Category Archives: Financial Planning

PROTECT yourself from identity theft!

In light of the recent news that Equifax’s database has been hacked we are writing to share some information with you about the break, Equifax’s current course of action, and, most important, what you can do to protect yourself in general.
According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July. Hackers targeted people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers were also stolen. This breach has affected 143 million people across the US, UK, and Canada.
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Equifax will send correspondence by MAIL to those who were exposed. The company has put a tool on their website to check your potential impact and has made a free credit monitoring service available to those affected.  There was some misinformation that indicated that you would give up your rights to legal action against the company if you clicked to opt in for the monitoring but this is NOT the case.
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To find out if your information was exposed, click on the “Potential Impact” tab on the Equifax site and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure you’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it (Type “https://” before the website  address and that will increase your security) . The site will tell you if you’ve been affected by this breach.
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If your information has been compromised by the Equifax breach, it could be years before your data could be used illegally, so you must plan to be diligent for the long term. This includes reviewing your monthly bank and credit card statements along with your credit report for possible identity theft.
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In the meantime, be wary of any emails you receive that are purportedly from Equifax and suggest you click on this or that link.  The security breach is a perfect opportunity for fraudsters pretending to be from Equifax to prey upon the chance to steal your identity and/or compromise your computer’s security.  The best thing to do, always, when you receive an email from any business who asks you to click on their link is to instead find the company’s website and follow any links you find there or CALL THEM.
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So what can you do now?

1.      Check your credit report at annualcredtireport.com. Consumers are entitled to one credit report from each of the three reporting agencies each year. We recommend downloading a report from a different agency every three to four months.
  • Download a report from Experian today, TransUnion in January, and Equifax in May to monitor your credit year-round without charge.
2.      Stop pre-screened credit offers to limit future exposure by calling 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688).
  • You can also opt out online.
3.      Place a CREDIT FREEZE on your accounts. While a credit freeze does not prevent current creditors from accessing your credit report, it does restrict the ability of new creditors to access your credit information. In other words, if you already have an account with Chase, an identity thief may still be able to open an account through Chase since that is not a “new” creditor.
The numbers to call for a credit freeze:
  • Equifax  1-800-349-9960
  • Experian  1-888-397-3742
  • TransUnion  1-888-909-8872
  • A credit freeze can temporarily be lifted and then put back in place if you are actively seeking credit.
  • A credit freeze will not effect your credit rating.
4.      Put a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim. The creditor must then verify the identity of anyone seeking credit in your name before your credit information can be released.
  • For detailed information about credit freezes and fraud alerts, click here.
5.      Look into a credit Monitoring service like LifeLock.  They all have mixed reviews, but I have had a good experience with LifeLock and find the peace-of-mind worth the cost.
6.      Last, but not least, file your income taxes early each year and be sure to respond to any IRS correspondence immediately. Doing so will limit the ability of scammers to use your Social Security numbers to get a tax refund in your name.
  • Scammers also use stolen Social Security numbers to apply for work, when arrested for crimes and infractions, to get medical care, and to steal benefits to which you are entitled.
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If you discover that you are a victim of identity theft, visit identitytheft.gov to report and start your recovery plan immediately. Clients should also contact us so we can begin helping you with any necessary changes to your financial information.
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Please feel free to share this information with your family, friends or colleagues that you think might benefit from the holistic, personalized wealth services offered by Wealth Management Advisors.

WMA Newsletter – November/December 2016

WEALTH MANAGEMENT ADVISOR

 November/December 2016

Here’s a brief glance at what you’ll find in the November/December issue…

 

When should you pull the trigger on Social Security benefits?

When is it appropriate to start collecting Social Security benefits? As this article discusses, the answer to that question depends on such factors as the amount of benefits, additional assets, life expectancy and marital status. Individuals are also encouraged to consider the effect of earnings if they plan to work while receiving benefits. A table shows how full retirement age is determined.

