September 27, 2017

Protecting Your Credit After the Equifax Data Breach

Cyber security data breaches are on the rise, and one of the latest victims is a major credit reporting agency in the United States, Equifax. Americans with credit reports need to be aware of the facts of the breach and how to protect themselves from future cyber security threats.

What did the hackers access?

According to Equifax, the hackers gained access to:

  • Names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and some driver’s license numbers
  • Credit card numbers for 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for around 182,000 people
  • Personal information from citizens of the UK and Canada as well as the United States

Was my information accessed?

Find out if your information was exposed on the Equifax website. U.S. consumers can get a free year of credit monitoring through Equifax until November 21, 2017.

How can I protect myself in the future?

As technology advances, data breaches become harder to prepare for. It’s important to take precautions to protect your personal information. Consider taking the following actions:

  • Checking credit reports for unusual activity – through the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
  • Monitoring existing credit cards and bank accounts for unknown charges
  • Placing a credit freeze on your files – this makes it harder for new accounts to be opened in your name, but won’t prevent a thief from making changes to your existing accounts
  • Placing a fraud alert on your files – this warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and they should verify your identity. A fraud alert is an option if you decide against a credit freeze
  • Filing taxes early – as soon as you have the information needed, file before a scammer can

Learn more about protecting yourself from a data breach, or contact an Anders advisor with questions on how a breach may affect your financial situation.

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September 26, 2017

How U.S. Manufacturers Can Benefit from Foreign-Trade Zones

Foreign-Trade Zones (FTZ) are geographical areas where goods can be landed, handled, manufactured and re-exported without the U.S. Customers and Border Protection (CBP) intervening. FTZs can be a huge benefit to domestic companies by significantly reducing costs from customs duties, taxes and tariffs. FTZs encourage businesses to keep manufacturing jobs in the country by competing with the benefits of manufacturing outside of the United States.

How can your company benefit from a FTZ?

Relief from inverted tariffs

In certain instances, there are tariff, or import duty, relationships that actually penalize companies for making their product in the United States. This happens when a component item or raw material carries a higher duty rate than the finished product. The importer of the finished product then pays a lower duty rate than a manufacturer of the same product in the U.S. This gives the importer an unfair and unintended advantage over the domestic manufacturer. The FTZ program levels the playing field in these circumstances.

Duty exemption on re-exports

Without an FTZ, if a manufacturer or processor imports a component or raw material into the U.S., it is required to pay the import tax (duty) at the time the component or raw material enters the country. However, an FTZ is considered to be outside the commerce of the United States and U.S. customs. So, when foreign merchandise is brought into a FTZ, no customs duty is owed until the merchandise leaves the zone and enters the commerce of the United States. Only then is the merchandise considered imported and the duty paid. If the imported merchandise is exported back out of the country, no customs duty is ever due.

Duty elimination on waste, scrap, and yield loss

Without an FTZ, an importer pays the customs duty owed as material is brought into the United States. If the processor or manufacturer is conducting its operations within an FTZ environment, the merchandise is not considered imported, and therefore no duty is owed until it leaves the FTZ for shipment into the United States.

How can your company take advantage of a FTZ?

To take advantage of an FTZ, companies need to be able to:

  • Track inventory
  • Trace manufacturing and production orders
  • Determine whether material came from domestic or international sources
  • Classify goods for duty deferrals and reductions

How much a company saves by using an FTZ depends on the size of the company and its business model. Contact an Anders advisor to conduct a cost benefit analysis to determine if a FTZ would benefit your company.

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September 20, 2017

IRS Provides Tax Relief for Hurricane Irma Victims

Hurricane Irma victims in Georgia, parts of Florida and Puerto Rico have been given an extension until January 31, 2018 to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. The IRS granted this relief to parallel the relief for Hurricane Harvey victims.

The relief includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out on October 16, and businesses with extensions that run out on September 15. The IRS noted that because tax payments related to these 2016 returns were originally due on April 18, 2017, those payments are not eligible for this relief. The IRS is also waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due during the first 15 days of the disaster period.

Taxpayers do not need to contact the IRS to apply for this relief. The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

Learn more on the IRS website.

