Richard A. Lindsey, CPA

Lindsey & Waldo, LLC – Certified Public Accountants

  • Aug 3

    In the flurry of launching a new business, filing your taxes may well be one of the last things on your mind. But, you don’t want to wait until the last minute to figure things out. At best, you could leave money on the table – at worst, suffer penalties or other legal ramifications.

    Avoiding these common startup bloopers can ensure your new business is on the right track to handling its tax obligations properly.

    1. Not keeping track of all of your expenses
    From the moment you launch a business, you can deduct “all ordinary and necessary” business expenses such as office supplies, professional fees, and business mileage. Your biggest mistake is not keeping track of these expenses throughout the year, and trying to gather every receipt when it’s time to file. The bottom line is you can’t deduct what you can’t document, and failing to record as you go most likely means you’re forgetting expenses and leaving money on the table.

    Find a method for documenting expenses that works for you. An accounting program, such as QuickBooks®, will let you record and manage revenue and expenses. In addition, there are dedicated apps such as Expensify for tracking expenses, MileBug for recording mileage, or Shoeboxed for capturing paper receipts. The best method is whichever one you will consistently use.

    2. Mixing personal and business
    New startups and small business owners often invest so much of themselves, their time and their money, into their new company that it’s hard to separate them. But separate them you must! The mixing of business and personal funds makes it extremely difficult to make sure you deduct all of your business expenses and only your business expenses. At the very least, you must have separate business and personal checking accounts. Just imagine the look on an IRS auditor’s face when she finds out you can’t tell your business and personal expenses apart.

    3. Choosing the wrong legal entity
    Your business’ legal structure affects how you report your taxes and how much you pay, so it’s important to choose the right entity. For example, many start out as a sole proprietor or partnership because it’s easiest, but soon find themselves paying way too much in self-employment taxes. Creating a corporation can help lower their tax bill significantly.

    4. Mixing equipment and supplies
    Both first-time and experienced business owners get tripped up by what is considered equipment versus supplies. Equipment are often higher value items that will typically last longer than one year, while supplies are generally things that you use up during the year.

    When it comes to equipment, there are a couple of approaches: 1) You can recover a portion of the cost each year, or 2) you may qualify to write-off the full amount in the year of purchase. There are, naturally, some restrictions on the ability to deduct the full amount. Be sure you talk to us first to find out if you qualify.

    If you mistakenly deduct your equipment or other capital item as an operating expense such as supplies, the IRS could determine that you’re not entitled to any deduction.

    5. Not sending Forms 1099
    When you pay any freelancer, contractor, attorney or other non-corporate entity $600 or more for services over the course of the year, you’re required to issue Form 1099-MISC and send copies to both the entity (business, contractor, individual, etc.) and the IRS. If you fail to do so on time the penalty can be as high as $520 per occurrence.

    6. Deducting too much for gifts
    Maybe you sent some of your best clients a holiday present, or sent them a closing gift after a large purchase, or sent a colleague a thank you gift for an especially nice referral. Great! Business gifts are deductible, but there’s a big catch. You can only deduct $25 per gift. So, if you send Paula a $150 fruit basket, you only get to deduct $25 for it.

    Documentation is going to be important. If you report $2,500 in business gifts, you need to be able to have documentation that shows you gave gifts to 100 different people.

    7. Not making estimated tax payments
    If your business is any legal form other than a C corporation you are personally going to be liable for paying taxes on the profits you earn. Business owners are required to pay in sufficient taxes to cover their expected tax obligations. Those payments can be in the form of payroll withholding – if you or someone in your household qualifies – or through quarterly estimated tax payments. Even if it wasn’t required, it is generally easier to make smaller payments on a quarterly basis than to have to pay the entire bill at year end.

    The best way to stay on top of your estimated tax payments is to get into the habit of setting aside a percentage of your revenue on a regular basis. Then, on a quarterly basis, review your revenue and expenses, calculate your tax liability, and make the appropriate payments.

  • Jun 9

    Congress recently enacted significant changes to partnership audit and adjustment rules. The changes are expected to dramatically increase the audit rates for partnerships, and will require partners to carefully review, if not revise, their partnership’s operating agreement.

    The new rules generally apply to partnership returns filed after 2018, but careful planning today will help mitigate any unfavorable consequences.

