Thursday, December 29, 2016

10 New Year's Resolutions for your Wallet

Love or hate New Year’s resolutions, there are probably a few you could stand to make for your wallet’s sake. They can be short-term, easy fixes to save money throughout the year, while also potentially helping you achieve larger financial goals.
Here are 10 suggestions to make sure you start off 2017 on the right financial footing:
1. Clean out your wallet. A cluttered wallet isn’t just bulky; it also can be expensive if you’re paying for cards you don’t use. Start lean and mean in 2017. Review the cards and figure out how they benefit you. Many people signed up for some cards merely for their cool factor or maybe to pursue a one-time benefit — such as a juicy sign-up bonus that has long since been exhausted. At best, these cards can be a distraction and waste of space. At worst, they can cost you an annual fee without making up for it in benefits. Keep only cards earning high rewards that you’ll actually use or cards that are important to maintain your credit score.
2. Prioritize your purchases. Healthy budgeting may sound about as fun as healthy dieting, but success for both often can start with something as simple as understanding what works best for you. At its heart, a budget helps you recognize trade-offs in your purchases. Movies or dining out? Game console or summer vacation? New clothes or weekend getaway? Until you’re able to identify and plan for these trade-offs in advance, you’re not in charge of your money.
3.Optimize your credit cards. Whether you’re trying to maximize rewards or minimize the cost of credit card debt, you probably have room for improvement. At this point, 1.5% cash back is the new gold standard for rewards, so make sure you’re earning at least that much on every purchase. And if you’re looking to minimize the cost of debt, a 12-month, 0% intro APR offer is a good baseline. If you’re unsure what kind of card you might qualify for, it is recommended that you check your free credit score or ask whether you pre-qualify for a card.
4.Upgrade your checking account. Bank fees bite. If you’re paying fees for your checking account regularly, that’s a sign you could be doing better — either with your own money management or your choice in banks. A new account might also come with new capabilities such as mobile check deposit or better ATM access.
5.Upgrade your savings account. There’s a fair chance you could be earning higher interest in the coming new year than you did in 2016. Many online banks are offering annual percentage yields of 1% or higher, which we hope will rise since the Federal Reserve increased its funds rates in December.

6. Open a P2P account. Still writing and receiving physical checks to and from friends and family? What a hassle. It’s nearly 2017, not 1987. If you need to pay someone back quickly and easily — whether for baby-sitting, splitting utility bills or sharing a restaurant tab — open an account on a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app such as Venmo, PayPal, Zelle or Square Cash. Ask around to see what’s popular among your friends, as they’ll need to use the same app to receive or send money.
7. Boost your savings rate. Saving money can be hard, especially if it’s for a less-immediate goal such as retirement, an emergency fund (see below) or a down payment on a home. Here are tips to boost your savings rate: (1) If your employer matches 401(k) contributions, make sure you’re contributing enough from your paycheck to get the full match. (2) Divert some of your wages automatically into your savings account before you have the chance to spend it. (3) Plan now to save any windfalls, such as tax refunds, gifts or the occasional lottery winnings. (4) Check your credit card and checking account statements to see whether you can cut any charges for recurring services that aren’t needed.
8. Build an emergency fund. A key measure of financial freedom is the ability to cover short-term emergencies with cash instead of by taking on debt. That said, many of us already have plenty of debt, and it’s often difficult to decide between saving cash or paying down that debt.  All things being equal, putting a little money in the bank generally should be prioritized in most cases.
9. Use your rewards card for every purchase. Sure, credit card rewards rates won’t make you rich, but the 1.5% you could earn back on every purchase adds up. It can help boost your savings or make a significant dent in a planned purchase.
10. Use your airline miles. Airlines historically devalue points on their loyalty programs every few years, and you’ll also want to make sure there’s no expiration policy on your points or miles. Saving them for some big future vacation might sound nice, but if they need to be redeemed by a certain point, don’t let them slip through your fingers.

Adapted from the article:
10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Wallet
Posted 12:27 p.m., December 21, 2016, by Sean McQuay

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Illinois ~ Corporate, Personal Income Taxes: Withholding Income Tax Changes for 2017 Discussed

CCH Tax Day Report

The Illinois Department of Revenue has issued an informational bulletin that discusses personal income tax withholding changes for the 2017 tax year for employers, payroll service providers, software developers, and those that pay gambling and lottery winnings. Effective January 1, 2017, all withholding taxpayers will be assigned to pay withholding income tax on a monthly or semi-weekly schedule. In addition, all withholding taxpayers will be required to file quarterly returns on Form IL-941. The annual filing and payment option will no longer be available. The department will notify taxpayers that are currently annual payers of their assignment to either a monthly or a semi-weekly payment schedule for 2017.

