BusinessBlog : McGraw-Hill More Experts. More Insight. More Answers. Tue, 22 Aug 2017 13:14:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tax Efficient Businesses Mon, 06 Mar 2017 15:27:55 +0000 Tax Efficient Businesses by Eva Rosenberg, author of Small Business Taxes Made Easy.

One of the biggest complaints of business owners is the mound of paperwork that faces us each day. While there are people who find it relaxing (really, there are), most people hate the task and either set it aside, or sit at their desk as their eyes glaze over – and they go into a trance, willing it all to disappear. I understand. Sigh. Sometimes I feel that way, too.

Let me tell you a little story – then I will reveal why I am telling you the story.

Once upon a time, I worked as a professional headhunter (corporate recruiter – not cannibal). The firm I worked for had printed up pads of worksheets that were about 15 inches x 25 inches filled with 50 rows and about 8 columns. The firm insisted that each headhunter MUST fill out that entire pad every single day with the name, contact information and other useful data of one potential employment candidate or potential employer on each of those 50 lines. As a result, when we walked into the office in the morning, we wouldn’t have to flounder and try to figure out what to do – we could just start making calls on the list immediately. As annoying as this was to those of us having to do it, it was actually brilliant. Not only were we productive, it encouraged us to ask for the referrals from each person we spoke to, even if we couldn’t “close the sale.”

So, why am I telling you about this? I used that idea to give you a to-do list every step of the way through Small Business Taxes Made Easy. (Could that be why it won gold – an Axiom Award as the best Business Reference book of 2017?)  The first chapter’s To Do List is all about setting up your business. Believe it or not, even if you have been in business for a decade, you’re going to find useful information for your business. Readers tell me that all the time (since this is the third edition).

The main purpose of the Chapter 1 checklist is to help ensure that you set up and comply with all the various federal, state and local licensing and tax filings and reporting.

Many people overlook the local licensing requirements. While you can get away with that for years, there are two drawbacks to that. First, when caught, you face taxes, penalties and interest on prior year fees. Second, if you try to sue someone, you have no standing in court (usually Small Claims) because you are not legally licensed to do business in the area. Customers who understand nuances like this can use that against you to avoid paying you – and it has been done.

By giving you a list of things to do and consider, you can simply review the list and see what applies to you. You don’t need to dream up the steps.

Each item on the list gives you recommendations on where to find the information that may be related to your business – or to resources that can help you. The list includes some things to do that can not only prevent future tax problems – but things that can save you money or time – or increase your profits.

Here are some things you may not have thought to do:

  • Have you ever thought of approaching successful people to mentor you? Many people are willing to help, even flattered. Their contacts and guidance can double your profits.
  • Have you trademarked your business name? This is very important if you don’t want your business name to be grabbed and used by someone else.
  • Did you make sure to get a URL (Internet domain) that is similar to your business? Or pick a business name or DBA that matches a URL you can find – and build brand recognition around that name.
  • Are you accepting credit cards? It’s much easier than it used to be – even for a tiny business.
  • Have you ever made a business plan? It’s just another checklist – to make it easier to make your business grow. And if you fail, after showing years of losses, it can protect you in case of an IRS audit.
  • Re-evaluate all your vendors and sources for your products and supplies at least once a year. Perhaps you can get better deals and better service elsewhere?

As you go through the list, just check off each task as you complete that step – or cross out the things that don’t affect you. Doesn’t that give you a great feeling of closure?

For more ideas and information, please sign up for Eva’s free TaxQuips newsletter at or just click on Ask a Free Question to get answers to your tax and business questions.

Follow Eva:

Twitter – @TaxMama

Facebook –

Tune in to the Jim Bohannon show on March 10th when TaxMama® joins him



How to Become More Effective, Disciplined and Efficient Mon, 06 Mar 2017 15:25:50 +0000 How to Become More Effective, Disciplined and Efficient by Rhett Power, author of The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions

Are you effective and efficient?  How are your time management skills? Do you go to work thinking that you have laid everything out in such a way that you will get through it in record time, only to find yourself behind schedule at the end of the day? Maybe it’s time to tweak those time management skills and learn how you can take control of your day and become more effective, disciplined, efficient and ultimately more productive.

First things first

The first thing you need in order to accomplish your goals is to get an understanding of where your time goes. One of the best ways to do this is to document every hour of your day for an entire week-this will help you visualize it and analyze how your workday is spent.

