Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Is Travel Deductible When It Is For Both Business and Personal Purposes?



Can you deduct your travel expenses for a trip where you combine business and personal activities? The answer of course is it depends on facts and circumstances.  It depends in part on where you travel to, how long you were there, what you did on the trip, etc. Your trip may be entirely business related or "considered entirely for business" if you pass a test for an exception.  

In many cases, you will need to figure the percentage of your trip that was for business versus personal and you may be able to deduct the business portion of your trip based on the IRS directions for the calculation of the percentage.  Then the worst-case scenario is if your trip was primarily for personal reasons and the business portion was incidental then none of your trip may be deductible.  So again, if your trip or a portion of it is deductible for business purposes depends on facts and circumstances.  

The details of the consideration of business travel expenses are included in IRS publication 463 and I am sure in other publications too.  An entire consideration of the subject consists of 50 pages in the IRS publication 463 so it is too much for a single blog post.  Who would have thought travel would be so complicated?  Well now you know.

You probably don't want to read the 50 page IRS publication 463 but just in case here is a link to it: 

By the way, you might want to put yourself in the shoes of an IRS auditor when considering your deductions for travel.  An auditor might want to see your pictures from your trip but he will definitely ask to see your records to substantiate the business portion of your travel.  So make sure you keep good and detailed records of your trip and of all your business expenses.


Before you take that part business part personal trip you ought to have a conversation with your CPA, or me the CPA Superhero, to figure out how much of the trip you will be able to deduct if any.  I would be happy to help you with your business and your taxes and your travel expense deduction issues.  Please don't hesitate to contact me using my information below.


Contact the CPA Superhero for help with your business and your life goals. I consult with or coach business owners to manage and grow their business and develop strategies. Additionally, I prepare tax returns for business owners. For over thirty years I have worked with many different successful and unsuccessful business owners and that experience has given me unique insight that you can tap into as one of my clients. So contact me today to setup an appointment to talk about your business and your life goals.


Jeff Haywood, CPA
The CPA Superhero

Business Consultant/Coach
Certified Quickbooks ProAdvisor
217-923-8007
jeff.jhtaxes@gmail.com




The above information is general information and is not all inclusive and as always in your tax situation everything "depends on facts and circumstances." So call me to talk about your specific facts and circumstances.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Pricing Strategy and Your Business: Harmony Between Your Goals and Your Pricing



Your Pricing Strategy

What is your pricing strategy and how does it fit with your overall business strategy and goals? Pricing strategy is often driven by the owner's desires and perceptions. Most desire to make as much money as possible while providing real value. (Yes, it is true, many just desire to make as much money as possible.) Many too take into account their desired lifestyle and price accordingly. Too often though pricing is done without much thought and is driven at times by negative emotions which limit a business' potential. Really, an owner's ego can be and often really is a driving force which sometimes is good and other times it is not.

Example

Let me give you an example. One business owner started a lawn care business to provide for his family and enable them to spend more time in their ministry work. To build up his business he priced his services low to get started. Once he got enough business to hire help he did not make any pricing changes. His drive really shifted to keeping all his existing clients and still trying to add more clients. The result was like a ship without a rudder and his business ship was driving him all over the county, literally, and taking up much more of his time than he originally planned. So what could he do?

Price Change With a Purpose

After seeing the reality of what his business had become, I suggested he consider increasing his prices for some of his customers. He was hesitant because he was afraid of losing customers. While that is a real concern, I asked him to consider the value of his individual customers. He saw their value being what they paid him. I suggested their real value is what they pay him less his cost including and especially his time. His isolated customers at the outskirts of the county were more costly to him regarding his time than customers close to his home base. What was the opportunity to solve his dilemma?

Prices Together With Costs and Marketing

The suggestion was to look at those accounts located at the fringes of his area and especially the ones that were isolated, without other jobs nearby, and consider increasing their prices. He correctly responded that he would lose some of those customers. So I encouraged him to think about how many he could afford to lose if he increased their prices by 10%. Yes, you are quick, he could afford to lose 10% of those customers and still have the same amount of revenue and at the same time he would lower his costs and give him more time for his family and ministry. What was the result?

