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Business Credit Cards: What Every Business Owner Should Consider

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: November 12, 2013

Business credit cards are a major source of financing for small business owners in today’s economy. Statistics even show that over 65% of small businesses use credit cards on a frequent basis.

So why have business credit cards become such a popular source of financing?

In a recent survey conducted by the National Small Business Association, “twenty-nine percent of small business owners report having their loans or lines of credit reduced in the last four years and nearly 1 in 10 had their loan or line of credit called in early by the bank.”

Traditional credit lines such as a line of credit from a bank compared to an untraditional credit line in the form of business credit cards have two major differences.

First, the way the minimum payment is calculated with a line of credit from a bank is based on the principal (1.5 – 2% monthly balance) plus interest (prime + 3-5%).

With untraditional lines of credit (business credit cards), your minimum payment is calculated based on the principle (1.5 – 3% monthly balance) plus interest (0% for 6-12 months) depending on the card issuer.

Second, traditional credit lines by a bank are reviewed every two years and can be turned into a term loan for the following reasons:

  • Payments not being made on time
  • FICO® Scores are lower than when the line of credit was originally approved
  • Cash flow changes in the business

With business credit cards, there are no corporate financial reviews every two years and your line of credit can never be turned into a term loan. It’s always revolving and can be subject to credit limit increases as well.

If you're in the marketplace for business credit cards, take into consideration these six vital aspects:

  1. Cost and Fees – While there is definitely no shortage of card issuers offering no annual fees, if you are considering a card that has fees, look at what the card provides for that fee. Paying for your plastic is an expense you should have justified. If the business credit card provides astonishing benefits such as flexible payment options, added rewards, travel protection, special bonuses, etc., then it may be worthwhile.
  2. High credit limits – The amount of available credit is crucial to a company’s ability to make sizeable purchases while keeping low debt to credit limit ratios. With high-limit business credit cards, a business is less likely to surpass its credit limits.
  3. Annual percentage rate (APR) – A zero percent introductory rate can amount to a considerable savings for a company and an excellent method to pay down current credit card debt. Always fully understand the terms and conditions, intro APR period and regular APR rates before applying.
  4. Perks and Rewards – There are various types of perks and benefits associated with business credit cards. The key is to determine if it fits into your business life. A business credit card that provides discount rates on hotels, resorts, airline tickets and auto rentals can be very beneficial. Yet another factor to consider is just how easy is it to use the incentives being supplied. Put in the time to do your research so you can get the most optimal card for your business.
  5. Business credit reporting – Unfortunately, not all business credit card issuers report to a major business-credit reporting agency. The best business credit cards should share payment data with a business credit reporting agency such as Corporate Experian. This will allow an owner to establish the creditworthiness of the business.
  6. Personal and business credit separation – For true separation, the business credit cards obtained should only report to the business credit agencies – not the business owner’s personal credit reports. This protects the business owner’s personal credit scores while enabling the business itself to establish its own unique credit profile.

As your business continues to grow and expand, having access to credit is a must. A business credit card with a high limit, a low annual percentage rate, beneficial rewards and a way to build business credit while protecting personal credit is a card definitely worth having.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in 'Fox Small Business','American Express Small Business', 'Business Week', 'The Washington Post', 'The New York Times', 'The San Francisco Tribune',‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

Yet Another 6 Ways to Use Social Media for Branding

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: November 8, 2013 Updated: November 8, 2013

In my last article, I wrote about 6 ways to brand your business using social media.  Each of those 6 ways was relatively simple -- something just about any small business could do -- yet many overlook.  

 

I’m back this month with another six ways.  Again, the focus is on activities that you don’t need a big budget for -- just a little time and some elbow grease, and you, too, can take advantage of these ways.

 

I'll pick up the numbering where I left off, starting with #7:

 

 

7. Link to Social Icons on Website, Email and Blog

 

There should be a breadcrumb trail from your website/blog and emails to your social media profiles – and vice versa back to your website. It shows that your social media profiles are an extension of your brand.

