Avalanche of new remote workers creates latest playground for hackers
Hackers have found their new playground amid the increased use of video conferencing during the coronavirus pandemic: Zoombombing!
Named for the company Zoom, the unfortunate first high-profile victim of this phenomena, Zoombombing occurs when internet trolls hack video conference meetings and join as uninvited attendees. After infiltrating a meeting, the hackers then have their fun, doing everything from performing harmless pranks to posting sexually explicit content.
Ideas to keep your meetings private
You can protect yourself, your friends and your company while using popular video conferencing tools with these tips.
- Monitor meeting attendance. Designate an employee to monitor the attendees of your video conferencing meetings. By assigning a moderator (host), attendees can be removed or dismissed.
- Create a waiting room for new attendees. Most conferencing platforms have a feature called a waiting room. When this feature is enabled, each user who connects to your meeting is put in a queue. The meeting host then approves each person waiting in the queue for admission to the meeting.
- Turn off screen sharing for everyone but the meeting host. A favorite Zoombomber prank is to hack into a meeting, share their screen and then draw something really funny or inappropriate. Consider only allowing the meeting host to share a screen and to give permissions to others who subsequently want to share a screen.
- Password protect your meetings. As a meeting organizer, you can also choose to password-protect your meetings. Don’t forget to distribute the password to all attendees prior to the meeting.
- Carefully choose your video conferencing service. With many different companies offering video conferencing services, it can be difficult to find which company features the best security measures. Take the time to do your homework to find the platform that’s right for your business.
Extraordinarily low interest rates and a rapidly evolving business climate has made inventory management a lost art. Other business initiatives may seem to be more urgent and impactful, but in reality, mastering inventory levels is a key to most successful and growing businesses. Here are reasons why prioritizing your inventory management is a must:
- Less shrink. Shrinkage represents cash that goes to waste because inventory is damaged or past sell date. It is a sign of a weakness in the inventory control process. Adding quality control practices that account for climate control and other factors can help avoid damaging valuable stock and catch defective purchases before they make it into your warehouse. Tightening up your inventory controls equals less stuff to throw away which means less money wasted.Action: Create a shrink scorecard. Note all product that is non-saleable, and track units tossed, their dollar value, and who supplied it. Compare waste to prior year and against your goals.
- 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.
GA DOL Establishes Emergency Unemployment Claims
Process – Employers Must Take Action
The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) has adopted an emergency
Rule 300-2-4-0.5 Partial Claims, effective March 16, 2020. The rule
mandates all Georgia employers to file partial claims online on behalf of their
employees for any week during which an employee (full-time/part-time) works
less than full-time due to a partial or total company shutdown caused by the
COVID-19 public health emergency. Any employer found to be in violation of this
rule will be required to reimburse GDOL for the full amount of unemployment
insurance benefits paid to the employee. Download the How
Employers File Partial Claims Desk-Aid found on the GDOL Alert Page and
follow the step-by-step instructions.
Filing partial claims results in your employees
receiving unemployment insurance (UI) benefit payments faster, usually within
48 hours for claims filed electronically. Employees for whom you file a partial
claim are NOT required to report to a Georgia Department of Labor career
center, register for employment services, or look for other work.
Please continue to monitor the Georgia DOL website at gdol.ga.gov for any updates to these
In 2018, the government attempted to “simplify” the tax-filing process by drastically shortening Form 1040. The result was six new schedules that created a lot of confusion. Now the IRS is attempting to ease some of that pain by revising the form and removing some schedules. Will it help? Here is what you need to know:
- More information on the main form. To make it easier for the IRS to match pertinent information across related tax returns, new fields have been added on the main Form 1040. For example, there’s now a spot for your spouse’s name if you choose the married filing separate status. In addition, there’s a separate line for IRA distributions to more clearly differentiate retirement income.
- 3 schedules are gone. What was your favorite memory of Schedules 4, 5 and 6? Was it the unreported Social Security tax on Schedule 4? Or the credit for federal fuels on Schedule 5? While those schedules will no longer exist, those lines (and many others) have found a new home on one of the first three schedules. Less paperwork, but still the same amount of information.
- You can keep your pennies! For the first time, the IRS is eliminating the decimal spaces for all fields. While reporting round numbers has been common practice, it’s now required.
- Additional changes on the way. The current versions of Form 1040 and Schedules 1, 2 and 3 are in draft form and awaiting comments on the changes. Because of the importance of the 1040, the IRS is expecting to make at least a few updates in the coming weeks (or months) before they consider it final. Stay tuned for more developments.
How to prepare for the changes
The best way to prepare is to be aware that 1040 changes are coming. The information required to file your taxes will remain the same, but some additional hunting will be necessary to find the shifting lines and fields on the modified form.
Remember, changes bring uncertainty and potential for delays, so getting your tax documents organized as early as possible will be key for a timely tax-filing process.
