24January
2019
Get Back in the Loop

Customer relations are key to your business. But as your company grows, so does the likelihood that you and other executives will lose touch with your clientele. Over time, you may let go of the individualized treatment that you felt compelled to offer as a new business. “If we aren’t customer driven, our cars won’t be either.” — Donald Petersen, former CEO of Ford Motor Company   Many companies even turn to outsiders to handle customer service. In an age of 24-hour, seven-day-a-week customer service, there’s a growing trend — especially among retailers — to outsource some tasks to third…

24January
2019
Make Sure Employees Dress for Success

Most employees want to fit in at work, but they also want to be comfortable during the one-third of their lives they spend on the job. That’s why a dress code is essential at many companies and should reflect your industry, the part of the country you’re located in and your clientele. Your company’s policies should give employees specific guidance, but not be too restrictive. For example, you probably don’t want to limit the type of ties your salesmen wear, unless they all wear ties with the corporate logo as part of a uniform. On the other hand, many companies…

24January
2019
Family Financing Can Be Fragile

Financing a family-run enterprise can bring out the worst in some people. So handling the transactions carefully can go a long way toward keeping the peace. Common sources of financing family firms can include personal savings, credit cards, home equity loans, second mortgages and personal loans — sometimes from relatives not directly involved in the business. These sources can cause the success or failure of the business and put family finances in jeopardy. Tax Consequences Family loans must be properly structured for several reasons: The lender must charge an interest rate the IRS considers adequate or there can be negative…

23January
2019
Announcing Managing Partner – James S. Pellen

We are honored to announce the appointment of James S. Pellen as Managing Partner effective January 1, 2019.

10January
2019
U.S. Personal Savings Rate

The U.S. personal saving rate stood at 5.5% in November 2017, quite a bit higher than its 10-year average of 4.5% and well below the recent five-year high of 11% in December 2012.1 The personal saving rate is the federal government’s estimate of what percent of their incomes U.S. households are saving. But market watchers and economists are mixed on what can be learned from swings in the saving rate. Why Economists Struggle They struggle with the personal saving rate because it’s a derivative number — that is, it’s not measured directly. Instead, the Bureau of Economic Analysis derives the…

10January
2019
Gain Employee Loyalty with Commuting Tax Breaks

Commuting can be a nightmare for employees. Your company can help by offering your staff members some financial relief from their commuting hassles. Employees appreciate this benefit and there’s a bonus for your company: You can save money on payroll taxes. Similar to a cafeteria plan election, staff members can have money deducted on a pre-tax basis to be applied toward the transportation benefits. Both the company and the employee avoid payroll taxes on the salary reduction. In another option, employees can be given the choice of taking the benefit in cash. However, if an employee takes cash, the amount is…

10January
2019
A Brief History of Estate Taxes

Federal estate taxes have been a source of funding for the federal government almost since the U.S. was founded. For Richer or Poorer Regardless of your net worth, it’s critical to understand your choices when developing an estate strategy. In 1797, Congress instituted a system of federal stamps that were required on all wills offered for probate when property (land, homes) was transferred from one generation to the next. The revenue from these stamps was used to build the navy for an undeclared war with France, which had begun in 1794. When the crisis ended in 1802, the tax was…

27December
2018
Eight Ways to Prevent Expense Account Fraud

Your employees may be cheating your company by turning in bogus expense reports. While each of these transactions may be small, they can add up to a bundle. Not only does expense account abuse erode profits, it creates an environment in which employees think they can get away with stealing — and perhaps move on to more lucrative fraudulent schemes. In addition, poor expense account reporting can jeopardize your company’s tax deductions for employee reimbursements if you ever get audited by the IRS.  For all these reasons, your company should have strict expense account policies. Here are eight specific suggestions: Create…

