Mike DiSabatino CPA

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November 2017 DiSabatino, CPA Newsletter

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November 2017

In this Issue:

  • Year-End Tax Checklist
  • Six Must-Dos When You Donate to Charity 
  • The Equifax Breach and You: Be Proactive
  • Five Great Banking Tips
  • Holiday Shopping Survival Guide 

This Month:

  • Saturday, Nov. 11th: Veterans Day
  • Thursday, Nov. 23rd: Thanksgiving
  • Friday, Nov. 24th: Black Friday (shopping sale day)
  • Monday, Nov. 27th: Cyber Monday (online shopping sale day)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 28th: #GivingTuesday (charitable giving day)
  • Reminder: Conduct year-end tax and financial planning

Now is a good time to review your year-end tax situation while there is still time to act. This newsletter begins with a handy checklist to help you do that. There are details on "must-dos" to get the most out of your charitable donations.

Also inside: personal finance articles on how to protect your credit in the wake of the Equifax security breach earlier this year, as well as how to get the best experience from your bank. Finally, check out the survival guide for the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping days.

Year-End Tax Checklist

As the year draws to a close, there are several tax-saving ideas you should consider. Use this checklist to make sure you don't miss an opportunity before the year is out.

Bullet Point Retirement distributions and contributions. Make final contributions to your qualified retirement plan, and take any required minimum distributions from your retirement accounts. The penalty for not taking minimum distributions can be high.
Bullet Point Investment management. Rebalance your investment portfolio, and take any final investment gains and losses. Capital losses can be used to net against your capital gains. You can also take up to $3,000 of capital losses in excess of capital gains each year and use it to lower your taxable ordinary income.
Year-End Tax Checklist
Bullet Point Last-minute charitable giving. Make a late-year charitable donation. Even better, make the donation with appreciated stock you've owned more than a year. You often can make a larger donation and get a larger deduction without paying capital gains taxes.
Bullet Point Noncash donation opportunity. Gather up noncash items for donation, document the items, and give those in good condition to your favorite charity. Make sure you get a receipt from the charity, and take a photo of the items donated.
Bullet Point Gifts to dependents and others. You may provide gifts to an individual of up to $14,000 per year in total. Remember that all gifts given (birthdays, holidays, etc.) count toward the annual total.
Bullet Point Organize records now. Start collecting and organizing your end-of-year tax records. Estimate your tax liability and make any required estimated tax payments.

Six Must-Dos When You Donate to Charity

Donations are a great way to give to a deserving charity, and they also give back in the form of a tax deduction. Unfortunately, charitable donations are under scrutiny by the IRS, and many donations without adequate documentation are being rejected. Here are six things you need to do to ensure your charitable donation will be tax-deductible.

Bullet Point Make sure your charity is eligible. Only donations to qualified charitable organizations registered with the IRS are tax-deductible. You can confirm an organization qualifies by calling the IRS at (877) 829-5500 or visiting the IRS website.
Bullet Point Itemize. You must itemize your deductions using Schedule A in order to take a deduction for a donation. If you're going to itemize your return to take advantage of charitable deductions, it also makes sense to look for other itemized deductions. These include state and local taxes, real estate taxes, home mortgage interest and eligible medical expenses over a certain threshold.
Charity Donations
Bullet Point Get receipts. Get receipts for your deductible donations. Receipts are not filed with your tax return but must be kept with your tax records. You must get the receipt at the time of the donation or the IRS may not allow the deduction.
Bullet Point Pay attention to the calendar. Donations are deductible in the year they are made. To be deductible in 2017, donations must be made by Dec. 31, although there is an exception. Donations made by credit card are deductible even if you don't pay off the charge until the following year, as long as the donation is reported on your credit card statement by Dec. 31. Similarly, donation checks written before Dec. 31 are deductible in the year written, even if the check is not cashed until the following year.
Bullet Point Take extra steps for noncash donations. You can make a donation of clothing or items around the home you no longer use. If you decide to make one of these noncash donations, it is up to you to determine the value of the donation. However, many charities provide a donation guide to help you determine the value. Your donated items must be in good or better condition and you should receive a receipt from the charitable organization for your donations. If your noncash donations are greater than $500, you must file a Form 8283 to provide additional information to the IRS. For noncash donations greater than $5,000, you must also get an independent appraisal to certify the worth of the items.
Bullet Point Keep track of mileage. If you drive for charitable purposes, this mileage can be deductible as well. For example, miles driven to deliver meals to the elderly, to be a volunteer coach or to transport others to and from a charitable event, can be deducted at 14 cents per mile. A contemporaneous log of the mileage must be maintained to substantiate your charitable driving.

Remember, charitable giving can be a valuable tax deduction — but only if you take the right steps.


The Equifax Breach and You

Be Proactive

Earlier this year, hackers were able to breach the security of Equifax, one of the three national credit reporting agencies. More than 143 million Americans — nearly half the country — were exposed to the attack, and may have had their personal information stolen, including names, birthdates, and Social Security and driver's license numbers.

Equifax is still determining exactly whose data has been exposed. While you wait to find out, it's worth taking a few proactive steps to make sure your info isn't misused by hackers.

