Small business information, insight and resources | Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:43:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 JP Morgan Chase Research Confirms Upbeat Small Business Optimism | 2018 Thu, 22 Feb 2018 15:40:19 +0000

If you’ve been following our recent stories about small business sentiment, you won’t be surprised that the largest bank in the U.S. (by assets), JP Morgan Chase, yesterday (2.21.2018) released its annual “business leaders outlook survey,” revealing the highest level of small business optimism recorded in years. The bank credited recent regulatory reform, corporate tax cuts and a steadily improving economy.

51% |  Small business leaders who are optimistic about the global economy, up 10 points vs. last year
63% | Are optimistic about the national economy, consistent with last year
60% | Are optimistic about their local economy, up 5 points vs. last year

A note of caution: skilled workers

As we’ve seen in other recent surveys, especially NFIB’s monthly tracking poll, small business owners are beginning to get nervous about finding the skilled workers they need to grow. One problem is the looming wave of retirements that small businesses face.

“This trending positivity is confirmation that something real is happening in the economy,” said Jim Glassman, senior economist at JPMorgan Chase. “Business optimism translates to business activity, which is why we’re seeing increased expectations across the board. For businesses that can hire and retain talent in today’s tight labor market, there are growth opportunities to capitalize on.”

31% | Percentage of small business executives concerned with the supply of qualified candidates

The expectations and challenges of small business leaders


62% | Expect an increase in sales
59% | Expect an increase in profits


54% | Need to increase sales (Up 16 points vs. last year)
28% | Taxes ( Consistent with last year)
27% | Uncertainty of economic conditions (Down 7 points vs. last year)

Recent research released showing record high optimism among small business owners

Small Business Optimism Continued to Set Record Highs in January | 2018


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Survey: Harassment Prevention Training Needed in Small Businesses | 2018 Thu, 22 Feb 2018 02:44:32 +0000

Since last October (2017), dozens of high-profile workplace sexual harassment cases have raised the awareness of how widespread the problem is. A recent Insureon survey of 1,600 small business owners registered in Manta, the online business directory, revealed the need for more training to reduce the occurence of harrassment. Here are some of the findings of the research.

The need for training is widespread

53% | Percentage of companies providing some type of sexual harassment training or education
43% | Companies that provide employee training during an employees onboarding process
32% | Hold regular sexual harassment training for staff
27% | Outline sexual harassment policies in an employee handbook, but offer no formal training.
27% | Provide some other form of training
1% | Require employees to complete online training

79% | Percentage of respondents who have business insurance
83% | Of those who have business insurance, the percentage who have  Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), the type of insurance that, among other things, addresses sexual harassment lawsuits

The financial cost of sexual harassment in the workplace

In addition to the victimization of the employee, harrassment cases can destroy a small business – even if they are settled out of court. If a jury believes a business owner was aware sexual harassment occurred but failed to take appropriate action, it could award punitive damages to the victim.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) can reduce the financial risk associated with sexual harassment legal cases. For instance, a policy can cover lawsuit expenses related to claims of harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination. But a zero tolerance approach to sexual harassment is much better protection for your company–and is clearly the correct thing to do.

$160,000 | The average EPLI lawsuit settlement

Steps to protect employees while also managing business risks

  • From day one, communicate the company’s commitment to a hostility-free environment
  • Codify your commitment with a statement that sexual harassment of any kind will not be tolerated
  • Provide a written policy that includes
    • An overview of what constitutes sexual harassment.
    • The steps employees should take if they need to file a complaint.
    • Reassurances that anyone reporting harassment will not face retaliation.
    • An overview of the investigative procedure for complaints, including the disciplinary actions perpetrators might face.
  • Review this policy with all employees regularly.

Note: Business legal decisions should be discussed with your trusted legal advisors.


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A Rural Small Business Easter Chick Program Answers the Question, Which Comes First? Tue, 20 Feb 2018 21:33:26 +0000

Our friend and regular contributor, Becky McCray, an expert in small town and rural businesses, recently shared on Small Business Survival a business idea and marketing outreach program that convinces us what comes first in business: First comes the opportunity, then the creative idea is hatched. Here’s Becky’s story.


