Tips to Boost Your Tax Refund in 2018

Now that tax season is over, did you have to pay taxes instead of getting a refund? You’re definitely not alone, and there will probably be a repeat performance next year.

There are several things you can do to increase your chance for a refund and you don’t have to be a tax accountant to take advantage of these deductions. The key is to start planning now, and not wait until the end of the year. Below is a list of what you should do.

Contribute to a 401K or IRA

Most people think the only reason to contribute to a retirement fund is to ensure financial independence as you age, but it can also have short-term tax benefits. Most of the time the money you put towards your 401K and IRA are tax-deductible and are not included in your taxable income.

Donate to a Charity

Charitable donations or expenses tied to volunteering can all be itemized and deducted from your income at tax time. Just remember to save all receipts and keep track of all the miles you travel on behalf of a charity or the organization you are volunteering for. These miles will be deductible at 14 cents per mile for 2018.

Buy a Primary Residence

There’s a clear tax benefit to owning a home. The interest you pay on your mortgage is all tax deductible. For the first several years, mortgage payments go towards interest, which will radically decrease your adjusted gross income at tax time. Think about paying January 2019’s mortgage payment in December to get the maximum tax benefit in April.

Invest in Solar Energy

If you’re making a list of home improvements, consider adding solar panels to that list. Solar will earn homeowners up to 30% of their installation costs in tax credits. I would hurry because those credits will decrease after 2019.

Claim Education Credits

Student loan interest and/or tuition can be used as a tax deduction. Current students can also access the American Opportunity Credit, which covers up to $2,500 annually for four years, and the Lifetime Learning Credit, which can cover up to $2,000 per tax return.

Start A Home Business

Starting and maintaining a business in your home will give you a new source of income, but more importantly, allow you to take deductions on all income that is generated from the business. These specific deductions may include business expenses, portions of your mortgage, utilities, repairs, and even the startup costs for the business.

Medical or Dental Expenses

Many of your medical and dental expenses are tax-deductible as is the transportation and parking costs.

Open a Flexible Spending Plan

Many employers offer flexible spending plans that will let their employees contribute towards their annual medical expenses. These medical contributions generally do not count towards taxable income.

Job Hunting

If you find yourself in the hunt for a new job this coming year, remember you can write off some of the expenses associated with finding new employment. These write-offs include clothing, travel, food, etc. And, these expenses are deductible even if employment is not found within the tax year.

Make Estimated Payments

As is often said, the best defense is a good offense. If you’re concerned that your deductions will not cover you appropriately for the tax year, it will be advantageous to make quarterly payments that you and your tax accountant think will cover your income that is not subject to withholding tax.

Start a Family

Child tax credits are still included in the new tax reform bill. In fact, they have been increased from $1,000 per child to $2,000.

Find Every Available Tax Credit

We’ve named many tax credits in this article, but there are many more that can be utilized. Some of these include childcare costs for low-income households and adoption. Keep in mind that tax credits are more valued than simple deductions because they can reduce your taxable income on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

The tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 that was signed into law in December provided a major overhaul to the previous tax law. This law will affect your tax planning for 2018 so it will be important to have a pro do your taxes. No matter how much you think you know or how much research you do, a professional will be able to identify those tax deductions and tax credits that will be beneficial to you. A professional will also help you stay organized and minimize your tax obligation.

Remember, be a wise taxpayer and learn how to make money out of your tax return.

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

Let’s start by answering the question “What is Earned Income Tax Credit?” also known as EITC we will use the abbreviation through out the rest of the article. The first word in EITC is earned which means you must have worked in the prior year for someone or had a business to receive the credit. The credit is for individuals with low income, the credit starts to phase out the more money you earn not the other way around.

Do You Qualify?
Because you worked does not mean you automatically qualify for these credits, there are guidelines we must follow. The largest shocker for this credit is the age range most people do not know you have to be between the ages of 25 and 65. You can receive this credit even if you do not have any children. You can not receive this credit for your parents. The following individuals will qualify you for this credit:

• Siblings – Sister, Brother, Stepbrother, Stepsister, Half Brother of Half Sister
• Children – Son, Daughter, Stepchild, Foster child, grand child
• Relatives – Niece, nephew

Your qualifying person must be 19 and younger. If they are going to school must be 24 and younger, and younger than you or totally disabled can be any age.

They must live with you for more than half the year and did not provide more than half of their own support. The qualifying person must not file a joint return or if they are filing a joint return it’s to receive the refund for income withheld or estimated tax payments.

Filing Status for EITC
The EITC filing status are: Married filing Jointly (MFJ), Single, Head of Household (HOH), or Widowed.

How Much Money Can You Receive
The most important part is how much is your refund. The EITC may help reduce the amount you owe for federal and State taxes. Yes, California has an earned income tax credit. If your filing status is Single, MFJ, HOH or Widowed your adjusted income must be less than $15,010 no qualifying children, one qualifying child adjusted income must be less than $39,617, two children income less than $45,007, three or more children income must be less than $48,350.

Married filing jointly adjusted income must be less than $20,600 no children, one child adjusted income must be less than $45,207, two children less than $50,597, three or more children adjusted income must be less than $53,950. Your investment income can not be more than $3,450.

