Archive for April, 2014

How Can Analytics Help Reduce Fraud Risk At Your Business?

Friday, 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:

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?

Wednesday, 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: Paul McEwan, CPA, MTax, AIFA (New Philadelphia 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?

Wednesday, 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?

Monday, 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?

Friday, 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?

Wednesday, 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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