Identity Theft

Identity Theft and Ways You Can Protect Your Identity

Identity theft is a serious and growing concern. With rapid growth in technology, personal security shouldn't be ignored or overlooked. People using automated systems have to be aware of the different ways identity theft can happen. In our current digital world we are at risk of identity theft in our email inboxes, in the information we provide to others, and in any area data is kept, stored or disposed of. Credit cards and bank statements that get thrown away without being shredded are an example of a common way people leave the door wide open to identity thieves. Let's look at some ways you can better protect yourself from being a victim of identity theft.

8 Ways To Reduce the Risk of Being a Victim of Identity Theft

Personal Document Protection

Physical documents such as your birth certificate, social security card, insurance policies and living wills should be kept in a fire safe lock box. Your mortgage agreement, health insurance information, and other like paperwork should be kept safe and secure from break ins or emergencies. 

Don't Throw Your Identity Into The Trash

Cutting a credit card in half isn't cutting it anymore. Identity theft is big business and thieves will resort to extreme measures to get your information. For this reason, you must be just as extreme in protecting your identity and personal information. Business owners that handle other people's sensitive information use cross cutting shredders for extra protection. There are companies that offer pickup and bulk shredding services if you want to skip acquiring this new habit. Some of these companies will shred right on site before leaving your driveway. Items to be shredded should include; bank statements, billing statements, credit offers, credit applications, expired credit cards, old check blanks and deposit slips. Any item that has identifying information on it should be sent through a shredder before being thrown in the trash. This can be your name, address, phone number, social security number, or any billing account number. 

Personal Identification Safety With Service Providers

Companies often ask for your personal information to be able to provide a service to you. You'll want to think about what the actual need for them is to have this information before you give it to them. If they are asking for your social security number and it's not a service that needs it, ask if they have an alternative way to verify your identity. You can ask why they need your social security number, how it will be used, and how they protect your information. You may even choose to use a different provider for some services to avoid sharing some of your personal details.

Online and Email Scams Can Steal Your Identity

Be aware of and watch for common online scams. Your email inbox is often a prime target for an identity theft attack. Any email that appears to be from a financial institution should be considered suspect. Yes, your financial institution may contact you by email, but you can carefully determine the authenticity after thinking if it's fraudulent or not. Don't click on the links in the email if it's suspect. Instead, manually type the address into your browser or call the bank using the number on your card or physical statement.

Public WIFI or Shared Internet Safety

When you use public WiFi, ensure that any private information you share is done over a secure connection. You'll recognize this because your browser will have the "https" in the address bar and will show a closed padlock icon. Modern browsers will give a warning and show the padlock open if the supposed secure connection has a problem. Tech savvy culprits have succeeded at identity theft by simply sitting at coffee shops and letting their computers gather data from other guests who are using an unsecured WiFi connection. When you see the padlock icon, you're protected from this type of attack. It's advised not to login to banking site or money processing sites from an open connection. Stored passwords can be swiped and used fraudulently without your knowledge. If you have logged into sites from shared computers double check that you've logged out again. 

Proper Data Disposal Protects You From Identity Theft

Just like shredding documents, data on computers and mobile devices you no longer use needs to be disposed of. When the time comes to upgrade your computer or mobile phone, have the old data wiped from it using your operating system or device reset options. This will remove your personal data and reset the systems to their original manufacturer settings. Make sure to follow directions found in the owner’s manual, on the service providers or manufacturers website. In extreme cases, you can remove the hard drive and destroy it. You'll want to ensure that your emails, text messages, address books and browser history are all removed. Take out any removable memory cards and the SIM card from your phones. The best solution is to leave the device entirely blank.

Identity Theft Protection Service Providers

Before you choose this type of service, familiarize yourself with the company and confirm they have a solid reputation in the data security industry. By giving them some limited authority to represent you to the credit reporting agencies and other institutions, they are able to place freezes and fraud alerts and generate reports for you. Much of this you can do on your own for free, but you may find it valuable to have a professional service handle this for you.

