Welcome video with Wilson Rogers & Company CEO Jared Rogers, CPA. Learn about the services our company offers, how Jared got started in the business and what he likes best about his job.
Welcome video with Wilson Rogers & Company CEO Jared Rogers, CPA. Learn about the services our company offers, how Jared got started in the business and what he likes best about his job.
One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is not planning adequately for their retirement. This isn’t all that surprising. If you’re self-employed, it’s a squeeze to set the money aside, even if it is tax-deferred. There’s a fear that you may need those funds to keep things rolling if the business doesn’t grow the way you expect, or clients are lax on paying your invoices.
The good news is that Uncle Sam does offer help in a variety of relatively painless plans to help self-employed small-business owners save for retirement in tax-favorable accounts. Here’s a round-up of the three main options:
SEP-IRA If you’re a one-man/woman band, this account is a good bet. A simplified employee pension, or SEP IRA, is a basic way to set aside pretax savings. You can contribute as much as 25 percent of your net self-employment income, up to a maximum of $50,000.
Best features: Flexibility. There’s no need to fund the account until you file your tax return (i.e. there is no requirement that you fund it each year). So if your net income turns out to be higher than expected, you can make a larger contribution and trim your tax bill. If you have a bad year, you can reduce your contribution. Furthermore, if you’re building your new business on the side while still working for an employer who’s sponsored 401(k) plan you contribute to; your contributions to a SEP don’t interfere with your current workplace plan.
Considerations: This plan may be costly eventually if you have employees, as opposed to contract workers. The plan requires that you must make the same percentage contributions for all “covered,” workers, or those who are 21 and older who have been employed by you for at least three of the last five years and are expected to earn $550 in the current year. Generally, you can deduct the contributions you make each year to each employee’s SEP-IRA. If you are self-employed, you can deduct the contributions you make each year to your own SEP-IRA.
Tax Filer Tip: You have until the due date for your tax returns, including any extensions (meaning as late at October 15th), to both set up and fund the plan. You can open SEP-IRA at practically any financial service company including banks, mutual fund companies or brokerage firms. Firms such a Fidelity, Schwab, T. Rowe Price or Vanguard will set up an account gratis and account fees are low or nil.
Solo 401(k) This is a good choice for business owners and their spouses who are able to set aside a significant portion of their earnings. With a solo 401(k), as an employee, you can stash away as much as $17,000. As the employer, you can contribute another 25% of compensation, up to a ceiling of $50,000 including your employee contribution. If you’re 50 or older, you can toss in another $5,500 extra. Total savings: a whopping $55,500.
Best features: Generous contribution limits. If there’s a set-up or annual fee, it will be low. You might pay a small set-up fee, $100 or less, plus an annual fee of $10 to $250. There are no set-up fees, for example, at Fidelity or Vanguard.
And these contribution amounts are optional, so you can save the top figure in flush years and zilch in leaner times. If you already have an individual retirement account funded by money rolled from a previous employer’s 401(k), you can roll those retirement savings into your new solo 401(k).
It’s also possible to take out a loan against a solo 401(k). That can be useful if you need funds in a pinch. You can borrow half the account’s balance, up to $50,000, and normally can take up to five years to pay it back (provider rules differ). We don’t recommend borrowing from your plan unless it’s a serious situation. But having the option can make it easier to get over the psychological hurdle of opening a retirement account.
Considerations: No extra employees can participate – only self-employed business owners and a spouse. This is not the best option if you’re still working a day job. If you contribute to an employee 401(k) at your day job, you might already be saving the max. You get only one combined $17,000 employee contribution limit to a 401 (k) plan, no matter how many jobs you’re working.
Tax Filer Tip: The deadline to open a new plan is typically December 31st (or fiscal year end) and must be funded by your tax return due date, plus extension. This is a traditional “qualified” pension. That means you must file an annual Form 5500 report once you have $250,000 of assets in it. So you may have some paperwork here. Fidelity and Vanguard, for example, provide the information you need for the form, but do not complete or file it for you.
