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Article of the Week: Mark Your Tax Calendars for 2017 PDF Print E-mail

by Barbara Weltman, SmallBizTrends.com

As a business owner, you don’t want to miss any tax deadline. Doing so can result in tax penalties, which can be hefty and are not deductible. Here are some key dates (some of which are new this year), as well as strategies you can use to be on time.

Income Tax Returns

If you are a calendar-year partnership or limited liability company (LLC) filing Form 1065 for 2016, the due date is March 15, 2017. Previously, this form was due on the same date as the owner’s Form 1040, but the date was moved up. However, if you get a filing extension, you’ll now have six months — to September 15, 2017 — to file the 2016 return. These are the same deadlines that apply for calendar-year S corporations.

If you are a calendar-year C corporation, your Form 1120 for 2016 is not due until April 18, 2017. Previously, this form had a March 15 deadline. The filing extension remains September 15, so there’s only a five-month extension for this return.

The filing deadline for your personal income tax return, Form 1040, is due on April 18, 2017 (April 15 is a Saturday and April 17 is Emancipation Day in Washington D.C.).

Employment Tax Returns

The due dates for the employer’s quarterly tax return, Form 941, for 2017 are the end of the month following the close of the quarter to which the form relates: April 30, 2017, July 31, 2017, October 31, 2017, and January 31, 2018. If taxes have been timely deposited in full, the due date is extended to the 10th day of the second month following the end of the quarter (e.g., May 10 for the first quarter if taxes have been deposited in full).

If you have been filing the annual Form 944 instead of the quarterly Form 941 and need to switch because you expect payments for the year to exceed $2,500, you can’t simply do this on your own. You have to get the IRS’s approval. You have until April to contact the IRS and request a change by calling 800-829-4933.

For federal unemployment tax, there’s an annual filing. The due date for filing Form 940 for 2016 is January 31, 2017. However, if you deposited all your FUTA tax when it was due, you can file Form 940 by February 10, 2017.

Estimated Taxes

If you are self-employed (sole proprietor, independent contractor, partner, or LLC member) and pay estimated taxes, be sure to note the payment due dates for 2017: April 18, 2018, June 15, 2018, September 15, 2018, and January 16, 2018.

Don’t send the first installment for 2017 with your 2016 income tax return.

You can avoid late payments because you’re traveling or simply forget by scheduling estimated taxes for Form 1040 in advance. You can do this up to 365 days in advance if you opt to pay through EFTPS.gov. If you use EFTPS.gov for business taxes, advances can only be scheduled up to 120 days in advance. There’s no cost for using this service. Find out more about EFTPS.gov in IRS Publication 966.

Information Returns

You were supposed to provide employees with W-2s and independent contractors with 1099-MISCs for 2016 services by January 31, 2017. This was also the date that transmittal of these forms were due to the Social Security Administration (for W-2s) and the IRS (for 1099-MISCs showing nonemployee compensation). This is a new transmittal date, which applies whether you’re transmitting forms on paper or electronically. If you are already late, file as soon as you can to minimize penalties.

You could have asked for a filing extension by submitting Form 8809 by January 31. It’s too late now, but remember this option for next year.

If you are a small employer with a self-insured health care plan (e.g., a health reimbursement arrangement), the deadline for furnishing employees with Form 1095-B for 2016 coverage is March 2, 2017. They were originally due by January 31, 2017, but the IRS gave everyone an extension this year. However, transmittal of the forms are due to the IRS by February 28, 2017, if you do this on paper, or March 31, 2017, if you transmit copies electronically.

Correcting Delinquencies

It seems axiomatic that the sooner you submit a late return, the smaller the penalties will be. That’s because penalties apply per month (or part thereof). Interest on tax underpayments applies month-by-month as well.

