Stronger Regulations Coming for Taxes on Cryptocurrency
The nature of innovation means that laws will always be lagging behind new technology, now, legislation is attempting to catch up to cryptocurrency.
Approximately 17% of US adults have used digital currency, which positions itself as a decentralized method of payment. But as marketplaces have grown, they have quickly created a landscape that makes it easy for users to avoid paying taxes owed to the government.
A new tax form proposed by the Treasury Department in August, called Form 1099-DA, would make it easier for the government to determine which taxpayers owe money from crypto transactions, it would also help give crypto users a more straightforward way to determine what they owe. The proposed changes are an attempt to enforce legislation adopted by Congress in 2021 with the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
How Paying Taxes on Cryptocurrency is Changing
Currently, paying taxes on crypto transactions largely relies on the honor system. Because these platforms were designed without the intention of operating like traditional financial institutions, there is little in place to facilitate the enforcement of tax law. And even when users do pay taxes, without a formal report, it is often difficult to accurately determine what they owe.
The proposed Form 1099-DA would require that brokers annually report the sales and exchanges of digital assets by their users to both the IRS and the taxpayer. This would bring reporting for cryptocurrency more in line with requirements for traditional brokers.
Who will Be Affected?
The new rules are intended to bring enforcement to a still rapidly growing industry and will affect cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and more, as well as non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The proposal defines “brokers” as either centralized or decentralized digital trading platforms, crypto payment processors, and online applications for storing digital assets.
The challenge will come in compliance and enforcement. Even if crypto brokers fully cooperate, these platforms lack the infrastructure that stricter reporting requires. In addition to systemic upgrade, transparency will also need to be increased, as currently some platforms only require that traders disclose a username, making it impossible to know who they are offline.
What is Next for Crypto Users?
It is clear that the government is coming with stricter rules for the cryptocurrency market. The IRS will be accepting feedback on the proposal until October 30th, and if fully implemented, the reporting will begin in the 2025 tax year.
While details are still developing, one thing is certain, with stronger rules and enforcement comes stiffer penalties. Cryptocurrency users should prepare now to ensure they remain in compliance with new regulations. If you have any questions about tax implications or any other concerns regarding digital currency transactions, please reach out to your advisors at FIRM.
Employee Retention Credit Paused Amid Growing Fraud Concerns
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced a moratorium on new claims related to the pandemic-era Employee Retention Credit (ERC, also known as Employee Retention Tax Credit). The pause on new claims goes into effect immediately and will last until at least 2024.
When claimed properly, the ERC is a refundable tax credit designed to help employers who continued to pay their employees while their businesses were fully or partially suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move was prompted by growing concerns over fraud and abuse in the program resulting from scammers aggressively marketing the credit to honest small businesses. Currently, there are hundreds of criminal cases being investigated, with thousands more claims waiting to be audited.
What Is Next for Your ERC Claim?
Previously submitted claims will still be reviewed and paid out, however, at a much slower rate. Expected processing times will double from 90 days to 180 days, with the potential for an even longer timeline if the IRS must request additional documentation to substantiate the claim.
If you have submitted or received an ERC claim, here is what you should do next:
- If you have previously submitted a claim, it will still be processed, but you should be prepared for much longer wait times and increased scrutiny.
- If you have a pending claim, you are strongly encouraged to review it with a trusted tax advisor to confirm its validity and withdraw any claims that are determined to have been submitted improperly to protect yourself against potential repercussions such as fees and interest.
- If you have previously received an ERC in error, there will be guidance forthcoming on how to repay improper claims. There is a settlement program being developed to help businesses who applied in good faith to avoid penalties. More information is expected to be forthcoming this fall.
Protect Your Business Against Fraud
In its release, the IRS emphasized its priority of protecting honest businesses and taxpayers from those seeking to take advantage.
The IRS has also shared a list of warning signs that businesses should watch out for to protect themselves against aggressive marketers.
Businesses are encouraged to review their claims now to avoid negative impacts, including fines and fees. IRS commissioner Danny Werfel advised seeking the guidance of reputable advisors, saying, “businesses should seek out a trusted tax professional who actually understands the complex ERC rules, not a promoter or marketer hustling to get a hefty contingency fee.”
