Monday, October 29, 2012

80th anniversary fun facts (1942)

Ten years had passed since our firm’s founding, in 1932. The country was beginning to turn the tide in World War II. As we continue to share memories of the past, in celebrating 80 years in practice, remember when?

In the year 1942… 

  1. War highlights:
    1. President FDR and British PM Churchill created the United Nations
    2. General MacArthur vowed “I shall return”
    3. Anne Frank went into hiding
    4. Jimmy Doolittle led his raiders on Tokyo
    5. U.S. wins the Battle of Midway
    6. The Manhattan Project was begun 
  2. Meanwhile, back home:
    1. Famous birthdays – Harrison Ford, Muhammad Ali, Barbra Streisand
    2. Famous songs of the day – “Deep in the Heart of Texas”, “White Christmas”
    3. Famous movies – “Casablanca”, “Mrs. Miniver” (Academy Award Winner
    4. Capitol Records was formed
  3. Cost of living:
    1. New car $920 (but no more new cars were made until after the war in 1945)
    2. New house $3,775
    3. Gasoline $.15 a gallon
    4. Average income $1,885 (up $233 in 10 years)
  4. Heisman Trophy winner – Frank Sinkwich, from UGA

...and yes, one other important birthday – Robinson, Grimes current Senior Partner, Lev Norman – October 10, 1942

Next up, 1952 – it was a very good year!!

Jay Pease, Audit Partner (and Firm Historian)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Microsoft Excel - Format Painter and AutoFill

Practically every business, small and large, uses Microsoft Office. Included in this software package is the extremely powerful spreadsheet software (and my personal favorite) Microsoft Excel. Here are two time saving features for Excel that I use almost every day:

1. Format Painter

The Format Painter will copy the formatting from one place and apply it to another. Don't waste time "manually" applying the same formatting (background, font, size, border, etc) over and over to multiple cells - just use the format painter!  Here's how:

i. Locate and select the cell (or range of cells) that currently has the desired formatting.

ii. Click the Format Painter button located in the Home tab, bottom left corner of the ribbon. 

iii. Now select the destination cell (or range of cells) and the formatting from the first cell will be applied to the newly-selected cell(s)! Note this will not change the cell contents - only the formatting.

Tip: If you double-click the Format Painter button, it will lock the paste step, allowing you to paste the copied format multiple times. The selected format will be applied everywhere you click. To unlock the Format Painter simply press the ESC key on the keyboard.

2. AutoFill

The AutoFill feature in Excel will add content to selected cells based on input data and patterns. For instance - in the image above, when you AutoFill, Excel will fill in the other days of the week in proper order and repeat. Numbers will change accordingly, formulas will adjust themselves, and formatting will come along too - there are many ways to use this feature. Play around with it to see what all you can do! Select the cell (or range of cells) you wish to AutoFill. Move your cursor to the bottom right corner of the selected cell and it will change to a solid black "plus" symbol (like in the picture above). This is the AutoFill symbol. Left-click and hold the mouse button down. Now drag the mouse in the direction you wish to AutoFill. Once you have the desired range selected, release the mouse button and the contents of the cells will fill in.

Matt Sellers, CPA; Supervisor (and Excel enthusiast)

Monday, October 15, 2012

80th anniversary fun facts (1932)

As we celebrate our firm’s 80th anniversary, we thought we would share a few interesting facts. We will continue doing so throughout the year. These are courtesy of our Administrative Supervisor, Becky Meeks (no, she hasn’t been here the whole time... she just found a little book that we will pilfer from):

In the year, 1932 (the year of our founding) ……………:

  1. The following people were born – Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Cash, Meadowlark Lemon, Little Richard, and Kasey Kasem
  2. Franklin Roosevelt defeated incumbent Herbert Hoover for President of the U.S.
  3. Prohibition ended
  4. The parking meter was invented in Oklahoma City
  5. The Zippo lighter was invented
  6. Miss America was………….. no one – The Miss America pageant had not begun yet
  7. The average cost of a new car was $610; a house was $6,515
  8. The annual income was $1,652 a year
  9. Gas cost $.10 a gallon
  10. Hit songs were “All of Me” by Louis Armstrong and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” by Bing Crosby

And, most importantly, the predecessor to Robinson, Grimes,  Mr. S.M. Wellborn began his accounting practice.

More to come – hope you enjoy!!