 The final analysis

The results of this tracking may surprise or even shock you:

  • How much time do you spend talking to co-workers?
  • How much time do you spend checking email?
  • Do you spend time on social media?
  • How often do co-workers interrupt you?

By following some of these suggestions you will learn how you can take control of your day and see better results

 Plan ahead & prioritize

Make a point to take 15-20 minutes at the end of each week to itemize and prioritize the tasks and projects that need to be completed during the following week. Block out the time necessary to accomplish the most important ones and don’t accept any last-minute meetings during that time unless they are of an urgent nature. Help others, including your manager, understand your priorities, and ask for their cooperation.

 Push back the non-essential tasks

Cleaning out your email “Inbox” is a great example of a non-essential task. Once you have itemized and prioritized your projects, revisit them and rank them in order of importance on a scale of 1-3. If it’s something that has zero impact on anything else of importance and it can be rescheduled, then push it back on your calendar.

 The importance of setting goals

While you may not always have total control of your day, you can take as much control as possible by following some of these guidelines:

  • Set daily goals for yourself on what you plan to accomplish that day.
  • Schedule a certain time of the day to check and reply to emails-refrain from checking again unless you are waiting on time-sensitive information.
  • Focus and avoid multi-tasking; you will accomplish more and increase your overall productivity by doing one project at a time.
  • Constantly think about how you allocate your time. Would you consider the task at hand “billable”,which means the company is benefiting from your activities or “non-billable”, which means the tasks don’t necessarily contribute to the bottom line?
  • Learning to say “no” is one of the hardest lessons to learn. We all want to play nice in the sandbox and help others. We don’t want to appear uncooperative or get a bad mark on our reviews. However, if your productivity is suffering, your colleagues will understand if you simply say: “I wish I could help you with that, but I have 2 other projects that I’m working on at the moment. Would you like to schedule a time to work on it?” Chances are, you will gain their respect for your honesty and discipline; they will look forward to having your undivided attention during the scheduled time.

By practicing these tips and making them a part of your daily ritual, you will be more successful no matter your business.



Is Kata the Scientific Approach? An Artistic Process? Or Both? Wed, 15 Feb 2017 17:32:24 +0000 Practicing Kata for Service Excellence by Karyn Ross.

Recently I had some service experiences where the person who was supposed to be helping me gave what I call the “list of I can’ts.” I can’t help you because …our computer system isn’t set up to do that, …we don’t take credit cards in my department, …our company policy doesn’t allow it. This list can go on, and I’m sure you’ve experienced it too.

For a service customer it’s frustrating, but for a service organization it can be devastating. In today’s marketplace customers can – and do – easily find alternate providers with comparable services and prices (think banks and insurance companies). At least 50 percent of customers switch service providers after one poor experience.* And what’s almost guaranteed to give a customer a poor service experience? Hearing the two words no customer wants to hear: “I can’t…”

As a Lean consultant, coach, and coauthor, with Jeff Liker, of The Toyota Way to Service Excellence, I’ve been working exclusively in the service industry. The best thing I’ve found to help service representatives learn how to go from “I can’t” to “Of course we can” is practicing the scientific thinking routines of Toyota Kata. Here’s why:

  • In services, value for the customer is created immediately during each service interaction. Think phone call to a call center or a meal in a restaurant. Because the Improvement Kata pattern is a structured way to develop people’s ability to overcome obstacles and meet challenging goals, representatives who practice it regularly develop a habit of “figuring out how” very quickly. And that’s exactly the habit a customer service representative needs.
  • Because service work often seems ‘invisible’ – decisions take place in people’s minds and transactions are completed behind the computer screen – it can be difficult for managers to ‘see’ how their service representatives are thinking. The Coaching Kata makes those thought processes visible, giving the manager a deliberate, structured way to develop their team members critical thinking and scientific problem-solving skills.

I’ve seen the Kata approach work over and over again in many service sectors and organizations. Here’s an example from the insurance industry.

A prospective customer indicated they could give the insurance company a large amount of business if policies could be underwritten within two hours. Since the process normally took at least 48 hours, you can imagine the list of “I can’ts” that followed! Wanting to satisfy the customer – and grow their business with the large number of accounts promised – the underwriting team practiced the Improvement Kata / Coaching Kata approach to work their way through all the obstacles that previously prevented them from being able to produce these types of policies within two hours. Within two weeks, with a lot of experimentation – and great coaching from their supervisor – the policies were being produced within the required time! The customer was happy and the company was too!