The Real Driving Force

The result was that his real driving force was revealed. It came out that he did not want to lose a single customer because he wanted to have a bigger business than his competitors. So to work with that I suggested he could use half of the time he saved from the price increase and losing some customers to market his business to people who where located close to the other isolated customers that accepted the price increase. If he could find a few other customers close by he would be reducing his costs and time required for those customers. Instead of driving for half an hour to get to one customer, how much better would it be to drive that far for three or four customers or more.

Help For You and Your Business

While there are other factors to consider regarding pricing, many times a business owner is too close to the trees to see the forest, and he can use some insight from someone with a different perspective. As part of my business consulting or coaching services, I would be happy to help you not only make your business more profitable but also get your pricing in line with your overall business and life goals. Please feel free to contact me using my information below.

Stay tuned for other articles about business strategy including pricing articles about the relationship between your prices and the size of your business and it's profitability, value perception and how it relates to problem customers, and the problems with price cutting and offering things for free.

Contact the CPA Superhero for help with your business and your life goals. I consult with or coach business owners to manage and grow their business and develop strategies. Additionally, I prepare tax returns for business owners. For over thirty years I have worked with many different successful and unsuccessful business owners and that experience has given me unique insight that you can tap into as one of my clients. So contact me today to setup an appointment to talk about your business and your life goals.


Jeff Haywood, CPA
The CPA Superhero

Business Consultant/Coach
Certified Quickbooks ProAdvisor
217-923-8007
jeff.jhtaxes@gmail.com



The above information is general information and is not all inclusive and as always in your tax situation everything "depends on facts and circumstances." So call me to talk about your specific facts and circumstances.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Engage People In Conversation and Notice How Everything Gets Better For You!

Want Better?

Do you want your business to do better? Do you want better service? Do you want to avoid being embezzled? Then engage people in conversation.

Initiate Talk, Communicate Better?

I frequently mention, the more people I talk to the more business I get. It is more than just talking as a reaction it is engaging people in conversation as an initiator. In reality I get better service because I engage people in conversation. When it comes to embezzlement, one of the primary reasons why people steal from their employer is they feel underpaid and/or underappreciated. So communicate better, Initiate Conversations With People, to get Better business and service.

Start Talking

So how do you communicate better by engaging in conversation. It starts with hello. It starts with just talking. Then stay there and figure out how to get a conversation going. People expect hello but they come to life when they realize you want to engage with them. 




Reduce the Chance of Embezzlement

To reduce the chances of embezzlement, engage your people you trust with your business to confirm that trust is mutual. Talk to them about what is going on in their lives. Talk to them about what is going on in your business and tell them the story and involve them in it. Make the story evolve as the business develops. You may need a daily story for your employees. Clearly communicate personal things and professional. Let them know what is happening on a regular basis and what you need and expect from them. Then watch their expressions and body language and respond accordingly. Ideally you want your employees, especially the ones with the keys/checks, to want to come to work for you not just for a paycheck. It is you they will be loyal to if you engage them in real conversation.


Wash, Rinse, Repeat.


Initiate Conversation With Strangers - Make It About Them

Talk to strangers by mentioning something that is going on in that moment or ask a question about the moment or what is happening in the world. Ask them what they do or are doing. Eventually they will want to know about you. It may not happen during the first conversation but eventually it will happen if you make it about them.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat


Better Service

Try this, really talk to the person serving you. Ask them questions and have fun. Make it a fun conversation for them. You will see the look in their eye light up. You will get better attention from them because they will want to talk to you. You will get better service because you raised the energy in the personal interaction. So you will get better service and maybe even things without charge.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat


By All Means Talk to Your Accountant

More then likely your Accountant isn't much of a talker and if left to him or her little conversation would take place. But, as with all other service providers if you talk to them and find things that energize them then you will get feedback from them about your opportunities that will be most valuable. But you will likely have to initiate the conversation with them.

