Legal

How The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Affects Fantasy Sports

Fantasy sports is becoming increasingly popular, with 59.3 million people playing in the United States and Canada, creating a $7 billion industry. With this though, comes tax implications for winners.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provides tax opportunities and drawbacks that fantasy players should understand.

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There is currently an ongoing debate how winnings should be classified and where they should be reported. Are the winnings considered gambling income or hobby income? The TCJA does not clarify the definition of gambling and to date the IRS has not weighed in as to whether fantasy sports winnings are hobby or gambling income. If fantasy sports are not considered gambling, then the hobby loss rules would apply. In this case, the TCJA eliminates the taxpayers’ ability to deduct any fantasy expenses even if there is fantasy income. Prior to the TCJA, hobby losses were deductible as miscellaneous deductions subject to the 2% adjusted gross income (AGI) floor.

Many have argued that fantasy sports are ‘wagering transactions’ thereby allowing fantasy sports losses to be deductible to the extent of their winnings. Previously, gambling losses were assumed to be the cost of placing the wager, but TCJA suggests that other expenses that are ordinary and necessary to execute wagering transactions are deductible. For traditional gamblers, this includes the ability to deduct expenses related to travel, lodging, etc., to the extent of winnings – but fantasy players may have different ‘ordinary and necessary’ expenses. Potentially deductible fantasy sports expenses under TCJA include: fantasy-related online subscriptions and magazines; cost of any office equipment/space exclusively dedicated to fantasy sports; 50% of food costs at fantasy sports draft parties; and cost of any punishments for losing in a fantasy sports league. Losses from other gambling activities, like traditional casinos, could also be used to offset fantasy sports winnings.

For casual fantasy players, the increase in the standard deduction under the TCJA will reduce the number of taxpayers that itemize, thereby eliminating any potential benefit of fantasy-related expenses, since the deductions allowed are classified as “other itemized deductions” on the schedule A.

For the serious fantasy player, treating gambling as a trade or business may be useful. It is important to remember that taxpayers who recognize profits on their schedule C will be subject to both income and self-employment taxes, so it may not always be beneficial to consider yourself a professional. In the case of the serious professional fantasy player, income and expenses will be reported on schedule C, negating the need to itemize in order to take advantage of the deductions.  The TCJA does have one downfall for professional gamblers; prior to the new tax law, gambling expenses such as travel and lodging were not considered gambling losses, which meant they were not limited to gambling winnings. This allowed professional gamblers to have a net loss on gambling activities. Under the TCJA, these expenses are defined as wagering losses, therefore are limited to the extent of gambling winnings. Those who identify themselves as professionals have the burden to prove their activity is regularly pursued full-time, and to produce a livable income. Taxpayers should expect to hear from the IRS when claiming to be a professional.

Whether a taxpayer is a professional or a casual player, it is very important to keep all records as the burden of proof is on the taxpayer. While gambling is reported on W-2G, fantasy sports sites typically issue 1099-Misc to players winning more than $600. The IRS suggested that the net method of reporting (reports winnings from contests less the entry fees for any contest won) was the appropriate way to calculate winnings, but not all fantasy sports sites comply. It is important for a taxpayer to know how the site they are using reports winnings.

In summary, under the TCJA, fantasy players may benefit by treating their fantasy sports as gambling and claiming fantasy-related expenses that were not previously deductible.

Protecting taxpayer confidentiality

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Bankrate

Protecting taxpayer confidentiality

Lawyers are held to higher standards than CPAs. Above, actor Bob Odenkirk, who stars as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul, promised confidentiality to his client Walter White in Breaking Bad. Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Fans of television’s favorite ethically challenged criminal lawyer Saul Goodman know that despite his many questionable actions, he definitely respects attorney-client privilege. He told Breaking Bad’s meth-making kingpin Walter White upon their first encounter, “Put a dollar in my pocket” to become a client and ensure that anything said between the two remained confidential.

