Check out my hub for OVER 18 ways to save money.  You’ll be glad you did!

If you have credit debt and don’t have the will power to leave your card behind or cut it up, freeze it. Yes, freeze it-Literally.

In our home we say, “Merry Christmas!” But to all we wish you and your loved ones joy, peace, and love!

Click Here: 18 Money Saving Tips In Time For Christmas

Go ahead – What are you waiting for?!

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Happy Holidays-Christmas-MischelleWatkins

“I just Don’t KNOW WHAT TO GET HIM (HER),” is a common mantra during this gift-giving season. For others its a sad time, and for others, it is simply joy and love.
If you find yourself in a gift giving dilemma, take a peek at these great gift ideas to get yourself out of the gift bungler stage into the great gift guy (or gal)!  No need to fight traffic or stand in line – Just grab your cup of coffee and . . . GET STARTED!

 

  • My wish is that your days be merry, your nights be wicked, your health lasting, your memories plentiful and may your New Year be filled with all your good wishes  . . . .COMING TRUE! 

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It’s that time of year when you decide to give presents or money . . .  or even make those end-of-year-last efforts to give donations and contributions.

For some gift giving will be a luxury this year while for others, it will be a welcome relief from shopping, traffic and crowds. Whichever category you find yourself in, I hope you find a way to celebrate the season with family and friends in a special way!

Here is some information to help you make those kinds of choices.

Some of this information is technical and I would advise anyone to seek out the services of their CPA, Tax Attorney or Tax Advisor for specific, relevant advise or cash gift giving information.

You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates, the value of your time or services and the cost of raffles, bingo, or other games of chance.

To be deductible, contributions must be made to qualified organizations.

Organizations can tell you if they are qualified and if donations to them are deductible.

IRS.gov has an exempt organization search feature to help you see if an organization is qualified.

IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations, lists all charitable organizations except those most recently granted tax exempt status. Pub. 78 is available online and in many public libraries. Alternatively, contact your local CPA, tax advisor, or tax attorney for more information!

If you gave any one person gifts valued at more than $13,000, it is necessary to report the total gift to the Internal Revenue Service. You may even have to pay tax on the gift.

The person who received your gift does not have to report the gift to the IRS or pay either gift or income tax on its value.

You make a gift when you give property, including money, or the use of or income from property, without expecting to receive something of equal value in return. If you sell something at less than its value or make an interest-free or reduced-interest loan, you may be making a gift.

In the United States, the gift tax is governed by Chapter 12, Subtitle B of the Internal Revenue Code. The tax is imposed by section 2501 of the Code.

A gift tax is a tax assigned to the transfer of an item or of ownership of property ‘gifted.’

When a taxable gift is made the tax is normally imposed on the the giving party unless that party retains an interest in the gift which stalls its complete transfer or consumption.

There are some exceptions to the tax rules on gifts. The following gifts do not count against the annual limit:

  • Gifts that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year
  • Gifts to a political organization for its use
  • Gifts to charities
  • Gifts to one’s spouse
  • Tuition or medical expenses one pays directly to a medical or educational institution for someone

Married people, both you and your spouse, can give separate gifts of up to the annual limit to the same person without making a taxable gift. Please contact your local CPA or Tax Advisor or Attorney for more information.

Generally, if an interest in property is transferred during the giver’s lifetime, then the gift or transfer would not be subject to the estate tax. In 1976, Congress unified the gift and estate taxes limiting the giver’s ability to circumvent the estate tax by gifting during his or her lifetime. Not to be confused with differences between estate and gift taxes such as the effective tax rate, the amount of the credit available against tax, and the basis of the received property.

There are also types of gifts which will be included in a person’s estate such as certain gifts made within the three year window before death and gifts in which the donor retains an interest, such as gifts of remainder interests that are not either: qualified, remainder trusts, or charitable remainder trusts. The remainder interest gift tax rules apply to the gift tax on the entire value of the trust by assigning a zero value to the interest retained by the donor.

Gift Tax Exemptions

There are two levels of exemption from the gift tax. First, transfers of a present interest up to (as of 2009) $13,000 per person per year are not subject to the tax. An individual can make gifts up to this amount to as many people as he/she wishes each year. A married couple can pool their individual gift exemptions to make gifts worth up to $26,000 per couple per year without incurring any gift tax. A lifetime gifting limit of $1,000,000 (gifts above the annual exclusions) is allowed before a gift tax is incurred.

If an individual or couple makes gifts of more than the limit, a gift tax is incurred. The person or couple has the option of paying the gift taxes that year, or to use some of the “unified credit” that would otherwise reduce the estate tax. In some situations it may be advisable to pay the tax in advance to reduce the size of the estate.

In many cases, however, an estate planning strategy is to give the maximum amount possible to as many people as possible to reduce the size of the estate.

Furthermore, transfers (whether by bequest, gift, or inheritance) in excess of $1 million may be subject to a generation-skipping transfer tax – IF – certain other criteria are met.

