Richard A. Lindsey, CPA

Lindsey & Waldo, LLC – Certified Public Accountants

  • Jul 21

    Many Americans appear to be living one big expense away from disaster. A 2014 Federal Reserve poll discovered the startling fact that almost half of all U.S. households could not come up with $400 to cover an emergency expense. They would need to sell something, or borrow cash, to do so.

    If you find yourself belonging to that category, then I have some ideas (11 of them, in fact) I think will help. In my experience, if you want to get out of a hole, you study the behavior of those who have already made it out. And you do everything you can to copy that behavior.

    Yes, some people have been fortunate enough to inherit wealth, etc. But many, MANY more of those who have wealth came about it in a different way.

    Now, so that YOU do not find yourself in the unfortunate place of not being able to scrape up $400 in an emergency … read this now.

    Becoming a household that will be able to ride through instability and uncertainty is only going to become MORE important in future years, not less. So, that being the case, here is a portrait of those who are able to achieve this status.

    You’ll notice that these are just as significantly about your mindset as you relate to your finances, as about your behaviors.

    Here’s what the Financially Secure look like …

    1) He always spends less than he earns. In fact, his mantra is that over the long run, you’re better off if you strive to be anonymously rich rather than deceptively poor.

    2) She knows that patience is truth. The odds are you won’t become a millionaire overnight. If you’re like her, your security will be accumulated gradually by diligently saving your money over multiple decades.

    3) He pays off his credit cards in full every month. He’s smart enough to understand that if he can’t afford to pay cash for something, then he can’t afford it.

    4) She realized early on that money does not buy happiness. If you’re looking for financial joy, you need to focus on attaining financial freedom.

    5) He understands that money is like a toddler; it is incapable of managing itself. After all, you can’t expect your money to grow and mature as it should without some form of credible money management.

    6) She’s a big believer in paying yourself first. It’s an essential tenet of personal finance and a great way to build your savings and instill financial discipline.

    7) She also knows that the few millionaires that reached that milestone without a plan got there only because of dumb luck. It’s not enough to simply “declare” to the universe that you want to be financially free. This is not a “Secret”.

    8) When it came time to set his savings goals, he wasn’t afraid to think big. Financial success demands that you have a vision that is significantly larger than you can currently deliver upon.

    9) He realizes that stuff happens, and that’s why you’re a fool if you don’t insure yourself against risk. Remember that the potential for bankruptcy is always just around the corner, and can be triggered from multiple sources: the death of the family’s key breadwinner, divorce, or disability that leads to a loss of work.

    10) She understands that time is an ally of the young. She was fortunate (and smart) enough to begin saving in her twenties, so she could take maximum advantage of the power of compounding interest on her nest egg.

    11) He’s not impressed that you drive an over-priced luxury car and live in a McMansion that’s two sizes too big for your family of four. Little about external “signals” of wealth actually matter to him.

    And a little bonus, if you will: She doesn’t pay taxes which could have been avoided with a simple phone call to her tax professional. She plans ahead, before tax time.

    “You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.” – Brian Tracy

  • 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.

  • Apr 14

    When was the last time you reviewed your will? People generally make wills to guarantee the proper disposition of their money and property, which is why it’s a good idea to consult your CPA when it’s time to create or update your will.

    We recommend that you revisit your will every time you experience a major life event, such as marriage, the birth of a child, retirement, or other significant milestones. Even if there is no meaningful change in your life, it’s smart to review the document every couple of years to ensure it still addresses all your estate concerns and reflects your wishes. Changes in the value of your investments – such as stock portfolio or real estate – may also require adjustments in your estate plan.

    Reviewing your will may raise questions about various areas of your financial life, including your retirement or estate planning, college savings, or other financial concerns. Be sure to turn to us for the perspective and advice you need to make the best choices.♦

  • Jan 6

    A thoughtful estate plan can make your heirs lives easier. But it is your parents’ estate planning that will make your life easier.

    Not every family has fostered the ability to speak openly in love. But if you have begun that process, here is an outline of what grown children need to know about their parents’ business. In fact, adults of any age should update their estate plan every year.

