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Tax Season 2021: Frequently Asked Questions

Posted by Admin Posted on Feb 02 2021

Q. Can I schedule an in-person tax appointment this year?

A. Yes, we are currently accepting in-person appointments for anyone wanting to meet in our office. You can call 330-332-4646 for our Salem office and 330-385-2326 for our East Liverpool office.

Q. What COVID-19 protocols do I need to follow for in-office appointments?

A. To keep our clients and staff safe, we are asking everyone in the office to wear masks. We have also installed plastic shields in front of our front desk and in each of our staff members’ offices.

Q. Do you offer appointments via Zoom or Microsoft Teams?  

A. Yes, if our clients prefer to meet virtually, we can schedule a video meeting with them through Microsoft Teams. To request one of these meetings, call our office.

Q. Can I email you my tax information?

A. Yes. We can also send you a link you can use to securely upload your tax information. Call our office to get more details.

Q. Should I wait to make an appointment until after all the stimulus bills pass?

A. If you did not receive the second stimulus payment ($600) yet, you might be able to get it through your tax return. The third stimulus bill is expected to be passed in February or March and affect 2021 income tax returns. We recommend that clients schedule an appointment soon so we have time to examine all the possible deductions and tax implications that may apply.

Q. Do I need to file if I was unemployed all of 2020 due to COVID-19?

A. Yes, unemployment is taxable income. There may be other credits you are eligible for. We will determine that during your appointment.

If You Thought Taxes Were Complicated Before, Wait Until This Year

Posted by Admin Posted on Dec 02 2020

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a year like none other. Masks mandates, social distancing, no dining in, toilet paper shortages, working from home and limited entertainment options have made it a challenge to enjoy life. But if you’re a “glass half full” kind of person, there have been some positive things this year – more time with family, the ability to work from home (you can’t beat the commute) and a little bit of cash from the government.

As we head into December, you’ll want to start thinking about your taxes. It might not be the most enjoyable thing to consider, but because of all the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s better to plan now so you don’t pay big later.

Here are some considerations that may impact your 2020 returns. You should ask your accountant about them when tax season starts in January:

Teleworking (Working from home)

Normally, you pay taxes on income you made in the state where you live and the state where you work. But because some employers asked their employees to work from home most of 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some workers may end up paying taxes to two states. This could happen if you’ve moved, even temporarily, but your income is still coming from work done for a company located elsewhere.

If you didn’t ask your employer to withhold taxes for the appropriate states, you might get an unexpected tax bill. Working even one day in another state could trigger taxation. Some states have agreements with other jurisdictions to exempt employees from this. In addition, you may have local tax implications if you work in one city, but live in another. Ask your accountant about your specific situation to see if you’ll need to plan to pay two tax bills.

Payroll tax

You might recall that President Trump signed an executive order in August to allow companies to stop withholding payroll taxes from their employees’ checks. It was designed to give you a little extra cash in our check – maybe you noticed the difference.

But that payroll tax (about 6.2 percent) that was not withheld didn’t just disappear – it was deferred. That means that it’s possible that come early 2021, millions of workers might see a significant pay cut as businesses try to recoup some of those lost taxes.

Unless Congress acts to forgive the deferred tax, the break could become a burden for a lot of people. From January through April, employers will have to recover the payroll money they didn’t withhold. That means that you need to start planning ahead now to figure out how you might come up with that money. Note: Those participating will receive an amended W-2 when deferred taxes are repaid in 2021. In that case, you may choose to file return normally.

Home office deduction

You’ve been working from your couch, bedroom, basement or kitchen table for 9 months. That means you can take a home office deduction, right? Not so fast. Unfortunately, employees are not eligible to claim the home office deduction, even if an employer requires remote work because of Covid-19.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in 2017 eliminated employee business expenses on Schedule A. However, if you are an independent contractor and self-employed, you can still take a home office deduction. If you need help determining if you are, a CPA can help.

Refund of 529 funds

Some colleges went to all virtual classes because of the coronavirus, which means they reversed on-campus housing decisions or sent students home. You might want to know that if you used money from a 529 college savings plan to cover the cost of housing and food, you’ll need to put the money back to avoid paying income tax and a 10 percent penalty on the earnings.

Why? Because a 529 plan allows contributions to grow tax-free. So here’s the issue when it comes to education expenses: You can’t keep the money; otherwise, it’s considered what is called a non-qualified distribution. Ask your accountant why that matters.

You also can’t hold on to the money you took out this year to cover 2021 expenses. Distributions from a 529 plan need to match up with qualified expenses incurred during the same tax year. An account holder has just 60 days from the date of the refund to return the money to the 529 account without incurring taxes and the 10 percent penalty on earnings.

More changes

Other areas of change include:

  • Need to report the 2020 stimulus payment received for reconciliation on the tax return
  • COVID-19 related effects on your W-2
  • Above-the-line charitable contribution deduction up to $300
  • Federal Student Loan payment relief
  • Expanded Unemployment benefits
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and other dependent care assistance relief
  • Changes to retirement plans, including IRA contributions and suspended Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) and the ability to take a retirement withdraw and repay it within a three-year period


Many of these changes are interrelated. In other words, as one item above changes another deduction or credit may also be affected.

Hire a professional

If you’ve always filed your own taxes and think you have things down to a science, you might want to think twice this year. If there was ever a year to ask for a professional’s help, 2020 is it. Tax preparation will be as complicated as ever and if you miss something, the consequences could be huge.

If you are self-employed or a business owner, there are many more tax changes not mentioned above. Congress is still discussing tax laws changes and another stimulus package in the lame duck session. Therefore, more changes are expected. To make sure your return is completed correctly, contact a professional whose job it is to be updated on all the most current tax laws.

For more information or to set up an appointment, contact our Salem office at 330-332-4646 or East Liverpool office at 330-385-2160.

Tax Deadline Approaching This Wednesday: File or Request an Extension

Posted by Admin Posted on July 13 2020

It’s almost here. Tax Day 2020.

If you took advantage of the three-month tax filing delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, time to file – and pay – is almost up. Taxpayers must file or seek an extension by July 15 or face a penalty.

The IRS is expecting about 150 million returns from individuals. As of last count, it had received almost 139 million. 

Taxpayers who need more time can request an extension on the IRS website. That will give them until October 15 to file. However, an extension to file does not mean added time to pay. If you are planning to file later, estimate what you will owe and make that payment by July 15.

Here are brief answers to some other common questions taxpayers might have:

What do I do if I can’t pay?

Go ahead and file your taxes even if you cannot pay. The IRS is willing to set up payment plans or make other arrangements with taxpayers who cannot pay in full. Many of those can be set up online. The penalty for failure to file may be much more expensive than the failure to pay.

What about my refund?

The IRS is still processing and issuing refunds, most within three weeks. Those getting refunds will be paid interest, dating back to April 15, if they file on time. The interest rate is 5% per year through June 30. Starting July 1, it dropped to 3% per year. The interest is compounded daily for refunds. Any refund issued after July 1 will get a blended rate.

Can I file and pay online?

You can file or pay your taxes online. The IRS urges taxpayers to use electronic options to support social distancing and speed the processing of returns, refunds or payments. The agency is still working its way through a backlog of mail that built up during its closure in response to the pandemic.

What about estimated taxes?

Taxpayers who make estimated quarterly tax payments have until July 15 to make the payments for the first and second quarters. Those were originally due on April 15 and June 15, respectively.

One more note

July 15 is also the deadline to claim a refund for 2016 tax returns. An estimated $1.5 billion in refunds for 2016 are sitting unclaimed because people failed to file tax returns. The law provides a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund. But if taxpayers do not file a return within that time, the money becomes property of the Treasury. There is no penalty to file a later return if a refund is due.

There are a host of other tax deadlines linked to July 15. Check out the IRS website or contact our Salem office at 330-332-4646 or East Liverpool office at 330-385-2160.

PPP Loan Terms Updated, Deadline to Apply Remains June 30

Posted by Admin Posted on June 14 2020

If your business was successful in obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, legislation signed June 5 comes with a dose of good news.

Under the new law, borrowers can qualify for partial loan forgiveness if less than 60 percent of the PPP loan is used for payroll, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury. Originally, 75 percent was the minimum percentage of PPP funds borrowers had to spend on payroll costs to have the loans forgiven.

The SBA, in consultation with Treasury, will soon issue rules and guidance, a modified borrower application form and a modified loan forgiveness application implementing the amendments to the PPP made in the new law. Small businesses are still able to apply for PPP loans, with the deadline remaining June 30, 2020.

Program changes

The new PPP legislation includes the following changes:

  • Extends the covered period for loan forgiveness from eight weeks after the date of loan disbursement to 24 weeks after the date of loan disbursement. This provides greater flexibility for borrowers to qualify for loan forgiveness. Borrowers that have already received PPP loans retain the option to use an eight-week covered period.
  • Provides a safe harbor from reductions in loan forgiveness based on reductions in full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees for borrowers that are unable to return to the same level of business activity the business was operating at before Feb. 15, 2020, due to compliance with requirements or guidance issued between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, by the secretary of Health and Human Services, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration related to worker or customer safety requirements related to COVID-19.
  • Increases to five years the maturity of PPP loans that are approved by the SBA (based on the date the SBA assigns a loan number) on or after June 5, 2020.
  • Extends the deferral period for borrower payments of principal, interest, and fees on PPP loans to the date that the SBA remits the borrower’s loan forgiveness amount to the lender (or, if the borrower does not apply for loan forgiveness, 10 months after the end of the borrower’s loan forgiveness covered period).

About Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)

The PPP launched in early April with $349 billion in funding that was exhausted in less than two weeks. Congress provided an additional $310 billion in funding in an April 21 vote, but demand for the program soon waned due to controversies over publicly traded companies and other large enterprises being awarded loans. Concerns about the attainability of loan forgiveness under the program’s rules also contributed to small businesses and other eligible entities casting a wary eye to the program.

Congress established the PPP to provide relief to small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The legislation authorized Treasury to use the SBA’s 7(a) small business lending program to fund loans of up to $10 million per borrower that qualifying businesses could spend to cover payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities.

In order to apply for a PPP, businesses should contact a bank or lending institution that does handles SBA loans. For guidance on how to spend PPP loan funds or how it will affect your company’s financial situation, contact one of our CPAs in Salem at 330-332-4646 or East Liverpool at 330-385-2160.

BWLK Now Accepting Appointments, Offering Guidance on PPP Loans

Posted by Admin Posted on May 12 2020

For our firm, it’s been a tax season unlike any other. But as we head into the month of May when business and life begins to gradually return to “normal,” we are optimistic. We hope you are, too.

The purpose of this communication is to update you on how we intend to navigate the next couple of months. Since the COVID-19 related limitations began in March, we’ve continued to serve our business and individual clients the best we could. Our goal is to continue that uninterrupted service to meet your tax and business service needs.

As the Governor starts to map out the path toward “Re-opening Ohio,” here a few things we’d like you to know:

Appointments in the office

Both our Salem and East Liverpool offices will begin accepting limited face-to-face appointments - with certain conditions. Both parties will need to wear face masks. The meetings will take place in the conference room at each of our locations, where we can better adhere to social distancing procedures. After each client meeting, the area will be sanitized.

Although we are beginning to accept these appointments, we still prefer clients to continue dropping off their information or be open to meeting via phone or sort video conferencing.

Paycheck Protection Program loans

If your business is receiving funds as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our CPAs to discuss the best ways to use that money. This is especially important because there are specific and complicated rules that dictate how the funds can be spent in order to have your loan forgiven later.

Tax season continues

As you may know, the tax filing season has been extended until July 15. However, if you have not yet made an appointment with one of our accountants, we suggest you do so sooner rather than later. That will give us enough time to determine your liabilities or refund now, so that once the summer hits and life begins to return to “normal,” you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call the Salem office at 330-332-4646 or the East Liverpool office at 330-385-2160.

BWLK Maintains Normal Office Hours Despite Delay of Federal Tax Day

Posted by Admin Posted on Mar 24 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is taking a toll on families, businesses, government leaders and our healthcare system. No doubt, your routine has been disrupted in some way – ours has, too. But we’re continuing to serve our clients while keeping our employees safe.

You’ve probably heard that the Department of the Treasury announced that the IRS is moving the income tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15 to allow all taxpayers and businesses additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties. That’s a good thing.

However, we’d still encourage you to call our office sooner rather than later to make a phone appointment. If you are eligible for a refund, filing now could help you receive that sooner. Also, if you get us your tax information now, we’ll have more time to process it and follow up with you if we need additional information.

Please note that move by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service does NOT affect state income taxes. Some states, including Ohio, are considering their own tax filing delays.

While our staff is maintaining regular business hours, we are not accepting in-person appointments at this time. But you can get us your tax information by dropping it off at the front desk in our Salem or East Liverpool offices, emailing it to us or dropping it in the mail. We plan to resume scheduling in-person appointments on April 6 – unless the COVID-19 situation dictates that we can’t.

Also keep in mind that our firm has experience assisting business clients with Small Business Association loans, if needed.

Thank you for business and allowing us to continue serving you during these uncertain times. We wish you and your family good health.

BWLK to Maintain Regular Business Hours During Public Health Scare

Posted by Admin Posted on Mar 13 2020

Despite the concerns over the coronavirus, our firm will continue to operate during normal business hours. We are still accepting appointments and clients may drop from off returns and tax documents, mail them to our office or email them using the client portal in our website.

