Saturday, November 6, 2010

What Is The First Thing A Small Business Should Outsource?

Everyone has their own opinion on this subject. I certainly have my own but it is a little bias. I was curious to see what everyone's opinion was and so I listed it on a forum. Do you think it is payroll, marketing, human resource, hiring, etc?  Here are some responses I got:

Linda Wall • "Payroll. If you use QuickBooks payroll, Paychex, ADP or any of the many others out there, this is one area you want to get right. Also, the time saving and peace of mind that payroll deposits are made on time".

 Barbara Bublyk •" Personally, after working with a number of small businesses, I strongly urge everystart-up to get COMPETENT bookkeeping help. I've spent a ridiculous number of hours trying to set up systems and straighten out messes that could have been avoided had the owners asked for help from day one".

Amy Trader • "I agree with Barbara, bookkeeping would be the first. I, too, have spent a lot of hours correcting mistakes or having to throw it all out and start over".

Kevin Harris • "Thanks to each of you for your input. I believe bookkeeping is ultra important to get right from the start, for exactly the reasons Barbara and Amy mention. If I had to choose, I'd say payroll is the first thing that I'd recommend small businesses take off their plate. Not only do you get the guarantee on accuracy and timing (as long as it's a reputable payroll service), a better reason is the simple trade-off between a ton of time & energy spent versus a minimal cost".

Catherine Haig • "I agree with bookkeeping and payroll because I've spent countless hours with owners hanging all over my head worrying about their payroll when all they had to do was give it to a competent company and that would NOT be Quickbooks payroll which, imo, IS THE WORST EVER! "

Stephanie Wells •"Ditto the bookkeeping. And unless the business is IT related, anything and EVERYTHING to do with setting up and maintaining computers, networks and peripherals".

Linda Morgan •"Definetly the bookkeeping and payroll. After these two I would add the record keeping. Hopefully if the bookkeeping is outsourced the bookkeeper is attending to the record keeping. New and stringent rules regardine retention are coming down in the next couple of years and businesses need to be prepared".

Demos Loizides •"You gotta love the small businesses that give important functions, such as bookkeeping and payroll in to inexperienced and apathetic employees. Their screw ups keep us busy".

Meghan Blair-Valero •"I am always amazed by what people decide to cheap out on. The amount of money they end up paying the IRS or the accountant because they decided to let the secretary be the bookkeeper. - often wonder if they even asked the person that they have largely left in charge of there business finances if they have ever balance their own checking accounts? I charge a premium when cleaning up someone elses mess".

Demos Loizides • "Since I'm hourly, I don't need a premium for cleaning up messes. They take longer than routine maintenance jobs, so I earn more anyway".

I personally can relate to this last one.  I recently acquired a client that has been merrily going about posting there business expenses, etc in QuickBooks.  When I looked at their check register nothing was classified, all put into accounts payablenot into business expenses, payroll, donations, etc.  This entire year has to be gone through again to get ready for tax time and this will take hours.

I can help give you peace of mind with your bookkeeping for as little as $75.00 per month but when we're talking about re-constructing an entire year of business.......

Call now for a FREE consultation and estimate (562) 420-0043

Does Your Small Business Have It's Bookkeeping House In Order?

Even though it might not be the most glamorous aspect of running a business, bookkeeping should always be near the top of your to-do list. The very life of your business depends on your diligence in this area.

Every business, regardless of size, has to keep a detailed record of its financial activities in order to comply with the tax laws. The activity of making and maintaining these records is known as bookkeeping.

For small businesses, accurate and diligent bookkeeping is necessary. It not only establishes compliance with a number of IRS regulations and bank lending rules but also improves your ability to make operational decisions.

So where do you start? Here are a few basics to keep in mind when setting up a bookkeeping system. Follow this advice, and the numbers will work for you, rather than the other way around.

1. Choose a bookkeeping system.

There are two varieties of bookkeeping: single-entry and double-entry. Single-entry bookkeeping is a rudimentary system suitable for personal finance. Balancing your checkbook is an example of single-entry bookkeeping, as it involves a single account (checking) that is being debited and credited. Double-entry bookkeeping is more appropriate for business, as it tracks two accounts at a time. Say you sell a product: Double-entry bookkeeping records the transaction as a credit in your cash account, and a debit in your inventory account.

2. Get help.

If you're like most small business owners, you lack both the time and enthusiasm to keep a detailed ledger. Accordingly, find a good CPA in your area or take advantage of bookkeeping software to make your life easier. A simple rule is that if your business is operationally complex, dependent on precise and timely records, or large, you should definitely engage professional help. Do you have a considerable inventory? Do your employees perform billable work on client sites? Do you expect to do $100,000 in sales this year? If the answer to these questions is yes, don't wait to get bookkeeping help.

