Guiding Your Company with Business Continuity Planning

Business continuity is a tool for handling the transfer of a business to a different owner when the original owner leaves, dies or becomes incapacitated.  A continuity plan protects short-term and long-term business interests and is one of the most important components to business exit planning. 

Ripple Effects

The death of an owner often sets off a ripple of events for a business if it is not prepared for continuity.  This loss of direction can lead to losses of financial resources and vendors, key talent and ultimately loyal customers.  Below are the key issues that can occur when owners do not create a plan, along with ways to mitigate them:

Loss of Financial Resources

Vendors may decide to discontinue their services to the business, especially if the business defaults on their contracts.  The banks, lessors, bonding and financial institutions you do business with may end their relationship with your company.  How to handle these situations depends on the type of ownership:

Sole owners: Your death can put enormous pressure on the business to continue its performance should third parties refuse to lend money or make guarantees based on the health of your company.  Continuity planning can help offset the loss of leadership.

Partnerships: The loss of financial resources can be mitigated by funding a buy-sell agreement, which places a significant amount of money in the company reserves should you die.

Loss of Key Talent

Another issue that can create problems with business continuity is the loss of your key talent.  If the remaining owners do not have your experience or skills, the business can suffer as if it had been a sole ownership.  Your experience, skills and relationships with customers, vendors and employees may be difficult to replace, especially in the short term.  To overcome this situation, begin grooming and training successive management capable of filling your shoes.  You should also begin preparing for the transition early, because training your replacement can take years.

Loss of Employees and Customers

Particularly with sole ownership, as vendors end their relationship with the business, employees will be unable to satisfy their obligations to customers.  This can hasten the employees’ departure, taking with them key skills and even client relationships. 

To mitigate the loss of key employees, you can incentivize them to continue their employment through a written Stay Bonus that provides bonuses over a period of time, generally 12-18 months.  This bonus is designed to substantially increase their compensation, usually by 50% to 100% for the duration specified.  Typically, this type of bonus is funded using life insurance in an amount that is sufficient to pay the bonuses over the desired timeframe.

Continuity Planning

For businesses with only one owner, it should be obvious that there will be no continuity of the business unless a sole owner takes the appropriate steps to create a future owner.  Whether it be grooming a successor or creating group ownership, this step is one that should be addressed early.  Even if your business is owned by your estate or a trust, you will need to provide for its continuity, if only for a brief period while it can be sold or transferred.  These steps should help business owners move through the process of creating a continuity plan:

  • Create a written Succession of Management plan that expresses your wishes regarding what should be done with your business over a period of time, until your eventual departure.
  • Name the person or persons who will take over the responsibility of operating your business.
  • Ensure your plan specifically states how the business transfer should be handled, whether continued, liquidated or sold.
  • Notify heirs of the resources available to handle the company’s sale, continuation or liquidation.
  • Meet with your banker to discuss the continuity plans you have made.  Showing them that the necessary funding is in place to implement your continuity plans will help the eventual transfer of ownership to proceed smoothly.
  • Work closely with a competent insurance professional to assure the amount of insurance purchased by the owner, the owner’s trust, or the business can cover the business continuity needs outlined in your plan.

Buy-Sell Agreement

For businesses with more than one owner, continuity planning can be achieved by creating a buy-sell agreement.  Such an agreement stipulates how the co-owner’s interest in the business is transferred and is often funded using life insurance or disability buyout insurance.  It can also be funded through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) by creating a privately held corporation.  It is important that you keep the buy-sell agreement updated to avoid creating additional problems with continuity.  There are several types of buy-sell agreements to consider:

Cross purchase: Another business partner agrees to purchase the business from the owner or the owner’s family.  All business owners generally purchase, own and are the beneficiary of an insurance policy insuring each of the other business owners.

Entity purchase: The business entity agrees to purchase the business from the owner or the owner’s family.  In this case, the insurance policy is usually owned by the business.

Wait-and-see: The buyer of the business is allowed to remain unspecified, and a plan is put in place to decide on a buyer at the time of a triggering event (e.g., retirement, disability, death).  The policy ownership and beneficiary structures vary, depending on the type of the agreement.

Deciding when to begin business continuity planning is complicated and likely depends on your health, family circumstances and overall business financial wellness. We suggest you seek the advice of a business planning professional to help you sort through your options.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice.  Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax adviser or lawyer.   

President and Founder, Global Wealth Advisors

Kris Maksimovich, AIF®, CRPC®, CRC®, is president of Global Wealth Advisors in Lewisville, Texas. Since it was formed in 2008, GWA continues to expand with offices around the country. Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. Financial planning services offered through Global Wealth Advisors are separate and unrelated to Commonwealth.

Source: kiplinger.com

Biden’s Tax Plan Could Make ‘Marriage Penalty’ Worse

Getting married is likely one of the biggest life decisions you will make, and while it may seem like an easy one, it could just have gotten a little more complicated. In addition to the obvious selection and reflection of a life with a future spouse, and all the family, friends and other things that come with it, there may now be a new consideration to add to the mix: Uncle Sam.  That’s because the so-called “marriage penalty” may have just gotten larger for high-earning dual-income households. 

Under the recently released so-called “Green Book,” which contains the Department of Treasury’s tax-related proposal for the Biden administration, is a proposal to increase the top marginal income tax rate from the current 37% to 39.6%.  This is similar to previous tax increase proposals by President Biden.  Specifically, the Green Book provides that the increase, as applied to taxable year 2022, will impact those with taxable income over $509,300 for married individuals filing jointly and $452,700 for unmarried individuals.  However, because of the way our tax system and tax brackets work, some married couples who each earn under $452,700 would be subject to a higher tax, as compared to their single counterparts earning the same amount. In this instance, being unmarried and single is better — for tax purposes anyway.  