Everyone loves little Easter baby chicks.

Children especially love baby chicks. And their parents just love how much their young children love those baby chicks.

Unfortunately, that too often leads unprepared parents to purchase a chick or two to take home. Every Easter, we hear about families who buy chicks for their children, only to realize baby chicks don’t really fit into their lives. Left on the side of roads or posted for free on Craigslist, the sweet, active chicks are left scared and alone.

For some people, that might be viewed as a challenge. But to the Omaha, Nebraska farmer Mariel Barreras, it looked like a business and community outreach opportunity that reinforces her family’s successful educational outreach programs the Barreras Family Farm carries out year-round. And so she started the Barreras Family Farm’s Rent-a-Chick Educational Program.

That’s right, instead of selling a family two chicks to take home to an unprepared setting, Barreras “rents” two Easter chicks each to 60 families, day-care centers or other programs.

In addition to the chicks, the family takes home a kit that includes:

  • Tote with breathe through lid
  • Heating pad that is fire safe and won’t burn your children
  • Water dish
  • Food dish
  • Food for length of the program
  • Potty pads
  • Chick health and safety class
  • Emails with activities sent during the program duration
  • Certificate for a FREE dozen eggs that your chicks will begin laying in the fall.

The Rent-a-Chick program educates families on basic chick care. Little downy chicks go to families in pairs. They move in with the family for two weeks who care for the chicks and teach them how to interact with humans. In return, the chicks teach the families how to feed, water, exercise, and love on little animals that are completely dependent on them.

Kids are encouraged to name their chicks and come back to check on them.

After two weeks the chicks return to Barreras Family Farm flock.

The host families even receive a certificate for a free dozen eggs which their chicks will begin to lay in the fall.

Like we said: Everyone loves baby chicks.

Especially when they connect young people with small business owners who develop experiences that can lead to lifelong customer relationships.

Link HT: @maniactive





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It’s Presidents Day: What’s Open? What’s Closed? And it’s Officially Called Washington’s Birthday Mon, 19 Feb 2018 05:02:47 +0000

We cannot tell a lie. The national holiday observed in the U.S. on the third Monday of February is not officially called Presidents Day. Officially, it is Washington’s Birthday (although some states refer to it as Presidents Day).


If you are old enough, you may recall that until 1978, Americans celebrated Washington’s Birthday by eating a cherry pie on February 22 each year. Of course, the cherry pie was a reference to the Father of our Nation’s inability to tell a lie, therefore confessing to his father that he did, indeed, chop down the cherry tree. (Okay, it is a myth, but we still like the pie.)

The usage of the name “Presidents Day” started slowly in 1978 with the start of the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act.” The Act moved Washington’s Birthday (February 22), Memorial Day (May 30), and Veterans Day (November 11) from fixed dates to designated Mondays, and established as a federal holiday Columbus Day—which had previously been celebrated in some states on October 12—to a designated Monday.

The Act was designed to increase the number of three-day weekends for federal employees, a favorite goal of the travel industry. (In 1978, Veterans Day was removed from the list of “always-on-Monday” holidays when Congress moved it back to its traditional date of November 11.)

The Act did not officially (or even unofficially) establish “Presidents Day”, nor did it combine the observance of Lincoln’s Birthday with Washington’s Birthday. That misperception stems from the act’s shift of Washington’s “birthday” to the week of February 15 to 21. Since that week always falls between Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and Washington’s (February 22) but never includes either date, the term “Presidents Day” has slowly become the norm.

And over time, what were once Washington’s Birthday Sales have become President’s Day Sales.

No matter what you call it, it’s still a national holiday. What’s opened and closed on February 19, 2018?

Mailing and Shipping

The United States Postal Service will not deliver mail on Presidents Day, but UPS and FedEx will operate as usual.


Most banks will be closed, including Federal Reserve Banks.


Most public schools will be closed to observe the federal holiday, and many private schools will do the same. Some schools might be in session to make up for weather-related cancellations.

Stock markets

The New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and bond markets will be closed.


