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Are you managing project scope – or is it managing you?

Contractors by their nature and occupation have a need to be in control. Nearly every project includes a struggle to maintain control of costs, safety and quality.

 
To put it a different way, what you’re trying to manage on every job is its scope. When you can keep the project confined to its contractual parameters, the job will likely turn out fine. Unfortunately, the scope often has a funny way of expanding its reach, pushing you aside and taking over a job. The results usually aren’t very positive.
 

3 parts to the story

Every contractor needs to stay on top of his or her scope management procedures to prevent the job from getting out of hand. These are active and ongoing steps to monitor a project and to keep the job within reasonable limits. They should ensure that, if the scope does significantly expand, you get paid for it. Think of scope management as three parts of a story:

  1. The beginning. During the planning phase, you need to comprehensively define the scope you’ll undertake and be sure it’s clearly stated in the contract. For example, if the plans show 25 windows in a building, the contract should say that you’ll install any extra windows at a specified additional cost.

    This is where experience and keeping historical job data can be really beneficial. If you’ve worked on a similar project and the scope seems untenable, raise this issue with the owner and give yourself a chance to settle on reasonable guidelines for the project.

  2. The middle. As the job gets started, your scope management efforts should involve applying a systematic, consistent approach to managing the work. Financially speaking, this means continually evaluating what you’re doing to ensure it’ s within the parameters -and price-of the contract. 

    Train your project managers to submit regular reports to you regarding job costs to determine whether overruns are imminent. Today’s mobile technology can make doing so much more efficient. Integrate job costing into your accounting system or simply download an app that enables easier field reporting.

  3. The end. Scope management is perhaps the most important at completion. When that punch list materializes, it’s all too easy to get dragged into an endless series of extra tasks.

    One savvy scope management rule of thumb: Identify the people responsible for closing out the job up front. Doing so will prevent new faces from joining the project at the last minute, which could slash profitability as these individuals eat up valuable time getting up to speed.

    Also, make sure your punch list is truly universal. Today’s cloud-based technology should allow everyone on the job – from the general contractor to subcontractors to inspectors and engineers – to look at the same document and update it in real time.

Additional thoughts

When many contractors first discover scope management, they immediately clamp down on even the slightest aberration to a contract. Sometimes they’re too rigid in their approach, which could rub an owner the wrong way or cause them to miss out on a profitable change order.
 
This brings to mind an important catch about scope management: It’s not so much about limiting the amount of work you perform on a project as it is about assessing opportunities and making the most of them.
 
When a prospective job revision arises, immediately call a meeting with the project manager and any other necessary parties. If it’s a nonessential change, determine whether, though potentially profitable, it drives you too far out of the scope of the contract. If it’s an essential revision, decide whether it’s far enough outside the scope to warrant additional negotiation. Having a formalized and effective change order process is essential.
 

On the lookout

Being in control is a badge of honor in the construction business. Don’t leave your scope management procedures to chance. Put them in writing, discuss them with your project managers and advisors, and always be on the lookout for ways to improve them. •

Liz Kramb Finalist for Brilliance Award

Elizabeth Krambs

We are proud to announce that Elizabeth Kramb, CPA has been selected as one of three finalists for the West Michigan Women Brilliance Award in the Emerging Leader category. Her nomination stood out of 175 nominations.

Liz is a Supervisor at Brickley DeLong in our Grand Rapids Office. She has been a leader in our firm’s “Next Generation” movement, and has been instrumental in leading our training initiatives and encouraging staff to set career goals… and stick to them.

In 2013, Brickley DeLong launched their “Next Gen” team. Liz has served as a founding member, and now serves as the head of the team. The “Next Gen” team is a group of up and coming Seniors and Supervisors. Their team goals are to:

  • Drive change from a bottom up approach
  • Hold quarterly goal setting meetings
  • Propose new ideas to the Firm’s Executive Committee

Liz also serves as a volunteer for Family Futures, a non-profit that’s mission is to create a community in which all children are able to reach their full potential. She also participates in the Association for Corporate Growth mentorship program.

