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Qualified Small Employer HRA Avoids $100 per Day Penalty

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Over the past few years, there has been a $100 per day per employee penalty for employers who provided certain Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs) and/or Employer Payment Plans.

Under an HRA, an employer reimburses employees for the medical expenses up to a certain limit.  The reimbursement is deductible by the employer and tax-free to the employee.

Under an Employer Payment Plan, the employer either reimburses employees for the cost of health insurance premiums or directly pays the insurance company for the employees’ health insurance coverage.  Again, the payment is deductible by the employer and tax-free to the employee.

Under the market reform provisions of Obamacare, these plans became disfavored and subjected the employer to a $100 per day per employee (i.e., $36,500 per employee per year) penalty.  The primary reason for the penalty is because the market reform provisions eliminated any annual or lifetime cap on benefits.  HRAs are generally subject to an annual cap and Employer Payment Plans are deemed to be capped at the cost of the employee’s premium that is being paid.

Qualified HRAs No Longer Subject to $100 per Day per Employee Penalty

Beginning in 2017, qualified HRAs will be exempt from the $100 penalty.  Employer Payment Plans remain subject to the penalty.

For 2017 and later, eligible employers that do not offer group health insurance coverage to any employees can offer a Qualified Small Employer HRA (QSEHRA).  Eligible employers are employers that are not applicable large employers under Obamacare (applicable large employers have 50 or more employees).

The employer must offer a QSEHRA to each eligible employee.  An eligible employee is defined broadly as any employee; however, the employer can elect to exclude the following:

  • Employees who have not completed 90 days of service
  • Employees under age 25
  • Part-time or seasonal employees
  • Employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement covering accident and health benefits
  • Nonresident alien employees with no U.S. source income

A QSEHRA must be provided on the same terms to all eligible employees and funded entirely by the employer.  Payments and reimbursements are limited to $4,950 per year ($10,000 for family coverage) and are prorated if the employee is not covered for the whole year.  For example, if a single person starts employment on July 1, then the limit is reduced by 50%–$2,475 ($4,950 times 50%).  These amounts will be adjusted for inflation.

Payments/Reimbursements are Taxable If Employee Does Not Have Minimum Essential Coverage

Unlike a regular HRA, premiums for individual health insurance policies, as well as other medical expenses such as deductibles and copays, can be paid or reimbursed by a QSEHRA.  However, any payments or reimbursements from a QSEHRA for medical care (including insurance premiums) that are provided when an individual does not have minimum essential coverage are included in the employee’s income.  Generally, an individual health insurance policy qualifies as minimum essential coverage, but the employer must verify that the employee has minimum essential coverage.  Payments under a QSEHRA will affect the employee’s amount and qualification for the premium tax credit.

Employer Must Provide Notice to Employees

An employer funding a QSEHRA must provide written notice to each eligible employee no later than 90 days before the beginning of the year (or the date the employee first becomes eligible to participate).  The notice must state the amount that will be available for reimbursement or payment for the year.  Additionally, the notice must remind the employee that any benefits available under a QSEHRA must be disclosed to the health insurance marketplace if the employee applies for coverage through the marketplace and requests advance payment of the premium tax credit.  The notice must also include a statement that if the employee does not have minimum essential coverage for any month, he may be subject to a penalty for the month and that payments and reimbursements under the QSEHRA may be included in income.

Employers that do not provide proper notice to employees are subject to a penalty of $50 per employee.  The total penalty that can be assessed for one year cannot exceed $2,500.

Finally, amounts paid under a QSEHRA must be reported on the employee’s W2 (even though the payments are generally tax-free).

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Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

The myRA? It’s Just Been Revoked.

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A myRA is a government-administered Roth IRA authorized to hold only one type of investment, a US Treasury security which earns interest at the same variable rate as investments in the government securities fund for federal employees.  MyRAs became available in 2014 and were described as being safe, simple, and affordable savings accounts to help low- and moderate-income taxpayers save for retirement.