 

Falling markets, though inevitable, provide opportunities

Investors don’t necessarily have to suffer when markets are volatile. As this article explains, investors with long-term objectives and broadly diversified portfolios can probably ignore short-term market fluctuations. In fact, volatility can provide opportunities to invest in stocks that previously were too expensive. Taking advantage of such buying opportunities may position investors for better performance.

 

Weighing the pros and cons of LTC insurance

Few people want to think about the possibility that they might need long-term care (LTC). But it’s important to do so, and LTC insurance can help. This article weighs the benefits of LTC insurance with the cost of the premiums and explains some of the terminology used in LTC policies.

 

Self-directed IRAs: Watch out for these 3 tax traps

Although self-directed IRAs enable account holders to invest in nontraditional assets such as real estate, they also contain several potential tax traps. This short article warns about unrelated business taxable income, unrelated debt-financed income and prohibited transactions.

 

To view a PDF of the newsletter with full articles visit our Web site

 

September/October 2016 WMA Newsletter

160901 WMA Newsletter

(Click Above)

 

Articles Include:

Six Classic Techniques for Protecting Your Assets

ABLE Accounts: Families of disabled children have another estate planning option

Plan now to reduce your Net Investment Income Tax exposure

Buy LOW, Sell HIGH: A primer on value investing

 

Please call us at 978-970-3400 if you have any questions or would like us to evaluate how any of this may apply to your situation.

Wealth Management Advisor, May/June 2016

160501 WMA Newsletter

(Click Above)

 

Articles Include:

International Estate Planning: How to avoid tax traps

Taxable vs. tax-advantaged: Where you hold your investments matters!

Protect your self from tax identity theft

Should you “undo” a Roth IRA conversion?

College costs increase!

The College Board has released college cost figures for the 2014/2015 academic year in its annual Trends in College Pricing report. Here are the highlights:

Public colleges (in-state students):

  • Tuition and fees increased an average of 2.9% to $9,139
  • Room and board increased an average of 3.2% to $9,804
  • Total average cost* for 2014/2015: $23,410 ($22,826 in 2013/2014)

Public colleges (out-of-state students):

  • Tuition and fees increased an average of 3.3% to $22,958
  • Room and board increased an average of 3.2% to $9,804
  • Total average cost* for 2014/2015: $37,229 ($36,136 in 2013/2014)

Private colleges:

  • Tuition and fees increased an average of 3.7% to $31,231
  • Room and board increased an average of 3.4% to $11,188
  • Total average cost* for 2014/2015: $46,272 ($44,750 in 2013/2014)

*”Total average cost” includes tuition and fees, room and board, and a sum for books, transportation, and personal expenses.

Tewksbury CPA & CFP Discusses the Forgotten New Year’s Resolution

By now, many have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions to eat healthier, go to the gym or remove vulgarity from their speech, but there is another resolution not to give up on so quickly – to begin (or restart) saving toward your goals. The United States Personal Savings Rate has recovered from historic lows prior to the last recession, but is still short of the long term average. Whether it is for a dream vacation, a child’s wedding, or simply for a “rainy-day,” savings is essential to the financial health of all, young and old. In an era of credit card dependency, the only way to greater financial freedom is to deliberately plan for and save for the future.

Savings is both short term and long term in nature. Earmark which accounts are short term savings accounts (the savings you have setup to cover checking account overdrafts and dining out money) and which accounts are long term savings accounts (dream vacation fund or retirement savings). Many people do not have the discipline to save as those in previous generations did, but there are numerous strategies to ensure you meet your goal(s) including the following:

