Tag Archives: accounting

Taxes Will Not Be The Death Of You

March 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Accounting firm Lacey & Associates has been around plenty long. Not nearly as long, though, as the document that hangs on its office reception wall—a 1913 Federal Form 1040 Income Tax Return.

That’s the first return issued following passage of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which allowed Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning it among the states or basing it on the U.S. Census.

The return is a mere two pages long. Figuring taxable income required completion of seven lines. Seven more lines were needed to figure all deductions.

“There wasn’t much to it,” Doug Lacey says with a chuckle.

Not exactly the case more than a century later. Over the years, tax rates have risen and tax forms have grown more numerous and complicated. To the delight of many (and chagrin of many others), Congress and President Donald Trump addressed that last December with passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, one of the most far-reaching tax reform bills ever.

Doug, president of Lacey & Associates and an accountant since the 1970s, has never seen anything like it.

“It’s about as large of a change as I can remember,” he says. “There’s a lot to it, both looking at it from individual tax returns and business tax returns. Every year there would be some small changes…but nothing as big in scope as what we have starting in 2018.”

While the changes seem likely to make filing tax returns easier for the majority of individuals, they also might call for more guidance for businesses. In fact, it might cause some companies to change their very filing status.

“It gives us the opportunity to do a lot of tax planning and meet with the clients more than we probably would have,” Doug says. “To talk to them about how these changes affect them and whether to do anything different.”

With these many changes, some may worry about being audited, but accountant Scott Lacey says business owners, especially small business owners, can relax.

“There could be even fewer audits because they have simplified the tax code,” Scott says. “And typically the IRS doesn’t audit small businesses.”

Lacey’s firm has roots to the 1940s when his father, George, began providing bookkeeping and tax services part time. Doug joined him in 1977. In 1991 he began Lacey & Associates. His son, Scott, joined the firm in 2005 and is happy to be part of the family-run company.

“I realized I’m going to get more pride out of providing this service than I will staying at a large corporation,” says Scott, who previously worked in finance at First Data Corp. “The thing that I like the most about the shift is, in a smaller company, you have to have your hands in all the pots, you have to deal with the computer company, you have to pay the bills, you have to make the coffee, you have to do everything. I feel like I’m making more of an impact, but you also don’t have typical 9-5 hours, so you’re working nights and weekends quite a bit.”

Located in Ralston, the company will file 2017 returns for about 1,200 individuals and 150 businesses.

“I still get to work with some of George’s clients, or their children,” Scott says. “It’s kind of an honor.”

The Laceys have waded through multiple tax changes. They say the most important thing to know about the 2018 tax changes is that not everything is known.

The Laceys have done all they can to understand the changes, reviewing the bill, listening to online podcasts from tax experts, and reading summaries published in various industry newsletters and periodicals.

“There are certain things that even people running the webinars don’t understand or say we have to wait and see some more examples of how this works,” Doug says. “We’ll have to look at it and see the ramifications of all the different changes.”

Scott says the company will continue to keep on top of the changes.

“Sometimes the [government] adjusts the new laws throughout the year. I fully expect to see some adjustments throughout this summer and fall.”

That said, Doug expects several of the changes to have significant impact. For businesses, he points first to drops in the tax rate.

For C corporations, which pay income tax, rates drop from a high of 35 percent to a flat rate of 21 percent. “That’s why you’re seeing the stock market doing so well and seeing some corporations bring some of their different locations out of Europe, Africa, and South America back to the United States,” Doug says. “They figured out what it’s going to save them, and they’re trying to bring it back to the United States.”

For S corporations, which pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to their shareholders, the tax rate drops to a flat 20 percent.

The changes, Doug says, might lead some of his clients to switch from a C-corp. to an S-corp. “Or vice versa,” he adds.

Also of significance, Doug says, is a change to equipment write offs. Previously, that came to 50 percent of what the equipment cost. That’s been changed to 100 percent of the cost.

For individuals, Doug cites several changes as most important:

A drop in all tax brackets and new withholding tables.

A raise in the standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return from $12,700 to $24,000. That change alone, Doug says, is likely to lead most people to forgo itemizing deductions as in most cases they won’t exceed $24,000. “The IRS anticipates that people using the itemized deductions will go from 30 to 10 percent.”

The $4,150 personal exemption is being eliminated.

An increase in the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. The amount of the credit that is refundable increases to $1,400.

For now, the Laceys and their team are focused on handling the rush of 2017 returns. Lacey & Associates will work round the clock to make sure clients receive the best service possible.

But though definite answers won’t come until later this year, he knows the questions will come now.

“The clients are going to come in and say, ‘How does this new tax law affect my income tax?’” Doug says. “We’re going to tell them a few things, but there’s quite a few complex issues here, especially in the business area, that we can’t really say right off the top of our head how it’s going to affect them.”

From left: Scott and Doug Lacey

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Seth McMillan

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Seth McMillan, is a self-proclaimed “accounting nerd” by day at Infogroup and by night he’s owner and renaissance man of the quirky downtown men’s boutique McLovin on 10th and Mason streets.

McMillan considers himself an intense and multifaceted person, which definitely lends itself to his careers in two vastly different fields. “I am an economics nerd, and I like to read biographies, but I also like to watch stupid teen comedies, and I enjoy people. I think you just need a bit of different things in your life.”

Having his hand in a multitude of pots is something McMillan says is not a new lifestyle for him. “Work is great, and the store is off to a good start, and I’m happy, but it’s a struggle to balance. It’s hard work, but at the same time it’s really fun.”