Charitable Contributions:

When preparing to file your federal tax return, don’t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. Your donations can add up to a nice tax deduction if you itemize on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.

Car Donations:

The IRS reminds taxpayers that the rules for taking a tax deduction for donating cars to charities have changed this year. The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 has altered the rules for the contribution of used motor vehicles, boats and planes after Dec. 31, 2004. Starting then, if the claimed value of the donated motor vehicle, boat or plane exceeds $500 and the item is sold by the charitable organization, the taxpayer is limited to the gross proceeds from the sale.

People who want to take a deduction for the donation of their vehicle on their tax return should take quite a few steps, but here is the most obvious:

  • Check that an Organization is Qualified
  • Taxpayers must make certain that they contribute their car to an eligible organization; otherwise, their donation will not be tax deductible. Taxpayers can search Publication 78 online to check that an organization is qualified. Publication 78 is an annual, cumulative list of most organizations that are qualified to receive deductible contributions. Publication 78 is also available in many public libraries. In addition, taxpayers can call IRS Tax Exempt/Government Entities

Customer Service at 1-877-829-5500.

  • Be sure to have the organization’s correct name and its headquarters location, if possible. Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and governments are not required to apply for this exemption in order to be qualified.

Please contact your CPA or tax advisor if you’re considering a car donation for your tax return!

For Business:

Charitable Contributions

When preparing to file your federal tax return, don’t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. Especially if you itemize on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.

The treatment of a gift for purposes of the U.S. gift tax (the transfer tax) should not be confused with the treatment of gifts for other tax purposes. For example, for U.S. income tax purposes, most gifts are excluded (under Internal Revenue Code section 102[2]) from the gross income of the recipient, and thus are not taxed as income. For the purposes of taxable income, courts have defined “gift” as proceeds from a “detached and disinterested generosity.

Gifts from certain parties will always be taxed for U.S. Federal income tax purposes. Under Internal Revenue Code section 102(c)[3], gifts transferred by or for an employer to, or for the benefit of, an employee cannot be excluded from the gross income of the employee for Federal income tax purposes. While there are some statutory exemptions under this rule for the minimum fringe benefit amounts, and for achievement awards, the general rule is the employee must report a “gift” from the employer as income for Federal income tax purposes. The foundation for the preceding rule is the presumption that employers do not give employees items of value out of “detached and disinterested generosity” due to the existing employment relationship.

Income subsequently derived from any property received as a gift is not excludable from the income taxed to the recipient.[4] In addition, under Internal Revenue Code section 102(b)(2), a donor may not circumvent this requirement by gifting only the income and not the property itself to the recipient. That means that a gift of income is always income to the recipient. Permitting such an exclusion would allow the donor and the recipient to avoid paying taxes on the income received, a loophole that Congress eliminated.

Filing a Gift Tax Return-Form 709

Generally, you must file a gift tax return on Form 709 if any of the following apply.

1.Excluding your spouse, you gave gifts to at least one person that are more than the annual yearly exclusion.

2.You and your spouse split a gift.

3.Excluding your spouse, you gave someone a gift that they cannot actually possess, enjoy, or receive income from until some time in the future.

4.You gave your spouse an interest in property that will be ended by some event in the future.

You do not have to file a gift tax return to report gifts to (or for the use of) political organizations and gifts made by paying someone’s tuition or medical expenses.

You also do not need to report the following deductible gifts made to charities:

1.Your entire interest in property, if no other interest has been transferred for less than adequate consideration or for other than a charitable use; or

2.A qualified conservation contribution that is a restriction (granted forever) on the use of real property.

To Repeat – Organizations can tell you if they are qualified and if donations to them are deductible. IRS.gov has an exempt organization search feature to help you see if an organization is qualified. IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations, lists all charitable organizations except those most recently granted tax exempt status. Pub. 78 is available online and in many public libraries. Alternatively, contact your local CPA, tax Advisor or Tax Attorney for more information!

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES


Inflation adjustment. After 2009, the $13,000 annual exclusion may be increased due to a cost-of-living adjustment. See the instructions for Form 709 for the amount of the annual exclusion for the year you make the gift.

1. In 2009, you give your nephew a cash gift of $5,000. It is your only gift to her this year. The gift is not a taxable gift because it is not more (it is less) than the $13,000 annual exclusion.

2. You pay the $12,000 college tuition of your friend. Because the payment qualifies for the educational exclusion, the gift is not a taxable gift.

3. In 2009, you give $28,000 to your 25-year-old son. The first $13,000 of your gift is not subject to the gift tax because of the annual exclusion. The remaining $15,000 is a taxable gift. If you use the Apply the Unified Credit to Gift Tax*, you may not have to pay the gift tax on the remaining $15,000. However, you will need to file a gift tax return unless the gift was made from community property funds and is actually a gift one half from the father and one half from the mother.

