Top 10 Best Vendor Scams

Top 10 Best Vendor Scams (and how to catch them)Office scams

The scammers friend is the new hire (and absent owner). This could be the admin, office manager, or even bookkeeper you hired recently. They are often the one kept in a vacuum so they know little to nothing about what other departments are up to. Perhaps you did not train them well and/or they may be inexperienced in the ways of a professional office. Scammers love business owners and their staff who are too busy, too unperceptive, or too apathetic to care about the bookkeeping. Bookkeeping tracks your cash; who was paid and for what. When you create a culture where it is almost impossible to get a receipt (talking to you owners), you create the perfect environment for scams.

As homage to David Letterman, the top 10 best scams are:

10. Domain Registry is a great example of the domain scam. Have you been paying website domain renewal twice? Once to say GoDaddy and again to these folks? We have personal experience catching this scam and trying to help the client get their money back.

Solve it: The employee or contractor in charge of marketing and/or the website needs to sign off on all website related expenses before they are paid.

9. Annual registrations with state agencies are a classic. Since your company and address are normally public, the scamming company can easily send you what looks like a bill from the government. Any admin employee scared of getting yelled at (again) will probably just pay it. The scamming company will most likely pay the government. Only a fool would get caught impersonating the government AND taking the government’s money. Expect to be charged at least double what you would pay directly to the state. See our state’s page with more info

Solve it: This should be a budgeted line item for your company. The renewal should be in the company calendar of important deadlines & Due dates with the vendor name listed. This is an example of institutional knowledge.

8. The ink scam; it’s a classic. The office employee gets a phone call and the person on the phone says either “we can get you ink cheaper” to catch the thrifty marks or “it’s time to order ink again” to catch the new or neglected admin that has no idea if that is something they should know to do. Don’t get scammed by the Toner Phoner.

Solve it: Some employees will not hang up for fear of getting in trouble (again) for their phone skills. Others are so new to the profession they just go with it. When you hire office staff, one of the on-boarding items is the scam talk. Give them examples of scams and tell them who is in charge of procurement, who to ask if something seems phishy, and empower them to just hang up.

7. “I know what you have been looking at on the internet.” This entertaining email scam informs you that they know everything. They have your password. They have been watching you on your computer. And they will tell everyone what is in your browsing history if you don’t pay up.

Ok, I admit it. I purchased $30 of unneeded things last month. At Amazon! The shame.

Solve it: Your employee handbook should include a technology policy. This policy should have a nice subtle way of saying do not watch porn on your work computer. If a coworker falls for this scam, you have a whole lot of other problems to worry about.

6. “Your computer called and it wants help.” The not-at-all Microsoft company will happily take care of this entire issue with just a credit card number to have on file.

Solve it: Every company needs an IT guru. New office staff should be provided with a short list of vendors that provide services to the company. This is also institutional knowledge.

5. “Your QuickBooks file emailed us and it is corrupted.” These folks have actually helped a client of ours. They did not seem to harm the computers but they did completely misrepresent themselves.

Solve it: Did we mention every company should have an IT guru? Someone that will respond to an email or text in 24 hours and can spot a scam.

4. Intuit Calling. We are Intuit and you need to upgrade your software. These folks take over your account and you start paying them instead of Intuit. Much like the government registration scam, they do pay Intuit on your behalf. And they do charge you a premium to do it, which when questioned, they insist is for ongoing support.

Solve it: Software upgrades should be in the budget and in the company calendar of important deadlines & due dates.

3. Mandatory Poster scam. You can get them for free from the government. Oregon sells all-in-one pretty posters that don’t take up as much room. There are even some reputable companies that provide employment law updates along with pretty posters. The notice looks like a bill and only an empowered, experienced, and perceptive office professional will catch this scam.

Solve it: Someone at the company needs to be in charge of HR basics. That person needs professional development annually. The state of Oregon provides excellent trainings. Maybe your state does too.

