NASE Blogs

Saturday, February 20, 2010
Through the professional consultants NASE members have access to ... ShopTalk, TaxTalk, EstateTalk, and ABC’s of Finance ... we get thousands of questions every year on just about every business topic that you can imagine. While I can’t speak for the other pros who guide business owners ... I can offer insight on what’s in the minds of members who call ShopTalk. Without hesitation I can tell you that the #1 question we get is ... “What is the best business structure”? While the vast majority of businesses start-ups opt for a sole proprietorship, not taking advantage of a Limited ...
Friday, February 19, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Inc.'s Leigh Buchanan has compiled her list of 8 rules for working from home.  I think rule #7 is pretty smart - Buchanan's home has three phone numbers, with particular rings for family, kids and work calls.  If you had to make a list of your rules for working from home, what would be on it?  Leave us your top rule (or whole list!) in the comments!
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Posted by Kristin Oberlander - Small businesses realized $7 billion in first-year cost savings and $745 million in annually recurring savings as a result of fiscal year (FY) 2009 efforts to help agencies comply with the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA). The law requires agencies to review the economic impacts of proposed regulations on small entities and consider less burdensome alternatives. The figures are reported in the FY 2009 edition of the Office of Advocacy’s annual Report on the Regulatory Flexibility Act. In FY 2009, Advocacy reviewed hundreds of regulations to assess RFA compliance, convened numerous roundtables to solicit the priorities ...
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Posted by Kristie Arlsan - With policymakers pinning their hopes on small business to create jobs and improve our sluggish economy, our guest blogger Gene Severens responds to an opinion piece in the New York Times calling for a greater focus on entrepreneurship.  Gene highlights the challenges new entrepreneurs face when dealing with their first encounter with our federal government -- the dreaded IRS -- and discusses what could be done to faciliate the tax filing process for those newly entering self-employment. Gene is a private consultant, currently serving as Senior Advisor to the Self-Employment Tax Initiative, a project of ...
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Posted by Maureen Petron -- If you work from home (and a lot of NASE Members do), you could be developing bad habits that ruin your productivity. I was snowed in last week in the D.C. area, and spent my time with my laptop in yoga pants and a sweatshirt, at the kitchen table and within arms reach of fresh-baked sugar cookies. I think that puts me in violation of at least three of the five bad habits the Freelance Folder warns against. How do your work-at-home conditions stack up? Hat Tip: Freelance Folder
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Maybe it's a result of yet another snowstorm here in Washington, but this post at Design Milk about a backyard office caught my eye today.  I'm not sure if this is meant to serve as a business owner's sole home office or as a "satellite" office to the main home office, but I think it is a really neat idea! Do you currently have a backyard office?  Would you consider using this type of office for your business?  Let us know in the comments! [Design Milk]
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Q: I donated a very large amount of items to charitable organizations in my local areas. I have receipts from the charities, showing a value of approximately $9,000 in goods. Are there any limits to the amount of charitable donations I can deduct from my taxes? Can I carry over anything I am not able to deduct? Do I deduct these donations from my business income or personal? I am a self employed sole proprietor. A. There are limits to the amount that can be deducted in any one year. The limit is based on your adjusted gross income and ...
Monday, February 15, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Becky McCray at Small Biz Survival has written a great post about why the upcoming 2010 Census is important for you and your business. Did you know that information from this year's Census will impact things like federal grants and economic development efforts in your community for the next 10 years?  The Census form is comprised of only 10 questions, and it is unlawful for the Census Bureau to share any information you provide with any other government agency, including law enforcement.  For more information, read McCray's post and check out the 2010 Census Web ...
Friday, February 12, 2010
Even if you own your own business, you are a customer too ... and as customers we have a responsibility to let our comrades in business know how we think they are doing. After all, unless we know what's in the minds of our customers, how are we supposed to offer better products and services? While I have never been shy about offering my opinions … usually when a business has done a nice job or taken especially good care of me … if a business does something that really gets my attention, I make the time to let the ...
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Robb Mandelbaum of The New York Times' You're The Boss blog was surprised to learn that the lender that has made the fifth-most ARC loans is the Peoples Bank of Mississippi.  According to the FDIC, this community bank had $192 million in assets at the end of September, ranking 3,342nd-largest (out of 8,109 banks operating) in the United States. Perhaps regulators have taken notice of the activity at Peoples Bank as well, as John Tozzi of The New Entrepreneur highlights a statement issued by regulators calling on banks to evaluate giving credit to a business ...
