Thursday, June 22, 2017

5 Mid-Year Tax Planning Strategies

From the Small Business Administration at SBA.gov




By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
For many small business owners, thinking about taxes occurs only twice a year … when returns are being prepared and perhaps at the end of the year. This is a mistake. With half of 2017 over, now is a great time to assess where you stand and to take action that will be helpful to your 2017 tax bill.
1. Meet with your tax advisor
The vast majority of small business owners use CPAs or other tax advisors to prepare and file their returns. These tax pros can also serve as business advisors throughout the year, providing guidance on what the business can to do to optimize profitability while minimizing taxes. If your tax preparer doesn’t provide this service, consider finding one who will. Schedule a meeting with your advisor to review your profits or losses, and to craft a tax plan that you can implement going forward.
2. Assess your profitability
If 2017 is shaping up to be a good year for you, consider strategies to help with expansion while saving taxes:
  • Buy equipment. In 2017, you can opt to expense up to $510,000 of equipment purchases (even if you finance them) instead of depreciating the cost over a number of years. Find details in IRS Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property.Download Adobe Reader to read this link content
  • Hire wisely. As you add to your staff, keep in mind that the work opportunity credit rewards you for hiring someone from a targeted group, such as a qualified veteran. Find details about these targeted groups and the amount of the credit in the instructions to Form 5884, Work Opportunity Credit.Download Adobe Reader to read this link content
  • Set up a qualified retirement plan. You can save for your retirement years while cutting your current tax bill through contributions to a qualified retirement plan. If you don’t already have a plan there are several plan options; the one to choose depends on whether you have employees and how much of the contributions the business can afford to shoulder. Find more details in IRS Publication 560, Retirement Plans for Small BusinessDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content.
3. Expand your R&D
You don’t have to be a drug manufacturer or a technology company to invest in research and development. Whether you do R&D to develop a product or simply find new methods for your operations by creating internal use software, you may qualify for a tax credit; this helps to underwrite the cost of research. Find more details about the research credit in the instructions to Form 6725, Credit for Increasing Research ActivitiesDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content.
A “qualified small business” can opt to use the credit as an offset to the employer’s share of Social Security taxes (up to $250,000) rather than using it against income taxes. Which business is qualified? One with less than $5 million in gross receipts for the current year and no gross receipts for any year preceding the fifth year prior to the current year. For example, a business with $4 million in gross receipts in 2017 and no gross receipts prior to 2012 may use this option. Find a more extensive explanation of this option from the IRS.Download Adobe Reader to read this link content
4. Issue stock
If you’re a C corporation in manufacturing, technology, retail, or wholesale, you may qualify to issue stock (referred to as small business stock or Section 1202 stock) that will allow the shareholder to eventually obtain tax-free treatment for any capital gain. More specifically, if you issue the stock now and it’s held for more than five years, then all of the gain is tax free. The stock must be acquired in exchange for cash, property, or services (i.e., not received through a gift or inheritance). Thus, it can be used to:
  • Bring in new investors
  • Reward employees
Find more details about a qualified small business for this purpose in the instructions to Schedule D of Form 1040Download Adobe Reader to read this link content .
5. Review your income tax payments
If you’re paying your income taxes on business profits through estimated taxes, you have two more times to get it right for 2017:  September 15, 2017, and January 16, 2018. You don’t want to overpay, which is an interest-free loan to the government (recouped when you file for a refund), or underpay, which can result in costly tax penalties.
Remember that estimated taxes include not only regular income taxes (including the alternative minimum tax), but also:
  • Self-employment tax
  • 0.9% additional Medicare tax on earned income
  • 3.8% additional Medicare tax on net investment income
Find more information about estimated taxes in IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated TaxDownload Adobe Reader to read this link content.
Conclusion
The summer has begun. Don’t miss this opportunity to review your tax position and to determine the strategies you can use between now and the end of the year to optimize your tax bill for 2017.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Your overview of Paid Family Leave coming to New York

From Complete Payroll:

New York’s Paid Family Leave program is designed to provide wage replacement to employees for a variety of family and/or medical reasons, including maternity/paternity leave, caring for a close relative with a serious health condition and relieving family pressures when someone is called to active military service.

The program also guarantees that employees are able to return to their job and keep their health insurance, provided they continue to contribute their portion while on Paid Family Leave.
The law was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 4, 2016 and will begin the first of four phases of implementation on January 1, 2018.

Just like the payroll deduction is mandatory for all New York employees, it's mandatory for all New York employers to set up the payroll deduction and offer Paid Family Leave for all the employees that qualify.

