The Benefits to small business owners of Outsourcing Bookkeeping and Payroll Services to an Accountant

There are several advantageous reasons why  small business owners should consider outsourcing their bookkeeping and payroll services. Taxes are complicated and the IRS continually makes payroll more difficult each year. The following highlights several advantages to outsourcing accounting-related services to an accountant.

 Time – By outsourcing standard bookkeeping and tax-related services, employees can spend more time on company-related work instead of being distracted by payroll taxes, business invoices, IRS updates, regulation changes, etc.

 Money – Instead of hiring a full-time accountant or bookkeeper, consider saving money by outsourcing. Not only will companies save annual salaries, they can also save money in valuable and costly benefits.

 Experts –By choosing an accountant with a Business Owners Package, customers receive access to unlimited email and telephone consultations, including ways to minimize taxes. Skilled staff are able to effectively manage payroll and bookkeeping services, helping ensure government-related tax compliance.

 Focus – Outsourcing bookkeeping allows companies to avoid stretching full-time bookkeepers too thin, as they often have other tasks to complete, such as administration functions, reception tasks, etc.

 Teamwork – Hiring an experienced bookkeeper in the DC area gives a small business company access to a team of experts that offer bookkeeping services, priority payroll services, hosting of QuickBooks and software support, personal and business taxes and much more. Bay Business Group’s team of experts specializes in monthly financial statement preparation, tax returns, bank account reconciliation, payroll, cash-flow management, budgeting assistance, tax planning and projections, part-time on-demand Controller and accurate up-to-date financial records. Forgoing last minute tax surprises, companies can access their financial information online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 Systems – Because you want an expert who is informed about the latest government tax codes and law changes, outsourcing helps pay for up-to-date knowledge, which ultimately saves companies valuable money in the end. Companies have access to the latest tax codes, without spending precious money paying bookkeepers or on staff accountants to attend seminars. Additionally, as an added bonus, if you are using an accountant that hosts your software for you, all data is backed up every night, ensuring that companies’ records are well documented and IRS audits do not turn into a nightmare.

Whether a company grows or decreases in size, Bay Business Group is there to help offer valuable, up-to-date outsourced accounting services. Switch accountants and be pleasantly surprised by the easy transition.

If you found this article useful, please do not keep this a secret. Share it with a friend.

David Bradsher, CPA

Can a business grow too fast?

Most businesses hope to grow. They consider themselves successful if growth is taking place, and the faster the growth the better. Can too much business growth be bad for a company? It can be if the growth is not adequately planned.

For example, an established company that doubles its sales volume in a year may find itself strapped for cash, for working space, and for trained personnel.

For most established companies, a 12% to 15% annual growth rate would probably be manageable. The ideal growth rate for your company depends on the unique circumstances in your firm and industry.

A new company (starting with zero sales) must obviously grow more rapidly than an established one. Some new businesses may double their sales each year for the first five years or so before reaching the level where a 15% annual rate is healthy.

Rapid growth often requires more inventory and more space. And it may require money to fund additional work-in-process or accounts receivable. Who will fund the growth? A 15% growth rate can probably be funded by retained earnings. A more rapid rate may require an injection of outside capital. If the owners can’t provide the money, will it be the suppliers (increasing the accounts payable) or a banker (new short-term debt)?

Every business should have a written business plan with its growth projections clearly identified. The plan should include provisions for the finances, space, equipment, and personnel that such growth will require.

Your company’s growth should be both workable and profitable. Please contact us for assistance with your business planning.

David Bradsher, CPA

Smart business people learn to delegate work

As a business owner or manager, you may think that if you want things done “the right way,” you have to do them yourself. But that isn’t always the best approach at work, even if you firmly believe you’re the best person for the job. There simply isn’t enough time in the day – not if you have a business to run.

Like it or not, you must learn how to delegate work to subordinates. Here are some helpful hints.

* Get organized. Start by deciding which tasks to delegate and which employees will be assigned responsibilities. The workload doesn’t have to be etched in stone, but you should develop a game plan for subdividing jobs.

* Focus on self-starters. You will need to rely on people who can think for themselves. Don’t rely on employees who you anticipate will be constantly seeking your guidance. If you have to show someone what to do every step of the way, it defeats the entire purpose.

* Give workers authority to act independently and make decisions on the fly. Don’t hinder the process by requiring employees to obtain your approval on every decision. This will only turn into a variation of doing things the same old way.

* Monitor work progress. This aspect must be handled with sensitivity. You’ll want to keep an eye on employees, but you can’t keep looking over their shoulders either. Find the proper balance.

* Analyze the results to determine if the work met your expectations. If it didn’t, offer constructive criticism for improvements. Make this a learning experience for both of you.

As you become more comfortable delegating work, you can continue to loosen the reins. When you spend less time on routine matters, you’ll have more time to devote to growing your business profits.

David Bradsher, CPA

Should you be making estimated tax payments?