Why the MyRA Program Failed

Unfortunately for the myRA program, there are a multitude of private sector investment alternatives.  Taxpayers have many options in the private market to offer no account maintenance fees, no minimum balance, and safe investment opportunities.  Demand for myRA accounts has been extremely low, and the Treasury Department announced that it will be phasing out the myRA program over the next few months.  Taxpayers have paid nearly $70 million to administer this program since 2014 and the cost to taxpayers is not justified.

MyRAs are Roth IRAs that Can Only Invest in One Security.  When the MyRA Account Becomes Too Big, it Must be Converted to a Roth IRA…Huh?

MyRAs are subject to the same rules that apply to Roth IRAs, including the income-based eligibility for contributions, maximum annual contributions, and tax treatment of distributions.  Participants can save up to $15,000 in a myRA account and can hold funds in myRAs for up to 30 years.  Once either of these limits is reached, the myRA will have to be rolled into a Roth IRA.  So why not just invest in a Roth IRA?  Exactly, that is why the myRA is being discontinued.  Too bad $70 million taxpayer dollars had to be wasted.

The myRA program is no longer accepting new enrollments.  However, existing accounts remain open and accessible, and until further notice, participants can make deposits and their accounts will earn interest.  Participants are being notified of upcoming changes, including information on how to roll over their myRAs into Roth IRAs.

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Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

Deducting Travel Expenses for Charity

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People who travel to, or on behalf of, a charitable organization as a volunteer may be able to deduct the travel expenses as charitable contributions.  Unreimbursed travel expenses are deductible only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel.  In determining whether there is a significant element of personal pleasure, the relevant question is how much time the taxpayer spends in service to the organization and how much time the taxpayer spends in recreation or in free time.

What Travel Expenses are Deductible?

Deductible travel expenses include:

  • Air, rail, and bus transportation
  • Auto expenses.  The use of an automobile for charitable purposes is deductible at the standard mileage rate of 14 cents per mile.  Alternatively, taxpayers may deduct the cost of gas and oil directly related to the use of the auto in providing services to a charitable organization
  • Reasonable food (subject to the 50% meal limitation) and lodging costs necessarily incurred while away from home
  • Transportation costs between the airport or station and the hotel (or place where the taxpayer is staying)

There is no deduction for the value of the volunteer’s time or services.

Example:  Tim is on the board of directors of a charity.  There is a seminar in Florida on fundraising.  Tim is sent by the charity to attend the seminar.  He is covering the travel, lodging, and meal costs.  If the seminar lasts a couple hours a day for three days, and Tim spends most of the day hanging out at Disney World, it is highly likely that the travel contains a significant element of personal pleasure and the travel, lodging, and meal expenses are not deductible.

Example 2:  Same as above except that the seminar is 8 hours a day for three days.  Tim goes out for dinner and entertainment each night.  In this example, most of the day is spent at the seminar and even though Tim enjoys some recreation at night, it is unlikely that this amount of recreation would constitute a significant element of personal pleasure.  Tim would be able to deduct the expenses.

Keeping Records

Unreimbursed volunteer expenses have the same substantiation requirements that apply to cash contributions.  To prove a gift was made, a donor must produce one of the following:

  • A cancelled check
  • A receipt showing the name of the charity, the contribution date, and the contribution amount

A contribution of $250 or more must, in addition to meeting one of the two above requirements, be supported by a contemporaneous written acknowledgement by the charity.  It is critical for clients to have all required receipts before filing their return, even if this means extending the return.  Since the charity is not directly receiving funds it may be unaware that the volunteer incurred the expenses, volunteers have to be proactive in requesting an acknowledgement that they incurred unreimbursed expenses while volunteering.



Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

What You Need to Know about the Alternative Minimum Tax

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The alternative minimum tax (AMT) can increase the complexity of your tax planning. Knowing the basic rules can help you better plan for its potential impact.

