3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Fundraising

Businessman And Businesswomen Having Informal Meeting In OfficeFundraising is very challenging: It’s a critical function that essentially never ends. Coming up with some innovative ideas can help add a fresh spark to the task.

Auction Action

If you have an individual patron or corporate donor who is willing to donate a big-ticket item — such as a car, a vacation, or even a home or other piece of real estate — you may be able to raise a substantial amount by having an auction. Consider selling a limited number of tickets at a relatively high price. Most supporters will be willing to pay a higher price in return for a better chance of winning the prize.

If auctioning off a single big-ticket item isn’t feasible, you may be able to find a lot of donors who will donate smaller items to an auction. Invite the whole community to attend and have plenty of publicity to generate excitement. You can charge admission and/or combine the auction with other fundraising opportunities to maximize the amount you raise.

Star Power

Investigate the possibility that someone involved with your organization knows or is related to someone with star power. A respected television or movie personality? A well-known author, artist, or athlete? If you discover that there is a connection to a public figure and find that he or she is willing to work with you, start making plans. There are many creative ways to use your relationship with a famous person to generate donations.

Advance Planning

When thinking up new fundraising ideas, use your imagination. Just be sure to set financial goals and run some realistic projections before you get too carried away with any one idea. No matter how exciting your plans look on paper, you should be reasonably certain ahead of time that you can raise enough money to make your efforts worthwhile. If it looks promising, allow yourself plenty of time to organize your event.

Our audit and assurance team can assist you with audits, reviews and compilations. Contact us to request a consultation, or give us a call today at 775-360-2017 and ask for Christy Horgan for more information.

“Extender” Legislation Impacts Individuals and Small Businesses

Woman Working From Home Using Laptop On Dining TableThe federal spending package that was enacted in the waning days of 2019 contains numerous provisions that will impact both businesses and individuals. In addition to repealing three health care taxes and making changes to retirement plan rules, the legislation extends several expired tax provisions. Here is an overview of several of the more important provisions in the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Relief Act of 2019.

Deduction for Mortgage Insurance Premiums

Before the Act, mortgage insurance premiums paid or accrued before January 1, 2018, were potentially deductible as qualified residence interest, subject to a phase-out based on the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI). The Act retroactively extends this treatment through 2020.

Reduction in Medical Expense Deduction Floor

For 2017 and 2018, taxpayers were able to claim an itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses to the extent that such expenses were greater than 7.5% of AGI. The AGI threshold was scheduled to increase to 10% of AGI for 2019 and later tax years. Under the Act, the 7.5% of AGI threshold is extended through 2020.

Qualified Tuition and Related Expenses Deduction

The above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses for higher education, which expired at the end of 2017, has been extended through 2020. The deduction is capped at $4,000 for a taxpayer whose modified AGI does not exceed $65,000 ($130,000 for those filing jointly) or $2,000 for a taxpayer whose modified AGI is not greater than $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers). The deduction is not allowed with modified AGI of more than $80,000 ($160,000 if you are a joint filer).

Credit for Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

The 10% credit for certain qualified energy improvements (windows, doors, roofs, skylights) to a principal residence has been extended through 2020, as have the credits for purchases of energy efficient property (furnaces, boilers, biomass stoves, heat pumps, water heaters, central air conditions, and circulating fans), subject to a lifetime cap of $500.

Empowerment Zone Tax Incentives

Businesses and individual residents within economically depressed areas that are designated as “Empowerment Zones” are eligible for special tax incentives. Empowerment Zone designations, which expired on December 31, 2017, have been extended through December 31, 2020, under the new tax law.

Employer Tax Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave

A provision in the tax code permits eligible employers to claim an elective general business credit based on eligible wages paid to qualifying employees with respect to family and medical leave. This credit has been extended through 2020.

Work Opportunity Tax Credit

Employers who hire individuals who belong to one or more of 10 targeted groups can receive an elective general business credit under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program. The recent tax law extends this credit through 2020.

For details about these and other tax breaks included in the recent law, please consult your tax advisor.

Our audit and assurance team can assist you with audits, reviews and compilations. Contact us to request a consultation, or give us a call today at 775-360-2017 and ask for Christy Horgan for more information.

Social Security: Note the Key Changes for 2020

Excelsis Accounting GroupThe Social Security Administration has released new numbers for those paying Social Security and those collecting it. Check out the new maximum taxable earnings amount as well as COLA and other key adjustments.

Every year, the Social Security Administration takes a fresh look at its numbers and typically makes adjustments. Here are the basics for 2020 — what has changed, and what hasn’t.

