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Silly Tax Stories and Strange Tax Deductions You Should Know

March 29, 2019

Tax time is here and hopefully, you’ve already filed. We also hope you don’t run into any of these wacky tax situations! Make sure you get expert help filing if you don’t know what you’re doing. No one wants to mess with the IRS, and you want to maximize the amount you can get back or keep for your financial goals.

 

Clean eating isn’t deductible, no matter how healthy.

You can’t deduct money you spend on a healthy diet as a medical expense. John Kane, CPA, reported at Credit.com that a client tried to deduct the cost of the family’s foods. Sure, the groceries were non-processed and healthy, but that doesn’t make them count as a medical expense. Sorry!

 

Negative numbers don’t count.

Some people have tried to use negative numbers on their tax return, maybe innocently thinking that’s what you’re supposed to do. But according to the IRS, you’re supposed to use “0” in any instance where you have a negative amount.

 

What is a “Good” Credit Score Anyway?

 

Go old school with pen and paper.

Many millennials live abroad or would like to in the near future. Did you know that you may not be able to file electronically if you are a US citizen and live outside of the country? Expats may find that they have to fill out the long forms because electronic forms require a US address.

 

Buying a business? Hire a tax expert.

It’s super important to have the right experts and legal help on your side when you’re starting a business endeavor. One reason is successor liability. There are certain business debts or payments that you might not be responsible for, but back taxes don’t go away so easily. People can get burned by IRS liens if they don’t check to see what kind of taxes the business owes.

 

What kind of employee are you? It matters—a lot!

Some businesses wrongly categorize their employees as independent contractors. In the case of a youth soccer association, they got in trouble with the IRS for requiring the referees to file as independent contractors. Businesses that aren’t following labor laws when it comes to tax filing could face big fines.

 

Don’t try to hide from the IRS.

Just as a general tip, don’t try to dodge or outsmart the IRS. That’s a really bad idea. The IRS can go into your bank accounts with a levy if you owe taxes for long enough, so there’s no point in trying to hide. Working with them ASAP when you realize that you owe taxes is your best bet. You can probably set up payments, but only if you are on the ball.

Wondering about some of the wackier tax deductions? There are plenty!

 

  • Moving for work? Your expenses could be tax deductible, including moving Fido. Don’t forget to keep track of expenses for moving your pets. When it comes time to list dependents, stick to human dependents only. People have tried to deduct pets, but that’s a no-go!
  • If you’ve got a guard dog for your business, on the other hand, Cujo’s upkeep would be a tax-deductible business expense. If you are trying to deduct the miniature guard dog that protects your house, you’re out of luck.
  • Pools can increase your homeowner’s insurance and cost a pretty penny to maintain. Did you know that having a medical condition that’s helped by swimming or water therapy could mean your pool expenses are tax deductible?
  • You may not be able to deduct your grocery costs because you like clean eating. You may be in luck if you’re working with a doctor to do things like lower your cholesterol and BMI. If you’re making adjustments as part of a health plan, there might be ways to deduct some of those costs. Check with your tax pro!
  • Just FYI, you’re supposed to pay taxes on income even if it was attained as part of a crime or doing something illegal. Not that we’re making any accusations!
  • Trying to kick the habit? Supplies you use to quit smoking can be tax deductible, too. Just another reason to quit!

 

 

6 Ways to Use Your Federal Tax Return

 

NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites
Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.

 

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2019-09-16
What I Would Have Told Myself in College: Barbara Thomas

  Barbara Thomas, Executive Vice President of Education Loan Finance (ELFI) provides some financial advice to college students based on her own experiences in college.   Hello, I’m Barbara Thomas. For most, like me, my college days were a great experience that lead to incredible personal growth. I had a marvelous sense of freedom and made many new friends. However, I have spent much time reflecting on what I would do differently if I could begin my college life all over again, given what I know now. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? So here’s my advice to all of you who are preparing to enter college, or are currently in your freshman or sophomore years.

Choose an Affordable College

When looking for the right college, don’t get beguiled by a famous name and a beautiful campus. And, while a state-of-the-art fitness center or an Olympic-size swimming pool might be important if you’re an athlete, most of the time you will be paying for them in higher college fees. Instead, make sure to keep your eyes on finances, as affordability should be a top concern. Considering the fact that many students end up taking on sizeable student loan debt, keep in mind that you (most likely) won’t be living on that beautiful campus in your late 20s or 30s.

Rethink Your Path to the Best Education.

Just because a college is more expensive, doesn’t
necessarily mean that it’s better than one that costs less. You should look upon college as an investment in your future. Consider what the return on investment (ROI) from your college education will look like. In other words, analyze which college is likely to provide you with the most bang for your buck. Here’s a report from U.S. News & World Report that gives you the ROI of different colleges.

Look at Alternatives to a Four-Year College.

