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Getting Your Online Insurance Continuing Education

Getting Your Online Insurance Continuing Education

There comes a point when an insurance agent needs to participate in the expansion of their insurance continuing education in order to stay legally qualified to sell and promote their particular insurance. To most agents, this is tedious, though it’s necessary for the sake of legalities. The fact of the matter is that each state determines the amount of education needed to either become or remain a certified insurance agent, and the state also dictates which education provider meets their standards. While it may seem like a chore to take the time out of your day to attend a class in order for you to stay current with the changes within your given industry, that isn’t to say there isn’t an alternative. This is where you can skip the headache and participate in an online insurance continuing education instead.

Laws and policies are constantly changing. What an agent practices this year might become below standard next year. So it’s not that insurance continuing education doesn’t have its place; it most certainly does. Knowing and understand the various ethical practices and legalities is critical for both your company, and your employment. You may even it as an annoyance, like having to go through all the work of filing your taxes each year. That’s a fair outlook, but that doesn’t change the fact that any serious insurance agent is going to have to become periodically re-educated, and so there’s no better way to minimize the sting of the situation than to maximize the convenience of it, hence attending an online insurance continuing education.

The benefits of educating yourself online should be quite clear to you already. After all, who wants to have to set aside an entire day to attend a class, or to leave home early or stay after work late in order to fulfill the state imposed educational requirements? Not many people would enjoy that, so finding an online insurance continuing education program that meets the prerequisites and standards is – without a doubt – your best option.

An abundance of insurance types and providers exist, and there’s a bit more to consider in an online insurance continuing education provider. There are companies who provide adequate information and training for a plethora of insurance types, but not all are equal. You don’t want to overspend on a service just to get the bare minimum education to meet legal requirements. It’s best for you to seek out a reliable company with a proven record of keeping training very simple, while over-delivering while maintaining a low cost.

All costs are completely up-front and affordable, while the education being provided is very clear and top-notch. Regardless of the insurance you sell or company you work with, you’ll find the mentioned online insurance continuing education provider to offer whatever training you need, all from the convenience of your computer.…

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When Getting Your Hands Dirty Really Pays: Tax Tips for Farmers

When Getting Your Hands Dirty Really Pays: Tax Tips for Farmers

The farming industry has represented a vibrant part of our country since its founding, and it continues to thrive today-from big time commercial farmers to little moms and pops who have capitalized on the rising demand for locally grown food by turning the farmers’ market into a viable livelihood. In an effort to support this age-old industry, especially in times of recession, the government provides a host of special tax incentives for farmers. However, navigating the complex IRS tax code associated with these incentives can be tall order.

This represents an opportunity for CPAs, enrolled agents and other tax professionals who are in a position to offer tax assistance to taxpayers working in the farming industry. This is why, over the past several year, tax tips for farmers have been gradually included in Tax CPE-the tax continuing education courses required of any registered tax agent to maintain their professional certification.

Professionals looking to tap this market can do so by digesting the following tips and then communicating to them their farming clients.

IRS Publication 225

Any tax professionals looking to develop a further understanding of the tax incentives for farming should first download and read IRS Publication 225 – Farmer’s Tax Guide. It was co-authored by the IRS and farm extension specialists, and explains in plain language the complicated tax rules that apply to most farmers.

Business vs. Hobby Farming

There are significant financial differences between the classification of a farm as a business versus its classification as a hobby. When the farm does not constitute the taxpayer’s sole or primary business, the related deductions are significantly limited. When a farm is the primary business, dozens of tax incentives are instantly available. Again, Publication 225 explains the criteria for classifying a farm as a business, most notably, (a) demonstrating intent to make a profit and (b) succeeding in making the farm a profitable venture in three years of a five-year period.

All in the Family

It is not uncommon for Farmers to employ their own kin, namely their children, due to the advantageous tax benefits for the parents as well as the children. However, certain rules govern these perks. When a child is between the ages of 7 and 18, and the farm is not incorporated, then social security taxes do not need to be paid in connection with their employment. The wages are also still deductible on Schedule F.

Around-the-clock Planning

The majority of farmers are confronted with a unique business situation insofar as it is difficult for them to estimate how much they will produce and sell in advance. Because of this tax professional should advice them to stay active in year-round tax planning. To this end, an CPA or enrolled agent working with a farming clients should help prepare a mock return a few times per year to ensure they understand their tax liability.

Farm Depreciations

According to the IRS, taxpayers are required to depreciate capital farm asset purchases over the period of their usefulness, as opposed to a one-time deduction of the full expense. Capital assets can include such items as farm buildings and equipment.

Home and Business

It is more often the case than note that farmers live where they work. This can present certain difficulties come tax time, particularly around separating business and home costs because many bills (such as electricity or gas) are often shared. However, the IRS does allow farmers to estimate the percentage of these expenses that related to the farming business.