But when it comes to information returns, correcting a delinquency as soon as possible can really limit penalties. For example, if you send a delinquent 1099 within 30 days of the required filing date, the penalty is only $50. If you miss this date but file by August 1, the penalty doubles to $100. But if you don’t file by August 1, the penalty jumps to $260.

Conclusion

You can create your own tax calendar so you’ll never miss another deadline by using a free desktop calendar tool from the IRS. Also, be sure to include the dates for state tax obligations (e.g., state unemployment insurance).

 
Article of the Week: Creating Jobs By Investing In Small Business PDF Print E-mail

By: Michele Schimpp, SBA.gov

study released conducted by the Library of Congress’ Federal Research Division provides insight into a topic that interests every Administration – private sector job creation. 

Everyone seems to know that our economy benefits when big businesses keep jobs in the U.S.  But what many do not appreciate is that U.S. small businesses are even more important for job growth.  Two out of three net new jobs in the U.S. are created by small businesses. 

And even less understood is that a significant portion of those jobs in small businesses were created with the help of three groups that are not always popular in the public eye – private investors, banks, and government employees.

Imagine a future scenario in which the U.S. government partners with private investors and banks to help small businesses create and sustain more than 1,300 jobs a day, more than 40,000 jobs a month, and nearly 480,000 jobs a year  --all without the need for a government subsidy in a program that pays for itself. 

In fact, it’s the successful past track record of the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program over the last 20 years.  The study that was issued today shows that the U.S. government, working with investors from the private sector, helped small businesses to create and sustain 9.5 million jobs.   

Using data from the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) SBIC program, the report finds that from 1995-2014 nearly 3 million new jobs were created by small businesses, with an average investment by SBICs of $14,500 per job.  In addition, 6.5 million jobs were sustained by small businesses with an average investment by SBICs of $4,500 per job – jobs that might otherwise have been lost by those companies for lack of access to capital.   Equity investments were especially effective in creating jobs in the small businesses financed by SBICs.

Created in 1958 by President Eisenhower, every president since can take credit for the achievements of the SBIC program over the subsequent 58 years. SBICs have deployed $80.5 billion in capital (two-thirds from the private sector) into approximately 120,000 small businesses.  The program uses private capital combined with credit backed by the U.S. government and operates at zero-subsidy to the taxpayer.

Previously, the job creation impact of the program was an estimate based on a report from 1999.  SBA’s  Office of Investment and Innovation saw the value in sponsoring an external assessment of the SBIC program’s job creation data and commissioned respected academics under the auspices of the Library of Congress’ Federal Research Division to conduct the study.  With the release of Measuring the Role of the SBIC Program in Small Business Job Creation by Dr. John Paglia of Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management and Dr. David Robinson of Duke University Fuqua School of Business, working with the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress, an externally-validated methodology is provided alongside an analysis of job creation from 1995-2014.

Given the significant contribution of SBIC-financed small businesses to job creation nationwide and as the new Administration looks for ways to create private sector jobs, SBICs not only offer a proven model but  room to grow.  Congress has generously authorized the program at a $4 billion credit ceiling.  But existing SBICs have only tapped about $2.6 billion for the last two years, leaving $1.4 billion per year in credit that could have been used to finance small businesses.  If future and existing SBICs take full advantage of the additional funding available, more than 85,000 additional jobs could be created each year.

What’s holding us back?  Primarily it’s the need to attract additional qualified private investors to the program.  With the impressive findings delivered by the Library of Congress’s study, the Office of Investment and Innovation and SBA have the opportunity to draw greater attention to the valuable SBIC program and to celebrate the significant contribution of small businesses and private investors in creating and sustaining much-needed private sector jobs. 

 
Article of the Week: How to Go Beyond Salary and Attract Talent for the Future PDF Print E-mail

From the corporate blog of Chamber member Superior Group
superiorgroup

Recently, one of our recruiters was on the phone with a seasoned candidate, discussing a lucrative high paying opportunity in Southern California.  The conversation was going great—until the discussion came around to the name of the client.  Once he found out the name of the company, the candidate said, “Oh!  It’s with XYZ company!  I wouldn’t work there if you paid me $400/hr!  I have heard nothing but terrible things about that place!”