Your business’s ability to retain customers is one of the most important components to sustain growth and profitability. Here are the three retention questions every business owner should be able to answer:
- What percentage of your customers return each year? The first step to understanding retention is to know your customer retention rate. First, take your total customers from the end of a period and subtract the total customers you added during the period. Then, take that number and divide it by the total customers from the start of the same period. The result is your retention rate for that period. That rate by itself doesn’t tell you much, so you need to compare it to the same time period last month and for prior years. A rising rate means you are on the right track; a shrinking rate means you need to make changes. According to the Harvard Business Review, a 5 percent increase in your retention rate increases profits by 25-95 percent! Example: Cut’em Nail Salon starts the year with 700 active clients. They add 300 new customers during the year, and their active client base is 800 at the end of the year. On the surface things look good, right? This increase of 100 clients is over 14 percent! But when you calculate the retention rate, it is 71.4 percent (800 clients minus 300 new clients means 500 of last year’s clients still use Cut’em. 500 divided by 700 equals 71.4 percent). But Cut’em doesn’t know if this is good or bad news, as it only makes sense when comparing it to the last few years’ retention performance.
- What percentage of your revenue comes from returning clients? Core customers almost always contribute the most to your profitability. But how much? To figure out your returning customer revenue percentage, start with a list of revenue by customer for the last 12 months. Identify the returning customers and add up revenue attributed to them. Divide that number by your total revenue. Use this information to balance your spending between new customer acquisition and retaining your core customers. If you are like most businesses, you will realize there is tremendous value in spending more time and effort on retention, even when your business is full! Part 2 Cut’em Nail Salon Example: Assume the nail salon’s total revenue is $1 million and the revenue from the 500 returning clients is $900,000. In this case, the core customers represent 90 percent of the revenue but only 62.5 percent (500 divided by 800) of the customers!
- Do you know who your most valuable customers are? Now identify which customers spend the most and buy the most often. Odds are, many of your top customers have similar characteristics. In the end, your goal should be to keep these customers happy and get more just like them! Part 3 Cut’em Nail Salon Example: In the example above, the average revenue per client is $1,250 per client or over $100 per month ($1 million divided by 800 clients). If the top 20 clients represent $100,000 in revenue or $5,000 per client, you can quickly see how important they are!
Don’t make the mistake of assuming business success comes from constantly adding new customers. Most sustained growth and profitability comes from first understanding marketing activities targeted to keep your current customers. The best place to start is to calculate and understand your base retention numbers.
A new deduction is available to businesses with qualified business income (QBI). While that’s great news, new deductions (especially ones with lots of rules) can bring anxiety and confusion. Never fear! Ensuring you receive a maximum deduction will come down to providing the proper information. Here is some knowledge to help you cut through the confusion:
What is the QBI deduction?
In short, it’s a 20 percent deduction against ordinary income, taken on your personal tax return, that reduces qualified business income earned for most pass-through businesses (sole proprietorships, partnerships and S-corporations). It’s not an itemized deduction, so you can take it in addition to the standard deduction. To qualify without limitations, your total taxable income needs to be below $157,500 ($315,000 for married couples) for 2018. If your income exceeds the threshold, it gets complicated.
What you need to know:
- If your total taxable income is above the income threshold, your deduction may be limited or nullified. If your income is below the threshold, the calculation is pretty straightforward. If not, additional phaseouts, limitations and calculations come into play. The first limitation to consider is whether or not your business is qualified. Certain specified service trades or businesses (SSTBs) are excluded from the deduction altogether if taxable income is over the threshold. If your business is not an SSTB, other calculations related to W-2 wages and basis in qualified business property may be required.
- Schedule K-1s for S-corporations and partnerships have new codes. Businesses with partners and shareholders are now required to report information related to the QBI deduction on each Schedule K-1 they issue. Based on the draft versions of the forms, the new codes will be in Box 17 for S-corporations (V through Z) and Box 20 for partnerships (Z through AD). If you receive a Schedule K-1, check to see if the new codes have values associated with them. If not, contact the issuing business to correct the mistake. Schedule K-1s without the required data will delay your tax-return filing.
- Certain data needs to be collected. For the most part, the data required to calculate your deduction will be included on the normal forms needed to file your taxes. Here is list of common documentation to watch for that may be required to calculate your QBI deduction:
- Business financial statements
- Forms W-2 and W-3 issued by your business
- Purchase information related to business assets
- Schedule K-1s
- Forms 1099-B with cost/basis information
- The sooner you close your books, the better. The new deduction means more work. Knowing your final business net income as soon as possible gives you extra time to work through the additional necessary calculations. If your business is required to issue Schedule K-1s, even more time may be required.
- More guidance is expected from the IRS. In August, the IRS published guidance to clear up some of the confusion regarding the deduction, but it didn’t cover everything. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) responded with 11 specific items that still need to be addressed.
With proper planning and preparation, you can rest easy knowing that obtaining your shiny, new QBI deduction is in good hands.
As always, should you have any questions or concerns regarding your tax situation please feel free to call.