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It’s Time to Wrap Up Your Year by Planning Ahead

It’s Time to Wrap Up Your Year by Planning Ahead

Wow! 2019 is already upon us.

As 2018 soon recedes into memory, it’s time to look ahead to 2019. For small businesses, it’s crucial to consider how such items like new legislation and tax deadlines can impact your day-to-day operations and monthly schedules.

Below is a list of 2019 items we think should be on a small business owner’s radar.

Keep Up with 2019 Mileage Reimbursement Rates

At the time of writing this article, the IRS has not released the 2019 standard mileage rate. We encourage you to check the IRS Standard Mileage Rates webpage for updates.

Salespeople and anyone who has a mobile-oriented job should be aware of a Tax Cut and Jobs Act (TCJA) impact to claiming mileage as a tax deduction.

As of January 1, 2018, employees can no longer deduct mileage as unreimbursed business expense deductions. This might come as a shock to people who drive a lot for their jobs as they prepare their 2018 taxes.

However, the self-employed can still claim mileage as a business expense.

If you’re a business owner with mobile employees, you might want to consider adopting a mileage reimbursement model that can help compensate for the miles they drive.

Plan Now to Use Health Flexible Spending Arrangements

Being able to set aside pretax income to cover health care costs not paid by insurance can be a significant financial benefit for employees.

In 2019, employees (not self-employed) can contribute $2,700 through payroll deductions to health flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Deadline for 2019 enrollment was November 30, 2018.

FSAs tend to be a use it or lose it account. Money not spent by the end of the plan year can be forfeited. However, some employers may offer FSA plans to carry over $500 of unspent funds into the next year. Additionally, some FSA plans allow a two and a half month grace period to spend 2018 funds in 2019.

Meeting the January 31, 2019 Deadline for W-2s & 1099s

Yes, we’ll be facing that W-2 and 1099 deadline before you know it. In order to correct potential errors, we recommend that employers prepare and distribute these well before the January 31, 2019 deadline.

Be Aware of Social Security 2019 Maximum Changes

In 2019, the maximum amount of income subject to the 6.2 percent social security taxable ceiling increased to $132,000 from $128,400.

Take Advantage of Higher Retirement Contribution Maximums in 2019

After six years stuck at $5,500, employees can now contribute up to $6,000 in your IRA in 2019. If you’re age 50 or over you can contribute a Catch-up, limit up to $1,000.

Contributions to 401(k) increased from $18,500 to $19,000. If you’re age 50 or over, you can contribute a Catch-up, limit up to $6,000. The total contribution limit for both employee and employer increased from $55,000 to $56,000 ($62,000 for age 50 or older).

If you’re self-employed, you might want to take full advantage of contributing 20% of your self-employment earnings through a SEP-IRA. Didn’t set up a SEP-IRA in 2018? Well, it’s not too late. For those that extend their 2018 tax return date, the deadline to set up a SEP-IRA and make an initial contribution for the 2018 tax year is October 15, 2019.

Too Busy? Delegate Your Tasks

Managing a business is time-consuming. Especially when you have to keep up with all of the changes from regulations to taxes. Make time by delegating tasks to a virtual assistant firm like Business Solutions Unlimited? Call us today at (904) 429-4588 and let us start keeping up with all the small details so you want have to.

Welcome New Movers to Your Town & Invite them to Your Business

Welcome New Movers to Your Town & Invite them to Your Business

From January through mid-November 2018, over 13.5 million people moved into homes across the U.S.

Of those movers, 5.5 million had a household income that ranged from $70k to $249k.

Let’s bring that large number down to a local area. According to the Associated Press, the fifth fastest growing city in the U.S. is Greeley, Colorado located in Weld County. Using the same time frame and household income range as above, we see that 8,342 people moved into homes in Weld County.

At eleven months, that’s an average of 758 potential customers per month looking for new business relationships in Greeley, Colorado.

The Small Business Opportunity with New Movers

New movers spend money. They’ll spend up to $9,000 more than established homeowners within the first six months of moving into their new homes.

Consider what new business relationships people moving into homes might need:

New Professional Services:

  • Physician
  • Dentist
  • Veterinarian
  • Attorney
  • Insurance

New Home Services:

  • Home cleaning
  • Pest control
  • HVAC

New Retail Services:

  • Kitchen appliances
  • Flooring & carpet
  • Furniture

The value of being one of the first businesses to welcome these new movers and invite them to use your services would be considerable—especially when you take into account the lifetime value of loyal customers.

How Do You Reach New Movers?

First, you have to acquire a list of new movers. Many data houses can sell you new mover data lists that are updated frequently. Another option would be to consider using the services a virtual assistant marketing firm with access to this data, like Business Solutions Unlimited.

