How to be Your Tax Pro’s Favorite Client this Tax Season

How to be a good clientWhy on earth, you may ask yourself, would I care about being a good client to my tax prep professional? I mean, you are a paying client, and aside from treating them with the same decency and respect that you would show any other random person, who cares – right? Wrong!

What’s in it for me?

Honestly, it’s simply in your own best interest to be a good client. Maintaining a positive relationship with your tax professional can benefit you in numerous ways. Your tax preparer bills you in one of three ways: a flat fee (guaranteed); hourly; or a hybrid with a basic flat fee that they’ll only add to if out-of-scope issues/problems come up. Let’s look at each approach in more detail.

First, a scenario where you have a guaranteed flat fee no matter what. In this case, it’s pretty obvious to see that one of a tax preparer’s main incentives is to perform the work correctly and up to professional standards, but as fast as possible; less time equals more money. Here, being a good client means that you give your tax professional more room to be thoughtful about your tax return and even perform some planning/optimizing for the current year or next year. If you can help them prepare your return efficiently, there’s room to spare in providing you with value-added advice.

Second, when you engage a tax pro on a strictly hourly basis, saving them time on the administrative side of the return prep will equate to direct savings in your pocket. When you pay by the hour, you are paying regardless of whether they are calculating or reviewing your return, providing advice, planning, or chasing you down for missing info, open items, questions, etc.

Third, we have the scenario where you have a flat fixed fee unless you add services out of scope or things really go sideways. Here, while most tax preparers will eat a little bit of time, if you cause delays in the preparation process due to incomplete or unorganized information or you are late to respond to questions, there is a good chance you’ll get billed for that time as it wasn’t planned for and was unnecessary.

Finally, making your tax professional’s life easy will simply make you more likable as a client. And we all know that we treat people we like better.

How do I become a great client?

So, at this point, you are asking, how do I become my tax professional’s favorite client? There are a few main areas to consider if you want to establish a good working relationship and make life easier for everyone.

  • Be Organized – The more organized you can be in gathering and submitting your underlying tax documents (W-2, 1099s, etc.) and other necessary information, the better. Many tax preparers will send a tax organizer to help you fill out and organize what you send over. Following this is the best way, but any method that is clear, logical, and complete is best.
  • Submit All Your Information at Once – While it’s not always possible, don’t submit your information until you have everything. Sending over documents piecemeal is a surefire way to cause confusion and delays and makes the process rife for errors. In fact, many CPAs won’t even start a return until they have everything. Again, this isn’t always possible because sometimes a K-1, for example, is not yet available – but that should be an exception to the rule.
  • Be Responsive – To the degree that you can be responsive to follow-up questions from your tax preparer or their staff. This will ensure your return keeps moving, saving time (and therefore billable hours) that stopping and starting creates.


Following these tips will not only help you develop a great relationship with your tax preparer for years to come, but it also will ensure the most accurate and efficient preparation of your return possible.

Understanding How Variances Vary

how to calculate VariancesVariance analysis is found by determining the difference between what was budgeted and what actually occurred. Additionally, when variances are added together, we get a better picture of how well a company is measuring its performance against expected metrics. It’s also important to be mindful that each metric is measured to determine what the actual cost is versus the industry’s standard cost.

Whether it’s materials, labor, electricity, or another metric, if the actual cost is lower than the standard cost for the same quantity of materials, it would be a favorable price variance. However, if the number of materials was more than the standard quantity, it would be considered an unfavorable variance. Examining variance allows us to analyze the price and quantity of the variable being analyzed. Always keep in mind that unusual or significant variances should be investigated to see why such anomalies exist.

It’s important to distinguish between variances and the types of inputs. When it comes to materials, labor, and similar variable overhead, variances to be analyzed are for price and quantity/efficiency. When it comes to fixed overhead, analysis looks at variances in budget and volume.

