CPAs are authorized to represent taxpayers in an IRS audit, as are attorneys and other professionals are known as enrolled agents (EA). An EA is an individual who has demonstrated technical competence in the field of taxation and is the only taxpayer representative who receives their right to practice from the U.S. government. An accountant can only represent a taxpayer before the IRS if he or she is an EA.
It is imperative that you contact a CPA. You will need to discuss the organization of your company for tax purposes as well as numerous other issues relating to operations, not the least of which will be setting your target pricing and gross profit margins. Don’t wait until the year-end to have this discussion. You could be making decisions without the proper advice, and that could wind up hurting you financially or legally.
All business records, especially sales and payroll must be kept for seven years. The Social Security Administration requires discrepancy to be resolved anytime within this seven-year window. The IRS and the states will audit within the seven-year window. Keep all federal, state, and local returns indefinitely and all supporting documents for seven (7) years. Real Estate and stock market transaction records should be kept. The tax consequences of a transaction can depend on events that happened years earlier. Taxpayers often keep files in a single, easily accessible location. Consider keeping your files in a safe deposit box or another safe place outside your home.
To achieve a positive cash flow, you must have a sound plan. Your business can increase cash reserves in a number of ways:
- Collecting receivables: Actively manage accounts receivable and quickly collect overdue accounts. Revenues are lost when a firm’s collection policies are not aggressive.
- Tightening credit requirements: As credit and terms become more stringent, more customers must pay cash for their purchases, thereby increasing the cash on hand and reducing the bad-debt expense. While tightening credit is helpful in the short run, it may not be advantageous in the long run. Looser credit allows more customers the opportunity to purchase your products or services.
- Manipulating the price of products: Many small businesses fail to make a profit because they erroneously price their products or services. Before setting your prices, you must understand your product’s market, distribution costs, and competition. Monitor all factors that affect pricing on a regular basis and adjust as necessary.
- Taking out short-term loans: Loans from various financial institutions are often necessary for covering short-term cash-flow problems. Revolving credit lines and equity loans are common types of credit used in this situation.
- Increasing your sales: Increased sales would appear to increase cash flow. However, if large portions of your sales are made on credit, when sales increase, your accounts receivable increase, not your cash. Meanwhile, inventory is depleted and must be replaced. Because receivables usually will not be collected until 30 days after sales, a substantial increase in sales can quickly deplete your firm’s cash reserves.
Transferring the family business requires the family to make a determined effort to do the following:
- Create a business strategic plan.
- Create a family strategic plan.
- Prepare an Estate Plan.
- Prepare a Succession Plan, including arranging for successor training and setting a retirement date.
These are the four plans that make up the transition process. By implementing them, you will virtually ensure the successful transfer of your business within the family hierarchy.