2. Credit card charges that look like something or nothing. We have seen so many fraudulent charges over the years. They don’t get caught right away because the person in charge of adding data to QuickBooks is guessing at what the expenses are (because they don’t get receipts).

Solve it: Everyone in your company needs to provide receipts for any credit card use including the owner. Before you complain that it’s too hard to accomplish…There’s an app for that!

And the #1 scam is….
1. “Your social security account has been suspended.” Yey! Does that mean I can quit paying self-employment tax? We know how absolutely scary letters from the federal government can be for office staff. By now, we have seen too many to be phased because we know what happens next. Fear of the unknown is the key to getting the award of #1 Scam. Who has ever had a family member or friend get their social security number suspended for bad behavior? No one. Because it’s a lie.

Solve it: The federal government only sends paper correspondence. It is the most secure method of communicating with you. It says so right here at irs.gov.

Summary

The FTC reported people losing $1.48 billion to fraud. That’s billion with a B folks!

Did you see the recipe for success above?
1. Have an IT guru on call and empower employees to contact the guru when needed.

2. Institutional knowledge must not be lost when your long term admin leaves. Create a calendar of important deadlines and dates. We use Boomerang for Gmail to send our future selves reminder emails.

Create a short list of resources available to the office staff like the IT Guru. Empower them to handle the small stuff by working with the contracted service provider.

Have an org chart and employee handbook and use them as tools to keep your staff in-the-know.

3. Train your staff. Have the scam talk with all new hires during their first month of employment. Too many people think “anyone can do it” when it comes to administrative and accounting staff and they don’t bother training. Or worse yet, they think anyone with a vagina can do the work, an even more dismissive and offensive mindset. Being an administrative or accounting professional (and it is a profession) takes a special skill set that not everyone has.

4. Provide professional development to office staff. Like all professions, administrative and accounting staff need continued education. As many of you know, the training is part of the development but so is getting the chance to talk to colleagues. Like about the most annoying scams of the season.

5. Never make your employee more afraid of you than of the things that could hurt your company. We see verbal abuse in office environments too much. There are no gender barriers when it comes to being a huge jerk.

Check out fraud in your state

Condensing QuickBooks Files

To Condense or Not To Condense – Keeping Your QB File HealthyCondensing

When your QB file gets large it can cause many issues.  The most benign results are the software moving slowly and lag times. Unfortunately, there are also corruption issues that can cause lots of problems down the line. It is vital that you maintain the health of your QB file.  One way of doing this is to reduce the file size by condensing.

Intuit suggests you start a brand new QuickBooks desktop file every 5 years. That is option 1. Option 2, is to try to condense your file. This means all the oldest data is changed to a single entry and you only have details on the years you need.  Ideally, you keep no more than 5 years of details.

  1. Press F2 to see how big your file is.
  2. Is the file size close to or exceeding 300MB (300,000KB)?
  3. Only Enterprise software ($2-3k cost) can handle files over 300MB.

If you call Intuit about issues with how the software is acting (randomly closing, freezing up, continual backup verification errors), they will happily sell you Enterprise or try to push you into QB Online.

Why not try condensing first? The utilities for this are embedded in the QB software. It is best to have a professional handle the condensing because there are lots of odd things users can run into.

Other Benefits of Condensing

All list names and accounts that have not been used in the years you are keeping will be removed from the file.

Tip to Keep the File from Growing Too Fast

Watch out for zero entries. These come about when users do not remove transaction lines that do not contain data (dollars). Examples include leaving vacation and sick payroll items in a paycheck when there was not paid leave and leaving an account on the Expense tab when the transaction information is on the Items tab.

You can see your zero entries by running a P&L and filtering for amounts that equal zero.

Contact GO! if you would like help condensing or creating a brand new file for the new year.

 

 

Fighting Entropy – Getting Organized!

In today’s culture people have a lot of stuff. I define stuff as being anything that draws your attention including physical property and commitments to self and others. Balancing work, life, and community involvement, we can find that we no longer own some of our stuff, it owns us. Do you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about a work problem or task? Is there one task that you dread the thought of doing but it must be completed?

