Richard A. Lindsey, CPA

Lindsey & Waldo, LLC – Certified Public Accountants

  • Oct 28

    In what may come as a shock to many of you, the country is broke and is looking for additional revenues. You should know, it will be looking in every nook and cranny to replenish the federal coffers. What you may not know is the Internal Revenue Service seems already to be engaged in revenue-finding-missions. Among the objects of their affection – in the tax audit – are sole proprietors filing Schedule C, and substantiation requirements for every possible deduction.

    The IRS now views the Schedule C as the repository of all manner of evil taxpayer intentions to reduce their tax liabilities (and, from the perspective of the IRS, federal revenues). IRS agents are reportedly beating the bushes of sole proprietors primarily to reduce, or eliminate, claimed deductions as unsubstantiated to increase both income and self-employment tax liabilities.

    All deductions are a matter of legislative grace, and that grace comes with a price: at a minimum to maintain books and records to support the expenditure, and, in many cases, to meet more exacting substantiation standards than the Code imposes as a condition to deductibility in various circumstances. One might not think of charitable contributions as a source of major contention with the IRS, but in the case of non-cash contributions, the taxpayer is technically required to establish, both the fair market value of the property and the property’s adjusted basis. In some cases, the Code requires an appraisal of property (where the value exceeds $5,000) contributed to a charity.

    However, the property’s adjusted basis comes into question in two cases: first in most cases where the property is inventory in the hands of the donor, and secondly, if tangible personal property that is unrelated to the charity’s exempt function, the amount of the contribution is limited to the donor’s adjusted basis in the property. For example, if a taxpayer donates used clothing to a charity that does not distribute them to poor or indigent individuals, the deduction is limited to the lesser of your basis or fair market value. Now, it may seem like common sense that the current value of almost all used clothing is less than what was paid for it but technically, a claim for a deduction of such items requires some proof of both the fair market value and the cost basis of the property.

    And such was the case I recently read about in Surgent’s Tax Issues Newsletter where a taxpayer was denied a claimed $850 deduction for clothing donated to charity. Yes $850! The return was under audit and the taxpayer submitted photographs of all the clothing donated and matched them up to the current list of retail prices published by The Salvation Army and recognized by the IRS– but that wasn’t enough. The auditor wanted purchase receipts of each item to establish the cost basis. Even if the taxpayer was in the 35 percent tax bracket, the amount of tax at issue was only $298. The IRS correctly assumed the taxpayer would throw in the towel rather than incur additional time, effort and costs to substantiate the deduction. So, the IRS pressed the issue hard enough to deny any deduction. Hooray, the deficit was reduced $300!

    From a practical standpoint, trying to establish the cost of most any item of personal property even shortly after its purchase, much less a couple of years down the road, is extremely difficult. So, nothing prevents the IRS from using similar audit strategies where larger sums of money are involved.

    Echoing the motivation Willie Sutton once famously gave for robbing banks, the Internal Revenue Service knows where the money is.

  • Oct 14

    Q. My husband and I sold our home on Fowl River that we purchased in 1973 for $459,000, and reinvested the profits in a smaller condo in town. Will we be required to pay the new 3.8% Medicare surtax (now referred to as the net investment income tax) on the gain? I understand it applies when your income is above $250,000.

    A. The 3.8% net investment income tax applies to the lesser of the net investment income for the year, or the excess of modified adjusted gross income over the $250,000 threshold. However, it does not apply to items, such as the gain on the sale of your personal residence, which do not have to be reported on your tax return.

    Do you have a question for the Taxpert that you’d like to see answered in a future Taxing Times? Or perhaps just an issue you’d like the Taxpert to address? Send the Taxpert a note to Taxing Times, 1050 Hillcrest Rd., Ste A, Mobile, AL 36695 or an email to taxpert@CPAMobileAL.com.

  • Oct 3

    It never ceases to amaze me: I observe business people and salespeople allowing customers (and money) to leak out of their business. Many times without even realizing it.

    For example, I watch people go to Chamber, or other networking, events with the sole purpose of collecting as many business cards as they can. Somehow they seem to feel, the more cards they collect, the more contacts they can make, the more business they will generate. And they will be everywhere, at every event tangentially connected to their business. Others may view them as the king or queen of networking.

    Yet the business, the referrals, aren’t coming and they ask, “Why aren’t I getting referrals?”