The EITC maximum credit for no children is $510 some people might not think this is much money it helps reduce the amount of money you owe to the IRS. This is GREAT considering there was a time you couldn’t receive this credit without children. One child max credit is $3,400, two children $5,616, three children $6,318. The increase from one child to two children is $2,216 while going from two children to three is $702 as you can see the money decrease when you go from two to three children.

Add the credit to the money withheld from your check each year you can receive a hefty refund.

Take the documents below to file

If someone else is helping you with your return take the following documents to them.

• Social Security cards, a Social Security number verification letter, or other U.S. government document verification for all persons you may list on the return.
• Birth dates for all persons you may list on return.
• Copies of last year’s federal and state returns, if you have them.
• All income statements: Forms W-2 and 1099, Social Security, unemployment, and other statements, such as pensions, stocks, interest and any documents showing taxes withheld. If you own or run a business or farm, collect records of all your income.
• All records of expenses, such as tuition, mortgage interest, or real estate taxes. If you own or run a business or farm, collect records of all your expenses.
• All information reporting forms such as the 1095-A, 1095-B or 1095-C.
• Bank routing numbers and account numbers to direct deposit any refund.
• Dependent child care information: name and address of paid caretakers and either their Social Security number or other tax identification number.

Thank you for taking the time to read the EITC information.

Earned Income Tax Credit is a GREAT Way to add more money in your pocket during tax season. Tax Season starts January 29th.

Tax Changes for 2017

TAX REFORM 2017

Let’s look at some of the tax changes for 2017. The changes will affect many taxpayers, some changes will make you happy and others you are not going to like. Originally, there was some buzz about going from seven tax brackets to five. The new tax brackets are better than the previous brackets in my opinion. Our tax brackets for 2017 starts with 10% the income range is the same as 2016 for all filing status. The 15% tax bracket was replaced with 12% tax bracket the income range is the same as 2016 for the 15% bracket. Our next bracket and last one included in this article is 22% down from 25% in 2016. The difference starts in MFS (Married Filing Separately) the income ranges from $38,701 to $82,500 which is different from 2016 which was up to $78,075.

The Standard Deduction increased for next tax season. I would be happy except the exemption credit was phased out due to the increase in the standard deduction. This is where families will see the difference in their refunds. In prior years the exemption credit increased by $50 every year. In 2016 the exemption credit was $4,050 per person on your return. Example: A family with husband, wife and four children would receive an exemption credit of $24,300 plus standard deduction of $9,350.

The new standard deduction for HOH will be $18,000 up from $9,350 almost a double increase. Will lose the $4,050 exemption credit.

Child and Dependent credit increased to $2,000 per child under 17, taxpayers will not receive the whole $2,000 as a refund. The refund portion will be up to $1,400 per qualifying child and nonrefundable dependent credit of $500 for non-qualifying children.

Moving Expense Deductions will not be allowed on tax returns for the 2017 tax year. Alimony is no longer deductible by the person paying alimony or included in income for the person receiving it after December 31, 2018. That sounds great for the person receiving alimony not so good if you must pay it. Casualty losses are no longer allowed unless it is from a presidentially declared disaster. Miscellaneous deductions have been removed which means union dues, tax preparer fees, uniforms, etc. will not be allowed going forward.

There are a lot of changes for the 2017 tax season. Be prepared to bring more information if you are claiming the Head of Household filing status this year.

Note: There may be some changes before the 2017 tax filing season starts.

Have a Fantastic Year and Enjoy Tax Season!

Questions and Answers on Structured Settlements

Q: What are Structured Settlements?
A: If you have been involved with a lawsuit involving personal injury settlements, your attorney may suggest that you consider structured settlements. This is when your case involves settling for a large amount of money, and often the other side’s attorney will offer a plan for you to receive the settlement amount over a proposed period of time, rather than all at once in a lump sum. The payouts can range from an annual payment over a period of 10 years, for instance, to perhaps a payment twice a year. The party who is settling with your regarding your personal injury settlements will purchase an annuity which guarantees the full payment over time.

Q: Would I Benefit From Structured Settlements?
A: Avoiding a large tax impact can be one of the main benefits of accepting lawsuit payments through structured settlements. When properly organized, your tax obligations in regard to the amount you have received from the personal injury lawsuit settlement may be reduced, or in some cases may even be tax free. Someone who has been severely injured and will have years of on-going medical care and special needs may benefit from this type of settlement. In a situation of a wrongful death case where there are young children, structured settlements may be utilized to pay for the cost of college in the future.

Q: What are the Drawbacks of Structured Settlements?
A: You may not borrow against the future payments of your personal injury settlements. For instance, let’s say you’d like to purchase a home. If you receive an annual payout this may help for your income qualifications on the house, but you cannot access the annuity to put a down payment on the property. The amount of return on the annuity may be less than the amount you may be able to receive if you were managing the full settlement yourself.

Q:Is it True I Can Sell My Structured Settlements?
A: Yes, this can many times be done. There may be laws or restrictions which will come into play. Certain insurance companies which are handling the lawsuit payments may have restrictions on a sale to a third party. This can be an arena where unscrupulous business are shopping for a good deal, and offer you a low amount, but for a quick payout. Annuity buy outs are not always the best answer, and often may need to be approved by the court. At the very least, seek the advice of your personal injury attorney before entering into an agreement to sell through annuity buy outs.