 

Make it simple for visitors to click to your profiles to connect and follow. Test the buttons periodically to make sure they are properly configured and actually work (at least 15% of the time I encounter sites that return error messages when you click on the social icons, making the icons useless).

 

8. Use Google Authorship

 

One of Google’s newer updates includes Google Authorship, which connects your blog posts around the Internet to your Google+ profile. If you set it up, your Google+ avatar will appear next to your posts in a search, making it easier for people to connect with you and share your content.

 

This is a good way to establish thought leadership and a high profile for company executives. It’s also great for cementing a personal brand.

 

9. Diversify Your Updates – But Not Too Much

 

Spitting out a steady stream of retweets, self-promotional posts, or questions is enough to make the most dedicated fan click “unfollow.” Keep followers interested by creating varied types of posts, including:

  • Comments on others’ posts
  • Links to your content and that of others
  • Questions to your audience
  • Videos and pictures
  • Company news
  • Discounts and special offers

However, don’t make the mistake of updating about everything in the world. People follow brands for a specific reason – and it usually has to do with the fact that they are interested in your business-related content, product information, and discounts and special offers.

If one week you are tweeting about industry information or your business, and the next about politics, you will lose followers.

 

10. Get it on a Calendar and Schedule Updates in Advance

 

This is a fabulous time-saving strategy. Rather than having to spend all day on social sites, you can boil down the time you spend to minutes a day by pre-scheduling your content.

 

More important, it makes your approach to updating your social networks consistent. When you’re inconsistent and sporadic – perhaps updating 30 times one week, and then nothing for the next three weeks – it’s hard to develop a connection with followers.

 

And what does that say about your follow-through on projects or work with customers? It suggests subtly that you might be just as inconsistent.

 

Then check in once a day to respond to anyone who has sent you a message or commented.

 

11. Follow the Right People

 

Following is a two way street. Following others in a targeted way helps you gain targeted followers in return.

 

Simply following anyone and everyone won’t net you the results you’re looking for on social media. Search for specific keywords, such as the ones that people search for to find your website. See who’s talking about your brand or competition. Follow customers and those who fit your customer demographic. It’s better to grow your following slowly in a more targeted way than willy-nilly.

 

This gives you a targeted audience that you can satisfy with content and updates related to what they are expecting. And you will be more interested in what they have to say if it’s related to your industry, and you can learn from them also.

 

Remember, followers may eventually turn into customers. According to a recent study by Twitter, 72% of your followers are more likely to buy from you after following.

 

12. Join Groups

 

LinkedIn caters to every imaginable industry. There are groups for content publishing advice, farmer’s market vendors, and even pet industry professionals. Join active groups in your industry, or one filled with your target market. Dive into discussion. Participate. Share.

 

Groups are a great way to reinforce thought leadership in a particular industry, and gain attention for your brand among interested parties. Check out the Directory of LinkedIn Groups to find one.

 

 

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

4 Ways to Make Your Company Resilient Enough to Withstand Winter Weather Threats

By Carol Chastang, SBA Official
Published: November 6, 2013 Updated: November 6, 2013

Unusual weather patterns in the last few years have wreaked havoc on small business owners across the U.S. Those who were unprepared when big storms occurred faced financial losses caused by power outages, supply chain disruptions and temporary shutdowns.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2011 and 2012 were the two most extreme years on record for destructive weather events, causing more than $170 billion in damages, much of that to businesses. Downtime in the aftermath of extreme weather events is costly—about $3,000 per day for small businesses, according to the Institute for Business and Home Safety.

As winter approaches, now’s a good time to build a disaster preparedness plan that will protect your organization, your clients and your bottom line in the event of a weather-related emergency. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Review your insurance coverage.  Make sure you understand what’s covered, and if you need flood insurance. Check into business interruption insurance, which helps you cover operating expenses if you’re forced to temporary close the business. Calculate the cost of business interruptions for a day, one week, a month or six months.  Build a cash reserve that will allow your company to function during the recovery phase.

  • Stockpile emergency supplies as needed. If you’re in an area that gets snow, make sure you have a good supply of rock salt or kitty litter, and adequate snow removal equipment. Get a generator and keep it serviced so it’ll work when there’s a power outage.  Store extra supplies of batteries for those devices that need them.

