Don’t Let Business Taxes Scare You – Use an Accountant

You might be afraid of a witch on a broomstick this Halloween, but never fear handling your business taxes and dealing with the IRS.

You might be afraid of a witch on a broomstick this Halloween, but never fear handling your business taxes and dealing with the IRS.

It’s Halloween week! The ghosts, goblins, witches, evil pumpkins, and other scary creatures are out in full force. While you might get spooked this Halloween, the last thing you should let scare you are business taxes. Why? Because accountants are there for you.

Let’s take a look at the benefits small business owners can enjoy by having an accountant on speed-dial:

In general, small business owners who are involved in nearly any trade under the sun can greatly benefit from working with an experienced accounting professional to assist with their business taxes and other financial responsibilities. However, certain companies may require this tax help more than others. For example, companies that have multiple partners and employees often require lots of attention in terms of bookkeeping, payroll, and additional requirements. If you are not totally comfortable paying all of your employees or working on the duties involved in bookkeeping, consider giving these important responsibilities to an accounting professional. Some accountants and CPAs specialize in working with clients who are small business owners. They actually enjoy handling the complex calculations and numbers that fit into the realm of business taxes and finances.

A big time commitment is a must when owning a small business. This is why retaining an accountant is fantastic for entrepreneurs who travel frequently, maintain day jobs, and those with spouses and children who certainly deserve some of their time as well. It’s critical to dedicate a good amount of time to your business taxes and finances as well because your company may be your livelihood. However, if you just don’t have much time to work on these integral aspects of business ownership, working with an accountant can save you so much time, and you know your finances will be in good hands.

Because filing business taxes with the IRS comes with additional unique requirements that are not part of personal tax filings on April 15th, business accountants can simplify these tax-related duties to the point where they really do not have to worry about them whatsoever. A few of these numerous unique requirements include paying estimated taxes each quarter, filing separate business returns, and claiming business tax deductions and credits. There are various tax deadlines throughout the year that you must meet, and missing one for any reason could be a significant hit to your budget. Plus, there are many additional deductions and credits you can claim when operating a small business that are not available to individual taxpayers.

As a way of helping you hang on to more of the hard-earned money your business generates as revenue, tapping into the brainpower of an accountant could potentially save you thousands of dollars when filing with the IRS each year. In turn, you can take some of this money and invest it back into your company to help grow it.

Overall, the majority of small business owners have a very limited knowledge base when it comes to business taxes and accounting subjects. Of course, this is no fault of their own. This is simply another reason why you should consider handing the keys to your tax situation over to an accountant you can trust. Doing so can simplify your life, maximize your profit potential, and put more money into your business bank account.

For assistance with all aspects of your business taxes, turn to the accountants, CPAs, and enrolled agents at 1800Accountant who are eager to help you today. Call 1-800-222-6868 or visit www.1800accountant.com for details on specific services.

Image credit: The image included in this blog post is used with permission via the Creative Commons license.

4 Tips on Creating a Positive Image for Your Small Business

The image of how a small business is viewed by others has a big role in its overall success and profitability. For entrepreneurs struggling to gain a positive identity in their industries, check out these 4 tips on boosting your company’s image and making it more appealing to potential customers, investors, partners, or even employees:

1. Focus on customer service.

Small business owners who make customer service a top priority almost always have a better overall image than other companies. Even though there’s really no literal visual element to this concept, customers who feel like a business truly cares about their service and satisfaction are much more apt to do business with these companies over others. Not only that, but they’ll also be more comfortable referring friends or family members to these enterprises. A good modern example of doing this would be to publicly respond to customer service issues on social media. Because of this, customers will look at a particular small business in a positive light. The best ways to do this are to respond to customer needs quickly, resolve any issues smoothly, and treat every individual with whom you interact in a way that makes them feel like they matter to you.

2. Use more time and money to beef up your marketing.

The marketing and advertising initiatives of a small business represent an important image of how the community views it. That’s why it is worth spending some time and money to make these efforts as impactful as possible. It’s all about making a good impression. Create a company logo that has a positive visual effect and is an appropriate representation of your offerings. Hand out nice-looking business cards with your logo, a slogan if you have one, and perhaps even a thumbnail image of your smiling face. If you maintain a company website, make sure it is well designed and has an upbeat look and feel to it. Consider using photos, videos, or a blog where you can give a voice to your brand. Any traditional advertising in print, on billboards, or on television should strike the perfect balance between professionalism and the desire to engage potential customers. Using all of these strategies can make your small business look more authoritative in your field. In turn, it can help you build up your customer base.

3. Improve your image as a business owner.

Yes, it sounds cliché, but business owners of all shapes and sizes should look like they are the operator of a formal enterprise. This means presenting yourself professionally by wearing appropriate clothing and looking clean. Speak clearly and concisely when communicating with potential customers or partners. They say first impressions mean everything, and it’s so true in the small business world. Successful entrepreneurs might already know all of this, but it’s worth reminding yourself at times to maintain this positive, inviting image.

