Top 10 Ways to Go Paperless in 2016

Small business innovators and environmental activists are predicting 2016 to be the greenest year ever. That’s because it’s never been easier to go paperless, and save time, money, and trees while you’re at it. Here are quick, easy, cost-effective changes you can make to eliminate paper clutter and positively impact the planet in 2016.

Small business innovators and environmental activists are predicting 2016 to be the greenest year ever. That’s because it’s never been easier to go paperless, and save time, money, and trees while you’re at it.

Here are quick, easy, cost-effective changes you can make to eliminate paper clutter and positively impact the planet in 2016.

1. Just Say No to Shopping Bags
Bring your own reusable shopping bags everywhere you go – from Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to CVS and Target. If you have paper bags at home, you can use them again or donate them back to the store.

2. Scan Your Receipts
Remove receipt clutter from your home and office by scanning your receipts to your Shoeboxed account. It’s easy to digitize stacks of receipts using a desktop scanner, or individual receipts using your smartphone. (See #7 if the mere thought of scanning all of your paper clutter makes you feel like crying).

3. Sign up for Paperless Billing
Make sure you select the paperless billing option for every bill you pay, and consider going paperless for your company payroll too.

4. Send Paperless Faxes
In 2016, sending faxes no longer requires a fax machine. Use a service like HelloFax to send and receive faxes right from your computer – no printing, no paper, and no annoying dial tone!

5. Save to PDF
Wait – there’s no need to print that PDF, even if it needs to be edited by multiple team members. Save a tree and use an app like Nitro instead, which allows you to edit PDFs and convert them to other document types.

6. Trade Post-Its for Whiteboards
Sticky notes are one of the most annoying forms of paper clutter. They’re easily lost and make your office look like a kindergartener’s (not to mention the wasted environmental resources). Try erasable whiteboards instead to jot down ideas, to-do’s, and meetings.

7. Use the Magic Envelope
If the thought of scanning your receipts makes you weepy, let us do the heavy lifting for you. Just dump your paper receipts and other documents into the Shoeboxed Magic Envelope, and drop the envelope in the mail. When your docs arrive at Shoeboxed headquarters, we’ll scan and upload everything to your Shoeboxed account, giving you a completely fresh, paperless start to 2016.

8. Work in Google Drive
Enjoy paperless collaboration with team members by working in Google Drive. Easily add comments, make edits, view all saved versions of the document, and work together in real time.

9. eSign your Documents
Rare is the occasion nowadays where you need to “print, sign, and scan” anything. Since your electronic signature is legally binding, it’s far more eco-friendly and cost- effective to eSign all documents using a service like HelloSign.

10. Use Email Marketing Campaigns
Direct mail campaigns are expensive and time-consuming, and the results can be difficult to track. Send a paperless email campaign instead and get instant marketing data. You can also reward customers with virtual coupons and electronic discounts, both of which can be redeemed sans paper via the user’s smartphone.

How will you go paperless this year?

Maximizing 2016 Tax Deductions: Tips & Tools for Millennial Freelancers

The earlier you organize expenses and keep track of potential deductions, the more money you’ll save in the long run.

Millennial freelancers are a force to be reckoned with and the numbers are there to prove it. According to a national survey from Freelancers Union and Upwork (formerly oDesk), 38% of millennials are freelancing — more than any other generation. Considering that they now make up 45% of entire workforce, this group of 20 and 30-somethings is taking the freelancing industry by storm.

It’s clear to see why. The benefits of being a freelancer align with the lifestyle that millennials seek. They want flexibility, independence and creativity – a perfect formula for a rise in freelancing jobs. But while there are many perks to being a freelancer, there are also stodgy downsides such as complicated taxes and the responsibility of tedious administrative tasks.

Luckily, there are ways to overcome these drawbacks. Tax season may be months away, but that doesn’t mean millennial freelancers can’t start prepping now. The earlier you organize expenses and understand tricks and tips to maximize deductions to make tax season a breeze, the more money you’ll save in the long run. Start sooner rather than later with these recommended tools and tricks:

Research Deductions in the Freelancers Union Tax Blog
One thing freelancers shouldn’t complain to the IRS about is the amount of tax breaks they offer. Tax breaks give freelancers a valuable opportunity to win back money they’ve been spending on their business. It’s also a unique way to encourage entrepreneurship. There’s only one problem: it’s hard to keep track of what’s what, and deductions often change on a yearly basis.

Learn about which expenses qualify for which tax break by reading the in-depth tax blog written by the awesome folks at Freelancers Union. Freelancers Union is a nonprofit organization and insurance company that advocates for the rights of freelancers. Their blog posts are written by freelance veterans and include everything from how to calculate hourly rates to how to write client contracts.