  • Prepare your supply chain.  Develop professional relationships with alternate vendors, in case your primary supplier isn’t available. Place occasional orders with them so they’ll regard you as an active customer. Create a contact list for important business contractors and vendors you plan to use in an emergency.  Keep this list with other documents filed at an easily accessible place, and also at a protected off-site location.

  • Create a crisis communications plan. Make sure your staff, customers, vendors, contractors—everyone you do business with—know what’s going on in the aftermath of a disaster. Establish an email alert system, keeping primary and secondary email addresses for your employees, vendors and customers. Use Twitter to provide real-time updates to the community so they know you’re still in business and in the process of rebuilding after the disaster.

To find out how disaster preparedness affects your company’s bottom line, and for more planning tips, sign up for the free November 12 webinar hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration and Agility Recovery. The live presentation will be followed by a question and answer session. Space is limited, so register now.    

Other Resources

Winter Preparedness Checklist
NOAA Winter Weather Safety
Ready.gov Winter Weather Preparedness

About the Author:

Carol Chastang

SBA Official

How to Market Your Business with an Event

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: November 5, 2013

The holiday season is almost here and no matter what type of business you have, hosting an event is a great way to market your business during this festive time. Events can work for retailers, restaurateurs, business-to-business companies and personal service providers. Since a good event takes time to pull off, the time to start planning is now. Here are some steps to hosting a successful event.

Decide what you want to accomplish. Every successful event starts with a clear goal. Are you hoping to get prospects’ contact information, sell a ton of product, or just say “thank you” to current customers? Your goal will shape the event. For instance, if you want to sell product, an in-store event makes sense; if you want to thank B2B customers, you might host a dinner at a local restaurant. 

Set a date. To maximize results, time your event right. Make sure it doesn’t conflict with other events or dates your customers are likely to be booked for. You can also capitalize on existing holidays by timing your event to coincide with them—for instance, a retailer could host a Small Business Saturday event to increase awareness of this national day for shopping at small, independent businesses.

Determine the nature of the event. Your date helps determine the scope of your event. For instance, if you want to do a Thanksgiving event (that’s in just a few weeks!) you’ll need to keep it on a smaller scale. If you’re doing a New Year’s celebration, you can make grander plans. As you envision your event, consider:

·         Where will the event take place (your business? Outdoors? A local restaurant? A hotel conference room?). Check into space availability and find out if any permits are needed.

·         How many people will attend? If it’s an invitation-only event such as a dinner or seminar, you’ll be able to get a head count by requesting RSVPs. If it’s a more free-form event such as an in-store author appearance, you’ll have to go with an educated guess.

·         What equipment and extras will you need? This could range from tables, chairs and microphones to pens and paper or refreshments.

·         What’s your budget? Add up costs as you plan and scale it back if needed. Consider bartering with local businesses for some of what you need or, if it makes sense with your event, seeking other businesses (complementary to yours) to serve as sponsors.

·         What staff will you need? Plan now to schedule workers for the event and make sure you have all hands on deck. It’s a good idea to have someone besides you in charge of the logistics so he or she can execute and keep track of all the moving parts.

Start promoting. Your event needs attendees, so develop a mini-marketing plan for how you’ll promote it. Use all your marketing and advertising outlets, including word-of-mouth, social media, print or online ads, flyers, store signage and more. Reach out to local reporters and bloggers asking them to attend and/or write about the event (ideally, both before and after). Send information to any local publications that post or print event listings. Let local business organizations, such as the chamber of commerce, know about it.

Be prepared. “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst” should be your mantra. A few weeks before the event, meet with your employees to run through what will happen and what might go wrong. No detail is too small to consider (just ask any speaker who’s had a presentation ruined by lack of an extension cord). Things like napkins, duct tape and extra pens can make or break your event.

