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Reduce Stress Through Daily Reflection

By Phyllis Weiss Haserot, President, Practice Development Counsel

This post originally appeared at Practice Development Counsel.

Reflection is something I do a lot of – I have for many years quite regularly in my daily or weekly goings on. At certain holiday times and other milestones every year, I reflect on my year and perspectives at that snapshot in time: my thoughts, what’s important at the time, my relation to people in my life, my work – purpose, where I want it to go and how I contribute in the larger scheme of things.

A few months ago I came upon a small article in the Wall Street Journal reporting on studies indicating that reflecting on the positive at the end of each day significantly reduces stress for workers. Well, that’s another persuasive reason for regular reflection. Stress reduction – what a gift!

Generational Definitions

Generations are defined by similar formative influences – social, cultural, political, and economic – that exist while individuals of particular birth cohorts are in their adolescent to early adult years. Given that premise, the approximate birth years for each of the four generations currently in the workplace are:

  • Traditionalists: Born between1925 and 1942
  • Baby Boomers: Born between 1943 and 1962
  • Generation X: Born between 1963 and 1978
  • Generation Y/Millennials: Born between 1979 and 1998

As far as I can tell, the time people of all ages spend on reflection has decreased and stress has increased. At least a loose connection would not be surprising. Our lives have undoubtedly become more stressful, and the popularity of yoga and meditation has not made a big dent in it overall. We are besieged by:

  • More work with less time to do it
  • Too many choices
  • Economic challenges
  • The seeming need to be connected – always on
  • Complex relationships that don’t get adequate attention
  • Rapid change
  • Technology breakdowns and glitches (my personal big stress button, second to health issues)

All of these stressors add up.

People have little time to reflect. The younger generations (to generalize) never seem to have developed the reflection habit. What they’re missing are the benefits of processing in their minds and bodies the implications of what has occurred and, as much as is in their control, to devise solutions and action plans.

Reflecting on positive achievements, even small ones every day, leads to good feelings. The reflection/stress study coauthor Theresa Glomb of the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management said, “The real impact comes from writing down why those things – the good things that happened – led to good feelings.” That sounds like a positive accomplishment in itself – a stress-busting habit we need to train high school and college students to adopt.

To add one more piece of ammunition, when asked what career advice he would give to a class of graduating students, Daniel Lubetsky, chief executive of KIND Healthy Snacks, related this in an interview with Adam Bryant for his “Corner OfficeNew York Times column: “Make sure that you talk to yourself, that you think hard about what is important to you and gives you meaning. When I was nineteen and walking between classes, I didn’t have a phone, so my brain would take me in all different directions. . . . But nowadays, we’re on our iPhones all the time, and you don’t have time to talk with yourself, to analyze. . . . It’s very important for people to know what gives them meaning. But it’s hard for people to figure out if you are not connecting with yourself and taking the time to just be introspective and daydream.”

More Small Businesses Handing Out Bonuses

Posted by Terri Eyden

 

By Michael Alter

 

For most of the year, I’ve been exercising caution in regard to the small business economy. However, as we close out 2013, there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Based on our November SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard®, it looks as if small businesses have accomplished some of their goals for the year and are primed to finish strong.

 

As many as 55 percent plan to give year-end bonuses, up from less than 40 percent last year, according to the Scorecard survey. This should put more cash in their employees’ pockets that they can spend on Main Street over the holidays.

 

At the beginning of the year, small business owners were telling us they wanted to cut costs to increase profitability. Hiring has dipped 1.7 percent over the course of the year, and the average paycheck has remained flat. Combine that with the uptick in bonuses, and it appears small businesses have been able to do what they set out to do.

 

It’s good to see more of them are spreading the wealth to their employees.

 

Why Your Company May Dump QuickBooks This Year

 

 

By Gene Marks

Forbes.com

Believe it or not, your company is about to be part of an enormous wave of change in the next few years.

That’s because, if you’re like most small and medium sized businesses, you’re likely using an on-premise accounting application. And most likely that on-premise solution is QuickBooks.  QuickBooks is by far the most popular accounting application for SMBs and deservedly so – it’s full featured, easy to use and well supported by Intuit. My company is an Intuit INTU +1.76% partner. We sell QuickBooks. But this year we’re going to look into selling other products as well. Why? Because as good as QuickBooks is, I believe that many of my clients are going to dump it starting this year and over the next few years. You too.

That’s because the cloud has caught up to the accounting world. And there are many competitors to QuickBooks standing by to pounce.

My consulting firm serves about 600 active companies. More than 90% of them currently use an on-premise accounting (or financial management or Enterprise Resource Planning/ERP) application. Isn’t it ridiculously obvious that within the next few years just about all of those companies will be using a cloud-based application instead? Of course it is. I’ve watched the enormous growth of software-as-a-service applications for customer relationship management, human resources and payroll. I’ve noticed the faster performance. I’ve witnessed their ease of access from tablets and mini-laptops and even smartphones. I’ve watched companies move more and more of their in-house systems to hosted ones, eliminating their servers and IT infrastructure. And I’ve seen my own clients, small business owners who look at any new relationship or technology with a wary eye, grow more comfortable letting other companies handle their data on managed servers over the past few years. We admit that though no one’s infallible, the security that they provide are better than our own. The environment is perfect for cloud based accounting applications.