Trash pickup will vary from town-to-town. Check with your local provider.


Courts will not be in session.

Retail stores and shops

Most department stores and retail shops will be open, many offering Presidents Day sales. Most restaurants will also remain open.

Grocery stores

Most grocery stores will be open.


Call or check online.


10 Amazing Facts About George Washington’s 2nd Most Successful Startup

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President’s Day Reminder: How to Set Special Hours on Your Yelp and Google Business Listings Sun, 18 Feb 2018 19:51:08 +0000

One of the handiest features of services like Yelp or Google’s business listings is their display of a company’s hours of operation. Seeing that a shop is “about to close” has stopped me from driving across town on several occasions. But what about those days when a cafe may be closed because of a private party? Or perhaps it may have different hours related to the seasons of the year? There are times when the owner of the business needs to change the time of operation for one day only. Some small restaurants close on the weekend, or perhaps on Mondays. In some countries, shops and cafes close during mid-afternoon hours. On some official U.S. holidays, nearly all American businesses close (Thanksgiving, for example). However, there are certain days that aren’t actually holidays, but on which many businesses close (the day after Thanksgiving, for example).

Here’s how to manage special days and times on Yelp and Google’s listings pages. (Tip: You also should also update your website.)

How to change information related to a special date or time on your company’s Google business listings

Before Starting | If you haven’t already claimed your Google Business listing, start with our tutorial on “How to Start Using Google My Business.” If you’d like to learn a lot about using Google My Business, visit the Guide to Managing a Listing on Google Search and Maps.

Start | Sign in to Google My Business

  1. For a single location:
    1. From card view, choose the listing you’d like to set special hours for and click Manage location. If you’re viewing your locations as a list instead of cards, switch to card view by clicking the cards icon  on the right side above your locations.
    2. Click Info from the menu on the left side of the page.
  2. For multiple locations:
    1. From list view, select the locations you’d like to set special hours for. If you’re viewing your locations as cards instead of a list, switch to list view by clicking the list icon  on the right side above your locations.
    2. Click the pencil icon  in the top-right corner of the page.

Click the  Special hours section | (You’ll only see this section if you’ve already provided regular hours.)

  • Click Confirm hours next to an upcoming holiday. Or click Add new date to choose a different date.
  • Enter the opening and closing times for that day.
  • Slide the circle to “Closed” to indicate that the location is closed all day.
  • If you’re open 24 hours, click Opens at and select 24 hours from the drop-down menu that appears.
  • If you enter closing hours past midnight, make sure to set them properly.
  • When you’ve finished entering all of your special hours, click Apply.

Your special hours will appear to customers on Google only for the designated days.

How to set a special date or time on your Yelp business listing

First things first | If you haven’t done so already, find and claim your Yelp Business Page. (More information about claiming your business.) After you have claimed your Yelp Business Page and have been verified by Yelp, do the following.

Log-in at (You may also want to download the Yelp for Business Owners app for mobile access.)

Log into the Yelp for Business Owners admin page on either the app or your Yelp listings page.

  • On “Business Information” select “Special Hours.”
  • Mark your business as being closed or opened during a specific window of time.
  • Special hours are set on a day-by-day basis, so add each day where your operating hours will be different from the hours regularly listed on Yelp.

Once your hours are set, customers will see a banner highlighting your special hours on your Yelp Business Page as well as call outs in the hours’ section.


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How Does Your Marketing Email Compare to Others in Your Industry? | 2018 Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:01:49 +0000

Every year, some very smart number crunchers at the email marketing company Constant Contact spend time analyzing raw data related to 200 million emails sent by the company’s customers. Their goal is to find the average rates by business type of email opens, click-throughs, and bounces. (Note: The research covers aggregate data, not data related to specific customers.) 

Email Marketing Performance Compared by Industries

Source: Constant Contact. As of December 2017. Posted: February 12, 2018

Open Rate | Percentage of email recipients who open it.
Bounce Rate | Percentage of email sent that could not be delivered.
Click-through Rate | Percentage of those who open an email and click on at least one: link, button, linked image.
Unsubscribe Rate | Percentage of recipients who opt-out of the mailing list.