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Posted by Maureen Petron -- If you're in the Mid-Atlantic region like me, you're snowed in. Hopefully you work from a home office anyway, and your business operations haven't been too affected by the storms. But even if you are operational, some of your clients, suppliers or customers may not be. Which is why this is the perfect week to get cracking on your taxes. The NASE has a lot of resources to help, which are all online -- so long as your power is back on you can access all of our tools. The certified public accountants at TaxTalk ...
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Q: I purchased a new truck for my business in May 2009.  It is an asset, and I am wondering how much of the purchase price I can deduct from my income this year. Do I depreciate it?  Do I get to deduct any mileage for business expenses or is it limited to depreciation only?   A: The business use of your vehicle would be a deductible expense to the extent that it is indeed used for business. As you might have guessed, the personal usage of your car, including commute mileage, would not be deductible. There are two basic ...
Thursday, February 04, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - The Obama Administration recently released its $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal year 2011.  In addition to proposals to overhaul the health care system and energy policies, the budget includes more money for education, civilian research, food and drug safety and biomedical research. Along with $33 billion for a small business wages tax cut to encourage hiring and wage increases, the budget also has a proposal to change regulations relating to the use of independent contractors. We want to know how this proposal will impact you and your business - please take this month's survey and ...
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Posted by Keith Hall -- I’m taking TaxTalk on the road in March and April and visiting 16 cities across the country – hopefully coming to an area near you. Attend a TaxTalk seminar and let us help you navigate your business taxes – learn tips to save your  micro-business money, network with micro-business owners and get a free copy of the book I co-authored, “Schedule C: From A to Z.”   The seminar is great for those new to self-employment, because we can teach you how to expense start up costs, and explain the most common sole proprietor tax ...
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
I’m taking TaxTalk on the road in March and April and visiting 16 cities across the country – hopefully coming to an area near you. Attend a TaxTalk seminar and let us help you navigate your business taxes – learn tips to save your  micro-business money, network with micro-business owners and get a free copy of the book I co-authored, “Schedule C: From A to Z.”   The seminar is great for those new to self-employment, because we can teach you how to expense start up costs, and explain the most common sole proprietor tax forms.   And if you’ve been in ...
Monday, February 01, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson -Since 2006, the NASE has awarded over $400,000 to member businesses who have a specific business need, but lack the finances to carry out that goal.  If your business could use some access to capital in 2010, you may be in luck - the NASE's Business Development Grant program is now accepting applications for 2010 awards! To be eligible for an NASE grant, you must: Be an NASE Member in good standing Demonstrate a business need that could be fulfilled by the grant Provide a detailed explanation of how you will use the grant proceeds Show ...
Friday, January 29, 2010
Posted by Kristie Arslan -  The pundits were at their best in recent weeks with unending speculation on the possible focus of President Obama's first State of the Union speech.  With the speech behind us, now begins the incessant analysis of his remarks.  While pundits dissect the President's words, our nation's smallest businesses are more concerned about his actions. State of the Union speeches are usually remembered more for their soaring rhetoric than their policy implications, but the President’s speech included policy announcements that warrant further investigation on their potential impacts for the self-employed. I was pleased to hear the President reference that ...
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Are you planning on watching President Obama's first State of the Union address this evening? Let us know in the comments what provisions for small business you hope the President will outline, and check back tomorrow for the NASE's take on the speech and the priorities the President discusses.  In addition to the speech being televised on the major networks at 9pm EST, the White House is offering a live webstream of the speech and the opportunity for anyone to submit a follow-up question after the speech begins.  The President will be having an online ...
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Worried about tax time? Ok, ok, who isn’t? And tax year 2009 might be even more daunting for a lot of you, filing business taxes for the first time. Whether by choice or out of necessity, many individuals are starting the process of filling out tax forms for their brand-new small business. They’ll be glad to know that the NASE can help. There’s a lot going on at www.NASE.org to help with your taxes. At the Knowledge Center, you can read (and subscribe to) the TaxTalk blog. You can ask your own personal question of the TaxTalk CPAs. Home Office ...
