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Kiddie tax: New hazards, new opportunities

Despite its name, the “kiddie tax” is far from child’s play. And a change made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) puts some adult teeth into the tax. Now, children with unearned income may find themselves in a tax bracket higher than that of their parents. At the same time, the TCJA creates new opportunities for family income shifting.

Income shifting discouraged

At one time, parents could substantially reduce their families’ tax bills by transferring investments or other income-producing assets to their children in lower tax brackets. To discourage this strategy, Congress established the kiddie tax in 1986. The tax essentially eliminated the advantages of income shifting by taxing all but a small portion of a child’s unearned income at his or her parents’ marginal rate.

When the kiddie tax was first enacted, it applied only to children under 14, but in 2007 Congress raised the age threshold to 19 (24 for full-time students). Note that the kiddie tax doesn’t apply to children who reach 19 (or 24, if applicable) by the last day of the tax year. In addition, the tax doesn’t apply to children who either 1) are married and file joint returns, or 2) are 18 or older and have earned income that exceeds half of their living expenses.

Tax bite bigger

Now the kiddie tax applies according to the tax brackets for trusts and estates, rather than at the parents’ marginal rate. In previous years, the kiddie tax essentially undid the benefits of shifting investment income to one’s children. By applying the parents’ marginal rate to that income, the tax result was about the same as if the parents had retained ownership of the assets. 

But the TCJA’s approach can push children into a tax bracket higher than that of their parents in many cases. That’s because, for 2019, the highest marginal tax rate for trusts and estates — currently, 37% — kicks in when taxable income exceeds $12,750. For individuals, that rate doesn’t apply until taxable income reaches $510,300 ($612,350 for joint filers).

Planning opportunity

Although the new kiddie tax rules can lead to harsh consequences for many families, they may create tax-saving opportunities for higher-income taxpayers. Because the tax is now applied using the progressive rate structure for trusts and estates, rather than the parents’ marginal rate, parents can shift a limited amount of investment income to their children at lower tax rates. For example, parents in the 37% tax bracket can shift income up to $14,950 (the $2,200 unearned income threshold plus $12,750) before the 37% rate applies.

There are also several ways to shift income to your kids without triggering kiddie tax issues. For example, you can:

  • Transfer investments that emphasize capital appreciation over current income, allowing the child to defer income until the kiddie tax no longer applies,
  • Transfer tax-deferred savings bonds,
  • Transfer tax-exempt municipal bonds,
  • Contribute to 529 college savings plans, and
  • Hire your kids.

Employing your children can be beneficial because earned income isn’t subject to kiddie tax; plus, your business can deduct the expense.

Look before leaping

Depending on your circumstances, shifting income to your children may reduce your tax bill. But given the risk that income-shifting may increase it, look closely at the kiddie tax before you attempt this strategy.

Do you need to file gift tax returns?

Avoid these common mistakes

For 2019, the lifetime gift and estate tax exemption has reached a whopping $11.40 million ($22.80 million for married couples). As a result, few people will be subject to federal gift taxes. If your wealth is well within the exemption amount, does that mean there’s no need to file gift tax returns? Not necessarily. There are many situations in which it’s necessary (or desirable) to file Form 709, “United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return” — even if you’re not liable for any gift taxes.

All gifts are taxable, except . . .

The federal gift tax regime begins with the assumption that all transfers of property by gift (including below-market sales or loans) are taxable, and then sets forth several exceptions. Nontaxable transfers that need not be reported on Form 709 include:

  • Gifts of present interests (as opposed to future interests; see below) within the gift tax annual exclusion amount ($15,000 per recipient in 2019),
  • Direct payments of qualifying medical or educational expenses on behalf of an individual (see “Medical and educational expenses: Direct payments only”),
  • Gifts to political organizations and certain tax-exempt organizations,
  • Deductible charitable gifts, and
  • Gifts to your U.S.-citizen spouse, either outright or to a trust that meets certain requirements, or gifts to your noncitizen spouse within a special annual exclusion amount ($155,000 for 2019).

