July 25, 2017

Outsource Technology Tasks and Ease IT Workload with a Managed Services Provider

IT infrastructure is a critical aspect for all businesses. With a healthy network, employees are able to complete daily tasks easily and timely. While establishing a good infrastructure makes business processes run smoothly, a lack of monitoring, auditing, and patching could lead to poor system performance, utilization and malicious attacks or infections.

Easing the Workload of Internal IT Staff

Having a dedicated IT employee or team that monitors the IT infrastructure and assists with common IT issues can help alleviate problems that arise. Some businesses may not have the luxury of having a dedicated person or team to perform such processes. Even if an internal team is in place, adding monitoring and patching on top of day-to-day tasks may cause workloads to become overwhelming. This is where Managed Service Providers come into the equation.

Managed IT Services

As a Managed Services Provider (MSP), we offer a range of services that offer peace of mind with your IT infrastructure and assets. Our technology advisors allow your business to offload common IT tasks and issues that are to be performed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.  With our Managed Services solution, we provide the following services:

  • Storage Management and Monitoring
  • Virtual Infrastructure and Desktop Implementation
  • Office 365 Support, Monitoring and Reporting
  • Mobile Management
  • SharePoint Online
  • Web Conferencing
  • Firewall Management
  • Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware Protection
  • Server and Workstation Monitoring
  • Patch Management
  • Geographical IP Blocking
  • Live 24/7 Monitoring, Reporting and Auditing
  • Penetration Testing
  • Domain Name Protection
  • Mobile Device Management
  • Wireless Security
  • Disaster Recovery Consulting and Planning
  • Hosted and Cloud-Based Services
  • Automated Data Backup Solutions
  • Virtualized Server Environments

Learn more about Anders Technology Services, or contact an Anders Technology Advisor to find out how your business can benefit from a Managed Services Provider.

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July 18, 2017

Top 10 Ways to Tackle Student Loan Debt

Paying off student loan debt is a challenge many post-grads face entering their careers. While it can seem daunting, the first steps in tackling student loan debt are to inform yourself and strategize a plan of action. Below are a few tips to help you strategize and pay off those student loans:

  1. Make more than the minimum payment. Increasing payments is one of the easiest ways to reduce your debt. Anything above the minimum payment goes straight toward your principal.
  2. Consolidate and refinance. Refinancing your loans is one of the best moves out there for paying off student loans faster. The goal of refinancing is to decrease interest rates, meaning more of your payments go towards paying down the loans.
  3. Use a cash windfall. If you receive a large sum of cash such as an inheritance, a settlement from a lawsuit or insurance claim, bonus, or even a tax refund, use it to pay off student loans faster.
  4. Apply your raises. If you work at a job where annual raises are part of your compensation, instead of buying a new TV or a newer car, put a chunk of your raise towards student loans.
  5. Trim your budget. While it may sound extreme, there are several common options to trim your budget. The key to success is that you only have to do this short-term to focus on paying off student loans faster. A few common options include canceling cable TV, limiting how often you go out to eat, working extra hours, or taking a second job.
  6. Pay attention to interest rates. Adding more money to your student loan repayment is important, but be careful as to how you apply that extra money. Make sure to pay off the high interest student loans first, and this may not be the default option. Contact your student loan provider to ensure your additional payment is going towards the loan with the highest interest rate.
  7. Utilize interest rate reductions. Certain student loans offer an interest deduction for signing up for automatic payments. Many servicers offer a 0.25% interest rate deduction on federal student loans for enrolling in automatic payments.
  8. Take advantage of tax deductions and credits. You can deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid in a given year. The student loan interest deduction is claimed as an adjustment to income, so you can claim the deduction even if you don’t itemize deductions on your Form 1040. There are income limitations on taking the student loan interest deduction. Contact an Anders advisor to find out if you qualify for the deduction.
  9. Realize student loans aren’t “good debt” to keep around. While student loans are generally a good investment based on increased income potential in your lifetime, along with some deductions, it’s not good debt to keep around. The “good debt vs. bad debt” is really about how that debt helps you increase the value in something. In this case, it’s the value of a salary.
  10. Pay every two weeks. Another popular extra payment strategy for student loans is to make a student loan payment every two weeks. You don’t need to pay double the amount of your monthly payment to make this work. Split your monthly payment in half and make a payment of that amount every two weeks. By doing this, you’ll make a full extra payment over the year.