SIMPLE IRA. A SIMPLE IRA is designed specifically for small businesses and self-employed individuals. If you have a few employees, say, less than 10, who make more than $5,000, but far from six figures, and want to offer a plan for them as a perk, this is probably the one for you. It was designed for firms with no more than 100 employees.
For 2012, you can make an employee contribution of up to $11,500 pretax, or $14,000 if you’re 50 or older. There isn’t any percentage of income restrictions. Your contributions are tax deductible, and your investments grow tax deferred until you are ready to make withdrawals in retirement.
A SIMPLE IRA is a little burdensome if you’re a fledgling firm. You’re generally required to make a contribution to match each employee’s salary reduction contributions on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to 3% of the employee’s salary or a flat 2% of pay – no matter what the employee contributes to the account.
Best features: Easy paper work. It should take about 15 minutes or less to fill out the forms.
Considerations: This one isn’t for moonlighters – you can’t contribute if you’ve already maxed out employee contributions to a 401(k) at your day job. Also, if you need to make a withdrawal from a SIMPLE IRA plan within two years of its inception, the 25% penalty is significantly higher than the 10% fee you’d be charged for early withdrawal from a SEP IRA.
Tax Filer Tip: SIMPLE IRAS must be set up by October 1st to make contributions for that year, and all employee contributions must be made by December 31st.
For additional guidance on retirement plans for the self-employed, see IRS Publication 560.
Q: I’m a one man band and have recently decided to hire someone to lend me a hand. What do I need to keep in mind as I take my first steps towards being an employer?
A: At some point, many small business owners consider bringing in some outside help in order to ease their workload. However, hiring your first employee is not a process that should be done hastily. If done incorrectly, firing your first employee can be even more problematic then bringing them on board. Thus, below we’ll examine some of the challenges you’ll run into as well as other important items you’ll want to keep in mind so that employee No. 1 is a good fit.
Do Your Math. Many owners are sometimes taken aback at how much it actually costs to have an employee. The actual cost of the employee will be more than you think because of payroll tax obligations, benefits, etc. It’s not uncommon for a $10 per hour employee to cost the employer $12.50 – $14 per hour “fully burdened.” In a post later this month we’ll talk about the payroll tax obligations and how to make sure you cover yourself.
The Job Post. Whether you are hanging a help wanted sign in your shop window or posting to a job board, this is the first step in attracting applicants. Make sure the post is clear, concise, specific and informative. You don’t want to waste your time dealing with candidates that aren’t what you’re looking for. So be upfront about who you want to join your team and what you consider a good candidate (i.e. skill set).
Location, Location, Location. Where you post your job impacts the quality of candidates you get. The job pool who browses Craigslist (e.g. independent freelancers) vs. that of Indeed can vary significantly. Likewise, using an employment agency or staffing firm will land another caliber of employee. Thus keep in mind that if you want to find a highly skilled worker, you will typically need to pay more to post your role.
It Takes Time. Be prepared for a lengthy process. Many first time employers think that they’ll slap together a job post, tons of candidates will come flocking and they’ll simply pick the best one. Right? Unfortunately, most employers have to be patient as it often takes some time to find interested, qualified AND responsive candidates. It’s not uncommon for you to encounter candidates who initially appear interested but then disappear into the wild-blue-yonder without so much as an email. Likewise, commission only roles often take longer to fill. And when you do find that perfect match, you’ll still need time to do reference, background and criminal checks. Thus, make sure you allow enough lead time in your process, especially if you need someone to start by a certain time.
Don’t Settle. No matter how frustrating the process gets, don’t settle on a candidate just to fill the role. If they aren’t what you are looking for keep plugging on until you find your match. If this means rewriting your job post, paying more to have it posted in a different media or partnering with an outside firm, do it. Nothing beats hiring a person who at best isn’t a fit and worst is either detrimental to your company or causes financial issues (e.g. fraud or embezzlement).
So, you go to the mailbox and one of the letters has a return address that sends chills down your spine: IRS. While your first instinct is to drop the letter on the ground and hightail it back into the house and hide under the bed, that’s probably not the best choice. While most people don’t like being contacted by the IRS, many of their letters are no cause for panic because they are not audit related. This post will help you determine what type of notice you received and the steps you should take to begin clearing matters up.
