How To Prepare For A Federal Tax Return Headache

Meredith Mullet | January 20th, 2015

Planning to buy a new big-screen television? Airline tickets for that Caribbean vacation you’ve been looking forward to?  A new car? You might want to wait a little longer.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen recently warned American taxpayers that some federal refunds could be delayed for a week or more because of recent budget cuts. So, if you file your tax return on paper, before you start spending that income tax refund check, you might want to wait for the cash to actually find its way into your bank account. Expect to feel a little discomfort during this tax season.

Refund Delays

Historically, refunds for electronically filed federal returns were processed within 21 days of the e-filing acceptance date. Paper returns were typically processed within six to eight weeks from the date they were received. Amended tax return refunds take even longer – the turnaround for these returns were typically 12 weeks.

“People who paper file tax returns could wait an extra week – or possibly longer – to see their refund,” said Koskinen in a memo sent to IRS staff. “Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.”

In his memo, Koskinen didn’t explicitly address electronically filed returns, but it wouldn’t be a surprise for these refunds to be delayed (at least a little bit) as well.

Phone Jams

Nearly eight out of ten taxpayers receive an average tax refund totaling $2,800, which prompts many taxpayers to check in on the status of their refunds by calling the IRS. The agency is predicting an abysmal connection rate of these calls this year – 43 percent connection rate with a hold time of 30 minutes or more.

Instead, if you would like to track the status of your refund, hang up the phone and log onto the IRS’s website to use its Where’s My Refund feature.

Time will only tell how these budget cuts will impact next year’s tax return process, as well as other services provided by the IRS. In the meantime, start preparing to file your tax return as early as possible to avoid additional delays. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Meredith Mullet, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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File Faster With This Tax Prep Checklist

Lesley Mast | January 20th, 2015

It’s that time of year again – time to gather your information and prepare to file your tax return. If you want the process to go smoothly, make sure to gather and organize your information before sitting down with your tax preparer. You may be surprised how fast the entire filing process goes if you spend a little time preparing!

Here’s a list of some items to compile before you get started.

Personal Information

Hopefully you know YOUR social security number and date of birth by heart. But do you know your spouse’s SSN? Your kids? Make sure you remember to bring the social security numbers and birth dates of everybody who will be claimed on your tax return.

Income Info

While your W-2 is important, there are many other pieces of information you will need to collect before you will be able to get started. Gather the following pieces of relevant information:

  • W-2s for you and your spouse.
  • Investment income: This type of income will be listed on various 1099 forms including –INT, -DIV, -B, etc). You may also have K-1s and stock option information to provide to your tax preparer.
  • Income received from state and local income tax refunds and/or unemployment. This income can be found on the Form 1099-G.
  • Gather information about any alimony you may have received.
  • If you are a business owner or farmer, don’t forget to provide a profit/loss statement and capital equipment information.  And if you use your home for business, your tax preparer will need to know the size of your house, the size of your office and what you have paid to maintain your home and office.
  • You will need to provide your IRA/pension distributions as well. This information will be provided to you on Forms 1099-R or 8606.
  • If you rent a home or other type of property, be sure to gather that information that proves the profit or losses you realized as a result of the rental.
  • Be sure to claim any Social Security benefits you may have received. This information is found on Form SSA-1099.
  • If you sold your house in 2014, you must provide your tax provider with Form 1099-C, which will include the income you received from the sale of the property. Your preparer will also take the home’s original cost and cost of improvements, the escrow closing statement and cancelled debt information into consideration.
  • Some other information you will need to pass along to your tax preparer includes items such as jury duty, gambling winnings, scholarships, etc.

Adjustments To Your Income

Now that you have collected all the information you can to adequately identify your income in 2014, some adjustments may need to be made. Making the following adjustments to your income may help increase your tax refund or lower the amount you owe to the government. If you have documentation of any of the following information, be sure to bring them to your appointment.

  • IRA contributions
  • Student loan interest
  • Medical Savings Account contributions
  • Moving expenses
  • Self-employed health insurance payments
  • Pension plans such as SEP and SIMPLE
  • Alimony you paid
  • Educator expenses

Itemized tax deductions and credits

This is another way to increase your refund or reduce what you owe. The following deductions and credits help lower the tax burden on individuals. Be sure to collect this information before filing your return.

  • Child care costs – child care provider’s name, address, tax ID number and amount paid
  • Education costs – these can be found on Form 1098-T
  • Adoption costs – the SSN of the child as well as legal, medical and transportation costs associated with the adoption
  • Home mortgage interest and points you paid, which can be found on Form 1098
  • Investment interest expense
  • Charitable donations that were made to not-for-profit organizations. Make sure you have the amounts and value of the donated property, and any out-of-pocket expenses you may have accrued in your effort to make the donation, including transportation costs. Include receipts for any contribution over $250

o   Losses you realized as a result of casualty and loss (the cost of the damage and insurance reimbursements

  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Energy credits
  • Other deductions include items such as union dues, unreimbursed employee expenses, such as unreimbursed employee expenses

New for 2014 returns

For the first time, you will need to provide information about your health insurance coverage to your tax preparer. Be prepared to answer questions such as these:

  • Was everyone claimed on your tax return covered by health insurance?

o   If not, why?

  • Did you or anyone on your return obtain health insurance coverage through Healthcare.gov or through a state run exchange in 2014?

o   If yes, did any of those individuals receive a premium tax subsidy, cost reduction, or premium tax credit? If yes, provide Form 1095-A.

It’s likely that you have already started receiving tax forms in the mail from various places. It’s easy to misplace these documents if you’re not careful. If you haven’t already, set aside a place for these items until you have collected them all. Once you have everything you need, you can set an appointment to file your taxes with your financial advisor or tax preparer. For additional tax information, or to speak with a tax expert, email Rea & Associates.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Theft Safeguards To Cause Tax Return Delays In Ohio

Lisa Beamer | January 20th, 2015

If time is money then the new security measures to protect Ohio taxpayer’s returns and prevent identity theft comes at a price. The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) said that in an effort to boost security and prevent tax-fraud in the state, Ohio will implement an “up-front filter to all tax-refund requests to analyze the demographic information reported on the return.”

According to Joe Testa, the state’s tax commissioner, the ramped up security is in response to increased fraud attempts. The Columbus Dispatch reports that the state foiled $250 million in attempted tax fraud during the 2014 tax season, which is a significant increase over the foiled tax fraud average of $10 million in previous years. Figures of how much fraud went undetected last year or in previous years are not available.

The Tax-Fraud Quiz

If your tax return is flagged as a result of anomalies in reported demographic information then you will have to complete an Identification Confirmation Quiz, according to Testa. If you are selected to take the quiz, you should expect a delay as to when your funds will be dispersed. Traditionally, it takes up to 15 days to process refunds that will be distributed to the taxpayer via electronic deposit. Those who opt to receive their refunds in check form could wait 30 days to receive their money. This year, those who must take the quiz to validate their identities, may have to wait longer than they have in previous years to receive their refunds.

Which Returns Will Be Flagged?

On its website, the ODT says that tax returns will be analyzed for certain inconsistent data points against public and commercial data sources. For example, in the Dispatch article, taxation spokesman Gary Gudmundson said that “names and Social Security numbers that show up in a different part of the state, or in another state, after being located for years in a specific area of Ohio” may be flagged. This means that if you moved this year, your return may flagged as one that has a higher probability of fraud. The next step is to take the quiz to verify your identity. If the return is flagged, the taxpayer will be required to complete the quiz or prove their identity through documentation before the tax return will be processed.

How To Know If Your Return Was Flagged?

The ODT will send a letter to taxpayers who are required to take the identification quiz. Those who don’t receive a letter will not be able to complete the quiz. Those who are selected will have 60 days to complete the multiple choice quiz. The quiz will be timed and it must be completed online. The state agency has provided answers to Frequently Asked Questions about the quiz on its website. You can also view a video tutorial on the Ohio Department of Taxation’s YouTube channel to learn more about the quiz and what to expect if you are selected to participate in this identity theft safeguard.

Contact your financial advisor or seek out a tax professional to help guide you through these security measures. Email Rea & Associates for more information about this and other tax-related concerns.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Six Things 401k Plan Sponsors Need To Do Now

Steve Renner | January 16th, 2015
Mark your calendars and don't forget these 2015 retirement plan deadlines. Click on the image to easily see what is due and when to file.

Mark your calendars and don’t forget these 2015 retirement plan deadlines. Click on the image to easily see what is due and when to file.

January may be flying by, but the New Year is still fresh. This is still a great time to make sure that the qualified 401k plan you offer your employees helps them effectively save for retirement and remains qualified.

Not sure where to start? Here are six ways to get the most out of your 401k plan:

1. Review Your Match Formula

An employer match can be critical to helping your employees meet their retirement goals and stretching the match formula is a great way to entice employees to save more. Instead of matching 100 percent on the first 2 percent of deferrals, consider changing your contribution formula to 50 percent on the first 4 percent of deferrals, or 25 percent on the first 8 percent of deferrals instead. Each one of these formulas will result in a 2 percent wage cost to you, the employer, but changing the formula may encourage additional employee saving. Instead of saving 4 percent of their income (2 percent employee income plus 2 percent employer match), the employee may be motivated to increase contributions to their retirement plan to 10 percent (8 percent employee income plus 2 percent employer match). Contact your TPA to discuss different strategies.

2. Check Your Contribution Limits

Did you know that the 401(k) and 403(b) plan deferral limits have increased to $18,000? Employees older than 50, now have the option to defer an additional $6,000 of their wages toward retirement. Encourage your employees to review their payroll deduction to ensure that they are on target to meet their personal savings goals.

3. Offer Your 401(k) Plan To All Eligible Employees

If your 401(k) plan has an entry date of Jan. 1, be sure all newly eligible employees were provided the opportunity to participate in the plan. Even if you have an employee who doesn’t want to participate, I recommend that you obtain a signed election form that indicates a 401(k) election of “0 percent.” By doing this, you have documentation that they employee was offered the chance to participate, even though they decided not to.

4. Provide Employee Census To Your TPA

Your third party administrator (TPA) needs yearly plan census information to conduct compliance testing, verify 401(k) and to calculate matching contributions and profit sharing allocations. The deadline for most compliance tests is March 15.

5. Check Your Fidelity Bond

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires a fidelity bond for every plan fiduciary and for those who handle the funds or property of a plan. The bond must be at least 10 percent of the company’s plan assets. It’s a good idea to ensure that your bond is still meeting the 10 percent minimum requirement.

6. Restate Your Plan Document

Prototype documents for 401(k) plans currently are in a restatement window; therefore, if your plan uses a prototype document, it must be updated to meet new IRS standards. This document restatement period is a great time to examine your plan provisions. For example, do you want to change eligibility requirements or add a loan provision that you have contemplated adding in the past? This is a good time to make those changes. The deadline for restating 401(k) prototype documents is April 30, 2016.

Managing your company’s retirement plan can be confusing or overwhelming at times, but it doesn’t have to be. Email Rea & Associates today to learn more.

By Steve Renner, QKA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Take Control Of Your Financial Wellness In 2015

Dave McCarthy | January 5th, 2015

Are you still looking for the perfect New Year’s resolution? What about challenging yourself with one that could put you financially ahead? Here are 15 ways you can start your year off on the right foot.

15 Tips For A Prosperous 2015

Adjust your 401(k) plan contribution.

If you have a 401(k) plan, your contribution limit will increase to $18,000 in 2015, and if you’re 50 years or older, you can contribute an additional $6,000 into your plan. When it comes to retirement savings, every little bit helps, so even if you can’t afford to contribute the maximum, at least consider increasing your contribution a little bit over what you put into it last year.

Pay off your debt.

Make 2015 the year you pay off all debts. Once you settle past debts, it will be easier to save for future expenses and retirement. For example, do you have credit card debt? Pay off the cards with the highest interest rates first. Once you have caught up, make it your goal to pay any outstanding balance monthly.

Set up a budget and follow it.

Review your monthly income and expenses and allocate money toward savings, debt resolution and other financial goals. Once you have a plan in place, stick to it. Try to set aside some time to review your budget to make sure you are on track.

Build a “rainy day” fund.

Some people say that you should have enough money saved to cover your expenses for at least six months to protect you and your family against unforeseen events that could impact your finances. Don’t let the timeline intimidate you, though. Get your rainy day fund up to one month’s worth of expenses and build from there.

Work with your significant other – not against them.

If you are planning to strengthen your financial foothold in 2015, make sure you have support from your significant other. If you and your significant other are on the same page, then you will have a better chance for success. For example, coming to an agreement on how much you each can spend on unnecessary expenses early on can save unnecessary drama in the future – and costs less than a divorce.

Review your company’s Section 125 plan.

If your employer offers a Cafeteria Plan to its employees, make sure you are aware of what benefit options are available to you and your family and that you taking full advantage of the pretax nature of these benefits. Benefits offered as part of your employer’s Section 125 plan could include health savings accounts, dependent care assistance, adoption assistance, group-term life insurance and others. If you are not sure what benefits are available to you or would like to make sure you are receiving the maximum benefit, set aside some time to speak with your company’s human resources department.

Know your credit score – then improve it.

An excellent credit score is one that is between 760 and 850. If you’re not sure what yours is, request your free copy and find out. Companies such as Experian, Transunion and Equifax will provide you with a free copy of your credit score. Once you know your score, work to increase your rating. This can be done any number of ways, but it takes time and hard work. And don’t be discouraged if you don’t see a massive increase over the next year. Even 20 points is considered a significant improvement.

Set up your will and power of attorney.

Don’t put off this critically important responsibility. If you haven’t already, make it a priority to establish your will and power of attorney as soon as possible. Or if you already have one in place, make sure it is not outdated. Set aside some time to review your current documents with your significant other and update it if needed.

Plan for the inevitable.

If something happens to you, will your family be able to carry on? Meet with your HR department to make sure you are taking full advantage of your life insurance options and disability plan.

Schedule a wellness visit for your mortgage.

When was the last time you reviewed your home mortgage? If it’s been awhile, you should review the interest rate and conditions of your loan. If you have been in your home for a while, you may be surprised to learn that there might be options out there that could save you money.

Organize, organize, organize.

Improving organization is one of the more popular resolutions to make. While you may be eying your closets, garage or basement, I suggest taking a look at your mailbox. Resolve to gather and organize your tax information as it is received. Doing so will ensure that you are not wasting time trying to find a piece of mail you misplaced a month ago and it will help you cut down on random clutter.

Review your retirement plan.

A new year means that you have another birthday on the horizon, which also means that you are another year closer to retirement. Schedule a time to meet with your financial advisor to determine if you should rebalance your portfolio to remain in line with your retirement goals.

Set up a 529 plan.

Are you saving for your children’s or grandchildren’s college education? Set up a 529 plan today and contribute to it early in the year to earn a return all year long. Earnings generated as a result of your contributions are not subject to federal or state taxes when used for qualified education expenses.

Find savings around the home.

If you take a hard look at your reoccurring monthly expenses, you may find that you don’t really need a lot of the services and utilities you are paying for. For example, does your home internet really need to be turbo-charged? Do you ever use the call forwarding or call waiting options on your home phone? Do you use your home phone at all? Are you paying for extra insurance to protect against a gas line leak? Depending on your circumstances, you could find significant savings by cutting back on some utilities you barely use.

Pass on the product warranties.

While it may seem like a good idea to pay a little extra for a warranty on that new appliance, a better option might be to put that money toward your rainy day fund instead. Sure, warranties are great for your peace of mind, but so is your rainy day fund. By opting out of the product warranty you will be able to put more money away while maintaining the freedom to spend it a way that makes more sense in the future.

Do you want this year to be filled with prosperity for you and your family? Email Rea & Associates to get more information on how you can succeed financially in 2015.

By Dave McCarthy, CPA, CSEP (Medina office)

 

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Could A Cyber-Attack Cripple Your Business In 2015?

Joe Welker | December 30th, 2014

As we embark on a new year, many of us will set personal goals for ourselves or renew commitments to objectives that may have eluded us over the last year – and if you are a business owner you probably have a whole other list of initiatives to conquer in 2015. But before you dive into a new campaign, product launch or acquisition, take a moment to reassess your business’s disaster recovery and business continuity planning. Doing so could save you from unforeseen financial hardships that could devastate your bottom line.

From eBay’s server breach early in 2014 to the recent Sony Pictures hack, this year major U.S. companies found out that even the best defenses cannot guard against attacks carried out by a determined hacker (or hackers). And if these large-scale businesses are vulnerable, how is your small to midsize business expected to recover? In addition to building up a solid defense to these types of threats by employing firewalls and antivirus software, businesses with a solid business continuity plan are more likely to recover if (and when) a disaster does strike.

Plan For The Best – Expect The Worse

Could you recover from a cyber-attack or data breach? Do you have a plan in place to not only shield yourself from threats, but to swiftly respond and recover? The ISACA, an organization that engages in the development, adoption and use of globally accepted, industry-leading knowledge and practices for information systems, encourages business owners to take a proactive stance when guarding against disasters – online and offline. If you are unsure whether your business could recover, ask yourself these questions.

  1. Do you have a thorough understanding your business’s activities, including which ones are critical to support your overall operations while satisfying your customer’s expectations?
  2. Do you know what data you need to support your business’s critical operations and do you know where this data is kept?
  3. Do you have a clear understanding of the effects of downtime within your business and, using this information, are you able to identify where you are most vulnerable?
  4. Do you have current infrastructure in place to protect your business and data against hackers and viruses?
  5. Do you consider business continuity to be a priority to your business?
  6. Do you have a documented plan in place to guide all aspects of your business through a major emergency? How about smaller disruptions like organizational, process and technology changes?
  7. If a disaster were to strike today would you be able to recover quickly while protecting the best interests of your customers and business stakeholders?

If you answered no to any of these questions your business may find itself susceptible to risk and unable to recover from a cyber-attack or data breach. Make business continuity a priority in 2015. Email Rea & Associates for more information on how you can protect your business against countless internal and external threats.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Too Close For Comfort?

Lisa Beamer | December 17th, 2014

Tax Provisions Extended Just In Time

They may have waited until the 23rd hour, but members of Congress finally voted to extend more than 50 expired tax provisions slated to expire at the end of the year. Tuesday evening’s 76-16 vote in favor of the extensions was enough to send a collective sigh of relief among tax professionals nationwide. The bill will now be sent to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Many tax professionals were worried that Congress would postpone the vote until after the New Year, which could have postponed the start of the 2015 tax season and hurt those on the tax prep front lines, including the IRS, tax preparers and some software providers. But today is a new day and instead of planning for the worst case scenario, tax planning can commence as planned.

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014, or H.B. 5771, temporarily extends several tax breaks and provisions while correcting some technical errors found in prior legislation. Including:

  • Extensions that benefit individuals:

-        A $250 above-the-line deduction for certain expenses of teachers

-        An election to deduct state and local sales tax

-        Tax-free charitable distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs)

-        The private mortgage insurance (PMI) itemized deduction

-        The energy efficient home improvement tax credit

  • Extensions that benefit businesses:

-        The work opportunity tax credit

-        A research and experimentation credit

-        The Section 179 expensing limit

-        50% bonus depreciation

A complete list of 2014 tax extenders can be found in this article, published by the Journal of Accountancy.

Another bill within H.B. 5771 was also up for Congressional consideration – the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014. The legislation seeks to provide for tax-favored accounts that allow those who are disabled to save money to pay for disability expenses. This portion of the ABLE Act amends the definition of personal holding company income, institutes certain inflation adjustments and, for employment tax purposes, allows for certified professional employer organizations to be treated as employers for work-site employees who perform services for customers of the organization.

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 is by no means a long-term fix. There were earlier proposals that sought to permanently extend some provisions while extending others for more than a year, but those suggestions were unable to find traction throughout the legislature. So, while we may be able to relax this year, we will likely have bouts of Déjà vu over the course of 2015.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Put Your Property Easement Agreement To Work

Jim Fracker | December 16th, 2014

The shale oil and gas play has spurred a significant amount of pipeline and infrastructure activity throughout certain areas of the United States. As a result, many landowners are now being approached by landmen armed with cash offers and easement agreements in the hopes of acquiring the right to use your property to process and transport oil and gas related products. Before you sign on that dotted line, be sure to seek advice from someone well versed in the complexities of property easements.

Be An Informed Property Owner

You probably want to keep as much money in your bank account as possible. So when it comes to paying your taxes, you probably have no intention of giving the government more than its fair share, right? Did you know that when you enter into certain agreements, such as land easements, you may be able to dictate the type of tax treatment your income receives? The trick is to fully understand the tax consequences of language in the agreement.

The tax treatment of a land easement typically is determined (at least in part) by the easement agreement itself. The easement language will either determine if the agreement is for a permanent (or perpetual) easement period, which is exclusive in nature; or if it’s a temporary easement, which will be effective for a finite period of time.

Understand Your Options

If you enter into a permanent easement agreement, the taxable part of the transaction could qualify for capital gains, which may result in an opportunity to save some money during tax season. If you are able to apply the capital gains tax treatment to the income generated from the land easement contract, as opposed to the ordinary income tax rate, you could stand to see your tax rate that is applied to this income drop by almost half.

  • Capital Gains tax rate = 20 percent
  • Regular Income tax rate = 39.6 percent

On the other hand, if you are looking for another option, which could eliminate current payment of tax all together (defer the tax consequence into the future), you might consider the like-kind exchange tax planning strategy. Like-kind exchange rules require the property that is exchanged and the property that is acquired to be held for productive use or investment purposes.

Agreements that receive like-kind treatment under U.S. Code 1031 may result in the deferral of your taxes being due until well into the future or until you dispose of the property acquired in the like-kind exchange. For this to work, the easement agreement must be considered perpetual or permanent and must also involve real estate that is used as part of your trade or business or that is being held for investment purposes.

Don’t Disqualify Yourself

While the thought of exchanging your land easement for other real estate while deferring your taxes may seem attractive, the process of entering into, and maintaining, a like-kind exchange is very complex and must be strictly adhered to. In other words, you will need to seek out help to navigate the waters. If you would like to see if you qualify for a like-kind exchange, email Rea & Associatesfor more information. And remember to always consult your current financial advisor or another professional well versed in like-kind exchange taxation, before signing any land easement contract. Failure to do so may disqualify you from favorable like-kind exchange treatment.

By Jim Fracker, CPA (Zanesville office)

 

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Should I Make a Big Purchase to Cut Taxes?

Joel Yoder | December 16th, 2014

This is a hectic time for business owners who are working to close their books on the previous year while strategically planning for the year ahead. For me, this is the time of year I find myself frequently fielding questions from clients who want to know if buying equipment will help them keep their taxes down.

Unfortunately, without the proper information, any answer I could provide would be about as useless as seeking business advice from a Magic 8-Ball. Fortunately, the answer really isn’t difficult to find, especially if you have a well-maintained balance sheet.

To determine whether purchasing equipment would be beneficial to your business from a tax perspective, I have to know what your profit looks like. And while it may be easy to pull out your profit and loss statement to find the answer, I would encourage you to take a look at your balance sheet as well. It’s capable of painting a detailed picture of your business and is a great tool that can help you make sound financial decisions for your business.

Before you make any decisions that could impact your business’s financial stability, make sure these six items on your balance sheet are accurate.

  • Cash Reconciliation
    • Check to make sure that all cash has been reconciled and make special note of checks that have remained uncashed for an extended period of time.
    • Verify that all checks – incoming and outgoing – have been recorded, and their status tracked.
  • Collectability of accounts receivable
    • Does your business currently have any bad debts? If so, have you taken the necessary actions to determine that the account in question is uncollectable?
    • Once an account is uncollectable, take the steps needed to prove that determination and receive the benefit from it.
  • Accurate Inventory
    • The end of the year is an ideal time to take a physical inventory.
    • An inaccurate inventory can greatly impact your profit – not to mention your ability to properly manage your resources.
  • New/Disposed Fixed Assets
    • Be sure to add all new assets (equipment, fixtures, etc.) to the correct accounts. Don’t let them become buried in your purchases.
    • If you are planning to sell your company in the next 5-10 years, it is extremely important to keep an accurate record of your assets because they can help determine your asking/selling price.
  •  Liabilities
    • Keep a current record of all your liabilities and update it regularly to maintain accuracy.
    • Make sure that all debts are tracked and recorded.
  • Member Draws
    • Check to make sure that your member withdrawal account is accurate. If there are any expenses you expected to see but didn’t, investigate and find out why.
    • If after year end you happen to find personal expenses that were in regular expenses, your profit increases and so do your taxes.

Your company’s profit is not just a number. Your profit is determined by a wide range of factors – and these are just a few. If you are really want to lower your taxes, make sure your bookkeeping is accurate before developing a plan.

Email Rea & Associates to discover more ways to increase your business’s profitability.

By Joel Yoder, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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The Tax Professional’s Christmas List

Lisa Beamer | December 12th, 2014

Move Over Santa, This One’s For Congress

While the holidays typically bring about feelings of joy and comfort, they can also be a time of stress. And as the year comes to a close, many individuals are left to frantically resolve a number of tasks that they had hoped would be completed before the end of 2014 – yet they are still lingering on their to-do lists.

If tax professionals across the country were to compose a letter this holiday season, it wouldn’t be sent to Santa. Instead, it would pass over the North Pole en route to Washington D.C. – and it would be addressed to the members of the United States Congress.

This year, all we want for Christmas is for our congressional leaders to extend the more than 50 tax provisions that were left to expire at the end of 2013 – before the end of the year. Failure to do so could have a negative impact on the 2015 tax season.

While it is possible for Congress to wait until the New Year to enact these provisions next month, a retroactive approach would ultimately hurt the IRS, tax professionals and software providers. This is why it is so important for the provisions to be extended before Dec. 31.

Furthermore, postponing this legislative action could postpone the start of the 2015 tax season, which would delay refunds to millions of American taxpayers.

What tax provisions are at risk?

Individual tax payers are at risk of losing:

  • A $250 above-the-line tuition deduction
  • An election to deduct state and local sales tax
  • Tax-free charitable distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • The private mortgage insurance (PMI) itemized deduction
  • The energy efficient home improvement tax credit

Popular business tax benefits at risk of disappearing include:

  • The work opportunity tax credit
  • A research credit
  • The Section 179 expensing limit
  • Bonus depreciation

This holiday season, it is our hope that Congress will move quickly to resolve this issue in a way that is favorable for American tax payers. Doing so would not only provide the IRS and tax professionals with the time they need to prepare for the 2015 tax season; such legislative action would help promote the financial wellbeing of the American taxpayers.

Would you like to discuss tax planning options for yourself or your business? Email Rea & Associates to speak with a tax professional today. Will you want help filing your 2014 business taxes and/or personal taxes? Would you like a little extra help preparing for the 2015 tax season, our tax experts will work with you to make your experience as worry-free and seamless as possible.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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New Year, New Mileage Rates

Lesley Mast | December 11th, 2014

Every mile you drive for business will be worth a little more next year, according to a recent IRS announcement. Beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the optional standard mileage rate for those calculating the deductible costs of driving for business will be 57.5 cents, which is up from 56 cents.

