Experts Try to Take Away the Taxation Blues for the Worried


At the Tax Seminar organized by the Indo American Chamber of Commerce with the panellists are, standing from left, IACCGH Treasurer Swapan Dhariyawan, moderator Atul Kothari, IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia and Mike Jain; seated from left, Mahesh Desai, IACCGH President Ashok Garg, Ajit Thakur, Kershaw Khumbatta and Imtiaz Munshi. Photo: Bijay Dixit

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: For the fourth year in a row, community experts from the accounting field took time away from their peak crowded tax period to share some of their knowledge with a two-hour seminar held last Sunday, January 25 at India House, as part of the Indo American Chamber of Commerce’s series of outreach programs.

In the past, the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin have partnered with the Chamber to bring the event, but this year it sat out and instead, former GOPIO President Mahesh Shah elected to provide free masala chai, pakoras and samosas from his restaurant, Madras Pavilion. The new president of GOPIO, Surinder Trehan and his wife Lalitha came to attend the seminar.

True to the unflinching and unwavering nature of accountants, the same six panellists who have participated in the past four years came together once again to show what areas of the US Tax Code have changed and how these may affect your lives in the future. They were introduced in turn by the previous president of the IACCGH, Ajit Thakur, who is known for his percolating sense of humour and witticisms, all of which was on display as he moved between the panellists. Acknowledging the position of Indo American’s in the US landscape, Thakur said that “whether they were doctors, engineers, or businessmen, it is upto the CPA to help us keep our hard-earned money.”

The seminar was organized by the Treasurer of the Chamber, Swapan Dhairyawan, himself a CPA in private practice. He acknowledged the presence of two student groups from the University of St. Thomas and the University of Houston which had shown an interest in being part of the organization. Dhairyawan stressed the importance of the Overseas Voluntary Disclosure Act that requires that money in foreign funds be properly disclosed to the IRS.

This topic was the main thrust of the seminar three years ago when the IRS began to clamp down on those who had not submitted their forms, under duress of heavy penalties. Mahesh Desai went over these requirements and the rules and submission process that have evolved since then, with Dhairyawan following up with his own experience with this category of compliance. The major shift has been to submit the forms online and the reduction of penalty to 5 percent for late filing.

Kershaw Khumbata went over the different types of retirement plans – from the IRA, Roth IRA, SEP, Simple IRA and the more complicated 401(k) plans and urged people to maximize their contributions as they got closer to age 50 and above.

Umesh “Mike” Jain went over the current year’s changes in the tax laws, with the upward creep in the tax rates for those earning $400,000 and more, coupled with the Obamacare Act deduction, the raising in the capital gains from 15 to 20 percent and the Alternate Minimum Tax affecting many more people. He pointed out the often ignored ways that businesses could reduce their tax rates.

Atul Kothari pointed out the ways that a business entity could be formed and the benefits and pitfalls of each, some of which could be evident only many years later when a problem would occur. And Imtiaz Munshi rounded out the seminar with responses to frequently asked questions from record keeping to dependents and many more items that people encounter when filling in their 1040 forms.

At the end of the seminar, all of the panellists held free consulting sessions at tables towards the side of the hall, some with long lines from worried taxpayers.