3. Capture financial data.

Whether you delegate bookkeeping to a CPA (or other in-house financial specialist) or decide to use bookkeeping software, make a habit of holding on to everything: sales receipts, purchase orders, bank statements, etc. Create a dedicated filing system for every type of financial data.

4. Put financial data to work for you.

Do you know how much you spent on office supplies last month? Can you estimate how much business tax you'll pay next quarter? Can you forecast sales? Can you generate a list of non-paying customers? The answers to these and related questions come from categorizing the data you capture. Fortunately, this is where software can help. Small business-oriented tools such as QuickBooks, Peachtree, and Microsoft Office Accounting Professional will do the heavy lifting of categorization and prediction for you. This helps your bookkeeping to go beyond administration and begins to offer your business insights that can speed up your cash flow, grow your revenues and better inform your decisions.

5. Handle the IRS.

The IRS likes records, paper trails, and audits; so should you. Certify all mail to the IRS, request return receipts and keep the correspondence record accessible in case of a dispute over your bookkeeping practices. Contact a local taxpayer advocate (,,id=150972,00.html) in case of intractable disputes.

6. Leverage your books.

Good bookkeeping gives you credibility. Use it. Remember important audiences (such as banks and other credit sources) who may not get excited about your company based on its products or services, but who will be won over by a carefully-documented record of financial success.

7. Stay close to financial data.

Employing a CPA or delegating bookkeeping to an employee doesn't give you an excuse to separate yourself from the financial details of your business. As the owner, you are legally and professionally responsible for your business activities. You needn't spend hours every day poring over the books, but always have a big-picture idea of where the financial data is trending. This is another realm in which bookkeeping software can be advantageous, because it can give you custom views into your financial records. Using such software, you can decide to run and refresh basic reports every day, so that you can see important data captures (such as profit and loss, overdue accounts and monthly expenses) at a glance.

8. Ensure data validity.

Bookkeeping software and the assistance of hired help only go so far. Sometimes you will be the only person who can ensure the validity and timeliness of data. If an important customer's address changes, record it immediately in your bookkeeping system. Read through your vendor list to make sure that one vendor isn't listed by two names. Performing these small but vital acts of diligence, and training your employees to remain similarly alert, requires you to adopt a detail-oriented way of acting.

The devil of bookkeeping is in the details. Approach these details with a keen focus, and your bookkeeping will reveal crucial information about your business's health and vitality. Attention to financial details pays off, in both the short and long terms.

For as little as $75.00 per month I can help you have the peace of mind you deserve.  Call now for a FREE consultation and estimate, (562) 420-0043.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

IRS to Get Tougher on Sole Proprietor Audits

The Internal Revenue Service will be taking additional steps to check on whether sole proprietors are hiding sources of income during field audits.

A report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that IRS field examiners are generally effective in checking for unreported income during field audits of sole proprietors. However, the report recommended that the IRS could take further steps to determine if additional sources of income need to be reported.

While IRS field examiners generally check for unreported income, TIGTA found that the IRS could improve the accuracy of its preliminary cash transaction analyses by taking greater advantage of performance feedback mechanisms and ensuring that appropriate personal-living-expense data are being used. The preliminary cash transaction analysis involves little or no taxpayer burden, but uses tax return and personal expense data to determine whether the sole proprietor’s income and expenses are roughly equal.

“Tests for unreported income during IRS audits of sole proprietors are critical to the process of verifying that the correct amount of tax is reported,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. “Our results indicate that sole proprietors may have avoided tax and interest assessments of over $8 million in fiscal year 2008.”

The IRS’s National Research Program estimated that unreported business income by sole proprietors accounted for $68 billion (or 20 percent) of the $345 billion tax gap. This is due in large part to resource constraints and the need to balance audit coverage across other segments of the tax return filing population, such as corporations and partnerships.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS issue guidance to group managers to provide specific written feedback to examiners on the adequacy of their tests for unreported income, and that the IRS reinforce the requirement and importance of using appropriate personal-living-expense data in preliminary cash transaction analyses. The IRS agreed with these recommendations and plans to take the appropriate corrective actions

Take action now!  For as little as $75.00 per month you can have your bookkeeping done professionally and be stress free at tax time.

Call now for your free consulatation - (562) 420-0043

Friday, August 27, 2010

Five Tax Tips for Recently Married Taxpayers

Are you getting married this summer? If you recently got married or are planning a wedding, the last thing on your mind is taxes. However, there are some important steps you need to take to avoid stress at tax time. Here are five tips from the IRS for newlyweds to keep in mind.

1. Notify the Social Security Administration Report any name change to the Social Security Administration, so your name and Social Security Number will match when you file your next tax return. Informing the SSA of a name change is quite simple. File a Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, at your local SSA office. The form is available on SSA’s website at, by calling 800-772-1213 or at local offices.