If all your gifts for the year fall into these categories, no gift tax return is required. But gifts that don’t meet these requirements are generally considered taxable — and must be reported on Form 709 — even if they’re shielded from tax by the lifetime exemption.

Traps to avoid

If you make gifts during the year, consider whether you’re required to file Form 709. And watch out for these common traps:

Future interestsGifts of future interests, such as transfers to a trust, aren’t covered by the gift tax annual exclusion, so you’re required to report them on Form 709 even if they’re less than $15,000. Be aware, however, that it’s possible to have gifts in trust meet the present interest requirement by giving beneficiaries Crummey withdrawal powers (the right to withdraw a contribution for a limited time after it’s made).

Spousal giftsIf you make a gift to a trust for your spouse’s benefit and want the gift to qualify as a nontaxable transfer, the trust must 1) provide that your spouse is entitled to all the trust’s income for life, payable at least annually, 2) give your spouse a general power of appointment over its assets and 3) not be subject to any other person’s power of appointment. Otherwise, the gift must be reported. And be careful with gifts to a noncitizen spouse: If they exceed the $155,000 annual exclusion, they must be reported regardless of whether they’re outright gifts or gifts in trust.

Gift splittingSpouses may elect to split a gift to a child or other donee, so that each spouse is deemed to have made one-half of the gift, even if one spouse wrote the check. This allows married couples to combine their annual exclusions and give up to $30,000 to each recipient in 2019. To make the election, the donor spouse must file Form 709, and the other spouse must sign a consent or, in some cases, file a separate gift tax return. Keep in mind that, once you make this election, you and your spouse must split all gifts to third parties during the year.

529 plansIf you make gifts to a 529 college savings plan, you have the option of bunching five years’ worth of annual exclusions into the first year. So, for example, you can contribute $75,000 to the plan ($150,000 if you and your spouse split the gift) and treat the gift as if it were made over the next five years for annual exclusion purposes. To take advantage of this benefit, you must file an election on Form 709.

Consider filing voluntarily

It may be a good idea to file a gift tax return even if it’s not required. For example, if you make annual exclusion gifts of difficult-to-value assets, such as interests in a closely held business, a gift tax return that meets “adequate disclosure” requirements will trigger the three-year limitations period for audits.

Suppose you transfer business interests valued at $10 million over a period of years, through a combination of tax-free gifts to your spouse and annual exclusion gifts to your children. If the IRS finds that the interests were worth $15 million, which exceeds the lifetime exemption amount, it can assess gift taxes plus penalties and interest. If you don’t file regular gift tax returns, the IRS has unlimited time to challenge the values of your gifts.

Stay on the right side of the IRS

A smart gifting strategy continues to offer significant benefits for you and your loved ones. However, to keep from running afoul of the IRS, it’s critical to know when you need to file a gift tax return. We can help you in that determination.

Sidebar: Medical and educational expenses: Direct payments only

Paying tuition or unreimbursed medical expenses on behalf of a child or other loved one is a great strategy for making unlimited tax-free gifts without using up any of your $15,000 annual exclusion or $11.40 million lifetime exemption. But it works only if you make the payments directly to a qualifying educational institution or medical provider.

A common mistake is for a parent or grandparent to advance the child the funds he or she needs to pay the expenses or to reimburse him or her for expenses that have already been paid. These payments are treated as gifts to the child, which must be reported on Form 709 if they exceed the annual exclusion amount.

Have questions? Contact us and we’ll talk it through!

Charitable IRA rollover eases tax pain of RMDs

One downside of contributing to a traditional IRA is that, once you reach age 70½, you must begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) — and pay taxes on those distributions — whether you need the money or not. But if you’re charitably inclined, you can use a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) to avoid taxes on up to $100,000 in RMDs per year. 

