So, You’ve Been Audited: Should You Go It Alone or Hire a CPA?

I sincerely hope you have never had to go through an IRS audit – and never have to in the future. But what if that dark day does arrive? Should you go it alone and defend yourself or hire a CPA to be on your side?

The temptation to handle this alone is usually prompted by one of two things. First, the notion is that this is not such a big deal. Other times, people think if they handle it themselves, they will save money.

Unfortunately, neither of these are good reasons to defend yourself in a tax audit against the IRS. While the decision to hire a CPA or tax lawyer does depend on the case and the issues at hand, the procedural setting plays an important role as well. The answer is nearly universal that you should hire a CPA to defend you – or even a tax lawyer if the situation warrants it (sometimes they are one in the same person).

Why it is a Terrible Idea to Defend Yourself in a Tax Audit

There are several reasons why partnering with a pro is a good idea. Let’s look at each one and why.

  1. Working with your CPA, you can go back and forth with your side of the story, dig into the facts, and challenge each other in formulating a response. You essentially have a thinking partner and someone to fact check your side of the situation. Plus, they know how to “handle” the IRS in the messaging of responses.
  2. It is prudent to create some space between you and direct communications with the government. For the same reason, defense attorneys do not want their clients talking directly to the police. It is best if you communicate via your CPA or tax lawyer. Whenever you are in direct communications with the IRS, the chance of making a misstep is greater. Once you have said or written something to the IRS, it is pretty much impossible to backtrack.
  3. CPAs are experienced in advocating for clients and documentation.
  4. Early representation is a must! One of the biggest mistakes taxpayers subject to an audit make is to start off on their own and then end up in an even worse situation than they started. One of the biggest reasons why an audit can cost a lot is because the taxpayer dug themselves into hole that a CPA then later had to get them out of.
  5. Most cases rest on fundamental accounting problems. Someone with expertise and good records can address these problems early and competently. Seeing your own facts and documents through an unbiased and objective lens is not easy for most of us.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision to hire a CPA to represent you in a tax audit is a personal one. Exactly how necessary this is depends on the facts and circumstances of each individual situation, but it’s almost never a good idea to go it alone. If you ever find yourself in an audit, seriously consider hiring a CPA – and do it early in the process.

Accounting Considerations for Business Insurance Coverages

With more than eight million small businesses in America, and more than $776 billion in net premiums issued by the insurance industry in 2022 for commercial policies (according to the Insurance Information Institute), business insurance is big business. Along with protecting businesses from a myriad of claims, insurance expenses also have to be accounted for correctly.

When it comes to defining prepaid insurance, it’s essentially remittances that businesses (and individuals) make to an insurance company in advance. Normally, the usual time-frame for an insurance policy is 12 months. The time-frame is important when it comes to distinguishing between current and long-term asset classification.

If a prepaid expense, such as an insurance premium payment, is not utilized within 12 months of the remittance, it’s considered a long-term asset. Since it’s very uncommon for it to happen, it’s not seen in many financial statements, but is an important consideration to ensure that prepaid expenses are accounted for correctly.  

Important Accounting Factors

Since the coverage takes place in the future, but the payment is recorded in a preceding period, the prepaid insurance expense is considered a current asset on the balance sheet. Then, when the coverage is effective, the accounting consideration changes to the expense side of the business’ balance sheet.  

Here is an example of how businesses account for insurance expenses.

Company X pays an insurance premium of $3,000 on May 15 for the following 12 months starting June 1. The May 15 payment is recorded on the same date with a debit of $3,000 attributed to prepaid insurance along with a credit of $3,000 to cash. As of May 31, nothing has changed insurance-wise or accounting-wise for this policy, so the full $3,000 will be reported as prepaid insurance. However, once coverage is effective things change.

When June 30 rolls around, an adjusting entry will show a debit insurance expense for $250 (one-twelfth of the annual policy premium), and the same amount will see a credit to prepaid insurance. The June 30 debit balance for prepaid insurance will now be $2,750, leaving the remaining 11 months of insurance coverage that hasn’t yet elapsed – or eleven-twelfths of the $3,000 insurance premium cost.

