Saver’s Tax Credit – Eligibility & Benefits of Retirement Savings Contributions

Saver’s Tax Credit – Eligibility & Benefits of Retirement Savings Contributions

tax credit

The really good news is that the Saver’s Credit works with any other retirement-based tax incentives you already benefit from. For instance, if you can already deduct your 401k contributions from your taxes, you may still be able to use the Saver’s Credit, reducing your tax liability even further.

Not everyone is eligible for the Saver’s Credit since it’s a tax credit designed to encourage low- to moderate-income families to start saving for retirement. Therefore, there are limits on age, income level, and filing status.

First and foremost, the following individuals are ineligible for the credit:

If none of these apply to you, then you may be eligible for a 10%, 20%, or 50% tax credit on your retirement contributions, up to a total contribution of $2,000 for an individual or $4,000 for a married couple filing jointly. This means an individual can receive a credit of up to $1,000 if he or she contributes $2,000 to a retirement account, while a couple can receive a credit of up to $2,000 if they each contribute $2,000 to their individual retirement accounts (50% of a $4,000 retirement contribution).

The percentage credit that you’re actually eligible for is based on your filing status and income level:

Remember, the credit is limited to a percentage of your retirement contributions. For instance, if a married couple filing jointly has an adjusted gross income of $37,000, and each contributes $500 to his or her respective retirement accounts, they would qualify for a 20% tax credit on the total contribution of $1,000. In other words, they would qualify for a $200 tax credit (20% of $1,000 is $200).

According to the IRS, for tax year 2010, the average Saver’s Credit was $204 for joint filers, $165 for heads of household, and $122 for single filers.

tax credit

Almost all retirement plan contributions qualify for the Saver’s Credit, including those contributed to the following:

If you participate in an employer-match retirement fund, monies invested by your employer are ineligible for the credit, while those you contribute are eligible. For instance, if you contributed $500 to your 401k, and your employer matched your contribution, only the $500 you contributed would be eligible for the Saver’s Credit.

Finally, if you recently took distributions from a retirement account, your eligibility could be reduced. In other words, if you contributed $2,000 to a retirement account, but you took a distribution of $1,000, your total saver’s credit eligibility would be reduced to $1,000 – the difference between the amount you contributed and the amount you received as a distribution.

Like other tax credits, the Saver’s Credit decreases your total tax liability. The amount of tax you owe is directly reduced by the amount of credit you’re eligible for. For instance, if you owe $2,000 to the IRA but have a Saver’s Credit of $500, your tax bill would be reduced to $1,500.

However, it’s important to note that the Saver’s Credit itself is a “nonrefundable” credit. In other words, while the credit can reduce your tax liability to $0, you can’t use any “leftovers” to receive a tax refund. For instance, if your total tax liability for 2014 was $516, and you qualified for the full $1,000 Saver’s Credit, your tax liability would simply reduce to $0 – you wouldn’t be able to take the remaining $484 as a tax refund.

That said, because the Saver’s Credit applies to the first $2,000 an individual voluntarily contributes to retirement (or $4,000 for a married couple filing jointly), taking this credit makes it possible for other refundable credits to add up. The result is either a lower tax bill to Uncle Sam, or a greater end-of-year refund.

To include the Saver’s Credit on your 2014 tax refund, simply fill out IRS Form 8880 and turn it in with your 1040A, 1040, or 1040NR. You can’t claim the credit directly on a 1040EZ. That, or most tax prep software programs will determine if you’re eligible and apply the savings to your tax bill.

Even if you haven’t made significant retirement contributions so far in 2014, or want to make more, you still have time to take advantage of the Saver’s Credit. Contributions invested in a either a Roth or traditional IRA before April 15, 2015 can be claimed on your 2014 tax return. Unfortunately, contributions to an employer retirement fund, such as a 401k or 403b must be made by December 31, 2014 to qualify for the 2014 tax year.

tax form 8880

The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit is a permanent addition to the tax code, so even if you’re unable to take advantage of the credit for 2014, start planning for the future. Talk to your employer about setting up automatic contributions to your retirement account at work or talk with your bank or a financial planner to help you determine which individual retirement account is right for you.

Saving for retirement is an incredibly important part of long-term financial planning, and the tax benefits for saving are significant. Enjoy long-term financial stability with regular contributions, while also enjoying annual reductions in tax liability – it’s like having your cake, and eating it too.

Have you used the Saver’s Credit to reduce your tax liability?

Categories: Investing, Money Management, Retirement, Taxes

Laura Williams holds a master’s degree in exercise and sport science and enjoys breaking up her day by running her dogs, hitting the gym, and watching TV. Having been in charge of her own finances since the early age of 12, she knows how to save and when to spend, and she loves sharing these tips with others. Laura ditched her career as a fitness center manager for the relative freedom of home-based writing and editing work. She stays busy by working on her own website, GirlsGoneSporty, a website designed to help the sporty woman live the sporty life.

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Saver’s Tax Credit – Eligibility & Benefits of Retirement Savings Contributions

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Federal Tax Credits

Federal Tax Credits

A tax credit reduces your tax payments. It’s similar to keeping bigger slices of an apple: the more tax credits you claim, the more of your money you get to keep (and decrease your tax payments in the process!).

Tax deductions are similar to tax credits. They can help you reduce your taxable income and increase your tax refund.

When you prepare your tax return on efile.com, we will automatically generate the correct form(s) for you to report your tax credit or deduction based on the information you provide.

In order to claim most tax credits (except some retirement contributions) for the current Tax Year, the payments or expenses have to occur during the Tax Year or no later than December 31.

Take a little time to learn more about these tax credits now and you may save hundreds or thousands of dollars on your tax return: 

ATTENTION: See extended or expired tax breaks, tax credits, and tax deductions.

 

The Child Tax Credit is worth up to $1,000 for each qualifying child. This tax credit is meant to provide help to parents with qualifying children. The Child Tax Credit is different from the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

eFile Tax Tip: Use the FREE efile.com “KIDucator” child tax credit tax tool to find whether or not you qualify for the Child Tax Credit.

There are certain cases where you may claim a deduction on family-related expenses if you are in the process of looking for a job. Depending on the particulars of the situation, you may reduce your tax by claiming the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit on your federal income tax return for any expenses related to payments made to someone to care for a child under the age 13, a qualifying spouse, or a dependent.

The Adoption Tax Credit is designed to help parents with the expenses involved in adopting a qualified child. An eligible child is any child under 18 or a child with special needs that lacks the ability to care for him or herself. The maximum available Adoption Tax Credit amount for Tax Year 2018 is $13,840 per qualifying child.

More information on children tax credits

More tax credits for parents with dependents and children

You may be able to claim the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled if you are 65 years of age or older, or if you retired on total and permanent disability and have taxable disability income. To take the credit, however, your income must not exceed certain limits.

 

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a credit for taxpayers who earn low to moderate incomes. EITC can reduce your taxes and may result in a tax refund. This means more working families and individuals may keep more of the money they earned. 

eFile Tax Tip: Use our FREE “EICucator” earned income tax credit tax tool to find out whether or not you qualify to claim the credit on your Tax Return.

The Foreign Tax Credit was implemented to reduce a double tax burden for citizens earning income outside of the United States—once by the United States and again by the foreign country where the income is derived.

 

Individual taxpayers and families may be able to claim the refundable Premium Tax Credit if they have low to moderate incomes and purchased health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov. They can have the credit paid in advance to their insurance company in order to decrease their monthly premium payments or claim all of the credit on on their tax return.

 

There are two major education tax credits available for both new and continuing students: the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Each credit offers special advantages to students but both credits may not be claimed by the same student in the same year.

eFile Tax Tip: See our complete list of many student tax related topics.

 

The Saver’s Credit, formerly known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, helps middle-income families to save for retirement (especially if they contribute to a retirement plan).

For Tax Year 2018, the Saver’s Credit allowed taxpayers to reduce their income tax dollar-for-dollar by up to $1,000 ($2,000 for married filing jointly). The exact amount of the credit depends on their income, filing status, and the total amount of their qualified contributions.

 

U.S. citizens and resident aliens from the United States working or living in a foreign country during the year are allowed the same tax credits as U.S. citizens and residents from the U.S. living in the United States. Check out our detailed summary on tax credits for Americans living or working abroad.

Tax Credit Planning Tips

Qualify for Tax Deductions

All-Year Tax Planning Tips

See if you qualify to claim tax deductions and credits by using the efile.com free tax tools!

