Tips on Income Tax Preparation

Gathering the Documents Needed for Complete Returns

No matter what country or state returns need to be completed, having access to important records makes the filing easier and more accurate. United States returns require documentation on income and expense that substantiates items on the return.

Documenting Income for the Tax Return

Employees will be issued a W-2 form, the Wage and Tax Statement. This form contains the earned income, as well as taxes deducted. Other important pieces of information on the W-2 are retirement and dependent care deductions.

Other income items are reported on one of the various 1099 forms. This may include earned income in a non-employee situation, such payment on a contract. Interest is reported on 1099 INT.

Brokerages will provide a 1099 form listing interest and dividend income, as well as investment purchases and sales of stock, mutual funds and options. Proceeds and costs of these items are reported on Schedule D.

Refunds from state and local taxes are reported on a 1099, and this income must be reported in the current year if the taxpayer claimed the payment of these taxes as an itemized deduction in that prior year.



Documenting Deductions from Income

It is a legal requirement to report all income. It is not a requirement to report all deductions, but a taxpayer will want to reduce taxes by claiming all deductions to which they are entitled.

Therefore, it is important to find all the deductions allowable. Good record-keeping makes this possible. Keeping track of all checks written during the year, or at least maintaining copies of checks to be reviewed at tax time will assist with finding deductions.

It is also helpful to maintain copies of credit card statements, which document expenditures. Types of items that may be deducted in some circumstances:

  • Charitable contributions. Donations over a certain amount must be acknowledged by the receiver, but reviewing the checkbook or statement may help to prompt the memory.
  • Unreimbursed employee expenses which may be deducted, such as union dues and job travel.
  • Medical expenses are deductible over a percentage of income. Bills paid by credit card are deductible in the year charged, regardless of when the credit card is paid off.
  • Tax preparation fees. These are deductible in the year paid, not the year that the tax return covers.

Miscellaneous Tax Documents

If the taxpayer owns investment property, documents relating to taxes paid and depreciation will be required to complete the return. If there is rental property, all documentation of rental income and expenses are needed. It is advisable that separate records (checkbooks, ledgers) be maintained.

Whether the taxpayer completes the forms manually, on tax software or pulls the information for a tax preparer, having all the documents at hand will help to make preparing the return efficient and accurate.

Small Business Real Estate Safety

Consider Security Issues When Hunting for Office Space

Janelle Benjamin, a realtor for Red Real Estate, a boutique commercial real estate firm based in New York, specializes in office leasing for established small businesses, branch offices and start ups. She helps clients find commercial space that will meet all the special needs of their business, including safety concerns. Since office safety is such an important issue for small business owners to think about, she took some time to discuss some tips for finding space that won’t compromise business security.

Should Business Owners Focus Most on Safety and Security Issues, Location, or Cost?

“They all relate to each other. The focus depends on the business and its priorities. If a lot of clients are coming in, you’ll want an impressive building and you won’t want to have them walking down a back alley. For this type of business, location is most important. If it is just you, your spouse and a friend and you want to keep your overhead low, price is most important. A tech company will put security first.

Also, if you have staff, think about staff safety. You don’t want them to leave the office in a less secure location at 7 o’clock all alone. In areas where employees use public transportation heavily, some companies give employees taxi vouchers after hours or have security walk them out to the car.

If employees perceive danger, it can take them away from company even if there isn’t real danger. They may relocate to a company that makes them feel safer. A company with staff should make safety a priority.”

Is it Difficult to find Safe Office Space on a Typical Small Business Budget?

“It isn’t very difficult. Safety involves getting to know other people in a building or on a floor. Know who works there and you can spot someone who doesn’t belong there. If you can’t afford a building with 24/7 security and an attendant, the other business owners will look out for you.”

What Safety and Security Features Should a Small Business Owner Look For?

“In order of importance, I’d say a small business owner should look for:

  • A lobby attendant and the hours he or she works. (9-5, after hours, 24/7 etc.)
  • Overall safety features, like cameras and security personnel doing rounds.
  • The life of the building. You should think about how many businesses there are and the deliveries they get. Is there tons of traffic? Do employees come in at 9 and leave at 5:30?
  • The traffic patterns of people on your floor. If there are a lot of deliveries, erratic hours and a lot of staff turnover, security can be harder to handle.”

What Safety Concern Should Make a Business Owner Walk Away From a Low Rent, High Traffic Location?

