My VTA

610-250-0862

Stay up to date on business processes affected by Covid-19 click here to learn more

Insights

With the hubbub of the holidays almost here, November and early December may be the only time you have available to do your end-of-year financial planning. Whether your focus is personal finances or business interests, you can always contact us for help with tax planning.

Perhaps more than any event in recent memory, the pandemic has driven home the value of establishing or strengthening a personal or business emergency fund. If building an emergency fund is one of your New Year’s resolutions, we have some tips to make the process as pain-free as possible. We also have guidelines so you can be sure the financial gifts and incentives you give this holiday pass muster with the IRS. And make sure you check out our list of 22 tax breaks you may be able to use for your small business.

Especially when it comes to your business interests, being proactive now in your tax plans and strategic goal setting can pay off significantly in 2022. That’s why we encourage you to act as soon as possible so you can relax and enjoy time with family and friends during your holiday celebrations. Let us know if you need any assistance.

When you’re ready to focus on fun this holiday season, you’ll find plenty of inspiration in this issue. Check out our ideas for frugal ways to spend time with family and friends. And if gathering around a crackling fire sounds inviting, check out our “Life and living” article for accessories that make the experience even better, as well as tips for keeping it safe.

Once you’re all warmed up, it’s time for your family to get their game faces on for some fun and popular games that can bring everyone together during the holidays and beyond.

As we all look ahead to the coming year, we wish you much happiness, good health and success in all you do.

20 things to be thankful for this year 

When is the last time you thought about what you’re most thankful for? If you’re like most of us, it was probably last Thanksgiving. But even crazy and chaotic years have their points of light, so here’s a handy list to help prepare yourself in case you’re put on the spot at this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. By the way, It’s also a good reminder of just how much we have to be thankful for.

  1. Family. Sure, they can be overbearing, frustrating and even weird at times. But they’re your overbearing, frustrating weirdos, and they love you, too.
  2. Relationships. The one who pretends not to notice your morning breath, sees you without makeup, endures your rants about work, and still loves you.
  3. Good friends. Friends are family who will actually tell you just how dumb you were to do that thing you just did—but they’ll also stand by you to the end.
  4. Home. Whether it’s a shoebox apartment or a sprawling house, it’s comforting to have your own little corner of the world to come home to, dust bunnies and all.
  5. Pets. Dogs, cats, ferrets, hamsters—there’s nothing like unconditional love in a fluffy package to snuggle with when you’ve had one of those days.
  6. Health. The last couple of years have shown us that good health—both ours and our loved ones’—is truly a gift to be grateful for every day of our lives.
  7. Modern conveniences. Electricity, dishwashers, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, cars, smartphones. Can you imagine life without them?
  8. Streaming services. The ability to watch anything from your favorite childhood shows to the movies and series everyone’s talking about—on your schedule.
  9. Virtual meeting apps. Even without a pandemic, the ability to talk in real time and see the faces of distant friends and loved ones is miraculous.
  10. Snow days. Is there anything better than going back to bed (or at least working in your PJs) when it’s 10 below zero with snowdrifts up to your windowsill?
  11. A caring boss and co-workers you like. If you have these, we’d bet you already appreciate how much nicer it makes coming to work each day.
  12. Toilet paper. For obvious reasons.
  13. Kind people. A lady in the grocery store line who lets you go ahead. A teenager who holds open a door when your hands are full. Kindness is still out there.
  14. Good books. Oh, the bliss of whiling away a rainy weekend on the couch, absorbed in a new book or a beloved familiar story.
  15. Email questions…that can be resolved in one reply and with one sentence.
  16. Memories. The ability to connect your past to your present teaches you, gives you perspective and comforts you when you need it most.
  17. Pizza and chocolate. The two most vital food groups. ‘Nuff said.
  18. Travel. The world is opening back up to us. Maybe not as fast as we’d wish, but we have options again for seeing new sights and making memories.
  19. GPS. Life is all about the journey, but sometimes you just can’t afford to get lost. And you don’t have to worry about folding a GPS the right way.
  20. Our planet. Earth is truly a wonder; a big blue marble that, at last count, has supported 117 billion humans over the millennia—and will hopefully survive to support many more.

So there you have it; a (somewhat random) list you can print off and slip into your pocket to be pulled out at Thanksgiving dinner—or any time you need a shot of optimism and a reminder that we have so much to be grateful for.

Owning a business is hard.

And yet many small business owners still try to handle everything themselves. Business planning? Check. Cash flow, revenue analysis, financial projections? Check—and double-check. (And triple-check, just to be sure.)