Once you have the list in hand, direct mail could be a good option to reach new movers. Most of these new residents would be on the lookout for new business relationships and an inviting direct mail message could catch their attention.

Online ads would also be another option to reach new movers. Facebook demographics has a new mover option for their ads.

As you develop your 2019 marketing strategy, consider the opportunities of promoting your services to this new pool of prospects that just arrived to your area.

Reach Out for Help on Tasks

Is the task of collecting data on new movers or any other demographic, developing a marketing campaign and implementing it is just one more item on your busy schedule?

We understand how busy business owners and managers are; that’s why we’re here.

Give Business Solutions Unlimited a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s see what we can do for you today.

Holiday Party Liabilities: What Businesses Should Know about Hosting Holiday Office Parties

Holiday Party Liabilities: What Businesses Should Know about Hosting Holiday Office Parties

The holiday season approaches and businesses throughout the U.S. are making their preparations. Many businesses will soon be hosting office holiday parties to bring holiday cheer to their employees and customers.

While most office parties tend to be merry, they can also open up businesses to liabilities, including discrimination, sexual harassment, and DUI-related accidents.

Before you think we’re recommending a “Bah Humbug!” on office parties, we’d like to offer you some best practice advice. After all, we like to throw a good office party just like everyone else.

Best Practices for a Safe, Merry and Liability-Free Holiday Party

Below are some best practices that may help minimize your liabilities and make your office festivities a merry event.

Designate an Office Party Chaperone or Two

Make sure you’ve designated people to keep a sober eye on the festivities. This is particularly important when alcohol is present.

What Do You Call the Party – Holiday or Christmas?

While some people might be offended by the word “holiday”, the realities are that the season is full of religious holidays. To help keep your business safe from religious discrimination, stick with the generic “holiday” when naming your party.

Make Attendance Voluntary—Not Mandatory

Mandatory attendance to a fun office party might not be so cheerful when an employee feels forced to participate. Required attendance could open your business up to a Fair Labor Standard (FLSA) and state labor claim. Make sure your office invitation specifies that participation is voluntary.

Keep Tabs on the Alcohol

Limit the amount of alcohol served at your party. This means no “beer-drinking” parties. Many offices will provide two tickets for alcohol servings to help manage consumption. Also, your chaperone should keep tabs on everyone ensuring they are behaving properly while consuming alcoholic beverages. It’s also a good idea to stop serving alcohol at least two hours before the party ends.

When Someone has One Too Many, Be Prepared with a Free Cab Ride Home

Make sure you’ve arranged with a cab company for rides home for people who imbibe too much. Businesses should include the cost of offering “free” cab rides home in their party budget.

Forget the Mistletoe and Watch for Inappropriate Behavior

A holiday party is a good opportunity to relax and have fun. It’s also an opportunity for people to get too relaxed. Unwanted hugs, kisses, and lewd behavior could open your businesses up to a sexual harassment situation. If your business has a sexual harassment policy, distribute it to everyone prior to the party as a reminder.

By limiting the risk of holiday party liabilities, you’ll help keep your business and your employees out of harm’s way—and keep your holiday celebrations fun.

Too Busy? Delegate Your Event Planning Tasks

Are you considering a holiday party for employees and guests? We understand that small business owners have a lot on their plates already. A virtual assistance firm like Business Solutions Unlimited could help take some of those tasks off your plate.

Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let us take care of the details so you can relax and enjoy the festivities too.

With Google+ Shutting Down, Small Businesses Should Audit Their Social Media Presence  

With Google+ Shutting Down, Small Businesses Should Audit Their Social Media Presence  

Google recently announced that it would shut down the consumer version of Google+ (G+), their social media network in August 2019.

The shutdown announcement was tied to a potential data leak risk that affected up to 500,000 accounts. However, it’s been apparent for some time that G+ has been a steadily shrinking presence in the social media world.

The Promise of Google+ that Never Materialized

G+ was created in 2011 as a response to consumer’s concerns over the growing influence of Facebook.

Google worked to align G+ to search engine results. They asked that content authors use their G+ accounts to add search weight to their latest posts.

Until 2015, Google encouraged local businesses to use G+ Local to gain traction in search results. Today, many of those local content features—reviews, posts, events—are found in Google My Business.

While Google touted 395 million active Google+ accounts, the social media network never managed to pull people permanently away from Facebook or other social media outlets.

Over the years, it became somewhat of a ghost town. Its impact over local search results ended long ago.

Time to Audit Your Marketing

Many small businesses followed Google’s lead to promote their G+ pages on their website and marketing collateral. Just this week, we found the G+ logo on a couple front entrances of local businesses.

You should take the time to remove G+ presence from your:

  • Website
  • Email signatures
  • Store signage
  • Printed collateral

If you have G+ account, consider downloading your content and deleting the account.

