Increase in calls from online searches

I’ve noticed an increase in the number of business inquires this past week coming as a result of online searches, mostly Google. I hope this is the beginning of a trend.

Three calls yesterday were especially interesting:

Avoid high pressure sales

A sales manager in Pennsylvania called for advice about health insurance. We was dismayed by the high pressure sales tactics and a push to buy immediately over the telephone. He was especially concerned that they would not provide information in writing in advance of the sale (which is illegal in all states as far as I know). He compared it to a timeshare sales model. I confirmed that I hear this complaint often and that there was no need to feel rushed or to buy insurance over the telephone. All information is available in writing in advance. I offered to send him the direct URL of any information he wanted and to introduce a  reputable insurance enrollment service that does not push for sales in this manner.

The return of HRAs

I’m getting many inquiries lately about Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) for small businesses. The problem is that the 2017 tax law outlook has changed dramatically since the election and I have not had time to react and adjust our services. Yesterday I offered to write an article for the NJCPA on this topic. The goal, from my perspective, is to make HRAs easy, inexpensive, legal and efficient for all small businesses. More information will follow soon but it is not available today. I told a nonprofit business leader from Florida to send an email and I would follow up as soon as redesigned 2017 HRAs were available.

Last minute tax savings

There are two types of callers for tax planning services. The first goes “This is my situation; here’s what I am doing. How can I minimize the taxes?”. The second goes “I made a gazillion dollars this year.  I don’t want to pay taxes. What can I do?”. The subtle distinction is important. The first type with a basic plan almost always leads to a successful outcome. The second with no prior plan is usually a disaster; they are vulnerable to the plethora of fake tax advice being sold on the internet. I can’t compete with the glitz and smooth-talking sales reps for the various tax shelter schemes. I feel like saying “Your real problem is that you are a successful business person but you don’t know where to get financial advice you can trust. You have no way of distinguishing good advice from bad advice” I’ve never actually said that; it seems too self-serving. These people tend to learn the hard way on their own. I did not hold out much hope for the contractor who called from MN yesterday. He seems much too focused on the misinformation, even saying about one tax scam “it was quoted in USA Today so it has to be legit”.

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