Is it time for a financial check-up?

Most of us take the time to schedule our regular or annual doctor check-ups or take our vehicles for regular service appointments.  But, what about your finances?  Summer is the perfect time to review what has happened year to date for your personal or business taxes, evaluate changes coming up, determine if your withholdings or quarterly estimates are enough (or too much), and have the time to address these items before the close of the year.  Hand in hand with taxes are the other financial areas to look at:

  • Are you saving for retirement?  Are you making the best choices for your tax situation?  
  • Do you have an existing 529 plan for your child?  If so, are you paying attention to the returns you are earning?  Do you need to reallocate within your account based on poor financial performance?
  • Are you and your family protected with life insurance?  If so, what type do you currently own?  Just in the past few years, there are some great products that have been developed that will protect you and your family by providing death as well as living benefits, such as long-term care.
  • Do you have goals/dreams you want to achieve?  Retire early?  Travel? Be debt free?

Now is the perfect time to schedule your free financial check-up with us!  We look forward to serving you and the needs of your family and businesses.

Happy summer!

 

Planning for the future

April 18 has come and gone.  In this blog and for the rest of the year we are highlighting our financial analysis service which includes a mid-year tax review.  

Michele and I had the privilege to attend Tony Robbin's Business Mastery in January 2017.  Keith Cunningham was a speaker at the event and reminded us about "Financial Optics".  In addition to the mid-year tax review, we can sit down with you and do a detail financial analysis of your current situation to help you get a clear view into your financial health.  We call it a "Dashboard" view. Do you have a dashboard of your current financial situation? With a dashboard, you can measure your financial health and map out your financial future.  We as tax professionals and financial planners can help you with that.

The goal of the mid-year tax review is to see where you are with year-to-date with your income, expenses, withholdings, estimated tax payments, and where we can find tax efficiencies to help you.  

It is not how much you make, it is how much you keep. We are here to help you with that.  Please contact us for a consultation and let's get you prepared to have a great 2017.

Personalization

I (Southin) returned from Tony Robbins' Business Mastery 2017 in West Palm Beach Florida with many learnings and a mind-blowing experience. One of many things that stood out was the topic of Hyper-Personalization.

I've been in the Digital Experience field since 2006 when I first was exposed to it at FatWire Software (now part of Oracle).  I've had many roles in selling and implementing personalization as part of the Digital Experience at various companies. There are many products such as Oracle WebCenter Sites, Adobe Marketing Cloud, Hippo, and more that provide the tools to implement a wonderful Digital Experience to your customers.    

I am a champion of personalization because I have implemented it and have seen the results of how it brings added value to visitors.  What I do know is that if you haven't already implemented a personalization experience on your website or mobile app or when a customer enters your office, you are missing out on capturing and delivering massive value to your customers. The return on investment is massive when properly executed.

A personalized experience on the web or on a mobile device involves many factors.  To deliver the personalized experience, companies need to learn as much about their users as possible.  I will break it down to several important components.  For my West Palm Beach Business Mastery 2017 alumni you will get most of the analogy: Things and Stuff.

Below are the "Things and Stuff" that are needed to identify and deliver a compelling experience.  For the rest of this blog I will use the term "visitor" and "customer" interchangeably.

  1. Persona Attributes
  2. Filters
  3. Segments
  4. Content
  5. Stories, the user experience that you want the visitor to experience; a.k.a experience mapping.

Persona Attributes are things like:

  • Age of the your website visitor
  • Gender
  • Location where the website visitor is
  • Financial demographic they are in; i.e. make less than $50K, make less than $100K, make less than $200K, make more than $500K, etc.
  • Favorite color
  • Favoriate brand
  • Has children
    • Sports
  • Married
  • .....

Segments are when attributes are assembled into groups and filtered through a funnel.  There can be many segments that have similar attributes, but every segment must have something that is different. Below are generalized examples once you have the information:

Segment: Young Affluent using two attributes

Age of visitor is between 20-40 years old

Financial demographic is "make more than $500K per year"

Segment: Soccer Mom in the southwest region of the USA using 5 attributes.

Gender is Female

Age is over 18

Location is Georgia

Has Children

Children play soccer as a sport

The above attributes can be captured in many ways.  You can buy the information from many resources, you can have "click thru" tracking on your website, or you can ask for it by rendering a form for the visitor to fill out. You can get information from social logins too.  

Once you have a defined your segments, you can deliver personalized content to your visitors.  The content can be all or a combination of images, videos, pdfs, blogs, news etc.  The combination of knowing your customer and delivering compelling content to the visitor of your website or mobile app will increase the likelihood that your visitor will act on your "call to action" and be a raving fan.  A "call to action" is a goal that you want the visitor to do; i.e. buy this thing, fill in a form and submit it, book an appointment, etc.

Raving fans, customers that love you and will champion you, want to know that you bring more value to them based on the interactions that they have with you.  As a result, it is important to map out the user experience thoughtfully.  

Things to consider are:

How do you want the visitor experience to be when they come to your website?  

If you don't have enough information to determine what segment they belong to, should the color of the home page be white or blue? 

