Category Archives: Raleigh CPA Firm

Use Benchmarking to Swim with the Big Fish

You may keep a wary eye on your competitors, but sometimes it helps to look just a little bit deeper. Even if you’re a big fish in your pond, someone a little bigger may be swimming up just beneath you. Being successful means not just being aware of these competitors, but also knowing their approaches and results.

And that’s where benchmarking comes in. By comparing your company with the leading competition, you can identify weaknesses in your business processes, set goals to correct these problems and keep a constant eye on how your company is doing. In short, benchmarking can help your company grow more successful.

2 basic methods

The two basic benchmarking methods are:

1. Quantitative benchmarking. This compares performance results in terms of key performance indicators (formulas or ratios) in areas such as production, marketing, sales, market share and overall financials.

2. Qualitative benchmarking. Here you compare operating practices — such as production techniques, quality of products or services, training methods, and morale — without regard to results.

You can break down each of these basic methods into more specific methods, defined by how the comparisons are made. For example, internal benchmarking compares similar operations and disseminates best practices within your organization, while competitive benchmarking compares processes and methods with those of your direct competitors.

Waters, familiar and new

The specifics of any benchmarking effort will very much depend on your company’s industry, size, and product or service selection, as well as the state of your current market. Nonetheless, by watching how others navigate the currents, you can learn to swim faster and more skillfully in familiar waters. And, as your success grows, you may even identify optimal opportunities to plunge into new bodies of water.

For more information on this topic, or other profit-enhancement ideas, please contact our firm. We would welcome the opportunity to help you benchmark your way to greater success.

© 2018

Turning Employee Ideas Into Profitable Results

Many businesses train employees how to do their jobs and only their jobs. But amazing things can happen when you also teach staff members to actively involve themselves in a profitability process — that is, an ongoing, idea-generating system aimed at adding value to your company’s bottom line.

Let’s take a closer look at how to get your workforce involved in coming up with profitable ideas and then putting those concepts into action.

6 steps to implementation

Without a system to discover ideas that originate from the day-in, day-out activities of your business, you’ll likely miss opportunities to truly maximize profitability. What you want to do is put a process in place for gathering profit-generating ideas, picking out the most actionable ones and then turning those ideas into results. Here are six steps to implementing such a system:

1. Share responsibility for profitability with your management team.
2. Instruct managers to challenge their employees to come up with profit-building ideas.
3. Identify the employee-proposed ideas that will most likely increase sales, maximize profit margins or control expenses.
4. Tie each chosen idea to measurable financial goals.
5. Name those accountable for executing each idea.
6. Implement the ideas through a clear, patient and well-monitored process.

For the profitability process to be effective, it must be practical, logical and understandable. All employees — not just management — should be able to use it to turn ideas and opportunities into bottom-line results. As a bonus, a well-constructed process can improve business skills and enhance morale as employees learn about profit-enhancement strategies, come up with their own ideas and, in some cases, see those concepts turned into reality.

A successful business

Most employees want to not only succeed at their own jobs, but also work for a successful business. A strong profitability process can help make this happen. To learn more about this and other ways to build your company’s bottom line, contact us

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© 2018

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How Nonprofits Can Regain Their Tax-Exempt Status

Thousands of not-for-profits lose their tax-exempt status every year because they’ve neglected to file required annual forms with the IRS for three consecutive years. Fortunately, if your organization is on the revocation list, you can re-attain your exempt status by following the proper steps.

File the right form

Assuming you lost your exempt status due to one of these automatic revocations, you can regain your status by filing:

• Form 1023, “Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3),” or
• Form 1024, “Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(a).”

Unless you apply for retroactive reinstatement, all of your organization’s activities between the revocation and the reinstatement date will be considered taxable. Thus, all contributions made during that period won’t be deductible by donors.

You may apply for retroactive reinstatement, effective the date of the automatic revocation, by filing the applicable form within 15 months or the later of the date of 1) the IRS revocation letter, or 2) the date the IRS posted your organization’s name on its website.

Support your application

When you file the form, you must attach the following five items:

1. A detailed statement that provides reasonable cause for failing to file required returns in each of the three consecutive years. It should state the facts that led to each failure and the continual failure, discovery of the failures and steps taken to avoid or mitigate them.
2. A statement that describes safeguards put in place and steps taken to avoid future failures.
3. Evidence to support all material aspects of those two statements.
4. Properly completed and executed paper tax returns for all taxable years during and after the three-year period your organization failed to file.
5. An original declaration dated and signed by an authorized person such as an officer or director. (See IRS Notice 2011-44 for the required wording.)

To expedite your application, write “AUTOMATICALLY REVOKED” on the top of the form and envelope and include the specified fee.

Make it the priority

Without your tax-exempt status, you’re likely to lose donations and other funding. So make reinstatement a top priority. Contact us for more information and help with the process.

