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KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN DEBT COLLECTORS CALL

Posted on Sep 27, 2017

At some point you may be on the receiving end of a debt collection phone call. It could happen any time you are behind on paying your bills or when there is an error in billing. In the U.S. there are strict rules in place that forbid any kind of harassment. If you know your rights, you can deal with debt collection with minimum hassle. Here are some suggestions. Ask for non-threatening transparency. When a debt collector calls, they must be transparent about who they are. The magic words they must utter are: “This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.” In addition, debt collectors cannot use abusive or threatening language, or threaten you with fines or jail time. The most a debt collector can truthfully threaten you with is that failure to pay will harm your credit rating, or that they may sue you in a civil court to extract payment. Know the contact rules. Debt collectors may not contact you outside of “normal” hours, which is between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time. They may try to call you at work, but they must stop if you tell them that you cannot receive calls there. Debt collectors may not talk to anyone else about your debt (other than your attorney, if you have one), but they may try contacting other people, such as relatives, neighbors or employers. This must be solely for the purpose of trying to find out your phone number, address or where you work. Take action. If you believe the debt is in error in whole or in part, you can send a dispute letter to the collection agency within 30 days of first contact. Ask the collector for their mailing address and let them know you are filing a dispute. They will have to cease all collection activities until they send you legal documentation verifying the debt. Tell them to stop. And, whether you dispute the debt or not, at any time you can send a “cease letter” to the collection agency telling them to stop making contact. You don’t need to provide a specific reason. They will have to stop contact after this point, though they may still decide to pursue legal options in civil court. If a debt collection agency is not following these rules, report them. Start with your state’s attorney general office, and consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

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Recently married or divorced? Notify the SSA

Posted on Sep 5, 2017

Some of the most common tax return errors come from name mistakes. Your name has to match the information on file with the Social Security Administration (SSA). So if you recently married or divorced but haven’t changed your name with the SSA, you’ll need to file under your old name. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

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Give to cut taxes

Posted on Aug 21, 2017

If you are in a position to give, making annual gifts can be an excellent strategy for reducing both your estate and income tax liability. Doing your gift-giving during midyear rather than late in the year is especially smart if you are gifting income-producing real estate. By doing so, you may further reduce your 2017 tax liability. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

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Don’t pay tax on a home sale

Posted on Aug 4, 2017

The law lets you sell your home tax-free if you meet certain requirements. The home must have been owned and used as your principal residence for at least two of the five years prior to the sale. Couples can enjoy up to $500,000 of tax-free profits from a home sale, while singles qualify for up to $250,000 of tax-free gain. To the extent possible, time home sales to meet the requirements in order to enjoy tax-free profits. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

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Four tips for building an emergency fund

Posted on Jul 31, 2017

Planning for emergencies is like buying insurance: you pay into an account and hope you’ll never have to use it. But life happens. Cars break down. Roofs leak. Kids get injured. Having money in the bank to cover those unexpected expenses can reduce stress and keep you from relying on credit cards and loans to make ends meet. Here are four easy and effective ways to establish and maintain an emergency fund. Start small. Many financial planners advise setting aside enough money to cover at least six months of expenses. That’s a worthy goal. But for many people it’s also a daunting task, an objective that will take years – not months – to achieve. So set a realistic and achievable amount for your emergency fund, and then get in the habit of contributing regularly. Then don’t touch the account except for real emergencies. Leave it alone and it will grow. Pump it up. When you get a bonus, cost-of-living adjustment, tax refund, or windfall, consider using a portion of that money to bolster your emergency account. Fight the temptation to increase spending with every new dollar that comes along. Make it automatic. With online banking, it’s easy to set up routine transfers from your regular checking account to a separate savings account. If allowed by your employer, allocate a portion of each paycheck to an emergency fund. Consider establishing the account at a financial institution other than your regular bank. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” If the money never shows up in your regular checking account, you’ll be less likely to use it for everyday spending. Sell stuff and slash expenses. Think about selling some of your unused stuff through yard sales, online auctions, or consignment shops. This can generate cash to bolster your emergency fund. Take a hard look at your budget and consider everything fair game: expensive dinners, vacations, cable television, and so on. You may find that a surprising number of dollars can be freed up and stashed away in savings. The key, of course, is to direct those savings – immediately, if possible – away from regular spending and into your emergency account. If you’d like more ideas for setting financial goals or building up an emergency fund, give us a call. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

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A MARRIAGE PENALTY LINGERS IN THE TAX CODE

Posted on Jul 26, 2017

A marriage is worth celebrating, but bringing up the marriage penalty may bring down the celebration. The marriage penalty occurs in the tax code when you pay more tax as a married couple than you would as two single filers making the same amount of money. This occurs throughout the federal tax code. The following are two examples: The tax rate problem If the tax tables did not differentiate between single and married, you could assume the married income required to move to the next highest tax rate would always be double that of a single filer. This is not the case. As an example, when you’re a single filer, income above $91,901 is taxed at 28%. When you file a joint return with your spouse, the 28% rate starts at $153,101. You will notice that the beginning of the 28% tax bracket for married couples ($153,101) is not twice the $91,901 amount applied to each of you when you were single. The outcome is an increase in tax on your combined income over what you would have paid individually. Accelerating the phase-outs Another example of the marriage penalty occurs in the acceleration of phase-outs of personal exemptions and itemized deductions for married couples versus single filers. These deductions begin when your adjusted gross income (AGI) is greater than $313,800 if you’re married filing a joint return and $261,500 when you’re single. Think the marriage penalty only impacts upper income? Even the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) phase-outs favor single taxpayers over married taxpayers. A single mother of three can qualify for the EITC with income less than $48,340, where a married couple loses the EITC with combined income over $53,930. Not surprisingly, there are some couples who simply decide not to marry to avoid the penalty, but obviously this option isn’t right for all couples. If you are planning to marry in the near future, do not be caught by surprise with a larger than expected tax bill. Call to review your situation. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

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