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Get Your Finances in Shape for 2016

With the arrival of the New Year comes an influx of resolutions, many of which will soon be forgotten. New goals are set and changes are made in an effort to improve our lifestyles for the better. Many of these New Year’s resolutions focus around health and wellness, such as eating healthier or getting in shape. But what about financial resolutions? The New Year is the perfect time to reevaluate your finances, establish financial goals, and develop a strong action plan that will help you maintain your resolution year-round. It’s time to set yourself up for the most fiscally sound year yet!


Begin by reevaluating your 2015 finances. In order to get where you want to be, you must first look at where you were. Take note of where money was spent to gain insight about where money can be saved going forward. If you have debt, make yourself aware of everything you owe. Looking at your financial year in review is also a great way to determine your financial strengths as well as uncover areas in need of improvement. This will help you decide what it is you want to improve upon and accomplish in 2016.


Using the insights gained from reevaluating 2015, ask yourself, “What do I want to accomplish this year?”  Whether you want to save money, decrease debt, or simply develop smart financial habits, no goals are too big or too small as long as they are attainable and conducive to your lifestyle. The best way to keep your resolutions throughout the year is to set realistic and achievable goals.


Once you have decided what it is you want to achieve in 2016, you can implement a plan to help you reach your targets. When creating your plan, set two dates within the year to review your finances. Doing so will give you insight into what is working and what is not in regards to your budget, savings, spending, investments, and tax prep. The use of a financial calendar can be extremely helpful in keeping you organized and ensuring all your financial deadlines are met, especially important tax dates. The IRS provides a comprehensive tax calendar online that can help get you started. A financial calendar eliminates the element of surprise, as you will be aware and prepared for what is to come.

Creating and employing a spending budget is a key way to achieve financial stability. While it may seem obvious to spend less money than you earn, it is not always easy to adhere to. A spending budget accounts for every dollar and should you abide by it, ensures you do not overspend. And don’t forget to prepare for the unexpected when creating your budget! The best way to financially survive unplanned events is to anticipate them. Allocate a portion of your budget for emergency funds and those unexpected events won’t seem nearly as impactful. A detailed spending budget is a strong asset for anyone and everyone and is imperative in achieving your financial goals, whatever they may be.


There are numerous ways to take control of your finances. If the commitment of a financial resolution overwhelms you, start by educating yourself on the subject. There is a wealth of information and advice as well as budget and bookkeeping tools available online that can help you better understand your personal finances. Mint is a free and powerful budgeting tool that gathers all your financial information into one place, making it easy to see and understand your spending behaviors. Billguard is another budgeting tool available for Android and iPhone that works to track and protect your finances. If you are having trouble reaching your financial objectives, don’t be afraid to ask! Your local CPA can happily provide advice. Adopting smart money habits is an easy and powerful way to take control of your finances. Think before you make a purchase, pay attention to bank statements, check in with your budget every month, etc. A strong bookkeeping strategy can make all the difference.


Always be proactive when it comes to your finances. Learn as much as you can and implement your understandings into your day to day life. While it is never easy to keep a New Year’s resolution, a committed attitude and a solid plan can keep you from reverting back to old habits. Gaining control of your finances will not only have a positive effect on your bank account, it will also give you peace of mind and a solid financial foundation you can rely on. It’s not too late to begin your 2016 New Year’s financial resolution!

For help with your financial needs, call (866) 736-2444 today.


Written by Kaley Halliburton



IRS Tax Calendar




5 New Year’s Resolutions for YouTubers


Hey, if you want to keep skipping the gym and binge watching Netflix, that’s fine with us. When it comes to your YouTube channel, though, New Year’s resolutions are always a good idea. After all, it is your business. Here are some ideas to consider this year and some YouTubers who are doing things right!

