Our Blog

Take advantage of the gift tax exclusion rules

October 7, 2019

As we head toward the gift-giving season, you may be considering giving gifts of cash or securities to your loved ones. Taxpayers can transfer substantial amounts free of gift taxes to their children and others each year through the use of the annual federal gift tax exclusion. The amount is adjusted for inflation annually. For 2019, the exclusion is $15,000.

The exclusion covers...

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When is tax due on Series EE savings bonds?

October 7, 2019

You may have Series EE savings bonds that were bought many years ago. Perhaps you store them in a file cabinet or safe deposit box and rarely think about them. You may wonder how the interest you earn on EE bonds is taxed. And if they reach final maturity, you may need to take action to ensure there’s no loss of interest or unanticipated tax consequences.

Interest...

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Uncle Sam may provide relief from college costs on your tax return

October 7, 2019

We all know the cost of college is expensive. The latest figures from the College Board show that the average annual cost of tuition and fees was $10,230 for in-state students at public four-year universities — and $35,830 for students at private not-for-profit four-year institutions. These amounts don’t include room and board, books, supplies, transportation and other expenses...

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Getting a divorce? There are tax issues you need to understand

October 7, 2019

In addition to the difficult personal issues that divorce entails, several tax concerns need to be addressed to ensure that taxes are kept to a minimum and that important tax-related decisions are properly made. Here are four issues to understand if you are in the process of getting a divorce. 

Alimony or support payments. For alimony under divorce or separation agreements that...

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Is a self-directed IRA right for you?

October 7, 2019

Traditional and Roth IRAs can be powerful estate planning tools. With a “self-directed” IRA, you may be able to amp up the benefits of these tools by enabling them to hold nontraditional investments that offer potentially greater returns. However, self-directed IRAs present pitfalls that can lead to unfavorable tax consequences. Consequently, you need to handle these vehicles with...

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Sec. 6166: Estate tax relief for family businesses

October 7, 2019

Fewer people currently are subject to transfer taxes than ever before. But gift, estate and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes continue to place a burden on families with significant amounts of wealth tied up in illiquid closely held businesses, including farms.

Fortunately, Internal Revenue Code Section 6166 provides some relief, allowing the estates of family business owners...

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The Crummey trust: Still relevant after all these years

October 7, 2019

Traditionally, trusts used in estate planning contain “Crummey” withdrawal powers to ensure that contributions qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion. Today, the exclusion allows you to give up to $15,000 per year ($30,000 for married couples) to any number of recipients.

Now that the gift and estate tax exemption has reached an inflation-adjusted $11.4 million, fewer...

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When it comes to asset protection, a hybrid DAPT offers the best of both worlds

October 7, 2019

A primary estate planning goal for most people is to hold on to as much of their wealth as possible to pass on to their children and other loved ones. To achieve this, you must limit estate tax liability and protect assets from creditors’ claims and lawsuits.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduces or eliminates federal gift and estate taxes for most people (at least until 2026). The...

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Control how your charitable gifts are used by adding restrictions

October 7, 2019

If philanthropy is an important part of your estate planning legacy, consider taking steps to ensure that your donations are used to fulfill your intended charitable purposes. Outright gifts can be risky, especially large donations that will benefit a charity over a long period of time.

Even if a charity is financially sound when you make a gift, there are no guarantees it won’t...

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For best results, start your strategic planning early

October 7, 2019

Time flies when you’re having fun — and running a business. Although it’s probably too early to start chilling a bottle of bubbly for New Year’s Eve, it’s certainly not too early for business owners to start doing some strategic planning for next year. Here are some ways to get started.

Begin with your financials

A good place to find inspiration...

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The key to retirement security is picking the right plan for your business

September 9, 2019

If you’re a small business owner or you’re involved in a start-up, you may want to set up a tax-favored retirement plan for yourself and any employees. Several types of plans are eligible for tax advantages.

401(k) plan

One of the best-known retirement plan options is the 401(k) plan. It provides for employer contributions made at the direction of employees....

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The tax implications of a company car

September 9, 2019

The use of a company vehicle is a valuable fringe benefit for owners and employees of small businesses. This benefit results in tax deductions for the employer as well as tax breaks for the owners and employees using the cars. (And of course, they get the nontax benefits of driving the cars!) Even better, recent tax law changes and IRS rules make the perk more valuable than...

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Should you elect S corporation status?

September 9, 2019

Operating a business as an S corporation may provide many advantages, including limited liability for owners and no double taxation (at least at the federal level). Self-employed people may also be able to lower their exposure to Social Security and Medicare taxes if they structure their businesses as S corps for federal tax purposes. But not all businesses are eligible — and with...

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Expenses that teachers can and can’t deduct on their tax returns

September 9, 2019

As teachers head back for a new school year, they often pay for various expenses for which they don’t receive reimbursement. Fortunately, they may be able to deduct them on their tax returns. However, there are limits on this special deduction, and some expenses can’t be written off.

For 2019, qualifying educators can deduct some of their unreimbursed out-of-pocket...