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September 19, 2017

Protecting Your Company from Cybersecurity Threats with Unified Threat Management (UTM)

As technology continues to advance, cyber-criminals and IT security services are in a constant battle to overcome one another. To gain the upper hand against threats, it takes multiple layers of security defenses to protect your business’s network. Unified threat management (UTM) firewall appliances offer the benefits of several security safeguards all in one manageable device, giving companies a good start to a layered security approach.

How UTM services work together to protect your business

  • Network Intrusion Detection – Scans the traffic entering and leaving your network and alerts IT administrators of detected threats
  • Network Intrusion Prevention – Immediately responds to prevent or block the threat
  • Content-Control – Increases security by allowing IT administrators to monitor and control web and email activity
  • Application Control – Lets IT administrators allow, block or restrict each user’s application access
  • Spam Prevention – Provides protection against spam and phishing attempts
  • Anti-Virus – Identifies known viruses, ransomware, trojans, keyloggers, spyware, botnets and other threats while tracking suspicious actions to block newly developed threats
  • Data Loss Prevention – Protects against data breaches by monitoring, detecting and preventing confidential information from leaving your network
  • Geographic location blocking (GeoIP) – Can block access to sites in countries known to have high cybercriminal activity

Implementing a UTM device into your network

There are many UTM application options available. Our team of technology advisors can help you purchase a UTM device best suited to your company’s security needs. We can also provide IT Administrator services to ensure your UTM device is properly managed. Contact Anders to learn more about UTM devices and other recommended security solutions, or learn more about Anders Technology Services.

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September 5, 2017

How to Maximize Qualified Expenses to Save More with Historic Tax Credits

Applying for historic tax credits is a great way to finance a historic redevelopment project. Once you determine that your project is eligible for the Missouri Historic Tax Credit (HTC) Program, avoid common kickbacks to increase the amount of qualified expenses.

To avoid wasting time and money, it helps to be familiar with the HTC program guidelines. The Anders Real Estate and Construction Team has extensive experience with historic tax credits as well as the kickbacks and how to avoid them.

Inside versus outside work

The first kickback is inside vs. outside work. In order to be a qualified expense eligible for credits, the improvement must be made within the footprint of the building. This basically means that things such as room enlargements or garages that were not a part of the original structure of the home are not qualified expenditures. It’s important to understand this when having your preliminary plans approved by the state.

Items such as electrical and plumbing work must be allocated between inside and outside of the building, preferably on the invoice. This is another example of where working with a contractor experienced in HTC comes in handy.

For example, let’s say you need to replace the sewer line from the house to the main at the street. You will need to allocate the cost to replace this line between the portion of the line that ran under the house, or within the footprint, and the amount of line run outside of the foundation in the yard to the street. The portion outside of the foundation line is non-qualified. The same goes for electrical.

Expenses should match the proof-of-payment documentation

The second kickback to watch out for is that the expense should match the proof of payment documentation (POP). The total amount shown on the EXP form for the expense paid should match exactly to the amount paid per the bank statement or canceled check. The CPA and the state are going to match each POP to each line on the EXP form. If the expense amount does not match an amount on the POP document it is considered non-qualified.

For example, if you buy nonqualified and qualified things with one check, instead of backing out the nonqualified items and reporting a net amount on the spreadsheet, report the full amount of the payment and then back out the non-qualified items in the non-qualified column.

Non-qualified expense column

The last common kickback we wanted to share is making sure you report all non-qualified expenses in the non-qualified expense column. Read through the Missouri DED guidelines for a full list of non-qualified items. Some examples to look out for that are nonqualified include expenses such as:

  • Lightbulbs
  • Closet systems
  • Appliances
  • Fences
  • Mirrors
  • Blinds and shades
  • Tools
  • Driveways and walkways
  • Building enlargements
  • Insurance, other than builders risk

With that being said, some common qualified expenses that sometimes people miss are:

  • Loan interest on construction loans
  • Real estate taxes during the rehab period
  • Utilities paid during the construction period
  • Solar panels
  • Builders risk insurance

Minimizing non-qualified expenses will help you save even more on your historic project. The Anders Real Estate and Construction Group can help you navigate the ins and outs of historic preservation projects to maximize the tax credits on your historic renovation project. Contact an Anders advisor to discuss how to maximize your next historic renovation project.

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