Forgot how to Handle Sales Tax?

Guest Post from Mark Faggiano of Taxjar.com

Forgot how to Handle Sales Tax? Here’s How…

markfaggianoMark Faggiano is the founder and CEO of TaxJar, a service built to make post-transaction sales tax compliance easier for multi-channel ecommerce sellers.

January is the promising start of a brand new year. It’s time to sit back and count your profits after the holidays, make some resolutions and maybe enjoy a few cups of hot cocoa.

But for many online sellers, January is also the only time of year you have to deal with sales tax.

But never fear. If you have annual sales tax due dates in January (and nearly every online seller does), then TaxJar has your back.  Here’s what you need to know, even if it’s been a whole year since you’ve dealt with sales tax:

1.) Find Your Sales Tax Due Dates – Check out this list of January sales tax due dates to determine when your sales tax filing is due. Most sales tax filings are due on January 20th, 2015, but there are always a few states that just have to be different.  Double check due dates in every state where you’re registered to collect sales tax to ensure you pay on time.

2.) Determine How Much Sales Tax You Collected – If you’re only filing annually, this means you have to determine how much sales tax you’ve collected throughout the entire year. You must also determine how much sales tax you’ve collected through every channel on which you sell. You can do this the time-consuming way, by running reports from all your channels, or the easy way by letting TaxJar do it for you.

3.) Get Your Sales Tax Reports Return-Ready – In a perfect world, states would only want to know how much sales tax you collected from buyers in the entire state and be done with it. But, of course, as with anything sales tax-related, it’s often more complicated than that. Many states want you to break down sales tax you’ve collected by county, city or other taxing district. This can mean poring over every transaction and trying to figure out exactly what districts your buyers lived in.  TaxJar has your back here, too. We’ll give you return-ready reports so you don’t have to spend your time on this tedious task.

4.) File Your Sales Tax Returns – Once you’ve gathered up all of your information, it’s time to file. You can file online or even let TaxJar AutoFile for you (in 26 states and counting!)  Be sure to file on time – states will penalize you if you’re late, but many will also allow you to claim a sales tax discount if you file early.  And don’t forget that many states require you to file a “zero return” when you’re registered there, even if you didn’t collect any sales tax over the taxable period.

And that’s it! You’re done with sales tax. Well, at least until the next time sales tax rolls around.

Sales tax is complex. That’s why we created TaxJar – to handle the burden of sales tax while you get back to running your business.  TaxJar pulls in sales tax collected from all the channels where you sell, compiles your data into return-ready reports, and will even AutoFile your sales tax returns for you in 26 states (and counting!).

Sign up for a 30-Day TaxJar free trial today and put a lid on sales tax. To let us take care of your January sales tax filings, be sure to sign up by January 5th!

 

Year-End Tax Planning for 2014

  Ciff Ennico HeadshotFor most people, the end of December is called “the holidays.” For lawyers, accountants and other financial types, however, it’s called “year-end.”

While most of us celebrate with turkey, egg nog, ugly sweaters and football (often all at once), these folks are working late hours trying to save their clients as much money in taxes as possible before the ball drops in Times Square.

Thanks to the midterm elections, 2014 wasn’t a big year for major changes in the tax law. The basic year-end advice still applies: defer the recognition of taxable income into 2015, and accelerate deductible expenses into 2014. But there are a few other strategies you should think about, for at least a few minutes. Here are some tips:

 Don’t Disappear Over the Holidays. If you read newspapers, you know that Congress is pushing to adopt a 2015 budget bill that will keep the Government running without a shutdown like last year’s. Quite a few individual tax breaks expired at the end of 2013, such as the $250 school teachers’ deduction for school supplies, the deduction for state and local sales taxes, the $500 credit for qualified energy-efficient home improvements, the deduction for qualified home mortgage insurance premiums, and the temporary 100% exclusion of gain from sale of “qualified small business stock.”

