Gambling and the New Tax Laws


If games of chance such as poker, horse racing, or playing the lottery are among your recreational hobbies, the new tax law brought some minor changes.  The IRS website includes a description of changes as they relate to each type of gambling.  It is the best place to verify current and future tax law plans, but the two biggest impacts are described below as well.

The change that affects the most gamblers and therefore is the one most talked about, is how losses can be deducted.  While many types of itemized deductions were eliminated under the new law, gambling losses are still allowed! The change to these deductions is that they can only be deducted to the extent of gambling winnings for that tax year.  At year end, calculate all your losses.  Everything from non-winning lottery and bingo ticket costs to money spent and lost on slots.  You can then claim an itemized deduction for all these betting losses throughout the tax year, against your winnings.  For example, if you spend and lose $10,000 and win $9,000 during the year, you could deduct for the $1,000 difference.  If you lose $10,000 and win $11,000 you would be responsible for taxes on the $1,000 difference.

As we’ve discussed in 2018 Tax Law Changes the increase in the amount of the standard deduction may make it more attractive to many taxpayers over taking itemized deductions.  Gamblers too may find taking the standard deduction a more beneficial decision than itemizing losses. If your losses are greater than the standard deduction amount than itemizing is likely your best choices.  Otherwise, take the standard deduction or talk with your tax preparer.

The tax law also includes changes for professional gamblers.  Expenses for travel, lodging, food, and the like are lumped in with losses now for deduction purposes.  These expenditures can no longer be separately itemized. Small time gambling hobbyists will be the ones most likely to still see returns under the new law, while gambling professionals are not going to be so lucky.

Do you have additional questions about gambling under the new tax law?  Contact our office today and we will get you the answers……you can bet on it!

Your Family Budget

If you’ve tried to create a budget for yourself and stick with it, you know how challenging it can be.  Trying to expand that budget to include a family of four or more, only compounds this challenge.  We have several tips to help get you started with the task, and hopefully follow through!

Experts recommend starting any budget plan with a goal in mind.  There are a multitude of possible goals depending on your family’s current situation.  For some, that goal might be to pay off debt.  Others may be saving for a dream vacation.  A college education.  Retirement.  Whatever your goal might be, do the research ahead of time to determine how much money you will need to save and a timeline for when they money is needed.

Next you will want to decide whether to do an online budgeting worksheet or go with paper, pencil, and a calculator.  With this decision, it is best to keep it simple!  Choosing a budgeting tool that is too cumbersome means you will be more likely to abandon the budget long term.  There are several very simple online budgeting programs available.  You can select from a variety of excel type spreadsheet that can be set up as you like it.  If you want to go with a budgeting tool that has already been set-up for you, Kiplinger’s has a very easy to navigate sheet on their website. This budgeting program lets you delete or add your own expenditure categories as needed.

It’s time to start tracking your money, both in and out. With money out, list bills or expenses in their order of importance, greatest need first down to least.  For most people this begins with either your mortgage or monthly rental cost.  When planning for regular monthly expenses, budget high based on the most you’ve ever paid for that particular bill.  After you’ve calculated the total amount of money you spend on needs each month, compare that to the amount of income earned each month.  

The hard part is then figuring out which of the wants to cut out when necessary.  It is also important to budget money towards credit card debt every month.  Make sure you pay at least a little more than the minimum amount due each month so that you are putting a little towards the actual debt and not just paying off the interest.  Finally, be sure to budget in a certain amount each month towards the goal you set at the beginning of your budget planning.  This amount will be based on how much money you need to reach your goal and when it is needed.  However, in months where other needs take precedent or money is tight, it might not be possible to allocate funds towards this goal, depending on how crucial it is to your situation.

Creating and sticking with a budget can be a challenge, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.  Beginning to follow a plan is a great step towards reaching your financial dreams!

Saving for College with 529 Plans

accomplishment, ceremony, college

529 plans, also known as Qualified Tuition Plans,  are not a new thing but they have certainly evolved since their introduction in 1996.  These savings plans for higher education are attractive for many reasons and they have a number of tax benefits.  Earnings grow federal tax free and are not taxed when withdrawn for educational expenses.  In addition, many states offer a tax deduction for contributions made to state managed 529 plans during the year.  The IRS website has a Q&A page on 529 plans that answer almost any question in a very simple manner.  

