Hiring the Right Person

Businesses are not successful without dedicated people to run it, but how do you find the right person for the job? Choosing a person whose personality fits into the company and credentials will fit the company’s needs is an art. Not everyone has mastered the process, but with a few set rules, anyone can fine the gems amongst the rocks.

The first step into hiring the right candidate is to evaluate how they fit into the company’s culture equality to how well they fit the qualifications of the job. Most jobs require employees to work with a variety of people in many different situations. The ability to work with others is an integral part of any job and should be evaluated equality with skill qualifications. Make sure that the person has the right behavioral requirements for the job. Knowing ahead of time the specific set of personality styles and behaviors the job requires, and look for candidates that fit the job.

The second part is to screen for the right set of skills. In interviews and on resumes people tend to stay on the safe side. People know how to give a good interview, but that does not determine if they will be a good candidate. The only thing that determines how well do in a job is past behaviors and results. Those are hard to see in an interview.

The third part to hiring a good candidate is to bring the finalists in and conduct 360-degree behavioral interviews. These interviews give you a broader picture of the applicants. The interview should include people that they will work with including bosses, peers, and direct reports. Ask questions that will probe into the person character and provide you with the feedback you need to make the decision.

The last step is to verify credentials. A bad hire could cost the company from $25,000 to $300,000. It is important to know that the candidate is truthful, and spending the extra $100 to ensure that is money well spent.

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The Liability of Assuming Responsibility

In many different professions, when you are hired you are handed a job description. For accountants and a few other independent contractors, the clients define the job description. This can create an unexpected liability for the independent contractors. For some responsibilities, the line can be fuzzy, which in turn causes an expectation gap. When this happens, the independent contractor could be liable for not covering this gap, even if it was never communicated.

There are ways to minimize the pitfalls associated with independent contractors. The following are a few steps to follow:

  1. Define the Duties: When writing the engagement letter, clearly define the duties and scope of the services rendered, and be sure to include any limitations on services.
  2. Perform Only Duties Listed: Performing only the duties agreed upon in the engagement letter is critical. If more duties are performed, get an additional letter or addendum to the agreement to define those new duties and limitations on the duties.
  3. Documentation: It is important to keep everything in writing. Any oral conversations should also be communicated through written communication. The communication should note the client’s responsibility for taking the action and the recommendations made. Be sure to date the communications to keep the records clear.
  4. Avoid Overstatements and Titles: When communicating with clients, creating marketing materials, or creating engagement letters, it is important to be clear. Do not imply that certain services will be included if they will not be covered. Clear communication is key. Also do not take on extra titles such as, interim, outsources CFO, or controller. Such titles give an importance that usually is not there.
  5. Request an Overseer: Have the company delegate an overseer, preferably at the executive level that has the time and expertise to oversee the services provided by the independent contractor.
  6. Assuming Responsibilities: Do not assume responsibilities that are not in the agreement letter or contract. Stay firm on responsibilities that are outlined and request a new agreement if more services are needed.
  7. Board Meeting Attendance: If it is mandatory to attend board meetings, try to be first on the agenda, and exit after you are done. Have it noted in the minutes of what you discussed and then the time that you exited. This will keep you from being drawn into responsibilities that are not in your contract.
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Tax Audit Red Flags

Many people know that an audit is not typically a good experience, but what triggers an audit from the IRS. There are several red flags that the IRS look for when determining what tax returns will be audited.

The first red flag is foreign assets. Since 2009 the IRS has been increasing efforts to regulate offshore accounts. On Schedule B, a taxpayer is asked about ownership in foreign accounts. If they check the box but do not provide any information on the assets it will automatically trigger an audit.

The next red flag can be ex-spouses. Many time following messy divorces and ex can want to cause problems for the other spouse. They contact the IRS with information about the other spouse which may include money laundering, serious financial crimes, underreporting income, etc. Some of the claims are real and others are not, but they have to be investigated.