Here’s a challenge for you… If you work in a service company, or the service portion of a manufacturing company, take some time to go to gemba – the place where service representatives are creating value with your customers with each interaction – and listen carefully. Do you hear a long list of “I can’ts?” Wonder how practicing Kata can work for your service organization? Check out The Toyota Way to Service Excellence, where you’ll find case studies and stories of Kata application-practice and success from service organizations as diverse as healthcare, software development and even a taxi company.


This mini-article was originally published in the KataCon3 Newsletter.

The Office Pantry IS Company Culture: The Role of Physical Workspaces Wed, 08 Feb 2017 19:19:30 +0000 Workplaces are physical manifestations of a company’s culture. Kurt L. Darrow, chairman, president, and CEO of La-Z-Boy Incorporated, a furniture manufacturer based in Monroe, Michigan, says, “Space matters. Facilities matter when people are choosing where to work, where to go to school, how they can work, how they feel good.”

A company promoting a culture of high-paced innovation, creativity, and a sense of fun at work will find it hard to promote these values in a bland, gray, cubicle-filled workspace that likely saps employees’ energy rather than inspires employees to achieve creative breakthroughs. Similarly, an organization that has critical deadlines, highly technical work, and ultra-focused workers may not benefit from a workspace filled with video game consoles, ball pits, and office table tennis tournaments.

These are perhaps extreme examples, and yet they illustrate very clearly the importance of recognizing the physical role that workspaces play in curating a company’s culture.

Leading organizations recognize this fact. Business and HR leaders increasingly want to use workspace to foster their culture and attract the right type of employees. These business and HR leaders are thinking critically and acting intentionally on the work environment they want to cultivate. La-Z-Boy recognizes the power of workspace and completed a new corporate headquarters in 2015, designed to use space to attract the next generation employees. Darrow sees workspace as a way to articulate and signal a new way of working to the 8,300 employees of the company. During his 13-year tenure as chairman, president, and CEO, he transformed all facets of the company, increasing its competitiveness in the dynamic home furnishing marketplace, while repositioning the well-known La-Z-Boy brand among consumers.

Darrow summarizes his responsibilities into three categories: “Strategy, Capital, and Talent.” He explains, “If I get those three things right, the rest of my job is pretty easy. If I find myself doing something that is not related to those three principles, I am probably getting in the way of my team.” Building an employee-centric workspace is a long-term planning project. The space needs to be organic and flexible enough to facilitate future generational changes and shifts in working-style preferences. The workspace design should promote engagement and collaboration among employees. Darrow recognizes the critical role culture plays in the overall design. With its investment in a new corporate headquarters, La-Z-Boy sought to revolutionize its corporate culture. According to Lea Ann Knapp, the lead internal designer at the La-Z-Boy HQ project, the aim was to “bring a little bit of the past with us, but direct people to the present and the future.”

Darrow continues, “We design our headquarters for current and future employees who we hope will want to work here for the next 15 or more years. We talked to them all, they felt included and we listened.” He jokes, “After all, we only build a new corporate headquarters once every 90 years!” The company’s new Michigan-based headquarters houses up to 500 staff, the majority of La-Z-Boy’s corporate employees. It features an open-space design, large windows, and immense glass frontage, along with landscaped grounds with walking trails and backlit fountains. The campus environment is reminiscent of many high-tech companies in Silicon Valley; however, the headquarters is located in Monroe, the town in Michigan where the company was founded 90 years ago.

The design of the company’s new headquarters recognizes that employees expect different ways of working. In response, the space incorporates “niche places” where employees can do their work. There’s an explicit lack of seating or office assignment to combat territorial thinking and silo departments. The open-seating philosophy encourages employees to get out, be seen, and collaborate with coworkers. La-Z-Boy also provides employees with the choice to work at a desk that can convert to a standing desk at the push of a button. In some rooms there are even desks with walking treadmills underneath, for those who wish to talk on a conference call or type while they walk.

