James Pantzis’ Tax Preparation Checklist

James Pantzis’ Tax Preparation Checklist

I shared my “resolutions” last week, and it was really nice to see the response, and to know that many of our Brooklyn clients are equally excited for the opportunity to put new legs to a new year … and to make 2017 (much) better than 2016.

I remember seeing a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Jun 2012) by Wilhelm Hofmann a few years back about resolutions, temptations, etc. and how we can control them — or be controlled by them. It’s probably worth sharing with you the key bit (and lest you think I’m a psychology nerd, I’m pretty sure I saw it referenced in an article in the NYT, but I’m not able to immediately find that particular link)…

Essentially, people with the best “self control” are those who end up having to *use* self control the least. They set up their lives in order to minimize temptation and create systems by which they are able to avoid being put into the position of being tempted. They conserve their energy and outsource as much self-control as they possibly can.

Sometimes our best method for sticking to our resolutions (both financial and otherwise) is not to “gut it out”, but to allow others, and our own pre-set boundaries, do the heavy lifting for us.

Which, of course, brings me back to the tax preparation process. If you’ll pardon the somewhat-clumsy segue here, may I humbly suggest something? Let us help you this year.

I truly do pity those who attempt to wade through all of the different tax codes and forms on their own, and not devote a week’s labor to the transaction. It really doesn’t pay to “go it alone” for certain tasks.

I’ve put together a handy little list of what you’ll need to bring in. There may be certain situations where we’ll need other documentation to get you even more deductions. But, of course, we’ll let you know about that, should the situation arise!

Also, an important note: As I mentioned before, the start of actual tax filing will not begin until January 23, 2017. This does NOT mean that we can’t begin the preparation process earlier (we can, if you really have your paperwork in order), but it does mean that the IRS won’t be issuing refunds or otherwise officially accepting returns until that point.

James Pantzis’ Tax Preparation Checklist
“If you do not think about your future, you cannot have one.” -John Galsworthy

With the increased penalties associated with the ACA in 2017, and all of the other changes every year, filing your taxes on your own is not for the faint of heart — even with nice-looking softwares on the market which purport to make it easy for you.

But that’s what we’re here for. Let us be your easy button.

Below is a list of what you will need during the tax preparation process. Not all of them will apply to you — probably MOST will not. Nonetheless, it’s a useful checklist.

Before you get overwhelmed: yes, this is a long list — but it’s the unfortunate reality of our tax code that it’s not even comprehensive! But these items will cover 95% of our clients.  Really, this is for ensuring that we’re able to help you keep every dollar you can keep under our tax code.

Even if for some strange reason you won’t be using our cost-effective services this year, feel free to use this list as a handy guide…

Personal Data
Social Security Numbers (including spouse and children)
Child care provider tax I.D. or Social Security Number

Employment & Income Data
W-2 forms for this year
Tax refunds and unemployment compensation: Form 1099-G
Miscellaneous income including rent: Form 1099-MISC
Partnership and trust income
Pensions and annuities
Alimony received
Jury duty pay
Gambling and lottery winnings
Prizes and awards
Scholarships and fellowships
State and local income tax refunds
Unemployment compensation

Health Insurance Information
* All 1095-A Forms from marketplace providers (if you purchased insurance through a Marketplace)
* Existing plan information (policy numbers, etc.)
* If claiming an exemption, your unique Exemption Certificate Number
* Records of credits and/or advance payments received from the Premium Tax Credit (if claiming)

Homeowner/Renter Data
Residential address(es) for this year
Mortgage interest: Form 1098
Sale of your home or other real estate: Form 1099-S
Second mortgage interest paid
Real estate taxes paid
Rent paid during tax year
Moving expenses

Financial Assets
Interest income statements: Form 1099-INT & 1099-OID
Dividend income statements: Form 1099-DIV
Proceeds from broker transactions: Form 1099-B
Retirement plan distribution: Form 1099-R
Capital gains or losses

Financial Liabilities
Auto loans and leases (account numbers and car value) if vehicle used for business
Student loan interest paid
Early withdrawal penalties on CDs and other fixed time deposits

Automobiles
Personal property tax information
Department of Motor Vehicles fees

Expenses
Gifts to charity (receipts for any single donations of $250 or more)
Unreimbursed expenses related to volunteer work
Unreimbursed expenses related to your job (travel expenses, entertainment, uniforms, union dues, subscriptions)
Investment expenses
Job-hunting expenses
Education expenses (tuition and fees)
Child care expenses
Medical Savings Accounts
Adoption expenses
Alimony paid
Tax return preparation expenses and fees

Self-Employment Data
Estimated tax vouchers for the current year
Self-employment tax
Self-employment SEP plans
Self-employed health insurance
K-1s on all partnerships
Receipts or documentation for business-related expenses
Farm income

Deduction Documents
State and local income taxes
IRA, Keogh and other retirement plan contributions
Medical expenses
Casualty or theft losses
Other miscellaneous deductions

We’re here to help. Let me know if you have any questions.

