Posts Tagged ‘accountant’

Fastest growing retailers

Posted on: August 11th, 2014 by

Whole Foods MarketFollowing the recession, retailers are growing once again and, increasingly, moving online. In the first quarter of 2014, retail sales were 2.4% higher than the same time the year before, largely helped by a 15% jump in e-commerce sales. Online retail is increasingly accounting for more and more of America’s shopping.

Yet not all retailers have adapted to a market where many Americans have less disposable income, and are increasingly choosing to shop online. Other companies, in turn, have become enormously successful by embracing these changes. Based on figures from the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) STORES magazine, compiled by Kantar Retail, 24/7 Wall St. identified America’s Fastest-Growing Retailers.

In 2013,’s U.S. sales rose by 27%, the most of any retailer. For some retailers, such as Tractor Supply Co., part of its continued growth comes from the fact that they sell products simply cannot, such as farm equipment and livestock.

Many other retailers have also moved online, embracing a more-targeted approach in order to set themselves apart from the competition. Bryan Gildenberg, chief knowledge officer at Kantar Retail, told 24/7 Wall St. that this kind of personalized approach, “makes buying much more enjoyable and finding what you want much quicker.”

Some retailers have benefited from the financial struggles facing many Americans. This includes Family Dollar, which targets low income shoppers and had 11% growth in sales in 2013. Others, such as Sherwin Williams, have benefited from more positive developments in the economy. An improving housing market helped the company’s sales rise by 18% last year.

And while many growing retailers are deeply impacted by changes in the economy, others are benefiting from evolving customer tastes. Both Whole Foods and Apple are among the fastest-growing retailers in America, and both have very strong brands aligned with changing consumer spending. Whole Foods’ commitment to organic food and Apple’s exceptional mobile product quality both resonate strongly with customers, who are often willing to pay more for these items.

While many of the fastest-growing retailers have different customers and products, they also have a great deal in common. Gildenberg noted that many retailers aimed “most of [their] energy at the middle of the market.” However, he added that, recently, growth has generally been stronger among companies that target a specific segment of the population.

For example, he noted that Whole Foods and Family Dollar are much more similar than they might look at first glance. “They both target segments of the population that general mass retail, for whatever reason, doesn’t serve as well.”

The addition of new stores can also play an important role in driving sales growth. Excluding Amazon, which is exclusively online, all but one of the fastest-growing retailers increased their U.S. store count in 2013. The one retailer that did not do so, AT&T, has heavily invested in new store designs and has opened or renovated a number of locations. Gildenberg noted that store growth is currently quite strong among more specialized retailers with unique store concepts.

To identify America’s 10 fastest-growing retailers, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed STORES’ Top 100 Retailers report. The report is based on Kantar Retail’s estimates for companies’ retail-only sales, and includes the 100 largest companies by this measure, as well as their estimated number of stores. The companies on our list had the largest percentage gains in U.S. retail sales between 2012 and 2013. Sales figures listed do not include third-party sales. We also excluded Albertson’s and Ascena Retail Group from our list. These companies had retail revenue gains that were largely driven by transformative mergers and acquisitions.

IRS Claims Whistleblowers are on the Rise

Posted on: May 4th, 2010 by

CPA - Rockville, MDUS tax authorities have said they are investigating about 4,500 potential tax cheats due to tips from the public.  The Internal Revenue Service’s whistleblower office, created under a December 2006 law and took effect in in the beginning of 2008, is getting about 40-50 tips a month on cases involving evasion of $2 million dollars or more.  This is thought to be because of the new guarantee of a minimum reward of 15 percent and going as high as 30  percent in these large cases. Previously, the IRS set reward amounts ranging from 1 percent to 15 percent of money recovered.

The government, however, has yet to pay a whistleblower under the new law, as it takes about 5 to 7 years for a claim to make its way through the system.  And that is only best case scenario.  And, although the law has been widely supported, it has been said that informants have not been treated all that well.  Informants just have to understand that the IRS does not and will not pay in advance to get the information and then have to see what its actually worth.  If you have more questions about whether you have been witness to tax evasion, contact your local accountant or local IRS office.