One way to conduct variance analysis is through the Column Method. The following example illustrates this:

A business produces widgets. The following assumptions are made:

  • 6,000 widgets are produced in a month
  • Direct labor hours are used as the basis to allocate overhead costs to products
  • Denominator level of activity is 8,060 hours, resulting in $48,360 in fixed overhead expenses budgeted.

Other cost assumptions include:

Direct Costs

Labor: 2.6 hours/widget @ $14 per hour

Materials: 10 pieces/widget @ $1/widget


Variable: 2.6 hours/widget @ $8/hour

Fixed: 1.3 hours /widget @ $12/hour

However, the business saw the following costs for the month’s production:

Variable overhead manufacturing costs: $34,000

Fixed overhead manufacturing costs: $50,000

Both of the following are Direct Costs:

Material: 50,000 items bought @ $0.96/widget

Labor: 8,000 hours totaling $128,000

Materials Variance

Real Quantity x Real Price = 50,000 pieces x $0.96 per widget = $48,000

Real Quantity x Industry Price = 50,000 pieces x $1 per widget = $50,000

Standard Quantity x Industry Price = 36,000 pieces x $1 per widget = $36,000

Price Variance = $50,000 – $48,000 = $2,000

Quantity Variance = $50,000 – $36,000 = $14,000

When we find the difference between these two amounts, there’s an unfavorable variance of $12,000. Additionally, it’s worth looking at why there were 50,000 pieces used versus the standardized 36,000 pieces. It could be due to defective materials, problematic machinery, etc.

Labor Variance

Real Hours x Real Rate = 8,000 hours x $16 per hour = $128,000

Real Hours x Industry Rate = 8,000 x $14 per hour = $112,000

Standard Hours x Industry Rate = 7,800 x $14 hour = $109,200

Rate Variance = $112,000 – $128,000 = -$16,000

Efficiency Variance = $109,200 – $112,000 = -$2,800

Based on this calculation, there’s a total unfavorable variance of -$18,800. Management should look at why labor costs are higher than the standard and why production took more supplies than the industry standard.

While this is not all-encompassing, it does show the importance of understanding the nuances of calculating variances and how it’s essential to understanding a business’ (in)efficiency.

Municipal Bond Outlook for 2024

Municipal Bond 2024One of the positive aspects of sustained high-interest rates is higher yields on bonds, particularly high-quality municipal bonds. It is possible that 2024 will present a different scenario as the Federal Reserve begins a schedule of monetary easing by reducing interest rates over time. The potential for this strategy, combined with a slowdown in inflation and economic growth – and exacerbated by the potential volatility of a U.S. presidential election – offers a hazy but ultimately positive outlook for municipal bonds.

For now, investors with a long-term outlook (up to 10 years) can take advantage of current high-interest rates before they begin declining. A key recommendation is to focus on the credit quality of muni bond issuers, which is more likely to face adjustments due to lower reserves and unreliable revenue streams during an economic slowdown.

The following are some municipal bond market considerations for long-term investors.

  • While absolute rates are expected to decrease in 2024, muni bonds should continue to offer high yields and strong credit quality.
  • Speaking of credit quality, despite the larger universe of corporate bonds, there are more AAA- and AA-rated munis than corporate bonds. For example, there are only 13 unique issuers of AAA-rated bonds within the Bloomberg U.S. Corporate Bond Index. Of these 13, two comprise the majority of outstanding AAA corporate bonds. This means an investor is better able to diversify assets across a mix of high-quality muni bonds or a municipal bond fund.
  • Remember that munis are generally exempt from federal and state income taxes (when the investor lives in the issuing state) and might therefore provide a higher tax-equivalent yield when compared to yields of other long-term bonds.
  • In order for municipal bond income to be comparable to the after-tax yield of corporate bonds, the investor should be subject to a 45 percent or higher total cumulative tax rate. This is referred to as the “break-even” rate wherein municipal bonds will likely yield more after-tax income.
  • Longer-term, AAA-rated municipal bonds (up to 10 years) are expected to offer greater value compared to shorter-term munis.
  • Credit conditions are expected to continue their upward trend in 2024. As a general rule, municipal bonds are highly rated, but the average credit rating has increased even more since the pandemic. For example, the percentage of AAA- or AA-rated bonds in the Bloomberg U.S. Municipal Bond Index increased from 67 percent (pre-pandemic) to 71.4 percent as of November 2023.
  • Some of the most popular provisions of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are scheduled to expire in 2025. Demand for muni bonds might soar this year as taxpayers seek more tax-advantaged benefits given the potential loss of itemized deductions and a reduced standard deduction. Look for this sunsetting tax legislation to be a hot issue as this year’s election season gets up and running.

