Employee Spotlight – Jessica Peiffer
Jessica Peiffer joined Ross Buehler Falk (RBF) in 2019, establishing herself in the accounting industry. In her capacity as an accountant, she works primarily in the firm’s Audit Department. Jessica sits on the RBF Fun Committee, where she helps generate ideas for fun and exciting things the office can do as a team.
Since she is relatively new to the accounting field, Jessica has yet to establish an area of specialty. “I do, however, feel my strengths would pertain to any area of construction and real estate, due to my extensive background in these related fields,” she explained. Jessica is referring to the four and a half years she spent working in property management and real estate and the 11 years she devoted to home improvement. Prior to joining RBF she developed extensive experience in management, sales, assistance with the purchase of properties, and home renovations.
When asked to describe her personal philosophy of service, Jessica replied, “I want to treat each client and customer like they are the only thing that matters and make it clear that I see them as a person, not a number.” Jessica chose to go into accounting because she has always been intrigued with the logic of numbers. She likes that they work in a way that is “matter of fact” and leaves no room for gray area. This, in combination with her naturally investigative mind, makes her a great fit for the field.
Jessica’s favorite quote comes from Albert Einstein: “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” She loves it because she believes that if, as adults, we could maintain the creativity and imaginations we once had as children, the world would be a happier place. Jessica expresses this desire in her favorite hobby: painting. “I am a self-made artist who pushes the boundaries of color exploration,” she explained. Jessica’s portfolio of commissions includes tattoo designs/drawings and a variety of paintings ranging from abstract to feminine exploration. “This allows me to express who I am as an artist while catering to the wants of others. The feeling and satisfaction gained from providing a client with a piece of art that stirs their emotions and overwhelms them with happiness is simply one of the best.”
Raised in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Jessica currently lives in Mount Joy. She enjoys the area because it offers a good mix of close by activities and greenery, farmland, animals, and nature. Jessica is mother to two beautiful girls and has a zoo of animals, including two dogs, a cat, a hamster, and some fish. She cites her mother and grandmother as the most influential people in her personal life, and Vincent Van Gogh as her biggest creative inspiration.
Payroll Management Tips
When it comes to an employer’s responsibility for non-exempt workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are many requirements businesses must follow related to payroll. In one example, there are strict regulations on what information employers must document for each non-exempt worker. While there’s no requirement on how the information is recorded, there are three main categories.
Personal details: This should include the employee’s name, complete address, Social Security number, date of birth and gender.
Job details: This must include the worker’s job description and hours clocked in each day and week.
Pay details: The employee’s hourly wage based on straight time, and how employees are compensated – be it hourly, weekly, by project or item-based. Records should include the number of hours worked each week, per day or per week non-overtime earnings, overtime earnings per work week, and the compensation paid to the employee for the pay period. Also included should be the day of the employee’s check, the time period of the work described, and all deductions or increases to the worker’s wages.
Depending on the type of record, employers have different time requirements for record archival. Payroll records must be maintained for 36 months. Schedules, timecards and deduction records for employee earnings must be held for 24 months and be readily accessible for inspection by the U.S. Department of Labor.
When there is minimal deviation from an employee’s schedule, employers simply have to confirm the employee adhered to the schedule. When there is a large deviation (working fewer or more hours than normally scheduled), the actual number of hours worked should be noted. It doesn’t matter how time is kept for an employee, as long as it’s kept – be it manually written by the worker, a supervisor or HR rep or with a time clock.
The IRS explains that employers are required to complete Form W-2 to maintain compliance with tip and wage payments. This should be completed and submitted by the end of the calendar year.
Employees who fill out the Form W-4 can mitigate estimated tax liability by specifying how much to have withheld from their compensation by their employer. An employee can claim exemption from federal income tax withholding if she had no income tax liability the prior year and does not expect to pay taxes in the coming year. However, the employer is still required to deduct the FICA tax for that employee.
Also known as the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA), employers are required to withhold two different types of taxes: Social Security and Medicare. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), employers are responsible to calculate and remit these taxes based upon each employee’s wages.