Married vs. Single: Do the Tax Math

The reason for this dichotomy is because we have different tax brackets for single filers and married filers. Assume you have a couple (not married) each making $452,699. These taxpayers would not have reached the highest bracket for an unmarried individual per the Green Book proposal.  Each individual would be taxed at the 35% bracket, resulting in approximately $132,989 in federal income taxes using this year’s tax bracket for single filers (or a total of $265,978 combined for both individuals).

 If instead this couple decides to marry, they will now have a combined income of $905,398, putting them in the highest tax bracket (39.6%) as married filing jointly. This translates to an estimated $284,412 in federal income tax, which is $18,434 more in taxes (or about 6.9%) than compared to a situation if they were single, according to a projected tax rate schedule we created based on the available federal income tax information.

There is another option for married couples: the filing status of “Married Filing Separately.” In this situation, the couple may file as “single” for tax purposes but must use the “Married Filing Separately” rate table, which for the vast majority of situations, when you do the math, does not yield a better result.

The Effect, Going Forward

If the changes, as currently proposed, pass, I am anticipating a lot of tax planning around filing status and income threshold management.  Accountants will be very busy with detailed analyses and projections to evaluate the optimal filing status for married couples, and where certain deductions or planning opportunities would be more beneficial if applied to one spouse over the other.

In extreme cases, could this factor into one’s marital decision?  While I certainly hope that we do not make life decisions around taxes, the reality is that taxes hit the bottom line, and that impact is real. 

No one has a crystal ball as to what will happen, but let’s hope that in the end, this doesn’t become an unforeseen factor in the increasing divorce rate we have already seen since the start of the pandemic.  Let’s hope for marital bliss, not marital dismiss.

As part of the Wilmington Trust and M&T Emerald Advisory Services® team, Alvina is responsible for wealth planning, strategic advice, and thought leadership development for Wilmington Trust’s Wealth Management division.
©2021 M&T Bank Corporation and its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
Wilmington Trust is a registered service mark used in connection with various fiduciary and non-fiduciary services offered by certain subsidiaries of M&T Bank Corporation. M&T Emerald Advisory Services and Wilmington Trust Emerald Advisory Services are registered trademarks and refer to this service provided by Wilmington Trust, N.A., a member of the M&T family.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the sale of any financial product or service. It is not designed or intended to provide financial, tax, legal, investment, accounting or other professional advice since such advice always requires consideration of individual circumstances. Note that tax, estate planning, investing and financial strategies require consideration for suitability of the individual, business or investor, and there is no assurance that any strategy will be successful.

Chief Wealth Strategist, Wilmington Trust

Alvina Lo is responsible for strategic wealth planning at Wilmington Trust, part of M&T Bank. Alvina’s prior experience includes roles at Citi Private Bank, Credit Suisse Private Wealth and as a practicing attorney at Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLC. She holds a B.S. in civil engineering from the University of Virginia and a JD from the University of Pennsylvania.  She is a published author, frequent lecturer and has been quoted in major outlets such as “The New York Times.”

Source: kiplinger.com

7 Costly Social Security Mistakes

Kues / Shutterstock.com

Even a minor Social Security misstep can rob your nest egg of tens of thousands of dollars in retirement benefits.

So, it pays to understand how the system works and how to maximize your Social Security checks.

The following are some of the biggest and most costly mistakes you could make when navigating Social Security — and how to avoid making them.

1. Taking Social Security too early

It’s tempting to start taking Social Security benefits after you become eligible but before you reach what the federal government calls your “full retirement age.” If you do, you’ll wind up with a smaller check each month.

Technically, you should receive the same total amount of benefits over the span of your retirement no matter the age at which you first claimed them. The Social Security system is designed to be actuarially neutral in this regard.

Still, claiming early can be risky because once you claim benefits, you will be stuck with the same size payment for life. The amount of a person’s monthly benefit typically will never increase except for inflation adjustments.

If you’re the main breadwinner in your family, you may want to think twice about starting your Social Security benefit early since your spouse may receive that smaller benefit amount one day.

Jeffrey A. Drayton of Jeffrey A. Drayton Financial Planning and Wealth Management in Maple Grove, Minnesota, tells Money Talks News:

“When one of you dies, the surviving spouse will get to keep whichever benefit is larger. If yours is the larger benefit, do you really want to reduce it? Doing so means that you might be reducing this lifelong annuity that gets adjusted for inflation permanently not just for yourself but also your spouse.”

2. Claiming benefits and continuing to work

If you claim Social Security before reaching full retirement age and continue working, you might have to pay penalties against your Social Security benefit. This depends on how much money you earn.

One solution is to wait until your full retirement age to claim Social Security. There is no penalty for working while taking benefits after your full retirement age, regardless of how much income you earn.

3. Not checking your earnings record

The amount of your retirement benefit is based on your top 35 years of earnings. So, if there’s an error in your Social Security earnings record, the amount of your monthly check could suffer for it.

For example, if an employer fails to correctly report your earnings for even one year, your monthly benefit upon retiring could be around $100 less, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). That amounts to a loss of tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your retirement.

While employers are responsible for reporting your earnings, you are responsible for checking your earnings record, as only you can confirm the information is accurate.

To review your earnings record, log into your mySocialSecurity account — or create an account if you have yet to do so.

