Cyber Security: Part Three

This is my final blog on cyber security tips. This time I am focusing more on tips for our mobile devices and public wifi. We are very vulnerable on public wifi networks and because we use our mobile devices all the time, they are more susceptible to attacks.

  • Use a PIN or a password for your mobile device.
  • Keep your device’s operating system updated.
  • Only install apps from trusted sources.
  • Don’t transmit or store very personal data on the device.
  • Back up your mobile device’s data often.
  • Use public wi-fi wisely. Do not conduct personal shopping or banking business while on public wifi.
  • Bank and shop online only on trusted devices and networks. Logout of these sites when you have completed your transactions.

Client Trust: How to Build it and How to Keep it!

We are very proud of the clientele we have served after 30 years in business (with many of our clients having been with us 20 years or more).

As a business owner and in working with government executives, entrepreneurs and small business owners, it’s always good to remind ourselves about good business basics.

We all know that customers won’t buy from people they don’t trust or someone they don’t like.

Jerry Acuff, author of The Relationship Edge:  The Key to Strategic Influence and Selling Success offers these points about business relationships:

  1. Be yourself
  2. Value the relationship
  3. Be curious about people
  4. Be consistent (when a customer can predict your behavior, the customer is more likely to trust you)
  5. Seek the truth (always be honest and always share what you think to be in your client’s best interest)
  6. Keep an open mind (this reinforces that you always have their best interests at heart)
  7. Have a real dialogue (seek real conversation with customers during meetings, personal or business issues)
  8. Be a professional (people trust people who are serious about what they do).
  9. Show real integrity (be willing to take a stand, even when it’s unpopular with your customer or your company)
  10. Have a sense of humor (this one is my personal addition!)


Source: to-build- customer-trust- 9-rules.html

Feeling Entrepreneurial? Lessons from the Shark Tank

The reality TV Show, Shark Tank gives great insights about how to make big money from your big idea. Michael Parrish Du Dell author of Shark Tank: Jump Start Your Business reveals some of the show’s most useful lessons.

Lesson 1: The best business offers are simple, affordable solutions to real world problems rather than complex, expensive solutions

One of the big success stories from the show was ReadeRest, a magnet that clips to your shirt and provides a secure place to hang your reading glasses.

Lesson 2: Pick an effective name

Your business name should be catchy, tasteful and it should also reflect what your product or service is or does.

Shark Tank success story, The Painted Pretzel was just that, elegantly packaged gourmet chocolate covered pretzels. After winning the heart of a Shark Tank investor the product now comes in more than a hundred varieties and is sold in major stores across the country.

Lesson 3: Play up your “secret sauce”

What are the big differentiators about your product or service that make it stand out and is not easily replicated?

New Jersey entrepreneur Aaron Krause invented a round yellow sponge made of a special foam that was actually patent-worthy. The sponge material will change textures based on the water temperature. His Scrub Daddy product solved needing a different cleaning sponge for soft or hardened debris on plates or pans.

Lesson 4: Perfect your elevator pitch

Generally speaking, you have about 60 seconds to sell your ideas. If you are pitching a business idea for an investor, be sure you can be compelling in 60 seconds while creating the impression that an investor will be missing out on a big opportunity if they don’t invest in you. Be inspirational, explain your company’s current financial picture and share how you plan to make the company more profitable.

Source: Bottom Line Personal, Volume 37, No. 5

How Long Should You Keep Tax Records?

How long should you keep personal paperwork related to your finances? If I had to rank the most often asked question at the office, this one is at the top!

So, we prepared this cheat sheet to help guide you but you should always feel free to call us any time with any questions.

How long you keep documents depends on what kind of document it is.


Minimum of 3 years

The IRS has 3 years to question items on your tax return and can bill you for additional taxes that may be owed. Additionally, you have 3 years to file amended returns to seek a refund.

The IRS can go back up to 6 years if they determine a return omits more than 25% of income. If fraud is proven there is no limit to how far they can go back.

State tax returns may need to be retained longer

  1. Real Estate Documents

Hold on to indefinitely

You should have a folder for each piece of real estate you own.

Retain for 3 years after you dispose of the property

  1. Securities Transactions

Hold on to indefinitely

Hold on to purchase documentation as you will have to provide purchase date and cost on your return the year you sell the asset.

Keep records showing stock splits, dividend investments and  non-taxable distributions.

  1. IRA’s and 401K’s

Keep paperwork for three years AFTER the funds have been depleted.

Consider keeping paperwork documenting any distributions from IRA’s or 401k accounts


  1. Keep payroll tax records

4 years after the due date for employees to have filed tax returns

  1. Worker health coverage forms

3 years after filing deadlines for the documents

  1. Asset Costs, Depreciation

Retain indefinitely

Before you dispose of any documents, always review them for information that may be needed at a later date.



Does Convenience Cost More?

Does technology help you save money or does it encourage you to spend more? Because you can use different websites and apps to compare prices and shop for deals it’s logical to think that technology will help you save money.

