Elder-Beerman to remain open on Thanksgiving

Published: Friday, November 10, 2017 @ 8:04 AM

FILE
FILE

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., parent company of Elder-Beerman, said its stores will remain open on Thanksgiving.

The stores will open at 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving with more than 700 door busters on holiday gifts, fashion, toys and décor for the home. Stores will be open through Black Friday at 10 p.m.

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“Bon-Ton is ready for the kick-off of the holiday shopping season with fantastic savings on great gifts for the entire family,” said Bill Tracy, president and chief executive officer for The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. “Whether shopping in our stores or online, customers will find not only great deals but extra special offers and giveaways to get the holidays started.”

Door busters include:

  • $19.97 Rampage boots and coats
  • $19.97 Any size Living Quarters down-alternative comforters
  • $9.97 Kitchen Electrics; slow cooker, griddle, toaster, blender and more (no rebate needed)
  • $99.97 Select ladies designer coats in packable down, puffers and active from Calvin Klein, Nautica, Michael Kors and more
  • Buy 1 Get 2 FREE men’s flannels, fleece and more from Izod, Van Heusen and Ruff Hewn
  • $39.97 3-piece, hardside spinner luggage set from Travel Quarters
  • $17.97 entire stock kids puffer jackets (girls 2-16, boys 8-20)
  • 50% off designer clearance handbags and shoes
  • Buy 2 get 1 FREE fragrance rollerballs and pens sprays
  • $19.99 1/8 ct. diamond earrings
  • $19.97 ladies PJ sets from Intimate Essentials, Hue and Zoe&Bella

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Ohio adults smoking more weed while teen marijuana use remains low

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 3:00 PM


            FILE
FILE

Wacky tobaccy. Weed. Dank. Hippie lettuce — call it what you want. Ohio adults are smoking more of it.

Adult marijuana use in Ohio increased to what is likely a record level from 2015 to 2016, according to a new federal report. The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 1.2 million Ohioans, ages 18 and older, reported using cannabis at least once in the previous 12 months in a survey covering 2015 and 2016.

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Teen marijuana use remains low, less than half the level of the 1970s and 1980s, however it has increased in recent years. An estimated 109,000 Ohio youths, ages 12 to 17, smoked marijuana at least once the previous year, up almost 5 percent from a year earlier.

An estimated 24 millions Americans, ages 12 or older, used marijuana in 2016, according to the survey. About one in five young adults, ages 18 to 25, used marijuana nationwide in 2016. That’s more than 20 percent of young adults, or 7.2 million.

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7 ways you could accidentally commit tax fraud

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 3:42 PM

Three men in India were arrested for a massive tax scheme targeting Americans. The men posed as IRS officials to tell victims they had tax irregularities. Police said the men would get victims to transfer money to them.

Not every fraud artist is a sketchy identity thief or faux Nigerian prince from the dark corners of the internet. You might end up committing fraud entirely by accident if you don’t pay careful attention this tax season.

Individual slip-ups usually result from negligence rather than ill intent, but even white lies fall into the latter category. The IRS is serious about nipping fraud in the bud — for 2017, it added 37 new steps to its authentication process to safeguard against it. For you, that means 37 new reasons to check and double-check your return before filing your taxes — plus seven more from GOBankingRates. Get the deductions and credits you’re entitled to, but make sure you do it legally. So that you don’t accidentally commit tax fraud, check out these seven common mistakes to avoid when filing taxes.

1. Filing a return with missing or incorrect information

It’s crucial to file complete and accurate tax returns — or you might be committing tax fraud. For example, if you paid thousands of dollars to attend college this year, you might be eligible to claim an education tax credit to reduce your taxes.

If you claim an education credit, however, don’t forget to include Form 8863 — for education credits — with your return. Forgetting to include vital data like your Social Security number — or entering it incorrectly — also can create headaches.

How to avoid it: Professional tax preparers or tax preparation software can come in handy. Often, tax software with built-in e-filing won’t let you submit your forms unless all your necessary data is included.

