One of the most amazing things about life is the concept of routine. We get into a habit of doing things a certain way and our days start to look almost the same. While most adults thrive on routine and productivity increases when life runs on a “schedule” of sorts, for kids, a predictable routine is vital and often the kids set the schedule themselves.
From birth, Manny was an easy, happy baby, so I was never strict about getting him on a strict schedule. Nap time was when he seemed tired and meal-time was when he was hungry. It was apparent which was which, because if he had just awoken from a nap and seemed fussy, I was able to determine he was hungry. If he had eaten relatively recently and was starting to get cranky, he was most-likely tired.
Somehow, though, at almost six months, Manny is on a “schedule.” He takes three naps a day, at around nine am, twelve pm and three/three-thirty pm each day. He eats at five/five-thirty am, eight am and every three hours after that. With all my, “he’s not on a schedule, he doesn’t need to be”, apparently he is and he does. Somehow our days have become a predictable routine and it is so cool how he completely determined this on his own.
It is the best thing for him and it’s great for me too. I love my days with him and it makes parenting simpler when you know what to expect. The thing about routines though, is that they are constantly changing. You get into a great groove and then something comes along and everything shifts.
For example, two months ago, we were also in a predictable pattern of sorts. Manny would eat every two-and-a-half-to-three-hours, would be awake for about one hour at a time and then would sleep for forty-five minutes to one hour. Then, the three-nap schedule emerged recently and this new schedule became our routine.
Now, a new shift is starting and it’s a little less exciting and a little less predictable. It’s called teething. Ever heard of it? I am hoping that it will be short and we’ll go back to sleeping through the night, playing happily during the day and taking nice one-to-two hour naps soon.
If you have any tips for getting through the teething phase, feel free to share below!
January 31st is the filing deadline for most 1099MISC forms. Anyone issuing a 1099MISC with an amount in box seven must have it ready for the end of the month. In our office, I am in charge of 1099s and everyone turns to me with their questions. While many people know the basic concept of a 1099 form, most people do not know how often it is actually required.
A 1099 is a form you must prepare if you pay an independent contractor for services in an amount above $600. This is the fact most people have heard of.
What many people do not realize is that it is not only independent contractors, or Schedule C filers, who are required to receive 1099s. Whenever you pay someone for an outside service, whether you are paying an individual or a company, you are required to prepare a 1099. The only exception is if the company fills out a W-9 for you and lists their exempt code, which most corporations have.
In our office, 1099 “season” always raises some interesting questions. Below are some of the things we’ve learned over the past few years:
Question: If an organization has a raffle as a fundraiser, are they required to issue 1099s to the winners?
Answer: It depends. If the raffle falls under the category of gambling or wagering, they may be required to issue a W-2G. (To better understand what is considered gambling, click here to read the IRS instructions.) Otherwise, prizes are reported in box three if their value is above $600 and the value is more than three-hundred times the purchase price of the ticket.
Question: Do you need to pay a household employee a 1099?
Answer: No, but you may be required to issue a W-2 to a household employee. This was actually a very lively discussion in the office last year. (I know that sounds nerdy, but we’re accountants, what do you expect?) If you have a full-time, or regular household employee such as a nanny, aid, housekeeper, etc., and you pay them a regular salary, you would be required to withhold social security and medicare tax as well as pay your half of these employment taxes. You would also be required to report their wages and withholdings on a W-2 form. This is something many people do not know. 1099 forms are only for business expenses.
Question: Are you required to issue a 1099 for rents?
Answer: Yes, if it is a business expense.
Question: Is it better to be paid on a W-2 or a 1099?
Answer: It depends. If you are a regular, salaried employee, you should be getting a W-2. If you are not, speak to your employer and try to have this corrected. The advantage of being a salaried employee is that your employee pays half of your employment taxes. If you are filing a Schedule C, your income is subject to self-employment tax which is after exemptions (no longer relevant as of 2018), itemized deductions and certain credits are calculated. On the other hand, being self-employed means that all your business expenses are directly deductible to offset your income which could wipe out your tax completely. From an employer’s perspective, they would obviously see the advantage of paying people on 1099s, as you avoid paying the employment taxes. However, if you have a regular, salaried employee, you should be issuing them a W-2 and not a 1099.
These are just some of the questions that have arisen in our office and we’ve spent time looking into. If you have any specific questions of your own, feel free to comment below and I will do my best to look into it for you.
A few weeks after Manny was born, I was walking to meet my husband somewhere and I bumped into an acquaintance. She congratulated me on Manny’s birth and asked me how I was feeling. “Good,” I responded, “Just very, very tired.” “It gets better,” she told me.
Magic words. “It gets better.”