Research & References of Federal Tax Credits|A&C Accounting And Tax Services
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IRS provides certain small employers with relief for the small business health care tax credit for 2017 and later years

IRS provides certain small employers with relief for the small business health care tax credit for 2017 and later years

IR-2018-108, April 27, 2018

IR-2018-108, April 27, 2018

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service today issued guidance that provides relief for certain small employers that wish to claim the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for 2017 and later years. 

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service today issued guidance that provides relief for certain small employers that wish to claim the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for 2017 and later years. 

The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit can benefit certain small employers who provide health coverage to their employees. Generally, small employers must provide employees with a qualified health plan from a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace to qualify for the credit. Also, small employers may only claim the credit for two consecutive years.

The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit can benefit certain small employers who provide health coverage to their employees. Generally, small employers must provide employees with a qualified health plan from a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) Marketplace to qualify for the credit. Also, small employers may only claim the credit for two consecutive years.

In general, the relief provided today helps employers who first claim the credit for all or part of 2016 or a later taxable year for coverage offered through a SHOP Marketplace, but don’t have SHOP Marketplace plans available to offer to employees for all or part of the remainder of the credit period because the county where the employer is located has no SHOP Marketplace plans.

In general, the relief provided today helps employers who first claim the credit for all or part of 2016 or a later taxable year for coverage offered through a SHOP Marketplace, but don’t have SHOP Marketplace plans available to offer to employees for all or part of the remainder of the credit period because the county where the employer is located has no SHOP Marketplace plans.

The relief allows these employers to claim the credit for health insurance coverage provided outside of a SHOP Marketplace for the remainder of the credit period if that coverage would have qualified under the rules that applied before Jan. 1, 2014.

The relief allows these employers to claim the credit for health insurance coverage provided outside of a SHOP Marketplace for the remainder of the credit period if that coverage would have qualified under the rules that applied before Jan. 1, 2014.

Notice 2018-27 gives guidance about calculating the credit under these circumstances. The notice does not affect previous transition relief for the credit that was separately provided for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Notice 2018-27 gives guidance about calculating the credit under these circumstances. The notice does not affect previous transition relief for the credit that was separately provided for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

For information on whether a county had or has coverage available through a SHOP Marketplace, see the “Who Gets the Credit” section of the Questions and Answers about the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit on IRS.gov. 

For information on whether a county had or has coverage available through a SHOP Marketplace, see the “Who Gets the Credit” section of the Questions and Answers about the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit on IRS.gov. 

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First Time Homebuyer Credit Account Look Up

First Time Homebuyer Credit Account Look Up
Research & References of First Time Homebuyer Credit Account Look Up|A&C Accounting And Tax Services
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How to Manage Cash Flow in a Home Business



Last Updated: Dec 24, 2015
For a home business, properly managing cash flow is vitally important to keeping your business up and running. Here are ways you can keep your cash flow positive.

You could be a new startup or a Fortune 500, mega-huge business, but you’ll never outgrow managing your cash. Sure, you might have more of it as your business grows but businesses that manage their cash properly will always have a leg up on businesses that do not. As the old cliché goes, it takes money to make money and you don’t want to be caught without money to invest in the next big job.

But what does that look like? How do you manage your cash if you’re a home based business that may not have a whole lot of cash to manage?

1. Get a Deposit

Most business owners have a horror story or two of doing work for a client without first taking a deposit only to see them walk away. Once that happens to you, you’ll understand the importance of the down payment.

But it serves another purpose too. The down payment gives you the cash to invest into supplies for the job, paying outsourced labor, and reimbursing you for your time should the client try to default on the deal.

Write into your contract that the deposit is non-refundable—whether it’s a special order you place on behalf of a customer for a hard-to-find product or a service you’re offeringthere’s no going back once you receive the deposit.

Some people who run product-based businesses ask for a deposit equal to the wholesale cost of the item or at the very least, the cost of any restocking fee they would have to pay.

2. Get Rid of Excess Inventory

If you hold inventory, know when it’s time to cut your losses. Hopefully you won’t make too many purchasing mistakes but the longer you hold the inventory, the less it’s worth. The shelf life depends on the type of item but before it’s value falls well below the wholesale cost, unload it. Sometimes it’s better to take the loss but have the cash to invest in other, hotter selling products.

3. Quick Payment Discounts

The bigger the client, the larger the potential for them to pay slow. Slow payers are painful to your cash flow but you can’t risk making them mad by demanding payment by a certain time. Instead, offer them a discount for paying within a certain amount of time.

For smaller clients that are continual slow payees but maybe not large enough where losing them will substantially eat into your profits, institute late pay penalties. Just keep in mind that you may lose the customer when you turn the relationship into a negative.

4. Have Multiple Ways to Pay

Gone are the days when you could only accept cash and avoid credit card processing fees. You can get paid faster by accepting credit card payments, mobile pay, and PayPal.

5. Set Milestones

Some projects tend to drag on. You want to get it done and get paid but the client or customer is dragging their feet. Set due dates and milestones to keep the project moving. If they miss these milestones, there could be extra charges or a renegotiation of the contract.

6. Use Change Orders

Along the same lines, if the customer continually changes their mind, that extends the project and may leave you on the hook for restocking fees or re-hiring subcontractors. Use a change order and charge the customer for any costs you incur. Require those costs be paid at the time of the signed change order.

7. Ask Them to Purchase the Supplies

If cash flow is big problem and they don’t want to pay a deposit, ask them to purchase the needed supplies and materials on their own. You might lose any markup that you placed on the materials but it beats losing the client altogether.

Another strategy is to offer this up front and adjust your labor costs to make up for any loss of profit from the materials.

8. Don’t Spend So Much

It seems so simple but how often have you purchased something you don’t need. If your computer software works fine and you don’t even know what’s in the newest upgrade, don’t buy it. Same with your phone or other office equipment.

If that non-so-attractive desk still works, keep using it, and just because your competitor has something for their business doesn’t mean you should too. At the beginning only purchase what you need to do a fantastic job. All the bells and whistles can come after the cash starts rolling in.

Along the same lines, buy used or reconditioned equipment. You can find reconditioned electronics complete with a warranty for a substantial discount.

RELATED: How to Avoid Overpaying for Everyday Business Expenses

Bottom Line

If you don’t have cash, it’s hard to expand. Managing your cash flow is not only getting people to pay on time but also keeping careful track of all investments. If you can produce cash by selling old products or assets at a loss, taking a loss might be a gain.

© 2015 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

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The Winning Game Plan for Your Home-Based Business


To make your home business successful, you need a game plan. Start your home business on the right foot with a plan that addresses these three issues.

working from homeWhether your home-based business is by choice or necessity, you need to focus on three keys to have a winning game plan:
– Define what success looks like
– Choose simplicity for organization structure
– Count the cost by paying vendors and taxes before you take money out of the business

As the owner, you get to make the initial decisions on how things will work. However, you have to understand the IRS defines tax implications and “business physics” will define your economic outcome so choose your course wisely!

Defining Success (3 types of home businesses):

Passion over profit – This is the entrepreneur that loves the idea of a product or service they have personally experienced and they want to share it with all the people they know. It is great to have passion, but you will need profits to make the business sustainable unless you like working for free and have other sources of funds to keep plowing into the business. The IRS may have something to say about whether losses will be deductible if you fail to meet the general rule of profits 2 out of 5 years. It is expensive to argue your point with the IRS if you do not meet the guidelines so your argument had better be valid and worth it!

Profit to support family – With current unemployment rates, there are record numbers of home businesses being formed. While it does provide a great opportunity to be your own boss, you still need to treat it like any business startup and follow sound business principles. The early stage will be to make a profit to replace your wages. As we will cover later, the profits you hope to live on will sometimes be in conflict with other expenses that the business needs to pay. This will add to the complexity of managing cash flows as you and the business compete for use of the same dollar. As you gain stability and success, you can make your market wage plus make a profit on top of that.

Tax write-off business – This is the business I recommend staying away from. You probably heard someone on the radio telling you how you could deduct these expenses to not pay taxes. Repeat after me, “to spend a dollar to save 15 to 35 cents in tax is dumb!” Deduct the legitimate business expenses you spend to produce your income, but you will never build wealth (without cheating) unless you have taxable income AND spend less than your after tax income to live on. I know this is not what you want to hear, but this is how my wealthy clients did it and they can sleep well at night not fearing an audit.

Choose Simplicity for Organization Structure:

Complex is many times the code word for expensive! Here are the guidelines for home-based businesses to use when you are consulting with your tax advisor:

There are many other issues to consider in choosing your entity, but these are usually at the top of our list and you need to be proactive in explaining your goals to your tax advisor.

Count the Cost!