Not only is she a champion at work, but she is also a champion at home to her husband and two children. She has met the challenges of balancing work and home life, and has continued to show that she is dedicated to growing her career and raising her family.

What is the Brilliance Awards?

The Brilliance Awards is a first-time awards ceremony aimed to honor the success of women in the West Michigan community. It is hosted by West Michigan Women.

The goal of the event is to shine light on dynamic talent, spirit and intellect of local women and celebrate the brilliant and meaningful impact they have on our careers and the communities we live in. By focusing on nominees who excel in their fields, are committed to creating positive change and demonstrate how they elevate other women leaders, the WMW Brilliance Awards will highlight those tackling the issues that face professional women in West Michigan and who are blazing trails for the rest of us.

 

Mentor. Answer the Why and How

Mentoring… A process that helps us to develop, maintain a teachable attitude and take a “new” look at what you are doing on a daily basis.

When I think of mentoring, my mind immediately thinks of two words – why and how.

I connect mentoring with these two little words because of many teachable moments. My 3 year old granddaughter is in the “why” stage.  She will ask a question, I give an answer…and then the “why’s” begin.  I can choose to answer each “why” with a logical answer or stop the conversation with the word….”because.”

There is something about that “because” word that ends the conversation.

Just like my experience with a 3 year old, a Mentor we can lose effectiveness and end conversations when we give a “because” response.  The more they ask (and get a response), the more they learn, the quicker our mentee’s will grasp the knowledge that we are trying to help them reach.

So, as long as our mentee’s are asking questions…bring them on.

The “how” is also very important to explain.  Sometimes the “how” is answered in step-by-step directions, and at other times it can be a one word answer.  The significance is that it deserves a response.  If a mentee has the nerve to ask their mentor “how” to perform a certain task, then, as a mentor, you need to have the tools to lead them in the right direction.

I firmly believe that the mentoring process – sometimes as a mentor and sometimes as a mentee – can have a profound impact on a person’s personal and professional life.   We just have to take the time to answer the “why’s” and the “how’s” …and enjoy those teachable moments!!

No matter what the profession – you need to embrace the mentor inside you.

Author: Christine Dill, Firm Administrator

2017 “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams 2017

Each year, the IRS creates a list of the top tax scams it has seen throughout the year.

This year’s “Dirty Dozen” are:

  1. Phishing
    Taxpayers should be wary of fake e-mails and website looking to steal personal information.
  2. Phone Scams
    Taxpayers should be aware of callers that are impersonating IRS agents and threatening taxpayers with arrest, deportation, unpaid taxes, and more.
  3. Identity Theft
    Especially during tax season, there are criminals that file fraudulent returns under another person’s Social Security number.
  4. Return Preparer Fraud
    Tax season brings about con artists that perpetuate return fraud, identity theft, and scams to taxpayers.
  5. Fake Charities
    There are groups that disguise themselves as charities in hopes of collecting donations for their benefit. Taxpayers should pay close attention to the charity’s name and status before donating. The IRS has tools that will help.
  6. Inflated Refund Claims
    Taxpayers should always be cautions of a promised “big refund”, especially when your records has not been reviewed.
  7. Excessive Claims for Business Credits
    Taxpayers should avoid improperly claiming business credits.
  8. Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns
    Taxpayers should avoid falsifying deduction such as charitable contributions and business expenses.
  9. Falsifying Income to Claim Credits
    Taxpayers should not create false income to quality for a tax credit; this can lead to back taxes, penalties, and, in some cases, criminal prosecution.
  10. Abusive Tax Shelters
    Taxpayers should avoid using the use of phony tax shelters to avoid paying what is owed.
  11. Frivolous Tax Arguments
    Taxpayers should avoid outlandish and unreasonable claims to avoid paying tax.
  12. Offshore Tax Avoidance
    Taxpayers should avoid hiding money in unreported offshore accounts.

