Why Your Tax Representation Matters

Every couple of days I receive a call from a taxpayer or corporation regarding huge sums of money they have paid to other so-called “tax solution” firms, without any apparent movement or resolution of their file.  Usually these stories involve secrecy and the requirement for additional funds in order to bring the file to a close.

Would you go to a dentist who treated you like that?

Or have your vehicle repaired at a shop where you were not even sure they had any mechanics there?

When dealing with tax-related matters there should be no secrecy.  There should be questioning whether work was done or not and there certainly should not be doubt that the job was not completed.

Unfortunately this happens more and more.

The representation you chose, when under fire by, not just by the CRA, but all areas of government, like the WSIB, RST, or CRTC, is far more important than you could possibly imagine.  Especially in light of the fact that the CRA, for example, keeps a permanent diary record of your conversations and their attempts to resolve your tax file.  They also carry forward an account summary every 6-months, so in the instance where an account has been transferred to another collector, that new collector will know within minutes how the CRA wants to treat you and / or your representative.

Lie to them.

Break promises.

Call them names, like the “taxman”.

It’s all there and its used against you… Forever.

Case in point:

A couple of years ago I met a couple of directors of a corporation who booked a 2-hour meeting with me for only $500 plus HST. They had come with the intention of having me assist them in negotiation with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) who were in the process of raising a Director’s Liability Assessment against them the unpaid debts of the Corporation they operated.  They could not afford to pay the balance in full and were worried the CRA would take their house.

These directors had also heard about a way to reduce penalties and / or interest and they wanted more information.

They had already met with 2 other tax solution firms and one of them had fed the CRA with a sob story which the CRA did not buy, and after failing to return calls, and have any meaningful conversation with the CRA, disappeared with their money.  The CRA kept trying to reach this representative and the directors had no idea how quickly the collections efforts had progressed and how upset the CRA had beceome.

The second firm charged them a lot of money, then set out to make a payment arrangement with the CRA, even accusing these directors of “fudging” their records in order to show less income than they actually had.

They were frustrated, had spent a lot of money and had now incurred the wrath of the CRA.

Then we sat down together to talk, and after only a few questions and a review of the notices they brought with them, I notified them of the statute of limitations the CRA must follow when raising a Director’s Liability Assessment under s.227.1 of the Income Tax Act and S323.1 of the Excise Tax Act, which was 2 years from the date the corporation ceased to operate or the date the director officially resigned from the corporation.

They said the business closed 3 years ago, and that their accountant had officially closed the corporation with the government.

We talked about the Taxpayer Relief Program and about key language to use when speaking to the CRA in order to begin to change the permanent diary record they keep on the corporation and the directors.

The meeting concluded.

I immediately pulled a corporate profile report, checked that against the date of the assessments the CRA were raising and found them to be beyond that limit.

I used the signed authorization forms to contact the CRA, and that 5-minute conversation resolved the account… Forever.

I provided the directors with a report of the meeting, including the information we discussed, the CRA’s actions to date, their likely next steps, plus recommendations about how to deal properly with the CRA going forward, and I explained to them that there was no need for a payment arrangement because the account had a zero balance.

Luck?

No.

Additional fees?

No.

Were they happy… You could say that.  After they wiped away the tears and finished squeezing the life out of me, they talked about the relief they felt knowing this matter was finally behind them, and how they had other tax matters they wanted me to handle for them.

If representative #1 or representative #2 knew anything about collections or looked beyond their huge payout, they could have helped these directors with this assessment, with the 9-month-long audit that followed or the issues with WSIB, and the CRTC so that these directors owed nothing and their files were closed and in good order.

Does representation matter?

You bet it does!

#inTAXicating

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Can You Describe What You Do To A Stranger? Tell People What You Do!

If you have been reading my posts on The Urban Daddy, or on inTAXicating, you will know that I sometimes put on my MBA-hat and question everything about the way we do business.

One of the questions I have had for a long time has to do with how businesses choose to identify themselves to the public. We all know that keeping customers is much easier and much cheaper than getting new ones – so they say – which makes the next example even that much more puzzling to me.storefront without sign

Storefronts, in particular, have very limited space to let potential customers / clients know a whole lot about what they do, so that you will use their goods and services, yet many businesses continue to put their brand name on the store, or use an unreadable font which limits their ability to get new customers who are not walking by the store and who have the time to look in the window and walk in.

