School’s Out For Summer, But Tax Credits Are Still In

Denell Skelton | May 26th, 2015

Summer is an exciting time for families. It’s a time to get outside and have fun hanging out by the pool or to catch fireflies in a jar at the end of a long day. For many parents though, the summer holiday is overshadowed by the need to find affordable childcare during your work hours. The good news is that your opportunity to claim the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit doesn’t end at the last day of school. In fact, you may be able to claim a variety of summertime childcare expenses when tax season rolls around again. Check out the list below to familiarize yourself with this credit.

Read: Can My Summer Day Care Expenses Earn A Tax Credit?

8 Tips To Help You Claim The Child Care Tax Credit

  1. Child care must have been provided so that you (and your spouse if filing jointly) can work or actively look for work. Your spouse must also meet this obligation during any month in which the child was a full-time student or was physically and/or mentally incapable of self-care.
  2. You must have earned income. Earned income includes earnings such as wages and self-employment. If you are married filing jointly, your spouse must also have earned income. There’s an exception to this rule for a spouse who is a full-time student or who is physically and/or mentally incapable of self-care.
  3. Care must have been provided for dependent(s) younger than 13 years old. Your spouse or another dependent qualifies if they lived with you for more than have the year and are physically and/or mentally incapable of self-care.
  4. Qualifying child care expenses include those that are used to secure enrollment at a daycare facility outside the home or at a day camp. Expenses for overnight camps or summer school tutoring do not qualify. NOTE: If you pay someone to come to your home to care for your child or children, you may be a household employer. For more information, see IRS Household Employer’s Tax Guide.
  5. If your employer provides dependent care benefits, special rules apply. See Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
  6. The credit is a percentage of the qualified expenses you pay for the care of a qualifying person and can be up to 35 percent of your expenses, depending on your income.
  7. You can claim up to $3,000 of your total unreimbursed expenses you pay in a year for one qualifying person or $6,000 for two or more qualifying persons.
  8. Keep your receipts and records to use when you file your 2015 tax return next year.  Make sure to note the name, address and Social Security number or employer identification number of the care provider. You must report this information when you claim the credit on your return.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit or other tax incentives you may qualify for.

By Denell Skelton, CPA (Coshocton office)

 

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Don’t Shy Away From Business Debt

Dustin Raber | May 22nd, 2015
Leverage Your Debt - Leverage Your Cash Flow - Ohio CPA Firm

Traditionally, companies with strong, positive cash flows are those with proper pricing models in place, a healthy labor force, controlled spending and active collections. When it’s time to grow, they are ready to make a move.

You know the satisfaction you feel when all of your debts have been settled and any extra cash flowing into your bank account is purely disposable income. Neither do I. But, contrary to popular belief, if you are a business owner, carrying a little extra debt could be a good thing – and here’s why …

Read: How Can My Statement of Cash Flows Transform My Business?

One of the most important jobs a business owner has is to prepare, monitor and analyze their company’s cash flow. As the single most important tool you have in your business’s arsenal, your company’s cash flow (business income minus its cash payments) provides you with an accurate way to measure its overall financial wellness.

Do You Know What You Need To Grow?

One of the most powerful ways to measure how well your company is doing is to monitor its projected/forecasted cash flow while analyzing the business’s past financial information.

  • Your company’s projected/forecasted cash flow should provide you an educated prediction of your future cash income and expenses. You can use this information to develop the initiatives needed to ensure the long-term growth and sustainability of your business.
  • When you monitor your company’s past cash flow you will tap into the data needed to zero in on the business’s strengths and weaknesses – effectively shining a light on processes, products, services and strategies that are hindering your company’s growth. Then you can act quickly to build upon the objectives that work and eliminate those that hinder ongoing success.

Traditionally, companies with strong, positive cash flows are those with proper pricing models in place, a healthy labor force, controlled spending and active collections. (Notice that I didn’t say that these companies were debt free!)

