December 18, 2017
Section 179 of the U.S. tax code can present a welcome opportunity for small business owners at tax time. Section 179 is an economic incentive designed to encourage the purchase of business related equipment in order to spur growth in the economy.
Section 179 lets some taxpayers deduct the full or partial cost of certain types of property from their federal taxes for the year the property was purchased and put into service. To see if you qualify, contact a certified tax professional.
Congress approved a bill in 2015 to permanently raise the Section 179 aggregate deduction limit to $500,000 on qualifying equipment. “Qualifying equipment” in this case is defined by the IRS as machinery, computers, office furniture, software and so on. Visit the IRS website to see the list of purchases that qualify.
While many people can and do apply the Section 179 deduction to vehicles purchased for business reasons, business owners should keep in mind that there may be restrictions in place for this type of purchase.
Under Section 179 vehicles unlikely to be used for personal use qualify for the full deduction, those with a fully enclosed driver’s compartment/ cargo area, for example. Passenger vehicles are subject to certain deduction limits even if they’re used for work more than 50% of the time. Similarly, SUVs, trucks and vans that do not meet specific IRS guidelines are also subject to limitations.
If you purchased or plan to purchase a new work vehicle in 2017 you may benefit from Section 179.* Consult a certified tax preparer to see the estimated Section 179 expense allowances for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep®, Ram and FIAT® Brand vehicles.
Remember, if you want to take advantage of Section 179 during the current tax year vehicles must be purchased and put into service by December 31, 2018. So don’t hesitate – contact your local BusinessLink dealer (https://www.fcausfleet.com/shopping-tools/find-a-dealer.html) for help picking out the right work vehicle for your small business.
*Be sure to consult a certified tax preparer to understand how a vehicle purchase will affect the taxes of your business and visit http://www.section179.org/section_179_deduction.html for more information.
December 18, 2017
By: Katie Truesdell
If you’re looking for capital to help start or grow your business, your first thought may have been a small business loan. However, grants are another way to secure cash for your company. Consider these grant opportunities as you’re planning for the beginning of 2018.
This website is a comprehensive database of grants issued by government agencies so it can be a bit overwhelming. To focus on relevant grants for you, click the “Search Grants” tab at the top of the page, click “Grant” under “Funding Instrument Type,” and click “Small businesses” under “Eligibility.” You can then further narrow down by category or agency if you wish.
You can also search by keyword, such as the products or services your company provides. All grants fitting these criteria will show up under the matching results, with deadlines listed along the right hand side.
These federal grant programs are focused on research and development and technological innovation. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program rewards small businesses for conducting federal research and development that has commercial potential.
The Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR) funds technology research and development and requires small businesses to partner with research institutions.
The Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program encourages small technology firms to participate in the innovation and commercialization of new technology. Find application instructions here.
Challenge.gov is a hub for prize and challenge competitions administered by more than 100 federal government agencies. Challenge types include software/apps, ideas, designs, scientific/engineering, and multimedia; the deadlines vary by challenge. You can visit the site to browse the opportunities, and check out Challenge’s website to get started.
Each region has an EDA office, which is focused on strategic investments that foster job creation and attract private investment. Contact your local EDA, which can direct you to state or regional grant opportunities.
Your state’s SBDC also helps entrepreneurs and small business owners with a variety of services, including assistance with accessing capital, whether by grants or loans. Visit the SBA’s website to find the contact information for your state’s center.
In this annual grant competition, small businesses compete to earn grants of up to $25,000 and up to $7,500 in FedEx office supplies. Ten small businesses are awarded each year, and the entry period is usually late winter or spring.
Lending Tree’s one annual $50,000 grant goes to a small business that is having trouble scaling their company. The 2018 deadline hasn’t been announced yet.
This annual, live pitch competition is designed to empower and support entrepreneurs. Twenty-five semifinalists will be selected by a team of business experts, and they pitch their business idea before judges in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York. One finalist will be chosen from each city’s live pitch event to present before a national panel of judges.
The five semifinalists earn $20,000 awards, and the grand prize winner will be awarded a $100,000 prize. While the 2018 deadlines haven’t been announced yet, the 2017 online application period ran from Feb. 9 to April 14.