The Lesson to Small Businesses: Be Strategic with Your Online Presence

The shutdown of G+ shows how disposable social media networks can be.

As we’ve seen with G+, Facebook and other social media networks, features for businesses come and go based on decision totally out of your control.

If you’re building your total online business presence on social media networks, you could be a corporate whim or an accounting decision away from losing it.

The best strategy for your online presence is to build it first with something you own—and control. Post your content, articles, tips on your website then push it out to your online outposts—the social media networks your target market is using.

Reach Out for Help on Tasks

If auditing your marketing materials for G+ logos and updating your website and printed collateral is now another task on a long list you’re trying to get through—consider delegating.

Give Business Solutions Unlimited a call today at (904) 429-4588 and let us help you with that…and more.

Small Business Owners: How to Avoid Being a Victim of Identity Theft

Small Business Owners: How to Avoid Being a Victim of Identity Theft

Identity thieves seem to be working overtime these days at the expense of both consumers and businesses.

In 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud amounting to $16.8 billion stolen from the wallets of consumers. AV-TEST, an independent research institute for IT security, registers 350,000 new malware programs every day. The number of data breaches in 2018 alone is staggering with major companies like Facebook, Google, Saks, Lord & Taylor, Panera and Orbitz reporting stolen data.

While much attention is paid to consumer identity theft, the danger to small business owners can be even more perilous as both their personal and business identity could be at risk.

Small Business Owners Face Multiple Threats When it Comes to Identify Theft

As individuals, small business owners are just as susceptible to having their personal identity stolen as anyone else.

According to Experian, identity theft can have the following devastating effects on victims:

Monetary: 40% of identity theft victims incur an average $600 out of pocket expenses (even after banks and credit cards absorbed ID theft losses). Losses from debit cards may include the entire amount stolen by criminals.

Time: It could take an average six months to recover your identity—time spent from your job or business.

Lower Credit Scores: ID theft criminals opening new credit accounts in your name can negatively impact your credit. It’s also time-consuming for you to dispute charges made on a fraudulent credit account.

Emotional: 75% of ID theft victims reported being severely distressed over the misuse of their personal information. Feelings include fear, embarrassment, powerlessness & helplessness. In some cases, victims had suicidal thoughts.

Arrest:  ID theft criminals could conduct illegal acts under your identity, leading to police knocking on your door. An unjustified arrest record could take months to resolve.

As a small business owner, you’re especially enticing to business identity theft criminals. Businesses generally have:

  • Larger bank accounts
  • High credit limits
  • Business information readily available online
  • Multiple vendor accounts
  • Employees with access to all of the above information

Basically, identity thieves don’t have to work as hard to steal valuable and vital business identity information for the amount of wealth they can access. Plus, they are less likely to be noticed before they can do substantial financial damage to your business.

Beyond business identity theft, small business owners could be more susceptible to the data breach threats larger corporations face. According to Verizon, 58% of malware attack victims are categorized as small businesses.

Most small businesses do not have the same resources and larger corporations to prevent data breaches—a fact criminals frequently exploit. The sensitive information they can obtain can impact the small business’ customers and employees alike.

Data breaches can leave small businesses open to:

  • Costly legal issues
  • Time-consuming efforts to resolve customer credit issues
  • Damage to their reputation and lost business

How Small Businesses Can Avoid Being an Identity Theft Victim

Unfortunately, if any part of your small business is online or you conduct business electronically, you’re open to identity theft.

However, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Use Security Software: Make sure your business uses the latest security software, firewall, and anti-virus protections.

Update Operating Systems and Software: Make sure your computer is using the latest operating system and software patches. Hackers are busy looking for vulnerable systems to attack and outdated operating systems and software can be their ticket into your business.

Update Business Registration Information: Your registration information is online. Keep your registration information up-to-date. Identity thieves are constantly looking for suspended or inactive companies for their illicit activities.

Encrypt: Be sure to encrypt all of your sensitive information such as tax records, client and vendor information.

Monitor: Check your bank and credit card accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Also, don’t forget to check your vendor accounts.

Avoid: Clicking on phishing emails or responding to unexpected phone calls from “officials.” Verify the authenticity of phone calls, standard mail, faxes or emails of questionable origin before responding.

Train: Take time for you and your employees to get educated on how identity thieves operate. A trained employee could stop an identity thief from damaging your business.

Too Busy? Delegate Your Tasks

We understand that small business owners have a lot on their plates already—especially if they have to keep looking over their shoulders for potential identity theft risks.

A virtual assistance firm like Business Solutions Unlimited can help take some of those tasks off your plate.

Feel free to give us a call at (904) 429-4588 and let’s see how we can help you with your business.