Based on a study of the fixed and variable costs associated with operating an automobile, the standard mileage rates take into consideration vehicle depreciation, insurance, repairs, maintenance, gas, etc. However, if you don’t intend on tracking your mileage, you also have the option of claiming deductions based on the actual costs of using your own vehicle rather than the standard mileage rates. Just be aware that you will not be allowed to claim both.

For example, if you have plans of claiming an accelerated depreciation on your vehicle, then you will not be able to claim the business standard mileage rate as well. If you are a business owner, you should also note that the standard rate is not available to fleet owners, or those who use more than four vehicles simultaneously. Additional details and rules can be found in Revenue Procedure 2010-51.

While the standard mileage rate for the business miles you drive will increase in 2015, those who use their vehicles for medical or moving purposes will see a reduction of half a cent in their mileage rates. Starting Jan. 1, the miles you drive for medical or moving purposes will be calculated at 23 cents per mile driven. And those driving their vehicles as a service to charitable organizations may calculate their deductions at 14 cents per mile driven.

Also in its announcement, the IRS noted an adjustment to the standard automobile cost allowable under the fixed and variable rate (FAVR) plan, which considers the costs taxpayers incur by driving their own vehicles for work-related purposes. In 2015, standard automobile costs may not exceed $28,200 or $30,800 for trucks and vans.

Do you use your vehicle for business? Make sure you track of your mileage. Every mile you travel is an opportunity to realize real tax savings. Our expert financial advisors can help professionals like you find opportunities you never even knew existed. Email Rea & Associates today and start the New Year out right.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Save More For Retirement in 2015

Paul McEwan | December 2nd, 2014

As you work to secure your retirement, you may be pleased to find out about changes to several retirement-related items that may allow you to put a little more cash away in 2015. In October, the IRS announced several adjustments to the limitations previously set on retirement planning tools as a result of an increased cost-of-living. So what does that mean to you and your retirement plan(s) of choice? Take a look:

  • If you contribute to a 401(k), 403(b), 457 plan or a Thrift Savings Plan, the following changes could impact how you contribute:

-        You can now invest up to $18,000 annually – this is an increase up from $17,500.

-        If you’re 50 years old or older and are trying to catch-up on your retirement savings, you may now invest $6,000 annually. The previous catch-up contribution limit was $5,500.

  • If you contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA), you will see the following changes in 2015:

-        The annual limit and additional catch-up contribution limit for an IRA for individuals 50 years old and older will not change in 2015. The annual contribution is $5,500 and the catch-up contribution is $1,000.

-        Single filers and heads of household who are covered by a workplace retirement plan and have adjusted gross incomes (AGI) between $61,000 and $71,000 will no longer be eligible to receive a deduction for contributing to their traditional IRA. This has increased from $60,000 and $70,000 in 2014.

-        Married couples who file jointly, where one spouse makes an IRA contribution that is covered by a workplace retirement plan, will see an increased income phase-out range for taking the deduction as well. The new range is $98,000-$118,000 – up from $96,000-$116,000.

-        If you’re an IRA contributor, not covered by a workplace retirement plan, but are married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if you and your spouse’s income falls between $183,000 and $193,000 – up from $181,000 and $191,000.

-        The phase-out range for a married taxpayer who files a separate return and who is covered by a workplace retirement plan will not change in 2015. The range remains $0 to $10,000.

  • If you make contributions to a Roth IRA, you will see the following changes:

-        The phase-out range for married couples filing jointly is $183,000 to $193,000 – an increase from $181,000 to $191,000.

-        The phase-out range for single filers and heads of household is $116,000 to $131,000 – an increase from $114,000 to $129,000.

-        The phase-out range for a married individual who files a separate return is unchanged.

As we approach the end of the year, there’s not a better time to evaluate your current retirement plan situation and determine if you need to make any changes for 2015. To learn more about how these retirement plan changes could impact your financial situation, email Rea & Associates.

By Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Employers Must File Taxes, Make Payments Electronically

Lisa Beamer | December 2nd, 2014

Starting this January, employers filing in the state of Ohio will be required to use the Ohio Business Gateway (OBG) to file and remit payment for state and school district income tax withholding returns, according to the Ohio Department of Taxation. The new rule was finalized earlier this month and will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The OBG Electronic Filing system was established to save Ohio time and money by simplifying business’ relationships with government agencies while providing them with an easier means to comply with regulatory requirements.  However, it is understood that some employers may not be able to use the electronic filing system at this time, which prompted the department to allow some preparers to opt out of the requirement if they can establish a valid reason for why they are unable to comply. To opt out of the department’s new rule, employers must provide the department with the following information on form WT OOR, including their:

  • Business name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Employer withholding number and Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN)
  • Withholding type
  • Detailed reason for the request to be excluded from electronic filing and payment provisions.

“Preparers seeking to opt out of electronic filing must present strongly compelling reasons to justify the waiver of the requirement,” the department states in the Frequently Asked Questions page of its website. “Preparers filing tax returns with the state of Ohio should plan to comply with the electronic filing mandate and not assume that their request to opt out will be granted.” Anyone may apply to be excused from the electronic filing requirement and permitted to file their return by non-electronic means. However, if approval is given, it is only valid for one year. Preparers are required to resubmit their requests annually. The opt out request form can be found on the “Forms” portal of the department’s website or by calling 888.405.4039 – option 1. Otherwise, you can register or log in to use the Ohio Business Gateway, click here. Additional assistance with navigation, filing a return and/or remitting payment, can be found by visiting the Self Help eLibrary. Email Rea & Associates to learn how you can stay in compliance with these new filing requirements and lessen the stress of filing and paying your state and school district withholding returns.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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New Adjustments Will Affect Your 2015 Tax Return

Lesley Mast | November 18th, 2014

The calendar may still say 2014, but the IRS is already looking ahead to 2016 – when you will file your 2015 tax returns. In doing so, it recently announced slight adjustments to more than 40 tax provisions to account for inflation. So, what can you expect? The adjustments are outlined fully in Revenue Procedure 2014-61, but a few points that may be of special interest include:

  • The new 39.6 tax rate. This rate will affect those who are single with income that exceeds $413,200, which is up from $406,750. Those who are married filing jointly will be affected if their income exceeds $464,850 – up from $457, 600. You can check out a great break down of the other tax rate increases here.
  • A slight standard deduction increase. Those who are single, or married filing separately, can expect their standard deduction to be $6,300 – up from $6,200. Married couples filing jointly will see standard deductions increase to $12,600 – up from $12,400.
  • Increasing elective contribution limits. In 2015, taxpayers will be allowed to defer $18,000 to your 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan. The deferral limit in 2014 was $17,500. The catch-up contribution limit for employees who are 50 and older will increase to $6,000 – up from the 2014 rate of $5,500.

You can read the full IRS article here. Navigating tax rate and IRS procedure changes can be difficult – not to mention time consuming. To get more information on how you may be impacted by these adjustments, email Rea & Associates.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Manage Your Business’s Ethical Framework After You’re Gone

Cathy Troyer | November 18th, 2014

While the reasons for drafting an ethical will may seem more personal than business-related, an ethical will can be an effective way for business owners to pass along their vision for the future of their company after they are gone.

A properly drafted last will and testament is critical to ensure your estate’s financial well-being. Perhaps equally important is your responsibility to manage your intellectual assets, including knowledge and ethical values. An ethical will, also known as a legacy letter, is a way for you to pass along information to family, friends, colleagues and even communities.

Ethical wills have been around for many centuries. They were very prevalent in Medieval Times, but lost much of their popularity in modern times. Over the past couple of decades, they have regained their popularity.

While a last will and testament details how a person’s possessions will be distributed after death, an ethical will is a way to pass on a person’s values, hopes, dreams and life lessons – among other viewpoints. Though an ethical will is not a legal document, Business Week has described it as an aid to estate planning.

What should I include in my ethical will?

  • Your personal values – the importance of honesty, integrity and personal responsibility.
  • Your views on work ethic, dedication to one’s chosen profession and work-life balance.
  • Your views on charitable giving and community responsibility.
  • How to develop and cultivate personal and business relationships.
  • Your hopes and dreams for your spouse, children and other family members.
  • Anything that you have learned in life and would like to pass on to others.

When should I draft my ethical will?

  • Marriage
  • Birth of a child
  • Children leaving for college
  • When drafting a succession plan for your business
  • End of life
  • Or anytime

An ethical will can be an integral part of your overall estate plan, so consider putting one together today!

By Cathy Troyer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Retirees Get Cranky Over Tax Returns

Lee Beall | November 4th, 2014

Tax preparation and tax payments often become MORE complicated in retirement. Why? Because retirement taxation is new for a retiree so there’s a learning curve. Here are a few cliff notes to help new retirees navigate these uncharted waters:

Social Security

The money you receive from Social Security will likely be taxable. Fifteen percent of your Social Security benefit is a return on your lifetime payroll deductions and your employer’s match. Eighty-five percent of your Social Security is the excess benefit payment, or “growth,” in your benefit account and, thus, your untaxed benefit. That 85 percent may be taxable depending on the amount of your other income. This calculation is complex and the tax is difficult to avoid, but it is possible.

IRA Distributions

You must take your IRA distributions when you have reached the age of 70-½. The Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) can be managed and will impact your taxable Social Security. Planning is essential.

Capital Gains

As your lifetime investments are sold to help pay for retirement, capital gains is another obstacle to overcome. Here are a few tips to make them more manageable:

  • It may take a little time, but document when you bought those investments and what you paid for them. Once your record is complete, give the information to your broker to record in your investment account statement.
  • If you own your investments directly, gather them up and put them into an investment account to simplify your tracking, cost barriers, tax preparation and estate administration.

Itemized deductions

The good news is that you have likely paid off your mortgage. The bad news is that you may no longer exceed the standard deduction to itemize. So then why do you keep tracking medical bills if you can’t itemize? “Bunching” deductions may be a planning option. For example, every OTHER year, I have my Mom pay her real estate taxes, Ohio tax estimates and charitable contributions she made during the year. Then I have her prepay next year’s real estate taxes, charitable contributions and Ohio estimated taxes in December. That doubles her itemized expenses and raises her total above the standard deduction. Then, I have her take an additional IRA distribution equal to the excess itemized deductions. That excess distribution equates to a tax-free payment because it is offset by the excess itemized expenses! This option is available to you too!

Estimated tax

You are required to calculate and pay your income tax by managing your social security and IRA retirement tax withholding, along with quarterly tax estimate payments. You must project and declare your taxable income by April 15 in the new-year. And remember, there are NO excuses for not paying them on time.

Complexities You Can Avoid

  1. Watch those managed stock accounts. The amount of programmed buying and selling creates more work for your CPA and will raise your tax preparation fee. Ask yourself if that activity really did make you more money after the incurred income tax and preparation fee. If it didn’t, revisit your managed stock accounts.
  2. Understand the publicly-traded LLCs recommended by your broker and know that you may need to extend your tax return because of the K-1 you will receive to report the income. Your preparation fee will be raised as well. Again, if you didn’t make any money after the incurred taxes and preparation fee, is it really worth it to continue?

The transition into retirement is not easy. Unfortunately, your money management and tax filing won’t be easier either. Our tax experts are always happy to answer any question you may have. Email Rea & Associates to learn more about your options for managing your retirement.

Author: Lee Beall, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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Nonprofit Service Is Voluntary, Workers Comp Coverage Is Not

Maribeth Wright | November 3rd, 2014

Did you know that the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) expects you to provide workers compensation coverage to your nonprofit’s board of directors? And while the bureau hasn’t heavily enforced this guideline in the past, you can expect to see more enforcement of the rule in the future.

We recently caught up with a BWC representative to validate a letter one of our clients received pertaining to this issue. The conversation was valuable because we were able to walk away with some important pieces of information that, over time, had either been forgotten or ignored by many in the nonprofit sector.

Even though your board of directors may not receive a paycheck for the time and resources they have put in to your organization, they are likely on the front lines when it comes to managing the organization’s volunteers, finances, events and other initiatives. In other words – they are “working” for you.

“Active executive officers of a corporation, except for an individual incorporated as a corporation or officers of a family farm corporation, are considered employees for workers’ compensation purposes,” the bureau states in its Coverage Information by Employee Types.

Here are four facts nonprofit organizations need to know to avoid issues with the BWC:

  1. An organization’s officers are always considered employees of the organization. Even if an individual receives no pay, officer status indicates that they’re responsible for regular organizational work. Therefore, they are identified as an employee by the BWC, not a volunteer.
  2. Individuals who perform volunteer, non-emergency services for private employers (including nonprofits) are not covered under the BWC’s compensation policy.
  3. Since the BWC identifies those who hold an office with nonprofit organizations as employees, the nonprofit organization is responsible for reporting all wages paid to officers to the BWC, as well as to the IRS.
  4. You must pay the minimum reportable amount even if you have an “all-volunteer board.” However, non-officer board members are not subject to these rules.

Email Rea & Associates today to learn more about the BWC’s compliance requirements. The sooner you understand your compliance requirements, the sooner you can get back to focusing on doing more for your communities, families and causes your organization cares about.

By: Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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The Totalization Conundrum: Tax Tips for Employees Abroad

Ben Jonard | October 31st, 2014

Taxes are confusing enough when geography isn’t a factor. Now imagine that you are accepting a short-term opportunity as an independent contractor overseas. Do you have any tax obligations while you are away? If so, how should these obligations be managed? Is there a difference between working as an independent contractor overseas versus working as an independent contractor in the United States?

Someone recently reached out to us to find answers to these questions. We researched her question a little further to arrive at the following conclusion: yes – on all counts.

As an independent contractor working overseas for a short period of time you will:

  • Owe self-employment tax
  • Have to pay advanced taxes (i.e. make estimated payments)

In fact, if you are an American citizen, it does not matter if the work you complete is inside or outside the United States, your tax obligations are universal regardless of where in the world you are staying.

That said, the bigger question becomes, will the income you generate be taxed more than once. The answer to this question is: maybe.

For example, if you are working in India, you may be expected to pay into India’s social security program. The good news is that the U.S. has made agreements with many nations to prohibit multiple tax practices from occurring. For income tax purposes, these agreements are called Tax Treaties. When the issue pertains to Social Security purposes, they are called Totalization Agreements.

Why Are Totalization Agreements Important?

A Totalization Agreement is meant to improve Social Security protection for those who have worked (or are working) in multiple countries. The agreement essentially provides a way to manage how taxes are distributed and how workers are credited for the progress made toward their Social Security benefits (or similar programs abroad) between the two or more countries in which the employee has worked.

Again, using India as the example, because no Totalization Agreement exists, a U.S. citizen working in India should be prepared to pay in to each country’s social security program. This isn’t the case in countries where Totalization Agreements are in place.

A U.S. citizen working in the Canadian Province of Quebec, as an independent contractor, for example, would only be obligated to pay U.S. Social Security taxes. In this example, a Totalization Agreement between Quebec and America would also mean:

  • A self-employed American citizen working in Quebec would not have to pay in to Quebec’s social security program.
  • The taxes and Social Security accumulated by an employee of an American company working in Quebec would be distributed by the American company to the U.S. government.

You can learn more about the Totalization Agreement between the United States and Quebec here. Or you can view a list of countries with Totalization Agreements in place with the U.S. here.

Additional Deductions Are Available

Even though Americans working in India may be required to pay into social security programs in both countries, a Tax Treaty protects U.S. citizens from paying income taxes to both countries. Additionally, there are other ways to find tax savings as an employee working overseas.

  • Even though you may be required to pay into the county’s social security program, this cost can likely be deducted per the foreign tax credit, which was established to assist American taxpayers who find themselves working from countries where Totalization Agreements are not in place – such as India.
  • If you are planning a temporary absence from your tax home in the U.S. for business, your away-from-home expenses may also be deductible. So keep track of your travel, meal and lodging costs.

If you are an American working overseas who is struggling with the tax obligations between your country of residence and your country of employment, email Rea & Associates today. Our tax professionals will help you identify your tax obligations while you are abroad and can help you successfully deduct business-related expenses on your next tax return.

Author: Ben Jonard (Dublin office)

 

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Are You Prepared To Pay?: Obamacare’s Shared Responsibility Provision

Joe Popp | October 21st, 2014

American businesses have been feeling the push and pull of Obamacare on their bottom lines for a while. Now, it’s time for individuals who chose to forego health insurance coverage to see what the individual shared responsibility provision has in store for them. If you did not have insurance coverage in 2014, you may need to send a little more money to the IRS when you go to file your 2014 federal tax return.

The individual shared responsibility provision became active in 2014 and, absent an exemption, requires individuals to pay a fee into the system if they choose not to carry health care insurance.

An exemption may be granted if:

  • The minimum cost for your premiums totals over 8 percent of your household’s total income.
  • You have had a gap in your health insurance coverage for less than three consecutive months.
  • You have a hardship that prevented you from obtaining coverage.
  • You are a member of certain religious groups (e.g. Amish) and you have Supplemental Security Income (SSI) exemption on file.
  • There are several other criteria and fine print you can see here.

According to the IRS, your shared responsibility payment for 2014 will either be “the greater of one percent of the household’s income above the income filing threshold for your tax filing status, or a flat dollar amount of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (under the age of 18) – but no more than $285 per family. The individual shared responsibility payment is also capped at the cost of the national average premium for bronze level health plans available through the health insurance marketplace that would cover everyone in your family who does not have minimum essential coverage and does not qualify for an exemption – for example, $12,240 for a family of five.”  This fee will increase in future years.

As you prepare to file your 2014 federal tax return, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You must make the IRS aware of whether your household had minimum essential coverage for each month in 2014. This can be done by checking a box identified on your tax return document.
  • If your household qualified for an exemption in 2014, an additional form must be attached to your tax return, which will provide the IRS with the information needed to approve the exemption claim.
  • Those required to make an individual shared responsibility payment, must make the payment when you submit your federal tax return to the IRS.

If you’re unsure whether you qualify for an exemption or need help calculating how much you will owe to the government when making your shared responsibility payment, email Rea & Associates. We can help you determine how the shared responsibility provision will affect you.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin)

 

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Ready, Set, Download: IRS2Go Mobile App 2014

Kelly Leslie | October 20th, 2014

In June, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) made the 2014 version of IRS2Go available to mobile users. This free app can help you stay on top of your federal income tax refund. You can also request your tax return or account transcript or receive tips and updates from the IRS via the app.

Benefits of IRS2GO App

Compatible with Apple and Android devices, the IRS2Go mobile app has been redesigned and includes several new and updated features, such as:

  • IRS2Go makes it easier for individuals to check their refunds at a time that’s convenient for them. To get there, just click on “Refund Status,” enter your Social Security Number (which is masked for security purposes), then select your filing status and the amount of your anticipated refund. The new “status tracker” allows users to identify where their return is in the tax return process. NOTE: Returns filed electronically can be viewed 24 hours after the return was received by the IRS. Paper returns take longer to process and can take up to four weeks before their status is available to view.
  • Another helpful feature is your ability to request your tax records or your account transcript. While, for security reasons, the records cannot be viewed immediately on your Smartphone or device, the request will be processed and your records will be delivered promptly to the address on record.
  • If you need help preparing your tax return, IRS2Go helps users find IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs by simply entering a ZIP code and mileage range.
  • Users also have the opportunity to stay connected, view more content and interact directly with IRS on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or by signing up for email updates.

To download the IRS2Go app on your Apple iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch device, visit the iTunes app store. To download IRS2Go on your Android devise, visit the Google Play store.
By Kelly Leslie, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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‘Ghost Assets’ Haunting Your Business?

Christopher Axene | October 7th, 2014

The IRS recently issued taxpayer-friendly guidance regarding the disposition of a component of real or personal property.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, taxpayers are required to capitalize certain amounts paid to acquire, produce or improve real or tangible personal property during the year and that is used for a trade, business or for the production of income. However, prior to the issuance of new regulations in 2013 taxpayers were unable to write-off the remaining cost of a component of a larger asset or building that was repaired or replaced (e.g. a roof). In fact, under the old rules, it was not uncommon for business owners to be required to depreciate “ghost assets” – assets that were removed or replaced by the taxpayer and are no longer in service.

The good news is that the IRS has changed its mind on these, so-called, “partial dispositions.”

So, What’s Changing?

Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, taxpayers were able to deduct the remaining cost of such components in the year they were replaced/repaired by making an election on their tax return.

Additionally, the IRS allowed taxpayers to apply the regulations to dispositions that had already happened in prior years as long as the ghost assets were still being depreciated.

What was unclear until recently was how a taxpayer could effectively make the election on a retroactive basis given that businesses were required to file their 2013 year tax returns before the IRS had issued definitive guidance.

The IRS’ Response

The IRS officially announced a specific revenue procedure that provides a limited opportunity for taxpayers to write-off assets that were disposed of during a prior year. The guidance outlines the procedures necessary for taxpayers to secure the write-off, as well as what documents they should include when filing their request. If you do plan to write off a ghost asset from a previous year, you must make plans do so now as this retroactive election opportunity is time sensitive. Taxpayers who miss this opportunity will be required to continue depreciating these ghost assets. For some, this means that you could be depreciating ghost assets for another 15-20 years.

Are you a business owner who is still paying the IRS for assets that you no longer have or that have been replaced? Do you want to learn more about the IRS’s new rules on ghost assets and how they can impact your business? Email Rea & Associates to find out if you can write off ghost assets that continue to haunt your business.

Author: Chris Axene, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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To Shred Or Not To Shred: That Is The Question … Ask Your Financial Advisor

Joe Popp | October 6th, 2014

Are you wondering what to do with all those tax documents and records you have piling up around your office or in your computer files? Are you thinking about wiping them from your company’s hard drive or sending them to the shredder? Not so fast. The IRS has several rules when it comes to how long your business should keep its records. Make sure you are up to date on the current records retention schedule before you permanently delete something important.

Generally speaking, records that support your income or deduction claims for tax return purposes should be kept until the period of limitations for a particular tax return expires. The “period of limitations” is defined as the period of time the IRS gives you to change information on your return, particularly when the information relates to a refund or credit you have claimed. Also, just because you aren’t planning to make any changes to your tax return doesn’t mean the IRS won’t. Therefore it’s in your best interest to keep your documents until the IRS can no longer assess additional taxes or request additional information from you.

Below is a quick reference guide pertaining to some common records your office has been collecting over the years and how long you should keep them.

Records You Should Keep Permanently:

  • Copyright registration
  • Correspondence (legal and important matters)
  • Deeds, mortgages, bills of sale
  • Depreciation schedules
  • Financial statements (end-of-year)
  • General and private ledgers (and end-of-year trial balances)
  • Insurance records, current accident reports, claims, policies, etc.
  • Minute books for director and stockholder (including bylaws and charter)
  • Property appraisals by outside appraisers
  • Retirement and pension records
  • Tax returns and worksheets, revenue agent’s reports and other documents relating to determination of income tax, sales tax, or payroll tax liability

Records That Should Be Retained For At Least Seven Years:

  • Accident reports and claims (settled cases)
  • Accounts payable/receivable ledgers and schedules
  • Expense analyses and expense distribution schedules
  • Garnishments
  • Inventories of products, materials and supplies
  • Plant cost ledgers
  • Telephone logs/message books
  • Time books/cards
  • Withholding tax statements
  • Employee payroll records (W-2, W-4, annual earnings, etc.)

Records That Can Be Destroyed After Three Years:

  • Bank deposit slips
  • Employment records
  • General correspondence
  • Internal work orders
  • Production and sales reports
  • Sales commission reports

If the records you are looking for aren’t listed above, you can find additional record retention recommendations in our current record retention schedule.

IMPORTANT: The actual amount of time you are required to keep a specific document may be longer depending on your business or what is contained in the document. If you have questions about specific documents or would like some advice on your current record retention practices, email Rea & Associates.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

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From Good To Great: 5 Ways You Can Improve Your Manufacturing Business

Kyle Stemple | October 3rd, 2014

Today, millions of hard-working men and women will celebrate Manufacturing Day across our nation. United in their mission to address common misperceptions about the industry, manufacturers will rally together to take charge of the industry’s public image, address the industry’s skilled labor shortage and promote the ongoing prosperity of manufacturing throughout the U.S.

Manufacturing has always been the backbone of Ohio – and Rea has been proud to support many companies throughout the state. In recognition of Manufacturing Day, here are five ways you, as a manufacturer, can overcome challenges facing your industry.

Be The Leader You Want to Be. 

As a seasoned manufacturer, you know your business inside and out – when there is a problem, you provide a solution; when a ball drops, you pick it up. If this sounds like you, then it’s time to get out of your comfort zone. If you always find yourself in the middle of daily business operations, you’re unlikely to get out in front of opportunities that could maximize your company’s long-term value. Be the leader your company needs. Stop putting out fires. Instead, make waves.

Tell Your Story, Invest In People. 

The manufacturing industry has had its share of problems when it comes to attracting and retaining a talented workforce, but you can alter how people think about a career in manufacturing by simply sharing your own stories and experiences. Unless you take the time to personally promote the manufacturing industry, your would-be employees may incorrectly associate the industry with unprofessional, dead-end jobs in dirty factories. Get out and connect with local vocational schools and other educational entities and community groups to tell your story.

Embrace A Strategy; Minimize Risk. 

Every company should have a strategic plan. From financial objectives to operational goals, your strategic plan should provide your workforce with an overview of the company’s operational and growth initiatives. Formal plans should also address the company’s budget and financial forecast. Proper utilization of these plans will help you reap optimal results by providing you with the information needed to make better decisions. Below are initiatives you can include in your strategy to gain greater insight into the industry and to learn how you can better manage your current financial and operational objectives.

  • Benchmarking is a proactive way to stay in line with, or ahead of, the competition. It’s important for you to understand how your company stacks up against the competition, as well as gain insight into current trends, future opportunities and potential risks.
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs) are critical to the management of your daily operations. In order for you to deliver results, you and your management team must understand the resources you are working with and how you are affected. Key indicators also provide management with insight into production and can alert leaders to potential areas of risk.
  • Get to know your ERP system. Many companies have implemented some type of enterprise resource planning (ERP) system in the hopes of streamlining their accounting, production, benchmarking and KPI efforts. Unfortunately, many are unable to actually use the system in the way they would like. You must take control of your ERP system and insist the vendor meet with your team to set up the ERP system in a way that makes sense to your company. An ERP system that is set up properly will provide your company with the data you need to manage your business more effectively.
  • Understand your cost structure. For example, understanding what it costs to make, distribute and/or sell each unit of each product line, will give you a better grasp of how much you’re spending on material, labor and overhead, which will better equip you to allocate your efforts and resources. Unfortunately, many managers don’t understand the company’s cost structure, which puts the company at risk of losing money in the long run.

Back-Up For Safety. 

