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Yes! You Can Deduct Home Care Costs from Your Taxes…

March 7, 2017

 

It's fast approaching that time of year again…tax season.  We are often asked about the deductibility of home care on your federal taxes.  So we wanted to provide some key information…

 

Tip#1

 

Know How a Relative Qualifies as a "Dependent" on Your Return

 

How a relative qualifies as a "dependent" is based on two qualifications. First qualification is their yearly income. For example in 2014, their total income (not including nontaxable Social Security or disability payments) has to be less than $3,950. The second qualification was whether or not a caregiver supplied more than 50% of the relative's support. If these 2 requirements are met, you will be able to take the standard deduction for each dependent.

 

Tip #2

 

Know When You can Claim a Tax Benefit for a Dependent's Medical Expenses

 

Again, this is based on two qualifications: first, you must supply more than 50% of their support. Second, your total medical costs must represent more than 10% of your adjusted gross income. One slight difference to note is that if your dependent is 65 or older, the percentage drops from 10% to 7.5%*.

 

Tip #3

 

Know What Other Expenses You can Claim

 

You would be surprised at what expenses you can claim when taking care of a dependent. The following list can make sure you squeeze every penny for your tax refund.

 

Other Expenses to Claim:

 

  • Food

  • Clothing

  • Transportation

  • Housing

  • Bathroom or other Home Modifications

  • Hospitalization (not covered by health care plan)

  • Prescription Drugs

  • Health Care Plan Payments (not paying for costs covered by Medicare)

  • Dental Care

  • Copays

  • Ambulances

  • Deductibles

  • Bandages

  • Eyeglasses

  • Acupuncture

  • Hearing Aid Devices

  • Wigs (if caused by a medical condition)

  • Quit Smoking Programs

 

Tip #4

 

Know What Form to Use for the State of California

 

Be grateful…not every state in America offers a dependent credit. Thankfully, California is one of them. When it comes time to do your taxes, make sure that Form 3506 is filled out ("Child and Dependent Care Expenses Credit – Form 3506).

 

 

Tip #5

 

Know Who Can Claim a Dependent

 

Sometimes this can get tricky when one or more sibling is assisting in the costs of taking care of an ailing relative. Unfortunately, only one person can claim the dependent credit on their taxes. However, it doesn't have to go to the one that they are living with. This tax credit is different in that it only has to be a relative but they can either be living with you or on his or her own. Also, it can be a non-relative but they have to be in your residence for more than half a year.

 

As usual, there is a caveat when it comes to the IRS. There is a Form 2120 for Multiple Support Declaration but it is a complicated process that if your family wants to fill it out should be handled by a tax professional.

 

Tip #6

 

Know How to Keep Your Dependent Paperwork Safe

 

Each year, Homecare California provides our clients with documentation of their home care expenses.  We recommend keeping receipts/copies of all medical records, prescriptions, medical equipment, etc. in case you are asked by the IRS to produce them in case of an audit.

 

 

If you would like to learn more about our services, feel free to visit our services overview page, contact one of our care managers or download our free guide on home care.   The IRS information is also available here

 

 

This article is for reference only. All tax questions should be referred to the IRS or tax professional. *

The Top 5 Painful Questions You Should be Asking Yourself about your IT Company

 

It is easy to just go about your workday and not take the time to truly audit how your IT company is doing. With payroll, help desk backups, hardware/software updates that need to be made, etc. who has the time to see where your company is today compared to how you envisioned it would be when you first started out. You strive to provide the best customer service to your IT customers but are you taking the time to make sure that you are providing the same kind of care to your IT business/

 

Here are 5 key questions to ask your self to see where your pain points are…

 

  1. Compared to last year, have customer complaints lowered or become more frequent?

  2. Has the workflow increased to the point that your IT employees are struggling to keep up?

  3. Has the ROI in hiring the last employee been a good return?

  4. Have you audited your Microsoft licensing and is it in good standing?

  5. When was the last time you brought all of your hardware and software up-to-date?

 

Question #1's Answer:

 There are more complaints

 

This is a tricky one to audit because this problem could be a result of several things. It could be you are experiencing a growth spurt and you don't have the employees to hand the load. It also could be that your employees need a refresher on how to handle the workflow process, or even that their current Microsoft certifications need to be updated. In this digital day and age, online reviews can sink a company with the owner not able to stop the hemorrhaging of negativity.