Most home-based business owners hate accounting but this is especially the kind of business you need to keep your hand on the cash. The smaller you are, the less likely you have any room in your costs to pay an outside bookkeeper. QuickBooks has made many entrepreneurs functional (i.e. “good enough”) in accounting. Take a class in QuickBooks and take charge of your numbers to avoid surprises. As you get bigger, then you can transition the role to a part-time outside bookkeeper when it makes financial sense.

You need to know the “Four Forces of Cash Flow” to stay out of trouble managing your cash. If you are not profitable, cash flow is just a calculation of “days until death”. Fix profitability first and now we deal with the “4 Forces”:

These principles apply to all businesses, big or small and they will help you run a successful business!

GREG CRABTREE has worked in the financial industry for more than 30 years. He founded Crabtree, Rowe & Berger, PC, a CPA firm dedicated to helping entrepreneurs build the economic engine of their business. Crabtree leads the business consulting team, helping clients align their financial goals with their profit model and their core business values. He is the author of Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits! For more information, please visit: https://www.crbcpa.net/our-team/greg-crabtree/

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6 Tips to Increase Cash Flow Now



Last Updated: Jun 4, 2012
Cash flow problems are a common problem for nearly any business these days, and independent retailers are no exception. Here are six things retail store owners can do to make an immediate improvement in their cash flow.

cashier moneyCash flow is an ongoing challenge for independent retailers, as it is for many small businesses. Sales growth remains modest at best, and credit remains largely unavailable to many independent retailers. That puts many squarely behind the eight ball.

Here are 6 tips that can help you drive more dollars to the bottom line:

1. Focus your marketing on your proven customers.
These are the customers who have demonstrated already that they value what you do and the merchandise you sell. (What else can you offer them?) These are customers who have shared their email addresses with you. This is your List, and it’s one of the most valuable assets you have. Marketing to these customers is much less expensive (and more productive) than marketing more broadly using expensive traditional media, like newspapers and magazines.

2. Turn your inventory.
Having more doesn’t mean you’ll sell more, especially when the extra inventory is in unnecessary depth of stock or in items at the fringes of assortments. Lean inventory, closely aligned to support prudent sales plans, promotes a greater sense of urgency with customers to buy now, when they first see it, rather than wait for when it might go on sale. Replenish more frequently, in smaller quantities, continually bringing in new, fresh, exciting merchandise.

3. Don’t compete with yourself.
Most independent retailers should adopt a Better-Best or a Best-Only pricing structure. Offering too many options where customers can trade down to a less expensive item leaves money on the table and slows the turn on the higher priced offerings, thus lessening their perceived value. If consignment merchandise is part of your mix, make sure they complement rather than compete against your assortments.

4. Get paid for what you sell.
Sales and promotions melt away cash flow, not to mention the fact that they lessen the perceived value of your offering and encourage customers to wait for the next sale. Getting paid also requires, however, that you fully mark up your merchandise in the first place. Markups tend to naturally erode as wholesale costs increase and retail prices don’t fully keep up, unless you actively manage your markups to keep them where you need them.

5. Make payroll a manageable expense.
For most independent retailers, payroll is the largest cash outflow after merchandise payables. A payroll that is primarily made up of salaried and full time hourly employees may provide a level of stability but can be pretty inflexible and can create significant cash flow challenges, particularly during slower periods. A more balanced payroll, between salaried and full-time hourly employees and part-time employees, provides the flexibility to more closely align payroll dollars with when they are truly needed.

6. Stop doing things the way you’ve always done them.
Familiarity is comfortable, but it leads inevitably to diminishing returns. Customers thrive on newness; on new merchandise, presentations and experiences. Repetition breeds staleness, and that will drive customers elsewhere. The most successful independent retailers are always re-inventing themselves, testing new items, programs, presentations and concepts.

After all that we’ve been through, how much cash flow is enough? It’s not enough just to be cash flow positive. The challenge is to generate exceptional cash flow from the sales revenue you are generating, even as you work to grow revenues even further.

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How to Conduct Market Research the Right Way

How to Conduct Market Research the Right Way |A&C Accounting And Tax Services



Starting a new business? Before you open your doors, you need to know who your customers are, what they want to buy, and what part of town they like to shop in. Use this advice to be sure you conduct good market research in advance.

It takes a lot of money to start a small business and a huge investment of time and even more money to maintain it. Making decisions not grounded in data is a potentially catastrophic mistake but too many small-business owners do it.

Near the top of the list are market decisions. How did you decide what stocks your shelves? How did you decide the type of customer you wanted to target? How did you pick the location of your business? These are only a few of the market decisions you have to make as a business owner. These are the decisions that have a large impact on the future success of your business and your revenue.

What is Market Research?

You’ve likely heard the term before but the definition is often incomplete. What we think of as market research is the time you spend before starting your business where you analyze past market trends to decide if your product or service has enough demand to make it worth your while.

That’s certainly true and it’s an important first step but market research should never stop. Before making a big business decision, you should conduct market research. Let’s say that you found a new location with more favorable lease terms. Should you move based on price alone? How likely are your current customers to follow you?

Market research also looks into the future. When Apple invested into the development of the iPad, it already knew that consumers wanted a smaller, lighter computing device. It knew that if it could make the iPhone larger, consumers would purchase the product. This was all thanks to the company’s market research.

Market research should look to the past, present and future to study consumer trends. Here’s how.

Look at the Economy

Maybe you’re not an economist but with a little research, you can learn to read and understand reports outlining economic indicators, income and earnings data, and employment statistics. If the economy is weakening, the demand for high-end products and services may lessen. If average income remains low, consumers will demand high value at lower prices.

Invest in Industry Publications

Regardless of the type of business you own, there are trade groups that compile industry statistics that are important to your business. If you’re not a member of your industry’s trade group, join today. Not only does the group advocate on your behalf, they likely publish detailed industry statistics that are essential for making business decisions.

Some of those reports are expensive but it’s far more expensive to invest in an idea that fails. Also, look for research firms that follow publically traded companies related to yours. If you own a sporting goods store, look for Wall Street analysts that follow companies like Dicks, Nike, Lululemon, and Under Armour. Along with their research of the company, these analysts also compile industry data that applies to every business—large or small—in the space.

Finally, do a good old fashioned Google search. Check industry blogs, trade magazines, and any other high quality information you can find. Much of what you uncover will be useless but some will be highly valuable. That material deserves a bookmark in your browser.

Look Internationally

If you are a typical local business without any sales taking place internationally, you still have a use for market research outside the borders of the United States. An electrician probably isn’t traveling overseas to work but the price of copper on international markets could affect the price of wire. A farmer knows that international demand for grains affect domestic prices, and a Realtor knows that global real estate markets may drive more foreign buyers to American soil.

Those in retail or e-commerce might sell to global markets. They have to know the state of the global markets. Look at the Trade Compliance Center or buyusa.gov for more information.

Pound the Pavement

Finally, ask the public. Conduct an online survey, ask your customers for their opinion when they purchase from you, call past customers, ask a question on social media or hire a firm to conduct the research for you. If you’re looking for direct feedback on a new product you’re planning to develop or a new service you want to add, the best way is through direct, personal research. It’s tedious but it will yield results.

Bottom Line

If you’re making decisions, your thesis should be largely based on objective data. Your gut instincts may carry a little bit of weight but companies that conduct complete market research quickly learn whether an idea is worth the investment of time and capital.

© 2013 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

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How to Find Good Freelance Jobs

How to Find Good Freelance Jobs |A&C Accounting And Tax Services



Looking for freelance work? Whatever your expertise, there is probably a freelance market for it. Here are 8 tips to help you find freelance jobs.

The freelance economy is booming and the reasons why aren’t too hard to figure out. If a company can hire a contractor to do the work of what once was an employee, the company could save a lot of money.

Each employee costs a company a lot more than just their salary. Social security, Medicare and other expenses may add a significant amount to the company’s cost.

When a company hires a freelancer, it only has to pay the cost of the work.

For these reasons, and many more, if you’re thinking of entering the freelance market, don’t let people downplay your idea. A lot of people are making a great living as freelancers, but just like any business, what you get out of it is related to what you invest. Here’s how to find jobs in the freelance business.

1. First Look Inward- If you’re not currently in the freelance market, you’re likely working for somebody or were in the not-so-distant past. If that business is one that could benefit from freelancing, pitch your current or past employer assuming you left on good terms.

Those who hire freelancers are constantly concerned with hiring the wrong person. Since you current or past employer already knows you, the anxiety surrounding freelancers is diminished.

