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Proposed Legislation Would Help Small Businesses Offer Employee Retirement Plans

March 22nd, 2012 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Do you wish you could offer your employees a retirement plan to help you compete against bigger employers with hefty benefits packages? A Senate panel is planning to introduce new legislation to make it easier for small business owners to offer their employees retirement plans without busting their budgets, reports USA Today.

According to data from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, just 36 percent of employees at companies with 10 to 100 employees had access to a company-sponsored retirement plan in 2011. In a survey by Nationwide Financial conducted late last year, 78 percent of small business owners said they would like to be able to offer a retirement plan so they can attract more qualified job candidates. And 37 percent said their own workers are pressuring them to offer a retirement plan.

The General Accounting Office (GAO) looked into reasons why smaller companies typically don’t offer retirement plans, and found that “economic uncertainty” was a big factor. In other words, companies want to feel confident they can maintain a certain level of profitability before they commit to sponsoring a retirement plan. In today’s upu-and-down economy, greater uncertainty about continued profitability may be making small business owners even more reluctant than usual to commit to retirement plans.

Considering all these factors, a Senate Special Committee on Aging has announced it will introduce legislation in the next few months that would enable small businesses to pool their resources and assets into multi-employer retirement plans with other small businesses. The plans would have qualified financial experts to handle the administrative and fiduciary duties that often intimidate small business owners, the committee said.

In reality, there are actually many different retirement plan options available to small businesses. There are even plans for sole proprietorships with no employees. Fidelity, Vanguard and ING Direct are among the companies offering small business retirement plans. But despite the options, there is still a widespread perception that such plans don’t exist, or that they are too costly or complex for small businesses to handle.

The changes proposed by the Senate committee would not only help small business employees, but also help small business owners. A recent survey by the American College showed that about one-third of small-business owners do not have a retirement plan such as a 401(k), SEP IRA or deferred annuity.

Image by Flickr user urban_data (Creative Commons)


Small Biz Resource Tip: Billtrust

March 2nd, 2012 ::


Get paid quickly and easily with Billtrust’s new Invoice Central, a cloud-based invoicing solution for small businesses and their vendors. Small businesses can receive and pay invoices from all their vendors at one website—saving time and helping keep vendors on track. It’s easy to send out reminders and schedule future payments. Choose from a variety of B2B and B2C billing options, and live-chat with Billtrust to answer any of your questions. You can also sign up for a CompleteBilling webinar to take you through the billing process step by step.

Small Biz Resource Tip: PayLane

February 9th, 2012 ::


If your website is not set up to take payments online, you could be missing out on a multitude of sales opportunities. But getting a merchant account can be costly and time-consuming.  PayLane is a customer-focused online payments provider that processes payments in currencies from over 50 countries and can simplify the merchant account process for your business. Customers can pay by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and PayPal, and your business pays lower fees than with traditional merchant accounts. Check out the PayLane Blog to see what insiders are saying about the features before you sign up.

Does This New IRS Form Affect Your Small Business?

January 31st, 2012 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Will your business be affected by the new 1099-K form the IRS is rolling out this year? Business Finance reports that businesses accepting payments by credit card, debit card, gift card or online payment options such as PayPal, you could be getting 1099-K forms in the mail.

The form or forms will be sent to you payment settlement entities such as banks if gross payments to your business by that entity in 2011 totaled 1) more than $20,000 and 2) more than 200 transactions. Payment settlement entities report the information to the IRS as well; the forms are due to small businesses by today, January 31.

The new reporting requirement was created as part of the Housing Assistance Tax Act of 2008 and is intended to make sure that merchants accurately report their income from credit and other payment cards. The goal is to increase compliance in reporting income among merchants, and over 10 years, the new requirement is expected to raise more than $9.5 billion in taxes on income that would otherwise have gone unreported or underreported.

Business Finance says the 1099-K forms will include contact information on both the entity filing the tax return and the payee; the gross amount of merchant card or third-party network payments the payee received in 2011, detailed by month. If your company gets a 1099-K, you must report the amounts on your business taxes.

If you sell products and services, you might get a 1099-K and a 1099-MISC reporting the sale of the same service, Business Finance notes. If so, you will have to contact the entity that issued the forms and ask them to correct the error, or they will be reporting your income twice to the IRS.

You can find detailed explanations about 1099-K forms and information on how to report the income on your tax forms at the IRS website.

