Couple at computer looking at paper in confusion

Should I use DIY tax software or ask a CPA for help with my taxes?

A fairytale about tax preparation

Once upon a time there was a lovely newlywed couple who called our office looking for help with their taxes. One of the spouses was very excited not to be responsible for a stack of IRS forms. The other spouse was, we’ll say, “less than excited” to be chatting with a CPA. Spouse #2, who shall remain nameless, had always used a DIY tax prep software service and was very proud of the money they had saved by not paying a professional… until the friendly CPA reviewed last year’s tax return. The CPA discovered (and, of course, shared with the newlyweds in the most friendly, educational, non-condemning manner) that they could have saved over $1,000 on the taxes they paid to the IRS last year.

Ouch!

How to decide between DIY tax software or CPA?

Do my taxes for free?

DIY or self-prep tax software promises cost-efficient returns – even offering to do some of the simplest returns for free. Who can beat that offer? Well, if you’re a first time filer or a college student with minimal income, maybe no one. Software can absolutely help you compute and file your taxes if you have a basic return (in IRS terms, a 1040EZ or 1040A).

What if life gets more interesting?

The older and more “grown up” you become, say with a job, kids or a house, the more interesting and complicated your taxes become. Even the very best software, which is not free, can only report the historical information that you enter in each category. An experienced CPA will report your information and help you make sense of the tax forms you received for the year, but they will also ask about things you might have forgotten. The human touch means someone is going to sit down with you and talk through your income and your deductions.

Humans care and give personal advice.

Some things that go on your tax return, like the income on your W-2, are black and white. There are other expenses and life events that are not as clear. If you received a 1099, where does it go on your return and what expenses are you allowed to deduct? Will tax software give advice on if you should increase your withholding? Can it offer suggestions on the pros and cons of an early IRA withdrawal? Has software ever advised a taxpayer on what actions could be taken to defer recognition of income? Or, maybe more importantly, when that income recognition should be deferred?

What does your future look like?

Smart tax planning looks at your personal situation as well as your short and long term goals. Click To Tweet

For most people, as they progress in their career, their income grows. Your expectation of that growth should include smart tax planning. Smart tax planning is an art form that looks not only at your tax return for this year, but at your personal situation as well as your short and long term goals. You deserve to talk with a live human being who has your best interest in mind. Our accountants LIKE talking to people!

What’s the bottom line?

It is lawful and important to pay all the taxes you owe. However, it’s also lawful and your right to make proper use of every tax break afforded to you by the beloved Internal Revenue Service Tax Code. While tax software can help you record a previous year’s transactions, it does not teach or offer wise counsel. A dedicated accountant will help you learn about your life, your work, and options to proactively minimize your tax liability. Software will record your past, but a diligent accountant will help plan your future.

If you think it might be time to graduate from DIY tax prep, let’s talk. We know it may sound scary to call a CPA, but no blog can answer every individual situation. We’d be happy to chat and to help guide you in the right direction with a free, new client phone consultation.

A fairytale ending

After meeting with the CPA, the newlyweds filed their taxes for this year AND an amended return for last year, received a nice refund and, as in any good fairytale, they all lived happily ever after. The End.

Businessman looking at picture frames with sky and clouds

How Can I Compare My Product to the Market?

The market is saturated. It hardly matters anymore what industry you’re in, consumers have more choices for products and services than ever before. It used to be that once you got your product on the shelves the hard work was done. But while barriers of entry have gone down, consumer awareness is heightened. Even shopping for school supplies takes a turn when a simple number 2 pencil can have 1600+ reviews!

To survive in such cutthroat competition your product or service must meet market demands and the best way to know it will is through product comparisons.

The need of product comparison to the market is an ongoing process and should be done quickly and regularly. Gone are the days when you only had to study the market while choosing the business sector and launching the product. To keep up with the pace, you must keep an eye on the market day and night—one missed opportunity can hit your accounts hard!

Let’s discuss how to keep an eye on your products and services relating to the market:

  1. Identify your target audience.

    Each product and service is designed to cater to a particular segment of people. It is suicidal if you don’t understand YOUR target customers and their demographics. If you’re not aware of what portion of the population your product will sell to, then it will be difficult to succeed. You cannot use trial and error just hoping to stumble on the right answer and survive in the market.

  2. Identify your competitors.

    The market will always be stuffed with companies that sell the same product or service as yours. Knowing those companies is not a difficult task, but your focus should be to identify those companies which target the SAME customer base as yours. Always choose the right competitors otherwise it may mislead you. For example, Levis cannot consider Armani or Gucci as their competitors as they both target different segments and there is no space for comparison.

