GS&Co Annual Summer BBQPosted on July 30th, 2018
Is your inventory getting the better of you??Posted on July 24th, 2018
On one level, every company’s inventory is a carefully curated collection of inanimate objects ready for sale. But, on another, it can be a confounding, slippery and unpredictable creature that can shrink too small or grow too big — despite your best efforts to keep it contained. If your inventory has been getting the better of you lately, don’t give up on showing it who’s boss.
Check your math
Getting the upper hand on inventory is essentially one part mathematics and another part strategic planning. You need to have accurate inventory counts as well as the controls in place to regulate quality and keep things moving.
As is true for so much in business, timing is everything. Companies need raw materials and key components in place before starting a production run, but they don’t want to bring them in too soon and suffer excess costs. The same holds true for finished products — you need enough on hand to fulfill sales without over- or understocking.
If you’re struggling in this area, re-evaluate your counting process. One alternative to consider is cycle counting. This process involves taking a weekly or monthly physical count of part of your warehoused inventory. These physical counts are then compared against the levels shown on your inventory management system.
The goal is to pinpoint as many inventory discrepancies as possible. By identifying the source of accuracy problems, you can figure out the best solutions. Of course, you can’t conduct cycle counting once and expect a cure-all. You’ll need to use it regularly.
With all this data flying around, you need the right tools to gather, process and store it. So, investing in a good inventory software system (or upgrading the one you have) is key. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out” — imprecise information coming from your current system could be leading to all those write-offs, inflated costs, missed sales and lost profits.
As always, you get what you pay for: Investing in a new software system and then paying ongoing maintenance fees (which are usually recommended to keep it running smoothly) could seem like a bitter pill to swallow. But, in the long run, strong inventory management can pay for itself.
Another way to use technology for inventory purposes is as a communication tool. Knowing which products are hot and which are not will go a long way toward developing correct purchasing and stocking levels. Consider using online surveys, email contests and even social networking (such as a Facebook page) to keep in touch with customers and gather this info.
Show some tough love
In an ideal world, every company’s inventory would be its best friend. But don’t be surprised if you have to regularly show yours some tough love to keep it from making a mess of your bottom line. Let us help you identify the best metrics and methods for managing your inventory.
Basis consistency rules may come into play if you’re administering an estate or inheriting property…Posted on July 21st, 2018
When it comes to tax law changes and estate planning, the substantial increases to the gift and estate tax exemptions under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are getting the most attention these days. But a tax law change enacted in 2015 also warrants your attention.
That change generally prohibits the income tax basis of inherited property from exceeding the property’s fair market value (FMV) for estate tax purposes. Why does this matter? Because it prevents beneficiaries from arguing that the estate undervalued the property and, therefore, they’re entitled to claim a higher basis for income tax purposes. The higher the basis, the lower the taxable gain on any subsequent sale of the property.
Before the 2015 tax law change, estates and their beneficiaries had conflicting incentives when it came to the valuation of a deceased person’s property. Executors had an incentive to value property as low as possible to minimize estate taxes, while beneficiaries had an incentive to value property as high as possible to minimize capital gains, should they sell the property.
The 2015 law requires consistency between a property’s basis reflected on an estate tax return and the basis used to calculate gain when it’s sold by the person who inherits it. It provides that the basis of property in the hands of a beneficiary may not exceed its value as finally determined for estate tax purposes.
Generally, a property’s value is finally determined when 1) its value is reported on a federal estate tax return and the IRS doesn’t challenge it before the limitations period expires, 2) the IRS determines its value and the executor doesn’t challenge it before the limitations period expires, or 3) its value is determined according to a court order or agreement.
But the basis consistency rule isn’t a factor in all situations. The rule doesn’t apply to property unless its inclusion in the deceased’s estate increased the liability for estate taxes. So, for example, the rule doesn’t apply if the value of the deceased’s estate is less than his or her unused exemption amount.
Watch out for penalties
The 2015 law also requires estates to furnish information about the value of inherited property to the IRS and the person who inherits it. Estates that fail to comply with these reporting requirements are subject to failure-to-file penalties.
Beneficiaries who claim an excessive basis on their income tax returns are subject to accuracy-related penalties on any resulting understatements of tax. Contact us if you’re responsible for administering an estate or if you expect to inherit property from someone whose estate will be liable for estate tax. We can help you comply with the basis consistency rules and avoid penalties.
3 ways to supercharge your supervisors!Posted on July 17th, 2018
The attitudes and behaviors of your people managers play a critical role in your company’s success. When your managers are putting forth their best effort, the more likely it is that you’ll, in turn, get the best performances out of the rest of your employees. Here are three ways to supercharge your supervisors:
1. Transform them into teachers. Today’s people managers must be more than team leaders — they must also be teachers. Attentive managers look for situations that will help subordinates learn how to work smarter and more efficiently.
