Top 10 Startup Business Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Answer

Top 10 Startup Business Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Answer

Starting a small business can be one of the most exciting and rewarding events in someone’s life. But it can also be extremely stressful. If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, you might have more questions swirling around in your mind right now than you can count. Don’t despair. This is completely normal. After all, it shows you’re serious about your business venture and care enough to want to do things the right way. Before moving forward with a new business idea, ensuring you know the answers to the following vital questions is crucial.

Read more

Eldercare Can Be a Medical Deduction

Eldercare Can Be a Medical Deduction

Because people are living longer now than ever before, many individuals are serving as care providers for loved ones (such as parents or spouses) who cannot live independently. Such individuals often have questions regarding the tax ramifications associated with the cost of such care. For these individuals, the cost of such care may be deductible as a medical expense.

Incapable of Self-Care – For the cost of caring for another person to qualify as a deductible medical expense, the person being cared for must be incapable of self-care. A person is considered incapable of self-care if, as a result of a physical or mental defect, that person is incapable of fulfilling his or her own hygiene or nutritional needs or if that person requires full-time care to ensure his or her own safety or the safety of others.

Assisted-Living Facilities – Generally, the entire cost of care at a nursing home, home for the aged, or assisted-living facility is deductible as a medical expense, provided that the person who lives at the facility is primarily there for medical care or is incapable of self-care.

This includes the entire cost of meals and lodging at the facility. On the other hand, if the person is living at the facility primarily for personal reasons, then only the expenses that are
directly related to medical care are deductible; the cost of meals and lodging is not a deductible medical expense.

Home Care – A common alternative to nursing homes is in-home care, in which day helpers or live-in caregivers provide care within the home. The services that these caregivers provide must be allocated into (nondeductible) household chores and (deductible) nursing services. These nursing services need not actually be provided by a nurse; they simply must be the same services that a nurse would normally provide (e.g., administering medication, bathing, feeding, and dressing). If the caregivers also provide general housekeeping services, then the portion of their pay that is attributable to household chores is not deductible.

The emotional and financial aspects of caring for a loved one can be overwhelming, and as a result, caregivers often overlook their burdensome tax and labor-law obligations. Sadly, these laws provide for no special relief from these tasks. Is the Caregiver an Employee? – Because of the way that labor laws are written, it is important to determine if an in-home caregiver is an employee. The answer to this question can be very subjective. Caregivers’ services can be obtained in a number of ways:

• Agency-provided caregivers are employees of the agency, which handles all the responsibilities of an employer. Thus, loved ones do not have any employment-tax or payroll-reporting responsibilities; however, such caregivers generally come at a substantially higher cost than others.

• Self-employed caregivers pay all their expenses, are responsible for their own income reporting and taxes, and are not considered employees under federal or state law. The IRS lists 20 factors that it uses to determine whether an individual is an employee; the main factors are financial control, behavioral control, and the relationship between the parties. The household workers are typically classified as employees.

• Household employees are subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employer is thus responsible for withholding the employee’s share of these taxes and paying the employer’s share of payroll taxes. Fortunately for these employers, the special rules for household employees greatly simplify the payroll-withholding and income-reporting requirements. Any resulting federal payroll taxes are paid annually in conjunction with the employer’s individual 1040 tax return. Federal income-tax withholding is not required unless both the employer and the employee agree to do so. However, the employer is still required to issue a W-2 to the employee and to file that form with the federal government. The employer also must obtain federal and state employer ID numbers for reporting purposes. Some states have special provisions for the annual reporting and payment of state payroll taxes; these may be similar to the federal requirements.

The employer’s portion of all employment taxes (Social Security, Medicare, and both federal and state unemployment taxes) related to deductible medical expenses are also deductible as a medical expense.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute – the household employers I know pay in cash and do not pay payroll taxes or issue W-2s to their household employees.” This observation may be
accurate, but such behavior is illegal, and it is not right to ignore the law. Think about what could happen if one of your household employees is injured on your property or if you dismiss such an employee under less-than-amicable circumstances. In such circumstances, the household employee will often be eager to report you to the state labor board or to file for unemployment compensation.

Note, however, that gardeners, pool cleaners, and repair people generally work on their own schedules, invest in their own equipment, have special skills, manage their own businesses, and bear the responsibility for any profit or loss. Such workers are not considered household employees.

Here are some additional issues to consider:
Overtime – Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, domestic employees are nonexempt workers and are entitled to overtime pay for any work beyond 40 hours in a given week. However, live-in employees are an exception to this rule in most states. Hourly Pay or Salary – It is illegal to treat nonexempt employees as if they are salaried.