  1. Stick to a schedule

Whether subscribing to a magazine, newspaper or Birchbox, you expect to receive it on a consistent basis, right? Think of your YouTube channel in a similar way. Our favorite fashion and home design guru, Carly Cristman, brings us something to enjoy every Thursday…in neutrals of course. We also love YouTube veterans Noah, Jonah and Emma from KittiesMama who keep us smiling four days a week on their main channel, and we still can’t get enough. Sticking to a schedule gives your subscribers something to look forward to and sets expectations to hold yourself accountable for.


  1. Get more sleep and outsource your work

It’s five in the morning – are you still editing? If you have reached a point where juggling the demands of a growing YouTube channel has become too much, consider hiring an editor or assistant – it’s a write-off. Alleviating yourself from time consuming tasks like editing can allow you to focus your energy on other projects that will further your business.


  1. Utilize multiple channels

If you have more to say, say it!  iJustine, Sky Does Minecraft and CuteGirlsHairstyles know how to flood our feed with awesome content that engages a huge range of audiences. From Black Ops and Minecraft to mom hacks, beauty, braids and all things random, these Tubers are building their brands and creating multiple revenue streams for themselves.


  1. Incorporate

Your channel is killing it and you’re growing like crazy. Now what? Well, it may be time to step up your game. Depending on your annual income, you could just be throwing money away to the IRS. Incorporation could offer substantial tax savings that otherwise would not be available to you if you continued as a sole proprietor. Check out our blog on incorporation to see if you’re ready!


  1. Make quarterly estimates

If you’re in the U.S., no matter who you are or what your job is, you’re paying taxes. Trust us, the IRS does not discriminate! Make some sound financial decisions this year and look into making quarterly payments to the government; you’re going to save yourself some major headaches and major dollars come tax season.


If you are a YouTuber looking to put some of these resolutions into place, give us a call at (949) 215- 9900

One Billion Dollar El Nino Damage Possible Says Orange County CPA


As the first days of fall have quickly come and gone we patiently wait for things to cool down as well as this winter’s El Nino to start bringing Orange County some much needed wet weather. As an Orange County CPA I thought it would be interesting to look back at some of the financial implications past El Nino winters have brought to The O.C. and Southern California.

We have all been reading and watching reports of the impending doom the El Nino of 2016 has in store. Scientists are quoted as calling this event the “Godzilla El Nino,” as well as other outlets reporting predictions of, “storms of a generation.” With these kinds of titles being broadcasted it brings back memories of the past so called “worst” El Nino years of 1982 and most recently 1997. If this is being forecasted to be more severe than these crippling events, as a community, we need to be ready. Lets take a look at what happened during past El Nino, winters.

In a normal winter Orange County receives around ten inches of rain depending on the area. To put the drought into perspective last winter we received six inches of rain. From October of 1982 to April of 1983, Southern California received 18+ inches of rain setting the records at the time as the wettest winter in recorded history. That is only a two-inch difference of what we have seen in the past 3 years combined. The 1997 – 98’ winter was even worse. Many cities in both Orange County and Los Angeles County recorded rainfall totals of 15 inches or more just in the month of February alone! With this much rain, storm surge and winds we saw major damages.

The storms from the 1982-83’ El Nino brought 1.2 billion dollars in damage to the state. Strong winds, rain and snow tragically killed 36 people and injured 481. These storms are often considered the worst weather disaster in modern California history. After what we learned from the storms of 1982 and the advancement of more modern weather forecasting technology we were more prepared for the event and less damage was sustained during the 1997 event. Many properties and cities were impacted and the state suffered from 1.1 billion in damages.

History shows, these storms do serious damage and they should not be taken lightly. 

One advantage we can capitalize on from these dry times is our ability as community to prepare our wastewater and runoff infrastructure as well as our coastlines. We have had four years of empty drainage basins and runoff basins. Lets hope our city planners and mangers take this time to remove the debris and build up the dams so we can also capture as much water as we can in preparation for more dry weather we may see ahead.

As an Orange County CPA for many years I remember how terrible and scary the stories of people losing everything to mother nature. As much as we need the rain, let’s hope we are prepared so we don’t go down in the history books as the new worst weather disaster in California history.