2. Notify the IRS If you have a new address you should notify the IRS by sending Form 8822, Change of Address. You may download Form 8822 from or order it by calling 800–TAX–FORM (800–829–3676).

3. Notify the U.S.Postal Service You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service when you move so it can forward any IRS correspondence.

4. Notify Your Employer Report any name and address changes to your employer(s) to make sure you receive your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, after the end of the year.

5. Check Your Withholding If both you and your spouse work, your combined income may place you in a higher tax bracket. You can use the IRS Withholding Calculator available on to assist you in determining the correct amount of withholding needed for your new filing status. The IRS Withholding Calculator will even provide you with a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, you can print out and give to your employer so they can withhold the correct amount from your pay.

Six Facts about the Amercican Opportunity Tax Credit

There is still time left to take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a credit that will help many parents and college students offset the cost of college. This tax credit is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is available through December 31, 2010. It can be claimed by eligible taxpayers for college expenses paid in 2009 and 2010.

Here are six important facts the IRS wants you to know about the American Opportunity Tax Credit:

1. This credit, which expands and renames the existing Hope Credit, can be claimed for qualified tuition and related expenses that you pay for higher education in 2009 and 2010. Qualified tuition and related expenses include tuition, related fees, books and other required course materials.

2. The credit is equal to 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent per student each year and 25 percent of the next $2,000. Therefore, the full $2,500 credit may be available to a taxpayer who pays $4,000 or more in qualifying expenses for an eligible student.

3. The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers who make less than $80,000 or $160,000 for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is gradually reduced, however, for taxpayers with incomes above these levels.

4. Forty percent of the credit is refundable, so even those who owe no tax can get up to $1,000 of the credit for each eligible student as cash back.

5. The credit can be claimed for qualified expenses paid for any of the first four years of post-secondary education.

6. You cannot claim the tuition and fees tax deduction in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must choose to either take the credit or the deduction and should consider which is more beneficial for you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eight Things to Know If You Receive an IRS Notice

Did you receive a notice from the IRS this year? Every year the IRS sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers but that doesn’t mean you need to worry. Here are eight things every taxpayer should know about IRS notices – just in case one shows up in your mailbox.

1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.

2. There are number of reasons the IRS sends notices to taxpayers. The notice may request payment of taxes, notify you of a change to your account or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.

3. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you need to do to satisfy the inquiry.

4. If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.

5. If you agree with the correction to your account, usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due.

6. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. Write to explain why you disagree. Include any documents and information you wish the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.

7. Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call, to help us respond to your inquiry.

8. It’s important that you keep copies of any correspondence with your records.

Checked and Balanced Accounting

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ten Tips for Taxpayers Making Charitable Donations

Did you make a donation to a charity this year? If so, you may be able to take a deduction for it on your 2010 tax return.

Here are the top 10 things the IRS wants every taxpayer to know before deducting charitable donations.

1. Charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization and most will be able to tell you. You can also check IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations, which lists most qualified organizations. IRS Publication 78 is available at

2. Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.

3. You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified organization. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.

4. If your contribution entitles you to receive merchandise, goods, or services in return – such as admission to a charity banquet or sporting event – you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

5. Be sure to keep good records of any contribution you make, regardless of the amount. For any contribution made in cash, you must maintain a record of the contribution such as a bank record – including a cancelled check or a bank or credit card statement – a written record from the charity containing the date and amount of the contribution and the name of the organization, or a payroll deduction record.

6. Only contributions actually made during the tax year are deductible. For example, if you pledged $500 in September but paid the charity only $200 by Dec. 31, your deduction would be $200.

7. Include credit card charges and payments by check in the year they are given to the charity, even though you may not pay the credit card bill or have your bank account debited until the next year.

8. For any contribution of $250 or more, you must have written acknowledgment from the organization to substantiate your donation. This written proof must include the amount of cash and a description and good faith estimate of value of any property you contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

9. To deduct charitable contributions of items valued at $500 or more you must complete a Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attached the form to your return.

10. An appraisal generally must be obtained if you claim a deduction for a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000. In that case, you must also fill out Section B of Form 8283 and attach the form to your return.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Keeping Good Records Reduces Stress at Tax Time

You may not be thinking about your tax return right now, but summer is a great time to start planning for next year and to make sure your records are organized. Maintaining good records now can make filing your return a lot easier and it will help you remember transactions you made during the year.

Here are a few things the IRS wants you to know about recordkeeping.

Keeping well-organized records also ensures you can answer questions if your return is selected for examination or prepare a response if you receive an IRS notice. In most cases, the IRS does not require you to keep records in any special manner. Generally speaking, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return.

