January 2009  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 6 Issue 1   www.offassist.com
Welcome to the Fun House!

It's 2009, a bright new year full of infinite possibilities!

January is a time of new beginnings, dreaming big and making plans to bring those dreams to life. What I love most about this time of year is that all of my clients are so full of ideas and energy, renewed and ready to take on the world. I hear it in their voices when they call me and see it when they email me. I love being surrounded by so much energy and vitality in my professional life, it makes me want to help them and cheer as they make plans to achieve their goals.

The flip-side, of course, is that January is also when the old year has to be put to bed. Year end bookkeeping is like putting a recalcitrant toddler to bed - I always win in the end, but I know it's going to be a long hard fight!

My friends and family always give me grief over January. Yes, this is typically my busiest month and I pull a few all-nighters every year to get everything done, but, you know what? It's that energy from my clients that fuels those all-nighters and it's what keeps me loving what I do.

Yes. I do love bookkeeping. I love my clients and I love helping them achieve their goals.

Speaking of which, what is your goal for 2009? More importantly, how are YOU going to make it happen?

In this issue...

Getting Help With Your Taxes
by Richard Chapo

Preparing your taxes can be incredibly stressful. In many cases, it just makes sense to get some help with them.

Save Me From This Misery!
When it comes time to file taxes, you can look to software or a real live person. In this article, we are going to focus on living people, to wit, the tax professional. You might be surprised to learn there are different types of assistance out there.

Tax Preparer
Generally, tax preparers have the least amount of experience when it comes to filing taxes. Tax preparers are individuals that are trained for the job or pick up the knack over time. An example of a huge collection of prepares would be the people that work at H&R Block.The advantage of using a tax preparer is they are very cheap. Just keep in mind that you get what you pay for.

Enrolled Agents
The IRS actually licenses certain individuals if they pass scrutiny with the agency. Unlike tax preparers, an enrolled agent can represent you at an audit. Enrolled agents are a step up from tax preparers, but the quality of work and knowledge varies from agent to agent. Some can be excellent because they have an interest in the work and stay on top of changes. Others are less impressive.

CPA
The Certified Public Accountant goes through a hellish process to obtain their license. Getting licensed as a CPA requires significant study and the licensing test is absolutely brutal. If you have a unique or complex financial situation, you want to use a CPA to do your taxes. In fact, you should use a CPA throughout the year to not only prepare taxes, but plan to avoid paying as much tax as possible.

CPAs are expensive with hourly rates in the $200 to $300 range. They can, however, be worth their weight in gold and a few of them are pretty heavy. When picking a CPA, you want to find a proactive one. A proactive CPA is going to talk to you about your life and finances. They are then going to make suggestions to significantly lower your tax bill. The savings typically far outweigh their fees, and you'll be glad you hired them.

So, who should you pick? The answer is entirely dependent upon the sophistication of your finances. If you are salaried employee earning $50,000 a year, you don't need a sophisticated tax planner. If you are a small business owner with three businesses, it is time to find a CPA.

Richard A. Chapo is with www.businesstaxrecovery.com - recovery of business taxes through tax help and tax relief. Visit www.businesstaxrecovery.com/articles to read more business tax articles.

Article Source: www.articlecity.com


QuickBooks Tip
Will that be cash or accrual?

Q: A friend told me that I should use an accrual method of accounting, but I donít know the difference between that and cash bookkeeping. Can you explain?

A: Don't feel bad, a lot of people have trouble understanding the difference between accrual and cash basis accounting methods.

Using the accrual method, income or expenses are treated as though they occur when you ship a product, render a service, or receive a purchase. Under this method, the dates when you enter your transactions and the dates you actually pay an invoice or receive a payment are not necessarily the same.

An accrual basis report will show all of your income as received, whether or not all of your customers have paid you. It will also deduct all of your expenses, even is all of your bills haven't been paid.

To put all your reports on an accrual basis, in the Preferences window select Reports and Graphs, and on the Company Preferences tab click Accrual.

The cash basis accounting method registers income and expenses on the date received or paid, period. A cash basis report shows income only if you have received it, and deducts expenses only if you have paid them. For example, if you have a customer with an outstanding invoice, a cash-basis report on your sales will not include the amount of that invoice until it is paid.

You can put all of your summary* reports on a cash basis in QuickBooks by selecting Cash in the Reports & Graphs Preferences window.

