Small Business News Briefs

Online Tax Prep Progressively Gaining Popularity
A growing number of Americans, particularly those individuals in search of early tax refunds, are becoming increasingly comfortable managing their financial lives online — is a trend that lends itself to the upcoming tax season.

A recent report from Jupiter Research, owned and operated by this publications parent company, found that 18.9 million American households viewed and paid bills online during 2003 — up from 12.2 million in 2002. Jupiter estimates that figure to grow to 60.6 million by 2008 as more and more Americans manage their financial lives — everything from banking to taxes — over the World Wide Web.

The research comes as Intuit makes its tax preparation service, TurboTax for the Web available online this week. The service is designed to help taxpayers prepare and file 2003 federal and state income tax returns from the comfort of their own homes and offices.

Though the use of online tax reporting systems, people can quickly obtain their refunds, in as little as 10 days, compared to six weeks through the mail. Tax returns can be prepared entirely online at any time — from any computer with Internet access.

This year, taxpayers can even “try before they buy,” using the TurboTax for the Web service to prepare their taxes at no cost until they print or electronically file their return. TurboTax for the Web can also state tax returns electronically within 44 states and the District of Columbia.

Pricing starts at $9.95 per federal rerun with TurboTax 1040EZ, $19.95 for basic and $29.95 for premier editions of TurboTax for the Web. TurboTax Premier Home & Office starts at $49.95, but these prices are only good through April 1, 2004 and you should note that the IRS will not start accepting electronically filed tax returns until Jan. 16, 2004.

Now in its 20th tax season, TurboTax continues to be the nation’s top-selling tax preparation software program, achieving a 71 percent share of units sold at retail in 2002, according to NPD Intelect. Its Web-based counterpart, the TurboTax for the Web service, is also the most popular site for online tax preparation and filing services, according to Intuit.

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Sir Speedy Unveils ‘MyDocs’
On the heels of Fed Ex’s announcement that it is shelling out $2.4 billion in cash to buy privately held business services provider Kinko’s, rival small business printing service provider Sir Speedy debuts its first Web-hosted document management system — no shipping required.

The service, dubbed MyDocs, is designed for small and mid-sized businesses. It is an expansion of Sir Speedy’s current business document services, which includes scan-to-archive, variable printing, online tracking and reporting, on-demand printing and electronic file distribution.

The service is scalable to expand as a business’s needs grow without investment in new hardware or software, eliminating overhead expenses associated with setting up and maintaining a distributed document management system. Businesses manage their documents through their own Web site or intranet, but the system is hosted on Sir Speedy’s secure servers.

Using a hosted service, small businesses can create, edit and reproduce the most recent versions of documents on demand, at any time from anywhere. This is critical in an increasingly competitive economy where documents change daily, requiring fast access to document revisions.

All information, from contracts and product data to training manuals and marketing materials, is uploaded into Sir Speedy’s system in a universal format for compatibility across most types of business applications. Sir Speedy’s servers are equipped with financial grade security and information is backed up on a regular basis for added protection. Documents can also be scanned, archived and indexed on CD or DVD to preserve the legitimacy of original copies while reducing storage and inventory expenses.

“We have seen an increased interest by small and midsized businesses in document management systems over the past 18 months,” said Peter Grant, senior analyst for Gartner research. “Sir Speedy’s MyDocs document management system is positioned well to compete in this growth market.”

MyDocs Web-hosted service include variable printing to customize marketing materials; order tracking and reporting to create a virtual paper trail; and localized printing and distribution services by nearly 1,000 Sir Speedy centers and business affiliates worldwide.

With the MyDocs document management system businesses can manage the life cycle of a document from creation to order entry, to delivery and archiving, at any time from anywhere — in person, online or via telephone and fax.

Pricing for Sir Speedy’s document management services varies, because it is based on the amount of space required to store files — the larger the file, the more server storage required, the higher the price.

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Kurant Delivers UPS Tools
Kurant, an e-business service provider for small and mid-sized e-tailers, announced that its popular StoreSense program is incorporating UPS OnLineTools into its e-business platform. The integration capabilities put smaller businesses on equal footing with lager online sales operations.

Merchants using StoreSense with UPS Online Tools can digitize their entire shipping process, allowing online customers to shop, ship and track merchandise from a single location. Even small online merchants can offer their customers real-time package tracking, shipping rate and service selection, address validation, and the ability to print UPS shipping labels.

The increased efficiency and functionality provided by the addition of UPS’s online tools could help merchants reduce merchandise returns, decrease customer support phone calls, and reduce address errors at order entry.

“Integrating UPS OnLine Tools within third-party applications increases the ease of use of UPS services for our customers’ customers, while adding value to their applications,” said Jeff Enyart, senior director, Customer Technology Marketing for UPS. “In this case, Kurant enables merchants and their customers to easily and quickly complete shipping transactions to improve their online shopping experience.”

Kurant StoreSense is a complete e-business software suite for small and medium-sized businesses. StoreSense’s features range from simple, wizard-driven Web site and e-store creation to sophisticated site design tools for advanced e-commerce functionality and high-end e-business management. Because StoreSense is offered through resellers on a monthly subscription basis, pricing varies. Manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing starts at $49.95 a month for a standard edition store containing up to 50 products. StoreSense is currently available from Kurant’s reseller partners throughout the U.S. and Canada.

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Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing Staff
Small Business Computing addresses the technology needs of small businesses, which are defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees and/or less than $7 million in annual sales.

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