Individual taxpayers should usually keep the following records supporting items on their tax returns for at least three years:

• Bills

• Credit card and other receipts

• Invoices

• Mileage logs

• Canceled, imaged or substitute checks or any other proof of payment

• Any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return

You should normally keep records relating to property until at least three years after you sell or otherwise dispose of the property. Examples include:

• A home purchase or improvement

• Stocks and other investments

• Individual Retirement Arrangement transactions

• Rental property records

If you are a small business owner, you must keep all your employment tax records for at least four years after the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later. Examples of important documents business owners should keep Include:

• Gross receipts: Cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, receipt books, invoices, credit card charge slips and Forms 1099-MISC

• Proof of purchases: Canceled checks, cash register tape receipts, credit card sales slips and invoices

• Expense documents: Canceled checks, cash register tapes, account statements, credit card sales slips, invoices and petty cash slips for small cash payments

• Documents to verify your assets: Purchase and sales invoices, real estate closing statements and canceled checks

Call for a FREE 1 hour consultation and estimate
Checked and Balanced Accounting
(562) 420-0043

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Ideas to Make Money in This Struggling Economy

Many small business owners are struggling to keep their heads above water in today's economy. Even though large corporations are faring reasonably well, small businesses are suffering in the downturn from which America is just beginning to recover. Recent legislation provides hundreds of millions of dollars for Small Business Administration loan guarantees, but entrepreneurs can't plan to expand unless their revenues recover.

To that end, what can a small business owner do to avoid seeing red in the reports generated by his financial software? Three key tactics can help entrepreneurs make it through today's downturn and come out stronger on the other side.

Tactic 1: Be Mindful of Appearance

Small business owners offer either a product or service, and keeping appearances in mind can benefit both types of owner. Companies that provide products should be most concerned with the image that their product conveys. It's likely that a product provider is already cognizant of his goods' attributes and has optimized their appeal.

A small business owner can always focus on his own appearance, however. A financial planner (for example) who wears casual clothes may want to seem relaxed and laid-back, and in better times that may have been a workable branding strategy. But people are scared; they want an authoritative expert to help them with their finances. Suits or jackets are more appropriate, and sartorial trends have been moving this way in the corporate world, too.

Retailers are another group of small business owners who can benefit from increased attention to appearance. Stores should be clean and inviting; products should be logically displayed. Now is a good time to make long-delayed cosmetic upgrades, as long as they don't break the bank: contractors are widely available and ready to do business.

Tactic 2: Expand a Business' Presence

Low-margin small businesses have used fairs and markets as a revenue source for decades. It's unlikely that organic farming would be viable without farmers' markets. But a small business owner doesn't need to be a purveyor of candlesticks or vegetables to have a presence at farmers' markets and other community gatherings.

A restaurateur can showcase his cooking at a holiday event. An office supply store owner can sell products at a market. Private practice lawyers or other service providers can have a presence at community events; handing out business cards or promotional items can lead to increased revenue in the future.

Small businesses are a popular media topic at the moment. Business owners can contact local reporters to express interest in interviewing for a future story; if the reporter agrees, free publicity is a guaranteed result.

Yet another way to expand brand awareness and earn goodwill is to offer seminars to community groups. Many local colleges offer small business courses; contacting the schools to see if they need another speaker or panelist can lead to raised awareness of a business within the community.

Tactic 3: Look for Synergism on the Community Level

It's likely that an entrepreneur's community has many small businesses. Chambers of commerce hold networking events, as do some business owners themselves. An entrepreneur shouldn't miss an opportunity to network locally, especially with the economy in its current state.

Networking can lead to both more business and better business opportunities. By discussing a company's activities or prospects with other small business owners, the chances of creating new revenue streams are increased. A coffee shop proprietor may find that he can collaborate with an art dealer to hang artwork for sale in the coffee shop. Alternately, the art gallery could use the coffee shop for catering services at an opening.

Similarly, a calligrapher can work with the owner of a stationery shop to create personalized paper goods. A bait-and-tackle expert can pursue collaboration with the proprietor of a marina to offer fishing supplies to boaters.

Synergistic opportunities are endless, but, as they say, it takes two to tango. Unless a small business owner puts himself out there and appears willing to collaborate with fellow business owners, he cannot expect to see revenue growth via synergy.

In Conclusion:

America is recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s, and many small businesses are barely scraping by. Not every small business can survive today's economic situation, but creative and resourceful small business owners significantly improve their firms' chances.

If desperate times call for desperate measures, the state of the economy calls for unconventional measures. The economy is projected to improve in 2010 - Dean Maki, Barclays Capital's historically accurate forecaster, expects 3.5 percent growth - but until consumer spending rebounds, businesses large and small will have to think unconventionally.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Save hundreds per month on your Business Bookkeeping!