If you’re an overworked business owner, you might defend your choice by saying:

“Hiring someone for all those functions costs money. I can’t afford that yet.”

Understandable. But what would you say if there was a way to have these functions handled for you? A way to free you up to concentrate on growing your business—and all for an affordable fee?

Accounting advisory services: A CFO…without the CFO

You may have thought of an accountant as someone you only see at tax time, but a growing number of accounting firms offer other valuable business services. And one of the most useful and in-demand for the small business owner is advisory services.

Think of advisory services as filling the function of a CFO, without the salary and benefits. Just like a CFO, an accounting professional can focus on the bigger picture to help you look to the future—monitoring the short- and long-term financial health of your business and guiding you with strategic business planning and financial projections.

It’s a great compromise for the business owner who prefers to do what they do best—be an entrepreneur and grow their business—instead of toiling over the day-to-day minutiae of running the business.

Your advisor/accountant meets with you regularly to discuss financials and offer insight into your data via reports on budgeting and tax planning/minimization. She or he will also help you track and analyze revenue and profit, general and payroll expenses, credit card fees, cash flow, and industry-specific Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Because ongoing analysis is critical to the long-term success and sustainability of your business, these regular meetings help keep your business goals on track.

What else can an accountant do for my business?

Your advisor/accountant can help you answer a number of important questions, such as:

  • Which business structure (sole proprietor, LLC, S-Corp, etc.) works best for my business?
  • Which tax deductions can I claim?
  • What does mean for me and my business?
  • How can I improve my budgeting and cash flow management?
  • What’s the best way to handle my personal and business tax returns?

Down the line, accounting professionals can also offer vital services like payroll and bookkeeping to a growing business, as well as advise you on the accounting software that works best for your situation. Plus, they’re well-versed in business situations that affect different phases of a business’s life—from improving internal controls and creating persuasive financial presentations for loan applications or potential investors to mergers and acquisitions, succession planning, and exit strategies.

If you’d like to free up your time to concentrate on growing your small business, ask us how we can assist you with advisory services that can give you a fresh perspective—and keep you focused firmly on the future.

As we get ready to ring in 2022, we’ve rounded up 22 tax deductions you’ll want to have on your radar as you gather receipts and documents and consider end-of-year tax write-offs.

Tax-deductible business expenses 

  1. Advertising and promotion Business meals (100 percent deductible in 2021!)
  2. Business insurance
  3. Bank fees
  4. Business use of your car
  5. Contract labor
  6. Depreciation
  7. Education (related to your business; includes books tailored to your industry and transportation expenses to and from classes, seminars, and workshops)
  8. Home office expenses
  9. Interest on business debts
  10. Legal and professional fees
  11. Moving expenses
  12. Rent expenses
  13. Salaries and benefits
  14. Taxes (e.g., state, payroll, personal property, real estate, sales, excise, and fuel)
  15. Business licenses
  16. Telephone and internet expenses
  17. Travel expenses

Personal tax deductions for business expenses 

  1. Charitable contributions
  2. Child and dependent care expenses
  3. Retirement contributions
  4. Health care expenses

These expenses are tax-deductible but don’t assume all of them apply to your business. Check the rules for each one at irs.gov or contact our firm for assistance so you can start planning ahead for next year, too.

When it’s a challenge to pay your basic expenses from month to month, it can seem impossible to set aside money for emergencies that may never happen. But you need only look at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. economy to realize how abruptly things can fall apart.

A December 2020 MagnifyMoney survey found that 43 percent of consumers with an emergency fund needed to tap their funds during the pandemic. That number jumped to 64 percent for those who were laid off or furloughed.

While a pandemic is a once-in-a-century occurrence, any financial emergency has the potential to devastate even the most carefully planned budget. If you’ve put off creating an emergency fund in the past, here are 5 compelling reasons to create one now.

Reason 1: Job loss.

As the pandemic showed, businesses close and jobs disappear without warning. Financial experts previously advised people to have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved to tide them over, but some experts are revising that figure to 12 months, to allow for increasingly longer periods of unemployment.

Reason 2: Health expenses.

It only takes one ER trip or an impacted wisdom tooth to create financial havoc, especially if you don’t have health or dental insurance. Even with insurance, you may still have to cover deductible and co-pay costs that exceed what you have in your flexible spending account…if you have one.

Reason 3: Home or car repairs.

Yes, you can use a credit card or a payday loan to cover car repairs, but then you’re saddled with debt that grows larger each month. And even if you have homeowners’ insurance, not everything may be covered—for instance, an old refrigerator that needs to be replaced ASAP.

Reason 4: Pet health issues.