If you know that the visitor belongs to the "Young Affluent" segment, will you show the person a different color, higher value products, or services compared to someone who is not in that category?  

If the visitor belongs to the "Soccer Mom in the southwest region of the USA" segment, will  you show them soccer balls, shin guards, show their favorite professional soccer news, etc? 

At MahkEngine we can help you to select and implement a digital experience that will WOW your customers. If you have any questions please reach out to us.

 

 

Want to be a part of the February Club?

October 17th marked the official end of the 2015 filing season.  As a CPA, it is now time to reflect on the past 10 months and review what went well, what the challenges were, and prepare for the 2016 filing season that is just a couple months away.  My desire is to help my clients reduce the stress of tax season.

We all file taxes.  My question is which type of filer are you?  Which scenario describes you?  Which type of filer would you like to be?

Taxpayer A:  This taxpayer goes through the year, but does not really start thinking about taxes until 1099s or W-2s are received in January or February.  Maybe in March they start to gather their information together to either prepare their own taxes or give to their CPA/tax preparer.  The closer to April 15th, the less time there is to make sure all possible deductions have been accounted for.  If not ready by April 15th, an extension would be filed.  To avoid penalties and file an accurate extension, good tax information needs to available to get accurate estimates.  The urgency of April 15th passes, and the filing of taxes becomes less urgent.  Come August or September, there is renewed urgency to get everything to the CPA.  Almost a year after many expenses have been incurred, it can be difficult to recreate information for itemized deductions or tax credits.  In a last minute rush, this taxpayer joins the others who have also waited and has to wait longer for returns and likely pays more to the CPA due to the last-minute time crunch.

Taxpayer B:  This taxpayer is continually working on their tax information throughout the year.  This taxpayer has a folder they maintain for important tax documents that come in throughout the year, such as purchase documents for a home or car, medical expenses, payments that qualify for tax credits, education expenses, etc.  In addition, they have opted to move their personal and/or business accounting to the cloud using Xero.  They are able to reconcile their bank and credit card transactions daily or weekly while those transactions are still fresh in their mind.  After December 31st, they are able to run tax reports from Xero.  Examples would include:  education payments for themselves or children in college, expenses that qualify as itemized deductions, childcare payments.  If the taxpayer owns a business, in a matter of minutes, the information needed for business returns is available for them to print or give Xero access to their accountant. There is no need to share digital files back and forth, as Xero is in the cloud.  By the beginning or middle of February (or sooner), this taxpayer is ready to hand over their information to their CPA and be one of the first to file their tax returns instead of the last.

Do you want to be a part of this February Club?  Mahkengine will make it easy for you!  Through the end of November, we are offering the "February Club" promotion.  Imagine ending 2016 being  mostly organized for taxes...months ahead of time!  Check out our promotions page and contact us right away so that we can get you started.  We can give you access to a 30-day trial of the software that will change your attitude on your personal and business accounting!

Xero and Xerocon 2016

How many of you get excited when the topic of accounting is mentioned? (Crickets…) I know I do, but I will admit to being an accounting nerd. The last few years, I have been using a cloud-based solution called Xero.  It has transformed how I have managed my own business, which is why I get excited to share it with others.  I have been assisting clients make the move to Xero from other platforms or getting them set up with an accounting system for the first time for their new or existing businesses.

 

Xerocon 2016 - San Francisco, CA

Xerocon 2016 - San Francisco, CA

This past week was Xerocon in San Francisco.  This is an annual gathering of accounting professionals who come together to learn about the direction of the company (Xero), the way technology is being harnessed to provide efficiencies, and share ideas with each other, excited to bring home our learnings to our firms and our clients.  (It was also 40 degrees cooler in San Francisco than back home in Phoenix, so that was another plus!). What I love about Xero is their passion for supporting the business owner.  By harnessing the power of the Internet and mobile technology, we business owners can manage our businesses while also living our lives.  Xero being in the cloud gives you access on whatever device you have available at the moment...computer, tablet, mobile phone.  As a parent of four, I am frequently waiting for someone.  In a matter of minutes, I can log in and reconcile bank transactions or check on outstanding invoices from my clients.  I can even invoice from my mobile device without having to wait to return to my office.  Do you track a lot of expenses on the go?  Xero’s mobile app allows you to snap a photo of the receipt and upload to your accounting system without even being at your computer.  The beauty of Xero is having real-time access to your accounting.  

Our passion is for helping business owners improve their efficiencies.  By improving your accounting efficiencies, you can better plan for tax preparation as well, whether you prepare them yourselves or have them prepared for you.  Over the coming weeks, we will share with you more of what we learned at Xerocon.   Topics to include: structuring an effective cloud platform, managing payroll through Xero, Energy vampires, the power of collaboration, and so much more.

Interested in getting your accounting (business or personal) in order?  Now through August 31, I am offering free account setup into Xero (2016 transactions only) and your first 3 months free.  Imagine getting to January 1 and being ready to turn your information over to your CPA.  No last minute panic and scramble to provide business or personal information.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

We look forward to hearing from you.  Comment below if you have questions.