Contact The Law of Jeffrey S. Dawson today at 949/861-2191 for a free consultation to discuss your personal injury case. Jeff Dawson is a uniquely qualified personal injury lawyer. He has worked on the other side, as well – for the insurance firms, and knows how they think. If you have been involved in an accident where you have suffered injuries, contact the law offices of Jeffrey S. Dawson to discuss your potential lawsuit settlement.

Finest Way to Locate Your Money!

The advantage designation that works best at any given point in one’s life will depend to a great extent on time skyline and the capacity to endure hazard.

Rather than settling on any dishonorable choice, it is ideal to begin by choosing what blend of stocks, securities and shared trusts you need to hold, this alludes to as resource assignment.

A forceful speculator or one with a high hazard resistance are more presented to danger of losing cash keeping in mind the end goal to show signs of improvement results. A preservationist financial specialist or a speculator with a generally safe resilience tends to support ventures that will safeguard his or her unique venture. In the expressions of the renowned saying preservationist financial specialist keeps a “fledgling in the hand” while forceful speculator looks for “two in the shrub”.

Regarding the matter of contributing, hazard and price are inseparably woven. All speculations include some level of danger, if that you mean to buy securities, for example, stocks, securities, or shared stores it’s critical to comprehend before contributing that one can lose some or the cash’s majority. Be that as it may, other resource classifications including land, valuable metals and different products and private value additionally exist and a few financial specialists may decide on these advantage classifications. Before making any speculation it is huge to appraise the dangers and verifying that they are fitting for the person.

By blending resource classifications with venture gives back that climb and down under diverse economic situations inside of a portfolio, a speculator can ensure FTS asset locators against noteworthy misfortunes. By putting resources into more than one advantage classification, one can slice the danger to lose cash and portfolio, along these lines general speculation returns may have a smoother ride.

The act of spreading cash among distinctive ventures to diminish danger is known as “expansion”. This technique can be perfectly summed up by the evergreen expression. “Try not to put all your investments tied up on one place”. It includes spreading cash among different segments with the expectation that if one speculation loses cash alternate ventures will compensate for those misfortunes.

It is imperative that how financial specialists circulate their venture crosswise over sparing vehicles, including assessor records, duty excluded records, expense conceded records, variable extra security approaches, establishments and coastal versus seaward records. Asset location is an assessment minimization method that exploits the way that diverse sorts of speculations get distinctive duty medicines.

Structured Settlements – What Are They?

What is a Structured Settlement Annuity?

A Structured Settlement Annuity (SSA) is a contract issued by an insurance company that originated from a legal action such as a car accident, workplace accident, wrongful death, medical malpractice, etc. The original claimant (plaintiff) elected to accept a series of payments instead of a lump sum settlement. This series of payments are guaranteed by an US based insurance company and is in the form of a fixed annuity.

In about 20% of the cases the claimants (or their heirs) elect to sell their SSAs (in full or part) in exchange for a discounted lump sum of cash today.

What is the process when a Claimant decides to sell their SSA?

Claimants that are considering selling their SSAs seek out factoring companies which are institutions that buy SSAs. Claimants are looking to get the largest lump sum of cash today in exchange for the rights that they give up to receive those future payments.

This process must go through the court system which protects both the claimant and the factoring company in the selling of the SSA. Once the agreement is made and approved by the courts the factoring company pays the original claimant the agreed upon amount in a lump sum and the claimant signs off on all rights to receive those future payments.

When a factoring company buys a SSA from a claimant they then offer to sell those court ordered rights to recoup the funds that they paid out. Some factoring companies package the SSAs and sell them on Wall Street or to large institutional investors and pension plans. Some factoring companies sell them to individual investors through a network of brokers as a Safe Money alternative which are good choices for both IRA funds and non-IRA funds.

The payment streams can be either ongoing monthly payments for a set period of time or can come in the form of a deferred lump sum.

The safety rests in the insurance company that is backing the payment stream. In addition, in most states there are State Guarantee Associations which back the principal of these annuities up to a certain amount. These are fixed annuities and as such they are afforded this protection.

The court process is designed to protect all parties. The court sends a letter to the underlining insurance company notifying them that their policy-owner (the claimant) has sold the rights to their contract to the new owner. Once the insurance company responds and accepts (Acceptance Letter) that transfer of ownership the security to the new purchaser is complete.

Make Goal Based Investing to Realize Your Financial Goals

Life is all about setting different goals and achieving them one after another. As Tony Robbins said setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. When each rupee you invest has a definite purpose behind it, is called Goal based investing.

Goal based financial planning is done for long term, midterm and short term gains. Long term plans usually yield more wealth comparing the other two. A midterm plan could be buying a home where a short term plan may be having a car.

How it is Different from the Traditional Approach
Unlike the traditional approach of investing, goal based investing does not only focus on your risk profile, rather its focus remains on achieving the target. The investment plans should be designed by keeping the goal at the centre.

The focal point of the traditional approach remains in selecting areas that ensure safe returns. It finds a safe and sure path to grow money. Whereas, in Goal based investing, realization of the goals defines its ultimate success. Wealth generation is not the sole target.

Goal based investment plans get designed only after doing a detailed research of the investor’s net worth, level of risk-tolerance and financial goals. In case of traditional approach, first the risk quotient is calculated and according to that a pre-designed investment plane gets selected.