We could have paid the candidate more than what he is making currently, offered him better benefits, etc., but he wouldn’t hear it.  The company’s reputation in the talent community ended the conversation before the recruiting could ever really start.

Word travels fast today with social media and online review sites at the forefront. Sites such as Glassdoor readily list thoughts, gripes and comments from employees for anyone to see.  In 2016, a company is more challenged than ever to create an internal and external image that will attract and not repel talent.

There is hope!  While maintaining your company’s image on social media and the internet can be a challenge, it also opens an opportunity for a company to create and foster a brand that attracts talent.  Here are some best practices and ideas to create an environment where you can not only compete for top talent—top talent will be competing to come work for you!

  • Create a company mission that people can align with and get behind, and work on an online brand and social media presence that candidates can find and align with. Employees like to be a part of something great. Create a brand out of that mission and watch the talent come to you.
  • Align your recruitment process with the company’s mission and drive candidate engagement. With so much competition in the job market, companies need to drive candidate engagement and keep them “hooked” early on in the process; otherwise, you will lose their attention to another opportunity.
  • Create a culture that promotes creativity, inclusion and balance. Micromanagement and forcing people to work 60 hours a week is not what employees today are going to align with—and they’ll note that when speaking with others outside of the company.  They are looking for flexibility.   Give them flexibility and balance and you may find that they work 60 hours a week without you even asking!
  • Today’s workforce wants challenge and knowing that once they achieve the current hurdle, the next challenge will be waiting. Furthermore, they want to know there will be opportunity to advance within the company in a short amount of time.   And remember, advancement doesn’t need to be a promotion; often, candidates are looking for lateral moves that will broaden their experience and exposure within the company.
  • And finally, turn your employees into your brand ambassadors and they will help drive the talent community to you through their own personal and social networks. In today’s labor market, a company must use every resource at its disposal to attract talent and no one is more convincing at telling “why come work at XYZ company” than the happy talented people you already have working for you!

Local Account Executive at Superior Group: Mariah Ramundo, (518) 982-5058 x6509

 
Article of the Week: Leading with Humor PDF Print E-mail

By: Alison Beard, Harvard Business Review

(Register for The Laughing-Leading Link: Taking Your Job Seriously and Yourself Lightly, presented by The Humor Project, to learn first-hand how to implement humor in your office and life.)

The workplace needs laughter. According to research from institutions as serious as Wharton, MIT, and London Business School, every chuckle or guffaw brings with it a host of business benefits. Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.

And yet, as the MBA candidate Eric Tsytsylin recently put it in a video presentation featured on the Stanford website, working adults are “in the midst of a laughter drought.” Babies laugh, on average, 400 times a day; people over 35, only 15. A recent study of Gallup data for the U.S. found that we laugh significantly less on weekdays than we do on weekends. Work is a sober endeavor.

So how, exactly, can organizations and individual leaders get their employees to laugh more? Screen Will Ferrell movies in the break rooms? Schedule off-site improv sessions? Start every meeting with a joke?

The problem, most would say, is that humor is subjective: What you find amusing or side-splittingly hilarious, Mary in marketing and Amir in accounting most certainly do not. But the authors of two recent books on the subject—The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny and Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind—disagree. They believe that there’s a formula for what makes all people laugh, and they work extremely hard, in very different ways, to prove their cases.