Given the higher yields available for the past 15 years, municipal bond returns are projected to be favorable in the near term. However, be wary of issuers that lack strong reserves and whose revenue streams are linked to economic activity.

Perhaps most importantly, investors should consider their objectives when investing in municipal bonds. If you are already in or nearing retirement, take into account your current tax bracket, the type of account you plan to invest in (taxable or tax-advantaged), credit quality, and time to maturity to effectively assess the value of municipal bond income in your portfolio.

Your February Financial To-Do List

February Savings TipsJanuary has come and gone. You may or may not have stuck to your resolutions, but the good news is that February is here. Now is the perfect time to hunker down and get your monetary ducks in a row. Here are a few things to put on your agenda to get your financial house in order.

Pay Off Holiday Debt

Yes, it was fun to go shopping for holiday gifts, but those interest rates are high – you’ll want to pay your balances off as quickly as possible. And here’s a tip: you can make more than one payment per billing period. In other words, instead of waiting for your next paycheck, pay some of the balance now and some later. This will reduce the interest you’d pay if you waited two more weeks to pay in full. This way, you can actually pay your credit card bills more frequently and pay less over time. While you’re at it, look for lower interest rates and transfer those balances. All it takes is a Google search for “zero balance transfer credit card offers,” and you’ll find what you need in no time.

Start Working on Your Taxes

April will be here before you know it, so getting a jump on taxes is a smart idea. Also, filing early will give you more time to figure out how much you owe, if anything. If you want to take the guesswork out of preparing your taxes, you might consider hiring a tax professional. When you make your selection, ask for a price quote. Some tax preparers often want to see which forms you need before they work on your taxes, but you can still ask for a list of fees for various types of tax help to get a ballpark idea. Here’s a red flag: if someone says they’ll base your fees on a percentage of your refund, run away. This is a violation of IRS rules.

Get a Free Credit Report

All the big reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – offer a free report one time every 12 months. So why not find out? When you see the truth of your credit report, it can motivate you to change some habits, like paying earlier, more often, and on time. No one likes late fees.

Save on a Gym Membership

In January, you probably got pummeled with lots of solicitations for a gym membership at low, low prices, but in February, the prices are even lower. If you don’t want to commit, you can sign up for a trial run. You can even negotiate a deal if you ask to speak to the manager. Finally, some gyms will offer you a deep discount if you agree to use the facilities during off-peak hours or on certain days. Flexibility is the key!

Buy Things on Deep Discount

With high prices and high-interest rates, it makes sense to check out all the price cuts on Consumer Reports. On this site, you’ll find all the good stuff: cars, home and garden supplies, appliances, electronics, and more.

These are just a few of the items you can put on your financial to-do list. All it takes is carving out some time and getting started. Once you get going, you’ll probably make more progress than you ever dreamed.


New Email Deliverability Rules: Reaching Gmail and Yahoo Subscribers in 2024

New Email Deliverability Rules Gmail and YahooEmail marketing remains the most powerful and effective tool, especially for its high ROI, reach, and engagement. It plays a significant role in business growth. However, more stringent measures are necessary due to evolving threats, hence the recent email deliverability requirements.

Starting this February, major email providers Gmail and Yahoo are implementing stricter email deliverability rules to combat spam and protect user inboxes. This announcement was made by both Google and Yahoo on Oct. 3, 2023, indicating a united effort to enhance email security.

