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January 7, 2019 19 on '19

Accounting: Tight labor market among challenges ahead

Photo / Courtesy of Pete Dufour Peter Dufour, founder of Dufour Tax Group

CPA Pete Dufour, founder of Dufour Tax Group LLC, is an advisor to hundreds of business clients.

He's also a member of the Maine Society of Certified Public Accountants, so he gets insight from other certified public accountants.

“I saw an increase in revenue across most sectors during 2018, generally translating to a healthier bottom line,” he says. “But it appears some segments peaked early in 2018 and are beginning to soften slightly as we enter the new year.”

New tax laws could save companies money, particularly those created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect in 2018.

“For most business clients, our projections indicate that the [Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] will result in modest to significant tax savings. Enhanced depreciation and expensing rules will allow businesses to accelerate deductions for equipment purchases, which will help fuel further savings,” he says.

A common challenge his clients faced in 2018 was the tight labor market — and the trend is “likely to continue,” he says.

The Portland firm tackled the issue by enhancing benefits, including profit-sharing and retirement plans, and creating a so-called phantom equity plan, which is a deferred compensation plan. In each case, the incentives reward employees for contributing to company growth.

For clients, Dufour helped introduce technology that can increase productivity and efficiency while reducing the number of employees.

Dufour says Maine's aging baby boomers will continue to look for a way to transition into retirement. For that reason, Employee Stock Ownership Plans, or ESOPs, will continue to be popular this year.

“Our outlook for 2019 is positive, with an understanding that certain business sectors likely will see slowing growth, or perhaps a flattening of revenue,” he says. “Keys to driving profitability will continue to be solid tax and financial planning — and implementing automation and technology to help increase profitability.”

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