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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James Pantzis’s New Year’s Resolutions

James Pantzis’s New Year’s Resolutions

Well, here we are in 2017. Rather eerie, in my opinion.

As the holidays wind down, it means no more extended family (which might be a relief?), no more parties, no more presents. Just … daily life in Brooklyn. And, in my opinion, this coming week is actually crucial to how the rest of your year goes.

Why? Because intentions and actions matter. No, I certainly don’t subscribe to a mystical law of attraction — but I DO believe that how we act out what we intend to do sets a subconscious belief system in place which can have an impact for months at a time.

In other words — do what you *intend* to do this week, and it’ll be much easier to carry that forward into more of 2017. At least, that’s been my experience.

What about you? Do you find the beginning of the year to be full of opportunity? Or is it full of discouragement? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Well, for my staff and me … it’s certainly full of preparation. This is one of our most intense years of groundwork for tax season, simply because the tax code is getting even MORE complex.

Also, an important note: As I mentioned before, the start of actual tax filing will not begin until January 23, 2017. This does NOT mean that we can’t begin the preparation process earlier (we can, if you really have your paperwork in order), but it does mean that the IRS won’t be issuing refunds or otherwise officially accepting returns until that point.

Now, here are MY goals for the year. Would love to hear yours…

James Pantzis’s New Year’s Resolutions
“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success.” – Ross Perot

2016 is in the rearview mirror. The holidays are past (family, football, gifts and such gave my body AND my wallet a bit of a beating! Can you relate?). And now, we’re facing a brand new year … and we’ve all got some pesky resolutions to follow.

The following are MY new year’s resolutions for 2017 . . .

1) Provide my clients and their friends with THE standard in tax preparation and financial advice — especially in light of all the uncertainty with the installment of a new presidential administration. There are MANY changes in store for us this year, and we’re planning to be on top of all of them, on your behalf.

2) Make an effort to eat more natural foods — especially the kind that taste good. Probably no explanation is necessary here. 🙂

3) Lead my team well — with grace, excellence and compassion during our busiest times. The metaphorical bullets fly fast when we are handling hundreds of clients, and we have been looking ahead to this time for months now. But I’m under no illusions about the fact that my leadership and attitude will be one of the key factors for the success of our team.

What are YOUR resolutions? I’d love to hear about them. In fact, shoot me an email and I’d love to know what you’re resolving to do in 2017.

And, if you’ll forgive a bit of a self-serving plug — it’s a very good idea to contact us right away, and set a time to meet. (Email or call: (718) 858-9864) Sure, you don’t have your paperwork ready yet — but give yourself a deadline, and help us plan our workflow effectively at the same time. Poor planning is the “hidden tax” during this season.

This, of course, is why I’m in the business — to help clients and friends make sure they’re not getting nailed by these multiplicity of “hidden” taxes. This year  — again, with so much futurecasting based in uncertainty — the “Stupid Tax” is NOT working with a well-prepared professional. Don’t pay that one, if you can help it.

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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4 Last Minute Tax Savings Ideas For Brooklyn Taxpayers

4 Last Minute Tax Savings Ideas For Brooklyn Taxpayers

I woke up Monday morning, after the wonderful holiday weekend … and I had a realization: “After today, there are only FIVE days left in 2016.”

Perhaps not a genius realization — fine. BUT, if you’re smart about how you handle these days, you can pay yourself quite well when tax time rolls around.

The VERY good news is that we’ve been able to clear out three “FAST ACTION” appointment slots this week only for clients and friends who are committed to following our advice quickly, and who want ensure that their tax bill for the 2016 tax year is the lowest it can possibly be.

Send me an email (you can use the button in the upper-right of the site here) to snag a Fast-Action Appointment, or call: (718) 858-9864 — and may I suggest you do it quickly? These slots are sure to go fast. After that point, you’ll be put on a short waiting list.