I, The CPA Superhero, am a little different because I understand the value of conversation to my clients and to me. At times I focus on your work but then I want to know what the story is behind the numbers so I want to talk to my clients. All number crunching and no play make the CPA Superhero a dull boy and it is boring. So let's talk. 


Wash, Rinse, Repeat


Repeat

Once is not enough. Make it your way. Have ongoing conversations, that means follow up and continue conversations, and the payoff will be great.


Listen and Remember

It goes without saying you have to listen well in this process for this to work for you. But go a step further and remember what people tell you and mention it later. Then you will see the energy go to a whole other level and your success too.


You will thank me later.

So, do you want better return from your investment in your business? Contact the CPA Superhero, who will be happy to talk with you.


Contact the CPA Superhero for help with your business and your life goals. I consult with or coach business owners to manage and grow their business and develop strategies. Additionally, I prepare tax returns for business owners. For over thirty years I have worked with many different successful and unsuccessful business owners and that experience has given me unique insight that you can tap into as one of my clients. So contact me today to setup an appointment to talk about your business and your life goals.


Jeff Haywood, CPA
The CPA Superhero

Business Consultant/Coach
Certified Quickbooks ProAdvisor
217-923-8007
jeff.jhtaxes@gmail.com



The above information is general information and is not all inclusive and as always in your tax situation everything "depends on facts and circumstances." So call me to talk about your specific facts and circumstances.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Who Is Watching Your Business? Someone Is. Hopefully It Is You.



Who Is Watching Your Business

A few employees from the office went out together for dinner and a movie. It was interesting when charges at a local restaurant and movie theater showed up on the next credit card bill. It was reported to me as suspicious and I took it to the owner. Upon investigation it looked like the employees from the office had charged their night out on a company credit card. But how did they do that? Had the owner given them permission? No, he had not. It was discovered that one of the accountants requested an additional credit card which she used for personal expenses.

At tax time a local tax-preparer called to ask about an employee's W-2. I could not give information about an employees salary but the preparer found two things interesting. One, some one from the firm I worked for would come to him to have their taxes done rather than have them done in house. Second, the salary and of course the taxes withheld seemed way too high. He talked to the owner and we discovered the employee had doctored her W-2. Actually, it looked to me like she adjusted one of her own payroll checks and then printed out the fraudulent W-2. After that she went back in and changed the check back and reprinted the correct W-2 which was filed. It was clever and well thought out. But she was caught.

After that employee was fired and a new office/personal assistant for the owner was hired, I got a call from an older long time customer about a statement that showed an outstanding invoice for her. The problem was she had paid the invoice. What happened was she personally brought her payment in to the office but was not sure who to make the check out to. The new personal assistant told her she would take care of it. We had the customer bring in her cancelled check and it had the assistant's name on it. The assistant had disappeared about week earlier so the owner called the police to press charges. We made sure the police came in to the office so everyone could see what was happening.

Why It Happens

Unfortunately, today many people are dishonest. What did you notice about these situations? What questions do you have? Why would people do this and how did they do it? The why is because of greed and a perceived opportunity. So people actually steal from an accounting firm? How does that happen? Easy, the owner of the firm was distracted by several personal and business problems. But the real problem was the employees knew about it and they knew he was not paying attention.


What Can You Do About It?

You should not have to worry about dishonesty and theft but the reality is you do. What can you do about it? To begin with run credit and background checks before hiring anyone. You also have to pay attention to your financial accounts. It is not enough to pay attention, you have to let everyone know you are watching. You do that by carefully checking each bank and credit card statement every month and every bill your business receives. Then you ask the accountants and the employees questions about the deposits and the bills, checks and charges. In addition match the checks up with your bills. Watch out for fake employees, and watch out for payments of utility and other bills that are too high. A common form of embezzlement is for an accountant to pay both your bill and theirs when they send in a payment for a utility bill for example. Additionally send out out statements for outstanding invoices and call to followup on invoices that remain unpaid. You also need to put checks in place to make sure no one can steal from you and cover it up.