Gift Splitting

If you or your spouse make a separate property gift to a third party, the gift can be considered as made one-half by you and one-half by your spouse. This is known as gift splitting. Both of you must consent (agree) to split the gift. If you do, you each can take the annual exclusion for your part of the gift.

In 2009, gift splitting allows married couples to give up to $26,000 to a person without making a taxable gift.

If you split a gift you made, you must file a gift tax return to show that you and your spouse agree to use gift splitting. You must file a Form 709 even if half of the split gift is less than the annual exclusion.

Unless a gift exceeds $26,000, then gifts by married couples from community property funds are not taxable and no reporting is required.

4. John and his wife, Chrissy, agree to split the gifts that they made during 2009 from inherited funds. John gives his neice, Liz, $21,000, and Chrissy gives her nephew, Art, $18,000. Although each gift is more than the annual exclusion ($12,000), by gift splitting they give these gifts without making a taxable gift.

John’s gift to Liz is treated as one-half ($10,500) from John and one-half ($10,500) from Chrissy. Chrissy’s gift to Art is also treated as one-half ($9,000) from Chrissy and one-half ($9,000) from John. In each case, because one-half of the split gift isn’t more than the annual exclusion, it’s not a taxable gift. However, each of them must file a gift tax return.

Applying the Unified Credit to Gift Tax

After you determine which of your gifts are taxable, you figure the amount of gift tax on the total taxable gifts and apply your unified credit for the year.

You do not have to pay any gift tax for 2009. However, you do have to file Form 709.You can get both instructions and form 709 at www.irs.gov

If you still have questions or feel confused I strongly advise you to seek the advice of your local CPA, your tax Attorney or your Tax Advisor. This information is not meant to advise you, it is provided for informational purposes ONLY. If you find yourself in a situation that you will be sharing a 4 x 6 barred room with a large, hairy, burly man who is named after a machine that smashes things then you are on your own . . . R E A L L Y.

Merry Christmas

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It’s the Christmas holiday and I am celebrating my birthday too.


Having a calm morning to celebrate with I found myself wanting to communicate something my parents helped me to realize and I bring it with me throughout my life. The economy is rough right now, people are scrambling to put food on the table, pay doctor bills, take care of kids, look for jobs to replace the ones they lost and there is no money for Christmas.

Broke and frustrated with their options, they forget to replace store bought with the act of kindness and time.   These simple acts of kindness are overlooked for the slick ads we are bombarded with in the media at Christmas time and throughout the year.  There was once a time when a trip to the park was a gift if you went with someone you loved. We spent a lot of time at the park when I was growing up. My folks helped me realize that with endings bring new beginnings.  Time is a gift.  Dying men will give their fortunes for more of it.  Spend yours wisely.

Celebrations are about people and relationships, not who got the most presents. Life, love, inspiration, helping each other, and holding hands are what memories are made of. Can you remember how excited you were to make a clay cast of your hand for your folks-when you were in kindergarten? My beloved mother and father are now passed on, but those clay casts were in her attic in a box marked, “Special.” That would be 34 years after my brother and I made them for her. She had delicately wrapped them in tissue and carefully placed them in a corner where they would be safe from harm.

What dad and mom taught me was that rule about hope and success. It goes like this, “If at first you don’t succeed, . . .try, try again.” Think about this sentence – A person who sees hope in failure surely finds success. So I would say to you if you find yourself in this situation, to look for inspiration wherever you can find it, and celebrate the season however you can.  In a way that is meaningful to you.

I am borrowing a famous letter for this post. It was written in 1897 by an eight year old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon and published in the New York Sun in September, of that year. This letter and Editor’s reply is special to me because it has this exact message in it that my parents taught me and it is from such a profound writer – an 8-year-old little girl – that I still remain touched when I read it every year at this time. Here it is:

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.

“Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

“Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’

“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

“VIRGINIA O’HANLON.

“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”

Newsman Francis Pharcellus Church wrote The Sun’s response to Virginia:

“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

So I would encourage you to keep your options open, see your glass as half full and have a Merry Christmas with the gifts you already have.

You have each other.

Believe.

SC

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Time Management Tips

Making Messy Lives Cleaner

7 Easy to Use Time Management Tips

You’ll Love!

mischellewatkins-com 7easytipstohelpmanageyourtime
It’s that time of year when it’s time to get better organized and think about the closets that need cleaning in the Spring.  

Start your year with these 7 Time Management Tips Everybody benefits From!

With a new year, maybe you are starting a new job or job search and have to adapt to new schedules,  kids starting school after a long holiday, getting your books and taxes in order, starting a new class, or just getting your time management needs organized.

Does your car need some TLC, how about those closets!  And, that bag of receipts – Managing your Time can feel like an impossible task!

But it doesn’t have to because you have the advantage of days becoming longer right now. Time Management Tools start with these 7 easy tips!

