prayed for a companion, and soon after a small dog came swimming up to the beach, the survivor of another shipwreck. But the second sailor was still alone.

And so it went. The first sailor got everything he prayed for, while the second one struggled to survive.

One night the sailor prayed for rescue. And the very next day a ship sailed into sight on his side of the island. He jumped and waved, and soon a boat was sent to shore. The sailor and his dog eagerly jumped in, and the rescuers started rowing back to the ship.

Then a voice came into his head. “What about your friend?” the voice asked.

Believing he was hearing God, the sailor said, “We both prayed, but only my prayers were answered. Why should I do anything for him?”

“You both prayed,” the voice agreed. “But while you prayed only for yourself, your friend asked that your prayers should be answered.”

Realizing the truth, the sailor immediately had the boat turn around to rescue his generous friend.

During this season, let’s remember: we’re not alone.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve you, and for your referrals.

Warmly,

Kyle Nagy
(816) 272-8151

Kyle P Nagy, CPA

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