If you find out that college is not the best path for you, it can turn out to be an expensive mistake. Keep in mind that dropping out of college won’t make your student loans disappear. So before you enroll in a college, consider these alternatives:
  • Take a gap year to earn money to put toward going to college and give yourself more time to decide what you want to do.
  • Consider attending a trade school to learn a valuable skill with high earnings potential.
  • Spend two years at a community college. Attending a community college can help you save on tuition. However, if you plan to transfer to a college of your choice, be sure to do some checking. Find out how many transfer students are accepted and how many of your community college credits can be used.
Do your research and crunch the numbers to make sure you’re making the best choice.

Earn More While in School

A survey of millennials found that earning money while in college was the number one thing that participants wished they had done (or done more of). This reflects the increasing financial cost that goes along with obtaining a college degree. The College Board estimated that in 2017 (updated figures are available), the average student loan debt upon graduation was $28,500. Keep in mind that a heavy debt load is going to affect your financial future – your ability to buy a home, start a family, and save for retirement. Apart from financial considerations, there is no better way to acquire real job skills than to hold down a job and learn about its demands firsthand. Employers know this, which is why previous work experience is the most popular measure to assess job candidates, even those straight out of college.

Research Ways To Lower Your Monthly Student Loan Payments

So, you’ve done everything right - you chose the higher education path that was right for you, and you have landed an interesting job. Now, what about those student loan payments? Are they weighing you down and preventing you from leading the life that you had envisioned after college? ELFI has a solution to your problem – it’s called refinancing. You can close out your original loan and take out a new one with a lower interest rate and/or a longer term. This can significantly lower your monthly loan payments. Get in touch with us to see how we can help you!  

Learn More About Student Loan Refinancing With ELFI

  Terms and conditions apply. Subject to credit approval.
2019-08-14
New Ideas for Business Recruitment

Have you been noticing that your recruitment strategy may be somewhat behind the times? Still using traditional ways to fill your vacancies, such as newspaper ads, college recruiting, job fairs, and the same old job board? Although these recruiting channels will produce some hires, there are much more effective ways to find the best talent for your company. Here are some recruitment strategies that you might want to consider going forward.   

Improve Your Employer Brand

Your employer branding is your business’s reputation as a place to work. It’s the way your company is perceived by your employees, not your customers. This is perhaps the most important element to consider if you want to attract, hire, and retain great talent. First-class
employer branding is not easy to achieve because it requires significant investments of both time and money in your employees. However, it’s important to realize that today’s job seekers are not just looking for high salaries. They want a stimulating work environment and a great company culture.   

Make Use of Data

There is a business maxim that says you can’t manage what you don’t measure – and when it comes to recruiting, there’s a lot to measure, including: candidate response rate; application completion rate; qualified candidate rate; time to hire; cost of hire; and more. Using these metrics, you can learn what’s going well and what needs to be improved.   

Ditch CV Hiring

It takes a lot of time to read through hundreds of resumes and cover letters, and many applicants will have inflated their qualifications and experience. Instead, make it super easy for a candidate to apply online and then give them a short skills test or a series of tests. Software is available that will automatically pre-qualify candidates as they apply via the test.   

Use Niche Job Boards

You have to sink your recruiting line into the right pond to catch good fish. Niche job boards specialize in specific fields. You’ll get fewer candidates than with larger, more general websites, but the candidates may be better qualified for your niche job.   

Encourage an Employee Referral Program

Instead of searching through hundreds of applicants via job boards, you can recruit your own employees to do some searching for you. A referred employee is often a better quality hire because the person who has referred them has a good understanding of what qualities are needed to fill the vacancy. You should offer a reward if an employee brings someone great to your team. This incentive could be in the form of cash or extra days off.  
  • Host a Meetup - Another way to involve your current employees in the recruiting process is to host a meetup or get involved in a networking event that’s already been organized. Send out some representatives from your company and let them spread the good word about working for you. Include some free merchandise to give out to attendees. 
 

Don’t Overlook Passive Candidates

If you don’t hire a top candidate quickly, they will be gone from the job market fast as another company snaps them up. However, the good news is that there is no shortage of passive candidates (i.e., people who aren’t actively looking for a new job). According to research, 85% of global employees would be happy to change their position for a better opportunity. Your mission as a recruiter is to get into your target audience’s line of sight via whatever means possible.   

Reach Out to Previous Employees

Rehiring someone who has worked for you before may be a good idea. A prior employee may be the perfect candidate for a different role or a new role higher up the ladder. Look for past employees who have acquired new skills and gained work experience while working for other companies. You can benefit from the training and experience gained while they were away.  

