Quick Tips for Getting Organized


We all need those quick, easy to remember, go-to tips to organize. We all have those areas in our life that seem to just need a little ‘tweeking’.

I have put together some of my favorites that is followed by small business, employees, and individuals in their home management.

5 Quick Tips for Organizing

  • Set-up Auto Bill pay
    • Create a bill paying system for those frequent, consistent bills that you pay regularly. Most banks offer this service for free on their website.
      • It sometimes takes a few steps to ‘sign-up’ so give yourself a little extra time when working on it for the first time.
    • If you can work it out, to have one checking account that handles all your auto-bills, and one checking account for spending, that is the ideal.
      • You will then need to determine how much you need to have in deposits (use auto deposit if you are eligible) to cover the auto-bills paid each month. From there, everything will be on Auto Pilot.
    • This frees up your time that use to be absorbed by paying bills each month. But the biggest benefit is the stress it relieves, as you don’t have to worry or tend to it as frequently. That can be PRICELESS!

  • Create a Monthly Receipt Folder.
    •  Are you a saver of all of those little pieces of paper that you obtain for the ‘just-in-case-I-need-it’ scenario? 
      • Create a temporary location, folder or drawer, that you put all receipts for the month.   
      • Create one for each form of payment if you wish.
        At the end of the month, look through the receipts. Keep only those that still are benficial for long term, such as warranty or tax deductions. If you really feel the need to keep the receipts you can buy a receipt scanner at your local office supply store. Check the IRS website for requirements. 

  • Schedule Filing Time
    • Create a location for all paperwork that needs filed.
      • Once or twice a month, turn on your favorite music, sort your papers by category and file away.
      • File it right the first time. Take time to
        make new folders or sub-folders as you go. Then you won’t have to touch
        any paper again.
      • Consider purchasing a labeling machine.
        They are fairly inexpensive and allow for quick to find and easy to read
        labels. Find a labeling system that works for you.You will be done in
        no time.


    • TO DO File
      • Create a folder for Pending and To Do paperwork
        • Schedule time to review these folders.
        • If you are waiting on someone or something to finish the paperwork needs, it goes in Pending. Review this folder a few times a month and be sure to document all conversations regarding the status.
        • If the paperwork needs your attention to be completed, it goes in the To Do folder. I recommend sorting those papers by the urgency or due date of when the paperwork needs to be completed. You should look thru those papers weekly to be sure not to miss important dates.


    • Delegate
      • Determine what can be handle by others.
        • Employees, co-workers, partners, etc., each have specific skillsets and passion for many things.
          • Ask questions, find out what is enjoyed by others that you can take off your to-do list and put on theirs. Most people feel more valued when doing tasks they are comfortable with.
          • When re-assigning, you need to be confident in the delegation, and then let it go. You need to allow the new Owner to have full responsibility of the task so they can also feel full accountability to what is asked of them.

    When starting out with any of these steps, put some thought into the process before jumping in with both feet. These steps to be very beneficial, not only for time efficiency, but also cost effective. Obviously, you may need to ‘tweek’ the steps to fit your design and needs.
    Whatever tip you decide to use, commit to it. Give yourself time to adjust, but don’t give up.

    Take one tip each week or two, and you will have an organized system in just a few months.

    If you have questions, contact a Business Process Organizer who can customize a system that works for you. Time can never be regained. Use it wisely.

    If you need assistance with Organizing or Bookkeeping, please contact me.

    Tammy Stifel

    Five Ways To Show Your Business Isn’t A Hobby


    You’ve always been attracted to beautiful jewelry.  Most women are.  But you are so interested in it that you have taken several classes and have begun designing and creating some rather stunning pieces…even if you say so yourself.  And so you think…wow, maybe I should quit my job and make this hobby of jewelry making into my business.  That would be so much fun!  I could run my hobby-turned-business right from my home and best of all…make money too.