How It Works

Originally introduced in the 1960s, the AMT system was designed to prevent higher income taxpayers from avoiding federal income taxes through the use of various exclusions, deductions, and credits. To achieve this goal, the AMT system treats certain items — referred to as “preferences” and “adjustments” — less favorably than they are treated for regular income-tax purposes.

Affected items include interest on certain tax-exempt bonds; itemized deductions for home equity loan interest, state and local income taxes, and medical expenses; personal and dependency exemptions; incentive stock options; and depreciation.

Generally, the AMT calculation starts with your regular taxable income and requires you to make the required revisions for adjustments and preferences until you arrive at alternative minimum taxable income (AMTI). Then, after an exemption amount is subtracted, a 26% tax rate is applied to the first $187,800 (in 2017) of the resulting income, and a 28% tax rate is applied to any amounts above $187,800.

The 2017 exemption amounts are $84,500 (married filing jointly), $53,900 (single and head of household) and $42,250 (married filing separately). These exemptions phase out at higher income levels.


If you believe you may have a potential AMT problem — either this year or in 2016 — you may be able to use certain strategies to reduce your tax. For example, if a tax projection indicates that you will be subject to AMT this year but not next year, you may want to delay prepaying certain expenses, such as state and local income taxes, for which you would not receive a tax benefit this year.

Connect with our team today for all the latest and most current tax rules and regulations.

Comments or questions about this post?  Please let us know through the comment area below!

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Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

The Tax Implications of a Company Car

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When an employer provides a company vehicle to an employee, the employee must generally include the market value of her personal use of the vehicle in her income.  The employer can generally take a payroll deduction for the actual costs, including depreciation, of providing the vehicle to the employee.

If the personal use of the vehicle is de minimis (of such small value that accounting for it would be impractical), the employee will not have to include the value of her personal use in income.  However, personal use of more than one day per month is not considered de minimis, so this exception is of little value.

Determining How Much to Include in the Employee’s Income

Under the general valuation rule, the value of the company vehicle that is included in the employee’s income is what it would cost the employee to lease a comparable vehicle for the same period the vehicle is available to her.  Generally, a cents-per-mile value cannot be used unless a comparable vehicle is available for lease to the employee on a cents-per-mile basis.

There are also three special valuation rules (each having different requirements).

  • The Annual Lease Value Method
  • The Commuting Value Method
  • The Cents-per-Mile Method

The Annual Lease Value Method (ALV)

The ALV is based on IRS tables and is based on the market value of the vehicle on the first date it is available to the employee.  The vehicle’s purchase price can be used as the market value if the vehicle was purchased in an arm’s length transaction.  If the employer leases the vehicle, the employer can use the MSRP plus sales tax less 8% of this sum as the market value.

Example: ABC Corp leases a Ford Focus.  The MSRP for the car is $23,000.  After sales tax, the cost is $24,380.  ABC Corp can reduce this sum by 8% to determine a market value of $22,429 to look up in the ALV tables.  Based on the ALV tables, the employee will have to include $6,100 as income for her personal use of the car with a market value of $22,429.

The ALV includes maintenance and insurance, but does not include gas.  If the employer pays for gas, the value of the gas will have to be included in income in addition to the ALV amount.

The Commuting Value Method

This method may be used if four requirements are met:

  • The auto must be owned or leased by the employer and provided to the employee to use in the employer’s business
  • The employer requires, because of business reasons, the employee to commute in the vehicle (e.g., the employee is on 24 hour call)
  • The employer must have a written policy that forbids the employee (or certain family members) from using the vehicle for personal reasons other than commuting or de minimis personal use
  • The employee required to use the vehicle must not be a controlling owner of the employer

If these requirements are met, the personal use value of the company car will be $3 per round trip ($1.50 per one way commute).

