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    Business Expenses | Accountant Billings MT

    Small Business Tax Write-offs… What Counts and What Doesn’t

    When you travel for work you have expenses; you have to pay for fuel, lodging, food, etc. And most of the time those expenses are, without a doubt, considered tax-deductible expenses. But then there are those trips where you travel and you mix, unavoidably, your business needs with leisure. For an example, say you travel to California for work, but when work has concluded for the day you decide to take in a Dodger’s baseball game—tickets, hotdogs, etc.—and then the next morning you go back to work. What in that scenario is considered tax deductible? Here’s a few tips…

    When you read the above scenario did you think that anything regarding the baseball game could be considered tax deductible? It’s likely given that straightforward scenario that the meal and drinks were absolutely tax deductible—you have to eat when you travel for work, and the IRS can’t determine where you can and can’t eat. Now consider the baseball game tickets. If you are at the ballgame purely for entertainment reasons then it’s likely that you would have a hard time explaining to the IRS why you are deducting those expenses from your income. But if you went to the ballgame to entertain a client then those tickets are likely to be deductible. Most of the time, when you travel for business, your tax deductible expenses are pretty straightforward, and you should never forget to document those expenses on your tax return at the end of the year.

    Did you know that there are no gross income limits to how much a small business owner can deduct? But if you are an employee, and you don’t have your expenses reimbursed by your employer (Hopefully, your expenses for work are always reimbursed by your employer when you travel for work), you should be able to deduct those expenses as itemized miscellaneous deductions.

    If you have any questions about tax write-offs, or how the tax professionals at Practical Taxes can help you and your business succeed, then call today.

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    Self-Employment/Independent Contractor

    Do the words Independent Distributer mean anything to you? Have you ever heard the phrase multilevel distribution company? Probably, and it’s likely that if you’ve heard it then either you or someone you know is directly involved. These words mean that a person works for themselves selling another company’s goods and/or services; it’s a tiered approach to business, meaning that employees are usually considered self-employed, and sometimes—but not always—are licensed independent contractors. Mary Kay, Amway, and Scentsy are popular and well-known tiered distribution companies, but there are also others—essential oils have become a very trendy and often operate using Independent Distributors. In fact, it’s become so prevalent that an estimated 16.8 million Americans participate in this type of work on at least part time basis. Here’s what it means for income tax…

    Self-Employment Tax

    There’s a self-employment tax that accompanies this kind of work. It’s a percentage that gets taxed in a similar way as Medicare and Social Security. It’s based on the total amount of taxable income—that means that in addition to Federal and State Income Tax the self-employed get hit up for more money. And that’s difficult, especially when you consider the time and effort that usually accompanies the ownership of a small business, regardless how small. So, this is where deductions become extremely important to the self-employed. Do you have expenses involved in your small business? Oftentimes there’s travel involved. There’s business-related parties to host—in the case of cosmetics, it’s often common practice to invite people to receive a spa-like facial and to try different types of makeup. And you are probably going to manage your small business from your home; usually, you will operate with a computer and other office supplies. And all of these tools and supplies are likely tax deductible.

    The one important thing to remember when you start your small business is to have a reliable and experienced accountant take a look at both your expenses—checking for potential write-offs (you may have a few write-offs that you don’t know about)—and also to help you navigate your income tax. If you have any questions or would like to schedule your first appointment then call Practical Taxes today.

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    October 15th is Almost Here! Extension Deadline is Almost Here…

    If you don’t understand the significance of the October 15th extension deadline then chances are you have already filed your 2017 income taxes. But did you know that there are over fourteen million American tax payers who have not yet filed their annual return? It’s true. And while some of those people did not file for an extension, the bulk of that group did. And that deadline will soon be here. What happens if you miss the deadline? The IRS will charge you, monthly, a five-percent penalty until you file your income taxes. The penalty will increase monthly by five-percent, and the penalty will cap out at twenty-five percent. But, if you are owed a tax return by the IRS you owe them nothing. But the later you file the later you’ll get your refund. Bummer.

