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Filtering by Category: Start-Ups

Intro to Estimated Taxes: Do I owe these and when are they due?

Jessica Mishra

Many entrepreneurs don't know about estimated taxes because as an employee you typically aren't responsible for submitting periodic tax payments to the IRS. Your company does that for you by withholding on your behalf. 

As a self-employed person, you could be responsible for submitting period estimated tax payments. These are payments you submit quarterly. Basically instead of paying all of your taxes at year-end, you break them up into 4 payments. It is important to know the rules here because if you do not submit on time and you were required to do so, you could owe late penalties. 

How do I know if I owe?

Always remember to check in with your accountant or CPA on the tax rules as they specifically apply to your business, but I want to give you a general rule for estimated taxes.

You will typically owe estimated tax payments if you expect to owe at least $1,000 in tax (this is the amount of tax you owe not your profit or revenue) for a certain tax year. States have their own requirements so remember to ask your accountant or look this up for your specific state. This is the rule for individuals. Corporations have a different requirement. 

When do I pay?

The deadlines change slightly each year. To see the deadlines each year just google "1040-ES" (this is the tax form for estimated tax payments) and click on the form from the IRS website. The deadlines are listed in the instructions there. For 2017 see the deadlines below:

1st Payment.............April 18, 2017 

2nd Payment...........June 15, 2017

3rd Payment............Sept. 15, 2017

4th Payment............Jan. 16, 2018

How to pay?

There are several ways to submit payment. I personally prefer the electronic submittal. It is very easy! To see the options go to the How to Pay Estimated Tax section here

Please reach out if you have any questions!

Increase your productivity and focus

Jessica Mishra

As an entrepreneur, productivity can be a challenge. We have flexible work schedules, we work from home or coffee shops, and we have control over some or all deadlines. I personally love the flexibility of being able to do what I want, when I want. With ultimate flexibility, though, can come distractions and inefficiencies. Throughout the years of being an entrepreneur, I have learned some tips that help me to stay focused and be as productive as possible.

Set a Weekly Work Outline

A to-do list for the week is a good place to start, but I recommend taking this a step further. Have a general outline of what tasks you will work on each day. Assign approximate amounts of time for each task. Be sure to leave time in the day for checking emails and responding to requests/firedrills so you don’t feel stressed when they pop up (because of course they will). Also, know that you will probably flex items on your outline throughout the week, but at least you are starting with a framework.

I find that I feel happy when I am able to hit all the items on my task list for the day. It drives me to be productive and if I get everything done for the day I will either reward myself by stopping early or get a jump on the next day’s tasks (which makes me feel ahead of the game).

Notice Your Productivity Rhythms

Start to notice when you are most productive during the day and when you are least productive. When I am feeling like I am in a lower productivity mode or am feeling tired, I typically try to do the tasks that take the least amount of energy. For example, I might do repetitive, data entry type tasks at that time because I can churn those out with minimal effort.

When I notice I am feeling more focused and productive, I take on tasks that are more challenging and use more brain power, like research or learning a new accounting concept. It can also be helpful to lump tasks of a similar type together. You can fall into a groove when you work on tasks of the same type instead of switching around throughout the day.

Limit Email Checking and Social Media

We are so connected these days. There are many ways we communicate with each other. Email, Facebook, Slack or other chat service, phone, text, and the list goes on. You may not realize it but every time you interrupt your focused work to say check email or take a peek at Facebook, you are affecting your productivity. Your brain switches to focusing on something else, and then you have to get refocused when you switch back to your work task. I find it helpful to limit the number of times I check email or social media during the day.

If this feels too structured, you can simply set a goal to not check email until you finish a designated task. For example, if I am working on writing a blog post, I tell myself I cannot check any email or social media until I have a first draft done. That way my head stays in the game and I don’t get distracted.

Other suggestions:

· Turn your phone to silent and flip the screen to face down so you are not constantly distracted by incoming calls or texts.

· Turn off sounds and limit alerts or other notifications on your computer. Little windows or “dings” constantly going off are distracting.

· Let your clients or employees know when you will be checking email. I have seen people put this in their email signature. They craft a polite message just informing those that email when they can expect a response.

