Maximize the Social Security Income Election for your Clients

The clients of Accountants, Tax Professionals, and Financial Advisors increasingly ask for guidance on how to best take their Social Security income election. This issue has become very important to baby boomers for many reasons. Pre-retirees and early retirees are now living longer than previous generations. Also, there has been a shift away from defined benefit plans (i.e. pension plans) to self-retirement funding. Financial market forces, such as low interest bearing accounts, real estate devaluation, and a flat stock market for the past 10 years, also make the Social Security income election much more important.

The Social Security income election decision may be one of the most important financial decisions your clients make in their lifetime. Singles, and especially couples, can miss opportunities to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars of additional income over their lifetimes when they make poor Social Security income election decisions. By applying little-known, yet creative claiming strategies, your clients may be rewarded with significant additional lifetime retirement income.

Read more for three important strategies

The Long Winding Road of Professional A & A Standards

Are you current on the fast developing standards and issues from new FASB Pronouncements for 2014 and 2015?  According to CPE Link instructor Pat Patterson more changes will come from from the FASB and the Private Companies Council as well. Revenue Recognition (ASU 2014-9) is currently being considered for a delayed effective date; however, early implementation may be allowed. Are you ready? Leases and Financial Instruments are on the verge of being issued which will have an instant impact. Revenue Recognition, Leases, and Financial Instruments will change the way every professional has to handle the related issues.

The AICPA’s Clarity Project is essentially complete and has totally revised all AICPA Auditing Standards. Some have very little change, but there are many new requirements that include:

  • A new audit report
  • Issues with legal and regulatory agencies
  • Communicating Internal Control Related Matters Identified in an Audit
  • Forming an Opinion and Reporting on Financial Statements
  • Modifications to the Opinion in the Independent Auditor’s Report
  • Emphasis of Matter Paragraphs and Other matter Paragraphs in the Independent Auditor’s Report
  • Special Considerations-Audits of Group Financial Statements
  • Special Considerations-Audits of Financial Statements Prepared in Accordance with Special Purpose Frameworks
  • Overall Objectives of the Independent Auditor and the Conduct of an Audit in Accordance with Generally Accepted Auditing Standards
  • Terms of Engagement
  • Quality Control for an Engagement Conducted
  • Opening Balances-Initial Audit Engagements, Including Re-audit Engagements
  • Written Representations
  • Special Considerations-Audits of Single Financial Statements and Specific Elements, Accounts or Items of a Financial Statement

But whether there is some, little, or even no change, you still need to go through all of the new clarified AU-C sections because with clarity . . .You may find that you need to change or tweak how you do things!

For Compilation and Review Engagements, professionals are entering into new territory with Section 70 of SSARS 21, Preparation of Financial Statements. This new standard will change the way many professionals look at a set of financials. There are new standards for the engagement letters and signatures, the reporting (or no reporting), legends on financial statements, and the new Compilation report. Additionally, there are some changes to the documentation issues with Compilation and Review engagements.

Are you familiar with the “RED Zone” for Comp and Review? In this case, RED stands for Reporting, Engagement Letters, and Documentation. While standards in SSARS 19 are still in play until periods ending after December 15, 2015, the provisions of SSARS 21 may be early implemented; and even both standards may be used until December 15, 2015.

Other matters that involve professional standards also are affected by the new FASB, Clarified Auditing Standards, and revisions to Preparation, Compilation, and Review engagements. These include:

  • Personal Financial Statements
  • Special Purpose Formats
  • Disclosures like “going concern”
  • Quality Control
  • International Standards from the IASB

Want to know more? Check out a live webcast or on-demand self-study course from award-winning, nationally recognized author and discussion leader, Pat Patterson.

Roth IRA Contribution

This information is an excerpt from the 2014-2015 IRA and Individual Retirement Federal Tax Update course by Vern Hoven:


Roth IRAs

Contribution amount is $5,500. Individuals with AGI below certain levels may make nondeductible contributions to a Roth IRA. The maximum annual contribution that may be made to a Roth IRA is the lesser of $5,500 or the individual’s compensation for the year. The contribution limit is reduced to the extent an individual makes contributions to any other IRA for the same taxable year. As under the rules relating to IRAs generally, a contribution of up to $5,500 for each spouse may be made to a Roth IRA provided the
combined compensation of the spouses is at least equal to the contributed amount.

Income limitation for annual contributions (2014 Pension Plan Limitation, IR 2013-86). The maximum annual Roth IRA contribution is phased out as an individual’s AGI exceeds certain limits:






$112,000 – $127,000

$114,000 – $129,000

$116,000 – $131,000

Married filing joint

$178,000 – $188,000

$181,000 – $191,000

$183,000 – $193,000

Married filing separate

$0 – $10,000

$0 – $10,000

$0 – $10,000

Distributions (§408A(d)). “Qualified distributions” of designated Roth contributions are excludable from gross income. A qualified distribution is one that occurs at least five years after the year of the participant’s first designated Roth contribution (counting such first year as part of the five) and is:

1. made on or after attainment of age 59½,
2. made on account of the participant’s disability,
3. made to a beneficiary or estate on or after the participant’s death, or
4. made for qualified first-time homebuyer expenses up to $10,000.

This information and more can be found in the 2014-2015 IRA and Individual Retirement Federal Tax Update.

Same Sex Marriage Tax Law Changes

In the 2014-2015 Individual and Employee Federal Tax Update, Vern Hoven discusses the changes in same-sex marriage laws for the year 2013 and forward. Changes include legally married same sex couples in both a same sex marriage recognized state and those living outside of a marriage recognition state.

Legal Same-Sex Marriages Are Recognized for Federal Tax Purposes 

(Rev. Rul. 2013-17)

Joint or married separate filing required for years beginning in 2013. Legally married same sex couples are treated as married for all Federal tax purposes, including income, gift and estate taxes. Starting in 2013, legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their Federal income tax returns using either the “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” filing status. For legally married couples living outside of a marriage recognition state, generally, the couple will use a married filing status for Federal purposes but their state may require that they continue to file as “single” or “head of household.”

Prior years. Under the terms of Rev. Rul. 2013-17 individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file amended returns choosing to be treated as married for Federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.

Receive this information and more tax law updates in the 2014-2015 Individual and Employee Federal Tax Update.

101 Financial Solutions: Diagnosis and Remedy

A manager’s success depends largely on his or her ability to manage a company’s assets. This mission is complicated by the interdependent nature of a company’s finances. One short-term financial problem, such as a cash flow shortage, can cause a longer-term credit problem, such as denials for bank loans. The successful manager must be able to quickly identify and resolve such short-term problems in order to prevent their long-term deleterious effects.

Intended for effective business managers and entrepreneurs, 101 Financial Solutions covers every facet of the daily management of a business’s finances. It is designed to help managers pinpoint, remedy, and prevent business and financial problems. In each case, it also points out potential ripple effects—the ways in which a problem in one sector can disrupt operations in other areas.

A recent review praises the ease of this course:

“…The material was relevant and well written.  I liked how it was broken into sections similar to a text book but much more interesting.  The sections are set up [to] work through pretty quickly. The book thoroughly defines each problem and gives relevant and real solutions…Very complex topics like inventory and production are broken down in a way that makes them easier to understand…”

Register for 101 Financial Solutions: Diagosis and Remedy and receive instant access to the PDF document course.

The 2014-2015 Federal Tax Updates Are Here!

The holidays are not the only thing quickly approaching! Tax season will be here before you know it; ensure you are prepared for those tricky tax changes with the 2014-2015 Federal Tax Updates! Offered in both Live Webcast and Self-Study versions, receive detailed and informative information you need-to-know from expert Vern Hoven.

Register for the Live Webcasts offered in November, December, and January and receive 16 hours of CPE test free, as well as gain access to Instructor Vern Hoven LIVE to ask questions.

2014-2015 Federal Tax Update: Part 1 (4 CPE hours)

  • Part 1 of this series focuses on changes to Individual Income Tax.

2014-2015 Federal Tax Update: Part 2 (4 CPE hours)

  • Part 2 takes a look at Real Estate Tax, Passive Loss, Individual Retirement Plan and Estate/Gift Taxation.

2014-2015 Federal Tax Update: Part 3 (4 CPE hours)

  • Part 3 of the series covers business tax changes and business retirement plans.

2014-2015 Federal Tax Update: Part 4 (4 CPE hours)

  • Part 4 takes a look at Federal Payroll changes, Corporate Tax changes, Partnership changes,and IRS Audit issues.