Monday, January 25, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Rieva Lesonsky wrote an interesting article at Small Business Trends on recent research from The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute that shows that by 2018 women entrepreneurs will be responsible for creating between 5 million and 5.5 million new jobs nationwide, accounting for more than half of the 9.7 million new jobs the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects small businesses to create in that time. If you're looking for ways to get started on that growth, Strategic Growth Concepts suggests some social networking sites for women entrepreneurs to connect with each other and share ...
Monday, January 25, 2010
Q: I’ve been self-employed for two years and finally want to start a retirement plan in 2010. Where can I get tax information on different types of plans? A: The IRS Retirement Plans Navigator is a guide devoted specifically to retirement plans for self-employed individuals and small employers. It’s available online at www.retirementplans.irs.gov. At the site, you can do a side-by-side comparison of nine different plans. The comparison shows you attributes such as contribution limits, whether an annual tax return is required, whether you can take a loan from the plan, and more. The site also provides detailed information on ...
Friday, January 22, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Looking to your state or even local community may be a good bet for financial assistance for your small business. This Entrepreneur article notes that while aid may be slow coming from the federal government, some states and local areas may be able to help small businesses with funds from the stimulus or from nonprofits and other organizations. In addition, the NASE's Business Development Grant program will begin accepting applications for 2010 awards on February 1st, so be sure to apply if your business could use a little financial boost! [States Step up with Small-Business ...
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Don't be afraid of small business set-asides and government contracting!  Or so advise the experts.  The Industry Word blog says that there are enough socioeconomic set-aside programs to go around, but that businesses of different sizes or structures may need to cooperate to make it work.  Federal contracting is also first on Dawn Rivers Baker's list of microbusiness opportunities for 2010 over at Small Business Trends.  Be sure to check out the links she offers as well as the other items on her list!  [Uncovering the Government’s Hidden Treasure, Top Microbusiness Opportunities for 2010]
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Ever wondered if your city or town was considered fertile ground for launching a small business?  If so, you're in luck as Fortune Small Business and the Kauffman Foundation have compiled a list of the top 50 locations to start a business.  Check out the list and the reasons why each location made it at CNNMoney. Is your city or town missing from Fortune's list?  Give us some information on your area and why it's great for small business in the comments! [Best places to launch]
Friday, January 15, 2010
Posted by Jim Ferguson - NASE EstateTalk   While those who die in 2010 won’t have their estates taxed they might be leaving their heirs a different set of problems to solve:   As you probably know, estates of those who die in 2010 currently won’t be subject to any federal estate tax.  In other words, if you die in 2010, regardless of how large the value of your adjusted gross estate, the federal tax on your estate will be $0.00.  You probably also know that, in the past, those who inherited assets took those assets at a new stepped-up basis equal ...
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Fraud isn't just a problem for characters on Law & Order.  According to this Small Business Trends article, "The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) survey conducted earlier this year reported that more than half (55.4 percent) of respondents said the level of fraud has slightly or significantly increased in the previous 12 months compared to the level of fraud they investigated or observed in years prior." Yikes!  Check out the article for steps you can take to protect your business.   [Small Business Trends]
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Prior to preparation of the 2009 tax forms, the self-employed and micro-businesses (fewer than 10 employees) should be aware of a few tax law changes, including alterations to the standard mileage rate and the self-employment tax. “January is a great time to get a jump on your 2009 tax return,” said Keith Hall, national tax advisor for the NASE. “The earlier a business owner can get organized, the more likely he or she will have the time to investigate eligibility requirements for additional tax benefits.” The following tax law changes relate to 2009 returns: Homebuyer Credits – If you operate ...
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Q: I’m starting a pet sitting business this year. Can you tell me what kinds of records I should keep for tax purposes? A: Congratulations on your new business and welcome to the world of self-employment. Different kinds of businesses must keep different types of records for federal tax purposes. For your specific pet sitting business, here’s a general checklist of the receipts and records you should keep. To document your income, keep bank deposit slips, invoices issued to customers, a receipt book if you accept cash as payment, credit card slips (if you accept payment by credit cards) and ...