Did you know that an independent bookkeeper can save you hundreds of dollarsper month on Payroll Taxes, Workers Compensation and productive time lost? Hiring even a part-time bookkeeper and placing them on your payroll is not always the most cost saving way of getting your books done. I would like the opportunity to show you how I can save you time and money doing your business bookkeeping.

Whether you are using QuickBooks® or need to be computerized to streamline your business finances, my experience and expertise in helping small businesses organize their books is a great asset to any company.  Let me be your in-house Bookkeeper without the in-house cost!

Don’t wait too long! Tax time likes to sneak up before you know it!

Call me today and I will include one free hour of consultation. You can reach me at (562) 420-0043 or (562)-544-7202 (cell) and I would be happy to schedule a time to meet with you.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Small Biz CAN Compete With "The Big Boys"

Small business has often been mentioned as the "little guy." The one who has to compete with giant retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, and others that are based locally. They have the marketing budget and the advertising dollars to drive the smaller competition out of business. Some small businesses have managed to compete with the Wal-Mart's of the world, and one has even rebuffed offers to sell products through the mega chain.

The truth is, small businesses everywhere are finding ways to compete with bigger competition and in some cases are winning the battle. How they are winning is what tells a compelling story. While none of it is rocket science, the cumulative effects of these efforts mean better relationships with customers and the area they serve, loyalty, and more business.

One such case was highlighted in a recent case study in the New York Times. Pamela Ryckman writes about how a local Kansas City dry cleaning business, Hangers, is competing with a Tide dry cleaning chain that moved into town. An excerpt from the story shows how different thinking can give you a competitive advantage and put you on top:

"Hangers continued to cultivate its offbeat image. "We have a personality in a business devoid of it," Mr. Runyan said. "We can't out-price or out-spend our big competitor, but we can be genuine, funny and edgy."

"He worked to create a tight-knit culture of service and accountability. If a garment was damaged, a store representative would call the customer immediately and offer to replace it. He held a St. Patrick's Day tailgate party for 60 people in a Hangers parking lot and financed a float in the local parade. "Maybe it's goofy and old-fashioned," he said, "but it seems to be resonating with the folks in K.C. Who would expect people to party with their dry cleaner?"

"He initiated partnerships with corporations, nonprofit organizations and community groups, and he can quantify the patrons gained from each. He also contacted schools and donates 10 percent of the proceeds from parents' dry cleaning back to each school."

The moral of the story is that small businesses are the cornerstone of the U.S. economy, and many have to compete with big national chains on a day-to-day basis. It's how they distinguish themselves from the bigger chains that shows their innovation, creative thinking, and marketing know how. Oftentimes, small businesses are better at reaching local customers than the higher financed competition, because they have to be more tactical and thoughtful about where their dollars are being spent. So think outside the box, take some lessons from other businesses, and find a way to stand out from the crowd.

Have you had to compete with a bigger business? How did you stand out, and are you succeeding? Adding personalized service to your business gives your customers something they're not getting for "The Big Boys". At Checked and Balanced I go out of my way to make sure I cater your bookkeeping needs to fit your business needs. Call now for a Free 1 Hour Consultation!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Goldilock Approach to E-mail Marketing

What does a classic fable have to do with modern email marketing?

Do you remember when little Goldilocks was sampling the bears’ porridge (‘this one is too hot…this one is too cold…”) then laying in their beds (“this one is too hard, this one is too soft…”)? In both cases, she was looking for the one that was “just right.”

When it comes to email marketing – what you send and how often you send it – your customers also want the ‘just right’ version. Blast them too often and they will probably unsubscribe. Not often enough and they will forget about you. If the content is right on target every time they will be happy – but two ‘boring’ articles in a row may be all it takes for them to lose interest.

How can small business owners get it ‘just right’ in such an ‘information overload’ era? There is one, and only one way. Fortunately, it’s remarkably simple: ask.

Ask your customers how often they want to receive updates. Ask them what kind of updates they want to receive (stand-alone announcements or more comprehensive newsletters?). And ask which topics they would like to hear about.

Some of your clients might not mind receiving an email every day. To me, that’s remarkable. But it’s true. Others will want to receive only weekly or even monthly updates, with occasional ‘special announcement’ pieces if you have something really unique going on.

To maximize your open rate, grow your list and keep your readers engaged, you need a content strategy and a segmentation plan.

Content strategy is about the kind of information that people want to receive. They won’t all be interested in the same things, so it’s unwise to assume that a one-size fits all email policy will work. The best approach is to identify different interest areas and create content that is relevant to each one – then make sure you deliver only the content that your readers have expressed desire for.

