Business briefs

2014-04-01T00:00:00Z Business briefs The Billings Gazette
April 01, 2014 12:00 am

Avitus Group acquires tech firm

Avitus Group, a national business solutions company, has announced the acquisition of Altitude Technologies, a 5-year old technology firm also based out of Billings.

With this merger, Avitus Group is combining Altitude Technologies IT support services with its own business services model.

“Bringing together these companies ensures success to our present and future clients. Business owners can operate with peace of mind knowing their administrative and information technology needs are covered,” said Dianne Parker, manager of marketing and public relations for Avitus Group.

Avitus Group handles bookkeeping, payroll, taxes and other administrative services for companies globally. By combining resources, Avitus Group and Altitude Technologies are able to serve businesses not only with their administrative services, but also with their technology needs.

“Avitus Group has developed similar services supporting the business functions and, likewise, focus on customer service and retention. Our cultures and how we sell, service and deliver are identical, which made the decision to become part of the Avitus Group Companies an easy one,” said Avitus Group Technologies President Kirk Porter.

Altitude Technologies has been providing IT services such as technical help desk support, computer support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Learn more about Avitus Group at www.avitusgroup.com.

– The nationwide increase in identify theft has led to a jump in fraudulent tax returns, making tax fraud one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. These fraudulently filed refund requests contain fictitious and stolen identity information.

DOR uncovers identity theft

The Montana Department of Revenue has seen a dramatic increase in the number of fraudulent returns in the last couple of years because of the rise in identity theft. So far this tax season, the department has intercepted about 80 fraudulent state income tax returns and stopped approximately $143,000 in fraudulent claims for tax refunds.

In tax year 2012, the department discovered 979 fraudulent returns and prevented $783,000 in fraudulent refunds. That number took a big jump over tax year 2011, when the department intercepted 142 fraudulent returns and prevented $227,000 in fraudulent refunds.

Taxpayers can reduce their chances of having their identities used in tax fraud by filing their taxes as early in the tax season as possible.

“Not only do you receive your tax refund faster when you file early, but by filing early you reduce your chances of becoming a victim of tax fraud,” said Montana Revenue Director Mike Kadas. “The department is vigilant about stopping fraud and we can work together with taxpayers by giving fraudsters less time to try to steal your money.”

Identity theft is now the most reported crime in the country. “Identity thieves can live anywhere, steal key pieces of your personal information, and file a fraudulent tax return in your name,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “Our Office of Consumer Protection is available to help Montanans arm themselves with information so they can protect their identities and their peace of mind.”

For more information about guarding against identity theft and what to do if you think you’ve become the victim of the crime, please contact the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, or visit https://doj.mt.gov/consumer/for-consumers/identity-theft/

Since the beginning of tax season, the Montana Revenue Department has processed about 171,280 individual income tax returns. It has issued 146,770 refunds to taxpayers that amount to $57.7 million. The average refund amount is $393. For more information about your refund, visit www.revenue.mt.gov and click on Taxpayer Access Point, or call our call center staff at 1-866-859-2254, or 444-6900 if calling from a local Helena number.

Medical offices aim to cut costs

HELENA – Nearly 30 medical practices across Montana are participating in a cost-saving new program run by Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen that has been shown to reduce health care costs while keeping patients healthier.

Some 29 Montana medical practices are now qualified Montana “patient-centered medical homes,” under the new Montana Patient-Centered Medical Home Program, with 43 more practices provisionally qualified. The program is the first of its kind in Montana created by the 2013 Legislature at Lindeen’s request.

The “medical home” concept is a different way of approaching health care by paying health care providers for keeping patients healthy. Traditionally, providers are paid to treat illness and injury, providing incentives for excessive treatment, tests, and medication and leading to greater cost throughout the health care system. A PCMH is not an actual place, but a team of health care professionals collaboratively focused on keeping patients healthy through preventive medicine and management of chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension. Through more efficient delivery, a PCMH improves access to care, increases satisfaction, and improves health outcomes for patients and communities. This kind of coordinated care eventually leads to fewer hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

The Montana PCMH Act set standards for health insurance companies and health care providers, establishing accountability for better health outcomes and lower costs. The law also allows for multiple insurance companies to share in the cost of transforming medical practices into PCMHs. The PCMH Act established government oversight from the insurance commissioner, allowing input from all interested parties through an appointed stakeholder council.