Typically, learning occurs most readily when rewards are applied as close to the intended behavior’s occurrence as possible. Thus, train managers to look for moments when employees are being successful and to immediately recognize those efforts. Managers should praise them in the presence of others and regularly. Low-cost rewards such as the occasional free lunch or gift card can also be highly motivational.
2. Turbo-boost their reaction times. Be sure people managers address problems right away. The operative word there is “address,” and its meaning may vary depending on the nature of the trouble.
For minor difficulties, just leaving a friendly voice mail or carefully worded email may do the trick. But for more serious conflicts or dilemmas, a thorough investigation is important, followed by face-to-face meetings documented in writing. In either case, it’s imperative not to let problems fester.
3. Turn off their micromanagement switch. While people managers need to keep an eye out for good and bad behavior, they shouldn’t micromanage. Those who perch atop employees’ shoulders, checking every detail of their work, are as bad for a business as rude customer service or defective products.
Why? Because the more people managers micromanage, the more they communicate the wrong message — that they don’t believe employees can get the job done. Micromanaging not only lowers morale, but also hinders efficiency, as the manager is basically spending valuable time doing the employee’s job rather than his or her own.
In the day-to-day grind of keeping a business running, people managers can understandably get worn down. If yours need a lift, consider reinforcing the points above in training sessions or during performance evaluations. For further information and other ideas, contact us.
Don’t let collaborative arrangements cause financial reporting headaches!!Posted on July 16th, 2018
Businesses often enter into so-called “collaborative arrangements” when they partner with another entity on a major project. Unfortunately, the current guidance for these types of arrangements under U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) is somewhat vague.
Here are some questions that may arise as participants report shared costs and revenue on their income statements, along with details about a recent proposal that would clarify how to report collaborative arrangements.
What is a collaborative arrangement?
Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Topic 808, Collaborative Arrangements, provides guidance for income statement presentation, classification and disclosures related to collaborative arrangements. It lists three requirements for collaborative arrangements:
1. They must involve at least two parties (or participants).
2. The parties involved must all be active participants in the activity.
3. All participants must be exposed to significant risks and rewards dependent on the commercial success of the activity.
Collaborative arrangements are a particularly common type of joint venture for film production and life science companies. For example, two pharmaceutical companies might agree to share research and development expenses to produce a new drug. Then, if the drug succeeds, the companies also would share the revenue from sales of the drug.
What qualifies as revenue?
Today’s guidance on collaborative agreements has led to inconsistent accounting practices. Why? Topic 808 doesn’t include guidance for determining what the appropriate unit of accounting is or when recognition criteria are met. Rather, it says to look to other areas of GAAP to account for a transaction. If there’s no formal guidance available, businesses typically apply an accounting policy or another accounting method by analogy. As a result, companies may label items as “revenue” when they belong elsewhere on the income statement.
To further complicate matters, the landmark revenue recognition standard goes into effect in 2018 for public companies and in 2019 for private ones. Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2014-09, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (Topic 606), limits application of the revenue standard to arrangements that involve a customer as one of the parties to a contract.
In April, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) proposed an update to clarify the scope of its standards for revenue and collaborative arrangements. If finalized, the proposal will help partners in a collaborative arrangement determine when a transaction should be treated as revenue. Public comments on the proposed changes are due in June.
Got more questions?
We’re atop the latest developments on reporting collaborative arrangements. Contact us with questions about the interaction of the standards for collaborative arrangements and revenue recognition. We can help you concurrently implement the latest rules and minimize the risk of restatement.
The BDIT: A trust with a twist!Posted on July 14th, 2018
The beneficiary defective inheritor’s trust (BDIT) allows you to enjoy the benefits of a traditional trust without giving up control over your property. BDITs can hold a variety of assets, but they’re particularly effective for assets that have significant appreciation potential or that may be entitled to substantial valuation discounts, such as interests in family limited partnerships and limited liability companies (LLCs).
Why it works
The BDIT’s benefits are made possible by one critical principle: Assets transferred by a third party (such as a parent) to a properly structured trust for your benefit enjoy transfer-tax savings and creditor protection, even if you obtain control over those assets.
IRS rules prohibit you from transferring assets to beneficiaries on a tax-advantaged basis if you retain the right to use or control the assets. But those rules don’t apply to assets you receive from others in a beneficiary-controlled trust. The challenge in taking advantage of a BDIT is to place assets you currently own into a third-party trust.
