119 Old State Rd, Ellisville, MO 63021 CapitalAdvisoryGrp.com
MAKE TAX SEASON MANAGEABLE
Every year, tax season seems like it comes from nowhere. You watch your calendar, preparing for the date, when suddenly, there it is. Is there any way to avoid it? No. But there are tools and strategies you can implement to make it less of a menacing beast and more of a friendly, if mischievous, housecat. To begin with, you can determine when to plan and when to prepare. Instead of avoiding your taxes until March, learn how you can be more efficient this tax season. TAX PLANNING Tax planning is everything that leads up to your tax preparation. You’ll organize the documents you need ahead of time so you don’t find yourself anxiously scrambling to find them in that file you made months ago. As you plan, you’ll start to think about the changes to your lifestyle that have come about in the last year. Have your daycare expenditures changed? Are there new additions to your family? Has your source of income changed? As you start to answer these questions, you’ll be able to get the information organized and have it ready to return to us.
Don’t underestimate the time it takes to gather paperwork. Give yourself time by asking yourself these questions early in the year.That will make the process move much more quickly, and you’ll be able to say hello to April with a smile. What’s the advantage of planning? It will probably save you time, for one thing. You won’t get all those annoying phone calls from us, bugging you about that one last sheet of paper we need in order to prepare your taxes. Because you’ve planned, you’ll have already turned in everything, which will allow us to prepare Once you’ve done your planning, the preparation will be much easier because most of it can be left to us. Tax preparation is our role in preparing your taxes for filing. If you’ve done the planning, the preparation will be a breeze. How can you begin to incorporate planning and preparation into your life? Each January, we’ll send you a packet for organizing your taxes.This packet is intended for you to use as a guide as you prepare to submit your taxes to us. Your packet includes customized information that will help you identify the questions to ask yourself and the documentation your taxes more quickly. TAX PREPARATION
you will need to include. In it, you will find personalized checklists and questions to help you determine exactly what information we’ll need. Look for your tax packet in the next couple of weeks. When it arrives, don’t set it aside! Take time to review it and answer your personalized questions. As you start your New Year’s resolutions, one of them can be a less-stressful tax season. Happy New Year! P.S. Last month, you might’ve noticed that one of our team members was missing from our picture on page 4. We forgot to include Margrit, our wonderful administrative assistant! Not to worry, though. She’s still here and ready for the new year. John & Jeff Zufall
(636) 394-5524 1
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As you begin the year, you’re probably developing a new budget for your business. No matter how much you sell, there’s no quicker path to a cash shortage than bad budgeting. Here are a few tips to ensure you make the most accurate budget possible for 2018. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE EXPENSES Whether you’re talking about internal projects, marketing initiatives, or client services, you should always assume you’ll encounter unexpected costs. If you don’t leave wiggle room in your budget, you’ll have to borrow cash allocated to other endeavors. “Every project seems to have an extra cost that was never anticipated,” notes Shufflrr CEO James Ontra. It’s much better to budget for these speed bumps than run out of gas before you reach the finish line. ACCOUNT FOR FLUCTUATIONS Even if you don’t sell Christmas trees or pool toys, your business probably has a sales cycle. Assuming that your revenue and spending will be consistent throughout the year sets you up for failure. While making your budget, be sure to consider when you expect an off-season. This will allow you to focus on marketing efforts in your downtime and keep profits coming in when you need them most. Similarly, you should limit unnecessary spending during the months when you expect revenue to be down. MAKE REALISTIC PROJECTIONS Too many companies look at the future with rose-tinted glasses. “You never want to be in a position where you’re spending more than you have coming in,” says Annie Scranton, owner of Pace Public Relations. How do you end up in this quagmire? There’s no surer way than projecting huge growth without the data to back it up. Your sales forecast needs to be realistic, if not a little lean. After all, 20 percent extra in revenue is a bonus, but 20 percent under can be a catastrophe. YOUR BUDGET ISN’T ONE AND DONE So, you’ve finished a budget, but that doesn’t mean it will never change. At the very least, you should review your planning on a quarterly basis. Change is the only constant in the business world, and adaptability based on profit patterns is a key component of budgeting success. Tips for Small Businesses DON’T BLOW YOUR 2018 BUDGET!