But for those of my Brooklyn clients and friends who prefer to “do it yourself” (though with THIS tax code, I’m not sure that’s always wise), I’ve put together a brief, and actionable “checklist” to ensure that you’re squeezing every last drop out of the deductions still available to you for 2016.

And, on the early note — let me wish you a premature Happy New Year, 2017!

Now, let’s get deducting…shall we?

4 Last Minute Tax Savings Ideas For Brooklyn Taxpayers
“Life consists not in holding good cards but in playing those you hold well.” – Josh Billings 

Because time is short, and some moves do require more than this week to pull off, I’m restricting myself to those items which you can realistically affect for tax savings before the end of the year.

This will be short, and (hopefully) sweet to your wallet…

1) Use Your FSA Funds
Money set aside in a flexible spending account must be spent by the end of the year, else the funds are lost. Some employers allow a 2-and-a-half month grace period. So check with your employer to see what your personal deadline is for utilizing your FSA savings.

2) Make an Extra Payment on Your Mortgage
If you own a house with a mortgage, and you can swing the cashflow hit, add an additional payment before year-end, and the interest on that payment will be deductible for 2016. Of course, that means that it WON’T be so for 2017, but perhaps you can use this as an “extra” payment … and get ahead of the escrow game.

3) Make the Switch to a Roth IRA
Roth conversions are taxed in the year the conversion happens. However, taxpayers have the option to undo part or all of that conversion by their filing deadline. But in order to retroactively undo part of their conversion next year, they first have to convert this year. So if you are on the fence about converting, consider taking the plunge before the end of the year, knowing that you (and/or WE) can re-characterize some or all of the amounts early next year.

4) The old standby
You know how I feel about charitable giving by now (I hope). This week, of course, is a big one for non-profits who are the happy beneficiaries of our last-minute donations. You can pay early on a monthly gift, or give a lump-sum gift. The purpose (aside from the many, many benefits to the organization, and to you), of course, being to knock more income into a different tax bracket perhaps, or to simply cut your tax bill, regardless of the bracket status.

Now, there are plenty others. But these are the quickest, and the easiest (aside, perhaps, from the Roth conversion — but that can be done quickly).

Do you have others you want to explore? Give us a call ((718) 858-9864) or shoot me an email (again, you can just use the button in the upper-right of the site here), and we’ll help you out.

Best to you. We’d love to see your family THRIVE in 2017!

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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James Pantzis’ Holiday Season Prayer

James Pantzis’ Holiday Season Prayer

I came in to the office this morning, and I noticed that traffic is already a little lighter around town. Many of us are still working, but I have plenty of friends who have already taken time away from work, starting today.

Whatever your faith background, it’s hard to ignore the holiday clamor. In my opinion, it’s a crying shame that a season of reflection and prayer would become transformed into something so… busy. It’s almost as if we now have to rush around to purchase or artificially create these nostalgic moments, when they probably would have earlier happened on their own.

Now look — as a proud Brooklyn business owner, I have no problem with people earning money during this holiday season…I just wonder when it’s time to say “enough”?

Maybe it really is the holidays, because as I’ve been meeting with clients recently, I’ve discovered that many of you are worried and stressed — about finances, family, personal circumstances, etc. It’s not my job to save the world on your behalf of course, but I do get to be somebody in your world who can encourage you to slow down, take a breather and keep your perspective on what’s really important. 

(By the way, we are still meeting with clients to help them with year-end issues, so feel free to email me or call us at (718) 858-9864 for help.)

Anyway, thanks for your friendship, and for your business in 2016, and (hopefully) in 2017.

This week’s Note is to help us all keep perspective, this week…and into next year.

James Pantzis’ Holiday Season Prayer
“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.” -St. Augustine

“God, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

“Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

“Remind us, Lord, that the scary-looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares …

“Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slowly through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

“Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love. ”

Amen.

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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Fake News & Four Online Privacy Tips By James Pantzis

Fake News & Four Online Privacy Tips By James Pantzis

There’s a lot of talk these days about fake news — which is interesting, because most of us have realized for quite some time that much of the news is glorified “PR” in the first place.