Each month you should also review the financial statements and make sure you understand what they say and the story behind the numbers. Does it make sense that a particular expense started to be higher each month starting a few months ago? Why is that happening?  Ask the manager who oversees it and review the bills with him. Oh, and make sure everyone knows you are checking these things out. The temptation to steal from you is not as great when the threat of getting caught is high.

Another lesson is to get the police involved when you discover a theft in your office. Call them in when other employees are there and the word will get out that you mean to prosecute anyone who steals from you.

Yes, you can create an environment that makes theft unlikely. That doesn't mean it won't happen but there is much you can do. It also really helps if your employees like you. So get to know them and show a real personal interest in them. It is hard to steal from a friend.

Get Professional Help

Taking care of your accounting needs is an enormous challenge. I can help you. While I don't do bookkeeping, I do help my clients to review what their bookkeepers do and we review the financial results on a regular basis and plan for taxes too. Many small business can not afford to high a full time CPA to help them with their accounting and manage their business. Instead you can contract with me to regularly help you manage the books and your business and give you an outside sounding board to discuss your business. I can help you and you can keep your accounting expenses at a manageable level. Call me or send me an email today to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation. My contact information is below.

So, who is watching your business. Hopefully it is you. Likely you can use an extra set of eyes to help you to keep an eye on and manage your business. So again, feel free to contact me to setup an appointment to discuss your situation.

Contact the CPA Superhero for help with your business and your life goals. I consult with or coach business owners to manage and grow their business and develop strategies. Additionally, I prepare tax returns for business owners. For over thirty years I have worked with many different successful and unsuccessful business owners and that experience has given me unique insight that you can tap into as one of my clients. So contact me today to setup an appointment to talk about your business and your life goals.


Jeff Haywood, CPA
The CPA Superhero

Business Consultant/Coach
Certified Quickbooks ProAdvisor
217-923-8007
jeff.jhtaxes@gmail.com



The above information is general information and is not all inclusive and as always in your tax situation everything "depends on facts and circumstances." So call me to talk about your specific facts and circumstances.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Knowledge is Power: What Do You Know About Your Business?



Knowledge is power. How is your business doing? Can you talk about how much you have sold and how much profit you have this year? Do you have a good idea how much taxes you will pay this year? The answers to these questions obviously should be yes but you need meaningful and accurate business financials to know these answers. I can help you to get this information and have this knowledge, power, at your fingertips or at a click of a mouse or touch of a screen.

While my main business is preparing income tax returns, I have seen most business lack the information needed for their business to prepare an income tax return and the ability to convert that information into knowledge to make good strategic decisions about their business. To address this need I offer help for business owners to get this information, understand it and make strategic decisions with it.

Call me for my help to get you empowered with this information and converting it to knowledge to help you make decisions that will help your business to succeed. I can help you become empowered to really know your business. I can help you setup your books in Quickbooks online, clean your books up if you already have them set up, work with your bookkeeper to properly use Quickbooks and finally help you understand your business so you can make informed decisions that will help you succeed.

Yes knowledge is power. Call me for my help to tap into this knowledge about your business.

Contact the CPA Superhero for help with your business and your life goals. I consult with or coach business owners to manage and grow their business and develop strategies. Additionally, I prepare tax returns for business owners. For over thirty years I have worked with many different successful and unsuccessful business owners and that experience has given me unique insight that you can tap into as one of my clients. So contact me today to setup an appointment to talk about your business and your life goals.


Jeff Haywood, CPA
The CPA Superhero

Business Consultant/Coach
Certified Quickbooks ProAdvisor
217-923-8007
jeff.jhtaxes@gmail.com



The above information is general information and is not all inclusive and as always in your tax situation everything "depends on facts and circumstances." So call me to talk about your specific facts and circumstances.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How To Get Accurate and Meaningful Reports to Manage Your Business - Have An Effective Bookkeeper



I recently published a post on "My Books Are A Mess". In this post I will address how can you get accurate and meaningful reports to manage your business and also how can your bookkeeper check their work to make sure it is accurate. Everyone wants to produce good work and being empowered to identify problems and fix mistakes will enable your bookkeeper to become proficient at their work and take pride in it.

