The Best Apps and Platforms for Controlling Business Expenses

As a small business owner, the more you can stay organized, improve daily operations, control business expenses, and generally make life as an entrepreneur run a little more smoothly, the more proficient and prolific your business will become. Below are some top-rated apps and programs available to help you manage your business’s financial situation.

Mint

Though it’s intended mainly for individual users, this financial tracking app is effective for businesses too. Aside from tracking bills and cash flow, Mint also has Quicken MyBusiness, a tool for small businesses that helps categorize expenses, and gives you up-front information for tax filing.

QuickBooks

With the ability to connect to your bank account, PayPal, Square, credit cards, and more, you can use QuickBooks to track sales and expenses, view financial statements, pay employees and vendors, track unpaid invoices, maximize tax deductions, and more. With QuickBooks Online, you can access QuickBooks on both iOS and Android phones and tablets.

FreshBooks

For businesses and freelancers alike, cloud-based FreshBooks helps you create personalized invoices, with an option to automatically bill clients for recurring invoices, and generate customizable business reports, such as profit and loss statements. You can also automate tasks like organizing expenses and receipts, tracking your time, and following up with clients.

Wave

Created for businesses with nine or fewer employees, Wave is an accounting software platform that has the ability to track sales and expenses; manage invoices, customer payments, and payroll; scan receipts; and generate accounting reports. With Wave’s free apps for iOS and Android, you can send invoices on the go, and get notified when an invoice is viewed, becomes due, or gets paid. Also available through the platform is a free personal finance software to help small-business owners manage their finances in one place.

Truebill

Once you connect your accounts to the Truebill app, it will generate a report of where your money is going, categorizing and charting subscriptions and expenses. An added bonus with Truebill is a feature that compares your bills and subscriptions to average service levels, and with your initiation, will call providers and negotiate on your behalf.

Xero

Intended for small and mid-sized businesses, this accounting app (accessible by both desktop and mobile platforms) can handle payments and expenses, asset management, bank account reconciliation, invoicing and purchase orders, sales tax calculations, and multi-currency accounting.

PlanGuru

If you’re looking for a forecasting program to help with strategic planning and analysis, PlanGuru might be a good fit. It’s pricey, with business plans starting at $99 per month, but with an analytics dashboard, Excel add-on, a budget and forecasting platform, and training, it might be worth the cost to keep business spending in check.

Expensify

This simple expense tracker uses multiple platforms to keep tabs on expenses and mileage by reading and importing expenses from linked bank accounts and credit cards. And with the ability to scan and upload receipts, expenses can easily be submitted to employers.

InDinero

This bookkeeping service halts the need to invest in big bookkeepers and implements tax services for small businesses. It also helps with forecasting by syncing with bank accounts and credit cards to predict future cash flow determined by current trends and previous expenses.

What to Do If You Owe Taxes to the IRS

What happens when you file your taxes and discover that you owe money to the IRS? What are your options? What about when the amount owed is greater than you can afford at the moment? Luckily, there are several options for both scenarios.

Before we get into the different options for making payments to the IRS, remember that your payment has to be received by the IRS no later than the April 15th tax deadline, or be prepared for IRS-issued tax penalties and interest. This deadline applies to those who filed for a tax extension as well.

Below are the different payment options available to pay the IRS.

Automatic Withdraw

If you have the funds available when you file, you can have them automatically withdrawn from your bank account when you e-file and choose the e-pay option. This is available whether you use tax preparation software or an accounting professional to do your taxes.

Direct Pay

The IRS has a “Direct Pay” service through its website, where you can pay from your checking or savings account at no cost. In order to track your payment, use the “Look Up a Payment” tool on the website or enable email notifications.

Credit or Debit

The IRS provides three third-party payment processors on its website through which you can pay your balance using a credit or debit card either online or by phone. They do charge a small service fee, which may be tax-deductible, and your credit card company may charge a fee as well.

Check or Money Order

Make checks payable to the United States Treasury and include your social security number or employer identification number, phone number, related tax form or notice number, and the tax year in the memo field. Send your check with a Form 1040-V, which is a payment voucher found on the IRS website, but don’t paperclip or staple your check to the voucher. You’ll find the correct mailing address for your check on page two of Form 1040-V.

Pay in Person

If you want to be absolutely sure that your payment is getting to the IRS on time, you can pay in person at your local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center, which can be located on the IRS website. You will need to schedule an appointment before you go.

Wire Service

Check with your bank to see if they offer same-day wire transfer payable to the IRS. Be sure to ask about cut-off times and fees for this service.

What if you don’t have the full amount now? Luckily, the IRS offers two installment plans – a short-term plan and a long-term plan – which you can apply for online with the Installment Agreement Request (Form 9465). Which plan you qualify for depends on how much you owe and your specific tax situation. There is an application fee, and once approved the IRS can void the agreement if you don’t stay on schedule with payments.

Another option is to request a temporary delay from the IRS. You might have to fill out a Collection Information Statement and provide transparent information on your personal finances, and penalties and interest will factor in until the amount is paid in full.

