Things a New Grad Should Know When Entering the Workplace

You’ve passed the classes, worked hard to enhance your resume, made it through the interview, and accepted the job offer…Now, it’s your first day on the job. You know all of that was the easy part, right?

Though we undergo countless transitions in life, some small and others monumental, all pose new hardships and shape us in one way or another.  The transition into the workplace post-graduation is one that is both intimidating and exciting, and definitely monumental. There are a few things you should know before starting your new job, and you should remind yourself of these often.

  1. It is okay to not know it all – in fact, you’re not supposed to know it all! But, instead show up eager to learn something new every single day.

I think this is especially important for all of us in the business of providing professional services, not just new graduates. You see, things are always changing, and if we do not stay in an ‘eager to learn’ state of mind, we will not be capable of providing the best service to our clients…which is what this profession is really all about, right?

As new graduates we often enter the workforce believing that school has equipped us with all the knowledge necessary to excel in our profession. And while education is extremely important and provides us a strong and sturdy base to build upon, education alone cannot fully prepare you for the workplace. The best part about all this: the people around you know this. They do not expect you to know everything about tax planning or all the ins and outs of tax law, but if you show up eager to learn with a thirst for knowledge, people will pour into that.

  1. Don’t let the learning curve intimidate you, but instead let it challenge

The learning curve that accompanies a new position can be extremely intimidating, especially if you’re surrounded by co-workers who have more experience, more certifications, or more education. But instead of allowing yourself to be intimidated by the learning curve, allow yourself to be challenged. Countless studies show that it can take up to eight months for a new employee to fully adjust to a new job, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t know everything by your second month.

  1. Be a team player, lead where you can, and execute opportunities.

You are now part of a new team—a team where everyone has different skillsets, so don’t be afraid to utilize your skillset. At some point or another you will probably be assigned a task that is not exactly your ‘ideal’ line of work. View this as an opportunity to prove to the team that you’re willing to help out where you’re needed. When opportunities arise for new projects, don’t be afraid to volunteer. In fact working on different projects will only broaden your knowledge, perspective, and inhibit growth. When leadership opportunities arise, execute them. Be confident in yourself. You’ve earned this position. Don’t let your hard work go to waste.

  1. Find a mentor.

When brainstorming ideas for this blog, I was curious if I was the only one who perceived this transition to be much easier than it actually has been, so I decided to get some opinions from a few of my classmates that have also recently transitioned into the workplace. More than a couple of them reiterated the importance of finding a mentor. Find someone that you can call on after a frustrating day or week at work, someone in a similar field who understands the stress you may be feeling. Do yourself a favor, find a mentor, and invest in that relationship!

 

  1. Setting yourself a routine has never been more important.

Many of us fail to realize the amount of ‘free’ time that college provides. You won’t begin to realize the amount of time you actually had until you’re at the office for eight hours five days a week! It is important to get yourself into a routine and stick to it – and it is most definitely okay to go to bed before 10 o’clock (or maybe even 9 o’clock) every night of the week. Drinking water, exercise, and adequate sleep is even more important now than it used to be. In order to excel at work, you must be both physically and mentally healthy, so don’t allow your new busy schedule to take over to the point that you forget to take care of yourself.

Communication is the key to growth within your new position. Do not be afraid to talk to your supervisor or manager about any concerns or issues that you may be dealing with. Your employer has made an investment in you and they want to see you succeed, so if there are things that you believe can help with that process, voice them!

  1. Lastly, don’t sweat the small stuff: give yourself some grace and remember that you have earned this position, and you deserve to be where you are.

Your first few weeks and even months in this new career may be tough and there may even be times where you feel like you don’t deserve the position you are in… you are wrong. You have earned this position, you have worked hard to get where you are—be proud of that, but don’t stop here. Continue to be better, continue to grow, continue to learn and you will slowly see yourself develop into the professional that you always knew you were meant to be.

 

Florence Interrupted? Make Your Business Interruption Insurance Claims

Our community is bouncing back from Hurricane Florence.  In some cases, it will be a long, hard road back.  The economic impact of the storm could linger for months.  Business owners need to take advantage of every resource available to weather the post Florence economic storm.