The tax professionals at Ross Buehler Falk & Company have the knowledge to help protect your business, please reach out today with any questions related to your ERC claims.
Employee Spotlight: Kaitlyn McPeak
Kaitlyn McPeak joined the Ross Buehler Falk & Company (RBF) team in 2023 as an administrative assistant. She helps keep the office running smoothly, assisting with administrative tasks, including scheduling appointments, assembling tax returns and extensions, and e-filing. Her easy-going personality shines through as she greets clients when they call or visit the office.
Originally from Denver, PA, Kaitlyn recently moved to Loganville, PA, with her spouse, Alex; daughter, Olive; and a whole bunch of animals—two dogs named Peach and Coheed, a rabbit named Mumford, Heimdel the goose, a runner duck named Bellybutton, and five hens. Her favorite thing about her new town is visiting Perrydell Farm and Dairy, a working dairy farm that also sells homemade ice cream. In her free time, she enjoys reading, going for walks, and seeking out fun new experiences with her toddler.
Want to get to know Kaitlyn even better? Here are a few fun facts about her:
- The last show she binge-watched on Netflix was Better Call Saul.
- Her favorite book is Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood. She enjoys the imagery of the Canadian landscape and how the book makes her think about psychology.
- When she’s able to travel, Kaitlyn enjoys visiting Disneyworld or the Finger Lakes in New York State.
- Kaitlyn is a football fan, and on Sundays during the season, you can find her cheering for the New England Patriots.
- She loves to listen to local Lancaster station 96.1 SOX on her commute. She’s even been SOX’s Smartest Listener three times!
- Kaitlyn has an artistic side – one of her hobbies is acrylic and watercolor painting.
How Do You Move Transactions from Your Bank into QuickBooks Online?
Manual transaction entry doesn’t make sense anymore – not when QuickBooks Online makes the process of importing them from your bank so easy. If you enter them on your own, you risk data transposition errors, which can create inaccuracies in your customer billing, reports, and income taxes. Plus, it takes an inordinate amount of time that you could use in running other areas of your business.
If you’re still using a manual method, we suggest you consider setting up connections to your online banks. Once your transactions are delivered to QuickBooks Online, the site provides tools that allow you to view them and make sure they’re complete before you store them. Whenever you need to see them, you’ll be able to find them easily.
Here are step-by-step instructions to how this all works.
Making a Connection
In order to do this, you’ll of course need to have set up a username and password for your online bank accounts if you haven’t done so already. In QuickBooks Online, click Bookkeeping in the navigation toolbar. It should open to Transactions | Bank transactions. Click Link account over to the right.
A page opens with suggested financial institutions. If yours isn’t there, enter it in the search field at the top. If there are multiple options, be sure to select the correct one and click it.
If your bank isn’t listed on the page of options, enter its name, and then click on the correct one if there’s more than one entry.
Click Continue and go through any of the security steps your financial institution may have. You’ll get to a page that says, Which accounts do you want to connect?, with a drop-down list displaying options from your Chart of Accounts. Select the type of account you’re creating (checking, credit card, etc.) and continue to follow the onscreen instructions until your connection is complete and QuickBooks Online has downloaded your transactions.
WARNING: It’s important that you set up your linked accounts correctly since you’re dealing with the Chart of Accounts. If any step is confusing, we can schedule a session to go over online account connections with you.
Dealing with Transactions
Once you’ve connected to all your online accounts, you’ll see that they appear on the Bank transactions page, displayed in small boxes containing their balances and the number of transactions they contain (there might be quite a few when you first download). You can also see how recently each account was updated (click Update anytime you want to refresh an account).
Once you’ve connected to an online bank account, you can see how many transactions were downloaded and what its balance is.
Click one, and its register will appear below. Above that, you’ll see three labeled bars:
- For review. QuickBooks Online puts all downloaded transactions in this list.
- Categorized. Your transactions will move to this list after you’ve assigned categories to them.
- Excluded. If you happen to run into duplicate transactions, you can move them here.
Below that, you’ll see that you can filter your transactions by date, by type, or by description, check number, or amount.
WARNING: As you continue to work with accounts, you may occasionally find that a connection has been unlinked. When that happens, just repeat the connection process again.
