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Mint Money Audit: Making the Most of a Side Hustle

This week’s Mint audit introduces us to Selena, 48, a mom of two living in San Antonio, Texas. She is a community college director and her husband, 51, is a full-time graphic designer who also manages a booming side hustle in the same industry.

Selena and her husband have already achieved some impressive financial accomplishments, thanks to tracking their finances on Mint, leveraging coupons and shopping at thrift stores. They’ve paid off $52,000 in student loans and invested in a piece of land next door for $26,000, which they believe has appreciated by nearly 40% since purchasing it a few years ago.

But with retirement looming and two children (currently ages 9 and 12) to possibly put through college, Selena wants to learn about additional money moves that could better prepare them for future expenses. She would also love to pay off the family’s 30-year mortgage before she retires in the next 10 to 12 years. Currently they’re on track to pay it down by 2030.

First, a breakdown of their finances:

NET INCOME

  • Hers: $56,000
  • His: $40,000 plus an additional $40,000 in freelance work
  • Total: $136,000 per year

DEBT

  • Just paid off student loans and a property loan (for the lot next door)
  • Credit Card Debt: $0
  • Mortgage: $163,000 (Monthly payment, including real estate tax, is $1,985)
  • Car note: $5,300 (should be paid off within the year)

RETIREMENT SAVINGS

  • Selena’s teacher pension: Roughly $5,000 per month at retirement if she retires in 12 years ($3,800 if she retires in 6 years).
  • Various IRAs between the two of them: $65,000
  • Estimated social security payments: $2,500 to $3,000 (combined)
  • Husband does not have a 401(k)

RAINY DAY SAVINGS

In an emergency, the family has at least six months of expenses saved up or roughly $35,000.

COLLEGE SAVINGS

Selena and her husband haven’t specifically saved for their children’s college education. They’re concerned that a 529-college savings plan might limit their children’s options, if they didn’t choose to attend a traditional college program.

Recommendations

Leverage the Side Hustle

All in all, I think the family’s finances are in solid shape. But if they’re interested in further securing their future, I would suggest investing the annual side hustle income (which currently sits in a bank account earning no interest) to advance retirement savings and carve out an account for their two children.

Starting that side hustle was a very smart money move because it effectively boosted the family’s net income by 40%. And according to Selena, the business, which they operate out of their living room, is only growing, with profits expected to grow another 30% in the future.

Income from side hustles is how I managed to pay off debt in my 20’s and boost savings. Today, it’s more prevalent among working Americans. More than 44 million Americans have a side revenue stream, according to a recent survey by Bankrate. “Having a side hustle is fiscally responsible,” says Susie Moore, founder of the program Side Hustle Made Simple and the new book, “What If It Does Work Out: How a Side Hustle Can Change Your Life.” “It’s an economic hedge that mitigates disruption to wealth building and future planning. There is no such thing as a fixed income,” she says.

So, let’s do some math and see how far this $40,000 per year side revenue stream can go using a compound interest calculator.

Retirement

The couple’s retirement nest egg is not too shabby. Not including their existing IRAs, the couple has about $8,000 a month coming to them in retirement between social security and Selena’s pension. That amount, alone, basically replaces their current full-time income. (And I do recommend Selena wait 12 years before retiring so that she can take advantage of the maximum pension payment.)

But with all the uncertainty around social security and future health care costs, it can’t hurt to save a little more, right? By placing $6,500 in a Roth IRA each year for the next, say, 15 years (Selena’s husband can qualify for the catch-up contribution since he is 5- years old), they’ll have an additional $142,000 for retirement that won’t be subject to taxes. This assumes an average annual return of 4%. They can open a Roth IRA at any bank.

Future Savings for Children

While a 529 plan may not be the best fit for this family, Selena still would like to carve out savings for her kids’ future endeavors, be it to start a business or attend an alternative school. For this, I’d recommend opening a 5-year certificate of deposit or CD and placing $25,000 in it this year. The going yield right now for a 5-year CD at that deposit level is averaging a little more than 2%.

Then, every year, as income rolls in from the side hustle, create a new 5-year CD and deposit $25,000 in it. Do this for the next four or five years. All CDs will have matured by the time her youngest is starting college (or pursuing something else). And they’ll have at least $100,000 plus interest reserved for their kids. If they do choose to go to college, the family’s prepared to help pay for in-state tuition at one of the fine Texas universities.

Mortgage Payoff

After funding the Roth IRA each year ($6,500) and the annual CD contribution ($25,000), the family’s left with $8,500. They could choose to put this toward the mortgage principal to knock a few years off their payoff schedule. Or, they may want to just hold onto it for that annual family vacation. And if I’m being honest, I’d say, go for the vacation! They deserve it!

