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Year-end Tax Planning For Small Businesses

Posted by Admin Posted on Dec 10 2018

With year-end approaching, now is the time to take steps to cut your 2018 tax bill.  Here are some relatively foolproof year-end tax planning strategies to consider, taking into account changes included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Establish a Tax-favored Retirement Plan.  If your business doesn’t already have a retirement plan, now might be the time to take the plunge.  Current retirement plan rules allow for significant deductible contributions.  For example, if you are self-employed and set up a SEP-IRA, you can contribute up to 20% of your self-employment earnings, with a maximum contribution of $55,000 for 2018.  If you are employed by your own corporation, up to 25% of your salary can be contributed with a maximum contribution of $55,000.

Other small business retirement plan options include the 401 (k) plan (which can be set up for just one person), the defined benefit pension plan, and the SIMPLE-IRA.  Depending on your circumstances, these other types of plans may allow bigger deductible contributions.

The deadline for setting up a SEP-IRA for a sole proprietorship and making the initial deductible contribution for the 2018 tax year is 10/15/19 if you extend your 2018 return to that date.  Other types of plans generally must be established by 12/31/18 if you want to make a deductible contribution for the 2018 tax year, but the deadline for the contribution itself is the extended due date of your 2018 return.  However, to make a SIMPLE-IRA contribution for 2018, you must have set up the plan by October 1.  So, you might have to wait until next year if the SIMPLE-IRA option is appealing.

Contact us for more information on small business retirement plan alternatives, and be aware that if your business has employees, you may have to cover them too.

Take Advantage of Liberalized Depreciation Tax Breaks.  The TCJA included a number of very favorable changes to the depreciation tax rules, including 100% first-year bonus depreciation for qualifying assets and much more generous Section 179 deduction rules.  Contact us for details on eligible assets and how your business can take advantage of these new changes.

Time Business Income and Deductions for Tax Savings.  If you conduct your business using a pass-through entity (sole proprietorship, S corporation, LLC, or partnership), your shares of the business’s income and deductions are passed through to you and taxed at your personal rates.  Assuming the current tax rules will still apply in 2019, next year’s individual federal income tax rate brackets will be the same as this year’s (with modest bumps for inflation).  In that case, the traditional strategy of deferring income into next year while accelerating deductible expenditures into this year makes sense if you expect to be in the same or lower tax bracket next year.  Deferring income and accelerating deductions will, at a minimum, postpone part of your tax bill from 2018 until 2019.

On the other hand, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket in 2019, take the opposite approach.  Accelerate income into this year (if possible) and postpone deductible expenditures until 2019.  That way, more income will be taxed at this year’s lower rate instead of next year’s higher rate.  Contact us for more information on timing strategies.

Maximize the New Deduction for Pass-through Business Income.  The new deduction based on Qualified Business Income (QBI) from pass-through entities was a key element of the TCJA.  For tax years beginning in 2018-2025, the deduction can be up to 20% of a pass-through entity owner’s QBI, subject to restrictions that can apply at higher income levels and another restriction based on the owner’s taxable income.  The QBI deduction also can be claimed for up to 20% of income from qualified REIT dividends and 20% of qualified income from publicly-traded partnerships.

For QBI deduction purposes, pass-through entities are defined as sole proprietorships, single-member LLCs that are treated as sole proprietorships for tax purposes, partnerships, LLCs that are treated as partnerships for tax purposes, and S corporations.  The QBI deduction is only available to noncorporate taxpayers (individuals, trusts, and estates).

Because of the various limitations on the QBI deduction, tax planning moves (or nonmoves) can have the side effect of increasing or decreasing your allowable QBI deduction.  So, individuals who can benefit from the deduction must be really careful at year-end tax planning time.  We can help you design strategies that give you the best overall tax results for the year.

Claim 100% Gain Exclusion for Qualified Small Business Stock.  There is a 100% federal income tax gain exclusion privilege for eligible sales of Qualified Small Business Corporation (QSBC) stock that was acquired after 9/27/10.  A lesser percentage of gain may be excluded for QSBC stock acquired after August 11, 1993.  QSBC shares must be held for more than five years to be eligible for the gain exclusion break.  Contact us if you think you own stock that could qualify.