During the tax year you must prepay a substantial amount of the taxes you’ll owe for that year, or you risk being hit with an underpayment penalty. If you’re an employee, that’s usually not a problem. Your employer will withhold taxes from each paycheck. You can adjust the amount withheld so that it covers your total tax bill, even if you have extra income from moonlighting or investments. But if you’re self-employed or retired, you might need to make estimated tax payments.

To avoid a penalty, the total of your withholding and estimated tax payments must generally be at least 90 percent of your tax liability for the year, or 100 percent of your last year’s tax liability. There’s no penalty if your underpayment is less than $1,000. Special rules apply to farmers, fishermen, and higher-income taxpayers.

You pay your estimated taxes by making four payments, due in April, June, and September of the current year, and in January of the next year. You can’t just wait until the last date to pay what you owe. You must start paying estimated taxes as you earn taxable income. You can either pay all the tax you owe on each quarter’s earnings, or you can pay it in installments over the remaining periods. But you must be sure to pay enough to avoid an underpayment penalty for each period. Again, special rules apply to farmers and fishermen.

Please contact our office if you think you might need to make estimated tax payments. The quarterly calculations can be complicated, and we can help you figure out how much you need to pay at each date.

David Bradsher, CPA

Are you able to benefit from an ABLE account?

The “tax extenders” legislation that became law in December included the “Achieving a Better Life Experience Act” (also called the ABLE Act). This law provides for tax-exempt accounts that can help you or a family member with disabilities pay for qualified expenses related to the disability. These “ABLE accounts” are exempt from income tax although contributions to an account are not deductible on your federal income tax return. ABLE accounts are generally not means tested and some can provide limited bankruptcy protection.

You or a family member are eligible to open an ABLE account if:

1. You’re entitled to social security disability benefits due to blindness or other disability, and that blindness or disability occurred before age 26; or

2. You file a disability certification with the IRS for the tax year.

Annual contributions to an ABLE account are limited to the amount of the annual gift tax exclusion ($14,000 for 2015). Distributions are tax-free as long as they are less than your qualified disability expenses for the year. The list of qualified disability expenses includes housing, education, employment training/support, health prevention/wellness services, financial management, legal fees, and funeral expenses. Other expenses are also approved under the regulations.

Distributions exceeding qualified disability expenses are included in taxable income and are generally subject to a 10% penalty tax. Distributions can be rolled over to another ABLE account for another qualified beneficiary and beneficiaries can be changed between family members. Funds in the account can earn interest or dividends and are not subject to federal income tax as long as distributions are used for qualified disability expenses. ABLE accounts do not have a “use it or lose it” feature and funds can carry over to future years.

The balance remaining in the account after the beneficiary passes away can be used to reimburse state Medicaid payments made on behalf of the beneficiary after the account was established. The remainder goes to the deceased’s estate or to another qualified designated beneficiary. After-death distributions that are not used for qualified disability purposes are subject to income taxes, but not the 10% penalty.

If you are thinking many of these rules sound familiar, you’re correct. ABLE accounts are modeled on 529 college savings accounts and can be as powerful and beneficial. Give us a call so we can help you make the most of this new opportunity.

David Bradsher, CPA

Your social security benefits may be taxable

Did you sign up for social security benefits last year? If so, you may have questions about how those payments are taxed on your federal income tax return.

The good news is the formula is the same as prior years. That’s also the bad news, because the thresholds for determining taxability are not indexed for inflation, and did not change either. Those thresholds, or “base amounts,” remain at $32,000 when you’re married and file a joint return, and $25,000 when you’re single.

How much of your social security benefit is taxable? To determine the answer, calculate your “provisional income.” That’s your adjusted gross income plus tax-exempt interest, certain other exclusions, and one-half of the social security benefits you received.

When you’re married filing jointly, your benefits are 50% taxable if your provisional income is between $32,000 and $44,000. If your provisional income is more than $44,000, up to 85% of your benefits may be taxable. For singles, the 50% taxability range is $25,000 to $34,000.

In some cases, diversifying the types of other retirement income you receive can reduce the tax burden on your social security benefits. Contact us if you want more information or planning assistance.

David Bradsher, CPA

Marriages end, and so do business ventures

If your business is owned by two or more persons, a buy-sell agreement is one of the most important legal documents your business can have. This document provides for the “buyout” of an owner’s interest when that owner leaves. These are the areas that a buy-sell agreement should typically address.

* Describe the events that will trigger the agreement, such as a divorce, disability, death, or notice that an owner simply wants to leave.

* Set a value for each owner’s interest, or provide a formula to value each interest at a later date. Your agreement might require an independent business appraisal.

* Without a method to set the value, there could be some serious problems. Let’s say you and your partner reach a point where you can no longer work together. You believe the company is worth $2 million. Your partner refuses to sell, but he makes you a $100,000, take-it or leave-it offer for your 50% interest. You could face a drawn-out legal battle to settle things.

