Posted by: tammi1040 | February 13, 2014

Every Small Business Should Establish Controls

Every week reporters publish stories about companies that have lost thousands, even millions of dollars because of fraud. They recount the dreadful details of business owners who learned – too late – that a lack of basic controls left their companies vulnerable to pilferage, embezzlement, and other types of misappropriation.

How do these lessons apply to small businesses? After all, small firms generally can’t afford to hire internal auditors or set up separate divisions to break up incompatible duties. While it’s true that a small company can’t always protect itself in ways larger firms might, management can establish controls in certain high-risk areas, such as the following:

Cash disbursements. If at all possible, the owner/manager should sign checks. This control has a dual purpose: management sees how the company is spending its money, and the cash disbursement function is kept separate from bookkeeping or accounting. If the same person signs checks and enters disbursement transactions in the accounting records, embezzlement is harder to prevent. Requiring two signatures on checks above a certain amount also provides greater control.

Customer collections. Consider having the owner/manager open the mail, especially if customer collections are a regular part of your business. Alternatively, you might ask someone separate from the accounting function to open the mail and prepare the deposit slip. Of course, the practice of making daily deposits is also a good control.

Personnel practices. By taking care to perform background checks before hiring key employees, especially those who will be handling cash or other high-risk assets, you can prevent problems later on. Of course, financial pressures, addictions, and other factors can corrupt even good employees. That’s why managers might consider discreetly monitoring employee lifestyles (without invading anyone’s privacy, of course). An observant manager might note that certain lower-level employees are living well beyond their means, or that warehouse staff are carrying off company materials to remodel personal residences.

Perhaps a small business’s greatest control is the “tone at the top.” If management sets a high standard, employees generally follow. However, if a manager is perceived as lax – for example, he or she doesn’t respond quickly when evidence of misappropriation surfaces – employees might conclude that theft isn’t such a big deal.

Remember this: A company that fails to establish minimum controls is providing a golden opportunity for fraud. If you’d like help reviewing your firm’s controls, give us a call.

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Posted by: tammi1040 | February 6, 2014

Who needs an “Employer Identification Number”?

If you do any of the following, you will need an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS:

If you operate your business as a corporation or partnership.

If you file reports for employment taxes, excise tax, or alcohol, tobacco and firearms.

If you have even one employee.

If you have a self-employed retirement plan.

If you operate as any of several other organizations.

Acquiring an EIN is very quick and simple. You do not need to complete the Form SS-4 unless you prefer to. Go to www.irs.gov. Once there, use the search box and type in EIN online. You will be taken to the page that allows you to answer questions online and you will get your EIN upon validation of your answers. You will be able to download and print your confirmation notice.

If you need assistance, please contact our office. We are here to help you.

Posted by: tammi1040 | January 28, 2014

Who Must File a 2013 Income Tax Return?

The rules for filing 2013 tax returns are straightforward for most people. Marital status, age, and income level are generally the determining factors. Here’s a quick overview of the income levels at which a 2013 return is required.

*Single individual…..$10,000

*Single individual, 65 or older…..$11,500

*Married individual, separate return, regardless of age…..$3,900

*Married couple, joint return…..$20,000

*Married couple, joint return, one spouse 65 or older…..$21,200

*Married couple, joint return, both spouses 65 or older…..$22,400

*Head of household…..$12,850

*Head of household, 65 or older…..$14,350

*Qualifying widow or widower (surviving spouse)…..$16,100

*Qualifying widow or widower (surviving spouse), 65 or older…..$17,300

Different IRS rules govern filing for dependents, those who owe special taxes (e.g., self-employment tax), children under age 19 and noncitizens. Also taxpayers due a refund should file regardless of income level.

For more information or filing assistance, contact our office.

Posted by: tammi1040 | January 23, 2014

Check the Tax Rules Before Lending Money to Relatives

There are many worthwhile reasons to lend money to a relative. For example, you may want to help a child or sibling continue their education or start their own business.

But lending money to relatives can have tax consequences. The IRS requires that a minimum rate of interest be charged on loans. If you do not charge at least the minimum rate, the IRS will still require you to pay tax on the difference between the interest you should have charged and what you actually charged. If these excess amounts become large, or if the loan is forgiven, there may also be gift tax implications.

There are some exceptions, though. Loans of up to $10,000 generally can be made at a lower (or zero) rate of interest, as long as the proceeds aren’t invested. Loans between $10,001 and $100,000 are exempt from the minimum interest requirement as well, as long as the borrower’s investment income is $1,000 or less. If the investment income exceeds $1,000, you’ll be taxed on the lesser of this income or the minimum IRS interest.

For the IRS to treat the transaction as a loan and not a gift subject to the gift tax rules, the transaction must look like a loan. The borrower should have the ability to repay the principal and interest. A contract should be prepared which specifies the loan amount, interest rate, the payment dates and amounts, any security or collateral, as well as late fees and steps to be taken if the borrower doesn’t pay. Have the document signed and dated by all the parties. For assistance, give us a call.

Posted by: tammi1040 | January 15, 2014

1099 Reporting due in Janary

Nearly every company, large or small, has to file Form 1099-MISC with the IRS and send a copy to recipients by January 31, 2014. 

You use Form 1099-MISC to report miscellaneous payments to nonemployees. This includes fees for services paid to independent contractors, such as consultants, lawyers, cleaning services, and others. Generally, you don’t report fees paid to corporations, but there are exceptions (payments to lawyers, for example).

 For details or filing assistance, contact our office.

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