Also known as a “charitable IRA rollover,” a QCD is a direct transfer from your IRA to an eligible charity. It counts as a distribution for RMD purposes, but it’s excluded from your income. And it has certain tax advantages over traditional charitable contributions. 

Advantage of QCDs over ordinary donations

When you receive an RMD, it’s taxable to the extent it’s attributable to deductible contributions and earnings on those contributions. (Amounts attributable to nondeductible contributions are tax-free.) 

One strategy for reducing these taxes is to donate the taxable portion (or an equivalent amount) to charity. If the donation is fully deductible, it will offset the taxable income that’s generated by the distribution. Depending on your tax situation, however, this strategy may be less effective than a QCD:

  • A charitable deduction will benefit you only if you itemize. And that’s less likely now that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has nearly doubled the standard deduction.
  • Even if you itemize, adjusted gross income (AGI) limits may reduce your charitable deductions. For instance, deductions for cash gifts to public charities are currently limited to 60% of AGI. 
  • By boosting your income, IRA distributions may trigger AGI-based rules that punch up certain taxes or deflate the benefits of certain tax breaks.

A QCD avoids these issues because it bypasses your income altogether. It allows you to take the equivalent of a charitable deduction — regardless of your income level or whether you itemize — and it won’t increase your AGI. Another advantage of QCDs is that they’re deemed to come from the taxable portion of your IRA first, increasing the portion of the remaining balance that’s nontaxable.

QCD requirements

If you’re considering a QCD, you must meet several requirements:

  • You must be at least 70½ at the time of the distribution. (Reaching that age during the tax year isn’t enough.)
  • The IRA must distribute the funds directly to an eligible charity — generally, a public charity, private operating foundation or “conduit” private foundation.
  • The donation must be “otherwise deductible.” In other words, it would have been fully deductible (disregarding AGI limits) had you funded it with non-IRA assets. If you receive something of value in exchange for your gift (tickets to an event, for example), it’s not a QCD.
  • The distribution must be “otherwise taxable.” It’s not a QCD to the extent it would be tax-free if distributed to you directly.

In addition, QCDs are subject to the same substantiation requirements as other charitable donations.

A tax-efficient strategy

If you don’t need your IRA funds for living expenses and you plan to donate to charity anyway, a QCD offers a tax-efficient strategy for satisfying your RMD requirements. The TCJA may enhance the advantages of QCDs because it increased standard deduction amounts, but keep in mind that these amounts are scheduled to return to their previous levels in 2026. Contact us for help determining the best RMD and charitable giving strategies for you.

Could Client Accounting Services improve your business?

In a small or growing business, you most likely wear many hats. You’re the leader, you’re the HR department, you could be the entire sales team and you may also be managing the books. A study done by Wasp Barcode stated that the top accounting challenges facing small businesses today are: Accounts Receivable, Cash Flow, Paperwork, Closing the books each month, and Payroll Management.  

Did you know? More than 50% of small businesses have the CFO or Controller as the one managing all of these accounts! In order to ensure accuracy in these areas, segregation of duties and timeliness is key.  Handling all these duties, all while running the business, can be daunting. More often than not, the accounting gets pushed to the wayside, leaving companies scrambling at year end to get everything put together.

Are you a candidate?
Before you think about making a change or adding another service, it’s important to see if what you’re doing right now could be streamlined, automated or outsourced. 

  • Do you have difficulty monitoring your payables or receivables?
  • Are you struggling to keep up with compliance and financial reporting?
  • Are you looking for improved financial forecasting and strategic planning?

Our Client Accounting Services (CAS) program will utilize the latest technology and cloud based solutions to streamline your accounting functions, providing you real-time access to your information.   Every business is different, so we know there is no “one size fits all” CAS plan. We personalize our services to fit you and your distinct business needs.  