Capture customer information—and keep in touch. If your event attracts new customers or prospects, gather their information and follow up with them later. You can request information when they RSVP, ask people to sign up on a clipboard to get on your mailing list, or do the “business cards in a fishbowl” thing. Follow up within a few weeks while the event is fresh in their minds to provide something of value such as a discount code, free consultation or useful information. 

After each event, review what went wrong (and right) so you can learn for next time. The more events you host, the easier it becomes and the more you’ll be able to use this valuable marketing tool.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

How to Move Your Sole Proprietorship, LLC or Corporation to a New State

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: October 31, 2013 Updated: September 20, 2016

Are you moving to a new state and wondering how to re-establish your business there? Wondering how to make a seamless transition for your sole proprietorship, LLC or corporation in a new location? Here’s some essential information about relocating your business.

Sole Proprietorships

It’s pretty straightforward to move a sole proprietorship (or partnership) to a new state. You’re required to register your new business using the “Doing Business As” (DBA) registration process in your new state at which point you’ll discontinue your old one. Depending on the location of your business, you’ll either register at your county clerk’s office or with the state government. You can read more about DBA names here.

Limited Liability Companies (LLCs)

There are a few choices to consider when you move your LLC to a new state, so it’s wise to consult an attorney for expert guidance on the particulars of your business situation. Here are your options:

  1. Continue your LLC in the previous state. Register as a foreign (out-of-state) LLC in your new state. This translates into more paperwork for you because you’ll need to file duplicate annual reports and it may complicate your taxes. Things get more complex if you’re reporting for a multi-member LLC.
  2. Dissolve your LLC in the previous state. Establish a new LLC in your new state. There aren’t any tax consequences if you take this route.
  3. Register a new LLC in your new state. Each member transfers membership interest. When you register a new LLC, have each member transfer his or her percent ownership from the previous LLC to the new one.
  4. Register a new LLC in your new state. Merge your previous LLC into your new LLC. You can continue with your existing EIN because the IRS views this as a continuation of the previous LLC. If all LLC members still have a 50-percent interest in the capital and profits of the new LLC, you won’t face any tax consequences.

Corporations

Moving a corporation to a new state mirrors the process for an LLC. As always, it’s best to talk to an attorney about any tax consequences, reporting requirements and any specific requirements in your previous state about dissolving a corporation. Here’s what you can consider when relocating your corporation:

  1. Continue your corporation in the previous state. Register as a foreign corporation in your new state. Again, this translates into increased paperwork and the chance that you’ll incur fees in both states.
  2. Dissolve your corporation in the previous state. Establish a new corporation in your new state. Be aware that there may be costly tax consequences associated with this option and may have implications on employee benefits (such as retirement plans).
  3. Register a new corporation in your new state. Merge your previous corporation into your new one. This eliminates the need to pay fees in two states and allows for a tax-free reorganization.

After Your Move – Licenses, Permits and Taxes

Don’t forget your post-move steps for your small business, including applying for all the necessary licenses and permits (which vary by state). And keep in mind local zoning laws as they apply to your new location.

You’ll also want to be sure to take care of your tax obligations. Because you’re moving out of state, you’ll need to close out your tax year in your old state (often as simple as checking the “Final Return” box on your state return). Every business is unique, so talk to a tax expert for an understanding of your business tax responsibilities in the first year of your move. You can also deduct or capitalize the costs incurred during business relocation (including moving costs, relocation site scouting trips, travel and meeting costs). Get more guidance on small business expenses and tax deductions here.

Related Article

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

SBA's 7(a) Loan Program Explained

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: October 30, 2013

Obtaining financing for your business ventures is often challenging for entrepreneurs. From being in the startup phase to growing your business, you may face difficulties with the requirements of traditional bank loans. But the 7(a) Program may be able to help – it’s SBA’s primary and most popular program. Here’s some insight to see if this is the right option for you.

Am I eligible?

If you can demonstrate a need for funds and have a sound business purpose in mind, you’re on the right track. To be considered eligible for the SBA 7(a) Loan Program, your business must meet SBA’s size standards and be considered small within your particular industry, operate for profit and you must have reasonable equity to invest.