The Cents-Per-Mile Method

This method may be limited because it cannot be used when the value of the vehicle when it first becomes available to the employee exceeds $15,900 for a passenger vehicle and $17,800 for a truck or van.  In addition, this rule may be used only for vehicles that are expected to be used in the employer’s business throughout the year, or for vehicles that are actually driven at least 10,000 miles in that year and used primarily for business by employees.  If the vehicle qualifies under this method, the standard mileage rate (53.5 cents in 2017) may be used to determine the personal use value of the vehicle.

Requirements of All Special Use Valuation Methods

To use any of the three special valuation rules, one of the following conditions must exist:

  • The employer treats the value of the vehicle as wages for reporting purposes before the extended due date of its tax return for the year the benefit is provided
  • The employee includes the value of the benefit in income before the extended due date of her tax return for the year the benefit is provided
  • The employee is not in control of the employer
  • The employer demonstrates a good faith effort to treat the benefit correctly

Payroll Tax Implications

The employer must report and withhold income and employment taxes on the value of personal use of a company car.  However, there are two elections available to the employer:

  • The employer can elect to treat the personal use value as paid at any time during the year.  Thus, the employer can treat the entire personal use value as being provided on December 31 of each year to delay the due dates of the income withholding and payroll taxes
  • An employer can elect not to withholding income taxes (the employee will have to pay income tax estimates on her own).  However, the employer is still responsible for employment taxes.


Comments or questions about this post?  Please let us know through the comment area below!

If you found this article informative, subscribe to our Tax Newsletter.

Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.



Hired Your First Employee? Your Tax Obligations

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It’s a major milestone for you, but it comes with a lot of paperwork that must be done correctly.

Bringing a new employee into your business is a reason to celebrate. You’ve done well enough as a sole proprietor that you can’t handle the workload by yourself anymore.

Onboarding your first worker, though, comes with a great deal of extra effort for you at first. You have to show him or her the ropes so you can offload some of the extra weight you’ve been carrying.

But first things first. Before your employee even shows up for the first day of work, you should have assembled all the paperwork required to keep you compliant with the IRS and other federal and state agencies.

A New Number

As a one-person company, you’ve been using your Social Security number as your tax ID. You’re an employer now, so you’ll need an Employer Identification Number (EIN). You can apply for one here.

The IRS’s EIN Assistant walks you through the process of applying for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Once you’ve completed the steps in the IRS’s EIN Assistant, you’ll receive your EIN right away, and can start using it to open a business bank account, apply for a business license, etc.

You’ll also need an EIN before you start paying your employee. It’s required on the Form W-4. If you’ve ever worked for a business yourself, you’ve probably filled out this form. As an employer now, you should provide one to your new hire on the first day. When it’s completed, it will help you determine how much federal income tax to withhold every payday. If you’re not bringing in a full-time employee but, rather, an independent contractor, you won’t be responsible for withholding and paying income taxes for that individual. You’ll need to supply him or her with a Form W-9.

Note: Payroll processing is probably the most complex element of small business accounting. If you don’t have any experience with it, you’ll probably want to use an online payroll application. After you’re set up on one of these websites, you enter the hours worked every pay period. The site calculates tax withholding and payroll taxes due, then prints or direct deposits paychecks. Let us know if you want some guidance on this.

Don’t forget about state taxes if your state requires them, and any local obligations. The IRS maintains a page with links to each state’s website. You can get information about doing business in your geographical area, which includes taxation requirements.

More Forms

You also have to be in contact with your state to report a new hire (same goes if you ever re-hire someone). The Small Business Administration (SBA) can be helpful here, as it is in many other aspects of managing a small business. The organization maintains a list of links to state entities here.

All employees are required to fill out a Form I-9 on the first day of a new job. New employees must also prove that they’re legally eligible to work in the United States. To do this, they complete a Form I-9 from the Department of Homeland Security. As their employer, you’re charged with verifying that the information provided is accurate by looking at one or a combination of documents (U.S. Passport, driver’s license and birth certificate, etc.). By signing this form, you’re stating that you’ve done that.

You can also use the U.S. government’s E-Verify online tool to confirm eligibility.