First, the basic percentages have not changed:

  • Employees and employers continue to pay 7.65% each, with the self-employed paying both halves.
  • The Medicare portion remains 1.45% on all earnings, with high earners continuing to pay an additional 0.9% in Medicare taxes.
  • The Social Security portion (OASDI) remains 6.20% on earnings up to the applicable taxable maximum amount — and that’s what’s changing:

Starting in 2020, the maximum taxable amount is $137,700, up from the 2019 maximum of $132,900. This actually affects relatively few workers; the Society for Human Resource Management notes in an article that only about 6% of employees earn more than the current taxable maximum.

Also changing is the retirement earnings test exempt amount. Those who have not yet reached normal retirement age but are collecting benefits will find the SSA withholding $1 in benefits for every $2 in earnings above a certain limit. That limit is $17,640 per year for 2019 and will be $18,240 for 2020. (See the SSA for additional information on how this works.)

Cost-of-living adjustments

Those collecting Social Security will see a slight increase in their checks: Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will receive a 1.6% COLA for 2020. This is based on the increase in the consumer price index from the third quarter of 2018 through the third quarter of 2019, according to the SSA.

A detailed fact sheet about the changes is available on the SSA site.

How QuickBooks Online Can Improve Your Company’s Financial Health

Excelsis Accounting GroupQuickBooks Online is more than just an online bookkeeper. It can help improve your cash flow, your customer relationships, your inventory readiness, and your future.

If you’re already using QuickBooks Online, you know how much impact its bookkeeping abilities have had on your company’s accounting operations. You’re saving time, which in-turn saves money, and you’re reducing errors. When a customer or vendor calls with a question, or you yourself need to track down a critical detail to solve a problem, you’re able to find solutions quickly.

You may already have learned, though, that QuickBooks Online’s benefits include much more than simply getting the numbers right. When you take advantage of all it can offer, you’re likely to notice more far-reaching effects.

The Specifics

Let’s look at how QuickBooks Online accomplishes all of this. You can do much of it on your own, but we’re trained to help small businesses get the most out of QuickBooks Online. We can help you maximize the effectiveness of your accounting time so your company can:

Better balance between income and expenses.

QuickBooks Online provides quick, real-time overviews of your sales status.

You can’t begin to improve your company’s cash flow until you understand where the financial bottlenecks are. QuickBooks Online provides that information for both income and expenses in a variety of ways. In the image above, you can see that there are seven past-due invoices. Click on the orange bar to see a list of them, and you can automatically send reminders. QuickBooks Online also automates the process of sending statements.

You can also run accounts receivable and accounts payable reports that will show where you stand with customers and vendors, like Open Invoices, Uninvoiced Time, Unpaid Bills, and Accounts Payable Aging Detail. If you determine that one of your consistent problems with cash flow is late customer payments, you can set up a merchant account through QuickBooks Online to support credit card payments and bank transfers.

More repeat business because of improved customer interaction.

Your customers are like gold. To build the best relationships possible with them, you need a clear, updated picture of their transactions, their payment details and history, and your interaction with them. QuickBooks Online provides templates for Customer Information records that provide all of that, along with their contact information and a real-time update of the status of their invoices and payments, estimates, time activities, etc. The latter is provided in the form of an interactive list with links to immediate actions you can take.

A more stable, profitable inventory of products.

If your business sells products, you know that you have to be smart about inventory levels. Stock too much and you have too much money tied up unnecessarily. Too little, and you’ll be turning customers away and possibly losing their future business. QuickBooks Online’s inventory-tracking tools help you achieve and maintain that balance, so you know both when and how much to reorder.

It’s easy to evaluate your inventory status very quickly in QuickBooks Online.

QuickBooks Online also offers multiple inventory reports, like Inventory Valuation Detail, Physical Inventory Worksheet, and Sales by Product/Service Detail.

Readiness for growth.

You may never want to acquire another company, or move into more spacious offices, or employ dozens of individuals. However, it’s not often that a company doesn’t want to be in a position to grow. And you never know when an opportunity will present itself that would require additional capital. Would you be ready?

If you’ve never applied for a business loan or tried to attract investors, you don’t know how much financial information you’ll need to provide, or in what format. There are very specific reports your potential lenders or investors will want to see, standard financial statements. QuickBooks Online includes templates for these, which include a Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss, and Statement of Cash Flows.

Like the reports we mentioned earlier, they’re easy to generate on the site, thanks to intelligent, customizable templates. Analyzing them, though, and making sure they’re ready to be seen by third-parties takes professional expertise. We can provide that for you. We can also help you better understand and use other elements of QuickBooks Online so that you’re taking advantage of all of its benefits. Contact us soon to set up an initial consultation.