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Taking distributions from your traditional IRA

September 9, 2019

If you’re like many people, you’ve worked hard to accumulate a large nest egg in your traditional IRA (including a SEP-IRA). It’s even more critical to carefully plan for withdrawals from these retirement-savings vehicles.

Knowing the fine points of the IRA distribution rules can make a significant difference in how much you and your family will get to keep after...

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The connection between fraud and geometry

September 9, 2019

Fraud experts have long suggested that the presence of three conditions, known as the “fraud triangle,” greatly increases the likelihood that an employee will commit fraud. Over the years, this conceptual framework has been expanded to become a “fraud diamond.” Understanding these models can help you protect your business.

Classic shape

The classic...

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Health care fraud still stings Americans

September 9, 2019

Even if you haven’t heard much about it lately, know this: Health care fraud is alive and well in the United States. Here’s a roundup of recent stats, law enforcement initiatives, common fraud schemes and how you can help prevent these crimes. 

Just the facts

During fiscal year (FY) 2018, the Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program (a government initiative...

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Pump-and-dump schemes: Don’t believe the hype

September 9, 2019

When the value of a stock skyrockets, its investors may think they’ve hit the jackpot. But if the stock in question is part of a “pump-and-dump” scheme, investors may, in fact, lose their shirts. Here’s how to avoid getting taken by this type of investment fraud.

A penny for your stocks

In the typical pump-and-dump scam, a fraud perpetrator buys shares...

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Take intrafamily lending to the next level by establishing a family bank

September 9, 2019

One of the primary goals of estate planning is to put in writing how you want your wealth distributed to loved ones after your death. But what if you’d like to use that wealth to help a family member in need while you’re still alive? One way to do so is through intrafamily lending. If you’re considering making an intrafamily loan to your children or other family members,...

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Expanded 529 plans offer unique estate planning benefits

September 9, 2019

If you’re putting aside money for college or other educational expenses, consider a tax-advantaged 529 savings plan. Also known as “college savings plans,” 529 plans were expanded by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) to cover elementary and secondary school expenses as well. And while these plans are best known as an educational funding vehicle, they also offer estate...

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What’s the difference between the two types of power of attorney?

September 9, 2019

When drafting your estate plan, you and your attorney must account for what happens to your children and your assets after you die. But your plan must also spell out your wishes for making financial and medical decisions if you’re unable to make those decisions yourself. A crucial component of this plan is the power of attorney (POA).

ABCs of a POA

A POA appoints a...

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5 important questions to ask about paid parental leave

September 9, 2019

Under federal law, there’s no mandate for an employer to offer compensated time off to mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child. But a few states have mandatory paid parental leave laws on the books, and it’s a topic that still gets a fair amount of news coverage. If your organization wishes to explore the idea, here are five important questions to...

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Offering group term life insurance through a cafeteria plan

September 9, 2019

Many employers wish to offer group term life insurance as a fringe benefit but find the premiums unaffordable. Under such circumstances, you could provide the coverage and have employees pay the premiums pretax through an existing cafeteria plan. Just be sure you understand the tax impact.

Magic number

Group term life insurance coverage on employees’ lives can be offered...

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Employers can truncate SSNs on employees’ W-2s

September 9, 2019

The IRS recently issued final regulations that permit employers to voluntarily truncate employee Social Security Numbers (SSNs) on copies of Forms W-2 furnished to employees. The purpose of the regs is to aid employers’ efforts in protecting workers from identity theft.

Proposals and comments

On September 20, 2017, the IRS issued proposed regs on the truncation concept....

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Prevent human errors with safety coaching

September 9, 2019

Workplace accidents are often caused by human error, not faulty equipment. Typically, if an employee has an unsafe attitude, his or her job performance will become careless and a mishap (large or small) will soon follow.

“Unsafe” doesn’t necessarily mean “on purpose,” and “attitude” doesn’t necessarily mean “insubordinate.”...

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Putting together the succession planning and retirement planning puzzle

September 9, 2019

Everyone needs to plan for retirement. But as a business owner, you face a distinctive challenge in that you must save for your golden years while also creating, updating and eventually executing a succession plan. This is no easy task, but you can put the puzzle pieces together by answering some fundamental questions:

When do I want to retire? This may be the most important question...

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Some business owners can’t participate in their own companies’ HRAs

September 9, 2019

 

Many companies now offer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) in conjunction with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). HRAs offer some advantages over the perhaps better-known HDHP companion account, the Health Savings Account (HSA). If you’re considering adding an HRA, you might assume that, as a business owner, you can participate in the HRA. But this may not be...

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4 tough questions to ask about your sales department

September 9, 2019

Among the fastest ways for a business to fail is because of mismanagement or malfeasance by ownership. On the other hand, among the slowest ways is an ineffective or dysfunctional sales department.

Companies suffering from this malady may maintain just enough sales to stay afloat for a while, but eventually they go under because they lose one big customer or a tough new competitor...

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The IRS is targeting business transactions in bitcoin and other virtual currencies

August 19, 2019

Bitcoin and other forms of virtual currency are gaining popularity. But many businesses, consumers, employees and investors are still confused about how they work and how to report transactions on their federal tax returns. And the IRS just announced that it is targeting virtual currency users in a new “educational letter” campaign.

