Jerry Jones CPA
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a CPA that you deal directly with, that knows the Self Storage business, that works in all 50 states and is there for you when you need him?
Jerry has been our accountant since we started in the self storage business, some 20 years ago. I look to him as more than an accountant, but as a valuable business asset. He is continually suggesting new ways to reduce costs and improve profits. Also, he has developed some unconventional reports that are very helpful in evaluating our business on a day to day basis. I would recommend him to any self storage operator.
Dennis Geiler
SoCal Self Storage, Southern California

Self-storage tax changes for 2013: How to reliably discover what you need to know

by Mark Lusky

When it comes to tax advice, consider the adage, "Don't take too much advice; you could wind up making other people's mistakes." Too often, tha''s what happens when entrepreneurs, self-storage owners/operators included, look solely to the Internet, media reports, or other "single source" for information.

This is a huge reason to have truly trusted advisors--people and organizations that can serve as the penultimate arbiter of what is and isn't relevant and right for your particular situation. That said, researching the Internet and/or media reports is a great way to start gathering information and intel. It can prompt awareness of good questions to ask, strategies to consider, tactics to avoid, and the like. Here are some tips to help ensure getting the right information for your situation:

Want to help your child buy a home?

Are you looking for a way to help your child with buying a home? Some strategies you might consider include lending your child money, gifting under the annual gift tax exclusion, pledging securities, and equity sharing.

Assuming you have enough liquid assets, you can effectively act as the mortgage lender to your child by lending money to pay for the house.

Another option is to give the child money for a down payment on a house. Making a gift to your child for the down payment is an ideal situation for parents who are primarily concerned with decreasing the size of their estate and the taxes on it after their death. Current tax law lets individuals make annual gifts of up to $14,000 per person. If both parents join in the gift, they can give the child $28,000 without any gift tax liability.

With some planning, even larger gifts can be made. For instance, if the child is married, his or her spouse is also eligible to receive gifts. Collectively, a married couple could receive $56,000 in gift-tax-free cash for a home purchase. If the gift is spread over a new year, it can be increased to double the amount, giving the child and his or her spouse $112,000 toward the cost of the home.

Another possibility is pledging securities to secure a child's home loan at a financial institution. By pledging securities instead of selling them, the parents can be saved from a potentially taxable event.

Finally, another alternative is equity sharing where the ownership of the home is shared. Typically, the parent makes the down payment, and the child pays the mortgage payment, utilities, taxes, and other ongoing expenses. The home is jointly owned, and the family can agree on a split of any appreciation in value if the home is later sold.

For details on these and other options available to parents who want to help their child buy a home, give us a call.

What's New: "Chained CPI" — Do you know what it is?

As the politicians in Washington start once again to tackle the same old problems, you're likely to hear more about a new way of measuring inflation called the "chained CPI."

The standard way to measure inflation has been with the consumer price index. It has been used to calculate annual adjustments to social security benefits, federal pensions, military and veterans' benefits, tax brackets, exemptions, deductions, and credits. According to some experts, the consumer price index currently used overstates increases in the cost of living.

So how is the "chained CPI" different? It makes different assumptions about how people spend. An oversimplified example: If a severe freeze drives up the cost of oranges and orange juice by 20%, people are likely to switch to a cheaper alternative, say, apples and apple juice instead of continuing to pay the higher price for oranges. This keeps spending more level than the regular consumer price index would indicate.

A switch to the chained CPI would mean that those government payments linked to inflation would rise more slowly. Applied to the tax code, the chained CPI would mean smaller inflation adjustments to tax brackets and other tax numbers, resulting in higher taxes over time.

How to improve annual performance reviews of your employees

The annual employee performance review — usually it's dreaded by both supervisor and employee. The employee knows he'll have to hear about those mistakes from months ago, and the supervisor will finally have to discuss those issues he's been avoiding all year. Too often, the result is discomfort and embarrassment all round. Usually both parties fudge a little and are glad that it's over for another year. Too bad, because another chance for open communication and feedback has been lost.

Increase the frequency. To improve the process, consider holding performance appraisals more frequently, perhaps even quarterly. This can help make the appraisal less of a "special event" and more of a routine exchange of information. It also means your feedback is more directly related to your employee's recent performance, rather than coming months later.

Of course, even quarterly appraisals don't substitute for immediate feedback. If an employee does something wrong, or something good, tell him or her immediately. Point out the problem, make sure the employee acknowledges it, and make clear what you expect in the future. And if it's something good, the employee will appreciate receiving a pat on the back. With immediate feedback, there should never be any surprises at an appraisal.

Some other tips to improve the process. At the end of every appraisal, summarize the discussion and put the highlights in writing. Make sure your employee gets a copy. Before the next appraisal, ask your employee to review the copy and prepare his thoughts on his most recent performance. Ask him to present his opinions to start the discussion. If there are areas needing improvement, agree on an action plan and put that in writing too. And that might be a two-way street. It could involve you providing training or taking actions to support the employee, so make sure you're living up to the agreement.

Finally, don't limit the appraisal to a scorecard on the employee's achievements. If appropriate, use it to discuss career planning, cross-training, or job enrichment. Solicit ideas from the employee. It can all help turn a judgmental meeting into a constructive exchange of ideas.

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