Business Type Open Rate (Total) Mobile Open Rate Tablet Open Rate Desktop Open Rate Click-Through Rate Bounce Rate Unsubscribe Rate
Accommodations (ex. hotel, inn, B&B, camp grounds) 16.88% 64.18% 19.64% 44.15% 6.17% 9.08% 0.02%
Accountant 13.14% 59.11% 16.55% 73.24% 8.56% 9.13% 0.01%
Animal Services 15.95% 64.24% 16.90% 42.90% 7.41% 6.03% 0.02%
Art, Culture, Entertainment (ex. galleries, museums, musicians, theatre, film, crafts) 16.21% 54.76% 17.05% 45.53% 6.41% 7.26% 0.01%
Automotive Services 13.56% 64.65% 14.14% 42.87% 8.08% 8.48% 0.03%
Child Care Services 18.68% 84.52% 7.57% 35.41% 5.79% 7.96% 0.01%
Civic/Social Membership (ex. associations, chambers, clubs) 23.23% 60.48% 14.17% 71.97% 7.91% 9.48% 0.01%
Consultant, Training (ex. marketing, management) 13.93% 53.18% 9.47% 69.89% 7.19% 11.58% 0.01%
Education – Primary/Secondary (ex. elementary, middle, and high schools) 23.05% 69.21% 10.64% 49.95% 7.83% 8.48% 0.01%
Education – Higher Education (ex. colleges, universities, trade schools) 18.35% 63.57% 10.85% 48.74% 7.72% 8.56% 0.01%
Financial Advisor 17.08% 57.86% 14.01% 59.48% 7.11% 11.41% 0.02%
Fitness Center, Sports, Recreation (ex. yoga studio, bowling alley, gym) 15.72% 67.84% 13.79% 35.25% 5.60% 10.03% 0.01%
Fitness/Nutritional Services (ex. personal trainer, wellness coach) 14.20% 71.66% 11.96% 33.94% 6.86% 6.93% 0.02%
Government Agency or Services 22.51% 65.58% 14.22% 73.59% 9.14% 10.05% 0.01%
Health & Social Services (ex. hospital, elder care, adoption services) 19.18% 59.02% 14.53% 71.26% 6.69% 10.20% 0.02%
Health Professional (ex. physician, dentist, chiropractor) 16.94% 63.14% 14.47% 51.29% 6.23% 10.18% 0.03%
Home & Building Services (ex. construction, HVAC, landscaping, design) 19.66% 56.00% 15.36% 59.84% 5.72% 10.87% 0.04%
Insurance 15.10% 52.55% 9.15% 84.43% 6.86% 7.63% 0.02%
Legal Services 20.61% 57.42% 9.19% 71.66% 6.80% 12.42% 0.02%
Manufacturing and Distribution 14.87% 47.65% 11.57% 71.21% 7.85% 11.90% 0.01%
Marketing, Advertising, Public Relations 10.36% 51.25% 10.38% 51.34% 5.98% 9.17% 0.01%
Other 22.50% 53.79% 15.42% 45.24% 4.69% 8.61% 0.01%
Other – Non-profit 19.71% 59.52% 15.76% 57.46% 6.86% 9.68% 0.02%
Personal Services (ex. dry cleaning, photography, housekeeping) 17.62% 59.78% 13.85% 48.66% 6.30% 9.59% 0.02%
Professional Services 17.40% 57.61% 12.02% 63.66% 7.39% 10.72% 0.02%
Publishing 14.87% 54.17% 15.80% 52.80% 12.84% 8.99% 0.01%
Real Estate 15.99% 54.14% 9.80% 55.80% 6.32% 11.89% 0.02%
Religious Organization 25.62% 71.11% 20.36% 47.80% 6.69% 7.98% 0.01%
Restaurant, Bar, Cafe, Caterer 15.66% 59.11% 17.30% 39.16% 4.22% 10.22% 0.02%
Retail (ex. brick and mortar and online) 11.51% 56.23% 19.62% 34.36% 6.70% 6.76% 0.01%
Salon, Spa, Barber (ex. nails, tanning) 13.42% 66.08% 13.81% 28.13% 3.69% 13.50% 0.01%
Technology (ex. web developer) 13.03% 43.83% 6.82% 75.20% 5.85% 11.56% 0.01%
Transportation 17.80% 64.67% 13.46% 63.32% 14.56% 10.47% 0.02%
Travel and Tourism (ex. limo driver, tour guide, reservations) 14.67% 50.50% 19.87% 53.36% 6.69% 11.22% 0.02%
Unknown 12.66% 60.79% 14.68% 49.64% 7.96% 9.82% 0.01%