As I question this, I think back to one of the more complex collections cases that I handled while working at Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and how after years of being unable to get a cent out of this establishment, I had much different results.  This case had to do with a very large restaurant just North of Toronto which had fantastic food, very positive reviews, incredible decor, and $3,000,000.00 owing in taxes, without a single payment made to arrears in years.

The owners of this restaurant were perplexed at the spiralling debt and their bleak prospects for operating in the future because what started off as a very profitable business venture went south, quickly and at massive costs – both personal and professional.  When their debt grew, they started to cut costs, but it was the wrong costs – like having fresh food on the premises daily, reducing the variety and portion size on their menu and by running out of options at meal time.

Regular patrons became frustrated with the frozen additions or the cutting out of their favourite meal choices and as their clientele dwindled to handfuls of patrons during the day and at night, it only made matters worse.

With their personal assets fully leveraged to keep the business running, they were steps away from bankruptcy and losing everything.  They also were not paying their tax debts, but they were staying current on their filing obligations, and between the threats from previous collectors and their power being turned off all the time, they knew the end was near.  After hearing this, I thought I would need to see it myself, so I took my newly earned MBA and headed out to have a conversation with them about what they had intended to do with these debts.

But I could not find the restaurant.

It was supposed to be 15,000 square feet, and I knew the intersection quite well, but could not for the life of me find their establishment.  I called the owner and while I was circling the plaza on the corner he was frazzled about how I could not see their fantastic place, which I found to be very bizarre.

I ended up parking on the plaza on the corner and walked past a couple of stores before finally seeing what I had been circling for the better part of 20 minutes.  Their restaurant.

The outside of the building looked run-down and there was no name on the building.  I could not even tell where the front door was, and once I got to the door, I didn’t even know if it was open.  There was no sign that even said “Restaurant” or specified the type of food that was in there. There was some very hard to read script writing near the top of the building and near the door, but it looked more like graffiti than it did, a brand name.

Having been there a couple of years, locals knew about them, ate there but to an onlooker, there was no way of knowing there was a restaurant there.  I started to see a pattern emerge.

Upon sitting down with the owners I immediately suggested they perform a search on the business on the Internet (Alta Vista, I believe) and there right in front of their eyes, were people commenting about how they had made reservations but could not find the building, so did not go, or that they arrived but could not tell if the place was open, or where the front door was.  There was obvious frustration.

To me, it was common sense, that this building needed a sign that read “Italian Restaurant”, so at least people would know where they were going, or people who drove by or walked in the plaza would know there was something there.  On a more obvious scale a giant arrow pointing at the building would have been better but this was a very classy place, and that would cheapen the brand, they felt.

Needless to say, I spent 3-4 hours there, we talked about everything relating to their business, their debts – business and personal, and at the end of the day I decided to give them a couple of months to sort things out, reduce some costs, and try to attract more business which they knew they needed.

All of this effort was rewarded when they sent in a cheque for $250,000 at the end of the following month to the CRA.  By the end of the year, they had paid off $1.8 million dollars of their debt, and by the end of the next year, they were fully paid up (including penalties and interest) and business was booming.

Is it 100% a result of something I said? Probably not. Did I afford them the time to make money and pay off the debt, yes I did, but I also went through their options should they have chosen bankruptcy, a proposal, or to ignore the CRA completely and wait for their assets to seized and the directors assessed.

With all that information they were able to make an informed decision, the most obvious to me being that they improved their signage, cleaned up the outside, and put a neon sign which flashed “OPEN” on a very visible spot near the sign and near the door (with a classy arrow pointing towards the door).

But how does this apply to you and to me?

I recently took part in a challenge on LinkedIn to say what I do for a living in one sentence. I thought how hard could it be, and I wanted to check out what others had written before me. With over 300 respondents, I would have plenty of samples to review before taking the plunge, but I was shocked by what I saw.

I saw people – people I do not know – in businesses I did not know who wrote things like this;

“I solve all of your problems.”
“I get you want you need at the price you want.”
“I’m what you need.”
Even, “We’ve got you covered.”

I looked further at their business profile to see if I could tell what they did, however their business name, or description was equally as vague.

I read and read and read, almost 100 of them by now, and when I came to a comment by a lawyer, I was dumbfounded when I saw this; “I practice law.”

I immediately thought about what I would do if I came to this networking group for a professional to hire in a very specific area and I saw “I practice law” as someone’s description… Would I contact them to find out what kind of law? Or would I go to the next person.

I went to the next person.

Then the next and the next and the next.

