The Joys Of Providing Professional Tax Services To Ventura County

The Joys Of Providing Professional Tax Services To Ventura County

Well, our primary work for this tax season in Ventura County has just about wrapped up.

But notice I said “primary”, there … you see, unlike some professional tax services in Ventura County, we make it a point to do a bit more than simply “fill out forms” on your behalf. I’ll tell you more about that in a moment.

Yes, today is an extremely busy day for us here at Legacy Tax Services — it’s the day before the big deadline, as I type this up (Tax Day = Tuesday, April 17th, 2018). But I’m still taking the time to write to you, simply because I want to make sure you heard this from me (though you are likely to be actually receiving it later in the week, especially depending on how this day goes) …

The loudest thing I want communicated from me in this note is this: THANK YOU for your trust.

It is no small matter for anyone to place their financial life in front of another, and I know that for some, it can bring with it some anxiety or discomfort. That’s why we work so hard to be people in Ventura County that you can trust for even more than just a simple “filling out some forms” service.

It’s why I make it a point to send these notes every week (even when we are slammed with work), and it’s why we work so hard to stay up-to-date on all of the latest tax code updates and regulatory changes that come like clockwork, every year.

Oh, and this coming year, 2018, is going to be fun. Lots of new opportunities for savings ahead.

We take your trust seriously. To our Ventura County clients, THANK YOU for it. To those in Ventura County who are not clients of ours yet, we look forward to earning your trust in 2018.

But this work also brings with it a certain joy — because this past season, we got to see remarkable lives of generosity, love and integrity laid out before us with regularity. For some, this was reflected by their financial statements — and for others, this was displayed by the warmth, kindness and delight by which you communicated with us during this process.

This much is clear: No matter the state of your financial life, nobody (not the IRS, not anyone) can take from you the strength derived from a life lived with gratitude and joy.

Our Ventura County clients have reminded us of that once again, this year. What a privilege it has been to serve so many of you in Ventura County this tax “season” … and we look forward to years of service to come.

Lastly, and as I mentioned above … we’re not letting up. We’re committing the “offseason” to continue our education in the new tax laws (the IRS still has not issued full guidance on much of it), and related to more ways to save you on your bottom line, and to serving you and your Ventura County family in ways well beyond simple tax preparation. Ask us about how we can help you be better prepared for next year, and you may really like what we can do for your family’s bottom line.

Warmly,

Diana Castro
(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

Diana Castro’s Tax Extension Breakdown

Diana Castro’s Tax Extension Breakdown

It’s the final full week of tax season, and our office in Ventura County is hopping!

But yes, I’m still taking the the time to step away for a moment and write to you, my friend. Lots of business to communicate today, with the deadline of Tuesday, April 17th, right around the corner.

And, fret not — if you have all your papers in, and are waiting for our completion, know that my team is hard at work, even as I put this together.

This is often our busiest week of the year (so please be understanding), but it’s also the week when we receive, with clockwork regularity, many questions from Ventura County taxpayers about extensions.

But before I get to those, here are a few more things that fall on the 17th…

1) Estimated taxes for the first quarter are due.

2) Want to open or contribute to an IRA or Roth IRA for 2017? Gotta get that done by Tuesday the 17th.

3) Final day to max out contributions for your 2017 HSA (Health Savings Account).

4) Claim any refund money from an unfiled 2014 return. (There is over $1BN of unclaimed refund money out there for that year — but only available if you didn’t file a return for that year.)

5) Most states’ tax deadlines also fall on the 17th. (Exceptions – DE 4/30; HI 4/20; IA 5/1; LA 5/15; VA 5/1; any state with no income tax.)

(Oh, and if you HAVE finished your process with us, please let us know what you thought. We really appreciate it. You can also find us on Yelp and/or Google Maps.)

Now … about those tax extensions.

Diana Castro’s Tax Extension Breakdown
“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” -Richard Bach

As you know, this upcoming Tuesday, April 17, 2018, is the filing deadline for a federal tax return. If you need more time to get your paperwork complete, you need to file (or have us file on your behalf) this form: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f4868.pdf with the IRS by the end of the day on the 17th. This gives you an automatic six-month extension of time to file (until October 15, 2018 — note, this is NOT the 17th of October).

Here’s the skinny:
An “Extension of Time to File” is not an “Extension of Time to Pay”, unfortunately. The Extension simply gives you an automatic six months of additional time to get your paperwork together and file that return. But, if you owe more than what you paid with your estimate, you’ll be accumulating penalties and interest on the difference — so PLEASE don’t take the entire six months to do this!