Working with Individual Transactions
You’ll want to set some time aside the first time you download transactions so you can look at each one and add or edit its content. Click one to open its detail box, as shown below. The top line defaults to Categorize. First, select the correct Vendor/Customer (or + Add new), then check the Category and change it from the drop-down menu if it’s incorrect.
You can add or edit a lot of details for your individual transactions.
There’s one more field here that’s very important. If you’re purchased something on behalf of a customer, be sure to select the correct one from the drop-down list under the Customer field and click the Billable box. QuickBooks Online will make this transaction information available to you the next time you invoice the customer. Other fields not shown in the above image are optional, like Tags, Memo, and Add attachment. When your transaction is complete, click Confirm to move it to the Categorized list.
There are two other options in these individual transaction boxes besides Categorize: Find match (match downloaded payments to invoices, for example) and Record as transfer (move money from one account to another). These are advanced topics that aren’t necessarily intuitive, so we can schedule a session to go over them if you anticipate needing to use them.
The mechanics of connecting to your banks in QuickBooks Online aren’t complicated, but you may run into problems in moving transactions along when they’re first downloaded. Let us know if we can help here. It’s much easier to get it right from the start than to try to untangle transactions that weren’t processed properly.
Are You Ignoring Retirement?
Are you ignoring your future retirement needs? That tends to happen when you are younger, retirement is far in the future, and you believe you have plenty of time to save for it. Some people ignore the issue until late in life and then have to scramble at the last minute to fund their retirement. Others even ignore the issue altogether, thinking their Social Security income (assuming they qualify for it) will take care of their retirement needs.
By current 2023 government standards, a single individual with $14,580 or a married couple with $19,720 of annual household income is at the 100% poverty level. If you compare those levels with potential Social Security income, you may find that expecting to retire on just Social Security income may result in a bleak retirement.
You can predict your future Social Security income by visiting the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Estimator. With the Retirement Estimator, you can plug in some basic information to get an instant, personalized estimate of your future benefits. Different life choices can alter the course of your future, so try out different scenarios – such as higher and lower future earnings amounts and various retirement dates – to get a good idea of how these scenarios can change your future benefit amounts. Once you’ve done this, consider what your retirement would be like with only Social Security income.
If you are fortunate enough to have an employer-, union- or government-funded retirement plan, determine how much you can expect to receive when you retire. Add that amount to any Social Security benefits you are entitled to and then consider what retirement would be like with that combined income. If this result portends an austere retirement, know that the sooner you start saving for retirement, the better off you will be.
With unsteady interest rates and an up-and-down stock market, it is much more difficult to grow a retirement plan with earnings than it was 10 or 20 years ago. While current interest rates are higher than they’ve been in the past few years, they barely mirror inflation rates, so there is little or no effective growth. That means one must set aside more of one’s current earnings for retirement to prepare for a comfortable retirement.
Because the government wants you to save and prepare for your own retirement, tax laws offer a variety of tax incentives for retirement savings plans, both for wage earners and for self-employed individuals and their employees. The contribution limits vary each year and the amounts shown in this article are for 2023. These plans include:
- Traditional IRA – This plan allows up to $6,500 (or $7,500 for individuals age 50 and over) of tax-deductible contributions each year. The extra contribution, sometimes referred to as a catch-up contribution, allowed for those age 50 and over will be inflation-adjusted starting with 2024. However, the amount that can be deducted phases out for higher-income taxpayers who also have retirement plans through their employer.
- Roth IRA – This plan also allows up to $6,500 (or $7,500 for individuals age 50 and over) of contributions each year. The catch-up contribution amount will also be inflation adjusted after 2023. Like the Traditional IRA, the amount that can be contributed phases out for higher-income taxpayers; unlike the Traditional IRA, these amounts phase out even for those who do not have an employer-related retirement plan.
- Employer 401(k) Plans – An employer 401(k) plan generally enables employees to contribute up to $22,500 per year, before taxes. In addition, taxpayers who are age 50 and over can contribute an extra $7,500 annually, for a total of $30,000. Starting in 2025, the catch-up amounts will be increased for employees ages 60 through 63, and as of 2024 catch-up contributions by employees with wages over $145,000 will need to be made to a Roth-style plan. Many employers also match a percentage of the employee’s contribution, and this can amount to a significant sum for those who stay in the plan for many years.
