June 29, 2017
Whether you’re in your 20s and haven’t even thought about retirement yet, or in your 50s and dream of retirement every day, it’s important to either start or continue saving. A mix of universal retirement advice with some little known tricks can be used to boost your savings for what are supposed to be your most relaxing years.
Invest Aggressively – a high percentage of your portfolio should be in stocks, especially if you are younger since you have more time to endure the ups and downs of the market. But don’t invest in individual stocks. Instead, select mutual funds or exchange-traded stocks in order to add some needed diversity to your portfolio.
Sign Up for a 401(k) – this advice is not just for our clients in their 20s; many baby boomers do not take advantage of what is essentially free money! If your workplace has a 401(k), you need to participate. Most employers will match your contributions. In addition, any money you deposit into the account will not be taxed now, so less of your income will be taxed. Use a 401(k) calculator to plan accordingly.
No 401(k)? No Problem – if your workplace doesn’t have a matching 401(k), then open a Roth IRA. Roth IRAs are funded with money that has already been taxed from your normal paycheck. However, when you withdraw and use the money in retirement, it will be tax-free. A tip from the wise is to have money from your paycheck automatically deposited into your Roth IRA.
Don’t let current expenses be an excuse to keep you from saving for retirement! A little financial planning now will save you a lifetime of regret.
June 15, 2017
Don’t let the nice weather fool you; competition is heating up. And if you don’t maintain a strong awareness of your business and its finances, then you’ll no longer be able to complain about the pain and hassle of managing your business’s money; because it will be gone. So, let’s keep your dreams healthy and alive by doing the following this summer.
1. Choose the right accounting software – not every accounting software is going to work for every business. Even if you have already have software, do your due diligence and click around the Internet to make sure you’ve picked the right one. With that said, the real pressing need is to move your financial data from desktop software to the cloud if you haven’t done so yet.
2. Do you have a professional bookkeeper? –we often find entrepreneurs aren’t thrilled about doing the bookkeeping for their business, which actually makes a lot of sense. Most people aren’t numbers people, and those with big ideas typically like to focus on the forest instead of the individual trees. If you’re finding that you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time doing the accounting for your business instead of running it, it’s probably time for some outside help. In the end, you’ll make more money since you’ll have more time doing what you do best.
3. Work with a trustworthy credit union – credit unions are ideal for small business owners. Credit unions do not have to answer to the whims of shareholders, so they are able to focus on you and your business’s needs. In addition, they generally keep profits local, so there’s a higher chance of them either investing in you or other area entrepreneurs in the future.
Keeping track of your finances will enable you to take opportunities which would not otherwise exist. Like we said, just because it’s nice outside doesn’t mean it’s okay to get loose with your money or get distracted! You’ve come too far to let a little hiccup derail your dreams from coming true.
May 30, 2017
Building and growing a small business may seem like an insurmountable task initially and often seems to get even more confusing and stressful as time goes on. That’s why it’s wise to seek the advice from those who have been there before. These are some of the most universal tips:
1. Have a support network – often business owners like to think of themselves as lone wolf entrepreneurs who can do it all by themselves; this is a very bad idea. It’s important to avoid isolating yourself. Learn from other business owners through networking events and the Internet, stay in touch with family and friends for motivation, and remind yourself that while you’re setting an unforged path, you don’t have to do it alone.
2. Delegate when possible – speaking of not doing it alone, it’s important to have others work for you. Many business owners are either control freaks who spin themselves silly by trying to do everything, or try to save money by not paying for services like accounting and bookkeeping. Why you shouldn’t do this is actually pretty simple; if you can generate $100 of revenue doing what you’re really good at, but have to spend an entire day doing all of your bookkeeping when it could cost just $20 for an accountant to do it in an hour, wouldn’t you actually be saving/making more money by hiring the accountant? The facts speak for themselves.
3. Keep your day job…for now – we get it; your idea is awesome, you’re excited, and you want to spend all of your time working on it. And you will need to eventually do this; just not yet. It is very easy to run out of money during the early stages of a business venture, which will usually lead to entrepreneurs giving up. You’d be doing yourself a huge disservice not to start your company off on the best foot for a lucrative future.
This is only some of our advice to keep in mind when building your business. We understand that the beginning is the hardest part, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us with your questions!
May 17, 2017
Just because tax season is over, doesn’t mean that you’re done with nasty taxes for good (though even we wish this were the case!). Do yourself a favor and avoid the toxic anxiety tax season welcomes by taking just a few easy steps to stay organized for next year.
1. Look over your withholdings – no one wants to have more money taken away from them than necessary obviously. So it always shocks us when people who have employers that withhold money from their paycheck automatically don’t take the time to make sure the correct amount is getting taken out!