Social media posts

Cash flow problems? Before you can solve them, you need to learn where the bottlenecks are. QuickBooks Online can help. Contact us to find out how.

Is your company ready to grow? You’ll need reports to show lenders and investors. QuickBooks Online can create them, and we can analyze them for you.

How well do you know your customers? Could you assemble a quick, thorough overview of their history with you? QuickBooks Online can, and we can show you how. Are you dealing with product inventory problems due to overstocks or insufficient orders from vendors? QuickBooks Online can help.

4 Areas to Consider When Transitioning Employees to Working From Home

women working in officeFor businesses that haven’t traditionally embraced remote employees, it may be difficult to get up to full speed with the current turn of events.  To make the inevitable transition less overwhelming, we assembled a handy checklist of actions to consider while adjusting to the new workplace reality.

Organization

  • Access your staff members and/or roles that are able to work remotely, those that can’t work remotely, and those where remote work may be possible with some modifications.
  • Conduct an employee survey to determine the availability of computers that can be used for working remotely, as well as availability to high-speed internet access.
  • Create company guidelines covering remote employees, including inappropriate use of company assets and security guidelines.
  • Develop and conduct work-at-home- training for using remote access, remote tools, and best practices.
  • Select a video-conferencing platform for services, such as Zoom, Cisco WebEx, or Go To Meeting.
  • Develop a communications plan to involve remote employees in the daily activities of the organization.

 Security

  • Create and implement a company security policy that applies to remote employees, including actions such as locking computers when not in use.
  • Implement two-factor authentication for highly-sensitive portals.
  • If needed, confirm all remote employees have access to and can use a business-grade VPN, and that you have enough licenses for all employees working remotely.

Staff

  • Institute a transparency policy with your staff and communicate frequently.
  • Check in on your staff, daily if possible, to confirm they are comfortable with working from home. Find and address any problems they may be experiencing.
  • Make certain each staff member has reliable voice communications, even if this results in adding a business-quality voice over IP service.
  • Don’t attempt to micro-manage your staff. Remember their working conditions at home won’t be ideal, and they will need to work out their own work patterns and schedules.
  • Create a phone number and email address where staff members can communicate their concerns about the firm, working at home, or even the status of COVID-19.

Infrastructure

  • Ensure that you have ample bandwidth coming in to your company to handle all of the new remote traffic.
  • Make sure you have backups of your services so your staff is able to keep working in the event extra traffic causes your primary service to go down.

You may need to adjust or expand this list to match the specific needs of your firm and the conditions affecting your organization.  Use this list to get you started and to help guide you through the process.

Contact us to request a consultation, or give us a call today at 775-332-4201 and ask for Mark Bailey for more information.

Do You Have to File an Information Return?

accountant working in officeIf you made or received a payment in a calendar year as a small business or self-employed individual, you most likely are required to file an information return to the IRS. Click through to learn what this means.

If you engaged in certain financial transactions during the calendar year as a small business or self-employed (individual), you are most likely required to file an information return to the IRS. Below are some of the transactions that you have to report.

  • Services performed by independent contractors — those not employed by your business.
  • Prizes and awards, as well as certain other payments — termed other income.
  • Rent.
  • Royalties.
  • Backup withholding or federal income tax withheld.
  • Payments to physicians, physicians’ corporation or other suppliers of health and medical services.
  • Substitute dividends or tax-exempt interest payments, and you are a broker.
  • Crop insurance proceeds.
  • Gross proceeds of $600 or more paid to an attorney.
  • Interest on a business debt to someone (excluding interest on an obligation issued by an individual.
  • Dividends and other distributions to a company shareholder.
  • Distribution from a retirement or profit plan, or from an IRA or insurance contract.
  • Payments to merchants or other entities in settlement of reportable payable transactions — any payment card or third-party network transaction.

Being in receipt of a payment may also require you to file an information return. Some examples include:

  • Payment of mortgage interest (including points) or reimbursements of overpaid interest from individuals.
  • Sale or exchange of real estate.
  • You are a broker and you sold a covered security belonging to your customer.
  • You are an issuer of a security taking a specified corporate action that affects the cost basis of the securities held by others.
  • You released someone from paying a debt secured by property, or someone abandoned property that was subject to the debt or otherwise forgave their debt to you (1099-C).
  • You made direct sales of at least $5,000 of consumer products to a buyer for resale anywhere other than in a permanent retail establishment.

