Posts Tagged ‘Ohio CPA Firm’

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

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Tax Credits & Incentives Plan | Ohio CPA Firm

Right now, there is an estimated 3,000 federal, state and local credits and incentives valued at more than $50 billion available to your business. Find out what you can do to capture a piece of the billion-dollar-pie.

If you had a chance to claim thousands of dollars, would you? Well, if you are a business owner, the opportunity is staring you right in the face. But you have to seize the opportunity sooner rather than later.

Right now, there are around 3,000 federal, state and local credits and incentives valued at more than $50 billion available to your business. These opportunities are both statutory and negotiated and include hiring credits, investment credits, real and personal property incentives, utility rate reductions and infrastructure grants – just to name a few. Unfortunately, only a relatively small number of companies are taking advantage of these opportunities. 

Read Also: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Summertime Tax Prep

So why aren’t businesses seizing these opportunities for cash flow enhancement and return on investment? Sometimes companies don’t know they exist, or they think that they are too complex to understand and the opportunities are not worth the effort. Wrong!

If you take the time to develop a credits and incentives plan, your company can capture a piece of the $50 billion pie. Here’s how!

Key Elements of a Tax Credits and Incentives Plan

  1. Outline your key opportunity indicators. Key opportunity indicators are events that your team should come to know and understand that trigger the potential for credits and incentives. They typically revolve around your people and your investment in fixed assets. On the people side, opportunity indicators often involve increases or decreases in employment, turnover, relocations and employee training or retraining. On the fixed asset side, opportunity indicators include site selection and start-up, capital investment, leases and renewals, building acquisitions, facility upgrades and so on. Make a list of these indicators and train your team to spot them. Once an opportunity is spotted, investigate further and contact your CPA to see if it might benefit your business.
  2. Understand that timing is everything. To give your business the best chance of securing a credit or incentive, you must understand that timing is everything. To secure many credits and incentives, the process of securing the opportunity happens well in advance of hiring, training or purchasing fixed assets. In many instances, if your business has hired the employee, spent money on the training or purchased the fixed asset — it is too late. Once you’ve spent the money or announced your plans to the public, you’ve lost most if not all of your ability to negotiate. Understanding this and putting a plan in place to uncover the opportunity well in advance of the investment will put you in a position for maximum success. And outlining your key opportunity indicators is the first step to realizing the potential credits and incentives available to you.
  3. Get your entire team on board. Securing maximum credit and incentive opportunities isn’t just the job of your owner, CFO or CPA. It should also be the job of your HR department, training coordinator and safety director. The more your entire team is able to understand the key opportunity indicators and that timing is everything, the greater chance of success you will have.

Tax Credit Help

If you’re looking to capitalize on these credits and incentives opportunities and would like to learn more, email Rea & Associates. The sooner you move on this, the faster you’ll be able to realize the benefits.

By Chad Bice, CPA (Zanesville office)

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How Are You Different From The Competition?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
Competitive Advantage - Ohio CPA Firm

Every time I climb into my stylist’s chair my hair is trimmed – regardless of its condition. This helps maintain a fresh look while preventing additional breakage. It also gives her an opportunity to assess the state of my hair and make recommendations to help keep it looking its best! From helping a client monitor their cash flow to updating a buy-sell agreement, a lot of preventive maintenance can be done at a regular meeting with your financial advisor, too. You never know when a simple lunch meeting could reveal an underlying problem that, if left to fester, could be damaging to your business.

Superior Service Doesn’t Have To Be Hairy Business

You have the opportunity to go above and beyond the call of duty every time you engage with a client. And don’t think that your superior work and insight will go unnoticed! Before long, you will find that they will go out of their way in search of your insight and advice. Regardless of your profession, the potential is there for you to become a trusted advisor. We strive to reach this standard here at Rea, but I know of others who I would consider to be trusted advisors in a variety of other professions.

