3 Simple Steps to Get Through the Last Month Before Taxes Are Due

We went ahead to compile a list of a few tips which can come in handy as we enter the “oh-I-still-need-to-finish-filing” phase of the tax season.

Tax season is here and most of us are stressing out and trying to get our act together before the April 18 deadline.

Individuals and small businesses like you have found their way to productivity by eliminating paperwork in their day-to-day transactions and quite often, we hear from them about how they tackle the tax season and paperwork woes.

The insights we have gathered from them are simple and effective, with staying paperless and well-organized being the regular takeaway. We went ahead to compile a list of a few such tips which can come in handy as we enter the “oh-I-still-need-to-finish-filing” phase of the tax season (we know you already have a lot of lists to deal with this tax season, so we promise to keep this short).

1. Let D-Day stay on top of your mind

In the rush of work, it’s easy to lose track of time and days. One fine morning when you wake up, all that you are left with are few more days ’till you hit the deadline. To save yourself from the hopeless scramble that ensues, start early.

Make a list of what needs to be done (however small the activity is) and span it across the limited time that you have at hand. Once you have charted this out, the only thing you need to do is to stick to it and not procrastinate.

2. Compile all the required documents

One of the biggest reasons for stress during tax time is not finding your relevant documents in time and sometimes even forgetting to take them into account. To avoid this, the first step of your list needs to be putting together all of the documents.

Look for all of those receipts, investment documents and other records you need for tax filing and consolidate them in one central location. If you are not able to do this in one go, spread this activity across few days and a weekend. Starting off slow when you have enough time is better than doing things in a jiffy right when you wake up to the deadline.

3. Start the e-filing process!

In case you have been filing taxes on your own, after step 2 you are all set to start your e-filing process. And if not, get in touch with a tax preparer to sail through the tax filing process.

The latest guidelines issued by IRS has brought Form 8878 and Form 8879 (Electronic Return Originator authorization forms for individual taxpayers) under the scope of electronic signatures. For the uninitiated, Form 8879 is an IRS e-file signature authorization form that authorizes an ERO to enter the taxpayers’ PINs on individual income tax returns. Form 8878 is an IRS e-file authorization form for application of extension of time to file taxes, that authorizes an ERO to enter the taxpayers’ PINs on Forms 4868 and 2350.

Before, when going by the ERO method, taxpayers had to physically sign these authorization forms either in the ERO’s office or sign the physical copy and send it via mail or fax. But with the recent e-signature guidance, you can now authorize your EROs even remotely by choosing to electronically sign your authorization documents and simply e-mailing them to their tax preparer. (Yes, this method is IRS compliant.)

This not only makes e-filing process hassle-free, quick, and smooth, but it also saves a bit of your money too, which you would otherwise end up spending getting your authorization forms mailed to the ERO.

Using SignEasy to help with e-filing:

All set to get going with eSignatures? Click here to get started with signing documents online for free with SignEasy. SignEasy is also offering an exclusive 30% discount if you upgrade to SignEasy Pro. Use the discount code SHOEBOXED while making the purchase and get unlimited documents to sign, cloud integration, advanced security and much more. Please note the discount can be availed only through purchasing via the web.

Amrita Premrajan is Content Strategist and Marketer at SignEasy. Featured by Google, Apple and loved by 3.5 million users, SignEasy is a cloud-based solution to sign and fill documents from smartphones, tablets and web. SignEasy helps individuals and businesses reduce turnaround times, close deals faster and cut costs by eliminating the cycle of printing, scanning and faxing of paperwork.

A 5-Step Guide to Manageable Tax Prep for Entrepreneurs

Not only are taxes time consuming, confusing, and a nuisance, but they can also be a drain on your wallet if you don’t prepare well. This is especially true for entrepreneurs who, aside from having to deal with the complicated tax filing process of running a business, also have to actually run the business.

If there’s one thing all entrepreneurs can agree on, it’s that they dread tax season.

In fact, a recent survey by the National Association of Small Business (NSBA) reveals that 38 percent of small businesses reported they spent more than 80 hours a year dealing with federal taxes. That’s two whole workweeks! That same survey found that almost 50% of small businesses spend $5,000 or more annually on the accounting process alone—before paying their taxes!