Keep in mind that information is for businesses. You will not have to file an information return if you are not engaged in a trade or business. You also will not have to file an information return if you are engaged in a trade or business and 1) the payment was made to another business that’s incorporated, but wasn’t for medical or legal services or 2) the sum of all payments made to the person or unincorporated business was less than $600 in one tax year.

This is just an introduction to a complicated topic, and the mechanics of filing such a return are filled with essential details. If you’re running a business, even a small one, be sure to discuss the details with a qualified professional.

Our team of tax planning and income tax preparation professionals can help you save on taxes. Contact us to request a consultation, or give us a call today at 775-332-4201 and ask for Mark Bailey for more information.

Payroll Taxes: Who’s Responsible?

binder with payrollAny business with employees must withhold money from its employees’ paychecks for income and employment taxes, including Social Security and Medicare taxes (known as Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes, or FICA), and forward that money to the government. A business that knowingly or unknowingly fails to remit these withheld taxes in a timely manner will find itself in trouble with the IRS.

The IRS may levy a penalty, known as the trust fund recovery penalty, on individuals classified as “responsible persons.” The penalty is equal to 100% of the unpaid federal income and FICA taxes withheld from employees’ pay.

Who’s a Responsible Person?

Any person who is responsible for collecting, accounting for, and paying over withheld taxes and who willfully fails to remit those taxes to the IRS is a responsible person who can be liable for the trust fund recovery penalty. A company’s officers and employees in charge of accounting functions could fall into this category. However, the IRS will take the facts and circumstances of each individual case into consideration.

The IRS states that a responsible person may be:

  • An officer or an employee of a corporation
  • A member or employee of a partnership
  • A corporate director or shareholder
  • Another person with authority and control over funds to direct their disbursement
  • Another corporation or third-party payer
  • Payroll service providers
  • The IRS will target any person who has significant influence over whether certain bills or creditors should be paid or is responsible for day-to-day financial management.

Working With the IRS

If your responsibilities make you a “responsible person,” then you must make certain that all payroll taxes are being correctly withheld and remitted in a timely manner.

Our team of tax planning and income tax preparation professionals can help you save on taxes. Contact us to request a consultation, or give us a call today at 775-332-4201 and ask for Mark Bailey for more information.

Close-up on professional standards for CPAs

The accounting profession is largely self-regulated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Part of its mission involves the development and enforcement of a broad range of standards for the profession.

Why do these standards matter to you? By having a little familiarity with the guidance that accountants and auditors follow, business owners and managers are better able to take advantage of the services offered by CPAs.

Existing standards

The AICPA requires CPAs to adhere to overarching ethical guidance contained in its code of professional conduct. Additional guidance is contained in standards for the following types of services:

Audit and attest. These standards must be followed when conducting, planning, and reporting audit and attestation engagements — such as compilations, reviews and agreed-upon procedures — of nonpublic companies.

Preparation, compilation and review. This guidance specifically governs such engagements for nonpublic companies.

Tax. These rules apply regardless of where the CPA practices or the types of tax services provided.

Personal financial planning. These standards cover such services as estate, retirement, investments, risk management, insurance and tax planning for individuals.

Consulting services. This guidance applies to CPAs who provide consulting services related to technology or industry-specific expertise, as well as management and financial skills.

Valuation services. Business valuations may be performed for a variety of reasons, including tax and accounting compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and litigation.

The AICPA also has standards governing the administration of continuing professional education programs and peer review of the work performed by other CPAs.

New Forensic Accounting Standard

Similar to the need for valuation services, demand for forensic accounting services has grown significantly in recent years. So, the AICPA recently added a standard for forensic services. This newly approved guidance covers investigations and litigation engagements involving forensic accountants. It goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

Beware: Statement on Standards for Forensic Services No. 1 places several limitations on forensic accountants, including prohibitions on charging contingent fees and providing legal opinions or the “ultimate conclusion” regarding fraud. Instead, it’s up to the trier-of-fact (generally a judge or jury) to determine innocence or guilt regarding fraud allegations. However, a CPA can express opinions regarding whether the evidence is “consistent with certain elements of fraud” and other laws based on their objective evaluation.

Bottom line

For any given assignment, a CPA may be required to follow multiple professional standards. In addition, CPAs adhere to general standards of the accounting profession, including competence, due professional care, and the use of sufficient, relevant data. These extensive rules and restrictions are good news for you — they promote the highest levels of quality and consistency when you receive services from a CPA.

© 2019


Employee vs. independent contractor: How should you handle worker classification?



Many employers prefer to classify workers as independent contractors to lower costs, even if it means having less control over a worker’s day-to-day activities. But the government is on the lookout for businesses that classify workers as independent contractors simply to reduce taxes or avoid their employee benefit obligations.