Resale Deductions

The vast majority of farmers buy livestock, equipment and other items for the sole purpose of resell them. The IRS does permit the deduction of these expenses, along with charges for transporting livestock and farm equipment.

Averaging Income

The IRS states “if you are engaged in a farming business, you may be able to average all or some of your current year’s farm income by shifting it to the 3 prior years (base years).” The agency also makes it clear that farmers do not need to be engaged in a farming business during any base year, and that farmers running the farm business as an individual, a partnership, or an S corporation also qualify.

Weather-related Sales

The IRS also provides certain special incentives for farmers whose business has been impacted by bad weather. Meaning, if a farmers are forced to sell more livestock, for instance, than usual because of weather-related conditions, they are able to then delay reporting the gain until the next year.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure

Pursuant to the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service Circular 230, we inform you that, to the extent any advice relating to a Federal tax issue is contained in this communication, including in any attachments, it was not …

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IRS Increasing Enforcement Activity

IRS Increasing Enforcement Activity

Expect the Internal Revenue Service to increase its tax collection activity. This follows IRS action in the past couple of years of issuing more levies and scrutinizing particular types of tax returns. The services of an Enrolled Agent (EA) are becoming more valuable to a greater number of taxpayers.

More Money and Audits

For fiscal year 2010, Congress has allocated $12.2 billion to the IRS. Much of that is intended for enforcement efforts. The IRS enforcement budget for this year is $5.5 billion. The prior fiscal year was among the most productive in IRS history regarding collection efforts.

There were approximately 1,425,000 audit examinations of individual tax returns in fiscal year 2009. The total number of audits for individuals increased only slightly in 2009 compared to 2008. However, audits of taxpayers with income of $1,000,000 or more increased significantly last year. The chance of an individual return being audited for taxpayers with more than $1,000,000 of income was 6.42 percent. Audits of individual tax returns for those with income of $200,000 or more have increased substantially in recent years. The percentage of taxpayers audited who had income of $200,000 or more in 2009 increased to 2.89 percent compared to 2.57 percent in 2006. Essential services to this demographic are necessary from more individuals entering the enrolled agent program.

Audits of tax returns for S corporations increased about 40 percent in 2009 compared to 2005. While the number of audits has increased significantly, the percent audited has not increased nearly as much. The percentage of S corporation returns that were audited last year was 0.4 percent. For partnerships the audit rate was 0.38 percent.Enrolled agent continuing education (CPE) will focus more on business tax returns.

More Levies and Liens

The IRS also filed more than 3 million bank levies and nearly 1 million tax liens in the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2009. In fiscal year 2008, the IRS issued 2,631,038 levies on bank accounts, wages and accounts receivable. That was an increase of 1,197 percent over 2000.

Timely response to an IRS notice is critical. Failure to respond results in assumption of notice accuracy by the IRS. The next IRS action is a notice to levy bank accounts. Knowledge obtained in the continuing education of enrolled agents is called upon for accurate response to the multitude of IRS notices.

Taxpayers need professional help for many IRS notices. This is a consequence of so many notices pertaining to business income and expenses that involve checking detailed records. It doesn’t make sense to hire an expensive tax attorney for smaller issues. However, whether a matter is big involves some subjectivity. Professional help becomes increasingly important as the IRS appeal system become more complex and difficult. EA CPE is addressing how the resolution process is constantly changing. So a tax resolution specialist brings considerable value.

More People

Even before this year’s extra $12.2 billion from Congress, IRS staffing of enforcement personnel was on the rise.

The number of revenue officers, revenue agents, and special agents in fiscal year 2009 was 21,059. That was a 4.2 percent increase over fiscal year 2005. Taxpayer representation will require more individuals to obtain [EA certification].

In addition, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman has announced the creation of a specialized unit to focus on wealthy Americans with complex business organizations whose legal mechanisms may “mask aggressive tax strategies.”…

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Tax Preparer Ethics Course Generates Focus on Areas of IRS Scrutiny

Tax Preparer Ethics Course Generates Focus on Areas of IRS Scrutiny

As the debate continues over a long-term solution to funding US government spending, closing the “tax gap” is becoming increasingly important. This gap is the difference between taxes collected and the estimate of actual taxes that are legally payable. The IRS is certain to scrutinize tax return preparer work more closely than ever.

In order to recover as much of the tax gap as possible, the IRS has targeted specific groups. First within the IRS sights are people in the tax preparation industry. Individuals involved in preparing tax returns already have to register with the IRS. The next step is implementing the registered tax return preparer exam in 2012.

Also on the agenda for all federally authorized tax preparers in 2012 is completion of tax preparer continuing education. Part of this ongoing training includes teaching tax return preparers about the tax gap along with recognizing and eliminating cases that create it. Therefore, among the annual course requirements are 2 hours of learning in a tax preparer ethics course.