Then I posted challenging people to go back and edit their posts. Be proud of who you are and the services you offer. Tell everyone what you do, be clear, but be brief, and if someone has more questions or wants information, they will reach out to you.

So what about my post?

Now I had a lot to live up to, because I called out the patrons of the group and if my post sucked, boy would I be the biggest hypocrite in the world.

So I posted this;

“My expertise is with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and their Collections / Enforcement division and I use this knowledge to help people and business understand taxes and pay only what they owe, on their terms.

Then I said, “please read this and if you do not know what I do, or if there is feedback – positive and negative – please provide it. I too would love the perfect pitch and I appreciate any input from this fantastic group.

So next time you are looking for a restaurant to take your family and you drive by one which only has a name and not a type of food, think about how much business they could be losing by placing their focus on themselves and not on the service or product their offer.

#Tax

Get Ready to File your Personal Income Tax Return (T1). Make Sure You Have All Your Slips Accounted For!

Ready to file your Personal Tax (T1) Return here in Canada to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)?

Are you chomping at the bit to get your refund?

Before you push forward and get that return in, make sure to check that you have received all the tax slips you should be getting?

Then check again.

If you forget a tax slip – T3, T5, T4, T4A, etc – the CRA does not accept the argument that you just “forgot it”, but rather they believe that you have willingly omitted the slip in order to reduce the amount of income that you are reporting, so you end up paying less taxes.

The penalty for missing slips can be quite steep.

Forget to include slips year over year and the penalty increases.

At inTAXicating, we encourage our clients to keep track of slips expected and slips received through a spreadsheet, or a program such as QuickBooks  based on the slips received in the previous year, and any transactions in the current year which will result in the generating of a tax slip.

In the inTAXicating Personal Tax Spreadsheet, we take tax slip tracking a little bit further by identifying which member of the family the slip belongs to, when it was received the previous year and which institution produced the slip.

Remember that slips produced by institutions are also sent to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) so they know what you should be filing before you do unless you keep track.

Then take this list, and staple it to a box or file folder which is kept in the house / place of business for all potential tax-related materials for the year.  At tax time, it’s an easy checklist to make sure all is in order and that when filing, everything is included.

If, however, you have forgotten to include a slip, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will eventually use their copy of the slip notify and re-assess you if you have not had the time to amend your return.

If you don’t get to the CRA first, the next thing you know, you likely will have a balance owing and along with the penalty for missing the slip, the debt is accruing interest.  It can easily escalate from there!

A little organization will reduce the amount of penalties and interest paid to the CRA.  As the Tax Manager for Computershare Trust Company of Canada / Computershare Investor Services, I was responsible for the preparation, filing and submission of tax slips to the millions of investors Computershare kept track of, so I understand more than anyone the importance of getting slips out to the holders on time, and accurately, and then to the government on time and without penalty.

Here is a list of the slips you could receive and the date they have to be mailed to the holder and to the CRA.

RRSP – If you were one of the many who used the March 1st deadline to make your contribution for the previous year, then you would be receiving that slips beginning March 15th.  All other RRSP contributions which were made prior to the 60-day extended period saw their tax slips mailed beginning at the turn of the calendar.  They are T4RSP slips and RL2’s for residents of Quebec.

T5 / RL3 and NR4’s begin to get mailed around January 15th.

T4RIF / RL2 withdrawals from a RRIF, are mailed the 3rd week of February.

T5/RL3 for investment interest income coming from a mutual fund are mailed the 3rd week of February.

T3 / RL16 reporting dividend income from mutual funds are mailed by the 3rd week of February.

Receipt of contribution from an estate rolling over funds to a spouse produce a T4RSP / T4RIF / RL2 – issued for receipt of contributions from an estate rolling over funds to a spouse – sent  out the first week in February

T4A / RL1 are issued for RESP withdrawals and are produced and mailed the first week in February.

NR4’s showing income for non-residents of Canada are mailed the 3rd week in February.

If during the year you received Employment Insurance (EI), Old Age Security (OAS) or Canada Pension Plan (CPP) payments, you can follow this 3-step process from the government website to make sure everything is in order and get your tax slips online directly from Service Canada.

Happy filing.

inTAXicating Tax Services for all your tax needs and specializing in providing solutions to your tax problems.

info@intaxicating.ca

 

Reminder: T4’s and T4 Summaries are due February 28th to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)

I’m worried.

Not for me, but worried for you. I’m worried that you have forgotten to prepare the T4 for your employee, or nanny, and that you will not be able to submit the T4 with the T4 summary to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) by the February 28th deadline.