RELATED: 7 Tips to Succeed as a Freelancer

2. Stick with areas you know- There are freelance jobs for just about everything. That doesn’t mean you should apply for everything. A common mistake made by new freelancers is to go after jobs they should not pursue. If you’re a programmer with extensive experience building websites, confine yourself to those jobs.

A job for a database administrator or graphic designer for a website might look appealing because of your experience, but you’ll probably put too much time into the job relative to what it pays and your product won’t be as strong as those who are already experts.

Remember, your reputation is everything.

3. Be Prepared to Work for Cheap- at least at the beginning. If you were to take a job at a new company, you would expect to “pay your dues” for a period of time. That could mean less money, less hours, and some grunt work. Freelancing is similar. You won’t get paid what you’re worth at the beginning, but as you do a good job, your rates will quickly increase.

4. But don’t work for slave wages- In your quest to break into the freelance business, you might be tempted to work for far less than you should. Yes, you’ll have to pay your dues, but that doesn’t mean working for next to free.

If you’re an expert in your field, you know the going rates. Working for 25 percent less has its advantages as you’re staring out, but don’t work for a fraction of what you should. If you set yourself up as somebody willing to work for ultra cheap, it will be difficult to break that reputation going forward.

RELATED: Six Strategies to Get Paid What You’re Worth

5. Use the freelance sites- Sites like Upwork can help match you with people looking to hire a freelancer. Much like looking for a traditional job, finding quality freelancing jobs takes a considerable amount of time.

Freelancers from around the world use Upwork to look for work. That will make it difficult to find jobs at appropriate prices.

Instead of looking at the most well-known sites, look for those off the beaten path. People know Craigslist as a place to buy and sell your old trinkets and gadgets, but it’s also one of the best places to find freelance jobs.

Use one of the Craigslist search engines to search job posting nationwide instead of just in your area.

6. You Need a Website- When somebody is interested in you, they first ask you to show them your work. Often, freelancers work for clients all over the world. The best way to show them your work is by directing them to your website.

It’s not so important that you use your website to advertise; freelancers often make the bulk of their money by word of mouth. Your website should be simple, clean, professional, and easy to navigate. A couple of pages are enough.

With even the most basic of knowledge you can put together a portfolio of your work without hiring a website designer.

7. Go Old School- If you wait for business to come to you, you’re not going to make it as a freelancer. Like anything, it will take money to make money. You’ll need some money to attend conferences, take people out to lunch, travel, and hob-nob.

The phrase, “pound the pavement” is certainly true in the freelance world. Those who are successful understand old school marketing. An email isn’t enough. Meeting people and forming relationships is essential.

And yes, you’ll likely have to make some cold calls.

8. Save Your Money- Some people enter the freelance market as a result of a layoff but others have dreams of quitting their job to work on their own. If you’re the latter, make sure you have three to six months of living expenses saved.

Many freelancers will tell stories of being flooded with work for a while and then going through a period of slow business. Freelancers know that always saving a portion of their earnings is essential to survival.

Bottom Line

Are you a natural-born salesperson? Do you enjoy working hard and not having traditional work hours? If that’s you, freelancing would fit you well, but the hardest part of the business is finding the work. Plan to spend the bulk of your time prospecting, especially at the beginning.

© 2014 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

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10 Rules for Succeeding in Your Own Business

10 Rules for Succeeding in Your Own Business |A&C Accounting And Tax Services



What does it take to start and succeed in business? Although there is no one answer that fits all businesses, there are a number of practices followed by successful business owners. No matter what you sell, you’ll be ahead of the game if you live by these ten essential rules for succeeding in your own business.

Business successWhat does it take to start and succeed in business? That’s a question I get asked a lot. Although there is no one answer that fits all businesses, there are a number of practices followed by successful business owners. No matter what you sell, you’ll be ahead of the game if you live by these ten essential rules for succeeding in your own business.

© 2015 Attard Communications, Inc. May not be reprinted without permission from the author.

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JanetAttard.

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A Small Success Story on Online Furniture Stores

A Small Success Story on Online Furniture Stores |A&C Accounting And Tax Services

Sponsored content from Bedsos 

These days the small online stores are making big success stories like never before due to the exposure that has made them gain popularity. There is a large number of online retail stores across the niches that are actually causing stiff competition to the big brands of offline stores. In fact, the many success stories of the small online retailers are pushing the big brands to take the online marketing more serious hence their presence is beginning to be felt. From the comfort of a home the online shops are gaining customers with sophisticated online browsing and viewing of their products while the offline stores in many niches are quickly losing their grounds.

You must be thinking of a few niche products that just because of their nature cannot be found online. For instance, you may think that to acquire furniture one needs to visit a nearby store, at least before the final purchase for you to ensure that the dimensions and measurements are perfect. Is it so? Do you still need to visit local retailers to have the first hand look at the furniture you are intending to buy? If so, then you may not have realized the benefit of online browsing yet. Despite everything else, do you know that online furniture stores do not only allow you to browse each and every other product in detail, but also provide you with an astounding huge range of furniture for every requirement you can imagine? Moreover, with these online stores you can easily lay your hands in cheap beds and other affordable yet gorgeous furniture products that are sold expensive elsewhere.

Bedsos.co.uk is one of the most authentic and sought after online sites if you want to buy sophisticated, classy and a range of elegant furniture at an affordable price. This company was started as a just small retailer but has exploded to become a big name in the furniture industry in London and the entire country. If you think that this is the only online furniture company that has succeeded, you are terribly wrong. There are other several online retailer brands and stores that have the same level of success as well as an overwhelming high level of popularity for their products. The success of Bedsos can be considered as a gradual outcome of the increased online sales and branding and has shown many businesses the path of survival and success. Today, you can easily find very good quality furniture online for every purpose and literally an inexhaustible range of product choices for every other need.

The success of Bedsos is quite a revealing one because of selling hundreds of cheap comfy beds online every week and presently being one of the most frequently visited online stores for furniture. While the sales figure continues to grow, it is the quality of the beds and furniture that makes the brand stands out from the many others. Each and every beds bearing the Bedsos mark invariably is made of high quality material with the highest standards of quality. Bedsos is a bed specialist online retail brand that in the past few years emerged one of the most coveted destinations of quality and highly comfortable beds.

Bedsos is not the only one that has succeeded when it comes to the success of online retail stores in the recent times. From room furnishing to the interior decorative products and other furniture, online sales has an array of useful products which has helped create many success stories. At a time when online stores are poised to offer everything we require for life and livelihood, the success stories of these online stores will influence more businesses to follow suit. Actually, online stores often help fostering new ideas about the same old products as well as help introducing new product ideas. Often, in these stores we come across many varieties that we might not have come across earlier. Apart from the unique products available, offering stunningly affordable prices and ready to opt offers makes stores just appear doubly appealing than their offline counterparts.

In conclusion, we must refer to the small but important success stories of the online stores such as Bedsos and others as an opportunity for learning to those companies which have tried the online platform of marketing but have not yet succeeded that success is a gradual process. 

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Seven Alternative Sources Of Capital For Setting Up A Business

When
looking for capital sources
, borrowing from banks is every small entrepreneur’s
nightmare. In the search for capital sources one can get turned down for bank loans
for a variety of reasons, including lack of assets, collateral and business experience.
Don’t despair though, as there are several common types of alternative capital sources
for setting up a business available to young companies. The first sources you should
consider as capital sources are your own savings and investments.

However, the disadvantage of self-financing is that if things happen not to turn
out the way you want them to, it will be your money that goes down with the ship.
“Angel investors” is the name given to affluent individuals who provide capital
for a business start-up. Usually in exchange for the capital sources they provide,
they expect ownership equity. Although their rate of return is more than would be
given by more traditional investments (typically 25% or more), angel investors are
an excellent place to get capital sources. Besides, since angel investors are often
retired business owners and executives, they can also provide valuable management
advice and important contacts. Peer-to-peer lending is a means of getting capital
sources
by which borrowers and lenders may transact business without traditional
intermediaries, such as banks.

The process may, however, include other intermediaries who package and resell the
loans but they are ultimately sold to individuals or pools of individuals. When
trying to find capital
sources
, instead of a bank loan try borrowing smaller sums
from several family members, friends, or colleagues. The capital sources lenders
have no legal ownership in the business, but can act as advisors for your venture.
Remember, however, that nothing causes tension in a family like lending money that
is never paid back. There are many business owners who use their credit cards as
capital sources to fund their businesses. As you may know, credit cards offer the
ability to make purchases or obtain cash advances and pay them at a later time.
But as a long-term financing method, they can be really expensive.