Paying off student loans quickly is possible with a defined plan. Contact an Anders advisor if you have any questions about student loan interest tax deductions, or need assistance in setting up a plan of action to pay off your student loan debt.

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July 13, 2017

Luke Luckett Selected for AICPA Leadership Academy

Tax manager Lucas A. Luckett, CPA/PFS, CEPA is one of only 38 CPAs honored by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) as a member of the 2017 Leadership Academy. Luke was selected based on his exceptional leadership skills and professional experience for the four-day Leadership Academy program, which will be held from October 1-5 in Durham, N.C.

As a Personal Finance Specialist (PFS) and the youngest-known Certified Exit Planning Advisor (CEPA), Luke brings a wide variety of tax and family wealth experience to his clients at Anders, specializing in individual and corporate tax planning, exit planning, estate planning and stock option planning.

Luke has served on the Steering Committee and Staff Advisory Group of the Anders Young Professionals, has been an active AICPA member since 2010 and has held multiple positions in the Missouri Society of Certified Public Accountants (MOCPA), most recently as Co-Chair for the St. Louis Chapter.

After graduating with a B.S.B.A. in Accounting and Finance from Southeast Missouri State University, Luke joined Anders as an associate in 2010. His career accomplishments and professional and community involvement has earned him the title of a 2017 30 Under 30 by the St. Louis Business Journal.

The AICPA Leadership Academy was designed to strengthen and expand the leadership skills of promising young professionals while they network with a peer group of talented and motivated CPAs. Participants are selected from public accounting firms of all sizes, business and industry, education and government. The 2017 class contains a diverse range of ethnicities and is split evenly between females and males.

The 2017 Leadership Academy attendees were recommended by their employers, state CPA societies or both. Candidates submitted resumes which included work history, licensure information, professional volunteer activities, community service and awards and honors. Candidates also submitted a statement explaining how participating in the Leadership Academy would impact them personally and professionally and wrote an essay on the topic “what leadership competencies and characteristics will be essential to successfully lead and advance the CPA profession in 2025?”

To date, more than 270 CPAs have participated in the AICPA Leadership Academy, many of whom have gone on to take on leadership positions in their firms, businesses and volunteer organizations.

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July 11, 2017

Steps for Creating an IT Strategic Plan to Align Technology with Business Goals

Creating and implementing an IT plan allows businesses to adapt to technological advances while supporting business goals. Internal IT departments may be too busy dealing with the latest malware alert, error message or other IT issue to develop a strategic, long-term technology plan. To properly manage and grow your business, it is imperative to have a 3 year IT Strategic Plan that will align technology projects with your overall business objectives.

What should be included in an IT Strategic Plan?

To create an effective technology strategy that contributes to the goals of your business, there are necessary components. An IT Strategic Plan should consist of the following:

  1. Timeframe
  2. Purpose – What are the reasons for creating the IT strategic plan?  What will the plan accomplish?
  3. Company strategy
  4. Business initiatives – Initiatives for that time period to support company strategy
  5. IT strategy – Aligned with business needs. Sections of the strategy may be separated by department such as sales or accounting, or by categories such as security, data center and compliance
  6. IT systems – Systems that will be necessary to support the planned business initiatives.  For each initiative, estimate the time, resources, and cost
  7. Gantt chart – Develop a Gantt chart depicting the implementation schedule to ensure resources are available and held accountable for the projects.

Creating an IT strategy and reviewing it often will make sure your IT initiatives and business goals are working together. For more information on creating an effective IT Strategic Plan for your business, contact an Anders Technology advisor, or learn more about Anders Technology Services.

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July 7, 2017

Stress-Free Financial Statement Guide: Profit and Loss Statements

Second in a series to help entrepreneurs, startups and new business owners understand their financial reports

Having a good understanding of your startup or new businesses’ financial statements is vital to attracting investors and keeping your business up and running. Our first blog post explored the balance sheet. The next fundamental accounting report is the Profit and Loss Statement (P&L Statement).  You may also have heard this report called the Income Statement.  The P&L Statement shows revenues, expenses, gains, and losses over a specific period of time such as a month, quarter, or year.  The net result of all of these transactions is the company’s net income or loss for the period of time.

