Point number one: veterinary practices should have firewalls and technology policies in place to protect their computer software. Unfortunately, many practices do not have firewalls or policies though. A professionally installed hardware firewall is a vital security device that can hinder hackers from accessing your internal network. It can also keep confidential data from leaking out.


An Internet connection, especially a broadband connection, is the most common entry point for most hackers. These would be thieves and business thugs constantly find new ways to access computer systems. Hopefully your practice’s computer system will not be one that they target.


It is imperative that you do whatever you can to keep your practice’s internal computer system and even financial records from being compromised. 


Here are suggested steps your practice can fairly easily implement to keep potential hacker disruption to a minimum and protect your practice. These basic security suggestions are simple enough for most hospitals to achieve.


  • Only owners and practice managers should have the administrator passwords and handle the most basic software installs themselves. An outside IT or Practice Management System (PMS) vendor should be called to handle more advance software installations and may access the system with owner/manager permission only.


  • Internal Wi-Fi networks must have strong passwords that are only known by practice owners and managers. 


  • Public Wi-Fi for client use must also be password protected but the password should be posted in the reception area. This protects clients and prevents them from getting into each other's cyber business.


  • Windows Operating System updates should be set to automatic on all computers. Call your PMS vendor before turning on any server software firewalls.


  • If you have Adobe Flash/Reader and/or Java installed, they should be updated every month. The latest Chrome browser self-updates as does the latest Firefox browser, 


  • The log in for most Windows users should be as a Standard or Restricted user. All software must be installed under administrator rights for standard or restricted users.


  • For hardware firewalls, Sonic Walls can be installed between the Internet modem and the main network switch, anti-virus and anti-malware software should be installed on each computer. Microsoft Security Essentials is a minimum requirement if PMS interference is a concern, but double check with your PMS vendor.


  • Configured and installed Sonic Walls cost about $1,500 for the most basic models. They are now sold by Dell and resold by many IT providers. The Barracuda units are better and more costly because they are single purpose units, such as a firewall unit, anti-virus unit or an anti-spam unit.

Location, Location, Location: Why Place Matters for a Small Business by Lauren Drell

What are the most important aspects about growing your small business? This author strongly believes that your location has a great impact on the overall success of your new company.





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The use of retirement plans and maximizing that potential may keep those who would be subject to the new tax under the threshold. Here’s a tax tip for practice owners: make sure you’re fully maximizing 401K or SIMPLE plan limits. These have increased for 2013 and are $17,500 for 401K plans and $11,500 for SIMPLE plans. A veterinary accountant can help you prepare for retirement, compare the types of plans available and help you learn which plan is right for you or your practice to ensure your nest egg(s). 

Every veterinary owner needs to relook at the rent arrangement with their practice and adjust accordingly to minimize the new tax burden.  This is an important veterinary accounting procedure. A veterinary accountant can provide specific information regarding veterinary rental income and lease arrangements.

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Many rent arrangements have been established using triple net leases. This means the vet practice, not real estate owner, pays all the property taxes and operating expenses of maintaining the building. This will add 3.8% tax on the net rental income to the owners’ tax burden in 2013 for those making $200,000-plus (single); $250,000 (married, filing jointly). Owners may be able to avoid this by changing to a gross lease. Practice owners may be paying more rent than they need to and adding unnecessary tax burden to their yearly obligations.

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There are tax changes that came into effect in 2013 where more than just the wealthy may feel the impact. There are new phase outs for itemized deductions. You no longer benefit from the entire amounts. Personal exemptions are also phased out for a deduction. Trying to push income below these thresholds will save tax deductions. A veterinary CPA can help you understand how to use the current tax law, with all its changes, to minimize tax burdens and build financial wealth. Many times it’s all in how you structure an event and avoid the landmines.

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Practice sales are strong with baby boomers seeing a better market. More corporate consolidators are also purchasing practices. Capital gains rates have risen for those who will have $400,000-plus of income (single); $450,000-plus (married, filing jointly). The increased tax rates have not slowed sales. The new strategy is to keep the yearly  income level below the income threshold for increased tax rates by utilizing installment sales where the capital gains are spread out over the collection period of owner provided financing.

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What remained a strong tax deduction for practice owners is the 179 expensing election for new equipment purchases and 50% bonus depreciation. These purchases can be very effective in reducing the overall taxable income of a practice owner especially in the higher tax brackets. A veterinary accountant can help you learn the criteria that should be utilized when making an equipment purchase decision.

Veterinarians should consider keeping up with technology to meet current standards of care in medicine. It’s important from the business side of medicine to maintain the income stream, stay competitive and retain the practice value. Most people who keep up-to-date with reinvestment in their veterinary practice equipment related to the bigger ticket items are looking at digital X-ray units, dental digital X-ray units, in house lab equipment and Class 4 laser units for treatment of arthritic conditions and wound care. 

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Many veterinarians need to think about how to invest in their surgical areas since many practices are experiencing income declines due to low cost spay and neuter clinics, non-profits doing surgery  and specialty centers taking surgery income out of practices. Owners that saw 8 to 10% of their income from surgery now see it at 3 to 4%. It’ll be difficult for practices to maintain profitably in the surgical suite if they spend heavy here and don’t have a lot of volume. Having a good surgical suite with state-of-the-art monitoring equipment will be good for many.

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