Summer's the time to check finances
By Joyce M. Rosenberg
By Joyce M. Rosenberg
NEW YORK — Summer often brings a welcome slowdown for many small-company owners as customers take vacations and the pace of business relaxes. So, it's a great time to take a close look at your company's finances and assess where you're headed during the second half of the year.
Many small-business advisers recommend that owners sit down with their accountants in June or July to determine what changes they need to make to their financial projections and overall business plans. Taxes, cash flow, capital spending and employee benefits are among the topics that should be discussed.
One of the first items you need to consider is your estimated tax payments, and whether your remaining payments for 2006 need to be adjusted upward or downward.
"You don't want to pay in more than you have to," because the money you overpay can be put to better use within your company, said Gordon Spoor, a certified public accountant in St. Petersburg, Fla. On the other hand, if you're underpaying, you're running the risk of having to pay a penalty to the IRS next year.
If you don't know what your taxes are likely to be for the rest of 2006 but you're fortunate enough to have a strong cash flow, consider stashing some of the money away in case you do need it for taxes later.
"You can have it set aside and invested in a safe investment like a money market account," Spoor said, noting that with interest rates higher now, your company will earn more money.
Now is also the time to be looking at your capital spending plans for the rest of the year — cautiously, accountants say.
"In this dicey market, I'd be telling them not to make any risky moves like in real estate," Spoor said.
Jeffrey Berdahl said equipment purchases should also be thought through carefully. While what's known as the Section 179 deduction gives small businesses a great tax break when they buy such equipment as computers, office furniture and machinery used in manufacturing, the cost of financing such purchases may offset the benefits of the deduction.
"Is it worth the tax savings?" Berdahl asked.
The Section 179 deduction allows small businesses to deduct upfront rather than depreciate $108,000 worth of equipment bought and put into service during 2006. You can find more information about the deduction in IRS Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property.
Taxes aren't the only issue at midyear — employee benefits deserve consideration as well. Jeffrey Berdahl, a certified public accountant with Berdahl & Co. in Center Valley, Pa., advises owners to "look at a retirement plan. See if there's a better plan out there" than the one you have now.
Small-business owners who want to set up a retirement plan need to be aware that the popular plan known as a SIMPLE, or Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees, must under law be set up by Oct. 1, according to the Internal Revenue Service. You can, however, set up defined benefit plans, profit-sharing plans and many 401(k)s by Dec. 31, and the least complex plan, the SEP, or Simplified Employee Pension, can be set up anytime before you file your 2006 return next year.
IRS Publication 560, Retirement Plans for Small Business, has information about the various plans. Your accountant and a benefits expert can help you decide which is the best for your company.