27December
2018
Gauging a Stock’s Risk

Stocks are primarily affected by two types of risk — market risk and nonmarket risk. Nonmarket risk, also called specific risk, is the risk that events specific to a company or its industry will adversely affect a stock’s price. Market risk is the risk that a stock’s price will be affected by overall stock market movements. Nonmarket risk can be reduced through diversification. By owning several different stocks in different industries whose stock prices have shown little correlation to each other, you reduce the risk that nonmarket factors will adversely affect your total portfolio.   From the SEC “All investments…

27December
2018
Trim Compensation Expenses

For many businesses, payroll is the single largest expense. Just the basics of wages and salaries add up significantly. But it doesn’t stop there. Your payroll costs are increased by about 24% when you add in vacations, FICA contributions, as well as unemployment, workers’ compensation, health insurance and other fringe benefits. And then there’s overtime — an expense that’s often difficult to control. If these costs aren’t closely monitored and controlled, your company could lose its competitive edge or, in a worst-case scenario, become unprofitable. Here’s a list of suggestions that can help you cut some costs while still adequately…

13December
2018
Tap into the Power of a Grantor Trust

The U.S. survived the worst recession since the Great Depression. But believe it or not, there is a silver lining: this tough economy has driven applicable federal rates (AFRs) to rock bottom levels. Each month, the IRS provides these prescribed rates for federal income tax purposes. AFRs are used to calculate the value of remainder and annuity interests and ensure that a debt transaction will not have below-market interest. So, what do these low AFRs mean for you? It means now is the perfect time to tap into the power of grantor trusts. Read on to learn about a few winning…

13December
2018
Tax Law Changes Affecting Partnerships, LLCs and Their Owners

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) brought many modifications to the tax laws that affect partnerships, limited liability companies (LLCs), and their owners. Here’s a look at the key changes. Technical Termination Rule Repealed Under prior law, a partnership (or LLC treated as a partnership for tax purposes) was considered to terminate for federal income tax purposes if, within a 12-month period, there was a sale or exchange of 50% or more of the partnership’s (LLC’s) capital and profits interests. This “technical termination rule” was generally unfavorable because: It could require you to file two short-period partnership tax returns…

13December
2018
Prenuptial Agreements as an Estate Planning Tool

Prenuptial agreements and domestic law vary from one state to another but nearly every state has laws that prevent one spouse from entirely disinheriting the other. However, with a prenuptial agreement, one spouse can waive his or her right to the other spouse’s estate. What if you are already re-married and didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement? You may be able to sign a post-nuptial agreement to accomplish the same goals. Consult with your attorney Let’s say you are getting married and have children from a previous marriage. Your spouse-to-be also has children and is financially secure. You may want to…

29November
2018
Keep Your Gear in Top-Notch Condition and Save Money

If your company has contracts for maintaining and servicing your equipment and vehicles, chances are, you’re spending more than you need to. A sure-fire way to save money is to hire your staff to do the work for you. Not only will in-house maintenance cut costs, it’s more convenient and boosts efficiency. For example, your business will be more productive if your vehicles and equipment continue to run during normal hours and are serviced by staff mechanics after hours. Survey Skills Before you move to in-house maintenance, though, take an inventory of your employees’ skills. Then, assign them to jobs…

29November
2018
Keep Your Company Running Smoothly With a Smart Strategy

In any company, making employees familiar with more than one job is critical to developing the business and dealing with the unexpected. A sure-fire strategy for coping with unforeseen circumstances is a cross training program. Learning more than one job gives team members a look at the whole operation and keeps them motivated. It also saves money and builds a solid succession plan. Above all, cross training makes your staff more valuable and helps ensure that your company will never be held hostage by employees who regard themselves as “indispensable.” So train your filing clerk to fill in for the…

29November
2018
The Benefits of Philanthropy

If you own a family business, there’s a good chance the company and your family are an integral part of the community. And that means public relations aren’t just part of the job — they’re fundamental to your company’s success. As a result, volunteering or donating to local organizations can benefit not only the community but your company’s long-term relationships. That, in turn, can improve your competitive edge. Philanthropy can bring several benefits. According to one study, the majority of consumers would switch to a brand or retailer associated with a good cause when price and quality are equal. In…

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