- Health Savings Accounts – Although established to help individuals with high-deductible health insurance plans pay medical expenses, these accounts can also be used as supplemental retirement plans if an individual has already maxed out his or her contributions to other types of plans. Annual contributions for these plans can be as much as $3,850 for individuals and $7,750 for families.
- Tax Sheltered Annuities – These retirement accounts are for employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations; they enable employees to make annual tax-deferred contributions of up to $22,500 (or $30,000 for those age 50 and over).
- Self-Employed Retirement Plans – These plans, also referred to as Keogh plans, allow self-employed individuals to contribute 25% of their net business profits to their retirement plans. The contributions are pre-tax (which means that they reduce the individual’s taxable net profits), so the actual amount that can be contributed is 20% of the net profits.
- Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) – This type of plan allows contributions in the same amounts as allowed for self-employed retirement plans, except that the retirement contributions are held in an IRA account under the control of the employee or self-employed individual. These accounts can be established after the end of the year, and contributions can be made for the prior year.
- Saver’s Credit – In the case of low-income taxpayers, the government provides a tax credit of as much as 50% of the first $2,000 of the individual’s qualified retirement savings contributions. This credit won’t apply after 2025 but is being replaced by a “savings match” where the government will match up to 50% of the first $2,000 contribution to retirement plans and IRAs for lower-income taxpayers.
Each individual’s financial resources, family obligations, health, life expectancy, and retirement expectations will vary greatly, and there is no one-size-fits-all retirement savings strategy for everyone. Purchasing a home and putting children through college are examples of events that can limit an individual’s or family’s ability to make retirement contributions; these events must be accounted for in any retirement planning, as do the continual changes provided by Congress to the retirement plan tax benefits and rules.
If you have questions about any of the retirement vehicles discussed above, please give this office a call.
Tax Implications of Student Loan Forgiveness
Back in August of 2022, President Biden issued an executive order that would forgive federal student loan debt for lower income individuals. The program would have provided up to $20,000 in loan relief to borrowers with loans held by the Department of Education (DOE) whose individual income is less than $125,000 ($250,000 for married couples) and who received a Pell Grant. Borrowers who meet those income standards but did not receive a Pell Grant in college would have received up to $10,000 in loan relief.
However, this program subsequently hit a snag when two court cases put a hold on the plan, which was one of Biden’s campaign promises. Those who brought the suits, as well as others, contend the President does not have the authority to forgive the debt, that it is the sole prerogative of Congress. The issue wound up at the Supreme Court which ruled against the plan at the end of June 2023.
The Biden administration has since turned toward forgiveness under the income-driven repayment (IDR) plans where under the Higher Education Act and the DOE’s regulations, a borrower is eligible for forgiveness after making 240 or 300 monthly payments—the equivalent of 20 or 25 years—on an IDR plan or the standard repayment plan, with the number of required payments varying based upon when a borrower first took out the loans, the type of loans they borrowed, and the IDR payment plan in which the borrower is enrolled. Inaccurate payment counts over the years have resulted in borrowers losing progress toward loan forgiveness, so as part of the new arrangement the records have been cleaned up. This action also addresses concerns about practices by loan servicers that put borrowers into forbearance in violation of Department rules. Under this Biden plan, $39 billions of student debt would be wiped away for approximately 804,000 borrowers in the very near future.
So, if your student loan debt is forgiven, what are the tax consequences? The Internal Revenue Code Section 61, says that all kinds of income, including earned, found, or won, is income for tax purposes unless specifically excluded. Taking that to extremes, if you find, for example, a $20 bill on the sidewalk while out for your morning walk that is technically income.
However, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed in 2021 included a provision that makes student loan forgiveness free from federal income tax for 2021 through 2025if the loan was one of the following.
- A loan for postsecondary educational expenses from the federal or a state government or most educational organizations.
- A private education loan made expressly for postsecondary educational expenses.
- A loan from an educational organization that maintains a regular faculty and curriculum and normally has a regularly enrolled student body at its facility.
- A loan from an organization exempt from tax–for example, charitable, religious and educational organizations–to refinance a student loan.
