2018 Is Almost Here! Are you ready?

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It’s that time of year again! Time for family and friends…time for winter sports and play…time to do W-2’s, 1099’s, and prep for taxes. Is it really that time again? Is your business prepared? Here are some reminders of things that need to be taken care of before year end (or at least before your bookkeeper processes payroll reports in January).

Now is the time to make sure that you have correct information for all of your employees. Has their name changed, their address changed, is their Social Security number correct in your payroll system? In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have them complete a new W-4 for 2018. You can easily find a pdf copy at https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf, or have your bookkeeper provide you with a copy. And don’t forget to send your bookkeeper any updated mailing information you may have for past employees. W-2’s have a deadline for completion and filing by January 31st.

It is also time to make sure that you have the information needed from your vendors that provide you with services (labor), or that you pay rent to. You are required to have the correct name, mailing address, and tax ID number for filing 1099-MISC forms. You can request the information directly from the vendor, or have them complete a W-9 form (https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw9.pdf). Your bookkeeper can provide you with a form if needed, but it is very important to give your bookkeeper this information for filing these forms with the IRS. 1099-MISC forms also have a deadline for completion and filing by January 31st.

And we all hate getting letters from State payroll departments. What do they want now? Did an employee file for unemployment? Did a tax payment get missed? Is this just JUNK MAIL? However, there is are certain letters you will receive that is very important to your payroll provider.

In Oregon, you will receive a letter from the Oregon Employment Department in November or early December of each year to notify you of the new Unemployment Insurance Tax rate for the following year. And this rate can easily change each new year, depending on what rates are set by the state and/or whether you have had any claims in the past year. If the rate isn’t corrected in the payroll software before year end, that could lead to overpayment or underpayment of taxes. No one wants to pay more taxes than is owed. And underpayments always have penalties and interest applied!

And the same applies to Washington State employers. You will receive letters updating both the Washington Employment Security rate and the Washington L&I rates. Again, if the rates aren’t corrected in the payroll software before year end, that could lead to overpayment or underpayment of taxes. No one wants that!

So, remember to send this information and copies of the payroll letters as soon as you receive them. The most secure way to get your bookkeeper W-4’s and W-9’s is by mailing, faxing, or dropping off at our office. For the letters you can email a copy, fax a copy, mail or drop off the originals. Just make sure we receive this information so that we can be completely up to date with filing information and tax rates for 2018. And if you haven’t received a letter from your state, please contact us and let us know so that we can contact the state to see if there are changes.

With your help, we can keep all your vendor and payroll records up to date! THANKS!

ARE YOU PREPARED?

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Disasters – Earthquakes, Fire, Flood – We have all experienced times in our life where disasters hit close to home, or changed the lives of someone we know. The powerful hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The devastating fires in the Columbia Gorge, Santa Rosa, southern California, and all over the western United States. The freezing winter in 2016-2017 that damaged homes and property with trees down and power surges. And it can happen so very quickly and unexpectedly – like the fire that destroyed the Kayak Shed retail store, and the fire that did major damage at Underwood Fruit Packing plant, both in the last two months. All of us have been reminded how crucial it is to be prepared for all types of emergencies. But have you considered emergency preparedness for the business data stored on your work computers?

As any small business owner knows, backing up your computer data is so very important. But seeing how fast a loss can happen at your business location makes it vital to have a backup of your system. However, quite a few businesses think that having a backup to an external hard drive or a USB flash drive that is kept on site is enough. Some businesses even store their backups on the same computer as their data, which doesn’t work if your computer crashes. And if your business is damaged, then there is every likelihood that your backup will also be damaged or destroyed. It is extremely important to have regular backups that are “offsite”, and away from possible danger!

First, make sure you are backing up on a regular basis. Depending on the amount of data that is entered, you should backup daily or at least weekly. If there is a loss of your computer data, your backup needs to be able to provide as much current and historical data as possible. This will alleviate having to “remember” what happened on days that were not backed up, which you would have to recreate for your own financial information and for tax preparation. So regularly schedule your backups, for QuickBooks, your Point of Sale program, or for whatever software you use for business.

Also, when you install new software or upgrade existing software, make sure to register it with the manufacturer when asked during the installations process (such as Intuit). If your equipment is damaged, you probably will be able to get a replacement of the software at no or minimal cost without having to purchase brand new software at full price, because they can find you registered the product.

Cloud backup is one option to consider. There are several companies that provide offsite backup for a monthly fee…such as Carbonite, Mozy, Backblaze, SOS Online, and various others. You can find reviews for these various companies, along with costs and features, by checking them out online. Take the time to research and see if they might work for you.

If you don’t want to pay for a cloud based service, consider using Google Drive storage or DropBox (if those sites are large enough to hold your data files). You also can continue to use external hard drives or USB flash drives, but don’t leave them at your office location. Take them with you each day, and keep them in a place that is easily grabbed if you need to evacuate your home. At least once each month, store a separate backup in a bank safety deposit box or some other location (with a friend, colleague, or another business location).

SCG Enterprises is also starting to offer a simple offsite service. If you are a client that we visit on a regular basis for bookkeeping work, we can take a USB flashdrive backup of your QuickBooks and Point of Sale software and keep it at our office location. We would charge a nominal monthly fee for this service. Please contact us if you are interested.

Ultimately it is the business owner’s responsibility to make sure backups are completed on a regular basis, and that they are not kept on the business premises. There are so many options available, and it doesn’t take much time to complete. It is unquestionably less time and less uncertainty than not having a backup available when a disaster happens. We all need to plan our emergency preparedness for our businesses, of which a current backup kept offsite should be at the top of the list. Are you prepared for the next potential disaster? Don’t delay…all of us will be affected sometime in our lives! DO A BACKUP! AND KEEP IT OFFSITE!