That means businesses must work with their payroll provider, insurance broker/carrier and HR person to create the written documentation and begin planning for staffing gaps.

Update: New York State has released the employee payroll deduction rate. Read more about it here.

Here is the link to the PFL text and summary

What's the difference between FMLA and Paid Family Leave?
.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Validate Your App Idea Before You Build

From Bplans:

Almost on a weekly basis, I meet new aspiring entrepreneurs looking to execute on their ideas.

Some believe in the all-in approach to product development: build an advanced app. If it works, they’ll hit it big, and if it doesn’t, they’ll make some changes and do it again. Others believe in the start small, grow strong approach: build a small version of the app, test user demand, and then take it from there.

In both scenarios, it seems that startup venture initiation and idea validation are strictly dependent on the app...

Early stage idea validation can be accomplished without building an application. It’s possible to simulate user experience through existing, lower-tech resources.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sample Business Introduction Letters

From SampleTemplates:
Commerce Introduction Letter serves as an introductory piece for getting into the business world. The main aim behinds its writing is conveying all the essential details related to any firm or product/service to the potential clients. It ensures the correct understanding of clients about the company’s businesses. It helps in seeking client’s attention and being noticed. You can even customize such letter in your own way so as to meet certain requirements or needs as well.

See also, from Template Lab, 40+ Letter of Introduction Templates & Examples

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Amazon Patents Tech to Block In-Store Comparison Shopping

From PC magazine:

Amazon may have started as an online-only experience, but today the company is very much blended into real-world retail. This week, the company was granted a patent for technology that can prevent in-store shoppers from comparison shopping online. The patent - for "Physical Store Online Shopper Control" - is pretty self-explanatory.

If you're in a store and logged on to that store's Wi-Fi, the network will see if you navigate to a rival's website to compare prices. The store can then block you from doing so, offer up a discount to purchase in-store, or even send a store employee over to persuade you to make that purchase.

Amazon is expanding its brick-and-mortar presence so this technology could be deployed at its own stores, but it could also make a pretty penny licensing the tech to rivals. Call it augmented retail.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Apps for Small Business: Being productive

SBDC Staff Training seems like a long time ago already, and we left with the plan that I would share my presentation on Best Apps for Small Business. In the time between then and now, I've dabbled in even more apps that I'd like to share in case you might find them useful for yourself or your clients. I'll be making posts on the different categories of apps with a great deal of crossover.

Calendars, Lists and To-Dos


 For Chrome users, this is my actual favorite for a to-do product and it's actually for the desktop. I had been reading an anecdote about the Ivy Lee Method for achieving peak productivity which you may be familiar with. The gist is that at the end of each day, you write down the most important things to achieve the following day. Write down 6 items, but only 6. Prioritize those 6. Tomorrow, concentrate on completing the 1st item. Don't move to the next until that item is done. Carry on in this fashion for the rest of the list. Repeat daily.


I am the Queen of extensions and so I downloaded the Momentum extension to Chrome which creates a dashboard with a beautiful photograph with an integrated to-do list with a primary to-do list to keep your focused. At the bottom of the screen is a quote., at the top is the weather as well a discreet link for your most used-pages. There is a "plus" version that gives you more options to expand your to-do list, integrate with other tools like Wunderlist, Google Tasks, Trello, Todoist, etc.
You can add more backgrounds but the ones they have are stunning. Momentum offer hotkeys to shortcut as well as focus, countdown, and notes settings in the plus version.


Wunderlist is very popular (winning app of the year) as it allows you to create lists and subtasks within lists, send reminders to yourself with deadlines and share lists with others. Wunderlist is good because it is simple while still being attractive, integrates with other apps. It allows you to sort tasks by project and list them consecutively to lay out your responsibilities so you can get some clarity.
It offers a Pro version for $4,99 a month with unlimited backgrounds, unlimited assigning of tasks, and unlimited files. It works on every kind of device including desktop. The business version offers a 30 day trial that promotes sharing lists, file sharing, reminders, and a comments section so teams can share insights. The business version also allows to administer a team from a central location.


This app has the key elements a great system has:

  • Prioritize
  • Multiple lists
  • Notes
  • Mobile
  • Clean interface
  • Syncs on all devices
  • Share and assign
  • Set reminders
  • Easy to Use


After a system meets the requirements you need to function smoothly and USE it, what's left is how beautiful it is which affects whether you want to use it. This is not a small issue for me or for many others (or else we would all wear Crocs or flipflops). Playing with a new tool is important to see if it is close enough to your pen and ink method to be adoptable.

