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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 Remote.co 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. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

It's Tax Day!


Today is the deadline for filing your tax returns/payments/extensions!  In celebration of another tax season under our belts, the office of Gardner & Billing CPAs will be closed on Wednesday, April 19th.  We will re-open with our off-season hours (8am to 5pm - closed for lunch between 12 and 1pm) on Thursday, April 20th.  We would like to thank all of our clients for your continued business! 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tax Filing Deadline and Extensions


Need more time to file your tax return? Please be aware that an extension of time to file your return does not grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes. Tuesday, April 18th is the deadline for most to pay taxes owed and avoid penalty and interest charges.

So why April 18th? April 15th, or Tax Day, falls on a Saturday this year, so the filing deadline would automatically be extended to Monday, April 17th. However, did you know that April 16th is also a holiday? Emancipation Day is a holiday in Washington DC to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act, which president Abraham Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862. April 16 is a legal holiday in Washington DC so local government offices are closed and many public services do not operate. As April 16th falls on a Sunday this year, Emancipation Day will be observed in Washington DC on Monday, April 17th so the date to file and pay your taxes has been extended to April 18th, 2017! In order to maintain consistency, the State of Montana has also gone with the April 18th deadline.

If you need information on filing a federal tax extension, you can visit our office or the IRS website.

Filing a federal extension is typically a more straight forward process than filing with the State of Montana; and filing a federal request for an extension of an individual income tax return does not have any bearing on receiving a Montana extension. To qualify for an automatic, six-month extension to file a Montana individual income tax return, taxpayers need to, by April 18, have paid either

  • 90% of their current year Montana income tax liability, or
  • 100% of their prior year Montana income tax liability.
  • Taxpayers also qualify for an extension if their 2016 tax liability is $200 or less.
To ensure you have met the requirements listed above and to see if you need to make an extension payment, taxpayers should review and complete Montana Form EXT-16, Extension Payment Worksheet. If an extension payment is necessary, you can pay it online by going to revenue.mt.gov and clicking Online Services or with a check by using the tax payment voucher from the bottom of Form EXT-16.

A valid Montana extension gives taxpayers until October 16, 2017 to file. Unless taxpayers qualify for the extension because their tax liability is $200 or less, an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. Late pay penalties and interest accrue from the original due date until the tax liability is paid in full. 

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Guard Against Identity Theft During Tax Season


During tax season, there is no better time for Montana's taxpayers to be mindful of the threat of identity theft. The Montana Department of Revenue would like to remind taxpayers of ways they can avoid the threat.
Here are some ways you can minimize the threat of identity theft:

  • Use a secure internet connection if you file your taxes electronically, or mail your tax return directly from the post office if you file by paper.
  • Protect your personal computer by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software.
  • Shred copies of your tax return, drafts, or calculation sheets you no longer need.
  • Respond to all mail from the Montana Department of Revenue and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as soon as possible.
  • Know that the department and the IRS will not contact you by email, text message, or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail. The department will contact you by mail or phone.
  • Don't give out your Social Security number on the phone, through the mail, or on the internet unless you know for certain who you are giving the number to.
  • If your Social Security number has been compromised, contact the IRS ID Theft Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490.
  • Research a tax preparer thoroughly before you hand over personal information.
  • Check your credit report at least once a year to make sure no other accounts have been opened in your name.
  • Consider setting up a security freeze on your credit information so no one can access it without your permission. Contact the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) to request a security freeze.
The Department of Revenue takes its own precautions to guard against identify theft, including working closely with the IRS and other states on fraud protection activities, while increasing efforts internally to identify potentially fraudulent tax returns. You can read more at: revenue.mt.gov/fraud-prevention.
For more information about guarding against identity theft and what to do if you think you're a victim, go to the Department of Justice's identity theft website at dojmt.gov/consumer/identity-theft/.