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Choosing the right filing status

Kerri Tassin
Kerri Tassin

When individual income taxpayers begin to complete their Forms 1040 for the filing season, one of the first things they must determine is the proper filing status. The Internal Revenue Code generally breaks the filing statuses into two main categories: single or married.

Single, qualifying widow(er), and head of household statuses fall within the single category, while married taxpayers may file either jointly or separately.

IRC §7703(a)(1) provides that the determination whether taxpayers are considered married or single for income tax purposes takes place on the last day of the tax year, which is Dec. 31 for most individual taxpayers. Taxpayers who were legally married as of the last day of the tax year may generally choose between married filing joint status and married filing separate status. According to IRC §6013(d)(3), married taxpayers who choose to file jointly incur both joint and several liability for tax deficiencies.

Married taxpayers who instead choose to file separately assume responsibility for tax deficiencies on their own separate returns only; however, married taxpayers who file separately may also lose several potential tax benefits such as earned income credit, education-related credits and deductions, and the child and dependent care credit, just to name a few. Consequently, even the IRS recognizes in its Publication 17 that the married filing separate status may cost most married taxpayers in terms of tax dollars, but some individuals may have legitimate, even compelling, nontax reasons for filing separately.

IRC §7703(a)(1) allows qualifying taxpayers who lost a spouse during the tax year to file jointly for the year of death. For the two tax years following the year of death, the surviving spouse may file as a qualifying widow(er). This filing status entitles the taxpayer to claim the same standard deduction as those married taxpayers who file jointly. In order to qualify to take advantage of this filing status, the surviving spouse must remain single during the two-year time period, and must maintain a home for a qualifying dependent.

Taxpayers who were single as of the last day of the tax year, and do not qualify to file as head of household, will file using the single filing status. This filing status applies even if the taxpayer had been married earlier during the tax year, unless a spouse passed away during the tax year as discussed above. According to IRS Publication 17, taxpayers will generally be considered single if they are legally divorced or living apart under a separate maintenance agreement on the last day of the tax year.

Single taxpayers who maintain a home for a qualifying person for more than half the year may qualify to file as head of household. IRC §§7703(b), 2(b) and 2(c) also make special provision for spouses who have been abandoned by the other spouse and continue to provide a home for a dependent child(ren). Under this abandoned spouse rule, the qualifying spouse may file as head of household and take advantage of the head of household standard deduction. In order to qualify the taxpayer must have lived apart from his or her spouse for at least the last six months of the tax year.

Taxpayers need to be aware of the rules in order to make the appropriate filing status determination. Sometimes the determination may not be that simple to make, so a visit to your professional tax advisor may serve you well.

The material in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax or legal advice. Please consult with your own tax advisor regarding your personal tax situation.

Assistant Professor Kerri L. Tassin, CPA, JD teaches tax accounting classes in the School of Accountancy at Missouri State University.  She also serves as director of the MSU Public Service Tax Clinics.

This article appeared in the August 21, 2016 edition of the News-Leader and can be accessed online here.

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With Big Data, companies must learn to sprint

Rick Brattin headshot
Rick Brattin

To capitalize on Big Data, companies must learn to sprint. A few weeks ago, I met with several corporate executives and educators to discuss the future of information technology in the health care industry. Not surprisingly, most agreed that the companies that embrace and overcome the challenges of Big Data will be better positioned to lead this industry over the long term. Much of the discussion focused on three popular measures of Big Data: Volume (a measure of scale), Velocity (a measure of speed), and Variety (a measure of form). To my surprise, however, it was the challenge of velocity that this group most associated with business value and competitive advantage.

Big Data velocity refers to the speed at which data is created, made available, ingested by those who want it, and processed to gain valuable insights. As our available data sources have evolved over the last three decades (see “What makes today’s data ‘Big’?”), so too have velocity expectations.

Velocity expectations were much lower in the 1990s, when most available data came from a company’s own internal systems. Many of the Business Intelligence systems I was responsible for back then took almost 24 hours to collect and completely process data — and some took up to a week!

The rapid growth of the internet and social media, starting in the 2000s, provides opportunities to understand consumer interests and personalize interactions with individuals. Effective personalization requires predicting an individual’s interests by analyzing recent online behaviors. In this scenario, behaviors observed within the last few minutes are often much more insightful than those captured days ago. For example, you may have used Google to search for a particular product online, only to have your future internet travels bombarded with advertising for that very product. Odds are, you are more likely to buy a product you searched for a few minutes ago than you are to buy one you quit searching for days ago.