You’re also required to do, or propose to do business, in the United States or its possessions. Another eligibility requirement is that you must have tried to use other financial resources, including personal assets, before applying for a loan.

How can I use 7(a) funds?

The 7(a) Program lets you get loan amounts (up to $5 million) to fund startup costs, buy equipment and more. Here’s what else you can do with 7(a) funds:

  • Purchase new land (including construction costs)
  • Repair existing capital
  • Purchase or expand an existing business
  • Refinance existing debt
  • Purchase machinery, furniture, fixtures, supplies or materials

What are the benefits?

The 7(a) Program offers flexibility, longer terms and potentially lower down payments compared to other financing options. There are also specialized programs for individuals interested in exporting; those located in underserved communities; members of the military community; and small businesses owners looking to meet their short-term and cyclical working capital needs.

What are the repayment terms?

Most 7(a) term loans are repaid with monthly payments of principal and interest. For fixed-rate loans, the payments stay the same because the interest rate is constant. For variable-rate loans, the lender can require a different payment amount when the interest rate changes.  

What else should I know?

Keep in mind that SBA doesn’t fund these loans directly to small business owners, but banks receive a guarantee that the SBA will repay a portion of the loan if you default on payments. If you think you’re suited for a 7(a) loan, check out these resources and a checklist to help prepare your loan application.

 

Related Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Hurricane Sandy and Small Business: One Year Later

By Jeanne Hulit, Former Acting SBA Administrator
Published: October 29, 2013 Updated: October 29, 2013

One year ago this week, communities and small businesses across the Eastern seaboard experienced the devastating and tragic effects of Hurricane Sandy, one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

We know that work remains to be done, and the Obama Administration continues to stand with the communities affected by the storm.

At the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), our job is to make sure that small businesses have the tools and the resources they need to succeed at every stage.  This includes helping America’s communities and small businesses recover from disasters through direct loans to businesses and non-profit organizations of all sizes, as well as to homeowners and renters.

Following the devastating impacts of Hurricane Sandy, SBA and our disaster assistance team stepped up to the plate to support the economic recovery of the affected regions. In the year following the storm, the SBA has approved $2.4 billion in low-interest disaster loans to 36,641 homeowners, renters and businesses.  This includes 32,530 home loans for $1.9 billion and 4,111 business loans for $485 million.

SBA’s efforts to help revitalize the post-Sandy economy directly impacted businesses like FIKA (Swedish for “taking a coffee break), a chain of pastry cafés in New York.  Owner Lars Åkerlund returned to his financial district store after the storm to find four feet of standing water on the first floor.  The property losses totaled nearly $580,000.  Åkerlund got an SBA disaster loan and was able to reopen his store, rehire 28 employees, add 12 more staff, while also opening a new location in Tribeca.

Meanwhile, small businesses rebuilding in the aftermath of Sandy have also been able to take advantage of free counseling, training and technical assistance from SBA’s resource partners—the Small Business Development Centers, (SBDCs), SCORE, and Women’s Business Centers (WBC’s), through expanded services provided by a $19 million funding package approved by Congress.  

The funding, awarded in two phases, supported long-term business recovery and expansion through innovative collaborations between state and local organizations to help small business owners build stronger and smarter.  Entrepreneurs got help with business continuity strategies, with a focus on developing strategies to be prepared for the next big disaster.

SBA also hosted “business matchmaking” events in the areas hardest hit by Sandy to connect small businesses with contracting opportunities from commercial, federal and local buyers. To date, more than 25 percent of all Sandy-related prime contract dollars obligated in the Federal Procurement Database System are going to small business.

Entrepreneurship is at the heart of America’s identity and the key to our economic strength. It’s what built the greatest economy in the world, and it’s what continues to drive our small businesses as they recover and rebuild from disaster. One year after Hurricane Sandy hit our shores, SBA continues to help our business owners and communities repair and rebuild to be stronger and more resilient than ever before.

 

 

About the Author:

Jeanne Hulit

Former Acting SBA Administrator

Jeanne Hulit is the Acting Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.