A focal point of IRS ethical scrutiny is taxpayers with high incomes, substantial investment holdings, and complex tax returns. The IRS has expanded its operations against wealthy individuals by creating a unit of tax agents specifically assigned to the Global High Wealth Industry. A team of auditors is now available to examine tax returns with diverse sources of income and deductions. No more IRS concern that some tax returns are too much for only one tax agent to tackle.

The addition of this new group is likely to increase IRS audits of high-income earners. That means the tax preparer career of anyone serving the wealthy is also certain to receive greater IRS judgment.

One of the matters catching IRS attention recently is property transfer. The annual exclusion from gift tax is presently set at $13,000 and is indexed to cost-of-living adjustment each year. This amount applies to the combined giving of cash and the fair market value of property to any one person.

The IRS has been examining local real estate deed records to locate property transfers among family members. A gift tax return is required whenever a transfer of property valued at greater than $13,000 occurs – even if the transaction escapes gift tax by utilizing part of the giver’s $5 million lifetime exemption.

Another area of concern is deduction of losses from passive activities against regular income. The IRS has found instances of taxpayers deducting losses from businesses in which they are not actively involved from their income derived by a business they actually operate. Professionals engaged in small business tax preparation should exercise care in identifying passive activities.

IRS attention has also been drawn to taxpayers with overseas income, who shelter it in foreign bank accounts. US citizens and resident aliens are taxed on their income from all sources, including those originating overseas. The IRS has also raised a red flag over large home loan interest deductions. The limit for this deduction is interest on the first $1,000,000 of mortgage indebtedness for home purchase or constructions plus the first $100,000 of borrowing against equity. Exercise of tax preparer duties therefore demands more than ever an ethical reporting of income and deductions.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure

Pursuant to the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service Circular 230, we inform you that, to the extent any advice relating to a Federal tax issue is contained in this communication, including in any attachments, it was not written or intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (a) avoiding any tax related penalties that may be imposed on you or any other person under the Internal Revenue Code, or (b) promoting, marketing or recommending to another person any transaction or matter addressed in this communication.…

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Why You Need Nursing Continuing Education Courses and Certification

Why You Need Nursing Continuing Education Courses and Certification

Nursing education courses could land you a job that is as recession proof as any job could be in today’s economy. That’s because the healthcare industry is the largest industry in the United States and it’s still growing faster than any other industry, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS, the government agency that collects and analyzes employment statistics for the country, expects that healthcare will be the biggest job creator through at least 2016. Among all healthcare occupations registered nurses will be in most demand.

Because these jobs require specialized training you will need to take courses to qualify for the career you want. You will probably need some type of license or certification. To get a job as an R.N., for example, you will need a diploma, an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a master’s degree in nursing. Diploma programs take two or three years to complete. Numerous colleges, universities, nursing schools, and private schools offer associate degree programs, which also take two or three years to complete.

You can become an R.N. without having a bachelor’s degree. Graduates of diploma and associate’s degree programs often go on to study for their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), however, because many jobs, including teaching, research, and administration, require at least a BSN. R.N.s with associate’s degrees may earn their BSN through RN-to-BSN completion programs, an increasing number of which are offered online. Nurses typically take continuing education courses while they work. In fact, many hospitals reimburse tuition for their employees who are studying for their BSN.

To gain a license a student must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a licensing exam. Registered nurses must also become licensed in the state in which they work. Licensing requirements vary by state. License renewal requires nursing continuing education courses, which help nurses learn new skills and keep up-to-date in their profession.

Several important nursing specialties require registered nurses to gain national certification and/or state or national approval, which requires study beyond the BSN. These include clinical nursing, forensic nursing, nursing case management, legal nursing consulting, stress management, nurse-midwifery, and nurse practitioner.

As with most professions, higher nursing education usually translates into higher salaries. According to BLS the median starting salary for registered nurses with their BSN is over $50,000. With ten or more years of experience, the median salary is over $65,000. Salaries vary considerably by location (highest in California) and specialization (highest for nurse anesthetists with master’s degrees).

In addition to rising salaries and job security, nurses can expect good benefit packages that typically include paid vacations and sick leave, tuition reimbursement, and pension plans. Because of the ongoing shortage of nurses, many hospitals offer recruitment incentives such as signing bonuses, relocation and housing assistance, and day care.

Due to medical advances and an aging population the demand for skilled nurses will continue to increase over the foreseeable future, providing nurses with opportunities for well-paid, rewarding, and secure careers.…

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Tips When Searching For an Online Degree Program

Tips When Searching For an Online Degree Program

With so many schools and programs available via the internet an online degree program may be harder to select than you think! Almost every type of degree is now offered online. Schools started launching more online programs to stay competitive and increase student enrollments. There are many things to consider when doing an online search. In this article we are going to discuss some of the major characteristics of a reputable online degree. After reading this you will be able to narrow your search and hopefully select the most appropriate program that will fit your needs.