So, in most cases if your loan is forgiven before 2026 you don’t have any debt forgiveness income to be concerned about for federal purposes.
But what happens after that? The exclusion could be extended, or it could be allowed to lapse (sunset in tax lingo), which would mean the amount forgiven would be taxable income in the year forgiven, and the tax would be your top marginal rate times the forgiven amount. However, there are a couple of other options that might be available to exclude the income.
- General Welfare Exception (GWE) – The first is a little-known administrative exception, called the general welfare exception (GWE), which allows some payments to be excluded from income. The IRS has consistently concluded that payments to individuals by government units, under legislatively provided social benefit programs, for the promotion of the general welfare, are not includible in a recipient’s income. Typically, to be excluded, these payments must be to pay or reimburse expenses for essential items such as food, medical, housing or heating costs.
However, what any individual taxpayer “needs” is a subjective determination, and the IRS has applied the GWE to many different contexts, including education assistance.
- Insolvent Taxpayer Exclusion – Another option, if the student loan debt exceeds the taxpayer’s assets, just preceding the forgiveness, the insolvent taxpayer exclusion allows a taxpayer to exclude debt relief to the extent the taxpayer’s debts exceed their assets.
In addition, there are also state tax issues that can come into play where the taxpayer is a resident of a state with income tax. While most states will conform to federal law, there are those that may not, as detailed in a Tax Foundation report.
With all that said there are other tax provisions that can help a taxpayer pay off their student loan debt.
- Employer-Provided Educational Assistance – If the taxpayer’s employer has an employer-provided educational assistance plan, that plan can pay tax free to the employee up to $5,250 per year towards the employee’s student loan debt. This provision is available through 2025.
- Sec 529 Plans – Distributions from a 529 plan of up to $10,000 – a lifetime limit – may be used to pay the principal and interest on qualified higher education loans of the designated beneficiary or a sibling of the designated beneficiary.
- Employer Matching Contributions – Traditionally, employer retirement plans such as 401(k) and 403(b) plans permit the employer to match employee contributions to the plan based on the employee contributions or elective deferrals. For plan years beginning after 2023, employers may treat qualified student loan payments as elective deferrals for purposes of making matching contributions. Meaning employers can make matching contributions based on their employee’s student loan payments, rather than on amounts that are contributed to the plan.
If you have any questions related to the foregoing, please give this office a call.
Things to Consider When Starting a Business
When you are starting a business there are several possible business entity types that need be considered to make sure you get started off on the right foot and avoid costly mistakes that must be corrected later or those that must be changed later to maximize tax benefits. One also needs to be concerned about potential personal liability.
Each business entity choice has its own pros and cons; the following is an overview of each possible business structure.
- Sole Proprietor – This is generally the most basic business entity. It is a single owner entity, and for tax purposes the owner reports the business’ income and expenses as part of their individual tax return, using the 1040 Schedule C. This is simpler than for other business entities where income and expenses must be reported on a separately filed business return. However, that does not mean a sole proprietor cannot have employees and retirement plans like other business entities and qualify for some of the same tax credits and business deductions available to other business entities. The sole proprietor pays income taxes on any net profit from the business, as well as self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare taxes).
- Partnership – A partnership is a business entity with two or more owners with equal or different ownership interests in the business. The net profit or loss from such an entity is computed on Form 1065, and the profit or loss and other tax attributes are passed through to the partners on Schedule 1065 K-1 and included on their individual 1040 returns. Like a sole proprietor except the net profit and loss is determined at the partnership level and each partner’s proportionate share is passed through to them via the K-1. The major difference being a partnership agreement is required to establish business policies and how partnership funds are spent. Partners are also personally responsible for all the liabilities incurred by any of the partners. Partners who perform work for the partnership are not considered employees, and therefore, will be responsible for paying income and self-employment taxes on their share of the profits.
- Joint Venture – Occasionally, a married couple may be in business together. Spouses who file a joint return may elect out of the partnership rules. Thus, when the election is made, a joint venture between them is not treated as a partnership for tax purposes. All items of income, gain, loss, deduction, and credit are divided between the spouses according to their respective interests in the venture, and each spouse considers their respective share of these items as if they were attributable to a trade or business conducted by the spouse as a sole proprietor. Accordingly, each electing spouse will report their shares on Schedule C.
