Is it a Business or a Hobby? 9 Questions to Ask

The IRS takes the distinction very seriously.

Many small businesses start out as casual pastimes. You help troubleshoot your friends’ computer problems in your spare time, and they start telling their friends and business contacts about you. Or you use your woodworking skills to build furniture for non-profit organizations or your sewing skills to make one-of-a-kind dolls for the neighbor kids.

BusinessWord gets around that you’re good at what you do, but you can’t keep doing it for free. You have to start charging for your time in addition to the materials required.

There’s a point at which the Internal Revenue Service would consider you a business, obligating you to report your income and expenses on IRS forms and schedules come tax-filing time. So how do you know when you reach that point?

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5 Ways You Can Use QuickBooks’ Income Tracker

The Income Tracker is one of QuickBooks’ more innovative features. If you’re not using it, you should be.

One of the reasons that QuickBooks appeals to millions of small businesses is because it offers multiple ways to complete the same tasks, which accommodates different work styles. Say, for example, you wanted to look up a specific invoice. You could:

  • Go to the Customer Center and select the customer, and then scan through the list of transactions,
  • Use the Find feature (Edit | Find), or
  • Create a report.

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Tax Identity Theft: Protect Yourself

Tax identity theft is on the rise. You can minimize your chances of being a victim by followingthese guidelines.

Tax Identity TheftDon’t you feel a little twinge of anxiety when you receive a letter in the U.S. mail from the Internal Revenue Service? Personal correspondence from the IRS is scary. Did you make a mistake on your return? Are you being audited?

There’s another possible subject of your letter, one that more and more taxpayers are discovering every year. Did the IRS receive two tax returns that contained your Social Security number? Did the letter say that you had a balance due or a refund offset, or that collection proceedings had been started? Did it indicate that you were employed by a company you’d never heard of?

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Best Practices for Evaluating Employee Performance

If you always dread writing formal employee performance reviews, consider these 8 tips.

Report CardEver since your first report card landed on your desk in grade school, you’ve been used to the concept of performance evaluation. While grades were important then since they had some impact on your future education and career, the stakes are higher now. Employee performance reviews are often tied to bumps in salary.

Whether or not they are, they provide valuable feedback to staff members. Performance reviews can re-focus employees, and sometimes result in renewed enthusiasm for their job responsibilities. They can be useful exercises for you as a manager, too, helping you evaluate your department’s overall workflow and productivity, and making sure that each individual’s skills are being applied appropriately.

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The Dreaded Downsizing: 5 Tips for Managers

It’s probably your least favorite task as a manager or human resources professional. But there are ways to minimize the unpleasantness associated with layoffs.

It’s nice to be on this side of the Great Recession that began last decade. Companies were shedding jobs so fast and furiously that it was a luxury to have time to cushion the blow that hit both those employees who were laid off and the “survivors.”

DownsizingBut even in a good economy, downsizing isn’t that uncommon. Businesses reduce their payrolls for a variety of reasons all the time. Whether it’s due to an ongoing cash flow problem, a merger or acquisition, or a reduction in products or services, all companies that must downsize have one thing in common: the tremendous challenges involved in orchestrating the layoffs and dealing with the emotions and changes in workflow for those who remain.

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Outsourcing Your Nonprofit’s Bookkeeping: Why or Why Not?

As with most of your non-profit’s business management decisions, there are both pros and cons. Here’s a look at some of them.

Financial AccountsAs a nonprofit organization, managing your financial accounts is a greater challenge than it is for many other types of small businesses. You have regulations and requirements that for-profit businesses don’t.

Further, there’s the whole stewardship issue. You’re not exchanging goods and services with the goal of enriching shareholders or the company itself. You have a more altruistic mission. People give you money because your cause is worthy of it, without expecting a furniture store truck to back up in their driveway. You have to spend those dollars as judiciously as possible.

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7 Best Practices for Using Twitter in Business

It’s called a “social network,” but Twitter can be a powerful adjunct to your company’s existing strategic plans.

MST blog 030614 image 1Don’t be fooled by the celebrity side of Twitter.

Twitter doesn’t make the news when a company marketing rep get 254 retweets for a post announcing a new product. Twitter makes the news when Ellen DeGeneres takes a group selfie at the Oscar Awards, and millions of retweets crash the social network.

It’s not just Twitter’s star-obsessed reputation that makes some people say “I don’t tweet” with great pride. It’s the time and planning it requires. Some companies dismiss its potential value because they expected the instant results, the increased sales and visibility that only brands that have names like “Justin Bieber” can achieve.

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