    Yes it is true, home-based businesses can be lucrative and business owners may deduct operating expenses incurred.  But beware.  The IRS is not one to be “bedazzled” by businesses that show consecutive years of losses as they continue to deduct their expenses.  As a business owner, it is up to you to show you are running a for-profit business in order to deduct losses.  Here is a list of five things you need to know if you wish to turn your hobby into a business.

    1. Operate in a Business-like Manner – At a minimum, you should have business cards, invoices and a business banking account.  Keep your business accounts completely separate from your personal ones.  For a home-based business, a separate area of your home should be dedicated to your company.
    2. Register your Business – Make sure you register your company and it complies with all local business rules.  Many cities and states require every local business to obtain a tax registration certificate.  Obtaining the permits and paying taxes give the IRS additional reasons to classify the hobby business as a legitimate business activity.
    3. Attempt to Show a Profit in at least 3 of the 5 Years – One popular test for determining a profit motive is called the “3 out of 5” test.  Attempt to show that your business made a profit for at least three out of every five years of operation.
    4. Continue with Education – Educate yourself in your industry or field.  This will show you have the relevant knowledge to successfully run a business and market the product or service related to your interest.
    5. Promote and Market – Most businesses advertise their products or services in some manner.  Make sure you maintain copies of advertising collateral so you can show it to the IRS.
    Obviously the guidelines are in place so people do not abuse the tax system.  If your business is audited and the IRS determines you are just spending money on a hobby or using your deductions to minimize your tax liability, you can be subject to penalties and fines.  The deciding factor in determining if your hobby is a bona-fide business is to show the IRS that you are trying (even if you are not necessarily succeeding) to make a profit with your venture.  Your tax professional can help you make sure all measures are in place to help your business succeed and avoid those IRS red flags.

    Kathi Koenig, CPA
    Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

    What do employees really want?


    A national study by Robert Half International found that “limited praise & recognition” was ranked as the primary reason why employees leave their jobs today – ahead of compensation issues.

    In a research study of 1500 employees by Wichita State University, recognition from managers was reported to be the most powerful motivator of the 65 potential incentives evaluated!

    Some employers may get that they need to reward & recognize employees, but may attempt to do it with cash.  Cash has some drawbacks, even a demotivating effect.  Compensation is a “right”, recognition is an “award.”  when cash is always the reward, employees tend to treat the rewards as part of their normal compensation.  When this happens, they become dependent on the reward income, and the pride that comes with recognition for certain accomplishments is lost.

    If money becomes the only motivator, then you will be in a rut of that being the only way that performance and productivity are improved.

    Organizations that do employee recognition well tend to have a strategy that is integrated, multi-faceted & multi-tiered.  that means have a program to reward employees with gifts they can use, recognize them with awards they can display.  Plus do it publicly – for the entire company to see.  You can even put rewards and recognition in local publications.  What a motivator that is for the other employees!

    Think of the wide variety of achievements employees make in your company; you will find all kinds of reasons to recognize & reward:
    – Innovations to Products or Processes        – Improvements            – Community Involvement    
    – Performance Excellence                          – Length of Service        – Safety
    – Sales Goals                                            – New Clients /Referrals  – Peer to Peer Recognition
    – Client Feedback Excellence                      – Program Results          – Cost Savings Suggestions

    Primary Source will help you choose gifts & recognition that continue to motivate. 

    You can browse through ideas at www.PrimarySourcePromotion.com or come to our showroom to see actual examples.  either way, here are some of the results that your Recognition &Awards Program can bring:
           Reinforce company goals
           Strengthen an employee’s image of your company
           Foster employee loyalty & instil a climate of trust
           Create a friendly but competitive environment
           Encourage personal achievement 
           Reduce turnover by up to 50%
           Generate 56% higher customer loyalty
           Create a 38% increase in productivity
           Cause a 27% increase in profitability

    Those last four stats should get YOU motivated to start a recognition program!
    Mary Anne Kennedy
    Primary Source, Inc.
    Showroom / Office: 
    10441 Hickman Road,
    Des Moines, IA  50322   
    515-727-8774          www.PrimarySourcePromotion.com


    Don’t be a Copycat!