Anyone can utilize a 529 plan regardless of income or age!  At this point, almost every state offers at least one 529 plan but you are not limited to the plans of your state.  To see what is available and determine the best 529 for you, check out  Many plans charge administrative and maintenance fees, application fees, and a number of other fees.  Make sure you familiarize yourself with the plan’s fee structure before committing.   

Anyone can make contributions to your 529!  This can be helpful in the case of aunts, uncles, and grandparents who like to make donations towards college.  Contribution amounts are limited to the amount needed to cover the financial costs of schooling.  If you make a gift or combined gifts greater than $14,000 to one beneficiary in a year, you might be subject to gift taxes.  

With the new tax law changes introduced in December 2017, there are actually some good additions to the depth of 529 plans.  One of these benefits is being able to use 529 plans to cover private elementary through high school tuitions up to $10,000 per year.  Previously 529 plans were only to provide for secondary schooling.  This change definitely makes life easier for anyone struggling with the costs of private schools for younger children.   

Due to the nature of 529 plans – with so many different options available combined with so many unique situations encountered by college students, the questions and answers surrounding these plans are limitless.  If you have additional questions about 529 plans and their impact on your taxes, please feel free to contact our office!


Bookkeeping N Beyond!

When tax time rolls around, do you find yourself uncertain whether you will owe money or receive a refund?  Being able to estimate these numbers annually can help when you are budgeting for something big, trying to pay off some debt, or making any other financial planning decisions for your business.  

Assisting clients by allowing them to plan for taxes throughout the year is one of the things Irene Mouchlizis loves about her job and it is a great reason to turn to her for your bookkeeping needs!   In her own words, Irene says “I love being able to help clients become more organized and aware of how their business is doing. By becoming more organized, they are better able to make sound business decisions and predict what their tax situation will be, so they are not surprised at year end.”  Irene has worked with several non-profit clients as well.  She enjoys helping these organizations to strengthen the community in which we live!

Irene has been running her own business, Bookkeeping N Beyond LLC, for 4 years now.  Prior to that she worked at an accounting firm, utilizing her bachelor’s degree in accounting.  Irene has years of training and expertise in bookkeeping, payroll services, and cash management – including bill pay and invoicing.  When you remove these time consuming pieces from your own business plate, you can better focus on what you do best.  Irene points out that not every business will have the same needs.  She can work with you to determine which services would most benefit your individual organization and customize to fit your specific areas of need.  

Get in touch with Irene to schedule an appointment today!  She can be reached at 717-333-6989 or  Additional information can also be found by going to her website at


Business Coaching with Higher Impact

Successful sports teams aren’t the only ones who need great coaches leading them!  The best organizations often rely on a business coach to help guide them.  This is especially true for navigating big changes and new ventures.  A business coach can take an objective look at your business and industry.  They have the tools available to guide major decision making.

If your organization could benefit from the skills of an experienced life coach, Higher Impact Business and Life coaching has got you covered!  Coach Karl has coached hundreds of business owners in many different industries all over the world for over a decade.  He has studied underneath 4 other national coaches, 5 coaching platforms, and is also an accredited leadership coach.

Higher Impact Business and Life Coaching offers help to business owners and professional leaders to go to the next level in their lives and businesses. They help their clients work on their business, and build a company that runs itself so they can live out their life purpose. Karl inspires leaders to move into a greater version of themselves which he calls “YOU 2.0”. He also empowers business leaders who want to become a coach by teaching them his duplicatable system.

Karl understands business!  He built a successful internet marketing firm from the ground up with hundreds of customers across the globe. His company was award winning and generated millions of dollars in revenue. When presented with the opportunity, he decided to sell the company to transition into teaching others how to do what he has done.

As influencers, we know we don’t have all it all figured out.  We all get stuck.  We get in our own way.  We hold ourselves back from our true potential.  If you could double, triple or quadruple your success, would you be willing to put forth the hard work and effort to do that?  Wouldn’t that be invaluable if you could achieve that?  If so, then you should talk to Coach Karl.  He is committed to your success and proves this through his RESULTS based coaching platform.  If you a leader who is serious about going to the next level, then reach out to Coach Karl today!

