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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Starting a Small Business

Thinking of starting a new business? You may have the ambition and desire, but have you utilized the proper tools and resources to become informed and ensure that you succeed in your goals? At Gardner & Billing, CPAs we offer a number of services to supplement and assist you in your small business, but we also understand that getting off the ground can make for a very fee conscious consumer. One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a new business owner is thinking you can do it ALL and not asking for help, especially in areas that are new and unfamiliar to you. Ideally, you can consult the experts: talk to your banker, hire an accountant and engage an attorney; but seeking council on these topics doesn’t always have to cost you money either. Did you know that there is an organization dedicated to helping small Montana businesses succeed?

The Montana Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network is a partnership between the Montana Department of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration, regional economic development organizations and the Montana higher education system. The SBDC Directors and Business Advisors assist clients every day with the preparation or fine-tuning of business plans, financial management, operations assistance, loan packaging and marketing initiatives. SBDC training seminars and workshops cover timeless small business issues such as cash flow management, as well as new and emerging trends.

The SBDCs are dedicated to helping small businesses throughout Montana achieve their goals of growth, expansion, innovation and success. The SBDC Network combines the resources of federal, state and local organizations with that of the private sector and education system to meet the specialized and complex needs of the small business community.

In our upcoming blog series, we’ll be exploring the SBDC’s guide to starting a business so that you know what to expect, what’s expected of you, and where to find the help you need to make your dream a reality! 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Happy Father's Day from Gardner & Billing!

Gardner & Billing CPAs would like to wish 
all the dads out there a Happy Father's Day!  
Thank you for all you do!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Mid-year tax moves to make now

It's summer, the best time of the year to think about your taxes. Really.

A lot of people wait until December to start thinking about their tax bills. True, you can and should make some year-end moves by Dec. 31. But now, halfway through the tax year, is even better for tax planning because you have a good idea of what your earnings will be and there's still plenty of time to take steps that could cut the taxes you'll owe.

So take a quick break to check out these mid-year tax moves. Then you can get back to your leisure pursuits and really enjoy them, knowing you're in better tax shape.

1) Finish Your 2016 Return
First thing’s first; if you received an extension to file back in April, finish up your 2016 tax return now. Sure, you have until Oct. 16 (the usual 15th deadline is on Sunday), but you don't have to wait until the last minute. Finishing up your taxes in a rush, whether in April or October, is a recipe for disaster. At best, you could overlook a deduction or credit that could cut your tax bill. At worst, you could make a filing mistake that could cause problems down the road.

2) Adjust Your Withholding
Did you get a big refund? Are your work and tax circumstances about the same this year as last? Then you might want to adjust your withholdings so that you won't get a big tax refund next filing season. Americans apparently like getting a tax refund, but the ideal payroll withholding situation is to have just enough tax -- not too much, not too little -- withheld from your paychecks to meet your eventual annual tax bill. In this way, you'll avoid writing the U.S. Treasury a check for tax due if you under-withheld, and if you over-withheld, you won't be waiting for a refund check. Changing your withholding is easy - just stop by your payroll office and submit a new W-4.

3) Evaluate Your Estimated Taxes
Estimated tax payments are required if you have income that isn't subject to withholding. It's the IRS' way of ensuring that you're paying as you earn on all your income. By making the four quarterly estimated tax payments a year, you'll help ensure you don't underpay your taxes. That's important because if you owe too much at filing time, you could face a tax penalty. However, you also don't want to overpay your estimated taxes. Summer's a great time to reassess your estimated tax situation. Look at what you've paid via your April and June 1040-ES filings and see whether your schedule is still on track. If not, you can adjust your upcoming September and January estimated tax payments

4) Hire a Tax Professional
Whether you need a tax expert's assistance to finally file your extended 2016 return or you're looking for help in getting your 2017 tax act together, now is the time to hire someone. The filing season crunch is over, meaning that all types of tax professionals have a bit more time. It also gives you time to determine exactly which type of tax preparer fits your tax needs.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer Time!