4. Keep up your workplace/retail outlet in terms of look and feel.

A small business that has an appropriate amount of visual appeal to it is much more likely to drive foot traffic through its doors compared to those that don’t have this look. Let’s say you have a retail outlet where you sell your products on shelves. Make sure it’s in tiptop shape by keeping it clean and organized. This same rule can be applied to office complexes or even home offices, especially if people set foot in them. Consider hiring a cleaning service to lend a helping hand, or give this duty to one of your employees. The physical environment and how it actually feels to be in an office or retail store are also quite significant. Put out a bowl of chocolates. Turn on some quiet smooth jazz for background music. Do something more specific to what you sell that makes your place of business unique and inviting. In general, create a positive vibe.

For more assistance in developing your small business, work with the business experts at 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or check out www.1800accountant.com.

6 Ways to Protect Your Small Business from Hackers

There are several steps small business owners can take to protect their companies from hackers and data breaches.

There are several steps small business owners can take to protect their companies from hackers and data breaches.

Over the past year, there have been some major data breaches at some of the largest corporate powerhouses in the world. However, hacking and information theft are not exclusively tied to big companies.

According to a National Small Business Association survey from 2013, 44% of small businesses were victimized by cybercriminals in some capacity that year. These companies had to pay, on average, $8,700 to resolve these problems. This figure could easily amount to the salary of a part-time employee – or many other expenses small business owners face on a regular basis.

So, to help protect your small business, here are some steps you can take:

1) Use a merchant processing service.

If you accept credit or debit card payments for your products or services, it’s highly recommended that you utilize a merchant processing service. Not only will such a service provide you with an easy payment platform for your customers, but also such a company can help protect all of this vital information about your customers. You can greatly alleviate the worry of having any information stolen by a hacker if you put your merchant processing needs into the hands of a professional service.

2) Use proper antivirus/antispyware software.

It’s common sense to most, but if you aren’t protecting your company’s computer systems with appropriate antivirus and antispyware programs, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. This software should be either free or very reasonably priced for any small business budget. While it may not protect you from certain types of hacks, it certainly cannot hurt your efforts of fighting off those who attempt to intrude your systems. Plus, a virus or spyware could completely erase all important records you have saved on your computers.

3) Back up all of your company data.

Cloud backup services and external hard drives are both great options for backing up all files your business uses. From PowerPoint presentations to bookkeeping records to videos to website files, you certainly can’t afford to lose this data. And, of course, you don’t want it to end up in the hands of the wrong person in case you get hacked.

4) Use passwords to protect all of your computers and devices.

An excellent way to protect your small business is to password-protect every single desktop, laptop, and mobile device you use. The same applies to any devices used by your employees or contractors. It’s often best to use passwords that include certain characters like *,?, and $, along with both letters and numbers. That way, the chances of someone figuring out your passwords will go down tremendously. Another tip is to use different passwords on different machines. Record all of these passwords so you know which ones apply to which devices.

5) Train all employees on security measures.

Not only should small business owners be abreast of the latest security measures they can use, but also their employees should have some knowledge of this information. Have all employees sign an agreement that indicates the importance of protecting confidential information within a company – and what penalties they could face if they don’t abide by these rules. Install antivirus and antispyware software on their computers. Give them a lowdown on how you protect your personal information – and how they should go about doing this themselves. Fighting off hackers is often a collective effort.

6) Consider hiring an IT professional.

If a company has a large office or staff, it might be well worth the money to pay a full-time IT professional to work for you. This way, you can ask this person for assistance whenever you need help. IT pros are generally certified with some education in computer security. And thanks to convenient cloud-based and remote technologies, this person could work for you remotely and still handle everything just as thoroughly as working next to you in your office.

Consult the business and tax professionals at 1-800Accountant for more tips on how to protect your small business – and how to stay fully compliant with IRS requirements for small business owners. Call 1-800-222-6868 or visit www.1800accountant.com.

Image credit: The image included in this blog post is used with permission via the Creative Commons license through Flickr.

U.S. Tax Court Ruling Viewed as Big Win for Artists

Painters - and all other artists - now know that they can legitimately claim certain expenses as tax deductions, thanks to a recent U.S. Tax Court ruling.

Painters – and all other artists – now know that they can legitimately claim certain expenses as tax deductions, thanks to a recent U.S. Tax Court ruling.

Some welcome news related to artists and taxes was recently handed down in a significant ruling by the federal U.S. Tax Court, which handles various tax-related cases throughout the year.

In a ruling in early October, the Tax Court stated in a specific case of an artist with tax troubles that art is, indeed, a profession. Therefore, the income earned by selling art is work-related, and the expenses associated with it are generally tax deductible.