- This rule does not apply to spouses who operate in the name of a state law entity (including a general or limited partnership or a limited liability company). The election can be made only for a business operated by spouses as co-owners that is, or should otherwise be, taxed as a partnership (whether there is a formal partnership). Both spouses must materially participate in the trade or business.
- C-Corporation -A c-corporation is a legal entity that is separate and distinct from its owners. Under the law, corporations possess many of the same rights and responsibilities as individuals. They can enter contracts, loan and borrow money, sue and be sued, hire employees, and own assets. Domestic corporations in existence for any part of a tax year must file a federal income tax return – generally Form 1120 – even if they do not have taxable income. Unlike some other business entities corporations pay taxes on their profits. Shareholders profit through dividends and stock appreciation but are not personally liable for the company’s debts. This can result in double taxation since dividends paid are not deductible by the corporation, thus taxable at the corporate level and taxable to the shareholder. Shareholders who perform work for the corporation are considered employees.
- Qualified Small Business Stock – One big benefit for smaller C-corporations is the ability for shareholders to exclude up to $10 million from the sale of stock that meets a five-year holding period and the definition of a qualified small business stock.
- Section 1244 Election – C-corporations can also make what is called a Sec. 1244 election which allows an ordinary loss (Form 4797) on the sale of stock from a domestic corporation of up to $50,000 annually ($100,000 on a joint return, even if the stock is only owned by one of the spouses), even though the loss would otherwise be treated as a capital loss. Gains still qualify as capital gains. There are several requirements to qualify for this treatment one of which is the stock must be purchased from the corporation.
- S Corporation – An S corporation is a corporation that makes an election to pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to their shareholders for federal tax purposes thus avoiding the double taxation issue discussed previously. Form 1120-S is the federal tax return required to be filed by S corporations, and Schedule 1120-S K-1 is used to report each shareholder’s portion of the income/loss, deductions, and credits. Just because an S corporation is a pass-through entity, it does not mean the income can all be passed through to a working shareholder and escape payroll taxes. Working shareholders are required to take reasonable compensation which is reported on Form W-2 (wages).
- S-Election – The election by a corporation or other entity eligible to be treated as a corporation, must be made no more than 2 months and 15 days after the beginning of the tax year for which the election is to take effect, or at any time during the tax year preceding the tax year it is to take effect. If the election was not made within the 2 months and 15 days prescribed to make the election, then a late election is available if certain conditions are met.
- Limited Liability Company (LLC) – A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a form of state business entity. The IRS did not create a new tax classification for the LLC when LLCs were created by the states; instead, IRS uses existing tax entity classifications: C or S corporation, partnership, or sole proprietor (the latter also being termed a disregarded entity). For federal purposes an LLC is always classified by the IRS as one of these types of entities. Regulation of LLCs varies from state to state. The profits, losses, and tax credits from an LLC are passed through to its members (LLC owners are called members, not shareholders), who report them on their individual tax returns. As the name implies, an LLC provides the same liability protection to its members as a corporation does to its shareholders.
While you might be tempted to determine the right business entity on your own, we strongly encourage you to consult with this office and your legal counsel. The foregoing is only an overview of the possible entity selection and there are a considerable number of issues to consider.
How Business Can Leverage Data and Personalization for Targeted Campaigns and Growth
Marketing efforts today depend on collecting, analyzing and leveraging data to make informed decisions. Therefore, business owners need to understand how to harness the power of data and personalization to create targeted campaigns that drive growth.
Importance of Data and Personalization in Modern Business
Businesses today collect loads of data, enabling them to understand their customers’ preferences, behaviors and interests. The data comes from different channels, such as a business website, emails or social media. It is then used to identify patterns and trends to make informed marketing decisions. This yields valuable insights that help craft highly personalized and effective marketing strategies.
Data is the foundation of personalization strategies. Personalization involves tailoring customer experiences to meet individual interests, needs and preferences. It aims to build strong customer relationships, encourage engagement, and drive revenue and growth.
Personalization takes different approaches, such as recommendations based on previous purchases, creating unique landing pages, or sending emails based on customer browsing behavior. For example, e-commerce websites recommend products based on user browsing history and search queries.