You may also have heard about possible tax relief legislation related to COVID-19, specifically a payroll tax cut and the extension of the April 15 tax deadline. At this time, these possibilities are only being discussed - nothing has been passed. We will continue to monitor these discussions.

If you have any questions, call our Salem office at 330-332-4646 or our East Liverpool office at 330-385-2160.

BWLK Adds Administrative Assistant in Salem

Posted by Admin Posted on Feb 25 2020

Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer CPAs, Salem and East Liverpool, Ohio, recently hired Laurie Delbridge as an administrative assistant in Salem. 

Originally from Virginia, she earned an associate’s degree in Business Management from Southside Virginia Community College. 

Throughout her long career as a business professional, Laurie has worked in sales, management, and law and accounting firms. At BWLK, she enjoys her role in building and maintaining key client relationships and working in a small, family atmosphere. 

 “Laurie’s is the face clients see when they visit the office and voice they hear on the phone, so her role at our firm is very important,” said Gene Byler, principal, BWLK. 

“She does a great job being the liaison between our staff accountants and our clients, and making sure that providing top-notch customer service is at the forefront of everything we do.”

More Than Taxes: Tax Reform Law Changes Estate Tax Laws – and You Can Benefit

Posted by Admin Posted on Nov 30 2019

The “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” that was signed into law in December 2017 was the most significant tax reform legislation in decades. The changes significantly impacted both individuals and businesses in many areas. Once area most affected was estate planning.

Effective estate and trust planning can ensure financial security for loved ones. For businesses, it can maintain a smooth succession of ownership. The estate planning process can be challenging for the average person, without any legal or accounting training, to understand. The best way to make sure your wishes are followed and your belongings or business are passed on to the right people is to hire professional help.

The role of a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) is to help people navigate the complex and shifting tax laws to facilitate the transfer of assets and minimize the tax liability of their beneficiaries. Everyone should have a comprehensive plan as to how to distribute the assets left in one's estate to avoid complications. Having taxes and estate thoroughly and carefully planned will help loved ones avoid dealing with complications during a time of loss.

Estate Planning Changes

The tax reform legislation raised the estate tax exemption to $11.18 million per person, or $23.36 million for a married couple, a significant increase over prior limits. This eliminates any federal estate taxes on amounts under those limits gifted to heirs during your lifetime or left to them upon your death.

The new legislation eliminates the federal estate tax for all but the wealthiest individuals. One caveat is worth noting: as with most of the provisions of the Act, these rules are set to expire at the end of 2025. At that time, the exemption amounts will revert back to previous levels, adjusted for inflation.

The generation-skipping tax (GST) rate exemption also increased to the same amount as above for individuals and married couples. This increase also expires at the end of 2025. Also, the method used to calculate inflation on these exemptions and other related areas has been changed.

The temporary increase in the exemptions for the federal estate tax and the GST means that until the end of 2025 (unless Congress repeals or extends these rules), many will be able to give away more of their estate to their heirs without paying estate taxes. For beneficiaries, the new law has obvious benefits, but its introduction doesn't eliminate the need for estate and tax planning.

With the increased exemption limits, lifetime gifts of estate assets can be made without concern of trigging federal gift and estate taxes, except for those with estates in excess of the exemption amounts. Gifting can also be done with the idea of shifting assets likely to experience high levels of appreciation. This can shield the appreciation of those assets from future estate taxation in your estate once the current exemption limits expire after 2025.

A Strategy to Protect a Spouse

One tactic to consider in some cases is the spousal lifetime access trust (SLAT). The SLAT is an irrevocable trust that removes the assets from an individual’s estate but transfers the assets to an irrevocable trust for the benefit of his or her spouse. The benefit is that those assets are out of the individual’s estate, allowing them to take advantage of the increased estate tax exemption prior to the 2025 deadline, while still retaining a degree of control over those assets via their spouse during their lifetime.

Changes only temporary – act now

Tax reform has resulted in many changes for taxpayers, especially estate planning, but like most of the tax reform legislation, the impact is temporary and will largely revert to the prior rules after 2025.

Those with estates to pass on to the next generation, especially for those with larger estates, should contact an accountant (and attorney) now to review their current estate planning documents to ensure that they still do what they intended for them to do, and to ensure that they are taking full advantage of any opportunities under tax reform.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of our CPAs to discuss estate tax planning, contact Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer at 330-332-4646 in Salem or 330-385-2160 in East Liverpool.

More than Taxes: Audit, review or compilation – which is right for your business?

Posted by Admin Posted on Nov 23 2019

As a business owner, you are ultimately held responsible for the financial health of your business. That includes the accuracy of your financial statements. Unless you’re a CPA (certified public accountant) yourself, keeping track of more details than “making a profit” isn’t in your skill set.

So without the expertise or time to fully tend to the financial health of our business, you’d likely consider adding an in-house accountant to the team. But doing so could be expensive for a small business with a limited budget. A cost-effective option to consider is outsourcing the role to a local CPA firm that has the knowledge, experience and tools to make sure that your financial books look the way they should.

CPA firms offer a variety of services to help small businesses with financial reporting requirements. Audits, reviews, and compilations – all different, but useful - can help your business secure a loan, satisfy regulatory rules, or entice new investors. These services can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to understand what each includes so you can determine which one best meets your needs and budget.


If you need to prove that your financial statements are accurate, an audit is the most comprehensive and well-documented way. During audits, CPAs analyze accounting records and study the documentation for your transactions. After finishing this research, a CPA issues an opinion on whether or not they believe that your financial statements comply with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in all material respects.

An audit is the highest level of assurance you can obtain from a CPA. Because the stakes are high, a CPA spends a lot of time reviewing transactions. Because audits can be so costly, some small businesses don’t get them unless they absolutely have to. Audits are sometimes required by banks in situations where large businesses are seeking large loans or seeking federal grants above a certain amount.


A financial statement review is similar to an audit, but not quite as time consuming or in-depth. When conducting a review, CPAs express limited assurance about your financial statements. Rather than digging through documentation, the CPA performs basic analytical procedures to double-check that the financial statements make sense. The best report you can get from a review is simply that the CPA is not aware of any material departures from GAAP.

If you want a CPA’s stamp of approval on your financials, but aren’t required to get a full-blown audit, a review can be a good option. Because there’s less assurance provided in a review, the CPA spends less time reviewing your books, which costs you less. Reviews can be a helpful tool if you’re trying to attract new investors or are looking for a buyer for your business.


During an audit or a review, the client company often prepares the financial statement, although the CPA can prepare them as well, as an additional service. During a compilation, your CPA assists you in preparing the financial statements but doesn’t give an opinion on their quality or accuracy.

The American Institute of CPAs believes that compilations are best suited for very simple accounting situations. For example, a compilation may be appropriate if your business uses the cash method of accounting and needs to translate that to the accrual method. If your company is small and your transactions are straightforward, a lender may accept this in lieu of a financial review for a loan application.

Compilations aren’t very time intensive and are generally much cheaper than audits and reviews. But sometimes, you get what you pay for. Although you’d hope that compiled financial statements comply with GAAP, your accountant has no obligation to ensure that they do. In other words, you’re paying for the right to say that a CPA has helped you put together financial statements.

For more information about which financial statement “check” method best suits your business, contact Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer at 330-332-4646 in Salem or 330-385-2160.

As a business owner, you are ultimately held responsible for the financial health of your business. That includes the accuracy of your financial statements. Unless you’re a CPA (certified public accountant) yourself, keeping track of more details than “making a profit” isn’t in your skill set.

So without the expertise or time to fully tend to the financial health of our business, you’d likely consider adding an in-house accountant to the team. But doing so could be expensive for a small business with a limited budget. A cost-effective option to consider is outsourcing the role to a local CPA firm that has the knowledge, experience and tools to make sure that your financial books look the way they should.

CPA firms offer a variety of services to help small businesses with financial reporting requirements. Audits, reviews, and compilations – all different, but useful - can help your business secure a loan, satisfy regulatory rules, or entice new investors. These services can be expensive, so it’s a good idea to understand what each includes so you can determine which one best meets your needs and budget.


If you need to prove that your financial statements are accurate, an audit is the most comprehensive and well-documented way. During audits, CPAs analyze accounting records and study the documentation for your transactions. After finishing this research, a CPA issues an opinion on whether or not they believe that your financial statements comply with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) in all material respects.

An audit is the highest level of assurance you can obtain from a CPA. Because the stakes are high, a CPA spends a lot of time reviewing transactions. Because audits can be so costly, some small businesses don’t get them unless they absolutely have to. Audits are sometimes required by banks in situations where large businesses are seeking large loans or seeking federal grants above a certain amount.


A financial statement review is similar to an audit, but not quite as time consuming or in-depth. When conducting a review, CPAs express limited assurance about your financial statements. Rather than digging through documentation, the CPA performs basic analytical procedures to double-check that the financial statements make sense. The best report you can get from a review is simply that the CPA is not aware of any material departures from GAAP.

If you want a CPA’s stamp of approval on your financials, but aren’t required to get a full-blown audit, a review can be a good option. Because there’s less assurance provided in a review, the CPA spends less time reviewing your books, which costs you less. Reviews can be a helpful tool if you’re trying to attract new investors or are looking for a buyer for your business.


During an audit or a review, the client company often prepares the financial statement, although the CPA can prepare them as well, as an additional service. During a compilation, your CPA assists you in preparing the financial statements but doesn’t give an opinion on their quality or accuracy.

The American Institute of CPAs believes that compilations are best suited for very simple accounting situations. For example, a compilation may be appropriate if your business uses the cash method of accounting and needs to translate that to the accrual method. If your company is small and your transactions are straightforward, a lender may accept this in lieu of a financial review for a loan application.

Compilations aren’t very time intensive and are generally much cheaper than audits and reviews. But sometimes, you get what you pay for. Although you’d hope that compiled financial statements comply with GAAP, your accountant has no obligation to ensure that they do. In other words, you’re paying for the right to say that a CPA has helped you put together financial statements.

For more information about which financial statement “check” method best suits your business, contact Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer at 330-332-4646 in Salem or 330-385-2160.

Readers choose BWLK as top accounting firm during Salem News ‘Best of the Best’ campaign

Posted by Admin Posted on Sept 26 2019

The Salem News readers have spoken.

Readers in the Salem News circulation area recently selected Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer as the top accounting firm during the newspaper’s annual Best of the Best campaign. BWLK was readers’ top choice among eight nominated accounting firms.

A representative of the Salem News presented BWLK principal Rick Lutsch with an award to mark the distinction.

“We’re honored to be selected by the community as the area’s top accounting firm,” said Lutsch. “What makes this recognition special is that it comes from the Salem News readership, some of who we’ve had the privilege to provide services for. We enjoy receiving feedback from our clients and others in the community so that we can continue to deliver professional and customized business and accounting services to meet their needs.”

Salem News has coordinated its Best of the Best awards campaign for more than 15 years, highlighting area businesses in various industries. Each year, award-winners are selected by readers in the various categories during a three-phase process.

Initially, the Salem News asks readers to nominate any business in each of its industry categories, like accounting firm, law firm, restaurant, hair salon, auto repair service, etc. After the nomination period is over, the Salem News publishes an official ballot that includes the nominees. Readers are asked to vote for their choices in any of the categories. Once the voting phase is completed the Salem News tallies the votes, notifies the winners and publishes the results, along with “thank-you advertisements” from the winning businesses.

For more information about BWLK’s financial and accounting services, contact the Salem location at 330-332-4646.

More than Taxes Series: Selling your business? Better talk to an accountant first

Posted by Admin Posted on Sept 26 2019

Even the most successful business owners can’t stick round forever. So after they’ve enjoyed years - maybe decades - of profitability, success, community involvement and the other joys of owning a business, eventually the time will come to step away. Some entrepreneurs choose to close up shop for good. Others would like the sweat equity they invested to mean something for the future. To make sure, they need an exit strategy.

That’s where business succession planning comes in. Organizations use succession planning as a way to ensure that when it’s time to retire or leave the business, the show can still go on. The process includes making sure that they have the right employees in key positions who know how to run the business properly and profitably – managing the staff, inventory, finances, customer service, marketing, human resources, employee communication and other essential functions that make the business successful.

Beyond that, business owners considering selling or passing along their business to a family member or friend, must plan in the most challenging and complicated areas like who will the new owner be, transition timing, transferring business ownership to the next generation or other new leadership.

Accountants should play a critical role in succession planning, but are too often aren’t even in the room when important decisions are being made. The insight of the accountant into the financial strength of the succession plan and the assurance that there are no regulatory issues is essential. Accountants can also provide financial independence and retirement planning for the present leadership while structuring the business for future longevity, stability and success.

For most business owners, their business is their life. Therefore, a succession plan will balance business, family, and tax considerations so they’ll have a succession plan that brings them, their family and business successor’s peace of mind.

As part of the business succession plan, accountants help owners deal with issues like business valuation, liquidity and estate taxes, protecting their assets, minimizing taxes, selling or transferring the business and other financial decisions that affect the owner personally and the business.

Business succession planning isn’t just for older owners. It should be a consideration for all forward-looking owners as a way to plan for unforeseen circumstances. Planning ahead now can ensure the sustainability of the business now and the future.

For more information about business succession planning, contact BWLK in Salem at 330-332-4646 or East Liverpool at 330-385-2160.

Daniel Wolfe Participates in Youngstown Business Journal Tax Reform Roundtable

Posted by Admin Posted on Aug 24 2019

Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer principal Daniel Wolfe recently participated in the Youngstown Business Journal’s Tax Reform Roundtable discussion, along with other well-known CPAs from around the Mahoning Valley.

