I’m Not Ready to File my Taxes – What Can I Do?

We get until April 18 to file our taxes this year — three extra days! Four extra days if you live in Massachusetts or Maine. Even so, you might not be ready to file for a lot of reasons. Maybe you didn’t receive all your tax information or you’ve been traveling a lot for business.

Whatever your reason, the IRS gives you an automatic six-month extension to file. Here are the two things you need to know:

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Good Help is Still Hard to Find

You didn’t start your business to keep the books, run an IT department, or execute a marketing plan. You need reliable and qualified professionals to help achieve your dream. And you only need them when you need them. Outsourcing is often the answer.

Great; outsourcing it is! What next? How do you find the right vendor? How much should it cost? How do you make sure the job gets done right?

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Paying More Taxes with your Return?

By now, you’ve already filed your income tax return, or at least thought about it. Did you have to pay more with your return, or do you think you will?

If all your income comes from wages, chances are that your tax withholdings will cover your income tax liability. But if you own a business or receive other income, such as interest, dividends, capital gains, or rent, you may need to make income tax payments.

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Can You Deduct Employee Expenses?

We all spend money for our jobs — getting to the office, having the right tools, dressing right. So how do you know when you can deduct work expenses on your income tax return?

No surprise that the IRS has rules to cover all of that on their website. The IRS answers three important questions about deducting work-related expenses when you are a W-2 employee:

What Work Expenses can I Deduct?

You can deduct work-related expenses that are necessary and customary to perform your job duties, as long as they are not reimbursed by your employer. Examples include unreimbursed local transportation (other than commuting between your home and work), tools, professional licenses, association fees, uniforms that are only worn for work, and work-related publications and education.

Non-commuting mileage deductions are calculated using the standard mileage rate (i.e., $0.575 a mile for 2015 and $0.54 for 2016). Work-related entertainment and gifts may also be deductible, subject to limits.

Who Can Deduct Work Expenses?

Eligible work expenses paid during the tax year can be included on your income tax return. Expenses for each spouse/taxpayer should be tracked and reported separately. Your work-related expense records need to include the amount, date, and work-related purpose.

How Do I Deduct my Work Expenses?

Work expenses are only deductible for taxpayers who itemize their deductions using IRS Schedule A, as opposed to taking the standard deduction. Special rules apply for educators and performing artists. In addition to itemizing to take advantage of eligible work expenses, those expenses, plus other miscellaneous itemized deductions, must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income.

This information is general, so you might need some help sorting it out. You can find more information at www.irs.gov or from a qualified tax professional.

Are You Opening the Door to a Cyber Threat?

You get an e-mail from someone you know. The message contains a link and urges you to click on it. What do you do?

Clicking on that link could infect your computer with any number of issues, like installing malware, encrypting data for ransom, or planting a keystroke reader to get sensitive information.

At work or at home, your confidential information is at risk. You could spend a lot of money on computer security protection. But that won’t do any good if someone opens the door to a security threat by clicking on something she shouldn’t.

How is the Door Opened to Cyber Threats?

Clicking on an infected e-mail link can happen at home or at your organization. At home, one computer is often used by multiple people. That can increase the risk of someone clicking on malicious website or e-mail content. Similar issues can exist with any family-shared cyber environment.

At work, the risk is more significant. In addition to a risk that a user will click on a corrupted e-mail, so-called “privileged” users pose a greater risk because they have more system access than the typical user. For example, systems are completely open to unauthorized access if the system administrator does not change the manufacturer’s default password.

How to Keep the Door Closed

Avoiding security risks at home or at the office boils down to three important steps:

  1. Make sure every computer user in your home or office knows about security risks and how to avoid them. Security is part of everyone’s “job”, since any user can infect every user’s information.
  2. Install virus, malware, and other security software. Some applications are free. More robust options are generally not expensive. Whatever the cost, it’s less than losing data and taking time to fix the damage. Businesses should also implement regular breach detection procedures.
  3. Keep all operating system, application, and security software up-to-date by installing updates and patches when they are issued by the manufacturer.

Avoiding cyber security issues can be done through awareness and diligence. Following the three steps described above can prevent a cyber threat from becoming an expensive data breach or loss.