Irvine Accounting Firm Explores Job Growth in Orange County

irvineAs we enter into the dog days of summer and the temperatures are heating up, so does the housing market and overall job growth outlook in Orange County. As an Irvine CA accounting company we thought it would be interesting to explore this job growth and how it is affecting the overall regional economy and the housing market.

In June the Orange County Register reported that Orange County has finally recovered all of the jobs it lost during the Great Recession. Last month positions reached a historic high beating the previous peak in 2006.

According to state employment officials, that number of jobs was 1,548,800. In the past year payrolls have grown 3.4%. That’s faster than the state rate of 3% and national rate of 2.2%.

Orange County has Southern California’s lowest unemployment rate at 4.2%. That is down a full percent from 5.2% the year before. This low unemployment rate shows that the county is producing more jobs than people available. Employers are now finally looking for people who have been out of work long term.

One interesting correlation we see here are peaks in the real estate market both around this magic number. With record numbers of Orange County citizens working in 2006 and now 2015 we see similar trends in the housing markets.

These indicators tell us that as the job market grows, people generate more income and are confident with their job stability they then in turn are more likely to purchase a home. With limited inventory, as demand grows so do prices. One difference between the 2006 market vs. the 2015 market are interest rates.

The average 30 year fixed rate on a mortgage in 2006 was 6.41%. In 2015 that rate through July is 3.81%. One can only conclude that if household incomes and payrolls are at matching record highs in 2006 and 2015 and interest rates are around 40% lower the market is only going to continue to grow as long as job growth stay stable.

Low levels of homes for sale will also drive housing construction creating more jobs.

Orange County’s own Chapman University released a report in June forecasting a 3.1% increase in jobs in 2015. As the Orange County economy grows, as an Irvine CPA Firm we feel its safe to say that the financial outlook and housing markets are looking strong as long as job growth remains stable.


The Streamy Awards Are Coming At You LIVE on VH1

The 5th Annual Streamy Awards will be broadcast live on VH1 and its digital platforms this Thursday, September 17th at 10 pm ET.  YouTube’s Elite will flock to the Hollywood Palladium to honor fellow creators in the best online video has to offer. 

Why is it a big deal?

This is the first year that a mainstream media channel has broadcast the show live! 

Glozell Green and Chelsea Briggs hosted the announcement of 35 winners already; but tune in for the live announcements of some of the biggest awards!  Award categories will include Beauty, Comedy, First Person, Kids and Family, Lifestyle, Pranks and Viner, Audience Choice: Entertainer of the Year and Audience Choice: Show of the Year.

Tune in to see what everyone’s wearing and winning all in one night as social media and mainstream media collide!

Watch Out DC: Here Comes the YouTube Stars IRL

It’s that time of year again and over Labor Day Weekend the internet’s elite will be migrating east to attend PlayList Live. This year the event has relocated from New Jersey to Washington, D.C.  Home to our President, Congress and now some of YouTube’s freshest faces! 

Our nation’s capital will be taken over by creators and fans from September 4 – 6, 2015 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.   Complete with panels, meetups and dance-offs, PlayList Live has something for everyone! 

Don’t miss Charles Trippy and Danny Duncan of We the Kings at Saturday’s Meetup.   Get hair tips from the gurus of Cute Girls Hairstyles Saturday afternoon.  Get beauty and lifestyle tips from some of your favorites like Nikki Phillippi and Shelby Church.  Prepare to laugh with Bart Baker as he discusses his parody videos Sunday night and FouseyTube’s wild ride to the top of the YouTube charts.

Semaphore CEO, Mike Bienstock, is a PlayList Live veteran!  From narrating panels, to attending some of the best parties he’s got some sound advice for anyone attending PlayList Live in DC.  First tip, wear comfy shoes.  Second tip; take all selfies with your dominant hand.  Third tip; make new friends that last a lifetime! 