The 2014-2015 Federal Tax Updates are also available in Self-Study format, allowing you the ease of completing these courses on your own time and now on your iPad or Android Tablet. Gain instant access to video courses and bonus manuals and materials provided by Vern Hoven.

2014-2015 IRA & Individual Retirement Federal Tax Update (3 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rulings affecting IRA and individual retirement plans.

2014-2015 Real Estate & Investment Federal Tax Update (5 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rules affecting real estate taxation.

2014-2015 Estates, Trusts & Beneficiaries Federal Tax Update (2 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rules affecting gift, estate and trust taxation.

2014-2015 Schedule C/F & General Business Federal Tax Update (9 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rules affecting business taxation.

2014-2015 Business Pension Plan & Issues Federal Tax Update (2 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rules affecting pension and IRA contributions and distributions.

2014-2015 Payroll & Self-Employment Tax Federal Tax Update (2 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rules affecting payroll and self-employment taxation.

2014-2015 C & S Corporate Federal Tax Update (3 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rules affecting corporate taxation.

2014-2015 Limited Liability Company (LLC) & Partnership Federal Tax Update (2 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rules affecting partnership and LLC taxation.

2014-2015 IRS Practice & Procedures Federal Tax Update (2 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current cases and rules affecting the tax preparer’s relationship with the IRS.

2014-2015 Individual & Employee Federal Tax Update (9 CPE hours)

  • In this course, Vern discusses the current Tax Codes, cases and rulings affecting individual taxation.

Find all the information you need to register at or contact Customer Service and one of our knowledgeable Customer Service Representatives will be happy to assist you.

Goodbye 2013 Returns, Hello 2014 Returns!

As the filing time for 2013 returns enters its final phase, the reality of the 2015 filing season hits! A few developments from the IRS and the courts bring new compliance measures and due diligence reminders. The fall quarterly update (offered both September 17 and October 24) will include the following:

  • When payee statements can use a truncated TIN.
  • How the Individual Shared Responsibility Payment (§5000A) and Premium Tax Credit (§36B), will factor in on the 2014 Form 1040.
  • Knowing when payments between ex-spouses or soon to be ex-spouses counts as alimony.
  • Elections and accounting method changes in store per the final regulations on dispositions of tangible depreciable property.
  • A recent IRS ruling on LLC members and self-employment tax.
  • Reminders on business deductions.

This post was written by CPE Link Instructor Annette Nellen for her upcoming Live Webcasts on September 17 and October 24, Fall Quarterly Tax Update.

Best for Spouses to Have a Meeting of the Minds Before Filing

Keeping up to date with the tax law is more than waiting for actual law changes. The numerous court cases issued each week often include reminders about due diligence, reminders for clients, and planning considerations. Of course, some of the court cases, such as regular Tax Court decisions, have new interpretations of the law. One recent case includes a reminder about the need for spouses to coordinate filing to optimize the combined tax result.

In Bruce, TC Summary Opinion 2014-46 (5/12/14), husband (H) and wife (W) were married in 2008. They had two children (including a child of W from a prior relationship). H worked for the Navy and sometimes worked away from home. In 2009, the couple mostly lived in Navy housing. W moved out in 2010, as did H and they sometimes lived with one of their parents. Divorce proceedings began in early 2010 and were complete in February 2011. H moved out of home where he lived with W in December 2010. H e-filed their MFJ 2010 return in February 2011 and told W he’d split the $4,581 refund with her. W provided H with her bank account information. W also told H she would talk to a friend of hers who did tax work. Before 4/15/11, W filed a return as head-of-household, claiming the children as dependents. H did not know.

The IRS sent a deficiency notice to H changing his filing status to MFS and denying him the child credit, dependency exemption and EITC. The Tax Court agreed with IRS. Per §1.6013-1(a)(1), it is permissible to change from joint to separate filing status if done before the due date of the return. W filed her HH return in March 2011.

The court held that W was entitled to the dependency exemptions because the children lived longer with her because H moved out in December 2010. The court also noted that the time H was away for military service does not affect this residency test. Once it was determined that W was entitled to claim the children, H did not qualify for the child credit, dependency exemption or EITC. The court did not uphold accuracy-related penalties against him though because it seemed reasonable for H to assume W was fine with the MFJ return and W even gave H her bank account information so he could give half of the refund to her.

