Recap: Tips for Tipping

“If you fear change, leave it in the tip jar.” – Unknown

Does your business have employees that receive tips? Tips can cause confusion for employers when running a business. Read our full article from last week, where we covered many of the frequently asked questions about running a business where employees receive tips, including:

  • What conditions must be met in order for money given to be considered a ‘tip’
  • How much an employee must receive in order to be considered a ‘tipped employee’
  • The ways you can collect and report tips
  • Details on the way that tips work when issued from a customer’s credit card
  • How tips will affect your taxes

This information will be useful for any new small business owner looking for information about how to deal with tipped employees, and for more established business owners it never hurts to brush up on these types of issues. And business owners new and old can always count on Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency for their Massachusetts small business insurance. For a free business insurance quote, call 617-298-0655. One of our agents can create a policy that is tailored to the needs of your business, so don’t delay – call now to see if we can improve your coverage or lower your premiums!

When Can You Claim Your Condo Insurance?

You can claim your condo insurance in case of a covered risk. Different condo insurance policies cover different risks. As the policyholder, you need to know the kind of risks that your condo insurance policy covers. Get the help of an insurance agency such as Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA to find the best condo insurance for your needs.

When You Can Claim Your Condo Insurance

If You Lose Your Personal Possessions

You can claim your condo insurance if you lose personal belongings such as furniture, electronics, clothing, or jewelry in your condo as a result of covered perils such as theft or fires.

If You Incur Additional Living Expenses

If your condo is damaged by covered risks, it may become unsuitable for you to live in. You can claim your additional living expenses coverage to pay for the unplanned costs of living such as hotel bills. The policy can offer you compensation for the period it takes to repair your condo.

If You are Liable For Property Damage or Personal Injury

You can claim your condo insurance if a visitor gets injured in your condo. If, for example, a guest trips and falls down your stairs, you can make a claim to pay for their medical costs. You just need to be sure that the fall is accidental. If they choose to sue you, you can make a claim to pay for the legal charges. You may also file for a claim if you lose or destroy the property of a visitor in your condo unit.

If There is Damage to Structures of Your Condo

You can file for a claim if insured risks cause damage to your condo units. The risks could include fires or vandalism.

Contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance in Dorchester, MA for your home insurance needs. Our agents can help you get started.

Is It Time to Update Your Home Insurance?

Owning a home can be a lot of work. The home maintenance tasks alone will keep you busy, but thankfully keeping your home insurance up to date is simple! Your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent is always available to help you ensure that your home is covered against all types of perils.

Sometimes, though, you will need to let your insurance agent know that there has been a change in your home or in your life that requires a change to your Massachusetts home insurance policy. Here are just a few examples of times that you should pick up the phone and call your agent:

When you make changes to the property

This should come as no surprise, but you will need to update your home insurance if you make any structural changes to your property. This could mean putting on an addition or any sort of remodeling work. Talk to your insurance agent to tell them about the changing value of your home, and make sure that your insurance is adjusted accordingly.

Putting in a swimming pool also requires a call to your Dorchester insurance agent, both to account for the increasing value of your property and also to add some liability coverage in case of a pool-related accident.

When you purchase something valuable

Home insurance typically provides coverage for all of your possessions, but sometimes it is worth calling your insurance agent to make sure that a new purchase will be properly covered. This is especially true for big ticket items, like artwork, jewelry, and expensive electronics. Talking to your insurance agent will help you guarantee that these items are covered for their replacement value, so that you will be made whole again if they are ever part of a Massachusetts home insurance claim.

When you rent out a room

You have a spare room, so why not put it to work for you? If you have a long-term renter or even if you just rent out your room to vacationers for a few nights at a time through a site like Airbnb, you need to inform your insurance agent. They will be able to help you figure out if you need a landlord’s insurance policy, or just a little extra liability coverage due to your increased exposure to risk.

When you adopt a pet

Adding a furry member to your family is a reason to celebrate! It’s also a reason to call your insurance agent for a home insurance update. Often, especially with dogs, it’s a good idea to have a little extra liability coverage in case of an incident. Remember – you never expect to have an issue, but it’s better to be safe than sorry with these sorts of things!