    Important new provisions that may impact you:

    • The IRS may collect any additional tax, interest, and penalty directly from the partnership rather than from the partners (the tax could be collected at the highest individual tax rate).
    • Current partners could be responsible for tax liabilities of prior partners.
    • New elections and opt-outs will be available and your agreement may need revision to specify who makes these decisions.
    • There are many new tax terms and concepts that will likely require you to adjust your partnership’s operating agreement.

    Particularly, the new term “partnership representative” replaces the prior “tax matters partner.” The partnership representative is critical; they will act as the single point of contact between the IRS and the partnership and will have full authority to bind the partnership and the partners during an audit.

    Potential opportunities and the need for planning today

    Certain partnerships with 100 or fewer partners may elect out of the provisions. To do so, the partnership may make an annual “opt-out” election with their timely filed tax return (Form 1065).

  • May 24

    They played baseball together for ten years, and it happened so often, Franklin P. Adams, a New York Evening Mail columnist, wrote an eight-line poem about it. Originally published under the title “That Double Play Again,” it is better known as “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon,” or simply as “Tinkers to Evers to Chance.”

    These are the saddest of all possible words:
    “Tinkers to Evers to Chance.”
    Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
    Tinker and Evers and Chance.
    Ruthlessly picking our gonfalon bubble,
    Making a Giant hit into a double—
    Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
    “Tinkers to Evers to Chance.”

    A little background: Back when the Chicago Cubs were a dynasty they won the National League pennants in 1906, ’07, ’08, and ’10 and the World Series in 1907 and ’08. Anchoring their infield were shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers, and first baseman Frank Chance -the best
    double play combination of the day.

    Adams considered the poem a throwaway when he wrote it. He simply wanted to get out to the ballpark and watch the game. But those three may still be the best known Cubs of all time.

    But, it didn’t happen by chance. (Did you see what I did there?) It happened by teamwork. It happened because they practiced. It happened because Tinkers and Evers and Chance developed a special relationship with one another unlike most others. The same is true if you’re trying to grow your business by word-of-mouth. You can’t expect people to shout your praises and send you referrals just because you showed up at the ballpark. It takes a relationship to make it work. Referral relationships work just like other relationships work.

    Think about the relationships you have with your neighbors. How willing would they be to help you out if your car broke down? Depending on your relationship, they might each respond differently. One might outright refuse to help. Another might share the name of his favorite mechanic. Another might be willing to take you or pick you up at the garage. Still another might insist on fixing it for you at no cost. Each of your neighbors may display a different willingness to help. And naturally, your willingness to help them would probably differ as well. Even your requests for help would be dependent on your history with each of them.

    Great referrals don’t happen just because you ask. At some level of consciousness, people who are good salespeople know this. Yes, sometimes, just asking for referrals will work, but more often, asking someone with whom you haven’t yet developed a relationship, may sour them forever.

    Like a great double play combination, it may look easy, but it takes a lot of work behind the scenes to make it happen. Getting ideal referrals with strong introductions from influential people involves planning, preparation, and practice. It involves developing that special relationship.

  • May 12

    I’ve written before about what a good tax planning technique hiring your children can be. (See “Hiring Your Children for the Summer: The Job of Last Resort or Just Good Tax Planning,” Taxing Times, June 2015.) It can be an effective way of shifting income from your high rate to as low as zero percent! It can also be good for the kids. However, as a recent tax court decision demonstrates, it’s important to dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

    The case involved Lisa Fisher, a New York attorney, faced with a common dilemma to find summer care for her children, all under the age of nine. So, during the summer, she brought them into her office two or three days a week where they shredded waste, mailed letters, answered phones, greeted clients, and copied documents.

    Fisher took deductions for the $28,770 in wages she paid her kids over a three year period. But, she didn’t keep any payroll files or issue any W-2s. She didn’t keep any records substantiating the work they did or establishing that she paid “reasonable compensation” for the work performed. Nor could she present any documentary evidence, such as cancelled checks or bank statements, to verify that she actually paid them the wages she deducted.

    You know where this is headed. The IRS disallowed the deductions for the children’s wages and imposed an accuracy related penalty. The Tax Court affirmed that decision.

    Bottom line: Hiring your children to work for your business, or rental properties, can be perfectly legal tax planning. But, you have to follow the rules and document everything in order to protect the benefits.

  • Apr 27

    In business, doing what others don’t do can often give you an edge. It can position you head and shoulders above your competition. It helps you stand out in a positive way, and when you do, people are attracted to you and your business, and your success grows stronger, deeper, and more durable.

