Small business information, insight and resources | Tue, 23 Jan 2018 21:11:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Moving Due to Work? Here are Some Tax-Related Tips From the IRS | 2018 Tue, 23 Jan 2018 16:49:06 +0000

You or an employee may be able to deduct certain expenses related to moving to a new home if the move is related to your work. Here are some guidelines related to a work-related move, provided by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

(Note: As we always advise, each individual or small business can have unique circumstances that can impact the taxes you may or may not owe, so always seek advice from your trusted business, tax and financial advisor when making decisions about taxes.)

General guidelines

Home means the taxpayer’s main home | It does not include a seasonal home or other homes owned or kept up by the taxpayer or family members. Eligible taxpayers can deduct the reasonable expenses of moving household goods and personal effects and of traveling from the former home to the new home.

Reasonable expenses may include the cost of lodging while traveling to the new home | The unreimbursed cost of packing, shipping, storing and insuring household goods in transit may also be deductible.

Who can deduct moving expenses?

The move must closely relate to the start of work | Generally, taxpayers can consider moving expenses within one year of the date they start work at a new job location.

The distance test | A new main job location must be at least 50 miles farther from the employee’s former home than the previous job location. For example, if the old job was three miles from the old home, the new job must be at least 53 miles from the old home. A first job must be at least 50 miles from the employee’s former home.

The time test |  After the move, the employee must work full-time at the new job for at least 39 weeks in the first year. Those self-employed must work full-time at least 78 weeks during the first two years at the new job site.

Advice and resources from the IRS

Reimbursed expenses | If an employer reimburses the employee for the cost of a move, that payment may need to be included as income. The employee would report any taxable amount on their tax return in the year of the payment.

Form 3903, Moving ExpensesThe form you need to use to claim the moving expense deduction when filing a federal tax return.

Nondeductible expenses | Any part of the purchase price of a new home, the cost of selling a home, the cost of entering into or breaking a lease, meals while in transit, car tags and driver’s license costs are some of the items not deductible.

Recordkeeping | It is important that taxpayers maintain an accurate record of expenses paid to move. Save items such as receipts, bills, canceled checks, credit card statements, and mileage logs. Also, taxpayers should save statements of reimbursement from their employer.

Military moves | Different rules may apply to members of the Armed Forces or a retiree or survivor moving to the United States.

Address Change | After any move, update the address with the IRS and the U.S. Post Office. To notify the IRS file Form 8822, Change of Address.

Additional moving-related resources from the IRS


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Pace of Growth in Small Business Buy-Sell Transactions Reached Record High in 2017 Tue, 23 Jan 2018 15:57:34 +0000

The online business-for-sale marketplace recently reported that its 2017 small business transactions “insights report” recorded the largest year-over-year growth rate since 2013. The report is based on the voluntary participation of around 5,000 business brokers. The report is recognized as a leading indicator of overall trends in the buying and selling of small businesses.

Year-over-year comparison

For several years after the 2008-2009 “Great Recession,” business-ownership sales volume remained low as small businesses struggled financially and capital for financing remained tight, according to the report. Beginning in 2013, as the economy recovered, closed (or completed) transactions have steadily increased, however, 2017 represented a significant boost.

9,919 | Number of closed transactions reported in 2017
7,842 |
Number of closed transactions reported in 2016 surveyed over 5,000 business brokers to get their opinions about the small business transaction marketplace. When asked for the top reason for the increase in transactions, 28 percent of the brokers cited the improving small business environment, including strengthening revenue and profit numbers.

Brokers’ perception of business buyers and owners:

21% | Owners looking to sell
19% | Qualified buyers in the market

42% | Percentage of brokers who think the current market favors buyers
30% | Percentage of brokers who think the current market favors sellers
25% |  Percentage of brokers who think the market as balanced

Quarterly tracking of completed (closed) transactions (2014-2017)

2017 small business transactions by location and by industry (sector)


Photo by Serge Melki via Flickr (CC by 2.o)

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Ways a Government Shutdown Can Impact a Small Business Mon, 22 Jan 2018 15:08:21 +0000 Update: On Monday, January 22, the Senate voted to break the filibuster and reopen the government…for at least a few weeks. Later in the day, the House approved the measure and the President signed it into law. The temporary measure lasts until February 8.

shutdown of the United States federal government began at midnight on Saturday, January 20, 2018, after a failure to pass a relevant legislation funding bill for government operations and agencies. If the shutdown continues, here are some ways certain small businesses may be impacted.

