Local Business Spotlight: The Weikum Group

It’s time for our next Local Business Spotlight and this time we are excited to be featuring our friend Ken Weikum of The Weikum Group.  Ken has worked in the insurance industry for more than a decade and used his many years of experience to build a business that makes insurance simple and accessible for his clients.  Keep reading to learn about his experience starting and growing his business.  ​

Q: What is the name of your business and when did you get started?

My name is Kenneth Weikum and I am the principal agent of The Weikum Group.  Before opening the agency, I spent 10 years handling claims from auto adjusting, subrogation, and catastrophic property adjustment.  I volunteered to go in after catastrophes, to deal with the tears, to face their fears with them, and to deliver on the promise that they have been paying into.  Yet, as an adjuster, you can only do so much, and it only comes to pass if the worst happens. 

Therefore, I opened The Weikum Group to be in the business of helping people.  As an Agent, I can insure that each one of my clients has the right policy and is matched with the right company.  That way my clients do not have to worry if the policy they bought online is going to cover them or not.

Q: Tell us about your business. What products and/or services do you offer?

The Weikum Group is an Independent Insurance Agency with a laser focus to “Make Insurance Simple” and to place the “right customer with the right company.”  We have appointments with a wide range of insurance carriers, giving us the options to accomplish just that. We can offer our customers coverage for auto, home, life, umbrella, and business insurance.

 

Q: How did you get the idea or concept for the business?

Insurance is not a tangible product and what it covers is often a mystery to most people.  Most Insurance companies are not advertising how their product is different, just that is better than their competitors and its cheap.  With so much mystery behind a product, having an agent is almost a no-brainer.  Then the question is, do you want an advisor who can only advise you with one solution, or with a toolbox of solutions?

I wanted to create an agency where my clients knew what products they were purchasing, what their policy covers, and to know that their policy was tailored to their needs.

Q: Why did you choose your industry/business?

This one is always a funny one.  Nobody goes to school to become an Insurance Agent.  Like many in my field, we fell into it and fell in love with it.  We would spend weeks out in the field, but we were changing people’s lives!

Q: What was your mission at the outset?

Our motto has always been to “To make Insurance Simple.”  Insurance policies are contracts and read like them too; similar to those terms and service agreements that everyone agrees to but has no idea what they mean.

Imagine having the option to call someone each time you came across a terms and service, and we gave you the abbreviated version and could educate you on what you were agreeing to.  That is what having an Agent is all about!  Just like you have an accountant, CPA, or lawyer to advise you, insurance agents can be your partner to build coverages that are right for you.

Q: Which channel(s) do you feel has been the most beneficial to the growth of your business (Social media, web-presence, word-of-mouth, networking, etc)? Why?

I fundamentally believe that people like to do business with those whom they know and trust.  In fact, trust is half the equation when it comes to services like The Weikum Group, Levesque and Associates, or Active Financial.  That is why we do not cold call or buy lists.  We aim to make valuable relationships with other professionals, meet the customer when and how they want to purchase insurance, and then follow up with yearly reviews to make sure we are upholding our end of the bargain.

Q: What do you feel has been the biggest contributor to the success of your business?

I firmly believe that the only real currency in the world is relationships.  I would not be where I am at today if it was not due to the generosity, mentorship, or contribution of hundreds of people.

We are in the same building as Levesque and Associates, and it wasn’t on accident!  I had known Conrad for years, and it was happen stance that he reached out and wanted to help.  During coffee we found out that we had a very similar dream and decided to team up add even more value to our clients.

Q: Can you tell us about a client experience that made you think, “This is why I do what I do!”?

I am blessed to be able to have that feeling almost every day!  About 80% of our clients walk away better covered and spending less money for that policy.  That is a real impact on peoples lives!  Even if we can price match and add coverage, once people understand what they are being protected against, it is a no-brainer.

Q: Do you have a favorite quote, book, or blog that has inspired you as you have grown your business?

“How you do anything…Is how you do EVERYTHING…”

It means that the little details matter.  It means who we are after 9-5 will reflect who we are during 9-5.

Q: What has been the biggest obstacle you have faced while starting and growing your business?

I often remember being resentful when management would take action and it wouldn’t make sense to my role.  I would often talk about ways I would do it better or how that idea was silly.  Now that I am a business owner…everything I do or don’t do comes down to me.  Yet, what is equally gratifying, and terrifying are those moments when it all comes together!

Q: What words of wisdom or advice would you offer to someone starting their own business?

Surround yourself with good people who want to see you succeed.  Know WHY you are doing what you are doing.  Take the leap and keep flapping!

Starting a business is tough as nails and nobody is going to do it for you, yet if you know why you are doing it, surround yourself with good people, and work your tail off, only good things will come!

Contact:
Ken Weikum
The Weikum Group
678-665-0508
ken@theweikumgroup.com

Driving for Uber or Lyft? 2018 Tax Changes and 5 Tax Deductions You Can’t Afford to Overlook

If you drive for a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft you are considered an independent contractor.  The new 2018 tax law includes a 20% pass through deduction which was designed to give small business owners a boost.  Rideshare drivers as well as other freelances and independent contractors can benefit from this as well.  Most drivers will be able to take a deduction equal to 20% of their total profit (income limits exist).  For example, a driver who earns $30,000 from fares and has $5,000 in expenses, has a profit of $25,000.  The deduction for this driver would be $5,000 (25,000 x 20%).