Business owners can’t afford to ignore personalization since customers today are more informed, can easily access information, have more options, and have more control over purchase decisions. Furthermore, customers are more demanding and want to be recognized as individuals, expecting to receive personalized experiences. This has rendered traditional, one-size-fits-all marketing strategies obsolete.
How Businesses Can Use Data and Personalization for Targeted Campaigns and Growth
Using a data-driven approach, a business can create campaigns that deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time by doing the following:
- Audience segmentation
Capturing the attention of a specific audience segment leads to higher conversion rates. To do this, a business can leverage data insights to segment the target audience. This means it is possible to categorize potential customers based on demographics, interests, or browsing behavior.
- Crafting personalized content
Once segmentation is complete, it becomes possible to create tailored campaigns that resonate with each segment’s unique preferences. Aside from addressing customers by their names, it involves delivering content that speaks directly to their needs, interests, and pain points. This could include product recommendations based on past purchases or sending targeted offers that align with customer browsing history.
- Omnichannel personalization
Customers interact with businesses using various channels, such as a business website, social media, emails, and mobile apps. A business can integrate data and personalization efforts to ensure a seamless journey for customers, regardless of where they engage. Additionally, it is crucial to deliver consistent and personalized experiences across these channels.
- Continuous improvement in data-driven campaigns
Data insights also help guide businesses on the most suitable content and distribution strategies. They can analyze types of content performing well and in which channels. For example, a business can conduct A/B testing to compare campaign and content variations to identify the most effective approach for each segment.
- Measuring and analyzing results
To establish the effectiveness of personalized campaigns, a business will need to develop clear key performance indicators (KPIs) and measurement methods. One way to measure the impact of personalization is through customer engagement. This is done by measures such as click-through rates on personalized emails, customer retention rates, customer lifetime value, customer feedback, and number of sales.
It is worth noting that to make the most out of data insights, it is helpful to invest in advanced analytics tools or collaborate with data experts.
- Adapting to changing trends
The digital landscape is evolving constantly, with new technologies and trends emerging regularly. Businesses must stay updated on these changes and adapt their personalization strategies accordingly. Remaining flexible and open to innovation ensures that the company’s targeting efforts are relevant and effective.
Data Privacy and Security
Although personalization in modern business is crucial, it must be balanced with privacy concerns. First, a business must be transparent about the data it collects and how it will be used. In addition, businesses need to be careful with the data they collect. They must ensure data security by safeguarding data storage and using safe transmission methods; have access control limits; and regularly audit data privacy policies and practices. Customers should be allowed to opt out of data collection and personalization efforts easily.
Customer data must be well protected to ensure compliance with relevant regulations. It also helps build trust with customers. Besides, a breach of trust can severely affect a business’s reputation and growth.
IRS Announces End of Unannounced Taxpayer Visits (Mostly)
You wake up in the middle of the night. Heart racing, drenched in sweat and breathing heavy. Thankfully, it was just a nightmare when the IRS showed up at your doorstep unannounced. Recently, however, this was the reality for some taxpayers – and not just a bad dream. The IRS just publicized a significant shift in policy, effectively ending the vast majority of surprise taxpayer visits. The change comes in an effort to create safer conditions for IRS officers as well as ease public concerns.
Who’s Knocking at My Door?
In order to understand the change in policy, you’ll need to understand the three categories of IRS employee that typically interact with taxpayers: Revenue Officers, Revenue Agents and Special Agents.
IRS Revenue Agents are tax return auditors. They don’t typically show up unannounced.
IRS Revenue Officers, of which there are approximately 2,300, have duties that include paying visits to taxpayers to collect back taxes and tax returns not filed. They are not auditors but instead focus on collection efforts, including issuing liens and levies. Revenue Officers are the main category of IRS employees impacted by the policy change.
Special Agents deal with criminal matters and are part of one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the United States. The change in policy does not impact Special Agents.
Why the shift to (mostly) eliminating surprise visits from IRS Revenue Officers? Safety is cited as the main concern. Unannounced visits to taxpayers, whether at home or their business, can be risky. Historically, IRS Revenue Officers faced contentious and sometimes dangerous conditions during their unannounced visits.
