Friday, January 30, 2015

No, Sir, That Speeding Ticket is Not Deductible!

I have two annual rituals I exercise on Super Bowl Sunday.

The first is to turn down any party invitation to watch the big game. For one, I’m not a huge fan of wings or pigs in a blanket – the two menu staples everyone who has ever hosted a Super Bowl party throws at you like confetti.

Second, more often than not, the game rarely lives up to its fortnight of hype.

I offer last year’s 43-8 massacre as Exhibit A.

The other is to organize my tax documents and make an appointment with Rocco, my long-time accountant, and cross my fingers that we’ll collect something resembling a refund. Rocco has performed 1040 duties for me since 1990 and works to get me every deduction possible.

But it’s also the time of year where both the consumer and business press offer tips on what’s deductible versus what will surely elicit a notice from the IRS. While some claims skirt the legal limit, others are laugh out loud funny that would make even the most dour auditor chuckle.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Failure to React: Part II

Recently, I touched on the demise of several  local Friendly’s restaurants, the family-oriented concept with locations sprinkled throughout the Northeast that for years had become a dining destination venue for millions since its founding in 1934.

The area franchisee was forced to file bankruptcy – the eatery had unfortunately remained stagnant and was overtaken by more vibrant competitors who realized that the 1960s and 70s might be nostalgic in TV reruns, but most consumers want something preferably from this century.

Last week I saw another familiar staple wave “adios” to the marketplace, and one nearly everyone who flies would have more than a passing familiarity with. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dial S for Scam

A few months back, I regaled you with how many phone solicitations Chez Carlino receives during the course of a day. Until I began working remotely, I never realized how often our caller ID displays the words “private number” or “unassigned.”

As an example just yesterday we received 7 such calls.

Usually I either hang up after two rings or let it go into voicemail. I’m always amazed when the caller hears voice mail picking up and keeps repeating “Hello? Hello?” Apparently these people are hired by the pound.

But the best was yet to come. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

You Want to Charge More? Then Offer More!

Since receiving my first allowance as a grade schooler, ($1 a week) I have been fairly frugal with my money. My friends and relatives liberally thrown around the word “cheap” to describe me, but I won’t argue semantics.

However, one of the luxuries I afford myself is a membership to an upscale health club. As a remote worker, it preserves my sanity and allows me unwind for at least 60 minutes each day.

But last year, the club was clandestinely acquired by a larger fitness chain, one with locations across the country and the changeover occurred in the middle of the night – literally.

And immediately thereafter it was not business as usual. The new owner’s first official act was to replace the wall of flat-screen TVs with, well, different flat screen TVs and the treadmills, with, yes, a different brand of treadmills.

Ditto for many of the exercise machines.

Friday, January 16, 2015

It Happens Every Year

Okay, picture this.

You’re an experienced tax preparer and heading into this filing season everything appears to be in order – software updated and in place, per diems hired and anxious to begin work and clients have dutifully begun dropping off their tax organizers.

Roughly three and a half months later, you swear that 2015 was the worst season on record and vow never to go through another one.

Sound familiar?

Trust me, it’s a depressing refrain we at our company hear annually from clients.

Not to be the dorsal fin at a shipwreck, but this season promises to be just as bad – if not worse.

And that’s not my opinion, but that of one Nina Olson, the Taxpayer Advocate at the IRS in her annual report to Congress.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

You Need More than Fribbles and Slammers To Compete

Last week I queried on how you intended to make your firm better in 2015. This week, I’ll show you what can happen if complacency sets in and you don’t, even if I use an example outside the accounting profession.

But I’m confident you’ll get the idea.

Many of you who grew up in the Northeast and perhaps more specifically, New England, have undoubtedly at one time or another had the opportunity – or many opportunities as the case may be – to eat at one of the family restaurant icons in that region – Friendly’s.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How are you going to make your firm better in 2015?

As you may have surmised by the cynicism in my last column, I’m not a great believer in New Year’s Resolutions – I think for most people they have the staying power of a campaign promise.

If my health club serves as any barometer of said resolutions, more than 500 people came in for a workout on January 2 – many I’m guessing for the first time since the Reagan administration. Just five days later that number had dipped to less than half.

No, I prefer what I call “New Year’s Decisions.” A decision, at least by inference, carries a somewhat more permanent intention. So with that lesson in semantics, have you “decided” on how to make your firm better in 2015?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Am I Glad that’s Over!

After ingesting several meals that would likely satiate half the linemen in the National Football League and receiving credit card statements for gifts that rival the national debt, I can breathe a sigh of relief that another holiday season is safely in the rear view mirror.

So a big welcome back to a semblance of normalcy.

Now I can look forward to attempting to sardine my way onto an available treadmill or piece of exercise equipment at my health club as those suddenly imbued with the spirit – albeit temporarily – of New Year’s resolutions vow to change their once-sedentary lifestyle. I can take comfort in the fact that for the majority of these exercise newbies, this annual ritual rarely lasts past the first week in February.