Many companies in the manufacturing industry have taken steps to embrace technology and have added hardware and software to help collect data and streamline workflow; however, with the introduction of new programs and equipment comes the introduction of additional risks. Some companies have chosen to back-up their information as a way to avoid losing important data, but if the back-up isn’t tested, there is no guarantee that it will actually work. Unfortunately, some companies lose critical data simply because they fail to test the back-up.

Consider Going Lean. 

The manufacturing industry underwent a significant transformation in the 90s with the wide-spread practice of Lean Six Sigma, which helps companies become more efficient and effective by introducing better processes throughout the organization. Many companies, however, have yet to incorporate Lean Six Sigma into their operations. Much has changed over the course of two decades and new uses for Lean Six Sigma have been discovered and applied to additional departments outside of just the manufacturing floor, the service and transactional functions of businesses have really benefited. You should consider Lean Six Sigma as a way to become more efficient and effective in every aspect of their business. Especially while the industry struggles to attract new talent, Lean Six Sigma may be just your company needs when you need to do more with less.

These are just a few examples of challenges facing the manufacturing industry where a trusted advisor can help you navigate through possible solutions. If you own a company in the manufacturing industry or if you want to explore ways to improve your business’s efficiency, effectiveness, profitability and risk management systems, email Rea & Associates. Our team is passionate about helping manufacturers reach new heights, mitigate risks and attract and retain employees.

Author: Kyle Stemple, CPA, Director of Manufacturing Services (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Ohio Prepares For Year Three Of Its Workforce Training Voucher Program

Josh Carlisle | September 23rd, 2014

The State of Ohio announced that it will launch its third round of the Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program. As in previous years, the state has upped the ante.

This time around businesses will have a chance to claim a piece of $29.4 million, which will allow Ohio’s employers to enhance the skills of their workforce. That’s the good news. The bad news however, is that you have to be quick if your business has a desire to claim any portion of these funds. We expect all of the training dollars to be claimed within hours of the application going live at 10 a.m. on Sept. 30.

According to the state, the funds are to be made available on a first-come, first-served basis. Employers can apply for a credit that will reimburse them up to 50 percent of eligible training costs – which could mean the business could be reimbursed up to $4,000 per employee. Training performed between Aug. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2015, qualifies for the third round of the Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program – meaning that employers have the option to apply vouchers to training that has already taken place.

Similar to round two of the program, a pre-application process is available. The period to complete this process began Sept. 15, and will continue until the application officially goes live on Sept. 30. Pre-application allows employers to enter as much information and specific details as possible. Then, the minute the application goes live; all you need to do is log on to your account and submit it. Because we expect all funds to be accounted for within the first few hours of the application going live, we urge businesses to take time to complete the pre-application process as soon as possible.

What Is Considered Eligible Training?

  • Classes at an accredited education institution
  • Training that leads to an industry recognized certificate
  • Training provided in conjunction with the purchase of a new piece of equipment
  • Upgrading computer skills (e.g. Excel, Access)
  • Training for the ICD-10-CM/PCS diagnostics classification system
  • Training from national, regional or state trade associations that offers certified training
  • Training for improved process efficiency (e.g. ISO-9000, Six Sigma, or Lean Manufacturing)
  • HR Certification – limited to HR staff only

What Companies Can Apply?

For-profit entities located in Ohio and that operate in one of the following industries are eligible to apply for the Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program.

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Aerospace and Aviation
  • Automotive
  • Bio Health
  • Energy
  • Financial Services
  • Food Processing
  • Information Technology and Services
  • Polymers and Chemical
  • Research and Development
  • Companies with a Corporate Headquarters in Ohio (with limited availability of funds)

The Importance Of Pre-Application:

If your business wants to have a chance at claiming any of these dollars, it is imperative that you complete the pre-application. Your objective should be to simply log on to the page on Sept. 30 to formally submit your application. It is so important to carefully and completely fill out the pre-application form with as many specific details about the proposed training as possible. If you will apply, or think you may qualify and would like to apply, do your homework now.

If you would like help determining if your business is eligible for the program or if you want more information, email Rea & Associates.

Author: Josh Carlisle (New Philadelphia office)

 

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IRS Says You Owe More? Don’t Write That Check Yet!

Clay Rose | September 23rd, 2014

Tax season can be rough for any business. Just about the time you allow yourself to move on to something else and breathe a sigh of relief … it happens. You sift through your mail and find yourself staring face-to-face with a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In a matter of seconds your adrenaline levels are through the roof. You know that what’s inside the envelope isn’t a simple thank-you note for filing your taxes on time. You carefully tear it open.

Nobody likes to hear that they have to pay more to the IRS than they originally thought. But, before you jump to conclusions and quickly write out a check for the amount the letter says you owe:

  • Stop
  • Take a deep breath
  • Call your financial advisor

4 Tips For Resolving Your Tax Dispute

Believe it or not, the IRS does make mistakes. Agents can accidentally input incorrect information, computers can misread data and tax codes can be inadvertently overlooked or misinterpreted. It happens. If you believe that the IRS was wrong in a decision it made about your business’s tax returns, follow these four steps to reach a resolution.

  1. Follow Instructions. Sometimes the easiest way to resolve the issue is to follow the instructions. Sounds easy enough, but not everybody gets this part right. If the IRS sent you a notice, look for the section that explains what to do if you disagree with their decision and follow directions. Additionally, be sure to attach any supporting documentation and mail it back to the address given by the deadline requested. After the IRS has made its decision, you will be notified via U.S. Mail. When in doubt, opt to send inquiries to the IRS via certified mail and request a receipt.
  2. Make The Call. If your initial challenge was rejected, your next step is to follow up with a phone call. The rejection notice you received should have included another important piece of information: the contact name and number of the IRS employee who rejected your challenge. When you call, in a polite and professional manner, ask to speak to the employee’s manager. Even though you are passing over the employee on the chain of command, take care not to say anything about why you are asking to speak with their supervisor. The last thing you need is to create animosity. When you finally have the opportunity to speak with a supervisor, your case should be laid out in much the same way as your original challenge. You should be clear and concise in your explanation while taking care to address any concerns that were noted by the original employee in their rejection letter. If your letter didn’t include an employee’s name and phone number, send another certified letter to a general supervisor with the agency and request that they reconsider your case.
  3. Appealing To A Higher Office. If you still haven’t convinced the IRS to change its mind, don’t give up – even if you have already mailed several letters and racked up a lot of call time with the agency. Further up the chain of command is the Office of Appeals, an independent office within the IRS. This is just one more step you have to take on your journey to find an IRS employee who agrees with your. To get your case to the Office of Appeals, follow the instructions that were found in the earlier notices. If you are unable to locate these instructions, you can find them on the IRS website.
  4. Welcome to U.S. Tax Court. Sometimes a resolution can’t be achieved in the first three steps of the appeal process. If you find yourself in this situation your final option is to take the case to the U.S. Tax Court. At this point you may be discouraged and may even question whether you should continue on with the fight, but if you still believe that the IRS is wrong it is probably in your best interest to see it out to the end.

If your dispute is less than $50,000 you will have the option to represent yourself. Similar to how a small-claims court operates, there is no jury and the judge will not hold your inexperience against you. Once court is in session you will state your case again, provide evidence and answer any questions a judge may ask about the claim. Be advised, however, that once a decision is made at this phase it is final and cannot be appealed.

Sometimes, even though you have decided that you want to move forward, an IRS attorney may offer to settle out of court for a figure less than what the IRS says you owe. If this happens, you need to decide whether you will accept the settlement or if you will move forward with presenting your case to the judge. The choice is yours.

If you find yourself at odds with the IRS over a tax issue and are not sure how to proceed, email Rea & Associates for more information.

Author: Clayton W. Rose, III, CPA

 

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Getting Back To Business: How Outsourcing May Provide Relief To Your Business

Clay Rose | September 19th, 2014

As a business owner, you have a lot to think about. Your investors, managers, employees and clients depend on you to deliver top notch products and services while keeping overhead costs low in favor of increased revenue. In fact, your business’s success can probably be attributed to your leadership skills and your knack for being able to see the big picture while bringing together all the other elements to reach a profitable conclusion. So why are you still in charge of handling your business’s accounting and bookkeeping needs when you could be so much more effective guiding your business toward further growth? Outsourcing may provide you and your business with the relief you need to get back on track.

Maybe you think your business is just too small to hire an accountant or bookkeeper or that you’re saving money by doing these jobs yourself. Perhaps you just aren’t aware of what options are available to you and your business. When you consider that the most effective solution is the one that effectively addresses your unique needs and budget, it should be no surprise that an outside accounting firm may be the answer you’ve been looking for.

Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses

The cost of hiring a full-time accountant or bookkeeper is a huge concern for many small business owners. To avoid a large expense, many owners or managers will purchase a copy of QuickBooks and try to work through their accounts themselves. Unfortunately, even if they have basic accounting skills, they may not have the patience, expertise and experience to handle the work. If done incorrectly, accounting flaws can be very costly, and could result in catastrophic consequences for your business.

Proper accounting and bookkeeping is essential to the short- and long-term success of your business. Outsourcing your accounting and bookkeeping work can help ensure accuracy and will free you up to focus on future growth, higher efficiency and increased sales. Below are a few examples of how outsourcing can solve your small business challenges.

***

Issue: Your business is relatively small (with a similar budget), and you can’t justify bringing on a full-time accountant.

Solution: Hiring an in-house accountant could turn out to be a hefty expense, especially if the quantity of work is relatively minimal throughout most of the year. Not only do you have to pay the new employee a living wage and benefits, you must be prepared to invest in the software and/or training a new accountant needs. By filtering work to an outsourced controller, you will have access to affordable, ongoing or as needed reporting. As a result, your management team will become more flexible and will have more data – and thus more authority – when making decisions that directly affect the business.

***

Issue: You’ve already invested in QuickBooks to manage your business’s finances. It seems to be working well so far, but you haven’t been formally trained on the software.

Solution: While QuickBooks is easy to use, sufficient supervision by someone who is proficient with accounting skills is essential. Without a QuickBooks expert on hand, you will have no clue as to what is going on “behind the numbers.” A trained and certified accountant can tap into the various capabilities of the software, which include the reconciliation process, accounts receivable tracking and accounts payable, etc. When your bottom line is at stake, you owe it to yourself and to your business to minimize problems that may occur. You can avoid any hiccups with the help of a CPA.

***

Issue: You don’t need all the capabilities an accounting firm offers and you don’t want to pay for a service you may never use.

Solution: Your CPA will work with you to make sure all of your accounting needs are met and that the services that are provided only address the needs of your business. Services that can be outsourced include full accounting services, oversight work and everything in between. You also have the option of expanding services if and when you need them. Outsourcing options available to you include:

  • Working with an accountant several times throughout the year to clean up your accounting and ensure a smoother year-end tax process.
  • Tasking an accountant with filing certain commercial activities and taxes on time to insure accuracy and to avoid overpaying.
  • Hiring an accountant to provide periodic financial statements to banks.
  • Utilizing an accountant as an extra set of eyes on all manner of documents. This provides you with a great system of control when ensuring the accuracy of your books.

Speak to a Rea & Associates CPA to find out how an accounting firm can address your unique accounting and bookkeeping challenges while allowing you to make the best use of your time. Learn more about the services our business accounting professionals offers.

Article: Clayton W. Rose III, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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How Prepared Is Your Business For A Potential IT Disaster?

Joe Welker | September 9th, 2014

Natural disasters. Hardware meltdowns. New variants of viruses and malware. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where anything can happen. It’s critical that your business is on its toes, ready to tackle any potential disaster or crisis that may come your way. But is it? If your business’s computer systems crashed tomorrow, how easy (or even possible) would it be for your business to recover? Has your business ever given thought to a disaster recovery (DR) plan? Do you have one of these plans?

It’s National Preparedness Month. A month where government agencies and businesses alike work to educate companies and organizations about the importance of being prepared whatever may come your business’s way. In honor of this month, below are five reasons why your business should create (if you don’t have one) a disaster recovery plan

Top 5 Reasons For A IT Disaster Recovery Plan

A Gartner report estimates that only 35 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) actually have a working and comprehensive DR plan. And from its research, Gartner also found that 40 percent of SMBs that manage their networks and Internet usage in-house will have their networks hacked, and more than 50 percent won’t know they were hacked. Pretty sobering statistics, right? There are many reasons why having a DR plan is a wise business move. In fact, here are the top five reasons why a DR plan is imperative to the success of your business:

  1. You can’t control when a disaster happens – it can happen at any time. Disasters can be natural or man-made – either way, you don’t have control over when it could happen. A DR plan will help you be prepared for anything at any time.
  2. A DR plan can help you save thousands, possibly even millions, of dollars in the event of a disaster. When a disaster strikes, it’s usually not a cheap fix. Depending on its severity, many businesses’ budgets are hit quite hard. And if this is an unexpected expense, it’s that much harder to make a complete recovery.
  3. You can mitigate your losses with a DR plan. Money isn’t the only thing at stake during a disaster. Don’t forget about the trust and confidence of your customers, employees, investors, vendors – the list goes on. A DR plan can help you retain your critical audiences during a disaster.
  4. A DR plan can help you reduce confusion among your staff and audiences. When a disaster hits, imagine the confusion and uncertainty that comes with it. In some cases, it may seem like you have no control over the situation. A DR plan can help you have an organized approach to resolving the disaster.
  5. The government may require businesses within your industry to develop and utilize a DR plan. If your business handles sensitive customer information or other information that could be critical if lost, the government may require you to have a formal DR plan, which should include yearly testing of offsite back-up recovery data.

Does your business have a DR plan? If not, you need to create one. Email Rea & Associates for more information about what to include in your plan. If you already have one in place, first pat yourself on the back, and then review it to ensure that it reflects your business’s current environment. Detailed and tested plans are imperative to the successful recovery and even for the longevity of your business.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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College Costs Keeping You Up All Night? Tax Credits Could Offer Relief

Brian Kempf | September 2nd, 2014

As a parent you have spent countless hours preparing your child for adulthood. You have thumbed through your share of board books, mastered the art of singing The ABC Song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on a whim, and have racked up enough mileage driving back and forth from piano lessons, soccer games and summer camps to make a space shuttle cringe. But now it’s here. After nearly 18 years, your son or daughter has become a college student.

Many parents describe this milestone moment as bittersweet; others say they are caught off guard by feelings of anxiety and sadness. And while all parents are proud of their child’s accomplishment, it’s hard not to feel a little buyer’s remorse when you see the statement for the first semester in the mail – especially if you offered to pick up the tab.

College is not cheap, and according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), it’s only getting more costly. The NCES reported that the prices for an undergraduate to attend college at a public institution rose 40 percent between the 2001-02 and 2011-12 academic years; a student who chose to attend a private nonprofit institution saw a 28 percent increase over the same period. The report found that an average undergraduate student paid $14,300 annually for their tuition, room and board at a public institution while a student attending a private for-profit school paid $23,300 per year. And those numbers don’t include the price of books, meals, transportation, insurance, and extracurricular activities … to name a few.

Consider A Tax Credit

Don’t abandon ship just yet. Here are three tips to help give your bank account a break.

  • Utilize the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. These two tax credits could help take the edge off of your initial statement shock. If you qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, you could save up to $2,500 annually for an eligible student during their first four years of school. Because 40 percent of this credit is refundable, you may be able to get up to $1,000 of the credit as a refund. The Lifetime Learning Credit, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to claim up to $2,000 on your federal tax return and has no limit on the number of years it can be claimed. If you decide to take a credit, keep in mind that the IRS will only let you claim only one type of education tax credit per student.
  • Claim your qualified education expenses. Be sure to keep track of the expenses you paid toward tuition and student activity fees that were paid to complete enrollment. According to the IRS, you can make a claim if you paid for any of these expenses with cash, check, a credit or debit card or with money secured from a loan. If you will be taking the American Opportunity Tax Credit, expenses for books, supplies and course equipment are also considered a qualified education expense.
  • Don’t forget your 1098-T. This form, in addition to your receipts, is critical to claim a tax credit. Most schools will send this to you in the mail. Don’t be surprised if the amount on your form doesn’t match your numbers. The 1098-T doesn’t include items such as textbooks.

College doesn’t have to break the bank. To learn more about your college saving options, email Rea & Associates. Our team of tax professionals can guide you through the tax credit process and other college savings options.

Author: Brian Kempf, CPA (Millersburg)

 

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Outright Shale Sales Are Another Option For Landowners

Jim Fracker | August 26th, 2014

The work to unearth valuable minerals from the Utica and Marcellus shale deposits in Eastern Ohio continues to move forward at full speed. While many of the area’s landowners entered into mineral land leases years ago, some chose to put off the leasing process for later – it is now 2014. Several years have passed and the landowners who chose to wait are now facing a different set of choices and options concerning their land and the minerals found within.

What Has Changed?

If you’re looking to cash in on the shale boom, the traditional land/mineral lease alternative is no longer your only option. Today, some landowners are considering the outright sale of their mineral interests to an acquiring entity. While both options have their merits, this discussion is not intended to weigh the economic consequences when comparing land/mineral leasing versus the outright sale of your mineral interest. You should be aware of a few points surrounding the sale of mineral interests that may help govern your decision.

  • Outright sale agreements typically state that the landowner will agree to sell their mineral interests, specific to formation or generic, to an acquiring entity.
  • Per the agreement, the seller typically relinquishes all incidents of mineral ownership – and usually all rights to any future income streams based on the future production from the minerals in question.
  • If you choose to sell your mineral interest outright, your decision to do so may trigger tax planning opportunities, such as the “like-kind exchange” tax treatment for real estate transactions also known as the IRC1031 exchange. In other words, this particular transaction could qualify your gain from the sale of mineral interests to be deferred into the acquired “like-kind” real property. The acquired real estate must be held for trade, business or for other investment purposes.

Proceed With Caution

Before jumping the gun and making a decision based on the possibility of triggering the like-kind exchange, understand that the rules governing IRC1031 are very complex. The sale of mineral interest just adds to the complexity. It’s important that you speak with an advisor concerning a “like-kind exchange” before closing on the mineral interest sale, or the replacement property.

The like-kind exchange opportunity is not for everyone. For those who qualify, however, a mineral sale scenario with the right fact pattern coupled with a properly executed 1031 exchange could result in a significant tax planning opportunity for landowners who are seeking ways to minimize the current tax consequences.

While it’s great to have a range of choices when dealing with matters such as these, the larger selection has a tendency of making it harder to zero in on the information needed to make an informed decision. If you’re considering a land/mineral lease or an outright sale alternative, email Rea & Associates to get more information about these options.

Author: Jim Fracker, CPA (Zanesville office)

 

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Fraud Hotlines Deter Occupational Fraud

Annie Yoder | August 25th, 2014

When it comes to your business or organization, you are passionate about making sure your staff embodies your mission and objectives. You take care to select only the best candidates; and when you find them, you conduct thorough interviews, background checks and offer extensive training and timely performance reviews. Months later, now that you have invested significant resources into finding, training and polishing your new employee, you can finally rest easy knowing that you created a team dedicated to common goals and objectives – right?

Fraud Happens

In its most recent version of The Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) analyzed 1,483 cases of occupational fraud, which resulted in losses totaling more than $3 billion. Of those cases, the ACFE found that businesses with 100 employees or less are more susceptible to financial losses as a result of the three categories of occupational fraud – corruption, asset misappropriation and financial statement fraud.

Here’s A Tip

Maybe, like so many other business owners, you have already considered these facts and have taken steps to deter fraud in your own offices by establishing and implementing codes of conduct and external audits. While those measures provide a good foundation, you may be surprised to learn that of the nearly 1,500 cases of fraud that were reviewed, auditing only revealed a few instances of fraud. On the other hand, 42 percent of these cases were detected by tips. These tips were frequently reported on fraud hotlines and resulted in a 50 percent quicker response time when it came to detecting and stopping fraud.

The Value of a Fraud Hotline

Be proactive about fraud prevention, instead of reacting when you’re caught in the middle of it. A fraud reporting hotline service, such as Red Flag Reporting, has helped clients stay informed about what’s going on in their businesses. Services like Red Flag provide businesses with an opportunity to focus on building relationships, increasing revenue and improving community outreach instead of chasing down occupational fraud in the workplace.

Fraud hotlines are utilized by small and large businesses alike and can help identify and deter other types of unethical behavior before it grows out of control. Fraud hotlines can result in:

  • Fewer OSHA violations
  • Lower Workers’ Compensation costs
  • A decreased likelihood of employment practices lawsuits
  • Zero-tolerance of discrimination in the workplace

Not all employees are bad and not everybody is looking for an opportunity to financially ruin their employer. In fact, fraud hotlines are great because they prove that you are have a team made up of responsible, honest, hard-working men and women. These professionals are the eyes and ears of your business or organization and you not only depend on them to help identify instances of fraud, you need them to report issues to you before they explode into situations that severely damage your financial well-being, employee morale and reputations. By providing your team with a hotline, they will be even more inclined to provide you with a tip or two without feeling like they are rocking the boat.

Are you concerned about the potential for fraud in your organization? Email Rea & Associates to learn more about how a fraud hotline could work for you.

Author: Annie Yoder, CPA, CFE, CFF (New Philadelphia office)

 

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New Form of Malware Catching Retailers Off Guard

Joe Welker | August 25th, 2014

Last week, UPS announced that 51 of its stores were infected by point-of-sale (POS) malware that has been affecting other retailers across the U.S. In total, UPS estimates that approximately 105,000 POS transactions were comprised in the data breach, leaving many customers’ financial and contact information exposed, increasing their risk of identity theft and fraud.

POS malware, known as Backoff, was identified last week as having targeted a New Orleans restaurant, a much smaller retailer than UPS. On July 31, several government agencies sent out an alert about Backoff. The alert explained the risks that Backoff posed to U.S. businesses, including smaller merchants, and that this new form of malware was found to infect POS systems via access to a remote-access portal.

And just a few days ago, the U.S. Secret Service announced that an estimated 1,000 businesses have been infected by Backoff. Now the Department of Homeland Security is encouraging all businesses – no matter the size – to scan their POS systems to check for a possible compromise.

While these recent incidents may not affect you or your business directly, the discovery of this new form of malware should cause you to stop and assess your business’s IT security situation. Do you have the right security protocols in place to protect your business – and your customers – from a potential data breach?

How To Protect Your Business From A Data Breach

Your mind may be far from thinking about your business’s IT environment. You’re probably focused more on the day-to-day operations of your business and serving your customers. But think of protecting your business’s IT environment as one way of serving your customers. By protecting your IT systems, you are helping ensure that your customers’ personal and financial data is safe. Here are some ways you can protect your business’s IT environment:

  • Use End Point Protection monitoring to verify that all workstations are current on their virus definition files and OS patches.
  • Make sure all servers are patched with the most current operating system security patches.
  • Employ a vendor to complete penetration testing to find any open avenues to your network.
  • Consider implementing Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) or Security Information & Event Management (SIEM) applications. Many companies utilize IDS/SIEM to monitor their incoming and outgoing network traffic. If the expense is too great or you don’t have qualified personnel, then consider a vendor to provide the service. Many vendors provide these services at a very reasonable price.
  • Review the Mitigation and Prevention Strategies of the Department of Homeland Security July 31, 2014, announcement of the Backoff malware.

The Cost of Protecting Your Customers

What cost is too much to protect my customers’ data? Only you can answer this question. UPS and the restaurant have chosen to pay for identity theft and credit monitoring services for customers who may have been affected from their data breaches (a data breach-related expense many companies don’t consider). But take that one step further. What cost is too much to protect my business’s reputation? In order for your company to survive in today’s digital world, it’s critical for your business to cultivate a culture of trust with your customers. Many businesses find that they’ll do what it takes to prevent security breaches. What will you do?

Want more IT tips? Check out other articles that provide best practices on how to secure your business’s IT environment.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Do You Know Who Has Access To Your IT Network?

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

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When Scammers Demand That You Pay Up, IRS Says You Should Hang Up

Maribeth Wright | August 18th, 2014

More than 1,000 American taxpayers have collectively lost about $5 million as a result of a recent phone scam that has been reported to be active in virtually every corner of the nation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminds everybody to be vigilant, to never give personal financial information to anybody over the phone, and to report instances of phone scams to the IRS and/or to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

To date, more than 90,000 complaints regarding the scam have been made to the IRS and TIGTA.

Signs of An IRS Phone Scam

A media release, sent Aug. 13, reports that scammers will use fake names and IRS badge numbers, are able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s social security number, and spoof the IRS’ toll-free number on caller IDs so that the calls appear legitimate. Victims reported that they were threatened with jail time or driver’s license revocation if they refused to comply with demands. After hanging up, scammers call back claiming to be local law enforcement or a DMV representative. The second phone call is supposed to reinforce their original claim and demands.

Don’t Be An IRS Phone Scam Victim

  • If you think you might owe taxes or that there may be an issue with your taxes, call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040. An authorized IRS representative can help you determine if you have a payment due.
  • If you get a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you know that you have no IRS issues, report the incident to TIGTA at (800) 366-4484. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use its “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Be sure to add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
  • Don’t let scammers catch you off your guard with questions about your tax history. Call your CPA and be confident about whether you owe money to the IRS or not. When it comes to your financial security, take a proactive approach.

Email Rea & Associates if you’re ever unsure about anything you received from the IRS, whether it is a letter, a phone call or an email. We can help you determine if the inquiry is legitimate.

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

Looking for other articles on how you can protect yourself and your business? We recommend these:

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

Are You Secure? Cyber Security Targets Employee Benefit Accounts

How Do You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?

 

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Obtaining Tax-Exempt Status Just Got Easier

Lisa Beamer | August 12th, 2014

Many individuals want to know how easy it is to obtain tax-exempt status. About a month ago, you would have been told that the application process alone was rather lengthy. In fact, the standard Form 1023, which is the Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is 26 pages in length. On July 1, the Internal Revenue Service introduced a significantly shorter application form – Form 1023-EZ – which is just three pages long.

What Is Form 1023-EZ?

Form 1023-EZ is a simplified version of Form 1023 and its use is limited to organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less and total assets of $250,000 or less. The IRS says that 70 percent of new applicants should be able to use the new form, but to ensure that the right organizations are using the right form; the IRS has outlined factors that may disqualify larger organizations from using the new form. Be sure to read the instructions carefully.

The IRS says it currently has more than 60,000 backlogged 501(c)(3) applications. The new, streamlined application form is anticipated to speed up the approval process for smaller groups, which means the agency will have more resources available to review applications submitted by larger organizations.

What You Need To Know About The 1023-EZ Form

If you are planning to fill out the new EZ form, here are three things you need to know:

  • The new EZ form must be filed online.
  • A $400 user fee is due at the time the form is submitted and must be paid through pay.gov.
  • Users must complete an eligibility checklist, which is included in the instructions for Form 1023-EZ, before filing the form.

Obtaining Tax-Exempt Status and Creating A Tax-Exempt Organization

The new EZ form makes it very easy to create a tax-exempt organization, but applicants should always seek professional assistance to ensure that their organization is operating, and will continue to operate, in accordance with their tax-exempt purpose.