Signs of Charitable Fraud

Posted on: April 21st, 2010 by

Charitable Donations - Accountant - Rockville, MDScammers are always looking for opportunities to make a profit.  They exploit tragedy, capitalizing off people’s generosity and loss, hurting not only the donors, but the recipients as well.  Don’t let your well intentioned contribution get swallowed up by fraudsters.  Look for the clues they give away to indicate that their racket is just that, a racket.  On the spot donations tend to be a clear sign that someone is scamming.  Don’t let a heart felt story, followed by an immediate demand for cash have you fooled.  We all should know by now that, for tax purposes, we need to get receipts for all of our charitable donations, so if they cannot provide documentation, you probably should not be donating to them.  If the charity dodges questions, you can most certainly bet that there is some type of fraud going on.  Charities usually not only welcome questions, but encourage your curiosity about its origin and financial distributions.  Also, watch out for email requests from charities.  A lot of those links contain viruses that are meant to secure your personal financial information.  Go directly to the charity’s umbrella website if you wish to donate online.  Lastly, attorney generals suggest not giving cash and making the check out to the charity using its full name and not to the fundraiser, and to mail the check directly to the charity.

When disaster strikes, its prime hunting season for scammers.  Make sure that you protect your finances and good intentions by investigating the charity and questioning the solicitor.  Be aware that text donations don’t occur immediately, and may take as long as 30-90 days before it gets to the appropriate recipient.  Consider sticking with organizations that are well known and clearly state where your money is going to go.  And, finally, make sure you always get a receipt; your accountant will thank you.

Things to Remember About Estate Planning

Posted on: April 19th, 2010 by

Estate Planning - Rockville, MD“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”  – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin makes a very astute point that the problem is death and taxes.  While facing your own mortality is not the most pleasant thing, it is something you must do and estate planning is very important, especially to those you leave behind.  The first thing you must do is prepare a will.  Dying without one is probably one of the messiest mistakes you can make – people argue, mud gets thrown, and all of it could have been easily avoided.  There are many things to consider in your will, including who will care for your children, what to do if you get put on life support, and ultimately, who will get what.  Resolving these issues now will prevent a lot of problems later.

Details, details, details… they are of the utmost importance in estate planning.  There are many obvious details, like funeral planning or finding a guardian for living dependents, but there are easily overlooked ones as well.  Make sure that you have appropriately (and are up to date on) assigned beneficiaries for your retirement accounts.  Also, you need to choose a reliable executor and set up a durable power of attorney to direct assets and investments.

Make sure that you have an adequate amount of life insurance.  If your estate doesn’t amount to enough to replace your income  in terms of supporting your family, then the death benefit from an insurance policy may be the answer.  You need to calculate how much yearly income you will need to replace to determine how much insurance you will need to carry.  Remember to reassess your calculations though as your financial situation changes.  As your situation changes, so should your policy.

Although many of these things can be done on your own, if your estate is complicated, you may want to consider consulting with an accountant, estate planner, or estate lawyer to resolve any possible tax issues now.

The Reality of IRS Asset Seizure

Posted on: April 15th, 2010 by

Tax Liens - Accountant - Rockville, MDIf you haven’t paid your taxes, the first thing you can expect to receive are notices in the mail along with instructions explaining your rights.  Many times the issue can be resolved by filing for an installment plan.  If you owe a large balance, however, and refuse to communicate with the IRS, you will eventually face the possibility of having a lien or levy placed on some or all of your property.  A federal lien is a public notice that you owe back taxes and allows the IRS to seize any proceeds from the sale of any real estate.  This prevents you from selling any property with a clean title until the IRS has been paid in full.  Furthermore, the lien follows the property, not the individual, so if someone has the misfortune of buying that property, they will inherit the lien as well and the government now has 2 people to go after.

You can appeal a tax lien by filing a “Collection Appeal Request” and the IRS will determine your case within 5 business days.  You should also contact the IRS right away to try and convince them that a lien will affect your credit and prevent you from getting loans to pay off the debt.  If  you have the unfortunate circumstances of liens placed on several properties, you should do your best to convince the IRS that they should lift the lien on one property so you can sell it and pay off the debt.

If the IRS is unable to recover your unpaid taxes via a lien, they will issue a levy against your assets.  Tax levy notices are generally issued to the employers and financial institutions of the delinquent taxpayer.  Although the IRS has the authority to seize the majority of your assets , they cannot take everything.   They can, however, take your automobile unless you are successful in convincing them that you need your car to get to work so you can continue paying taxes.  They are also able to seize your residence and some retirement accounts, but they usually will only do this as a last resort.  You may also have part of your wages garnished from your paycheck.  You can try to head all of this off by having a specialized accountant or tax attorney (or you can go head to head with the IRS yourself) attempt to make an offer in compromise.

Possible Solutions for an Unexpected Tax Bill

Posted on: April 14th, 2010 by

IRS Debt - Accountant - Rockville, MDFor many people, April is tax refund time; but for others, it brings about very unpleasant thoughts.  What would you do if your accountant called you to tell you the results of your processed return and it turns out you owe thousands of dollars you don’t have?  Or if you did your own return, how many times can you re-run the numbers?  There are possible options you can use to help pay your tax bill.  One option available is paying with one or more of your credit cards.  This may not be the best option, however, given how high the interest rates are on credit cards.  Also, when you pay your taxes with your credit card, you will incur a 2.25-3.93% convenience depending on the third-party company you use.