© 2018

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Changes to Deductions for Qualified Residential Interest

There have been changes in the rules for deducting qualified residential interest, i.e., interest on your home mortgage, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (the Act).attachment

Under the pre-Act rules, you could deduct interest on up to a total of $1 million of mortgage debt used to acquire your principal residence and a second home, i.e., acquisition debt. For a married taxpayer filing separately, the limit was $500,000. You could also deduct interest on home equity debt, i.e., other debt secured by the qualifying homes. Qualifying home equity debt was limited to the lesser of $100,000 ($50,000 for a married taxpayer filing separately), or the taxpayer’s equity in the home or homes (the excess of the value of the home over the acquisition debt). The funds obtained via a home equity loan did not have to be used to acquire or improve the homes. So you could use home equity debt to pay for education, travel, health care, etc.

Under the Act, starting in 2018, the limit on qualifying acquisition debt is reduced to $750,000 ($375,000 for a married taxpayer filing separately). However, for acquisition debt incurred before Dec. 15, 2017, the higher pre-Act limit applies. The higher pre-Act limit also applies to debt arising from refinancing pre-Dec. 15, 2017 acquisition debt, to the extent the debt resulting from the refinancing does not exceed the original debt amount. This means you can refinance up to $1 million of pre-Dec. 15, 2017 acquisition debt in the future and not be subject to the reduced limitation.

And, importantly, starting in 2018, there is no longer a deduction for interest on home equity debt. This applies regardless of when the home equity debt was incurred. Accordingly, if you are considering incurring home equity debt in the future, you should take this factor into consideration. And if you currently have outstanding home equity debt, be prepared to lose the interest deduction for it, starting in 2018. (You will still be able to deduct it on your 2017 tax return, filed in 2018.)

Lastly, both of these changes last for eight years, through 2025. In 2026, the pre-Act rules are scheduled to come back into effect. So beginning in 2026, interest on home equity loans will be deductible again, and the limit on qualifying acquisition debt will be raised back to $1 million ($500,000 for married separate filers).

If you would like to discuss how these changes affect your particular situation, and any planning moves you should consider in light of them, contact our firm. We would be happy to help!

Payroll matters: 2018 withholding tables are a-changin’

For employers, managing payroll smoothly and properly is a delicate, critical matter. There may be no quicker way to turn a happy employee into a disgruntled one than by mishandling his or her paycheck.

This year, employers have an additional challenge to contend with in this area. When Congress passed and the President signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) late last year, it meant the IRS withholding tables would have to be updated. And now they have been.

Incorporate the changes

As you’re no doubt aware, the withholding tables enable employers (or their payroll services) to determine the amount to withhold from employees’ paychecks in light of their wages, marital status and number of withholding allowances.

The revised tables reflect the TCJA’s increase to the standard deduction, suspension of personal exemptions, and changes in tax rates and brackets. The new withholding tables are also designed to work with the Forms W-4 that employers already have on file for their employees. In other words, your employees don’t need to complete any new forms or take any other action now.

Employers, on the other hand, must move to incorporate the new tables into their payroll systems as soon as possible — and no later than February 15, 2018. (Continue to use the 2017 withholding tables until you adopt the new figures.)

Communicate with employees

As you adopt the new withholding tables, it’s a good idea to also communicate the changes and their implications to your employees.

The IRS expects that many working taxpayers will see increases in their paychecks after the new tables are instituted in February. But it’s possible that some of your employees could find themselves unexpectedly hit with bigger income tax bills when it comes time to file their 2018 tax returns. This is because the TCJA eliminates or restricts many popular tax breaks a lot of taxpayers have claimed on their returns in past years. In some cases, lower rates and a higher standard deduction won’t make up for the diminished breaks.

Make sure your employees are aware that it’s their responsibility to alert you, their employer, of any adjustments they’d like to make to avoid under- or overwitholding of taxes from their paychecks. You might point out that the IRS is updating its withholding calculator (available at irs.gov) to assist taxpayers in reviewing their situations. The agency expects the new calculator to be available by the end of February and reflect changes in available itemized deductions, as well as several other important tax-related points.

Rise to the challenge

Getting payroll right matters — significantly. Although the TCJA brought some potentially beneficial tax-saving opportunities for employers, it also ushered in some challenges. Please contact our firm for more information.

© 2018

Grants Can Help Firm Up Your Nonprofit’s Financial Foundation

There are more than 87,000 foundations in the United States — including family, corporate and community foundations — according to the Foundation Center. If your not-for-profit isn’t actively seeking grants from these groups, you’re neglecting a potentially significant income source.

Know your target

Probably the most important thing to remember when approaching foundations is that they tend to specialize, making grants to certain types of charities or in specific geographic regions. It’s not enough to be a 501(c)(3) organization — though your exempt status is critical. Your nonprofit’s mission and programs will need to match the interests of the foundation to which you’re applying.