The nuts and bolts

Unlike cash...

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What to do if your business receives a “no-match” letter

August 19, 2019

In the past few months, many businesses and employers nationwide have received “no-match” letters from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The purpose of these letters is to alert employers if there’s a discrepancy between the agency’s files and data reported on W-2 forms, which are given to employees and filed with the IRS. Specifically, they point out that an...

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The tax implications of being a winner

August 19, 2019

If you’re lucky enough to be a winner at gambling or the lottery, congratulations! After you celebrate, be ready to deal with the tax consequences of your good fortune.

Winning at gambling

Whether you win at the casino, a bingo hall, or elsewhere, you must report 100% of your winnings as taxable income. They’re reported on the “Other income” line on...

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Why your phone may be a fraud risk

August 19, 2019

As more people use mobile phones, more fraud perpetrators target these devices. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, between 2017 and 2018 the number of fraudulent mobile-phone accounts opened grew by 78%. Schemes in which thieves open a phone account in your name and use it to access your bank account, sign up for credit cards and gain access to personal information are only some of...

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To be effective, you can’t fight fraud passively

August 19, 2019

When it comes to reducing fraud loss and duration, active detection methods (such as surprise audits or data monitoring) are far more effective than passive methods (such as confessions or notification by police). This was a major finding of the latest Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) Report to the Nations: 2018 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse. Yet many companies...

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A poorly worded apportionment clause can upend an estate plan

August 19, 2019

Federal estate tax liability is no longer an issue for many families, now that the gift and estate tax exemption stands at $11.4 million for 2019. But there are still affluent individuals whose estates may be subject to hefty estate tax bills. If you expect your estate to have significant estate tax liability at your death, it’s critical to include a tax apportionment clause in your...

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4 common mistakes when outsourcing HR functions

August 19, 2019

For many small and even some midsize employers, keeping up with the regulatory and administrative functions of human resources (HR) isn’t easy.

Sometimes most or all the work is assigned to an office manager who isn’t specifically trained to handle HR and may inadvertently make costly slipups. And even if the organization manages to stay in compliance, the...

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Is it time to hire a CFO or controller?

August 19, 2019

Many business owners reach a point where managing the financial side of the enterprise becomes overwhelming. Usually, this is a good thing — the company has grown to a point where simple bookkeeping and basic financial reporting just don’t cut it anymore.

If you can relate to the feeling, it may be time to add a CFO or controller. But you’ve got to first consider...

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Which entity is most suitable for your new or existing business?

July 23, 2019

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has changed the landscape for business taxpayers. That’s because the law introduced a flat 21% federal income tax rate for C corporations. Under prior law, profitable C corporations paid up to 35%.

The TCJA also cut individual income tax rates, which apply to sole proprietorships and pass-through entities, including partnerships, S corporations,...

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Fraud guides may help criminals hack your data

July 23, 2019

Fraud experts have long known that “dark web” sites provide information, support and illicit goods to hackers and other criminals. But security company Terbium Labs recently published a report analyzing a treasure trove of fraud guides for sale on shady sites. These “educational” publications provide crooks with detailed instructions on exploiting security weaknesses...

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Find a sensible balance when it comes to pay raises

July 23, 2019

Employers grapple with many competing goals when it comes to compensation and pay raises. You probably want to reward specific employees who’ve made contributions to the organization and try to ensure your salaries are in line with what competitors are paying. But you also need to maintain a level of equity with other workers’ compensation. And, of course, you’ve got to keep...

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Odd word, cool concept: Gamification for businesses

July 23, 2019

“Gamification.” It’s perhaps an odd word, but it’s a cool concept that’s become popular among many types of businesses. In its most general sense, the term refers to integrating characteristics of game-playing into business-related tasks to excite and engage the people involved.

Might it have a place in your company?

Internal...

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Beware if your estate plan leaves specific assets to specific heirs

May 16, 2019

Planning your estate around specific assets is risky and, in most cases, should be avoided. If you leave specific assets — such as homes, cars or stock — to specific people, you may inadvertently disinherit them.

Illustrating the problem

Let’s say Debbie has three children — Abbie, Mary Kate and Lizzie — and wishes to treat them equally in her...

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The simple truth about annual performance reviews

May 16, 2019

There are many ways for employers to conduct annual performance reviews. So many, in fact, that owners of small to midsize businesses may find the prospect of implementing a state-of-the-art review process overwhelming.

The simple truth is that smaller companies may not need to exert a lot of effort on a complex approach. Sometimes a simple conversation between supervisor and employee...

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How entrepreneurs must treat expenses on their tax returns

May 3, 2019

Have you recently started a new business? Or are you contemplating starting one? Launching a new venture is a hectic, exciting time. And as you know, before you even open the doors, you generally have to spend a lot of money. You may have to train workers and pay for rent, utilities, marketing and more.

Entrepreneurs are often unaware that many expenses incurred by start-ups...

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Dissecting the role of the forensic accountant in litigation

May 3, 2019

When people hear the term “forensic science,” they usually think “CSI.” What comes to mind when you hear the term “forensic accounting”? Similar to forensic scientists offering opinions about scientific matters, forensic accountants may be called on to investigate and serve as financial experts in commercial litigation. Here’s how.

