News From Davos

Davos

From Bloomberg

Mergers and acquisitions are surging, with $130 billion in takeover offers already announced this year. And enterprises from Microsoft Corp. to Volkswagen AG are readying plans to step up capital spending after companies have squirreled away a record amount of cash to protect against a new financial crisis.

“The animal spirits are coming back,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for New York-based Moody’s. “This is going to be a good year” for capital expenditures and hiring.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-20/investor-animal-spirits-spread-to-companies-worldwide.html

We’ll deal with animal spirits in the next post.  Sounds weird, but there’s a simple explanation. This post however is dedicated to why big companies see things differently than small companies and why they would take an expansive approach at exactly the time many prognosticators are projecting doom and destruction.

ELLIS Forecast

If you can survive 21st century chaos long enough to improve in every area you have compete control over, you’ll participate in the biggest, craziest boom ever. You don’t make the improvements, doom and destruction are waiting down the road. Our firm is forecasting an unusual future. On the one hand we are forecasting continued sluggishness for the overall economy. But on the other hand we are forecasting increasingly discriminating taste of most buyers. The ability to deal with this is what will separate sucesses from failures.

With two competitors on the same street in the same block of the same city with all the same outward appearances and the exact same pricing, why would one thrive and one face demise?

Because of their business model and their infrastructure …

Here’s the lay of the land …

@ Google & Wikipedia are the future of knowledge, not the university system.
@ Amazon & Apple are the future of business. They and Apple are busy spoiling your customers right now.
@ Apple is the future of innovation and customer loyalty.

With that competitive landscape staring you in the face, you have to adapt to survive. If you can’t compete on a level playing field with Amazon, your customers will be disappointed and you won’t survive. Amazon and Apple are making customers very particular.  Who on this earth has never purchased anything from at least one of these behemoths?

If you haven’t already experienced the rising expectations, you will soon.

That’s where ELLIS comes in.

We are specialists in helping small businesses over this hump. Our business model will improve your business in every area you have complete control over. Our infrastructure helps make your internal workings hum like a Stradivarius.

Of course, you’ll have to do you share, sales, marketing and product or service development. But we can provide the time for you to concentrate on theses essential areas that you may have never concentrated before.

In the final analysis, Ellis makes it possible for you to leave your mark on the universe.

Why Davos Companies are Different from your Business

The companies that participate at Davos are all the biggest and best in the world, They already have their business model and infrastructure in place. The writing has been on the wall for a long time. The issue is all the other businesses in the world, especially wholly owned business in the United States. I can’t speak for other countries, but I suspect it will not be unlike the U.S. in this respect.

Most wholly owned business don’t think it’s worth the money to pay for consulting or for being on the cutting edge. While most very large businesses pay to have the world’s biggest consulting firms in their place of business on a daily basis.=; often more than one at a time. Whether they take their consultants’ advice, they want them around. This is one of the reasons few small wholly owned businesses break free of the crowd. 99.99% remain small and wholly owned for their entire existence.

  • Infrastructure is key
  • Google is the future of knowledge
  • Amazon is the future of business
  • Apple is the future of community
  • Ellis is the future of professional services
  • the way Americans do business is changing
  • regulatory strangulation
  • talent drought
  • faster deliver
  • better service
  • more digital revolution
  • tax increases (never cuts) as we socialism a try
  • mind bogglingly complexity
  • economic turbulence as Pacific Rim raises
  • new and unexpected competition
  • … from new and unexpected sources
  • … often financed by government, ala Government Motors
  • and, last but not least …
  • greater opportunity for those who are ready

Are you ready?

http://www.elliscpa.us

Dream Job or Nightmare?

From the Wall Street Journal …

” In a U.S. economy struggling to create jobs, at least one field is booming: compliance. Hefty fines and other penalties have jolted companies, especially banks, into a compliance hiring spree, as governments at home and abroad tighten business laws and regulations and ramp up their enforcement activity. “

This is because government is turning to penalties as a likely source of increased revenues. And they’re coming at us from all directions – IRS, other federal agencies, states and various state agencies. Where it used to make some sense to pay the penalties when caught instead of incurring the cost to comply, that is rapidly changing.

