Tools and Services Make Tax Time a Little Less Painful

By Jamie Bsales | Posted March 23, 2009

April 15 is less than a month away, but if you’re like most people you’re about eight weeks away from being ready to file your 2008 taxes. Add in your 2009 Q1 estimated tax and payroll tax payments, and the next month promises to be taxing indeed. In addition to the free sites we told you about last year, we found additional online tools and services that can help you get through this season with your sanity, if not your checkbook, intact.

 IAC-EZ
IAC-EZ is an online bookkeeping service that can calculate estimated taxes for you.
(Click for larger image)
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IAC-EZ Helps Very Small Businesses

For most freelancers, sole proprietors and very small businesses (those with five employees or fewer), hiring a bookkeeper to handle your accounts is overkill. But you still need some basic advice, like how much to pay in estimated taxes each quarter. Enter IAC-EZ, an online software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering.

Developed by IAC Professionals, a 10-year-old firm specializing in accounting and administrative outsourcing, IAC-EZ handles basic bookkeeping chores without you having to learn accounting terms or constructs.

Unlike QuickBooks or other applications aimed at small businesses, IAC-EZ assumes no prior accounting knowledge on your part. You don’t need to worry about assets versus liabilities or retained earnings versus equity.

In fact, IAC-EZ does not employ a ledger-based paradigm, as do other accounting services, but rather a transaction-based approach—money in, money out—that more closely resembles the way most micro-businesses operate. Hence, there’s no reconciling of accounts at the end of the month or other tedious, time-consuming chores. You can input your transactions directly or import a CSV file from your online banking provider and simply delete the personal transactions.

EchoSign
EchoSign makes it easy to get W-9 forms back from your business colleagues.
(Click for larger image)
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When it’s tax time, IAC-EZ automatically calculates your federal estimated taxes due, and the company claims IAC-EZ is the only bookkeeping software to calculate state estimated payments (the latter feature is currently available to users in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Virginia and Washington, though it is rapidly expanding to every state, the company says).

The service costs $19.95 per month, which includes 500MB of free online storage for scanned receipts, bills and other documents.

EchoSign Offers Free Electronic W-9 Form Service

If your business has dealings with consultants, sole proprietors, partnerships or S-corporations, you know that wrangling W-9 forms from all of them is akin to herding cats. But you need a completed, signed W-9 (officially called a W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification Form) to report payments of $600 or more to those non-employees. EchoSign can help.

This online electronic signature service will let you send W-9 forms to your contacts via e-mail. Just visit the company’s W-9 page and enter the e-mail addresses of those you need W-9s from. EchoSign will send them the form, instruct them to print it, fill it in and fax it back to EchoSign. The company will then send the electronic W-9 to both parties electronically. No mail, no hassle.

TurboTax and Kiplinger
TurboTax and Kiplinger have teamed up to outline the coming years’ tax changes.
(Click for larger image)
.

Follow the Bouncing Tax Burden

With one administration’s tax policies phasing out and the next administration’s policies being phased in, the next few years promise to be an inscrutable mess if you’re not a tax expert.

That is, unless you know some tax experts—say, the folks from Kiplinger and Intuit TurboTax—willing to post highlights of the changes online.

The Summary of Business Tax Law Changes 2008 – 2017 runs down the major adjustments coming to small business owners over the next 10 years. In plain English (not accountant-ese), this guide explains changes that will come into effect so you can determine how they might impact your near-, mid- and long-term plans. The bullet-point items in the guide start to thin out after 2011 (the experts don’t have a crystal ball, after all) but the information for 2008 through 2010 is worth its weight in gold—even though it’s free.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Yes, we mentioned this last year, but the Internal Revenue Service’s Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center is worth revisiting every year. On the left you’ll find links to the handy A-Z index (if you know what topic you’re looking for) and topics including employment taxes, state taxes, FAQs, forms and publications and many more. Front and center you’ll find links to business-related tax news, business expenses, industry-specific information and so on.  

IRS
TurboTax and Kiplinger have teamed up to outline the coming years’ tax changes.
(Click for larger image)
.

Free Printouts and Scans

Once you’ve finished your taxes, the inevitable next step is to print out all the forms and accompanying worksheets—in multiples. Assuming you have any money left at all, the cost of the paper and ink/toner alone will probably make you cringe. Well, there’s a place with plenty of both, and this year they’re sharing it with you for free.

Between April 5 and April 15, Staples is offering free black-and-white copies of your tax returns (up to 20 pages) so you can keep a copy for your records. They’ll also scan your return and supporting receipts (up to 100 scans) to PDF format so you have an electronic backup. And Staples is doing this with an environmental twist, with tree-friendly double-sided copies made on recycled paper.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

 

EchoSign Offers Free Electronic W-9 Form Service

If your business has dealings with consultants, sole proprietors, partnerships or S-corporations, you know that wrangling W-9 forms from all of them is akin to herding cats. But you need a completed, signed W-9 (officially called a W-9 Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification Form) to report payments of $600 or more to those non-employees. EchoSign can help.

This online electronic signature service will let you send W-9 forms to your contacts via e-mail. Just visit the company’s W-9 page and enter the e-mail addresses of those you need W-9s from. EchoSign will send them the form, instruct them to print it, fill it in and fax it back to EchoSign. The company will then send the electronic W-9 to both parties electronically. No mail, no hassle.

TurboTax and Kiplinger
TurboTax and Kiplinger have teamed up to outline the coming years’ tax changes.
(Click for larger image)
.

Follow the Bouncing Tax Burden

With one administration’s tax policies phasing out and the next administration’s policies being phased in, the next few years promise to be an inscrutable mess if you’re not a tax expert.

That is, unless you know some tax experts—say, the folks from Kiplinger and Intuit TurboTax—willing to post highlights of the changes online.

The Summary of Business Tax Law Changes 2008 – 2017 runs down the major adjustments coming to small business owners over the next 10 years. In plain English (not accountant-ese), this guide explains changes that will come into effect so you can determine how they might impact your near-, mid- and long-term plans. The bullet-point items in the guide start to thin out after 2011 (the experts don’t have a crystal ball, after all) but the information for 2008 through 2010 is worth its weight in gold—even though it’s free.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Yes, we mentioned this last year, but the Internal Revenue Service’s Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center is worth revisiting every year. On the left you’ll find links to the handy A-Z index (if you know what topic you’re looking for) and topics including employment taxes, state taxes, FAQs, forms and publications and many more. Front and center you’ll find links to business-related tax news, business expenses, industry-specific information and so on.  

IRS
TurboTax and Kiplinger have teamed up to outline the coming years’ tax changes.
(Click for larger image)
.

Free Printouts and Scans

Once you’ve finished your taxes, the inevitable next step is to print out all the forms and accompanying worksheets—in multiples. Assuming you have any money left at all, the cost of the paper and ink/toner alone will probably make you cringe. Well, there’s a place with plenty of both, and this year they’re sharing it with you for free.

Between April 5 and April 15, Staples is offering free black-and-white copies of your tax returns (up to 20 pages) so you can keep a copy for your records. They’ll also scan your return and supporting receipts (up to 100 scans) to PDF format so you have an electronic backup. And Staples is doing this with an environmental twist, with tree-friendly double-sided copies made on recycled paper.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology writer and editor with nearly 14 years of experience covering the latest hardware, software and Internet products and services.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!


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