What exactly is CAS? Some of the services provided in our CAS package can include:

  • Keeping track of your receivables→  Know what’s owed to you and get notified when income is past due
  • Transaction processing and bill payment
  • Go Paperless→  Our cloud based storage software will link receipts to transactions, reducing the risk of missing/misplaced documents
  • Timely account reconciliations and financial statement preparation→   Know how much cash/credit you really have available
  • Payroll and payroll compliance
  • Periodic tax payments (Sales Tax, CAT Tax, etc.)
  • Outsourced CFO and business advisory services

Client Accounting Services will make strategic tax planning easier, as you will always have up-to-date access to your information.  Included in your custom CAS package is a review of your financial information by a CPA who will be analyzing the data to uncover trends, anomalies, new areas to pursue (if desired) and to provide input on possible strategies to help improve your business.

We’ll help you improve your segregation of duties, reduce the risk of misappropriation of assets and make for a better overall internal control structure.  With Client Accounting Services, leave the back office work to us, so you can focus on moving your business forward. As you grow, we are here to grow with you, every step of the way.

Ready to learn more or get started now? Contact us for a free review to see if your business would benefit.

Hobe & Lucas CPAs Adds Industry Veteran as New Director of Construction Practice Area

CLEVELAND, OH – August 28th, 2019

Hobe & Lucas CPAs, a full-service accounting and business consulting firm serving clients since 1978, adds Aaron Cook, CPA as Director of their construction practice area. This addition follows their most recent acquisition of Flask, Kusak and Company earlier this year and prepares them for new growth initiatives moving into 2020.

Aaron Cook has 20 years of experience in the construction and engineering industry providing a wide array of accounting, assurance and advisory services while representing construction contractors, engineering firms, project owners, sureties, and other stakeholders. Mr. Cook is well versed in the Northeast Ohio construction market and is seen as an expert through speaking engagements and published articles. Mr. Cook graduated from Butler University with a B.S. in Accounting.

“We are thrilled to bring on Aaron Cook as Director of our construction practice area. Aaron’s reputation in this industry is well-known and we are excited to see his results.” said William Wildenheim, Partner and Shareholder, “This move signifies our commitment to overall firm growth as we look to ramp up our client acquisition initiatives over the next 12-18 months.”

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About Hobe & Lucas CPAs

Hobe & Lucas Certified Public Accountants, Inc. is a full-service accounting and business consulting firm dedicated to providing clients with exceptional value. As one of the largest independent accounting firms in Northeast Ohio, we offer a broad portfolio of services and possess extensive expertise in a wide range of industries and specialty practices. We pride ourselves on delivering the personal attention, responsive communication and collaborative relationships our customers need to succeed. We listen. We learn. We lead you through the intricacies of your financial challenges and past potential pitfalls to keep you on a strong path forward.

For Media Inquiries, please contact:
Patty Austin, Office Manager
pattya@hobe.com 
216-524-8900

What is the Wayfair case, and what does it mean?

The Wayfair case was decided by the Supreme Court in June of 2018 (South Dakota v. Wayfair). It has largely changed the landscape for sales and use tax, not only in South Dakota, but across the country. Wayfair has established a standard of what is called economic nexus

Prior to the Wayfair case, the standard for being required to collect and remit sales tax came from the 1992 Supreme Court ruling in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota. In Quill, the Supreme Court ruled that in order to have sufficient nexus (connection) with a state, physical presence within the state was required. Wayfair has overturned the physical presence standard that we’ve relied upon for more than 25 years. 

In this new landscape, states are now establishing economic thresholds for the amount of sales dollars and / or number of transactions taking place within the state to determine if a taxpayer has created economic nexus. Now, not only does having a physical presence in a state create nexus, but strictly an economic presence,  meeting these thresholds, will legally require taxpayers to collect and remit sales tax to that state. 