Benefits of Goal Based Investing

In life, each rupee you spend is a type investment that yields certain results for you. If your goal based investments are planned, well thought out and work for achieving specific goals then they do not affect each other. The benefits of making goal based investments are-
It engages you in making systematic approach toward a better money management.
It is nothing but a good habit that restricts you from making spur of the moment purchases.
Channelizes your money toward building value assets and wealth through proper financial planning.
Increases the achievability of the financial goals of your life.
You can continuously monitor and make changes to your plan in order to reach closer to your desired financial goals.

How to plan a Goal Based Investing

Planning a goal based investment requires-
You have to make a list of important life goals that you need to achieve. You should prioritize them according to their importance.
Analyze your money needs. It will help you in clustering your investments according to the upcoming life events.
Cluster your investments in three sections- 1) Short-term, 2) Mid-term and 3) Long-Term.
Now choose suitable investment plans and start investing.

Short Term Goal based investments are made to fulfill impending requirements that are going to arise in next 2 years. You have to choose less volatile and low risk areas to invest as you need to turn them into liquid soon.

Mid-term Goal based investments are those where you need the return in next 3-10 years. Long-term goals may include retirement and child’s higher education. To meet such kind of goals, you need to accumulate large corpus. For that, you have to give good effort to identify pre-determined asset class and make systematic investment over longer period of time. During the course of time, you should stay invested in your plan irrespective of the short-term market upheavals.

If you tie your financial investments around a time frame and specific life goals, it gets a lot easier to achieve.

How To Earn a Pretty Profit With Diamond Investing

People who are looking to invest and make money often do so by heading to the stock market. There is a definite risk in going that route, especially in recent years when the markets have been so volatile. If it’s a safer way to profits that you are looking for, investing in diamonds is the way to go. Investing in diamond is an excellent way to recover market losses, while also creating profits that are then available for other investing opportunities.When investing, you are essentially using your money to try and gain profits without any undue influence from the people or companies in which you are investing. There are definite terms and conditions in place in each transaction, which may differ in each investment. It is the type of work called for in the investment that plays a role in the agreement or contract set forth by the individual or company.

Let’s now take a moment to talk about how your investments are affected when a company starts to suffer losses. Companies seeking money from investors usually do so when they are in a tight financial spot that requires them to seek financial help. They turn to the general public when looking for that financial assistance. In these types of situations, the investments made are often in the form of shares, investment bonds, or debentures, with the investor receiving a share of profits if the financial tide turns for the company. These investments are a loan of sorts, with the advantage to the company being that they do not need to pay interest. Each investor, or shareholder, receives dividends and profit share that is dependent on the type of contract signed at the time of the investment. In the case of diamond investing, the investor receives a diamond in return for giving money to the company. They do not receive any interest or profits from the company after that transaction, but they are free to sell the diamond for a profit when the value of diamonds on the open market is on the rise.

One of the great benefits of owning a diamond, besides the status and luxury of the gem, is that it will never see its value decrease, even in cases where the demand for diamonds decreases during a particular period. The supply and demand elements that so often drive the stock market are simply not in play with diamonds, making this investment one where you simply cannot lose. Given the status and luxury of diamonds, which are very often held by kings and queens of many different countries, your investment will be one that is very wise indeed.

The diamond market never experiences a decrease in value. One thing to be aware of is that there are two kinds of diamonds out there: miners across the world dig for natural diamonds, but there are also some synthetic varieties that are hand-made in a laboratory, with the synthetic diamonds often on the market alongside the natural stones, which can help drive inflation. Diamond companies fall under the category of either a public or private limited company, with that distinction usually dependent upon the part of the world where the company resides. Some companies also fall into the semi-government category, which is where the company is owned in part by the government and in part by the residents of the country.

How Does the 2018 Federal Budget Affect You and Your Family?

If you sat down at 7:30 last night to watch the 2018 Federal Budget Announcement, you may have found yourself a little overwhelmed. With so many figures and areas of taxation to get your head around, we have sat down, dissected and summarised the answers to the question you may be asking – “What’s in it for me (and my family)?”

Personal income tax
The Treasurer announced plans for a three-step, seven-year plan:

  • Step One: Effective immediate, low and middle income earners are to benefit from tax savings of up to $530 per person (or $1,060 per couple).
  • Step Two: From 1 July this year, the threshold of the 32.5% tax bracket will increase from $87,000 to $90,000, then will again increase in July 2022 from $90,000 to $120,000.
  • Step Three: From 2024-25, there will be just two income tax brackets for people earning over $41,000 per year: 32.5% for incomes between $41,001 and $200,000, and 45% for incomes exceeding $200,000.
  • The Medicare levy will remain at 2%.

Your superannuation
Have you ever considered changing your super fund, but found it cost-prohibitive because of high exit fees? Great news in this years budget– super funds will soon be banned from charging exit fees. But you’ll need to wait until 1 July 2019 to make your move.

Other changes to superannuation include:

The balance-eroding practice of automatically adding life insurance to a superannuation policy, no matter what the age of the person, will end. (To date, super members under the age of 25 pay nearly $200 million a year in life insurance fees through superannuation). Those under 25 are now required to ‘opt in’ to buying life insurance.

Companies can no longer automatically deduct life insurance cover for all funds where no contributions have been made for 13 months.

According to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, more than 60% of Australians have multiple super funds. So, the ATO will turn their eye to inactive super accounts and merge them with their owners’ active funds.

