Leaving A Job Without Another Lined Up

You’ve probably heard or have been told to never leave a job until you have another one lined up. If you choose to leave a job without another one lined up, serious concerns include financial stability and security. No job, no income!

However, situations do occur . . . circumstances do arise . . . and life occasionally deals an unexpected hand. As a result, you may end up in a scenario where you’re considering leaving a job without having anything lined up. Perhaps you’re trying to get out of a toxic environment, maybe you’ve found a calling which you’re truly passionate about that you want to pursue full-time, perhaps you’re looking to make a major life change or pursue a fresh start. Whatever the reason may be, you’ve been thinking about this long and hard and you’re truly considering taking the risk and making the leap.

Before you make the move, try to have in place a safety net or security blanket for yourself. Hopefully, over the years, you’ve been saving up money in a reserve fund. Your reserve fund should have at least enough funds to cover no less than three (3) months of expenses, but ideally anywhere between six (6) months to one (1) year worth of expenses. While the hope is that you will begin to generate steady income again within a short period of time, depending on your situation or circumstance, the more funds you have in reserve, the greater the flexibility you’ll have in pursuing your endeavors.

You may want to consider looking at freelance, project or part-time work that offers you the flexibility to pursue your endeavors while also bringing in some income to help offset your monthly expenses. You may be able to find opportunities through staffing firms, online job posting sites and job boards, networking events and/or word-of-mouth.

Try to trim unnecessary expenses from your budget early on so you can operate off what you absolutely need. If there are any major expenses that you need to incur, try to take care of them while you still have steady income. While you can’t anticipate every eventuality, be proactive as you prepare to make this change.

When the time comes to leave your job, avoid burning bridges! You may need references from your former employer, managers or supervisors and/or if you remain in the same industry, you may find that it’s a small world out there. Leave on your own terms but do it professionally and respectfully! Provide ample advanced notice (generally two weeks but refer to your company’s policy, if applicable) and offer to help throughout the transitional period, as needed. On your last day, when you leave that job for the final time, you’ll want to walk out with dignity and your head held high.

 

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Apple Streamlines The MacBook Line

Apple has once more restored order to chaos in the MacBook line!

Ok, perhaps a bit too dramatic! But, Apple has streamlined the MacBook line once again. The previous generation MacBook Air (which also happens to be the last of the MacBooks where the Apple logo lights up), the 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys have all been discontinued.

The new MacBook lineup includes the latest generation MacBook Air updated with True Tone Retina Display and a lower starting price of $1,099, a new entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro with the latest 8th generation quad-core processors, Touch Bar & Touch ID, True Tone Retina Display and the Apple T2 Security Chip with a starting price of $1,299 (Note: The new entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro has two Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports. A 13-inch MacBook Pro with four Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports starts at $1,799), and the current generation 15-inch MacBook Pro (refreshed earlier this year) with a starting price of $2,399.

I still very much enjoy working on my mid-2013 MacBook Air. It works fine with macOS Mojave and I still edit my Final Cut Pro X videos on it. I’ve also become fond of my 2016 12-inch MacBook. While I still feel the 12-inch MacBook was overpriced, underpowered and had some shortcomings, it was right on the money when it came to portability. It’s a great on-the-go laptop and a perfect travel companion.

As for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys, it met the needs of those consumers requiring entry-level Pro performance without the bells & whistles (ex: the Touch Bar) and the higher price tag. If you really don’t want the Touch Bar, the latest generation MacBook Air still features the traditional function keys though I do hope Apple will eventually offer consumers the option to configure a faster processor than the base version 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5.

If you’re looking for entry-level Pro performance, you can get the new entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro for the starting price of $1,299; but, realistically, you’ll probably want to step up to at least the $1,499 base model which offers 256GB SSD storage over the 128GB SSD storage on the entry-level model.

Looking for one of the recently discontinued MacBooks? You can probably find retailers carrying residual stock of the previous generation MacBook Air, 12-inch MacBook and 13-inch MacBook Pro with function keys and you may even be able to snag some good deals as retailers work to clear out their remaining inventory.

 

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Apple MacBook Air (Previous Generation)

Apple MacBook (12-inch)

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch with Function Keys)

Dealing With A Layoff

A layoff can occur unexpectedly, without warning and be a scary ordeal. You may be asking yourself, “Why me?” Getting laid off is never easy and it’s certainly never a good feeling. Beyond the initial shock, concerns over your short and long-term financial security and stability can make a difficult situation worse. It’s important to plan ahead for worse-case scenarios and have an established reserve fund (refer to my post Planning For A Rainy Day) to fall back on and help mitigate some of the immediate impact. Don’t rely on severance and/or unemployment benefits as your only fallback. Severance isn’t guaranteed (ex: if the company doesn’t offer severance, if you don’t meet the company’s requirements for severance or if the company abruptly folds) and unemployment benefits will only provide partial wage replacement for up to twenty-six weeks. If you don’t currently have an established reserve fund, make it a priority to start building one now.

When you’re informed that you’re going to be laid off, listen and focus on the information provided to you and be sure to ask questions if you don’t understand something. While it may be an emotional period, it’s important to compose yourself and gather as much pertinent information as it will be extremely vital when it’s time to figure out your next steps. The person(s) taking you through the process (ex: HR Manager) should go over a variety of areas including, but not limited to: the layoff effective date and your official last day, standard procedures when an employee is let go, severance (if applicable), final payroll and wages, health insurance coverage termination date, eligibility for COBRA, 401(k) distribution paperwork (if applicable), who to contact for additional questions or inquiries and so forth.

You may given a termination letter or related documents pertaining to your layoff. Again, review the information carefully. Ask questions. Get copies of all relevant documents for your records. Be sure you know who to contact if you have additional questions or need to follow-up on outstanding matters. You may also be provided with information so that you may apply for unemployment benefits. Be sure to check with your state’s Unemployment Office for eligibility requirements, how and when you should apply for benefits. You’ll want to apply for benefits as soon as reasonably possible once you become eligible as your first unemployment payment may take a few weeks.

Do not burn bridges with your employer! Avoid the knee-jerk reaction! Stay professional! You may need references from your former employer, managers or supervisors and burning bridges won’t help the situation.