Michele Simphoukham, CPA

 

 

Have you issued your 1099s for 2015?

After a great discussion in one of my networking groups this morning, I realized that not all small businesses are aware of when they should be issuing 1099-MISC forms to individuals or to other businesses that they have paid throughout the year.  This only applies to payments made in the course of business, not to personal expenses.  The deadline to file these 1099s to your payees is February 1 this year, with the IRS copy due by February 29th, 2016.  There is still time to get these forms prepared, so please reach out to us should you need help with this reporting requirement!

Here are the general rules:

As a business owner, any individuals or LLCs that you pay more than $600 in a calendar year for services should receive a 1099-MISC form from your business. Example: independent contractors such as accountants, your landlord, attorney, office assistants.   As a general rule, you do not need to issue a 1099-MISC to corporations at this time; however, the exemption from reporting payments made to corporations does not apply to payments for legal services. Therefore, you must report attorneys' fees (in box 7) or gross proceeds (in box 14) as described earlier to corporations that provide legal services.  There are other 1099 types, such as for interest payments, forgiveness of debt, etc.  (1099-INT, 1099-C)

It is important to be in compliance with your 1099s, as the penalties for not filing them can be steep, especially for the small business owner.  From IRS:  "If you fail to file a correct information return by the due date and you cannot show reasonable cause, you may be subject to a penalty. The penalty applies if you fail to file timely, you fail to include all information required to be shown on a return, or you include incorrect information on a return. The penalty also applies if you file on paper when you were required to file electronically, you report an incorrect TIN or fail to report a TIN, or you fail to file paper forms that are machine readable. The amount of the penalty is based on when you file the correct information return. The penalty is: $30 per information return if you correctly file within 30 days (by March 30 if the due date is February 28); maximum penalty $250,000 per year ($75,000 for small businesses, defined below)."

To make the reporting process easier, request a W-9 before you issue payments.  That way, you will have your payee name, address, and tax id number easily available come year end when it is time for 1099 reporting.  Using software such as Xero or Quickbooks helps to make determining vendor payment totals for the year easier too!

Help is only a phone call or email away!  Contact Michele Simphoukham at 602-451-7016 or michele@mahkengine.com.

 

Top Ten Reasons to Use Xero

Happy New Year 2016!  January is here and it is a busy month for sure! It is time to organize 2015 information for taxes and also to start fresh for 2016.  Are you satisfied with how your 2015 business or personal financial records were organized?  If not, what are you struggling with?  For 2016, why not consider a fresh approach for your business or personal accounting.

Here are ten reasons why Xero may be a great solution for you

  1. Xero is based in the cloud, so you can access your information from any device with connection to the internet.

  2. Xero offers real-time collaboration with other team members or with your accountant or bookkeeper.  No longer do you need to exchange files and wait for the other person to finish their entries before you can continue working.

  3. The Xero dashboard provides real-time information on account balances as well as other information that is important for your business.

  4. Updates and upgrades are done automatically without you having to purchase new software.

  5. Xero reduces manual data entry by allowing you to create transaction rules which will automatically categorize your transactions.

  6. Xero uses bank-level security to protect your financial information.

  7. Xero integrates with hundreds of other business applications to increase your efficiency.

  8. With Xero, you have the ability to create beautiful client invoices from your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

  9. Xero can also be customized to manage your personal finances.  Often times, our personal finances can be more complicated than our business finances.

  10. Xero is a great tool for managing your rental properties.  By managing income and expenses throughout the year, year-end reporting for taxes is easier.

Contact us if you would like to try a free 30 day trial to see how Xero can help you!

Michele Simphoukham

Organizing for 2015...Or Fresh Start for 2016

Hopefully you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. We are now in the midst of one of the busiest times of the year both personally and professionally.  Social obligations, business deadlines, and personal responsibilities to prepare for the upcoming holiday season and the New Year!

Now is the time to take a few moments to evaluate what you can do to prepare your business for year end or for a fresh start in 2016:

  • If you prepare your taxes or send them out to another CPA, are your records current and ready for year end?  The sooner you can get a handle on this, you can get a jump on your tax reporting.  How wonderful would it be to be one of the first business clients to submit year end information to your accountant?

  • Are you satisfied with your current accounting system?  If not, consider converting to Xero, our cloud based accounting solution.  Check out a few videos on this system here:  http://www.mahkengine.com/xero/.  Mahkengine can get your records current for 2015 or set you up for a fresh start beginning 1/1/16.

  • Instead of waiting to reconcile at the end of each month, you can get daily insight into your business.  As an accountant who has worked in various accounting applications, I tell others Xero is actually fun.  My associates laugh at me, but that’s okay!  Xero is what I use to manage our accounting firm.

  • Contact Mahkengine for a business and/or personal tax consultation to get an estimate of what you may owe come April 15th and what steps you can take before year end to help reduce taxes.  A portion of the consultation fee will be applied towards your 2015 tax preparation fee if you are an existing client or become a new client.

  • Know another business owner or individual that could use our help?  We welcome (and will reward) your referrals.

We would like to wish you a wonderful holiday season!  Thank you for your continued support!

The Mahkengine Team