Leverage Cash Flow, Leverage Your Debt

The word “debt” has a bad reputation. Yes, for many reasons living your life and managing your business “debt free” can be a great thing. But, especially in business, working exclusively for the purpose of eliminating all debt can actually hinder you from experiencing healthy, sustainable growth. For example, in the quest to settle your company’s debts, you may be left with an anemic savings account and little-to-no cash to jump on opportunities that arise and could potentially propel your company to new heights. As a savvy business owner, you should always anticipate changes that could positively and negatively impact your business. The key is to leverage your company’s cash flow. Here are two ways you can get started.

  1. Take advantage of financing opportunities with favorable interest rates.  

Oftentimes, especially if you have taken the time to develop a strong relationship with a local financial institution, you can secure financing at a very low interest rate. This will allow you to take the cash that was not used to finance your project and reinvest it in the market, which can provide you with a better return. For example, in the current market, if you are able to finance new equipment for your company with an interest rate of 4 percent, you are free to invest your own cash in the market, which could yield a return rate greater than the interest charges you owe to the bank per your financing agreement.

  1. Utilize a line of credit

One of the best ways to invest in your business is to make sure you have the cash on hand that will allow you to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities. It’s hard to predict when a strategic partnership or change in the marketplace can open up a door that had previously remained shut. But when it does, an open line of credit makes seizing the opportunity possible while ensuring that your business’s current operations remain unaffected.

If you practice strategic control over your business, make sure you are giving your cash flow the same attention. To properly leverage your company’s debt you must constantly monitor your cash flow to ensure that these strategies make sense for you. Email Rea & Associates to learn more about leveraging your cash flow and whether it is the best move for your company.

By Dustin Raber, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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Study: Nonprofit Organizations Lack Governance Structure, Processes

Mark Van Benschoten | May 19th, 2015
Directors of Nonprofit Organizations Lack Governance Structure - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Enacting proper policies throughout the organization will not only help rectify problems that stem from a weak system of governance, they will help solidify the connection between the directors and their organization while putting a solid structure in place for streamlining the nonprofit’s central objectives, such as fundraising, budgeting and lobbying.

If you had to guess, how strong do you think your nonprofit organization’s policies are? If you’re unsure or have that gut feeling they’re not strong, you’re certainly not alone. After surveying more than 900 directors of nonprofit organizations, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, in collaboration with BoardSource and GuideStar, reported some concerning findings in their 2015 Survey on Board of Directors of Nonprofit Organizations.

You may know that it’s important to have good governance when it comes to ensuring the stability and strength of your organization. Without having the right procedures in place to help govern the board of directors and the institution as a whole, the entire organization risks collapse.

Read: How Effective Is Your Nonprofit Organization?

While securing sources of revenue and recruiting new members are critical elements of every nonprofit, the real backbone of your organization is your board’s governance. Without the proper structure in place to help shape and reinforce your vision, mission and objectives, your board will not have the tools needed to lead – making your funding and membership objectives less effective.

According to Stanford Graduate School’s survey:

“Over two thirds (69 percent) of nonprofit directors say their organization has faced one or more serious governance-related problems in the past 10 years. Forty percent say they have been unable to meet fundraising targets. Twenty-nine percent have experienced serious financial difficulty. A quarter (23 percent) have asked their executive director to leave or had to respond to unexpected resignation [and] sixteen percent say they have had extreme difficulty attracting qualified new board members.”

Furthermore, the study found that:

  • Too many directors lack a deep understanding of the organization
  • Most lack formal governance structure and processes
  • Many directors are not engaged, do not understand their obligations

While the shortcomings underscored by this report highlight a widespread problem throughout the nonprofit industry, the solution may be as simple as writing (or reevaluating) and implementing a variety of key policies. Enacting proper policies throughout the organization will not only help rectify problems that stem from a weak system of governance, they will help solidify the connection between the directors and their organization while putting a solid structure in place for streamlining the nonprofit’s central objectives, such as fundraising, budgeting and lobbying. Policies can, and should, be in place to help manage the organization’s advisory council, board member orientation, ethics, confidentiality, donor relations, performance, and sponsorship activity – among many others.