  1. Clearly establish your savings goal(s). What are you saving for? When will you know you have met your goal? Why is it important for you to save for this goal? Not all goals have a clear dollar amount, but make it clear up front, as it will provide you additional motivation to stay the course.
  2. Set aside a predetermined amount to be transferred into a “special account” every time you are paid. Your bank can most likely set this up to occur automatically, or better yet, set it up with your employer using direct deposit. Alternatively, you may consider setting up regular investments into a mutual fund for longer term savings goals. The underlying point is as long as the money is not in your checking account, you are less likely to spend it on superfluous items. Begin saving an amount you know you can manage, and then gradually increase it. Many experts recommend you save at least 5% of your after-tax income.
  3. Your “special account” can be your workplace §401(k)/§403(b), your IRA, a brokerage account, your Christmas/Vacation Club account or your “general savings account.” Depending on your situation, you may be saving in several of these accounts at once in various amounts.
  4. Setup ground rules for when the funds can be withdrawn from the account. If you are directing your savings to a retirement account or club account, the withdrawal penalties will most likely discourage you from prematurely dipping into the funds, but since you have increased access to your “general savings account” it is essential you set withdrawal parameters so you do not fail. Consider deactivating the ability to take ATM withdrawals from your savings account or deactivate the ability to move money online. By forcing yourself to go to a bank branch to make a withdrawal, you will resist the impulse withdrawal to purchase the latest technology gadget.
  5. Review your own progress towards your savings goal(s) periodically. For some this may be as little as annually, but for most it should be monthly.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has launched the “Feed the Pig” initiative to improve help people increase their savings. It is filled with interactive tools and resources to motivate you to make a savings commitment. Please visit www.feedthepig.org. There is also a site geared exclusively towards “tweens” (and their parents/teachers) who need to learn healthy financial habits before they are bombarded with credit card offers on their 18th birthdays. Please click here to visit FEED THE PIG

By sitting down and revisiting how you are intentionally spending the money you work hard for and establishing a savings strategy, you will not only keep a New Year’s Resolution, you will increase the level of control you have over your finances and will feel significantly more empowered and gratified when you can comfortably pay for your dream vacation, or your child’s wedding, or the latest life-changing technology gadget…with CASH!

Please contact us to learn how a regular savings plan is only a part of our Chronos Wealth System.

Boston CPA & Financial Planner Personal Record Retention Guide

Boston CPA and Financial Planners at Wealth Management Advisors, LLC and Sullivan Bille PC present a Personal Record Retention Guide.

As the calendar turns, you may find yourself looking forward to tax preparation season.  OK, maybe not “looking forward to”, but it will soon be time to dig through your paperwork and pull together the items needed for tax preparation.  A question that typically arises this time of year is “how long do I have to keep (insert document name here)”.  Please see below for some guidelines.  As always, please give us a call if you have any questions.

 Record Retention Guide for Individuals

 

INDIVIDUAL RECORDS                                              SUGGESTED RETENTION PERIOD

Tax Return Copies                                                           Permanent

Medical Receipts                                                             7 Years

Forms 1099 Received                                                      7 Years

Forms W2 Received                                                        Permanent

401 K/Keogh Statements                                                 7 years following disposition, termination, payoff

IRA Statements (deductible & nondeductible)                7/Permanent

Loan Records / Forms 1098                                             7 years following disposition, termination, payoff

Annuity Year End Statements                                          7 years following disposition, termination, payoff

Insurance Policies – Life                                                  Permanent

Insurance Policies – Other                                                7 years following disposition, termination, payoff

Major Purchase Receipts                                                  7 Years

Year-end Brokerage Statements/Trade Confirmations    7 Years

Certificates of Deposit Statements                                   7 Years

Schedule K-1’s from Partnership or S Corporation         7 Years following disposition, termination, payoff

House Records (cancelled checks for purchase of major improvements and maintenance)                                                                    Permanent

Birth and Death Certificates                                             Permanent

Medical Records                                                               Permanent

Wills                                                                                  Permanent

Trust Agreements                                                              Permanent

Detailed List of Financial Assets Held                              Permanent

Alimony, Custody or Prenuptial Agreements                    Permanent

Military Papers                                                                   Permanent

Photos or Videotape of Valuables                                      Permanent

2014 IRA and Retirement Plan Limits

IRA contribution limits

The 2014 IRA and Retirement Plan Limits are important to understand. The maximum amount you can contribute to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA in 2014 remains unchanged at $5,500 (or 100% of your earned income, if less). The maximum catch-up contribution for those age 50 or older in 2014 is $1,000, also unchanged from 2013. (You can contribute to both a traditional and Roth IRA in 2014, but your total contributions can’t exceed this annual limit.)