For the 2019 tax year, Social Security taxes for employer and employee are both 6.2 percent, or 12.4 percent total. This tax is limited to the first $132,900 in wages. The Medicare withholding rate is 1.45 percent of wages for both employer and employee, totaling 2.9 percent. Unlike Social Security taxes, for Medicare there’s no cap on the employee’s total salary. Additionally, for wages exceeding $200,000 for 2019, only the employee is taxed an additional 0.9 percent, in addition to the 1.45 percent (for a total of 2.35 percent of any wages exceeding $200,000 for the 2019 calendar tax year) for Medicare taxes.
Individual Estimated Taxes
Estimated Taxes are meant to satisfy many forms of taxes, and not just income tax obligations. They also includes the alternative minimum tax (AMT) and self-employment taxes. Whether it’s a single entrepreneur, a business partner or someone with equity in an S corporation, as long as they have $1,000 or greater in tax obligations, they have to pay estimated taxes, generally on a quarterly basis. When it comes to corporations, the threshold for estimated tax payments is $500 when they prepare their taxes. In addition to taxpayers under the tax liabilities outlined above, estimated taxes are not required for individuals who meet the following: there was no tax owed for the preceding year, the individual was a U.S. citizen or resident for the entire year, and the last tax year was for 12 months. Also note that self-employed workers must pay both the employer and employee portion of the FICA tax.
Much like the evolving landscaping of the U.S. Tax Code, the world of payroll is also subject to ongoing changes that are imperative to maintaining compliance.
How Will Tariff Developments Impact the Stock Market Going Forward?
According to an Aug. 13 press release from the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), there will be a 10 percent tariff levied against $300 billion of Chinese imports effective Sept. 1. The same press release announced a modification, after hearing from the public and business owners, exempting some of the $300 billion in Chinese imports from the 10 percent tariff until Dec. 15.
Items Subject to the 10 Percent Tariff on Sept. 1
Highlights from the USTR’s list include select types of coffee, fruit, vegetables, insects and bees. Along with dairy products, livestock such as sheep, horses and goats are subject to the 10 percent tariff.
Items Subject to the 10 Percent Tariff on Dec. 15
The USTR pointed out that many of the items recently exempted include consumer goods such as computer displays, select shoes and clothes, LED lamps, slide projectors and playing cards. Other items on the list include notebooks, video game systems, toys, snowshoes and parts, fishing rods and reels, paint rollers and microwave ovens.
When it comes to industry experts and associations, it looks like there will be limited impacts from the trade spat between the United States and China, coupled with pressure from government shutdown in the beginning of the year. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 2019 is expected to see an increase in spending between 3.8 percent and 4.4 percent – or more than $3.8 trillion.
Initial figures per the NRF detail that retail sales for 2018 increased by 4.6 percent, outpacing the organization’s growth expectations of 4.5 percent. 2018’s figures are compared to 2017’s of $3.68 trillion in retail sales. 2018’s estimates factor in a 10 percent to 12 percent increase in online sales, which is also expected for 2019. One caveat for these projections by the NRF is that it doesn’t include dining, gas stations or auto dealers. GDP is expected to grow about 2.5 percent over 2019.
The NRF explained that due to lower energy costs, specifically tame retail gas prices and low interest rates, there should be minimal negative consumer impact. However, the NRF cautions that while the retail industry has been able to cushion the 10 percent tariffs, if tariffs increase to 25 percent, there will be a greater impact on consumers’ costs and retailers’ profitability.
Based upon recent developments, business earnings will face greater challenges. According to the United States Trade Representative’s Aug. 23 press release, tariff rates for $250 billion worth of Chinese imports currently subject to a 25 percent tariff rate will increase to 30 percent effective Oct. 1. For the $300 billion in Chinese imports described above, those going into effect Sept. 1 and Dec. 15, instead of being subjected to a 10 percent tariff, each batch will be subject to a 15 percent tariff rate.
With the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecasting a drop in the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP) of 0.3 by 2020, Daniel Fried explains that there’s no doubt the U.S.-China trade tensions have and will take a toll on the economy. Fried explains how they’ll affect consumer spending and business expenditures:
- The initial impact is that consumers and businesses will have a lowered purchasing power.
- The next impact is that businesses will either slow or decide to divert investments elsewhere, such as realigning their supply chains to mitigate the tariff impacts.
- There’s also concern that while businesses may lose international business, that might be offset by domestic consumption.
With Fried and the CBO projecting the mean income for households will be reduced by $580 by 2020, based on 2019 purchasing power, it’ll certainly make consumers think twice about where and how to allocate their spending. This will likely take a toll on companies’ sales figures and likely future earnings reports.