But before I get there, here is some information that is NOT fake…

A bunch of tax deadlines were just released to us by the IRS, and they might interest you (warning — tax-heavy content ahead):

January 23, 2017: This is the first day that the IRS will accept e-filed returns (or start processing paper ones). Here at our James Pantzis, CPA, PC offices, of course, we can start working with you before that time to get your return set up, but won’t be able to actually FILE until that date.

However, if you are planning to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), you should also know about this next date:

February 15, 2017: On December 18, 2015, Congress passed the “PATH Act” (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes), and one of the provisions is that the earliest day that the IRS can issue a refund for returns that use the EITC or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) is February 15th.

The stated reason for this is that there has been so much fraud related to some taxpayers wrongly claiming these (refundable) credits, and this delay will give the IRS more time to verify the claims of these taxpayers. (Note: If you were somehow planning to get your refund earlier than this date, there may be options through a bank arrangement, so let us know if that’s you, when you come in.)

The IRS has also just told us that it might take a few days for EITC/ACTC-related refunds to process. So if you’re looking to get your refunds fast, we might need to have a conversation.

April 18, 2017: If you’re perhaps a little more laid back about your filing habits, the good news is that this year, the actual filing deadline is 3 days later.

Phew! That’s a lot of tax news. None of it fake. But before you depart from this note and head back over to FacebookLand, you should also perhaps remember that some of what you’re seeing there isn’t exactly correct — and, well, I also want to help you stay safe there. Here’s what I mean…

Fake News & Four Online Privacy Tips By James Pantzis
“Progress is man’s ability to complicate simplicity.” -Thor Heyerdahl

Like me, you’ve probably seen a friend or two post a “legal notice” to their Facebook accounts, as if it would have any kind of impact on the legal status of what they put there.

Unfortunately, what your friends are responding to is very much in the category of “fake news”.

Here’s the truth: http://bit.ly/2gEyp6Y

The best “privacy policy” I know of? If you don’t want someone to see it, don’t post it on Facebook.

Yet Brooklyn people using Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other networks (even those with serious privacy controls) are thoughtlessly giving actionable intelligence to thieves.  I think that an awful lot of people believe they are invincible when they get online and communicate with their friends. But a seemingly-benign post or piece of information could actually make you a target of identity thieves and traditional crooks.

So, to protect yourself, here are four things you should avoid posting online…

1. Date of birth. Must you get random birthday greetings from elementary school friends? Almost 60% of social networkers post their date of birth (according to a survey by Identity Theft 911). But resist the urge to post your complete birth date — including the year — on your Facebook profile, just to get a lot of messages on your big day. This is extremely valuable information for identity thieves. I know — you’re thinking only your friends see what you post. But if someone does a search for your name, that person will often see your birth date if it’s listed in your profile.

2. Travel plans. I bet you’ve seen Facebook posts like this: “We’re going to the beach next week. Can’t wait!” In fact, you may be guilty of it yourself — but according to the research I’ve recently seen, 18% of social media users post travel times.

Guess what? You’ve just extended an invitation for people to burglarize your home. In fact, recently three men in New Hampshire burglarized more than 18 homes by checking Facebook status updates to see when people wouldn’t be home. Pro-Tip: Make sure anything travel-related is set to ONLY show to your trusted friends. If you see the little “globe” icon below your post, that means it’s out there for the world to see. Fix that.

3. Address. If your address is on your profile AND you let people know when you’re going out of town, well, you know where I’m going with this. Nonetheless, 21% of social media users post their address.

4. Mother’s maiden name. It may seem like common sense to not post your mother’s maiden name on a social media platform, but about 11% said they did. Identity thieves will hit the jackpot if you reveal this bit of information online.

Not only should you avoid posting any of this information, but also you should fix your Facebook settings to control who sees what on your page.

Further, use different passwords for social media sites than you use for financial sites, such as your bank or credit card site. That is ALWAYS good practice.

With all of the holiday posting that is sure to be happening, please … for the sake of your REAL privacy, keep this stuff in mind!

And remember … we’re here to help.

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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Thoughts On Millennials, Following Your Dreams & Career Choices In Brooklyn

Thoughts On Millennials, Following Your Dreams & Career Choices In Brooklyn

It’s getting real around our James Pantzis, CPA, PC offices these days.

Our busiest time of year is definitely during “tax season”, but we are in our intense preparatory stage for it AND so are our (smarter) clients.

We have no complaints, and we love our clients … but it does add some oomph to the holiday rush.

