How I’m Using Shoeboxed to Travel the World

Rebekah Voss is using Shoeboxed to track her expenses and do her taxes from the other side of the globe. Here’s her story about how to travel the world using Shoeboxed.

I’m sitting in an open-air café overlooking the river in Siem Reap, Cambodia. This has become my office for the month, since the option to use air conditioning at my hotbox of a hotel room costs more than the room itself.

The restaurant staff gathers around my laptop in stoic silence. Everyone holds their breath as I click the “send” button. An email rushes through the ether, journeying some 7,000 miles around the globe to land in my accountant’s inbox.

I have officially finished my taxes.

A cheer goes up from the staff, and we celebrate the happy event with pitcher (after pitcher) of Angkor beer (hey, when it’s 100+ degrees at night and the beer costs $1/pint, what else are you gonna do?)

I completed my taxes from the other side of the world without making a single phone call to my tax guy, and without a single moment of stress. How did I do it?

With Shoeboxed, that’s how.

Rebekah VossWhen I left the U.S. in November of 2013, I never imagined I’d become a digital nomad, writing and working from 16 different cities (and counting) in just five months’ time.

The world has truly become my office, and as I travel, there are only three things I need to keep my business going: a sense of humor, a strong WiFi signal, and my Shoeboxed account.

Because I’m running a business abroad but still paying taxes back home, I’m able to claim just about everything – from the cost of hotels to airfare – as a business deduction.

I’d never be able to do this without the Shoeboxed app on my phone, especially because in Asia, almost every transaction is completed in cash. I get handwritten receipts most of the time, which I immediately scan and send to my Shoeboxed account.

In the past, I’ve relied on bank statements to figure out what I’ve spent and when, but that technique doesn’t work when you’re paying in Nepalese rupees!

When it came time to do my taxes, Shoeboxed was a total life saver.

At first I was a little nervous, because I’ve always relied heavily on the Magic Envelope – I love throwing everything into the envelope and not thinking about it again until I check my account and see it’s been magically updated. It’s sort of like Shoeboxed rewards you for being lazy, which I can totally get behind.

Rebekah with hat_Vietnam_editedBut in places like Nepal and Cambodia, the mail system isn’t exactly what you’d call reliable. If I mailed a Magic Envelope full of receipts and bank statements, they might arrive, they might not. And I’d rather not play dice when it comes to my finances, y’know?

Without Shoeboxed, I would’ve had no way to give my accountant access to all of my documents in such a fast, secure way.

Since I’ve been traveling the world with Shoeboxed in my corner, I’ve launched a new travel website and published my first book.

I’m confident that I’ll continue to be able to grow my business from the other side of the planet using the Shoeboxed app to scan my receipts.

And even though I have to scan my receipts myself, I actually still carry a Magic Envelope in my backpack, sort like a good luck charm.  So far, it seems to be working.

linkedin pictureRebekah Voss is a narrative travel writer and the creator of TheHappyPassport.com, an inspiration website for solo female travelers.  She is also the author of 175 Ways to Travel Today: How to make you dream of world travel a reality right now.

How to Avoid an Audit

Chances are high that you’ll never have to worry about being audited, but it’s something many small business owners and individuals fear. While it’s not possible to completely avoid an audit, you can decrease your chances somewhat by avoiding these IRS “eyebrow raisers.”

Chances are high that you’ll never have to worry about being audited.  The IRS audits less than 1% of all income tax returns submitted each year, with that number expected to trend even lower in the future.

Budgets cuts, an increase in identity theft cases, and last year’s government shutdown have Uncle Sam pretty backed up, so audits aren’t a huge priority – at least for now.

If you’re scanning receipts, tracking your write-offs and declaring all of your small business revenue, you should have nothing to worry about even if you were audited.  However, even if your books are spotless, no one wants to trigger an audit. It’s like volunteering to go to the dentist.

While it’s not possible to completely avoid an audit, you can decrease your chances somewhat by avoiding these IRS “eyebrow raisers.”

You’re more likely to raise an IRS eyebrow or two if you:

Make a ton of money

The more you make, the more Uncle Sam keeps his eagle eye on your.  People who make more than $200,000/year are more likely to be audited than those who don’t.

This certainly isn’t a reason to purposely avoid achieving that 6-figure goal you set for yourself.  Just know that once you meet that goal, you need to be even more diligent about tracking your income and expenses.

“Forget” to declare your income

Remember that the IRS has access to your income forms. If an employer or contractor submits a W2 or 1099 form for you, and you don’t include that income on your tax return, the IRS immediately gets suspicious.  Make sure all current and past employers, clients and contractors have your current mailing address so you get all of your tax forms from the previous year.

Also, keep in mind that you’re ultimately responsible for declaring your income. If a client does not issue you a 1099, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to claim that income! They made have made a mistake, but you still need to let the IRS know how much they paid you.

Go crazy with the donations

If you make $75,000/year but are claiming charitable donations of $2 million, Uncle Sam will become a bit concerned. You can absolutely take advantage of the donation deduction, but make sure it’s at or around what’s reasonable for your income level. The IRS actually has an internal way to measure the average annual donation amount for all tax brackets. Use common sense.

