Finances were never Martin’s strong suit. Give him an engineering problem and he could solve it, but doing his taxes and handling his family’s personal financial plan seemed like an unsolvable equation. Martin, who took on the annual task of filing the family’s tax return, felt that he may be out of his league, when life got complicated – his wife, Laura, went back to work after years of staying home with their kids; they started renting out their old house when they had trouble selling it; and college seemed around the corner for their twins. Fortunately, a friend of his was one of our clients and thought talking to us would relieve Martin and Laura of all the stress that had building up over the years.
We sat down with Martin and Laura and identified some possible pitfalls if they just “stayed the course” and some opportunities if they were smart with their financial plans. With Laura getting back in to the work force and Martin getting a big raise at the office, we calculated that leaving their federal and state withholding where it was at would leave them drastically underpaid come tax time. Martin and Laura didn’t want a huge liability in April. Plus when they found out that the IRS would charge a penalty if they did not have enough taxes paid in throughout the year, they let us calculate the right amount of withholding necessary to cover their taxes and keep them from getting stuck with an estimated tax penalty.
Renting their old house was another area of uncertainty – neither Martin nor Laura had a clue how to calculate depreciation, how that rental would impact their tax return during the rental period or what would happen when they eventually sold the place. In just a few minutes of discussion with us, they got a picture of how the rental fit into things and felt comfortable (and far less stressed) being aware of what to expect upon sale.
Martin asked us about their medical expenses. He never could deduct his medical expenses because “the IRS apparently doesn’t think we’re sick enough.” We asked a few key questions and discovered that Martin’s job had a flexible spending account that allowed employees to put money into an account pre-tax to pay medical expenses. This allowed the family to get a pre-tax benefit and not have to meet the 7.5% of adjusted gross income limit to be an itemized deduction. Same medical dollars spent…this time, they actually got to see a tax benefit!
Before our initial meeting, Martin and Laura thought a CPA was only good for popping out a tax return during tax season. In just an hour’s worth of discussion, they realized that a CPA meant a comprehensive financial advisor in their corner throughout the year, not just during the spring when Uncle Sam asked for their tax return. They understood the value in leveraging our skills to save them time, money and taxes.