If you haven’t kept your resume and portfolio (if applicable) up-to-date, get on it right away especially if you plan to get right back into the workforce. You’ll want to get your resume and portfolio (if applicable) updated, polished and out there for prospective employers to see. There are options available for job seekers including posting resumes online and searching through job boards (ex: monster.com, indeed.com, careerbuilder.com, ziprecruiter.com, etc.), working with hiring consultants and/or staffing firms, attending networking events and traditional word-of-mouth, just to name a few. You may also want to consider looking at freelance, project or part-time work that offers you short-term income until you can find a permanent, full-time position. Keep in mind that temporary or part-time work may affect unemployment benefits so check with your state’s Unemployment Office for further information and guidance.

Capitalize on this period of unemployment. Learn new skills or brush up on existing skills, take some classes or seminars, reconnect with friends and network, pursue a side hustle and take some time to focus on your own health and wellness. This is also a good time to reflect on your short and long-term goals and objectives. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a career change or explore starting your own business. Don’t let a layoff knock you down! Turn this negative situation into positive opportunities!

Running Older Versions of Adobe Creative Cloud Apps? You May Need To Upgrade!

Earlier this month, Adobe announced changes to the availability of Adobe Creative Cloud applications through the Creative Cloud desktop app and Adobe.com. As mentioned in Adobe’s blog post Changes to Creative Cloud Download Availability, Adobe Creative Cloud subscribers will now only have access to download the two most recent versions of the Adobe Creative Cloud applications with the exception of Adobe Acrobat. Acrobat will only be available for download in the most recent version.

The post goes on to say that the changes “will further enable us to develop the features and functionality most requested by customers and ensure peak performance and benefits across Windows and Mac operating systems.”

However, some Creative Cloud subscribers running older versions of Adobe Creative Cloud applications have received notice from Adobe advising them that those Creative Cloud applications are no longer authorized, and the continued use of the unauthorized versions could have potential legal ramifications.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the notice:

“For customers who have not yet updated to the latest version of Creative Cloud, please note that you are no longer licensed to use certain older versions of the applications or deploy packages containing these older versions.”

“Please be aware that if you continue to use or deploy the older, unauthorized versions of Creative Cloud, you will not have third-party claim coverage pursuant to your contract with Adobe. Should you continue to use or deploy these unauthorized versions, you may be at risk of potential claims of infringement by third parties.”

Adobe has not provided any specifics on the matter, but the issue appears to stem from ongoing litigation. Adobe has provided information on how to remove unauthorized versions of Adobe Creative Cloud applications and has provided a list of authorized and unauthorized versions of Creative Cloud applications. If you aren’t running the latest version of the Adobe Creative Cloud applications, you should check to see if you are using authorized versions of the Creative Cloud applications by checking your installed versions against the list of authorized and unauthorized versions. This applies to all Creative Cloud subscribers including, but not limited to: individuals, businesses, students and teachers, schools and universities.

As someone who has worked in advertising for almost twenty-years and served as Head of MIS/IT, I understand the issues, problems and headaches that this creates and the complexities with compliance. Upgrading Adobe software across the board isn’t as simple as it seems when you look at this from a business and organization perspective. Hardware and software costs, OS and software compatibility, testing and downtime are just some of the factors which need to be considered before upgrading software. Businesses of all sizes face a variety of challenges whenever there’s a need to deploy new hardware or software within an organization. There are best practices which must be followed to avoid disruption to workflow and productivity.

That said, it’s important to review these changes and take the necessary steps to implement changes now. Not doing so could be risky for Creative Cloud subscribers. Until further guidance is available on the potential legal implications to Creative Cloud subscribers, be proactive and take the necessary steps to mitigate any potential liability down the road.

Before You Sign That Commercial Lease . . .

Finding commercial office space can be quite a challenge. While there’s certainly real estate available, finding the right office space that satisfies your business needs, fits your business vibe, is conveniently located, offers your business the flexibility to grow and which falls within your budget doesn’t necessarily come easy. And, even if you should find that “perfect” or “close to perfect” office space, you’ll still need to negotiate fair lease terms and work out the language in the final lease agreement before it’s a done deal. You don’t want to blindly sign on the dotted line!

First, negotiate the lease terms with the landlord. If you aren’t a strong negotiator or don’t feel you have the experience to negotiate, seek an experienced and qualified real estate broker who specializes in working for and in the interest of tenants. They should have insight into the real estate market and relationships with buildings and landlords to help you find the right space and negotiate, in good faith, fair terms with the various buildings and landlords.

Keep in mind that there are various factors which may help your negotiating power including, but not limited to: prominence of your business, size and financial position of your business, amount of commercial real estate space you intend on leasing and the length of the lease term (a longer term lease may offer you stronger negotiating power over a shorter term lease).

Once you’ve negotiated the lease terms to a point which are reasonably fair and agreeable, the landlord will have their legal counsel draw up the lease documents. Be sure to read the commercial lease agreement and all the applicable attachments, amendments, riders, guaranties and related documents thoroughly. Be sure that the lease terms and conditions, responsibilities and obligations of both the tenant and landlord are clearly spelled out and align with what has been agreed to during the lease negotiations. These include, but are not limited to: the start/end date of the lease, the lease term (number of years), the lease renewal and termination provisions, the date landlord shall deliver possession of the premises to the tenant, the date in which tenant shall surrender the premises to the landlord, base rent and any applicable rent abatement(s), additional fees and costs outside of the base rent (ex: cleaning, security, water/sprinkler), annual rent escalation (percent increase), proportionate share of property taxes and other applicable costs/expenses beyond the base year, the base year to be used for calculating property taxes and other applicable costs/expenses beyond the base year, electricity costs (ex: if the space is individually metered), HVAC (ex: if HVAC is tenant controlled – annual maintenance agreement requirement, who is responsible for repair/replacement of major components like compressor/condenser or replacement of the unit(s) in the event of a failure during the lease term? the landlord’s certification that the existing HVAC unit is in good operating condition; if HVAC is not tenant controlled, availability and costs for after-hours and weekend use), security deposit requirement, office space build out work and responsibilities, work to be performed by landlord, work to be performed by tenant (if work requires written approval by landlord), landlord responsibilities, tenant responsibilities, cost for building and office keys/key cards, covered and non-covered (a la carte) building services, commercial insurance requirement, “good guy” clause, etc. These are just some of the common items that typically appear in a commercial lease agreement which you should be on the lookout for and review carefully.