Does the same apply to accountants? The question came up after the New York Times talked with Donald Trump’s apparently chatty former tax accountant.

Follow the (tax) code

Technically, accountants do not have the same legal constrictions, or protections depending on your point of view, as lawyers when it comes to client privacy.

But the Internal Revenue Code specifically says it is illegal to disclose a taxpayer’s information without that filer’s consent.

Section 7216 of the code says that as a general rule, any person who is “in the business of preparing, or providing services in connection with the preparation of, returns of the tax” is prohibited from “knowingly or recklessly” disclosing “any information furnished to him for, or in connection with, the preparation of any such return.”

Costly penalties for violations

That code section then notes that if a tax professional uses such taxpayer information “for any purpose other than to prepare, or assist in preparing, any such return,” that person has committed a federal misdemeanor and could, upon conviction, be fined as much as $1,000 or a receive a jail term of up to 1 year or both, plus court costs.

In addition to the criminal sanctions for improper disclosure of a person’s tax info cited in Section 7216, the U.S. Code also covers civil treatment of such releases in section 6713.

Under this section, improper use of tax info could bring a penalty of $250 for each such disclosure, with a maximum penalty per year of $10,000.

Specific CPA guidance

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, or AICPA, is the primary member association for the accounting profession. As such, it sets ethical standards for its members.

When asked about its member CPAs’ nondisclosure responsibilities to clients, the AICPA cites the U.S. code sections that address this issue.

The AICPA also has established its own ethical standards for the profession.

Its code of professional conduct specifically states that “a member in public practice shall not disclose any confidential client information without the specific consent of the client.”

Keep your mouth shut

Of course, such a stance does not, notes the AICPA, affect in any way an accountant’s obligation to comply with a validly issued and enforceable subpoena or applicable laws and government regulations.

But basically, when you share your tax information with an accountant and it’s all above board, you should expect that information to remain between just you and your accountant.

Or, as Amit Chandel, a CPA in Brea, California, told me: “We may not have attorney client privilege, but we have ethical standards to uphold and a fiduciary duty to keep our mouth shut most off the time.”

Are you comfortable sharing your tax details with your tax pro? Would you consider switching your tax preparation tasks to an attorney to get tighter client confidentiality coverage?

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

Football and some fantasy sports games are back

By Bankrate

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

taxes-blog-fantasy-football-and-sports-games-are-back-getty-mst

The 2016 Summer Olympics are underway, but fans of American football — not the soccer being played in Rio — also are celebrating.

The National Football League kicks off its 2016 season this week with preseason games across the country.

That also means that fantasy sports leagues are shaping up. And there’s some good news for players of the daily fantasy games.

More states are saying the daily games are good to go within their borders.

Fantasy sports comeback

In 2015, daily fantasy sports, or DFS, came under fire from most states’ attorneys general. The states’ top legal officers generally contend that DFS represent illegal gambling, not games of skill as the fantasy sports operators argue.

In many states, the game companies stopped accepting players from those locations.

DraftKings and FanDuel, the two biggest DFS operations, took their cases to state legislatures and are seeing some success.

So far, 12 states — Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia — have legalized daily fantasy sports. Legislation to do the same has been introduced in most of the other states across the country.

Those pending bills could pick up steam now that New York, the state that thrust the DFS-gambling controversy into the spotlight last year, has officially sanctioned the games. Before DraftKings and FanDuel pulled out of the Empire State, there were more New York daily fantasy players than in any other state, according to research firm Eilers & Krejcik Gaming.

Fantasy sports’ state payoff

Some lawmakers remain concerned about the cost of problem gambling. A 2011 Baylor University study found that each additional pathological gambler costs society more than $9,000 per year.

Anti-gambling groups argue that assembling virtual line-ups of athletes in order to win money on the fantasy teams is tantamount to gambling.

But other lawmakers see how popular sports and betting are with their constituents. Viewed from a cold, fiscal perspective, these legislators see how this convergence presents financial potential for their states.