Wolfe discussed how tax reform has affected both personal and businesses. A major change for small business is the “Qualified Business Deduction,” which in general terms grants a small business owner the ability to pay tax on only 80% of their net income. On the individual side, the standard deduction (example: joint return) increased from $12,400 to $24,000. In the area ofiItemized deductions, almost all miscellaneous deductions were eliminated and there is a $10,000 cap on the SALT deduction (State and Local Taxes).

“With the standard deduction increase many people didn’t have the capability of itemizing deductions this year.” Said Wolfe during the forum. “Some individuals that may have had that based on past numbers couldn’t. I had salesmen who put 60,000 miles a year on their car. That was a $30,000 deduction that was previously itemized. They did away with the 2% minimum miscellaneous deduction, which mileage falls into as a business expense, thereby eliminating the deduction of $30,000.”

Coverage of the roundtable appears in the mid-August print edition and online here.

More than taxes: Outsourcing Payroll Process Saves You More Than Money

Posted by Admin Posted on Aug 11 2019

If you’re reading this blog, you might be a current or past BWLK client, a friend or acquaintance of one of our partners/employees or someone who found us through Google when looking for an experienced and effective accounting and financial planning firm in Northeast Ohio.

What you may or may not realize is that most CPA firms – including BWLK - are more than one-hit wonders and handle a plethora of financial and accounting services for their personal and business clients. That’s right, you heard it here first – we do more than taxes! What kinds of financial services do we offer? We’re glad you asked.

Starting with this blog – and monthly throughout the rest of 2019 and into 2020 – we will highlight some of the most important services our accountants perform for clients every day. The goal is to educate individuals and business owners about our capabilities and the ways we can make their lives easier. Our work saves our clients time, money, stress, potential mistakes (and consequences), downtime and unnecessary risk.

Payroll services

One way we help the overworked internal accounting departments at small and medium-sized companies is by handling their entire payroll process.

Payroll-related activities include calculating payroll each time period, printing, signing, and distributing paychecks or pay stubs, computer software and program maintenance, training and support, keeping up with changes in tax rates/laws, preparing and remitting payroll taxes and returns to government agencies, W-2s, garnishments, new hire reporting and generating reports for in-house and accountant use.

Outsourcing the payroll process frees up the department’s staff to handle a boatload of other important accounting functions like monthly accounting, payables and receivables, cash flow management, business taxes, budgets, expense reports and more.

Businesses gain several specific benefits and advantages by outsourcing the payroll process. We’ll examine a few below.

Cost reduction

Accurate reporting requires complete and correct employee records. Some companies find it difficult to make this happen without having the appropriate technological resources in-house. Outsourcing payroll to an accounting firm can help these companies improve accuracy and lower operating costs by providing the necessary software to streamline the process.

The direct costs of processing payroll can be greatly reduced by working with a payroll provider. While big businesses can afford to maintain large payroll departments, small and medium-sized businesses don’t usually have that luxury. If your business has fewer than 30 employees, there’s a very good chance you can save money by outsourcing your payroll operations.

Working with a partner with its own system can make the payroll procedure more efficient and help business owners and their employees focus more on core company practices. Knowing that the payroll process is being handled by professionals with the right expertise and tools allows business owners to turn their attention toward improving other elements of the company, including customer service.

Improved government compliance

Obviously, businesses and organizations must follow federal and state payroll and tax regulations to avoid expensive penalties. Most often, these fines occur due to late or incorrect filings or reporting. In addition, these government requirements are always subject to change.

If human resources and payroll employees aren't familiar with codes or aren't able to consistently monitor for alterations, companies could face even more costly fees. Accountants are constantly staying up to date on law and requirement changes to ensure that clients are meeting all obligations as part of their payroll process. Companies trying to handle payroll internally could miss even the most minor law change, which could cost them a lot of money, time and hassle when it comes time to dealing with the IRS.

Enhanced security

Payroll processing is a complex and potentially risky business operation. Even with the most trusted employees, there is always a risk of identity theft, embezzlement of funds, or tampering with company files for personal gain.

Even if you have honest people administering your payroll, there is risk when using in-house payroll software. Is the company’s server secure? Is the firewall good enough? Is employee data safe?

These concerns can keep a business owner awake at night. But most accounting firms have technologies that can spot and alert clients to various types of payroll fraud. They have invested in state-of-the-art systems for storing and protecting data because it’s part of the service provided to clients.

To learn more about BWLK’s payroll services and how your business can benefit, call the Salem office at 330-332-4646 or the East Liverpool office at 330-385-2160.

BWLK Principal Rick Lutsch Attends Accounting Conference in Las Vegas

Posted by Admin Posted on July 02 2019

Sustaining a successful career as a Certified Public Accountant takes more than the ability to punch buttons on a 10-key calculator, enter numbers into accounting software or count beans. Even after years of schooling and being one of the few to conquer the CPA exam, the work – and education never stops.

Similar to other industries like teaching, real estate and insurance, laws, procedures, technology and requirements constantly change. CPAs are required to continually increase their knowledge and qualifications in order to meet licensing requirements and provide the best and most accurate services possible to their clients.

Lutsch Attends Accounting Conference

BWLK principal Rick Lutsch recently attended Engage 2019, an accounting conference in Las Vegas, sponsored by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The conference included more than 350 sessions covering various industry topics, networking opportunities and an exhibit hall. Keynote speakers included top CPAs and business executives from around the country. John Elway, the current general manager of the Denver Broncos, gave an address about “Scoring Big in Business.”

Lutsch earned Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits at the event by updating his knowledge base in the topic areas of accounting and financial reporting, tax and consulting services.

“Training and continuing education are not only mandatory in the accounting profession, but they are extremely important because without them, we cannot provide our clients with the exceptional service they need and deserve,” said Lutsch. “Our clients rely on our expertise and expect us to have the most updated knowledge on tax laws, financial reporting and personal and business accounting.”

Licensing Requirements

CPAs must meet Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements established by the State Board of Accountancy of the states where their CPA licenses are held.

All Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer principals and Laurie Chaffee (a CPA) are members of the Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA) and American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). These organizations provide CPE and reference materials to help ensure that CPAs are equipped to provide the highest level of service. In order to maintain their CPA license, CPAs must earn 120 CPE credits every three years, including a minimum of 20 each year.

These CPE requirements can be completed using online courses, book studies or attending seminars and training conferences that cover a variety of industry topics and laws. This education is considered a way for professionals to keep up to date on the latest information in the accounting industry.

4 Ways Accountants Can Help Your Small Business (Besides Taxes)

Posted by Gene Byler Posted on May 18 2019

When someone says the word “accountant,” they automatically think about taxes.

Ask any accountant and they’ll tell you that personal and business taxes definitely take up most of their time (think 60-70 hours a week) during the first four months of the year, otherwise known in the profession as tax season.

But if you own a business, there are plenty of other reasons to hire a CPA besides just completing your annual taxes. So many reasons, in fact, you should have an accountant you trust in your contact list for when business or financial issues come up.

Here are some common reasons your business might need an accountant:

Writing a business plan

Involving an accountant while you're writing your business plan may allow you to use accounting software to add financial projections and other reports to it. This will help you create a business plan that's realistic, professional and more likely to succeed.

Hiring a professional at this early stage will mean you get the benefit of their financial knowledge and advice right from the start. That could save you time and money compared with hiring one later in the process.

Advice about company’s legal structure

Not all businesses have the same legal structure – there are different types that are determined by a number of factors. Some might be called limited companies, limited liability partnerships or corporations, others could be sole traders or proprietors.

You should carefully consider each type before deciding which one best suits you. For example, you may do business as a sole proprietor, working on a self-employed basis and invoicing under your own name. If this is the case, you might be able to offset some of your living expenses against tax.

However, this also means you could be held personally liable for any business-related obligations. If your business fails to pay a supplier, defaults on a debt or loses a lawsuit, the creditor could legally come after your house or other possessions.

With a limited liability company structure, it's different. An accountant can explain the business structures available and help you choose the one that best suits you.

Help with the finances

Small business accounting can quickly become complex if you do it on your own. If you feel you're losing control of who owes you money and how much, an accountant can help you make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

You may also want to measure key business metrics, such as the ratio of salaries and other employee payments to total revenue. An accountant can help here by managing your payroll and producing graphs so you can see how the ratio changes over time.

They can help you understand your company's current financial situation at a glance, and help you monitor the pulse of your business and keep track of important things like cash to let go, and learn to trust other people to handle some parts of your

Deal with the government

Some business owners are nervous about dealing with the government. This is why so many small business owners hire an accountant when the first tax filing is due.

But they can also help you deal with more than just tax returns. They can help your company interact with the government in other ways:

- Complete and file the required legal and compliance documents for your business

- Keep your company up to date with the latest tax laws

- Prepare annual statements of accounts

- Keep your company's status updated in the government's company register

- Maintain records of directors and other administrative personnel

- Organize and record share/stock allocation, such as when the business is formed, when a business partner leaves or a new partner joins

- Handle your payroll and ensuring that all employees' tax codes and payments are recorded correctly

For more information or to contact one of our CPAs to help with your business, call the Salem office at 330-332-4646 or East Liverpool location at 330-385-2160.

3 Smart Things to Do With Your Tax Refund

Posted by Gene Byler Posted on Mar 30 2019

It’s that time of year again – tax time.

If you’re one of the millions expecting a tax refund this year, chances are you’re already thinking about how to spend that chunk of change. Maybe you’re thinking of buying a bigger TV, taking a well-earned vacation or upgrading your smart phone or computer.

All those ideas sound rewarding and exciting. But there are some smarter and more practical (but not quite as fun) ways to use your refund that might put you in a better financial situation and/or help others.

1. Replenish or start your emergency fund. Life happens. The washer breaks. You have to replace your car. Your spouse gets laid off from work. We usually don’t see life’s curveballs coming and when they do, it’s nice to be prepared. Having an emergency fund can help relieve some of the stress when hit with unexpected expenses or hardship.

Ideally, you should have about six months of expenses socked away. But not everyone can afford to do that and still survive day to day. So, consider taking all or some of your tax refund to start an emergency fund. This might be the only time of year you get such a large sum of money, so this is a smart use for it.

Since it wasn’t part of your regular paychecks, you likely didn’t plan on using it to pay monthly bills. So, you won’t even miss the cash. Put it in the bank for emergencies so when a “rain day” comes, you’ll have some money to deal with it.

2. Invest in your future. Depending on your age, retirement might sound far away. Or, it might be knocking loud at your door. Regardless, you know you won’t work forever. When the time comes to stop doing the job you’re doing, you’ll need money to live on for the rest of your days.

A forward-thinking use for your tax refund is to boost your retirement savings, so that the money can continue growing while you’re still earning an income for today. Consider investing the refund in an IRA, Roth IRA or other retirement account. You’ll thank yourself later.

3. Donate. Maybe you’ve always wished you had enough money to be able to donate to important community causes or organizations. Now, you do. Consider using all or part of your refund to a worthy cause, your church or a non-profit organization. Your gift will be appreciated and you’ll feel good about being able to help. Plus, you might be able to write off the donation on your taxes the next year.

So before you go out and blow all of your refund, give some thought to putting it to good use. Consider using part of it for something fun now, then take the rest to invest in your future or the future of others.

Back on WFMJ-TV: Byler Offers Tax Tips

Posted by Admin Posted on Mar 01 2019

Our Gene Byler was recently invited back to WFMJ-TV's Midday News to discuss some individual and business tax tips, based on the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The tax law is considered to be the largest tax overhaul in 30 years.

To watch the video, click here.

Byler appears on WFMJ-TV to discuss Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

Posted by Admin Posted on Dec 22 2018

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which is considered to be the largest tax overhaul in 30 years, will have a significant effect on income tax returns next year.

There are many tax law changes comng that will impact both businesses and individuals. Our Gene Byler recently discussed several of the most impactful during an interview with Jennifer Brindisi on WFMJ-TV's Midday news show. 

To watch the video, click here.


Small town CPA firm offers big-time expertise

Posted by Gene Byler Posted on Dec 22 2018

Running a household or a business isn’t easy. There are many day-to-day decisions to be made, and tasks to get accomplished to ensure that things run smoothly. Sometimes, these things can’t be done well without a little help.

We don’t cook dinner, repair cars or provide healthcare for our individual and business clients, but they do rely on our expertise to ensure that their finances are in order. The service we provide to our clients allows them to do what they do best – be hands-on with their families or customers without worrying about the complicated world of finance.

Personal service

Recently, I’ve had a few conversations with clients about why a business or individual would choose to hire a CPA from smaller firm, rather than a larger regional or national firm. The reason they gave was that they liked the fact that our principals (owners) work so closely on their account, instead of passing it off to a “junior accountant” whom the client doesn’t even know.

We take the extra time to get to know our clients’ financial situation, as well as our clients personally. We not only value their business, but also their friendship.

More than just math

A couple came into my office with their tax return that they had completed themselves. They needed my advice on how to respond to an Internal Revenue Service correspondence they had received. They walked out with peace of mind that we helped them resolve the issue and commented: “Now I understand why I should have a Certified Public Accountant prepare my ‘simple return.’”

With constantly changing tax laws, complex business arrangements and complicated home situations, there’s no such thing as a ‘simple tax return’ anymore. Doing taxes is about more than doing correct math. It’s about having the most updated tax law knowledge and helping families and businesses pay the least legal amount of income taxes possible so they’ll be in the best financial shape as they can.

Our accountants continually attend training sessions to increase their knowledge in order to be advocates for our clients when they need us. We can’t properly service our clients without that knowledge.