Segmentation is about content and frequency. Once you know what I want to hear about, for example, you also need to know how often I want to hear it. This example may help:

If you own a landscaping business you might be an expert and service provider in several different areas such as:


Botanicals (which plants, shrubs and trees are ideal for your customers environment)




Off-season service such as fall clean up and winter snow removal


Can you see how the interests of someone living in a standalone housing residential area might be significantly different from the needs of your commercial customers?

Once someone opts into your list, you’ll want to use a survey tool (like SurveyMonkey, which is free) to better understand his or her needs. Simply ask which services they would like to hear about, and how frequently, then drop your subscribers into unique groups such as those who want information about basic services such as mowing, snow removal and fall clean-up, others who want only hardscaping alternatives, and those who want everything. Sort by frequency as well. This approach means that you will have to do some work up front, but you can use auto-responders (which I’ll cover in my next post) to automate a lot of it. It’s worth it, as you will see right away when your targeted approach leads to increased open rates.

Once your marketing strategies start to pay off, please consider me for your bookkeeping needs.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Protect your business against bad payers

How to avoid unpleasant tasks and protect your company against bad payers

You are not responsible for a new customer's creditworthiness, right?

But if they don't pay, who is told to "look into it"? Who is asked "did we get the check?" When the answer is no, who is told to "take care of it"?

And when the check does not come-who gets yelled at?

As an entrepreneur the answer to these questions would be "YOU".

Providing references does not make a prospect creditworthy. Following up on credit references is not insulting. Asking creditors for key data is not nosy.


See that your credit application or other signed document gives you permission to contact references. Then ask each reference these 3 key questions:

1. "How recent was your latest transaction with this firm?" If it wasn't within the last 4 months, the information may not be of great value because your customer's financial position may have changed materially.

2."Are you related to the prospect in any way?" This may be difficult to assess, since people may lie. Use your instincts to decide how accurate the answer is and whether to probe further.

3, "Would you consider this firm a good, slow, or bad payer?" Talking to a few references now can save you months of stonewalling down the road.

An organized billing/credit and collection procedure ensures that you will be paid before others. In this economic climate it is critical to retain good client relationships. Let me help you put that in place. 1 Hour free consultation

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Congress Introduces Bill to Help Taxpayers Cope with IRS

The House Ways and Means Committee has introduced legislation to help taxpayers enter into payment agreements with the IRS, relax the record-keeping requirements on cell phones, and improve IRS services for low-income taxpayers.

“This week, many Americans are preparing and filing their income tax returns,” said Oversight Subcommittee chairman John Lewis, D-Ga., in a statement. “The Taxpayer Assistance Act of 2010 responds to taxpayer needs that have been raised in hearings before the committee. This legislation helps taxpayers who are struggling in this economy by making it easier to enter into payment arrangements with the IRS. It also helps low-income taxpayers by improving IRS services available to them and helps small businesses and nonprofit organizations by relaxing the record-keeping requirements for employer-provided cell phones. I am pleased that many of these provisions have broad, bipartisan support.”

As recommended by the Obama administration, the bill would eliminate the strict substantiation rules requiring individuals to keep detailed records regarding cell phones and similar equipment used for business purposes.

The bill would also allow the Treasury Secretary to exempt, for religious reasons, certain tax return preparers from the electronic filing mandate.

The bill would also accelerate the interest on refunds for returns filed electronically by requiring the IRS to pay interest on refunds related to individual income tax returns that are filed electronically if the refund is not paid within 30 days of the later of the return due date or the date the return is filed.

In addition, the Taxpayer Assistance Act of 2010 would require the Treasury Secretary to conduct a study on the effectiveness of collection alternatives, such as offers-in-compromise.It would also repeal the partial payment requirement on submissions of offers-in-compromise. The bill would help taxpayers enter into offer-in-compromise agreements to settle their federal tax liabilities, and increase the likelihood that some amount of tax is collected, by repealing this requirement.

As recommended by National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, the bill would allow IRS employees to refer taxpayers to Low Income Taxpayer Clinics. The bill would also codify the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and allow the Treasury Secretary to allocate, in the absence of a specific appropriation, up to $20 million of grant funding annually for the program. The bill also would increase the allocated amount for LITCs from $6 million to $20 million annually.

The bill would require the IRS, to the extent practicable, to notify taxpayers of the availability of the Earned Income Tax Credit in prior taxable years. The bill also would require the IRS to review return information (such as Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statements) and identify potentially eligible taxpayers to the extent possible.

The bill would require the IRS to notify taxpayers when it suspects that their identities, or their dependents’ identities, have been stolen. It would also allow the IRS to use "mass communication," including the Internet and its Web site, to notify taxpayers of undelivered refunds.

