The Taxman Blog

Dec 30, 2019
Have You Been Affected by the Equifax Data Breach?

Have you been affected by the Equifax Data Breach? We want you to know that there is an easy way to check if your information was affected. Please read the information below to see how you could be part of the class action lawsuit.

 

COURT APPROVED LEGAL NOTICE

 

If Your Personal Information Was Impacted in the 2017 Equifax Data Breach, You May Be Eligible for Benefits from a Class Action Settlement

 

In September of 2017, Equifax announced it experienced a data breach, which impacted the personal information of approximately 147 million people. Equifax has reached a proposed settlement to resolve class action lawsuits brought by consumers alleging Equifax failed to adequately protect their personal information. Equifax denies any wrongdoing, and no judgment or finding of wrongdoing has been made.

If your personal information was impacted in the Equifax data breach, you may be eligible for benefits from the settlement after it becomes final. Under the proposed settlement, Equifax will: (1) pay $380.5 million into a fund to pay benefits to consumers, court-approved fees and costs of class counsel and service awards to the named class representatives, and other expenses; (2) implement and maintain certain data security enhancements; (3) if necessary, pay up to $125 million more to reimburse consumers for out-of-pocket losses resulting from the data breach; and (4) provide certain other relief.

Are You Eligible: You are a class member and eligible for settlement benefits if you are a U.S. consumer whose personal information was impacted by the Equifax data breach.

If you are unsure of whether you are a class member, visit www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com and click the “Find Out if Your Information Was Impacted” button or call 1-833-759-2982.

 

Benefits: If you are a class member, you are eligible for one or more of the following benefits:

  1. Free Credit Monitoring or Cash Payment. You can get free credit monitoring services. Or, if you already have credit monitoring services, you can request a cash payment of up to $125.
  • The free credit monitoring includes at least four years of three-bureau credit monitoring, offered through Experian. You can also get up to six more years of free one-bureau credit monitoring through Equifax.
  • If you already have credit monitoring services that will continue for at least 6 more months, you may be eligible for a cash payment of up to $125. The amount you receive may be substantially less than $125, depending on the number of claims that are filed.
  1. Other Cash Payments. You may also be eligible for the following cash payments up to $20,000 for:
  • The time you spent remedying fraud, identity theft, or other misuse of your personal information caused by the data breach, or purchasing credit monitoring or freezing credit reports, up to 20 total hours at $25 per hour.
  • Out-of-pocket losses resulting from the data breach.
  • Up to 25% of the cost of Equifax credit or identity monitoring products you paid for in the year before the data breach announcement.
  1. Free Identity Restoration Services: You are eligible for at least 7 years of free assisted identity restoration services to help you remedy the effects of identity theft and fraud.

 

Important Information Regarding the Proportional Reduction of Benefits.

If you request or have requested a cash benefit, the amount you receive may be significantly reduced depending on how many valid claims are ultimately submitted by other class members for this relief. Based on the number of potentially-valid claims that have been submitted to date, payments for time spent and alternative compensation of up to $125 likely will be substantially lowered and will be distributed on a proportional basis if the settlement becomes final. Depending on the number of additional valid claims that are filed, the amount you receive for these benefits may be a small percentage of your initial claim.

 

How to Get Benefits:

To get free credit monitoring or cash payments, or both, you must submit a claim:

 

You must submit a claim by January 22, 2020. Certain claims may require supporting documents. If you have already filed a claim, there is no need to do so again.

If there is still money in the fund after payment of valid claims submitted during the initial claims period that ends on January 22, 2020, there will be an extended claims period lasting for four years. In the extended claims period, you may make certain claims for out-of-pocket losses incurred in the future, including time and money spent trying to address identity theft or fraud related to the data breach.

You don’t need to file a claim to get free identity restoration services.

If you make a claim for cash compensation, the amount of money you receive may be significantly less than the claim you submit depending on the number and amount of claims that are submitted.

 

Understanding Your Options:

If you want the Court to exclude you from the settlement class, you must write to the Settlement Administrator by November 19, 2019. List the name of this proceeding (In re: Equifax Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, Case No. 1:17-md-2800-TWT), your full name, your current address, and the words “Request for Exclusion” at the top of the document. You must sign this request and mail it to:

Equifax Data Breach Class Action Settlement Administrator

Attn: Exclusion, c/o JND Legal Administration

P.O. Box 91318, Seattle, WA 98111

 

To object to the settlement, you must file an objection with the Court by November 19, 2019. For detailed instructions about the process of objecting, visit

www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com

You must file a claim if you want to receive free credit monitoring or cash benefits under this settlement. If you do nothing, you won’t receive a cash payment or credit monitoring services, won’t be able to sue Equifax for the claims being resolved in the settlement, and will be legally bound by all orders of the Court.

The Court will hold a hearing on December 19, 2019, to consider any objections, and decide whether to approve the settlement, award attorneys’ fees and expenses, and grant service awards to the named class representatives. You may enter an appearance through an attorney, but do not have to. The Court has appointed lawyers to represent you and the class, but you can hire another lawyer at your own expense.

 

This is only a summary of the settlement.

 

None of these benefits will be distributed or available until the settlement is finally approved by the Court.

For more information, visit www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com,

or call (toll free) 1-833-759-2982.

 

This is a Court authorized notice, not a lawyer advertisement.

