How to Prep Your Business Before Tax Season

(Shared by Jennifer Dunn, Program Assistant, Endeavor Center, OSU South Centers)

bplans.com by: Crystalynn Shelton

Doing business taxes can be difficult for new entrepreneurs. In this article, I’ll share smarter and faster ways to record your expenses and keep track of your receipts and other important documents for your taxes. Each of these tips is easy to implement and should help make tax time a breeze!

Tip #1: Use accounting software to keep track of business expenses

One of the things that many small business owners struggle with is staying on top of their bookkeeping throughout the year. If you don’t use an accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero, you are setting yourself up for failure come tax time.

I’m a CPA and believe it or not, I use QuickBooks to do my books and prep myself for tax season. This makes it so much easier and ensures that you keep accurate records of your income and expenses. If you find yourself always in “catch-up” mode when it comes to your books, then you must invest in accounting software.

Tip #2: Use expense categories in your accounting software

Expense categories are just a way to group purchases that you make for your business. For example, office supplies, restaurants, and gasoline are expense categories. They can help you better track vendor expenses rather than setting up each and every vendor for everyday purchases.

The reason is that it will allow you to enter expenses faster. This will save you time and it will allow you to only keep track of the most important info required for tax purposes.

Read more …

5 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Credit Score

(Submitted by Chris Smalley, Business Development Specialist, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Planning on buying a car, house or even starting your own business? One of the major factors that help the lender determine your loan ability and interest rate is your credit score. If you can get your FICO score above 700, you have a lot better chance of obtaining a loan at a competitive rate which in turn translates into a smaller monthly payment leaving you with more cash flow for other expenses. Here is an article on 5 things you can do to improve your credit score. www.pnc.com

www.pnc.com/pnc-achievement-sessions

Borrowing

Credit scores. We all have one. Well, technically we all have at least three – one from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. And most of us know a few things about credit scores like the fact that they’re important, or that you can’t apply for a loan or credit card without one.

You might be wondering, what IS a credit score?

Good question.

One of the most common credit scores is known in financial circles as a FICO® score. It is a three digit number that provides lenders and other financial institutions with a summary of your credit history. According to the FICO blog, the average credit score in the United States as of April 2016 was 699. The algorithm for determining each individual’s credit score is a closely held secret, but most financial professionals agree that it’s a mix of the following factors:
•The length of time you’ve been using credit
•How much debt you have compared to your available credit
•If you’re reliable when it comes to making payments on time
•That you use a mix of different types of credit instruments (i.e. loans, credit cards, mortgages)
•How often you’re applying to open new lines of credit

If you’re wondering why the range of your credit score matters, it all comes down to this: Your credit score determines how much interest you’ll pay and how much money you can borrow. It also determines whether or not you’ll be on the hook for extra security deposits when renting a home or setting up your utilities.

The better your credit score, the more likely your interest rate will be lower, your borrowing limit higher, and the less chance you’ll have to dish out extra funds when setting up your electric bill or cellphone.

The great news about credit scores is that these numbers aren’t permanent or static. They CAN change and you have the power to increase your credit score by following a few simple rules.

5 HABITS THAT WILL IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT SCORE

Always pay your bills on time. Every time.

One of the most important things you can do to improve credit or maintain an excellent credit score is to make sure that you always pay your bills on time. Many of us like to pay more than the minimum balance on our credit cards or loans, and that’s a good and smart thing to do. But if you ever find yourself in a bit of a financial bind, make sure you can make at least the minimum payment on time to keep your credit score from taking a significant hit.

Be mindful of the reason you’re applying for new credit.

If you’re on the hunt for a new car, home, or personal loan, make sure you do your loan shopping before you apply for new lines of credit. Recent credit inquiries can reduce your score so plan for when you apply for a new line of credit or an increase in your existing line of credit. It is worth mentioning that when you apply for any credit, closed end installment loans, or open end credit lines, the lender makes an inquiry with the credit bureaus. An inquiry or two won’t significantly impact your credit score, but several inquiries over a short period of time might lower it a few points.