The post Mint Money Audit: Making the Most of a Side Hustle appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

Guide to Managing Finances for Deploying Service Members

Life in the military offers some distinct experiences compared to civilian life, and that includes your budget and finances. The pre-deployment process can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re organizing your money and bills. 

It’s important you provide your family with everything they need to keep you and any dependents comfortable and stable. This means gathering paperwork, making phone calls to service providers, creating new budgets, and organizing your estate. The more you prepare ahead of time, the less you have to worry about the state of your investments and finances when you return home. 

To help make the process easier, we’ve gathered everything you need to know for deployment finances. Read on or jump to a specific category below:

Pre-Deployment Needs

  • Review Your Estate
  • Reassign Financial Responsibilities
  • Update Your Services
  • Build a Budget
  • Prepare a Deployment Binder

Deployment Needs

  • Protect Yourself From Fraud
  • Adjust Your Savings
  • Financial Assistance

Post-Deployment Needs

  • Update Your Budget
  • Pay Off Debt
  • Review Legal Documents

Before Your Deployment

There’s a lot of paperwork and emotions involved in preparing for deployment. Make sure you take plenty of time for yourself and your loved ones, then schedule time to organize your finances for some peace of mind. 
investments, and dependents. It’s an important conversation to have with your partner and establishes:

  • Power of attorney
  • Living will
  • Last will and testament
  • Long-term care
  • Life insurance
  • Survivor benefits
  • Funeral arrangements

Anyone with property, wealth, or dependents should have some estate planning basics secured. These documents will protect your wishes and your family in the event you suffer serious injury. There are several military resources to help you prepare your estate:

  • Defense Finance And Accounting Services’ Survivor Benefit Plan and Reserve Component Survivor Benefit Plan
  • Department Of Defense’s Military Funeral Honors Pre-arrangement 
  • Service Member’s Group Life Insurance
  • Veterans Affairs Survivor’s Benefits
  • The Importance Of Estate Planning In The Military
  • Survivor Benefits Calculator

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) allows you to cancel a housing or auto lease, cancel your phone service, and avoid foreclosure on a home you own without penalties. Additionally, you can reduce your debt interest rates while you’re deployed, giving you a leg up on debt repayment or savings goals. Learn more about the SCRA benefits below:

  • Terminating Your Lease For Deployment
  • SCRA Interest Rate Limits
  • SCRA Benefits And Legal Guidance

 

Build a Deployment Budget

Your pay may change during and after deployment, which means it’s time to update your budget. Use a deployment calculator to estimate how your pay will change to get a foundation for your budget. 

Typically, we recommend you put 50 percent of your pay towards needs, like rent and groceries. If you don’t have anyone relying on your income, then you should consider splitting this chunk of change between your savings accounts and debt. 

Make sure you continue to deposit at least 20 percent of your pay into savings, too. Send some of this towards an emergency fund, while the rest can go towards your larger savings goals, like buying a house and retirement. 

Use these resources to help calculate your goals and budgets, as well as planning for your taxes:

  • My Army Benefits Deployment Calculator
  • My Army Benefits Retirement Calculator
  • Mint Budget Calculator
  • IRS Deployed Veteran Tax Extension
  • IRS Military Tax Resources
  • Combat Zone Tax Exclusions

 

Prepare a Deployment Binder

Mockup of someone completing the deployment checklist.

Illustrated button to download our printable depployment binder checklist.

It’s best to organize and arrange all of your documents, information, and needs into a deployment binder for your family. This will hold copies of your estate planning documents, budget information, and additional contacts and documents. 

Make copies of your personal documents, like birth certificates, contracts, bank information, and more. You also want to list important contacts like family doctors, your pet’s veterinarian, household contacts, and your power of attorney. 

Once you have your book ready, give it to your most trusted friend or family member. Again, this point of contact will have a lot of information about you that needs to stay secure. Finish it off with any instructions or to-dos for while you’re gone, and your finances should be secure for your leave. 

While You’re Deployed

Though most of your needs are taken care of before you deploy, there are a few things to settle while you’re away from home. 
Romance and identity scams are especially popular and can cost you thousands. 

  • Social Media Scams To Watch For
  • Romance Scam Red Flags
  • Military Scam Warning Signs

 

Adjust Your Savings 

Since you won’t be responsible for as many bills, and you may have reduced debt interest rates, deployment is the perfect time to build your savings.

While you’re deployed, you may be eligible for the Department of Defense’s Savings Deposit Program (SDP), which offers up to 10 percent interest. This is available to service members deployed to designated combat zones and those receiving hostile fire pay.

Military and federal government employees are also eligible for the Thrift Savings Plan. This is a supplementary retirement savings to your Civil Service Retirement System plan.