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Posted by Maureen Petron -- The NASE recognizes how important health coverage is for micro-businesses and their families. We believe that micro-businesses deserve to have access to a health care plan that fits their needs and their budget. That’s why we have been working to expand the number of health care choices we make available to our members. Today we’re excited to announce that the NASE has teamed up with UnitedHealthcare’s Golden Rule Insurance Company to offer new personal health insurance choices to entrepreneurs, micro-business owners and other self-employed businesspeople in 20 states and Washington, D.C. The health plans through ...
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Similar to a story from last summer about small businesses in New Orleans, the New York Times has put a spotlight on small businesses in what some might argue is the city that has been hit hardest by the recession, Detroit.  From a hair salon to a movie theater, the entrepreneurs in this article have done their best to make their businesses successful despite Detroit's economic woes.  Many of the small business owners in the article cite a love for the city and a desire to help revitalize it as a driving factor for starting ...
Monday, January 11, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Implementing green business practices can seem like a daunting task, but being more energy-conscious could help the environment as well as your bottom line.  The Department of Energy has information on how to save energy in your home and office.  The Department's Energy Savers Web site provides a wealth of information, including instructions on how to conduct a DIY energy audit.    If you're not sure where to begin, consider starting a checklist with one or two items from this Small Business Trends article.  [Department of Energy, Small Business Trends]
Friday, January 08, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Are you a small business owner in a small town or rural area?  If you are, Becky McCray of Small Biz Survival has written a top 10 list for rural small businesses on Small Business Trends that is likely pertinent to your business, and also one of the few top 10 lists that is worth your while to read! Have you experienced any trends that you would add to McCray's list for the coming year?  Let us know in the comments!   [Small Business Trends, Small Biz Survival]
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - Are you planning on hiring in 2010?  The NASE wants to know!  Fill out our January survey here. If hiring isn't what you are thinking about, but another small business issue is, the NASE is still here for you.  Share your experiences, thoughts and concerns with us at Tell Your Story. We would love to hear from you! 
Monday, January 04, 2010
With unemployment remaining high, policymakers have turned their eye to small business as the sector to boost our economy and create jobs.  Yet, many business owners, especially the self-employed and micro-businesses (fewer than 10 employees), feel that expanding in this current economic climate is a big risk and one they are not sure they want to take.  Many have experienced sluggish sales, diminished revenue, and access to credit hard to come by, leaving them to make tough decisions regarding their business. What do you think needs to be done to improve our economy?  What would encourage you to expand your ...
Monday, January 04, 2010
Q: I have a storefront and also sell over the Internet. I discovered a Web site using an almost identical URL as mine, and the company sells similar items. The only difference is that my URL is a .com, and the other company’s is a .net. How can I stop this business from using my Internet identity? A: Your situation is not uncommon, but unless your domain name includes a trademarked identity (like Microsoft, for instance), it’s unlikely you can prevent the other business from using the name. This is one reason why, when creating an Internet identity, it’s good ...
Monday, January 04, 2010
Posted by Molly Nelson - How secure is your business' information?  If you're not sure, do you really want to wait until confidential or proprietary information is compromised to find out?  To test the security of your information before someone unscrupulous comes along and tries to access it without your knowledge, Inc. suggests that you invest in the services of an ethical hacker.  For a fee (often dependent on the size of the company), ethical hackers will test infrastructure, behavior and for leaks, leaving you armed with knowledge and a plan to protect your business from hackers lacking the "ethical" ...
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - The NASE Staff would like to wish all of our readers a happy, healthy and successful New Year!  We know that there are many blogs out there, and we so appreciate that you choose to spend some of your time with us.  We hope you will continue reading and commenting in 2010, and please don't hesitate to let us know what information or features would make the blog more useful for you and your business. 
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Q: We want to change the name of our limited liability company. Can we do it ourselves without having to pay an attorney? A: Changing the name of a limited liability company (LLC) isn’t complicated and in most cases can be done without the help of an attorney. First, go to the secretary of state office in the state where the LLC was formed. The corporate filings section at your secretary of state Web site will tell you what steps you must take to file a name change for your LLC. After you understand what steps must be taken, you ...
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Q: Can I withdraw money from my retirement plan without penalty if I use the money to buy my first home? A: Generally, any withdrawals that you make from a qualified retirement plan before you reach age 59 ½ are subject to a 10-percent penalty. There are exceptions to the rule, but not for buying a first-time home. However, depending on the type of retirement plan you have, you may be able to borrow money from your plan to purchase your first home. Your plan administrator should have written information that explains when you can borrow funds. If your retirement ...