 

Question #2's Answer:

Yes, we are struggling

 

This growing pain can make an IT company owner want to shut the office door and scream. How much will it cost to bring in a Microsoft-certified, experienced, and capable IT team member? Do you have the ability to cover the overhead of another full-time employee? What if you decide not to and instead allow overtime for current employees? What will that cost in the long run? What if you bring a new employee in and suddenly the workflow slows down?

 

 

Question #3's Answer:

Not sure

 

Return on Investment (ROI) is often something that IT business owner's overlook when it comes to their employees. It's easy to see that the new server you bought was well worth the money or the new round of computers you got for this year are working out great. Now, take a look at the last person you employed. A really critical look. Has his/her hourly or salary wage brought you a ROI? Factor in health insurance, unemployment insurance, sick days, vacation days, the new equipment/workstation for them to use, paying for Microsoft certifications, buying another license for Microsoft software, etc. Compare that to how many help desk tickets he's resolved and his average time of doing them. It all adds up to a final answer that many owners just don't want to hear.

 

 

Question #4's Answer:

I think so

 

If you've ever worked with Microsoft licensing, it can be a bit of a struggle. Taking the time to audit your current licenses and understanding what changes need to be made uses up time you'd rather be tackling that long help desk line of customers.

 

 

Question #5's Answer:

Who has time to do all that work?

 

Auditing your software and hardware can often be almost a full-time job of its own. Depending on how large your company is, making sure everything is up-to-date and playing nice with each other can be daunting. Sure, you do it all the time for your IT customers but sometimes it's a struggle to do it for yourself until something happens and it grows to crisis mode.

 

What if all of these pain points could go away and…

Your customer complaints went down and your reviews went up.

You didn’t have to hire another in-house employee.

You could know that your ROI was positive.

Your Microsoft licensing was handled for you.

Your hardware/software was always up-to-date and working smoothly?

 

Then you are looking for Expand Force, a remote team for Microsoft Partners.

 

We offer a team of highly experienced, Microsoft-certified, IT professionals remotely to your business.

 

We here at Expand Force are dedicated to creating a successful team of IT Experts that will help you maintain an effective and efficient IT department. Our services can help increase your productivity so you can focus solely on continually improving and expanding your IT business.

 

We offer 2 major roles to help bridge in the gap in your Business. 

 

 

Our IT Roles:

 

  • IT Specialist (SysAdmin & NetAdmin)

 

  • Augmentation Specialist (Microsoft Volume Licensing & Vendor Mgmt.)

 

Why Choose Us?

 

Our IT Personnel

Expand Force sets the standard extremely high when it comes to recruiting IT personnel. Using our proprietary hiring process, our Talent Advisors seek out the most experienced and highly educated people in the IT industry. Because we demand continuous education and certifications from our hires, they are always up-to-date on the latest IT trends. Expand Force takes great pride in finding and recruiting some of the best IT personnel in the world.

 

Cost-Saving, Time-Saving

To grow or enhance your current IT department, you could buy more equipment, hire more people, find a way to make sure they stay educated and certified, spend time making decisions on Microsoft licensing, etc. Most IT business owners don't have the time or the money to make all of this happen. That's where Expand Force can step in and save you that time and money. Because we are a partner with Microsoft (MSP), we know how to do all the licensing and bundling of software that will not only help you avoid unnecessary costs but will also ultimately make your business run more efficiently. Also, with our IT experts already trained and certified, you no longer have to worry about paying for workshops and seminars.

 

Customized Plans

We know that each business has its own unique set of circumstances when it comes to IT staffing. That's why Expand Force creates fully customized plans. We offer individual, small, and large staff teams with specialists that you decide on.  Expand Force looks at each of their customers' IT staffing needs and custom tailors a plan just for them that meets and exceeds their expectations.

How to Prepare Yourself Mentally when Searching for your Birth Family

 

When I began my search for my birth parents, I heard about a woman who had just found her birth mother and was quite devastated at what she uncovered. Her mother had been a prostitute and over the years she had given up her rights for six other children! Of course, she was unable to give her daughter any information about her father since she had no idea who he was or where her siblings were now. Don't despair! It's not always bad news but thinking that it had all been a horrible "Sophie's Choice" situation for your birth parents is not preparing you for any or all potential bad news.  Here are a few things to think about beforehand to make sure that whatever the story turns out to be, you are mentally ready for it.

 

  1. Make sure you are clear on your reasons for searching.

If you are setting out to discover your past be clear about why you are choosing this time in your life to do so. Loneliness or feeling lost are not good reasons.  If you don't find your birth family or they turn out to not be good people to have in your life, depression and some dark days ahead will sure to arrive. If you feel that your life is well balanced and you are just looking for some answers or you need valuable medical histories, no matter what the outcome will be, you will not mentally melt down and will be able to preserve your sanity.