Owners of home-based and small businesses need to wear a lot of hats. Much of the work involved you love doing; it is why you started the business. But there may be some administrative duties that need doing but there is no one else to do them.

 

Entropy is one of the laws of the universe and no filing system is left out. Over time the energy you put into something is conserved in quantity but not quality. Whether it is the car, the home office, or the schedule, there are times that we say to ourselves “Didn’t I just clean that up?” or “Uhgg, I need to do that again?”

One of the best ways to deal with stuff is to simplify your life. Part of this process is learning to say “No.” This includes saying “No” to others when you are already booked and can’t fit anything more into your schedule. It also includes saying “No” to yourself when you are shopping and something that you don’t need catches your eye.

Another important part of simplifying your life is getting organized. For the small business owner, accounting and other administrative tasks may take up time that you would prefer to spend working with and for your customers. Without effective processes in place to complete these important tasks, you may find yourself in a snowball effect.

Completing the bookkeeping for June becomes completing the bookkeeping for Q2, and then suddenly its tax time again and you are not sure where all your receipts are. Join me in the continued struggle against entropy by becoming a catalyst for quality in your business world. Join the patrol of chaos and clutter control.

It is an affirmation…Get Organized!
You can do it and I can help.

Here is an article from Forbes Magazine to help keep you calm in chaos.

Tax Season After Party Action Items

We Survived Another Tax Season

This was a tough tax season. You may not even have your return back yet.  Either way, you’ll likely find these steps quite timely. And now you have time to collect supplies for your tax season after party!

Step 1: Ride out the shock. If you are a new business owner, take it from us veterans that the shock will not feel as intense after a few years. It might be a great shock – “whoo-hooo, I get that big of a refund?!” Or it could be life shattering –  “I think I’m going to be sick…where will that much money come from?”

Step 2: Your CPA is your best friend. Have their back and look at the return. Hand a copy of the tax return to a trusted and savvy accounting team member who will compare the information to your financial statements. Typos happen!

Step 3: Get the following reports from your CPA: Adjusting Journal Entries, Adjusted Trial Balance, and the Detailed Depreciation Schedule. These are some magic accounting terms that you should know a few things about.

If you own a micro to small company and have more than 3-4 entries on your Adjusting Journal Entries report, you may need process or personnel changes. It’s worth asking your CPA when it’s not tax time “Hey, how are my books looking?  Could we do better?” Make sure your CPA has not given up and doesn’t assume all books are a mess.  You want bright shiny clean books not cobbled together sort-of-but-not-quite-books.

The Adjusted Trial Balance shows what the total was for each account in your books at tax time. The accounting team member you gave a copy of the tax return to will thank you.  If they don’t get excited, they may need training or have given up and think the books will always be bad.

Some stuff you buy is written off over time (deprecation) because it was kind of expensive and will last several years.  The list of those items is on the Detailed Depreciation Schedule. Having this list allows your accounting team to track what assets were sold or disposed of during the current year.

Step 4:  Step back and ask yourself if you have the most effective and knowledgeable accounting team. Is it time to switch CPAs? Does the bookkeeper need some professional development? Has anyone given up and decided the books will be a mess forever?

Step 5: Be hopeful (Move to step 6 if you are). Don’t get sucked into the black hole of “my books will be a mess forever.” Amazing accounting professionals exist and new ones are mentored into existence all the time. The financials tell the story of your business. That’s why they’re called ‘the books.’ No one can hide the good or the bad from the numbers forever. To truly understand your business, you must learn how to read your financial statements.

Step 6:  This step is mostly for the accounting team members out there. We have the data! Oh yes, I am suggesting we begin the next tax prep while sipping lemonade in our summer wear. Create a binder (or folder) called “Taxes 20xx” to store all the current documents you need for this coming tax season. Put the three documents from the CPA in the front of the binder (folder). Create tabs (sub-folders) in the binder (main folder) as follows: Reports, Bank, Assets, Liabilities, Payroll, and Equity (if ownership changes will occur during the year).