Freelancers Union Shoeboxed

Don’t procrastinate! Use IFTTT for Important Date Reminders
Unless you want to have a very stressful week, don’t wait until right before April 15 to prep and file your taxes! When you take your time to carefully approach filing your taxes, it won’t seem as stressful or time consuming. You’re more likely to make an error or miss out on a deduction if you rush the process.

Eliminate the risk of filing late by using IFTTT. Simply set a receipe that sends a email and/or text reminders on certain dates leading up to the April 15 deadline. This nifty web tool can also help with QET deadline reminders.

IFTTT Shoeboxed

When in doubt, ask for help using sites like NerdWallet
With an endless supply of information, the Internet of things can answer any question you may have related to taxes. Sometimes though, having 10+ pages pulled up with an overwhelming amount of information can make material difficult to comprehend (which is especially true for taxes). Depending on the complexity of your question, it may be best to approach a tax expert or CPA. Tax deductions change often — stay ahead of the curve and make sure you’re taking advantage of ways to save money by asking for help.

Enter NerdWallet, an educational blog that helps millennials make smarter financial decisions by breaking down complex financial information into simple terms. The writers at NerdWallet can tell you exactly which expenses qualify for which tax break as you track your finances into tax season. They also have on-demand financial professionals available to answer your tax questions directly from their homepage.

NerdWallet Shoeboxed Freelance

Organize Your Receipts and Expenses by Tax Category with Shoeboxed
One of the easiest way for freelancers to maximize tax deductions is by staying organized and keeping updated records of receipts, payments and expenses. The IRS demands documented proof for claims, so having everything stored and accessible can reduce a substantial amount of time and pressure. Organization also helps maximize deductions and reimbursements without the hassle of scrambling to find misplaced financial records.

Apps like Shoeboxed let on-the-go freelancers snap pictures of receipts using their phone, which are then digitally stored as IRS-accepted images. Receipts are processed and organized so that vendor, total amount, date, tax category and payment type are extracted and available in a searchable online account. Simply make a note that the receipt is deductible and boom – you have a digital archive of everything you can write off for taxes.

Shoeboxed Freelancers

Use these tools and tips to help make your freelance tax season the smoothest (and most time-saving) yet!

4 End of Year Tax Tips for Freelancers

We’re just over 9 weeks away from the new year. And while there are many enjoyable holiday traditions to look forward to, there are also some not so fun ones—like end of the year taxes. We know what you’re thinking…But taxes aren’t due until April 15th! And while you’d be right in thinking it, you’d be sorely misguided if you didn’t consider the end of the year as an important time for taxes.

Image from FlexJobs.com.

We’re just over 9 weeks away from the new year. And while there are many enjoyable holiday traditions to look forward to, there are also some not so fun ones—like end of the year taxes.

We know what you’re thinking…But taxes aren’t due until April 15th! And while you’d be right in thinking it, you’d be sorely misguided if you didn’t consider the end of the year as an important time for taxes. Dec. 31st is the deadline for most tax breaks and it’s a crucial time to increase deductions so you can decrease your taxes. If you wait until the new year, it will already be too late to capitalize on big deductions!

Here are 4 end of the year tax tips to help freelancers start off 2016 with a bang:

Invest in Your Skill Set Before the End of the Year
Want to improve your business skills? Need a programmer but can’t afford one? Now’s the time to go to that web developer boot camp or that small business conference in Vegas. These business related courses will be tax deductible so long as you do them before 2016. Not only will you be turning yourself into an entrepreneurial ninja, you’ll be saving money while doing it.

Invest in Your Business
Now that you know the benefits of investing in yourself, it’s time to consider investing in your business. In the next few weeks, consider boosting your marketing presence and increasing your ad space. These things will allow you to increase deductions while growing your business.

Invest in Assets
Investing in assets is a great way to increase productivity while (yup, you guessed it) decreasing taxes. By making smart investments you can turn those assets into a profitable ROI. Assets might include things like new computers, office furniture, and equipment. And so long as your business is profitable—you can write off 100% of those assets.

Side Note: As the law stands, assets can be deducted up to $25,000. Be aware however, that last year Congress waited until Dec. 14th to pass Section 179 of the Federal Tax Code. Section 179 retroactively changed the amounts of deductible assets to $500,000. It’s entirely possible that the process repeats itself this December.

Pay Your Quarterly Estimated Taxes
Paying your quarterly estimated taxes might seem straightforward, but with the April 15th being the seminal date for taxes—business owners often forget about keeping up with their quarterly estimated taxes.

The final day to pay estimated taxes is January 1st, so make sure you pay them on time to avoid penalties. Most freelancers are cash basis taxpayers which simply means they report income and deductions in the same year that they receive them. If possible, you should try and get your clients to pay out in January. By being paid in January rather than December, you won’t have to declare that income on your taxes for another year.

Austin Miller is the Content Marketing Ninja at Bookly, an online bookkeeping service designed for small business owners. Bookly pairs you with a dedicated bookkeeper and software so you spend more time doing what you love.