Mastering inventory levels is a key to many successful and growing businesses. Here are reasons why prioritizing your inventory management is something to consider for your business:
Less shrink. Shrinkage represents cash that goes to waste because inventory is damaged, stolen, or past the sell date. Shrink represents an opportunity to improve the inventory control process. Understanding the dynamics of shrink will help focus your attention in the correct areas and ultimately lead to money saved. Action: Create a shrink scorecard that shows the source of shrink. If theft, is it occurring at retail or in receiving? If out of code, is the problem in all products or a select few? If damaged, is it trackable to the supplier or a part of your production process? Remember to compare waste to prior years and against your goals to see how well you are doing.
More cash. In a perfect world, you receive your inventory as soon as it is sold. Material or product that sits in the warehouse adds storage costs and risks turning into unsaleable product. Aligning your inventory operation with your sales cycle plays directly with improving your cash flow. Understanding sales trends will allow you to optimize your stock levels and save money in the process. When you spend less on unnecessary inventory costs you have more cash to invest into marketing, new product initiatives or capital equipment that can bolster your bottom line. Action: Implement just in time (JIT) with key suppliers. Explore ways to deliver product when you need it versus purchasing a larger amount and then storing it.
Improved forecasting. The old saying garbage in, garbage out applies perfectly when trying to forecast inventory demand. If you can’t trust your inventory process, it’s impossible to accurately predict future output. This leaves you flying blind when budgeting and preparing for future expenditures. With a firm grip on your inventory needs and procurement-to-sales cycle, your forecasting will become more accurate. Action: Create a rolling 12-month forecast of sales. The forecast should provide details on major product lines. Translate this forecast into lead times for your inventory procurement.
Better customer relations. Once you’ve optimized your operation, the quality of your customers’ experience increases exponentially. You can cut prices without sacrificing margin, improve lead times, and add new product lines with your extra cash. While the effective inventory process you built is humming along, you can focus your attention on improving your products to better match the needs of your target market. This will help boost your sales! Action: Set inventory targets to shorten lead times. Measure how many back orders you have and note how often products are returned as defective. If your inventory management is improving you should see positive results in both areas.
Inventory management will not take care of itself. Giving your inventory system the attention it deserves will pay major dividends both now and in the future.
Financial experts are bracing for more interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve over the remainder of 2023. Any interest rate revision – either increasing or decreasing – can cause a ripple effect throughout the economy. Accordingly, the Federal Reserve’s actions will probably exert at least a moderate influence over financial choices you may make at home and in your business in 2023.
Here are several ways that you could be affected by interest rates that are continuing to trend upward.
Savings and debt
As a consumer, you stand to gain from rising interest rates because you’ll likely earn a better return on your deposits. Over the last ten years, placing your money in a certificate of deposit or passbook savings account has been hardly more profitable than stuffing it under a mattress. On the other hand, the cost of borrowing money will likely increase. As a result, mortgages, car loans, and credit cards will demand higher interest rates. That’s not a big deal if you’re already locked into low-interest fixed-rate loans. But if you have a variable rate loan or carry balances on your credit cards, you may find your monthly payments starting to increase.
On the investment front, market volatility may continue because rate increases are not completely predictable. Market sectors will likely exhibit varied responses to changes in interest rates. Those sectors that are less dependent on discretionary income may be less affected – after all, you need to buy gas, clothes, and groceries regardless of changes in interest rates.
As you adjust your financial plan, you might only need to make minor changes. Staying the course with a well-diversified retirement portfolio is still a prudent strategy. However, you may want to review your investment allocations.
Rising interest rates can also affect your business. If your company’s balance sheet has variable-rate debt, rising interest rates can affect your bottom line and possibly your plans for growth. As the cost of borrowing increases, taking out loans for new equipment or financing expansion with credit may become less desirable.
Please call if you have questions about deciding on the most beneficial response to potential future changes in interest rates.
Sleuthing your way through a tax audit by yourself is not the same as fixing a leaky faucet or changing your oil. Here are reasons you should seek professional help as soon as you receive a letter from the IRS:
IRS auditors do this for a living — you don’t. Seasoned IRS agents have seen your situation many times and know the rules better than you. Even worse, they are under no obligation to teach you the rules. Just like a defendant needs the help of a lawyer in court, you need someone in your corner that knows your rights and understands the correct tax code to apply in correspondence with the IRS.