Email Rea & Associates and ask if your organization qualifies to use Form 1023-EZ. Our team of business accounting and consulting professionals can answer your questions and guide you on your path to formally establishing your tax-exempt organization.

Author: Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Want more best practices for nonprofit organizations? Check out these blog posts:

How Effective Is Your Nonprofit Organization?

How Do You Build A Strong Not-for-Profit Board?

How Do You Protect Your Non-Profit’s Donations From Fraud?

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Summertime Tax Prep

Meredith Mullet | August 7th, 2014

It’s the beginning of August and you’re probably not keeping yourself up at night thinking about your taxes. Frankly, who has time to think about itemized deductions and tax-free distributions when you would rather be grilling out, soaking in the sun, or enjoying your family vacation? April 15, 2015, may be more than 260 days away, but now is a great time to look at your taxes and make necessary adjustments to effectively sidestep any potential problems that might cause problems when tax season does arrive.

Consider These Tax Prep Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t assume that filing your taxes will be the same as the year before. More than 50 tax provisions expired on Dec. 31.
  • Do make yourself aware of any changes that have occurred since last tax season. Click here to view the most up-to-date list. Some of the most common expired provisions include:
    • Itemized deduction for state and local general sales tax
    • Itemized deduction for mortgage insurance premiums (PMI)
    • Tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes
    • 50 percent accelerated tax depreciation (“Bonus depreciation”).
    • Increased expensing. (This provision allows businesses to deduct the full purchase price of qualified equipment.) Current 2014 provisions are $25,000 deduction with a $200,000 limitation on purchases.
  • Do take time to manage your files. It’s much more manageable to file six months’ worth of receipts vs. a whole years’ worth in January. Are you looking for inspiration? Now is a good time to start organizing medical and charitable contribution receipts.
  • Do make a note as to whether the size of your household changed.
  • Don’t forget to review your withholdings. Did you receive a large refund in 2013? Did you owe the IRS in April? To adjust your withholdings, speak with your payroll representative and complete a new W-4.
  • Do send your estimated payments for income to the IRS every quarter to avoid charges and penalties for underpayments. If you forgot to make a payment or you underpaid in April or June, don’t worry. There’s still time to catch up on your September and January payments.
  • Don’t underestimate the short-term value of retirement contributions. Aside from the long-term savings benefits, many retirement accounts are a great tax deferral. If you are participating and not maxing out, consider increasing your contribution. Contributions to a Traditional IRA are another consideration.
  • Do set aside some time to review your health insurance situation. Alternatively, if you did not maintain health care coverage (and were not exempted) you will owe a penalty with your 2014 1040.
  • Do confirm that you comply with the new repair/capitalization regulations.

Tax Prep Help

A few minutes of work and organization now could save you some major headaches in April. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to jump start your tax prep. Want more tax prep tips? Contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine what you need to do now to ensure tax time goes smoothly for you.

Author: Meredith Mullet, CPA (Wooster office)

 

Want more tax prep tips? Check these blog posts out:

What Should You Do After Tax Season?

How Can A Small Business Owner Keep More Money In Their Pocket?

So Is It a Tax Credit Or a Tax Deduction?

 

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Software Updates Don’t Have To Be Hard

Lesley Mast | August 4th, 2014

Your business probably uses a variety of software systems, whether it’s for an accounting function, a manufacturing process or a scheduling process. It has been said that technology doubles in advancement nearly every 12-18 months. New updates, new releases, and new products are brought to market constantly. Yet, when was the last time you or your team evaluated your current software or compared it to other existing options?

Most people dread the idea of switching software or converting to a newer version, but if you and your team do the homework, the transition doesn’t have to be so painful or costly.

Considerations For Your Current Software

Consider the following points when evaluating your existing software:

  • Does your current software do what you want it to? If so, does your staff know how to use it effectively?
  • Does your current software do what you need it to? Have you had to put many workarounds into your systems to make the software work?
  • Are your users complaining?
  • Is your IT department complaining?
  • Are you paying a lot for the service you are receiving?
  • Are you getting the IT support you need from the software company?

Five Tips For Easing Your Software Evaluation Process

When you decide to evaluate your software, here are some tips to ease the process:

  1. Assign a project manager. This person will be responsible for making sure team members are completing assignments and for keeping the group moving forward.
  2. Put together a team of users. Consider who uses the software and include members who vary in experience, IT savviness and tenure. Include a member of your IT team.
  3. Do your research. Call on companies who are in your industry to see what they use and ask them about their experiences. Are they satisfied with their software? How do they effectively use it? Also call on companies who use your existing software also to see what their experiences have been.
  4. Calculate a cost/benefit analysis. With any conversion, there are hard costs and soft costs involved. Calculate the amount of time and resources a change could involve, as well as its impact on your team’s morale. If there is a large conversion cost to incur, how quickly will you earn that back with the efficiencies to be gained from making the change?
  5. Keep the end goal in mind. What are you trying to accomplish by going through this process? For example, are you trying to find something that will help you gain efficiencies? Be sure the testing and research is focused around those kinds of end goals.

Best Practices For Selecting Business Software

Change for the sake of change is never a good thing. You want to be able to show that you adequately vetted out possible solutions and that the conclusion has been reached by the team. Perhaps you will find out that your current system is adequate, but that your team needs additional training on how to use it to its fullest potential. It would be more cost effective to schedule additional training rather than to go through an unnecessary and costly software conversion. Your team, and your budget, will thank you in the end.

If you would like to learn about more best practices, contact Rea & Associates. Our accounting professionals and business advisors can help you determine what steps you should take during your business software selection process.

 

Author: Lesley Mast, CPA, Macc-Taxation (Wooster office)

 

Looking for more business advice? Check out these blog posts:

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Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Is Your Business Running On Microsoft 2003 Servers? It’s Time To Update

 

 

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How Can Super Circular Reforms Work For Your Non-profit Organization?

Brent Ardit | July 31st, 2014

When it comes to maintaining a high level of transparency and accountability, not-for-profit organizations face a lot of challenges. Not only does the community look to your organization to provide high-quality services and resources, the government expects your organization to utilize federal funding responsibly. The ability of not-for-profit organizations to secure federal assistance is critical, which is why industry leaders are seeking more clarity pertaining to a wide range of recent reforms made to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards. These reforms are scheduled to take effect the Dec. 26, 2014. Here’s some insight into what you can expect moving forward.

Super Circular Reforms

Last December, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) passed sweeping reforms to the Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards, also known as the Super Circular or the Omni Circular. The goal for these reforms is to help the federal government streamline its guidance concerning administrative requirements while strengthening the oversight of federal funds. By ensuring compliance of these reforms, the OMB hopes to reduce financial waste, fraud and abuse.

Whether you’re the director of an organization that seeks federal grants and/or assistance, an accountant who serves such an organization, or a citizen who benefits from the organization’s government funding, the Super Circular is a big deal. The federal government awards more than $500 billion every year, and it is the OMB’s responsibility to ensure that every dollar spent is a good use of taxpayer funds.

What Do Super Circular Reforms Mean For You?

  • This newer guidance effectively consolidates eight federal circulars into one, which makes guidelines, cost principles, and audit requirements easily accessible. Having one “Super Circular” to thumb through – even though it tops 100 pages – is a welcome change to grant seekers, grant recipients and awarding agencies.
  • Now that the grant guidance is easily accessible and transparent, the OMB anticipates increased competition among agencies and organizations that are eligible for monetary assistance.

For example: If you have never applied for aid in the past, but you think your organization or government agency may be eligible for federal assistance, you can now easily find out. More agencies and organizations are expected to take advantage of the fact that these guidelines are easily accessible, which means there will be more people vying for government money.

A comprehensive list of federal assistance programs is available in the programs tab of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) website. This site not only provides a list of programs and grants available, it provides key information about what is required to apply and qualify for federal assistance.

  • New provisions have established a higher threshold for an A-133 audit. The threshold for an A-133 audit is now $750,000 – which is higher from the previous threshold of $500,000. This means that not-for-profit organizations that bring in less than $750,000 annually are not required to complete an A-133 audit, which will provide some relief to about 5,000 non-federal organizations. This doesn’t mean the OMB will stop monitoring the federal aid that is distributed to these organizations, the OMB says 99.7 percent of aid awarded to organizations and agencies will still be subject to single audit oversight.

Please Note: If your fiscal year ends in December, the $750,000 single audit threshold won’t go into effect until your Dec. 15, 2015 audit. And if your fiscal year ends in June, it won’t go into effect until December 30, 2016.

  • The Super Circular significantly reforms how organizations and agencies will maintain their cost principles. Specifically, in its guidance, the OMB places a greater emphasis on internal controls. The Super Circular effectively defines what organizations and agencies can consider indirect costs, administrative salary direct costs, compensation, and costs associated with materials and supplies.

For example: While the salaries of your administrative and clerical staff may have been treated as indirect costs in the past, the OMB says that it may now be more appropriate to consider them as direct costs if the work performed is specifically outlined within the grant-funded project or initiative.

  • The deadline for organizations and government agencies to comply with the OMB’s reforms is Dec. 26, 2014.

Because the reform-laced Super Circular was written with the goal of helping organizations and agencies apply for aid, manage funds and prepare for audits, it is anticipated that the OMB will succeed in its efforts to increase competition among organizations and agencies that are eligible to receive aid. As a result, more insight and accountability will be demonstrated by recipients of federal assistance.

Super Circular Help

The OMB has repeatedly said that these reforms will make the process of obtaining federal funds easier and more transparent. If you have specific questions as to how the Super Circular will affect your organization or government agency, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio not-for-profit team can help you make sense of these revised regulations.

Author: Brent Ardit, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Want more not-for-profit business advice? Check these posts out:

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation To Pay Small Business Claimants $420 Million 

How Effective Is Your Nonprofit Organization?

How Do You Build a Strong Not-for-Profit Board?

 

 

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Were You Overcharged By The Ohio BWC?

Joe Popp | July 30th, 2014

Countless small businesses soon may find that they have money coming back to them. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has decided to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that the BWC, over the course of many years, had a system of group rating in place that improperly overcharged many Ohio businesses. A lower trial court originally ruled in favor of the plaintiffs with possible damages exceeding $800 million. While the ruling was upheld on appeal, the appeals court sent the decision back to the initial court to better address the issue of damages.

Now the BWC has agreed to pay out $420 million to those affected by the state agency’s practice of overcharging for workers’ compensation premiums between the years of 2001 and 2008.

To fulfill its obligation under the settlement agreement, the BWC said it will create a fund that will be specifically used to pay: claims made by employers found to be participants in the class action lawsuit, attorney fees, court costs, and costs associated with administering the fund. According to the settlement agreement, any unclaimed money will be returned to the bureau.

Can You Make An Ohio BWC Claim?

In order to make a claim, you must have been a private, non-group rated employer at some point during 2001-2008 who:

  • Subscribed to the state workers’ compensation fund
  • Was not group-rated
  • Reported payroll and paid premiums in a manual classification for which the non-group effective base rate was “inflated” due to application of the group experience rating plan

Employers who were non-group rated for at least one policy year between 2001 and 2008 are eligible to claim a portion of the settlement.  Eligible employers should be receiving a notice that indicated their status as class members and how to make a claim.  A website where claim information can be submitting is currently under development.

Class members are required to submit their claims to Judge Robert McGonagle of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Claims must be postmarked no later than Sept. 22, 2014. More information on this ruling can be found here. More details are coming, so stay tuned!

If you’re entitled to a portion of the BWC settlement, make sure you understand your rights and know how to follow the transaction process. If you’d like more information about how to claim what’s yours, email Rea & Associates and ask for information about this process.

Author: Joseph Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

Stay up-to-date on other recent business advice blog posts. Check these out:

Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Is Your Business Running On Microsoft 2003 Servers? It’s Time To Update 

Why It’s Important To Have A Good Banker As Part of Your Business Advisory Team

 

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You Can’t Know Enough: The Importance of Knowing Your Fiduciary Responsibility

Paul McEwan | July 25th, 2014

You may find that the spotlight isn’t for you. But as the fiduciary of your company’s retirement plan, the spotlight is all on you. The Department of Labor (DOL) has placed a major emphasis on fiduciary responsibility in the past few years and continues to push the matter in its initiatives. So it’s important that you understand what you’re responsible for.

To meet your fiduciary responsibilities as a retirement plan sponsor, you need to understand the fiduciary standards of conduct as adopted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). With these fiduciary responsibilities, there is also potential liability. Fiduciaries that don’t follow the basic standards of conduct may be personally liable to restore any losses to the plan. Pretty serious, right? To help ease your mind, here’s what you need to know.

Identifying Your Plan Fiduciaries

A plan’s fiduciaries will ordinarily include the named trustee in the document, investment advisors and all individuals exercising discretion in the administration of the plan. Under ERISA regulations, fiduciaries are responsible for:

  • Loyalty to the plan participants – acting in their exclusive best interest
  • Prudence – documenting expertise and a decision-making process
  • Following the plan documents
  • Diversifying plan assets
  • Paying only reasonable expenses for necessary services

Mitigating Your Risk As A Fiduciary

As a fiduciary of your business’s retirement plan, you should consider these items and answer these questions to ensure that you comply with ERISA regulations:

  • If participants in your plan make their own investment decisions, have you provided sufficient information for them to exercise control in making those decisions? Regulations under ERISA list the information and process required to be provided to participants in order to legally shift the responsibility for making investment decisions to the participants. Are you making the required participant fee and fund performance disclosures required annually by ERISA of all plans permitting participant investment direction?
  • How frequently do you deposit participants’ contributions in the plan, and have you made sure it complies with the law? Participant contributions, including loan repayments, are required to be remitted on a timely, consistent basis. Not remitting these funds in a timely manner is considered a misuse of plan assets, which is a prohibited transaction. Not meeting this requirement creates penalties for the plan sponsor.
  • If you’re hiring third-party service providers, including investment advisors, have you looked at several providers, given each potential provider the same information, and considered whether the fees are reasonable for the services provided? It’s required that you receive fee and service disclosures from all plan service providers, and you should also receive written acknowledgements from service providers serving in a fiduciary capacity. Here are some other items to consider relating to third-party service providers:

1. Have you documented your service provider hiring process?
2. Are you prepared to monitor your plan’s service providers, including investment fund performance?
3. Do you have a process in place to determine that the fees paid to service providers remain reasonable for the services provided?

  • Have you reviewed your plan document in light of current plan operations and made necessary updates? Have you provided participants with an updated summary plan description (SPD) or summary of material modifications (SMM)? Plans are required to operate according to the provisions stated in the plan document and these provisions must be communicated to participants. Changes are generally permitted, but again are required to be communicated to participants. If the plan is not operating in accordance with the written plan document, the plan could be disqualified, which would result in negative tax implications for you, the plan sponsor, and the participants.
  • Are individuals handling plan assets covered by a fidelity bond as required by ERISA?  Have you considered purchasing fiduciary insurance to mitigate the personal risk of loss to those employees you identified that are serving as plan fiduciaries? While a fidelity bond and fiduciary insurance are slightly different, both are a form of coverage to provide protection in regards to plans. The bond insures the assets of the plan in the event of employee misconduct and the fiduciary insurance provides personal protection to fiduciaries in the event of any claims for alleged errors, omissions, or breach of fiduciary duties.

Being a plan fiduciary comes with enormous responsibility. Don’t take your fiduciary responsibilities lightly. If you’re interested in learning more about what you’re responsible for as a retirement plan fiduciary, consider registering for a FREE seminar all about knowing your fiduciary responsibility. Rea & Associates has partnered with the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio (HRACO) to provide an all-day seminar dedicated to helping fiduciaries understand their responsibilities. The seminar will feature speakers from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the DOL. It will be held on Tuesday, August 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at BMI Federal Credit Union Event Center in Dublin, Ohio. More details, including a schedule, can be found here. Click here to register for this free event.

Fiduciary Responsibility Help

If you need assistance navigating the responsibilities of being a fiduciary, contact Rea & Associates or speak with one of our financial advisors.

Author: Paul McEwan, CPA, MT, AIFA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for more articles about fiduciary responsibility? Check out these articles!

What Are The Responsibilities of a Fiduciary?

How Can I Make My Benefit Plan Audit A Smoother Process?

Will You Be Ready For Retirement?

 

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Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Maribeth Wright | July 17th, 2014

You get a call from a man who said he was from the IRS and was informing you that criminal activity was found after the IRS performed an audit on your past taxes. Then he asks if you had a criminal lawyer to represent you. And as you tried to get a word in edgewise, he told you not to interrupt him because the IRS and local authorities were recording your phone call. Pretty unnerving, right?

Well, unfortunately, this phone call actually took place with a client. And these types of phone calls are happening constantly. Back in April, the IRS issued a warning for consumers about phone scams targeting taxpayers. During the 2013 tax filing season numerous phone scams occurred, but the IRS has seen an increase in these scams since then. Because the IRS believes that these incidents will continue to plague taxpayers, it’s important to be vigilant for these kinds of calls.

The 4-1-1 On These IRS Phone Scams

  • Some taxpayers who received these calls were told they’re entitled to a big tax refund, or that they owe a lot of money to the IRS that needs to be paid immediately. Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t contact you via phone about these matters. If you ever owe the IRS money, you’ll be sent a written notification via mail.
  • The IRS will never ask you for personal financial information over the phone, such as your credit or debit card information. If you’re asked for this information from someone claiming they’re from the IRS, don’t give it and report the incident immediately to the IRS.
  • Some IRS scammers use fake names/surnames (most of the time these names are common) and IRS badge numbers when they identify themselves.
  • It’s possible that a scammer knows and can tell you the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • The phone number that a scammer calls you from could look like it’s from the IRS toll-free number.
  • If you take one of these scam calls, you may receive a bogus follow-up email to make it look like it is a legitimate inquiry from the IRS.
  • You may be threatened with jail time or driver’s license suspension from one of these scammers. They may then hang up on you and then call back pretending to be the police or DMV, further trying to prove their claim to you.

What Should You Do If You Get One Of These Calls?

So have you received one of these calls? If so, and you’re not sure the next step, here’s what you should do:

  • If you think you might owe taxes or there may be an issue with your taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. Someone at the line can help you determine if you indeed have a payment due.
  • If you feel you received this call unexpectedly and know you have no IRS issues, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

In light of these increasing incidents, be on the lookout and don’t fall prey to these scams. Hang up if you’re uncomfortable with the call. And know that the IRS would never ask for personal financial information over the phone or in an email. If you receive any suspicious emails, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

Ohio Tax Help

If you’re ever unsure about anything you received from the IRS, whether it be a letter, a phone call or email, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine if the inquiry is legitimate, and assist you with responding.

Author: Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

Looking for other articles on how to protect you and your business? Check out these articles:

How Can Heartbleed Affect You and Your Business’s Online Identity?

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

Are You Secure? Cyber Security Targets Employee Benefit Accounts

 

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Is Your Business Running On Microsoft 2003 Servers? It’s Time To Update

Joe Welker | July 16th, 2014

As a business owner, you have a lot to be concerned about. Ensuring that your business is bringing in revenue. Providing quality customer service. Retaining quality employees. The list goes on and on. Is maintaining and keeping your IT systems anywhere near the top of your list? If not, you might want to think again.

Microsoft To Stop Supporting Microsoft 2003 Servers

Back in April, Microsoft announced it was no longer supporting its Windows XP workstation software … this means that Microsoft is not providing any security patches or upgrades to computers using Windows XP software. Despite this news, many companies are still using the non-supported operating system. This leaves a huge hole in your operating system security. While many entities are planning to replace their XP workstations, we now find that Microsoft has some additional changes coming.

Microsoft recently announced that it has posted end of life for its Microsoft Server 2003 and Server 2003 R2 systems. These two server operating systems will no longer be supported after July 14, 2015. So if your business uses these systems, you have a little under a year to plan and implement a replacement strategy for these servers. The consequence for not replacing? Serious security issues.

In many industries the use of these operating systems on servers could lead to non-compliance issues.  When looking at your upgrade options, consider using virtualization software such as VMWare or Hyper V or server operating systems like Linux, UNIX, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2012.

What You Can Do To Prepare For The Microsoft 2003 Server Expiration

It’s important you work with your application vendors to make sure that your current applications will transfer over and operate correctly on the replacement server operating system you decide upon. It is recommended that your entity do an analysis of critical business applications currently being used on Microsoft Windows 2003 and Windows 2003 R2 servers and determine the best replacement option as well as conversion process.

IT Audit Help

Not sure what server(s) your business is running on? Or are you unsure how this Microsoft server expiration will affect your business? Contact Rea & Associates. Our IT audit team can assess your business’s IT systems and help you determine how these changes will affect you moving forward. Don’t delay in updating your servers. It could be the difference between a safe IT environment and an unsecured one.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for more information on how you can keep your business environment safe? Check out these blog posts:

8 Tips For Crafting A Strong Password

Do You Know Who Has Access To Your IT Network?

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

 

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Why It’s Important To Have A Good Banker As Part of Your Business Advisory Team

Chris Roush | July 3rd, 2014

You want the best for your business, so it only makes sense that you surround yourself with like-minded individuals. As a business owner it’s important to get support from business advisors who have expertise in specific areas to help you make your business successful. Your CPA plays a critical role for you, but don’t forget about the others. It’s also important to cultivate relationships with a business attorney and business banker.

Your CPA can make sure that you have systems to capture and report timely, reliable financial information and, if needed, even provide assurance regarding your financial statements. A good attorney can help safeguard your business assets and provide assistance in drafting agreements, contracts and other legal proceedings. A business banker can provide lines of credit or loans to help meet the cash flow needs of your business.

The Importance of Your Banking Relationship

Strong banking relationships are built over time through regular two-way communication. You should be well-versed in upcoming cash needs, such as expanding inventory or the increased needs of personnel cost, and communicate these to your banker. As you keep them informed of business decisions and trends, this helps to build a lender’s confidence in your ability to manage your business. A well-informed and communicative business owner may be given extra consideration when business financial issues arise.

Four Key Indicators That Help Bankers Evaluate Your Ability To Repay

Banking is a low-risk industry and they have one major concern when lending money: your repayment. They evaluate your ability to repay based on these four areas:

  1. Cash Flow – This is a key indicator of your ability to repay the original loan. If you have strong cash flow, the chances are high that you are able to repay your loan.
  2. Collateral – When a loan is originated, it’s never the goal for the loan to be foreclosed on and collateral seized, but it is required as security.
  3. Credit – Another key indicator is your credit history and track record of your past ability and willingness to fulfill prior financial obligations. If you have a good credit score, you’ll be given more favorable treatment in both the receipt of a loan and the amount of interest charged.
  4. Character – Your relationship with your banker allows them to consider your integrity.  It’s critical to let your actions meet or exceed the expectations your words establish on a regular basis.

A good business banker is your advocate – they’re in your corner. Like CPAs, business bankers are exposed to multiple businesses and industries and they can be a great sounding board for ideas and help you strategize on ways to reach your financial objectives.

Business Relationship Help

Need to round out your business advisory team? Contact Rea & Associates. We can provide accounting services and business consulting services to your business, but we can also connect you to other business professionals that can help you complete your business advisory team.

Author: Chris Roush, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

Looking for more information on how to strengthen your business? Check out these blog posts:

Building Bridges: The Power of Networking

How Can You Build And Develop Your Organization?

Do Your Business Metrics Need an Oil Change?

 

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Help Is Available For Small Manufacturers Impacted By Foreign Imports

Christopher Axene | July 2nd, 2014

America is the land of the free, and a place where we’re all supposed to have boundless opportunities. So if you’re the business owner of a small manufacturer, and you’re feeling financially and competitively pinched because of foreign imports, know that there is relief.

Trade Adjustment Assistance

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration developed and funds a program to help manufacturing companies become more competitive against foreign imports. The program, “Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms,” provides up to $75,000 in matching funds to qualifying manufacturers to invest in projects identified during the plan development phase. Qualifying projects must be time-limited and performed by third parties who provide knowledge-based help covering the areas of marketing, industrial and systems engineering or financial and general management consulting.

Examples of “qualifying projects” include:

  • New product development marketing
  • Lean manufacturing implementations
  • Quality certifications (ISO, TS)
  • Enterprise resource planning (system selection, training)

“Non-qualifying” projects include:

  • Capital expenditures (e.g. equipment or software)
  • On-going business expenses (e.g. FTE salaries)
  • On-going business processes

Big Benefit Of Trade Adjustment Assistance for Firms Program

An added benefit of the program is a customized diagnostic survey and comprehensive action plan created for the business by the program’s personnel. There is no fee to apply to the program. Once eligibility for the program is confirmed, the plan development phase typically takes one to three months with the implementation phase able to run for up to five years. Any funds not expended after five years are lost.

Funding for this program was recently renewed so now is the time to invest 30 minutes of your time to speak with a program representative to see if you qualify.

Ohio Small Manufacturer Help

If you’re an Ohio Small Manufacturer that’s having trouble keeping up with foreign imports and competition, and needs assistance with strengthening your business’s bottom line, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio manufacturing service team can help you evaluate your business’s current financial state and determine what steps you need to take to get back in the game.

Author: Christopher E. Axene, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Looking for more Ohio manufacturing-related articles? Check these blog posts out:

How Can Manufacturers Deal With Competition?

How Can I Solve My Staffing Woes In The Manufacturing Industry?

How Do You Take Your Business to the Next Level?

 

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Supreme Court Obamacare Ruling Provides Religious Exemption To For-Profit Companies

Joe Popp | June 30th, 2014

Obamacare is back in the news as a top story! Why? Because the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that closely held, for-profit companies can claim religious exemption to avoid providing health insurance coverage for contraceptives.

An Obamacare provision stated that businesses with more than 50 employees must cover preventive care services, including birth control and morning-after pills to female employees. Today’s Supreme Court ruling provides relief for many U.S. for-profit companies by giving way to this religious exemption. Now companies that feel offering health insurance the covers contraceptives goes against their religious beliefs can opt out of providing this kind of coverage. Check out this New York Times article which provides a more in-depth look at the today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling.  Of course, its too early to tell the practical impact of this decision – insurance companies are free to choose which kind of coverage is covered by their insurance plans, and the relative pricing of those plans, after all.

Obamacare Help

Do you feel like today’s Supreme Court ruling could impact your business and the health insurance coverage you offer to your employees? If it does, and you need help, contact Rea & Associates. Our health care reform tax experts can help you determine how it affects you and your business.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

Interested in other Obamacare-related blog posts? Check these out:

What You Need To Know About Obamacare Employee Dumping 

Health Insurance Options: SHOP, Drop, Roll, or Self-insure?

How Will ACA Federal Exchange Premiums Affect Ohio Small Businesses and Consumers?

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How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing?

Matt Pottmeyer | June 20th, 2014

As a CPA I am frequently asked, “How far back can the IRS look to audit my tax return?” That’s a great question. Can the IRS go back and audit your tax return from five years ago? 10 years ago? 25 years ago? Before you start to panic, rest assured that the IRS has a statute of limitations in place that generally puts a limit on the time allowed to audit you and assess additional tax.