Never max out your credit cards.

A significant part of your credit score is calculated by examining your debt to credit limit ratio, or how much debt you’re carrying compared to the amount of available credit you have. If you have $100 in credit and you have $99 charged to that account, that means you have 1% of your available credit open for use. Not good. A good rule is to tie up no more than 30% of your total credit limit.

Keep your oldest account open and in good standing.

Want to know one of the biggest mistakes you can make after paying down your debt? Closing your oldest account. Did you know that one of the most important parts of calculating your credit score is the length of your credit history? If you close your oldest accounts, your credit history is instantly shortened. It’s okay to close accounts, but make sure you keep your oldest account open.

Monitor your credit report and your credit score.

Part of improving or maintaining your credit score means keeping an eye on your credit report and your credit score. You can get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s a good idea to check on your credit score at least once a year or before you apply for any new car loan or mortgage.

Strange Reasons Your Credit Score Could Change

(Shared by Brad Bapst, Director, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

The Simple Dollar www.simpledollar.com
Strange Reasons Your Credit Score Could Change
by John Ulzheimer
Updated on 07-17-17

Credit scores aren’t static. They don’t rise and fall like temperature. No, credit scores are simply a snapshot evaluation of your credit report information at a given point in time. But when the information on your credit reports changes, your scores will generally be different the next time they’re calculated.

Certain credit events may lead to a predictable difference in your credit scores. For example, if your credit report shows a new missed or late payment, a new collection account, or a new tax lien filed against you, you can presume that your credit scores will be impacted. But it’s not always this clear cut. Sometimes your credit score changes for less than obvious reasons.

Read more…

6-7-2017 Introduction to QuickBooks

(Submitted by Kimberly Roush, Program Assistant, Business Development Network, OSU South Centers)

June 7, 2017 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at CAC of Pike County, 941 Market Street, Piketon, Ohio
The Introduction to QuickBooks Training Workshop enables individuals and business owners to gain knowledge in the basics of QuickBooks. QuickBooks are easy-to-use computer accounting systems for small business. You will use the basic features of QuickBooks to record and track your business transactions. This course is designed for persons who have no prior knowledge of how to use QuickBooks, or for persons who are familiar with the software and want to learn about the new features and functionality of QuickBooks.

November 16, 2016 – Introduction to QuickBooks

(Shared by Kimberly Roush, Program Assistant, Ohio Cooperative Development Center and Business Development Network, OSU South Centers)

11-16-2016-intro-to-quickbooksThe Business Development Program of the Community Action Committee of Pike County, the Pike County Career Technology Center, and the OSU Small Business Development Center are offering a one-day Introduction to QuickBooks Workshop on Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. at the OSU Endeavor Center in Piketon, Ohio.

The workshop is designed to teach the basic features of QuickBooks to record and track your business transactions. This course is designed for persons who have no prior knowledge of how to use QuickBooks, or for persons who are familiar with the software and want to learn about the features and functionality of QuickBooks.

For more information and to obtain a registration form, contact Lisa Pfeifer or Patty Russell at 740-289-2371 or toll free at 1-866-820-1185.

A look at tax changes for Ohio businesses and individuals

(Submitted by Brad Bapst, Director, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

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Now is a good time to look at various tax changes that have occurred in the past year and understand their impact on you or your business. What has been the impact of the municipal tax reform that went into effect on January 1? For business, has the occasional entrant treatment been an improvement? In this article CSH’s Sharon Reisman answers those questions and more. Read more…

Author: Sharon Reisman, CPA, JD with Clark Schaefer Hackett CPAs & Business Consultants

Financing a Cooperative Business

(Submitted by Hannah Scott, Manager, Ohio Cooperative Development Center, OSU South Centers)

As with any business structure, securing start-up capital is a vital part of developing a co-op. But as businesses with multiple member-owners that prioritize member-benefit and democratic control, co-op financing includes some unique considerations.