How Much Businesses Pay To Get On Those Big Blue Exit Signs

From Jalopnik:

Drive down any major interstate in the U.S., and you’ll see big blue signs decorated with business logos near most exits. Here’s who decides which businesses make it on the signs, and how much it all costs.

Called interstate logo signs or specific service signs, these ubiquitous big blue billboards are godsends to weary travelers searching for gas, food, or lodging close to the highway. Unsurprisingly, the signs aren’t solely there to help out motorists, as they also provide monetary benefit to businesses and, crucially, to the state.

Roadside advertising programs are administered by individual states, though specific service signs... tend to be farmed out to contractors. One of the biggest of these contractors is a company called Interstate Logos, which works with transportation agencies in 23 states to not only install the huge blue panels, but also to work with businesses to run the programs.

If you own a business that falls into one of these groups—attraction, pharmacy, camping, lodging, food and gas—and your business is located near a controlled-access state highway, then you’re eligible to get your company on the big blue sign. This could be a great opportunity to bring in more customers.

But not everyone is eligible to display their firm’s logo...

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Postcard Marketing

From Business Knowhow:

Postcard marketing articles, tips, and advice. Get new ideas for marketing with postcards.

Some examples:

Creative Marketing with Postcards
Most business owners don't use postcards as a marketing tool and those that do, use them infrequently and haphazardly, with no strategy involved. Yet they are extremely cost-effective and are six times more likely to be read than a direct mail letter.

High Response Marketing with Low-Cost Postcards
Postcards can drive a huge amount of traffic to your website, generate a flood of new sales leads or produce a surge in any business activity you want. And you don't have to spend a lot of time or money on them if you apply these four little-known postcard marketing secrets.

10 Common Postcard Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
Postcards are the least expensive form of direct mail today, are easy to create, and typically generate a high rate of response.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Manufacturing Unemployment Rate Dips To 17-Year Low

From ThomasNet:


After holding steady at 3.9% for March and April, the unemployment rate for manufacturing declined to 3.2% in May – its lowest point since June 2000. Meanwhile, the 0.7 percentage-point drop represents the largest improvement in the unemployment rate since June 2016, when the unemployment rate fell a full percentage point, from 4.7% to 3.7%.

The number of unemployed persons within the industry fell from 620,000 to 504,000 – the lowest it has been since at least 2000. However, the number of people employed within the industry fell by 1,000 workers.

Many durable goods sectors experienced job growth in May, including the Machinery sector, which added 3,700 new jobs – the most of any sector in the industry.

Social Media Response Flow Chart for Small Businesses

From Bplans:
Have you ever discovered a mention of your business on social media and thought, “How should I respond to that?”

If the post is negative, you may be especially anxious to answer that question. Should you delete negative comments, respond with a counter-argument, or ignore them altogether?

The flow chart [at the link] offers a helpful way to evaluate social media posts, and provides a response strategy for each. Remember, what goes online stays online, and your response to posts on social media should positively reflect the mission and values of your small business. Before you respond to any negative post, use the flow chart as a quick reference to help cooler heads prevail.

Above is another response chart, not from the article.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Resources To Help You Create a Safe Workplace

By Joshlyn Ross, Contributor

From the Small Business Administration




When was the last time you’ve revisited your workplace safety plan? Not only is it the law, but it also can ensure that you and your employees are always safe.
In honor of National Safety Month, we would like to highlight four resources that will help you identify unsafe behaviors, create opportunities for improvement and  help you (and your employees) make well-informed safety decisions on a daily basis.
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards as well as providing training and education to business owners. Check out OSHA’s handbook to ensure that your small business meets the legal requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Do you need help creating a workplace safety prevention plan but unsure of where to start? Follow this step-by-step guide to determine which OSHA requirements apply to your workplace and how you can comply.
Now that you know what needs to be done, it’s time to execute. Get the help you need to ensure that you and your employees are prepared to handle safety and health hazards in the workplace. OSHA offers courses, educational programs and training materials that are administered by the OSHA Directorate of Training and Education.
Have you recently completed your workplace safety changes? Now is the time to sign up for a free on-site consultation service. Consultants will work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs.
For more information on these safety tips and other resources, visit the Occupational Safety and Health Administration website.

Friday, June 09, 2017

The Dangers of Being Too Political on Social Media

From MarketingProfs:
The other day, a friend of mine put her job and professional reputation at risk. Sadly, it wasn't for anything as significant as standing up for human rights or even bunny rights.

No, it was a Facebook post: a shared image that was intended to be a funny political meme but, instead, offended many of the people who saw it.