Not only are taxes time consuming, confusing, and a nuisance, but they can also be a drain on your wallet if you don’t prepare well. This is especially true for entrepreneurs who, aside from having to deal with the complicated tax filing process of running a business, also have to actually run the business.
Whether you choose to do taxes on your own or hire an accountant this year, here’s a quick guide on how to knock tax season out of the park:

1. Familiarize Yourself With the Lingo

One thing we shouldn’t complain to the IRS about is the amount of tax breaks they offer. Tax breaks give small business owners and freelancers a great opportunity to win back some of that money they’ve been spending on their business, and it’s a unique way to encourage entrepreneurship.

However, there is a small caveat to this: it’s hard to keep track of what’s what. There are important differences between deductibles, refundable credits, and non-refundable credits. Each can help you in distinctive ways, so it’s useful to know which expenses qualify for which tax break as you track your finances throughout the year. Investopedia and the IRS website are helpful tools that can break down tax vocabulary into simple terms.
 

Deductibles

Benefits: Lowers taxable income and total tax liability. Can help with items that represent reductions in ability to pay tax (i.e. casualty losses).
What Does That Mean: Because deductions cannot reduce taxable income below zero, their value is limited to the filer’s tax liability before applying the deduction. Value depends on the taxpayer’s marginal tax rate, which rises with income.
Examples: Health care expenses, mortgages, car loans, investment-related expenses
 

Refundable Credits

Benefits: Decreases a person’s tax liability. Same value for all taxpayers with tax liability at least equal to the credit.
What Does That Mean: Treated as payments of tax you made during the tax year. When total of credits is great than total tax owed, you get a refund for the difference. Credits are more appropriate for subsidies provided through the tax system.
Example: Earned Income Credit, Additional Child credit, Small Business Health care credit.
 

Non-Refundable Credits

Benefit: Lower tax limit as low as it can go. Represents the majority of credits.
What Does That Mean: Credit cannot be used to increase tax refund or to create a tax refund when you wouldn’t already have one. Savings cannot exceed amount of tax you owe.Example: If you only owe $200 in taxes, and the only credit you’re eligible is for $500, the $300 difference is non-refundable.
Example: Child and Dependent Care Expenses credit, Saver’s tax credit, Adoption tax credit, Foreign tax credit.
 

2. Don’t procrastinate

Unless you want to have a very stressful week, don’t wait until right before April 18 (note – usually tax day is April 15) to prep and file your taxes! Last year, the IRS reported that 28% of Americans waited until the last few weeks before tax day to file their return. Sure, you can file for an extension if you can’t make it before the IRS deadline, but there are drawbacks to this, like late fees. And, just because you file late doesn’t mean you get extra time to pay taxes if you owe the government money.

Plus, when you take your time to carefully approach a tax filing, 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.
 

3. Stay organized

By far, the easiest way to minimize the hassle of tax season 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. It also makes it possible to file taxes at the earliest possible time because paperwork is readily available at your fingertips.

Shoeboxed’s mission is to streamline this process so that you can focus on more important things during tax season, like running your business or taking care of your family. We process and organize your receipts so that vendor, total amount, date and payment type are extracted and available in a searchable online account—without you ever having to lift a finger. You can also tag receipts as reimbursable or deductible so when you file taxes, your documents are already catalogued appropriately.
 

4. Stay informed

There’s a lot to swallow these days when it comes to tax codes, especially since the IRS makes changes on a yearly (and sometimes, even seasonal) basis. It doesn’t hurt to take some time researching professional blogs and news sites that can keep you informed on the latest tax changes. The extra initiative will take a few hours of time on your end, yes, but not nearly as much time it would take to prep taxes with little to no knowledge on how to maximize returns. This is especially helpful for entrepreneurs who do not have their own accountant.

Without a guiding hand, it’s easy to make misinformed decisions with tricky nuances (like filing status, for example). Some helpful sites that give excellent pro advice are Don’t Mess With Taxes, TaxGirl and AICPA.
 

5. When in doubt, ask a pro 

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 digest. If your questions are very intricate and situational, it may be best to approach a tax expert or CPA. Examples of these questions may include:

  • Do I have a limit for my charitable contributions?
  • Should I itemize deductions? How in-depth?
  • When should I contribute to an IRA?
  • Should I file jointly, as single, or as head of household?
  • I have all these miscellaneous business expenses and reports, but which ones should I keep for reimbursements and deductions?

Sometimes it’s easy to do a quick Google search for these common tax questions. Other times, the answer depends on your business situation, among other variables.

If you have an accountant, keep in touch with them throughout the year. There’s no reason you should wait until tax season every year to speak to them. CPA’s are experts in their field and they’re a great resource that can put you up to date with all the latest changes in tax policy. Stay organized, plan ahead, and you can get the most out of your tax season.

