Tax time is upon us, and no matter how much you’ve prepared, there’s always the inevitable rush at the end. Fortunately, an array of online resources and services can help small business owners tackle the job. No, they won’t pay your taxes for you, but they can answer your questions, make filing easier and help you plan for T-Day throughout the year.
The Internal Revenue Service
The IRS may taketh away, but the agency also giveth. Its Web site should be your first stop for tax questions and advice. The Small Business/Self Employed area takes you directly to the information small biz owners care about, without having to wade through irrelevant pages geared toward individuals or enterprises. The handy “Find it Fast” link brings up an A-Z listing of business topics. You’ll also find help with filing business returns, an area for self-employed independent contractors, an informative guide to allowable business expenses (including business use of your home and car), articles on tax-law changes for businesses, and much more.
Contributed to by tax and accounting pros, TaxAlmanac.org is a wiki devoted to tax advice, articles and discussion.
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A column on the left side of the small-business page shows a link to an Online Classroom. Here, you’ll find an entire section on Federal tax training. The free courses include an introduction to federal taxes for small businesses, tax and accounting basics and a small business tax workshop (available in both English and Spanish). Each course is broken down into multimedia lessons (slides accompanied by audio, with subtitles) that you can go through at your leisure and revisit should a question arise.
Be sure to check out the FAQ area, which you can sort by category or keyword (sorted alphabetically). And of course, there’s a link to any tax form you are likely to need.
U.S. Small Business Administration
Here’s more of your tax dollars at work. The U.S. Small Business Administration’s excellent Web site is a treasure trove for small businesses, whether you’re just starting out or are an experienced pro. The site’s Small Business Planner section provides help on managing your business, including a “Pay Taxes” area that brings up 10 links to the IRS pages on business taxes, employer identification numbers (EINs, also called the federal tax ID number), employment taxes, and more.
Intuit Inc.’s JumpUp.com
Launched late last year, JumpUp is a free Web site aimed at entrepreneurs just starting a business. You’ll find general advice about starting and running a business, plus a section under Tools & Services dedicated to tax tools.
Not surprisingly, the tax area is heavily geared toward Intuit’s products and services — but that’s not a bad thing, since the company’s applications are among the best in the biz. There’s a handy link to IRS form SS-4 so you can apply for a federal EIN, plus a link to Intuit’s TurboTax Estimated Taxes online program that helps businesses calculate and pay quarterly taxes.
You’ll also want to check out TurboTax Expense Pro, a free service (presently in beta) that automatically gathers business expenses from your online bank and credit card accounts so you don’t miss any deductions. And as April 15 approaches, check back for links to either TurboTax Business (for S Corporations, Partnerships, LLCs and C Corporations) or TurboTax Home & Business (for sole proprietors, self-employed, contractors, consultants and single-owner LLCs).
The IRS provides a huge amount of information, including tutorials and a complete FAQ area, on its site.
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Though Intuit sponsors it, TaxAlmanac.org is a community-driven wiki containing tax research and information, news, articles, discussion forums, and more. It’s geared primarily toward tax pros and accountants, but any small business owner is welcome to keep abreast of tax-law changes that may impact his or her bottom line. There are more than 42,000 articles on the site, covering topics that range from interpreting new and existing tax codes to reports on recent court decisions.
Requesting and keeping track of W9 forms (the request for an EIN) for vendors and customers you deal with can be a hassle. It can also be time-consuming and potentially business-losing, especially if you need to fax or mail the W9 request to a new customer and have them sign and mail it back before you can complete a transaction.
But online forms processor EchoSign can make it all happen digitally. Simply send the form via e-mail through EchoSign, and your recipient can then sign the document electronically. EchoSign will even track who has returned a signature and who hasn’t. You can also use EchoSign for W4 forms (withholding allowance for employees), I-9 forms (employment eligibility), and more. The service is free for businesses that need to collect 10 signatures a month or fewer, and just $12.95 a month for unlimited signatures.
Small Business Taxes & Management
This Web clearinghouse for all things tax is not fancy, but it includes some helpful links and articles. There are daily news and tip items, special reports on IRS rulings and bulletins, plus links to IRS forms and information. The site’s Reference Section displays tax rates and tables (vehicle, depreciation, and so on), and the Recent Legislation area shows you the latest tax-law changes at a glance.
Free Management Library
A service of Authenticity Consulting, the Free Management Library contains articles and links covering more than 650 topics pertinent to all types of businesses. For example, this link provides tax help for small for-profit businesses (there’s also a non-profit section of the library). There are links to articles on getting started, tax management, planning, and so on. You’ll also find links to the IRS’ own forms and help desk.
Once your taxes are done, you’ll no doubt stash the important paperwork in a filing cabinet. But you should take things a step further and keep a copy off-site, should disaster befall your place of business. That’s where KeepYouSafe.com comes in. Not your ordinary online storage service, KeepYouSafe bills itself as an online safe deposit box for all your important documents. Scan in your tax records, employee information—anything you would need in order to resurrect your business—and upload them to the company’s servers. KeepYouSafe uses military-grade encryption for your documents (only you will know the password, not even anyone at the company) and stores them in redundant servers (two sets in the U.S., one in Europe). A secure box containing 10 uploads (up to 2MB of data total) is free; a 500MB box costs just $4 per month.
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.
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