Read the full article.  For assistance in tax preparation, please contact Brian McFarren.

IRS 13 Targeted “Campaigns” for Large Businesses

Recently, the IRS’s Large Business and International Division issued guidance for business taxpayers which laid out 13 “campaigns” it plans to target in 2017. While this lists targets last businesses, it will likely trickle down to small and mid-sized businesses as well.

The 13 “campaigns” or areas they plan to target are:

  1. examinations of the energy credit described in Internal Revenue Code 48C;
  2. declines and withdrawals from the offshore voluntary disclosure program;
  3. related-party transactions;
  4. repatriation of income from overseas locations;
  5. foreign companies doing business in the United States that are not filing appropriately;
  6. transfer pricing associated with inbound distribution of goods from related parties outside the United States;
  7. deferred variable annuity reserves and life insurance reserves;
  8. basket transactions that seek to treat ordinary income and short-term capital gain as long-term;
  9. micro-captive insurance contracts;
  10. the completed contract method of accounting applied by land developers;
  11. application of the domestic production activities deduction to certain entertainment products;
  12. risks associated with larger, more complex pass-through partnerships; and
  13. losses claimed in excess of basis in S corporations.The IRS did not provide detailed information on how they plan to address these areas. For more information, please contact us.

5 Tips for a Disorganized Taxpayer

messy filesFor many, tax season brings about the dreaded task of scrounging through stacks of paper work – looking for receipts, bills, statements and more.

Forbes published an article this month offering 5 organizational strategies for the disorganized taxpayer.

1. Find the Perfect Spot

Dedicate a specific spot for important tax papers. This spot should be convenient, so you do not fall back into the habit of putting papers in a junk drawer or leaving them on the counter.

Tip: Search Google and Pinterest for organizational ideas.

2. Divide and Conquer 

Use file folders or binders to create a filing system. Separate different receipts into categories such as: insurance payments, donations, medical bills, mortgage statements, etc.

3. Consolidate your Finances

Perform financial “decluttering”. Visit our Record Retention Policy, and shred papers you do not need anymore. Consolidate and pay down accounts and/or debt if able.

4. Consider Electronic Storage

Look into apps that allow you to track and store your information online. For example, there are many different apps that will allow you to take pictures of receipts and categorize them.

5. Stow Some Documents Separately

Find a specific place for important documents that should be preserved (will, trust, marriage license, birth certificates, Social Security documents, etc.). These documents should be kept in a fire-safe lockbox.

 

At Brickley DeLong, we aid your tax planning and preparation process and strive to have it go as seamless at possible. Our clients receive a tax organizer each year to help them answer important questions related to their return. If you need help, we encourage you to set up a tax planning meeting with one of our tax advisors.

To read the full article from Forbes, click here.

Visit our Individual and Business Tax Preparation page for more information on our tax services or to request information.

Walburg+Associates has joined Brickley DeLong

Effective January 1, 2017, the Grand Haven firm of Walburg+Associates PC has joined with Brickley DeLong PC. This merger will add a fourth office location expanding our regional footprint and industry niches.

“Walburg+Associates has a solid reputation of success in the community,” said Donald E. Swick, Managing Partner of Brickley DeLong. “Their focus in the construction industry will strengthen our presence in that practice area.”

The downtown Grand Haven location will allow us to better serve the Lakeshore and Ottawa County markets.

“The combination of our complementary teams of talented individuals, who are dedicated to providing exceptional client service, will bring growth to our Firm, service lines, and industry niches” Swick added. “Walburg+Associates has demonstrated admirable leadership over the years, and we are excited to benefit from their knowledge.”

 

“We did an extensive search looking for a firm to partner with that shares the same client-driven values that we have” said Curt Walburg. “We found just the right fit with Brickley Delong.”