Even as an experienced business owner well-versed in negotiating contracts and agreements, it should go without saying that you should tap into and consult with a good real estate attorney who will thoroughly review the lease agreement and all the applicable attachments, amendments, riders, guaranties and related documents to make sure they are in order and contain the appropriate language to protect your interests. Let me be clear, having a good real estate attorney review the lease agreement does not mean that you should “pass the buck” and not exercise due diligence. YOU need to review the lease agreement thoroughly, make notes and consult with the real estate attorney so that you have a thorough understanding of what you are getting into before you sign and commit to the lease agreement. Don’t assume anything! Ask questions, get clarification and be sure you fully understand and are comfortable with the provisions of the agreement. Don’t think for a moment that any questions are stupid or silly. If it’s ambiguous, vague, unclear etc., get clear, definitive answers! Contracts and agreements often contain legalese which are difficult to fully comprehend and understand and may be vague and ambiguous.

Commercial leases are written for and inure to the benefit of the landlord. The objective is to try and get the lease terms to a point where the terms provide adequate protections, to the maximum extent possible, for you – the tenant. There may be several rounds of back-and-forth between you (and your legal counsel) and the landlord (and the landlord’s legal counsel) before you hash out the final language of the lease agreement so be patient, be thorough and exercise continued due diligence. This is one of those things where taking shortcuts will be more harmful than helpful. Don’t take shortcuts! Stick with best practices!

One final note . . . give yourself ample time to work through the process of lease negotiations and towards a final agreeable and acceptable lease agreement and whenever possible, have a backup plan. If you, with the advice of counsel, don’t feel comfortable with the lease terms and the landlord is not acting in good faith, don’t give in and don’t sign the lease agreement! Be prepared and willing to walk away! You don’t want to be stuck in an agreement for which you will ultimately regret!

Stop Procrastinating! Tax Day Is Coming!

If you tend to procrastinate when it comes to the tax season, it’s time to stop procrastinating and start taking action. Tax Day for the 2018 tax year is right around the corner. For most filers, Monday, April 15, 2019 is the deadline to file your tax returns with the IRS and where applicable, your state tax agency. However, for states observing a holiday, those filers will get additional time.

“For the 2018 tax return, the due date is April 15, 2019 for most filers. For residents of Maine and Massachusetts, the due date is April 17, 2019 because of the Patriot's Day and Emancipation Day holidays in those states.” – IRS Topic No. 301 When, How, and Where To File

Whether you file electronically or by paper, it’s vital that your tax returns are filed on-time. The IRS provides the following guidance:

“Your return is considered filed on time if the envelope is properly addressed, has enough postage, is postmarked, and is deposited in the mail by the due date. If you file electronically, the date and time in your time zone when your return is transmitted controls whether your return is filed timely. You will later receive an electronic acknowledgement that the IRS has accepted your electronically filed return.” – IRS Topic No. 301 When, How, and Where To File

If you have an Accountant or CPA firm handling your tax returns, be sure to return any applicable e-file authorization forms to them in a timely manner so they may electronically file your returns on your behalf. Also, make note of any filings you may be required to submit by mail and get those filings sent out on-time. If you are using a third-party tax preparer to do your taxes, be sure to schedule your appointment as soon as possible to ensure your returns are prepared and transmitted on-time. Appointments can become harder to come by as the tax deadline approaches. For paper filers, be sure to get to the Post Office ahead of the April 15th deadline or risk potentially waiting on long lines to get those returns mailed by the tax deadline.

The IRS and state tax agencies do allow qualified filers to request an extension to file their tax returns. A request for an extension must be filed by the tax deadline. However, an extension only extends the tax deadline for filing your returns. It does not extend the deadline for paying your taxes. If you owe taxes, you are still required to remit payment to the IRS and/or to your state tax agency by the tax deadline.

“If you cannot file by the due date of your return, you should request an extension of time to file. To receive an automatic 6-month extension of time to file your return, you can file Form 4868. File your extension request by the due date of your return. An extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay so you'll owe interest if the tax you owe isn't paid by the original due date of your return. You may also be subject to a late-payment penalty on any tax not paid by the original due date of your return.” – IRS Topic No. 301 When, How, and Where To File

Filers should check with their individual state tax agency for guidance on their state’s tax filing requirements and deadlines. If you are unsure or unfamiliar with tax preparation and filings, be sure to seek professional counsel from an Accountant, CPA firm and/or certified tax professional.

 

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Customer Service Can Make or Break Your Business

Customer service is a core part of many businesses. When customers reach out to or for customer service, quite often it’s about a problem or an issue that requires a resolution. Customers are typically looking for someone who is going to listen to and understand the issue at hand. They are looking for someone who understands that there is a sense of urgency, the issue needs to be treated with a level of priority and that it will be addressed in a timely manner. Customers are also looking for accountability; someone to take charge, be responsible and follow through from start to finish to ensure the problem or issue reaches final resolution or is escalated appropriately and promptly up the chain until reaching that resolution.

Talk is cheap! Customers want results!

It’s important to note that this is not the time to upsell or downsell to customers. Upselling or downselling is not a solution or resolution to a problem or issue. These are retention tactics, plain and simple! Sure, some customers may be taken in by the tactic while others who understand the retention tactic may manipulate it to their advantage. For real problems or issues, this will likely infuriate customers, especially patrons. Fair warning: If you’re going to play with fire, you’re going to get burned! Put your customers first! Focus on resolving the issue at hand in a timely, effective and efficient manner. Don’t give your customers the runaround and don’t make them jump through hoops. In the end, it can have serious repercussions on your business and its reputation.

Any business that is defined, in whole or in part, by the quality of their customer service, their customer service reputation and customer satisfaction rating MUST step up and provide an exceptional, premier level of customer service to their customers not only to differentiate themselves from their competitors but also to demonstrate and prove to their customers that they have earned and deserve their customers’ business. Anything less is simply unacceptable.

A Sub-Chapter S in New York

If you are planning to establish a legal business entity (ex: Limited Liability Company (LLC) or Corporation) or have an existing legal business entity in New York and are considering a sub-chapter S election, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

First, it’s important to understand that single-member LLCs (defaultly treated as a disregarded entity and taxed like a sole proprietorship for tax purposes), multi-member LLCs (defaultly treated as a Partnership) and Corporations making a sub-chapter S election are all considered pass-through entities for federal tax purposes. This means that the entities themselves are generally not subject to income taxes. Profit/loss from the business is passed through to the individual members (LLCs) or shareholders (S-Corps), generally reported on a Schedule K-1 for Partnerships & S Corps, and each member or shareholder reports and pays their respective share of income taxes on their respective share of profit/loss on their individual tax returns.

Eligible single-member LLCs, multi-member LLCs (Partnerships) and corporations (C-Corps) can elect to be treated as sub-chapter S for federal tax purposes in lieu of their default classification. There are various pros and cons associated with making a S election, so it is best to consult with your Accountant, CPA Firm and/or legal counsel so that you may make a well-informed decision.