In The Humor Code, Peter McGraw, a marketing and psychology professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, and the journalist Joel Warner travel from the comedy clubs of Los Angeles to the remote villages of Tanzania and the Amazon to (casually) test their theory that humor rests on “benign violation”: That is, something provokes laughter when it is “wrong, unsettling, or threatening” but also seems “okay, acceptable, or safe.” Think of tickling, teasing, a mix-up that seems funny after the fact, or a dirty joke. The authors acknowledge that “it’s easier to fail with humor than succeed” (indeed, some of their own attempts fall horribly flat) and that comedy is context-dependent—“a delicate operation built on layers of shared knowledge…and innuendo.” But they still contend that if you know your crowd, the benign violation formula will work.

The men behind Inside Jokes—Matthew M. Hurley, of Indiana University; Daniel C. Dennett, of Tufts; and Reginald B. Adams Jr., of Pennsylvania State University—take a much more academic approach and arrive at a different, though perhaps related, theory. They say (in typically arcane prose): “Humor happens when an assumption is epistemically committed to in a mental space and then discovered to have been a mistake.” Translation: We laugh when we find that something we’ve momentarily believed to be the case isn’t in fact true, and at others in the same predicament, and at stories about such situations, especially if they are linked to pleasures of other kinds, such as insight, schadenfreude, superiority, or sexual titillation. The simplest examples are puns and pranks, but the authors spend a lot of pages applying their analysis to various types of humor, and they definitely bored me into submission.

Unfortunately, these books offer little practical advice for those seeking to ramp up laughter levels at work. That’s because they focus mainly on jokes—the kind you hear at stand-up shows or on Saturday Night Live. As a manager, you might be able to slip one of those into a speech or a presentation from time to time, but you’re certainly not going to walk around the office lobbing one-liners like Bob Hope, cursing like Richard Pryor, or slinging insults like Ricky Gervais.

“A priest, a rabbi, and a nun walk into a bar, and the bartender says, ‘What is this, a joke?’”

How, then, can you put the work of these authors to good use? I do think their theories can help us understand what kind of humor works at the office and why. Self-deprecating stories shared between peers—check. Light teasing among longtime colleagues—check. Even privately poking fun at outsiders who prompt the same reaction from your entire group (for example, arrogant consultants or clueless interns)—check.

Of course, all of this must be done with extreme care. While both books note that humor emphasizing superiority is universally effective (every culture has its own version of the dumb blonde joke), discriminatory comments are obviously a punishable offense. New research from Gang Zhang, a doctoral candidate at LBS, shows that although employees admire and feel more motivated by leaders who use humor effectively, they have less respect for those who try to be funny and fail or who make fun of themselves. And, needless to say, workplace comedy flies in some countries a lot better than it does in others; as McGraw and Warner note, in Japan “hilarity…is reserved for certain locales….Don’t try joking in the office.”

Perhaps it’s best, then, to look at some of the broader recommendations summarized at the end of The Humor Code:

  • It’s not whether or not you’re funny, it’s what kind of funny you are. Be honest and authentic.
  • If you can’t be “ha-ha” funny, at least be “aha!” funny. Cleverness is sometimes good enough.
  • Good comedy is a conspiracy. Create an in-group.
  • Don’t be afraid to chuckle at yourself. It signals everything is okay.
  • Laughter is disarming. Poke fun at the stuff everyone’s worried about.

(One more useful tip: To tell whether a workmate’s amusement is real, not faked, look for crinkling around the eyes; if it’s there, you’ve got true “Duchenne” laughter, named for the French physician who identified it.)

Tsytsylin offers similar directives in his talk, along with some concrete examples of companies that carry them out—for example, Yahoo and IBM have crazy names like Kajagoogoo for their meeting rooms, Hulu hosts taco-eating contests and Airzooka tournaments, and Southwest chose the whimsical stock symbol LUV. He encourages those of us in the business world to think about the power of laughter a lot more than we do now. It should factor into how we communicate, allocate our time, and even recruit and hire.