Step 7: Track property purchases, sales, and disposals with detailed descriptions in your accounting software and add copies of purchase documents for big purchases (cars for example) to your binder/folder*.  Inform/Remind all employees that they need to tell you if property is sold or disposed of. Some of us have to fill out property tax returns, so we’re tracking property even if it’s not an asset (monitor vs. server). If that’s the case, put a copy of last years property tax items list in the front of your binder/folder too.

*Ok can we decide here and now that a vessel, real or electronic, that we store work information in/on will be called a finder meaning (f)older or b(inder). After all, the whole purpose is to ensure you can find things. Apple has always been pro shareware, so there should not be any copy write infringement.

Step 8: Collect needful things. The owner and the accounting team need to be committed to collecting important documents like W-9s, statements, loan documents, and anything else that backs up the data on the company balance sheet. If the owner is not on board with the needs of the accounting department they need to go back to Step 5.

A few of my beloved clients have asked for an After-Tax SOP (standard operating procedure). Here it is!

May you be surrounded by an accounting team you like and trust. May your next year-end close be accurate, efficient, and low stress. And may the after party for the whirlwind that was tax season 2018 include hope and joy.

QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Desktop Migration

Why are we leaving the cloud?

Some industries are realizing QuickBooks Online (QBO) is not providing the services they need to effectively run their business.  Low bandwidth reducing the efficiency of your bookkeeper, annual price increases with no real upgrades to the product and the inability to do real job costing are leading to a migration back to the desktop.  The marketing push of cloud based apps is so intense that people are stigmatized for proposing the use of desktop apps.  Don’t be embarrassed; you are not a technophobe or clinging to outdated tech.  We business owners need to make the right decision for our business and we will not be swayed by social pressures.  Out of the cloud and down to earth; it’s time to move back to QuickBooks Desktop (QBD).

Weird things to watch out for when migrating

You will need to do strategic planning before you migrate.

The easy answer to how to convert your data to QBD is log into your QBO file using Internet Explorer and use the export data wizard at Gear > Tools > Export Data.

Things that can interfere with the conversion process include:

  • Internet Explorer (IE) settings and add-ons may block QBO pop ups so you cannot complete the export/import process.
  • Your computer is set up to use Microsoft Edge and not IE so the export process cannot be completed.
  • The QBD app does not run in computer administrator mode by default causing issues with import.
  • The current steps in QBO to actually get to the ‘Export to QBD’ options in QBO require you to select Learn More which for most users means read about the process not Continue/OK/Next.
  • The Intuit-provided link to download the export file may fail.
  • The data from QBO may not import correctly into QBD.
  • New releases of QBO may negate step-by-step instructions for the conversion you find online.

Rolling releases from Intuit are changing the landscape of QBO frequently and the moving target of cloud technology means the person doing the conversion needs to be prepared for and understand tech issues and have easy access to Intuit tech support.

When reading articles about tech, it is so vital to look at the date published.  Some tech is changing as fast as we techie folks can write about it.  With that in mind, at the time this article was written on the train from Seattle to Albany on a lovely July 5th day in 2019.

Execute change thoughtfully. If you want to create a company culture that vehemently opposes change, throw a few apps at employees without a good project implementation plan and then abandon the idea a few months later.  After going through that a few times, most employees and contractors will begin opposing your ‘latest and greatest idea’.

 

Felonies, Background Checks & Hiring

A few years back an EECO law was put in place regarding pre-employment inquiries about arrest and convictions. To summarize the law, you can no longer have a check box on your company’s employment application that asks about felony convictions. The reason for the law is that this practice causes a “significant disadvantage” to individuals based on ethnicity and race. To put it bluntly people with black and brown skin are arrested and convicted disproportionately more compared to people with white skin.