 

Email Disclaimer

The Equifax Data Breach Settlement Administrator will never ask you to provide sensitive information, such as, your Social Security Number or Tax ID, Bank Account Number, Credit Card Number, Driver’s License or Passport Number, or Password, etc. via email. All email communications sent by the Equifax Data Breach Settlement Administrator OR on behalf of the settlement administrator will originate from info@equifaxbreachsettlement.com, the official email address of the settlement. If you receive an email which you suspect to be fraudulent, do not reply or do anything it instructs you to do, but immediately forward it to abuse@equifaxbreachsettlement.com.

Dec 13, 2019
6 Moves to Make Before the End of the Year

Unless you’re the type who likes the stress of the last-minute tax scramble — and potentially missing out on tax savings — it’s worth squeezing in a little tax planning in the next few weeks between the ugly sweater parties and holiday work mixers.

Of course, it’s always a good idea to check in with your tax and financial advisors to discuss your specific situation. But there are some smart tax moves to consider between now and the end of the year that could help shrink your tax bill. After all, who doesn’t want to save some money after seeing how much a picture with your local mall Santa costs? Our 2019 tax checklist can help you keep more of your money.

CONSIDER ITEMIZED BUNCHING
 
The concept of bunching itemized deductions has been around for some time. But with the changes to the tax law a couple years ago, it will likely make sense for a new group of taxpayers.

Itemized bunching works best for people whose itemized deductions are similar in value to the standard deduction ($12,200 for single filers in 2019 and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly). Basically, itemized bunching works by itemizing two years’ worth of deductions in one tax year and then taking the standard deduction the next year. For example, you might choose to make two years’ worth of property tax payments (although you can only deduct up to $10,000 per year in state income and/or property taxes) or charitable contributions in 2019 so you can itemize those expenses this year. Then in the 2020 tax year, you’d take the standard deduction. Doing this helps make sure you don’t miss out on the potential tax breaks that can come with itemizing deductions.

MAX OUT YOUR QUALIFIED RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS
 
If you’re saving for retirement, you’re likely taking advantage of one or more tax-advantaged savings options, like a 401(k) plan or a traditional individual retirement account (IRA). Because these types of accounts get favorable tax treatment, there are limits to how much you can contribute. If you have some extra money (despite the mall Santa visit) and you haven’t contributed the max for the year, now is the time to consider making a contribution.

While some qualified accounts technically give you until Tax Day to make your 2019 contributions, it doesn’t hurt to just make them now so you can start 2020 fresh.

In 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 to a 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans. And that’s the limit for your contribution — employer matching doesn’t count against that. If you’re 50 or older, you can make an additional $6,000 catch-up contribution. In most cases, you can also contribute up to $6,000 to an IRA. Catch-up contributions to IRAs for people 50 or older are capped at $1,000.

CONSIDER A ROTH CONVERSION
 
Qualified retirement accounts come in two varieties, traditional and Roth. With a traditional account, you make pre-tax contributions now and your money will grow tax-free. But in retirement, you will be required to withdraw your money and pay taxes on those withdrawals. With a Roth account, the money you contribute now has already been taxed. That means it will grow tax-free and then you can withdraw it tax-free in retirement.

If you have a traditional retirement account, you may be able to convert some or all of your funds to a Roth account. There are several reasons that it could make sense to do a Roth conversion, including:

if your income was lower than usual in 2019.

if you think you will be in a high tax bracket in the future.

if you think tax rates will increase in the future. (Tax rates were lowered as part of the tax bill that passed in 2017. As of now, they’re set to revert to higher rates in 2025.)

DEFER INCOME
 
If you’re in a high tax bracket and about to cross into a higher one, ask your employer about deferring any year-end bonuses into 2020 so you don’t have to pay taxes on that money this year.

In addition, now is the time to start thinking about next year, too, if you decide to defer income. If your employer has a nonqualified deferred compensation plan — which means they offer you some compensation they will owe at a later date — you’ll need to make that election before the end of the year; otherwise that money will be paid in 2020.

DONATE INVESTMENTS DIRECTLY TO CHARITY
 
If you have stock that you’ve held for longer than a year and you’re looking to make a charitable contribution, donating your stock directly to the charity offers tax advantages. That’s because the donation allows you to avoid paying tax on your investment gain while still allowing you to deduct the fair market value (up to a certain percentage of your adjusted gross income*) of your donation (assuming you’re planning to itemize this year).

If you’re 70 ½ or older and don’t need the income from a required minimum distribution (RMD), you could also consider an IRA charitable rollover. With this strategy, you make a distribution from your IRA directly to a qualified charity*. The distribution satisfies your RMD for the year, and that money is also excluded from your income (which lowers your tax burden). This might be more tax-efficient than receiving the distribution, getting taxed on it, and then deducting that amount as part of your charitable contribution.

TAX-LOSS HARVEST YOUR INVESTMENTS
 
If you had investment gains and losses this year, now may be a good time to sell some of your losing investments so that the loss offsets your gains tax-wise. You can also use investment losses to offset up to $3,000 worth of ordinary income, and you can carry over additional losses to deduct in future years. Just be aware that you can’t repurchase any stock that’s substantially identical to what you sold within 30 days before or after the sale.

 

*1 You may deduct up to 20 percent of your AGI for a gift to a private foundation and you may carry forward deductible amounts not used in a given year for up to five years. For gifts to a public charity, you may deduct up to 30 percent of your AGI; you may deduct up to 50 percent of your AGI if you elect to limit your deduction to the basis of the asset you donate.

*2 Up to $100,000.

If you have any questions or would like tax advice, contact us! We are happy to help and set up a meeting with you to ensure you are making smart money moves.

Taxman.cc, inc dba Howard Choder, Solving Tax Problems