Initially intended for bulk senders (marketers, businesses, and individuals) sending more than 5,000 emails a day, it also applies to senders who send regular emails to their subscribers and meet criteria as per the updated Google Email Sender Guidelines.

Although it may sound strict, there is nothing to worry about. By understanding the rules and adopting best practices, you can ensure your messages land safely in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Key Rules to Remember

  • Domain Authentication is Paramount – Implement security protocols, including Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM), Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) to verify your sending domain and prevent spoofing. DKIM digitally signs emails for verification. SPF confirms that sending domain authorization prevents spammers from impersonating and sending messages from your domain, while DMARC specifies the handling of unauthenticated emails. Basically, these protocols confirm your sending domain as legitimate and not from a malicious email spammer or phisher. Although these protocols have been previously considered best practices, many senders have unknowingly or knowingly bypassed them. Some have ignored them, considering them challenging to deploy. Hence, the step to enforce them as mandatory requirements.
  • One-Click Unsubscribe is Mandatory – Make it easy for subscribers to opt out with a clear and accessible unsubscribe link in every email. The unsubscribe requests must be honored within 2 days. You can add an unsubscribe button to the header, whereby recipients can unsubscribe easily instead of marking an email as spam. This will ensure email deliverability is not harmed. Allowing easy unsubscribe also offers the benefit of having an email list of quality subscribers.
  • Maintain a Low Spam Complaint Rate – Keep your spam complaints below 0.3 percent (ideally, this should be below 0.1 percent) to avoid landing in the spam folder or getting blacklisted. Failing to comply with the spam complaint threshold could put the sending domain under review, restricting your email reach.

Beyond the Rules: Deliverability Best Practices

  • Clean and Permission-Based Email Lists – Send only to subscribers who have opted-in, and keep your list clean by removing inactive users and bounced addresses.
  • Personalization and Segmentation – Tailor your emails to individual preferences and segment your list based on demographics, interests, or engagement levels.
  • Mobile-Friendly Design – Ensure your emails are optimized for mobile devices, as most users check their email on smartphones.
  • Subject Line Optimization – Craft compelling and relevant subject lines that invite users to open your emails.
  • Craft High-Quality and Engaging Content – Provide relevant and valuable information to maintain audience interest and avoid being marked as spam.
  • Avoid Spammy Tactics – Avoid excessive images, ALL CAPS text, and misleading content.
  • Engagement and Reputation – Encourage engagement by asking questions, including social media links, and providing valuable content. Positive user interactions improve the sender’s reputation.

Consequences of Ignoring the Rules

Failing to adhere to the new rules can have severe consequences, including:

  • Emails Landing in Spam Folders – Your messages may never reach your intended audience.
  • Domain or IP Blacklisting – Repeated violations can lead to your domain or IP address being blocked by email providers.
  • Decreased Sender Reputation – This can negatively impact your future deliverability rates, affecting domain reputation and overall business performance.

Adapting to the New Landscape

Although these requirements may seem overwhelming, they represent an opportunity to improve your email marketing practices and build stronger relationships with your subscribers. By prioritizing sender authentication, clear communication, and valuable content, you can ensure your emails reach the right inboxes and achieve your marketing goals.

Remember, staying informed about email deliverability best practices and adapting to evolving regulations is crucial for successful email marketing in today’s landscape.

Averting a Government Shutdown, and Reinforcing Air Travel Infrastructure, Weather Alert Systems and National Defense Initiatives

Making further continuing appropriations for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2024, and for other purposes (HR 2872) – Passed by both branches and signed by the president on Jan. 18, this is the third temporary resolution designed to avert a government shutdown until Congress can agree on appropriations for fiscal year 2024. The bill extends the government funding deadline to March 1 for four appropriations bills and another eight until March 8.

Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2023, Part II (HR 6503) – This bipartisan bill was introduced on Nov. 29, 2023, by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO). It extends certain Federal Aviation and Administration (FAA) programs and activities through March 8, namely the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) test site program and the remote detection and identification pilot program, weather reporting programs, the Remote Tower Pilot Program, and the Essential Air Service Program. The bill also extends authorization for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) that provides grants for planning, development, and noise compatibility projects at certain public-use airports and extends the FAA’s authority to collect taxes on aviation fuel and airline tickets to support the Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF). The bill passed in the House on Dec. 11, in the Senate on Dec. 19, and was signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 26.

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 (HR 2670) – This bill incorporates provisions from a wide range of legislation introduced throughout 2023. It authorizes fiscal year 2024 appropriations and policies for: the Department of Defense (DOD); military construction; national security programs for the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Maritime Administration; the Defense Nuclear Safety Board; and the Naval Petroleum Reserves. Note that this bill does not provide appropriations but merely authorizes funding from an approved budget. The Act was introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) on April 18, 2023. It passed in the House on July 14 and the Senate on July 27. A conference report of the final text was produced and approved by both houses in December, and the Act was signed into law on Dec. 22, 2023.

Testing, Rapid Analysis and Narcotic Quality (TRANQ) Research Act of 2023 (HR 1734) – This bipartisan act was introduced on March 23, 2023, by Rep. Mike Collins (R-GA). It initially passed in the House on May 11, passed in the Senate with changes on June 22, was finalized in the House on Dec. 4, and enacted on Dec. 11. The bill directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to support research and other activities related to psychoactive substances such as fentanyl and a veterinary tranquilizer called Xylazine. Colloquially referred to as the zombie drug, this substance has proliferated in communities throughout the country and places law enforcement officers at great personal risk during confiscation.

A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to extend the Administrative Fine Program for certain reporting violations (S 2747) – This bill extends authorization to the Federal Election Commission Administration Fine Program to enforce penalties for late and/or non-filed campaign finance disclosure reports. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) on Sept. 7, 2023, and passed in the Senate on the same day. It passed in the House on Dec. 11 and was signed into law on Dec. 19, 2023.

NWR Modernization Act of 2023 (S 1416) – This bipartisan bill instructs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to update the NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR) network of radio stations that broadcast 24-7 weather information, including weather warnings, watches, and forecasts. It has become imperative to beef up the coverage and reliability of radio stations – particularly in rural and underserved communities – via repairs, software upgrades, additional equipment, and alternative means of transmissions, as well as other potential improvements. The Act was introduced on May 23, 2023, by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D- WA). It passed in the Senate on Dec.18 and currently lies in the House.

National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act (S 1414) – This bill is designed to update the current in-house instant messaging service (NWSChat) that has been in use since 2008 by NWS forecasters. In the wake of increased severe weather events, wildfires, and climate-related emergencies across the country, it is necessary to use more reliable, updated state-of-the-art communications and real-time alerts in order for local communities to keep families, homes, and businesses safe and secure. This Act would require the NWS to adopt a new instant messaging service by October 2027. The bill, also introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) on May 3, 2023, passed in the Senate on Dec. 18, 2023. Note that there is a similar bill in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as well as a bipartisan version in the House.

Optimizing Your Business’ Performance with Capacity Management

what is Capacity ManagementWhen it comes to business operations and measuring performance, the optimal production scale a company can sustain is an important metric to measure. If a business’ capacity can’t be realized and sustained – or the bottlenecks can’t be identified and addressed in a timely manner – a business will likely stagnate and fail. Understanding more about capacity management can help businesses reduce the chances of dealing with sub-optimal performance.

Capacity Defined

A business’ capacity is defined as its highest level of production on a consistent basis. By measuring the capacity of a business, we can calculate its ongoing revenue projections. This type of evaluation also can help a company determine how to manage production snarls and identify ways to increase capacity reserves to help it manage abnormally high production demands. 