Who they...

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Should your health care plan be more future-focused?

May 3, 2019

The pace of health care cost inflation has remained moderate over the past year or so, and employers are trying to keep it that way. In response, many businesses aren’t seeking immediate cost-cutting measures or asking employees to shoulder more of the burden. Rather, they’re looking to “future-focused” health care plan features to encourage healthful...

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Prevent hackers from wiping out your employees’ 401(k) accounts

April 19, 2019

News of commercial database hackings may seem commonplace in 2019. But while many of these stories focus on hacked bank and credit card accounts, 401(k) plan sponsors and participants probably don’t realize that their plan assets also are at risk.

Employers who offer 401(k) plans to their employees need to take precautions against identity theft. Part of this is educating...

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Effective social media marketing calls for a measured approach

April 19, 2019

As companies increase their investments in social media marketing, many are seeking ways to make it simpler and more cost-effective. Here are some ways to take a measured approach.

Pick your battles

Many marketers have realized that their companies don’t need to be on every social media platform. You just need to establish a strong presence on the few that best fit your...

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Make a deductible IRA contribution for 2018. It’s not too late!

April 8, 2019

Do you want to save more for retirement on a tax-favored basis? If so, and if you qualify, you can make a deductible traditional IRA contribution for the 2018 tax year between now and the tax filing deadline and claim the write-off on your 2018 return. Or you can contribute to a Roth IRA and avoid paying taxes on future withdrawals.

You can potentially make a contribution of up to...

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Properly funding your revocable trust is the key to unlocking its benefits

April 8, 2019

If your estate plan includes a revocable trust — also known as a “living” trust — it’s critical to ensure that the trust is properly funded. Revocable trusts offer significant benefits, including asset management (in the event you become incapacitated) and probate avoidance. But these benefits aren’t available if you don’t fund the...

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Keep a close eye on your employment records

March 22, 2019

Every employer needs to keep records on pay, hours, workplace injuries and the like. And, of course, the fun doesn’t end there — you’ve also got to maintain other documentation, such as job descriptions, annual objectives and performance reviews.

In totality, these documents make up your employment records. To prevent any number of disastrous circumstances, from...

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An implementation plan is key to making strategic goals a reality

March 22, 2019

In the broadest sense, strategic planning comprises two primary tasks: establishing goals and achieving them. Many business owners would probably say the first part, coming up with objectives, is relatively easy. It’s that second part — accomplishing those goals — that can really challenge a company. The key to turning your strategic objectives into a reality is a solid...

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Preventing phoenix companies from taking flight with your money

March 1, 2019

Bankruptcy (or liquidation) can be a valid business tool when used properly. Unfortunately, it can also enable less-than-honest business owners to profit at the expense of their creditors. Such is often the case with “phoenix” companies.

Rising from the ashes

Phoenix companies earn their name because they rise from the ashes of failed companies, trading on the...

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Some of your deductions may be smaller (or nonexistent) when you file your 2018 tax return

March 1, 2019

While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) reduces most income tax rates and expands some tax breaks, it limits or eliminates several itemized deductions that have been valuable to many individual taxpayers. Here are five deductions you may see shrink or disappear when you file your 2018 income tax return:

1. State and local tax deduction. For 2018 through 2025, your total itemized...

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Keep fraud off your restaurant’s menu

February 25, 2019

In the restaurant industry, where long hours and thin profit margins are the norm, owners and managers often lack the time and resources to focus on fraud. Unfortunately, restaurants can provide crooked employees, customers and vendors with plenty of opportunities to steal. So you need to be able to recognize fraud threats — and nip them in the bud before they lead to heavy financial...

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The home office deduction: Actual expenses vs. the simplified method

February 25, 2019

If you run your business from your home or perform certain functions at home that are related to your business, you might be able to claim a home office deduction against your business income on your 2018 income tax return. Thanks to a tax law change back in 2013, there are now two methods for claiming this deduction: the actual expenses method and the simplified method.

Basics of the...

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Why you shouldn’t wait to file your 2018 income tax return

February 11, 2019

The IRS opened the 2018 income tax return filing season on January 28. Even if you typically don’t file until much closer to the April 15 deadline, this year consider filing as soon as you can. Why? You can potentially protect yourself from tax identity theft — and reap other benefits, too.

What is tax identity theft?

In a tax identity theft scheme, a thief uses...

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DOL increases penalties for many labor law violations

February 11, 2019

Every employer knows that failing to comply with federal laws is costly, but it’s getting even more so. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 directs federal agencies to adjust civil penalties for inflation each year. As a result, the Department of Labor recently issued a final rule that revises civil penalties for many violations of federal labor...

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Financial statements tell your business’s story, inside and out

February 11, 2019

Ask many entrepreneurs and small business owners to show you their financial statements and they’ll likely open a laptop and show you their bookkeeping software. Although tracking financial transactions is critical, spreadsheets aren’t financial statements.

In short, financial statements are detailed and carefully organized reports about the financial activities and...

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What does “at-will employment” really mean anyway?