The purpose of the P&L Statement is to provide financial performance of a company over time.   Below is some basic terminology of the main parts of a P&L Statement and the common accounts listed within these sections:

Revenue:  Whether referred to as the P&L or income statement, the starting point for this financial report is the company’s revenue.  Revenue is broadly defined as the amount of money that the company receives during the period we are tracking.  There are two broad types of revenue that can be reported.

-Operating Revenue is revenue earned through your normal business operations (primary activities – such as sales of your product or service).  Operating revenue will not only include sales, but also discounts, credits, and refunds as well.  Whereas,

-Other Revenue is revenue earned that is not a result of your normal business operations (secondary activities) such as investment income.

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS):  These are the costs directly related to producing the goods or services provided by the business.  Examples of these costs are manufacturing labor, inventory, and supplies.

Gross Profit: Revenues — COGS = Gross Profit.  Gross Profit will not include other expenses, but it will provide insight to whether you are pricing your product/service correctly or discounting too much.

Expenses: Once we have captured our total revenues, we move on to our expenses.  There are several significant categories of expenses that we track:

-Operating Expenses:  Moving down the P&L Statement, the next section are the operating expenses.  These are the expenses a company encounters to keep the business running such as advertising, general and administrative, utilities, salaries, rents, office expenses, research and development, depreciation and amortization.  Most of your operating expenses are pretty self-explanatory, except maybe amortization and depreciation.

-Depreciation Expense:  Depreciation is the expensing of a portion of a purchase over a specified number of years.  This is generally required for purchases of items that have a useful life (i.e benefit) to the company of over one year.   For example, a computer, piece of office furniture, or piece of manufacturing equipment should provide well over a year of benefit to your company.

For example, let’s say you purchase a computer that costs $2,000.  Instead of deducting the entire $2,000 in year of purchase, a portion of the $2,000 is expensed each year for the next five years until fully depreciated or sold.   

-Amortization Expense: is similar to depreciation, but it is the expensing of your intangible assets over a specified number of years.  Intangible assets are assets such as computer software, copyrights, patents, and goodwill.

Different types of assets (both fixed assets and intangible assets) have different depreciable lives that can range from 3 years to 39 years.

Operating Income:  Next, is your Operating Income which is the Gross Profit less all Operating Expenses.  If total Revenues are greater than the combined COGS and Operating Expenses, the company has an Operating Profit.  On the other hand, if COGS and Operating Expenses are greater than total Revenues earned, you will have an Operating Loss.

Other Income and Expenses:  The next section of the P&L Statement is the Other Income and Expenses section.  Not all company’s P&L will include this section.  This section will include your secondary activities such as investment income, interest expense, gains and losses, taxes, and other non-recurring events

Net Income or Loss:  The final section of the P&L is often referred to as the “bottom line.”  This is the grand total of all of the company’s revenue and other income less all of the company’s expenses (COGS, operating expenses, depreciation, amortization, and other expenses).

-Net Income:  The company is operating at a Net Income for the period if all of the revenues and other income items exceed all of the company’s different types of expenses (including COGS).  Except for rare occasions, the goal is for the company to operate at a net income for the period.

-Net Loss:  In the event the company’s different types of expenses (including COGS) exceed the company’s revenue and other income, the company has a Net Loss for the period.  If this occurs for multiple periods, the company should examine the reasons why.

For more information or assistance with understanding your Profit and Loss Statement or other financial reports, please contact an Anders Advisor today.

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July 6, 2017

Bill Repeals St. Louis Minimum Hourly Wage Increase

A bill repealing St. Louis’ minimum wage increase to $10/hour will go into law on August 28th. Missouri Governor Eric Greitens announced that he will not sign the bill, allowing it to go into law automatically. Under the law, St. Louis’ minimum wage will revert back to the statewide minimum wage of $7.70 an hour.