What if your dog, cat, ferret, etc. has a medical emergency or needs surgery? Even today’s pet insurance policies don’t cover all costs. The emergency vet visit alone can cost several hundred dollars, and depending on the type of surgery, you could end up paying several thousand dollars.

Reason 5: Unexpected travel for family illness or death.

If a family member or friend who lives far away is hospitalized or passes away, you may want/need to be there. Plane or train fare isn’t cheap, and hotel expenses can add up, too.

There are a number of smaller but important, reasons for accessing an emergency fund. A lost cell phone; a dying computer; sick days when you don’t get sick pay; broken eyeglasses; kids’ sports uniforms…every little expense adds up.

That’s why you’ll never make a better money move than starting an emergency fund, and here are some simple ways to kick your savings into gear:

  1. Set up a savings account separate from your regular checking and savings.
  2. Start small; even $5 per week will add up over time.
  3. If possible, have the amount that goes to your emergency fund automatically deposited from your pay, so you’re not tempted to spend it.
  4. Set achievable short- and long-term goals. Short-term: Deposit $5 four weeks in a row; increase your weekly deposit by a small increment. Long-term: Save $500.
  5. Deposit “found” money to increase your savings, i.e., the change in your pocket each night, birthday gifts of money, bottle deposit money, refunds.
  6. Don’t completely cut out all the things you enjoy, or you’ll be less likely to stick with your savings plan.

The key is to get started, so you and your loved ones can enjoy the best benefit of all: Peace of mind that you’ll have something to fall back on if the worst happens. If you’d like help achieving that peace of mind, just complete the online contact form or give us a call. We’re here to help!

Whether personal or business-related, the holidays are a popular time to give and receive financial gifts. It’s important to keep the tax rules in mind since they can affect both giver and recipient. We have some information to help you navigate the naughty and nice list for cash and investment gifts (and remember to visit irs.gov for the most current information).

As defined by the IRS, gifts include cash or property given to another person or organization without the donor receiving compensation equal in value to the gift.

Giving someone the use of property or income from a property may also be considered a gift—as can a loan to someone else with little or no interest required.

According to the IRS, “the general rule is that any gift is a taxable gift.” However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as:

  • Gifts that are less than the current annual exclusion ($15,000 per gift to each individual in 2021).
  • Money or property given to a spouse.
  • College tuition paid directly to a school on behalf of another person.
  • Medical expenses paid directly to a medical facility for someone’s care.
  • Gifts to a political organization.
  • Charitable contributions.

Know the tax implications of the gifts you give to clients and employees.

For small business owners, these gifts can be important for building rapport, but they also come with possible tax implications. For example, if a gift is considered taxable income to the employee, you’re required to withhold all applicable federal and state income and payroll taxes. You must also pay other employment taxes, such as federal and state unemployment tax, on these amounts.

Gifts of property are not considered taxable income to employees as long as they fall under the definition of a “de minimis fringe benefit.” The IRS considers a de minimis fringe benefit to be a gift “for which, considering its value and the frequency with which it is provided, is so small as to make accounting for it unreasonable and impractical.”

This might include the occasional snacks, coffee, and doughnuts, or holiday and birthday gifts with a low fair market value, such as flowers, fruit, books, etc.

The IRS does not specify a maximum dollar amount for excluding de minimis fringe benefits from an employee’s taxable income; however, a business cannot deduct more than $25 of a gift to any one person each year, including employees. So even if you purchase a $100 ticket to a sporting event for your client, only $25 can be deducted.

However, even though gift cards and gift certificates are considered taxable income to employees because they can essentially be used like cash, you can deduct the full cost of the gift card—but you must withhold taxes from an employee’s pay for it.

Be sure to record gift activity and keep all receipts.

As far as reporting, the IRS states: “If the benefits qualify for exclusion, no reporting is necessary. If they are taxable, they should be included in wages on Form W-2 and subject to income tax withholding. If the employees are covered for Social Security and Medicare, the value of the benefits are also subject to withholding for these taxes. You may optionally report any information in box 14 of Form W-2.”

The IRS has specific rules on awards you might give your team for safety or service, too, so be sure to check irs.gov for the latest rulings on these popular recognition programs. Also, keep in mind that The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 stated that “Awards of tangible personal property cannot include cash, cash equivalents or gift cards, vacation, meals, lodging, theater tickets, sports tickets, stocks, bonds, or similar investments.”

Make it a habit to record all gifts to employees in detail—and keep all receipts in order to deduct them and in case the IRS questions their validity.

The guidelines on deductions for charitable gifts will vary depending on your itemization status in 2021.