You are still eligible for the pass through deduction even if you only drive part time and have another job.  The deduction is only applicable to the profit earned from the rideshare position.  For example, a rideshare driver has a fulltime job from which he earns a salary of $50,000 and a W-2 at the end of the year.  He drives a few weekends a month to make extra money and at the end of the year has earned $10,000 from fares and has $1,500 in expenses.  His rideshare profit is $8,500 and his 20% deduction is $1,700.

Additional deductions exist for rideshare drivers.  Make sure you are not missing out on these common tax deductions.

  1. Mileage

Mileage is probably the single largest deduction available to those working with a rideshare service.  In general, drivers see the most benefit from taking the mileage deduction over deducting actual expenses.  With that being said, there are still some expenses drivers are allowed to deduct in addition to the mileage.  

  1. Cleaning Expenses

If you are taking the standard mileage deduction then fuel, oil changes, tires, car payments, car maintenance, vehicle registration fees, etc., are not deductible.  However, as a rideshare driver you can deduct the cost of car washes and car detailing.

  1. Other Vehicle Expenses

Additional, often overlooked expenses you can deduct alongside the standard mileage deduction are interest paid on your vehicle loan and annual ad valorem taxes.   Additionally, any tolls paid or parking costs incurred while driving for rideshare purposes are 100% deductible.

  1. Goodies for Your Passengers

Many drivers offer treats to their passengers.  Anything you purchase with the intent of distribution to your passengers for business purposes is deductible.  This typically includes bottled water, gum, mints, candy, etc.

  1. Phone (Maybe)

If you rent a phone from the rideshare company you work for then you can deduct the rental expense.  If you use your personal phone, it’s not as straight forward.  An applicable usage rate must be assigned and that rate is applied to the overall bill each month to get the deduction that will be included on schedule C of the return.  Examples of determining applicable usage rate is talk time, usage time, etc.  For rideshare drivers, because they use GPS, usage time can often be calculated as working driving time.

For everything listed here, it is critical that you keep receipts and track mileage according to the IRS guidelines.  For more about mileage deductions, rules you should know, and how to track your mileage, check out our previous blog post “All About Mileage.”

 

Mileage apps

Receipt apps

 

All About Mileage

The mileage deduction is a tax write-off used to offset the cost incurred through using a personal vehicle for business purposes.  If you are a business owner using a personal vehicle or an employee driving your own car or truck for work, you should be tracking your mileage.

Is it Business Mileage?

The IRS only allows a deduction for miles that are driven for business.  This does not include your commute between your home and your regular place of business.  Applicable miles include:

  • Mileage driven between your place of employment and a second work site/location or to meet clients off-site
  • Work related errands such as driving to the post office, bank, or to the office supply store
  • Do you drive to meet clients or vendors for dinner or a quick coffee? Miles driven for business meal or entertainment purposes are deductible
  • Miles driven to and from the airport for a business trip
  • Do you have a side-gig such as babysitting, dog walking, or lawn care? Miles driven to the location of an odd job should be tracked for deduction
  • Miles driven to a temporary job site (if it lasts less than 1 year)
  • Mileage related to job seeking (there are limitations)

Be sure to track and document your actual mileage driven for business purposes.  Claiming a round number, such as 15,000, on your return is more likely to create red flag with the IRS.  Should you ever be audited, you will be expected to produce a log of your mileage for the year.

Reimbursement vs. Tax Write-off           

It is important to note that if your employer reimburses you for the miles you drive your own car then you cannot deduct the mileage on your taxes.  Business owners, you may choose to reimburse yourself at the Standard Mileage Rate through your business or claim the miles as a deduction.  Alternately, you may choose to deduct actual vehicle expenses in lieu of mileage.  A few examples of vehicle expenses you can deduct are:

  • Gas and oil
  • Parking or toll costs for business trips
  • Lease payments
  • Car insurance
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Depreciation of the vehicle and any improvements
  • License fees

If you choose to deduct the Standard Mileage Rate, there are still a few vehicle expenses that are deductible:

  • Any interest you pay on a car loan
  • Personal property tax paid on the car (ad valorem)
  • Parking or toll costs for business trips

Regardless of the category you fall into, be sure you are accurately tracking the miles in a mileage log or documenting car-related expenses and keeping a record of receipts.

Log Requirements

The IRS has minimum requirements for mileage logs.  To be compliant, your log must include at least the following for any miles driven for business purposes:

  • Actual mileage
  • Date of the drive
  • Places driven
  • Purpose of the trip

Restrictions

To avoid any headaches down the road with the IRS, it is important to know what restrictions exist.  Most importantly, you should note that should you choose to use the actual expense method the first year that you use a car for business purposes, you must continue using that method until the car is sold or no longer used for business purposes.  If you use the Standard Mileage Rate the first year a car is in service, then you may switch back and forth between the two methods in the following years.  However, it is important to note that switching back and forth may result in the need to recapture depreciation.  Consult your CPA or tax professional for additional information.

2018 Mileage Rates (valid 01/01/2018 through 12/31/2018)

It isn’t exclusively business mileage that is tax deductible.  If you commute for medical purposes, such as regular visits to a doctor or medical facility, or for charity or volunteer purposes, be sure to track that mileage as well.  The mileage rates are considerably lower than business miles, but are still considered deductible.

  • Miles driven for business purposes: 54.5 cents per mile
  • Miles driven for medical or moving purposes: 18 cents per mile
  • Miles driven for charity or volunteer purposes: 14 cents per mile

 

Instead of keeping a paper record of your mileage, consider taking advantage of technology!  Lots of apps exist to make tracking your mileage a breeze: