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WiFi at the coffee shop is so convenient. It’s great when your favorite restaurant has it, too. It’s a great convenience, but using it is not in your best interest for secure communication or anything that involves logging into websites. Why? You can’t be guaranteed of the security of their WiFi. There’s no way to know what precautions if any, the owners have taken to keep you safe. Basic password access for public WiFi is fine for checking the news or the weather, but don’t use it for email, online purchases, or work-related access. Without proper security protocols for the connection, you’re at risk of having your information stolen. If you MUST do ...
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When you write your passwords down, someone can steal your notes. Recording them in a text document on your computer or phone gives hackers a treasure trove if you get hacked or your devices are stolen. You can do better than that. Passwords need to be super-secret, so use a secure password management app. Password management apps like Dashlane (all NSA members get a discount on their premium plan) keep all your log-in info safe — across your desktop and mobile devices — and available to you all the time through secure servers. This app will generate strong passwords for your accounts, and store them, so you don’t have to remember them or write them ...
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Helping your clients build a budget is probably the most important task you can undertake. Many people don’t budget, simply because they do not know how. This is not only problematic when it comes to daily spending, but also long-term savings. Many of your clients may be focused on retirement plans and saving into a 401k, but those savings might not be helpful when your clients need access to senior care. It is important to help your clients set aside funds specifically for senior care, so if the need arises, they do not need to tap into another form of savings to afford this care.  Here is a guide to helping your clients budget for senior care. ...
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Backing up your data is an important best practice. It is unpleasant to think about computers crashing, power surges, viruses that lock down your machines, and calamities that might befall your office, but they do happen. Without data back-ups, your business is in trouble. There are many ways to back up your information. Check out How-To-Geek’s article “ What’s the Best Way to Back Up My Computer? ” for an overview of options. Whichever of these options you choose, you need to back up on a regular schedule. The more frequently you back up your data, the less downtime you have. Time equals money. TIP: Don’t use one back-up option. Use two. Redundancy ...
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Regularly (weekly) check your antivirus software and apps for updates and install them. Without updates, your software can’t protect you from the latest threats. Don’t leave yourself open to attack! To get the most out of your antivirus programs, set them to update automatically or to notify you when an update is available. This is also true for built-in services like Windows Defender. Lifewire has a great article about ways to back up your data. Read more he
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Don't fall for phishing emails! Here’s a general rule of thumb: if an email looks suspicious, it probably is. Do not click on any links in the strange email and don’t respond to it.  If the email seems to have come from a client or someone you do business with, you can always call them to verify the message. By reaching out to them directly, you might help them discover they’ve been hacked, confirm that they have been, or find out that the message was legitimate. In any of those cases, you’ve done your part to keep yourself cyber-safer. Suspicious emails that come from big companies should be reported. For example, if Microsoft sends you an email that ...
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Dealing with your business cybersecurity starts with a simple step: ask yourself if you’re using best practices.  Do you?   YES NO Encrypt all hard drives on all machines that store confidential data     Use secure offsite data storage     Turn off computer systems at night, on weekends, and vacation     Shut down computers when you leave for appointments & lunch, and then restart and log back in when you return.      Use multi-factor logins for smartphone and tablet apps, like a fingerprint scanner combined with a drawn ...
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On January 2, 2020, Kiplinger's Retirement Report published A New Tax Break for Rental Income featuring an interview with NSA's President Joel Grandon. ... The QBI rules are one of the hardest provisions in the 2017 tax law to navigate, according to Joel Grandon, enrolled agent and president of the National Society of Accountants. There is no hard and fast rule for determining whether your real estate rental activity is a trade or business, other than a safe harbor, which is difficult to meet. It’s best to seek out the advice of a good tax preparer, Grandon says... Read more h
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Today, December 5, 2019, the IRS released the finalized version of the Form W-4 for 2020. The new form incorporates changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which are designed to make withholding estimates easier. It also features minor edits, and revised language in "Your Privacy." Other changes since the draft release are more visual. They include: the Form W-4 is now a full page there are no withholding allowances (which is why the title of the form changed to “Employee’s Withholding Certificate”) steps 1 through 5 to guide employees through the form instructions, worksheets, and tables follow the first page Tax preparers, accountants, ...
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My house has a roof, windows, doors, locks, security system, insulation and a lot of other items that make my home safe.  Cyber security is no different from the safeguards I have in my home. I want up-to-date anti-virus software, firewalls, drive encryption, strong passwords, etc. to help maintain a well-protected house of data.  As accountants and tax professionals, we have been entrusted with data that needs to be protected from cybercriminals and we must take measures to secure this information. (If you have renewed your PTIN for this year, you may have noticed the data security responsibilities statement on the renewal process.)    This was a friendly ...