The office of Gardner & Billing CPAs are now operating on SUMMER HOURS.
June, July & August
Monday - Thursday (closed Fridays)
8am - 5pm (closed for lunch from 12-1)
Wishing you all a wonderful summer!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Honoring the Fallen...

Memorial Day is the federal holiday established for remembering and honoring the people who have died while serving in the US armed forces.  The holiday originated as “Decoration Day” after the Civil War when it was established as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of those soldiers who died in the war.  

The office of Gardner & Billing CPAs will be closed Monday, May 29th in observance of Memorial Day.  
We will reopen on Tuesday, May 30th with our 
Summer Hours: 
Monday - Thursday 
8am - 5pm (closed for lunch from 12-1)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tax Tips for Students Working Summer Jobs

School’s out for the summer! For some students that means a summer job flipping burgers, mowing lawns or waiting tables. Regardless of how menial you might view your summer job, it will benefit you down the road to have some work experience for your first big job interview or college application. So no matter what job you choose this summer, it can add a little extra padding to both your job history AND your pockets! With that in mind, here are some tax tips for parents and students to avoid any surprises!

1. Understand the Rules for Claiming Dependents
You may be wondering, since your child has a summer job, if you will still be able to claim him or her as a dependent on your own return. The answer is, "Yes." A child under the age of 19 (or under the age of 24 and a full-time student) can make any amount of income and still be claimed as a dependent as long as you are still providing more than half their support. This includes food, shelter, clothing, entertainment, school expenses, vehicle expenses, etc. As independent as your child may feel now that they are taking on some responsibilities of their own, when you add up all of the expenses, it may be surprising to see how dependent working children still are on the support of their parents!

2. Filling Out Form W-4: Determine How Much to Withhold
Before your child begins a summer job, he or she will be required to fill out a form W-4 to instruct the employer how much to withhold for federal and state income taxes. To determine how much, if any, should be withheld, it is important to note the tax filing thresholds and then estimate how much they will earn this summer based on their wages and expected hours to be worked. Regardless of amounts withheld for income taxes, Social Security and Medicare tax will be withheld at the regular 6.2 and 1.45 percent rate and is never available for refund.

3. Tips and Odd Jobs Still Count!
All tip income received is taxable income and is therefore subject to federal income tax. Employees are required to report tips of $20 or more received while working with any one employer in any given month. This reporting should be made in writing to the employer by the tenth day of the month following the receipt of tips. The employer withholds FICA (Social Security and Medicare taxes) and income taxes on these reported tips, then includes the tips and wages on the employee’s W-2.

Many students do odd jobs over the summer and are paid in cash. Just because it is paid in cash does not mean that it is tax-free. Unfortunately, the income is taxable and may be subject to self-employment taxes (see next). These earnings include income from odd jobs like dog walking, babysitting, and lawn mowing.

4. If No Taxes are Withheld, Set Money Aside to Be Prepared at Tax Time
Your child may have a summer job where the employer does not take your child on as an official employee, but rather, as an independent contractor for their temporary summer work. In this instance, your child’s paycheck will not include any deductions for Social Security and Medicare tax, nor will there be any withholding for federal or state income tax. If $600 or more is earned from this employer, your child should receive a 1099-MISC at the end of the year. Most likely the income will be shown as non-employee compensation in box 7. This is treated as self-employment income and is subject to self-employment taxes (Social Security & Medicare contributions). In this case, your child may be required to file a tax return. Be aware that because the employer did not withhold and pay any taxes on behalf of your child, taxes may be owed when tax returns are filed the following spring. It will be a good idea for your child to set aside money from each pay check so that he or she can pay the tax when the returns are filed.