Not sure what policies you should have in place? Take a look at this comprehensive Not-for-Profit Policy Checklist. Here are also a few examples of sample policies to give you greater insight into what you should be striving to accomplish.

By Mark Van Benschoten, CPA (Dublin office)

 

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Investing In Your Business’s Immortality

Don McIntosh | May 11th, 2015
Business Teamwork - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Ensuring that you have the right team in place – from the ground floor to upper management – is a solid, common sense strategy for business owners who are looking to add short-term and long-term value to their business. Not only are customers and clients more likely to equate your team’s passion with quality, which helps secure new business and develop long-term relationships, but the strength and self-sufficiency of your team is a major incentive to investors.

Go ahead. Take pride in all that you’ve accomplished. Relive the moment you decided to go into business and reflect on your trials and triumphs. And as you reminisce, identify everyone who helped you achieve your vision – because chances are you didn’t get where you are by yourself.

Make no mistake. In business, the strength of your team directly impacts your company’s success and overall val­ue. Therefore, it’s never been more im­portant to ensure that your exit from the company doesn’t lead to a “going out of business” sale.

Read: This Is An Intervention – Step Away From Your Business

Your Company’s Longevity

As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to continually evaluate your busi­ness. Part of the evaluation process is ensuring that the right people are in the right place to help guide and grow your company – even when you’re not around.

Whether they move on or retire, eventually every person on your leadership team will leave, including you. You must decide what kind of impact this will have on your company when it happens.

One of the best strategies you can em­brace is to become obsolete. That’s not to say that your work is not important, it just means that your team, your business, does not depend on you for its survival.

Every time you recruit an employee, you have an opportunity to reinforce your company’s mission. Do your due diligence to make sure the people you hire are on board with the company’s vision. They will continue to set the tone after you leave, which is why the qualities you consider when hiring a candidate should go beyond their education and experi­ence. Anyone you hire must have the passion to succeed, the capacity to learn and a personality that helps them easily overcome complicated situations. From entry-level to leadership positions, your ability to maintain a strong team ensures the longevity of your business.

Is Your Team Valuable?

Ensuring that you have the right team in place – from the ground floor to up­per management – is a solid, common sense strategy for business owners who are looking to add short- and long-term value to their business. Not only are customers and clients more likely to equate your team’s passion with quality, which helps secure new business and develop long-term relationships, but the strength and self-sufficiency of your team is a major incentive to investors.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Don McIntosh, CPA, CGFM, CFE (New Philadelphia office) and Tim McDaniel, CPA/ABV, ASA, CBA (Dublin office)

 

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Retirement Plan Design: One Size Does Not Fit All

Paul McEwan | May 11th, 2015
Planning Ahead for Retirement Makes All The Difference - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

When it comes to your retirement plan, planning ahead can mean the difference between sipping tropical drinks on a beach to taking on a part-time job at 75 to make ends meet. Is your retirement plan advisor working in your best interest?

Do your employees dream of spending their golden years on a sun-drenched beach, sipping tropical drinks from a coconut shell? Or do you think they’re looking forward to taking on a part-time job at age 70 to pay medical bills and their mortgage? Like you, they’re probably expecting an R&R-fueled retirement – but they need your help getting there.

Read Retirement Roulette

An employer-sponsored retirement plan is a great tool for business owners. Not only do retirement plans provide businesses with leverage when it comes to attracting and retaining a skilled workforce, employers that make contributions to their employee’s accounts are entitled to tax incentives – which gives you more control over your company’s cash flow.

