5 Ways to Go Green While Filing Your Taxes in 2014

Tax season is the perfect time to start implementing green, environmentally friendly practices into your daily work routine. These five tips will help you get started.

Tax season has officially arrived, and with it comes a great opportunity for entrepreneurs! Now I know I just used the words “tax” and “great” in the same sentence when they typically tend to be as far apart as you can get them, but tax season is actually the perfect time to start implementing green, environmentally friendly practices into your daily work routine. These five tips will help you get started.

1. Digitize as you work

I understand why only a few people have moved past keeping physical records. Digitization can take a lot of time, and old habits die hard. However, continuing to ask for, or printing out, physical copies of every important document and receipt can have a really negative affect on the environment. We already waste too much paper, so why add to the problem? As you begin to work on your returns, scan important documents (or use Shoeboxed) so that you can access the digital versions easily. In the following months, opt to receive electronic copies of bank statements, receipts, and other necessary records whenever possible.

2. eFile

Did you know that the IRS has been experimenting with eFiling since 1986? Even back then, most government agencies had recognized the need to modernize and eFiling was seen as a great way to help clear out storage space and use less paper. 28 years later, and eFiling is now the most popular way to file returns. Back in 2012, nearly 80% of all returns were filed electronically. According to accounting firm H&R Block, over 28,000 trees were saved during the 2011 tax season thanks to eFiling. If you haven’t started eFiling, this tax season is a great year to start. Federal eFiling is free and, though some states charge for eFiling, the fee is nominal and you really help the environment by going and staying digital.

3. Think before you print

A lot of people I know who work on their own taxes like having printouts of IRS regulations so they can keep them on the table and look at them whenever they need to. And, while that system works, it is a waste of paper. The IRS has made it easier than ever before to search through digital copies of instructions and forms, and a quick search is much more efficient than sorting through stacks of paper. Try using only digital copies of IRS rules and instructions – you’d be surprised at how much easier it is to hang onto these documents and share them with other entrepreneurs doing their taxes too.

4. Recycle whatever paper you use

No matter how green you go, it’s still tough to get through the tax season without using some paper. Maybe you have a notebook that you use to add receipts, or maybe you like having a stack of Post-It notes handy so you can quickly scrawl down form numbers or instructions. Whatever the case, you’ll inevitably use some paper, and that’s fine – just make sure you also remember to use that lovely little recycling bin next to your desk when you’re done.

5. Take advantage of ‘green’ tax credits

One great incentive to going digital for your taxes is that the government rewards people and businesses that are trying to go green. Though a few of the most popular green tax incentives expired in 2011, there are still plenty of tax breaks available to the environmentally conscious. One credit will cover 30% of new renewable energy systems installed in residential homes, and buying and installing certain Energy Star products can also net you a nice tax credit. Also, if you supported a qualified environmental charity, you can also deduct the donations made to them in 2013!

Going green with your taxes might seem difficult at first, but if you’ve been toying with trying to live a more environmentally conscious life, tax season is a great opportunity to do just that. Opt for electronic record keeping, eFile your returns, recycle whatever paper you do use, and don’t forget to claim whatever green-related tax breaks you can. Once you start changing the way you work, you’ll quickly find yourself changing the way you live.

Author Bio:

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.

3 Ways to Run a Business That Makes an Impact

Most small business owners will agree that running a business is about much more than making money. Here are a few inspiring ideas to help your business make the world a better place.

This post is brought to you by Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com.

Most small business owners will agree that running a business is about much more than making money. Yes, the bottom line does matter, but being able to help grow your community and actually contribute something to the world is much more rewarding than seeing your profits exceed your expenses. The movement to startup businesses that create more than just a financial impact has really come into its own with the legal recognition of B-Corporations – for-profit corporations that have the dual mission of making their shareholders money as well as a positive impact on society. But all businesses, regardless of structure, can help make the world a better place. If you’d like your business to be one of them, consider taking the following actions.

Get Your Employees Involved

Shoeboxed Team at Creative Food Drive 2012
The Shoeboxed team participates in an annual local food drive each year.

It’s great when an entrepreneur decides to use their startup to make a difference, but it’s even better when everyone on the business’s team is actually involved in that effort. If you truly want your brand to make an impact, you need to incorporate your social mission into every facet of your business. Working for your company should also mean working to help further its philanthropic or environmental efforts. One great way to start that process is to use what has now become a dreaded part of company culture – the team-building exercise. Team-building exercises do work, but they are often unimaginative and boring, and your employees wind up bonding over how much they hate them rather than through the activities themselves. But if you use team-building and bonding to better the community, like by volunteering the company to sponsor a food drive or clean up a park, your employees will be able to get out, stretch, and feel they are doing something meaningful and will bond through the work. After your employees are introduced to this type of service, it will also be easier to make volunteer work a regular part of working for your company.

Partner with Other Sustainable Businesses

You probably aren’t the only startup in town looking to make a difference, and teaming up with other sustainable businesses will create a network that supports the efforts of its members and allows them to tackle problems en masse. Many hands make light work, and the same can be said for businesses with the same outlook as yours – it’s easier to make a positive impact on society when there are more people trying to achieve the same goals you are. Concerted efforts always have a bigger impact and can even inspire others who don’t work within your business to try and change things for the better, too. There is absolutely no reason to go it alone! You may be surprised at how many other businesses share the same ideas you do, all you have to do is reach out to them.