  • Savings Deposit Program
  • Thrift Savings Plan Calculator
  • Civil Service Retirement System
  • Military Saves Resources

 

Additional Resources for Financial Assistance

Deployment can be a financially and emotionally difficult time for families of service members. Make sure you and your family have easy access to financial aid in case they find themselves in need. 

Each individual branch of the military offers its own family and financial resources. You can find additional care through local support systems and national organizations, like Military OneSource and the American Legion. 

  • Family Readiness System
  • Navy-marine Corps Relief Society
  • Air Force Aid Society
  • Army Emergency Relief
  • Coast Guard Mutual Assistance
  • Military Onesource’s Financial Live Chat
  • Find Your Military And Family Support Center
  • Emergency Loans Through Military Heroes Fund Foundation Programs
  • The American Legion Family Support Network

After You Return Home

Coming home after deployment may be a rush of emotions. Relief, exhaustion, excitement, and lots of celebration are sure to come with it. There’s a lot to consider with reintegration after deployment, and that includes taking another look at your finances. 

 

Update Your Budget

Just like before deployment, you should update your budget to account for your new spending needs and pay. It’s time to reinstate your car insurance, find housing, and plan your monthly grocery budget. 

After a boost in savings while deployed, you may want to treat yourself to something nice — which is totally okay! The key is to decide what you want for yourself or your family, figure if it’s reasonable while maintaining other savings goals, like your rainy day fund, and limit other frivolous purchases. Now is not the time to go on a spending spree — it’s best to invest this money into education savings, retirement, and other long-term plans.

In addition to your savings goals, make sure you’re prepared to take care of yours and your family’s health. Prioritize your mental health after deployment and speak with a counselor, join support groups, and prepare for reintegration. Your family and children may also have a hard time adjusting, so consider their needs and seek out resources as well. 
FTC | NFCC 

The post Guide to Managing Finances for Deploying Service Members appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to get the Southwest Companion Pass

#If you’re itching to voyage around the country and to bring a partner along on your adventures, the Southwest Companion Pass is an incredible deal. Believe it or not, with the Companion Pass, you can bring a friend or family member with you for free on every Southwest flight for up to two years.

You may have heard the news: On Jan. 1, 2020, Southwest officially boosted the points requirement for the Companion Pass to 125,000 points. This bump made the Companion Pass harder to earn for many less frequent flyers, though not impossible

With travel interruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, earning the Companion Pass for 2021 might seem completely out of reach. Luckily, Southwest is offering relief to those whose canceled plans throttled their hopes of achieving this coveted perk. Southwest has now twice extended statuses for Southwest Companion Pass members. Members who received an extension of their earned Companion Pass benefits through June 30, 2021, will have their benefits extended for another six months through Dec. 31, 2021. Additionally, Rapid Rewards members with an account opened by Dec. 31, 2020, are getting a complimentary boost of 25,000 Companion Pass qualifying points and 25 flight credits toward Companion Pass status. This shortcut, when combined with alternative ways to earn Companion Pass qualifying-points, means the benefit is still achievable in the current environment.

What is the Southwest Companion Pass?

The Southwest Companion Pass is a special benefit for elite members of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards programs. Once you earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points or 100 qualifying flights in a year, you can designate a companion to bring with you for free (except for taxes and fees) on any Southwest flight that you purchase – with either cash or points. The earlier in the year that you earn the Companion Pass, the better because it’s good through the remainder of the year and the year after that.

The threshold for earning the Companion Pass is steep – amounting to thousands of dollars per month in airfare or multiple flights per week. However, you don’t need to be a rabid Southwest flyer to earn the pass. In the following guide, we’ll delve into the details of the Southwest Companion Pass and shortcuts to earning it.

The best card for Southwest flyers

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card

Why should you get it?

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority card is by far the best value for a frequent Southwest flyer, thanks to its $75 travel credit and 7,500-point annual bonus. Plus, the sign-up bonus of up to 80,000 points can help you toward the Southwest Companion pass.

Learn more

More things to know:

  • Earn 50,000 points after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 in the first 9 months
  • 7,500 bonus points each year after your card anniversary
  • $75 annual Southwest travel credit
  • 4 Upgraded Boardings per year when available
  • 20% discount on in-flight purchases made with your card

Southwest Companion Pass rules

  • You must earn 125,000 qualifying points or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights each year to qualify.
  • Qualifying points include: revenue flights on Southwest, credit card points, base points earned through Southwest partners.
  • Qualifying points don’t include: purchased points, points transferred from other members, points converted from hotel and car loyalty programs, e-rewards, e-miles, Valued Opinions, Diners Club, points earned from program enrollment, tier bonus points, flight bonus points and partner bonus points.
  • You should designate a companion at least 21 days in advance to receive a Companion Pass card before your flight. You’ll need the card to board your flight, and it’s nontransferable.
  • You may change your designated companion up to three times each calendar year.
  • Once you qualify, you can begin booking flights with your Companion Pass immediately, and it is good through the remainder of the year and the next calendar year (up to two years, depending on when you qualify).
  • You must pay for your flight with cash or points before you book your companion’s pass.
  • Your companion can’t fly without you – they must be booked on the same flight and dates. If you cancel your ticket, their ticket will also be canceled. Also, he/she will be charged for the fare if you don’t make the flight.
  • You have to pay for your ticket to bring a companion (i.e., you can’t use a companion pass to fly with a partner also using a companion pass).