Typically, the statute of limitations is three years for the IRS to include a tax return in an audit. This means the statute of limitations likely ran out on the majority of 2010 returns. The 2010 returns would have been due on April 15, 2011 … three years from that date was April 15, 2014. So most taxpayers are out of the woods for 2010 tax returns and all prior years. This same statute of limitations applies to the taxpayer when they would request a tax refund – you can only go back three years’ worth of returns to request a tax refund.

IRS Statute of Limitations Can Be Extended

But wait, before you start high-fiving everyone around you … that statute of limitations can be stretched out to six years if a substantial error is identified. A substantial error is defined as an omission of 25 percent or more of gross income. This may also apply to basis overstatements whenever property is sold.  Basis generally means the amount of capital investment in a property for tax purposes.

The U.S. Tax Court has given mixed results on whether or not basis overstatements constitute understatements of gross income. The Federal, Washington D.C., 7th  and 10th circuits have ruled in favor of the IRS, supporting the concept that basis overstatements open up the six-year statute. However, the 4th, 5th, and 9th circuits have ruled in favor of the taxpayer, holding that basis overstatements do not constitute substantial understatements of gross income.

When The IRS Statute of Limitations Doesn’t Expire

There are situations when the statute of limitations never expires. The most common is when a return never is filed. The other situation is when the IRS sues for civil tax fraud. Civil tax fraud cases are extremely rare because the burden of proof is so high for the IRS. The older the fraud, the colder the trail gets.

The IRS has stated that it tries to audit tax returns as soon as possible after they are filed. But in my professional experience, most audits are typically of returns filed within the last two years.

If an audit is not finished, the taxpayer may be asked to extend the statute of limitations for assessment of his or her tax return. Extending the statute will allow additional time to provide additional documentation to support a position, request an appeal if there is a disagreement with the audit results, or to claim a tax refund or credit. The extension will also allow the IRS time to complete the audit and provide additional time to process the audit results. It’s not mandatory to agree to extend the statute of limitations date. However, if the taxpayer does not agree, the auditor will be forced to make a determination based upon the information on hand at the time, which may not be favorable.

Tax Audit Help

If you’re concerned you’re at risk of an IRS audit or are looking for some clarity on the IRS statute of limitation for tax auditing, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine if you could be facing an audit, and can walk you through the process.

Author: Matt Pottmeyer, CPA (Marietta office)

 

Looking for additional articles about managing your taxes? Check these blog posts out:

What Tax Liabilities Accompany Inherited Real Estate?

What Should You Do After Tax Season?

How Can You Best Prepare For The Upcoming Tax Season?

 

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8 Tips For Crafting A Strong Password

Joe Welker | June 12th, 2014

eBay Inc. recently recommended its users to change their passwords. Why? If you guessed there was a cyberattack on one of eBay’s databases, you are correct! Cyberattacks have been in the news almost daily, and unfortunately they seem to be increasing in number. While companies are busy trying to stave off any attacks, there are ways you can protect yourself.

Treat Passwords With Care

Like with other items, you should consider your passwords to be sensitive material. Treat them no differently than you treat your credit cards. Make sure your passwords are secure and change them regularly – as often as four times a year, or sooner if you believe it has been compromised.

A standard eight-character password with moderate security can be hacked within two to four hours. In comparison, passwords or passphrases of 12 characters with high complexity would take 17,000 years to breach.

8 Tips To Keep Your Passwords Strong and Safe

Here are eight tips and best practices you can implement to help keep your passwords strong and safe:

  1. Use passphrases instead of passwords or a string of characters and digits. Passphrases can be easier to remember. For example: “Myd0gisSamm@”
  2. Use upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters in passphrases.
  3. Never use complete words within a passphrase.
  4. Change passphrases routinely.
  5. Never share passphrases with others.
  6. Be cautious of shared computers that do not have current virus detection programs installed on them, such as hotel data centers, publicly used computer kiosks.
  7. Change passphrases after using a shared public access computer.
  8. Use two-step verifications when available.

Password and IT Audit Help

Need some additional advice on how to create strong passwords that will protect you and your business? Contact Rea & Associates. Our IT audit professionals can help you determine where you can strengthen your IT security.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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How Effective Is Your Nonprofit Organization?

Mark Van Benschoten | June 10th, 2014

You’re busy. Your staff is busy. Everyone is busy. It’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities of your organization. Meeting with prospective donors, educating groups on the mission of your organization, and managing volunteers. But let me ask you, when did you last spend time evaluating the effectiveness of your nonprofit organization? Has your donor base increased? Are you seeing an increase in volunteers and people who want to support your organization? Are you truly living out your organization’s mission and vision?

Evaluate Your Not-For-Profit’s Effectiveness

Can’t remember the last time you considered the effectiveness of your organization? Now is probably a good time. If after evaluating you discover that your organization has some areas for improvement, considering asking yourself the five questions below. Addressing these questions and areas may help you create a more effective nonprofit organization.

  1. Are we communicating our organization’s accomplishments?

    Many organizations make a lot of effort to communicate how much money they’ve raised, and how they use their funds. The focus seems to mostly be on the money and percentages. And while it’s important to communicate this information, don’t forget to talk about what your organization is actually doing. How are you carrying out the mission of your organization? What key accomplishments has your organization achieved? Place a greater emphasis on communicating your organization’s accomplishments.

  2. Is our organization’s board of directors actively engaged in the organization?

    When you conduct board meetings, do you sense that your board in engaged in the meeting? Are your board members asking questions and providing insight on how to strengthen the organization? Are they participating in and attending organization activities and fundraisers? If you can’t provide answers to these questions or the answer is “no,” then maybe you need to evaluate how you’re communicating and interacting with your board. A strong, engaged board can help drive the effectiveness of your organization.

  3. Is our organization’s mission and vision statements clearly defined and communicated to our audiences?

    If you were to survey your donor base, prospective donors, volunteers and others throughout the communities you serve, would you find that people understand your organization and its mission? Not sure what kind of responses you would get? One reason that your organization may not be as effective as it could be is because your audiences may not fully understand the mission and vision of your organization. Take a look at your mission and vision statements and see if you need to make some revisions.

  4. Do we clearly and timely communicate to our board of directors?

    This question really ties into whether or not you feel like you have an engaged board. One of the reasons you may not have an engaged board is because you’re not clearly and timely communicating with them. If there are important decisions that need to be made, make sure that you providing them with the necessary information to make the decision within a timely manner.

  5. How strong are our organization’s internal controls?

    Unfortunately, internal fraud is a real concern within nonprofit organizations. Few nonprofits have strong internal controls. As organizations grow, the internal controls need changing. Make sure the controls are operating at a level that will deter and detect fraud. Establish a code of conduct that will create a clear understanding of what is expected of all employees. Even if your organization only has a few employees, it is still possible to implement a system of checks and balances. These controls should help safeguard assets, produce accurate reports and improve administrative effectiveness. 

Ohio Non-For-Profit Help

Effective nonprofit organizations are impacting the communities they serve. If you are questioning the effectiveness of your organization, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio non-for-profit team can help you evaluate your organization and where you can increase your efficiency and effectiveness.

Author: Mark Van Benschoten, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Looking for more nonprofit organization tips and best practices? Check these blog posts out:

Which 990 Policies Do Non-Profits Need?

How Do You Build a Strong Not-for-Profit Board?

How Do You Protect Your Non-profit’s Donations from Fraud?

 

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What You Need To Know About Obamacare Employee Dumping

Joe Popp | June 5th, 2014

You may have heard some buzz lately about the Obama administration and/or the IRS barring employers from “dumping” employees onto the health care exchanges – with some truly severe cash penalties for doing so. But is this really “new” news? What exactly does this mean? It might surprise you to know that employee dumping is not all it seems.

A recent New York Times article explains that “employee dumping” is the practice where an employer drops health insurance coverage to its employees, the employees go to the health care exchange to buy insurance, and then the employer on a pre-tax basis reimburses its employees for their premiums. This “have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too” approach (with various ways to accomplish it) was one of the leading responses to this legislation that Obamacare consultants developed. The administrating agencies (IRS, HHS, DOL) shut this option down when they issues guidance in September 2013. ANY attempt by an employer to pay an employee a pre-tax benefit for health insurance has since then been a very dangerous approach, although some exceptions exist (e.g. retirees only). This current “news” is simply a clarification that these things are indeed busted.

Can You Still Drop Health Care Insurance Coverage?

What if you want to drop your coverage, send employees to the exchange, and then increase their after-tax pay so that they can pay for exchange insurance? That’s OK, it doesn’t conflict with the rules. It’s only pre-tax benefits you should be concerned with.

What if you increase worker pay as I just described, and then the employee sinks that cash into an HSA that they get from a bank (for free)? That gets them a tax deduction (up to certain limits) … is that OK?  Yes! Remember that what the IRS is looking to prevent is employers trying to give pre-tax benefits without offering insurance – that is the “evil” that these regulations are designed to combat. Once the employer pays taxable wages to an employee, the employee is free to use whatever means they have available to be tax efficient.

A Pit Trap For The Unwary

So is “employee dumping” limited to the situation where employers are trying to push tax-free cash to employees? Actually no, and this is why I refer to this as “a pit trap for the unwary.” Dumping also refers to the practice of employers encouraging workers with high medical bills to go to the exchange.

What exactly does this mean? Think of it this way … As an employer, you have an insurance plan that still takes into account the health and claims of your workforce (they still exist). If you can get an employee to the exchange that has $400,000 of medical costs a year, you could potentially save a large sum of money and your employee is not harmed because they can get quality coverage on the exchange for no more than a healthy individual can.

Some companies throw a cash kicker on top for the employee to voluntarily drop coverage (what’s an extra $10,000 in cash if you are saving $100,000+). Everybody wins, right?  Well, not the Exchange. If it’s discovered that you – the employer – are doing this, there are administrative rules in place that can throw that cost back at you. Insurance companies have a duty to report suspected employee dumping, so be careful!

Obamacare Help

Have you considered “dumping” or are you unsure if you’re heading down this path? If so, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you determine what path is best for you to take, as well as help you stay in compliance with Obamacare rules and avoid any pitfalls along the way.

Author: Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

Interested in reading more on how Obamacare will impact you and your business? Check out these posts:

Peeling Back The Onion: Answering 3 Popular Obamacare Questions

Health Insurance Options: SHOP, Drop, Roll, or Self-insure?

How Will ACA Federal Exchange Premiums Affect Ohio Small Businesses and Consumers? 

 

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Building Bridges: The Power of Networking

Michaela McGinn | June 4th, 2014

Every day we encounter people for a wide variety of reasons. You could be at the supermarket, or perhaps you’re standing in line for your latte. Or maybe you’re at a local Rotary lunch. Do you ever find yourself looking for business opportunities in the mundane routines in life? Good business people are constantly asking themselves the question “where will tomorrow’s business come from?”

Every Encounter Counts

Every contact you make is a potential opportunity to grow your business. And networking is a critical part of that process. But, what many individuals fail to understand is how a network works. Let’s take the engineering of a bridge for example. A bridge is not constructed through a two-point or three-point connection. The strongest bridges are constructed through a complex network of materials with overlapping points of contact. Those bridges span large areas and allow you to get from one place to another.

Professional networks are similar to a bridge’s network. The best networks are an overlapping of personal and professional lives. They interconnect at many points. The person you meet tomorrow at your child’s school play may not be a client for you, but you may introduce them to someone that can help them and that connection you have provided can then be used for another point of contact.

Networking In Motion

In a couple weeks, I’ll be having breakfast with a former colleague who has just returned to my neighborhood from the West coast. Chances are I won’t have an opportunity to provide services to him in the near future, but by reconnecting, I’m someone he’ll remember. Perhaps he may come across someone who needs services that I can provide.

This whole idea of networking and building bridges may seem like common sense, but it can be so easy to get caught up in the daily routine of life that it can quickly be forgotten. Next time you’re at your son’s baseball game, don’t miss any opportunities to connect with other baseball fans who could be your next customer.

Need Help In Growing Your Business?

If networking doesn’t come naturally to you or you’re unsure about how to grow your business, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio business consultants can help you evaluate where you’re at currently and help you determine what you need to do moving forward.

Author: Michaela McGinn, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Looking for more blog posts on how to grow your business? Check these out:

How Can You Build And Develop Your Organization?

What Are 6 Things You Can Do To Improve The Health Of Your Business in 2014?

Why Is A Budget Important To The Success Of My Business?

 

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Do Your Business Metrics Need an Oil Change?

Dave Cain | May 23rd, 2014

Did you ever notice that little sticker in the upper left-hand corner of your windshield? The one that informs you your next service date for changing the oil and tire rotation. As you fire up the ignition, the fuel gauge is activated and the miles per gallon information is displayed. The on-board computer lets you know that the headlights are in the automatic position and the tires are properly inflated. The navigation system may even provide a weather update or a construction delay on the interstate. Within a matter of seconds of entering your vehicle, you have virtually all of the important metrics for your upcoming road trip.

Your business metrics and performance indicators should be as easy as locating your vehicle’s metrics. The metrics need to be meaningful to you and your team and used as a decision making tool in the day-to-day operations of the business. Many business owners and managers use daily and quarterly metrics more frequently than the monthly financial statements to run the day to day operations.

Business Metrics To Consider

Your business’s on-board computer can churn metric after metric and ratio after ratio. However, the quality of the metrics is far more important than the quantity. One recommendation is to identify four to six ratios that are unique to your business and industry and continue to study the trends on a daily or weekly basis. As a general rule, every business should consider metrics in the following areas:

  • Customer Metrics: How many new customers have you acquired over the last six months? How many customers have you lost? What is the average profit margin for each customer?
  • Cash Flow Metrics: These metrics should be designed to measure the company’s ability to meet obligations as they come due. For example: Is your inventory turning? How old are your accounts receivable?
  • Sales Metrics: A company should have sales metrics to measure sales and whether the sales are satisfactory for the company.
  • Employee Metrics: These metrics could be designed to measure how effectively the company is hiring and managing its employees.
  • Borrowing Metrics: This metric will measure how the company is effectively managing its debt. 

Once the metrics have been determined than a “windshield sticker” or dashboard can be affixed to your technology devices and reviewed by the management team on a regular basis. In addition, an industry scorecard can be developed to measure how the business compares to the industry.

Just like the oil in a car, the business metrics will need to be changed or enhanced on a regular basis to reflect changes in the economy and the business cycle.

Safe travels and be on the look-out for orange construction barrels and detours. Check your metrics!

Business Metrics Help

If you need help determine which business metrics are right for your business, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio business consultants can help you determine which business metrics are needed for the success and growth of your business.

Author: Dave Cain, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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How Can A Small Business Owner Keep More Money In Their Pocket?

How Can Analytics Help Reduce Fraud Risk At Your Business?

What Are 6 Things You Can Do To Improve The Health Of Your Business in 2014?

 

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What Should You Ask When Reviewing Your Life Insurance Policy?

Lee Beall | May 21st, 2014

Throughout the past several months, I have written a couple of articles that explained the importance about why you should review your life insurance policy. It’s one of those things that we get for the “just in case” moment, and then sometimes forget about it. You’d be surprised how often unexpected slip-ups occur with life insurance policies. That’s why it’s so important to review your policy … to ensure that you’re not paying too much or too little for coverage, and to ensure that your policy is working properly for you.

All that said, here are six important questions you should ask when reviewing your life insurance policy:

Has my life situation or needs changed since I purchased my policy

Back in January, I wrote an article that outlined six common life changes that should cause you to stop and review your life insurance policy. These life changes ranged from the purchase of a new home to the changing of your job to the death of your spouse. If your life situation has changed since you originally purchased your policy, you’ll want to evaluate whether you need to increase or decrease coverage.

Have assumptions, such as interest rates, related to my policy change?

When you first purchased your life insurance policy, your insurer made some assumptions based on the market conditions at the time of your policy purchase. But as market conditions change, so can the assumptions your insurer originally made. By reviewing your policy, you’ll be able to determine if you need to make some policy adjustments that will help you receive the best benefits possible for your policy.

Do I have too much or too little life insurance coverage?

When you first took out a life insurance policy, you may have been making a lot less than you’re making now. If you’re making more now, you may find the need to increase your coverage. If you just said “Adios” to your youngest child who left your nest, you may find that you need less life insurance coverage now. It’s important to align your life insurance coverage with your needs and consider whether you’re paying for too much or too little of coverage.

Are my beneficiaries properly identified?

If you were to pass away while your life insurance policy is in effect, do you know who would receive the money? Many individuals name their spouses, children or parents as the beneficiaries. But if it’s been awhile since you purchased your policy, you might want to review it to ensure that your beneficiaries are properly identified. Make sure that your life insurance money will go to the individuals you really want it to go to.

How reliable is my insurer?

When you first purchased your life insurance policy, how well did you research the life insurance company you did business with? If you can’t recall spending a lot of time figuring out whether the company solid and reliable, you may want to evaluate the reliability of your insurer. The industry is rapidly changing, and with industry changes come concerns over whether certain insurers can continue to provide reliable service. If you question or are concerned about this, you’ll want to consider whether you need to change insurers.

Is my life insurance policy aligned with my estate/business plan?

Believe it or not, the lack of alignment between a person’s life insurance policy and their estate/business plan is seen more often than not. There are tax consequences for your beneficiaries if these two items don’t align, so in order to provide your beneficiaries with the maximum amount of money, ensure that your policy aligns with your estate/business plan.   

Life Insurance Review Help

Not sure where you and your life insurance policy stand? Don’t wait any longer. Get a review of your life insurance policy. Contact Rea & Associates, and we can help connect you to individuals who can help you with a life insurance review. You and your family will be glad you did.

Author: Lee Beall, CPA (Dublin office)

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What You Should Know Before Dipping Into Your 401(k)

Steve Renner | May 16th, 2014

Got a 401(k) plan? Have you ever withdrawn money from your 401(k) account? If so, you’re part of the growing number of Americans using their 401(k) accounts to fund other areas of their lives. A recent Bloomberg article explains that more and more Americans are turning to their 401(k) accounts rather than to other means, such as a loan, to help cover any unexpected financial needs that come up.

Historically, Americans have used their homes as a source of additional money. According to the article, when home values rose, homeowners refinanced or took out second mortgages. But due to the housing collapse back in 2008, many homeowners don’t have these options anymore – so they turned to their 401(k) accounts. What many people don’t realize is that depending on their 401(k) plan, they could be penalized for either taking an early withdrawal and/or not putting that money back into their account in the appropriate amount of time.

Shocking 401(k) Withdrawal Statistics

The Bloomberg article cites an IRS report that states the agency collected $5.7 billion in withdrawal penalties in 2011. In other words, Americans withdrew nearly $57 billion from their retirement accounts. That’s $5.7 billion that the IRS would otherwise not have banked on receiving. And what’s the federal government doing with this “extra” income? Funding federal agencies and projects.

Think Before You Dip

Before you turn to your retirement plan for help, you should be aware of some things. It may seem like an easy option, but the IRS actually has some rules that you have to meet before taking money from your 401(k). One of the following conditions must occur before you can take money out without being penalized:

  • You lose your job
  • You claim disability
  • You or your spouse dies
  • You turn 59 ½ years old

401(k) Withdrawal Based on Financial Hardship

If you don’t meet the criteria listed above, but are facing a financial hardship, you may also be able to take an early withdrawal from your retirement account. The IRS’ hardship rules require you have one of the following needs to qualify for a hardship withdrawal:

  • Medical expenses for you or your immediate family
  • Financial assistance in the purchase of your primary residence (this excludes mortgage payments)
  • Tuition or other educational fees (maximum of 12 months) for you or your immediate family
  • Prevent the eviction of you from your primary place of residence
  • Burial or funeral expenses for deceased parent, spouse or other immediate family member
  • Expenses for the repair of damage to your principal residence

The amount of money you take can’t be more than the amount you actually need to cover your hardship. It’s important to note that your early withdrawal due to a financial hardship is subject to state and federal taxes, and is also subject to a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty if you are under age 59 ½. So keep all of these considerations in mind when deciding whether to dip into your retirement account.

401(k) Withdrawal Help

If you’re not sure if a retirement withdrawal is the best route to go, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio retirement plan services professionals can help you determine if you’re eligible and what you need to do to minimize your tax liability from a withdrawal.

Author: Steve Renner, QKA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for more information related to 401(k) or retirement plan withdrawals? Check out these blog posts:

Will I Be Penalized for a Hardship 401(k) Withdrawal?

Raiding Your 401(k)? It’ll Cost You

What Are The Rules For Taking A Distribution from My 401(k) Plan?

 

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DOMA’s Effect On Retirement Plans And Beneficiary Forms

Andrea McLane | May 12th, 2014

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court, in United States v. Windsor, ruled that Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. As you may recall, DOMA Section 3 states, “In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.”

By holding Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional, qualified retirement plans must now treat the relationship of same‐gender married couples as a marriage in order to maintain the plans’ tax‐qualified status. The term “spouse” includes an individual married to a person of the same-gender if the individuals are lawfully married under state or foreign law.

The IRS recognizes a valid same-gender marriage even if the married couple is living in a state that does not recognize same-gender marriages. The term “spouse” doesn’t include individuals who have entered into a registered domestic partnership, civil union, or other similar relationship that is not defined as marriage.

Important DOMA Information for Plan Sponsors

  • Participants (and their spouses) who are in same-gender marriages generally must be treated as married for all purposes under a retirement plan. This was effective as of June 26, 2013.
  • As of September 16, 2013, your plan must recognize same-gender marriages that were lawfully performed under the laws of the 50 states, D.C., U.S. territory or a foreign jurisdiction.
  • States that currently recognize same-gender marriages include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois (law will take effect on June 1, 2014), Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
  • Depending on whose retirement plan provider plan document you use, you may want to contact the provider to ensure that your retirement plan complies with these new rules. In general, amendments to such plans are due by the end of the plan’s remedial amendment period, or December 31, 2014.
  • As a plan sponsor, you have no obligation to notify current or former participants of the new rules.
  • All qualified plans must recognize same-gender marriages for all plan purposes. This would include provisions applicable to beneficiary designation, death benefits, applicable spousal consent requirements regarding distributions and loans, rollovers, etc.

Retirement Plan Help

Now is the perfect time to update beneficiary forms for all participants in your plan. It’s important you keep a current copy of each participant’s beneficiary form in his or her personnel file. If you need assistance with this, contact Rea & Associates. Our Ohio benefit plan services team can help you determine what you need to do to keep in compliance with IRS and DOL regulations.

Author: Andrea McLane, QKA (Dublin office)

 

Looking for more posts about retirement plan best practices? Check these out:

What Are The Rules For Taking A Distribution from My 401(k) Plan?

What Should Plan Sponsors Ask Their Investment Advisors?

What Are The Responsibilities of a Fiduciary?

 

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How Can A Small Business Owner Keep More Money In Their Pocket?

Lee Beall | May 8th, 2014

Who doesn’t want more money in their pocket? It’s something I think all of us would love to have. And small business owners are in luck! Accountants throughout the state of Ohio advocated for small business owners and worked with Ohio legislators to develop the Ohio Small Business Investor Income Deduction provision. In the 2013 tax year, Rea clients eligible for this tax deduction submitted nearly $80 million in tax deductions, and realized nearly $4 million in tax savings. This provision has truly helped small business owners keep money in their pocket!

How Do You Know If You Eligible For The Ohio Small Business Income Deduction?

If you’re a taxpayer who owns a business, such as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a limited liability corporation, and you bring in $125,000 in Ohio-sourced income (that would be $250,000 if you’re married and file jointly), you’re eligible for this deduction. For the first $125,000 (or $250,000 married, filing jointly) you report, you can take up to a 50 percent tax deduction. For many business owners, that’s real, significant savings. Keep in mind that businesses themselves are not eligible for the deduction, but rather the business owner, as an individual taxpayer, is eligible.

Why This Deduction Matters  

This provision, along with others, provides a tax cut for individual taxpayers. Last year, Ohio Governor John Kasich released a broad tax reform package that was aimed at putting money back into Ohio taxpayers’ pockets. Part of this reform was the Ohio Small Business Investor Income Deduction (SBD). The Ohio SBD, along with a string of other tax cutting provisions, is aimed at cutting taxes for Ohio business owners and individuals by $2.7 billion over the next three years. The end goal: to build and accelerate economic and job growth in Ohio.

If you were eligible for this deduction in 2013, you should have realized tax savings. In looking to the future, have you considered what your 2014 tax savings could be by taking advantage of the Ohio SBD? If not, it’s something you should be looking into so you can keep more money in your business.

Ohio Tax Help

Unsure of your eligibility or need help in understanding how this deduction can apply to you? Contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can review your operating structure and help you maximize your 2014 tax savings.

Author: Lee Beall, CPA (Dublin office)

 

Interested in reading more blog post about tax savings? Check these posts out:

How Will A Tax Credits and Incentives Plan Benefit Your Business?

So Is It a Tax Credit Or a Tax Deduction?

How Do You Make Your Charitable Contributions Count?

 

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How Can Analytics Help Reduce Fraud Risk At Your Business?

Annie Yoder | April 25th, 2014

Whether it’s due to limited resources or staffing, you may find it difficult to find time to closely review the financial activity of various departments within your business. But here’s the thing: not doing detailed reviews can leave your business exposed to increased risk of error or fraud. Incorporating analytics into your review process can be an efficient way to detect errors and fraud and will allow you to identify areas of risk within your business. Analytics are frequently part of audit procedures, and compare the correlation between key statistical data and actual financial activity.

How To Use Analytics In Your Reviews

  1. Identify the information. Identify the department, segment or line item you want to review and determine a time period that will allow the most effective review. Analytics can be used to compare financial activity on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Determine what information will allow for the most effective review. For example, if you’re reviewing the revenues related to food service operations you may want to breakout the revenues by type (i.e. lunches, breakfast, a la carte, adult).
  2. Identify the primary driving factors. The most important step in an analytic is identifying the primary factors that will cause significant changes in the activity you are reviewing. Use the changes in those factors to set expectations for the amount you expect the actual financial activity to change. Continuing with the example above, if you noticed the number of lunches served increased 10 percent in the current month compared to the previous month then you would expect the revenues to correlate with that change.
  3. Review the results. Compare your expectations to what actually happened. Based on the example I’ve been using, if your actual revenues decreased by 2 percent then you will want to investigate this change further. If actual revenues increased by 9 percent then you may determine the variance is acceptable and you don’t need to investigate any further.

The Discovery Of Potential Errors

If after you’ve compared the results of the analytics and identified a few areas that didn’t meet your expectations, what do you do next?

