There is a “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer kept advising Jerry that he can use his personal expenses as “write-offs”. Finally Jerry, after hearing Kramer talk off the top of his head about taxes and obviously not actually understanding the topic, says credulously, “You don’t even know what write-offs are, do you Kramer?” Kramer then looks down, sheepishly, and nods his head “no”.
Kramer’s reaction is actually pretty typical. Most people, even though well meaning, have no idea what is a “tax write-off” and what isn’t. They may think something, such as a business meal or an office equipment purchase, are tax write-offs and thus it means they will pay less in business income taxes. But, that may a mistake…a very costly mistake.
So, to keep expectations down, help you to make better small business buying choices and to keep the IRS off your back, here are Five Tax Write-Offs that Require More Scrutiny:
- Business Clothing: Generally, to be deductible, clothing must be required for work and not appropriate for every day wear. Uniforms required for work and protective clothing are obvious examples. Less obvious are items such as polo branded shirts with the Company Logo which may be considered company “uniforms” and deductible as such. Clothing such as blue jeans even though functional as work clothes are not deductible since they are not part of a uniform and are appropriate for every day wear.
- Business Meals & Entertainment with Clients: This one is the most-abused and most misunderstood. Business meals or an entertainment event are tax-deductible if – (i) you are meeting with a client or potential client and (ii) business is discussed before, during or after the meal or entertainment event. More over only 50% of the expense is allowable as a deduction.
- Cell Phone Expense: This one seems to be a definite tax write-off to many small business owners. How can it not be, right? Well, the IRS considers cell phones to be both business and personal use. Only the business part of the expense can be written off, so you have to calculate the percentage of business calls and deduct only that cost. There is also an alternative view – if a cell phone is an absolute necessity to your business – then having the phone could be considered an ordinary and necessary business expense for your business – and the deminimus personal use considered an inconsequential working fringe.
- Business Vehicle Use: Many small business owners use their personal vehicle for meeting clients, traveling to job sites and attending company meetings. A vehicle can be used for thousands of miles in a fiscal year. However, only the business mileage can be deducted. If you have your office outside of your home, commuting to work is considered personal mileage and not deductible. It is a good idea to keep a mileage log for every business trip so you can be accurate in your business expense records. (There are several apps that can be used for just such record keeping.)
- Charitable Organizations: Unfortunately, not all non-profits are equal. That is, they have not been designated by the IRS as a “tax-exempt organization”. (We covered how an organization can become tax-exempt in a previous blog.) There are some social and civic charities which are not 501 c (3), for whatever reason, so any donation to them is only out of your generosity and cannot be counted as a tax write-off. Be sure to check that the organization is tax-exempt before donating to them. Most national charities are known by their brands and are tax-exempt (i.e. The Salvation Army, March of Dimes, etc.) but you can find out on their website or by checking at charitycheck101.org.
There are even more supposed “tax write-offs” we can cover in another blog. Just be sure to call a licensed tax professional or do your own research before assuming your small business expense is going to save you money on your next year’s tax returns. You may be making a serious and expensive mistake.
For more information and experienced business and personal tax advice, contact a professional tax advisor at A. K. Burton, PC, at (301) 365-1974 for more information or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are almost halfway into 2017. Your small business is doing well and may even be doing better than you had expected. Customers are buying your products, you’re making payroll, you’ve purchased new equipment and you may even be hiring a new employee soon. Business is looking good.
Then, comes the letter in the mail from the IRS.
You owe on your business income taxes! And, it is much more than you thought. You cannot even pay for it right now, even if you put the new equipment and employee on hold.
Now, what do you do?
Don’t panic. It is not the end of your business. There are procedures you can take to resolve it.
Here are Five Steps to Take When You Can’t Pay Your Small Business Taxes:
- Contact the IRS Immediately: Once you get that letter, don’t file it away or stick it in your laptop bag pocket. You may forget it or put it off. The IRS matter never goes away by itself, it just continues to intensify. Even though you can’t pay it now, call the number on the letter and let the IRS know you cannot pay it all by the deadline date. Be honest and open with the IRS official. Document your conversation and create a file where you can put all the documents in, both hard file and computer memory file.