    There could be several reasons such as forgetting to ask, focusing on the wrong people, having no system in place, or putting pressure on customers or referral partners unknowingly.

    Here are six things you can do to increase your referrals.

    Ask. Yes, it starts here. If you don’t ask you may get a few haphazard referrals, with the emphasis on few. If you learn how to properly ask your customers and partners for help, some will enthusiastically promote your product or service. In my experience, you’ll never get all of your customers to give you a referral, but you don’t know which ones will be ambassadors for you until you ask. Note: Referral partners don’t have to be customers. They could be friends, vendors, or others in a supportive group, who have, over time, come to know, like, and trust you.

    Make people comfortable giving you referrals. It’s important to remember that your customers don’t like to feel like they are selling their friends to you. For many, offering an inducement or a bribe in exchange for names not only makes them uncomfortable, but may cause them to question the quality of your goods or services.

    You may have customers or referral sources who would like to refer, but don’t know how. By giving them easy ways to refer their family and friends without making it feel like you are paying them, you will receive more and a better quality of referrals.

    Show appreciation. Remember to thank your referral partner or customer for the referrals. If privacy allows, let them know when a referral works out and give them an update. One of my favorite ways to do this is with a handwritten card. People like to be appreciated. When you take the time to do something so few do these days, send a handwritten card – NOT a text, NOT an email, NOT a tweet, a handwritten card – your referral source will be pleased and more willingly refer you the next time.

    Focus on the right relationship. You don’t have the time to have a great relationship with everyone you meet. It’s impossible! That’s why you have to focus your energy developing the right relationships. For example, would you spend the same energy on a customer who has only purchased one entry level item from you in the last year, as you would a CEO who purchased your product for every employee at her company?

    Put systems in place. You already know that you don’t have time to build quality relationships with everyone; however, you can put systems in place such as follow up procedures to help nurture and develop relationships so that you can have more of those quality relationships referring you.

    Grow referral partners. Being an active member of a closed networking group, like BNI, gives you the opportunity to develop relationships with potential referral partners without the distraction of direct competitors. Unlike other networking opportunities, BNI encourages your efforts to build quality relationships with referral partners. Those trusting relationships can develop into your most prolific referral partners.

    Generating referrals takes a well-designed system and consistent effort to operate reliably. But the pay-off is worth it. Referrals are one of the highest probability and most profitable sources of new customers.

  • Aug 19

    Don’t you just love Congressional tricks?

    One of my personal “favorites” is when they cram a bunch of unrelated business into their bills.

    Which is just what happened about a year ago, and it could affect you…

    H.R. 3236, popularly known as “The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015” (yes, that’s how these things are named) brought some tax-law-related changes.

    Individual tax returns are still due on April 15th — and a six month extension period is still available. But …

    * Partnership tax returns are due March 15, NOT April 15 as in the past. If your partnership isn’t on a calendar year, the return is due on the 15th day of the third month following the close of your tax year.

    * C corporation tax returns are due April 15, NOT March 15. For non-calendar years, it is due on the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the tax year.

    * S corporation tax returns remain unchanged–they are still due March 15, or the third month following the close of the taxable year.

    On TOP of that, another doozy: audits can get you for six years now, instead of three. Without going into all of the details, essentially if you withhold reporting of 25% or more of your income, the IRS has six years to figure it out. They’ve always had unlimited time for fraud or criminality … but there was some wiggle room for underreporting in the past. No longer.

    All this (and MORE!) in one measly highway bill.

    So, it pays even more to work with a pro, yes?

    These sort of issues are what we specialize in worrying all about — so you don’t have to. Because YOU have to keep your head in a bigger picture.

    Entrepreneurs know that hard work and a great idea don’t guarantee success. Fortunately, most of them also know that failure isn’t final — almost every successful business owner client of mine has crashed and burned at least once in his/her career.

    One of the best ways to pick yourself, or your business, back up off the ground is to take a fresh look at things that you “thought” were set in stone. Here are some strategies I compiled for you to possibly give your business a fresh lease on life, come fall, or into 2017…

    Re-target your market. In the heat of start-up passion, entrepreneurs frequently try to interest too broad a market: “Everyone will want to buy this!” The result: getting lost in the crowd. The more closely you define your market, the more success you will experience.

    Re-examine your price. Price is obviously supremely important. See how you can lower your overhead or cut production costs. Perhaps there’s a new way to package your products, so that your average transaction value can go up?