So it’s essential to research foundations before you apply for grants. Review annual reports, tax filings, press releases and any other information you can get your hands on. One place to start is the Foundation Center’s online directory at foundationcenter.org.

Once you have a list of matches, don’t just start sending out long, detailed proposals. Call your target foundations and talk to staff members about the kind of information they need and their communication preferences. Most will be happy to provide insights into their decision-making process and shed light on your chances of securing a grant.

Successful qualities

The most successful foundation grant proposals have several qualities in common. For example, foundations like projects that are well defined and data driven with specific goals. They also want to know that their gifts are effective, so achievement of such goals needs to be measurable.

It’s important to outline a project’s life cycle and how you plan to fund it to completion. Many foundations provide the money to initiate projects but expect nonprofits to use their own funds and other grants to continue them. In fact, if you hope to establish a long-term relationship with a foundation that has given you a grant, you must successfully finish what you started.

If at first …

Keep in mind that a rejected proposal doesn’t have to shut the door on future opportunities. If your request is turned down, ask the foundation to explain its decision and to provide tips on making your proposals stronger. Many organizations are competing for the same foundation funds, so tenacity is crucial.

Contact us for more tips on getting the funding your organization needs.

© 2018

Just Released – 2018 Employer’s Tax Guide

01_31_18_887564224_ftnp_560x292_1.jpgAttention employers: The IRS just released the 2018 version of Publication 15, “Employer’s Tax Guide,” which reflects important changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The publication provides guidance on the requirements for withholding, depositing, reporting, paying, and correcting employment taxes. It also contains information on forms employers must give to employees, forms employees must give to employers, and forms that must be sent to the IRS and Social Security Administration. The new withholding tables are included. Find it here: http://bit.ly/1TW9o1V

If you would like additional information or guidance, we would be happy to help. Contact us today!

Changes to Business Meals & Entertainment Expenses

01_23_18-856747332_fntp_560x292_2.jpgThe Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made two changes to business meals and entertainment expenses, effective for amounts incurred or paid after Dec. 31, 2017. The first change disallows deductions for business-related entertainment expenses. (Under prior law, a taxpayer could deduct 50% of such expenses.) In addition, the 50% limit on the deductibility of business meals is expanded to meals provided through an in-house cafeteria or on the employer’s premises. (Previously, they were 100% deductible.) Contact us if you have questions about your business.

We are happy to answer any questions you may have on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Contact us today!

Low Income Filter on Military Retiree Payments

01_23_18-528462035_fntp_560x292_3.jpgA “low-income filter” will be soon applied to military retiree payments. In response to a congressional inquiry, the IRS has agreed to apply the filter to military retiree payments subject to the Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP). This levy process kicks in after the IRS sends several notices to a taxpayer about a balance due but the taxpayer doesn’t respond. The IRS estimates the filter will be applied this fall. But the IRS stated that, “if a levy causes a hardship” in the interim, the tax agency will work with a military retiree to release it.

For any questions on this topic or other tax related questions, contact us via email or at (919) 662-1001.

What Nonprofits Need to Know About the New Tax Law

The number of taxpayers who itemize deductions on their federal tax return — and, thus, are eligible to deduct charitable contributions — is estimated by the Tax Policy Center to drop from 37% in 2017 to 16% in 2018. That’s because the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) substantially raises the standard deduction. Many not-for-profit organizations are understandably worried about how this change will affect donations. But this isn’t the only TCJA provision that affects nonprofits.

Donors have fewer incentives

In addition to reducing smaller-scale giving by shrinking the pool of people who itemize, the TCJA might discourage major contributions. The law doubles the estate tax exemption to $10 million (indexed for inflation) through 2025. Some wealthy individuals who make major gifts to shrink their taxable estates won’t need to donate as much to reduce or eliminate their potential estate tax.

UBIT takes a bigger bite

The new law mandates that nonprofits calculate their unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) separately for each unrelated business. As a result, they can’t use a deduction from one unrelated business to offset income from another unrelated business for the same tax year. However, they can generally use one year’s losses on an unrelated business to reduce their taxes for that business in a different year. The TCJA also includes in UBTI expenses used to provide certain transportation-related and other benefits. So, the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) a nonprofit must pay could go up.

High compensation risks new tax

Nonprofits with highly compensated executives may now potentially face a 21% excise tax. The tax applies to the sum of any compensation (including most benefits) in excess of $1 million paid to a covered employee plus certain large payments made to that employee when he or she leaves the organization, known as “parachute” payments. The excise tax applies to the amount of the parachute payment less the average annual compensation.

Bond interest exemption revoked

The TCJA repeals the tax-exempt treatment for interest paid on tax-exempt bonds issued to repay another bond in advance. An advance repayment bond is used to pay principal, interest or redemption price on an earlier bond prior to its redemption date.

Be informed

Note that other rules and limits may apply. We can provide you with a detailed picture of the new tax law and explain how it’s likely to affect your organization. Contact Langdon & Company for more info.

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