This process repeats for the remaining 11 months. Depending on the business’ needs, coverage changes, policy changes, etc., the amounts may change but the process will likely remain the same.

Additional Factors

A related term, insurance payable, is another type of debt that is connected with an insurance expense. Listed on a company’s balance sheet, it represents a business’ outstanding premiums. This shows how much a company needs to pay the insurance company, and ideally by the end of the current period to remain current, avoid overdue fees, or have the policy canceled by the insurance carrier.

Along with giving businesses peace of mind, having the right mix of commercial insurance requires the right type of accounting considerations for the business’ internal and external accounting and tax reasons.

Sources

https://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-commercial-lines

Pre-Retirement Planning Guide Younger Adults

Step 2: Clarify Goals

You’re never too young to start a bucket list. That’s because some things (such as bungee jumping) you probably want to knock out in your twenties. Women may want to have children before their forties – that sort of thing. A bucket list is comprised of all the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” It should be a running list that you add to and check off throughout your lifetime.

If you haven’t started a bucket list yet, a good time to do this is during your pre-retirement planning. It might be better to complete some items, such as expensive travel or home renovations, while you’re still working. That way, you can pay for them with your current income rather than take on debt or withdraw excess funds during retirement.

Another reason to develop your bucket list with your pre-retirement plan is to give life after work a greater purpose. Many people don’t think past the joy of simply not having to get up every morning and go to work. For some, the appeal of retirement is to no longer have to deal with exhausting corporate politics. However, if these are the only reasons you’re looking forward to retirement, they will not likely be as fulfilling a couple of years into it.

In fact, many retirees find they miss both the structure of the workday as well as the responsibilities and intellectual stimulation of a job. If you don’t establish additional and specific goals for your retirement years, you may end up bored, watching television most of the day, short on social stimulation, and wondering where the years went.

Some common goals set by retirees include:

  • Volunteering
  • Home renovation/redecoration
  • Gardening
  • Reading/book club
  • Babysitting/spending time with grandchildren
  • Traveling
  • Writing a book/memoir
  • Learning another language
  • Painting/arts & crafts
  • Learning to play an instrument
  • Carpentry
  • Regular socializing with friends/game night
  • Culture (theatre, symphony)
  • Regular exercise routine
  • Mentoring
  • Taking classes

Aim For Local

Not everyone wants to see springtime in Paris, so recognize that your bucket list is unique to you. If you’re running low on bucket list items, think locally and personally. For example, there might be places nearby you haven’t visited in years (or ever), such as a museum, art gallery, zoo, symphony, or opera. Even if you do attend regularly, consider taking your grandchildren with you during retirement to expose them to your passions and develop memories they will hold onto for life.

As you develop your bucket list, think about how activities could achieve additional goals, such as fitness and socialization. Some of the risks of growing older are increased health problems and potential isolation – particularly if you lose a partner or outlive your friends. Constantly expand your social network to include younger folks, particularly neighbors. Helping them out with occasional babysitting or taking care of pets while they are out of town help “pay it forward” for those elder years when you could use a bit of help yourself.

Achieving a successful retirement is all about good planning and preparation. You want to have money to enjoy your life, good health to keep staying active, and friends and loved ones to spend time with. These are the core elements that contribute to a long life, so start planning today by developing goals and seeing them through.

Summer Reading List for Personal Finances

Since it’s summer and reading lists are at the top of your mind, now’s the perfect time to expand your knowledge of money management and wealth building. So, whether you’re a retiree, a beginning saver, or even a child, we’ve got a book for you.

The Classics

If you haven’t had a chance to dive into these titles, you might want to grab them, starting with The Millionaire Next Door. Authors Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko published this in 1996 and learned something critical: most millionaires were those who don’t blatantly flash their wealth but live below their means and save, save, save. Other great books like The Psychology of Money and Same As Ever, both by Morgan Housel, explore how human emotions trigger spending decisions that aren’t always the best for us. (Not surprising, right?) Finally, The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham advocates a “disciplined approach to investing.” He’s someone who you might want to listen to – he was a mentor to Warren Buffet.