Some businesses have experienced physical damage from Florence, others have not.  Almost every business in the area was down for a minimum of a few days.  You need to explore your insurance policies to see if you have coverage for the down time, regardless of whether you had physical damage.

Addressing business interruption losses can be challenging.  Insurance companies employ their own forensic accountants to protect their interests.  When insurance companies calculate the damage they may do so without the business’ best interest in mind.  Have your own forensic accountant work with your claims adjustor to review loss estimates, identify the financial impact of the event, and help evaluate a reasonable and fair outcome for both you and the insurance company. Often times, your insurance policy will cover these additional professional service fees.

Realize that when it comes to claims, insurance companies want to pay out the minimum. Fight for yourself and let us help you fight for your business. As an example, we have already helped a client increase their insurance settlement by $59,000 from $5,000 to $64,000.  They have already received their $64,000 deposit.

For assistance obtaining a fair business interruption settlement contact us today.  We’ll review your insurance policy for business interruption coverage at no cost.  Email us @ [email protected].

Passport and Taxes

The Internal Revenue Code has a new addition that provides additional repercussions for not paying your taxes. There is a new section called “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies”. While it is still uncertain on how aggressively they will enforce this, the new section of the code allows the IRS to rescind existing passports, not issue new passports, or deny renewal if certain tax delinquencies exist.  Our Wilmington NC CPA explains more.

Who Does This Apply To?

For those who already have an existing installment agreement or other payment plan with the IRS, this does not apply. However, for those with a $50,000 or more debt to the IRS that has not been resolved, this could affect your travel plans in the future. The $50,000 threshold includes not only taxes, but penalties and interest as well. With late tax payment penalties plus interest being able to exceed over 25% of the tax owed, $50,000 in debt to the IRS is not as large a figure as taxpayers may think.

This Code Affects Domestics Travelers Too

This section of the Internal Revenue Code comes after a new law that may require passports for domestic travel as well. It is related to the Real ID Act that wants to create a national standard for state-issues IDs. The TSA could require passports instead of driver’s licenses to get on a flight in 2016. While this will not apply to all states, travelers from Minnesota were recommended to get passports by January 2016 to fly. North Carolina IDs meet the national standard, but it may be “better safe than sorry” to start carrying them.
The best thing to do to avoid these issues is resolve any outstanding tax debt issues with the IRS. At a minimum, Adam Shay Wilmington NC CPA can help ensure you are set up on a payment arrangement to avoid revocation of your passport or any future issues obtaining one for travel. We also provide tax resolution services to help reduce or eliminate late payment penalties and interest.

After the data breach from Turbo Tax, IRS data breaches, credit card hacking schemes, and similar instances,  we can see why some clients are apprehensive of virtual process.  This could range from the e-filing of a tax return to sending documents over the internet to using credit cards. Here are some tips to make your data more secure:

1. Do not send sensitive data directly over email.

This includes tax returns, statements that would have your social security numbers listed (W-2, 1099, etc.), banking information, etc. This even pertains to simply listing these sensitive items in the body of the email.

This could come up when sending data to your CPA, to your banker, to your attorney, etc.

If you must, at the very least password protect your files. Be sure the end user knows the password so they can access the document. Be smart about it. Do not send the password as identified as such in the body of the email.

2. Use a program to send sensitive data more securely.

For example, Sharefile. Sharefile encrypts the data and keeps it safer than simply sending via email. Sharefile (and programs like it) are also good for the storage of data.

3. Use the EMV chipped credit cards and equipment.

If you are the customer, be sure to use the new credit cards with the chip. If you are the business, be sure to convert to the updated credit card reader machines (that reads the newly chipped credit cards) by October 1, 2015. See our blog on EMV chips.

4. Choose smart passwords.

Be sure to use passwords that are hard to guess. Use both upper and lower case, symbols, and make 8-12 character long. Change your passwords from time to time.

