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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Estate Planning Workshop with Marsha Goetting

Marsha Goetting, MSU Extension Family Economics Specialist, will be presenting an Estate Planning Workshop on Monday, October 30th, at 1:00 p.m. at the Broadus Community Center.

Goetting will begin the workshop with effective methods of starting difficult conversations about estate allocation. Specific areas Goetting will cover include decisions about treatment of heirs and equal vs equitable; wills, trusts, probate, duties of the personal representative, joint tenancy transfer and transferring motor vehicles, power of attorney, basis in land, Montana Medical Care Savings Accounts, rights over your remains, letter of last instruction, common law marriage, and the Montana Endowment Tax Credit.

Marsha's video guide to estate planning in Montana, based on Montana’s state laws, is a lively, helpful video that everyone can understand! It has lots of helpful tips presented in a fun, memorable way. More information on Marsha and estate planning resources can be found at the MSU Extension website.

Marsha A. Goetting is a Professor and Extension Family Economics Specialist at Montana State University in Bozeman. She has presented over 800 workshops reaching over 25,000 Montanans with financial and estate planning information. She has also authored over 75 MontGuides and bulletins and has received national, regional, and state awards for her financial management and estate planning programs.

Educational Background

Dr. Goetting received her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Family Economics and Adult Education from Kansas State University and her Ph.D. from Iowa State University.

Professional Associations
  • Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education
  • American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences
  • Montana Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences
  • Montana Gerontology Society
  • Montana Association of Family and Consumer Sciences

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

IRS Relief for Drought Stricken Ranchers

IR-2017-164, Sept. 27, 2017

WASHINGTON – Farmers and ranchers who previously were forced to sell livestock due to drought in an applicable region now have an additional year to replace the livestock and defer tax on any gains from the forced sales, according to the Internal Revenue Service. An applicable region is a county designated as eligible for federal assistance plus counties contiguous to that county.

This relief generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, or poultry are not eligible.

To qualify, the sales must be solely due to drought, flooding or other severe weather causing the region to be designated as eligible for federal assistance.

Under these circumstances, livestock generally must be replaced within a four-year period, instead of the usual two-year period. But in addition, the IRS is authorized to further extend this replacement period if the drought continues.

The one-year extension, announced today, gives eligible farmers and ranchers until the end of the tax year after the first drought-free year to replace the sold livestock. Details, including an example of how this provision works, can be found in Notice 2006-82, available on

The IRS provides this extension to farmers and ranchers located in the applicable region that qualified for the four-year replacement period if any county, parish, city, or district, that is included in the applicable region is listed as suffering exceptional, extreme or severe drought conditions by the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC), during any weekly period between Sept. 1, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017. All or part of 42 states, plus the District of Columbia, are listed.

As a result, farmers and ranchers in the applicable region whose drought sale replacement period was scheduled to expire at the end of this tax year, Dec. 31, 2017, in most cases, will now have until the end of their next tax year. Because the normal drought sale replacement period is four years, this extension immediately impacts drought sales that occurred during 2013. But because of previous drought-related extensions affecting some of these localities, the replacement periods for some drought sales before 2013 are also affected. Additional extensions will be granted if severe drought conditions persist.

Details on this relief, including a list of NDMC-designated counties, are in Notice 2017-53, posted on More information on reporting drought sales and other farm-related tax issues can be found in Publication 225, Farmer’s Tax Guide, also available on the IRS web site.

Below is the listing of Montana and Wyoming Counties eligible:
Counties of Big Horn, Blaine, Broadwater, Carbon, Carter, Cascade, Chouteau, Custer, Daniels, Dawson, Deer Lodge, Fallon, Fergus, Flathead, Gallatin, Garfield, Glacier, Golden Valley, Granite, Hill, Jefferson, Judith Basin, Lake, Lewis and Clark, Liberty, Lincoln, McCone, Meagher, Mineral, Missoula, Musselshell, Park, Petroleum, Phillips, Pondera, Powder River, Powell, Prairie, Ravalli, Richland, Roosevelt, Rosebud, Sanders, Sheridan, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Teton, Toole, Treasure, Valley, Wheatland, Wibaux, Yellowstone.