    In December, one of my clients gave away a 46″ flat-screen HDTV. A couple weeks later, a competitor gave away a TV, and today another local competitor started running a contest to give away a free TV too! My first response is to get angry that our competitors have “copied” us, and that they are trying to ride on our coat tails…but then, after my “coulda had a V8 moment,” I realize that we should be 100% flattered! Our competitors don’t want to be overshadowed by us, so they tried to one-up us. HA!

    This is a classic mistake in advertising! Avoid a knee-jerk reaction to competitor marketing strategies! This “me too” attitude only makes you look like a follower in your industry instead of a leader. Your customers don’t care who was the last to give away a TV. All they care about is that you provide the products they need at the price they can afford and give them the customer service they deserve!

    Here are 3 tips to avoid the knee-jerk “me too” response to competitve advertising.

    • Be unique. You couldn’t copy off someone’s paper in highschool, and you can’t in business either!
    • Have a plan and stick with it. By the time your competitors have developed an identical promotion to yours, you have moved on to a bigger and better promotion!
    • Anticipate your competitors’ next move. Always have your competitors on your radar so you know what they are doing at all times.

    Just remember, if you want to win in business, don’t create a copycat company. Be the leader and stand up for what you believe in! You will find that customers will flock to your door because you have something everybody wants…guts!

    Want to be an industry leader? Let me help you! TRIO Marketing Branding Advertising can help determine your uniqueness, develop a plan and squash your competitors! Contact me at triomarketing123@gmail.com

    What’s on your Bookkeeper’s desk?


    As a business owner, you understands that the financial reports are only as good as the numbers that are entered. You want to feel confident that your purchases, income and entries are properly recorded and categorized.

    So you put a lot of work into finding the best person to handle the 
    books for your small business. For the sake of this blog we will call your employee Susan. She has a great personality, can multi-task and never is late with her deadlines, oh and she knows bookkeeping.

    And now your business is growing and as we know, perfect right! With growth comes new tasks to be divided up. Susan is so reliable and is always willing to help. She is the perfect person to take on these additional jobs. Her job is pretty basic and it is the same thing over and over again; she has plenty of time for more tasks. You present her with a few more tasks to help the sales department and she is now in charge of keeping all the supplies ordered and filled.
    Perfect solution, right?
    Wrong! Your well experienced, smooth process handling bookkeeper is now bogged down with so many other things, she finds more and more errors in her bookkeeping. She has too many interruptions.

    One of the most important things you should remember is that
    bookkeeping, while it seems repetative motion, really does take concentration and a very ROUTINE check and balance system.
    These are some tips I give my clients to help them determine if Susan is the right person for these unclaimed tasks.

    • What department handles the task right before and right after this job?

      • That is most likely the area this job needs to be assigned.

    • How can I best utilize the extra time that my bookkeeper (or any employee) experiences in their work load?

      • You need to have a conversation with Susan. Does she really have time to spare? Possibly there are other areas of the finances she could handle during this time for a more efficient and accurate set of records.

    • Do I expect more from Susan because I don’t think that the bookkeeping job is too difficult and it doesn’t take that much time to do?    

      • If that is your perspective, you need to take a better approach with this position. There is a lot of experience, education and self-discipline that goes into being a good bookkeeper.

    Too many times as business owners, the full details and understanding of the bookkeeper or other positions is not known. The right thing to do is to give each employee the respect and time they need to do their job that you hired them for. You will get better results, have high office morale, and overall be more respected by your employees. Be the mentor you want to see in your business.

    If you struggle with organizing and strategizing within your company, find a business process organizer. Developing a system for your business will assure that  your bookkeeper, Susan has time to do what she needs to do to produce the financial records that are an accurate picture of your business success.

    Tammy Stifel
    Bookkeeping and Process Organizing

    Health Insurance for Uninsured Children of Working Families


    You work hard to make ends meet…. That’s why Iowa offers hawk-i health care for uninsured children of working families. It’s important to know how and if you qualify. 