Another option is to obtain a bank loan.  Banks and credit unions offer loans to help consolidate debt secured by your property, but this option may or may not be much better than putting the money on your credit card.  A debt consolidation loan may charge between 6-21% APR depending on your credit rating.  If you currently have good credit and this tax debacle is a one time thing though, your credit score might be better off if you take out the loan versus racking up a credit card balance with a high interest rate.

Unexpectedly owing money to the IRS, in my humble opinion, definitely counts as an emergency situation.  You may want to consider using your savings, your emergency fund to pay off the debt.  If you can afford to pay it off from savings, it is best to do so and not incur any further penalties or interest.  Any good accountant would tell you the same thing.

There is also the option of selling off investments.  But the problem with selling off investments in an emergency situation is that you may have to take a loss.  But, if you speak to your accountant about this, there are two positive things that may come of it.  The first being that your tax bill is paid off and you are not accruing interest and penalties furthering your debt.  The second being that if you have to sell at a loss up to $3000, you can use this to offset any gains from selling appreciated investments in the same year.  This will minimize next year’s tax bill.  Any losses over $3000 can be carried over to the following year.

You can also contact the IRS about setting up an installment agreement.  You will still face penalties and interest while you are paying off the debt, and you’ll need to make the payments in full and on time every month.  There is also a fee to setting up the plan, as well as a fee to reinstate the plan if you fail to meet your obligations.  One reason you may not want to go this route though is that the government can still file a a Notice of Federal Tax Lien on your property until your debt is paid off, making moving or using your equity near impossible.

The last option is taking out a home equity line of credit if you own a home.  Borrowing against your equity is an attractive option because interest rates tend to be low and the interest may be tax deductible.  The problem is, if you fail to make payments on the loan, you risk losing your house.  The extra interest you may pay by putting it on your credit card may be worth not putting your home at risk.

Don’t feel alone if you fall into this category of owing money to the IRS.  Many people find themselves in this position every year, and every year accountants help their clients try to work things out.  Weigh out all of your options, sit down with a professional, and determine the most suitable option for your position.  But don’t stick your head in the sand like an ostrich and think the problem will just go away; the IRS will eventually come knocking.

Refund Anticipation Loans, Ripoff?

Posted on: April 14th, 2010 by

Tax Preparer - RALS - Rockville, MDRefund Anticipation Loans (RALs) or instant refunds are short term loans offered on the basis of your tax refund.  This is when a tax preparer offers you a payout somewhat smaller than your actual refund, but makes it available immediately so you don’t have to wait for the IRS to mail you a check or deposit the funds into your account.  The preparer/bank will then take the entirety of your refund.  To get the loan, you’ll be asked to pay an origination fee in addition to your electronic filing fee.  If you choose to accept the loan, you will receive a check immediately minus the filing fee, origination fee and other fees associated with preparing both your tax return and RAL.  While the fees may seem small in comparison to the value of the refund, with the today’s electronic filing and direct depositing, the shelf life of the loan is incredibly small.  If you can hold off and wait the 7-10 days the IRS estimates for direct deposit refunds, you would be getting the entire refund and not wasting all those fees.  The preparer/bank, in essence, is getting an almost 100% return on the loan.  A reliable and reputable tax preparer generally will not even consider offering these types of loans unless you are in dire straits.  It is irresponsible financial advice to the client.  So beware; If a preparer offers you one of these out of the blue, I suggest running in the other direction and seeking out a new accountant.

How to File an Extension

Posted on: April 14th, 2010 by

CPA - Tax Deadline - Rockville, MDThe tax clock is ticking.  It only has days and hours left on it.  You can’t turn it back, but there is a way to hit the snooze for 6 more months.  Just ask the IRS for more time to file your return.  You’ll be in the good company of more than 10 million people.  The IRS has made this much easier for taxpayers in recent years.  All you have to do or ask your tax preparer/CPA to do is file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File, either electronically or by US Mail.   Remember, though, that an extension to file is not an extension to pay.  If you are going to owe taxes when you finally get your return done, you need to pay the money, or an estimated amount close to it, when you ask for the filing extension.  This is very important because if the IRS finds that your estimate is unreasonable, it could invalidate your extension request, subjecting you to non-filing penalties.  Also, you will owe interest on any underpayment starting from April 15; and if you underpay by more than 10%, you will be subject to an additional penalty.

