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As the CEO of Laughlin Associates, leader in small business incorporation services and seminars for small business, I was lucky enough to be on hand for the launch event of the An Empowered Woman Foundation on September 11, 2011.

Laughlin served as sponsor of the “Do I Feel Lucky” scholarship that was awarded to Bridgette Shemone, a Northern California actress and entrepreneur.

The event took place on the largest yacht in Marina Del Rey, CA. Among the guests and participants were financial guru, Loral Langemeier, Radio Personality and author, Les Brown, and CEO Space California President, Chimene Holmes.

The An Empowered Woman Foundation (AEWF) was organized to assist women striving to start a business but are in need of resources including mentoring and funding. Each year the foundation will sponsor 100 aspiring entrepreneurs and help them on their path to business development.

The scholarship winner, Shemone, accepted her winnings and promptly returned that amount back to the AEWF to help future female entrepreneurs achieve success and reach their dreams.

Desiree Doubrox, the CEO of An Empowered Woman, enthusiastically declared, “Now that’s what I call ‘An Empowered Woman!’” when asked about Shemone’s donation of her scholarship funds.

The AEWF mission is to annually support 100 women in launching a sustainable business that would positively impact their families and communities. This mission is supported and actualized by companies like Laughlin Associates that are contributing education and resources to assist such female entrepreneurs. For more information visit www.AEWFoundation.org.

 Laughlin Associates offers small business incorporation services in all 50 states, seminars for small business, advice for entrepreneurs on choosing an LLC vs. a Corporation, consultations on how to properly protect your assets, and Nevada resident agent service.

*Thank you to Ian Foxx of Foxx Media Group for the photos from this event.

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Hello Everyone,

Last week I was invited on as a guest of the Big Biz Show, heard on both the Fox Business Network and CBS Business Network. Currently this program is heard on approximately 150 stations around the country. They have a listenership of more than 1.4 million people with an obvious leaning toward small business owners and investors.

The hosts, Sully and Rusty, were hilarious and a little tough to keep up with, but I did my best and had a lot of fun. Take a minute and please check out  Aaron Young on the Big Biz Show!    

Summary: Roni Deutch Tax Centers have exclusively added Laughlin Associates’ entity formation and corporate record book keeping services to their in store product line. The Laughlin team recently attended the company’s Annual Meeting to strategize with executives and franchisees.  Both companies offer tax and business solutions to small business owners.

Laughlin Associates’ (LAI) executive team recently joined Ms. Roni Deutch and more than 200 Roni Deutch Tax Center (RDTC) executives, franchisees and partners at the organization’s 3rd annual convention in Reno, Nevada. The LAI team was invited to attend the 3-day event to educate RDTC franchisees on the Laughlin product line; entity formation and record book management.  RDTC has chosen to add the Laughlin line of products, in an exclusive deal, to its cadre of small business services.

Roni Deutch Tax Center, Founder and President, Roni Deutch offers, “The mission of Roni Deutch Tax Centers is to become the number one tax, business and financial services provider to the small business person in the U.S., and provide a varied range of business tools.  We plan to be a hub for small business owners within their local community.  Laughlin’s products are the perfect addition because of their industry knowledge, professionalism and superior service.”  Roni Deutch Tax Center is ranked #4 on Franchise Times list of “the Fast 55,” a listing of the fastest growing franchises less than 5 years old.

Laughlin Associates, Inc. (LAI) has been the leader in the incorporation and record book keeping business for nearly 40 years and offers a portfolio of services and education to its business-owner clients. They combine “high-touch” with decades of experience, top advisors and educators along with high-tech communications.

LAI CEO Aaron Young, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Meghan Cole and Director of Business Development Troy Parker met with Ms. Deutch on strategies to educate and meet the needs of small business owners.  Scott Burnett, LAI Director of Education gave a presentation on the need for small business owners to focus on their corporate record books and remain in compliance with IRS statutes. “As entrepreneurs, it’s imperative to your survival to protect the corporate veil.  Your personal assets and bottom line depend on it”, states Burnett.

Aaron Young concludes, “It was exciting to meet these entrepreneurial-minded professionals who were enthusiastic to embrace additional services beyond tax preparation.  Both RDTC and Laughlin’s focus is on the small business owners’ needs.  We look forward to attending many more RDTC meetings in the coming years.”