La-Z-Boy created conference rooms and workrooms that employees can book to do the work they need. There are multiple room formats, ranging from one-person rooms—where people can focus on their individual work— to larger meeting rooms designed for group collaboration about new furniture designs and innovative business models. This innovative approach allows the company to break away from the unwritten rule of conference rooms only being used for meetings. The company complex also features coffee bars, a genius bar–style IT support area called Tech Deck, and outdoor seating patios, complete with Wi-Fi and piped music for ambience.

La-Z-Boy’s executives recognized that reframing the culture of a 90-year-old home furniture business was a change management process beyond their experience and competencies. La-Z-Boy partnered with Steelcase, a fellow Michigan-based firm, to help transition to its new headquarters.

Deep-rooted behaviors and everyday barriers are hard to revamp, but for La-Z-Boy, the challenges were worth overcoming. “I am positive . . . that if we did not have the new facility [the people we recently hired] would have passed on us,” says Darrow. “Do not ever underestimate the influence physical structures have on culture.”

From The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees, by Jeanne C. Meister and Kevin J. Mulcahy.

Wozniak & Jobs: A Study in Emotional Intelligence Wed, 08 Feb 2017 15:50:39 +0000 Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs spent almost 10 years in garages working together and tinkering with and mastering electronics projects.

What drove them was their shared Grit—a blend of Conscientiousness, Achievement Drive, and Innovation—the behavioral drivers that focused their IQ and intellectual curiosity and was the common denominator on which their relationship and Apple Computer were built.

Except for Grit, Woz and Jobs differed in almost every other aspect of personality, which made their overall personalities strikingly different:

  • Jobs wanted to be in control, in the lead.
  • Beside his formidable Grit, Jobs was extremely domineering—intensely inflexible, aggressive, controlling, and competitive.

These personality traits, not his Grit, were why Jobs saw a binary world. Jobs was so self-centered and self-absorbed that he was less capable and less willing to collaborate with others.  Empathy is rare enough in dominating personalities, but Jobs was also hostile—mean, nasty, and ungracious with others—the exact opposite of behaviors that constitute key aspects of social and emotional intelligence.

Woz aspired to be a great engineer, not a great leader. Woz channeled 100 percent of his Grit into the engineering; he wanted to be on a team, not lead a team. Woz’s ambitions were all about building technology, not building power or authority or status as a company leader. He earnestly believed that formal authority clashed with his introverted, easygoing, generous, and accommodating nature. Woz was raised to be suspicious of the company man and to understand how power corrupts.

Woz recognized Jobs’s talent for promoting, networking, marketing, and funding—the exact roles and situations where Woz was most uncomfortable and that he wanted to avoid. Precisely because Woz was accommodating and just wanted to do great work, he was a perfect complement to the stubborn visionary, the controlling and competitive natural showman, Steve Jobs. Woz’s deferential personality, shyness, and introversion all led him to consciously opt out of leadership at Apple where Steve Jobs was all in.


Aside from the traits of Grit, Dominance, and Deference, there is one other important behavioral dimension and leadership asset in which neither Woz nor Jobs excelled: EQ and social intelligence. Neither had the social and emotional intelligence needed to effectively manage himself and interpersonal relationships or to attain high-performance leadership— though for dramatically different reasons.

Jobs was too dominating and Woz too deferring. Jobs’s bossy, authoritarian style suffocated teamwork and communications and eroded morale. Woz’s shy, unassertive, conflict-avoidant personality impaired his ability to speak up, address conflict constructively, and fill a team leadership–versus–follower role. When Jobs mistreated others, Woz might feel awful about it, but he would not intervene, behave like a leader, and stop it. Though Jobs’s behavior conflicted with Woz’s personal values (and for that he felt bad), Woz did not act on his values to help shape and define the culture.

Jobs seized the lead, Woz colluded-by-accommodation, and the behavioral fabric of an Apple culture was woven: in the behaviors demonstrated and tolerated by leadership. Woz left Apple with a reputation as being well liked, and in fact revered, and as being respectful and considerate of others. While Woz never aspired to lead, he might have developed stronger team leadership skills had he not become wealthy and free to do what he wanted. He moved on to his other passion projects and away from the unhappy corporate culture at Apple. Unlike most professionals, Woz could afford the luxury of choices that many professionals do not have if their career choices include management or leadership roles.