Form IL-941 is due by the last day of the month following the end of the quarter and must include all Illinois income tax withheld during the corresponding three months. If the due date falls on a holiday or weekend, the return is due on the next business day. Payment due dates are determined by the payment schedule assigned to the withholding taxpayer based on the taxpayer’s liability, and the day employees are paid or tax is withheld from others. Monthly payments are due by the 15th day of the month following the month in which the tax was withheld. Semi-weekly payments are due by Wednesday for amounts withheld on the previous Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday, and by Friday for amounts withheld on the previous Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday. Taxpayers that withhold over $12,000 in a quarter must submit payments electronically on a semi-weekly basis from that point forward.

Form IL-941 has been updated for the 2017 tax year, including a line to verify compliance with the Illinois Secure Choice Savings Program Act, a section for entering required withholding information for each month of the quarter, and entry lines for the amount of income tax withheld based on payroll dates. A new line has been added for preparers to enter their Internal Revenue Service (IRS) preparer tax identification number (PTIN). Beginning on or after January 1, 2017, all paid income tax return preparers must include their PTIN on any tax returns they prepare and file or on any refund claim. Failure to comply may result in assessment of a penalty on the preparer.

Informational Bulletin FY 2017-07, Illinois Department of Revenue, September 26, 2016, ¶403-132


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Check out KOS Partner Geoff Harlow in IL CPA Society Video

Congrats to KOS Partner Geoff Harlow on a job well done speaking on behalf of why CPA firms and businesses should consider diversity & inclusion as part of their plan for success.

Geoff is quoted in the Illinois CPA Society's new CEO video encouraging executives to think differently about the future of the CPA profession.

Click on the link to watch the video and hear some compelling reasons why diversity is a focus area that can improve your business.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

KOS to Participate in the Illinois CPA Day of Service

Governor Rauner has officially proclaimed September 23, 2016 to be CPA Day of Service throughout Illinois

KOS is proud to be part of this wonderful day.  Employees from the firm will be traveling to the Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) facility in Libertyville, IL for an afternoon of helping others.

KOS chose to work with FMSC because of their emphasis on small group involvement and outcome-focused participation. This volunteer experience offers a wonderful way for KOS to engage, motivate and foster employee collaboration with the selfless benefit of feeding the world’s starving children.

Founded in 1987, Feed My Starving Children is a non-profit organization committed to feeding children hungry in body and spirit. The approach is simple: children and adults hand-pack meals specifically formulated for malnourished children, and these meals are shipped to nearly 70 countries around the world.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

KOS Introduces KOS Financial Services

August 17, 2016

KOS Introduces KOS Financial Services

The CPA firm of KOS has a financial advisory division headed by Tony Gacs

Kessler Orlean Silver & Co., P.C. (KOS) is pleased to announce that Tony Gacs has joined the firm to head its’ new division KOS Financial Services. As a financial advisor, Tony adds to KOS’ ability to serve businesses and individuals by building strong relationships and gaining a complete understanding of their financial situation in the development of investment strategies to meet their goals. He joins the firm after spending the majority of a twenty seven year career at The Northern Trust Corporation.

As a trusted advisor, Tony helps KOS clients achieve their financial goals. “Strategic investing requires knowing my client and developing the personal relationship between me and my clients,” states Tony. Tony’s client relationship approach enables him to understand the client’s financial situation, long and short term goals, risk tolerance, effects of market situations/climate and develop a customized investment strategy. He has worked with individuals with many different financial backgrounds but who all have the goal of improving their investment portfolio and future.

“We are excited to expand our service offerings to our clients with the addition of KOS Financial Services,” KOS Managing Partner Jeff Arnol said in a statement. “Tony’s broad financial service advisory experience should prove instrumental in managing this new division of KOS.” “We remain committed to our values as we embrace this new division of KOS to serve our clients even better,” adds Partner Jeff Floom.
Tony attended Roosevelt University and is Financial Industry Regulatory Association (FINRA) Series 7 licensed, FINRA Series 63 and 66 licensed and Life/Health Insurance licensed.

Based in Deerfield, Illinois, Kessler Orlean Silver & Co., P.C., (KOS) serves businesses and individuals in multiple states providing business consulting, auditing, accounting, bookkeeping and tax services. With an over 80 year history, the mid-sized accounting firm of KOS provides innovative accounting solutions to business owners, executives and managers, private investors, and professionals. The firm’s down-to-earth style and practical experience come from a long-time culture of helping people and feeling passionate about doing so. For more information, please visit