When you add a security system

Have you considered boosting your home security? Adding a security system can be a great idea for your home, and in addition to keeping you and your loved ones safe, letting your home insurance agent know that you have installed a security system can help you earn a discount on your premium! This is also the case with adding fire and smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors.

When your lifestyle changes

Did you know that you should talk to your insurance agent when you make certain changes to your lifestyle? For example, when you retire you will likely spend a lot more time at home, making you more likely to catch a potential issue. This may mean that your insurance rates are decreased! The same is true for those of you that may quit smoking since the disappearance of cigarettes will make your home safer (and make you healthier).

When you want to protect against disasters

Your home insurance will protect your property and your possessions against many types of perils, but some disasters are not inherently covered. If you want to make sure that you are totally covered, talk to your insurance agent about adding Boston flood insurance and earthquake insurance to your home insurance policy. You can also protect against financial disasters – namely lawsuits – with the proper umbrella insurance policy. These types of coverage are very affordable, especially considering how much protection you will be getting from them!

When you want to change your deductible amount

As the owner of an insurance policy, you know that the deductible and the premium are related. This means that a quick call to your insurance agent to raise your deductible will lower your premium payments, and vice versa. Updating your deductible amount is a great way to either save some out-of-pocket money each month, or to ensure that you pay less if you ever make a home insurance claim.

Updating your home insurance policy couldn’t be easier! All you need to do is talk to an agent at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. One quick call to our office at 617-298-0655 can get you on the road to making sure that your home has all of the protection that it needs to weather any storm (whether literal or figurative). Don’t wait until it’s too late – check your policy for free today!

Recap: RE Agents Good Appearances

“People sometimes talk about the power of first impressions, and believe me, there is truth to it.” – Ann Brashares

When a client starts the search for a real estate agent to help buy or sell a Massachusetts home, it is known that they will make their decision at least partially based on intuitions and gut feelings. Because of this, it is critical that you do everything in your power to ensure that you make a good first impression on your potential clients. Think about what kind of impact you are making with the following:

  • Your ‘first point of contact’ with the client, often an advertisement or your website.
  • Your office location and décor.
  • Your personal wardrobe and presentation.
  • Your attitude and interactions when you first meet someone.
  • Your vehicle, especially if you are using it to transport buyers.

Take a minute to ask yourself, “What could I be doing to make a better first impression on my potential clients?” If you need help, ask a friend to give their unbiased opinion on how they feel about any and all of the items in the above list, and where they see the most room for improvement.

To continue improving your relationship with your clients, refer them to a great home insurance agent! Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency will take care of all of your client’s home insurance needs, and we will keep you informed of every step along the way as you’re working toward closing day. To find out more about how we can help your clients, call us at 617-298-0655 and ask about why you should refer your clients to our agency.

How to Handle Employee Tips as a Business Owner

As a business owner, you know how to deal with your employees. You appreciate them, help them deal with their stresses and be more productive. But what do you do as an employer to handle employees that receive tips as a part of their wage?

What is a ‘Tip’?

This seems like a simple question, but it turns out that the definition of a ‘tip’ may be different than what you think. According to the IRS, a ‘tip’ must meet four specific conditions:

  • The payment must be made free from compulsion;
  • The customer must have the unrestricted right to determine the amount;
  • The payment should not be the subject of negotiations or dictated by employer policy; and
  • Generally, the customer has the right to determine who receives the payment.

Many types of businesses involve tips. Of course, restaurants immediately come to mind, but other establishments also have a payment structure dependent on employees receiving tips. These include hotels, clubs, bars, and more.

Tip vs. Service Charge

Often, the difference between tips and service charges can seem like a gray area. Service charges are often added to a customer’s check involuntarily. Examples of this include ‘automatic gratuities’ for large dining parties, banquet fees, room service charges, bottle service charges, etc. When paid to employees, these types of charges are typically considered non-tip wages, even if the employee calls the payment a tip or gratuity. An accountant can help you differentiate between the two as it pertains to your business.

What is a ‘Tipped Employee’?