Grit and EQ are behaviors that appeared later in human evolution (species phylogeny) and in individual development (personal ontogeny), and in many people, these behaviors only emerge well into adulthood— if ever. Yet we see basic dominance and deference behaviors emerge in toddlers. For some, the more highly evolved behaviors of Grit and EQ require the full maturation of the frontal cortex—in the mid-twenties.

This is a critical pivot point for those of us who need to think before we act in order to exercise our Grit or EQ. Grit often requires careful planning and thinking about projects and work; EQ/Social Intelligence often requires careful thinking about people and relationships. Many of us, much of the time, do not think before we act.

From the book Personality at Work: The Drivers and Derailers of Leadership, by Ronald Warren.

What Will the Next-Generation Workforce Look Like? Thu, 02 Feb 2017 15:00:35 +0000 It’s critical to recognize the generation beyond Gen Z. This is Generation Alpha, only 7 years old in 2017 and 15 years old by 2025.

Generation Alpha members will be the most diverse of all the generations. In 2011, Generation Alpha reached a demographic milestone: there were more Generation Alpha babies born to minority families than white families in the United States. By 2020, more than 50 percent of high schoolers, the foundation of the future workforce of the 2030s, will be non-white.

In addition to being ethnically diverse, Generation Alpha members are literally growing up with a connected, interactive device in their hands and with their millennial parents chronicling their every move on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Even more than millennials and Gen Zers who use technology extensively, many alphas will spend the bulk of their formative years completely immersed in technology, growing up in environments where their actions and movements are quantified, and will see this as part of how they experience the world around them.

If you have not already seen the popular YouTube video A Magazine Is an IPad That Does Not Work, it is worth the 90 seconds of your time. The video shows a one-year-old girl playing with an iPad. She is then handed several magazines. She tries to turn the print pages of a magazine by touching them. Nothing happens, and she quickly returns to the iPad as she is accustomed to making something happen by her touch. The popular YouTube video (seen nearly 5 million times) ends with this statement: “A magazine is an iPad that does not work. And it will be so for the rest of her life! Steve Jobs has coded a
part of her OS (Operating System).

Members of Generation Alpha will likely enter the workplace as 15-year old interns by 2025, driven by the ambitions of their millennial parents. As they have grown up with technology built into many of their toys, from customizable robots teaching engineering concepts to mobile apps accompanying toys, we can expect this generation to be the most hyperconnected of all.

Just as IBM is using the Millennial Corps to inform the company on the needs of millennials in both the workplace and the marketplace, we will see companies tapping both Gen Z and over time even Generation Alpha to inform them on the needs and expectations these next generations will have in the workplace.

The key to navigating a workplace with multiple generations and cultures along with increasing numbers of women is to recognize that all of this adds to the diversity of thought in solving today’s pressing business issues. The opportunity for leaders is this: use workplace diversity to your advantage and build an inclusive work environment where diversity adds to innovative thinking.

Perhaps most importantly, leaders need to recognize that the age, gender, and cultural diversity of a company’s employees mirrors the diversity of its customer base. So this is not only a human resource issue; it is a business issue and an opportunity to better serve your organization’s diverse market segments.

Adapted from The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees by Jeanne Meister and Kevin J. Mulcahy.

When Managers Repeat Themselves…. Wed, 01 Feb 2017 21:54:35 +0000 Let’s say you’re working with the owner of a real estate firm in a rural community.

“The woman who works the front desk is constantly coming to work late,” the owner explains.
“Have you talked to her?” you ask.
“Repeatedly” is the response.
“And then what happens?” you continue.
“She’s on time for a few days, maybe even a week, and then
she starts coming in late again.”
“Then what do you say to her?”
“I tell her that she’s late and that I don’t like it.”

This situation presents a terrific example of what separates accountability experts from everyone else. The owner has the courage to converse with the desk clerk. That separates him from the worst. However, the fact that he returns to the same problem each time puts him far below top performers. This is an indication that there is some other infraction that needs to be discussed: the front desk clerk isn’t living up to her commitments, she’s disrespecting company policy, etc.

As you continue your conversation with the realtor, you say,“Obviously, the fact that your clerk comes in late is the behavior that catches your attention, and that’s what you talk to her about. But what is the real issue here?”
“I’m not exactly sure. I do know that it’s starting to bug me a lot—more than it probably should.”
“Are you becoming more upset because the problem’s escalating?”
“Not really,” the broker responds hesitantly.
Finally, you ask, “When you’re angry enough to complain to your wife, coworkers, or best friend about this repeated infraction, how do you describe it?”