When two MIT graduates, Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan, observed that customers weren’t responding to tried and true marketing tactics — and that Shah’s unassuming blog was driving way more web traffic than sites with huge marketing budgets — they created Hubspot, a marketing and sales software company. Shah and Halligen realized that most companies were forgetting about the human element of sales. Instead of helping people, these businesses treated customers like numbers, all in the pursuit of their bottom line. So, they started Hubspot to do the opposite. They decided to help other businesses forge human relationships with their customers and create an “inbound world.” Knowing Hubspot’s origin story, it comes as no surprise that their No. 1 salesperson, Sharen Murnaghan, lives by the mantra of “Always be helping.” She and Hubspot both believe that helping others is part of business. When you look at Hubspot’s “About Us” page, you’ll notice their vision is to build a company where business is “empathetic, human, and personable.” Before joining Hubspot, Murnaghan had a successful sales career in the publishing world, but was ready for something new. She had an impressive amount of sales experience but almost no knowledge of digital marketing, an industry she knew was clearly on the rise. So, “armed with nothing but a desire to learn and a willingness to work hard,” she enrolled in a digital marketing course, got a certification, and eventually found her way to Hubspot. She started in an entry-level sales position, and, after putting in 12-hour days and many more hours of continued education, she became their No. 1 salesperson. She’s held the spot ever since. Besides putting in her time, what strategies got her there? Murnaghan found success by exercising the same values that Hubspot was built on. “People don’t want to be interrupted by marketers or harassed by salespeople,” Shah and Halligan say of their empathetic approach. “They want to be helped.” Murnaghan’s interactions with customers hinged on her desire to help others, and she was determined to carry out that mission. Once, she connected a client’s daughter with friends in Canada after learning the girl was starting university there. What lessons can we glean from Murnaghan’s and Hubspot’s success? Don’t forget about the simple act of helping people. Make this a priority above selling a good or service. As you shape and define your company’s values, hire people who exemplify them. Like Murnaghan, if they live your values, they’ll wow your clients, build relationships, and bring you both to the top. HELPING PEOPLE ISN’T JUST FOR NONPROFITS
7 CHANGES TO KEEP TOP OF MIND
I f you’ve been watching the news, you’ve surely seen a lot about tax reform.The topic has been front and center since going to voters in the House and Senate. On Dec. 22, the president signed a bill that will make changes to tax law beginning in 2018, with most set to expire in 2025.The reform overhauls the internal revenue code by lowering tax rates and eliminating numerous tax provisions. Here are some specifics that you might want to be aware of. • There will be an increase in the standard deduction from $6,350 to $12,000 for singles and an increase from $12,700 to $24,000 for couples filing jointly. • You will not be able to deduct more than $10,000 for state and
Ingredients • 1 cup white chocolate chips • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk • 2 cups heavy cream, divided • 3 cups milk (any variety will do) • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar There’s nothing like curling up under a blanket with a warm mug and a novel that finally came out in paperback. Break out the slow cooker and let the sweet aroma waft through your living room as your start Chapter 1. chocolate chips, condensed milk, 1 cup cream, and milk. Cover and heat on low about 2 hours. 2. In a large bowl, mix remaining 1 cup cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. 1. In a slow cooker, combine white local taxes, including taxes on real estate.There was no cap under the previous law. • Business income from pass-thru entities is now entitled to a 20 percent reduction, subject to some income limitations. • The reform eliminates the personal exemption, which was $4,050 per person in 2017. • There will be more restrictions in place for charitable donations. • The child tax credit will double, going from $2,000 to $4,000. It will also now be available to taxpayers with income levels up to $200,000 for singles and $400,000 for couples.This is up from what it was previously, at $75,000 and $110,000. Directions
• A doubling of the estate tax exemption will occur, rising to just under $11 million for singles and $22 million for couples. While most of these changes have a limited implementation of seven years, one of the permanent changes we might see is a slower rate of inflation in the tax code. The result? Individuals will likely move into higher tax brackets more quickly. As the year continues and you prepare to file your taxes, you will want to stay abreast of these changes and how they will affect your returns. Schedule a meeting with Capital Advisory Group to find out more about taxes in 2018.
TAKE A BREAK SLOW COOKER RASPBERRY WHITE HOT CHOCOLATE (Recipe inspired by SlowCookerGourmet.net.)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla • 4 tablespoons raspberry liqueur or syrup 3. Using a hand or stand mixer, whip until stiff peaks form. 4. Serve mugs of hot chocolate with about 1 tablespoon of raspberry liqueur or syrup to taste and a dollop of whipped cream.
119 Old State Rd Ellisville, MO 63021 CapitalAdvisoryGrp.com
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Less Stress This Tax Season
The Secret Behind Hubspot’s No. 1 Salesperson
Avoid a 2018 Budget Blunder
A Look at Tax Reform, Part II
Warm UpWith Some Hot Cocoa
The Time Is Right for Nicaragua
ESCAPE TO NICARAGUA
The Country That Has Something for Everyone
After the hectic holiday season, many of us feel like we need another vacation just to unwind. Luckily, January and February are two of the best months to travel. Flight prices plummet and crowds thin out after the Christmas rush. If you’re looking to escape the dreary winter weather, there’s no better place to visit this season than Nicaragua, the “Central American country that has it all,” as Condé Nast Traveler puts it. Whether you’re looking to explore the rainforests surrounding the Río San Juan or get lost in the quirky- yet-beautiful architecture of Granada, there’s something for everyone in this tropical wonderland. One must-see destination is the Cerro Negro volcano. Just a baby at 150
years old, it’s one of the most active volcanoes in the region. It only takes about an hour to scale its smoking, black gravel surface, and the verdant forests surrounding the peak are a sight to behold. Adventurous travelers can board down the side, reaching ludicrous speeds as they teeter and try not to fall. In fact, it’s almost impossible to travel anywhere in the country without seeing an “I boarded a volcano”T-shirt. If relaxing on a pearlescent beach is more your speed, take a short boat trip out to the Corn Islands.There, you can amble around the small towns bordering the shockingly blue Pacific, visit a number of laid-back seafood restaurants, get scuba certified for a fraction of the price anywhere else in
the world, or just read your book as you swing in a hammock by the waves. You can also visit the gorgeous, alabaster Our Lady of Grace Cathedral in “new” Léon.The biggest church in all of Central America, this unique Baroque and neoclassicist structure was built in 1814. Visitors can climb onto its roof (as long as they don’t wear shoes) and bask in the view of surrounding volcanoes (including Cerro Negro). If you’re planning on heading to Nicaragua, it’s best to do it soon. Neighbor Costa Rica often overflows with tourists, and instead of wading through the crowds there, many travelers are catching on to what Nicaragua has to offer.
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