At the federal level, to make a sub-chapter S election, eligible LLCs will need to file both Form 8832 – Entity Classification Election and Form 2553 – Election By A Small Business Corporation. Eligible corporations (C-Corps) will need to file Form 2553 – Election By A Small Business Corporation. When filing Form 8832, keep in mind that the election may take effect no more than 75 days prior to the date the election is filed or no later than 12 months after the election is filed. When filing Form 2553, keep in mind that the form must be filed no more than 2 months and 15 days after the beginning of the tax year for which the election shall take effect or any time during the tax year preceding the tax year for which the election shall take effect. Both forms do allow “Relief for Late Elections.” Eligibility information is available in the instructions for each form. Your Accountant or CPA Firm should be able to help prepare the necessary forms for you to sign and send to the IRS. The IRS should provide written notice as to the acceptance or rejection of the filing(s) within 60 days of receipt.

At the state level, things start to get complicated. While many states recognize the federal S election at the state level, New York State does not. By default, New York State will treat your entity as a C Corporation for tax purposes even if you have made a federal S election. In order for your entity to be recognized and taxed as a S Corporation at the state level, you must file New York State’s Form CT-6 – Election by a Federal S Corporation to be Treated As a New York S Corporation. Again, your Accountant or CPA Firm should be able to help prepare the necessary form for you to sign and send to the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance (NYS DTF). The NYS DTF should provide written notice as to the acceptance or rejection of the filing within 60 days of receipt. While filing Form CT-6 will allow your entity to be treated as a New York S Corporation for tax purposes, New York State requires most general business corporations to pay a franchise tax at the entity level under Article 9-A of New York law.

One last complication is at the city level. New York City does not recognize the federal S or New York State S elections. Therefore, S Corporations are subject to New York City’s General Corporation Tax (GCT) and will be required to pay this tax at the entity level.

If you are planning to make a S election for your business, be sure to seek and consult with professional counsel (ex: Accountant, CPA Firm) to understand the pros and cons as well as the administrative requirements and tax implications at the federal, state and local levels. As you can see in the case of New York, there are a couple of added complexities at the state and local level that you’ll want to be aware of. A good Accountant or CPA Firm should stay ahead of the game and keep you well-informed but don’t hesitate to ask your Accountant or CPA Firm directly about how the S election works within your state and local levels.

Do Your Own Taxes or Seek A Professional?

As the tax season kicks off, a fundamental question comes to mind – Should you do your own taxes or seek a professional?

Well, the answer depends on a variety of factors including:

  • How comfortable you are preparing your own tax returns?

  • How familiar you are with your tax situation and history?

  • How complex your tax situation is?

Generally, if you are comfortable preparing your own tax returns, are familiar with your tax situation and you don’t have a complex tax situation (ex: you only have income from W-2 wages, interest income from interest-bearing accounts, you don’t itemize your deductions or only itemize state & local taxes & charitable contributions), you should be able to prepare your own tax returns using either an online or desktop version of tax preparation software from companies like Intuit (TurboTax), H&R Block and TaxAct, just to name a few.

These companies have been developing tax preparation software for many years and have many customers who successfully use these products to prepare and file their tax returns annually. That said, you do need to have patience, be organized and dedicate a reasonable amount of time to go through the process. While the software will walk you through the process step-by-step, you do need to understand what information the tax preparation software is asking for then input the proper and correct information for your tax returns to be accurate. Keep in mind . . . Garbage in, Garbage out!

Even though these companies work to ensure their tax preparation software is accurate and apply computations and calculations based on the applicable tax laws, having a general understanding of your tax situation and history is extremely helpful so that you can raise a red flag if you notice that the tax preparation software is showing you too high of a tax refund or too much in taxes owed. Errors can occur due to incorrect user input or a software glitch.

If you are not at all comfortable preparing your own tax returns or have a more complex tax situation, consider seeking a professional tax preparer, Accountant or CPA firm. They should have a thorough understanding of the applicable tax laws and, provided you bring them all the necessary paperwork and documentation required, they should be able to properly and correctly prepare your tax returns, as well as identify and apply all applicable and available tax deductions to get you the optimal refund or try to minimize your tax bill/taxes owed. When looking for a professional tax preparer, Accountant or CPA firm, be sure to do your research, read reviews, get recommendations and compare service fees/rates.

In the case where you run/own a business, the tax situation can get even more complicated. There are different requirements on the federal, state and local level depending on the type of legal business entity you have created (ex: LLC: Single-member LLC, Partnership, LLC taxed as a sub-chapter S, Corporation: C-Corp or S-Corp) and the state in which your entity was established.

On the business side, you’ll probably want to have a tax professional, Accountant or CPA firm that you use on an ongoing basis. Except for the single-member LLC, all other entities are required to file a business tax return (separate from the personal return) even if the entities themselves do not pay income taxes (ex: pass-through entities). You also don’t want to reinvent the wheel dealing with a different tax professional, Accountant or CPA firm every year.

On the personal side, again, it depends on your comfort level and the complexity of the situation. For an individual with a single-member LLC, MAYBE you’ll consider doing your own tax return; but generally, it’s not a bad idea to consider hiring a tax professional, Accountant or CPA firm if you run/own a business especially as a member of a LLC Partnership, LLC taxed as a sub-chapter S, or you’re a shareholder of a corporation (C-Corp or S-Corp). There are a lot of requirements (not only income tax returns) that you may or may not be aware of at the federal, state and local level (ex: estimated quarterly tax payments) so having access to a good tax professional, Accountant or CPA firm can save you major headaches down the road. Yes, a good tax professional, Accountant or CPA firm will cost a bit more, but in the end, it will be well worth it!

Getting Ready for the Tax Season

With the holidays passed and the New Year upon us, it’s time to take some proactive steps in preparing for the upcoming tax season. That’s right! Now is a good time to start gathering and organizing all your 2018 financial/tax documents in preparation for the tax season. Don’t wait until it’s time to have your tax returns prepared to start hunting for all the crucial documents. Get a head start now by putting together a checklist of all the applicable documents you’ll need and start building a file if you haven’t already begun to do so.

Everyone has their own tax situation so first and foremost, if you have an Accountant, CPA Firm or Certified Tax Professional, get in touch with them to review 2018 and go over the documents that you’ll need to have ready to provide to them to prepare your tax returns. Due to changes in the tax law last year, you hopefully have been actively communicating with your Accountant, CPA Firm or Certified Tax Professional to discuss any applicable tax changes that could potentially affect you in the upcoming tax season. It’s also a good practice to reach out to your Accountant, CPA Firm or Certified Tax Professional in the fourth quarter of the year (if your Accountant, CPA Firm or Certified Tax Professional has not already done so), to discuss any applicable year-end tax matters and/or appropriate actions that need to be taken prior to year-end.