Do an End-of-Year Planning Refresh

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: October 29, 2013 Updated: October 29, 2013

It’s that time of year: changing colors, chill air, thoughts of holidays coming, the shock of another year ending. Does your business slow down during December, like my business planning software business always does, and so many other do? If so, then this becomes a good time for a planning refresh.

My business has always had slowdowns in the end of November and December. We recognized the pattern years ago and started to work with it. December became our time for pulling away from the business, looking out at the horizon, talking to customers and potential customers, evaluating potential new products, checking in with major clients, and so forth. We called it a planning refresh.

Here are some important elements of a good planning refresh:

1.  First, your long-term goals: Review your definition of success. That could be fame and fortune, or maybe just independence and peace of mind, or time for other things. Has it changed? Are you making progress? Have you forgotten where you’re trying to go?

2.  Second, your SWOT: Review strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Have they changed in the last year? Does your strategy reflect your SWOT? Is it time to revise strategy, or stick to the same thing?

3.  Third, your target market: Are you still focused well and on the right potential buyers? Have market developments changed the strategic value of one segment over another? Does your market focus match the opportunities and your business offering?

This is an especially good time to refresh your sense of the customers. How often do you talk to them? Are you in touch with what customers are thinking and saying about your business? Has it changed? One of the best things you can do is talk to a few random customers, in depth, provided of course that you can find customers to talk to you. Market knowledge is critical to business success, and it’s too easy to get lost in the routine and not realize that the situation has changed. 

4.  Fourth, review your competition. Think broadly about competition, looking not just for the competition you know, but also for new competition that you don’t realize is out there. Maybe customers are discovering new ways to solve the problems and fill the need that your business offering is supposed to – and you haven’t realized it. Just as an example, competition for business plan software includes courses, classes, books, magazine articles, television shows and consultants – not just other business plan software.

When it’s about autumn leaves, snow, spring blossoms, or summer heat, we call it the change of seasons. When it’s business, we call it seasonality. The two are not too different from each other. Both can be used as automatic reminders of change and cycles.

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: 5 Tax Breaks Set to Expire This Year

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: October 24, 2013

Dozens of federal tax breaks are scheduled to end on December 31 unless Congress extends them. No one knows for sure which ones, if any, will apply next year, so business owners should explore expiring rules and take advantage of them while they can. Here are some expiring breaks that may appeal to you:

Break 1: Faster write-offs for buying needed equipment

Need to upgrade your computers? Provide staff with tablets and smartphones? Add new machinery? You have two better ways to deduct your costs this year than merely depreciating the costs over a number of years:

  • Deduct up to $500,000 of the cost of qualified equipment (whether new or pre-owned) this year as long as you’re profitable. Next year, the deduction limit is scheduled to be $25,000.
  • Deduct 50% of the cost of new qualified equipment, even if it adds to or creates a business loss. Next year, this deduction is set to disappear entirely.

Note: You can use either break even if you finance your purchase in whole or in part.

Break 2: Faster write-offs for improving your facilities

Usually when you make capital improvements to your workspace, the cost can only be depreciated over a period of 39 years. However, for improvements to leaseholds (by the lessor, lessee, or subleasee), restaurants, and retail establishments, you can use any or all of the following rules as long as the improvements are completed before the end of this year:

  • $250,000 first-year expensing for eligible improvements
  • 50% bonus depreciation for eligible improvements
  • 15-year amortization period for any costs not deducted with first-year expensing or bonus depreciation

Find details about write-offs for qualified property in IRS Publication 946.

Break 3: Tax credits for hiring certain workers

If you need more employees on your payroll and have projected the cost of this hiring after factoring in future health care obligations, think about hiring from certain targeted groups. Doing this may entitle you to a tax credit that can be used to offset your tax bill:

  • Work opportunity credit for hiring certain disadvantaged workers, including certain veterans. Make sure that you timely submit IRS Form 8850 to your state work force agency to get eligible workers certified as entitling you to the credit.
  • Indian employment credit if you hire an enrolled member, or spouse of an enrolled member, of an Indian tribe who performs services within an Indian reservation.
  • Empowerment employment credit if your business is located within a federally-designated empowerment zone.