(Partial list. Will be updated.)

Taxes | The IRS expects to keep just over 35,000 employees, or about 43.5 percent of its workforce, on the job during the shutdown. That cut to staffing could have an impact as the tax season kicks into high gear, potentially delaying refunds to taxpayers, or not being available to answer questions.

Postal Service | The U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations so deliveries will continue.

Business Travel | Airline passengers are not expected to feel much impact. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plans to have 53,865 of its 58,295 employees working during the shutdown. Air traffic control will not be affected.

Courts | U.S. Courts, including the Supreme Court, can continue to operate normally for about three weeks without additional funding.

SBA Loans | The processing of loans in some cases could be impacted. On its website, the SBA has warned that transactions may not be processed and that its staff will not be able to respond to inquiries until its funding is restored.

Food Inspections | Department of Agriculture food inspectors will continue to stay on the job.

Patents | The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) can remain open for a few weeks after the shut down since it will have access to fees already collected in prior years

Washington DC | Unlike in previous shutdowns, the local government in Washington, D.C. will continue operating through the shutdown, due to a provision enacted in the previous year’s appropriations legislation.

Military | All 1.3 million military personnel on active duty will remain on normal duty status. Civilian personnel in non-essential operations will be furloughed. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said a sustained funding impasse would cause ships to go without maintenance and aircraft to be grounded.

During shutdowns, non-essential government employees are furloughed, or placed on temporary unpaid leave. Workers deemed essential, including those dealing with public safety and national security, keep working. The last shutdown, in October 2013, lasted more than two weeks and more than 800,000 federal employees were furloughed.

Update: On Monday, January 22, the Senate voted to break the filibuster and reopen the government…for at least a few weeks. Stories from the 2013 Shutdown

A Government Shutdown Tale of Two Restaurants

Government Shutdown Causing Pain for Small Businesses

Wannabe Craft Brewers Are Hopping Mad Over Shutdown



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How to Stop Using Your Smartphone Continuously Thu, 18 Jan 2018 20:54:47 +0000

It may be hard to believe, but the iPhone has just been around a decade. While cell phones (or mobile phones) had been around for about two decades longer, it was not until 2007 that the glow of iPhone screens began illuminating our faces wherever and whenever we roamed. During this short decade, the iPhone (or, generically speaking, smartphones) have become so powerful, so ubiquitous, and so integrated into everything in our lives, some psychologists are claiming they are “changing our brains” and are worried about the effects of the smartphone on children. Even some major stockholders of Apple have called on the company to study the effects of heavy usage on mental health.

 Are smartphones changing our brains?

One thing is certain. If iPhones haven’t changed our brains, our brains would be one of few things in life that they haven’t changed. My wife and adult children call my iPhone, “the machine.” The nickname originates from an inside-family joke involving my father-in-law’s request for me to look something up “on my machine.” Having a machine that gives me access to hundreds of potential questions I might come across during the course of a day makes my brain smarter. However, two years ago a car driven by a person using an iPhone ran into me as I was riding my bike home from work. In that case, the driver’s machine resulted me having a concussion that probably made my brain a bit less smart. (Fortunately, my bike survived and yes, I was wearing a helmet.)

Last fall (October 2016) Apple’s chief design officer Joni Ives was asked how the iPhone today differs from what he, Steve Jobs and others believed it would evolve in to. “Like any tool, you can see there’s wonderful use and then there’s misuse,” he said.  When asked what considered a “misuse,” he said, “Perhaps, constant use.”

How to stop using your smartphone constantly

1 | Don’t interact with your phone while driving

This means stop texting, checking, talking or anything else that keeps you from being distracted while driving. For example, the Apple iOS 11  mobile operating system has a “Do Not Disturb While Driving” setting. You can also enable it by going here:

 Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls

Then, tap the green plus button to make it appear in Control Center. When this feature is active, you won’t receive calls or messages, but you will receive emergency notifications. You can choose to receive calls from selected contacts.