Capacity Utilization Rate Defined

This ratio is the percentage of a business’ production capacity that’s currently utilized. If an organization has a capacity utilization rate of 60 percent, the firm is currently operating at 60 percent of its theoretical capacity. When it comes to analyzing a business, this percentage can determine how much capacity may be available for spikes in demand.

This is calculated by taking the actual output and dividing it by theoretical output, with the result multiplied by 100, or as follows:

(actual output/theoretical output) x 100 = capacity utilization rate

Activity Capacity Overview

Activity capacity assesses the scale of production of a particular task over a given time frame (a quarter, six months, or a 12-month fiscal year) while accounting for regular production factors. Common facets of production that affect output include worker rest periods, equipment upkeep, crew swaps, etc. This investigation allows a business to determine if it can accomplish projected production in the near term with existing equipment or if the business needs to analyze bottlenecks before reassessing.

Budgeted Capacity

This method is used to approximate the manufacturing quantity scheduled for subsequent time frames. Criteria that’s analyzed for the plan hinges on forecasted market demand, resource availability and production capabilities. It’s an imperative consideration that impacts sales forecasts, indirect operational budgets, and the direct production budget.

Depending on the type of business, budgeted capacity can be represented in either hours or units. For example, a company would evaluate industry and economic demand trends, along with the time frame it’s trying to forecast and what resources the business has available for production. The following steps are commonplace during this process:

Step 1:

  • The business plans to produce 480,000 widgets for the projected time frame.

Step 2:

  • The business looks at how many shifts will be run, how much each shift can produce, how many days the company will operate, and the number of hours available for production for each shift. This will help the company determine production and resource availability for the projected time frame.  

Step 3:

  • The business will look at what it’s able to produce based on its full capacity:
  • Potential per shift = 100 widgets per hour x 8 hours a shift x 1 shift = 800 widgets
  • Potential per day = 800 widgets per shift x 3 shifts per day = 2,400 widgets
  • Annual production = 2,400 widgets per day x 275 working days per year = 660,000 widgets


The budgeted production of 480,000 widgets annually is approximately 73 percent of the business’s total production capacity. This leaves the business with ample room to respond to new clients and/or increased demand from existing clients for unexpected orders.

While each business is unique, taking steps to analyze and make more educated projections is one way to increase a company’s efficiency.

IRS Plans to Shake Up Leadership

IRS Leadership change 2024The top leadership in the IRS is set to change. IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel believes the changes are needed for the agency to meet its new goals. He aims to create greater flexibility and efficiency over the agency by streamlining internal processes. The changes also are needed, in his view, to adapt to the evolving landscape around tax administration – which has undergone changes due to new tax laws and technology.

What Are the Changes?

Changes to the organizational structure include reducing the Deputy Commissioner post to a single position (there are currently two); as well as creating four new positions with an IRS chief of taxpayer services, IT, compliance, and operations.

Long Time No Changes

While these changes are set to take place in the beginning of 2024, they are the first changes to take place in a long time for agency leadership. Currently, the highest rungs of the IRS organizational structure dates to the year 2000, over 20 years ago.

The last time changes were made in 2000, the IRS reorganized operations to support taxpayer segments that were the result of the IRS Restructuring and Reorganization Act of 1998.

Single Deputy IRS Commissioner Model

The change over from two at the top to a single deputy IRS commissioner position is modeled after the way the Treasury Department is structured. Doug O’Donnell, current deputy commissioner for Services and Enforcement, will step up to the post.

The Four New Positions

Other key changes in the leadership structure are the creation of four new chief positions, overseeing the areas of taxpayer service, compliance, IT, and operations.

Ken Corbin (currently Wage and Investment Commissioner) is being promoted to Chief, Taxpayer Service. Corbin served in various roles within the IRS since starting his career in 1986 at the Atlanta Service Center. His division will handle taxpayer-centered services, including the toll-free call and taxpayer assistance centers, overseeing tax return processing centers and correspondence with taxpayers.