A Helping Hand

The Department of Labor has a great website for new employers. The FirstStep Employment Law Advisor helps employers understand what DOL federal employment laws apply to them and what recordkeeping they they’re required to do. Please consider us a resource, too, as you take on a new employee. Preparing for a complex new set of tax obligations will be a challenge. We’d like to see you get everything right from the start.

How to Deduct 100% of Meal Expenses

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Taxpayers are normally allowed to deduct 50% of their meal and entertainment expenses.  The reason is because the IRS believes that taxpayers inflate the amount of meal and entertainment expenses they claim as deductions, and therefore the IRS automatically throws out 50% of these expenses.  The IRS has some trust issues.

Fortunately, there are exceptions to the 50% rule.  If any of these exceptions are met, taxpayers may deduct 100% of their meal expenses.

The exceptions are:

De Minimis Meals

These are usually small, occasional meals that an employer provides to employees (e.g., coffee and occasional bagels).  The IRS requires that accounting for these food items is unreasonable or administratively impracticable.

Recreational or Social Meals

These include expenses related to recreational, social, or similar activities incurred primarily for the benefit of employees (e.g., company picnics, holiday parties).  If these events are only held for highly compensated employees, they will not qualify under this exception.  This exception only applies to employees; it does not apply to independent contractors.

Meals for the General Public

Examples of this exception include free hotdogs and popcorn at a grocery store.  The exception also applies to food provided to potential customers as part of a sales presentation (e.g., a free meal provided by a real estate broker to potential real estate investors).  This exception does not apply if the meals are provided on an invitation-basis only and not otherwise available to the general public.

Department of Transportation Meals

Individuals whose work is subject to the hours of service limitations of the Department of Transportation (e.g., interstate truckers, certain railroad employees) can deduct 80% of their food expenses.

Meals Treated as Compensation to Employees

Meals that are included in an employee’s W2 as wages are not subject to the 50% limitation by the employer.  The employer will claim a 100% deduction for the meal expenses as a payroll expense.  However, if the employee tries to deduct the meal expenses, she will be subject to the 50% limitation.

Meals Reimbursed under an Accountable Plan

When an employee or independent contract is reimbursed for meal expenses by a business owner under an accountable plan, the employee or independent contractor will not include any of the meal reimbursement as income (i.e., 100% of the meal reimbursement is excluded from income).  However, the employer will be limited to a 50% deduction for the meal expenses that it reimbursed.

Meals for Nonemployees who Receive a Form 1099

When a business provides a meal to a nonemployee and issues the nonemployee a Form 1099 for the value of the meal, the business can obtain a 100% deduction for the meal cost.  An example would include a business that holds a raffle and the winner receives a free dinner for himself and his family valued at $500.  If the business issues a Form 1099 reporting the $500 as income to the winner, the business can obtain a $500 deduction.

Meals during a Move that are Reimbursed by the Employer

An employer may obtain a 100% deduction for meal expenses she reimburses an employee during a move required for employment or business reasons.

Meals Sold by a Business

This exception is a technical exception to prevent businesses such as restaurants and daycare centers that sell food from being disallowed a valid deduction for cost of goods sold.

Meal expenses may be substantial.  If a business incurs any of the above expenses, they should be accounted for separately from meals that will be subject to the 50% disallowance rule.

 If you need help with small business taxes,

sign up for a FREE tax consultation.


Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

Pros and Cons of a Paperless Business

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Has your bank, broker, credit card company, or maybe even your phone or utility company sent you information about getting your statements online instead of through the mail? Going paperless has its advantages — not the least of which may be seeing your countertop for the first time in months. But it also has its drawbacks. Before you completely eliminate paper statements, look at both the pros and cons.

The Benefits

When customers manage their accounts online, companies can save substantial amounts of money in printing and mailing costs. That’s why many companies offer incentives, such as reducing interest rates or fees or making donations to environmental groups, to encourage customers to go paperless. And fewer mailings mean there’s less risk that someone could steal personal documents from your mailbox and use the information fraudulently.