How to get the Southwest Companion Pass

You may be surprised to learn that Southwest flights aren’t the only way to earn points. In fact, there are faster ways to rack up the points that you need for the pass. Here are some of your best options:

Credit card bonuses

The best way to earn a lot of Rapid Rewards points all at once is to sign up for a Rapid Rewards credit card and earn the card’s sign-up bonus.

However, you should be aware of Chase’s rules on applying for Southwest credit cards before you hit submit. Due to Chase’s 5/24 rule, your application likely be denied if you’ve opened more than five credit cards (with any issuer) in the past 24 months. You can’t earn the bonus on a particular Southwest card if you’ve earned a bonus with that card in the past two years. Also, you’re prohibited from owning two consumer cards at once – which means you can’t sign up for, say, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card and the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card to earn two bonuses in a single year.

However, you can own a consumer card and a business card at the same time. If you can qualify for a business card (which is not as difficult as you may think – any sort of side income may qualify you), signing up for a business card along with another Rapid Rewards card will give you most (or all) of the points you need to earn the Companion Pass – you can earn up to 180,000 points with two cards combined.

Sign-up bonus
Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months; plus 30,000 points if you spend $10,000 in first 9 months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months; plus 30,000 points if you spend $10,000 in first 9 months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card 50,000 points if you spend $2,000 in first 3 months; plus 30,000 points if you spend $10,000 in first 9 months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Card 60,000 bonus points if you spend $3,000 in first 3 months
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card 70,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 in first 3 months; plus 30,000 points if you spend $25,000 in first 6 months

Note, Southwest changes the sign-up bonuses on its cards frequently throughout the year. Before you sign up for a particular card, you should check the history of the bonus on that card to make sure it’s at its peak.

Referral bonuses are another great way to rapidly accumulate points toward the Companion Pass. Chase offers 10,000 points per each friend who is approved for a Southwest card, up to 50,000 points per year. Even better, Chase recently updated its refer-a-friend offer for Southwest so that you earn a bonus on any card that your friend chooses to apply for, including the business cards, even if you don’t own that particular card. You can log into the Chase site to grab your Refer-a-Friend link to share with friends, family, and of course social media.

Southwest flights

Besides credit card bonuses and referral bonuses, flying frequently on Southwest Airlines is your next best bet for stacking up Rapid Rewards points. Depending on the fare, you can earn between 6 and 12 points per each dollar that you spend on Southwest airfare. You would need to spend between $9,167 and $18,333 on airfare to earn enough points for the pass.

Rapid Rewards points earned
Wanna Get Away fares 6 points per dollar
Anytime fares 10 points per dollar
Business Select fares 12 points per dollar

Rapid Rewards partners

Southwest has several travel and shopping partners through which you can earn Rapid Rewards points. For instance, many of Southwest’s car rental partners offer 600 Rapid Rewards points per rental. Also, the Southwest hotels portal is a great way to earn up to 10,000 Southwest points per night – all of which qualify for the Companion Pass.

Credit card spend

Your spend with the Southwest credit cards also earns points that count toward the Companion Pass. Most of the Southwest cards offer the same earning rate: two points per dollar on Southwest purchases (on top of your base point earnings), Rapid Rewards hotel purchases and car rental partner purchases, and one point per dollar on everything else.

Unfortunately, the overall earning rate with most Southwest cards is very low – amounting to around 1.08-percent per dollar for the average cardholder. At that rate, you’d have to spend around $101,851 on average on a Southwest card to earn the pass just through credit card spending – not a very realistic amount for most cardholders. Still, using your Southwest credit card is a good way to add incrementally to your earnings, especially for purchases that earn double points.

Additionally, the Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card has a slightly higher earning rate than the rest of the airlines co-branded offerings. The Performance card earns 3 points per dollar on Southwest purchases, 2 points per dollar on social media and search engine advertising, internet, cable and phone services, and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases. That means small business owners who spend a significant amount in these areas can get a bit more value.

Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Dining program is another good way to add incrementally to your point balance. You can earn up to two Rapid Rewards points per dollar by eating at qualified restaurants.

