Archive for the ‘Business Advice’ Category

Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Thursday, 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

Wednesday, 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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8 Tips For Crafting A Strong Password

Thursday, 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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