Another source of capital for setting up a business is bootstrapping. It is a way
to finance a business by saving rather than borrowing money. It’s being as frugal
as possible so your business can be started on as little cash as possible. Bootstrapping,
in its simplest, is the use of private credit cards for capital sources, but a wide
variety of methods are available for
entrepreneurs
who are seeking capital sources.
Other forms of bootstrapping include owner financing, minimization of accounts receivable,
delaying payment, minimizing inventory and subsidy finance. Venture capital sources
are not suitable for all entrepreneurs. It is an option well suited for small companies
that have a seasoned management team and very aggressive growth plans.

You ought to know that
venture capitalists
will rarely invest in small businesses
that have no intention of going public. On the other hand, a company may have the
qualities venture capitalists seek such as a solid business plan, a good management
team, investment and passion from the founders and a good potential to exit the
investment before the end of their funding cycle. In this case, it may be easier
to find capital sources in venture capital. But keep in mind that if you intend
to find capital sources in venture capital, the
venture capitalist
objective is
to invest in a company for a short period of time – say 5 years – and then cash
out of the business while making a significant return on their investment.

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10 Factors That Affect Your Life Insurance Premium

10 Factors That Affect Your Life Insurance Premium

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Nobody wants to you to die young. But if you have bought a life insurance policy, at least you can feel somewhat reassured that if death does come unexpected and early, those left behind will be taken care of.

Of course, you’re not the only one who is invested in you living a long, healthy life. Your life insurance company is, too. Not because it loves you like your family does; but because it doesn’t want to pay out that $500,000 or $1 million death benefit. It sounds cold, but it’s how life insurance companies make money.

“Life insurance is a mortality risk assessment,” says Jack Dolan, vice president of public affairs at the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). “The policy premium is based on the odds of the applicant dying prematurely.”

Lots of other things aside from likelihood of dying young go into how a life insurance premium is determined. Here are 10 of the top factors that can affect it.

There are many different types of life insurance policies that offer different coverage terms, payout structures and investment options. Term life insurance, which provides coverage for a set term — usually 30 or 40 years, when the insured person expects to reach retirement age — is the simplest type of policy and generally has the least expensive premiums.

The premium payments for a permanent or whole life insurance policy are considerably more expensive for the same death benefit. That’s because, unlike term life insurance, permanent life insurance comes with a guaranteed death benefit. The company will have to pay that $500,000 chunk of cash at some point, so it needs to try to recoup its money up front.

According to Policy Genius, the premiums for a whole life insurance policy will cost six to 10 times as much as a term life policy for the same death benefit amount.

Another huge factor is the amount of the death benefit. Premiums will be lower for a $100,000 policy than a $1 million policy. A life insurance agent can help you figure out the maximum death benefit you can afford.

“It’s a simple fact of life insurance that the younger you are, the less expensive your life insurance premiums will be,” Dolan says.

Again, this is because life insurance is a calculated risk. If you’re buying a 30-year term life insurance policy, the insurance company will calculate the odds of you being alive 31 years from now. The younger you are, the greater chance that you’ll still be kicking around in three decades.

Therefore, some single people in their 20s decide to buy life insurance even if they have no immediate plans to get married or have children. They want to lock in a low rate early so they can save later when they have a family.

Men pay more for life insurance than women. Why? Simple math. Women live five years longer on average than men. That alone makes women a lower life insurance risk than men.

But there are factors other than life expectancy that make men riskier bets than women. Men work more dangerous jobs, have more dangerous hobbies, are more likely to drink and do drugs, climb ladders and drive too fast. Not that every man is a construction worker with a drinking problem, but insurance rates are primarily about averages, not individual cases.

To get the best rates on life insurance, you’ll want to get a medically underwritten policy. This means that the insurance company will send a nurse to your house to take your height and weight, measure your blood pressure, and ask you a series of questions about your physical and mental health.

The better your overall health, the lower your premiums will be. But even if you’re not in perfect health — depression, diabetes, heart disease — a medically underwritten life insurance policy is usually a better deal than a “simplified issue” policy that doesn’t require a medical exam, because the insurer is taking on a completely unknown risk and will charge you extra for it.

Be honest about your medical history. If you fail to mention a serious diagnosis, prescription or surgery, it could invalidate your policy. It’s much smarter to pay a higher premium than to have a death benefit denied due to insurance fraud.

The secret is out — smoking is bad for your health. And not only smoking, but regular tobacco use of any kind. Life insurance companies take smoking and tobacco so seriously that they offer separate rates for tobacco users and non-tobacco users.

According to NerdWallet, a 40-year-old smoker will pay four times as much as a nonsmoker for the same 20-year $500,000 term life insurance policy. To be a considered a nonsmoker, most life insurance companies require you to be tobacco-free for at least 12 months.

Your health is not only a product of your lifestyle choices, but your genetics. As part of your medical exam, the insurance company will ask for a detailed health history of your immediate family members. If you’re a woman and both your mom and your sister were diagnosed with breast cancer, that’s going to make you a higher risk. If you’re a man and every guy in your family has had a heart attack before age 50, that’s going to send up some red flags.

Don’t worry, though. Having a spotty family medical history isn’t going to disqualify you from life insurance. It’s just going to make your premiums higher than someone with less risky genes. But again, failing to be 100 percent honest about serious issues in your family medical history could come back to bite you.

Logging workers and deep-sea fishermen have the two most dangerous jobs in America, but also among the jobs with the most fatalities are airline pilots, garbage collectors and truck drivers. If your occupation is considered risky, you’ll definitely pay more for life insurance than a desk-bound office worker.

According to Policy Genius, insurance companies tack on flat fees for high-risk jobs. The fees are between $2.50 and $7.50 for every $1,000 of life insurance coverage per year. So if you have a $500,000 policy with a $2.50 flat fee for a dangerous job, that will add an additional $1,250 per year to your life insurance premiums.

There’s nothing like the thrill of BASE jumping, scuba diving or rock climbing, but you’ll pay for all that adventure in life insurance premiums.

The more dangerous the hobby, the riskier you are to life insurers. Similar to dangerous occupations, insurance companies will tack on flat fees for people who regularly engage in known risky behaviors like motorcycle riding, hunting and even recreational boating.

For a $500,000 policy, expect to pay roughly $2,500 more per year if you like to scuba dive or skydive, and $1,500 more per year if you’re into rock climbing.

Life insurers cast a wide net in determining the risk level of their policyholders. One potential red flag is a spotty driving record. If you have a lot of speeding tickets or at-fault collisions in recent years that will raise your rates. A major infraction like a recent DUI could disqualify you altogether.

NerdWallet says that MetLife reserves its best “Elite Plus” rates for drivers who have no more than one moving violation in the past three years.

A lot of life insurance customers don’t know that you don’t have to pay premiums monthly. Most companies allow you to make quarterly, twice yearly or annual premium payments. And there’s a benefit to moving away from monthly.

“The fewer payments that you can make, the lower the cost will be,” Dolan says.

While the savings aren’t dramatic, Policy Genius says that the discount for paying annually runs between 2 and 8 percent a year compared with paying monthly.

HowStuffWorks may earn a small commission from affiliate links in this article.

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How the Qualified Business Income Deduction Could Cut Your Tax Bill by 20 Percent

How the Qualified Business Income Deduction Could Cut Your Tax Bill by 20 Percent



Last Updated: Jan 8, 2020
The qualified business income (QBI) deduction could save you as much as 20% on your taxes if you meet the qualifications. Find out how this new pass-through deduction works here.

One of the newer tax rules that business owners should be aware of is the Qualified Business Income Deduction (QBI). The deduction, also called Section 199A, is a 20 percent deduction available for qualifying pass-through businesses such as sole proprietorships, S-corporations, and partnerships (not corporations). Like many tax rules this deduction is more complex than it sounds at first, so let’s start with the basics and then we’ll delve a little deeper for those of you who want to take a closer look at the potential savings.

Here three facts to know about the new pass-through deduction and what it applies to

Let’s look at each of these rules as it applies to a freelance business:

You should first determine if your business is an SSTB as mentioned above. The first two examples below assume that your business is not an SSTB. In both of these cases, you would calculate the Qualified Business Income (QBI) from your business. This is simply the net income of your business excluding any salary, wages or payments made to you, the owner. If you have a sole proprietorship, this would be your Schedule C income.  

You will need to determine the ratio of the income you may have over the threshold limitation of $160,700 for single taxpayers and $321,400 for Married Filing Jointly taxpayers.