* Outline a funding plan. Different purchase and financing plans can be used to cover different situations. For example, cross-purchase agreements allow the remaining owners to buy an exiting owner’s share. A redemption agreement allows the company to buy back an exiting owner’s share. Financing options might include owner financing (an installment contract) or life insurance, in the case of an owner’s death.

* Prevent unwanted transfers. Generally owners don’t want a business associate they didn’t choose. Yet this could happen if one owner divorces, dies, or sells his shares to an outsider.

A buy-sell agreement is designed to provide fair compensation to an exiting owner, while making it possible for the remaining partners to continue in business. We can work with you and your attorney to develop a buy-sell agreement or to review your existing agreement. Call us.

David Bradsher, CPA

April 1 is the deadline for retirement distributions

You may be approaching an important deadline if you have retirement accounts and you turned 70½ last year. Generally, you must begin withdrawing money from tax-favored retirement plans in the year you turn 70½. However, you may postpone your first withdrawal until April 1 of the year after you turn 70½. That means you have until April 1, 2015, to complete your required 2014 distribution.

The minimum distribution rules don’t apply to your Roth IRA accounts. And if you are still working at age 70½, you are generally not required to withdraw funds from a qualified employer-sponsored plan until April 1 of the calendar year following your actual retirement.

If you postponed your first distribution, you must take two distributions this year – one for 2014 and one for 2015. Your 2014 distribution must be completed by April 1, while your 2015 distribution must be completed by December 31, 2015. After that, you must take a distribution by December 31 each year until your retirement funds are depleted.

Generally, the amount of the RMD for any year is based on your age. You take the balance in all your traditional IRAs as of the last day of the previous year, and divide by a factor representing your life expectancy. The IRS has published a standard life expectancy table to use in the calculation. Special rules might apply if your spouse is more than ten years younger than you are.

Make sure you notify the holder of your retirement account in time to complete your distribution. Follow up to ensure that the transaction will be completed on time. You may withdraw more than the required amount, but if you fail to take at least the minimum distribution on time, you are subject to a 50% penalty tax.

Don’t overlook this important distribution deadline. Call our office if you would like assistance in planning your retirement withdrawals.

David Bradsher, CPA

March 2015 – Quick Updates

March 16 is the deadline for calendar-year corporations to file 2014 income tax returns.

March 16 is the deadline for calendar-year corporations to elect S corporation status for 2015.

March 31 is the deadline for electronic filing of 2014 information returns with the IRS.

March 31 is the deadline for employers to electronically file 2014 W-2s with the Social Security Administration.

The IRS will waive some penalties related to advance payments of the premium tax credit for health insurance purchased under the ACA.

The IRS says taxpayers held $5.3 trillion in IRAs in 2012 – $4.6 trillion in traditional IRAs and $403 billion in Roth IRAs.

According to the IRS, 3.7 million taxpayers contributed to traditional IRAs in 2012; 5.5 million contributed to Roth IRAs.

The Treasury estimates that 2% to 4% of taxpayers will be subject to tax penalties under the Affordable Care Act.

Among the ten basic taxpayer rights listed by the IRS is the right to clear explanations of the tax laws and of IRS procedures.

The FTC reports that tax-related identity theft was the most common form of identity theft reported in 2014.

If you turned 70 ½ last year and didn’t take your first required distribution from your IRA, you must take it by April 2, 2015.

If you own foreign investments, you may have to file Form 8938 as part of your individual tax return this year.

Before choosing direct deposit for your tax refund, verify that your bank accepts such deposits, and verify account and routing numbers.

David Bradsher, CPA

Elect S corporation status by March 16

If you own a small business, you have until March 16, 2015, to choose S corporation status for this year. In order to become an S corporation, you’ll need the unanimous approval of all shareholders.

The principal advantage of an S corporation is that you avoid paying double taxes. In a traditional C corporation, profits are taxed at the corporate level, and they’re taxed again when paid to individual shareholders as dividends. In an S corporation, there are no taxes on earnings at the corporate level. Instead, profits or losses flow directly through to the shareholders. They pay taxes only once, when they report their share of earnings on their individual tax returns.

Another advantage: Doing business as an S corporation can be attractive in the early, unprofitable years of a start-up business. That’s because operating losses flow through your personal tax return, perhaps offsetting other taxable income. Losses are available to the extent of your basis in your stock plus loans directly from you to your corporation.

There are some trade-offs for these tax benefits, though. If you’re an owner-employee and own more than two percent of the company, you’ll receive less favorable tax treatment of some fringe benefits. There are also ownership limitations. The company can have only one class of stock, there can’t be more than 100 shareholders, and all of the shareholders must be U.S. citizens or residents.

Despite these drawbacks, doing business as an S corporation can still offer some tax planning advantages. If you can meet the ownership requirements, it might be well worth considering an S corporation election. Contact our office for an in-depth analysis of the pros and cons for your company.

David Bradsher, CPA