Contacts:

Laughlin Associates

888-273-8152

Meghan Cole, Vice President of Marketing & Sales

www.laughlinusa.com

Roni Deutch Tax Centers

(800) 230-1083

http://www.rdtc.com/

We, at Laughlin Associates, enjoy wonderful partnerships with some of America’s most influential thought leaders. No one fills the bill as a motivational thought leading pioneer better than our partner and friend Brian Tracy.
In this era of bailouts and increasing dependence by many on the “welfare state”, small business owners stand out as beacons of hope, courage and tenacity. Still, many business owners that I talk to have been getting discouraged lately and, I thought, could use a little pep talk. To that end, I offer the following from Brian Tracy. I hope that you come away from reading this as inspired by his message as I was. – AY

“The starting point of maturity is the realization that “No one is coming to the rescue.” Everything you are or ever will be is entirely up to you.

This life is not a rehearsal for anything else. This is the real thing. The game is on. Time is passing quickly, and all of your decisions and indecisions, your actions and inactions, have added up to create the life you’re living at this very minute. If you want things to be different in the future, you’ll have to make things different in the present. You’ll have to take complete charge of yourself and your life and make things change, because they won’t change by themselves… “

You can read the full article here.


One of the most exciting things that we do at Laughlin is to partner with great companies. The goal of these partnerships is typically to introduce each partner’s client base to the other’s in such a way that significant numbers of new leads are being driven to one another. This kind of arrangement helps the clients gain exposure to products from vetted providers and lets each partner gain access to new prospects (hopefully at a lower cost per contact).

Laughlin Associates has recently engaged in affinity partnerships with Roni Deutch Tax Centers and with sales and motivational legend, Brian Tracy. In both cases there have been appropriate efforts made to begin building bridges between our unique client bases and in trying to promote one another’s product lines. In every partnership we enter in to there is apparent synergy. Surprisingly, in many cases, there are also significant challenges to get the ball rolling. This is an interesting phenomenon.

At Laughlin, we have a large, qualified and loyal customer base. These individuals have, for the most part, been with us for years and, we think, have a high level of trust in us. We have been approached many times by organizations anxious to get a few minutes in front of this valuable group of business owners. When that chance has been afforded, however, my wonderful and intelligent clients sometimes exhibit a lack-luster response.

Recently, with the success of our business development efforts, we have found ourselves in front of new, business owner prospects. When we get the chance to talk about what we do, there can be the same slow-moving reaction to our message as we have seen from our clients towards our partners. To be fair, we have had some wonderful experiences with partners where experience exceeded expectations. But many times, getting to those results is a protracted process. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Give it time – a new group of prospective clients will take time to understand your message and to trust your products. There’s a confidence curve.
  2. Educate – remember that you are new to this group.  Give them the education they need to make a decision.
  3. Keep cross-promoting – If your partner’s product will truly help your client base, then your efforts will not only be rewarded by a more satisfied customer, but your partnership will become stronger; hopefully resulting in increased leads and sales.

I wonder if anyone out there has stories of what has worked best for you to shorten what I believe is a confidence curve. Do you have ideas of what might help us all as we pursue partnerships in which we can leverage compatible databases in order to build new client relationships? Let me know and I will report back on any attempts we make to implement your ideas. Thanks in advance for your help. – AY

Springtime is weird. One minute it is blue skies, sunny and warm. The flowers bloom and colorful birds fill the landscape outside my window. The next thing I know the skies are filled with black clouds. The winds blow and the rain and hail pound against the same window that, only moments before, was so filled with light. It occurred to me this morning that this spring time weather mix is a good analogy for the current business climate.

Most of us were, in the not too distant past, enjoying a pleasant run of good luck. If you are like me you probably thought you were pretty smart to have gotten yourself into such a good position.  A lot of us made money because the real estate boom was driving the availability of liquid cash up. Everyone was buying, selling, and borrowing. It seemed real property prices knew no logical bounds (nor did most banks) and much of the nation reveled in blissful wealth. I’m not sure who decided to unveil the man behind the curtain, but he was revealed and the whole party came to a crashing halt.  That brought us to where we are now.

