IRS Advisory: Prepaid Real Property Taxes May Be Deductible in 2017 if Assessed and Paid in 2017

Last two days to prepay and save your 2017 property tax deduction!

IRS Statement – Withholding for 2018

Hi there,

Today is small business Friday and I know you have questions. The fact of the matter is that while we know what the tax bill does, we do not know how the IRS will implement it.

What we do know:

  1. IRS will issue withholding guidance in January
  2. Employers are encouraged to implement the changes to withholdings in February

Everyone should be getting into their tax planners by February.

Homemade Ricotta

Emergency Ricotta Recipe

For today’s thrifty Thursday I thought I would share one of my favorite cheese recipes.

Like many people this time of year I was travelling and got back from the airport too late to go to the grocery. Yet the troops were hungry so I had to come up with something fast. My fridge had a half gallon on milk that was about to go bad, some lemons, and eggs. My fridge had some frozen veggies and my pantry had some lasagna noodles and spices. That was about it. So, hmm, what to do? LASAGNA ROLLS! They take almost no time to prep and cook. But as you can guess I had no Ricotta. No problem!

All you need to make ricotta is milk, lemons, vinegar, and some cheese cloth. It takes about ten minutes and I made it while boiling my noodles.

Instructions

Warm the milk to

200°F: Pour the milk into a 4-quart pot and set it over medium heat. Let it warm gradually to 200°F, monitoring the temperature with an instant read thermometer. The milk will get foamy and start to steam; remove it from heat if it starts to boil.

Add the lemon juice and salt: Remove the milk from heat. Pour in the lemon juice or vinegar (or citric acid) and the salt. Stir gently to combine.

Let the milk sit for 10 minutes: Let the pot of milk sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. After this time, the milk should have separated into clumps of milky white curds and thin, watery, yellow-colored whey — dip your slotted spoon into the mix to check. If you still see a lot of un-separated milk, add another tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar and wait a few more minutes.

Strain the curds: Set a strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with cheese cloth. Scoop the big curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the strainer. Pour the remaining curds and the whey through the strainer. (Removing the big curds first helps keep them from splashing and making a mess as you pour.)
Click here to get more instructions.

The Tax Bill and Vacation Homes

No more deducting interest on your vacation home

A common question this last week from my tax clients was how the tax bill would affect their deductions for their secondary (vacation) home. The answer, as always, is it depends. If you own the house out right, under the new bill, you can still deduct property taxes, combined with your primary home, up to $10,000. If you have a mortgage you could be in trouble. The tax bill does not allow for the deduction of interest on secondary homes.

what about home equity?

Many homeowners use home equity loans to not only improve their primary residence, but sometimes, to purchase a vacation home. Under the current tax code, homeowners can deduct interest on home equity loans, up to $100,000 principal balance. The new bill does  not allow for interest deductions at all.

Tax Exemption Applications

Sorry for the week off – I was sick.


A couple weeks ago a client asked if they could use the 1023 ez application for their nonprofit.

So here is the rub, very few organizations actually qualify for the 1023 EZ application. In my client’s case, a business association trying to revitalize a down town was not eligible to use the EZ application because they qualified as tax exempt under 501(c)(6).

If you apply for tax exemption using the EZ application and you were not eligible, your application fee is forfeited. Make sure you double check your eligibility before applying.

Here are some good websites to check your eligibility:

Do not be this employer

So a relative of mine, who is job hunting, sent me this article.

How to Recognize a Bad Workplace … Before You Take the Job

Small business owners have a hard enough time finding quality employees. Do not do any of the 8 things mentioned in the article during the hiring process if you can avoid it.

 


HOLIDAY CUSTOMER SERVICE MISTAKES — AND HOW TO AVOID THEM

If you have not yet checked out Square’s Business Resource Center then you are missing out of some great advice. Here is one for the holidays.


Holiday Customer Service Mistakes — and How to Avoid Them

The holidays are a critical time for your business. So it’s important that your customer service is on point.
Unfortunately, when you’re crazed, it can be easy to let things fall through the cracks. That could translate to a negative online review, which can really affect your reputation.
To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, we’ve highlighted some common holiday customer service mistakes and how to avoid them.
You don’t have a strong online presence.
Often, customers search online before hitting the streets, or they follow up and purchase from your site after they’ve visited your brick-and-mortar shop in person.
That’s why it’s really important to make sure your website features your products in a navigable, shoppable way. Also, put store hours and the address front and center and include information about applicable sales and discounts.
This applies to social platforms as well. But don’t stop there. Every day, have someone on staff answers questions that customers or potential customers may have posted to Facebook or Twitter, or sent to the company email address.

Accept chip cards and Apple Pay everywhere.

Order the Square contactless and chip reader.
You have an old POS — and long lines.
By now, larger retailers are on board with chip card and mobile payment point-of-sale (POS) systems. Small businesses should follow suit — especially when it comes to adopting a POS that can take mobile payments like Apple Pay.
Mobile payments are the fastest way to pay, not to mention the most secure. And because customers say slow checkout lines are their top shopping pain point, having a speedy POS makes for a much better experience at your store.
You’re not timing your marketing campaigns right.
Since it’s such a busy time of year, the key is to use a email marekting service to send messages that anticipate customers’ questions and helps them solve common problems with holiday gift giving. The same goes for your social channels.
Be smart about the timing of these messages — you want to catch customers who get a head start on the holidays as well as those who wait until the last minute.
You’re running out of inventory.
We’ve all been that frustrated customer frantically searching store to store for that one hot gift that’s on everyone’s list. No one likes coming up empty handed, so do your homework before the holiday season begins to make sure you’re adequately stocked across both your brick-and-mortar and online sales channels.
To do this, look to your historical sales data to make inventory projections. It’s also a good idea to onboard software that syncs your brick-and-mortar and online store inventory in real time after each sale. Read more about how to manage holiday inventory.
You’re short-staffed.
The holidays are the time of year to ramp up staff and make sure that everyone on the floor is well versed in your product. Because everyone is short on time (and patience), you don’t want to put customers in the position of waiting around for a staffer to get their size from the back or not being available to answer questions.
A lack of staff often translates to a loss of business, so build the cost of staffing up for the holidays into your annual budget. Learn more about hiring for the holidays.
You have pushy salespeople.
Just as important as having enough employees on the floor is having the right kind of customer-facing employees. Sure, you want employees to close the deal, but customers are often turned off by pushiness. Employees should be helpful, educating customers about your products, but not pushy.
Superb customer service is paramount when running a business — especially during the holiday season. So make sure everything’s running smoothly.
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