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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.

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
4min read
Lifestyle

Going Makeupless To The Office May Be Costing You More Than Just Money

Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.


Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.

Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.

As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.

Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.

So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.

Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.

For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."