Credit Report Monitoring For Identity Theft Protection

You'll want to keep a close watch on your bank and credit card statements. Identify that each transaction was performed by you. If you find any transaction that you didn't make, take action immediately! In some cases, if the fraud is not reported within 60 days, you may not be able to recoup your losses. Check your credit reports every so often. Each of the credit reporting agencies will provide you a free credit report each year. If you schedule them out you can get a free one every 4 months. If you see any accounts on your report that don't belong to you or are unfamiliar, get immediate professional help. 

You can significantly lower your risk of identity theft by being aware of the common places identity thieves can get access to your information. By taking a few precautionary steps, being alert, and being proactive you can protect yourself from ever experiencing identity theft.

Year End Tax Planning

Since we've reached the fourth quarter, for those whose tax year is the calendar year the time has come to work out your year end tax planning. It's more than collecting documents and ensuring you have proof for each deduction. Yes, do those things. They are important. Perhaps more important though, is reviewing and considering possibilities to reduce your tax burden. Business owners will compare current year profits to the previous year to have a proper expectation if there will be an increased tax burden this year. Individuals will consider changing circumstances which affect their tax liability including, marriage or divorce, the birth of a child, sending a child to college or having a dependent child strike out on their own, thus no longer qualifying as a tax deduction when you file.. These factors and more can affect the amount of taxes you owe in a particular year.

A business that is experiencing high revenue growth will likely have a very different, perhaps even opposite tax strategy compared to a long established business whose profits are more even. When considering the sale of a business, the owner might choose show a higher profit when the increased value of the business at the time of the sale would offset any additional tax paid against that profit.

A business with more complex holdings will face many dynamic factors such as capital purchases, gains & losses, retirement / pension or profit sharing options and bonus programs as well as others.

With more than 74,600 pages of tax code, regulations and IRS rulings, it's a good idea to contact your tax professional to discuss your unique situation. With a proper understanding of the business and/or personal income for the current tax year, and a projection of expected increased or decreased income next year, your CPA will help you decide on the most advantageous strategy to optimize your tax savings.
Contact Accountability Team LLC to begin your year-end tax planning today.

Corporate Tax Service Brandon

Corporate Tax Preparation

Properly preparing your corporate taxes is essential to the success of your business and can be far more complex than an individual's tax returns. The rules, laws and amendments layer upon themselves, each year becoming more convoluted than the year before. That complexity can present a stumbling block to a business owner, but may hold excellent opportunity for a business which has chosen to work with an experienced, well informed CPA.

Accountability Team LLC. can assist to reconcile the financial statements of your company, advise on what documents should be gathered, and will ask all the right question, moving toward the important goal of minimizing the tax burden placed upon your business.

Corporate Tax Planning

Corporate Tax Planning goes right along with corporate tax preparation. Tax prep focuses on the current year, or the year that just ended. Tax planning gets you started on the new year, finding ways to maximize your deductions next tax season and for years to come. Your strategic growth plan should include this kind of tax planning,

Substantial transactions, such as buying or selling real estate, or purchasing a new business unit, can have significant tax implications. Call Accountability Team LLC for a consult to evaluate those implications for any of these transaction to ensure it is structured for maximum tax efficiency.

An experienced, knowledgeable CPA can help you realize the most favorable outcome, leading to a more profitable business. Tanya Higginbotham is the experienced, knowledgeable CPA you've been looking for. She has been in the accounting business for over 30 years and worked as a CPA for over 15. She understands how to help you achieve the goals you've set for your business. 

Audit? Don’t Panic!

Audit? Don't Panic!

Keep accurate records & be honest.

It's horrible when law abiding citizens find themselves in great fear of any government agency.
Jackbooted thugs dragging business owners away to prison and confiscating their hard earned wealth is the fabric of nightmares, especially for small business owners.

While it's true that being sloppy with your taxes, or worse still, trying to actually cheat on them, opens you up to the full and considerable power of the IRS to force compliance, if you are diligent, accurate and truthful, the IRS is not to be feared, even if you are under audit.

