Monthly Archives: June 2017

2017 Q3 Tax Calendar

Key tax deadlines for businesses and other employers

tax-formHere are some of the key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the third quarter of 2017. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. Contact us at 216-831-7171 or info@cp-advisors.com to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.

July 31

  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for second quarter 2017 (Form 941), and pay any tax due. (See exception below.)
  • File a 2016 calendar-year retirement plan report (Form 5500 or Form 5500-EZ) or request an extension.

August 10

  • Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for second quarter 2017 (Form 941), if you deposited on time and in full all of the associated taxes due.

September 15

  • If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the third installment of 2017 estimated income taxes.
  • If a calendar-year S corporation or partnership that filed an automatic six-month extension:
    - File a 2016 income tax return (Form 1120S, Form 1065 or Form 1065-B) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due.
    - Make contributions for 2016 to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.

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Preparing for an IRS Audit

Business Operations and Income Statements

Put your income statement to good use

JerardLocktish-(High)By midyear, most businesses that follow U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) have issued their year-end financial statements. But how many have actually used them to improve their business operations in the future? Producing financial statements is more than a matter of compliance — owners and managers can use them to analyze performance and find ways to remedy inefficiencies and anomalies. How? Let’s start by looking at the income statement.

Benchmarking performance
Ratio analysis facilitates comparisons over time and against industry norms. Here are four ratios you can compute from income statement data:

  1. Gross profit. This is profit after cost of goods sold divided by sales. This critical ratio indicates whether the company can operate profitably. It’s a good ratio to compare to industry statistics because it tends to be calculated on a consistent basis.
  2. Net profit margin. This is calculated by dividing net income by sales and is the ultimate scorecard for management. If the margin is rising, the company must be doing something right. Often, this ratio is computed on a pretax basis to accommodate for differences in tax rates between pass-through entities and C corporations.
  3. Return on assets. This is calculated by dividing net income by the company’s total assets. The return shows how efficiently management is using its assets.
  4. Return on equity. This is calculated by dividing net profits by shareholders’ equity. The resulting figure tells how well the shareholders’ investment is performing compared to competing investment vehicles.

For all four profitability ratios, look at two key elements: changes between accounting periods and differences from industry averages.

Plugging profit drains
What if your company’s profitability ratios have deteriorated compared to last year or industry norms? Rather than overreacting to a decline, it’s important to find the cause. If the whole industry is suffering, the decline is likely part of a macroeconomic trend.

If the industry is healthy, yet a company’s margins are falling, management may need to take corrective measures, such as:

  • Reining in costs,
  • Investing in technology, and/or
  • Looking for signs of fraud.

For example, if an employee is colluding with a supplier in a kickback scam, direct materials costs may skyrocket, causing the company’s gross profit to fall.

Playing detective
For clues into what’s happening, study the main components of the income statement: gross sales, cost of sales, and selling and administrative costs. Determine if line items have fallen due to company-specific or industry-wide trends by comparing them to public companies in the same industry. Also, monitor trade publications, trade associations and the Internet for information.

The best advice we can offer is: “don’t go it alone.” Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. offers a wide range of management advisory services to help you keep your company operating in the black. Contact Jerad Locktish, CPA, Manager, at jlocktish@cp-advisors.com or 216-831-7171.

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Preparing for an IRS Audit

Taxes and Operating Across State Lines

Preparing for an IRS Tax Audit

Business owners: When it comes to IRS audits, be prepared

IRS Audit2If you recently filed your 2016 income tax return (rather than filing for an extension) you may now be wondering whether it’s likely that your business could be audited by the IRS based on your filing. Here’s what every business owner should know about the process.

Catching the IRS’s eye
Many business audits occur randomly, but a variety of tax-return-related items are likely to raise red flags with the IRS and may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:

  • Significant inconsistencies between previous years’ filings and your most current filing,
  • Gross profit margin or expenses markedly different from those of other businesses in  your industry, and
  • Miscalculated or unusually high deductions.

An owner-employee salary that’s inordinately higher or lower than those in similar companies in his or her location can also catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.

How to respond
If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified by letter. Generally, the IRS won’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.

The good news is that many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve taken. Others may ask you to take receipts and other documents to a local IRS office. Only the field audit requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors.

More good news: In no instance will the agency demand an immediate response. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. To do so, you’ll need to collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If any records are missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.

If the IRS selects you for an audit, we can help you to:

  • Understand what the IRS is disputing (it’s not always crystal clear),
  • Gather the specific documents and information needed, and
  • Respond to the auditor’s inquiries in the most expedient and effective manner.

Our best advice is: Don’t go it alone. Contact Jim Komos, CPA, Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. Tax Partner, at jkomos@cp-advisors.com or 216-831-7171.

