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Many parents still paying off presents from last year

Everyone likes to be generous during the holidays. Whether it is buying big-ticket items that the kids cannot live without, flying home to see grandparents, or perhaps even giving to the local homeless shelter, spending makes us feel better. Some will even use it as a motivational factor where you tell yourself to do a little more overtime in the coming year or pick up a side-hustle.

However, according to financial experts, nearly 40 million people are still paying off credit cards bills from last year’s holidays. Now, with average amount of spending predicted to go up 4.1 percent, 73 percent of shoppers will put charges on the credit card in 2018 instead of 58 percent in 2017. Those who do pay off their credit card debt are taking longer, going from an average of 2.3 months last year to an estimated 3.2 months in the coming year (which is another month of interest charges). These and other factors can mean trouble for overgenerous parents. 

Problems with a construction project can lead to a costly dispute

When you are building a commercial space or residential property in Texas, you expect that the construction company, contractor or other parties will provide a quality product. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In fact, you may learn that there are defects and issues with the construction project that could cost you both time and money. 

Upon discovering a construction defect, you may attempt to have the contractor, builder or construction company fix it. If asking the responsible party to fix the problem is not effective, it may be necessary to seek legal recourse. Disputes over construction projects and contracts can be complex, but you do not have to navigate them on your own. 

IRS’s reminds taxpayers to protect financial information

Most of us think of the IRS as that government organization that collects taxes from individuals and organizations. However, the IRS does other work as well. This includes keeping tax information safe from fraudsters and thieves. Thus the IRS has a new press release from the Security Summit during Tax Security Week (Dec. 3-7) entitled “It’s shopping season for identity thieves, too.”

With tax season just around the corner, it is extra important for individuals and businesses to protect financial information and tax data. Taxpaying shoppers can take a few simple steps to help avoid having their tax refunds taken. They can also keep identity thieves for others by exercising precautions that make it harder for the thieves to steal, turning stolen data into quick cash. Fraudsters can do this by:

6 Year-end tax tips to help small business owners

The end of the year tends to be a flurry of closing out the books, managing holiday staffing and panicking about the New Year. Most businesses have already dealt changes in the new tax plan, but there are several useful tips from financial experts that can enable owners to enter the new year with a running start.

  1. Go through your books: Look at how your company did this year and measure the crunched numbers against what you expected going in. Also, check with your accountant to make sure that you have all the necessary information for them to start working taxes.
  2. Spend money: It may be possible to spend more money on the business to maximize your deductions. It can be as simple as paying bills before the end of the year, buying equipment or stocking up on office supplies.
  3. Defer income: It may be smart to defer income until after January 1 if it keeps you in a lower tax bracket.
  4. Check inventory: Owners may be able to claim additional deductions if the market value of the inventory is down.
  5. Look at a retirement plan: This is another great way to lower one's tax obligations. If possible, up your usual amount to the legal maximum to shield that money. If you do not have one, there is still time.
  6. Donate to charity: It is the holidays, so it is the season for giving. Pick non-profits recognized by the IRS in order to best claim that deduction. It need not be cash - it may be possible to reduce inventory while claiming fair market value.

FTC halts massive real estate scam

Real estate investments or vacation properties hold a certain appeal. Some investors like the fact that they actually own something tangible as opposed to playing the stock market. Others hear stories of major paydays for those who bought early and then cashed out.

With so much money involved, it is not surprising that real estate attracts its fair share of scammers. Nonetheless, the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation of a fraudulent real estate scheme in Belize worth $100 million is still eye catching. This request in the Federal District Court temporarily shuts down the largest overseas real estate scam the FTC has ever investigated.

IRS modernizes its investigative approach

The Internal Revenue Service recently released its annual report on criminal enforcement in fiscal 2018, which ended September 30. The announcement touted that the Criminal Investigation team is using “cutting-edge technology combined with sophisticated investigative work.”

Moving forward, the organization pointed to data analytics as the driving force for identifying areas of non-compliance. The IRS’s CI is also branching out despite the reduction in staff size to under 2,100, which is the lowest it has been since the early 1970s.

More elderly filing for bankruptcy

Many dream of the golden years when they can retire and perhaps spend time with the grandchildren or travel. Now data from a wide range of sources shows that the elderly are filing bankruptcy at five times the rate they did as recently as 1991.

According to a recent report by CBS, seniors 65 and older file over 12 percent of all bankruptcies. With Americans living longer and longer, they are becoming increasingly larger part of the general population. This combined with the rising percentage of seniors filing bankruptcy likely leads to serious trend down the line.

Factors that prolong probate

After a loved one dies, you have many important matters to resolve. These may be welcome distractions, but after a while, you may simply want to step away from your time of grief and move forward with your life. However, you are not entirely free to do this until probate is over.

The process of probate is the legal closing of your loved one's estate. This necessary legal procedure verifies your loved one's ownership of the assets and the identity of the heirs. It is also time for your loved one's creditors to receive payment for any debt the estate owes. Because there are typically many entities involved, probate can take a considerable amount of time.

Gibson Guitars is back from bankruptcy

People and businesses who file for bankruptcy go through some of the most difficult times in their lives. We work with them so that they can see that there is a light at the end of tunnel. With this in mind, nearly all of us here in the “Live Music Capitol of the World” will be happy to hear that Gibson Guitars is coming back from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Many of us have enjoyed playing their products and even more of us have seen and heard the iconic company’s many great models played by favorite musicians. The Chapter 11 filing enables a business entity to restructure its debt and create a workable plan for paying back debt while still staying in business.

Bad things can happen to good companies

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William T. Peckham
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Austin, TX 78701
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