The first step in the process is to determine what type of notice you have received. This IRS has over 76 different form letters that you can receive for various reasons. Listed below are the four main categories that they fall into.
Automated Adjustment Notice. These notices tend to start with a CP### and tend to contain the language “Summary of Proposed Changes.” The good news is that this is a computer generated notice and its far more straightforward and easier to deal with than an audit. About 3% of tax returns filed will produce an automated adjustment notice. The notice you receive will be due to one of the following four reasons:
Correspondence Audit. These notices tend to contain a check list of items, some of which may or may not be checked. While the bad news is that this is in fact an audit, the good news is that of the three audit types, this one is typically the easiest to deal with. Correspondence audits make up 75% of all IRS audits and do not require you to meet face-to-face with an IRS auditor.
Correspondence audits are used to verify straightforward matters. For example, the IRS may request that you send in purchase and sale documentation to verify gains or losses on stock sales, or closing statements for real estate sales. Typically resolution can be had by simply sending in the requested documents, but sometimes the IRS is proposing changes that you may disagree with.
Office Audit. This letter will typically have the numbers 2202 located on it somewhere and may reference an appointment date/time. Just as it sounds, an Office Audit takes place at an IRS office where you will meet face to face with an auditor. According to IRS statistics, the average additional tax and penalties owed resulting from an office audit is about $6,000. The notice you receive should list the specific issues on your tax return that the IRS wants to examine.
Field Audit. This letter will typically have the numbers 3253 located on it somewhere and may reference an appointment date/time. Field audits are the most serious of the three and the amount owed often runs into several thousands of dollars. The subjects of these audits tend to be small business owners, self-employed taxpayers, owners of multiple rental real estate properties, earners of more than $100,000 and individuals with complex tax returns.
The steps to resolve a field audit are essentially the same as an Office Audit. However, due to their nature and the rigor involved, it’s probably advisable that you secure someone to represent you. This can be an Enrolled Agent (EA), Attorney or Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Your agent will then help you gather the necessary information and can even speak to the IRS on your behalf if you prefer not to. However, the real benefit of representation is that the person can address complex tax matters that you may not know the specifics of (especially if someone else prepared your return).
An S corporation (sometimes referred to as an S Corp) is a special type of corporation created through an IRS tax election (you must first incorporate the business and then make the IRS election via Form 2553). Many new business owners often contact us asking if this is a good form to conduct business under. While there are advantages to operating as an S Corp, there are some things that one should consider prior to making the election. Depending on your goals, one may find that it’s better to operate under another organizational structure.
Per IRS guidelines, S Corp owners (shareholders) must first meet the following criteria:
Many small business owners elect S Corp status for two main reasons:
Other typical advantages include:
Pass Through Taxation
What makes the S Corp different from C Corp is that profits and losses pass through to your personal tax return. Consequently, the business is not taxed itself, only the shareholders are taxed. The amount which is taxed is determined by the shareholders basis (i.e. their interest in the business). What is unique about S Corp basis is that it fluctuates depending on several things including the company’s operational performance.
Additionally, since the tax liability lies with the shareholder and not the corporation, individuals have to make sure that they receive enough money from the corporation in the form of distributions in order to satisfy their tax obligation. Non dividend distributions aren’t taxable to the extent the shareholder has adequate basis.
Importance of Basis
It is important that a shareholder know their stock AND debt basis at all times. As such, it is imperative that it be calculated every year. If the corporation allocates a loss or deduction to the shareholder, in order to claim it the shareholder needs to demonstrate that they have enough stock or debt basis. For example, if a person invests $10,000 in a company (i.e. stock basis) and the company then passes through a $18,000 loss to them in a single year, only $10,000 will be deductible in that year. The remaining $8,000 becomes “suspended” until the shareholder has adequate basis in the future.
