April 2006
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
04/03/2006           Vol 3 Issue 4 www.offassist.com
Time Keeps on Slippin'...

Ever looked at the calendar and been amazed? Here it is, April, already! CPAs and accountants all over the land are edgy, irritated and wondering where March went.

For those of us that don’t do tax preparation, we are getting calls from people that genuinely want and need help. They’ve been through the wringer trying to gather all their information from last year and have committed themselves to doing better this year.

To all my colleagues, don’t forget about yourselves during this hectic time. Try to get some fun and relaxation in, even if it’s just a quick massage or a special trip to that new movie you’ve been wanting to see. We all definitely deserve it!

In this issue:
  • "Tech Talk With Tom" talks about Windows XP's Automatic Updates Service
  • Learn about matching payments to deposits in the Quickbooks tips section
  • Our spotlight this month is on Dee Copeland, a real estate professional who takes technology seriously.
  • My usual collection of quirky office and accounting humor.
  • ... and those ever important upcoming tax deadlines
I hope you enjoy this month's issue! I am always looking for articles. If you have an article you would like to write, please feel free to email me at candy@offassist.com

My Favorite (Business-y) Things:

If Oprah can do it, I can too, darn it!

I get questions all the time from people asking "How do I do this?" or "Where do I get that?"

So, here goes, a few of my favorite links and things that help keep me sane.

Banking - bankofamerica.com - This is my bank of choice; not only do I get good service but for online banking and bill payments, I’ve yet to see anyone do it better.

Cards - simplehellos.com - Whether it's your Christmas cards or Thank You cards, Melissa is fantastic at personalizing cards to match your branding. She's always willing to scan samples in for you and goes above and beyond the call.

Checks & Forms - asapchecks.com - Very affordable and good quality. I've ordered from them for the past few years on referral from someone else and never had a single problem.

Faxing - efax.com - Everyone is probably familiar with eFax. What I love about this service is that I can get my faxes even when traveling (and can view them on the road with my Treo). Faxes that come into your dedicated fax number are sent to your email box in PDF format. Genius!

File Transfer - sendthisfile.com - Got a file that's just too big to send through email? This is the service to do it - they offer 128-bit encryption too!

Postage - stamps.com - Waiting in line at the post office is no longer something I have to do. When you use stamps.com, you are assigned a meter number.  That means you don't have to hand packages that are over a pound over the counter - just drop them in the box.

Printing - 48hourprint.com - By far the best quality for the price on the internet. This is where I order all of my business cards, brochures and any other print materials I need. They're easy to work with and deliver fast.

Magnetic Car Signs - signofthetimesmarketing.com - I had a problem with my first order with these guys and they called me quickly and got it fixed. The quality is super and they believe in customer satisfaction. If you really want your car dressed to impress, add some vehicle card pockets too!

Templates - office.microsoft.com - Microsoft actually has a good set of templates and other useful information about their suite of Office products at this site.
Quickie QuickBooks Q & A
KM from UT says:

Q: I want to do my own payroll but I can't find an option to do it in QB - can you help?

A: Doing your own payroll is not as scary as it sounds. By doing it yourself you are saving some money vs. Intuit's payroll service, but you are not getting the tax tables they provide for automated paycheck calculations and you have to do the math yourself.

To set up your own payroll:
  1. Choose Edit - Preferences and go to the Payroll & Employees section.
  2. Select Full Payroll and click OK to close the Preferences box.
  3. Choose Employees. If this is the first time you've accessed this menu the Set Up Payroll window will open automatically. If you've already begun setting up payroll, choose Employees - Payroll Services - Set Up Payroll.
  4. Select Choose a Payroll Option.
  5. In the window that opens, select Do-It-Yourself Payroll.
  6. At the bottom of the window look for the sentence that begins If you don't want to use an Intuit Payroll service.... Click the Learn More link.
  7. In the new window, click the To Calculate Payroll Taxes Manually link.
  8. Read the instructions (I *strongly* recommend printing them!) then click the button labeled I Choose To Manually Calculate Payroll Taxes.
You're back at the Payroll Setup Window and the Intuit sign up option is no longer required. Go through the remaining options to set up your payroll items and taxes.