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Potential penalty: Typically, if you forget or make a mistake on your return information you’ll experience delayed processing of your tax return. Keep in mind that omissions prompt the IRS to take a closer look at your forms — and maybe even target you for tax fraud. If omitted data changes your status from owing money to getting a refund — or even just makes your refund higher — your mistake could be interpreted as willful failure to supply information, which comes with penalties of up to a year in prison, $100,000 in fines or both.

2. Incorrectly claiming the earned income tax credit

Claiming the earned income tax credit when you’re not eligible for it is a major audit trigger. If you qualify for the credit, which is designed to offset the burden of Social Security taxes for low-to-moderate earners, you can get credited up to $6,318 — but you must meet specific requirements. When filing your 2017 taxes, the EITC income limits range from $15,010 to $53,930, depending on your marital status and number of qualifying children.

How to avoid it: Don’t file for the EITC if you have investment income exceeding $3,450. Child support, alimony, welfare compensation and workers’ compensation benefits do not contribute toward earned income. Your eligibility might fluctuate from year to year, so read the requirements closely each tax season.

Potential penalty: This issue could result in a delay, denial or required payback of your EITC refund — and possibly a ban from claiming the EITC for anywhere from two to 10 years.

3. Abusing tax shelters

Chances are, a tax shelter that sounds too good to be true likely is. Often, accountants and wealth planners tempt taxpayers with vague or deceptive tax shelter “opportunities,” or offer “captive” insurance structures that are at odds with your company’s genuine needs, duplicate your existing coverage or provide coverage for totally implausible events. Your barbershop in Indiana probably isn’t going to get attacked by tigers, so don’t use that excuse as a tax shelter.

How to avoid it: If you’re in over your head on tax shelters, seek out an independent opinion. Be especially wary of ambiguous micro-captive insurance tax shelters, which have been highlighted for the past three years on the IRS’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams.

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Potential penalty: “These scams can end up costing taxpayers more in penalties, back taxes and interest than they saved in the first place,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. In addition, the IRS can count this as tax avoidance or evasion, which might net you fines of up to $250,000 and jail time of up to five years.

4. Claiming the wrong deductions

If you think it’s clever to take the family along on a business trip just to deduct the vacation as a business expense, think again. When April rolls around, forget about claiming your family’s side trip to Disneyland.

Some commonly misused deductions — likes writing off groceries that you didn’t explicitly buy for clients or employees — are just plain mistakes. But if you knowingly make false statements on your return, expect trouble.

How to avoid it: Again, tax prep software helps prevent errors — it typically shows the deductions for which you qualify. If you’re going “old school,” explore the IRS website, which offers tips for deducting business expenses and full breakdowns of what you can legally deduct. Key IRS documents like publications 535, 334 and 538 detail eligible business expenses and offer tax guides for small businesses.

Potential penalty: If you’re guilty of fraudulent activity or false statements, you could be looking at some combination of imprisonment of up to three years and fines of up to $250,000.

5. Taking inflated deductions

Your chances of being audited are lower than ever: This is the sixth straight year during which numbers have dropped and in 2016, only 1 million Americans were audited, according to CNBC. That might make it tempting to claim your whole basement as a home office deduction, but don’t.

Even if the chances of getting caught are low, inflated deductions are still illegal. “You don’t want to roll the roulette wheel and have the little white ball land on your number,” said Koskinen.

How to avoid it: Don’t stretch the truth. If you think you’ll have trouble paying what you owe all at once, work out a payment plan or installment agreement with the IRS via its Online Payment Agreement Tool or Form 9456.

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Potential penalty: For an incorrect filing like this, the IRS can hit you with a $5,000 fine, a fee of 20 percent of the disallowed amount or a penalty in the amount of 75 percent of the full income tax you owe. You might even face an IRS criminal investigation.

6. Failing to report income

It’s easy to not claim all your tips — in fact, the IRS estimates up to 40 percent of tips go unreported. But don’t get too comfy — failing to report your income to the Internal Revenue Service might count as tax evasion or failure to supply information.