New Books

For those who want to align their personal values with their financial decisions, The Social Justice Investor by Andrea Longton is a good read. Her thesis is simple: she reminds us that no matter how big or small, every investment impacts humanity. Another new book by an author who has a big presence on social media, Kyla Scanlon, is In This Economy? How Money and Markets Really Work. Using the model of short, bite-sized clips made famous by TikTok, she presents macroeconomic concepts like interest rates in digestible chunks. Even if you’re not into the socials, you can glean important fiduciary principles in a short time – especially if you have a busy life.

For Young Folks

Check out this powerful title, Stop Acting Rich…and Start Living like a Real Millionaire, also by Thomas J. Stanley. In a nutshell, this is a cautionary tale that details the pitfalls of overspending on a house or other major purchases while also emphasizing that just because you look rich doesn’t mean you are. Another great pick is Financially Stupid People are Everywhere – Don’t Be One of Them by Jason Kelly. This narrative shines the spotlight on dangers that parents might not discuss with their kids, such as consumer debt and large mortgages. It shares how “not to be a sucker.”

For Students and Kiddos

This is a long one: Debt Free U – How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships or Mooching Off My Parents by Zac Bissonnette. According to the reviews, the story is motivating and inspiring for high school students and does an excellent job of paying off the title. For younger children, there is Lily Learns About Wants and Needs by Lisa Bullard, who reads it weekly to her kids. In her story, she focuses on gratitude and succeeds in explaining that “budgeting” isn’t negative but a necessity for success. From the sounds of this narrative, other age groups might benefit from it, as well.

These are just a few books you can pack into your suitcase or beach bag this summer. If you don’t finish them, you can take them with you for the rest of the year. Learning how to be smart about your finances never goes out of season.

Sources

Personal-Finance Books to Put on Your Summer Reading List (msn.com)

Must-Know Backlinks for Boosting Your SEO

Backlinks are a crucial part of search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. They act as votes of confidence from one site to another and signal to search engines that the content is credible and valuable. Understanding the various types of backlinks is important for crafting an effective SEO strategy that enhances your website’s visibility and authority.

What Are Backlinks?

Backlinks, also referred to as inbound or incoming links, are hyperlinks from one website to another. They serve as endorsements, indicating that the linked content is worth checking out. Search engines use backlinks to assess a website’s credibility and relevance, impacting its ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

Types of Backlinks

  1. Editorial Backlinks
    Editorial backlinks are highly valued in SEO. These links are given freely by other websites when they find your content valuable and relevant. For example, a blog post referencing your blog as a credible source would generate a natural editorial backlink. These highly prized links signify organic recognition of your content’s quality.
  2. Free Tool Backlinks
    Free tool backlinks are a powerful strategy for gaining attention and enhancing SEO. By offering a valuable tool for free, such as a cost calculator relevant to your industry or a free version of a commercial app, you can attract significant and lasting backlinks. To generate backlinks, market the free tool on websites with a similar readership.
  3. Sponsored or Paid Links
    Sponsored or paid links involve paying for backlinks on other websites to boost SEO. While these links can quickly enhance visibility and traffic, they must be handled cautiously due to search engine guidelines. Google, for example, requires sponsored links to be marked with a “sponsored” attribute to prevent manipulation of search rankings. Failing to disclose paid links can lead to penalties. Thus, while effective, it is crucial to adhere to guidelines to avoid negative impacts on SEO.
  4. Nofollow vs. Dofollow Backlinks
    Backlinks can have a “nofollow” or “dofollow” attribute. Dofollow links pass on SEO value, contributing to your site’s authority, while nofollow links do not. Although nofollow links don’t directly boost SEO, they can still drive traffic and increase brand visibility, making them useful in a well-rounded link-building strategy.
  5. Contextual Backlinks
    Contextual backlinks are links placed within the content of a page rather than in footers or sidebars. These links are more valuable because they are surrounded by relevant content, making them more likely to be clicked by users. For instance, a link within an article linked to a detailed guide is highly beneficial.
  6. Guest Posting Backlinks
    Guest posting involves writing articles for other websites in your niche, often in exchange for a backlink. This strategy not only helps in building backlinks but also positions you as an authority in your field. Best practices for guest posting include targeting reputable sites, providing high-quality content, and ensuring the backlink is placed naturally within the article.
  7. Backlinks from High-Authority Sites
    High-authority sites, such as well-known news outlets, academic institutions, or established industry blogs, provide highly valuable backlinks. Earning these backlinks often requires high-quality, unique content or innovative research. Such backlinks significantly enhance your site’s credibility and SEO performance.
  8. Social Media Backlinks
    Social media platforms can be a great source of backlinks. While links from social media are often nofollow, they can drive significant traffic and engagement to your site. Sharing content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest can increase visibility and indirectly boost your SEO.
  9. Backlinks from Niche Directories
    Niche directories are specialized directories relevant to a specific industry or field. For example, a directory dedicated to eco-friendly products is ideal for a green business. These backlinks help improve your site’s relevance within its niche, enhancing its SEO effectiveness.
  10. Broken Link Building
    Broken link building is about finding broken links on other websites and suggesting your content as a replacement. This strategy helps the website fix a broken link and earns you a valuable backlink. The process involves using tools to find broken links, reaching out to the site owner and proposing your content as a suitable alternative.