  • Self-managed super funds (SMSFs) can now have 6 members, up from 4.
  • SMSFs with a history of good record keeping will be rewarded by reducing annual audits to 3 yearly audits.
  • People over 65 can put up to $300,000 into super from the proceeds of selling their home.
  • First home buyers who have made super contributions under the First Home Super Saver Scheme can access their money for eligible property purchases.

Education
Young people living in rural and remote communities will find it easier to get access to Youth Allowance payments while they are studying away from home (eligibility for these payments is based on parental income).

Traineeships
The Federal Government will match funding with the states and territories to provide traineeships and apprenticeships for “high-demand” areas over four years. However, there is one caveat: each of the states and territories needed to sign up for this to go ahead.

Ageing Australia
There are a number of changes in this years budget to benefit older Australians. They include:

  • $1.6 billion over four years has been set aside so 14,000 seniors can stay in their homes rather than go into a nursing home.
  • $20 million for mental health nurses to support older people still living at home (the Government notes that men over 85 have the highest risk of suicide of all age groups).
  • $40 million has been budgeted for urgent building and maintenance work for aged care facilities in regional and remote areas.
  • $33 million has been set aside to address a chronic shortage of palliative care in nursing homes.
  • A one-year exemption from the ‘work test’ will apply to recent retirees who have less than $300,000 in total super savings.
  • The Pension Loans Scheme will be available to all Australians over Age Pension age and the maximum payments will increase to 150% of the full Age Pension.
  • Pension Work Bonus increases to $7,800 p.a. from $6,000.
  • Finally, the Government has pledged to make the aged-care system easier for families to navigate, simplifying forms and providing relevant online educational facilities.

Access to more affordable medicine: Granted, you will need to wait years for this, but it’s good to know the government will spend $302 million over four years to improve your access to generic and less expensive medicine.

Your health
There are plans to allocate $130 billion for public hospitals over five years. The government also proposed a crack down on unnecessary diagnostic tests.

Access to your own data. The government announced the establishment of a “consumer data right”. This will allow you to take control of your online personal data and safely share it with credible service providers, starting with the banking, energy and telecommunications sectors.

Small business
No budget would be complete without something for small businesses. If you run your own business, the current deduction on spending on eligible assets of up to $20,000 has been extended to July 2019. Another win: streamlining of GST reporting which, in turn, will save money – a welcome change for around 2.7 million small businesses.

Craft Beer Brewers. There are around 350 craft brewers in Australia, so chances are you aren’t one of them. However, most consider the tax changes that put small craft beer brewers at a disadvantage to be a victory for common sense. Beer sold in kegs larger than 48 litres have been taxed at a lower rate than smaller kegs, which in effect has favoured large producers. The change brings the lower tax level down to beer sold in kegs larger than the 8-litre size.

Finally
While not all of these changes are likely to affect you personally, you might give them your ‘tick’ of approval:

  • Multinational companies now to be policed and stopped from shifting profits to lower-taxing countries (they do this by loading up local operations with debt).
  • Online hotel booking websites based outside of Australia will now be taxed at the same rate as Australian businesses, ending the inequality that currently occurs between international and local booking providers.
  • Companies that are currently ‘pushing the boundaries’ and taking advantage of the research and development tax incentive scheme will be stopped. This will ensure funding goes to genuinely innovative spending.
  • A $1.3 billion plan to support Australia as a ‘global leader’ in medical technology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
  • The ATO will turn an eye to the ‘Black Market Economy”, with more audits, ‘mobile strike teams’ and a ‘Black Economy Hotline’ for the public

Tips To Buy The Best Equipment For Your Salon & Spa

If you are planning to start a spa or salon, then you would already have guessed how having the perfect equipment is very important for the success of the venture. To pick the right spa or salon equipment, consider the following factors-

    • Matching The Space: Make sure that the equipment blends very well with the overall design of your spa or salon. So, for a feminine themed spa, ensure that you have equipment that is curvy and smooth. The colors must also be warm and comforting. There is no point in placing blocky, rectangular looking equipment in a spa if you mostly want it to feel feminine. That is just a bad design choice. And given a large number of brands, it shouldn’t be too tough for you to identify equipment that matches the look of your business place. If you have difficulties in choosing the equipment, consult a professional designer.

 

    • Cost vs Quality: Obviously, the cost of the equipment must be within your budget. But sometimes, you may want to buy equipment that is of a high quality, but your budget may not allow it. In such situation, you can look at other options to acquire the equipment rather than forcing yourself to write it off as something too expensive. For example, there are many aesthetic equipment leasing companies, who will be more than happy to lease, you the equipment of your choice without any down payment. So, look for leasing options in your area and contact them if necessary.

 

    • Assembling: Some equipment will be shipped to you only in parts, either because they are too big or because it is the most convenient shipping option. But either way, having to deal with unassembled equipment can be quite a pain. You may not even be able to put it together correctly and will have to spend extra money to get a professional to assemble the equipment. And in the worst case scenario, you may assemble it imperfectly and cause irreparable damage to the equipment. To avoid such situations, remember to ask the seller, whether the equipment will be sent to you fully assembled or if you have to assemble it yourself. If it is the latter, it may be better for you to look for other sellers or manufacturers.

 

  • Long Lasting: You will be running the business for a long time. Therefore, it makes sense that you only buy equipment that will also last for long. Check the reviews of the various equipment online and make sure that they are durable and dependable, If possible, you can visit other spas or salons using the equipment you ask interested in and them how it has been holding up after being used for many years. But if you have no plans for purchasing the equipment, and are only looking at the aesthetic equipment leasing options, then you obviously need not worry about the life expectancy of the equipment since you can easily replace them whenever you want.