Now, let’s turn that example around and say you are the manufacturer of a certain product and you want to know in near real-time who is searching for your product, on which sites they are searching for it, if they are buying it, and if they like it after the purchase. The internet and social media sites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter can provide valuable insight about these questions. But consider the rate at which these sites generate data today. According to Go-Globe, a leading internet solution provider, in just one minute Google conducts more than 2.3 million searches. In just one minute, more than 3 million items are shared on Facebook. In just one minute, nearly a half million tweets are sent via Twitter. This happens every minute of every day. The velocity of this data is so high that many are unable to leverage it effectively.

In the 2010s, we are seeing a rapid increase in internet-connected devices and the use of equipment sensors to monitor and send an alert about problems, gather statistics, and measure trends. Cisco Systems, a leading networking technology company, suggests that sensors alone will generate about 40 percent of all data by 2020. (for more on Big Data volume, see “How ‘Big’ is today’s data?”).  A single jet engine currently generates about 1 terabyte of data per flight. We may soon have as many as 200 sensors in our everyday vehicles, each capturing real-time information about how the vehicle is performing, how we’re operating the vehicle, and how the vehicle interacts with other vehicles in close proximity. As you may have seen in recent commercials, refrigerators can now tell us when we need to buy milk. According to the World Economic Forum, within the next five years more than 5 billion people and 50 billion devices will be connected. These devices will generate data at an unprecedented rate.

Thinking back to my meeting with the health care industry, I shouldn’t have been surprised that they so strongly associated Big Data velocity with business value and competitive advantage. The aim of health care is not only to help us when we are sick, but to also assist us in managing our health on an ongoing basis. This will require devices that can capture complete and accurate patient data, including consumer-focused technologies, and are capable of communicating via the internet or other electronic networks. These devices will create a tremendous amount of data, which health care providers must continuously ingest into their systems in order to monitor our health and drive better health outcomes. Like the health care professionals in that room said, companies that learn to effectively manage the velocity of this data will be better positioned to lead the health care industry over the long term.

Dr. Rick Brattin is an assistant professor of Computer Information Systems at Missouri State University. He has 25 years of experience in data analytics, business intelligence and information governance with Fortune 100 companies. Email:rickbrattin@missouristate.edu.

This article appeared in the August 13, 2016 edition of the News-Leader and can be accessed online here.


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Marketing is everyone’s job

Chuck Hermans
Chuck Hermans

Yes, marketing is your job! And my job! Marketing is the responsibility of every employee in an organization. Marketing is everywhere and is essential to the ongoing ability of an organization to generate revenue. If we are not supporting those efforts, we become a liability — and perhaps even unnecessary to the organization.

Every employee creates and manages relationships, connects with others and negotiates. We do this by engaging with buyers, suppliers, competitors and stakeholders, as well as with our co-workers. Business is not, in fact, executed between companies; but, rather between individuals. Almost every time we engage with another individual in the course of business, it involves some form of marketing.

In the past, organizations developed job descriptions that included unique tasks and responsibilities for each individual, and marketing wasn’t typically among them. Today, each individual has accountability for the company’s success and profitability and must be able to justify his worth to the company. We can no longer say, “That’s not my job.” An organization’s employees are now responsible for creating a better value for the customer, communicating that value in meaningful ways that contribute to the bottom line.

Even if your organization has a marketing department, marketing manager or sales team, your job supports their efforts in some way, either directly or indirectly. How are you helping market your company? Here are six tips to help you better market, engage with, and bring value to your organization:

  1. Learn your company’s backstory. Understand where the company came from and how it has achieved its place in today’s market. Think about your role in the organization and how you fit into that story. Being able to tell the company story provides customers context.
  2. Learn your company’s goals. Every organization has a mission statement and corporate goals. Where is your organization going? How does it plan to grow? What are the corporate-level strategies? Are there specific areas the organization identifies as opportunities or threats? Understanding the corporate goals helps clarify the big picture.
  3. Learn to be more personable. Too often we try to get right down to business and ignore the pleasantries. Developing a personal connection with others is valuable. Spend time getting to know people you deal with, in business relationships, on a deeper level. Personal connections are like glue that help maintain relationships between businesses and customers.
  4. Learn about your markets and customers. Where do you sell? Who are your primary customers and why? What, how much, and why do they buy? Is it different in each market? What characteristics do your customers share? Clearly identifying and profiling customers is a key element in understanding wants and needs.
  5. Learn about your competitors. Who are your competitors? What products and services do they offer? Why are your organization, your products and your services better than theirs? Comparisons of your offerings versus your competitors’ reveal potential advantages you have in the marketplace.
  6. Learn your company’s marketing materials. Marketing may be in print, on your company’s website, on television, mobile devices, or word-of-mouth. Looking beyond the advertisement, what is the strategy behind the ads and what benefits are the organization emphasizing? Finding the common themes in your company’s messages will help you understand its marketing objectives.