Should she have shared that post? Could she have lost her job? Might the issue have been avoided? Were people just being overly sensitive? Let's explore those questions—and others.

So that we're all on the same page, let's start with what I mean by "political post." To my mind, there are two kinds: implicit and explicit.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

5 Signs That a Company Will Be a Great Place to Work

From Glass Door:
Oftentimes, it’s easier to identify a bad company to work for than a good one. Red flags like a pattern of not-so-great Glassdoor reviews, rude interviewers, and a high turnover rate stick out like sore thumbs, indicating that you might want to steer clear. But what happens if a company doesn’t exhibit any of these common warning signs? Does that mean you’ll enjoy working there?

Fortunately, you don’t have to go into the decision-making process blind. In addition to the glimpse into a company’s culture that Glassdoor reviews, salaries, and interviews provide, there are a number of factors you can look out for during the interview process that will hint at whether or not you’ll enjoy working at a company. We reached out to a handful of career experts to get their thoughts on what makes a great place to work — here are a few of the top signs that you’ve picked a winner.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Report Sheds Light on Veteran-Owned Businesses and their Owners

The Office of Advocacy has released a report on veteran-owned businesses. The report gives a detailed profile of this robust business population based on the latest available data, the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 Survey of Small Business Owners.

• In 2012, the United States had 21.2 million veterans, and 2.52 million businesses were majority-owned by veterans.
• Almost all of veteran-owned businesses (99.9 percent) were small businesses.
• Veteran-owned firms had receipts of $1.14 trillion, employed 5.03 million people, and had an annual payroll of $195 billion.
• These firms represented 9.1 percent of all U.S. firms.
• The three states with the most veteran-owned businesses were California, Texas, and Florida.
• The three states with the highest percent of veteran-owned businesses in their populations were South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Virginia.

The report is called Veteran-Owned Businesses and Their Owners: Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners. It is one of the only large-scale compilations of data on veteran-owned businesses in the United States, and it provides valuable data for analytical and policymaking. The full report (PDF) is available on the Office of Advocacy’s website at and the research summary can be seen here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Facebook is the most popular social media platform to reach online shoppers

From eMarketer:
An April 2017 survey by Campaigner, an email marketing platform, explored consumer interactions with brands. More than half of US digital buyers said they followed a brand on Facebook, which was significantly higher compared with any other social platform. It was even more common among millennials: Fully 65% of this cohort said they followed a brand on Facebook.

But social networks are not necessarily the top choice for interacting with brands. As a whole, only a quarter (24%) of digital buyers in the survey said they preferred “to interact with their favorite brands” via social media. Instead, in-store and in-person communication was the most commonly cited channel (65%), followed by company websites (58%) and email (44%). Respondents could site multiple choices.

Monday, June 05, 2017

6 Unwritten Rules Related To Business Etiquette

From the Small Business Administration:
Many of you are familiar with etiquette when it comes to dining. However, did you know that there was a thing such as business etiquette?

Similar to dining etiquette, these unwritten rules of behavior can help you not only close the deal, but also leave a great impression on potential partners/customers. From web communication to interpersonal communication, being aware of unwritten rules can help you represent yourself as professionally as possible.

So in honor of National Business Etiquette Week (June 4th – 10th), we would like to highlight 6 unwritten rules that will help you excel in all business settings as a small business leader.

Friday, June 02, 2017

State of Small Business Report

Small Business Report

For the third year, Wasp Barcode Technologies conducted a survey to identify how small business owners felt about their growth, confidence in the economy, employment, technology use, marketing tactics, and government impact.

The State of Small Business Report research is based on a random online sample of 1,127 U.S. small business owners/managers with companies with five to 499 employees. The anonymous survey was conducted via the Internet by Survey Monkey from November 10-18, 2016. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 2.9 at the 95% level of confidence. Sikora Associates provided statistical analysis.






Thursday, June 01, 2017

Half of Millennials Plan to Start a Business in the Next 3 Years

Study Conducted by America's SBDC Reveals Insights into the Entrepreneurial Mindsets of Different Generations of Americans


America's SBDC partnered with the Center for Generational Kinetics to better understand how different generations view and approach entrepreneurship. The findings reinforced previously held beliefs such as a strong entrepreneurial inclination among millennials, while challenging preconceived notions about their motivations for starting a business.

Generational Perceptions

Small Businesses play a huge role in the lives of Americans. One-third of Americans (34 percent), have worked in a small business in the past and nearly a quarter (24 percent) of both Millennials and Gen X own or have owned a small business.