So, when filing your “Extension of Time to File”, you’ll need to estimate what you think you owe to the IRS.  This should not be pulling numbers out of thin air (or other various body parts). You’ll still need to go through your receipts and tax documents and get them “somewhat” organized.

From here, you can estimate both your income and your expenses, and then approximate what you owe Uncle Sam. Keep in mind that this is an ESTIMATE. And, you’ll have to pay what you estimate you owe at the time we file for the tax extension.

And we can easily help you create this estimate.

You can do this all electronically through our office, you can mail in the form WITH estimated payment (must be postmarked by the 17th), or you can call a specialized provider and pay by credit card. We can provide you with the appropriate number to call.

If you cannot pay your taxes due for some reason:

1) Pay as much as you possibly can right now.

2) You can ask for (and often receive) an extension of up to 120 days to PAY: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc202.html. It requires a phone call to the IRS. 🙁

3) “Financial hardship” delay: this is if paying your tax bill would demonstrably affect your ability to pay your other bills. Interest and penalties still accrue, but it’s better to register this with the IRS than to simply ignore the bill.

4) Installment payment plan: If you owe less than $50K in taxes, you should usually be able to get an installment payment plan of up to 72 months, simply by asking for it. If this is something you are considering, please let’s talk it over to make sure we come up with the best plan. But you can apply online for this here: https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Online-Payment-Agreement-Application

5) Negotiate: this is NOT something to try on your own. We can help, but the number of “Offers in Compromise” that get accepted each year are quite small and a knowledge of how the system works is important.

6) Using existing credit sources (credit card, HELOC, private loans): some tax advisors would quickly recommend this, but I would NOT recommend you go this route, especially because the interest rates from the IRS are usually better than what you can get here.

However, if you’ve exhausted the options above, I suggest you do this instead:

7) Sell something you don’t need anymore. Always a pretty good plan anyway.

Warmly,

Diana Castro
(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

Filing Late On Taxes? You Might Actually Be Among Ventura County’s Smartest

Filing Late On Taxes? You Might Actually Be Among Ventura County’s Smartest

There are less than two weeks remaining before the tax deadline of April 17th. 

Does that startle you?

If you’re filing late on taxes this year, let’s talk. We can easily file an extension on your behalf, and make sure  that your return is handled as advantageously as possible.

If you’re still a bit spooked by that deadline, well, it might be that you need to read what I’ve put together for you.

Yes, you might be feeling bad about yourself right now because you haven’t pulled together all your paperwork yet. You might even feel like you won’t be able to take advantage of as many deductions as a result (you’d be wrong — we can help with that).

In short, procrastinating difficult work (like getting your taxes ready) can induce a lot of guilt for Ventura County taxpayers.

Well, it’s time to break you free of that guilt.

Allow me…

(Oh, and if you HAVE finished your process with us, please let us know what you thought. We really appreciate it. You can also find us on Yelp and/or Google Maps!)

Filing Late On Taxes? You Might Actually Be Among Ventura County’s Smartest
“You can’t have everything… where would you put it?” -Steven Wright

Still haven’t filed your taxes yet?

Or maybe you have already done so, but there is another difficult or cumbersome task you’re avoiding.

Well, it could be that you are, in fact, smarter than the average bear in Ventura County.

You see, right now there are an infinite number of things you could be doing. No matter what you work on, you’re not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well.

In my view, there are three kinds of procrastination. Depending on what you do instead of working on something, you could work on:

(a) nothing,
(b) something less important, or
(c) something more important.

That last type, I’d say, is good procrastination.

This is the kind of procrastination practiced by the “absent-minded professor” type, who forgets to shave, or eat, or even perhaps look where he’s going while he’s thinking about some interesting question. His mind is absent from the everyday world because it’s hard at work in another.

That’s the sense in which the most impressive people I know in Ventura County are all procrastinators. They’re type-C procrastinators: they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.

What’s “small stuff?” Roughly, work that has no chance of being mentioned in your obituary. It’s hard to say at the time what will turn out to be your best work (will it be your thesis for your PhD, or that detective thriller you worked on at night?), but there’s a whole class of tasks you can safely rule out: shaving, doing your laundry, cleaning the house, writing thank-you notes–anything that might be called an errand.

Good procrastination is avoiding errands to do real work.

