What You Need to Know About Setting Up an Office

All businesses of some sort end up needing an office. This can be as small as the corner of your den, an office in your home, or actual space that you lease to run your office out of. Why you need this office will depend on the nature of your business. Most offices are taking care of the administrative and financial aspect of your business. Before you decide to open an office, there are a few things you need to take into consideration.

What Size Do You Really Need?

Determining who is using the office is going to give you an indication of what size you need. If it’s just you so that you can handle your bookkeeping and emails at the end of a work day, then a simple home office will do. If you have human relations, accounting, IT, and marketing, they will indicate the leasing or purchase of your space. If you are going this large, make sure you have plenty of space for growth and stay well within your budget.

Shop for Internet

No matter what you are doing in your office, you will need internet. There are a slew of office internet providers and it takes some time to find the best ones. You are looking for a reliable service in all manner of weather. You also want a fast service so that you can get through your tasks with efficiency. It also helps to find fiber optic service rather than cable or DSL. Fiber optics are simply faster and ensure transfers of data over long distance without degrading the data. Fiber optics are not available everywhere and can be expensive to install. Be sure you can get fiber optics and that it’s within your budget.

Furnish It with Necessities

Shopping for office furniture can cause anyone to get caught up and swept away. Keep it simple and takes care of your needs. If you are leasing or purchasing a space, all of your furniture should match among the departments. For storage, get what you need plus one year’s worth of growth so that you are not constantly purchasing more filing cabinets. All chairs should be comfortable and provides support so that no matter how long you are seated, you are not straining your body too much. If your office space is carpeted, floor mats at the desks will allow for rolling chairs to move easily. If you have overhead lighting, you can avoid desk lamps.

Keep Office Equipment to a Minimum

Purchasing office equipment is yet another expense that is easy to get carried away with. Get exactly what you need to perform your duties. If you are in a home office and travel a lot, skip the desktop pc and opt for a laptop. If you are leasing/purchasing office space, desktops are more efficient for your employees. Sales teams of course would benefit from laptops rather than desktops. Printers for a home office should only include extras you use. No need to get a scanner option if you will never use it, unless the printer with the scanner is a less expensive option! Printers for a larger office space often need more bells and whistles but you can minimize how many printers you obtain. Many can be hooked into a network and folks can share the printer. One other option you can consider is leasing equipment, rather than purchasing it.

Office Supplies Are Your Friend

Office supplies can be your most costly expense in an office. Of course, you should buy exactly what you need and keep them plentiful in the supply closet. No matter what size office you have, getting a rewards card to your local office store will be greatly beneficial to help you save on your supplies. Look for those deals and watch how much waste you create. If you can avoid printing on paper, you should.

Hopefully, your endeavor into opening an office is an exciting time for you and your business. Take these extra steps to pay attention and make the most of your space without breaking your budget!

What to Do if You Owe the IRS Money

Let’s start with this: the IRS is the biggest, best resourced, and more powerful collection agency in the world. So, while I’m not suggesting that you’d otherwise try and avoid a debt to any person or organization, if you’re typically the procrastinating type that needs things to get serious and urgent before you’re motivated to take action, then please allow me to be your wake-up call: this is serious and urgent. The letters and calls won’t stop, and when the IRS threatens wage garnishment, tax levies and other collection action, they mean it. It’s not an empty threat.

With that being said, you shouldn’t feel as though your (financial) world is coming to an end, and that it’s only a matter of time before black tie and sunglass-wearing IRS Special Agents show up at your door and haul you to debtor’s prison.

According to Jeff Kahn, principal of the Tax Law Offices of Jeffrey B. Kahn and host of a weekly ESPN radio show that covers tax law and audit-related issues, here are two things to do if you owe the IRS money:

  1. Confirm that the IRS’s math adds up.

This just in: the IRS makes mistakes (and in other breaking news, water is wet, the sun is hot, and sarcasm never goes out of style). As such, start by confirming that the amount that you allegedly owe is indeed correct. Keep in mind that a single missed checkbox on a tax form can result in a deduction being denied.

  1. Minimize penalties and interest.

If you confirm that you do, in fact, owe Uncle Sam some money, and presuming that you cannot pay the full amount by the due date, your next step is to minimize penalties and interest. There are a few options here that may be applicable to your situation, including: asking for an abatement, seeing if you qualify for an installment plan, and seeing if you qualify for an offer-in-compromise (this is basically asking the IRS to settle for less then the amount owed because full payment is unlikely). Keep in mind that the paperwork required for each of these options — especially the offer-in-compromise — is complex, and most people who try the do-it-yourself route get things wrong and have their application or petition rejected.