The Checklist Every Small Business Owner Needs for New Hires
Growing your business to the point that you need to start hiring employees is exciting. It’s also rife with administrative burdens that you don’t want to be unprepared for.
When taking on a new hire, you need more than 1) the assurance your cash flow is sufficient to support your payroll expenses and 2) that the talent is the right fit for the role. There are governmental obligations to consider, as well as fitting your new employee into your existing schedule and structure. Small businesses face additional challenges when it comes to compliance, cash flow, and keeping operations on track. Follow this checklist to make the onboarding process run as smoothly as possible.
1. Get the new hire’s ID, work eligibility, and tax withholding forms in order before you do anything else.
Make a copy of the employee’s government-issued photo ID and confirm that the new hire is eligible to work in the United States. This requires filling out an I-9 form and checking with the government database that it’s valid. Neglecting to collect an I-9 at the time of onboarding can result in fines worth $375-$16,000 per violation, with another $100-$1,100 per violation if you fail to produce a valid I-9 for each employee at the time of inspection.
In order to make sure that the employee’s paychecks are calculated correctly from the first payroll period onward, you will need to collect a Form W-4. If your state and/or city has income taxes, you will also need state and local withholding forms. This is particularly important if your organization hires talent from multiple states, such as the greater New York City and Philadelphia areas. This is also the ideal time to get direct deposit forms filled out.
2. Order a background check.
Depending on the scope of the work performed, you may be held liable for your employees’ actions and deemed negligent in the hiring process if it turns out that they committed crimes in the past that are relevant to the job (such as larceny if hiring an inventory manager). Note: a nonviolent drug offense is less likely to have bearing on their lives nowadays. You may not need every piece of information that comes up in a background check or find it relevant to the position, but it can help ensure the safety and security of your clients, staff, and other stakeholders.
3. Enroll the employee in any benefit programs offered.
Even if there’s a grace period involved, it’s best to get a new hire onboarded into any benefit programs immediately so that neither of you has to be inconvenienced by manual enrollment in the future. Health insurance and retirement benefits are the most crucial benefits for immediate enrollment, but if you offer any other programs like pre-tax transit passes, flex accounts, and wellness plans (e.g. gym memberships), you also need to get the new hire enrolled or leave instructions on how to do so.
4. Walk the new hire through your business processes, policies and procedures.
Once all of the relevant government and payroll forms have been filled out and you’re ready to proceed, getting new employees familiar with the business environment and organizational culture is the next integral step of the onboarding process.
If you have an employee handbook, provide them with one. Outline the most critical policies that are most relevant to the job and maintaining an efficient and safe workplace such as code of conduct, dress code, guidelines for remote work and total hours worked, parking rules and other policies and procedures they need to be immediately aware of. If your workplace uses badges or employee IDs, arrange to have one made right away, and if necessary, get business cards with the employee’s name printed on them.
5. Arrange the new hire’s workspace.
Does your new hire have a desk and chair, a properly set up computer and any other tools that may be necessary? Or, if the position is not a desk job, do you have the required uniforms in the correct size, along with tools and any other occupational gear your new hire will need? Is the area properly furnished (if you recently expanded your workplace to make room for new hires)?
Other important aspects of readying the workspace that shouldn’t be overlooked include employee IDs (and updating any registries if located within a building or complex), keys, filing cabinets, employee e-mail addresses and intranet, and furnishing devices (if this is your policy).
6. Integrate new employees into the workplace.
Arrange for any meetings or lunches with the appropriate managers, clients, or key employees that new hires need to get to know better. Have them tour the workplace to get familiar with how it operates and make arrangements for training or additional resources that may be required. Make sure that the new hires also understand the required job duties and how they fit within the department or overall organization. Encourage questions and comments throughout the entire process.
Onboarding can be a stressful time for smaller organizations that are just starting to grow. But if you follow this checklist and get those critical forms out of the way first, transitioning a new hire can go smoothly.
5 Things You Should Know About the Chart of Accounts in QuickBooks Online
You probably didn’t expect you’d have to become an accounting expert when you started your business. You knew you’d have to deal with recording income and expenses – maybe track your inventory and process a payroll. But you may not have understood just how complex financial bookkeeping could be.
