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This is a guest post from Jamie Dalzell

The way we manage our money has changed a lot in recent years, thanks in no small part to those smartphones we just can’t seem to put down! More and more people are deciding to ditch the tired way of doing things, seeking out specialised advice – such as the excellent bookkeeping services Lisa provides – and taking more responsibility for the everyday management, tracking and upkeep of their accounts.

Cash registers and tills? They may as well be in a museum! Customers, and small business owners, now expect to be able to pay for things when they want, however they want, wherever they are. Deciding on the right accounting team, or the right VA is still an important decision, but nowadays your choice in Apps and software packages is just as crucial.

Need some help in the decision making process? Today we’re taking a look at some of the latest and greatest apps, software and hardware. Providing you with some suggestions for managing your money on the move. So whether you’re looking to accept payments, create invoices or manage your accounts, there’s a solution here for you!

Money Managing Opportunities

Whether you’re using an iPhone or an Android device, there’s an app available for every scenario.

1. Mint

With Mint you can manage your earnings, as well as track your expenses and spending. An important aspect of budgeting for your business. Syncing to all of your accounts, it also analyses your spending habits, making it easy to pinpoint possible savings. You can also set up balance alerts, and Mint will email or text you when they’re triggered.

2. HomeBudget

HomeBudget is great for those working from home who want the ability to manage house and business finances from the one place. It helps you separate home and business expenses – enabling you to transition from hobby to business much more effectively – and the search functionality makes tracking payments that much easier.

3. Invoice2Go

Invoice2Go is perfect if, like other small business owners, you wear multiple hats. With the ability to create and manage invoices on the go, it also lets you pull up past invoices for easy reference. Better yet? Its report feature lets you see at a glance how much you’re bringing in over the next 15, 30, 60 and 90 days.

4. Currency

Asked for a quote from an overseas customer while you’re on the move? Currency is a currency converter that uses real-time exchange rates. It’s the perfect way to ensure you have accurate information to hand at all times.

5. Expensify

Expensify helps you track your growing pile of receipts. Simply take a pic of a receipt and it’ll turn it into an easy-to-read expense report. And at click of a button, you can send that off to your accounting team.

Hardware? Hardly An Issue

When it comes to accepting payments? The hardware required isn’t nearly as bulky, cumbersome – or expensive – as it once was. There are multiple options available to you!

1. Banks A Lot

Banks themselves now offer a wide variety of mobile EFTPOS and Credit Card devices, which can be tethered to your smartphone and function alongside their apps to accept payments on the go. Pricing and availability of these vary, with institutions like the Auckland Savings Bank in New Zealand and the Bank of America in the US each offering their own packages.

2. All In One

A number of software and app providers also offer their own solutions. The advantage here is that these integrate directly with their accounting software and existing apps, while there are also a number of ways to integrate your accounting software and website yourself!

Social (Spending) Networks

If recent developments are anything to go by, social networks may just be the next frontier for payments on the go!
Businesses like Square have been providing mobile payment options for years. Their most recent feature? The introduction of $cashtags. Like Twitter’s #hashtags, only wealthier. With these, your business can accept payments via a customisable $cashtag that can be shared online and off.

Other networks are jumping aboard too. Facebook’s Messenger and Snapchat’s Snapcash have both introduced money transfer options to their respective networks. While these are mostly used for paying friends and family, it’s easy to imagine a future where customers are paying for products directly within social networks themselves.

Have we missed an app that you use to manage your money? Have you used a $cashtag or sent money via Facebook? We’d love to hear from you!

 

Jamie Dalzell

I’m an experienced freelance writer with a background in web and print media covering all aspects of the videogame industry.

My interests also extend beyond the screen, and I enjoy bringing unique, informative content to sites on a variety of subjects.

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If you come to the blog in July or August you may see something a little different. My blog posts won’t be current. That doesn’t mean I’m not available, it’s just that I’m altering my summer work schedule and cutting back on some hours and work type. Why? Because I want to take advantage of the summer months and spend more time with my family. I’ll still be working with clients and can take on new clients during this time, but the blog will be a little more quiet.

Interested in taking some time off this summer and making more time for fun? Here’s how:

Have a Routine

It’s important to maintain your same routine, even if you’ve decided to roll back your work hours. Get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time. Don’t let the long summer days keep you up past your usual bedtime. Maintaining your routine will help keep you on track when you ramp up to your full hours again in the fall.

Don’t forget to plan your meals for the week, too. Summertime is hot, so knowing what you’re doing for each meal will cut out feeling cranky and exhausted from the heat. Having fresh veggies and watermelon on hand is a great snack for adults and kids.

Plan Kid Time

If you’re kids are home during the summer like mine, you’ll need to re-acclimate them to your work schedule. Talk with them extensively about when you are and are not available. Explain your schedule and make sure you add in kid time too. You can even have kid work time, where they have their own type of “work.” My kids love Math, so I plan on having lots of Math worksheets available for them during their “work” time.

Plan a Vacation

As a small business owner, it’s important to take time off, too. If you are planning a vacation make sure your clients and customers are prepared for your absence. Alert them to your plans at least two weeks in advance. Think about hiring help for when you’re out or prep an assistant to be able to handle the workload while you’re away. Make sure you set up clear communication channels between yourself and your help as well as your customers, so they know who to contact in an emergency or when they can expect to hear back from you.  It’s better to over communicate your plans than under communicate them. Make sure you set your email auto responder and don’t forget to set your shop to vacation mode!

If you find yourself still checking email during vacation, delete the app off your phone so you won’t be tempted. Or think about traveling someplace with bad cell reception and no wi-fi, so you won’t be able to check it.

If you’re not going on vacation, you can still roll back your hours or set a different schedule for the summer. Just remember to clearly communicate with your customers and clients. Setting a different schedule can be a great way to take take advantage of the summer.

Don’t Forget the Fun

Most importantly, leave time for fun. If you need to schedule it, do. If you’re not going away for vacation, make sure you’re still taking advantage of the season. These next few months are filled with BBQ’s, outdoor parties and beach time. Don’t feel left out by making time for fun. Turn off your phone in the evenings. Turn off your computer. Remember to think about yourself, at least for a few hours.

Have a Great Summer!!

Lisa

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LS_BLOGPOSTIMAGE3This s a guest post by Virtual Assistant Jessica Cook

So, you’re ready to hire your first VA, are you? Great! I’m sure you’re anxious to get started, but maybe you’re wondering where you’re supposed to find the right VA for you? It can feel like finding the perfect VA is more difficult than finding your soul mate some days, can’t it? Never fear – finding the right VA for you and your business will take some time (and possibly some trial and error), but in the end you’ll find “the one.” Hopefully this will help.

First Steps

First, decide what you’re looking for in a relationship with a Virtual Assistant. You should be able to answer the following questions for yourself before you start putting out feelers with a VA.

  • How much extra help are you looking for?
    Do you want to hire someone to work for you for about two hours a week, or 20? Can you consistently come up with enough work for that person to fill those hours, week after week?
  • What types of tasks do you want to hand over to a VA?
    What sorts of professional skills will the VA need to have in order to perform those tasks? Do you need this person to have access to special software? Will she need to be available during certain times of the day (in certain time zones)?
  • How often do you plan to communicate with your VA, and using what format?
    How will you let her know when there are new tasks to complete? Do you plan to have a weekly or daily check-in procedure? Using e-mail or phone? (Note: If you need your VA to be available for such a check-in at a particular time and day, you’ll need to be clear about that up front!)
  • What kind of personality are you hoping to find in your new VA?
    It may seem silly, but having someone you get along with can go a lot further than someone with a perfect set of skills in terms of establishing a strong working relationship. You can always teach your VA how to do something, but you can’t teach her to be likable. So think about the personality traits you’re looking for in an assistant (organized, friendly, kind, patient, sense of humor, flexibility) and try to suss out those traits during the interview process.
  • How much can you afford to pay?
    There isn’t necessarily an industry standard for VA pay rate, but you can expect to pay anywhere from $10-$40/hour for your VA, depending on her particular skills and location. Think about how much you can afford to pay someone in a week or a month, and make sure that lines up with how many hours you want your VA to work.

Where to Look

The best resource for finding a good VA can often be word of mouth. All of my current clients are people I knew as part of a business group I participate in, or people who were referred to me by fellow members of that group. It really does pay to network!

Put the word out to your professional acquaintances, fellow biz owners, and entrepreneurs you know who already have a VA of their own. Ask for specific recommendations as well as leads for where to find and hire the right person for you. (If you’re in the handmade industry, the OMHG Marketplace is also a good place to start.) You’d be surprised – often you’ll hear about someone from church, or a mom from your kid’s school, or someone who gets her nails done at your salon – and it’ll turn out that this is the ideal person to work for your business. So don’t be afraid to make it known that you’re looking to hire. VAs turn up in unusual places sometimes (I met my first client at a local knit group meeting!).

If you can’t get a recommendation from anyone, try doing a Google search. Read through a few websites of virtual assistants, and see if you “click” with anything that you read. If you find a person you like, contact them to ask if they’re taking on new clients. Even if they’re not, chances are they might have someone they can refer you to!

Now What?

Once you do find someone who’s available to work for you, I recommend starting with a trial period. It helps to have one particular project you’d like the VA to help you with – maybe, setting up an e-mail newsletter or scheduling your blog posts for a month. That project can be a starting-off point, and you can both agree to work on the project as a way to test out the working arrangement. As an alternative idea, you can just decide to have that person take on all your regular VA tasks for a trial period of, say, a month.

At the conclusion of that trial period or project, you can both re-evaluate. Is everything working out? If not, is it something that could be fixed, or is it an irreconcilable difference? If it didn’t work out for one or both of you, you can pay the VA for the time she worked and try again with someone else, no hard feelings.

No matter what, you’re going to learn something from the experience of that first project and be able to apply what you learned to the next experiment!

If you’d like more information on hiring a VA, check out these resources:

Bio:

Jessica Cook is a Virtual Assistant who helps small business owners focus on the heart and soul of their businesses. She ran her own online creative business for four years and has worked with other small business owners to help their businesses grow and thrive. (In case you’re wondering, she’s not currently taking on new clients, but she’s happy to pass a referral along to another VA if you’re looking to hire!)

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Often times, fear of the unknown is what keeps us from taking the next step in business. Whether that’s figuring out a new sales platform, a new social media program, or hiring outside help like a bookkeeper, it can be a real hindrance to getting ahead.

I sometimes come across potential clients that are unsure about hiring a bookkeeper because they’re unsure about what to expect and what a bookkeeper needs from them to be able to do a good job. In this post I want to highlight exactly what a bookkeeper needs from a client and how you can help in the process by keeping files nice and organized.

Full Disclosure

This may be the scariest thing for a small business. But a bookkeeper will need to know all about your business spending habits – where your money goes and who it comes in from. That’s why trust is so important when hiring a bookkeeper. Look for someone reputable and who can easily provide references.

You’ll need to furnish all your bank statements, credit card statements, PayPal transactions, square and/or Etsy transactions. Any type of transaction you make and where that your money flows, your bookkeeper needs to see it and have a record of it.

Being able to provide monthly statements from each bank, including Etsy or PayPal, is one of the easiest ways of doing this. Your bookkeeper won’t need to have access to your accounts, but if you have a really good relationship, you can give account access to them as it will make things easier in the long run.

Sharing

Sharing these statements can easily be done through Dropbox or another file sharing system. Make sure to label each file clearly and that each statement is for the previous month. You can also use a service such as Receipt Bank which collects and records all of your expenses, but know your bookkeeper will also need to see any additional transactions that are not captured via this service.

Reminder: Canadians need ALL receipts attached to their bookkeeping software. So make sure you keep a copy of your original recipe and create a digital backup. Your credit card statements are not considered receipts. If you’re in the U.S., you’re in luck, credit card statements are just fine.

Set Expectations

It’s best to send your files and transactions on a monthly basis so your bookkeeper can reconcile your accounts at the end of each month. So set these expectations from the start. If you want monthly reports on top of your reconciliation, make sure your bookkeeper knows this and you have discussed a plan of attack and know which files to provide and when.

If you need to report your Quarterly Sales tax, make sure you know who is responsible for filing these. Is it you or your bookkeeper? And what files will your bookkeeper need on top of your monthly transactions to be able to do so. It is best to provide your information each month, instead of every three months. Same goes for your yearly income taxes. Make sure you know who is responsible for filing and that you are providing the correct files at the right time.

