Business Digest - March, 2009

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Tax Mistakes Not to Make

It's that time again! The deadline for filing your taxes is just around the corner. If you are like most Americans, the process of completing your taxes can be a bit daunting, and making a mistake can cost you money. Review this list of tax mistakes you'll want to be sure to avoid.

Overpaying Your Taxes

Sure it's nice to get that big refund check from the IRS every year, but consider what it represents. That money is yours and is the amount that you overpaid Uncle Sam during the course of the year. In other words, you essentially lent the government the money, interest-free. Lots of Americans do this. In fact, in 2007 more than 96 million taxpayers received refunds averaging $2,255. To solve this, change your withholding amounts (by completing a new W-4 form) to decrease the amount of money removed from your paycheck each pay period. You will need to be sure that you don't end up underpaying your taxes. But you will be rewarded with more money each month that you can invest in any way you see fit.

Forgetting Deductions

It can be easy to overlook the little things at tax time, but these little things can add up quickly. Save your receipts from charitable donations, as the check itself often won't be enough. If you don't have receipts, contact the organization now to get verification of your donation. If you are able to deduct business expenses, make sure that you have your receipts available. You may want to set up an organizational system to help you manage all your receipts. But, remember, that even just tossing them into a single shoebox is better than having to scrounge around every April.

Errors on Your Forms

It pays to take a moment and double-check your calculations. You may also consider using an automated software package to fill out your tax forms. Don't forget to check the spellings of names on the form and verify that the Social Security numbers you've used are correct. Be sure that you sign and date your form and include all additional forms like W-2s, 1099s, and extra schedule forms.

Filing Late

You may find that you just don't have enough time to file your taxes by April 15. You are eligible for an automatic extension-but only if you file for it on or before April 15. Form 4868 provides a way to let the IRS know that you will be filing your taxes late. It does not protect from having to pay any money owed on time, however. If you anticipate that you will owe money, you will have to remit it along with the form requesting the extension. What you will protect yourself from is any additional interest and penalties that may accrue.

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Banish Workplace Spam

Email has become indispensable in the workplace. It has its pitfalls however. Because most people who use email at work have the same email address for long periods of time, it has become tempting for online marketers and spammers to target business email addresses. Add in the unsolicited emails you have forwarded from co-workers and associates, and it can quickly become overwhelming.

It is important to be aware that most companies today monitor their employees' emails, both sent and received. Companies are not legally required to notify you that your email is being monitored, so you should always assume that your email is being examined.

To help cut down on the amount of spam you receive at work, first make an effort to separate your personal and business communications. Use a Web-based email account for your personal email and do not send or receive personal emails through your work email system. Remember, however, that if you access your Web-based account at work, your company may be monitoring it. You will also reduce the amount of spam you receive if you limit your Internet activity to only work-related activities. Some spam is generated because of the types of Internet sites you visit when surfing the Net. Sites capture your email address without your knowledge and then sell this address to spammers. Thus, if you visit Internet sites during work hours, you are subject to having your business email captured and used for spamming purposes.

Second, if you know the person sending you the undesired email, simply ask them to stop. Some people do not realize that they are sending their email to a work email address. You can simply say that your employer is discouraging personal communication through the business email system and you are trying to honor that request.

Next, use a filter on your email program to weed out spam and other undesirable content. Your employer may already have a filter so that you do not receive these emails. But some still may slip through. You will need to be aware that these filters sometime catch legitimate emails, labeling them as spam, but it is usually worth the effort.

Finally, if you are having problems with spam emails at work, let your employer know. It is better that you report the problem than if they come to you with a reprimand about your email usage. Often your employer will be able to help you manage the problem. At a minimum, it would be good to go on record that you are not welcoming these types of emails.

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Five Things To Do To Save Money

Are you finding it hard to put something away in savings? Sometimes it is just a matter of taking some simple steps. Keep these tips in mind to help you towards a stronger financial future.
  • 1. Check to see if your bank offers automatic transfer of a portion of your paycheck into a savings account.
  • 2. Try to pay your credit card bill off every month.
  • 3. If you carry a balance on a credit card, make sure that you have the lowest rate possible. If it has been a while since youíve shopped around for a better rate, make it a priority to do that as soon as possible.
  • 4. Keep track of your spending for a few months. By tracking where every penny goes, you may be surprised to see places where you need to trim your budget.
  • 5. Donít window shop--this can lead to impulse shopping.

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