Business accounting

We act as a controller for a lot of entrepreneurs that do an excellent job at their vocation, but lack the time and or energy to deal with the administrative functions associated with running their business. We have the expertise, including a certified QuickBooks consultant and staff knowledgeable in the application and use of SAGE and DAK Easy software to assist in the accounting function. We assist companies with one employee to as many as 50 or more employees with payroll preparation and related regulatory filing requirements.

Our tax and business clients aren’t just located in Ohio. We are knowledgeable about laws in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Our firm also frequently files tax returns for clients in most of the 50 states. We have even filed international tax returns or tax forms for individuals with international holding and investments.

Any individuals or business owners needing assistance with taxes or other financial services can contact BWLK’s Salem office at 330-332-4646 or East Liverpool office at 330-385-2160.

Ohio’s online resources help nonprofit board members meet responsibilities

Posted by Admin Posted on July 28 2018

Giving back to your community by serving on the board of a non-profit organization is an honor, but one that comes with responsibility.

Board members are accountable for the non-profit's actions and have fiduciary duties to the organization. They are also legally required to be informed, active participants in corporate governance and to act in ways that help further of the nonprofit's charitable mission. 

To help non-profit board members fulfill your duties and protect themselves, the Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section has developed a number of resources.

1. A pre-recorded webinar contains an overview of the legal obligations of board members. This webinar can be viewed anytime and can be found at

2.  The state offers a monthly one-hour live webinar on board governance that explains board members’ fiduciary duties and how to fulfill them. This webinar is at noon on the first Wednesday of each month. Register for the webinar at

3. The Charitable Law Section will provide live training on board governance issues throughout the state if your organization is willing to host a training and invite other charitable organizations to attend. To inquire about hosting a training, send an email to

4. There are numerous publications online. The most popular publications are "Guide for Charity Board Members" and "Avoiding Theft in Your Nonprofit." These and other publications can be found at

5. Board members can subscribe to the Nonprofit Newsletter, an electronic newsletter prepared by the Charitable Law Section at

Dan Wolfe Celebrates End of Tax Season with a Run Around the World - via Epcot

Posted by Admin Posted on May 30 2018

How did our Daniel Wolfe celebrate the end of a hectic tax season? He went to Disney World in Orlando. While he was there, he laced up his sneakers and participated in the Star Wars Dark Side 5K at Epcot. The Force was with him for the 5:30 a.m. race, as were his son Joel Wolfe and daughter Sarah Carr.

“I would be lying if I said I ran the whole thing,” said Wolfe. “And, my time is a secret.”

Dan is a big Disney World fan, as he and his family have visited Mickey Mouse and his friends practically every year since 2002. He and his wife honeymooned there in 1973, and they began taking their young children there in about 1980.

This most recent visit was a great way to let off some steam after a hectic tax season that often involves 60 to 70-hour work weeks from January to April. 

Client: Relationship with BWLK Built on Friendship

Posted by Admin Posted on May 26 2018

There’s an old adage that advises that it’s not ideal to mix business with pleasure.

But some businessmen, like Derek Hiscox from Mills Holloway Insurance Agency, value business relationships rooted in professionalism, loyalty and friendship. And in today’s business environment, these types of partnerships are few and far between.

“When you work with someone for 32 years, it becomes much more than just a working relationship,” said Derek. “We consider our relationship with Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer to be a friendship on both a professional and personal level. This has been a great long-term partnership.”

Mills Holloway Insurance Agency is an independent insurance agency specializing in automobile, homeowners, recreational vehicles, life and commercial insurances. They have offices in Columbiana and Lisbon with clients in Columbiana and Mahoning counties and western Pennsylvania.

The company was founded in 1956 as Mills Insurance Agency, where Derek started his insurance career in 1982. Derek initially engaged with BWLK (then A.S. Fricano) in 1986 when Gene Byler from the firm began preparing his personal tax returns. Now, more than 30 years later, Byler is responsible for Derek’s personal taxes, partnership taxes and estate perpetuation planning.

In 2015, Byler and the BWLK team assisted Mills Insurance Agency with the sale of the business to Holloway Insurance in Columbiana. The current owners of the business are Sean, Jessica and Denny Holloway.

“We insure many contractors and farmers and have always received great feedback from our clients when referring them to BWLK for their accounting services,” said Derek. “I have always been cautious when referring my clients to other businesses for anything, but I have never hesitated to recommend BWLK to family, friends or clients.

“It gives me peace of mind to have the ability to discuss personal or business financial issues and potential tax concerns with Gene [Byler] and Rick [Lutsch]. We always receive great information and explanations with quick responses.” 

Big tax changes coming for 2018: Find out if you’ll benefit

Posted by Gene Byler Posted on May 01 2018

Now that the 2017 tax season is over for most individuals and businesses, it’s time to turn attention to next year. Especially because the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which is considered to be the largest tax overhaul in 30 years, will have a significant effect on income tax returns next year.

The law will eliminate and change some deductions for the 2018 tax year. That means that when you filed your return just recently, that will be the last time you'll see several deductions on your tax forms, at least until 2025.

Here are a few of the deductions involved that will have the biggest impact on most individuals and businesses:

Standard $6,350 deduction

This might be the biggest piece of good news for you as a taxpayer. The standard deduction will increase starting next tax year. While single taxpayers were only eligible for a $6,350 standard deduction this year, that amount will nearly double in 2018 to $12,000 for individuals.

Married couples will get a standard deduction of $24,000 for 2018, up from $13,000 for 2017. Head of household filers will see a bump in their standard deduction from $9,550 to $18,000 in 2018.

Personal exemptions

Now for a little bad news. You will lose your $4,050 personal and dependency exemptions. These aren’t technically deductions, but these exemptions allow you (taxpayers) to subtract $4,050 from your taxable income for each dependent you claim.

The increase in the child tax credit my help offset this loss of personal exemptions, but it might not help everyone.  

Unlimited state and local tax deductions

Starting in 2018, deductions for state and local taxes – known as SALT deductions – will be capped at $10,000. While this will certainly benefit you if you live in Ohio or Pennsylvania, residents in South Florida, New York and California and other states where people pay high property taxes, will see the biggest boost.

Miscellaneous itemized deductions

Unreimbursed work expenses is just one of several miscellaneous itemized deductions that have been disallowed under the new law. Also gone are the unreimbursed qualified employee education expenses deduction, itemized deductions, include costs related to tax preparation services, investment fees and professional dues.

Deduction for moving expenses

If you relocated for a new job that year, you might have been able to deduct your moving expenses from your 2017 taxes, assuming you met criteria laid out by the IRS. This criteria states you must be moving to a job location at least 50 miles farther from your old house than the distance from your old house to your old job.

However, for 2018, that deduction is eliminated for everyone except armed forces members.

Alimony deduction

In the past, couples had the option to set up alimony agreements to allow the person making payments to deduct that money from their federal taxes. That won't be an option in 2019. The deduction is being eliminated for any divorce commencing after Dec. 31, 2018.

While some of these tax changes could benefit you, it’s clear that some are disappointing. If you think you’ll get the short end of the stick because of these changes, there is a silver lining - many provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will expire in 2025 unless Congress votes to extend them. That means it could just be a matter of time before cost-saving deductions make a comeback.

To find out specifically how these changes (and others), will affect you going forward, speak to your accountant.

Accounting Client Impressed with BWLK Customer Service

Posted by Admin Posted on Jan 31 2018

When it comes to making purchases or hiring a company to complete a job, customers and clients seek quality work at a fair price, done in a reasonable amount of time. But perhaps even more importantly, consumers thirst for excellent customer service, which often seems hard to come by.

Whether it’s struggling to reach a live human when calling tech support or getting a rude response to your concern, good customer service is hard to find these days.

Brad Gilson, owner of Brad’s Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning, knows that the success of his business is built on the level of customer service he provides – especially in emergency situations. So when he needed to hire an accountant to handle his business affairs, he sought out a CPA firm known for its excellent customer service.

“The biggest thing I enjoy about my business is satisfying my customers,” said Gilson, whose company specializes in carpet cleaning, and fire and water restoration. “In my business, I get emergency calls from customers who need immediate attention, and I do my best to deliver results quickly.

“Dan [Wolfe] has been handling the accounting for my business for more than 10 years, and he does a fantastic job of customer service. His availability is above and beyond – I can reach him in the office or on his cell phone anytime I need something. I’ve referred him to anyone who has mentioned needing an accountant.”

Dan takes care of business taxes and consulting for both of Brad’s businesses – carpet restoration and property management. When the latter company was launched, Brad called Dan for advice on how to set it up and hired him to handle the accounting.

“He walked me through everything to make sure nothing got missed,” explained Brad. “I can call him anytime for his opinion before making any business decision. He is a great person and really responsive to any need I have. I couldn’t be happier with his work.”

To learn more about Brad's Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning, click here.

New BWLK office manager ready do some heavy lifting

Posted by Admin Posted on Jan 10 2018

In the gym, Samantha Scott is used to doing the heavy lifting.

Now in her new role as office manager in Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer’s Salem location, she’s preparing to help the firm handle the heavy workload during the upcoming tax season., who competes alongside her husband as a power lifter, joined the team in Salem in November. Her job responsibilities will include assembling completed tax returns, answering incoming calls, filing, setting up new client appointments, applying payments, and assisting the CPAs with anything they need.

“Everyone here has been really friendly and welcoming,” Samantha said. “It’s a little bit different than the legal industry, but there are similarities. I like that I have my own work space where I can do my own thing and get things done.”

Samantha spent the last five years working in a law office in East Palestine. She has a good deal of experience in the service industry, also spending time in the insurance business. She was born and raised in East Palestine and is a graduate of Crestview High School.

After high school, she attended the University of Akron for a year, then transferred to Kent State Salem for a year. She still wasn’t sure what career field interested her, so she took time off from college to work. Ultimately, she decided to use the working world as her classroom.

One of her job stops was at a tanning salon, which proved to do more than provide a paycheck. While she was there, she met her future husband, who had moved from California to work as a personal trainer at the gym next door. Three years later, they are married and traveling the country competing in power lifting events.

“I met my husband at the gym,” said Samantha. “His dad was originally from Beaver Falls and lives in East Palestine, so that’s how he ended up back here. Power lifting keeps us pretty busy, and we really enjoy it.”

While they’ve competed at events all over the country, they’ve recently narrowed their focus to a special event that is about more than being the strongest or taking home the biggest trophy. Twice a year, they lift in an event called Relentless. These meets serve as fundraisers for children who are terminally ill. Funds raised from the competitions are donated to HopeKids, a non-profit organization founded in 2001.

As members of “Team Hope,” lifters are introduced to a HopeKids children and their families who they will be raising money and lifting in honor of. They are invited to the private Relentless Kickoff Events in Minnesota and Detroit where they will be introduced to their HopeKid honoree and their family.

Competitors are encouraged to stay in contact with their HopeKids family as they focus on training and fundraising. The lifters’ strength will inspire the HopeKid, and hopefully the HopeKids’ strength will inspire the lifter to press on in training and fundraising.

“It means so much more than competing for some trophy that will just sit on a shelf collecting dust,” said Samantha, who dresses up as the Elsa from the movie “Frozen” during the events to make it fun for the HopeKids who attend. “It’s for a great cause.”

Tax Law Changes Will Affect Most Individuals, Businesses

Posted by Gene Byler Posted on Jan 10 2018

When it comes to the federal tax code, about the only thing most individuals and business owners understand is that everyone has to pay taxes. The questions about how much, how often and when, are complicated issues that accountants can help resolve.

Thanks to the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, arguably the most significant change to the Internal Revenue Code in decades, the tax code just became a little more simplified for individuals and corporations. The law reduces tax rates for individuals and corporations and repeals many deductions until at least 2025. The changes take effect after December 31, 2017.

The changes include cuts and benefits for both individuals and corporations. Here are a few highlights of the significant changes affecting both individuals and corporations.

Individual Income Tax Changes

  • Maintains the same number of tax brackets, but reduces the tax rate for the top bracket from 39.6% to 37%. In addition, the Act adjusts the taxable income ranges for the tax brackets in a manner that reduces the effective tax rate for most taxpayers.
  • Provides a 20% deduction for qualified business income, which is generally income from a partnership, sole proprietorship, S corporation, as well as certain non-capital gain REIT dividends or publicly traded partnership income. Business that provide services in certain fields such as health, law, consulting, financial services and brokerage services are excluded from this preferential treatment.
  • Approximately doubles the standard deduction (for those that do not itemize deductions).
  • Suspends personal exemption deductions (currently, $4,050 each for taxpayer, spouse, and any dependents).
  • Increases the child tax credit to $2,000 (refundable up to $1,400), and provides for a $500 nonrefundable credit for the care of qualifying dependents other than children (for example, parents). 


Business Tax Changes 

  • Reduces the corporate tax rate to a flat 21%.
  • Repeals the corporate alternative minimum tax.
  • Allows corporations to expense fully and immediately 100% of the cost of qualified property acquired and placed in service after September 2017 and before January 1, 2023.
  • Increases the Section 179 expense amount from $500,000 to $1 million and the phase-out amount from $2 million to $2.5 million.
  • Disallows deduction for net interest expense in excess of 30% of the business’s adjusted taxable income (a comparable rule would apply to partnerships).  Disallowed losses are carried forward.
  • Provides that tax-free like-kind exchanges will only be available for real property.
  • Creates a 21% excise tax for tax-exempt organizations on the payment of compensation in excess of $1 million (as well as certain parachute payments) if paid to one of the five highest paid employees.
  • Repeals the deduction for entertainment expenses.