Today the media is reporting that the worst is over and that the economy is on the mend. This may be true, but where I live in Portland, Oregon (unemployment approx. 11%) things are still pretty bleak. At Laughlin, the storm has encouraged us to make some adjustments in the way we reach out to prospective customers to try to combat the obvious changes taking place all around us. The cool thing is that these adjustments have led us to innovation and new partnerships. Just as the spring always follows winter, these adjustments have begun to show signs of growth. May’s flowers are beginning to bloom and the field’s crops are beginning to show themselves. If it hadn’t been for the challenges we have been facing through the winter of “The Great Recession”, we might not have looked around at new ways of doing things and thus the potentially greater harvest that we are looking forward to now.

Yes, spring is weird, but it is also a time that makes us feel alive. The strangeness of pouring rain falling from what appears to be a clearing sky always is surprising but always fun to see and that is what seems to be happening right now as I look out my window.

I just attended a really great summit at the Flamingo Resort in Las Vegas. It was presented by eCommerce Merchants, the premier industry association for online retailers. In attendance were senior executives from the all over the web including eBay, Amazon, Overstock.com and hundreds of stand alone online shopping platforms.

I was there at the invitation of the eCommerce Merchants Board of Directors. A member of that board, David Hardin (he owns Shoetime, one of the biggest shoe sellers on the web) had attended the Laughlin Associates seminar last month in Las Vegas. At that time he told me that his industry desperately needed what Laughlin was teaching and asked me to come attend the summit. Boy, am I glad that I did. First let me say that I was blown away by the level of cooperation, support, and sharing of “secrets” that I observed among this group. They seemed to really want to help each other grow. They believe that brick and mortar is fading and that digital distribution will soon eclipse the old tried and true.  That the local mall is on its way out and that Amazon and its competitors are taking charge of the online capitalistic party. These folks make a pretty good argument and are willing to overlook their own competitiveness for a few days in order to help ensure that this dream of online, retail supremacy come to fruition.

I got the chance to visit with dozens of the key players at the event and the primary issue relayed to me from these industry leaders didn’t come as a surprise at all. They said that many e-commerce sellers had started out working from their kitchen table and that even the companies that had become super-successful sellers hadn’t ever done the foundational work to make their enterprise into a real business.

Four questions they (and all business owners) should ask themselves:

Without doing this work the owners of these companies would never be able to truly develop, protect, grow, and eventually sell or pass down the business that they had built.

These web entrepreneurs have fallen into a trap that many small business owners find themselves in. They are really good at doing some sort of job. They hang out their shingle and start doing that job for themselves instead of for an employer. They become successful. Everything is rosy until they are challenged. Maybe it’s an audit, maybe a lawsuit, maybe a partnership or marriage breaking up. Whatever the situation, the person who was doing great at doing what they did great was now in hot water. They might even lose everything they had built and all because they didn’t build the business on a solid foundation.

It doesn’t matter which industry you are in. In every case you, as a small business person, must do smart things to look out for your business. There is no outside Board of Directors looking over your shoulder. No attorney, CPA, or consultant that is going to push you to do the work that is required to survive. Don’t leave it to others to hold your hand through the boring but necessary issues that you must deal with in order to defend yourself if your business is ever challenged. I just met hundreds of smart people who are doing big sales in cyberspace. Most of them admit that they need to do better at building their foundation. So now, be honest; what kind of foundation is your house built upon?

Now that the Obama Administration has finally prevailed in turning its Health Care Reform initiative in to law, it is time to focus on what this really means to small business owners. And here it is…YOU’RE GONNA NEED TO MAKE MORE MONEY!

