I think it is always a good idea to be open to taking lessons from those who are successful. There is always a level of luck involved in getting there, but there is also always a level of dedication and skill that allowed that turned that luck into something great. So I was drawn to a recent CNN article on Richard Branson.
First, I want to comment on the fact that Branson says he was seen as “the dumbest kid in school.” And that first comment is that I don’t really believe it. I’m not saying that he must have already been a smart visionary as a teen, but I’m sure he wasn’t THE dumbest. Most of us are somewhere in the middle in all matters. That’s not a good or bad thing, just a matter of mathematics. The story we tell ourselves, however, does matter.
For even if the words Branson uses aren’t necessarily true, they set up the story; they gave him something to battle against. We need a reason for being. We need a reason for doing. So what is your story? Where did life take you and what did it make you want to do?
Those things that you want to do, they are what Branson refers to as passions, and he has had many. It is important that you care about what you’re doing. If you want to thrive both personally and financially, you can’t simply try to identify a possible business space, you must also care about what you are doing within it.
When it comes to Branson, he has found many of those spaces throughout his career, going from music to space flight. That is not a trajectory that one could have projected as a logical progression. Being open to new ideas, however, lets you travel new paths and remain relevant. More importantly, it might keep you from becoming irrelevant.
When Branson started in business, being into private space travel would not have been a feasible plan.
Where Branson is now in business, selling records is not a plan that would keep him there.
This is not to say that there weren’t mistakes and missteps along the way. In the article, Branson says he has had many failures, but thinks of them as the chance to learn something. Just as one needs to be ready to move into new places, one can’t be afraid of jumping out of them when they are not working.
Embracing these types of ideas aren’t going to automatically shift you into the financial realm where Branson resides. Refusing to embrace them, though, could guarantee that you’ll never get there.
So embrace your story and let it push you to where your passions lie. Pursue what you desire, but not with such single-minded focus that you miss new opportunities and the chance to engage new passions. And don’t be afraid to make mistakes along the way.
Being who are you is important in life, and it’s important in business that people relate to and want to support you. We are in a wonderful position here to embrace that in our work, and our work is to help others succeed in theirs.
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So we have had the chance to decompress and not only think about taxes now that the filing season has passed, but remaining vigilant about tax scams should never cease. After all, it will be disconcerting whenever you are contacted by someone saying that you have an outstanding tax bill, but scammers are also trying to take advantage of the post-filing season.
One of their latest scams involves calling you from a phone number that is programmed to appear as if it comes from an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. This way, if someone questions the caller’s legitimacy, they are directed to look up the phone number on IRS.gov. The scammer then will call back a short time later, and it will look like the call is coming from the number the target has been instructed to look up, adding apparent legitimacy to fraudulent claims.
This represents how scam artists are continually trying to push their efforts forward to get around the knowledge the public has. This is a sly move, too, for it seems very intuitive that if you wanted to determine if the call is real, looking up the number seems a very obvious first step. And if you find the number is an actual IRS number, that can lead to dropping your guard.
It is not just an IRS TAC office that has been used in this manner. There are also reports of scammers programming in numbers to make it appear they’re calling from a local sheriff’s office, a state Department of Motor Vehicles, or other federal agencies. Those may not be as immediately unsettling as an IRS number, but they do add that extra bit of apparent legitimacy.
So this means there are other things one must remember to try to keep yourself safe. First, know that the first correspondence from the IRS will be through the mail, not through a phone call. That piece of mail will not fun to receive, either, but it will contain enough information that you can at least determine that it is genuine.
And then, there are some things that the IRS will not do that you should remain aware of. Even if there is an apparent legitimacy to a call, the IRS will never have you pay a tax bill with a specific payment method, like a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer. The IRS will also never demand you pay a tax bill without giving you the chance to question it or appeal the amount owed. A scam often works by trying to get you to act quickly, for the more time you have to gather information the more chance you will uncover that it’s fake. The government will actually give you some time (at least to start).
Finally, any threat to bring in law enforcement or immigration officers is an immediate tipoff to a scam. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business license, or immigration status.
So hold on to the pieces that you are know are true, and do not let a shred of apparent legitimacy overrule them. Listen to yourself when things seem fishy, give yourself time to figure out what is going on, and know there are people on your side ready to help you through tax issues, be they real or fake.
Happy National Small Business Week!
What, you didn’t know?
Alright, I suppose that’s probably largely because this isn’t exactly the biggest of celebrations. Some of it, though, is may also be because small business owners often have their heads down.
I don’t mean this as a bad thing, because those heads are only down so often because being a business owner is hard. There is a lot that goes into it, and just about every business owner will tell you that there is much more involved in it than they realized at the start. Not only is there a lot of work, but it is also a position where it is difficult to feel comfortable. Profit does not tend to come immediately, and success takes time. That makes all that work feel even more overwhelming.
It is not an endless journey of frustration, though, for the payoffs can be huge. First, these businesses are usually started out of passion. Even when things feel overwhelming, there can be great comfort in working on something that you love. Second, there is a great feeling of power and fulfillment in doing it yourself. Even during the tough times, it can be wonderful to know you are the one who can do something about it and not worry about how higher-ups are handling critical decisions.