Some Final Words of Warning

Before wrapping up: be very, very careful when speaking to IRS agents. Once again, I’m not trying to freak anyone out. But facts are facts, and you need to know that speaking with an IRS agent to get more information on your tax situation isn’t the ordinary call center “how can I help you today?” conversation that you’re used to. While you aren’t under oath or giving a deposition, anything you say — including the questions you ask — can and will be used to trigger a deeper examination of your filings (the IRS can go back much further than three years if they suspect fraud or tax evasion). And in extreme cases, your matter might be referred to the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division for potential prosecution.

 

So yes, it’s fine to simply ask ordinary questions (e.g. “where can I find this form?”), but anything else should be handled by your tax attorney — not by your accountant, whose conversations with you and work product isn’t protected by attorney-client privilege.

Renewable Residences – How To Build A Sustainable House

In 2015, a record breaking number of homes was built in Sydney. The number of new buildings reached 30,191 and the trend was repeated in other areas. Unfortunately, however, Australia is dealing with a major housing shortage right now. So, there are questions about whether this accelerated rate of construction is even viable.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that a record number of these builds can be categorised as ‘energy efficient’. This describes high performance, low impact properties which incorporate eco-friendly designs and features. According to environmental experts, they are the future of our cities – and if you are thinking about building a home, they should be your model, too.

This guide to the key principles of green architecture and construction will tell you a little more about these eco-friendly builds.

Capturing The Sunshine

Of all the groundbreaking green technologies on the market, solar panels are the most easily accessible to homebuilders. For instance, AGL offers solar panels without any upfront costs. The price of installation is spread over two or five years so that you can pay for the product with the money that solar energy is actively saving for you.

Solar energy is a great idea when building a green home because it doesn’t have to cost you anything, as the money spent on solar panels is recouped. Plus, you can easily harness the full force of the sun just by positioning the property in the right way. South facing homes are 25% warmer, simply because they benefit from passive solar heat.

Staying Insulated

So, you’re getting all of this amazing energy and warmth from the sun. You want to hold on to it, right? Well, you need to make sure that your home is fully insulated. This is essential for all year round energy conservation – and for your comfort, too. Properly insulated windows and doors trap heat inside during winter and regulate its entry in the summer.

As building experts are fond of stating, no amount of solar panels can improve your green credentials if you’ve got leaky window frames. Invest in double glazing and install fibreglass insulation throughout the attic to minimize lost energy. This is how you squeeze maximum value out of your solar technology and make every kilowatt count.

Shrinking Your Footprint

One of the easiest ways to shrink your impact on the planet is to, simply, build a smaller home. Now, this isn’t always the most popular of ideas, but it is a highly logical one. Smaller properties take up less physical space, leave more of the ground intact, and cost substantially less to heat, light, and maintain.

While nobody is suggesting that you live in a shed, the reality is that most homes contain wasted space. There are rooms that never get used, but they’ve still got to be cleaned and powered. In the long run, it is not economically sound to pay for space that you don’t really need. Don’t forget that your taxes will be smaller with a more compact place too.

Using Recycled Resources

It’s a great idea to try and use as many locally sourced resources as possible. This provides support to local manufacturers and producers. It also shrinks the impact of their use, because you’re not paying for trucks to deliver materials halfway across the country. If you do your research, you can probably source recycled stone, timber, glass, and other materials.

In summation, for those who are serious about green construction, it is recommended to work with an architect who is familiar with this type of building. They will be able to point you in the right direction as regards viable materials, affordable, resources, and innovative construction techniques. It is worth investing in expert advice if it’s going to help you create your dream home.

7 Tips for the Perfect Open House

Any real estate agent will tell you that the secret to selling your home is an open house. The open house is the potential buyer’s first and most lasting impression of your property. Follow these seven tips to draw more attention from potential buyers.

Market Online

If you’re on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you probably have hundreds of followers. Your easiest marketing tool is already at your fingertips! Even if you don’t know all of your followers, reaching out online with an invitation to your open house can attract scores of visitors. Create an engaging description of your space with detailed and enthusiastic language that will pique their interest. Encourage them to visit and bring any friends who may be curious. You never know who knows someone who is looking for new digs.

There are also other social platforms designed specifically for real estate marketing. Sites like Apartments.com, REALTOR.com and Zillow are the preferred source for real estate agents and landlords who want to fill their property fast. No matter where you post, be sure to advertise reminders leading up to the event to keep people’s attention.

Use Signs

The web isn’t the only resource that can drive people to your open house. Expand your marketing strategy by posting signs the day of—nothing beats a good old-fashioned sign to get a nosy stranger interested. Get up early and place at least 20 signs near and around your property hours before your open house begins. Get a few different kinds of signs with your name, the address of the property, and your number (if you feel comfortable). Some people aren’t in the market for a home, but they’ll stop by if they’re curious. Once again, someone always knows someone who wants to buy a home.