    Identify and push your best product. Focus on what works. If your hot product is coffee cups, look for ways to highlight and expand that niche instead of veering into new territory. How about different colors and holders for those cups?

    Make your marketing materials more memorable. Emphasize the benefits — SPECIFICALLY how features of your product or service will improve business or the quality of life for your customer. And scrutinize your advertising. Using big media is not always the answer, especially when you have narrowed your market. Don’t overlook narrowly-targeted marketing efforts or joint promotions.

    Keep promoting! Make sure your message sinks in. Find affordable ways to reach your target market, and use these avenues as often as you can. Try social advertising!

    These ideas are to get you started. There may be longer conversations to be had. If so, that’s what we’re here for.

  • Aug 17

    18 years ago, you cradled him in your arms– the most beautiful baby ever born. You’ve nurtured him, instructed him, helped him grow, and now it’s time for him to test his wings… at the south’s biggest party school. (You do know that’s a real ranking, right?) Away from home. Away from your supervision. You don’t really want to think about “what if?” What if something happens while he’s away at college?

    Once college students reach the age of majority (18 in most states), they are considered adults, and you, as their parents, are not entitled to see their medical records, their grades, their finances, or other documents. You’d think, since you’re the one footing the bills, paying the tuition, the room and board, and just about everything else, your parental rights would continue. But they don’t. Once a student reaches that magic age, they have a right to legal privacy and the right to govern their own affairs. So, it’s important to discuss with your children ways you can act on their behalf — or help protect them —  should an emergency arise.

    Set up ICE (in case of emergency) contacts. Go ahead. Get Junior in here right now. Well, ok, next time you’re both home at the same time. Put ICE by the names of the people you’d want him to call in case of an emergency. Or maybe it’s not him calling; maybe it’s the police, fire department, or rescue workers trying to reach out to someone. According to WebMD, if Junior is in an accident and can’t call, a first responder can call an ICE contact on his cell phone to let a loved one know what has happened. You can have multiple ICE contacts… ICE, ICE2, ICE3, and so on.

    ICE contacts don’t give someone the legal authority to act on the student’s behalf, it merely starts the communication process.

    Prepare a health care durable power of attorney or healthcare proxy. Although accidents are the leading cause of death for young adults, it doesn’t take something that severe for parents to need to be involved. When Kathy was away at Ole Miss, some 315 miles away, she developed an intestinal bug which landed her in the infirmary. We rushed to get there only to find out the doctors refused to discuss her condition with us, citing privacy concerns.

    As much as you hope you’ve prepared them to take care of themselves, and as much as they think they are ready, you are still likely to be their fallback for emergencies. A health care durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to serve as his/her health care agent. Students should also sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release that gives medical practitioners permission to share information with you.

    Have a durable power of attorney. For most students, the benefit of a power of attorney is to enable their parents to assist them with credit card payments or deal with a landlord, but yes, it should give you access to their financial and scholastic records at college. In most cases it goes into effect when signed, but can be revoked at any time.

     

    How do you get Junior to sign if he’s still thinking you don’t have a clue? Try gentle persuasion first. If that doesn’t work you can consider making it a condition of paying tuition, or buying the car, or whatever.

  • Jul 8

    I recently read about a show on CNBC that was described as a cross between Shark Tank and Top Chef. (Seriously… Can’t you see that producer walking into a meeting with CNBC and pitching it exactly that way.) The show was called Restaurant Startup and I just had to check it out.

    The setup is that there are two teams of restaurant owners who approach the “sharks” with their concepts. In one episode there was a married couple who ran a Lebanese-themed deli in Oklahoma City that wanted to expand into a sit down restaurant, and the pair of good ol’ boys with a southern comfort food joint in Kingsport, Tennessee who wanted to open a second location in Knoxville. The sharks sample some dishes and quiz the competitors on their operations. They pick one and give them 36 hours and $7,500 to show off their food and their skills. After that “opening night,” they decide whether to invest their own money in the concept.

    Early in the show, the good ol’ boys serve the sharks some dishes prepared from the owner’s grandma’s recipe book. And the shrimp and grits did look mighty tasty. One shark asked the chef how much the owner currently charges for it in Kingsport, and learned it was $12. Then he asked how much the average check was, and learned it was just $13. “This is a $20 dish in Knoxville,” he said, pointing down at the grits. “You need a $35 average check to make it work there.”

