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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.

Culture

Why Whiskey Should No Longer Be Categorized As “A Man’s Drink”

I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"


I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.

In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.

Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.

For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.

Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.

The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.

It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.

While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.

What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.

While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.