That’s why you decided to use QuickBooks Online, or are at least considering it. The service is an expert on accounting, and it simplifies the process. It knows exactly how you have to document transactions to stay compliant with the rules that accountants and other businesses follow. This is good practice, and it’s absolutely necessary if, for example, you ever have to apply for financing.
One of the features of accounting systems you should understand is the Chart of Accounts. You won’t have to alter it in any way—in fact, we strongly advise against it—but you’ll encounter it when you work with transactions. Here are five things you should know about it. What is it?
These three columns from QuickBooks Online’s Chart of Accounts display account Names, Types, and Detail Types.
QuickBooks Online’s Chart of Accounts is a list of financial categories that are used to classify your company’s transactions when you record them. If you were doing your accounting manually, you would have to create your own Chart of Accounts. But QuickBooks Online builds one for you based on the company type and industry you choose when you’re setting up the site.
Why is the Chart of Accounts important?
Some people refer to the Chart of Accounts as the “backbone” of your company file. All transactions flow to it. Its primary importance can be summed up in one word: reports. Your reports will not be accurate if your Chart of Accounts is poorly constructed or if you categorize transactions incorrectly. This becomes as issue when you want to:
- Prepare taxes. Your income tax return will not reflect your reportable income and deductible expenses if transactions are not assigned to the right classifications.
- Apply for financing, take on an investor, sell your company, etc.
- Monitor your finances. You won’t get a true picture of your income and expenses, which makes it difficult to analyze your company’s fiscal health and plan for the future.
What’s in the Chart of Accounts?
There are two types of accounts. One contains information that’s used in the Balance Sheet report. These accounts will have a number in the QuickBooks Balance column that’s based on all transactions up to the current date. They include Assets (bank accounts, accounts receivable, inventory, etc.), Liabilities (unpaid bills, credit cards, payroll and sales taxes, loans, etc.), and Equity.
The remainder of the accounts are used in the Profit and Loss report, otherwise known as the Income Statement. They’re divided into Income (sales, discounts given, etc.), Cost of Goods Sold (labor, shipping, materials and supplies, etc.), Expenses (advertising, insurance, payroll, etc.), Other Income, and Other Expense. You won’t see a number in the QuickBooks Balance column for these accounts because the Profit and Loss report changes based on the date range selected.
Should I ever make any modifications to my Chart of Accounts?
You can set up bank and credit card accounts in QuickBooks Online’s Chart of Accounts.
As we stated earlier, we strongly recommend that you never modify your Chart of Accounts without consulting us. However, there are two exceptions to this. You’ll want to create entries for your bank and credit card accounts. To do this, first open the Chart of Accounts by clicking the gear icon in the upper right and selecting Chart of Accounts under Your Company. When it opens, click New in the upper right corner. Choose Bank or Credit Card and fill in the blanks.
Do I need to use account numbers in the Chart of Accounts?
Generally, the smaller the business, the less need there is for this. If your business is big enough that you have dedicated A/P and A/R individuals, you may want to post transactions to account numbers.
QuickBooks Online makes it possible for you to view the Chart of Accounts and those two critical reports, Balance Sheet and Profit & Loss. Customizing and analyzing them, though, is something you should do under professional supervision. We’re happy to help here and in other advanced areas of the site. Contact us for a consultation.
Work/Life Balance for Leaders
Striking a healthy work-life balance is a difficult challenge for everyone, but especially for those in leadership positions. Many leaders today are so busy making a living that they have no time for making a life.
Senior Corporate Chaplain and writer Tim Kehl recently wrote an article for Industry Week giving today’s leaders tips on how to achieve work/life balance. Here are some of his tips and you can read the entire article here.
The Greatest Memo about Work/Life Balance Ever?
Last year a top tech company CEO decided he needed more balance in his life and he wrote a blog post about how he was going to accomplish that.
The Washington Post covered the story with this commentary: When a male CEO says he’s stepping down from his job to spend more time with his family, it’s often thought of as code for a tension filled resignation that allows an executive to save face.
But Max Schireson, CEO of MongoDB, a fast-growing database vendor, really means it. In an extraordinary blog entry titled “Why I am leaving the best job I ever had,” the Silicon Valley executive wrote Tuesday that the only way he could balance his life was to step away from his work. “I recognize that by writing this I may be disqualifying myself from some future CEO role,” writes Schireson, who will remain with the company as vice chairman. “Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe. Life is about choices. Right now, I choose to spend more time with my family.”