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January, 2019

Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others.

Danny Thomas

Have You Made Any of These Financial Mistakes?
As people move through different stages of life, there are new financial opportunities — and potential pitfalls — around every corner. Have you made any of these mistakes?

Congress and Taxes in 2019, Two big priorities are dominating the agenda
As lawmakers continue negotiating a deal to reopen parts of the government where funding expired in December, tax wonks in Washington are looking ahead to what we might expect on Democrats’ tax agenda early this year. From our perspective, there are two big priorities dominating the agenda.

This is what a Social Security scam sounds like
Earlier this month, we told you about a growing scam: people pretend to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and try to get your Social Security number or your money. That scam is now growing exponentially. To compare: in 2017, we heard from 3,200 people about SSA imposter scams, and those people reported losing nearly $210,000. So far THIS year (2018): more than 35,000 people have reported the scam, and they tell us they’ve lost $10 million. Here’s what one of those scam calls sound like.

Can You Fund a Gift Annuity with a Sandwich?
Almost every organization, both non-profit and for profit, has some tale that becomes part of the mythology of the organization, often shared at parties and other celebratory events. PG Calc is no exception. A PG Calc client support staff member announced to her colleagues one morning, “Last night I had a dream that a charity client asked if they could fund a gift annuity with a sandwich?” Laughter ensued followed by erudite discussion. Would it make a difference if it was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a sandwich rich with Beluga caviar? A sandwich from a neighborhood deli or a restaurant with a five-star rating? The broader question is just what assets can be used to fund a charitable gift annuity?

Last minute tax moves to consider
Happy Holidays!
Although there are only about five weeks left to go before the year ends, it's not too late to implement some planning moves that can improve your tax situation for 2018 and beyond. This e-mail reviews some actions that you can take before Dec. 31 to improve your overall tax picture.

New York estate tax win opens floodgates for millions in refunds and future tax savings
An under-the-radar Surrogate’s court opinion is upending the staid world of trusts and estates in New York. In the matter of the will of Evelyn Seiden, the court overturned the state’s 2014 tax grab on the marital trust established on her husband’s death in 2010, ordering a refund of $530,000 to her estate. The result could be far reaching: Using the same arguments, many families could be in line for big estate tax refunds and future savings. For example, it could even impact the estate of billionaire George Steinbrenner. In their briefs, the state lawyers were apoplectic. They called the taxpayer’s move one of “gamesmanship” and warned of “a potential opening of the flood-gates” for similarly situated estates and “an untenable risk” to state revenue. The executor’s argument boiled down to this: New York cannot tax what the IRS cannot tax.

Small business passthough deduction
Eligible taxpayers may now deduct up to 20 percent of certain business income from domestic businesses operated as sole proprietorships or through partnerships, S corporations, trusts, and estates.  The deduction may also be claimed on certain dividends.  Eligible taxpayers can claim the deduction for the first time on the 2018 federal income tax return they file in 2019. This provision is the result of tax reform legislation passed in December 2017. Here are some things business owners should know about this deduction:

Plan now to use Health Flexible Spending Arrangements in 2019
Now is the time to begin planning to take advantage of employer health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) in 2019. FSAs provide employees a way to use tax-free dollars to pay medical expenses not covered by other health plans. Because eligible employees need to decide how much to contribute through payroll deductions before the plan year begins, many employers offer their employees the option to sign up for an FSA this fall for participation that begins in 2019.

Free trials can cost you
Free trial offers can grab your attention. They’re easy to sign up for. And they’re, well, free – right? Not exactly. Some free trials can be expensive. Scammers often use “free” trial offers, with undisclosed or buried terms, to enroll you – without your knowledge – in costly membership programs. At the Federal Trade Commission, we’re actively fighting to take down these scammers. Today, we announced a case against a group of them. But the best first line of defense is you. Please watch this video, know the signs of a free trial scam, and share them with your friends and family.

You can contribute more to your 401(k) and IRA in 2019
Workers will be able to contribute more to their retirement accounts in 2019. How much a person needs to save for retirement largely depends on what they intend to do in retirement, including where they want to live, if they’ll have paid off a mortgage or plan to rent, what they’ll want to do during that time off. But it also depends on some of the biggest unknowns, including health and wellness, or potential emergencies. Some good news: The Internal Revenue Service unveiled the cost-of-living adjustments for pension plans and other retirement items for the 2019 tax year, including the first increase to the contribution limit for the Individual Retirement Arrangement in six years.

5 retirement plan saving and tax options
A National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) report issued last month found that the retirement savings of U.S. workers are woefully inadequate. How woeful? NIRS points to analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data from 2013 that reveals almost 60 percent of a working age individuals that year did not have any money in a retirement account. But another reason folks don't save for retirement often is because they are overwhelmed by the options. I get it. Too many choices frequently produce paralysis when it comes to picking one. You don't have the time or feel confident enough to evaluate all the possibilities. To help a little bit, here's a look at 5 popular retirement savings options and, of course, the tax benefits each offers.

For more information or a confidential discussion of your charitable options, please email or call Danielle Ruddy at 717-232-7509.

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