    Asking for feedback is a simple way to gather information for improving our businesses, but many of us never take the time to ask. We get so wrapped up in the day-to-day running of the business that we fail to pause and ask people, “How are we doing?” Others are simply intimidated by the process – and afraid of what they’ll hear.

    According to the book The 29% Solution by Ivan Misner and Michelle R. Donovan there are five main reasons why we don’t ask for feedback: (1) we’re afraid the response will be negative; (2) we don’t know who to ask; (3) we don’t know when to ask; (4) we don’t know how to ask; (5) we don’t want to take up other people’s time. With all these objections, the thought of asking for feedback can give us heartburn, but it’s worth the pain; the potential for growth can be tremendous.

    Whether positive or negative, feedback should be considered constructive, because it helps our business develop new products, improve existing services, and sometimes adopt a whole new approach.

    Fear of a negative response may be what keeps many of us from asking for feedback. Nobody is eager to be criticized. But, as difficult as it to receive, negative feedback is actually a gift. It’s a reality check; it reminds us that no matter how good we are, we can always improve. It’s also a reminder that we can never make everyone happy. If you’re willing to ask for feedback, you’re going to get some negative feedback along the way. It’s your attitude toward it that will turn that negative feedback into an opportunity. Don’t ask for feedback unless you’re ready to hear it – and respond to it constructively.

    Whom should you ask for feedback? One answer is everybody. Ask your coworkers, supervisors, subordinates, partners, customers.

    When is the best time to ask for feedback? That depends. A professional development trainer might ask for feedback several times. During a session, so it can be tailored, the end of a session, and three or four months afterwards. She’ll ask different questions at different times. Someone selling a product might need to give the customer time to use it, or might not. Someone selling professional services might want to ask shortly after the services have been delivered.

    What if you don’t know how to ask for feedback? The easiest, and most logical, way is make it part of your sales process. Many companies use a questionnaire; some hand it out upon completion of the assignment, some e-mail it afterward, and some mail it as a follow-up in a few weeks. How you choose to do it depends on your customer base.

    The last reservation that a lot of us have is that we are reluctant to take someone else’s time by asking for feedback. What a cop-out. Adults have the option of saying no. It’s our responsibility to ask. Increase the likelihood that you’ll get useful feedback by making the request simple and timely. If it’s too complicated, or if you set a hurry-up deadline, your requests may end up in the circular file. Make the deadline too far off, and people will set it aside and forget it.

    I dare you – do something few others do. Stand out from the crowd. Ask for feedback. And be ready to turn it into opportunities for your business.

  • Mar 3

    Current research suggests that we are bombarded with between 300 and 700 marketing messages per day. Current research also indicates that we take note of less than half of those messages, and far fewer make a strong enough impact to be recalled, make an impression, or make a sale.

    Here’s a tried and true strategy for connecting with your customers and prospects. Legendary copywriter, Robert Collier, pioneered and perfected an effective strategy he called “entering the conversation already occurring in the prospect’s mind.” Instead of going straight into your pitch marketing message and being ignored like everyone else, do something different. After all, if you do what everyone else does, shouldn’t you expect the same mediocre results?

    Instead of hitting your prospects over the head with your message, first capture your prospects attention by using something they are already thinking about as the hook. Then, make a smooth transition into the marketing message. This strategy has been proven to work over and over again. There are several ways to implement this strategy. One is by using holidays.

    Holidays are always on people’s minds. For instance, right now people are thinking about what they are going to do for the upcoming holidays. Where are we going for Christmas or Hanukkah? Where’s the New Year’s Eve party? Am I going to make (and keep) any New Year’s resolutions? Where should I take my sweetheart for Valentine’s Day? Where’s the best place to go for some corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day?

    And on and on. Those are just the major holidays in the next four months. There’s a major holiday almost every month. There are also obscure holidays you probably never heard of nearly every day of the year. You did know that December 25th is also National Pumpkin Pie Day, didn’t you? So, why not make a connection with your prospect by “entering the conversation already occurring in the prospect’s mind” by relating your message to the approaching holiday?

    You have to make a reasonable connection between the holiday and your offer. Otherwise, the prospect will feel like you tried to trick them and that’s no way to get them to know, like, and trust you, let alone buy something from you. It’s really not that hard. You can probably come up with several ideas if you just sit down and think about it.

