Are you aware of the numerous age-related provisions in the IRS code? They are probably more plentiful and significant than you thought. Read more.

* At birth up to age 19 and even 24: dependency deduction. Parents can claim a dependency exemption for a child under 19 or for full-time students under the age of 24.

* Under 13: child care credit. This provision gives parents a tax credit for dependent care expenses.

* Under 17: child tax credit. If parental adjusted gross income is below a threshold level, parents can claim a child tax credit of $1,000.

* At 50: retirement contributions. The government allows extra “catch up” contributions to retirement savings. This is a helpful provision to encourage savings.

* Before age 59½: early withdrawal penalty. Withdrawals from IRAs and qualified retirement plans, with some exceptions, are assessed a 10% penalty tax.

* At 65: increased standard deduction. Uncle Sam grants a higher standard deduction, but there’s no additional tax benefit if the taxpayer itemizes deductions.

* At 70½: mandated IRA withdrawals. The IRS requires minimum distributions from a taxpayer’s IRA beginning at this age (doesn’t apply to Roth IRAs). This starts to limit tax-deferral benefits.

Awareness of how the tax code affects you and your family at different ages is important. For tax planning assistance through the various phases of life, give our office a call.

David Bradsher, CPA

Is your business using part-time workers?

Recent job statistics indicate that more employers are using part-timers to deal with variations in workload and for short-term projects. Here are a few tips your business will find useful if you hire part-time workers.

* Communicate clearly with the part-timer. Explain the person’s duties, the hours and benefits, and the individual to whom the part-timer will report.

* Tell your full-time staff why you’re hiring the part-timer. Make it clear what that person will and won’t be expected to do.

* Provide introductory training for the part-time worker. Assign someone the new person can turn to with everyday questions.

* Monitor the part-timer’s progress. Provide feedback on performance and recognition for doing a good job.

Pay attention to these points if you want hiring part-time workers to be a good choice for your company.

David Bradsher, CPA

There are many ways to make your business more profitable, and sound credit policies are high on the list. The current slowdown in the economy is a good reason to reexamine your company’s policies. Read more.

There are many ways to make your business more profitable, and sound credit policies are high on the list. The current slowdown in the economy is a good reason to reexamine your company’s policies. Keep the following items in mind as you review your policies.

* Don’t be so eager to sign on new customers that you neglect to check out their credit history. Take the time to check references, and obtain a credit report to see how they’ve handled other financial transactions.

* Establish collection policies and follow up promptly on delinquent accounts. The more overdue accounts become, the more likely they are to become uncollectable. That cuts into your profits.

* Calculate what it costs to carry credit for your customers. For example, if your business generates $1,000 per day in credit sales, and it takes you an average of 60 days to collect, your cost of providing credit to your customers is $3,000 per year. This example assumes you can borrow money at 5% interest. By speeding up the average collection to 30 days, you cut your carrying costs by half.

* To speed collections, invoice customers when you ship the goods; don’t wait until the end of the month. Make sure your invoice clearly shows your payment terms, including penalties for late payment and the discount, if any, for prompt payment.

* Be aware of the payment cycles for your industry. For example, if contractors typically pay their bills by the 10th of the month, make sure your invoices arrive in plenty of time for them to process your payment.

Call us if you’d like to review your credit policies.

David Bradsher, CPA

Avoid these six mistakes in selling your business

Most entrepreneurs eventually think about selling their businesses, whether as a prelude to retirement or to pursue other activities. In doing so, they often underestimate the effort required for a satisfactory outcome and overestimate the value and salability of their enterprises. If you’re contemplating selling, here are some common mistakes to avoid.

1. Overestimating the value of your business.

Your price should be based on the fair market value of the business in its current form. Buyers won’t care about the work you’ve put into building your business or your unique vision for its future.

2. Failing to account for the nature and make-up of your business.

The values of most businesses proceed from a mixture of variables. If your business includes significant equipment, real estate, intellectual property, or other such assets, their values should be separately established before being factored into the overall price. If you’re selling a service or professional firm, much of its value may depend on the experience and skills of your managers and employees. In such a case, the price may vary according to the expected retention of key individuals.

3. Failing to base your sale price upon independent appraisals.

Even if you think you know the value of your business, you should obtain two or more outside appraisals from professionals familiar with your industry. If the appraisals conflict with your opinion, they’ll provide a much-needed reality check. If they confirm your opinion, they’ll become a useful sales tool.

4. Not hiring a professional business broker to handle the sale.

Owners are often too personally invested (and/or eager to sell) to effectively negotiate sales of their businesses. A broker familiar with your type of business will know what issues are important to buyers and what characteristics to emphasize or de-emphasize, without becoming emotionally involved.