If you find that your expected tax bill is more than you will be able to afford, you can go ahead and make payment arrangements.  When you file your extension, also file Form 9465, seeking an installment payment arrangement.  You’ll automatically get up to 3 years to pay the tax balance in monthly installments if the bill is $10,000 or less and you are current with previous years’ taxes.  If you need help making these arrangements, you can contact a local accountant to assist you.

A Few More Ways to Save on Taxes

Posted on: April 13th, 2010 by

CPA - Taxes Due - Rockville, MDWith April 15th fast approaching, well, a mere 2 days away, I’m sure you are probably scrambling to finish up your taxes or running to your CPA in a panic with last minute documents.  Relax.  You can still file an extension if you are not prepared or are not fully aware of all the deductions you may be able to take.  For example, if you bought a new car, truck, motorcycle, or even a motor-home after February 16, 2009, you can deduct the sales tax you paid on up to $49,500 of the vehicle’s price.  You don’t need to itemize to take this special one year write-off either.  Also, if you traded in your junker to “Cash for Clunkers” to get that car, lucky you, that is another deduction.  I would advise, however, that you should speak to a tax expert if you are not willing to take the time to run the numbers to determine whether you should use this new provision or continue to itemize.

Most taxpayers don’t have enough out-of pocket medical expenses to meet the steep threshold for deducting them; but if you were out of work last year and had to pay for COBRA or other health insurance, there is a good chance that those costs may have put  you over the limit.  This may be especially important if your income fell too.  Make sure look at all of your medical bills when itemizing your deductions to see if you qualify.

There were 59 federally declared disasters in 2009.  If your house was damaged in one of them, and your homeowners insurance didn’t pick up the full bill, you have money coming back to you.  For 2009, there is no limit on what you can claim and you can retroactively apply any losses you can’t use to 2008 taxes.  Just have your accountant file amended returns to get your money quickly.

Also, if you made any energy efficient home improvements, the government thanks you by giving your more green for going green.  You can take a credit of 30% of what you spent on energy saving skylights, replacement windows,  water heaters, etc.  (Go to to see what qualifies)  But instead of the $500 cap that was previously on this benefit, you can take a combined $1500 for 2009 & 2010.  If you went green in a really big way, installing solar, wind, or geothermal energy in your house, you can cash in on the 30% credit with no upper limit.  If this credit exceeds your total tax bill, not to worry, you can apply the unused portion to next year’s return.

If you have any questions about any of these changes in deductions or need any help filing for an extension, contact a local CPA in Rockville to help you.  Just make sure you do so before the clock expires on April 15.

Handling Beneficiary Designations

Posted on: April 8th, 2010 by

Financial Planning - Rockville, MDThe decision about how to designate beneficiaries for retirement plans, insurance policies, and other assets may seem like a very simple decision.  Chances are, you want your closest loved ones to to inherit any money you have accumulated during your lifetime, so just putting their names down on the appropriate forms should be the end of it, right?  Wrong.

You can name just about anyone or anything as your beneficiary, including individuals, charities, and trusts.  And when you name a beneficiary, those assets pass directly to whomever you designate without having to go through probate.  In addition to this though, remember that your beneficiary designations will override any bequests you have in your will.  So always make sure that your beneficiaries match up to your will.

The first common mistake people make is not re-assigning beneficiaries after they tie the knot.  There are major life events at which you should always review your beneficiaries: marriage, death, birth of children, and divorce.  Estate planners and financial advisers alike will advise that you make it a point to review assignments upon annual review of your finances to make sure that everything lines up and is copacetic.  By the same token, you’ll also want to review your beneficiary designations if you or your employer has recently changed retirement plan or insurance providers, as your beneficiaries may not carry over to the new policy automatically.

Before you make your beneficiary designations, you need to understand the tax ramifications the inheritance may cause for them.  If you are leaving your retirement plans to someone other than your spouse, you should sit down with them and an accountant and discuss how and when the money would get distributed (This will weigh heavily on the determination of the tax burden).   If you leave it to your spouse, however, they can more than likely roll it over into their own IRA and not have to pay taxes on it until the funds are distributed.  You also need to consider that leaving money to someone is considered income and you may be effecting their eligibility for government assistance if you leave them funds.  You must also keep in mind estate taxes: they will have to be paid by someone.

You also need to be very specific as to how you want your estate distributed.  You may think your beneficiary will just know what to do with your money, but they don’t.  You are, in most cases, allowed to name multiple beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries and specify what percentage of your estate they will receive: take advantage of this.  Don’t just assume that estate planning is for the uber rich;  everyone needs a plan.