Counties of Big Horn, Campbell, Crook, Niobrara, Park, Sheridan, Teton, Weston.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft

For 2017, the IRS, the states and the tax industry joined together to enact new safeguards and take additional actions to combat tax-related identity theft. Many of these safeguards will be invisible to you, but invaluable to our fight against these criminal syndicates. If you prepare your own return with tax software, you will see new log-on standards. Some states also have taken additional steps. See your state revenue agency’s web site for additional details.

We also know identity theft is a frustrating process for victims. If you become a victim, we are committed to resolving your case as quickly as possible.

What is tax-related identity theft?

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund.
You may be unaware that this has happened until you efile your return and discover that a return already has been filed using your SSN. Or, the IRS may send you a letter saying we have identified a suspicious return using your SSN.

Know the warning signs
Be alert to possible tax-related identity theft if you are contacted by the IRS or your tax professional/provider about:

  • More than one tax return was filed using your SSN.
  • You owe additional tax, refund offset or have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
  • IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer for whom you did not work.
If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

Steps to take if you become a victim
If you are a victim of identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission recommends these steps:

  • File a complaint with the FTC at
  • Contact one of the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
    • Equifax,, 800-525-6285
    • Experian,, 888-397-3742
    • TransUnion,, 800-680-7289
  • Contact your financial institutions, and close any financial or credit accounts opened without your permission or tampered with by identity thieves.
If your SSN is compromised and you know or suspect you are a victim of tax-related identity theft, the IRS recommends these additional steps:
  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice; call the number provided.
  • Complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, if your efiled return rejects because of a duplicate filing under your SSN or you are instructed to do so. Use a fillable form at, print, then attach the form to your return and mail according to instructions.
If you previously contacted the IRS and did not have a resolution, contact us for specialized assistance at 1-800-908-4490. We have teams available to assist.

How to reduce your risk
Join efforts by the IRS, states and tax industry to protect your data. Taxes. Security. Together. We all have a role to play. Here's how you can help:

  • Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Use strong passwords.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations such as your bank, credit card companies and even the IRS.
  • Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
  • Protect your personal data. Don’t routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure.
See Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, to learn more.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

Report suspicious online or emailed phishing scams For phishing scams by phone, fax or mail, call 1-800-366-4484. Report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s IRS Impersonation Scams Reporting.

See the main Identity Protection page for more information.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It's almost October...

September is coming quickly to a close, and for us that means 2016 tax extension deadlines are on the immediate horizon.  Form 1041 for Trusts and Estates is due October 2nd and Form 1040 for Individuals and Form 1120 for Corporations are due October 16th.  If we haven't seen your complete tax information yet, please round it up now.  We're working hard to get our last returns out the door!  

Thank you for your business!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Local Artist Forum

Our home in Southeastern Montana is both unique and diverse - from our landscapes and wildlife, to our lifestyles and people.

A recent update to our office environment brought about a new idea: to celebrate the beauty, culture and talent of our community by
acknowledging and showcasing the creations of local artists. 

Gardner & Billing CPAs proudly present our new Local Artist Forum.  

Our current exhibitors are all recipients of Grand or Reserve Champion ribbons at the 2017 Powder River County Fair.  As a result of this local recognition of their artistic talent, we felt it was only fitting to invite them to be the first to display their artwork in our forum!

Currently on display are works by Sandy Smith, Laney Williams, Lana Smith, Brooke Billing and Lauryn Billing. Mediums include pastel, photography and ink.  We invite you to stop by our office to view these pieces and to support your local artists!

Our goal is to develop a rotation of local art, so if you or someone you know is interested in participating in this program, please ask us for additional information. 
Thank you for your interest in our new program! We are excited about our first and future displays!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

FREE Medicare Seminar ~ September 14th

Medicare Parts A, B, C, D... Plans F & G - If this Medicare alphabet soup has you spelling "H.E.L.P." then join us September 14th at 2:00pm in the Broadus Community Center for our FREE Community Education Medicare Seminar!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Understanding Medicare

Our free Medicare seminar is coming up next week on Thursday, September 14th. If the Medicare alphabet soup has you spelling "H.E.L.P." and you're looking for more information, the Social Security website has some great resources for understanding Medicare. So here's some of the basics:

Medicare has four parts

  • Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) helps pay for inpatient care in a hospital or skilled nursing facility (following a hospital stay). Part A also pays for some home health care, and hospice care.
  • Medicare Part B (medical insurance) helps pay for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient care, home health care, durable medical equipment, and some preventive services.
  • Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) includes all benefits and services covered under Part A and Part B. Some plans include Medicare prescription drug coverage (Medicare Part D) and other extra benefits and services.
  • Medicare Part D (Medicare prescription drug coverage) helps cover the cost of prescription drugs.
You can get more details about what Medicare covers from Medicare & You (Publication No. CMS-10050). To get a copy, call the toll-free number or go to the Medicare website.

A word about Medicaid
You may think Medicaid and Medicare are the same, but they’re two different programs. Medicaid is a state-run program that provides hospital and medical coverage for people with low income. Each state has its own rules about who’s eligible, and what Medicaid covers. Some people qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. For more information about the Medicaid program, contact your local medical assistance agency or social services office.

Applying for Medicare
If you’re already getting Social Security benefits we’ll send you information a few months before you become eligible for Medicare and we’ll automatically enroll you in Medicare Parts A and B. However, because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you can choose to turn it down.

If you’re not already getting benefits, you should contact Social Security to apply. When you apply for Medicare, you can sign up for Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). Because you must pay a premium for Part B coverage, you can turn it down. However, if you decide to enroll in Part B later on, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Part B coverage. Your monthly premium will go up 10 percent for each 12-month period you were eligible for Part B, but didn’t sign up for it, unless you qualify for a special enrollment period.

If you’re eligible at age 65, your initial enrollment period begins three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn age 65, and ends three months after that birthday. However, if you don’t enroll in Medicare Part B during your initial enrollment period, you have another chance each year to sign up during a “general enrollment period” from January 1 through March 31. Your coverage begins on July 1 of the year you enroll. Click here for more information:

How To Apply Online For Just Medicare
You can apply online for Medicare even if you are not ready to retire. Use our online application to sign up for Medicare. It takes less than 10 minutes. In most cases, once your application is submitted electronically, you’re done. There are no forms to sign and usually no documentation is required. Social Security will process your application and contact you if we need more information. Otherwise, you’ll receive your Medicare card in the mail.

For more information about applying for Medicare only and delaying retirement benefits, visit Applying for Medicare Only – Before You Decide.

Contacting Social Security
There are several ways to contact Social Security, including online, by phone, and in person.

Visit our website
The most convenient way to conduct Social Security business from anywhere at any time, is to visit There, you can:

  • Create a my Social Security account to review your Social Security Statement, verify your earnings, print a benefit verification letter, change your direct deposit information, request a replacement Medicare card, get a replacement 1099/1042S, and more;
  •  Apply for Extra Help with Medicare prescription drug plan costs;
  •  Apply for retirement, disability, and Medicare benefits;
  •  Find copies of our publications;
  •  Get answers to frequently asked questions; and
  • So much more!
Call us
If you don’t have access to the internet, we offer many automated services by telephone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or at our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, if you’re deaf or hard of hearing.

If you need to speak to a person, we can answer your calls from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We ask for your patience during busy periods since you may experience a higher than usual rate of busy signals and longer hold times to speak to us. We look forward to serving you.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How Medicare Part D Works

In advance of our Community Education Medicare Seminar coming up on September 14th, we wanted to provide a foundation for your questions.  We've compiled some excerpts from an AARP article by Patricia Barry to give you an understanding of some of the basics of Medicare Part D.  Be sure to join us September 14th at 2pm at the Broadus Community Center for our free seminar!

Before deciding whether to sign up for Medicare prescription drug coverage, you need to understand how the program works together as a whole. Grasping the big picture makes it easier to deal with the details.

Who can get Medicare drug coverage?
Anyone on Medicare (with either Part A or Part B) is entitled to drug coverage (known as Part D) regardless of income. No physical exams are required. You cannot be denied for health reasons or because you already use a lot of prescription drugs.

