I woke up this morning with an extra hour (Thank you Daylight Savings Time) and realized we’re in November. Where has 2011 gone? I guess time flies when you are fighting rogue tornadoes, random Northeastern earthquakes, hurricanes, freak snowstorms, and week-long power outages.
Given that it’s an election week, it seems appropriate to look forward to the future instead of dwelling on the past (and I know that’s easier said than done for our friends still surviving without power from October’s wintery woe). As a QuickBooks Pro Advisor, I advise my clients not to lose sight of how quickly year end is approaching and to start pulling together documentation needed to determine April’s tax liability. Well maintained books help your CPA crunch the numbers to determine your tax bill.
QuickBooks provides an excellent year end checklist to get your books ready which can be accessed by going to Help Menu > QuickBooks Help > Type “Year End Guide” into the help search box.
You can also visit Intuit for an even better checklist (although note that this will download a Word document to your downloaded files folder).
Of course, don’t forget to plan how you can make next year even bigger and better for your business. Developing a sound budget for 2012 that includes anticipating sales as well as with forecasting expenses for the year that typically come along with growth. You can find a great budgeting tool in QuickBooks under the company menu > planning and budgeting tools.
Unless you do the brainstorming necessary to determine exactly how you will grow, the preceding point becomes moot.
Much of business growth comes from increased sales. In order to free up some of your time, think about turning over your payroll functions to Intuit who will pay the taxes and prepare the forms. Call us for quotes (800-216-0763).
In addition, if you are not using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool), it may be time to investigate one that will work for you. We offer a CRM that gives your sales team access online to the QuickBooks transaction history for just their customers.
Key features of a CRM that will lead your team to high productivity are:
1. Tracks sales leads, phone calls, emails and reminders
2. Track effectiveness of marketing campaigns
3. Schedules follow-ups for tasks
4. Eliminates duplicate entry and enforces business processes set up by management
5. Offers management increased awareness of clientele and sales opportunities
6. Offers a customer and vendor portal
Closing out 2011 with proper planning will get you off to a fast (and hopefully weather-free) 2012.
Earlier this month, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shared his plan to solicit donations from Starbucks customers to help fund small businesses in a joint program with the Opportunity Finance Network called Create Jobs for USA. Starting November 1, for every $5 donated at a Starbucks (roughly the cost of a second grande non-fat Pumpkin Spice Latte), you can walk out with a cool wristband and the satisfaction of helping fund Main Street. Starbucks has already made a $5 million donation, which, coincidentally, would yield enough wristbands for each QuickBooks user out there.
Important to point out is the subtle note that verifies each wristband is made in the USA!
Small businesses that have not been able to obtain a loan through conventional banking methods may be eligible to receive a Starbucks loan. Whether you’re just starting up or looking to expand, there is one basic requirement: proof that jobs will be created (temporary or permanent) by the business seeking the loan. According to this NJ.com article, one new job will be created for every $3,000 donated to the program. If you think your business qualifies, you can start the process by visiting the OFN Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Finder. (Very easy to use – a quick search yielded two in my community).
While Starbucks is the latest to receive kudos for helping out the little guy, they’re certainly not the first. The Sam Adams brewery has provided small business loans and free business education seminars to the community since April, although clearly an additional requirement to receiving a Sam Adams loan is being at least 21 years of age (the website prompts you to verify your age twice before you can even get to the link provided above).
Regardless of your preference to fill your mugs with coffee vs. beer, I think we can all raise our glasses to these two companies and their positive steps towards investing back into entrepreneurship. Cheers until next week!
What other micro-lending ventures have you heard about? Leave a comment to share resources with other small business owners here.
- Before finalizing and mailing the 4th Quarter 941 form, print up the W2 forms and determine if the amounts agree to what you have been reporting quarterly. Buy W2 forms here and we will provide you with a checklist that will help you identify and uncover problems that may exist.
- Next make sure you review the W2 tax form for the right amounts in the right boxes with the right codes. Be sure to read the instructions for the W2 form for 2011. Click here for a sample 2011 W2 Form issued by the IRS. Receive a free W2 and 1099 Guide for printing your 2011 tax forms with instructions on preparing QuickBooks W2’s, including where you can get your tax questions answered by the IRS, with each order you place for W2 and 1099 tax forms here. Review the W2 forms before printing final copies to make sure the alignment is accurate. Learn how to align preprinted W2 forms in QuickBooks with our free W2 Guides when you purchase your QuickBooks W2 forms. Our W2 guide provides useful links to websites that offer answers to frequently asked questions about preparing W2’s. This is a worthwhile page to review for information you may not have been aware of, including how to include third party sick pay and common questions about each of the boxes on the W2 (its a long page, scroll 1/2 down for specific W2 information).
- Modify W2 form amounts as necessary. QuickBooks permits modifying the amounts that default to the W2s. Learn how to make these adjustments and where to add or change state, federal and employee identification numbers in QuickBooks from our free guide available when you purchase your W2 tax forms.
- Print the W2 forms. We make available a step by step printing W2 Guide in QuickBooks that includes screenshots when you purchase your forms.
- Stuff envelopes.
- Visit our payroll tips page for more payroll tips and tricks, plus a complete knowledgebase where you can get answers to your payroll regulation questions.
- Our W2 instruction guide provides you with the information you need for printing W2s in QuickBooks version 2008, 2009, 2010, & 2011.
It has been a few months since the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011 (say that five times fast) repealed the 1099 reporting requirements introduced in 2010 by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, to the delight of harried entrepreneurs everywhere. As we come upon another year end and you prepare to order your W2’s and other forms (found here at a discount), here’s a refresher on what is and isn’t happening, and a quick tip on how to track 1099 information in QuickBooks.
