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.

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.

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.

Equipment write-off decreases for 2014

In recent years, businesses could expense up to $500,000 of equipment purchases in the year of purchase, with a $2,000,000 annual purchase limit. In addition, bonus depreciation was allowed for new equipment purchases.

Because Congress did not extend these provisions for 2014, businesses can now only expense $25,000 of new or used equipment purchases. The deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar when total asset purchases for 2014 exceed $200,000. Also, the 50% bonus depreciation that applied in 2013 is no longer available.

Congress may extend these provisions, or they may not. Check with us for the latest when you’re making equipment purchasing decisions this year.

The AMT: Will this tax apply to you?

What’s your alternative minimum tax (AMT) preference?

Though you might prefer to not think about the AMT, certain income and deductions, known as preference items, affect the way the tax will apply to you. Those amounts, along with others called “adjustments,” are added to or subtracted from the income shown on your tax return to arrive at your AMT taxable income.

For example, certain bond interest that you exclude from your regular taxable income must be included when computing income for the AMT. This is a “preference item” because tax-exempt interest gets preferential treatment under ordinary federal income tax rules.

Adjustments include personal exemptions and your standard deduction. In the AMT calculation, these taxable-income reducers are not deductible. Instead, they’re replaced with one flat exemption, which is generally the amount of income you can exclude from the AMT.

Note: For your 2013 tax return, the AMT exemption is $80,800 when you’re married filing a joint return or are a surviving spouse, $51,900 when you file as single, and $40,400 if you’re married and file separately. The exemption decreases once your income reaches a certain level.

What if you itemize? Some itemized deductions are allowed, such as charitable contributions. Others, including medical expenses and mortgage interest, are computed using less favorable rules.

Whatever AMT preference – or adjustment – applies to you, we’re here to help calculate the best tax outcome. Please contact us for details or assistance.

Who must file a 2013 income tax return?

The rules for filing 2013 tax returns are straightforward for most people. Marital status, age, and income level are generally the determining factors. Here’s a quick overview of the income levels at which a 2013 return is required.

*Single individual…..$10,000

*Single individual, 65 or older…..$11,500

*Married individual, separate return, regardless of age…..$3,900

*Married couple, joint return…..$20,000

*Married couple, joint return, one spouse 65 or older…..$21,200

*Married couple, joint return, both spouses 65 or older…..$22,400

*Head of household…..$12,850

*Head of household, 65 or older…..$14,350

*Qualifying widow or widower (surviving spouse)…..$16,100

*Qualifying widow or widower (surviving spouse), 65 or older…..$17,300

Different IRS rules govern filing for dependents, those who owe special taxes (e.g., self-employment tax), children under age 19 and noncitizens. Also taxpayers due a refund should file regardless of income level.

For more information or filing assistance, contact our office.

Employees get more than a paycheck

Surveys show that employees tend to underestimate the amount of money that their employer is spending on employee benefits. It’s up to you to get them to realize their paycheck is only part of the compensation they are receiving as employees.

Make your employees aware of their total compensation package. After all, your employees can’t appreciate all those extra dollars the company pays if they don’t know about them.

In conjunction with preparing an employee’s W-2 for 2013, prepare a list of the amounts that make up his or her total compensation package. Consider going over each employee’s total benefits package during the employee’s annual review.

Your benefits summary should include such items as the following: salary, bonus, pension plan contribution, deferred compensation, medical and dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, FICA (social security & Medicare), worker’s compensation, and unemployment insurance.

Also include the number of paid vacation days, personal days, sick days, and the value of employer-provided benefits such as work clothing, parking, and meals.

Check the tax issues if you are caring for elderly parents

As the population in the U.S. continues to age, more and more people will find themselves caring for their parents. Here are some of the tax breaks that caregivers should consider.

* If you provide more than half of your parent’s support, you may be able to claim your parent as a dependent on your tax return. To be eligible, your parent can’t earn more than $3,900 in 2013, excluding their nontaxable social security and disability income.

* What if you and your siblings all pitch in to support a parent? Anyone who contributes at least 10% of the total support can be the one to claim the $3,900 exemption if all of you sign a multiple support agreement.

* Even if a parent’s income exceeds $3,900 this year, you can still deduct the medical expenses paid on the parent’s behalf, as long as you provide more than half of his or her support.

* If you hire someone to take care of your parent while you work, you might qualify for the dependent care tax credit. Your parent must be physically or mentally incapable of caring for himself.

* Unmarried individuals who support a parent can file their tax returns as “head of household.” To qualify, your parent doesn’t need to live with you. Instead, as long as you pay more than half of the cost of maintaining your parent’s main home, including a rest home or nursing facility, you qualify for this preferential tax treatment.

For more information about the tax issues affecting caregivers and their parents, please give us a call.

Want to lower your 2013 tax bill? The time for action is running out. Read more.

Want to lower your 2013 tax bill? The time for action is running out, so consider these tax-savers now.

* You can choose to deduct sales taxes instead of local and state income taxes. If you’re planning big ticket purchases (like a car or a boat), buy before year-end to beef up your deductible amount of sales tax.

* If you’re a teacher, don’t overlook the deduction for up to $250 for classroom supplies you purchase in 2013.

* Consider prepaying college tuition you’ll owe for the first semester of 2014. This year you can deduct up to $4,000 for higher education expenses. Income limits apply.

* Max out your retirement plan contributions. You can set aside $5,500 in an IRA ($6,500 if you’re 50 or older), $12,000 in a SIMPLE ($14,500 if you’re 50 or older), or $17,500 in a 401(k) plan ($23,000 if you’re 50 or older).

* Establish a pension plan for your small business. You may qualify for a tax credit of up to $500 in each of the plan’s first three years.

* Need equipment for your business? Buy and place it in service by year-end to qualify for up to $500,000 of first-year expensing or 50% bonus depreciation.

* Review your investments and make your year-end sell decisions, whether to rebalance your portfolio at the lowest tax cost or to offset gains and losses.

* If you’re charity-minded, consider giving appreciated stock that you’ve owned for over a year. You can generally deduct the fair market value and pay no capital gains tax on the appreciation.

* Another charitable possibility for those over 70½: Make a direct donation of up to $100,000 from your IRA to a charity. The donation counts as part of your required minimum distribution but isn’t included in your taxable income.

* Install energy-saving improvements (such as insulation, doors, and windows) in your home, and you might qualify for a tax credit of up to $500.

These possibilities for cutting your taxes are just the starting point. Contact us now for a review of your 2013 tax situation and tax-saving suggestions that will work best in your individual circumstances.

Have you changed your mind about a Roth conversion?

It turns out you can go back after all – at least when it comes to last year’s decision to convert your traditional IRA to a Roth. The question is, do you want to?

You might, if your circumstances have changed. For example, say the value of the assets in your new Roth account is currently less than when you made the conversion. Changing your mind could save tax dollars.

Recharacterizing your Roth conversion lets you go back in time, as if the conversion never happened. You’ll have to act soon, though, because the window for undoing a 2012 Roth conversion closes October 15, 2013.

Before that date, you have the opportunity to undo all or part of last year’s conversion. After October 15, you can change your mind once more and put the money back in a Roth. That might be a good choice when you’re recharacterizing because of a reduction in the value of the account. Just remember you’ll have to wait at least 30 days to convert again.

Give us a call for information on Roth recharacterization rules. We’ll help you figure out if going back is a good idea.