Don’t Forget the Perks

Although perks might not be top of the list for someone considering the employer branding of your company, perks do show that you care about your employees. Here are a few suggestions.  
  • Raising salaries once or twice a year when goals are met.
  • Offering a significant number of paid vacation days.
  • Opportunities to work remotely from home.
  • Provision of a free laptop to take home. 
  • Offering retreats every year. 
  • Payment for gym or other sports club memberships.
  • Reimbursement for new glasses or contact lenses. 
  • Free e-books on any work-related subject. 
  • Bring your dog to work day.
 

ELFI for Business Program

Our innovative program can help your company recruit and retain top talent. One feature of this program is a student loan solution for your employees. A high level of student debt is a big concern for young professionals. In fact, an ASA survey found that 86% of them are prepared to commit to a company for five years in return for some assistance in paying off their student loans. Click here for more information.    Improved recruitment practices lead to better quality hires, shorter time to hire, shorter onboarding, lower turnover rates, and less recruiting expenses. Contact us to learn more on how we can help you recruit and retain employees through the ELFI for Business Program!     NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-08-03
How Does Student Loan Interest Work?

When you take out a student loan, you will not just be paying back the amount you borrowed – the lender will also charge you interest. The easiest way to think of interest is that it’s the cost paid by you to borrow money. Whether you take out a private student loan or a federal student loan, you will be charged interest on your loan until it is repaid in full. So, when you have finished paying off your loan, you will have paid back the original sum you borrowed (your original principal), plus you will have paid a percentage of the amount you owed (interest). Properly understanding the way that student loan interest affects your loan is imperative for you to be able to manage your debt effectively.  

The Promissory Note

When a student loan is issued, the borrower agrees to the terms of the loan by signing a document called a promissory note. These terms include:
  • Disbursement date: The date the funds are issued to you and interest begins to accrue.
  • Amount borrowed: The total dollar amount borrowed on the loan.
  • Interest rate: How much the loan will cost you.
  • How interest accrues: Interest may be charged on a daily or monthly basis.
  • First payment date: The date when you are expected to make your first loan payment.
  • Payment schedule: When you are required to make payment and how many payments you have to make.
 

How Different Types of Student Loans are Affected by Interest Rates

  • Government-Subsidized loan: If you are the recipient of a government-subsidized direct loan, the government will pay your interest while you are in school. This means that your loan balance will not increase. After graduation, the interest becomes your responsibility.
  • Parent PLUS Loan: There are no government-subsidized loans for parents, and regular repayments are scheduled to begin 60 days after the loan is disbursed.
  • Unsubsidized Loan: The majority of students will have unsubsidized loans where interest is charged from day one. If you have this type of loan, sometimes a lender will not require you to make payments while you are still in school. However, the interest will accrue, and when you graduate you’ll find yourself with a loan balance higher than the one you started with. This is known as capitalization. 
Here’s an example: In your freshman year, you borrow $7,000 at 3.85%. By the time you graduate in four years, this will have grown to $8,078 – an increase of $1,078. Here’s the math: 7,000 × 0.0385 × 4 = $1,078 (
Click here for ELFI’s handy accrued interest calculator.)  

How is Student Loan Interest Calculated?

When you begin to make loan payments, the amount you pay is made up of the amount you borrowed (the principal) and interest payments. When you make a payment, interest is paid first. The remainder of your payment is applied to your principal balance and reduces it.    Let’s suppose you borrow $10,000 with a 7% annual interest rate and a 10-year term. Using ELFI’s helpful loan payment calculator, we can estimate your monthly payment at $116 and the interest you will pay over the life of the loan at $3,933. Here’s how to determine how much of your monthly payment of $116 is made up of interest.   1. Calculate your daily interest rate (also known as your interest rate factor). Divide your interest rate by 365 (the number of days in the year).  

.07/365 = 0.00019, or 0.019%

    2. Calculate the amount of interest your loan accrues each day. Multiply your outstanding loan balance by your daily interest rate.  

$10,000 x 0.00019 = $1.90

  3. Calculate your monthly interest payment. Multiply the dollar amount of your daily interest by the number of days since your last payment.  

$1.90 x 30 = $57

 

How is Student Loan Interest Applied?

As you continue to make payments on your student loan, your principal and the amount of accrued interest will decrease. Lower interest charges means that a larger portion of your payments will be applied to your principal. Paying down the principal on a loan is known as amortization.  

How Accrued Interest Impacts Your Student Loan Payments

The smart money approach is avoiding capitalized interest building up on your loan while you are in school. This is because choosing not to pay interest while in school means you will owe a lot more when you come out. The more you borrow, the longer you are in school, and the higher your interest rates are, the more profound the impact of capitalization will be.  

How to Find the Best Student Loan

When looking for the best student loan, you naturally want the lowest interest rate available. With a lower interest rate, the same monthly payment pays down more of your loan principal and you will be out of debt more quickly. Talk to ELFI about our private student loan offerings by giving us a call today!  

Learn More About ELFI Student Loans

  Terms and conditions apply. Subject to credit approval.   NOTICE: Third Party Web Sites Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – The bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.