If you have not completed the T4 or T4 summary yet and are weighing your options, I have some information you need to consider.

First, provided you have been making regular remittances to the CRA, you already have the information you need to submit to the CRA.

Secondly, if you have been making regular remittances the CRA will have sent you a code which allows you to complete the T4 and T4 summary online and which allows you to file online.

Third, if you let the deadline slide by, you are going to pay a penalty.

Say what you will about the Canada Revenue Agency, but they ask and they listen. If you have had the opportunity to attend a CRA information session (or be on a panel as I have) you know that the CRA wants to know what bothers people and how they can improve things. They really do.

In the good old days, when I worked at the CRA, late filing of a T4 was a minimum $100 penalty (plus interest) and late filing of a T4 summary was a minimum $400 penalty to a maximum of $2500.

The CRA has instituted a new administrative policy that applies to certain information returns to ensure that late-filing penalties are charged in a manner that is both fair and reasonable for small businesses. The penalty is the greater of $100 or a penalty determined as follows:

Relieving administrative policy – penalties
Number of information
returns (slips)
Penalty (per day) Maximum penalty
(100 days)
1 – 5 Not applicable $100 flat penalty
6 – 10 $5 $500
11 – 50 $10 $1,000
51 – 500 $15 $1,500
501 – 2,500 $25 $2,500
2,501 – 10,000 $50 $5,000
10,001 or more $75 $7,500

Of course, if you have to get it done by the 28th and you are close on figures, you can always send them your best estimation and amend the return at a later date.  You won’t get hit with the late filing penalties unless your figures are WAY off from the real figures and the CRA feels you sent these numbers to in some way circumvent the rules.  Interest will continue to apply.

Hope you filed on time.

inTAXicating: Nominated for the 2013 Canadian Blog Awards

I just learned that inTAXicating has been nominated for the 2013 Canadian Blog Awards – under the law category.Canadian Blog Awards badge

If you would to see the other blogs nominated in the other categories or if you would like to vote for inTAXicating, you can follow the link here; http://cdnba.wordpress.com/

Voting ends February 22nd, 2014.

The Canadian Blog Awards are a great way to recognize Canadian blogging talent. By taking the time to read other Canadian blogs and through your voting you are supporting Canadian writers.

I checked out many of the other nominated blogs and voted in each and every category as a way to give back.

Thank you in advance and please keep reading, commenting and asking questions!  Also don’t forget to visit my webpage at http://www.intaxicating.ca for help with all your tax concerns.

The Rickey Henderson Effect: The Value of a Wink.

The Rickey Henderson Effect: The Value of a Wink.

I hope you are able to, and take the time to, read this post on the importance of acknowledging others – in business and in life.

In this specific article linked above, the author describes how as a young child, Rickey Henderson – then an outfielder with the New York Yankees – winked at him as he was leaving the baseball field in between innings.  That wink alone led the author to become a huge fan of Henderson’s and the author detailed how his mother purchased Henderson products and how he influenced his friends to purchase products and the net effect of that wink was money in Henderson’s pocket (he receives a share of items purchased in his name or his likeness).

Fast forward to 2014, and the author comments on the importance of a wink, or 😉 in social media and how it can also have the same impact on people.

I completely agree.

The most effective way to interact with people is to, well, interact with people.  Saying hello, nodding, winking, waving, or in today’s cyber-society with a wink, or a smiley face or even by personalizing emails through the adding of terms like; “Hope you are well”, “Warm Regards” or “All the best”.  These little additions tell the person on the other side that they are being acknowledged and by taking the time to do that you have an ally.

To that point, a personal story.

I had been working at the Toronto North Tax Office of the Canada Revenue Agency for 2 1/2 years and had become accustomed to putting my head down as I walked through the building as others do.  I have always been great with faces but terrible at remembering names, and it was easier to pretend there was no one there or that I was distracted so I didn’t have to say hello or remember a name.

Then one morning as I left the subway and walked towards the office, someone walked by me and said, “Good morning Warren!”,

Much to my surprise – and I am nowhere near shy or introverted – I looked up, did not recognize the face, but said hello back and then out of my mouth came this; “I’m sorry.  Normally I am great with faces but I cannot remember where I know you from.”

He responded; “I’m Mark.  You trained us last week on Director’s Liability.  Great class.  I learned a lot.”

