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A Day of Service in the Community: Doing Things That Need to be Done

Allen Insurance and Financial encouraged employees to use a paid community service day on Jan. 18  Amy Bowen and Sally Miles, members of the business insurance team in our Belfast office, put in some real elbow grease, volunteering for Waldo Community Action Partners in Belfast, assembling 20 conference room chairs and deep cleaning two of the organization’s transport vans.  Says Sally: “It was a great day – we did things that needed to be done!”

AMy Bowen and Sally Miles volunteer at WaldoCAP
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MLK Day Food and Funds Drive an Incredible Demonstration of Community Spirit!

promotional image for Jan. 18 food drive in Rockland, Maine

How do you find the words to describe an event where teamwork, generosity and community all come together to exceed a goal three times over? That’s what happened on Monday, Jan. 18, when a group of Allen employee-owners from our Camden and Rockland offices joined AIO Food and Energy Assistance’s team of volunteers at The Strand Theatre in Rockland, which hosted the event. Together we assisted in collecting food and funds in support of AIO’s Food Assistance, Energy Assistance and Weekend Meal programs.

In all, 2,219 pounds of food and $24,502 were collected. AIO’s original goal of filling the seats in the Strand was exceeded by three times, with a total of 1,128 seats filled – each with a bag of food.  (And the original funds goal of $10,000 was shattered, too!)

It was a day of community, connection and joy and a great way to celebrate Martin Luther King Day in Rockland.

We’re truly grateful for

  • All who donated food and funds.
  • Our fellow volunteers from AIO and The Strand.
  • AIO for stellar event organization and for the opportunity to participate in this special event.
  • The Strand for a warm, welcoming venue.
  • Main Street Markets in Rockland, for being a food collection site and rolling a huge cart of donations down Main Street from the market to the Strand.
  • Photographers Tara Rice, Leila Murphy and Dan Bookham for these photos we can share with you.

... A time-lapse video of the work it took to fill the Strand Theatre ...

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Supporting a Waldo County YMCA Food Drive

When the call came in  from the Waldo County YMCA in December 2020 about a food drive to help fill food pantries at schools in the county, our six-member Belfast office team leapt into action and as of Friday, Jan. 15, together had raised a total of $825 in cash donations, which includes donations from the entire office as well as additional contributions from a number of fellow employee-owners and a partial company  match in the form of Hannaford gift cards.

Shown here are, from left, are Libby Davis, Amy Bowen and Joella Rossignol, with just some of the groceries Amy was able to buy with those funds.

Libby Davis, Amy Bowen, Joella Rossignol
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Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Filling The Strand Theatre with Food and Funds

AIO Food and Energy Assistance is hosting its first FILL THE STRAND food and funds drive to benefit AIO’s Food Assistance, Energy Assistance and Weekend Meal Programs. In partnership with the Strand Theatre and Allen Insurance and Financial, this event challenges the community to fill every seat in the historic theater with bags of food and funds for AIO’s programs. AIO was inspired by GatherNH, who has held a successful Fill the Hall event in Portsmouth, NH at the Music Hall and who provided guidance to AIO.

Coordinators would like to encourage community organizations, businesses, and residents to do food and fund drives within their groups, workplaces, and neighborhoods to help with the drive.  As of Friday, Jan. 15, $12,000 has been raised in support of the event; food items will be sorted and weighed on Monday, Jan. 18.  Donations will be accepted at The Strand in Rockland that day, with all COVID protocols followed.

Non-perishable food with a current expiration date is appreciated (no glass please). Most needed items include:

  • ready rice pouches
  • macaroni and cheese and pasta
  • cereal & oatmeal
  • pop-top canned foods and Chef Boyardee meals
  • single serving lunch items
  • 100% juice boxes, shelf stable milk, powdered milk
  • kid-friendly snacks (granola bars, peanut butter crackers, 6-pack raisins)

Whether a monetary gift or food donation – your support will help the people in our community who need it the most.

Due to COVID-19 the majority of the food and funds collection will take place in the weeks leading up to Jan. 18. Food collection sites have been established at area businesses, including:

  • Allen Insurance & Financial offices (Rockland and Camden)
  • Main Street Markets (Rockland)
  • AIO Food and Energy Assistance (Rockland)

On Jan.  18 volunteers will be at the Strand Theatre between 9:00-2:00pm to receive food and funds donations—curbside—to limit the number of people inside the Strand Theatre itself.

Monetary donations are welcome – and in fact your dollar goes further since AIO can purchase food through partners at a competitive price. Individuals can sponsor a bag at $25, which will fill one seat in the theater. Those interested in sponsoring a bag through a financial donation can make it online.  

Fill the Strand With Food and Funds
Strand Marquee - AIO Food and Fund Drive
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Stimulus Bill Extends FFCRA Tax Credits but Not Leave Mandate

An appropriations bill, which was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, does not extend the employee leave mandates created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which expire on Dec. 31, 2020. However, the bill extends tax credits for employers who offer the leave through March 31, 2021.