If you are a business owner, you’ll want to get in touch with your personal Accountant, CPA Firm or Certified Tax Professional to discuss any tax matters, issues or concerns applicable to your personal tax situation while also getting in touch with the company’s Accountant or CPA Firm to make sure the company is on the right track for year-end.

On a personal level, some of the financial/tax documents you should gather include:

  • Form W-2s from all employers that you worked for in 2018. Employers are required to furnish Form W-2s to their employees by January 31, 2019. A Form W-2 is considered “furnished” if it is postmarked by January 31, 2019. Most payroll companies also provide employee access to electronic copies of Form W-2s.

  • Form 1099-MISC from all companies/businesses for which you performed work or services as a non-employee/independent contractor in 2018. Companies/businesses must issue Form 1099-MISC if you were paid $600 or more during the year for work or services performed. Form 1099-MISC must be furnished by January 31, 2019. You are still required to report all applicable income even if you do not receive a Form 1099-MISC.

  • Form 1099-INT from all banks/financial institutions for which you earned interest income in 2018. Banks/financial institutions must issue a Form 1099-INT if you earned $10 or more in interest income during the tax year. You are still required to report all applicable interest income even if you do not receive a Form 1099-INT.

  • If you maintained health coverage through a Health Insurance Marketplace, you should receive a Form 1095-A. If you maintained health coverage through a health insurance provider or non-Applicable Large Employer (non-ALE), you should receive a Form 1095-B. If you maintained health coverage through an Applicable Large Employer (ALE), you should receive a Form 1095-C. These forms provide information regarding the health insurance coverage provided, to whom coverage was provided and when coverage was provided. Except for recipients of Form 1095-A, recipients of Form 1095-B and Form 1095-C generally do not need to wait for these forms to arrive to prepare their tax returns provided you have the information readily available including, who was covered and when, for tax preparation purposes. Keep in mind that for 2018, the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate remains in full force. Individuals who fail to maintain proper health insurance coverage for all of 2018 may be subject to a penalty. You can get more information about these Health Insurance Information/Tax forms on the IRS website.

  • Form 1099-DIV from all financial institutions/brokerages for which you earned dividend income.

  • Form 1099-G if you itemized your deductions in the prior tax year and took advantage of the state/local tax deduction and received a state/local tax refund.

  • Form 1099-R if you received a distribution from a retirement plan, pension plan, profit sharing plan, etc.

  • Form 5498 if you made contributions to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

  • Schedule K-1 if you are a member of a multi-member LLC, LLC taxed as a sub-chapter S or a shareholder of a sub-chapter S.

  • Copies of donation confirmation/acknowledgment letters for tax-deductible donations made to qualified charitable organizations.

The list above is not intended to be a complete list of the financial/tax documents that you may need for the preparation of your tax returns nor does it necessarily reflect all the financial/tax documents that are applicable to your specific tax situation. Again, speak with your Accountant, CPA Firm or Certified Tax Professional to review the financial/tax documents that you should gather in preparation for the current tax season. If you prepare your own tax returns, look through the financial/tax documents you received last year while accounting for any applicable changes made in 2018 (ex: opening a new savings or brokerage account, working for more than one employer within the same tax year) as you put together your checklist and gather your financial/tax documents.

A little early preparation and staying proactive can go a long way in helping to make this tax season go smoother and be less stressful!

Making Investments in Your Business in the New Year

As we prepare to close out the year, business owners should take the time to evaluate their current business operations to determine what investments they need to make in their business heading into the New Year and begin planning & budgeting for those investments. This includes investing in staff (ex: hiring additional employees, employee training & education, health & wellness programs, incentives & retention programs), investing in technology (ex: computers, servers, software, storage, network equipment) and investing in infrastructure (ex: office/office space, furniture, fixtures) just to name a few.

While planning and budgeting for potential investments does not guarantee that business owners will be able make those investments into their business at any specific time (ex: due to financial constraints, weak business performance, unforeseen circumstances), business owners should still be proactive rather than reactive. Perhaps the investments may not occur in the first or second quarter of the year but may be possible in the third quarter.

In some situations, business owners may need to front-load the investments to achieve future business performance gains. For instance, if your business is a design firm relying heavily on up-to-date technology, but you are running outdated computers and software, you’ll need to make investments in technology to get updated computers and software NOW, so you can get the work done. If you can’t get the work done, your business will be unable to stay afloat. Likewise, business owners may need to hire an additional employee to help in critical areas to get work done and meet timetables. The successful completion of a client project can result in future projects (and additional income) but failure could mean the loss of the client (and loss of significant income). In these situations, business owners MUST make the investments immediately rather than postpone or delay them to a later date.

To help manage the business, business owners should utilize financial projections. Income projections (and if needed, cash flow projections) can be an extremely useful tool in helping to manage the business but keep in mind that projections are exactly that – A PROJECTION. The more reliable financial information that you have available, the better your projections will be; however, projections are NOT SET IN STONE!

Business owners who are unfamiliar with financial projections should work with their lead or senior Accounting/Finance person (ex: CFO, Director of Finance, Accounting Manager, Head of Accounting/Finance) to create/prepare financial projections for the business for the upcoming year. If you don’t have a lead or senior Accounting/Finance person, consult with your Accountant or CPA Firm for guidance. While preparing financial projections is not overly difficult, it does require a level of experience.

Employee Bonuses Are Taxable Income

Now that the holidays have arrived and with year-end fast approaching, as a business owner, you may be considering distributing year-end bonuses to employees as a show of appreciation for their passion and dedication to the business this past year. It’s important to remember that bonuses are treated as taxable income and should be processed and reported accordingly.

You should process your year-end bonuses through payroll and follow standard payroll practices to ensure the proper tax withholding for federal income tax, state & local income tax and FICA (Medicare & Social Security Tax). Generally, bonuses can either be run as an additional payroll outside of your normal payroll cycle or added to one of your normal year-end payrolls.

If you plan on running an additional payroll, check with your payroll company on how to submit the additional bonus payroll. Your payroll company will usually require bonus payrolls (or additional payrolls outside of your normal payroll cycle) to be submitted several days in advance of your regularly scheduled payroll. Pay close attention to the payroll submission due dates to ensure your bonus and year-end payrolls are submitted on a timely basis. Also, make sure your business bank account is adequately funded to cover your added year-end business expenditures.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the proper handling of bonus income, check with your payroll representative and/or your business tax professional (Accountant/CPA firm).

