A Day in the Life

Work overload
iStock

Editor’s Note: There is no “TrumpWatch” this month, as David Roer is busy doing what he does best – being a tax accountant. As you can imagine, we’re all pretty busy here at the REM Cycle. You’re probably aware that things are hectic here during tax season, but what does an accountant actually do? What’s it actually like? We asked Gigi Boudreaux to explain.

I’m often asked about my life and experiences during tax season. To appease the curiosity, here’s a breakdown of a typical day for me during the height of tax season.

I arrive at work well before 9:00 AM in an attempt to get settled before the chaos begins. My office feels like I only left a few minutes ago. The only difference is me – I’m wearing different clothes, carrying a different lunch, and starting the new day with a fresh attitude. It’s going to be a good, productive day!

First thing I do every day, open my email. I have already glanced at my inbox earlier this morning, but decide to wait until I arrive at work to manage the myriad emails that arrived overnight. Most of the emails are junk. Delete! I am constantly unsubscribing, but the junk keeps coming. Do I want to rent a private jet? Really?! At least I got a chuckle out of that one. I move on to the important emails. One contains e-file authorizations I’ve been waiting for. Great! Wait – client only sent Federal authorizations. Ugh. Another email is from one of my partners, “Can you please handle a complicated issue for me? I had someone else, but I think you will handle it better and faster.” This will set me back a bit, but I’ll do my best. I hardly ever say no.

Soon after I arrive, a colleague enters my office, clearly distressed. She needs to take time off for a family issue. She says, “I know it’s tax season, but it is very important.” I tell her that family always comes first and that we will work together to make it work.

People start to arrive, coffee starts to brew, and my phone starts to ring. Calls from clients include, “Did you get my fax? Where do I sign on the e file authorization? Is my return done yet?” A call from an IRS agent, “I have been out sick for a month so I haven’t looked at your case, but now I am back. Can you get me several documents ASAP?” I reply sheepishly, “Uh…it’s tax season.” Agent: “So?” Then, I am part of a conference call with our IT department and our software provider, because all three scan machines in our NYC office are offline, which is kind of a big deal. While on the conference call, my husband calls in to see how I’m doing. I’ll call him back later.

The managing partner arrives, practically bouncing off the walls with energy and enthusiasm. Not sure I can match his energy, but he has inspired me to step it up.

A colleague (who is also a friend) emails me to say she’s made a quiche for lunch. Do I want some? Yes, of course! This will be the highlight of my day.  It’s so silly what makes me happy this time of year.

An extremely distressed coworker who has lost a tax return file calls: “Can you please help me?” I stop what I am doing and we find the return. I get enormous satisfaction from helping her.

Later in the day, I have a scheduled phone call with a client who has been waiting for my attention for a day, which is a long time to wait. I am conscious of this. It’s a long call and we address all of the issues on his list. He is happy with the advice. I hang up and wonder how I’m going to bill that time; he’s never going to pay for it. Yet he is content, and so am I.

I receive a text from my sister-in-law: “Hey, can I stop by later today to drop off my tax stuff?” I respond, “I won’t be home till very late.” She sighs, “Really? How late? I also need to use your printer to get one of my tax documents because my printer is broken.” Frustrated that she still doesn’t understand the hours I work after so many years, I suggest she come on the weekend. I know she is counting on her refund.

Client calls: “Can you tell me how much money I made? And I have several questions about my tax return.” This takes time, but by the end of the conversation, he understands and is thankful. I am happy to have helped.

My daughter texts from college: “Mom, I think I failed Logic. Can you talk?” Of course. Although I cannot make time for my husband, there is always time for her. I guess I need to work on that.

I meet with potential new client. Meeting new people and hearing about how passionate they are about their business is always exciting and interesting. It is contagious. This one looks promising, but you never know.

Okay, now it’s time to start my productive day and get down to doing work. I glance out the window and suddenly realize its dark outside. Clock reads 8:00 PM! Really?! I haven’t even addressed the first item on my daily to-do list. Well, I guess it’s going to be another long night.

The chaos of tax season is challenging and exciting and maddening all at the same time. You can see that there is so much more than simply putting numbers on a form and telling people how much money they owe to Uncle Sam. On any given day, I am an advisor, a technician, a juggler, a therapist, and a mentor. Why do I keep coming back each day? The satisfaction of being able to help others, clients and coworkers alike, truly inspires and motivates me. When I go home at the end of a long day, there is nothing better than knowing that I did something good for someone today.


boudreaux_gigi-3Gigi Boudreaux, CPA, MBA is a Tax Partner in Raich Ende Malter & Co. LLP’s Long Island office. She primarily serves small business clients working in the real estate, distribution, manufacturing, and construction industries. She can be reached at gboudreaux@rem-co.com.