From Business Strategy To Retirement Planning

Whether your company presently offers a retirement plan or is planning to beef up its benefits package, work with a retirement plan advisor who can review your options and identify the plan that best addresses your company’s unique challenges. You’ll need to:

  1. Identify The Primary Purpose Of Your Retirement Plan
    Will your retirement plan be used as a recruitment tool or as a tax shelter? While all plans accomplish a little of both, make sure your plan design meets your needs. For example, when a closely held business offers a retirement plan, its primary goal is to provide maximum retirement benefits and income tax deferral to the owners, while minimizing the cost of benefits to the employees. Incorporating a retirement plan into your existing benefit package is also an opportunity to diversify your assets away from the reach of creditors – making you less dependent on the value of your company to provide an income stream in retirement.
  2. Get To Know Your Team
    Does your company hire younger workers? Do you have an established workforce that will retire from your company? Do you have high turnover? What does your projected workforce growth look like? Your plan design should consider your demographic information – and promote the short- and long-term financial wellness of your employees and your business.
  3. Put Your Own Retirement Goals In Perspective
    Your employees aren’t the only ones looking at your employer-sponsored retirement plan as a dependable source of retirement income. You and other key employees will likely use the plan as well. That’s why, during the design phase, your advisor will take a look at the current and projected profitability of your company alongside the ratio of key employees and the company’s other employees.

When all is said and done, your plan design could be the thing that stands between your employees and a comfortable retirement – or it could be what lets them reap the benefits of all their years of hard work.

This is a great time of year to explore your options. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

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

 

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Charter Schools Can Thrive In An Era Of Reform?

Zac Morris, CPA | May 8th, 2015

It’s hard to avoid the topic of charter school reform these days. From news reports to proposed policy changes, everybody seems to have an opinion when it comes to the proper way to manage these public educational institutions. While it’s still too early to rewrite policy, it doesn’t hurt to monitor the ever-changing pulse of the legislature, especially when it has the potential to drastically impact the way our state’s charter schools are managed.

As students continue to flock to charter schools within their communities, the increased demand has effectively changed the landscape of Ohio’s education facilities. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools reports that during the 2013-14 school year a record 119,533 students opted to attend one of Ohio’s 400 charter schools. Such a shift in our educational system has spurred increased scrutiny of the charter school industry and has prompted state leaders to call for increased organizational and financial transparency and accountability.

Slideshow: Top 5 Tips For Charter Schools


Top 5 Tips For Charter Schools – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Charter Schools Continue To Grow In Popularity

Charter schools have proven their worth and show no signs of going away, which has fueled efforts to secure greater regulation and oversight over the institutions. So far this year there has been no shortage of charter school reform proposals – with the most recent one being introduced by State Sen. Peggy Lehner mid-April.

The charter school reforms that are being debated in Ohio’s legislature call for companies and organizations responsible for operating the schools to do so under “higher standards” of quality education. Proponents of reform cite a trend of lower test scores and point to the government funding charter schools currently receive to back a position of greater accountability and transparency.

“Charter schools can be examples of exceptional education,” Lehner told The Cleveland Plain Dealer in April. “But Ohio has been ‘extremely loose’ in its rules about who can run (manage) schools … and (has) ‘failed to put up the sort of guardrails’ that force the schools to be of high quality.”

According to the Cleveland publication, the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA) points to the success of many national charter schools as examples how communities and students can continue to benefit from properly managed privately-held institutions and point to the importance of outside agencies, namely school districts, state or city panels, colleges and non-profits, “to do a better job of making sure schools provide solid educations to children.”

The three proposals introduced so far this year all call for stricter oversight with regard to which entities are authorized to set up charter schools across the state.

How Are These Proposals Different?

 

Charter School Changes - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

The more charter schools grow in popularity, the more attention they get in the legislature – especially in Ohio where during the 2013-14 school year a record 119,533 students attended one of the state’s public charter schools.

Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal called for Ohio’s charter schools to receive two new potential funding sources while holding school sponsors to a higher standard of accountability. His proposal sought to generate a $25 million facilities fund, which would be available only to the highest-rated sponsors. Those highly-rated sponsors would also be allowed to seek local tax levies while advocating for the closure of poorly performing schools. Furthermore, he would:

  • Require all sponsors to be approved by the Ohio Department of Education and go through the state review and rating process.
  • Prevent sponsors from selling goods and/or services to the schools they sponsor in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Mandate that all charter schools only employ treasurers, auditors and lawyers who are not affiliated with the school’s sponsor or management company.
  • Advocate for stronger rules for schools and operators that apply directly to the state for sponsorship.

