Are Your Prepared for These Year End Income Tax Issues?

Over the course of the year, I’m sure you’ve noticed the ridiculous way our Congress has acted to update our tax laws. By including tax code provisions in a highway bill, a mass transit bill, and a trade package bill- plus within the Bipartisan Budget Act and the PATH (Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes) Acts. (Those last two were, indeed, logical places to regulate taxes.)

There is a chance that the lame duck Congressional session may act on some tax regulations, but given that these folks work about 1 day a week- and then complain how many lazy folks are out across the US not entering the workforce (that is the pot calling the kettle black)- I am not sanguine they will. So, unless they do- this will be the last year that mortgage insurance will be deductible and foreclosed home debt will not be a taxable situation, among a few other items that expire this calendar year.

But, I figured it would be helpful if I combined all these changes into a coherent mass (which our legislators clearly have not), so you can be prepared for the 2016 tax season. (Remember, you file your taxes for 2016 by April 2017. Oh- and if you are a business, the odds are the date your taxes are due, also changed. More on that below.)

Students and Teachers (PATH Act provisions)

Students got a permanent change for deductibility of tuition via the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This provides up to $ 2500 of tax credit for lower-income filers for the first four years of higher education (with a possibility of 40% of the unused credit being received as a refund- if no other taxes are owed). As long as the students are enrolled at least half time for one term of the year and not convicted of drug violations. The real change is that filers must include the EIN of the college or university involved- and demonstrate that they paid the tuition and fees they claim- not what the institutions may list on the 1098-T form.

On the other hand, the tuition deduction for other students will expire at the end of this year. Oh, and that generous (sic) deduction teachers get for buying supplies for their students that schools don’t supply is now permanent- all $ 250 of it. (Most teachers spend at least twice that!)

Pensions and IRA

Folks older than 70.5 years of age no longer have to rush to transfer their IRA (or portions thereof) to charity, because that provision is permanent. (PATH) Please note that the IRS demands that these transfers not be rollovers. One must employ a trustee to transfer the funds; and that trustee cannot hand you the funds to deliver to the charity. If they do, you lose the exemption. No surprises I am sure when I remind you that there must be a contemporaneous acknowledgement (that means a timely receipt) from the charity for that deductible donation or transfer.

Heirs and Estates

While still in the wrong venue, the Highway Bill did fix a big problem. Folks (or entities) that inherit assets from an estate are now required to use the basis filed in the 706 form for their own calculations. (Just so you know, the rules stipulate that estates can value items as per the date of death, or by alternate choice 9 months after that date. Too many “cheaters” would use a different basis for the property they inherited, thereby cheating the tax authorities with alternative valuations.)

To keep this rule in place, executors are now required to stipulate (i.e., file for 8971 and Schedule A of the 706) said value to all heirs and to the IRS. Which means anyone who inherits property- and thought they didn’t need to file Form 706 because the value of the estate was below the threshold for Estate Tax better reconsider. Otherwise, the heirs may be hit with a penalty for using the wrong basis for that inherited asset when they dispose of same.

Why? Because if a 706 form is never filed, the basis of all assets inherited is now defined as ZERO!!!!! It gets worse. Because if an asset were omitted from Form 706, the basis of that property is now determined to also be ZERO. (Unless the statute of limitations is still opened, when an Amended 706 can be filed to correct this omission.)

Another kicker. If the 706 form is filed LATE, the basis of all assets that should have been included are also set at ZERO. Some tax advisors feel this one little provision could be challenged in court. But, let’s just be prudent and file all those 706 Estate Tax returns in a timely fashion. (Filing a 706 when the estate value is below the filing threshold is called a Protective 706 Filing; we’ve been doing those for years. And, we strenuously examine the assets often to the consternation of the heirs- to ensure that all the non-worthless assets are included. You know, that 36 diamond tennis bracelet your grandma promised you would inherit when you turned 16.)

Oh, yeah. Another really big kicker for this little item. Under IRC 6501, the IRS has three years to catch cheaters who misstate certain items (like income taxes [except for continuing fraud], employment taxes, excise taxes, and for this provision- estate taxes and the results therefrom). No more. If an asset from an estate is misstated so that it can affect more than 25% of the gross income on a tax return will now have a SIX year statute of limitation.

