Welcome to 2010, Finance Canada

The Department of Finance will begin tweeting when the Honourable Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance, rises in the House of Commons to deliver Budget 2010 on March 4th.

Links to relevant portions of the budget will be tweeted in real time.

“Our Government wants to reach out to inform Canadians of actions we are taking to support the economy,” said Minister Flaherty. “Using social media will bring our message to Canadians in a new, cost-effective and convenient way.”

Links to Finance news releases, advisories, major speeches, publications and reports will be posted for users who follow the Department.

Follow us today at http://www.twitter.com/financecanada.

I thought their website was an effective use of social media.  Oh well.  Yay. Finance.

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IRS – 7 Facts about Social Security Benefits

If you received Social Security benefits in 2009, you need to know whether or not these benefits are taxable.  Here are seven facts the IRS wants you to know about Social Security benefits so you can determine whether or not they are taxable to you.

1.  How much – if any – of your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on your total income and marital status.

2. Generally, if Social Security benefits were your only income for 2009, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return.

3. If you received income from other sources, your benefits will not be taxed unless your modified adjusted gross income is more than the base amount for your filing status.

4. Your taxable benefits and modified adjusted gross income are figured on a worksheet in the Form 1040A or Form 1040 Instruction booklet.

5. You can do the following quick computation to determine whether some of your benefits may be taxable:

  • First, add one-half of the total Social Security benefits you received to all your other income, including any tax exempt interest and other exclusions from income.
  • Then, compare this total to the base amount for your filing status. If the total is more than your base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable.

6. The 2009 base amounts are:

  • $32,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • $25,000 for single, head of household, qualifying widow/widower with a dependent child, or married individuals filing separately who did not live with their spouses at any time during the year.
  • $0 for married persons filing separately who lived together during the year.

7. For additional information on the taxability of Social Security benefits, see IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits.   I have included the link;  (994.0KB).

Mutual Funds and Cost Basis Reporting

With each sale or exchange of mutual fund shares, you may realize a capital gain or loss that must be reported to the IRS.  To calculate gains and losses, you need to determine which shares were sold and the cost basis of those shares.

The sales proceeds minus the cost basis of the shares is your gain or loss.

The IRS permits the following methods of accounting for mutual fund cost basis:

1. First-In, First-Out (FIFO) Method

The FIFO method is the most common way of computing a basis. If you do not specify that another method is being used, the IRS will presume you are using the FIFO method.  As the name implies, the oldest shares available (first-in) are those considered sold first (first-out).

2. Specific Identification Method

The specific identification method allows you to choose which shares you are selling, thereby giving you more control over whether you will generate a gain or loss by the transaction. To use this method, you must specify to the mutual fund at the time of sale the particular shares to be sold. Your gain or loss will vary, depending on which shares you choose.

3. Average Cost – Single and Double Category

You may elect to calculate the cost basis of your mutual fund shares using an average price. There are some special requirements if you wish to do so. The IRS requires you to elect this method by stating so on your tax return and by using the method consistently for all your accounts in the same fund. The choice is effective until you get permission from the IRS to revoke it. These methods may be appealing for shareholders who redeem shares infrequently.

The single category method averages all shares owned at the time of sale.

In determining the holding period, the IRS considers the shares sold to be those shares acquired first (i.e., first-in, first-out).

The double category method requires you to divide all shares owned at the time of sale into two categories (long- and short-term) and calculate an average cost for each category. Shares held one year or less are short-term. Shares held longer than one year are long-term.

Similar to the specific identification method, you may specify to the fund at the time of sale from which category you wish to sell shares. If no specification is made, you must first charge the shares sold against the long-term category and then any remaining shares sold against the short-term category.

Wash Sale Rule

If you sell shares at a loss and purchase shares in the same fund within 30 days before or after the sale, the IRS considers the purchase to have “washed” all or a portion of your loss. The IRS designed this rule to discourage investors from selling securities solely for the purpose of generating a tax loss. A wash sale is indicated on your statement.

In the case of a wash sale, two important adjustments must be made. All or a portion of the loss must be deferred and added back to the basis, and the holding period of the purchased shares must be changed to account for the deferral. Your statement already reflects the adjusted cost basis and allowable loss. You need not make any further adjustments.

Social Media Code of Conduct

Please read this post;

http://rinkcomms.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/adopt-a-social-media-code-of-conduct/

I totally agree that there is nothing better for brand recognition and respect than having a presence on the web. I also agree that with that presence comes a huge responsibility to keep the brand in the most positive light.

In one of my earlier stops in my taxation career I came across some Twitter comments from a young lady who had started working in one of our US locations and in her tweets she was trashing the company and doing this while sitting at her desk.

I notified IT and she was removed from the company for conduct detrimental to the company.

Bottom line… Don’t be stupid. If you are supposed to be working from home or out of the office don’t update your facebook status. If you want to use your facebook account to post pictures of you getting drunk of half-naked, make sure it’s viewable only by your friends because you don’t want your potential employer at a law firm, CA office, etc. seeing you like that and letting it cloud their judgement of you.

Be smart.

Cancel or Authorize a Representative with the CRA

If you would like to add a representative to speak to the Canada Revenue Agency on your behalf to discuss your taxes or make changes, all you need to do is complete and sign this handy form, the T1013.

http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/E/pbg/tf/t1013/README.html

If you follow this link to the CRA website you will find a fillable copy of the form – so you can enter information in the form and print it, NOT, save it – and a form that you can just print and fill in after.

Send this to the CRA and viola… Someone else can speak on your behalf.

If you need someone to get information for the CRA and you only want them to have access for a day, you can set that up through this form to.  Cool, eh?

Of course you will still get the odd Call Services Agent who will not allow you to speak and make you fax the form again, but all in all, this is one handy form to have.