February 5, 2019

Many, if not most, employers today use some form of an “at-will” employment contract when hiring. The arrangement is theoretically simple: The employer can terminate the employee at any time, for any cause — with or without notice. But is that what at-will employment really means? Not necessarily.

Common exceptions

For every rule, there are exceptions. Those...

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Depreciation-related breaks on business real estate: What you need to know when you file your 2018 return

February 5, 2019

Commercial buildings and improvements generally are depreciated over 39 years, which essentially means you can deduct a portion of the cost every year over the depreciation period. (Land isn’t depreciable.) But special tax breaks that allow deductions to be taken more quickly are available for certain real estate investments.

Some of these were enhanced by the Tax Cuts and Jobs...

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There’s still time to get substantiation for 2018 donations

January 31, 2019

If you’re like many Americans, letters from your favorite charities have been appearing in your mailbox in recent weeks acknowledging your 2018 year-end donations. But what happens if you haven’t received such a letter — can you still claim an itemized deduction for the gift on your 2018 income tax return? It depends.

Basic requirements

To support a...

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Stop receivables fraud before it starts

January 21, 2019

From invoices and payments to discounts and write-offs, many business transactions are recorded to accounts receivable. This makes receivables a popular fraud target. But your business doesn’t have to become a victim.

Common schemes

Receivables fraud occurs when dishonest employees divert customer payments for their personal use. They use various methods,...

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Sudden impact: When a spouse unexpectedly dies

January 21, 2019

What if the unthinkable happens and your spouse dies unexpectedly? Would you be prepared to cope emotionally and financially? As the surviving spouse, you’ll face several tasks and challenges.

First steps first

By no means complete, the following are areas that will need to be addressed:

Death certificates. One of the first things to do is obtain death...

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Protect retirement plan fiduciaries through training, insurance

January 21, 2019

When an employer decides to sponsor a retirement plan for employees, it takes on great responsibility. Anyone who exercises discretionary authority over any vital facet of plan operations likely will be considered a plan fiduciary. In turn, these individuals face a significant risk of liability if anything goes seriously wrong with the plan.

Your plan document should identify the...

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Fraudulent transfer laws could sabotage your estate plan

January 4, 2019

Estate planning aims to help individuals achieve several important goals — primary among them, transferring wealth to loved ones at the lowest possible tax cost. However, if you have creditors, you need to be aware of how fraudulent transfer laws can affect your estate plan. Creditors could potentially challenge your gifts, trusts or other estate planning strategies as fraudulent...

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Economic damages: Recovering what was lost

January 4, 2019

A business can suffer economic damages arising from a variety of illegal conduct. Common examples include breach of contract, patent infringement and commercial negligence. If your company finds itself headed to court looking to recover lost profits, diminished business value or both, it’s important to know how the damages might be determined.

What methods are commonly...

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How gift card scammers target companies — and what you can do

December 21, 2018

Gift cards offer businesses a convenient way to reward employees and thank customers. However, as the FBI recently warned, gift card scams specifically targeting companies are on the rise. Since January 2017, losses from such fraud schemes have surpassed $1 million. Here’s what you need to know to avoid being cheated.

Anatomy of a scam

Fraudsters use classic...

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Why hotel owners should keep an eye on their management companies

December 21, 2018

It’s common for hotel owners to outsource the management of their properties. Unfortunately, hotel management companies sometimes fraudulently profit at the owners’ expense.

Case studies

Fraudulent mismanagement can take several forms. In one instance, a real estate property developer hired an international hotel management company to run his new hotel in Miami....

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Check deductibility before making year-end charitable gifts

December 14, 2018

As the holidays approach and the year draws to a close, many taxpayers make charitable gifts — both in the spirit of the season and as a year-end tax planning strategy. But with the tax law changes that go into effect in 2018 and the many rules that apply to the charitable deduction, it’s a good idea to check deductibility before making any year-end donations.

Confirm you...

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A prenup or a DAPT: Which is the better choice?

December 14, 2018


If you or one of your adult children is getting married, you may be concerned about protecting your family’s assets in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement can be an effective tool for overriding marital property rights and keeping assets in the family. But these agreements have disadvantages. For many families, a better alternative is a domestic asset protection trust...

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Does prepaying property taxes make sense anymore?

November 30, 2018

Prepaying property taxes related to the current year but due the following year has long been one of the most popular and effective year-end tax-planning strategies. But does it still make sense in 2018?

The answer, for some people, is yes — accelerating this expense will increase their itemized deductions, reducing their tax bills. But for many, particularly those in high-tax...

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Steering clear of abusive tax shelters

November 30, 2018

 

As the year comes to a close, many businesses look for ways to save on taxes. Purveyors of abusive tax shelters know this and are ready to take advantage of unwitting owners.

Abusive tax shelters are complex transactions that have no legitimate business purpose and are used solely to reduce or eliminate tax liability. However tempting the tax savings may seem, you...

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When holiday gifts and parties are deductible or taxable

November 30, 2018


The holiday season is a great time for businesses to show their appreciation for employees and customers by giving them gifts or hosting holiday parties. Before you begin shopping or sending out invitations, though, it’s a good idea to find out whether the expense is tax deductible and whether it’s taxable to the recipient. Here’s a brief review of the...