This is an especially valuable option for those who cannot travel right now due to current restrictions. You’ll still earn points for purchases made with qualifying restaurants when you order takeout or delivery from the restaurant itself.

Rapid Rewards shopping portal

You can earn Rapid Rewards points that stack on top of your credit card points (as well as other deals and discounts) by clicking on a retailer’s link through the Rapid Rewards shopping portal. The Rapid Rewards site includes many major retailers, such as Best Buy and Bed Bath and Beyond. The number of points that you earn varies quite a bit by retailer, but tends to range between one to four points per dollar. For instance, Bass Prop Shops is currently offering four Rapid Rewards points per dollar on online purchases. At that rate, you’d have to spend around $27,500 to earn 125,000 Rapid Rewards points.

Earning the Companion Pass on a moderate budget

While 125,000 points seems like a daunting number, when you add all these earning opportunities together, it’s actually quite feasible to earn the Companion Pass with a moderate amount of spend.

For instance, consider you earn the up to 80,000-point sign-up bonus and refer two friends to Southwest credit cards. Those two actions alone can earn you 100,000 points – a significant portion of the way toward the pass. To earn the other 25,000 required for the pass, you can leverage high-earning categories like Southwest flights and purchases in the shopping portal – putting all spend on your credit card to ensure you earn as much as possible.

Additionally, you can maximize your Southwest points by using your Southwest card on planned, recurring payments like select gas purchases or certain utility bills.

How to use the Southwest Companion Pass

Register your companion

As soon as you qualify, go to the Southwest website and designate a companion for your next flight. Make sure you register your companion well in advance of your flight – your companion needs the pass to board the plane, and it takes up to 21 days to mail. You aren’t stuck with one flying companion – you can change your designated companion up to three times per year. (You can do this online or instantly over the phone.)

Book a flight

To book a free flight for your companion, first, go to the Southwest Airlines website and book your own airfare with cash or points. Once your ticket is booked, you can add your companion to your reservation by clicking on the “Add Companion” option on Southwest.com. (Or you can call Southwest’s reservations line to book your flight and have a companion added over the phone.)

Check in at the airport

You must bring your Companion Pass to the airport to check in. You’ll be asked to present a photo ID for yourself and your companion. Be sure not to stand your partner up at the last minute – if you don’t show up at the airport, your companion will be charged the full price of the fare.

Tips for earning the Southwest Companion Pass faster

  • Sign up for credit bonuses when they hit a peak – Wait until the bonus on a particular card hits a peak, and then apply for it.
  • Sign up for two Southwest credit cards – Consider signing up for both a Southwest business and consumer card within the same year to earn all the points you need from sign-up bonuses.
  • Look for special deals – If you keep an eagle eye on the Rapid Rewards program, you can find some incredible deals that can allow you to get a large influx of points or even earn the pass with a much lower threshold. For example, Southwest sometimes offers additional points on airfare purchases. Also, in 2017, Southwest ran a promotion in California that allowed residents there to immediately qualify for the pass if they signed up for a Southwest credit card.
  • Take advantage of all your point-earning opportunities – Stick to flying Southwest Airlines (even for business trips) and make every car rental, credit card expense, online shopping experience and hotel stay count toward earning the pass.

Bottom line

That Southwest Companion Pass is in closer reach than you think, even while travel is currently restricted. The points boost for Rapid Reward members in 2020, plus earning options like the online shopping portal and dining program, keep the perk within reach for Southwest flyers. By keeping a keen eye on credit card sign-up bonuses and taking advantage of all the earning opportunities, many Southwest enthusiasts successfully earn the pass each year.

See related: What are Southwest points worth?, Southwest credit cards, Best ways to earn Southwest points, Best ways to redeem Southwest points, Southwest Airlines partners, Southwest A-list status, How to book a Southwest Rapid Rewards flight, Rapid Rewards Shopping guide

Source: creditcards.com

2020 Could Be an Unprofitable Year for Rental Properties. Here’s How to Handle the Taxes

beach house Darwin Brandis/Getty Images

Economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis and civil unrest could cause many rental real estate properties to run up tax losses in 2020 and maybe beyond. This column covers the most important federal income tax questions and answers for rental property owners. Here goes.

What can I write off?

Nothing new here. You can deduct mortgage interest and real estate taxes on rental properties. You can also write off all standard operating expenses that go along with owning rental property: utilities, insurance, repairs and maintenance, care and maintenance of outdoor areas, and so forth.

What about depreciation write-offs?

For many rental property owners, the tax-saving bonus is the fact that you can depreciate the cost of residential buildings over 27.5 years, even while they are (you hope) increasing in value. You can generally depreciate the cost of commercial buildings over 39 years.