I agree. My favorite meetings start with some witty banter—jokes about the latest IT upgrade, a funny story about a difficult author, some gentle ribbing over a missed deadline. My favorite colleagues make me laugh with personal stories, random e-mails, and occasionally off-color comments. And my favorite bosses know how to be funny and elicit the same fun-loving behavior from their employees. McGraw and Warner cite a line worth remembering from the anthropologist Edward Hall: “If you can learn the humor of a people and really control it, you know that you are also in control of nearly everything else.”

 
Article of the Week: These 6 Career Resolutions Will Transform The Way You Work PDF Print E-mail

By: Gwen Moran, FastCompany.com

Instead of setting the same vague goals year after year, try these six unexpected career resolutions that experts say could make you happier, more engaged, and even more successful in your work.

Explore How You Can Make Your Work More Meaningful

We’ve all seen the research about how many people are not engaged in their work or actively hate their jobs. You have a decision to make: You can dive in and decide to make positive changes. Or you can detach from your job emotionally and get your validation elsewhere, says Danielle Harlan, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential and author of The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership.

Many people are disenchanted with the state of the world, Harlan says. Think about the changes you need to make to feel more fulfilled overall. "Think about the organization you’re working with: What do they do, or what does my team do that creates a positive impact in the world? Look for what choices you can make, and actions you can take, that are going to bring you more meaning," she says. That may mean making changes in your career to get the fulfillment you’re seeking, or readjusting the rewards you seek from work and other areas of your life.

Embrace The Haters

Are there people in your work life you can’t stand? It’s probably hurting you more than it’s hurting them, says former Wall Street analyst Amy Newmark, publisher and editor-in-chief of the popular Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, and author of Simply Happy: A Crash Course in Chicken Soup for the Soul Advice and Wisdom.

Try to let go of the negative emotions and take a more analytical approach, Newmark says. What is the person’s motivation for taking objectionable action? Usually, it’s more about them than about you. "I realized that almost all the things that have ever been unpleasant—somebody yelling at me or whatever—really weren't about me. I've learned that you shouldn't take these things personally," she says. You don’t have to be a doormat, but you also don’t have to waste energy on grudges.

Go For What You Want Before You're Ready 

Too often, Kathi Elster’s clients put off asking for what they want until "they feel like they’re 110% ready," says the executive coach and coauthor of Working for You Isn’t Working for Me: How to Get Ahead When Your Boss Holds You Back.

Sure, you want to make sure you can prove your case for what you’re asking, but you can always make up excuses about why you’re not ready, she says. The longer you put off asking for a raise, promotion, or other career goal, the longer you’re likely going to wait for it. Sometimes, you just have to go for it. You don’t have to be 110% ready—75% to 80% ready is fine, she says. (Or even 51%.)

Expect More Of Those Around You 

Whether you’re supervising staff or just interacting with your fellow team members, showing confidence in the abilities of those around you may not seem like an obvious resolution. But trusting your teammates and employees, encouraging them, and supporting them in their own stretch goals is going to strengthen your relationships—and make those around you stronger, enabling you to accomplish your goals, too, Newmark says.

Find A Taskmaster 

If you’re serious about reaching that goal, Harlan recommends finding an accountability partner or group. When selecting a person or group to keep you honest and on task, accomplishments don’t matter as much as their dedication to staying committed to moving forward with their own goals—and expecting you to do the work to achieve your own.

2015 study from researchers at Dominican University of Californiameasured the impact of accountability on goal achievement. More than 70% of study participants who sent weekly updates to a friend either completely accomplished their goal or were more than halfway there compared to 35% of those who didn’t share their goals or write them down.

Ditch What's Holding You Back

Elster says this might not be the most surprising resolution, but to move forward, it’s important to understand the obstacles in your way. Do you have a boss who isn’t helping you develop in your career? Are you a "yes" person who takes on too much to the detriment of your professional development? Use this resolution-setting time to really think about the actions you need to take to clear those obstacles and get to where you want to go, she says.

"What trap are you caught in that you can try to break down?" Elster says. "Look at how you can break free from anything that’s holding you back."

 
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