AEP and $$ for Medicare for 2012

Annual Enrollment Period is for Medicare Beneficiaries who have a Prescription Drug Plan or a Medicare Advantage plan currently in place.  From October 15 – December 7 beneficiaries may review their current plan, other options from their carrier or other carriers.  If a change is made to another plan or carrier it will be effective January 1, 2012 for the calendar year.

Along with this enrollment period, the Federal Government recently released some 2012 details for Medicare beneficiaries.
                    Part B Premium for ALL eligible will be $99.90 beginning 1/1/2012

                    All those receiving Social Security will enjoy a 3.6% increase          
                                    Look for that to begin 1/1/2012 as well

I am a licensed agent, apppointed with A rated carriers for the lines of Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans in the state of Iowa.  My goal is to ‘educate Medicare beneficiaries to make informed choices’.  If you haven’t met with an agent recently are are confused about Medicare and what is available, let’s find a mutually convenient time to meet.

Janis Van Ahn
Health Insurance Advisor, LLC

7 Tips to Help with Personal Year-end Tax Planning

It’s that time of the year when thoughts quickly turn to turkeys roasting, pumpkin pies baking and families gathering.  And goodness knows there is plenty to do as your list grows long.  But wait, there is one more item that needs to be added to your “To Do” list and that is year end tax planning.  Just a little planning before the end of the year can minimize your tax liability and maximize your benefits.

Here are a few tax tips to help you with your year-end planning.

Personal Strategy:

  1. Tax Credits for Home Improvements: A tax credit for qualifying home improvements may be available for improvements placed in service during 2011, but not in 2012.  The credit applies to energy-efficient improvements such as insulation, exterior windows, and heating and cooling systems.  You will need to complete your purchase by December 31 to qualify for the credit in 2011.

  2. Capital Gains and Losses:

    • Long term capital gains from the sales of assets with a holding period greater than one year are taxed at 15 percent.
    • Short term capital gains are taxed as high as 35 percent.
    • Consider any capital loss carry-forward that may be available to you in 2011.
    • Zero percent tax rate on capital gains for those who meet income requirements.

  3. Credit Card Payments: Paying tax-deductible expenditures – including charitable contributions – with a credit card secures the deduction, even if you do not actually pay the credit card company until the following year.

  4. Appreciated Assets Contributed to Charity: Consider fulfilling your charitable goals by contributing appreciated assets instead of cash.  You can deduct the fair market value of property contributed to charity and you avoid paying taxes on the appreciation.

  5. Retirement Plan: To qualify for a deduction in 2011, your retirement plan must be in place before the end of the year.  Exceptions are IRA and SEP (simplified employee pension) plans, which generally must be funded by April 15, 2012.

  6. Roth IRA Conversions: Roth IRAs have a number of advantages over traditional IRAs, including no tax when the money is withdrawn.

  7. Saver’s Credit: If you or your working children contribute to a retirement plan at work and your income is less than $56,500 for married couples and $28,250 for single filers you may qualify for the saver’s credit.
While this list is certainly not all-inclusive of year-end tax planning strategies available, I invite you to give me a call today to schedule a meeting to review your particular situation.  A little planning can go a long way in helping you save money.  Look for next month’s blog on business tax strategies.

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

It’s not everyone who, in their work, truly cares about clients as Janis Van Ahn does. She deserved to be honored…

Janis Van Ahn of Health Insurance Advisor, LLC in Urbandale recently received statewide recognition from Group Benefits Ltd. as a 2011 Top Health Insurance Agent based on her work with the individual insurance market and also with employer group benefits.

Janis has been in the insurance industry for the past 18 years.  Fifteen of those years were in support roles while she honed her service skills and product knowledge.  Two years ago, Janis became the owner and sole producer at Health Insurance Advisor, LLC.  She focuses on educating individuals and Medicare consumers to make informed choices.  She helps them truly understand their health insurance choices so that they can be covered & confident in their decisions.

If you know Janis, you know she has the utmost integrity and clients’ best in mind.  If you know her, give her a pat on the back.  If you don’t know her, look for her as the shining star that GBL chose from among 1000 agents in Iowa. 
Congratulations, Janis, from your fellow Business Warriors!

Meet Janis Van Ahn, Health Insurance Advisor, LLC

I don’t like insurance, but I know I have to have it….” In the last 16 years I have heard that statement many times.

