For business profitability, understand the law of the vital few

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How well do you know your customers? Which ones are the most profitable? Which ones take most of your time? Finding the answers to these questions can be worthwhile, because you may discover that the 80-20 rule, also known as the law of the vital few, applies to your business. The rule is a shorthand way of saying 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers.

If you can identify that top 20%, you can focus your efforts to make sure this group remains satisfied customers. Sometimes all it takes is an appreciative phone call or a little special attention. Also, by understanding what makes this group profitable, you can work to bring other customers into that category.

Keep in mind that it’s not always profits alone that make a good customer. Other factors, such as frequency of orders, reliability of the business, speed of payment, and joy to deal with are important too. Ask your accounting staff and your sales staff. You’ll soon come up with a list of top customers.

There’s another way in which the 80-20 rule applies to your business. Very likely, 80% of your problems and complaints come from 20% or fewer of your customers. If you identify those problem customers, you can change the way you do business with them to reduce the problems. Consider changing your pricing for those customers so you’re being paid for the extra time and effort they require. Sometimes the only solution is to tell these customers that you no longer wish to do business with them.

The bottom line is that understanding your customers better will improve your business. Contact us if you need help analyzing customer profitability.

Don’t be forced out of a 401(k) from your former job

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When you change jobs and abandon vested amounts in your 401(k), your former employer has to follow IRS rules and plan provisions for dealing with your account balance. Pursuant to these guidelines, the 401(k) plan may have a “force-out” provision. That means when your vested balance is less than $5,000, you can be forced to take your money out of the plan.

Your former employer is required to give you advance notice of this rule so you can decide what to do with the money. Your choices are to cash out your account and receive a check, or roll your account balance into an IRA or your new employer’s plan.

What happens if you fail to respond to the notice? If your vested balance is more than $1,000, your former employer must transfer the money to an IRA. For balances under $1,000, you will either get a check or your former employer will open an IRA on your behalf.

Neither outcome is optimal, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. If you receive the money, you’ll owe federal income tax. When the balance is transferred to an IRA, account fees may outpace investment returns and your balance will be eroded over time.

Protecting assets you worked for and earned is always a smart move. Call us for assistance.

Access tax details online

 

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Transcripts of your federal income tax return, tax account, wages and income, and record of account, as well as a verification of non-filing, are once again available for no charge online at the IRS website. Sign up to view, print, or download your transcript, or request that a transcript be mailed to you. Remember, transcripts only provide line-by-line information. If you need a copy of your original return, use Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, instead. Contact us if you have questions.

 

Form 5500 due date is approaching

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August 1, 2016, is the deadline for filing Form 5500 for retirement or employee benefit plans on a calendar year. (The usual due date of July 31, 2016, is a Sunday.) There are two updates to be aware of. First, Form 5500 includes new compliance questions that plan sponsors can skip when completing the form. Second, if you’re required to file at least 250 returns of any type with the IRS, including information returns (for example, Form W-2 and Form 1099), you may need to electronically file Form 5500-EZ for calendar year 2015.

Are you taking steps to prevent fraud in your business?

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The 2016 Global Fraud Study released recently by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners shows that asset misappropriation occurred in more than 83% of the cases reported. Asset misappropriation includes billing and check tampering schemes. According to the study, billing schemes were most common, comprising slightly more than 22% of the cases, and check tampering schemes were the costliest, with a median loss of $158,000. Not surprisingly, businesses with poor internal controls, or no internal controls, were the most susceptible. Contact us for tips and suggestions for keeping your business assets safe.

 

Suggestions for keeping your workforce upbeat

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Happy employees can have a positive impact on your operations, customer support, and profit level. Here are suggestions for keeping your workforce upbeat.

 
Lead by example. Demonstrate the personal discipline and commitment you hope to instill in your workers by showing up every day with a positive attitude.

 
Emphasize the link between attendance and productivity. Absenteeism is a symptom of unhappy employees. Help your employees understand the importance of the role they play in the success of the business.

 
Learn what motivates your employees. Conduct an online survey to learn if money, recognition, promotion, or time off drives your employees.

 
Enrich skillsets. Cross-training and job rotation can improve appreciation for overall business operations and mitigate boredom and dissatisfaction.

 
Create a time-off bank. Modify the traditional offering of vacation, personal, and sick days. Give your employees the responsibility and ability to balance work and home obligations by empowering them to manage total available paid time off.

 
Other suggestions for a healthy working environment and happy employees include celebrations and team building. While these “soft” methods may seem a distraction from everyday business, your employees will appreciate the effort and your business will profit from the resulting improvements in performance.

HSAs, FSAs and HRAs all offer tax-advantaged funding of health care expenses. But each type of account has its own rules and limits. Here’s the lowdown on how they compare.