To learn specifically how the new tax law will affect your future personal or business taxes, contact a CPA at BWLK’s Salem office (330-332-4646) or East Liverpool location (330-385-2160). 

Catch BWLK’s commercial at Salem Twin Cinema

Posted by Admin Posted on Dec 11 2017

BWLK has hit the big screen!

To increase the firm’s visibility and support Salem’s local movie theater, BWLK recently agreed to participate in an advertising program coordinated by a company called Before the Movie. Twin Cinema on State Street recently began showing BWLK’s commercial on the big screen prior to movie presentations.

“We have always felt that supporting local businesses is very important,” said Rick Lutsch, one of the firm’s principals and coordinator of the commercial project. 

“It was a creative and unique way to communicate with prospective clients and showcase the capabilities of our firm.”

The commercial is 15 seconds in length and features information about the firm, as well as several photos recently taken as part of BWLK’s website upgrade.

Salem Twin Cinema has been a part of the Salem community since it opened under its original owner in 1972. Previously owned by Geoff and Kim Goll of Salem, it was sold in 2014 to Jock and Natalee Buta. 

The theater was then completely remodeled and upgraded to use digital projectors allowing 3-D movies, surround sound audio equipment, and deluxe seating featuring both reclining and vibrating seats.

You can watch BWLK’s commercial here

BWLK Principal Dan Wolfe Participates in Tax Reform Roundtable

Posted by Admin Posted on Nov 22 2017 reform is complicated. But when you get a group of tax accountants all in one room, the topic seems a little more simplified.

Recently, the Youngstown Business Journal invited some of the Mahoning Valley’s best and brightest tax accountants to participate in a roundtable discussion about the complexities of the state and federal tax codes. 

Our Daniel Wolfe was among those offering his viewpoints. Comments from Dan and the other accountants were featured in the Business Journal’s print and online editions. 

Dan was also featured in the newspaper’s ‘3 Minutes With’ video, which can be viewed here.

Website upgrade highlights firm’s history and focus on customer experience

Posted by Admin Posted on Oct 21 2017 its long history, Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer, CPAs has always been willing to change when needed. Whether it was expanding the firm’s tax and business services to better accommodate clients’ needs or adding more staff or locations to serve more business communities, BWLK has maintained an eye toward progress.

Changes in technology

In the past decade, the changes in technology have been incredible across all industries. From cell phones and other mobile devices to the Internet and wireless connections, technology has transformed the way the world does business. Clients and customers have more access to goods and services than ever before. Indeed, it’s possible to get virtually everything one needs to survive – goods, services, information - without even leaving the house.

Recognizing these changes, BWLK has embraced the use of technology to better serve its clients. While we certainly value the good old-fashioned handshake and face-to-face meetings and communication, we also understand that technology has its benefits. These include speed and convenience of business transactions, improved customer service and increased access to information.

Improving your online experience

In 2009, BWLK launched its first website to provide current and prospective clients access to tools and information that would benefit them. Three years later, in 2012, a major website upgrade was completed to further improve clients’ online experience.

We added a news blog and email newsletter in 2015 to better communicate with our client base, prospective clients and the communities we serve. Much of the news in these communications are housed on our website.

Check out the new

Recently, we upgraded our website again, and we think you’ll like what you see. Some of the changes are easy to notice, while others are more subtle. Here’s what website visitors will notice:

Home page feature photos: We’ve replaced the old “generic” photos of strangers with new professional photographs of our own staff and facilities from both the Salem and East Liverpool offices. We feel this better aligns with the local and personal service we provide to our clients.

About Us page staff bios: We’ve updated the information in our staff bios, including adding a few new ones. We believe it’s important for you to get to know us, as we learn about your business and how we can provide solutions for your needs. We added photos to our bios so you can put a face with a name or voice as you work with us.

Firm History page: Just as you are proud of your company’s history, we feel the same way about ours. In order to share that history and experience with you, we created a new History page on our website. It can be accessed under the About Us menu. We had fun looking back to where we’ve been, what we’ve accomplished and we thank our loyal clients for allowing us to serve them for so many years.

We hope you like the improvements we’ve made to our website as we strive to improve our clients’ experience in as many ways possible – both online and offline. Through it all, our goal remains the same as its always been: To help clients maintain financial viability in the present while taking a proactive approach to achieve future goals.

We invite you to explore our new and improved website, and give us a call to discuss how we can support your business. You might be surprised at all our services that could help your business.

Five Questions With ... Alfred Fricano

Posted by Admin Posted on Mar 27 2017

Q. When and why did you decide to go into accounting?

My dad was in the grocery business, next to our home, so I was always around a business. However, when I graduated from high school, I went to school for engineering, which I discovered wasn’t for me.

At age 21, I went into the candy tobacco wholesale business. I had about $80,000 of my dad’s money in salable inventory in 1957. I really didn’t know if I was making a profit or loss, so I went to the local business college to take bookkeeping to find out. Shazam, I had never heard of accounting, so a whole new world opened up for me.

Business was not that profitable. I sold the inventory, paid my dad, went to Youngstown State University to major in accounting and minor in economics. After graduation, I went to work for Arthur Anderson, and found out that I hated auditing.

I then went to work for the IRS auditing tax returns. After 4 ½ years, I recognized the fact that there was a need to help small businesses with their tax compliance. So, I became a CPA and purchased a small tax practice.

Q. What qualities make a good accountant?

It is a given that if you are a CPA, you understand accounting. However, understanding business is different, and knowing how the IRS works gives you insight into complex areas of tax law. This equips you to be able to help clients make tax-saving and sound business decisions. Sometimes, you have to look past the numbers to make a good decision. You need to listen to what is troubling your clients, and be responsive quickly after they call you for help.

Q. What areas of the business do you focus on?

My main focus is on tax planning, tax consulting, tax preparation of individual, corporate trusts and partnership LLC. As a Certified Business Valuation Analyst, I also perform business valuation consulting in business transitioning and estate planning.

Q. What has been the greatest moment in your career?

I can’t recall any greatest moment in my career. I just feel blessed that I am doing what I am doing and able to provide beneficial services to my clients.

Q. What do you do outside the office for fun?

I like to work in my yard growing flowers, golf trap shooting and dancing.



You’ve Being Audited: Now What?

Posted by Daniel Wolfe Posted on Feb 27 2017

By Daniel Wolfe you’ve already mailed this year’s tax return and are looking forward to using that large tax refund check to book a nice vacation this summer. You’re watching the mailbox every day with great expectations. Then, the bad news hits.

What you thought was a nice big check is instead a letter from the IRS that you’re being audited. Yes, you’re among the 1 percent they’ve chosen to investigate. Better put that trip on hold – for now.

What is an IRS audit?

An IRS audit is a review/examination of an organization's or individual's accounts and financial information to ensure information is reported correctly according to the tax laws and to verify the reported amount of tax is correct.

The more money you make, the bigger the chance is that you’ll get audited. But mostly, the IRS is looking for certain “red flags” on your tax return. For example:

- You made $80,000, but donated $40,000 to charity

-  You wrote off 100% of your vehicle as a business expense

- Large losses appear on your return

- Data submitted to the IRS does not correspond or does not appear on the return you submitted

Regardless of the reason, many fear receiving that IRS audit letter. Will you have to pay back thousands of dollars in taxes? Will you have to pay interest and penalties? Will they audit your past tax returns? Are you going to jail?

Don’t panic. You can get through this by taking a few important steps:

Figure Out What the IRS Wants

A letter from the IRS doesn’t always mean you are being audited. Sometimes the agency is just looking for more information or clarification. You need to determine what part of your tax return is being audited – often, IRS auditors have questions on a portion of the return, not all of it.

Find Your Documentation

Now you know what the IRS is looking for. The next step is to build your case by collecting your documentation. Find as much information as you can.

If you haven’t kept much, you might need to reach out to third parties like your bank, financial planner, the charities you’ve donated to, etc., to see if they have anything in their records that could help you.

Get Professional Help

Don’t contact the IRS on your own, or ignore the letter.

You need professional help. To represent you before the IRS, a return preparer must be a CPA, attorney, or an enrolled agent, which refers to an individual who has passed a comprehensive IRS examination. Unless your preparer possesses one of these credentials, you'll need to find someone else to represent you.

If you’re looking for some guidance on how to respond to an IRS audit letter, call Dan at 330-385-2160 or email him at

Part 4: Combining the Benefits of the LLC and the S Corporation

Posted by Alfred Fricano Posted on Jan 31 2017

By Alfred Fricano

In the fourth and final part of this blog series, we’ll explore the benefits of organizing your new business by combining the features of an LLC and an S corporation. are certainly benefits of establishing your business as an LLC, but then electing to have it treated as an S corporation by the IRS for tax purposes.

Potential benefits

To accomplish this, you'll have to make the special election with the IRS using Form 2553. It's no more difficult than setting up a corporation and then electing S corporation status. But it may have some added benefits, like:

  • From a legal standpoint, your enterprise will be an LLC rather than a corporation. Therefore, you will have the benefit of ease of administration - fewer filings, fewer forms, fewer start-up costs, fewer formal meetings and record keeping requirements.
  • From a tax perspective, your enterprise will be treated as an S corporation. You'll still have the pass-through of income, avoiding double taxation, same as if your LLC was treated as a proprietorship or partnership.
  • Without the administrative hassles of actually being a corporation, you will still benefit from the IRS treating your business as one. To the IRS, your business will exist separate and independent from you, its owner. Therefore, the business entity can pay wages and salaries to you or to other owners. This amount will be subject to FICA tax and other withholding requirements. But then, it can distribute the remaining net earnings to you and the other owners as passive dividend income, not subject to SECA tax.
  • Being treated as an S corporation may provide opportunities for tax planning to minimize the overall tax liability for your business and you as an individual. It may allow your business to take advantage of better tax treatment for certain fringe benefits, too.

Consider the pros and cons

Obviously, you need to carefully consider the pros and cons of different forms of business organization. Be sure to consider how all the aspects - legal, tax and operational - of each organizational form will impact your unique business enterprise.

Setting up an LLC and then electing treatment as an S corporation may just give you the best of both worlds - the ease of administration of the LLC and the tax planning opportunities of the S corporation.

Seeking professional advice from a CPA or tax attorney is always a wise practice when making choices like this that can affect your business for many years to come.

New Partnership Audit Rules Expected to Increase IRS Audits

Posted by Gene Byler Posted on Jan 28 2017

By Gene Byler

As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), I am required to take continuing education requirements to keep up to date on the newest financial accounting and tax laws. State and federal laws and policies sometimes change often, and to best serve and protect our clients, we must stay current. that end, I attended a two-day Ohio Society of CPAs conference in Cleveland. One of the updates I received was related to the new partnership audit rules that became law in November 2015. This is the biggest change affecting partnership taxation since the creation of the Limited Liability Company (LLC).

About the new partnership audit laws

Under prior audit rules, the IRS dealt with each individual partner in the partnership or LLC, which made the task difficult. So difficult that the IRS rarely conducted audits. However with the new law change, the IRS, in most cases, may assess any additional tax or its related penalties and interest against the partnership as a whole, thus eliminating the need to assess each partner.

Since this assessment will be made against the partnership in the year that the audit is concluded, and payment will be made from the partnership assets in that year, the assessment will be the responsibility of the partners in the year the audit is concluded. That’s instead of to those who were partners in the year under audit.

Any income difference will be taxed at the highest individual tax rate (currently 39.6%).  Although there are opt-out rules, there is no best solution.

This legislation also introduces the new role of “Partnership Representative” who will act on behalf of the partnership (and therefore the partners) when dealing with the IRS. This authority includes the ability to bind the partnership and the partners in audits and other proceedings, including settlement authority and decisions on procedural issues such as whether to proceed to litigation. These powers are significantly broader than the old Tax Matter Partner (TMP).

How it could affect partnership agreements

All these changes create significant issues that may require amendments to an LLC’s operating agreement. These modifications could include:

  • Opting out of the new rules
  • Partnership representative
  • Buy/sell issues
  • Allocation of tax responsibility
  • Restrictions on transfers


Consider a proactive response

These new rules are complex and are still evolving. A discussion with your tax adviser would help you make the best decisions for your partnership on how to best address them. It’s a matter of when, not if, that we will see a significant increase in partnership audits by the IRS. Your business could be next, and we can help you be proactive before it happens.

Byler Discusses New Overtime Rules in Youngstown Business Journal

Posted by Admin Posted on Nov 26 2016

Gene Byler was quoted in a recent Youngstown Business Journal news story about the new overtime laws that the U.S. Department of Labor are implementing starting Dec. 1.

In the article, Byler said "managers of fast-food restaurants and department managers at retail stores paid less than $913 a week are the two groups that often work beyond 40 hours and aren’t paid for the extra hours they put in."

He noted that "maybe we’ll see more part-time workers hired.” He suggests that "it’s more likely part-time employees will see their hours increased and more duties reassigned to them."

Read the entire story here.

Five Questions With… Laurie Chaffee

Posted by Admin Posted on Nov 05 2016

What qualities make a good accountant?

I think attention to detail and the ability to communicate with clients, among other things, make for a good accountant. Sometimes, this requires translating technical accounting information or tax issues into terms that can be understood by someone not trained in our field. Being able to bridge that gap helps us give the client the best possible service. areas of the business do you focus on?

My responsibilities include a little bit (or a lot, during busy season) of everything from individual taxes, to corporation taxes, as well as accounting and QuickBooks consulting. 