  3. Create a competitive market analysis.

    This can be conducted in a few ways:

    • Visit competitor stores and look at their product ranges, prices, specifications and so on.
    • Check their online presence and gain knowledge that way.
    • Hit up social media, forums, etc. to discover the buzz around your competitors.

    It is important to be impartial while conducting this study and see each competitor through the customer’s view. This way you will have a true idea of the positive and negative points of your product and you will be able to make your product more competitive.

  4. Analyze the transactional and historical sales data of your product or service.

    This data speaks a lot about how your product is performing in the market. You can also do a region-wide analysis to know the trend and potential growth areas.

  5. Conduct a study of consumer behavior.

    This can be conducted through small surveys—a quick set questions when they are purchasing your product or may be an online feedback form. The most important thing to remember is to formulate appropriate questions—they should be brief and should provide you insight into the consumer behavior.

Make your product comparison work for you:

These key areas of analysis will help you formulate a strong comparison of your product to the market. However like most data it’s only really useful if you put it to work. Make sure you get the most out of your efforts by tailoring your product or service to what the market really wants. Then repeat the process regularly to keep your business in top shape!

What’s the best lesson you learned from comparing your product or service to the market? If you’ve never done a product comparison what would you like to learn? Let us know in the comments below!

Woman Working on Papers and Laptop

Should you set up a LLC or Corporation or Sole Proprietor?

If you were an “entity” what would you be, and why?

Not exactly something you, as a business owner, enjoy contemplating is it? But it is a decision that must be made when you are setting up a business.  The options are Sole Proprietorship/partnership, LLC (Limited Liability Company), C-Corporation, or S-Corporation. The decision you make has many implications. Start by asking yourself some questions:

  • How much personal liability are you willing to risk?
  • What do you anticipate as the income cycle over the next few years?
  • Do you think you’ll need to raise money in the form of investors or loans?
  • Do you have resources to help you with payroll, taxes and legal matters?
  • What are your ambitions to grow your business?

It almost seems like the deep questions of the universe, doesn’t it? But to truly figure your right fit, the first step is to understand where these questions fit in to the different structures.

Sole Proprietorship

A Sole Proprietorship is basically an individual business owner. This is the simplest and cheapest form of operation. All the ins and outs of the money just flow through to the owner’s personal tax returns on a Schedule C. There’s no true requirement to maintain separate business records, but of course it’s recommended. As the business owner, you are then subject to paying self employment tax on the earnings.

Doesn’t sound so bad right? The primary cons to this structure are:

  1. Liability – If you are sued or creditors come after your business, then you as the owner and all your personal assets are at risk.
  2. Tax savings – Generally speaking, there is an income threshold that usually makes it tax-wise to switch to a corporation.
  3. Business Growth – If there comes a time when you are hoping to get a loan or investor backing, its harder to prove your the financial worth and credibility of your business with intermixing of personal and business assets.

LLC or Limited Liability Company

An LLC or Limited Liability Company is similar to Sole Proprietorship as the income flows into your personal tax return but it provides personal liability protection. The downside is that there are state filing fees, some accounting complexities, and legal services that you should obtain to properly elect this entity.   In some cases LLC’s have even more legal/accounting complexities for compliance than corporations.   Also, since the entire profit is subject to the self-employment tax, it restricts your ability to defer income to later years and avoid higher tax brackets (as with the Sole Proprietorship).

Corporation

As a Corporation your business is its own “legal entity.” Business income, for a C Corporation, is taxed at the corporate level and the money taken out of the corporation by you as a dividend is taxed.

Primary pros and cons to being a corporation are:

  1. Only corporate assets are exposed to financial liability. (Your personal assets are protected.)
  2. A corporation may be given more credibility in the market place and additional capital may be more easily secured.
  3. State filing requirements to complete annual documents, pay annual fees, and hold officer meetings.
  4. Detailed record keeping in order to be in compliance with Corporation laws.
  5. C -Corporations endure “double taxation.” A corporate income tax on profit in addition to the personal income tax that you as owners have to pay on your dividends must taken into account before making the choice to be a known as a corporation.

Another election could be made to be what’s known as a S-Corporation (vs the normal C-Corporation described above).   The biggest advantage is that as an owner, money can be taken out of the business as dividends and there is no corporate income tax so there’s no double taxation. There are limitations on types and number of partners as an S-Corp though. Also, once this election is made, no change in entity form can be made for 5 years, so long-term planning is crucial.