2 | While watching TV or reading, don’t keep your smartphone near you

According to a growing mountain of research, there is no such thing as multitasking. Driving distracted is the cause of 11 U.S. traffic fatalities each day.

3 | Take control of your push notifications

 This article on explains the why’s and how’s of shutting off notifications. Follow the instructions and it could throttle back the 40+ times a day you’re checking your phone

4 | Set your screen to “grayscale”
You may not believe this until you try it, but making your smartphone screen display in “black and white” will do two things: (1) Give you a jolt of awareness when you look at the screen, and (2) Help you overcome clicking on the next flashing button. Try it, really. Here is how:

iOS | To switch your iPhone over to grayscale:

Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations >
Color Filters > and select Grayscale

Android | The process for enabling grayscale differs for different models of Android phones, but it’s typically accessed via the “Accessibility” menu.




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Learn to Type (or Type Faster) With This Free Browser Application Tue, 16 Jan 2018 15:03:24 +0000

Are you a hunt-and-peck typist? If you’d like to learn how to “touch type” (the kind of typing that doesn’t involve looking at the keyboard), here’s a browser-based app and course called, simply, How to Type. It’s not the slickest looking app you’ll ever see, but it works…and the price is right: Free!

The free application and course are broken up into three sections.

1 | Lessons
2 | Practice
3 | Tests

Here are some tips for faster typing from How to Type

1 | Learn to touch type.

Having the ability to type without looking at the keyboard is the most important factor in achieving a fast typing speed.

2 | Aim for accuracy rather than speed.

Allowing yourself to type incorrectly will actually reinforce your bad habits and common mistakes! Slow your typing pace until you can attain 100% accuracy. If you come across a difficult word, slow down further to type it properly. Develop good habits and speed will be your reward.

3 | Learn the entire keyboard.

Even seasoned typists often don’t know the entire keyboard. They are especially vexed by those key combo shortcuts that most software now includes. Hitting these awkward keys and combos accurately allows you to maintain focus on what you are doing, so make sure you include them in your typing practice.

4 | Practice typing exercises regularly.

Mastering typing takes training and practice. Practice on a regular schedule, 10 minutes to an hour per session, depending on your energy and focus level.

5 | Minimize your physical effort.

The less work your fingers do to press the keys the faster you will be able to move them. Most keyboards require only a light touch to register a keystroke, so there is no need to apply much pressure (unless you plan on typing on a vintage, mechanical typewriter).



Also on

How Dictation and Swipe Typing Turbo-Charged How Fast I Can ‘Type’ on a Smartphone

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Supreme Court to Reconsider if Online Retailers Can Continue to Avoid Collecting Sales Tax Mon, 15 Jan 2018 15:04:07 +0000

On Friday (1.12.2018), the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will take up a case that could require online retailers to collect state sales tax on purchases made online. In a previous 1992 case (Quill v. North Dakota), the court ruled that a direct marketing company cannot be forced to collect sales tax in states where it has no physical presence. While the Quill decision was made prior to the explosion in online e-commerce, the court has used it as the reason to avoid taking up a case specific to internet “e-commerce.”

By deciding to consider the current case (South Dakota v. Wayfair), the court is heeding calls from traditional retailers and dozens of states that contend that the 1992 ruling is obsolete in the e-commerce era. As part of the 1992 decision, the court indicated that Congress should take up the matter. The full Congress has not addressed it, however.

Main Street merchants vs. online e-commerce

Traditional Main Street small and local retailers have long argued that it’s unfair to not require online retailers to collect state sales tax. However, many major online retailers like Wayfair Inc., Inc. and Newegg Inc. are opposing South Dakota in the court fight. Each collects sales taxes from customers in only some states. ( is not involved in this case, as explained below.)

“If Quill is overruled, the burdens will fall primarily on small and medium-sized companies whose access to a national market will be stifled,” the companies have argued in court documents. “Sales tax laws across the country are too complicated for retailers to know how much tax to collect unless they were physically present in the customer’s state.”

While this may have been true in the past, the National Retail Federation (NRF), a supporter of overturning Quill, now says that computer software has made that concern obsolete. The NRF says that Congress “…should not sit on the sidelines as the Supreme Court considers this case. It’s time to pass legislation to settle this critical issue once and for all. Even if the court rules in favor of a modern sales tax policy, legislation will still be needed to spell out how that would work.”