5. Know the Tax Implications of Employing your Child
Many of you may be exploring the idea of hiring your child for the summer. Giving your child a summer job may provide an opportunity for tax savings for you as the employer as well as for your child. There are tax benefits of having your child as an employee if your trade or business is a sole proprietorship or partnership in which you and/or your spouse are the sole owners or partners. Wages paid to your child who is under the age of 18 are not subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes or Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA). Wages paid to your child who is 18 years or older, but under 21, are subject to FICA (Social Security and Medicare) but are not subject to FUTA. Your child’s wages are a deductible business expense to your company, as long as your child is treated as a regular employee, wages are paid and a W-2 is filed.

6. Understand How Taxes Work with an Out-of-State Summer Job
Understand the rules of residency and reciprocity as tax rules differ from state to state. Wyoming and South Dakota do not have state income tax, so income earned in either of those states would not include a separate state tax return, but would still be reported on a Montana return. North Dakota has a reciprocity agreement with Montana for income tax purposes, so Montana residents can request exemption from North Dakota income tax filing and just report income to Montana. So, if your child is working out of state, be sure to check the paystub for state withholding!


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Financial Advice for the High School Graduate

A new class of graduating seniors is about to enter the workforce and the whole new world of life after high school. Gardner & Billing CPAs want to wish the entire Broadus Class of 2017 the very best for the future ahead! Congratulations on your achievements! We want you to go forth into the world armed with sound advice for a successful future, so here are a few key pieces of financial advice from an article by Ryan Guina and

Understand how personal finance works
Personal finance is not difficult once you learn the basic principles. Learn how credit cards and debit cards work and the pros and cons of using credit cards. You should also know how to balance a checkbook, how to bank online, how to avoid credit card fees, and other basic principles, like filing a tax return.

Spend less than you earn
After knowing how to use financial tools, spending less than you earn is the most important thing you can do for your financial situation. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how good your job is, or how much you earn – if you spend more than you take in, you will never get ahead in life.

Make a budget
A budget will help you spend less than you earn every month. There are a lot of ways to make a budget; some people prefer to track every penny, and others prefer a rough guideline. The important thing is to be able to have an accurate account of your income and account for your major fixed expenses. Find what works for you and your situation and stick with it. You will thank yourself later!

Be careful with credit
Credit is a useful tool, but only if you handle it responsibly. It is important to know and understand how your credit score is determined and how to improve your credit score. Your credit score is probably more important than you realize, and can affect your ability to get loans, the interest rates you pay on loans, and your ability to get a job, rent a house or apartment, or even enter a cell phone contract.

Be careful signing up for credit cards just to get a free small dollar item or a one-time discount. Many of these cards have high interest rates and low limits, and are designed to make you spend more money than you have. It is very easy to fall into the trap of never ending credit card debt.

Once you know how your credit score can affect you, it is a good idea to begin establishing your credit history. The easiest way to do this is to establish a regular payment pattern over a long period of time. This can be for a fixed loan (like a car payment) or with a credit card. The important thing is to start small and stay within your means. 

Only use student loans for college expenses
Student loans are for one thing only – college expenses. This includes tuition, fees, books, tutors, and other similar fees. This does not include pizza, beer, out of town football games, spring break, parties and other frivolous expenditures. You may have your student loans for a long time, and you won’t be doing yourself any favors by adding fuel to the fire.

Start an emergency fund
An emergency fund is just that – a fund that you keep in a regular savings account and use only for emergencies. No, pizza and beer night doesn’t count. I’m talking about an emergency plane ticket home, car repairs, medical bills, or anything else that would be considered an emergency by normal standards. Your emergency fund will help you avoid racking up unnecessary credit card debt and let you sleep better at night.

Try to save money
Once you have your emergency fund in place and are current on all your expenses, try to add saving to your budget. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but you need to save what you can. When you graduate college, you will find yourself entering a world where you are responsible for all your choices – financial and otherwise. You will need money for a down payment on a house/apartment, furnishings, a professional wardrobe for job interviews or many other expenses. A little money in the bank makes this easier, and again, will help you avoid falling into the debt trap.