7 Time Management Tips That Get Results!

  1. Get your family involved and create your family plan.  Make sure you write down and post on a calendar as far in advance as possible – School breaks, family vacations, lessons that aren’t included in a regular school schedule, school plays, sports, practice sessions, art, community groups.  Get Birthdays of not just immediate family members, but  all the birthdays you celebrate with others on your calendar now!
  2. Develop a detailed itinerary for you and everyone in the family and post it monthly in an obvious visual area.  Important details may mean dates/times/place/location/contact information.  That makes for a readable and understandable schedule that everyone can see.  It’s also  great way to see if you are overdoing it – Making too many plans that you can’t possibly accomplish!
  3. Once you can see your schedule, you can decide whether or not there are too many things on it for you to do, or if you can fit in that art class you’ve always wanted to take.  If there are too many things on your schedule, get rid of them – Erase and Do Over.  If you can’t keep up then, “STOP THE INSANITY,” and get rid of a few things on your calendar. Sometimes Time Management means acknowledging that you Just Can’t Do It All.  You MUST schedule breathing room!
  4. Want to get in that bikini shape you promised yourself right after you dove into the holiday fudge and second martini – Then Get Your Ass out of bed earlier and hit the gym or the floor or take a walk.  Or, maybe you have a book you want to read.  That first thing in the morning time can really be a mental health boost if you have personal/work goals you want to achieve and  . . . ‘Just Can’t find the time.’
  5. I know, kids hate chores, but you’re NOT super human, so let them take responsibility for those things that are age appropriate – A Two year old can empty small garbage cans, for instance.  Are you a control freak – get Counseling and let other people help you around the house – Not only will it give family members a sense of pride to participate and do a good job, but you may find out that there are other ways to do things and that they work just as well (Or Better) than your own ideas.  And it takes the arrow off your back to get other things done.
  6. Get real about what you want and expect and what the results may actually be.  For instance do you have three children going to three different activities on the same day, at the same time – That’s not realistic, but you knew that already, so make a plan that works for everyone.
  7. Peace of mind takes planning – Sometimes the quick fix is better than going all out.  For instance, dump ALL your receipts in one bag, sort them by month or by category (example: All travel receipts in one envelope).  Now enter the receipts into an excel spreadsheet or hand journal for your accountant – one envelope at a time.  In 12 days you’ll be finished and it may only take 10-20 minutes data entry per day.  Plus if you do it yourself, you pay only in your time.  If you let a bookkeeper or accountant do it you pay $25 – $130 (or more), so decide if your budget can take less heat by doing it yourself.

NEVER do Anything on an empty stomach – Always Start your Day With Breakfast!

Use these quick and simple Time Management Tips to make your world a better place.  It will pay off with, “Time Management,”dividends . . . Priceless!

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Pronounce Names Right The FIRST Time!

Remembering Names and Pronouncing Them Correctly-Deal Makers!

Make your first 3 Minutes Count With Correct Name Pronunciations

Correct name Pronunciations-MischeleWatkins-comCheck out this cool website that tells you how to pronounce names correctly:

Pronounce Names Correctly 

The website helps you:

 — Lookup pronunciation of a name.

 — Submit pronunciation of your name so that others can pronounce it correctly.

 — Request pronunciation of a name that you do not know and would like to find out.

The importance of pronouncing names correctly matters because not paying attention to this simple courtesy can cost you to risk losing a great business deal or a golden job opportunity.  Remembering and pronouncing someone’s name correctly can and will set you in front of your competition – Consistently.

One popular method of remembering names involves the FACE acronym and was developed by Benjamin Levy;  Levy says that if you, ‘ . . .  follow these four simple steps and you will never again say, five minutes after meeting someone, “What was that guy’s name?” ‘

F – Focus:  Focus on a person’s face – Yes, this works with a picture, especially if you are practicing for an interview.

A –   Ask:  Ask them this simple question – Do you prefer Tony or Anthony? Tom or Thomas?  Susan or Sue?  Debora or Debra?

C – Comment:  Comment out loud about something about their name and record it mentally in your head For instance, “When I left college, my best friend was Debra.”

E – Employ:  Give ‘motion’ to that name by using it once more before you walk away – “I enjoyed meeting you, Thomas.”  “Thank you for coming, Anthony.” “How nice of you to meet with me, Susan.” “I hope to see you again, Debora.”

Never fear asking someone to repeat their name.  If you are still having trouble after they have repeated it a couple of times for you, it is important that you not look foolish or stupid, so ask them to spell it for you.  Thank them and excuse yourself to find a quiet corner to say their name out loud, and before you leave their presence, the meeting, the office, or the building, make an excuse to say their name to them – correctly.

If you completely forget what their name was – and before you let the conversation go any further, just stop and say, “I am sorry, but I missed your name, will you please repeat it for me?”  It’s much easier to stop a conversation right then, instead of waiting until the conversation is over and then asking their name.

