Investing in College: Tax Credits and Other Tips to Maximize Your Return

College costs have skyrocketed in recent years, causing many people to question whether the benefits outweigh the costs. A recent study shows that the value of a college degree has been steady since the 1990s. Here is an overview of the costs and benefits of pursuing higher education, including the lowdown on two tax credits that may improve your return on investment.


Business Travel Per Diems May Simplify Expense Reporting

Are you tired of keeping detailed records to substantiate business travel expenses? The IRS offers simplified methods for reimbursing employees' out-of-town lodging, meals and incidental expenses that may be worthwhile for some companies. This article discusses government-approved per diem rates, the mechanics of the high-low method and changes that go into effect for travel starting on October 1, 2014.


Award Points: What's Includable in Taxable Income?

Suppose you receive reward points for keeping a minimum balance in your bank account. Do you need to claim income on your tax return when you redeem the points for prizes? A recent Tax Court case reminds taxpayers of the broad scope of items that should be reported in taxable income. This article explains the facts of the case and reviews the rules for employers planning to give holiday gifts to employees.


Could the Tech Industry's Delectable Food Policies Take a Tax Hit?

If you've seen the movie, The Internship, you know that some tech companies offer employees free food. Recently, there's been speculation that the tax benefit of providing such perks could be in jeopardy. This was after the IRS stated it would update guidance related to employer-supplied meals. Without free snacks and meals, the landscape of the tech industry could change. Here are the tax rules and the IRS statement.


Answers to Your Questions about Corporate Tax Inversions

Corporate tax inversions are not new, but they're gaining popularity among some well-known brands. They have recently appeared in the headlines after Burger King announced its intention to buy Tim Hortons, a Canadian chain of more than 3,600 restaurants that sells coffee, donuts and other items. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about corporate inversions.


Toeing the Fine Line Between Employees and Independent Contractors

For California labor law purposes, approximately 2,300 delivery drivers in one case should have been classified as employees, not independent contractors, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling has important implications for employers, especially at companies that use contractors in multiple states. This article reviews the factors to consider when classifying workers -- and why it matters.


Protect Yourself Against the Latest Phone Scams

Phone scams aren't new. But the perpetrators are getting more sophisticated. Callers may claim to represent the IRS, a bank or a credit card company in order to steal money or personal information. The most heartless thieves even troll social media sites to prey on unsuspecting grandparents. Here are some recent scams and ways to protect yourself from becoming the next victim.


New IRS Guidance on Changing Accounting Method for Retail Inventory

Many stores use the retail inventory method to approximate ending inventory without taking physical inventory counts. The IRS recently issued final regulations on certain changes within this method and then followed up with procedures for obtaining automatic IRS approval to comply with the changes. This article provides an overview of the retail inventory method and explains the latest IRS guidance.


How Much Does it Cost to Raise a Child? Plenty

Back in 1960, parents could expect to spend just over $25,000 to raise a child from birth through age 17. Those were the good old days! See how the cost of raising a child has increased, according to an annual report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (Hint: Inflation isn't the only reason for child-rearing costs going up.)


New FCC Text-to-911 Rules: Obstacles and Reminders

Emergency texting can enhance public safety in certain situations, such as home intrusions and for people with disabilities. The Federal Communications Commission passed new rules, requiring mobile providers and some messaging services to allow emergency texts. But full text-to-911 capability won't be available everywhere for several more years due to implementation obstacles. Read this article to find out if 911 texting is available where you live and work.


Can You Squeeze in a Home Office Deduction?

Working from home has benefits. Not only can you skip the commute, you might be eligible to deduct home office expenses on your tax return. Normally, you must use part of your home "regularly and exclusively" for business to qualify. But what if you live in a studio apartment? The U.S. Tax Court recently addressed that issue. This article explains the case, as well as the rules to qualify for home office deductions.


 

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