And one of the primary things we are helping with now are the rush of last-minute tax planning moves. Because as I’ve said before, preparing a tax return is a defensive, reactive task … but making the right moves ahead of time is going on the offense, and it affects the future. You can still save, even now.

Which means I’d like that far better for you.

I gave you some ideas last week, and here they are again:

• Making an additional mortgage payment (to add to the total you can deduct for mortgage interest)
• Adding to your 401(k) or other company-sponsored retirement plan
• Spending down your medical flexible spending account (FSA) balance
• Bunching deductible expenses, both miscellaneous and medical
• Maximizing the sales tax deduction with a tax-qualifying major purchase
• Considering ways to defer income until January 1 if at all possible (unless you already know 2017 is going to be higher)
• Giving to your favorite charity

Let us know if there’s anything in there that piques your interest: (718) 858-9864

Now, there’s a lot of talk these days about millennials, and how this generation might be a little different than those in the past. Well, I thought I’d pipe in for my millennial friends … and perhaps others too.

Thoughts On Millennials, Following Your Dreams & Career Choices In Brooklyn
“We didn’t lose the game; we just ran out of time.”  -Vince Lombardi

Like me, you’ve probably heard: “Do what you love, and the money will follow!”

Hogwash.

Personally, I love lying on the beach, but unless I start looking like a supermodel, there’s not much chance of my getting paid for it.

And, honestly, it breaks my heart to see so many mindlessly follow this advice, start to pursue a career in Brooklyn driven exclusively from their “passion”, and end up with broken dreams, bitterness towards the world and a deeper resistance to “starting” anything again. I’ve met with clients like this. I’ve seen the broken tax returns, the failed businesses, and worse.

That, to me, is the biggest crime, as it relates to those who spout this pabulum. Because I WANT people to follow their dreams. But (and this is the kicker), it needs to be something in which there is a realistic possibility of providing liveable (and beyond) income.

So, here’s my “real world” take on how you should, instead, approach following your dreams….

Understand the desire under your desire. 
What you choose to do for a living should be based on what kind of life you want. If you dream of a life of luxury, a career as an artist (however much you love to draw) probably won’t be very satisfying. But if your deepest desire is to be “true” to your giftings — no matter the financial reward, then the income component only becomes something that must meet a minimum requirement. So, look for a strategy that will incorporate your interests while taking into account your TRUE lifestyle goals.

Learn your strengths. 
You may love playing the piano, but are you really good enough to make a living at it? Be honest and realistic with yourself before committing yourself to a career that could be filled with frustration. Best move here: get a real outside opinion, and commit yourself to responding to this kind of objective feedback.

Understand secondary requirements. 
Every job and career includes some tasks that are less enjoyable than others. After all, even movie stars have to deal with intrusive paparazzi; CEOs have to make tough decisions about layoffs and ethical dilemmas, etc. The point is that there are downsides to every dream career. EVERY ONE. Keep your eyes open to these.

Remember that work is still work. 
Your career has to carry you through days and weeks when you don’t really want to go to the Brooklyn office, or the studio, or wherever your job takes you. This is part of being realistic about your goals: Even the best jobs can seem like drudgery at times, and you’ll have to stick with it even when the initial enjoyment fades.

Last of all, let us help you plan the financial implications of your choices. Perhaps, we just start from the simple point of this upcoming year’s tax return?

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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The Heart Behind Year-End Giving – James Pantzis’ Three Key Ideas

The Heart Behind Year-End Giving – James Pantzis’ Three Key Ideas

Lost amid all of the Thanksgiving and holiday noise was the fact that a federal judge just blocked the implementation of the new overtime rules that small businesses were scrambling to prepare for this year. They had been scheduled to take effect on 12/1 of this year, but right now they’re in limbo. If your employer had already made changes in preparation for them, they may end up being rolled back. It remains to be seen whether this will be a permanent stoppage to the rule.

Either way, with December rolling at us, there’s sure to be a lot of last-minute financial items in the news, with Congress meeting in their “lame duck” session, and the normal flurry of year-end craziness.

For YOU, we don’t have much more time to do something meaningful for your upcoming tax bill.

By that I mean that we are ONE MONTH away from year-end. That’s one month away from taking positive (instead of reactive) steps to affect your 2016 tax burden (with the exception of IRA contributions and a few various backdating strategies that are allowed).

So here’s a quick and dirty tax plan:

1) Unless your income has radically changed this year (in which case we should probably talk), take a quick look at your withholding and make a last-minute adjustment up or down.