Smart Phone PayWhen considering ways of securing start-up financing, cooperatives should consider both equity capital and debt capital. Members directly contribute equity capital in return for ownership of the cooperative and can do so in a number of ways including, 1) paying membership fees, or 2) purchasing common stock that confers ownership rights. In addition, cooperatives may be able to offer preferred stock to members and non-members that, in most cases, pay limited dividends, but do not grant voting rights.

When it comes to outside investment as a source of capital, cooperatives should understand the statutes governing co-ops in their state, as the regulations for non-member capital investment in cooperatives vary by state. In addition, co-ops should be careful to adhere to the principle of democratic member control that makes cooperatives a unique business model.

In comparison, debt capital is borrowed and must be repaid according to agreed upon terms. Cooperatives can approach traditional lenders for financing, making sure to address the issue of multiple owners with the lender when discussing guarantees. Cooperatives can also seek financing from institutions that are cooperatives or mutually-owned themselves or that have cooperative experience.

Various grant programs may also be available to cooperatives, but are often targeted toward the specific activities of the cooperative rather than the business structure itself.

To learn more about the financial resources available to cooperative businesses, contact the Ohio Cooperative Development Center at The Ohio State University South Centers.

Sources:
Financing a Cooperative,”Co-opLaw.Org, Sustainable Economies Law Center eResource Library

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, Understanding Cooperatives: Financing Cooperatives, Cooperative Information Report 45, Section 7, (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office,1999)

Strategies for Maximizing Total Rewards

(Submitted by Brad Bapst, Director, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Since I have been a freelance consultant for a while, and I am interested in maximizing my credit card rewards, I have made the decision to maximize the rewards I earn on both personal and business expenses. Although it can be tricky to keep it all separate, several strategies I employ make the process a whole lot easier.

Here’s what I do.

Overlap Categories
rewardsAs we have seen most rewards credit cards offer bonus rewards in certain categories of spending. I sought out a business credit card that earns more points in categories that my personal rewards credit card does not.

For me, Chase has the best combination of personal and business cards on the market right now. For business, I use my Chase Ink Bold®, which earns 5x points on cell phone service, internet service, landline service and office supply stores plush 2x points on gas and hotels. I pair that card with my personal Chase Sapphire Preferred®, which earns 2x points on travel and dining.

I put all of my gas and hotel stays on my business card even if it is for a family trip. This way I earn 2 points per dollar which is better than if I used my personal card. I also put my internet service on my business card so I earn 5 points per dollar even though most of that service is personal, and only a portion gets deducted based on my home office square footage.

If I am out to eat with a client, a business expense, I use my personal Chase Sapphire Preferred® instead of my Chase Ink Bold® because I earn double points with the Sapphire Preferred®.

If I spend on an item outside of any of these bonus categories, I still earn 1 point per dollar, so I’m always earning.

Using the Same Rewards Platform

credit-cards-185069_1920 (2)What I like about these two cards is that they are both on the same rewards platform so I am able to combine the points where I wouldn’t if I paired a Ink Plus® Business Credit Card with the personal rewards card from American Express.

Two added advantages of the Chase Ultimate Rewards platform are transferring points and redeeming points for travel. Both the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card and the Chase Sapphire Preferred® transfer points to frequent flier partners on a 1:1 basis AND both cards’ points are worth 25% more when redeemed for travel through the UR platform.

The result is that when you have the same rewards platform, you have added flexibility to combine and redeem points. If you have business and personal cards on different networks, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

What to Watch Out For
Because I combine my expenses, I have developed a great system of tracking, keeping notes and accounting for which expenses are business vs. personal. This approach is not for the faint of heart. You need to keep up on tracking these expenses at all times. If you fall behind it can be a nightmare to sift back through your calendar, credit card statements and memory to put the right pieces of the puzzle together.

How to Avoid These Problems
magic-cube-378543_1920 (2)First, Jot from Chase Business is great. I can tag expenses and take pictures of receipts. The only tag I really use is “Business” to denote a business expense I want to transfer to my accounting software.

For my personal card I use Expensify. This is essentially the same thing as Jot, but you can use it for any expense whereas Jot only works with your Chase business credit card.