You’ll want to check each year. The SSA explains:

“Sooner is definitely better when it comes to identifying and reporting problems with your earnings record. As time passes, you may no longer have past tax documents and some employers may no longer be in business or able to provide past payroll information.”

4. Making an isolated decision

A Social Security decision is just one piece of a retirement income puzzle, says Charlie Bolognino, a certified financial planner at Side-by-Side Financial Planning in Plymouth, Minnesota.

It can impact how you draw down other retirement income sources, such as a pension, 401(k) plan or cash savings. It can also impact the amount of retirement income you lose to federal or state taxes.

Failing to consider these other retirement funding factors when making Social Security decisions — as well as rushing to those decisions — can cost you a big chunk of your nest egg.

“This is a big decision with potentially thousands of dollars at stake, so don’t short-cut it,” Bolognino tells Money Talks News. “Find a reputable benefit option comparison tool or work with a financial planner who can help you evaluate options in the context of your broader financial picture.”

5. Failing to understand what qualifies you for Social Security

Social Security retirement benefits are not a guarantee. You must qualify for them by paying Social Security taxes during your working years, or be married to someone who qualifies for benefits, Drayton says.

He continues:

“The qualification rules are complicated. The short answer most people give is that you need to work for at least 10 years. However, it is based on a system of credits and quarters, and there are different types of qualifications for different types of benefits.”

The bottom line? Know your qualification status and, if you’re ineligible, how to qualify for benefits.

To find out whether you’re eligible for retirement benefits or any other benefits administered by SSA, check out the SSA’s Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool (BEST). You can also use the tool to find out how to qualify and apply for benefits.

6. Not knowing the Social Security rules regarding divorce

You may be eligible to claim a spousal benefit based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record after a divorce. Failing to realize this can cost you a lot.

Generally, the member of the divorced couple entitled to the smaller benefit amount may be eligible for this type of spousal benefit — provided they were married for at least 10 years, haven’t remarried and meet a few other requirements.

The member of the divorced couple with the smaller benefit amount applies for a spousal benefit. The applicant must have been married for at least 10 years, not have been remarried and meet a few other requirements.

7. Not accounting for dependent benefits

If you still have dependent children when you claim Social Security retirement benefits, they may be eligible to receive benefits, too. An eligible child can receive up to 50% of your full retirement benefit amount each month, according to the SSA.

Your family would receive that amount on top of your own benefit amount. Payments to your dependents would not decrease your benefit, although there is a limit to how much the entire family may receive in monthly benefits.

So, understanding the benefits that your dependents might be eligible for can help you maximize your family’s collective benefit amount.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

5 Reasons to Claim Social Security ASAP

Happy senior couple
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Many people believe that claiming Social Security benefits as early as possible — which generally is age 62 — is inherently bad, since claiming before your full retirement age means smaller monthly payments.

However, the reality is that everyone’s circumstances are different. For some retirees, it makes sense to start claiming benefits as soon as possible.

Following are several situations in which you should not put off claiming your Social Security retirement benefits.

1. You have a short life expectancy

The amount of your monthly Social Security retirement benefit payment is based on a formula that’s meant to be actuarially neutral. That basically means you should receive the same total amount of benefits over your lifetime regardless of the age at which you start claiming them.

In other words, if you claim earlier than your full retirement age as determined by the Social Security Administration, you will receive smaller monthly payments over a longer period of time. If you delay claiming until you’re older, you’ll be getting larger payments over what is likely to be a shorter period of time.

If you expect to have a short life expectancy, it might make more sense to start taking the smaller monthly benefit as soon as you can.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson details one such situation in “2-Minute Money Manager: Should I Wait to Take Social Security?” He writes:

“A few years ago, one of my best friends asked if he should take his pension early, and I said, ‘Hell, yes.’ Why? Because he wasn’t in great shape, health-wise. Both of his parents died young, his siblings died young, and he really needed the money. So, my advice to him was, ‘Take it as soon as you can get it.’ He died one year later.”

2. You need the money

You also might need the money immediately to stay on top of your living expenses.

“You’d be surprised at the number of people who end up retiring before they want to,” says Devin Carroll, founder of the blog Social Security Intelligence. “There are lots of reasons — including being laid off or dealing with health issues — that you have to stop working.”

However, remember that the age at which you claim determines the size of your monthly benefit going forward. In other words, the longer you can postpone claiming, the bigger the benefit you’ll get each month after you do claim.

So, if that sounds good to you, first explore other ways that you could bring in extra income, enabling you to postpone claiming. For example, check out articles like “21 Ways Retirees Can Bring in Extra Money in 2021.”

3. You’ve got kids at home

“Increasingly, people are reaching age 62 and still have minor children at home,” notes Carroll.

When that’s the case, claiming your Social Security benefits early makes sense in that it generally enables you to apply for additional benefits to help you care for minor children. That’s because you must apply for your retirement benefits before you can apply for benefits related to dependents.

4. A higher-earning spouse has health problems

It’s kind of morbid, but when deciding whether to start taking Social Security benefits at age 62, you also need to think about when your spouse might die — and how much he or she makes in comparison with you.

One situation to consider is when the higher-earning spouse has medical problems, says Carroll.

That’s because, after a spouse dies, you may become eligible for survivor benefits (also called widow’s or widower’s benefits) based on the spouse’s Social Security. And if your spouse has a short life expectancy, and you know your survivor benefits would be more than your own full retirement benefit, there may be no reason for you to wait for your full retirement benefit.

To learn more about this subject, check out “Social Security Q&A: How Do Spousal Benefits Work?”

5. A lower-earning spouse is older than you

Maybe your spouse earned much less than you during your working years.