A light goes on in the broker’s eyes as he excitedly states, “It’s killing me that she’s taking advantage of our relationship. She’s my neighbor, she’s helped me out a lot, and now she doesn’t do what I ask because she knows that I won’t discipline her since we’re good friends. At least that’s how it feels to me.”

That’s the violated expectation the broker needs to confront. He’s becoming increasingly upset with each instance because he’s never dealt with the issue that is bothering him. Being late is the frozen tip floating above the chilly waters. Taking advantage of a friendship is the iceberg itself.

The ability to reduce an infraction to its bare essence takes patience, a sense of proportion, and precision.

First, you have to take the time to unbundle the problem. People are often in too much of a hurry to do this. Their emotions propel them to move quickly, and speed rarely leads to careful thought.

Second, while sorting through the issues, you have to decide what is bothering you the most. If you don’t, you’ll end up going after either the wrong target or too many targets.

Third, you have to be concise. You have to distill the issue to a single sentence. Lengthy descriptions of violated expectations only obscure the real issue. If you can’t reduce a violation to a clear sentence before you talk, the issue almost never becomes more understandable and focused as a conversation unfolds.

Accountability issues are almost never contained in the behavior of the offender. They’re much more likely to be a function of what happens afterward. The problem lies in the consequences. For example, a staff specialist who works for you has promised to complete a financial analysis by noon. She miscalculates how long it will take and delivers the job to you three hours late. The errant behavior, being late, is not the problem. What follows is. The fact that you might lose a client is what really bothers you. Or maybe it’s the fact that this is the third time this person has let you down and you’re beginning to wonder if you can count on her. Or perhaps it’s the fact that you now may have to watch this person more closely, costing you precious time and making her feel micromanaged. Each of these responses is a consequence of the original act and helps unbundle the problem.

When you want to clarify the focus of your accountability discussion, stop and ask yourself, “What are the consequences to me? To our relationship? To the task? To other stakeholders?” Analyzing the consequences helps you determine what is most important to discuss.

Adapted from the book Crucial Accountability by Kerry Patterson and Joseph Grenny.

How Trump’s Tax Policy Might Affect Your Tax Life Wed, 01 Feb 2017 17:14:42 +0000 BUS_IMG_TAXBLOG270x120

Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States of America. So, with that in mind, what changes can individuals expect in our tax lives? Don’t worry. This won’t affect your 2016 tax returns. And, unless Congress passes these provisions intact, they might not even affect your 2017 tax returns. But some of these provisions will be passing.

  • Eliminate all those annoying tax brackets and knock them down to just three – 12%, 25%, 33%, (instead of the  7 tax brackets, ranging from 10% to 39.6%, that we have now) while expanding the earnings within those brackets.
    • 12% to $37,500 – S ; $75,000 – Married Filing Jointly (was 0% – 15%)
    • 25% 37,501 – $112,500 – S; $75,001 – $225,000 – Married Filing Jointly (was 25% – 28%)
    • 33% $112,501 and above –S; $225,001 and above Married Filing Jointly (was 28% – 39.6%)
  • Raise the Standard Deduction to $15,000 (presently $6.300) for singles and $30,000 (presently $12,600) for joint returns – these standard deductions replace the amounts you would normally use on Schedule A (the form where you report Itemized Deductions). That means you won’t have to report your mortgage interest, property taxes, sales taxes, charitable contributions or medical expenses – among other things. For some people, eliminating this record-keeping will be a blessing.
    • That should eliminate the need for most people to use any deductions at all, making life a bit easier. Bye, bye Schedule A.
  • Eliminate personal exemptions altogether
    • That means, families with lots of children won’t get the extra per-person tax break – in 2016, it’s worth $4,050 per person – or $28,350 for a married couple with 5 children. So this isn’t really helpful for large families
  • Eliminate the Head of Household filing status altogether (worth a standard deduction of $9,300 – and lower tax rates than single folks pay).
    • So, that would mean a single mom with one child would file as single and have no personal exemption for herself or her child.  (Note: A personal exemption is the tax deduction you get for each person reported on the tax return – 1 for each parent or spouse, and one for each dependent.)
      • Current value – Head of Household – $9,300 + 2 exemptions – $8,100 = $17,400. Replaced with the Single Standard Deduction of $15,000
    • Eliminate the 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax – which affects individuals with incomes in excess of $200,000 or couples in excess of $250,000. That was kind of a marriage penalty for couples, anyway.
    • Repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Hooray!
      • It currently affects singles at $53,900 and couples at $83,800. That level of income doesn’t go very far in urban areas, especially if you have children.
      • The AMT was originally designed to prevent rich people from getting out of paying taxes. Instead, it hits the middle-income taxpayer quite heavily.
    • Eliminate the estate tax altogether (in 2017, $5,490,000 worth of assets per person are exempt from estate taxes).
      • But along with it, eliminate the step-up in basis at date of death – which brings the tax value of assets up the market value when the person dies. This eliminates all capital gains taxes for the heirs.
      • Exclusion from capital gains taxes for up to $10 million worth of assets.

