December 2012

Billing Software Security Tips

Some of the most sensitive information an attorney handles is in the practice’s billing software. Although Easy TimeBill has built-in security features, users can make the legal billing and accounting software more secure. Remember that any security chain is only as strong as its weakest link, so follow all of these tips to keep client information safe.

Get Rid Of The Administrator – When you first create a firm in Easy TimeBill a default user named “Administrator” is created to allow you to use the program. One of the first things you should do is select “Tools > Setup Users” and then double-click on the administrator account to edit it. Change the name from “Administrator” to something else. This makes it a little harder to break into the legal time and billing software since a hacker has to figure out the user name and the password.

Use Strong Passwords – Passwords should be at least 8 characters long and contain at least two of the following: upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use obvious passwords like the names of your kids, and never use “password” as your password! It’s fine to use names and words you’ll remember but use creative spelling to alter them. For example, you went to Tulane University so you might try “2laneUni” as a password you’ll remember but others won’t figure out.

Multiple Users, Multiple Accounts – Don’t have everyone use the same account. It’s easy to create an attorney time and billing software account for each user. This allows you to restrict what each user can do (see the next section) and to disable accounts of employees who no longer work for the firm.

Restrict Permissions – You can set billing, bank and trust permissions separately for each user. Don’t give people capabilities they don’t need. A bookkeeper who only records transactions shouldn’t be given permission to write checks, for example. It’s better to give too few permissions and add new ones later than to give someone too much power that ends up being abused.

Install Security Software – The law firm billing software is only as safe as the computer it’s on. Make sure to have firewall, antivirus, antimalware and other security software installed on each computer and be sure to keep it up to date. That last point can’t be stressed enough. Digital threats change very quickly so it is essential to keep security software updated.

Lock The Door – People often become so obsessed with electronic protection they forget the importance of an old-fashioned lock. Computers are more at risk of being stolen than being hacked into over the internet.

Easy Soft attorney practice management software includes security features such as password protection and encrypted files, but you can make the software more secure by following these guidelines. Find out more ways to keep your information safe by contacting one of our experts today.

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Avoid The Taxman–Don’t File 1099-S If You Don’t Have To

Nobody likes the enormous stack of paperwork that goes along with a real estate transaction. Wouldn’t it be great if you could avoid filling out a document and save money on top if it? Well in some cases you can. Part of the HUD 1 closing process is IRS form 1099-S, but not every sale needs to be reported. According to the IRS there are five kinds of real estate transactions that don’t require 1099-S forms to be filed.

1) A de minimis transfer – In other words, if you sell the house for basically nothing. In this case, the IRS defines “nothing” as $600. If the total value of all property, services and money received by the seller and documented on the HUD settlement statement form is less than $600, the sale doesn’t have to be reported.

2) Satisfying a secured debt – If you are transferring the property to the lender to satisfy the mortgage obligation then it does not have to be reported. This would include foreclosure, abandonment or a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

3) It’s not a sale – If the home is being given as a gift or the financing is not related to the acquisition of real estate then it doesn’t have to be reported to the IRS.

4) Corporate transfers – If the seller is a corporation, government or volume transfer or, then no 1099-S is not necessary. A volume transfer or is someone like a builder or developer that treats the property as inventory rather than as an asset.

5) Homeowners – This is the most common one. The 1099-S is designed to tax real estate investors, not average homeowners moving to a new residence. In a nutshell if you lived in the house, didn’t sell another house recently, and the total gain reported on the HUD 1 closing form is $250,000 or less then you don’t need to file a 1099-S. The real rules are more complicated than that but that gives you the gist of it.

You still have to file your HUD statement but if you can avoid the 1099-S this means not only less paperwork but less money out of pocket. The main reason not to file the 1099-S is the seller won’t be taxed on the sale.

DISCLAIMER: We aren’t real estate attorneys. We aren’t tax accountants. We are software developers with access to the instructions for form 1099-S . Consult with a professional before making any decisions about your home or taxes.

If you do need to file a 1099-S, Easy Soft’s HUD settlement statement software makes it easy to file the form manually or electronically. Contact Easy soft for more information on the 1099-S module or to ask us about any of our law practice management software products.

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Self-Employment Complicates Spousal Maintenance Calculation

As of 2010, calculating temporary maintenance New York divorces is a simple matter of plugging each spouse’s income into two formulas and taking the lower result. The formulas are designed to take bias out of the New York spousal maintenance formula but they also prevent judges from overruling the formulas to fix unfair situations, such as when self-employment income skews the results.

If the spouse’s each make less than $524,000 per year then temporary New York State spousal support is calculated one of two ways. The first method subtracts 20% of the lower-paid spouse’s annual income from 30% of the higher-paid spouse’s income to determine support. The second method calculates the payments as 40% of their combined income minus the lesser-paid spouse’s income. Whichever value is lower is the temporary support. There is also a low income check to ensure the payor retains enough income for self-support.

While spouses make traditional incomes reported on W-2 forms, then it is a reasonable assumption that each person’s future income will be about the same. However self-employment income can complicate the calculations in ways the law can’t cover.

