January 29, 2020 | BY Joseph Hoffman
The word “concentration” is usually associated with a strong ability to pay attention. Business owners are urged to concentrate when attempting to resolve the many challenges facing them. But the word has an alternate meaning in a business context as well — and a distinctly negative one at that.
A common problem among many companies is customer concentration. This is when a business relies on only a few customers to generate most of its revenue.
The dilemma is more prevalent in some industries than others. For example, a retail business will likely market itself to a broad range of buyers and generally not face too much risk of concentration. A commercial construction company, however, may serve only a limited number of clients that build, renovate or maintain offices or facilities.
How do you know whether you’re at risk? One rule of thumb says that if your biggest five customers make up 25% or more of your revenue, your customer concentration is high. Another simple measure says that, if any one customer represents 10% or more of revenue, you’re at risk of elevated customer concentration.
In an increasingly specialized world, many types of businesses focus only on certain market segments. If yours is one of them, you may not be able to do much about customer concentration. In fact, the very strength of your company could be its knowledge and attentiveness to a limited number of buyers.
Nonetheless, know your risk and explore strategic planning concepts that might enable you to lower it. And if diversifying your customer base just isn’t an option, be sure to maintain the highest levels of customer service.
There are other forms of concentration. For instance, vendor concentration is when a company relies on only a handful of suppliers. If any one of them goes out of business or substantially raises its prices, the company relying on it could find itself unable to operate or, at the very least, face a severe rise in expenses.
You may also encounter geographic concentration. This can take a couple forms. First, if your customer base is concentrated in one area, a dip in the regional economy or a disruptive competitor could severely affect profitability. Small local businesses are, by definition, dependent on geographic concentration. But they can still monitor the risk and look for ways to mitigate it (such as online sales).
Second, there’s geographic concentration in the global sense. Say your company relies on a foreign supplier for iron, steel or another essential component. Tariffs can have an enormous impact on cost and availability. Geopolitical and environmental factors might also come into play.
Yes, concentration is a good thing when it comes to mental acuity. But the other kind of concentration is a risk factor to learn about and address as the year rolls along. We can assist you in measuring your susceptibility and developing strategies for moderating it.
January 27, 2020 | BY Joseph Hoffman
An array of tax-related limits that affect businesses are annually indexed for inflation, and many have increased for 2020. Here are some that may be important to you and your business.
Social Security tax
The amount of employees’ earnings that are subject to Social Security tax is capped for 2020 at $137,700 (up from $132,900 for 2019).
Section 179 expensing:
Limit: $1.04 million (up from $1.02 million for 2019)
Phaseout: $2.59 million (up from $2.55 million)
Income-based phase-out for certain limits on the Sec. 199A qualified business income deduction begins at:
Married filing jointly: $326,600 (up from $321,400)
Married filing separately: $163,300 (up from $160,725)
Other filers: $163,300 (up from $160,700)
Employee contributions to 401(k) plans: $19,500 (up from $19,000)
Catch-up contributions to 401(k) plans: $6,500 (up from $6,000)
Employee contributions to SIMPLEs: $13,500 (up from $13,000)
Catch-up contributions to SIMPLEs: $3,000 (no change)
Combined employer/employee contributions to defined contribution plans (not including catch-ups): $57,000 (up from $56,000)
Maximum compensation used to determine contributions: $285,000 (up from $280,000)
Annual benefit for defined benefit plans: $230,000 (up from $225,000)
Compensation defining a highly compensated employee: $130,000 (up from $125,000)
Compensation defining a “key” employee: $185,000 (up from $180,000)
Other employee benefits
Qualified transportation fringe-benefits employee income exclusion: $270 per month (up from $265)
Health Savings Account contributions:
Individual coverage: $3,550 (up from $3,500)
Family coverage: $7,100 (up from $7,000)
Catch-up contribution: $1,000 (no change)
Flexible Spending Account contributions:
Health care: $2,750 (no change)
Dependent care: $5,000 (no change)
These are only some of the tax limits that may affect your business and additional rules may apply. If you have questions, please contact us.
January 22, 2020 | BY Joseph Hoffman
Many taxpayers make charitable gifts — because they’re generous and they want to save money on their federal tax bills. But with the tax law changes that went into effect a couple years ago and the many rules that apply to charitable deductions, you may no longer get a tax break for your generosity.
Are you going to itemize?
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), signed into law in 2017, didn’t put new limits on or suspend the charitable deduction, like it did with many other itemized deductions. Nevertheless, it reduces or eliminates the tax benefits of charitable giving for many taxpayers.
Itemizing saves tax only if itemized deductions exceed the standard deduction. Through 2025, the TCJA significantly increases the standard deduction. For 2020, it is $24,800 for married couples filing jointly (up from $24,400 for 2019), $18,650 for heads of households (up from $18,350 for 2019), and $12,400 for singles and married couples filing separately (up from $12,200 for 2019).
Back in 2017, these amounts were $12,700, $9,350, $6,350 respectively. The much higher standard deduction combined with limits or suspensions on some common itemized deductions means you may no longer have enough itemized deductions to exceed the standard deduction. And if that’s the case, your charitable donations won’t save you tax.
To find out if you get a tax break for your generosity, add up potential itemized deductions for the year. If the total is less than your standard deduction, your charitable donations won’t provide a tax benefit.
You might, however, be able to preserve your charitable deduction by “bunching” donations into alternating years. This can allow you to exceed the standard deduction and claim a charitable deduction (and other itemized deductions) every other year.
What is the donation deadline?