Conclusion

This letter only covers some of the year-end tax planning moves that could potentially benefit you and your business.  Please contact us if you have questions, want more information, or would like us to help in designing a year-end planning package that delivers the best tax results for your particular circumstances.

 

Year-end Tax Planning For Individuals

Posted by Admin Posted on Dec 10 2018

Year-end Tax Planning For Individuals

With year-end approaching, now is the time to take steps to cut your 2018 tax bill.  Here are some relatively foolproof year-end tax planning strategies to consider, taking into account changes included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

Game the Increased Standard Deduction Allowances.  The TCJA almost doubled the standard deduction amounts.  For 2018, the amounts are $12,000 for singles and those who use married filing separate status (up from $6,350 for 2017), $24,000 for married joint filing couples (up from $12,700), and $18,000 for heads of household (up from $9,350).  If your total annual itemizable deductions for 2018 will be close to your standard deduction amount, consider making additional expenditures before year-end to exceed your standard deduction.  That will lower this year’s tax bill.  Next year, you can claim the standard deduction, which will be increased a bit to account for inflation.

The easiest deductible expense to accelerate is included in your house payment due on January 1.  Accelerating that payment into this year will give you 13 months’ worth of interest in 2018.  Although the TCJA put new limits on itemized deductions for home mortgage interest, you are probably unaffected.  Check with us if you are uncertain.

Also, consider state and local income and property taxes that are due early next year.  Prepaying those bills before year-end can decrease your 2018 federal income tax bill because your itemized deductions will be that much higher.  However, the TCJA decreased the maximum amount you can deduct for state and local taxes to $10,000 ($5,000 if you use married filing separate status).  So, beware of this new limitation.

 

Accelerating other expenditures could cause your itemized deductions to exceed your standard deduction in 2018.  For example, consider making bigger charitable donations this year and smaller contributions next year to compensate.  Also, consider accelerating elective medical procedures, dental work, and vision care.  For 2018, medical expenses are deductible to the extent they exceed 7.5% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), assuming you itemize.

Warning:  The state and local tax prepayment drill can be a bad idea if you owe Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for this year.  That’s because write-offs for state and local income and property taxes are completely disallowed under the AMT rules.  Therefore, prepaying those expenses may do little or no good if you are an AMT victim.  Contact us if you are unsure about your exposure to the AMT.

Carefully Manage Investment Gains and Losses in Taxable Accounts.  If you hold investments in taxable brokerage firm accounts, consider the tax advantage of selling appreciated securities that have been held for over 12 months.  The maximum federal income tax rate on long-term capital gains recognized in 2018 is only 15% for most folks, although it can reach a maximum of 20% at higher income levels.  The 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) also can apply at higher income levels.

To the extent you have capital losses that were recognized earlier this year or capital loss carryovers from pre-2018 years, selling winners this year will not result in any tax hit.  In particular, sheltering net short-term capital gains with capital losses is a sweet deal because net short-term gains would otherwise be taxed at higher ordinary income rates.

 

What if you have some loser investments that you would like to unload?  Biting the bullet and taking the resulting capital losses this year would shelter capital gains, including high-taxed short-term gains, from other sales this year.

If selling a bunch of losers would cause your capital losses to exceed your capital gains, the result would be a net capital loss for the year.  No problem!  That net capital loss can be used to shelter up to $3,000 of 2018 ordinary income from salaries, bonuses, self-employment income, interest income, royalties, and whatever else ($1,500 if you use married filing separate status).  Any excess net capital loss from this year is carried forward to next year and beyond.

In fact, having a capital loss carryover into next year could turn out to be a pretty good deal.  The carryover can be used to shelter both short-term and long-term gains recognized next year and beyond.  This can give you extra investing flexibility in those years because you won’t have to hold appreciated securities for over a year to get a preferential tax rate.  Since the top two federal rates on net short-term capital gains recognized in 2019 and beyond are 35% and 37% (plus the 3.8% NIIT, if applicable), having a capital loss carryover into next year to shelter short-term gains recognized next year and beyond could be a very good thing.

