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Your Taxes Are Done: Now What?

I realize that tax season is officially on its way out, and taxes are probably the last thing anyone wants to think about. But, as any long-time entrepreneur will tell you, taxes are an aspect of your business you just can’t escape. When you run a business, you always have to watch out for how much the government is expecting from your total take. Relax too much and you’re suddenly up to your eyes in penalties and fees. Thankfully, taxes are fairly manageable, as long as you look at them as a yearlong obligation, rather than as an annual, paperwork-driven annoyance.

Get your next estimated tax payment ready

Self-employed people who expect to owe more than $1,000 in taxes, and corporations that expect to owe more than $500, have to pay quarterly estimated tax payments. And hopefully you knew that already, because your first estimated tax payment was due on April 15th, and your next one is due June 16th. You should have a pretty solid idea as to what the government expects from you in 2014 since you just finished 2013’s returns. But if you don’t know how much you are supposed to be sending in, Form 1040-ES can help you calculate what you owe and adjust future payments.

Use your refund wisely

Processing your refund check normally takes the IRS around three weeks, so if you don’t have your refund already, you’ll hopefully have it soon. When you do get it, I recommend immediately putting a chunk of it into your savings. The general rule of thumb is to put 20% of your tax refund into your savings account, and you’ll be happy to have that money during a rainy day. Now, I can’t tell you how to spend the rest of your refund, but before you run off to spend the weekend at Disneyland, consider investing some of your refund back into your business. Do you need a new computer? Are you ready to go ‘Office Space’ on your ancient printer? Use this refund as a way to re-invigorate the aging parts of your business – some of those essential purchases could even qualify for a Section 179 deduction next year!

Plan out a tax strategy

A large part of any tax strategy is to know what you owe, and to save to pay it. If you’re self-employed, you have to pay self-employment taxes in addition to your income tax to cover your Medicare and social security. Along with knowing what you owe, you should think about what deductible-expenses you could invest in this year. Health insurance, a retirement plan, and even continuing your education are all great investments that could help boost your refund next April. 

Don’t slack on maintenance

Again, I know the last thing most people want to do at this point is think about their taxes, but bad habits are hard to break, so you have to stay organized. Don’t start throwing important receipts into an old shoebox – sort out what you bought for your business, and organize your paperwork. You should also make sure your books balance out at the end of everyday; otherwise you’ll spend hours hunting for phantom expenses and missing deposits. If you aren’t using some sort of bookkeeping software, now might be a great time to look into one to help you stay on top of your finances.

Keep meeting with your accountant

Don’t let April 15th, 2015 be the next time you meet with your accountant. Estimated tax payments can be hard to pin down, especially if you expect any growth or contraction in the coming year. At the very least, meet with your accountant towards the end of the year, around October to November. They’ll help you start closing out your books, and will let you know if you need to adjust the payment due in January.

Being an entrepreneur means embracing everything that comes with running a business, including taxes. Most people tend to see taxes as a once-a-year occurrence, but business owners can’t think that way. So get ready for the coming year, plan out your estimated tax payments, and stay on top of your bookkeeping. A little extra work now means a much smoother tax season in 2015.

About the Author

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

Think Before You Ink

Printing can be expensive; it’s even more costly when you mistakenly send docs to be mass-produced that are riddled with errors, contain foolhardy content, or are poorly designed. We’ve all seen promotional fliers that might have been made using Microsoft® Paint from 1997.

Before submitting anything to a printer, run through this checklist to save yourself from a reprint or inclusion on a viral webpage making fun of regrettable prints.

Proofread x2

Nowadays, folks can’t spell too well. Blame spellcheck all you want, but accidents happen. Even to our president (see number 6). Before you pull a Patrick Bateman and proudly print hundreds of business cards telling the world you are in the business of  “aquisitions,” run your idea by someone who can spot these things and save you from yourself.

Check for Design Flaws

Misspellings aren’t the only aspect of your project that will create regret and call for a re-print. If you’re including images (and you should! Visuals and white space are important!), check and make sure that it looks the way you want it to, really. Especially if you modified the image in any way; Photoshop errors are more common than you’d think. You’ll also be wise to make sure that your image will print where you intended on the page, and that the photo resolution won’t wind up blurry. Most print services offer free test prints that eliminate costly and unwanted surprises when your full 500 page order arrives.

Make Sure It’s All Necessary

Print orders include a variety of options from font size to paper type, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that different options come with different price tags. Some fonts require more ink (like Arial), and some less (Times New Roman). Times New Roman, then, will cost you less in the long haul. As will printing on cheaper paper for events that don’t require the finest stock. Make sure that whatever you choose, you choose with intention.

About the Author

Mark Stokvis is the marketing director at Best Value Copy, an online printing service.  With over 14 years of experience in the printing industry, he is an undisputed expert on all things paper, binding, and formatting.

4 Great Ways to Get Your Small Business on the Right Track in 2014

For many aspiring entrepreneurs, January 1st is the equivalent of the checkered flag being waved on the race track. You’ve been on your mark with your business idea, got set with a business plan, and are ready to go onward and upward on the path to greatness!

Before you get caught up in the race, it’s important to make sure that your business stays on the right track from the start and doesn’t veer off only to crash and burn. For a brand new business, this often means ensuring that your company has taken care of these four legal matters first.

1) Incorporate or form an LLC.