    And, as a parent, if you are willing to share some of this information with your children—especially if one of them is also the executor of the estate— they’ll appreciate having the facts and be more prepared emotionally when the time comes. They will know your wishes ultimately anyway, and good communication will lessen any surprises ahead of time. They will benefit from knowing the answers to the following questions:

    Do you have enough saved for a comfortable retirement? Many financial planners use a safe withdrawal rate by age to make sure the clients will still have enough money toward the end of their retirement. But, this isn’t always the case, and is worth looking into. If your spending is under this withdrawal rate, you have more than enough and probably can leave a legacy to your heirs. But, if you are over this rate, you may run out of money and have to compromise your standard of living abruptly. It may be uncomfortable, even embarrassing, for parents to share their finances with their children, but grown children often want to know how their parents are doing.

    Where are the important documents? The five documents your children should be able to retrieve quickly are: a will; a living will; a power of attorney; a directory of basic information; and the latest end-of-year financial statements.

    The directory of information should list the assets of your estate, along with the account or policy numbers and contact phone numbers. It also helps to indicate your intentions for the distribution of each asset, which will help confirm you have the correct titling and beneficiary designations on every portion of your estate.

    You may have structured your will to divide your estate equally among your children. But, if you have tried to make it easy for one child to access your bank accounts by adding his or her name, you have overridden your estate plan and left that child joint tenancy with complete rights of survivorship. This can be a problem.

    Titling and beneficiary designations are legal estate planning actions. It’s best to review them with your legal advisor. Various types of assets are best designated differently in the estate plan. This is not the occasion for do-it-yourself thrift. It is a rare family that has compiled and reviewed a complete list of estate assets: bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, real estate holding, life insurance, health savings accounts, and so on.

    Are there any special bequeaths? Any promises you have made should be documented. Your good intentions won’t matter if you aren’t around to implement them. If you have promised money to a charity, and want that obligation kept, document it. If you have promised to loan a child money, document it. If you have promised to help fund your grandchildren’s college education, document it. Without documentation, none of these promises can be kept if you aren’t around to make the decisions.

    Are there plans to remarry? If parents have remarried, intergenerational estate planning is even more critical. Prenuptial agreements and careful estate planning are required in the case of second marriages, to avoid disinherited children or grandchildren from the first marriage. The default is rarely a good option.

    Do you have any prepaid funeral arrangements? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Do you have any preferences for a memorial service? Although it may seem macabre to plan your own funeral, a memorial service takes time and thought. It will be that much more special and comforting to your family when it is filled with your favorite music and readings. Encourage your children’s interest in your estate planning. Most of the time, their intentions are honorable. They may simply want to understand your values and therefore your wishes.

  • Oct 28

    In what may come as a shock to many of you, the country is broke and is looking for additional revenues. You should know, it will be looking in every nook and cranny to replenish the federal coffers. What you may not know is the Internal Revenue Service seems already to be engaged in revenue-finding-missions. Among the objects of their affection – in the tax audit – are sole proprietors filing Schedule C, and substantiation requirements for every possible deduction.

    The IRS now views the Schedule C as the repository of all manner of evil taxpayer intentions to reduce their tax liabilities (and, from the perspective of the IRS, federal revenues). IRS agents are reportedly beating the bushes of sole proprietors primarily to reduce, or eliminate, claimed deductions as unsubstantiated to increase both income and self-employment tax liabilities.

    All deductions are a matter of legislative grace, and that grace comes with a price: at a minimum to maintain books and records to support the expenditure, and, in many cases, to meet more exacting substantiation standards than the Code imposes as a condition to deductibility in various circumstances. One might not think of charitable contributions as a source of major contention with the IRS, but in the case of non-cash contributions, the taxpayer is technically required to establish, both the fair market value of the property and the property’s adjusted basis. In some cases, the Code requires an appraisal of property (where the value exceeds $5,000) contributed to a charity.