My Hair Stylist Is A Trusted Advisor

After attending my last meeting of the day, I gathered my things, left the conference room, walked to my car and sat down in the driver’s seat ready to depart for my regularly scheduled hair appointment. As I turned the engine, I started thinking the meeting I just left, during which we spent a lot of time discussing the succession plan of an existing client and what we could do to deliver the best experience (and outcome) possible. Then my thoughts drifted to the task at hand – my hair appointment and how I truly consider Aaren, my stylist, to be a trusted advisor in my life. Here’s why:

Superior Efficiency

Before busy season starts (January-April in our industry) Aaren will style my hair in a way that helps facilitate a faster dry time each morning. Being the numbers addict I am I have estimated that I can save about 6.5 hours if I opt for a shorter hairstyle. This is similar to how Rea is dedicated to delivering superior efficiency. For example, we have integrated Lean Six Sigma into our culture as a means to deliver efficient, cost effective service. We use it. We know it works. And we have helped other businesses implement their own Lean initiatives as well.

The Best Ideas You Weren’t Expecting

Not only does Aaren understand how to encourage her clients how to care for their hair during the best of times, she’s mindful of changes that could occur as a result of environmental factors and makes recommendations accordingly. This is what happened when I told her I was going on vacation to the ocean. This seemingly casual conversation revealed an opportunity to warn me about the dangers of saltwater on hair; she recommended a product to help prevent damage while I was on vacation. The great thing about developing a relationship with a trusted advisor is that they genuinely care! Are your children gearing up for graduation? Are you eyeballing retirement? Are you looking to invest in a summer home? A trusted advisor might be able to help you seize an opportunity that you would otherwise miss.

Sound Advice In Advance

I have found that Aaren is most effective when I keep her in the loop. I let her know when I have a vacation or a wedding many months in advance. This way she can help me get the results I want without unpleasant side effects. For example, rather than dye my hair right before a major wedding that was taking place in our family, Aaren encouraged me to change the color over a six-month period. By making the changes gradually and planned out we were to prevent my hair becoming damaged due to the chemicals.

Your advisors are also most effective when they are able to get in front of an issue. For example, if a client wanted to pass their business on to the next generation, an advisor could help you identify your succession plan, help you prepare for the changeover, identify financing solutions for your own retirement and help establish a cash flow strategy for the incoming management.

Preventive Maintenance

Every time I climb into Aaren’s chair my hair is trimmed – regardless of its condition. This helps maintain a fresh look while preventing additional breakage. It also gives her an opportunity to assess the state of my hair and make recommendations to help keep it looking its best! From helping a client monitor their cash flow to updating a buy-sell agreement, a lot of preventive maintenance can be done at a regular meeting with your financial advisor, too. You never know when a simple lunch meeting could reveal an underlying problem that, if left to fester, could be damaging to your business.

When it comes to the management of my hair, Aaren is a trusted advisor. She continues to demonstrate her expertise and always goes above and beyond my expectations, which is why I will drive two hours to keep my hair appointments!

What do you do to set yourself apart from the competition? Why would a client drive two hours to buy your products or services? How can you be a trusted advisor to the clients you serve? Mike Taylor, a CPA and executive principal here at Rea, did a great job talking about the advisory role on an episode of unsuitable on Rea Radio. You can listen to the podcast below or click here to learn more about this particular episode. You can also email Rea & Associates to speak with one of our industry professionals to find out how you can take your business to the next level.

By Katie Snyder, CPA (Wooster office)

Check out these articles for additional insight into the benefits of working with a trusted advisor:

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Your Secret Weapon: The Business Advisory Team

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
Business Advisory Podcast - Ohio CPA

On episode 25: the advisory advantage: a left-handed fireball pitcher for your business, Dave Cain, CPA, a principal at Rea & Associates, advises business owners about the benefit of having an advisory team. Start listening now.

If you have the opportunity to get great advice from a team of established business professionals and industry veterans, people who have lived, breathed, touched, and experienced the journey you are about to embark on – wouldn’t you? When you have a business advisory team to challenge and motivate you, you hold the secret weapon to long-term business value and personal and professional success.