    Even if YOU don’t qualify, you might know someone who could.

    Qualifications start with these determining factors:

    • Be under 19 years old                                                                
    • Have no other health insurance
    • Be a citizen of the United States or a qualified alien
    • Be in a family that meets the hawk-i income limits                  
    • Cannot be the dependent of a State of Iowa employee
    • Children who qualify for Medicaid cannot get hawk-i

    The other qualification is income. There are two levels of premium: FREE or a maximum of $40 per family per month.  You can find the income limits for both levels, based on family size here

    Once qualification is confirmed, the children have superior coverage through Wellmark, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Iowa or United Healthcare.  Also available is dental coverage through Delta Dental of Iowa.  All of these carriers are the best at providing health and dental coverage for consumers.

    Many of the details I have listed here can be found at

    As a licensed, independent agent that believes in the power of knowledge, I have worked with the staff at hawk-i and utilized hawk-i for my own children at one time. 

    Please contact me at  515-225-9994 or via email at
    jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com with any questions regarding this topic, other family health coverage options, or Social Security and Medicare. 

    Janis Van Ahn, owner
    Health Insurance Advisor, LLC
    10546 Justin Drive
    Urbandale, IA  50322

    The Known and The Unknowns of 2012. Are You Ready for Both?


    The new year is here, as promised it would be. Another promise is that the IRS wants to see your tax return. So are you organized and ready to hand over the details to your CPA or tax preparer? Much of our anxiety has to do more with the prep work than it actually does with the filing of the tax forms. 

                       The Knowns~We are required to file tax returns

    Implement the few quick rules and you will be ready by February 1st. 

    • Separate out any documents for home purchases, stocks, mutual funds, etc. These documents will need to be kept as long as you own the property or the investment is still active.


    • Make a 2011 folder for organizing your documents. Put everything in here that is not included in the previous instruction. This folder is for the 2011 tax year only.


    • You will be receiving papers in the mail soon. Separate income documents such as W2’s & 1099s into one stack for each type of document. Keep them all in one folder labeled 2011 Income Documents.  


    • Put all expense statements and receipts into different stacks and secure them together according to category of deduction. EX: Childcare; Medical; Meals (if they pertain to your specific return); Charitable, Car license, etc. Put small receipts in an envelope.

      •  Be sure to circle the amount, date, and make notes on the receipt for future clarity of the purpose of the expense. Put all in one folder labeled 2011 Expense Documents. NOTE: Receipts can fade. Consider using a scanner to keep the copy electronically, but save your original in case the IRS request it.


    • Keep notes on things you have questions about along with supporting documents to discuss with your preparer.

    Taking a little bit of time to be prepared for meeting with your CPA can save you from making several trips or missing items that could effect your return accuracy. Being organized could also help get your return filed sooner rather than later. Some preparers charge by time while others charge by forms so being organized can also help minimize your fee.  Some CPAs send out yearly tax organizers. This can be helpful to ‘jar your memory’ on items you need to include or help you compare your deductions from year to year.

                     The Unknowns~What else do we need to do?

    How long do I need to keep my documents?” Short answer, depends on what the documents are. For a quick reference, go to Kiplinger
    . Print out the guidelines and keep it with your folders for quick reference.

    What new requirements will be implemented by next tax year? Start preparing for 2012. While you are making folders for 2011, make another set for 2012. This will give you a jump start on being prepared for the documents you may already be accumulating since January 1, 2012.
    NOTE: File monthly. Don’t waste time doing it more often, don’t do it any less to avoid accumulation which leads to misplaced documents. This is also a good time to go through previously kept paperwork and destroy anything that is no longer needed per the IRS guidelines.

    For hands-on assistance or further guidance in keeping your business organized now and throughout the year, contact me. Along with your help, I create customized processes for you. This saves your company money through cost effective systems and maximizing time management.

    Be organized now to save yourself from frustrations and wasted time later. 

    Happy Organizing!

