Archive for the ‘Personal Finance’ Category

Like Losing Your Wallet – Only Worse

Friday, July 31st, 2015
Retirement Plan Returns- Ohio CPA Firm

Typically, owners of businesses and their spouses who fail to file their annual retirement plan returns are in full-scale crisis mode – and rightfully so, since missing this deadline results in a penalty that’s about the size of a small fortune.

For most of us, misplacing our keys, losing sight of our shoes and occasionally forgetting to pay the phone bill on time is not a catastrophic phenomenon. It happens; and most likely we will freak out for a minute, find what we were looking for and move on – only to repeat our dysfunctional routine countless times over the course of a lifetime. Forgetting to file your retirement plan returns on the other hand … well, let’s just say that’s typically not a stress-free event.

Read Also: Do You Know What Your Retirement Plan Is Costing You?

Typically, owners of businesses and their spouses who fail to file their annual retirement plan returns (Form 5500-EZ) are in full-scale crisis mode – and rightfully so, since missing this deadline results in a penalty that’s about the size of a small fortune. To be more precise, in years past, those who failed to meet their filing obligation could face a penalty totaling up to $15,000 per return. Fortunately, the IRS recently announced that instead of facing such an extreme late fee, eligible business owners can take advantage of a “low-cost penalty relief program.”

How Much Would You Pay?

The relief initiative, which started as a one-year pilot program in 2014, was tremendously successful, resulting in the collection of about 12,000 late returns. Because of this success, the program secured it’s permanency in May of this year. According to the news release, the program allows eligible business owners and their spouses to file late returns and only pay a $500 penalty for each return submitted with a maximum of $1,500 per plan. Because the IRS caps the maximum penalty at $1,500, applicants are encouraged to include multiple late returns in a single submission.

Eligibility

The IRS says that businesses with plans that cover the owner or the business’s partners (depending on how the business is set up) and their spouses are eligible to take advantage of this low-cost plan. Complete information about the program can be found by clicking here.

Learn More

Remember, your return must be filed annually no later than the end of the seventh month following the close of your plan year. So, for example, if your plan is governed by the calendar-year, as most are, your 2014 return was due today (Friday, July 31, 2015). Did you fail to file your small business’s annual retirement plan returns? Would you like to find out if you qualify for this program? Email a retirement plan expert at Rea & Associates and take control of your IRS debt now.

By Andrea McLane, QKA (Dublin office)

Want to read more about the importance of Retirement Plan Compliance?
Check out these articles:

401(k) Loans and Keeping Your Plan In Compliance
Retirement Roulette
The ‘Van Halen Philosophy’ of Retirement Plan Compliance

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A Fair Assessment?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
Back taxes - Ohio CPA Firm

When a taxpayer files a false or fraudulent return, the taxpayer waves their right to statute of limitations protection. And if a taxpayer fails to file their income tax return, the IRS is allowed to undertake collection proceedings at any time and without assessment.

Bob recently received a copy of his account transcripts from the IRS. Upon reviewing the paperwork, he noticed that the government agency made note of a “date of assessment,” which prompted him to wonder how the date of assessment was determined? Moreover, he wanted to know what role one’s date of assessment plays with regard to the time frame the government has to collect back taxes.

If you ever find yourself in a situation similar to Bob’s, with questions about your tax history, in addition to speaking with your tax advisor, you can request that a copy of your tax return transcript and tax account transcript be mailed to you. Fill out the online form here, but make sure you are making the request for the current tax year’s transcript or transcripts for three years prior.

If you are requesting transcripts for older tax years or you need a wage and income transcript or verification of non-filing letter, you’ll need to complete Form 4506-T and send it to the address listed on the form’s instructions. Due to a recent security breach, your transcripts will not be sent electronically.

How Far Back Can The IRS Go To Collect Back Taxes?

If the IRS is attempting to collect past due taxes, the agency will assign a date of assessment to your IRS account transcript.