A Job Interview Is A Two-Way Street!

Job interviews can certainly be nerve-racking. While they may open the door to potentially great opportunities and hopefully, to a long bright future, they can unquestionably make you nervous and feel uneasy for good reason. Job interviews are an opportunity to showcase your credentials, demonstrate credibility and make an impression (hopefully, a very positive one) that will resonate long after you leave the interview. If the job interview is for that “dream job” that you’ve searched long and hard for, a great interview could land you that “perfect job” while a poor interview may leave you feeling defeated and devastated.

That said, it’s also important to understand and realize that job interviews are a two-way street. Yes, it’s your opportunity to showcase your credentials, make a lasting impression and statement about why you should get the job; BUT, it’s also an opportunity for YOU to evaluate the job opportunity to determine if it truly is the right match for you.

Use the job interview to assess the job opportunity thoroughly beyond the basics like job function/duties, compensation and benefits.

What is a typical work day like?

You’ll want to try to get a feel for what a typical day in the life of this job would be. Yes, no two days are alike but what are some of the things that you can expect each day from basic to moderate to extreme. Is it a fast-paced, be quick-on-your-feet type of job? Is it a seasonal type of business? Are there peaks and lulls? Is it a 24/7 type of business where you’ll be constantly on-call or is it more of a “9 to 5” or “8 to 6” type of job?

Does this job offer a good personal/work life balance?

While you’re certainly willing to put in 110% towards the job, it’s vital to have a good personal/work life balance to manage stress and avoid burnout. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be effective or efficient in what you are doing. During the interview you’ll want to try and get a sense of what the personal/work life balance will be like in this job. As eager as you may be to get the job, you also don’t want to regret it immediately thereafter.

What is the culture, atmosphere and environment like? Do you like and feel comfortable with the culture, atmosphere and environment?

You’ll be spending a good amount of time in this job, so this is very important. Be sure to look around the office and try to gauge the atmosphere. Pay attention to how people act, behave, respond, interact, operate and so forth. If you meet with multiple interviewers or other company employees, it’s a great opportunity to gauge your interaction with each interviewer and employee. You can learn a lot from just having conversations with various people within the company. Also look around the office, how it’s setup, organized and arranged. The look and feel of the office can say a lot about the environment, atmosphere and culture. Rely on your senses and instincts.

What are the opportunities for growth & development? What is the outlook for the future?

You want to get a sense of what the future will look like for both you and the company. Obviously, if this is a job and more importantly, a company that you hope to spend many years with, you’ll want to have room and opportunity to grow and develop. If the outlook is that it’ll take 3-5 years before you can make a move within the company, you’ll need to decide as to whether this is the right fit for you personally and career-wise. Sometimes you may take a position that isn’t quite in your area of interest but has the potential to get you into your area of interest with the caveat that it will take several years. You need to decide whether taking this job is the most appropriate course of action or whether it’s better to seek a different opportunity. How does this fit into your short and long-term personal & career plan?

You’ll also want to get a feel for where the company stands currently and where it is going. If you walk into a company that appears to be on its last leg, you’ll seriously need to take this into consideration because you know that within a certain period, you could be on your way right out the door. On a similar note, if a company is in the process of a merger or acquisition, there is the potential for downsizing or elimination of duplicate roles or job positions. While mergers and acquisitions are a way for companies to grow & expand rapidly and may result in benefits for some employees, there is always the potential for job losses.

So, the next time you go on a job interview, keep in mind that it’s a two-way street. The interviewer is exercising his or her due diligence and so should you!

Co-Working Spaces, An Option for Startups and Small Businesses

If you’re a startup or small business, finding the right office space for your business can be challenging. In addition, depending on where you are located, commercial office leases can be quite expensive. For commercial leases, landlords will typically require at least three years of financial information (ex: balance sheets, P&Ls, tax returns) from your business as part of the review process. A security deposit will be required at the time of signing (typically two to three months of rent). Landlords will also require the business to show proof of commercial liability insurance coverage and will want the building owner, landlord and management company named on the policy as Additional Insured.

Let’s not forget additional costs that may come with leasing an office space including utilities, cleaning, a HVAC maintenance agreement, property taxes and escalations. Many landlords will also require a lease commitment. While some landlords may allow for short-term leases (1-3 years), many will seek long-term leases (5-10 years).

As a startup or small business, you may consider running your business out of your home. While that may be suitable for some businesses, it certainly won’t be suitable for all. In addition, if your business requires frequent meetings with clients and vendors, having access to a professional office space and conference rooms become a necessity.

Co-working spaces have been growing quickly over the past several years. Companies like Regus, WeWork, TechSpace and The Yard, just to name a few, have swept up commercial real estate spaces and converted these spaces into turnkey co-working office spaces. Offerings may include virtual office space (access to a physical mailing address, phone number, voice mail, call answering service), day passes (day access to the facility, general meeting area, high-speed Internet), dedicated desk or office space of varying sizes (typically requires a monthly fee and commitment terms vary from month-to-month to 3, 6, 9 or 12 month increments) and flexible access to their other facilities and locations.

For startups and small businesses, turnkey co-working space agreements provide greater flexibility than typical commercial lease agreements, which help business owners manage tight operating costs. Co-working spaces may require a security deposit; however, they typically won’t require three years of financial information from the business. The monthly costs will generally be lower than a typical commercial office lease since you are only paying for what you need. Some co-working spaces may require that you carry commercial liability insurance coverage; however, the costs are generally more affordable since the office space will be significantly smaller. Utilities and cleaning services are usually included in the monthly fee and some conference room access (hours) may be included in the monthly fee. Some spaces may also include complimentary coffee, tea and water. Additional services may be purchased a la carte.

All-in-all, co-working spaces don’t sound too bad at all . . . so why even consider leasing a commercial office space?

While co-working spaces can be beneficial in the short-term, there are plenty of reasons why you’ll eventually need to find a suitable commercial office space.

First . . .  SIGNAGE! You’ve worked hard to make a name for yourself and your business so you’ll want your business name prominently up at the entry way to your office space. Unfortunately, the first name you’ll see with most co-working spaces will be the name of the company that provides the co-working space. While you may place signage for your business on the door to your individual space, you typically won’t be able to place any signage in the Reception area for the co-working space. This can be a major drawback for new business and potential business prospects.