How to avoid it: If you’re a server, keep a daily record of all tips you receive and use Publication 531 to report your tip income. Whether you’re a server or not, don’t fall victim to common misconceptions — use the most recent version of Publication 525 to keep track of what the IRS considers taxable and nontaxable income.

Potential penalty: For not reporting tips, you’re subject to a penalty equal to 50 percent of the Social Security, Medicare, Medicare or Railroad Retirement taxes you owe on unreported tips. Regardless of your industry, tax evasion penalties can cost you up to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in cash.

7. Falling victim to tax preparer fraud

“Choose your return preparer carefully because you entrust them with your private financial information that needs to be protected,” said Koskinen. About 60 percent of U.S. taxpayers use tax professionals to prep their returns — and the vast majority of those pros are honest, according to the IRS. It’s possible, however, that the preparer you rely on might dupe you into claiming credits or deductions you’re not entitled to in order to increase his own fee.

How to avoid it: When choosing a tax preparer, always confirm his IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number and professional credentials via the online IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.

Potential penalty: Penalties like jail time typically fall on the preparers for defrauding their clients. If you get caught up in an illegal scam, though, you’ll be up against what the IRS calls “significant penalties,” which include interest charges and possible criminal prosecution. To report preparer tax fraud, use Form 14157.

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Meet Janice Bryant Howroyd, the first African-American woman to run a $1 billion business

Published: Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 3:26 PM

Janice Bryant Howroyd, 65, has become the first black woman to run a billion-dollar business. Howroyd is the founder and CEO of Act 1 Group, an employment agency. Black Enterprise magazine said her business produces more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Howroyd grew up in Tarboro, N.C., with ten siblings. She opened Act 1 in Beverly Hills in 1978, growing by good word of mouth.

Janice Bryant Howroyd, 65, is founder and chief executive of Act 1 Group, an employment agency that also provides consulting and business services, including background checks and screening. She’s the first African-American woman to operate a company that generates more than $1 billion in annual revenue, according to Black Enterprise Magazine. Act 1, which includes other brands such as Agile 1, A-Check Global and AppleOne, has contracts with 17,000 clients in 19 countries.

“If you visit any of our offices,” Howroyd said, “you’ll see that we live by the mantra that ‘the applicant is the center of our universe.’ It’s always been our belief that if you get that applicant in the right job, then they will be the best representation of who we are as a company.”

Early lessons

Growing up in Tarboro, N.C., as one of 11 children, Howroyd had early lessons in team building. Each sibling was assigned an older one to act as a mentor.

“My sister Sandy was my appointed guardian angel,” Howroyd said, “so it was up to her to see that I’d gotten my homework done, my hair was done, and my thoughts and process were in line with what the family wanted. We were very organized.”

Big move

After studying humanities and English at North Carolina A&T, Howroyd faced culture shock when she moved to Los Angeles in 1976 with just $900. Her older sister again provided welcome advice to “settle myself into knowing who I was, learning the power of that and understanding it.”

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Brother-in-law Tom provided a temporary job at Billboard and saw entrepreneurial talents in the way Howroyd interacted with clients. Even when she was ill at ease, “I would revert to what I do well, which is strategize. I love to look at a problem, break it apart, find the better potential, knowing when to eliminate what doesn’t need to be there.”

Word of mouth

Howroyd, who didn’t even own a fax machine, opened Act 1 in a small office in Beverly Hills in 1978. She started out by making full-time job placements for companies needing workers, then shifting to temporary placements. Pleased clients were her best advertisements.

“It still matters in business more what someone else says about you than what you say about yourself,” Howroyd said. “You can have the best advertising, but unless someone else certifies what they are saying, you won’t last long. Word of mouth has always been my best referral system.”

Standing out

Early on, Howroyd employed a strategy that allowed her to compete against bigger companies, preparing her prospective hires by training them in what their employers were looking for in new workers.