In the past year, virtually every state that imposes a sales tax has enacted legislation to conform to the new economic nexus standard. Each state has established their own thresholds for economic nexus, including sales thresholds ranging from $10,000 to $500,000.  Additionally, some states do not impose a numerical threshold for the number of transactions taking place within the state. Furthermore, each state’s requirements for registration and filing vary, and many local jurisdictions impose a sales tax as well. For example, in California, there are over 2,500 different sales tax rates when considering the separate local jurisdictions!

What should businesses be doing in response to Wayfair?

Wayfair impacts any business, in any industry, that sells to or services out-of-state customers. 

The first step that should be taken is to gather information. A business with out-of-state customers should look at the states where they file income tax returns, states that sales representatives visit, and customer lists to determine where sales are ultimately being made. 

Once an organization has information about the states where they are transacting business, they can determine potential exposure for sales and use tax in those states. This can also serve as a monitoring tool going forward for states where economic thresholds may not currently be met. It will be important for businesses to continue this analysis on an ongoing basis as state laws and guidance are constantly being updated. 

After gaining an understanding of potential exposure, every business will need to formulate their own plan for compliance. When deciding how to move forward, some important considerations will be: (1) whether the organization has the personnel capable to prepare these new filings; (2) whether current accounting records are generating the most accurate information necessary; and (3) determining if the business may need new exemption certificates from customers. 

What can Hobe & Lucas do to help?

Our office can work with you to complete a nexus study in which we will evaluate the states in which your business may have nexus. This can be done from both a sales and use tax perspective as well as an income tax perspective. While the Wayfair case doesn’t impact nexus standards for income tax purposes, as states seek to capitalize on new revenue, it can be a good idea to revisit filing requirements that may not have been thought about in recent years. 

Additionally, for businesses that prefer to take a more DIY approach, we can be involved to help with specific jurisdictional research as well as assistance with voluntary disclosure agreements. For states that have Wayfair effective dates that may have already passed, many states offer an opportunity to become compliant through a voluntary disclosure agreement. Our office can work with you to make sure that these applications are prepared completely and accurately for the best outcome in each scenario. 

For many businesses, the cost and effort of compliance will prove to be quite burdensome. In that case, we can provide referrals to third party providers that can facilitate automated sales and use tax compliance. 

This area of tax law is changing rapidly, and if you have questions or concerns about how this will impact your business, we invite you to contact our office for assistance. 

WHEN TO FILE A FORM 5500 FOR YOUR HEALTH AND WELFARE PLAN

Employee health and welfare benefit plans are established to provide medical, sickness, accident, disability, and many other benefits to employees or former employees and their dependents and beneficiaries. Plans with more than 100 participants on the first day of the plan year must file Form 5500 each year whether funded or unfunded.

A funded plan receives contributions from active or former employees and/or uses a trust to hold plan assets or act as a conduit for the transfer of plan assets. Conversely, an unfunded plan has its benefits paid as needed directly from the general assets of the employer rather than a separate trust account.

It’s important to know these differences when it comes to understanding when a Form 5500 needs to be filed. In fact, most insurance companies will provide a Form 5500, Schedule A, but fall short of preparing the full Form 5500. Failure to do so can result in penalties of $1,100 per day from the date the filing was due until it is paid. 

Considering the penalties could add up, we wanted to walk you through a complete understanding to make sure your company had the facts.

First, who is considered a participant when understanding if a Form 5500 is required?

The Department of Labor considers the following groups to be counted as participants when contributing to whether or not your company needs to file:

  • Active participants (employees)
  • Participants retired or separated from service receiving benefits 
  • Other participants retired or separated from service and entitled to future benefits 
  • Deceased participants whose beneficiaries are receiving or entitled to receive benefits

Second, which plans are considered exempt from any filing requirements?

Typically, forms need to be filed, except for the following:

  1. A welfare benefit plan that covered fewer than 100 participants as of the beginning of the plan year and is unfunded, fully insured, or a combination of insured and unfunded.
    1. A fully insured plan has its benefits provided exclusively through insurance contracts or policies, the premiums of which must be paid directly to the insurance carrier by the employer from its general assets or partly from the company’s general assets and partly from contributions by its employees.
    2. An example of a combination plan would be one that provides medical benefits as an unfunded plan and life insurance benefits from a fully insured plan.
  2. A welfare plan maintained outside of the United States primarily for participants who are nonresident aliens.
  3. A governmental welfare plan
  4. An unfunded or insuranced or insured welfare plan maintained for a select group of management or highly compensated employees.
  5. An employee benefit plan maintained only to comply with workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation or disability insurance laws.
  6. A welfare benefit plan that participates in a group insurance arrangement that files a Form 5500 on behalf of the welfare benefit plan
  7. An apprenticeship or training plan
  8. An unfunded dues financed welfare benefit plan
  9. A church plan
  10. A welfare benefit plan maintained solely for (1) an individual or an individual and his or her spouse who wholly own a trade or business or (2) partners or the partners and their spouses in a partnership.

As shown, it can be a bit confusing trying to decide if your health and welfare plan needs to file a Form 5500.  We can help! Let us cut through the tax laws and provide you with a clear answer. And if you do need to file, we can prepare the filing for you.

Whether you need to file a Form 5500 for your health and welfare plan or if you need to file a Form 5500 for your retirement plan, we can provide timely service and the answers you need while being cost effective. And, if you are looking to consult on what type of retirement plan is best for you, we would be glad to discuss your needs and what type of plan and plan provisions would best serve your needs. For more information, contact us at info@hobe.com.

Hobe & Lucas CPAs Kicks Off 2019 with the Acquisition of Flask, Kusak and Company

CLEVELAND, OH – February 9, 2019

Hobe & Lucas CPAs, a full-service certified public accounting and business consulting firm located in Independence, Ohio has acquired Flask, Kusak and Company, located in Parma, Ohio. The acquisition strengthens Hobe & Lucas’ overall service offerings and provides additional resources to increase its current levels of customer and client service.  This acquisition takes their total employee count to 43.

“Throughout the process of the acquisition it was apparent that the Flask team not only offered great technical expertise, but they also shared Hobe & Lucas’ number one core value, People First”,  said Louis Loparo, Shareholder, “We felt that Flask, Kusak and Company was a perfect addition to our firm given their commitment to exceptional customer service and dedication to truly being a partner to their clients.”

This transaction marks the first major growth move of Hobe & Lucas’ new leadership team. Flask, Kusak and Company team members will relocate their offices to the Hobe & Lucas CPAs office in Independence.

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About Hobe & Lucas CPAs

Hobe & Lucas Certified Public Accountants, Inc. is a full-service public accounting and business consulting firm dedicated to providing clients with exceptional value. Hobe & Lucas CPAs has been serving clients since their founding in 1978. As one of the largest independent accounting firms in Northeast Ohio, they offer a broad portfolio of services and possess extensive expertise in a wide range of industries and specialty practices. Hobe & Lucas CPAs pride themselves on delivering the personal attention, responsive communication and collaborative relationships their customers need to succeed.

For Media Inquiries:

Patty Austin

pattya@hobe.com

216-524-8900

3 keys to a successful accounting system upgrade

Technology is tricky. Much of today’s software is engineered so well that it will perform adequately for years. But new and better features are being created all the time. And if you’re not getting as much out of your financial data as your competitors are, you could be at a disadvantage.

For these reasons, it can be hard to decide when to upgrade your company’s accounting software. Here are three keys to consider:

Your users are ready.

When making a major change to your accounting software, the sophistication of the system needs to align with the technological savvy of its primary users. Sometimes companies buy expensive software only to have many of its features gather virtual dust because the employees who use it are resistant to change. But if your users are well trained and adaptable, they may be able to extract added value from a more sophisticated accounting system. For instance, they could track key performance indicators to generate more meaningful financial reports.