Originally from East Tennessee, the University of Memphis graduate studied both accounting and music. He earned his stripes in accounting at PricewaterhouseCoopers firm in Atlanta before being recruited to act as Director of Revenue Accounting at Infogroup here in Omaha.

His path to Omaha wasn’t intentional, McMillan says. “I knew that I wanted to have a segue job into being an entrepreneur. I saw that I could do all these things in my current job that would help me get the skills I need while I’m figuring out my segue.”

McMillan gives big compliments to his boss at Infogroup for allowing him these opportunities to pursue his passions. “I think he’s very progressive and sensitive to unique situations…and he has a really high tolerance.”

“I didn’t know retail, but what I do know is fun, and I do know how to engage people.”

Since moving to Omaha in June of 2011, McMillan has settled in nicely. “In January [of last year] was when things really started cooking. I bought a truck, a piano, and my partner came into my life. All of these things I’ve always wanted started happening.”

McMillan says he also fulfilled a life-long passion of being an entrepreneur with McLovin. “I had never had an interest in retail prior. It was principal, supply, and demand. I didn’t know retail, but what I do know is fun, and I do know how to engage people.”

Brian Williams, a friend of McMillan’s and one of his best customers, says it’s his personality and passion that have made his transition into his jobs as well as into the community so smooth and rewarding. “It’s his drive more than anything. He puts in a lot of hours, and I don’t know how he does it,” Williams says.

“One of my mottos is whatever you do, add value,” McMillan says. That seems to be his plan not only for his career but as a larger plan for Omaha.

McMillan says that down the road, he hopes to help brand the area south of the Old Market, where his shop lies, as well as brand Omaha as a whole. “We need to recruit more young professionals here, so they don’t move to Chicago, Denver, New York, or Los Angeles. The way to do that is to do cool things here. We need to have fun, and we need to invite more people to the party.”

“He’s not afraid of new challenges like bringing a new business to Omaha,” Williams says. “He’s very driven and outspoken.”

McMillan says what he wants to do is simple. “If I can help take care of people’s needs along with helping elevate Omaha’s cool-factor, it’s enough for me. At the end of the day, it’s about having fun.”

Elle Lien Lynch

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“If this were a movie set,” says Elle Lien Lynch, gesturing to the coffee shop, “everything that you see would be something that the set dec buyer would have to find and buy. The one thing I wouldn’t have been responsible for would have been the things you and I, the actors, touch.” Suddenly, the ceramic mug on the table seems glamorous. A prop.

Last December, Lien finished her work as set-decorating buyer for Alexander Payne’s film Nebraska. The movie, estimated for a late 2013 release, follows “an aging, booze-addled father [as he] makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes prize,” according to IMDb.

Though Lien had no prior experience in the industry (she’s the former owner of closed downtown restaurant Daily Grub), Deidre Backs, a friend who had worked with Payne in film, suggested she submit her resume for the set-decorating buyer position. “Being a local is a huge plus as a buyer,” Backs says of the reasons she encouraged Lien, “because locals know where all the bodies are buried. And with her history of running a restaurant, I knew that handling the accounting side of the job would be no sweat.”

Though Lien says she knows Payne from around town, he had no idea she had applied for a job on Nebraska. “My resume got tossed into a pile with a bunch of other people,” she says. Still, something about it obviously caught the eye of set decorator Beauchamp Fontaine. “I am a hunter,” Lien says, referring to her experience in interior design and buying vintage furniture. “I put that on my resume. I’m a hunter-gatherer. I find old things and breathe new life into them.”

She started work in Norfolk, Neb., last September for a month of preproduction before filming began in October. Lien says she went into the experience without knowing much about the film besides the fact that Payne was directing. “Everything’s very vague,” she says. She read the script on her first day at work. When Payne noticed her in the film’s office one day, he told her, “Welcome to the circus.”

“I’m a hunter-gatherer. I find old things and breathe new life into them.”

“I think he was surprised to see me there,” she recalls.

While Lien says that Fontaine determined the look and feel of a set, she would occasionally defer to Lien’s Midwest background. “These are my people,” Lien says with a laugh. That familiarity with small-town Nebraska culture was probably helpful considering that much of what Lien found to decorate the sets (oh, and every item had to shoot well in both color and black-and-white, thanks to the look of the film) was in people’s garages or thrift stores. “If it had been ordering curtains or buying new things, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much,” she adds. “I would have been fine, but I loved this job.” She delightfully describes her responsibilities as speed shopping with someone else’s money.

Of course, she came from running her own restaurant where “you have your finger on absolutely every aspect of everything.” Working on Nebraska, Lien says she was more like a piece of a puzzle. “It’s very structured,” she says, describing how within the set decorating department, there’s the set decorator (Fontaine); the set decorating buyer (Lien); the lead man, who’s in charge of getting the stuff to the set, returning it, and storing it; and the set dressers, who place and install the various pieces in the set.

But wait, there’s more. Set decorating is a department within the art department. And, surprise, the art department is also a department within the art department. Then there’s scenic and prop. “You all feel like you’re doing your part,” Lien says, “but it’s just so big and decentralized.” When asked if she’d like to work on a film again, she says, “I would love to be a lead man. But it all appeals to me. It was the absolute perfect place for me to land for my first film.”

Though she and husband Joey Lynch had been seriously contemplating a move to New Orleans to be closer to more film industry opportunities, Lien credits Nebraska with gently changing her mind. “I felt like maybe it was why we didn’t move,” she says. “I felt a real sense of pride in this place.”