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NSA’s partner, Dashlane , shared this article with us about password safety in the aftermath of a data breach. Unfortunately, cyber security events of this kind are happening with increasing frequency. Just this month, shortly after launching, Disney+ was hacked, exposing the data of subscribers to cybercriminals. In fact, that information is already on sale on the dark web. Pay special attention to Eléonore’s simple password tips. They are easy, actionable, and can keep you safer. -Editor Eléonore Le Bihan Every week or so, news of yet another company’s data breach breaks. Often, the news stories will include a list of what data was or wasn’t ...
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The Internal Revenue Service and the Security Summit partners opened this year’s National Tax Security Awareness Week with a warning for holiday shoppers on Cyber Monday to secure their computers and mobile phones to reduce the threat of identity theft. During the holiday season, criminals take advantage of large numbers of people shopping online to steal identities and money – as well as sensitive tax and financial data that can be used to file fraudulent tax returns when the filing season opens in early 2020. “The holidays may mean the shopping season to consumers, but it’s the hunting season for online thieves,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Identity ...
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TAX PROFESSIONAL PROTECTING YOURSELVES & YOUR CLIENTS Data security in your office to protect your data and the data of all your clients has never been more important. Every tax professional is a potential target of cybercriminals whose goal is to file fraudulent tax returns and create chaos for these individuals. The Federal Trade Commission regulations require professional tax return preparers to create and enact security plans to protect your client’s data. I suggest all tax preparers review IRS Publications 4557 and 5293 to understand your responsibilities and put in place security software on your computers. National Tax Security Awareness ...
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On November 27, 2019 the Internal Revenue Service today issued updated guidance for business travelers, including changes resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).  Revenue Procedure 2019-48  updates the rules for using per diem rates to substantiate the amount of ordinary and necessary business expenses paid, or incurred, while traveling away from home.  Taxpayers are not required to use one of the methods described in this revenue procedure but may substantiate actual allowable expenses provided they maintain adequate records. The TCJA suspended the miscellaneous itemized deduction that employees could take for non-reimbursed business expenses. ...
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IRS Notice 2019-59, published today, announced changes to dollar limitations applicable to qualified retirement plans as adjusted for cost-of-living adjustments for 2020. Now, employees enrolled in 401(k), 403(b), and the majority of 457 plans may contribute up to $19,500 towards their retirement. Details of the retirement savings changes can be found here . Download the IRS press release here
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The IRS would like to remind tax return preparers to renew their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs) before they expire on December 31, 2019. “Last year we issued more than 813,000 PTIN’s and are asking tax preparers to renew now to avoid a last-minute rush,” said IRS Return Preparer Office Director Carol Campbell. “Having this essential element done now will make the transition to tax season much easier.” Tax preparers with who have a PTIN issued or renewed in 2019 should use online renewal to speed up the process, which can take four to six weeks to turn around if submitted by mail. To renew your PTIN online: Go to IRS.gov/tax-professionals ...
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The Gear Up Room Block Closes October 14! Timing is running out to book your room for NSA’s Gear Up 1040!  Book your room by October 14 th , 2019 and take advantage of the group rate of $124/night!   NSA’s Gear Up 1040 is in Hartford, CT on November 14-15, 2019 at the DoubleTree Bradley Airport this year. Book your room NOW! Reserve online today or call 860-627-5171 and tell them you're with NSA's Gear Up event. Gear UP 1040 is a comprehensive course taught by qualified, experienced instructors that covers major tax issues like preparing complicated individual returns. Participants can expect to learn about the changes to the QBI deductions, ...
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On October 7, 2019, the IRS announced that victims of Tropical Storm Imelda in parts of Texas (including the Houston area) have until January 31, 2020 to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments. The IRS is offering this relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ) as qualifying for individual assistance. At present, this includes Chambers, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, Montgomery and Orange counties in Texas. Taxpayers in localities added to the disaster area will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief. The current list of eligible localities is available on the disaster relief ...
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In 2014, the IRS shortened the timeframe in which customer service representatives would answer basic domestic tax law questions to between January and April. This decision was based upon limited resources and declining demand for this type of information, except in the case of employment taxes, heavy highway vehicle use tax, the Affordable Care Act and injured spouse.  The National Public Liaison's analysis produced data showing that more than 90% of taxpayers were using online and/or software services to file their tax returns and, during the filing season most taxpayers only needed answers to basic tax law questions like filing status, dependents, exemptions, ...
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On September 16, 2019 the Internal Revenue Service announced the mailing of a limited time settlement offer for certain taxpayers who participated in abusive micro-captive insurance transactions and are being audited.  Following recent U.S. Tax Court cases, the IRS has opted to offer settlements to taxpayers currently under exam. The IRS has begun sending notices to as many as 200 taxpayers. Taxpayers who are offered this private resolution and decline to participate will not be eligible for any potential future settlement initiatives. Those who are eligible for this offer will be notified by letter with the applicable terms. Those who do not receive such ...
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