Make sure that you keep the above points in mind when you shop for salon or spa equipment, and you are sure to pick the equipment that is a perfect match for your needs.

4 Tips To Become Successful In The Hospitality Business

If you are venturing into the hospitality industry, you have to account for certain factors that can increase the chances of your success. Four such simple, yet important, things that you should always remember include-

  • Be Smart With Your Finances: As with any other business, the smarter you are with your finances, the more likely you are to taste success in the hospitality industry. And this starts right from your investments. Do not make all your investments from your own funds. Instead, use a healthy mix of capital, loans, and other financing options. For example, for acquiring all equipment, you can opt for a hospitality equipment lease from reputed leasing companies. This will allow you to change the equipment whenever you want by just canceling the lease and taking a new lease on the new equipment. As such, wasting capital on purchasing the equipment makes too little sense. In the same way, be very careful with your expenses. Cut down any expense that you feel is unnecessary. But remember to apply discretion here and do a thorough research to ensure that the expense you are cutting off is truly non-productive.
  • Develop Strong Business Relationships: Build beneficial relationships with other businesses and develop your network. But remember that the arrangements should be mutually beneficial. Else, those business relationships won’t last long. For example, you can contact a local store and arrange for them to distribute a 10% discount at your restaurant coupon when customers purchase anything from their store. In this case, both you and the store owner benefit in some way. Such types of marketing and business relationships are far likelier to last than any deal in which only you end up benefitting.
  • Always Be Ready For Emergencies: Unfortunate events can happen anytime. And in the hospitality business, if you are unable to handle such events with minimal damage, you not only risk suffering, loss but may even have to shut down your operations. For example, if there is a fire in your restaurant, then you must ensure that all customers are properly rescued from the place. For this, you must have already taken precautions against fire hazards, preparing strategic exit points at all important locations. This would ensure that people can quickly get out of the place without any mad rush. Not foreseeing such potential hazards can end up costing you dearly, both financially and in terms of reputation.
  • Hire The Most Pleasant Customer Relationship Staff: Always hire the most pleasant person to handle the customers. The more they are able to make the customer feel comfortable and happy, the more your business will grow. As simple as that. As such, if you have to pay a higher salary for getting the right person for the job, don’t hesitate to do it.

If you keep the above in mind, whether it be getting the hospitality equipment by lease, foreseeing emergencies or any of the other things, you will surely taste more success in the industry.

Our hospitality equipment team has over 10 years of experience with helping well-known brands finance their renovation and equipment needs. We’ve provided financing for franchisor-mandated upgrades such as guest room and lobby furniture, TV’s, A/C units, mattresses, and computer reservation systems.

3 Reasons Why You Should Think Of Leasing Your Crane Equipment

If your business is in need of crane equipment, then you will have to think of ways to acquire it. And rather than trying to utilize your business funds or resorting to a business loan for purchasing the equipment, you may be better off choosing to lease it. Below are the three ways you can benefit from leasing the crane equipment-

    • Higher Chance For More Credit: Getting credit is no easy task. Creditors look for many factors to ensure that they only lend money to trustworthy businesses which they feel will be in a position to repay their debt and interest in full. And if they do not think that you meet their criteria, then you have a very low chance of getting approved for financing. And one of the most important criteria the creditors look for is your existing credit line. If you already have piled on so much debt that your debt to asset ratios are skewed, then you can forget about receiving credit. And this is where leasing becomes beneficial. When you acquire crane equipment through leasing, you won’t be showing the lease as a debt. As such, your debt to asset ratios remain intact and you will look much more attractive to creditors. So, if you are wondering how to finance a crane acquisition, then do consider leasing.

 

    • Include Soft Costs In Financing: When you buy crane equipment, you will not only be spending money on the equipment itself but also additional costs like transportation, installation, modification, operator training, etc. All these little costs can add up and eventually become a significant portion of the final acquisition cost. And if you plan to buy it through a loan, then you will have to put up more money in addition to the loan to actually be able to purchase the crane. But by using a lease option, you can forget about all such disadvantages since a lease will cover all soft costs. As such, you won’t have to spend a penny on your side to get the machine to your location.

 

  • Get The Equipment You Really Want: If you were planning on acquiring a crane equipment using your own funds or by a loan, then you will be limited by cost considerations. For example, you may like an equipment, but because you don’t have too much to spare, you may be forced to pass it off and select a cheaper equipment. With leasing, you can forget about such matters. Since you are not making any upfront investments, you are literally free to choose any equipment you want. The only limit you have to consider is the monthly installment. And as long as you can meet the monthly installment, you can acquire the exact equipment you desire no matter how high the price tag is.

So, keep the above considerations in mind when thinking of how to finance a crane equipment. Remember to consult with the leasing companies to know how exactly a lease can help you in making the crane purchase.

How to Find a Legitimate Federal Debt Relief Program

Government debt relief programs; do they exist?

Yes, government debt relief programs do exist. However, federal debt relief programs are only available for student loans.

Federal student loan relief programs are available at StudentLoans.Gov.

The key to getting a low monthly payment and the maximum amount of loan forgiveness is to qualify for an income-driven repayment plan.

The Pay As You Earn plan is a popular federal program that offers a low monthly payment and loan forgiveness.

