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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

MT Secretary of State SIMS Mailing

 You may have recently received a business mailing from the Montana Secretary of State.  In fact, you may have received multiple mailings containing activation codes for the new SIMS(be) online system.  So what exactly is SIMS and why is your code important? 

What is SIMS (BE)?
The new Secretary of State Information Management System (SIMS) Business Entity (BE) system allows online access to business documents and filings with the Montana Secretary of State.  What that means is, once registered, you can access your business entity documents (such as articles of incorporation) and submit your business report filings online. 

Why register and why is the code important?   
If you manage a corporation or LLC, you are required to file an annual report with the MT Secretary of State each year by April 15th.  Previously, you could very simply file this report online via the SOS website by using your business name and folder number.  If you utilized the online filing system previously, it’s important to know that the SIMS update replaces the old system.  In order to file your annual report online, you will now be required to register for a SIMS and ePass account, then enter the activation code you received in the mail.  YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FILE ONLINE WITHOUT THE ACTIVATION CODE. 

What if my accountant usually files my annual report?
If our office has previously been responsible for the filing of your annual report, WE WILL NEED YOUR ACTIVATION CODE.  Please drop it by our office (or mail, email or fax) and we will continue to file your report. 

Why did I receive multiple codes?
You may have received multiple activation codes.  According to the SOS, “If you own a business and are also a registered agent you will receive two activation codes…. In addition, depending on how your name is registered… or the way the address is displayed may result in you receiving multiple activation codes.”  Feel free to bring us any codes you received and we can help you understand them. 

How do I register?
If you need help registering, Gardner & Billing CPAs would be more than happy to assist you, or you can access the SOS help center at

What if I misplace my code?
You will need the code in order to e-file your annual report, so if you misplace it now, you will need to contact the SOS in order to receive a new one.  Save yourself a huge headache later and hang on to your code NOW.  Drop by our office and we can scan it to your permanent records to ensure it doesn’t get misplaced. 

What if I have more questions?
Call or stop by Gardner & Billing CPAs or visit the Montana Secretary of State website for further information on SIMS(BE).

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The October Tax Extension Deadline Is Quickly Approaching!

If you filed a 2015 tax return extension, the final filing deadline is October 17th, 2016.  

The summer is slipping away and October will be here before we know it, so it's a good time to start thinking about your bookkeeping!  If we have not yet received your complete tax information, please start rounding it up now.  We need all information by October 1st (at the very latest) to ensure we have enough time to complete your returns.  If you have any questions or concerns related to your tax extension, please feel free to call our office, or stop by.  Following Labor Day, our office is back to regular hours and we will be open 5 days a week. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

What to know before you take out a student loan

Read the fine print to avoid devastating financial mistakes.
By James Sullivan, CPA/PFS, and Melissa Towell
July 25, 2016

Half of American families with student loan debt delay saving for retirement

Student loan arrangements can have unforeseen, long-lasting implications for a family's financial future. To illustrate this point, let's look at a nightmare scenario that is based on a real-life situation.

A few months before his eagerly anticipated early retirement, 62-year-old Tom was diagnosed with a terminal disease. Most patients with this disease live two to five years from the date of the diagnosis.

Tom was always careful planning his family's finances. He prepared a monthly budget and began planning for an early retirement with his wife, Jo, when he was in his early 30s. His four children all went to college, which the family financed primarily through private student loans.

But Tom missed a crucial detail included in the promissory note. If the student or the co-signer died before the loans were fully paid, the loans became immediately due. At the time of his diagnosis, the loans due totaled almost $150,000.

Tom and Jo were devastated by the news. Tom was already worried that too much would be spent on his care, leaving less for Jo, who was just 60, to live on after his death. Jo was concerned with making Tom as comfortable as possible during the time he had left, no matter the cost. Thinking that $150,000 would now have to be diverted from the insurance proceeds at Tom's death only increased their fears.

What you need to know about student loans

This story illustrates what can happen when borrowers do not realize the full implications of the loans they have taken out. Of course, not all repayment situations will be so dramatic. But Tom and Jo's story underscores the importance of knowing the basics about undergraduate student loans. Here are some of the most important things you need to know before you or your children take out a student loan:

  • There are two types of student loans. Federal student loans (FSLs) are issued directly to students by the federal government. Private student loans are issued by banks or other financial institutions.
  • FSL interest rates are either subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized FSLs do not accrue interest while the student is in school. Unsubsidized FSLs accrue interest while the student remains in school.
  • FSLs and private loans have different repayment terms. The repayment terms for FSLs are more flexible and offer relief if needed. Private student loan terms are set by the lender and offer little flexibility or relief if the student has trouble repaying the loan.
  • FSLs are based on a student's financial need, not on the borrower's (or parents') credit rating. The only exception among FSLs is the parent PLUS loan. Financial need is calculated as the difference between the cost of attending a school and the student's expected family contribution.

These four points are certainly not exhaustive. But they are a good place to start as you or your clients consider student loan options.

Below are some tips to keep in mind when you're considering financing college with student loans:

  • FSLs are typically better for the student for various reasons. The interest rate on an FSL is often lower than a private student loan. (However, private student loans can have lower interest rates if both the student and co-signer have excellent credit.) Also, repayment terms for FSLs are more flexible and offer relief if needed, whereas private student loans' terms are set by the lender and are generally less flexible. Even if a student's or a parent's employer offers special access to private student loans, check out the availability of FSLs before opting for a private student loan.
  • While in school, students should consider paying off the interest accruing on an unsubsidized loan to minimize the overall interest they'll need to pay on the debt.
  • Students do not need to borrow all the money available. If possible, students should borrow only what they need to cover tuition, books, and fees, and pay living expenses with income earned by working part time or applying for a work/study program as part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
  • When applying for a private student loan, ask questions of the lender, read the terms very carefully, and, more importantly, read the promissory note! Consult a CPA or an attorney if you are unclear about the terms.
  • Whether a student applies for an FSL or a private student loan, he or she should plan the loan backward. In other words, students should think ahead to the loan repayment. What are their job prospects given their major and degree? What will they earn right out of school? High student loan debt—whether for an FSL or a private loan—can limit the choices a student has when he or she looks for a job. A recent graduate may even have to move back in with Mom and Dad until his or her student loans are paid off.  That's why students should have a realistic idea of what the amount of their monthly loan repayment will be. This information can help them make more informed decisions about how they want to finance their college education and, in some cases, which major they elect.

Many nonprofit credit counseling agencies now provide student loan counseling services. Finding a local agency that is a member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or the Financial Counseling Association of America is a good place to start.

Read the fine print, and contact our office before you sign on the dotted line if you have questions or concerns.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

It's Fair Time in Powder River Co!

Come check out local events happening in Broadus for the Powder River Co Fair!