Finding their previous approaches to raise taxes inadequate to fund their needs, governments across the nation are finding penalties a richer source of new funding. The IRS, which was attempting it increase funding by policing the tax preparation profession and going after schedule C filers and S corps have lately been turning their attention to penalties for mundane activities as a more lucrative funding source.

Watch out or you may get hammered with a completely unexpected and very hefty fine out of the clear blue sky … $55,000 on a W-2 issues, hundreds of thousands of dollars on a foreign asset filing irregularity, and penalties of $10.000 is not uncommon for non or late filing.

However, we have found that there is generally a legal way around these regulatory issues that business are being penalized to death over. We have been finding satisfactory solutions for clients on any number of non-tax regulations and potential penalties. It is a good idea to be proactive. Take action before they rope you in. Otherwise many of your options will fade away.

2nd Response to potential client

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This is a second post providing insight into rainmaking in a professional firm.

After our first response, the CEO of the potential client decided he wanted to compare solutions for solving a current problem they have with their 2013 tax return.They started by interviewing three firms. They eliminated one after the first round and came back to us with a request for a specific proposal to repair their botched 2013 tax return. These are significant issues that could result in wholesale changes to their return. They wanted to see what specifically we would do so they could compare it with the other firm’s proposal. This is an odd request at the minimum, and in the most likely case, this is may be a client who may be a bit hard to get under control.

The other applicant is a local office of another national firm that has offices all over the country, as opposed to our approach. The local office is an ignored backwater that does all the shit returns for more significant offices. So I knew the guy was in over his head.

My first inclination was to to withdraw from the list of applicants. But our great and wonderful professional staff convinced me otherwise. Never-the-less, I am getting the impression this client only hears what he wants to hear and may be reluctant to take good advice, These clients can be the kiss of death because they can get in a lot of trouble and have a tendency to drag you in after them.

Here’s my response

” We don’t think it’s a wise idea to select an approach in this manner.

If you go off a proposal, you will be locking yourself into a position that may turn out not be the best solution. And if I recommended an approach without all the pertinent information, I would be doing the same thing. My inclination is to open a dialog with the IRS and let my eventual decision evolve over time depending on the concessions we get from the IRS.

There are myriads of outcomes possible, and many of those outcomes are decidedly unpleasant. If we just start, every one of those outcomes will remain in play. We believe it is a better idea to take as many of those off the table before committing to a solution. Then when we commit, we know what to expect. This doesn’t need to be solved today. We have the time to take the approach I suggest.  The IRS is still in a mess from the shutdown and tax season bearing down on them.

In addition,

Many of the tax strategies we use are reserved for our clients and we do not divulge them casually.  This keeps our clients on the cutting edge of their industry and helps them stay competitive.

All we will need is returns from the last three years, a  power of attorney and a working relationship with your company.

If you hire our firm, we will make it a priority to make corrections that result in the least damage and the best benefit to you.  But the research, time and effort that goes into a project like this cannot be done quickly enough to be put  into a proposal. This is a work in progress to find the best solution.

One more thing.

We can tell you are very concerned about selecting an accounting firm. That is obvious from the detailed approach you are taking. It is a difficult task because there is not a CEO out there with the ability to recognize competent tax and accounting talent. But this approach is not going to help you. You are just giving incompetent talent more opportunities to snow you.

That having been said, we would love to work with your company. This may not be the answer you are looking for, but our main priority is developing a working relationship with your company that results in the best outcome for you in the long run. ”

C’est  La Vie

His first response expressed his dissatisfaction with my response.  I responded as follows.

” My response will give you a good picture of our firm and how we operate.  Like I said in our meeting and in the email this morning, there are a myriad of possible approaches and results. The best way to approach them is the way I described. “

Tax Shelter

The number one tax shelter known to man is a wholly owned business. Always has been. Always will be until they change the constitution, either by legislative action or neglect.