Separate Payrolls – Business owners may be tempted to include their household employees on their companies’ payrolls. However, any payments to household employees are personal expenses and thus are not allowable as business deductions.

Thus, business owners must maintain separate payrolls for household employees; in other words, personal funds (not business funds) must be used to pay household workers.

Eligibility to Work in the U.S. – It is illegal to knowingly hire or continue to employ an alien who is not legally eligible to work in the U.S. When a household employee is hired to work on a regular basis, the employer and employee each must complete Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification). The employer must carefully examine the employee’s documents to establish his or her identity and employment eligibility.

If you have questions related to eldercare or about how your state deals with related employment issues – or if you would like assistance in setting up a household payroll system – please contact this office.


Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler Northwest is to earn our clients trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

Isler Northwest

(503) 224-5321

1300 SW 5th Avenue
Suite 2900
Portland, Oregon 97201

Planning for the Transition to a Single Income Household

Planning for the Transition to a Single Income Household

Going from two stable income streams to one can prove challenging, but it is a necessary step if you, or your spouse, want to stay home with your kids, go back to school or even start your own business. To avoid ending up in a pinch when the big day comes, planning for the transition to a single income household is a must. You can ensure the transition goes smoothly by making the right changes ahead of time.

As you set up your household for success, you can move forward with confidence that everyone will thrive in your new financial climate. The following tactics can help ease the transition to a single income and help your household thrive.

Map Out Your Budget

Before you can switch to a single income, you have to figure out if it is even doable for your household. You can run the numbers to see if the incoming funds will cover your bills and other expenses for each month. Do not forget to add in infrequent expenses, including pet checkups, dental care copays and car tabs, to your budget for the year. If the funds do not cover your bills, you will need to see where you can make adjustments, such as reducing your power bill or cutting your cable service. Once you have a realistic and manageable budget mapped out, you can start to live on it to see how it goes for your household.

Switch to Living on One Income Early

Well before your intended job change goes into effect, it is important to start to practice living on a single income. You will likely need to change your approach to paying your bills, going grocery shopping and even buying clothes to make a single income work. These things take time to learn, and it helps to start early to give yourself room for mistakes. In the meantime, your second income will go unused, giving you an opportunity to pay down debt and increase your emergency fund.

Increase Your Emergency Savings

If you do not have at least 12 months of living expenses tucked away in case of an emergency, then padding this fund should be a top priority. The money you save while working, yet living on a single income, should go directly into your emergency fund to better protect your household from devastation. This will ensure that you remain ready for anything that comes your way, despite having limited funds coming in each month.

Pay Off Debt Balances

Once you have built an adequate emergency fund, you can direct your funds to quickly pay down debt. You can eliminate many monthly expenses by completing paying off the balances of credit cards, personal loans, student loans, auto loans and other open accounts. The elimination of debt can also reduce stress as you aim to stick to a single income budget each and every month.

Maximize Your Retirement Contributions

When you switch to one income for your household, your retirement savings progress could slow considerably. While you have the funds to work with, aim to maximize your contributions for yourself and your spouse. Setting yourselves up for future financial security will pay off big time in the long run and is always well worth the effort.

Speak with a Tax Planning Professional

You will likely need to make some adjustments to your normal tax procedures as well, so it is important to speak with a knowledgeable tax planning professional. Tax experts will assist in helping you find the best approach to your taxes now that your household only operates on a single income. You can receive helpful advice about changing your W-4 withholding, for example, maximizing the money flowing into your household without compromising on tax compliance.

Adjust the Household’s Insurance Coverage

Switching to a single income does not just come with a decrease in incoming funds. It can also come with the need to find alternative health and dental care coverage. The entire household may need to switch to coverage offered by the breadwinner’s employer, resulting in additional costs to consider. The change in insurance will also come with different coverage levels, eligible services and provider lists.

Consider Short-Term Disability Insurance

If the solitary income earner in the household suffers an illness or injury, they could end up out of work for an extended period. During that time, your household will have to subsist on your emergency savings, hoping nothing else comes up in the meantime. You can avoid the stress by investing in short-term and long-term disability insurance from a trusted provider. This type of coverage ensures your household receives a modest cash flow while the breadwinner remains out of work.

