Addressing year-end income tax planning now is a good idea (but tax planning can be done year-round). As with any planning, acting while you can have an impact is best. And staying current as tax laws change will help you respond in the best way to save more.
With inflation hitting many and their ability to support families, the holidays may be the time to say a special “thank you” to those who help keep us and our families, homes and businesses on track, who keep our homes clean, help us stay fit, and help us in other ways to get through each day throughout the year.
With that in mind, we updated our suggested gifts and tips for 2022. Please be mindful that the message you intend may not always be obvious. Any giving should show appreciation and respect. Sometimes a smile, a kind word or even a note can really make someone’s day and have more lasting meaning than a Starbucks gift card.
For those you can’t tip, you can still make them feel appreciated
The Pandemic has made us more appreciative of first responders and health care workers. Many houses display a sign with a red heart to say thank you.
You can also send letters of thanks directly to a local hospital, fire station or police department or send a meal or buy coffee. Check for any online bulletin board in your town, both to post a thank you note and to see if there are other ways to acknowledge your local first responders.
“Neither snow nor rain…”
Despite the weather, terrain or traffic, your mail carriers, FedEx, UPS and Amazon drivers deliver your mail and packages every day and ensure that your online purchases arrive on time and in good condition. These delivery workers have carried an increased burden during the Pandemic, even risking their own health.
As you decide what and how much to give, check each particular company’s gift giving restrictions:
1. Mail carriers – are prohibited from receiving cash gifts and gifts of more than $20. Unfortunately, the limit has not increased for inflation.
2. Garbage and recycling pickup – depending on what municipal rules permit, we suggest $15-$35.
3. FedEx – employees are prohibited from accepting gifts, but a wave, a smile or a note would be nice.
4. UPS – workers are allowed to accept tips, but UPS discourages the practice.
5. Newspaper delivery – a gift of $15-$35 is standard.
6. Amazon driver – we suggest the same as for newspaper delivery.
7. Food delivery and curbside pickup – again we suggest the same as for newspaper delivery.
Caregivers (for kids, parents and pets, too!)
Caregivers for your children, parents and pets can be lifesavers as they provide care, education, exercise, and attention to those you care about most. This is the time of year to let them know how thankful you are for all that they do. The amount of service they provide and the arrangement you have with them can dictate the appropriate gift level:
1. Nanny/au pair – a week’s salary and a small gift.
2. Daycare teachers – a $25-$75 gift.
3. Home healthcare worker – from one week up to a month’s salary. If tips are not permitted, consider cooking or baking something special. If the care is in a senior living or hospital setting, be sure to cover the whole shift.
4. Teacher – a small gift and a handmade card from your child. Note that a cash gift could be misconstrued as a bribe. You can pool resources with other parents for a gift card.
5. Dog walker – depending on your walker’s schedule, you may want to gift a day’s pay or a full week’s pay.
6. Dog groomer – from half up to the full cost for a single service.
If you contract any of these services through an agency, you may want to contact the agency to find out if they have a gift-giving policy in effect. If the agency prohibits gifts, consider alternatives like making a donation to the agency or sending in homemade cookies to the office – or sneak a Starbucks card into their stockings.
Whether you live in a single-family home or a large apartment building, it’s likely there is someone who services your home or property in some way.
1. Trash and recycling collectors – a gift of $15-$35, which you may want to mail directly to the collection company if you can’t safely leave for the collectors.
2. Doorman – a gift of $25-$100, depending on their role this year.
3. Regular cleaning person – the cost of one visit.
4. Landscapers/gardeners – a gift of $20-$50 per person or if you have just one person doing the work, the cost of one visit.
5. Parking garage attendant – a gift of $10-$50.
6. Building’s handyman, superintendent and custodian – a gift of $20-$100.
If you have someone who always goes the extra mile, such as a handyman who’s prompt and efficient or a doorman who is quick to carry heavy packages for you, then a larger tip may be warranted.
It’s hard work keeping you fit, perfectly coiffed and beautiful, and ready to face the day. Now is a good time to show appreciation for those efforts, especially when they help you get that special appointment when you really need it. In deciding whether to tip and how much, consider this:
1. Hairdresser/manicurist – if you’re a frequent visitor, tip the cost of one visit. If you’re a less frequent customer, then $20. However, if you tip generously through the year, you do not need to give an extra tip at the end of the year. If multiple people work on your hair, divide the tip among them. And if any them double as your therapist, add a bit more!
2. Personal trainer – up to the cost of one visit.
3. Massage therapist – also up to cost of one visit.
4. Golf or tennis instructor or sax teacher – a thoughtful gift.
If you’re unable to tip or give a gift, a thoughtful thank you note will acknowledge the good work these people do for you throughout the year.
Good feedback is appreciated by their supervisor as well as by the people who are helping you out.
Send a thank you note to the supervisors of the people who provide you with great service throughout the year, letting them know how impressed you are with the service their people provide.
Security Summit: Tax pros can help clients battle identity theft risk
WASHINGTON – The Security Summit partners today concluded a special summer education campaign by outlining steps tax professionals can take to help clients from becoming statistics in identity-theft related tax-fraud scams.
The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry – working together as the Security Summit – have been combatting identity theft since 2015. This is the final part in a five-part summer series sponsored by the Summit partners to highlight critical steps tax professionals can take to protect client data. The “Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself” campaign is an effort to urge tax professionals to secure their computer systems and protect client data following the pandemic and its aftermath.
“Identity thieves always seem to find a hook to lure victims, and we increasingly see tax professionals as a target given the sensitive client data they handle,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Tax professionals have their hands full taking care of their clients and staying on top of the latest in professional developments. But they shouldn’t overlook the basics of protecting their data and their systems. Missing these basic steps can be devastating to a tax pro – and their clients. But a few common-sense steps and being aware of security basics can go a long way to provide important protection.”
While many may be working from home either full- or part-time, the IRS and Security Summit partners urge the use of virtual private networks, or VPNs, to securely conduct business.
Online business/commerce and banking should only be done while using a secure browser connection -never at a coffee shop, restaurant or other business offering ‘free wifi.’ One way users can tell if they’re using a secure browser is by looking for a small lock visible in the lower right corner or upper left of the web browser window.
Some additional considerations:
Be cautious of email attachments and web links. Do not open a link or attachment that arrives unexpectedly. Always call the sender to confirm receipt and validity of any unexpected links or attachments before opening.
Use separate personal and business computers, mobile devices and email accounts. This is particularly important for those who may share hardware with other family members, especially children, who may not be aware of safety protocols.
Do not send sensitive business information to personal email devices. Do not conduct business, including online business banking, on a personal computer or device. Likewise, do not engage in web surfing, gaming or video downloading on business computers or devices.
Do not share USB drives or external hard drives between personal and business computers or devices. Never connect an unknown/untrusted piece of hardware into the system or network. Also do not insert any unknown CD/DVD or USB drive. Disable the “Autorun” feature for USB ports and optical drives on business computers to help prevent malicious programs from being installed.
Be careful with downloads. Do not download software from an unknown web page. Always exercise caution with freeware or shareware.
Use strong passwords. Never give out usernames or passwords to others. Strong passwords consist of a random sequence of letters to include upper and lower-case, numbers and special characters. Ideally, passwords should be at least 12 characters long. For systems or applications that have sensitive information, use multiple forms of identification (multifactor or dual-factor authentication).
Change default passwords. Many devices come with default administrative passwords. Change them immediately and regularly thereafter. Default passwords are easily found or known by hackers.
Change passwords often. Every three months is recommended. Consider using a password management application to store passwords. Passwords to devices and applications that contain business information should not be reused.