Too many zeros on a tax return will also be a red flag. It is ok to round to the nearest dollar, but not to the nearest hundred or thousand. It is unlikely that all the sums come out perfect, so too much rounding will cause problems.

Many times a home office credit will send up the red flag. The IRS is cracking down on home office deductions. The credit can only be claimed if your home office is the primary place of business and  used just for work.

Other red flags are miscellaneous income over $600 that was not reported; fishy tax deductions; earning over $5 million; say the wrong thing to the wrong person, even if it is a  joke, you never know who will turn you in; too much work-related driving; exaggerated donations; owning a business that is losing money; and unreliable tax preparers.

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How to Prepare for an Audit

This is the time of year that the IRS conducts tax audits. While it can be scary, there are ways to prepare before the audit. If you are meeting the auditor in person there are a few things you should prepare ahead of time.

Before the Audit

Whether you are meeting an auditor by yourself or with a professional, it is important to be prepared. Find all records that relate to and back up your tax return. The IRS has the right to look any records used to prepare your tax return, so to make it easy. Organize the records use to prepare your tax return. This will also help refresh your memory before the audit meeting.

Remember that neatness counts. The more receipts the auditor goes through, the more chances they will find something else. Auditors tend to reward good recordkeeping and give the benefit of doubt if any problem arises. Pinpoint potential problems and be able to show why your right to take a deduction. Do some research, if necessary.

What to Bring to the Audit

A successful audit is backing up your tax return with documentation. Proof should be in writing, even though auditors are allowed to accept oral explanations. You should bring bank statements, canceled checks, and receipts. Also electronic records, ledgers, journals, and printout of any computer data will also make it easier to show proof. Do not make the IRS guess because they will assume guilt. Anything that will help give proof should be available for the auditor to review.

It is important to stay calm and be prepared to answer any questions the auditor would ask. The success of the audit depends on proving the return is correct.

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How to Select an Auditor for Your Employee Benefits Plan

Businesses with over 100 participants in an employee benefits plan must have an audit on an annual basis. This audit must be filed, in fact, with the annual return. Many companies turn to simple services that provide nothing more than a basic look over the plan and provide the necessary files. Yet, before you choose anyone for the job, and potentially miss costly mistakes being made, it is critically important to focus on hiring a third party professional specializing in this type of audit.

Why Does It Matter?

Sometimes, it may seem that the least expensive option is the best option, but your business is likely suffering because of what you do not know. It is critical to have a professional with ample experience step in and to ensure that the necessary funds will be available to pay for all promised benefits to employees, including retirement and health needs. This is a legal responsibility, but it is also more than that.

An accurate plan is one that helps you to achieve your goals. Your employees are happy and that leads to good productivity. It also means you spend less money paying fines or trying to fund programs you cannot.

Who Should You Choose?

When selecting an auditor for your employee benefits plan, there are several key things to look for in these professionals. First, the auditor you use must be a licensed or certified public accountant. Aside from this, there are other things you will want to look for including:

  • The overall experience level of the auditor
  • The amount of time he or she has to dedicate to the job
  • The types of services offered specifically, you may wish to continue with the auditor for other needs as well
  • The cost of the service and how it is determined
  • The organization and timeliness of the individual

Take the time to get to know the auditor you select carefully. Not just anyone will meet the stringent requirements of the government and also ensure that you have an accurate, unbiased representation of what is happening with your employee benefits plan. The right professionals, like those at Crowley & Halloran, can help you to get this legal matter taken care of and ensure that your benefits plan is working in the best possible way it can for the benefit of both you and your employees.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Capitol Loss Deduction: Should it Reflect Inflation?

Over the years, the Internal Revenue Code has adjusted for inflation of many different tax incentives to help individuals cope with the negative effects of inflation. Congress selects these provisions and the annual change is driven by the consumer price index. One provision that has not changed is the capital loss deduction.

