Have Your Small Business Expenses Gotten Lost in The Matrix?

photo credit: thematrix101.com

If you take the blue pill, all of your insurance premiums qualify as small business tax write-offs. If you take the red pill, you can deduct your Shoeboxed.com membership. Wait a second…what if Neo took both pills at the same time? In the 1999 action movie The Matrix (that’s right, we’re taking it back to the original), our hero Neo must determine what’s fantasy (“the matrix”), what’s reality, and what to do about it all. Can you imagine keeping track of small business expenses with that kind of uncertainty? Yet so many small business owners keep track of their business expenses as if they’re operating within some kind of mysterious matrix.  What can I write off? What doesn’t count? In an effort to stay off the IRS’s radar, they end up losing out on a lot of money every year. Here is a refresher course on some commonly confused business expenses:

1. Health Insurance

If you’re a small business owner and are self-employed, you can deduct the entire cost of your health insurance payments – that’s right, 100%! Just be careful if you’re a new startup company, or if your business didn’t turn a profit in its first year. You can’t deduct more than the amount of your net profit for that year. And if you’re married, things get both better and worse – just like discovering the matrix, right? For better, if your spouse is employed by you, you can also deduct their health insurance as part of your business expenses. For worse? If you had the option of going on your spouse’s health insurance, you’re not allowed to pay for your own and then write it off.

2. Phone Calls

Neo and Trinity were able to artfully avoid the Agents simply by making a phone call. While it may not be quite as easy to find a payphone nowadays, it is possible to make your phone calls work for you in terms of your business expenses. The key is to get specific. Before scanning or mailing your phone bill to the folks at Shoeboxed, circle each phone call that was a business call. That way your totals will be 100% tax deductible at the end of the year. You can also get a phone (mobile or landline) that is totally dedicated to business-only calls. Just make sure you really only use it for business calls, in case Big Brother (or Agent Smith) is listening. If you do the first option, you’re not able to include all of those taxes and surcharges in your write-off, but if you get a separate line, you may be able to do so.

3. Meals

Neo and the crew could only enjoy a nice steak when they were in the matrix. In the real world, they consumed an oatmeal-esque slop that looked and smelled worse than prison food. While you’re traveling and keeping track of your business expenses, don’t forget that there is a very important difference between where you sleep and where you dine. The cost of your hotel room – down to what you tipped the employee who helped with your bags – is 100% deductible. However, your meals are only half off. Even if you’re entertaining clients or having a lunch meeting that is completely and utterly work-related (think Neo meeting Morpheus for the first time), Uncle Sam only allows for 50% of those costs to count as tax write-offs. So enjoy the fanciest hotels that the matrix has to offer, but return to the ship when it’s time for your oatmeal.

How to Get Organized: Life hacks to organize your life, go paperless, and save time (Part III)

Organizing your life might be a daunting task– and it will likely require more than a blog article of advice. So we’ve decided to dedicate our Friday posts to “how to get organized” by biting off manageable chunks of life’s clutter to help you get organized!

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 How to Get Organized for Efficient Travel

Even if you’re heading out for a relaxing vacation, traveling can be stressful if you aren’t properly prepared.  How to get organized for efficient traveling can be easily conquered if you divide tasks into a systematic plan. From planning your itinerary to how you pack your bags, there are plenty of little ‘life hacks’ waiting to make your life easier on the road!how to get organized for efficient travel

 1: Go Paperless

We live in the technology age, where it’s simple to have an entire “folder” of documents in the palm of your hand. From travel visas to GPS directions, we can plan and organize our entire travel itinerary from our phones/tablets/computers on the go. How to get organized for travel no longer requires a manila folder with printed itineraries and boarding passes. Here are some cool tools that will convert you from a confused tourist to a savvy traveler:

2: Create a Checklist

With all of the apps available these days, it’s easy to create a reusable checklist for every time you travel. Granted, how to get organized for each specific trip might require some particular items or special planning, but overall you run through the same essentials on each trip. One of our favorite apps to use is Evernote. Use the app to create a checklist that you can reuse each trip that will list your travel essentials: special clothes, toiletries, travel documents, electronics, chargers, mediations, etc. For the most part, the basics don’t change, and having a reusable list makes it easier each time you travel to not forget anything critical. It is also easy to check things off the list as you’re running out the door. You can even put your itinerary and any other travel lists in a customizable notepad dedicated to traveling in Evernote.

3: Less is More

Since most business trips don’t include a pack horse or camel, you should avoid being an over-packer since you’ll be the one schlepping your extra belongings around. Knowing how to get organized when packing your suitcase is critical to packing light and efficiently:

  • Pack heavy items on the bottom or towards the wheels of your suitcase so they don’t squish your other belongings.
  • Keep a plastic bag full of your travel-sized items that you only use when traveling. Just grab the whole bag each time you’re packing and make it easy not to forget any critical toiletries (toothbrush/toothpaste, deodorant, floss, etc.).
  • Pack clothing that is easy to wear twice and not wrinkle; polyester and silk jersey are great travel fabrics. Plan outfits that can be mixed/matched and also layered. (Life hack: It is more space efficient to roll your clothing instead of folding it.)how to get organized for efficient travel
  • Pick up a Tide To-Go Pen or some Shout wipes to keep your clothes spot free on the go.
  • Don’t pack unnecessaries: Do you work out at home? No? Will you really workout in the hotel gym? Doubtful. Spare yourself the trouble of hauling novelty items.
  • Checking your luggage? Plan on still carrying a small carry-on bag with a few extra clothes and essentials. You never know if your bag will actually make it to your destination or if a cancelled flight will have you spending the night in the luxurious and accommodating airport terminal…

How to get organized for travel isn’t complicated. But if you forget something crucial it can be much more of a headache when you are out of town. Being an efficient traveler also makes your life a little easier while you’re working remotely and when you come back into town. Planning ahead isn’t always easy when life throws you curveballs, but worse case scenario, you pick up a parka if you get caught in an out-of-season snowstorm. Rolling with the punches is what make traveling exciting (and also gives you better stories when you return to the office)!

What are your tips and tricks for “how to get organized for efficient travel?” Tell us in the comments below!

Live Chat with Our Customer Support Team

Hey Shoeboxers!

Today, we’re excited to announce a new feature in your online Shoeboxed account.  From now on you can chat directly with a customer support representative, right from inside your account!

All you have to do is click the blue “Chat with Us!” bar on the bottom right of your Shoeboxed account, and you’ll be immediately connected with a Shoeboxed employee that can help you navigate your account, give you tips and answer any questions you may have.

Our representatives will be available Monday to Friday, 9a.m. until 6p.m. EST (except on major holidays). If all operators are busy, the “Chat with Us!” bar will be hidden. But don’t worry– you can check back later or send us a quick email at help@team.shoeboxed.com!

Please note that our live chat is operated by Shoeboxed US. If you’re a customer of Shoeboxed Australia, please contact them at 1300 00 1333 or help@team.shoeboxed.com.au!

If you have any feedback or questions about our new live chat feature, please reach us 24/7 at help@team.shoeboxed.com or give us a shout on Twitter @ShoeboxedHelp.

Stay Organized,

The Shoeboxed Team