Mileage Rates

Not surprisingly, the mileage rates for 2016 are lower than they were last year. Business mileage is now deducted as 54 cents a mile; driving for reasons that are medical or moving are only worth 19 cents each. When we drive to help a charity, we only get 14 cents a mile.

As is normally true, we have no clue what those rates will be for 2017. The IRS normally prepares those well into the calendar year.

Real Estate

The PATH ACT made permanent the ability of taxpayers to contribute real property to qualified conservation charities.

Health and Health Insurance

The Highway Bill (yup) came up with a bouquet of flowers for our veterans and folks currently serving in the military. No longer will they be unable to contribute or use HSA (Health Savings Accounts) should they receive VA or armed service benefits. Along that same vein, the Highway Bill enabled all those who purchase- or are provided by their employers- high deductible insurances (about $ 1500 for a single person) to use HSAs, too.

Oh, and assuming Obamacare is not overturned, there is a permanent exemption from penalties for those receiving VA or TriCare Health Benefits. (For employers, the Highway Bill also exempts all such employees from being included in determining the 50 employee (full-time or equivalent) threshold provisions.)

Employers

There were more than a few changes for employers. More than the exemption for the VA and armed service personnel from inclusion in Obamacare provisions mentioned above.

Like ALL 1099s and W-2 are now due by 31 January. That’s a big change for many folks who barely get their stuff together to file 1099’s. It means that companies need to contact their tax professionals really early- to let them verify that all relevant contractors and consultants receive those 1099s on time. Because the penalties have also increased.

The Work Opportunity Credit has been extended through 2019. This applies to Veterans (which is why you keep hearing Comcast advertising its commitment to hire some 10,000 veterans over the next few years- they’re no dummies). Other targeted groups include what are termed those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), SNAP (what used to be termed Food Stamp) recipients, ex-felons, and some of those living in “empowerment zones”.

Families and Individuals

The PATH ACt made the enhanced child tax credit (up to $ 1000, income dependent) a permanent provision of the code. As well as the Earned Income Tax Credit provisions that were to expire.

Social Security taxes are not going up per se- but the income basis upon which one pays them is. For the last two years, there was a tax holiday for all wage income (or self-employed income) that exceeded $ 118,500. Next year (2017), the taxes will be collected for totals of up to $ 127,200.

If an employee is working overseas and has income and/or a housing allowance, the exclusion provisions have also changed. For 2016, foreign income of $ 101,300 could be excluded from taxation, as could housing benefits that were $ 16,208 or less. Starting 2017, those exclusions become $ 102,100 and $ 16,336, respectively.

There also is further clarification of these foreign exclusions. In particular, these will affect those in the merchant marine or working aboard cruise lines. Because the IRS now holds that when one is in a foreign port, then one is able to claim foreign income. But… when someone operates in international waters, that is NOT a foreign country. That income must be computed (by the number of days one is on said waters) and is not excludable!

Individuals, Businesses, Trusts, Non-Profits that have Foreign Accounts

Some big changes affect those who must file those FBARs (Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts). It used to be you had to report any holdings in a bank, stock account, commodities or future accounts, mutual funds, or [pay attention to this one] poker, gambling or gaming site account that was not a US domicile by 30 June. (This also means a foreign insurance policy that has a cash value or foreign retirement accounts [including inheritances] is a foreign account.) It also covers recent immigrants to the US! These filings are due at the same time as your income tax return. But, while there never was an extension possible for these forms, now there is – for the same six months that obtains for your personal tax filings.

A foreign account does not mean that using the Royal Bank of Scotland to house funds in New York City; but having a Citicorp account that is based in Jerusalem or London does. The critical consideration is where the local branch is situated, where the account was opened. By the way, accessing foreign funds via PayPal means you have a foreign account.