Charitable contributions made to a qualified, tax-exempt organization are deductible if you file an itemized tax return. (You’ll need to determine if this is more advantageous than taking the standard deduction. Also, there is a limited deduction available to individuals who don’t itemize; check with your tax professional for details.) For any donation larger than $250, you must provide records of the gifts in the form of receipts or canceled checks. Cash contributions can be deducted up to 50 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI), property gifts up to 30 percent, and capital gains assets up to 20 percent of your AGI.

A small gift of appreciation can leave a lasting impression on its recipient and serve as a valuable tax deduction. The important thing is to make sure you record all the gifts you give, keep the receipts, and comply with the annual IRS gift limit amounts. And always be sure to check with our team if you’re unsure about the tax implications of your generosity.

Cold or inclement weather provides the perfect opportunity for families to get together online or in-person to enjoy some fun gaming. Here’s a roundup from TheSpruce.com of the best family games for 2021:

BEST overall game
The Original Rummikub (Pressman Toy)
This tile-based game is popular with all age groups, making it the perfect warmup for a serious game-a-thon.

BEST board game
Qwirkle (MindWare)
Easy to understand for young players, this board game will also provide a challenge for adults who like to apply strategic thinking.

BEST for teams
Codenames (Czech Games)
Heavy on creative wordplay, this game encourages a lot of strategic thinking—which makes it both challenging and fun.

BEST card game
Exploding Kittens
As the ExplodingKittens.com website says, “It’s hilarious, cutthroat, and infinitely replayable.” It’s also one of the year’s most popular games.

BEST video game
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo)
Up to four people can play this classic racing game together—or, if you can’t be in the same physical space, expand the fun with an online group of up to 12 players.

Attention small business owners: Have you set up your Google My Business listing yet?

If not, you’re missing a major opportunity to stand out in local search results. Not only does Google hold more than 75 percent of search market share, but according to research by SEO optimization platform BrightLocal, 64 percent of consumers have used a Google My Business (GMB) listing to find contact details for a local business.

If you’re not familiar with GMB and/or have not yet optimized your listing, assume that your competitors already have—which means they’re likely getting the lion’s share of local online traffic. But fear not, this article offers the 411 on what you need to know to get your GMB listing up to snuff.

What is Google My Business?

GMB is a free, dedicated business listing space on Google—a single channel you can focus on to boost your local online presence, get noticed, and start moving closer to that prized spot on the first page of search results. In fact, it’s very likely you already have a GMB listing waiting to be claimed and/or optimized.

Why use Google My Business?

Even if you don’t conduct business online, that’s where your customers and prospects are searching for products and services. If you’ve ever searched for “Dog groomers near me,” then you can understand how GMB can raise your profile to local prospects. Because location influences searches and search results, optimizing your GMB profile makes you more discoverable—and it allows your business to appear across Google products like Maps and Search.

What will Google My Business do for me?

When properly set up, it will introduce searchers to your business with information that includes:

  • Contact information: Location address (which links to Google Maps), phone, Website URL
  • A description of your business
  • Business hours
  • Important messages to customers such as changes in hours, temporary closures and other news
  • Photos of your location, your products, your team…or anything else that tells your business’s story
  • Your products and services
  • The main area you serve, and up to 19 more surrounding service areas
  • Reviews of your business
  • Posts in GMB’s social stream to give visitors engaging content on an ongoing basis

How do I get Google My Business?

Start at support.google.com/business and search on “How to set up Google My Business” for instructions. Hint: Googling the same query in your browser will also get you dozens, if not hundreds, of sites with instructions and tips for setting up an effective GMB listing.

Summing it up…

Start with GMB to build awareness of your business locally and boost your online search ranking. Building your local online presence is the key to success, so corner the market in your backyard first (we know you can do it!), and then you can branch out to other social media streams like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram if you’re so inclined.

But to grow, you must first be planted, so get that GMB listing built out. That way, when the thousands of people who Google “ near me” get their search results, your brand will be among the first they see.

Holidays mean different things to different people, but one thing that seems to ring true for most of us is the opportunity to make memories with family and friends.

It can be a great time to try new things, but especially at this time of year, it’s important to respect your budget. Start with these free family activities and mix them up to keep things fresh all season long.

Indoor activities

No matter what your weather is like during the holidays, indoor fun can be the best kind of fun, especially with activities like these:

1. Enjoy movie night…done right

Make some snacks, snuggle up together, and have a family movie or game night. Watch a few old classics or check out a movie you haven’t seen before.

2. Bond with board games

Board games are a great way to kick up some family-friendly competition over the holidays. Depending on your family’s interests, you can find inexpensive board games, a deck of cards or dice at your local thrift or dollar stores.

