Optimism Grows for Start-Ups

According to a recent survey, Americans were more optimistic about starting a business in 2013 than in any year since 2001.

Of 5,698 U.S. adults polled from April-June, 2013, 47% felt there were “good opportunities” for starting a new business (up from 43% in 2012, and 25% in 2006).

Related Post: New Flash of Optimism for Small Business Owners

Stephen Bronars, an economist in Washington, D.C., notes that people are more likely to launch businesses during stronger economic times because they have greater access to capital from a bank, investor or family members.

Unfortunately, the survey findings conflict with a report released in April, 2014, that showed a decline in the creation of new businesses in the U.S. The study was done by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City, Mo., advocacy group for entrepreneurship, and is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Labor Department. The findings conclude that only about 476,000 new U.S. businesses were started each month in 2013, down 7% from 2012 and 12% from 2011.

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According to David Neumark, professor of economics at the University of California, Irvine, “it can be very difficult to measure” when a business starts using census data and other government sources. Some people may not report income taxes because their new businesses aren’t yet making any money.

Another factor in survey responses is how respondents define a start-up. Some may not consider a business a true start-up until it begins making money.

Please read the article by Sarah E. Needleman in its entirety here.

Half of Employers Hiring More Employees Aged 50+ in 2014

According to a recent Career Builder Survey, 53% of employers plan to hire employees aged 50 and over in 2014 (up from 48% last year). Even though many of these workers are over-qualified, 77% of employers said they would hire them for entry level positions.

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The survey brings “good news for workers looking for a new job at the end of their career,” says Michael Erwin, a spokesperson for CareerBuilder. “In ongoing discussions with employers, we constantly hear that mature workers are good hires because of the intellectual capital that they bring to the team.” Less money has to be spent training mature workers and “they can act as mentors to the younger teammates. It makes good business sense to have a diverse workforce as companies continue to come out of the recession,” Erwin adds.

Although the recession caused many workers to delay retirement plans or forego them completely, 50% of those over the age of 60 said they would be able to retire within 4 years.  Women are more likely than men to delay retirement (71% of women vs 49% of men; 18% of women over 60 say they will never be able to retire, while only 7% of men said the same).

Reasons given for delaying retirement include:

  • financially can’t afford to (79%)
  • need the health insurance and benefits (61%)
  • like their job (49%)
  • enjoy where they work (46%)
  • afraid retirement will be boring (27%)

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The good news is that as retirement funds and the economy rebound, fewer people are delaying retirement than at the height of the recession. More people are finding they are able to retire without needing a part-time job, and if they are seeking work, they are more likely to be hired according the survey findings.

Please read the article written by Melissa Winn in its entirety here.

Small Business Outlook for 2014

A recent poll by Gallup and Wells Fargo shows mixed feelings on the small business outlook for 2014. About 1/4 (23%) of small business owners have a positive outlook on the future, whereas 28% are worried about the year ahead. Nearly half feel the same as they did at the end of 2013.

The survey was conducted with over 600 employers having less than $20 million in revenue. Coincidentally, the survey’s outcome is nearly identical to one conducted two years ago.

Related Post: New Flash of Optimism for Small Business Owners

Major concerns of small business owners include:

  • Overall strength of the economy (12%)
  • Obamacare (11%)
  • Federal government policy issues (11%)

“The reality is that small businesses are struggling to survive,” says Cap Wiley, owner of a small accounting firm in Rhode Island. Adding, “We need a consistent and dependable environment in which to operate that helps them grow and create jobs.”

Other small business challenges include finding new customers and business opportunities and securing cash flow.

Related Post: 2014 Tax Changes Checklist

On the bright side, small business owners report having easier access to funding needed to start or expand their businesses.

You can read the full article by J.D. Harrison here.

2014 Tax Changes Checklist

Now that we have turned over a new year, you can be sure that there will be changes to the current tax laws. From health savings accounts to retirement contributions, our tax partner, Dave Toney from AccounTax, offers a checklist of tax changes to help you plan the year ahead.

