Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Congratulations to GCF employees Varuni Singh and John Kaufman on being named among its "2012 New Leaders In Banking" by the New Jersey Bankers Association. Ms. Singh, Asst. VP/IT Manager/Senior Operations Specialist, and Mr. Kaufman, Treasurer, will be honored at an awards ceremony at the Tropicana Resort in Atlantic City on December 12, 2012. Read more.
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Tax Changes For 2013
Listen up, readers. Forget the campaign promises and double talk. If you live in America, your taxes will increase. This affects EVERYBODY! No matter what your income level may be.
There may yet be some relief on particular line items as Congress tries to avoid the fiscal cliff. Don't read this to mean only higher income Americans will see their taxes raised. It merely means lower income citizens will see a smaller increase than their employer.
The "Bush era tax cuts" benefit wasn't restricted to the wealthy. During the Clinton era, the minimum tax rate on the charts was 15% for anyone earning $0 to $35,500 or $59,300 for joint filers. They'll return to these levels should current law be extended when those tax cuts expire at the end of this year.
This is not expected to happen. Current budget proposals call for the tax reduction to remain at 2012 levels for single taxpayers earning less than $199,350 and $241,900 for married couples filing jointly. Those in the lowest bracket, $0 to $8,750 single or $17,500 married, will continue to pay 10% as they did during the Bush years.
But single earners between $8,750 and $35,500 will see their taxes raised to 15%. Married folks filing joint will see that same increase if they earn between $17,500 and $59,300.
Expect your FICA and Medicare withholding to increase as well. That 2% decrease you got on FICA taxes during the recession will expire. Medicare withholding is expected to increase to 2.35% from its current 1.45%.
Do you typically pay enough medical and dental expenses to qualify for an itemized deduction? That might change.
Currently, taxpayers may deduct qualified medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of their adjusted gross income. In 2013, only those age 65 and older will qualify at that limit. The rest of us will have to reach a 10% threshold before we qualify for a deduction to help fund the new healthcare program.
Dependent care tax credits will decrease from $3,000 to $2,400. The childcare credit will decrease from $1,000 to $500 per child and will no longer be permitted for calculation with the alternative minimum tax (AMT). Earned income tax credits will be phased out based on the number of qualifying children.
Small business owners will get a double whammy. Sole proprietorships, partnerships and S corporations report their business earnings on Schedule C of their personal returns. They pay the same rate on business income as personal. The National Federation of Independent Business estimates that 75% of small businesses fall into this category.
The paperwork just got heavier for businesses, too. Prior to 2012, a Form 1099-Misc only needed to be filed for subcontractors you paid over $600 during the tax year. This rule is now extended to include any entity to which you paid over $600, including suppliers. If you bought more than $600 in supplies from Office Depot, you must report it to the IRS. This means you have to get their taxpayer ID to properly complete the form.
Tax law will certainly change as Congress tries to avoid an economic catastrophe. But we don't know just what to expect at this point. It's expected that deductions may be eliminated and income limits changed to qualify for certain items. We won't speculate here, we're only presenting that which we already know.
Your tax professional will have the latest information, and is the most qualified to explain how these changes will affect you.
Will you be traveling to spend the holiday season with family and loved ones? If so - good news! The Department of Transportation predicts fewer cars on the road this year.
Not because fewer people are traveling, but that more are taking to the skies.
Finding the best airfare is a tedious process. Airlines change fares by the minute. And there's no one particular site you can count on to offer the lowest rates. Even metasearch engines like Kayak can be cumbersome at best.
Adding to the burden is the fact that rules on finding the best fare are changing. It's a recipe for stress.
Remember the one-month-out rule? Throw it out the window. Domestic fares are now at their lowest between 18 to 28 days prior to your departure. The average fare will increase 5% two weeks before you leave. Expect to pay 30% more if you have to book within one week of travel.
If you're going to need a hotel, too, it's best to book it at the same time as your airfare to get a package deal. Online travel agencies offer steep discounts on lodging when you book the vacation package.
Airlines still post their best deals on Tuesday. Start your search mid-day Tuesday. By early Wednesday morning, you've missed the latest sales.
Day and time make a difference. Save up to 10% by flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday. For weekend travel, you'll find the best fares leaving Saturday and returning on Monday. Early morning flights are often cheaper, and not as prone to delays.
Include nearby airports in your search. Large airports, like Miami, are served by larger carriers. Ft. Lauderdale is only 30 minutes away and home to several low-cost carriers. The same holds true for many larger destinations such as Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports.