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Make Collections a Priority

Consider Your Not-for-Profit Growth Stage

Nonprofit Life Cycle

7_istock_000005830377large_seedlingChallenges and opportunities mark growth stage
Nonprofits generally mature along a standard life cycle. An organization’s first steps are typically followed by a period of growth, which, ideally, is less eventful and stressful than those early years. The growth stage — beginning two or three years after “birth” and continuing until “maturation” at around age seven — isn’t without challenges. But this period also comes with a sense of accomplishment and the opportunity to diversify and bring in new staff and donors as the organization comes into its own.

Also in this stage, many of the not-for-profit’s administrative and operational systems become more formalized as the organization evolves.

Evolution of the mission
It may have seemed blasphemous to even consider when the organization was in its incubatory and birthing stages, but a nonprofit might adjust its mission during the growth stage in the face of new circumstances. Changed demographics, economic developments, or simply greater knowledge might make it appropriate to revise the organization’s purpose.

An organization can home in more intensely on a subset of the original mission, or it may shift its focus to another area. The organization may for the first time develop a strategic plan to incorporate the changes to the mission. Such changes might be essential if the not-for-profit is to remain relevant and viable.

Evolution of the board
Perhaps the most common marker of a nonprofit in the growth stage is the change in the focus of the board of directors, from day-to-day operations to governance. While the board will usually continue to be active in operations to some degree, it also must begin to work on strategic matters — the policies, planning and evaluations necessary to pave the path to sustainability.

The composition of the board is likely to change during this time, as founding board members move on. The result could be a larger and more inclusive collection of individuals, preferably with a wider range of skills, talents and backgrounds. Former or current volunteers or clients may ascend to board positions, propelled by their passions for the cause.

Boards also can establish committees at this time. It’s important to resist the urge to form too many committees — particularly those concerned with operations. Some organizations implement a three-committee structure, with committees for only internal affairs (for example, finance, HR and facilities), external affairs (for example, fundraising, PR and marketing) and governance.

Evolution of the staff
As the demand for services builds and the board expands programming, staffing will naturally progress, as well. The staff, like the board, should expand in the growth stage to avoid burnout. The nonprofit should design a clear organizational structure and hire experienced managers.
At this juncture, the not-for-profit should develop formal job descriptions, with greater job specialization. Employees will now be expected to work under formal systems, following policies and procedures and in a more efficient manner than seen before, during and after the organization’s launch. The executive director is generally still the primary decision maker, although he or she may not have time to be as involved in every area of the organization.

Evolution of the finances
Growth-stage organizations are generally in a more comfortable financial position, with less uncertainty. But, for nonprofits, that uncertainty never completely evaporates.

Although nonprofits in the growth stage have established good relations with their key funders, there are still challenges in securing the necessary funding to support current programming.

Thus, nonprofits in this stage need to look into ways of maintaining — or, better, expanding — growth, such as diversifying their revenue sources, managing cash flow and developing solid budgets. They should work with financial advisors to identify, monitor and respond to appropriate financial metrics, such as cost per primary outcome, cash reserves and working capital.

Keep calm and carry on
An organization that’s made it to the growth stage has overcome some challenging hurdles, but can’t afford to become complacent. Rather, the growth stage is the time to leverage what has been learned and steer into even greater success.

Need assistance?  Contact the Not-for-Profit experts at Ciuni & Panichi, Inc.

 

Taxes and Operating Across State Lines

Presents Tax Risks and Rewards

state lineIt’s a smaller business world after all. With the ease and popularity of e-commerce, as well as the incredible efficiency of many supply chains, companies of all sorts are finding it easier than ever to widen their markets. Doing so has become so much more feasible that many businesses quickly find themselves crossing state lines.

But therein lies a risk: Operating in another state means possibly being subject to taxation in that state. The resulting liability can, in some cases, inhibit profitability. But sometimes it can produce tax savings.

Do you have “nexus”?
Essentially, “nexus” means a business presence in a given state that’s substantial enough to trigger that state’s tax rules and obligations.

Precisely what activates nexus in a given state depends on that state’s chosen criteria. Triggers can vary but common criteria include:

  • Employing workers in the state,
  • Owning (or, in some cases even leasing) property there,
  • Marketing your products or services in the state,
  • Maintaining a substantial amount of inventory there, and
  • Using a local telephone number.

Then again, one generally can’t say that nexus has a “hair trigger.” A minimal amount of business activity in a given state probably won’t create tax liability there. For example, an HVAC company that makes a few tech calls a year across state lines probably wouldn’t be taxed in that state. Or let’s say you ask a salesperson to travel to another state to establish relationships or gauge interest. As long as he or she doesn’t close any sales, and you have no other activity in the state, you likely won’t have nexus.