The lower a person’s income and bigger their family size, the lower their consolidated monthly payment will be.

Students do need to recertify the Pay As You Earn and all of the income-based repayment plans every year, so if a person’s income changes so can their payment.

AFSLR Certified Student Loan Expert, Wesley Hendrickson, stated; “Don’t forget to recertify or you can lose your eligibility for loan forgiveness, and your payment can skyrocket. This is the most common mistake that I see students make. The next thing you know, your wages will be getting garnished, and credit score is shot.”

For credit card relief, government programs don’t exist. Credit card relief options available through third-party companies are available. Make sure the company you choose is IAPDA Certified and highly rated by the Better Business Bureau.

A person can also work directly with their credit card company, but the savings will be minimal compared to what a person can save with a debt relief program. Your credit card company may temporarily reduce your payments and interest, but it will only be temporary.

Most debt relief companies across the nation offer debt settlement services, but this program comes with negative consequences.

A person’s credit score can be negatively impacted and credit card lawsuits can occur while on a debt settlement program. In only about 2% of all cases, credit card companies will sue a person while on a debt settlement program. While this isn’t a large percentage of lawsuits happening, it is something that you need to beware of and ready for.

Before you join a debt settlement program, make sure to understand ALL of the potential negative consequences. Do your research and make sure the company helping you is transparent and has reputable credentials.

How debt validation works

Debt validation can allow a person to legally stop paying a debt and walk away from the debt without paying a dime to the debt collection company and only having to pay the debt relief company’s fees.

Debt relief programs that improve your credit score

No debt relief program will improve your credit score unless you get a debt relief loan to pay off your credit cards.

Since all plans can have an adverse effect on credit scores; debt validation comes with credit repair, aiming to get the debt and it’s associated negative marks completely removed from the clients’ credit reports by the end of the program.

Rick Sorrentino, IAPDA Accredited Counselor, advises consumers; “If you can afford to pay at least minimum monthly payments, try to find another way to resolve your debt besides using debt settlement or debt validation. These programs should only be used as a last resort, to save a person from having to file for bankruptcy.”

Fear Not, China Is Not Banning Cryptocurrency

In 2008 following the financial crisis, a paper titled “Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System” was published, detailing the concepts of a payment system. Bitcoin was born. Bitcoin gained the attention of the world for its use of blockchain technology and as an alternative to fiat currencies and commodities. Dubbed the next best technology after the internet, blockchain offered solutions to issues we have failed to address, or ignored over the past few decades. I will not delve into the technical aspect of it but here are some articles and videos that I recommend:

How Bitcoin Works Under the Hood

A gentle introduction to blockchain technology

Ever wonder how Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies) actually work?

Fast forward to today, 5th February to be exact, authorities in China have just unveiled a new set of regulations to ban cryptocurrency. The Chinese government have already done so last year, but many have circumvented through foreign exchanges. It has now enlisted the almighty ‘Great Firewall of China’ to block access to foreign exchanges in a bid to stop its citizens from carrying out any cryptocurrency transactions.

To know more about the Chinese government stance, let’s backtrack a couple years back to 2013 when Bitcoin was gaining popularity among the Chinese citizens and prices were soaring. Concerned with the price volatility and speculations, the People’s Bank of China and five other government ministries published an official notice on December 2013 titled “Notice on Preventing Financial Risk of Bitcoin” (Link is in Mandarin). Several points were highlighted:

1. Due to various factors such as limited supply, anonymity and lack of a centralized issuer, Bitcoin is not a official currency but a virtual commodity that cannot be used in the open market.

2. All banks and financial organizations are not allowed to offer Bitcoin-related financial services or engage in trading activity related to Bitcoin.

3. All companies and websites that offer Bitcoin-related services are to register with the necessary government ministries.

4. Due to the anonymity and cross-border features of Bitcoin, organizations providing Bitcoin-related services ought to implement preventive measures such as KYC to prevent money laundering. Any suspicious activity including fraud, gambling and money laundering should to be reported to the authorities.

5. Organizations providing Bitcoin-related services ought to educate the public about Bitcoin and the technology behind it and not mislead the public with misinformation.

In layman’s term, Bitcoin is categorized as a virtual commodity (e.g in-game credits,) that can be bought or sold in its original form and not to be exchanged with fiat currency. It cannot be defined as money- something that serves as a medium of exchange, a unit of accounting, and a store of value.

Despite the notice being dated in 2013, it is still relevant with regards to the Chinese government stance on Bitcoin and as mentioned, there is no indication of the banning Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Rather, regulation and education about Bitcoin and blockchain will play a role in the Chinese crypto-market.

A similar notice was issued on Jan 2017, again emphasizing that Bitcoin is a virtual commodity and not a currency. In September 2017, the boom of initial coin offerings (ICOs) led to the publishing of a separate notice titled “Notice on Preventing Financial Risk of Issued Tokens”. Soon after, ICOs were banned and Chinese exchanges were investigated and eventually closed. (Hindsight is 20/20, they have made the right decision to ban ICOs and stop senseless gambling). Another blow was dealt to China’s cryptocurrency community in January 2018 when mining operations faced serious crackdowns, citing excessive electricity consumption.

