Resources to Get Ready for Tax Time

Content contributed by Lisa Wedin, AKSourceLink. AKSourceLink is a proud affiliate of U.S.SourceLink, America’s largest resource network for entrepreneurs.

Clock showing tax time

Tax Time

Summary: It is that time of year. The time when thoughts turn to…taxes. There are many great sources of information available online. The IRS, SBA and SCORE all have great websites full of useful information. Below are some of the top resources for getting ready for tax season.

Resources to Get Ready for Tax Time

IRS- The Internal Revenue Service has a whole host of tools to make tax time a little easier.

IRS Business & Specialty Toll Free number, 1-800-829-4933, open Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

Starting Jan. 13, 2014, Business Tax Filers Can File 2013 Returns
The IRS will begin accepting 2013 business tax returns on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. This start date applies to both electronically-filed and paper-filed returns.
Business returns include any return that posts on the IRS Business Master File (BMF). BMF returns include a variety of income tax and information returns such as Form 1120 filed by corporations, Form 1120S filed by S corporations, Form 1065 filed by partnerships and Form 1041, the return filed by estates and trusts. It also includes various excise and payroll tax returns, such as Form 720, Form 940, Form 941 and Form 2290.

The Jan. 13 start date does not apply to unincorporated small businesses that report their income on Form 1040. The start date for all 1040 filers is Jan. 31, 2014. Although the IRS encourages these small businesses to begin preparing their returns now, it will not be able to accept these or any other individual returns or begin processing them until Jan. 31. This includes sole proprietors who file a Schedule C, landlords who file a Schedule E and farmers who file a Schedule F.

IRS e-News for Small Businesses
If you would like to receive e-News for Small Businesses, please visit this link to subscribe:
http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Subscribe-to-e-News-for-Small-Businesses

SBA- The Small Business Administration has a great website and webinars on a variety of tax related topics.

Filing and paying taxes

http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/establishing-business/tax
There are a variety of great articles and discussion board on taxes.

Affordable Care Act 101 Webinars for Small Business
http://www.sba.gov/healthcare – The SBA and Small Business Majority are holding weekly Affordable Care Act 101 webinars. During the presentation, small business owners can learn about the law and what it means for their company and employees. Visit the web page above for a complete schedule, but webinars are generally held every Thursday at 11:00 am Pacific Time.

SCORE
Top 10 Tax Tips for Small and Growing Businesses
http://www.score.org/all-business/top-10-tax-tips
Taxes are one of the most important issues facing small and growing businesses. And like a company’s profits, its annual tax bill will in part reflect the owner’s skills and knowledge. Business owners need to be sure that they are meeting all of their responsibilities to the tax man — and also seizing every opportunity to reduce their taxes.

I’ve Got Lots of Time

clock face

Time (CC) I_Believe_, Flickr

So here it is Wednesday, the day our team, Entrepreneurs and Their Communities, posts its regular blog. I have known it was coming. And I have told myself to get started or at least to think about a topic.

My answer? You guessed it, I will start tomorrow! But now the time is here and I am scrambling. So let’s talk about procrastination.

Procrastination, from Wikipedia, is “practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time, sometimes to the ‘last minute’ “. And that pretty much describes it. I had a great mentor and friend who, when faced with a large, major task, told me that was the only time she had a sparkling clean apartment and went routinely to exercise.

This same driving force is why we often need to remind business owners to work on their business and not in their business. Stocking shelves, unpacking boxes, and rearranging the displays are important but is it really what will move your business forward?

As humans, most of us are driven more by short term issues, tasks or pleasure. This is not to say these things are not important BUT looking ahead, planning ahead, and working ahead offers so much relief. It lowers your stress and gives you time to think about what you have done. Most importantly, business studies show that forward planning and working is linked to greater success. I suspect I may look back at this post and think about everything else I should have said at some point in time.

So how can you stop yourself from putting off the important tasks?

The first step is to recognize you are doing it. Business owners wear many hats (and the smaller your business, the more hats you wear). Every task you do is good for your business. That includes cleaning, stocking shelves, and straightening up your desk. But listen to your thoughts. You know there are things that probably are more important.

The next step is doing something to get you on track. For me, I need to keep a to-do list and regularly prioritize what is on that list. (And yes, I am old school as my list is on paper.) There are online tools that work well but find what you are most comfortable with. For me that is paper. My list is fairly comprehensive but it is the only way I keep things together. I put dates and priorities on the crucial items. It is my routine to check the list every day both adding and deleting items as well as reshuffling existing items based on changes in my life.

Realize that you need to be flexible. Priorities change. Opportunities come along.

I also have to plan when I am going to do certain things during the day. I get lots of email and social media every day. It took some time but I know it isn’t important that I read every piece that comes in. Use tools to screen and don’t be afraid to hit the delete key.

And the big one, learn two things: 1. How to say no; and 2. How to delegate (And that means delegating and giving authority and responsibility and not second-guessing all the time).

Well, there it is. My life as a procrastinator and what I have done to work around it. I and the other readers would love to hear your tips on how to handle this issue.

And as I leave, you can join me as I repeat to myself – I won’t do this next time, I won’t do this next time, I won’t do this next time.

Valentine’s Day – Thinking of . . . . Business??

Valentine heart

Photo (CC) by moonlightbulb, on Flickr

Just before Valentine’s Day for the past 10 years or so, my phone will ring a few times with a reporter on the other end wanting to discuss couples and being in business together (probably not how you expected that sentence to end).

Copreneurs, or couples in business together, seem to be a fascinating topic this time of the year. Most writers are interested in knowing if there are more or fewer couples operating a business together? Another popular question is why do they do it? And the third most common question is does it make for a stronger business?