5. Be sure that you have a strong firewall and antivirus protection. This can help hackers from getting in and viruses getting onto your computer.

As we see the shift in most processes becoming digital/virtual/cloud based, it's important to keep yourself safe. Try to stay up to date on typical schemes. These are areas that constantly evolve. As the data theft evolves, ways to protect yourself will to. If you have any questions, please feel free to let us know.

About a month ago, I received an updated credit card in the mail, but this one was a little different than my old version. This version had a little chip on the front of the card. I began to notice that in some stores, they now required me to place the entire card inside the credit card machine and wait, as opposed to quickly swiping the magnetic strip as usual. What is the purpose of this chip and the new process?

I am sure you all remember the 2013 Target debacle where hackers stole the information from many customers. Shortly thereafter, this sort of thing was happening regularly. These instances cost the credit card companies and businesses millions of dollars and anyone who was involved stress and headache.

There HAD to be a better way to protect ourselves from hackers. The credit card companies came up with this new chip card technology, often referred to as "EMV chip".

This EMV chip will eventually replace the traditional cards magnetic strip. This chip will hold the customer information. This technology will make it much harder for hackers to steal your account information. The chips generate a code for every transaction as opposed to sending your information directly over to be processed.

Businesses will need to get updated credit card readers. For now, you will have the chip on the card as well as the traditional magnetic strip. After October 1, 2015, if a customer has a card with this type of technology and a business does not use a credit processing machine that will read it, the business owner is now liable for any type of fraud that occurs.

If you are a business owner and are using credit card processing, you should contact your credit card processing company and make sure that you will be in compliance by October 1. If you are a customer, you should be receiving your updated EMV chip credit cards in the mail.

If you have yet to hear about tekMountain, then you are in for a treat. Several of our business owners operate out of their coworking space and they are truly a force pushing for entrepreneurship growth in our area. From their website:

 “tekMountain is a privately owned, community driven incubator/accelerator dedicated to growing the technology culture in Wilmington, North Carolina—one of the nation’s top locations for tech professionals to live, work and thrive. tekMountain is a truly unique, versatile space that offers unparalleled access to entrepreneurial mentors, venture capital offerings and professional services. Our expansive services range from expert business plan guidance and development through complex services such as Intellectual Property advising and consulting. We offer regulatory consulting services in education technology, including compliance with FERPA.

We offer both dedicated offices and coworking space to accommodate companies in various stages of growth. While we are focused on education and healthcare technology we would love to have a conversation about how we could work together. It is also a place where the entire Wilmington community can take advantage of unique programming and business development workshops. It is a place where you're sure to feel right at home.”

More information on this event can be found here: http://www.tekmountain.com/events/.  We hope to see you there!

People often think: I am capable of preparing my tax return myself using tax software, such as TurboTax.  These people believe that they can research online whatever they need or have questions about.  All too often, people misread the tax code and IRS regulations or they search the internet until they find an answer that they want.  They think everything is good, until they get a letter from the IRS or state department of revenue stating that they are going to be audited.  The damage is done at this point, and while we as CPAs can help you organize everything and deal with revenue agents on your behalf, there are still hefty fines, penalties, and interest on what you thought was researched correctly.

So, what value can CPAs provide to you when preparing your tax return?  Most importantly, we have been to school and studied the tax regulations as part of our learning.  After we graduate school and pass the CPA exam, we are required to obtain Continuing Professional Education every year.  This keeps us up to date on all of the ever-changing tax law.  Did I mention that when you are researching online, you can definitely be misled depending on the date of the article?  This is why CPAs have to take Continuing Professional Education, so that we are up-to-date on everything.  We’ve got the knowledge, tools and resources to ensure that you are preparing your tax return correctly. 

The requirements are different in every state, but in North Carolina the following Continuing Professional Education requirements must be met:

1.)    Obtain 40 hours of Continuing Professional Education every calendar year

2.)    2 of the 40 hours must be professional ethics

3.)    Keep track of all courses that were attended – you get a certificate upon completion and you also must keep any materials you received at the class

4.)    Every year, by June 30, you have to renew your license.  Part of the process is submitting all Continuing Professional Education classes that were taken.