At that time, I was sleeping maybe six hours a night in total and most of those hours were in one-two hour shots. So, when she told me, “It gets better,” I could not fathom how, in just a few months, you could go from barely sleeping at all, to getting a normal night’s sleep again.
Today, thank G-d, Manny sleeps basically through the night entirely. As I mentioned in a different post, we followed the guidance of the book, “The Good Sleeper”, and sleep-trained him at the age of three-and-a-half months.
This afternoon, I was talking to a friend of mine, whose baby is around eight-ten weeks old. I found it easy to relate when she described how hard the middle-of-the-night feedings are, and the challenge of putting your baby back to sleep at three o’clock in the morning. I easily sympathized when she told me how exhausted she is and if the baby does not go back to sleep, she won’t be able to function at work the next day. It brought back memories of those first few weeks after I returned to my job and the challenge of waking up in the morning after being up multiple times in middle of the night.
She told me that her baby won’t sleep in a crib or bassinet; she only sleeps in her car-seat or in-arms. For the first half of the night, she sleeps in her car-seat and after she feeds her at three a.m., she leaves the baby in her bed because the baby wakes up when transferred. While I can relate to this challenge and I can definitely understand where she’s coming from, this is incredibly dangerous and I hesitated only a moment before telling her so.
The stage that she’s in at the moment is possibly one of the hardest. Her six weeks maternity leave are up, she has returned to work, and her baby is not yet sleeping through the night. While it is too early to sleep-train a baby at that age to skip all her nighttime feedings, her baby is old enough to learn to go to sleep on her own.
By teaching your baby to fall asleep independently, the middle-of-the-night feedings become easier, as do bed-time and nap-time throughout the day.
This is exactly why we started to give Manny a seven p.m. bed-time the week I returned to work. I told my friends, “We’re not sleep-training yet, we’re sleep-teaching.” By that, I meant we are teaching Manny how to sleep. We did this by letting him cry for ten minutes at a time at bed-time, and going in every ten minutes or so to soothe him and put his pacifier in. After a few nights, he was crying for ten minutes or less and we stopped going in at all. Within two weeks, the crying stopped and he would go in with very little fussing. Soon after, he started going in easily for naps and in general, his sleeping improved. This also made it so much easier when we did the full sleep-training thing so that he barely cried and it worked after just one night.
I don’t judge my friend at all. She’s in a very difficult situation and it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re stuck somewhere in the middle. The only thing I know now is, “It gets better.”
Now that we’re in January, I began feeling as if I must make the most of my last few weeks of freedom before tax season starts. I feel this pressure to enjoy myself, pamper myself a bit and at the same time try and get organized so that I won’t have to worry about certain things once work gets busy again.
Two weeks ago I began “Project Stock My Freezer”. So far, I have about 8-10 bags of clean chicken, some of which are even in marinades so that I can just pop them into a pan and put them in the oven. I also have containers of two different kinds of soup, and a few side dishes. Every time I cook now, I try to make extra so I can put something in the freezer. Unfortunately, our small freezer is almost full though so I’ll have to stop soon!
I also have my “Things I Want to Do Before Tax Season” list. For example, all the returns I need to make, appointments I need to book, etc. I ran to visit my grandmother yesterday, schlepping poor Manny out in the snowy weather (though I’m sure he was happy to leave the house after 3 days indoors), because I know that in just a few weeks I probably won’t be able to visit very often.
And then there are the worries – if I’m tired now, how will I have energy for anything once I’m working longer hours? If I’m struggling to keep my house clean now, how will I manage with even less time to spare? If I am spending only a few hours a day with my wonderful son and husband, how much time will I have for them once I am required to put in fifty hours a week at work?
Thankfully, these are mostly unfounded worries. I know I will probably be more tired, but other than that I will be fine. Hopefully, I will find someone to help with the cleaning a few times a month, and thankfully I have a very helpful husband who pitches in around the house and helps me as much as he is able. As for the hours, I am hopeful that I will be able to work it out that I can do most of my extra hours at home after bedtime and dinner. Thank G-d, my boss has been very flexible with my thus far and I am hoping he will continue to be flexible.
I am sure it will be a challenge that I will struggle with some days. I am sure I will be exhausted; I am sure there will some guilty feelings about “neglecting” my family and I am sure I won’t always be in the best mood. However, once again, I will work to find that “balance” and together with my husband, figure out what is best for my family, and what works best for me.
If you have any suggestions, or you’ve been there yourself, I’d love to hear some ideas!
Today I brought home a very happy baby from the babysitter. I picked up Manny a little later than usual (usually, the babysitter brings him back to our house, but today I picked him up because of the weather), and when I laid him on the couch to change him into his PJs, I got this huge smile.
As a mom, nothing feels better than having your baby smile at you like you just did the most brilliant thing by looking his way. Sometimes, I’ll put him down to play on his mat while I’m in the kitchen and I’ll just look his way and he smiles this huge grin that fills up my heart. It’s absolutely the cutest thing ever.