To issue paychecks, select each employee and enter their gross wages then enter their deductions, using a minus sign for each amount. Use the Tax Rate Schedule or Tax Table from IRS Circular E (sent to employers annually) to determine the federal withholding deduction.
 
Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip?

Email candy@offassist.com.
 
Important Tax Deadlines
April 17 - IRS Monthly Payroll tax deposits due

April 17 - Returns/Extensions due for individuals or partnerships

April 17 - First quarter estimated tax payment due (1040ES)

April 30 - Form 941 due for 1st Quarter Payroll

May 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due

May 15 - IRS Form 990 due for exempt organizations
 
Spotlight On...
Dee Copeland & Team Copeland
Highlighted this month is Dee Copeland, a very busy real estate advisor and the woman behind Keller Williams' Team Copeland in Northwest Austin, Texas.

Dee got started in real estate as an investor while she was working as a global project manager for Apple. She occasionally had questions about her investments that the agents she dealt with were unable to answer, so she did the research and found out for herself. After buying a few properties with a particular agent, he talked Dee into going into real estate - he didn't want to lose a regular client but he was positive she would LOVE being an agent.

Dee was skeptical but took the exam and got her license anyway. He was RIGHT! In her first six months as an agent she was able to replace her income from Apple and decided to strike out on her own.

Dee's technical background really shows when you look at how Team Copeland does business, from traditional hands-on real estate to an almost completely virtual process or anywhere in-between. Their website is packed with valuable information for buyers, sellers, and investors. Dee's team takes pride in staying on the cutting edge of technology, including, and this is hard to believe for anyone who has ever sat through the endless initialing of a real estate closing, tools that allow them to offer their clients a paperless transaction.

If you want to find out more about Team Copeland's array of real estate services, visit their website at www.austinhomenews.com. You can also check out up to minute market news and notes on Dee's blog.
 
Accounting:

A bunch of numbers running around looking for an argument.
Tech Talk with Tom...
Automatic Updates in SP2
Over the last two months I've gone over some of the new things available in Windows XP SP2. This month, we end this voyage and will hopefully answer the question “Should I upgrade to SP2?”

Staying up-to-date with Automatic Updates

Although SP2 beefs up XP's intrinsic security and adds additional security features, since its release Microsoft (and others) have discovered a number of security holes and leaks which slipped by Microsoft's guard. That's why you're encouraged to switch Automatic Updates on when you install SP2. With Automatic Updates, you receive the latest patches and fixes for new issues as soon as Microsoft responds to them. You'll also find that when you go to switch off your computer, XP will offer to install any updates it has already downloaded before it closes down.

There's a danger in using Automatic Updates, because sometimes an update, while fixing one problem, causes a new one. On the whole, though, you're probably better off enabling Automatic Updates. The entire Windows Update process has had a lot of attention lavished on it. It's more reliable and smarter about which updates you really need.

If you want to change the settings, open the System Properties dialog box (right-click My Computer) and click the Automatic Updates tab.

The question remains: Should you upgrade?

With all these improvements, upgrading to SP2 is a must for most users (but see my article on How to Avoid Service Pack 2 for some caveats). Yes, the new features will break some existing applications, despite Microsoft's extensive testing, but unless you know one of your critical apps is at risk, you shouldn't let that deter you. With threats of all kinds – viruses, phishing scams, browser hijacking, operating system exploits, data theft, and so on – increasingly common, you will most assuredly want this service pack.

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at tom@offassist.com.

With April 15th looming we can all use a break. Check out the Museum of April Fools Day Hoaxes. Number 4 still has me giggling!
 
A special thank you to our copyeditor and all-around language-geek, Dyanna Larson of Ink Think - visit her website for more information about her services.