The coaching team at Higher Impact now includes a total of 6 coaches with locations in:

– Lancaster, Pennsylvania

– Raleigh, North Carolina

– Frederick, Maryland

– Denver, Colorado

Karl’s latest venture is called Virtual Assistants Company. This company gives Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs their own personal administrative assistant at a fraction of the cost. It is a social enterprise providing jobs and training for those in less fortunate regions of the world. The administrative assistants are trained to take huge workloads off of the business leader through an intuitive proprietary process. This enables the business owner to delegate large amounts of monotonous tasks freeing up the business owner’s time and mental resources. This empowers them to do the things they really should be doing.

The best way to get in touch with Karl is by sending an wmail to or via phone at 717.201.8536. For more information on Higher Impact, check out their website at ( ).  You can learn more about Virtual Assistants Company at (  Karl enjoys speaking and teaching worldwide and his first book is currently underway!



W-4s & You: How Much to Withhold

If you find your tax refund is not as large as you hoped it would be for 2017, it may be time to look at your withholding allowances.  The number of allowances claimed on your W-4 determines the amount of tax withheld from you income.  Too little tax being withheld each paycheck trickles down and affects the amount of your tax refund or amount owed come April 15th.

How many allowances are right for you will vary from individual as can be seen below.  If you find it advantageous to receive more money throughout the year on paychecks and are okay with paying money to the IRS in April, then claiming more allowances might be a good choice.  Or, if you have credits and deductions that offset the larger number of allowances being withheld, this can also be your best bet.  

If you are being claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return you can claim 0 allowances.  This option leads to more money held from your paycheck but a larger refund at tax time. Claim 0 allowance if you are single and have one job and wish to receive a tax refund.  If you chose to claim 2 allowances as a taxpayer and are single with one job, you will have less money taken from your paycheck for taxes but you may owe money in April.  If you are married you would also claim 1 allowances, or if you are single and working two jobs. 2 allowances are optimal if you are married and have a child.  You may claim additional allowances as head of household or if you are eligible for the Child Tax Credit.  

New life situations can necessitate a change in number of allowances withheld.  These life events essentially break down into the categories of employment, marital status, and dependents.  Likewise, if you find your refund (or lack of) to be problematic in April, it is always possible to change your number of allowances.  Speak to your employer or HR department to request a new W-4 withholding form or go online to make electronic changes.  These changes are not retroactive and will only affect paychecks going forward.  To see the biggest results, make a W-4 switch earlier in the year.  

The IRS calculator for determining your withholding is not available at this time because of the December 2017 tax law changes.  It can normally be found at  However, the IRS site does have additional information for anyone considering a change to their number of allowances here.  If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact our office for help.


Jayme and Mortgage Network, Inc.


Jayme Chandler NMLS# 1242365
Mortgage Network Inc NMLS# 2668

Does it feel like owning your own home is an unrealistic dream?  Do you find yourself thinking, there is no way I could ever afford a mortgage in my situation?  Not only can Jayme Chandler help you turn that dream into a reality, she has been on the other side of the table.  Jayme came to Lancaster from Chicago, IL 22 years ago as a single mom with a 9 year old daughter, $20. and a car that would not pass inspection.  After 3 months of living at Water Street Rescue Mission and HarbAdult (TLC now) she was able to rent her first home in Lancaster.  Two years later she bought her first home using LHOP and she still owns and lives there today.  Jayme knows from personal experience exactly how precious having a home is and exactly what it takes to get there.  The struggle is real, but not impossible!

Jayme has been in the real estate industry for a total of 9 years now.  The first 5 years she worked as a PA licensed Real Estate Agent. The last 4 years she has been a PA licensed Loan Officer.  Jayme’s training includes completion of the Real Estate certification program from the College of Lake County, Grayslake IL.  She has completed all education required by the state of PA for Real Estate and Mortgage Loan Officer titles.  

Jayme is proud to work for Mortgage Network, Inc.  The company offers excellent service and a variety of loan products for the purpose of buying a home.  Mortgage Network, Inc doesn’t shy away from the tough cases….it is all about getting the customer to the place of purchase.

Her favorite part of the job is telling a first time home buyer that they are qualified to purchase a home. Ultimately sitting at the settlement table with the borrower and watching them sign the documents for the purchase of their home is a euphoric moment.  Jayme says that she relishes the work involved in putting the puzzle together to make everything work so my customer can buy a home.