    However, the property’s adjusted basis comes into question in two cases: first in most cases where the property is inventory in the hands of the donor, and secondly, if tangible personal property that is unrelated to the charity’s exempt function, the amount of the contribution is limited to the donor’s adjusted basis in the property. For example, if a taxpayer donates used clothing to a charity that does not distribute them to poor or indigent individuals, the deduction is limited to the lesser of your basis or fair market value. Now, it may seem like common sense that the current value of almost all used clothing is less than what was paid for it but technically, a claim for a deduction of such items requires some proof of both the fair market value and the cost basis of the property.

    And such was the case I recently read about in Surgent’s Tax Issues Newsletter where a taxpayer was denied a claimed $850 deduction for clothing donated to charity. Yes $850! The return was under audit and the taxpayer submitted photographs of all the clothing donated and matched them up to the current list of retail prices published by The Salvation Army and recognized by the IRS– but that wasn’t enough. The auditor wanted purchase receipts of each item to establish the cost basis. Even if the taxpayer was in the 35 percent tax bracket, the amount of tax at issue was only $298. The IRS correctly assumed the taxpayer would throw in the towel rather than incur additional time, effort and costs to substantiate the deduction. So, the IRS pressed the issue hard enough to deny any deduction. Hooray, the deficit was reduced $300!

    From a practical standpoint, trying to establish the cost of most any item of personal property even shortly after its purchase, much less a couple of years down the road, is extremely difficult. So, nothing prevents the IRS from using similar audit strategies where larger sums of money are involved.

    Echoing the motivation Willie Sutton once famously gave for robbing banks, the Internal Revenue Service knows where the money is.

  • Oct 14

    Q. My husband and I sold our home on Fowl River that we purchased in 1973 for $459,000, and reinvested the profits in a smaller condo in town. Will we be required to pay the new 3.8% Medicare surtax (now referred to as the net investment income tax) on the gain? I understand it applies when your income is above $250,000.

    A. The 3.8% net investment income tax applies to the lesser of the net investment income for the year, or the excess of modified adjusted gross income over the $250,000 threshold. However, it does not apply to items, such as the gain on the sale of your personal residence, which do not have to be reported on your tax return.

    Do you have a question for the Taxpert that you’d like to see answered in a future Taxing Times? Or perhaps just an issue you’d like the Taxpert to address? Send the Taxpert a note to Taxing Times, 1050 Hillcrest Rd., Ste A, Mobile, AL 36695 or an email to taxpert@CPAMobileAL.com.

  • Oct 3

    It never ceases to amaze me: I observe business people and salespeople allowing customers (and money) to leak out of their business. Many times without even realizing it.

    For example, I watch people go to Chamber, or other networking, events with the sole purpose of collecting as many business cards as they can. Somehow they seem to feel, the more cards they collect, the more contacts they can make, the more business they will generate. And they will be everywhere, at every event tangentially connected to their business. Others may view them as the king or queen of networking.

    Yet the business, the referrals, aren’t coming and they ask, “Why aren’t I getting referrals?”

    There could be several reasons such as forgetting to ask, focusing on the wrong people, having no system in place, or putting pressure on customers or referral partners unknowingly.

    Here are six things you can do to increase your referrals.

    Ask. Yes, it starts here. If you don’t ask you may get a few haphazard referrals, with the emphasis on few. If you learn how to properly ask your customers and partners for help, some will enthusiastically promote your product or service. In my experience, you’ll never get all of your customers to give you a referral, but you don’t know which ones will be ambassadors for you until you ask. Note: Referral partners don’t have to be customers. They could be friends, vendors, or others in a supportive group, who have, over time, come to know, like, and trust you.

    Make people comfortable giving you referrals. It’s important to remember that your customers don’t like to feel like they are selling their friends to you. For many, offering an inducement or a bribe in exchange for names not only makes them uncomfortable, but may cause them to question the quality of your goods or services.

    You may have customers or referral sources who would like to refer, but don’t know how. By giving them easy ways to refer their family and friends without making it feel like you are paying them, you will receive more and a better quality of referrals.