How it works
The classic BDIT strategy works like this: Let’s say Molly owns her home and several other pieces of real estate in an LLC. She’d like to share these properties with her two children on a tax-advantaged basis by transferring LLC interests to trusts for their benefit, but she’s not yet ready to relinquish control. Instead, she arranges for her father to establish two BDITs, each naming Molly as primary beneficiary and trustee and one of Molly’s children as a contingent beneficiary.
To ensure that the BDITs have the economic substance necessary to avoid an IRS challenge, Molly’s father “seeds” the trusts with cash. He also appoints an independent trustee to make decisions that Molly can’t make without jeopardizing the strategy, including decisions regarding discretionary distributions and certain tax and insurance matters.
In addition, in order for each trust to be “beneficiary defective,” the trust documents grant Molly carefully structured lapsing powers to withdraw funds from the trust. This “defect” ensures that Molly is treated as the grantor of each trust for income tax purposes.
After the BDITs are set up, Molly sells a one-third LLC interest to each BDIT at fair market value (which reflects minority interest valuation discounts) in exchange for a promissory note with a market interest rate. When the dust settles, Molly has removed the LLC interests from her taxable estate at a minimal tax cost, placed them in trusts for the benefit of herself and her heirs, and provided some creditor protection for the trust assets.
Unlike a traditional trust strategy, however, this strategy allows Molly to retain the right to manage and use the trust assets, to receive trust income and to withdraw trust principal in an amount needed for her “health, education, maintenance or support.”
Talk with us to determine if a BDIT makes sense as part of your estate plan.
The GAO faults the IRS for its IT upgrading effortsPosted on July 11th, 2018
The GAO faults the IRS for its IT upgrading efforts. The IRS spent $5.3 billion in 2016-17 improving its information technology systems. But a new GAO report said the agency has only partly implemented previous directives from the Office of Management and Budget, and still faces “significant risks” in its tax processing operations. The agency’s problems stem from its “reliance on legacy programming languages, outdated hardware and a shortage of human resources with critical skills,” according to the GAO. See the report here: https://bit.ly/2KDLptD
4 ways to encourage innovation in customer service!Posted on July 10th, 2018
When business people speak of innovation, the focus is usually on a pioneering product or state-of-the-art service that will “revolutionize the industry.” But innovation can apply to any aspect of your company — including customer service.
Many business owners perceive customer service as a fairly cut-and-dried affair. Customers call, you answer their questions or solve their problems ― and life goes on. Yet there are ways to transform this function and, when companies do, word gets around. People want to do business with organizations that are easy to interact with.
Here are four ways to encourage innovation in your customer service department:
1. Welcome failure. Providing world-class customer service involves risk, and inevitably you’ll sometimes fail. For example, many businesses have jumped at the chance to use “big data” to develop automated systems to direct customers to answers and solutions. But the impersonality of these systems can frustrate the buying public until you establish the right balance of machine and human interaction. Remember, every failure opens the door to better strategies for serving your customers.
2. Link compensation to employees’ contributions. Companies that fail to reward innovation aren’t likely to retain their best customers or establish a good reputation. Because customer service employees tend to be paid hourly or relatively nominal salaries, consider a cash bonus program for the “most innovative idea of the year.” Or you could hold semiannual or even quarterly innovation challenges with prizes such as gift cards or additional time off.
3. Praise the groundbreakers. Employees who challenge customer-service tradition may find themselves at odds with management. But don’t be too quick to reprimand those with new ideas or methods. Fresh language and modes of communication enter the public consciousness regularly. Give companywide recognition to those who find ways to adapt — even if their initial efforts bend the rules a bit.
4. Be the customer. Among the most simple and practical ways to innovate your customer service is to simply pretend you’re a customer to get a firsthand view on how your employees treat those who contact your business. Business owners can make these calls themselves or, if your voice is too recognizable, find someone who’s less familiar but capable of taking detailed notes of the interaction.
Finding new ways to improve your company’s customer service isn’t easy. But innovations are always just one bright idea away. If you’d like more information and ideas about building your bottom line, contact our firm.
Add a Pay New Button to e-invoices in Quickbooks OnlinePosted on July 10th, 2018
Add a Pay Now Button to e-invoices in QuickBooks Online http://bit.ly/2ujaTSP
The IRS added five new targets to its campaign audit strategyPosted on July 10th, 2018
The IRS added five new targets to its campaign audit strategy. They include going after those who use virtual currency worldwide and don’t pay any tax due. The IRS’s Large Business and International division (LB&I) announced these additional compliance areas: restoration of sequestered AMT credit carryforwards; S corporation distributions; repatriation via foreign triangular reorganizations; and the Sec. 965 transition tax owed on the untaxed foreign earnings of certain specified foreign corporations. For details: https://bit.ly/2u21VJg