Traditional IRA deduction limits for 2014

The income limits for determining the deductibility of traditional IRA contributions have increased for 2014 (for those covered by employer retirement plans). For example, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution if your filing status is single/head of household, and your income (“modified adjusted gross income,” or MAGI) is $60,000 or less (up from $59,000 in 2013). If you’re married and filing a joint return, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution if your MAGI is $96,000 or less (up from $95,000 in 2013). If you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, and you file a joint return, you can fully deduct your IRA contribution if your MAGI is $181,000 or less (up from $178,000 in 2013).

If your 2014 federal income tax filing status is:
Your IRA deduction is reduced if your MAGI is between:
Your deduction is eliminated if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household

$60,000 and $70,000

$70,000 or more

Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)*

$96,000 and $116,000 (combined)

$116,000 or more (combined)

Married filing separately

$0 and $10,000

$10,000 or more

*If you’re not covered by an employer plan but your spouse is, your deduction is limited if your MAGI is $181,000 to $191,000, and eliminated if your MAGI exceeds $191,000.

Roth IRA contribution limits for 2014

The income limits for Roth IRA contributions have also increased. If your filing status is single/head of household, you can contribute the full $5,500 to a Roth IRA in 2014 if your MAGI is $114,000 or less (up from $112,000 in 2013). And if you’re married and filing a joint return, you can make a full contribution if your MAGI is $181,000 or less (up from $178,000 in 2013). (Again, contributions can’t exceed 100% of your earned income.)

If your 2014 federal income tax filing status is: Your Roth IRA contribution is reduced if your MAGI is between: You cannot contribute to a Roth IRA if your MAGI is:
Single or head of household

$114,000 and $129,000

$129,000 or more

Married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er)

$181,000 and $191,000 (combined)

$191,000 or more (combined)

Married filing separately

$0 and $10,000

$10,000 or more

Employer retirement plans

The maximum amount you can contribute (your “elective deferrals”) to a 401(k) plan in 2014 remains unchanged at $17,500. The limit also applies to 403(b), 457(b), and SAR-SEP plans, as well as the Federal Thrift Savings Plan. If you’re age 50 or older, you can also make catch-up contributions of up to $5,500 to these plans in 2014 (unchanged from 2013). (Special catch-up limits apply to certain participants in 403(b) and 457(b) plans.)

If you participate in more than one retirement plan, your total elective deferrals can’t exceed the annual limit ($17,500 in 2014 plus any applicable catch-up contribution). Deferrals to 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, SIMPLE plans, and SAR-SEPs are included in this limit, but deferrals to Section 457(b) plans are not. For example, if you participate in both a 403(b) plan and a 457(b) plan, you can defer the full dollar limit to each plan–a total of $35,000 in 2014 (plus any catch-up contributions).

The amount you can contribute to a SIMPLE IRA or SIMPLE 401(k) plan in 2014 is $12,000, unchanged from 2013. The catch-up limit for those age 50 or older also remains unchanged at $2,500.

Plan type: Annual dollar limit: Catch-up limit:
401(k), 403(b), governmental 457(b), SAR-SEP, Federal Thrift Savings Plan

$17,500

$5,500

SIMPLE plans

$12,000

$2,500

Note: Contributions can’t exceed 100% of your income.