And it’s a perfect environment for software developers too. “Most of the large software companies aren’t putting many resources into on-premise solutions any more,” Brian Jacobs, a partner at venture capital firm Emergence Capital told me recently. “They are basically pushing their customers into a software-as-a-service environment.”  This is true. Emergence Capital invests in cloud based business applications and Jacobs believes the market is in its infancy. Ask anyone at Microsoft MSFT +0.77%, Sage, Oracle ORCL +1.01% or SAP and they’ll tell you what the guys at Salesforce.com have been saying for years: the cloud is the future for them. It’s a more profitable and more productive business model for a software company to distribute their products. “There are so many advantages of a cloud solution that I personally don’t see how these on-premise systems can move into the future,” said Rob Reid, CEO of Intacct, an online financial management application. “VCs are not investing in premise software companies any more.”

Which brings me back to QuickBooks. In the next few years it’s inevitable that you’re going to replace your on-premise QuickBooks system for something cloud-based. You won’t have much of a choice. And you’re going to take that opportunity to look around. And you’re going to discover there are some interesting alternatives.

There’s Xero, which just raised $150 million in October. And Intacct, which has received multiple rounds of financing over the past few years. There’s FreshBooks. There’s NetSuite and of course there’s QuickBooks Online. There are others but these, in my opinion, are the big players right now in the cloud accounting/ERP market. To oversimplify, Xero, FreshBooks and QuickBooks Online are arguably geared to the basic bookkeeping/invoicing/bill-paying customer – the startup, the very small micro-business, the mom and pop. Intacct and NetSuite are targeting the next level – those companies that employ controllers or CFOs, are growing, have multiple users and need advanced tools like sales order processing, purchase order, inventory and warehouse management, workflows, automation and more complex reporting for cash flow and consolidations.

These applications have been built from the ground up and support a better, more flexible web-based architecture. Smelling the opportunity, resellers and partners for these products (like me) are popping up everywhere. Migration tools to move away from QuickBooks are available. Deals have been struck to integrate these products with other popular online services and collaboration tools like Dropbox, Zoho, PayPal and Bill.com.

So what will happen? Many current QuickBooks customers (perhaps you?) who are frustrated with the software’s older architecture but have suffered with it because they/you did not feel the need (or were just too lazy) to change will now be forced to change in the next few years. And they/you will be looking at other alternatives. And, for the first time in a long time, there are many great other options to consider. “50% of the customers we are getting are coming from QuickBooks,” Intacct’s Reid told me. “And we’re expecting a tornado wave of activity in the next few years.” The company has experienced a 150% growth in bookings over the past year alone.

So be prepared: maybe this year, but certainly during the next few years you will be part of this enormous trend. That’s a certainty. Will you be one of the many who decide to dump QuickBooks?

IRS Looks to Distribute $760 Million in Unclaimed Tax Refunds

The Internal Revenue Service is giving the Mega Millions jackpot some serious competition, with tax refunds totaling $760 million ready to be handed over to an estimated 918,600 taxpayers who did not file a federal income tax return for 2010.

The IRS estimates that half the potential refunds for 2010 are for amounts greater than $571. To collect the money, a tax return for 2010 must be filed by Tuesday, April 15, 2014, the IRS said Wednesday.

“The window is quickly closing for people who are owed refunds from 2010 who haven’t filed a tax return,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a statement. “We encourage students, part-time workers and others who haven’t filed for 2010 to look into this before time runs out on April 15.”

Some taxpayers may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return, even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments. In cases where a tax return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim a refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

For 2010 tax returns, the law requires that the return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by April 15, 2014. There is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

The IRS is reminding taxpayers who are seeking a 2010 refund that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2011 and 2012. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or their state tax agency, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts such as student loans.

By failing to file a tax return, taxpayers stand to lose more than just their refund of the taxes that were withheld or paid during 2010, the IRS pointed out. In addition, many low-and-moderate income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit. For 2010, the EITC is worth as much as $5,666. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2010 were $43,352 ($48,362 if married filing jointly) for those with three or more qualifying children, $40,363 ($45,373 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children, $35,535 ($40,545 if married filing jointly) for those with one qualifying child, and $13,460 ($18,470 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.

Current- and prior-year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2010, 2011 or 2012 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer.

If these efforts are unsuccessful, taxpayers can get a free transcript showing information from these year-end documents by using the Get Transcript service on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can also file Form 4506-T to request a transcript of their tax return.