As you would expect, a tipped employee is an employee that regularly receives tips as a part of their compensation. This includes servers, bartenders, valets, taxi drivers, artists, service providers, and many more.

Typically, there is a baseline dollar amount established in order for an employee to be considered a ‘tipped employee.’ The amount of money an employee receives via tip is taxable (if they make more than $20 in a month) and you must report this on the employee’s W-2 form.

It is important to note that tipped employees must still be paid the service rate for tipped employees, currently $3.75 an hour. These employees must also make at least minimum wage once tips are included. In Massachusetts, the minimum wage is currently $11 an hour (as of January 2017).

How to collect and report tips

Employees get to keep the tips that they earn but must report the dollar amount to the business. How often this is done is up to you, but it is generally considered easiest to do after each shift.

Some workplaces have pooled tips, in which case the employees divide tips among themselves based on their own arrangements. Even in this scenario, they are required to each report their earnings to you so that you may in turn report it to the IRS.

Dealing with credit card tips

Nowadays, most customers seem to use credit cards. Not having to deal with cash can be a good thing but makes tips a bit more complicated. Your employees are still entitled to their earned tips, but (in some states) you may reduce the amount given based on the transaction fee charged to you by the credit card company.

Tipping and your business’s taxes

As a Massachusetts business owner, it is your responsibility to collect and report all income earned by your employees, including their tip income. Make sure that employees are reporting all of the tips that they receive, whether via cash or credit (or any other form of payment). This amount should be reported on each employee’s wage report, and you should withhold income taxes and FICA taxes on the total amount.

For help with your business’s finances talk to a Massachusetts accountant. We can refer you to someone that will help answer all of your questions and get you on the right track! (If you ever need a referral for a Boston area professional, just ask your Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent – we work with lots of professionals in the area, and can probably connect you with the right person to answer your questions or help you with what you need.)

Unreported Tips

You trust your employees to report all of their tips to you as mandated, but you should know that if for some reason an employee does not report all of their tips, the IRS will not hold you liable. You must still, however, always do your de diligence to get your employees to report their earnings in full.

For more Massachusetts small business tips, stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog. And for the best business insurance in Boston, call 617-298-0655 for a free quote! Our business insurance agents will make sure that you get a policy that will protect all aspects of your business, from your property to your inventory, from your customers to your employees, and much more.

Recap: Family Vacation Tips

“Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before vacation?” – Zig Ziglar

Are you and your family going to cap off the summer with a vacation? If you are, then make sure to stay safe by following these tips from the best insurance agency in Boston! We are always focused on helping you stay safe and make the most out of whatever you enjoy in life.

  • Choose a destination that will be a balance of all the things you want in a vacation. Look for a place that’s fun and relaxing. Not to mention something that has plenty of entertainment and history.
  • Pack as light as possible, but make sure that everyone in your party has plenty of entertainment for the journey. Otherwise, you will be hearing a lot of “Are we there yet?”
  • Once you’re at your vacation spot, make lots of memories! Now is the time for that extra scoop of ice cream and doing the silly dance even though there are people watching. Take pictures and have fun!

Before you head out on your vacation, take a moment to call our agency at 617-298-0655 to make sure that your insurance policies will protect you every step of the way. If you are going on a road trip, check your Boston car insurance policy, and make sure that your home insurance is going to protect you in case something happens to your property while you are away. A few minutes of your time now can help tremendously if there is an issue later!

Real Estate Agent Advice: Making First Impressions

As you have heard “There’s no second chance at a first impression.” But did you know that a large percent of home buyers and home sellers choose their real estate agent based on first impressions and gut feelings? If this is the case, then a savvy Realtor knows that making a good first impression on potential clients is one of their keys to success! Here are a few tips for how to make sure that your potential clients are impressed with you and your business from the very beginning:

First Point of Contact

How do your clients find you? You need to make sure that all of the first points of contact are going to put you and your business in the best possible light. This means making sure that all of your advertisements are of good quality, and that your website is attractive and easy to navigate. It also means making sure that a friendly voice always answers your office phone.