The capital loss deduction was established in 1976 and allows for a maximum of $3,000 in capital loss deduction each year, and has not changed since it was introduced. There are numerous reasons to explain why there is a cap on the amount of deductions, but it comes down to taxpayers being able to write off all losses, retaining the gain assets and defer taxation by selling them later. It would dramatically decrease the amount in federal tax revenue.

By using the consumer price index inflation calculator, in 2002, the maximum deduction would be around $9,500. Today the deduction maximum would be around $12,000, and if it was tied to inflation the maximum would continue to rise. This would eventually open up the opportunity for people to deduct all losses, or even sell at a loss and retain gained assets, which would defer taxation. This would greatly reduce the amount of federal tax revenue.

So what does this mean for taxpayers? Well, it means at this time, that the highest amount able to be deducted is $3,000. Anything over $3,000 that does not offset capital gains or deducted can be carried over to the next year. Many people argue that this system is has eroded the value of the deduction. However, the real question is can there be a regulation that would increase the amount deducted without undermining the amount of federal tax revenue?

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Looking Out for Property Tax

With any state, the majority of revenue comes from both personal and real property tax. Combined with the erosion of local tax base, many home and business owners may face higher assessed values then in past years. Some tax assessors may be too aggressive with their assessments so they can maintain the tax revenue, but it is important to keep on top of your assessed property value to make sure that you are not paying too much in property tax.

The object of property assessment is to provide fair and equitable value for each property. Most properties are assessed using fair market value. Fair market value is “the price in a competitive market a purchaser, willing but not obligated to buy, would pay an owner, willing but not obligated to sell, taking into consideration all the legal uses to which the property can be adapted and might reasonably be applied.” The property assessment is either full market value or a percentage of the market value. States then take the assessed amount and multiply it by the millage to get the amount owed in real estate taxes. This process can take place yearly, or over a mandated time, usually 3-6 years.

Determining the assessment of residential home tends to be more straightforward then the process of industrial or commercials properties. Houses are compared to other homes in comparable neighborhoods that have recently sold to determine the assessed value. Commercial and industrial properties have more variables to consider before an appropriate assessment is generated. Since there are so many variables, the chance of an assessment error is there, giving the business owner a chance for an appeal of the assessment.

Timely tracking of personal property assessment is essential to guarantee deadlines are not missed. Many only offer a brief deadline for appeal, usually 15-45 days from the assessment date. Once the business owner determines if there is a tax assessment that warrants an appeal, the appeal is filed. There are three levels to the appeals depending on the severity of the assessment. Each needs proper detailed documentation. If you think that there is a problem with your assessment then it would be beneficial to consult with a CPA firm for assistance.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Wealth Management Trends for 2013

With 2013 barely underway, trends for wealth management are undergoing a transition characterized by uncertainty and change. The change will affect everything from business models to how technology influences client relationships. Over the next few months, the changes develop how wealth management services are provided to clients.

A lot of the reevaluation will focus around operating and growth strategies, should companies acquire other companies or partners. The largest wealth management firms will continue to grow through acquisitions and internal building. Whereas the smaller to midsize companies may choose to grow through partners that provide resources that will help them remain current and competitive.  Wealth management firms will become smarter about running their business and become open to working with other companies that has the expertise help them deliver their services.

Along with growth, many advisors will begin to find a successor and groom them to take over their practice. It is important to ensure the longevity of their practice. Finding their ideal successor and connecting them with their clients’ children safeguards their practice from declining after they retire. By bringing in a younger successor, they will be able to establish their own client list, and prove to your established clients that they will be taken care of when you retire.

Wealth management services will also progress through the uses of technology. Larger firms will have an advantage of the newest technology and all that it can provide. Smaller firms that outsource to other companies for some technology needs are currently less efficient. However, there will be a move to efficiency. Many firms will be investing in technology to maintain or create effective ways of working for and with clients. Many firms will find themselves working from the cloud and have an “always on” connectivity through online access.