5. Neglecting to work with the buyer to ensure a smooth transition.

Nobody likes being thrust into unfamiliar circumstances without preparation. Notifying your managers, employees, and customers in advance and doing all you can to allay their concerns will serve your own best interests, as well as being the honorable thing to do. Discontent on the part of any of the affected parties could result in conflicts, reduced revenue for the buyer, withheld sale payments, and litigation.

6. Being unwilling to help finance the sale.

If you’re unwilling to take back a note, your sale price is limited to the buyer’s cash and ability to obtain outside financing. At best this could limit the number of potential buyers, and at worst it could limit your sale proceeds. (Conversely, if you finance too much of the sale price, you’ll increase the risk of default.)

Selling your business is too important to attempt without professional help. If you’re considering selling, call us for an appointment to help formulate your plan.

David Bradsher, CPA

Use the 80-20 rule to increase your business profits

How well do you know your customers? Which ones are the most profitable? Which ones take most of your time? It’s worth taking the time to find out. If your business is like most, the 80-20 rule applies. That is, 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers.

If you can identify that top 20%, you can work hard to make sure this group remains satisfied customers. Sometimes all it takes is an appreciative phone call or a little special attention. Also, by understanding what makes this group profitable, you can work to bring other customers into that category.

Keep in mind that it’s not always profits alone that make a good customer. Other factors, such as frequency of orders, reliability of the business, speed of payment, and joy to deal with are important too. Ask your accounting staff and your sales staff. You’ll soon come up with a list of top customers.

There’s another way in which the 80-20 rule applies to your business. Very likely, 80% of your problems and complaints come from 20% or fewer of your customers. If you identify those problem customers, you can change the way you do business with them to reduce the problems. Consider changing your pricing for those customers so that at least you’re being paid for the extra time and effort they require. Sometimes the only solution is to tell these customers that you no longer wish to do business with them.

The bottom line is that understanding your customers better can only help your business. Contact us if you need help analyzing your customer profitability.

David Bradsher, CPA

Is your business dependent on too few?

Many small business owners share one problem, especially in their early days. It’s being over-reliant on a single customer or supplier for much of their business. If you’re in that position, your business is operating with higher risk. Just as with investments, you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. Your goal should be a well-diversified portfolio of customers and suppliers.

That’s in an ideal world. In the real world you may have to live with the situation, at least short-term. But there are steps you can take to understand your risk and, over time, to change it.

Measure the problem. Work with your managers and accountant to quantify how your sales break out by customer. You only need do this for the top five or ten customers to see whether you have an over-reliance problem. If you’re a manufacturer or retailer, take a similar look at your principal suppliers. Quantify how dependent you are on the top few.

Understand the risks. List the factors that could jeopardize your business with your chief customer or supplier. These will vary with your specific circumstances. They might include a natural disaster that interrupts your customer’s business or that prevents you from shipping or receiving goods. It could be a change in the marketplace or a new technology that cuts demand for your product. It could be actions by your competitors. It might even be problems in your own operation, such as a drop in quality, delays in shipping, or poor inventory control. The list may be daunting, but until you understand the risks, you can’t develop solutions.

Look for ways to minimize your risks. Brainstorm with your managers on long-term steps to reduce each risk. It might be to enter new markets or to tweak your product design. Think through contingency plans to address possible disasters or find alternative suppliers. Discuss how you would respond to changes in the marketplace. Try to set measurable goals for change and clearly assign responsibility. Changing the situation won’t be simple, and it may take a long time. But that’s what strategic business management is all about.

For assistance with this issue or with any of your business concerns, give us a call.

David Bradsher, CPA

Nonprofit organizations may have tax obligations

If you’re an officer or on the board of a community organization, you may wonder about the tax requirements that apply to your group. Generally, an organization will not owe taxes if two things are true:

* It has registered as an exempt nonprofit organization with the IRS, and

* It has no business income from activities unrelated to its exempt purpose.

Registration is quite straightforward. The IRS grants exempt status to groups organized for charitable or mutual benefit purposes. You must submit your application within the first 15 months of the group’s existence. The package consists of an application form, a copy of your Articles of Incorporation or similar document, and a user fee. Some groups, such as churches or those with annual receipts of less than $5,000, don’t even have to register to be considered exempt.

More questions arise on the definition of unrelated business income. Generally, you will owe tax on income from any trade or business that is not substantially related to the organization’s exempt purpose. Fortunately, the definitions are quite favorable in this area. The business really has to be quite distinct from the primary purpose of the organization before income becomes taxable. For example, a charity doesn’t pay tax if it runs a thrift shop and uses the proceeds for its charitable work. Generally, rents from leasing out real property, interest income, and dividends are not subject to tax.