The Chief, Taxpayer Compliance Officer role will be filled by Heather Maloy. Maloy’s career encompasses both roles within the IRS as well as private practice. Previously, she served as the LB&I Commissioner as well as other roles, including Associate Chief Counsel to a number of IRS divisions. The Chief, Taxpayer Compliance Officer role will oversee compliance work, including operations in the Small Business, Self Employed, Tax Exempt, and Government Entities divisions. She will also be responsible for the Professional Responsibility, Return Preparer, and Whistleblower offices.

The position of Chief Information Officer will be filled by Rajiv Uppal. Uppal’s current role is as the Director of the Office of IT and Chief Information Officer for Medicare and Medicaid Services centers. The Chief IT Officer role will oversee the entire IRS IT division.

Finally, the fourth new position, that of Chief Operating Officer, will be held by Melanie Krause. Krause began working at the IRS in 2021 and currently serves as the Chief Data and analytics Officer. Prior to this, she was the Acting Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement.


Logistically, the changes should occur on the proposed timeline as reorganization changes that do not require a budgetary appropriation amendment. In layman’s terms, the IRS isn’t looking to Congress for any more money, so Congressional approval isn’t needed. As such, the changes are all but certain to take place in early 2024. The result aims to help the organization adapt to recent tax law changes and evolving technology while simultaneously streamlining the organization and making it both more efficient and effective.

Documenting Fiduciary Accounting Practices

Fiduciary AccountingFiduciary accounting, which is also referred to as court accounting, is a way to document and report financial activity during a discrete period of time for legal entities, such as a conservatorship, estate, trust or guardianship.

It’s meant to give adequate notice to all relevant parties when it comes to every consequential financial activity impacting the administration that occurred over the accounting time frame. It shows every disbursement and receipt that is managed by the legal entity’s fiduciary. It accounts for transactions beginning with the initial funding or principal and the resulting future transactions, including income.

When it comes to the format of fiduciary accounting, along with the United States having its own unique modifications, the Uniform Principal and Income Act requires checking the governing instruments, in addition to state laws, to ensure fiduciary accounting compliance is met. However, looking at the National Standard Format, the following components in a filing are accepted by most courts:

  • Documentation of incoming and outgoing monetary sums of the legal entity’s starting principal and income produced
  • Documentation of the entity’s liabilities and assets
  • Documentation of any payment the fiduciary received
  • Legally authorized individuals hired by the fiduciary, what pay they received, and their association with the fiduciary

The primary consideration is that being part of being a fiduciary is having a legal duty to the beneficiary of the legal entity, including “the duty to account” to the beneficiary. This duty to account is oftentimes required by the governing document, the state statute, a court order, linked to court proceedings or a beneficiary requesting an accounting. If this duty is breached, the fiduciary may be liable.

The accounting should ensure a reporting of every asset in the legal entity. During the first year, the beginning balance will list the assets that fund the account. For successive accountings, the starting balance and the ending asset values on the preceding accounting should be the same. Along with the assets in the custody of the legal entity being documented, any asset that has been withdrawn, paid out, or moved must also be documented. Income received from the entity’s investments is to be measured against the principal and income investment schedules to ensure that all income, dividends, and interest have been received and reported correctly.  

Reasons Why an Accounting is Done

Some of the more straightforward reasons a fiduciary accounting is done is to ensure the fiduciary is compliant. There’s also greater efficiency when doing this annually versus more infrequent intervals since mistakes can be identified and corrected sooner. The same accounting results can also be used for the entity’s tax filings.

Other reasons concern the fiduciary and beneficiaries. The beneficiary can review and challenge the accounting if there’s impropriety suspected. When the fiduciary has completed their responsibilities for the beneficiaries and entity, liability for the fiduciary may cease to exist, even if the beneficiaries decline to execute a receipt, release, and refunding agreement (or similar document). If an approved accounting is necessary to be submitted with a court, the above four documents may be considered an acceptable substitution in place of an accounting.