With Expensify, I take a picture of my receipt only for purchases I want to use as business expenses. Expensify saves each receipt and any information I manually input. I then transfer these expenses to my accounting software at the end of each week.

I use Quickbooks for all of my accounting, which lets me keep detailed notes on all my expenses. Once I transfer my expenses, I make sure to add each receipt picture to my digital tax files, so I can back up any expense easily if I ever face an audit.

Source: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/best-business-credit-cards/#strategies-for-maximizing-total-rewards

How to Use a Business Credit Card to Manage Cash Flow

(Submitted by Brad Bapst, Director, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

Whether you run a small business, lead a large corporation, or work as a self-employed freelancer, you will probably experience cash flow issues from time to time. Sometimes this can happen when you’re waiting on various payments from your customers, and other times it is simply the result of having to purchase equipment or supplies when money is tight.
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This is where business cards can really come in handy. Here are a few examples of when having a business card could solve a cash flow problem instantly:

Real Life Example #1
A self-employed freelancer is waiting on several large payments from various clients, but they don’t expect to receive those funds until the end of the month. In the meantime, they need to purchase essential office and computer equipment from an office supply store. A business credit card would allow them to charge their equipment purchases temporarily until they received payment from their customers later in the month. Further, a card like the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card would even reward them with 5% cash back on their purchases.

Real Life Example #2

A small business owner with ten employees just finished a huge project for a client that they have yet to be paid for. Unfortunately, payroll is coming up, and they don’t have enough funds to keep operations running and pay their employees. If necessary, they could cover many of their business-related expenses with a business card for a limited time so they could pay their employees. Once they received payment from their client, they could pay their balance in full and “catch up.”

Real Life Example #3
A large business needs to purchase $50,000 worth of equipment that they will need to pay off over several months. Instead of taking out a loan, the business could leverage the credit line on their business credit card instead. While they would need to pay interest in this case, they could write it off as a business expense.

Source: Simple Dollar Website Excerpt taken from the updated on 1-19-2016 The Best Business Credit Cards of 2016 article by Michael Gardon.

Who Are Small Business Credit Cards Good For?

(Submitted by Brad Bapst, Director, Small Business Development Center, OSU South Centers)

While technically anyone can apply for a business credit card, these cards are usually best for small businesses and individuals who fall into the following categories:

• Self-employed individuals who travel frequently for work and want to rack up rewards
• Freelancers who need help managing their cash flow
• Consultants who may travel or entertain clients
• Small business owners or freelancers who experience irregular cash flow throughout the month
• Doctors or dentists who are part of their own practice
• Financial advisors
• Salespeople who travel for work and want to maximize travel-related rewards
• Business owners who spend heavily on office supplies and equipment

american-express-89024 (2)People who fall in these categories all have certain expenses that can be separated and classified as “business” expenses. These type of expenses can include things like meals, required travel, advertising, business development, entertainment and office space.

Meanwhile, certain types of individuals are employed by an outside company, yet asked to front expenses like gas, meals and parking. Their company is then expected to reimburse them for their purchases, but this arrangement doesn’t preclude them from getting a business credit card. In fact, this may be the type of person who could benefit from a business card the most. By using a card for their business-related expenses, they keep their expenses on a separate tab without messing with their personal cash flow.

Here are some other ways almost anyone could benefit from having a business credit card:

• Individuals who spend a lot in specific categories, such as dining and gas, could choose a card like the SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express, which offers 3% cash back in one main category of your choosing
• Like we mentioned above, individuals who are expected to pay for work-related expenses then get reimbursed can use a business card for those expenses instead of paying for everything with their own money
• Salespeople who drive a lot could benefit from a card with increased earnings on gas purchases, such as the SimplyCash® Business Card from American Express or the Ink Cash® Business Credit Card
• Businesses who spend a lot of money at office supply stores have the opportunity to earn 5 points per $1 on up to $50,000 in office supply purchases each calendar year with the Ink Plus® Business Credit Card

Source: Simple Dollar Website Excerpt taken from the 12-9-2015 The Best Business Credit Cards of 2016 article by Michael Gardon.