The maximum amount that can be allocated to your account in a defined contribution plan (for example, a 401(k) plan or profit-sharing plan) in 2014 is $52,000 (up from $51,000 in 2013), plus age-50 catch-up contributions. (This includes both your contributions and your employer’s contributions. Special rules apply if your employer sponsors more than one retirement plan.)

Finally, the maximum amount of compensation that can be taken into account in determining benefits for most plans in 2014 has increased to $260,000, up from $255,000 in 2013; and the dollar threshold for determining highly compensated employees remains unchanged at $115,000.

 

Copyright 2006-2013 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved

Medicare open enrollment period starts 10/15/2013

What is the Medicare open enrollment period?

The Medicare open enrollment period is the time during which people with Medicare can make new choices and pick plans that work best for them. Each year Medicare plans typically change what they cost and cover. In addition, your health-care needs may have changed over the past year. The open enrollment period is your opportunity to switch Medicare health and prescription drug plans to better suit your needs.

When does the open enrollment period start?

The Medicare open enrollment period begins on October 15 and runs through December 7. Any changes made during open enrollment are effective as of January 1, 2014.

During the open enrollment period you can:

  • Join a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
  • Switch from one Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to another Medicare Prescription Drug Plan
  • Drop your Medicare prescription drug coverage altogether
  • Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan to Original Medicare
  • Change from one Medicare Advantage Plan to a different Medicare Advantage Plan
  • Change from a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer prescription drug coverage
  • Switch from a Medicare Advantage Plan that doesn’t offer prescription drug coverage to a Medicare Advantage Plan that does offer prescription drug coverage

What should you do?

Now is a good time to review your current Medicare plan. There are some factors you may want to consider as part of that evaluation. For instance, are you satisfied with the coverage and level of care you’re getting with your current plan? Are your premium costs or out-of-pocket expenses too high?

Has your health changed, or do you anticipate needing medical care or treatment? Now is the time to determine if your current plan will cover your treatment and what your potential out-of-pocket costs may be. If your current plan doesn’t meet your health-care needs or fit within your budget, you can switch to a plan that may work better for you.

What’s new in 2014?

Most Medicare Prescription Drug Plans have a temporary limit on what a particular plan will cover for prescription drugs. In 2014, this gap in coverage (also called the “donut hole”) begins after you and your drug plan have spent $2,850. It ends after you have spent $4,550 out-of-pocket, after which catastrophic coverage begins. However, part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gradually closes this gap by reducing your out-of-pocket costs for prescriptions purchased within the coverage gap. In 2014, you’ll pay 47.5% of the cost for brand-name drugs in the coverage gap and 72% of the cost for generic drugs in the coverage gap. Each succeeding year, out-of-pocket prescription drug costs within the coverage gap continue to decrease until 2020, when you’ll pay 25% for covered brand-name and generic drugs within the gap.

Health Exchanges (Marketplaces)

Health Exchanges, or Marketplaces, which are part of the ACA, are available for people to shop for health insurance coverage. The Exchanges are scheduled to open October 1, 2013. The ACA also includes an insurance mandate, which requires most individuals to have health insurance or face a penalty. However, if you have Medicare, neither provision applies to you. As a Medicare recipient, you won’t face penalties for being uninsured. Also, Exchanges do not provide information on Medicare plans, and you can’t purchase Medicare coverage through an Exchange.

Where can you get more information?

Determining what coverage you have now and comparing it to other Medicare plans can be confusing and complicated. Pay attention to notices you receive from Medicare and from your plan, and take advantage of help available by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or by visiting the Medicare website, www.medicare.gov. Your financial professional can also help you find the information you need to make decisions about Medicare.

 

 

 

 

 

No Rendering of Advice The information contained within this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a qualified professional accountant.Presentation of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an accountant-client relationship. Internet subscribers, users, online and other readers are advised not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional accountant.Any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this document is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties under U.S. federal tax law.Accuracy of Information While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate and up-to-date information, we do not warrant that any information contained herein or made available through our website is accurate, complete, reliable, current or error-free. We assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content of this website or such other materials or communications.