It was that moment when I decided that I needed to acknowledge people too.  Stop walking with my head down.  Stop looking busy.  I needed to learn people’s names and a fact or two about them to show them I care and help bring the office closer.

From that morning on, I saw and addressed each and every person I came across by their name (or what I suspected was their name).  If I called them by the wrong name, they would just correct me, right.  🙂

For the next 9 years, I became that guy at the CRA.  The guy who knew “everyone”.  The guy people came to with questions, and for advice.  The guy who liked the people he worked with because he took the time to get to know them and as I moved into leadership roles, I was best able to get the most out of all my staff because I knew their strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.  I wanted what was best for the CRA, but also best for the employees and if there was a dispute, there was that trust that I was not going to steer them wrong and it would benefit them in the end.

I took the time to wink.  Just like Rickey Henderson did, and it paid off exponentially.

Today, take the time to say hello to people you would not normally talk to.  Not too long, but just enough to let them know you care.  Or send an email that is a little less impersonal and a little more warm.

You will feel great and so will they!

😉

The Importance of a Social Media Policy and Compliance to that Policy

English: Data from April 2011 Editor Survey th...
April 2011 Editor Survey that lists Social Media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a user of the Internet, for work or for play, it is extremely important to know and understand what the consequences can be when you use social media.  

Many do not.

I am constantly amazed that people get caught doing, saying or showing things online which they later regret and the consequences of their actions can be very severe.  It certainly changes the way people see them, and can change the way people treat them, with bullying, job loss, or lack of promotion some of the worse case scenarios.

I learned this the hard way.  In the almost nine years since I started blogging I did so with the mistaken assumption that no one read my it and that the 5-10 hits a day were complete strangers who arrived there by error.  Not having any comments, and being able to see the search engine terms used to get there it was easy for me to write whatever I wanted in complete anonymity.  My blog was my forum to bitch, moan and complain about whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it.  Getting it all off my chest made me feel great.

Then it all came crashing down.  I can recall this as if it were yesterday, when I hit send on one particular post from 2005 in which I complained about my employer and also lambasted some colleagues for their lack of work ethic.  I never thought for a moment that there was a remote possibility that anyone from my company was reading my blog and that the information I wrote in that post, or in any of my previous posts were going to be spread around the office and used against me, like they were.  

My hits over the next couple days went from 5-10 to 150 on that post and I started to receive anonymous ominous comments on that post.  Stuff started to disappear from my desk, and I would get hang-ups in the middle of the night.  Then some of my colleagues would start random conversations with me and include information from my blog that they would not have known if they did not read it there, like “how was the movie you saw Saturday with your wife at Yorkdale.”  I was perplexed. 

It was soon thereafter when I realized that I had made a really stupid mistake and if I wanted to continue to work there without having my stuff disappear, I would need to go into damage control and implement my own social media policy.

Some of the key points are below;

1) No mention of work. Ever.  I’m a blogger building my brand first and foremost.
2) No mention of names of my family or friends unless they give me permission.
3) No posting of pictures on any form of social media except for family pictures on Facebook that I would be comfortable sharing with the world or a future employer.  
4) I would never say anything online that I do not believe in or would not say face-to-face to someone.
5) If I am going to be critical of something or someone it had to be fact based and that required sources and a ton of research.  No gossip or hearsay.
6) I am my own brand. I want my brand to be respected and taken seriously so I will have to treat others that way – good and bad.

The next thing I had to do was take a step back and see how this new social media policy worked for.  I moved my blog from Blogger to WordPress and kept it hidden until I was sure that I could play by these rules.  Once I came out from hiding, I not only started to play fairly, but I started to informally educate others about the consequences of using social media for I realized that whatever you post that can be traced back to you, or your brand, can and will be used against you at some point in your life.

I have seen people tagged in photos where they are with friends and drinking, and the picture is most unflattering – maybe they are winking but look drunk – or the comments to a photo are unflattering or rude, or a photo taken in an inappropriate position – like on the toilet, and even an innocent comment like “I’m bored” which shows up next to a mention about your place of employment.  All these examples can have long-lasting consequences far from the original intent.  Ignoring them is not an option and just removing them usually does not suffice either.  Not being in that situation is the best choice a person can make, and letting others know if equally as important.

I’m being tough on myself, but it’s nothing compared to the tolerance that certain industries have for themselves and when tracking their massive employee base. 

Financial services, for example, can be especially tough due to the high regulation and as an employer they must ensure that their employees are clear about the organizations expectations and the social media policy.