Example: You own a small apartment building that cost $1.5 million not including the land. The annual depreciation deduction is $54,545 ($1.5 million/27.5). The deduction can shelter that much annual positive cashflow from income taxes. So, depreciation write-offs are nice tax-savers, especially if you own an expensive property or several properties.

Variation: As stated earlier, commercial buildings must be depreciated over a much-longer 39-year period. Even so, the annual depreciation write-off for a $1.5 million commercial building is $38,462. The deduction can shelter that much annual cash flow from income taxes.

Can I claim 100% first-year bonus depreciation?

Yes, for qualified improvement property (QIP) expenditures on a nonresidential building. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) included a retroactive correction to the statutory language of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The correction allows much faster depreciation for commercial real estate qualified improvement property (QIP) that’s placed in service in 2018-2022. QIP is defined as an improvement to an interior portion of a nonresidential building that’s placed in service after the building was placed in service. However, QIP doesn’t include any expenditures attributable to: (1) enlarging the building, (2) any elevator or escalator, or (3) the internal structural framework of the building. Thanks to the CARES Act correction, you can write off the entire cost of QIP in Year 1, because it qualifies for 100% first-year bonus depreciation.

Alternatively, you can choose to depreciate QIP over 15 years using the straight-line method. That alternative might make sense if you expect higher tax rates in future years. Discuss your QIP depreciation options with your tax pro.

What else do I need to know about depreciation write-offs?

You ask such good questions. There’s more. The TCJA increased the maximum Section 179 first-year depreciation deduction for qualifying real property expenditures to $1 million, with annual inflation adjustments. The inflation-adjusted maximum for tax years beginning in 2020 is $1.04 million. The Section 179 deduction privilege potentially allows you to deduct the entire cost of qualifying real property expenditures in Year 1. I say potentially, because Section 179 deductions are subject to several limitations. Ask your tax pro for details.

The TCJA also expanded the definition of qualifying property to include expenditures for nonresidential building roofs, HVAC equipment, fire protection and alarm systems, and security systems.

Finally, the TCJA further expanded the definition of qualifying property to include depreciable tangible personal property used predominantly to furnish lodging. Examples of such property include beds, other furniture, and appliances used in the living quarters of an apartment house.

Can I claim the qualified business income (QBI) deduction base on my net rental income?

Maybe. For 2018-2025, the TCJA established a new personal deduction based on qualified business income (QBI) passed through to your personal Form 1040 from a pass-through business entity (meaning a sole proprietorship, LLC treated as a sole proprietorship for tax purposes, partnership, LLC treated as a partnership for tax purposes, or S corporation). The deduction can be up to 20% of QBI, subject to restrictions that kick in at higher income levels. For a while, it was unclear if you could claim QBI deductions based on net rental income passed through to you from one of the aforementioned pass-through entities. The IRS eventually issued taxpayer-friendly guidance that allows QBI deductions in most such cases, but you must follow complicated rules to collect the tax-saving benefit. As your tax pro for details.

What about the passive loss rules?

Ugh. If your rental property throws off tax losses (most properties do, at least during the early years and during years when the economy is suffering — like now), things can get complicated. The so-called passive activity loss (PAL) rules may come into play. Losses from rental properties will usually be classified as passive losses.

In general, the PAL rules only allow you to currently deduct passive losses to the extent you have current passive income from other sources, like positive income from other rental properties or gains from selling them. Passive losses in excess of passive income are suspended until you either have enough passive income or you sell the property that produced the losses. Bottom line: the PAL rules can postpone any tax-saving benefit from rental property losses, sometimes for years. Fortunately, there are several exceptions to the PAL rules that can allow you to deduct rental property losses sooner rather than later. Your tax pro can explain the exceptions and help you plan to become eligible, if possible.

Is that the end of the bad news?

Not exactly. Say you manage to successfully clear the hurdles imposed by the PAL rules for your rental property losses. So far, so good. But the TCJA established another hurdle that you must also clear to currently deduct those losses. For tax years beginning in 2018-2025, you cannot deduct an excess business loss in the current year. An excess business loss is one that exceeds $250,000 or $500,000 for a married joint-filing couple. Any excess business loss is carried over to the following tax year and can be deducted under the rules for net operating loss (NOL) carry-forwards. This loss disallowance rule applies after applying the PAL rules. So, if the PAL rules disallow your rental losses, this rule is a nonfactor.

COVID-19 Relief: Thankfully, the CARES Act suspends the excess business loss disallowance rule for losses that arise in tax years beginning in 2018-2020. That’s good news.

What’s the deal with net operation losses (NOLs)?

Say you manage to successfully clear both of the preceding hurdles for your rental property losses. Now we are talking, because you can generally use those losses currently to offset taxable income from other sources. If losses for the year exceed income from other sources, you may have a net operating loss (NOL) for the year.