Monday, December 28, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - You may have noticed that the NASE Staff (and thus the NASE Staff Blog) took a bit of a break last week.  We hope that as 2009 winds down you are able to take a breather as well.  Check out some of last week's news and tips from the small business world to give you a break from all of that New Year's Eve party planning: Dealing With a Customer Who Wants a Better Price - New York Times Toolkit SBA, Dell Team Up for New Small-Business Video Series - Small Business Trends 7 Ways ...
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Posted by Kristie Arslan - Well, this long process of crafting health reform legislation in the Senate is about to come to the close this week.  The Senate is expected to vote on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590) on Christmas Eve and it looks likely that the Democratic leadership will get their victory.  After a long and arduous battle, NASE's efforts to gain more immediate, bottom line cost savings for the self-employed were unsuccessful.  The NASE strongly supported the inclusion of Senate Amendment 3013, offered by Senators Landrieu, Lincoln, Stabenow, Shaheen, and Bayh, which would have ...
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - At the end of this anecdote from Becky McCray at Small Biz Survival, she asks if the amount of free information she offered to a potential client about her services as a consultant was too much, not enough or just right.  McCray frames her dilemma as where a consultant should draw the line between charging for work and doing it for free.  Having only offered my consulting services for free (those shoes are FABULOUS!), this problem sounds unfortunately very difficult to answer.  While I in no way mean to be flip in my characterization of ...
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Q: I am a first year sole proprietor (home bakery). I very much want to start preparing myself for tax season. Honestly though, being completely new to this, I'm not sure where to start. What can I claim? What documents should be ready for my tax advisor? My company also has donated a lot over this year. Would you at least be able to point me in the right direction? A: Thanks for your question and for using NASE TaxTalk. Congratulations on your new venture and don’t forget that most of the economic growth in this country comes from small-business ...
Monday, December 21, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Unsure of how to be productive during those times each year when business slows down?  Karyn Greenstreet of Self-Employed Success has done some of the work for you and created a to do list of things you can do to make the best use of this time. Have anything to add to the list?  Let us know in the comments.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Via Small Business Trends, here is some information and advice on how to deal with business credit cards in the coming year.  Some highlights: better personal credit is a must to get a business credit card, and personal banking relationships are more likely to help in the effort to procure a card. Read the whole post for all of the details.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Q: We have an employee who is pocketing hundreds of dollars worth of client checks that are payable to our company. How should we approach this so that he doesn’t disappear and we can get our money back? If we don’t recover the money, are we still responsible for doing the work clients paid for with the checks they gave him? A: Sadly it’s unlikely you will ever recover your money from this kind of theft. Even though you did not actually receive the money from your clients, you are liable for performing the work. The employee was a representative ...
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Karen E. Klein of BusinessWeek advises a consultant on how much to charge for their services with some help from the NASE's own ShopTalk 800 consultant Gene Fairbrother.  Do you have questions about running your business?  Ask ShopTalk here.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Season's greetings!  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wanted to remind you that all three of the nationwide consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) are required by law to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. If you don't regularly look at your credit report, this might be a very timely present, especially because the nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your credit report to creditors, insurers, employers and other businesses, and if they know what is in your credit report you should ...
Monday, December 14, 2009
Q: I have a 1-year-old business and need a simple way to determine my break-even point. I also need determine whether I need to adjust my prices and expenses or find more customers to manage my cash flow and get my profits up. A: Here is a link for understanding and calculating break-even: . While I don’t dissuade you from using break-even calculations, they are a low priority for the ongoing financial management of a business. The most critical financial management tool for any business is the profit and loss (P&L) statement. Your monthly and year-to-date P&L information is the ...
Monday, December 14, 2009
Q: I want to purchase a small business. How do I know how much it’s worth? A: Valuing a small business can be quite a challenge. Having an appraisal done will give you the most accurate estimate of the value. But, most small-business buyers find this process far too expensive. Without an impartial appraisal, you’ll need to investigate and evaluate the business. Obtain tax returns, balance sheets and other financial documents. Also get copies of any ongoing loans, contracts or leases. Ask your tax or financial advisor to review these documents with you. If the business owns significant assets such ...