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How nonprofits can prevent fraud during the busy holiday season

November 21, 2018

 

Charities typically receive most of their donations during the holidays and at year end. It’s critical for these organizations to be on the lookout for fraud throughout the year, but even more so during the busy season. Here are some fraud schemes nonprofits should watch out for and how they can use internal controls to protect against financial losses.

Culture of...

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Estimates vs. actuals: Was your 2018 budget reasonable?

November 21, 2018

 

As the year winds down, business owners can be thankful for the gift of perspective (among other things, we hope). Assuming you created a budget for the calendar year, you should now be able to accurately assess that budget by comparing its estimates to actual results. Your objective is to determine whether your budget was reasonable, and, if not, how to adjust it to be more...

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3 ways to get more from your marketing dollars

November 16, 2018

A strong economy leads some company owners to cut back on marketing. Why spend the money if business is so good? Others see it differently — a robust economy means more sales opportunities, so pouring dollars into marketing is the way to go.

The right approach for your company depends on many factors, but one thing is for sure: Few businesses can afford to cut back drastically...

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Mutual funds: Handle with care at year end

November 16, 2018

As we approach the end of 2018, it’s a good idea to review the mutual fund holdings in your taxable accounts and take steps to avoid potential tax traps. Here are some tips.

Avoid surprise capital gains

Unlike with stocks, you can’t avoid capital gains on mutual funds simply by holding on to the shares. Near the end of the year, funds typically distribute all or...

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Research credit available to some businesses for the first time

November 2, 2018

 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) didn’t change the federal tax credit for “increasing research activities,” but several TCJA provisions have an indirect impact on the credit. As a result, the research credit may be available to some businesses for the first time.

AMT reform

Previously, corporations subject to alternative minimum tax (AMT)...

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Starting slow with a SIMPLE IRA

November 2, 2018

 

For certain employers, particularly small businesses, introducing a retirement plan for employees may seem like a daunting task. The company owner may feel that providing a full-blown 401(k) plan is his or her only choice, but that’s far from true.

There are other options to consider that are relatively easier to administer and usually less costly to set up and...

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Change management doesn’t have to be scary

November 2, 2018

 

Business owners are constantly bombarded with terminology and buzzwords. Although you probably feel a need to keep up with the latest trends, you also may find that many of these ideas induce more anxiety than relief. One example is change management.

This term is used to describe the philosophies and processes an organization uses to manage change. Putting change...

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Could “bunching” medical expenses into 2018 save you tax?

October 26, 2018

 

Some of your medical expenses may be tax deductible, but only if you itemize deductions and have enough expenses to exceed the applicable floor for deductibility. With proper planning, you may be able to time controllable medical expenses to your tax advantage. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) could make bunching such expenses into 2018 beneficial for some taxpayers. At the...

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Striking a balance between fraud prevention and employee privacy

October 26, 2018

The expense of preventing fraud is minimal compared to the cost of cleaning up after fraud has been committed. One common fraud deterrent is to monitor employees on the job. But are you legally entitled to monitor employees? The answer is “sometimes.” One thing is certain: You must follow current employment law to the letter.

Two competing interests

Many laws apply...

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Get serious with an educational assistance program

October 19, 2018

 

Most employers probably know that reimbursements and direct payments of job-related education costs are excludable from workers’ wages as a working condition fringe benefit. Maybe you’ve offered such a benefit in the past and it’s worked out well for everyone.

But if you’re ready to really get serious about promoting the professional development...

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Tax-free fringe benefits help small businesses and their employees

October 12, 2018

In today’s tightening job market, to attract and retain the best employees, small businesses need to offer not only competitive pay, but also appealing fringe benefits. Benefits that are tax-free are especially attractive to employees. Let’s take a quick look at some popular options.

Insurance

Businesses can provide their employees with various types of insurance...

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Protect computers from employee theft

October 12, 2018

 

To head off employee theft, businesses need to know what crooked employees are most likely to steal. The number one preference is cash. But if that’s off limits, the next choice is something expensive that they can use outside work. And, of course, the most costly and useful items in most offices are laptop and desktop computers and other technological...

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Knowledge management can help mitigate the ill effects of turnover

October 5, 2018

With all the emphasis on big data these days, employers shouldn’t lose sight of what could be called “big knowledge.” That is, within the brain of every good, experienced employee lies a wealth of know-how and insights that could vanish in an instant if that person walks out the door for good.

The formal process of identifying, recording and managing an...

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Could a cost segregation study help you accelerate depreciation deductions?

October 5, 2018

Businesses that acquire, construct or substantially improve a building — or did so in previous years — should consider a cost segregation study. It may allow you to accelerate depreciation deductions, thus reducing taxes and boosting cash flow. And the potential benefits are now even greater due to enhancements to certain depreciation-related breaks under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act...

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4 tips for creating an apprenticeship program

September 28, 2018

A shortage of skilled workers is a real concern in some of the nation’s largest industries. If you fear your business could find itself struggling to fill positions, one way to lay the groundwork for a solution is to create an apprenticeship program.

