Category Archives: Business Owners

July 12, 2017

Donor-Advised Funds

Written by Jason Hiley

Americans donate billions to charity annually. If you give to charity, you need to know about one of the best tools to facilitate generosity: Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs).

DAFs date from the 1930s but did not become popular until the 1990s. DAFs act as vehicles for receiving gifts, often of appreciated stock, and then distributing cash grants to charities selected by the one making the donation. DAFs make the process of transferring appreciated stock and designating checks as simple as a bank’s bill-paying system.

All DAF donors receive a tax deduction on the date of transfer. You can also transfer stock during one calendar year and receive a deduction even if the DAF completes distribution of grant money to a charity in a subsequent year. According to Internal Revenue Service rules, you calculate the value of your donation and the resulting fixed deduction based on the average of the high and the low market price on the day of transfer. (You are responsible for computing
this value.)

After receipt, the stock you gifted is sold and the DAF, itself a charity, pays no tax on any capital gain realized. The proceeds may remain in cash or you may direct the DAF to invest those assets for potential further appreciation (usually in a professionally managed separate account). Any subsequent change in the value of the account does not change the amount you can deduct on
your taxes.

As the donor, you direct to which charities the DAF distributes assets. Officially, the DAF owns the assets and is not legally bound to use them as you direct, but it is exceedingly rare for a DAF to not follow the donor’s advice.

Most DAFs also maintain a database of 501(c)(3)  tax-exempt charities (based on those organizations’ IRS 990 filing) from which you chose. After you suggest an amount to gift and a charity to receive the gift, the DAF vets and processes your suggestion to ensure the organization qualifies as a public charity under the IRS code. DAFs also handle all record keeping and due diligence and can protect your identity if you want to give anonymously.

Donor-advised funds are the fastest growing charitable giving vehicle in the United States, with more than 269,000 donor-advised accounts holding over $78 billion in assets. To put that in perspective, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has about $39.6 billion in assets.

Besides consider a DAF, here are other ways to make your charitable giving more significant:

Focus your effort. Passionate giving is more sustainable than spreading donations to every good cause or everyone who asks. Consider focusing your donations to just a few charities. Think through why you are giving and what you feel passionate about.

Find bang for the buck. Fund programs that produce the greatest effect for the least money and focus on long-term positive outcomes.

Include the next generation. You can include your children in the giving process or even help them gift some of their own money.

Talk to Your Financial Advisor. If you’re considering a DAF or want to learn more, give Hiley Hunt Wealth Management a call so that we can walk through the process together.

June 15, 2017

For Business Owners: Adapting to Changing Economic Times

Written by Andrew Hunt

When business is booming, many business owners don’t take the time to find out if their organization is running at maximum efficiency. Wasteful practices may abound, but are seldom addressed in the rush to get the product out or job done. Yet, when business slows, the time is there to take stock of business operations, formulate new strategies, and find innovative resources to help improve the efficiency and economy of your business.
Here are some issues to consider when planning to improve your company’s chances of success in the face of changing economic times:

Where can I cut costs?

This may seem like an obvious question, but formulating the right solutions without impairing your operations is seldom easy. Look for large and small ways to economize, without changing vital areas. For example, it may be possible to reduce the number of vehicles used or to conserve energy by turning off equipment when not in use. Now may be a good time to revisit some of your agreements and possibly negotiate a temporary or long-term discount. Consider taking advantage of bargains by buying in bulk or locking in prices for the future.

Are my marketing strategies still relevant?

The marketing approaches your firm used in boom times may be less effective under tighter conditions. Clients may be more cautious about commissioning projects, and they may want greater reassurances that they are getting quality and value for their money. While it may be a struggle to increase your marketing budget, well-targeted advertising campaigns can go a long way toward bringing in new business. Stepping up your networking efforts, both in person and online, is a low-cost option for attracting new customers and staying in touch with existing clients.

Are my prices right?

Lowering your prices may be a painful but necessary measure in a declining economy. Even if you don’t reduce prices across the board, you may offer discounts or incentives to attract and retain customers. If your customers agree to adjustments in the scope of the work or types of materials used, it may be possible to lower your prices while still maintaining profit margins.

Can I trim my payroll without losing key employees?

Some companies start laying people off at the first signs of an economic slowdown. However, this can prove to be a dangerous overreaction, especially if your business ends up losing its most valuable employees. If you need to reduce payroll costs, consider viable options for doing so without letting good people go, such as offering flexible schedules, time off for training, or reduced hours for employees who want them. If necessary, consider trimming the size of retirement and health benefits, with assurances to employees that benefits will be restored as business improves.

How can I maximize my cash flow?

When funds are tight, keeping track of cash flow becomes especially important. Check that your invoicing processes are operating efficiently, and that outstanding accounts are managed quickly. As obtaining credit becomes more difficult, meet with your accountant and your banking representative to discuss your credit lines, ways to improve your company’s credit score, and the options available in case of emergency.

Is it time to try new technologies? Implementing new software and other information technologies, and integrating these programs into your business operations, is a complex and sometimes arduous process. A slower pace can provide your firm’s staff with the time they need to familiarize themselves with IT solutions that can help your business operate more efficiently. When better times return, your firm will continue to benefit from the productivity enhancements. Review your website, ensuring that the information is up-to-date and professionally presented. Investing time in enhancing your online presence will likely pay off during the downturn and as the economy improves.

Adapting to change is never easy. But, neither is running a business. Rather than focusing on the recession, focus on emerging leaner and more competitive than ever. After all, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.