Where DFS have been legalized, there is corresponding regulation. The states will issue permits and collect licensing fees from the operators.

Many state treasuries also will collect, or at least try to, taxes from the winners of DFS games. Like other gambling proceeds or prize winnings, the Internal Revenue Service and most state tax collectors view fantasy sports payouts as taxable income.

Given the state of many state budgets, look for fantasy sports to continue to make inroads.

Do you play fantasy sports? Has your participation been curtailed by your state? Most importantly, do you pay taxes on your winnings?

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

Bill would make some forgiven student loans tax-free

By Bankrate

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

taxes-blog-forgiven-debt-tax-free

Owing a debt you can’t repay is bad. Owing federal taxes on that debt amount even after you no longer have to pay it back is even worse.

Federal tax law, however, requires in most cases that when a loan is forgiven, the amount that is written off by the lender is taxable income to the previous debtor.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, thinks that’s wrong when the debt was incurred under fraudulent circumstances, specifically to pay for college. Stabenow has introduced the Student Tax Relief Act, a bill that would protect defrauded borrowers from being taxed on their forgiven student loans.

Corinthian College cause

Her bill, S. 3008, was drafted in the wake of the federal investigation into Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and its associated schools.

The Department of Education found that the now-defunct for-profit chain run by Corinthian defrauded students at more than 100 schools in more than 20 states across the country.

Following the fraud finding, the Education Department told students who borrowed money from Uncle Sam to attend Corinthian classes that they would not have to repay those loans. Affected students can apply for loan forgiveness through the department’s Federal Student Aid division.

That’s a welcome step for the bilked students. The Education Department says that as of March 1 it had processed almost 9,000 claims from former Corinthian students nationwide, totaling more than $132 million.

Canceled, but taxable, debt

The forgiven debt provisions of the Internal Revenue Code generally require that such canceled debt is taxable. For example, folks who are able to negotiate down or away debt owed on credit cards face the same tax due on what is called phantom income.

A notable exception is in the case of some residential foreclosures or mortgage renegotiations, where a special, temporary law allows certain home-related canceled debt amounts to be tax free.

The Corinthian students also were provided special tax relief on the amounts cleared by the Department of Education.

Stabenow’s bill, which has 7 Democratic cosponsors in the Senate, would give the same tax relief to students in similar educational fraud cases.

“When students take out loans to attend college, they should get a fair deal and a fair shot,” said Stabenow in announcing the introduction of the Student Tax Relief Act. “No student should be the victim of false advertising from a college that promises skills or job placement. And the last thing they deserve is to be hit with an enormous tax burden on their forgiven loans.”

Time running out

Stabenow’s bill might be able to garner some additional support. The issue of burdensome student debt in general already is under a spotlight, thanks in large part to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign to be the Democratic nominee for president.

But time is not on the side of Stabenow’s effort. The tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, where the bill is pending, has not scheduled any hearing on S. 3008.

And with the upcoming November elections, the House and Senate aren’t going to be in session much. The chambers’ schedules are reduced so that Representatives and Senators can return home to make their reelection cases.

If, however, enough constituents let lawmakers know of their student debt concerns, both on a wider scale and in connection with cases like Corinthian, there might be some action on Stabenow’s bill this year. That would be a welcome development for former students facing an unexpected tax bill next filing season on their forgiven school loans.

Have you ever faced a tax bill on forgiven debt? Do you agree with Stabenow’s proposal? Do you think the tax code is right, or should all forgiven debt be tax-free?

Rich taxpayers tend to be rewarded

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Bankrate

taxes-blog-rich-taxpayers-rewarded

Here’s a news flash that’s not news: The richest Americans have shaped the U.S. tax code so that it saves them potentially billions.

The reason the rich essentially have what the New York Times calls their own private tax system is simple. They can afford to hire the best and brightest tax attorneys and accountants.

