Friday, May 21, 2010

Move Your Money

There is a movement afoot for people and organizations to move their banking from the mega-banks to a local bank.

The mega-banks (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, etc.) aren't particularly interested in you or your small business. Sure, they'll take your deposits while paying less than 1 percent on your account and they'll give you a credit card with interest rates in the range of 15-35 percent, but their real motivation is making money and serving their Wall Street masters.

The 10 largest banks hold over 60 percent of the nation's deposits. There are now 23 banks with over $100 billion in assets.

Local banks on the other hand serve their community. Their future prosperity is directly tied to the communities they operate in. Local banks don't give their executives million-dollar bonuses. Local banks hire local service providers like CPAs, attorneys, advertising agencies, marketing consultants, janitors, and other various service providers. At your local bank you'll find friendly people who know your name and want to help you.

Tomorrow, in Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, local bankers will be on hand to help answer questions as we encourage people to "Move Their Money." The festivities are from 1-4pm and should be a family fun event complete with music and speakers.

According to pollster John Zogby, nearly 10 percent of Americans have moved at least some of their money due to Wall Street abuses and the current banking crisis.

I hope you'll join me in moving your money and banking from the mega-banks that nearly brought down our economy to a local bank that is committed to and serves your community.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Value of Planning

Yesterday I got some sad news. One of our clients died unexpectedly. He was under 40 and left behind a family and a business. While tragic, this isn't a rare event.

Are you prepared if this tragedy were to strike you or your business?

I'm not.

I know the importance of having a will yet I don't have one. If you die without a valid will, state law dictates how your estate will be divided by your heirs according to very specific set of rules. Your friends, favorite relatives and charitable benefactors will get nothing despite your intentions. The only way to not follow the state distribution process is to die with a valid will.

It is probably best to use an attorney but that isn't necessary. Check with your state to determine what form (In writing, witnessed by two people, etc.) a valid will may take.

I've had "getting a will" on my to-do list for years. I'm going to get this accomplished before the end of summer.

On the business side, it is important to consider and plan for the death of owners and key employees. You can use key person insurance, buy-sell agreements, life insurance, and similar techniques to prepare for these contingencies.

A business can have considerable market value which can dissipate quickly upon the death of an owner if proper plans are not in place. I've seen businesses lose half their market value or more when the owner dies without proper planning.

I'm meeting with an attorney next week to put in place the necessary plans so that my untimely death or disability doesn't compromise my business, family, coworkers, or clients.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Hiring Incentives

The Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act was enacted on March 18, 2010. This tax law provides two new benefits to employers who hire certain previously unemployed workers ("qualified employees").

First, employers who hire a qualified employee will get an exemption on the employer's 6.2 percent share of social security tax on the wages paid to these employees, for wages paid from March 19, 2010 through December 31, 2010.

A qualified employee are individuals who begin employment after February 3, 2010 and before January 1, 2011, who have either been unemployed or employed less than 40 hours during the 60-day period before employment. The qualified employee cannot be a relative or otherwise related party.

You also can't lay someone off and then rehire them or another person to do the same job. However, you can qualify for the exemption if you replace someone who quit or was terminated for cause.

To put this in plain English, if you hire someone after February 3rd and expand your payroll, you may qualify for this exemption to avoid paying the 6.2 percent employer portion of the social security tax.

Employers should use the new Form W-11 to confirm new hire eligibility. Form W-11 must be signed by the employee to qualify for the exemption.

Additionally, for each new employee retained for at least 52 consecutive weeks, employers will be eligible for a general business tax credit equal to the lesser of $1,000 or 6.2 percent of wages paid.

I'm not clear but I believe this new hire retention credit will be a 2011 tax year credit since the 52nd week of continuous employment will fall sometime in 2011.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Renewal and Revitalization

The Earth goes through its annual cycle of rebirth, abundance, decay, and dormancy. Our lives consists of cycles although most of us see only linearity.

Working in an accounting firm is like joining a series of cycles: New businesses starting, older ones being closed or transferred, tax seasons, year ends, visioning, implementing, etc. The cycles are endless and important.

Our firm, TriLibrium, just completed a 3-day working retreat on beautiful Whidbey Island. This is our second retreat and I find them to be critical to our firm's success and culture. We used this time to strengthen our team, renew our vision, deal with challenging issues, and bond as humans.

We can't do this work in an office and yet it must be done.

Are you taking time in your business to step away from the day to day routine to provide time to appreciate the cycles of your business?