So today, Manny’s on the couch and I’m changing him and I put my hands over my eyes and then open them, “Where’s Mommy? Peek-a-boo!” As soon as I say it, Manny’s eyes light up and he makes this cute giggle noise. I do it again and the giggles increase. Over and over again, and each time he smiles and giggles a bit more. It was soo cute!!
Since he just turned five months old, giggling is a new trick and it’s so deliciously adorable! Every day I marvel at how big my beautiful baby is getting, thank G-d, and how quickly he learns and develops!
Ever feel like you’re being pulled in a million different directions? This is the story of my life.
Often, I come home from work and I need to make a choice – start dinner and clean up or sit on the floor and play with my son? After dinner, do I relax and enjoy the quiet or do I wash the dishes and clean up the house so that I will feel calmer knowing it’s taken care of? Go to sleep when I’m tired or stay up and read for a few minutes because I finally have five minutes to myself? Choices; life is full of choices.
I’m learning, slowly, that the most important thing is to remain calm and happy. Spending the whole evening cleaning my house is not worth it if I will end up feeling cranky and exhausted because I did not have any time to relax. It is much more beneficial for my family to have a happy mom and wife than an immaculate home and four-course dinner.
So, last week I only made dinner twice. One night we ordered pizza and another we had noodles. But, I went to Target and bought grocery items we need, I cleaned lots of chicken for tax season and I started Manny on real food (so cute!). Yesterday, instead of cooking like I normally do on Sunday afternoons, I invited a friend over and we hung out with our kids together. Even though, in theory, I wanted to make a soup to stock my freezer and bake bread for the month, I decided that I’d be happier if I got to socialize a bit and hang out with a friend. I did my laundry in the morning and took the afternoon off.
We all feel pulled in different directions, it’s a fact of life. Life only gets busier as our families grow and our responsibilities increase. The trick is to remain firm in the center. When I take care of myself and pay attention to my own needs, I am so much more capable of taking care of others. Then, even when I am pulled, I won’t go anywhere because I remain strong.
I can’t call my blog an Accounting-themed blog without commenting on today’s events in Congress.
Today the Republican party and our dear president, Donald Trump, scored a big victory with the passage of the new tax bill to overhaul the U.S. tax system as we know it.
For weeks now, everyone has been discussing whether this bill will be a good thing for your average American or a terrible thing. People are debating – will it benefit the middle-class and create jobs as Trump is promising? Will it reduce our taxes? Or is it simply going to benefit the wealthy?
“While Republicans cheer the bill’s passage, however, 55% of Americans oppose the plan, according to a new CNN poll. Just 33% say they favor the GOP’s proposals to reform the nation’s tax code. (cnn.com)
Paul Ryan defended the bill saying,”When (the bill) gets in place, when people see their paychecks getting bigger in February because withholding tables have adjusted to reflect their tax cuts, when businesses are keeping more of what they earn, when they can write off their spending and hire more people, that’s going to change its popularity, I am convinced,” he told CBS in an interview. “So I think there’s just tons of confusion out there as to what this does or doesn’t do. A lot of people think it’s going to raise their taxes. So the proof is in the pudding, and I think the results will speak for themselves.” (cnn.com)
Personally, I think we will need to wait and see. Everyone is jumping to conclusions in one direction or another, however there is so much unknown with this new bill and things could go in either direction. There are many individual factors that will determine whether taxpayers benefit or lose out from the new bill.
For example, I am fairly confident that my own family will benefit – at least for the next few years. While the new law has eliminated the exemptions, it doubles the standard deduction. As we do not pay enough state taxes and charity to itemize our deductions, this is a huge benefit.
Additionally, the child tax credit has been increased and the phase-out amount has been raised. This will allow us to qualify for the new, higher credit. I am also hopeful that our actual tax rate will fall, though I will need to read the bill more closely to determine this and run a projection of our estimated income for 2018.
For families with many children, losing the exemptions may affect their taxable income. However, the new laws regarding the child tax credit may help them.
For taxpayers paying high state taxes or high real estate taxes, their deductions will likely be reduced. Charity, however, will be deductible up to 60% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income, as opposed to 50%.
Taxpayers with pass-through income may be eligible for a 20% reduction. This is dependent on a number of factors, including their total taxable income. However, for many, this will have a significant impact on their return.
As I said, it’s complicated! So for now, my honest opinion is – let’s wait and see. Ever the optimist, I am hopeful that this could be a great thing for America. I am hopeful, that taxes will be reduced for your average citizen, that jobs will be created and wages will rise. However, I am also a realist. There are so many changes being made with this new tax plan that it is impossible to say (at least in my opinion) what will happen.