The next charter school reform that was proposed, House Bill 2, was touted as a solution that would promote accountability, transparency and responsibility by:

  • Requiring all charter schools – including district-created dropout recovery schools – to be included in the Ohio Department of Education’s report card.
  • Mandating that all contracts between schools and sponsors include more detail about expected academic performance of the schools as well as details about the school’s facilities and rental or loan costs.
  • Preventing charter schools from frequently changing sponsors in order to appear as though they are in good standing.
  • Requiring the full disclosure of all conflicts of interest.
  • Calling for the annual disclosure of financial reports that allow sponsors to better monitor the school while advising it.
  • Instructing all management companies or organizations to begin reporting their performance.
  • Prevent sponsors from selling goods and/or services to the schools they sponsor in an effort to avoid conflicts of interest.
  • Prohibiting school district employees and vendors from sitting on the school’s governing board.
  • Ensuring that school treasurers will no longer be hired by the school’s sponsor.

State Sen. Lehner’s most current proposal reportedly “takes many pieces of [the other proposals] and adds additional controls – and benefits.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer states “the bill does not have the state directly close poor-performing charters quickly … instead [it] takes the more indirect path that the charter school community prefers nationally. The bill pressures the ‘sponsors’ … to raise standards.” Her bill aims to:

  • Strengthen language that will prohibit “sponsor hopping.”
  • Increase the transparency associated with expenditures generated by operators.
  • Require all sponsors to have a contract with the Ohio Department of Education [ODE].
  • Incorporate Gov. Kasich’s charter school sponsor oversight proposal.
  • Limit the direct authorizing by the ODE and allows it to decline applicants.
  • Prohibit sponsors from spending charter funds outside of their statutory responsibly.
  • Encourage high performing schools with facilities by encouraging co-location and facility funding.

I am sure we will hear much more about this issue before it comes to a vote. But in the meantime, keep following these events and consider how changes might affect you. Email Rea & Associates to find out how we can help you overcome current challenges while preparing for the future.

By: Zac Morris, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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This Is An Intervention – Step Away From Your Business

Mike Taylor | April 28th, 2015
Be The Leader You Want To Be - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Join organizations, attend events, and talk to other leaders about your business, your industry and your role in the world. It’s time to be the business leader you’ve always wanted to be.

As the driving force behind your company’s growth and success you have undoubtedly spent countless hours and dollars strategizing, networking and juggling a laundry list of managerial responsibilities. But your effort has paid off – today, you are praised for your work and are regarded as a leading entrepreneur within your industry. But maybe it feels like you have only begun to scratch the surface and that your business is long overdue for a growth spurt. While these are great challenges to have in the business world, if you are spending all your time in the office instead of hitting the pavement, it could seem like your ability to expand further is simply unattainable.

If only there were more hours in the day!

Read: Did You Know That Treating Your Business Like An Investment Can Lead To Wealth?

Throughout my career I have had the pleasure of working with many successful business owners. And while these men and women possess the skills, expertise and leadership traits essential for success in their respective industries, they have all learned that they are not immune to getting caught up in day-to-day managerial distractions. It can happen to anybody and before you know it you are caught up in a fruitless, energy-sapping, time-consuming headache that hurts your effectiveness as a business leader and prevents your company from achieving the growth and revenue you know it is capable of.

When that happens, it’s time to stop what you are doing, take a step back and reassess your organizational development strategy.


Step Away From Your Business – An Intervention – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

Work On Your Business, Not In It

“[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,” says Jim Collins in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t. “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.”

