What the experts say
No more signing for the bill?
“Pen and paper may no longer be the final course in your dining experience,” said Annie Nova in CNBC.com. Beginning this month, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and Visa will stop requiring most merchants—even restaurants—to verify customer signatures. The advent of chip technology has already seen many stores do away with paper receipts. But restaurants have persistently held on to the custom. Restaurant owners say the awkwardness of signing a screen or punching in a PIN on a device brought to the table will be offset by the significant reduction in fraud that chip technology offers. Merchants who’ve already upgraded to chip technology saw fraudulent charges drop 70 percent from 2015 and 2017, according to Visa.
The taxing nature of the gig economy
“Millions have joined the gig economy,” said Aimee Picchi in USA Today. And although there are plenty of perks, such as flexible hours, for the estimated 41 million Americans participating, there’s also a big downside: taxes. The IRS expects gig economy workers who expect to owe more than $1,000 in annual tax to make quarterly payments. “Gig income can fluctuate month to month, which is why some freelancers find this challenging.” An accountant can help you figure out if the new tax brackets change your particular situation. Your CPA can also help you understand everything you’re eligible to claim as a deduction and advise you on retirement contributions, which can “help lower your current tax liability.”
The tax law and the housing market
“This spring’s home sales season is shaping up to be the most interesting one in years,” said Neil Irwin in The New York Times. Higher mortgage rates, tax changes, and a supply-demand imbalance will be dominant themes for buyers. Borrowing rates are rising—30-year fixed-rate mortgages now average 4.45 percent, up from 3.78 percent in September. That means families wanting to keep their monthly mortgage payment at $2,000 per month can borrow $397,000 today, compared with $430,000 back in September. Provisions in the new tax law that strip away some financial incentives to own a home may encourage some families to continue renting. But prices aren’t likely to fall in response. There are still “more families looking for a place to live than new homes in place to accommodate them,” particularly “in cities with strong job growth.”