A self-employed spouse who saw the divorce coming could cut back on work to appear poor. The artificially lowered income is entered on the NY spousal maintenance worksheet and the temporary maintenance is calculated unfairly. Technically the spouse isn’t lying about income, just manipulating the formulas.

On the other hand the unpredictable nature of self-employment means maintenance payments that were fair for last year’s income are completely wrong for this year’s revenue. A spouse has a record year and is burdened with unreasonably high payments despite the fact revenues plummet the next year. An owner pulling the business out of a recessionary slump is making low payments that don’t reflect how the business grows over the next few months.

Some might say, “But it’s only temporary.” However the temporary maintenance calculated in a New York State uncontested divorce has a strong influence on the judge’s determination of a permanent maintenance agreement. An unfair temporary award can bias the final decision, resulting in a long-term unfair payment. Yes, the affected spouse can apply for a change but that takes time during which the unfair payments stand.

The way the law stands, there isn’t much that spouses or attorneys can do about the temporary maintenance award but they can be sure to present evidence to the court that demonstrates the temporary award is unfair so the judge will be more reasonable in the final decree.

The first step in negotiating a fair maintenance settlement is accurate numbers. Easy Soft law practice management software takes care of all the calculations a law practice needs, from spousal maintenance formulas to tracking hourly fees. Handle cases more quickly and efficiently by automating your practice with Easy Soft products.

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Divorce Settlement On The Go: CIS NJ For Your Mobile Device

When you are discussing a divorce settlement with your client, an opposing attorney or the judge you can’t say, “Sorry, I’ll have to go back to my office before I can give you some numbers.” You need quick answers about child support. You can run Case Information Statement software on your laptop, but even the smallest laptop can be clumsy and awkward to use in many situations.

Nearly every attorney has a smart phone or tablet today so Easy Soft offers EasySoft, our free Case Information Statement (NJ) software for your mobile device. Anywhere you have access to the internet you can quickly calculate New Jersey child support just by plugging in a few numbers.

EasySoft brings the basics of New Jersey child support calculations to your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry or Android device. The app is free and is eligible for the same high-quality technical support as any of our legal practice management software titles. If you have an incompatible device or just don’t want to install an app, we also offer a web version of New Jersey CIS calculations that can be used on any device with web access.

Using the EasySoft app is easy. Enter information on the number of children, including the number over 12, the number of nights and basic income information for each parent. Click the “Calculate” button and instantly you have a weekly child support figure. Click on the “Details” button for a breakdown of how that figure was reached.

We don’t claim EasySoft is a replacement for our full product, but it serves as a valuable companion application that lets you calculate child support values anywhere you need to. You’ll still need the full desktop product to calculate more complicated child support situations, generate forms, track case information and so on. However with EasySoft you have an accurate child support calculator in your pocket. You’ll find that the ability to come up with quick figures can be a great advantage in divorce negotiations.

EasySoft is a simple and convenient tool for attorneys on the go. Download the app to your phone or tablet for free by going to our CIS NJ page and clicking on the “FREE Mobile App” tab.

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Why Divorced People In New York State Don’t Pay Alimony

Would it surprise you to learn that couples who have divorced in New York over the last thirty years don’t pay alimony? Well it probably surprises those couples too, since it’s still common for one spouse to send monthly payments to the other. Technically New York State spousal support is called “maintenance” rather than “alimony”. Is there a difference? Yes.

Alimony was based on the outdated assumption that women are incapable of surviving without a man to support them. It was also seen as a punishment to the husband for not taking care of his marital obligations. This changed when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled an Alabama alimony law that penalized only husbands was unconstitutional. The New York Domestic Relations Law was amended in 1980 and 1986 to create a different kind of support that was called “maintenance” instead of “alimony”.

The New York spousal maintenance formula looks at payments with a different philosophy than in the past. An important factor is the independence of each spouse after the divorce. Since two-career couples are common, it is more likely that each spouse will be capable of self-support. However if one spouse has shouldered the bulk of domestic duties at the cost of career opportunities, then maintenance is appropriate to allow the less-moneyed spouse some time to pursue opportunities to become independent.

The NY spousal maintenance worksheet is designed to determine a fair amount to give the poorer spouse the ability to maintain a similar standard of living as before while pursuing other opportunities. That leads to another change in philosophy: alimony was typically permanent, or at least until the recipient got remarried, while maintenance is often awarded only for a limited time period.

The payment formulas are different than they were prior to 1980. The way payments are viewed by judges and lawyers are different. And yet, to be fair, divorcing couples probably don’t see much of a distinction. It probably doesn’t make it any easier to write that check every month knowing it’s maintenance rather than alimony. However it is a fairer, non-sexist way to view post-divorce financial obligations that is better for both parties than alimony was.

Whether you call it maintenance or alimony, Easy Soft’s New York divorce software calculates it right. If the New York Domestic Relations Law is amended in the future, we will update our law office management software to reflect the new changes. Download a demo of EzSupport-NY to see how easy it is to calculate spousal maintenance and child support for your clients.

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