Apprenticeships are paid positions that focus on gradual, step-by-step training aimed at creating fully realized, often certified...

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Retiring abroad? Review your estate plan before making the move

September 28, 2018

If you dream of spending your golden years in a tropical paradise, a culture-rich European city or another foreign locale, it’s important to understand the potential tax and estate planning implications. If you don’t, you could be hit with some unpleasant surprises.

Avoiding the pitfalls

If you’re a citizen of the United States, U.S. taxes will apply even...

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Dig out your business plan to plan for the year ahead

September 28, 2018

Like many business owners, you probably created a business plan when you launched your company. But, as is also often the case, you may not have looked at it much since then. Now that fall has arrived and year end is coming soon, why not dig it out? Reviewing and revising a business plan can be a great way to plan for the year ahead.

6 sections to scrutinize

Comprehensive...

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Train employees to help stamp out fraud

September 21, 2018

If your company is tired of being a fraud target, it’s time to train employees how to recognize and uncover unscrupulous activities — before irreparable damage is done. Here’s how.

Enlist an expert

A forensic accountant can conduct on-site, broad-based training for employees in the form of live presentations. This expert might use role-playing to help staff...

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Keeping a king in the castle with a well-maintained cash reserve

September 21, 2018

You’ve no doubt heard the old business cliché “cash is king.” And it’s true: A company in a strong cash position stands a much better chance of obtaining the financing it needs, attracting outside investors or simply executing its own strategic plans.

One way to ensure that there’s always a king in the castle, so to speak, is to maintain a cash...

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Have you made your burial wishes clear?

September 14, 2018

It may be difficult to consider, but funeral arrangements are a critical component of your estate plan. Failure to clearly communicate your wishes regarding the disposition of your remains can lead to tension, disputes and even litigation among your family members during what is already a difficult time.

Address these issues

The methods for expressing these wishes vary from...

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Consider the tax advantages of investing in qualified small business stock

September 14, 2018

While the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) reduced most ordinary-income tax rates for individuals, it didn’t change long-term capital gains rates. They remain at 0%, 15% and 20%.

The 0% rate generally applies to taxpayers in the bottom two ordinary-income tax brackets (now 10% and 12%), but you no longer have to be in the top ordinary-income tax bracket (now 37%) to be subject to...

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Even voicemail is susceptible to fraud

September 7, 2018

In a world of increasing exposure to online security threats, it’s nice to be able to rely on voicemail for risk-free communication. The problem is, you can’t. Your voicemail system can easily be hacked if you don’t take some precautions.

Passwords as passports

In the most common scheme, hackers figure out the passwords for voicemail boxes. Most frequently,...

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Contemplating compensation increases and pay for performance

September 7, 2018

As a business grows, one of many challenges it faces is identifying a competitive yet manageable compensation structure. After all, offer too little and you likely won’t have much success in hiring. Offer too much and you may compromise cash flow and profitability.

But the challenge doesn’t end there. Once you have a feasible compensation structure in place, your...

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Play your tax cards right with gambling wins and losses

August 31, 2018

If you gamble, be sure you understand the tax consequences. Both wins and losses can affect your income tax bill. And changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) could also have an impact.

Wins and taxable income

You must report 100% of your gambling winnings as taxable income. The value of complimentary goodies (“comps”) provided by gambling establishments must...

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Expense Reimbursement Fraud is Common, but Preventable

August 31, 2018

One of the most common ways that crooked employees defraud their employers is by cheating on or padding expense reimbursement reports. Fortunately, you can stop this type of fraud with strict controls and by punishing the perpetrators.

Plenty of ways to cheat

Employees often cheat on their reimbursement reports by inventing expenses. They might, for example, stick your company...

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How up-to-date job descriptions can help every organization

August 29, 2018


Words have power. Do you believe in this expression? If so, it follows that up-to-date, accurate job descriptions form the foundation of every organization’s staffing efforts. Without clear, focused documentation of what each position does, you may struggle to hire and retain good employees. And you could be drastically undermining productivity.

Look at...

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3 Ways to Supercharge your Supervisors

August 29, 2018

 

The attitudes and behaviors of your people managers play a critical role in your company’s success. When your managers are putting forth their best effort, the more likely it is that you’ll, in turn, get the best performances out of the rest of your employees. Here are three ways to supercharge your supervisors:

1. Transform them into teachers. Today’s...

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Do You Know Your Customer?

August 13, 2018

To help fight crime, including terrorism, money laundering and identity theft, federal laws and regulations require banks and other organizations to “know” their customers. Know-your-customer (KYC) programs entail verifying customer identities and assessing risks associated with them. But even if your company isn’t required to adopt such programs, KYC can be beneficial.

What’s involved?

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6 Ways to Run a Better Meeting

August 13, 2018

 

There are few more self-destructive acts for an employer than to waste its employees’ time. You not only squander productivity but also hurt morale. Among the most common culprits of wasted time are bad meetings. A sloppily managed one can leave employees grumbling and frustrated for hours, even days, afterward. Here are six ways to run a better meeting:

1. Start...

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Do your employees a favor and remind them about their W-4s

July 4, 2018

Employees don’t always fill out their W-4 forms accurately. For example, some may wrongly write “exempt” on the withholding portion of the form to ensure that no federal or state tax is withheld. Others may be inadvertently underwithholding because of recent tax law changes.