Strategic moves
If your company already operates in another state and you’re unsure of your tax liabilities there — or if you’re thinking about starting up operations in another state — consider conducting a nexus study. This is a systematic approach to identifying the out-of-state taxes to which your business activities may expose you.

Keep in mind that the results of a nexus study may not be negative. You might find that your company’s overall tax liability is lower in a neighboring state. In such cases, it may be advantageous to create nexus in that state (if you don’t already have it) by, say, setting up a small office there. If all goes well, you may be able to allocate some income to that state and lower your tax bill.

The complexity of state tax laws offers both risk and opportunity. Contact Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. for help ensuring your business comes out on the winning end of a move across state lines.

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Could stronger governance benefit your business?

How to shape up your working capital.
© 2017

Governance and Your Business

Could stronger governance benefit your business?

FAEEvery company has at least one owner. And, in many cases, there exists leadership down through the organizational chart. But not every business has strong governance.

In a nutshell, governance is the set of rules, practices and processes by which a company is directed and controlled. Strengthening it can help ensure productivity, reduce legal risks and, when the time comes, ease ownership transitions.

Looking at business structure
Good governance starts with the initial organization (or reorganization) of a business.

Corporations, for example, are required by law to have a board of directors and officers and to observe certain other formalities. So this entity type is a good place to explore the concept.

Other business structures, such as partnerships and limited liability companies (LLCs), have greater flexibility in designing their management and ownership structures. But these entities will benefit greatly from strong governance with well-designed partnership or LLC operating agreements and a centralized management structure. They might, for instance, establish management committees that exercise powers similar to those of a corporate board.

Specifying the issues
The corporate model is an excellent framework to use to help establish strong governance in your company, regardless of its size or ownership structure. An important factor is to have clear and documented business articles and bylaws defining the roles and responsibilities of leadership and, if you have them, board members. For example: the organizational documents might:

  • Define and limit the authority of each executive,
  • Establish a board of directors or internal executive committee
  • Require board approval (or specific leadership approval) for certain actions,
  • Authorize the board to hire, evaluate, promote and fire executives based on merit,
  • Authorize the board to determine the compensation of top executives and to approve the terms of employment agreements, and
  • Create nonvoting classes of stock to provide equity to the owner’s family members who aren’t active in the business, but without conferring management control.

As you look over this list, consider whether and how any of these items might pertain to your company. There are, of course, other aspects to governance, such as establishing an ethics code and setting up protocols for information technology.

Knowing yourself
Strong governance is all about knowing your company and identifying the best ways to oversee its smooth and professional operation. For help, please contact Ciuni & Panichi, Inc.’s Frank Eich, CPA, MBA, senior manager, at feich@cp-advisors.com or 216-831-7171.

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Customer Collections

Make collections a priority

collectionsA new customer you’ve been cultivating for some time finally places a custom order. The production team works diligently to meet the customer’s expectation as well as the order’s two-week deadline. The final product ships on time and the team members are congratulating each other on a job well done. But what’s missing?

Everyone was so preoccupied with completing the sale and producing the product that no one bothered to check the customer’s credit or collect a down payment. What’s more, a billing clerk had to chase down the sales rep and plant manager to get all the necessary information to accurately complete the invoice — which was mailed a month after delivery. Now, everyone’s attention has returned to making the next sale or batch of product, leaving no one to follow up on payment.

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Scenarios like this play out in factories from coast to coast, costing them all big bucks in the long run.

Manufacturers need to take a hard look at their billing practices. Here are some collection process procedures to consider implementing:

Make collections everyone’s job. Every employee has a role in making sure the company gets paid. Salespeople must obtain accurate billing information from customers (phone numbers, email addresses and names of payables personnel), as well as request approval to perform credit checks. They also need to negotiate contract terms — such as early-bird discounts, late payment penalties and down payments on custom orders — that will help get money in the door faster. The owner or CFO should approve all new customers and terms before the accounting department sets them up in the system.

In addition, factory workers need to code jobs properly and notify the billing department when orders ship. In return office personnel must promptly submit invoices and follow up on unpaid accounts.

Make sure your workers understand their roles in realizing revenue. And give them adequate training and tools to get the job done efficiently.

Streamline the billing process. You can’t collect what you don’t bill. Set up formal procedures that trigger an invoice as soon as the delivery truck pulls away from your dock. Electronic billing systems allow companies to send invoices via email or text. Most e-billing systems also enable online payment and purchase orders, as well as automatic re-orders, if applicable.

Assign dedicated collection personnel. Dedicated representatives should be assigned to handle each customer’s billing issues. This encourages office staff members to develop a rapport with customers. They should monitor all new accounts closely at first and become more flexible as the relationship develops.