To be deductible on your 2019 return, a charitable gift must have been made by December 31, 2019. According to the IRS, a donation generally is “made” at the time of its “unconditional delivery.” The delivery date depends in part on what you donate and how you donate it. For example, for a check, the delivery date is the date you mailed it. For a credit card donation, it’s the date you make the charge.
Are there other requirements?
If you do meet the rules for itemizing, there are still other requirements. To be deductible, a donation must be made to a “qualified charity” — one that’s eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.
And there are substantiation rules to prove you made a charitable gift. For a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, regardless of amount, you must maintain a bank record or a written communication from the organization you donated to that shows its name, plus the date and amount of the contribution. If you make a charitable contribution by text message, a bill from your cell provider containing the required information is an acceptable substantiation. Any other type of written record, such as a log of contributions, isn’t sufficient.
Do you have questions?
We can answer any questions you may have about the deductibility of charitable gifts or changes to the standard deduction and itemized deductions.
January 20, 2020 | BY Joseph Hoffman
The IRS announced it is opening the 2019 individual income tax return filing season on January 27. Even if you typically don’t file until much closer to the April 15 deadline (or you file for an extension), consider filing as soon as you can this year. The reason: You can potentially protect yourself from tax identity theft — and you may obtain other benefits, too.
Tax identity theft explained
In a tax identity theft scam, a thief uses another individual’s personal information to file a fraudulent tax return early in the filing season and claim a bogus refund.
The legitimate taxpayer discovers the fraud when he or she files a return and is informed by the IRS that the return has been rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the tax year. While the taxpayer should ultimately be able to prove that his or her return is the valid one, tax identity theft can cause major headaches to straighten out and significantly delay a refund.
Filing early may be your best defense: If you file first, it will be the tax return filed by a would-be thief that will be rejected, rather than yours.
Note: You can get your individual tax return prepared by us before January 27 if you have all the required documents. It’s just that processing of the return will begin after IRS systems open on that date.
Your W-2s and 1099s
To file your tax return, you must have received all of your W-2s and 1099s. January 31 is the deadline for employers to issue 2019 Form W-2 to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue Form 1099 to recipients of any 2019 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments (including those made to independent contractors).
If you haven’t received a W-2 or 1099 by February 1, first contact the entity that should have issued it. If that doesn’t work, you can contact the IRS for help.
Other advantages of filing early
Besides protecting yourself from tax identity theft, another benefit of early filing is that, if you’re getting a refund, you’ll get it faster. The IRS expects most refunds to be issued within 21 days. The time is typically shorter if you file electronically and receive a refund by direct deposit into a bank account.
Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost or stolen or returned to the IRS as undeliverable. And by using direct deposit, you can split your refund into up to three financial accounts, including a bank account or IRA. Part of the refund can also be used to buy up to $5,000 in U.S. Series I Savings Bonds.
What if you owe tax? Filing early may still be beneficial. You won’t need to pay your tax bill until April 15, but you’ll know sooner how much you owe and can plan accordingly.
Be an early-bird filer
If you have questions about tax identity theft or would like help filing your 2019 return early, please contact us. We can help you ensure you file an accurate return that takes advantage of all of the breaks available to you.
January 15, 2020 | BY Joseph Hoffman
You’ve no doubt read articles or heard stories about how artificial intelligence (AI) is bringing sweeping change to a wide variety of industries. But it’s one thing to learn about how this remarkable technology is changing someone else’s company and quite another to apply it to your own. Here’s a primer on what AI might be able to do for your business.
3 technology types
AI generally refers to using computers to perform complex tasks usually thought to require human intelligence — such as image perception, voice recognition, decision making and problem solving. Three primary types of technologies fall under the AI umbrella:
1. Machine learning. This involves an iterative process whereby machines improve their performance in a specific task over time with little or no programming or human intervention. It can, for example, improve your forecasting models for determining which products or services will be in high demand with customers.
2. Natural language processing (NLP). This uses algorithms to analyze unstructured human language in documents, emails, texts, conversation or otherwise. Language translation apps are among the most common and dramatic examples of NLP. Communicating with business partners, customers and prospects in other countries — or simply people whose first languages are other than English — has become much easier as this type of software has improved.
3. Robotic process automation (RPA). Using rules and structured inputs, RPA automates time-consuming repetitive manual tasks that don’t require decision making. For instance, an RPA system can collect data from vendor invoices, enter it into a company’s accounting system, and generate an email confirming receipt and requesting additional information if needed. This functionality can help you better time vendor payments to optimize cash flow.
Chat boxes, data sensors
A couple of the most common on-ramps into AI for businesses are chatbots and data sensors. Chatbots are those AI-based instant messaging or voice-based systems that allow users to ask relatively simple questions and get instant answers.
Today’s customers expect to find information quickly and chatbots can provide this speed. However, it’s important to implement a system that enables users to speedily connect to a human customer service rep if their questions or issues are complex or urgent.
Data sensors generally don’t have anything to do with customers, but they can be quite valuable when it comes to your offices or facilities. AI-enhanced building systems allow for real-time monitoring and adjustment of temperature, lighting and other controls. This data can drive predictive analytics that improve decisions about the maintenance and replacement of systems, lowering energy and repair costs.
Precisely how AI might help you run your business more efficiently and profitably depends on the size of your company and the nature of its work. You don’t want to throw dollars at an AI solution just to keep up with the competition. Then again, this technology may offer enticing ways to sharpen your competitive edge. We can help you perform a cost-benefit analysis of any technological upgrade you’re considering.