2) Then, consider the following before December 31 to reduce your tax liability …

• Making an additional mortgage payment (to add to the total you can deduct for mortgage interest)
• Adding to your 401(k) or other company-sponsored retirement plan
• Spending down your medical flexible spending account (FSA) balance
• Bunching deductible expenses, both miscellaneous and medical
• Maximizing the sales tax deduction with a tax-qualifying major purchase
• Considering ways to defer income until January 1 if at all possible (unless you already know 2017 is going to be higher)
And one more great strategy, which is my broader subject for today …

All of these (and more) are good options to make a dent in your 2016 tax bill. Help us help you to make the right decisions, and call: (718) 858-9864 to set up a year-end tax planning appointment.

The Heart Behind Year-End Giving – James Pantzis’ Three Key Ideas
“The world is more malleable than you think and it’s waiting for you to hammer it into shape.” -Bono

There’s something that happens to your soul when you cut a big check to someone in need.

You signal to those very fears and desires which so often control your unconscious thoughts: “Money doesn’t rule me. I have more than enough, so much more than enough that I’m giving it away.” Then, of course, something special often happens: more money seems to find itself in your hands.

I’m not advocating a mystical pay-it-forward scheme; I’m simply making the observation over years of being a student of how money “works”. And, “coincidentally” it just seems to find itself in the hands of those who give it away.

Why is it that those who are benevolent seem to be well-taken care of, even rich? I know many families of significant means who were NOT wealthy when they started to give in large percentages of their income (15%+). Coincidence?

So I’d say that this first dynamic is one significant reason to give: Your soul is set free from the shackles of fear and greed.

Here are two more big reasons:

2) You build a network of grateful friends and organizations. You’ll never know when someone to whom you’ve donated or given (be it time, money, connections, or other resources) comes back to you with something you need, at just the right time.

Personally, I’ve seen this dynamic in play enough times to not dismiss it. When you act or give generously, it’s the most powerful form of networking on the planet. Obviously, there are better, less self-interested reasons to give … but there sure are worse ones.

3) Your perspective can shift in an instant. When you don’t just give money, but also time and heart, you often learn heretofore unrealized reasons for being grateful about your own present circumstances.

Sometimes giving to Brooklyn institutions that work with the poor can bring home appreciation of your own enormous wealth. And it can also bring home awareness of a poverty which isn’t solved through adding zeroes to a bank balance. But either way, if you do it right, you are changed for the better.

With these reasons, AND the monetary benefits to your tax return, I urge you: stretch yourself this month. Give more than you think you should. See what happens.

I promise it’ll be good.

All this said, I firmly advocate for being careful with your planning of said giving. I don’t suggest impulsivity, just some measured risk-taking.

But don’t risk losing out on the tax advantages to gifting appreciated stock, or other, less common, forms of gifting. Shoot me an email, or give us a call ((718) 858-9864) if you want to discuss the tax implications of your year-end giving. It is, after all, what we do.

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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James Pantzis’ Thanksgiving Encouragement

James Pantzis’ Thanksgiving Encouragement

This week of Thanksgiving seems like it hurtled its way towards us, and suddenly the holidays are upon us.

Perhaps it’s because of the elections, maybe the weather … but for some reason, it feels very sudden.

And that’s probably a good thing, because it’s our chance to take a breath as a nation, and look back. Even as we move forward.

Some of my Brooklyn clients are feeling more fearful now than they did a few weeks ago. Some are feeling just fine, even happy. Some are anxious over their finances (even those with much saved in the bank), and some are breathing relief in that area for the first time in a while.

The point is this: there is never a “perfect time” to pause and give thanks. Sure, it makes sense when something nice has happened in your life, but it’s just as important to do so when things look grim.

I’m reminded of how President Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday in the midst of a roiling civil war. He recognized the power of removing our eyes from that which might provoke fear and anxiety, and remembering the gifts that we might easily forget.

His entire Thanksgiving proclamation (written by his Secretary of State, William Seward) is worth taking in, or even reading aloud, but the opening is particularly powerful:

“The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added …”

Personally, I’m grateful for YOU. I never want to take you for granted.

I’m grateful for the trust you give us to walk with you through sensitive financial waters, and for the opportunity you provide me to pursue a vocation that brings great pleasure to me.