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

Like many of the invoices you see every day, every item on your transcript will be assigned a code. Your date of assessment is no different. To identify the date of assessment on your account transcript for the tax year in question, look for Transaction Code “150.” Tip: If you are wondering what the other codes on your transcript mean, you can find a comprehensive list here.

As a general rule, the IRS must assess tax, or file suit against the taxpayer to collect the back taxes, within three years after the original tax return was filed. This three-year period of limitation on assessments also applies to penalties. In fact, this rule continues to apply regardless of whether the return was filed on time or not. In general, the statute of limitations will almost always begin the day after the taxpayer files their income tax return.

The Rules May Not Apply

It seems as though there are always exceptions to the rules we work so hard to uphold – taxes are not excluded from this trend. For instance, when a taxpayer files a false or fraudulent return, the taxpayer waves their right to statute of limitations protection. And if a taxpayer fails to file their income tax return, the IRS is allowed to undertake collection proceedings at any time and without assessment.

Parting Shots

While the statute of limitations for assessment is three years after your return has been filed, the IRS still has 10 years to actually collect the assessed tax. Below is an example of the assessment process in action:

  • April 15, 2015 – you filed your 2014 tax return with the IRS
  • March 31, 2018 – the IRS assesses additional taxes on your 2014 tax return
  • The IRS has until March 31, 2028, to collect the additional tax or file suit against you.

While this information may help to shine some light on IRS assessments and statute of limitations rules, every situation is unique and hinges on several specific variables. Your tax advisor can help you sort through codes and details to get you back on the right track. Email Rea & Associates to learn more.

By Christopher Axene, CPA (Dublin office)

Check out these articles to learn more about your responsibilities as a taxpayer:

How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing?

The Truth About Tax Extensions

If Something Happens To me, What Will Happen With My Financial Matters?

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Could Your Company Be Ransomware’s Next Victim?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
Preempt A Crisis - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

While there is no surefire way to prevent a Ransomware attack on your data, it’s wise to implement the following best practices to reduce the possibility of infection or reinfection.

The malware known as CryptoLocker or CryptoWall continues to be a major concern for individuals and companies alike. So much so, that the FBI saw fit to issue a warning just last month and help raise further awareness about the threat.

According to the FBI, this Ransomware continues to evolve, which helps it avoid user’s virus detection software applications – even if they are current. Since April 2014, reported the FBI, there have been 992 incidents of CryptoLocker reported. These occurrences have resulted in the loss of around $18 million.

Read Also: How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

The Threat Is Real

Ransomware is a computer infection that’s been programmed to encrypt all files of known file types on your local computer and your server’s shared drives. Once it takes hold, it’s all but impossible for you to regain access to the data that’s been infected. Once this happens, you have one of two choices. You can:

  1. Restore their machine by using backup media, or
  2. Accommodate the hacker’s demands and pay up.

As a direct result of my experience as an IT audit manager, I have been made aware of several situations in which businesses were left with no choice but to succumb to the demands of malicious cybercriminals carrying out Ransomware attacks. And while the companies I have worked with were finally able to obtain their assailant’s encryption key code to unencrypt and regain access to their data after the ransom was paid, others are not as lucky – after all, the FBI has reported $18 million worth of losses in just over a year. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that you won’t be targeted again in the future.

Preempt A Crisis

While there is no surefire way to prevent a Ransomware attack on your data, it’s wise to implement the following best practices to reduce the possibility of infection or reinfection.

  • Implement mandatory computer safety training for all employees and implement and test an IT Disaster Recovery Plan in place.
  • Always use reputable antivirus software and a firewall and be sure to keep both up to date.
  • Put your popup blockers to good use. Doing so will help remove the temptation to click on an ad that could infect your computer.
  • Limit access to company’s data by ensuring that only a few employees have access to certain folders and data. You can facilitate this type of action by conducting annual reviews of your company’s employee access rights.
  • Backup all company-owned content. Then if you do become infected, instead of paying the ransom, you can simply have the Ransomware wiped from your system and then reinstall your files once it’s safe again to do so.
  • Never click on suspicious emails or attachments, especially if they come from an email address you don’t recognize. And actively avoid websites that raise suspicion.

Shut Down The Attack

If you are surfing the Web and a popup ad or message appears to alert you that a Ransomware attack is in progress, disconnect from the Internet immediately. Breaking the connection between the hacker and your data could help stop the spread of additional infections or data losses. In addition to informing your company’s IT department about the threat or occurrence, be sure to file a complaint with your local law enforcement agency. The IC3, formerly known as the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, also encourages you to file a report at www.IC3.gov.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about the importance of your company’s online security.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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The Plight of the Snowbird

Friday, June 19th, 2015

It’s warm and muggy now, but once winter blankets the Buckeye State with record snowfall and subzero temperatures again, you will likely be kicking yourself for not having hightailed it to Florida after last year’s bitter cold snap. Sure, it’s easy to say that you would like to pack up and head for a warmer climate during a seemingly endless freeze, but once the icicles melt and the flowers bloom, you begin to remember why you’ve stayed around for so long in the first place. Maybe the fact that your family and friends still call Ohio home is enough to convince you to stay put. Or perhaps its memories of your own childhood that are keeping you tethered to the state. Either way, now that it’s summer – the need doesn’t seem so intense anymore … that is, unless you are considering taking advantage of possible tax savings.

Will Taxes Influence Your Decision To Fly South This Winter?

The Plight of the Snowbird - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Now that you have settled on whether or not you will be packing up and moving for tax and/or weather reasons, make sure you know what’s involved when it comes to changing your state of domicile.

What if I told you that the State of Ohio has made it a little easier for you to escape the winter chill, spend more time in the nation’s heartland during the seasons you love and save on your tax bill? Would you consider making the move then? If so, you’re in luck!

Read: How Can I Make The Most Of My Retirement?

Which State Do I Call Home?

For some, it’s relatively easy to buy and maintain several homes across state lines. The hard part comes when the Internal Revenue Service wants you to decide which home should be considered your primary residence based on how much time you spend in each state. These are the facts that will ultimately influence whether you pay taxes or not. If you are a snowbird who flocks back and forth between Ohio and Florida, for example, to avoid reporting your income to Ohio for tax purposes, it’s up to you to prove that you have spent no more than seven months (or fewer than 212 contact periods) in the Buckeye State. That compares to the 182 contact sessions (or six months) snowbirds were allowed to remain in Ohio under prior rules. The rules were changed in March.

How Do I Change My Residence For Tax Purposes?

Now that you have settled on whether or not you will be packing up and moving for tax and/or weather reasons, make sure you know what’s involved when it comes to changing your state of domicile. Some states, such as Florida, require basic documentation to establish your change of domicile. Therefore, you should make sure all your paperwork is in order, including your Declaration of Domicile. And while you are filing paper work to establish your new residence for tax purposes, keep in mind that some states, including Ohio, require documentation in order to relinquish your residency. Ohioans looking to relocate must complete and sign an Affidavit of Non-Ohio Residency/Domicile. This document helps establish your desire to establish nonresidency within the state. But keep in mind that there are there are other bright line tests the State of Ohio may look at to help determine whether you are actually domiciled in another state. For example, the State may look for information that indicates where you are registered to vote, which state issued your driver’s license, where your vehicles are titled and what address is listed on your tax return.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about the tax benefits some snowbirds enjoy and whether migration is right for you.

By Trista Acker, CPA, CFP (Dublin office)

 

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Managing Wealth In A Volatile Industry

Thursday, June 4th, 2015
Navigate The Busts and Booms of Business - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Owning a business in a volatile industry can be a big gamble, but if you strategically manage your assets, your odds of success become much greater. Be prepared for outside factors that may force your business to go lean by preparing early and creating a solid, sustainable financial management strategy.

The oil & gas industry has long been known to experience regular cycles of booms and busts. One of the most recent examples occurred only a few months ago, when Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) made the decision to maintain its current level of production levels in an attempt to capture greater market share. This decision caused the price of oil to tank. By the time the dust settled, oil prices dipped 60 percent and the ripple effect had already begun to take a toll on companies throughout the industry.

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

This is just one example of how the market can change overnight, but this type of volatility is not exclusive to the oil & gas industry, which is why all business owners throughout all industries should consider taking the steps necessary to guard against a bust – even if you are still riding high on a boom.

3 Tips To Help You Navigate Your Industry’s Busts – And The Booms

  1. Take Good Care Of Your Assets – Successful navigation of a finicky industry depends on how well you manage your assets. For example, when times are good, take the necessary steps to manage your cash flow and consult with an advisor who can help you make wise, sustainable financial decisions. When it comes to investments made outside the volatility of your business, consider giving your blood pressure a break and make it a priority to first seek the preservation of your capital over your rate of return. Emphasizing capital preservation can better prepare you for those unexpected downturns.
  2. Live Frugally (Even When You Don’t Have To) – Don’t buy that new car unless you are absolutely sure that you will have the funds needed to cover the payments, and any other unexpected expenses, later on. Setting goals for your spending and saving habits, for example, can help keep your finances in line – helping you to keep your head above water when your business, or the industry, takes unexpected downturn. Instead of driving off the lot in that brand-new car, start by putting some money aside to make a nice down payment. Even though you may have to postpone the purchase for a few months or so, when you are finally able to put the money down you will also be able to significantly reduce your monthly payments – putting you in an even better long-term financial position.
  3. Choose To Play The Long Game – It may seem hard to diversify your business when so many others appear to be doing pretty good for themselves by chasing the quick rewards. But by operating your business and managing your personal finances more conservatively, you stand a better chance of securing long-term wealth – not to mention a comfortable retirement. In other words, when you diversify your assets, you are able to protect yourself and your business from a sudden and complete collapse.

Owning a business in a volatile industry can be a big gamble, but if you strategically manage your assets, your odds of success become much greater. Be prepared for outside factors that may force your business to go lean by preparing early and creating a solid, sustainable financial management strategy. Take a look at your current operations and consider what changes you can make today to help protect your business from a possible financial catastrophe tomorrow.

Email Rea & Associates to discover more ways to protect your business.

By David Shallenberger, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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What’s That ‘New’ Charge On Your Amazon Bill?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Amazon Looks To Drone Delivery - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Amazon appears to be unaffected by the possible repercussions of adding sales tax to customer’s invoices as its focus seems to have shifted from a superior price point strategy to high efficiency and extra speedy service. According to reports, the online giant continues to move forward with initiatives that promise even speedier delivery – further cutting the time it takes for a product to hit the customer’s front porch after the order was placed.

If you aren’t already aware, Amazon is in the process of bringing three of its data centers and a distribution center to Ohio. And yes, the company’s decision to open up shop in the Buckeye State is expected to boost the state-wide economy and add about 1,000 jobs to the ranks. But what is generating the most excitement these days (at least throughout Ohio’s retail industry) is the company’s new responsibility to collect sales tax from our state’s shoppers.

Read: If You Buy Online You Might Owe Use Tax

Traditional retailers anticipate this move will effectively level the playing field, helping encourage the growth of the state’s locally-owned businesses. Amazon, however, appears to be unaffected by the possible repercussions of adding sales tax to customer’s invoices as its focus seems to have shifted from a superior price point strategy to high efficiency and extra speedy service. [SPOILER ALERT: Drone delivery appears to be imminent!] According to reports, the online giant continues to move forward with initiatives that promise even speedier delivery – further cutting the time it takes for a product to hit the customer’s front porch after the order was placed. The company is also exploring ways to keep the cost associated with such speed minimal – information from the US Patent and Trademark Office reveals the company’s desire to “dominate the skies.”

Ohio-Based Amazon Shoppers Begin Paying Sales Tax

Paying taxes on your purchased items is not a new phenomenon. In fact, you’re probably not too shocked to see the roughly 7 percent (based on your county) charge permanently affixed to the bottom portion your receipts whenever your purchase a variety of products from a local brick-and-mortar shop. Until June 1 though, Ohio residents didn’t see this charge when purchasing products from Amazon, simply because the online retailer wasn’t required to make those living in the Buckeye State pay these taxes.

In Ohio, only vendors with a physical presence in the state, such as a storefront, warehouse, factory or call center, must charge sales tax to in-state customers. Otherwise, it’s up to individual taxpayers to report and pay the taxes when filing their annual tax returns, which is a relatively uncommon practice.

“The Ohio Department of Taxation has estimated that Ohio will lose out on about $400 million in unpaid sales or use tax on unpaid sales or use tax on so-called remote sales this year,” reported The Columbus Dispatch. “More than 5 million Ohioans filed tax returns for 2012. Of those, a little more than 50,000 paid a total of $3 million in taxes due on Internet or mail-order purchases. Retail groups and analysts welcomed the news that Amazon will start collecting taxes.”

Ohio Taxpayers Still On The Hook For Other Purchases

It may seem like it’s too soon to start thinking about your 2015 tax return, it’s actually a great time to start collecting information you will need to complete your paperwork early next year. For example, while you won’t need to collect your Amazon receipts anymore, you may have to keep tabs of your Etsy habit (for example) to help make calculating your 2015 use tax as simple as possible.

Email Rea & Associates to learn more about use tax.

By Joe Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

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Hackers Target IRS – 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts Breached

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
Hackers Target IRS – 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts Breached  - Rea & Associates - Ohio CPA Firm

Reports state that cyber-criminals were able to gain access to taxpayer accounts by obtaining specific, personal information, which allowed them to navigate the Get Transcript authentication process. The IRS said, since February, there have been about 200,000 attempts to access taxpayer’s Get Transcript accounts from “questionable email domains – of which, about 100,000 were successful.

Just when you thought it was safe to let your guard down, cyber-criminals have blindsided us again. This time they’ve used the Internal Revenue Service’s “Get Transcript” application to gain access to approximately 100,000 taxpayer accounts.

Read: Could A Cyber-Attack Cripple Your Business In 2015?

The IRS released a statement Tuesday stating the government agency is “working aggressively to protect affected taxpayers and strengthen [their] protocols even further going forward,” after learning that hackers used “non-IRS sources” to access data, including Social Security information, dates of birth and street addresses associated with the accounts of nearly 100,000 taxpayers. The IRS said the security breach occurred when criminals gained access to its online Get Transcript application, which has since been shut down pending a full investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

According to the IRS, “the online application will remain disabled until the IRS makes modifications and further strengthens security for it.”

The data breach was limited to the Get Transcript application, said an IRS representative. The main IRS computer system that manages tax filing submissions was not affected and remains secure.

Reports state that the criminals were able to gain access to the accounts by obtaining information specific to the certain taxpayers, which allowed them to navigate the Get Transcript authentication process, which includes asking the user to answer several personal questions to confirm their identity. The IRS said, since February, there have been about 200,000 attempts to access taxpayer’s Get Transcript accounts from “questionable email domains – of which, about 100,000 were successful.

Expect to receive a letter in the mail if your account was one of the 200,000 accounts targeted. And if your account was one of those that were compromised, your letter will provide additional information, including specific instructions to access free credit monitoring services that will be provided by the IRS to ensure your data is not being used in other financially damaging ways. According to the IRS, the letters started going out this week.

Concerned about identity theft as a result of this breach? Click here to learn what to do if your identity is stolen or if your personal information is compromised.

If you are a business owner, do you have protocols in place to protect your business from a cybercriminal?Email Rea & Associates to learn how you can protect your business from a cyberattack. You can also get some useful tips and information in the related articles below.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster office)

 

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

Tuesday, 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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Investing In Your Business’s Immortality

Monday, 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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