But first you have to establish your team. Here are some tips that should help point you in the right direction.

Establishing A Core Group of Advisors

Although the makeup of the group could change or adapt depending on the needs of your business, usually the business advisory group will consist of a CPA, an attorney, a banker and a financial planner. Your advisory team has to be able and willing to have the crucial conversations necessary to facilitate real growth and change – and you need to be willing to hear all their opinions. Even if you don’t agree with some of the opinions that may be expressed, be an active participant in the conversation. Sometimes these dissenting opinions will become the catalyst for achieving some major milestones.

Trust that you’ve put together a strong group of advisors with a wide range of skills and experiences needed to take your business to the next level. The journey may, at times, be a little bumpy, but if you all stick together, the destination will be worth it.

Your Business Advisory Meeting

Meeting with your business advisory team should be more than a scheduled play date. You should have a plan for how the meeting is going to flow.

Remember that this meeting is a strategic session that will focus on the tactics necessary to fulfill the goals you’ve established for your business. This is not a time to look back at your prior year’s financial statements or tax returns. This is your chance to look at the stuff that you don’t get to touch every day because you have been too busy working in your business – rather than on your business.

To ensure that your advisory team leaves the meeting with a concrete action plan, make sure to come to the meeting prepared with an agenda. To maximize your success, everybody should have a clear picture of what their next steps are and what should be ready to the group at the next meeting.

It’s not always easy to stick to an agenda. Everybody has an opinion and new ideas will sprout from seemingly nowhere. Consider appointing an advisory team quarterback who can ensure that the meeting topics and decisions that materialize are consistent with the company’s mission statement, vision statement and core values. Your quarterback can also reel in the team when talks begin to become a little one-sided.

unsuitable on Rea Radio | Ohio Accounting Podcast | Rea & AssociatesWant more? Listen to episode 25: the advisory advantage: a left-handed fireball pitcher for your business on unsuitable on Rea Radio and find out if a business advisory team is right for you and your business.

By Dave Cain, CPA (Dublin office)

Still not sure if it makes sense to establish a formal business advisory team for your company? Check out these articles for further insight.

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Easy Year-End Tax Tips For Business Owners

Friday, December 11th, 2015
Tax Savings - Ohio CPA Firm

Put some extra cash in your piggy bank this tax season with these deductions.

In just a few days … this year will be history. And while you may have run out of time to wrap up (or start, let’s face it …) last year’s resolutions, it’s not too late to tap in to some last-minute tax saving strategies to help reduce your tax bill. Actually, there are quite a few things you can do to before the ball drops to secure some valuable savings.

Read: How Can You Best Prepare For The Upcoming Tax Season?

We’ve Done The Research For You

There’s no doubt about it, this time of year is busy! Family gatherings, shopping, decorating, cooking … sitting down at the computer to research tax deductions are probably isn’t ranking too high on your priority list. Happily, we’ve done the work for you. Check out the four articles below for some great tips, deductions and insight that will help you keep more of your hard-earned money in your bank account.

  1. What companies can do now to get ready for tax season: Are you willing to accept a larger-than-expected tax bill simply because you didn’t make time to touch base with your financial advisor before the end of the year? Well, if you failed to let your CPA know about any significant changes that occurred over the last year, you could miss a valuable opportunity. Read on to learn more.
  2. 5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden: From claiming the Ohio small business deduction to taking a personal vehicle deduction, these frequently overlooked deductions can result in real savings. Read on to learn more.
  3. Should I Make a Big Purchase to Cut Taxes?: Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of buying a big piece of machinery for your business for a while now, but you haven’t really been sure if it’s the right move. A call to your tax advisor could help point the right direction. Oftentimes, business owners can realize some really great savings opportunities just by spending a little bit more. That’s right, you get the upgrade you’ve been wanting AND the tax deduction. Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too?!
  4. Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late! Year-End Tax Planning Tips: Business owners aren’t the only ones who are able to tap into last-minute tax savings. There are ways individuals can make the most of the month of December too. From paying state & local tax estimates by the end of the year to prepaying your real estate taxes, taking a little time to plan ahead can help put more money in your pocket.