Keep in mind also that if your taxable income reaches $210,700 (single filer) or $421,400 (married joint filer), the QBI deduction is limited to 50 percent of your W-2 wages from that business or the sum of 25 percent of W-2 wages from the business, plus 2.5 percent of any qualified property. Then, using the income threshold stated above and the phase-out amount of $210,700/$421,400 to calculate the limitation on a prorated basis.

Here is an example of how to do it assuming:

Given this hypothetical situation, your maximum pass-through deduction is 20 percent of your $300,000 QBI, which equals $60,000. With your taxable income being over $421,400, any pass-through deduction you claim is limited to the greater of (i) 50 percent of the W-2 wages paid to your employees, or (ii) 25 percent of W-2 wages plus 2.5% of your office building’s $250,000 basis. (i) is $100,000 (50% x $100,000) = $50,000; (ii) is (2.5% x $250,000) + (25% x $100,000) = $31,250. Since (i) is greater than (ii) you would have to take the lesser amount of $31,250 as the pass-through deduction.

For our example, assume:

To calculate, multiply your deduction prior to the phase-out—in this case, it is limited to 50 percent of the W-2 wages you paid since there is no qualified property. This is equal to $30,000 (50% x $60,000 W-2 wages = $30,000). With your phase-out percentage being 45 percent you get 55 percent of the full deduction which is equal to 55% x $30,000 = $16,500.

This new pass-through deduction may offer significant tax savings for your business, but it is also somewhat complicated. Could it save you 20 percent? Maybe—it depends on how the specific rules of this deduction apply to your situation. This is where enlisting a tax professional to do some tax planning and calculations may be helpful. Whether you choose to work with a tax pro or to go it alone, it’s worth considering whether this new tax deduction will impact this year’s tax bill.

Jonathan Medows is a New York City-based CPA who specializes in taxes and business issues for freelancers and self-employed individuals across the country. His website, www.cpaforfreelancers.com features a  blog, how-to articles, and a comprehensive freelance tax guide.

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How Mountain Biking Gear Works

How Mountain Biking Gear Works

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Mountain biking is one of the most popular outdoor activities in America, and it’s easy to see why: Few other sports combine heart-pumping exercise with such breathtaking views and close communion with nature.

In 2008, approximately 7.6 million Americans hit the trail, a 10 percent increase over 2007 [source: Outdoor Foundation]. The numbers are even more impressive for younger riders, whose participation in the sport rose 17 percent.

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One of the best things about mountain biking is that it embraces a wide range of skill levels and riding styles. Casual riders can head out with the family for a leisurely cross-country run through the forest, while serious cyclists can compete in hair-raising downhill races or get airborne with extreme freeriding.

Whatever your style, the right mountain biking gear is essential to creating an enjoyable riding experience. If you hit the trail with the wrong shoes, the wrong shorts and the wrong protective equipment, you could run the risk of painful blisters, overheating and even serious injury.

Keep reading to learn more about essential mountain biking gear and how to get the most out of this exciting sport.

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Small Business Insurance: Benefits of a Business Owner Policy

Small Business Insurance: Benefits of a Business Owner Policy



Last Updated: Jan 6, 2020
A business owner policy is a small business insurance policy that combines insurance coverage for property damage and common liability risks into a single package. Here’s how it may benefit your business.

Insurance is a subject that small business owners don’t like to think about. It’s a yearly expense for something you hope you’ll never have to use. In fact, one study showed that 40 percent of small businesses neglect to carry any type of business insurance. And that’s unfortunate. Accidents, thefts, fires, and disasters can and do happen to small businesses, and most small businesses find it difficult or impossible to recover from such financial losses if they don’t have insurance.

As a business owner, you’ve invested significant amounts of time, money, and love into making it a success. That’s why you need to protect your business with insurance against common risks. 

For many small business owners, the best way to do that is with a business owner’s policy. Also known as a BOP, a business owner policy is a type of commercial business insurance that combines several types of business insurance into one package. Along with property insurance, a BOP includes liability protection (but not professional liability) and often includes business interruption insurance. As a bonus, purchasing a BOP tends to be more affordable than buying different types of insurance on an a la carte basis.

Every business owner needs insurance. While there are many different types of insurance available to cover such threats, most small and midsized businesses (and sometimes home businesses) can cover the major threats under a single business owner policy. Additionally, different businesses can tailor their policies to meet their specific needs. For example, you could buy additional coverage (called riders or endorsements) for specific liabilities such as data breaches, equipment breakdowns, off-premises services, professional liability, and other special needs.

Most low-risk businesses with less than $1 million in annual sales can qualify for a BOP. But depending on the type of business you run, you may have to shop around or rely on a good independent insurance broker to do so on your behalf. That’s because different insurance providers often have specific rules and regulations concerning a business’s size, location, type, and income level. For example, some providers only cover companies that do all their business on-site. Still, others restrict coverage to businesses with fewer than 100 employees or companies earning less than $1 million in annual revenue. However, if your company does qualify for a BOP, it can play a significant role in ensuring your business’s longevity and success.

Business owner policies cover a wide range of liabilities that affect the average small or medium-sized business owner. The basic BOP includes the following types of coverage:

The specifics included in a business owner’s policy will depend on the type of business you run and the insurance provider. Before choosing one, make a list of the threats and liabilities for which you need coverage, and go over your list with the insurance company or your broker. If the threats you want covered aren’t included ask about getting an add-on rider or endorsement to cover them. Such add-on items are attached to a basic BOP (at extra cost) in order to address specific issues and considerations. Here are just a few of the additional coverage options available to SMBs:

Once you’ve determined that a business owner policy is right for you, it’s time to begin shopping for coverage. The good news is that a number of providers offer BOPs and endorsements to meet your company’s needs. If you already have a preferred insurance provider, you can start by checking out their BOP offerings. Or, consult a local independent business insurance agent. Additionally, insurance web sites enable customers to compare multiple quotes from business owner policy insurance carriers in their region.

As you might expect, BOP pricing varies significantly based on a variety of factors. The type of business you run, location, and even your annual sales may influence the pricing, as do any add-on endorsements you require. Because they come with a greater risk of customer injury, restaurants and construction companies tend to have higher premiums than tech companies and architecture firms. Businesses with expensive equipment may also be more expensive to insure. According to the site HowMuch.net, business owner policies typically range from $500 to $3500 per year, with the average business spending around $1200 annually.

A Business Owner Policy may not be the only kind of insurance your small business needs. If you have employees, in most states you’ll need workers’ compensation insurance. If you or your employees drive a vehicle in the course of business, you are likely to need auto insurance for the business. Malpractice and errors and omissions insurance are other possible needs, depending on your business. A local insurance broker who works with businesses should be able to help you pinpoint your specific needs. 

© 2020 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.

A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, and content manager. Currently, she operates the freelance writing business April Maguire Ink and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats. 

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Money, Drugs and Madness: The Life and Death of Pablo Escobar

Money, Drugs and Madness: The Life and Death of Pablo Escobar

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Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian druglord, once blew up a plane filled with innocent people in a desperate attempt to kill one of his countless enemies. One hundred and seven people died that morning in 1989 when a bomb was detonated on Avianca Flight 203. Three more were killed by falling pieces of the aircraft. Escobar’s target wasn’t even on board.

Among his multitude of crimes, Escobar ordered (and had carried out) the assassination of a Colombian presidential candidate and the country’s minister of justice. He placed a bounty on policemen; hundreds were killed. As many as 50,000 people — the death toll may be lower, though most figure the total is at least in the low five figures — were murdered under the reign of “The King of Cocaine.”

For all the gauzy remembrances that some lamely cling to — Escobar as the dedicated family man, the poor son of Colombia made good, a Latin American Robin Hood — the two men who finally brought Escobar to justice want you to remember: He was none of those.

“There’s nothing to glamorize about this guy,” says Steve Murphy, a former Drug Enforcement Agency agent whose work is dramatized in “Narcos,” the Netflix series that debuted in 2015. “He’s nothing more than a mass murderer. People look up to him like he’s some kind of a hero. Let me tell you, if he told you to do something, and he’s your idol, and you didn’t do it, he’d kill you. He didn’t care that you liked him. It was all about him.”

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was born in Rionegro, Colombia, in 1949. As a youngster, he and his family moved to a suburb of Medellin, and by the time he was in his teens, he was deep into the criminal world, stealing cars and reselling gravestones he pilfered from local cemeteries.

It wasn’t until Escobar hit his 20s that he was introduced to big-time crime; taking coca, grown mostly in Peru and Bolivia, synthesising it into cocaine, and shipping it to sell in the United States. By his late 20s, Escobar had founded and assumed sole control of the Medellin cartel, maybe the most successful criminal operation ever. At its height, the cartel pulled in an estimated $420 million — million — a week, 80 percent of the cocaine business worldwide.