  1. Contact the person responsible for the area you reviewed. Determine if there are additional factors that would have caused the variance from your expectations.
  2. If you have determined there are no additional factors or what was communicated to you was not reasonable, you may want to consider a more detailed review. Theoretically, if you have considered all factors in your expectations, the only plausible explanation at this point for a variance is a misstatement probably due to error or fraud.
  3. If you have identified an error, review the controls and processes in place to determine what caused the error. This is where you can identify steps to improve the control strength to prevent future errors.
  4. Inform your auditors of the results of your analytics and the areas of risk you identified. This will allow your auditors to focus on these areas and provide more value to your audit. Your auditors will more than likely ask these questions and you’ll already know the answers.

Using analytics within your business will allow you to properly allocate more of your time and resources to the areas with the most risk. You will be able to efficiently identify the riskier areas and make the necessary improvements in processes and controls to address the risk.  This can prevent possible audit findings, adjustments and can even help prevent fraud.

Analytics and Financial Review Help

If you are looking to step up your game as it relates to financial reviews within your company, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio government auditors can help you incorporate analytics into your reviews so you can get a better picture of how funds are being used throughout your organization.

Authors: Chad Gorfido, CPA (Medina office), and Annie Yoder, CPA, CFE, CFF (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for more information on how to reduce fraud risk within your business? Check these articles out:

Does Your Audit Process Protect You From Fraud?

Have You Assessed Your Fraud Risk?

Do You Subscribe to a Fraud Hotline?

 

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How Can I Make The Most of My Retirement?

Frank Festi | April 23rd, 2014

During my 30 years of financial planning experience, I have come to find that there are four phases of a person’s life. If you’re a Baby Boomer, each phase is approximately 22 years in length. Phase 1 is our formal education and/or training. During Phase 2, we try to figure out what we are going to do for a living, and then focus on becoming as proficient at it as we can be. In Phase 3, we strive to be on top of our game and begin to accumulate wealth. It’s Phase 4 that should prove to be, as long as we enjoy good health, the most gratifying phase of our lives. For in Phase 4, we should be able to step back and enjoy our journey at a more relaxed pace. It is during this phase that we are oftentimes best positioned to positively impact the people and causes that are important to us, while hopefully leaving this world a little better than we found it.

Financial and Emotional Threats to Retirement

Certainly, there are financial challenges that you may face that you should address in order to live the lifestyle necessary to accomplish your mission. These financial challenges exist for many of us due to longer life spans, the decrease of defined benefit retirement plans, and the uncertainty surrounding programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Because of our longer life expectancies and the disappearance of guaranteed pensions, many Baby Boomers are choosing to cut back the hours that they work rather than retire. For some it becomes a phase-out period of their career, while others choose to commence an entirely new career.

I have had the privilege to work with financially successful people whose fourth phase of life is not threatened by financial insecurity. However, they may have confronted emotional challenges that surface due to their loss of identity. It’s common for a person in a management position of a large company to discover that many of the people they considered friends prove to have been what I refer to as “positional acquaintances.”

Once that person retires and no longer holds a position on the company’s organization chart, the remaining people on the chart begin to interact with the new leader and no longer interact with the retiree.

So regardless of whether the threat to your enjoyment of Phase 4 is financial and/or emotional, below is a list of potential remedies that should be helpful tools as you attempt to position yourself for an enjoyable victory lap of your life’s journey.

7 Remedies To Help You Enjoy Your Retirement

  1. Develop hobbies or participate in community service activities that will provide you with an outlet to use your time and talent.
  2. Diversify your group of friends to include individuals who are not from work.
  3. Be a disciplined contributor to your retirement plan. During Phase 2, always contribute at a minimum the amount that your employer will match. During Phase 3, consider contributing the maximum amount permitted.
  4. Consider phasing out of your career and/or commencing on a new career that is aligned with your time, talents and passions. Continuing to earn an income can afford you the option of delaying access to your retirement funds and Social Security benefits.
  5. Become familiar with your Social Security options. Waiting to access your monthly benefits until you’re 70 years of age can generate a 75 percent increase of your monthly benefit at age 62. With today’s life expectancies, doing so could provide significantly more retirement benefits to you or your spouse during your lifetimes.
  6. Examine your current lifestyle and determine what is important to you. Where possible, trim unnecessary activities and related expenses and begin shaping your desired retirement lifestyle.
  7. Leverage tax law to subsidize the cost of your chosen lifestyle. The American Taxpayer Relief Tax Act of 2012 added a complexity of additional tax brackets and disappearing tax deductions that are tied to income levels. As a result, tax bracket management, where you accelerate or defer income into low tax bracket year and deductible expenses into high tax bracket year has become more important. Proactive tax bracket management, coupled with disciplined investment of realized tax savings, can significantly enhance the cash flow available to you during your victory lap.

By applying the strategies above, the increased amount of cash you could realize during retirement could be the difference between enjoying your retirement or not enjoying it. Consider taking some of these steps today in order to enhance your chances of living your dream in the future.

Retirement Planning Help

If you’re unsure of what your future retirement holds, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio personal tax professionals can help you evaluate where you’re at currently and can help you map out where you want to go on your retirement journey.

Author: Frank Festi, CPA, CFP (Medina office)

 

Want to gain more tips for retirement planning? Check these blog posts out:

Retirement Is Knocking … Are You Ready To Answer The Door?

Will You Be Ready for Retirement?

What Are The Rules For Taking A Distribution from My 401(k) Plan?

 

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How Can You Build And Develop Your Organization?

Mike Taylor | April 16th, 2014

If you run a manufacturing business, then you know it’s no easy task. You may often find that the day-to-day activities become your focus. It can be hectic, time-consuming and physically and emotionally draining. These issues can take away from your ability to focus on actually growing your business. It can be a “Catch 22″ because if you aren’t building the right organizational structure, then the day-to-day activities continue to consume your time and before you know it, you’ll become like a cat chasing your tail.

Going From ‘Good to Great’

In the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, he touches on this very issue. He says, “The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it.”

Many closely-held business owners struggle to grasp this concept. In my experience, if you want to grow a successful company and have a reasonable quality of life, you must get your arms around your organizational structure. For individuals who don’t, your company probably won’t reach its potential and you may spend most of your time working in your business and not on it.

Building Your Organization May Require Tough Choices

In my career I have worked with many companies that have had a difficult time building their organization.  It’s not easy and you won’t always get it right. When you get it wrong you must move swiftly to make the necessary changes. Most of us know when we have the wrong person in the wrong position, but we just procrastinate in making a change. Making the right move is critical for building an organization, even when it’s a tough choice.

Maximize your time and talents – and the time and talents of your employees. But know that it can’t be done without the right people around you. Make sure you have a solid management team surrounding you that can help you move your business in the direction you want it to go.

Author: Mike Taylor, CPA (Millersburg office)

Are you interested in reading more blog posts about managing your business? Check these ones out:

What Are 6 Things You Can Do To Improve The Health Of Your Business in 2014?

What Are The Top 10 Signs Your Business’s Internal Controls Aren’t Strong?

What Are The Top 5 Challenges Business Owners Face in Today’s Economy?

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What Should You Do After Tax Season?

Dave McCarthy | April 14th, 2014

Now that most of you have either filed your 2013 tax return or at least gathered your tax information and sent it off to your CPA, I know what you’re thinking. Phew! I’m done with my taxes for yet another year! But guess what? No, you aren’t!

Now is the time to start planning for next year. The sooner you plan ahead and strategize for next year’s tax season, the better off you may be. Not happy with the amount of taxes that you had to pay this past year? Not happy that you seem to work harder and harder only to pay more in taxes and get further behind? Start planning now for future tax seasons!

Tax Planning For the Future

Here are a few things you can start working on now to help create a better tax experience for yourself next year:

  • Develop an investment strategy. Most people don’t understand the affect this can have on your tax return. You can control when and how to take gains from your investments. You should work on developing a long-term investment strategy with your investment advisor.
  • Create a plan to sell property. Are you considering selling property sometime in the future? Did you know that there are ways to minimize taxes that need to be paid on the sale of property? This isn’t done by calling your financial advisor and letting them know you just sold some property. Get them involved now and discuss that you plan to sell some property in three to five years. Your financial advisor can help you structure the property sale and ultimately help you control the tax effect.
  • Establish a business plan. If you’re thinking about starting a new business, work with your financial advisor now to determine what tax savings you may be able to realize. Depending on the type of entity there could be significant tax savings down the road. 

Tax Planning Help

While there’s no single quick fix to solving all of your business and tax woes, planning now will certainly help you when tax season rolls around next year – and the year after that and so on. If you need help with your tax planning, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax planning professionals can help you develop a tax strategy that best suits you for years to come.

Author: Dave McCarthy, CPA, CSEP (Medina office)

 

Want to read some more articles related to tax planning? Check these posts out?

What Is The Difference Between Fixed Asset Expensing And Capitalization?

So Is It a Tax Credit Or a Tax Deduction?

How Will A Tax Credits and Incentives Plan Benefit Your Business?

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How Can Heartbleed Affect You and Your Business’s Online Identity?

Joe Welker | April 11th, 2014

The Internet is a powerful tool – something that can make our lives (and businesses) easier. But it also can be our worst nightmare at times. If you keep up on the news, you may recall within the past few days hearing something about “Heartbleed.” No, this isn’t the name of a new rock-n-roll band. It’s the latest threat to your security on the Internet. News sites started reporting on this newest Internet threat earlier this week. But as more and more has become known about this Internet defect, it’s becoming clear that everyone with an online identity needs to be concerned about it.

Heartbleed is an exploit that basically allows malicious users to run a tool that will gain them access to a Web server and provide them with usernames and password from that server. What can this defect potentially affect? Every website on the Internet. Bank websites, social media sites, online merchant sites … the list goes on.

Within the past couple days, a Heartbleed defect was discovered that allows hackers to access chunks of a server’s memory that could contain Personally Identifiable Information (PII). Sites that integrate a Secure-Socket Layer (SSL) encryption certificate are now at risk of this new defect.

Steps For Protecting Your Online Identity

So what should you do to protect you and your business from this risk? Follow these steps:

  1. Take inventory of all of your online accounts and make a list of your accounts.
  2. Before changing your online passwords, contact the businesses of any accounts that may have SSL certificates to ensure that the company has issued new certificates. To check the “grade” of an SSL-secured site, you can visit Qualys SSL Labs website and input the URL of the site you’re checking. Sites are graded (A through F) on how secure they actual are.
  3. Change your passwords for each of your online accounts.
  4. Clear your Web browsers’ cache, cookies and history. Check out this ZDNet article for step-by-step instructions on how to do this.
  5. Closely monitor your bank and credit card statements to make sure there’s no unusual or suspect activity.
  6. If you receive emails or other online communication that promises a solution to your Heartbleed woes, don’t buy it. These communications are more than likely spam connected to dangerous malware or pointing you to malware. Heartbleed is a very complex online security threat, and there’s not a simple, quick fix for it.

Need Advice On Protecting Your Online Identity?

Following the steps outlined above will hopefully help lessen your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud. If you have questions or need additional guidance on how to protect your business, contact our IT audit professionals at Rea & Associates.

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for other blog posts about protecting your business’s online identity? Check these posts out:

Do You Know Who Has Access To Your IT Network?

How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

How Can You Prepare For The Retirement of Microsoft Windows XP?

 

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Retirement Is Knocking … Are You Ready To Answer The Door?

Darlene Finzer | April 2nd, 2014

Traveling to exotic places. Spending hours on the links. Enjoying time with the grandkids. Supporting philanthropic efforts. While these all might be things you hope to do during retirement, do you have any idea the likelihood that you’ll actually get to do them? Sadly, more and more individuals are finding that they’re not adequately prepared for retirement. According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s (EBRI’s) March 2013 Retirement Confidence Survey, 49 percent of individuals surveyed are “not very confident” or “not at all confident” that they’ll have enough income when they hit retirement. That’s an astounding, yet insightful number. How would you answer the question, “How confident are you that you’re prepared for retirement?” If you find yourself in either of the categories mentioned above, all hope is not lost.

For many of you, retirement probably seems light years away. But there may be some of you who are fast approaching retirement age. Wherever you’re at on the retirement spectrum there are practices you can put in place now to move you toward your retirement goals.

Five Practical Tips for Retirement Readiness       

  1. Look at your ability to save and cut corners where you can to save money. Even if your savings goal seems beyond reach or too distant in the future to be of concern now, re-evaluate where you can save and strive for it. Some individuals won’t begin to save if they see the goal as unattainable and set themselves up for failure before they even begin. Just as a tiny grain of sand can form into a pearl within an oyster over time, small steps in saving for retirement can lead you to your goals. Take responsibility to make it happen, and get financial advice if you need some help.
  2. Determine what you expect your retirement lifestyle to look like. If you dream or envision traveling to those exotic places I mentioned earlier, or perhaps you want to buy a motor home and travel the United States, it’s critical that you have the funds to do it. In theory it sounds like a great idea, but what many people realize upon retirement is that they don’t have enough funds to support these kinds of adventurous or carefree lifestyles. The EBRI survey cited above also showed that seven out of 10 individuals haven’t talked with a financial advisor about their financial situation nor have they put together a plan for retirement. If you want to have a retirement that’s close to what you dream of, put a realistic plan together for what you expect retirement to look like and go after it to make it happen.
  3. Evaluate your debt. Have you purchased a new car? Is your mortgage paid off? Are you (or are you planning on) paying for your kids’ college education? As you prepare for retirement, it’s important you evaluate your debt situation. Ideally, you don’t want to go into retirement with any debt. Work hard now to pay off debt you may have. It’ll pay off (literally and figuratively) later on down the road!
  4. Consider what monetary resources you have to pull from. There’s a whole slew of ways you can fund your retirement. Make certain you are taking advantage of any retirement plan your employer offers. Not only does this give you the ability to save for retirement, but many employers will also contribute money for you – do your best to take full advantage of the contribution your employer will make for you. Personal savings and other avenues, such as an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or investment in property, could be considered. Social security benefits can also be factored in as part of your retirement benefits, but should not be viewed as the only or primary source of retirement income.
  5. Anticipate medical costs and needs. You may feel fit as a fiddle. But unfortunately for many of us, that feeling won’t last our entire lives. As we get older, our bodies age, and it’s important for us to prepare financially for any potential medical costs or needs we could encounter. Medical costs are one of the more commonly overlooked items when planning for retirement. Knowing your family’s medical history could be helpful when anticipating your future medical costs. 

Retirement Planning Help

While these five tips won’t completely solve all of your retirement woes, they’ll help you get in better shape for retirement. Don’t wait until it’s too late. To celebrate National Employee Benefits Day, which is today, start preparing for the retirement of your dreams today. If you need guidance or additional insight on how to best plan for your retirement, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals can help you put together a plan to ensure you’re on a good path to retirement.

Author: Darlene Finzer, CPA, QKA, CSA (New Philadelphia office) 

 

Looking for more advice on retirement planning? Check out these posts:

What Are Ways You Can Ensure You’re Ready for Retirement?

Will You Be Ready for Retirement?

What Are The Rules For Taking A Distribution from My 401(k) Plan?

 

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Where’s Your Tax Refund?

Cathy Troyer | March 28th, 2014

Do you find yourself checking your mailbox every day? Or maybe you’re watching your bank account to see if your account balance went up? It’s the time of year that many Americans are waiting with bated breath for their coveted tax refund. If you haven’t already, you’re probably getting ready to file your tax returns in the next few weeks, and you may be wondering when you can expect to receive your refund or if there’s anything you can do to speed it up. Well, wonder no more and read on!

Speeding Up Your 2013 Tax Refund

The best way to receive your tax refund sooner than later is to file your tax return electronically and to select “direct deposit” as the delivery method for your refund. Electronic filing is faster, more accurate, and more secure than paper-filing your return. Likewise, direct deposit is faster and more secure than receiving a paper check refund. There’s no chance of your refund check being lost or stolen if it’s electronically deposited directly into your bank account. Please note that calling the IRS will not speed up your refund.

When Will You Receive Your Federal Tax Refund?

If you’ve already submitted your 2013 tax return and are curious where your refund is at, you can check the status of your federal tax refund using the IRS program, “Where’s My Refund?” This is available at http://www.irs.gov/Refunds, or you can use the mobile app, IRS2GO. If you file your return electronically, you can check the status 24 hours after your return was electronically submitted. If you file a paper return, you can check the status four weeks after your return is mailed.

In order to use “Where’s My Refund?”, you’ll need the primary taxpayer’s social security number, the filing status, and the exact amount of the refund. Your return will be in one of three stages:  Return Received, Refund Approved, or Refund Sent. While using “Where’s My Refund?” will not speed up the waiting time, it’s a convenient way to check the status of your refund.

Got Tax Questions?

If you have tax-related questions, contact Rea & Associates. Our team of Ohio tax professionals would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Author: Cathy Troyer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Looking for other tax-related articles? Check these out:

What Tax Benefits Exist When You Donate to Charity?

What Tax Liabilities Accompany Inherited Real Estate?

What’s The Relationship Between Side-Businesses And Tax Deductions?

 

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Do You Know Who Has Access To Your IT Network?

Joe Welker | March 20th, 2014

You may find that your business relies heavily on the technical support provided by third-party hardware and software providers. But have you ever considered whether your vendors have direct access to your business’s internal IT network without having to gain permission from someone within your business? If you’re not positive about how to answer, then it’s probably time to do some digging to see if that’s the case or not. It’s possible that your vendor(s) has access to your business’s sensitive data and devices.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are The Responsibilities of a Fiduciary?

Darlene Finzer | March 19th, 2014

Do you ever long for the carefree bliss of your childhood? No real responsibility. No bills to pay. No one depending on your performance. While it’s nice to daydream, it’s never going to happen, especially considering the fiduciary responsibility you have as a plan sponsor.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Tax Benefits Exist When You Donate to Charity?

Wendy Shick | March 18th, 2014

We’re three months into 2014, and you may be thinking about what charitable donations you’d like to make this year. If you’re planning to make a donation to a qualified 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, make sure to look at your investment portfolio before you write a check.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Which Life Insurance Policy Is Right For You?

Lee Beall | March 17th, 2014

Back in January, I shared some insight about six common stages of life where you should review your life insurance policy. Today I want to provide some insight about how you can know what the right life insurance plan is for you.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Is The Petroleum Activities Tax and How Does It Affect My Business?

David Shallenberger | March 10th, 2014

Remember the CAT—the Commercial Activity Tax? Well, there’s another acronym you’ll need to get familiar with – the PAT, the Petroleum Activities Tax. Starting July 1, any receipts from the sale of motor fuel will be excluded from Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) receipts. That means if you’re a supplier of motor fuel, you’ll have to pay the replacement Petroleum Activities Tax (PAT), measured by your gross receipts for first sales of motor fuel outside of the distribution system in Ohio.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are Ways You Can Ensure You’re Ready for Retirement?

Lee Beall | March 5th, 2014

Yes, yes. You have a million things going on, and retirement planning may be the furthest thing from your mind. But it really shouldn’t be. In order to be well-prepared for retirement, you need to start now regardless of where you’re at in your career. Here are five financial requirements you should focus on as you prepare for retirement: Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Should You Review Your Retirement Plan Documents Now?

Paul McEwan | March 4th, 2014

“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” A lot of people adhere to this philosophy, but in some cases, a review of how something works is not only helpful, it is required. If a business’s retirement plan seems to be working fine, and there doesn’t appear to be anything out of place, many employers believe there is no reason to review the provisions of the plan. This may be the case for a plan that was recently established, but it is always a good idea to review provisions every few years to ensure the plan is still meeting the goals of both the employer and its’ employees.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can My Statement of Cash Flows Transform My Business?

Chris Roush | February 28th, 2014

Do you realize that your business’s financial statements are a valuable management tool for decision making? You may be thinking, “Well, I just get them done because the bank needs them for my loan file,” or, “I think I have a copy in a drawer somewhere.” But if you take the time to understand your financial statements, you’ll be surprised to find that they can give you information on the condition of your company and allow you to make better business decisions.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Could Ohio’s Small Business Investor Income Tax Deduction Do For Me?

Chad Bice | February 27th, 2014

In an effort to become more taxpayer-friendly and reduce the effective tax rate, Ohio enacted the Small Business Investor Income Tax Deduction effective for tax year 2013. This tax deduction benefits many of Ohio’s individual income taxpayers. So how exactly does this deduction work?  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Tax Liabilities Accompany Inherited Real Estate?

Lesley Mast | February 26th, 2014

So you just inherited some real estate. You’re probably now wondering – is this a blessing or a curse? From the tax perspective, of course. And that’s a good question to ask. Just because you inherit something doesn’t mean that you’re free and clear of any potential tax liabilities. Depending on how you use the property and if you sell it will determine if you have a taxable situation. So here’s what you should know about taxes and inherited real estate.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do I Apply For Ohio’s Honor Project Trust?

Maribeth Wright | February 19th, 2014

Could your nonprofit use some “extra cash”? I’m sure most of you answered “yes” to that question. And the timing couldn’t be better. A few months back I wrote a blog post about Ohio’s Honor Project Trust. The Honor Project Trust was created as a result of a lawsuit settlement. Excess settlement proceeds from the lawsuit totaling approximately $9 million were earmarked for Ohio nonprofits. The trust’s mission is to identify and providing funding to not-for-profit charitable organizations that have a societal impact in the State of Ohio.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Should Plan Sponsors Ask Their Investment Advisors?

Steve Renner | February 12th, 2014

Like many business owners, running your business every day is a top priority for you. But as a sponsor of a 401(k) plan, you have an obligation to your employees to make your plan a priority as well. The truth is, most business owners are not 401(k) experts. Therefore, working with a quality 401(k) investment advisor should also be a priority. As a plan sponsor, there are questions you should be asking your advisor to ensure they are helping your meet your fiduciary obligations as the plan sponsor.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Do The Recent IRS Final Regulations for Obamacare Entail?

Joe Popp | February 12th, 2014

You’ve probably never received a Valentine’s Day gift from the IRS, but this year you did! On Monday, the IRS issued final regulations on Obamacare’s employer shared responsibility payment provision, otherwise known as the “pay or play” provision. Like many things the IRS announces, there’s quite a bit a fine print. This time is no exception. Check out some of the highlights of the final regulations and learn what you need to know moving forward.  Read the rest of this entry »

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When Should You Start Thinking About Succession Planning?

Tim McDaniel | February 10th, 2014

You’re busy serving customers. Managing employees. Overseeing the day-to-day operations of your business. Stepping down as the head of your company may not be on your radar, but sooner or later you’ll need to think about what will happen to your business once you’re out of the picture. We recommend that business owners start thinking about their business succession plan at least five years before planning to implement it.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s The Relationship Between Side-Businesses And Tax Deductions?

Tom Jeffries | January 31st, 2014

Do you or someone you know enjoy knitting or jewelry-making? Or perhaps you do résumé writing or other professional consulting work? If you do any of these as a side business and make a profit, did you know that you can deduct expenses that are ordinary and necessary to your business? If your side business expenses exceed the income for your business, then the loss can be deducted against other income. However, if your loss is from a business that’s not making a profit, then you’re not allowed to deduct your loss against other income.  Read the rest of this entry »

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When Is The Best Time To Review My Life Insurance Policy?

Lee Beall | January 30th, 2014

Cartoon characters and celebrities all tell you to get it – life insurance that is. Now that you have it (or are at least considering purchasing it), is that it? Do you just sit back and pay your monthly life insurance fee until your policy expires? No way!  Read the rest of this entry »

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Will You Be Paying With Cash, Credit Or Bitcoins?

Meredith Mullet | January 29th, 2014

Bitcoin has been all over the news lately, and you may be asking – what exactly is it? Bitcoin is a virtual currency. Only existing online, it’s powered by its users and not backed by any government agency. This new currency offers anonymity, convenience, helps facilitate international commerce and can fluctuate in value. Check out www.bitcoin.org for more information and frequently asked questions.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can You Prepare For The Retirement of Microsoft Windows XP?

Joe Welker | January 16th, 2014

You’ve probably heard by now about the Target data breach, but just this week other retailer data breaches during the 2013 holiday season have become known. In light of these broad, major data breaches, this is a great time to ask yourself: When was the last time you evaluated your business’s IT network? If this has been an area of your business that you’ve let slide, then let it slide no more!  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Should You Know About 2014 Standard Mileage Rates?

Joe Popp | January 14th, 2014

Do you use your personal vehicle for business purposes when you’re on the clock? Or do you use your vehicle medical, moving or charitable purposes? If so, did you know that you can claim a tax deduction on the mileage you rack up?  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are 5 Things You Should Do Financially Now?

Mark Fearon | January 7th, 2014

As a small business owner, you probably find the end of the year a busy time. Before you know it, you find yourself into January trying to determine what the New Year will bring. One of the keys to being a successful business owner is taking a break from the day-to-day routine and spending some time doing valuable planning. This is sometimes referred to as working on your business, not just working in your business. To help you with this process, here are five things you should consider doing as a small business owner as you start the New Year.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are 6 Things You Can Do To Improve The Health Of Your Business in 2014?

Dave Cain | December 30th, 2013

Are you out of breath from the impact the economy had on your business during the last several years? Is it time to develop some New Year’s resolutions that will make a difference in your business? Adopting a new diet, jumping on the treadmill or committing to run a half marathon are common items on the “personal” resolution menu. However, is it time to add energy and resources to your resolutions in order to improve the health of your business?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Obamacare Exchange Enrollment Deadline Extended One Day

Joe Popp | December 23rd, 2013

Things are continually changing on the Obamacare front. I wanted to provide you with a brief update since my blog post from last Friday. In last Friday’s post, I explained that today (Dec. 23, 2013) was the last day for individuals to sign-up for insurance through the federal government (“the Exchange”) that would take effect on Jan. 1, 2014. However, the Obama administration announced today that it is extending the deadline by one day. If you’re interested in obtaining health insurance through the Exchange, you can now enroll through tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 24. For more information on the deadline extension, view this recent CNNMoney articleRead the rest of this entry »

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Do I Need To Have Health Care Coverage Before Jan. 1, 2014?

Joe Popp | December 20th, 2013

Christmas is upon us, but you know what else is? The federal deadline to pay for exchange insurance that’s effective Jan. 1, 2014. Yes, that’s right. If you want health insurance through the federal government, you’ve got until Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, to apply and pay for it. Some insurance companies have delayed this deadline to Jan. 10, 2014 – but not all. So don’t wait – make sure you’re covered today.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Manufacturers Deal With Competition?

Kyle Stemple | December 20th, 2013

Contrary to popular belief, the manufacturing industry is alive and well. For years, we’ve heard that it’s a “dying” industry. But that’s just not so. In fact, many manufacturers are enjoying higher profitability than 2008 pre-recession levels. However, if your manufacturing business is still young or you’ve hit a rough patch and are starting to see a downward shift in your sales and employment, there’s assistance that you may qualify for to help you get out the rut you’re in.

Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can I Protect My Business From A Data Security Breach?

Joe Welker | December 19th, 2013

We live in an ever-increasing digital world. And with that comes risk – and lots of it. The number of stolen debit/credit card numbers continues to grow every day. Today’s news story about how nearly 40 million Target customers had debit or credit card information stolen is the most recent example of the kind of risky, digital world we live in.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are Some IT Audit Tips That Can Keep You off Santa’s Naughty List?