Know the Lingo

Not sure what “accounts receivable” is? Many bookkeepers offer group trainings or one-on-one tutoring to help get you up to speed and on the same page. It’s always good to know the bookkeeping system that you are using so when your bookkeeper talks to you about your accounts receivable, you’ll know they’re talking about your sales. This helps keep you and your bookkeeper organized. You want to help make their job easier and be able to provide the correct documents as it’s a waste of your time and money if your bookkeeper is searching for documents instead of processing the information.

Ready to get started? Contact me to set up a free first time consultation.

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It’s easy to get carried away with spending for your business. There’s always new software, a tech gadget, book or class offering itself up as a panacea to all your business woes. So how do you keep from spending too much and keep your business on track?

Budgeting can help keep your day to day needs on track and help you grow in the long term. Knowing how much you expect to make and what everyday expenses you have is the first step in keeping an effective budget.

Staying on budget can be hard, so here are some tips to help:

1) Pay Yourself First

It may seem counterintuitive, but paying yourself first will help you feel more invested in your business. When you work for someone else, your paycheck easily feels like your own, but when you own a business, paying yourself can feel like a luxury. You need to pay yourself. Take at minimum, five to 10 percent of income earned each week.

2) Pay Your Fixed Expenses Next

Every business has fixed expenses and you should easily know what they are each month. Things such as rent or mortgage and utilities. These will be a constant and what you should pay for next, after yourself.

3) Save for a Rainy Day

Set aside five to 10 percent of your business’ income for emergencies. This will allow you to address any problem if something unexpected comes up. Printer stopped working? No problem! There are funds ready and available. While you do have the option to put the unexpected on a business credit card, being able to use emergency funds can be less stressful because you won’t have to worry about paying off the card.

4) Buy Only What you Need

For your smaller supply needs, like shipping envelopes for example, you should be able to estimate the number of orders you fulfill in a month and order only the minimum you need. It’s not necessary to buy them in orders of 1,000 as the cost savings are minimal. This will help you be realistic on the amount of supplies you really need. For health and beauty products, or food products, keep in mind the expiration dates on your supplies. If an ingredient goes bad before you’re able to use it, you’re wasting money. Buying only what you need will help save you in the long run.

5) Know Your Income Average

Look back over your last year’s income, divide that number by 12 for a monthly average. Your current year’s average should be similar (but hopefully higher.) Of that number, plan on spending no more than 80 percent each month.

6) Reinvest in Your Business

Take your profit and use it to expand and grow your business. This number is what you make after you pay yourself, your fixed expenses, your savings and other expenses. Start a savings account to receive interest on your profit and use it for a new ad campaign or new supply that you’ve been keeping your eye on which will help make your business more efficient and effective.

7) Keep Track of your Bookkeeping

With an app like Wave or Xero, you can have easy access to your income and expense numbers to help you plan and budget. It’s important to keep up with your bookkeeping throughout the year to keep your budget on track and your business running. Let me help you set up your books. Contact me for a free assessment today!

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As I outlined in last week’s post on personal tax deductions, I’ve prepared taxes for all of my adult life and I prepare taxes for clients around my area in Canada. In doing so, I’ve learned a few things that have helped make my refunds grow every year. In this post I’m going to go over the types of deductions you should be taking advantage of for your small business. Again, this information is for Canada only.

As a small business, you should be tracking your business expenses throughout the year. This means, you know what you’re spending to keep your business running. The good news is that most of the money you spend to run and grow your business can be considered a deduction at the end of the year.

Here is a basic list of expenses that every business should be taking advantage of to reduce your gross income. For a full list visit <http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/bsnss/tpcs/slprtnr/bsnssxpnss/menu-eng.html> You may find that this list matches up to your list of chart of accounts from your accounting software. This is on purpose so it should be easy to see what type of expenses you are able to claim.

Accounting and  Legal Fees

This includes your bookkeeper or accountant. So when you hire a bookkeeper or an accountant to do your taxes or corporate taxes you can deduct their fees.

Advertising

Did you run an advertising campaign on Facebook or set up an email newsletter? Expenses for Facebook ads, Google ads, print ads or anything you spent money on to advertises your business is deductible. Don’t forget that your Etsy listing fees are considered advertising and should be claimed here.