Year End Stuff

There are always a few year-end things to do to make sure you’ve positioned yourself adequately to keep your taxes at the legal minimum over time.  Our intention is to decrease taxes in a way that does not become taxable in a subsequent year. It is not a good thing to lower taxes this year only to increase them more next year. Thus we don’t normally include timing differences in our recommendations. Timing differences are the bread and butter of tax firms trying to give you the last minute impression they are looking out for your best interests.

Also of salesmen trying to make year-end quotas.  Never do anything just for taxes. Always call us first.

IRA & 401(k)

It doesn’t make any difference if you want to put a couple thousand dollars into an IRA or 401(k). But there are people out there who have millions in 401(k)s, and those people are playing a fool’s game adding to their 401(k).  It’s far better to pay your taxes and put what’s left in an investment. At least if you make a profit, your taxes will be half of what they otherwise would be. This is by far the best approach and the one I make to all my clients. If you need help with an investment adviser, let me know and I can recommend some.

However, if you’re employed and your employer is matching your contribution, the previous paragraph goes out the window. In that case, go high enough to maximize your employer’s match and then stop. Your goal here is to get as much as possible from your employer because that should pay the taxes when you want out. Don’t forget the entire amount is taxable plus an 10% penalty if you are younger than 50.

Taxes Trending Up

You are all aware that basic tax rates are up. Noticeably up. To the extent that you will feel the pain. We are seeing that in more ways than not. We are also seeing more of our clients post record years, so their tax bite is taking a double whammy. More than any year since 2008.  As I have said before, if you have your business in order to operate smoothly and efficiently you will experience year over year gains.  Competitors down the street who are not operating smoothly and efficiently will eventually hit the wall.

In the 21st century, infrastructure is everything.

Medical Insurance Deduction

The primary reason I am writing this post is because of health insurance on S corp owners.  If you are an owner of an S corp and your insurance is not provided by a C corp, the cost needs to be reflected on your W-2 in order to be fully deductible. If it’s not, the only option is to include it on your personal return as an itemized deduction where it will be phased out up to 10% of your total income. If you’re audited, the IRS will expect a legitimate reason why your health insurance plan is not under your S Corp name. For example – Some States don’t allow it, or the insurance provider doesn’t allow the particular group plan……..

NOTE: This doesn’t apply to C corps with a medical reimbursement plan. IN that case, the C corp can either reimburse you or pay the premiums directly. This is for you getting your insurance personally or from your S corp.  We will be updating Medical Reimbursement Plans this year.

Two years ago, it didn’t make any difference because the result is the same regardless of how you calculate the deduction.  Then, surprise, surprise, the IRS began enforcing regulations they had never enforced, added new guidelines, disallowing the self employed health insurance deduction on page one … and suddenly, many, many S corp owners began losing their insurance deduction. Now the insurance premium must be paid by the S corp, included on your W-2, and your W-2 wages must be equal to or more than the insurance deduction.

We have been communicating with many of you on this issue.  If we have and you have already dealt with the information we need, that’s good. If you fit the requirements of this and you want to be included in this, please let us know today. We have only a limited amount of time to comply.

Tax Projection Efforts

This is also why we’ve stepped up our tax projection efforts. With taxes and income both on the rise, we are seeing a lot of clients surprised at their tax liability.  If we didn’t communicate with you on your tax projection, we probably looked at it and decided you were probably OK. If you are experiencing higher income and want to make sure, let us know.

The End

We want to make sure you all understand what’s going on, and why we have been pestering you for this information.  There have been other examples of this kind of tightening the requirements to increase tax revenues, but this one is most widely felt. You can expect this kind of development to be a normal undertaking of the IRS for years to come. They are in a revenue raising mood. And we are their target.

That’s why we’re in business … to offset all their moves to your best advantage.

Robert Ellis
www.elliscpafirm.com
The edge to survive in a perilous world
888-241-5040

What went wrong with the IRS?

The American system of taxation is a complex undertaking. It is so complex it relies on the willing cooperation of the population and the willing assistance of tax professionals. With an estimated 85 million taxpayers paying federal income taxes and an equal number filing only to receive welfare payments, without the willing participation of everyone, the system would soon crumble.