Fear of an audit mustn't keep you from claiming your rightful deductions. The IRS wants to audit you? So what? Keep diligent records and be honest. Get proof letters when you donate to charity. Many religious organizations and churches do this anyway. Keep those letters with your tax records. When you donate yard sale quality goods to a thrift store, value them at yard sale values. Make and keep detailed records of what you donated, and get and keep a letter from the organization.

Think of it like this. An audit is the IRS asking for proof of what you told them in your return. It might be as simple as a letter asking for specific documentation. Notify your CPA immediately of any correspondence you receive from the IRS. Your CPA will review it and advise you on the best path forward.

Keeping copies of the documents used in preparation of your return is vital. Your CPA will return them to you when the return is complete. You can avoid the stacks of paperwork piling up in your office by storing them digitally. The IRS now accepts electronic documents to substantiate deductions. Keep good backups of all your files, preferably in more than one location.

Cheat and expect to get caught! When you're honest, rely on your records to prove it. A great CPA will ensure in advance that your records fully support your return and advise you of any gray area or danger zone.

You don't have to face this alone. Let your CPA represent your interest with the IRS. Your CPA is experienced, knows the law, and knows what records and documents best support your cause. They are best able to handle any issues that arise amid the audit and able to help minimize any negative consequences caused by error, omission, or even past indiscretion.

Does my small business need a CPA


Do I really need a CPA for my small business?

It doesn't matter how small your business is, even a single owner with no employees, there are compelling reasons to consider CPA services.

1. State License.

The title CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, can only be used by a person licensed to do so by their state. Acquiring and maintaining that license requires years of study and constant ongoing education to stay current on tax law. The title "Accountant" has no such stipulation, and may not have any license. Be sure to look for "CPA" after the person's name. Another designation one might see is "EA" or Enrolled Agent. This designation indicates they have passed an IRS exam, but this is not the same as CPA and EA's are not held to the same standards for licensing as are CPA's. The exam a CPA must pass includes many facets of finance and tax expertise, and the CPA must diligently follow tax law changes to properly serve their clients, and to maintain their license.

2. Tax planning and preparation.
Not every CPA will specialize in small business taxes. All CPA's, however, are required to stay familiar with the dynamic tax laws. Understanding of US tax code is a substantial portion of the CPA exam and many CPA's will take classes each year to ensure their own understanding of current tax code.

The IRS requires each tax preparer to have a preparer tax id number (PTIN) and distinguishes between EA's (enrolled agents), CPA's, attorneys, and other un-credentialed preparers. An accountant that is not a CPA may be able to prepare, and even sign, your tax return, but you have no assurance of his or her ability or competency and may have limited representation rights, or no representation rights with the IRS.

3. Detailed analysis and advice.
While a bookkeeper does your routine data entry like one does in QuickBooks and an accountant will review the data and put together your important financial reports like your profit and loss statement and balance sheet, a CPA can do more in-depth, detailed, analysis of your monthly and yearly reports to advise on various financial matters. The CPA's training has prepared, qualified and certified them to give trustworthy tax and financial advice.

4. Audits.
A strong argument in favor of choosing a CPA to prepare your business taxes is the authority to represent you to the IRS in the event of an audit. Non-CPA accountants, except EA's, are severely limited in their ability to represent you or otherwise work with the IRS on your behalf or under your authority.

Because all business are unique, there is no simple blanket answer to "Do I really need a CPA for my small business?". There is, however, a strong argument in favor.

Donation Value Guide

It has been said that one man's trash is another man's treasure, but the IRS may not agree. When making a non-cash donation, and claiming it as a deduction from your taxes, you must assign a reasonable value to that gift. Ensure that what you are giving is in good condition and consider what the agency might be able to receive if they were to re-sell it. Obviously, you'll set higher values for brand name goods that are barely used while setting lower values if the brand is generally considered "cheap" or if the item shows a little more age.