3. Bake something special and enjoy homemade cocoa

Baking something warm and yummy together in the kitchen can be very therapeutic—and it’s a perfect reason to pull out those old family recipes. Take a couple of minutes to make hot chocolate, too, and enjoy sipping it next to a warm cozy fire.

4. Get crafty with paper snowflakes and sock snowpeople

Cutting paper snowflakes and hanging them around your home is not only easy, it can brighten the dreariest day. It’s also fun and easy to make sock snowpeople; you just need some old or orphaned socks, buttons, and scraps of material to create your snowmen and women. Search YouTube video tutorials for all the different ways to make snowflakes and snowpeople.

5. Make a fort and have an indoor picnic

Bring back memories from your childhood and create new ones by building a blanket fort. Play games and read stories in your fort, then dine in with an indoor picnic.

Outdoor activities

Getting outside in any (safe) weather is great for the mind and body. Check out these ideas to check in with your community and nature:

1. Enjoy a walk and scavenger hunt

Add some extra fun to a family stroll by turning it into a scavenger hunt. Put together a list of different items to find while on the walk. Here are some ideas, depending on the weather in your location: pinecones, a certain kind of bird, icicles, boot tracks, animal tracks, certain types of holiday decorations, things you’d find in store windows at this time of year…the possibilities are truly endless.

2. Attend a local community fall or winter festival

Many towns are known for their delightful local festivals. In many cases, you won’t even need to spend any money beyond the entry fee (if applicable). With the holiday decorations, ice sculptures, entertainment and people-watching, you’ll have all the eye candy you can handle!

Heartfelt holiday activities

While the holidays are filled with love and laughter for some, others find this time of year difficult. Following are some great opportunities for you and your family to reach out to those in need—and they’ll make you feel good, too:

1. Serve a meal at a homeless shelter

There’s nothing more empowering for a child than to learn how to care for others. Pick a day as a family to help serve a meal at the local homeless shelter.

2. Donate to a thrift store

The holidays are the perfect time to go through all your gently used toys, clutter and household items, and fill a box to donate to a thrift store. It feels good to start the new year fresh and clutter-free, while allowing others the opportunity to enjoy things that are no longer a good fit for your family.

3. Visit a neighbor

Do you have an elderly neighbor who might enjoy a visit? Or maybe someone new to the neighborhood? With their permission, get to know someone new by paying them a visit to brighten their day—and yours!

No one needs to be cooped up with nothing to do during the holidays, whatever the weather. So shake off those winter blues and go start making memories now!

Smartphones. Most of us can’t live without them. They’re an indispensable addition to our daily lives, so it’s always nice to find new ways they can help us save time. Here are some smartphone productivity secrets that can help you dial up more efficiency during your day:

  1. Charge your phone faster
    Turn on your phone’s airplane mode while charging. Even better, turn your phone off. The benefit? Your phone won’t burn energy in a continuous effort to connect to cell phone towers. For the fastest results, don’t use your phone while it’s charging.
  2. Avoid having ads in your apps
    Any in-app ad that slows down your phone can be avoided by turning on airplane mode or turning off your internet connection. If ads keep popping up even with the internet off, clear your cache to enjoy your app ad-free.
  3. Use your iPhone’s call and reply reminders
    The iOS operating system for iPhone includes auto-reply and “remind me later” features that can help you deal with calls when you’re busy. The “remind me” feature uses a GPS- or timer-based prompt and can be triggered while the phone rings. If you choose the option, you’ll be reminded to call back.
  4. Picture recognition can save time
    It used to be that you had to search in a browser by typing to find the information you were looking for. Now, thanks to image recognition software you can identify specific objects in a picture using applications like the Google Goggles photo recognition tool. Simply upload your image and Google Goggles will run the query against its massive image database to provide near-matches.
  5. Turn your smartphone into a master remote
    Many smartphones now come with infrared (or IR) blasters that can be paired with IR-controlled devices—which means you can use your phone as a remote. You can also use your smartphone to check whether an infrared-based remote is working.
  6. Delete the last digit in iPhone calculator
    Imagine that you’re calculating a chain of long numbers and you mistype one digit. Just swipe right or left—problem deleted!
  7. Measure up with your smartphone
    If you find that you need to measure an item but don’t have a measuring tape handy, check your phone (or the app store) for the measuring tape feature.

Use your phone to lighten your load
These are just a few smartphone hacks to help you simplify your daily life. You can look online or browse your phone’s app store for more tools that will help put little-known smartphone secrets to work for you.