Considering the copreneurial couple is not a new topic. Two authors, Barnett and Barnett, in 1988, coined the term copreneurs. The first chapter of their book, Working Together, sets the basic assumption for why they do it. The title of the chapter is “An End to Separate Lives and Separate Agendas.” The idea of working together is considered utopian with both spouses spending time together at work and at home.

My colleague, Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald, and I have been exploring this unique business structure for over a dozen years. In our work, copreneurs made up about 1/3 of all family businesses. That may mean 1.5 to 3 million family businesses or more are owned by such couples. Yet anytime such claims are made, you need to consider the definitions being used. One common means of defining copreneurs is by ownership. Such data is more common than what we used and is often considered an appropriate proxy. Yet ownership does not define involvement in the business which we considered important. Our definition asked if the spouse was a major decision maker. Both individuals also had to be working in the business.

But is it utopia? That question is much harder to answer. In our study, copreneurs made less income but were nearly as satisfied with the success of their business as were other family business owners. This may have come from the fact that copreners feel more strongly that the business is a way of life and not just a way to earn income. Income is less of a driving force as being able to achieve a blended relationship both at work and at home. This question really depends on how the couple choses to define success.

Being a copreneurial business has it difficulties though. Some couples express reservations about whether or not they could make this type of ownership work. Those that try it discuss issues such as role clarification and the need to capitalize on the skills of each person as being important. Most people approach me with a traditional structure in mind with the husband as the business owner and the wife working in the business. Yet we find that situation is often reversed, again based on skills and who holds the strongest passion for the business.

Is running a copreneurial business a good option? It may or it may not be. The couple, not those of us on the outside, must measure the positives and negatives in doing so. And just like not all relationships remain together, not all copreneurial couples remain in business together. The personal relationship continues but the business one does not. And the reasons why such businesses start and stop remain hazy. We know business income has some influence as does the personal relationship remaining intact. Additional understanding of such business relationships requires more evaluation.

So for you copreneurs, enjoy this Valentine’s Day as you greet the customers, tend the till and stock the shelves. To everyone else, you only have candy, flowers, dinner and cards to get you through.

eXtension FREE Webinar – Blogging for Food

eXtension Online Marketing Webinar Series
February 13, 2014
2:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. CT/12:00 p.m. MT/11:00 p.m. PT
 
Blogging For Food
Presented by Jennifer Lewis, The Soup to Nuts Resource for Artisan Food Entrepreneurs
 
The eXtension Entrepreneurship webinar winter series focus is
marketing online and enhancing their online marketing strategy.
 
February 13 – Blogging For Food
Presented by Jennifer Lewis, The Soup to Nuts Resource for Artisan Food Entrepreneurs
2:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. CT/12:00 p.m. MT/11:00 p.m. PT
 
Starting your own business is not an easy task especially if you are involved with the food industry – after much research it was evident there were few resources where ‘foodies’ could ask questions and get helpful information. Jennifer Lewis will share her experience with creating a blog to provide resourceful knowledge to the artisan food community.   Learn how a blog could be useful for your business to engage with customers.

Follow Entrepreneurs and Their Communities at:
 
UPCOMING WEBINARS
March 13
– Incorporating Video into the Marketing Strategy
Presented by Jeremy Doan, Rolling Plains Adventures
 
Video today is as important today as content marketing.  Learn how Jeremy Doan, Rolling Plains Adventures uses video to explain what their business is about, how they can share customer experiences, and what it takes to create short video segments to benefit your business.
 

All webinars will air monthly on the second Thursday at  1:00pm (CT); 12:00pm(MT); at https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/etc-cop.  Webinars are recorded for your convenience and are archived at https://learn.extension.org/events/recent

 

Blogging and Your Business

The word "blog"

Photo (CC) by photologue_np, on Flickr

This month’s topic for the Entrepreneurs and Their Communities webinar will be blogging as a means of business marketing. Jennifer Lewis, owner of Small Food Business will discuss how and why she blogs. She will give tips on how she does it and how you can engage your audience.

Join us at 2:00 p.m. ET/ 1:00 p.m. CT/12:00 p.m. MT/11:00 p.m. PT. Just log in at: https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/etc-cop

Many of you have probably read one or more blogs. And some of you may have read them and didn’t even know it. Some online information or newsletters you receive are, in fact, a blog.

From my perspective, good bloggers use a variety of means to get me involved. Some blogs are primarily pictures with little text. Yet most blogs are words supplemented by pictures, videos, and links. On blogger I follow routinely, Seth Godin, says a lot with few words typically. Others have more words but that’s okay. It isn’t length that bloggers are after, it’s connection to the audience.

Good bloggers vary not only the length and how they tell their message by varying content. They tell stories and they use the blog to give themselves a personality and, in turn, a reputation.

We have a blog for ETC. We probably haven’t given ours as much personality as we might and we tend to use words more than anything else. That doesn’t make it right or wrong. It does suggest that we need to practice more what we teach.

Some of us on the ETC team suggest that your first online presence needs to be a website. It forms the core around which you then build the rest of your online presence. For some business owners, they have blended their blog with their website. That works just fine.

I hope you are getting the picture that there is no one way that blogging must be done. Blogs can be a great marketing tool. Have some fun with them. And don’t be afraid of not having anything to say. Once you get started, you will find lots of material available.

So take some time and hear how one blogger handles it. There is no better way to learn than from someone who has “been there and done that.”

How do you start? Find and follow some favorite bloggers. Comment on their posts. Then signup and start blogging. Doesn’t get much easier. The hardest thing is making the commitment to do it on a regular basis. Start slow and build is good advice.

Again, join us at 2 pm Eastern, 1 Central, Noon Rocky Mt, and 11 am Pacific. Just log in at: https://connect.extension.iastate.edu/etc-cop

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