There are lots more provisions. The plan is a mixed bag of goodies and sillies. As yet, the cuts are in the trillions of dollars with no offsets to make up the differences. Congress will need to review the concepts and hash out a whole new tax plan in the coming years. Just know there will be changes. Hopefully, some of them will simplify your lives.

Eva Rosenberg EA, MBA, known as the Internet’s TaxMama, is author of the new book by McGraw-Hill, Small Business Taxes Made Easy and an enrolled agent with more than 25 years of experience. A MarketWatch Columnist, she runs where individuals and small business owners can get free answers to their tax questions. You can find also her on Twitter @Taxmama.

Quick Tips For 2017 Tax Season! Wed, 01 Feb 2017 15:56:17 +0000 Quick tips For 2017 Tax Season 

  • Put your tax return on extension if you face any ACA penalties – it’s quite likely you won’t have to pay them.
  • Send change of address notices to all former employers and vendors and accounts if you moved last year – to ensure you get all your paperwork.
  • Get receipts for all your donations (especially for donations of $250 or more) immediately – you must have the receipts before you file your tax return.
  • Health Savings Arrangement (HSA) tip for 2016 and 2017 – Contributions to these Health Savings Accounts are deductible on the front page of your tax return (“above the line”), so these deductions are very beneficial. They allow you to reduce your adjusted gross income (AGI), which affects most tax credits, many deductions and other benefits. When you make contributions to HSAs, you can draw the money out to pay medical expenses. The fund gives you something like a debit card. You can use that to pay doctors, pharmacists, etc. Be careful. When you use that card to pay non-medical expenses (like to buy lipstick at the pharmacy when you pick up your meds), you pay taxes and penalties for drawing that money.

Instead of a family plan for a married couple without children (contribution limit of $6,750), consider these options to allow you to make higher contributions. Remember, the money you use to fund your HSA can be left in the account, earning interest or dividends like an IRA, to be used for future medical expenses (but not to pay for health insurance).

a. You can fund two individual HSAs of $3,350 each + $1000 each for over 55. You may fund 2016 until April 18, 2017. That gives your household a total of              $6,800 (or $8,800 if both are age 55 or over), instead of $6,750 (or $7,750 if age 55 or older)

b. OR if you have children – You can set up a personal plan for one parent and a family plan that covers the rest of the family. That would allow you to fund the         HSAs up to – $10,100 ($6,750 + $3,350) + $1000 each for the family plan and the personal HSA for parents age 55 or over.

c. Remember, this plan means your health insurance coverage has a higher deductible. But for people and families that are healthy, this won’t be a problem.               You can find a good chart over here –

d. And if you don’t draw money from the plan to pay medical expenses, you might be able to deduct the medical expenses as itemized deductions. So you get a           double benefit – above the line deduction for the contribution – and itemized deductions.

  • Write down your odometer reading today – and take a picture (if you haven’t already done this on January first)
  • Businesses – must send out 1099s and W-2s by 1/31.
  • Businesses – don’t rely on 1099s – get your accounting done yourself.
  • Partnership returns are due a month early, on March 15th, not in April

Eva Rosenberg EA,
MBA, known as the Internet’s TaxMama, is author of the new book by McGraw-Hill, Small Business Taxes Made Easy and an enrolled agent with more than 25 years of experience. A MarketWatch Columnist, she runs where individuals and small business owners can get free answers to their tax questions. You can find also her on Twitter @Taxmama.