The managing partner of a fairly large regional firm once told me that the IRS relies on the accounting profession to keep people on the straight and narrow. That seemed a novel idea at the time, but it’s perfectly obvious. They can’t audit every return and they can’t put everyone in jail. They can’t even handle Obamacare.

It is the accounting profession that holds the system together.

But the system is showing signs of decay … of a government that no longer trusts its citizens and a citizenry increasingly concerned it won’t be treated fairly by the IRS and other federal agencies.

For this system to work, people must feel they have competent advocates in their corner protecting them from the unbridled aggression of the IRS. They’re willing to put up with aggression as long as they think there is someone in their corner protecting them. You can argue that the IRS aggression is not unbridled, but in my experience as a tax professional, it is. Anecdotally, I recently ran into an appeals agent who suspected I wasn’t myself because my signatures didn’t match. Whatever that means, but she effectively barred me from representing my clients in a tax audit. Because the contact information of supervisory levels at the IRS isn’t published, it took me several days to get the number of someone above her. Once I found that person, the issue was quickly resolved. Field agents and appeals agents sometimes run wild. I could entertain you all afternoon with stories along these lines.

This kind of aggression has been increasing for several years, not due to Congressional mandate mind you, but due entirely to internal actions of the IRS: either at the agent level or the service level in changing the regs, changing enforcement action, etc., etc.

As the IRS is ramping up their aggression on the one hand, they’re simultaneously threatening professional tax preparers by attempting to make tax professionals part of the enforcement arm of the IRS on the one hand, and attempting to police professionals for incompetence on the other hand. This makes professionals very concerned about the penalties and sanctions the IRS could levy against them for actions appropriately is the responsibility of the client. Penalties can be severe, including losing your right to practice before the IRS or going to jail. What this is effectively doing is making tax professionals afraid to undertake a vigorous defense of their clients in the event of tax controversy. Some professionals have completely bailed on this issue. This is an ugly spiral that is feeding on itself and is not likely to end well.

Now I am one who thinks that policing professionals was not a bad idea. I cheered the concept when it was first disclosed because there has always been a lot of incompetence and shoddiness in the profession. But it seems to be getting worse rather than improving. Policing actually made the profession less competent. Why? … because today tax professionals are less likely to understand the constitutional underpinnings of the tax system and are therefore are less likely to take substantive stands for their clients.

The fundamental aspect of taxation is that you can only be taxed on profits. You are constitutionally protected from government attempts to tax you for receipts that are not profits. For instance if you buy something for $17 and sell it for $5, you can’t be taxed on the $5. This concept can be traced from the 16th amendment to the Supreme Court case Glenshaw Glass to section 162 of the internal revenue code. As long as a deduction is ordinary and necessary in the pursuit of profits and meets the requirements of economic substance and profit motive, it’s deductible. And whether it’s deductible or not is not decided by the tax code or the IRS, it’s decided by you. In fact the tax code doesn’t detail what is deductible and what isn’t. Depending on this formula, the exact same thing could be deductible for some taxpayers and not deductible for other taxpayers.

This seems to be getting lost in the process. I have had to push cases all the way to court to get fair treatment for some of my clients. I will say that, in a limited number of cases I got fair treatment for my clients at lower levels. But I used to say, to find a reasonable person at the IRS you had to push it up to appeals. Now I am saying more and more, that sanity now resides at the courts. For how long, who knows?

The result, and I can guess the intended result is, tax professionals are less likely to take legitimate deductions when they know they may have to explain them to the IRS. They toe the company line, as it is, as though they’re working alongside the IRS to increase revenue collections, never even mentioning their new attitude to their clients. Probably because they don’t realize it, but you can bet they’re thinking, “I don’t want to lose my ticket.”

And you can’t blame them.

Perhaps.

But this development has certainly made it easier to differentiate my practice from my competitors. If you’re a business owner, this is not a good time to rely on a professional that came to you via relationship marketing. This is a good time to rely on a results based or value based marketer.

We will come back to this subject often on this blog.

This will serve as an appetizer.

http://www.elliscpa.us