And these are also the reasons why it can be so rewarding in my line of work to help these small businesses. It is great to engage with people who love what they do, and it is great to help give them the power to make good decisions for their business.
This can also be one of these tasks that business owners did not expect when they started their venture. You may have been pretty good at balancing your checkbook, but tracking income and expenses in a business inherently involves a little more work (to do it correctly, anyway), and ideally will only become a larger and more involved process as the business grows.
The better these aspects of the business are done, though, the better for the business. As a simple example, the better recordkeeping you have, the more you can take advantage of potential tax benefits. And just being on top of things can let you make better estimates about what your tax burden will be, too, and prevent any surprises.
So it is great when we can give business owners the peace of mind that comes with keeping on top of their bookkeeping. Things get even better when you push into higher levels, though.
After all, how can you really tell how well your business is doing if you aren’t breaking down numbers and running frequent reports? Do you really just want to know if there’s enough money in the bank to pay your bills? How can you decide on future moves if you don’t understand your present?
What types of answers one needs in these higher levels depends on your individual business, and what you want to do with that business. Every business, though has something they can do better. Those that feel like they don’t probably are not going to thrive.
So no matter where you are on this spectrum, contact us and let’s figure out what we can do to help your business thrive and grow. We are committed to our clients’ success, for when they succeed, we succeed.
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Tax season is over, but I need to talk about taxes for one more week. And much of what I’m going to include here are things I have mentioned before, but I thought it would still be valuable to put it all together.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts (TCJA) came at a time that made it feel like there was no break between its passage and the start of tax season. That kept most of our attention on what was due first, under the old rules, while keeping an eye on the implementation of the new one. For yes, the congressmen and senators passed the rules, but just how they will work can be unclear before the IRS implements them. That is no small task, and the implementation will take a lot of time and a lot of money (about $397 million as this article states).
So along the way during tax season, I certainly did touch on some of the aspects of the TCJA, but always with some caveats, and ones that I think are worth stating again here. First, with something that takes that much money to put into effect, you can tell this is a big deal. And it is a big deal because it is going to affect EVERYONE. But second, it is also important to note that it will not affect everyone in the same way.
Many people have already seen a change in their paycheck as new withholding rates were put into effect, and many people were excited by this change because it meant they took home a little more money. But even when that is the case, it does not mean that everything else will remain the same in your tax picture, and you are just getting to keep more money. That money you see now could mean you will get less of a refund, or it could even mean that you will be left with a tax bill come next filing season.
A little vigilance could hold off these unpleasant surprises, though. The best place to start with that may be the IRS’s withholding calculator. This will at least give you a good enough baseline to let you know if you should think about changing how money is taken out of your paycheck.
As you answer the questions for the calculator, though, you may not be sure of some answers, or you may be confused as to how they will affect your tax situation. Remember, this is a complicated issue, so you should not feel bad if it is not clear. Also remember, though, that we are here to help you figure it all out, and now that tax season is over we are ready to make appointments to help you plan for the future.
It can be even more confusing (and almost certainly more complicated) if you are a business owner. After all, the TCJA affects everyone paying taxes, and businesses have to pay taxes, too. Also, those entities aren’t really helped by that fancy calculator.
I don’t want to get into any of the specific changes in the law here, for that will just take up much too much space. The IRS, however, has gathered information on many of these changes, and how it is handling them, on one web page.
Be warned, there is already A LOT of information of that page, and it is bound to only grow. That is another reason why I don’t always want to go into specifics on the changes, because there is no way that I can cover them all. And even if by some Herculean effort I did cover them all, it still would not be clear how they all add up to affect any one person or business.
So again, don’t be afraid to reach out for that personal touch. Information and knowledge will keep you from being surprised by any of the new changes, and give you the best chance to make them work in your favor.
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There are a few times a year when I ask you to forgive me for writing a smaller blog entry, and yes, this is one of them. Hopefully, everyone can understand why this is so.
For yes, we just made it through another tax season, and I need to let my brain recover. At the same time, though, these are some of my favorite pieces to write, and not just because I feel justified in doing a little less.
You see, although the rush to the end of tax season leaves us feeling a little ragged around here, it also leaves us feeling fulfilled. It is the time when we get to do a lot of work for a lot of different people, and that is amazing. There is such trust placed in us by all of our clients, big and small, that we just want to say thank you.
Although this feeling is something that comes up every tax season, it seems a little stronger this year. Some clients we see year after year, and their situation never changes that much. This doesn’t mean that their situation isn’t complicated, just that what they do with their money sees only minimal change. Now, though, everyone is entering a realm of uncertainty.
As I have said many times over the past few months, it is impossible to give answers that cover everyone when it comes to how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will affect your next tax return. It is possible, however, to say that everyone is going to see some differences. So if you want to get together again and start looking at what you can individually expect, we are happy to now start booking those appointments.
For the 2017 tax season has come to an end (well, minus those who filed for extensions, but the mad rush is over anyway), but our commitment to helping you navigate the often difficult waters that make up tax world does not end. So, we thank you again for the trust it takes to make that a successful partnership, and promise to only increase our pledge to help during these more uncertain times.
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