Automobile expenses

Look at the cost of fuel, motor oil, lubricants, your license, registration fees and insurance but only the portion of use you use the vehicle for business purposes. Be sure to calculate what portion is business use versus personal use. It also helps to keep a mileage logbook of your business travel to help break this down. Remember this expense is for automobile travel only, other travel expenses are calculated under a different heading.

Bad Debts

Hopefully this will not happen to you, but sometimes we will encounter a client who does not pay for our services. That money can be claimed as bad debt.

Bank Charges

Any banking or checking account fees can be claimed here.

Interest Expenses

If you take out a loan to help run your business, more than likely there will be interest on that loan. Interest on loans to start a business is tax deductible.

Insurance Expenses

You can deduct insurance premiums on the building, machinery or equipment you use for your business.

Membership Dues

If you’re a member of any business related organization, these dues are tax deductible. For me, I belong to IPBC and pay an annual membership due. IPBC keeps me certified as a bookkeeper and these fees are deductible on my business taxes.

Meals and Entertainment

Any business related meal or entertainment, such as a social gathering for clients is tax deductible, but only up to a certain point. For example, only %50 can be claimed in certain Provinces across Canada.

Office or Studio Rent

Do you rent office or studio space to run your business out of? This amount can be fully deducted from your taxes.

Office Supplies

This expense is considered for things you purchase to run your business such as paper for your printer, staples or pens. You can expense anything that isn’t involved in the making of your product or service.

Postage and Courier

Anytime you send out parcels through Canada Post, FedEx, or Purolator for business purposes, are considered tax deductible.

Telephone/Telecommunication Expenses

If you have a dedicated phone line for your business this is a tax deduction, otherwise a telephone is considered under Business Use of Home Expenses. You can also claim your internet and cell phone usage here.

Travel Expenses

Any expenses incurred while traveling for business, ie your plane fare, accommodation, taxi fares and meals (up to 50%). Remember to keep your receipts!

Business Use of Home Expense

If you have a home office, instead of a dedicated office space outside of your home, you can calculate how much room in your house you use for your home office and then calculate the percent of utilities, telephone, insurance, property taxes, rent, and maintenance that is allocated for the home office. That number is deductible. Check out this EXAMPLE

Capital Cost Allowances

Capital property such as  buildings, equipment and vehicles you use for your business are deducted here at an annual rate. You cannot claim the full amount on your taxes, instead there is a portion that Is calculated on your taxes each year. Commonly known as CCA. For example if you are a photographer, you would claim your cameras, computers and hardware. You would need to find what it is classified as, and calculate the rate of depreciation, which you can claim every year.

Cost of Goods

This deduction is any raw materials you purchase to produce your products. This is not to be confused with the tools you use, nor are these considered Office Supplies.

And there you have it. A basic list of the business expenses you should be claiming on your taxes for your business. If you have questions about what you can and cannot claim you can sign up for a consultation with me.

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I’ve prepared taxes for all of my adult life and now I prepare taxes for clients around my area in Canada. In doing so, I’ve learned a few things that have helped make my refunds grow every year. In this post I’m going to let you in on a few deductions everyone should be taking advantage of if you’re not already. Again, this information is for Canada only.

For individuals

As soon as you start earning a wage, open up an RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Pension.) When you put aside the maximum amount allowed per year (check your Notice of Assessment) then you reduce your net income, thus reducing your tax owing. Income from RRSP is taxed only when it is withdrawn and will earn higher rates of interest than a regular savings account. You can check at your local bank to open an RRSP.

Home Buyers Plan

For new homeowners, you can take your RRSPs, tax free, and put a down payment on your new house! This is for first time homeowners only and you have five years before having to pay back your RRSP and the good news is that payback is simple. It goes right onto your T1 General under “HBP.” This amount gets subtracted from your TOTAL RRSP contributions.

Child Care Expenses

Whether your child is in 7$/day daycare or private daycare, you can deduct the fees incurred for daycare. To take advantage of this deduction, you will need the social insurance number for the daycare provider.

Donations and Gifts

Did you know that by giving a tithing to some churches you can enter them as a donation? It is also better to claim donations over $200 and you don’t have to claim a donation in the same year. If you have one donation this year of $100 and next year you expect the same, you can claim the $200 on next year’s return. You can also claim any type of charitable donation that gives an appropriate tax receipt and not just churches.