Watch Out for the AMT.  The TCJA significantly reduced the odds that you will owe AMT for 2018 by materially increasing the AMT exemption amounts and the income levels at which those exemptions are phased out.  Even if you still owe AMT, you will probably owe considerably less than under prior law.  Nevertheless, it’s still critical to evaluate year-end tax planning strategies in light of the AMT rules.  Because the AMT rules are complicated, you may want some assistance.  We stand ready to help.

Don’t Overlook Estate Planning.  The unified federal estate and gift tax exemption for 2018 is a historically huge $11.8 million, or effectively $422.36 million of estate tax exempted for married couples.  Even though these big exemptions may mean you are not currently exposed to the federal estate tax, your estate plan may need updating to reflect the current tax rules.  Also, you may need to make some changes for reasons that have nothing to do with taxes.  Contact us if you think you could use an estate planning tune-up.

This letter only covers some of the year-end tax planning moves that could potentially benefit you and your business.  Please contact us if you have questions, want more information, or would like us to help in designing a year-end planning package that delivers the best tax results for your particular circumstances.

 

Combat-injured Veterans Who May Be Due a Refund

Posted by Admin Posted on Dec 04 2018

Combat-injured veterans (or the estate of such a veteran) who received a lump-sum disability severance payment after 1/17/1991 and before 2017 may be due a refund for income taxes wrongly paid on these payments.  The available refund can range from $1,750-$3,200, possibly more, depending on the year the severance payment was received.

In 2016, Congress found that since 1991, the Department of Defense (DoD) had been improperly withholding income taxes and reporting as taxable income certain disability severance payments.  Unfortunately, by the time this error was discovered, most of the affected years were closed by the statute of limitations, barring refunds of these wrongly paid taxes.  So, in late 2016, Congress passed the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act of 2016 (the Act) to help alleviate this problem.

 

Basically, the Act gave the DoD one year to identify and send notification letters to impacted veterans with instructions for filing amended tax returns to recover wrongly paid taxes.  It also gave impacted veterans one year from the date of the DoD notification letter to file a claim for refund if the tax year was otherwise closed by the statute of limitations.

During July 2018, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) and the IRS sent the required notification letters to approximately 130,000 impacted veterans, thereby starting the special statute of limitations.  (The IRS agreed to forward these letters on behalf of DFAS because DFAS did not have the current addresses of impacted veterans.)  An eligible veteran who did not receive a letter or has questions should email DFAS at dfas.cleveland-oh.jjf.mbx.dfas-irs-combat-injured-veterans-tax-f@mail.mil and include “Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act” in the subject line.

 If you received such a letter, you’ll need to file a Form 1040X (Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return) to claim a refund following the instructions contained in the DoD notification letter.  Claims for deceased veterans will need to be filed by the veteran’s estate.

 Generally, a copy of the DoD notification letter must be attached to the Form 1040X.  However, an eligible veteran who did not receive a DoD notification letter can still file a refund claim by including both of the following items with the Form 1040X:

          A copy of documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for the disability severance payment, such as a letter from DFAS explaining the severance payment at the time of the payment or a Form DD-214.

           A copy of either the VA’s determination letter confirming the veteran’s disability or a determination that the veteran’s injury or sickness was either incurred as a direct result of armed conflict, while in extra-hazardous service, or in simulated war exercises, or was caused by an instrumentality of war.

 If you did not receive the DoD notification letter and don’t have the required documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for the disability severance payment, you’ll need to obtain the necessary proof by contacting the National Archives, National Personnel Records Center (at www.archives.gov/veterans), or the VA.

 If you would like our help, please give us a call at your earliest convenience.  In all but a handful of cases, the Form 1040X will need to be filed no later than one year after the date of the DoD notification letter.

 

199A Deduction for Qualified Business Income

Posted by Admin Posted on Feb 13 2018

 

Recent tax legislation added a new tax deduction for business owners.  It permits individuals, estates, and trusts to deduct up to 20% of their “qualified business income.”  You may have heard a lot of talk in the news about a new deduction for “pass-through” income, but it’s actually available for qualified business income from a sole proprietorship (including a farm), as well as from pass-through entities such as partnerships, LLCs, and S corporations.  For taxpayers in the new 37% tax bracket (down from 39.6% in 2017), such income may be taxed at an effective top marginal rate of 29.6%.