You may find it cheaper to book two one-way tickets from different airlines. Or a flight to a different city with a layover in your destination. I was looking for flights to visit my family in Cleveland, and found one continuing to Pittsburgh at a lower fare than they offered for the first segment of the same flight alone. I had to forfeit my ticket to Pittsburgh when I didn't get on the plane but it didn't matter. I had already reached my destination.
Keep checking fares after you book. If they drop within 24 hours, you can cancel your ticket without paying a fee or penalty as long as the flight departs more than a week in advance. Most airlines have a credit or refund policy outside of that 24 hour window, but they may charge a fee.
Start your search with an online travel agent like Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity. But once you know which airlines service your destination, check their website as well. Many save the best deals for their own online customers. And save paying a commission in the process.
If you travel on the same airline often, follow them on Twitter and Facebook. American Airlines, Southwest and Delta tweet deals to their followers.
Sign up for email alerts to your favorite travel spots. You'll be the first to know when fares drop. Search online for promo codes for discounted airline, rental car and hotel rates.
Sites like Priceline.com let you make an offer for unbooked airline seats. You can grab a great deal if you can be flexible. The airline, departure time and layovers aren't revealed until after you buy. And you don't earn frequent flier miles if you book through them. Yet you can save up to 50% off the published fare in some cases.
The bottom line is that it takes patience to travel these days. And that isn't just to get through airport traffic and the security line. Merely booking your tickets can be stressful. But it doesn't have to be expensive. Happy travels!
Today was a fun day to be a capitalist commentator. My hero, Art Laffer (most famous for the "Laffer Curve"), was in the news once again. The brilliant 72 year old economist, one of the last of the Milton Friedman sect of monetarists, was on a national business network opining on the approaching "fiscal cliff". Our TV monitors have switched from the election day countdown to the fiscal cliff countdown. Some have said the latter is more significant to the future of the country.
As usual, Art Laffer was dead on, predicting a major economic slowdown if the country were to plunge over the fiscal cliff. For those of you who have been away on long trip to the wilderness, the fiscal cliff is the year end expiration of the Bush tax cuts and corresponding "automatic" spending cuts set to go into effect. This is the result of the U.S. President and Congress's inability to reach a fiscally sane budget resolution earlier in the year. In a ridiculous deadlock, they predictably kicked the can down the road - that is until 42 days from now when the Bush tax cuts will expire and automatic across the board spending cuts actually kick in.
Most economists believe this will be such a "fiscal contraction" that the U.S. economy will plunge into yet another recession. Laffer counseled the administration to extend the Bush tax cuts and postpone the ObamaCare tax increases until after Congress has dealt with the deficit problem.
To paraphrase Laffer, it is both inexcusable and unsustainable to borrow 40 cents on every dollar the government spends. Laffer points to the recent downgrading of France's debt as an example. Of course France, like much of the rest of Europe ventured down the unsustainable spending road decades ago - and that tab is now coming due.
Laffer is in good company. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke made similar comments when speaking to the Economic Club of New York. Bernanke called for "a credible long-term framework to put the federal budget on a sound path" and warned against "action that would needlessly add to the headwinds facing the economy." He warned the "$600 billion cliff" of expiring tax cuts and government spending reductions might derail the already anemic U.S. recovery. Interestingly, he said uncertainty surrounding the issue was likely already damaging growth.
So even as two of the best economic minds on the planet are in solid agreement, the President and Congress demur. The fact is, the U.S. government spending machine is seriously broken. And if not repaired, will likely destine the US to the same path as Greece, or now France. The U.S., nor any country, can simply cannot tax and spend its way to prosperity. At least, that plan has not worked anyplace - ever.
Laffer, known for his ability to break complex economic issues into easily understandable explanations, stated the following:
"Suppose the entire universe contained just two farmers, Farmer A and Farmer B. If the government "gives" Farmer B something, such as a subsidy, welfare, unemployment benefits - anything, it must "take" same from Farmer A. It is impossible for there to be any other source since there are only two farmers - one a benefactor and the other a recipient. Both farmers, of course KNOW this, and behave accordingly."
This is the reason, according to Laffer, we should avoid the cliff.
Lest you think Arthur Laffer a right wing zealot, you should consider that in the same interview he referred to Bill Clinton as "a great president" because he of his fiscal responsibility (Clinton actually ran a surplus and only small deficits during his time in office).
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