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With health care costs continuing to climb, tax-friendly ways to pay for these expenses are more attractive than ever. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) all provide opportunities for tax-advantaged funding of health care expenses. But what’s the difference between these three accounts?Here’s an overview:

HSA. If you’re covered by a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you can contribute pretax income to an employer-sponsored HSA — or make deductible contributions to an HSA you set up yourself — up to $3,350 for self-only coverage and $6,750 for family coverage for 2016. Plus, if you’re age 55 or older, you may contribute an additional $1,000.
You own the account, which can bear interest or be invested, growing tax-deferred similar to an IRA. Withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free, and you can carry over a balance from year to year.

 
FSA. Regardless of whether you have an HDHP, you can redirect pretax income to an employer-sponsored FSA up to an employer-determined limit — not to exceed $2,550 in 2016. The plan pays or reimburses you for qualified medical expenses.
What you don’t use by the plan year’s end, you generally lose — though your plan might allow you to roll over up to $500 to the next year. Or it might give you a 2 1/2-month grace period to incur expenses to use up the previous year’s contribution. If you have an HSA, your FSA is limited to funding certain “permitted” expenses.

 
HRA. An HRA is an employer-sponsored account that reimburses you for medical expenses. Unlike an HSA, no HDHP is required. Unlike an FSA, any unused portion typically can be carried forward to the next year. And there’s no government-set limit on HRA contributions. But only your employer can contribute to an HRA; employees aren’t allowed to contribute.

 
Questions? We’d be happy to answer them — or discuss other ways to save taxes in relation to your health care expenses.

Did you get your new “chip” card?

ccThe latest credit cards have a new feature: a half-inch square on the card’s face that looks like a mini circuit board. The square is a small computer chip called an EMV. The acronym stands for Europay, MasterCard, and VISA, the developers of the technology. Over the next several years, these chip-embedded cards are expected to replace the familiar magnetic strip technology on cards that you now swipe at point-of-sale devices. When you use your EMV card, you’ll need to “dip,” or insert, it into a new type of reader.

 
Why the change? The new chips are expected to improve credit and debit card security. Data on cards with the older technology is much easier for crooks to steal because the information on the magnetic strip is static and can be copied. As a result, a thief can use your card for multiple fraudulent transactions. Cards with the new chip are different. Every time you use an EMV card, the chip creates a unique transaction code. As a result, the newer cards aren’t as useful to counterfeiters and card thieves

If you find yourself on the IRS mailing list, here’s what to do

envelope-34738_640How to respond to an IRS notice

● Scan the heading. The first line, generally printed in bold type and centered beneath your name and address, will tell you why the IRS is contacting you. Questions about missing information, additional taxes owed, or payments due mean you’ll want to take prompt action to avoid more notices or assessments of interest and penalties.

 
● Review the discrepancy. You’ll find the tax form and the year to which the notice applies printed in the upper right corner. Pull out your copy of the corresponding tax return, along with the supporting documents, and compare what you filed with what the IRS is questioning.

 
● Prepare your explanation. Are the proposed changes correct? Did the IRS misapply a payment? Whatever the issue, there’s usually no need to file an amended return. However, the IRS typically wants a response, either by phone or mail, in order to clear the notice from your account.

 
● Do not delay. Ignoring IRS correspondence will not make it go away. Reply to the IRS in a timely manner even if you don’t have all the information being requested.

 
Please contact us if you receive a notice from the IRS, or your state or local taxing authority. We’re here to set your mind at ease by helping you resolve the matter as quickly as possible.

 

Trying to decide the perfect price for your products? Here are 3 suggestions!

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The prices you set for your products and services affect every aspect of your business, including long-term viability, short-term profits, market share, and customer loyalty. While the guidebook or financial guru who can provide the perfect answer to this important decision doesn’t exist, tried-and-true principles can help. Here are three suggestions to arrive at reasonable pricing for your market and industry.

 
Cover costs. The price you charge for a particular product must at least equal the cost of producing that product. Depending on your industry, production costs might include raw materials, storage, salaries, advertising, delivery, rent, equipment, taxes, and insurance. Some of these will be categorized on your income statement as “cost of goods sold.” Others will be overhead. Some, such as rent and utilities, are relatively fixed. Others are variable, such as shipping and stocking fees. Adding the amount of profit you want to earn as a percentage (called the cost-plus pricing method) is one way to arrive at an appropriate price.

 
Know your market. Some businesses hire research firms to develop detailed reports on competitors, markets, and forecasts for a particular region or industry. But you may be able to get a handle on your market by using surveys and other methods of ferreting out customer perceptions about your product and service quality, the effectiveness of your advertising, and the reasonableness of your prices as compared to your competition.

 
Monitor regularly. Product pricing is not a one-time event. Instead, you’ll want to monitor the impact of price fluctuations on sales revenue over time. Overpricing – charging more than a reasonable buyer can be expected to pay – may limit sales. Underpricing may create the perception of poor quality or lead to unsustainably low profit margins.

 
Contact us for more tips and techniques that can help you manage your company profitably.