Summer break. For school-age children, those are the two sweetest words in the English language. For parents, it’s … a mixed bag. You might have family vacations and cookouts and some memory-making planned, but it also means YOU are the one figuring out what to do with the young people during the long days so they’re not at your heels every five minutes looking for something to do.
(Am I the only one who thinks about the ’80s and ’90s as the golden age of free-range childhood?)
One topical thing I should tell you about: day camps – science camps, sports camps, educational camps… all the camps. The great news about that (besides a little peace around the house) is it can mean good things for your taxes. As in “money back” good things. And who doesn’t love money back from the IRS?
Aren’t sure how much that means or how to claim it? Well, that’s what the Emelia Mensa, CPA team is here for:
As my final clever segue, let’s examine how when expenses start going up in your life (like sending children to day camp – you see what I did there?), that’s often when you start considering ways to make some cash – and we all can understand that right now.
One of the most famous (or maybe infamous) methods is the MLM (multilevel marketing) business. These often start as a side hustle for a little extra cash, but sometimes those side hustles can turn into lucrative business ventures – if you have the drive and are committed to sell, sell, sell.
If you’ve ever thought of jumping into an MLM venture (or know anyone who has), it’s a good idea to start by taking a look at the pros and cons…
Multi-Level Marketing Tips for First-Timers
“In his heart everyone knows that the only people who get rich from the get-rich-quick books are those who write them.” – Richard Nixon
You’ve probably had a friend or relative lunge at you with one of these offers: Sell products and gradually get others to sell, too. Then, before you know it, you’ll be getting a cut of their commissions. Multilevel marketing (MLM) businesses have become fabled as dead-end losses, if not outright pyramidal rip-offs.
Is that a bad rap?
But some people have actually done well in MLMs…especially women (a lot of them stay-at-home mothers).
How did they do it? By knowing exactly what they were getting into and being realistic about the opportunity.
Nothing’s for everybody
Recent research shows that more than one in 10 American adults has participated in a multilevel marketing venture – and that nearly 60% quit soon after starting. Yet, a third of Americans have also purchased products or services from one of these companies, and only a small percentage of those folks report being dissatisfied.
People are selling what seems to be a good product, yet they still bail. Why?
Basically, distributors recruit workers like you to sell to family, friends or communities, or others, sometimes historically through get-togethers and more recently using social media. In addition to face-to-face selling, you also often have to recruit junior sellers (aka your “downline”) so you’ll earn commissions on their sales.
Surveys found that only one in four people make money.
Triangle of trouble?
Some folks join these companies hoping to save money on products they’d buy anyway or even make extra cash selling goods they enjoy and believe in. But most who sign on to legitimate MLMs make little – and sometimes lose a lot.
The feds take a dim view of the downline structure of some MLMs. “Scams,” the Federal Trade Commission warns. “They can look remarkably like legitimate MLM business opportunities and often sell actual products, maybe even ones you’ve heard of. But if you become a distributor for a pyramid scheme, it can cost you and your recruits … a lot of time and money.”
The problem, the FTC adds, is that your income would be based mostly on how many people you recruit, not how much product you sell. Often, you’ll be encouraged – even required – to shell out for a certain amount of product regularly, even if you already have more inventory than you can use or sell.
So, how come multilevel marketing works out for some?
These businesses do have good points, and the people who excel in them have the right personality – doggedness and a passion, not just an interest, for sales. More importantly, most do their homework before signing up.
MLMs are an opportunity for entrepreneurs with the right mindset: easy and cheap to start, with a cost-effective way to reach many potential customers. For the bosses, there are no fixed salaries or benefits to pay. It’d be hard to find a more flexible schedule, and multiple layers of participants (in the right program) means mentorship can be easy to tap (resistance to helping a newcomer can be a sign of a bad MLM).
Do you want to sell? Does selling make you feel better than any other job? Got a solid sales plan – who’s going to buy this product from you? What are your goals for income? Can you risk the time and money?
Then come the questions for the MLM people. Search them online and in the news and seek out their distributors. What do they say? Does everybody make just a few too many claims about “big money?” What about the product supposedly at the center of all this sales hubbub: Is it any good?
Direct questions for whoever tries to sign you up:
- How long have you been in the MLM, and how much did you make last year after expenses?
- Have you borrowed money or used your credit card to fund your business?
- Do you need to have recruits to make money? How many people have you recruited – and how many of them have left the business?
- How much inventory did you buy from the MLM last year? Did you sell all of it?
Understand all the costs and ask about refunds. Study the paperwork and have someone help you study it. Until you sign anything, the fine print is your best friend.
No talk about a new business is complete without taxes. In an MLM, you’re an independent contractor, which means you’ll have to pony up estimated tax payments every quarter.
It also means you potentially be able to take certain business deductions such as home office, travel, supplies, and other areas. Be warned: This is not an “open sesame” to tax breaks – there are several catches (recordkeeping’s intense, for one). Sit down with us to discuss this in detail.
And sit down with yourself for a deep discussion before you join an MLM. They can work – if you’re genuinely a good fit for one.
If you’ve got the drive, need extra income, and are considering jumping into owning a Connecticut multilevel marketing business, let’s sit down and chat about the financial and tax implications of that to get you started on the right foot:
And while you’re at it, let’s talk some tax-saving moves you can make in 2022. Because I want to make sure you keep as much of your hard-earned money as possible.
Here for you,
Emelia Mensa, CPA