The Drawbacks

While companies claim financial information sent electronically is more secure, not everyone agrees. When they happen, security breaches can put your personal information at risk. And it may be easier to miss the e-mail or forget about reviewing statements or paying bills when you don’t have them right in front of you.

Another potential drawback: Retrieving statements that are more than a few months old may be difficult, although many companies say they’re working on archiving several years’ worth of documents.

Going paperless may be to your advantage, but weigh everything carefully before you sign up.

Take charge of your financial future. Give us a call, today, to find out how we can assist you and your business.

Taxes and Your Social Security

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social security income tax

If you thought Uncle Sam would forget about taxes on your Social Security retirement benefits, think again. When you have other income, up to 85% of your benefit could be taxable. Your “combined income” determines whether — and how much of — your benefits will be subject to federal income tax.

What’s Combined Income?

Your combined income comprises all the income you receive from any source, with only a few exceptions. Combined income includes wages and self-employment income; rental income; investment income, such as interest, dividends, and capital gains; income from pensions and retirement accounts (but not tax-free Roth distributions); and — here’s the kicker — even tax-exempt interest from municipal bonds. In addition, you have to add in half your Social Security benefits when you are figuring your combined income.*

The Thresholds

You won’t pay taxes on your Social Security if:

  • Your combined income is not more than $25,000 and your filing status is single or head of household
  • Your and your spouse’s combined income is not more than $32,000 and you file a joint return

Up to 50% of benefits are taxable if you have combined income between:

  • $25,000 and $34,000 (single/head of household)
  • $32,000 and $44,000 (married joint)

Up to 85% of benefits are taxable if you have combined income of more than:

  • $34,000 (single/head of household)
  • $44,000 (married joint)

And if you’re a married taxpayer filing a separate return, you’ll probably have to pay taxes on your benefits. Connect with us today for all the latest and most current tax rules and regulations.

* You have to take certain adjustments into account in the combined income calculation.


Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

How to Improve Your Cash Flow

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money-2328715_1920Slow paying customers, seasonal revenue variations, an unexpected downturn in sales, higher expenses — any number of business conditions can contribute to a cash flow crunch. If you own a small business, you may find the suggestions that follow helpful in minimizing cash flow problems.

Billing and collections. Your employees need to work with clear guidelines. If you don’t have a standardized process for billing and collections, make it a priority to develop one. Consider sending invoices electronically instead of by mail. And encourage customers to pay via electronic funds transfer rather than by check. If you don’t offer a discount for timely payment, consider adding one to your payment terms.

Expense management. Know when bills are due. As often as possible, pay suppliers within the period that allows you to take advantage of any prompt-payment incentives. Remember that foregoing a discount in order to pay later is essentially financing your purchase.

Take another look at your costs for ongoing goods and services, including telecommunications, shipping and delivery, utilities, etc. If you or your employees travel frequently for in-person meetings, consider holding more web conferences to reduce costs.

Inventory. Focus on inventory management, if applicable, to avoid tying up cash unnecessarily. Determine the minimum quantities you need to keep on hand to promptly serve customers. Systematically track inventory levels to avoid overbuying.

Debt management. Consider how you use credit. Before you commit to financing, compare terms from more than one lender and keep the amount to a manageable level. For flexibility, consider establishing a line of credit if you do not already have one. You will be charged interest only on the amount drawn from the credit line.

Control taxes. Make sure you are taking advantage of available tax breaks, such as the Section 179 deduction for equipment purchases, to limit taxes.

Develop a cash flow budget. Projecting monthly or weekly cash inflows and outflows gives you a critical snapshot of your business’s cash position and shows whether you’ll have enough cash on hand to meet your company’s needs.

Don’t get left behind. Contact us today to discover how we can help you keep your business on the right track. Don’t wait, give us a call today.


Buzzkill Disclaimer:  This post contains general tax information that may or may not apply in your specific tax situation. Please consult a tax professional before relying on any information contained in this post.

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