Avoiding Bad Backlinks

Bad backlinks come from spammy sites, link farms, or unrelated content and can harm your SEO efforts. It’s essential to regularly monitor your backlink profile and disavow any harmful links using tools like Google Search Console. Maintaining a clean backlink profile protects your site’s reputation and ranking.

Quality vs. Quantity in Backlinks

In backlinking, quality triumphs over quantity. High-quality backlinks come from reputable, authoritative sites and are contextually relevant to your content. Factors such as domain authority, relevance, and link placement determine its quality. Evaluating backlinks involves using tools like Moz, Ahrefs, or SEMrush to assess these factors.

Monitoring and Analyzing Backlinks

Tracking and analyzing your backlinks is crucial for maintaining an effective SEO strategy. Tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs, and SEMrush allow you to monitor your backlinks, assess their quality, and understand their impact on your SEO. Regular analysis helps you adapt your strategy and optimize your backlink profile.

Conclusion

Understanding the different types of backlinks and their roles in SEO is vital for building a robust online presence. Focusing on high-quality, relevant backlinks and continuously monitoring your backlink profile will significantly enhance your website’s authority and ranking on search engines. 

Supporting Tibet, Exposing Hidden Fees and Protecting Judges Amid Rising Threats

Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Dispute Act (S 138) – This bill was introduced by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) on Jan. 30, 2023. It establishes a statutory definition of Tibet that includes areas currently claimed by China. The legislation also expands efforts to combat Chinese government propaganda, such as disinformation about Tibet’s history and institutions. The bill passed in the Senate on May 23 and in the House on June 12. It is currently awaiting enactment by the president.

No Hidden Fees on Extra Expenses for Stays Act of 2023 (HR 6543) – Introduced on Dec. 1, 2023, by Rep. Young Kim (R-CA), this bill requires providers of short-term lodging (e.g., hotels, motels, inns, and short-term rentals) to include each mandatory fee when displaying or advertising the price for a reservation. This largely bipartisan bill passed in the House on June 11, 2024, and currently lies in the Senate.

Wastewater Infrastructure Pollution Prevention and Environmental Safety Act (HR 2964) – This bill mandates that certain premoistened, nonwoven wipes (e.g., baby wipes, cleaning wipes, personal care wipes) be labeled “Do Not Flush” with an accompanying symbol. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Lisa McClain (R-MI) on April 27, 2023, with three Democrat co-sponsors. It passed in the House on June 11 and is currently under consideration in the Senate.

Servicemember Quality of Life Improvement and National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2025 (HR 8070) – Introduced by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) on April 18, this bill passed in the House on June 14 and currently lies with the Senate. It is an annual budgetary must-pass bill to reauthorize funding for the nation’s military defenses. The current bill that passed in the House is laden with amendments that will likely sink in the Senate, such as prohibiting services for gender transition, eliminating offices focused on diversity, and prohibiting funding for the Countering Extremist Activity Working Group (focused on preventing extremism in the military). However, some form of this bill will likely pass both Houses and be sent to the president before the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30, 2024).