In other words, if you want to continue to grow a successful company, you can’t do it alone. While this advice may sound cliché, your ability to develop a strong organizational structure is directly responsible for your company’s long-term success. But it’s not easy and getting “the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off)” has been the single hardest objective for some of the most talented business owners. But once you are able to achieve this step, you will finally be able to maximize your time and talent by working on your business, instead of in your business.

How To Lead Your Business By Developing Your Organization

  1. First you must understand that organizational development is a never-ending process. To get started, develop a formal organizational chart and take time to identify “the right people” to effectively fill the top positions on your chart. To aid in the flexibility and evolution of your business’s organizational development, consider forming an advisory board to bring outside objectivity to the process.
  2. Next, step away from the daily grind of running your business. It’s time to be the business leader you’ve always wanted to be. Join organizations, attend events, and talk to other leaders about your business, your industry and your role in the world. Doing so will help you earn respect and influence throughout your community.
  3. Once you put some distance between yourself and the day-to-day grind of your company, you will be able to lead your company more objectively. This is an ideal time to observe your current organizational structure and brainstorm strategies to help you achieve your future success with your inner circle. Just make sure that those who make up your inner circle are not like you, will tell you the truth, will add value to you and your organization and are willing to have crucial conversations.
  4. Now that you have solidified your role as a business leader, it’s time to empower those in your organization to take ownership of the company and their place in it. This includes giving them the ability to make decisions while supporting and encouraging them and demonstrating your willingness to follow their lead.
  5. One of the most critical responsibilities of a business leader is planning for the future of your company. How will you transition your business once it is time to retire? What should you do now to ensure your company’s longevity? Do you know how much your business is actually worth? In order to protect your most important investment, your business, it is important to thoroughly understand the value of your business and develop a plan for its continued growth.

Starting your business is hard; growing your business is even harder. You will make mistakes. When you do get it wrong,act swiftly to make the necessary changes.

Maximize your time and talent. Email Rea & Associates today to learn more growth and development tips for your business. I won’t say that we have seen it all, but we have certainly seen a lot.

By Mike Taylor, CPA (Millersburg office)

 

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Cash Continues To Flow From Ohio’s Shale Industry

David Shallenberger | April 23rd, 2015
Companies Eye Mercer County For Fossil Fuel

Current news reports suggest that oil and gas companies will continue to invest in Ohio’s shale industry which could provide more opportunities for land owners.

For many of us, the future of Ohio’s shale industry has become a regular topic of conversation. And as a landowner in the state’s Marcellus and Utica shale regions, you’ve probably wondered what (if any) effect current events, such as the state budget and plunging energy prices, will have on your financial well-being. While nobody can predict the future, I’m optimistic we won’t see any major slowdowns over the next few years. Here are a few reasons why:

Severance Tax Sees The Cutting Room Floor

We recently learned that Gov. Kasich’s plan to increase the state’s severance tax on horizontal drilling to pay for the plan to cut income taxes was removed in the newest rendition of the state’s proposed budget bill.

The governor’s original two-year budget plan called for oil and gas produced by horizontal wells to be taxed at a 6.5 percent tax rate for product sold at the wellhead – while 4.5 percent tax would have been applied to product sold downstream. Earlier this year, Ohio Tax Commissioner Joe Testa told the media that the governor’s proposed tax hike was because Ohio’s horizontal drilling industry has become more developed and that drilling has proved to be less expensive than anticipated. In response, American Petroleum Institute’s Executive Director, Chris Zeigler, argued that the original budget proposal placed the “future development of Ohio Shale at serious risk.”

Now that the proposed tax increase in question has been removed, one could assume that drilling companies are breathing a sigh of relief. However, while there appears to be no new initiatives in play to raise the existing severance tax rate at the moment, the new budget proposal still has a long legislative journey to make before the June 30 deadline.

Shale Investment Appears To Be Untouched By Low Energy Prices

Lower prices at the pump might be a bit unnerving if you are, for example, in the process of finalizing a mineral lease agreement. But have no fear, even though new drilling initiatives in Ohio’s shale regions are slowing, according to Business Journal Daily, “oil and gas exploration continues to have positive ramifications across the region.”