NASE offers grants of up to $4,000 to small business owners who are looking to finance a specific need, such as purchasing computers, farm equipment, or marketing materials; creating a website; or hiring part time help. You must be a member to apply, the cost of which is $120 per year or $11.95 per month. There are rolling deadlines to apply as grant applications are reviewed quarterly.
December 11, 2017
By: Karen Sams
The New Year is a perfect opportunity to review your small business’ processes, policies, and plans to ensure you’re operating as efficiently and effectively as possible. Use this checklist to jumpstart your planning for 2018.
A competitive analysis can help you determine your business’ strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in comparison with your top competitors. “Look at their pricing, website, brand strategy, social media presence, business model, client list, and anything else that may be relevant,” says Yves Frinault, co-founder and CEO of Fieldwire in San Francisco. “Knowing your competition’s strengths and weaknesses can help you brainstorm new ways to differentiate your business in the upcoming year.”
Large enterprises like Yahoo! and Equifax aren’t the only businesses vulnerable to the emerging threat of cyber attacks. According to a study by Nationwide, 58 percent of small business owners surveyed have experienced a cyber attack, and it can take more than six months and over $100,000 to recover.
NFIB Members have access to Cyber Liability Insurance
Mike Catania, founder of Promotion Code in Las Vegas, says purchasing a Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL certificate is a necessity, especially for businesses that conduct online sales.
An SSL certificate provides secure, encrypted communication between a website and a browser, according to GlobalSign.com. “Ignorance is no longer a good excuse as Chrome now shows sites with an SSL as ‘insecure’ [with no] green lock icon next to the URL,” he says.
“Online shoppers are increasingly aware of looking for the secure icon, and not having one is going to cost you business in 2018.”
According to Nationwide, 90 percent of attacks start with phishing scams in which email users are tricked into providing log in credentials voluntarily. Cyber security training can be a beneficial investment as you head into 2018. “This will ensure that employees are not only aware of current cyber threats targeting them, but they are trained how to defend against them for your business,” says Nick Santora, CEO of Curricula in Atlanta.
Dun & Bradstreet is the industry leader in business credit reporting. If you haven’t established a DUNS number, the start of the year is a great time to do it.
Jay DesMarteau, head of regional commercial specialty segments at TD Bank in New York, also recommends taking steps to strengthen your business’s credit history. “Signing up for a business credit card can help your business establish a credit history and profile. This is important as the business grows and has financial needs such as securing a line of credit or loan,” he says.
Effective marketing strategy is planned in advance and based on previous data. So review last year’s sales trends to determine opportunities for 2018. “Look at the monthly sales and expenses of your business to determine which months you should run promotions and offer discounts,” says LaKesha Womack, a business consultant in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Make sure you’re taking advantage of available tax benefits by reviewing your financials with your accountant in the beginning of the year. “Things change from year to year in terms of how you run your businesses, and in how the government assesses taxes and benefits.
It’s hard to keep up with on your own, so get in contact with your accountants and tax professionals to see where you can save with what you’re already doing or make changes to save more in the coming year,” says Bernie Dandridge, an SBA/USDA business development specialist at Florida Capital Bank in Jacksonville, Florida.
The end of the year is a great time to not only update your website, but also review your analytics and social media plan. Google Analytics and social media metrics can provide valuable information on how people are finding and using your site and how you’re engaging with customers online.
“Use these insights to update your website, the topics you’re blogging about, and what you’re sharing and talking about on social media,” says Monika Jansen, owner of Jansen Communications in Washington, D.C.
Are you getting the best deal for services like internet, phone services, credit cards, insurance, and banking? “Do an audit of all providers and compare all services to ensure you are still getting the best deal,” says Fred Schebesta, co-founder of Finder.com in New York City. “Then make the switch or renegotiate with your current provider to take advantage of some significant savings.”
It’s easy to get bogged down in day-to-day operations and neglect strategic planning. Review your business’s goals and ensure your business is on track.
“Checking in on the goals you set when you started the business allows you to assess how you are tracking, evaluate what is and isn’t working, and refine what you need to get there. Every business owner should be entering 2018 with a clear vision of what they want to achieve and how they are going to get there,” Schebesta says.