“Their own benefit is going to be lower than yours,” says Carroll. “In fact, their benefit might even be lower than the spousal benefit they’d receive based on your earnings.”

However, as with benefits issued based on your own work history, your partner can only claim a spousal benefit based on your work history after you file for your own retirement benefits.

Add up the cumulative benefits, suggests Carroll. You might discover that your total monthly income is better when you file for your benefit early and your older spouse elects to take the spousal benefit.

A final word: Work with an expert

Before making decisions, though, be sure to work out the math and compare your options. Social Security rules are complex and situations vary.

Also, consider reviewing your situation with a Social Security Administration representative or a knowledgeable retirement planning professional.

At the least, you could obtain a custom analysis of your claiming options from a specialized company like Social Security Choices.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

How to Track Your Small-Business Expenses for Tax Deductions

As a small business or startup, keeping track of your expenses is essential. Come tax time, your business-related purchases qualify as tax deductions, reducing the total amount you owe on your return — but only if you’ve kept a record of them.

Thankfully, there are a variety of expense tracking options for you to choose from, whether you’re interested in accounting software or prefer to go the manual route.

What is Small-Business Expense Tracking?

Small-business expense tracking is how you record and manage any business-related purchases you make, such as:

  • Office supplies
  • Business travel expenses
  • Marketing and advertising costs
  • Software subscriptions
  • Home office furniture
  • Tickets to professional events and conventions

During tax season, the IRS considers many of these purchases as write-offs, allowing you to deduct them from your tax return. However, for these items to qualify as tax deductions, you will need to have a record of the purchase in the form of a physical or digital receipt.

You should keep track of your business expenses if you’re a small-business owner, startup founder, freelancer, or otherwise self-employed.


Why Track Business Expenses?

Tracking your business expenses comes with many benefits, including:

1. Reducing Your Small-Business Taxes

If you work for yourself, you already know the amount you have to pay in self-employment taxes each year can be significant. If you can reduce it, even by a small amount, that equates to more money in your pocket.

Keeping records of your deductible expenses is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to reduce your tax return. By simply hanging on to your business-related receipts, you can save yourself a lot of money.

2. Demonstrating an Accurate Profit Margin

Tracking small-business expenses also helps to give you a more accurate understanding of your business’s profit. By monitoring both incoming and outgoing cash flow, it’s easier to see how much your business is making after your costs have been deducted.

If you only monitor profit, you’ll never really know whether your business is financially viable or not.

3. Organizing Your Business Records

Keeping clean, clear, and well-organized business records is the best way to understand and track your company’s growth over a long period of time. Tracking expenses can help you to:

  • Determine where you have opportunities to reduce your small-business expenses
  • See how your costs have increased or decreased based on the market or seasonality
  • Decide when and how to scale your business
  • Negotiate or reevaluate expenses

Even freelance records are important because they separate business costs from client-related expenses that qualify for reimbursement.

Plus, if you ever encounter a legal issue related to your business, detailed records will strengthen your case and show that you run an honest and lawful company.


How to Track Small-Business Expenses

You have a variety of different options when it comes to choosing a method to track expenses, from accounting software and applications to business banking accounts and manually recording costs.

Choose the method that works best for you and your business based on your needs, budget, and preference.

1. Accounting Software and Apps

One of the easiest methods for tracking expenses is by using accounting software. Many platforms can connect with your bank account to automatically identify and record business purchases as well as allow you to upload photos of receipts or manually enter expenses.

Some of the most popular business expense tracking platforms include:

Most of these platforms offer both a desktop version and mobile app, facilitating expense tracking in the office and on the go. This is especially convenient if you’re tracking business expenses while out of town.

Accounting software platforms and apps work best for businesses that want to use them to manage multiple aspects of their business, such as invoicing, facilitating payments, time tracking, and payroll.

Most accounting platforms also come with a monthly or annual fee, which typically qualifies as a tax deduction.

2. Business Banking Accounts

Keeping track of your business expenses is a breeze if you only make purchases using a company credit card or debit card. This way, all your purchases are in a separate bank account, making your expense reports easy to compile, review, and organize.

If you choose to open a business bank account through an online bank like Lili, make sure to keep it separate from your personal finances. Only use your business credit card or debit card to make business purchases. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of having different accounts.

If you decide to go this route to manage your business finances, it’s recommended you open:

  • A business credit card
  • A business checking account
  • A business savings account

This way, you can deposit payments from clients and customers into your checking account and use it to pay for purchases made on your company credit card. Leftover business income can go into your savings account. This setup keeps your business finances completed separate from your personal assets.

3. Manually

If you only have a handful of clients or your expenses are relatively few and far between, keeping things simple may be the best option. Tracking expenses manually is as simple as creating a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel and inputting expense details as you make purchases.

You can make your spreadsheet as detailed or as simple as you’d like. For example, you can include item descriptions, dates, and amounts as well as a total before and after taxes. Or, you can simply list items and their costs.

You can also use free spreadsheet software like Google Sheets if you don’t have a Microsoft 365 subscription.


Keeping Digital Receipts

Digital receipts are easier to track than their paper counterparts, but if you use multiple email addresses, bank accounts, or payment methods, keeping your expense records organized can be challenging. Three popular options include:

1. Expense Tracking Software

Most expense tracker apps and platforms help you to store digital receipts by either automatically recording them through your bank statements or letting you upload them yourself.

Many apps also allow you to categorize your business purchases, making them easier to input and record when preparing your income tax return.

Although apps and software are generally more expensive compared to other methods, they handle a lot of the administrative work for you. So, if you’re looking for a hands-off approach to keeping your digital expense records organized and well-managed, an app is probably your best bet.