The Medellin cartel made so much money that it literally had to stuff cash in bags — billions of U.S. dollars — and bury it. Escobar became a millionaire in his 20s. His fortune soon soared into the billions. He hit the Forbes list of richest people in the world seven years running, from 1987 (when he was estimated to be worth $3 billion) through 1993.

Escobar spent his money on a personal zoo (complete with hippos that still run wild) at a lavish estate in northwest Colombia, Hacienda Nápoles. He splurged on cars, on boats, on a fleet of airplanes, on at least one professional soccer team, and on dozens of houses throughout the country. Keenly aware of his public persona, he gave millions away, too, building housing and soccer fields in poor areas of Medellin.

But Escobar grew and maintained that wealth through the 1980s and early ’90s, it should be remembered, by being a ruthless, cold-blooded killer.

In silencing politicians, police, journalists and anyone who threatened his empire, Escobar turned to a virtual army of sicarios. These poor, often hand-picked Colombians — mostly teenage boys — were paid to protect Escobar and carry out his wishes. Those wishes often included killing. (A sicario is a hitman or hired assassin.)

“Pablo just manipulated those people is all he did. He gave them things, which was good, but when he needed new sicarios, he went right back in [to the poor sections of town],” Murphy says. “They were willing to die for him. Fight and die for him. We hate to give him credit for anything, but he did have somewhat of a charismatic personality.”

Murphy and his partner, Javier Peña, who also is portrayed in the Netflix series, often tangled with the people who would do Escobar’s bidding.

“One of them, when I interviewed him,” Peña says, “he was 15 years old, and he said, ‘I love Pablo Escobar, I will die for him and I will kill for him. He gave me money, my mom now has shelter, has food, has a little house.’ He said, ‘I’ll be dead by the time I’m 23 years old, but I will die and kill for Pablo Escobar. He has given me a life.'”

One of Escobar’s main hitmen was Jhon Jairo Velásquez, known as “Popeye.” He claims to have personally killed 300 people and ordered (on Escobar’s behalf) the murders of 3,000 others.

In the early 1990s, Medellin was known as the most violent city in the world, with 380 homicides per 100,000 people every year.

“On a weekend, there’d be 400 people getting killed. It’s hard to comprehend,” Peña says. “You’d have two guys on a motorcycle, the guy in the back [shooting]. That was one of their favorite methods. They’d shoot you, they’d take off, in and out of traffic. The stats in Medellin were just unbelievable, the amount of people that were getting killed.”

Escobar — one of the earliest of what are now known as “narcoterrorists” — would not only kill. He and his band of sicarios would torture, too.

“The guy had no remorse, had no guilt feelings about killing people, apparently had no conscience,” Murphy says. “When he killed people, he didn’t just kill them, he wanted to torture ’em to find out what they were saying about him. Javier’s got a recording where Pablo is talking to his wife about how much he loves her and the kids, and misses them, and in the background, you can hear a guy being tortured to death.”

As the Colombian government — aided by the Drug Enforcement Administration and other American agencies — began to clamp down on Escobar in the late ’80s, things turned more violent. A paramilitary force of the Colombian National Police known as the Search Bloc and a vigilante group, “Los Pepes” — Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar, or People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar — finally helped bring Escobar to his inevitable fate.

More than anything, Escobar feared extradition to the United States and tried to strong-arm the Colombian government into adopting a non-extradition policy. The political fighting led to outright terror and eventually to a full-fledged war between the cartel and the government. Escobar was forced to flee Hacienda Nápoles.

As the body count in Medellin and other places continued to soar and life on the run became unbearable, Escobar cut a deal. The agreement was that Escobar would turn himself in and submit to serving five years in a prison of his choosing. After he served his time, he would not be sent to the U.S. for prosecution. He could keep his money. He could say his debt was paid.

The deal was especially sweet because Escobar personally supervised the building of the “prison,” known as La Catedral. It included a soccer field, a helicopter pad, a bar, a dollhouse for his kids, a Jacuzzi and a waterfall. His sicarios served as the guards. He could come and go as he pleased. The cocaine never stopped flowing. Neither did the money.

But that good life was soon to end. When two of his associates, whom he suspected were stealing from the cartel, came to La Catedral, Escobar and his men beat them to death, cut them up and threw them in a fire. That night, he held a barbecue to cover the smell of the smoldering corpses.

Once the authorities found out, they closed in on Escobar, who went on the run again.

“His family tries to portray him as a dedicated family man. I don’t believe that at all,” Murphy says. “If he was a dedicated family man, all he had to do is five years … If he was a dedicated family man, now he’s a free man, there was no stipulations on taking any of his assets, so he could keep all those billions and billions of dollars. If he’s dedicated to his family, now he could watch his children grow up, he could see them get married, have grandchildren. He could have whatever he wanted.

“But, as we all saw, because of his ego that wasn’t what he chose. He chose his own personal power. He was after his own personal glory. He chose the violence over his own family.”

Seventeen months after leaving La Catedral, with the National Police, the Search Bloc, Los Pepes, the Drug Enforcement Administration and a small army converging on him, Escobar was shot and killed on a rooftop in Medellin. In one well-circulated photo, Murphy crouches over Escobar’s lifeless body. “I’m proud to have been part of that,” he says. “I don’t care what people think.”

Some supporters insist that Escobar committed suicide rather than be captured and extradited to the U.S.

“Steve was there. He did not commit suicide,” Peña says. “He was killed by a surgical op from the Colombian National Police. They’re the ones that did it. No one else.”

“Yup,” Murphy says. “That’s what happened. He engaged the Colombian National Police in a firefight that day and he lost. It’s that simple.”

Escobar’s story has been told many times, notably in “Narcos,” starring Chilean actor Pedro Pascal as Peña and American actor Boyd Holbrook as Murphy. After retiring from the Drug Enforcement Administration, Murphy and Peña have spent the last four years on speaking tours, hitting every continent but Africa and Antarctica, averaging about 75 appearances a year. They have a new book out, too: “Manhunters: How We Took Down Pablo Escobar.”

More than 25 years have passed since Escobar died on that rooftop. The Medellin cartel is no more. The city’s murder rate dropped by 80 percent the year after Escobar’s death. “It was the first time that an entire international cocaine production and distribution organization was completely decimated,” Murphy says. “We didn’t just cut off the head of the snake. We chopped the whole snake up.”

Still, even now, Escobar is celebrated as a hero to the poor. His portrait is on murals in Barrio Pablo Escobar, a regular stop for tourists in Medellin. People flock to the ruins of La Catedral and to Escobar’s grave site. Escobar’s brother, Roberto, an accountant for the cartel who spent 14 years in prison, hawks memorabilia with his brother’s likeness and conducts a tour of one of his safehouses.

“This guy should never be idolized,” Peña says. “He did build housing, he did help out the Catholic Church, the sicarios — he did help them out. But he always wanted something in return.

“What we say is, Robin Hood didn’t kill the next president of Colombia, didn’t put a bomb on an airplane. We always talk about the terrorist side of Pablo Escobar. That was the main thing.”

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Should children call adults by their first names?

Should children call adults by their first names?

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Many of us knew — or were — the kids on the block who addressed parents and neighbors with formality: as Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Miss. What did those kids get for their courtesy? If you grew up on my street, looks of horror from peers and derision for being so stuffy and weird. But what could they do? Their parents insisted all adults be addressed with titles.

Those of us reading this have presumably graduated from the playground, and we can show more sympathy to our formal friends than we did as children. We can start by acknowledging that — according to many schools of thought — those polite children were in the right. The Emily Post Institute itself says all children absolutely should address adults by their formal titles [source: Emily Post Institute]. Miss Manners agrees that children are socially bound to use the correct “civilian” title [source: Martin “Miss Manners”].

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But here’s the thing. As Miss Manners points out, you’re not in charge of telling grown-ups the rules of courtesy. If an adult affably asks to be referred to on a first-name basis, you’re in no position to override the preference [source: Martin et al]. In other words, don’t tell your child to treat grown-ups with respect, and then ask the child to ignore their wishes.

Also, these rules are arbitrary. It’s not like everyone sat down together and agreed to address people in specific ways. And even if we all had, Miss Manners and Ms. Post would have to acknowledge that social expectations shift.

For instance, some parents might find it problematic to ask children to strictly categorize adults (or anyone, for that matter) with gendered terms. As transgender and intersex folks begin self-identifying more in society, relying on children to decide who’s a miss and who’s a mister might become more fraught. Maybe children simply should be taught to politely inquire how an adult wishes to be addressed.

