Here are some of the more important financial and business issues physicians should take care of this month.
In order to help provide a framework to successfully implement some of the many business and legal issues we've covered here in the past, we provided a month by month business planning calendar in a previous column. Any such plan can only serve as a generally applicable outline, and should be tailored to your own practice's greatest areas of need and neglect.
In our sample plan we outlined four primary areas to review in January:
1. Check your personal and business credit, bank, and credit card statements very carefully. In the column on holiday scams targeting doctors we outlined a variety of specific exposures that occur at year-end when your credit card usage is high and fraudulent charges may be missed. In addition to checking balances and charges, your credit itself is an exceptionally valuable and fragile asset that must be protected. Checking your credit is now surprisingly easy if you have not done it in some time and sites like Creditkarma.com offer a variety of tools and services to help you manage, monitor, and even correct your credit reports. Likewise, Equifax and the other major credit-monitoring agencies offer a three-way credit report that allows you to see the reports of Equifax, Experian, and Transunion for about $30. The information contained in at least one of the three reports is typically wrong.
2. Address your employment issues. We've previously provided extensive detail on the importance of a professionally drafted employment manual and having EPLI or Employment Practices Liability Insurance to protect your practice. January is a natural time to update or clarify policies and procedures that didn't work perfectly last year and identify what did work and reinforce it. Unfortunately it may also be a time to make a change you avoided during the holidays, including the termination of an employee who is toxic, non-performing, or no longer economically feasible.
3. Have a business plan and a budget. We've provided detail on the importance of a business plan in several previous articles; this includes having a budget and a financial production goal for your practice. A business plan helps you prepare for recurring fixed expenses better and specifically earmark both funds and time to implement the vital planning your medical business requires to prosper. We see far too many doctors who are excellent and organized clinicians but who lack a specific financial goal and a road map to achieve it. Just "showing up and working really hard" is not enough, it requires a disciplined, organized system.
4. Get and handle on your tax paperwork. The clock is ticking as we enter the home stretch to April 15, which always seems to come too soon. This month, in particular, look out for any mortgage interest statements and year-end summaries on your credit cards for tracking of any deductible expenses; two case where the work has already been done for you. If possible, get a list of required paperwork and reportable expenses from your CPA and delegate assembling the required documents if possible. Check with your CPA or responsible party to be sure you are ready for January 31, the deadline for employers to mail out W-2 forms to employees and for businesses to furnish Form 1099 statements reporting, among other things, non-employee compensation, bank interest, dividends, and distributions from a retirement plan. Finally, avoid too-good-to-be-true tax scams that target doctors at this time of year; use the guidance of a CPA to stay on right "avoiding" rather than evading taxes.