A recent survey conducted by the AICPA  (Association of International Certified Professional Accountants) found that 95% of its survey respondents say they have used personal technology to make a purchase. Half of those respondents felt that using personal technology helps them better manage their time and save money because of being able to find special offers and compare prices.

However, Neal Stern, CPA and a member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission says that, “Personal electronics make you a constant target for marketing. Will that enticing email offering 30% off cause you to trade your money for one more item in the closet that you really don’t need?”

The National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers tips for consumers about how to use personal technology, stay on budget and balance cost and convenience when making purchases:

  • Keep yourself accountable-people who struggle with impulse purchases should use cash
  • Create a budget and stick to it
  • Check out the AICPA’s Feed the Pig website; it’s full of creative apps to help you stay on track with your budget
  • Don’t store payment info on websites where you shop. The extra time and effort it takes to enter payment information when you shop can help curb impulse shopping


Source: 4 in 10 Americans say technology leads them to pay more for convenience by Samiha Khanna

Fear Not the Audit

For many people in the business world the word audit causes anxiety. After 30 years in business though, we have found more-often-than-not that audits bring about positive results for companies or special districts. Audits reveal vital financial information but they also offer insight about business processes and revenue generation ideas.

Recently, Deloitte conducted research finding that 91% of surveyed companies said that audits reveal opportunities to improve business performance. Additionally, 62% of respondents say that it was somewhat likely that they would have missed important insights if the audit had not occurred.

To insure maximum positive results, some prep work will be required. Here are a few tips about how to prepare for an audit:

  • Establish audit protocol and details with your CPA prior to scheduling the audit
  • Discuss special transactions or any accounting irregularities prior to the audit
  • Decide who will be on point at the office to assist with any needed information
  • Coordinate schedules with your executive team and bookkeepers so that everyone can be ready

We have conducted hundreds and hundreds of successful audits. Our clients have found the audit process to be very positive for their organization. Let us know if you have questions or if you would like to speak with some of our clients for insights about the audit process.

Jimmy Buffet, Margaritaville and Secrets for Living Well

I read this in Parade on May 5. Jimmy Buffett, “Margaritaville” singer’s mother, Mary Loraine “Peets” Buffett, had a lot to do with shaping her son’s style and outlook on life that I thought it would be fun to share.

Mama Buffett’s life rules:

  1. Read often, even the classics.
  2. Accept everyone for who they are, not what they do.
  3. Be well-traveled.
  4. Learn to be a listener. Shhh!
  5. Live by the sea.
  6. Listen to your spirit and find joy.
  7. Education, like money, doesn’t make you happy or successful.
  8. Love and family are the best things we have.


Tax Season is Here

The first day of the 2017 tax season has come and gone. There are a few subtle changes around the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) identity verification process. The changes are in place to reduce fraud and we will help walk you through how or if this affects you this year.

Federal and California state tax filing is due on April 18.

Please go ahead and get scheduled to see us.

Our team is ready and able to update you about any of your questions including:
• Are social security benefits taxable?
• New requirements regarding identity and the IRS
• Tax benefits for parents
• Everything you need to know about child tax credit


Identity Theft: How to be on the Lookout

Hopefully, your bank and credit card companies have a system in place to alert you about possible fraudulent charges on your accounts. However, there are other warning signs that you may be a victim of identity theft including:

  • Credit card or telephone bills do not arrive when you generally expect them
  • Replacement cards have not been received prior to the expiration dates on existing cards
  • Calls from creditors or potential creditors about suspicious accounts. Beware of phone or email solicitations asking you for information about your accounts as well. These can be well disguised inquiries and look very official. When in doubt call your bank or creditors directly (use a number you have on file, not one provided to you in the email, etc.)
  • Check your credit report occasionally and look for information on the report regarding accounts you never opened
  • Unauthorized withdrawals from your account(s)

If you are a victim of identity theft you will have a number of steps you will need to take and you have certain rights afforded you by law. Our office has a complete checklist we are happy to provide to you including phone numbers and other important contact information (you can also download it here: This checklist also provides sample letters you can use to report fraudulent account activity).

What Makes a CPA Professional a Professional

Do you know how CPA’s differ from other financial professionals?  CPA’s generally begin their careers with years of college and graduate education. To become licensed, CPA’s take a demanding exam testing expertise on a wide range of business topics. Additionally, CPA’s have to meet an experience requirement and then be licensed by a state board of accountancy to practice. Once licensed to practice, CPA’s must earn continuing education hours demonstrating current knowledge of new business developments.  Additionally CPA’s commit to a strict code of ethical standards. And did you know CPA’s have full rights to represent you in front of the IRS?

Our office is here year round to help individuals, businesses and special districts to address their unique challenges.

As the year draws to a close……. take a little time to reduce tax season stress. Plan to get organized early. Pull materials together in a folder (charitable donations, health and medical bills, bank info, employer statements). Then call us to meet. We can review your current information and last year’s tax return. This will avoid any surprises and potentially help to minimize tax obligations as well as to plan for the best possible financial position.