The price is right.

You’ll of course need to consider the costs involved. As holds true for any technology purchase, project leaders must set a budget and focus the search on products and vendors offering only the functions your company needs. But don’t stop there. Explore add-on services such as free trials, initial training and ongoing support. You want to get the most value from the software, which goes beyond the new and improved features themselves.

You need to integrate.

This is the concept of networking your accounting system with your other mission-critical systems such as sales, inventory and production. For most companies today, integration is essential to maximizing the return on investment in accounting software. So, if you haven’t yet implemented this functionality, an upgrade may be highly advisable. Just be aware that a successful company wide integration will call for buy-in from every nook and cranny of your business.

Sometimes a complete overhaul of your accounting system is not necessary.  We have created partnerships over the years with vendors of various applications that compliment accounting systems.  

For instance, a client with a small accounting office was looking to implement controls and efficiencies in there payables process.  We assisted them with implementing bill.com, a payables automation system.  We had another client that was looking for an easy way to gather credit card receipts that would sync with QuickBooks Online. We helped put receipt-bank in place to track and automatically sync with their QuickBooks.  In addition, we have also used other tools like Mile IQ and expensify to assist clients in organizing their spending.

If a company doesn’t need any major accounting process changes, it probably doesn’t need a major accounting software change either. But if upgrading both will help grow your business, it’s absolutely a step worth considering. It’s time to see how we can help.

Five key business areas to review before 2018

These final two weeks of the year are usually filled with a hope that a few of those outstanding proposals will turn into sales commitments.

This is also a great time to reflect on the past year and prepare for the upcoming year. We’ve compiled five areas you should be spending extra time with during the holidays to ensure you are ready when the calendar turns.

Start with a baseline

In order to start your new year on the right foot, it’s imperative that you know exactly where you will end 2017.  This involves working with your accountant and thoroughly going through income statements, management accounts and cash flow analysis and level set your actual levels versus your original projections.  Doing this exercise not only helps to build a trend analysis, but also allows you to accurately finalize your 2018 budget.

Confirm your revenue projections

Once you have a firm grasp on where you are financially, it’s time to make sure your sales targets are achievable based on how you will end this year. If you’re like most businesses, sales planning started in early Fall, so tweaks will need to be made. Did you end the year as you projected? Will it affect next year’s business goals? Where are your sales numbers trending? How do these numbers compare to previous years?

Get a pulse of your customer base

In all reality, a customer survey should be done often. It’s the best way you can get direct feedback on your company, your product (or service), and receive ideas for how to get more customers just like them! It’s also a nice way to check in with your entire customer base and show them you value their input, especially if you don’t reach out to them on a regular basis.  Questions can focus on why they purchased, why they didn’t, and would they recommend your company.

Plan for new technology

It’s no secret that technology moves fast. Investing in the right technology, whether or not you are getting ready for a growth period, can help streamline your business processes, lower administrative costs, and most importantly, keep you competitive in the marketplace. Take a look at your business software packages, CRM, mobile devices, phone system, laptops and any subscription services that could help you better manage your business. Making updates to your technology platforms early will help ensure you get the most out of your investments.

Align your sales and marketing efforts

Even though you have defined your sales targets, it’s imperative that you know WHO your target audience is and how you can best reach them. The first step is to build a thorough customer profile that identifies the type of person (or company), their major pain points, and where they buy. From there, build out a thorough marketing plan that includes your top strategies, marketing channels you will be using, and your marketing budget. The size of your marketing budget should be a combination of how much your company can invest and how quickly you can acquire customers to build an accurate ROI analysis.  

We’re not saying these are silver bullets to your company’s success in 2018, but taking the time to review each area will help put the pieces together for a complete understanding of your business needs, immediate challenges and financial requirements.

If you need a resource to help you plan for next year, or have questions on how to succeed, reach out to us either by email, info@hobe.com, or phone, 216-524-8900.