Good in a sense, at least. The people who want you to do the errands won’t think it’s good. But you probably have to annoy them if you want to get any real work done. The mildest-seeming people, if they want to do real work, all have a certain degree of ruthlessness when it comes to avoiding errands.

Some errands, like replying to emails, go away if you ignore them (perhaps taking friends with them). Others, like mowing the lawn, or filing your tax returns, only get worse if you put them off. In principle, it shouldn’t work to put off the second kind of errand. You’re going to have to do whatever it is eventually. Why not (as past-due notices are always saying) do it now?

The reason it pays to put off even those errands is that real work needs two things errands don’t: big chunks of time, and the right mood. If you get inspired by some project, it can be a net win to blow off everything you were supposed to do for the next few days to work on it. Yes, those errands may cost you more time when you finally get around to them. But if you get a lot done during those few days, you will be net more productive.

So here’s where we come in.

Consider us “The Ultimate Procrastination Solution”.

Allow us to take the pain away from these second-level tasks (like getting your return filed) — and you go back to writing that killer novel.

Warmly,

Diana Castro
(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

The Behavior Profile of Our Ventura County Clients with the Highest Level of Financial Security

The Behavior Profile of Our Ventura County Clients with the Highest Level of Financial Security

The madness of March certainly delivered over the weekend, huh? Plenty of upsets and surprises, which always makes this time of year fun for basketball fans.

Or, so I hear.

After all, this tournament seems to happen yearly, and until the IRS changes the deadline for personal tax returns away from April 15th (the 17th this year), well … I can’t say that my staff and I are able to participate much.

We’re too busy doing your taxes, after all. And this time of year with less than one month remaining, we’re in crunch time. 

The corporate deadline is now behind us, and we are talking with Ventura County clients every day about their situation.

And these conversations vary — because not only do we consult with our Ventura County clients about their specific tax obligations, but we end up becoming a financial counselor as well. This, frankly, is a role that we embrace around here: for some, we are the only people who see the underbelly of their financial life … and who will still instill a dose of hope.

Because if I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that no financial situation lasts forever. I’ve seen too many clients crawl out from under six-figure (and higher!) debt obligations to ever again believe that anyone is ever financially doomed.

But in addition to instilling hope to our clients who are struggling, we also have come up with a pretty good profile, over the years, of what makes for financial security. We’ve seen some of our Ventura County clients work HARD to join the ranks of those who’ve achieved this, and it’s worth applauding.

Perhaps you’d be interested in what we have seen? Then read on…

The Behavior Profile of Our Ventura County Clients with the Highest Level of Financial Security
“A photograph is usually looked at, seldom looked into.” – Ansel Adams

If you pay attention to the news media, a few things become clear:

1) Chaos is coming
2) Chaos is already here

and

3) Did we mention anything about the chaos?

It’s true (and a very good reason to carefully monitor your media intake). So, becoming a household that will be able to ride through instability and uncertainty is a pretty essential component for life success.

Which is why I’d like to tell you about our Ventura County clients who have prepared themselves well. I’m not naming any names here, but I am interested in commonalities. And you’ll notice that these are just as significantly about your mindset as you relate to your finances, as about your behaviors.

Here’s what we have learned about our most financially-secure clients in Ventura County:

1) He always spends less than he earns. In fact, his mantra is that over the long run, you’re better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.

2) She knows that patience is truth. The odds are you won’t become a millionaire overnight. If you’re like her, your security will be accumulated gradually, by diligently saving your money over multiple decades.

3) He pays off his credit cards in full every month. He’s smart enough to understand that if he can’t afford to pay cash for something, then he can’t afford it.

4) She realized early on that money does not buy happiness. If you’re looking for financial joy, you need to focus on attaining financial freedom.

5) He understands that money is like a toddler; it is incapable of managing itself.  After all, you can’t expect your money to grow and mature as it should without some form of credible money management.

6) She’s a big believer in paying yourself first. It’s an essential tenet of personal finance and a great way to build your savings and instill financial discipline.

7) She also knows that the few millionaires in Ventura County that reached that milestone without a plan got there only because of dumb luck.  It’s not enough to simply “declare” to the universe that you want to be financially free. This is not a “Secret”.

8) When it came time to set his savings goals, he wasn’t afraid to think big.  Financial success demands that you have a vision that is significantly larger than you can currently deliver upon.

9) He realizes that stuff happens, and that’s why you’re a fool if you don’t insure yourself against risk. Remember that the potential for bankruptcy is always just around the corner, and can be triggered from multiple sources: the death of the family’s key breadwinner, divorce, or disability that leads to a loss of work.