The FBAR filing uses Form 114 and must be now filed electronically. The requirement to file applies to all taxable entities (individuals and businesses) that have $ 10,000 or more of value on any given day during the tax year. And, the conversion rate for said value is no longer allowed to be daily- but determined by the value on the last day of the tax year.

There is a new interpretation, too. The requirement to file applies not just to the account owner(s), but to anyone with signature authority. So, that means people like me that maintain client accounts overseas will now have to file these forms, because I can issue checks on those accounts. (I am not responsible for about 100 of them where I write the checks for the clients- but have no signature authority.) It also means employees of corporations or businesses or estates that have foreign funds and have signature authority must also file Form 114.

All business entities (and trusts and non-profits) should recognize that all entities – and individuals who work for or at those entities- that have signature authority for a foreign bank account, stock account, gaming or gambling account are subject to these provisions. In other words, all foreign money holdings may subject employees, not just officers of the institutions, to these provisions.

Oh. The IRS also requires those foreign entities where you may or may not have money to file Form 8938, a FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) filing. This covers those financial accounts, stocks, securities, contracts, interests- anything that exceeds the filing threshold. These rules also apply to American entities (individuals, businesses, trusts, etc. that have such interests in excess of the filing threshold! (If one resides in the US, those thresholds are $ 50K for individuals, $ 75$ for married folks on the last day of the year- or $ 100K and $ 150K at any time during the tax year. Those numbers increase by a factor of 4 if one doesn’t reside in the US; the thresholds are $ 200K, $ 300K, $ 400K, and $ 600K, respectively.)

Businesses

The PATH Act changed the 179 (the capital purchases write-off provisions) Election. For good. The maximum Section 179 write-off is now permanent. (It had been extended for a year or two each time Congress had made a change for a while.) That maximum is also to be adjusted for inflation starting this year, which is why it is now $ 510,000. Moreover, there is a phaseout when the amount of new capitalized property exceeds $ 2.03 million, but not to zero.

Real Estate

For real estate purchases, the maximum Section 179 exclusion is now also $ 500K. (Last year, it was capped at $ 250K.) This includes HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), which is a new change. Any recapture of this credit (due to an early sale) is now considered subject to ordinary income taxes.

The time to depreciate real estate is now 15 years for qualified leasehold improvements, restaurants, and retail improvements. Bonus depreciation is also allowed for the first half of said improvement value (through 2017), decreasing in 2018 to only 40%, 30% in 2019 and removed completely by 2020. The PATH Act also let bonus depreciation apply to 39 year property (for improvements that were already in service by the entity).

Automobiles (Luxury)

The depreciation limits for vehicles is limited to $ 3160 or 20% of the basis in 2016. However, this year one can write off up to $ 8000 in bonus deprecation (which is reduced to $ 6400 in 2018, $ 4800 in 2019 and then removed forever by 2020) for new (not used) automobiles. Of course, these numbers apply only to vehicles that are used completely for business. There is a reduction for vehicle use that is not fully attributed to business usage.

Partnerships

The Bipartisan Budget Act (the one that taxes would normally be addressed) has brought a sea change to the way partnerships will be treated, should the IRS find problems with their tax submissions. The changes do not take effect for a few years- but the time to address the changes is really now.

Basically, the Act stipulates that any change that comes about by an audit are to be collected directly from the partnership- unless the partnership elects out of TEFRA (Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982). So, it means that partnership formation, operations, new partner admissions, etc. will all have to be reconsidered.

What changed is this- the partnership can decide to accept an IRS decision that the underpayment is due from the partnership itself or it can elect to have that decision divided up among the partners, according to their percentage ownership or liability percentage. Most advisors are telling partnerships to elect the latter process. If the partnership does not so choose, then the IRS will assess the partnership at the highest tax rate allowed- 39.6%. Of course, if the partnership can prove (to the satisfaction of the IRS) that a lower rate is appropriate, based upon the individual tax rates of the partners, then a lower rate may be allowed. (Don’t bank on the IRS doing so.) However, this underpayment will not be allowed to change the basis of each of the partner’s interests, if the partnership is taxes for the liability.