COVID-19 Relief: The CARES Act allows a five-year carryback privilege for an NOL that arises in a tax year beginning in 2018-2020. So, you can carry an NOL from one of those years back to an earlier year, deduct it, and recover some or all of the federal income tax paid for the carryback year. Because federal income tax rates were generally higher in years before the TCJA took effect, NOLs carried back to those years can be especially beneficial. The TCJA kicked in starting with tax years beginning in 2018.

What if I have positive taxable income?

Eventually your rental property should start throwing off positive taxable income instead of losses, because escalating rents will surpass your deductible expenses. Of course, you must pay income taxes on those profits. But if you piled up suspended passive losses in earlier years, you can now use them to offset your passive profits.

Another nice thing: positive taxable income from rental real estate is not hit with the dreaded self-employment (SE) tax, which applies to most other unincorporated profit-making ventures. The SE tax rate can be up to 15.3%. Something to avoid when possible.

One bad thing: positive passive income from rental real estate owned by a higher-income individual can get socked with the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), and gains from selling properties can also get hit with the NIIT. Ask your tax pro for details.

The bottom line

There you have it: most of what you need to know about the federal income tax issues that can come into play for rental property owners. The economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis and recent civil unrest increase the odds that rental properties will suffer losses in 2020, but tax relief provisions may soften the blow.

The post 2020 Could Be an Unprofitable Year for Rental Properties. Here’s How to Handle the Taxes appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

How to Prepare For Closing Day [Free Downloadable PDF]

After you’ve successfully put in an offer for your dream home and set a date for closing, you’ve come to the final steps of your home buying journey. However aside from getting the keys, you’ll want to be prepared for the additional costs, and steps that will be required for a successful home purchase.

The Preparing For Closing Day guide contains information, tips, and more about what to expect on the big day. The guide will also include a checklist of what to prepare and an example of how to calculate the funds needed for closing.

To learn more about how you can best prepare for closing day, get our free buyer’s guide here.

Pre-Closing Day Checklist

To ensure a smooth process for your home transaction, you’ll still have a few steps to go through before you get your keys. Here are 6 steps to check off your list before closing day:

  1. Review your contract
  2. Complete a final walkthrough
  3. Meet with your lawyer
  4. Purchase home insurance
  5. Know how much cash is required at closing
  6. Secure cash required for closing

Cash Required At Closing

Understanding the costs that will be required at closing day is important to know even before you start your home search. Not only will you be prepared for what to expect, but this can help you with budgeting your costs.

Some examples of costs to include in your calculation:

  • Down payment
  • Title insurance
  • Legal fees
  • Land transfer tax

Statement of Adjustments

Another important document is your statement of adjustments, which will display any credits to both the buyer or seller as well as the final amount payable by the buyer on closing day. You can expect the following to be listed in the statement:

  • Purchase price
  • Your deposit
  • Prepaid property taxes, utilities or fuel
  • Prepaid rents 
  • Appraisal fee
  • Land survey fee

For a sample calculation of cash required at closing, download our Preparing For Closing Day guide here.

The post How to Prepare For Closing Day [Free Downloadable PDF] appeared first on Zoocasa Blog.

Source: zoocasa.com

Tips And Services To Help Your Bookkeeping Go Paperless

The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t a catalyst to shift businesses toward digital transformation, it merely sped up the process. Businesses needed to scramble to move much of their operations online so workers could efficiently collaborate with each other and maintain business continuity during a difficult time.

Fortunately, departments not traditionally associated with the digital universe, like Bookkeeping, had an easier time adapting thanks to online services like Bookstime.com, a provider of digital bookkeeping tools with unique experience in difficult areas like sales tax automation, health benefits administration, and more.

Advantages of digital bookkeeping

Keeping track of every business transaction is among the most important and perhaps underappreciated tasks. Failure to keep track of transactions in a professional manner can result in a business owner making wrong decisions because they have inaccurate information.

Even worse, they might think they end the year with a profit but in reality, a bunch of small bookkeeping mistakes over several months means the business owner really lost money.

A shift to a digital platform eliminates these concerns. Online digital platforms make use of the most up-to-date accounting automation software that erases nearly every careless mistake. This is especially useful for a business owner who does the tedious but necessary job of bookkeeping themselves to save money. The more time a business owner spends on ancillary tasks, the less time they have to generate revenue and keep clients happy.

Some of the other advantages associated with going online include:

  • Eliminating clutter: keeping a clean home office is challenging enough but a digital platform means more space for higher priority files.
  • Save time: A digital bookkeeping platform is always available online with a few short clicks of the mouse. It can be accessed as needed and when needed in a few short seconds.
  • Environmental benefits: It isn’t unusual for a company to use at least 10,000 sheets of paper each year. Shifting resources online may seem like a small benefit but everyone has a responsibility to do a little bit more to protect our environment.