Although the employees themselves are liable for improperly completing their W-4s, you can do...

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Customer Service

June 27, 2018

When business people speak of innovation, the focus is usually on a pioneering product or state-of-the-art service that will “revolutionize the industry.” But innovation can apply to any aspect of your company — including customer service.

Many business owners perceive customer service as a fairly cut-and-dried affair. Customers call, you answer their questions or...

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New tax law gives pass-through businesses a valuable deduction

January 9, 2018

Although the drop of the corporate tax rate from a top rate of 35% to a flat rate of 21% may be one of the most talked about provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), C corporations aren’t the only type of entity significantly benefiting from the new law. Owners of noncorporate “pass-through” entities may see some major — albeit temporary — relief in the...

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The TCJA temporarily expands bonus depreciation

January 9, 2018


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enhances some tax breaks for businesses while reducing or eliminating others. One break it enhances — temporarily — is bonus depreciation. While most TCJA provisions go into effect for the 2018 tax year, you might be able to benefit from the bonus depreciation enhancements when you file your 2017 tax return.

Pre-TCJA bonus...

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Detect fraud with employee data monitoring tools

January 9, 2018

If one of your employees committed embezzlement, how long would it take your company to discover the loss? According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the average business doesn’t ferret out occupational fraud schemes for 18 months.

Fortunately, there are ways to find fraud earlier. When companies implement proactive data monitoring and analysis, they typically...

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ABCs of HSAs: How an HSA can benefit your estate plan

January 9, 2018

One health care arrangement that has been soaring in popularity in recent years has been the pairing of a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA). The good news is that not only does an HSA provide a tax-advantaged way to pay for health care costs, but it also can help you achieve your estate planning goals.

How does it work?

An HSA can be...

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Promoting from within can be a recipe for management success

January 9, 2018

Effective leadership is critical to any organization. When trying to fill leadership roles — that is, management positions — you likely look for candidates with experience in your industry or sector. Ideally, of course, you’d probably love to find someone who knows the ins and outs of your specific organization.

The good news is that this individual may be sitting...

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Making The Right Choice About Your Office Space

January 9, 2018

 

For many companies, there comes a time when owners must decide whether to renew a lease, move on to a different one or buy new (or pre-existing) space. In some cases, it’s a relatively easy decision. Maybe you’re happy where you are and feel like such a part of the local community that moving isn’t an option.

But, in other cases, a move can be an...

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Why you may want to accelerate your property tax payment into 2017

December 20, 2017

Accelerating deductible expenses, such as property tax on your home, into the current year typically is a good idea. Why? It will defer tax, which usually is beneficial. Prepaying property tax may be especially beneficial this year, because proposed tax legislation might reduce or eliminate the benefit of the property tax deduction beginning in 2018.

Proposed...

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Who should be the guardian of your minor children?

December 20, 2017

If you have minor children, arguably the most important estate planning decision you have to make is choosing a guardian for them should the unthinkable occur. It’s critical to put much thought into this decision to ensure your children would be cared for as you wish in such a situation.

Evaluating potential candidates

Here are a few issues to consider when evaluating...

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Watch out for the ACA employer mandate when hiring seasonal workers

December 20, 2017

Many employers hire seasonal workers this time of year. If your organization is one of them, you might worry about becoming subject to the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) employer mandate — also known as the “play or pay” provision. To determine whether you may be at risk for triggering the mandate and, ultimately, penalties, you’ll need to count all of your...

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Make New Year’s resolutions to improve profitability

December 20, 2017

Many people scoff at New Year’s resolutions. It’s no mystery why — these self-directed promises to visit the gym regularly or read a book a month tend to quickly fade once the unavoidable busyness of life sets in.

But, for business owners, the phrase “New Year’s resolutions” is just a different way of saying “strategic plans.” And these...

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Thorough Due Diligence Can Protect Your Acquistion From Fraud

December 20, 2017

In today’s rough-and-tumble world of mergers and acquisitions (M&As), buyers need to get to know business sellers and their executives, test their representations about asset condition and financial performance, and screen for common fraud schemes. Here’s why.

Whose side are they on?

Without adequate M&A due diligence, unwary buyers...



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Give to Loved Ones Before Year End

 

 

 

 

 

As the holiday season quickly approaches, gift giving will be top of mind. While gifts of electronics, toys and clothes are nice, making tax-free gifts of cash using your annual exclusion is beneficial for both you and your family.

Even in a potentially changing estate tax environment, making annual...

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2018 Q1 Tax Calendar

December 14, 2017

 

Here are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2018. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

January 31
File...

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Practice the fine art of inclusion at your holiday gatherings

December 5, 2017

It’s that time of year, business owners — a time when you’re not only trying to wind down the calendar in profitable fashion, but also preparing year-end financials and contemplating next year’s budget. And amidst all this, you likely have a holiday employee gathering to plan.

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Phone: 989.463.6123 • Fax: 989.463.4055
Email: chad.payton@rpccpas.com