As mentioned above, losses are limited to the extent that an owner has basis. However, there are in fact three limitations which could cause a loss to be nondeductible at any given time. Each limitation must be met in the following order before a shareholder is allowed to claim a flow through loss:
Calculating Stock Basis
A good way to think of stock basis is in terms of a checking account. Basis essentially equals deposits and earnings less any withdrawals made. Furthermore, similar to a bank account (with no overdraft protection) basis cannot go negative – that is more cannot come out than goes in.
Other Important Considerations
Market Share, or how much of the pie is coming through your door, is one thing that all businesses try to track. If you listen to the big guys, they’re always tracking if share is up, if it’s down and just how they can go and get more of it. Yet when the economy is down, many business folks and entrepreneurs alike will throw their hands up and say that “oh well, there’s nothing we can do to grow right now.”
Down markets present a host of opportunities for the savvy and innovative business person to grow their business. Listed below are five ways that you can increase your share of the pie when times are tough.
Examine/Exploit Your Competitors Weaknesses. When times are hard, companies will look to ease the bleeding so to speak. This might mean reduced advertising, hiring and marketing. If you look at where your competitors are failing and step in with better services or products, you might just see an increase in customers. For example, when Restaurant A had to stop offering free fries with their meals, Restaurant B took it as an opportunity to market that their combos “still” had free fries. The result? A few new customers during the lunch hour that use to frequent their competitor.
Get The Word Out. While marketing/sales professionals tend to live the good life when the economy is up, their budgets are often the first to be slashed when times head south. However, nothing happens in an organization until a sale is made and sales don’t happen without marketing. Thus when times are down, if you still have adequate cash flow, don’t cut your marketing but instead continue spending on “smart” marketing. What this means is that if you can highlight something you do that your competitors don’t – go for it! What you don’t want to do is spend money where it won’t make a difference. So, if for example you’re a landscaping company in Chicago, it probably doesn’t make sense to do a major ad campaign in December when it won’t lift your sales all that much (unless you offer snow removal of course).
Expand Product Offerings. Expanding by leaps and bounds is never advisable when the market is tough. However, businesses should be encouraged to look for add on, tuck in and complimentary products to help them grow. We’re not talking about adding on a major product line, but something that enhances what you already do. For example, a hot dog stand already attracts people who are looking for an inexpensive yet fast meal. Why not keep a case or two of “veggie” or vegan brats in stock? Many vegetarians don’t frequent this type of establishment alone but may wind up there when a friend or coworker does. If they can make a purchase from you, why not make the sale? It doesn’t cost you a ton to add the product, and you don’t even have to keep loads of inventory as the demand is probably pretty low.
Purchase A Failing Business. If you have deep pockets, a down economy is a good time to look for struggling competitors and help put them out of their misery. The only word of caution is make sure you do a thorough analysis of their business (i.e. due diligence) before you do the deal. Remember, there is a reason the business is struggling – just make sure that it’s something that you can fix or you will simply purchase a headache instead of increased profits.
Increase Volume. Playing the price card (i.e. reducing prices) is one of the last things recommend when times get tough. Not only do you lose money on the top end (e.g. sales) but you tend to lose it on the bottom line as well because of the inflexibility of certain fixed cost. However, if you have a streamlined operation that has solid margins (think > 50%) then you could go for a volume play. For example, if you can slightly reduce prices and keep yourself profitable, you may see an uptick in customers (volume). If the profit generated by the volume increase outweighs the money you lost when you reduced prices, then it’s a smart move. The goal would be to do this long enough where you increase your customer base and then gradually increase prices once the economy improves. The end result would then be a bigger market share and increased revenue/profits when compared to your competitors.
Businesses are funny entities. They make the products we purchase, seduce and entice us with their ads and even influence the world we live in. But behind these often ambiguous enterprises are real life people like you and I. They have lives, families, hobbies, interests, opinions and the like. Yet, most customers never get to really meet these individuals who, in reality, are the life source of the company. With that being said, I figured it would be nice to share some interesting facts about the guy who primarily runs this blog thingy.