Pursue Side Hustles for Extra Cash

Hobbies can quickly turn into extra cash when you can sell your wares to your community. From soap-making to creating flower arrangements, the sky is the limit in generating cash for your household. The money does not have to come in regularly or in great quantities to be helpful, either. You can cover sporadic expenses, boost your retirement savings and bolster your financial health — all while having a great time.

Make Open Financial Communication a Priority

To make living on a single income work for everyone in the household, there must be open lines of communication to discuss financial worries and woes. You can make open communication about finances a priority by setting aside time to talk with your spouse on a regular basis. You can discuss the various ways the cash flow switch works, and doesn’t work, and then find ways to enact changes. By continuing these discussions, and making adjustments to your approach, you can make this switch a way of life that truly works for everyone in the household.

As you integrate these tactics into your plan for transitioning to a single income household, you can ease into the change with confidence. You can even continue to achieve your savings, retirement and debt repayment goals while making this important transition. As you get your personal finances under control and make the most of your cash flow, you can turn your focus toward your initial reason for switching to a single income.


Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler Northwest is to earn our clients trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

Isler Northwest

(503) 224-5321

1300 SW 5th Avenue
Suite 2900
Portland, Oregon 97201

Why Tax Basis Is So Important

Why Tax Basis Is So Important

For tax purposes, the term “basis” refers to the original monetary value that is used to measure a gain or loss. For instance, if you purchase shares of a stock for $1,000, your basis in that stock is $1,000; if you then sell those shares for $3,000, the gain is calculated based on the difference between the sales price and the basis: $3,000 – $1,000 = $2,000. This is a simplified example, of course—under actual circumstances, purchase and sale costs are added to the basis of the stock—but it gives an introduction to the concept of tax basis.

The basis of an asset is very important because it is used to calculate deductions for depreciation, casualties, and depletion, as well as gains or losses on the disposition of that asset.

The basis is not always equal to the original purchase cost. It is determined in a different way for purchases, gifts, and inheritances. In addition, the basis is not a fixed value, as it can increase as a result of improvements or decrease as a result of business depreciation or casualty losses. This article explores how the basis is determined in various circumstances.

Cost Basis – The cost basis (or unadjusted basis) is the amount originally paid for an item before any improvements and before any business depreciation, expensing, or adjustments as a result of a casualty loss.

Adjusted Basis – The adjusted basis starts with the original cost basis (or gift or inherited basis), then incorporates the following adjustments:

  • increases for any improvements (not including repairs),
  • reductions for any claimed business depreciation or expensing deductions, and
  • reductions for any claimed personal or business casualty-loss deductions.

Example: You purchased a home for $250,000, which is the cost basis. You added a room for $50,000 and a solar electric system for $25,000, then replaced the old windows with energy-efficient double-paned windows at a cost of $36,000. The adjusted basis is thus $250,000 + $50,000 + $25,000 + $36,000 = $361,000. Your payments for repairs and repainting, however, are maintenance expenses; they are not tax deductible and do not add to the basis.

Example: As the owner of a welding company, you purchased a portable trailer-mounted welder and generator for $6,000. After owning it for 3 years, you then decide to sell it and buy a larger one. During this period, you used it in your business and deducted $3,376 in related deprecation on your tax returns. Thus, the adjusted basis of the welder is $6,000 – $3,376 = $2,624.

Keeping records regarding improvements is extremely important, but this task is sometimes overlooked, especially for home improvements. Generally, you need to keep the records of all improvements for 3 years (and perhaps longer, depending on your state’s rules) after you have filed the return on which you report the disposition of the asset.

Gift Basis – If you receive a gift, you assume the doner’s adjusted basis for that asset; in effect, the doner transfers any taxable gain from the sale of the asset to you.

Example: Your mother gives you stock shares that have a market value of $15,000 at the time of the gift. However, your mother originally purchased the shares for $5,000. You assume your mother’s basis of $5,000; if you then immediately sell the shares, your taxable gain is $15,000 – $5,000 = $10,000.

There is one significant catch: If the fair market value (FMV) of the gift is less than the doner’s adjusted basis, and if you then sell it for a loss, your basis for determining the loss is the gift’s FMV on the date of the gift.

Example: Again, say that your mother purchased stock shares for $5,000. However, this time, the shares were worth $4,000 when she gave them to you, and you subsequently sold them for $3,000. In this case, your tax-deductible loss is only $1,000 (the sales price of $3,000 minus the $4,000 FMV on the date of the gift), not $2,000 ($3,000 minus your mother’s $5,000 basis).