5.)    We are expected to take classes that will contribute and enhance our professional competence.  So, if a CPA only prepares tax returns, then there would be no need for the CPA to take a class on auditing and attestation.

Small Business Saturday started in 2010 as a marketing campaign by American Express to encourage consumers to “Shop Small”. The goal was to promote attention to small businesses that the deep discounts and early morning rush of Black Friday can take away from. American Express encourages local business to publish their business on the Shop Small map and band together the neighborhoods of local shops to promote Small Business Saturday. This campaign can be found here: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/

 

While we have a passion for helping small businesses, there are facts to back the reasoning for supporting small businesses. According to a study performed by Civic Economics, at least 68% of dollars spent at a local business will stay in the local economy. A large business that receives the same amount of money will only reinvest 48% of those dollars back into the local economy. Also, as an incentive to Shop Small, American Express is offering up to a $30 credit to your bill if you shop at 3 small businesses on the Shop Small map on Small Business Saturday and spend at least $10 at each of them. To take advantage of this promotion you must register in advance at the American Express link we provided above.

Locally here in Wilmington many shops are offering special discounts and entertainment on Small Business Saturday. We encourage you to avoid the Black Friday craze and enjoy Small Business Saturday and support our local community!

 

Small Business Saturday Wilmington NC

It is a rarity that citizens vote in favor of tax increases, but that is exactly what happened yesterday in New Hanover County. There was an overwhelming majority in favor of the Wilmington Transportation bond and New Hanover County school bond.

What does this mean for the county?

The Wilmington Transportation bond was approved for $44 million and the city will allocate other funds for a total of $55 million for the proposed projects. The areas planned for improvement are marked by large blue signs around the city. The funds allocated for the projects are broken down as follows:

–          $33 million in road improvements

–          $20 million in sidewalks, crosswalks, and trails to improve pedestrian access

–          $2 million in public transportation

The New Hanover County school bond was approved for $160 million. This bond’s 14 projects will address the county’s top concerns of safety, increase enrollment, and infrastructure. The projects will include a new elementary school, several replacement schools, and renovations to eight existing schools. There will also be safety and infrastructure improvements throughout the county.

What does this mean for taxes?

The Wilmington Transportation bond will increase the city’s property tax rate by 2 cents starting July 1, 2015 and lasting for twenty years. This means for every $100 worth of home value you will pay an additional 2 cents per year. Note that this is a city tax so citizens in New Hanover County not in the city limits will not be subject to this tax.

The New Hanover County school bond will increase the city’s property tax rate by 3 cents and lasting for twenty years. This means for every $100 worth of home value you will pay an additional 3 cents per year. This is a county wide tax.

Property taxes are deductible on your individual income tax return if deductions are itemized. This means that not only will those taxes pay to improve the county, but can provide income tax benefit as well!

                On October 28, 2014 the Tax Foundation released its 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index and North Carolina was #16 among the ranked 50 states. The Tax Foundation is a nonpartisan tax research group that collects and publishes tax research for both Federal and state. While #16 may not seem like something to cheer about, North Carolina was ranked top 10 worst business tax climates in 2014 at #44. Also, there are states that do not have individual, corporate, or sales tax like we do. These states that do not have corporate or individual income tax (Wyoming, Nevada, and South Dakota) automatically vault to the top of the list.

                The North Carolina tax reform left many with mixed emotions since it cut the $50,000 business income deduction per business owner that our small to medium sized business clients benefited from. However, it is hard to ignore that a jump in the rankings makes our state a lot more attractive when compared to surrounding coastal states. This ranking will also climb when the next income tax rate reductions are put into effect in 2015. As a reminder here are the tax rates changes that have resulted in North Carolina’s jump in the business tax climate rankings:

Individual Income Tax Rates:                                                  

2013 – Ranged from 6% to 7.75%                                           

2014 – 5.8%

2015 – 5.75%                                                                                 

Corporate Income Tax Rates:

2013 – 6.9%

2014 – 6%

2015 – 5%