3 Ways to Effectively Lead Through Changing Times Mon, 23 Jan 2017 15:23:47 +0000 A fresh voice on leadership and a senior leader at one of the world’s largest communications networks, Elise Mitchell author of Leading Through the Turn reveals why success comes by focusing on the journey, not just the destination.

May you live in interesting times. I’ve never been sure if that’s a blessing or a curse. But the year we’ve just had certainly fits the description.

What a year – 2016 brought so much unexpected change: Brexit, Trump, the refugee crisis, Istanbul, Zika, Rio, David Bowie, Wells Fargo, Harambe. On top of that, it was also the hottest year on record.

While it’s not always welcome, change is something leaders should be very good at managing. Leading through change is a critical capability that requires a strategic mind, strong business acumen, adaptability, composure and guts.

The question is how prepared are we to lead effectively in these changing times?

No matter how much/little change management expertise you have, you must continue expanding your capabilities in this critical area. The amount and type of change in the world is only speeding up, thanks to technology, social and political upheaval, and shifting demographics. We must push ourselves to stay one step ahead of change. Only then will we be prepared to step in — and step up — to lead in the most interesting times.

Looking through the turn

Riding a motorcycle has taught me so much about being nimble and adaptive to change. One of the most critical lessons I learned years ago as a beginning rider is how to “look through the turn,” which works like this: As you approach a turn, you must look where you want to go rather than focusing on all the potential hazards within the turn itself. The difficulty comes in keeping your eyes focused on where you want to end up while using your instincts and experience to adjust within the turn while using your instincts and experience to adjust within the turn — all at a moment’s notice.

I’d like to share three lessons from my book, Leading Through the Turn, which was inspired by this fundamental principle of motorcycling. These lessons have helped me learn how to lead more effectively through change. I hope they will help you, too.

1. Expect the unexpected – This seems so obvious, and yet we seldom do it. When we’re in the middle of a project, we’re focused on what’s in front of us or on the plans we’re making for the future. We’re thinking about the destination and how to get there. Then the road shifts beneath our wheels. We need to get better at anticipating change and being prepared to respond when it happens – especially in how we help our team and business evolve.

This takes effort – and time. Work with your team to regularly ask “what if” questions that help you spot potential change sooner rather than later. What if our customers’ needs fundamentally change and they no longer want what we offer? What if there is a change in their top leadership that directly impacts us? What if a new technology disrupts the way we or they are doing business? By asking the right questions and looking ahead more frequently, we’ll become better at expecting the unexpected.

2. Create a “culture of try” – To deal with change, you must be an agile leader, on the one hand staying very close to what is happening around you with your employees and clients; on the other hand stepping back to see the bigger picture.

But as a leader, it’s your job to think about what’s possible, not what is. That means empowering your team to come up with new solutions and not be afraid to try new things.

You must create “a culture of try.” Trust me, your team and your customers want you to try new things. Employees are empowered by a “let’s do it” mentality. And customers want to know you can take them places they’ve never been and can’t get to on their own.

Leaders need to create a greenhouse environment that encourages teams to try new things and see what works without fear of punishment or embarrassment if it fails. Ultimately, you want a culture that’s not afraid to fail—it’s afraid not to try. This is part attitude, of course, but it’s also part practice. You must set the tone by being a role model for taking smart risk and inspiring your people to try new things.

3. Enjoy the ride – When we ride, my husband and I will occasionally pull our motorcycles over, put the kickstand down and just drink in how beautiful it is. This always makes the journey more enjoyable and memorable.

No matter what changes come your way, you need to have a journey mindset, willing to deal with uncertainty, staying fully present in the moment and enjoying the ride along the way. When you do, you have a much better chance of setting aside your frustrations and fears, and channeling your efforts towards finding solutions.

This also goes for how you live and lead on a daily basis. How often are you pausing to celebrate success at work? Saying thank you to others? Letting those in your personal life know how much you value them?

Take a good look around and appreciate where you are right now. You must make time to live in the moment, because it will be gone before you know it. Embracing the journey is key to enjoying the ride.

Whether it’s challenge or change, we have much to look forward to in 2017. I hope to lead at my best this year – how about you? Let’s help each other.

Read more from Elise Mitchell on her website and find her on Twitter @elisemitch.