Jay Pease, Audit Partner (and Firm Historian)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Capital assets

I am often asked about tax deductions - particularly about tax deductions related to major purchases, a.k.a capital assets. Examples of very common questions are, “If I buy a van for my business, can I deduct the total cost of it?” or “When I sell my van that I use entirely for business, what sort of taxes do I have to pay for selling it?” Well, those questions can be pretty complex to answer, hence the reason most people are not sure of the answers. So here’s a quick overview in three parts. First we will determine what constitutes a capital asset. Second we will cover how much you can deduct on your tax return when you purchase a capital asset. Finally we will touch on how you will be taxed when you sell your capital asset.

Capital Asset Defined
There is a general rule for determining whether or not something is tax deductible: If you purchase something for business use, it’s generally deductible. If you purchase something for use around the house or to get to and from work, it’s generally not deductible. The use and treatment of property determines whether or not it is considered a capital asset. Capital assets are things a taxpayer purchases to use in his or her trade or business that will last for more than one year, such as a vehicle, furniture, or machinery.

Investments are also considered capital assets, but there are special rules for how they are taxed. Investments do not have to be used in a trade or business to receive capital asset treatment; however, there are different rules for individuals, partnerships, and corporations. Here we will just talk about investments at the individual level.

If you hold inventory for sale, no matter how expensive each item is, none of your inventory qualifies as a capital asset.

Capital Asset Loss and Tax Deductions
Keep in mind that for purchases to be deductible, they have to be used in a trade or business. Because capital assets last for more than one year, you usually cannot deduct their total cost in the year of purchase. There are special elections you can make that allow for accelerated deductions, but those elections change from year to year. For assets such as a car or furniture, you have to spread your deductions out over two or more years depending on what you purchased. If you realize a loss from the sale of a capital asset such as a car or furniture, the full amount of that loss is deductible.

Investments, as noted earlier, are special. You can’t deduct the cost of an investment until you sell it, and even then there are special rules. If you personally hold investments and you sell your investments at a loss, you may deduct up to $1,500 (if single) or up to $3,000 (if married) of your loss each year. If you lost more than your allowed deduction, you can deduct the rest of your loss in the coming years.

Capital Gain Tax Treatment
When you sell your capital asset for a profit, the difference between your basis (original cost minus depreciation) and the selling price is considered a capital gain. The profit or gain from your sale is taxed at a lower tax rate than your regular income (such as your wages). Also, depending on whether you held your capital asset for longer than one year, your tax rate will vary. It is usually better to hold a capital asset for more than one year for tax purposes. Profits from sales of capital assets changes from time to time, but it is usually somewhere around 15%.

This information really just scratches the surface of capital assets.  You should contact your tax professional for a more in-depth discussion.

Eric Tydings

Monday, October 1, 2012

Backing up your data

We take great care to back up the firm’s data.  You should take great care to back up your personal data.  Consider all the digital pictures, videos, personal correspondence, e-mail, and other data on your home computer.  Now think for a moment about how you would feel if all that data suddenly disappeared.  Not a happy thought, is it?  You should know that it can happen – and it can do so without warning  –  from a hard drive crash, lightning strike, or any number of other uncontrollable events.  You can take some simple and not-too-expensive steps to help save your precious data.  The short answer is to make sure your data exists on multiple devices and/or in multiple places.

One of the simplest ways to make sure your data is protected from a hard drive crash is to back up your data to an external hard drive.  There are many options sitting on the shelf at Best Buy, Office Depot, or even Wal-Mart.  You can expect to spend about $100 for a device that has plenty of capacity to back up the data on your computer.  These external hard drives connect to your computer via USB cable and typically use included software to keep your data backed up.  Some rely on the backup software that is built in to Microsoft Windows.

For a more convenient setup with added protection consider an online backup provider.  A good example is Carbonite, but there are many, many choices.  At the time of this writing Carbonite costs $59 per year for its most basic service.  To use an online backup provider you typically begin by signing up on the company's Web site, download some software to your computer, and then let that software walk you through the setup process.  Once the software is configured your data is copied to “the cloud” on a regular basis – you don’t have to do anything else.  Plus, you get the added protection of the data being stored offsite, which provides protection against theft, fire, lightning, and other “local” problems that could render a backup made to a nearby USB hard drive useless.

There are other approaches and solutions that could work, as well.  The point is to get you thinking about backing up your data.  If you are not backing up your data at all right now, you should start doing so right away!

Craig Rhinehart, Director of IT Services