hand writing 2021 on a chalkboard

Ring In The New Year With A Renewed Focus On Profitability

Some might say the end of one calendar year and the beginning of another is a formality. The linear nature of time doesn’t change, merely the numbers we use to mark it.

Others, however, would say that a fresh 12 months — particularly after the arduous, anxiety-inducing nature of 2020 — creates the perfect opportunity for business owners to gather their strength and push ahead with greater vigor. One way to do so is to ring in the new year with a systematic approach to renewing everyone’s focus on profitability.

Create an idea-generating system 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 the bottom line. What you want to do is act in ways that inspire and allow you to gather profit-generating concepts. Then you can pick out the most actionable ones and turn them into bottom-line-boosting results. Here are some ways to create such a system:

Share responsibility for profitability with your management team. All too often, managers become trapped in their own information silos and areas of focus. Consider asking everyone in a leadership position to submit ideas for growing the bottom line.

Instruct supervisors to challenge their employees to come up with profit-building ideas. Leaving your employees out of the conversation is a mistake. Ask workers on the front lines how they think your business could make more money.

Target the proposed ideas that will most likely increase sales, cut costs or expand profit margins. As suggestions come in, use robust discussions and careful calculations to determine which ones are truly worth pursuing.

Tie each chosen idea to measurable financial goals. When you’ve picked one or more concepts to pursue in real life, identify which metrics will accurately inform you that you’re on the right track. Track these metrics regularly from start to finish.

Name those accountable for executing each idea. Every business needs its champions! Be sure each profit-building initiative has a defined leader and team members.

Follow a clear, patient and well-monitored implementation process. Ideas that ultimately do build the bottom line in a meaningful way generally take time to identify, implement and execute. Don’t look for quick-fix measures; seek out business transformations that will lead to long-term success.

Many benefits

A carefully constructed and strong-performing profitability idea system can not only grow the bottom line, but also upskill employees and improve morale as strategies come to fruition. Our firm can help you identify profit-building opportunities, choose the right metrics to evaluate and measure them, and track the pertinent data over time.

Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC for more information.

sales force team members standing on blue lines grid

Rightsizing Your Sales Force

With a difficult year almost over, and another one on the horizon, now may be a good time to assess the size of your sales force. Maybe the economic changes triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic led you to downsize earlier in the year. Or perhaps you’ve added to your sales team to seize opportunities. In either case, every business owner should know whether his or her sales team is the right size.

Various KPIs

To determine your optimal sales staffing level, there are several steps you can take. A good place to start is with various key performance indicators (KPIs) that enable you to quantify performance in dollars and cents.

The KPIs you choose to calculate and evaluate need to be specific to your industry and appropriate to the size of your company and the state of the market in which you operate. If you’re comparing your sales numbers to those of other businesses, make sure it’s an apples-to-apples comparison.

In addition, you’ll need to pick KPIs that are appropriate to whether you’re assessing the performance of a sales manager or that of a sales representative. For a sales manager, you could look at average annual sales volume to determine whether his or her team is contributing adequately to your target revenue goals. Ideal KPIs for sales reps are generally more granular; examples include sales by rep and lead-to-sale percentage.

More than math

Rightsizing your sales staff, however, isn’t only a mathematical equation. To customize your approach, think about the specific needs of your company.

Consider, for example, how you handle staffing when sales employees take vacations or call in sick. If you frequently find yourself coming up short on revenue projections because of a lack of boots on the ground, you may want to expand your sales staff to cover territories and serve customers more consistently.

Then again, financial problems that arise from carrying too many sales employees can creep up on you. Be careful not to hire at a rate faster than your sales and gross profits are increasing. If you’re looking to make aggressive moves in your market, be sure you’ve done the due diligence to ensure that the hiring and training costs will likely pay off.

Last, but not least, think about your customers. Are they largely satisfied? If so, the size of your sales force might be just fine. However, salespeople saying that they’re overworked or customers complaining about a lack of responsiveness could mean your staff is too small. Conversely, if you have market segments that just aren’t yielding revenue or salespeople who are continually underperforming, it might be time to downsize.

Reasonable objectives

By regularly monitoring the headcount of your sales staff with an eye on fulfilling reasonable revenue goals, you’ll stand a better chance of maximizing profitability during good times and maintaining it during more challenging periods. Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC, for help choosing the right KPIs and cost-effectively managing your business.