How the Problem Happens


First, realize that even accountants aren't immune accounting errors. Years ago, in corporate accounting, part of my responsibility as a financial analyst was to make sure the accounting was correct from period to period. So I learned how to spot problems and figure out what the cause was. The interesting thing was that those doing most of the entries were college educated accountants. It is not surprising that they or anyone else would make a mistake but it is shocking that they did not catch their mistakes and just downright dumbfounding when they made the same errors over and over again. So if degreed accountants struggle with proficiency, you know bookkeepers have the same struggle.

The thing with bookkeepers, in most cases, they were basically taught to make entries regarding the bank account, accounts payable and maybe accounts receivable but not (usually) how to check their work. Surprisingly bookkeepers for the most part also don't use financial statements and many don't even know what they are and fewer still understand what they mean. So let's fix that.

To help bookkeepers and business owners to get accurate and meaningful reports from their bookkeepers work I will consider what the financial statements are, what they mean, and finally how to use them to check the bookkeeping. In this post we will start with the Income Statement.

Income Statement


What It Is

The Income Statement, referred to as a Profit and Loss Statement in Quickbooks, should tell you how much the business made or lost during a particular period. It should report separately how much revenue was generated, how much it cost to produce the goods sold, and what the business operating expenses were.  So if your business makes something that it sells the profit and loss should contain three sections, the Revenue, the Cost of Goods Sold, and the Operating Expenses. The Revenue less the Cost of Goods Sold is the Gross Profit. Gross Profit less Operating Expenses produces Net Income Before Interest and Taxes. Net Income After Interest and Taxes is the final profit for the period after everything is included.

How to Review the Income Statement

When the bookkeeper is done with their entries for a period they should take a look at the Profit and Loss Statement and see if it makes sense. Also, in Quickbooks, they will want to make sure all the categories look correct. You do not want to see any nasty unaccounted for items like "Unapplied Cash Payment Income" or "Unapplied Cash Bill Payment Expense". These would be entries you need to clean up so that they show up in the correct categories.

After reviewing for those nasties, now you, the bookkeeper, want to see if what you entered makes sense. You should have an idea from what you entered if the amounts by category make sense. You may need to ask the business owner or managers to take a look at the report and ask them if the report appears correctly. Also, this is a process and in the beginning you are learning and that is expected but you have to have a desire to get it right. So at this point you both want to get the accounting correct but you also want to gain an understanding of what is happening in the business and how you should account for it and how it should be reflected in the financial statements.

What To Do If You Are Not Sure Where To Code Something

As you make your entries you might not be sure where, to which accounts, entries should be coded. For those entries put them in a "Suspense" or "Ask the Accountant" account and then check to see where they should be coded. Don't be afraid to ask. Your accountant will be worried if you don't ask them questions. Then over time, with your learning process, the entries you have to ask about will become fewer and further between.

Analysis of the Income Statement

What really helps to identify miscoded entries to look at period (perhaps monthly) results vesus the prior period total by category and percentage of total sales for each category. For businesses that are consistent this is very helpful. For businesses that have results that vary based on the jobs worked during that time you may be able to get a feel for Revenue and Expenses on a per job basis if you can get the total number of jobs completed. If the business budgets revenue and expenses by the job you can compare actual versus the budget. If the business does not budget expected revenue and expenses per job perhaps you can initiate its development. With a budget you can compare the actual results versus the budget and give management/owners an idea of how the company performed versus expectations. What we have considered here is an analysis of variances. Here you are looking for how the results varied from another period or compared to the budget and determining if the reported results make sense.

Both for businesses with operations that are consistent and those that very a lot from period to period you, the bookkeeper, have to get a good feel for what actually happened during each period. It really helps to talk to the people involved in the operations on a regular basis. If there are operations meetings ask if you can attend. As you hear people in the company talk about what is happening you should be able to tell how that will affect the Profit and Loss Statement. In time you will get a handle on what is going on and you should be able to use the Profit and Loss Statement to tell the story of what happened during that period. When you can do this your value to the business increases dramatically.