    Show appreciation. Remember to thank your referral partner or customer for the referrals. If privacy allows, let them know when a referral works out and give them an update. One of my favorite ways to do this is with a handwritten card. People like to be appreciated. When you take the time to do something so few do these days, send a handwritten card – NOT a text, NOT an email, NOT a tweet, a handwritten card – your referral source will be pleased and more willingly refer you the next time.

    Focus on the right relationship. You don’t have the time to have a great relationship with everyone you meet. It’s impossible! That’s why you have to focus your energy developing the right relationships. For example, would you spend the same energy on a customer who has only purchased one entry level item from you in the last year, as you would a CEO who purchased your product for every employee at her company?

    Put systems in place. You already know that you don’t have time to build quality relationships with everyone; however, you can put systems in place such as follow up procedures to help nurture and develop relationships so that you can have more of those quality relationships referring you.

    Grow referral partners. Being an active member of a closed networking group, like BNI, gives you the opportunity to develop relationships with potential referral partners without the distraction of direct competitors. Unlike other networking opportunities, BNI encourages your efforts to build quality relationships with referral partners. Those trusting relationships can develop into your most prolific referral partners.

    Generating referrals takes a well-designed system and consistent effort to operate reliably. But the pay-off is worth it. Referrals are one of the highest probability and most profitable sources of new customers.

  • Aug 19

    Don’t you just love Congressional tricks?

    One of my personal “favorites” is when they cram a bunch of unrelated business into their bills.

    Which is just what happened about a year ago, and it could affect you…

    H.R. 3236, popularly known as “The Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015” (yes, that’s how these things are named) brought some tax-law-related changes.

    Individual tax returns are still due on April 15th — and a six month extension period is still available. But …

    * Partnership tax returns are due March 15, NOT April 15 as in the past. If your partnership isn’t on a calendar year, the return is due on the 15th day of the third month following the close of your tax year.

    * C corporation tax returns are due April 15, NOT March 15. For non-calendar years, it is due on the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the tax year.

    * S corporation tax returns remain unchanged–they are still due March 15, or the third month following the close of the taxable year.

    On TOP of that, another doozy: audits can get you for six years now, instead of three. Without going into all of the details, essentially if you withhold reporting of 25% or more of your income, the IRS has six years to figure it out. They’ve always had unlimited time for fraud or criminality … but there was some wiggle room for underreporting in the past. No longer.

    All this (and MORE!) in one measly highway bill.

    So, it pays even more to work with a pro, yes?

    These sort of issues are what we specialize in worrying all about — so you don’t have to. Because YOU have to keep your head in a bigger picture.

    Entrepreneurs know that hard work and a great idea don’t guarantee success. Fortunately, most of them also know that failure isn’t final — almost every successful business owner client of mine has crashed and burned at least once in his/her career.

    One of the best ways to pick yourself, or your business, back up off the ground is to take a fresh look at things that you “thought” were set in stone. Here are some strategies I compiled for you to possibly give your business a fresh lease on life, come fall, or into 2017…

    Re-target your market. In the heat of start-up passion, entrepreneurs frequently try to interest too broad a market: “Everyone will want to buy this!” The result: getting lost in the crowd. The more closely you define your market, the more success you will experience.

    Re-examine your price. Price is obviously supremely important. See how you can lower your overhead or cut production costs. Perhaps there’s a new way to package your products, so that your average transaction value can go up?

    Identify and push your best product. Focus on what works. If your hot product is coffee cups, look for ways to highlight and expand that niche instead of veering into new territory. How about different colors and holders for those cups?

    Make your marketing materials more memorable. Emphasize the benefits — SPECIFICALLY how features of your product or service will improve business or the quality of life for your customer. And scrutinize your advertising. Using big media is not always the answer, especially when you have narrowed your market. Don’t overlook narrowly-targeted marketing efforts or joint promotions.

    Keep promoting! Make sure your message sinks in. Find affordable ways to reach your target market, and use these avenues as often as you can. Try social advertising!

    These ideas are to get you started. There may be longer conversations to be had. If so, that’s what we’re here for.