Congress has not as yet extended these tax breaks retroactively, as it has done in past years, but may well do so in the final budget bill. I personally predict the breaks will be extended: the soon-to-be-in-control Republicans will be under tremendous pressure to do lots of extremely popular things taxwise next year in order to stave off Hurricane Hillary in 2016. So be prepared to do some last-minute deductible spending between Christmas and New Year’s if the breaks are extended.

Get Yourself Some Health Insurance. The ongoing rollout of Obamacare hits a milestone on December 31. If you (or a dependent) are not covered by a qualified health insurance plan on that date providing for “minimum essential coverage”, and are not exempt from the insurance mandate, you get to pay the “Shared Responsibility Tax” on your 2014 tax return.

Also, if your 2014 income was between one and four times the 2013 “Federal Poverty Line,” you may be eligible for a “premium tax credit” by buying insurance through the Obamacare marketplace.

Embrace Alternative Energy. The temporary 10% credit (with a lifetime cap of $500) for qualified energy-efficient home improvements expired at the end of 2013, but the 30% credit for installing a qualifying solar water heater, solar electric generating unit, geothermal heat pump, or small wind energy property did not (it will remain on the books until the end of 2015.

Contribute to Your Retirement Plan. You can still deduct contributions to an IRA, 401(k) or other retirement plan, even if the contribution isn’t made until just before you file your 2014 tax return sometime in 2015. Heck, you can even set up a new retirement plan after December 31 and still deduct your contribution in 2014 as long as you make the contribution before you file your 2014 return.

If you are over age 70-1/2 and are forced to take taxable distributions from your IRA, consider donating up to $100,000 of your IRA funds to charity. The transfer will count toward your “required minimum distribution” for the year, and will not be included in your income as other distributions will.

Hold On To Your Stock, Unless You Lost Money. Short-term and long-term capital gains rates took a big jump last year because of the 3.8% “net investment income tax” that was part of Obamacare. To avoid the tax, hold onto any stock that appreciated in value during 2014.

If, however, you lost money on your stock portfolio this year and incurred a capital loss of more than $3,000, consider selling some of your short-term securities before year-end and reduce your loss to $3,000. That way, the short-term gain on the sale will be netted against the excess loss.

Self-Employment Income. If you are self-employed and use the cash method of accounting, consider delaying year-end billings to defer income until 2015, but remember that if you receive the check before December 31, deferring the deposit does not defer the income. Also, you may not want to defer billing if you think this will increase your risk of not being paid.

If you have the chance to buy equipment or make other deductible expenses before December 31, do so. Make sure the check is mailed on or before December 31 to take the deduction in 2014.

Don’t Obsess. Enjoy your holidays. Worry about taxes next year.

Thanks to My Tax “Elves.” I want to thank the accountants, CPAs and other tax advisors who help me with my column each year and make sure I am more or less accurate and up-to-date. They are: Margaret (Peg) O’Donnell; John D’Aquila; Russell Abrahms; Paul Piasecki; and Michael Paolini.

Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.

So You Wanna Sell On eBay – Kat Simpson

soyouwannasellonebay

So You Wanna Sell on eBay Podcast:  Interviewed Kat on December 1st, 2014

See more at: SoYouWanneSellOnEbay.com

Kat shared that she is very proud of reaching gold power level seller and selling $10,000 a month on eBay. She had several different product lines going. She believes keeping her business varied has contributed to her success.

Kat’s Tips:

Kat buys liquidation lots from Bidonfusion.com. Enter “ThatKat” and get 10% off your first buy. Kat also loves Terapeak for analytics, eBay selling manager Pro and Stamps.com. She uses Profit Bandit and Seller Engine for Amazon. Kat also uses Virtual assistants to do repetitive tasks.

Listen here: SoYouWanneSellOnEbay.com

 

Ask Janelle Show # 8: Karon Thackston

In this episode, Kat spoke with Karon Thackston.