The amount of each credit and eligibility rules vary, but each requires that you hire an eligible employee before the end of this year.

Break 4: Exclusion for gain on certain stock

If your business is a C corporation involved in technology, manufacturing, retail, or wholesale and is seeking new investors, consider issuing new stock before the end of the year. If the stock meets the definition of qualified small business stock and investors hold it for more than five years, then all of their gain will be tax free. Stock issued next year will give investors only a 50% exclusion for their gain unless the current 100% exclusion is extended.

Note: You can issue qualified small business stock to employees as payment for services (i.e., year-end bonuses) to enable them to reap tax-free returns.

Break 5: Tax credit for doing research

If your company does research to create a new product, you may be eligible for a tax credit of up to 20% of increased research expenses. This credit is set to expire at the end of this year unless Congress extends it. While an extension is probable—the research credit has been extended 14 times since its inception in 1981—it’s still smart to use the credit while you can.

The credit is not limited to research to create products for sale. It also applies to research for internal processes (e.g., internal use software) that improve your business operations. For more details see the instructions to IRS Form 6765.

Conclusion

A bi-partisan Congressional budget committee is supposed to decide by December 13, 2013, what measures (including tax rules) will apply for the future. By that time, it may be too late for certain actions that would otherwise be helpful for your business and tax savings this year. Meet with your tax advisor to explore which of these or other expiring tax breaks you may want to use before the end of the year, and what steps you need to take to nail them down now.

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

5 Ways to Market Your Business for the Holiday Season

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: October 23, 2013 Updated: October 4, 2016

The holiday season is quickly approaching, and the time is now to make sure you get the most of your marketing efforts to help secure sales success in the coming months. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas to help get you started.

Social Media Contests

If your small business has a social media presence, contests on Facebook and Twitter are often a popular way highlight your brand and engage with customers, reminding them that your product or service is available – and a potentially great gift idea. With a few rules, a clever hashtag and incentive such as a prize or discount on your offerings, you can drum up excitement about – and draw people in to – your business.

Extra Appeal for Your Loyal Customers

Take this time to make your loyal customers feel extra special – it may come back to you by way of additional business and referrals. Without breaking the bank, you can provide special offers, sneak previews, free shipping or secret sales.

Special Events or Open Houses

Make your small business stand out by hosting an open house or special event at your store or restaurant. Use it to showcase holiday season gifts, menus and merchandise so customers can get a glimpse of your seasonal goods in advance. Pair the browsing with light refreshments – a mug of hot cocoa or a glass of cider – to get people in the holiday spirit. On their way out, give a special offer or coupon that invites customers back to make their purchases at a discount.

Holiday Help

This is a great idea from Illana Bercovitz at Small Business Trends: use social media to offer helpful tips during a stressful holiday season. Consider your industry, product or service and related advice you could offer to make customers’ lives easier. “Everyone appreciates useful advice and your customers will thank you for pushing content that makes their holidays slightly less stressful,” Bercovitz says. Use an original hashtag to maintain brand awareness across platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

Email

Although it’s often considered overused, email remains inexpensive and easy to implement when it comes to maintaining contact with existing customers. That’s a key to remember – to be effective, email marketing should be used with folks you have already done business with or who have expressed an interest in your business and have requested email from you (otherwise known as permission marketing).

Keep these tips in mind if you plan to use email to support your holiday marketing efforts:

  • Keep the e-mail short and sweet. Link directly to the content of interest so you make the process as easy as possible for your customers.
  • Clearly state the email’s intent in the subject line. For example, "A Special Offer Just for You. Thanks for Your Business in 2013.”
  • Be festive in your design. Appeal to the sights of the season with a special design for the holidays.
  • Follow online marketing rules. Don't forget that online marketing is regulated, so whatever tactics you employ be sure to follow government guidelines that apply to list management, SPAM and other guidelines.

For more great holiday marketing insight, check out this recent post from guest blogger Rieva Lesonsky, “Start Now to Plan Your Holiday Retail Marketing Campaign,” and our 2012 web chat with Caron Beesley.

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

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