Regardless of which side of the debate you were on a couple weeks ago, the reality is that changes are coming and those will include increased taxes for businesses and many business owners. Not only are your taxes going to increase, but so is the level of tax enforcement by federal and state governments. In President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2010 budget delivered last May, it was noted that the IRS stood to receive an overall increase in funding of $764 million, including a $400 million increase in tax enforcement funds. This represented a 13 percent increase for IRS enforcement activities. Among the primary targets of this increased wave of audits will be sole proprietors, single member LLCs, and other closely held businesses. I have personally talked with a number of people who are terrified to take common deductions such as those associated with

  1. A home office
  2. Entertainment
  3. Vehicles
  4. Health care issues
  5. Family farms

They have reason to be fearful. All of these are red flags to the IRS and can trigger an audit. While the thought of an audit is scary, the only thing to really fear is being unprepared for an audit. If you don’t have your records in order then you will have a miserable and expensive experience. If you do have your records in order, odds are that you will zip through the process. I want to be clear about what these records include. In addition to your financial records, receipts, mileage log and so on, in a business audit you must have your corporate record book up to date. If you are a corporation or LLC and your record book does not show that you have been respecting the corporate veil, I guarantee you that the IRS auditor will not respect it either. Every year we hear stories of valuable corporate deductions being disallowed because the corporate record book did not indicate that the shareholder was treating the business like a separate entity. Instead of enjoying the tax deductions and protections afforded by a corporation or LLC, the business formalities were ignored and the shareholder managed the business like it was a sole proprietorship. These are expensive mistakes and hard lessons to learn.

As you navigate in this increasingly challenging environment, you will need every possible advantage you can employ. As a business owner, one of the most obvious and trusted protective shields available is a corporate entity. Using such a shield can keep you and your family safe from all kinds of attacks. But if you don’t take care of your armor as you should, you will find it rusted and worthless when it comes time to go to battle. There is no reason that this should ever happen.

The ride is about to get more turbulent for many small business owners as the government doubles its efforts to exact funds from our bruised and shrinking private sector. Those of us that are committed to being in business for ourselves will have to deal with working more days each year for Uncle Sam. However, the number of days that each one of us works for him will differ based on our thoughtful preparation and targeted plan of action. It’s all up to you.

My company, Laughlin Associates, provides consultation, education and hands on help to thousands of business owners every day to ensure that their corporate records are in order and ready when they need them most. If we can help you, check out our website at http://www.laughlinusa.com

What is it about vacation time and small business owners? My family is spending the week along the Oregon Coast enjoying the ever changing weather and trying to balance two of life’s great priorities; family and work. It is common for me to hear business owners complain that they can never get away from the office and yet, it is mostly the self-employed that I meet on our family outings. About a year ago our family went with six or seven other families from our church congregation to the Great Wolf Lodge in Washington State. We spent three fun days playing in the water park and just generally having a blast. As we drove home it occurred to me that every single bread winner on the trip ran their own business. Who else could take time off in the middle of the week?

This week we are staying next door to my best friend Bill’s family. We are occupying twin beach houses. Our children are all the same age and are constantly moving between the two locations. It feels very communal. Anyway, Bill is founder and CEO of Learning.com, his second entrepreneurial venture.  Both Bill and I are happy to be setting still. To not be traveling for a whole week. However, almost every time one of us has sought out the other we have found our friend at his computer or on a conference call. I don’t mean to imply that it has been all work. There have been horse back rides, a home made sushi party and deep sea fishing, but there has also been lots of phone and internet time trying to keep projects moving at the office.

That is how it is and how I think it always will be. As a small business owner we have to do what it takes to keep the doors open. We work long hours or spend nights away from home eating junk food and trying to remember what your rental car looks like. But there are also some great perks. One of the best ones for me is the chance to work in the morning and then take a few hours (of my choosing) to spend with my wife of kids. I can work from many places and have the flexibility to mix business time with family/fun time. Vacation time spent with my family and friends like we are enjoying this week is made possible by the risks taken and the time invested in building a business. There are other rewards too, but tonight the ones that I am focused on are ready to be tucked into bed.