When and why did you decide to go into accounting?

When I started college at Youngstown State (graduated summa cum laude), I wasn’t sure what major I wanted to pursue. However, after taking some business courses I found myself becoming interested in accounting. The rest is history.


What was the greatest moment in your career?

Passing the CPA exam! The exam, which is given in 4 sections, is considered to be one of the most difficult professional license tests to pass. According to the AICPA, the passage rates for each section so far in 2016 are: Auditing & Attestation – 46.4%, Business Environment & Concepts – 56.6%, Financial Accounting & Reporting – 46.4% and Regulation – 49.4%.)

What do you do outside the office for fun?

In my spare time, I like to spend time with family, enjoy the outdoors and travel. I’ve also served in the community as treasurer of both the Salem Rotary and Salem YMCA, and on the board of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce.

(Laurie Chaffee is a Certified Public Accountant and works in BWLK’s Salem office. She celebrated her 25th anniversary at the firm in 2015. To reach her with accounting related questions or schedule an appointment, call 330-332-4646.)

Choosing to Organize Your Business as an LLC or S Corp: Part 3

Posted by Alfred Fricano Posted on Nov 05 2016

By Alfred Fricano

Congrats! You’ve started your own business. With any new venture there is usually mountains of paperwork and important business decisions that need to be made. four-part blog series is focused on one of those decisions: choosing to organize as an LLC, an S Corp or a combination of both. Each has its advantages and pitfalls. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 you can read them here.

In Part 3, we discuss the pros and cons of operating as an S Corp, including what an S Corp is, its most important features and the benefits of being one.

What is an S Corp?

An S Corporation is a corporation formed by complying with state incorporation statutes that then elects (by submitting Form 2553 to the IRS) to pass corporate income, losses, deductions and credits through to its owners (shareholders) for federal tax purposes.

S corporation owners report the income and losses on their personal tax returns and are assessed tax at their individual income tax rates. Thus, S corporations avoid double taxation on the corporate income.

Limitations on S Corps

Certain limitations are placed on a corporation that seeks treatment as an S corporation. But if these limits don't interfere with your business plans, the S corporation may be a good choice for you. The main S corporation limitations include:

• It must be a U.S. corporation.

• It must have no more than 100 shareholders. However, all members of a family are counted as a single shareholder. Spouses are also counted as a single shareholder.

• Its shareholders can only be individuals, certain trusts, and estates - they may not be partnerships, corporations or non-resident aliens.

• It can have only one class of stock. But, it can have voting and non-voting stock within that single class of stock.

• Certain financial institutions, insurance companies, and domestic international sales corporations are ineligible.

Advantages of S Corps

A key benefit of the S corporation is its ability to minimize overall tax liability for you and your business. Because of its nature as a corporation, only the wages paid to its owner/employees are earned income that is subject to FICA tax (Social Security and Medicare).

Other net earnings that pass-through to the owners are considered dividend income. This means those payments not subject to SECA tax and — provided the shareholder material participates in the business — they are not considered passive income. Thus, an S corporation can do some tax planning that cannot be accomplished in a typical LLC.

How much should you pay yourself?

The ability to split income between compensation and dividends became even more important in 2013 when two new Medicare taxes were imposed on higher-income taxpayers. One was a 0.9 percent surtax on all compensation over $200,000 ($250,000 for married filing jointly).

The other was a new 3.8 percent tax on investment (passive) income if the taxpayer's modified adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 for married filing jointly). Thus, the ability to split income can aid in reducing exposure to these new taxes.

Of course, the compensation that you pay yourself must be reasonable not too low or too high -if you want the arrangement to stand up to IRS scrutiny.

Reasonable compensation turns on many factors, but can be summed up by a "yes" answer to the question: "Is the compensation what would be expected for an individual with the background and qualifications in other companies of this size in this industry? 

More features of S Corps

In summary, the most important features of the S corporation include:

• Limited liability for owners

• Pass-through of income to owners, avoiding double taxation

• The business exists independent and separate from the owner/shareholders

• Complex administrative operation - more forms and filings required, more formal meetings and record keeping requirements imposed (bylaws, meeting minutes, written resolutions, etc.)

• Profit-sharing restrictions - earnings distributed proportionate to capital contributions of shareholders

• Flexibility in distributing earnings of the corporation by paying wages and salaries to owner/employees and passing-through other net earnings as passive income to owners

Hire a professional accountant

When starting a business, deciding to organize as an S Corp or LLC can have a major impact on your tax responsibilities and liability. It’s not a decision to attempt to make on your own or take lightly. Seeking the counsel of a professional tax accountant can save you money and legal trouble down the road.

In Part 4 of this series, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of organizing in a way that takes the benefits of both an LLC and an S Corporation. 

Choosing to Organize Your Business as an LLC or S Corp: Part 2

Posted by Alfred Fricano Posted on Sept 01 2016

By Alfred Fricano

You’ve taken the leap and started your own business. You might already have a business name, a product line or list of services and office supplies. But before you put out the “Open” sign, you need to take care of one of the most important things: the paperwork. to organize your enterprise as an LLC, an S Corp, or a combination of the two will have legal and tax implications. In Part 2 of this four-part blog series, we’ll look at the pros and cons of becoming an LLC.

LLC Offers Limited Liability and Flexibility

An LLC, or a Limited Liability Company, is a business structure authorized by state statutes. It is a structure designed to provide the limited liability features of a corporation along with the tax efficiencies and operational flexibility of a sole-proprietorship or a general partnership.

As a pass-through entity (unless it chooses tax treatment as a corporation), all of an LLC's profits and losses pass through the LLC to its owner(s), known as member(s). As with a proprietorship or partnership, each individual member reports the profits and losses on his or her federal tax return. This avoids the double taxation to which a regular corporation and its owners are subjected.

However, the LLC still provides a limit on the personal liability of its member(s) in much the same way a corporation does. Typically, a member's personal liability is limited to his or her investment in the LLC.

This feature distinguishes the LLC from a sole proprietorship or general partnership, in which each owner is subject to liability for all of the debts of the business.

Features of an LLC

The features of an LLC may make it an excellent choice of structure for your new business enterprise. The following summarizes the most significant features of the LLC:

Serves as a pass-through of income to owners, avoiding double taxation (unless corporate treatment is elected)

Ease of operation - fewer filings, forms, start-up costs, formal meetings and record keeping requirements

Fewer profit-sharing restrictions - earnings distributed as members see fit; not based on percentage of capital contributions

Entire net earnings of LLC passes through to owners in the form of self-employment income subject to 15.3 percent SECA tax (self-employment tax for Social Security and Medicare). 

Tax Classification for LLCs

The IRS does not recognize the LLC as a taxpayer classification for federal tax purposes. Federal tax treatment is separate and distinct from the limited liability provided to members under state law. Whether an LLC is treated for federal tax purposes as a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation, the members are still shielded from liability.

For tax purposes, by default, an LLC with one member is treated as a sole proprietorship. By default, LLCs with more than one member are treated as partnerships. However, an LLC can elect to be treated as an association taxable as a corporation by filing Form 8832, Entity Classification Election.

Once it has elected to be taxed as a corporation, an LLC can file a Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation, to elect tax treatment as an S corporation.

If you’re starting a new business or are interested in more information about how your business can benefit from forming an LLC, contact our office.

In Part 3 of this series, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of organizing as an S Corporation.

Five Questions With ... Stacey Smith

Posted by Admin Posted on Aug 01 2016

What qualities make a good accountant? 

I didn’t really decide to go into accounting. I first applied at BWLK for a secretarial position and found that I enjoyed accounting and have an aptitude for it. I’ve moved up through the company over the past nearly 16 years, and am a Registered Tax Return Preparer. areas of the business do you focus on?

I’m active in many areas of the business, including client payroll preparation and compliance, individual and business tax return preparation and review, accounting and workpaper completion, and various general office duties as needed.

When and why did you decide to go into accounting?

I didn’t really decide to go into accounting. I first applied at BWLK for a secretarial position and found that I enjoyed accounting and have an aptitude for it. I’ve moved up through the company over the past nearly 16 years, and am a Registered Tax Return Preparer.

What was the greatest moment in your career?

Passing the Registered Tax Return Preparer test was very exciting for me. It was the culmination of everything I’d studied up to that point.

What do you do outside the office for fun?

I spend time with my boyfriend and my children, Lillian (age 11) and Liam (9). I enjoy music, board games, crocheting, and minor league baseball games.

Blog series: Should your new business be an LLC, S Corp or both?

Posted by Alfred Fricano Posted on July 23 2016

By Alfred Fricano

So, you’re ready to leave the safety and security of your office cubicle and blaze a new trail into entrepreneurship? You have a wonderful vision for a unique new service or special product and are ready to start a small business – congratulations! need a business plan

Your passion and vision are a good starting point. Now what you need is a business plan. That’s where things can get complicated. You’re not just a freelancer – you’re a living, breathing business enterprise. How you choose to organize your business will have consequences - legal, liability and tax-related.

This blog will be the first in a four-part series that will help you determine which type of company your new venture should be. Specifically, you’ll learn about the differences between a Limited Liability Company (LLC) and an S Corporation. Each has benefits and shortcomings, which we will discuss. In some cases, your business could have the best of both worlds – we’ll explain how.

The goal of this blog series is to start the conversation by giving you a basic understanding of the options, and offer our assistance in helping you choose the one that’s best for your business.

LLC, S Corp or both?

Business owners, and even attorneys and accountants, can get bogged down in the debate over which is best - the LLC or the S corporation. But it's not necessarily an either/or proposition.

Rather, you can set up an LLC and later elect to have the LLC treated as an S corporation. If your LLC operates an active trade or business, and payroll taxes on the owner or owners are high, you may find that an S corporation is the best choice.

Both organizational forms share the characteristic of "passing-through" their income to the owner(s). Both also provide their owner(s) limited liability protection. But each has some distinguishing features, too. You, as a new business owner, will want to consider the differences as you choose the form for your enterprise.

A few of the main differences include:

·         An LLC is easier to operate and administer.

·         An LLC offers more flexibility in allocating percentage of profits or losses among the owners.

·         Compared to a typical LLC, an S corporation offers more flexibility in paying its earnings to owners as either earned income in the form of salaries and wages or as distributions.

·         An S corporation is easier to deal with for various tax planning purposes.

Before choosing one of these options - or a combination of the two – you should determine which features are most important to you and your business. We’ll help you do that.

Next time: Part 2

In Part 2 next time, we’ll discuss the benefits of an LLC, how it’s structured and things to consider when deciding whether to organize your business in this manner.

Strategies for Responding to the New Overtime Rules

Posted by Gene Byler Posted on July 09 2016

By Gene Byler

If you’re a business owner, chances are you are well aware of the legislation that will change how employers pay workers for overtime, effective December 1. bad news is that your business will probably be affected at some point. The good news is that you have until Dec. 1 to develop a plan that allows your business to meet the new requirements while minimizing the negative financial impact to your bottom line.

New law basics

Let’s take a look at the legislation.

The last major change in the law regarding overtime pay was made in 2004. So you’ve been operating under those old rules for 12 years, unless your company hasn’t been around that long. The new regulations increase the salary threshold needed to qualify for overtime exemption from $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week ($47,476 per year.) and affect 4.2 million workers.

The new law also automatically updates the salary threshold every three years, based on wage growth over time, increasing predictability.

Any business that employs workers with salaries under the new threshold should consider their best course of action or face paying thousands in higher wages. Your company could also be subject to employee lawsuits for failure to comply with the rules. Your business is NOT exempt, no matter how big or small it is.

These regulations may be in response to several recent lawsuits filed by mangers and assistant managers in recent years. Workers at Chipotle, Dollar General, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo have filed lawsuits claiming their overtime hours are not being compensated appropriately. In many cases, the duties of hourly employees are being done by salaried personnel since they don’t get paid the overtime.

What can you do?

There is no one-size-fits-all way for businesses to prepare for the new overtime rules. Employers have a variety of choices, such as:

  • Raise your managers’ salaries to keep them exempt
  • Make no changes and simply pay out the overtime to the affected employees
  • Keep non-exempt salaried workers under 40 hours per week
  • Hire additional workers without benefits to cover the overtime previously worked by those managers.

Business owners need to start planning now in order to determine which response is best suited for their business. That process is best navigated with the assistance of an employment attorney and a professional accounting firm.

An accounting firm can assist you in determining which employees are likely to be affected, help with tracking non-exempt employees’ hours, help you update record keeping procedures, and advise on how to clearly communicate changes to policies and procedures to employees.

If you need help developing a plan to ensure that your business will comply with the new overtime rules, contact a CPA in our Salem or East Liverpool office.

4 Ways to Protect Yourself Against Tax Identity Theft

Posted by Alfred Fricano Posted on Feb 29 2016

By Alfred Fricano

If you’ve ever had your wallet stolen or discovered that someone has hacked into your personal information online, you understand how time-consuming and annoying identity theft can be. your credit cards, putting a hold on any outstanding checks, getting a new Social Security card and jumping through hoops to get the money back that someone spent on your behalf isn’t fun.

While identity theft is a threat year-round, tax-related identity theft is a growing problem this time of year.

What is tax-related identity theft?

Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen Social Security number to file a tax return claiming a fraudulent refund. You may be unaware that this has happened until you file your return and discover that a return has already been filed using your SSN. Or, the IRS may send you a letter saying it has identified a suspicious return using our SSN.

You’d think that if someone was going to put forth so much effort to steal your tax identity that they’d at least have the courtesy to pay your tax bill, right?