In addition, one of the best forms of marketing for real estate agents is word-of-mouth. This means that it’s your job to make sure that your past clients have only good things to say about you and your services. If someone hears from a friend or relative that they know of a great Boston Realtor, you’re already off to a great start!

Location, Location, Location

After a potential client finds you and schedules a meeting, the next first impression you control is when they step into your office. Make sure that your reception area is neat and welcoming, with comfortable furniture and inviting décor.

Also ensure that the conference room or office where you chat is going to make a good impression on your client. Remember – it only takes one slip-up for someone to get a ‘bad feeling’ and move on to someone else!

Dress for Success

When it comes to making a good first impression, dressing for success is the first thing on most people’s minds. It’s important to note, however, that dressing the part doesn’t necessarily mean dressing to the nines. You want to look neat and presentable, but you don’t want to be too over-the-top dressy and make clients uncomfortable. The trick is finding a wardrobe that makes you look professional but still casual and comfortable. And, as any seasoned real estate agent will tell you, find a pair (or several) of good shoes! There isn’t much worse than being stuck with bad shoes during a day of showings and open houses.

Be Welcoming

As a real estate agent, you know that clients are looking for someone that they like and trust to help them buy or sell their home. This means that when you meet a new client, you need to put on your most friendly face and be a good host. If the client comes to your office, offer them a refreshment and ask them if they were able to find your office without any trouble. If you visit them for your first meeting, offer to take off your shoes when you enter their home, and tell them that the neighborhood is lovely.

Wheels in Motion

Nothing makes an impression on a client quite like the car you drive. It’s something that both buyers and sellers will notice, so you want to make sure that you invest in a reliable car that will make heads turn. Choose something roomy for any time that you are driving around buyers, and make sure to invest in some of the trim upgrades. Bonus points will be handed out if you can get a car with heated seats and a refreshment cooler!

If you need help with a top of the line Massachusetts auto insurance policy for your mobile office, have a chat with the agents here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. We can create a policy that’s sure to impress!

Continuing the Practice

Once you resolve to start making sure that you make a good first impression on your clients, you need to treat it like you would a New Year’s Resolution. Making the decision to focus on impressing with your appearance is a great start, following through shows your commitment to your profession, but the real magic happens when it becomes a habit. When you are making good impressions on those around you without even having to work on it, you will be well on the way to success as a Boston real estate agent.

At Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we are always looking to make a good impression on new clients, and this will always be the case with the people that you refer to us! We promise to give your clients a great home insurance experience, and to keep you in the loop at every step of the process. To talk more about why our agency should be your go-to home insurance referral, call us at 617-298-0655, and let us know if we make a good first impression!

Recap: Flood Insurance FAQs

“Water is the driving force of all nature.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Did you know that your Massachusetts home insurance policy likely won’t cover you for certain instances of flood damage, including some of the damages caused by flooding during a hurricane? This time of year, we get a lot of questions about flood insurance, so make sure that you didn’t miss our blog post from last week where we answered some of the most frequently asked questions regarding flood protection, including:

  • What constitutes a flood?
  • Will my home insurance cover me if there is flood damage to my property?
  • I don’t live near any water. Do I still need a flood insurance policy?
  • What is federal disaster assistance? Won’t that help me if there is a flood?
  • How are flood insurance premiums calculated? Are discounts available?
  • How long after I purchase flood insurance will my policy go into effect?

Want to talk to a Massachusetts insurance agent about whether you need a flood insurance policy? Call us at 617-298-0655 or fill out our online quote request form and we will get back to you right away. We will show you that flood insurance is a great way to protect your property against potential flood damage for a relatively low price, so don’t wait – call today!

Recap: Summer Tips for Small Businesses

“Business is about people. It’s about passion. It’s about bold ideas, bold small ideas or bold large ideas.” – Tom Peters

What are you doing to take your small business to the next level? The summertime may seem like a great time to take a break and enjoy the weather, but don’t let yourself stay stagnant! Instead, check out our full blog post from last week, including several ideas like these on how you can leverage the summertime to grow your business:

  • Try out a new social media platform or put some effort into an existing one with summertime photos of your customers or products.
  • Expand your customer database by consistently asking for email addresses. Make it more attractive by offering a discount to customers that are on your email list or a coupon to new sign-ups.
  • Attend or host an event – your next customer could be right around the corner! As a bonus, plan an event for your employees as a reward for working so hard throughout the year.
  • Never let yourself get lazy. Instead of relaxing, plan for the future of your business.