    Tammy Stifel


    A New Year’s Resolution – Gather Tax Information Early


    With the beginning of a new year – many of us will find ourselves making New Year’s resolutions.  You know…resolutions like losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising more, and calling a long lost friend.  Well, why not add one more important item to your list – getting organized (Organizerforu).  And what better way to start than by gathering needed information to file your 2011 tax return.

    I know what you are thinking.  “What is the hurry? My taxes are not due until April 15th!”  (Well, actually your federal income taxes are not due until April 17, 2012 – as April 15 falls on a Sunday and April 16 is Emancipation Day – a holiday in Washington D.C.)  So yes – while it might seem like there is plenty of time, the earlier you begin collecting your information, the more organized you will be and the more time and money you will save.

    Following is a list of basic information you will need to file your income tax:

    1. Social Security number(s) – needed for you, your spouse (if filing jointly) and any dependents.
    2. W-2 forms – statement of wages earned for the year.
    3. 1099 forms – documents you receive for dividends interest, retirement plan distributions, gambling winnings, and other forms of income.  If you are self-employed, you may receive 1099s from companies reporting any money earned as an independent contractor.
    4. Business income and expenses – if you are a sole proprietor, you will need all your business income and expenses accumulated and organized into appropriate categories so a Schedule C can be prepared.
    5. Receipts – if you plan on itemizing your deductions from your taxable income, you will need to have your receipts.  It is helpful to organize them into categories like: medical, mortgage interest, employee-related expenses, investment expenses, etc.
    6. Previous tax year’s tax return.
    7. Bank account numbers – if you are filing electronically and wish to receive your refund amount by direct deposit, you will need your bank’s routing number and your bank account number.

    Additional information that you may need depending on your situation includes:

    • Partnership, S Corporation and trust income as reported on K-1s
    • Pensions and annuities, social security income
    • Moving expenses
    • Alimony received, paid
    • Education expenses, paid
    • Child care or adoption expenses
    • Sale of your home documentation
    • Gambling and lottery winnings and losses
    • Student loan interest paid
    • Jury duty pay
      (list not inclusive)

    Preparing and filing taxes can seem like a daunting task, especially with new tax laws and regulations changing frequently.  However, whatever your tax needs, our MHC&S professionals will assist you in minimizing the impact of taxes on both the personal and business level.  Give us a call today at 515-288-3279.

    Kathi Koenig, CPA
    Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.

    Top 5 Low-Cost Marketing Elements to Include in your 2012 Marketing Plan.


    This time of year, business owners take a deep breath, analyze numbers from last year and then jump into the new year running…many times, forgetting to plan for the 12 months ahead. Don’t you think your time would be well spent if you took 2-4 hours and actually planned on where you want your business to be at this time next year?  Let’s take just a few minutes to jump start the planning process! I am going to give you 5 must-have ideas to include in your marketing plan for 2012. Oh, yeah…they’re pretty much FREE.

    1.)   Social Media: Social media is a must for all businesses nowadays. You don’t have to go all crazy by getting an account on every social media and networking site out there. There are a few tried-and-true sites that you need to have a presence on so that you are able to be searched and found by all your current and future customers. You have all heard of Facebook, Linked In and Twitter. Start there. Post daily. Don’t sell to your customers on these sites because they will “unlike” you faster than you can blink. Talk to them and engage in a conversation with them. I know the social media space seems scary, but this is the new “phone book” advertising; the “necessary evil” of marketing. If your not here, your not anywhere (according to some theories!) And, don’t forget to link to your social media sites from your website and other printed marketing materials.

    2.)   E-mail Marketing: What a great way to connect with your customer’s right in their inbox! If you don’t have your customers email addresses, start asking for them right away. Give a special offer in exchange for their information. If you already have this valuable data from your customers, you are off to a great start. Now remember, this list should consist of current, past and future customers, all of whom are at the different stages of the buying cycle. So, place tidbits in your E-Blast that will appeal to everyone. Be educational about your industry, give solutions about current issues (share samples!) and tell them why your business is the best at what you do!