Instead, they have eyes for your big tax refund check. Yes, the one you’re counting on to pay for this year’s family vacation or as a nice down payment on a new car.

Protect yourself

Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can prevent the crooks from swiping your money – and identity. Not only will these save you money, but they will also save you months and months of phone calls and headaches while trying to straighten out the mess.

1. Don’t let the IRS owe you a big refund. A big chunk of change each spring sounds great. But why wait to have access to that money? You can reduce the withholdings from your work paychecks so that instead of waiting around for a big check later (the crooks are waiting on it, too), you can have that money now. If you’re not used to that “extra” cash, sock it away in a savings account and pay yourself later.

2. Secure important documents. Store your important papers, like Social Security cards, in a safe and secure location, and don’t discard any documents with your SSN on them. Copies of tax returns should be kept in a locked file cabinet or safe.

Also, resist giving businesses your SSN or other personal information just because they ask for it. Often, it is not required, and giving out this information is risky. 

3. Protect online information. You should protect personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam or anti-virus software, updating security patches, and regularly changing passwords for Internet accounts with sensitive information, such as online banking sites. Do not make passwords simple enough to guess, like your address, birthday, wedding anniversary, etc.

4. Hire a professional accountant. The IRS is continually looking for better ways to protect taxpayers against tax identity theft. Unfortunately, there are still some who fall for email phishing scams and bogus websites, which attempt to steal their information. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are highly trained in tax preparation and have direct access to many important resources through the IRS that can help educate clients about avoiding and dealing with identity theft.

Alfred Fricano can be reached at 330.385.2160.

Posted by Admin Posted on Feb 29 2016

CPA vs. Tax Shop: You Better Choose Wisely

Posted by Daniel Wolfe Posted on Feb 27 2016

By Daniel Wolfe

The thought of receiving your tax refund check as fast as you can say “1040” sounds pretty enticing. The faster you get the cash, the sooner you can purchase that new smart TV or book this year’s trip to the beach.

This time of year, “tax shops” lure taxpayers with promises of “guaranteed maximum refunds,” $50 gift cards, and accurate results. All this, for the cheapest tax prep fees out there.

But, just like in life, you often get what you pay for. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And, when it comes to messing with the IRS, you can’t afford to cut costs or corners just so you can walk out the tax shop door with a check in your hand.

In order to protect yourself, consider hiring a professional accountant to prepare your return. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) specialize in business and personal tax preparation, along with other financial services.

Why Choose a CPA?

Here are 3 important reasons to choose a CPA over a tax shop this tax season:

1. Education. CPAs are highly educated. In order to be a CPA, you must have 150 credit hours of college education, equivalent to 5 years of college, have worked in the industry for at least 2 years and pass a very stringent exam (only about 25% of those taking the exam pass it for each time the exam is given). CPAs are required to have annual continuing education courses in order to maintain their licenses.

2. More than just taxes. Having a CPA prepare your tax return establishes a relationship with someone who will be your adviser on other financial matters. CPAs have comprehensive knowledge of financial affairs and can assist in dealings with the bank, mortgage company and business decisions.

3. Protect you against IRS. CPAs are one of three classes of professionals that can represent you in front of the IRS, should you or your business be audited. “Joe” at the tax shop will not be able to protect you against the IRS.

Dan Wolfe is a partner at Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer. He can be reached at 330.385.2160 or

Grand Ford Appreciates Long Time Relationship with BWLK

Posted by Admin Posted on Jan 06 2016

Cars and calculators.

Those are the two things that have captured Bob Martin’s attention the most during his 40-year professional career.

After spending the first two years of his career crunching numbers on his 10-key as an accountant at an accounting firm in northeast Ohio, the Kent State graduate shifted gears to join the family car business at Grand Ford.

Although he still dabbles in accounting by keeping the books at his car dealership in East Liverpool, Ohio, he had enough business sense to leave the most complicated accounting to the professionals at Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer.

Strong Reputation

“They are a reputable firm and we’ve never had a problem,” said Bob, who hired A.S. Fricano & Co. (the predecessor to BWLK) to do the dealership’s taxes more than 40 years ago. “Al [Fricano] was a friend of my father-in-law, who owned the dealership. They’ve always done a great job for us, so we’ve never had a reason to make a change.”

Shortly after Grand Ford retained the CPA firm to complete its annual business tax return, Dan Wolfe took over the account. Throughout the decades of service, Bob has relied on Dan for more than just the annual tax return. And, as an accountant in his early years, he knows quality work when he sees it.

Knowledgeable and Responsive

“Dan is very knowledgeable and does a great job for us,” said Bob, whose dealership will begin its 42nd year of business in 2016. “Through the years, he’s helped us with a variety of important accounting functions. He helped during our change from a C corporation to an S corporation, and he stepped right in to get us through an audit back in 1991.

“Having the support of a local firm like BWLK, and specifically Dan, gives us peace of mind and allows us to focus on running our business and making our customers happy. We know we can count on Dan whenever we need help with something.”

From Wolfe’s point of view, the Grand Ford account is much more than a typical client relationship. In some ways, he’s received just as much knowledge as he’s given.

“I have enjoyed the relationship - both business and personal - that Bob and I have had over the many years.” Said Wolfe. “I feel that I have learned a great deal from Bob about the automotive industry during our connection.

“I consider Bob Martin to be the consummate business professional, and I rank him at the top of the list for business ethics and consideration of his clients.”

About Grand Ford

Grand Ford, Inc. was started in 1974 by Anthony, Dom and Al Ludovici. Robert Martin joined the business in 1975 as the General Manager.

In 1990, there was a change in ownership with Anthony Ludovici and Robert and Linda Martin buying out the other partners. Robert Martin became President and Dealer Principal at that time. 

Grand Ford is the oldest family owned dealership in the tri-state area.

Does Your Non-Profit Need An Audit? Maybe. Maybe Not.

Posted by Richard Lutsch Posted on Jan 03 2016

By Richard Lutsch

One question we frequently hear from our clients is: Does my non-profit need an audit? audit is an official examination of an individual's or organization’s financial statements as a whole, typically by an independent Certified Public Accountant, with the purpose of expressing an opinion on those statements. This process is very thorough and time-consuming, and can sometimes be costly for a non-profit with a limited budget.

Our answer depends on the needs of the organization or the requirements of other third parties. If an organization that funds the nonprofit requires that an audit be performed, then we make that recommendation.

However, sometimes we find that the non-profit doesn’t need an audit, but instead can benefit from a service called “agreed upon procedures.” 

What is an agreed upon procedures engagement?

Simply, this is an agreement made in advance between the nonprofit organization, accountant and sometimes another vested third party, that allows the accountant to review and report upon pre-determined financial areas of concern. The procedures are determined at the onset of the engagement, performed and reported on at the conclusion of the engagement.

For instance, the primary item of concern for most nonprofit organizations is cash. In this scenario, the accountant compares a sampling of checks written against invoices and against the endorsement on the back of the check for accuracy. Perhaps the organization is concerned about the collection and use of restricted funds and related deposits into the bank. 

The purpose of this agreed upon procedures engagement would be to determine whether or not the transactions are being processed and recorded in a proper manner. The accountant performing this service does not provide an opinion, but only reports the results of the tests.

There are several reasons why an organization would choose an agreed upon procedures engagement rather than an audit. It offers a considerable savings over the cost of an audit, is narrower in scope, and generally is more focused on the concerns of the organization. 

Before making any decisions about the review of your non-profit’s financial situation, you should consult an accountant who specializes in this area. You may be surprised to learn what can be done to reduce the risk of loss of your nonprofit organization’s assets.

Five Questions With... Rick Lutsch

Posted by Admin Posted on Nov 27 2015

Q. What qualities make a good accountant? 

A. There are the obvious answers like attention to detail, being able to stay current on the ever-changing accounting rules and tax regulations.  Although these are crucial, I don’t think that is what separates accountants as consultants and service providers.

I believe the best way to provide value is to take a genuine interest in clients’ businesses.  You have to examine the clients’ challenges and attempt to equip them with the tools they need to be successful.  Sometimes, clients are not aware of what they need and what we can do to help.  The task is listening to their problem and providing a suitable solution.  

Q. What areas of the business do you focus on?

A. Everyone in our firm is essentially a general practitioner.  However, we have a large enough staff to be able to have some areas of emphasis.  I oversee our accounting and financial reporting services and the quality control system for issuing financial statements that have been compiled and reviewed.

We also perform what are known in the accounting field as “agreed upon procedures.”  For many organizations, especially some not-for-profits, these serve as “cash audits.”  Although these types of services are not truly “audits” in the technical sense, they can provide what the organization needs without the cost of a complete financial statement audit.     

I also complete many of our not-for-profit clients’ federal form 990s to comply with their IRS requirements. In addition, I oversee and perform the monthly accounting and year-end tax returns for individuals, corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies.   

Q. When and why did you decide to go into accounting?

A. I really just fell into it.  In high school, I took a one-half credit accounting class because I was leaning toward pursuing a college degree in business. A funny thing happened - I was hooked. I liked the way the whole accounting process came together. The rest is history.

Q. What has been the greatest moment in your career?

A. I honestly cannot name a particular moment.  I love the feeling of completing a project for the client and knowing that it was valuable to them.  I also take pride when I have worked with a client for a period of time, and they think enough of what I have done for them to call me “just to bounce a question” or get my opinion on a business decision they are considering.  

Q. What do you do outside the office for fun?

A. I am very involved with a local Boy Scout troop. I enjoy golf, camping and backpacking when in my free time. 

BWLK Launches Social Media Program to Communicate with Clients

Posted by Admin Posted on Oct 21 2015

In business and friendship, communication is critical.

In order to deepen relationships with its clients, prospects and friends, BWLK recently launched a new social media program. The firm created BWLK Facebook and LinkedIn pages and began posting information intended to more regularly engage clients and followers.

Posts will educate and inform followers on accounting and business matters, update them on firm news, and highlight how partners and staff are involved in the communities they live and work in.

You can find BWLK’s Facebook page here. Once you find us, Like our page. You can also follow us on LinkedIn. We encourage you to interact with our content by liking, commenting and sharing it with your friends and followers.

Kensington Well Driller Appreciates Responsiveness, Industry Knowledge

Posted by Admin Posted on Aug 20 2015

The Miller family once enjoyed a strong relationship with its accountant, but service declined when his practice was acquired by a larger firm, George Miller recalls.  

Fortunately for the family’s oil & gas business, the Millers found their way to a new accounting firm, Byler Wolfe Lutsch & Kampfer CPAs, Inc. As a result, they’re back to appreciating responsive accounting service and tax counsel.

“They [BWLK] have a full understanding of the oil and gas industry and how to maximize value from a tax and accounting standpoint,” said George, president of the company, William S. Miller Inc. in Kensington. “When we need them, they’re right on the spot.”

About William S. Miller Inc.

The company was established in 1983 by George’s father, William, primarily as a provider of services to companies that drilled oil and gas wells. Eventually, the company began drilling its own wells, and now manages 120 of them, primarily in Columbiana, Stark and Carroll counties but ranging throughout northeastern Ohio.

Miller’s wells reach the Clinton and shallower formations that have produced natural gas in Ohio for decades. The family is not engaged in larger-scale Utica and Marcellus shale drilling, but they do lease some land to deep-well drillers.

William is still part of the management team, now as chairman. Others include George’s brother Dave, vice president, and their sister Jane Todd, secretary-treasurer. 

BWLK was referred to the Millers by the administrator of their company retirement plan. “He saw how frustrated we were” with the accounting firm serving the Millers and he knew BWLK principal Gene Byler, George said.

Looking ahead

One of the best results of the BWLK relationship so far has been the shift of the company from a C corporation to an S corporation, Miller said. BWLK’s Gene Byler worked with the Millers’ lawyer to execute the transaction, which created tax savings and efficiency.

The change made sense because of the variety of assets and revenue streams in the business, including equipment, oil and gas assets and royalty income, George said.

“The transition put us right where we need to be,” he said.

Although revenue in the oil and gas industry suffers when prices are low, the Millers are accustomed to the ups and down of the business.

Moreover, they continue to benefit from the transition they made years ago from primarily servicing drilling companies to drilling and managing their own wells. In pricing downturns, drilling dries up and so does service work.

“But wells still do generate some income,” George pointed out. “You just tighten down the hatch again. The prices will come back.” 

Salem CPA Marks 25 Years With BWLK

Posted by Admin Posted on Aug 20 2015

A Salem native who wanted to work locally has marked her 25-year anniversary with Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer CPAs, Inc.

Laurie Chaffee, a certified public accountant and manager at the Salem office, reached the milestone this Spring.

“I wanted to stay in the local area,” said Laurie, 48, still a Salem resident. “Over the years I have developed good relationships with many of my clients and in the community. We have a good team in our Salem office, and each of us has specialties.”

Among Laurie’s strengths is work with Intuit QuickBooks accounting software. She does most of the firm’s QuickBooks training and consulting.

Her work also includes tax return preparation, accounting and financial statements and business consulting.

“She’s become an instrumental component for all of our client services, including tax, consulting and financial statement preparation,” said firm principal Rick Lutsch.

Laurie graduated summa cum laude from Youngstown State University in 1990 with a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration. She had amassed real-world experience by that point through her work for a professor who had a tax practice.

The offer from BWLK’s predecessor, A.S. Fricano Inc., enabled her to stay in the Salem area.

“I wanted to work in public accounting, and I lived in Salem, so getting an offer from a firm so close to home was great,” she recalled.