 

  1. Let go of any preconceived versions of your birth story

All adoptees wonder about their origins and along with that comes hours and hours over the years of speculation and the creation of their back story. As a child, fairy tales and Disney movies gave us all ideas of being lost princesses or taken tragically from too poor people who just wanted to give us a better chance at life. As we grow up and become wiser, the stories in our heads change. However, a small snippet of each of the dozens of stories through the years comes along with us as we begin to search. If you go into the search with no preconceptions of what really happened, you avoid disappointment.

 

  1. Make sure that the relationships you currently have are stable

When an adoptee decides to make the big step of actively searching, the adopted family, spouses, significant others, children and even friends are brought along for the ride whether they like it or not. Not all relationships will be able to handle the emotional rollercoaster you are about to jump onto. Make sure that you have approached the important people in your life who are your emotional touchstones to prepare them for what may come. Do not just assume that they understand why you are doing this. (see blog: How to Prepare Your Adoptive Family Before you Begin Your Birth Story Search)

 

  1. Remember to keep it very clear in your head you had NO responsibility for your being given up

I know this seems like a no-brainer but you will soon possibly be swept up in all the details of how you came to be put up for adoption. When I was almost 2, my own mother picked up my dog, went to her mother's and never came back. Adoptees internalize other people's actions like this to feel that they were unlovable or their birth caused people to break up or just leave. Keep in mind that we all make decisions every day and not all of them are good ones. But just like I had no way of stopping my mother from doing what she did, you have no culpability in your parents' actions as well.

 

  1. Be very clear on who you are now

If you unfortunately discover some tragic or torrid detail such as being a product of rape, you must go into the search knowing exactly who you are right now. Yes, when you get to hear the story and find out who and where you came from it will change you. You will now have "history" that you didn't have before. Remember, it is your past and whom you have chosen to be in the present shouldn't be marred or diminished by discovering other people's bad or hard choices.

 

 

As a human being, it is impossible to find out things about yourself and not have a reaction. However, if you protect your heart by mentally preparing for what may come, this journey can be a very empowering one.

 

Good luck and I wish you well!

How to Know if a Remote IT Team is Right for You

 

So your IT company has grown to the point that it is time to consider bringing additional help on board. That's great! But how do you decide if hiring a remote IT team is the way to go, and what is your ROI?

 

To make good decisions, you need good information. The best decision-making tool is to create an IT Investment Business Case. Basically, this tool is a way to measure how bringing remote help onboard can affect your company. Whether it's your cash flow, your bottom line, or your ROI, this provides a clear-cut way to determine the right path for you.

 

This business case is developed by asking your self four simple questions.

 

Question #1: What is the problem/situation that your IT company is currently in that may require additional off-site help?

 

First, determine if the problems are human resources-related or technology-related. It could be that you are expanding and creating new offices bringing in new employees and new equipment. Maybe you need to do an overhaul on all your software/hardware. This ends up taking a lot of time away from helping your IT customers. Second, write down how the impact of these problems is affecting you. Are you losing money or customers? Have your customer complaints been rising? Next, figure out how much time you feel you have for these problems to be solved before it seriously begins to affect your company's bottom line and its reputation.

 

Question #2: How would hiring a remote IT service benefit me?

 

An IT remote team brings businesses many benefits. Beginning with not having to hire a new employee. Think about it…there is their salary, unemployment benefits, health insurance, paid vacations, paid sick leave, paying for certifications with Microsoft, buying a new workstation with hardware, purchasing a new software license...and the list goes on. A remote team member is already certified, has their own equipment, and can take on responsibilities that sucks time away from helping your customers. Imagine just dealing with your clients while a remote team can make sure that all of your hardware/software are up-to-date, that your disaster plan is ready in case of emergency, and all your software licenses are done and are correct.

 

Question #3: What are the potential costs?

 

Remote IT departments usually are paid for in 2 different ways: billed hourly or a set amount each month. Of course, we know that the IT business is a like most service businesses in that there are often peak times followed by slower times. One month you could get billed 65 hours while the next might be half that. Knowing for sure your expenses each month makes business owners sleep better at night. Take the time to think over which option is best for you as far as billing, and then you will know what IT remote company to do business with.

 

Question #4: What are my possible risks?

 

Handing some of your work to an outside company comes with its bouts of fear and anxiety. How do you know that they really know what they're doing? After all, you are handing them all your passwords, license information, access to your customers, etc.