The best way for potential customers to get in touch with Jayme is via email or by phone with a call or text at 717-598-7008.  


Tax Debt and Your Passport


Tax debt will begin to affect travel plans for those wishing to leave the United States this year.  The FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act, was signed in December 2015 and is being enforced beginning this month.  Anyone with “seriously delinquent tax debts” is subject to having their passport suspended, revoked, or their application/ renewal denied.  A seriously delinquent tax debt is considered for anyone with $51,000 or more in unpaid taxes, interest, and/or penalties.  It does not apply to anyone who is bankrupt, has been the victim of tax-related identity theft, resides within a federally declared disaster area, or has endured similar hardships.  Additionally, for anyone serving in combat with a serious tax debt, passport suspension is currently suspended.

If this applies to you there are several options available to consider.  You can pay the debt in full , pay under an approved payment plan agreement, or pay in full with an approved compromised offer.  

  • To request a payment plan agreement with the IRS, please complete Form 9465 which can be mailed with your tax return or bill.  An online payment agreement is also available if you prefer to complete online.


  • To determine if you qualify for a compromise offer, the IRS has additional information on their website.  The IRS will use your income and assets to determine your ability to pay.  Curious about whether you are a good fit?  Check out the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier link ahead of time!

Health Savings Accounts and Tax Time



Health savings accounts (HSA) are tax-deductible savings plans, generally paired with the high deductible health insurance plan option.   They allow you to save pre-tax money for unexpected future medical expenses, or retirement.  Rather than pay for an insurance plan and not need the coverage, HSAs allow you to pay in at a chosen amount and the money is there when you do need it.  The downside is, if you do require lots of medical services throughout the year, you will pay a lot to meet the high deductible first.  HSAs are available to anyone regardless of income type.

With an HSA for an individual, you can contribute $3,400 per year.  That amount increases to $6,750 for a family, with an additional $1,000 allowed to these amounts for anyone over 55.  This money can be used to put braces on your child’s teeth in 3 years, or help meet your deductible this year.  The money is available for present and future medical expenses.

This flexibility along with the fact that the money rolls over from year to year makes HSAs attractive to many.  In the event of a career change, you can roll over your HSA to the next employer.  Above and beyond these advantages are the tax savings to be realized with an HSA.  The money you contribute to your HSA can be deducted, without being itemized, at tax time.  As long as you spend the money for medical expenses, you are not taxed when utilizing the funds.

How can you take advantage of this deduction?  A Form 8889 is used to report the HSA contributions to the IRS.  The amount is then deducted from the adjustments to income section of your 1040.  Contributions for the 2016 tax year include savings made between January 1, 2016, and April 15, 2017.  Interest and dividend earnings on the HSA are federally tax-exempt and not included on your annual tax return.

For additional details on HSAs and their effect on your taxes, please contact our office or check out the IRS website.


Tax Credits for Solar Improvements


Is 2018 the year you plan to make some energy efficient changes to your home?  The IRS offers tax credits, up to 30% of the expenditure, to place solar electric or make solar heat improvements.  This credit is available through 2019 at 30%.  In 2020 and 2021 it will still be available but at a smaller percentage.  The IRS website explains the exact breakdown of these tax credits for solar energy improvements.

Why solar?  As described on energysage, solar energy is great for our environment and provides more jobs for the US economy.  It is however a more expensive energy system to install, in most cases.  Because of this, the government is willing to offer tax incentives to help grow the industry.  Financial savings, as outlined on this same website, can come in the form of investment or state tax credits, cash rebates, solar renewable energy certificates, or performance based incentives.  The availability of incentives does vary from state to state. The solar tax credit is not offered for solar improvements made to rental properties, unless you reside in the rental yourself for a portion of the year.  In this case, your credit is reduced to the percentage of time you live in the rental property during the tax year.

With federal tax credits, the credit will reduce the amount that you owe on your taxes by the credit amount.  It does not result in a refund if you owe nothing (or owe less than the credit amount) on your taxes.  Generally, the excess credit amount can be saved and carried over to the following tax year.  An IRS Form 5695 will help you calculate your credit amount before entering on your 1040.  Still have questions?  To determine how the credit will benefit you, it’s always good to seek the advice of a qualified tax preparer!