Inherited Basis – Generally, a beneficiary who inherits an asset uses its FMV on the date when the owner died as the tax basis. This is because the tax on the decedent’s estate is based on the FMV of the decedent’s assets at the time of death. Normally, inherited assets receive a step up (increased) in basis. However, if an asset’s FMV is less than the decedent’s basis, then the beneficiary’s basis is stepped down (reduced).

Example: You inherit your uncle’s home after he dies. Your uncle’s adjusted basis in the home was $50,000, but he purchased the home 25 years ago, and its FMV is now $400,000. Your basis in the home is equal to its FMV: $400,000.

Example: You inherit your uncle’s car after he dies. Your uncle’s adjusted basis in the car was $50,000, but he purchased the car 5 years ago, and its FMV is now $20,000. Your basis in the car is equal to its FMV: $20,000.

An inherited asset’s FMV is very important because it is used when determining the gain or loss after the sale of that asset. If an estate’s executor is unable to provide FMV information, the beneficiary should obtain the necessary appraisals. Generally, if you sell an inherited item in an arm’s-length transaction within a short time, the sales price can be used as the FMV. A simple example of not at arm’s length is the sale of a home from parents to children. The parents might wish to sell the property to their children at a price below market value, but such a transaction might later be classified by a court as a gift rather than a bona fide sale, which could have tax and other legal consequences.

For vehicles, online valuation tools such as Kelly Blue Book can be used to determine FMV. The value of publicly traded stocks can similarly be determined using Website tools. On the other hand, for real estate and businesses, valuations generally require the use of certified appraisal services.

The foregoing is only a general overview of how basis applies to taxes. If you have any questions, please call this office for help.


Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler Northwest is to earn our clients trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

Isler Northwest

(503) 224-5321

1300 SW 5th Avenue
Suite 2900
Portland, Oregon 97201

How QuickBooks Protects Your Data, and How You Can Help

How QuickBooks Protects Your Data, and How You Can Help

The data in your QuickBooks company file contains some of the most sensitive information on your computer. Make sure it’s secure.

Your customer list is gold. And those Social Security and bank card numbers in your payroll, client, and vendor records need to be protected from intruders and only viewed by authorized employees.

It’s not just large corporations and financial institutions that get hacked. That’s what the bad guys want you to think. In reality, small businesses are often the victims of data breaches because their owners think they’re immune from data theft and destruction.

Even if you’re password-protecting your PCs and running antivirus and anti-malware software, there’s more you need to do when it comes to your accounting records. Here’s what we suggest.

Restrict access by setting up user permissions.

If you have multiple staff members using QuickBooks, don’t share the same user name and password. That obviously gives everyone access to all data and activity. If something goes awry, you have no way of knowing when or how it happened, and who was responsible. To protect yourself and everyone else who logs in, it’s critical that all users have their own unique logins. They should only be allowed to access information and functions that relate to their job duties.

Sales & Accounts Receivable

You can restrict QuickBooks users to certain screens and activities.

To assign these permission levels, open the Company menu and click on Set Up Users and Passwords, then Set Up Users. This opens the User List window, where you should be identified as the Admin. Click Add User. Enter a user name and password for an employee who needs access (this can be changed later). Check the box in front of Add this user to my QuickBooks license.

Tip: Not sure how many users are allowed under your current license? Click F2 and look in the upper left corner. If you need to add licenses, let us know.

Click Next. The next screen lists three options. You can grant access to all areas or to selected areas. You can also create a login for us as your external accountant, which lets us see everything except sensitive customer data. Select the second option and click Next. You can see in the image above that you can give the employee different levels of responsibility. When you’ve made your choice, click Next. The subsequent nine screens deal with different areas of QuickBooks and their related activities.

Tip: When you need to change your password, which you should do at a minimum every three months, go to Company | Set Up Users and Passwords | Change Your Password.

Save your company file elsewhere.

You should always be backing up your company file to an external storage device (like a CD or thumb drive).  To set this up, open the File menu and select Back Up Company, then Create Local Backup. This window will open:

The Create Backup window

The Create Backup window

Make sure Local backup is selected, then click the Options button below (not pictured here). Click Browse to see a directory of your PC and select the correct destination. Leave the two boxes below it checked; this will add the backup date/time to the filename and limit the number of backup copies to three.

By default, QuickBooks will remind you to back up your file every fourth time you close your company file; you can change this number if you prefer. Leave the Complete verification option checked and click OK, then Next. Specify when you want to save your backup copy and click Next again. You can schedule regular backups of your company file on the next screen if you’d like. When you’ve completed this screen, click Finish.