- Pay Whatever You Can: You’ve heard the old saying “Just do what you can.” That works with the IRS, too. Send them a payment of whatever you can, even if it is small amount. That will cut what you do owe down and reduce any fees applicable to the amount you pay. It’s always better to pay something than nothing. The IRS also sees that as a “good faith effort” to pay what you owe,
- Pay in Installments: The IRS may allow you to set up an “Installation Agreement”. This is where you can pay in installments for a certain period of time. Interest and fees may apply but at least you can budget these payments and get it paid off. If you owe 50,000 or less the IRS has a lot of flexibility and will give you up to 36 months. This is a popular way to resolve it, especially for cash-strapped businesses.
- Negotiation in circumstances is Possible: Yes, you read that right. Just because the IRS sent this bill, doesn’t mean you will end up in “debtor’s prison” and life as you know it will end. You may be able to persuade the IRS official to agree to a lower tax debt amount. Believe it or not, the IRS wants this off their books, too. The formal name for this program is the Offer In Compromise. There are set procedures that you have to comply with and you basically have to be insolvent with your financial situation in shambles to qualify. Unfortunately, if you are looking at this option – your business is on the downslide, with the future not looking that bright. That being said you don’t want to be here. The next step down from here is…
- Last Resort: Bankruptcy: Your business is dissolving and you can’t pay the outstanding tax burden. Filing for bankruptcy may be the smartest way to resolve it. This is only for businesses that are closing anyway. Consult a good bankruptcy attorney before taking this action.
The letter from the IRS is not the death knell to your small business. It can cause stress, however, so please don’t panic. You and the IRS want to do the same thing: get it paid off and move on. It can be done! Just take the right steps and keep doing what you and your business do best!
If you need tax advice, both personal and business, please contact our experienced tax and business advisory team at A. K. Burton, PC, for all your personal and small business tax preparation and accounting needs. Visit our website at www.cpa-maryland.com or call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
In our previous blog we covered a number of steps you can take to get tax-exemption for your non-profit that you have just created. There are quite a few steps to take so we had to split the blog up into two.
Anyway, let’s continue, here are the next Steps to take to get Tax-Exempt Status for your Non-Profit, Part 2:
- List of directors and employees and compensation: You will have manager(s) of your charitable organization and the IRS wants to their names and how much they will be paid by the charity. Your list should include: initial or starter directors, starter officers (executive director, financial officer, chief executive officer, secretary and others); trustees; top five employees who make more than $50,000 a year and any independent contractors which make $50,000 per year.
- List of beneficiaries of your charitable organization: Your non-profit serves a specific population (i.e. homeless, elderly, youth, religious group, etc.) and the IRS wants to see that specific list to make sure that you are legitimate. Your population served is a crucial part of your underwriting. (Researching the local, state of national population is helpful and having that on hand to submit to IRS should they ask is wise to do.)
- Description of your non-profit activities: Provide a complete narrative of all that you do and plan to do with your charity. It should include step-by-step workflow (without including every detail, that may be too much) of your activities and how you plan to do it with your staff. Make sure the pieces fit. In other words, there is no waste in your processes and the staff members all have a role. (Political activity and gambling are prohibited. Be sure to research that or consult a licensed tax advisor.)
- Data on finances: Any 501 C 3 must provide its last five years of financial records to the IRS for review. Other groups have to show finances for all years they have been in existence for three to four years and in good faith for future years depending on the history of the organization. (For more details check with your tax advisor about Form 1023 and IRS non-profit requirements.)
- Are you a “Private Foundation” or a “Public Charity”?: Typically churches, temples, hospitals, schools, etc. are categorized as “public charities” whereas “private foundations” may be organizations that exist to donate money to causes, individuals and others (i.e. Gates Foundation, Kiwanis Foundation, etc.). There are specific rules, of course, for these too so please consult your licensed tax advisor.
- IRS Fee: You didn’t think you could do this for free with the IRS, did you? They do charge certain fees and there is a list of those fees available online and with your tax advisor. Be sure to include the fee payment with your filing or it will be delayed.
Yes, anything worthwhile takes work, sometimes a lot of work. But, if you follow these steps you may be able to get your non-profit organization up and running.
Contact us if you need personal or professional counseling, from tax planning, to payroll to Business/Financial Entity planning and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your personal and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
There are many intimidating processes in the world of charitable causes. Sometimes, they change over time due to new laws passed by Congress and enforced by the IRS.
It can be difficult keeping track. Your accountant should always be up-to-date on these changes, for sure.