The IRS provided a state-by-state breakdown of the number of individuals who did not file a 2010 tax return with a potential tax refund, and the average and total dollar amounts of the refunds:

State or District Estimated

Number of

Individuals

Median

Potential

Refund

Total

Potential

Refunds*

Alabama 15,700 $574 $12,473,000
Alaska 4,700 $649 $4,810,000
Arizona 23,800 $508 $17,517,000
Arkansas 8,400 $562 $6,667,000
California 86,500 $519 $69,752,000
Colorado 17,100 $567 $14,061,000
Connecticut 11,700 $620 $10,304,000
Delaware 3,800 $573 $3,126,000
District of Columbia 3,500 $604 $3,080,000
Florida 56,800 $593 $48,407,000
Georgia 28,400 $539 $22,504,000
Hawaii 6,200 $586 $5,413,000
Idaho 3,500 $490 $2,604,000
Illinois 37,900 $626 $32,696,000
Indiana 19,600 $570 $15,478,000
Iowa 9,200 $576 $7,050,000
Kansas 9,300 $522 $6,986,000
Kentucky 11,500 $576 $8,975,000
Louisiana 17,500 $603 $15,579,000
Maine 3,500 $502 $2,373,000
Maryland 20,700 $575 $18,002,000
Massachusetts 21,000 $560 $17,856,000
Michigan 29,200 $597 $24,259,000
Minnesota 12,700 $516 $9,582,000
Mississippi 8,500 $556 $6,769,000
Missouri 17,900 $514 $13,153,000
Montana 2,900 $534 $2,338,000
Nebraska 4,500 $528 $3,368,000
Nevada 11,400 $570 $9,156,000
New Hampshire 3,800 $602 $3,245,000
New Jersey 29,500 $639 $26,712,000
New Mexico 7,200 $572 $5,915,000
New York 57,400 $623 $50,543,000
North Carolina 24,300 $494 $17,538,000
North Dakota 1,900 $600 $1,551,000
Ohio 32,100 $560 $24,508,000
Oklahoma 15,100 $585 $12,246,000
Oregon 14,300 $519 $10,359,000
Pennsylvania 37,400 $614 $31,009,000
Rhode Island 3,000 $598 $2,472,000
South Carolina 10,200 $532 $7,756,000
South Dakota 2,100 $558 $1,605,000
Tennessee 16,300 $559 $12,839,000
Texas 80,600 $588 $71,998,000
Utah 6,100 $518 $4,705,000
Vermont 1,600 $519 $1,136,000
Virginia 26,300 $568 $22,376,000
Washington 24,800 $640 $23,033,000
West Virginia 4,100 $626 $3,534,000
Wisconsin 10,900 $516 $8,423,000
Wyoming 2,200 $648 $2,045,000
Totals 918,600 $571 $759,889,000

* Excluding the Earned Income Tax Credit and other credits.

IRS to Launch Fishing Expeditions for Pass-Through Entities

 

By Ken Berry

The IRS doesn’t always try to catch the biggest fish in the pond. Case in point: It has announced it will devote more resources to auditing various pass-through entities instead of focusing on the traditional corporate targets.

Faris Fink, head of the IRS Small Business and Self-Employed Division, says auditing pass-through entities will become a top priority next year and thereafter. Speaking at the AICPA’s National Tax Conference in Washington, DC, on November 7, Fink promised the IRS will spend more time and money training its agents to go after what it previously considered to be small-fry.

“The Service has for a long time focused its energy on corporations,” said Fink. “Frankly, we’re a little bit behind the curve in getting around to developing a partnership strategy.”

Pass-through entities – including partnerships, S-corporations, and some limited liability companies (LLCs) – don’t pay income taxes directly to the government. As the name implies, items of income are passed through to individual partners or shareholders, who then report the allocable portion of the income on their personal tax returns. Currently, almost 95 percent of all business operations in the United States are pass-through entities.

IRS agents often have difficulty unraveling the layers of these structures. Fink alluded to partnerships with as many as 82,000 partners and entities comprised of more than 180 tiers. “Frankly, our training was not geared for dealing with those types of large, complex partnerships,” he said. “Historically, we would think of a partnership of having, say, ten partners” with a limited number of tiers.

According to Fink, the IRS also suspects that some of the larger partnerships are designed to shield transactions from the prying eyes of the IRS. “We as an organization have recognized that this is something that we’ve got to be paying attention to, not just this year, but going forward,” he said. But Fink wasn’t willing to paint all partnerships with broad strokes. “Not every flow-through entity is formed as an intentional act to avoid the payment of taxes,” he acknowledged.

To better address partnership issues, the IRS will be stepping up its efforts to train field examiners and revenue agents. Fink had a clear message for tax return preparers in his speech. “It’s going to be challenging for you, because you’re going to be interacting with some of those folks,” he remarked.

Fink is no stranger to the spotlight. Earlier this year, he was singled out for appearing in as Mr. Spock in a Star Trek parody produced by the IRS for an internal training conference. The IRS has since apologized for using taxpayer money for frivolous pursuits.

 

Industry News

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January 8, 2016

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