IT Tech staff member at computer looking out window at city landscape

Should You Add A Technology Executive To Your Staff?

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic impact have hurt many companies, especially small businesses. However, for others, the jarring challenges this year have created opportunities and accelerated changes that were probably going to occur all along.

One particular area of speedy transformation is technology. It’s never been more important for businesses to wield their internal IT effectively, enable customers and vendors to easily interact with those systems, and make the most of artificial intelligence and “big data” to spot trends.

Accomplishing all this is a tall order for even the most energetic business owner or CEO. That’s why many companies end up creating one or more tech-specific executive positions. Assuming you don’t already employ such an individual, should you consider adding an IT exec? Perhaps so.

3 common positions

There are three widely used position titles for technology executives:

1. Chief Information Officer (CIO). This person is typically responsible for managing a company’s internal IT infrastructure and operations. In fact, an easy way to remember the purpose of this position is to replace the word “Information” with “Internal.” A CIO’s job is to oversee the purchase, implementation and proper use of technological systems and products that will maximize the efficiency and productivity of the business.

2. Chief Technology Officer (CTO). In contrast to a CIO, a CTO focuses on external processes — specifically, with customers and vendors. This person usually oversees the development and eventual production of technological products or services that will meet customer needs and increase revenue. The position demands the ability to live on the cutting edge by doing constant research into tech trends while also being highly collaborative with employees and vendors.

3. Chief Digital Officer (CDO). For some companies, the CIO and/or CTO are so busy with their respective job duties that they’re unable to look very far ahead. This is where a CDO typically comes into play. His or her primary objective is to spot new markets, channels or even business models that the company can target, explore and perhaps eventually profit from. So, while a CIO looks internally and a CTO looks externally, a CDO’s gaze is set on a more distant horizon.

Costs vs. benefits

As mentioned, these are three of the most common IT executive positions. Their specific objectives and job duties may vary depending on the business in question. And they are by no means the only examples of such positions. There are many variations, including Chief Marketing Technologist and Chief Information Security Officer.

So, getting back to our original question: is this a good time to add one or more of these execs to your staff? The answer very much depends on the financial strength and projected direction of your company. These positions will call for major expenditures in hiring, payroll and benefits. Our firm can help you weigh the costs vs. benefits.

For more business advice, contact the small business experts at David Mills, CPA, LLC.

man looking at a laptop screen while video chatting with an older family member

Family Business Owners Must Weave Together Succession & Estate Planning

It’s been estimated that there are roughly 5 million family-owned businesses in the United States. Annually, these companies make substantial contributions to both employment figures and the gross domestic product. If you own a family business, one important issue to address is how to best weave together your succession plan with your estate plan.

Rise to the challenge

Transferring ownership of a family business is often difficult because of the distinction between ownership and management succession. From an estate planning perspective, transferring assets to the younger generation as early as possible allows you to remove future appreciation from your estate, minimizing any estate taxes. However, you may not be ready to hand over control of your business or you may feel that your children aren’t yet ready to run the company.

There are various ways to address this quandary. You could set up a family limited partnership, transfer nonvoting stock to heirs or establish an employee stock ownership plan.

Another reason to separate ownership and management succession is to deal with family members who aren’t involved in the business. Providing such heirs with nonvoting stock or other equity interests that don’t confer control can be an effective way to share the wealth with them while allowing those who work in the business to take over management.

Consider an installment sale

An additional challenge to family businesses is that older and younger generations may have conflicting financial needs. Fortunately, strategies are available to generate cash flow for the owner while minimizing the burden on the next generation.

For example, consider an installment sale. These transactions provide liquidity for the owner while improving the chances that the younger generation’s purchase can be funded by cash flows from the business. Plus, so long as the price and terms are comparable to arm’s-length transactions between unrelated parties, the sale shouldn’t trigger gift or estate taxes.

Explore trust types

Or, you might want to create a trust. By transferring business interests to a grantor retained annuity trust (GRAT), for instance, the owner obtains a variety of gift and estate tax benefits (provided he or she survives the trust term) while enjoying a fixed income stream for a period of years. At the end of the term, the business is transferred to the owner’s children or other beneficiaries. GRATs are typically designed to be gift-tax-free.