Overall, there are many transitions to come this year. Be proactive in how the year progresses and grow your business accordingly. Take the change as a positive and the uncertainty as a chance to find your way.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Combating Fraud

In every business, the reality is that fraud can happen. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiner’s authoritative annual Report to the Nations, estimates that 5 percent of business revenue worldwide, or approximately $3.5 trillion, is stolen through fraud each year. With the magnitude of fraud, business owners need to be aware of how to help prevent fraud.

It is hard to prevent fraud, because fraud happens when an opportunity presents itself and a person is willing or can justify the actions. Funds can be siphoned off for decades before someone realizes what happened.

When looking for fraud, it is important to know that not all audits or compilation will be looking for fraud. It is not a protection against fraud. The best way to detect fraud is from inside the company through internal controls. By completing an audit of your internal controls, a company can find their weakness and put in place monitoring systems that will discourage fraud. One way some companies have found that have been effective is a hotline for reporting dodgy dealings. Almost 40% of fraud cases are find this way, and training and hotlines do not cost much to establish.

The face of fraud is also changing making it difficult to know where the vulnerabilities come from within the company. The fast pace of the technology can also create issues that could lead to fraud. Here are some technology rules that can help curtail fraud:

• Remind employees that they are at work and should not be using the computer for personal purposes
• Use stronger passwords that are less easily guessed
• Make sure that firewalls are installed for all computers, when using the internet
• Treat phones and tablets like a computer, make sure the virus protection is updated
• Keep track of where your technology goes and who is using it.
• When using the cloud, know what protection and assistance you can except in the event of fraud or legal action.

Overall, the most effective way to combat fraud is to make it clear that it is unacceptable and is not tolerated. Do not blindly trust any employee, set out clearly the expectations and rules of the organization, and remember that the attitude starts from the top down. Set the example for employees and they will rise to the standards.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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How to Reduce Internal Fraud

In all businesses, having effective internal controls is very valuable. How do you know that your practices are effective? What can you as a business owner do to deter fraud in your business? Having effective internal controls will help your business keep up with the fast pace of the changing business practices. The following questions can help companies examine their internal controls to help prevent fraud.

Which businesses need to protect themselves against fraud?

No company, big or small, is immune to fraud. All the companies that have experienced fraud have one thing in common: they did not think that they were susceptible to fraud.

Businesses, especially smaller businesses, require employees to perform multiple tasks are at a greater risk of internal fraud. Businesses that cannot separate “conflicting tasks” increase the chance of fraud. When these tasks are separated, perpetrators are required to work together to steal from the company, which is harder to do then a single person doing all the tasks.

In larger business with more staff, tasks are separate, but perpetrators will still look for loopholes in the system. When owners are lax with monitoring, and given the opportunity weaknesses are exploited.

What Condition Motivates Internal Fraud?

When a perpetrator meets poorly designed and monitored internal controls, fraud happens. Companies should work to design proper controls, and be attentive in monitoring their effectiveness. The controls should be adapted to changing practices in the business, and not be ignored when the business becomes too busy to implement them. Owners need to be aware of internal controls and make them propriety to deter employees who might commit fraud.

How Can Companies Prevent Internal Fraud?

To help reduce the chances for fraud, companies must take a “top down” approach. Modeling and exhibiting the greatest degree of integrity set the tone for the company. Owners that do not uphold any level of integrity with aspects of the company cannot expect their employees to do so either.

When assessing controls, companies should identify areas with the biggest risk. Implement controls to shore up vulnerabilities uncovered in the assessment. Have a certified CPA audit financial records and procedures to determine where weaknesses are in the company. If the CPA specializes in fraud, this is especially helpful in determining what controls should be implemented to prevent fraud. Controls should be monitored and review regularly to truly reduce the likelihood of fraud.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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