Children’s Arts Tax Credit

You can claim up to $500 of fees paid per child in regards to artistic, cultural, recreational, or developmental activity. This includes private lessons in music, art, and tutoring. For example, I had a tutor for my son to help with speech development and was able to use this credit for those sessions.

Children’s Fitness Amount

You can claim up to $1000 of fees paid per child in a physical education program. This includes hockey and soccer teams, skating, golf lessons, horseback riding, sailing and bowling.

Medical Expenses

There are limits to what we can get our insurance companies to pay for such as dentistry. I keep all of my dental bills and enter them as a medical expense. Here is a big list of eligible medical expenses you can deduct: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/ndvdls/tpcs/ncm-tx/rtrn/cmpltng/ddctns/lns300-350/330/llwbl-eng.html

These are just a few of the deductions available to Canadians come tax time. Look them over and see if you’re eligible to use them in your tax planning. These expenses are ones that I have used in my adult life and have helped me in getting a refund each year.

Next time, I’ll go over deductions you should be taking for your business.

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Does the date April 30th, give you the hives? Are you allergic to filling out tax forms? Scared of what you’ll find in the numbers? If you’ve read my last post about filing your taxes yourself and broke out into a cold sweat, have no fear, because this week I’m focusing on hiring a tax professional to do your taxes for you.

If on the other hand, if you want to file your own taxes, take a look at last week’s post for how to go about it in a calm and timely manner. And while there are many similarities between the U.S. and Canada on how to hire a tax professional, this post is focused on how to go about it in Canada. Let’s get started!

While hiring someone to do your taxes can be a stress relief, you still want to do your due diligence when hiring a tax professional. You’ll need have your 2014 bookkeeping closed out and you’ll need to be prepared to answer questions about your business activities.

If you have a bookkeeper already, they are a great place to start in terms of looking for a tax professional. More than likely they are willing and able to file your taxes for you. After all, they already know the ins and outs of your finances and it could make the process a whole lot smoother.

If you don’t have a bookkeeper, a great place to start looking for a tax professional is via your friends. Ask for referrals from people you know. Chances are your friends have a tax professional they trust. You can also inquire of your business peers who they use to file their taxes. This is another great place to get a trusted referral and more than likely one who already understands your type of industry which can be a boon when discussing business activities.

When you hire a tax professional, you will be paying for a service, so keep this in mind and within your budget. You want to make sure that the person you are hiring is reputable and knowledgeable. You don’t want to have your Grandma or Uncle Phi file your taxes because they’ll do it for cheap.

You’ll also need to start looking for a tax professional as early as possible. You don’t want to wait until April to try and find someone. If you do, it will be much harder as April is a very busy time and they may not have room in their schedule to fit a new client in. You may also end up having to spend more money since April is right up on the filing deadline.

It’s best to start looking for someone at in February and no later than March. If you weren’t able to get a referral from a friend or business colleague you can look online or in your phone book for tax preparers. You’ll need to make sure that the tax preparer has a tax filer number, which means they are registered with the government and are allowed to do this type of work and every tax preparer in Canada needs to be registered for E-file to file taxes.

You may want to inquire of their schooling and look for an accounting diploma, but know that even H&R Block preparers may not have a specialized accounting diploma. They will have had extensive training though and be certified through their company.

You will also need to know what type of relationship you will want with your tax preparer. Will you want an ongoing relationship? Then you may want someone who you’ll meet with one on one and know that they will be doing the work. On the other hand, a service center such as H&R Block will have a handful of people trained in tax preparation, but you may not know who actually performs the data entry.

Compare price vs services. Do you need more than just tax data entry? For example, do you have a business to report? Do you also want advanced tax planning? You need to know what you need as some tax preparers only do just that, prepare taxes. You must ask if they will also advise you on tax deductions if you need that type of service. You’ll also need to look for a preparer that will be able to do business taxes, as not all preparers will be knowledgeable about business taxes.

Once you find a tax preparer that you like, you’ll need to come into your meetings with them prepared. Have all papers ready, like your T4’s, RRSPs, investment income, rental costs, and Statement of Business Activities if applicable. Most tax centres and possibly some tax preparers will have a form to fill out with questions about your situation, and have suggestions on which forms to bring. You’ll also need to know about your previous year’s filings. If they don’t ask about your previous tax year, that is a red flag.