    3.)   Referral Program: By now you should already have a base of “raving fan” customers. Are they telling people about your business? Are you asking them to? These valuable people should be your #1 sales force, bringing prospects into your business everyday. If you haven’t already read the book Raving Fans by Sheldon Bowles, I suggest you buy it. Read it (it’s a fast read). Give it as a gift to all your employees. This is how I run my business everyday, and I have not had to spend $1 in marketing! Sometimes, even if you have raving fans, you still need to incentivize them to bring you business. A simple t-shirt, calendar or pen may do the trick, however, some businesses may need to offer a larger incentive. Test and measure to see what works for you!

    4.)  Networking Groups: Some people say that chamber memberships and networking groups are a waste of time. Hooey. Take 3 hours a week (including travel time), go to an event and get to know people in your area. Become friends with your competitors and form business alliances with complimentary companies. A key to GETTING great referrals from this marketing avenue is by GIVING great referrals. The one key element to making this tactic work is by paying it forward. Then, most importantly…FOLLOW-UP on the leads that have been given to you, and treat them well. This is your chance to create a NEW raving fan! And, remember to thank the person who gave you the referral. Whether it is a hand written thank you card, or a referral gift, a thank you is very important. One thing you may consider is starting a “referral tree.” At the top, list the person who gave you a referral, and then, like a family tree or organizational chart, plot their referral under them. If the person they referred sends you another referral, put the referral in the appropriate place, but remember to thank EVERYONE above them on the tree. If it wasn’t for the person at the top of the tree, you would never have gotten to the additional referrals.

    5.)   Public Relations: PR often goes overlooked in marketing plans. This tactic is a tricky one because you have to EARN your media mentions. You can’t just draft a press release about your business, send it around town and get the front page article in the paper. Your press release has to be newsworthy…and a non-sales pitch. We all have relevant, non-sales driven news happening in our businesses everyday. It might not be breaking news, but it is something to be proud of! Perhaps you hired a new employee, won an award, had a sales gain this year, got a new website, donated money to a non-profit or are giving a free seminar. All of these stories have the potential to earn press time.

    By now you have 5 elements to include in your overall marketing plan for 2012. Don’t leave them out! They are (relatively) free and will prove to be beneficial to your bottom line. Need help creating that marketing plan? I can develop one for you based on your goals and objectives for your business. Feel free to contact me at anytime at 515-259-0577 or triomarketing123@gmail.com.

    Good luck, and may you have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2012!

    Renee Schneider
    Trio Agency

    Why should I outsource my HR department?


    Happy New Year! At InFocus Partners we had a great year and are very thankful for our value customers. As a Client Service Administrator, I am very excited to see what 2012 bring to our organization!

    In this month’s blog I would like to highlight some of the key reasons Human Resources are invaluable to organizations.

    1. Outsourcing Administration: It can help you get back to growing your business. As business owners, we need to focus on increasing revenues for expansion. By outsourcing administrative tasks, such as human resources, you can free up time for your goals and plans to make your business successful!

    2. Accountability: At InFocus Partners, it is our goal to always be aware of changes in regulations and procedures.  By utilizing a Human Resources Departments, you can rely on experts to keep your business compliant with situations in the work place. Again, help you get to your business, your ultimate goal.

    3. Business Relationship: Business is built on a strong foundation of trust and common sense. At InFocus Partners, we strive to provide the best customer service with a relationship you can trust and seek guidance. Having a good human resources department can help you through positive and challenging situations you face. It is critical to be able to pick up the phone with a contact you trust.

    In summary, human resources is a critical piece to your business. At InFocus Partners, our motto is to help our customers focus on their business and help them be the best they can be!

    Best Wishes,

    Michelle Swanson
    InFocus Partners

    Wellness or Medical?