 

KaronthakstonKaron Thackston is President of Marketing Words, a full-service copywriting & content agency that helps businesses convert better, rank higher and make more sales.  Since 1999, she has created several products including the popular e-courses “Ecommerce Copywriting,” “Amazon Advantage: Product Listing Strategies” and others.  Her company has contributed to the search engine and sales success of organizations including Gorton’s Seafood, American Boating Association, Entertainment.com and more.Amazonadvantage

Karon is a speaker at Search Engine Strategies, Search Marketing Expo, Internet Retailer and Internet Summit and always draws big crowds.  Karon Thackston has over 25 years combined experience in marketing, advertising, copywriting and SEO copywriting. She understands the processes involved with creating various advertising strategies.

Get your free copy of her cheat sheet “5 Product Listing Secrets for Amazon Sellers” when you subscribeto her Marketing Words Newsletter today at MarketingWords.com/NL

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Kat and Karon talked about how she came online and started an online business.

  1. How did you first come online and why?
  2. What did you do for a living before you became an Internet Marketing Person?
  3. What is your history related to online business?
  4. Please tell us one thing you’ve never shared online.

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Karon talked about her business beliefs & philosophy.

  1. What is your current online business?
  2. Why did you start this business?
  3. What are your core beliefs about business and life?
  4. How do you integrate your family with your business?
  5. Where do you see your business in 10 years?

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Karon talked about her book “Amazon Advantage.”:

  1. Where did the idea for your book come from?
  2. What kind of Amazon seller did you write the book for?
  3. Give us a capsule view of what is in the book please.
  4. Have you been surprised at how the book has been received?
  5. Does your book help us figure out who our customers are on Amazon and how to target them?

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Questions that were asked and answered were:  Karon talked more about her book.

  1. What is your favorite part of the book?
  2. Should an Amazon seller write for Amazon or Google or both?
  3. What is the most important thing about your Amazon title?
  4. Can you and should you use HTML in your descriptions? How?
  5. Doing this right is a lot of work, can we hire you to do it for us?
  6. How and where can our audience connect with you?

 

Links from the show:

You can follow Kat on TWITTERFacebookGoogle+ and Instagram. Read the blog on  ThatKat.com.

Purchase one of Kat’s books on Amazon. Kat’s Sales Tax Book or Ultimate Guide to Savings by Store.

Join her Facebook Group to be notified of upcoming shows.

Amazon Shipping Kerfuffle Upsets Sellers

164-365 (Year 8) Fancy socks

If you are on any of the numerous forums or Facebook pages for eBay sellers, you are probably use to hearing the grumblings of sellers complaining about eBay and its irritating habit of being a little (lot!) overly optimistic about the delivery dates for sellers when it comes to the shipping of their packages.

Well, last week there was a kerfuffle over at Amazon when the company began posting shipping dates on some listings that had seller’s packages arriving at their destination after Christmas.

The problem is that the items being sold most likely would have arrived before Christmas, even though Amazon was stating otherwise on the seller’s listings. Interestingly, this notice was for the most part only appearing on listings where the items were merchant full-filled rather than through FBA.

Perhaps this might help to explain why Galen Moore of Bostinno noticed and reported that while he was seeing a lot of items, such as books, video game consoles and smartphones listed with promises that you could have the item delivered by December 24, items such as women’s socks mostly did not.

Whatever the case, feelings about the expanded delivery dates were mixed. While some sellers were relieved to know that the Christmas shipping pressure was off, others felt like this was yet another attempt by Amazon to force sellers into becoming pro-merchants.

In Amazon’s defense, the decision to create a feature for some of the listings that shows a longer Estimated Delivery Date was probably, in part, a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to ensure that they didn’t have another Christmas debacle like they did last year. As you may recall, a lot of buyers became upset with Amazon after items that were promised to be delivered by Christmas actually involved days and in some cases, a week after they had been ordered.

While that was actually more the fault of the shipping companies than the sellers, it appears that this time around Amazon just doesn’t want to take any chances.

Do you have items showing a longer delivery date? Leave a comment below.

