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

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

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

Every new business needs a record system

Many small start-up businesses are off and running before any record system has been set up. There is money deposited into the new business checking account, some from invested funds and some from sales. Money has been paid out for equipment and supplies, some by check and some by cash out of pocket or from sales receipts.

This informal method of cash receipts and disbursements needs to be formalized. The bookkeeping system does not need to be complicated. In most cases, you can continue to operate much as you have. You just need to do it in a way that leaves a few more tracks.

For example, make all purchases by check. The small miscellaneous cash paid-outs from your pocket (or the petty cash box) are reimbursed by a check with a listing of the expense codes. All your cash receipts are deposited into the bank. No more taking cash from the till for lunches, supplies, etc.

If all the money received by the business is deposited into the bank and all expenses are paid by a company check, the proper journal entries are easy to create from the bank statement.

If you are starting a new business, don’t wait until the end of the year and surprise your accountant with a box of miscellaneous receipts. That is the most expensive and least effective use of your accounting information. In addition to setting up the proper record system, your accountant will provide you with guidance on other business, tax, and financial matters.

David Bradsher, CPA

Does your business make use of your financial statements?

Many small business owners pay too little attention to their financial statements. This is due in part to not understanding just what the statements have to offer. In fact, many may not be able to tell you the difference between a Balance Sheet and an Income Statement. Read more.

COMPLETE ARTICLE:
Many small business owners pay too little attention to their financial statements. This is due in part to not understanding just what the statements have to offer. In fact, many may not be able to tell you the difference between a Balance Sheet and an Income Statement.

Think of them this way. The Balance Sheet is like a still picture. It shows where your company is at on a specific date, at month-end, or at year-end. It is a listing of your assets and debts on a given date. So Balance Sheets that are a year apart show your financial position at the end of year one versus the end of year two. Showing how you got from position one to position two is the job of the Income Statement.

Suppose I took a photo of you sitting behind your desk on December 31, 2013. And on December 31, 2014, I took a photo of you sitting on the other side of your desk. We know for a fact that you have moved from one side to the other. What we don’t know is how you got there. Did you just jump over the desk or did you run all the way around the building to do it? The Income Statement tells us how you did it. It shows how many sales and how much expense was involved to accomplish the move.

To see why a third kind of financial statement called a Funds Flow Statement is useful, follow this case. A printer has started a new printing business. He invested $20,000 of his own cash and borrowed $50,000 from the bank to buy new equipment. After a year of operation, he has managed to pay off the bank loan. He now owns the equipment free and clear. When he is told his net profit is $50,000, he can’t believe it. He might tell you that he took nothing out of the business and lived off his wife’s wages for the year. And since there is no cash in the bank, just where is the profit? The Funds Flow Statement will show the income as a “source of funds” and the increase in equipment is an “application of funds.” The Funds Statement is even more useful when you have several assets to which funds can be applied and several sources of funds such as bank loans, vendor payables, and business profit or loss.

Don’t be afraid to ask your accountant questions about your financial statements. The more questions you get answered, the more useful you will find your financial statements. Accounting is sort of a foreign language. Learn to speak a little of it.

David Bradsher, CPA

Don’t lose out on the 2014 gift tax exclusion

Time is running out for making 2014 tax-free gifts. You have only a few more months to use your annual gift tax exclusion for this year, or it’s gone forever.

Each year you can make gifts up to a certain dollar limit to an unlimited number of people, free of any gift tax. For 2014, the dollar limit per recipient is $14,000. These gifts do not reduce your lifetime exemption from gift and estate taxes.

Why would you want to make annual tax-free gifts? There are a number of possible reasons. Tax-free gifts are often used in estate planning as a way of steadily reducing the value of a taxable estate during the owner’s lifetime. Another strategy is to transfer income-producing assets to children or other family members who are in a lower tax bracket. If done carefully to avoid the “kiddie tax,” the result can be a lower overall tax bill for the family unit.

If you fail to use this year’s exclusion, it is not carried over to future years. To qualify as a 2014 gift, the transaction must be completed by December 31, 2014. If you are writing a check as a 2014 gift, do so in time for the recipient to deposit it before year-end.

Check with us if you would like more information about making tax-free gifts in your situation.

David Bradsher, CPA

No, you’re probably not saving enough

How much money did you save last year? If you didn’t save at least 10% of your earnings, you didn’t save enough. If your savings in 2013 fell short, the only solution is to take charge of your financial future right now and start saving more money.

Saving money doesn’t have to be hard work. In fact, many successful savers have found simple ways to cut spending and increase their savings. Here are some tips to help you get started and stay on track.

* Set goals. To give your savings purpose, set specific financial goals. For example, it’s advisable to have an emergency fund of approximately six months’ worth of living expenses to cover any cash outlays that may catch you by surprise. Nothing can derail your financial plans faster than a series of mishaps that force you to take drastic financial measures. Other saving goals may include a college savings fund, vacation fund, or a fund for major purchases.

* Treat your savings as your most important monthly bill. Write a check to savings first, or have your savings automatically deducted from your checking account or paycheck.

* Tax-deferred retirement accounts offer a smart way for you to save money for retirement. If your employer offers a 401(k) or SIMPLE retirement plan, contribute the maximum amount allowed. If your employer offers no plan, contribute to an individual retirement account (IRA). The money you contribute to a retirement account can reduce your taxable income and grow tax-free until withdrawn.

* Another way to maximize savings is to track your expenses for a few months. This is a great way to spot unnecessary or wasteful spending; it doesn’t take much work to see potential cutbacks.

* When it comes to saving, think “control.” For example, control the use of your credit cards. The amount you pay each month in finance charges could go to savings instead. Also, control the use of your ATM card. Get in the habit of giving yourself a regular cash allowance, and try to live with it.

You should be saving at least 10% of your earnings. Seem impossible? If you took a new job at 10% less pay, you would get by. For help in setting financial goals and developing a savings plan, call us.

David Bradsher, CPA

Hiring family in the family business can cut taxes

As the summertime school vacation season approaches, young family members may be looking for a job – and having a hard time finding one. Hire them in your family business, and you get a double benefit: helping the kids gain valuable experience and garnering tax breaks for your company.

Here’s what you need to know.

Whether your sole proprietorship business operates around the kitchen table or in the fields of your farm, wages you pay your under-age-18 children are not subject to social security, Medicare, or federal unemployment taxes. Note: You’ll have to pay social security and Medicare taxes when your children are age 18 or older. They’re exempt from federal unemployment taxes until they reach age 21.

Wages you pay your children are deductible from your business income, meaning potential savings for the business on self-employment tax and federal and state income tax.

The wages must be paid for legitimate work at a reasonable rate. Be aware of nontax issues too, such as your state’s youth employment rules, which can be more stringent than federal labor laws. If your business is a family farm, keep apprised of newly proposed regulations that may limit the parental exemption for employing young farm workers.

Wages do not impact “kiddie tax” calculations. In addition, your child can earn up to $6,200 of income during 2014 before owing federal income tax.

The payroll tax exemption is different from the self-employment rules, and applies to wages you report on Form W-2 at year-end. Income earned as contract labor, which is generally reported on Form 1099-MISC, is subject to self-employment tax.

Call us if you have questions about the tax consequences of employing family members.

David Bradsher, CPA