After graduating from Wartburg College in 1991 and a stint at a restaurant chain, I found where I belonged working in health insurance.  Working for various agents and agencies honed my presentation skills and product knowledge.  Throughit all, I knew that SERVICE was the key to my success.

Late 2007 was a life changing time where I found myself without a job.  After some deep soul searching and personal cheerleading – I decided it was time to work for me.  

Health Insurance Advisor is an independent health insurance agency, specializing in Under 65 individual/family coverage, small group employer plans and all lines of  supplemental  Medicare coverage.

By the time someone has met with me and I have educated them to make informed choice, they may still not like insurance, but they have a better understanding of what they have and why it is beneficial.

Janis VanAhn
Health Insurance Advisor, LLC

Five Steps to a Strong Succession Plan

More than 90% of businesses in the United States are family-owned, but fewer than 30% make it to the second generation.  And less than 12% make it to the third generation.  The key reason cited for failure of businesses to transition to the next generation is simply because no business succession plan is in place. In fact, recent surveys show that only 30% of business owners have a succession plan.

Whether your business has been in the family for years or you are building it from the ground up, it is critical you develop a succession plan.  Most experts agree that succession planning should begin anywhere from 10 to 15 years before retirement. Even if you are one of those people who believe you never will retire, a succession plan is still needed in the event something unforeseen happens to you, such as a serious illness, disability or even death.

Here are the five key steps to succession planning:

Identify what

Where Did all The People Go?

 Vacations, Family Reunions, Graduations, Weddings, etc., etc.

But you are still trying to run a business! How do you maintain your momentum in business when you are running on a skeleton crew? By putting procedures in place that allow most anyone to help pick up the slack of those that are gone.

When your business finds it near impossible to run on a skeleton crew, it is time to look at implementing and documenting the efficiencies in each position in your company. (Actually, the time to do that is not now, but months before this to prevent a decrease in profits due to lack of help. We will talk about that more come later in the year.)

Creating processes and updating job tasks, not only helps keep your doors open and your phones answered when everyone seems to be gone but you, but it is also very time efficient, thus profit increasing for year round.

Start when everyone gets back into the swing of things, hopefully sooner rather than later. Request that all employees spend each day for one month, documenting their tasks that come across their desk. Then have them put together a position manual, down to the details of who is responsible for purchasing the office necessities and where the overflow gets stored. You might be surprised to find that not everyone knows those details! As soon as the position manuals are compiled, ask another co-worker to switch jobs with you for a few days. During that time, they will make notes of the tasks they struggled with while handling your desk. From there you perfect the manual and keep it updated as the position tasks change.

So next time it seems you could throw a bowling ball down the hall without hitting anyone, you won

Business Mileage Rate Goes to 55.5 Cents

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rates for the final six months of 2011. Taxpayers may use the optional standard rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business and other purposes.

The rate will increase to 55.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven from July 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2011. This is an increase of 4.5 cents from the 51 cent rate in effect for the first six months of 2011, as set forth in Revenue Procedure 2010-51.

In recognition of recent gasoline price increases, the IRS made this special adjustment for the final months of 2011.  The IRS normally updates the mileage rates once a year in the fall for the next calendar year.

The updated rates are as follows:


Rates 1/1 through 6/301/11

Rates 7/1 through 12/31/11










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

Get Your “Silent Salesman” Out of the Box


Mid-Year Tax Planning for Your Small Business – Time to Soak up the Savings

It’s June.  It’s sunny outside with flowers in full bloom and the Iowa Cubbies in full swing.  Most likely the last thing on your mind is your 2011 taxes.  In fact, those tax-related phrases like W2’s, 1040 forms and e-filing have been repressed so deeply in your mind, they barely register at all.

I totally understand.  But the reality is…a little tax planning for you and your business now, could save you money and be well worth the effort later.

Following are a few tips to help you with tax-saving tools for your business.

–  Review Estimated Tax Payments.

Assess what you have paid in taxes to date and adjust the remaining estimated tax payments for this year accordingly.  This way you will avoid both under-payment penalties and over payment installments…resulting in a tax free loan to the government.

–  Get Organized.

You need to keep close track of your deductible expenses throughout the year.  If a pile is starting to accumulate, take the time to sort through your receipts and file accordingly.  Organizing now will save you hours at tax time.

–  Make Retirement Plan Contributions.

Contributing to your retirement plans can provide you with a significant tax break.  If you haven’t started a retirement plan, you may want to consider doing this in 2011.  Timing is everything.