Lindeen’s office has been in the process of setting these standards and recently qualified the patient-centered medical homes in the state. A list of all the qualified medical homes and more about the program can be found here on our website. Those medical homes must report to Lindeen’s office next year on how well they improved the health of their patients.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has named Sanderson Stewart of Billings as a Blue Ribbon Small Business Award winner. The annual program recognizes companies for their dedication to the principles of free enterprise and contributions to restoring jobs and supporting economic growth.

Sanderson Stewart was selected from a record number of applicants across the nation for demonstrating exceptional business practices in areas including strategic planning, employee development, community involvement and customer service.

“When the opportunity to nominate a local member presented itself, Sanderson Stewart immediately came to mind,” said John Brewer, president and CEO of the Billings Chamber. “Their creative work environment and problem-solving approach to community development throughout the regional oil play makes them a perfect fit for such elite recognition.”

“I’m so proud of our team of Cool, Smart, Talented People at Sanderson Stewart. We’ve built a company with a sense of purpose and a great corporate culture, but it takes everyone pulling together to make it happen,” said Michael Sanderson, president and CEO of Sanderson Stewart. “This ‘Blue Ribbon’ award shows me that others have also recognized the truly special thing we’ve built.”

USFS requires

film permits

MISSOULA – National forests and grasslands around the country can provide an excellent backdrop for a filmmaker seeking a natural setting for their film or television production. The Northern Region of the Forest Service asks that anyone interested in producing a film for anything other than personal use to contact the Forest Service at least two weeks in advance of the anticipated filming.

Like other commercial uses of public lands, commercial filming requires a Special Use Permit, which is issued by the District Ranger or Forest/Grassland Supervisor for the area the filming is planned to occur. Your National Forests and Grasslands have been featured in everything from full feature motion pictures like “A River Runs Through It” to documentaries, commercials and hunting shows.

Brandon Smith, a commercial filming specialist for the Forest Service, says sometimes there is confusion around what is or isn’t a commercial use in regard to a production. For example, if there are advertisements such as logos in the introduction or credits of a film, even if shown during a film festival or on-line, it’s probably considered commercial and requires a permit.

“The most common ‘triggers’ for a commercial activity are when a film promotes a product or service or the film itself creates a product for sale,” Smith said. “When in doubt if a permit is required, we ask that folks contact the Forest Service as far in advance as possible.”

Permits are generally not required for covering late breaking news, such as a wildfire or search and rescue operations. Still photography typically does not require a permit from the Forest Service, as long as that photography doesn’t use models, sets or props or takes place at a location that requires additional administration.

Before issuing a permit, the Forest Service looks at potential resource impacts and anticipated conflicts with other activities in the proposed filming location. Commercial filming in congressionally designated wilderness areas very rarely get permitted due to the limited amount of commercial activities that are legally permissible in the wilderness.

For more information, visit a local Forest Service office or find them on the web at http://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses/special_film.shtml.

Oil communities seek impact help

BISMARCK, N.D. — Leaders of oil patch communities say they are reaching the limits of their resources to deal with the effects of oil development and need more state help.

“The needs don’t go away. They get bigger and they get left undone,” Williston City Commissioner Brad Bekkedahl said during a recent meeting.

About 70 people gathered to make a case for adjusting state funding levels for western North Dakota in the 2015 legislative session. Leaders agreed that they must not only gather data but come to Bismarck next year with one voice.

Williston was set to receive $60 million from the state during the 2013-15 biennium. Bekkedahl said the state changes to the oil production tax formula were steps in the right direction but the city still has more than $200 million in infrastructure projects under way.

Williston has reached its bonding limit for projects, Bekkedahl said, and has had two downgrades on its credit rating in the past 12 months. He said Williston’s bonded indebtedness on projects that were under construction in 2013 leaped from $30 million to $130 million.

“What does the formula have to be adjusted to to take care of your needs?” asked Sen. Bill Bowman, R-Bowman.

Bowman said communities would need to give legislators an exact number in 2015, not a guess.

Bekkedahl said changing the state formula to provide oil-producing counties 60 percent of the gross production tax dollars would largely address local needs. The current balance sends approximately 75 percent back to the state and 25 percent to the oil patch counties.

Bekkedahl said the June 30, 2015, expiration date of the legislation severely hamstrings communities when trying to bond.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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