Insufficient records will cost you. When selected for an audit, the IRS will typically make a written request for specific documents they want to see. The list may include receipts, bills, legal documents, loan agreements and other records. If you are missing something from the list, things get dicey. It may be possible to reconstruct some of your records, but you might have to rely on a good explanation to avoid additional taxes plus a possible 20 percent negligence penalty.
Too much information can add audit risk. While most audits are limited in scope, the IRS agent has the authority to increase that scope based on what they find in their original analysis. That means that if they find a document or hear something you say that sounds suspicious, they can extend the audit to additional areas. Being prepared with the proper support and concise, smart answers to their questions is the best approach to limiting further audit risk.
Missing an audit deadline can lead to trouble. When you receive the original audit request, it will include a response deadline (typically 30 days). If you miss the deadline, the IRS will change your tax return using their interpretation of findings, not yours. This typically means assessing new taxes, interest and penalties. If you wish your point of view to be heard — get help right away to prepare a plan and manage the IRS deadlines.
Relying on an expert gives you peace of mind. Tax audits are never fun, but they don’t have to be pull-your-hair-out stressful. Together, we can map out a plan and take it step-by-step to ensure the best possible outcome. You’ll rest easy knowing your audit situation is being handled by someone with the proper expertise that also has your best interests in mind.
During tax season, there are a number of areas that generate questions. Here are five of the most common and their answers. But like most things, there can be exceptions, so if in doubt always ask for help.
Are my miles earned on my credit card taxable? Taxation of any extras you earn with a credit card – including miles, discounts, even cash back – are not taxable if you had to pay to get them. Other rewards that you receive, for example a reward for signing up for a card or for referring a new cardholder, are considered taxable income per the IRS.
Does my employer contribution count towards the 401(k) limit? Your employer’s matching contributions do not count toward your maximum contribution limit, which for this year is $22,500. If you’re 50 or older, you can sock away an additional $7,500 (for a total of $30,000) this year.
What happens to loans from my retirement account if I change jobs? When you switch jobs, you must pay back any loans borrowed from your employer-sponsored retirement account within a short amount of time. If the loan isn’t paid back, the outstanding balance is considered a distribution that is subject to income taxes and an early withdrawal penalty.
Do I really need to report gifts given to people? Yes, but only if you give more than $17,000 ($34,000 if married) in 2023 to any one person. It must be reported to the IRS on a gift tax return. That’s because the IRS keeps track of gifts you’re allowed to make over the course of your lifetime, which in 2023 is $12,920,000 ($25,840,000 if married). Only after reaching this lifetime dollar amount will you need to actually make a gift tax payment.
Do I have to report a loss? You may think the IRS isn’t interested in losses you incur, such as when you sell a stock at a loss or if your business loses money. The reality is that you should always report losses on your tax return because you can use them to offset income under certain conditions. In addition, most losses can be carried forward to future years to offset income.
Have your own question? Reach out. The answer could surprise you.
Summertime is often the best time of the year to spend time with family and plan something fun. With the kids out of school, plenty of vacation time accrued at work and a fully funded travel budget, you may even be able to book a getaway somewhere tropical, historic or particularly appealing to your family’s interests and tastes.
But there are summer spending traps to be aware of — both on vacation and at home. If you want to get through the summer season without breaking the bank, watch out for these sneaky, yet prevalent expenses that can spiral easily when everyone is home together.
Managing summer-time grocery bills. The average consumer spends an annual sum of $5,259 on food at home and $3,030 on dining out at last count, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but those numbers can easily surge when kids don’t have school lunch and can snack the day away at home. To manage the increase in your grocery bill, create a meal plan that covers most lunches and dinners during summer months. Use the plan to shop sales at your local grocery store and do your best to avoid eating out due to convenience — even on those days when you’re running kids between different activities.
Outrageous utilities. Having everyone at home, or at least home more often, can also cause summer utility bills to climb to new heights. This is especially true if you live in areas of the country where it’s especially hot, and skipping air conditioning is out of the question. To keep costs down, consider investing in a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts temperatures down when everyone is away from home and overnight.
Creeping costs for airfare. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the cost of domestic airfare increased 14.1% from 2021 to 2022. To fight these prices or avoid them completely, consider traveling closer to home (and even driving to your destination). Consider booking airfare with a discount airline or redeeming travel rewards to help defray costs.