Reports that list individual transactions will always appear as accrual basis reports when you create them from the Reports menu. To change a transaction report to cash basis, click Modify Report in the report window and select Cash in the Report Basis section.

*Summary reports summarize groups of transactions; they have the word "Summary" in their titles.
 
 
Tax Deadlines
January 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for December issued payroll

January 20 - State Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly, quarterly and annual filers

January 31
- Employer's Quarterly Payroll Tax Report(s) Form 941

- Employer's Quarterly TWC (Texas Workforce Commission)

- Employer's Annual FUTA (Form 940)

- Forms W-2, Annual Wage and Tax Statement must to recipients

- Forms 1099-Misc, Miscellaneous Income to recipients

- Forms 1099-B, Interest Income Statement

- Forms 1099-Div, Dividend Income Statement

February 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for January issued payroll

February 20 - State Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly

February 28
- Forms W-2 and W-3, Annual Wage and Tax Statement to be submitted to the Social Security Administration

- Forms 1099 and 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns to the Internal Revenue Service
Tech Talk With Tom...
New Year, New Tech?

No, we're not saying that just because it's a new year you need new technology. But, this is a good time of year to assess your tech. Now is the time to think about what works in your office and what doesn't and take some time to think about the future. Do you have a tool that doesn't work quite the way you want it to, anything from your CRM solution to your mobile phone?

Make a list of all the technology you use in your daily life, both professional and personal. Is it a long, scary list? Resolve to make it shorter. Is the list short and the number of things you still use outdated solutions for long? Resolve to make your list longer in 2009 - if that's your goal. Decide what works and what needs work and carve out some time to research possible options.

Unsurprisingly, we're not the only ones who think this is the time to think about your 2009 technology needs. Check out some of the New Year's tech resolutions articles we found around the web - it's good food for thought.

ArsTechnica's 2009 Tech Resolutions

One of my personal faves mentions, among other things, cleaning up techno-clutter. Check out these 5 resolutions at PCMag.com.

InfoWorld's top tech resolutions for 2009 are interesting, to say the least, but more geared toward large, enterprise operations, although, as open source advocates we espeically like #2.

We're trying to be greener, so Ted Sansom's Green Tech Resolutions for 2009 is especially appealing.

A little lower tech, but more real-life oriented is this list from the Chicago Tribune's Eric 2.0 column.

Pop on over to the OffAssist blog and tell us YOUR 2009 tech resolutions.

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

Transcription has changed a lot since the days of steno pads and dictaphones. What hasn't changed is the need for busy people to have someone to put their words on paper. If the transcriptionist is good with words in his or her own right, all the better.

With that in mind, we are excited to introduce LoneStar Virtual Assistants! This VA firm specializes in transcription and turning that transcription into brilliant marketing writing. The top woman behind the pen and pedal is Crystal Edwards, a long-time friend. We cheered her soft launch last Autumn and look forward to her formal launch - with new website - scheduled for early this year.

Crystal isn't a Texas native, so we asked why she chose the name she did for her business. Her reply says volumes about the enthusiastic way she approaches life and projects:

"It seems like it has taken my whole life for me to get to Texas. We moved to Austin in 2000 and I haven't had a single moment of regret; I love this state and its people and culture. In September of 2008, when I finally hung out my shingle as a virtual assistant, it seemed obvious to me that the name should reflect my beloved adopted home."

With over 18 years of experience doing transcription-to-publication work in fields from politics to medicine, we think she's going to do great! Worried about your marketing work being too dry? Prior to starting a family Crystal wrote and edited story arcs and dialogue for several popular early role-playing computer games, so creativity is definitely not a problem.

For more information on LoneStar Virtual Assistants and their transcription and writing services, which currently run the gamut from blog posts to white papers, check them out on Twitter at twitter.com/LoneStarVA.
 
Have you nursed a secret longing to be in the spotlight, center-stage, all eyes on you?

If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact Candy@OffAssist.com and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight.

Humor
Tech Support for Kids

A couple had a lot of trouble assembling their new computer system. They finally gave in and called Tech Support. The tech on the phone used a lot of jargon while speaking to the husband, which confused him even more.

"Sir," the man finally blurted, "Please, just explain it to me as I were a four-year-old."

"Okay," the computer tech replied. "Son, could you please put your mommy on the phone?"

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.

The OffAssist newsletter is made possible by the copywriting/editing skills of Ink Think VA, and the coding talents of VA Lab Designs.