10) She understands that time is an ally of the young. She was fortunate (and smart) enough to begin saving in her twenties, so she could take maximum advantage of the power of compounding interest on her nest egg.

11) He’s not impressed that you drive an over-priced luxury car and live in a McMansion that’s two sizes too big for your family of four. Little about external “signals” of wealth actually matter to him.

And a little bonus, if you will: She doesn’t pay taxes which could have been avoided with a simple phone call to her Ventura County tax professional. She gets the advice, guidance, and expert assistance of a professional, and doesn’t waste her time trying to learn the tax code as well as those who have put in thousands of hours of their life to do so.

And here’s to you joining these ranks in future years.

Warmly,

Diana Castro
(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

Diana Castro’s 6 Negotiation Tips To Get What You Want

Diana Castro’s 6 Negotiation Tips To Get What You Want

Well, the brackets are set — and the nation’s collective basketball madness has begun.

Billions fly around every year for this tournament (probably much of it not reported on Form W-2G!), and it’s become a huge part of this season, as you no doubt know.

But there is another, often-unnoticed, part of this season that always makes me shiver a little for Ventura County taxpayers: Unclaimed tax refunds.

Every year, the IRS tells the public about this phenomenon, and every year, I am mystified by those in Ventura County who miss out. This year, over one million taxpayers are missing out on a median average of $847 in unclaimed funds, simply because they didn’t file a tax return in 2014. There is over $1.1 billion (yes, with a B) sitting in a federal escrow account somewhere, and it might have your name on it. After April 17th (this year’s filing deadline), all of those funds get moved over to Treasury operating accounts.

We don’t want that, now do we? If you did not file a return in 2014, let’s see if you qualify.

Or maybe you DID file that year, but your friends in Ventura County could use our help?

It’s probably the case that if you miss that 4/17 deadline, you won’t be able to negotiate that unclaimed refund money back from the IRS.

But, that said, it’s my contention that many of my Ventura County clients don’t realize how much MORE they could negotiate themselves into more favorable positions with businesses, salespeople, family members (!) and other intersectors of their weekly lives.

So, allow this week’s Note to give you a little bump to consider negotiating for more than just a car price.

No, this really has nothing to do with your taxes (except as it relates to how a qualified professional might be able to negotiate on your behalf when it comes to tax debts). But as you may have gathered, we are in your corner for every part of your financial life, and otherwise.

Diana Castro’s 6 Negotiation Tips To Get What You Want
“Remember you will not always win. Some days, the most resourceful individual will taste defeat. But there is, in this case, always tomorrow – after you have done your best to achieve success today.” – Maxwell Maltz

No matter what career you’re in, or how far you go in it, the ability to effectively negotiate can make the difference between success and mediocrity.

Whether it’s a multimillion-dollar contract, a job offer, or a luncheon, here are some trenches-tested negotiation tips that will bring you closer to your ideal outcome:

1. Know what you want in advance. Don’t go to the table, or enter any kind of adversarial situation without a clear, realistic idea of what you want to achieve. It will help you negotiate with confidence.

2. Ask for what you want. Don’t be afraid to make the first offer. You’ll set the tone for the discussion, and studies (and my experience) suggest that the negotiator who goes first usually comes closer to getting what he or she wants.

3. Understand what your partner wants. A successful negotiation should satisfy both sides. Instead of trying to crush your competition, find out what he or she hopes to get, and try to work together toward a solution that works for you both.

4. Don’t concede unilaterally. Usually one side or the other has to give something up. If you do that, be sure to get a comparable concession from the other person. Giving away something for nothing will be taken as a weakness to be exploited.

5. Don’t rush. Time can be your friend if you’re willing to wait for the right deal. If the other side senses a deadline, he or she may be motivated to hold out until the last minute, or try to force you into accepting unreasonable terms. Be patient and let the time pressure work against your partner.

6. Be ready to walk away. This can take a certain amount of courage, but it’s necessary to avoid being backed into an agreement you don’t want. If possible, keep an ally in reserve–someone with the power to approve or reject the deal. This can give you an out if you need to turn down a deal, or motivate the other side to provide you with a better offer.

Now, these negotiation tips are really useful in most every situation. The *only* situation in which I might have you handle something very differently? In conversation with your spouse. 🙂 That’s a whole different article, but we’ll save that for another day.

Warmly,

Diana Castro
(805) 650-1052

Legacy Tax Services

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