If the partnership pushes the issues down to the partner level, then each partner is assessed for the tax at its own rate. And, the partnership can issue an adjusted (amended) K-1 for the IRS revisions that will change the basis and avoid the double taxation possibility. The partnership has 45 days from the date of the IRS notice of change to make this election.

There is another change that affects partnerships- the PAL (passive active loss) issue. Why? Because most partners and partnerships do not maintain pristine time records. (This also affects real estate rentals that are reported on Schedule E, page 1.) There are various definitions that set the PAL issues- for real estate professionals it is a minimum of 750 hours of work a year. The IRS has allowed other partnerships to use different designations, such as 500 hours, or the fact that a particular partner does all the work (even if less than 500 hours), or even when a partner spends 100 hours or more on the partnership and no one else does more.

But, the rules to prove how much participation are gelling. One can use a record of cell phone call records, eMails, or credit card charges. Travel itineraries and receipts can prove how much participation was involved. Even affidavits from customers and clients can be used to prove the time one participated in the venture.

Payments Due

The IRS has been starved to death for years by Congress. Partly because one party was angry that the IRS was not automatically granting those “social welfare” organizations (read as political collections and donation farms) tax exemptions without scrutiny. Partly because the IRS is responsible for collecting the penalties for those who don’t comply with Obamacare. (Hoping that this lack of funds would make it harder for them to do so.)

But, in my humble opinion, the solution Congress came up with sucks. The IRS has now been authorized to hire those bottom feeders- the outside collection agents, that harass and subject folks to all sorts of intimidation. The logic behind this choice? After all, folks who owe the IRS must be the scum of the earth. (Of course, no one ever considers the fact that the IRS makes mistakes, chooses random numbers to assess non-filing taxpayers who may actually owe nothing, etc.)

Many clients fall short of having sufficient funds to pay their taxes when due. This entails the taxpayer submitting a form 9465 (Installment Agreement Request). These must be automatically approved if the taxpayer [individual] owes (or will owe) the IRS $ 50,000 or less, with the addition of this request- and all tax forms have been timely submitted. (Businesses are limited to a $ 25,000 maximum, with the same provisos.) However, the fees involved to have the IRS process the request have been increased to $ 120, unless the taxpayer agrees to have the IRS zap their bank account automatically each month. Then, the fees are reduced to $ 52. (The IRS has way too many taxpayers “forgetting” to make timely payments. This is a way to incur fewer manpower issues for the service.) However, no matter how the payment is to be processed by the IRS, all low-income taxpayers (a family of 4, with $60K or less in income) won’t have to pay more than $ 43 to institute a payment plan. The biggest issue? Any taxpayer who is not in compliance with IRS code, who has no installment agreement in place, and owes $ 50,000 in taxes, penalties, and interest can find his passport revoked IMMEDIATELY. (If one is not yet issued, don’t expect the Department of State to issue one, either.)

Filing Dates

Individuals

There has been no change in the due date for 1040 filing, in that it is still due on 15 April (or the next business day, should the 15th fall on a weekend or legal holiday). Unless you can prove you were out of the country on 15 April- then you have the right to extend the filing date to 15 June. Or, you filed an extension request- that gives you until 15 October (with the same proviso for when it falls on a weekend or legal holiday).

Businesses

Here’s where the big changes arrive. And, it is about time. Because too many pass-through entities have been screwing over their partners, their stockholders by delaying their filing. Oh, sure, they may pay a penalty, but that doesn’t help the multitudes who can’t file their taxes in a timely fashion due to the lassitude of these entities.

So, from now on, all pass through entities- those are partnerships, LLCs, and S entities must no file their tax returns by the 15th day of the 3rd month after the end of their tax year. Recognize that the IRS allows companies that have “good” reasons to not use a natural year (i.e., 1 January to 31 December) to chose another month to end their tax year. But, for most entities, the due date will now be 15 March. Which gives the partners or the stockholders a month to finish their own tax returns. (Firms that operate on the US Government year, which ends 30 September, for example, must file their taxes by 15 November.)

