Keep up to date on the latest tax and accounting news and updates to our firm.
Does your monthly income seem a little higher than normal? If so, that may actually be a sign of trouble ahead. Find out how a tax trap could be lurking in your paycheck. Also read about your options for what to do with your 401(k) when switching jobs, common mistakes that businesses make with their websites and fascinating facts about your favorite fall gourd.
Please call if you would like to discuss how this information could impact your situation. If you know someone who can benefit from this newsletter, feel free to send it to them.
- Is a Tax Trap Lurking in Your Paycheck?
- Switching Jobs? Here's What To Do With Your 401(k).
- Don't Make These Business Website Mistakes
- The Lowdown on the Great Autumn Gourd
Is a Tax Trap Lurking in Your Paycheck?
Does your paycheck look a little higher than normal? If so, it could be a tax trap.
A payroll tax holiday effective September 1 was recently signed via a presidential executive order. Payroll tax holidays typically provide forgiveness of Social Security and Medicare taxes that are normally withheld from your paycheck.
This year’s tax holiday, however, is NOT necessarily a forgiveness of Social Security and Medicare taxes because the order is not yet supported by an underlying legislative action. So even if your employer removes your Social Security and Medicare tax from recent paychecks, there is a possibility you will need to pay it back at a later date. That could mean a pretty large tax bill for you in early 2021!
What you need to do
- Compare paychecks. Get your last paycheck from August and your first paycheck from September. Compare the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from your August paycheck to your September paycheck. If the amounts are the same, then your Social Security and Medicare taxes are still being withheld.
If you notice that the amounts are different, or that no Social Security or Medicare taxes are withheld from your September paycheck, then that’s a signal you may have a tax repayment bill in early 2021.
- Remember to keep checking each paycheck. Companies are struggling to figure out if they are required to comply with the presidential executive order, payroll providers are trying to figure out how to comply, and everyone is wondering whether the tax obligation will be permanently forgiven.
- Be prepared to pay it back. If no Social Security or Medicare taxes have been withheld from your paycheck through the end of 2020, be prepared to write Uncle Sam a check to pay these taxes in early 2021. If possible, open a savings account to set aside the Social Security and Medicare taxes that were not withheld from your paychecks. When it comes time to pay your taxes, the money will be ready to go.
- Check back here for updates. There’s a chance Congress passes a law that forgives the Social Security and Medicare taxes not withheld from your paychecks. If this happens, you will have a nice start on an emergency savings fund should you need it.
If you have any questions about how this payroll tax executive order affects you, please call.
Switching Jobs? Here's What To Do With Your 401(k).
Suppose you’re switching jobs if you were furloughed because of the pandemic or you’re simply searching for greener pastures. If you have a 401(k) from your soon-to-be former employer, you must decide what to do with your retirement account when you leave. Here are your four options:
- Leave the money in your previous employer’s pension plan.
- Roll over the money to your new employer’s pension plan.
- Roll over the money into an IRA.
- Take the money and run.
So which of these options should you choose? Here are some things to consider as you think about what to do with your 401(k) account:
Keep the borrowing option open. If you want to borrow money from your employer-sponsored 401(k) account in the future, consider rolling the money into your new employer's 401(k) plan. While you can borrow money out of your 401(k), that option is not allowed with an IRA. And if you leave your 401(k) at a former employer, they often will not let you borrow funds if you are not currently employed.
Take the money. This year may be the best time to make a withdrawal from a retirement account. In a normal year, when you make an early withdrawal from a retirement account, you owe income taxes on the amount of the distribution plus a 10% early withdrawal penalty. In 2020, this 10% penalty has been suspended. So while you’ll still pay taxes on the distribution, you may be able to avoid the early withdrawal penalty.
Invest the money. While it might be tempting to borrow or take an early distribution from your retirement account, you’ll also be depleting future earnings intended for your retirement years. So consider whether you truly need the money now to pay for an emergency or if you’re ok leaving it in your 401(k).
Whatever you decide, it is always best to transfer the funds directly from one retirement account to another. This direct transfer eliminates the possibility of your fund movement being characterized as a distribution subject to income tax. If in doubt, ask for help.
Don't Make These Business Website Mistakes
Your company’s online presence leaves a lasting impression—positive or negative. When people check out your homepage, will they stick around? Will they buy? Will they return? Make your website easy to use and current, and new orders may be just a click away. Annoy visitors and they’ll flee to a competitor.
Steer clear of the following website mistakes:
Designing the website for you—not the customer. Studies have shown that online visitors form an opinion of a company’s brand in about three seconds. If your home page is well designed, they may stick around for another ten to twenty seconds. Don’t waste these precious moments spouting details about the firm’s stellar history and the owner’s credentials. Consumers are visiting your website to get answers. Provide these answers quickly or they’ll click elsewhere.
Heavy graphics, poor load time. Many consumers are surfing the web from smart phones and tablets. Don’t make them waste valuable time waiting for a fancy webpage to load. Consider projecting a professional image with text-based content that answers the most pressing questions about your products and services. Graphics can work well, but only if size and load times are fully vetted to ensure a seamless load experience.
Unfriendly navigation. If your homepage looks cluttered, potential customers will become frustrated. Make it easy for users to navigate your site from home page to supplemental pages and back again. Use a handful of clearly-labeled tabs in a top level menu. Deliberately design each page to have the same look and feel.
Stale data. When you visit a webpage and note that it was last updated five years ago, do you sense a vibrant, cutting-edge enterprise? Keep your site up to date. Consider subscribing to content services that will keep your information fresh. Remember, developing a web presence is not an event, it is an ongoing journey. Your site must display current prices, merchandise that's available right now, with up-to-date details about new product offerings.
Sloppy content. A website riddled with typos, grammatical mistakes and industry jargon will turn customers away. Visitors may ask themselves if your business doesn’t care about the quality of its website, how can they trust your products and services?
A carefully crafted website can draw customers in, enhance their buying experience and leave a lasting impression of professionalism and quality.
The Lowdown on the Great Autumn Gourd
Corn might be the king of U.S. crops, but pumpkins are always in demand this time of year by kids and others celebrating fall’s festivities.
Here are several interesting tidbits about one of America’s favorite fall gourds.
Germany boasts world’s largest pumpkin. Mathias Willemijns showed off the world’s largest pumpkin in 2016 at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship, officially weighing in at a stout 2,624.6 pounds. Steve Geddes of New Hampshire is the owner of the largest U.S. pumpkin, weighing 2,528 pounds at the 2018 Deerfield Fair.
Illinois is the U.S. pumpkin leader. Pumpkins are grown in all 50 states, but Illinois is by far the leader with about 600 million pounds of pumpkins harvested every year. Runner-up honors go to California, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Each of these states annually produce approximately 100 million pounds of pumpkin.
Pumpkin beer has plenty of fanfare. Pumpkin beer was actually a thing hundreds of years ago when the Pilgrims arrived in America as pumpkins were plentiful and provided an easy source of fermentable sugar. Who knew?
Pumpkin carving started with the Irish. Jack-o’-lanterns were first carved by the Irish and Scottish using turnips and potatoes. They used the carved vegetables as part of their Celtic celebrations. Immigrants brought their carving traditions to America, but found that pumpkins were an easier vegetable to carve.
There are more than 40 varieties of pumpkin. The best pumpkins to use for cooking are Bab Pam, Autumn Gold, Ghost Rider, New England Pie Pumpkin, Lumina, Cinderella and Fair Tale. Most of the pumpkins you see on roadside stands and farms are for decoration only and not very tasty.