The court heard a case involving New York painter and printmaker Susan Crile. Her politically-charged creations, some of which portray scenes from the Persian Gulf War, are currently featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and several other prominent locations. Back in 2010, Crile was accused of underpaying taxes to the IRS by over $81,000 from 2004 to 2009. The agency said that Crile’s work as an artist was not considered an actual profession for tax deduction purposes. Instead, they felt this side work was directly tied to her role as a studio art professor at Hunter College. Because of this, the agency did not allow her to claim many of the tax deductions for artists that they should be able to legitimately claim to reduce their tax burden.

Court papers stated that over a 42-year period from 1971 to 2013, Crile sold 356 works of art on which she made $667,902 of income. This works out to an average annual income of just under $16,000. Like most of her fellow artists do, she deducted relevant expenses related to her work on her income tax return, such as supplies, travel costs, and meals.

The IRS contended that, according to several aspects of the situation – including not having a formal business plan on paper – her artistry was more of a hobby than a for-profit venture. As a result, she could not claim tax deductions for artists in excess of the income she generated by selling her masterpieces. In addition, the IRS stated that Crile’s legal position as both an artist and a teacher was considered artificial because she did art on the side primarily to keep her college instructor position. The agency said she should have filed her side art expenses as unreimbursed employee expenses.

However, Judge Albert G. Lauber of the U.S. Tax Court ruled that Ms. Crile had “met her burden of proving that in carrying on her activity as an artist, she had an actual and honest objective of making a profit.” Therefore, Judge Lauber said, she should be considered a professional artist under U.S. tax law and is eligible for all applicable tax deductions for artists.

While Crile’s situation is only one case, the heart of the matter impacts millions of American taxpayers whose trades involve some type of art or performance work. From musicians to painters to stage actors, many of these hardworking individuals have jobs as instructors or stage managers. But many also pursue their creative passions on the side through work that is separate from their 9-to-5 gigs. Based on this latest ruling, artists in all walks of life should be able to take advantage of all appropriate tax-saving measures to help them pursue their dreams and keep more of their hard-earned income at the same time.

To learn about more tax deductions for artists, or to find out how artists and taxes are classified by the IRS, turn to 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or visit www.1800accountant.com.

Image credit: The image included in this article is used with permission via the Creative Commons license through Flickr.

Technology Items You Can Write Off as an IRS Tax Deduction

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows all about technology items that can be claimed as an IRS tax deduction. (Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows all about technology items that can be claimed as an IRS tax deduction. (Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons)

Happy Techies Day! Today we recognize all individuals who love technology. And nowadays with so many cool and convenient gadgets out there, who doesn’t?

You’ll probably like technology even more when you know about the various IRS tax deduction opportunities you can take advantage of when purchasing certain tangible tech items and intangible tech services:

Computers – Whether you buy an old-school desktop computer, a new-school all-in-one machine, or a laptop, there’s a chance you may be able to write off the cost of it. The IRS says that you must use a computer more than half the time for business purposes in order for it to qualify as a deduction. This means if you operate your own small business and buy a computer, you can write it off if you spend more than half of your time using it to conduct your trade, even if you also use it occasionally for playing games or watching movies.

Tablets – Do you own an iPad? An Android tablet? If so, you can take an IRS tax deduction on the cost of it by utilizing it primarily for your small business. The same rules about computers apply to tablets. Let’s say you view Word and Excel files on your iPad throughout the day for business reasons. You can deduct the entire cost of this handy device. But if you use it for both personal and business activities, you can only write off the percentage of its purchase cost and any data plan that is for business.

Smartphones – From iPhones to Samsung products to Android phones, there are so many options on smartphones out there. The good news is that if you have one specifically for your small business, the entire price of the phone and any data plan you have are both 100% tax deductible as a business expense. But if you use your smartphone for business and personal activities, you can only write off the percentage used for business. This means if it’s half for both activities, 50% of the phone would be deductible, and 50% of your monthly bills would also be a write-off.

Internet access – Perhaps you have a home office with Internet access. If so, you can only write off the percentage of your bill that is strictly used for business reasons. So if you browse the web or send e-mails to customers half the time, and then use the other half for personal Internet activities, you can only deduct 50% of your Internet access bill. However, if you have an Internet connection set up in a separate office complex or retail store for your small business, the entire cost of this monthly Internet bill would qualify as a business expense. Therefore, it would also qualify as an IRS tax deduction.

Backup/cloud services – Online backup services have become quite popular and important these days. They make accessing files from any device so easy, and they are a life-saver when something happens to your data. Small business owners can write off the costs of using a backup service, which may charge a monthly or yearly fee for a certain amount of cloud storage space.

Web design software/web hosting – Did you set up your own small business website this year? Are you planning to use e-commerce to sell your cool products online? If you purchase web design software, such as Adobe Dreamweaver, you can deduct the entire cost of it as an IRS tax deduction since it’s a business expense. The same goes for any web hosting services you use or website domain names you buy for your company.

For all of your small business accounting needs, turn to the experts at 1-800Accountant today. Call 1-800-222-6868 or click over to www.1800accountant.com.