You may have several meetings when you hire a tax professional. You’ll make an initial appointment to go over all your documents. Then another meeting once the tax has been prepared. You’ll have to go in to sign and file the final forms. Your tax preparer will explain your tax return process and they’ll file your return in front of you.  If you’ve picked a professional for their advanced tax planning services, they will advise you on your retirement calculator and discuss any further tax planning for next year and possibly beyond.

Your tax preparer will be able to send your return electronically, via E-file. But you always have the option to take the return papers yourself, and mail them to the government. Keep in mind though, that refunds are generally received a lot sooner if filed electronically. You will also be able to receive a refund quicker if you have applied for Direct Deposit!

Once everything has been signed and sent off to the government, you should receive a Notice of Assessment, which will have your limits for RRSP deductions, and the assessment of the return itself. The government will determine if your return was prepared properly and whether a refund or balance due was declared.

Don’t forget! You must also keep all your papers for 6 years after filing. The papers for your current taxes don’t get sent through Efile, so keep those handy in case the government asks for them. Your tax preparer will only keep a copy of the return – so you should keep all of paperwork, including a copy of your return.

Hopefully the process of finding and filing your taxes with a tax professional is smooth and easy. Keep up the good work by getting a jump start on tax planning for 2015. In next week’s post I’ll go over some deductions that you should be taking advantage of.

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As a bookkeeper catering to crafty people, I receive a lot of inquiries about my services. Some turn into great clients such as A to Z of Motorcycles  but many others are small Etsy shops who think they can’t afford my services. This happens more often than not and I wonder how they are managing their money, or if they’re only treating their Etsy shop as a hobby, parading as a business.

You see, having a shop on Etsy is a business, whether you want it to be or not, and you need to treat it as such. I believe that this is all a state of mind and something I experienced when I opened my knitting shop Petite Tuques.

Before I turned to the internet, I was creating hand knits for friends and family. I was “testing” my customers and my own talent to see if I really could sell my hand knits. I got a lot of feedback and decided to open an online shop. I debuted my first shop on Nov 21, 2009 on iCraftGifts.com and nothing happened. My first online sale from a person I didn’t know happened on July 9, 2010. A month before that, I opened my shop on Etsy and once again, I didn’t see any sales from people I didn’t know until July 18, 2010.

When I opened that first shop, I invested a lot of money into materials, for items that weren’t selling. As you can see, I waited a long time before I had my first sale, and even more time went by before my next sale and my sale after that. When you start a business, I thought you had to put all your money in because people would be clamoring at my door for what I was selling. But nothing happened because I didn’t give my business the time and attention it needed.

I thought it was just a hobby. It was fun to see people eventually buying from me, but I didn’t take it seriously. I had all these bags of yarn because I anticipated sales without marketing, blogging or all the other things you need to do to attract and obtain attention to your shop. I just expected people to find me because my hats were super cool. But I wasn’t telling anyone about my super cool hats.

The time between when I opened my shops and when I made my first sale, was a wake up call. I needed to make a change if I wanted to make sales. Something wasn’t working, I wasn’t succeeding. When you do the same thing over and over and it doesn’t work you have to mix things up. I started to research what it really took to have an online business and it changed everything for me. I learned how to market my business, how to blog, and how to have a proper website. I started taking it seriously. I read blogs, got a Facebook page and researched yarn businesses. I redirected my focus to increase my sales and manage my money better.

I found great business coaches like the Blacksburg Belle, who really helped me. I did a couple of her courses like How to Blog for your Creative Business. I also joined her networking site, Artpreneur, while it was around. Through her, I met a lot of successful people, like Mayi Carles and learned by interacting and observing them. I also found other knitters who were selling online. I joined knitting sites and knitting groups. I found that they were a great help and instead of competitors they became my colleagues.

If you’re struggling with your Etsy shop, you maybe in the mindset that it is more of a hobby than a business. It can be stressful, having money invested in something that is not making you sales. It can really get you down. If you want to make the switch and change your mindset and really start taking your business seriously, I highly recommend finding a business coach, like Blacksburg Belle, or Mayi Carles, to get you on the right track. It’s a great first step and one that turned my business around.

Ready to turn your hobby into a business? Do you need guidance on how to do it legally? Contact me today to find out!

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