Joe Welker | December 19th, 2013

The end of the year is near, and it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays. But don’t let that be an excuse to forget about your entity’s security and information technology (IT) operations. As you close out your year, here are seven areas and tips that can help you strengthen and further secure your entity’s IT environment – and keep you off Santa’s naughty list!  Read the rest of this entry »

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Where Can I Find Easy-To-Use Tools For Calculating Complex Data?

Lee Beall | December 18th, 2013

The holidays are upon us, and right now you’re probably looking forward to celebrating with family and friends. Your finances may be one of the furthest things from your mind, but once Jan. 1 hits, the holidays are over and we all go back to our “regular” lives. If you’re an individual who sets goals or resolutions for the New Year, you may find yourself hoping to get into better physical shape or get better organized. But in the craze of the holidays and in the midst of your New Year’s resolutions, have you considered your finances?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Peeling Back The Onion: Answering 3 Popular Obamacare Questions

Joe Popp | December 12th, 2013

As Obamacare becomes more and more of a reality to individuals, I’m being asked lots of questions. In the past few weeks, I received three questions that I’m finding are common concerns among the people I’ve talked with. I wanted to share these questions and provide some insight into each. So let me peel back the Obamacare “onion” and help you better understand how you may be impacted or what options you have available to you.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Will There Be Changes To The Small Business Health Care Credit?

Joe Popp | December 6th, 2013

Has your business enjoyed the small business health care credit for the last few years? Well, get ready because changes are coming in 2014.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can You Best Prepare For The Upcoming Tax Season?

Lesley Mast | December 4th, 2013

It’s the holiday season, and you know what that means. I’m not talking about shopping or decorating or eating until your heart’s content. I’m talking about cleaning out those filing cabinets and getting ready for tax time! The more prepared and organized you can be as you approach tax season, the smoother a process you can create for yourself or your business.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can I Make My Benefit Plan Audit A Smoother Process?

Darlene Finzer | November 28th, 2013

Your time is precious and you want to use it effectively. The last thing you want to face is multiple requests from auditors that make you feel like you’re running around without purpose. It doesn’t have to be this way. A little preparation on your end will help the process run smoother and give you fewer headaches.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are Some Changes Plan Sponsors Can Expect To See In 2014?

Darlene Finzer | November 26th, 2013

Every fall, just as we can expect the leaves to change colors and the weather to turn colder and a little dreary, we can also anticipate changes we will see coming in the following year with respect to employee benefit plans.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Franchising Work For You?

Jim Fracker | November 25th, 2013

Purchasing a franchise might seem like a very daunting process, enough so that you might not even consider it a possibility for you. However, have you ever considered what advantages buying a franchise might bring to you? Before jumping ahead to the benefits, let’s first look at what exactly franchising is.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Should Your Digital Assets Be Part of Your Estate Plan?

Inez Bowie | November 21st, 2013

Just when you think your estate plan is complete, is it really? Your will gives your personal property to your daughter, Suzie. Great, Suzie gets your laptop and your smartphone. But what happens to your online accounts, emails, Facebook account, iTunes account, that special digital crown won in an online game, and digital pictures stored in the “cloud”? Does Suzie know where to find your usernames or passwords? Even if she does, does she have a right to access the accounts?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Ohio House Passes Municipal Tax Reform Bill – What Does This Mean For You?

Tracy Kaufman | November 15th, 2013

If you’re tired of spending countless hours and money on getting your local taxes in order, then relief may be on its way. The Ohio House of Representatives recently passed the state’s municipal income tax reform bill (Sub House Bill 5), which seeks to standardize and create more efficiency for Ohio’s patchwork municipal tax system.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Health Insurance Options: SHOP, Drop, Roll, or Self-insure?

Joe Popp | November 14th, 2013

You may recall the popular saying, “Stop, Drop and Roll.” This is what we were taught in case a piece of our clothing or hair caught on fire. This same clever saying can (in a roundabout way) be applied to the list of options that businesses now have because of Obamacare. SHOP, Drop, Roll or Self-insure.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are The Top 10 Signs Your Business’s Internal Controls Aren’t Strong?

Chris Roush | November 8th, 2013

Internal controls are procedures that companies develop to safeguard their assets and to produce accurate, reliable financial statements. When a company doesn’t have strong internal control procedures, fraud can occur much easier. Other issues that can arise include inaccurate financial statements, the inability to find certain documents such as invoices or purchase orders, or a higher than usual number of customer complaints.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Did The IRS Delay The Start Of The 2014 Tax Season?

Tiffany Crawford | November 6th, 2013

Recently the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that due to the 16-day government shutdown, they will begin processing tax returns one- to two-weeks later than planned. The original start date was Jan. 21, 2014. With this delay, the tax season could begin no earlier than Jan. 28 or as late as Feb. 4. The IRS will not process paper returns until the official start date, even if they are received before the official start date.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Contractors Ensure They Have Sufficient Cash Flow?

Matt Pottmeyer | October 28th, 2013
As a construction contractor, income taxes are probably the furthest thing from your mind. And you’re probably not too excited about writing big checks to the respective taxing authorities. Read the rest of this entry »
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Does Your Company Have Solid Internal Controls?

Don McIntosh | October 24th, 2013

Let’s admit it… we all want to be able to trust other people. And we generally do…until we’re proven wrong. Owners of small, family-owned businesses are no different, and must put their trust in someone to handle their revenue, disbursements, payroll and inventory, among other financial functions.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Is A Budget Important To The Success Of My Business?

Mark McKinley | October 18th, 2013

The end of the year is fast approaching. Before you know it, Jan. 1, 2014, will be here and another business year is at hand. So… have you started planning and budgeting for your 2014 business year? If you haven’t, don’t wait any longer. The sooner you get your budget in place, the better idea you’ll have of what you can do in the year ahead.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Is The Difference Between Fixed Asset Expensing And Capitalization?

Christopher Axene | October 17th, 2013

If you’re about to acquire, produce or improve real or tangible personal property, and then turn around and use the property in a trade of business for income, stop right there. Under the Internal Revenue Code, you’re required to capitalize certain amounts of money you invested into the property.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can My Nonprofit Organization Benefit From Ohio’s Honor Project Trust?

Maribeth Wright | October 10th, 2013

Nonprofit organizations in Ohio may soon have “free money” coming to them. Who’s giving out the money? The State of Ohio. The Honor Project Trust was created as a result of a recent lawsuit settlement. Excess settlement proceeds from the lawsuit totaling approximately $9 million were earmarked for Ohio nonprofits. The trust’s mission is to identify and providing funding to not-for-profit charitable organizations that have a societal impact in the State of Ohio. So how do you know if you qualify for this grant and get a piece of the pie? Read the rest of this entry »

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Should I Be Worried About the New 3.8 Percent Medicare Surtax?

Joe Popp | October 10th, 2013

Obamacare is a complex piece of legislation. And in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, 62 percent of Americans said they lack information they need to understand Obamacare and how it will impact them.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can I Solve My Staffing Woes In The Manufacturing Industry?

Gene Spittle | October 4th, 2013

Being a manufacturer in today’s economy has it opportunities and challenges, and right now you may be flying high on business and running low on people to actually do the work. You may scratch your head daily over this issue and wonder how you can attract the right individuals to do the jobs. Let’s start with the root of the problem—perception. And then I’ll share how some manufacturers are combating this perception.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s The IRS Up To During The Government Shutdown?

Christopher Axene | October 1st, 2013

We’ve read for weeks that a government shutdown was possible, but at 12 a.m. this morning, it happened. It has been 17 years since the last government shutdown, and you, along with the rest of the American people, are probably wondering how the shutdown will impact their lives. Fortunately, last week the Internal Revenue Service published “FY 2014 Shutdown Contingency Plan (During Lapsed Appropriations) Non-Filing Season,” a set of guidelines that explains what will go on at the IRS during a shutdown.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are The Top 5 Challenges Business Owners Face in Today’s Economy?

Mike Taylor | September 26th, 2013

You may find that being your own boss is extremely rewarding. Starting a business from the ground up takes a lot of hard work, and you’ve been seeing the fruits of your labor. But your success doesn’t come without challenges. Business owners are facing some tough challenges these days, and you yourself may be experiencing some of these growing pains. Here’s a list of the top 5 challenges I’m seeing business owners like yourself facing in today’s economy. Do any of these resonate with you?

Read the rest of this entry »

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What Should I Do If I Recently Received An IRS Notice About Form 5500 or 8955-SSA?

Paul McEwan | September 25th, 2013

No one likes to hear from the IRS. But for the roughly 4,000 plan sponsors who have recently received erroneous notices, it’s extremely frustrating. Chances are if you have received a notice telling you that the IRS is assessing a penalty due to your “filing a late or incomplete” Form 5500 or 8955-SSA, it may very well be a mistake.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Should I Expect From My CPA?

Dave Cain | September 24th, 2013

As a small business owner, you may have started your business because you have a passion for your particular business/industry or you may have had the desire to “take the plunge” and be your own boss. Income taxes, payroll or financial reporting were probably not anywhere on your list of top reasons to own your own business. However, these three items along with many others fall under the umbrella of accounting services, and require the training and expertise of a CPA. So, since your business needs these services, what should you expect from a CPA?  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can A Focus on Inventory Management Help My Business?

David Shallenberger | September 17th, 2013

Is the recession over? Reports show that we are continuing the slow climb out. While the hill may be tall, chances are the recession has given you new tools to manage the effectiveness of your business and business capital – a renewed focus on cash flow and collections. But is that enough to get you into smooth waters?  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Do I Need To Know About Unclaimed Property in Ohio?

Meredith Mullet | September 16th, 2013

We have all lost things from time to time. Our keys, our phones, and sometimes it seems our minds. But did you know that more than 200,000 Ohioans have lost financial assets worth more than $1 billion? As a result and in an effort to protect property rights and reunite the owners with their rightful funds, Ohio enacted unclaimed property laws.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Does Worker Classification Impact Companies In The Oil & Gas Industry?

David Shallenberger | September 12th, 2013

As an employer in the oil and gas industry, historically you may have found it better for your company to hire independent contractors rather than employees. You probably paid your contractors flat day rates rather than an hourly wage. But now these practices are being challenged and companies of all sizes — including oil and gas companies — are being audited by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).  Read the rest of this entry »

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Are You Prepared For The Obamacare Deadline On Insurance Marketplace Availability?

Joe Popp | September 10th, 2013

The next Obamacare requirement deadline is right around the corner— are you ready? If you’re an employer, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires you to provide copies of one of the following insurance notices to all of your employees:

You must provide these insurance marketplace availability notices to your employees by Oct. 1, 2013.   Read the rest of this entry »

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How Does DOMA Affect Me?

Christopher Axene | September 6th, 2013

This article discusses the changes to individual tax payers that are in a legal same-sex marriage.

Earlier this year the Supreme Court declared that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional.  Section 3 of DOMA required that same-sex spouses are to be treated as unmarried for purpose of federal law.  It is now recognized that same-sex couples that were legally married in states that recognize same-sex marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, even if the state they are currently residing in does not allow same-sex marriages.  The same is true for couples married legally in a foreign jurisdiction.  This now allows for same-sex married couples to file with the status of “married filing jointly” (MFJ) or “married filing separately” (MFS). Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Should You Upgrade Your Business’s Windows XP Software?

Joe Welker | September 5th, 2013

If you missed it… you should know that Microsoft recently announced that effective April 8, 2014, it will no longer release any security patches or extend support for its Windows XP operating system. You may be thinking, “So what?” Well, if your organization is running its IT systems on Windows XP, your organization could open itself up to security issues. Furthermore, if your organization is in the healthcare industry and using Windows XP, it could be held liable and found non-compliant with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) laws.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Can I Qualify for New Incumbent Workforce Training Dollars?

Joe Popp | September 5th, 2013

The state just announced that it will launch the second round of the Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program. Earlier this year the state offered $20 million in cash to businesses to reimburse for training costs. However, all those dollars were accounted for the first day the program launched. Don’t fret though – more dollars will be available on September 30 at 10:00 a.m.! Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can You Make Vacant Commercial Space Work for You?

Chad Bice | September 3rd, 2013

How could vacant facilities be so lucrative? You can thank the state of Ohio for making that possible. In an effort to encourage the revitalization of vacant business property, Ohio enacted a bill that created the Ohio Vacant Facilities Fund, a program that essentially pays businesses to purchase or lease vacant property. So by now you’re probably wondering how your business can get a piece of this action.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Do You Have An Exit Strategy?

Frank Festi | August 29th, 2013

This month marks my 38th year in public accounting, 32 of which have been as a principal interacting with business owners and executives of closely held entities. I have been able to observe the good, the bad and the ugly as it relates to exiting a business. Throughout the years, I’ve had the privilege to serve some outstanding captains of industry who exemplified the ideal way of exiting a closely held business.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What are the Consequences of Having Misclassified Workers?

Cathy Troyer | August 29th, 2013

My co-worker, Maribeth Wright, recently wrote a blog post titled, “Are You Properly Classifying Your Workers?”. The post explained how to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. The article mentioned that this is a hot button issue with the IRS, as well as other government agencies.  In fact, according to The Kiplinger Tax Letter, the IRS is currently in the process of conducting 6,000 random audits, which are focusing on several payroll and fringe benefit issues – one of which is worker misclassification. Read the rest of this entry »

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So Is It a Tax Credit Or a Tax Deduction?

Joe Popp | August 21st, 2013

As you can probably guess if you have seen any courtroom dramas lately, semantics is very important when it comes to the law. One word can totally change the meaning of something, and hence change the thinking or behavior of someone.  Or in the case of tax law, one word can be a “gotcha!” or really change just how useful a provision might be to your business.  Let’s take a look at the small business tax break that is part of the recently passed Ohio budget as an example.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Will ACA Federal Exchange Premiums Affect Ohio Small Businesses and Consumers?

Joe Popp | August 16th, 2013

By now, you’ve been hearing a ton about the Affordable Care Act (yes, even from us), and you may be getting tired of all this news. However, it’s critical for you and your business to stay up-to-date on what is changing and what is being decided as it relates to the ACA. The Ohio Department of Insurance (DOI) recently announced in a press release that if you’re an individual consumer who chooses to buy health insurance through the federal government’s insurance exchange, you’ll be paying approximately 41 percent more than what you paid in 2013. And if you’re a business owner, you’ll see somewhere in the ballpark of an 18 percent increase.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are The Rules For Taking A Distribution from My 401(k) Plan?

Andrea McLane | August 12th, 2013

So maybe you’ve been storing up money in your 401(k) plan for years, possibly even decades. Or maybe you’ve just started paying into your 401(k), and have a little bit of money in your account. You suddenly find yourself in a situation where you need money… and you need it now. What do you do? Read the rest of this entry »

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Are You Properly Classifying Your Workers?

Maribeth Wright | August 7th, 2013

You may employ hundreds, if not thousands of employees. Or maybe you only employ three to five. Regardless of the number of employees you have, the way you classify your workers is important to the federal government. Worker status is a hot button issue at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Ohio Job and Family Services, Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and the U.S. Department of Labor are also challenging the way businesses report their payments to “independent contractors.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Is A Relationship With Your Banker Important To Your Business?

Tom Jeffries | August 1st, 2013

You have a bank. But do you have a relationship with your bank? A relationship with your bank is important to the success of your business. A banker can be a great source of information and a valuable part of your team. Too often it seems that the banker is only contacted when money is tight or there is an immediate need for cash flow. A business then spends several weeks obtaining information for the banker and attempting to communicate the importance of the current need. If the business had an on-going relationship with the bank, then this process is much easier to handle for the banker and the business.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Will A Tax Credits and Incentives Plan Benefit Your Business?

Chad Bice | July 30th, 2013

What if someone told you that you had an opportunity to claim thousands of dollars? You’d jump on it, right? Well, guess what? If you’re a business owner, you do have this opportunity!

Did you know there are an estimated 3,000 federal, state and local credits and incentives valued at more than $50 billion available to your business? These opportunities are both statutory and negotiated and include hiring credits, investment credits, real and personal property incentives, utility rate reductions, and infrastructure grants – just to name a few. Unfortunately, only a relatively small number of companies are taking advantage of these credits and incentives to which they are entitled.
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Some PCORI Fees Due This Wednesday – Do You Owe?

Joe Popp | July 29th, 2013

And so it continues… the next deadline in a long list of fee deadlines for the Affordable Healthcare Act is fast approaching. If you are a business that is self-insured for health care (this includes Health Reimbursement Arrangements/Accounts), and if you had a plan year end on or between Oct. 1, 2012 and Dec. 31, 2012, then you have a new fee to pay by this Wednesday, July 31, 2013. Calendar year plans are included in this because their end date would have been Dec. 31, 2012.
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How Can A Business Plan Prepare You for Your Future In the Oil & Gas Industry?

David Shallenberger | July 24th, 2013

As a business owner in the oil and gas industry, you may have a substantial and noble strategic vision for your company. You may even be thinking that the list of possibilities for what your company can become is endless. But wait… how do you reach your business goals and get to where you want to be?  Read the rest of this entry »

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Need Some Cash Now?

Wendy Shick | July 19th, 2013

Are you in the market for a new home? Or maybe you’re looking to purchase a new car for your daughter or son? Don’t have enough cash for a down payment? No problem. There’s a nice workaround that can provide short-term relief for your immediate need.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Is it time to review your choice of entity?

Mark Fearon | July 17th, 2013

When is the last time you talked to your accountant about your business’s entity type? If you’re like most business owners, it’s probably not something you regularly think about. Whether you are taxed at the corporate level as a C-corporation, or have a pass-through entity such as an S-corporation or a limited liability company (LLC), there have been plenty of changes in the tax laws recently to warrant at least considering your entity type. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Does the Ohio Budget Bill Impact Oil and Gas Producers?

David Shallenberger | July 12th, 2013

By now you’ve heard that Ohio Governor John Kasich signed Ohio’s new budget bill into law. Luckily, the severance tax on oil and gas production was removed from the bill a while back. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other components that you need to be aware of.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can You Ensure You’re Compliant With Disclosure Review?

Paul McEwan | July 11th, 2013

Let’s face it. You like to be prepared when it comes to your finances. So do participants of your benefit plans. That need for preparation is what has driven the recent changes in regards to fee disclosure. As a plan sponsor, you need to comply with these new requirements. Are you sure you’re keeping up with your role in the process? Read the rest of this entry »

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What Should You Be Prepared For Now With the ACA?

Joe Popp | July 9th, 2013

By now you have probably heard about the one-year delay to certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  But beware!  The other elements of the law are going into effect soon and there is one that may have sneaked past you – a new filing and fee due July 31, 2013.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Has the Fiscal Cliff Deal Impacted Trusts?

Inez Bowie | July 8th, 2013

If you deal with trusts, you may soon feel the effects of new higher tax rates and the Medicare surtax. Unfortunately, the fiscal cliff deal was not kind to trusts, trustees or trust beneficiaries. For 2013, a trust will pay income tax at the highest individual tax rate of 39.6 percent when taxable income is more than $11,950. An individual would not pay at this highest tax rate until taxable income exceeds $400,000. In addition, the new 3.8 percent Medicare surtax on net investment income applies to trusts if taxable income exceeds $11,950.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can You Get A Strong Start With QuickBooks®?

Clay Rose | July 5th, 2013

As a business owner, you may prefer to maintain your own accounting records, and you either use or have investigated using the accounting software product called QuickBooks®. The program is an easy-to-use, affordable accounting software package. Read the rest of this entry »

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With the Affordable Care Act “pay or play” provision delayed, I don’t have to do anything before 2015, right? Wrong!

Joe Popp | July 3rd, 2013

If you had more time to prepare for something that could have a huge impact on your business, would you take advantage of that extra time? If you answered no, then you might want to think again.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Why might the delay in the Affordable Care Act be better news than you think?

Joe Popp | July 3rd, 2013

This week, President Obama and the Department of the Treasury announced that several key elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be delayed until 2015.  Specifically, the “pay or play” provision, or employer mandate to provide essential minimum coverage that is both affordable and minimum value. In addition, the employer informational reporting requirement has also been delayed until 2015. The administration cited stakeholder concerns and difficulties in implementing smoothly as reasons for the delay.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Might You Be Impacted By Ohio’s New Budget?

Joe Popp | July 3rd, 2013
On Sunday, June 30, 2013, while some people were celebrating birthdays, or anniversaries, or other significant milestones in their lives, Ohio Governor John Kasich was signing Ohio’s new biannual budget bill into law.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Did You Know That Treating Your Business like an Investment Can Lead to Wealth?

Tim McDaniel | June 19th, 2013

If you’re a business owner, did you know that you can significantly increase your net wealth by simply changing the way you look at your business? Read the rest of this entry »

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Do You Understand Your Company’s Financial Statements?

Chris Roush | June 19th, 2013

Big GAAP vs. Little GAAP has been a hot topic in recent years. (Okay, “hot” topic may be a stretch…) The question of the hour is: Why should a privately held company with close relationships to owners, bankers, insurers and other financial statement users need to comply with the same complex rules and extensive disclosure requirements that a publicly traded company is held to? Read the rest of this entry »

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Did You Know the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Will Be Distributing Rebates To Employers?

Tiffany Crawford | June 12th, 2013

Guess what? If you’re one of the 210,000 customers of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, then you could be getting a nice-size check. Thanks to Ohio Governor John Kasich and the BWC’s board, $1 billion will be returned to 210,000 Ohio employers in the form of a rebate. The board of the BWC unanimously approved the governor’s proposal two weeks ago.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Looking To Stay Up-To-Date On Ohio Oil & Gas News?

David Shallenberger | June 6th, 2013

The oil and gas industry in Ohio is constantly changing. So if you’re involved in the industry or are looking to break into the industry, it’s important for you to stay up-to-date on what’s happening. If you haven’t checked out, Ohio Gas & Oil Magazine, then I highly recommend you do. This monthly publication covers an array of topics from government regulations to industry best practices.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Part 2 | What Happens if My 401(k) Plan is Out of Compliance with an IRS or DOL Rule?

Paul McEwan | June 5th, 2013

In the last issue of Illuminations, you read about some initial consequences you may face if you find that your 401(k) plan is out of compliance with an IRS or DOL rule. In this week’s issue, check out the second part of the article that explains the statute of limitations and how you can work to rectify any issues you may have with your business’s retirement plan. To refresh your memory, you can read the first part of the article hereRead the rest of this entry »

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Did You Know that the FASB Wants to Hear From You?

Michaela McGinn | June 5th, 2013

Let’s face it—opinions matter. We all like to be asked for our opinion. And more often than not, opinions help shape decisions and the direction that a group of people may take. Read the rest of this entry »

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When Can I Apply for the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program?

Joe Popp | May 28th, 2013

When will the application process begin for the next round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program? This is a burning question for many Ohio companies these days. While the Ohio Development Services Agency has not yet communicated what date the application process will begin, you can keep an eye on its website for an official announcement.  They are hoping to have the application process open sometime in June, though it’s possible that date may get pushed back.  Read the rest of this entry »

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New Tax on Shale-Related Rent Monies and Landowner Royalty Payments

Jim Fracker | May 22nd, 2013

If you receive shale-related advance rent monies or landowner royalty payments from an existing well, you should be aware of a potential increase in tax that may hit in 2013. With the passing of the Patient Protection Act, a new tax provision took effect in 2013 – and it could impact the amount of tax you need to pay when you receive your royalty and rent payments. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Happens if My 401(k) Plan is Out of Compliance with an IRS or DOL Rule?

Paul McEwan | May 22nd, 2013

With all of the rules in the business world, it sometimes can be difficult to know and understand all of the rules we need to follow – there are a lot of them. So what happens if you find yourself in an unintended situation where your business’s 401(k) plan is out of compliance? Simply put, a plan out of compliance with Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or Department of Labor (DOL) rules is subject to disqualification. But what does that mean? It is very important that you fix any compliance issues when they are identified – whether they are document-related issues, government reporting issues (5500) or plan operational issues. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program Work for Your Business?

Joe Popp | May 17th, 2013

It’s almost half way through the year. When thinking about your employees, how have you helped them develop professionally during the past few months?  Investing in your people pays off. It helps them, helps you, and helps your customers. But, it’s expensive and time consuming – training is one of those things that always seem to get pushed until tomorrow. But now the state of Ohio is taking away one of your excuses – it’s picking up part of the tab. Read the rest of this entry »

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Does Your Business Have Cracks in its Foundation?

Dave Cain | May 9th, 2013

During the recession, the fiscal cliff and the so-called recovery, did your business develop cracks in its foundation? If you answered “yes,” you are not alone. Many businesses of all shapes, sizes and industries are still trying to rebuild cash flow strategies and bottom line results. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cash Flow is King: Where Do You Need to Focus?

Tom Jeffries | May 9th, 2013

Do you know the current balance of your business checking account? If you don’t, keep reading. Cash flow is the key to business survival. A healthy business generates money for the operations of the business.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Why is the Timeliness of Employee Contributions Under Scrutiny?

Darlene Finzer | May 3rd, 2013

The Department of Labor (DOL) has focused on the timely remittance of employee contributions to retirement plans for a few years. And recently, they stepped up efforts during agency-conducted audits, making this a key area of detailed review. The timeliness of your remittances will be under the microscope, and not only the frequency, but also the consistency. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Retirement Provisions in the President’s 2014 Budget Proposal Affect You?

Darlene Finzer | April 25th, 2013

The past few weeks have been full of high visibility news stories ranging from the tragic Boston Marathon bombing to the devastating plant explosion in West, Texas. Amidst these stories and others, there was one important story you may have missed that could affect you and your retirement in a very significant way. President Obama recently unveiled his 2014 budget proposal that resulted in varied opinions over the retirement-related provisions that could greatly impact the retirement industry. Read the rest of this entry »

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Does Your Audit Process Protect You From Fraud?

Mark Van Benschoten | April 22nd, 2013

Fraud Reporting Hotline Could Be the Answer to Your Problems

Picture this: You have an annual audit. You comply with the auditors’ requests, provide the necessary documentation and never end up with any findings. So you’re good. Your finances are safe, right? Wrong.

Some people think conducting an audit is like a trip to the doctor – it should catch any and all financial problems. But, just as a visit to the eye doctor won’t include a check for cavities, an audit isn’t designed to uncover all financial troubles. For example: fraud. In very rare instances, an auditor may catch an occurrence of fraud, but it’s not his job to uncover it.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Legacy Do You Want to Leave?

Tim McDaniel | April 12th, 2013

Last year, I was consulting with a client who owned a business that was worth over $20.0 million. He said that one of his advisers told him “Why waste your time and money developing an exit and succession plan? You will be dead and won’t care and let others take care of it after you die.”

I guess that’s a good plan – if you don’t mind the chaos it creates for your family members and if your legacy is not important to you. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?

Maribeth Wright | April 11th, 2013

“Interested in credit card theft? There’s an app for that.”

