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Seven Steps to a Stress Free Tax Prep

With tax season almost a month behind us, many people are more than happy to avoid any tax related thoughts until next April. If that scenario sounds all too familiar, try following these tips throughout the year to make the preparation for next year’s tax filing stress free.

1. Keep your receipts organized: Even if you allocate one shoebox to hold all of your receipts, you won’t be scrambling to search for them next year. Clearly mark your box 2014 Tax Receipts, and keep it in a place that is easily accessible.

2. Set up a 2014 Tax Folder now: You may not have a need for this right away, but by organizing a file that will hold all of your tax documents that will begin arriving in January (1099’s, W-2’s, etc.), you will be one step ahead of the game.

3. Do you travel extensively for your job? Keep track of the miles you log throughout the year. Include the date, number of miles, and purpose of travel.  Keep track of any job related business expenses as well.   The same goes for medical expenses. If you are driving to the doctor every week for a checkup, keep track of that distance.  

4. Charitable giving: Now is the perfect time to combine your spring cleaning with your tax preparation. Local charitable organizations such as the Salvation Army and Goodwill accept donations year round. Save yourself from the hassle of having to run your items down for donation during the last week of December. Remember to get a receipt for your donations, and keep a detailed summary of what you are donating. This will help you get the credit for what you gave away.

5. IRA Contributions: Ease your IRA contribution sting by starting monthly contributions directly from your checking account. This can be done very easily, and will be much less painful than having to cough up $5,500 (per individual), or $6,500 if you are age 50 or older, come April 15th.

6. Keep a running list of your tax questions: We have all done this before. You are sitting across the desk from your tax professional, knowing that you had 20 things to ask, but now you can only remember 3 of them. Keep a running list that you can add your questions to as they arise, and don’t hesitate to call your tax professional for some midyear tax planning.

7. Be proactive about the April 15th deadline. Although you have up to this date to file, that time of year can be very busy for many tax professionals. Don’t be afraid to initiate communication with your tax advisor weeks or months before the deadline, ensuring adequate time for document retrieval and thorough tax prep.

Remember, following these guidelines may initially seem like a bother; but it will save you time and energy later on, and give you the best possible outcome for your refund or balance due.

Federal Reserve Bond-Buying Cut

April 30, 2014

The Federal Reserve has just announced a cut in its massive bond-buying stimulus, a sign of its confidence in the economy's prospects, despite a slow first quarter of economic growth.  The Fed said that it would reduce its monthly bond purchases to $45 billion from $55 billion.  This was an expected decision that keeps it on track to end the program later this year. The decision was unanimous.

Market Update - April 28,2014

After Friday’s market selloff due to continued worries in the Ukraine, we are seeing the market rebound nicely this morning. Regardless of the day to day market mood swings, the employment numbers will show if the US markets can sustain some healthy growth.

 

Index

Weekly Return %

thru Apr 25, 2014

YTD Return %

Dec 31, 2013 – Apr 25, 2014

DJIA1

-0.3

-1.3

NASDAQ Composite2

-0.5

-2.4

S&P 500 Index3

-0.1

+0.8

Bond   Yields

Apr 25   Yield & Weekly Change

Yield - % a/o Dec 31, 2013

3-month T-bill

0.03             Unch

0.07

2-year Treasury

0.43             Unch

0.38

10-year Treasury

2.68             -0.05

3.04

30-year Treasury

3.45             -0.07

3.96

Commodities

Apr 25 Price & Weekly Change

Year end 2013

Oil per barrel4

     $100.69             -2.99

    $98.42

Gold per ounce5

$1,301.25           +2.25

$1,201.50

Sources: U.S. Treasury, MarketWatch, St. Louis Federal Reserve, CNBC, Energy Information Admin.

 

The first look at Q1 GDP is expected to show an economy that grew by an annualized rate of 1.1% following a 2.6% rate in the final quarter of 2013 (Bloomberg).

 

A rough winter surely effected growth in the early part of the year, but the weakness has likely been discounted by the market. Recent data on everything from retail sales (U.S. Commerce Dept.) to industrial production (Federal Reserve) have markedly accelerated.

 

Remember too, that the markets are forward-looking, trying to anticipate changes in the economy, corporate profits, interest rates, etc. We are about to enter May, but the GDP numbers are based on data from January through March.

                                       

The Federal Reserve will also be meeting for two days this week. It has already reduced its bond-buying program from $85 billion in monthly purchases to $55 billion, in $10 billion increments. There’s little to suggest we won’t see another $10 billion reduction to $45 billion.

 

Fed Chief Janet Yellen stressed in an April 16th speech that the Fed will “assess progress, both realized and expected, toward its objectives of maximum employment and two percent inflation." That’s another way of saying it’s keeping its options open and will be looking heavily at the incoming economic data.

 

Market Update - April 24,2014

After starting the morning with a positive gain, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has bounced around between small gains and losses. Caterpillar, 3M and Verizon Communications posted quarterly results.

Caterpillar led blue-chip gains after the agricultural equipment maker surprised with stronger than expected earnings and raised its full year outlook.

After rising as much as 50 points and falling 19, the NASDAQ was more recently up again with strong momentum from Apple’s news of their 7-for-1 stock split and strong earnings report. The technology sector is also seeing some strength due to earnings reports from Facebook & Texas Instruments.

Thursday's economic reports had orders for durable goods rising 2.6 percent in March, ahead of a 2 percent estimate.

Another report had more Americans filing for jobless benefits last week than projected.

On Wednesday, stocks fell after disappointing data on new home sales was reported and as companies including Boeing and AT&T announced earnings.

Starbucks and Visa are among those reporting after Thursday's close.

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