Dr. Chuck Hermans, Ph.D. is a professor of marketing at Missouri State University. He is an expert in international markets and market strategy.  Dr. Hermans teaches international marketing, global supply chain management and advanced marketing research. He can be reached at: chuckhermans@missouristate.edu

This article appeared in the August 6, 2016 edition of the News-Leader and can be accessed online here.

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College of Business students, faculty advisors, and Dean receive highest honors at international competition


two students
Veronica Shultz & Brandon Smith with representatives from Beta Alpha Psi International. 1st Place

Last week, three teams from Missouri State University’s Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) student chapter, traveled to Baltimore, Maryland for the International Meeting and Best Practices competition.  Two of the teams earned top finishes:

  • Leadership & Management – Nicole Johnson & Brandon Holman
  • Good or Great – Tara Randles & Tanner Courtney,  3rd Place
  • Alignment of Officer Activities – Brandon Smith & Veronica Shultz,  1st Place
  • Other members attending the competition included: Derek Walters, Amanda Wieberg, and Elizabeth Sivill

“I am so proud of our Beta Alpha Psi students.  Having been at countless BAP Best Practice competitions for years and having judged many of them, I know from experience that the competition is very stiff.  These are the best accounting, finance and information students in the country,” states Dr. Stephanie Bryant, dean of the College of Business.

two students
Tara Randles & Tanner Courtney with representatives from Beta Alpha Psi International. 3rd Place

Before advancing to the international competition, all three teams placed first at the regional competition in Omaha, Nebraska in April as a part of the BAP Missouri Valley Regional Meeting.

Dean Bryant and faculty advisors receive highest honors

In addition to the student competitions at the international meeting, Dr. Stephanie Bryant, dean of the College of Business, was honored with the Outstanding Dean Award. This award is presented annually in recognition of the support dean’s give to their university’s Beta Alpha Psi chapter.  Only one Dean’s Award is given per year.

In the nomination letter to the selection committee, BAP President Elizabeth Sivill states “Dean Bryant has provided a tremendous amount of support for our organization…The Dean has selflessly given her time to our chapter. As the former international president of Beta Alpha Psi, Dean Bryant is always available to offer advice and counsel. She embodies the roles of a traditional Dean and exceeds the standards without hesitation.”

group photo of students and faculty
Dean Stephanie Bryant (center) with Dr. Dick Williams, School of Accountancy Director (immediate right), Dr. Karl Keller (back row far right) and student members of MSU Beta Alpha Psi. (Dr. George Schmelzle not pictured)

BAP advisors Dr. George Schmelzle and Dr. Carl Keller were also honored at the meeting, jointly receiving the Outstanding Faculty Advisor Award. This award is presented each year to approximately five or fewer faculty advisors who make substantial contributions to the professional growth and development of business and financial information students. Beta Alpha Psi, through its cooperation with McGladrey LLP, recognizes outstanding faculty advisors with a plaque and a cash award of $5,000.

“Their dedication not only goes to our chapter, but also into their teaching and service work within Missouri State University and the accounting field” states Sivill. “They have spent countless hours and late evenings helping our chapter run efficiently and to its fullest potential.”

Similar sentiments of teamwork were echoed by Dean Bryant, “This kind of result doesn’t happen without dedicated faculty advisors.  Dr. Carl Keller and Dr. George Schmelzle have provided top-notch leadership to this group for many years.”

“Seeing our university represented in all three categories of best practices and having Dean Bryant and our advisors winning awards at the international level will be one my favorite memories during my tenure as president,” states Sivill.

About Beta Alpha Psi

In order to become a member of Beta Alpha Psi, students must attend an AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accredited program, be among the top 35% of their university class or have a 3.25 cumulative GPA.  There are more than 300 Beta Alpha Psi Chapters across the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.  The 2016 international competition was sponsored by Deloitte.

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TCM Student Wins Construction Intern of the Year

Chase Ekstam, a May 2016 Construction Management graduate, was selected by HCCS as the 2015 Construction Intern of the year. As the grand prize winner, Chase will receive a $10,000 scholarship to put towards his education.

The Construction Intern Awards are a scholarship program designed to recognize the strongest construction interns in the industry, as well as the companies with the best construction internship programs across the country.

To learn more about the Construction Intern awards click here.

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