For more business marketing tips, general business advice, and business insurance expertise, stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance blog! And if you ever have a question or want to review your Massachusetts business insurance options, call our agency at 617-298-0655.

Tips for Your Family Vacation

Summertime is the perfect time to plan a family vacation. Kids are out of school, and the weather is perfect for some fun in the sun. If you’re planning on taking a vacation, make sure that you first read these tips from your favorite local independent insurance agency:

Choosing a Destination

You’ve decided to go on vacation! Now, the question is… where do you go? The trick is to choose a destination that will delight the entire family (which, as you probably know, can be pretty tricky). Your best course of action may be to find the right balance of all of your ‘wants’ – somewhere that is fun, relaxing, entertaining, and maybe even educational.

Thankfully, there are plenty of places like this in our very own backyard. Of course, Boston is a city full of history, culture, and entertainment galore. If you want to travel out a bit further, though, there are plenty of other cities within driving distance worth considering – including Providence, Newport, Manchester, Portsmouth, and many more.

If you are willing to fly, then your options are practically limitless, as children and adults alike will delight in destinations both within the US and abroad. And if you want a vacation that is something slightly off the beaten path, consider a cruise! There are plenty sailing out of the Boston harbor year-round.

Packing

Just like when you’re trying to choose the perfect vacation destination, packing for your trip is also a balancing act. You want to make sure that you have enough clothing and toiletries for everyone while simultaneously not going too overboard. This is especially true when you’re flying since most airlines will charge you for extra bags and bags over a certain weight limit. Even when driving, though, be conscious about how much you pack. After all, the weight of your car is one of the factors that will determine your gas mileage on the trip.

As you pack, also make sure that you prepare your home for the trip. Stop your mail and newspaper delivery, arrange for a neighbor to water your plants, and think about putting some of your lights on timers to deter thieves.

Travelling

Is there anything worse than being bored while travelling? To avoid this feeling of ennui, make sure that every person you are travelling with has a few things that will keep them occupied during the trip. Think about books, movies, and even some games. Bring more than you think you will need – the excitement of an impending vacation will make the fun of other activities wear off more quickly.

During Your Trip

It may be tempting while you’re in a new place to try and pack in as much sightseeing and as many activities as you can. While you should definitely see and do a lot while you’re away, make sure that you and your family don’t get stressed out because you’re trying to do too much. Leave in a little time for unstructured activities, and don’t be afraid to take a nap or relax by a pool if that’s what everyone feels like doing! And sometimes it’s fun to break into teams and do things separately once in a while.

Heading Back Home

When it’s time to head ‘back to reality’ don’t let anyone fall into a post-vacation rut. Remember the quote “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Children especially may make comments about how they wish they didn’t have to go back to school and wish they could stay on vacation forever. Remind them that vacation is only special because you only get to do it once in a while. Cheer them up by starting to talk about where you will go next! After all, the anticipation of a trip is half the fun!

After the Trip

Reflection is one of the most rewarding experiences of a family vacation. Have your kids tell you their favorite parts of your trip, and have fun revisiting some of your memories by looking through pictures. And remember, many kids will have writing assignments about their summer vacation activities when they return to school, so save some of those for your vacation scrapbook!

So, where are you and your family going on vacation this summer? No matter where you go, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency before you leave. We can check your home insurance to make sure that your property and possessions will be safe while you are away and will check your car insurance if you’re taking a road trip.

Remember – vacation is supposed to be all about fun and relaxation, and it will be easier to both have fun and relax after an insurance check-up! So, don’t wait – before you get out your suitcases, call one of the best Boston insurance agents at 617-298-0655. And make sure that you stay tuned to our blog for more summertime tips and tricks from your favorite Boston insurance agents!