The study found that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well with 41 percent of Americans saying they would quit their job and start a business in the next 6 months if they had the tools and resources they needed. This number is higher for Millennials with more than half of those surveyed stating that they would be willing to take the entrepreneurial leap in the next 6 months with the right tools and resources.

All generations surveyed lived through the great recession, yet seemingly this hasn't dampened entrepreneurial willingness for most. The study cites that 62 percent of Americans have a dream business in mind that they would love to start, and close to half (49 percent) of millennials, intend to start their own business in the next three years.

Motivations are in the Wealth Creation

Wealth creation was the number one rated catalyst to start a small business with 47 percent of Americans listing the potential to make money as what would motivate those most to start their own business. The appeal of being your own boss is also a strong factor, with 40 percent of Americans listing it as their motivation. While there is a perception that millennials are most interested in their work being fun, the survey reveals that 62 percent would rather have a business that makes a lot of money than a business that is a lot of fun.

Opportunities for Untapped Entrepreneurial Potential

Under the right circumstances, Americans are willing to make the leap into entrepreneurship. Money was cited as the most limiting factor in entrepreneurship with 55 percent of Americans rating access to money as the most difficult aspect of starting a business. When broken down by gender, women feel more challenged by this barrier with 63 percent saying access to money is a barrier to starting a business.

The lack of knowledge and small business savvy is another roadblock existing for Americans looking to start small businesses. Over half of Americans (61 percent), say they would be encouraged to start a small business if they knew where to go for help. Even more striking, more than 13 million Millennials cite not knowing where to go for help to start or run a business as the number one reason that keeps them from starting their own business.

The study also found that:
• 59 percent of Millennials say that with the right idea and resources they would start a business within the next year
• 61 percent of Millennials believe that the best job security comes from owning your own business
• 45 percent of Millennials say access to capital is the biggest barrier to starting a business
• 51 percent of Millennials would absolutely want help with a business development plan
• 45 percent of Millennials would absolutely use training for accounting or bookkeeping software

For more information on America's SBDC or to find an SBDC near you, go to www.AmericasSBDC.org. For the complete study results, visit www.AmericasSBDC.org/SBDCGenStudy.

The Center for Generational Kinetics is the leader in Millennial generation research and strategy.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

How Business Credit Affects Your Supply Chain

From ThomasNet:

Your supply chain is similar to a line of standing dominos, if one piece goes down, it could cause a chain reaction and take all the other pieces down with it. If you have a supplier or manufacturer in your supply chain that goes bankrupt or consistently delivers late, you could have a serious disruption on your hands.

It makes sense that you’d want to take the necessary precautions when choosing new businesses to add to your supply chain, in order to try and avoid the domino effect. But, you can’t exactly predict the future, so you’re often taking the risk that a key component to your operations may fall flat.

There are a few ways, however, that you can assess a potential supplier or manufacturer and decide in advance if it seems stable enough to add to your supply chain. By analyzing a business’s credit report, you can use data and predictive scoring to help you decide which companies you want to partner with.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Copyright Law and New Technologies: A Long and Complex Relationship

From the Library of Congress:

The following is a guest post by Brad Greenberg, counsel in the U.S. Copyright Office, Office of Policy and International Affairs.

Copyright law and new technologies have a long history, arguably dating back to the Gutenberg Press in the 15th century—more than 200 years before passage of the matriarch of copyright statutes, Britain’s Statute of Anne. New technologies provide new tools for creative expression and new vehicles for sharing those works. But sometimes they also disrupt existing copyright regimes—as seen with player pianos (late 1800s), radio (1920s and 1930s), cable television (1960s and 1970s), photocopying (1970s), home video cassette recorders (1970s and 1980s), and, of course, digital downloading and streaming technology (today).

Emerging technologies continue to raise novel questions for copyright, particularly with a copyright system built around a law now more than forty years old. Is a poem written by a computer entitled to copyright protection? Does a mass digitization project for displaying snippets of in-copyright books require licenses from each copyright owner? When does copyright’s first sale doctrine apply to digital works?

Answers to such questions were debated at congressional hearings during the House Judiciary Committee’s multiyear review of copyright... fact, the goal of the review “has been to determine whether the copyright laws are still working in the digital age.”

Since the 1950s, copyright law’s application to emerging technologies has been a theme of many Copyright Office studies and reports... The Office also is examining two areas of copyright law where Congress responded to—and also sought to anticipate—technological change related to the growth of digital communications technologies, particularly the internet...

A bit of copyright music litigation history gives some shape to the relationship between copyright law and new technologies.