“It always works best when you can tailor a hire to fit into a company’s philosophy,” Howroyd said. “They walk in better prepared and it’s more likely to be a very good fit for your client.”

Standing up

Whether it was dealing with racist students and teachers in her youth or businesspeople who uttered the most stunningly insensitive remarks, Howroyd said there were times when she was forced to bite her tongue and muddle through and other times when it was clear a stand had to be made, as frightening as that might clearly be.

“In order to be outstanding, sometimes, you’re just going to have to stand out” and not hide, Howroyd said. “My personal business protocol, my life mantra: Never compromise who you are personally to become what you wish to be professionally.”

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Adding niches

There’s a reason why it’s called the Act 1 Group; the company kept adding new divisions to fill new employer needs, sometimes unexpectedly. Once a client called on Howroyd and a small team to come and help with an emergency without even being able to explain it over the telephone. The company then wanted to buy the technology that Act 1 developed to solve the problem.

“My brother encouraged me,” Howroyd said. “‘Don’t sell the technology. Sell them the service. Make them keep you in it.’ That’s why you see the evolution of our different brands.”

Security conscious

Everyone, these days, is a little more concerned about avoiding problem employees, especially when it turns out they were poorly vetted.

“When companies began demanding that we screen and do background checks on the people we were sending them, we felt, wow, this is a service to the community. It’s also really important for us to get it right,” Howroyd said, “so that’s how we got into that business.”

Hostile climate

“Many young women have grown up with the perspective of the denigration of women,” Howroyd said, “by what they heard in music, in social activity. So they started to face this before they faced the reality of it in an employment relationship. While they can’t accept that this is right, they can accept this as common and believe then that they have a need to figure out how to navigate that.”

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Advice

Howroyd suggests that young people sample potential careers and employers through internships. “Figure out not only if you like the work but also if you like the company,” she said. “Explore all of your opportunities before you dedicate yourself to one because you may surprise yourself.”

Personal

Howroyd has been married to her husband, Bernard, for nearly 40 years. “He’s a fantastic husband; make sure you quote me on that,” she said. They have two grown children, a son and a daughter. Even now, there’s not a lot of downtime. Howroyd remains a sought-after speaker and a huge supporter of her alma mater. She also devotes considerable time to philanthropy. In 2017, for the second consecutive year, Forbes magazine listed her among the nation’s wealthiest self-made women, with a family net worth of $420 million.

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Gibson guitar company facing imminent bankruptcy

Published: Thursday, February 15, 2018 @ 2:51 PM

The maker of the Les Paul, Firebird, Flying V and dozens of famous electric and acoustic guitars is facing an uncertain future according to reports from the Nashville Post, and several music and financial publications.

Gibson guitar company, which has been a staple brand among various musical instruments since 1902, is facing bankruptcy.

According to the Nashville Post, Gibson’s chief financial officer, Bill Lawrence, left after six months on the job and just as $375 million in senior secured notes mature and another $145 million in bank loans become due if they aren’t refinanced by July. The departure of Lawrence was seen as abrupt and a statement about the desperate situation Gibson is in currently.

The company, which generates $1 billion a year in revenues, recently moved out of its Nashville warehouse, where it had operated since the mid 1980s. 

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The company owner since then, Henry Juskiewicz, is trying to re-order the company according to the Post but is facing a battle with creditors over bad business decisions. The company recently sold Baldwin piano, and is hoping to see a boost in cash from the various electronics companies it had purchased the last several years.

Gibson began in 1902 in Kalamazoo, Mich., producing various instruments, including acoustic guitars and the Les Paul, designed by noted guitarist Les Paul, which became one of the most iconic instruments ever made. The Gibson Les Paul began production in 1952, and became a staple of the rock and roll movement since. The company since developed other iconic guitars such as the SG, Firebird, the Flying V and he ES-335 among others. 

Various reports, citing experts in the music and financial business, said Gibson would likely survive a bankruptcy due to its name value and tradition, as well as the a strong core business, according to Moody’s, who also cited the company’s balance sheets and organization issues as reasons to downgrade the company. 

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