Irvine Accountant Looks at Economic Impacts from the Orange County Fair

Residents of Orange County know summertime means longer days and warmer nights at the O.C. Fair. Every summer Orange County looks forward to the economic boost the fair brings to the region. As an accountant in Irvine, CA for over 25 years I thought it would be fun to take a look at just how much the area is financially impacted.

Last year, overall attendance to the fair dipped 3% even though in the final 2 days the attendance surpassed 80,000 people each day. The overall attendance was 1,337,167 compared with 2013 attendance of 1,374,579. That was up from around 1.3 million visitors in 2012.

In December of 2014 the California Department of Food and Agriculture published an economic impact snapshot exploring the 2012 fair.

• In 2012 the O.C. Fair generated approximately $256,239,000 in spending activity.
• In 2012 the equivalent of 2,255 jobs were created as a result of spending by the Orange County Fair.
• The labor income generated by these additional jobs was approximately $85,447,000.

As it turns out the network of California fairs is a huge revenue generator with upward growth of $3.1 billion in economic activity benefiting the local, state and global economy. Fairs in California provide a major return on investment as well as provide the communities fantastic opportunities for fun, culture, tradition, heritage, and education.

Although the 2015 attendance numbers have not been released yet, we can look at the 2012 attendance as a reference in conjunction with the report. If 2013 saw around a 25% increase in attendance compared to 2012, of which generated $256,239,000 in spending, it’s safe to say 2013 generated around $64 million more in spending!

With high expectations that attendance would be up this year in 2015, it will be interesting to see how the Orange County area will be affected by the injection of over $320 million in spending. One factor I would also love to look into one day are the local business impacts on restaurants, hotels and gas stations in Costa Mesa and other neighboring cities that host the fair grounds. I’ll save this for another post.

The O.C. Fair runs through the weekend, so be sure to check out all it has to offer! My favorites of course are the funnel cakes, concerts, rides, and carnival games. As an accountant in the Irvine area I find all of these figures really intriguing and impressive. I hope you do to.

Economic Impact of California CDFA 32nd_DAA.pdf

Tuber Guide | Incorporation

Digital media has changed hobbies into careers and dreams into businesses.

It’s a wild, fun, and rewarding ride. However, the transition from small-to-big-time often occurs to Creators quicker than they can adjust.

Taxes, incorporations, payroll: all complicated things that come with the territory of a making your YouTube operation into a legitimate business.

“Siri, What’s Incorporation?”

Basically, incorporation separates a business from its owner, which shields an owner from personal liability to the company. Additionally, incorporation allows for potentially big tax savings.

To summate it all, becoming incorporated makes all the costs of running a business worth it.

Am I ready?

So when do you know it’s time to take your business to the next level and incorporate? It’s a question we at Semaphore get all the time from Tubers.

Here are some things to consider:

  1. Income

As we all know, it doesn’t take one million subscribers to make money on YouTube. But until your channel is making $100,000-$150,000 annually, it’s difficult to justify incorporation. The costs involved with incorporation are difficult to substantiate until that threshold is met.

  1. Protecting Personal Assets

Do you like the things you own? Of course, you Instagram them all the time. When you’re not incorporated, your personal assets are at risk. Personal assets include your home, your car, your bank accounts, and more. If your operation sees rainy days, you could be sued for your own things. If you have liability concerns, you should incorporate as soon as possible.

  1. Tax Benefits

If you’re just beginning to consider incorporating, you may not have even thought of the tax benefits associated with this transition. When you incorporate, your business is assigned an Employee Identification Number, also commonly referred to as a federal tax ID. Simply, these enable you to hire people and open business bank accounts. You want those.

  1. Credibility

When incorporating a company, you legitimize your business and your channel. So when brands want to work with your channel, you will have already established a higher level of credibility than a sole proprietor just by being incorporated. When your business is a corporation or an LLC, it gives customers and partners a greater comfort thanks to the aura of credibility incorporation gives.