While there is no official explanation on the crackdown of cryptocurrencies, capital controls, illegal activities and protection of its citizens from financial risk are some of the main reasons cited by experts. Indeed, Chinese regulators have implemented stricter controls such as overseas withdrawal cap and regulating foreign direct investment to limit capital outflow and ensure domestic investments. The anonymity and ease of cross-border transactions have also made cryptocurrency a favorite means for money laundering and fraudulent activities.

Since 2011, China has played a crucial role in the meteoric rise and fall of Bitcoin. At its peak, China accounted for over 95% of the global Bitcoin trading volume and three quarters of the mining operations. With regulators stepping in to control trading and mining operations, China’s dominance has shrunk significantly in exchange for stability.

With countries like Korea and India following suit in the crackdown, a shadow is now casted over the future of cryptocurrency. (I shall reiterate my point here: countries are regulating cryptocurrency, not banning it). Without a doubt, we will see more nations join in in the coming months to rein in the tumultuous crypto-market. Indeed, some kind of order was long overdue. Over the past year, cryptocurrencies are experiencing price volatility unheard of and ICOs are happening literally every other day. In 2017, the total market capitalization rose from 18 billion USD in January to an all-time high of 828 billion USD.

Nonetheless, the Chinese community are in surprisingly good spirits despite crackdowns. Online and offline communities are flourishing (I personally have attended quite a few events and visited some of the firms) and blockchain startups are sprouting all over China.

Major blockchain firms such as NEO, QTUM and VeChain are getting huge attention in the country. Startups like Nebulas, High Performance Blockchain (HPB) and Bibox are also gaining a fair amount of traction. Even giants such as Alibaba and Tencent are also exploring the capabilities of blockchain to enhance their platform. The list goes on and on but you get me; it’s going to be HUGGEE!

The Chinese government have also been embracing blockchain technology and have stepped up efforts in recent years to support the creation of a blockchain ecosystem.

In China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020), it called for the development of promising technologies including blockchain and artificial intelligence. It also plans to strengthen research on the application of fintech in regulation, cloud computing and big data. Even the People’s Bank of China is also testing a prototype blockchain-based digital currency; however, with it likely to be a centralized digital currency slapped with some encryption technology, its adoption by the Chinese citizens remains to be seen.

The launch of the Trusted Blockchain Open Lab as well as the China Blockchain Technology and Industry Development Forum by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology are some of the other initiatives by the Chinese government to support the development of blockchain in China.

A recent report titled ” China Blockchain Development Report 2018″ (English version in the link) by China Blockchain Research Center detailed the development of the blockchain industry in China in 2017 including the various measures taken to regulate cryptocurrency in the mainland. In a separate section, the report highlighted the optimistic outlook of the blockchain industry and the massive attention it has received from VCs and the Chinese government in 2017.

In summary, the Chinese government have shown a positive attitude towards blockchain technology despite its enforcement on cryptocurrency and mining operations. China wants to control cryptocurrency, and China will get control. The repeated enforcements by the regulators were meant to protect its citizens from the financial risk of cryptocurrencies and limit capital outflow. As of now, it is legal for Chinese citizens to hold cryptocurrencies but they are not allowed to carry out any form of transaction; hence the ban of exchanges. As the market stabilizes in the coming months (or years), we will see undoubtedly see a revival of the Chinese crypto-market. Blockchain and cryptocurrency come hand-in-hand (with the exception of private chain where a token is unnecessary). Countries thus cannot ban cryptocurrency without banning blockchain the awesome technology!

One thing we can all agree on is that blockchain is still at its infancy. Many exciting developments awaits us and right now is definitely the best time to lay the foundation for a blockchain-enabled world.

Test Your Credit Score Knowledge

Credit profile, score, assessment: if you’re thinking of taking out a home loan, these are important terms you’ll need to learn more about.

What is a credit score?

All credit active people have a profile. This is a summary of your history with every credit provider you’ve ever dealt with, and serves as a record of how well you’ve managed your accounts like loan repayments, overdue debts, how often you’ve asked for credit and the kinds of loans or credit you’ve applied for, and the frequency of your applications.

How it works?

Credit reporting providers summarise your profile into something called a credit score. The score is between 0 and 1200, where the higher the number, the more likely you are to be able to repay a loan. Lenders look at your credit profile and score to find out about your credit history and behavior, and assess if you are able to take on a new loan. This information reassures lenders that you’re good at paying money back to those you’ve borrowed from – i.e. you are a ‘low risk’ client.

A good score not only makes you more likely to get approval on your home loan application – but it also means you’ll qualify for a better interest rate. Of course, the other side of the coin is that if you have a poor score, you will be less likely to qualify for any new loans. This protects the lender and those with low scores from taking out additional loans and overextending themselves and getting into more debt. In short, you’ll need to have a good credit score rating for your home loan application to be approved.

It’s therefore a good idea to first find out what your credit score is before applying for a loan, and to give yourself time to improve it before approaching a lender.

How to check your score?

A great place to start your research is ASICs MoneySmart site. You can get a free credit score assessment from a number of online providers, which are listed on the MoneySmart site.

How to improve your score?

Improving your credit score starts with looking at your current financial situation and ways to improve it. Getting into a good credit position before you apply for a loan can help increase the likelihood of you getting approved.

You can improve your score by:

  • lowering your credit card limits
  • consolidating multiple personal loans and/or credit cards
  • limiting your credit enquiries
  • paying your rent and bills on time
  • paying your mortgage and other loans on time
  • paying your credit card off in full each month

To avoid any surprises, be prepared and know your credit score.

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