Countering Threats and Attacks on Our Judges Act (S 3984) – The purpose of this bill is to create a new resource center to provide threat monitoring and training to help protect the safety of judges and others who work in state courthouses nationwide. The legislation was crafted in response to a rising number of threats to the judiciary. This bipartisan bill was sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). It passed by unanimous consent in the Senate on June 12 and currently lies with the House.

Billie Jean King Congressional Gold Medal Act (S 2861) – This legislation was introduced by Rep. Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY) on Sept. 20, 2023, with more than 60 co-sponsors across both aisles. The bill would award a Congressional Gold Medal to former professional tennis player Billie Jean King, in recognition to her devotion to championing equal rights for all, both in sports and in society. The bill passed in the Senate on May 8 and is now in the House.

Forgotten Heroes of the Holocaust Congressional Gold Medal Act (HR 537) – This bill would award a Congressional Gold Medal to 60 diplomats posthumously in recognition of their brave and vital service of saving Jews during the Holocaust. It was introduced on Jan. 26, 2023, and sponsored by 295 co-sponsors (155 Democrats, 140 Republicans). It passed in the House on June 11 and currently lies with the Senate.

The Differences Between Conclusion of Value and Calculation of Value

When a business is looking for a valuation, it needs to decide whether to use the calculation of value approach versus the conclusion of value option.

The conclusion of value calculation is a more rigorous and resource-intensive calculation of value. Both approaches are similarly dependable, and despite the calculation of value’s less in-depth approach, business owners can still benefit from this knowledge for their short- and long-term projection needs. However, there are some distinctions between the two approaches. 

Calculation of Value

This method can be conducted annually or once every 24 months. It’s often applied for internal needs, such as the owner looking to retire, selling the business or for critical strategy development. Calculation of value also can be used for planning purposes, such as the settlement stage of a divorce. However, since it’s not an opinion of value, it’s not seen during litigation. 

Calculation of value aims to get the company’s fair market value via comparable companies. It is an approximate value, calculated through either a single figure or a range.

Conclusion of Value

This is more comprehensive and has stricter standards that can meet those required by the IRS, lawsuits, the Department of Labor, potential business buyers, M&A activity, etc. Conclusion of value can take as long as six weeks to complete due to stricter reporting standards.  

It’s up to the discretion of the analyst, and the results can be a single figure or a range. There are three accepted forms of valuation: market, income and asset-based, necessitating additional time. These three approaches are defined further below.

Market-Based Valuation

This looks at charted data of transaction values to calculate a business’ financial worth. This works similar to how those in the real estate industry determine comparable business’ worth, which is based on substantially similar conditions.

Regardless of the type of business, it looks at financial metrics such as the client service model, business location, profitability, percentage of periodic revenue projections, overall revenue, growth rates, mean account sizes, etc.  

Income-Based Valuation

This type of analysis establishes fair value by looking at historical, present and projected future cash flows. It also looks at reasonable projected returns on future investments.  

Valuing investments via the discounted cash flow method (DCF) involves looking at after-tax, discretionary, and/or operating cash flow types. This approach is often utilized with businesses that have no to limited earning growth projections.

The Capitalization of Earnings/Cash Flow Method

This begins with determining the cash flow for a discrete period. Then, the cash flow is divided by the capitalization rate over the same period. The capitalization rate is determined by taking a property’s net operating income and dividing it by the present market value. Looking through a real estate lens, it’s interpreted as the percentage of return an investor is likely to obtain from an investment. It’s often calculated for mature/established businesses that grow at a reasonable/predictable rate.

Excess Earnings Valuation Methodology

This can be defined as looking at how much tangible and intangible assets earn for a company over a discrete period of time. 

Asset-Based Valuation

This values a company by looking at the net value of assets within a company or the post-liability deduction of the fair market value of the company’s total assets. It’s one way to determine how much a company would cost to re-create. 

While each business has its own needs for valuation, be it for internal or external audiences, understanding how to accomplish them and when to use each type is extremely helpful for overall operations.