    If you filed an extension, you made yourself known the IRS. All jokes aside, the IRS is not sifting through the one-hundred forty million tax payers who filed at the tax deadline. They know who you are and they are going to expect you to file your return. And if you need help filing that return—amazingly, only fifty-eight percent of people use a special tax preparer during the tax season, but over eighty-percent hire out for the professional experience of a tax preparer when they’ve requested an extension (oftentimes an extension means that there is a question or difficulty on the return)—remember that Practical Taxes is ready to help you file that return. Don’t let the IRS charge you more than they already plan to. And if you need help in paying any of the 2017 income tax there are options, and your experienced tax preparer at Practical Taxes can advise you as to the best way for you to pay.

    If you have any questions regarding your 2017 tax returns, or if you would like to speak with a tax expert about any other tax question, then make sure to call Practical Taxes today.

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    Enhancing Your Visibility as a Business

    Newspaper-300x225Every business needs to get their name out there. Without visibility you don’t have clients. Without clients you don’t have an income. Without an income, well why are you even in business in the first place? The business world is constantly changing. And you need to stay on top of things or else you will be left with nothing but Yellow Pages ads in a world where Google search engine rankings are all that anyone cares about. If you want to maintain a viable player in your field, follow these tips set forth by your accountant in Billings, MT.

     

    Becoming More Visible as a Business

    There are a number of different ways to spread your name around. They are more than just advertising, and you can’t just pick one. You need to keep at the top of your game across multiple methods. Here are a few that have great success.

    Google – There are two ways to get to the top of Google. You can pay for an AdWords campaign to put your website at the top of the list when people search for specific keywords. Most of the time people skip right by these ads. The alternative is to organically build your site to be search engine optimized. This includes a lot of content, and some other SEO techniques.

    Pay Per Click – You need exposure. One way to do that is to set up a pay-per-click ad campaign targeting local site. Your local news sites will host your ad, but you only ever pay if someone actually clicks on your ad. This drives traffic to you website, and hopefully results in paying clients. You need a great website to convert those visitors to clients.

    Media – Many businesses will benefit immensely from media advertising. This is printed ads in the paper, radio spots, TV commercials, and more. These ads are not for everyone, but they can benefit certain businesses immensely.

    Networking – One word that many professionals hate is networking. But if you get into the right networking group, you will be rewarded greatly. For instance, Biz to Biz is a fantastic way to generate leads and pass referrals.

    Partnering – Some businesses will benefit greatly by partnering with related businesses. For instance, if you are a graphic designer, you may benefit by partnering with a marketing company. You take your information to that company, and the next time they have overflow work, they push it your way. It’s a win-win for both of you.

    Online Reviews –Something under-utilized, especially here in Billings, are Google reviews. Every time you have a satisfied customer, give them a card with your information and ask them to write a review for you on Google. You can offer small bribes such as a free coffee to a local kiosk to get a better response rate.

    Outsourcing the Right Parts of your Business

    Because you are a busy professional, you likely don’t want to take the time to make sure that your business is getting the right visibility. This is where it is important to outsource certain aspects. For instance, how many hours per month do you spend on payroll services? That is something your accountant in Billings, MT can do so you can focus on running your business. Outsourcing your marketing to the professionals is not only easier, but gets dramatically better results. A highly visible business is a profitable business. Where are you lacking?

    Practical Taxes is a full service accounting firm in Billings, MT. If you need help with your bookkeeping, online payroll services, business consultation, or just simple tax preparation, we are here to help. Call us today at 406-894-2050 to learn more about how we can help you.

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    Dependents 101: Who Qualifies? Who Can Be Claimed?

    If you are wondering who the IRS qualifies as a dependent, then hopefully this article will clear up any ambiguity. To claim a dependent when you have one is very important, because you get an exemption for that dependent that will reduce your taxable income. And according to the IRS the two types of dependents are qualifying relatives and qualifying children.

    A Qualifying Child

    For you to claim a child as a dependent then he or she must be either: your child, stepchild, foster child, or half sibling (or the descendant of one of those). The child should have the same residence as the taxpayer; and he or she should have lived with the qualifying tax payer in his or her residence for six months or more. There are exceptions to these rules however, and the exceptions are for children whose parents have divorced, and also include kidnapped children, children who have taken temporary absences, and children who were born or who had died in that year. The child needs to be under the age of nineteen at the end of the taxable year, or, in the case that the child is a student, under the age of twenty-four.

    For a taxpayer to claim a qualifying relative, the relative in question must not also be able to be claimed by another taxpayer (cannot be anyone else’s qualifying child). The relative must be related directly to you, and you must provide fifty percent or more of the financial support for that person in that year.

    And if you have any questions whether the children or relatives who live with you, or for whom you provide significant financial support either in your residence or at theirs, qualify as dependents, then make an appointment with your accountant at Practical Taxes today. You don’t want any financial surprises come tax season, which, by the way, is only a few short months away. And having the knowledge and experience of a professional tax expert at Practical taxes guiding you, could make all the difference.

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    Becoming More Efficient in Your Business

    Drucker-portrait-bkt_1014Running a business is all about efficiency. Without certain systems in place, you will never be able to accomplish all that you need to get done. For example, if you simply have too much work to get done, then you will need to hire employees. Of course with those employees comes a whole host of other problems that need to be resolved such as payroll, bookkeeping, and many more. You can do all of those yourself, or you can put a system in place to accomplish those tasks for you. Your payroll services specialist in Billings, Montana explains how.

     

    Becoming More Efficient

    Peter Drucker, the late business consultant and educator, once said, “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.” These words have never been truer, especially in today’s world where often business owners try to take on everything rather than delegating and simplifying.

    Eliminate – There are many things that business owners simply don’t have to do. But for some reason, perhaps it’s because they want to make sure that everything gets done properly, they do them anyway. For instance, there are a lot of business owners out there that feel they need to incorporate every form of marketing available.

    So they stress and worry about their radio ads, billboards, TV ads, internet marketing, and social media marketing. In today’s world, they could easily eliminate three or more of those forms of marketing, and still make just as much of an impression on the community.

    Delegate – If you have employees, then you are already delegating. Whenever there is a task that can be done by someone else, you can help alleviate some of the stress by delegating that task to someone else.

    Most of us delegate already. We ask our connections on Facebook for advice, we have employees help us, and we have our accountant run our payroll and our bookkeeping. Any time that you can have someone else do the work, it is usually better to have them do the work.

    Simplify – Sometimes you just need to simplify your work. Instead of having an elaborately designed 10 page color catalog that nobody ever reads, have a 1 page flyer instead. But as we referred to above, if the work doesn’t need to be done, then simplifying isn’t going to make you more efficient.

    That is why we always ask first, “can this be eliminated?” and then, “can this be delegated?” and finally, “can this be simplified?”

    Practical Taxes Can Help

    In your quest for maximum efficiency, Practical Taxes can help alleviate the burden that you feel. If you have employees, and you are still writing paychecks every two weeks, delegate that to us. If you are slogging your way through bookkeeping every months, delegate that to us.

    If you are trying to file your taxes quarterly and are frustrated beyond belief, delegate that to us. As a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana, we can take a lot of the pressure off of you so that you can better run your business.

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    Business Expenses | Accountant Billings MT

    Taxes and Small Business: A Few Things You May Not Know…

    A small business is rewarding—especially on day one—but also it can be extremely challenging. And if you are planning to open soon a small business, then you first might want to know your particular business entity. What does this mean? This means that the Government will assess your taxes based on how your particular business chooses to operate. The most common entities recognized by the government are: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, and S Corporation. To break these down further, you should know that Sole Proprietorship means that you and your business are subject to an income tax that is calculated at the individual level; you alone run the business (Many small businesses are recognized by the Government as Sole Proprietorships) and you are also subject to the self-employment tax. Partnership is viewed by the Government as being similar to the Sole-Proprietorship in that the business owners are subject to the tax rate at the individual level, including the self-employment tax. Tax liability for a corporation is more difficult to calculate in that the business (corporation) is taxed at a corporate level, and also shareholders of the corporation are treated as employees, all of whom are subject to payroll tax, similar to how an employee would be taxed on their wages. The S Corporation entity is a corporation that is allowed to be taxed at an individual level, and the shareholders of that corporation are treated as employees to be subject to payroll-type taxes.