If you need more help understanding your taxes, please visit our live chat at our website ( to get in contact with one of our experienced tax professionals, or call us at 866-736-2444. We’re excited to hear from you!


This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Semaphore assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.


Favorite Playlist Live ’15 Pictures

It’s no surprise our team had a phenomenal time at Playlist Live in Orlando this year.

In fact, take a look at this picture of our CEO Mike Bienstock sneaking selfies with sWooZie.


Does it look like we don't know guac costs extra?
Does it look like we don’t know guac costs extra?

Our fabulous photographer captured so many great moments just like this from Playlist Live Orlando 2015. Here are our favorites.


Twice The Selfies

I wonder whose selfie got more favorites.
I wonder whose selfie got more favorites.

Forget about a double rainbow. How about a double Connor Franta and Troye Sivan fan selfie? And the fangirls go wild…!

Down For The [View] Count

Pin this to your Pinterest board.
Pin this to your Pinterest board.

You won’t be surprised to learn that the bright grin in this picture belongs to Olga Kay. It looks like the P90x workouts are working. Steve Zarazoga would probably be a better person to ask.

Doing It For The Vine

I ain't gon' do it. JK, I probably will.
I ain’t gon’ do it. JK, I probably will.

This mega-viral mix of Vine superstars (TheGabbieShow, Amymarie Gaertner, Brodie Smith, and Marcus Johns) were prepping for a special Vine that we’re sure was not receive a “#deletos”.

We’re Uncomfortable, Too

Your guess is as good as mine.
Your guess is as good as mine.

Let’s play a game of I Spy.

I spy: Nerf guns, squirt guns, pancake mix (for Josh Chomik, of course), confetti shooters, and a dancing pizza man.

We’re not sure  what’s exactly happening here, but we’re into it.

It’s Bethany Mota

The smiles say it all.
The smiles say it all.

Need we say more? Bethany Mota looks stunning as ever in this shot with fans. All these smiles could cure the worst case of the Mondays.

Most Precious


Twinning, or nah? Meghan (@MsMeghanMakeupcalled this the “GREATEST MOMENT CAPTURED EVER”. We are inclined to agree. It’s definitely our favorite moment captured this Playlist.

If you want to see the rest of our pictures from the event, visit our photo site at

Until next time,

Semaphore HQ



irsScammers are targeting people just like you, yes, even Tubers, every year in a decades-old scam involving, or rather, claiming to involve, the IRS.

Don’t fret. This post will prepare you to avoid these scams and keep your money in your pocket, where it belongs.

Fact: The IRS will never, ever call you on the phone. It’s not their M.O. They’ll only call if you’ve asked for it, which we suspect you probably never would.

So when you or someone you know receives a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, it’s a scam.

It’ll often go down like this:

Someone will call you and claim they’re with the IRS. The scammers will demand you pay taxes they claim you owe (completely fabricated). Some may try to con you by saying that you’re due a refund—a fake lure so you’ll give them your banking or other private financial information.

It’s dangerous because these con-artists will often sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot of personal information about you. They may even alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

Here are five things that scammers do, but the IRS will never. Any one of these five things is a sign of a scam. The IRS does not:

  1. Call you to demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.
  2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the chance to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  3. Require you to use a certain payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threaten to summon police or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying.


What if I get called?

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what to do:

If a person calls claiming to be from the IRS, be calm and ask for their badge number, the number they’re calling from, and their name. Then take that information and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. Once you get connected to a representative, let them know you received a call from a potential-scammer and ask them to verify what the person claimed.

If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, also report the incident to TIGTA at 1.800.366.4484 or at

Remember, the IRS currently does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issues, either.

Be smart this tax season; IRS scammers are working to take your money from you. We hope this guide helps you avoid them.

If you need more help understanding your taxes, please visit our live chat at our website ( to get in contact with one of our experienced tax professionals, or call us at 866-736-2444. We’re excited to hear from you!