There are other options as well, such as an installment sale to an intentionally defective grantor trust (IDGT). Essentially a properly structured IDGT allows an owner to sell the business on a tax-advantaged basis while enjoying an income stream and retaining control during the trust term. Once the installment payments are complete, the business passes to the owner’s beneficiaries free of gift taxes.

Protect your legacy

Family-owned businesses play an important role in the U.S. economy. We can help you integrate your succession plan with your estate plan to protect both the company itself and your financial legacy. For more information, contact David Mills, CPA, LLC today.

Q4 Tax Calendar for 2020

2020 Q4 Tax Calendar: Key Deadlines for Businesses

Here are some of the key Q4 tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2020.

Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you.

Contact the experts at David Mills, CPA, LLC to ensure you’re meeting all applicable Q4 tax deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

Thursday, October 15

If a calendar-year C corporation that filed an automatic six-month extension: File a 2019 income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due. Make contributions for 2019 to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Monday, November 2

Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2020 (Form 941) and pay any tax due. (See exception below under “November 10.”)

Tuesday, November 10

Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2020 (Form 941), if you deposited on time (and in full) all of the associated taxes due.

Tuesday, December 15

If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the fourth installment of 2020 estimated income taxes.

Thursday, December 31

Establish a retirement plan for 2020 (generally other than a SIMPLE, a Safe-Harbor 401(k) or a SEP).

woman wearing a mask at a computer doing small business bookkeeping

Getting Through COVID | Outsourcing Your Bookkeeping Can Help

COVID-19 has affected small businesses in ways they never could have imagined. It’s more important than ever to have an up-to-date and accurate understanding of your business financials. Outsourcing your bookkeeping to the experts at David Mills, CPA, LLC is the answer.

When the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, few people could have envisioned the year that 2020 would become. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has upended businesses and forced companies large and small to re-evaluate. 

COVID-19 Changed How Small Businesses Operate

Some businesses have struggled during COVID-19 with lost business, redacted productivity, disrupted supply chains and more. Others have found their niche during the pandemic and have experienced business growth.

Businesses on both ends of the spectrum have realized now, more than ever, accurate financial data is key.

With offices in Morton and East Peoria, we’re Central Illinois small business bookkeeping experts. We understand most business owners don’t have the time to learn the skills necessary to accurately keep their set of books. That’s especially true in 2020 when business owners are faced with hundreds of additional decisions and challenges. Outsourcing your bookkeeping is the solution.

Our bookkeepers are current and up-to-date on all bookkeeping and payroll laws, so there’s no need to train your staff. This is especially vital in 2020 where cuts to payroll taxes, PPP loans and other COVID-related government programs have made the year unlike any other.

Up-To-Date & Accurate Financial Information is Vital

When you use David Mills, CPA, LLC to provide your small business bookkeeping services, you know you’ll receive timely financial information, allowing you to make sound decisions. 

Will you need to take out a small business loan? Should you refinance existing loans? The business climate in 2020 means many are re-evaluating their finances. Up-to-date information gives you the knowledge you need to make the best decisions for your business.

The pandemic has forced Americans to change their habits and spending. Perhaps your business has been one that’s benefitted from COVID-19. Trying to manage your bookkeeping while also staying on top of business demands can be a daunting task.

Running your business and catering to your customers’ needs is what you do best. Leave the bookkeeping to us. 

Every month, we will:

  • Record revenue and expenses
  • Reconcile your bank accounts
  • Generate income statements and balance sheets
  • Record any special journal entires
  • Provide an optional cash flow statement
  • Electronically file and pay your state sales tax
  • Generate current vs previous period profit-to-loss statements

All of the information is entered into a QuickBooks file, which can be easily retrieved whenever information is needed.

COVID-19 has made 2020 much more challenging, however, your business bookkeeping doesn’t have to be part of that challenge. Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC today.

Learn more about the small business bookkeeping services we offer.

Computer and packing boxes at a start-up business

Launching A Business? How To Treat Start-Up Expenses On Your Tax Return

While the COVID-19 crisis has devastated many existing businesses, the pandemic has also created opportunities for entrepreneurs to start-up new businesses.

Computer and packing boxes at a start-up business
The way you handle initial start-up expenses can make a difference in your tax bill.

For example, some businesses are being launched online to provide products and services to people staying at home.

Entrepreneurs often don’t know that many expenses incurred by start-ups can’t be currently deducted. You should be aware that the way you handle some of your initial expenses can make a large difference in your tax bill.

How Expenses Must Be Handled

If you’re starting or planning a new enterprise, keep these key points in mind:

Start-up costs include those incurred or paid while creating an active trade or business — or investigating the creation or acquisition of one.

Under the Internal Revenue Code, taxpayers can elect to deduct up to $5,000 of business start-up and $5,000 of organizational costs in the year the business begins. As you know, $5,000 doesn’t get you very far today!

And the $5,000 deduction is reduced dollar-for-dollar by the amount by which your total start-up or organizational costs exceed $50,000. Any remaining costs must be amortized over 180 months on a straight-line basis.

No deductions or amortization deductions are allowed until the year when “active conduct” of your new business begins.

Generally, that means the year when the business has all the pieces in place to begin earning revenue.

To determine if a taxpayer meets this test, the IRS and courts generally ask questions such as:

  • Did the taxpayer undertake the activity intending to earn a profit?
  • Was the taxpayer regularly and actively involved?
  • Did the activity actually begin?

Expenses that qualify In general, start-up expenses include all amounts you spend to:

Investigate the creation or acquisition of a business

  • Create a business
  • Engage in a for-profit activity in anticipation of that activity becoming an active business.

To be eligible for the election, an expense also must be one that would be deductible if it were incurred after a business began.

One example is money you spend analyzing potential markets for a new product or service.

To qualify as an “organization expense,” the expenditure must be related to creating a corporation or partnership. Some examples of organization expenses are legal and accounting fees for services related to organizing a new business and filing fees paid to the state of incorporation.

Thinking ahead If you have start-up expenses that you’d like to deduct this year, you need to decide whether to take the elections described above. Recordkeeping is critical.

At David Mills, CPA, LLC we’re here to help answer your business start-up questions and to offer advice. Contact us about your start-up plans. We can help with the tax and other aspects of your new business.

Sidewalk sign saying Sorry We're Closed Due to COVID-19

Relief From Not Making Employment Tax Deposits Due to COVID-19 Tax Credits

The IRS has issued guidance providing relief from failure to make employment tax deposits for employers that are entitled to the refundable tax credits provided under two laws passed in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The two laws are the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed on March 18, 2020, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act, which was signed on March 27, 2020.

Employment tax penalty basics

The tax code imposes a penalty for any failure to deposit amounts as required on the date prescribed, unless such failure is due to reasonable cause rather than willful neglect.

An employer’s failure to deposit certain federal employment taxes, including deposits of withheld income taxes and taxes under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) is generally subject to a penalty.

COVID-19 relief credits

Employers paying qualified sick leave wages and qualified family leave wages required by the Families First Act, as well as qualified health plan expenses allocable to qualified leave wages, are eligible for refundable tax credits under the Families First Act.

Specifically, provisions of the Families First Act provide a refundable tax credit against an employer’s share of the Social Security portion of FICA tax for each calendar quarter, in an amount equal to 100% of qualified leave wages paid by the employer (plus qualified health plan expenses with respect to that calendar quarter).

Additionally, under the CARES Act, certain employers are also allowed a refundable tax credit under the CARES Act of up to 50% of the qualified wages, including allocable qualified health expenses if they are experiencing:

  • A full or partial business suspension due to orders from governmental authorities due to COVID-19
  • A specified decline in business

This credit is limited to $10,000 per employee over all calendar quarters combined.

An employer paying qualified leave wages or qualified retention wages can seek an advance payment of the related tax credits by filing Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.

Available relief

The Families First Act and the CARES Act waive the penalty for failure to deposit the employer share of Social Security tax in anticipation of the allowance of the refundable tax credits allowed under the two laws.

IRS Notice 2020-22 provides that an employer won’t be subject to a penalty for failing to deposit employment taxes related to qualified leave wages or qualified retention wages in a calendar quarter if certain requirements are met.

Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC for more information

Contact David Mills, CPA, LLC for more information about whether you can take advantage of this relief.

Why Choose A QuickBooks ProAdvisor?

As a small-business owner, it always helps to have expert advice at your fingertips. A QuickBooks ProAdvisor offers that expertise.

For small and medium-sized businesses, QuickBooks is one of the most popular accounting software programs available.

Computer and smartphone
David Mills, CPA, LLC has QuickBook ProAdvisors on staff.

Using QuickBooks, businesses can manage and pay bills, keep track of accounts payable and receivable, oversee financial reporting, organize payroll functions and track employee time.