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Will Small Business Owners Save Sam’s Club? Thu, 15 Feb 2018 19:53:27 +0000

Back in the mid-2000’s, Sam’s Club stores had big signs painted on their walls proclaiming, “We Are In Business For Small Business.” They called themselves a “wholesale warehouse” and focused on getting small businesses to pay for membership cards their employees could use to purchase merchandise in bulk or discount. In 2006, the company decided to drop the “Small Business” slogan and to open up memberships to individual customers.  (But they’ve continued to promote their small business connection.)

In the ten years since the change, Sam’s Club has continued to struggle to figure out what it is and who it serves. Like other big box stores, including Sam’s Club corporate sister, Walmart, the tsunami of online shopping has changed their world. Sam’s Club recently announced it is closing 63 stores. Yesterday (2.14.2018), executives revealed more details about its strategic shift — one that seems very focused on competing with Amazon. quote:

“The changes are part of a broader strategy that Sam’s Club executives said involved closing underperforming stores and focusing on core customers — typically a family making $125,000 a year that lives in the suburbs and may own a small business.”

The Amazon irony

Like Walmart, Amazon is often portrayed as the enemy of small business. Unlike Walmart, Amazon uses a long-tail version of retailing that allows businesses, large and small, to sell products in its marketplace. We’ve even explored the theory that independent bookstores have benefitted from having Amazon as an ally in that industry’s earlier war against big-box retailers like Borders and Barnes & Noble. Perhaps a similar theory could be applied to Amazon’s competition with Target, Walmart, Sam’s Clubs et al.

Can Sam’s catch up?

One of Amazon’s greatest retailing “innovations” was not even an innovation. “Prime membership” was an adoption of the core differentiators of the entire warehouse club concept: Selling annual memberships. What started out as Amazon’s Prime membership for free shipping has turned into a juggernaut of benefits including streaming movies and, more recently, Amazon Business Prime Shipping.

The Sam’s Club announcement yesterday of a membership premium of free shipping comes 13 years after Amazon Prime’s launch. And Amazon has not stood still during those 13 years. While Amazon does not make such numbers public, estimates for the number of Prime members range from 60-90 million.

That said, Walmart is the largest retailer in the world and the most successful retailer in the history of, well, retailing.

So, if you’ve let your membership lapse and you are “a family making $125,000 a year that lives in the suburbs and may own a small business,” here’s what Sam’s Club want’s you to get.

$100 Plus membership | Free shipping on almost any item
$45 Club membership | Includes discounts on services like flat tire repairs.

Photo | jmoor17 | istock

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Small Business Optimism Continued to Set Record Highs in January | 2018 Tue, 13 Feb 2018 20:12:38 +0000

Remember last month when we shared the report that the economic optimism of small business owners had reached a record high? Well, that record high has now been broken. Optimism among U.S. small businesses rose more than forecast in January, fueled by a record number of owners who said now is a good time to expand, according to NFIB’s (National Federation of Independent Business) monthly survey of small business economic trends released today (2.13.2018)

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index
Based on Ten Survey Indicators
(Seasonally Adjusted 1986=100)

106.9 | January’s optimism index set a record high of 106.9 on NFIB’s Small Business Economic Trends Survey. In the survey, a record number of small business owners said, “now is a good time to expand.”

“Six of the 10 components that make up the index increased in January, producing one of the strongest readings in the 45-year history of the survey,” according to the NFIB Research Center’s Holly Wade.