So you are probably thinking “But Jackie, we cannot have convicted rapists in our clients home.” Per the EEOC, up front criminal history screening “do not help employer accurately decide if the person is likely to be responsible, reliable, or safe employee.” So to ensure your company does not have practices that discriminate against protected classes you should:

  1. Not have a upfront screening process like the ‘Have You Been Convicted of a Felony’ check box that make an applicant ineligible for employment before being interviewed.
  2. Once you are ready to offer an applicant the job, get their permission to run a background check.
  3. It is helpful to have a 3rd party handle the background check so you and your employees do not find out about history that is not relevant to employment at your company.
  4. Do not google. Mugshots and arrest records are “not proof that (the applicant) engaged in criminal activity.”
  5. Know your state’s laws regarding background checks because your state may have more strict laws that the EEOC.

For more information on this topic visit the EEOC.

Tax Reform – Meals & Entertainment

Meals & Entertainment Changes

GO! does not give tax advice but we will share what we learned at QBConnect.

Always check with your CPA for tax advice since there are so many grey zones and your CPA is the person that will need to deal with the IRS if there is an audit.

Entertainment

No longer deductible so those country club dues, golf outings and baseball games can no longer be deducted on your taxes says Intuit’s Jim Buffington, CPA.

The IRS is doing a good job of clarifying this change (link below) but they are not providing a good summary of changes to meal rules.

Coffee, Food, Meals

In a bizarre, turn of events, coffee and related break room food and drink supplies are now only 50% deductible.

While coffee seems like a staple for an office since the dawn of the office, many companies have gone a bit overboard with meals and snacks kept at the office.

What about coffee and tea for clients that come onsite?

Well, it may be difficult to stop employees from using the supplies and since meals with clients are also 50% deductible, even coffee and tea supplies for onsite client meetings are 50% deductible.

Employee meals were the main focus in the discussion of meals at this training.

Convenience is the magic work for employee meals.  If the meeting is at the convenience of the employer, the meals are 50% deductible.  Think of this as mandatory meetings during the work day.  Note the word mandatory.

Employee Celebrations are still 100% deductible per the QBConnect training.  So if you have a celebration, all employees are invited and attendance is not mandatory it means that this not not at the convenience of the employer, it’s the convenience of the employee.

New Accounts for QuickBooks

The trainers at QB Connect suggest that all meal related accounts are noted with 50% or 100% to clarify account usage to your CPA.

Office Food & Bev 50% – Recode of transactions previously coded to office supplies.

All Staff Celebrations 100% – Rename All Staff Meals and recode all company meeting expenses to a new account.

Meals – 50% Deductible – This now includes all company meeting food, travel meals, and business meeting meals which include meetings with clients.  The rule is at least one employee must be present at the meal.  Remember, the names of all who attended meal, their title and reason for meeting must be written on the receipt.

Entertainment – Non-Deductible – Make sure this account is created as an Other Expense type so it is not included in Net Profit.

The IRS is still not providing very good guidance on this topic which means things are left up to interpretation.  Link to IRS page

 

Markup vs. Margin

For those unfamiliar with accounting terms discussions of markup verses margin may feel a bit daunting.

Some people can do math in their head and easily remember numbers.  For those of you new to these terms or if is hard for you to remember what markup is needed to get the margin you need to stay profitable, here are some tools.

These are the formulas:

Markup % = Gross Profit / Cost
Margin % = Gross Profit / Price

Here is a table of examples assuming the cost of an item is $100.

Cost Markup Gross Profit Price Margin
100 20% 20 120 17%
100 25% 25 125 20%
100 30% 30 130 23%
100 35% 35 135 26%
100 40% 40 140 29%
100 45% 45 145 31%
100 50% 50 150 33%
100 55% 55 155 35%
100 60% 60 160 38%

Here is a link with examples and definitions.

Getting Personal with your Personnel Files

Do you have all your employees files in the right place? The following information applies to Oregon, but it’s very good advice. Be sure to check your state regulations to see if there any differences.