Image Courtesy Karen Axelton



Small Biz Resource Tip: Wave Accounting

January 24th, 2012 ::

Wave Accounting

For many businesses just starting out, and even for those running operations with just a few employees, hiring an accountant is an unnecessary expense. Wave Accounting is a free online accounting solution that can help you with features such as unlimited invoicing, expense tracking, reporting, personal finance and more. Perfect for businesses with less than nine employees, Wave Accounting gives you multiuser and multi-business access and eliminates the pain of manual entries for many business transactions. To enable the solution for free, Wave offers business suppliers a place on their site to offer you other needed business solutions.

Small Biz Resource Tip: IRS: Starting, Operating, or Closing a Business

January 5th, 2012 ::

IRS: Starting, Operating, or Closing a Business

No matter what stage your business is in, it’s important to know what the legal requirements are, especially when it comes to paying taxes. The IRS website has dedicated information to help small business owners navigate through the confusing waters of tax compliance. If you’re starting out you can find out the tax implications of each type of business structure (corporation, LLC, etc.) plus how to select an accounting method and retirement plan. Other sections include operating a business (employment taxes and deductible business expenses) and information on closing a business, such as what documents need filing and what to do with revenue received.


Is It Time to Change Business Banks?

November 24th, 2011 ::

By Karen Axelton

Recently the Occupy Wall Street movement’s Bank Transfer Day made headlines nationwide. The event encouraged consumers to move their bank accounts from big multinational banks to credit unions in protest over rising bank fees. Inspired by this movement, is it time for your small business to consider changing its banking relationship?

Moving from a big bank to a smaller one or vice versa isn’t necessarily the right move for your business, but Bank Transfer Day is a good reminder that you should regularly evaluate every vendor you work with to make sure they’re still providing what you need. Your business bank is no different. What should you ask? Here are some factors to consider when making your evaluation.

Fees: Has your bank recently raised its fees? This alone isn’t an indicator that you should move, but you do need to consider what you’re getting in return for the fees and how easy it is to avoid fines or fees.

Convenience: If you need to physically visit the bank often to deposit checks or talk to a banker, how easy is it to do so? Is your bank located nearby? What kind of hours does it have?

Technology: Does your bank offer technology that can save you time and money, such as the ability to invoice clients electronically or make remote deposits? Do they help you learn to use the technology and is it affordable for your business?

Services: As your business grows, does the services your bank offers still keep pace with your needs? Maybe you’ve expanded into international trade and need more help in that area than your current bank can provide.

Personal Touch: Less tangible than many other considerations, the personal touch can be the biggest factor in a small business’s decision of where to bank. Do you have a banker you can talk to when you need help? Is your banker involved in your local community and does he or she take the time to get to know your business and your goals and dreams? Can your banker help with small business loans, lines of credit or other financial tools to expand your business?

The size of a bank or credit union shouldn’t be the deciding factor in your choice. While many small business owners like the community feel of local banks, bigger banks are making extra efforts to reach out to small business today. There are many choices in where to take your business, so if you feel that your current bank or credit union isn’t serving your interests, maybe it’s time to change.

Image Courtesy: Karen Axelton

Small Biz Resource Tip: IRS Small Business Workshops and Webinars

November 21st, 2011 ::

IRS Small Business Workshops and Webinars

There’s no excuse for letting your business get into hot water with the IRS—not when the agency provides workshops across the country to help small businesses understand and stay in compliance with federal tax laws. Most seminars are free to attend and are presented by IRS partners and federal tax specialists. Check the listings for your state, as topics vary from workshop to workshop. Workshops cover areas ranging from a general overview of tax laws to tips for good record-keeping to retirement plans. If you can’t get to a workshop, no problem: The Virtual Small Business Workshop is available on CD and online.


Small Biz Resource Tip: Visa SavingsEdge

November 18th, 2011 ::

Visa SavingsEdge

Enroll your Visa Business Card with the new Visa SavingsEdge program and your business can immediately take advantage of automatic discounts of up to 15 percent on business purchases. Participating merchants include Barnes & Noble, Days Inn, iContact, Sears PartsDirect and more. Visa SavingsEdge automatically processes discounts on small businesses’ qualifying purchases; businesses see the credit on their monthly statement. You can enroll up to 10 Visa cards in the program, so approved purchasers in your business can take advantage of the discounts as well.

Small Biz Resource Tip: Convert

October 27th, 2011 ::


Convert is a fun and useful app, especially for global business owners or world business travelers who need to know the currency conversion of whatever country they’re in. And it’s not just for money. If you’re still a little rusty on your metric system or need to know what time it is across the world, Convert can help you perform complicated unit conversions immediately. Currently only available for the iPhone, Convert costs only $2.99 and the interface is extremely easy to manipulate.