Do you think you can benefit from any of these tips? Email a tax expert at Rea & Associates to discuss what you should do before year-end to take advantage of major tax savings opportunities you may have missed in the past.

By Lesley Mast, CPA (Wooster Office)

Want more? Here are more tips to help you start the year off on the right foot.

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

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

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

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

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

4 Tips For Resolving Your Tax Dispute

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

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

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

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

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

Author: Clayton W. Rose, III, CPA

 

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

Friday, September 19th, 2014

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

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

Know Your Strengths And Weaknesses

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

 

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How Prepared Is Your Business For A Potential IT Disaster?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

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

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

Top 5 Reasons For A IT Disaster Recovery Plan

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

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

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

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

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Fraud Hotlines Deter Occupational Fraud

Monday, August 25th, 2014

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

Fraud Happens

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

Here’s A Tip

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

The Value of a Fraud Hotline

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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New Form of Malware Catching Retailers Off Guard

Monday, August 25th, 2014

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

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

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

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

How To Protect Your Business From A Data Breach

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

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

The Cost of Protecting Your Customers

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

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

Author: Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

 

Related Articles:

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

Monday, August 18th, 2014

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

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

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

Signs of An IRS Phone Scam

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

Don’t Be An IRS Phone Scam Victim

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

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

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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

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

Are You Secure? Cyber Security Targets Employee Benefit Accounts

How Do You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?

 

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

Monday, June 30th, 2014

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

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

Obamacare Help

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

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

 

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

What You Need To Know About Obamacare Employee Dumping 

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

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

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

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

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

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What Tax Liabilities Accompany Inherited Real Estate?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

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

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

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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

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

Friday, December 20th, 2013

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

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

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Has your business enjoyed the small business health care credit for the last few years? Well, get ready because changes are coming in 2014.  (more…)

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How Can Franchising Work For You?

Monday, November 25th, 2013

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

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

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

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

(more…)

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Can I Qualify for New Incumbent Workforce Training Dollars?

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

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

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How Do You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

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

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

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How does the new extension to the homebuyer credit work?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

On June 30, Congress passed H.R. 5623, the Homebuyer Assistance Improvement Act of 2010, and President Obama has now signed it. The new law provides the first-time homebuyer credit to taxpayers who were in contract before May 1 but couldn’t meet the June 30, 2010, closing date as required in the prior law. (more…)

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How can the HIRE Act help my business?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

In March, President Barack Obama signed the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act. The HIRE Act contains several tax items, the biggest of which is a payroll tax holiday for employers who hire qualifying workers – someone who has not worked more than 40 hours during the last 60 days. This employer benefit is for qualifying new employees hired after Feb. 3, 2010, and before Jan. 1, 2011, however, only wages paid after March 18, 2010 qualify for the payroll tax holiday. (more…)

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How Important Are Financial Statements?

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Although they’re not required for a closely-held business, financial statements can provide a crucial roadmap that helps management determine the financial health of the business and the steps to improve the return on investment for the owners – not to mention the fact that several entities outside your business may also request them.

There are four basic financial statements: balance sheet, income statement, cash flow statement and statement of shareholders equity. Do you know the difference? (more…)

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How does Coffee Affect Your Credit?

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Little purchases – a coffee here, a movie ticket there, a new magazine subscription because, hey, you deserve it – add up and can wreak havoc on your checkbook – and possibly your credit. (more…)

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What are the Ingredients for Business Success?

Friday, April 16th, 2010

Have you ever wondered why some business people are more successful than others? It doesn’t seem to make a difference what product or service they are selling either – certain individuals just have a natural ability to make a business progresses. Our founder, Richard Rea, identified 11 common ingredients found in all successful business people. If these ingredients are included in a business, it’s hard to see how it could fail. See how you rate against them! (more…)

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