    In September 2010, the first five provisions of ‘Obamacare‘ went into effect:  

    1. Adult children can now stay on their parents plan until age 26
    2. No more Lifetime Maximums on Health Insurance Plans
    3. A Carrier can not terminate an Insured for anything other than Fraud or Material Misrepresentation
    4. No Pre-Exisiting for children Under Age 19
    5. All PREVENTIVE care is now covered 100% by the health plan

    It seems #5 is the provision that is tripping up consumers the most, so a definition of ‘preventive’ would be helpful.

    If an insured goes to a provider for an ‘annual physical’ or ‘well woman visit’ with no symptoms of a condition and continues to be void of any condition – this is preventive and will be paid 100% by the carrier

    If an insured goes for a ‘check up’ on medications they are currently taking – this is a doctor office visit with a medical diagnosis attached.  This is subject to the terms of the plan’s office visit charge.

    The biggest complaint about preventive is a Colonoscopy.  
        An insured goes to the outpatient facility, the colonoscopy procedure is completed.  There are two possible outcomes
         1.  If the scope is completed with NO surgical procedure (NO removal of ANY tissue)
    this is preventive and will be paid 100% by the carrier.
    2.  If the scope is completed and ANY surgical procedure (including the removal of benign tissue) is done, this WILL be subject to the design of the plan for outpatient services. Most often that means subject to the deductible.

    The problem consumers are having is knowing the above, ahead of time and the fact that the doctor doesn’t tell them this (really not their job). Therefore when the consumer receives the bill they are a bit shocked because the doctor told them it was a ‘routine’ colonoscopy.

    Here’s how to look at it if you have to pay for it.  Due to the procedure you have found you DON’T have any medical condition.  Therefore it was still valuable to have the procedure completed.  Contact the billing department of the outpatient facility and set up a payment plan.  It is a bit of extra work, but they cannot charge interest and cannot expect you to pay the entire amount in full, immediately.  Be proactive and contact them within 30 days and explain your intent.  Once explained, follow through and everytime you write the check, remember – You are healthy!

    For further discussion on the provisions of ‘Obamacare’, employer benefits, individual healthcare or Medicare – Contact me at
    jvanahn@heartland-insgroup.com or (515) 225.9994

    Best wishes for a healthy 2012!

    Am I Personally Protected if my Business is Incorporated?


                 One of the main advantages to incorporation of your business is that you can protect your personal assets from business creditors.  This protection however, is not absolute. Here are a few additional tips to about what you can do to protect your personal assets:

    1. Sign All Bills and Contracts as the Business Owner.  Too often business owners get in the habit of just signing their name to contracts, bills and other legal documents.  They assume that because the contract is with the business this means they are protected.  This is not necessarily the case.  There have been situations where the Courts have allowed a creditor to sue the owner personally when the owner signed the agreement without making it clear they were signing in their capacity as the business owner.  For this reason I tell all my clients to 1) make sure the contract clearly states it is with your business and not you and 2) get in the habit of adding your corporate title right after your name (i.e. President, Manager, etc.).
    2. Avoid Signing Personal Guarantees.    Often contracts have a provision in the body of the contract or at the end of the contract that is called a “personal guarantee.” If you sign a contract with this provision you have agreed that you will be personally liable for the debt.  For this reason it is very important to read what you are signing BEFORE you sign it.  Many times the other party will agree to delete that provision from the contract if they want to do business with you badly enough.
    3. Keep Your Business Assets and Accounts Separate From Your Personal Accounts.  Courts will only treat a corporation as a separate entity if you yourself treat it like one.  You need to keep your books and bank accounts separate.  If you use your company bank account to buy your groceries and pay your personal bills and your company is sued, there is chance the Court could “pierce the corporate veil” and allow the person suing you to reach your personal assets.  The same is true if you use your corporation to commit a fraud.  The moral of the story is to keep separate books and make sure you use your corporate debit and credit card for true corporate expenses.