Case in point: Fill in a W-4

Every business owner is happy to hire new workers because it means they are expected to provide value to the company above and beyond their salary. But that doesn’t mean that the formal process is enjoyable.

One of the more undesirable parts of the hiring process is the pesky W-4 form that every employer has to ensure is properly filled in before a worker’s first day. Simply put, the W-4 form confirms how much income tax a worker wants to have withheld from their recurring paychecks. Under-withholding taxes means a worker will likely experience a shock come tax season as they owe money to the government. Over-withholding taxes means a worker is paying the government too much money and has to wait for a refund.

Digital bookkeeping can help simplify this process so you're less prone to errors. When other people’s finances are at stake, small careless mistakes could impact a worker’s desire to give the business owner 100% of their focus.

Businesses that shifted their bookkeeping process online to better navigate through the pandemic quickly realized this was a move that should have been done years ago. The advantages of having access to a clean and organized online tool far outweigh the costs.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Help, I Need to Get the Cosigner Off My Car Loan!

how to get a cosigner off a car loan

We’ve had many readers write in after a divorce and ask how to split their assets with an ex-spouse. One of the most common questions is how to remove an ex or another cosigner from a car loan and title. Here’s how to go about it.

What’s the Role of a Cosigner?

It can be challenging to remove a cosigner from a loan. To gain a better understanding of why, let’s look at why a cosigner is used at all. Essentially, a cosigner is needed when the borrowers own credit and/or income isn’t enough to qualify for the loan by himself or herself. The cosigner, presumably, has stronger credit and income, and is required by the lender or creditor to help guarantee that the loan will be repaid.

Loans involving a cosigner include a cosigners notice. The notice asks that the cosigner guarantee the debt. This means that if the original borrower fails to make payments on the debt, then the cosigner becomes responsible for the balance. The cosigner then is obligated to make payments until the debt is paid when the borrower can’t.

Co-signing a loan is risky for the cosigner, because it can affect the cosigner’s credit if the borrower doesn’t satisfy the debt and the cosigner has to take over. The debt can ultimately affect the cosigner’s credit scores and access to revolving credit, such as credit cards.

Before co-signing a loan, a cosigner should be sure that he/she is able to comfortably take on the monthly payments if it comes to that. The cosigner should also make sure he/she doesn’t need to get a loan of his/her own over the course of the cosigned loans terms.  Cosigning on the borrower’s debt will affect the cosigner’s overall credit utilization and ability to secure other credit opportunities in the meantime.

Now that you know the role of a co-signer let’s look at what you can do to remove them from a car loan if needed.

Refinance the Car Loan to Get the Cosigner Off

You may be able to refinance a car loan in your own name to get your cosigner off the loan. In essence, you’ll buy the car from your ex-spouse and go through the car buying process again.

The spouse who is responsible for the car loan payments, the primary signer, should ideally assume credit liability for the loan. It’s a also good idea to go through this process right away, regardless of what your divorce decree states.

Divorce decrees (or court orders) don’t release either person from his/her obligations under the original contract of the loan. That means that if you and your ex-spouse have a joint account, like a car loan, and if the spouse who is supposed to pay doesn’t, the negative credit history will end up on both of your credit reports, and those late payments will damage both of your credit ratings. In fact, the other person may not know about the unpaid account until a collection agency calls.

Removing your ex from the car’s title, if the car already paid for, is similar and requires working with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You’ll both need to sign a change of title/vehicle ownership form and return it for processing. You can check online or call your state’s DMV for details and forms.

In some states you can file a transfer of title between family members, if the divorce has not been finalized yet. A transfer of title lets you avoid getting any needed inspections or certifications and paying taxes on the vehicle based on the purchase price. (If you live in the state of California, for example, research changing vehicle ownership versus transferring a car title.)

See if You Have a Cosigner Release Option

Some car loans include conditions that remove the cosigner’s obligation after a specified number of on-time payments are made by the primary borrower.

If you’re unsure if this is an option, talk to the lender and check any loan documents you have. The cosigner release option is probably one of the easiest methods of taking a co-signers name off a car loan.

Pay Off the Loan

Another option to get a cosigner off a car loan is to pay off the loan either directly or by selling the car. If you sell the car, you can use the money to pay off the loan. With luck, the sale value of the car will be sufficient to cover the remainder of the loan.

Be aware that if you are the cosigner, and the primary borrower fails to make payments, you can likely seize the asset and sell it.

This article was originally published February 20, 2013, and has since been updated by another author.

Image: iStockphoto

The post Help, I Need to Get the Cosigner Off My Car Loan! appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com