Why it matters

When your business classifies a worker as an employee, you generally must withhold federal income tax and the employee’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes from his or her wages. Your business must then pay the employer’s share of these taxes, pay federal unemployment tax, file federal payroll tax returns and follow other burdensome IRS and U.S. Department of Labor rules.

You may also have to pay state and local unemployment and workers’ compensation taxes and comply with more rules. Dealing with all this can cost a bundle each year.

On the other hand, with independent contractor status, you don’t have to worry about employment tax issues. You also don’t have to provide fringe benefits like health insurance, retirement plans and paid vacations. If you pay $600 or more to an independent contractor during the year, you must file a Form 1099-MISC with the IRS and send a copy to the worker to report what you paid. That’s basically the extent of your bureaucratic responsibilities.

But if you incorrectly treat a worker as an independent contractor — and the IRS decides the worker is actually an employee — your business could be assessed unpaid payroll taxes plus interest and penalties. You also could be liable for employee benefits that should have been provided but weren’t, including penalties under federal laws.

Filing an IRS form

To find out if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor, you can file optional IRS Form SS-8, “Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding.” Then, the IRS will let you know how to classify a worker. However, be aware that the IRS has a history of classifying workers as employees rather than independent contractors.

Businesses should consult with us before filing Form SS-8 because it may alert the IRS that your business has worker classification issues — and inadvertently trigger an employment tax audit.

It can be better to simply treat independent contractors so the relationships comply with the tax rules. This generally includes not controlling how the workers perform their duties, ensuring that you’re not the workers’ only customer, providing annual Forms 1099 and, basically, not treating the workers like employees.

Workers can also ask for a determination

Workers who want an official determination of their status can also file Form SS-8. Disgruntled independent contractors may do so because they feel entitled to employee benefits and want to eliminate self-employment tax liabilities.

If a worker files Form SS-8, the IRS will send a letter to the business. It identifies the worker and includes a blank Form SS-8. The business is asked to complete and return the form to the IRS, which will render a classification decision.

Defending your position

If your business properly handles independent contractors, don’t panic if a worker files a Form SS-8. Contact us before replying to the IRS. With a proper response, you may be able to continue to classify the worker as a contractor. We also can assist you in setting up independent contractor relationships that stand up to IRS scrutiny.

© 2019


Close-up on professional standards for CPAs

The accounting profession is largely self-regulated by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Part of its mission involves the development and enforcement of a broad range of standards for the profession.

Why do these standards matter to you? By having a little familiarity with the guidance that accountants and auditors follow, business owners and managers are better able to take advantage of the services offered by CPAs.

Existing standards

The AICPA requires CPAs to adhere to overarching ethical guidance contained in its code of professional conduct. Additional guidance is contained in standards for the following types of services:

Audit and attest. These standards must be followed when conducting, planning, and reporting audit and attestation engagements — such as compilations, reviews and agreed-upon procedures — of nonpublic companies.

Preparation, compilation and review. This guidance specifically governs such engagements for nonpublic companies.

Tax. These rules apply regardless of where the CPA practices or the types of tax services provided.

Personal financial planning. These standards cover such services as estate, retirement, investments, risk management, insurance and tax planning for individuals.

Consulting services. This guidance applies to CPAs who provide consulting services related to technology or industry-specific expertise, as well as management and financial skills.

Valuation services. Business valuations may be performed for a variety of reasons, including tax and accounting compliance, mergers and acquisitions, and litigation.

The AICPA also has standards governing the administration of continuing professional education programs and peer review of the work performed by other CPAs.

New Forensic Accounting Standard

Similar to the need for valuation services, demand for forensic accounting services has grown significantly in recent years. So, the AICPA recently added a standard for forensic services. This newly approved guidance covers investigations and litigation engagements involving forensic accountants. It goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

Beware: Statement on Standards for Forensic Services No. 1 places several limitations on forensic accountants, including prohibitions on charging contingent fees and providing legal opinions or the “ultimate conclusion” regarding fraud. Instead, it’s up to the trier-of-fact (generally a judge or jury) to determine innocence or guilt regarding fraud allegations. However, a CPA can express opinions regarding whether the evidence is “consistent with certain elements of fraud” and other laws based on their objective evaluation.

Bottom line

For any given assignment, a CPA may be required to follow multiple professional standards. In addition, CPAs adhere to general standards of the accounting profession, including competence, due professional care, and the use of sufficient, relevant data. These extensive rules and restrictions are good news for you — they promote the highest levels of quality and consistency when you receive services from a CPA.

© 2019