Who Receives a 1099-MISC (instructions found here):
- Sole Proprietors, LLCs, and partnerships from whom you’ve purchased over $600 in services in the calendar year.
- In 2011, sale of property, goods, and products, in addition to services, over $600 would be subject to the new reporting requirements.
- Corporations were brought into the mix.
- In 2012, purchases in excess of $600 to any vendor for the following would have required a 1099 to be issued:
- Cost of Goods sold
- Entertainment purchases
- Office Supplies
- Contractors for Repairs and improvements
- Purchases for auto repairs or lawn maintenance if you deduct these for business
- And pretty much every expense listed on your profit and loss report (although the law provided an exemption to sending a 1099 for all transactions purchased with a credit card)
- Get a W-9 Form from every vendor that provides you with a service or for whom you rent property from. This is important- this document will tell you whether the vendor qualifies for exemption from submitting a 1099 and how to report their name (so that it will match the IRS database) on the 1099.
- Enter into the vendor center —> vendor record —> additional information tab and check the box indicating that the vendor is eligible for a 1099.
As the Eastern Seaboard bunkers down and protects their families and homes from the impending doom of Hurricane Irene (while also recovering from the jitters induced by Tuesday’s super-rare East Coast earthquake), entrepreneurs have an added stress of safeguarding their businesses and taking extra precautions to ensure a quick recovery should anything unfortunate come to pass over the weekend. Business continuity planning is an essential, yet often overlooked, practice necessary to ensure a small business owner can survive the unexpected.
For those who need some quick advice to prepare for this weekend’s severe weather, here are some things to consider (links provided are from the Office Management and Office Procedures guide at www.qbalance.com):
Insurance: Review all documents and know what’s covered. Be sure that important paper documents needed to prove any losses (receipts, policy documents, etc.) are locked up in a water-tight container, and stored in the highest place in your home or office.
Backup electronic documents offsite: Don’t forget your QuickBooks file. QuickBooks online can help you with this (for a monthly or annual fee), and is free with a QuickBooks Enterprise Full Service Plan (details available at 800-216-0763). Backups are only as good as the person checking them – this site is a good resource for those conducting back-ups on your behalf. For a reasonably priced option, I also recommend Carbonite.com.
Secure your business IT: Disconnect all computers and components from the wall. If your business is in a flood zone, move any computers that are on the ground to a higher location.
Communicate: Share with your employees your expectations of their roles over the next few days. Is a call tree needed? Let your customers know what your plans are. Most individuals are going to be sensitive to the fact it might be difficult to operate normally for some time, and will appreciate your ability to recover quickly.
Know when to leave: The best thing you can do for your business is return to your duties in one piece!
Ready.gov is a great resource for Business Continuity Planning. Here, you can find templates to help you plan for the worst case scenario, a good listing of supplies to have on hand in case of an emergency, and other suggestions for building a robust crisis preparedness plan.
This week, new legislation passed in California requiring the collection of sales tax from internet sales was followed with swift action from Amazon cutting off it’s Affiliates program. Proponents of the legislation say it will result in $317 million per year in extra revenue for the state; Amazon.com stated very little revenue will be collected as a result of this bill, and harms their ability to compete with “big box” retailers (more details here).
Either way, small businesses in California that collected income from the program may need to find an alternative solution quickly. Some may begin to ponder whether a move out of state is necessary (you can find a list of resources to begin conducting your research on the best places to set up shop here). But before you go through the pain of packing up and heading out of town, note that California isn’t the first to begin taxing internet sales – it joins Connecticut, Arkansas, Illinois, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and even the Capital of the World, New York, in taxing internet sales. (See how the battle is playing out for Amazon on this map.) As states need to identify new ways to generate revenue, internet sales may be an attractive option.
As we continue to rebuild our nest eggs from the market crash of 2008, sources of retirement income are receiving heavy attention in the media. There are a few common strategies most individuals are employing to see them through retirement – saving more in their employer-sponsored plans or via IRAs, taking more risk in their investment portfolios, tapping in to home equity, and, of course, delaying full retirement to take advantage of more time with a steady income and greater Social Security Benefits.
Perhaps, if you have crunched the numbers with your financial advisor and determine that a part-time income may be sufficient, an attractive option may be to start your own sole proprietorship or LLC. As this article mentions, “Many people use retirement to fulfill lifelong dreams that weren’t financially practical when they were younger. Since they only need a part-time income now, a second, lower-paying career or hobby business is possible.” Whether you want to create or consult, chances are your years of experience doing something you love may prove to be valuable to your community.
By becoming your own employer, you also can help your income keep pace with inflation by setting your own wages. (More on strategies for keeping up with inflation in retirement here). Just be sure to do the right research to make sure your rates are market competitive. Conduct an online search and call a few of your potential competitors to find out what the going rates are.
All small businesses, however, require some form of investment. Keep a realistic picture of start-up costs before jumping into anything – many businesses can be started from home with a computer and a reliable internet connection. Price out what else you might need to keep going – advertising, web hosting, and telephone bills are a few basic business expenses to keep in mind.
The right questions to ask yourself before starting any business venture can be found here. Take the time to print out the page and write down your answers to those questions to create a basic business plan. Gather feedback from many sources on your plan, including trusted professionals, friends, and family members. Remember, starting a business in retirement is not the right solution for everyone. With proper research and planning, it can be just one of many tools to help diversify your sources of income in retirement.