Those were the recent words of Gunter Ollmann, a technology security consultant. To Mr. Ollmann’s point, identity theft is getting easier and easier to perpetrate. Identity thieves are using the internet to find victims and steal their private data.  But, the use of technology swings both ways; consumers are increasingly using it to protect themselves and their identities.  Here are some on- and offline steps you can take to protect yourself from those trying to gain access to your data: Read the rest of this entry »

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How Will Health Care Reform Impact Small Employers & the Labor Market?

Mark Fearon | April 10th, 2013

As you have probably heard by now, starting Jan. 1, 2014, you will have to comply with the “pay or play” guidelines of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if you have more than 50 employees. If you have anywhere near 50 or more employees, hopefully you are looking at the requirements and considering your options. If you have less than 50 employees, you may jump to the conclusion that the ACA will not impact you. Not so fast… Read the rest of this entry »

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Does Vendor Verification Really Matter?

Annie Yoder | April 3rd, 2013

As a business owner you likely have heard more than once that you should treat your vendor listing like Fort Knox – keep it secure and prevent access to all but authorized personnel. Typically this conversation is geared toward access to the vendor master, which lists all the important information for approved vendors. The Fort Knox comparison is apt; vendor master security is extremely important. Access should be limited and only granted to appropriate individuals. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program Coming Back Again?

Joe Popp | March 29th, 2013

A few months ago, businesses across the state were racing to participate in the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program. The program, which offered $20 million in cash to businesses that provide certain types of employee training, seemed almost too good to be true. It was true, but it was too good to last. The whole $20 million was initially claimed the first day of the program!

If you’ve got expensive training costs and didn’t get a piece of the $20 million last time, don’t fret.  Ohio will be rolling out another round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program – this time with a $30 million pie! This second round of the program will provide funds for trainings that will take place between July 1, 2013, and June 31, 2014. The official kick-off date for the applications has not yet been announced, but state officials hope to go live in May or June. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Does the Proposed Ohio Budget Impact Your Business?

Lee Beall | March 27th, 2013

Governor Kasich’s proposed budget, Ohio H.B. 59, shifts around Ohio’s tax burden. Limiting commercial activity tax and eliminating the estate tax, the bill initially seems like a boon to business owners. But, the truth is a little more complicated. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can Your Charity Profit from Instant Bingo?

Mark Van Benschoten | March 25th, 2013

Between the new Ohio casinos, Ohio Lottery drawings and instant games, legalized gambling is all over the place. Have you ever considered how this pastime could benefit your charitable organization?

Qualifying charitable organizations can benefit from properly structured bingo operations, but the requirements could prove to be a burden. As an alternative, qualifying charitable organizations can receive proceeds from instant bingo activities. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Does Getting Divorced Impact Your Taxes?

Lesley Mast | March 15th, 2013

Like so many Hollywood couples these days, maybe you are finding yourself a newly divorced person. With all the legal shenanigans that can happen during a divorce proceeding, have you taken the time to consider some of the more practical matters related to your finances? There are several tax-related items and helpful advice tidbits to be discovered after a change in your marital status. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Much Will Health Care Reform Cost Your Business?

Joe Popp | March 13th, 2013

If you’re like most business owners, health care reform has you running scared. You’re worried about how much it will cost you – and if your business can survive the burden.

You’ve heard about the employer mandate and the potential fines for not complying with it. But, that’s all in the abstract. No one has told you what it will cost your business – and what you can do to mitigate that cost. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Make Your Charitable Contributions Count?

Wendy Shick | March 5th, 2013

Tax deductions aren’t the only reason that you make charitable contributions – but they’re a nice perk!  Unfortunately, the IRS has been cracking down on the documentation required for charitable contribution deductions.  Here’s what you need to know to make sure that your charitable contributions get you the deductions that you deserve. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Motivate Your Employees in 2013?

Tom Jeffries | February 28th, 2013

Many analysts say that 2013 is the year for jobs – meaning that hiring businesses are going to be going after your employees. Are you sure that you’re doing everything you can to hang onto your talent? How do you plan to motivate your team?

Money is a motivator and you should offer competitive compensation, yes, but compensation is consistently not in the top three when employees list what’s most important to them in their job. Instead, focus on these items to help take care of and hold on to your employees this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is It Time to Upgrade Your QuickBooks to a Current Version?

Clay Rose | February 22nd, 2013

Intuit recently released the 2013 version of QuickBooks.  If you are a registered user of QuickBooks, you will certainly have received notice of this release, and have been encouraged by them to consider upgrading.  But, do you need to?

For those of you who don’t know, QuickBooks is an accounting software package that was designed for smaller businesses.  It is a very good package, is simple to use, and is very affordable.

The newer versions of QuickBooks certainly contain some nice enhancements, and those enhancements are helpful, not only to you the user, but also to your accountant.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Prepare to Sell Your Business?

Mark Fearon | February 20th, 2013

Do you plan to sell your business someday? Although you may not think of your business as a traditional retirement plan, it may be the largest asset you have to “cash in” upon retirement. There are many issues to consider when thinking about selling your business.

Timing of Business Sales

One of the first things a potential buyer is going to ask for is historical financial statements. If your most recent financial statements show healthy profits, you are more likely to be able to justify a larger selling price than trying to sell your business after several less profitable years.

Current developments in your industry may also impact the timing of when you want to sell your business. Do you anticipate new government regulations that could impact your business? Or is there a trend of consolidations in your industry? If so, this may increase the value of your business.

Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Take Your Business to the Next Level?

Gene Spittle | February 13th, 2013

When was the last time you talked about taking your business to the next level? If you’ve had this discussion recently, what changes or improvements did you decide on? Were you only thinking about growing your sales? Or did you think about improving your systems and processes? How about your people – do you need to take them to the next level, too?

Making It to the Next Level

In my 31-plus years with this firm, I watched many clients grow from small mom & pop businesses to major employers in their communities. Until the past few years, I really didn’t think much about why some grew and others, well, didn’t.

Many of us learned two fundamentals in college – or in the classroom of life: In order to grow, a business needs solid leadership. And business owners needed to surround themselves with good people.

As I build our firm’s manufacturing client services team I have spent a lot of time reading, listening and asking questions about this idea of the next level. What I have found in my research is that not only do businesses need good people to grow, but you need great systems and you need to stay focused. Read the rest of this entry »

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Did Your Company Miss Out on the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program?

Chad Bice | February 12th, 2013

Don’t Give Up Yet!

Applications for Ohio’s Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program were accepted on Monday, January 7, 2013. By the end of the day, Ohio officials said they received applications with requests exceeding the $20 million allotted for fiscal 2013. Funds were awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you weren’t one of the first, you might have missed out on this opportunity for your company. But don’t give up yet…

There will be another opportunity for you to secure your piece of the pie as a second round of applications, for fiscal 2014, will be accepted after June 30 for an additional $30 million. While the exact date that applications will be accepted are not yet known, we do know what the applications will look like, how the application process will work and what information you will need to have ready to submit your application.

Why wait? Begin pulling your information together now so that you will be ready the second time around. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Does ASU 2011-04 Mean For Your Pension Audit?

Darlene Finzer | February 7th, 2013

How to Prepare For Changes to Your Retirement Plan

While the basics of double entry accounting haven’t changed in hundreds of years, the devil, as they say, is in the details. And, when it comes to accounting, the details are always changing. A new accounting standard update has been announced – and it could have a big impact on your pension plan’s 2012 audit.

For the last decade, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) have been working toward accounting convergence; bringing U.S. accounting standards into harmony with international requirements. Through the Accounting Standard Updates (ASUs), FASB has been nudging U.S. standards closer to their international counterparts. Think of it as the accounting equivalent of finally getting America to convert to the metric measuring system. It’ll be great once we’re all on the same page, but the process of getting there… well, it’s a little complicated.

Here’s what you need to know about ASU 2011-04 and what you can do to prepare for its impact on your retirement plan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Have You Reviewed Your Life Insurance Lately?

Lee Beall | February 4th, 2013

You’re used to discussing your financial assets with your CPA. You talk to your accountant about your income, your business and your estate plan. But there’s one financial asset that doesn’t always come up in discussions of your financial situation: your life insurance policy. Insurance might seem more like a safeguard than an asset, but it’s an important part of your financial portfolio. And, it’s important to review it regularly with the same diligence that you devote to your income, your business and your estate.

Why review your life insurance? Three reasons: to save money, reduce risk and ensure policy suitability. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Keep Your Tax Documents Organized?

Clay Rose | January 25th, 2013

It’s mid-January. Statistically, most Americans have already abandoned their New Year’s resolutions – those promises you make to yourself to hit the gym, get more sleep and read your favorite accounting blog every day (hey, it was worth a shot). But if you resolved to be more organized in 2013, don’t give up on it just yet – at least not until April 15.

This tax filing season carries extra challenges, thanks to the late passage of the “Fiscal Cliff” tax laws. The IRS isn’t going to be able to process tax returns until around February 1, which gives us a much smaller window of opportunity.

Follow these tips to stay organized this tax season and hopefully experience a few fewer headaches with Uncle Sam’s name on them. Read the rest of this entry »

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Do You Have to Take a 2012 Required Minimum Distribution?

Christopher Axene | January 23rd, 2013

ACT FAST: Limited Time Offer for RMDs

Thanks to a hot-off-the-presses provision in the new tax law, taxpayers over 70 ½ have a very limited window to address 2012 required minimum distributions (RMDs) from their retirement accounts.

Here’s what happened: an incentive for donating your RMDs directly to charity tax-free expired in 2011, so at the end of 2012 many of you weren’t sure what to do. Some of you may have taken your RMD as usual and used that money toward regular living expenses, but other retirees who typically donate their RMD to charity may have taken a different approach. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Choose a Business Exit Strategy?

Tim McDaniel | January 17th, 2013

Exit strategies are the options that you have to leave your business.  There are only a few exit strategies that Ohio business owners can choose from and each will provide you with a different level of proceeds when you leave. All strategies will require planning and time to implement.

It’s never too soon to start planning your exit. You will eventually leave your business, and it’s better to do so before a life-changing event forces you out. The sooner you plan, the more options you will have. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is Safety Key to Working with Big Oil?

David Shallenberger | January 10th, 2013

Do you operate a safe business? Of course you do. But is your safety to the level it needs to be to work with the “Big Oil” companies?

The Utica shale boom has presented tremendous opportunities for businesses, like yours, that can somehow assist in the production of oil and gas. However, dealing with Big Oil is unlike dealing with your typical customer. If you’ve yet to discover this yourself, you need to know how to play by their rules. And the first one you’ll need to comply with is safety. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Does the Fiscal Cliff Deal Mean for You and Your Business?

Christopher Axene | January 4th, 2013

By now you’ve heard that last minute actions by Congress and the President pulled us off the brink of the fiscal cliff. But, do you know what the American Taxpayer Relief Act means for you and your business?

Overall, the deal is good news for most Americans. While it’s true that the tax rates for 99 percent of taxpayers will not change, everyone who pays payroll taxes will see a slight increase. Here’s what you, as an individual taxpayer, should expect in the year to come: Read the rest of this entry »

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Can I Get a Rebate for Training Through the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program?

Joe Popp | January 3rd, 2013

You may have thought that you’ve opened all your gifts, but the state of Ohio has one more for you – and it’s a good one.  Launching next week, the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program [http://development.ohio.gov/bs/bs_wtvp.htm] will provide $20 million in cash to businesses that provide certain training for their employees.  If your business is in one of the program’s targeted industries, you could qualify for up to $4,000 per employee.  Read the rest of this entry »

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What Are 5 Things You Should Do Financially At the Beginning of the Year?

Mark Fearon | January 3rd, 2013
As a small business owner, the beginning of the year is a busy time. It’s January and you’re trying to determine what the New Year will bring. One of the keys to being a successful business owner is taking a break from the day-to-day routine and spending some time doing valuable planning. This is sometimes referred to as working on your business, not just working in your business. To help you with this process, here are five things you should consider doing as a small business owner as you start the New Year.  Read the rest of this entry »
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Employee Welfare Benefit Plans Making Your Head Spin?

Darlene Finzer | December 28th, 2012

Every year, we receive questions regarding whether a filing requirement exists for a client’s welfare benefit plan. Clients want to ensure that their plans remain ERISA compliant without taking on the burden of any unnecessary paperwork.  Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about employee welfare benefit plans. Read the rest of this entry »

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Do You Have Any QuickBooks Tips for Managing Cash Flow?

Clay Rose | December 26th, 2012

Cash flow management is a struggle for many small businesses.  Unlike revenue, cash flow isn’t easy to quantify or pin down.  It’s up and down and moves around.  But, most small businesses that fail do so because of a lack of cash flow… not revenue or profits. Read the rest of this entry »

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Does Ohio Have an Estate Tax?

Inez Bowie | December 21st, 2012

Recently, Ohio eliminated the Ohio estate tax.  The estates of individuals who die after January 1, 2013 will not be subject to the Ohio estate tax. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Difference Does a Day Make?

Joe Popp | December 19th, 2012

How do you plan for an uncertain future?  Very carefully.  That’s the advice that we’re giving to our clients as they to prepare for the tax law changes that are coming on January 1, 2013.

We can’t see into the future, but it looks like rates will go up, on lots of different types of income, in 2013.  Unless changes happen, your rates will be significantly higher on January 1 than on December 31.  What difference does a day make?  Perhaps as much as a 29.4 percentage point jump in your taxes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Are You Ready For FASB 715-80 Disclosures?

Jim Fracker | December 13th, 2012

From ERISA fee disclosures to benefit limitation regulations, 2012 has been a year of regulations for retirement plans.  If your company offers a retirement plan, you may feel like you’ve spent the whole year jumping through the hoops that regulators threw at you.  Bad news, you might have one more hoop to hop. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can You Prepare for 2013 Tax Hikes?

Chad Bice | December 10th, 2012

2012 Year-End Tax Tips

2012 is almost over and 2013 tax policy hasn’t yet been set. With so much media coverage about expiring tax cuts, increasing tax rates, and the looming fiscal cliff, CPAs and business owners alike are worried about what the New Year will bring. All we want for Christmas is sound 2013 tax policy!

Currently, President Obama is struggling to rally a squabbling Congress; without agreement, big tax hikes are coming. Unfortunately, this might not happen until the New Year – after the higher rates have kicked in. So, what’s a taxpayer to do? You can write a letter to Santa asking him to make Congress come to an agreement or you can act now to help save money and insulate your business from expected tax hikes. Here’s what you might want to consider with the help of your CPA: Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Change Your State of Domicile?

Tiffany Crawford | December 7th, 2012

Trying to plug yawning budget deficits, states are fighting a never ending battle for revenue. One common weapon in this battle: the increased enforcement of tax laws. Areas that were overlooked in the past now face heightened scrutiny. One area under the microscope: analyzing individuals’ domiciles. The purpose of this analysis: to find more people to tax. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Your Ohio Business Benefit from the Utica Shale Play?

David Shallenberger | December 5th, 2012

Ohio is in the early stages of what may be a large oil & gas boom. The state overlays a large shale play called the Utica Shale. However in recent months, news from the oil patch has slowed as oil & gas companies have cut back on efforts to lease additional mineral interests, and are instead focused on exploration. But while news of the play has been quiet, that doesn’t mean the business opportunity is any less. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Changes Do Pension Plans Need by Year-end?

Darlene Finzer | November 29th, 2012

In the midst of the publicity surrounding the new ERISA fee disclosures requirements, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that other recently enacted legislation may impact your retirement plan.  Changes to IRS regulations may require plan’s to adopt amendments before the end of the year.  Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Get a Handle on Your Inventory?

Chris Roush | November 28th, 2012

Inventory management can have a very direct impact not only on your profit but also the cash flow of your business. Inaccurate inventory will directly affect your business profit. If the inventory is too high, you may be paying tax on higher profits than you actually have. If it is too low, you run the risk of understating taxable income and, if audited, the IRS can hit you with back taxes and penalties. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Does the IRS Treat Property Repair Expenses?

Christopher Axene | November 21st, 2012

Tax treatment of property repairs has long frustrated business owners and accountants alike. The system has been confusing, hard to follow and seemingly eternally inconsistent. Recent changes to the Internal Revenue Code have streamlined the treatments of property repairs, but not all the changes are as taxpayer-friendly as you may have hoped. Read the rest of this entry »

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Which 990 Policies Do Non-Profits Need?

Maribeth Wright | November 15th, 2012

It’s been 4 years since the IRS redesigned the 990 Form. Part of the change was the addition of a list of questions on various policies your organization may have adopted. Since that time, the IRS has conducted a study to determine which policies organizations have and how the existence of those policies correlates to both good governance and IRS compliance. The study found that those organizations that have polices – and follow them – generally have better tax compliance and governance. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Prepare for Uncertain 2013 Tax Rates?

Inez Bowie | November 7th, 2012

As we approach the end of 2012, there is much uncertainty regarding tax legislation. Tax rates, exemptions, credits and deductions are likely to change for both businesses and individuals, but no one yet knows which of the predicted changes will really come to pass. How do you prepare for this uncertain future? Take advantage of the 2012 rates while you still can and plan for contingencies in 2013 and beyond. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Could Ohio’s Election Impact Severance Tax?

David Shallenberger | November 5th, 2012

Every four years, national politics takes center stage here in Ohio. You can’t turn on the radio or t.v. without being inundated with presidential, senatorial or congressional election ads. But there are issues a bit closer to home that are equally important to us.

Of the many state and local issues getting lost in the commotion is one that can have a big impact on Ohio’s oil and gas industry – Governor Kasich‘s proposed severance tax change. Initially introduced in March, this is not a new issue. It was tabled in the lead up to the election and is likely to be reconsidered once the Ohio House and Senate return for their next session. Read the rest of this entry »

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Do You Need to Send an Annual Notice to Your 401k Participants?

Paul McEwan | November 2nd, 2012

Does your 401k plan have a calendar year end? If so you have until December 1, 2012, to send notice requirements to plan participants or the operation or qualification of your plan could be impacted. Use this checklist of notices to get started: Read the rest of this entry »

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What Accounting Methods Do Contractors Use?

Kent Beachy | November 1st, 2012

Usually when you hear the words “accounting method,” you think of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). However, you should not overlook the impact that accounting methods have in the tax world, especially for construction contractors. Read the rest of this entry »

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Who is Responsible for Fidelity Bonding?

Darlene Finzer | October 26th, 2012

When it comes to following the ERISA requirement of fidelity bonding, the devil, as they say is in the details.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) requires that fidelity bonding be obtained to cover each person who “handles” plan assets.  The general rule is the bond amount be ten percent (minimum of $1,000) of plan assets as of the beginning of the plan year, not to exceed $500,000, or one million dollars if the plan holds employer securities.

While this requirement seems relatively straightforward, we find plan sponsors are sometimes unclear about their fidelity bond responsibilities when we are performing  benefit plan audits.   Following are some of the commonly asked questions. Read the rest of this entry »

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What are the Tax Rules for Gamblers?

Matt Pottmeyer | October 25th, 2012

With the new Cleveland Horeshoe Casino, gaming is becoming big business in Ohio.  From occasional slot machine players to poker pros, Ohioans are experiencing gambling and all the wins and losses that come with it.  While residents of Las Vegas may already be familiar with the IRS’s tax treatment of gambling wins and losses, Ohio gamers might not be  The IRS has special rules for gaming income and losses, which I’ll describe below, but the general rule is this: gambling winnings are taxable. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Employers in Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan & Tennessee Get a FICA Tax Refund?

Christopher Axene | October 18th, 2012

Downsizing by companies has been a fact of life over the past several years.  As a part of this process companies may have paid severance payments to employees who were involuntarily terminated due to either: (1) reduction in force (“RIF”) initiatives or (2) plant closings or other similar conditions.

Historically the IRS has argued that such payments are subject to FICA tax withholding in addition to income tax withholding at the time of payment.  In 2002, the Court of Federal Claims in CSX Corp v. U.S. held that severance payments made by CSX were not subject to FICA tax and thus CSX was entitled to refunds of amounts previously withheld.   The IRS appealed and in 2008 the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the Court of Claims holding that such payments were subject to FICA tax. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will You Be Ready for Retirement?

Darlene Finzer | October 10th, 2012

You may have heard the retirement terminology “three-legged stool” used to describe the three most common sources of retirement income: Social Security, employer sponsored retirement plan and personal savings. Many factors affect the strength of each “leg,” so you must continually evaluate what changes you need to make to keep the stool strong and upright. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Stop School Credit Card Fraud?

Annie Yoder | October 9th, 2012

Is your school struggling with declining funding? If so, you’re probably worried about the top line. You’re closely watching what’s coming in. You’re exploring ways to generate revenue. But, you need to be equally worried about what’s going out.

Credit cards are one of the most common ways for funds to escape your district. This type of fraud is particularly destructive because it tends to be long-term, continuous and difficult to spot. Employee fraud is like a hole in a bucket – no matter how much water you add, slowly but surely, the water level keeps going down. However, if you understand where fraud may be taking place, you can take steps to deter it. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Can Lease Holders Benefit from the Utica Shale Play?

Jim Fracker | October 5th, 2012

Much has been written about the Utica shale development phenomena since it first arrived on the scene in eastern Ohio. The topics of discussion are numerous and include tax planning and environmental impact, just to name a few.  But, for the most part, discussion of the Utica shale involves two main parties of interest:

  • Acquisition/exploration/production companies and supporting casts
  • Landowner/mineral interest entities (“lease holders”) Read the rest of this entry »
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Do You Need to Send an Annual Notice to Your 401k Participants?

Paul McEwan | October 2nd, 2012

As we begin the last quarter of the year, if your company sponsors a calendar year 401k plan, don’t forget about participant notice requirements.  They must be furnished by December 1, 2012 and may impact the operation or qualification of your plan.  Here is a checklist that may be helpful, but check with us if you are not certain which of these requirements apply to your plan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Should You Maximize Cash Flow or Minimize Income Taxes?

Matt Pottmeyer | September 27th, 2012

“Do I need to buy, and expense, equipment or a vehicle before the end you the year to save income tax?” Every CPA involved in business tax planning hears some variation of that question several times, on an annual basis. Our first question back to you is, “Do you need it?” Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do Your Avoid IRS Penalties on Your IRA?

Wendy Shick | September 21st, 2012

With our government requiring more cash each year, there is growing sentiment is the financial community that the IRS is becoming more vigilant in obtaining all revenue available related to Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). According to a recent article, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimates that the IRS failed to collect as much as $286 million of revenue in 2006 and 2007 alone. From a political aspect, it is easier to raise revenue by simply enforcing the existing rules, than it is to cut spending or pass a new tax increase. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Got a Tax Notice… Now What?!

Lesley Mast | September 19th, 2012

You know the feeling well… you’re just going about your business, walking out to the mailbox to pick up the daily mail. For some reason, the pile feels a bit heavier today. And as you sort through the junk and the magazines and the bills, you find that you’ve received a little love note in the form of a tax notice from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). No wonder the mail is so heavy today… the IRS is looking for more of your well-earned money. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Does the Medicate Surtax Mean for Employers?

Christopher Axene | September 14th, 2012

Even though the Supreme Court’s decision was a few months ago at this point, healthcare reform is still getting a lot of coverage in the media.  Individuals and business owners are still trying to get their hands around what it will mean for them and what they’ll have to do to comply with the new law.

Most discussions about how healthcare reform will impact taxes have centered on the so called “Individual Mandate.”  But, health care reform will lead to other tax changes, too.  One such tax chance is the addition of a .9% Medicare tax surcharge. Read the rest of this entry »

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Is It Fair to Require Online Retailers to Collect and Remit State Sales Tax?

Chad Bice | September 12th, 2012

Recently we’ve been hearing calls for everyone to pay their fair share of taxes. One regular target: online retailers, who are being criticized for failing to collect and remit sales tax. But, like many questions of tax policy, this one is more complicated than headlines might lead you to believe. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Value Property for an Estate in Ohio?

Inez Bowie | September 5th, 2012

Recently, a reader shared with us that she inherited property in both Ohio and Florida. She had a pretty specific question related to the value of the Ohio property. That question made me think there may be more people who don’t know how to handle newly inherited property for estate tax purposes. Hence, I’m going to provide some general estate information I hope will help.

According to Ohio law, “the value of any property included in the gross estate shall be the price at which such property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.”

Now, let me put that in simpler terms. If there is real estate in an estate, then you need to claim its fair value. That value is the amount the property would sell for assuming both the buyer and seller know about the property and neither was pressured to either buy or sell. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Protect the Value of Your Business?

Tim McDaniel | August 31st, 2012

One of the most basic individual investment principals is the concept of diversification. As an investor, diversification can protect you from a large drop in your portfolio due to the poor performance of any one investment.

If you own a business, the business value is most likely more than half of their entire net worth.  You cannot simply call your investment advisor and quickly sell a part of your business to diversify.  It is possible to sell a partial interest in a business, but this is not available to all business owners and requires significant amount of planning.

So, what can you do to protect your net worth from dropping from a large decrease in the value of your business?  Read the rest of this entry »

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You’ve Received Fee Disclosures, Now What?

Darlene Finzer | August 23rd, 2012

It’s Your Turn to Disclose Fees to Participants

Did you suffer from sticker shock when you received the recent fee disclosures from your service providers? If so, you weren’t the only plan fiduciary to be surprised, even though it’s your job to know the ins and outs of your pension plan.

Now, by August 30, you have to disclose that fee information to your plan participants. How do you think they will react? It is possible they aren’t going to like the news. Worse yet, they may be confused as to why they are suddenly paying new fees when the reality is they have always paid them. Being upfront about plan costs, and plan benefits, can help you make it through this new disclosure requirement. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Build a Strong Not-for-Profit Board?

Mark Van Benschoten | August 22nd, 2012

Not-for-profit organizations need strong active engaged boards for long term success. Success can be defined as continually achieving/reaching the potential of the organization. Success can also be defined as continued existence and continuing to providing services. All things change; economy, funding, services needed, staffing, technology – it is reasonable to expect and/or demand that boards also change. Read the rest of this entry »

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How Do You Qualify for Tax Credits and Incentives?

Chad Bice | August 8th, 2012

Don’t Leave Money on the Table

If your business is thinking of hiring or training employees or investing in fixed assets, you might qualify for a tax credit.  But, tax credits need to be considered up front.  Once you miss the boat on applying for them, it’s too late, even if you would have been a perfect candidate.

Securing these types of credits and incentives can dramatically improve your return on investment. Read the rest of this entry »

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Do You Know The True Cost of The Products You Produce?

Gene Spittle | August 3rd, 2012

After the ups and downs of the last few years, we should all know that, when it comes to the economy, anything is possible.  Some businesses vanished during this downturn, others survived – and some actually flourished!  Those that survived and those that flourished had one thing that others did not: an understanding of their product cost. While many of our clients are seeing their sales volumes return to pre-2008 levels, I wonder how many of them truly know what it costs to produce their products. Read the rest of this entry »

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