Have fun
You are entering one of the most memorable periods of your life. Have fun. The good news is that you don’t need a ton of money to have fun, especially when most of your friends are probably broke too. There are countless free and inexpensive activities centered on and around college campuses. Find them. Hang out with friends, have cook outs, watch movies, catch the university sporting events, volunteer, etc. The list of things to do on a college campus is as varied as the people who attend school.

Never stop learning – in school and outside school
Your college days are when you will learn more about yourself, others, and life in general than you ever have before. This is an amazing time to see and do everything you can. Take it all in and enjoy yourself. In my opinion, what you learn about yourself and life is more important than what you will learn in the classroom (but that doesn’t mean what you learn in the classroom isn’t important!). Take it all in and see and do as much as you can. You only get this chance once.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

7 Steps for Spring Cleaning Your Home Office

Now that tax season is over at Gardner & Billing CPAs, we're feeling spring fever pretty fiercely!  If you're feeling that restless, energetic spring fever bug like we are, then maybe you're getting ready for spring cleaning!?  Check out these helpful tips from for cleaning and organizing the chaos that accumulates in your home office!

If your work environment is littered with papers and odds and ends—and if you often find yourself wasting time hunting for things—it’s probably time to pay it some attention.  So when it comes to spring cleaning, don’t neglect your home office.  Establishing and maintaining a clean, organized, and uncluttered workspace will do wonders for your peace of mind and your ability to get work done. This includes your physical office as well as your laptop’s many files, too.

Here are seven tried-and-true steps for bringing order out of home office chaos:
1. Assess
Stand back and survey your space. Notice where items are stored, and also where they have migrated while in use. Take stock of what gets in the way versus what you’re often reaching for. Identify wires to be rerouted or tech that actually belongs there.
Think about what you wished you had but currently don’t. Acknowledge what might be better placed in another room, or what items first need to be tested (pens, dry erase markers, etc.) in order to determine if they’re worth keeping.

2. Sort
Start with what occupies your desk and any drawers. Be swift and ruthless. Hang onto physical documents only if it’s absolutely necessary; otherwise, take photos or scan them for your records and place them in a tossing pile.
The buttons, stray caps and random pennies can be returned to their rightful match or location, or they, too, can be tossed. (Whatever you decide to hang onto will be organized later.) Aim for growing any empty space; it frees up room for your mind.

3. Purge
Toss the items from your pile of discards into the garbage or set them aside for recycling or donation.
Important: do not leave the non-trash items sitting in your office for weeks on end. Make immediate plans to rid yourself of them so that the purge is complete. This stage is liberating. You’ll truly feel as if a physical weight has been lifted from your shoulders, and you will be even more content if some of it went to charity.

4. Clean
Gather the necessary cleaning supplies for surfaces, along with cloths or paper towels. Before spraying anything, open the windows to allow fresh air into your space even if it’s a cooler day.
Then go to town wiping away the dirt, dust, and coffee rings that have accumulated over time. Thoroughness is key here; leave no paperweight or knickknack unturned!

5. Categorize
Sort items into specific categories based on functionality. Separate those that you use daily from those that are accessed weekly, or are sought out only on rare occasions.
Think of your desk as being within your personal orbit; place the materials you most frequently use within arm’s reach from where you sit or stand. The rest can be located much further afield—in drawers, on shelves, or in bookcases.

6. Rearrange
Question why certain things stay in the same place. Is there nowhere else they’d fit, or no spot that’s better suited?
This stage is especially helpful with regard to your laptop; examine your folder hierarchy (or lack thereof) and institute deliberate changes. Rename files so that they fall into chronological order and more accurately describe their contents. Test out your new virtual or physical desk organization to gauge whether or not it’ll work for you in the longer term.

7. Maintain
Commit to preserving your newly organized and clean workspace. Be conscientious of what new items you bring into your home office, and think carefully about their placement. Take the time to clean up small messes or toss unneeded mail or paperwork before it begins to pile up. This ongoing attention will save you time, and will enable you to continue working in an environment conducive to greater productivity and mental concentration.