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Expert Tips to Get Your Life Organized in Time for Tax Season

Finance

Tax season can be daunting for anyone -- especially small business owners. The truth is that filing your taxes doesn't need to be stressful and the IRS is not the boogie man; a few organizational tricks and some pre-planning during the year can save filers a lot of time and make for smooth sailing come tax season.


Find a filing system that works for you

Receipts are your audit protection and it's important to keep them organized year round, regardless of the system you use. “While some may stuff receipts in old shoeboxes, scanning receipts at the end of the month and storing them on a computer is a great way to stay organized and decluttered. Organizing receipts by date and expense type can also help you avoid a panicked last minute tax rush. There are also apps that let you categorize your expenditure electronically, and if you want to take it one step further, you can create a separate bank account for your business transactions," says certified public accountant (CPA) and Taxfyle CEO, Richard Lavina.

Keep a separate bank account and a separate credit card for personal and business purposes.

“Maintain a log book to document your mileage and your business meals," says Sandra Eisele, principal with MBAF.

Make use of technology

If excel works for you, that is fine. “If not, consider using an accounting program such as QuickBooks. There are many apps available that let you scan and categorize receipts, log business miles, take notes, bill clients online, and so on. Consider now what you can do to make the process easier for next year," says Eisele.

Start getting your tax documents together early

This way you can chip away at what you need to gather, and you will have plenty time to get documents you are missing, says Eisele.

Be educated

“Read as much as possible about changes coming from the new administration. Lower tax rates may mean you want to defer income to 2017 if possible, or take the deductions available, such as expensing equipment purchases, in 2016," says Eisele.

Dig up every legitimate deduction you can think of

Include business gifts, meals and entertainment, home office deductions, cell phone, vehicle expenses for business use, equipment purchases, home internet cost, education cost and periodicals, and interest expense on business credit cards. Calculate both the standard and actual business mileage expense method to see which gives you the biggest deduction, suggests Eisele.

Consider contributing to a retirement plan such as SEP IRAs, Simple IRAs, or a Solo 401k.

Start to make monthly contributions to a plan if that would make it more manageable, says Eisele.

Mark important tax dates on your calendar

While April 18th is the biggest deadline this year, other important tax due dates are constantly changing and it's important to stay on top of them. “This year, small business owners should be aware that the deadline for C-Corporations (Form 1120) were pushed back a month from March 15 to April 15. Likewise, the due dates for Partnerships (Form 1120) and S-Corporations (Form 1120-S) were pushed forward from April 15 to March 15," says Lavina.

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Staying organized is only half of the battle. Come spring, everyone is looking for the highest possible tax refunds, but not everyone can be a expert. “Fortunately, it's never been easier to connect with tax professionals who know the ins and outs of tax law. Tools like Taxfyle offer affordable and convenient counsel from highly-skilled tax experts to help you reap the rewards of all of your hard work," says Lavina.

Folders, people, we need folders

You can label them with a pen but looking at a professional label gives each one weight and importance, so go ahead and invest in a label-maker. “Remember, this machine will come in handy when you want to identify your luggage from that of other travelers and sugar in a glass container from flour in the same glass container, so this tax season, treat yourself to a household of neatly identified items. For now, though, label your folders with, "Charitable Contributions" "Business Use Of Home & Car" "Business Travel" "Business Entertainment" "Casually, Disaster and Theft Loses." Now, it's time to head online to those credit card statements, scan each one with your eyes and print it when an expense will fit into the folders you've labeled. Highlight and tuck, highlight and tuck, highlight and tuck into the folders until you're good. You'll do the same with bank statements - your checkbook will help," says Brett Graff, The Home Economist a financial and lifestyle expert. You may this month have to invest a bit of time but the good news is you're ready for next year.

Tax season can be overwhelming and confusing

Thanks to technology, there are several smartphone apps that can help us stay organized. “IRS2Go delivers daily tax tips in easy to read English, you can also check the status of your refund, among other things. MileIQ is a convenient mileage tracker to easily record tax-deductible business travel. The app automatically detects your drives and logs the miles. Users can also create custom drive and vehicle categories and set drive times to work hours only. If you travel a lot for business, Expensify makes tracking expense reports easily by keeping note meals, and other tax deductible expenses. And, if you lost your receipt, Expensify can sync your credit card to pull up a list of purchases that can be categorized! “says Amy Rice, Gadget Expert for Gazelle.

Career

Male Managers Afraid To Mentor Women In Wake Of #MeToo Movement

Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.


In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.

What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.

Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.

Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.

While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.

According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.

In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.


Source-Alex Brandon, AP

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.

Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.

The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.