“It goes back to your staff. It is one thing to put yourself on the line. It is another thing to put employees on the line. If you are considering a location you aren’t sure of, bring an employee by and see how he feels.”

Does Having an Unsafe Location Affect the Business’s Bottom Line?

“Absolutely. Employees will quit. Buyers won’t want to do business. Curb appeal matters for businesses as much as it does for noncommercial real estate.”

Once small business owners understand that the safety of a location can impact the company’s profits and can cause employee retention problems, they can make an educated decision about the actual savings they will realize if they choose a lower cost, but less secure, commercial real estate location.

3 Keys to a Successful Web Company Launch

Kick Off an Internet Startup Business with Instant Web Presence

Internet users are a massive market for a new business, or one making the transition from brick and mortar to online sales. The key to success in a web company launch is to avoid getting lost amongst the millions of other e-commerce entrepreneurs selling online.

Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics estimates that as of June 30, 2009, the internet supported over 1.6 billion users worldwide. 73.9% of Americans use the internet, for a total of 251.7 million users. As internet service spreads across Asia, that market is growing exponentially; with only 18.5% of the population using the internet, over 700 million users are already logged on. The potential for online businesses to succeed in that emerging market is huge.

Why an Internet Startup Business Needs a Solid Web Presence

Marketing to an international audience is a feat in itself; however, a web company must also be aware of their competition and strive to increase online visibility. Potential customers often arrive at an online store after using a search engine to guide them to products or services they are interested in.

This creates a need for superior search engine optimization. However, that is only one component of building a successful web presence. Internet startup businesses must make themselves visible in news channels, on blogs, in social media, and on a professional company website.

1st Step in a Successful Web Company Launch- Website Optimization

A properly optimized website ranks higher in search engine listings and is therefore easier for potential customers to find. An internet startup business can save valuable marketing dollars by appearing in organic searches, rather than paid advertising.

Choose three or four keyword phrases that accurately describe the web company and its products or services. Be specific. For example, an internet startup selling discount printed clothing for babies might choose:

  • printed baby clothing
  • original discount baby clothing
  • buy discount baby clothing online

The terms, “baby clothing,” and “clothes for babies,” are far too general and competitive. Think of what the customer will type into a search engine to find those products, and make those the primary keywords.

Incorporate the keywords (once each) into a 70-80 character website title and a website description of 200 words or less. Add the keywords to the website’s meta tags and use each word two or three times in the main body of text on the front page. Do not overuse keywords; search engines penalize websites for keyword spamming.

2nd Step in Launching a Successful Internet Startup Business- Build a Unified Web Presence

Web companies can build credibility and attract new business by maintaining several different types of web presences. Use the same logo, language, and keywords on each of the following:

  • A company blog
  • A MySpace page to advertise products
  • A Facebook fan page to interact with potential customers
  • A Twitter account to broadcast sales and new releases

Each component of the web presence should be instantly recognizable as unique to the company. Build a content web by linking all accounts together. Participate in online forums and leave comments on other blogs, with a signature block linking back to the company website, to further increase visibility and generate interest.

3rd Step for a New Web Company Launch- A Formal Announcement

Internet startup businesses benefit from coverage in news media. However, press release writing is an art form; most releases are simply discarded, especially if they are blatantly promotional in nature.

Try to answer these two questions:

  • Why is this news?
  • How will readers benefit from hearing about this business launch?

The title and opening paragraph should immediately answer these two important questions to catch the interest of the news personnel reading it. Use company keywords sparingly throughout the press release and insert two or three hyperlinks to important company information or unique products. Use a company such as Business Wire to distribute the release to journalists and media companies.

Map Out the Launch Strategy in the Online Business Planning Stages

Don’t waste time and money in the difficult first days of an internet startup business launch. Plan to use these three strategies to quickly build a web presence and increase online visibility, giving the startup business the best chance of success.

The Academy of Certified Businesses

The ACB was formed from the realization that certified/registered businesses, whilst listed in several databases, were no more than just a listing. Indeed, it was a common criticism from certified/registered clients, that there was no “unified voice” in recognition for their efforts in achieving National, or International standards.

Further, it was also recognised, that many certified/registered businesses do not take full advantage of their award(s) when conducting their business on a day-to-day basis.

Initially, the Registrar of Standards Group (which includes ROS, United Registrar of Systems – URS and Global Registrars, Inc – GRI) decided that a mechanism must be found to augment the weaknesses of the current ways in which certified/registered businesses advertise themselves.