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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

4 Things Business Owners Need To Put On Their 'Stop Doing' List

Most business owners think about creating a "start doing" list, with its endless recitations of things they could be doing more of in order for the company to be bigger, better or more profitable.
But there's just as much value in asking yourself, "What needs to go on my 'stop doing' list?" When you create such a list, you detach yourself from the tasks that take up time without improving your bottom line.
For busy entrepreneurs, here are the top four habits that need to go on your "stop doing" list if you want to see more productivity, innovation and success:

1. Working for free.

It all adds up — those little favors, those "quick" phone calls with a potential client who wants to "pick your brain" without hiring you. Pick and choose when you give of your time, without forgetting that for every item you complete when you say yes to someone else, you're saying "no" to yourself and your business....

To read full article, click here.
Source: Kate Swoboda (

Monday, December 15, 2014

Weekly US Unemployment Aid Applications Fall

WASHINGTON (AP) - Fewer people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, as the continued low levels of applicants reflect growing job security.

The Labor Department says weekly applications fell 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 294,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, ticked up a slight 250 to 299,250.

Over the past 12 months, the four-week average has plunged 10 percent...

To read full article, click here.

Source: The Associated Press (

Friday, December 12, 2014

11 QuickBooks tips for producing stellar reports

Today’s accounting systems capture unprecedented levels of information, requiring CPAs to sort through more data than ever. In last month’s JofA (page 64), the first article of a two-part series on QuickBooks provided general tips for printing, memorizing, organizing, and distributing groups of QuickBooks reports. The software also offers many powerful features that can help you mine financial data for the information and intelligence needed to make business decisions. This second article in the series looks at some of these features, ones that CPAs can apply in their organizations or can show clients how to use, strengthening their position as a trusted business adviser.

1. Controlling columns. QuickBooks provides a unique option for controlling the columns displayed in financial reports, and this tool is easy to use. Open any financial report, click the Columns tool dropdown menu, and then select an option, such as Month, Class, or Inventory Site.

In the example below, a basic “Profit & Loss” report has been customized to display detailed and subtotal columns for each inventory item and item category. This type of report makes it easy to review the profitability of each inventory item or each category of items. For example, on an item-by-item basis, we can easily see that the company sold $2,586.95 worth of regular Lighting, which cost $1,846.00 (generating a 28.6% profit), compared with $980.00 in sales of Fluorescent Ceiling Lights, which cost $796.32 and generated a profit of only 18.7%). By changing this same report to display data by “Item Type,” we could also see that sales for lumber products amounted to $452,312 (generating a 12.1% profit), while hardware sales amounted to $1,280,448 (producing a 22.7% profit margin). The ability to “slice and dice” financial data in this manner unlocks a potential treasure-trove of useful information....

To read full article, click here.

Source: J. Carlton Collins (

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Implementing an effective corporate ethics policy

When asked about their values, the vast majority of companies can provide a document they would describe as a code of ethics or conduct. However, research suggests a possible disconnect between companies’ stated intentions and the degree to which they truly value ethical behaviour.
Here are five steps that companies can take to ensure that their corporate ethics policy is effective and becomes embedded in the company culture. Also included are practical examples of the various ways organisations have accomplished this task.

1  Code of ethics

The essential elements of a code include assurances of support for the policies from organizational leadership, practical guidance on what is expected regarding ethical issues, commitments concerning stakeholder relationships, example Q&As, scenarios or decision trees, details of how the code will be implemented and monitored, and the consequences of misconduct. Signposts to further support, advice and other relevant policies should also be included....