 

It is really important that you do your homework. Write down a list of your concerns when interviewing a company. If they don't sound knowledgeable…pass. Ask for their credentials, certifications, and case studies.

 

Also, make sure to read all the fine print when it comes to the contract itself. Are you locked into a contract if you're not happy? What if you decide to go with another company after a few months…how do you know that they will no longer have access to your servers? A reputable company will have a protocol in place that allows you to completely disengage your hardware and software.

 

 

Now it's Time to Put it All Together

Once you have these questions answered, you can begin to pull all that information together and place it in your business case.

 

Make sure to include:

  • The potential benefits of using a remote IT service

  • The potential costs of using a remote IT service

  • The risks on using such a service

  • The harm to your company if you don't (loss of revenue, bad reputation)

 

 

Final Step

Take all of that and create a clear plan on how you would implement bringing on board a remote IT team. Create a workflow process that takes you from step one all the way to handing over work. Put in place protocols for how your employees will interact with the remote team members, as well as, your customers. See how all of this will affect your company's day-to-day business and how much work you could hand over to a remote team.

 

If you take the time to create this IT Investment Business Plan, you will be confident in knowing that it is a good ROI and that your company can continue to grow with the least amount of growing pains possible.

 

 

Expand Force is standing by and is ready to become that remote IT team you are looking for. We offer customizable teams: individual team, small team, or a large team so that you aren't paying for more than what you need. We also offer a set monthly payment that will work well for you. We can answer any questions or concerns and create a plan that is straightforward and easy to understand.

 

Contact us today.

 

 

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Tags:

Remote IT, IT business plan, ROI, Microsoft, Microsoft license, Microsoft certification,

A Checklist for What to do When a Loved One Passes Away in New Jersey

October 31, 2017

 

 

Losing a loved one is never easy and the last thing you want to think of is what happens next. Flynn Martin Law Firm, LLC is here to help make the process as stress-free as possible so that you can concentrate on what really matters. We have put together this checklist for you to review so that when the time comes, you will be prepared.

 

One thing to note is that New Jersey law is a bit different than most states because they give you up to 10 days following the date of the death to handle financial affairs, and probate of the estate has no time limit.  However, it is much easier on the family (many who might also be from out of town) to settle everything as soon as possible.

 

NOTE: The following checklist attempts to cover both loved ones who had their affairs in order, and unfortunately, those who did not. 

 

Determine Where the Deceased Pass Away

 

If your loved one passes away in either a hospital or while under hospice care, the on-site personnel will be trained in what to do and can help guide you through what will come next. If they pass at home and are discovered by a friend or family member, simply dial 911 and explain what occurred to the 911 operator. They will then dispatch either paramedics, police, or EMTs based on what their procedures.

 

Meet with a Funeral Director

 

If your loved one has put their affairs in order before they passed, most of the planning of the funeral arrangements will be written down and honored by the family. Setup a time to meet with the pre-selected funeral home and go over in detail the wishes of the deceased, and be sure to ask any questions that you have on how the body and the service will be handled.

 

Unfortunately, not everyone plans ahead because it makes him or her feel mortal or they think it will "jinx" them into dying. Come together as a family and determine what you feel your loved one would have wanted. Would they want a viewing? Cremated or buried? Religious service or not? Keep in mind that there is no rush (even if the funeral director may make it seem that way) because the body will be embalmed. Give yourself time to notify friends and family, place an obituary in a timely manner, and make the best arrangements possible. Nothing is more frustrating to those who loved the deceased then finding out after the fact that the memorial service has already passed and they are now unable to offer their condolences and pay their respect.

 

Immediately Notify Family & Close Friends

 

In this day and age of social media, notifying friends and family has changed tremendously to how it use to be. However, no one wants to find out his or her family member died by simply logging onto Facebook. For close friends and family have phone numbers and/or email addresses to personally notify people. In some cases, it might be helpful to "appoint" one or two people to assist with this. Not only will it help get the word out so people can make travel arrangements, book hotels, or get time off work for the service but this is a great way to make people feel involved and helpful. Place the obituary as quickly as possible. The funeral director should be able to assist you with this. Also, remember,  don't turn down offers to take care of pets, answer the phone/emails, handle flowers and food donations, or help locate important documents. This is going to be a tough process and you can use all the help you can get.

 

Obtain the Death Certificate
 

A death certificate is signed and issued by either the attending physician, a county coroner, a medical examiner or a hospice nurse. They will then file it with the local registrar at the Registrar of Vital Statistics, and then it will be entered into the vital records registration system so that it can be recorded in New Jersey's official records. In most towns in New Jersey, the registrar of vital statistics is the municipal clerk of the city or township. The funeral director is the one who will provide you with original copies of the death certificate. Ask for multiple copies as some insurance companies, banks, and government agencies might request originals and not duplicates. Most will take the copy and send out a claim form. If they want an original at that time, they will ask for it in order to complete the transaction.