Oregon ORS 652.750 requires employers to allow their employees access to their personnel/pay records upon request. What records are those you might ask? BOLI defines these records as ones “used to determine the employee’s qualifications for employment, promotion, additional compensation, termination or other disciplinary actions.”

Here’s a sample list from BOLI for Personnel Files:

  •          Job announcements
  •          Applications
  •           Resumes
  •          Records of Promotion
  •          Pay increase documentation
  •          Performance reviews
  •           Supervisor notes pertaining to named personnel actions
  •          Disciplinary actions; records of verbal and written warnings
  •          Notices of termination

All I9s should be in separate I9 Binder saved in a secure location. Here is a LINK for more information about how long to retain I9s (remember to audit I9s annually).

Finally, we have the Payroll File, which is also to be kept separate. This includes:

  •        Forms authorizing all deduction of pay
  •       W-4s
  •       Health Benefit and Retirement deductions
  •       And all other reimbursements to the company including purchase reimbursements

If it impacts payroll, there must be a signed document on file.  The only except to this rule is garnishments including child support.  You must have a signed document if you reduce the pay rate for an employee.

As our world becomes increasingly digital it’s important to stay digitally organized. Most of these files are no longer stored in cabinets and it can get messy with multiple devices these days. The good news is you don’t have to leave your desk to begin organizing them. Start today!

Here is a LINK to additional Q and A’s

iWire Directions for 2018

Oregon changed the iWire website and the rule about when you have to submit 1099s

W-2 iWire Filing with QuickBooks

“2013 was the first tax year where the Oregon Department of Revenue had the authority to assess

penalties for non-filing via the iWire system.  The Department is not assessing penalties for 2013 data, because they want to make sure that all businesses are aware of the requirement going forward. For tax year 2014, the Department will begin assessing penalties for non-filers and late filers.” – Oregon Dept of Rev Rep

QuickBooks E-file your State W-2s from QuickBooks article

What you will need:

Any documents needed to check the W-2 information

Third party preparers: Your EIN and contact information

Employers contact information

In QuickBooks:

Employees > Payroll Tax Forms & W-2s > create State W-2 E-file

Continue > Continue >ChooseState(if necessary) > Get QuickBooks Data > OK

Review Data as needed.

In Excel:

Choose Start Interview from QuickBooks Payroll State W-2 toolbar > Check the box > Next > Choose File location > Save > Next > Review Company Information > Next > Enter Submitter Type information (contract bookkeepers – you are a 3rd party) > Enter submitter and Employer contact information > Next > Create W-2 file.

Print directions as needed > OK > Save workbook now? Yes > Choose location and save.

Go to Oregon iWire

Take me to iWire (big blue button on right side) > File W2s and 1099s using iWire > Properly Formatted Text File > Enter Submitter’s contact information.  Do not enter EIN dash > Follow prmpts to upload and EFW2 file > Browse to text (txt) file > Submit.

Print page with confirmation number.

Archive confirmation page, Excel file and txt file.

You will receive an email confirmation as well.

1099 –Wire Filing

Companies that generated ANY TYPE of 1099 must submit information to iWire.  There is no longer a minimum threshold before you have to submit 1099s to iWire.  QuickBooks does not support E-Filing of 1099s to States.  You can add all your 1099 information into a pre-formatted spreadsheet located here.  On the right side bar you will find:

What you will need:

Completed 1099 forms

Third party preparers: Your EIN and contact information

Payer’s BIN, EIN, and contact information

Go to Oregon iWire

Take me to iWire (big blue button on right side) > File W2s and 1099s using iWire > Choose Manual Entry (or Spreadsheet from DOR Template) > Enter submitter’s contact information > Follow prompts to add all 1099 information manually or upload the excel document.

When you have entered all 1099 information, choose Review and Send your submission to the Oregon Department of Revenue > Review information – Compare Summary information with 1096 > Submit.

Print page with confirmation number.

Archive confirmation page.

You will receive an email confirmation as well.