Other travel expenses. Also look for additional ways to save on your upcoming summer trip, whether you plan to book a hotel stay, you already booked a cruise or you’re considering an old-fashioned summer road trip with the family. To save some cash, try eating in and avoiding restaurants when possible, shopping around online to find the lowest prices for hotels and resorts, and even using a travel agent to find the best last-minute travel deals.
Hidden costs for activities. Finally, remember that your kids’ sports and activities don’t have to break the budget this summer. Instead of hitting your favorite fast-food restaurants between practices and games, pack a cooler in the car with drinks, sandwiches and snacks. Also map out routes that let you run errands while you’re out and about so you can save both time and gas money.
Summer is often full of surprises, but you shouldn’t let the coming months drain your bank account.
Most financial experts suggest keeping three to six months’ worth of household expenses in savings to help in case of emergency. But with record inflation, that task just got a lot harder to accomplish as virtually every safe place to put your emergency funds will not provide interest rates that keep pace with inflation. But that does not mean you cannot increase the rate of return on these funds.
Here are some ideas to reduce the impact of inflation on your emergency funds.
Actively monitor your savings account rate. An interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve may not instantly change the rate on your current savings account, but it could lead to a higher rate for other accounts offered by your current bank or other banks.
What you need to know: If your bank is slow to raise your savings rate, be willing to monitor and shift funds to a bank that does. Just make sure the funds are still FDIC insured and are kept at a reputable bank.
Take a look at Series I Savings Bonds. Series I Savings bonds are issued and backed by the U.S. government and feature two interest rate components: a fixed rate and an inflation rate. The fixed rate is set when the bond is issued and never changes during the life of the bond. The inflation rate resets semi-annually based on the Consumer Price Index.
What you need to know: You must hold an I bond for at least 12 months before redeeming it. And although you can redeem it after one year, you’ll have to pay a penalty worth the interest of the previous three months if you redeem the bond within five years. And remember, you must be prepared to pay the penalty if you need the funds for an emergency.
Creative use of Roth IRA funds in an emergency. Roth IRAs are funded with after-tax dollars. Because of this, early removal of the initial contribution is tax and penalty free. If you dip into the earnings, however, you will not only be subject to income tax, but also may be subject to a 10% early withdrawal penalty.
What you need to know: Use of a Roth IRA is often a creative way to fund your emergency account while achieving higher returns with conservative investment choices, but it is not for the faint of heart. If you get this one wrong, it could cost you in taxes, penalties and lost fund value in a bear market. Prior to removing funds from any IRA, it makes sense to conduct a tax planning session.
Higher rates are out there, you just need to be aware and willing to actively manage your emergency funds to ensure you are attacking the risk of inflation.
As a busy working parent, you may be on the lookout for activities that are available for your kids this summer. There may be a solution that’s also a tax break: Summer camp!
Using the Child and Dependent Care Credit, you can be reimbursed for part of the cost of enrolling your child in a day camp.
Am I eligible?
You, and your spouse if you are married, must both be working.
Your child must be under age 13, your legal dependent, and live in your residence for more than half the year.
Tip: If your spouse doesn’t work but is either a full-time student, or is disabled and incapable of self-care, you can still qualify for the credit.
How much can I save?
For 2023, you can claim a maximum credit of $1,050 on up to $3,000 in expenses for one child, or $2,100 on up to $6,000 in expenses for two or more children.
What kind of camps?
The only rule is: no overnight camps.
The credit is designed to help working people care for their kids during the work day, so summer camps where kids stay overnight aren’t eligible for this credit.
Other than that, it doesn’t matter what kind of camp: soccer camp, chess camp, summer school or even day care. All of these are eligible expenses for this credit.
Other ways to use this credit
While summer day camp costs are a common way to use this credit, any cost to provide care for your children while you are working may be eligible.
For example, you can use this credit to pay a qualified day care center, a housekeeper or a babysitter to take care of your child while you are working. You can even pay a relative to care for your child and claim the credit for that expense, as long as the relative isn’t your dependent, minor child or spouse.
This is just one of many possible tax breaks related to children and dependents. Please call if you have questions about this credit, or if you’d like to discuss any other tax savings ideas.
Higher property tax bills have accompanied the rising market values of homes over the past several years. If your property taxes have reached the stratosphere, here are some tips to knock them back down to earth.
What is happening
Property taxes typically lag the market. In bad times, the value of your home goes down, but the property tax is slow to show this reduction. In good times, property taxes go up when you buy your new home, but these higher prices quickly impact those that do not plan to move.
