Cobb County Warms Our Hearts!

APTOPIX Winter Weather GeorgiaThe nation is watching us in the South and wondering why we are having so much trouble with a bit of snow. Here in Georgia, we had unbelievable events occur with businesses, government and schools all closing simultaneously which made traffic a night mare. Almost immediately, the road conditions deteriorated since the temperatures were so very low below freezing. The roads became treacherous with ice. Add it all together with no chains for car tires, and very few sand trucks or snow plows. What few sand trucks we have could not manage to get on the roads because of the traffic.

As I journeyed through Cobb County for 10 and a half hours for what is normally a 45 minute drive with average traffic, I observed the heart of the people of Cobb County and was amazed at how many strangers came together to help one another. They gave from their hearts. Some simply got out and helped others push cars up an icy hill. Others made hot chocolate and gave it away free to motorists on the highway stuck in traffic for hours. Others opened their homes to let strangers stay the night where they could be warm and safe.Angels giving out Hot Chocolate Snow 2014

And the love keeps coming. I have seen the social media sights over run with news of heroes giving helping hands, and posting challenges in Cobb County to help the local charities begin re-stocking their food pantries. There have been posts about giving blood to the American Red Cross since so many blood drives were cancelled due to the weather. Some people simply help by getting the word out about people in need, to those who can help.

No, this is not a post about taxes and accounting. This is a post about people, which is what matters the most in this life. This post is to commend those in Cobb County who are led by their hearts to help others in need. It is time to stop and appreciate those around us that take the time to care for those in need. They are everywhere in America but my favorite ones can be found right here, at home in Cobb County.

So I challenge you to join the opportunity to pay if forward, and help a neighbor in need. Yesterday I simply shared a smile with another woman in the car next to me while stuck in traffic. She smiled back! Sometimes that is all that is needed to help someone else…a smile. Give of yourself, your time, your talent, your resources and pay it forward. We are blessed to be living in the greatest nation in the world. Make a difference in the world around you! Show someone you care. You will end up with a warm heart from your giving.

Tax Planning is for Everyone!

Dog Bones Tax Cartoon

Start 2014 off right with tax planning!

1099 Madness!

1099 Cartoon

1099 Deadlines:

January 31st – Businesses to furnish 1099 forms for non-employee compensation, bank interest, dividends and distributions from a retirement plan.

February 18th – Financial Institutions to mail out 1099-B forms relating to sales of stock, bonds or mutual funds through a brokerage account, and 1099-S forms relating to real estate transactions.

February 28th – Businesses to mail 1099 and 1096 forms to the IRS if filing on paper. If efiling, the deadline is March 31st.

It is anyone’s guess when the US Postal Service might deliver the mailed forms. Good luck gathering your tax information this year!

2014 New Year Resolutions

2014 ResolutionsEveryone makes New Year Resolutions, but how many people keep them? I think the time has come to step back and look carefully at your life to determine what is most important to you and your family. With the economic changes we have seen in the last five years, it is wise to consider financial resolutions as very important. Paying off debt, increasing savings and controlling spending should be your first moves to put yourself in a better financial position.

Check out these tips for saving money.

6 New Year’s Resolutions for Saving Money – Reader’s Digest

5 Money Saving New Year’s Resolutions – Bankrate.com

Money Resolutions for 2014 – CNBC

With the end of January fast approaching, where are you with your financial New Year’s Resolutions for 2014?

Deadlines for January 2014

DeadlinesJanuary 2014 Deadlines summary:

January 15 – Individuals Estimated Income Tax Payments 4th quarter 2013

January 31 – 4th quarter and year end 2013 payroll tax returns

January 31 – W2’s Employee copy

January 31 – 1099’s Recipient copy

Wishing for Paperless – You Can!

Help!If you feel buried in paper, there is a way to save yourself and your business – GO PAPERLESS! Seems simple enough but it is a challenge. The rewards are great and well worth the effort.