Increase Curb Appeal

Do you want people crowding to your open house right away? Spruce up your front yard. Curb appeal makes all the difference between someone walking in or just driving by. If you want an offer that meets your expectations, don’t settle with a dead yard. It may be tempting to stop caring for your garden once you decide to sell, but it’s never been more important to keep it maintained.

A lawn is the most important driving factor of curb appeal. If your lawn is dead, so will be your open house. If you need to, put down a new lawn and water it according to your city’s regulations. Keep it looking lush and fresh, and the prospects will pour in.

Clean Everything

Even if you’re selling an old mid-century bungalow with 70’s wallpaper, make an effort to clean it up. Power-wash the outside, scrub the baseboards, clean the carpet, and get into every nook and cranny until it’s spotless. This is a good time to invest in a cleaning service to take care of the work for you.

Turn on All the Lights

The hardest work is done, and you’re about to show your home. Turn on all the lights, open the blinds, and if it’s not too hot out, open some windows to get ventilation. A lit space feels more open and inviting.

Bake Cookies

Now for the finishing touch—a warm batch of cookies. Bake either vanilla or chocolate chip cookies in the oven and let the pleasant smell fill the room. Smell is one of the strongest senses, and a fresh batch of cookies is sure to seduce people into your open house. Bonus: greet them at the door with a plate of cookies so they can snack on one as the walk around your property.

Be Personable

When people come in, don’t just stand there. Greet them with a handshake and a smile, let them wander around, and stay nearby to help them with any questions they may have. If they make a compliment on a particular feature, feel free to talk about it. Hold multiple open houses to get the word out. Encourage people to return, even if they attended a private showing. By doing this, you create a sense of urgency and competition among buyers. Be prepared to accept different types of offers. Some buyers may be looking for a home they can purchase a flip; these investors generally come in with cold hard cash sourced from private companies like Source Capital Funding, Inc. Other buyers may choose to refinance, or purchase their home with a mortgage funded through a traditional bank.

Having the perfect open house is critical to draw buyers in. Follow these tips and you’ll see people crowding in at your next open house.

Things You Should Shop Around For

Every little bit counts when it comes to money. It is so important to save when you can because that money you are saving can eventually add up to something. Besides cutting  back on spending or analyzing your monthly budget, there are some big ticket items that can be shopped around for to help you save.

Insurance

Insurance is needed for many things. There are many brokers who offer these products. To save money, it is best to shop around to find the best possible price so you can get cheaper car insurance . The trick I have used is to take your current policy and just provide it to multiple agents and ask them if they can beat it. Send it around and you will be sure to get your current policy for cheaper. Unfortunately this business is just like many others and the agents are just trying to make the most they can. If they know they can win your business they will be happy to offer you a competitive price.

Credit Cards

Credit Cards are definitely a product that should be compared for optimal benefit. Do not settle on just any one. Often times offers can be sent in the mail or you can simply google the type of credit card you are looking for and look for the best offer to meet your needs. The Best ones, depending on your needs, may offer good reward incentives, low interest rates, free balance transfers, etc. Many cards out there offer great rewards from travel, to cash back that you could benefit from. Be sure to shop around.

Cars

The car industry is known for their negotiations. People can experience both extremes of the business, they can either get themselves a really good deal or totally be worked by a dealership. Car salesmen are good at their jobs and will do anything to meet their sales numbers. The most important tip for buying a car is to be able to walk away. They do not like to lose deals so you are at an advantage if you simply walk away and shop around. I have literally had agents follow me out to my car and almost chase me out of the parking lot trying to get me back in the showroom. You can’t shop with your heart, you need to shop with you head. If you do this you will be able to save some major cash.

Furniture

Most people may not think of furniture as a negotiable item but it is. Any time I have bought furniture I have negotiated. Similar to cars, it is best if you are able to walk away. They do not want to lose your business and rather make the sale with less profit. I have even been to a showroom that said they didn’t negotiate their pricing but they ended up doing it for me. If you want to purchase a piece of furniture from a furniture chain, it is best to call around to different locations to see what their prices are. Each location has a different price and you will certainly get the best deal that way.

 

Hopefully these tips can help you save some and lead to further savings for your family.

Thinking of Buying a New Car? 3 Tips to Keep it in Great Shape

So you’ve decided it’s time to buy a new car? It’s kind of exciting making a big purchase but also a little overwhelming too. Making the decision to spend this much money is not something anyone does lightly. You want to be sure you are doing so sensibly and that you get the most for your money now and over the long term.