I’m grateful to the people around me who make it even easier to serve you, and I’m thankful to live in a nation and an age in which I can post these kinds of personal notes, and that we get to enjoy a relationship of true meaning, even in the midst of transactional details.

As I gather at my table this week, I will be thinking of you, of Lincoln, and of a nation of many people with many stories, but all of whom can stop to be thankful.

And finally, on a “tax note”, allow me to remind you that although we are busy as we head into the end of the year, we will always make time to help you save on taxes. Give us a call at (718) 858-9864, and let’s get your 2016 tax return set up to save you the most that is legally and ethically possible.

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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A Brooklyn Parent’s Four Step Guide On Teaching Money Management For Kids

A Brooklyn Parent’s Four Step Guide On Teaching Money Management For Kids

Now that the elections are over, we are all adjusting to the idea of President Donald Trump. Even typing those words is an odd experience (as it would also have been to type “President Hillary Clinton”) … we’ve had eight years of President Barack Obama, and however we feel about all of it, it’s always in our interests to approach the world as it really is.

Some of us are quite happy, some of us are quite upset, but at least we know that it’s going to be interesting! (Although I am reminded of the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”)

I’ll have more to say about what we might expect from a tax policy standpoint as things become a little more clear. In the meantime, we have the “lame duck” Congress to wait upon, who will make some last-minute adjustments to the laws, as usual!

But regardless of how you feel, it’s my hope that (together) we can serve the world well … and that YOU will be in the strongest financial position possible, and with the most tax-efficient (and “tax-savings-est”) approach possible for the rest of this year.

That might only happen, however, if we have a conversation. Let’s make sure that your year-end is strong, and that you aren’t taken by surprise come tax time. Email me (you can just use the button in the upper-right of the site, above), or give us a call ((718) 858-9864) if you want to do some year-end tax planning before things get too crazy with the holidays.

And speaking of doing things well before they get too crazy, let’s talk about raising children, shall we? One of my favorite topics, specifically as it relates to instilling a great financial future…

A Brooklyn Parent’s Four Step Guide On Teaching Money Management For Kids
“The starting point of all achievement is desire.” -Napoleon Hill

Raising children is a white-knuckle roller coaster ride, and it sure isn’t easy. You can probably fill in the blanks with your own stories about how hard it is, and the particular challenges in our modern age. But still, those kids grow up, and most of them become (mostly) functional adults!

That said, I’ve seen so many otherwise loving and wise parents somehow forget to ready their children for the financial realities of adult life. Instead, they simply hand them credit cards, pack up their cars and head to school.

I’ll go out on a limb here, but I believe that it is this deficiency in financial education which has led, in part, to an adult population that largely spends beyond its means, engages in unsafe borrowing practices, and accumulates record amounts of debt.

Still, if we decide to instruct our kids how to responsibly manage their money — much like we teach them how to read, tie their shoes, and ride bikes — then perhaps they might avoid financial catastrophe in their own adult lives.

And sure, that all sounds good in theory, but let’s get practical: how exactly do you go about instilling proper financial values into your adolescents?

1) Tackle the task as if teaching money management for kids is like teaching your kids to ride bikes. You first need to let them get comfortable on training wheels, and prepaid cards are the training wheels of personal finance. So co-sign for prepaid cards, load a certain amount of money onto them biweekly, and allow your children to spend freely. This will force them to learn how to budget and, since most prepaid cards allow online account management, you will be able to review their purchases with them.

By the way, I did some research, and these are some good choices for pre-paid cards for teenagers, etc.

American Express BLUEBIRD: http://bit.ly/2fNQCgg
Visa UPside: http://bit.ly/2fNO5mq
American Express SERVE: http://bit.ly/heWJRS (monthly fee, with some advantages)

2) Once you are confident that your kids have exhibited responsible prepaid card use for at least a year, you can graduate to monthly cash allowances. This progression, which is tantamount to taking one training wheel off their bikes, will provide them with greater financial independence (given that you cannot monitor their spending with cash). It will also more thoroughly test their responsibility, because the odds of losing money or exhausting it too quickly are heightened with a monthly cash allowance.

3) If your kids demonstrate the requisite discipline after a year of cash allowances, you can take the other training wheel off. Do so by co-signing for and opening checking accounts in their names and depositing slightly higher monthly amounts while requiring them to pay for more of their own expenses.

