Think taxes are simple and filled with common sense? Think again! Enjoy this fun quiz to see how well you know the crazy world of state taxes.
If you have a hankering for an apple or banana at work, you’ll pay an extra tax to buy fruit from a vending machine in which state?
B. South Dakota
- California. Cold food is tax-exempt if purchased at a store, but subject to tax on 33% of the price if you purchase fruit from a vending machine. If you sell fruit in this state…good luck keeping track of the tax.
Looking to finally get that “mom” tattoo on your arm? Which of these states charges a 6% tax on that tattoo?
- Arkansas. Body piercings are also taxed at 6%. So if you are waffling between getting that tattoo or a nose ring, you can eliminate taxes as a deciding factor!
Have you ever looked at a tree in your yard and thought, “wow, that tree sure is exceptional”? If you have one of these “exceptional” trees on your property you might be entitled to a $3,000 tax deduction in which state?
- Hawaii. Worried about how new developments were destroying the environment in the 70’s, the Hawaii State Legislature added the tax deduction for expenditures paid to maintain an exceptional tree.
Next time you are at a bakery in this state and the baker lifts the knife to cut your bagel, stop them. It could be a taxable event! Can you name the state?
D. New York
- New York. Slicing a bagel meets the state’s definition of prepared food and is subject to an 8 percent sales tax. That goes for applying cream cheese as well.
Looking for a long-term retirement tax-savings tip? Which state exempts you from state taxes once you turn 100?
B. New Mexico
C. Rhode Island
- New Mexico. If you are 100 or older and are not claimed as dependent, you are exempt from filing and paying New Mexico personal income tax.
As you enjoy the nice spring weather, spread some of this fun tax knowledge with family and friends.
5 Insurance Tips to Protect Your Assets and Your Bank Account
Have you conducted a business insurance review lately? Changes in your business equipment, real estate holdings, the amount of inventory, and the number of employees are all good reasons to review your insurance. Here are a few policy review tips to consider:
- Keep in regular contact with your insurance company. Keep your insurance agent apprised of what you are doing in your business. Try to meet with your agent throughout the year, and conduct a detailed annual review of your insurance needs.
- Understand how business changes affect your policy. Figure out how your policy covers common changes, as well as other changes you know are happening soon. This involves understanding the limits and terms of your policy. You can start by asking if you’re properly insured for property damage, liability coverage, health and disability, and life insurance.
- Conduct a competitive review. Periodically conduct a competitive review of your insurance needs. Bring in at least two other insurance providers, as well as your current provider. The frequency of the review will be driven by changes in your business, the stability of your current insurance provider, and the need to understand the evolving landscape of business liabilities. A review will keep your premiums competitive, as well as help you learn about coverage holes in your current policy.
- Identify evolving coverage risks. As the business climate evolves, so should your insurance coverage. Think about what’s on the horizon. Who would have anticipated the need to cover cyber attacks and identity theft 10 years ago?
- Review safety plans and company policies. This goes hand-in-hand with a business insurance review. Make sure your team is adhering to established employment and operations policies. Getting an insurance claim approved and maintaining reasonable premiums often depend on specific factors you can reinforce through these policies.
Finding the right level of coverage for the right price is possible, but it takes some preparation and planning. Invest some time now to review your insurance policies to save a lot of potential pain and money down the road.
Knowing the tricks makes you a better decision-maker
There are many reasons for you to lease a car versus buy a car, but too often it is the auto dealer’s profit motive that determines which method you use rather than what’s best for your budget and lifestyle. To help you make an informed decision, here are some things to consider:
When to lease
- You want a car with lower down payments and monthly costs.
- You don’t like making your own vehicle repairs.
- You prefer a new car every couple of years.
- You don’t drive many miles each year.
- You are not hard on your vehicle.
When to buy
- You plan to have the vehicle for many years.
- You are willing to drive a used car.
- You drive more miles than a lease allows.
- You are worried about keeping the car in excellent condition.
- You want to work on or modify the car.
Tips to know if you decide to lease
If you think leasing a vehicle is an option for you, here are some tips to ensure you are making the best deal:
- Negotiate before revealing your intentions. Negotiate the price before telling the dealer you wish to lease. The purchase price you negotiate should be the price the dealer uses in calculating the lease payments as well as an outright purchase. If it is not, this technique forces the dealer to disclose this fact.
- Ask about the annual percentage rate (APR). Ask the dealer to disclose the effective APR built into the lease. If the dealer gives you a lease factor instead of an interest rate, multiply the lease factor by 2,400 to get a general interest rate. For example, a lease factor of 0.0025 multiplied by 2,400 returns an interest rate of 6 percent.
- Question the residual value. Ask what the projected residual value of the car is at the end of the lease. This value is often overstated by the dealer to artificially lower your lease payment, but can impact your ability to purchase your vehicle at the end of the lease. Future residual value is an estimate and can often be negotiated with the dealer.
- Compare with a loan. Use the negotiated purchase price to calculate your loan payments. Use this information to compare your monthly lease payment with your car loan payment.
- Read the lease agreement! If ever there is a time to read the fine print, leasing a car is one of them. Pay special attention to early termination clauses and cost for excess miles. These two factors can dramatically impact your lease versus buy decision.
Even the best, well-prepared business plans can unravel quickly without a process in place to evaluate performance. Creating a scorecard with quality metrics can give you the daily insight you need to successfully run a business without drowning in the details.
Create a scorecard that works
An effective scorecard gives you a holistic view of the state of your business in one report. The report consists of key financial and non-financial metrics to provide a daily look at the health of your business. To be useful, your measures should be concise, available on-demand, and include properly targeted data to help you quickly spot trends and react appropriately.
Effective business metrics to consider right now
- Quick Ratio (financial)
Add up your total cash, short-term investments and accounts receivable. Then divide that total by your current liabilities. This is your quick ratio. It’s a simple way to see if you have enough funds on hand to pay your immediate bills. A value of 1.0 or more means your liquid assets are sufficient to cover your short-term debts. A value less than 1.0 may mean you’re relying too heavily on debt to fund your operations or pay expenses.
- Retention Percentage (customers)
First, create a list of customers who made purchases this year and a list of customers who made purchases last year. Then, remove all new customers gained in the current year. Divide the total number of customers from last year by the remaining number of customers for this year. This is your customer retention percentage. Measure this over time to see if your business is retaining or losing core customers. If you have a condensed sales cycle, you can shrink the period down further. For example, by looking at this calculation each month, you can see how it builds over the year.
- Asset Turnover Ratio (internal process)
Divide your total sales by average total assets from your company balance sheet. (beginning assets plus ending assets, divided by two) for the same time period. The end result tells you the amount of sales generated for each dollar committed to your assets. The number may not reveal much by itself, but when reviewed over time, you’ll have a better understanding of whether the assets used to run your business are becoming more or less effective.
- Net Income Per Employee (growth)
Divide your net income by your total number of employees for a given time period. In theory, as your workforce develops, it should generate more income per employee. Remember to account for part-time employees prior to making your calculation (e.g., a part-time employee working 20 hours per week is 1/2 an employee for purposes of this calculation). If the income per employee is getting lower over time, figure out why. Perhaps you have high employee turnover, or there is an area of your company that can benefit from training.
While each ratio may help you analyze different aspects of your business, they don’t tell you the whole story. Finding the right mix of metrics for your scorecard can take some time, but the end result is a valuable tool that can take your business to the next level.