As Ohio’s oil and gas industry matures, it continues to become more efficient, which has helped it persevere at a time when oil producers in the Middle East and elsewhere appear to be maintaining higher production quotas in an effort to price horizontal drillers out of the market. For example, the practice of “super fracking,” by which producers pump higher quantities of sand into the wells they fracture, has increased productivity from 400 barrels a day to 600. The result is a lower break-even cost for producers and, in general, more staying power than experts had initially thought.

To date, Energy In Depth, an oil and gas trade organization, estimates that Ohio’s shale industry has grown to $22.3 billion, and expects it to grow by another $8.1 billion by 2016, with the construction or extension of additional pipeline infrastructure, power plants and processing plants. In other words – don’t expect the Ohio’s oil and gas industry to slow down any time soon. In fact, it could be expanding as landowners from other parts of the state appear to have been approached by companies looking to increase their reserves.

Companies Eye Mercer County For Fossil Fuel

About 10,000 acres of farmland located in the Mercer County area, about 60 miles southwest of Lima, has been leased for 3D seismic oil and gas exploration according to The Daily Standard, a local news publication. The leased property, which is primarily farmland, will be subjected to noninvasive 3D seismic tests that will identify whether “significant amounts of oil and/or gas” are present. The results are expected to be available by June.

The newspaper reports that “[more] than 90 land leases involving thousands of acres have been filed in Mercer County since 2013 between various companies and property owners … the legal documents give companies access to test, drill or perform other action on the land as stipulated in each agreement.” Mercer County Commissioners agreed to test some government-owned property as well.

This news is not only important to the residents of Mercer County, but to residents throughout Ohio. The fact that companies are actively seeking to further their investment within the state is promising for all landowners. And at the very least, this recent move signifies that these companies have no plans packing up and shipping out anytime in the near future.

Email Rea & Associates if you have questions about how current events could affect your leasing options or if you are considering entering into a lease agreement for drilling or exploratory purposes.

By David Shallenberger, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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Last Chance To Claim Valuable Retroactive Tax Credit

Lisa Beamer | April 23rd, 2015
Last Chance To Claim Valuable Retroactive Tax Credit

All businesses that hired members of targeted groups, such as qualifying veterans, must submit Form 8850, a pre-screening notice and certification request for each employee hired between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014 to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services no later than April 30, 2015 to qualify for the WOTC.

It was a cold evening last December when Congress finally voted in favor of extending more than 50 tax provisions considered critical by several businesses and individuals. The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 provided assurance that certain incentives would remain intact and that certain provisions would be put in place to allow for the retroactive extension of some key deadlines. Among them was the deadline to claim the 2014 Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). Now, as we teeter at the end of April, that deadline is set to expire.

Read: How Do You Qualify For Tax Credits And Incentives?

What You Need To Know

All businesses that hired members of targeted groups, such as qualifying veterans, must submit Form 8850, a pre-screening notice and certification request for each employee hired between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014 to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services no later than April 30, 2015 to qualify for the WOTC.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, under normal circumstances, eligible employers are required to file the appropriate information with their respective workforce agencies within 28 days of the employees start date. Section 51 of the Internal Revenue Code concerning the WOTC states that eligible employers may claim a tax credit for a percentage of the qualified employee’s first-year wages (and second-year wages for some eligible hires).

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about tax incentives that can impact your business’s bottom line.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia)

 

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Retirement Roulette

Darlene Finzer | April 22nd, 2015
Retirement Roulette - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

The retirement savings provision outlined in the 2016 Budget Proposal not only provides individual Americans with an opportunity to save, it seeks to provide financial incentives to eligible companies that establish their own 401(k), auto-IRA or that offer another similar retirement plan to their employees by expanding the small business tax credit.

It’s difficult to paint a picture that adequately portrays the retirement readiness of the American people. How prepared the average person is for this phase of their life greatly depends on which report you are reading today. As a whole, however, credible sources indicate that as a population we are simply not prepared to take on the financial responsibility of supporting ourselves later in life, which is a problem that has received a lot of attention from our nation’s leaders.