Background on the Minimum Wage Increase

A Missouri Supreme Court ruling reinstated an ordinance as of May 5, 2017, that required St. Louis city businesses to implement a new minimum wage of $10.00 per hour in 2017 and $11.00 in 2018. In June, Missouri lawmakers sent a bill blocking the minimum wage increase to the governor.

The Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri Restaurant Association and other local organizations sued to block the original increase, stopping the law from passing in 2015. The groups argued that different minimum wage levels in different parts of the state would make Missouri and St. Louis city less attractive for business growth and job creation.

If you have questions on how your business and minimum wage workers may be affected, the city has established a direct contact resource at minimumwage@stlouis-mo.gov. Contact an Anders advisor for any business consulting needs.

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July 5, 2017

Attracting Commercial Tenants with Qualified Lessee Construction Allowances

The tenant allowance amount that a landlord agrees to spend in renovations plays an important role in attracting new tenants to commercial spaces. From a tax perspective, a tenant allowance is normally treated as income on the tenant’s tax return and the improvements are depreciated by the tenant over a number of years. Qualified lessee construction allowances are a more attractive, alternative option that doesn’t require a tenant to include the allowance as taxable income.

Qualified Lessee Construction Allowance Criteria

Making a safe harbor disclosure under Internal Revenue Code Section 110 to treat the allowance as a “qualified lessee construction allowance” can be a big benefit for tenants. When properly advertised, this arrangement may pique the interest of prospective tenants. Given the aggressive environment of commercial real estate, it could be useful to offer this option to prospective tenants in order to gain a competitive edge over other commercial property owners. Qualified lessee construction allowances are allowed for lease agreements that meet the following criteria:

  • Lease term must be 15 years or less of retail space
  • Space must be occupied by the lessee
  • “Retail space” indicates real property used in a trade or business of selling tangible personal property or services to the general public
  • Allowance must be used for constructing or improving qualified long-term real property
  • Allowance must not be used for personal property
  • Allowance does not exceed the amount the lessee spent for the improvement
  • The tenant spends the allowance in the tax year the allowance was received or within 8 ½ months after the end of the tax year
  • Both the landlord and the tenant must disclose certain information with their tax returns for the year in which the allowance is received.

When setting up this type of agreement, it is key to include certain provisions in the lease documents. If the required verbiage is not included, the safe harbor may be deemed invalid by the IRS. It is also essential to include stipulations that help minimize tax impact to the landlord, such as requiring all improvements to be qualified for bonus depreciation. Changes to lease agreements should be consulted with a tax professional. If you’d like to offer this option to tenants, contact Anders for more information.

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July 5, 2017

Anders Unites Technology Affiliate Under the Brand

Anders has united its long-time technology affiliate under the brand as a key component to the firm’s expanding advisory services.

While Anders has had a technology affiliate for nearly 20 years, technology services have always been marketed under a separate name and logo, most recently Inflexion LLC.  With the growing emphasis on offering comprehensive and cohesive advisory services for clients, the firm believes it is advantageous for this service line to share the same brand identity.

“Since we launched the new Anders brand in 2013, we have enhanced our reputation, increased market share as well as our physical footprint and added other advisory services to our offerings,” said Robert J. Minkler, Jr., CPA, managing partner. “Consolidating one of our largest service lines under the brand makes strategic sense for the technology team and the firm, but most of all for our clients. Technology services continue to become more integrated into other services offered by Anders, and this move will assist us to provide a more seamless experience for clients. In addition, by offering greater synergies for our clients, we believe it will also offer additional opportunities and greater potential for our accounting, advisory and technology staffs to collaborate.

The Anders Technology Advisors team is led by Theresa Stearns, member, and Brent Kaniecki, member, who have been with the firm for 20 years and 13 years, respectively.  They have 22 team members, specializing in managed IT and cloud services including infrastructure, security and disaster recovery, along with business intelligence, data analytics and IT advisory services.

For existing technology clients, only the name will change.  Clients will continue to be served by the same team of technology advisors.  For Anders accounting and advisory clients, it will now be easier to find and source as technology services will now be listed on the website and other collateral materials and marketed under the firm name as a single resource.

Learn more about Anders Technology Services.

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