Regular Corporations (C entities) no longer have to file by the 15th day of the 3rd month, but now have until the 4th month. So, for those companies operating on a natural year basis, the due date has been extended (permanently) from 15 March to 15 April. (A similar 15th day of the 4th month after year-end applies for those not operating on a natural year basis.)

Business, Trusts, Non-Profits, and Pension Plan Extensions

There is one more change for C corporations. Their extension is no longer 6 months long- but 5 months. In other words, before when they had to file by 15 March, but could extend the due date until 15 September… still have that same final extended due date, regardless that the original filing date is now 15 April.

Partnerships and S entities still have a 6 month extension- which also falls (for those who use a natural year) on 15 September.

Trusts and Estates of the Deceased file form 1041. The only extension request provided 5 months beyond the due date. Now, the due date is 5.5 months. That means the due date for filing is 15 April, but an extension means the due date can be 30 September.

Non-Profit entities file form 990 on 15 May- or the 15th day of the 5th month after the end of their fiscal year. Extensions used to be provided for 3 months; they now have more time- six month extensions are the new rules.

Employee Benefit Plans (Pension Plans, 401(k), welfare plans) must file their tax returns with the IRS by the last day of the 7th month after their year end. (For natural year plans, that means 31 July). Before the plans could extend that deadline by 2.5 months; now the rule provides for an additional month to 3.5 months.

Late Filing Penalties

The minimum penalty for filing late (more than 60 days) has been increased from $ 135 to $ 205. Except in certain cases, that penalty can be reduced to the amount of tax owed, which ever is smaller. (By 2017, the penalty will go up to $ 210.)

Which entities are affected by this change? Individuals (all forms 1040, including non-citizens). Estates and Trusts (Form 1041). Corporate Files (all forms of the 1120 filing). And, Non-Profit entities that can file a 990-T (they have unrelated business income of $ 1000 or more.)

There are more penalties, too. These were included in the Trade Package Legislation. The act included late filing of 1099 forms, W-2s, and 1095 (Health Care Reporting). You will note that the deadlines for some of these forms have been moved up- so pay attention and file them on time. Because the penalties can be $ 1060 for each delinquent 1099 form- because you have intentionally filed late to the government AND to the payee!

Of course, if you file the 1099 only 30 days late, the penalty is $ 50 (again- for each – the payee and the government). If you get your act together by 1 August, the penalty is $ 100 (again, for each). And, if you miss that date, the penalty is $ 250 each- unless the IRS feels it was intentional (and you know that number is $ 530).

There you have the big changes for the year. Now, you should be ready to file your taxes comes the 1rst of the year. But, don’t expect really fast refunds (as one would have expected before). Because the IRS is going to be checking to make sure the taxpayer is legit- they don’t want all those identity theft and tax fraud situations to obtain.

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Sailboat And Yacht Detailers Companies Need To Think About Sail Cleaning Services

Sailing is the fun part, cleaning, well not so much. Still, if you don’t take care of your equipment, Murphy will take care of you. Luckily, for those of us in the sailboat and yacht cleaning business we can make money taking care of the challenges that go along with boat maintenance and keep repairs to a minimum by helping owners keep their vessels in ship-shape. I’d like to explain one aspect of boat cleaning that many boat detailers fail to take advantage of, and that is sail cleaning.

Why clean sails? Well, of course you want them to look good when you hoist them up, free from black mold and ugly salt marks. But that’s not the only reason, healthy sails will not chafe as easily, nor will their stitches come apart as much. Doubt what I am saying? Well, then let me recommend some required reading. In the January 2017 Issue of Sail Magazine there was a relevant article titled; “Sail Care – Look After Your Sails And They Will Look After You,” by Peter Nielsen. The article talked about the fact that if you don’t clean the dirt or salt off the sails, then you will have abrasions from the dirt and rats will smell the salt and be attracted to it, then make their nests there and eat away at the sail. Cleaning the sails is not hard to do, but many sailors and yacht owners do not have the time or are too tired after a day of sailing to clean them properly.