    There are obvious drawbacks and liabilities to each entity, and if you are considering the structure for a small business idea, then you may first want to assess how you view your business goals and the potential your business has for potential growth. Your tax professional at Practical Taxes is experienced in small business tax and even payroll options for when your business is ready to launch. And if you have any questions as to how Practical Taxes can help your business succeed, then call today.

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    5 Time Saving Tricks You Aren’t Using

    It happens to the best of us. There are simply not enough hours in the day to maximize our productivity. In the end we have to move a good portion of our to-do list from one week to the next; a seemingly endless battle to have everything cleared from our schedule. If you can relate, then this post is for you. You need to incorporate some of these time saving tips into your work life, and for once go home at the end of the day feeling like you have accomplished all that needs to be accomplished. Keep reading as your accountant and payroll services expert in Billings, Montana explains what you need to know.

    Make a Schedule

    Schedule-150x150

    You might be saying that you already have a schedule, but I can assure you that not many have a schedule like the one needed to be highly productive. This schedule includes EVERYTHING. Monday to Friday your schedule dictates when you wake up, when you eat, how long you get for your shower, all the way down to bathroom breaks. A highly structured person is a highly efficient person.

    The caveat here is that it is going to take you several weeks to perfect your schedule. Things will change and need tweaking, but if you have everything on your schedule, including not only when but also what you eat for breakfast, you will see productivity soar.

    Learn to Say “No”

    We hear this often, but we continue to ignore this advice. There comes a point in our lives, whether work or personal, that we just need to say “No.” It can be extra work, lunch with a friend or co-worker, dinner out, that ski vacation that you really don’t want to go on but you feel bad because your friend from college wants to keep in touch but you couldn’t even stand him when you were roommates so why would you want to go skiing with him and his family… you get the idea.

    Practice this one. The next time another project comes across your desk, politely decline and say you already have a full plate. If your services are valuable the person will either wait, or offer to pay more.

     

    Turn Off the Internet

    Most of us think that the internet is required for our job. In some cases it is, but in most cases we can get by without it for an hour or two. Want to increase your productivity? Just reach over and unplug the router. This also means no checking your Facebook on your phone either. Disconnected is always disconnected.

    Delegate

    Passing work off to someone else is one of the greatest joys in life. You have a ton on your plate, and having someone else take part of the workload will make you feel almost guilty, as though you aren’t working hard enough. Don’t be fooled; you are.

    Even if you don’t have employees you can still delegate. There are plenty of companies out there that will do one-time odd jobs for you (such as running errands that consume a ton of your time), and there are virtual assistants that will work for $8 per hour on those tasks that just eat up your time.

    Take More Breaks

    It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking breaks will actually increase your productivity and save time. Think of it like this: you get your mind working on a project and keep the train of thought until that task is done. Switching over to a new train of thought takes time, and if you don’t do something to take your mind off the previous task, you have trouble getting started on the next one. These breaks should be scheduled into your day, and they should be 5-10 minutes to get a cup of coffee and stare out the window. Maybe click “LIKE” on the funny picture your cousin just posted.

    Practical Taxes Can Help

    About those tasks that you just need to delegate out; that is where we come in. You can do your taxes on your own, or do your own payroll, and do all your own bookkeeping. But why would you? Instead let a full service accounting firm in Billings, Montana do the hard stuff for you. This time saving tip alone will clear you up to focus on what you do best: run your business.

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    2018 Taxes: What Do You Do with The Paperwork?

    Don’t fret about an audit, because, for most of us, an audit isn’t an overly scary thing. If you payed your taxes and had the professionals at Practical Taxes help to get your paperwork in order and helped you file that paperwork correctly, by the correct date, you’re probably fine. But still an audit can happen. And it can happen even a year or two after the tax year for which the IRS wishes to audit (Sometimes an audit can come seemingly out of nowhere, a complete surprise). And if you are going to be audited, you will want to be prepared; you will want to be able to show the IRS everything for that particular tax year.