I suggest you start with designing a game plan with start dates for each step. You can start by considering every type of paper that comes into and leaves your office. Research efficient methods to replace each type and develop your game plan from there. This addresses the immediate present and future paper. Your list should include basics: Communications, Invoices, Employee Files, Paid Bills, Bank Records, Loan Documents, Vehicle Records, Legal Records, Client Statements, Vendor Records, Permanent Documents, Tax Records, Client Information, Internal Procedures.

You will have to develop a game plan (phase two) for the archived files in your office. My suggestion is to first do a purging of all the oldest documents (and you know they are there just hanging out) that you are not required to keep. Once you have purged all unnecessary documents, you can begin a systematic game plan with start dates and deadlines for each step of the project. The majority of this will be scanning….lots and lots of scanning! Look for possible help from high school students during the school breaks or college students to assist with the scanning process of the most current files.

Your game plan may include different sources for files in storage that are over a certain time frame but need to be accessible for a remaining period of time in the future. For example, offices in certain industries may be required to keep client files for 7 years. It may be practical to ship the oldest 4 years to a scanning service offsite and have an employee scan the most current three years internally customizing how the scanned files are saved. The ones sent to an outside scanning service may only be scanned as one searchable document per client file for each year. The most current files scanned internally can be customized with more details by time periods or content. You will have to consider the cost of each against your needs and the volume within your office.

You need to develop guidelines for saving scanned documents for the file name and the location of the files. If you are saving the files on your local computer system, be sure to consider how your system search capabilities will work best so you can choose files names carefully. The same will be true for cloud storage of files.

When you develop your game plan, consider the operational aspects of handling your processes for a paperless office. Take the time to develop the process and document the procedure so you can be consistent throughout your office of how the office should flow. Included in this part of the process, will be the need to research office equipment to assist you, such as scanners, shredders and dual monitors for computers. Dual monitors go hand in hand with a paperless work flow. Source documents can be seen on one screen and the computer application to process your data can be open on the opposite screen. You are much more efficient this way.

I make these recommendations based on experience. We converted the Accounting Office for the last firm I was with to paperless and it was a huge effort, but very successful. When I went into business myself, I started my business as a paperless office. That process was much easier. There still remains some things that I keep in paper form. It won’t all go away since some of the world isn’t ready yet. I still get my annual tax manuals in book form. That works for me and you will have to choose what works best for your office and staff.

I have included several articles for your research:

Five Easy Steps to Going (Almost) Paperless – PC World

How to Switch to a Paperless Office – Inc.

6 Tips for a “Paperless” Office – Microsoft Business

How Paperless Home Offices Work – howstuffworks.com

You will love your new office and it’s efficiency when you get past the huge process of the conversion. Don’t give up! It will be worth every effort! Come on – You Can Do It!

Be Smarter & Use Technology Effectively

Technology brings us convenience but with it comes risk. Be smart and use your technology effectively to reduce your risk and keep yourself and your client information protected. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Attractive Businesswoman with Laptop

Wireless:

  1. Don’t give your name away! Turn off SSID Broadcast in your wireless router & Bluetooth visibility
  2. Make it long & complex…a real pain! Create a strong wireless encryption key.

Passwords:

  1. Switch it up! Change passwords periodically.
  2. Keep ’em guessing! Use familiar information in an unusual way (name of favorite childhood restaurant with vowels missing or characters/numbers in place of letters – McDn1d$)
  3. Use a Pro! Use a password management program. (1Password or RoboForm – takes away some of the pain)

Devices:

  1. Go on Lock Down! Password protect ALL devices: tablets, smart phones, laptops.
  2. Keep duplicates safely! Backup your data regularly with encrypted offsite storage service.

Email:

  1. Don’t spread it around! Protect sensitive information in a password protected document.
  2. Keep a secret! Send the recipient the password for protected documents in a separate email, text or voice message.
  3. Share through the Cloud! Use a file storage service such as SmartVault for file storage and sharing via the cloud.

Be safe out there!

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