Those tax experts, according to the newspaper’s special report, employ a “dizzying array of tax maneuvers” to help the very wealthy shield their fortunes. “Operating largely out of public view — in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service — the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them,” write reporters Patricia Cohen and Noam Scheiber.

And those same wealthy tax break beneficiaries are, according to the New York Times’ story, “providing much of the early cash for the 2016 presidential campaign.”

So how are those political contributions working out?

GOP tax plans favor the wealthy

Donald Trump, the leader in many polls for the Republican nomination, talks a good tax game. He is, after all, a salesman. And he’s slammed the millions that hedge fund managers make by, in his words, pushing paper.

But he also wants to end the estate tax, which applies only to a statistically tiny group of rich U.S. taxpayers.

An analysis of Trump’s tax plan by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Policy Center, or TPC, shows that its greatest benefits will go to The Donald’s peers, the wealthiest Americans. TPC’s analysts say Trump’s proposal would grant the top 0.1% a tax cut of almost 19%, while providing the lowest income bracket a tax break of only about 1%.

The same can be said about another Republican White House hopeful, Jeb Bush, who also favors repeal of the estate tax. The TPC says that under the former Florida governor’s tax plan, the top 0.1% of U.S. taxpayers would get about a 12% tax break, while the lowest income bracket would see a 1.4% tax break.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, who’s moving up in the polls, wants to condense the current 7 tax rates to just 3. Tax Foundation analysts say that would provide the largest benefits to the lowest-income Americans, who would see their after-tax incomes rise by more than 44%. But the next largest group of beneficiaries under Rubio is the country’s highest-income earners, who would see their after-tax incomes grow by 11.5%.

Democrats less helpful to wealthy’s tax concerns

The rich don’t fare as well under proposals by the 2016 Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Front-runner Hillary Clinton is calling for, among other things, enactment of the Buffett Rule. This proposal, named after the financier Warren Buffett, would require that the rich pay at least a minimum ordinary income tax rate instead of primarily lower capital gains tax rates.

Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s nearest competitor, would like to see a new top tax rate of at least 50%. Income falling into the current top income bracket is taxed at 39.6%.

Flat, but not that fair tax

Then there are the flat taxers. Proposals to do away with the current progressive tax system and enact 1 tax rate to be paid by all are touted by several Republican candidates: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson (a 15% rate), Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (10%), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (14.5%) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (20%).

While one rate for all sounds like a fair plan, our current progressive tax rates are more beneficial for lower-income taxpayers.

And, as the New York Times reports, the wealthy have become quite adept at dealing with our 7 tax brackets and assorted other tax laws so that they don’t suffer as much at the hands of the IRS.

So basically, the bottom line is that the rich rule when it comes to taxes. And not to be a nay-saying cynic, but changing that is going to take much more than one election cycle.

Still, we have to start somewhere and voting is a great beginning. We average Joe and Jane taxpayers who are very far from rich must make all public office candidates address our tax issues and hold them accountable for our concerns.

We can’t afford to be swayed by swagger and snippets of tax proposals that, on the surface, sound appealing, but that in reality don’t do us much tax good at all.

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

Tax Scam Alert

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!  

As incidents of an aggressive telephone scam continue across the country, the IRS warns taxpayers not to be fooled by imposters posing as tax agency representatives. You can read the article from the IRS here:

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R-2014-105, Oct. 31, 2014

WASHINGTON — As incidents of an aggressive telephone scam continue across the country, the Internal Revenue Service unveiled a new YouTube video with a renewed warning to taxpayers not to be fooled by imposters posing as tax agency representatives.

The new Tax Scams video describes some basic tips to help protect taxpayers from tax scams.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“In recent weeks, we continue to see these telephone scams in every part of the country,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are clear warning signs of fraud. This is not how we do business. We urge people to be careful when they get these threatening phone calls.”