One of the expert speakers at Laughlin’s 3-Day seminars is Sandy Botkin. Sandy is both an attorney and a CPA and thus brings a unique perspective on business and taxes to his audiences. He is a friend to small businesses all over the country, providing easy to understand access to topics that owners need to be up-to-speed on. Sandy takes important, but typically dull tax information and makes it understandable and interesting. So, as we come to the close of the 2009 tax season, here are some of Sandy’s insights on taxes, scams and how to stay out of hot water. – AY

Tax Scams

By Sandy Botkin, CPA , Attorney

“The money is the same, whether you earn it or scam it.” – Bobby Heenan

“Who said crime doesn’t pay? Look at how much Madoff made.” – Anonymous

There are an ever increasing number of scams being investigated by the IRS. Some of these scams are so devious and clever that even the smartest of folks can be fooled. Every year IRS publishes a list of the “dirty dozen” tax scams. Following are some of the latest:

1. Phishing scams: Folks are receiving letters or emails with the IRS / Treasury department logo informing them that they may be owed a refund. In order to obtain this refund, they have to prove that they are the right person by confirming certain personal information such as social security number, mother’s maiden name, address etc. To date, IRS has identified as many as 1500 different phishing scams.

Sandy’s Elaboration: IRS will NEVER call you or write you asking for this type of personal information. You should never provide it to anyone by phone, letter or email. If you get an email requesting this type of information allegedly from the IRS, forward the email to phishing@irs.gov.

2. Economic Stimulus Scams: Some scam artists are trying to trick individuals into revealing personal financial information that can be used to access their financial accounts by making promises relating to the economic stimulus payment, often called a “rebate.” To obtain the payment, eligible individuals in most cases will not have to do anything more than file a federal tax return. But some criminals posing as IRS representatives are trying to trick taxpayers into revealing their personal financial information by falsely telling them they must provide information to get a payment. Sometimes, these criminals might ask for bank account information for the IRS to directly deposit the rebates, which then results in the thieves cleaning out the bank account.

Sandy’s Elaboration: IRS will NEVER ask for this type of information regarding your social security number or bank account information.

3. Frivolous arguments: There are a host of frivolous arguments being made by promoters of scams that purport to reduce or even eliminate most tax liability. Some of the many fallacious arguments are:

“Taxes are unconstitutional or not properly codified by Congress”

• Folks are promised a non-existent “mariner’s tax deduction”

• “Tax filing is voluntary and thus, you don’t have to pay anything”

• “Taxes are only required for federal employees”

• “Wages, tips and other service income is not taxable”,

You can get a complete list of these fraudulent arguments by going to: http://www.irs.gov/taxpros/article/0,,id=159932,00.html This is found in IRS notice 2007-61.

Sandy’s Elaboration: None of these frivolous arguments have won in court. In fact, the judges are so tired of hearing them that they are asserting the government’s legal fees against those that make these arguments in court.

4. Fuel Credit Scam: Sometimes there is some truth behind the scam. Farmers are allowed a fuel tax credit for off-highway business purposes. Unfortunately, some individuals are claiming the tax credit for nontaxable uses of fuel when their occupation or income level makes the claim unreasonable. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit was recently added to the list of frivolous tax claims, potentially subjecting those who improperly claim the credit to a $5,000 penalty.

5. Hiding income offshore: To my knowledge, this scam has been around for years but is being aggressively investigated by the IRS. Promoters are promising that by placing assets offshore in foreign banks or tax havens, taxpayers would avoid all taxes and, at the least, not have their income discoverable by the IRS on these accounts. Interestingly, some Swiss banks helped promote this scam to the detriment of those involved. As an offshoot of this, some promoters set up foreign credit cards and promised that all income earned is paid to the credit card. This way, they promote that there will be no tax and that the IRS will never find out.

Sandy’s Elaboration: US citizens are taxed on their world-wide income. Setting up foreign bank accounts will NOT shield them from taxation. Furthermore, on the federal tax return there is a question specifically asking about foreign accounts. Now a taxpayer may have foreign accounts for many reasons; however, if a taxpayer doesn’t disclose these accounts, they are subject tocriminal fraud penalties. Moreover, IRS is aggressively investigating these accounts and has cut deals with most foreign jurisdictions.

6. Abusive retirement scams: The IRS continues to uncover abuses in retirement plan arrangements, including Roth Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). The IRS is looking for transactions that taxpayers are using to avoid the limitations on contributions to Roth IRAs. Taxpayers should be wary of advisers who encourage them to shift appreciated assets into Roth IRAs or companies owned by their Roth IRAs at less than fair market value. In one variation of the scheme, a promoter has the taxpayer move a highly appreciated asset into a Roth IRA at cost value, which is below annual contribution limits even though the fair market value far exceeds the amount allowed.