2. Company Expense Email

An effective method is to use a single email address — preferably one associated with your business — to make all of your business-related online purchases. All the digital receipts associated with your company will be directed to your business email inbox.

To record paper receipts as well, take a picture of them or scan them and forward the image to your email address.

You can make this inbox accessible to your bookkeeper or accountant directly or forward your receipts to them as you make purchases. Even if you do your own bookkeeping, having your tax-deductible expense records in one place (and organized by date) will make your life easier.

Additionally, you won’t have to pay any additional costs outside of what you already pay to host your email account.

3. Cloud Storage

Your third option is to scan or take pictures of receipts and upload the images to the cloud storage of your choice, such as:

For digital receipts, you can take a screenshot, save it as an image, and upload it manually. Although not the most convenient option, cloud storage is typically free, which makes it an ideal choice for the budget-conscious.


Keeping Paper Receipts

Paper receipts are harder to manage than digital versions, but almost every small-business owner will have at least a few of them. Paper receipts usually come from:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • In-store purchases
  • Cash purchases

And, unfortunately, identifying the debit in your bank account isn’t enough of a record to ensure that your purchase qualifies for a small-business tax deduction. You’ll need a copy of your actual receipt to document the amount, date, and item details of the expense.

Unfortunately, paper receipts are easy to lose and damage, so you need to store them carefully. Keep track of physical copies of purchase records by:

1. Scanning Receipts

Scanning or taking pictures of receipts is the safest way to keep a record of them. It’s much harder to lose or spill coffee on a digital record of a purchase than a physical one. This way, if you misplace a receipt or accidentally put it through the washer, you have a backup.

Scan or take a picture of a receipt as soon as you receive it to reduce the chances of it being lost or damaged.

You don’t even need a paid app to scan receipts, because there are a variety of options for both Apple and Android devices that allow you to scan and save documents for free.

2. Using an Envelope or Folder

Another option is to store receipts in a designated envelope or file folder in your office or filing cabinet. It’s best to store receipts by tax year so you know which ones will apply to your current return.

The hardest part of using this method is that you’ll need to make a habit of taking paper receipts from your pocket, wallet, or purse and putting them in the proper place. If you lose them, you won’t be able to claim them as write-offs.


4 Tips for Small-Business Expense Tracking

Regardless of how you track your small-business expenses, there are ways you can optimize the process to make it simpler and more straightforward.

1. Keep Business and Personal Purchases Separate

Even if you don’t have a business bank account, you can still keep business and personal expenses separate.

For example, let’s say you go to Costco and purchase groceries for your family and office supplies for your business at the same time. Instead of making one large purchase, separate your items into two transactions — one for your household items and another for your business purchases.

This makes it much easier to calculate the total amount of your write-off, including taxes, fees, or discounts, instead of having to try to extract the information from a larger bill.

2. Ask for Receipts

When tracking expenses for business purposes, you need to make a habit of asking for (and keeping) receipts. This goes for any retailer that doesn’t provide digital receipts, like gas stations and restaurants.

As a small-business owner, you need to get used to asking for receipts and keeping them safe until you have a chance to scan or store them safely.

Any receipt you don’t ask for is an expense that you can’t claim when you file your taxes.

Even if you aren’t sure whether a purchase will qualify as a deductible business expense, it’s better to ask for a receipt and talk to your bookkeeper or accountant afterward rather than miss out on a potential deduction altogether.

3. Get Digital Receipts

Many retailers offer both digital and physical receipts. Whenever possible, opt for a digital receipt. They’re easier to document, track, and store than paper receipts.

Because stores send digital receipts to an email address, use a designated email address for business purchases. This will keep your personal inbox clean and your business expenses in one place.

4. Organize Your Expense Records

Keep your tax deduction records organized by year, category, and item to make filing your tax return simple and stress-free. If you keep receipts organized as you make purchases, it will be much easier to sort through and calculate them later on.

And, if you use an accountant to file your taxes, they’ll appreciate a straightforward and clean expense report to reference.


Final Word

Tax deductions are crucial for small-business owners. But you won’t qualify for write-offs if your business purchases aren’t sufficiently recorded and documented. Tracking your expenses using accounting software, business bank accounts, or manually will help you to prove purchases, stay on top of costs, and keep your records organized.

Keep copies of both paper and digital receipts to make your next tax return more affordable and easier to file.

Source: moneycrashers.com

American Express Blue Business Cash/Blue Business Plus $250/15,000 Membership Rewards

American Express is offering sign up bonuses on the Blue Business Cash & Blue Business Plus cards. The bonuses are as follows:

  • Blue Business Cash $250 bonus after $3,000 in spend within the first three months
  • Blue Business Plus 15,000 Membership Rewards points after $3,000 in spend within the first three months

We’ve seen a bonus of Blue Business Cash card of $500. Blue Business Plus has been as high of 40,000/50,000 points in the past as well.

Source: doctorofcredit.com

How to Make End-of-Year Donations

Making a charitable donation at the end of the year–or any time of year–can be a win-win-win.

The organization you give your money to benefits. You get to enjoy the good feeling that comes with supporting a project or cause that you believe in. And, you may also be able to lower your tax bill.

This year, the rewards for giving may be especially sweet. Two new tax changes for 2021 can boost donors’ tax deductions for charitable giving, meaning they may be able to give more to charity at a lower net cost.

Here are some things you may want to consider when planning and making your end-of-year charitable donations.

What Qualifies as Charitable Giving?