6 (Truly Amazing) Tools to Help Grow Your Small Business

Business owners are constantly bombarded with online tools and services that claim to boost productivity and help manage the growth of their business, many of which fail to deliver their promises. This is a list of tools that do deliver, and truly help small businesses get to that next level.

Business owners are constantly bombarded with online tools and services that claim to boost productivity and help manage the growth of their business. In fact, a simple Google search for “online business tools” gives you close to 700 million results – quite the marketplace to choose from. 

But how often do those tools actually help a business grow? And how often do business owners find themselves signing up for those tools, only to never use them? Probably more often than not. Which is why Shoeboxed did some investigating and curated an eclectic list of helpful, wide-ranging tools for growing small businesses.

 

Grasshopper

Phone System Automation

1Grasshopper is perfect for businesses looking for a full-service virtual phone system. Their services include customizable toll free 1-800 or local phone numbers, main greeting messages (with the option to include information like hours and address, among other customizations), departmental and employee extension numbers, voicemail to email transcriptions, and more. If you have a sales or support team, or just simply want to automate your business’ main line to make it easier to communicate with your customers, Grasshopper has you covered. Pricing starts at $12/month.

Plus: Grasshopper has a free app that turns your smartphone into a business line, allowing business owners and entrepreneurs stay professional even when they’re not in the office.

 

Bookly

Online Bookkeeping

Bookly.co logoIf you’re looking for a cheaper way to outsource a  bookkeeper, Bookly is the way to go. Their software automates dreaded bookkeeping chores by reconciling transactions with your connected bank and credit card accounts. Users can also create customized reports and compare balance and transactions trends in real-time. Additional features include invoice delivery and multiple user account collaboration. Pricing starts at $99/month.

Plus: In addition to the software, Bookly provides users with a dedicated bookkeeper who can look over your data and make sure that finances stay up to date.

 

Upwork

Project Outsourcing

2

 

Need someone to rebuild your website but have zero-to-little design or programming experience? Want to increase traffic to your blog or social media, but don’t have enough time to write the content? Or do you simply need professional marketing advice and have no idea who to reach out to? Whatever your business needs, Upwork helps you find freelance talent to get the job done. Quality work resonates with existing and potential customers, so the next time you’re contemplating whether or not to outsource the job – consider Upwork. There is no plan to sign up – all you pay for is the work done by the freelancer.

Plus: Upwork allows you to customize the talent you are looking for, including filters like location, specific skill-set, experience level, and more.

 

Insureon

Online Insurance Agency

3

 

If you think it’s easy to hunt down cheap, reliable, and quality insurance for your business, then you’ve obviously never run a business before. But that hunt is exactly what Insureon does. Insureon is an online agency dedicated to helping small businesses find the best insurance protection. All you have to do is fill out a quick online application, and Insureon does the rest – they calculate your risk, leverage relationships with top-tier insurance companies, then email you the best quote on the market, including coverage and cost options. Quotes are free.

Plus: Insureon matches you with a specialized agent experienced in your specific industry, and work with you to identify the unique challenges and insurance types of your business.

 

OutboundEngine

Marketing Automation

4
If you are a small business owner who absolutely dreads the marketing side of things, OutboundEngine will be your hero. They’ll help you run fully-automated marketing campaigns, highly-targeted to your specific audience. Services include professional email marketing campaigns, automated social media updates, lead-generating referral programs and custom-tailored content writing. It’s like having an entire marketing department but at the fraction of the cost. Pricing starts at $179/month.

Plus: Everything is personalized, so the pros working on your campaign dive deep into your market and industry before testing anything.

 

Shoeboxed

Receipt and Expense Management

5

 

Keeping track of receipts for bookkeeping and tax purposes is an exhaustive, daunting task. But for business and financial reasons it’s a highly scrutinized part of running a business — all business owners have to do it. The problem is, business owners absolutely hate doing it! Cue Shoeboxed. Shoeboxed scans, organizes and categorizes receipts and other business documents so that all of your important paperwork is fully searchable and accessible in the cloud. There is a free DIY plan and premium plans start at $9.99/month.

Plus: All receipt images are IRS-accepted, with vendor name, total amount, date of purchase and payment type automatically extracted once its submitted to Shoeboxed.

This list is not exhaustive, but we hope it provides a holistic approach to the types of useful services and tools that every small business owner needs as their business grows.