End of the AMT? Good riddance

amt-article-anti-amt2Guest Post by Gigi Boudreaux, CPA, MBA

The time for year-end tax planning is over and a tax season with new due dates looms. Hopefully you have accelerated deductions, because in 2016 that is perhaps more important than the previous years as President Trump’s tax proposal forecasts significant cuts to tax rates. So, what deductions can we accelerate? The Internal Revenue Code allows for only a handful of deductions for individual taxpayers, the largest of which are state and local income taxes, real estate taxes, and mortgage interest. In New York, we pay among the highest state income taxes AND some of the highest property taxes in the country. My clients would love to take advantage of these burdensome taxes and deduct them early, but the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax (“AMT”) dashes their hopes. What the heck is the AMT anyway?!

The AMT is an antiquated tax originally enacted in 1969 to prevent tax avoidance by wealthy taxpayers. Unlike the regular income tax, the AMT parameters were not indexed for inflation. As a result, with economic growth and inflation over time, more and more middle-income taxpayers find themselves paying the AMT. What does this mean? It means that those ridiculously high New York state income AND property taxes are not deductible. That’s right – you are getting zero benefit for the largest tax deductions you pay each year.

This is how I explain the AMT to my clients: The AMT is an alternative taxing system that exists in the background to the regular taxing system. All taxpayers MUST pay the higher of the result of the two taxing systems. The regular taxing system, as we know, is a series of graduated rates (currently seven; Trump’s proposing only three) from as low as 10% to the highest of 39.6%. As your income increases, you pay a higher rate of tax. The AMT has only two rates (26% and 28%) and taxes a much broader income tax base. Both the regular tax and the AMT start in the same place by summing all sources of income. From there, the two systems differ. For regular tax, taxpayers can deduct dependency exemptions and itemized deductions, which include medical expenses, state and local income taxes, mortgage interest expense, charitable contributions, and, to a limited extent, miscellaneous deductions. For AMT, only charitable contributions and limited mortgage interest deduction are allowed. So for New York families whose largest deductions on their tax returns are personal and dependency exemptions and state and local taxes (including real estate taxes), will be paying AMT, a tax higher than their regular tax.

Here’s some good news. President Trump is proposing to eliminate the AMT. While Democrats and Republicans disagree on many of Trump’s proposals, I believe this is one that all Long Islanders can agree upon. According to tax estimates from the Tax Policy Center, last year approximately 27% of households nationwide with incomes between $200,000 and $500,000 were affected by the AMT. My estimation is that many of those households reside here in New York because those who are most vulnerable to the AMT are those taxpayers with large families (three or more children) living in high state and local tax states.

So, while experts agree that Trump’s proposed tax rate reduction will only help the wealthiest taxpayers, many New York taxpayers may see a reduction in tax if the AMT is repealed. Questions still remain on Trump’s proposal to limit itemized deductions, which may affect the tax savings on the elimination of the AMT. Other issues that may surface will be the AMT credit carryovers (the government attempt to ease the AMT burden) and the AMT interplay with net operating loss carryovers.

One thing remains certain: no one will be unhappy to see the AMT go away.


boudreaux_gigi-3Gigi Boudreaux, CPA, MBA is a Tax Partner in Raich Ende Malter & Co. LLP’s Long Island office. She primarily serves small business clients working in the real estate, distribution, manufacturing, and construction industries. She can be reached at gboudreaux@rem-co.com.

Health Insurance: Are You Required To Provide?

Small business owners may be surprised to learn that, starting in 2016, guidelines are changing dramatically for which employers are regarded as Applicable Large Employers (ALE) in regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As of this year, this employer mandate is more complex. Put simply, you may be legally obligated to provide certain employees with health insurance, even if you weren’t required last year. Failure to do so could result in significant penalties.

A company or organization becomes an ALE when it employs an average of 50 or more full-time (FT) or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. To determine whether the employer mandate is met, the total number of FT plus FTE employees is averaged across the months in the current year, and the result (over or under 50) is applied to the next calendar year.

Who is counted as an employee for ALE criteria? When determining whether an employer is an ALE, the employer must count all of its employees. An FT employee either has an average of 30 hours of service per week during the calendar month or has at least 130 hours of service in a calendar month. To calculate FTEs, the working hours of part-time employees are combined and counted as equivalent full-time employees.

A noteworthy exception is for employers of seasonal workers. If the employer’s workforce (both FT and FTE) exceeds 50 for 120 days or fewer, and any employees in excess of 50 employed during those 120 days are seasonal workers (e.g., a lifeguard hired to work June through August, or a retail cashier hired for the holidays), then that employer is exempt from the mandate.

Some workers should not be included in the calculation of ALE employees. These include sole proprietors, partners in a partnership, 2% or more S-corporation shareholders, temporary employees (hired and paid for through an agency), and independent contractors.

The point? Companies and organizations near the 50-employee mark need to keep careful employment records, and their payroll teams and external payroll providers should use these to determine if they meet the ALE criteria. These crucial protocols should be put in place now and continued moving forward.


remcycle