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:

    1. Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
    2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
    3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
    4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
    5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or atwww.tigta.gov.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTubehttp://www.youtube.com/user/irsvideos and Tumblr http://internalrevenueservice.tumblr.com, where people can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Bedford Hills NY, Chappaqua NY, Harrison NY, Scarsdale NY, White Plains NY, Mt. Kisco NY, Pound Ridge NY, Greenwich CT and beyond.

 

 

Choosing a Legal Professional for Your Business: FAQs

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s has all the answers to your personal finance questions! The following are frequently asked questions our Westchester accounting firm regularly receives regarding choosing a legal professional for your business.
▼ Should I hire an attorney?

It is necessary to hire an attorney for some disputes that require a lot of time. Having an attorney makes you more prepared, but you may also hire one for a significant business transaction. http://www.flickr.com/photos/safari_vacation/6260723020/If there is a problem where the court is concerned, it is advisable to hire an attorney.

 

 

The following should be considered when determining if an attorney is necessary:

  • Is this a difficult legal dispute or will I end up in court? What is involved in terms of money, property, or time? Positive answers demonstrate the need for an attorney.
  • Does a book exist that will be able to help me so I don’t have to hire an attorney? Some problems can be resolved with little help.
  • Have you looked for non-Lawyer legal resources to help?

Certain disputes can be solved without needing an attorney. For example, a living will can be prepared by a non-legal organization such as the American Association of Retired Persons. There are several organizations that can aid in the process of obtaining a living will form from the state along with information for filling it out.

▼ What process do I follow to handle the dispute by myself?

The use of letters and negotiation solves many disputes without the need of an attorney. Arbitration or mediation may also be used. There are legal self-help manuals and conferences that can aid in resolving disputes.

Idea: Instead of hiring an attorney to fully represent you, only use them for paper review or advice.

Negotiation without a lawyer: This can resolve many small disputes. Many books cover the process of negotiation.

Idea: Make sure to learn about the legal issues that could be brought up before the negotiation by speaking with a legal hot line or consulting resource.

Mediation or arbitration: You can find dispute resolution centers in almost every state. The areas that they commonly focus on are complaints from consumers, rental property disputes, and arguments between neighbors or members of a family.

Mediation consists of a third party who helps the two parties talk about the problems and hopefully reach an agreement. Arbitration is a more formal process where a third party reaches a conclusion after hearing both sides.

These are the low cost options in comparison to going to court or hiring a lawyer for representation.

Small claims court: Each state defines the limits for the amount of damages, which can be filed in small claims court. These are less formal and require less paperwork than normal courts. You must be prepared to function as your own lawyer in small claims court, which involves compiling evidence, investigating the law and making your story known in court.

 What method should I use to find a good attorney?

Speak with friends, relatives, clergymen, social workers or your doctor for their opinions. You can also use the referral lists that are compiled by the Bar Association.

Pay close attention to the specialty area in the Bar Association lists, as many attorneys work in different areas. A lawyer that is a part of one of the organizations may have just what you are looking for.

More sources are the Who’s Who in America Law and the Martindale Hubbell Law Directory. Make use of referral services for particular groups (for example, people with disabilities, elders or victims of domestic violence).

If using the referral service, ask for details on how the lawyers were selected. Many referral services use lawyers who are members of a certain organization.

The court and your bank can be great referral sources as well as the yellow pages. After the list is compiled, spend time with each of them and slowly eliminate attorneys.

▼ What should I ask my possible lawyers?

Before beginning a consultation, the following questions should be asked:

  • Is the first consultation free?
  • How long have you been an attorney?
  • Do you have a lot of cases that are like mine? (Try to find an attorney that has experience in your problem area.)
  • Are there references, such as trust officers in banks or other attorneys that I can contact?
  • Are there any clients or special-interest groups that you work for that may cause a conflict of interest?
  • Can we make a fee agreement? May we discuss the fees?
  • Is there anything in particular that I should bring to the first consultation?

Make sure to consult with at least two of the attorneys from your list. There is no need to be embarrassed about choosing the best attorney or changing appointments with an attorney after all investigation is complete.