The first thing you want to ask a school is their accreditation. There are many different types of accreditation, but you want to make sure the school is regionally accredited. This is the highest level of accreditation according to the United States Department of Education. Regional accreditation allows a student to transfer classes from one school to another, teach at a University or college, and pursue higher education. For instance if you held a bachelor’s degree and wanted to apply to a master’s program. Regional accreditation is also what an employer will verify.

Once the school is regionally accredited make sure they have a physical campus. You do not want to attend a strictly online school. Hopefully the school has a brink-and-mortar campus that offers the same program you will be taking online. This ensures a high quality program because the professors are probably teaching both online and on campus. Also, try to make sure the school does not hold a stigma of being an online for profit University. Employers tend to look at that when they are interviewing potential candidates.

When talking with different advisors from schools make sure to ask about graduation rates and job placement. Job placement is rare, but it is a great feature for a student that is actively seeking employment. Many times a good school will have a job board just for their graduates. This is a huge benefit. You also want to make sure the graduation rate is high. Why would you want to attend a school where a lot of the students do not graduate? Hopefully you wouldn’t.

As you can see these are just a few tips when doing your research. There are many more things to consider like the cost, length, and structure of the online degree. Also, see if the school or program is nationally ranked. This is a bonus when applying for different jobs. Happy hunting!…

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Professional Chops Matter: Promoting Your Tax Business

Professional Chops Matter: Promoting Your Tax Business

According to the IRS, 80% of Americans seek the help of a tax preparer or tax software when filing their taxes.A�A� But that is no reason for tax professionals like certified public accounts and enrolled agents to rest on their laurels.A� With the increasing popularity of the Internet, and online tax filing systems, and greater competition among tax professionals, it is more important than ever that tax preparers promote their tax businesses in the best possible manner.A� This requires strategies that go beyond the go-to refrain: don’t accept tax advice from anyone other than a professional tax preparer.

While this is a valid point to make when promoting a tax preparation business, it’s not the only one.

Online Filing Is No Holy Grail

The first step in promoting the distinct benefits of using a tax professional is to counter the public perception that online tax preparation software packages or online filing services are good substitutes for the real deal.A� The CPA or IRS enrolled agent should advice prospective clients to resist the temptation to rely on these vehicles because they require that the taxpayer have knowledge of the Tax Code to prepare a correct return. As with any software, the rule is “garbage in, garbage out”. If a taxpayer isn’t trained on how to enter the information, or what information to enter, they won’t get the best or most accurate answers.A� And the consequences can be costly: taxpayer may get hit with hefty fines and fees if the return isn’t filed correctly or is late.

In a word: no software package or online filing service is a substitute for actual tax knowledge, or for a competent, experienced tax professional.A� Tax preparers are some of the most well trained professionals because they are required by law to enroll in certain number continuing education tax courses to ensure a high level of competence in issues of taxation.A� There is no more compelling argument for seeking a tax professional than this.

Consumer Checklist on Choosing A Tax Preparer

Each year, around tax time, the Better Business Bureau sends out numerous consumer pieces cautioning to individuals to be selective when choosing a tax professionals.A� A checklist of points to consider before making this important selection often accompanies this warning.A� As tax professionals weigh in on how to attract more clients, they should operate with full knowledge of this checklist and proactively address all questions related it.

Here are some of the more important points a tax professional should mention:

Professional Affiliations and Tax Continuing Education

Promote the fact that you are affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and requires them to take a regular schedule of tax CPE courses that ensures a high level of tax knowledge and holds them to a code of ethics.

Tax Preparer’s History

Encourage prospective clients to confirm your professional record (and for that matter the performance history of any preparer they might be considering) with the Better Business Bureau and to confirm licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.

Promote Easy and Ongoing Accessibility

Make sure you to ensure the client that you can easily be reached after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.

Emphasis Best Practices

The best way to sell a top-notch tax practice is to discuss the best practices that signal a level of competence and set you apart from fly-by-the-night tax services that promise a fast buck but disappear after April 15th.A� Practices that reflect a reputable tax practice include the following:

Will request all records and receipts to prepare a return that is accurate and will hold up to IRS scrutiny

Will have the client review the entire return before signing so they understand everything and feel comfortable with the accuracy of the return

Will sign the return and include PTIN as required by law.

IRS Circular 230 Disclosure

Pursuant to the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service Circular 230, we inform you that, to the extent any advice relating to a Federal tax issue is contained in this communication, including in any attachments, it was not written or intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (a) avoiding any tax related penalties that may be imposed on you or any other person under the Internal Revenue Code, or (b) promoting, marketing or recommending to another person any transaction or matter addressed in this communication.…