Relying on a QuickBooks ProAdvisor ensures your business gets the most out of the accounting software.

What Does It Take To Be A ProAdvisor?

QuickBook ProAdvisors must complete comprehensive training and pass a certification exam to earn the ProAdvisor title.

The certification ensures all ProAdvisors are experts in the latest QuickBook tools and can help customize QuickBook software to fit your business needs.

David Mills, CPA, LLC Can Help Your Business

At David Mills, CPA, LLC, we have QuickBooks ProAdvisors on staff who are able to train and assist you with all your QuickBooks needs.

We provide one-on-one or small group QuickBooks training sessions, and our on-staff experts can meet in person. Our training is geared toward your business.

Our ProAdvisors will help design and set up the chart of accounts as well as set up payroll, receivables, payables, inventory and other features needed by your business.

To learn more about how a QuickBooks ProAdvisor from David Mills, CPA, LLC can benefit your business, contact us today. We have offices in both Morton and East Peoria.

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9 Tax Rules to Consider If You’re Your Own Boss

Does the idea of being your own boss and being in business for yourself appeal to you? 

Many people who launch small businesses start out as sole proprietors. However, there are tax rules and considerations to consider if you’re a sole proprietor.

Here are nine things to consider if you are your own boss

1 – You may qualify for the pass-through deduction

To the extent your business generates qualified business income, you are eligible to claim the 20% pass-through deduction, subject to limitations. 

There are tax rules to consider if you're your own boss

The deduction is taken “below the line,” meaning it reduces taxable income, rather than being taken “above the line” against your gross income.

However, you can take the deduction even if you don’t itemize deductions and instead claim the standard deduction.

2 – Report income and expenses on Schedule C of Form 1040 

The net income will be taxable to you regardless of whether you withdraw cash from the business. 

Your business expenses are deductible against gross income and not as itemized deductions. 

If you have losses, they will generally be deductible against your other income, subject to special rules related to hobby losses, passive activity losses, and losses in activities in which you weren’t “at risk.”

3 – Pay self-employment taxes

For 2020, you pay self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare) at a 15.3% rate on your net earnings from self-employment of up to $137,700, and Medicare tax only at a 2.9% rate on the excess. 

An additional 0.9% Medicare tax (for a total of 3.8%) is imposed on self-employment income in excess of $250,000 for joint returns; $125,000 for married taxpayers filing separate returns; and $200,000 in all other cases. 

Self-employment tax is imposed in addition to income tax, but you can deduct half of your self-employment tax as an adjustment to income. 

4 – Make quarterly estimated tax payments 

For 2019, these are due April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15, 2021. 

5 – You may be able to deduct home office expenses 

If you work from a home office, perform management or administrative tasks there, or store product samples or inventory at home, you may be entitled to deduct an allocable portion of some costs of maintaining your home. 

And if you have a home office, you may be able to deduct expenses of traveling from there to another work location.

6 – You can deduct 100% of your health insurance costs as a business expense 

This means your deduction for medical care insurance won’t be subject to the rule that limits medical expense deductions.

7 – Keep complete records of your income and expenses

Specifically, you should carefully record your expenses in order to claim all the tax breaks to which you’re entitled. 

Certain expenses, such as automobile, travel, meals, and office-at-home expenses, require special attention because they’re subject to special recordkeeping rules or deductibility limits. 

8 – Requirements change if you hire employees

When you hire employees, you need to get a taxpayer identification number and withhold and pay employment taxes. 

9 – Consider establishing a qualified retirement plan 

The advantage is that amounts contributed to the plan are deductible at the time of the contribution and aren’t taken into income until they’re are withdrawn. 

Because many qualified plans can be complex, you might consider a SEP plan, which requires less paperwork. 

A SIMPLE plan is also available to sole proprietors that offers tax advantages with fewer restrictions and administrative requirements. 

If you don’t establish a retirement plan, you may still be able to contribute to an IRA. 

David Mills CPA, LLC has the expertise to assist small businesses

At David Mills CPA, LLC, we work with small businesses throughout the Central Illinois.

We have offices in Morton and East Peoria and can assist business owners with advice, bookkeeping, payroll, income tax planning and preparations, and business valuations

We can also help business owners understand the various business structures to ensure their business is structured to best meet their needs.

For more information, contact David Mills CPA, LLC today.