The bill would require the National Taxpayer Advocate to conduct a study on the feasibility of delivering federal tax refunds on debit cards or prepaid cards, or by other electronic means. Furthermore, as recommended by the National Taxpayer Advocate, the bill would require the Treasury Secretary to study, and make recommendations on, the administrative and legislative steps required to allow the IRS to receive information returns before it processes income tax returns. The bill would also require the Treasury Secretary to study how to reduce the number of taxpayers making in-person payments at IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers.

To pay for all the various provisions, the bill contains revenue-raising aspects, including expanding the "bad check" penalty to electronic payments. As recommended by the Obama administration, the bill would clarify that the penalty applicable to bad checks or money orders extends to all commercially acceptable instruments of payments, i.e., electronic payments. This proposal is estimated to raise $47 million over 10 years.

Similar to another administration proposal, the bill would also increase information return penalties. The bill would hike the penalties for failing to file correct returns, failing to furnish correct payee statements, and failing to comply with other information reporting requirements. This proposal is estimated to raise $419 million over 10 years.

Let me help you with your tax filing needs, I am CTEC certified and bonded.

Let me help you with your tax filing needs, I am CTEC certified and bonded.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

IRS to Step Up Audits of Sole Proprietors

Washington, D.C. (April 12, 2010)

The Internal Revenue Service plans to check for unfiled tax returns and look for unreported income from sole proprietors of small businesses during correspondence audits.

Estimates by the IRS show that $68 billion of the $345 billion tax gap in 2001 was due to the underreporting of income by sole proprietors. The IRS conducted more than 5.1 million correspondence examinations between fiscal year 2004 and FY 2008 that recommended the IRS collect approximately $35 billion in additional taxes, according to a new report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. For each tax return examined, a correspondence examination generated about $6,800 in recommended additional taxes.

TIGTA found 129 audits where sole proprietors may have avoided tax and interest assessments totaling more than $1.7 million because the IRS failed to address significant potential income misstatements during compliance audits. These audits were identified from a statistically valid sample of 298 closed correspondence audits of individual returns with sole proprietorships that were closed by tax examiners in the IRS Campus Compliance Services operations during fiscal year 2007. Unlike procedures for audits conducted in the field, procedures for correspondence audits of sole proprietors do not require examiners to complete minimum checks for unfiled returns (employment tax and information returns) and to probe for unreported income.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS require correspondence examiners to check for unfiled returns, such as employment tax and information returns, and to probe for unreported income. These checks are required of IRS examiners who conduct in-person audits, but not of correspondence examiners.

"Sole proprietors who underreport their income can create an unfair burden on honest taxpayers and diminish the public's respect for the tax system," said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. "It is imperative that the IRS institutes policies to address this problem."

In response to TIGTA's draft report, the IRS agreed to develop inventory selection filters to identity and refer to field examiners those sole proprietors who did not file required employment tax or information returns; and those with indicators of unreported income.

Protect yourself by keeping audit proof records of all your business transactions.  As a QuickBooks Certified Pro-Advisor, I can help.  Call for a free 1 hour consultation.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

IRS Adds Web Infor on Small Business Health Insurance Tax Credit

The Internal Revenue Service has updated its Web site to provide information to small employers regarding the new tax credit for providing health coverage.

The new Web pages include a graphic to help employers quickly determine if they qualify for the credit; scenarios that explain how much certain businesses and exempt organizations would benefit from the credit; tax tips on taking the credit, and a set of questions and answers.   Here is a link:,,id=220809,00.html

The IRS is encouraging small employers to carefully consider the tax credit.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

You will be hired!

March 18, 2010, the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) act was enacted into law. Today I’d like to share with you the details of HIRE and how it might impact you.

First, employers who hire a new employee between February 3, 2010 and Jan 1, 2011 are exempt from paying their share of the payroll tax (the 6.2% FICA/Social Security withholding) effective with the employees first paycheck after March 18, 2010.

Important to note: for this to apply, the newly hired employee must have been out of work for 60 days prior to being hired with an allowance for a total of 40 hours work over that period. This does not impact the wage history for the employees’ social security benefits.

The second provision is for an up to $1000 tax credit for retaining those newly hired employees for over a year, provided their second 6 month period wages are at least 80% of the first 6 months.

As these tax breaks are meant to raise the employment level, a new hire may not fill an existing position unless that employee left on their own or was fired with cause. Hiring a family member or any relative also doesn’t qualify for this break.

This may seem a trivial amount, a total $3500 or so for a $40K/yr worker. But consider that when car companies are looking to stir up business, it’s small concessions, zero percent financing or a couple thousand dollars cash back that helps to move that $30,000 car. As it appears the economy’s bottom has already passed, this new provision may provide the boost some employers need to hire on that next worker.

Intuit Online Payroll keeps me informed of the latest payroll updates and makes it easy to administer payroll. And, as a wholesale service provider, I can offer the same updates to you PLUS personal service and integrated bookkeeping at the lowest available cost for individual businesses.