Sometimes – especially in a more formal atmosphere, you may have to decide if you are talking to or greeting someone with  either their first or last name, for instance you are interviewing with a Doctor, should you call them, Dr Spock, or Glen (?).  To help you decide, simply ask them which name they prefer you address them by.  But if you are addressing an older man, or woman, they may prefer you use their title and last name.

One clever way to know which name to use if you are just meeting a person, is to say something along the lines of, “Hi, Mr. Clark, my name is Ted, I truly admire your business model.”  Normally they will smile and say something back to you like, “Thank you, Ted, you can call me Karl.”  If they do not reply with a different name, or their first name, you are well advised to continue calling them by their more formal name of, “Mr. Clark,” otherwise use the first name they provided you with (Karl in this case).

If you are told the person has a nickname then you may use it – People with hard to pronounce names often have a nickname for themselves.  And if you are networking in a roomful of new people then it is perfectly okay to ask a second time what their name is  – Simply by re-introducing yourself and offering them a hand to shake.

Always err on the side of formality instead of becoming too, ‘familiar,’ too fast.  If you don’t know, always use, Mr., Ms., or Miss Last Name.  If you are not invited to use someone’s first name, don’t assume you can.  If you do, you risk violating personal space and good manners and you’ll probably be called an ass. At that point, you may not remember their name, but they will definitely remember yours.

Remember Every Name Every Time: Corporate America’s Memory Master Reveals His Secrets

Get your relationships off to a great start with these simple tips on remembering names and name pronunciations.  Pronounce Names Right The FIRST Time!


“Find A Quiet Corner And Say Their Name out loud”

RCA VR5320R 1GB Digital Voice Recorder

MischelleWatkins.com

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What Should A Bookkeeper Charge

Bookkeeper Charges or Bookkeeper Fees – What Should Bookkeepers Charge!

Setting A Price When You Go Into The Bookkeeping Business

I received a Great email from “Susan” (not her real name) today and I wanted to share her question with everyone – And my Answer.  She is transitioning out of a company going out of business into her own business – Great time to start a business (by the way!).  

“Susan” wants to know how much she should charge for bookkeeping.

Hi Mischelle:

Today, I have been informed that my job is transitioning out because the company that I work for is really on the verge of going out of business.  I totally understand that they have to slash all expenses —  even personnel.  I am the Office Manager with __ years of business experience.  I have owned my own business – marketing and distribution for a ( _________) -planning markets, shows, forecasts, marketing,etc. as well as bookkeeping, customer service, fulfillment of shipments and anything else that was required for my business to be a success.  It was ___ years ago when I went back into the workforce as Office/Project Manager in the (___________) industry.  The business isn’t much better these days, but I find myself at another crossroads.

I am planning on starting my own business now — primarily for small businesses who do not want the responsibility of a full time employee with benefits, and I am now researching the hourly fee for such services as bookkeeping, administrative, correspondence composer and everything else that a busy owner does not have time for.  I would so appreciate any advice (I am also reading your articles!) as how to set my hourly rate.  I believe that I need at least $20 per hour to cover any travel, overhead, taxes and other necessities for businesses.  I tend to undervalue/undercharge for my services primarily because, oftentimes,  people just aren’t willing to “pay” for such services.

I would so appreciate your help and I already have learned so much from your articles.  Thank you in advance for your time!

          Blessings,

“Susan”