Once it’s registered, an exempt organization will have to file an annual information return on Form 990 or 990-EZ unless its yearly gross receipts do not exceed $50,000. Those exempt organizations with receipts of $50,000 or less must still file an annual return electronically on Form 990-N. Just as with a tax return, there are penalties for filing Form 990 or 990-EZ late or failing to file. There is no penalty on an organization that is required to file Form 990-N but fails to do so; however, if an organizations fails to file an annual return for three consecutive years, its exempt status is revoked.

Generally, the filing deadline is the 15th day of the fifth month after the organization’s year-end. For 2013 returns, the deadline for calendar-year organizations is May 15, 2014. For assistance with this or any of your tax filings, contact our office.

David Bradsher, CPA

Study reveals retirement concerns

A recent study conducted by Harris Interactive of 1,000 middle class individuals aged 25 to 75 revealed some interesting statistics about retirement attitudes.

Among the survey’s findings:

* 37% of respondents say they don’t expect to retire; instead they expect to work until they are too sick or die.

* 59% said retirement is not their top priority; their priority is paying day-to-day bills.

* 34% felt they would have to continue working until age 80 or beyond because they won’t have saved enough to retire.

* 31% in the 40 to 59 age category say they have a retirement plan; 69% say they have no plan.

* Those who say they have a written plan say they have saved a median of $63,000 for retirement, which represents 32% of their retirement savings goal of $200,000. Those without a written plan say they have saved $20,000 or 10% of their goal.

* A third of those surveyed said that social security would be their primary source of income in retirement.

* 40% said a large unexpected health care expense was their greatest retirement fear; 37% said lower or no social security benefits was their biggest fear.

David Bradsher, CPA

Take steps to boost your business profits

Keeping your company profitable when the economy slows down is a challenge for every business. You may be able to boost your bottom line with the following financial controls.

* Watch your customer credit. Use an accounts receivable aging report to flag past due accounts. Follow up with a customer immediately when you spot a delinquent bill. Don’t extend any more credit until the customer brings the account up to date.

* Don’t pay too quickly. Use an accounts payable aging report to keep money in your account as long as possible. Take advantage of early payment discounts if it makes sense. Otherwise consider using the full grace period to pay your bills.

* Invest surplus funds. Keep most of your money in a business savings or money market account where it will earn interest until you need it.

* Reserve cash for your short-term needs. Prepare a quarterly cash forecast report so you can anticipate cash shortfalls in time to carefully weigh your financing options. Establish a line of credit before you need it.

* Reduce inventory. Create a tax deduction and free up valuable shelf space by donating obsolete inventory to your favorite charity. If your inventory includes slow-selling or high-cost items, consider making them special order items.

* Control your labor expense. Provide adequate training for your employees. Cross-train every employee to do another’s job. Ask your employees to make a list of their assigned tasks. These steps may help you eliminate paying for unnecessary work and create more efficient processes for getting a job done.

* Resist the temptation to lower prices. Instead, look for ways to improve your product or your customer service to attract new customers and retain the ones you already have.

Please give us a call to discuss these and other profit-boosting ideas for your business.

David Bradsher, CPA

Do you need life insurance on your children?

Ask whether you should carry life insurance on your children and you’ll receive a variety of answers. Here’s a look at the arguments for and against.

* Financial security. Traditionally, you take out life insurance to provide for the financial security of dependents. The policy should provide funds to replace the insured’s income and to pay off debts. Neither of these reasons applies to young children. They don’t generally have any significant income, and they don’t usually have any debts. Some parents might want to carry a modest amount of insurance to cover funeral costs for their children in case the unthinkable happens.

* Insurability. Another argument is that by taking out a policy at a young age, you help to guarantee insurability as the child grows older. This could be important if the child develops a major illness later in life. The problem is that if the child does develop a serious illness, insurance could then become very expensive or limited in amount.

* Insurance as an investment. Some advisors suggest that parents should take out a whole life policy on their children. These policies include a savings component to build up cash value in the policy. You could then use that value for education expenses or other needs. But others say that there are cheaper and more efficient ways to save than by using life insurance. For example, putting money into a tax-advantaged Section 529 plan might be a better way to save for college tuition costs.

* The bottom line. Although a majority of financial advisors might argue against life insurance for children, there may be some situations when it makes sense. One thing is clear. You shouldn’t take out a policy just because it is offered to you or because others are doing it. Insure your kids only if you’ve done your homework and know exactly why you need the insurance.

Please contact our office if you’d like help reviewing the advantages and disadvantages as they apply to your particular situation.

David Bradsher, CPA