 

Contact Us For More Information

FLSA Overtime Rule Blocked

On November 22, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Obama administration’s  rule that would extend overtime eligibility to over 4 million Americans. This follows 21 states who sued to block the rule before it went into effect.

This new overtime rule was announced by the Department of Labor on May 18, 2016; it stated that any salaried employee earning less than $47,476 annually would qualify for overtime pay when they worked over 40 hours a week. The current threshold is $23,660.

The rule was to go in affect on December 1, 2016. The Department of Labor is weighing options; but, for now, employers can continue to use the $23,660 threshold.

Read more about the announcement.

Tax Planning Guide

Tax PlanningPlanning for taxes makes good financial sense. When you take the time to plan, you know you are doing what you can to minimize your tax burden.

Everyday financial decisions and transactions can affect your taxes more than you may realize. This 2016 Tax Planning Guide explains how taxes fit into your financial picture and suggests strategies that can help lower your federal income-tax liability. The Guide includes helpful explanations of important individual and business tax provisions along with examples of how the rules work.

As you read the Guide, please keep in mind that everyone’s tax situation is different. Before implementing any of the strategies discussed here, you will want to secure professional advice.

2016 Tax Planning Guide

 

Taking the CPA Exam – My Experience

Having taken the CPA exam four times now has taught me a few things; it’s also given me hindsight as to several things I would have done differently that I would like to share with any first time candidates.

Looking back on my approach to passing the four sections of the exam

1. I took too much time in preparing at the beginning.  Granted some sections are tougher than others, I still feel I took more time than was necessary to prep for FAR.  I let life get in the way, which allowed me to justify the excuses I made as to why I was not ready to schedule my exam.  You must be dedicated once you start, and you cannot slack no matter how tempting.

The time, effort, and money you put into the exam are too precious to waste. Two failed attempts later here I am moving on to AUD.

2. A two-month window works best, which is the suggestion of Gleim and other study guide providers.  In this timeframe, you are less prone to forget the information you covered at the beginning of your studies, and you will have just enough time to review before test day.  The more sections you can cover right out of school and into your career the better.  Everyone’s situation is different, but there is no doubt that once you start working and you have a family it will only get harder to focus on the exam.

You will only get busier as life happens.

3. Retake a failed section as soon as possible regardless of whether you started studying for another section.  I let nearly a year pass after I failed FAR before I tried again. I lost almost all relevant information and started from scratch again.  It would have been much smarter to retake it immediately after learning I had failed.  I know this because I got the dreaded 74 on AUD my first time through.  Instead of throwing in the towel and continuing with my next section, REG, I scheduled an appointment to retake AUD two weeks later.  Though I have not gotten my score back, I know that I was able to pass simply from having taken two versions of the same test so close together.

With that being said, the clock is ticking. I am in over-drive right now trying to make sense of REG and hoping to take BEC before tax season starts.

4. Tax season… another justification for pushing back the exam.  I strongly recommend not hiding behind tax season as a break from studying if you are a candidate and working for a CPA firm.  If your window of opportunity to pass the exam in eighteen months has not started, that is great. But, you can still take some time to pick up a book and do some reviewing.  If your timer has started, you have even more reason to stay on top of your studies.  Understandably, I would not recommend taking the exam in the heat of tax season; but, do not put it on the back burner.  Be ready to come back strong once it’s over.  It can only help you.

I know the exam is overwhelming, discouraging, a drag, and a “necessary evil”. This is why I cannot stress it enough not to drag it out.  It will save you a lot of time, money, and sanity to get it done and over with as quickly as possible.  Your social life will be non-existent during this time, but it will be well worth it afterward to have those valuable three letters after your name and a fancy piece of paper to hang up in your office.  Your career in public accounting will be solidified, people will want to hire you, and you’ll have something you can be truly proud of…something you worked hard for to achieve.

Time is a wasting – GO STUDY!

Author: Mike Glowacki, Staff Accountant