February Newsletter

As your mail box fills up with information required to organize your 2013 tax records, now might be a good time to start planning to lower your 2014 tax bill. To help with this, included in this month’s newsletter is some of the key 2014 federal tax information. Also included is an article to help you assess auto leasing programs and a general interest article on understanding your rights in protecting your children’s online security.

As always, should you know of someone who may benefit from this information please feel free to forward this newsletter to them.

Leasing Versus Buying A Car

Knowing the tricks makes you a better buyer

There are many reasons for you to lease a car versus buy a car, but too often it is the auto dealer’s profit motive that determines which method you use. To help make sure you do not become a victim of this, here are some things to consider.

When to lease

Here is a check-list of things that may sway you toward leasing your next vehicle;

key Lower up-front cash requirement
key You prefer a new car every couple of years
key You do not drive many miles each year
key You are not hard on your vehicle

When to purchase

key You plan to have the car for years
key Low car loan interest rates and payments
key You drive more miles than a lease allows
key A late model used car seems perfect
Leasing Versus Buying A Car

Know the leasing tricks of the trade

If you think leasing a vehicle is an option for you, here are some tips to ensure you are making the best deal.

Action 1 Negotiate first. Negotiate the price before telling the dealer you wish to lease. The purchase price you negotiate should be the price the dealer uses in calculating the lease payments as well as an outright purchase. If it is not, this technique forces the dealer to disclose this fact.
Action 1 What is the APR? Ask the dealer to disclose the effective Annual Percentage Rate (APR) built into the lease. If the dealer gives you a lease factor instead of an interest rate, multiply the lease factor by 24 to get a general interest rate.
Action 1 Turn in value. Ask what the projected turn-in value of the car is at the end of the lease. This value is often overstated by the dealer to artificially lower your lease payment. It can also impact your ability to purchase your vehicle at the end of the lease.
Action 1 Clarify added costs at lease end. Many customers have been surprised with a high mileage surcharge for excess miles and charges for “excessive” wear and tear when the car is returned at the end of the lease.
Action 1 Shop around. Since many of the costs associated with a lease are hidden from view, it is best to shop for the best deal.

Knowing the questions to ask before you shop for a new vehicle can help you make the best objective decision regarding a lease versus buy alternative. It may just help you stay in the driver’s seat during dealer negotiations.

Children’s Online Privacy Gets a Boost

There is little question that one of the biggest concerns of parents today is their childrens’ on-line safety. There are few barriers keeping young children from setting up a Facebook account or a free service through Google.Children's Online Privacy Gets a BoostThankfully, in the FTC issued amendments to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) additional safeguards are in place. In short the COPPA rules:

Require commercial websites and online services that target children under 13 to obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children. The rules apply to online services that target children or where the business knows that their users include children under the age of 13. New requirements broaden who must comply with the rules and strengthen the ability to limit the information that may be maintained.

When does this come into play?

The COPPA privacy requirements typically come into play with your children in the following situations:

Point 1 Social Media: Using Facebook accounts, Twitter, Tumblr, and others
Point 2 Gaming: Playing games that use the internet to allow kids to play video games together
Point 3 Mobile Apps: Downloading applications for ipads, Nooks, Kindles and smart phones
Point 4 On-line shopping: Shopping online; especially product purchases like itunes (MP3s) and ring tones.
Point 5 Texting: Using applications like “snap texting” and other communication tools that open up our children to fairly significant privacy challenges

What you need to know

Point 1 Become aware of the existence of the law. Your children should be required to get your ok prior to joining these services.
Point 2 The FTC is authorized to fine non-conforming companies up to $16,000 per violation for noncompliance.
Point 3 Review the COPPA regulations and remind violating suppliers that they must comply with this important privacy regulation.

Estate & Gift Tax Update

Now that the federal Unified Estate and Gift Tax has a level of certainty in it, here are the updated figures for 2014.

Maximum Estate and Gift Tax rate 40%
Inflation adjusted estate exclusion: $5.34 million
Annual Gift Giving Exclusion: $14,000
($28,000 per couple)


Check Portability of an unused estate exclusion to a spouse is possible
Check There is an allowed deduction to account for estate taxes paid to a state
Check Use the annual gift giving exclusion as an estate planning tool for yourself and your heirs
Estate and Gift Tax Update

So while you still can’t take it with you, at least the federal government will let your survivors take more of it with them.

Key 2014 Tax Information

Item 2014 2013 Change
Maximum income tax rate 39.6% 39.6%
Maximum Medicare tax rate 2.35% 2.35%
Social Security employee rate 6.2% 6.2%
Max Dividend/Capital Gain rate 23.8% 23.8%
Personal Exemption $3,950 $3,900 +$50
Standard Deductions
Single $6,200 $6,100 +$100
Joint or Qualifying Widow 12,400 12,200 +$200
Head of Household 9,100 8,950 +$150
Married Filing Separate 6,200 6,100 +$100
Elderly/Blind: Married Add $1,200 Add $1,200
Elderly/Blind: Unmarried Add $1,550 Add $1,500 +$50
Key Credits
Child Tax Credit $1,000 $1,000
Adoption Credit $13,190 $12,770 +$420
Lifetime Learning Credit $2,000 $2,000
American Opportunity Credit $2,500 $2,500
Savers Credit $1,000 $1,000
Retirement Plan Contributions
Traditional IRA $5,500 $5,500
(age 50+ catchup) Add $1,000 Add $1,000
Roth IRA $5,500 $5,500
(age 50+ catchup) Add $1,000 Add $1,000
401(k), 403(b), 457 & SARSEP $17,500 $17,500
(age 50+ catchup) Add $5,500 Add $5,500
SIMPLE IRA $12,000 $12,000
(age 50+ catchup) Add $2,500 Add $2,500
Section 179 $25,000 $500,000 -$450,000
Property limit $200,000 $2 million -$1.8 million
Other Information
Tuition and Fees Deduction $2,000 $2,000
Medical Itemized Deduction AGI Threshold
(7.5% in 2014 for 65 and older)
10.0% 10.0%

2014 Mileage Rates

Standard Mileage Rates
2014 Rate/Mile
Business Travel
Charitable Work

Mileage Rates

Here are 2013 rates for your reference as well.

2013 Mileage Rates

Standard Mileage Rates
2013 Rate/Mile
Business Travel
Charitable Work

Mileage Rates

As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your situation please feel free to call.

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