December 2013 eNews
Catch up on the latest Starion news in our November 2013 Starion Financial eNews.
- Year-end tips that can increase your tax return
- Big changes are happening with our Mobile Banking app
- A great tax break option for farmers
- Starion Financial makes donation to Lutheran Social Services
With all of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, pre-planning for tax season may be the furthest thing from your mind. However, there are many reasons you should take time to make some last-minute tax moves before the year ends. Here are our top eight reasons:
Ask for a New Year’s bonus Instead of a Christmas bonus
By delaying your bonus by only a week, you can push the payment of taxes on the income 15 months into the future — a year from next April.
Clean out your closets and donate to charity
Before beginning the New Year, clean out the old clothes, sporting goods, books and other household goods you no longer use and get a quick tax deduction. Document these donations by making a list of the items at the time you donate them.
Pay donations by credit card
Payments made by credit card are deductible in the year they are charged, not the year they are paid, so you can donate to your favorite charity by December 31 and not pay the bill until next year.
Contribute the maximum to your 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plans
Some employers will allow you to catch up on contributions by increasing your deduction on your last paychecks of the year. If you are 50 or over, don’t forget that you can contribute an additional $5,500 “catch-up” contribution in addition to the regular 401(k) or 403(b) $17,500 limit for 2013.
Check the balance in your Flexible Spending Account
A wonderful fringe benefit, these helpful plans allow you to set aside a portion of your salary before taxes for certain purposes, such as child care or health care expenses.
These plans did work on the “use it or lose it” concept; any amount unused at the end of the year was lost. However, the Treasury and IRS modified the rule and now employees may be allowed to carry over $500 of unused amounts for next year’s expenses. Your employer may also offer the existing plan option to use unused amounts for up to two and half months following year end.
Bunch your medical bills
Medical expenses are only deductible when they exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income (still 7.5% if you are over 65). If your income is low this year or your medical expenses are high, speed up your deductions accordingly. If you want to take the deductions this year, pay any outstanding medical bills before year-end, stock up on prescriptions, get new glasses and pay your health insurance premiums before the end of the year.
Estimate your axes
Estimate your taxes and see if you need to make any last minute tax moves. The IRS treats income taxes withheld from your paycheck as if they were paid in equal amounts throughout the year. So if your calculations show you’ll owe money, you can increase the withholding on your last paychecks of the year to make up the difference.
Don’t forget to gather your receipts
You can deduct union dues, legal and professional fees relating to tax and investment advice and unreimbursed employee business expenses of mileage, equipment, education and supplies, among other things. If you pay a lot of expenses for your job or your investments, gather up the receipts and cancelled checks so you can save more money when you file your 2013 taxes.
Remember to visit with a tax professional to ensure that you’re maximizing your tax benefits.
We have officially unveiled the new look of our Starion Financial mobile app! If you are a current Mobile Banking user, download the update and your mobile app will have our logo, rather than the current Touch Banking image. If you aren’t a Mobile Banking user but have an iPhone, iPad or Android phone, you can search “Starion Financial” on the App Store or Google Play to download the free updated app.
Note that you need to be enrolled in Online Banking to use mobile banking. Online Banking is a free service, and one of our bankers can help you get signed up.
Along with the new look comes added functionality:
- Branch and ATM search. We’ve enhanced the search option, allowing you to search for either a branch or an ATM location
- Mobile Bill Pay. If you are a current online Bill Pay user, you can now pay existing bills directly from your phone
- Mobile Popmoney. A safe and convenient way to send and receive money. Pay the babysitter or send your niece birthday money directly from your mobile device.
If you have any questions, contact the customer service center at 888.258.6050 or email us.
It’s nearly 2014, but there is still time for you to take advantage of an Ag Escrow Account. Ag Escrow is essentially a deferred tax liability. If you set up an account, you can defer when you receive the funds from your livestock or grain sales. Why is this a benefit? By waiting to access your funds until 2014, you can defer income until the following tax year. Also, unlike barns and elevators, your livestock or grain is FDIC insured for up to $250,000.
Here’s how it works:
- Pick up the escrow agreement form from your banker before you sell. This tells the buyer to prepare a check payable to Starion Financial at the time you make a grain or livestock sale
- We then place the funds in a non-interest bearing escrow account. A separate agreement is prepared for each elevator or sale barn
- A grain or livestock delivery form tells the escrow agent (that’s us) when to transfer the funds to you. For example, you might provide January 2, 2014 as the release date.
And that’s it! Whether you raise cattle or grain, an escrow account is a very easy process with big advantages for any farmer. Stop in and pick up an escrow agreement form from your Starion Financial banker and enjoy the benefit of deferring your taxes. As always, seek advice from a tax professional to make sure that an escrow is the right fit for you.
Starion Financial is contributing $150,000 to Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota (LSSND). Spanning over five years, the donation is for the organization’s capital campaign to raise funds for a new facility in Fargo.
LSSND is a statewide social services ministry providing nonprofit housing, food, disaster recovery, counseling and therapy and other services to local residents. With roots dating back to 1919, it’s helped individuals through the Great Depression and World War II, through the social changes of the 1950’s and 1960’s and the challenges of today. LSSND has locations in Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot, Williston and Devils Lake.
“Lutheran Social Services provides such important services for North Dakota residents,” said Craig Larson, president/CEO. “We’re proud to offer support for our neighbors in need.”
By 2014, how many people are expected to be using mobile banking services?
45 million people, a big jump from the 12 million that used mobile banking services in 2009.
Courtesy of bankrate.com