Laurie started as a staff accountant, entering data and preparing simple tax returns and payroll reports. She “learned quickly that the neat and tidy exercises they teach with are nothing like the real-world accounting problems, especially when working with small businesses,” she said. 

As QuickBooks became more popular among small businesses, Laurie was “elected” by her colleagues to bone up on it. Her work as a certified QuickBooks consultant now ranges from helping clients complete a new install to answering a few questions to various levels of service in between.

Over her 25 years, she’s become involved in the community. She is now treasurer of the Salem Rotary, where she’s been a member for 18 years, and has served on the organization’s board.

She has also served on the board of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and was a treasurer of the Salem YMCA.

Asked what BWLK clients like about the firm, she points to its local roots. In addition, “we are willing to tailor our services to meet the needs of each client,” Laurie said. “We do our best to provide quality services while keeping our fees affordable.”

Journey to Retirement Needs a Roadmap

Posted by Daniel Wolfe Posted on Aug 10 2015

By Daniel D. Wolfe

One of the classic comedy movies of the last 30 years, Vacation, is about to hit the screen again but this time it is the son of Clark Griswald, Rusty, who is taking his family to the mythical Wally World.

Most people found humor in the movie due to the old “been there done that” feeling. Making and preparing for a trip, as in the movie, includes detailed preparations, ups and downs and many unexpected moments.

Like a trip, financial planning is a life-long event that takes us from the early years of adulthood into retirement. While the ups and downs in the movie make us laugh, these same events in reality are not so funny if we are not prepared.

Here are four major elements of a roadmap for this journey called Life.

We are ready to go so what now?

Our family has made several trips to visit the Great Mouse in the South and the journey was easy to start because we began from home. But in the world of finance, most people do not know where home is or the starting point of the trip.

I have always recommended the preparation and maintenance of a personal financial statement. The first part of such a statement lists the things we own,  called our assets, and the value of those items. That would include bank accounts, investment accounts, real estate holdings, retirement accounts, personal autos, cash value of life insurance and anything else of financial value.

The next part of the statement is the listing of what we owe, or liabilities. These may include mortgages, auto loans, student loans, credit card balances and other debts.

The difference between these two items, assets and Lliabilities, is your net worth. It should be our intention to always keep that number positive.

This calculation gives us our starting point for the trip. While on our trip, we should compare the changes in our personal financial statement from time to time to see if our financial resources are increasing.

Do we have a vehicle that can take us where we want to go?

My wife always chuckles when we get ready for a trip. I change the oil, inspect the tires and belts and of course perform the official waxing.

I want to make sure our car can make it to our destination and keep us secure and comfortable along the way. We cannot achieve this without understanding and controlling our vehicle.

Financial planning presents us with the same issue and to help us we will need to prepare a budget. A budget details how we allocate our income to make sure we stay on the roads that will get us to our destination. Think of it a financial GPS.

Budgets can be sophisticated or simple, written in detail or summarized carefully. We all have a tendency to be surprised where our money is going upon examination, but we should not live with those surprises.

Our budget should detail our sources of income, at least monthly, and where our expenditures are going. We should always plan for normal living expenses and savings for anticipated needs.

You can find some simple budgets and many financial tools in our website’s Financial Tools section. Budgets are critical to any financial plan

Did we pay our AAA bill this year?

Flat tires, breakdowns, toll roads, bathroom breaks and other unexpected things can disruptour vacation.

When preparing a financial plan, we need to reduce our risk of encountering the unexpected, like an unplanned (but welcomed) baby, a lost job, a sudden sickness or worse.

Risk-reduction strategies like buying insurance, accumulating extra savings and so forth can inhibit our enjoyment of life. But inadequate risk mitigation can be catastrophic.

Part of our plan should be identifying our risk and determining the best way to protect ourselves while not spending everything we have to do so.

Hey! I forgot to ask, where are we going?

We know where we are starting and we have the roadmap, but where are we going?

In the late 1990s and most of the 2000s, I would jump on my motorcycle with my friend and our adult sons and take a 4-6 daytrip. Our trip plan would be as simple as “Let’s go South,” or “East”… you get the point.

It would be nice if life was so flowing, but it isn’t. We need to define where we are heading because it is not pleasant to accept an unplanned destination that is not in any way, shape or form what we had hoped for.

In planning for retirement, we need to understand what it’s going to take in the form of pension benefits, self-funded retirement plans, investments and Social Security to meet our anticipated cost of living.

Income and expenses are different during retirement. Where we have mortgage payments now, we will have potentially higher medical cost during retirement. Meanwhile, whereas our  current income may include annual pay raises, retirement will likely bring a fixed income. Moreover, the estimated return in our investments may not be what we had hoped for.

Our destination must be defined as much as possible and adjustments to our current living and adjustments to a different, more affordable destination may be required.

I hope and pray that each one of you plan well, live long and enjoy the trip.

Dan Wolfe is a partner at Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer. He can be reached at 330.385.2160 or

Five Questions With… Dan Wolfe

Posted by Admin Posted on Aug 10 2015

BWLK principal Daniel D. Wolfe at the July 2015 chamber of commerce expo.

Q. What qualities make a good accountant

A. Listening, understanding, intuitiveness. Though some do not, all accountants should have the technical skills to perform their jobs, especially in the areas of their concentration, but there is something above those skills need to make a “good” accountant. I think a good accountant will partner up with clients and become an integral part of the client’s organization. In order to achieve this level, I believe you need listen, understand and be intuitive.  

Q. What areas of the business do you focus on? 

A. My primary area is taxation, but with my background, I find myself frequently working with business management and financial planning. Along with my 20+ years in public accounting, I have 16 years of manufacturing experience as vice president, chief financial officer and human resources director. I also have passed my Series 65 exam that allows me to be a registered investment advisor representative.

Q. Does being a CPA bring community responsibilities?

A. Being a CPA creates a skill set that can be valuable in any size community. I have always felt a responsibility to use my skills to support the community I live and work in. I am the current president of the Southern Columbiana County Regional Chamber of Commerce, trustee of Roberts Wesleyan College and Northeastern Seminary (Rochester, NY), a member of the board of directors at Columbiana County Memorial Park, past chairman of the board of Tri-State Federal Credit Union and past president of Calcutta Rotary. I have held several positions in my local church and the associated district of churches.

Q. When and why did you decide to go into accounting?  

A. I came in through the back door. Going into my senior year of high school, my game plan was to major in music until I became concerned that this would lead to being a high school band director (please, no offense to band directors). While dealing with this dilemma, I happened to speak with a local CPA who asked about my plans and I answered, “I guess major in business,” with no clue what that really meant. He suggested accounting and said, “If you major in accounting, you can get a job and migrate to any other part of business you may like from there.” As simple as that sounds, it made perfect sense to me. So here I am, and I never looked back.

Q. What was the greatest moment in your career?

A. Though strange, I would have to say the entire career so far. I have met so many good and inspiring people, dealt with many interesting business individuals and learned more than I ever dreamed I would. To paraphrase a great attorney and friend of mine, “I am blessed to have had such an adventure, to learn so much and have success on my limited abilities.” 

Seed Supplier Says Accounting Firm Switch Sprouted Better Service

Posted by Admin Posted on June 10 2015

Shortly after buying out a partner last year, Green Valley Seed President Jeff Hum made another big business decision: He changed accounting firms.

Since then, he says, he has been impressed by the upgraded service he enjoys from Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer.

“We worked with a larger firm, but the primary people working on our business were junior people,” said Jeff (pictured). “Now, we have a senior person looking at our taxes line by line and understanding our business better than any of our previous accountants ever did.”

 About Green Valley 

Jeff is now the majority owner of Green Valley Seed, based at 7472 W. Akron-Canfield Road, Canfield, and his son Bryan owns a minority share. Opened in 1966, Green Valley sells and delivers grass seed, as well as fertilizer, hydromulch and erosion control products, throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Much of the reclamation work on pipeline and drilling projects throughout the Utica Shale play has sourced Green Valley products. Last year, the company opened a warehouse in Cadiz, Ohio, to capitalize on that business and wound up posting a record year.

 More support at tax time 

Jeff had been a part-owner of Green Valley since the 1990s and always had significant involvement with its accountants.

When tax time approached, the old firm sent personnel to download business information and review a set of questions. Then they would compile tax returns for a senior partner to review and finalize.

Now, Jeff works directly with Gene Byler, a partner at BWLK and head of its tax division.

“Gene told me up front that he would be the guy doing our taxes, and he goes over things line by line,” Jeff said. “He doesn’t just look at those figures, he’s actually thinking about how they affect our business and what recommendations he can give us to reduce our taxes.

“Most of our accountants in the past never knew our business. But that’s not the case with him … he understands my business a lot more than the other firm ever did.”

 Time-saving advice 

BWLK has also provided fast and good advice about decisions, including recent ones on whether to buy or lease equipment and how to manage a huge receivable.

“I don’t have time to go out and research,” Jeff said. “Gene has a lot of knowledge and deals with a wide array of companies, and his expertise saves me time.”

Jeff heard about BWLK from two business owners he knows who were happy with its service. He said he would recommend the firm to other business owners. 

Five Questions With… Gene Byler

Posted by Admin Posted on June 10 2015

Eugene E. Byler is treasurer at BWLK and heads up its tax division.

Q. What qualities make a good accountant

A. I believe a competent accountant is knowledgeable, detail-oriented and service-oriented, and has a desire to find errors and correct them. Many of my clients become friends, as well. As a colleague of mine recently told me, you can’t become so deeply involved with your clients’ financial issues without it becoming personal for you.

Q. What areas of the business do you focus on? 

A. My primary area of expertise is taxation, but I also spend considerable time consulting businesses on non-tax issues. Although I have a specialty in agricultural taxation, I have prepared a variety of tax returns, with numerous state implications, including trusts and estates and gift tax returns, as well as partnership and corporate tax returns for a large variety of businesses.

I am the firm’s primary consultant for SAGE (formerly Peachtree) software.  I have earned a Certificate in Educational Achievement from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) for a comprehensive course in tax planning and advising for closely held businesses. I am a member of the AICPA, the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, the National Association of Tax Practitioners and the Salem Kiwanis.  

Q. When and why did you decide to go into accounting?  

A. When I was 5 years old, a friend of mine who was the clerk for Green Township allowed me to assist him with the financial records. He allowed me to pull the handle on the old adding machine he used. (I’m not sure if it was more of a nuisance to him, but it got me interested).  Then in high school, I completed the two-year basic accounting course in just one year. The teacher (Mrs. Mink) suggested that I consider going to college for accounting. 

Due to my early exposure and my desire to attend college, it seemed like a natural idea. During my first quarter at Youngstown State University, I took an accounting course. God and I had a little discussion about where he wanted me to go with my life. I asked Him to allow me to earn an “A” in the course if accounting was the direction I should go in. After earning that grade, there was little doubt in my mind where God wanted me to be, and what I was to do with my life.

Q. What was the greatest moment in your career?

A. That is difficult to pinpoint. I get a “high” every time I help a client with a problem or master a difficult task.  If I had to pick a moment, it probably would be when I became an owner of Byler, Wolfe, Lutsch & Kampfer (formerly A.S. Fricano & Co.) in 1991.

Q. What do you do outside the office for fun? 

A. I enjoy gardening, woodworking and spending time with my wife and children. I am on my son’s Boy Scout troop executive committee, and just became the treasurer of the church we attend.

4 Ways to Make Your Payroll Process Easier

Posted by Denny Kampfer Posted on May 04 2015

By Denny Kampfer matter what industry your small business is in, managing payroll isn’t always as straight-forward and hassle-free as you might think.

Payroll is a business obligation that involves more than just paying your employees. It includes dealing with employees’ personal information, handling payroll taxes and adhering to government regulations.

Failure to develop sound procedures that are well executed could result in harsh repercussions like missed paychecks and tax penalties that hurt your company’s bottom line and reputation.

Here are four tips to consider that will help streamline your payroll process.

Make sure employees' information is current.

Tax laws change on a regular basis. So do your employees’ circumstances. Stay up to date on the status of your workers. Changes in marital status, family size, annual income or deductions may prompt the need for adjustments to employees’ tax information. Make sure employees inform you of any changes so you can update your payroll system. Keep records of wages and tax payments while they are employed by you. These records may be needed by employees when applying for home loans or other forms of credit.

Pay your employees on time.

This may go without saying, but it’s vital that you pay your employees on time, every time. The most common wage payment schedules are weekly, bi-weekly and monthly. If you don’t pay on time, you might be subject to penalties. Your employees rely on regular wages, so if a paycheck is late or is for a wrong amount, it’s a big deal. One effective way to pay your workers on time is to set up direct salary payments through your bank.

Automate state and federal taxes.

Consider using payroll software that automatically accounts for state and federal taxes for you. This will ensure that the money needed for payroll taxes is applied correctly and prevents a costly mistake if you forget about payroll tax deposits.

There are no penalties with the IRS for depositing your payroll taxes too frequently, however there can be large penalties for depositing late. Also, paying payroll taxes when employees are paid eliminates any temptation to use that money for other business expenses.

Hire a payroll expert.

You probably don’t have the expertise, time or interest to handle payroll effectively. Because it is vitally important that payroll goes smoothly to keep the IRS and employees happy, consider hiring an accounting firm specializing in payroll management to take care of it.

While it may seem like an extra expense, it could save your company money – and hassle – in the long run. It will also free you up to focus on running and growing your business.

For more information on payroll management and other business and accounting matters, contact us at 330-332-4646 in Salem and 330-385-2160 in East Liverpool or online at