Show #85 – Ty Yolac of KoleImports.com

 

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In this episode, Kat spoke with Ty Yolac of KoleImports.comTyYolac

Ty Yolac is the eCommerce Marketing Manager at Kole Imports.  He is expanding the online presence of Kole Imports and helping to develop and promote their dropship program.

 

Questions asked were:

  1. Please tell us about your history and how you got into wholesale sourcing.
  2. Is your company focused on e-commerce sellers?
  3. What kind of items do you have available?
  4. Are your items new items?
  5. What is a typical size minimum order?
  6. What kind of guarantee comes with your items?
  7. Do you have discounts for larger orders?
  8. How can our audience connect with you online and learn more?

Links from the show:

http://www.koleimports.com

http://dropship.koleimports.com

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/ty-yolac/66/481/70

http://www.Stamps.comhttp://www.bubblefast.com/store/pc/Big-Kat-Kombo-25-each-of-4-sizes-192p1819.htm#.UeHeh9Lqn54

http://www.bubblefast.com Use code: THATKAT for a 5% discount!!

http://www.bubblefast.com

Http://www.facebook.com/bubblefast

Kitty Kat Kombo: http://www.bubblefast.com/store/pc/Kitty-Kat-Kombo-10-each-of-4-sizes-192p1818.htm#.UeHeUtLqn54

Join the That Kat facebook group! http://www.facebook.com/groups/thatkat

http://www.thatkatradio.com

http://ThatKatGroup.com

http://outright.com/

http://bidonfusion.com/content/

 

You can follow Kat on TWITTERFacebookGoogle+ and Instagram.   Read the blog on  ThatKat.com.

Purchase one of Kat’s books on Amazon. Kat’s Sales Tax Book or Ultimate Guide to Savings by Store.

Join our Facebook Group to be notified of upcoming shows.

 

Please help us spread the word about That Kat Radio!

Please let your twitter followers know about us by tweeting. If you enjoyed this episode of That Kat Radio, please head over to iTunes, leave a rating, write a review and subscribe. And if you listen on Stitcher, please rate and review us there.

Ways to subscribe to That Kat Radio: Click here to subscribe on iTunesClick here to subscribe via RSS (non-iTunes feed). You can also subscribe via Stitcher or Talkshoe.

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Getting “First Place” In a Business Plan Competition

Ciff Ennico HeadshotAs my readers know, twice a year I am a judge in the Connecticut Business Plan Competition, where students from business schools and undergraduate business programs throughout Connecticut compete for cash prizes and mentoring from leading business experts, in a format very similar to the popular “SharkTank” television show.

This fall’s event featured 12 teams from throughout the state. Here are some of the ideas the students came up with, and my own “judge’s notes” describing their strengths and weaknesses.

Concept # 1: A mobile smartphone application (“app”) to help people from India who are resident in the United States find “Bollywood” movies in theaters closest to where they live.

Strengths: There are approximately 4 to 5 million Indian expatriates in the United States, most of whom are fanatical about Bollywood movies. There are also approximately 300 Bollywood movie studios grinding out 1,200 movies a year looking to reach these customers. Amazingly, there are currently no websites or “apps” filling this need.

 Weaknesses: Getting information from local theatres around the country offering Bollywood movies will be difficult and time-consuming. Also, keeping content and information about new movies current will be extremely labor-intensive with so many new movies coming out each year.

Concept # 2: A free online music service where unknown musicians can post their music and receive ratings from other musicians and the public at large.

Strengths: Musicians who don’t have recording contracts have always had a tough time connecting with their audiences. Social media is a perfect tool to connect musicians with music lovers, as evidenced by successful music sharing sites such as Spotify. By allowing customers to “rate” performers, unknown musicians can build fan followings and (perhaps) be visible to record companies.