Finally, you can offer to settle for a smaller amount than what’s owed, but the IRS encourages taxpayers to consider all other options before submitting an offer to settle. If you decide to go this route, you will need to be current on your tax filings and not involved in an open bankruptcy proceeding. To determine if you qualify, the IRS will take into account your income, expenses, ability to pay, and asset equity.

This is When You Should Start Collecting Social Security

As you approach retirement you’re probably going to be asking yourself when to collect social security benefits. After all, the longer you wait, the more money you can secure. For instance, as long as you’ve paid into the program for 40 quarters (or roughly 10 years), you can start collecting as early as age 62, though full social security retirement age ranges from 65 to 67 for people born after 1943. If you can hold off a few more years, however, your benefit increases by about 8% every year until age 70.

Experts recommend that one thing to look at is whether or not you can afford to wait. Do you have financial flexibility with other assets that can cover your expenses, or do you need the extra monthly payment to keep with the lifestyle to which you’ve grown accustomed? If it’s the latter, you may be forced to withdraw sooner or make changes to your lifestyle. What about existing investments? If you collect early, your investments can grow longer, but they would have to grow by at least 8% a year just to equalize the loss from collecting early.

As you decide when to start withdrawing social security, take into account the age at which you’re planning to retire. If you’re still in the workforce when you become eligible to receive benefits, you can start collecting social security. However, there are some potential downsides to consider. For example, if you haven’t reached your full retirement age, you lose $1 for every $2 you earn above the $15,480.00 earning limit. Your benefits are recalculated to recover those lost benefits once you reach full retirement age, but it can take up to 15 years just to restore the loss.

Another consideration to look at is your marriage status. If you’re married, experts recommend that the higher earner in the marriage hold off on collecting benefits for as long as possible. However, it’s possible for the higher earner to file for benefits at retirement age and then suspend them, which could allow your spouse to collect a spousal benefit equal to ½ of your full retirement benefit. Meanwhile, your benefit continues to grow until age 70.

Lastly, consider your health. If you’re in poor health, you might be better off taking benefits early. According to the Social Security Administration, if you live to the average life expectancy for your age, you’ll get about the same amount of benefits no matter when you start collecting. The longer you live beyond that age, the more you’ll benefit by delaying payments.

With so many factors to consider, there is no “right” age to start collecting social security benefits, so just be sure that you’re making an informed decision when the time comes.

Successful Entrepreneurs Can Benefit Small Businesses

Big Leadership Mindset: How the Practices and Philosophies of the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs Can Benefit Small Businesses

Self-made millionaires and billionaires don’t just happen by luck or chance, though sometimes luck and chance play a role. In large part, the world’s leading entrepreneurs demonstrate that innovation, perseverance, and strategic investments – in business and in life – are common denominators for lasting success.

Take Care of Your People and Your Customers

“The key to success in business is all about people, people, people,” says billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson. “It should go without saying, if you look after your people, your customers and bottom line will be rewarded too.” Real estate entrepreneur and software business leader Tej Kohli agrees. “While strategy, market positioning, and coming up with a long-term plan are all important, focus on making the individual sales and creating happy customers. None of that strategic planning is any good if you can’t keep the lights on because you’re not making enough sales.”

Do the Work

“There are no shortcuts,” says Mark Cuban. “You have to work hard and try to put yourself in a position where if luck strikes, you can see the opportunity and take advantage of it.” This sentiment echoes the formula for success of deceased oil tycoon J. Paul Getty: “Rise early, work hard, strike oil.”

Take Risks

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk,” says Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. “In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.” But there’s a difference between playing smart and taking risks just for the sake of risks. Heed the warning of Warren Buffet, who says, “Never invest in a business you cannot understand. Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.”

Shake Things Up

John D. Rockefeller said, “If you want to succeed, you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel the worn paths of accepted success.” And Groupon co-founder Brad Keywell agrees. “I’ve been involved with companies that hit dead ends, had business ideas I couldn’t get off the ground, been in situations that I desperately wanted to succeed but were on a path to failure. But each setback and adversity could be traced back to the same flawed plan: I had approached the game the way it had always been played.”

Think Long Term

In an age of get-rich-quick schemes, it’s important to remember that there are no shortcuts to lasting success. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has said that Amazon’s decisions are based on its goal of long-term market leadership – not short-term profits. “Long-term thinking levers our existing abilities and lets us do new things we couldn’t otherwise contemplate,” said Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. “Seek instant gratification – or the elusive promise of it – and chances are you’ll find a crowd there ahead of you.”

Play to Your Strengths

Media CEO Gary Vaynerchuk advises to forget about your weaknesses and bet on your strengths. Founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely agrees. “As soon as you can afford to, hire your weaknesses. What you’re not good at is usually what you don’t like.”