Disclaimer of Warranties and Limitations of Liability This document is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis. Use of this or our website is at your own risk. We and our suppliers disclaim all warranties. Neither we nor our suppliers shall be liable for any damages of any kind with the use of this website.
Copyright 2006-2013 Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved

 

IRS and Treasury Department Provide Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have announced that same-sex couples who are legally married in jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes. Guidance has been provided in the form of a Revenue Ruling (Rev. Rul. 2013-17) and associated Frequently Asked Questions.

State granting marriage is key, not state of residence

If a same-sex couple is legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, the couple will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes. This is true even if the couple resides in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. So, a same-sex couple legally married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, but residing in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes even though it’s possible the couple may not be treated as married for state tax purposes. Recognition also applies to same-sex couples legally married in the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory, or a foreign country.

Registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, and other formal relationships recognized under state law do not qualify–only couples legally married under state law will be treated as married for federal tax purposes.

Applies for all federal tax purposes

Legally married same-sex couples are treated as married for all federal tax purposes. This applies for federal estate and gift tax purposes, and for federal income tax purposes, including:

  • Filing status issues
  • Personal and dependency exemptions
  • Standard deductions
  • Employee benefits
  • IRA contributions and deductions
  • The earned income tax credit (EITC)
  • The child tax credit

2013 tax year implications

If you are legally married on the last day of the year, you generally have to file your 2013 federal income tax return as a married individual. That means same-sex couples treated as married for federal income tax purposes will generally have to choose whether to file their 2013 federal income tax return as married filing jointly, or as married filing separately.

Prior tax years

If you were married prior to 2013, you may also amend prior year federal income tax returns, choosing to be treated as married for federal income tax purposes (assuming that you were legally married on the last day of the tax year(s) being amended). You’re only able to file an amended return, however, for any tax year still open under the statute of limitations. Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date a return was filed, or two years from the date tax was paid, whichever is later. For most individuals, that means claims can still generally be filed for tax years 2010, 2011, and 2012. You are not required to amend a prior year return, however.

It’s important to note that if you choose to amend a prior year federal income tax return in order to be treated as married, all items on the return must be adjusted to consistently reflect your marital status (i.e., married filing jointly or married filing separately). That is, if you amend a prior year tax return to be treated as married, you are treated as married for all items and issues related to the return.

Note: If your employer provided health coverage for your same-sex spouse and included the value of that coverage in your adjusted gross income (AGI), amending your prior year return to reflect your status as a married individual may allow you to recover the income taxes paid on the value of this coverage. Similarly, if you paid premiums for health-care coverage for your same-sex spouse with after-tax dollars, you may be able to reduce your income by these premium amounts.

Note: For tax year 2012, same-sex spouses who filed their federal income tax returns before September 16, 2013 (the effective date of the Revenue Ruling) may choose–but are not required–to amend their 2012 federal income tax returns to file as married (i.e., married filing jointly or married filing separately). Same-sex spouses who file an original federal income tax return for the 2012 tax year (or for any prior tax year, for that matter) on or after September 16, 2013, will not have a choice–if legally married for the tax year, they will generally have to file their federal income tax return as married filing jointly or married filing separately.

No Rendering of Advice The information contained within this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a qualified professional accountant.
Presentation of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an accountant-client relationship. Internet subscribers, users, online and other readers are advised not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional accountant.
Any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this document is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties under U.S. federal tax law.
Accuracy of Information While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate and up-to-date information, we do not warrant that any information contained herein or made available through our website is accurate, complete, reliable, current or error-free. We assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content of this website or such other materials or communications.
Disclaimer of Warranties and Limitations of Liability This document is provided on an “as is” and “as available” basis. Use of this or our website is at your own risk. We and our suppliers disclaim all warranties. Neither we nor our suppliers shall be liable for any damages of any kind with the use of this website.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2013.