Friday, March 5, 2010

That last minute scramble before tax time

I have heard from so many people how they are stressed out and under the gun to get all their paperwork together for their tax preparer.

The truth is, you eat an elephant one bite at a time, and if you do your paperwork one month or one week at a time; it won't feel like you're eating an elephant.

Having a professional bookkeeper is a cost effective and sure fire way to stay on top of your paperwork. When you look at how much time is spent doing payroll, payroll taxes, and trying to reconcile your bank and credit card accounts each month, how much is that worth? A professional bookkeeper can handle all of that for you and have your financial information ready to go when you are, in a fraction of the time, allowing you to spend your time growing your business.

If you have recently purchased or downloaded QuickBooks, get the training necessary to keep yourself up to date in a fraction of the time and take advantage of all this powerful accounting software has to offer.

Call me for a FREE 1 hour consultation to discuss your bookkeeping needs.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


From one-person entities to major corporations, bookkeeping is a significant part of any business endeavor. While it is typically not one of the more glamorous jobs, bookkeeping is at the heart of a company's success, and errors can cost the company significantly. Below are 10 of the most common errors that you want to avoid.

Not saving receipts of less than $75. While such receipts may not be required by the IRS, they provide backup documentation for the many deductions you may claim. It is very simple to have a folder for such receipts, which can prove valuable at tax time.

Doing it yourself. No matter how much they hate it, many small business owners insist upon handling the books themselves. Having a competent bookkeeper coming in to handle the books can be extremely beneficial in that they have the skills to do the job quickly and efficiently and will provide a second pair of eyes to find errors and make suggestions.

Forgetting to track reimbursable expenses. Small business owners often pay for expenses out of pocket or with their own personal credit card then make the mistakes of failing to track these expenses. They then fail to submit the expenses to the company for reimbursement.

Not properly classifying employees. The proliferation of independent contractors, consultants, and freelancers has made it difficult to determine who is on staff and who is not. This results in misfiling when it comes to filing taxes since there are different rules and regulations for employees and non-employees.

Lack of communication. Having someone handling bookkeeping is only effective if they are filled in and kept up to date on all financial transactions. A frequent mistake is paying someone a bonus and not reporting it or buying supplies and not providing the bookkeeper with the information or receipts.

Not reconciling the books with the bank statement each month. One of the fundamental aspects of bookkeeping is reconciling the books and bank statements every month. Nonetheless, there are businesses that do not do this and others where errors are made by not doing it properly. Again, this is a good reason for hiring an experienced bookkeeper.

No backup. The paperless office does not exist in the real world, where audits do still exist. A paper trail, documentation or verification in the form of backup documents should be available, especially if all files are on the computer system, which could be prone to technical problems.

Not deducting sales tax. A common mistake in retail businesses is not deducting the sales tax from the total sales. This results in a higher total sales amount and does not lower the amount of taxes due.

Petty cash nonchalance. A system should be set up whereby a set amount of money is in petty cash and each time money is taken out for any purpose, a petty cash slip is filled out. When the fund is exhausted, the slips will total the original amount and a check can be written to cash to set up the full amount again. Many offices are nonchalant about using the petty cash fund without keeping accurate records.

Miscategorization or overcategorization. There are fairly standard categories for expenses. However, often expenses are entered into the wrong categories or too many categories are created. Use general bookkeeping guidelines for standard categorization and create as few new categories as possible. Try to follow generally accepted accounting practices.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


You choose your target customers, then decide on the product or service you know they need. You work out the best way to reach them through advertising, advertise, and then wait for them to respond. You measure the return, to ensure you made more profit than the cost of the ad.

But it doesn’t always work like this. For many small businesses, advertising happens when a persuasive media salesperson talks them into buying a series of ads, or when they are reminded they need to renew their directory advertising.

You decide what advertising tactics fit a particular type of customer, product, or service.

For example, a sports shop might consider conducting an advertising campaign for their baseball equipment in February, preceded by a direct mail campaign to customers in December.


1) Target your customer.
2) Select appropriate products and services.
3) Choose your form of advertising.
4) Fit tactics to targets.
5) Put someone in charge.


1. Be consistent in your ad message and style including business cards, letterhead, envelopes, invoices, signs and banners.

2. Newspapers, radio and TV stations are helpful in producing the advertising that you will be running with them.

3. While word-of-mouth advertising has been around a long time, it usually falls short of being able to attract the number of customers needed to be successful in business.

4. Promote benefits rather than features. A benefit is the emotional satisfaction your product or service provides, or a tangible performance characteristic.

5. Know your competitors. Knowing everything about your competitors is just as important as knowing everything about your own business.