While employers are no longer required to offer the extensive medical leave benefits for COVID-related absences defined under the original FFCRA, the stimulus will provide credits for employers if they decide to extend this offer to them through March 31, 2021. You can read the full bulletin here: Stimulus Bill Extends FFCRA Tax Credits but Not Leave Mandate

Stimulus Bill Extends FFCRA Tax Credits but Not Leave Mandate
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Last-Minute Charitable Giving Opportunities

December is the “giving season,” when many people consider using their wealth to help others. Because of the urgent need for generosity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be looking for ways to stretch your charitable donations. As always, the use of tax-efficient giving strategies can help them go further.

This year, it’s also important to be aware of the tax incentives for philanthropy included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The summary below explains how you can maximize these tax-efficient giving incentives during the final weeks of 2020. Two common vehicles for charitable planning—now and in the future—are also covered.

CARES Act Tax Incentives
These incentives, which are set to expire on December 31, 2020, apply only to cash gifts to public charities made by individuals or corporations. Regarding your 2020 tax return, here’s what you need to know:

Are you taking the standard deduction? If you’re not itemizing, you can take an “above-the-line” deduction of up to $300 for cash gifts to charities. The amount you claim will reduce your adjusted gross income (AGI). What about married couples filing jointly? As of this writing, your deduction also seems to be limited to $300, according to IRS draft instructions.

Are you itemizing deductions? Typically, annual charitable deductions are capped at a percentage of a taxpayer’s AGI. For individuals, this cap has been set at 60 percent since 2017. Under the CARES Act, however, you may deduct up to 100 percent of your AGI for gifts of cash to a public charity in 2020. This rule excludes gifts to a donor-advised fund (DAF). For corporations, the AGI cap for cash gifts, previously set at 10 percent, has been raised to 25 percent for the year.

  • For both individuals and corporations, any unused deduction under this cap may be carried forward for five years, which can lead to the planning opportunities discussed below. The cap for gifts of appreciated assets has not changed.

Planning Opportunities

If you wish to fund large charitable gifts this year, the 100 percent AGI cap offers huge advantages. Here are several ways this incentive could help you manage high-income events:

  • Stock options and lump-sum payouts. If you’ve exercised nonqualified stock options from your employer out of concern for market volatility or received a large lump-sum severance package as a result of a layoff, charitable gifts can help offset the tax burden.
  • Roth conversions. If you’d like to make a large Roth conversion this year, you could also make a large charitable gift to offset the tax liability of the conversion. This strategy is especially beneficial because traditional IRAs have become a less attractive way to leave money to heirs since the 2019 passage of the SECURE Act, which requires most IRA beneficiaries to empty their inherited IRA within 10 years.
  • Business sale. Let’s say you have an expected AGI of $1 million this year due to a business sale. You could make a charitable contribution that would completely offset the year’s income.
  • Combining gifts. Although the CARES Act incentive applies only to cash gifts, the IRS does permit taxpayers to combine different types of gifts. For instance, you could maximize your 30 percent AGI cap for gifts of appreciated assets. The 100 percent AGI cap would be reduced by that amount, but you would still be able to deduct another 70 percent of your AGI by making cash gifts.

Qualified Charitable Distributions (QCDs)

A QCD is a direct transfer of funds from an IRA, payable to a qualified charity. Although the CARES Act allows IRA owners to skip required minimum distributions (RMDs) in 2020, the rules for QCDs have not changed. If you own an IRA (including an inherited IRA) and are 70½ or older, you can make tax-free distributions of up to $100,000 payable to public charities (excluding DAFs).

Here are some ways a QCD could help control your income:

  • If you decide to take an RMD this year (or must do so in the future), a QCD could be used to satisfy the distribution. This strategy would remove the tax burden associated with taking the distribution as ordinary income.
  • A QCD is not reportable as part of your AGI, which limits its impact on the taxation of social security benefits.
  • In future years, a QCD could also limit the impact of income on Medicare premiums, which are based on your AGI from two years prior.

Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs)

A CRT can help you (or your beneficiary) spread the tax liability on the sale of appreciated assets over many years. This may result in paying a lower overall effective tax rate. Let’s look at how this works:

  • A CRT pays an income stream to a noncharitable beneficiary (or beneficiaries) for a term of years or for life. At the end of the income term, the remaining assets in the trust are distributed to a charity.
  • When you move assets into a CRT, you receive a charitable contribution deduction based on the present value of the remainder interest set to pass to the charity at the end of the income distribution term.
  • If you contribute appreciated assets (e.g., investment assets, closely held business interests, real estate, or collectibles), those assets can be sold without creating a tax liability to the trust itself.