How do I get Medicare prescription drug coverage?
You must enroll in one of the private insurance plans that Medicare has approved to provide it. Wherever you live, you can get drug coverage in one of two ways:

  • Through a “stand-alone” plan (PDP) that offers only drug coverage. This type is mainly intended for people who choose to receive their other health benefits from the traditional Medicare fee-for-service program.
  • Through a Medicare Advantage plan (MA-PD) that covers both medical services and prescription drugs. This type is for people who choose to receive all their Medicare benefits in one package, usually through a health maintenance organization (HMO) or a preferred provider organization (PPO).
What will my premium be?
There is no single monthly premium for Part D prescription drug coverage. Each drug plan sets its own premium for each calendar year. Some Medicare Advantage plans do not charge an extra premium for drug coverage.

Do drug plans vary much?

Yes. There are big differences in premiums and deductibles, in the range of drugs that plans cover, the co-pays they charge and the pharmacies they use. In particular, co-pays vary enormously among different plans, even for the same drug. To determine exact costs and benefits, it is important to carefully compare plans in your area (see Choosing a Part D Drug Plan).

What will I pay for my drugs?
You could pay a different price for the same drug according to the phase of coverage that you’re in at any point during the year.

  • Deductible: If your plan has a deductible, you pay full price for your drugs until the deductible amount is met and coverage kicks in. “Full price” means the price your plan has negotiated with each drug’s manufacturer. This price may be less that you would pay retail at the pharmacy.
  • Initial coverage period: Your share of each prescription is either a flat co-payment (for example, $20) or a percentage of the drug’s cost (for example, 25 percent). Most plans have three or four levels (known as “tiers”) of co-pays, rising in price from the least expensive generic drugs through “preferred” brand-name drugs to “non-preferred” brands and finally to specialty or high-cost drugs.
  • Coverage gap (“doughnut hole”): In 2017 you pay 40 percent of your plan’s price for brand-name and biologic drugs in the gap and 51 percent for generics. Fifty percent of the discount for brand drugs is provided by their manufacturers; the rest of the discount for brand drugs and the whole discount on generics is provided by the federal government. If your plan provides any coverage in the gap, these discounts are applied to your remaining costs.
  • Catastrophic level of coverage: Your share of each prescription is about no more than 5 percent of the cost of the drug. You would also pay a different price if you receive Extra Help or have additional coverage from elsewhere (such as retiree drug benefits or assistance from a state pharmacy assistance program).

What if I join Medicare and enroll in a Part D plan partway through the year?
The cycle of coverage follows the same order (deductible, initial coverage period, coverage gap, catastrophic coverage), starting when you join the plan. There is no reduction in the deductible (if your plan has one) if you start partway through the year.

Will I be able to get all the drugs I take now?

Maybe, but not necessarily. Each plan has a list of preferred drugs it covers, known as a formulary. No Part D plan covers every prescription drug. A plan must cover at least two drugs in each class of drugs used to treat the same medical condition. It must also cover nearly all drugs used in six classes: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, antiretrovirals (for HIV/AIDS), immunosuppressants (for transplants) and anticancer drugs. But a few drugs are excluded from Medicare coverage by law.

Plans are allowed to change some of the drugs they cover during the year. If this affects a drug you are using, your plan must inform you of the change at least 60 days in advance, unless it has been withdrawn from the market for safety reasons.

You have the right to ask your plan to cover a drug not on its formulary by requesting an “exception” to its policy (also known as a “coverage determination”) if your doctor can show that a non-formulary drug is necessary for your health.

What about drugs that are covered by Medicare Part B?
Medicare Part B generally continues to pay for drugs it covered before Part D began — usually those that are administered at a hospital or doctor’s office. In some cases, the same drugs are covered by either Part B or Part D according to different circumstances. In this case, your Part D plan may contact you or your doctor to verify the circumstances in order to decide whether payment should be made by Part B or D.

How often can I switch drug plans?
You can normally change plans only once a year during annual open enrollment, which runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

There are exceptions. In some circumstances—for example, if you move out of your plan’s area or your plan ceases services in your area, or you move into or out of a nursing home—you’re entitled to a special enrollment period (SEP) so that you can change drug plans during that time. People with limited incomes who receive Extra Help can switch to another plan at any time during the year. For a full list of circumstances, see the Medicare Rights Center’s guidance on special enrollment periods.