Regardless of the type of legal entity that requires this type of fiduciary accounting, a fiduciary that is diligent and works with an accounting and legal professional can reduce the chances of exposing themself and their supervising entities from unnecessary exposure.

Considerations For Paying Off a Mortgage Early

Paying Off a Mortgage EarlyFor many, buying a home is the biggest asset they will ever own. However, you aren’t able to fully benefit from that asset until you pay off the mortgage; until then, it is technically a liability. The most common length of a mortgage loan is 30 years, but most people either sell their home, refinance their mortgage – or even pay it off before the end of that term.

What are the pros and cons of paying off a mortgage early? Obviously, you no longer have to make monthly payments, so money can be directed elsewhere. It is advisable to pay off your mortgage before you retire when most people live on a lower, fixed income. By having the mortgage paid off, that money can be redirected to other household expenses and/or provide higher discretionary income.

It should be noted that paying off your mortgage doesn’t provide relief from other routine, high-ticket home expenses such as property taxes, homeowners’ insurance, or regular maintenance. However, owning your home outright means it can’t be foreclosed on and taken from you. It also provides a large financial asset from which you can tap the equity or sell for a windfall.

While paying off your mortgage can provide security and peace of mind, you should consider all the factors before going down this path. For example, you may not have enough discretionary income to devote to making extra payments to your mortgage loan principal.

Usually, in the first 10 to 20 years of homeownership, buyers are juggling a multitude of financial obligations – raising a family, building an emergency fund, saving for college, taking annual vacations, and investing for retirement. That doesn’t always leave a lot of money left over for your mortgage.

There are, however, different strategies you can use to pay off a mortgage early:

  • Pay an extra amount toward your principal along with your regular payment every month.
  • Pay an extra amount each year, such as from a work bonus or other annual windfall.
  • If you continue working after retirement age, you may want to allocate the required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a retirement account toward your mortgage.
  • Make large payments each year from an inherited IRA transferred from a deceased parent’s retirement account. Non-spouse heirs generally have 10 years to use up these funds. By withdrawing only a portion of the funds each year, the inherited IRA may continue to grow over the full 10-year period.
  • Pay off fully or a significant portion of the mortgage using other inherited funds from a deceased parent.

Not only does paying off the mortgage early shorten the life of the loan, but it also can save you tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments.

For some people, paying off a mortgage early may not be their best strategy. After all, if they have locked in a low, fixed interest rate on the loan for the entire term, their excess income may be better deployed to an investment portfolio. Over a 15-, 20- or 30-year period, regular contributions to an investment portfolio can earn even more than the equity built up in a home.

If you’re locked into a high-interest-rate mortgage, you may want to consider refinancing when rates are adjusted downward. This can help you allocate more money toward your principal. However, don’t be quick to refinance to a lower rate if you already have a low rate, as mortgages are structured to pay a higher percentage of interest on the front end of the loan. When possible, it’s best to refinance or pay extra principal in the early years of the loan rather than the later years – because refinancing could cause you to pay more interest in another front-loaded loan for another long term. Also, be aware that some mortgages have an early payoff penalty, generally during the early years of a refinance, so check before you pay it off early.

Another consideration is that mortgage interest is tax deductible, which may be a key tax saver for those in a high tax bracket.

It’s a good idea to pay off any high-interest debt you may owe, such as credit cards, auto, or student loans, before paying down your mortgage early. These debts may be costing you more money than you can save by paying off a low-interest mortgage. Once you’re debt-free, you can redeploy those payments toward your mortgage principal.

The decision to pay off a mortgage early depends on your situation and your priorities. Specifically, if you still need to build an emergency reserve fund, catch up on retirement savings, or pay down high-interest debt, you might be better off allocating money elsewhere. By the same token, if the investment markets are enjoying an upward trend and you have a low-interest mortgage, you may want to just let your money “ride” in the market so you have more available later – perhaps then you can pay off your mortgage before you retire.