Hi,Susan, I am glad that you are reading my articles and that they are helpful.
I have tons of advice, but what I hear you saying is that you are wanting to know what rate you can charge for your bookkeeping services.
First of all, nothing you do will take the same amount of time – For instance, payroll for 1-5 people takes less time than payroll for 10-15 people, so you need to have different rates for number of people on payroll, monthly, quarterly, EOY Tax Filings, Financials, different rate for telephone help versus on-site consultation, have a standard hourly rate, but different rates for different functions and tasks . . . .For instance, I had one guy trying to get a bank loan, just always wanting me to come over and take a “QUICK” look at his financials.  Every Single time I went I got roped into creating an entirely different and new set of financials based on new information – He always left that part out and I’d spend 1-4 hours every time for a “QUICK” look at a set of financials.  I let that happen twice before I said, “No,” to a third – Free set of financials.  He now gets a quick look at his bank financials for $65 an hour.  Read Here about How To Hire An Accounting Professional
Data entry into a computerized bookkeeping system takes longer if you can’t read someone’s writing and if receipts are hard to read, there is missing information, or receipts have to be ‘unfolded’ first which is why if you have a bank statement you calculate 2.5 minutes per entry (30 entries for one statement= 2.5 x 30 = 75 minutes, or 1 hour, 15 minutes).  Some entries will take longer, some will take less time than 2.5 minutes, but it always averages out to this amount.
NEVER – NEVER – NEVER  . . . . go into a meeting with a new client without taking a contract they can sign outlining the duties you are performing for them.  Here is why – People think that what you do, “Only Takes You 5 Minutes.” but you add a bunch of those 5 minutes up and pretty soon you are working for free.  With a contract, you can legitimately say that, you were not  contracted to perform that task and you’ll have to charge extra for it – Being “nice” won’t earn you a living – just a reputation as a schmuck who works for free.  Get your contract in writing.
NEVER – NEVER – NEVER . . . .  quote your price for a job over the phone – You never get enough information on the phone to know what is involved in completing the task to finish what the client wants – they always leave something essential out and it always takes longer than you think it will.  Better to lose someone immediately by telling them you don’t quote over the phone because you don’t have enough information until you look at a job to know what it will cost to complete.  Tell them you have a standard hourly rate, but that without seeing what they have for yourself, you are shooting blind and you just can’t do it.  I’ve never lost someone for doing this.  I’ve only found out who could afford to hire me – And who could not.  If someone argues with you about this ask them if they would expect their car mechanic (dentist, attorney, plumber, heart surgeon, renovation contractor) to quote them a full price over the phone – People don’t understand “why” until you explain it that way.
To determine exactly how much to charge per item, or per hour, you first need to make a complete list of your services.  The second thing you need to do is to call a local bookkeeping company and accounting company – You can probably get a list from the chamber of commerce.  Use your list to ask what those people charge – Ask them if they ‘specialize’ in one industry over another (some accountants only take dental clients, others construction, etc . . . ).  If they don’t want to answer your questions because they feel threatened or they just simply don’t want to answer then politely thank them and hang up and call the next person on your list.  Call 5-8 people for this information.
Ask several accountants to go for coffee with you (one at a time) – Buy them coffee to get to know them for over flow work opportunities at tax time.  Ask them what memberships they belong to and find out if it’s something you might be interested in joining.
Join a couple local groups to network with.  If you end up going and the group does not meet your needs – In any way – then join a different group.  You’ll have to get to know these people if you expect them to tell their friends, business associates and family about you.
Keep your day job until you are earning a full time income.  This will take about 6 months if you are just starting (or longer).
Find out what the people in your area are using for accounting software - Learn it well.
Rates will vary from $20-60 an hour (and up) depending on your skill set and experience.  In your contract include a note that your rates will increase ___ % every year, so that you aren’t working 5 years from now for the same rate or amount that you started out with.
$20 is a good hourly rate to start, but for where I go it is low.  $25.00 is better, but the economy may not allow you to charge that rate.  And, in my humble opinion if someone is paying $20 for a bookkeeper, then they just aren’t that good at bookkeeping.  You can base your other functions on your main hourly rate , like payroll, but for regular office functions like correspondence and filing – that sort of thing, you may want to quote a lower rate (For instance – $12-18 is the industry standard).
Going online to research the titles you will be working at will show you a range of prices (from bookkeeper to accounting assistant), however also note that that range is 26% below the national average for what bookkeepers actually charge and get paid, which is why it is critical that you call the local people in your area who are doing the same thing to find out what they charge.
 
 
Professional at all times – Meaning dress and appearance as well as demeanor.  You wouldn’t go to a business meeting in your sweats, so don’t show up at someone’s home (where they do their business bookkeeping) in your play clothes.
 
 
Hope that helps – All my best!
 
 
Mischelle

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Wishing You A Happy Easter!  This year is Leap Year and one old “Wives Tale,” says that on Leap Year, women “May,” ask men to marry them – instead of the other way around!

If you are celebrating Easter with your special someone and need some Great Easter Gift Ideas  Check these out!  I found them on my own search for a special Easter Gift.

Valentines Day Gift Ideas For Special People In Your Life:

Celebrating Easter Day Solo – ?
Read These Great Tips For  Things To Do When You Celebrate A Romantic Or Traditional Holiday “Alone.

 

Celebrate Easter!

 

Easter SHOP

Easter Candy Shop:

Up to 30% Off

Shop this limited time selection of Easter Chocolate and Candy. Find favorite brands like Cadbury, Reese’s and more. Shop the Easter Candy Shop, sponsored by Hershey’s.

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Are you Afraid To Talk to An IRS Agent?

If You Are Afraid To Talk To An IRS Agent, Here Are Top Reasons Why You Must Talk To An IRS Agent!

Don’t be afraid to talk to the IRS. IRS agents are human beings, not monsters. Canada Revenue Agents are no different, either.  And certainly not to be feared. They have no magical powers or torture chambers.

talk to an IRS agent

If you are afraid t talk to an IRS agent then you are not alone. Most business owners and companies fear an IRS audit. These fears are too often manifested by a lack of knowledge about the IRS themselves and the audit process they use. When you are chosen for an audit it is primarily because your write off amounts compared to your income or wages are excessive as compared to your other deductions.