Lesson learned – Most likely, the couple would have had a combined benefit from joint filing status… Joint income was low enough to qualify for the EITC. Also, since it does not appear that H lived out of the home for the last six months of 2010, W should have filed as MFS, not as HH (see IRC 7703(b)). With both H and W using MFS, no one can claim the EITC. Of course, divorcing spouses have additional factors to consider and to avoid joint liability, separate filing is sometimes warranted.

This and other updates of summer will be covered in the Quarterly Tax Update scheduled for August 26.

This post was written by CPE Link Instructor Annette Nellen for her upcoming Live Webcast on August 26, 2014 , Summer Quarterly Tax Update.

Supporting eCommerce Clients in Your Practice

As most companies at least have some sort of eCommerce presence now, it is imperative that accountants and consultants be able to support their clients and understand all of the components of eCommerce including:

  • Hosting
  • Web Site Design
  • Shopping Carts
  • Accounting System Integration
  • Marketplaces
  • Payment Gateways
  • Merchant Processors
  • Sales Tax Implications
  • Shipping Providers/Software
  • Supply Chain/Logistics Providers
  • EDI

While you don’t need to be an expert in each of these subjects, we will try to give you a framework to put together the pieces for your client so that you can assist them or at least know where to turn to for assistance. Learn who the vendors are in each of the categories, find out what the best practices are and be able to put together requirements for an eCommerce project.

Join us on June 30 and come away with the tools you’ll need to support your customers more effectively.

This post was written by CPE Link Instructor Jim Savage for his upcoming Live Webcast on June 30, Supporting eCommerce Clients in your Practice


The Excel Automation Feature You’re Likely Not Using

By David Ringstrom, CPA

Although Excel 2007 brought us the new ribbon interface, which replaced the traditional drop-down menus, it also gave us a great automation tool known as the Table feature. I find that most Excel users either aren’t aware of this feature, or aren’t fully aware of its capability. Read on to get a high level overview of what’s possible with the Table feature.
The Table feature is actually an update to the List feature that was buried on the Data menu in Excel 2003 and earlier. This feature appears both on the Home tab and Insert tabs of Excel 2007 and later, and is designed to simplify working with lists of data in Excel. Once you make a list into a table in Excel, the dataset takes on special characteristics:

  • Every other row will be shaded.
  • Filtering arrows appear at the top of each column.
  • If your list is too long to appear on a single screen, the headings in the first row replace the column letters in the worksheet frame when you scroll down.
  • A Design tab appears when you click any cell within a table, and from there you can toggle a total row on or off. Click any cell within the Total row to reveal a drop-down list from which you can choose to sum, count, or display other statistics that update automatically as you filter the table.
  • Tables expand automatically when you add columns to the right, or rows below (assuming that the total row is turned off). Further, when you type a formula in cell within a table, Excel automatically copies the formula down the entire column, saving you from having to drag or copy and paste the formula.

To add all of these characteristics to a data set in Excel, carry out any of these steps in Excel 2007 and later:

  1. Select any cell within a list of data.
  2. Carry out one of these steps:
    • Press Ctrl-T.
    • Choose Insert, and then Table.
    • Choose Home, Format as Table, and then choose a style.
  3. At this point you’ll be presented with a dialog box from which you can confirm the cell coordinates for data. Make sure that My Table has Headers is clicked, and then click OK.
  4. All of the above features will now be added to your data.

If you don’t like the automatic formatting that gets applied to a table, click any cell within the table to make the Design tab appear. Click the arrow in the Table Styles section, and then choose another style or click Clear. This will preserve the other functionality but remove the formatting. At any point you can return a table back to a “normal” range of cells by choosing Convert to Range on the Design tab.

Making data into a table improves data integrity in your spreadsheets:

  • Charts based on a table expand automatically as you add new months of data.
  • Pivot tables based on a table automatically “see” new rows and columns of data when you refresh the pivot table.
  • Other features, such as Sparklines in Excel 2010 and later, will automatically display additional data added to a table.

This is only a sampling of the automation features available with Excel’s Table feature.

This post was written by CPE Link Instructor David Ringstrom for his upcoming Live Webcast on June 11, Tackling Excel’s Table Feature.

About the author:
David H. Ringstrom, CPA, heads up Accounting Advisors, Inc., an Atlanta-based software and database consulting firm providing training and consulting services nationwide. Contact David at or follow him on Twitter. David speaks at conferences about Microsoft Excel, teaches webcasts for CPE Link, and writes freelance articles on Excel for AccountingWEB, Going Concern,