With checking accounts, children will garner much needed experience writing checks and purchasing with debit cards. They’ll learn how to avoid overdrawing their accounts and bouncing checks —  and if they can’t learn these lessons quickly enough, you can screw that training wheel back on and regress to cash spending. After all, when you took that last training wheel off, you didn’t let go of the bike completely! You still had a grip on the handlebars and were providing assistance as needed.

4) If your kids’ financial balance seems solid after 6-9 months, you can release the handlebars and either co-sign for student credit cards or give them small lines of credit as authorized users on your credit card accounts. Doing so will help teach them the principles of responsible credit use, such as spending within one’s means and paying bills in full each month. Remember though that you are simply taking your hands off to see if your kids can ride. If they wobble, catch them.

If you don’t believe in using credit cards, then there are additional steps of “release” that might make sense, like ceasing allowances altogether, and encouraging them to pay for their own minor expenses from the proceeds of their own earnings.

This financial education progression will instill within your children various skill sets that will surely serve them well when they leave the nest. It’s important to employ such a practical approach because it lets kids learn and inevitably falter while the stakes are low.

Additionally, you can ensure that your children know how to handle their money before becoming independent, providing yourself with the kind of peace of mind that is valuable to any parent.

So before sending your kids out into the world, make sure they are ready for the financial implications of that independence.

And once again, allow me to remind you that although we are VERY busy right now as we lead into the end of the year, we always have time for you. Give us a call at (718) 858-9864, and let’s get your 2016 tax return set up to save you the most that is legally and ethically possible.

Warmly,

James Pantzis
(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

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James Pantzis’ Story of Real Wealth

James Pantzis’ Story of Real Wealth

I’m specifically putting this together on Monday, November 7th, before Election Day, before we know the outcome of our long national sojourn. So many have been writing things like “I can’t wait for this election to be over!” and I have felt the same.

But now is when the real work begins.

Again, today is Monday. These words are from BEFORE anything was known of the outcome, so you know they’re coming without any kind of dog in the fight, so to speak. That’s always been my professional posture, and it will continue to be.

So, regardless of who is/becomes our President-Elect, it’s time to lay down our weapons for a while, and do the hard work of healing after all of the shouting is finished.

And by the way, do you want to know who I voted for?

I voted for YOU. My vote has always been with the ones who are out there clawing and scrapping, who are working jobs and running businesses, and who need a little encouragement and help along the way. That’s really how we see ourselves here at Team Pantzis.

>>Before I get to what I’m writing about today, a quick reminder that open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act healthcare policies started on 11/1. You will need “minimum essential coverage” in order to avoid the increasingly-significant penalties, come tax time.

So, in the spirit of the above, I’d like to tell you a story today about real wealth. Wherever you find yourself, I hope it helps.

James Pantzis’ Story of Real Wealth

“My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” – Charles Kettering

A rich farmer liked to ride around his vast estate so he could enjoy his great wealth. One day, while riding his favorite horse, he saw Hans, an old tenant farmer, sitting under a tree.

Annoyed because Hans wasn’t hard at work, he halted his horse and asked, “What are you doing there?”

Hans replied, “I was just thanking God for my meal.” And the farmer saw Hans eating a modest lunch of rice and beans.

“If that was my lunch, I wouldn’t be giving thanks for it,” the farmer said.

“It’s all I have,” said Hans, “but it’s all I need, so I give thanks.”

The farmer was about to ride on when Hans called out to him. “I thought I should tell you that I had a dream this morning. A voice said to me, ‘The richest man in the valley will die tonight.’ I just thought you should know.”

The farmer rode away, but Hans’ words worried him. He was the richest man in the valley, wasn’t he? So he called his doctor when he got back to his mansion. The doctor came out and looked him over, but found nothing wrong with him. The farmer went to bed, still worried, and slept fitfully.

When he woke the next morning he thought, “Well, there was nothing to that dream after all. Here I am, alive and well.”

Then a servant knocked at his door. “What is it?” the farmer asked.

“It’s about that old tenant farmer, Hans, sir,” the servant said.

“What about it?”

“He died in his sleep last night, sir.”

And once again, allow me to remind you that although we are VERY busy right now as we lead into the end of the year, we always have time for you. Give us a call at (718) 858-9864, and let’s get your 2016 tax return set up to save you the most that is legally and ethically possible.

Warmly,

James Pantzis

(718) 858-9864

James Pantzis, CPA, PC

Read More