2. Evaluate your retirement plan – be honest; are you really saving enough for retirement? Most Americans have no idea, as a Bank of America Merrily Lynch survey found that 81% of Americans don’t know how much money they will need for retirement! So it’s very important to be aware that IRS limits on tax-deductible IRA contributions can change from year to year.
3. Make an income forecast and estimate possible taxes – all businesses regularly project how much revenue they expect to gain over the year in order to gauge expenses. Treat yourself and your family like your own business and do some serious thinking about how much money you’ll think you’ll have over the year, including possible major expenses (especially unexpected ones), and what you might have to pay in taxes.
Taxes aren’t fun, but that doesn’t mean they have to be torture. Do your future self a big favor and ease the stress by taking some easy proactive steps. Your future self will want to hug you for your efforts!
May 3, 2017
Tax and Health-Care Reform Back in the Spotlight
Republican efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) failed in late March. In the immediate aftermath, it appeared that health-care reform efforts would be set aside in favor of advancing a tax reform agenda.1 Then, in a one-two punch that surprised many, the White House called for a vote on a revised repeal-and-replace health-care plan and announced the broad outline of a new tax reform plan.2 It would be a mistake to consider the two completely separate efforts, because in some ways they are actually closely connected.
White House announces new tax proposals in broad terms
The tax reform plan announced by the White House includes reducing the current seven tax brackets to just three: 10%, 25%, and 35%. It proposes doubling the standard deduction amount and eliminating both the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the federal estate tax. The plan would preserve existing deductions for home mortgage interest and charitable donations, but would eliminate most other deductions, including the ability to deduct state and local taxes.3 Essentially, this was a "stake in the sand" to establish a starting point for negotiations with Congress. Details must be determined, and changes are likely as discussions progress.
Tax provisions also a part of health-care reform
The ACA contains significant tax provisions, including the 3.8% net investment income tax and the 0.9% Medicare payroll surtax, which both target high-income individuals. The initial repeal-and-replacement effort would have eliminated or modified many ACA tax provisions — that's almost certain to be true for a revised plan as well. And any health-care reform package is likely to balance lost tax revenue with reductions or limits to subsidies and Medicaid outlays. If the ACA tax provisions are not addressed in a health-care reform package, they're likely to be included as part of the tax reform discussion, increasing the scope and complexity of the tax debate. In fact, the White House tax reform announcement specifically called for repeal of the 3.8% net investment income tax.4
Further complicating the issue, Republican legislators — who lack 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Democratic filibuster — plan to use a process called budget reconciliation to pass both health and tax reform legislation with a simple majority vote. Under budget reconciliation rules, any reform measure must not increase the federal deficit beyond a 10-year period. This restriction means that unless tax cuts are offset by revenue savings elsewhere (e.g., spending cuts or reduced deductions), they must expire after 10 years.
1) See for example Nick Timiraos and Richard Rubin, "GOP Shifts Focus to Next Target: Tax Code Revamp," Wall Street Journal, March 25, 2017
2) John T. Bennett, "White House: Final Health Care Deal Unlikely This Week," Roll Call, April 26, 2017, and Briefing by Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce, and Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council, April 26, 2017, whitehouse.gov
3,4) Briefing by Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce, and Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council, April 26, 2017, whitehouse.gov
April 30, 2017
Just because you’re a small business owner doesn’t mean you have to perform every job your business needs forever! And as experience tells us, most entrepreneurs dread the monotony of accounting. So, maybe you’ve finally decided your time and money is better spent on what you excel at, and that you should leave the number crunching for someone else. The question is, who should that someone else be – a CPA or a bookkeeper?
The question may seem daunting, but it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. The decision basically boils down to how complex the accounting needs to be. Bookkeepers are best used for simple accounting functions like day-day transactions, run payroll, make payments for business expenses, send out invoices and collect payments, as well as monitor bank account activity. Some bookkeepers will even prepare financial statements for internal business use. With that said, it’s important to know your bookkeeper’s background, as an education in accounting is not required in order to call oneself a bookkeeper.
But when the going gets really rough, we recommend turning to a CPA for help. CPAs can help businesses obtain loans, file a tax return and help with tax planning, as well as offer general strategic financial advice. Obtaining a CPA is a rigorous process which requires passing multiple exams on tax, regulation, financial reporting, audit, economics, and ethics, but it’s still important to do a thorough background check before you spend the money on a CPA.
What all of this means, is that you must divide to conquer. CPAs are expensive, so it’s best to use their services for truly difficult accounting issues. We recommend hiring a bookkeeper who can manage the day-day finances of your business and who can work well with a CPA when needed, or look for professional bookkeeping firms who can lend a hand.