    Kimberley Baer, Baer Law Office, 3835 University Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa (515)279-2000.  www.baerlawoffice.com

    Introducing Michelle Swanson with InFocus


    I’m happy to introduce Michelle Swanson as our guest blogger and hopefully future full-time blogger of human resource topics with the business Warriors.  Michelle is originally from Des Moines. After graduating form University of Iowa, she joined Hewitt & Associates in Chicago as a Business Analyst.  Now with InFocus Partners, she provides services in the following areas:  payroll, Employee Benefits and Human Resources Administration.  The goal is to let businesses focus on their business while leaving the back office HR details to her and the InFocus team. 

    Michelle strives to grow professionally, earning the Distinguished Toastmasters Award in 2009 and graduating from the West Des Moines Leadership Academy in 2011. 

    We welcome your questions and feedback to her blog.  WELCOME, Michelle!
    Posted by 
    Mary Anne Kennedy
    Primary Source, Inc.
    and The Business Warriors Promotional Products / Marketing Contributor      

    Tax Strategies to Help Your Business


    As you recall, last month I shared several tips to help you with your personal year-end tax planning, which I hope you found helpful.  This month, I want to discuss smart tax planning strategies for your business.  Following are a few tax tips to consider before the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.

    Retirement plans for your business – Employer contributions to retirement plans are deductible from the employer’s income, employee contributions are not taxed until distributed to the employee (for plans other than Roths) and investments in the program grow tax-free or tax-deferred.  Further, the tax law offers a small incentive of a $500-per-year tax credit for the first three years of a new SEP, SIMPLE or other retirement plan to cover the initial setup expenses.  It’s a win-win for all!

    Depreciation – Certain enhancements to business depreciation provisions are scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2011, although President Obama has proposed an extension through 2012.

    • Section 179 – A $500,000 expensing election limit applies to qualifying property purchased and placed in service during 2011.  As a result, many businesses will receive an immediate tax write-off for the cost of most new and used tangible personal property.  Unless Congress acts to further extend the higher limit, it will drop to about $134,000 in 2012.
    • Bonus depreciation – Property that does not qualify for an immediate tax write-offunder the expensing election may qualify for an increased first-year depreciation deduction under bonus depreciation rules.  Unlike the Section 179 deduction, there are no restrictions on the amount of qualifying property and there is no taxable income limit.  The deduction is 100 percent of the cost for new property purchased and placed in service during 2011.  Unless Congress acts to extend the bonus depreciation (now proposed by the President), it will not be available for 2012.
    Health insurance tax credit – To encourage smaller businesses to offer medical insurance coverage for their employees, the law offers a tax credit to offset all or part of the cost.  If your business qualifies as a small employer, meaning fewer than 25 employees and average annual wages of less than $50,000, you are eligible for a credit of up to 35 percent of non-elective contributions you make on behalf of your employees for medical insurance premiums.

    Credit for hiring new employees – Businesses that hire workers who are members of certain target groups, such as disabled veterans, food stamp recipients and ex-felons, can claim a credit of up to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to each such employee.

    Losses from pass-through entities – If you are an owner of a pass-through business entity (e.g. LLC, S Corporation or Partnership), and the business will incur a loss in 2011, make sure you take advantage of that loss on your personal tax return.

    Paying corporate dividends – Did you know profits of traditional C Corporations are taxed twice: once when earned by the corporation and again when distributed as a dividend to the shareholders?  Many have seen the current 15 percent tax reate on qualified dividends as an opportunity to pay out accumulated earnings at relatively low tax rates.  It is likely that the tax rate on dividends will increase in the future, so you may wish to proactively distribute profits to lock in the current 15 percent rate.

    Research and development tax credit – Many business owners in nearly every industry are unaware that federal and state research and development (R&D) tax credit programs exist that may reward their day-to-day efforts aimed at producing an improved product.  This credit is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2011.

    Because this list is certainly not all-inclusive regarding year-end tax planning tips for your business, I invite you to give me a call today to schedule a meeting to help minimize your tax liability.  The clock is ticking and soon we will be saying goodbye to 2011 and hello to 2012.

    Kathi Koenig, CPA
    Partner – McGowen, Hurst, Clark & Smith, P.C.