In the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a charitable donation is a gift of money, property, or other asset that you give to a qualifying organization, known as a 501(c)(3). To find out if an organization you’d like to support is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions, you can search for it on the IRS’s database .

You may want to keep in mind that money or assets given to political campaigns or political parties do not qualify as tax-deductible donations. In fact, no organization that qualifies as a 501(c)(3) can participate in political campaigns or activities.

Organizations that engage in political activities without bias, however, can still sometimes qualify. So, a group can educate about the electoral process and remain within guidelines. They just have to go about it in a nonpartisan way.

It’s also possible for the IRS to implement measures that can affect charitable donating. For example, there was a tax relief provision passed in the form of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Under it, tax deduction limits shifted for both those individually and jointly filing. So, it’s essential to stay updated on current tax laws and provisions that may affect your charitable donations’ taxation.

Recommended: IRA Tax Deduction Rules

Can I Deduct My Year-End Charitable Donation?

In the past, charitable donations could only be deducted by tax filers who itemized their deductions. That means that rather than take the standard deduction, they chose the more complicated path of listing all of their eligible expenses.

However, the IRS has a special new provision that will allow individuals to easily deduct up to $300, and joint filers to deduct up to $600, in donations to qualifying charities in 2021, even if they don’t itemize.

This is basically an enhancement of the one-year tax break Congress put in for 2020 under the (CARES) Act that allowed a tax deduction for cash gifts to charity up to $300.

The difference is that for 2020, the deduction was limited to $300 per tax return. The new provision allows a married couple filing jointly to deduct up to $600 in cash gifts to charity for 2021.

The rules have changed for people who itemize as well. If you are itemizing on your return, the IRS has increased the limit for charitable tax deductions from 60% to 100% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). And, if you want to give more than that 100 percent threshold, the excess can be carried over into the next tax year.

Whether you’re looking to give $50 to your favorite local organization, or you’re considering a much larger charitable donation, these tax changes make it a particularly good time to do so.

Tips for Making End-of-Year Donations

To make the most of a charitable donation, here are some strategies you may want to keep in mind:

Making a Timely Donation

The deadline for charitable donations is December 31st. If you’re looking to deduct the donation in the current tax year, you will want to make sure your charity has ownership of whatever asset you are donating by the closing of business on the 31st. You may also want to make sure that your preferred payment method is accepted by the charity so it doesn’t get kicked back and cause delays.

Taking Advantage of Company Matching Programs

Your place of employment might have a matching program for charitable giving. They might, for example, match your donation amount dollar for dollar up to a certain amount. If so, it could significantly bump up the amount you could otherwise afford to give.

If you’re unsure about whether your company has a program, it can be worth reaching out to your HR department for further information.

Giving Rewards on Your Credit Card

If you are giving on a budget, you might consider donating rewards you earn on your credit cards, such as hotel points or airline miles. This can be a great way to use points or other rewards that would otherwise just expire. Many credit card companies, hotels, and airlines will make it easy to give your rewards to nonprofit organizations.

Recommended: Credit Card Rewards 101: Getting the Most Out of Your Credit Card

Donating Assets from your Brokerage Account

If you’re looking to lower your capital gains tax, you may want to consider donating assets from your brokerage account to a nonprofit. This may take some time and planning, but the benefits of donating an over-allocated position that’s outperforming can be worth it.

You may be able to receive tax advantages and rebalance your portfolio, while also helping an organization increase its assets.

Setting up a Recurring Donation

You can get a headstart on next year by creating a recurring contribution now. Many organizations allow you to donate monthly through their websites using a credit card, so you might be able to earn rewards at the same time. By establishing your donation plans now, you won’t have to even think about end-of-the-year giving next year.

Keeping Good Records

If you want to deduct your donation on your taxes, you’ll want to make sure you have the right receipts to back up the transaction.

For cash donations under $250, you’ll either need a bank record (like a canceled check or bank statement) or a written acknowledgment from the charity which includes the date and amount of your contribution.

For cash donations over $250, a bank record isn’t insufficient. Instead, you’ll need something in writing from the charity which includes the date and amount of your donation.

Noncash donations from $250 to $500 in value require a receipt that includes the charity’s name, address, date, donation location and description of items donated. If the noncash donation exceeds $500 in value, you’ll also need a record of how and when the items were acquired and their adjusted basis.

If the donation exceeds $5,000 in value, you’ll need to get a written appraisal from a qualified appraiser.

Speaking with a Professional

An accountant can help answer any questions you may have about how the new tax laws will impact your tax contribution, as well as help you make the most strategic and efficient charitable donation.

The Takeaway

Giving can be a good idea for a number of reasons, especially in 2021. In addition to helping a nonprofit organization meet its operating costs for the year, you can feel good about what you are doing with your money, and you may also benefit from special tax deductions.

Giving can also help you get the new year started on the right foot. If you’re looking for other ways to get your financial life in order (now, or any time of year), you may also want to consider signing up for SoFi Money®.

SoFi Money is a cash management account that allows you to earn competitive interest, spend, and save all in one place. And, since you won’t pay any account fees or other monthly fees, you can focus on putting your money towards more important things.

Start saving for the things in life that matter to you with SoFi Money.

Photo credit: iStock/ThitareeSarmkasat


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Source: sofi.com

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express Review

Advertiser Disclosure: This post includes references to offers from our partners. We receive compensation when you click on links to those products. However, the opinions expressed here are ours alone and at no time has the editorial content been provided, reviewed, or approved by any issuer.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is a popular small business credit card with a fairly standard rewards program and no annual fee. Like many other Amex business credit cards, the rewards program is based on Membership Rewards, a proprietary portal that allows you to redeem for a wide range of merchandise and cash equivalents.