You can visit Cars.com to review cars and autos you are thinking about, to help decide which one is best for you and your family. They have a great Reviews section, where you can actually read what real car owners and leased car drivers think about the specific car models that you are considering getting. It’s kind of like talking to a friend or neighbor who has the car you like, before you go to the dealership to take a test drive. Cars.com also has a Videos section so you can see everything about the car right from the comfort of your home.

One of the first things you can do is to find an auto mechanic that you can trust. While you are going through the car shopping process, start to ask family and friends for recommendations to get a great auto mechanic. Remember that you want someone who isn’t too far from you, so that if the car has something wrong with it you don’t have to drive too for long.

When you get the car, actually sit down and read the car manual. Get to know how the features work. Most cars need an oil change every 3,000 miles but what should you know about other maintenance for your car? Avoid mishaps and confusion by learning as much about your car as possible. If you need to, bring your car and the manual to your mechanic to ask questions – before any problem arises. Because this will save an awful lot of time and hassle.

Be a safe driver at all times. Don’t speed and treat your car with extra TLC. Treating your car properly is part of good care and maintenance. You’ll be glad that you don’t overwork or overstress your car, as this can lead to damage or unnecessary repairs. Driving too fast can also make you use gas quicker and run the risk of causing a car accident, which is dangerous.

Remember that it is a lot easier to catch a repair while it is small than to ignore something and take care of it when it becomes bigger. So taking your car in if you notice something is not typical may take up a bit of time, but likely will save you time, money and a lot of hassle in the end.

Buying a car is an exciting time and you should be proud that you have made this major purchase. In a young adult’s life this is certainly a milestone event. Be safe and enjoy driving your new car!

Filing for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: Some Pros and Cons

The phrase “filing for bankruptcy” might be the most terrifying in the financial vocabulary (perhaps next to “Great Recession” and “bank run”). However, if you’re contemplating this serious decision, then be assured if you move ahead that you won’t be alone. Each year, hundreds of thousands of people across the country file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy for a variety of reasons, such as excessive medical bills, job loss, divorce, over-investing in the stock market, the list goes on.

Naturally, this isn’t a decision that you can afford (figuratively and literally) to make based on raw emotion or overwhelming anxiety. Yes, being in serious is debt is scary. Actually, it’s terrifying; especially when creditors start closing in, and threats of wage garnishment and asset repossession start flying fast and furious. However, the essential thing to remember throughout this challenging time is that “filing for bankruptcy” is not a subjective condemnation, or an expression of financial failure. Indeed, some of the world’s most successful and important people have filed for bankruptcy, including Walt Disney and Abraham Lincoln.

Rather, bankruptcy it’s a form of legal protection that’s designed to protect you (that’s right, you), so that you can restructure and reorganize your debts and, eventually, regain your financial footing. While it’s obviously not a list of anyone’s favourite things, there’s no shame in filing for bankruptcy. It happens thousands of times a day.

The best — and frankly, the only — thing you can do right now is equip yourself with hard facts. To get you started in the right direction, here’s a rundown of some pros and cons of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy based on the advice of experienced bankruptcy attorney Charles Huber:

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: PROS

  • Unlike Chapter 13, Chapter 7 doesn’t involve a detailed repayment plan. Instead, a trustee sells non-exempt assets and uses the proceeds to pay creditors per the Bankruptcy Code.
  • The process is faster than most people believe, and is usually over within 3-6 months.
  • Most states have exceptions that prevent certain assets from being liquidated.
  • Some filers may be allowed to keep more of their property than they need.
  • Filers will be able to keep their salary and assets the purchase after filing for Chapter 7.
  • Creditors must stop calling, email or communicating with debtors immediately after a Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.
  • Filers who’ve had wages garnished by creditors within 90 days immediately preceding a Chapter 7 filing may be allowed to get that money bank.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy: CONS

  • A Chapter 7 filing stays on a credit report for 10 years, and will doubtlessly make it tougher and more expensive to borrow funds, get a mortgage, or even get a job.
  • Filers lose all of their credit cards, and any property that isn’t except from sale (including luxury items).
  • Contrary to what many people believe, filing for Chapter 7 doesn’t except filers from child support payments, alimony obligations, or student loan payments.

The Bottom Line

Deciding to file for Chapter 7 isn’t easy — and that’s a good thing, because it’s something that should only be (possibly) done after careful research, which includes consulting with an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

However, regardless of how difficult things are right now or what has happened in the past, if starting now you do the right things, the right way, and at the right time, be assured that you’ll emerge financially stronger than ever — and will look back on this as a bump in the road vs. the end of the line.