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Becoming a smarter renter

Renting an apartment, condo or house; leasing a piece of equipment; renting business property; and leasing a car all involve the common practice of renting something that is owned by someone else. To make sure you always have a good experience, here are some hints to becoming a smarter renter. Read all agreements. Read the lease agreement thoroughly prior to signing. Ask for clarification of anything you do not understand. Look for clauses in the agreement that might suggest the property owner has problems with its current tenants. If the agreement seems unfriendly, don't sign it. Negotiate up front. Be ready to negotiate your lease terms up front. If anything is unclear in the lease, have it clarified and put in writing.
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Tips on tip reporting

If you are like millions of taxpayers who work in the service industry, you may receive tips. The tax code is clear; if you receive tips you must report them as income. Some employers have systems to make this easy, while others do not. Here are some suggestions: Think 1-2-3 Proper tip reporting has three components. 1. Keeping a daily tip record 2. Reporting your tips to your employer 3. Recording your tips on your income tax return Recording tip activity Per the IRS, you can keep your tips by either maintaining a tip diary or by saving documents that show your tips. If your employer does not provide you with an electronic form of a tip diary, you can always create your own. The IRS has
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How to cut car maintenance costs

Insurance, fuel, loan interest, maintenance, repairs, depreciation - all the expenses associated with owning and driving an automobile can take a huge bite out of your family budget. Some of these are sunk costs. Because the money is already spent - the down payment to purchase your car, for example - such costs are irrelevant when budgeting for the future. But other costs of owning and operating a vehicle can be pared down substantially. Shopping around for a better insurance rate or discovering a station that sells cheaper gas may save hundreds of dollars over time. Being vigilant about routine maintenance is also a great way to reduce operating costs and avoid major repair bills. To make a dent in your
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Do a business valuation when you’re ready to sell your company

Well before you're ready to sell your company, you'll want to determine its fair market value as a starting point for negotiations. Of course, obtaining a reasonably precise value for your business is often a complicated and time-consuming task. Accurate appraisals must weigh a variety of factors and incorporate numerous assumptions. The more precise the underlying numbers and suppositions, the more likely the appraiser's determination of fair market value will reflect what a willing buyer would actually pay. Here are two questions an appraisal should address.

The rules for withdrawing from a 529 college saving plan

Here's an overview of three types of 529 plan distributions.

  • Qualified withdrawals. When you take money from the account to pay for college education expenses such as tuition, fees, books, supplies, and equipment, the withdrawals are generally tax- and penalty-free, no matter the age of the account beneficiary.Caution: Part of the distribution may be taxable when the account beneficiary receives tax-free assistance such as a scholarship. In addition, you must coordinate 529 withdrawals with the American Opportunity Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit, as well as distributions from Coverdell education savings accounts. These rules prevent the use of the same expenses to obtain multiple tax benefits.

Is your HSA a retirement tool? The good, the bad, and the ugly

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a great way to pay for medical expenses, and since unused funds roll over from year to year, the account can also provide a source of retirement funds in addition to other plans like 401(k)s or IRAs. But be aware HSAs can also come with significant disadvantages and less flexibility when compared to other retirement investment tools. The Good HSAs work best when they are used for their designed purpose: to pay for qualified medical expenses. Neither your original contributions to an HSA nor your investment earnings are taxed when used this way. This makes HSA funds valuable, given that medical costs are one of our largest expenses as we age. The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates the average
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Parents need to do estate planning

For a parent, estate planning is especially important. The first priority is to make sure your children are protected in the event that something happens to you. Your estate plan should appoint guardians for your minor children, as well as provide for their financial well-being.
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Know the facts about IPOs

Do you know anybody who has tripled his or her money investing in the initial public offering (IPO) of a hotshot new company? It can happen. Yet the truth is, most investors don't make money playing IPOs. It's just that people tend not to brag when they lose money. Nonetheless, investors of all kinds are lined up for a chance at the next IPO. So it pays to know the facts before diving in. First bit of advice: Don't bet the farm. The problem is that generally IPOs are issued by companies with no track record, inexperienced management, and few assets. And, unfortunately, the underwriters for these IPOs are motivated to complete the transaction, collect their fees, and move on. Their compensation
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Give to cut taxes

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.
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Don’t pay tax on a home sale

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.
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