Manage overdue accounts. Someone, possibly your controller or finance officer, should be in charge of monitoring when payments are made. Each week, he or she should report to the owners about the percentage of receivables in the 0–30 days category, 31–60 days category, and beyond. Doing so allows you to detect and reverse negative patterns before they have a business impact.

Develop a timeline for acting on overdue accounts. For instance, after 45 days, you might call or send a reminder text to customers who haven’t responded after the first bill. By pursuing these accounts before too much time has passed, you send the message that the company intends to get paid but is willing to work with the customer to resolve payment-related questions or problems.

Provide performance incentives. Too often, incentives are based on revenues, not profits or cash flow. Consider structuring your incentive program based (at least partially) on collections. For example, offer a bonus to workers if the company has 50 percent or more of accounts receivable in the 0–30 days category or keeps bad debt write-offs below 5 percent.

Consider factoring. It takes time to rein in collections. If your company needs immediate access to cash, factoring can be a short-term solution. Here, your receivables are sold to a third-party collection agency, usually for 60 to 85 cents on the dollar. This may seem expensive, but it can provide instant cash and free up employees for implementing long-term collection improvements.

When all collection attempts fail
After repeated unsuccessful attempts at collection, you may eventually realize that a customer isn’t going to pay. When it’s time for a write-off, the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) offers a tax deduction for business bad debts that may soften the blow.

Under IRC Section 166, a business bad debt is a loss from the worthlessness of a debt that was created or acquired in your trade or business, or was closely related to your trade or business when it became partly or totally worthless. Most bad debts involve credit sales to customers for goods or services. But they can also include:

  • Bona fide loans to customers or suppliers that are made for business reasons and have become uncollectible,
  • Business-related guarantees of debts that have become worthless, and
  • Debts attributable to an insolvent partner.

To qualify for the deduction, you must show that you’ve taken reasonable steps to collect the debt and there’s little likelihood it will be paid. You also must have previously included uncollectible credit sales in your accrual-basis gross income.

The best advice we can offer is, “don’t go it alone.” For sound business advice and high quality accounting services, contact John Troyer, CPA, Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. Partner, at jtroyer@cp-advisors.com or 216-831-7171.

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How to shape up your working capital

Concentration risks can hurt your supply chain

How to shape up your working capital

Working capital — current assets minus current liabilities

Everyday leader.It’s a common measure of liquidity. High liquidity generally equates with low risk, but excessive amounts of cash tied up in working capital may detract from growth opportunities and other spending options, such as expanding to new markets, buying equipment and paying down debt. Here are some recent working capital trends and tips for keeping your working capital in shape.

Survey says
Working capital management among U.S. companies has been relatively flat over the last four years, excluding the performance of oil and gas companies, according to the 2016 U.S. Working Capital Survey published by consulting firm REL and CFO magazine. The overall results were skewed somewhat because oil and gas companies increased their inventory reserves to take advantage of low oil prices, thereby driving up working capital balances for that industry.

The study estimates that, if all of the 1,000 companies surveyed managed working capital as efficiently as do the companies in the top quartile of their respective industries, more than $1 trillion of cash would be freed up from receivables, inventory and payables.

Rather than improve working capital efficiency, however, many companies have chosen to raise cash with low interest rate debt. Companies in the survey currently carry roughly $4.86 trillion in debt, more than double the level in 2008. As the Federal Reserve Bank increases rates, companies will likely look for ways to manage working capital better.

Efficiency initiatives
How can your company decrease the amount of cash that’s tied up in working capital? Best practices vary from industry to industry. Here are three effective exercises for improving working capital:

Expedite collections. Possible solutions for converting receivables into cash include: tighter credit policies, early bird discounts, collection-based sales compensation and in-house collection personnel. Companies also can evaluate administrative processes — including invoice preparation, dispute resolution and deposits — to eliminate inefficiencies in the collection cycle.

Trim inventory. This account carries many hidden costs, including storage, obsolescence, insurance and security. Consider using computerized inventory systems to help predict demand, enable data-sharing up and down the supply chain, and more quickly reveal variability from theft.

Postpone payables. By deferring vendor payments, your company can increase cash on hand. But be careful: Delaying payments for too long can compromise a firm’s credit standing or result in forgone early bird discounts.

From analysis to action
No magic formula exists for reducing working capital, but continuous improvement is essential. We can help train you on how to evaluate working capital accounts, identify strengths and weaknesses, and find ways to minimize working capital without compromising supply chain relationships.

Our best advice is: Don’t go it alone. Contact George Pickard, CPA, MSA, Ciuni & Panichi, Inc. senior manager, at gpickard@cp-advisors.com or 216-831-7171 for more information about how we can help you achieve your business goals.

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