Second . . .  Costs can add up quickly! The two major areas where your costs can quickly add up even if your office space needs don’t change will be conference room hours and Internet bandwidth. If you have a monthly agreement in place, it will typically include a fixed number of conference room hours as well as Internet bandwidth. If your business requires meeting with clients or vendors frequently, your conference room hours can add up very quickly. Likewise, if your business requires a lot of Internet bandwidth for uploads, downloads, streaming, etc., you could be faced with a ridiculously high overage bill for your Internet bandwidth usage.

Third . . . PRIVACY! Co-working space means there will be plenty of other businesses sharing the overall office space. Some co-working spaces don’t have fully enclosed offices. This means you can hear the activities of your neighbors. If you are able to find a fully enclosed office space within the co-working space, this might not be a big deal. However, if you happen to be in one of the spaces that are not fully enclosed, you might feel quite uncomfortable discussing business plans, strategies and so forth where nearby neighbors can hear those discussions. Granted, most co-working spaces may include privacy spaces (ex: phone booth-style privacy space); however, if you’re paying a monthly fee for an office space, you shouldn’t have to pop into a phone booth-style privacy space to have a conversation.

One other reason for eventually needing commercial office space is if your business grows, you will outgrow your co-working space. Sure, you may be able to find a larger office space within the co-working space; however, if that happens, you could be paying just as much (probably more) for the co-working space as you would for commercial office space. If that’s the case, finding suitable commercial office space will make much more sense.

Lastly, let’s not ignore the fact that there are alternatives to co-working spaces. For instance, you could lease part of an office space from another tenant (Sublandlord). While similar to a co-working space, the number of other businesses that operate within the office space will be limited, you may be able to work out signage at Reception, there could be more privacy and you can split/share the costs of overhead which will be mutually beneficial to both the Sublandlord and SubTenant.

Considerations When Starting A Business: Seeking Professional Counsel

As you get started with your new business, there may come a time when you will need to seek professional counsel from a good business law firm and/or CPA firm. Even if your circumstances may not warrant professional counsel at the onset of your new business, you may eventually need to seek counsel as your business grows. Speaking with a good business law firm and/or CPA firm can help you stay on the straight and narrow and in compliance of the constantly changing local, state and federal regulations, requirements and laws.

Legal Counsel

A good business law firm can provide an array of vital services to your business. They can provide key legal counsel during the initial setup and establishment of your new business, helping you to better understand what the legal implications of your new business venture will be. They can offer important insight to help you operate your business legally and avoid unnecessary risks. They can also serve as a critical line of defense between you, your business and potential third-party litigation.

Business law firms can help you figure out the best legal entity for your business (ex: LLC, Corporation - C-Corp or sub-chapter S), assist with filing the necessary paperwork with the appropriate federal, state and local agencies (ex: Department of State, IRS) to setup the legal entity, prepare Operating or Shareholder agreements specifically customized for your business and act as a designated agent for legal notices. They can help prepare and review contracts/agreements (ex: client contracts, NDAs, merger agreements, employment contracts) and they can step in to provide legal aid/counsel in the event of legal action for or against your business.

CPA Firms

A good CPA firm can provide your business with an array of vital Accounting services. They can provide guidance on the different types of legal entities best suited for your business (ex: LLC, Corporation - C-Corp or sub-chapter S). They can provide insight on the potential tax liabilities and obligations you, as a business owner, should be aware of and can expect. CPA firms can handle a variety of required tax reporting and filings for federal, state and local jurisdictions. They should stay current on all the latest changes to the tax laws and requirements to keep you (and the rest of their clients) compliant and up-to-date on the potential impacts those changes will have on you and your business.

For instance, if your business is a single-member LLC treated as a disregarded entity for tax purposes or a multi-member LLC taxed as a Partnership, the owners or LLC members typically do not take a salary through payroll. An owner of a single-member LLC will take a draw and members of a multi-member LLC taxed as a Partnership will receive what are called Guaranteed Payments in lieu of salary via payroll. In either case, unlike salaries via payroll, payroll taxes are not withheld on the income. As such, owners/LLC members are responsible for making quarterly tax payments to the appropriate federal, state and local tax agencies on the applicable earnings. Failure to make the appropriate payments may result in a huge tax bill and tax penalty at tax time.

In addition, single-member LLCs, multi-member LLCs taxed as Partnerships and corporations taxed as a sub-chapter S (including LLCs that elect to be taxed as a sub-chapter S) are treated as pass through entities for tax purposes whereby the business entities themselves are not taxed. Taxes on income/profit are passed down to the individual owners (usually reported on a Schedule K-1) and reported on their individual tax returns. While LLCs taxed as Partnerships and corporations taxed as a sub-chapter S (including LLCs that elect to be taxed as a sub-chapter S) are not taxed at the entity level, they are still required to file the proper annual Partnership or Corporation tax returns for the applicable tax year.

This is just a scratch on the surface, but you can see how complex the tax obligations and implications can be if you don’t understand how the tax laws affect you and your business and/or have appropriate guidance from a tax professional like a good CPA firm. You and your business can easily fall into a tax maze. A good CPA firm should be an active partner in helping you and your business remain compliant with all applicable tax laws and requirements.

There will be times where it may be necessary for your business law firm and CPA firm to collaborate and work together. For instance, when deciding what type of business entity to form for your business (ex: LLC, Corporation - C-Corp or sub-chapter S), it’s a good idea to get insight from both a legal and an Accounting perspective as different types of business entities will have different requirements and implications. While your law firm and CPA firm won’t necessarily tell you which type of entity to form, they should advise you, make recommendations and offer pros and cons. You’ll want to gain as much insight from their counsel to make a well-informed decision.

It should go without saying that both business law firms and CPA firms can be quite expensive so it’s important to know how and when to properly use these professional resources to avoid unnecessary costs. Far too often, business owners use professional counsel prematurely, fail to use counsel until situations get out of hand, don’t know the right questions to ask and/or how to lead, manage and streamline the conversations. Before you speak with a business law firm or CPA firm, take some time to gather your thoughts and put together an overview of what you want to discuss and the questions you want to ask. Try to keep the conversations on point and focused. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure about something being discussed. At the end of any conversation with a business law firm or CPA firm, you should feel comfortable that you have gotten the answers that you needed to get from the conversation.

Keeping Receivables In Check

As a business owner, receivables (accounts receivable or A/R) are a vital part of your business. If you are not billing or invoicing clients and consequently, collecting those receivables in a timely fashion, your business will be unable to sustain itself. Without a steady, positive cash flow, you will be unable to make payroll, buy supplies or inventory, make investments into your business and/or pay vendors and other business operating expenses.