You should also consider saving a copy of your company file to the cloud. Intuit offers its own service for this; it costs $9.95/month or $99.95 annually, but it gives you 100 GB of storage space, so you can back up other critical business files, too.  If you can’t swing this financially, at least store your backups to a portable device that you can carry offsite.

Warning: If you already pay for cloud storage from another vendor, don’t assume you can just copy your QuickBooks file to it. Talk to us.

Other Steps

There are other things you can do to protect your QuickBooks data, including:

  • Insist on strong passwords. Yes, it’s a pain to create and remember them, but it’s critical here.
  • Keep everything That includes your operating system and anything else that requires updates.
  • Minimize web browsing on work computers and remind employees about smart email behaviors.

We strongly recommend that you consult with us as you’re setting up any kind of backup system for QuickBooks. The software’s instructions are straightforward, but we don’t want you to do anything that would jeopardize the integrity of your company file.


Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler Northwest is to earn our clients trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

Isler Northwest

(503) 224-5321

1300 SW 5th Avenue
Suite 2900
Portland, Oregon 97201

Protecting Yourself from Scams, ID Theft and Cyber Criminals

Protecting Yourself from Scams, ID Theft and Cyber Criminals

As much as the Internet has changed our lives for the good, it has also opened us up to threats from crooks from all over the world. They are smart and always coming up with a new trick to separate you from your hard-earned dollars or with an illegal way to use your stolen ID.

Read more

Tax Issues Related to Divorce

Tax Issues Related to Divorce

Divorce is a traumatic event in anyone’s life, and the tax aspects are frequently overlooked, which can add to the distress. The following is an overview of many of the commonly encountered tax issues associated with divorce.

Read more

The Tax Benefits of Going Green

The Tax Benefits of Going Green

Congress uses tax deductions and tax credits to influence taxpayers’ actions. For instance, it seeks to stimulate taxpayers to reduce their energy consumption and moving away from the use of fossil fuels. In this article, we explore the benefits and drawbacks of two major incentives: the home-solar credit and the electric-vehicle credit.

Read more

Gift and Estate Tax Primer

Gift and Estate Tax Primer

The tax code places limits on the amounts that individuals can gift to others (as money or property) without paying taxes. This is meant to keep individuals from using gifts to avoid the estate tax that is imposed upon inherited assets. This can be a significant issue for family-operated businesses when the business owner dies; such businesses often have to be sold to pay the resulting inheritance (estate) taxes. This is, in large part, why high-net-worth individuals invest in estate planning.

Read more

May 2019 Due Dates

May 2019 Individual Due Dates

May 10 – Report Tips to Employer

If you are an employee who works for tips and received more than $20 in tips during April, you are required to report them to your employer on IRS Form 4070 no later than May 10. Your employer is required to withhold FICA taxes and income tax withholding for these tips from your regular wages. If your regular wages are insufficient to cover the FICA and tax withholding, the employer will report the amount of the uncollected withholding in box 12 of your W-2 for the year. You will be required to pay the uncollected withholding when your return for the year is filed.

May 31 –  Final Due Date for IRA Trustees to Issue Form 5498

Final due date for IRA trustees to issue Form 5498, providing IRA owners with the fair market value (FMV) of their IRA accounts as of December 31, 2018. The FMV of an IRA on the last day of the prior year (Dec 31, 2018) is used to determine the required minimum distribution (RMD) that must be taken from the IRA if you are age 70½ or older during 2019. If you are age 70½ or older during 2019 and need assistance determining your RMD for the year, please give this office a call. Otherwise, no other action is required and the Form 5498 can be filed away with your other tax documents for the year.

May 2019 Business Due Dates

May 10 – Social Security, Medicare and Withheld Income Tax

File Form 941 for the first quarter of 2019. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time.

May 15 – Employer’s Monthly Deposit Due

If you are an employer and the monthly deposit rules apply, May 15 is the due date for you to make your deposit of Social Security, Medicare and withheld income tax for April 2019. This is also the due date for the non-payroll withholding deposit for April 2019 if the monthly deposit rule applies.


Isler Northwest LLC is a firm of certified public accountants and business advisors based in Portland, Oregon. Our local, regional, and global resources, our expertise, and our emphasis on innovative solutions and continuity create value for our clients. Our service goals at Isler Northwest is to earn our clients trust as their primary business and financial advisors.

Isler Northwest

(503) 224-5321

1300 SW 5th Avenue
Suite 2900
Portland, Oregon 97201