As you can see, the primary benefit of a CRT is that the trust is exempt from taxes. But that does not mean taxes are entirely avoided for beneficiaries. In fact, the distributions to the income beneficiaries are taxable based on four buckets of income: ordinary income, capital gains, tax-free income, and return of principal. Each year, when the CRT makes its income distribution, it first pulls the funds available from accumulated ordinary income, such as interest and dividends, before distributing other types of income. The beneficiaries would be subject to the taxation rules in place for these types of income.

Need Additional Information?

If you’re interested in exploring these options, please contact me. We’ll talk through how these giving strategies can help you meet today’s urgent need for generosity—and further your visions for doing good.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

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How a Biden Administration Might Impact HR and the Workplace

While we don’t have a Magic 8 ball, with a new Executive Administration, all signs point to changes to how you approach your human resources.  Our seasoned prognosticators have some insight for you.

Each presidential transition brings changes to the HR landscape. And the more prepared an HR team is, the easier it will be for them to succeed amid these changes. To that end, this article discusses potential changes employers can expect during a Biden presidency.

To read more, click the image at right to view the article (PDF) in a new window.

HR Insights December 2020
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Maine Issues Rules Governing New Earned Employee Leave Law

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, Maine will require employers with ten or more employees to implement a paid leave policy for employees unless they are subject to a collective bargaining agreement. This new rule which allows eligible employees to earn one hour of paid leave that may be used for any reason for every 40 hours worked, up to 40 hours per year.

The new regulations, issued in September 2020, clarify certain provisions of the law.  You can learn more here.

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The Value Checklists for Homeowners & Home Buyers

By Cale Pickford
This article appears in the Fall 2020 edition of Maine Realtor Magazine. 

Cale Pickford

Cale Pickford

Even the most optimistic among us probably would not have forecast the current boom in residential real estate sales. A common refrain over these last months is that there is no better place to weather a global pandemic than Maine. People all over the country agree and more and more families are making the move and calling Maine home. With multiple offers, COVID-19 protocols, virtual showings and listing inventory at an all-time low, real estate agents have never been busier. Such a frantic pace makes it easy to forget important steps of due diligence and best practices. Checklists are an important tool to keep the agent organized and assist in reducing liability and provide better customer service.

There are numerous real estate agent checklists available online and in circulation at agencies. Keep in mind when using a checklist, that no detail is too small when it comes to due diligence. Working proactively will not only protect you from liability it will save you a lot time in the long run – a valuable asset in a hot real estate market. Of course, insurance should be on every real estate agent’s checklist and the following can serve as a list within your list:

Location

The old adage that the three most important things in real estate are location, location and location is just as true for insurance underwriting. Many standard national insurance companies and direct writers do a great job insuring suburban homes but often cannot cover isolated, rural and coastal (in particular island) locations. If you are involved with a sale of a property with one or more of these attributes, makes sure the buyer is working early to secure homeowners insurance.

Flood Plain Concerns

It’s logical to pair flood plain concerns with location, because flood plain issues can crop up with any property, not just waterfront homes. If you think there’s even a remote chance that a home could be impacted by the special hazard flood plain, you should pull the flood insurance rate maps or work with an insurance agent to provide a flood zone determination. The sooner flood plain concerns can be addressed, the more likely you’ll have a favorable outcome.

Occupancy

Many people have decided to move to Maine full time but we’re still a state with one of the highest ratio of secondary homes to primary in the country. Secondary homes are always more complicated to insure than primary homes. In addition to having fewer insurers to choose from, owners of secondary homes may be required to install central fire, burglar and low temperature alarms, hire a caretaker, make sure the home is accessible year around, and winterize the plumbing.

Business Pursuits

With more and more people working and  learning from home, the lines between personal and business has been completely blurred, and in many cases, almost to invisible. Homeowners should review their plans to use their home for business with the insurer. Another timely consideration is home-schooling pods, a unique 2020 concern which should also be reviewed with an insurance agent for coverage considerations. Home-based businesses such as woodworking, bakeries, boat building, and any situations where clients regularly visit the home, can often disqualify one from a homeowner’s policy all together.

Renovations

It makes perfect sense to renovate a home immediately after purchase − just make sure that the buyer communicates their plans with their insurer. Especially with such limited inventory, buyers cannot afford to be picky so there’s a strong likelihood someone will want to modify the home to suit their tastes and need. Depending on the extent of the renovation, a buyer might not even be eligible for a homeowner’s policy. In an instance such as this, the buyer might need to secure a builders risk or course of construction policy which greatly limits coverage and often costs far more than the equivalent homeowners’ policy.

Vacation Rental

The pandemic has only accelerated the trend toward more and more families eschewing traditional hotels and inns for private vacation rental homes. To meet the demand, more and more homeowners are opening up their second and, in many cases, primary homes, to these weekly tenants. Using one’s home this way can have significant implications on insurance.

It would be nice if only one of these items on the list would occur per closing, but it is often the case these issues come in twos or threes compounding the problem. Lists allow the real estate agent to keep on track and get ahead of issues before they threaten to derail the deal. Smooth deals mean happy clients which leads to more referrals.