“The historically high index readings over the last year tell us small business owners have never been more positive about the economy. This is in large response to Washington tackling the biggest concerns of small business owners – high taxes and regulations,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg.

Highlights of the January survey

32% | Respondents who believe its a good time to expand (highest level ever in the history of the NFIB survey, which began in 1973.
+11 points | Actual earnings climbed up 11 points from December, the highest level reported since 1988.
+2 points | Plans to make capital outlays jumped up two points.
+4 points | Plans to increase inventories gained four points.
24% | Businesses that plan to raise compensation, the highest reading since 1989.
41% | Expect the economy to improve, up from 37% a month earlier.
34% | Reported job openings in January (up from 31 percent in December.
11% | Share of owners raising average selling prices (highest since July 2014).

Annual Small Business Optimism Index Hits Record High in 2017

photo | Mac99 | istock

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New York City is Providing 40 Hours of Legal Aid to Small Businesses | 2018 Thu, 08 Feb 2018 18:14:45 +0000

As we’ve shared before, the escalating costs — and legal hassles — of leasing a small shop or restaurant in New York City is threatening the existence of such businesses in certain areas of the city. Recognizing the growing number of unaffordable legal battles the smallest of some small businesses are facing over lease-related issues, the New York City Department of Small Business Services has started a new Commercial Lease Assistance Program.

The new program will provide up to 40 hours of legal services to a qualifying small business owner involved in a lease-related legal issue, including:

  • Signing a new commercial lease
  • Amending, renewing, or terminating an existing commercial lease
  • Addressing a commercial lease-related issue

The program “will give small-business owners the help they need to resolve legal issues without driving them out of business,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement.

The program’s aim is to prevent small business owners and building owners from ending up in court. The city will not offer legal representation in court, according to

The legal services will be offered in partnerships with:

  • Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A
  • Volunteers of Legal Services
  • Urban Justice Center

Businesses can learn more about the program on the Commercial Lease Assistance Program’s website.

To be eligible to participate, a business must:

  • Meet the Small Business Administration (SBA) size standard (PDF)
  • Be located in New York City
  • Not be a franchise establishment
  • Meet the income eligibility requirements of the legal service provider


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It’s Tax Season: Here are 10 Things the IRS Wants Every Taxpayer to Know | 2018 Tue, 06 Feb 2018 18:42:56 +0000

The IRS is now accepting tax returns as the annual tax filing season is underway. It expects taxpayers to file more than 155 million returns this year. Here are ten things the IRS wants taxpayers to consider as they are filing their tax returns (or getting help from your trusted tax advisor) this year.

  1. People have until Tuesday, April 17, 2018, to file their 2017 returns and pay any taxes due.
  2. Choosing e-file and direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.
  3. Families with incomes of $66,000 or less can file for free. They can do so using brand name software through the IRS Free File program. People who earned more than $66,000 may use Free File Fillable Forms.
  4. By law, the IRS cannot issue some refunds before mid-February. These refunds are for tax returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. The IRS expects the earliest refunds related to EITC and ACTC to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting on Feb. 27, 2018.
  5. The best way for taxpayers to check the status of a refund is to use “Where’s My Refund?” on or the IRS2Go mobile app.
  6. Taxpayers with low and moderate incomes can get help filing their taxes for free. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs have more than 12,000 sites around the country. To find the nearest site, use the VITA/TCE Site Locator on or the IRS2Go mobile app.
  7. Taxpayers should have their year-end statements in hand before filing. This includes Forms W-2 from employers and Forms 1099 from banks and other payers. Doing this helps avoid refund delays and the need to file an amended return.
  8. is the place to go online for tools that help people as they prepare and file their tax return. This includes:
  9. Many Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers expired on Dec. 31, 2017. This includes any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years. Also, any ITIN with middle digits of 70, 71, 72 or 80 is now expired. Affected taxpayers should act soon to renew their number.
  10. Some taxpayers using a tax filing software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from their prior-year tax return. They need this to verify their identity. Taxpayers using the same tax software they used last year will not need to enter this information.



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