However, when it comes to tax-exemption, once your charitable organization has incorporated, it is fairly cut-and-dry, as they say. But, for a review, here is some guidance from a tax advisor on How to Get Your Non-Profit Tax Exemption, Part 1:
- Complete IRS Form 1023 Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code: Ironically, this first step may be the most difficult. This form has a number of legal and tax-related technical prose within it, making it a laborious venture. You may want to seek advice from your accountant as you embark on this first part.
- File for Non-exempt Status within 27 months of Articles of Incorporation: When you file during this time period, your charitable organization’s tax exemption will take effect on the date you filed for incorporation. When you do that, then all donations received will be tax-deductible. However, should you delay incorporating during this 27-month period without a “reasonable cause”, then your non-profit’s tax-exempt status starts the date of the postmark on the IRS Form 1023 application.
- Form 1023 Completion: This long form has eleven parts to it. If you have a smaller non-profit, then you may want to do the 1023 EZ Form Streamlined Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is quite evident how this form is so much easier for smaller non-profits so go the IRS website and see if your non-profit is eligible.
- Applicant Identification: This is all basic information about your non-profit organization. Your organization needs an EIN (federal employee identification number). Don’t use the old one when you began this process. Request a new on from the IRS as you start this process. It’s actually pretty easy and they send one fairly quickly.
- Structure of the Organization: You need to attach a copy of articles of incorporation and your bylaws. (Just an FYI: If your non-profit is a LLC, unincorporated association or non-profit trust, please contact your tax lawyer. It gets very complicated if you have those designations.)
- Organizational Document’s Required Provisions: You need to add certain clauses to get your 501(c)(3) exemption: a clause stating that your corporation was formed for a recognized 501(c)(3) tax-exempt purpose and a clause stating that that any assets of the nonprofit that remain after the entity dissolves will be distributed to another 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit or to a federal, state, or local government for a public purpose.
There are several more steps and we will cover those in our next blog. If you need assistance with your non-profit’s tax-exempt status, we can take you through the entire process (and help reduce the stress).
Call us at if you need personal or professional counseling, from tax planning, to payroll to choice of Business/Financial Entity planning and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
The famous humorist, Will Rogers, once said, “Too many people spend money they earned…to buy things they don’t want…to impress people that they don’t like.”
It is a timeless quote that characterizes so many of us, both personally and professionally. We buy too much, get into debt and find our lives spiraling out of control as our income can no longer support our lifestyle or business.
But this is a New Year. And there is hope. 2017 is here and whatever happened or failed to happen last year is history. You can truly start anew with better financial habits.
So, here are Ten Quick Smart Ways to Save Money in 2017:
- Pay off Debts: This is the most important one of all. Pay off your debts, maybe starting from the lowest to the largest, as quickly as you can. It may mean fewer meals out or holding off on doing vacation this year, but meet with a financial expert and create pay plans to pay them off. Once this is done, you may be surprised at how your life will improve.
- Use Coupons: Just about every grocery store has coupons, most are now in their apps, for their customers. Make a grocery list and use the coupons (or their MVP or preferred customer card) when you buy.
- Brew coffee at home: The fufu coffee beverages at $4.00 and more, add up quickly on a weekly basis. Buy several pounds of coffee and brew it at home before you leave for work. Treat yourself on Friday with one Starbucks drink or other similar coffee shop. You may save $500 a year just doing this!
- Fill up your car: Gas is expensive, especially in the metropolitan areas. If you can fill up your car instead of getting a few dollars’ worth, you can save quite a bit of money in the long run.
- Buy movies online: Going to see a movie can be $15 per person or higher. Plus, the popcorn and candy adds to the outrageous price. Instead, load Amazon Prime or Netflix to your devices and TV. The yearly price may be less than you pay for one or two movies with the family.
- Combine errands: We travel so much around the Washington, D.C. Beltway! It may take several hours to just run an errand or two because of the traffic. So, save time and money by combining your errands (grocery, gas, appointments, visits, etc.) if possible. Less stress and expense!
- Compare Fees on mobile phone plans: There are many different phone plans now. You may have completed your 2-year contract so look around. There are several vendors which charge only a monthly fee for unlimited usage.
- Eat Out Less: This is a tough one and I can understand the reluctance. Eating out is fun at your favorite restaurants. But this can cost hundreds even thousands of dollars a year. So, eat out maybe once a week as a treat. Save up that money for paying off debts, children’s education or home improvements, etc.