Good news: it doesn’t have to be complicated if you have the right information. Bad news: There’s no one right answer for every situation.

As you can see, there are huge implications from this decision and we are more than happy to help you sift through the information and point you in the right direction. Contact us today! We promise to make it as painless as possible so you can get back to doing what you do best…making money!

 

Scam Alert Road Sign

5 Ways to Spot an IRS Email Scam Message

A recent article, How to Spot an IRS Email Scam Message by Anita Campbell reports that during the first quarter of the year aka tax season, IRS email scams increase– targeting taxpayers, tax preparers, and small business owners. The scams include bogus phone calls and IRS email scams alleging to be from the IRS but, in reality, they are from a spammer.

Here is how to spot a bogus IRS email scam. Be warned.

  1. An unexpected email from the IRS is a red flag

    It’s important to bear in mind the IRS has stated that it generally does not instigate contact with taxpayers via email to request financial or personal information. This includes any kind of electronic communication, such as texting and social media platforms.

    If information is required from you, the IRS will initiate contact via USPS. It will probably be an official-looking envelope.

  2. Incorrect return address

    A return email address can be forged. Inspect the email header information diligently. Find out who actually sent the message. Remember, it’s not an official IRS communication if it’s not sent from the IRS.gov domain.

  3. Unprofessional format

    It’s not an official IRS message if you can see several typos, errors odd spacing and/or multiple fonts. If the email is in anyway messy, unprofessional looking or has misspelled words it is a fake.

  4. Incorrect or vague phrases

    The IRS is generally accurate about things like IRS form numbers, tax return processes and tax code sections. For example, phrases such as “tax payout” are not standard phrases for the IRS.  “Tax refund” should be used instead. Anything that sounds unfamiliar is probably unfamiliar for a reason!

  5. Asking for confidential information

    Almost always, the point of these spam emails is to get you to reveal confidential information. They are trying to get you to click on links in the email that will take you to a page that you believe is the IRS website, but is instead a bogus page designed to collect your valuable information. Sometimes, the intent is just malicious and they are trying to get you to download and install malware or a computer virus without your knowledge or consent on your computer.

Conclusion

These emails are known as IRS phishing emails. Beware and keep informed! Don’t dare click on a link or download/ open any attachment in a suspect IRS message. Just forward the suspected spam message to phishing@irs.gov.

Remember, during tax season you can avoid the stress by seeking out a CPA to help you with all your tax matters and needs.

Abacus Accounting

Why Every Business Owner Should Have a Relationship with an Accounting Firm

A Certified Public Accountant or CPA is a trained accounting professional who has received a license to manage, audit, expert opinion, and the analysis of financial records and general ledgers.

To become a CPA, an individual must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, managed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), along with meeting education and experience requirements.

Abacus Accounting

Did you know…? The abacus is one of the oldest accounting tools used in commerce and trading, with origins in ancient Mesopotamia in 2700 BC.

CPAs must also follow and adhere to the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles or GAAP, which provide standards for financial accounting to be followed for compliance and consistency in the accounting profession.

With this in mind, business owners working with a CPA gain access to a wealth of experience and knowledge that can help them manage their business efficiently, reducing risks and improving everyday decision-making.

Entrepreneurs often start businesses from a simple idea that creates a solution through innovation and creative genius, and while they can get by for a while on their own, there comes a time when the business can become too complex to manage on their own.

From payroll management and filing taxes to deciding on how to grow and expand, business owners should always consult a CPA to gain perspective on their decision-making, using a CPAs knowledge and objectivity to prevent costly mistakes.

Now, filing business tax forms and making the calculation of tax rates are only a small part of the filing process, since most business owners—no matter how smart or knowledgeable they are—are not tax experts and are not required to complete extenuating continuing education requirements.

In addition, business owners commonly find themselves at a crossroad when they get a certified letter from the IRS or when their business starts to thrive and keeps them away from everyday management tasks, which leads to spreading themselves too thin—and this can cause inefficiencies that pile up until it is too late to deal with them.

Consider working with a CPA who can take some of the weight off your back, managing your bookkeeping and tax filing—so you don’t have to—and start focusing on what’s really important in your business: your customers and their satisfaction.

Contact Kuberneo CPA today to learn how your business can make better decisions for growth and development—you’ll be glad you did.