To make matters worse, you can only deduct up to $10,000 in taxes on your federal tax return. That figure includes all taxes – state income, property and sales taxes combined! Here are some suggestions to help reduce your property tax burden.
What you can do
Your best bet is usually to approach your local tax assessor and ask for a property revaluation. Here are some ideas to cut your property tax bill by reducing your home’s appraised value.
Do some homework to understand the approval process to get your property revalued. It is typically outlined on your property tax statement.
Understand the deadlines and adhere to them. Most property tax authorities have strict deadlines. Miss one deadline by a day and you are out of luck.
Do some research BEFORE you call your assessor. Talk to neighbors and honestly assess the amount of disrepair your property may be in versus other comparable properties in your neighborhood. Call a few real estate professionals. Tell them you would like a market review of your property. Try to choose a professional that will not overstate the value of your home hoping to get a listing, but who will show you comparable sales for your area. Then find comparable sales in your area that defend a lower valuation.
Look at your property classification in the detailed description of your home. Often times errors in this code can overstate the value of your home. For example, if you live in a condo that was converted from an apartment, the property’s appraised value could still be based on a non-owner occupied rental basis. Armed with this information, approach the assessor seeking first to understand the basis of the appraisal.
Ask for a review of your property. Position your request for a review based on your research. Do not fall into the assessor trap of defending your review request without first having all the information on your property. Meet the assessor with a specific value in mind. Assessors are so used to irrational arguments, that a reasonable approach is often readily accepted.
While going through this process, remember to be aware of the pressure these taxing authorities are under. This understanding can help temper your position and hopefully put you in a better position to have your case heard.
Here are some suggestions to help you master the art of documenting and organizing your business now and in the future.
Document policies and procedures. Write down daily responsibilities, skills needed to complete tasks related to these responsibilities, and the location of all paper and electronic files. Appoint and cross-train backup staff to ensure these daily tasks are done.
Document your succession plan. It may not be for another 10 or 20 years, but documenting your succession plan is critical for both you as the owner and for your employees. Consider how much longer you plan on owning the business and who you have in mind to take over after you leave. If you currently don’t have a successor in mind, document your plan to either train or find this person(s).
Document your tax planning strategy. Be aware of possible tax incentives, such as credits for hiring certain workers and accelerated depreciation available for acquiring business assets. For example, for asset purchases, retain receipts and record the purchase details. These details include the type of equipment, the acquisition date, the amount of the purchase, the date you began using the equipment, and a schedule of related set-up costs.
Organize your daily documents. Organize your desk by shredding documents with sensitive information and scanning older papers into computer files. The most efficient method is to scan, file, and shred as soon as you are finished with a document. If you don’t have time, consider assigning document organization to specific employees and making it a task to be completed on a daily basis.
You’re busy, and you may feel that organizing your records will take more time than you have available. But spend a minute and consider how using these organizational tips may save you not only time, but money as well.
Financial goals make it possible for you and your partner to achieve the things you dream about. Here are several action items to create – and achieve – financial goals as a couple:
Start talking sooner rather than later. Finances can be hard to talk about. People sometimes feel guilty about debt or ashamed that they don’t make more money than they do. More than that, many people consider money to be a private thing that shouldn’t be discussed with others.
However, the first step to setting financial goals as a couple is to start talking. And the sooner you start talking with your partner, the better prepared you’ll be to make positive financial decisions. Saving for a big purchase, for example, takes time and planning. Having a discussion early gives you more time to start saving.
Agree on your goals. Once you’re talking about your finances, you’ll want to agree on your goals. Would you like to pay off your credit card debt? Save for a big family vacation? Have more of a financial safety net?
After you’ve agreed on what you’d like to achieve, start talking about how you’ll work together to achieve it. The best financial plans require both partners to contribute to the financial goal – whether that means each agreeing to contribute monthly to a savings account or cutting back on personal spending.
Keep the conversation going. Plans need maintenance to succeed. That means continuing to talk about them, and checking progress on a regular basis. It’s important for both partners to know all the numbers, even if one partner is the primary manager of the finances.
Scheduling a regular financial conversation is one way to keep you and your partner on track to achieving your goals. This financial date night is a good way to ensure that things are proceeding as planned. It’s an opportunity to check in and adjust the numbers accordingly.
With open communication and commitment from both partners, you’ll be well on your way to reaching your financial goals.