    The chef did not want to hear that he had to raise prices, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. He objected that diners in his town wouldn’t pay that much for the food. His grandmother who came up with the recipe wouldn’t want him charging that much for the food. And he wanted everybody to be able to afford to eat at his restaurant and enjoy his grandmother’s great dishes.

    (Does any of this sound familiar? I can just hear some of you saying “my customers won’t pay any more!”)

    The sharks agreed that it would be a big jump to raise prices to those levels, but they insisted that the point of running a restaurant isn’t just to share grandma’s southern comfort. It is to make money—and making money, in this case, would require higher prices.

    The sharks chose the good ol’ boys for the test kitchen, and set them up with a local consultant to help walk them through the process. Once again, pricing came up. The owner said flat out “I don’t want to serve a $19 piece of fish.” The consultant explained the restaurant isn’t just serving a piece of fish, it’s serving an experience— then proceeded to show the owner how he could garnish and plate the fish to look like it’s worth the price he had to ask diners to pay.

    At that point you could almost see the light bulb go on over his head. He readily agreed to raise his prices, and the pop-up restaurant opened for business. Diners who filed in that night loved the food. Unfortunately for our good ol’ boys, service and management weren’t as good as they should have been and the sharks declined to fund the concept. It was a hard lesson for them to take home to Tennessee.

    And here’s our lesson for the day. If you’re like most small business owners I know, you at least profess to want to run your business to make money. You may think your customers won’t pay more— but you’re probably wrong. You may think that your mentor, or the person you bought your business from (who didn’t charge enough himself) would disapprove— but it’s your business, not theirs. And you may really want everyone in town to be able to enjoy your great product or service—but can you really make the kind of money you deserve if you price yourself into bankruptcy?

  • Feb 19

    Like Bama’s win over Clemson – you expected it to happen, but they waited until the last minute to make it happen – Congress has once again extended the “extenders”- a varied assortment of more than 50 individual and business tax deductions, tax credits, and other tax saving laws which have been on the books for years, but which technically are temporary because they have a specific end date. This package of tax breaks has repeatedly been temporarily extended for short periods of time (e.g., one or two years), which is why they are referred to as “extenders.”

    Most of the tax breaks expired at the end of 2014. Now, in legislation passed just before the Congressional Christmas break, the extenders have been revived and extended once again, but this time Congress has taken a new tack. Instead of just rolling the package of provisions over for a year or two, it actually made some of the provisions permanent and extended the remaining provisions for either two or five years, while making significant modifications to several of the provisions.

    Key tax breaks for individuals that were made permanent by the new law include:

    • Tax credits for low to middle income earners that were originally enacted as part of the 2009 stimulus package and were slated to expire at the end of 2017: (1) the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides up to $2,500 in partially refundable tax credits for post secondary education, (2) eased rules for qualifying for the refundable child credit, and (3) various earned income tax credit (EITC) changes;
    • the $250 above-the-line deduction for teachers and other school professionals for expenses paid or incurred for books, certain supplies, equipment, and supplementary material used by the educator in the classroom; also modified, beginning in 2016, to index the $250 to inflation and include professional development expenses;
    • parity for the exclusions for employer-provided mass transit and parking benefits;
    • the option to take an itemized deduction for state and local general sales taxes instead of the itemized deduction permitted for state and local income taxes;
    • increased contribution limits and carry forward period for contributions of appreciated real property (including partial interests in real property) for conservation purposes; the new law also extends the enhanced deduction for certain farmers and ranchers; and,
    • the provision that permits tax-free distributions to charity from an individual retirement account (IRA) of up to $100,000 per taxpayer per tax year, by taxpayers age 70 ½ or older.

    Key tax breaks for individuals that were extended by the new law include:

    • the exclusion of up to $2 million ($1 million if married filing separately) of discharged principal residence indebtedness from gross income; extended through 2016; the new law also modifies the exclusion to apply to qualified principal residence indebtedness that is discharged in 2017, if the discharge is pursuant to a binding written agreement entered into in 2016;
    • the credit for energy-efficient improvements to principal residence extended through 2016;
    • the deduction for mortgage insurance premiums deductible as qualified residence interest; extended through 2016; and
    • the $4,000 above the line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses; extended through 2016.