 

Although the new deduction opens the door for planning opportunities for you and your business, the rules are complex. There are various limits that can substantially reduce or eliminate the deduction.  Many of these limits depend on the nature of your business and how high your taxable income will be in 2018.

 

For example, income from certain service businesses doesn’t qualify for the deduction once your taxable income reaches $415,000 (married filing jointly). These businesses involve the performance of services in the fields of health, law, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, or brokerage services (but not engineering or architecture).  Also, income from a business that participates in investing, trading, or dealing in securities, partnership interests, or commodities is subject to this restriction.

 

 

There are other factors that may affect your eligibility for the deduction.  The deduction for income from a nonservice business (a manufacturing business, for example) is subject to limits based on the entity’s total wages and tangible property once your taxable income reaches $415,000 (married filing jointly).  In addition, a limit based on your taxable income may further reduce your deduction.

 

Given the complexity of the new deduction, it’s best to get a head start on determining how it will affect your tax situation in 2018.  We would love to schedule a planning meeting with you to discuss this new provision, along with other tax law changes that could impact you this year.  Please call our office to schedule that meeting.

 

Understanding The Differences Between Health Care Accounts

Posted by Admin Posted on Oct 30 2017

 

 

Health care costs continue to be in the news and on everyone’s mind.  As a result, tax-friendly ways to pay for these expenses are very much in play for many people.  The three primary players, so to speak, are Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSAs), and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs).

                All provide opportunities for tax-advantaged funding of health care expenses.  But what’s the difference between these three types of accounts?  Here’s an overview of each one:

  •  

  • HSAs.  If you’re covered by a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP), you can contribute pretax income to an employer-sponsored HSA– or make deductible contributions to an HSA you set up yourself – up to $3,400 for self-only coverage, and $6,750 for family coverage for 2017.  Plus, if you’re age 55 or older, you may contribute an additional $1,000.

You own the account, which can bear interest or be invested, growing tax-deferred similar to an IRA.  Withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free, and you can carry over a balance from year to year.

 

  • FSAs.  Regardless of whether you have an HDHP, you can redirect pretax income to an employer-sponsored FSA up to an employer-determined limit – not to exceed $2,600 in 2017.  The plan pays or reimburses you for qualified medical expenses.

What you don’t use by the plan year’s end, you generally lost – though your plan might allow you to roll over up to $500 to the next year.  Or it might give you a 2 ½-month grace period to incur expenses to use up the previous year’s contribution.  If you have an HSA, your FSA is limited to funding certain “permitted” expenses.

 

  • HRAs.  An HRA is an employer-sponsored arrangement that reimburses you for medical expenses.  Unlike an HSA, no HDHP is required.  Unlike an FSA, any unused portion typically can be carried forward to the next year.  And there’s no government-set limit on HRA contributions.  But only your employer can contribute to an HRA; employees aren’t allowed to contribute. 

  Please bear in mind that these plans could be affected by health care or tax legislation.  Contact our firm for the latest information, as well as to discuss these and other ways to save taxes in relation to your health care expenses.

 

  

5 Keys To Disaster Planning For Individuals

Posted by Admin Posted on Oct 27 2017

 

Disaster planning is usually associated with businesses.  But individuals need to prepare for worst-case scenarios, as well.  Unfortunately, the topic can seem a little overwhelming.  To help simplify matters, here are five keys to disaster planning that everyone should consider:

 

  1. 1. Insurance.  Start with your homeowners’ coverage.  Make sure your policy covers flood, wind, and other damage possible in your region and that its dollar amount is adequate to cover replacement costs.  Also review your life and disability insurance.

  2. 2. Asset documentation.  Create a list of your bank accounts, titles, deeds, mortgages, home equity loans, investments and tax records.  Inventory physical assets not only in writing (including brand names and model and serial numbers), but also by photographing or videoing them.