Reward Yourself

The human brain loves reward! All work and no play makes you a dull boy/girl. You can set mini-deadlines for yourself during the day, and then reward yourself when you meet that deadline. You could call your best friend once you finish up one of your deadlines, go for your favorite workout, or spend time with your sweet kitty or pup. Take a coffee or tea break or grab a healthy snack. I say healthy snack because sugar is the enemy of productivity, but moderation in all things of course. My latest favorite is a chocolate banana peanut butter smoothie break. I also love breaking for a noon-time yoga class. My productivity is usually increased after class as an added bonus.

Set Boundaries

Have structured hours in which you work. This is different for each of us, but I find that the brain stays more focused when it knows what the end time is. This can be flexible. Say you typically keep office hours from 9-5 and then one day you work until 6 or 7. That is totally fine, I just think keeping some kind of boundaries can help you be more productive during the times that you have set to work.

It is also important for the brain to have rest and relaxation time. If you are an athlete, you know you need proper recovery time after a workout. This is the same for the brain. If you have the appropriate amount of rest, then your brain will be ready to work once you go back to it.

I know this one is a struggle for many people and may not even be possible with your particular type of work, but as much as possible try not to check emails into the evening hours. Give your brain a chance to disconnect and I promise you will see the rewards. Your clients will also learn that you check emails when you are in the office and won’t expect a late night response.

As an added bonus tip, did you know that starring at a screen an hour or two before bed can impact your sleep? The blue light released from a screen can affect your melatonin production. Less quality sleep leads to less productivity. If possible, try to not look at your phone too much an hour before bed.

I hope these tips were helpful. Please share your favorite tips for being productive!

Why hiring a bookkeeper can actually save you money

Jessica Mishra

I want to share with you some real world experiences I have had with clients, in which, if they had hired a bookkeeping firm they might have avoided costly mistakes. I don’t mean to say this was their fault. They are entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs do their best to cut costs as much as they can. However, there is a point where it is more helpful than not to have some key experts on your team.

I will be the first to tell you that I don’t like how many accounting software companies out there try to empower business owners to hit the ground running and use their software with minimal training. To me this is like if you decided to build a house and just sort of threw together some blueprints without working with an architect. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are required to meet certain accounting education requirements, obtain work experience hours under an experienced CPA, must pass a grueling 4-part exam, and maintain continuing education annually. I don’t say this to make us sound overly important, I just want to make the point that accounting is not easy and it takes time to learn all the ins and outs of maintaining the finances for a business.

I am going to tell you why an experienced bookkeeping firm (led by a CPA) is a must for business owners at a certain point in their business development. Let’s talk about the areas where costs can pop up that can easily be avoided.

Tax penalties due to missed deadlines

These come in all sorts of types and sizes. I have had clients who incur penalties related to late payroll tax filings, late sales tax filings, or late estimated tax payment filings. Let’s face it taxes are complicated. If you are a business owner, you are focused on running your business and it is easy for deadlines to slip your mind.

Tax penalties due to changes in tax law

Tax law in constantly in flux. Sales and payroll taxes are one of the more complex areas when it comes to tax filings and payments. Letting an expert handle these payments frees you up to handle the other important functions of your business. You might spend countless hours researching changes in tax law or making sure you are up-to-date. Letting an expert like an accountant handle this will save you so much time and ensure it is done properly.

Accounting mistakes resulting in underpaid income taxes

If accounting it not done correctly it can significantly impact the tax liability owed for a company. In other words, I have seen several clients do something wrong in their record keeping and later find out that they owe thousands of dollars in taxes that they previously did not think they owed (and that also comes with tax penalities).

To give a real world example this certain type of error happened to 3 of my clients. Without getting into too many details, this error involved liability accounts. My clients booked what they thought were expenses to an expense account instead of back to the appropriate liability account. This basically serves to overstate expenses and as a result understate income in a previous tax year. That means a larger tax liability is owed than what was paid.

My heart drops when I have to tell clients about this. It is very frustrating and again no fault of the business owner. They were doing the best they could and did not study accounting in school. So, back to the point. Hire an expert to help you with this stuff. It may seem like a cost you can’t afford now, but the cost of high tax penalties or major mistakes in your tax filings is way worse.

Start the conversation and at least talk with a bookkeeping firm. They can tell you if it is the right time to start with their services. Don’t forget to ask if the firm is led by a Certified Public Accountant. If you are very small and just starting out, you may not face some of these more complex issues, but in time I recommend building your team of experts. It is an insurance policy you will not regret!