Weaknesses: Without a really good search engine, it will be difficult for customers faced with thousands of unknown artists to pick the ones they like. There needs to be in each artist’s description a sentence such as “this artist is for people who like Bob Dylan, Bon Iver and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.” Also, since by definition unknown artists have no money and fans will not pay good money to listen to artists they don’t know, generating revenue for this business will be difficult. Perhaps they should get a percentage of the artist’s “publishing rights?” Hey, just a thought . . .

Concept # 3: A mobile smartphone app where travelers on interstate highways can order food in advance from “rest stops” along the way.

Strengths: People in a hurry don’t want to wait in long lines at rest stops, especially if they want food from different outlets requiring them to wait in multiple lines.

Weaknesses: Most rest stop food outlets are franchises: while they will be happy to accept mobile orders they won’t want to combine them with orders from other outlets at the rest stop (i.e. their competitors). What this business needs is a “kiosk” at each rest stop with people who can collect the orders from each outlet, combine them and then hand them to the customer when they pass through.

Concept # 4: A mobile smartphone app that helps restaurant owners find waiters and other staff on short notice if someone calls in sick or they are otherwise short-staffed on a busy night.

Strengths: Restaurant owners who are short on staff are desperate to get good help on short notice.

Weaknesses: Restaurant owners prefer to hire “short staff” who have previously worked at the restaurant, know the routine, the menu, and so forth, and most already have a list of such people for emergencies. It will be difficult to ensure that employees listed on the site will be available on an hour or less notice to work.

 Concept # 5: A website that enables beer lovers to order craft “microbrews” from anywhere in the country by linking them directly to local retailers.

 Strengths: Craft microbrews in general only circulate within a couple of hours’ drive from the brewery. Most will welcome the opportunity to get sales from remote customers (for example, people who grew up in the area where the brewery is located but now live elsewhere) at minimal cost.

Weaknesses: Working through retailers – and only those few that have federal shipping permits — will increase the cost to the customer. Company may need to obtain a liquor distributor’s license in some states.

Concept # 6: A GPS product you can stick on to any object so that you can track its location via your smartphone if it becomes lost, misplaced or stolen.

Strengths: Product is easy to use and has multiple markets: for example, people who suspect their spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend are cheating on them can use these stickers to track their spouses’ whereabouts in real time 24/7.

Weaknesses: Stickers can easily be removed and placed on other objects. Also, the product doesn’t connect to law enforcement authorities so you still have to report your stolen property to police.

Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.

How to deal with an unhappy buyer

Another photo of one of the silberbacks

If you have an online store, dissatisfied buyers are a fact of life.

Unfortunately, during the holiday season these dissatisfied buyers often seem to come out of the woodwork and some may even act like a Grinch who is intentionally trying to take away your good holiday cheer. It isn’t always easy to keep your cool when it happens, but there are some things you can do to help you control the situation.

Don’t take it personally
Face it, some buyers are going to know just exactly how to push your buttons. They’re rude. They’re mean, and they’re demanding. Remind yourself that although it may seem like a personal attack against you, it’s really not. What the buyer really wants is to be heard. BusinessKnowHow.com states that one thing to try as you deal with a customer, is to always assume that the person has a right to be angry.

Wait to respond
It’s never fun to get a rude email or message from a buyer. Your knee-jerk response will probably be to reply immediately and when you’re emotional, this can be a recipe for disaster. Walk away from the computer for a while and let yourself cool down. If possible, it is best to wait several hours before you respond. This will allow you to look at the situation without all the emotion you felt when you first read their complaint.

Read between the lines
Although some buyers do expect you to give them a full refund AND let you keep the product, most buyers actually just want their concerns addressed. Read between the lines and see if you can figure out what they actually want you to do about the problem. In some cases, a partial refund may be all it takes for them to be happy, or you may find it best to tell them to simply return the item for a refund. Before you do anything, however, make sure to read over your return policy to see how you have it worded. You can then point them toward it to let them decide how they want to proceed. In some cases, getting the item back so that you can resale may be the best resolution even if it means you have to pay for the return shipping.

