Thursday, October 28, 2010

10 Signs Your Small Biz may be ready for the clouds

Cloud computing continues to make inroads into our everyday lives as indicated by many surveys taken recently. That got me wondering if small business owners were also embracing the cloud more for the coming year. There are still quite a few small businesses out there that feel the need to continue to use on premise software for their operations feeling that if it ain’t broke…well you know the rest. The importance of using the cloud finally came to a head when I was recently on an engagement and before I could start to work, I had to update the software. So I came up with a brief list of 10 signs that your small business is ready for the clouds:

1. You receive a CD to load the software

2. You have to go thru a registration/renewal process

3. A new version comes out every year

4. Software has to be updated

5. You have to call tech support for problems

6. You spend time being tech support researching your own problem

7. Support contract expires every 3-4 years

8. Corrupted data issues

9. Desktop has too many version icons

10. Your PC runs slower

Listen to me elaborate a bit more about the list here:


This is just a quick list of things I see when working with clients why the cloud would help them lower their costs, increase productivity and efficiency and let them focus on growing their businesses. If anyone can think of any more or even why a small business owner should stay with on premise software feel free to post a comment to the post.

The Tech Accountant

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Win for Small Businesses

Not too long ago our friends over at Microsoft released a very robust product called Microsoft Security Essentials, an antivirus product. The cool thing about this release is that the antivirus software is one of the highest rated products on the market and it is a free download. The only downside was that the End User License Agreement (EULA) only allowed for personal use (although I wonder how a sole proprietor with a single computer case would apply to the situation but that’s a whole other topic).

Well Microsoft has in a sense thrown small business owners a bone this month by amending their EULA to allow the software to be used by small businesses with 10 or fewer PC’s. This is a great way for a small business to save money by reducing their technology expenses, become more productive since the software is less of a resource hog on the computer, and protect their PC’s and whatever is on those PC’s.

Here is a video with the details:

When tested the software ran smoothly in the background and did not slow the computer down at any point (like when running scans or updates). There may be a chance that the software is not a good fit for your small business, so be sure to speak to a technology consultant to accurately assess your needs.

The Tech Accountant

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Uncertain Tax Planning

The fall season typically brings about a change. Whether it is change in the temperatures, the changes in the leaves, or the change in the time (fall back) around this time of year everyone is experiencing a change. One thing that should not change during this time of year is a taxpayers’ ability to properly plan for the upcoming tax season. This year however, is one of the most difficult tax years to plan for due to the uncertainty in the Congress and our economy. The economy is currently filled with uncertainty making many small businesses hold on to their hard earned money and not hire more workers. Congress is adding their uncertainty to the pot by recently adjourning without addressing the expiring Bush tax cuts in addition to other important tax issues (AMT, estate tax, and more).

What is a taxpayer or small business owner to do in a situation of uncertainty? Listen to some of the ideas we have come up with for our clients here.


The Tech Accountant

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A look back at the tax season

Now that the tax extension deadline is one day into the rear view mirror, many taxpayers (and us tax professionals too) would like to take a break away from taxes. This gives me the opportunity to sit back and reflect on some of the more memorable comments I heard during the year regarding taxes and filing. There were quite a few areas of tax law where some taxpayers I spoke with were unclear as to the rules but some of the major ones had to do with extensions with balances due, and failing to file a tax return.

Tax Extensions

When a taxpayer does not have all the information to accurately complete their return by the deadline, the IRS will allow for an extension of time to prepare the tax return. To request an extension, taxpayers must file Form 4868 (individuals) or Form 7004 (businesses) on or before the due date of the return. Typically this is where the misunderstanding starts. An extension of time to file your return does not include an extension of time to pay your tax liability. Taxpayers filing extensions should estimate to the best of their knowledge their tax liability and send a payment when filing their extension.

Failure to File

When a taxpayer does not file a tax return by the due date (including extensions) a failure to file penalty may be incurred. This rule has been in existence for quite some time, however many taxpayers are unaware of the penalty. This may also be a good time to notify taxpayers that the failure to file penalty has been increased for income tax returns filed more than 60 days after the due date (including extensions). Returns filed after 2008 qualify for the increased failure to file penalty in which the minimum penalty will be $135 or 100% of the tax not paid.

These are just two of the more frequent misconceptions that I personally heard about during the year, but there are more. With all the recent changes in tax law, there are sure to be more “grey” areas where many taxpayers may fall thru the cracks. One the reasons I always say taxes are a year round strategy that can be proactively done with your tax professional instead of reactively at year end.

The Tech Accountant

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Statements too broad for the IRS

Recently when speaking to a few of the attendees of our small business workshops the topic of business expenses came up and one of the attendees was under the impression that all a business owner needed to validate an expense was their bank or credit card statement. Unfortunately it gonna take a little more than that for it to fly with the IRS.

The IRS defines a business expense as a cost that is ordinary and necessary to carry on the trade or business. Expenses are typically deductable if the business is out to make a profit (i.e. not a hobby). If a small business owner is audited, and a review of the business expenses is warranted, it is important for a small business owner to have more than just their bank or credit card statements to substantiate their purchases. The IRS is looking for proof that the purchase was for a business purpose and most statements only provide the date, amount, and the vendor, not what was purchased. A prime example of the IRS not allowing statements as evidence of business purposes can be uncovered in KEITH J. FESSEY, Petitioner v. COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, Respondent a quick Tax Court case that I recently came across (I like to read stuff like this).

In summary Mr. Fessey was not allowed a large portion of his business expenses due to his poor recordkeeping. So what is a small business owner to do?

Small business owners need to keep the receipts and attached them to each statement so that they are easily recognizable and locatable. There are times however that the receipt can fade and the ink is no longer readable. In these cases, a small business owner can use technology as a backup. By scanning the receipt (and the bank/credit card statements) into a file and either store the file within their accounting software, their hard drive or the clouds. There are a great deal of scanning vendors out there for small businesses to use so be sure to Google “receipt scanners” to locate one for your small business.

By retaining your receipts and having a backup, a small business owner can ensure that their bank and credit card statements are not too broad for the IRS.

For more information on business expenses be sure to speak to your tax professional or read IRS Publication 535.

The Tech Accountant