30July
2015
A Tax-Saving Gift with Strings Attached

Suppose you own a profitable business or a large amount of high-yielding assets. You’d like to give them to your children before you die. But if you do, you’ll pass up years of potential earnings, and you’re liable to pay a small fortune in federal gift taxes. One possible solution: Place your closely held business or other assets in a grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT). A GRAT allows you to transfer ownership of assets to your heirs through a short-term trust — usually 10 to 15 years. During that time, you draw income or annuity payments from the assets in…

30July
2015
Squeeze More Out of a Company SEP

If you want a retirement plan for your small company or self-employed business — but you don’t want to be buried in paperwork — consider a simplified employee pension plan or SEP. Among the appealing advantages: SEPs are set up by simply filling out a brief form. Annual reports aren’t required to be filed with the IRS, although you must provide a copy of the SEP form to each covered employee. (Most retirement plans require detailed reports to be filed with the IRS and the Department of Labor.) Contributions can go from zero to the maximum each year, so if…

30July
2015
Remember Business Basics When Paying Relatives

Paying family members wages, salaries and bonuses and dividing profits among them can be tricky. It’s not uncommon for some employees to feel they’re underpaid, but the same complaints are more personal in a family business. Different siblings may make different salaries or one relative may actually work more than another, even though they both earn the same compensation. Although some complaints will always exist, family business owners can ease some of these tensions and discrepancies — real or imagined — by looking critically at the company’s compensation policies. They may need to be reworked to reflect the true value…

16July
2015
Profit From an Energy Audit

Companies routinely evaluate opportunities to reduce expenses. However, many organizations are unaware of the savings that can result from a business energy audit. Not only are many of the savings from an energy audit sustainable, they are typically well received by employees and customers. Even better, your company may qualify for tax breaks for making energy-saving changes (consult with your tax pro for details). An effective energy audit begins with a data gathering exercise. Consider the following 10 steps: 1. Calculate your baseline energy use by reviewing utility bills. Building energy expenses such as water, electricity, gas and solid waste…

16July
2015
Managing Remote Employees: Five Issues to Consider

Allowing employees to work from home can provide significant benefits for employers and employees. It can improve morale, reduce real estate and facility costs — and even reduce traffic congestion and make the environment cleaner. However, when the appropriate oversight is lacking, fraud and abuse can result and wipe out many, if not all, of the benefits associated with a work-from-home program. Before allowing employees to commute to desks within their homes, consider the following issues to minimize the risk and maximize the returns associated with a work-from-home program: 1. Does working from home make sense for certain jobs? There…

16July
2015
And the Executor Is …

In her will, American businesswoman Leona Helmsley left $12 million in a trust fund to her dog Trouble. Her four executors were responsible for seeing that her wishes were carried out. In the years after her death, they dealt with challenges from two disinherited grandchildren, oversaw scores of properties and hotels, negotiated settlements with disgruntled former employees, and managed a huge investment portfolio in a falling economy. What did they ask for in return? $100 million spit between them.ยน The executor to your will may not be as busy or as well compensated as Ms. Helmsley’s. Still, you’ll want to…

02July
2015
Pull the Plug on Employee Theft

Not all crooks roam the streets at night. Some might be roaming your company hallways, stealing cash, forging or altering checks, and pilfering your inventory and property. Even worse, they may be stealing intellectual property such as confidential documents or trade secrets. What can you do to pull the plug on employee theft? Here Are 18 Crime Busters: Talk openly with your employees about theft and dishonesty. Set an example for ethical behavior. Be suspicious of any employee with a sudden financial change (for example, someone who starts buying expensive clothes, gifts, or cars). Prosecute offenders. It helps deter further…

02July
2015
Capture the Intellectual Property of Retiring Employees

How many Baby Boomer employees (those born between 1946 and 1964) will be leaving your organization in the next five years? When retiring employees clear out their desks and walk out the door for the last time, they often leave with fond memories — as well as vast amounts of intellectual property stored in their brains. Unfortunately, few organizations take the time to “debrief” retiring employees before they exit. Increasingly, companies are rethinking their approach and deploying innovative work arrangements that provide for the transfer of invaluable intellectual capital before employees retire. This can include: Four-day work weeks Work from…