News & Tech Tips

The Value of Social Media

Sign up to download our social media whitepaper![email-download download_id=”1″ contact_form_id=”209″]As a business, the thought of approaching social media can be daunting.  The amount of information available on the subject is overwhelming, and you probably have many questions.  Although the needs of businesses vary greatly, there are a few key principles that apply to everyone.

Here are a few common questions to start with.

Does my company need social media?
First things first – social media is no longer an option.  If you don’t have an online presence, you run the risk of becoming obsolete.  Today’s consumers regularly go online to research companies and products that they are interested in.  If you’re not there, and your competition is, you’re not going to be found.

Should there be a social media policy?
Before implementing social media, be sure to have some sort of policy in place.  You want to make sure that anything put out there in connection with your company reflects your business in a positive manner.  Make sure that anyone delegated to use social media in your company’s name knows the level of professionalism that is expected.

What are we trying to accomplish?
Remember that social media is social.  Interact with others.  Share ideas and information.  Be personable.  People don’t want to do business with a company.  They want to do business with another person who is available to interact with them.  Try engaging your clients, or those you would like to become your clients.  Offer them valuable information and resources that distinguish you as an expert in your field.

If used properly, social media can be a powerful tool to develop and enhance your business relationships.  Make the most of it!

Congress Recesses Until After the Election; Tax Law Uncertainty Remains

After being in session for only two weeks in September, Congress has now adjourned until after the November 6 elections — without reducing any tax law uncertainty. The “lame duck” session is the next possibility for legislative activity. The Senate will return for the week of Nov. 15, break for the week of Thanksgiving and return again on Nov. 29 for a period of time yet to be determined. The House’s schedule likely will be similar.

Congress has a full plate awaiting them in the lame duck session. This includes addressing tax breaks that expired at the end of 2011 as well as the rates and breaks that are scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

The results of the election should shed some light on what Congress will try to accomplish in the lame duck session — and what they’ll punt to next year. (In terms of the latter, tax law changes could be made retroactive.)

According to popular wisdom, the Republican leadership may be more likely to strike an agreement with Democrats on the substance of extending tax cuts if President Obama is re-elected. If Gov. Romney is elected, Republicans would have less reason to compromise.

Other election results that will affect legislative action are which party will control the Senate and by what margin. The Republicans are expected to retain control of the House, but also significant will be how many of the Tea Party members elected two years ago retain their House seats.

As tax law uncertainty continues, year-end tax planning remains a challenge. It’s a good idea to perform a year-to-date review of your income, deductions and potential tax now. That way you can be ready to take quick action once it’s clear what, if any, tax law changes Congress will make before year-end.

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Need to Hire? Consider Veterans

Veterans provide a valuable labor pool, full of highly trained, hard-working team players with strong leadership skills. There’s also a tax incentive: The VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 extended the Work Opportunity credit through 2012 for employers that hire qualified veterans. It also expanded the credit by:

  • Doubling the maximum credit — to $9,600 — for disabled veterans who’ve been unemployed for six months or more in the preceding year,
  • Adding a credit of up to $5,600 for hiring nondisabled veterans who’ve been unemployed for six months or more in the preceding year, and
  • Adding a credit of up to $2,400 for hiring nondisabled veterans who’ve been unemployed for four weeks or more, but less than six months, in the preceding year.

To be eligible for the credit, you must take certain actions before and shortly after you hire a qualified veteran. We can help you determine what you need to do.

How To Verify That a Charity is Eligible to Receive Tax-Deductible Contributions

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Donations to qualified charities are generally fully deductible, and they may be the easiest deductible expense to time to your tax advantage. After all, you control exactly when and how much you give. But before you donate, it’s critical to make sure the charity you’re considering is indeed a qualified charity — that it’s eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

The IRS’s recently launched online search tool, Exempt Organizations (EO) Select Check, can help you more easily find out whether an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. The previous source for this information was IRS Publication 78, which is incorporated in the new tool.

You can access EO Select Check at Information about organizations eligible to receive deductible contributions is updated monthly.

Finally, in an election year, it’s important to remember that political donations aren’t tax-deductible.

How Does the Recent Supreme Court Ruling on the Affordable Care Act Affect Your Business?

The United States Supreme Court recently upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (reported in the July Insight). While the November elections could have an impact on whether the provisions of this law are actually implemented, here are some things your business should be doing or preparing for.

Effective this year, employers with 250 or more employees in 2011 must report the cost of health insurance coverage in box 12 of the employee’s W-2.

If you are a sole proprietor or own a business with no employees, the impact, starting in 2014, will be the same as on individuals. You must have health coverage by 2014 or pay a penalty. The top penalty for individuals, once fully phased in, is $695 or 2.5 percent of the amount of household income above the threshhold – whichever is greater.

Also starting in 2014, companies that employ an average of at least 50 full-time employees during the preceding calendar year will have to pay penalties if they don’t offer health care coverage for their full-time employees or offer minimum essential coverage that is unaffordable. Penalties amount to a maximum of $2,000 for each full-time employee in excess of 30 full-time employees who are certified to the employer as having purchased health insurance through a state exchange. There are no penalties if part-time employees are not offered coverage. In addition, these employers must file an information return that reports the terms and conditions of the health care coverage provided to the employer’s full-time employees. Information included is: 

  • Certification that the employer offers full-time employees and their dependents the opportunity to enroll in minimum essential coverage under an employer sponsored plan. 
  • The number of full-time employees for each month during the calendar year. 
  • Name, address and social security number for each full-time employee employed during the calendar year and the number of months each was covered under the plan sponsored by the employer.

Also effective in 2014, employers with more than 200 full-time employees must automatically enroll full-time employees in health insurance coverage. The employee will then have the option to opt out.

And what about tax credits?

Since 2010, businesses with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees have been eligible for a tax break if they covered at least half the cost of health insurance.

The companies must have fewer than 10 full-time equivalent employees and average salaries of $25,000 or less. Currently, that full credit is 35 percent of the company’s contribution toward an employee’s insurance premium.

As the size of the business and average wage amount goes up, the tax credit goes down. The credit is completely phased out when a company hits 25 full-time equivalent employees or $50,000 in average salaries.

In 2014, the state-based Small Business Health Options Program Exchanges will be open to small businesses. Getting insurance through those exchanges could bump the maximum tax credit to 50 percent of a company’s contribution. However, the credit will be available for only two years after the exchanges are implemented.