Why state and local governments support overturning Quill

State lawmakers may be ready to take up the legislation because 45 states with income taxes are seeking ways to make up the revenue they have lost due to provisions in the recently-passed tax reform act.

According to a report by the non-partisan congressional Government Accountability Office, state and local governments could have collected up to $13 billion more in 2017 if they’d been allowed to require sales tax payments from online merchants and other remote sellers. Other estimates are even higher. All but five states impose sales taxes, according to Bloomberg.

What about

While is by far the largest online retailer in the U.S., it isn’t directly involved in the current court review.

In the past, Amazon used Quill to avoid collecting sales tax at all. The company has gradually changed its position as it has built warehouses — and thus, created a greater physical presence — all over the country. The company now says it backs a nationwide approach that would relieve retailers from dealing with a patchwork of state laws.

When selling its own inventory, Amazon charges sales tax in every state that imposes one, but about half of its sales involve goods owned by third-party merchants. For those items, the company says it’s up to the sellers to collect any taxes, and many don’t.


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Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, January 15, 2018 Mon, 15 Jan 2018 08:00:40 +0000

There is a sort of poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance…

The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
“The Quest for Peace and Justice”
December 11, 1964


Make today a day of service in your community

What is closed, opened, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

The following organizations, governmental agencies, and businesses are typically closed on MLK Day

  • Most state and federal government agencies and offices
  • U.S. Postal Service will not be delivering mail on MLK Day but UPS and FedEx will be shipping like normal
  • Most financial markets and institutions are closed, including
    • The New York Stock Exchange
    • Nasdaq
    • The Federal Reserve Bank
    • Major banks and most local financial institutions
  • Schools
    • Most public schools (check with local districts)
  • Stores
    • Many stores with MLK Day sales will be opened, including most major retail chains

Photo: Scott Ableman via Flickr

What Will Happen to Truckers’ Jobs When Self-Driving Commercial Vehicles Hit the Road Fri, 12 Jan 2018 17:35:02 +0000

Self-driving vehicles (also called “autonomous technology”) will soon be rolling from the development stage onto the actual highway stage. “Some experts say fleets of driverless vehicles will be on the road within two years,” according to a recent series by the San Francisco Chronicle. One issue the newspaper tackled was the question, “What happens to all of those over-the-road and local truckers who now deliver about 75 percent of everything businesses and consumers purchase?”

Some positive results that may occur due to self-driving trucks

  • Fewer traffic accidents
    • 40,000 | In the U.S., 40,000 people die in car crashes each year, mostly caused by human error. Millions more are seriously injured.
  • Cleaner air
  • Cheaper transportation

Some negative results that may occur due to self-driving trucks

  • Could cost millions of people their jobs
    • 3.8 Million | Number of Americans who work as commercial motor vehicle operators, driving trucks, delivery vans, buses and taxis (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)
    • 29 States | In 29 states, truck driving is the most common occupation
    • 4 million | People who work in trucking-related jobs other than driving. For example, insurance agents, parking meter attendants, truck stops, motels, parking lots, toll booths, garages, auto body shops, etc.
    • 90% | Percentage of the trucking industry made up of small business trucking companies with 10 or fewer trucks. (Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association)
    • 350,000 | There are approximately 350,000 owner-operators in the United States.

    What happens to truckers when commercial vehicles are self-driving?

    “The net impact of automation on employment has always been positive, rather than a negative,” says John Paul MacDuffie, a management professor at Wharton Business School’s program on vehicle and mobility innovation. “There’s no reason to expect that this time will be any different,” McDuffie told the Chronicle.

    “Luddites smashed looms 200 years ago because they thought they would do away with their craft. The reality is, work always evolves to adapt to technology,” said Rob Carter, chief information officer for FedEx, which operates 160,000 ground vehicles. Airplanes already can fly themselves — but pilots still inhabit the cockpit, handling takeoffs, landings and any situations that arise, Carter said. He thinks the same will be true for trucks.

    While pizza delivery is a different industry than over-the-road trucking, when Pizza Hut recently announced a new autonomous project, the company said that autonomous delivery trucks would actually create more jobs.