    Key tax breaks affecting businesses that were extended by the new law include:

    • The Work Opportunity Tax Credit was extended through 2019; the new law also modifies the credit beginning in 2016 to apply to employers who hire qualified long-term unemployed individuals (i.e., those who have been unemployed for 27 weeks or more) and increases the credit with respect to such long-term unemployed individuals to 50% of the first $6,000 of wages;
    • 15 year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements were made permanent;
    • 50% bonus depreciation was extended for property placed in service during 2015 through 2019; the 50% rate is phased down to 40% for property placed in service during 2018 and 30% for property placed in service during 2019;
    • previously increased first-year depreciation cap on trucks and vans not weighing over 6,000 lbs. has been extended through 2017; the increased first year depreciation is lowered for 2018 and 2019 and disappears in 2020; and
    • increase in Section 179 elective business expensing (up to $500,000 annual write-off of eligible business property costs that is phased out as those cost exceed $2 million for the year) is made permanent; also made permanent is the allowance of expensing for computer software and qualified real property.

    Caution: This article contains a general overview of selected tax provisions contained in the PATH Act and does not address all tax provisions contained in the Act. Tax law is constantly changing due to new legislation, cases, regulations, and IRS rulings. Please contact us if you’re interested in a tax topic that is not discussed in this article.

  • Jan 8

    There are seven critical areas of marketing every business must have in place to be balanced. These seven spokes must be in place for the “wheel” of your business to run smoother, be less stressful, and less time consuming.

    Successful and wealthy business owners consistently have each of these seven critical marketing areas working at their maximum potential. These seven spokes on the marketing wheel are:

    1. A market that is hungry to consume your message… and able to pay for your product or service.
    2. A marketing message that grabs your prospects and draws them into your ad, sales letter, emails, or other marketing pieces.
    3. A system for increasing the lifetime customer value of each customer, client, or patient.
    4. A system for reaching more affluent customers who don’t make purchasing decisions based on price.
    5. A lead generation machine that works so smoothly you never have to wonder where your next customer is coming from.
    6. Strategies for getting your marketing message in front of your customers offline.
    7. Strategies for siphoning more leads to your business online.

    Take a minute to rate yourself on each spoke of your marketing wheel – with 1 being non-existent and 5 being outstanding. This will help you determine where you are the weakest and need the most improvement. It will also show you if you are balanced. As an example, if you rate yourself a 5 on offline strategies but a 1 on online strategies, it’s tough to have a thriving business.

    Make all of your spokes strong in each of these seven areas, and you will have a thriving business that provides you with the income that allows you the freedom from worry.

  • Dec 21

    I know what it’s like to think that the lifestyle I want is out of reach. Just a few years ago, I would lie on my bed in my tiny 400-square-foot studio apartment and flip through magazines, wishing I could have the luxurious lifestyles I read about.

    Despite that negative, nagging voice in my head that reminded me I could barely afford rent, I’m now living a beautiful life I created for myself from scratch. Instead of moping around an apartment I can barely afford, I now have the means to travel and to inspire others. Last year I took a solo retreat to Maui, and this year I vacationed at an exclusive beach resort in Cabo San Lucas.

    How do I do it? By deciding not to settle for being average and thinking BIG. Changing your mindset can be a challenge, but the rewards are well worth the cost. Here’s how you get started…

    1. Eliminate negativity. This includes negative self-talk, too. Why would the universe bring you a better life if you don’t appreciate what you already have? Show gratitude for everything in your life now. The seemingly bad days happen for a reason, so whenever you find yourself thinking, “I can’t do this” or “that’s impossible,” reframe it as the opposite. “I can do that, that is possible…” you owe it to yourself to give yourself the love and support you need to succeed.
    1. Document your dreams. Earlier this year I wanted to manifest a new house, so I listed all the qualities in my dream home: a 3-car garage, workout room, walk-in closets. (Don’t censor yourself! Anything is possible, even if it seems silly now.) I also bought some real estate magazines, cut out pictures of homes I love, and created a collage. I’m constantly updating my “dream board,” which is now proudly displayed in my new house!
    1. Surround yourself only with supportive people. I only shared my house dream with my friends and family I knew would support my decision. (NOT those prone to phrases like “Are you crazy? Who do you think you are? Ms. Trump?”) Your true friends and family will be happy to share in your dream. If you don’t have anyone else to support you, then it’s time to make new friends-join a networking group or a mastermind.
    1. Decide, believe, and watch for clues. It’s not enough to make a decision to work towards your dreams. You must also truly believe in them! Don’t worry about HOW your dreams will manifest themselves. Watch for clues, and HOW will find you, perhaps in the form of a new business partner or a new client. But remember that the dream comes before the HOW.
    1. ACT on opportunities when they appear. Action involves risk. You might have to hire more people to help with a new client. You need time to research that prospective business partner. Or figure out how to hire that amazing new mentor. But it’s up to YOU to take action when the path is revealed the universe is supporting you, and each step will bring you closer to your dreams.