Claim a home office deduction

This is a tricky one. The home office deduction is a completely legitimate write-off for many small business owners. The reason it raises a flag with the IRS is because many people attempt to claim a higher amount than they’re entitled.

In order qualify, you must use an area of your home for business, and only business. This doesn’t mean that sometimes you come home from work early and work on the couch. It also doesn’t mean that your desk doubles as the dining room table.

Also, remember that you’re only allowed to claim things like utilities and square footage for the area of your house that constitutes the office. You can’t write off monthly electric expenses or Internet charges for the house as a whole.

Drive a “business only” vehicle

If you take a deduction because you’re using a vehicle for business, it may be more difficult to avoid an audit. Be sure that the vehicle in question is really only used for business purposes, and that you’ve kept detailed, accurate records of the vehicle purchase, maintenance and mileage.

Remember that while it’s not always possible to avoid an audit, it’s absolutely possible to survive an audit unscathed. Detailed record-keeping throughout the year will be sure to keep the IRS at bay.

Have you ever been audited? What was it like?

No Rendering of Advice – The information contained in here represents the opinion of Shoeboxed, Inc. and is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional accountant or attorney. We advise not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional accountant. Any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this website is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties under U.S. federal tax law. 
Accuracy of Information – While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate and up-to-date information, we do not warrant that any information contained in or made available is accurate, complete, reliable, current or error-free. We assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content of this website or such other materials or communications.

How to Finish Your Taxes in 5 Minutes Per Day

This tax season, don’t let the stress of completing your small business taxes drive you nuts. Here’s how to finish your taxes in 5 minutes per day.

The second the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, tax season has officially begun.

From January through April, that nagging voice in the back of your head refuses to shut up until you’ve scanned and submitted every last detail to your tax professional.

What a headache!

This tax season, don’t let the stress of completing your small business taxes drive you nuts. It’s possible to finish your taxes easily and effortlessly, without enduring massive amounts of stress and without spending hours shackled to your laptop.

Follow our stress-free plan to finish your taxes in just 5 minutes per day (or less)!

1. Set aside 5 minutes each day to focus on your taxes. You might spend 5 minutes when you first arrive at the office, or 5 minutes before you leave for the evening. Whatever you choose, pick a time that’s consistent each day.

2. Scan 3-4 receipts each day. Whether they’re from last year or this year, scanning a few receipts each day will reduce the amount of clutter in your office, keep your purse and/or briefcase organized, and help you track the previous year’s expenses.Alternatively, you can spend 5 seconds one day dumping all of your paper clutter into one (or four) of our famous Magic Envelopes, and let us do the scanning for you.

3. Focus on one expense category at a time. On Monday, you might spend 5 minutes calculating some of your travel expenses. On Tuesday, you can begin going through your education expenses, or track what you spent on gas and car maintenance.

4. Force yourself to stick to the 5 minute rule – not more, and not less. Even if you accomplish hardly anything, setting aside the time to focus on taxes will keep you in the habit of dealing with them daily until they’re complete. On the other hand, allowing yourself to spend hours pouring over bank statements will quickly lead to tax burnout.

5. When examining your accounts, focus on one month at a time. There’s nothing more overwhelming than trying to determine income and expenditures for an entire year. Start in January of the previous year, and compare your receipt totals with your bank statements. Break the task down further by focusing on a single area, like meals and entertainment. Note any discrepancies you may find, then hang up your hat – you’re done for the day!

6. Spend 5 minutes emailing or calling your tax professional and discussing any questions you might have or forms you might need. On the days you’re really not in the mood to do your taxes, this action step can be a great way to “cheat” while still making progress.

7. Go over any unassigned receipts in your Shoeboxed account and assign them categories. Making sure each receipt has a specific tax category will speed up reporting and make it easier for your accountant to figure out what you owe (or what your refund should be!)

8. Check the Shoeboxed blog for any frequently missed write offs you may have forgotten about.

    • Are you paying health insurance premiums for your employees?
    • Do you own a company vehicle?
    • Are you paying off student loans?

There are tons of write offs that small business owners don’t realize they can take. Make sure all of your bases are covered.

By starting in January or February and committing to just 5 minutes per day, you’ll be shocked at how quickly you’re able to finish your taxes – most likely long before April 15th rears its ugly head.

What tricks do you use to finish your taxes on time?

No Rendering of Advice – The information contained in here represents the opinion of Shoeboxed, Inc. and is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for obtaining accounting, tax, or financial advice from a professional accountant or attorney. We advise not to act upon this information without seeking the service of a professional accountant. Any U.S. federal tax advice contained in this website is not intended to be used for the purpose of avoiding penalties under U.S. federal tax law. 
Accuracy of Information – While we use reasonable efforts to furnish accurate and up-to-date information, we do not warrant that any information contained in or made available is accurate, complete, reliable, current or error-free. We assume no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content of this website or such other materials or communications.