The Salvation Army has provided some guidance in this, as shown below, but remember that the numbers are general guides and you must use your own discretion to properly valuate your donated goods

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Estimated Tax for Business Owners

Estimated tax and pre-payment:
Americans know that income tax is, and likely always will, be part of life. Almost certainly, by the time an individual starts his or her own business, they will have at least heard of estimated tax, but might not know what to do about it. You might have questions about how it's calculated and how to make your estimated tax payments to the IRS.

What are we talking about?
The IRS requires taxpayers to pay tax throughout the year. When you are employed by some other company, they withhold your taxes from your check, calculate their share, and pay the IRS. If the amount paid during the year at each deadline is less than the IRS required percentage of the year end total, there can be penalties & interest. As a business owner, you'll need to calculate your own self employment tax in addition to your normal income tax. This is money due from you personally, and not your business. Quarterly payments of estimated tax are required to ensure you are not liable for any penalty. Tax law changes every year. For current information about calculating and paying your estimated taxes, you can read about it at the IRS site: Estimated Tax


You don't have to do this alone.
An experienced, certified CPA can help you calculate this and keep you in compliance with the IRS. The CPA's experience and training will ensure the amounts are calculated according to current rules and the forms and payments are filed within each deadline.

What makes a great CPA?

When the time comes to choose a CPA, how will you identify the candidate that best fits your business? Are you just looking for someone to do your taxes, or are you looking for someone to help you make important decisions impacting the success of your business and analyze your financials?


One of the first things to evaluate is communication. Can you reach your CPA by phone when needed? If you send an email, do they reply in a timely manner? Do they maintain a website with current information with answers to frequent questions? If your CPA is difficult to contact, you might need to consider someone else.  Accountability Team LLC is available by telephone, by email and by using the contact form on the website.


Not every accountant is a CPA. There are various titles for the different roles within the accountant workspace. Anyone can call themselves "accountant", regardless of any qualifications. The IRS offers the title Enrolled Agent to former employees or those who have passed an IRS exam covering tax preparation. There is no educational component, just passing the exam.


In Florida, a CPA is required to have a Bachelor's Degree and an additional 30 hours as well as pass an in-depth exam in four parts that covers tax preparation and the full field of accounting such as audits, business law, finances and taxation, to name just a few areas. A CPA receives his or her license from the Florida Department of Professional Regulation who may also revoke the license for misconduct. Accountants or enrolled agents are not regulated by the FDPR and therefore have no license to lose. No government agency holds them to the high standards a licensed CPA must meet.


Accountants or enrolled agents must not use "CPA" in their name unless they are a licensed CPA. To verify an accountant truly is a CPA, one may search at the Florida Department of Professional Regulation website using the link that says “Verify a License”.


Passing a single exam isn't all there is to continuing to practices as a CPA. To maintain his or her license, a CPA will have to attend CPE. (Continuing Professional Education) Tanya's more than 25 years of CPA experience as well as her portfolio of satisfied clients is your assurance that she holds the knowledge that will help your company succeed.


A great accountant or CPA must stay up to date. Tax law and business laws change constantly! Your business cannot afford to have a CPA who falls a year behind in training. Accountability Team LLC is committed to keeping themselves and their clients up to date on changing laws and the effect they have on the client's business.


Another important factor to consider is your CPA's understanding of technology related to this industry. Tanya has worked in software integration and Cynthia Alloway is a QuickBooks ProAdvisor. As a team, they are very comfortable with the various pieces of software needed to keep up with modern accounting.

Of course, all of the above are very important, but what really sets a great CPA above all their competition are their "soft skills". Early in this document, it was mentioned that a CPA must be available by phone, email or other means. But, once you have contacted them, are you able to exchange ideas and get things done? The members of Accountability Team LLC will work toward the success of your business, communicating with you at the level that suits your business and personal style, ensuring you understand the decisions you are making to help your business be the best it can be. These soft skills help the CPA to develop an understanding of your business and personal goals, identify challenges and work out solutions to build your plan to achieve your goals.  


Let Accountability Team LLC get to work for you. Give us a call at 813-689-6413