    Keep all your receipts from the tax year with your tax paperwork. Oftentimes proof of a particular expense is all the IRS needs to happily close your case and move on. You want every receipt, every scrap of paper that was official evidence that you had an expense pertaining to your tax liability. If you wrote off gas mileage and the like, then make sure to keep that evidence handy as well. Gas logs are invaluable at times like these.

    How Long Should I Keep the Records?

    The statute of limitations (Admittedly that term sounds too officially criminal, but it just refers to the limit on the span of time for which the law can investigate and then try a person) is different in every state. For most of us it’s important to keep our tax records for five years—longer if you kept tax records for employees.

    If you have any questions about dealing with an IRS audit, or if you need accounting help in the coming year—Practical Taxes can help with payroll services, and full service, year-round accounting services—then make sure to call the tax experts at Practical Taxes. Remember, most times an IRS audit is nothing to be worried about, but you can have even more confidence when Practical Taxes guides you through.

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    Three Ways to Run a Better Business

    If you are a business owner then you are always on the lookout for how to run a better business. You want to have a clean and fluid business that can operate without you. You want to be able to take a vacation and know that when you return, there won’t be a pile of work for you to get done. But you wonder how can that can even happen? You’re scraping by now and can only dream of those days.

    It all starts with taking small steps. Let your accountant in Billings, MT explain the three steps it takes to run a better business.

    Invest in Your Presence

    There are two different types of marketing out there: branding and marketing. Branding is letting people know who you are; marketing is letting people know what you sell. Many businesses skip the first step, and jump right into the second step.

    Before you can sell a product to your customer, your customer needs to be familiar with your face. Let’s look at it this way. You need life insurance and the only two companies that you can find are MET Life and XYZ Financial. You have seen the Snoopy commercials, you know “Get MET, it Pays”, and you’re familiar with the brand. XYZ Financial says they offer a premium product for 20% less than MET Life offers. Who do you choose? Most people will go with MET because they trust the brand (although they know nothing about the brand other than they have heard the name often).

    As a business owner, you want your name to become a household name (Coca-Cola, Kleenex, Apple, Toyota, etc.). When people already know your name, then they will be more likely to buy your product.

    Sell to Your Customer; Not to You

    A good sales person knows this rule of sales: make it all about the customer. Don’t tell them what you have to offer, tell them how you can solve their problem.

    accountant and payroll services expert in Billingsaccountant and payroll services expert in Billings

    Often we hear sales pitches that go like this: “We have the best product on the market. Through years of research and development, we have developed a product that blows away the competition. Our product is ranked better than 98% of all others out there, and our sales show that we are the best!”

    Nobody cares. The customer wants to hear a pitch like this: “Are you tired of [xyz]? 98% of our customers report that [product name] has helped them. Don’t suffer any more, try us today. If it doesn’t work out, we have a money back guarantee.”

    See the difference? The first pitch is all about how great the product is. The second is all about how the product helps the customer.

    Meet the customer’s needs, and the sale will make itself.

    Get Organized

    One of the biggest business killers is lack of organization. If you want to run a better business, you have to invest time (every single day) into staying organized. Doing so will help ensure that you will remember to reply to all of those emails, return phone calls, and get everything done.

    Look at it like this. Suppose you remain unorganized. Every morning, before you get any work done, you have to spend an hour remembering where you left off the day before, figuring out what project you are working on, and de-cluttering your desk. Now let’s suppose you spend 15 minutes at the end of every day organizing for the following day. Now you have that entire hour at the beginning of the day (when you are fresh and thinking clearly), to get as much accomplished as possible. You can run a better business with ease because you gave yourself a boost.

    Let Practical Taxes help you Run a Better Business

    As a business owner, you have a lot on your plate. You have work to do, prospects to follow up with, and phone calls to return. The last thing that you want to do is worry about your taxes and payroll. Don’t muddle through doing your own taxes, leave them to us!

    We offer affordable tax preparation services here in Billings, MT. We spend our time on your taxes, so you can spend your time learning how to run a better business.

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