Last year marked the introduction of myRA, a retirement account program that encourages individuals without access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan to save for their retirement. Developed by the United States Department of the Treasury, myRA seeks to offer a solution to those who “face barriers to saving for retirement.” But that’s not the only chatter heard on Capitol Hill these days, with regard to the retirement savings habits of Americans. Members of Congress have proposed other solutions that they hope will make the retirement picture a little bit brighter.

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

2016 Budget Proposal Addresses Retirement Savings

The U.S. government’s 2016 Budget Proposal includes provisions that target the promotion of retirement goals.

“Millions of working Americans lack access to a retirement savings plan at work. Fewer than 10 percent of those without plans at work save in a retirement account on their own. In 2015, retirement security will be one of the key topics of the White House Conference on Aging. The Budget would make it easy and automatic for workers to save for retirement through their employer – giving 30 million more workers access to a workplace savings opportunity. The Budget also ensures that long-term part-time employees can participate in their employers’ retirement plans and provides tax incentives to offset administrative expenses for small businesses that adopt retirement plans.”

What is important to note is that, in addition to retirement security, the Proposal focuses on generating government revenue, which would (in part) go toward the creation of new tax benefit programs. The impact, according to the Whitehouse, would result in savings for as many as 30 million American taxpayers.

Today, nearly 78 million working Americans are unable to save for retirement simply because they are not eligible to enroll or because their employer doesn’t offer the opportunity to save for retirement. This Proposal introduces a solution for those who would like to begin saving for their golden years.

For example, one possible scenario outlined within the budget calls for all part time workers (those who have worked for their current employer at least 3 consecutive years and who have worked at least 500 hours during each year of their employment), who are not currently contributing to a retirement plan, to be allowed to contribute to the company’s existing retirement plan without requiring the plan sponsor to add matching contributions for such individuals.

Another is for those who do not have access to an employer-based retirement plan, however, would be automatically enrolled in a separate IRA program, which would be funded by payroll withholdings. Of course, the taxpayer would have the option to opt out of the program.

What’s In It for the Employer?

The retirement savings provision outlined in the 2016 Budget Proposal not only provides individual Americans with an opportunity to save, it seeks to provide financial incentives to eligible companies that establish their own 401(k), auto-IRA or that offer another similar retirement plan to their employees by expanding the small business tax credit.

This provision would also include an additional credit for small businesses that currently offer retirement plans to include an automatic enrollment feature within their plans.

Employees who are still unable to save for retirement will have a third option available. The Budget Proposal calls for the allocation of $6.5 million to the Department of Labor, which would allow a limited number of states to implement state-based auto enroll IRAs or 401(K)-type programs.

Mind the Cap

President Barack Obama’s 2016 Budget Proposal, while ambitious in its initiative to strengthen Social Security and incentivize retirement savings programs for Americans, also includes a provision that had been proposed (and rejected) before. The additional provision seeks to cap (prohibit additional contributions) on IRAs and other tax-preferred retirement plans once they reach a balance of $3.4 million.

According to the president, this step ensures that the individual secures sufficient annual income in retirement while preventing the “overuse” of existing tax advantages by those who are able to contribute additional funds, creating higher balance accounts. The cap would also help the government generate additional revenue because the funds that exceed the $3.4 million cap would now be taxable under this provision.

As always, when it comes to the future of Social Security and the overall retirement readiness of the American people a lot can change in a short amount of time. The 2016 Budget Proposal still has a long way to go before any of the provisions outlined within become reality. It’s important for you to be aware of these provisions and how they could change our current retirement plan landscape.

In the meantime, don’t just wait for changes to happen. Take steps today that will maintain the flexibility of your existing benefit plan while optimizing your company’s current and future ROI. Email the Benefit Plan Audit team at Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Darlene Finzer, CPA, QKA, CSA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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