April 18, 2017
Whether you choose to do your taxes yourself, or have a tax professional sift through the mess for you, it’s vital to be aware of changes in the tax codes. Understanding these changes will help you make decisions which result in growth for your business and avoid dangerous pitfalls which sink all of your hard work.
This could be the final year of “bonus deprecation”
Bonus deprecation is a rule which allows businesses to deduct 50% of the deprecation value of certain equipment and software purchases made in the first year. It’s anticipated that the allowed percentage will fall in the coming years.
Filing deadlines have changed
Deadlines for several different kinds of businesses have changed. C-corporations which use IRS form 1120 need to file their taxes by April 15th. S-corporations who use form 1120-S now need to file by March 15th, as do partnerships that use form 1120. Not filing on time is one of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make, which often lead to huge penalties from the IRS.
Section 179 has changes as well
Section 179 of the tax code allows businesses to deduct $500,000 from purchases that do not cost more than $2 million. There are some requirements to use this deduction, such as using the equipment the same year it is purchased, as well as being used for business purposes at least 50% of the time.
As you can see, and most likely already know, handling your business’s taxes is no easy feat. But a clear picture of this landscape is a necessary evil in order to gain an understanding of your financial obligations and to become aware of any needs for loans. If it ever becomes too much and you want a helping hand, we’re always here to offer our guidance.
March 30, 2017
Unfortunately, not everyone gets expert advice before they begin their business venture. Some mistakes may just cost you time and money (which of course no one wants to lose any of!), while others may spell the end of your business venture.
1. Be process-orientated
In order to save time, it is imperative to develop systems which can be used for handling customers and various tasks. Chances are if you do something once, you’ll have to do it again.
2. A foundation is more important than a pretty exterior
While having an eye-popping website and a recognizable brand are important attributes of a business, none of it will matter if you don’t understand what your business does for people and can actually achieve it!
3. Understand taxes and finances, or hire someone who does
When someone else is paying you, keeping track of your spending is pretty simple. However, when you’re on your own, no one is going to make sure you are spending your money appropriately. This is why we advise getting help, especially with taxes, in order to free up money from places you didn’t even know were possible.
4. Don’t be cheap and take shortcuts
In many cases where business owners try to save money, they end up having to spend far more later. Spend money on the right things at the right time!
5. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come
You may offer vital services or make the coolest product, but if no one knows it exists, then none of it matters! This is where strategic marketing comes into play.
If you want to avoid these fatal mistakes which regularly plague entrepreneurs, we highly recommend a brief phone call with us. Even just five minutes could be the difference between your business sinking or swimming.
March 23, 2017
Tax season sends shivers down the spines of most people, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Using some little known tricks, CPAs and their clients alike can very easily save big money when filing their reports.
1. Job Search Expenses Tax Deduction
Did you know that you can deduct some of your job search related expenses? If you’re looking for a job in the same field you’ve been working in (so dreamers who quit their jobs for Hollywood are out of luck) are eligible for certain deductions like travel expenses for interviews, among many others.
2. Home Renovation Tax Deduction
Want to renovate your home without tightening your belt? Then you’ll want to know how many home renovations can actually qualify for tax write-offs. From taking advantage of tax energy credits to implementing home improvements which count as medical expenses to using your mortgage for renovations, there are a myriad of ways in which you can spruce up your home while saving money at the same time.
3. Tax Preparation Fees Deduction
While tax preparation fees are an allowed deduction, it’s extremely important to note that in order to be eligible for it, you must have all your deductions itemized and the sum of your miscellaneous expenses must exceed 2%. This is where the pros can come in handy!
4. Jury Duty Pay Tax Deduction
Standard expenses like vehicle mileage, phone usage, and meals (up to $100, so don’t take this as an opportunity to dine at Ruth’s Chris!) can all be deducted from your taxes. Keep track of your spending next time you’re bored at jury duty. Just don’t let your accounting keep you from paying attention to the trial!
5. Penalty of Early Withdrawal Tax Deduction
This tip saves money in a very different way than the others on this list. If you use money from your IRA before the age of 59 ½, you’ll be slapped by the IRS with a 10% penalty which cannot be deducted. So it’s vital to consult with a financial advisor before making any rash decisions.
Not all of these tips and tricks will apply to everyone, but even being aware of just one of them can save a ton of money. Maybe instead of giving up your hard earned cash to Uncle Sam, this year you’ll be able to use it for the things you actually need!
February 7, 2017
Don’t Let Taxes Disrupt Your Retirement Plans!