Learn from your mistakes
Even though the buyer is unhappy, you still initially made the sale. Study the transaction to help you determine if there is something you could have or should have done differently. As an example, perhaps it would help to provide more measurements when you list the item again or maybe you need to add a more detailed description. You may also realize that you need to take more photos to help show a defect. Once you know what the actual problem with the sale is, you can take steps to correct it from happening again in the future.

Rekindling the Lost Passions of Youth

Ciff Ennico HeadshotSometimes in my entrepreneurship classes and coaching sessions, I run across someone who genuinely has no idea what to do with the rest of his or her life.

Usually, but not always, they are corporate executives who have been downsized after 20 or more years of loyal service to their employers. All they have ever known is the job which they have just left, and in many cases those jobs are no longer in demand – either because of overseas outsourcing, technological advances, or just plain obsolescence. They have no choice – they have to “begin again” from scratch and retrain themselves for a job that will keep them solvent into their retirement years.

Very often, with such people, I ask the question “what did you want to do, or dream about doing, when you were 18 to 21 years old – your high school and college years?”

The question is not frivolous. You can tell a lot about a person by the way in which he or she answers it.

There are two things you can say about any 18 year old person: (1) they are physically (although perhaps not in other ways) mature, adult human beings; and (2) the doors to the world are entirely open to them. They can move in any one of 100 or more different career directions. They have not made any of the life commitments (marriage, a mortgage, student loan debt) that can keep you locked into a certain track. The choices made during the high school and college years – even minor ones – can set a young person on a trajectory that will continue for decades afterwards.

I’ve learned over the years that every person on Earth needs to get something – often just one thing – out of their career in order to be happy. And very often you have identified that “thing” by the time you are 18-21 years old. What you should do at that stage of life is look for careers that offer you that “thing”, and ignore career paths that don’t. Sadly, most of us don’t – we “sell out,” go for the money, status, or whatever, and have to make the best of careers that deny us that “thing,” hopefully leaving us enough leisure time to look for that “thing” in our nonwork lives.

Show me what someone wanted to be during those critical formative years, and I will tell you a lot about that person. If that person wanted to be an artist or ballet dancer, I know that person values creativity. If that person wanted to be a forest ranger, I know that person values the outdoors. If that person wanted to be a professional football or basketball player, I know that person values physicality and competitiveness. If that person wanted to be a media celebrity or actor/actress, I know that person needs to have an audience. If that person wanted to be a politician, I know that person values power and influence. If that person wanted to be an engineer, I know that person likes tinkering with things. You get the idea.

It was therefore with great interest that I picked up my friend Doug Campbell’s latest book “The 16-28 Solution: Unleash the Passions of Your Youth” (Success Coach Publishing, $16.95, available at The Success Coach). He looks at a slightly longer time period than I do — the years from age 16 to 28 – and argues that “events, emotions, experiences and aptitudes from that critical formative period in our lives are what cause the alarm bells to go off for us whenever our careers reach important points of transition.”

The book offers five case studies of entrepreneurs who learned to manage difficult career transitions through an in-depth study of the key decisions they made and lessons they learned during that 12-year period. The author’s own example provides perhaps the most illuminating parallel between the “things” we did then and the “things” we do now:

• in college Doug majored in Spanish and international relations – today he is involved in a microlending program to poor peasant farmers in Latin America;

• he also tutored Native American children in college – for the past 30 years he has been co-owner of a Sylvan Learning Centers after-school tutoring franchise in Connecticut;

• he also coached golf during his college years – today he coaches golf at a high school in Connecticut;

• while studying at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, he started an Entrepreneurs’ Club – for the past 18 years he has coached entrepreneurs and business owners in his own consulting practice.

Buy Doug’s book, and take his practice exercises. You will be amazed what you will learn, not only about your former self but how the ghost of that former self is still with you. You may no longer be able to play bass in a heavy metal band, but you almost certainly can find a career outlet that will fulfill your need for creativity well into old age.

Cliff Ennico, a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.