There is also a growing number of scam artists pretending to be IRS agents or officers. As a result, taxpayers are increasingly wary of unannounced visits, and this causes confusion for both the taxpayer and law enforcement.
The difficulty in distinguishing between IRS representatives and fakes has caused concern for taxpayers already on-guard for scam artists. The IRS believes that maintaining trust among the public will go a long way to maintaining the legitimacy of the organization.
Appointment Letters In Lieu of Visits
In place of these previously unannounced visits, the IRS will contact taxpayers through a 725-B letter, more colloquially know as an appointment letter.
An appointment letter will facilitate scheduling in-person meetings, with the opportunity for the taxpayer to prepare any information and documentation beforehand, allowing for quicker resolution of cases. These meetings occur at a pre-determined time, date and place.
Limited Visits Will Still Occur
The policy change does not completely eliminate unannounced visits by the IRS. In “extremely limited situations,” such as serving summonses and subpoenas and the seizure of assets, unannounced visits will still occur. To give some perspective, these types of visits will account for only a few hundred per year compared to the tens of thousands of unannounced visits under the old policy.
Unannounced IRS visits are (almost) a thing of the past. They will be carried out only in rare, necessary cases, with most Revenue Officer visits being pre-scheduled. This should ease taxpayer anxiety and make case resolution more efficient.
How to Identify and Avoid Cash Flow Pitfalls
Looking at expenses for one’s business is essential to reduce cash flow issues. For example, it would show if there’s too much money leaving the business or what type of scenario the business might face if there’s an unexpected and large expense that guts the business’ cash position. Tracking expenses on a monthly basis is one way to determine a company’s financial health.
Estimating sales by starting with last year’s month-by-month figures is one way to start. Looking at credit and cash sales from a business’ monthly income statements provides historical reference. Examining both fixed and variable past expenses, specifically, is a good starting point. However, it’s important when projecting future sales and reasonable increases to remember that the business could be impacted negatively by a new competitor or positively if one goes out of business.
Determining when payment will be received is a good way to project cash flow. If it’s cash, then it’s instant and no further calculation is necessary. However, if payment is conducted by invoices, credit lines, etc., businesses are encouraged to perform the Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) calculation. This calculates, on average, how long customers take to pay outstanding invoices.
DSO = (Monthly accounts receivables/Total sales) x Days in the month
This is a good way to measure how long customers actually take to pay invoices versus what terms are specified in contracts or invoices.
Another consideration is to look at fixed and variable expenses. While fixed expenses are just that, fixed, it’s important to monitor variable expenses because they can fluctuate. One example is inflation, which can increase the cost of input materials, salaries, overhead, etc. Depending on the volume of production or sales, electricity, commission or similar costs can also vary.
Once this information is gathered, the current month’s projected cash flow can be calculated.
The formula is as follows: (Last month’s cash balance + Current month’s projected receipts) – Projected expenses
Preventing Bad Debt from Happening Before Collections is Necessary
According to SCORE, there are many things a business can do to reduce the likelihood of customer debt default and increase cash flow. Businesses can check the credit worthiness of both individual and commercial clients before offering credit to determine the likelihood of defaulting.
Similarly, if Net 30 is the standard timeframe to pay an invoice, offering a 5 percent discount if it’s paid within seven days is one way to encourage prompt payment. Businesses that get a deposit when signing the contract or before beginning work will generate a more consistent cash flow.
Operating Cash Flow Ratio Example
This looks at how easily a company can satisfy current liabilities from its cash flows that are produced from the business’ operations. If there’s negative cash from operations, a business might be relying too heavily on financing or selling assets to run its operations. If earnings are steady, but cash flow from operations is falling, this is a negative indication of a company’s health. It’s calculated as follows:
(Operating Cash Flow/Current Liabilities) = ($15 billion/$45 billion) = 0.33
Businesses with an operating cash flow ratio greater than 1 have produced more cash in an operating period than is necessary to satisfy current liabilities. Businesses that have a reading less than 1 did not produce enough cash to satisfy current liabilities. However, further investigation is required to ensure that it’s not taking some of its excess cash to reinvest in projects with potential to create future rewards.
While there’s no way to predict future cash flow trends, making projections can help businesses compare actual results to projects and adjust their plans more efficiently.