Blue Business Plus is meant for business owners with good to excellent credit. It competes with a number of other popular small business credit cards, including  Capital One Spark Miles for Business. Blue Business Plus also competes with American Express’s color-coded business card family, which includes the Plum Card, Business Green Rewards, Business Gold Rewards, and the Business Platinum Card.

Key Features

These are the most important features of the Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express.

Welcome Offer

Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on the Card within your first 3 months of card membership.

Membership Rewards and Redemption

Get rewarded for business as usual. Earn 2X Membership Rewards® points on everyday business purchases such as office supplies or client dinners. The 2X rate applies to the first $50,000 in purchases per year, and 1 point per dollar thereafter.

You can redeem accumulated Membership Rewards points for general merchandise, travel, transportation (including Uber rides), gift cards, statement credits, and other items at Amex’s Membership Rewards portal. Point values vary by redemption method, with merchandise generally worth $0.01 per point and statement credits worth $0.006 per point.

Introductory APR

There is a 0% introductory APR for 12 months from account opening date on purchases. For rates and fees of the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please visit this rates and fees page.

Regular APR

Following the end of the introductory period, variable regular APR applies. It’s currently 13.24% to 19.24% variable, based on your creditworthiness and other factors.

Important Fees

Blue Business Plus has no annual fee or fees for additional employee cards. Foreign transactions cost 2.7%. Late and returned payments cost up to $39 each. See rates and fees.

Spend Above Your Credit Limit

Blue Business Plus comes with a spending limit. However, cardholders can spend above their credit limits without first applying for a higher limit, provided they pay off the amount spent above the limit in full by their statement due date. Above-limit spending is not unlimited – according to American Express, it “adjusts with your use of the Card, your payment history, credit record, financial resources known to American Express, and other factors.”

Additional Business Benefits

Blue Business Plus comes with a nice lineup of business-friendly benefits, including digital receipt storage, expense tagging and tracking, and the ability to designate an employee as your account manager and dispute resolution point person.

Credit Required

This card requires good to excellent credit.

Advantages

  1. No Annual Fee. Blue Business Plus doesn’t have an annual fee. That’s a nice contrast to other popular small business cards.
  2. Long Introductory APR Period. Blue Business Plus’s 0% APR introductory period lasts for 12 months from account opening. That’s much more generous than many fellow competing business cards, and in line with top low APR consumer credit cards. Once the introductory APR period ends, variable regular APR applies.
  3. Good for Business Owners Without Stellar Credit. Although Blue Business Plus requires good to excellent credit, it’s not the most exclusive card out there. If you don’t have major blemishes on your credit record, there’s a good chance you’re going to be approved for this card. That’s certainly not the case for more exclusive American Express business products, such as Business Gold Rewards and Business Platinum.

Disadvantages

  1. Has a Foreign Transaction Fee. Blue Business Plus comes with a 2.7% foreign transaction fee, so it’s not ideal for business owners who frequently travel abroad. If you’re looking for a piece of plastic that doesn’t penalize you for setting foot in other countries, try one of the Capital One Spark cards.
  2. Points Accumulate Slowly. Blue Business Plus earns just 1 Membership Rewards point per $1 spent after the first $50,000 in purchases each year. That’s a slower rate of accumulation than some direct competitors, including Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card.
  3. Point Values Can Be Low. Come redemption time, Membership Rewards points’ values vary based on what they’re being redeemed for. Merchandise redemptions are usually worth $0.01 per point, but cash equivalents can be worth much less – $0.005 or $0.006, in some cases. By contrast, the Capital One Spark family’s miles or cash back points are always worth $0.01 apiece, while Chase Ink Business Preferred‘s points can be worth as much as $0.0125 at redemption or even more when points are transferred to travel partners. If you’re looking for a generous business loyalty program, look to that card.

Final Word

American Express has a somewhat deserved reputation as an issuer of gold-plated and platinum-plated cards with luxurious fringe benefits, impeccable service, and generous loyalty features. Many of the company’s high-end cards live up to this image – but not all of them.

The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express is a middle-of-the-road rewards card that doesn’t require massive revenues or an off-the-charts credit score – a true business credit card for the rest of us. Blue Business Plus’ broad appeal does come with some drawbacks, including a so-so rewards system, but there are worse cards out there. If you don’t qualify for a more generous American Express card at the moment, it’s not a bad place to start.

For rates and fees of the Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, please visit this rates and fees page.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Understanding Funds Availability Rules

When you deposit money into your bank account, those funds are not always immediately available for use. Your bank or credit union may place a hold on the deposit, and you may notice that your “available” balance is lower than the total balance of your account.

Each bank has its own policy about how long deposits take to become available. There are also federal regulations about how long banks can hold on to funds before making them available to their customers.

It can be a good idea to understand your bank’s policies on holding deposits in order to make sure you don’t accidentally overdraw your account.

Below are some key things you may want to keep in mind to make sure you have access to cash when you need it.

Why Do Banks Put a Hold on Deposits?

Banks hold deposits to protect themselves, as well as their customers, from losing money. If a check you deposit bounces or some other complication arises, the bank will have an opportunity to fix the problem before you have the opportunity to spend the funds.

While a delay in being able to access your own money may seem like a nuisance, holds can actually help protect you from fraud and fees.

If your bank allows you to spend funds from a check that later bounces, you would have to repay the bank the amount that they gave you, and likely also get hit with a hefty overdraft fee. This is the case regardless of who is at fault.

How Long Can a Bank Hold a Deposit?