So in short, my name is Jared R. Rogers. I’m the guy at the helm of Wilson Rogers and have been for quite some time. It is true that I am a Financier by trade and have been involved in many facets of the profession (Public Accounting, Industry Accounting, Operational Analysis, etc.) for over 13 years now. Yet, I am far more than just a “numbers guy” and if you had a chat with me at length, you’d probably wonder just what I am doing in the accounting field. So how about a quick round of 10 questions?
1. Just how did you wind up in Finance?
Back in High School I had an interest in going into law enforcement. But the idea of facing the thugs and hooligans of Chicago’s mean city streets didn’t really appeal to me. Thus, I thought that working for the Illinois State Police or FBI was actually a better option. Problem with the FBI is that in order to be an agent, you had to have a college degree in one of five fields (Accounting being one) AND you had to have two years of work experience. Thus, when it was time for me to graduate, I decided to go and work for the Accounting firm KPMG, LLP. Needless to say, I never went back and applied for that FBI gig!
2. You’ve been in the profession for over 13 years?
September 13th 1999; that was my first day in Corporate America. Ironically, the picture below is me headed off to my first day as taken by my mom – yeah, my parents were gracious enough to let me live at home my 1st year after college (that was before I bought an apartment building at 23 and became a slumlord).
I worked in the audit practice of KPMG for about 3 years and during that time passed the CPA exam. Eventually, I decided that 50-60 hour work weeks weren’t worth my health and decided to get a “normal” job. From there I went to the tool manufacturer Robert Bosch (they make Bosch/Skil/Dremel) and got a gig in the accounting department. Over the course of two years I decided that accounting was kind of boring and that the “sexy side” of the business (Finance) was where I wanted to be.
So with that, I began pursuing my MBA and in the process switched jobs to PepsiCo. I worked at PepsiCo for about 4 years and in the process got to work as a Financial Analyst for Gatorade. It was here that I got to work on some pretty cool things, saw the importance/value of all functions within a company (e.g. Sales, Marketing, R&D, etc) and really figured out that my mind is actually more oriented towards business as a whole versus just accounting. After PepsiCo I moved to Hyatt where I assumed management roles within the BU Finance function and Corporate Planning & Analysis (FP&A) team.
3. So just how did you start doing taxes?
Well, being an accounting major, I was not going to pay someone to do my taxes. Thus my start in taxes began with me doing my own. Owning an apartment building led me to learn the intricacies of some of the more complex individual tax matters. I’ve always been a proponent of giving back, and during the time when I was working for KPMG, I began to participate in the IRS’ VITA program. After a few seasons of working with VITA (and the typical “hey, you’re a CPA, I have a tax question for you”) I decided that doing taxes on the side might be a cool way to pass the time during the winter. So from there, things just started to grow and I’ve been involved in the tax world ever since.
4. If you find accounting boring, finance sexy and you have a business oriented mind, why do you do taxes again?
As I mentioned above, I’m not your typical accountant. When I say that accounting is boring, I mean that the process of recording entries and preparing financial reports is not exciting. Most of the information is historical in nature (meaning it’s already happened) and it is very routine in nature. Finance and business tend to be more dynamic and really benefit from forward looking analysis. I mean, if you are stuck in the desert, trying to figure your way out of the place is far more exciting than looking at the footsteps you’ve created in the sand right? Thus, taxes are intriguing to me because there is a fair amount of ambiguity and getting it right can sometimes be a challenge.
5. You left KPMG because of your health?
The short answer is yes. At the time I hadn’t learned to manage stress appropriately and my body manifested this as mild high blood pressure. I take my health pretty seriously so I decided that my personal wellbeing was worth more than the paycheck I was making. With that, I decided to move on, which gave me more time to participate in activities and just love life in general.
6. What are these said activities?
They have varied over the years, but typically involve me being active or using my mind. I played football in High School so I’ve lifted weights for many years. During this time I also rode as a bike messenger which really kept me fit. I’m also a big fan of electronic music (hey Chicago is the House Capitol of the US in my opinion) and used to DJ when in college. While I no longer DJ, I love to hear a good mix during my training and workouts.