The article and most professional boat cleaners recommend soaking the sails in warm water and detergent, something mild and approved by the manufacturer – always remember that sails have different amounts of material and stitches in them and the manufacturer knows what’s best to use to prevent deterioration. After soaking the sails you want to thoroughly rinse them, I recommend soft or RO water. The article stated to rinse until you could no longer smell any detergent and I’d suggest you don’t smell any salt either and if you’ve rinsed them properly you won’t. It might take a couple of rinses to be sure. Charging $100 per sail is not unreasonable, but be careful if they haven’t been clean in a while, you’ll need to charge more for neglected sails or sails that are dirty or starting to come apart as you have to use a little elbow grease (lightly) and it will take you a lot longer to clean. However, if you regularly clean the sailboat for your customer, $80 to $100 for average sized sails turns out to be a nice add-on to your boat cleaning services, larger sails go up in price try $150 to $300. Think on this.

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The Eurozone Train Wreck Continues Into 2017

The European Union seems to be trying to hold itself together, but it is indeed wobbling itself apart like an aircraft engine with an unbalanced propeller and the vibrations are getting worse reverberating from one side of the continent to the other, where no nation is spared from the challenges which await – so what can we expect in 2017 you ask?

Well, “Brexit” has already had some effect on Germany and other nations are considering similar exits from the EU, which could quicken its demise. The recent Italian vote was problematic as is the condition of the Italian banks. Remember when Greece got caught short? Do you remember in 2014 what was going on in the EU? Let me remind you quickly:

MSNBC Money “China, France drag on global manufacturing revival,” published on February 3, 2014, written by Jonathan Cable and Koh Gui Qing which stated; “Manufacturers around the world enjoyed a solid start to the year as order books swelled, surveys showed on Monday, though a struggle for growth in China and a downturn in France took the shine off the overall picture. Euro zone factories had their best month since mid-2011 and, with unemployment near record highs, increased headcount for the first time in two years. They were led by a sharp pick-up in Germany and a revival among the states on the region’s periphery. But France, the bloc’s second biggest economy, remained a drag on the region.”

As an example Greece, when they entered the EU they had a bad credit rating and any loans would of cost them a lot in interest, when they joined the EU they effectively got the same rate on loans as Germany who as you probably know are very stable in the financial sector, so Greece took loans out at low interest rates for years.

Yah, Greece has always been a financial disaster like Argentina or Zimbabwe… now it’s all gone sour they are left with huge debts and so on, Italy and Spain are in the same boat and seeing as the UK loaned ALOT of money to Spain and others we are massively exposed to the crisis. Spain for example has more empty property (new builds) than the ENTIRE USA.

Real estate tanked in Spain, we all read about that in the WSJ, few in the US realized it was that bad. In 2008 China was challenged even after their 2008 stimulus as their municipals did elaborate growth projects, building for the sake of it?

Remember the original plan for the EU was to introduce one currency (which they did) and then introduce a EURO Government to manage it, the second part never happened and now the backlash is huge, and it doesn’t really matter that the 2008 crisis started in the US. The EU wasn’t doing that well before the crisis. And we shouldn’t blame the US for the crash, let’s not forget one of the enablers was AIGs London Office selling insurance often with guarantees in excess of 130% of face value on those mortgage bundles and credit default swaps.

Yes, we have some socialists in the US and when the capitalists and socialists get together or start using each other it is as if everyone loses their brains. So, the slow-motion train wreck and Eurozone melt-down continues, who is to say if it can continue for long without falling apart, and once that engine falls off the plane, its coming in for a very hard landing. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in 2017.

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How Do I Discover My Purpose? Start By Asking Yourself These 3 Questions

One of the biggest questions I hear is, “What is my purpose?”

In reality, there are only two people who can really tell you what your purpose is you and God.

What is purpose?

Your purpose is the plan God has for you, the reason why He has created to live on this earth.

He can tell you because He created you and He made a specific purpose just for you. As you seek to know God more, and learn His plan for your life, you can discover this purpose. Contrary to what many people believe, you are not here just to take up space, meander around, watch reality TV, be miserable, or even eat chocolate.

God has so much more for you. He wants you to love your life by discovering your purpose and walking it out on consistent basis.

God also wants you to connect with Him and join Him where He is already working.