The amount of time it takes for funds to become available can depend on a number of factors, including how long you’ve held your account, your financial history, the type of deposit (e.g., cash, check, direct deposit), and the amount of the deposit.

Generally, a bank or credit union has until at least the next business day (a business day is a weekday that is not a holiday) to make most deposits available.

Electronic deposits are typically available on the same day. So, one way to make sure your paycheck is available to you quickly is to sign up for direct deposit.

The longest a bank can hold funds is usually five business days for money deposited at an ATM of a different bank.
While each bank or credit union has its own rules as to when it will let you access the money you deposit, federal law establishes the maximum length of time a bank or credit union can make you wait.

Recommended: How Long Does a Direct Deposit Take?

Below are the rules set by the Federal Reserve .

• Direct Deposit: Day of Deposit

• Wire Transfer: Next Business Day

• First $200 of any non-”next-day” check deposited: Next Business Day

• Cash*: Next Business Day

• U.S. Treasury Check: Next Business Day

• U.S. Postal Service Money Order*: Next Business Day

• State or Local Government Check*: Next Business Day

• Casher’s, Certified, or Teller’s Check*: Next Business Day

• Checks and Money Orders Drawn on Another Account at the Same Financial Institution: Next Business Day

• Federal Reserve Bank and Federal Home Loan Bank Checks*: Next Business Day

• Any Other Checks or Non-U.S. Postal Service Money Orders: Second Business Day After the Day of Deposit

• Deposits of Items Noted by “*” at an ATM Owned by the Customer’s Financial Institutions: Second Business Day After the Day of Deposit

• Deposits Made at an ATM Not Owned by the Customer’s Financial Institution: Fifth Business Day After the Day of Deposit

* Deposited in person

You may want to keep in mind that the hold times listed above are the maximum allowed. It’s possible that your funds will be available sooner.

You can typically find specifics about your bank’s funds availability policy in the account agreement you received when you opened your account, or you can ask the bank for a copy of their holding policies.

Understanding Cut-Off Times

When you deposit a check, you may think you did it “today.” However, you may have missed the cut-off for starting the deposit process on that calendar day.

If you make a deposit after the cut-off time, your financial institution can treat your deposit as if it was made on the next business day. If the deposit was made late in the day on a Friday, it could actually take three or more days for the money to show up in your account.

By law, a bank or credit union’s cut-off time for receiving deposits can be no earlier than 2:00 p.m. at physical locations and no earlier than noon at an ATM or elsewhere. Sometimes banks have later deposit times for mobile deposits (made via the bank’s phone app), such as 5 pm.

Deposits That May Take Longer to Become Available

There are certain circumstances under which banks are allowed to hold deposited funds for longer than the times listed above.

When these exceptions apply, there isn’t always a clearly defined limit to the amount of time the bank can hold funds. The bank can generally hold funds for a “reasonable” amount of time.

Exceptions to standard holding times include:

Large Deposits

If a customer deposits more than $5,000, the bank will typically need to make the first $5,000 of the funds available within one business day, but they are allowed to put a longer hold on the remaining amount.

Redeposited Checks

If a check bounces and then is redeposited, banks may hold the funds for longer than one business day. (You may want to be cautious about accepting future checks from a person or business that has already bounced a check.)

Accounts That Have Been Repeatedly Overdrawn

If a customer has a history of overdrawing their account, the bank may hold funds for more time before making them available for use.

Repeatedly overdrawn means that the account has had a negative balance on at least six business days within the past six months, or the account was $5,000 overdrawn more than twice within the past six months.

Reasonable Doubt

If a customer deposits a check that seems suspicious, the bank may hold funds for a longer period of time. A check may seem suspicious if it’s postdated or it’s more than 60 days old.

New Bank Accounts

If your account is less than 30 days old, you may experience hold times of up to nine days. Official checks and electronic payments, however, may be partially available the next day.

Emergency Conditions

If there is a communications outage, a natural disaster, or another circumstance that impedes normal bank functions, banks can hold funds until they are able to provide the funds.

The Takeaway

When you deposit a check, you naturally expect the money to show up in your bank account. But there may be a delay between the time you deposit money and the time that those funds are actually available for you to spend.

Banks generally make funds available on the business day after you make a deposit, but there are exceptions.

Direct deposits are typically available sooner, and some checks, such as those larger than $5,000 or older than 60 days, can take longer than a day to clear. If your account is brand new, it may take up to nine days for a deposited check to become available.

Knowing your financial institution’s policies about holding times can help ensure that you’re able to pay your bills on time, have access to cash when you need it, and don’t get hit with overdraft fees.

Looking for Something Different?

If you’re looking for an easy way to access and manage your money, you may want to consider signing up for SoFi Money®.

SoFi Money is a mobile-first cash management account that allows you to earn competitive interest, spend, and save–all in one place. And, it’s simple to add your SoFI Money account as an option for your direct deposit.

Sign up for SoFi Money, then set up direct deposit into your new cash management account.

Photo credit: iStock/solidcolours


SoFi Money®
SoFi Money is a cash management account, which is a brokerage product, offered by SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA / SIPC .
Neither SoFi nor its affiliates is a bank. SoFi Money Debit Card issued by The Bancorp Bank.
SoFi has partnered with Allpoint to provide consumers with ATM access at any of the 55,000+ ATMs within the Allpoint network. Consumers will not be charged a fee when using an in-network ATM, however, third party fees incurred when using out-of-network ATMs are not subject to reimbursement. SoFi’s ATM policies are subject to change at our discretion at any time.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
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Source: sofi.com