–  Take Advantage of Hiring Incentives.

If your business will require hiring an additional employee or two, the HIRE act passed in 2010 offers you a couple of incentives.

A tax break is extended to employers who hire full-time workers who were previously unemployed or working part-time.  For each worker who is hired and retained for one year, the government will extend a $1,000 credit for your 2011 taxes.

These are just a few of the items to assess during a mid-year business review.  There are more.  But taking the time to meet with your CPA and review the items listed above will ensure you have a good understanding of your company’s financial situation and information to minimize your tax liability…and give you more time to relax poolside and sip a fruity drink – complete with a paper umbrella!

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

Maintaining Momentum

It is summer time.  Your employees have worked very hard the first half of the year and now their kids are out of school and they are preparing to take vacations.  At the beginning of the year you set up the goals and expectations for the year and so far so good, they appear to be on path with those expectations.  You are concerned about whether or not they can maintain momentum taking into consideration the different challenges they will be facing during the summer months with vacations and managing the kids.

This same thing is true for someone who may have started an exercise routine a few months ago for the first time ever of consistently exercising, or someone who started new eating habits that has lost weight up to a certain point, or someone who has been working on a relationship and learning new skills to use for communication and has improved though it doesn

Do You Consider ‘Fit’ When Making Hiring Decisions?

I was asked to speak to a local networking group of professionals and they wanted a title for my talk for promotional purposes.  Who would have thought the title would be one of the more challenging aspects of the talk.  The beauty of a challenge is that it requires you to search.   Ultimately the search led me to what I enjoy so much about the field of human resources.  I call it the right

Marketing Fitness – Baby Steps to Simple Success

If you are behind on your marketing strategies…no worries. Here are a few simple economical steps to improve your customer connections that you can try today.

1. Refine your print marketing to be Emarketing
No, don’t send potential leads your print version pdf of your latest brochure. Have your brochure tweaked to view professionally as a stand alone electronic piece as well. 
Here are few suggestions:
  • Brochures or flyers can have hyperlinks added to your website, ordering page and email address for easy information gathering and inquiry questions. Now you’ve just made it one step easier for your customer to do business with you.
  • Have your business card saved as a web-safe jpg and use it in your email signature.
  • Reformat the outside of your company brochure to view nicely as one page. Sometimes it is a simple as moving the cover panel to the left and shifting everything else to the right so the page reads from left to right. Here’s an example:

2. Check your branding
When is the last time you sat down and spread out all your visual marketing in one place and reviewed what your company looks like. I have done this with a couple clients and we are always surprised at the inconsistencies we find. Does your website look like the same company as your brochure? Do you use a template for your sales flyers? Keep simplicity in mind and refine each piece that your potential customers see. Have them updated to look and speak a unified message. 
3. Ask for the business
Where and do you ask for the business? This most basic strategy is easily overlooked. Here are a few “ask for the business” techniques:
  • Add a question at the end of every sale, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
  • Sending a survey to your top clients and ask for leads.
  • Send a thank you and state that you are ready to work with them again.
  • Ask to set up the next appointment at the end of your meeting.
  • Stop by and pay a friendly visit to your top clients. Sometimes some face time is the best branding a business has.
If you look at all the places where you come in contact with your customers and have those areas include inquiries for a lead or another project you will find yourself recession proof in no time. 
Simple tweeks can add a lot of value to your bottom line. What simple strategies have you used to polish your business? I’d love to hear them.
Author: Lucinda Sperry,

Do I Need Someone To Handle My Books?

 Well, short answer, yes. Long answer, is actually a question; what do you expect to get out of your well-polished, finely- tuned set of books, your company financials in a spreadsheet? If you are looking to have all your numbers nicely organized for your tax preparer to whip out your taxes, well that is one good reason to have a bookkeeper . But if you want to know exactly what your company financial status is, it might be better off to hire someone to teach you about how to handle your bookkeeping. 

I had a client who couldn’t figure out how to go to the next level. She suggested setting a budget. I started asking some questions and quickly discovered, she has worked very hard to make her business run, but never spent a lot of time on her bookkeeper . We were very far from being able to determine what she spent in order to figure out what we could budget. 

If you need assistance  with your bookkeeping, find someone who will not just do the work, but will work with you to educate and inform you of your financial situation. Then you can make a more informed decision on your spending, budgeting, and strategies to increase your revenues.

Article by: Tammy Stifel,