This requires you to be able to:
• Have a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus Christ
• Experience an intimate relationship with Him
• Learn to hear His voice

If you want to fulfill your purpose for 2017, I encourage you to take a quick mental inventory of what you have. Then 3 questions to ask yourself include:
• What 5 things do I want to change about myself in this year? This could include your job, a relationship, a personal goal, certain habits, etc.
• What people/things do I need to get rid of so I can pursue my purpose?
• What negative mindsets do I need to get rid of? If you are honest with yourself, you can experience areas of growth so you can pursue your purpose.

I would also recommend you find an accountability partner or hire a life purpose coach to help you to see where you are and how you can get closer to pursuing your purpose.

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Tips for Developing Astute Investing Skills

Learn to discern conflicting analyses, reports, and data as you research investing opportunities

As an investor, you must make decisions based on your study, research, and personal opinions and beliefs. You should not depend solely on the research and opinions of others. There is much good advice and information available to you.

However, there’s also a lot of differing information that you must cut through to make informed investing decisions. Here’s what you can start doing now:

Understand decisions made by entities independent of publicly traded companies

General Electric (NYSE:GE), through its Power & Water division, GE Hitachi, offers advanced and sophisticated technology for the nuclear energy industry. The GE Hitachi nuclear alliance unites GE’s design expertise and history supplying reactors, fuels, and services worldwide with Hitachi’s proven experience in advanced modular construction. This is all well and good.

Nonetheless, previously, the Canadian Press noted that, “A Federal Court ruling has thrown out the preliminary approvals for a series of new nuclear power reactors in Ontario.” Therefore, this is a case of weighing company initiatives against the landscape and mindset of the jurisdiction in which they operate, or may wish to operate with new projects. You must be aware of this when you invest.Understand the difference between company outlooks and what’s going on in the marketplace

Cameco (TSX:CCO) (NYSE:CCJ), regarding its long-term prospects was very positive about its outlook and the outlook for the uranium industry in general. The company did say in its 2013 annual report that any development or expansion of its remaining projects would depend on how market conditions develop. Cameco’s intention is to build up Cigar Lake and to expand the McArthur River/Key Lake operation.

Commercial production commenced in May 2015 at Cigar Lake with a total of 11.3 million pounds (100% basis) produced by the end of the year. The expectation is that the build up to licensed capacity of 18 million pounds per year will be in 2017.

What’s’ happening in the marketplace? In 2014, Mining.com reported that poor markets caused Cameco to put its Millennium uranium mine on hold. The highly prospective Millennium deposit is on the shores of Slush Lake in Saskatchewan. Cameco had asked the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to postpone a hearing scheduled in June 2014 into a licence application for the Millennium Mine project. The estimation is that this project has in excess of 50 million pounds of uranium.

Consider company strategies and the new economy

Sears Canada (TSX:SCC) Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) never seemed to transform its operations as other retailers. Sears Canada dispensed some of its best stores and raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Sears Canada was a mainstay in Canadian downtowns and major shopping malls.

The Company’s Toronto Eaton Centre flagship store became a Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) store. Sears Canada has seen its target consumers taken away by bulk stores and higher-end retailers, not competing with them effectively.

Consider government reports

These are reports prepared by any level of government: federal, provincial/state, or regional or municipal. Oftentimes, federal government pronouncements paint a rosier picture than what is really happening in the economy. This is especially true at election time. You must look at what other government agencies are saying, not just the political figureheads of parties. Consider what U.S Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen said in the past. She told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress that under present policies, the federal government’s deficits, “will rise to unsustainable levels.”

As an investor, you must consider what that will do to the U.S economy, the business environment, and businesses. By extension, what will this do in the coming years to Canada’s? When the U.S. rolls over, it typically nudges Canada who’s napping on its shoulder.

Due diligence means more than just studying the latest quarterly results of companies. It means studying and discerning between different government, economic, as well as marketplace reports that often are contradictory. It’s your responsibility to discern between the wheat and the chaff. If this means taking longer to make an investment decision, so be it. In the end, you will make a better investment decision.

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