Legitimizing your brand with an “Inc.” or “LLC” added after the company name not only allows customers to feel much more willing to do business with you, but business formations help provide liability protection for your personal assets. In the event that your business is unable to pay a creditor or gets hit with a lawsuit, this ensures that your personal assets, like cars or homes, are not assets a creditor can legally come after.

2) Trademark your intellectual property.

Even if you think your brand name or logo is extremely original and nobody will ever think of using it, it’s always a good idea to file a trademark application to verify how unique it is and protect the mark from being used by others whether they know about your brand or not.

3) Apply for a business license.

This one can rarely be avoided by a business as nearly all cities and counties require working establishments to have a business license. Check in with your state government about licensing requirements, as many of these are slated to differ depending on the city you do business in, your industry, and company size.

4) Get an EIN in place.

Plan on hiring or opening a bank account for your business? You’ll need to apply for an employer identification number to legally identify your business with. A business may also be legally identified by your SSN, but the EIN is often a better option of the pair to opt for in the event of sudden identity theft occurring.

About the Author

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @deborahsweeney and @mycorporation.

How Losing The Super Bowl Could Cost Peyton Manning More Than A Ring

When Peyton Manning leads the Denver Broncos onto the field at Super Bowl XLVIII, he’ll be playing to cap a record-breaking regular season. He’ll be playing to cement his legacy as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He’ll be playing to silence his critics (and maybe even his baby brother). But, according to a Forbes article, Peyton Manning could also be playing to save $844 in New Jersey state income tax.

The ‘cold-weather’ location isn’t the only factor in this year’s historic big game. Thanks to New Jersey’s “jock tax,” which is based on calendar-year income, Peyton and anyone else playing today could be subject to a hefty tax liability on their big game bonuses (especially players who return to New Jersey to play next season). K. Sean Packard, CPA, explains:

If Manning is able to play next season, his New Jersey income tax would be $46,989 on $92,000 for winning the Super Bowl, or 51.08%. If they lose and he is able to play in 2014, he will pay New Jersey $46,844 on his $46,000, which amounts to a 101.83% tax on his actual Super Bowl earnings in the state—and this does not even consider federal taxes!

History will decide where Peyton Manning sits among the greats, but New Jersey could have something to say about how much money he’ll have in his pocket.

Backward Negotiation — a Good Way to Negotiate

Mapping a negotiation backwards is all about envisioning the outcome first then thinking in reverse to attain your goals! Entering a negotiation often calls for getting your allies onboard and making them listen to what you have to say. While the approach is conventional, it may not always be the best way to proceed with a negotiation. It’s important to sequence matters whether you’re attempting to persuade the ‘right’ individuals to attend an auction, sign an important deal, or compel them to open up a new business.

Where do you start and whom you should address first? Standard rules like making allies first or negotiating internally and then externally are extremely unreliable approaches. Using the logic of backward negotiations can help you select partners wisely, and thus conduct negotiations in the right way.

The logic of backward mapping in negotiations

According to James K. Sebenius of Harvard Business School, mapping a negotiation backwards means envisioning the outcome first. It’s all about thinking in reverse. Basic steps include:

  • Drawing a ‘map’ of all parties at the negotiation table (include potential clients and teammates as well)
  • Estimating the cost of reaching an agreement as we as difficulty level of the negotiation
  • Classifying key relationships among all parties: who holds the power, who owes something and to whom, etc.
  • Focusing your attention on the most difficult player to persuade – the target, your ultimate goal, the solution to your negotiation deal, etc.

In order to have a better understanding of the whole process, you can always consider a different approach – project management. When it’s time to decide on a complex project, your main focus should be the end result. After that, you can devote your time to developing a timeline from the end to the start. A project management project completed successfully can be compared to an agreement that creates value, an agreement sustained by a powerful coalition.

Are you ready to apply the logic of backward mapping in negotiations?

As soon as you’re ready to apply the logic of backward mapping for your negotiation, you should be prepared to answer some questions: can you spot important players? How do you do that? Should you negotiate secretly, out in the open, collectively or separately? How do you defend yourself from the tactics used by your competitors? Here are some suggestions you might want to have in mind:

  • Study the patterns of authority and respect – latent merger builders are quick learners, and they know that approaching the trickiest, and probably the most decisive, party first could mean slim chances of closing a deal.
  • Outflank blockers – although sequencing could build support to achieve a supreme goal, it is often used to outflank latent opponents.
  • Control information – attentive sequencing might help deal with delicate information.
  • Watch out for sneaky sequencers – be careful as other people might take advantage of your position.

Gaining authority through sequencing and mapping in negotiations

Experienced business negotiators also acknowledge the concept of creating value using rational low-priced/high-value trade-offs. The thought of making something out of nothing is a real challenge. A business negotiation is all about holding power and being able to dictate the negotiation process. Exploring the practice of sequencing to attain power in business comes down to 4 words: zero options, zero power. Ergo, without power, the negotiation doesn’t have dynamics, and if it doesn’t have dynamics, it can’t work.

If there’s no competition in a business negotiation, we have monopoly; and if monopolies subsist, efficiencies and values are unlikely to be promoted. Who holds the ‘real’ power in a business negotiation? As long as you have options your chances of success are widely increased.

Backward negotiations can be an excellent strategy as long as you have a clear picture of your end goal and an idea about how to reach it. Good luck in all your future negotiations.

About the Author

Steve Brown is a regular blogger who writes articles related to small business and negotiation. He is writer at many high ranking sites and loves playing with his dog in his free time.