I, for example, when hiring for my tax units always spends a few minutes to check out the candidates Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and then I Googled them to see if there are any warning flags.  To not do so, would be not be responsible on my behalf.  If they post anything and their profiles are not neat and tidy it means either they are going to be social media nightmares for the company or I am going to have to do a lot of coaching and mentoring them to ensure they don’t get caught online harming the company’s image of their own brand.

One of the first discussions I would have with staff is to caution them about what they say when using certain social media outlets, like LinkedIn.  If they are choosing to comment on posts and join discussions they have to remember that they are not just individuals commenting there but they are also employees so they have to be cautious to keep their comments on topic and away from anything which could get them fired or the company sued.

I treat all my online activities, whether blogged, tweeted, liked or commented on, which relate to any external business as being monitored and recorded by someone if the company is not doing it themselves.  I expect the same from my staff, my colleagues and my peers.  I know when I talk to staff who are not practicing safe, social media that it is just a matter of time before it catches up to them.

Implementing an effective social media compliance process isn’t rocket science especially when the company has a clear social media policy and everyone abides by it and that policy has to be more than reactionary and punitive.  Effective companies outline how they interact with the world via social media and how they expect their employees to do so as well.  Leading organizations empower employees to build the corporate brand but it is certainly a team effort every step of the way.

Almost every other department has a key role in shaping the message.  Marketing defines the scope of the message, the IT group outlines which social technologies will be used and provides the devices to be used while the legal and social media compliance groups are critical to ensure that the messages meet the necessary regulatory criteria.  Once all that is in order it is absolutely critical for the training and learning group to be engaged so that the organization be trained to understand the pros and cons of using the various forms of social media, the most common being Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. 

What most employees in large organizations do not know unless they are trained is that any output on a social media platform goes through a series of serious checks and balances before someone hits send.  Static content, for example – such as Facebook and LinkedIn profiles – require documented pre-approval before being posted online, while interactive content such as updates to Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks do not need to be vetted, however, regularly monitoring the content is extremely critical to ensure that there are no compliance violations or negative comments. 

What most employees fail to understand is that these tight rules not only apply to business-related items posted by the organization but also if it comes from the employees personal social media accounts.  It pays to think twice before speaking about your organization, their practices, clients or earnings.

Organizations keeping a close eye on their social media content in order to control the public message and ensure it is compliant with the organization’s policies and procedures.  It also allows organizations to control their message and that makes sense from a brand perspective as quick accurate responses to comments shows a proactive organization while quick responses to, or removal of, derogatory or inappropriate messages displays a proactive social media policy.  Keeping negative comments unanswered in a thread is a message to the general public that it is okay to pile on with more negative comments and spam the site.  If these comments are removed and/or responded to quickly than others will think twice before hitting send. 

Even prior to the monitoring the output, employees usually are not aware that many organizations prefer to control the message by utilizing tools to prevent rogue posts from ever hitting the web.  Organizations assign limited permissions to certain employees and once that employee is finished creating a tweet, comment or update it is them moved into a queue to be edited or for managerial review before it moves to the compliance group, then on to marketing before it is approved and posted.

The best of these systems even come with their own archiving tools already built-in as financial services are heavily regulated and keeping all outgoing messages for a certain period of time, are a requirement of regulators.

Banning social communications altogether and hoping for the best, is no longer a viable alternative.  Restricting communication, access to information and people networking is a practice which many organizations have been moving away from since smartphones have become commonplace on the hips of many employees.   There is also the opinion that if organizations continue to resist, that their competitors and customers are moving ahead and talking about them to their current customers and to their potential customers. 

To further that point, many organizations who are already heavy in social media are forging ahead with new social media positions, such as the social media compliance officer who among other things, lines up tweets for management’s approval and works closely with legal, marketing and training to ensure the right message is getting out and that all staff have been trained in a meaningful manner on the risk of non-compliance to these policies both for their personal brand and for their company.

Banks in particular, are moving forward quickly in all areas of social media, and with great reason.  These customers tend to be more affluent and faster adopters of new, expense-cutting technology such as online and mobile banking, which makes them particularly valuable at a time when revenues are low and expense cutting makes the most sense.  Getting them on the bank’s side also helps on the public relations front as these tech savvy folks are just as likely to comment online about good experiences, as they are to complain about bad ones.

So next time you fire up the computer, smartphone or tablet, make sure that before you press send that you are doing so responsibly.  You don’t want to ruin your brand in a manner of seconds (or a few words) considering how long it took you to build it up.