    New Year’s Day is easy. Think about tying your message to something new or to a New Year’s resolution. Health clubs and gyms do it every January. The air waves and ads talk about the most common New Year’s resolution around – losing weight. With the promise that this year — you can do it… you can have that new body, the new you — with our help.

    And, of course, you can have a “sweetheart” deal for Valentine’s Day.

    This is a powerful, tried and true marketing strategy. And the best part is… if it works this year, you can recycle it again next year!

  • Feb 17

    New January 31 Deadline for Employers

    Employers are now required to file their copies of Form W-2, submitted to the Social Security Administration by January 31.

    The new deadline also applies to Forms 1099-MISC reporting non-employee compensation, such as payments to independent contractors.

    In the past, employers typically had until the end of February if filing on paper, or the end of March if filing electronically, to submit copies of these forms.

    The new accelerated deadline will make it easier for the IRS to spot errors and verify the legitimacy of tax returns and properly issue refunds to eligible taxpayers. Penalties for late filing can be exorbitant! For example, if a business fails to file Form 1099-MISC or furnish a copy to the payee on time the penalty can be as high as $520 per occurrence.

    New March 15 Deadline for Partnerships and LLCs

    Partnership tax returns are now due March 15, NOT April 15 as in the past.

    S corporation tax returns due date remains unchanged at March 15.

    New April 15 Deadline for C Corporations

    C corporation tax returns are now due April 15, NOT March 15.

  • Jan 20

    In the book Masters of Networking, Don Morgan asserts that there are three ways to increase the power of your network and improve its ability to help you achieve goals. Fortunately, he says, anyone can create this leverage by understanding three fundamental characteristics of human nature. However, he goes on, only those dedicated to becoming master networkers will commit to mastering the arts of friendship, generosity, and character. The person who creates this trilogy of leverage will be on the road to unlocking the full power of networks.

    Friends like to help friends. And at some point in your life, you’ve probably helped a good friend do something that you might not have enjoyed doing— painting a room, helping out with the move–just because he was your friend. You really couldn’t avoid it. If you make good friends of your networking associates, you gain the same kind of leverage.

    How do you turn networking associates into good friends? There’s nothing complicated or mysterious about it, Morgan says. Think back how you and your best friend became friends. You went places together, did things together, talked about things, and one day you realize that you have been best friends for some time without even realizing it.

    That’s what you do with your networking partners. Go places with them, do things with them, help them when they need help. Soon you’ll discover that associates have become good friends. Not all of them, of course, but the more effort you put into it, the more friends you’ll make. And the more powerful your network will be in helping you achieve goals.

    You’re at a party. You’re given several presents. You don’t have anything to give in return. How do you feel? A little less than wonderful, right? It’s human nature to want to give a gift in return.

    The same holds true in networking circles, when you give something to a networking associate- a business referral, emotional support- she’ll want to give you something in return. Perhaps you won’t get a return gift immediately. However, the more you give your networking partners, the more inclined they will be to reciprocate.

    A true gift is an unconditional gift; you give without expecting anything in return. However, usually you get something back anyway. First, you gain the satisfaction of helping a friend. Second, human nature dictates that you will get something in return. When you least expect it, you may receive a gift worth far more to you than the time and effort you expended.

    The most lasting impression others have of you is the first impression: the way you looked and behaved when they first met you. If that’s a bad impression, it may take a long time to overcome and others may be reluctant to get involved with you. A master networker understands this and puts a lot of effort into creating a good first impression by dressing and behaving appropriately at all times.

    However, your long-term image goes well beyond how you look at first glance. Equal in importance, according to Morgan, are three character attributes: responsibility, reliability, and readiness. The group needs some tasks done or problem handled, do you take responsibility? Can you be counted on to come through when the need arises? Are you quick to volunteer your services?

    Above and beyond the first visual impression you make, your responsibility for, reliability within, and readiness to participate in group activities become the most important aspects of your image in the long run. If the group sees you as an asset by virtue of your character, individuals in the group will trust you, rely on you, and enjoy associating with you. And they will feel more comfortable referring their friends and associates to you— and your business.

    In the end, this trilogy of networking leverage comes down to an old principle, known in some parts of the world as the “Golden Rule”. In BNI we just phrase it a little differently: “Givers Gain.”

    To find a BNI chapter near you, visit BNI.com.

  • Dec 31

    Last year, in Phenix City, Alabama, tax preparer Lasondra Miles Davis was ordered to pay $1,941 in restitution to the IRS, sentenced to two years in prison, and one year of supervised release for her involvement in a stolen ID tax fraud.