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9 Sites That Let You View Your Web Traffic

9 Sites That Let You View Your Web Traffic

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Online business owners have it tough. It’s not enough to build a website, troubleshoot it constantly, fill orders, deal with customers and create marketing campaigns. If you want to grow your business, increase sales and improve your customer experience, you have to dive into analytics — and we don’t mean just checking how many people visit your site every day.

Through Web analytics, you can figure out how visitors find you, watch how they move through your site, track where they go after they leave and see how many of them are wearing purple shirts while they peruse your site.

OK, maybe that last one isn’t true. But analytics could change how you run your business. You’ll learn which referrals and ad campaigns are effective and which should be dumped or tweaked. You might redesign your site to increase your conversion rates. Maybe you’ll realize that you need to develop a mobile app or adjust your site for mobile users. Whatever the outcome, you can reap the benefits, but it takes work.

There are an overwhelming number of analytics programs out there — here are 10 of the big ones. Many are free or don’t require much of an investment, so it’s worth a look around to see what will end up being the best fit for you.

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In-ear Tech Aims to Translate Spoken Foreign Language in Real Time

In-ear Tech Aims to Translate Spoken Foreign Language in Real Time

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In the novel “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” translating unfamiliar languages meant stuffing a leech-like banana-colored fish into one’s ear called the Babel Fish. Now a company claims to have invented a hearing-aid-sized device that will perform the same translating functions for spoken foreign language.

The Pilot is wearable technology that fits in the ear and translates between users speaking different languages. The device, which works offline and internationally, is accompanied by an app that can toggle between languages, but the idea is to allow people to converse with each other directly without the aid — or distraction — of looking at a dictionary, smartphone or other electronic language translator. Currently, the Pilot translates between English, French, Spanish and Italian. Future languages are expected to include Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic and other African and Asian languages.

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“I have pretty good skills in Spanish and Mandarin, but for other languages like Thai, Vietnamese, Russian, and French — just can’t wrap my head around the tones in French — I’d use the hell out of a thing like that,” says Cate Smith-Brubaker, a journalist and travel writer. “So many avoided frustrations, I’d get the food I actually want, and I could meet and become friendly with so many more people!”

The Pilot devices, which went on sale in late May for an estimated fall 2017 delivery, cost up to $299. The first generation of in-ear translators only work when both people in a conversation are wearing the devices. However, the New York-based company behind the translator, Waverly Labs, said it plans to release future generations that will translate independently of a sister device.

The application for a device like this is immense. Imagine being in a region where you don’t speak the language and being able to request a restroom, drink or directions. 

Or, as product inventor and Waverly CEO Andrew Ochoa discovered, improve more complex interpersonal communication. Ochoa said the idea for the universal translator came to him “after meeting a French girl” with whom he could not communicate clearly.

“It’s the dream, you know? A life untethered, free of language barriers,” Ochoa says in a company video. “It’s just that it’s no longer a dream anymore. It’s real.”

Johanna Read, a travel writer who visited six continents last year, agrees. “It would be lovely to respond with a smile to a comment that I understand,” she says, “rather than just pretend to understand.”

While Waverly Labs is quick to tout the product’s attributes, it’s slow to release details of its inner workings. The company initially pointed to vague “translation technology” embedded in the device’s accompanying app. The process, however, is believed to require a clear signal from the Pilot’s built-in microphone that is then converted from speech to text in both speakers’ languages. The text is then thought to run through an online translation engine like those of Google or Microsoft before being converted from text back to speech and relayed into the wearer’s earpiece.

If the newly debuted Pilot seems familiar, it’s probably because science fiction did it first. Star Trek characters have been using a universal translator from the outset of the series, allowing them to understand any language they encounter. Well, almost any language. The nuances of Klingon can sometimes get lost in translation. 

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NPR Says No Comments

NPR Says No Comments

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Most of us are familiar with the trope of online comments. They are antagonistic. They are ill-informed. They are — like the ubiquitous “first!” that is actually the third comment — often just plain wrong.

Of course, that’s the ugly side of commenting. There’s also the hope that comments provide a community, a discourse and a way of challenging and continuing discussion.

Some news organizations — those that champion the importance of community engagement and conversation with the press — have grown weary of commenting sections in recent years, and multiple high-profile sites have deleted them entirely. Popular Science, The Chicago Sun-Times, CNN.com, some Vice sites — all have decided in one way or another that comments just weren’t working. (HowStuffWorks turned off its comments in 2014.)

So when NPR.org decided to drop their comments in August 2016, it wasn’t a revolutionary idea. But as a prominent, publicly funded news organization, it does signal that the commenting systems in place since the dawn of the internet might need some modification. Or in this case, moderating.

Gina Chen is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and she’s working on a book titled “Online Incivility And Public Debate: Nasty Talk” about online commenting. She says that research has shown there are a few ways to improve comments and discussion on public news forums, without throwing the whole commenting system out.

One solution? “Moderation works,” says Chen. After analyzing comments from different news organizations, she found that The New York Times had the most civil comment streams, even though the paper allowed anonymity for commentators. “Part of that is because they really vigorously moderate,” she says. “They have dedicated staff. The problem is, not every news organization can afford to do that.”

NPR management certainly cites cost as a problem in their commenting system, but also says there’s another reason they abandoned the comments: Only 0.06 percent of NPR.org users are the ones who are making comments.

Chen says that’s actually a typical representation of the commenting population and argues it’s not a strong reason to disable all comments.

“That’s not ever going to change,” Chen says. “You’re never going to have 100 percent or even 10 percent participation in comment streams.” She also points out that speaking out is only one form of participation: “I think we do derive something from reading what other people have to say. It doesn’t mean that no one is reading them.”

And although NPR and other organizations may cite a plethora of reasons, including a more engaged audience on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, let’s not forget why many of us roll our eyes at comments and even want them gone. “I suspect it really has to do with incivility,” says Chen.

The journalism professor does point out there are ways to counteract that incivility. Beyond a strong moderating presence, she points out that a specialized technological platform that allows for easy flagging and up voting can help elevate discourse. And research done by Chen and colleagues suggests that when journalists are actively engaging in comments, it sets a better tone. And, in fact, some news organizations do turn on comments selectively for stories where they feel a spirited, quality debate can be had.

In general, Chen thinks it’s unfortunate that news organizations are disabling comments. “I think there’s a legitimate problem with comments, but it’s a fixable problem,” she says. And although she acknowledges that the discussions aren’t always pretty, “there is value in having those discussions. I’d rather err on the side of speech than not-speech.”

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Tim Peake Ran a 3:35:21 Marathon — From Space

Tim Peake Ran a 3:35:21 Marathon — From Space

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On Sunday, April 24, Tim Peake participated in the London Marathon. But unlike the other nearly 40,000 runners, Peake, 44, did so from the comforts of the International Space Station 250 miles (402 kilometers) above ground. And he finished in 3:35:21. In case you’re not a runner, the 2017 Boston Marathon qualifying time for a male ages 40-44 is 3:15. Peake pounded out 26.1 miles (42.2 kilometers) with an average page of 8:13. Pretty speedy.

The British-born astronaut is only the second person to ever complete a marathon in space. The first was NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, who ran a marathon on board the ISS back in 2007 in 4:24 in conjunction with the Boston Marathon. Williams must have itchy feet because she also set a record for the most time spent on space walks for a female astronaut.

Running a marathon in space might sound pretty simple. After all, you don’t have to carry all that weight around, right? But the fact is it’s pretty tricky. You’ve got to strap yourself into a harness in order to maintain contact with a treadmill. And all astronauts have to exercise regularly in order to offset the bone and muscle loss that they experience while in space.

And Peake didn’t have to just stare at the interior wall of a space station; he was using a virtual reality app that gave him a view of the marathon course. As he ran, the video reflected where he would be if he were back on Earth. And runners in London who used the Run Social app to track their progress populated Peake’s view — he could see virtual representations of people actually running the race hundreds of miles below him.

Although Peake made good time, it wasn’t quite fast enough to beat his personal best of 3:18:50. And it’s a far mark from Eliud Kipchoge’s winning time of 2:03:05. But once you factor in the distance the ISS traveled in that time — it orbits Earth every 92 minutes or so — you realize he moved more than 60,000 miles (96,561 kilometers).

It all sounds pretty exhausting, but there’s not much time for rest when you’re doing science in space. Peake ran the marathon on one of his few days off and was back to work again the next day.

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Distance Runners Are More Desirable

How a Marathon Works

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