It is also important to understand that billings or receivables do not necessarily represent 100% income or revenue when there are applicable direct costs (ex: cost of sale, cost of goods sold). Why is this important? Well, because you don’t want to “rob Peter to pay Paul.” If you invoice a client $10,000 for a project but $5,000 of that invoice is for direct costs to a third-party vendor, only $5,000 constitutes income or revenue (your actual business income) which can go towards paying your business operating expenses, not the full $10,000. The $5,000 for direct costs should be earmarked and set aside to pay your third-party vendor.

Far too often, some business owners don’t make this distinction and may use that full $10,000 to satisfy their immediate business cash flow needs. For instance, a business owner may choose to use that $10,000 to help cover their payroll or pay a vendor that is looking for payment on a past due invoice (aka “the squeaky wheel”). In essence, the business owner has “robbed Peter to pay Paul.” The business may be experiencing a cash flow issue and has decided to use the cash that is due and payable to another vendor to pay other business expenses or other vendors. While this may not seem like a bad thing on a short-term basis to satisfy immediate business cash flow needs, there will be a domino effect which will ultimately impact the business in the long-term. It should go without saying that this is a terrible practice to follow!

So, how can you keep receivables in check?

Billings - It’s important to stay active and on top of client billing. For a small business with limited resources and staff, the business owner may need to be the one to take care of billing or perhaps you have a billing clerk or third-party that does billing for your business on a fixed schedule each month. Whatever the case may be, you must get your client billing done on a timely, regular basis. How often you bill or invoice your clients may depend on existing client contracts or agreements that are in place and/or when a project or phases of a project are completed (ex: milestones); however, the most important part is to get your billing done and invoices out to clients as soon as possible. Book those receivables!

Collections – Typically, you should have established payment terms with your clients. Your client contracts or agreements should state the specific payment terms and your invoices should re-iterate the general payment terms (ex: Due upon receipt, NET 10, NET 15, NET 30). Monitor your AR Aging on a weekly basis. Your Accounting platform should be able to generate reports like an AR Aging Summary and Open Invoices. Depending on your comfort level with your clients, you may extend the courtesy of up to NET 30 payment terms, even if your standard payment terms are due upon receipt. Regardless of the courtesy that you extend to a client, when invoices go beyond NET 30 payment terms, you need to actively follow-up with clients on the status of payment. Be sure to send past due notices which include copies of the past due invoices, send account statements and follow up directly with your clients by phone and/or e-mail. Be active and NOT passive!

Be sure to invest in a good Accounting platform that allows you to generate invoices and statements as well as offers robust reporting to provide you with the necessary financial reports that serve your business needs. Try to use platforms that are widely-used, familiar and popular. It will be a lot easier to find people who are experienced using these types of platforms should you need to bring someone in to manage or takeover your books.

When possible, send invoices to clients electronically whether through the Accounting platform (if supported/available) or by e-mail (ex: PDF attachment) in lieu of regular postal mail. In addition, consider accepting electronic payments from clients (ex: wire, ACH) instead of paper checks. This should help to minimize lost checks and may speed up payment turnaround time. When considering electronic payments, check with your financial institution to see if any fees are applicable to these types of transactions. Many financial institutions will offer ways to avoid and/or reduce bank and transaction fees.

Best Practices for Small Business Corporate Cards

A business credit or charge card can be helpful for business owners when it comes to making purchases and paying expenses on behalf of your business. However, it’s extremely important to develop best practices when it comes to managing and using these cards.

When applying for a business credit or charge card, determine the type of card that best suits your business needs. A business credit card, just like a personal credit card, will offer you a fixed credit limit and the ability to pay over time while a charge card will have no preset spending limit (not to be confused with unlimited spending power) and will typically require the balance be paid in full each month. It should go without saying that you should only spend what you can afford so that you can afford to pay your monthly bill in full every month. Paying over time will not only cost more in the long run (due to accrued interest) but also set you and your business on the path of accruing unnecessary debt.

As a startup or small business, you’ll want to find cards that offer no annual fee while still offering some bang for the buck (ex: sign-on bonuses, cash back rewards, points for every dollar). As your business grows, you may need to upgrade or switch to a different card that offers you greater benefits and rewards, but keep in mind that you may need to pay an annual membership fee to gain some of those added benefits and rewards. While paying an annual membership fee won’t necessarily break the bank, don’t go off and get a credit/charge card with a $400 or $500 annual fee if the value of the benefits and rewards do not help offset the cost of the annual fee.

A business credit or charge card, unlike a personal card, is intended for legitimate BUSINESS expenses only. Do not get into the habit of mixing business and personal expenses on a business credit or charge card. Cardholder agreements will usually state that business credit or charge cards are only to be used for business expenses. While card issuers may not audit every transaction made on a business credit or charge card, failing to keep your business and personal expenses separate can pose risks and liabilities including piercing the corporate veil and you could face penalties if your business were to undergo an audit by the IRS (ex: treating personal expenses as deductible business expenses). Just don’t do it!

If you are planning on issuing additional business credit or charge cards to employees, be sure to limit the number of cards to only those employees who absolutely require one for legitimate business purposes. Also, be sure to have written policies in place on the proper use of business credit or charge cards. Make sure every employee understands the current policies in place and provide refreshers as needed. As part of your written policies, you may want to include a policy requiring employees to obtain pre-approval or pre-authorization by management before any charges are placed on a business credit/charge card and/or set spending thresholds which require additional management approval.

Make sure that for every transaction on the card, there is a corresponding receipt for the purchase. You should also require that a monthly reconciliation (ex: expense report) for each card be submitted along with copies of all the corresponding receipts for the applicable charges. Be sure to thoroughly review every monthly statement for accuracy and to protect against fraudulent charges. It can also be beneficial to enable alerts on each card and on the master card account and to frequently monitor transactions on the cards. All card issuers should have an online dashboard which allows you to monitor all the card accounts and transactions on your master account.

With some business card accounts, card issuers will allow you to select billing options for your cards. For example, one option would be to receive a single master bill for your business credit/charge card account with a breakdown of each individual card and the respective charges.  The business, upon reviewing and reconciling the statement, can then pay the master bill each month. Another option would be to have individual credit/charge card bills issued to each cardholder. Each cardholder would then be responsible for paying their respective bills and then submit those expenses back to the business for reimbursement. The latter option would add an extra layer of protection for the business to prevent and deter unauthorized spending on a card.

Business credit and charge cards can be a useful and vital tool in helping a business owner manage and run his/her business, but like anything else, they must be used properly and responsibly.