In my initial years of corporate work, I had less time to be active so I wrote a book just for kicks. I also became interested in motorcycles as it was a natural extension of my love of bikes. Best trip? Chicago to LA and back during a summer road trip on my Honda Shadow!
But all of that not being active caught up with me and at one point my weight topped out at 218 lbs (I played football at like 165 lbs). So in 2007 I started racing bikes for these guys. I can honestly say that the past 5 seasons have been a blast especially this most recent one. This is from one of my more memorable races this summer:
In addition to the above, I also enjoy swimming and yoga as I find they balance my body out given all the time I spend on the bike.
7. So your weight has obviously gone down right?
Yes, but it wasn’t without a lot of hard work. See, when your body is used to being active, it takes a lot to get it to shed pounds because it’s adapted to the workload. Well, that and when you like to eat like a horse and love sweets like I do! Combine that with the fact that bike racing is REALLY hard, it became obvious to me that I would not do too well weighing what I did. So over time, I began to modify my already 90% healthy diet and started working out even more. With that, the pounds started to come off. With a little more focus on my offseason training and shifting to a Vegetarian diet, my weight is down to within 10lbs of where I want it to be.
8. Wait, you don’t eat meat?
When a car pulls up to me on my bike in the dead of winter, inevitably the driver looks at me as if I was the escaped Bronx Zoo Cobra! The same reaction is usually what I get when people hear that I am a Vegetarian. I haven’t “knowingly” eaten meat since mid-2010 (I’m sure someone may have slipped me a Mickey or two) and while I can’t say that I will never eat it again, I can say that I have no intentions to do so in my foreseeable future. Over the years, I had refined my eating to mostly turkey, chicken, fish. However, it was after reading an article about the treatment of animals going to the slaughterhouse as well as the health benefits of eating a meat-free diet (and the impact on athletic performance) that finally pushed me down this path.
When I was younger I wanted to be a veterinarian before I wanted to work for the FBI. I also wanted to race in NASCAR which may explain why I love racing bikes? Anyway, I have always had a love for animals and raising them for food just kind of feels wrong and wasteful. By wasteful I mean, we feed a cow tons of grain (to make it weigh a few tons), use gallons of diesel fuel to truck it to a slaughterhouse, use tons of water and electricity to process and package it so we can have a burger. Why not save all the middle men and just give me the chickpeas in the form of some tasty olive hummus?
9. So sustainability isn’t new to you?
Nope. Back when I was little I remember that I had to earn my extra money. My sister and I would go to the local train tracks and pick up all the aluminum cans that people tossed from their cars. My father would then take us to the recycling center and we’d cash the cans in. Thus, I think I’ve always been conscious of wasting things in this world and doing what we can to minimize our impact on what we take. The same goes for business. One of my roles at PepsiCo was within the Process & Control Development group. This team’s job was to figure out how things worked and figure out how to do them better and more responsibly. So, I’m a big proponent of helping businesses do things better, faster, cleaner and more efficiently than their competitors.
10. I thought accountants lived in black and white. Where do you think your open mind comes from?
I went to Catholic school from grammar to high school. I attended a liberal arts college. My parents always encouraged my sister and I to do whatever we wanted to in this world, so long as it was legal and didn’t hurt anyone else. Based on this foundation, I had a lot of exposure to many things in life. And because I had all of this exposure, I think I came to my own conclusion that there are many options when it comes to things in this world. You don’t have to be a Catholic, you can follow the teachings of many of the other religions of this world or you can follow none of them at all. But at the end of the day, we all tend to believe in treating people well and trying to do what is right. So with that said, I tend to place less importance on individual beliefs so long as we believe in the same general things.
However, when it comes to the land of taxes, there is no such thing as having an open mind. You either do it right or you cause yourself a lot of grief. Personally, I can do without the drama in my life!
Well, I know this was a long post, but hopefully you’ve gathered a little more about the man behind the curtain. Yes, I live and breathe in the world of finance, but I am also a regular person. I love interacting with people, helping out those in need, trying to keep this bag of bones in shape and keeping the old mind active. While I am far from perfect, I strive to do the best I can each day and hopefully make someone’s day a little brighter. Until we chat again.