Create Proactive Internal Policies

Paper usage is one of the biggest environmental problems caused by businesses. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper every year, and most estimates state that one ream of 500 sheets uses up 6% of a tree. If my math is right, that means the average office worker using unrecycled paper will go over a tree’s worth of paper each year. That’s crazy! Even if your office or business uses nowhere near that amount of paper, it is still contributing to a serious environmental problem. Paperless businesses save money, time, and use up fewer resources, so if you haven’t switched over yet, you should strongly consider doing so. You can also implement green internal policies at the workplace – installing dimmer lighting, turning off the A/C and turning on fans instead, using energy efficient light bulbs – but going paperless is one of the best changes you can make to become more environmentally friendly.

Knowing that you run a business that is actually helping its community is a great feeling. While it does require some effort to make a full impact, a social or environmental mission doesn’t have to detract from the day-to-day operations of the workplace. By including your employees in your mission when you can, networking with other like-minded businesses, and adopting proactive internal policies, you’ll quickly find your company positively influencing the wider community and making a material difference in the world. It may not be huge, but every, small, positive change we make is a step in right direction.

How does your business make an impact? Let us know in the comments!

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.

 

Our 10 Top Tools to Help You Go Paperless

There has never been a better time for your office to go paperless! Whether you’re a solopreneur, freelancer or small business owner, a paper-free work environment saves time and money, helps you get organized, and makes a major contribution towards protecting the environment.

There has never been a better time for your office to go paperless! Whether you’re a solopreneur, freelancer or small business owner, a paperless work environment saves time and money, helps you get organized, and makes a major contribution towards protecting the environment.

The best part is, thanks to paperless productivity apps and organization hacks, going completely paperless is utterly painless. In fact, you’ll start to wonder how you managed to get anything done during the dark ages of paper.

Check out these awesome apps and products that will make your dream to go paperless a reality!

1. Hello Sign

Even if you’ve switched to Google Drive and stopped printing documents on the daily, you still may find yourself pressing CTRL+P every time you or an employee needs to sign something.

Contracts, tax forms, special deliveries – small businesses require a lot of signatures, resulting in a whole lot of wasted paper.

Hello Sign lets you sign documents through your web browser or mobile device without printing, scanning, or faxing anything. Everything is totally secure, and your electronic signature is legally binding and accepted by the IRS.

Think of all the money you’ll save on ink and the time you’ll save scanning and faxing just by switching to e-signatures!

2. Eventbrite

Planning an event? Of course you are, you social butterfly, you. Eventbrite lets you take ticketing to the next (green) level. Go paperless with mobile payment options, electronic tickets, and completely digital attendee check-in lists.

You can even take paperless payments at the door before sending your customer an eReceipt. Imagine thousands of people attending your event without having to deal with a single scrap of paper!

3. Lemon Wallet

This smartphone app is only for paperless pioneers – and maybe for those of us that tend to misplace important things like, say, our wallets.

Lemon Wallet lets you store digital versions of important cards right on your phone. Leave your driver’s license, credit cards and insurance card in the safety of your home while you rest easy knowing you’ll never lose your wallet again.

Merchants and retailers can access your accounts by swiping your smartphone, which updates every card’s balance dynamically.

scansnap4. Fujitsu ScanSnap

If you want to go paperless, step #1 is – drumroll, please – getting rid of existing piles of paper!

The Fujitsu SnanSnap receipt scanner digitizes your paper receipts so you can start that long-awaited recycling party.

In addition to sending scans directly to your Shoeboxed account, you can create reports, edit data, label receipts, and scan multiple pages at a time.

You can also get a portable version of the ScanSnap for scanning large amounts of documents while traveling or working off site.

5. Xero

Remember how much paper the Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable departments used to generate?

Xero helps you go paperless with cloud-based accounting software that does the work for you.

Synch all of your business bank accounts, share info with your accountant, accept payments from clients and customers, create and send invoices, and get a comprehensive snapshot of the financial health of your small business.

6. Manilla

This groovy account management software lets you view “everything in your life, all in one place.” Scrap the laundry list of usernames and passwords, and log in to Manilla to view all of your financial accounts, subscriptions, bills, payment plans, travel rewards, and other programs.

Save tons of time – and paper – by running your online ‘errands’ with a single click.

7. HelloFax

Until absolutely everyone finally (finally!) quits faxing stuff, you’re still going to have send and receive the occasional fax.

Happily, with HelloFax, that process is no longer a pain, and it’s now completely paperless!

Send and receive faxes without paper, and without a fax machine. HelloFax lets you keep the exact same fax number but switches the entire process to online faxing via email. Your customers can still send faxes the old way, while you’ll lead the way with completely paperless faxing.

Magic-Envelope8. Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed is the fastest way to turn a pile of paper clutter into digital, organized data. Submit documents via email, the Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker, desktop uploaders, or regular mail using their famous Magic Envelopes, then sit back and watch as your documents are consolidated into one searchable, online database.

You can also export your data from Shoeboxed to a number of other tools and programs you already use like Evernote, QuickBooks Online and more.

9. Nitro

How can you ever expect to go paperless with those pesky PDF files still lurking around? When trying to convert PDFs to other types of files in order to make changes, you may find yourself having to print, copy, and even – yikes! – get out the White Out.

Nitro lets you edit PDF files as if they were Word documents. You can easily convert them into the file format of your choice, add new content, make revisions, and even create spreadsheets.

10. Evernote

Remember everything using Evernote, a fan favorite for storing documents, notes, recipes, photos… anything, really!

Their fantastic search function makes it easier than ever to find whatever you’re looking for in seconds. And what’s even better is that you can access Evernote from anywhere– it works on almost every computer, tablet and mobile device out there.

Phew! Way to go paperless, young pioneer.

By implementing these cutting-edge services, you’re leading the way in the small business green movement, saving your startup tons of cash, and finding more and more time to enjoy the things you love.

What’s your favorite way to go paperless?

photo credit: flickr.com