For easy to understand deduction advice this book is excellent! Deduct It!: Lower Your Small Business Taxestalk to an IRS agent

IRS Tax Tip:  For instance do you own a donut store and spent $5.00 on flour and $2,000.00 on office supplies? Did you write off your Valentine’s day dinner and gift to your wife? Do you go to the grocery store and write off the entire list of food items as “meals?” These are obvious examples, but they send red flags up in the air like fireworks to an IRS agent. And, Yes, you will get audited.

talk to an IRS agent

Here are more great big red flags to an IRS agent:

• High mileage
• High meals and entertainment
• One line item deduction for everything – Marketing, for instance, and no other deductions for anything else.
• Large donations
• Home business write offs of large amounts of space as compared to total square home footage

Business owners in the first 1-5 years of business are shown a bit more leniency in these areas, but if it’s not a legitimate write off, don’t take it.

Don’t avoid finding out what legitimate write-offs really are. And don’t be afraid to talk to an IRS agent. Spend an extra hour with your CPA every quarter – And pay them for their time. Some accountants are so excited to pass on this information that if you buy them a cup of coffee or lunch they will ‘spill their guts,’ to you about legitimate write off expenses.  This one hour can prevent the IRS Agent conversation from happening at all.  Savings = Gold

IRS gents operate primarily from paperwork correspondence. This helps them avoid expensive and time consuming audits. This also makes their response time much slower, but that doesn’t mean they won’t come looking for you at some point, either.

Know when you talk to an IRS agent that they have been given such negative publicity for unfriendly actions and behavior that they are now forced to operate in a different manner. So, being able to talk to the IRS agent was never better.  Having said that does not excuse you from bad behavior when you talk to an IRS agent.

What can you do to prevent having to face a fear of having to talk to an IRS agent?

• Keep records and receipts organized
• Document meetings, lunches and travel to help audit-proof yourself
• List all expenses from your petty cash into a legible format – Excel is fine
• Send your accountant to your audit in your place
• Defer questions you don’t know the answer to (because you aren’t the accountant), to your accountant or bookkeeper
• Get professional advice
• DOCUMENT
• DOCUMENT
• DOCUMENT
• Know the difference between Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion: Tax avoidance means you have legitimate deductions that won’t send you to jail, but may be mis-classified or over stated ‘accidentally.’ Tax evasion means you knew you were mis-representing your income and that you did it on purpose, and that it can be proven beyond a doubt.

Find out how to turn vacations into legitimate tax deductions. You can do that with documentation:

• Separate business from pleasure by sorting receipts according to purpose – Your lunch with a local business who needs your services (a hotel that uses a taxi service to pick up or drop off guests at the airport in your city and you own a taxi service). Get their card, their brochure and document your discussion with them. Do you also need to conduct research – parking, transportation, other meals may also apply, but your massage and tequila shooters will not.

Make sure you know and understand the difference. As a bookkeeper I often take calls late at night, but these calls may not be perceived as business, even though they are, and even though I can prove it, but sometimes it’s just not worth arguing about.

Are You Still Afraid To Talk To An IRS Agent?

talk to an IRS agent

Keep this one last thing in mind when you are Afraid To Talk To An IRS Agent:

“IRS agents have a job – Yes, however, they are also human beings. Behavior on your part that demeans them, challenges them or ignores their effort and energy will (often) result in a demonstration of their own due diligence to hard rules, and bad behavior.

Often negotiations break down because people fail to acknowledge them as human beings, but instead as whipping posts to be abused. Once tempers flare, the game is over – You lose.

Yes, send a professional in your place to handle an IRS audit, but take over the parts you can handle yourself, like phone calls to arrange the meetings, correspondence, copies of paperwork, . . . and anything else you can do.

You’ll cut costs with your accountant and glean some respect from an IRS agent in return. fI you get caught trying to answer a question and you really aren’t sure or do not know the answer – Say So and ask an IRS agent if they wouldn’t mind if you wrote that question down so that you can get them an answer at a later date – usually within 72 hours (or sooner). Write the question down, ask -also – if you can forward the question to your CPA to answer for you and if they ask you, “why” tell them because you were not prepared to answer that (particular) question at this time and you do not want to appear to be uncooperative or answer incorrectly and foolishly and waste their time.

So, if you find yourself having to return a phone call from an IRS agent, or are scheduled for an audit, buy yourself a bright and cheerful bouquet of flowers and place them within your line of vision, grab a special and flavorful cup of coffee, pick up the phone, make that call and smile out loud so that you project that into the phone and the person you are talking to.

Say, “Yes, please and No thank you,” often and above all – Do not resort to bullying tactics or name calling and be sure to keep the sighing out loud and the, “Sheesh,” “Oh Jeez,” “Oh Brother’s,” and, “!uc* You’s,” to yourself! When you are on the phone use sign language for that!

IRS agents are human and they will treat you nicely, but their rule of thumb is (as determined by experience and job requirement), “You First!” Make that phone call and do not be afraid to talk to an IRS Agent.

talk to an IRS agent

*  “Italicized content” is Reprinted from my own comment post on another accounting website article. I give myself permission to reprint my own words. You may not exercise that same luxury.