    Named the “Entrepreneurial Guru for Women” by Business News Daily, Ali Brown provides business coaching and advice to over 250,000 followers via AliBrown.com, her social media channels, and her Glambition® radio show. If you’re ready to jumpstart your marketing, make more money, and have more fun in your small business, get your free tips now at www.AliBrown.com. Copyright © 2009 Alexandria Brown International, Inc.

  • Dec 11

    Congress just changed the Social Security benefit rules. On October 30, Capitol Hill lawmakers approved a two-year federal budget deal. As part of that agreement, they authorized the most significant change to Social Security policy seen in this century, disallowing two popular strategies people have used to try and maximize retirement benefits.

    The file-and-suspend claiming strategy will soon be eliminated for married couples. It will be phased out within six months after the budget bill is signed into law by President Obama. The restricted application claiming tactic that has been so useful for divorcees will also sunset.

    This is aggravating news for people who have structured their retirement plans – and the very timing of their retirements – around these strategies.

    Until the phase-out period ends, couples can still file-and-suspend. The bottom line here is simply stated: if you have reached full retirement age (FRA) or will reach FRA in the next six months, your chance to file-and-suspend for full spousal benefits disappears in Spring of 2016.

    Spouses and children who currently get Social Security benefits based on the work record of a husband, wife, or parent who filed-and-suspended will still be able to receive those benefits.

    How exactly did the new federal budget deal get rid of these two claiming strategies? It made substantial revisions to Social Security’s rulebook.

    One, “deemed filing” will only be allowed after an individual’s full retirement age. Previously, it only applied before a person reached FRA. That effectively removes the restricted application claiming strategy, in which an individual could file for spousal benefits only at FRA while their own retirement benefit kept increasing.

    The restricted application claiming strategy will not disappear for everyone, however, because the language of the budget bill allows some seniors grandfather rights. Individuals who will be 62 or older as of December 31, 2015 will still have the option to file a restricted application for spousal benefits when they reach full retirement age (FRA) during the next four years.

    Widows and widowers can breathe a sigh of relief here, because deemed filing has no bearing on Social Security survivor benefits. A widowed person may still file a restricted application for survivor benefits while their own benefit accumulates delayed retirement credits.

    Two, the file-and-suspend option will soon only apply for individuals. A person will still be allowed to file for Social Security benefits and voluntarily suspend them to amass delayed retirement credits until age 70. This was actually the original definition of file-and-suspend.

    Married couples commonly use the file-and-suspend approach like so: the higher-earning spouse files for Social Security benefits at FRA, then suspends them, allowing the lower-earning spouse to take spousal benefits at his or her FRA while the higher-earning spouse stays in the workforce until 70. When the higher-earning spouse turns 70, he/she claims Social Security benefits made larger by delayed retirement credits while the other spouse trades spousal benefits for his/her own retirement benefits.

    No more. The new law says that beginning six months from now, no one may receive benefits based on anyone else’s work history while their own benefits are suspended. In addition, no one may “unsuspend” their suspended Social Security benefits to get a lump sum payment.

    To some lawmakers, file-and-suspend amounted to exploiting a loophole. Retirees disagreed, and a kind of cottage industry evolved around the strategy with articles, books, and seminars showing seniors how to generate larger retirement benefits. It was too good to last, perhaps. The White House has wanted to end the file-and-suspend option since 2014, when even Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, wrote that “eliminating this option is an easy call … when to claim Social Security shouldn’t be a question of gamesmanship for those with the resources to figure out clever claiming strategies.”

    Gamesmanship or not, the employment of those strategies could make a significant financial difference for spouses. Lawrence Kotlikoff, the economist and PBS NewsHour columnist who has been a huge advocate of file-and-suspend, estimates that their absence could cause a middle-class retired couple to leave as much as $70,000 in Social Security income on the table.

    What should you do now? If you have been counting on using file-and-suspend or a restricted application strategy, it is time to review and maybe even reassess your retirement plan. Talk with a financial professional to discern how this affects your retirement planning picture.