- Keep a Spending Journal: Record your expenses for several months and see where your hard-earned income is going. This is a proven way to cool the spending jets and get on track for smarter spending.
- Volunteer: This may sound kind of weird but hear me out. When you are volunteering and helping the underprivileged in your community it does three things: Makes you appreciate what you do have, gives you an opportunity to share your skills with an agency that is assisting others and, lastly, when you are volunteering you are not out spending. Everyone gains from helping others.
I hope this has been a help to you. Get this year off to the right track by saving your hard-earned money and improving your life and others.
If you need a financial advisor for personal or professional financial counseling from tax planning, to payroll, to choice of Business/Financial Entity planning and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
Audits are one of the many reasons we, as accountants, exist. They are extremely stressful for our clients and can make for an extremely difficult situation, even for the most ethical and detail-oriented small business.
Before we go on, let’s start with what an “audit” actually means: According to www.businessdictionary.com it is a “Systematic examination and verification of a firm’s books of account, transaction records, other relevant documents, and physical inspection of inventory by qualified accountants (called auditors). Quality control: Periodic (usually every six months) onsite-verification (by a certification authority) to ascertain whether or not a documented quality system is being effectively implemented.
In other words, it’s a detailed examination by auditors of a small business’s ledgers, statements and any other accounting records that the business uses. It may take days or months to complete, depending on the depth and volume of records.
So, now that you have an idea of what an audit means, let’s talk about Five Ways your Small Business Can Prepare for an Audit:
- Communicate with the accounting firm directly: The accounting firm doing the audit is not your enemy. They are only there to do the audit and submit a report. They are an objective reporter, not out to “get” your business. So, setting the tone with the firm and asking them for an itemized list of all records and documents needed will benefit you and them. Have them send a checklist which your company can use as an inventory list. Lastly, assign someone from your company as dedicated point of contact. Your staff person should have access to all the documents needed and be a friendly and helpful resource for the auditors.
- Provide a General Ledger: This is usually your Quickbooks account. You can export it to Excel and then send it to the auditor. This ledger will clarify for your auditor what documents they need to audit.
- Provide a Trial Balance: This can also be found in your Quickbooks account. Most auditors depend a lot on this information as all the numbers in your balance are traced back to the trial balance. It should also be on an Excel document.
- Copies of Loans, Contracts and Leases (if any): This one is truly a matter of accuracy. Your auditors need to see long- and short-term contracts with vendors to see if they contract match up with statements (Includes buy-sell agreements, too.) Loans mean any bank-related or other types of loans which were used by your business. Leases, if any, are important as they require the minimum monthly lease payments.
- Board Minutes: This one is often-forgotten but may be a crucial element in the accuracy of the audit report. These board meeting notes contain details on hiring, terminations, acquisitions, sales, statements and other pertinent information from that auditing year up to the present date. All notes including budget and administrative reports need to be included. These documents is one of the easiest to collect, too.
There are more steps to take but this is a good start. We will publish a sequel blog to this one with more details on what to do in the near future.
If you’d like more details on how our company can do your small business audit or assist you with it, contact us at A. K. Burton, PC. We can provide all of your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
When you hear the word “Quickbooks” does it send a shiver down your spine? Do you reflexively spill your mocha on your laptop keyboard? Kick the sides of your accounting files cabinet in disgust?
Well, we can understand your frustration with Quickbooks, we have all felt it at some time or other. However, this is not your grandfather’s accounting program anymore.
In fact, Quickbooks continues to improve its user experience and make it a positive experience for accounting veterans and small business owners (who do it all), alike. Quickbooks is actually easier now, we think.
And, since 2017 is just around the corner and Tax Season (our favorite time of year) begins January 1, utilizing Quickbooks’ many features is essential for us and both our small business and personal business clients. Now is the time to master this stuff.
So, here are Four Helpful Quickbooks Tips for 2017 that will prove extremely helpful:
- Schedule with it: The scheduling feature plans employees’ work schedules and can keep track of meetings, dates and now can schedule the mortgage payment. Deadlines can be automated and bills paid through it, too. It is amazing how much can be loaded into this feature so you have more free time to meet with present clients and solicit new clients.
- Utilize the “Undeposited Funds” account: This Quickbooks feature scared a lot of users because we just didn’t understand it, frankly. It’s quite simple though as this is used to track moneys deposited until the deposit is entered in Quickbooks. This is actually not that intimidating anymore and very helpful. Your monthly reconciliation is simpler now as the amount entered in Quickbooks will match (or should, anyway) the deposit amount on the bank statement. Forget doing it manually from here on out. This is truly not worth having nightmares anymore. It works like a charm.