    Davis pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated ID theft. Her mother, Teresa Floyd pleaded guilty earlier in the year to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and one count of aggravated ID theft.

    News outlets cited court documents that said that between March 2011 and May 2014, Davis and her mother operated several tax preparation businesses where she obtained stolen IDs. Floyd then used the information to file more than 900 false federal income tax returns that claimed more than $2.5 million in refunds.

  • Dec 9

    Shhhh! I have a secret for you. I’m going to share it with you today, but you have to promise to keep it under wraps.

    Applied to your business correctly, this one “secret” could transform your business. If you have the faith to apply this secret correctly, it could be worth millions. Your life could change from struggling to keep the wolves at bay to successful entrepreneur nearly overnight.

    Okay, here’s your tip of the day. Well, it’s not so much a tip of the day, as it is the tip of the week, or maybe the tip of the year…

    Change your prices. That’s all you have to do. I have seen more people make more money simply by raising their prices than any other advice I’ve given them.

    Nearly every business person grossly underestimates the elasticity of price, and neglects the fraction of their customers/clients/patients who will cheerfully buy a higher priced premium option of what they sell if only it were offered. They leave a lot of money on the table by not offering a leather bound version of the paper bound product; a red door to walk through in the back instead of the blue door in the front.

    Marketing guru Dan Kennedy talks of the time he lived in Phoenix. At the time, there was a very popular nightclub in Phoenix that had a big, long rope line in the front where you could buy a card for $500 a year that allowed you to stand in the rope line in the back. Well, you say, who’s gonna buy a card for that? A lot of people did, based on the length of the line in the back. In fact, some nights the rope line in the back was longer than the rope line in the front.

    Not everyone will, but there are plenty of customers who will select a premium option. Price is very elastic. Most business people don’t understand just how elastic price is because of the manner in which they set their prices. Here’s what most people do, and I’d be willing to bet you’ve done the same thing. They look around at what everybody else in their industry is charging and set their price right in the middle. They think they’re being “competitive.” If they’re really daring, they try to be a little higher than the average; or if they think they can buy volume, maybe they set it a little lower than average.

    Alas, there are also those poor souls who attempt to price themselves at the bottom of the heap in order to proclaim they have the lowest prices on the block, in their town, their region, or whatever. It is a dangerous strategy because, as I’ve warned you time and again, there is always someone willing to go out of business faster than you are.

    Here’s the power of transaction size. Granted, it’s a very simple example, but one you might ought to post on your wall where you can see it every day. How do you get to a million dollars in sales in your business? You can get there with one transaction, if you can sell someone something for a million bucks. If you’re going to sell something for $100 it’s going to take you 10,000 sales to make it. Making a million dollar sale is not 10,000 times harder than making a $100 sale. It just isn’t. Now, I’m not saying Starbucks could figure out how to make a million dollar sale, but they did figure out how to sell a cup of coffee for $8. They didn’t do that by getting a committee together in a conference room and saying, “Let’s see, Denny’s sells their coffee for $0.55 and Dunkin Donuts is $0.72, so, let’s be courageous and go for $0.99.” That’s NOT how they got there.

    You’re familiar with Omaha Steaks, right? They come in a Styrofoam ice chest delivered to your door. They have good steaks. But, you know they also have hamburgers. And they have hot dogs. All of them delivered right to your door. So, Omaha steaks are, let’s say, double or triple the price of the best beef being sold in the supermarket or butcher shop. Maybe they’re five times as much as Sam’s or Costco. Yes, they do deliver, but a steak is a steak is a steak. Right?

    Wrong! Now, there’s Allen Brothers. Ever try theirs? I hear they are wonderful. It’s twice the price of Omaha. These guys are in the same business, catalogue selling of steaks, hamburgers, hot dogs, and they have the gall to charge twice as much as Omaha! And people are switching like there’s no tomorrow.

    I recently read about a cosmetic surgeon, Doctor Fairfield, who lives in the Philadelphia area. He does seminars to bring in new patients. At the seminar he offers a $25,000 membership in the practice for the patient to have all the cosmetic procedures they want or need for three years. So you want to come have a Botox shot every day? You can; $25,000 membership fee up front. Five people in a room of 150 chose this option, and three of them had no prior relationship with him. They showed up based on a newspaper ad and plunked down $25,000. That’s price elasticity. It’s everywhere. I promise you, most people don’t understand it and most people underestimate it.