Monday, November 23, 2015

Slow down so you don't fall for scams

There seems to be more small business scams out there than ever.  I am a QuickBooks ProAdvisor and every day I get an email inquiring about my services as do many other ProAdvisors.  The scammers get our email address off the Intuit ProAdvisor site and send a request for services.  Many of the requests are barely literate which is a clue that they aren't legitimate.  Some ProAdvisors have responded to the requests and they get an email response with a PDF attached which they are supposed to open to get the details for the requested services.  I don't any who have opened the attached PDF, but I am sure nothing good will come for it.

Another scheme is asking for you to verify your credit card or your email for your QuickBooks or other web based services you utilize.  A clue there is that while the logo and details in the email look legitimate, the email address is not.  Legitimate businesses would never initiate a verification via email.

A business I work with recently had a close call when the accountant received an email from the owner asking him to make a wire transfer of close to $100,000 to pay for some capital expenditures.  The email address looked legitimate but the accountant wisely checked via phone as he was unaware of any planned expenditures.

The key in all of this is to read through any requests for information carefully and to take a moment to think if the request is reasonable and expected.  Always call to verify that the request is legitimate before you respond and use a phone number you look up, not one provided in the questionable email.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

It's the middle of November-are you ready for the end of the year?

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching which is hard to believe.  It seems like it was just summer and yet we are over half way through November.  This is a good time to get organized for the end of the year as we will be saying that next!

What do you need to do for the end of the year?  Many small business owners must make estimated tax payments due to their ownership structure. If you haven't had your tax accountant review your financials, now is the time to do so. If your income has gone up significantly, you may need to make a large final deposit by January 15th in order to avoid penalties for under payment.  You avoid penalties by making sure you owe less than $1000 in tax after subtracting withholdings and credits or by paying at least 90% of the tax for the current year, or 100% of the tax shown on the prior year's return, whichever is smaller.  You can also discuss ways to reduce your tax burden.  Tax accountants often suggest purchasing equipment or paying certain bills ahead, but make sure you are considering all your cash flow needs before you do so.

If you have employees, you will want to verify their current mailing addresses so you system is up-to-date before W2s are prepared.  Make sure you look for any fringe benefits which need to be reported on the W2s.  This includes moving expense reimbursements, educational reimbursements, health and life insurance and transportation subsidies.  If the employees have a company car, you will need to know what their personal usage was as this is another fringe benefit which must be taxed. You should also look at which vendors will need 1099s and make sure you have their addresses and W9s in hand.

If you have inventory, now is the time to schedule your physical inventory count.  Make sure you have sufficient staffing and think about ordering food to make it more fun for everyone.

It is also a good time to start preparing your budget for 2016.  What are your goals for the year? What were your major accomplishments this year? What changes need to be made?  Setting aside a day for strategic planning is a good way to get this done.

Take a look at your website and make sure all the links still operate and whether it still properly reflects your brand.  If social media is an important part of your marketing efforts, create a calendar for the next year.

Few entrepreneurs like tax planning and organizing, but doing so will help keep your small business moving forward,