  3. 3. Document storage.  Keep copies of financial and personal documents somewhere other than your home, such as a safe deposit box or the distant home of a trusted friend or relative.  Also consider “cloud computing”-storing digital files with a secure Web-based provider.

  4. 4. Cash.  You may not receive insurance money right away.  A good rule of thumb is to set aside three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a savings or money market account.  Also maintain a cash reserve in your home in a durable, fireproof safe.

 

5. An emergency plan.  Establish a family emergency plan that includes evacuation routes, methods of getting in tough and a safe place to meet.  Because a disaster might require you to stay in your home, stock a supply kit with water, nonperishable food, batteries, and a first aid kit.

 

Foreign Bank Account Reports (FBARs)

Posted by Admin Posted on Oct 27 2017

 

If you have a financial interest in or signature authority over a foreign financial account exceeding certain thresholds, the Bank Secrecy Act may require you to report the account yearly to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by filing FinCEN Report 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR).

 

Specifically, FinCEN Report 114 is required to be filed if during the year-

 

  1. You had a financial interest in or signature authority over at least one foreign financial account (which can be anything from a securities, brokerage, mutual fund, savings, demand, checking, deposit, or time deposit account to a commodity futures or options, and a whole life insurance or cash value annuity polity) and;

  2. The aggregate value of all such foreign financial accounts exceeded $10,000 at any time during the year.

 

The FBAR filing deadline is April 15th, with a six-month extension to October 15th allowed.  Earlier this year, FinCEN announced that it will grant filers an automatic extension to October 15th each year- a specific request for extension isn’t required.  The penalty for failing to file Form 114 is substantial- up to $10,000 per violation (or the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the balance in an account if the failure is willful)

 

FinCEN Report 114 must be filed electronically.  To file it yourself, go to bsaefiling.fincen.treas.gov/mail.html. Once there, click on “Become a BSA E-Filer” and then click on “File an Individual FBAR: on the next page and complete the form.

 

Please give us a call if you have any questions or would like us to prepare and file FinCEN Report 114 for you.

 

Sharing Economy Tax Implications

Posted by Admin Posted on Oct 25 2017

 

As you know, the so-called sharing economy uses the Internet and other technology advances to facilitate a variety of transactions, such as car sharing (e.g., Uber and Lyft), vacation property rentals (e.g., Airbnb), apartment rentals, freelance work, and crowdfunding.  Since the sharing economy is now a big deal, the tax issues have become a big deal too.  However, indications are that sharing economy participants need help with those tax issues.  According to a recent survey, 34% of those who reported earning income in the sharing economy did not know they needed to make quarterly estimated tax payments, 36% did not understand what records they should keep for tax purposes, 43% did not set aside money to meet their tax obligations or know how much they owed, and 69% did not receive any tax information from the sharing economy platform they used to earn their income.

 

Income and Deductions

 

If you receive income from a sharing economy activity, it is generally taxable-even if the activity is a sideline and even if you are paid in cash and do not receive a Form 1099-MISC (Miscellaneous Income), 1099-K (Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions), W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement), or other information return that reports income to you and to the IRS.  Those with positive taxable income from sharing economy activities may also face state and local income taxes.  On a positive note, some or all of your sharing economy-related expenses may be deductible as business expenses.

 

Home Sharing

 

Special tax rules apply if you rent a property that you also use as your residence during the year.  Rental income must usually be reported in full.  Most expenses must be divided between personal and rental usage, and deduction limits may apply.  Also, those who rent out their properties may owe state and local occupancy taxes, room taxes, or hotel taxes.

 

Estimated Tax Payments

 

If you have profits from the sharing economy, you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to cover the additional taxable income and related self-employment tax.  Estimated tax payments for the 2017 tax year are due on 4/18/17, 6/15/17, 9/15/17, and 1/15/18.

 

Tax Penalties

 

Those who participate in the sharing economy and fail to meet their federal tax filing and payment obligations can face a host of potentially expensive penalties, such as the penalty for failure to make adequate estimated tax payments, the late payment penalty, the failure-to-file penalty, accuracy-related penalties for faulty tax return filings, and more.