Using The Income Statement To Help The Company

When the owners and managers start asking you what was the result of increased spending in a certain area then you know you have reached a high level of competence and value. Then you can help analyze what works in the business and what does not. Also, you can then bring potential problems to the owners and managers attention and become part of the solution.

Helping Businesses Do Their Books "In House"


You may be able to get powerful information you can use to manage your business without hiring a full-time accountant or paying a CPA to do your bookkeeping. Instead I could work with and train your bookkeeper to get those powerful reports you need and also help you use those reports to make a difference in your business results. Many business owners want to do their own books or pay someone a lot less than they pay their CPA to do their books and I want to help you do that. In many cases you should be able to do that. However, there are many problems that can and do come up and it is my mission to help business owners to deal with these issues so they can do their books "in house" and effectively use the period results to manage their business.

I would be happy to work with you and your bookkeeper to improve your bookkeeping to get financial statements that you can use to effectively manage your business. If this interests you please feel free to contact me using my information below.

Contact the CPA Superhero for help with your business and your life goals. I consult with or coach business owners to manage and grow their business and develop strategies. Additionally, I prepare tax returns for business owners. For over thirty years I have worked with many different successful and unsuccessful business owners and that experience has given me unique insight that you can tap into as one of my clients. So contact me today to setup an appointment to talk about your business and your life goals.


Jeff Haywood, CPA
The CPA Superhero

Business Consultant/Coach
Certified Quickbooks ProAdvisor
217-923-8007
jeff.jhtaxes@gmail.com



The above information is general information and is not all inclusive and as always in your tax situation everything "depends on facts and circumstances." So call me to talk about your specific facts and circumstances.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Year End Tax Moves to Reduce Business Profits



Here are some tax planning strategies to help you reduce profits for the year and thus reduce the taxes you will pay you. (Keep in mind if you want to accelerate profit into this year do the opposite of the strategies listed below)

Delay Revenue

If your business is an accrual basis tax reporting business delay sending out invoices until next year. For a cash basis tax reporting business delay receipt of income. You may need to call people you have already invoiced to request that they make sure you don't receive their payment before the year end. In reality they can send you a payment before year end and you could receive it after year end so this could benefit both you and your clients/customers.

Accelerate Expenses

On the Expense side for an accrual basis tax reporting business make sure you enter all the bills you receive before year-end and make sure they are dated this year. For a cash basis tax reporting business pay as many bills by year-end as possible. If cash is tight mail out checks the last day of the year giving yourself a few days into January to cover the checks. Even better put as much as you can on a business credit card and even though you won't pay the bill until later a cash basis tax reporting business can deduct the expense the date it is charged (assuming it is a legitimate business expense). Charging expenses on a business credit card before year end also works for an accrual basis tax reporting business.

Acquire and Put in Service Capital Assets that Can Be Section 179 Deductions

Any Capital Assets that you acquire and put in service before year can likely (assuming the right conditions) be fully deducted as a Section 179 depreciation deduction this year. Be careful when it comes to list assets that are the type you use in your daily non business life. With these listed assets you will only be able to deduct the percentage of the cost that is attributed to business use versus personal use. 


There may be other strategies too depending on the type of business and situation you have. Keep in mind that these strategies are in reality a shifting of profits and taxes between years. Employing profit reduction strategies for this year will typically mean increasing profits in future years, so plan accordingly. Even though you are shifting profits between years you can delay taxes and perhaps lower taxes depending on the circumstances for you in the different years involved. 

As mentioned above you can also move profit into this year especially if it looks like your income next year could move you into a higher tax bracket or trigger the Alternative Minimum Income TaxThe Additional Medicare Tax and or the Net Investment Income Tax

These tax strategies can be complex and I would be happy discuss your situation with you and become your CPA and work with you on an ongoing basis.  Feel free to contact me using my information below.

Jeff Haywood, CPA
The CPA Superhero
972-439-1955
jeff.jhtaxes@gmail.com



The above information is general information and is not all inclusive and as always in your tax situation everything "depends on facts and circumstances." So call me to talk about your specific facts and circumstances.