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Get Results With An Effective Complaint Letter

Bad Service, Unethical Behavior, Lack of Accountability can really make a customer mad!  Don’t bother getting mad, that’s just a waste of time and energy.

Report problems to a head office and the Better Business Bureau and demand accountability.

Here’s How to write an effective complaint letter without saying a single four-letter word bomb.  Not only will you get satisfaction, but you’ll get results!

Just to repeat – Anger serves no purposes.  Profane and personally insulting complaint letters are normally dumped into the garbage can and you are going to be passed from pillar to post and treated like an uninformed  and uneducated leper.  In other words, you will not get satisfaction or even a timely resolution of your complaint or issue.  You may not even be acknowledged at all.

In the first 2-5 sentences of your initial contact with the company, describe what actually happened.  If you have tracking or order numbers, write those down.  Unclear and vague information only gets tossed.

State ONLY facts in your initial contact email or letter and in your stated information – Most companies only allow a limited space so make sure your words count!  Keep paragraphs short and packed with meaning.

Request a call back or email reply – List your contact information for this purpose.

Once your information is acknowledged, make a credible complaint that you may use for other things, like a Better Business Bureau Complaint.

Don’t Get Mad, Get Even With An Effective Complaint Letter

 1st Paragraph or Sentence of an effective complaint letter:

Thank the company for acknowledging your information.  Scream or yell if you want (in private), but when you start a letter with, “Thank-you,” it gets read in its entirety over 95% of the time.

 2nd Paragraph or Sentence of an effective complaint letter:

Explain why you are writing a second letter – Maybe the form you filled out was not long enough and you had other facts to state or other information to consider and could not fit it on the form.

3rd Paragraph or Sentenceof an effective complaint letter:

Explain the costs to you associated with the mistake or poor customer service.  Explain the results of what came about as a result of the, “service” you received (or lack of service).

4th Paragraph or Sentence of an effective complaint letter:

Do not explain, but instead, tell the company what you want to see as a result of your experience with them.

5th Paragraph or Sentence of an effective complaint letter:

Tell them off and keep the nasty words all to yourself.  Explain what it costs them in real dollars when customer service takes a back seat.  Companies just think you are stupid when you resort to foul language and screaming tactics, but they understand it when money talks . . . and WALKS away from their business. Explain that in a way they understand – in  terms of Lost revenue and customer loyalty.

Ending or Closing Salutation of an effective complaint letter:

Thank them again – And sign your name.  You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.  Companies are no different.  Act like a professional and you will be treated like one.  Act like a screaming idiot and you will be treated like one.

EFFECTIVE COMPLAINT LETTER EXAMPLE:

 

Thank you for your reply, Name of Company or Representative

Yours is the first and only civil response I have had from Name of Company.  Up until this point, I had to prove absolutely that the shipment was not delivered correctly and as a customer I deeply resent that.  As a business owner, I find your customer service deplorable and severely lacking in customer training, moral credibility and ethical accountability.

This misadventure absorbed the time of myself and two other families, plus two businesses, which results in a trickledown effect of time and money.  Not to mention the fact that it was a special birthday for two children whose gifts were mis-delivered and then lied about.

I am not only disappointed, I am disgusted and I want my money back for this delivery that was never delivered at all by Name of Company, but instead by a concerned – and HONEST – innocent victim of Name of Company whose doorstep just happened to be listed as, “Delivered package on doorstep.”

I have been in business long enough to know that this lack of training and credibility will cost you – literally – thousands in gross errors and business dollars.  I hope that these issues are looked at more closely as a result of this delivery catastrophe and that some training and accountability issues are addressed as well.  You have lost a customer permanently as a result of this.  One dissatisfied customer will tell 20 people about their experience, who will tell 20 more . . . .  One satisfied customer will tell 5 people and you will receive 5 referrals.  That is how business works.

Thank you,

Mischelle Watkins

___________

Update – UPS phoned us this morning and apologized.  They are going to investigate our issue and are using it as a training opportunity for staff.  The person I spoke with was courteous, helpful, apologetic and empathetic.  In truth, that was everything I hoped for.  In this instance they went above and beyond the highest level of customer service to acknowledge and rectify our experience.  After that telephone conversation I must remove myself from the, “One dissatisfied customer will tell 20 people about their experience, who will tell 20 more . . . .  ”

And place myself back in the category of – “One satisfied customer will tell 5 people and you will receive 5 referrals.”

If you are curious how I got this companies attention – This was my initial contact email to their head office: You bet I was MAD!

“My next post for our websites is going to have this title: “UPS RIPS OFF COMPANIES AND CUSTOMERS” I will tweet it to all of our Twitter followers.”

I don’t care if I get what I asked for.  I did what I said I was going to do and that, my friends, is just plain, Good Customer Service, in the form of an effective complaint letter!

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