So I guess, in April, 2019, when I’ve prepared a some returns under the new legislation I’ll let you know!
(For a great comparison of the effects on various types of taxpayers, check out this link.)
Okay, so now for some tax tips.
I’m a mom AND an accountant 🙂
Let’s talk about working from home. Many of us (myself included) moms work from home. Whether you work for yourself, or your employer lets you work from home a few days a week (or always), you may be eligible to claim a “home office deduction.”
Here are some quick rules to see if you are eligible for this deduction:
- You have a designated area in your home where you work. Putting a laptop on your kitchen table does not qualify your kitchen as a home-office. It must be a separate space used only for work.
- You must use your home substantially and regularly for business (irs.gov). If you work from home three or four days a week, you may be eligible for this deduction.
*If you are unsure if you qualify, please consult your accountant. Or, feel free to send me a message or email.
Once you have determined that you are eligible for the home office deduction, try and estimate the percentage of your home that your office takes up. Alternatively, you can measure the square footage of the room and then divide that by the square footage of your home (all floors) to figure out the percentage. Say your home office is 12 square feet and your home is 100 square feet, your percentage would be 12%.
Lastly, start keeping track of your home expenses. Save your electric bills, home insurance, water bills, receipts from repairs and any other relevant expenses. All these will be deductible up to the percentage of your home office. So, if your home office percentage is 12%, you can deduct 12% of each of these expenses on your tax return.
If you are self-employed and report your income on a Schedule C, this is a direct expense to reduce your taxable income. If you are a salaried employee (and receive a W-2), this would show up as an itemized deduction on your Schedule A.
Another of the perks of working from home!
(For more information, check out the IRS instructions online at www.irs.gov)
Every new mom is worried about sleep. It becomes an obsession, a topic every new parent loves to discuss.
“How many hours did he sleep last night? How long does he sleep at a time? How often are you waking up to feed him?”
For us, the answers were none, maybe one or two hours (at night) and every two hours. It was a nightmare. The first four weeks of Manny’s life, we barely slept. I’d wake up to feed him, we’d spend a half hour trying to get him back to sleep and an hour later he’d be awake and hungry again!
About two weeks after my son was born, we went to the library. I went straight to the parenting section to take out a few books on babies and specifically a book about sleep-training. I knew we were not anywhere near the sleep-training age yet, but I needed to know there would be a light at the end of the tunnel.
I came home with a wonderful book which I ended up buying after reading it cover-to-cover in just a few days. The Good Sleeper by Janet Krone Kennedy, PhD changed our life. It became my “bible” which I consulted many times over the next few months, as Manny’s sleep habits evolved.
With Janet’s help via this book, we had Manny sleeping through the night by age three months, with minimal crying. We started by “sleep-teaching” him before he was old enough to be fully “sleep-trained”. This involved creating good sleep habits, such as sleeping in the crib and going to sleep on his own.
We started by implementing a seven p.m. bedtime when he was about ten weeks old. I’d feed him, sing him a bedtime song and then put him in his crib awake. The first few nights he cried for ten-fifteen minutes and we would go in every five-ten minutes to soothe him and put his pacifier in. After a few nights, he was barely crying and we stopped going in at all.
As I mentioned earlier, Manny was not a good sleeper from Day One. He’d take very short naps during the day and the longest he’d go at night was three, maybe four hours on a good night. While this was difficult while I was on maternity leave, once I was back at work, it became impossible. So, while he would go to sleep nicely at seven, I was still feeding him at eleven, three and seven on a good night. On some nights, he’d wake up at one-thirty, two-thirty and three-thirty. Even though I wouldn’t feed him if it was less than three hours, one of us would be getting up to go put his pacifier in.
When he was a little over three months old, we took the plunge and tried the “cry-it-out” method for the full sleep-training, as recommended in the book. I was dreading the first night we decided to do it. I was expecting a night of hours of crying and guilt for letting my child cry for so long.
Instead, though, I was pleasantly surprised. Because we had done most of the work before we actually sleep-trained him, Manny barely cried the first night. He woke up three times – at twelve-thirty, two-thirty and five-thirty a.m. Each time, he cried for ten minutes or less and fell back asleep. The next night, he slept through the night.
Obviously, it’s not actually that simple. It’s almost a month later, and he still wakes up sometimes around four or five a.m. For the most part, though, he is sleeping through the night and putting himself to sleep. Most nights, he doesn’t even cry at all when I put him in.
Before he was born, I was sure I would not sleep-train him by letting him cry. However, as explained in the book (I told you it’s my bible), the most straight-forward way with the quickest results is the cry-it-out method. In the long-run, there is probably less crying than if you try one of the other methods. This teaches the baby to self-soothe quickly and that bedtime is actually time to go to sleep.
And the best part is – I feel like a human again!