- Changing Transactions: Once the absolute bane of accountants everywhere because it was too easy for company personnel to make (unwarranted or incorrect) changes, this feature is much improved now. You can change the settings and password protect the “Date Warnings” so you can restrict changes to a select few. This is a vast improvement and will reduce some major stress as you manage accounts.
- Merge all finances into one program: You should track all your bank statements and transactions and then reconcile Quickbooks with your other statements. Your accounting numbers will be up-to-date, then. You can do your income, credit lines, billing and bank statements here. All your data runs through one central location.
There are many more aspects of Quickbooks (and their many programs) that we can explore in future blogs. The New Year is coming and certainly there will be updates and improvements. We will definitely keep you informed.
In the meantime, utilize Quickbooks! It’s not as intimidating or aggravating as it once was. So, drink your mocha and repair the dents in your filing cabinet. Life for us Quickbooks users is better now and, dare we say, simpler.
If your business needs accounting & tax services of any nature, our team at A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your private and business accounting & tax service needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974 for more information.
Accounting. Crunching numbers. Balancing expense accounts. Filing tax records.
It seems so boring to many people (though we love it!) Or, perhaps it seems quite routine for others who come to us on a regular basis to file their tax returns or offer estate planning.
Whatever the case, accounting, to us accountants who have been in the business since word processor days, does not seem all that interesting in this fast-paced, always-changing digital world. That is what many of us accountants think.
Oh, how wrong that is!
In fact, accounting and bookkeeping can be quite interesting and people do pay attention. (As of this writing a feature film, “The Accountant”, starring Ben Affleck, has been released and is popular in the box office.) It’s really all in how we market it.
And, marketing is what we need to focus on if we want people to purchase our services and build relationships with us. But, they can’t do that if we market incorrectly or in the wrong venues.
So, here are Five Ways your Accounting Firm can Market its Services to the general public:
- Develop and Maintain a Strong Business Website: If they can’t find you, they can’t purchase your services. Every accounting firm needs a website with a detailed list of its services, its staff and its location. Your website should also have well-written copy, updated photos, strong search engine optimization and a contact page. It should also be mobile-ready and can be seen on all devices. Your website is the center of your online marketing.
- Create and Manage a Business Facebook Page: Facebook has surpassed 1.7 billion users. It is, by far, the most popular and most used social media channel in the world. It is still free and easy to use. Your firm can utilize Facebook its advantage. By posting quality content every weekday, you are building your brand, engaging your audience, educating your customers and promoting your services. Plus, your Facebook page is a reference point for people wanting to learn your location, hours, services and contact information. Lastly, it can send visitors to your accounting website, too. Facebook is a must for your marketing strategy.
- Write a monthly accounting blog: Blogs are perfect (and low-cost) ways to provide permanent and educational content for the public. In your blog (500-1,500 words), you can discuss any accounting topic you want (like ours!). It gives you a channel, similar to social media, in which you can educate, engage and sell to your audience. Just be sure to choose accounting topics and not use them as a way to advertise your services. Once you’ve written it is also easily transferable to all types of channels: blog page on your website, post on your social media, and send in your newsletter and email blasts.
- Social Media Ads: There was a time when advertising was expensive and you were never really sure who saw or heard your ads. Well those days are over. You can now advertise on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn for very little and still reach hundreds of thousands of potential clients. You set up the campaign dates, create a budget and write the copy. Social media is a bargain and may bring you potential clients who may not hear about you otherwise.
- Utilize Online Reviews: Did you know that the more reviews you have on Yelp, the more that the search engines (read “Google”) consider your accounting firm as having a “positive customer experience” with quality content? That’s correct. Yelp.com, the leading customer review website in the world, exists to showcase your business and publish reviews from your clients. If you have at least five reviews, Google may move you up higher in the search engines. Bottom line: Have your clients go there and let people know how well you did (as well as LinkedIn, Angie’s List and others.)
There are many more marketing activities you can do to publicize your accounting services but we will cover them in future blogs. Marketing takes time and money, but done well with a strategy, it can be done.
If your business needs accounting services from tax planning, to payroll to LLC and many other services, A. K. Burton, PC, can meet all your private and business accounting needs. Call us at (301) 365-1974.