 

Locate all Important Documents

 

Hopefully, the deceased had all their affairs in order and all document, keys, etc. in one central location known to the family. You should find their Last Will and Testament, funeral and burial instructions, address and copies of keys to safe deposit boxes, trust agreements, and any nuptial and/or marriage agreement. It is often a hard topic to bring up as your loved ones age but having this all organized saves a lot of stress in a time that is already stressful enough. Before their passing, gently bring it up and make sure that several family members know where all of these items are located.

 

Keep the Home Safe

 

It is sad to have to even mention this but it is not uncommon for thieves to break into homes after they read the obits. Some are so heartless as to wait until the service begins to ransack the home. Notify your local police department of the time of the service and request a "drive-by" or an assigned officer to keep an eye on the home. Ask neighbors to do so as well. Be smart and make sure to secure all locks on doors and windows. Make sure that all mail is forwarded to you as soon as possible and stop any newspapers and/or magazine subscriptions. Nothing says, "no one's home, help yourself" than a large stack of mail or publications at the door.

 

Find Out About A Safe Deposit Box

 

Hopefully, your loved one had plans for their passing and have made sure that there is a key available to any safe deposit box they own. Even better, you will be able to locate a copy of their Will and Testament. Simply taking in an original death certificate and your ID will allow the bank officer to allow you access to the box with the key. Unfortunately, if there is no key, you are looking at several days of waiting for clearance, and a charge of a few hundred dollars to get a locksmith to drill out the lock. Take the time before anything happens to know where the key is and also what bank it is located in.

 

Let Any Employer or Other Income Sources Know Immediately

 

Not only is it good form to let the loved one's boss and co-workers know of their passing so that they can mourn with you, it is also prudent due to the fact that any pay or benefits issued after the month of passing will have to be returned back to the employer. The government does issue a one-time death benefit of $255 but pensions, IRAs, etc. have very different procedures. Don't hesitate to call their employers to get contact information for any life insurance, IRAs, or annuities that might be connected to their employment.

 

Handling the Last Will and Testament

 

Hopefully, there is a Will and Testament that will need to be probated with the county's Surrogate where the loved one lived. In New Jersey, there are certain conditions where you may not have to probate the Will but that is best left up to experienced attorneys. Once the Will is probated, a lawyer can apply to the Surrogate to have someone appointed as the estate's "Exectuor". If they pass with no valid Will in place, the family will then have to have someone appointed as "Administrator" of the estate. Once expenses from any illness and the funeral have been paid for from the estate, then any additional disbursements will be handled via the probate process.

 

Also, keep in mind that if there is no Will, the Surrogate will require that a bond be posted based on the current value of the deceased property before probate can begin.

 

If you know there is a valid Will but can't locate it, it is going to be a bit trickier. The Will can be probated but it is strongly urged that you retain a lawyer to help you through this complex process.

 

Additional Notifications

 

There are several other companies, people, and government agencies that will need to be notified.

 

IRS:

Tax refunds and taxes owed will all need to be addressed in the upcoming filing year. Consider letting a tax professional handle this so that you can protect the estate as much as possible.

 

Social Security:

Social Security needs to know about the passing so that benefits can stop. Often, your funeral director will handle this for you but be sure to ask.

 

Utilities:

All local utilities should be kept up-to-date. If you are planning on someone taking over the property, the accounts should be switched to the current residents. Keep in mind if you are going to take your time in deciding what to do or are planning on putting the home up for sale that all bills should continue to be paid out of the estate funds.

 

For a full list of notifications, please contact us.

 

Don't Pay Creditors

 

This may sound odd but lines of credit for the deceased need to be handled by the estate and not family members. When the death certificate is available, one should be sent to each creditor. Unfortunately, not all creditors are considerate of your grief and will often "push back" and attempt to get a family member to pay the bills. This is not your responsibility. Don't promise to pay the balance or "keep up" the payments until the estate is settled. Often it will come down to having a lawyer handle it so that, for example, if there is no money left in the estate, they can claim the estate "insolvent". This often requires a court proceeding that is better left to the professionals.

 

We here at Flynn Martin Law Firm, LLC have years of experience handling estates, wills, trusts, and elder law. Call us or come in for a consultation to see how we can bring our knowledge and expertise to help you through this difficult time.