To read full article, click here.
Source: Tanya Barman and Samantha White (

Friday, December 5, 2014

5 Year-End Tax Tips for Investors

On top of holiday preparations and celebrations in December, there are some year-end financial tasks that require attention. Many of those tasks on the financial to-do list have a tax component - specifically, avoiding unnecessary taxes on your investments, or worse, incurring a penalty.
Here are some reminders of tax consequences to consider before the new year rolls around:
1. Watch taxes on mutual funds. Mutual fund managers regularly sell securities to rebalance or accommodate shareholder redemptions. That creates capital gains for shareholders, even those with an unrealized loss on their mutual fund investment. This is particularly true for actively managed mutual funds, which have greater turnover than index funds.
But even if you are the owner of a mutual fund with overall gains, you may have a tax consequence for gains that occurred before you purchased it.
“If you are invested in a mutual fund, and each year, whenever there are gains in that fund, as there have been for the last few years, the fund distributes those gains on an annual basis to whoever is the holder of the mutual fund at the time of distribution,” says Steven Wallman, CEO of Folio Investing and a former commissioner on the Securities and Exchange Commission. “You end up with a very large potential tax liability, even though a good amount of that return might not have been yours." 
A worst-case scenario can occur when a person buys a mutual fund just before the tax distribution is made, then sells shortly thereafter, Wallman explains. “You have incurred the taxes but haven't gotten much of the return. That’s something people need to understand and think about. If you are investing in a mutual fund, it frequently does not provide an optimal tax result,” he says...

To read full article, click here.
Source: Kate Stalter (

Thursday, December 4, 2014

4 Crucial Steps to Help You Write More Effectively about Accounting

Increasingly, accountants have to work with a variety of departments, such as information technology and accounts payable, as organizations seek to leverage internal talent and reduce reliance on external consultants. Written communication, whether emails, memos or reports, is becoming increasingly important. Different locations and conflicting work schedules result in written communication composing a large chunk of communication among departments and professionals. How can accounting professionals, with improved business communication skills, deliver more value to their organizations?
Memos and other communications about accounting can prove to be very technical in nature. Additionally, accountants must understand the needs of other organizational members, as well as how the information being communicated is used. While not exhaustive, the following is a checklist to get the ball rolling.
  1. Quantifying the qualitative. Sustainability, corporate governance, and risk management are all buzzwords in the business landscape, particularly since the financial crisis, but what do they really mean? The ability to quantify these phrases, as well as the effect they will have on organizations, is critical to the continued success of the accounting profession. Creating metrics, standards, and methods of evaluating concepts is the proverbial bread-and-butter of the accounting field, and the areas mentioned above are prime examples of where accountants can take leadership roles in these conversations....

To read full article, click here.
Source: Sean Stein Smith (

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's Time to Get Your Clients Ready for the 2015 Tax Season

Mark Twain once said that the “only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.” Now, now, Mr. Twain. Someone whose only money-making invention was a self-pasting scrapbook (so says perhaps would have had more meat left had he known better to prepare for tax time and ask questions beforehand, no? Just sayin’.
So, we asked CPAs Fred Slater and Ellen Minkow, partners in MS 1040 LLC in New York, just what clients should be doing and asking months before that unavoidable April 15 deadline—as in, now.
What are the best ways to get organized for tax season?
Ellen: At this time of year, your mail starts getting heavy with investment information. People get concerned about capital gains, offsets of losses, taxable dividends and interest, and IRA distributions. And people who have married can be in a different [financial] situation than they were before. If someone died, you have issues concerning income changes, Social Security, IRAs and pensions.
They should do what’s like a health checkup to make sure what’s needed to be done all year has been done or should be done if it hasn’t.
They’ll get their tax organizers in late December but that’s already too late. I do a Thanksgiving letter. It wakes people up: What are you thankful for this year and do you have any changes you want to discuss?
Fred: From the accountant’s viewpoint, look at who prepared their returns last year. Did they have trouble getting information from the client? Should the person be getting financial planning? You don’t see this as much with high-end clients because they know there’s an advantage to preparation. But those who make more than $100,000 but less than $350,000 don’t always see the advantage or understand that by doing a little of the work in November and December with the accountant is beneficial for both.
What issues arise over a state of residence? Can your client prove it?....

To read full article, click here.
Source: Terry Sheridan (