Bullet Point Start checking. Visit Equifax's website at and enter your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number. The site will tell you whether it's likely or not your data has been exposed, and put you on a list to get more information. You can also sign up for a year's worth of free credit monitoring.
Bullet Point Watch your statements. Start checking your credit card statements, and pay special attention to cards you don't use often. The initial reports from the breach were that hackers may have been making charges on underused cards.
Bullet Point Check your credit reports. You can look for suspicious items on your reports, such as new accounts being opened in your name, at all three credit report agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Free annual reports are available at
Bullet Point Freeze your credit. If you suspect you may become a victim of identity theft, you can place a credit freeze on your profile at each of the three credit reporting agencies. This stops new accounts from being opened in your name. Note that you'll have to unfreeze your accounts if you want to apply for new loans or make your credit accessible for things such as job applications.
Bullet Point File your taxes early. One of the most common ways identity thieves use your information is to try to claim a tax refund with your data. This was the most common scam in 2016, according to the Better Business Bureau. If you file your tax return as early as possible, you shut down this opportunity for any would-be thieves.

Five Great Banking Tips

Banks are a necessary tool to navigate our daily financial lives. Unfortunately, there are aggravating practices at many banks that drive us crazy or cost us money. Here are five tips to get more out of your bank and pay less.

Bullet Point Remove cash from the right place. Never use an ATM machine that is not in your bank's network. In-network cash withdrawals cost nothing at most banks, but withdrawals from someone else's machine may come with a $3 to $5 fee.

Action: Turn over your ATM or debit card and note the networks on the back of the card; or ask your bank about their network coverage. Only use ATMs within the network. Test a transaction to ensure no fee is included on your statement.

Bullet Point Notify your credit card issuer when traveling. Most credit card-issuing banks now automatically freeze your cards when a suspicious transaction occurs out of state. This freeze often includes foreign website transactions.

Action: Call your credit card issuer when you are going to be traveling. Also notify them if you wish to order an item from a foreign website. This can alleviate numerous headaches. While some banks may not block out-of-state transactions, you do not want to to have a transaction rejected while purchasing something on a trip.

Bullet Point Know your bank's overdraft rules. Non-sufficient funds (NSF) checks are not only embarrassing, they are expensive. Banks make millions on their overdraft fees and automatic loan features when you overdraw your account. Understand your bank's fees and how they apply your payments.

Action: Look for a bank that will allow you to link another account to your checking account without charging a fee. For instance, as a courtesy many credit unions allow you to link a savings account to your core checking account. Funds from your savings account are used should you inadvertently overdraw your checking account.

Bullet Point Always negotiate fees. If you are a long-standing customer with your bank or credit card company, call them to reduce or waive fees. Good examples of this are over-the-limit credit card fees or late payment fees. If you have multiple checking overdraft fees, negotiate to eliminate as many as possible.

Action: If you are late in paying your credit card or have an overdraft, fix the problem as soon as possible. Only after fixing the problem should you call to negotiate the fees. The bank customer service representative will see your quick action and be more likely to help reduce the fees.

Bullet Point Be willing to shop. Banks understand the power of inertia: They know it's a pain to change banks. But if you are willing to do so, you might be surprised to find better alternatives for less.

Action: Even interest on savings accounts varies widely from bank to bank. Use the internet to quickly see who is paying what in interest. Do the same for any loans, especially car loans, which vary widely.


Holiday Shopping Survival Guide

The two biggest shopping days of the year are just around the corner. Black Friday, on Nov. 24, is the day after Thanksgiving when brick-and-mortar retailers entice shoppers with special deals. And online retailers provide a second round of shopping madness on Nov. 27, Cyber Monday. As you start to get bombarded with ads and emails, here are ideas to help make the most of these shopping-day phenomena.

Bullet Point Create a list before you shop. This can help eliminate unnecessary and impulsive purchases in-store or online. Consider breaking your list out into categories, like:
  • Necessary purchases
  • Gifts
  • Nice-to-have purchases
Bullet Point Create a budget and stick to it. If you take time before you shop to see what deals are available, you'll be less likely to go over budget with your spending. After you make your budget, stick to it.
Bullet Point Start looking at ads as early as possible. Give yourself plenty of time to peruse and compare ads. Remember stores are competing against one another for business. This means there could be similar sales and deals at multiple places, including online. Once you find the best ads, you can create a targeted shopping plan.
Bullet Point Find the best way to make your purchases. Check both in-store Black Friday sales and online sales for Cyber Monday. Figure out the best way to make your purchases, even if that means venturing out on Black Friday for half of the things you need and taking advantage of online deals on Cyber Monday.
Bullet Point Make sure the deal is worth it. Do your homework. This means you should check the price history, verify the make and model of products (especially for electronics), and read reviews. Make sure there's an actual discount, not just an increased price with a coupon attached.
Bullet Point Validate with social media. Use social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to see what other people are talking about. You may even be able to find hidden coupons or learn about little-known deals.
Bullet Point Double-check the return policy. One way to avoid buyer's remorse is to know the return policy for in-store and online purchases. Every business has a unique return policy, which can change for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. Moral of the story: know the return policy, no matter how big or small the purchase.
Bullet Point Don't stress out. Try not to let excitement turn into stress and anxiety. It is easy to make a bad purchase decision caused by the chaos these annual sales events create. Remember you'll always have more options, no matter what happens this year on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Most businesses have seasonal holiday sales in stores and online, so there's plenty of time left for holiday shopping.

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

This newsletter is provided by

DiSabatino CPA 
When you need a sharp CPA, Call DiSabatino, CPA

651 Via Alondra, Suite 715
Camarillo, CA 93012

Phone: 805-389-7300
Fax:  805-419-5672

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