Sandy’s Elaboration: Contributions to retirement plans must be made in cash and NOT with appreciated assets. Also, there are limitations to yearly contributions, which must not be exceeded.

7. Claiming zero wages: Some taxpayers try to file phony wage or income related information such as Form 4852 which is a substituted W-2 or amended form 1099 (for income, dividends and royalties) in order to improperly reduce their taxes to zero. This type of behavior is being tracked by the IRS and is aggressively being prosecuted. Don’t get fooled into thinking that this scam will work.

8. Filing a false claim for refund: Usually taxpayers file form 843 to abate previously assessed taxes giving some fictitious argument. Even worse, many individuals who have tried this haven’t even previously filed a federal tax return.

9. Return preparer tax fraud: Perhaps this has been an ongoing problem for years which is why I have seen a dramatic increase in enforcement by the IRS against fraudulent tax preparers. Thirty years ago, it was rare if more than two or three tax preparers per week were barred from preparing taxes or representing taxpayers. Today, I have seen as many as thirty tax preparers per week barred from preparing taxes. The range of what these accountants are doing is quite varied. Some fraudulently pumped up their credentials claiming that they were CPAs or lawyers, which wasn’t the case. Some improperly gave the fuel tax credit noted above. Many preparers inflated taxpayer’s deductions in order to generate a lower tax liability. As an example, there was one accountant who claimed thousands more in charitable deductions than his client donated.

Sandy’s Elaboration: IRS investigates these fraudulent accountants and subsequently audits all of their clients. You should certainly look for an aggressive accountant but also one who is honest!

10. Disguised corporate ownership: Some folks are forming entities in some states in order to hide the owners who are conducting a wide array of illegal activities such as hiding income, money laundering, etc. IRS is working with state authorities to investigate these activities.

Sandy’s Elaboration: No entity can guarantee complete shielding from the IRS. If IRS wants to investigate an entity, they can get the names of the owners, officers and any other pertinent information. There are some states, such as Nevada, that promise increased privacy. Even corporations in these states can easily be investigated by the IRS. Don’t be fooled into thinking that any entity can be used to hide income from the IRS.

11. Misuse of trusts: Many promoters have promised taxpayers that certain trusts can be set up to minimize taxes by deducting a wide array of personal expenses or avoiding estate taxes. While there is a kernel of truth to this, especially regarding estate taxes, these trusts must be set up correctly. Moreover, they usually do not allow for deduction of personal expenses. It is vital to seek a good, qualified tax attorney to verify that these trusts do accomplish what was promised and are set up correctly. Finally, putting property in trust where you can control the assets or receive distributions can result in you, the grantor, being taxed on all of the trust income!

12. Abuse of charitable contributions and organizations: Many promoters promise to maintain control over donated property while taking a deduction. Examples of phony charitable deductions involve taxpayers who claim tuition payments as charitable contributions. They also claim that if you own property over a year, you can donate property and get a deduction for the fair market value of the item. Promoters have set up scams where they sell paintings, antiques etc. to taxpayers promising that after a year they will get these taxpayers an appraised value of many times the initial cost. When the item is donated a year later, the taxpayer uses the inflated appraised value to receive a higher charitable deduction. These overvaluation scams are fairly rampant.

13. Slavery tax credit: Although this isn’t on this year’s dirty dozen tax scams per se, IRS has noticed that this is a fairly widespread “frivolous argument.” Promoters promise African Americans a special tax credit as reparation for slavery and oppressive treatment. This is absolutely false and no one should be fooled by this. Each year, IRS publishes a new list of their “dirty dozen” tax scams. You should be aware of these widespread scams. They can cost you large penalties and may even subject you to criminal penalties if  you follow their advice. Avoiding these scams and running from people who promote them will make your life less taxing!

Sandy Botkin CPA, Attorney is a former trainer of IRS attorneys. He is president of the Tax Reduction Institute and lectures all over North America on tax planning. He has two bestselling books, “Lower Your Taxes: Big Time” and “Real Estate Tax Secrets of the Rich.” You can get these books in most book stores or by going to his web site at www.taxreductioninstititute.com