Embrace Failure

“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it’s more important to heed the lessons of failure,” says Bill Gates. “How a company deals with mistakes suggests how well it will bring out the best ideas and talents of its people, and how effectively it will respond to change.” Perhaps Gates took a play from inventor and businessman Thomas Edison’s playbook, who once said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

What the GOP’s New Tax Plan Could Mean For You

With their first plan shot down in Congress, the GOP has released another, broader tax framework as the Trump Administration attempts to shift the tax code. This new plan has many elements that Congress will need to hash out before anything is signed into law, but taxpayers of all income levels are wondering how this plan may affect them personally. Below are five major developments in the new plan that could affect you come tax season:

  1. Rate Shift
    Our current code has seven different income tax brackets, but the new plan would drop that number down to three: 12, 25 and 35 percent. Although the plan does not specify which income levels would be taxed at each new rate, the wealthy would likely see the greatest benefit since the current top bracket at 39.6% would drop to 35%. The current lowest bracket (at 10%) would see an increase to join the 12% bracket, but the plan claims to aid families in that bracket through an increase in the standard deduction and a greater child tax credit.
  1. Deduction Increase (for most)
    For many taxpayers, the new plan would almost double the current standard deduction. Filers who claim multiple children would not see as high of a increase, but could potentially see that offset by a steeper child tax credit. Presently, about 70% of taxpayers take the standard deduction as it is higher than itemizing. However, experts believe that number would increase significantly if the standard deduction is doubled. The GOP’s plan would remove other deductions to offset the increased standard deduction, but the charitable contribution and mortgage interest deductions would be kept.
  1. Some Taxes and Deductions Eliminated Entirely
    The largest deduction that would meet its end with the new GOP plan is the local and state tax deduction. This deduction is often taken in states where taxes, and average income, is higher, states that are often Democratic. Other taxes that would be eliminated include the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax for those who inherit funds in excess of $5.49 million.
  1. New Tax Rate for “Pass-Through” Businesses
    S corporations, sole proprietorships and partnerships could see a new tax rate at 25% under the new plan. Currently, those “pass-through” businesses pay at the individual rate of their owners, and those businesses make up about 95% of the nation’s business demographic. Although many business owners currently pay a rate lower than 25%, just under 2% of those business owners pay the top rate of 39.6%, which means they could see a significant drop in rate if they are permitted to incorporate as a “pass-through.”
  1. Change in the Corporate Tax Code
    The current plan taxes corporations at 35%, but the new plan would drop that rate to 20%. To offset this steep drop in rate, the proposal submits to eliminate certain business deductions and credits. The plan suggests that the deduction for domestic production could be eliminated, while maintaining exceptions for low income housing and research and development, but leaves many of those choices up to Congress.

 

Congress must still comb through the GOP’s newest plan and make adjustments before a finalized plan is voted upon, so taxpayers should prepare for more adjustments to be made before anything is signed into law. As developments arise, MKR will continue to keep our clients up to date in future newsletters.

Effective Ways to Protect Your Credit After the Equifax Breach

Although Equifax has yet to reveal specifics about the individuals who were affected by their data breach, as many as 143 million Americans may have been impacted. With that in mind, anyone with credit should consider taking measures to protect their identity and funds. Many experts are suggesting individuals freeze their credit, but this may not be the most effective method. While freezing your credit is not a bad decision, it only protects you from new accounts being opened in your name, a form of identity theft that is actually quite rare.

While many taxpayers are now deeply concerned about their lives being destroyed from identity theft, there are many other ways to guard your identity and your money that may be more beneficial than freezing your credit:

  • Use two-step verification and secure passwords
    Most identity theft occurs on existing accounts, so making it difficult for hackers to access your accounts with financial information is one step you can take to safeguard your personal data.
  • Choose ID-verification questions and answers cautiously
    Consider choosing questions whose answers cannot be easily found online. Questions such as “Where were you born?” or “What was your high school mascot?” could be easily discovered by checking your social media accounts, so be wise when creating those protective measures.
  • Monitor current accounts as often as possible
    Ideally, you should check your bank accounts daily to ensure all posted charges were made by you or whoever has access to the account. Since most financial institutions today have an app for accessing account information, monitoring your credit can be as simple as a quick log on from your phone. If you notice suspicious activity, you can then notify your bank immediately to avoid racking up more false charges.
  • Set up alerts for new credit activity
    Although you can set up a fraud alert or credit freeze, there are other free services that monitor your credit and any new account openings or activity.
  • Check credit reports regularly
    Every individual is allowed one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com, a site sponsored by the government. You can receive all three reports at once, or request one every 4 months to space out your monitoring tactics.
  • File taxes early
    One form of fraudulent behavior that is becoming more common is filing for taxes under someone else’s SSN. But, organizing your tax information quickly and filing as early as possible could lower the chances that someone will file in your name. Plus, if you are owed a refund, you will likely get it sooner than April if you file early.

While none of these methods are entirely foolproof, taking precautionary steps to protect your credit are always advised. If you do fall victim to identity theft, check out the Federal Trade Commission’s step-by-step recovery guide for helpful information.