It is now time to interview the possible attorneys. Make sure to have a brief summary of the case at hand as well as general questions to ask the attorney. There are two objectives for meeting with the attorney: 1) to see if the attorney has the talent needed to represent you, and 2) to see if you are comfortable with attorney and the fee agreement.

 Is a certain fee agreement better for me?

The basic rate for legal services depends on location. Based on your knowledge of the fees, a “fair” fee should be selected. Here are a few factors that play a role in the decision:

  • What can you afford?
  • Is this a routine case or do I need someone with special experience?
  • What is the going rate for the attorneys in my area?
  • What can I take care of without the attorney?

The following are basic fee agreements in use by attorneys:

Flat fee: There is a specific total that will be charged for work on your case.

  • Idea: Make sure to ask if copies, transcribing and other expenses are included in this rate.
  • This is normally offered only if the case is simple or routine.
  • Note: Litigation is not usually a flat fee, but an attorney can give you a fair estimate beforehand.

Hourly rate: A rate will be charged for each hour or part of the hour that the attorney works on your case. For example, if the attorney’s fee is $50 per hour and puts in five hours of work, then the cost will be $250. Some rates may vary depending on whether they are hours spent in court or doing investigation and preparation.

  • Idea: If you decide on an hourly rate, find out how much expertise the attorney has in your particular problem area. Someone who is less experienced will need more hours to complete the work, even though the hourly rate is lower.
  • The size of the firm also affects the price. Smaller firms and urban lawyers usually charge a higher hourly rate than lawyers in rural areas and large law firms charge the most.
  • Idea: Find out what is included in the hourly rate. Will you be charged for other staff members time put into the case and if so, how? Are there any other expenses that I will be billed for besides the hourly rate?

Contingency fee: The final amount owed is based on the amount awarded in the case. In this scenery, if you lose the case, the lawyer does not receive anything besides expenses. This is normally one-third of the total.

  • Idea: Find out if the fee will be calculated before or after expenses are taken into account. This can make a significant difference in the amount of the fee.
▼ What can I do to save money on legal fees?

Bear in mind that attorney fees are usually negotiable even though you will not be asked to bargain over the fees. The following are a few tips to make sure you save the most money possible:

  • Shop around for flat fees on routine cases.
  • Discuss the method of billing for hourly rates. To avoid problems, have a written agreement stating the fee agreement as well as what is involved.
  • Find an attorney with the qualifications necessary for your case. The majority of legal work is fairly routine. Knowing what form needs to be completed and then who to file that with plays a large role.
  • Propose to help with the workload.
  • Use the lawyer as the middleman. If you only need a letter written to the opposing party, some attorneys will negotiate a lower fee.
  • Work the lawyer as your coach. Hire a lawyer to guide you and review documents and letters that you prepared and signed if you would like to represent yourself in court (pro se).
  • Select an attorney that specializes in your particular case.
  • Always arrive prepared to lawyer meetings. The more information you have at hand means that less time that the lawyer needs to spend looking for that information.
  • Be forthcoming with your attorney. To save time and money, make sure the attorney knows all the pertinent facts as soon as possible to reduce the need for more investigation.
  • If factors change, inform your lawyer immediately. This can possibly save the lawyer’s time or keep the lawyer from working on the case in the wrong direction.
  • Be prepared when having contact with your lawyer. Ask all questions in one call. When you receive a letter or information in writing, pass it on to other staff members instead of contacting the attorney, unless you have a specific need.
  • Pay close attention to invoices. Ask that you receive an invoice regularly. This applies to all types of fee agreements including a contingency fee. If you have a question regarding any of the items, you should immediately speak with your attorney.

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Herman and Company CPA’s proudly serves Armonk NY, Bedford NY, Harrison NY, Chappaqua NY, White Plains NY, Scarsdale NY, Purchase NY, Greenwich CT and beyond.

 Photo Credit: SalFalko via Photopin cc

Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.