Filing Season Delayed by 10 Days

Taxpayers should note that the 2014 tax season opens on Jan. 31 instead of Jan. 21, 2014, due to the government shutdown that took place in October 2013. The April 15 tax deadline is set by statute and will remain in place, although taxpayers can request an automatic six-month extension to file their tax return.

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Individuals

– For 2014, more than 40 tax provisions are affected by inflation adjustments.

– For 2014, the tax rate structure, ranging from 10 to 39.6 percent, remains the same as in 2013, but tax-bracket thresholds increase for each filing status.

–  Standard deductions and the personal exemption have also been adjusted upward to reflect inflation.

“Kiddie Tax” 

This tax is applied to your child’s unearned income of more than $2,000 ( Unearned income meaning investments, such as interest, dividends and capital gains, not income from wages or self-employment). For taxable years beginning in 2014, the amount that can be used to reduce the net unearned income reported on the child’s return that is subject to the “kiddie tax,” is $1,000 (same as 2013).

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) 

In conjunction with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) are used to pay current or future medical expenses of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent. For 2014, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,250 for self-only coverage or $2,500 for family coverage (unchanged from 2013) and must limit annual out-of-pocket expenses of the beneficiary to $6,350 for self-only coverage (up $100 from 2013) and $12,700 for family coverage (up $200 from 2013).

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Self-only coverage

For taxable years beginning in 2014, the term “high deductible health plan” means, for self-only coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $2,200 (up $50 from 2013) and not more than $3,250 (up $50 from 2013), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $4,350 (up $50 from 2013).

Family coverage

For taxable years beginning in 2014, the term “high deductible health plan” means, for family coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $4,350 (up $50 from 2013) and not more than $6,550 (up $100 from 2013), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $8,000 (up $150 from 2013).

AGI Limit for Deductible Medical Expenses

In 2014, the deduction threshold for deductible medical expenses remains at 10 percent (same as 2013, but up from 7.5 percent in 2012) of adjusted gross income (AGI); however, if either you or your spouse were age 65 or older as of December 31, 2013, the new 10 percent of AGI threshold will not take effect until 2017.

If you have questions about the tax changes for 2014, please contact Dave at dat.accountax@fuse.net or 513-528-5566. You can view the 2014 Tax checklist in its entirety here.

Making the Most of Customer Complaints

No company is perfect. It’s simply a fact, not an excuse.

That is why it is important for businesses to realize that the way they handle customer complaints is just as important as trying to provide great service in the first place.

Customers and clients are constantly judging companies for service failures. First, they judge the company on how it handles the issues and then on its willingness to make sure similar problems don’t happen in the future.

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Most companies limit service recovery to the staff that directly deals with the customer. Often customer service sorts out the immediate problem, offers an apology or some compensation and then assumes all is well.

But in the end this approach is damaging because it does nothing to address the underlying problem, ultimately guaranteeing similar issues will arise.

What businesses should be doing is looking at service recovery as a mission that involves three parties: customers who want their complaints resolved; managers in charge of addressing the concerns; and the frontline employees who deal with the customers. All three must be integrated into addressing and fixing service problems.

Here are some quick strategies for real resolutions when it comes to improving service recovery:

  • Create and apply a “service logic” – This should be a mission statement or summary of how and why your business provides its services. It should integrate the goals of the service, customers and employees. The result should serve as a guide both for delivering service and for help with service recovery.
  • Draw attention to success – You can use in-house publications, intranets or training programs to share stories that emphasize your company’s values and culture. Just don’t forget to highlight the heroes of service-recovery stories.
  • Collect and share data – Companies must gather more feedback about poor service, record it and make it accessible. This will help equip managers and other employees with strong information to be effective at resolving disputes.
  • Measure employee performance – Positive reinforcement and incentives should be offered for solving problems and pleasing customers. Likewise there should be disincentives or demerits for poor handling of customer complaints.

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To learn more about how to improve service recovery, read the article by Stefan Michel, David Bowen and Robert Johnston this information was taken from.