 

Business Entity Considerations

 

When a sharing economy activity become significant, you may want to establish a liability-limiting entity to operate the activity.  Different entities have different tax implications.

 

Conclusion

 

We can assist you with all these sharing-economy related tax issues. Please contact us if you have any questions or want more information.  We are here to help.

 

Tax Credits for Residential Solar Energy Equipment and Electric Vehicles

Posted by Admin Posted on Oct 25 2017

Some "green energy" tax breaks for individual taxpayers expired at the end of 2016, while others are still on the table for 2017 and beyond.

 

Residential Solar Energy Credit

 

You can still claim a federal incomes tax credit equal to 30% of expenditures to buy and install qualifying energy-saving solar equipment for your home.  Since this gear is expensive, it can generate big credits.  There are no income limits.  The 30% credit is available through 2019.  In 2020, the credit rate drops to 26% and then to 22% in 2021.  After that, the credit is scheduled to expire.  The credit can be used to reduce your regular federal income tax bill and any Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) bill.

 

Qualified Expenditures.  The credit equals 30% of qualified expenditures (including costs for site preparation, assembly, installation, piping, and wiring) for the following:

 

  • Qualified solar electricity generating equipment for your U.S. residence, including vacation home.

  • Qualified solar water heating equipment for your U.S. residence, including your vacation home.  To qualify for the credit, at least half of the energy used to heat water for the property must be generated by the solar water heating equipment.  You cannot claim the credit for equipment used to heat a swimming pool or hot tub.

 

State and Local Incentives May Be Available.  You might also be eligible for state and local tax benefits, subsidized state and local financing deals, and utility company rebates.

 

Expanded 30% Credit Opportunities for 2016 Installations

 

For 2017 and beyond, the 30% credit is limited to expenditures for qualified solar electricity generating equipment and solar water heating equipment.  For 2016 instillations, you can claim a 30% credit for the following expenditures:

 

  • Qualified wind energy equipment for U.S. residence, including a vacation home.

  • Qualified geothermal heat pump equipment for a U.S. residence, including a vacation home.

  • Qualified fuel cell electricity generating equipment for a U.S. principal residence.  The maximum credit is limited to $500 for each half kilowatt of fuel cell capacity.

 

   $500 Credit for More Modest 2016 Installations

 

A much more modest residential energy credit also expired at the end of 2016.  It had a lifetime maximum of $500 and covered qualified expenditures for advanced main air circulating fans; natural gas, propane, and oil furnaces and hot water boilers; electric heat pumps; electric heat pump water heaters; biomass fuel stoves; high-efficiency central air conditioners; natural gas, propane, and oil water heaters; energy-efficient windows, skylights, and doors; energy-efficient roofing products; and energy-efficient insulation.

 

Credit for New Plug-in Electric Vehicles

 

Another “green energy” break that is still on the books for 2017 and beyond is the federal income tax credit for qualifying new (not used) plug-in vehicles.  The credit can be worth up to $7,500.

 

Eligibility Rules.  To be eligible for the credit, a vehicle must draw propulsion from a battery with at least four kilowatt hours of capacity; use an external source of energy to recharge battery (thus the term plug-in); be used primarily on public streets, roads, and highways; have four wheels; meet applicable federal emission and clean air standards; and be used primarily in the U.S.  It can be either fully electric or a plug-in electric/gasoline hybrid.  Finally, the vehicle must be new and be purchased rather than leased.  If you lease an eligible vehicle, the credit belongs to the manufacturer, which may be factored into a lower lease payment.

 

The credit equals $2,500 for a vehicle powered by a four kilowatt-hour battery, with an additional $417 for each kilowatt hour of battery capacity beyond four hours.  The maximum credit is $7,500.  Buyers of qualifying vehicles can rely on the manufacturer’s or distributor’s certification of the allowable credit amount.  The credit can be used to offset your regular federal income tax liability and any AMT that you owe.  There are no income restrictions.

 

State Incentives May be Available.  You may be eligible for state income tax credits, rebates, or reduced vehicle taxes and registration fees for buying or leasing qualifying electric vehicles.

 

Depending on your situation, these “green-energy” credits could be lucrative.  Contact us if you have questions or want more information.