Friday, August 05, 2005

Finding The Right Accountant

by Ron Ameln
The right accountant can minimize your tax bill and find ways to save you money throughout the year. But where can you find one?
Start by networking with others and asking about their experience with accountants. Ask professionals you know and trust—lawyers, bankers and other small-business owners—for referrals.
When interviewing accountants, don’t start by asking how much the firm charges, according to Phil Brumbaugh, an accountant and owner of Philip G. Brumbaugh CPA, CVA. According to Brumbaugh, some good questions to ask are:
* How long has the firm been in business and what is (are) the background(s) of the principle(s)?
* Who will work on my account and how will the contact with the principle be maintained?
* What type and size of businesses does the firm work with?
* Who is an ideal client for the firm? How large are the firm’s largest clients? This is to get an idea on how important you will be to the firm. What will be the firm’s priority when it comes to serving your account compared to other clients?
* What percent of the firm’s tax returns are extended? Will mine be extended if I get the information to the firm on a timely basis?
* What additional services does the firm offer beyond tax and accounting?
* Does the firm have other clients in my industry?
* What is the policy for returning telephone calls and emails?
* What is the firm’s policy regarding interpretation of the tax law? Does it match my philosophy?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Business Insurance: Are You Covered?

Business Insurance: The Basics
General Liability
General liability insures a business against accidents and injuries on its premises, and exposures related to its products/services. For example, a visiting salesperson slips in your office and breaks an ankle. General liability covers the claim against you.
However, let’s say the business is a window manufacturer, with hundreds of its windows installed in homes and businesses. If something goes wrong with them—and this is the confusing part—that is not related to poor workmanship, general liability also covers the damage that results. Naturally, insurance companies don’t want to pay for sloppy work. As a result, general liability tends to be rife with exclusions to the point that some companies wonder why they have it.
Most property insurance is written on an all-risk basis, as opposed to a named-peril basis. The latter offers coverage for specific perils spelled out in the policy. If your loss comes from a peril not named, then it isn’t covered.
Business owners should get a breakdown of what the coverage offers. Then, go the extra step and carefully review the policy’s exclusions. All policies cover loss by fire, but what about such crises as hailstorms and explosions? You may want to buy coverage for all these risks. Perils not covered by a typical policy include: earthquakes and landslides, nuclear contamination, flooding and water-seepage, and maintenance-related losses, such as wear-and-tear and pollution.
Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is required by law in all states (businesses with five or more employees in Missouri). Each state says that employers are liable for all injuries to workers, regardless of fault. In exchange for this blanket coverage, workers give up the right to sue their employers, except in cases of extreme negligence.
One way to reduce workers’ compensation premiums is by reducing accidents. Even in office settings, injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and slips and falls, can increase your premiums.
A business auto policy covers property and liability risks that can come with the ownership or use of cars and trucks. The primary strategy for saving money with auto insurance is increasing the deductible.