    If history repeats itself, a re-tooled trucking industry will likely unveil countless needs that will lead to the creation of new small businesses and provide opportunities for sole proprietors. Some of those opportunities will include the adaptation of owner-operator business models that provide services similar to today — but that utilize some amazing new technology. Unfortunately, the next few years (or decades) may also be a rocky road for many small businesses in the trucking industry.

    But who knows? Maybe the future of commercial transportation won’t just be in self-driving trucks, but will also be something we’ve all wanted since the Jetsons: the flying cargo container.

    Hey. It could happen.


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Don’t Waste Your Ad Dollars By Using Acronyms Thu, 11 Jan 2018 15:16:30 +0000

Here are two reasons why you shouldn’t use acronyms in your advertisements.

Example #1 | As hard as it is to believe, a portion of your intended audience won’t know what you are talking about.

In 2015, we explained that the acronym SMB (for “small and medium business”) is used constantly by those who work as marketers at large companies or startups that sell products to small and medium businesses. However, as we explained in 2015, SMB is rarely, if ever, used by small business owners. Even CEOs of medium size businesses don’t know what the “M” stands for. Unfortunately, those marketers use the term so much at work, they start using “SMB” when they name products.  I promise: SMB is not in the vocabulary of small business owners. Even Google doesn’t understand what SMB means.

Example #2 | When purchasing your product, customers are thinking about their problem or need, not what your acronym means.

While listening to an NFL football playoff game on my car radio recently, I heard an announcer read an ad (like in the old days) for Valvoline oil. During the ad, the announcer used the acronym D-I-Y (as in “do-it-yourself.”) As the ad ended and the announcers went back to talking about the game, the announcer who didn’t read the ad asked, “Hey, what does DIY mean?”

The announcer who had read the commercial laughed and said, “It means ‘do it yourself.’ But don’t feel bad. I had to look it up earlier in the season.”

My first thought was, “Who possibly can’t know what DIY means?” But then I remembered all the times I’ve been in my favorite independent hardware store with a question like, “I need one of those white plastic round things you attached to a drain.”

“Do you mean ‘PVC?'” the clerk asks, trying not to chuckle.


If you spend money on advertising, make sure that every word counts. Acronyms may be good ways to filter out those who aren’t you desired customer or speed up conversations among a specific tribe of professionals or specialists. But are you positive every potential customer knows what your acronym means?


Customers are more emotionally engaged with their personal problems than they are with our acronyms. Drop the acronyms and explain how your product solves their problem.


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Annual Small Business Optimism Index Hits Record High in 2017 Tue, 09 Jan 2018 20:29:12 +0000

2017 set the all-time record high for small business optimism in the 45-year history of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) Index of Small Business Optimism released today (1.9.2o17) (PDF available) The optimism index for December was 104.9, slightly lower than the near-record November report but the annual ranking was the strongest year in the history of the survey.

104.8 | The annual optimism index for the entire year of 2017
104.6 | The previous record high was 104.6 set in 2004

“We’ve been doing this research for nearly half a century, longer than anyone else, and I’ve never seen anything like 2017,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “The 2016 election was like a dam breaking. Small business owners were waiting for better policies from Washington, suddenly they got them, and the engine of the economy roared back to life.”

According to NFIB, the driver of record optimism in 2017 was the expectation of better economic policies from Washington. “The lesson of 2017 is that better policies make for better economic results,” said NFIB CEO Juanita Duggan. “The evidence is overwhelming that small business owners pay close attention to Washington, and that federal policies affect their decisions on whether to hire, whether to invest, whether to grow inventory, and whether to seek capital.”

Two of the December components posted gains, five declined, and three remained unchanged. Moving the Index moderately lower were declines in Expected Better Business Conditions (11-point decline) which tends to fluctuate sharply and Inventory Plans (8-point decline). However, small business owners were bedeviled by a labor shortage in 2017 that grew more intense as optimism rose. The monthly NFIB Jobs Report last week showed that problem reaching record levels.

“There’s a critical shortage of qualified workers and it’s becoming a real cost driver for small businesses,” said Dunkelberg. “They are raising compensation for workers in order to attract and keep good employees, but that’s a positive indicator for the overall economy.”


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